Link Love

The demoralizing reality of life under Trump (I totally feel like this)

The judge agreed that this asylum seeker would be killed if he was deported… and he was.  We must do better.

How to block Nazis, Russians, and other trolls on twitter as they gear up for the 2020 election season.

Wondering what companies are supporting Trump or Mitch McConnell etc.?  Open Secrets has got you covered, though be careful what is employees donating and what is the company itself donating.  (Also, Darden restaurants possibly funding Trump, something they deny, isn’t the only reason you might want to boycott Olive Garden– they’re trying to get away with being less healthy and treat their workers more poorly as well, according to this 2016 article.  You can see their lobbying efforts here.)

I’ve been getting some scam emails purportedly from journals saying I wanted to reset my password.  Super creepy.

What am I Missing with ‘A Separate Peace”?

We also need better publicly provided therapy for learning disabled students.   In this heart-warming story that is actually an indictment of our social safety net, this speech language pathologist on a plane provided a service that allowed a child with non-verbal autism to communicate.

Ask the grumpies: Getting started with money

Mel asks:

What books do you recommend for someone who is looking to understand the basics of investing for retirement and how much money a person should hold in their savings account for emergencies? Or to that end, also understanding which comes first: having savings you can reach for at a moment’s notice or putting money into a retirement plan? I’m looking for that sort of information in a book form.

I have a fairly (I think?) healthy relationship with money, carry no debt beyond the mortgage, and feel the word that best describes me is “careful.” So I don’t really need to understand budgeting or how to pay off debt, but I do want to make sure that we’ve saved enough for retirement, saved enough for college (and aren’t going to be locked out of applying for certain loans because we have too much in a savings account vs. moved over into a retirement account — is that even a thing?), and saved enough for emergencies.

I’m looking for big picture books to understand how the various plans work as well as books to avoid because they contain terrible advice.

A good primer on all things personal finance is JD Roth’s book, Your Money:  The Missing Manual.  The numbers will be out of date (you can now save $19K annually in a 401k and 6K annually in an IRA), and we now know that you can legally do a Backdoor Roth, but it is really good at explaining the basics.  Like the difference between an investment (ex. a specific stock fund) and the bucket you save an investment in (ex. a 401k).  It also summarizes many of the best ideas from the best personal finance books.

How much a person should hold in their savings account for emergencies isn’t something there’s 100% agreement on.  In general, most people agree that you should have at minimum around 1K (give or take, probably more given inflation) to cover small emergencies.  After that people tend to think in terms of months of expenses– you need 1 month of regular expenses in case your work has a billing mistake.  You need 3 months of expenses to cover things like car problems or a short-layoff.  You need 6 months of expenses to cover a lengthier spell of unemployment.  Some people will argue a year of expenses, but that’s a luxury.  Other factors are also important like how stable your industry is– if there’s more uncertainty, you need a larger emergency fund, if you are hard to fire then you need a smaller emergency fund.  If you have dual incomes and a spouse can increase hours or cover expenses you might need less.  If you own rental properties you might need more to cover tenant absences or large repairs.  Some people will keep part of their emergency fund in something safe like savings, but keep the bulk of it in an investment that could be tapped in an emergency without penalty, for example the contribution part of an IRA Roth or taxable accounts (or a 457 plan for government employees).  All Your Worth by Elizabeth Warren (yes, that Elizabeth Warren) and Amelia Warren Tyagi does an excellent job helping you think through what your monthly expenses are and how emergencies might affect them.

All Your Worth also does a great job in providing heuristics about how much you really can afford to spend given your income.  It provides great guidelines for what percent to put in required spending vs. optional spending vs. savings to provide stability in when there are emergencies.  It’s a really great read and a smart book.  As a note– one thing people often get wrong about her balanced money formula is that they think that they *must* spend what she says to spend and save only what she says to save, which isn’t true– if you read carefully, the spending amount is an upper bound and the savings amount is a lower bound.  She does note that if you are unhappy with your spending and you are saving the recommended amount then you can loosen up, but you don’t have to, especially if you’re considering early retirement.

Once you understand these big picture ideas, you can do one of two things.  You can read the Bogleheads Guide to Investing, or you can just figure out the cheapest target-date fund that your savings provider provides (ex. my work provides Fidelity so I use that for my 403b, outside of work the cheapest is usually Vanguard which I use for my backdoor Roth and taxable investments).  With the target date fund you can just pick a single date (when you plan to retire) and set and forget and it will take care of all the rebalancing and diversification and so on for you.  Easy peasy AND it matches the market, unlike the majority of active managers (who get out-performed by the market).

Here’s a couple of advanced posts on diversification of your overall personal portfolio (not just your retirement investments).  Here’s an ordering strategy of how you could choose to use your money.

In terms of college savings and financial aid, you definitely want to read this series of posts from Forbes Magazine.  Here’s one of our many posts discussing retirement vs college savings.  The short version is that depending on what schools your kids are considering and how much money you make (say, under 300K/year) then you are likely to want to shove as much money into retirement vehicles as possible.  (If I had to go back, I’d funnel some of our 529 money into 403b and 457 accounts, but I didn’t know we’d be as high income as we are now and I didn’t know that financial aid at fancy schools went so high up the income distribution.)

In email conversation you also mentioned that as a freelancer you wanted to know more about ways for self-employed people to save for retirement.  If anybody has book recommendations, that would be great.  I found a couple useful web articles on the topic.   You also mentioned you’d be interested in finding out more about how to tap into retirement money without penalty before age 59.5.  For that there’s something called substantially equal payments that you can use in some cases.  You can also always take money out with the 10% penalty.  Or take the principal out of a Roth (or 457 if you leave that employer).

In terms of what books to avoid:  Dave Ramsey is awesome for debt payment, but he is absolute garbage for investing.  Do not follow his advice for investing.

Grumpy Nation– What books do you and don’t you recommend for Mel?  Any web resources?  How should she get started?  Any advice specific to freelancers?

Replacing a misogynistic mnemonic

It is easy to get backwards when doing t-tests, especially when you’ve first started.  You have to remember that big t and small p-values mean to reject.  Of course, if you’re a little dyslexic (undiagnosed) like me, when you get confused, you can go back and re-figure out that you want small amounts in the tails and the t-slice to be far away from the mean making it large etc., but that is really time consuming, especially if you’re in the middle of a lengthy problem set or a timed exam.

Many years ago, one of my students shared a dirty misogynistic mnemonic.  When p is low, she said, reject the ho.  This is clever and funny because p is both probability and slang for penis.  Ho is both how a null hypothesis is written and a derogatory term for female prostitute.  When one’s penis is at low mast, it makes sense that said penis-holder might not be purchasing the services of a prostitute.  And it rhymes.

But it’s both dirty (I got into trouble for saying “prick” meaning “jerk” early in my classroom career) and one should not be using derogatory terms for prostitutes or women anywhere, much less in an institution of higher learning.

More recently, I was explaining my conundrum in office hours and one of my sunshiny students came up with a much better mnemonic.  It isn’t quite as clever, but it’s just as memorable and it still rhymes.  “When p is lo, reject H-O!”  Like a cheerleading chant (aich – oh).

It makes me much happier.

What are some good non-racist, non-misogynist, non-ablist, non-patriarchy mnemonics that you know?

Grocery shopping fresh produce and bags

After reading either a post or a tweet by wandering scientist (my googling is coming up blank), I decided to add these produce bags to my Christmas wish list.  But Christmas is a long way away, so that got me thinking…

Despite reusable shopping bags and totes heavily cutting down on our plastic grocery bag horde, we still have a ton of the thin plastic bags that one puts produce in at the grocery store.  I try to not use a bag when I’m only buying one item, but each week we buy a bag of apples, and most weeks we buy other assorted groups of produce.  So our plastic bags drawer is full of these thin bags.

I use some of them to take my lunch to work, but they still pile up in the drawer until DH decides the drawer is too full and takes them to the grocery store to recycle.

Then it came to me… we could just reuse these bags for their intended purpose.  Because they only had clean fresh produce in them, they’re still clean.  So I stuck a couple of handfuls in our bag of grocery bags.  We’ll use them like this until they get gross or destroyed.  And come Christmas time, we’ll add the reusable produce bags to our rotation.

In theory, the plastic produce bags could become repositories for bacteria upon reuse, but they’re so fragile they will likely get destroyed before that comes close to being an issue.  And, we of course wash our produce before using it.  Even apples.  I’m a little paranoid about this, having grown up in the jack in the box e coli days.  I would feel uncomfortable eating produce from a reused bag without washing the produce… though I also feel uncomfortable eating produce from a new bag without washing the produce first.  (Another one of my paranoias is that the organic produce we usually buy is lying about pesticides.)

This change should hopefully limit our plastic-bag intake to the bulk aisle at the grocery.  (And our local grocery uses ziploc bags for bulk rather than the thin kind, which we reuse for scooped cat refuse.)

Now, I definitely don’t think that any one person’s behavior change is as important as getting laws changed, but it doesn’t take a whole lot of plastic bags to create ugly and potentially dangerous litter.  And this cuts down on having to remember to deal with the plastic bag drawer issue every few months.

Link love

Migrant children molested in US funded foster care

This week in fascism Also this week in Fascism.

Don’t give yourself a null license plate 

A plastic-free month

the comments on this one are so true!

Ask the Grumpies: How to handle maternity leave for a mid-semester baby?

anonymous in the midwest asks:

I am a faculty member at a small SLAC. I am newly (spontaneously!) pregnant with my second child, and likely due at the beginning of week 13 of the 16-week spring semester (it’s so early that I haven’t had my first prenatal appointment yet). My first child was an IVF baby and due the day after the end of my academic-year contract, so I didn’t take maternity leave. In that pregnancy, I developed a complication that, if it recurs (and it has a 50-90% recurrence rate) would mean I would deliver at 37 weeks. My fellow female faculty members have managed to have an astonishing number of May babies – since I’ve been here and in at least the two years previous, no female faculty member has given birth during any other month.

The college’s maternity leave policy for faculty offers 6 weeks at full pay or a full semester at half pay. How have mothers at your institutions handled babies due mid-to-most of the way through a semester? I would love to hear experiences and ideas from the grumpy nation!

Congratulations!

My sister and were each born the first day of spring break. For me, my mother paid for her substitute out of pocket for the week after Spring break and then went back to work (she left that institution after it became clear that having a baby meant she would not get tenure).*  For my sister, the university where she was working paid for her substitute for that week. Your SLAC sounds much more humane!

I was lucky enough to have an end of winter break baby– actually this was only lucky because there was a freak snowstorm the first week of class so I got two weeks before going back to work (I had no maternity leave)– and an end of summer break baby which lead into “alternative work duties” (that is, not teaching) for the semester.  Most of my female colleagues have also had summer or sabbatical babies.  My colleague who was due in late April bought out her core course and front-loaded her elective and had a guest lecturer lined up, had them video tape their presentations for her to grade, and then cancelled her last couple of May classes.

I know a woman at a 1/1 school who team taught two courses the semester she was due (grad and undergrad versions of the same elective) and taught both the first half of that semester, then took the next semester off.  Come to think of it, that’s what one of my friends at a 0/1 medical school did as well– team taught the first half of the teaching semester, bought out the rest.

So, other than in situations in which there was no maternity leave, I don’t know how women with regular teaching loads generally handle mid-semester babies.  Men, of course, take a week or two off during the semester their wife (always a SAHM in my department) gives birth and then take the full maternity leave in the next semester.

Grumpy Nation, What have you seen academic women do when facing a mid-semester pregnancy due date? 

* For those not familiar, it takes about 2 weeks to stop bleeding and to be able to sit down in something other than a warm water bath after an easy natural childbirth.

What we’re trying with the terrible 7s

DC1 always gets phases late and DC2 seems to get them early.

Luckily when DC1 hit this phase, Wandering Scientist told me it was a normal age and stage (I think her pediatrician’s office had an ages and stages graphic) and the internet strongly agreed with that assessment.

With DC1 it meant sullenness and occasional bouts of tears and ramped up perfectionism, IIRC.  There was also some acting up at school.  And lots of silence when questioned.  Fortunately it was short, although we did get several emails from one of hir teachers who couldn’t handle it because zie was used to teaching college students, not elementary schoolers.  (Another more experienced teacher, when questioned, said there was no problem and her son had gone through the same thing a year prior and she knew it was normal.)

DC2 has become very emotional.  Meltdowns, temper tantrums, not wanting to do things, being scared of everything (ex. being unable to sleep because zie was afraid of Ancient Egypt), feeling stupid for not reaching hir own impossible standards.  It’s very much like a repeat of the terrible twos, except DC2 is less easily distracted from bad behavior and is more self-aware.

First up:  unlike the toddler years, DC2’s refusals to do things seems to be responding well to threats of punishment.  Taking away privileges has gotten hir to stop tantrumming and to do whatever it is zie needs to do.  Giving a 5 min or 1 min or count to five warning about having to stop screaming and put on hir clothes or play piano or go into the gymnasium for camp on pain of losing screen time privileges or not getting to eat out at hir favorite restaurant has been effective.  I suspect bribery may also be effective, but I don’t want to incentivize bad behavior.  I guess technically we already have rewards in place for things, otherwise we wouldn’t be able to take them away as privileges.  Adding on beyond that in the face of bad behavior may not be a great idea.

The next thing we’re trying to do is to add more attention and more quiet time and make sure zie has eaten and all those things we did when zie was a toddler and seemed to need more attention or less stimulation.  DC2 at age 7 wants to talk about hir feelings and hir fears a lot more than zie did at 2.

And finally, we’ve gotten some books about elementary schooler anxiety and have been working through them with hir.  The best of these for hir level has been What to Do When You Worry Too Much by Dawn Huebner.  It’s basically cognitive behavioral therapy at an elementary school level.  It also relates worries to tomatoes, and DC2 hates tomatoes, so it resonates.  After going through the book once, DH was able to get DC2 through the Metropolitan Museum of Art (even the Egyptian room that DC1 wanted to see) even though zie had refused to set foot in the Museum of Fine Arts a week or two prior.

Things seem to have settled down a bit with the start of school.  Hopefully the phase is winding down and DC2 will be back to hir normal self.

Have you gone through the terrible 7s?  Have there been other ages with these kinds of stages?

 

Moving away from paper: I tried to get an IPAD Pro with Apple Pencil (an obnoxious post), but ended up with something reMarkable

My office is full of paper.  I don’t read scholarly articles very well unless I have a pen or pencil in hand and can write on them.  Paper is heavy.  Paper takes up space.  Paper is difficult to organize and difficult to find.

Properly labeled pdfs are easy to find!  You can put them in folders and search for them.  They alphabetize easily.

My problem has always been that the pdfs don’t have my notes on them; the paper does.

So… the phd students in my department have been taking notes with ipads and ipad pencils.  They take notes on their assigned pdfs using their ipads.  Instead of carrying a bag full of paper, they bring a slim tablet with one of these electronic pencils.  They protect their documents from theft or loss by backing their pdfs up on the cloud.  The technology is so much better than when the tablet/stylus idea first came out.

I decided I must have one.  I hope to better organize my service load and literature reviews.  I hope to better be able to carry my reading on planes without breaking my back.  (Imagine– referee reports, reading for external letters, particularly interesting conference papers, and so on.)  I’d like to have my notes in one place!

My first attempt was a total failure.  I bought the wrong size– for some reason I thought an 11 inch ipad Pro would be 8.5×11, but no, 11 is the diagonal.  So I had to send it back.

My second attempt resulted in a pencil that was amazing when it worked (it writes like a good quality smooth pen!), but customer support on the phone decided it had bluetooth problems and had to be replaced.  Fortunately we went through apple service on the last day before it had to be returned because they were going to send me a refurbished pencil without my name on it rather than a new one with my name on it.  Instead we returned it and ordered a new one with my name.

My replacement pencil also didn’t work.  Luckily one of my conference locations this summer had a genius bar nearby.  The Genius Bar determined that it was indeed something wrong with the Ipad’s bluetooth and not the pencil that was the problem.  They didn’t have any in stock, so we had to return and, in theory, buy a new one.  Thankfully this was also before the warranty ran out.

I disappointingly bought the apple recommended portfolio which has no place for the pencil– it just kind of dangles there on the side of the ipad and easily slides off.  Instead, I should have bought the otterbox (we get no kickback for this one) which is the same price as the crappy one apple makes but covers the pencil.  But, I decided instead of returning the disappointing apple portfolio, I would get a really nice case and leave the portfolio on.  So I went to Etsy and got this beautiful wool case from Germany (no kickback here either).  It is lovely and makes me feel a little guilty with how nice it is while at the same time feeling like I am middle aged and can afford to occasionally have nice things that make me look like a grownup.

I planned to do NOTHING with this ipad pro except email, google hangouts (which is how I communicate with RAs), texts (I don’t have a good reason for this, but I don’t text very many people), pdfs, editor stuff, and notes.  My vows:  I will not search the internet.  I will not play games.  I will not read novels.  I will not update the blog.  I will not do anything except treat it like a kindle that I can write on and communicate with.  It will be a work machine and nothing else.  (The reason for this is that I have a heavy addiction to DH’s ipad and I need to not succumb to temptation, which is easy for me to fall into the habit of.)  So I installed adobe reader and planed to use “notes” to take notes and safari for nothing but email, downloading pdfs, and editing duties.

While I was having problems with the ipad Pro, I sat next to a gentleman who had what looked like an oversized kindle.  He was taking notes on it with a stylus.  He was able to move around text and turn his printing into typing and just do all sorts of neat things.  At a break I asked him about it.  He said it’s a tablet from a European company named reMarkable (no kickbacks, just think this is a cool product).  It only has internet access for pdf uploads and downloads, which are done using an app on your desktop or mobile device, and for emailing your text.  It is optimized for note taking and marking up pdfs.  It handles deleting and remembering mark-ups better than the notes or adobe reader on the ipad pro (which can accidentally delete everything far too easily, and can make it difficult to delete earlier things once things have been saved once).  He told me it also functions as an e-reader for books, but doesn’t do as good a job (I have not verified).  Best of all, it’s less than $600 including the stylus, unlike the ipad Pro.  The case they sell is more like a pocket, so do not recommend, but the reMarkable doesn’t really need a case.  It is exactly what I wanted, except a little smaller.

In the end, I bought both.  I decided that I would use the iPad Pro for trips because it’s a lot lighter than my laptop and more functional than my phone.  I used it on a recent trip to read and mark-up the readings for a tenure letter I had to write and it worked well for that purpose (though after using the remarkable, Adobe Reader is a bit clunky in terms of switching between scrolling and annotating, and it would be nice if they made better use of layers to make erasing after the fact easier).  The reMarkable will be my go-to at home and work as I transition from paper to electricity.  If we were cash poor, I definitely would have returned the Apple Pencil when I returned the broken iPad Pro instead of buying a new one and just stuck with the reMarkable, which really does do everything I wanted.  If I weren’t prey to loss aversion, I might have looked into getting a slim laptop instead of the iPad Pro for more functionality after sending back the broken iPad Pro.

How do you mark things up?  Do you still use paper?  If you use electronics, what do you use?

More link love

Back from travels!  Check in next week to see if there are new posts… I have hope…and also things to talk about… but we’ll see…

Pickup Truck Barrels Into Jewish Activists At ICE Detention Center In Rhode Island

Link love

Still traveling!  Still no time to write posts.  You are missed!  Yes, all of you.

Script to protest

There’s still a lot of really horrible stuff going on, so please call your senators to ask for sensible gun control legislation.  Expand background checksBan assault weapons at the federal level.

Check out 5calls for more things to call about.  Like impeachment.   Write postcards to votersDonate to Amy McGrath to get rid of Mitch McConnell.  He has been retweeting what are essentially death threats against her.

Texas officials illegally throwing out mail-in ballots.

https://www.actuary.org/content/try-your-hand-social-security-reform

30-50 hog poems

what is a book doctor?

How “Gourmet Makes” teaches the lesson of failure (this had a much more click-baity title on the huffpo link, but I can’t remember what it was– something like how a cooking youtube show changed how I handle my career)

A Zarf is a cup for your coffee cup

I’m really loving these Ozy memes