RBOC

  • Our local grocery has stopped selling any no-sugar-added cereals in the frufru dried cereal area.  They have literally 4 kinds of fancy honey O cereal, but zero kinds of regular O cereal.  I went to the regular cereal section too and the lowest sugar oat O cereal they had was regular Cheerios which still has sugar added but not much.  So I got regular cheerios and then some store-brand mini-wheats and just for kicks some Post bran/whole wheat mini-wheats.  The only whole grain and no sugar cereal I didn’t buy was full sized shredded wheats.  I should probably just start eating oatmeal again, but I’m worried I’ll get sick of it if I eat it every day since it took a while for me to get not sick of it after (wheat-allergic fetus) DC2 was born.  This wouldn’t be such a huge problem except DC1 decided he liked my Rip’s Big Bowl from Whole Foods, so even though I bought three boxes the last time we went it wasn’t enough to last us to our next WF excursion.  Meanwhile I’ve been having toast and handfuls of nuts for breakfast.  But I’d rather not have to *think* about breakfast in the morning.
  • Note to self:  Next time I do bonds in taxable, choose munis VWITX vanguard municipal bond fund (maybe VWLTX ?)  Note 50K needed to qualify for admiral shares.  That is unlikely to happen any time soon.  .17 vs. 09 fees.  Can bond funds drip?
  • For Christmas/Birthday for DC1 I want to buy a theremin kit, a unicycle, and this lockpicking set (not sponsored links), but really we should only get two out of three.  (The lockpicking set is a price that we could suggest it as a present to the in-laws, but also it’s not really something that the in-laws would probably want to get for hir.)  DC1 is in a rapid growth phase, so the unicycle probably could wait another year so we can get a more permanent fit on the seat height, BUT we don’t have PE down here in the South (DC1 has one required semester that doesn’t fit in hir schedule until junior year) and the parks and rec tennis class zie took after quitting swimming lessons ended and zie needs exercise, so learning the unicycle would be a way to accomplish that until we can figure out some other organized activity that DC1 is willing to do.  (DC1 suggested trapeze lessons, maybe from watching too much Kaliedo Star, but the place outside town that had that as an option went out of business two years ago.)  So I dunno.  I’m not finding the reasonably priced theramin kit I saw before, so that may make the decision for us since $350 for something that’s not actually useful is a bit much.
  • DC1 also needs a new bike– although zie is now my height and can probably just ride mine until zie has settled on a more long-term height.  It is insane how quickly they grow as pre-teen/teenagers.
  • My car got a knocking sound that sounded like someone had attached a pie tin to the wheels.  It turned out to be a small rock that got into the brake system.  Nothing specific to the Insight, and not covered under the warranty, but also only a $90 fix.
  • It boggles my mind that in this day and age a prominent blogger would think it’s ok to let hir child dress in what looks a heck of a lot like blackface for Halloween (and is, in fact, a costume that a quick google shows makes the news *regularly* as being bad).  How does one not know that that is NOT ok?  It’s super creepy to me that there are neighborhood Halloween parades that include white people dressed in blackface and nobody says dude, that’s not cool.  Zie took the pictures down and briefly addressed it…but it’s still really unsettling.
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We bought a new clothes washer

We decided it was time to get a new clothes washer because we couldn’t get the mustiness out of the old one (and did not want to spend a weekend taking it apart and putting it back together).  Instead, we spent a weekend reading online reviews, subscribing to consumer reports, etc. etc. etc.

Consumer reports had a different viewpoint than most of the other review sites, and that difference seemed to be entirely driven by brand reliability ratings.  Many of the for-profit sites preferred a fancy front-loading Electrolux model, but they got low points for long-term reliability with Consumer Reports.  Consumer Reports preferred LG as a brand.  After some comparison of pros and cons across different sites, we decided to get the LG #WM3700HWA (not an affiliate link) from Home Depot for a total cost including installation and parts of $913.93.

This is a pretty fancy clothes washer.

The thing that lots of people don’t like about it is that the panel display needs a lot of light in order to be read, so it isn’t great for basement laundry rooms.  Our utility room is bright and cheery with a window, so we don’t have that problem.

The second problem is that while this machine did really well on cleanliness in the tests, the regular cycle was not the most gentle of the washers that various places tested.  We have found that to be true in our case as well.  Our clothing gets clean without pre-soaking or a second wash (even DC1’s stinky pits), but it isn’t incredibly gentle on clothes.  For most of our clothing this doesn’t matter, but DC2 has had a couple of older shirts lose their printing in the washer.  My clothing that I’ve been washing on delicate doesn’t seem to have any problems, so maybe if this is something you’re worried about, stick to the delicate cycle.

Finally, there were complaints about the blue-tooth … but we are never going to want to use an app to run our laundry in our house.  Maybe if we had basement laundry or a more busy active lifestyle we might use the keep tumbling feature… but… I just don’t think we are going to be in a situation in which this would be a useful feature.

One nice thing about the washer, which may be also related to it being harder on clothing, is that it does a really good job of getting the water out of clothing, which has cut down on our dryer time considerably.  Most of our loads get dry in 50-60 minutes rather than 90+.  Of course, there’s also more time spent in the washer than before, so we haven’t actually cut down on total time.  But if dryers are bigger energy hogs than washers, this may not be a bad thing.

I also had some fun playing with the steam cycle that supposedly gets rid of allergens.  I did a load of itchy shirts and towels on that cycle and they came out not itchy at all and just as clean as the regular cycle.  So I’m not really sure if there’s a benefit to either cycle, except the allergen steam cycle takes twice as long as the regular cycle.

Supposedly this washer has a self-clean cycle.  We haven’t tried it yet.

The washer is also a lot bigger in capacity than our previous one.  Our dryer hasn’t gotten any bigger, so that’s not particularly helpful.

The thing we like best about this washer (other than the not giving me hives part) is that when it’s done washing, instead of strident beeping, it sings a happy little song that sounds reminiscent of an ice cream truck.  (Our Hondas also sing little songs when they’re going slowly– our household is getting pleasantly musical.  With a pleasantness exception of the way that the kids have been singing Christmas songs on the top of their lungs since June.)

So we’re pretty happy and I’m again wishing we’d just gotten a new washer back this summer when the door handle broke instead of after the leak and permanent spreading mustiness and hives.  But if it weren’t for the hives, we’d probably be happily continuing to use this washer and to fix smaller parts as they broke.

Are there any other updates you’re interested in reading about?

Link Love

Hard to believe there was an election this week! There were strong blue waves in Kentucky and Virginia. We still have a lot of work to do, but we’re making positive progress despite billionaires wanting to impede forward movement.

An example of a fake outrage cycle– and college journalism being superior to national journalism.

Wisconsin politics demonstrates a frightening erosion of democracy

I’m not sure if I should believe this or not.

Lots of recalled frozen vegetable products across the US.

H/T to Revanche for this fascinating piece of investigative reporting about a nationwide AirBNB scam.

Also as a h/t to Revanche— if you got that super obnoxious Amazon catalog in the mail, here’s a link to get yourself off their list.

Ask the grumpies: Favorite apps for fun?

Leah asks:

Do you have any sort of favorite apps you use for fun?

#2 doesn’t have a cell phone.  Like not even a flip phone.

#1 doesn’t use apps for fun because she has major problems with time management and internet addiction.  Still, she does use Yelp a lot.  And she watches Youtube a lot, but doesn’t use an app for it.  I use the Apple Podcast app in the car.

DH and the kids like all sorts of games (DH is currently playing Hyper Light Drifter).  DH uses the Netflix app a lot and Amazon PrimeTime.  He listens to Audible.

What are your favorite apps for fun, Grumpy Nation?

Honors English and ponderings about the importance of AP tests

At the beginning of the year, DC1 was signed up for all the hardest classes zie could be signed up for as a Freshman.  AP World History instead of Human Geography.  Algebra II pre-AP honors.  Biology pre-AP honors.  JV Orchestra.  Honors Computer Programming… And Pre-AP honors English.

This English class quickly had a detrimental effect on our entire family.  After four years of zero homework (other than the Year of Crafts) and taking half a year to read a simple YA novel in middle-school English, zie was suddenly getting nightly essays, heavy reading assignments, and lots of things zie had never been trained how to do.  Instructions were vague and confusing.  Grades were low and seemed capricious.  English was taking all of DC1’s time and all of our time too trying to figure out what the teacher wanted.  (This is in heavy contrast to AP History in which the teacher is scaffolding essays and giving clear instructions about what she is looking for in every assignment– there’s a lot of work but it doesn’t seem so random.)  One of my work friends had a kid in AP English I with the same teacher the previous year and said it never got any better in terms of time, though hir kid did eventually figure out how to earn As in the class.  She spent all last year complaining about the class and is not really sure what was gotten out of it (other than the ability to do assignments quickly at the last minute and to use tiny words and very simple sentences so as not to get points taken off for spelling/grammar/usage).  So it’s not DC1!

The final straw was an essay on why DC1 wanted to take English Pre-AP.   What zie came up with was that zie wanted to get into a good college and taking an AP English class and getting a high grade on the AP English tests would help.  And… as an educator, I kind of think that’s a piss-poor reason to be spending all this time in such a terrible class.  In fact, if it lowers DC1’s grades in other classes more related to hir interests, or keeps hir from inventing something or exploring extra-curriculars or even just getting enough sleep, then it might hinder DC1 from getting into a good college.

So, we found out that there was a second level of English class that is still honors English, so still on the 5 point scale.  Sadly, it had had fewer assignments and they had all been easy 100s (ex. sign up for turnitin.com), but DC1’s low grades transferred over instead of allowing hir to do those assignments for credit, AND the weighting was different so DC1’s grades dropped even lower. But it’s been slowly moving up, though not to an A.  This English class also seems to be equally capricious on subjective things and there have been several quiz questions in which DC1 picked the correct multiple choice or T/F question but the teacher said it was incorrect even when DC1 backed it up hir answer with textual evidence.  So DC1 is still getting a B, though the B is now higher than it was in the previous class (and hir grade is literally 10 percentage points higher than the class average, which is a C).  I have resigned myself to the more and more likely possibility of not having to pay for MIT or Harvey Mudd.  DH’s alma mater and my sister’s alma mater both have very good computer science/engineering programs and if DC1 keeps up As in all hir other classes, never getting an A in English might still be ok.

Although the grading is still capricious, the instruction is much better.  They’re taught things before they’re asked to do them in an assignment.  They spend a week on things that the other class would do in a day before moving on to something completely different, so there’s time to review and reflect and apply feedback.  There’s also more choice in assignments and MUCH more literature written by people who aren’t dead white dudes, and the literature for the non-pre-AP class has been updated since 1970 (I’m looking at you A Separate Peace).  They’re still cramming what seems like all of Midwestern 7th and 8th grade English into a single semester along with Freshman English (minus the two Shakespeare plays– they only do Romeo and Juliet this year, which we also did as Freshmen), but it’s not at quite such an insane pace.

My friend says English Pre-AP II is almost but not quite as bad as I, so we’re not sure if we’re going to have DC1 switch back in the future.  Non-Pre-AP English II sounds pretty good– they do a big section on modern World Literature that I think could broaden DC1’s horizons a lot.  It is true that getting 3s or higher on the English AP exams would allow DC1 to waive English requirements if zie went to a state school, but they’re pretty useless most of the places zie is looking at applying.  Or if they are useful, zie would need 5s for them to help at all.  I did take one of the AP English exams despite not having AP English (it was an accident– I’d meant to cancel the exam for a refund but somehow didn’t when I cancelled the other AP tests that the college I was going to didn’t accept), and somehow managed to get a 4 even though I guessed most of the multiple choice answers since they were full of terminology I had never heard before in my life.  (This is what I was supposed to be learning all those years, I thought.)

In the mean time, we will keep trusting the AP history classes to teach DC1 how to write.  We’ve heard amazing things about AP US History which zie will be taking next year.  I have to say, I learned a lot more about how to write clear and concise essays in my history classes than I ever did in an English class.  Probably because I never had a deconstructionist history teacher.

Did you take AP exams?  Do you think they’re useful?

The diminished mental load of having a lot of money: An obnoxious post

DON’T FORGET TO VOTE TUESDAY NOVEMBER 5TH!!!!

Back when I had just graduated from college, my former roommate and I had gotten a bill for missing furniture that we’d never gotten in the first place (our room was too small to fit an easy chair they’d tried to deliver).  I had called up and complained and gotten the charge revoked.  My roommate’s father had just paid her half.  I don’t remember the exact amount but it was definitely over $100.

At the time I did not understand how someone could just *do* that.  If nothing else, the principle of the thing.  I’ve spent most of my life keeping track of things.  Billing discrepancies, missing reimbursements, accidental overcharges.  Even though I hate calling places, I would protest mistakes or make DH protest them.

And now… I just don’t.  I don’t notice them as much and when I do notice them, if the amount is small enough and not likely to be repeated I don’t call.  I do make DH keep track of our internet bill out of principle, and I would make him do the same for the cell if Ting wasn’t such a great company, because those companies would regularly cheat us.  In fact, shortly after starting this post our internet bill went up somewhat randomly, and DH called and… they refused to budge or let DH talk to a manager or anything.  We only have two internet providers in the area (this is down from 3– the major competitor no longer provides internet, only tv) and the other option is pretty bad, so this company feels like they have a monopoly on us.  Old us would have switched out of sheer annoyance at not being allowed to talk with a manager (or at least gotten far enough along in the cancellation process that they offered us a deal).  But right now we don’t want to deal with the hassle.  Maybe this summer.  Or never.

This is a pretty new phenomenon for me… maybe half a year old, give or take.  This is the first time we have money and really nowhere to put it.  We’re not saving for a car or a house.  We’re not saving for leave or so DH can quit his job.  We have a full emergency fund.  We’re maxing our our retirement.  Our mortgage is paid off.  Our college savings are such that depending on where the kids go we might be over-saving (though fortunately with two children we can adjust after we know what DC1’s situation is going to be).  We’ve way upped our donations.  We can cash-flow the kinds of vacations we go on with DH’s family.  And our next “it would be nice”s are so far away that there just doesn’t seem to be much point– we’re not going to quit our jobs and move to a house we’ve purchased in a West Coast city any time soon because we can’t afford a house out there without high-paying jobs and we don’t have those jobs in West Coast cities.  That certainly doesn’t seem worth scrimping and saving for.

I like this diminished mental load.  I like not worrying about things.  I like being able to say, “Enh, it’s just money.”  I like being able to think, “maybe they need the money more than we do” (NOT something I think about our terrible big chain internet provider, but something I do tend to think about say, restaurants, or the piano teacher if she makes a billing mistake).  I like having a lot of money.

Don’t let people say money can’t buy happiness.  It can and it does.  Having more than enough (without going insane with stupid things because you want to keep up with the Trumps or whatever) decreases stress tremendous amounts as you go up the income ladder.  Yes, there is some point where you hit diminishing marginal returns on that de-stressing, and we’ve probably hit that point, but with every increase there’s been more and more we can just not worry about.  First the price of groceries, later the price of gas, now the price of letting small* billing mistakes go.  Not keeping track of these things is such a gift.

*Disclaimer:  I do still keep track of BIG billing mistakes, which is why I got big influx of late reimbursements in early October.

Are there things you just don’t worry about anymore because you can afford it?  What do you wish you could just ignore?

Link Love (late for a lazy Saturday)

Don’t forget to vote on Tuesday!

Pictures of Chicagoans protesting Trump

Thank you, Firefox.  Facebook is truly awful.  We need better privacy laws and punishments.

An interesting take on Why booing Trump matters and what’s wrong with the media

How to design a better stock market game.

What will the net price of college be at your kids’ chosen school?  Here’s some calculators

Ask the grumpies: Do you ration Halloween candy or do you let your kids eat as much as they want all at once?

Melva asks:

For Halloween candy, do you let your kids eat as much as they want or do you put limits on how much they can eat at a time?

My colleagues and I were just discussing this before a meeting earlier this week.  The answers ranged from one person only allowing hir kids to have one piece a day and a couple of us (including me) without any rules on how much can be consumed Halloween night.

The conversation included whether it was better to have a little sugar every day for most of the year or to have a couple/few heavy sugary days and then have entirely candy-free days (we’re social scientists, not nutritionists, so this was solely speculative).  Candy quality over time was also discussed.  But the main argument seemed to be that if you let kids eat as much candy as they want, they’ll get sick.

To which I replied, quite truthfully, “Oh, that only happens once.”

Which I guess illustrates how DH and I are very much natural consequences parents.  It’s not like we didn’t tell them that too much candy will give them a tummy ache, but sometimes one doesn’t know what too much is until one has experienced it.  (My learning experience was Easter, First Grade, in case you’re wondering.)

We don’t buy any candy other than extra super dark chocolate that’s mine and they have to ask permission to have, so the only way they get candy is via Halloween, Christmas, Easter, and what they spend their own money on (also the occasional school/party treat and the weekly dumdum from the piano teacher).  They almost never spend their own money on candy (though that’s where all my money went when I was growing up).  So unless they decide to ration out holiday candy themselves, most days will be candy-free.

There are rules on *when* candy can be consumed in my house, but not how much. They can generally only eat it after meals, mostly after dinner.  That’s because they’re still growing and allowing natural consequences doesn’t extend to missing important vitamins that could contribute to their growth because they’re overfull on sugar.

Is this the right thing to do?  Who knows.  It’s the lazy thing to do, which basically means it’s what works for us.  (We also let our kids nap whenever they were sleepy, while the one piece a day colleague had rigid nap schedules– I don’t think it actually matters.)  Last night our kids only ate a few pieces right after they got back, then noted they were full and put their remaining candy back in their bags.  I would like to say they then moved their bags to the kitchen pantry to their candy shelf, but in truth they left them on the dining room floor.  (Because all their bad habits come from me and I leave my bag on the floor whenever I’m not using it.)

Did you have rules growing up about how much Halloween candy you could eat at a time?  If applicable, do you have rules for your kids?