• Some of my students have started to hit crisis mode with lost jobs and lost job offers and having to move back in with family.  Some of them have families in crisis mode as well.
  • DH’s parents should be fine– they have pensions.  But his other relatives have been mostly laid off, including all the teens.
  • It’s not too late to apply to graduate school– our admissions was way down this year, so we still have rolling admissions!  Wait out the bad economy with a masters degree.  (I think we’re done with PhD stuff, but we still have plenty of MA slots… we probably still have financial aid.  And if we’re in this situation, other schools likely are as well.)
  • I war between feeling #blessed and feeling guilty.
  • DH and I have been trying to figure out how to just give money without having to buy anything to our favorite homemade noodle restaurant.  Credit card is our best method right now but we’d have to order and if we tipped it might just go to whoever did the curbside (this is our best idea so far though).  There’s a language barrier, so it’s hard to discuss this with them.  We don’t have much cash on hand.  A check seems weird and how would we get it to them?
  • The kids’ piano lessons have gone virtual.  I’m really hoping DC1’s violin lesson can–she just texted as I was typing this to say she’s doing zoom lessons now.  So that will be interesting.  I get how we can set up for violin since DH has a pretty professional setup already at his work-from-home computer, but piano is going to be a bit more difficult.
  • I’m using DH’s low quality cast-offs for my work-from home zoom set-up.  I’m also using my fancy ipad pro to record lectures.
  • Our internet is not great when everyone is at home.  Usually this is only a problem in summer, but it is a problem now.  DH has hard wired me into the internet which seems to help some, but it isn’t perfect, even when I’m just doing audio and not video.
  • I spent about 2 hours one day trying to figure out how to get graded exams into ecampus. Because the day before we got instructions telling us we can’t return graded assignments with emails. And then the student I tried to send something to via ecampus email did not get the email or the attachment. So I looked up how to upload exams in the grade center. But the graded exams are on my ipad, not my desktop, and I have no secure way of moving them to the desktop (since I’m not allowed to use cloud activities and don’t have the right kind of cable to connect my ipad to my desktop). And Safari won’t let me scroll in the grade center. So I figured out a kludge involving sorting by date added so the midterm column showed up in the screen, and then realized it resets the order after every single exam which is not realistic, so I went back to google. After determining that USC’s instructions for how to show scroll bars in IOS wasn’t going to work, I figured out that I could reorder the columns manually, but of course the reordering requires manual moving that does not work on the ipad. So I manually reordered columns on my desktop and can now go through the manual override process that the Vanderbilt webpage recommends for returning graded pdfs in ecampus. Test student got her exam back. This is not what I should be spending my time doing. :( (If I’d just graded my exams a day earlier I could have said I had no idea our email servers weren’t secure enough to send graded exams through and could have just said oopsie doopsie.  I bet a lot of profs are going to ignore that email saying it got lost.)
  • A lot of folks have been posting the wonderfully creative things their children have been doing while “unschooled”… my youngest has been leaving a creative path of destruction (DH:  why is the bathtub still full of water and why are there stuffed animals in it?).
  • Where we used to live for a year in paradise is giving rental assistance for families with income less than $100k who have lost substantial income.
  • We’ve been getting groceries delivered– $10 fee and we’ve giving a $10 tip on top of that (this is generally rounding up from their suggested tip).  They just drop the groceries off at our porch and I let them sit for a bit before taking them in, letting them sit a bit more, unpacking them, then washing my hands.  Usually the substitutes are pretty good, but vegan butter (aka fancy margarine) is not a substitute for cultured butter #richpeopleproblems.  I am grateful that we can do this.  See #blessed vs guilty.  (DH plans to use the “vegan butter” in pie dough, which will add flake even though we usually just do 100% butter for the flavor.)
  • My school put together a relief fund for students.  I donated.  I feel like heavily endowed private schools could do this without donations, but I’m at a public school and see a future with a recession and no raises for a while.
  • We bought a random care package from walmart.com for someone– random because all walmart had left were assorted random things.  Then the package got delayed, then split up weirdly.  So on Friday they got their first package, late at night:  A single box of Cascadian Farm organic granola.  The last package is going to be a single container of prunes.  And before that:  five cans of chicken noodle soup (Progresso).  In theory, today they’ll get the bulk of things (though I’m not sure how given they haven’t shipped), which will still be random, but not quite so weird.

Link Love

Did you get a weird postcard in the mail this week?

Upset about the bungled US pandemic response?  Swing Left has suggestions for activism you can do from home.

I hope this isn’t creepy stalkerish… but if you’d been worried about chacha, I ran across this brief update on whatever.

Five Short Answers to Way More Than Five Long Questions: COVID-19 Edition

I don’t watch much television, but I WOULD WATCH THIS.  The world needs this.

Ask the Grumpies: Why can politicians only get things done for short term intense emergencies (aka after the last minute)?

Debbie M asks:

Why are businesses and government officials doing things that are bad for business in response to coronavirus (when they wouldn’t in response to the climate crisis)? I like it, but I don’t get it. It’s not like they suddenly have morals. I don’t think they were pressured by their customers or citizens. Now that it’s started, there’s plenty of peer pressure. But I don’t see what inspired the first people to start doing the things (like canceling events and closing down bars) that previously would have been considered crazy.

This relates to a more general question that drives economists CRAZY.  For example, we have known that there’s an upcoming problem with social security since at least the 1980s.  We’ve also known at least a dozen different plans that would “fix” it with minimal pain if any of them had been implemented back in the day (all small cuts and small tax increases).  None of them happened.  Social Security fixes only happen at the last minute (as with the last fix) with much more pain than is needed.  It takes a lot of political will to do difficult things, but if the pain is now and the rewards are in the future, it’s not going to happen.  Political will usually only happens when the emergency is now.  When people see the reason for painful cuts.  Politicians don’t get credit for making small slightly painful cuts now to remove the chance of big gashes later.  So they sometimes try, but they don’t succeed.  It’s far easier to vote no, we can’t hurt this group of people even a tiny bit now until there’s actually a crisis that forces us to hurt people a lot in order to avoid catastrophy.  And then they can blame the people who didn’t make those tiny cuts in the past.

How do we fix this problem?  Well-functioning governments are great– when governments are run by good people we can get multi-national accords where some of the blame can be shared in the interest of global harmony etc.  The EU did a lot of stuff to fix long-term things (not enough, but they’d be much worse off without their accords) when they got together.  Similarly big climate change agreements have helped a little, though Trump really destroyed that.  For these to work, you need to not have the dominant party running on xenophobia.

So we could have taken steps against Corona-virus back in January (bringing back the CDC pandemics people, working internationally with test kits, upping ventilator/mask/glove/etc. production, rapid response grants, increasing customs employees, bringing people back to the US in an orderly and controlled manner, etc. etc. etc.).  But the Federal government opted not to.  Only when people in the US started dying did anything happen, and it’s mainly been happening at state and local levels, which is really not where the main leadership should be coming from for an infection disease that spills over to the entire country and beyond.  We have managed pandemics better before, and we learned from those pandemics… but Trump fired all those people pretty early on and just threw away all of our knowledge.  Instead of using known systems and experts, he gave the response to his son-in-law.  It’s infuriating.

Now I need to watch some cat videos.


So… I haven’t been getting my 6 hours/week of walking around the class plus 20-30 min/weekday of walking around the pretty landscaped area near my office.  The first week I did a lot of string playing with Nice Kitty and walked around the back porch reading, but it’s not really the same.

We’ve been tossing the kids out for bikerides (with instructions not to stop at the playground), but currently only have 2 adult-sized bikes (we were waiting for DC1 to stop being in a growth spurt before getting hir a more permanent bike, and then we forgot about it because zie has been using mine) and I really hate biking in the streets (the norm in our neighborhood is that kids bike on the sidewalks, but adults bike in the streets).

DH says we should walk around the neighborhood but… there are a lot of people walking around the neighborhood which makes it harder to social distance than usual.  Also it’s been raining a lot.

My sister, ever helpful, has been sending me links to things because she always thinks I should exercise/etc. more.  Here’s a meditation app she recommends.  Here’s more meditations.  Free workout classes.  30 days of yoga with Adreine.

My students got to rent exercise equipment for free from the (now temporarily closed) Orange Theory they would usually go to work out in.  It’s probably too late for us to buy a decent treadmill (or exercise bike etc.) and I’m not sure where we’d put one anyway.

After some discussion, DH and I have decided that we’re going to do something new each week of the quarantine to keep things interesting.  But we’re trying to decide what.   This week we’re doing the fitness ladder.

What are you doing to get exercise from home?  Do you have any suggestions?


What if you run low on toilet paper? A reminder about “family cloth”

So… we aren’t doing this and haven’t done this, but the other week we were down to 8 rolls of TP and the grocery store was out and we were fairly sure everything was about to get shut down for 2 weeks (oh, how naive we were!).  While DH drove to Walgreens, where he was eventually successful, I looked up family cloth on the internet.  Just in case.

So… what is family cloth?  It’s using cloth for pee instead of using toilet paper.  There’s a lot of discussion about it on the internet, most of it negative (“rich white people wanting to feel poor” “not actually that environmentally friendly”).  Here’s a buzzfeed article.

We did use cloth wipes for pee diapers for DC2 because poor DC2 was allergic to *everything* (this is also part of why DC2 responded really well to elimination communication).  And it was fine!

So for insurance purposes I ordered a bunch of cloth wipes from amazon. I got two kinds– some soft organic baby wipes and some super cheap white terry cloth baby washclothes.  My hope is that these remain unopened and we can donate them to refugee families once this pandemic dies down.  But if not, here’s my plan:

Put a bucket and some other container (plastic bag?) in the master bathroom.  Before TP runs out at home, get DH on board with family cloth for pee.  Talk to the kids about not using huge amounts of TP (I think they’re fine on this already?  I don’t keep track, but I haven’t noticed them running out unreasonably quickly, though who knows).  Put clean cloths in the plastic bag.  Used cloths go in the bucket.  When cloths run down, wash them in bleach.  Repeat.  (If it is a true emergency, we will cut down some old t-shirt rags into additional cloths.)  Reserve paper TP for poo.

Probably we should just get a bidet attachment for the toilet, but my sensitive American rear is still squicked out by that idea.  (Update:  bidet attachments have been sold out on amazon!)

Do you have back-up plans for shortages?

Link Love

#Quarantinecats is the best thing to come out of the quarantine (besides flattening the curve and saving lives, of course)

The local shop has been out of business for a couple months, but you can still order great coffee beans from Southern Season (not a paid link).  We’ve also sent two orders to nuts.com for non-perishables (also not a paid link).  Are there any non-Amazon mail-order businesses you’d like to give a shout out to?  (I suspect Zingerman’s is doing fine, even with all the college kids gone from Ann Arbor…)


Ask the Grumpies: blog recs for special needs, time management, finance, minimalist, simple living, frugality…

middleclassrevolution asks:

After a 3 year absence, I found my blog and decided to check out people who use to comment and old favorites. It seems like 90% are inactive or completely vanished. I know that social media is the main outlet but sometimes I like to read more substantial stuff in long form (articles and blog posts) Any recommendations?

My interests: finance, minimalist, simple living, frugality, healthcare, special needs, time management.

Middle Class


Here’s a recent post of ours you might find some (mostly but not all personal finance) suggestions from:  https://nicoleandmaggie.wordpress.com/2020/01/29/what-are-your-current-favorite-blogs/

If you haven’t checked out solitarydiner‘s blogroll, she has a lot of similar interests…. all that’s missing I think is special needs.

Who has better suggestions for middle class revolution?  Particularly special needs, time management, healthcare, etc.

What we’ve been doing with our kids

We have two children:  DC1, age 13 and DC2, age 7.

DC1 is in high school and has plenty of homework to keep hir busy all day.  Zie has also been binging on mostly terrible WWII movies for extra credit for history, which zie needs thanks to a low test grade earlier this quarter.  As is typical of teenagers, DC1 seems to be mostly fine entertaining hirself.

DC2, on the other hand, is an extrovert who thrives on attention and has a ton of energy.  If DC2 spends more than a couple of hours watching shows, zie gets super grumpy.  There’s also a limit to video games and screentime overall before grumpiness sets in, but the line isn’t as clear cut.  Usually we send DC2 to daycamp or after school care where zie can work out a lot of that extra energy.  We cannot do that during a quarantine.

So here’s what we’ve been doing instead.

We’ve been letting DC2 sleep in and haven’t been policing sleeping time.  Hir no more screens time is 7pm and hir lights out (except hir personal lamp which zie uses as a nightlight) is 8pm.  Zie will stay up reading comic books or Harry Potter or whatever zie is into well past 8pm if we don’t police this even though zie isn’t supposed to.  We have not been policing it, which means zie stays quiet in hir room after 8pm not sleeping and then sleeps in until 10 or 11am.  This is fantastic given that we don’t have to get hir up to catch the bus at 6:50am.  (This is pretty terrible when school is in session and zie has to get up.)

Add to that, we are on a system of weekend chores.  So, that means that instead of half an hour of violin practice, DC1 has to do a full hour.  DC2 has a full load of workbooks instead of just Singapore math.  We also started Hard Math for Elementary Students during Spring Break because the other stuff was getting finished too quickly and DC2 was bouncing off the walls, so we needed a challenge.

DC2’s current line of workbooks (amazon links are affiliate links) is:

Brainquest Grade 3 (I would recommend this series to anybody, gifted or not– it’s just a really thick really good series of workbooks for each grade with additional summer books as well– try barnesandnoble if amazon is out of the grade you want)
Primary Mathematics 4A (this is Singapore math, not an affiliate link)
FlashKids Writing Skills 3 (this is because zie was having trouble “letting go” with English assignments back in like October, so we added a series of English workbooks, I can’t find a link to grade 3, but here’s grade 2)
Easy Spanish Step-By-Step (I ordered this off Amazon last week because I thought we could use it for the summer if hir school didn’t shut down)
Hard Math for Elementary School (for this you need 3 books:  workbook, textbook, solutions manual)
Coloring by note music coloring book (from piano teacher)
We used to have a handwriting practice book instead of Spanish, but zie finished it and has pretty decent handwriting, so we didn’t see the need to replace it with another.

On Sunday evening, we talked with both DC1 and DC2 about how school was closed for at least a week but mommy and daddy still need to work, so DC2 needs to ask DC1 for help first before Mommy and Daddy.  They were both understanding.  #blessed

DC1’s schedule:
Get up around 8am, goof off for a bit.
Take shower, brush teeth. Eat Breakfast.
Work on homework.
Sometime before lunch: Do piano practicing.
Sometime around 11 or 12: Eat lunch. Put away dishes from dishwasher if asked to.
Work on homework, help DC2.
Squabble with DC2 after DC2 has finished chores and screentime.
Get kicked out of house for bike ride with DC2.
Terrible WWII movie or more homework.
Put away dishes or laundry.
Whatever DC1 does in the evenings.

DC2’s schedule:
Get up around 11am.
Eat Breakfast. Brush Teeth.
Zoom through homework books. Ask DC1 for help except sometimes ask mommy or daddy.
Gripe about lunch options. Eat lunch. Put away silverware from dishwasher if DC1 is putting away dishes.
Piano practicing.
Screen time! Usually an hour of videos and an hour of slime rancher or stardew valley. Sometimes minecraft if DC1 isn’t using the computer.
Squabble with DC1.
Get kicked out of house for bikeride with DC1.
Watch Magic School Bus in Spanish because we only have that and Harry Potter in Spanish or Try not to watch terrible WWII movie unless it’s something like Indiana Jones or Captain America.
Complain about being bored. Refuse to clean room.
xtramath (almost done with division) or Encore reading from school
Write Bad Kitty Fan Fiction or do drawing tutorials on YouTube or play with calligraphy set from Christmas.
Hang out with Mommy and/or Daddy. Do crafts with Daddy. Do chores or read or watch twoset/tryguys videos on the couch with Mommy.
Put away silverware or laundry.
More hanging out with parents.
7pm: Showertime!
8pm: Bedtime!

In a couple days we will ask DC2’s best friend’s parents if zie can Facetime with DC2.  We all facetimed with my sister on my sister’s birthday.  Poor Auntie being socially distanced on her birthday.

Here’s somethingremarkable asking for tips on how to keep a 7 year old occupied.

Here’s an old post of ours on how to keep a gifted kid challenged.  Here’s another set of old posts on (mostly educational) apps that our kids have enjoyed at various ages (strong recommendation for all the dragonbox games).

If you have kids, what are you doing to keep them occupied while you work from home?  Have you seen any good posts with suggestions or have other links?  (I’ve been digging the Gen X latchkey generation stuff on twitter because yeah, that was me.  Don’t bother mommy when she’s working unless you are bleeding.)  Any recommendations for videos in Spanish besides Pocoyo?  (Any anime suitable for a 7 year old?  Spanish dubbed/subbed anime used to be easily available on youtube, but they seem to have cracked down.)

Adventures in cleaning out the dryer vent

One of the things you might do around the house while working from home these next few weeks is home repair.  But be careful that you don’t get injured!  Now is not a great time to have to go to the emergency room!

We had been noticing that our dryer was taking longer and longer to get things dry.  DH thought maybe our lint tube thingy was clogged again.

Ewww lint clogged tubes

So he vacuumed all the lint areas in the dryer and then bought a snake from home depot and snaked as far as he could snake.  And some stuff came out.  But that just made things worse– he managed to complete clog the tube so no air would come out.

Unfortunately instead of doing something sensible like venting out to the side into our driveway, our dryer vent takes a long tortuous path up and sideways and up to vent in the roof.  That results in a weird little built-out above the cabinets in our utility room.  DH had to take that apart to get to the vent.  Afterwards he had to close it up and paint over it again, but the only picture I have of that has too much of him in it to be anonymous (though you might just think I’m living with a celebrity since he does have a famous look-a-like).

How stupid is this when the driveway is like right there to the right?

Sadly, even after taking this part apart, air still wasn’t going through. Nothing was working. So we did two things.  First, we took the dryer completely apart.  It was clogged and disgusting.  I don’t think this picture fully captures the cloggedness– this is like 70% packed hard dryer lint by volume.  It took effort to pull it all out.

Caked dryer innards.

A grocery bag full of lint from the dryer.

Then, nothing worked to unclog the tube.  DH tried some dumb stuff like taping a box fan in a garbage bag to it (I’m like that does not seem like it could possibly be powerful enough to do anything, but hey, you’re the engineer) and started worrying he’d created a dangerous fire hazard while I determined that if you want someone to fix this for you, you need to hire a chimney sweep company (some plumbers will do it too, but it’s mainly a chimney sweep thing), but none of the sweep companies in a 90 mile radius online serviced our county.  I left a message for one (this being a Sunday when DH tried it), but by the time they called back the next week we’d already solved the problem ourselves.

So… the second thing we tried, the one that solved the problem was buying an electric leaf blower.  Now, I HATE leaf blowers with a fiery passion and we continuously remind our lawn service that we don’t want the sidewalks blown (at least they asked this year instead of just “forgetting”).  But… we needed the clog fixed before something sparked a fire and we had loads of laundry to do!  And an electric leaf blower was probably going to be less expensive than hiring someone from the nearest city and paying time for driving out here.  (Why electric:  because we don’t want a gas motor running inside the house, the same reason we had to run a generator outside the house that time DH forgot to get our electricity turned back on over 4th of July weekend.)  Buying the leafblower was just a little more expensive than renting and saved a trip back to home depot.  It is now in our shed for the next time we need to unclog something.

The electric leaf blower was impressive.  It looked like it was snowing.  Worked like a charm in only a few minutes.

After the bulk had floated down and been captured for disposal. Some still remains on the roof.

Lint snow on our plants. In our driveway. Where it the vent could have just, you know, vented.

And… now our laundry dries in 50-60 minutes again.  Even full up.  WHEW.

Though this whole debacle did add a lot of dust to the house and DC2 and I both got hives and had to take Zyrtec until DH and DC1 vacuumed/wiped everything down.  Perhaps we should have taken the dryer apart outside and started with the electric leaf blower.

Disclaimer:  If you try this at home, please read up a lot on how best to do it and for goodness sakes, do not do anything that could get you injured.  At least not until the covid-19 vaccine is available (12-18 months from now…) and you’ve gotten it.

link love

The assistant to the president and director of social media at the white house doctored a Joe Biden clip that President Trump then retweeted.


Postcardstovoters has a campaign right now getting Democrats in Florida to sign up for voting by mail.  That sounds like something good to do while sipping on your quarantini.  Here’s info on how to get postcards and stamps and how to sign up.  (You can just stick them in your mailbox when you’re done for the postal worker to pick up!)

How one blogger got refunds back after cancelling their Japan trip.

Should schools be closed?

Male privilege is real

More money, more options.

I hugged my children close and begged them to never go on the bachelor franchise