Ask the grumpies: Favorite apps for life/productivity

Leah asks:

Do you have any favorite apps for life/productivity?

This is a timely question!  This summer I have decided to try Trello with two of my summer RAs and Github for another project.  These are both project management apps and for myself I have a Trello board that I’m using like a to-do list (sort of kanbanish, but not quite).  I am liking Trello very much.  Github is more complicated but it can do more and has better integration with things our university owns, particularly in terms of file attachments.  After working with both for a few weeks, Github’s project management software is not very good, nor is it as well-integrated as it should be with the repo.

DH uses Pivotal Tracker for work and likes it.  My university doesn’t have it for free so I haven’t tried it, though it’s probably available in some limited fashion for free.  Jira is also popular, but the free version is limited to 10 people so I haven’t tried it.

Probably my biggest productivity app is the leechblock add-on for firefox.  This keeps me from reading twitter and other common sites except during scheduled breaks and outside of work.

I’m eager to hear what productivity tools people in Grumpy Nation have found helpful!  Three years ago it seemed like only a few people were using project management software (preferring low-tech things like google docs or to-do lists), but suddenly it seems a lot more common.

What do you all recommend or find not worth the effort?

Things DH has baked during the quarantine

I know this seems like an inappropriate post during these times, and I do have more appropriate posts… in drafts.  But if those posts don’t get finished until the news media has moved on, that’s not such a bad thing either since this will most likely continue to be a marathon movement punctuated by too-brief sprints rather than one and done.  We will need to keep fighting even after people change their twitter names to something else.  In the meantime, have a self-indulgent post that explains why I currently only fit into one pair of my non-sleeping shorts.

To start:  I apologize for the number of pictures in this post.  It was a manageable amount when I started the post, but then I put off uploading pictures and suddenly I had to upload well over 30 which is overwhelming.

So…. we recently bought 50lb of flour off We had been completely unable to get whole wheat flour at the grocery store, and we’d ordered a pasta roller. So because they were sold out of smaller packages of flour, we got a 25lb case of Whole Wheat and a 25lb case of Durum flour. At the rate DH has been stress-baking (even with him trying to cut down on stress-eating) we think we’ll be able to use it up before it goes bad, and I’ll be able to stop trying to play a losing battle of grocery store roulette with the WW flour.

fruit tart

This fruit tart from the Barefoot Countess was my birthday cake this year!

Sourdough boules

You will see a LOT of these. Eventually DC1 and I were like, could we have something that’s not sourdough? This was the first attempt from Flour, Salt, Yeast, Water and includes a dried yeast boost.


Technically not baking, but DH made these Russian dumplings from scratch.

Jamaican meat pies

Jamaican meat pies from Cook’s Country. These were extremely popular.

misshapen boule

This one had an accident…

poundcake in a ring

Olive Oil and Sherry Poundcake from Pure Dessert. This was really sophisticated and a little boozy (less so the second day). A++. Would eat again.

big pie thing with strawberries and almonds on top

Baked yogurt tart from Baking with Julia

Sesame seed cake

Sesame seed cake from Pure Dessert

Walnut sponge cake

Walnut sponge cake from Pure Dessert. This is one of the most wonderful things I have ever eaten in my entire life. It’s light yet dense with a wonderful chewy nutty flavor. The top is whipped cream. It’s like eating a dream.

sugary half sphere

Breton Butter cake– this is a rustic version of a kouignaman but huge. From Home Baking by Alford and Duguid.

sliced open sourdough

More sourdough

Rustic fruit tart

Rock cakes

more sourdough

Will it ever stop?

Simplest apple pie from Home Baking. We didn’t get the topping right– it’s supposed to be more of a crumb topping than a dumpling, but I still loved it. DH prefers less apple presence, but I loved the way this was so apple forward using shredded apple and not much sugar and a splash of lemon.


DH’s grandma’s rolls (half whole wheat variation). Note that several got eaten before I could take a picture. Such is the way of DH’s grandma’s rolls.


Simple french bread that we made so DC1 could make garlic bread. From Bread by Treuille and Ferrigno.


We think this is a kind of herb bread. We can’t remember.

Cranberry muffins. (We were supposed to use frozen cranberries to free up some freezer space, but DH used dry cranberries instead so we had to make another batch.) Using the Old Fashioned cookbook.

Chocolate chip cookies

Chestnut pound cake from Pure Dessert cookbook (We special ordered chestnut flour from for it because why not?)


Caramelized crepes filled with fresh cheese from Pure Dessert. These were a lot more work than regular crepes (with a LOT of waiting time) but only marginally better than just making crepes and filling them with cheese.

red bean buns

Red bean buns– we use the love feast bun recipe from The Old Fashioned Cookbook and fill them with red bean paste. Very popular.

Banana nut muffins because I don’t eat bananas 5 days a week when I’m not going into work. (Not shown: other banana breads I didn’t take pictures of.)

Blueberry muffins (made when we realized we didn’t have any more frozen cranberries left) using a cake-like cranberry nut recipe from Bread by Treuille and Ferrigno.  There were more but I wasn’t fast enough with the camera.

braided bread

Challah from Bread

Chocolate Prune Bread from Bread

German Apple Pancake from the internets

Spinach Pie from Barefoot Contessa (TWO POUNDS of spinach)


Danishes from Baking with Julia

Fillings include: pastry cream, prune, and almond paste

DH’s grandma’s cinnamon rolls but without frosting and with cherries in the center instead of crushed pineapple

DC2 demanded apple dumplings, so these are from the Old Fashioned Cookbook, except DH didn’t do the thing where you bring the four corners of the square to a point at the top (or brush with cream and big sugar crystals)

I made this pineapple upside down cake for DH’s birthday

These hot cross buns have coffee flour in them because we were running low on regular flour and we never had used that impulse buy from TJ’s however many months ago. It worked out pretty well.


He also has made several of these trenchers when attempting to make sourdough bread, we think from the dough being too wet, but it could also be that the ratio of sour flavor bacteria to yeast bacteria is out of whack and the yeast needs more boost.

More information on trenchers here.

There’s also some things he made that I didn’t take pictures of– there’s more baguettes and there’s a Daktyla and several fry breads that didn’t make an appearance in my phone.  He also made Fan Tans right before quarantine started but I figured that didn’t really count.

Have you or yours baked anything fun?

Big changes in how DH’s family does Christmas

Every year I talk about how DH’s family has gift giving as their love language and how DH agonizes over what to get and I make lists of what we’ve gotten people and worry or don’t worry about the expense for the other families in question.

DH’s sister has twins due in November.  This will bring the number of grandkids up to 8 and will double the number of her kids.  She has requested that instead of the regular gift giving we’ve done in the past where everybody gets everyone something that we just pick names out of a hat and each person gives one thing.  (Which I think is silly– I’d rather not do gift-giving at all than to have a random element with higher stakes, but again it’s not my family.)  I think the idea is that everyone still gets something to open at Grandma’s house.  Though we always just have presents direct-shipped to people’s houses since we have been flying instead of driving recently.

But this year it sounds like we will not be having Christmas at Grandma’s house.  With 8 grandkids, that’s too many.  DH’s siblings live about an hour away from each other and in a more populated part of the state whereas his parents and other relatives all live in the more rural part of the state 5 or so hours away (assuming you don’t get stuck behind a tractor).  DH’s mom is planning on renting an apartment near his sister so she can be on hand to help out with the twins and she thinks we should rent a house either near DH’s sister or his brother.  And we should do it after Christmas instead of on Christmas.  (Which will make my sister happy because this past year my parents didn’t end up visiting at the last minute and she spent Christmas with friends instead of family and she has been complaining about it ever since.)

It will be kind of nice to have Christmas at home again.  We haven’t done that since my sister bought a house in the City, which was before DC2 was born.  We’ll get to have a rosemary tree and get out the ornaments (instead of the felt tree we put up) and actually put things in the kids’ stockings here and we can not have ham (though I will miss BIL’s birthday lasagna).

Now, DH and I kind of think it’s pretty likely we won’t be going to visit this winter at all because the virus will still not be under control and it will be too dangerous, especially with his sister being post-partum, but that’s months from now.  With all those United miles we can afford to put off this decision for a while.

I suspect DH will still give presents to his brother because he tends to buy electronic games that he and his brother and other relative can play during their weekly online gaming sessions.  But that can be our secret.

Has gift giving with your extended family changed as it has grown (or shrunk)?

Link Love

I’ve seen some folks questioning what they can actually *do* to help, and some of the lists of things that you can do are overwhelming.  Some of them start with folks educating themselves, which while important (and will definitely help with the “first do no harm” step), doesn’t seem like enough for many people.  There are indeed, hundreds of things (or more) you can do, but you cannot do them all.  But it’s important to do SOMETHING.  Whatever it is that you have the spoons for.  Whatever you can bear.  It’s fine to start with smaller things, especially while you’re getting your bearings.  Something is better than nothing.

What are some somethings?  Well, I’m just going to post a few easy things you can do.  If you’re ready for more challenging things, you are probably also ready to figure out what needs doing in your area (google, talk to people, see what the lay of the activism landscape is).  I do believe that voting rights is part and parcel of civil rights, so some of my low-hanging fruit actions are about getting good people to vote.  Because the government is important.  If you have other suggestions, definitely put them in the comments!

Donate:  Indivisible makes it easy with one-stop shopping for a number of charities.  There are many other places to donate– bail funds, gofundmes for destroyed properties, etc.  But this is a good place to start.

Protest:  Go to a BLM protest (search for one in your area– they’re not all posted on the BLM website).  Wear your mask.  Bring masks for others if you have extra.  Bring markers and posterboard if you have them.  Bring water bottles, preferably still wrapped in plastic (there have been reports of bad people putting antifreeze in donated bottles, so you want to make clear you’re not doing that).  Bring bug spray and sunblock.  Bring hand sanitizer (preferably spray bottle) and offer it to people.  If you don’t have any of this, just bring yourself (except the mask, definitely wear a mask).  Protests are outdoors, so that’s good, but we want to minimize the spread of covid at these protests and yelling and singing are big spreaders.  Masks help a lot.  (If you are in an at-risk group for covid or living with someone who is, then support the protests in other ways, like donating to your BLM chapter or doing other actions.)  More on how to protect yourself from cnet.

Call:  Visit 5calls for suggestions, phone numbers, and scripts.  Celeste_P also is a great place for actions with scripts.  (Here’s an example of a script you can use TODAY to call your members of congress.  Here’s one if you want to advocate locally.)

Write:  postcards to voters or letters to voters:  We need to get people to turn out!

The other thing I’d like to see more of is people posting what they’ve been doing.  It isn’t bragging.  It isn’t virtue signaling.  It is helping others to figure out what they can do and it is helping others feel like the norm is doing something rather than the norm not being doing anything.  When you’ve done something, post it in your blog.  Tweet it on your twitter account. Tell your IRL friends.  Come here and tell us about it.  When I see people doing this, *I* get more motivated because it reminds me that I’m not alone.  Every time you let people know you acted, you cause more actions.  Don’t keep it to yourself!

Alternatively here’s captain awkward’s suggestions.

Anti-racism resources from crooked.

Here’s a list of African American personal finance bloggers (my personal favorite from this list is A Purple Life)

Ana and Stacking Pennies sum up a lot of how I’ve been feeling this past week.  And yet I let the handyman post run anyway…

Minneapolis cops sued for shooting, beating and gassing peaceful protesters.

Virginia governor to announce removal of Robert E. Lee Statue.

Self quarantine with a michelin starred chef

Ask the grumpies: hate crime rate statistics

rose asks:

I have read that hate crimes have been rising ~ quite a bit since 2015-6. Is the same happening for sexual crimes against women, does that vary by race of attackee, what about age of attackee? Any changes in conviction rates and prison times for those convicted of rape and/or pedophilia?

We don’t actually know the true rate of hate crimes.  Crimes that are not reported or crimes that are reported but the report is “lost” will just not show up.  This would lead to a paradox in which when things get better it looks like they’re actually getting worse.

Now, that said, I doubt that’s what has been going on since Trump was elected.  Reporting hasn’t gotten easier since then.  Offending has gotten easier.  So if anything I would guess these statistics provide an under-count.

The Department of Justice currently tracks Hate Crimes.  One used to be able to trust such sites, but it’s hard to say these days what is trustworthy coming from the Federal Government.  In any case, they report the 2018 hate crime statistics, which are reportedly the highest in 16 years.  Here’s a summary of the NYTimes article summary.  These crimes include rape.  Hate crimes against transgender people have gone up.

Here is information about the victims.  Here is information on the offenders.

I don’t know where to find recent information on conviction rates and prison times for those convicted of rape or pedophila (which is also rape).  We have information up to 1996, which isn’t helpful.  The wikipedia article has conviction statistics up to 2003, but apparently the UN Office on Drugs and Crime stopped collecting data in 2012.  ICPSR data only seem to go to 2010.

So, unless I’m missing something big, it looks like we don’t even have the data we need to know what’s going on.

Do any readers have more information?


  • Meowth is officially my favorite Pokemon.
  • The kids are teaching themselves contact juggling.
  • Got DC2 some face masks from Old Navy online, made out of scrap fabric.  They’re very nice quality.  Initially they looked huge, but after being washed on hot, they are perfect for my not-petite 7 year old’s face.  We ended up with 3 white and 2 blue checked, so not quite the variety they promised, but I figure we will need at least 7 and these are way less expensive than the fancy ones I’ve been buying on Etsy (which, admittedly were University/Ravenclaw/Batman fabrics).
  • DC1’s piano and violin have both improved tremendously since starting stay-at-home.
  • DC2’s piano has not really seen much improvement.  Possibly because DC2 is not actually interested in doing what the piano teacher suggests and eventually the teacher just gives up and goes along with DC2 who mostly wants to play right-handed while singing and ignoring silly things like flats and sharps.
  • DH has been continuing with Yoga with Adriene, but the plank and downward dog and similar things do bad things for my right shoulder-blade area and I’m ready to move to something else.  Currently it’s just been walking around the house and backyard while watching a youtube video, but I may find something more interesting. It’s hard not stopping in the kitchen when I watch one of the Try Guys Eat the Menu videos.
  • One of my friends is on a WeChat thing where they get a bunch of people in our area together to do a grocery store delivery from The City (apparently if 50 families order, they do the personal shopping and deliver to our town).  She dropped off a bunch of sweet soy curd wrappers and seaweed salad and fake crab (to our front porch, where she picked up a bag of children’s books DC2 had outgrown).  Then we took leftover rice and leftover red bean paste that we already had and had a make-your-own soybean wrapper sushi thing for lunch the next day.  Everyone was super happy.
  • Dh got me briefly hooked on the reddit main page.  So I tried to remove its cookies from my iphone, but it still popped up as a suggestion.  So I deleted ALL of my cookies.  And boy howdy has my productivity temporarily shot up.  I’m sure I will eventually regress, but this is a nice way to start summer, only being able to check work stuff and my comics strips on my phone in the morning.
  • The kids’ school basically got out a week early.  DC1’s because final exams were cancelled.  We’re not sure why the elementary school decided to stop a week early, but they did.
  • Two of DC2’s friends got outdoor above-ground pools.  One of them said they thought the government should provide them for everyone because of the virus, and I gotta say, that’s not a terrible idea.  (Not so helpful to people in apartments, but…)  So long as they take them back when our HOA pool is open and safe again.
  • One of DC2’s friends is going to Florida this summer.  One of them is going to be doing the school’s summer camp if they open, but we don’t know if they will or not.  Two of the fancy expensive summer day camps plan to open in July, but DC2 has kind of outgrown them so we hadn’t been planning on doing them anyway, and … it just doesn’t seem safe.  I figure the longer we wait to get the disease, the more they’ll know about how to treat it.  The problem is that we’re almost certainly going to get it in September when the students come back no matter what and our local hospitals will be slammed which itself will be dangerous.
  • After DH got his second paycheck of the year our check register said we had more money than we had ever had in checking (other than right before buying a car when we’ve transferred money over) and I was like, WOW, we really haven’t been spending anything since we can’t leave the house, I should totally buy more stuff online.  Then I realized that I usually pay the credit card bills before he gets his second paycheck, not after.  So… it’s easy to have increasing amounts of money in checking if you keep your steady income the same and then just don’t pay your bills.
  • I’ve hit loneliness.  I want to talk to someone about nothing important.  (DH has already heard everything.)  If I were at work I’d be talking the ear off of someone in the office.  If I were at a store I’d probably strike up a conversation about the merchandise.  I have work zoom calls and texts, but they’re not the same because they’re efficient and business-focused.
  • The imaging place where I did my mammogram was definitely not social distancing.  There were far too many people in the waiting room to allow for 6 ft distance.  And neither of the receptionists was wearing her mask correctly– one had it dangling from an ear while the other wasn’t covering her nose.  Hopefully I will be ok.

We hired a handyman

In the Before-Times, we had some rotting wood.  One of the side doors to the garage was rotting.  Our shed had seen better days.  Some of the boards in our deck needed replacing.

And also, we do not particularly enjoy painting.  We have all (minus DC2) put in time painting this deck of ours over the years and it’s just not our favorite way to spend a weekend.

One of my colleagues had mentioned that he had a handy-man he liked who would do ANYTHING, no matter how small the job.  Mostly he was always pushing doing unlicensed plumbing at less than cost.  (Looking him up online, there’s a DUI, so perhaps he was previously licensed.)  But he always did a reasonably good job (better than my colleague could do anyway) and was pretty cheap.

And so when DH complained about wood rot, I kept saying, look, there’s no need for you to do this yourself if you don’t want to.  We are rich.  Let us hire this guy my colleague recommended.

So we started with the door and he did a great job and it wasn’t too expensive.  Half up front to buy parts, half after to pay for labor.  Then he and his crew basically refaced our entire shed– they just built a shed-like structure around the original walls.  Both of these things look great to my untrained eye, and DH was also pleased.  Those two items cost $2434.50 according to my records.

Then we called them back later after it stopped raining (in the After-Times) and they replaced boards in the deck and repainted it.  That has cost $1125.75– last time we had professional painters come out to just paint it was $600, and when we did a back of the envelope including the cost of the boards, we were expecting another $600 in parts and labor for that, so this seems pretty reasonable.  DH communicated outside with him masked up but the handyman (and high school daughter and other crew person) without masks. : /  I still think this was less risky than a trip to Home Depot would have been, though maybe a bit more risky than if we’d been able to do curbside with the wood, but some of those boards were pretty long so we’d probably have had to rent a truck.  And it’s good to spread money around locally?

The wood replacing is better than DH’s attempts (though probably equally good compared with the board we replaced with DH’s dad many years back.)  The deck paint job isn’t as even as we’d like, but they also didn’t stain our walls like we do.  DH may repaint a couple of the boards where half the board seems to have more coats than the other half.  (We could call them back to fix it, but it seems unnecessary.  Plus it keeps raining.)

It is definitely nice being able to outsource jobs that you don’t want to do.

Do you have a handy-person you like to use?  What kinds of things do you outsource?