Ask the grumpies: How are you dealing with returning to post-vaccination life?

Jessica asks:

I would be interested in a post on more of your thoughts about transitioning out of covid life as you get vaccinated. I realize it might be a bit different for you since kids aren’t vaccinated yet. I am more than 2 weeks past my first dose and so is my boyfriend (the only person I live with), so I’m starting to think more about what I will do once I’m fully vaccinated… It will definitely be a slow transition as case loads hopefully go down. It’s hard to know what will be appropriate.

Also, I am usually very extroverted and adventurous, and I am excited to see more people again but also feel like the pandemic has kind of changed my personality, or at least temporarily changed my level of comfort with high amounts of activity. I still miss doing things, but doing things is more draining now. So that’s also going to be weird to figure out.

This is going to vary a lot for people all over the country based on their own cost-benefit calculations.  Right now even if we didn’t have kids I wouldn’t be going out at all (except my in-person classes) because I get filled with such RAGE seeing all the anti-maskers about being awful.  I’m still so angry about my last dentist visit I can’t even imagine trying to get my hair cut or to pick up groceries.  We’re also still well into the purple zone (4x the cutoff of new cases per day of the orange zone line).

I’m not even sure that I will be going fully back to the work office in the fall– it has been really nice not being constantly interrupted by students or given a bazillion small service assignments just because I’m there.  Also I seem to be the only person that junior faculty ask for advice which… I’m fine with when it’s junior faculty in my field and I’m the right person for it, but less fine with when there’s a better person to ask (I’ve been doing a lot more, “Go ask X”).  Though I guess I’m still getting those emails.  One of my friends asked me to restart our daily walks two weeks after our second vaccine.  But I just don’t want to go into work, so I said no.  (I have to rush home after class for another zoom meeting, or I would do it after class on the days I go in, I guess.)

Regardless of the vaccine situation DC2 (age 9 next fall) will be going back to school.  I can’t see middle school working out from home (unlike this year where elementary school has been fantastic).  This particular middle school has had pretty low case loads, and most of the elementary schools that feed into it are similarly low caseloads.  I’m strongly hoping that DC1 will be able to get vaccinated this summer– but first Pfizer has to approve and then we have to find a place that gives out Pfizer.  But we’re willing to drive to find a place.  (Our little part of the state has leaned heavily into Moderna.)

I’m hoping to be able to convince my sister to drive down from the city to see us once she’s fully vaccinated, but I suspect she’s going to hold out for us going into the city which is less safe.  DH will probably not be convincable about that until the kids have been vaccinated.  My in-laws are still making noise about visiting us in the Fall– they’re both fully vaccinated but summer in the South is awful (even ignoring high prevalence rates and evil anti-vaxxers) so their visit would be pretty much just stuck inside our house which is pretty boring as delightful as my children are.  We thought briefly of going up to the midwest to visit ourselves, but there’s still the problem of getting there.

So yeah, I don’t know.  I’ve been leaning heavily into not putting on pants, not making small-talk, etc.  It will be hard to go back.  This time last year I really wanted to get away to like a cabin someplace beautiful and cool with water, but somehow I’ve lost my yearning to actually be in nature.  Maybe it’s all the beautiful pictures that Microsoft shows on start-up screens — anyplace we could get to without a plane trip just isn’t going to measure up.

At some point after classes end, I have a plan to take all our plastic grocery bags from curbside to the grocery store recycling place.  But that’s the only major thing we’ve got.  Basically I plan to cling to my house and zoom as best I can.

What have you all been doing since getting fully vaccinated?  What do you plan to do?


  • DH has been having other friends and former colleagues contacting him about positions in their companies and DH has been applying.  Interviews have been slow and drawn out.  So far no offers, but also no additional rejections.  Currently silence from a place he’s done 3 stages of interviews with already (but the guy in charge of hiring had a baby with his girlfriend right before the last interview, which got pushed out another week because of it, so who knows what is going on there).
  • After one of these interviews, DH came into my office and asked if it would be ok if he switched from [important field that he has PhD and undergraduate degree in] to video game design.  Apparently his skillset in modeling collisions is useful for things besides saving people’s lives.  I was like, doesn’t everyone want to be a video game designer and aren’t the hours crap and the pay low, and apparently that’s not true when you’re programming high level physics?  So I said, whatever makes you happy.  If he does this, it would start as a consulting position.
  • I hurt my back bending over to get orange juice in the refrigerator.  I hadn’t even picked anything up, just bent over.  How is that even possible?  Update:  DH had messed with my chair because the purple pillow stuff kept falling off, and I think the jury-rig may have just been bad ergonomically.  We figured it out and it is better now.
  • At the dentist office a woman in the wait room didn’t have a mask.  The receptionist didn’t offer her one even though the sign on the door said they were required.  The hygienist said they’d just given up on enforcing because anti-maskers get angry if you force them to and they take off the mask as soon as the receptionist turns her back if they provide a mask.  There was another woman just holding her mask in the wait room when I left my cleaning.  I need to move out of this state.  People are so terrible.  One of my students says it makes it clear who are just bad people who don’t care about other people, but I think it shows how many people are sheep willing to listen to whatever propaganda tells them.  It’s too bad that the people who want to propagandize are so evil.  Turns out super-villains are real.
  • The university is providing Pfizer to students, staff, and faculty, but the county only has Moderna.  I’m hoping it’s true that Pfizer gets approved for younger teens soon, but I’m not sure where they will be able to get vaccine.  Hopefully if it is approved the high school will send information about who has what vaccine.  (Ideally they would run a clinic!  But school may not be in session by the time Pfizer gets approved for younger teens.)
  • Our uni says that they will not be requiring students to get any vaccine until it has full federal approval instead of emergency approval.  I sure hope one of these vaccines gets full federal approval soon.  Because we’re going back to packed classrooms in the Fall whether or not vaccines are required.
  • I keep having nightmares about people not wearing masks.  But now it’s most people not wearing them instead of a few.
  • DC1 is getting to be quite a good cook!
  • My sister had eggs frozen so she can delay childbearing.  Her ovaries were overstimulated and she was sick for a week after.  :(
  • DH went to the dealership to get the car inspected and nobody was even pretending to wear masks.  Fortunately he anticipated this and has a fancy Bain-looking mask for just such an occasion.  It’ll still be a while before his second vaccine shot, so I doubt everyone in there is fully vaccinated.
  • We’re getting fiber laid in our neighborhood so we will have more than one choice of internet provider!  Woo!
  • Our replacing the fence has been stalled because it sounds like the posts are stuck in the brick and the brick will have to be destroyed to replace the fence.  But the HOA owns the brick, we don’t.  So DH finally got a hold of the HOA architectural committee and they have been communicating with him very slowly.  (If the fence guy’s mason was correct, this will add another $2K to the cost of replacing the fence, but the HOA is supposed to pay for it.  Whether or not they actually will is yet to be determined.)
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Wanna see my planner layout?

No, I’m not trying to horn in on the shu box.  As you can see, there is nothing neat, beautiful, or inspirational about my planner layouts!  (Except my beautiful pens, of course.)

But I’ve been trying some new things with planning this year because I’m just too scattered with too many things going on.  And yet, I have the luxury of having just one work-space rather than having to transport things back and forth.

To start with, I have my Moleskine calendar which I have had every year since my professional organization stopped providing them free.  I use this just for due dates and actual appointments.  I picked a somewhat light week appointment-wise because I was able to strategically place my beautiful EnerGel Clenas over potentially identifying names, which I cannot do every week.

Weekly calendar

I actually ran out of ink in my main Clena and had to refill it because I love this pen so much. It’s .4 blue/black. The brown is also .4 and has brown ink. It’s even prettier with the sticker removed, which I did eventually.

The new thing is that instead of having sheets of half paper scattered all over my office with to-do lists and daily schedules and full sheets and notepads with project info… I’ve moved most of my projects to Trello or Github (which both have benefits and drawbacks), and I’ve taken over one of DH’s unused Moleskine lab notebooks (he prefers lined or dot grid– I had been trying to buy a blank black hardback one for ages but they’d been sold out and finally he remembered he had one he wasn’t using) to replace the scattered paper.

DH's Hobby/Bucket List

The one page that DH used in this book before he decided he prefers Leuchtturm1917 with lines or dot grids over unlined Moleskine. He has since completed the coffee roaster (it has been years since he last used it) and has made 3 Moccasins (not 3 pairs, 3 individual slippers). He also has started occasionally taking B-complex for the memory and it seems to help? I guess DC2 has kind of been teaching him Spanish? He has definitely not worked on singing.

So basically here’s what I have been doing with the Moleskine.  I keep the left side, which you can’t see, blank and use it for notes from meetings.  (I would have to redact the heck out of them, so I just didn’t take a picture.)  On the right hand side, I plot out the week on an hourly basis.  The one thing I wish I didn’t have to do is write out the times.  Writing them out I am able to take up less space than I would if I could find a washi tape I liked or bought a pre-made planner, but I think I will make that trade-off now that I know more about what I like in planners.  Then I fill in items from my weekly calendar like class-times and meetings.  I put little brown stars next to them to indicate they are things where I have to either be somewhere or I have to get on some kind of call– basically I have to actually do those things at that time.  The rest of the hours I fill out with what I hope to be doing with the rest of the time.  Usually I’m pretty good about sticking to the schedule in the morning, but in the afternoons I kind of lose steam and get better at convincing myself to do something else.  I try to build in a little slack if I can.

Heavily redacted planner page

In all its glory. (Post-it notes removed.)

A new thing for me is listing my main goals for the week.  What are the two research projects I hope to make the most progress on?  What are the stupid little service or teaching assignments that have to get done?  Weekend usually gets written on Thursday or Friday when I realize that I didn’t get as much done as I needed to and I’d rather be super lazy near the end of the week than I would not work at all on the weekend.  Though… to be honest the weekend stuff is generally aspirational too unless there’s a real deadline and often gets pushed off to the next Monday or Tuesday (*guilt*).  But I never seem to get done what I need to get done if I just write down what needs to get done– I have to write down more than I need to do to trick myself to do what I actually have to do, if that makes sense.  I blame my Catholic upbringing.  #raisedCatholic #guilt  I could actually do everything I put in my list, so it’s not actually unrealistic.  I just … don’t.  And this is one reason why I’m not at a better school, but I do ok still.  (It doesn’t help that there are more people in my life encouraging me to work less “take a break” “can’t work all the time” etc. than there are encouraging me to get stuff done because they have an inflated idea of my actual productivity, not realizing how much of my time on the computer is actually surfing the internet.)  (That was a digression.  But no, spending less time at the computer does not actually make me more productive in the hours I spend at it.  Been there, done that.  I hedonically adapt pretty rapidly and end up maaaybe doing an hour of work and then get hit with deadlines and regret.)

That Friday was a great day because a coauthor who had been not doing much (she’d been meaning to, but life would happen) and I threw the paper back and forth at each other every hour and we made a huge amount of progress on it.  So it looks blank, but was actually me doing straight up writing every other hour and either dealing with email or checking on citations/figures/etc. on my off hours.  Flow is the best.

That little line of stars and dashes used to be next to a post-it note listing all of my current projects on it.  The stars mean “work on this project this week”.  The dashes mean “you could work on this project this week if for some reason you couldn’t work on another one”.  The x means that there’s nothing I can currently do on this project (in this case, it’s in a student’s hands right now and I’m like 4th author and it’s about machine learning so…).  The checkmarks mean that I submitted that project or passed it off to a coauthor and don’t need to do anything with it until it comes back.  Usually I only have 2 projects I’m actively working on, 1 under review, and 1 in the data collection/lit review/RA doing stuff stage, possibly also one at the grant proposal stage.  But right now is messed up because I’m doing a ton of little papers with students because of that NSF item you see listed and some other grants from other agencies that want things, plus they help students get things on their cvs which is nice.

Another new thing I have that you can’t see is a growing to-do list post-it that is currently residing on the left side of the paper.  It has a list of all my upcoming deadlines which appear to be mostly referee reports and editing, though there’s currently also some end of the semester teaching stuff.  I like the post-it notes because you don’t have to rewrite them and you can move them week to week.  I am on my second “projects” post-it though because some stuff is off my plate for now and I have a couple of new things on it.

Sometime this summer when they come out, I have decided that I want to get an Academic Year Passion Planner to replace both Moleskines.  It combines an hourly layout with a weekly spread with lots of additional *space* for all these other extras.  I’m hoping that up at the top I’ll be able to put deadlines for each day like with my small weekly calendar.  The spaces at the sides and bottom will fit my post-it note to-do lists, goals, and weekend hopes.  The blank pages can be used for notes from meetings.  I will likely ignore every single passion aspect.  If it doesn’t work out, then I will go back to this method in time for me to get the 2022 Moleskine calendar for Christmas or maybe I’ll know more about my likes and dislikes to try a different planner layout.

How do you deal with planning?  Do you have a planner or calendar system?  What do you use?  What works or doesn’t work for you?

Link Love

… Not much here…I wish I could say it was because I was being productive at work, but no, I’m just overwhelmed.  Anyhow:  Call your government officials and demand they vote for what you want.  Federal 5calls .  Is there an indivisible group near you for state stuff?

Will older adults return to the workforce?

thread on Difference in differences    Also:  A set of discussions

Ask the grumpies: When do I tell my department I’m taking unpaid leave as a NTT prof?

Liz asks:

I am in a NTT full time faculty position and finding it is not for me. I am going to take the 2021-22 school year to see if there are any changes that will make me happier in my position (and look at non-academic careers that I may go into), but if after that I choose to leave, when should I let my department know?

I am contracted through May 2022 and am going through the renewal process for the 2022-2023 school year right now.

This is a really hard question to answer because so much of it is, “it depends.”  Like if your department has been evil to you and you have zero intention of going back and you don’t think you will ever need recommendations from them, and they would definitely treat you even worse if they knew you were on the way out, then you definitely would put off telling them until the last possible minute.  If, on the other hand, your department was extremely supportive and just wanted what was best for you and was desperate to keep you and you’re hard to replace, and you had an idea for a one year replacement as a visiting position, then you’d want to let them know as soon as possible so you could help them plan and set all that up.

You’re probably somewhere between those two end-points.  It sounds like from your email that you’re not actually taking next year off, is that correct?


I haven’t talked to my chair about any issues I am having with this job and plan on talking to [hir] at the end of the semester. Some of the issues I am having would have to be changed at the college level, so I am not optimistic about changes my chair can implement to make this job something I want to do long term. At this point, I would want to walk away sometime in summer 2022.

Thinking of the leave of absence, I would need to justify that this would be beneficial to the university. If I left academia, I would probably not do something related to my field and a leave would probably not be approved.

Ok, so it sounds like you’re thinking of taking a year leave of absence and you’re not sure if you would then return after that.  So you want to leave your options open so that you can return.

Well, first off, there’s no reason to say anything to anyone until you know what you’re doing the year after next.  (Unless there’s some standard procedure for applying for sabbaticals for non-tenure-track faculty?  If there’s a timeline on that leave of absence approval, then you may want to follow that even without something lined up.)

How much time should you give before the end of the 21-22 school year?  That one is harder.  If you knew you weren’t coming back ever for sure (and you didn’t want to burn any bridges), you’d want to give them as much time as possible to find a full-time replacement.  It would also be nice to let them know before classes are scheduled for Fall 2022-23, though of course you don’t have to.   Other than that, there’s not much advice to give.  They would prefer you tell them as soon as you know for sure what is going to happen.  You might want to hold off because it can be weird when it is known someone will be leaving.  If you give them more time, they might be able to replace you fully and you’d be less likely to come back after, but also if you give them less time they might not *want* you back after a year.  If your chair wants to keep you, more time might make keeping you easier.  If you’re not planning on coming back and aren’t going to need rec letters, none of this matters, so you might as well be kind.

Grumpy Nation, what advice do you have for Liz?

More books!

I tried to read more of the Ravenels by Lisa Kleypas and was reminded why I stopped reading her last time. Marrying Winterborne was ok, a reasonable library read. Hello Stranger … starts with an attempted rape and then is an eternity of the trope where the seemingly capable of defending herself heroine is told by the hero that she’s not actually capable but is instead deluded which she denies and then he teaches her to fight dirty and then it’s more he doubts her capability and she disagrees, rinse, lather, repeat. I hate this trope. So… basically I just stopped reading before any plot could happen. I read the last chapter and found I didn’t care. So…

I found a list of Beta heroes and got Backstage Pass, which turned out to be erotic fiction, which… not my cuppa, but whatever. The irritating thing (besides the author not really understanding academia) is that the hero was NOT a Beta hero– he refused to be understanding about the importance of her work and whined when it took her away from him and forced her to make sacrifices, never him (though he framed it as he was the one always sacrificing, which… he wasn’t, also that’s irritating controlling Alpha behavior, not can we find a solution together Beta behavior). That is obnoxious and not what I am looking for in an understanding supportive Beta guy. Nope. (Also three-somes with two guys sound *really unpleasant.* And there was some cringey not really understanding consent stuff with the BDSM portions– one of the characters, Jace, sounds like the reason I can’t listen to Moxy Fruvous anymore. So I won’t be reading any more of that series.)

A duke, the lady, and a baby was ok, but I think would have been better if the hero wasn’t such a jerk.  Like, the idea was good, the heroine is pretty cool, the side characters are intriguing (with lots of set-ups for future books in the same series), but the hero himself… not great and especially not great in interactions with the heroine.  He’s much better with people who are not the heroine.  Awful pushy alpha hitting on his nanny, following her with the baby once he finds out she’s not the nanny (this is not a spoiler– it’s in the first chapter) because she doesn’t follow his orders anymore.  Just… could have been a lot better.  I don’t agree with the author about what makes a guy attractive, I guess.

Ten things I hate about the duke by Loretta Chase was much better than the previous book in the series that I DNF.  It wasn’t worth purchasing, but I do not begrudge having read it.

The Devilish Lord Will by Jennifer Ashley was quite good.  I accidentally borrowed it when I meant to just look at it, so it I read it out of order in terms of the series, like WAY out of order, but it was an excellent stand-alone so I think that’s ok.  I’m not usually into to Scottish heroes, but this one was not at all brooding.  Quite jolly, really.  A++ do recommend.  Not sure if I’m going to buy it or not… maybe?  (Oh hey, it’s only $4.99, I think I will just get it.)  I then read a bunch more of these MacKenzies books and have so far liked all of them (but not all of them are library available– I suspect I wouldn’t enjoy the one about Lady Isabella because I tend to dislike the estranged-for-a-stupid-reason spouses trope.  It is so rarely done well (really only done will when it’s for Scarlet Pimpernel reasons!)).  I especially like the 18th century ones about Will (see above) and Alec (haven’t read the one about Mal yet, but I bet it is also good, cw: the villain was also a rapist, but no rape is shown and he does not survive very long after that is found out).  There’s some problematic stuff very early about Roma in the 19th century series, but Ashley seems to learn throughout the novels what not to do with respect to that so it gets better.

Gave up on Strange Neighbors (I think this was another from that list of beta heroes) because it started with an attempted rape right after the heroine mentioned to her new landlord who was hitting on her that she hadn’t been allowed to move out of her dad’s house until she was 25 because her mom was murdered after leaving the house and… could we just not?  I didn’t even finish the first chapter.  UGH.

A Notorious Vow by Joanna Shupe had such a great setup, but didn’t really deliver.  It was almost Grace Burrows-esque in terms of the villains not getting their comeuppance because the heroine was too milquetoast and forgiving.  Like, if she could have become braver and the hero could have helped her grow into a more confident version of herself, this would have been an amazing book.  It had that promise.  But it didn’t go that route.  Sometimes the trope way is the best way.  I mean, sometimes you just want the joy of seeing Trump prosecuted and landing in jail, you know?

DC1 noted that there are a lot of dukes in the titles of the books I read and we talked about how when there isn’t a social safety net the safest person to marry is a duke (assuming he’s not abusive) because it sucks marrying a prince and might even be dangerous if someone decides to depose you, but dukes are the most powerful and safest you can get without actually being in direct line for the throne (some ducal exceptions apply).

The library and amazon both claim I tried reading Fortune Favors the Wicked by Theresa Romain, but I think I must have lost interest right away because although I remember the cover I don’t actually remember reading it(!)

The Deadly Mystery of the Missing Diamonds by T E Kinsey was not at all cozy like the books in the previous series although it started out that way.  It made the fatal mistake of unexpectedly killing off someone that the reader has come to care for, on screen even(!).  Which, not what I am looking for.

Drops of Gold by Sarah M. Eden was too boring to finish.  Also:  Nanny trope, not my favorite.  Pollyanna trope, also not my favorite.

The other two books in Tessa Dare’s Castles ever after series were fine (Say Yes to the Marquess and When a Scot Ties the Knot) but not as good as the first one (Romancing the Duke).  Not perfect, but ok.  I don’t regret having read them though I’m not going to buy them.  Even at $3.99.  I think Harper Collins might be having a sale– I just picked up Romancing the Duke for $2.99.  It may not still be going on when this posts.  :/

A Rogue of One’s Own by Evie Dunmore was pretty good.  I stayed up late finishing it because it got exciting near the end.  I was astonished to realize I’d also read the first in the series because the heroine from that book is in this book but I had no idea it was the same person(!)

I really wanted to love The Care and Feeding of Waspish Widows (lesbian beekeepers, what’s not to like?)… but Olivia Waite has this problem where she creates stupid angst and drama from lack of communication.  It was nonsensical in her last book where the heroines had a ridiculous fight with basically no provocation.  Here it took the form of 9/10 of the book being them not talking about how they were into each other, which made sense when neither of them knew the other was into women, but about halfway through the book the lesbian started giving extremely strong signals to the bisexual including straight out saying she was into women and had done women etc.  And the inner thoughts of the bisexual at that point just made no sense.  Then everything interesting in the book happened in literally the last (or technically the second to last, since the last chapter was just setting up the next book) chapter.   Waite needs an editor who is going to say cut the angst in the middle 5/6 of the book, stretch out this awesome part at the end so it’s not so rushed, and if you’re going to go with drama, them make things actually happen instead of repeating the whole, I like her but she couldn’t possibly like me ad infinitum.  I am glad our local library has started purchasing her so I can continue to test her books as they come out.

A woman entangled by Cecilia Grant was quite good.  Plus it actually did have a beta hero (though one who isn’t a doormat– he does yell at the heroine but she deserves it at the time).  Both the hero and heroine are interesting but not completely likeable, and they both grow up during the story which is nice.  The twin separate storylines about family estrangement, scandals, and choices also work well together.  It is a well put together book.  Not perfect (the ending is a bit rushed and to be honest, I completely skipped over the sex scenes), but definitely worth reading, maybe even buying at 7.99 depending on your price point for books.  I realized near the end that I’d read the first in the series and though it ok, but apparently not good enough to even mention in one of these round-ups (I vaguely remember it being a silly storyline about a recent widow paying a man to get her pregnant so her late husband’s estate doesn’t go to a Bad Man– if the sale is still going on, only $2.99 on kindle right now if you want to give it a shot) and had skipped the second.  I think I will not pick up the second given its lower reviews.  You don’t need to have read the previous books to read this one AT ALL.  In fact, the heroine of the first book was complete unrecognizable.

For some reason I don’t remember, I put “A Lady’s Guide to Mischief and Mayhem” by Manda Collins on my library holds list.  I’m still #5 on that list.  But I noticed it doesn’t have great reviews, so I investigated it further and it turns out a lot of people *thought* they were getting a new book with a similar title, “A Lady’s Guide to Mischief and Murder” by another author, Dianne Freeman.  That book being the third in a series.  Those books have much higher ratings and the pictures on the cover are DELIGHTFUL– full of the whimsy of Edward Gorey, though not quite in his exact style.  So I picked up the first two books in the series, A Lady’s Guide to Etiquette and Murder and A Lady’s Guide to Gossip and Murder from the library.  They are fun!!!  They’re kind of expensive so I probably won’t get my own copies, but if they were more in the $5.99 range, I would– the mysteries themselves are fine but kind of rushed, but they’re also fun romance novels set in the late 1890s (no sex), so…

What are you reading, Grumpy Nation?

Adventures in why you should never do contract work while getting unemployment insurance

DH was offered the chance to do some contract work by some former colleagues who needed his skill-set to help with a grant proposal.  He would have done it for free as a favor, but they had money for it so they wanted to pay.  It also turned out to be more work than they initially said it would be.

Before he agreed, I was like, what will this do to your employment insurance?  And he said that he’d looked it up and they would prorate it and then give it back if he ran out of weeks (that is, he could stay on unemployment insurance a little longer up to the amount that he was prorated).  He would have to declare the weeks he actually worked, not when he sent in the invoice or when he actually got paid.  (He has not yet been paid.)

Turns out that they don’t ask for all of the information that they need on the form to declare contract work.  We found this out later.  Here’s how we got to that part:

So three weeks after he turned his stub in, I noticed he hadn’t been paid the week before like he should have been.  So he went on the online site and it said there was a problem with his unemployment insurance and they had stopped it and he needed to call some number.

So he called the number and it said leave your number to call back.  So he did.  Then he waited a few days and the weekend and a few days and nobody called back.  So he called again and was on hold for over an hour (maybe an hour and a half?) then that office sent him to another office and he was on hold for a while, but under an hour.  Then he got someone and was giving them his information and the other person’s phone went out (are they doing this from home? was it a cellphone?)  So DH was like, surely they will call me back (HAHAHAHA), but of course they did not!

So the next day DH looked up what to do on reddit, and they gave him the number for the place he’d been transferred to rather than the first place, so he would only have to be on hold for part of the time.  Except, that second number was overburdened so instead of being on hold, it would give a message that it was overburdened and to try again later.  Reddit says this is normal and to just keep trying.  So he did.  And eventually he got through, after maybe half an hour of continuously redialing.  Then they got his information, then got the information for the place he contracted from *which they could have requested online when he declared income,* but didn’t.  They didn’t even tell him they’d cut off his benefits.  He just … didn’t get them.  They have his email address and could have sent him something, but they didn’t.  They could have warned him this would happen when he submitted the form.

This is a hurdle.  This is not an accident.  They could fix it but have chosen not to.  Probably because they want people who can do contract work to give up on trying to get their unemployment benefits back and just to stay employed.  What it does instead, of course, is it keeps people from taking contract work because it’s just too much effort to declare (something I suspected when my sister’s boyfriend offered DH some contract work), and it causes people to get paid under the table or to just not report earnings.  (DH would never do that, but he would certainly do something for free instead of for pay because of the known effort cost!)  Since contract work often becomes full-time work, this could be costing people jobs.

This process is irritating to us and I was like, we need to pay someone to hit redial!  But imagine for people who actually need that money because they don’t have a high earning spouse.  How frustrating and terrifying.  And how many hours does it take away from actually looking for a job or getting education or taking care of kids etc.  Not to mention the time of the people answering the phones for something that could have been collected online when it was initially declared.

Stupid administrative burden.

Have you ever dealt with your state’s unemployment insurance system?  Did it work smoothly or did you have any problems?

Link Love

Guys, there is a LOT going on right now.  I don’t know how many of our readers live in the South like #1 does, but if you do, PLEASE check to see if your state legislature is in session right now and if they are attacking:  1.  Voting Rights, 2.  LGBT children, 3. Abortion rights, 4. Anything else that is terrible (like not requiring licenses for gun ownership!).  Also, you may want to check if there are good bills about A.  Expanding Medicare… B… not sure what else is plausible right now.  If there are, please call your local representatives and come out in strong force against them (or for the good things).  Children’s wellbeing is in grave danger– that LGBT “show me your genitals” bill that is in most of the Southern states right now is horrifying– it allows for literally checking girls’ genitals if they want to play in sports.  Yes, it is intended just to harass trans girls which is horrific by itself, but if that’s not awful enough for you, it really does allow them to check any girl.  On top of that there are bills about taking trans kids away from their loving parents, requiring teachers to report trans kids, barring trans kids from getting hormone blockers (which isn’t banned for non-trans kids and isn’t dangerous!).  I wish I had a list of some clearinghouse for all the states.  I do twitter follow someone in TX who has this page for what is going on in the Texas Lege right now and what your most efficient actions right now should be.  Here’s Georgia’s lege listSouth Carolina’sAlabamaFloridaArkansasMississippi. North CarolinaTennessee.  If you know of any for your state or another state, please link below!  Local activism is SO important right now.

If you’re in a Blue State, your focus should be on getting rid of the filibuster, passing HR1 (voting rights), making DC a state, expanding the supreme court, gun control, and anything else you think is important– here’s a 5calls list.  Let your blue congressperson know these are priorities and that they are worth it.  They want to do these things, but they need justification.  They need to know their constituents are into it.

Stolen goods found by off duty Carabinieri in Brussels shop.

Colton Underwood of Bachelor fame comes out as gay.  Also I apparently missed that the woman he chose (Cassie) took out a restraining order on him(!)  He was creepy stalkerish on the show and I felt bad for her then– all the bad romance novel tropes plus she just wasn’t that into him, but I didn’t realize it got that bad.  How BIZARRE.  But I’m glad he’s realized that there’s nothing wrong with being gay and I hope he is able to have healthy relationships now without you know, stalking.  Also I feel a little uncomfortable about him attributing his virginity to being gay– that may be true for him, but I feel like other people could be 20-something virgins without being any specific sexual orientation.  Sexuality is a very personal thing, and some people are asexual, some people just haven’t found the right person, and so on.

I am so hooked on Seth Meyers recaps of the (non-existent) show, Tiny Secret Whispers (streaming on the non-existent service, Butternut).  It has some real Twin Peaks vibes going on and I am DYING to find out what happens next!  (“Don’t you think I know that?!?”)  It has gotten so dark!


Ask the grumpies: Have you ever had a conversation that permanently changed your life?

CG asks:

Have you ever had a conversation that changed your life permanently? How?

I’m sure that I have, and probably lots of them, but I’ve been coming up blank which is why this question has been put off so long.  I mean, I had a conversation once that made me realize that mortgage interest wasn’t the same as credit card interest which changed things… but did it really change things that much?  I feel really bad because this is such an interesting question and I am dying to read everyone else’s answer, but I’ve just been coming up blank.  I’ve had a couple of conversations with people that lead to quick publications, which is always nice, but I’m not sure how life-changing that is, just you know, marginally.

We’ve read books that have changed our lives.  But that’s not a conversation.  I’ve had conversations with people that they claim caused them to permanently change their lives.  Apparently an off-hand comment I made to a friend about how dating without the internet was just as risky as dating using an internet service led her to meet her future husband through a dating app.  Another friend credits my saying that she didn’t need to go into the family business if she didn’t want to and she should think about what she’s interested in as jump-starting her career, but I think she would have gotten there on her own anyway.  I’ve saved a few of my colleagues hundreds of thousands of retirement dollars by explaining that they need to use TIAA-Cref or Fidelity rather than the super expensive retirement place that sends people around to get them to sign up with their program.  They don’t realize that I’ve changed their lives permanently and probably won’t ever know or remember, but I did.  A colleague credits me for introducing her to early potty training which she says was life-changing (I don’t even remember doing this!  But there was a time when I was super into explaining it.)

What does it say about my massive ego that I remember when people tell me I’ve changed their lives with random conversations but I don’t remember other people changing mine?  Nothing good!  Also it’s weird that it’s always the off-handed comments that I barely remember that seem to spark people.  Life is so random!

Grumpy Nation, please answer CG’s question!  It’s so fascinating!

Things quarantine has taught me

DH got his first vaccine shot.  I’m just a bit away from being completely vaccinated.  The US is starting widespread vaccination for all adults in most of the country sometime in mid-April.  This is amazing.  The prospect of escape lets me reflect.  Here are some things I’ve learned.

  • I am more productive when I’m not constantly getting random colds and other viruses from students and my kids.
  • I am more productive when I don’t have students constantly dropping into my office to say hi or to ask questions (not about the homework because I don’t allow that outside of office hours).
  • A lot of what I thought were random colds are actually allergies.  Going forward I need to be more proactive with trying allergy medicine when I’m feeling congested and not just assume I have whatever crud is going around.
  • I am more productive when I have a reasonable amount of service and some of my lack of productivity these past few years really was because I was overburdened.  I also do a lot of service that I don’t get credit for because it’s the “mom” kinds of service of remembering things that need to get done and checking to make sure they got done.
  • My children are incredibly resilient and yes I can tell them that I’m working and DC2 is more interesting than my work but I have to get work done, so ask your teacher.
  • My kids are much happier people in general when they get up at 7:30 compared to when they get up at 5:30 or even 6.
  • I am more productive at home where I have a computer that I have administration privileges over and have Dropbox working.  Our department IT is incompetent but I actually knew that before quarantine.  But the new thing is that if I work at my computer then I start treating it like a work computer and not just a play computer.
  • Gochujang really is a fantastic condiment.  We are now going through it faster than we do ketchup.
  • Curbside from the grocery store where their own workers do the picking is way better than delivery from instacart.  There really are gains to experience (human capital…) from doing something repeatedly and it isn’t completely unskilled labor.
  • DC2 doesn’t need to be out of the house to keep from bouncing off the walls, but zie DOES need mental stimulation and probably some conversation (zoom is fine) in order to let us work on work days.
  • We’re allowed to ask librarians to pick books off the shelves and hold them for us even if they’re shelved at the library where we picked them up.  It seems so lazy!  But in a quarantine, it’s great for everyone (especially with curbside pickup).  I’m wondering if I should stop doing it when it’s safe to be at the library again– that is, maybe I should go back to picking the books off of shelves myself.
  • DH actually can be away from his extended family for a year so long as he gets his weekly conversations in.
  • I am reminded at how easy it is for a large propaganda machine to sway [too many] people from being their best selves to their worst selves, even at the cost of their own personal interest.  There really must be extremely wealthy super-villains out there who get their jollies by making things worse.  Because it’s easy to make things worse and doing so makes them feel powerful.  Making things better is harder and can be frustrating.

Grumpy Nation, what has this past year and some change taught you?