Rules and telling

I had no ideas for Wednesday posts, so here’s one that I apparently started back in 2019 but never polished up or posted!

Agaishanlife discusses the idea of tattling here.

Back when we were growing up, there was a very strong non-NARC culture because we would get punished if we ever “tattled”.

Thankfully, that has changed.  “Tell someone” and “Use your words” are now “in” so we have thankfully not had to deal with our children being admonished for “tattling”.  Back at the wonderful daycare that went out of business, they’d use telling a teacher as a way to model for the children to work out their differences with teacher facilitation until they were able to do it on their own without teacher facilitation.  So basically, if a kid told on another kid, the teacher would be like, “X took your toy without asking?  Did you ask if you could have your toy back?” and if the kid hadn’t then, the teacher would tell them to ask for their toy back.  And if they had, then the teacher might go to the other kid and moderate a discussion about playing with the toy.  K-4 there’s less of that, but they also don’t punish children for telling things.

I really don’t think that kids are capable of understanding the differences between telling about something important and the kind of “tattling” where teachers used to think that kids were trying “to get other kids in trouble”.  I genuinely think little kids cannot separate the idea of trying to get someone in trouble just telling an adult when something is wrong. They do not generally know which rules are important or why (maybe with the exception of a few major things like biting/hitting). It seems really arbitrary to a kid when they’re punished for reporting some things but not others.   [Back in 2019] I do not think my 7 year old is at a point where zie would really understand the difference, and zie is pretty socially ept for a 7 year old.

There are so many things in retrospect I should have told adults but never did because I’d been told not to tattle.  Because I’d been used to being punished for telling when I was in preschool so as I got older I assumed I was on my own. I always thought so long as I wasn’t being physically harmed I had to keep it to myself. I could have avoided a lot of bullying, including really misogynist stuff as late as 8th grade if I had realized adults would support me instead of punishing me. This all stems from my being punished for tattling as a 3 year old (and later reinforcement, no doubt).

I don’t think we should even use the words tattle or snitch.  We should encourage kids to protect themselves by letting an adult know if they’re being harmed.  We should encourage kids to let an adult know if something dangerous is happening. I don’t think the other stuff needs to be addressed at all– it’s just confusing for the kid.

[One] morning [in 2019] zie told me that I wasn’t supposed to be eating breakfast in the living room. (This is true– nobody is supposed to be eating in the living room.) Zie wasn’t trying to get me in trouble with myself. Yet, when zie says the same thing about hir sibling I might think zie was trying to get DC1 in trouble.  (And of course, if I accidentally spill something in the living room, I’m also the one who has to clean it up and also the one who has to pay for any replacements.)

Really I think often they want to know what the limits of the rules are. They want things to be fair. They want to be able to do things that other kids are doing. There are a lot of reasons they “tell” on people that aren’t just about getting kids in trouble that could be misinterpreted by adults as such.

Did you get punished for telling adults about problems as a little kid?  

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What to wear at work?

DH’s new job is remote but they do a LOT of zoom meetings.

Recently DH’s boss instituted a meetingless day of the week and he asked everyone if they enjoyed it.  The lead programmer said she really liked not having to style her hair or worry about what shirt she was wearing.

DH chimed in to agree– he has also been agonizing over what to wear from the waist up.  Right now his summer shirts only come in button-down (programmer-blue) and various types of t-shirts.  He has exactly one polo with his department name embroidered on it from when he was a professor.  There’s nothing in between!  (Oddly, he has a LOT of nice business casual programmer long-sleeve stuff because his mom sees him for a week every Christmas and that’s what she buys for him because that’s what he takes to the frigid Midwest with him because that’s what he has.  It’s a cycle.)  The boss was like, wear whatever you want I will not notice!  (I suspect the boss will notice changes even if he doesn’t notice the baseline– people are used to me being slightly unkempt which means they only notice when I’m made up for tv or have just gotten a really nice haircut.)

I recently realized that I cannot actually go into work 5 days a week in the fall unless I lose weight or buy new clothing.  (Neither of which sound particularly appealing to me.)  In my current obese size I have plenty of business clothes to teach in and plenty of ratty workout clothes to work from home in (with various levels of t-shirt niceness if I I have meetings) but I have one pair of dockers shorts and one pair of black dress pants that fit.  I don’t think any of my skirts currently fit, just dresses.  UGH.

The current department head has mandated business casual for the students which means we can’t come in in workout clothes (except on casual Fridays).

What do you wear at work?  Has the pandemic changed that?  What will you wear going forward?

Link love

The Minnesota Zoo camp hasn’t been as good as the two NIU camps DC2 went to (it hasn’t been bad, but there have definitely been long stretches that aren’t very engaging where the person running it just kind of talks for a while).  If you have a middle-schooler, these virtual STEAM camps have been really great.  I am very glad we have another NIU camp next week, and DC2 hopes it is “second best” since zie doesn’t think that a camp could get any better than the RPG camp zie went to earlier this summer (there’s another RPG class next week if you have a kid who wants to try– the guy in charge was FANTASTIC and they got to design their own mini-fig that he printed out for them and mailed, on top of them learning interesting things about the craft of storytelling and the histories of archetypes and so on, and doing fun improv stuff, and of course getting to play an RPG game).

And here’s an activism request:  We need the country out protesting for voters rights.  Please please during the next two weeks if you can, see if there’s a protest in your area.  The one DH and DC1 went to last week had a lot of people.  We need that all over the country.  We also need you to make calls to your senators, whether you’re in a red or blue state (yes it matters!  If there’s enough outpouring Blues will go stronger and Reds will go weaker.)  If there aren’t any or you can’t go, (or even if you’re planning on going), consider donating money to causes that support voting rights.  But none of those donations are going to make anywhere near as much of a difference as getting rid of the filibuster and passing the For the People Act will.  I’m not sure I can really get across how frightening and important this is to someone who isn’t living in a state that just got stripped of voting rights.  The future is a world of state legislatures passing laws that everyone can carry a gun without a license (which will make it easier to bring guns to blue states!), women won’t have reproductive rights, and LGBT harassment will be legislated.  If you’re living in a Blue state, that may seem hyperbolic, but if you’re living in a red state, that’s just the reality of the past couple months.

Ask the grumpies: How to pick a college?

CG asks:

How did you pick a college? Do you think you made a good choice? How have your children picked their colleges (if they are old enough)? How did you advise them?

#1:  I knew I wanted to go to a SLAC, and I read the Fiske Guide to Colleges and picked some good midwestern SLACs.  Then I took my list to the guidance counselor at our fancy school and he suggested a few more higher ranked SLACs not in the midwest.  I was waitlisted at my first choice and got into the second.  I think it was a great choice– I could go into detail about why but that would make it clear what my undergrad was!  Suffice to say that I’m a fan of highly-ranked SLACs generally.

#2:  Went to the state flagship R1 along with most everybody else, which happened to be a top school for her major and also where her now husband was going.  It was an excellent choice.

Our oldest hasn’t picked a college yet, but we will be giving hir a copy of the Fiske Guide* to colleges when it comes out in July.  I’ve already vetoed a few schools as we’ve been getting mail every since DC1 took the sophomore PSAT.  (No, you are not going to this over-priced meh-ranked local religious private school!)  I have no idea where zie is going to end up, but we’ve saved for an expensive private school.

*all amazon links listed give us tiny payments if you purchase through them

Grumpy Nation, what are your answers to CG’s question?


  • A 10-15+ person silicon valley startup is different than a smaller established SBIR mill/Consulting company in many ways.  It’s interesting how the processes are much more modern but also there’s a lot less stuff figured out.
  • This company calls for a lot of video meetings, whereas the old one did skype but with the video always off.  DH moved back into the guest bedroom (he also has a desk next to mine in the office next to our bedroom) which has a much better setup for video and we can both have zoom meetings at the same time.  (One day a week, all 4 of us are zooming in different rooms at the same time).  I miss him.
  • DH decided to decorate the guest bedroom to make it more his office and less a guest bedroom (he’s left all the pictures of waterfalls up– my whimsy suggested decorating it like a mid-level hotel room–Gen X does cliché ironically).  His mom got him one of those fake street signs that has his name on it so now the little bathroom hallway that separates the Great room from the guest bedroom is called “[DH’s first name] Rd”.  The guest bathroom is a little alleyway or cul de sac off the main road in this scenario.
  • He bought a standing desk and a new monitor and a new keyboard/mouse setup because the guest bedroom setup isn’t perfect.  He’s contemplating getting a new chair, though I’m actually the one who needs a new chair and he can take my old aeron once DC1 (who I traded chairs with) is back in school.  We’ll see what happens.  Money is a little part of it, but the big thing is me wanting to actually go and *sit* in chairs.  When you’re spending $1K on something you want it to be perfect, or at least not to cause back pain!
  • DH has decided to raise his allowance an additional $720/year for a total of $3,600/year.  Not all of this is going to jetpens for fountain pens and ink.
  • I know the whole point of an allowance is to spend on what you want without anybody judging you or saying no, but I did tell DH that I would not feel comfortable with fountain pens that cost over like $500 being in the house.  So he bought this one to add to what is now a collection (if you have three of something, it becomes a collection). It is substantially pricier than his other two.  But he’s had the other two (and his space pen) for at least 2 decades, maybe more, so I trust him to take care of it.
  • DC2 requested a fountain pen for hir birthday, so zie will be getting a platinum preppy that DH will be installing a converter for hir so zie can use his inks instead of just cartridges.
  • Part of me really wants to buy a fountain pen that matches the iPhone I plan to get just because it matches.  But then I remember that I don’t actually *like* fountain pens all that much (I like paper that makes fountain pens feather) and would not choose a fountain pen over a nice gel pen or rollerball.  Plus I would feel *terrible* losing a $25 pen.  (I think I can handle losing a $5 pen these days.  My beloved Clena is $3.30.)
  • None of those jetpens links are sponsored.  I just like the company.
  • My aesthetic is mostly black, but there’s something appealing about getting a light purple phone.  A touch of whimsey amid the darkness.
  • I have been learning a lot of new pen jargon from watching jet pens videos.  They don’t always explain the terms but I’m starting to pick them up anyway.
  • RBOC two weeks in a row– I think that matches my currently scattered personality.  I really need to do some deep work on two of my papers (my current two important papers) and instead I’m just futzing around on minor things.  Bad bad me.

Dipping back into being high income

With DH re-employed, we’re back to being high income.  (Not 1% high income, but more than anybody really needs high income.)

You will recall I had just started loosening up on spending and was buying travel not connected with a conference, visiting DH’s parents’ house, or a wedding for the first time *ever* and then the pandemic hit taking our 20th anniversary trip to Portland, OR with it.  And then it sounded like DH’s job was going to go away, so I started stockpiling, and then it actually did go away, and my income was back to my take-home pay just about exactly covering our expenses on average (though some lumpy expenses, like summer camp etc. came out of DH’s unemployment and summer money/honoraria for me).  I was careful to buy the on-sale things at the grocery store and didn’t go too crazy with my jetpens habit.

To be honest, I felt more comfortable on just my income.  High income is freeing, but I definitely feel guilt along with it.  And uncertainty– I don’t know what I’m supposed to be doing with it all.  Is it stupid not to spend?  Should I be saving?  How much waste is moral?  Should I be buying more ways to save time?  Laura Vanderkam would not approve!

And now we’re back to DH’s take-home being higher than mine (I have more retirement account options) and us being able to live off just his take-home pay.

If we stay here forever, we’ve hit our savings goals.  Our house is paid off.  Our retirement accounts are being maxed every year.  We finally renovated the kitchen.  Our cars aren’t very old.  DC1 will have to pay full-freight for college.  But we’ve also got a LOT saved in a 529 already and although we will probably save more for DC2; we won’t know how much more until DC1 actually goes to college.  It’s not really clear where extra money should go.

That said, we’re in a shakier position than we were before.  DH’s job may not last longer than two years.  We both really want to leave this state and move someplace where the government isn’t actively trying to kill people.  We want to live in a Blue state with high taxes and expensive housing. I’m not sure I can get an academic job, especially one with tenure.  Is there age discrimination in Tech?  I don’t know.  Will DH be able to keep getting jobs?  Probably if he’s willing to move (or if he’s willing to do something outside of his main focus– everyone is shocked at how good a programmer he is)… but will they pay enough to live someplace fancy?  We don’t know.

We would need another 3 million dollars in savings to safely move to one of these fancy blue cities and not worry about employment or health insurance or housing (less with jobs lined up).  That’s a LOT of money.

I asked DH what he wanted to do now that we’re rich again.  He said he wanted freedom most of all.  So maybe we should aim for that 3 million.  I don’t know how long it would take to get it, but the more we put away now, the longer it has to grow and the more freedom we will have if DH’s new company goes under or he gets laid off or I move without a job or etc.

But also he wants fancy J. Herbin fountain pen ink (emerald) and either the Peloton app or that fancy online personal trainer thing Wheezy Waiter is always talking about (he picked the latter, and just bought $300 of dumbbells).  And a workout mat to put in his office ($200!  except then amazon said just kidding it’s actually backordered and he got a cheaper one).  I think we can handle those.  And upgrading my iPhone 7 to a newer model with a working battery (I will do this before school starts in the fall).  And maybe even upgrading my ancient computer (though DH may upgrade his and I’ll take his as a hand-me-down).

But I really need to start some kind of monthly savings plan where I just put money directly into Vanguard instead of letting it pile up in savings where it just kind of stares at me and makes me forget its true value.  (I start saying dumb stuff like, “DH, we could totally just buy this $32K house near your parents so everyone has a place to stay at Christmas.”  Narrator:  We should *not* buy a fixer-upper house in a rural area that we will go to maybe 2 weeks out of the year.)

No questions, just being obnoxious.  Commentary accepted even without questions! 

Link Love

I think I may have attracted a gremlin– I have had SO MANY electronic problems this week(!)  I had forgotten how much they can hurt productivity.  I can’t remember… do I burn sage or throw salt over my shoulder or what?

There was an extra post this week– if you only stop by on Thursdays, check out Wednesday!

Thread on Covid Delta variants. I am so worried about DC2 in the fall… they’re not allowed to require masking even though the kids won’t be vaccinated. It will be middle school with all the changing classes and passing in hallways and so on. I don’t even know if they’re going to be allowed to require school bus drivers to have the vaccine. I wish the vaccine approval for kids could come before school starts. : ( Zie will be 9 so hopefully only a mild case, but who knows what the variant landscape will look like and we still don’t know about long-term effects.

Maybe I should scatter autobiographies of people who grow up Trans.

What is wrong with why we sleep.


Ask the grumpies: Alternatives to Amazon

Heavyhands asks:

Thank you for answering my ballpoint pen question last year!  In case you were wondering, I decided on the Dr. Grip and it has been working out really well for me.  Thank you, Grumpy Nation!

My question this time is about alternatives to Amazon.  I know Amazon is a terrible company with monopoly power that treats its workers terribly, and I know I should use them less.  But I had a hard time doing that until recently when all of a sudden I was paying for Prime shipping and not *getting* Prime shipping.  At first I thought it was a mistake (this just happened starting in June 2021, so not a covid thing, but maybe a not wanting to pay workers thing), but after being on the phone with several customer service people and getting a really irritating letter from them saying that Prime shipping has NEVER been getting something in 2 days, it’s always been 2 day shipping after the item is sent (not true!) … it’s now less convenient for me to use them and this might be the push I need to cancel Prime and start supporting other businesses. . . within reason.  I’m not rich and I can’t always afford to pay shipping and handling that costs the same amount as the item does.

So, it’s been hard to figure out alternatives.  Most recently I’ve been trying to find a new Bloom Daily planner and birdseed (since my local grocery store no longer carries birdseed).  I’m out of the habit of knowing where to shop if it’s not Amazon.  What are some alternatives?

Does carry birdseed?  That’s where we’ve been getting our cat supplies if the grocery store doesn’t carry them.  If you buy enough stuff in one order, s/h is free. is also an evil company, but it does carry Bloom Daily planners.  I feel like it’s not quite as evil as Amazon (but maybe I’m wrong?)  Like, it’s evil, but a lot of the damage was done decades ago when it killed local businesses and now it has to compete with online shopping?  They’re still bad.

I do a lot of shopping at Target and Home Depot.  Also big companies, but I can either get stuff delivered directly to me or to the store.

Etsy sometimes has off-the-wall things that I wouldn’t be able to get anywhere other than Amazon.

Those are big companies.  You can also go the exact opposite direction:  Do you have a Buy Nothing group?  Freecycle?  Craigslist?  Nextdoor?  These won’t help for planners or birdseed, but maybe for things you don’t mind getting used.  For us, these worked well when we’ve lived in cities, but not so well where we live now.

Similarly you can buy directly from the company you’re trying to get the item from.  Though I’m also having the same problem with planners… I’m having a hard time paying $10-$15 in shipping (it varies by the day) to buy a Passion Planner from their website.  If they were in stock on Amazon, you bet I’d be buying from there to save on shipping.  I will eventually buy one sometime in July (they have an August start), but I suspect Amazon will have them in stock by then.  I may buy from the company anyway once DH starts getting paychecks and reimbursements.  (Though yes, we can afford $45 for the planner + shipping even before he gets paid.)

Grumpy Nation:  What are your Amazon alternatives?  Also, have you been having problems with their shipping suddenly being slow?

Twenty One Years

It seems hard to come up with words of praise that I don’t already say every day, because you’re so easy to praise.

Right now you’re playing a one-person role-playing game about a vampire.  Part of that game mechanic is losing memories.  Over the years, I know that’s been happening too.  But here are some flashes.

We met in high school.  And I didn’t think much at first, given you were crushing on another person at the time.  But we kept coming into contact with each other, and eventually fell in love.  I had never been so attracted to anyone in my life and I wanted to be with you, to touch you, to talk with you, more than any other person I have ever met.  We would regularly get in trouble for PDA (public displays of affection), but I regret nothing!

You moping under a staircase.  You at your roommate’s birthday party.  You on a walk for the first time.  You alone with me walking talking about a Gurps game as if it were real.  Kissing my hand. You wanting to start slow. My mom asking if I’m dating that guy (yes).  Standing on a hillside at night looking out at the night with you holding me, suddenly realizing we’re late for check and sprinting (then not getting in trouble!)  Being miserable when we have to part.  Spending hours on the phone.  Calling you after seeing The Fantastiks and your dad being angry it was so late.

In college, we decided to take a break from exclusive dating because we’d seen how much stress the first two years put on relationships.  One of my high school roommates had even gone so far as accepting the same school as her boyfriend had gone to the year prior, only to find out he’d been cheating on her for months.  (She went, but eventually transferred elsewhere.)  I dated several losers who wanted a mother figure, because apparently that’s the kind of person I attract who isn’t you.

Visiting you.  Your tiny room.  Meeting your friends.  Your roommate wearing nothing but boxers all the time and watching 8 heads in a duffel bag.  Amazing summers. Cicadas. Your summer place in a lousy neighborhood. That weekend at your conference, almost missing an econ final because the train back was delayed (but I made it– walked straight from the station to the final and aced it).  You visiting me.  My friends loving your haircut but me hating it (I think I’d be ok if you changed it now, but 20+ years ago, less so!).  Talking to you on the phone, telling you I hate living without you, and maybe we should get married after college. 

We got married.

You smiled. I cried from happiness.  I cry when I’m overwhelmed.  Driving to Canada.  That garlic restaurant.  Niagara Falls looking so nice on one side and so… not… on the other. 

Graduate school was stressful.  But we got through it and grew stronger.

Our tiny first apartment– 10×10.  Buying cheap furniture. We had to close the futon to use the computers.  Moving to a bigger apartment (30×10).  You learning to cook.  Our first anniversary in the rain, coming back sopping wet and so happy.  The chocolate restaurant. Moving to undergraduate dorms.  The students and their craziness, their anxieties, their joys, their electronic explorations.  The Malaysian place. The full day trip complete with rose gardens and strawberry picking that you planned for me.  That BBQ place.  Moving to a bigger apartment. Tiny Little Kitty loved me best and friendly Big Kitty loved you best.  Buying slightly nicer furniture.  Walking to your lab.  Walking home from work through the shops then the flowers.

Infertility sucked, but we got through it.  We got jobs and bought a house, which had more unexpected expenses than we’d planned for.  We had DC1 who was a delight and went on leave to a Paradise while you tried a start-up for a year and took a fancy cooking class.  You became a better cook than I am.  Then we had DC2 and took another leave to another Paradise.

Pregnancy test strips. Driving across country in the middle of the night, trying to find a hotel that will take pets (eventually I got out my phone and called Holiday Inn and they directed us to one). Not being able to afford furniture or a w/d for a few months. You being so amazed at my growing stomach. Giving birth. You with our baby.  So proud of someone who can do so little.  Our children are amazing. 

The past five years have been a complete blur (I blame politics).  Our children are older.  DC1 will be going to college in no time.  You have a new job.  We seriously want to move to a blue state.

Bread.  Youtube videos.  Violin.  Piano.  Registering people to vote.  Protests.  Phone calls.  A year of sleeping in and doing curbside pickup.

No matter what happens in the future, I want to build new memories with you.  I love you so much.  You’re reading a poignant comic book right now that you’re pretty sure I wouldn’t like (you know I don’t like poignant), but in it there’s a weird older couple in their 90s who are still together.  (“How are we weird,” I asked.  “Well, we’re pretty co-dependent,” you said. “But I wouldn’t have it any other way,” you added.)  I want that.  (But I won’t control your olive consumption.)  Another half century with you would be amazing.

Happy anniversary!



  • Why are plantain chips so good and banana chips so bad?
  • Remember how I told you guys to try adding cardamom in place of cinnamon in various recipes?  Also try Star Anise in your coffee.
  • One of the big problems with black being a major color in my aesthetic is that I tend to lose my black phone on my black desk, especially when it’s underneath my black wallet.
  • I’m currently having one of those irritating weeks where I have like 4 things that are *almost* done but they’re waiting on one last thing from other people for me to finish my bit.  I want to get them done and off my desk and out of my headspace, but I can’t.  And these are all things where people said they’d get me the thing I needed last or earlier this week but none of them did and there’s no updated when I’m actually going to get it.
  • I also have 8 other projects I could be working on instead (and 4 that I *should* be working on) but I just want to get these other things done which is distracting!
  • If you are exercising during a zoom meeting or presentation, TURN YOUR VIDEO OFF.  Seriously, WTF is wrong with you?  Nobody wants to see you bobbling up and down on your treadmill while someone else is talking.
  • Covid cases in our county vary between red-zone and orange zone.  We still have a few deaths every week.  And there’s just less information being reported and more little * noting that numbers provided by the health department don’t add up.   It’s depressing because this is about the point we were at *last* August right before the students came back and we’d just gotten a mask mandate.  Now we have no mask mandate and our vaccination rate has been stalled out at ~40%.  With the students gone we could be doing so much better.  Since when did “only” 2-4 excess deaths each week from something absolutely preventable seem like everything is now fine?
  • Our health department just decided (a few days after that previous bullet) that it is no longer providing pandemic updates.  We had redzone numbers of cases the previous day.
  • NIU virtual camps have been a HUGE hit with DC2.  C++ with DC1 has gotten off to a bit of a slow start, but I guess not everybody has taken a language or two before.
  • I had a huge amount of computer/technology problems this week which reminded me that it’s been a while since I had any and I’m a lot more productive when everything just works!
  • DC1 has been reading the Histories of Herodotus.  Zie keeps telling us about bits and pieces of it.  It really is hilarious– I loved it too when I was about hir age.  It’s crazy about how something so old (well over two thousand years!) can still be so entertaining.  Zie even has a different translation than I did and is enjoying it, so it’s not just the translator taking liberties.  I’m like, I wish we’d made you read Gullivers Travels before this so you could see that they’re from the same tradition.  But alas.
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