Ask the grumpies: Why is it so hard to prioritize my health when I’m so good at everything else?

First Gen American asks:

Why is it so hard to prioritize my health (specifically portion control) when I am so disciplined in every other aspect of my life?

We are the same person.

Genetics might suggest it’s because we both had parents who likely starved or were undernourished during parts of their childhood which altered our genes.  (Yes, this is a real thing– I went to a conference on it!  Barker, of the Barker hypothesis, himself was there!  RIP.  He yelled at me for being an idiot when I suggested that he partner with Jamie Oliver who at the time was terrifying SAHMs in the US with one of his reality show programs about school lunches.)

And, unlike money where it gets easier to save the more you already have saved, our bodies fight getting “too thin” and it gets harder to lose weight the less we weigh.  We don’t like deprivation and fight against it.

And unlike habits like smoking or video games etc. you cannot stop eating cold turkey (well technically you likely never have to eat turkey of any temperature, but I know you know I meant that metaphorically).  So there’s no all or nothing option.  You HAVE to eat (and eating is delightful), so if you, for example, manage a candy crush addiction by not having it on any of your devices, the same thing won’t work for food.

And, eating food can increase our willpower in other areas (I read that in Willpower by Baumeister).  So lack of portion control may be partly responsible for your amazing discipline in other areas.  I definitely gain weight when I’m up against deadlines because I need to fuel my brain.

There’s also the… yes, I could prioritize exercise, but that 30 minutes/day doesn’t come from nowhere, I have to take something else away.

And one could make food boring (some people have the same thing for lunch every day and the same set of dinners every week) and have food habits (10:30am is apple time), but that sure would take a lot of joy out of life.

Grumpy Nation, do you prioritize your health?  What are your secrets?


  • There is just too much death.  There has been too much death.  The best teacher at DC1’s school has been absent all year because of some unnamed illness that put him in a coma (he was the one that got covid last year shortly after we saw unmasked people in his class) and seemed to be recovering but then suddenly died.  Our department secretary’s father died of Covid a few months ago and she’s left employment though we weren’t told why.  Our administrative assistant under her lost her father and almost lost her brother to Covid a bit before that.  Her husband had a heart attack a couple years ago and just got a heart transplant, but it didn’t take so now he’s in hospice.  So much tragedy in such a small amount of time.  I have a big box of sympathy cards now but I’m tired of sending them.  So many tears.  Life is so precious.
  • I want good things for everyone except people who hurt other people.  And for those people I want their power taken away.
  • I don’t believe in zero sum games for most things.  I prefer rising tides that lift all boats to shrinking pies.
  • DC2 (who is allergic to red dye or something red dye adjacent and also apparently caramel color) threw up twice over break.  The first time we traced to the seasoning FIL put on broccoli (DC2 LOVES broccoli) and the second time we assume was the take-out we got from a Mediterranean place.
  • I thought I would have plenty of time to myself during this most recent Christmas vacation with the in-laws but boy was I wrong.  Completely forgot how having toddlers around means there’s no time for any adults.
  • Also 6 hours is a lot of driving in the middle of a holiday (from MIL to AirBNB and back again).  I underestimated that.
  • There was definitely not room in the AirBNB for MIL’s extended family on top of SIL’s family (2 adults + 4 kids) and our respective families (2 adults, 2 adults + 2 kids).  And with all the kids there not yet having gotten exercise I was seriously worried something was going to get broken.  If we host all of those kids next year I think we’ll have to go for one of the big farmhouse retreats outside that city.
  • Some gas stations had a lot of people masked and some gas stations had nobody masked.
  • DH met one of his relatives outside and masked when we were first at MIL’s.  While we were gone at the AirBNB his relative got really sick for one day, sore throat, fatigue, etc.  And then his (adult) son living with him got the same thing and was still sick with it when DH met with the relative again at the end of our trip (also outside and masked).  They’re both vaccinated and triple boosted, but were not aware that those were the Omicron symptoms for vaccinated people.  We should have given them a couple of home tests, but DH didn’t put that information together until after he’d left and the relative had gone off to visit more relatives (most of whom are unvaccinated but got Delta over Thanksgiving).
  • I assume with both kids back in school there’s no way of avoiding Omicron, but at least we can try to avoid spreading it to other kids whose parents are selfishly not letting them get vaccinated for whatever reason.
  • I bought 100 BOTN masks because they were on a massive sale ($1/each) but only if you buy 100.  I handed out a bunch of them and was a little astonished that it isn’t mainstream knowledge about how well KF94 work, especially compared to cloth masks.  I was also astonished about how appreciative people have been about the two (one black, one white) I’ve given them–I assumed people would just think I was weird like my colleagues clearly do.  I was less astonished that people didn’t know you can reuse them and use them for at least 40 hours because I didn’t know that until recently either.
  • I think our current plan for the kids is to have them in paper masks (BOTN KF94 medium for DC1, a variety pack of options for DC2 until zie finds one zie likes best, I’m guessing the Tiger KF94, but we have several other types to get through) until the omicron wave dies down and then they can go back to Enro (which is waaaay less effective than paper masks, according to Aaron Collins) once they’re back to 0 new cases per week.
  • On day 2 of staying with us, the cousin closest to DC2’s age definitely had some sort of upper respiratory thing and wasn’t that careful about nasal fluids.  (Also both toddlers had drippy noses because toddlers have drippy noses.)  After we got home, DC2 developed a sore throat.  We have covid tests so we could just test, but I don’t want to waste a test on a false negative.  After talking it over with a friend who keeps up on this stuff, she pointed out that if DC2 isn’t going anywhere and we’re not planning on going anywhere, and DC2 continues to have mild cold-level symptoms, and we’ve already all been exposed to whatever it is and won’t isolate a 9 year old, then having a diagnosis doesn’t actually matter.  So we will wait to test.
  • The last time our health department reported county-level covid rates was December 22nd.  At that time we had been doubling case numbers for I think 4 days in a row.  They just don’t report numbers during vacation.  When they get back, they will have a backlog of reports to sort out but they will not do it quickly (because they had a backlog of over 1000 cases a couple months ago).  I wonder how many other local health departments are in this situation.  So much inaccuracy in data collection.  (Also our county cut the number of people working on pandemic data and information dispersal early on so we also don’t get updated numbers on weekends.)
Posted in Uncategorized. Tags: . 11 Comments »

On salaries in economics

I recently went to a talk by a woman from the census who connected the survey of earned doctorates to tax records.  She has the entire universe of econ phds for the past 20 years (I’m in there!).  Econ PhDs in industry make more than those in academia make more than those in government.

I have more money than I ever dreamed of (though my dreams were small) and more than we actually need.  When DH is also working we are not even upper middle class anymore (though there are still multiple marginal tax brackets above us).

And yet…

Adjusted by quality/prestige of my PhD, my salary is below the median for academics.

In fact, my salary is below the median for academics in the PhD quality/prestige of the bracket below mine.

Should this matter?  I don’t know.  My friend at a SLAC likes to point out that her salary is way below mine and she’s from the same grad school.  And I think if I were to move to a SLAC I’d be ok with a salary cut (and I’d be happy to move to a SLAC so long as it didn’t come with an increase in my teaching load, which is already high for econ).

DH pointed out that part of the problem is that salary is considered an indicator of quality.  If you have a “low” salary, how good of an economist can you be?  After all, wage equals marginal productivity, doesn’t it?  Especially after the labor market has a chance to sort itself out?  (Answer:  no!  That’s completely ignoring search frictions and compensating differentials).

Should I care about prestige?  Should I equate salary with being valued?  Does it matter when I’m getting paid a ridiculous amount already that others are getting paid even more ridiculous amounts?  Would I be more productive if we had more money?  Should the fact that DH is also making a lot even enter into my equation?

I go back and forth on these questions.  I do like money.  And… half of the people do have to be below median.  It’s just hard when having a below median salary means people think you’re a below-average economist.  You know?  And my salary is publicly available.

Does your field equate salary with productivity?  Does it equate salary with value?  Do you?

Ask the grumpies: Luxury or roughing it on vacation?

Leah asks:

Is it better to indulge in some luxury on vacation (for example, getting a king sized bed or a fancy rental car), or do you prefer to “rough it” so home feels more luxurious?

#1:  I can’t tell you what my revealed preference is on this because the only time we tried to take an actual vacation we inadvertently caused a pandemic through our hubris instead (not really– correlation is not always causation unless you’re the protagonist in a work of fiction).  I’m pretty sure the house we rented was in a good location but not as nice as our current house, which is pretty par when you live in a nice house in the middle of nowhere.  I remember when we bought our house out here, for the first time going to conference hotels was no longer nicer than where we lived (previously we’d lived in ancient urban apartments or dorm rooms).

In general, I think we have a minimal standard of what’s good for travel– in NYC that may be a tiny hotel room, in the rural Midwest it might be a nice AirBNB.

I am not at all a fan of roughing it.  Count me out of hiking trips unless there’s a cabin with running water and electricity involved.

#2:  We do not “rough it”.


I refuse to feel guilty for being awesome!

That is all.

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401k/403b/457 contribution limits increase in 2022

The new contribution limit is $20,500.  Catch-up for those age 50 and over is still $6,500.

IRA contribution limits remain at $6,000.  Catch-up for those age 50 and over is still $1,000.

I increased my contributions for 2022!  DH can’t do his until Jan 1 though….

Link love

Dear Auntie MJ, Dealing with Anxiety

Gap year inspirations

This thread is magnificent.

This article needs a more clickbait title— the title actually downplays the substance.

Ask the grumpies: How draining are unmotivated students?

FGA asks:

How much more work [is] an unmotivated student is vs someone who does the work. One of my children is going through the phase of passing in a lot of things late or not reading the one page of prework before a class discussion because he thinks he can wing it. (No he can’t) We’ve tried all kinds of angles but right now, we are trying to get him to see what a pain in the …it is to have to nag people to do their work, show their work, do the prep, chase people to hand things in. Would love actual teachers’ perspectives on pet peeves or things kids do that make their jobs harder.

I mean, you can’t care more than the students do.  That’s a mistake a lot of teachers make in their early careers.  That energy is better spent on the kids who actually want to learn.

It is depressing and a huge waste of time.  The whole point is to learn what you can.

I would actually recommend that he spend some time thinking about what is goals are for the class, even if his goals are just to get high enough grades to blow this popsicle stand.  The better his grades are, the more options he will have.  It doesn’t matter how good or how bad the teacher is– he should be able to get what he wants even without them cajoling.  Even if they’re terrible at their jobs.  That’s irrelevant.  Self-motivation is important.

That said, late work is a pain to deal with– takes way longer to grade.  I don’t accept it (unless there’s a true long-term emergency) and instead have a drop two lowest scores policy.  Class discussions go poorly when nobody does the prework and go well when everyone does.  Showing your work is important because when you’re out in the world people will need to be able to trust what you did and to replicate it with small changes.  Not handing things in that you’ve done is a huge waste of everyone’s time.  Just hand it in.

Alice says:

When I was teaching, I didn’t do a lot of what you’re describing– no nagging, no chasing, none of that. If my students turned in their work on time, they got the credit for it for the quality of work that they did. If they didn’t, they didn’t. Most kids did the reading by the night before– which I know, because I required them to send in responses to the reading by 10 p.m. the day before it was being discussed in class. And most kids turned in their work on time, most of the time. The very small handful of students who persistently didn’t, I warned once– I had them meet with me outside of class and told them that they were in danger of failing. At that meeting, I recommended that they drop the class before the drop deadline if they didn’t want the likely F on their transcripts. I only failed one person– someone who skipped class a lot, didn’t turn in most of their work, and who ignored the warning. I was unhappy about it because I didn’t want to give an F, but– the students earned what they earned based on what they did. The other kids I warned dropped the class while they still could.

This is probably not helpful from your point of view, but– for me, a student who was unmotivated to the point at which they were going to fail was very easy from an instructional standpoint. They didn’t give me enough to react to. I put my time and energy into the people who made the effort to show up and do the work. They may not have vastly improved by the end of my class (Freshman Comp), but they engaged. They tried.


  • My sister just got another pay raise and promotion.  Starting in January she’s going back to engineering (she was in middle-management) working on carbon capture.  She was making more money than I do before (even though she’s younger and only has a BA), but now she’s making WAY more money.
  • I don’t know anybody else who knows what their own siblings make.  I know how much my sister makes and I know my MIL/FIL’s financial situation because both my sister and my FIL ask me for retirement savings/investing advice.  I don’t give stock tips, but I provide general Bogleheads level advice!  My FIL (a retired accountant) really seems to enjoy talking money with me, though he doesn’t know how much we make.
  • It sounds like she and her boyfriend are talking children.  I was like, oh good, we can finally get rid of our heirloom kids’ stuff.  I’ve been keeping quiet because that’s not a good reason to have kids, but definitely let us know when they’re on their way and we will give you high quality wooden Things.
  • Though I did dig out some of the old toddler toys for DC1 to use as fidget spinners.  The other day I removed a pen from hir hands that zie was destroying and replaced it with a fidget toy.  Just like we would do 14 or so years ago!  But now zie is taller than I am instead of small.
  • I found out that the anti-masker whose office is next to mine (and who told a student to report me to the associate dean for saying not to “both sides” the first presidential debate last year) is a member of a sons of the confederacy organization that has ties to white supremacists.  Which really isn’t a surprise.  What was a surprise is that I didn’t know about this already.
  • Some people who belong to this organization say they want to honor their confederate grandfathers who fought for what they believed in.  So… I have a (European) grandfather who was a Nazi sympathizer.  I reject him.  My sympathies are with his sister-in-law (my great aunt) who I never met because she died in a concentration camp.   And no, I don’t see how honoring your confederate forefathers is *any different* than honoring Nazi forefathers.  I’m sure I could belong to Daughters of the Confederacy if I wanted to– we certainly have enough ancestors who moved around that I’m sure some of them were on the wrong side.  But I’d rather go with the DAR if I were going to go with anything (which I’m not).  Because we should reject and shun our racist enslaving ancestors, not honor them.  Honoring people who fought to enslave other people is terrible.
  • I would like to say the above bullet to my colleague but I probably never will.  If it ever comes up I certainly will though.
  • Why isn’t there a Daughters of the Union Army?  Maybe because we all have lives and jobs and aren’t invested in increasing systemic oppression?
  • I guess there is?   And this page too too.
  • I like getting Christmas letters.  I know it’s popular to rag on them, but I like them a lot.  Also I’m not on Facebook so it’s generally new information for me.  I like it when friends’ years have gone well and I like seeing pictures, even if it makes me feel old.  We don’t do Christmas letters ourselves, but if you do, they are appreciated!
  • DH and I both got Pfizer boosters.  Team mix and match!  DH had zero side effects, unlike with the Moderna booster.  I think I had zero side effects too, though I’m generally a little extra tired on Saturday mornings so who knows.
  • We went separately for boosters but got our flu shots together.  All three appointments there were people getting their first Covid shots.  For some reason I find people who are getting their first shots now to be super impressive.  They had a year and change’s worth of BS that they had to fight against to make an appointment and get that shot.
  • Particularly impressive:  At my booster appointment, we were running behind a bit because when I got there the pharmacist was patiently convincing a woman who was there for a Shingles vaccine to also get her first Covid shot.  He answered all her questions and she was completely convinced.  Well worth the wait, I think.  He was also encouraging people to add on flu-shots to their Covid boosters, though many people had decided to do both already.  (He asked me and I said I’d already gotten mine.)  It is fantastic that so many people who otherwise probably wouldn’t have gotten flu shots are.  I’m glad they are allowing them to be given together.
  • I wish everybody had the ability to read and understand and evaluate research papers.
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Christmas Traveling Troubles

When we started making plans for Christmas, Omicron wasn’t on the horizon.  Rates were comparatively low across the country.  Here we’ve settled into 10-15 new cases/100K per day.

Now we’re looking at traveling to the Midwest.  Cases in the counties we’re planning on staying have rates between 50 and 70 new cases per 100K.

I bought cute POSH masks with Christmas designs and a few Enro Christmas masks that I guess we won’t be using (with such high community transmission we need to go with more protective fancy disposable masks).

We had thought that everyone in SIL’s family had gotten covid except the two girls.  One of the girls is supposed to be staying in the house with us, so DH asked MIL if SIL’s older two kids had been vaccinated (the older boy we knew had gotten covid recently so we weren’t as concerned about him).  MIL said she didn’t know.  So we asked SIL.  Turns out that only the youngest girl never had a positive covid test, and they think she must have gotten it because covid came from daycare and she never quarantined away from her twin brother and they even shared bottles while he had covid.  The older two have not been vaccinated but have had covid within the last 90 days.  Their pediatrician recommends waiting 90 days before getting a vaccine for kids who have had covid because of potential for increased risk of the enlarged heart thing.  On top of that, it is literally impossible to get a pediatric shot in their town.  I checked– only lists “call here” places.  The main place is a Saturday clinic with short hours from their county health department and there’s a wait list that she’s on for when the 90 days are up.  She did think that the closest place she could get them shots was 50 min away in the city we’ll be staying at, but notes a couple of pharmacies in a town 30 min away that she didn’t know about until DH sent her the link.

Then while DH was on the phone with his mom, she casually mentioned that she’d invited DH’s aunt (not the Trump supporter) who lives in a suburb of the place we’ll be staying and her three kids and their, I think 6 grandkids, to come over for pizza to our AirBNB on Dec 23rd.  One of the kids runs a daycare.  One of them manages a Target.  One of them is a court stenographer. I don’t know what their husbands do.  DH didn’t say anything, but later texted his mom to ask if she knew if they were vaccinated or had had covid recently.  His mom replied that she did not know and could not ask them as she had already made the invitation(!) and she would just meet them at a restaurant instead(!) since it was our airBNB not hers(!).

That, along with the conversation that DH had with his sister about how rates are crazy in their town but have died down here and it’s easy to get professional tests here (but not easy to get at-home tests) caused us to check on county rates of transmission.

Now DH is depressed.  I don’t know what to tell him.  I’m worried.  DH and I are boosted.  DC1 and DC2 are both fully vaccinated.  So even if we got Delta we’d probably be ok.  Even more ok if we got Omicron, probably.

I’ve been trying to buy tests, but they’ve been sold out and the ones that I ordered have been delayed.  We may have gotten lucky today at a distant Walgreens.  (If we get lucky, it will be $10/FlowFlex and if we only get somewhat lucky it will be $23/set of Binax.  Currently we’re trying to get 12 sets at 4 sets per place that we’re trying… so somewhere between $120 and $276.  I am concerned that we will end up in January with a ton of home tests but none before our trip.)  I know the tests aren’t perfect, but I also feel like if we’re stuck in a second best situation because of decisions DH’s family makes, it will be better if we have a test we can just whip out. [Update:  we have gotten 8 of the FlowFlex tests.]

We’ve been going through potential scenarios so we don’t have to make decisions in the moment.  What if SIL’s kids have obvious colds?  What do we do?  What if one of us gets sick, what do we do?  How do we deal with MIL going out unmasked in a restaurant indoors in an area with extremely high transmission rates?

It all makes me wish we weren’t going.