Activism February Challenge

I am totally going to satisfice this.  I know there are optimal things that I could be doing, starting with figuring out what the current activist landscape is like, and other things that involve talking with people and organizing.  I’m not in a place to do that right now.  But I am in a place for baby steps!

My goal for this month is not to necessarily do something every day, but to have done 28 activism things by the end of the month.

Here’s some examples of things I will consider to be an “activism thing”:

  1. Write 10 post-cards to voters
  2. Donate $25 or more to a single activist cause
  3. Call my reps about an issue
  4. Find a Democratic candidate to support who is not in a competitive primary and donate to their campaign

I’m open to other suggestions!  Even if I don’t end up doing them, some member of the grumpy nation might think your suggestion is perfect for them!

Link love

I had one RA (of several– I had an NSF grant at the time that required a lot of RAs) who did not get Covid Alpha back in the day. Said RA graduated and is doing a masters degree and he got covid TWICE over break. Once from extended family relatives back in another state and once from slightly less extended family in this state when he got back. He was a little sick the first time and majorly sick the second time. (There were negative PCR tests during the two weeks in between and he got his diagnoses after family had been diagnosed both times.) He hadn’t gotten a chance to get boosted yet (in fact, the second diagnosis was the day before his booster appointment) and it turns out, unbeknownst to him, he had extended family who were unvaccinated in both places who were the spreaders. (“My uncle [in our state] is a doctor, I thought for sure everyone was vaccinated!”) Moral: don’t be afraid to ask and protect yourself if not.  Also if you’ve put off getting a booster, maybe get one?

Mississippi mayor is refusing to release library funding (even though he doesn’t actually have the authority to do so) unless the public library system removes all books with LGBTQ+ people in them.  The Madison County library system in Mississippi doesn’t make it easy to donate.  You can donate to individual libraries via this link, but you will need to write a check, it looks like.  (I wonder if you can call and give credit card info over the phone?).  I picked the Madison branch to send a check to.

School board bans the book Maus, a Pulitzer prize winning graphic novel about the Holocaust. Paired action: go to donors choose and donate to someone who wants to buy a copy for their kids. Don’t have the money? Write a note to your local public library to tell them that you appreciate what they do and that they believe in providing diverse books to your community. And check out some of those diverse books and read them.

Thread about person now deciding on TX Social Studies (which means all the TX textbooks, which go to the part of the country that don’t get California textbooks, which is a LOT) Texans: action item: Call your board of education member to complain. Not sure who your board member is? Here’s a way to find out You can also call your state legislator and state rep to ask that they put pressure on the board of education to drop seditionist and traitor Stephen Balch.

The risk of a Coup in the US is getting greater. This article makes the argument and lists things we need to do (scroll down for the bulleted lists)</a

Ask the grumpies: What job did you want when you were a kid?

Leah asks:

What did you want to do for a job when you were a kid?

#1:  I wanted to be a biologist because I liked science and water and so on.  Then I saw a NOVA episode on Nancy Wexler and Huntington’s Chorea and wanted to be a genetic engineer.  Then I did an internship in genetics in high school and realized it was insanely boring.

#2:  I thought I might like chemistry, and I also thought that I’d like to be an astronaut and a rock star.  (I did not become those things.)

What about you, Grumpy nation?


  • I have been watching a LOT of British game shows on youtube, the kind where they have the same set of comedians cycling through as celebrity guests on all sorts of different shows.  I think about half of them are hosted by Jimmy Carr who is an odd duck.
  • I’ve gotten to know the on-air personas of most of these comedians now.  So I’ve gone back and rewatched some clips from earlier and they now have new meaning.  This is not like me.
  • Two comedians that I kind of identify with are David Mitchell and Jon Richardson.  While I think I would rather spend time with David Mitchell, I definitely identify more with Jon Richardson.  Hoo boy do I share a lot of his OCD traits.  (Though the online quizzes always say I’m borderline OCD and he’s had to get actual treatment for it.)  There’s this one Would I Lie to You where he says that sometimes when he’s stressed he takes a bath without water… that is, he gets into his bathtub fully clothed and doesn’t turn the water on and sometimes puts a blanket over the tub and just hides.  I GET THAT.  I understand so much, though I’m more of an “under the desk” or “hiding in a closet” kind of person myself.  None of the other contestants understood.
  • I love the way that James Acaster calls out hosts who ask inappropriate questions of female and minority guests in a way that’s funny and draws attention to him and the host and away from the host’s victim, while pointing out precisely how inappropriate the question was.  “How’s that question working out for you then, Jonathan?”
  • There’s this new show called “I literally just told you” which is brilliant.  I thought I would hate it, especially after watching a clip from episode 2 where Carr bemoans how stupid the contestants are, but I watched the celebrity episode 3 and omg, it is brilliant.  (Apparently episode 1 has very smart normal people contestants.)
  • I have not wanted to watch another episode.  Maybe the next celebrity episode.
  • Outdoor education isn’t being offered this semester, so DC1’s only (required) PE choice is Team Sports.  They’re playing basketball in the gym.  But… the teacher was out with covid the first week of class, so they sat in the gym and used it as a study hall.  So… yay?  Update:  Teacher was there week 2, but out again week 3… Not sure why.
  • When the teacher is in, DC1 gets 90% for the week but when it’s a sub zie gets 100% for the week.  The teacher hasn’t been there enough for DC1 to ask what points are being taken off for.
  • DC1 says that all the people who are actually good at sports are doing actual competitive team sports for their PE requirement, so hir class is comically bad and nobody knows the rules to anything.
  • DC2 says in hir PE class all they do is run laps to a whistle and get yelled at.  Which I guess explains why none of these high schoolers know the rules to basketball.  (DH and I who went to different middle schools in different towns in the same midwestern state both had the experience of being set up like a North Korean military exercise to practice the wrist flop used to shoot a basketball.  We were also taught and tested on the rules of the game.)
  • DH says that one reason his current exercise thing is working well is because he does it during work instead of during time off so the trade off is getting to listen to a podcast during work instead of not getting to see a movie etc.
  • Ecanto has really good music.  As soon as it gets to DVD I may actually watch the entire thing in one sitting!  (We don’t have Disney+, but DC2’s friends do and they’ve been talking about it tons and DC2 has been watching clips of the songs on youtube.)
  • I hate anchovies.  But for some reason we have several cookbooks that I’ve been going through that use them in multiple recipes.  Recently I found out (I think from one of the cookbooks) that you can substitute capers for anchovies and get the same pungent saltiness without the anchovy fishiness in many recipes. So we’ve been going through a lot of capers as we go through these previously skipped recipes.
  • I didn’t know what a caper was or how to use it until college.  We were at a friend’s house and she didn’t know how to cook but her parents had capers and she thought capers were fancy so she added the entire (undrained) jar to a spaghetti sauce and it was so bad.
Posted in Uncategorized. Tags: . 25 Comments »

Navel gazing on goals and midlife crises

It seems like everyone I read online is stepping back to focus on enjoying life and working less.

I’m not thrilled with my work right now and I’m not that interested in the projects I’m currently doing.  But I’m resisting this notion of purposefully cutting back.

The truth is, I like being busy.  I like accomplishing things.  I like *having accomplished* things.  I also like reading books and watching youtube videos and eating yummy food.  I like reading cookbooks, and if I don’t have much to do, cooking ranks as a hobby.  I think I enjoy the quiet life that I fit in around the edges of my job.  I love my little family to pieces– DH is my world, my kids are amazing, our cat is sweet and adorable.  Maybe not healthy, but they do bring me joy and make it extremely easy to practice daily mindfulness.  #blessed

The things I’m not currently delighted with (and could, indeed, be the subject of New Years resolutions or February challenges or just life goals in general) are 1. persistent work worries, 2. a feeling of fractured attention (ever since I got a cell phone 6 years ago… was it Trump or Twitter or both?), 3. a concern that I’m not doing enough activism, and 4. a general underlying feeling that I’m not particularly physically fit these days.  This last one seems both the easiest to address in terms of obvious actionable items but is also the one I care about the least. Though having problems with plantar fasciitis and injuring myself doing online yoga videos or calisthenics and so on have really shaken my underlying belief that I can, someday when I get around to it, just get back into shape.

The work worries are the biggest thing bothering me right now (besides things I can’t do as much about, *gestures at incipient fascism*).  Their two main things are 1.  I’m great at planning but am currently having difficulties with motivation which is kind of weird for me– in the past even if I’m not motivated to do one thing, I can productively procrastinate with how motivated that makes me to do other work.  #CatholicGuilt and 2.  Although I currently have two solid projects that are almost done (both literally need a week of work from a coauthor and a little pushing from me before getting sent out), I don’t have any big projects set up after that.  I have lots of little projects that me 6 years ago would never have even started because they’re so little, but they have student coauthors and grant funders and so on who deserve these smaller publications to be published.  Two of them are even currently R&R and just need to get DONE (the second R&R the student is working on, the first R&R the student has graduated, gotten a full time job, and had a baby so it’s all me.).  I know the path forward for these smaller projects and just need to get them out so I can start thinking big thoughts again and try to get back into the mindset of solid field journal paper in economics.  But I need space and time for that, and I think part of me is afraid of having that space and time in case I end up with nothing.  Which may be why I’m procrastinating on the smaller papers that need to get done.

And sometimes I wonder… I mean, I could just give it all up.  Give up my association memberships (including the new unexpected one), give up my identity as an economist, and I dunno, organize my house or something.  I find sorting things calming, so long as there’s a purpose to it and nobody unsorts it right away.  Then I could focus on stepping back and working less or something.  I mean, I really have nothing to step closer to.

I was brought up to believe that I should be productive, that I have gifts and I should be using those gifts to make the world a better place for other people.  I can do a LOT of that in my job– researching important topics with policy implications, mentoring students, mentoring junior faculty, teaching really well, removing students’ undeserved math phobia and building their (deserved) confidence, making sure that meetings are efficient and we actually move things forward based on best evidence (people who don’t remember meetings where this doesn’t happen don’t appreciate this last thing).  What if I were more selfish and just I dunno, spend the days cooking and reading novels?  (No gardening since I’m allergic to so many plants.)  Would I feel guilty?  Would I be unable to do it and end up throwing myself into volunteering and be miserable so doing?

Fractured attention– doomscrolling twitter is problematic.  I definitely feel more focused when I don’t start the day reading twitter.  But I can’t block it on my phone because of my stupid dual factor authentication software that I need for work.  Likewise I can’t just leave my phone elsewhere because of said software.  So although this seems like a simple thing to fix, it actually requires willpower.  I’m trying to think of if there is any device I could use for duo that doesn’t also have twitter… and … maybe my university has a usb fob that you can stick into some computers?  I don’t know if that works for the web-based things I need or just for logging into university computers, but I suppose I could try.  Looked it up– NOPE.  So, still need my phone.

Not doing enough activism.  Right now I’m not sure what I should be doing.  It was easier when other people were also doing activism.  It sounds like people are starting to get over being burned out, so this may be a place I can focus again.  I should make it clear– I do not enjoy doing activism.  This is something I hate doing.  It does not bring me joy.  But it is really important.  How best to do it right now, I don’t know.  But I do know it is really important and we are at a potential inflection point in the US and we cannot keep quiet or we may lose all the gains we’ve been fighting for for the past 50-100 years or more.  We need to protect our democracy and we need to protect vulnerable people.  The promise of the American Dream is in our hands.

And yeah, physical fitness.  Just needs time and probably money.  I should probably join co-Pilot like DH has and just do what the trainer says to do.  But I don’t wanna.  I do not want to.  So I will keep up with my desultory walking around and occasionally trying things until I hurt myself and give up.  I am being honest that this is not a priority.  And I’m sure there will be comments from people trying to talk me out of it (oh, but you will feel so much better in every other aspect of your life, oh all you need to do is X etc.), but all those will serve to do is vaguely irritate me.  I’m not a total lump.  My bloodwork numbers are fine.  I get my 10,000 steps in or whatever (though now while wearing slippers with arches instead of barefoot).  I will do whatever I do on physical fitness on my own timeframe.

So where does that leave me?  Still waiting for space, I think.  Still trying to find the perfect organizational system when really I know it’s not the organizing that’s the problem, it’s the willpower.  But I’ll get these papers in and coauthors will finish things, eventually.  And time will move forward.  And I’ve got some space this semester and even more next year.  I’ll be fine.

Here’s what Scalzi says about his New Years Planning:

2020 was the year a lot of things fell apart for me (and for everyone else, to be fair); 2021 was in many ways a year for me to rest and regroup; 2022 is hopefully the year I’ll start building some of the structures and practices that could carry on for me for the next several years.

Maybe that will be for me too… I just have to get some of these small projects out the door first.

Are you thinking of ramping up, cutting back, or reorganizing this year?

Link Love

My county hit a record high number of cases today and then announced it would no longer be investigating reporting or collecting data on local covid case rates, hospital rates, etc. and only state level information will be available. Confirmed cases on the last day of reporting: 400/100k, backlog: 3,000/100k.

Check out revanche’s twitter feed for more tweets about the way forward given the huge curtails on voting rights.  Celeste P also has some great ideas.

I do wonder why 100% of the focus is on Democrats to protect voting rights.  This should be a non-partisan issue– all US citizens over the age of 18 should have the right to vote.  But then I think about what happens to Mitt Romney’s family if he steps off the Republican talking point platform.  We need to actually get out and prosecute harassment!  Or… (and this is more sickening) the Democrats need an army that they can send out to harass Republican senators (and Manchin and Sinema who might as well be Republican), just like Republicans do.  I think Michelle Obama was wrong– when government isn’t working, then sometimes you need to go low.

Florida’s top public health official in Orlando, Dr. Raul Pino, was placed on administrative leave after sending an email to his employees urging vaccination against the coronavirus.

I want this as an emoji.  (I did not buy the stamp because I have nothing to use it for, but one day if it’s in stock when I need another $6 to get free shipping…)

Ask the grumpies: Computer programming for a tween girl

OMDG asks:

My 9 yo has expressed interest in doing a coding camp and she told me she wants to be an engineer recently. I guess she started doing scratch last year at school and really enjoyed it, and she totally lit up when I asked her if she’d want to do something like this for camp next year, which I was kind of surprised by. She’s really good at math too. Anyway, I wondered if you had any suggestions about how to find things that would be the appropriate level and interesting, that won’t totally turn her off. I remember when I was growing up only nerdy boys did this sort of thing, and they weren’t super nice to girls like me who were interested. Do you have any suggestions on how to nurture this?

My sister also got turned off of programming by jerk boys at a computer camp. (She does do some programming for her job but dislikes that part.). I think for that reason there are many places that have girls only summer camps.  When she’s a little older, keep in mind these summer camps in Ann Arbor.

DC1 enjoyed NIU virtual summer camps last year.  We don’t know if they will be virtual this year, but she can always go in person.

Outschool has online summer camps for girls.  Here’s one example.  (Currently it only has Spring sessions up, but it will likely have summer sessions later).

Khan Academy has an hour of code thing.  There’s also coursera, though that may be best for older kids.

One of DH’s friends recommends this learn-to-code site.

Here’s some other thoughts we have had:

1 Minecraft coding not well supported on its own, but can work well in a classroom setting—there may be some that’s better supported but we haven’t found it.
2 Unity is a lot of fun, we’re not sure how easy to get into without a class, but it easy to do on your own after having had a class.
3 Here’s an earlier post that has a link to a Python book for kids that DC1 enjoyed.  There are links in the comments to suggestions for other ways for kids to learn programming.
4 Scratch has come a long way since DC1 was little.  Once you create a program you can share your code. There are a lot of scratch programs available online that people share, so you can see what people have done and you can learn a lot from looking at other people’s programs.  She could look at programs and change them to see what happens and make them her own.
5 Statistical programming packages make nice beginner languages.  You could give her simple programming assignments to help you with your work in exchange for $$.  DC1 has made a few .do files for me in the past, though very simple ones.

Many years from now, when she is thinking about college, look for engineering programs that graduate a healthy percent of women and avoid the ones where there’s a precipitous drop between freshman and senior year.

Grumpy Nation:  What recommendations do you have for learning and growing with computer programming for a tween?


  • I don’t know if you remember, but DH’s relative’s wife’s anti-vax, anti-mask family all got Covid over Thanksgiving and at least two of them were hospitalized.  (The relative’s wife in question has a suppressed immune system and had brain cancer a few years back.  Her relatives don’t care.)  Well, the relative just emailed to let DH know that two of them, including one that was hospitalized just got Covid a second time.  They’re still unvaxxed and still anti-mask.  One of them is taking ivermectin but the other is old school with the hydrocloroquinine.  That is a really short time period between getting Covid again.  Was one Delta and the other Omicron?
  • Update:  The entire extended family (except DH’s relative’s wife who is boosted but still spent two hours at the super-spreader event unmasked) now has covid again.
  • The NYTimes numbers and our health department’s numbers for new covid cases in our county have started varying really dramatically, like by hundreds of cases per day (NYTimes being the larger).  Plus the NYTimes has stopped reporting 0 new cases on weekends.  (The health department doesn’t work on weekends.)
  • Our health department took extremely lengthy holidays between Dec 22nd and Jan 7th.  They worked about two days within that time-frame, meaning during the early ramp up of omicron there was no information.  When they came back they had a huge backlog of cases.  But they don’t count cases that are reported to them, only cases that they have fully investigated.
  • Every day the backlog cases number gets larger by a bigger amount than the number of cases they’ve screened.  As of this writing (which was a week ago) they are reporting about 150 new cases per day per 100K people and the backlog is about 2,100 new cases per 100K people.  If trends continue, tomorrow’s backlog will be minimum 2,300 per 100K people.  (Update:  it was 2,400 per 100K.  Update 2:  It seems to have stalled out around 2,500 per 100K, though students haven’t gotten back yet.)
  • The health department has also stopped reporting daily numbers on their twitter feed.  You basically have to read a local news article to get their numbers each day.
  • Our town had a couple of pop-up drive-through testing sites that had really long lines.  They still have not reported their positives to the health department.
  • The health department has also said that they won’t accept home-tests and if you want your case included in the count you need to get an official test.  But it’s really hard to get official tests locally and if you do, you wait hours.
  • The health department itself doesn’t do testing.  They’ve outsourced it to a few local pharmacies.  Most of the university’s testing sites were closed over break.
  • My university has decided not to do drive-through testing at the beginning of the year, but instead will allow people to order and pick up two Binax tests/week on campus.  On the one hand, this is useful because you can use the Binax tests on family members and you can use them at your convenience.  On the other hand, it is a hassle to order them and pick them up for a large portion of campus (my part of campus specifically).  I’m hoping at least one of their locations is convenient to undergraduates.
  • It also means they’re not going to be getting people in denial about having covid or who don’t know they have covid at the beginning of the semester like they have in previous semesters when testing the first two weeks of school was required.  Those cases will also not be reported to the health department like they would have been previously.  Though of course they likely would have just been added to the backlog.
  • Update:  They underestimated demand so are limiting people to one box.
  • DC2 says most of hir teachers are now masked even though they weren’t the first week.  So far there haven’t been many reported student absences at hir school, but there have been several staff members.  Both DC1 and DC2 have reported having a lot of substitutes.
  • DC1’s school has had double digits of new cases every day, but so far it hasn’t been as bad as it was in August.  It’s only been a couple of weeks though.  Update:  then it went to zero for students for a while (but staff still being reported).  But DC1 says students are absent?  The numbers aren’t matching up with the experience.  I’m guessing people aren’t testing/reporting?  Or maybe it really is that everyone got it who was going to get it?  Update:  Numbers went up again.
  • DC2 says that most students don’t wear masks at all and many of the people who do regularly pull them down below their chins.  Zie says zie’s often reminding people to pull them up.  Zie has also handed out a lot of masks to other kids.  DC2’s first period teacher has also started handing out masks.
  • DC1 says more high schoolers are wearing masks than before break.
  • DC1 got a mild headache the day after hir booster.
  • I don’t know if is still doing this, but they sent a freebie holiday mask along with our last order.  It had snowmen and pine trees on it.  Very cute.
  • The university has a test positivity rate of around 25%.  That implies that a LOT of cases aren’t being diagnosed.  But the county’s rate is only 10% (which is still not great, but is much lower).  It’s hard to think about who is selecting into these groups when students are out and when the health department is so far behind in its figuring out how many actual cases there are.  What are the county’s numerator and denominator?
  • I read some articles on Long Covid, and some of the symptoms are similar to the aftermath of that horrible virus DH had that made him think he had rabies.  That is, the doctors he saw think that’s what caused nerve damage that led to involuntary muscle twitches.  After 2+ years the twitches are getting less frequent.  I’d also gotten some brain fog from a virus that was long lasting that finally started to go away.  It is really scary feeling less intelligent than usual when your whole identity is pinned on being one of the smart ones and you’re used to being good at remembering and figuring things out and all of a sudden you have to come up with other ways to do things, or give up on doing them at all. (The truly scary bit is not even realizing you’re making mistakes.) Having seen many of my students and RAs suddenly get less intelligent, making mistakes they never would have before, forgetting things right away, etc. is it any wonder I’ve been taking extra precautions for Covid?
  • Rural schools in our county are shutting down because of too many covid cases.  So far the two bigger towns aren’t.  As of the reporting of the article I read about this, 1% of students in our school district are currently covid positive and 2% of the students in the school district next to ours are currently covid positive, based on parental reporting to the schools.  (How much overlap between this and what the health department reports?  Who knows.)  The schools that shut down are more like 8% out with covid.
  • Apparently a large number of my colleagues got Covid over break (according to the dean).  My department head (who didn’t even BRING a mask to our December full day meeting, though zie did take one of mine after I yelled at pretty much everyone) is still sick.  Which explains the lack of beginning of the semester emails.  I’m just surprised it took this long.  Though one of my work friends pointed out that it may be a reinfection.
  • Suddenly faculty meetings are zoom only again and not catered.  So maybe zie is taking covid seriously now?
  • You can order your 4 free at-home covid tests from USPS here.
Posted in Uncategorized. Tags: . 32 Comments »

Blue State Readers: Democracy at risk, call your reps

Hey guys…

So, voting rights are being eroded across the country.  Most recently Wisconsin said that they can’t have drop-boxes for absentee ballots.

If you’ve been reading twitter, people who were most active in electing democrats are now turning on them.  Elected democrats are not protecting democracy enough.  They’re not protecting the vulnerable enough.  They’re not even protecting the post office.  These things are all true.  But I’ve seen a lot of twitter accounts with massive amounts of followers starting to say that they won’t vote at all in the next election and they’re encouraging their followers to not vote either.

So basically we’re getting:

  1.  Vulnerable people being unable to vote because of legislation and rulings making it difficult for them to vote.  Long lines, few voting sites, voter ID, insane gerrymandering, etc. are now the order of the day.
  2.  Well off white people who helped in the last election not helping at all, and, in fact, supporting fascists with their rhetoric.

I live in a not voting state.  What these two items together end up giving you is a whole lot of death.  Even if most of our population supports something, it doesn’t matter because we don’t run and we don’t vote because we’ve given up hope.  We had a little bit of hope two elections ago, but not enough to sustain until the next election, and not enough to overcome the barriers to voting for vulnerable people.  I don’t want to live in a not voting country.

Today is MLK day.  The MLK family is doing a big march to protect voter rights for that first group.  If this were four years ago, there would be a centralized website where you could find marches in your area.  But I don’t think there is.  Just the main march.

Here’s my ask.

If you live in a Blue State, or if you have a Democrat as a senator (especially if that “democrat” is Sinema or Manchin, both of whom are acting like Republicans and making it really difficult for any sort of progressive agenda to get through):

  • Call your senator and make it clear that you still care about democracy.  We NEED the freedom to vote act to be passed.
  • Before completely throwing away a representative, take a look at what they’ve been trying to do.  Is it truly them, or have they been trying and been stymied by not having *enough* power.  Look at their own records, not just the record of democrats as a whole.  This is going to vary by representative and senator.  Don’t throw away the entire party.

If you live anywhere in the US:

  • Primaries are starting up.  Look into these.  Republicans are worried about being primaried on the right.  Maybe dems should start worrying about being primaried on the left.  If you have extra cash, throw a little money to the candidates whose ideologies best match yours.  Even if they have no chance of winning, money will send a signal.
  • Look at your upcoming local elections and make a plan to VOTE.  Local primaries and local politics are now more important than ever since neither the court system nor the federal government is going to protect us.

I’m not sure where the best place for right-to-vote donations are right now.

Not allowing comments today because I don’t want to deal with all the well-off White dudes who want to tell me that everything is hopeless.  You guys should move to Russia.  Once you decide everything is hopeless, the fascists win.  So yes, if you get enough people to lose hope, you’re right.  Would you rather be right or still have some chance at living in a democracy?

Link love (late because I’m lazy)

Abortion clinics surrounding TX are getting overburdened (link to donate at the bottom of the thread).

It really is the oldest sister anthem: