When did you or your children stop believing in the literal interpretation of folk figures?

Here’s another post from 2011.  I’ve updated it!

Dean Dad’s fifth grader has questioned Santa Claus.

When did you or your children stop believing (if at all)?

I don’t remember ever literally believing in Santa Claus or the tooth fairy.  I remember always thinking about it like the Land of Make Believe on Mr. Rogers Neighborhood.  I would never be so gauche as to stop pretending (especially since that might mean the cessation of gifts/money), but always in a wink-wink-nudge-nudge sort of way.  I remember being disgusted when a fellow second grader announced to the class that Santa Claus is just your parents… duh! but you don’t SAY that out loud.  Magic isn’t real, but it’s fun to make believe.

DC[1] was just getting around to the concept of Santa last Christmas [age 3 or 4 back in 2011]… not sure how ze escaped it for so many years… possibly because Santa is overshadowed by grandparents in the gift department.  This year ze’s been reading a LOT of magic books, and we’ve had a lot of conversations about magic not being real but pretend… so I imagine this Christmas ze’ll make the connection, especially in conjunction with learning about Saint Nicholas at school.


DC2 didn’t get the concept and then vehemently didn’t believe at age 3, and then around age 4 we moved back from paradise for a last year of preschool and was completely indoctrinated by one of the preschool teachers regarding the Easter Bunny.  I believe at some point in this age 4 range zie asked us point blank if the Easter Bunny was real or if Santa was real and we asked what zie thought instead of answering.  DC2 only had a year of religious education (age 3) so none of that connection to the Catholic/Anglican saints thing.  I think once got to kindergarten we were back at the “not real” stage.

We’ve never really told our children either way.  We don’t really talk about Santa or the Easter Bunny or the Tooth Fairy doing things, though I guess we do say “leave teeth for the tooth fairy” (DC2 response:  Daddy is the tooth fairy, and I’d rather keep my teeth).  But we also never contradicted people saying such things.  And we have been careful about making sure they know not to spoil it for other kids.

Grumpy Nation, When did you or your children (if applicable) stop believing in creatures like the Tooth Fairy et al.?

Myths about the value of college

ARGH, I’m seeing so much misinformation going around in twitter because of student loan forgiveness.  It’s driving me crazy.

Myth:  The value of a college degree is not worth it.
Reality (based on recent work of David Autor, but also many many other people): Even with the high costs of a degree and student loans, the additional earnings make it worth it for most college graduates.
Sub-Reality (I don’t remember a big name on this one, but lots of people are studying it with mixed results): The benefit of going to college and not finishing– we’re not as sure about that. Depending on the loans that you take out, it may not be worth it to spend a couple years in college and then not have a degree (though 2 years at community college with a degree is worth it). And lots of people go to college, take out loans, and don’t finish. That is a problem that lots of people are studying.
Sub-Reality (David Denning and several other papers): Even a degree from a for-profit college usually does result in higher earnings, but you are no better off with a for-profit degree than you would have been with a community college degree (worse given student loans, though the worst offenders have thankfully been addressed in the new Biden thing). They provide the same benefits, it’s just the for-profit degree is stupidly expensive by comparison.

Myth: It is better to go to a low tuition regional school (or community college) than to the best school that you can get into.
Reality (Hoxby and Turner in an amazing RCT, and other papers that are not experiments but use clever regression discontinuity designs): Schools with better endowments 1. Give more and better financial aid, meaning that for poor kids who can get into them, a state flagship or a highly endowed private prestige school will cost less. And 2. More prestigious schools do a better job of retaining low income kids– this seems to be through a variety of methods– better financial aid means working fewer hours, but also they just have a lot more resources devoted to keeping low SES kids, offices, sometimes mentorship programs, short-term loans etc. That means for low income kids, the more prestigious school means that they’re more likely to actually *graduate.* And, we also know among graduates (through a lot of different papers, though no RCT to my knowledge), prestigious schools help low SES kids make more money as grownups than do less prestigious schools.
Sub-Reality: For middle/upper middle/rich class kids, it doesn’t matter. They just need a degree.  (And the rich probably don’t need a degree.)

Myth:  The skyrocketing cost of college is caused by financial aid accessibility.
Reality: The skyrocketing cost of college is caused by decreased federal and especially state investment in state schools. (And to a much smaller extent: better quality education, gambling on fancy sports programs that don’t pay out, fancy dorms at private schools, etc. But this is like nothing compared to the effect of how much the government has stopped subsidizing higher education.)

And some stupid Republican propaganda:

Myth:  Non-college training is free.
Reality: Truck driving requires CDL training. Hairdressing requires training. Nursing requires training. Plumbing requires a TON of training. So many professions that don’t require a college degree still require technical training which still costs money.

Myth: Working class people don’t have student loans
Reality: A lot of people drop out of college and have student loans. A lot of people get student loans to pay for technical training.  Plenty of working class people have student loans.

It still boggles my mind that only 30-35% of US adults have college degrees.  But a big percent start but then drop out without an additional degree.  (You can get exact numbers from http://www.ipums.org)

Link love

Information about the evil super-villain Barre Seid who has spent at least 1.6 Billion dollars on the ultra-right-wing agenda, including the Supreme Court takeover.

A teacher in Oklahoma was removed for providing the QR code to the Brooklyn Public Library Free library cards .  (She was then reinstated after outcry and they denied they actually fired her or suspended her but then she quit.)

I guess one of the “benefits” of having been in a mostly maskless society for the past two+ years is that we’re all used to wearing masks and being in the minority doing so. Plus other people in the same situation have scattered masking. It no longer seems weird because this has been how it’s been for a long time. I no longer immediately notice whether people are masked or not, which is weird.

Officer-Involved: The Media Language of Police Killings

How Hybrid Working From Home Works Out

Ask the grumpies: What’s something that seems basic in your field that others outside your field don’t know

Leah asks:

What’s something in (insert comment authors field here) that seems basic or important to you but others outside your field don’t know?

Marginal tax rates is a big one.  A lot of people think that if you make more money, all of a sudden all of your previous money is taxed at a higher rate and you could actually lose money.  That’s not true.  Only your new money above the tax bracket gets taxed more.  The money you earn below that bracket gets taxed at the exact same amount.  The only way you would lose money is if you had a tax rate higher than 100%, which we don’t.

How insurance works is another.   That’s a bit more complicated, but it’s also magical.  See the linked post if you want to learn more.

Then there’s just standard stuff like sunk costs.

Grumpy Nation, what’s basic in your field that people outside don’t know?


  • I had no idea before reading the Miss Silver mysteries that women in England also got “called up” aka drafted for work during WWII.
  • Had to pay $1K to get a below-ground sprinkler bubbler to replace our out-dated pond-making old one.  We could have spent $300 for an above-ground one, but apparently you have to be careful with them if it gets below freezing and nobody wants to deal with that.  DH explained all of this to me and I silently handed him a checkbook.  “I trust your judgment,” I then said.  “I assumed you would say that,” he responded, “It’s only money, right?”  “1K isn’t going to make a difference in the fact we can’t afford a 3 million dollar house.”
  • The sprinkler guy gave us a used super fancy sprinkler control system for free (worth $200 new), which makes DH suspect he felt guilty about overcharging us.  It cancels the sprinkler when the weather forecast is for rain and lets us know via email.
  • Remember how we home-schooled DC2 for a semester until zie could get a covid vaccine?  And how we had no idea what we were doing with Language Arts?  Well, apparently stealing material from California teacher websites and having hir read modern children’s classics paid off because zie got 100% on reading comprehension on the state tests.  This is a first for both our children for reading comprehension.  (They’re both readers, but I don’t think they’ve ever gotten a perfect on a reading comprehension standardized test.)  (98% math– zie got X and Y mixed up for coordinate points, 94% science.)
  • DC1’s government teacher started the first day of class saying he is a libertarian.  Fortunately this was followed up with a small rant about social conservatives (and an equivalent one about progressives), so he’s not a fake libertarian.  Still, there’s a lot of irony in libertarian public school government teachers.
  • Chipotle in adobo sauce food processed with Mexican crema or sour cream is AMAZING.
  • DC1’s English class this year says that all Western literature is just the Bible redone and metaphors for the Bible.  I was like, what about things that are Ancient Greek literature redone and metaphors for Ancient Greek literature?  Western Civilization predates the Bible!  Of course, one of my high school English teachers said that all poetry was just metaphors for Sex or Death (or just Death if you consider Sex to be the Little Death), which was hilariously funny when the next year a completely different English teacher tried to teach the one Emily Dickinson poem that’s not about Sex or Death.  DC1 pointed out that a previous class had said all literature was the Hero’s Journey and it’s not clear that all the stories in the Bible fit that.
  • They’re reading the Jack London short story To Build a Fire AGAIN.  They read so little literature compared to how much we read in the midwest in high school, and yet they have run out of books about dumb white male protagonists who lose the Man vs. Nature theme to the extent that they have to reread one.  (Recall that the Fascist sophomore year was 100% books about privileged white dudes who do dumb stuff and end up dying.)
  • I have to wonder if maybe there would be more scope for things that aren’t Bible allegories if they, maybe, I dunno, read books by women or minorities or non-Christians or you know, really anything that’s not a Privileged White Dude repeating the same boring tropes over again.  (I would say Dead White Dude, but they actually do read books by living Privileged White Dudes.)
  • They are actually reading TWO Shakespeare plays.  This makes for three total for their K-12 careers here.  Which ones you ask?  Well, obviously Othello and Hamlet.  Can’t have any with you know, non-tragic Female Characters who don’t meet an oxygen-deprived grave.  I’m a little surprised about Othello, because it has a minority character in it, but really, it’s a minority character written by a white dude who does violence against a white woman because he thinks she’s impure.  So… really shouldn’t be that surprised.
  • I think I may finally have gotten post-covid out of my lungs.  I had a cough and some congestion for well over a month after.  (Scishow says this is normal, apparently it takes the proteins that fill your lungs up a while to get the message to stop doing that after you’ve fought off some respiratory infections.)
  • I’m really enjoying using notepad++ instead of wordpad for programming.

I am now a full professor

I should have gone up 5-6 years ago.

Here’s my recommendation for all you associate profs:

  1.  Go up when you have double or a little more than double what you had to get tenure AND
  2.  when you have evidence that you are a leader in the community (ex. you are an associate editor at a journal) UNLESS
  3.  your university/department has different guidelines

Don’t put it off– the procedures may have changed from when you got tenure, and the longer you wait the more likely they are to have changed.  That means they may want information that you didn’t have to put in your tenure packet.  Which you will have to dig up.

Also when you have more stuff you have to enter ALL that stuff into various forms.  And find things.  And figure out where your PhD students ended up.  And there’s just so much info to dig up and put into a long form.  And the forms are a pain.

In any case, I put it off because the department was being sued and because I didn’t want more full professor responsibilities and because I was supposed to get a chair that can only go to associate profs.  And there was an equity bump that I was supposed to get and did get.  None of those were good reasons– I got excess responsibilities anyway, I didn’t get the chair and they gave it to someone else because they thought she was going up for full first (we went up at the same time), and I shouldn’t have done a favor for the department (even though the chair specifically asked– but the chair isn’t my friend)… and they could have given me a equity bump at the full professor level instead.

I still don’t know what my salary bump is.  Our re-employment letter for the year had the old salary on it (along with us not needing to sign it and a bunch of boilerplate that sure makes it sound like they want to make it easier to fire tenured people) and the email that sent it said we would be finding out our new salaries after the semester starts.  It’s supposed to be at least 10%, but who knows what will actually happen.  Three of us went up for full this year and succeeded and that could go either direction in terms of resources (smaller bumps) vs. equity (potentially we all get a large bump).  I’m hoping it won’t matter too much for me, but I can’t get my hopes up too much about job markets!

Link love

Rob Beckett talks about moving from working class to middle class in the UK.

His classmate Tom Allen provides additional insight.

College vaccine mandates last fall reduced mortality from covid by 5%

This poster has been trolling quora forums for ages with fake questions.

The CDC’s actually good message has been completely lost in their “everything’s normal” messaging.  This is also the fault of people who should want the good message to get out– they keep complaining about the bad message but not saying hey, you’re supposed to mask if rates are high and guess what…

Frightening censorship and fascism in Sarasota Florida, and explains what probably happened to that canceled Donors Choose from the other week.

How to maintain your privacy if you need an abortion.

Help queer middle schoolers in Utah.

Ask the grumpies: How best to give?

First Gen American asks:

When giving, is it better to give one large lump sum or more frequent smaller quantities. I have opinions about this if the lump sum covers a big portion of a not for profit’s annual operating expenses.

Well, this depends on what your purpose in donating is for, and whose utility you are trying to optimize.

If you ask charities– they would like you to take the lump sum and turn it into a monthly payment that they know for sure they’re going to get each month.  They say they would rather have a predictable monthly stream than unpredictable lumps of the same amount.  I’ve seen an academic presentation on the topic.  (I can’t remember the details though.  It had something to do with spending and endowments and how to know how much to spend vs. save as a non-profit.)  That said, some fundraisers don’t even bother with small donors because small donations are more expensive to process than are large lump sums.

If you’re talking about what is optimal for *you*, then if you’re donating to get a warm glow, frequent small quantities are going to give you more dopamine hits than just one will.

You also get to keep money longer and any interest that accrues on it if you do smaller frequent quantities.  That said, you have to actually *remember* to donate and that you’re donating so if you have trouble balancing a monthly checkbook one lump sum is probably safer.

If you want to have a bigger say in what the non-profit does, a larger lump sum is more likely to attract their attention and their willingness to serve your wishes than are smaller quantities.

Grumpy Nation:  Do you think it’s better to give one lump sum or prorated monthly amounts?

Related posts:

Why do people give to charity?

How much should one give to charity?

Where should I donate?


Overall I liked A Summer for Scandal by Lydia San Andres.  I think it’s underrated, but still a library book for me rather than a reread.  I especially love the setting and the heroine and her sister.  If your library has a copy, check it out.

DNF Four funerals and maybe a wedding by Rhys Bowen.  I just couldn’t handle the bright young things who have no money and don’t work but still need servants, so their rich friends provide.  There was just this sense of entitlement I couldn’t handle. Like of *course* someone vaguely related to royalty shouldn’t have to get a typist/reporter/sales job like all the other bright young things beggared by the inheritance tax (or unhappily living with a rich soon-to-be-murder victim relative) in the books actually written between WWI and WWII do.

DNF The love that split the world by Emily Henry.  Boring and pretentious.  I’m glad her later books had her loosening up and going for humor instead of “beauty.”

DNF People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry.  It had obnoxiously twee characters — after finding it irritating, I looked on goodreads and found that it got worse AND has some of my least favorite tropes (why didn’t they just have a conversation/denying they should have a relationship for no good reason after deciding they love each other/etc.)  I did read the last chapter and found it dumb and the epilogue and found it both boring and annoying.  So… yeah, let me tell you how I really feel.  I think Emily Henry is just going to be hit or miss for me.  (DC2 also tried some of her JV fiction and found it very hit or miss– some of it was great and some of it was 100% stupid teenage angst with supernatural elements, IIRC.)

SPOILERS: Nora Goes Off Script by Annabel Monaghan was ok, but I was never really sold on the hero and the “boy loses girl” is incredibly stupid (I think starts at 40% as one goodreads comment noted) and lasts months and then as soon as the misunderstanding is cleared up, they get engaged.  So I think they met and dated like a month and then were apart because they didn’t know each other well enough for the hero to say, “hey is this thing I was told actually true?” and then suddenly after months apart they’re married.  It might have been a better book without the hero in it at all?  And it would have been a much much better book if they’d spent more time together, gotten to know each other’s families etc. etc. etc. instead of the lengthy stupid separation.  But hey, it’s a best seller, so what do I know?

The Banishment by M. C. Beaton was ok.  I tried some other M. C. Beaton romances, one of the finishing school ones, I think, and the key plot point was about the heroine scaring off multiple suiters by claiming not to be a virgin even though she actually was and ::vomiting emoji::

I tried reading The Duke’s Gambit by Tracy Grant.  It dragged.  A lot.  And there’s tons of couples where it seems like the woman first slept with the son and then married the father or vice versa in previous books in the series.  And now everyone is having new babies.  Lots of half-siblings in this book.  Like, I do want to know why Giselle left her husband and infant to go off to London with a British spy and why the other British spy was framed for the murder of the prostitute… but it takes a long long time to get to either one of those.

More mediocre Emily Hendrickson novels.

At this point I decided I needed to remember that excellent books do exist and reread The Gentle Art of Fortune Hunting by KJ Charles.  I love her so much.  I hope her latest comes out soon.  There keep being tantalizing hints on her twitter, but no announcements, not even for pre-order.

If you like feminist memoirs about toxic misogyny and fat-shaming, you will probably like Shrill by Lindy West.

I’ve been really loving the Miss Silver Mysteries by Patricia Wentworth.  As of this writing I have read the first 11. They are remarkably neither racist nor anti-Semitic.  So far I’ve come across two definitely Jewish people (if you include people with Jewish first/last names, there are more, but their religion/ethnicity is not mentioned).  One of them was a jeweler, but like, not an evil jeweler or anything, just a random jeweler and it’s not clear why his Judiasm was mentioned.  The other was a very sweet and brilliant scientist who fled the Nazis and was beloved by everyone (sadly he was working on an important government project to defeat the Nazis and was killed).  One unnecessary mention of a person getting so much soot/dust on her face that she looked like a [old fashioned word for Black person that ends in o].  But nothing like what you see in any random Agatha Christie.  (Not as forward thinking as the previous century’s Conan Doyle, who actually addresses racial stereotypes and comes out against them, though.)  Also, even though they’re set in the UK, they are nowhere near as classist as Christies are, and death duties are treated more as a matter-of-fact and it isn’t a huge tragedy that someone has to sell a giant mostly-unused manor house supporting relatives who could work but choose not to.  People are happier in smaller homes.  There’s no shame on servants being unavailable because they have better jobs now, or for women of a certain class taking jobs.  Much more pragmatic.  And the servants are fully realized people and not just accessories/plot points/etc, particularly as the series goes on.  (Whereas in Christie’s the servants go from unnoticed and silent except when questioned to “you can’t find good help these days” stupid as time goes on.)

I think the Miss Silvers are more like Hercule Poirots than they are like Miss Marples, even though the comparison is usually made with Miss Marple because Miss Silver is an older lady who knits.  Wentworth does a much better job of characterization of the people in the stories, especially as she matures as an author.  These are also less dark than a lot of Agatha Christies, though #10 has some unexpected (to me!) darkness (I didn’t like #10 as much as the others I’ve read).

The Wedding Crasher by Mia Sosa was a good library read.  Not perfect, particularly in the characterization, but very readable.

I liked Constance Verity Destroys the Universe by A. Lee Martinez.  If you liked the first two books in the trilogy, this is very much the same (I don’t think you need to read the first two to read the third).

A Tangle of Serpents by Andrea Penrose was fine.

What have you been reading lately?

Making fun of people for (rationally) picking and choosing covid/monkeypox risks

There’s a lot of people who complain about how we have to mask at conferences, except during meals when we’re all eating at the same time.  Why mask at all?  Or why mask at the grocery store but not at a wedding?  Or why go to parties at all if you’re worried about covid?  Or why not go to parties if you’re not going to mask at work or if you have a child in daycare?  Why don’t people take the same level of caution at every moment of their lives?

Some of the argument is the same as when people make fun of people who order big macs and supersized fries along with a diet soda. From an economics standpoint that makes sense– they get utility from the fries and big mac that justify the extra calories but not from the soda. (Ignoring that from a health standpoint diet sodas may mess with how your body deals with sweet things.)

Going to Walmart because the cost/benefit ratio makes sense but not going to a wedding because it doesn’t *is* reasonable. There’s a lot more things besides risk that go into a cost/benefit ratio. I mean, I avoid amazon when it’s easy and I use it when it’s not easy to avoid. I boycott Nestle when it is easy but sometimes still buy Haagen dazs because it’s actually good and one of our grocery stores only has Ben and Jerry’s as an alternative, which we like, but sometimes you need something they don’t have. That is rational, not hypocritical. (And yes, I know my individual boycott means nothing to Nestle… but bigger boycotts do matter, and *I* care.  Just… not always enough.)

Maybe it is that people don’t understand risk, but maybe some of it is that risk is only part of the cost-benefit ratio but the most acceptable of the social excuses these days. Or that going to the gym is the only way to force yourself to exercise and you wear gloves to remind you not to touch your face after touching the equipment even if you know that the air is more likely to spread covid than surfaces. (And to be fair, I stopped touching doorknobs without sanitizing back when I was on the job market decades ago because I realized I no longer came back from travel sick! Covid isn’t the only bug out there.)

Are there rational choices that you make that seem wrong to people who don’t understand your cost-benefit calculus?