Link love

I need a vacation from my delayed vacation! Instead: Scrambling to get things done prior to a month of travel.  Happy New Year!

This Donors Choose project expires Jan 28 and supports getting multicultural books for kids at a school in TX, including Some Assembly Required (amazon affiliate link) which is a memoir about growing up Transgender in Oklahoma .

Southwest Airlines has been blatantly ignoring rules about reimbursements.

Ask the grumpies: Is all irrational behavior rational?

CG asks:

Is most/all economically “irrational” behavior actually rational for one reason or another from the individual’s viewpoint?

Nope!  This is why we have the field of behavioral economics!  Behavioral economics deals with ways that people are systematically irrational.  That is, they deviate from rational assumptions of economics, but in ways that we can model.  (Other social sciences sometimes talk about irrational behavior we can’t model.)  A really good example is present discount bias– basically why we procrastinate or eat too much etc.  We value now more than we value later, even though we would be willing to pay for a commitment device that forces us to work instead of play video games, eat healthy food instead of junk, save for retirement instead of spend, etc. etc. etc.  That’s not rational.  Another example is when you break transitivity… like if you value a>b>c you should value a>c, and it shouldn’t matter if there’s also a d option that you value less floating around.  And yet, menus, for example, are designed with expensive items almost nobody buys in order to encourage people to buy something pricier than they normally would.  Irrelevant options do affect people’s decision-making and not just through information channels.  Behavioral economics is fun and exciting!

That said, some seemingly irrational behavior actually is rational.  For decades if not centuries, the (white male) economist answer to why women and minorities make less in the market place was because they don’t behave enough like men.  Women and minorities were irrational– they didn’t get the education needed, they didn’t ask, they weren’t competitive enough.  It’s only been in the past 15 years or so that this idea that no, women and minorities are just as rational as white men, perhaps even more so, but they’re playing different games.  They don’t get the education needed because there are barriers in the way or it isn’t rewarded, they don’t ask because they’re punished for asking, they avoid competition because the games are rigged against them or they get punished whether they win or lose.  Their (Our) behavior is actually rational given their different constraints.


  • My last cycle was 16 days.  Dr. Google suggests peri-menopause.  Why can’t I be one of the people who gets longer cycles??!!
  • I really need to get around to reading Jen Gunter’s book.
  • OMG, I am dying with these prima donna authors.
  • I’m at editor at an interdisciplinary journal with short word limits. I have these authors that are 40% over at the editing stage. I look and the paper is just stuffed with bad and unnecessary writing. Run on sentences that last 7-10 lines, repeated multiple connectors that don’t really add anything or have nuance they didn’t intend, excessive adverbs and unnecessary redundant adjectives etc. They use a $5 word with incorrect nuance when they could just use a smaller more general word—like an undergrad with a thesaurus.
  • So I spent a day cutting and then gave up and told them to cut and they’re upset and have gone to the managing editor about how terrible my edits are and they refuse to do any more and they regularly get published in top journals that don’t force them to write better.
  • One sentence had TWO colons in it.
  • I think a lot of people in their field confuse intelligence with impenetrability (something the previous managing editor railed at and is the reason for the tight word limits for our journal).  In reality, they are making many of the same points that a (literally) certified genius economist has been making for years, but he breaks them down into simple sentences that a reasonably intelligent high schooler can understand, because he’s actually a genius and doesn’t need to pretend to be smart.  And he also has a lot of practice breaking down his complex thoughts into things normal people can understand.
  • I use a lot of parentheticals in my blog writing.  I have to go through and take them out of my formal writing because I want people to follow my arguments.
  • Not that I don’t care about you guys, but like, my blogging style should be different from my papers.  You all can handle my meandering because the points I’m making aren’t actually that complex.
  • Several of my papers are used in various undergraduate classes.  If my writing were hard to understand, they wouldn’t be!
  • Anyhow, whenever an editor goes to the trouble of line-editing for me, I’m always really grateful.  Either I just make the changes, or if the changes aren’t what I mean, I fix my writing so what I meant becomes clear.
  • DH has a former colleague who is now a computer science professor at a smallish engineering school that doesn’t limit acceptances by major.  Which means CS is an insanely large major and his classes have more than 500 people in them.

Is there such a thing as an overachiever?

This post is from the 2012 drafts.  I think I was annoyed with people calling my kid an over-achiever, and annoyed with being called an over-achiever as a child.  I think I get less of that now (I’m achieving less?)… but I’ve tried to finish off this post anyway so we have something to post for Monday!

There’s achievement.

And there’s underachievement.

Pretty much everyone is an underachiever.  Nobody is going to reach their fullest potential– that requires the optimal amount of effort and the best luck.  That’s just really unlikely to happen.

But you can still achieve a lot as an underachiever.  And quite possibly be happy because achievement isn’t everything!

How do we define achievement anyway…

And here’s a line I have no idea where I was going with this:  “maybe watching videos helps maximize the whole person even if you go over the amount necessary to maximize your work-life…”  Like… what?

Oh I bet I know!  I bet I was using watching videos as an example of goofing off and not trying to optimize achievement.

How do we define achievement anyway?  Maybe goofing off by watching youtube videos helps to provide happiness, even if it doesn’t optimize some measure of work-life balance, which is a stupid concept anyway.

What are your thoughts on the concept of “over-achievement”?  What is achievement anyway?


Link love

Still worried about these transgender kids in red/red-leaning states not getting inclusive books.  Right now several of them are in the situation where Donors Choose is just going to let them quietly die instead of advertising them (not close to the finish line, small number of donors).  I’m not concerned about the one with 27 donors running out of time because when it gets close to the deadline, Donors Choose will push it forward and it will fill up quickly because they don’t want to disappoint 27 people.  (I have an econ friend who works with donors choose.)  But the January deadlines with only 2-4 donors are likely not going to get that bump because donors choose thinks they’re too far away from being filled.  I’m hoping that there will be some matching situations right at the end of December that we can take advantage of, but donating anything helps just to get the algorithms to push these requests.  I’m worried about the kids in Texas, Arizona, and Michigan and their teachers who are trying so hard.

I’m so drooling at the thought of those balconies filled with bookcases. 

More on chatbot for academic student papers.

You matter.  You have value.  Yes, you.

Ask the grumpies: Bath towel or bath sheet?

Leah asks:

Bath towel or bath sheet?

I’ve never heard of a bath sheet.  Let me look up what that is.

Ok, Professor Google says it’s what you would guess if you had to guess– a bath sheet is a big bath towel.  We both like big bath towels.  So I guess #1 uses both because she mainly gets bath towels/sheets as presents from her MIL and beggars can’t be choosers. (Also #1 is grateful and they are very nice and thoughtful! It started ~20 years ago when #1 mentioned to her MIL that MIL’s towels were so much nicer than anything #1 could find.  The answer turned out to be JCPenny’s.).  #2 uses bath sheets and has since she can remember.

Grumpy nation, how big are your bath towels?

DH’s mom has uterine cancer

This is her second bout with cancer.  She had breast cancer 20-30 years ago which left her with lymph problems.

Uterine cancer has a good 5 year survival rate (81% overall, 95% if it hasn’t spread).

She has an appointment for the end of the December to discuss a hysterectomy and that’s all we know.

A lot of weirdnesses about holiday planning this year make a lot of sense now.  Turns out DH’s worries that something was wrong with his parents’ health were right.

I am cautiously optimistic, after having read up on uterine cancer.  I don’t think I can have the capacity to believe something will go wrong at this point and won’t until there’s more information.  My brain does its future planning thing where it’s like, who will fill all these functions she fills, but then it completely shuts off and refuses to go there and moves to how can we provide support during medical treatment and during our trip which is a much healthier and more useful line of mental planning.  (We’re bringing more masks and more covid tests for one– if any of the 8 kids is sniffling this year we’ll have tests and appropriately-sized masks for all.  We also plan to be on little kid duty.).  The nurse-themed hand sanitizer lanyard and mini hand sanitizers I picked up for her (I wanted to meet a free shipping price from bath and bodyworks) seem an even more appropriate gift now.  We’re also going to provide a sampler of masks that DH likes for his dad who has been even better about mask wearing than DH’s mom has.  Covid doesn’t seem to be super prevalent where they live, but RSV and flu are filling up the hospitals there too.

DH, naturally, is very worried.

What do our children owe us?

This was an Atlantic article from just before Thanksgiving that apparently I didn’t link to.

My answer:  Nothing.

They didn’t ask to be brought into the world– for most of us, that was our selfish choice.  (Sadly, for a growing number of people in the US, it wasn’t a choice at all, but still, not the choice of the child.)

We have a responsibility to feed, clothe, shelter, educate, love etc.  Again, this is our responsibility and a gift to the children, but responsibilities and gifts do not create an obligation.  Miss Manners is very firm on that last point about gifts.  Gifts are freely given but the recipient is free to do whatever they want with them.

Whether our children want anything to do with us as adults, that’s their choice.  We should do the best we can to help them become functioning adults.  Once they are adults, then they get to decide what to do.

Our kids are really cool and get more cool every day, so we hope we get to see them as adults.  But that’s a choice on their parts and not an obligation.

Do you feel like you owe your parents anything?  If you have children, do you think they owe you anything?

Link love

Here’s the next teacher trying to help marginalized kids whose donors choose page is set to expire in early January. She’s trying to buy a library of banned books in Troy, Michigan.

What is a Matryomin?

More free covid tests from the government.  Mask wearing is up in our town– most of the librarians have them back on at the public library (only the two anti-maskers don’t).  My kids say that everyone is sniffling and coughing and sneezing at school.  Except the people with masks aren’t.  Which is kind of the opposite of what should be happening, but is also a testament that masks do provide unexpectedly amazing one-way protection.  (Yes, yes, there’s plenty of omitted variables, but it is still impressive given how long they all spend at school.)  At the university it went from almost 0 masks two weeks before finals (just me and one grad student) to probably 30-40% masks right before and during finals (mostly students– professors still not masking).


Ask the grumpies: Ethics of eating peanut butter at parks

Leah asks:

My kids (and I!) love eating peanut butter. We frequently pack it for park picnics and the like. I do clean my kids’ hands after eating and try to clean the table. What are your thoughts on the ethics of this given peanut allergies?

I mean, it’s probably not a big deal because people with peanut allergies that would be triggered by leftovers on a park bench are probably very careful.  (My kids have a cousin with a deadly peanut and less deadly but still dangerous tree nut allergy, but he’s not triggered by trace particles.)  But also… it is very easy to switch to almond butter or sunbutter (or, if the kids are really lucky, cookie butter) for school/outdoor things.  We still have peanut butter and other peanut products at home.

So… we haven’t intentionally packed peanut butter for outside or school stuff since DC1 was born, or maybe before that because when I was pregnant with DC1 they were recommending pregnant women avoid peanut butter (now they recommend the opposite).  The most frequent mistake both on our side and from teachers is stuff like snickers bars.  You just kind of forget they have peanuts.

There are tons of allergies out there that are dangerous for people and you can’t be careful about all of them.  You have to think about the cost-benefit calculations given what you know.  If you know there’s a kid with a deadly allergy, then obviously don’t bring that thing.  Peanut is one of the easier ones to decide on because it’s relatively common among deadly allergies and there are so many reasonable substitutes.  It’s like wearing a mask in public even if it doesn’t necessarily make sense– it’s easier for me to pop on a mask before going to a seminar than it is for me to try to figure out what the covid 19 prevalence is these days and make a “rational” decision based on that information.  Like, putting on a mask is not hard.  Getting a CO2 monitor and checking every room’s ventilation while they’re being used is harder.