Ask the Grumpies: Where should I donate for Activism if I only have a little money?

K asks:

If I only have say, $5,$10 or $25 right now where is the best place to donate, in this present life or death election?

I do not know the answer, but maybe someone from Grumpy Nation will.

If you are someplace in which the local elections matter and aren’t obvious (so you’re not trying to decide between two amazing options), your local elections are probably going to give the most bang for your buck.  A little money will go a long way.  And that money won’t be wasted sending you thick envelopes asking for more money (ugh).  You could also probably pick up a yard sign for someone local for $5 or $10 from your local dems office or from their campaign hq.

If you’re *not* in that situation, I’m not sure.  I’ve been doing a lot of $25 donations to close races in my state that aren’t ones I’m allowed to vote in.  There’s also a lot of small campaigns where you can donate post-card stamps and post-cards.  Or you can combine your small $ with time and write letters to voters (you provide paper, printing, envelopes, stamps) with or write post-cards to voters with a number of organizations (of which is one)

There are also things you can do for free.  Call up your local dems office and/or local (or less local) indivisible office and get on their email mailing list. I find out about lots of important opportunities for giving or doing from mailing lists from a couple of Indivisible groups in nearby cities.

My sister says doing phone-calls this year is way nicer than in previous years– people are happy to talk.  Similarly, there are texting campaigns (I’m not crazy about a lot of texting campaigns, but I do like the “get out the vote” ones).  For many of these you can either use your phone or you can use your wireless internet to actually do the contacting, so if you’re on a limited data plan for your phone you can use the internet instead.

A very simple thing you can do for free is to get your friends and acquaintances to check their voter registration to make sure they’re registered.  Ask folks about their plans to vote– if voting absentee, have they ordered a ballot yet?  Then let people know if/when early voting starts and other deadlines.  You can also call up your local electeds and tell them you are not interested in fascism.  Tell them to impeach Attorney General Barr and to make Postmaster DeJoy resign.  Ask for bipartisan legislation to protect the USPS.  Ask your governor to allow and expand ballot drop boxes.  Ask Congress to support nation-wide mail-in voting.  Demand an extension for the US Census.  And on and on (scripts for these are all available from ).  You can also follow celeste_p on twitter for up-to-date actions.

Grumpy Nation:  Where do you think small donations are best used?  What suggestions do you have for low cost or no-cost actions?

What is your plan to vote?

#1: Will vote during the early voting period in person, likely early morning on a Wednesday during the first week and I will also drag DH with me.

#2: Lives in a state with voting by mail, and always chooses that option. It is important to get the ballot in earlier than the deadline in case of USPS delays.

#1: I will also remind students to register to vote here or request their absentee ballots NOW. I gave the student workers voter registration cards to put in the mailboxes of our majors and I will write emails on how to register and how to vote for our department chair to send out to students.

What is your plan to vote? Have you requested an absentee ballot yet? Do you know where you can turn one in? Have you checked your voter registration to make sure you’re still registered and everything is up to date?  Do you have any suggestions for getting the vote out?

Getting a gift-card for DC2’s teacher was even harder this year

DC2’s virtual dual language teacher continues to be amazing.  So we thought, why wait for teacher conferences (and will we even have parent teacher conferences this year?), let’s donate to her classroom now.  And since there’s only one teacher instead of two, we’ll just give her the full amount.

I figured we’d just go to giftcardmall (not sponsored) and order two $500 cards as per usual, but alas, they only allow up to $250 now.  There is one company that does still allow $500 cards, but Walmart doesn’t accept purchases over $50 from them and the internet is full of complaints about numbers being stolen and the cards being made useless.

We emailed the principal at the home school for the teacher and confirmed that gift cards are still the best way to donate and that we could donate anonymously through her.  Yes and yes.

After a lot of going back and forth, I decided that the risk wasn’t worth it and paid the extra money to get 4 cards for $250 each instead of 2 cards for $500.  That also meant I had to pay extra for shipping, but shipping was safer.  The cards came a few days later.  I stuck all 4 giftcards into one of the greeting cards they sent, added a note explaining, taped up the greeting card envelope, stuck it in one of those pronged envelopes which I also closed and wrote the teacher’s name c/o the principal’s name on the outside.  Then DH dropped it off at her home base elementary school.

Shipping + fees = $34.75.

I feel really silly for having to do this– four cards seems silly.  Spending $35 to convert money into (riskier) plastic money seems silly.  But… doing it this way does allow the teacher to circumvent having to use approved suppliers or get bids.  And I’m so short on time this semester that I was willing to pay it just to stop having to think about the best solution.

This will probably be the last time we do this since 5th grade is in middle school and there are multiple teachers.  Donations will go back to being in the form of kleenex/paper towels/wipes, assuming there’s a vaccine by then.

Link love

Another really busy week. I’m sorry guys!

Penzey’s spices looting its own store for racial justice.

This retirement calculator is kind of fun

Also, I don’t know why Amazon didn’t tell me (even though it’s been telling me about all sorts of upcoming books that I can’t have yet!), but KJ Charles has a new book out!!!! (I thought to check because the romance community has been having a back and forth about whether or not non-LGBT authors should be allowed to write LGBT characters, and is it fair to out an author who writes LGBT characters, and I was like ooh I wonder if KJ Charles has anything out. And she DID! I love how she is SO prolific! In any case, she’s not a problem because the true underlying problem is the publishing industry acting as gate-keepers keeping LGBT authors from getting contracts because of their personal characteristics, and KJ Charles is now entirely self-published.) I just bought it and haven’t read it yet, but I am totally going to use it as a work reward for myself if I’m good this weekend.

Ask the grumpies: Advice for a new faculty member?

Steph asks:

What advice do you have for a new faculty member?

Here are some book recommendations that we found useful.

Some things to ponder.

First year on the tenure track.

Should you write a book or stick to articles?

Summarizing Boice.

But I think the main main thing is to remember academia is just a job.  It’s a job with nice perks, but it’s still a job and if you got a TT job, chances are you have valuable skills that could transfer elsewhere.  Remind yourself of this fact when things get to be stressful or when you’re at a faculty meeting where mountains are being made of molehills (because the stakes are so small).

Grumpy Nation:  Do you have advice for new faculty members?  What would you suggest?

Dame Eleanor Hull’s decades meme

All the cool kids are doing Dame Eleanor Hull’s decades meme!

Four decades ago I lived in Virginia and had a Piedmont accent.

Three decades ago I lived in the midwest and spoke like a TV broadcaster.

Two decades ago I’d moved from one coastal blue city to another for schooling reasons, and had just gotten married.

One decade ago I was living the South with a house and job and child.  I still speak like a TV broadcaster.

It’s interesting to me how much of my life is lost just looking at the 10 year marks.  A lot can happen within 10 years.  If I’d done this exercise 3 years from now the decadal snapshots would be completely different.

What’s your life like by the decades?

Adventures in Garage Door opening

Our 25 year old garage door opener remotes suddenly stopped working when trying to close the door.  They still work with garage door opening, which is good, but not closing.  Every once and a while it will allow a close, but mostly not at all.  Otherwise it works fine, and the base garage door button works to open and close all the time.

So we looked online and Google (or in DH’s case, Duck Duck Go) was like, you can do this yourself, but do you really want to?  Google said, expect to pay something like $250 for parts for a top of the line opener and $250 for labor.  More if you want to change out the springs and rollers.

So we brought someone out for an estimate.  He said $1K.  Less for a cheaper opener (so, $850 for a $150 opener).  More if we want to replace the entire system.  (He also said probably the reason we’re having the problem we’re having is someone in our neighborhood got a fancy new electronic gadget that interferes with our signals, which isn’t really fixable– you just have to replace the entire thing).

$1K is definitely over-charging.  There is another place in town with no reviews but DH decided rather than call them out, he’d just make this a fun labor day weekend bonding experience with DC1.

So he ordered a new garage door opener from Home Depot (not sponsored) and picked it up curbside.  After some contemplation he decided he wanted an opener that is quieter and opens faster even if it requires annual maintenance (I would not have made this choice– I would have gone with doesn’t require me to do anything even if it’s slow and loud).  Apparently he got a screw drive, which is the quickest of three types and quieter than the chain (the belt drive is quietist):  chain, belt drive, and screw drive.  He also says he likes screw drives because they’re used in his 3d printer and in robots and although he is not technically a mechanical engineer, he sometimes has played one professionally and in graduate school and he appreciates the technology.  Appreciating the technology drives a lot of our big purchases in Casa Grumpy.  (I would have picked the chain because we’ve got a chain and it seems pretty durable.)  Total cost:  $235.

When he started taking the old opener down, he realized that the builder made a mistake in terms of reinforcement in the middle of the garage door– they misjudged where the middle was, so the studs/joint were too far to the left.  The previous garage door installer just bolted it into the left side and left the right side completely unbolted.  So DH added another piece of wood with wood glue and a bracket (there are physics involved).  He plans to reinforce later.

There were a number of other problems.  Bolts that were put in super tight.  Wires that were too short that he had to extend (he soldered one and capped the rest).  The new opener is a different size so the brackets had to be swapped out and moved. He forgot a screw after putting it in and had to take it out and put it back in again.

All told it took about 7 hours.  DC1 helped off and on, which should be a good learning experience(?)  And now we have a working garage door opener!

DH is thinking about changing out the rollers but not the springs later.  Rollers would be like $25.  We’ll see if it happens.

The new opener is definitely faster than the old one.  DH says it isn’t as loud, but it seems plenty loud to me.

Have you ever had to replace a garage door opener?  Did you pay someone or do it yourself?

Link love

Looking back, this week has been an eternity in the news cycle, but that’s how it’s been since the last presidential election.  I’m so tired, but it’s so important to do the activism things, especially now when they’re coming down hard on voter’s rights and coming on strong in favor of fascism.  It’s so hard to push back with work and kids and virtual schooling and everything.  But… make phone calls.  Write lettersMake a plan to vote.  Check your voter registration status again (on this page, you don’t need to give your info on the top of the site, just scroll down to your state and give your state said info)!

If you can vote this year, you must vote. (Scalzi)

Jiraffe with books high school students should read in 2020.

Turns out those viral student tik tok loan numbers weren’t accurate or possible

Using waste water on campuses to target student dorms with covid

Hyperbole and a half has an announcement and lots and lots of buttons to press.

Ask the Grumpies: What books have changed your life?

CG asks:

What books have you read that changed your life in a long-lasting way?

I was just talking about one of these in the comments of Delagar’s blog.

Your Money or Your Life was pretty life changing.

The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a Fuck by Sarah Knight even has it in its title.

Another life-changing book for us was The Paradox of Choice by Barry Schwartz. Definitely worth a read.  It introduced Satisficing as a life philosophy

What books have you read that changed your life?

RBO Virtual learning with the kids

  • DC1 got into all hir classes because hir programming teacher is in the age range in which covid is super dangerous, so zie is teaching from home.  I am glad that our district is following ADA guidelines and allowing this for teachers.  And that DC1 doesn’t have to take AP physics on top of pre-AP chemistry and AP US History.
  • Two of DC1’s classes are being taught synchronously (programming and history) and the rest asynchronously.
  • From the video streams of DC1’s history class, it looks like social distancing and masking guidelines are being followed at least in that class.  There are only 12 kids in it in person and like another 12 online.
  • DC2’s virtual teacher is AMAZING.  Simply amazing.  Fourth grade is such a formative year and I think maybe it’s lucky we lucked into her for virtual learning because we wouldn’t have had her otherwise.  She’s from another elementary school and taught third grade last year.  She’s smart and cheerful and organized and understanding and it’s no wonder when she asked kids on their first day what they were looking forward to most, all the kids who had her last year said having her as a teacher again.
  • The video DC2’s teachers sent out for in-person learners showed lots of skits with not social distancing going on among the teachers.  Another reason to be glad we kept hir at home.  At least the high school video had all teachers appropriately masked and social distanced (though the principal’s mask slipped down below her nose a couple of times during the video).
  • At schedule pick-up (where DC1 did not actually get hir schedule– someone made a mistake) zie got a really nice quality mask from the high school.  Waaaay better than the mask that our university sent us over the summer along with a very tiny thing of wipes and sanitizer.
  • I have been teaching in person.  (I assume we’ll get shut down at some point, but haven’t yet.)  We are expected to bring our own wipes to class to wipe off keyboards and markers.
  • DC2’s class has some small synchronous components.  We’re still ironing out the kinks in those.
  • DC2’s Spanish weeks have been taking more of my time because zie isn’t as comfortable with Spanish and because DH doesn’t know Spanish.
  • I had hoped that me not being in my office would stem a lot of the “just one quick question”s (that are never one and never quick) about the homework, but they send emails asking for zoom meetings outside of office hours with vague “walk me through what I’m doing wrong” on the homework.  If you have a specific question, ask it on the course website.  If you don’t have a specific question, come to office hours.  If you can’t come to office hours… then figure out a specific question to ask on the course website.  Or get a private tutor.   There’s a reason I have office hours instead of being available by appointment for all my students.
  • DC2’s frenemy whose little sister got a positive test for covid ended up doing the in-person schooling in the end. So two of DC2’s friends are in person and one is virtual.
  • So far DC1 has been getting to sleep earlier than last year.  Zie says zie doesn’t waste as much time in class doing nothing.
  • Even though (according to DC1) English still sucks, DC1 is glad that zie is using video-editing and powerpoint skills instead of coloring skills.  Zie thinks they may also be taught grammar and sentence diagramming instead of not being taught those things.
  • I think we’ll send a $1K giftcard to DC2’s virtual teacher.  Not quite sure how to get it to her.  I guess one of us will have to actually go into her school?  It’s a different elementary school so we will need to email that school principal to see what to do.

For those of you with school-age kids, any schooling updates?