Ask the grumpies: Alternatives to grading

Leah asks:

I enjoy teaching but can’t stand grading. I find it demoralizing when students put in very little effort. Are there better ways to grade? Or should I consider a different career option?

It’s funny, I’m fine with grading when I’m not the one teaching (in fact, it is how I got spending money in college), but not so fine when it’s me they’re disappointing.  Why didn’t they listen?  Did I go wrong?  Why don’t they care?

The ideal solution is to have someone else do the grading.  TAs are the best.  Especially when they tell you general areas in which students need more work.  I don’t let them grade exams though, only homework.

And that costs $$.

Depending on what you’re doing, you can utilize multiple choice, or fill in the blank and so on and just not give partial credit.  I don’t do that though because I feel like students should get partial credit?

You can have students grade each other if you’re careful about FERPA (numbers, not names on papers) and it’s things where there’s a correct answer, though in those cases you could just have the computer grade.  :/

I dunno.  Grading sucks.

Here’s some posts on grading motivation and pens.

Grumpy Nation, do you have better advice?


  • BIL is hosting Christmas.  Turns out that BIL’s MIL isn’t vaccinated.  Said MIL is being super obnoxious about it and is complaining that BIL’s mom is forcing them to get vaccinated, but BIL’s wife (his MIL’s daughter) is like, no, I’m forcing you to get vaccinated if you want to do Christmas with us.  I had not even thought about this being a potential danger.  So we said that BIL’s wife could add our voices to the we will not be doing Christmas at BIL’s if someone there is not vaccinated.  We haven’t stayed away from our families this long just to get Covid from some relative’s relative.
  • It’s also ridiculous because said woman works at Walmart and is going to have to get vaccinated to keep her job at some point ANYWAY.
  • We’re not entirely sure that SIL’s husband is vaccinated either, but he literally just got over covid (along with 2/4 of the kids) so we assume he’ll still have antibodies.  I would hope that he got vaccinated because their two youngest were preemies.  SIL certainly got vaccinated as soon as she could.
  • The really obnoxious people who live across the street from us (backwards, so our back yards are across the street) have installed a permanent Tump flag.  Apparently they also never took their Trump sign down in their front yard.  They also play super loud music and are constantly burning things.
  • I often wonder if we should install a flagpole and put in the American flag and a rainbow flag.
  • DH’s relative’s kid is 3 courses away from finishing her associates degree.  Unfortunately she put off 3 hard gen ed classes to this semester and just… stopped going mid-semester.  (We didn’t pay for this semester because there was some kind of pandemic program that paid for books and classes.)  She has since separated from her newly married husband, given away her dog, left her two cats with DH’s relative, and moved across the country to live with her older (half-) sisters, their children, and their biological mom and said bio-mom’s other children.  So… we’re back to 0 for 5 on paying for higher education.  The smart second daughter now has 5 kids and manages a drugstore across the country, but no secondary education.  The legally blind son did get his disability application approved.
  • DC2 finished Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry last week.  I think both zie and DH learned a lot from it.  It’s hard to express… like, the villain is white supremacy but also (SPOILERS) this Black boy named TJ who is both a villain and a victim.  And DH was like, you spend a lot of the book hoping he’ll get punished and then he gets punished and you’re like, but not in that way.  I didn’t mean that.  Not like that.  DC2 really identified with the protagonist.  And had hir eyes opened to the unfairness of it all.  It’s not something DC2 or DH would have read on their own.  It’s a slice of life and ends unsettled.  The author (Mildred Taylor) is extremely good.  (After reading it in 5th grade, I did check the rest of the books in the series out of the library.  DC2 isn’t sure if zie wants to do that or not.  We do randomly own one of the books in the series already.)
  • Now they’re doing the Phantom Tollbooth which I think is going well?  It’s much easier than Roll of Thunder and they’re zipping through 2-3 chapters a day.  Next up is A Christmas Carol and after that I’m out of ideas.  We have The Westing Game but DC2 is NOT interested.  We’ll probably just do short stories and maybe some more poetry until winter break. (We also did From the Mixed up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, Tuck Everlasting, In The Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson, and Mrs. Frisby and The Rats of Nimh along with poetry and junior great books short stories.)
  • I understand more now why so much of our grades 3-12 reading was reading these great books from different genres.  DC2 has grown so much this semester, even just in terms of critically reading and being able to summarize chapters and pull out the important bits.  There really is a lot to be gotten out of reading and critically thinking about and discussing works of literature.  And it is terrible that they really don’t do that in this school district.  Or only do it in high school with terrible books like a separate peace.
  • I feel a little guilty that we’ve stuck with things that I read in school (though they’re still being taught in California according to the web searching I did at the start of this project).  But DC2 has read most of the newer Newberry medal books on hir own last year because we were checking them out of the library from newest to oldest.  So we could go more into depth in them with questions, but maybe not gotten as much out of them as we have been with the older works I’m more familiar with but DC2 hadn’t read.  It’s also harder to find complete lesson plans for the newer stuff online– the older books usually have several choices from schools across the country.  (Plus I think they will eventually read Holes and Number the Stars later in school if we stay here.)
Posted in Uncategorized. Tags: . 28 Comments »

Presents for people

All Amazon links are affiliate

Sister:  She wanted a cutting board so I got her this one.  I also got her one of Nadiya Hussein’s cookbooks that we’ve been enjoying.  I feel like I should add something else because I usually spend more on her, but she hasn’t suggested anything yet and I haven’t been to her place since pre-pandemic so I have no idea what she needs.  DC2 wants to make her some kind of fresh marzipan art project, so zie has been experimenting with marizpan and ganache in preparation.  Recent discovery:  adding peppermint abstract to marzipan is *confusing* but if you pour melted chocolate over it it sort of kind of works?

Mother:  Amazon giftcard (all of the local bookstores have gone out of business again :/ )

DC1:  A boxed set of the Odyssey/Illiad/Aeneid (because zie really enjoyed Herodotus and suggested more Greek stuff, though I fear zie will be disappointed since Herodotus is hilarious), A hand-me-down Iphone 8 from DH because hir iphone 6 will soon not be working on our network and a new case with a hobby-related design to go with it, a Jacob’s ladder.  There’s also a birthday and DC1 will be getting drivers ed stuff and the awesome socks subscription that zie will probably not appreciate and will end up giving to DC2.

DC2:  Another chibi lights kit, a book on how to draw animals, metal straws for boba tea, whatever fiction books are still on hir wishlist after extended family has had a go at it.

DH:  As always zie gets 10x his weekly allowance added to his allowance.

Yes, DH’s family is doing gifts “only for children” but that mainly means we’re not exchanging adult gifts with SIL or her husband and sadly, BIL’s wife and I aren’t exchanging excellent novels off our respective wishlists (she has good taste so I used to do the shopping for her instead of DH).  But I can buy my own books!

MIL:  She filled out one those Grandmother tell me about your life books (we don’t actually like the linked one as much as this version that DH’s grandma did, but MIL chose the former) and we’re taking it to the local bindery and getting 3 copies made, one for each child.  Update:  because MIL chose the copy she chose rather than the version DH’s grandma did, the bindery said it would cost over $2K to do what we wanted.  So the new plan is that we scan in the pages ourselves, clean them up, and send the pdf to (not sponsored).  Three copies that way will come in under $200, ignoring labor costs, possibly under $100.  (DH has already done the scanning via Adobe Scan on the phone, but now we need to clean things up– this would have been so much cheaper if she’d chosen a book with rings instead of perfect binding.  If you have a relative doing one of these books who wants copies made, spend the extra money to get one where it’s easy to get the pages out for scanning!)

FIL:  Gift certificate to Cabellas as per usual.

BIL:  A three pack of heatonist hot sauces (link not sponsored!)  Probably Los Calientes, Classic, and Keith’s Chicken Sauce, but DH may surprise me.  Update:  Los Calientes, The Last Dab, and Keith’s Chicken Sauce.

SIL DS1:  Apples to Apples (from wishlist), Origami Yoda books

SIL DD1:  Two Llama Llama and two “If you give a ” books from wishlist (one of these was expensive!), Bad Kitty Goes to the Vet

SIL DS2:  An Octopus bath toy and a stacking cup/hammer station thing from wishlist, some sandra boynton books SIL said they don’t have,  Baby Danced the Polka

SIL DD2:  An electronic vocabulary thing from wishlist, some sandra boynton books SIL said they didn’t have, a Pigeon book they didn’t have (SIL was pretty excited about this one)

BIL DS1:  This kid is as impossible as ours to shop for.  By the time we hit November 6th, his other grandma had bought everything that was on his wishlist except a $30 set of sketchy looking back-ordered (and arriving after Christmas) what looked like off-brand lego minifigs that claimed to be action figures from a sketchy looking seller.  So… maybe just an amazon gift card?  Or cash?  Update:  Confirmed cash is the better option with BIL.

BIL DD1:  Sailor Moon board game expansion, a book on how to draw animals, and sailor moon reusable water bottle (all from wishlist).

Other relative:  DH was like, maybe I should get him hot sauces like BIL, but he probably doesn’t like hot sauce and would rather have the money.  So maybe just a check (Update:  A check).  My guess is that Steam is going to have some kind of fun sale and DH will buy whatever games for both BIL and his other relative.  But maybe not, since other relative’s arthritis means he’s not been playing the same kinds of games that DH likes.

Do you have any fun ideas for people on your gifting list?  Anything good on your wishlist?

Link love

Aaron Rodgers lied about having been vaccinated.

How does this inspire this ?  (I stopped reading that blog when the influencer who runs it doubled down on giving free advertising to anti-LGBTQ+ Chick Fil A and when called out was repeatedly “both sides”ing homophobia vs something unusually nice Starbucks was doing that Fox News was demonizing or vs. Michelle Obama writing a book, but I’m weak about click-bait titles on blogrolls). I assure you, if I cared about photo books at all we would have them and ours would look fine for the same reason my spice rack and bookcases and closets are perfectly organized.  (Just reread the comments on that second-to-last blogpost… I had COMPLETELY forgotten that she’d allowed her daughter to participate in a neighborhood Halloween parade in Black-face Thriller Michael Jackson and then posted pictures of it on her blog, though she did take them down and replace them with non-Blackface versions as soon as someone pointed it out.  How does a person forget that? Cancel culture is not real.)

I would just like to point out that (SPOILER) the protagonist of the second OZ book written for children in 1904 is gender fluid (if it were written today, people would claim it was an allegory with TERFs as the villains of the book!).  Said OZ book was so popular that it was followed up by 12 more and the third OZ book has the name of the protagonist of the second OZ book as the title (though technically Dorothy is the protagonist of that book).  Mercedes Lackey can go suck the protagonist who had a bird love interest in one of her books or the protagonist in love with a horse.  Ozma is waaay more interesting.  AND L. Frank Baum never had to use rape as a plot device or character development!

this thread:  You mean that stabbing pain in my lungs when I run can be fixed?!?!

Ask the grumpies: Graphic Novels for little kids

bookishbiker asks:

Any recommendations for non-scary/tense graphic novels for a five-year-old? I looked at Zita the Spacegirl and I thought it was okay, maybe a bit much/too soon, but I don’t want to wait another year or two. I’m excited to introduce the format of graphic novels/comics to a kiddo who’s starting to write their own stories.

Not scary:
Phoebe and unicorn (Newspaper comic strip, but there are story lines and there’s continuity even though nobody actually ages)
Owly (very sweet)
Owl Diaries (also sweet)

Bad Kitty (not technically a graphic novel, but has sentences and comic strip style interludes)

Full of juvenile humor but not scary:  Anything by Jeffrey Brown, Tom Watson, or Dav Pilkey (note:  The Dragon books are very Amelia Bedelia-esque and if that bugs you, you’re better off with Dog Man or Captain Underpants)

Some adventure:
Hilda (the graphic novels are rated 1st-2nd grade… I find the Netflix show a bit scary, but DC2 doesn’t at all)
Tiny snow fairy sugar (this was DC2’s first big graphic novel/manga want after watching the dub on netflix — we had to buy them used)
Squirrel girl (she eats nuts and kicks butts!  Fun for the whole family!)
Secret hero society
Pokémon (we literally own all of the ones that have made it into English– it’s almost two shelves)
My little pony graphic novels (the ones focusing on the Cutie Mark Crusaders (aka the main casts’ little sisters) have more mundane adventures– trying to make the wrong people fall in love vs. trying to not get burnt to a crisp by a dragon… more cringe, less actual danger)

Leah suggests:

Not graphic novels but great:
Princess in Black
Zoey & Sassafras

Owl Diaries (graphic novel) is also a hit here.

Lisa suggests:

My oldest really loved El Deafo and Guts.

My normally chill DC2 was terrified by a couple of the Wonder Women step readers, so maybe not those?

Grumpy Nation, what graphic novels would you recommend for a five-year-old?


  • It’s amazing how much work stuff there is to do that’s not actually research.  Service and teaching (rec letters, commenting on PhD student papers etc.) just fills up time!
  • Poor DC2 had a stomach ache and we were trying to figure out what zie had eaten (zie throws up after eating red dye and also apparently caramel color) or how zie could possibly have gotten sick without having left the house/neighborhood in months.  Then zie tearfully confessed that the Naruto manga zie had been reading online had a naked woman in it and zie felt guilty which was causing said stomach ache.  Zie had also deleted the ipad’s entire history (meaning I had to re-input my logins which was a PAIN) to hide the manga.  We were like… people in other countries often aren’t as concerned with nudity as people in the US are, so when you read or watch stuff this will sometimes happen.  And stuff for adults sometimes has this.  It’s not a big deal, though other kids’ parents might think it’s a big deal, so don’t share it with them until you’re old enough. (But also if someone touches you in those places, do tell us because it’s your body but you’re too young to consent.)  People have bodies. You do not have to read this stuff — it’s written for older people.  Also, next time you feel the need to hide that you’ve been looking at a webpage on the ipad, please look up how to delete an individual webpage, not an entire history.
  • Also I had no idea that the Naruto manga got racy– I last read it 20ish years ago when they were still just kids!  Apparently they grew up and had kids of their own(!)  And they’ve got the stupid trope of the hero’s son being a terror, which I guess is more believable about Naruto’s son than it was about Kenshin’s.
  • DC2 (age 9) got hir first vaccine shot!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  We also got hir flu shot at the same time.
  • The rest of us still need to get our flu shots.  Usually we do it on Black Friday morning (because nobody is at the Walgreens pharmacy then) but this year my sister wants Thanksgiving on Black Friday so maybe DH and I will do it the Wednesday before?  But I’m not sure when to have DC1 get it.  It looks like zie has the entire week off for break, so maybe earlier in the week.
  • I also wonder when we should get our Covid boosters (DH and I are both Moderna/Moderna so it’s not urgent).  I’ll probably put it off until December though there is a temptation to do it after my last class that week and then to be too sick to help clean the house.  But I should help clean the house.
  • Since supply chain issues means that everyone wants Christmas season to start early this year and we’re almost done with holiday shopping (usually I do it all from the couch on Thanksgiving or Black Friday after the guests have gone or my sister is entertaining the kids) I’ve decided to allow the kids to play holiday music if they want and introduced DC1 to the holiday music stream from performance today (DC1 is *really* into classical music).  There is some American music for Thanksgiving on the particular stream DC1 picked and DC1 was a bit confused about how Appalachian Spring is a Thanksgiving piece.  I suggested that maybe it’s the water kind of spring (zie did not buy that).  But really it’s just that it’s an Americana piece so it gets trotted out on the 4th of July and Thanksgiving, I guess.
  • I’m really tempted to buy a rosemary tree.  Our outdoor rosemary all died probably because it was too wet this year.  :/  But I don’t want to mail order a super expensive one.  And it’s not even Thanksgiving yet!
  • While looking at Christmas candy yesterday, I realized that Dove is both a chocolate brand and a soap brand.  Don’t get the two mixed up!

Posted in Uncategorized. Tags: . 36 Comments »

We bought a cheap bidet

Dear readers,

I bought a cheap ($35) bidet (all amazon links are affiliate, also the price currently appears to be closer to $40), figuring it was only $35 and it doesn’t require electricity so we don’t have to worry about wiring or having an extension cord go across the water closet.  (Note:  we have an elongated toilet seat– if you have a round one you will need a different model than the one we got.)

Here’s a set of texts from my first use:

… I tried it.

I screamed, but only the first time.  Even though I was the one controlling the setting, it was still a shock.  I turned it off right away and then tried again without screaming.

I… don’t know what to say.

I um feel clean?  Very clean.  Squeaky clean.

This kind only reaches one spot so one would have to do gymnastics to deal with uhhh urine or blood.

I don’t know how to feel about it.

DH also says he does not know how to feel about it.

A few days later, DH decided he does have an opinion.

A bidet is like a small shower.  It is useful for the times when you wish you could get into a shower but don’t want to go through the effort of taking your clothes off.  In those cases, it is the right tool for the job.  Otherwise, it is still like a shower, but it is a very directed shower in a place in which I do not want a shower.

He also noted that except in those rare occasions in which the bidet is the right tool, he uses more toilet paper to dry off than he would wiping.  (I assume this would be less of a problem with the heated air from the $450 model.)

We have very high water pressure in our house.  (This is a problem for our master toilet– we blow through toilet internal parts much faster than we ought to.)  Fortunately the bidet isn’t dangerous until you hit the setting for 3 (it goes up to 4…)  Setting 1 is always gentle. Depending on the time of day and whether someone else is using that water line, you either want 1.5 or 2 on ours.  But there is a really fine line between cleaning and giving yourself an accidental enema.

Sometime in October we finally hit Fall weather.  It turns out the water gets *very* cold once it is no longer summer.  That may argue for one of the more expensive heated models depending on how tough your nether regions are.

While I cannot say anything about the $450 model which is supposed to have a feature that allows you to better er, position things for women’s monthly cycles, I can definitely say that I would not recommend the cheap $35 version for that purpose.  Basically, water gets everywhere.  It is definitely more functional for defecation purposes.

And that is my “we got a cheap bidet” review.  I don’t think we’ll get a $450 model for any of our other bathrooms, but we’re also not going to be uninstalling this one from the master bathroom.

Do any of you have an expensive bidet that you love or hate?  What is your bidet experience?

Link love

Another super busy week. This one was kind of insane! Random calls from the press, the state government, and researchers across the world. Not for any one specific thing I’ve done either– they’re all kind of random.

Advice for how to help prevent the wave of censorship that’s coming to public and school libraries.

How evil wealthy people are using the threat of frivolous lawsuits to control the press (and how you can help Mother Jones).

This article explains why I never wanted to be *too* angelic as a kid.

Ask the grumpies: How do you feel about ebooks?

Reader asks:

I was just reading the Atlantic article “Ebooks are an Abomination” and I was wondering how you guys feel about this topic.

#1  Ebooks are an abomination and should die in a fire.  Paper books are the best!  I only have ebooks for traveling (ha! so never) and I’ve been replacing a lot of my ebooks like my Courtney Milans with paper versions.  I hate pressing the next page and being taken out of the reading experience.  For some reason actually turning a paper page doesn’t do that to me, but on an ebook it does.

#2  I like both, but I’ve been leaning a lot towards ebooks because they are good for traveling and they never smell like cigarette smoke or heavy perfume from the library and I can get them instantly instead of having to wait.  I also like being able to change (increase) the font, being able to read when it’s dark and DH is trying to sleep, and being able to just click on words I don’t know to get the definition.  I have a lot of paper books and I check them out from the library, but I do think ebooks have improved my life.  I do prefer the Paperwhite Kindle over the ipad or the kids’ Kindle Fires because I don’t like the strong backlight.  I do worry that some day amazon will just take all my books that I paid for away or the technology will go obsolescent.. but not enough to actually do something to protect me from that.  But also I’ve been looking at my current bookcases and cringing at how many of the books the Suck Fairy has visited in the past 20 years and I’m wondering if maybe it wouldn’t be as large a loss as I initially think.  There are some gems in my bookcase that aren’t still in print, but most of the stuff that is still good is also still gettable.

Grumpy Nation:  How do you feel about ebooks?

How are you?

What’s up with you guys?  Anything interesting going on?

(That’s right, we didn’t have a post for Wednesday…)