How often do you have to buy new plates and glasses: Musings on breakage

We recently stopped at Target and bought some new glasses and a Corelle set to replace those that have been broken lo these past few years.

How many years, you ask?  I can actually tell you that because deciding to buy Corelle caused some internet drama when I realized it would be foolish to get a nice set of Lenox or Wedgewood to replace the brave floral plates that had fallen over the years.  That post was up in Summer of 2014, so it seems like it takes 3 years for 2 children to force replacement purchasing.  Given that purchase happened in 2014, I can also calculate that it takes 6 years for one child (and two sleep deprived parents) to force replacement purchasing. (We initially had another set that we got rid of because life is too short to live with dinnerware that is not microwave safe).

Last time we picked out tumblers that were most like our previous glasses.  Fortunately for us, this newer style is still in stock after 3 years.  So we’re down to one tall glass and two shorter tumblers in the old style along with 8 tall ones in the new style and too many of the shorter tumblers to fit in their special place in the cupboard.  I guess the tall ones are more likely to break even though we never give them to small children.

For china, last time we bought more we decided we wanted plain white easy-to-replace difficult-to-break Corelle.  Even if we could afford something fancier.  Corelle is nice because it is much more likely to bounce safely than our previous higher quality porcelain.  Sadly, when it does break it shatters into a zillion thin shards rather than the two or three large pieces that nicer china falls into, which means after sweeping and vacuuming we still have to mop the floor just to be sure.  The choice of plain white seems to have been a good one as it is still available and I didn’t shed too many tears getting a new set.  Of course, now we have way too many coffee cups as they never seem to break and they come with the Corelle set.

My parents would just pick up bits and pieces from other people’s former sets at garage sales and didn’t buy a new matched set until both children were off to college and no longer washing dishes by hand.  We don’t really have time for garage sales, so $40 every few years at Target seems like a reasonable purchase for us.

How long does your china and glassware last?  How do you replace it (new sets or single pieces?  same design or different?)?  Is your cupboard full of mismatched former sets waiting for the final piece to break like ours is?

From out of the briny deep… link love! (or kraken, but probably link love)


#2’s kid is playing this game

#1 cannot stop watching these tiny kittens #adoptdontshop #spayandneuter

This is our new favorite Twitter follow, with the three stages of a woman’s life.

One of many takes on the recent United ish.  Another (lengthy) twitter thread that should have been a blog post: in 66 parts.  And more United.  Ugh.  So few airlines, so many cock-ups to go around.

Twitter says, buy index funds.  Maureen Johnson tweeted an excellent GIF.

Apparently this is inspiring.  (sorry, I guess everything’s tweets this week or something?  #2 reads twitter every day but I don’t usually, so I’m really out of touch with what twitter does these days.)  But because it’s been everywhere, even I know about this wonderful baby video–  so frickin’ cute!

Speaking of inspiring, I registered for this.  And I guess young people are less politically polarized than old people, so… progress?

Outstanding podcasts for readers!  (I like some of them; others I’ve never heard of.)

Here’s a video.


Leave us notes in the comments with more GIFs and/or baby videos and/or baby animals.

Ask the Grumpies: Work clothing?

Leah asks:

Do you have to dress up for work? When you do, have you found any brands/stores with a good balance of comfortable and work-appropriate? I am a fan of the dressed up look that doesn’t require any pain.

#1 has to wear business or business casual and gets most of her clothing at the Loft outlet.  Loft is way less fussy and more washable than the standard Ann Taylor.  In the summer she goes much lower scale business casual, but it’s still nice fitted short sleeve shirts rather than what she wears on weekends (which is mostly unisex protest t-shirts or DH’s old t-shirts that are too ratty to wear outside but are really comfy for sleeping and lounging around the house in).

#2 I dress from business casual down to “not actually my pajamas.” I have no brand suggestions, I wish that I did. Sometimes Ann Taylor/ LOFT does me well, but it depends on the season. The pants are fairly reliable for me but I haven’t tried the dresses. They last pretty well (the pants).

#1 always gets really really depressed trying on Ann Taylor pants because they were not made for her, uh, womanly figure.  Some Loft pants are ok.

Secure broadcasting: An exploration without a solution

My DH diligently considered the problem of broadcasting time-critical messages from a known source to a group of people that wish to remain anonymous.  This problem is difficult to solve, and he has been unable to devise an ideal solution. He has tried to avoid excessive detail and only cover the main points.  The following is from my DH, starting with a disclaimer:

I take no responsibility for the correctness or incorrectness of the following.  I have made a good-faith effort to understand the problem and potential solutions [to secure broadcasting], and to describe my understanding clearly in the following text, but I do not guarantee any of the information I am providing here.  I am not a security expert, and there is the distinct possibility that I am lacking critical knowledge which could result in negative consequences if anyone acts on any of this information.  I have performed what I consider a thorough online search over a few weeks, and have hit the point where I am not discovering new pertinent information.


The best option I have found is that the agency tweets alerts using Twitter.  The “followers” (people that want to remain anonymous) use a dummy/anonymous Twitter account to follow the agency’s account and sign up for push notifications on tweets.  A dummy account can be created on Twitter by providing a full name (any name) and an email address.  That email address can be acquired from various free email services without providing any information, e.g., (though Twitter does some checking of the name & email address to try and reject automated signups.)  No phone number is required.

Pros: relatively simple to setup; the followers will get instantly notified of alerts on iOS/Android/PC; since Twitter is used by so many people its use will not be a red flag even though it will be obvious to any snoopers that the followers are using Twitter; dummy/anonymous accounts allow followers to avoid sharing any of their actual information (e.g., phone number, email address, personal connections); follower-to-follower (or fake-follower to real-follower) communication could easily be ignored and would not be mistaken for messages from the agency.

Cons: anyone can find out the followers’ accounts; Twitter will know the followers’ IP addresses (which can then be used to find the physical location); followers that use a non-anonymous account will be connecting their personal info/connections to these tweets (a very public trove of information) so followers that normally use Twitter will have to remember to switch accounts back and forth; the tweets themselves (i.e., the messages from the agency) would be completely public (that doesn’t seem like a big downside based on my understanding of the problem).

So to be completely clear, a powerful government could get the necessary info from the Twitter company to track down the phone equipment/service and physical location of everyone getting notified of the agency alerts.  It may be possible for someone to get sufficient info even without Twitter’s support.


The second-best option I found is to use one (or more) of a handful of Instant Messaging programs.  A big downside to using an Instant Messaging (aka chat) program is that the problem I am trying to solve is how to *broadcast* messages, and setting up two-way communication between all the members of the group can actually be a negative. For example, what if someone(s) start sending false messages on purpose or by accident?  What if they use the chat program to start one-on-one discussions with the other “followers”?  For this reason, chat programs are really the wrong tool for the job, but when you don’t have a perfect tool sometimes you have to make do with the wrong one.

Almost any program could work, but they each have pros and cons. For example, Signal is very secure and is the chat program of choice for Indivisible and some other security-conscious groups. The messages are end-to-end encrypted, so one can snoop on your messages (unless they hack the sending or receiving phone). Unfortunately, Signal displays all the users’ phone numbers to the other users in the group which would make it easy for a snooper that breached the group to find the physical locations of all the users.  One of the tenets of secure communications is to “assume breach”, which means one should always assume that there’s a snoop/spy/mole that already has access to your systems/groups/messages.  For example, someone joins the group, then their phone gets stolen and hacked and now there’s a spy in your supposedly-secure group that can see all your phone numbers….that’s one of the reasons a chat program might not be the right tool because then everyone treats that spy as a trusted member.

Most instant messaging programs are not encrypted end-to-end, which means that the message is decrypted by the server and the server can save the plain-text (i.e., unencrypted) message.  So Skype, google chat, etc etc, are bad choices because the company could (be forced to) share the messages to a snooper, while servers/providers for end-to-end encrypted programs don’t have those messages to share in the first place.  Unfortunately, of the most popular chat systems, to my knowledge only Facebook Messaging can be encrypted, but encryption is optional and followers couldn’t “add” themselves to a group, so it doesn’t seem like a good option either.  Many of the popular chat programs also require more effort to create a dummy account than Twitter…e.g., they want to know phone numbers and track search histories etc.  On the other hand, the popular programs are otherwise almost always the easiest to setup/use.

Of the Instant Messaging programs, only a handful are end-to-end encrypted, and those programs are not commonly used.  Three examples of the tens that I investigated are ChatSecure, Wickr, and Riot.  There is a big problem with using an uncommon internet-based program, which is that snoopers can theoretically just watch all the connections to the servers for whichever program is chosen (in this general geographic area).  Then everyone connecting to those servers becomes a target (connections to the server pass either through ISPs or cell phone towers, those connections describe which server the connection is for, and the ISP or cell phone company can at least roughly locate the phone/computer making the connection).  The scenario is like watching a building: one knows who goes in the front door and that might be all the info they need even if the inside of the building can’t be observed.  Other issues with this small selection of chat programs are: 1) some of them require actual phone numbers for verification (like Signal), 2) few of them work on both Android and iOS (and even fewer also work on PC), 3) they tend to be complicated to setup/use, and 4) they don’t all allow group messages.

Somewhat (but not completely) academically, it is possible to “hide” the connection messages (i.e., come into the building from the alley entrance) via TOR.  TOR is a collection of servers that obfuscate where the connections are actually going.  Someone using TOR is sending connections to TOR, then something happens inside TOR, and a connection comes out of TOR and goes to the end-point (e.g., a chat program’s server).  There’s no direct connection between the connection that went into TOR and the connection that eventually makes it to the end-point.  So in the building-watching scenario, the watcher can see people walking into the alley, and knows that those people are going from the alley into specific buildings, but doesn’t know which people go where.  This setup is somewhat academic for two reasons: first, the watcher/snooper still knows that the connection is going to TOR which might be enough info to label someone a target, and second, using TOR is complex…too complex to recommend for the general public in my opinion.


The (distant) third option I came up with is for the agency to post messages to an RSS feed.  Followers would subscribe to the feed and thus be notified of the messages.  RSS feeds are commonly used when someone wants to be updated when a website changes (e.g., a new blog entry is posted).  Pros: no user accounts necessary, no logging into anything, no data stored on any server except for the message from the agency that gets posted like a webpage or a blog post.

The one con is a big one; RSS feed readers (the programs that grab the message and provide the notification) would need to continuously poll the RSS feed from the agency.  Since RSS feeds are “pull” instead of “push”, the program would have to regularly check to see if there’s a new message.  First, that means any snooper can just watch for people polling that specific RSS feed.  With SSL (i.e., https) connections that level of snooping is not trivial but is still possible, so the polling is a big weakness.  For instance, if the agency used a Wordpress blog, then WordPress would know the IP address of everyone polling the RSS feed.  Second, if a follower is using a phone without wifi access, then the RSS feed reader would be continuously using (small amounts of) cell data to check for changes/messages.  Third, RSS feeds generally cannot be checked faster than every five minutes (and every ten minutes would be safer to avoid server/ISP issues).  That would cause a delay of up to several minutes before someone gets the message, and the faster they check the more data they use (which will affect their phone bill and the server’s data usage).


Finally, if we’re envisioning a better future, then I would want either a security-conscious Twitter-substitute (allowing private/anonymous following with push notifications), or an easy-to-use TOR-enabled end-to-end-encrypted cross-platform group chat program.  Neither of those would immediately solve this problem, but they would make it more likely to be solved in the future.

I wish I could have found something I would consider a *good* solution, but it is very difficult to be truly anonymous online.  All of the above options just make it a bit harder for any snooper to find out information about the followers.

Big expenses coming up in the next few years

We’ve been out of graduate school for ~10 years now, which means a lot of the stuff we own is now ~10 years old.  We’re now at a point where the probability that something big is going to need to be replaced is pretty high.

Our cars are 10 and 11 years old.

Our 12-year water heaters are 10 years old.

Our roof is getting on about 12 years.

Our refrigerator is something like 15 years old.

Our w/d are 10 years old.

Our dishwasher is 9 years old.

We’re not really sure which of these things is going to break down, or even how many are going to break down.  We shouldn’t need the cost of all of these in our cash emergency fund, but the longer time goes on, the more plausible it is that we’ll need to cover two or more of these in a short time frame.

We’re pretty sure we can cash flow water heaters.  Our cash emergency fund can handle one car, but not two.  Or not one car and a new roof.  Plus I’m kind of hoping that we can do solar with the next roof replacement (we’ll see!) — even if there aren’t government incentives, DH likes new technology and I like the idea of lower a/c bills in the summer (even if we don’t actually save money), which would add considerably to a new roof expense.

I feel like if we have enough in savings to  get us through the unpaid summer should DH permanently lose his job and to handle a major expense like most of a new car, then we should also be ok for the future, even though it might mean having to take on a temporary loan or to sell stocks.  I don’t think we need to have a targeted savings account for each of these major expenses as hopefully we’ll have time to replenish the emergency fund after one comes due, but maybe I’m wrong.

How do you deal with big lumpy unexpected but still kind of expected expenses? Does everything expire around the same time for you or have you spaced things out?

Late link love

It has been a long week and next week is even more packed.  Oh, I should tell #2 that I’m going to be out of town next weekend.

Let’s see…

Why it’s worth fighting even if we don’t “win”

Calling out bs

Have you even heard the perspective of Trump supporters?


Double Sigh.

Trump isn’t even remotely hiding his corruption anymore

ICE arrests green card applicants

I want this shirt

From the makers of ACTUALLY

Arm shaving

Networking is hard

Predatory journals recruit fake editor

What is an elite college really worth?

Daria 20 years later

Holy Schiz-balls Batman!

I wish I worked efficiently

I am liking these so far

Donate to the NRDC to fight Pruitt’s anti-environment/anti-safety agenda

I vote for the following video as #2’s new exercise (also:  can she add grading my problem sets at the same time?)

What kinds of exercise do people like?

#2 is going through a lot of situational depression right now (bad things keep happening, starting with her FIL’s death several months ago).  Back when she lived in a hellhole, one of the things that kept her sane (along with increased meds) was weekly horseback riding.  In graduate school, it was fencing.

Horseback riding is too expensive and doesn’t work with her work schedule now that she has a day job.  She had to fire her fencing master when she found out he voted for Trump and the other fencing options are too far away.

Paradise has every single kind of exercise in the world, but you have to know what you’re looking for to find it.  She hates sweating.  She hates exercise.  But she’s thinking about maybe looking into something else even though she hates exercise and she hates sweat (so do I!).   So I said I’d ask Grumpy Nation what’s out there.

So, don’t tell her what she should do or what she should try.  Yes, she knows that John Green started liking exercise after doing it a few months in a row (we’re both watching 100 days).  Don’t lecture her about exercise etc.  That’s not going to help.  [update:  And will be deleted.]

Instead, answer these:  What kinds of exercise do you enjoy or did you used to enjoy?  What kinds of exercise do you know that other people enjoy?  What kind of exercise would you like to try?  What’s out there?

For me, I like swimming and hiking.  I used to like field hockey and gymnastics.  My sister is into ballet and yoga and modern dance.  My mom loves kickboxing.  DH used to do fencing and kendo.  How about you?