Ask the grumpies: More sabbatical/faculty development leave questions

Susan asks:

I have some related questions on sabbaticals:

— How do taxes work – did you change states and file in new state? For us, home state 3%, new state 9%, yikes.
— Did you change drivers’ license? Car registration and insurance?
— Did you need to switch health insurance? I’m on a local-base HMO plan, which won’t work in new state.
— How did you find tenants? Did you rent out your house furnished? Full year lease? Utilities? Yard work? Our home area is small college town. I have landlorded a condo before, but this part is still giving me apprehension.
— Did you fully move, or send a Pod of things, or …? Did you rent a furnished place, or spend a bunch at IKEA? How did you approach that choice?
— What was your supervising plan for the year away?
— Did you pay yourself from grants? I have opted for the half pay for a year away, and have a grant that I could use. However, we’re fortunate enough that I think we can swing this without taking extra grant money, and I … feel like the grant should go to my lab, not me. I’ll need to spend some on supplies anyway.
— How did it go departmentally being away for a year, any resentment or sidelining or other professional issues?

Whether or not you have to pay taxes in the new or old state depends on a LOT of things.  First… if you *want* to pay taxes in the new state, I’m pretty sure you can.  You will also need to change your drivers license and it helps if you change your voter registration.  If you DON’T want to pay taxes in the new state (like in your situation), there’s other things that need to be true.  First, if you or your spouse are paid by an employer from your new state then you’re most likely going to have to pay new state taxes no matter what, though not necessarily on all of your income.  If you’re getting half your income from your sabbatical employer and half from your university, you might be able to only pay new state taxes on the sabbatical employer stuff.  You will have to pay taxes on any income you earn from employers in the new state even if not from your sabbatical employer.  This is going to vary though.  It helps if you stay in the new sabbatical place for less than a full year (even a day less).  It helps if you don’t change your drivers license to the new state, and you can definitely not register to vote in the new state.  For state specific stuff, (NY and CA are especially finicky states in terms of remote workers) you may need to call the state tax/franchise board (after tax season is over) to ask them your specific questions.

Laws vary on whether or not you need to change your drivers license.  One year we did, one year we didn’t.  You definitely do not need to change your car registration.  You will likely need to change your insurance, but call your insurance company to ask.  Their rules vary.  If it’s half a year you may not, if it’s almost a full year you will almost certainly need to.

I did not need to switch health insurance (both DH and I have insurance with national coverage) but it sounds like you might need to.

To find tenants, I cannot recommend more highly.  You will also want to see if your university has a housing page for new and visiting faculty and post your ad there.  We rented out our house furnished for a full year, but you can also choose not to do that.  We did not pay utilities or do yardwork, though most people include yardwork in theirs.  One of my colleagues has a husband who is a real estate agent and he takes on the manager role when we go on leave for a monthly fee.  You could also get a full-time manager who only managers rentals.

The first time we did leave, we rented a fully furnished place (from sabbaticalhomes!)  The second time we did not.  We did, however, buy a bunch of used stuff from a family who was moving out of state, like basically their entire 2 br apartment worth including a bunk bed and california king.  We also picked stuff up on curbs in our neighborhood– our second leave was in a rich place where people put nice stuff out with “free” signs and we got a surprising amount of useful stuff.  We even got a piano from a friend of DH’s who lived in a neighboring town for the cost of moving it.  Another of our friends gave us all their old no-longer-used kitchen stuff which was good enough or a year.  Most people don’t go that direction though, most people pod.  We did pod back because we liked the sectional couch and a couple of the bookshelves we picked up.

For supervising, I left a senior RA at home for the year and got her permission (and a key) to use my office as her base.  She took charge of my other RAs and I kept in touch with her daily via google hangouts and via phone as necessary.  The previous time I only had one RA but she was a recent graduate and extremely good– we kept in touch via gchat and email.  A lot of people use google docs these days.  I think it’s a good idea to have daily or weekly check-ins depending on the nature of the supervision.

First leave, I had a second employer paying half my salary as a post-doc.  Second leave I had one month of summer salary from a grant I was on (not as a PI– really more of a consulting thing), but other than honoraria, that was it.  In general my grant money priorities are usually for paying subject payments/data etc. first, then RAs, then summer salary, then course buyouts.   I have yet to have enough money to buy out a class.  :(

Being away for a year is AWESOME.  You get taken off all of your service commitments and it takes them about a year to remember you’re back and the service builds up again (this year is my “oh let’s put you back on every committee” year).  If you do it every 5-6 years or longer there’s no resentment.  If you do it every 2-3 years, that can cause grumbling, especially if you generally dodge service obligations when you’re around.  At least in my experience for my department.

Otherwise:  I find it’s hard to work long hours if all I’m doing is research.  This hurts my rhythm a bit upon re-entry because I’m not used to working the long hours I have to work when I get back, so I have a bit of a research slump upon re-entry.  I’m used to having more free-time.  I don’t know how normal this is or if it’s just me.  I also never get as much done during leave as I’d hoped/planned, partly because I say yes to everything and seem to spend every week traveling somewhere.  Traveling every week is great for getting to know people across the profession, but it also hurts with making ties at the sabbatical place.  I’m not sure what the right balance is.  But I also find that the year after leave I do not want to travel ANYWHERE.

More posts from our last leave.

Grumpeteers, What advice do you have for Susan?

Ask the grumpies: How to plan a sabbatical/faculty development leave?

Nikki asks:

How do you sabbatical? Whole year (half pay) or half year (full pay)? What planning needs to happen? How do you choose a project? How do you choose someone to work with? Go it alone? Go somewhere or stay or a mix?

Lisa adds:

+1 on this – I’m dying to sabbatical but haven’t been able to work it out yet. How do you convince the family that they can also sabbatical?

So far I’ve done two of these, both whole year at half pay.  If you can swing it financially, whole year/half pay is pretty awesome both for getting lots of research done and for being unreachable for doing service (it takes them almost a year after you get back to remember to start burdening you again).

Most of the sabbatical planning guides I’m seeing online are all about the work part.  I think they’re all from an era in which the wife took care of all of the details.

Here’s some just logistic stuff.  What planning needs to happen… wow, there’s a lot.  Note I’m assuming a domestic sabbatical– if you’re doing an international sabbatical, there’s more steps.

  1. Save up financially so you can do the full year at half pay.
  2. Figure out where you’re going to go (if you’re going to go) and talk to the people you need to talk to or submit applications where they need to be submitted.  The earlier you do this the better– deadlines are surprisingly early, and your professional network may need some time (sometimes even a full year!) to get things in place for you to visit.
  3. Figure out what your university’s rules are.  Do you need to apply (competitive leave is also often on a schedule that doesn’t fit well with 2 above– just blindly do what you’re going to do anyway, assuming that you get the leave approved)?  When do you need to tell people?  Are there classes of yours that will need to be covered?  Will they have to hire a VAP?
  4. Figure out what you’re going to do with the rest of your family– what do they need to do to come with you if they’re going to come/
  5. Find a real estate agent who will take care of your house if you own a house.  You’ll probably find a renter yourself via or some other academic listing, but you don’t want to have to deal with the property management etc. long distance.  Unless that’s your thing or your significant other’s thing.  IMHO, it’s worth the 10% fee to have someone else deal with repairs.  Decide if you’re going to try to rent your place furnished or unfurnished.  If unfurnished, figure out where you’re going to store your stuff.
  6. Figure out where you’re going to live.  If you have kids, figure out what the school situation is going to be.  Again, if you can find something on that’s likely going to be a good bet because they understand the need to live someplace for only a year and they’re more likely to have furnished places that don’t cost commercial business prices.
  7. Figure out how you’re going to deal with your graduate students while you’re gone if you have any.
  8. Figure out how taxes are going to work– currently under the TCAJA I believe you are not allowed to deduct work expenses (BUT check this! don’t take my word for it!), but I expect that some point in the future the tax break for unreimbursed work expenses will come back.  If it does you will want to see if there’s a time limit — for example, it used to be that if you were gone less than 365 days you could deduct your rent(!)  If that’s the case, you want to be sure you leave a couple days early.

How do you choose a project?  You don’t actually need to choose one, but you may have to write one up for the Powers that Be in order to convince them to let you go.  In that case, pick the project in your pipeline that would most benefit from getting off campus (do you need a dataset?  archives?), from collaborating with people off campus, or that sounds most impressive (are you in a book field?  do you have a grant to finish or grant proposal to write?).

How do you choose someone to work with?  Again, you don’t have to do this… work (or not) with whoever you would be working with anyway.  Now, you might be asking, how do I choose where to GO based on the people there.  You may or may not end up working with the people in question.  You want to go someplace where the people there do things you’re interested in and you can benefit from the research environment.

Like I said, if you can do it, going somewhere is the best, though some of my (male) colleagues will go multiple places (the wife takes care of all those pesky logistics for them), and it works out well.  I imagine a childless person could benefit from that too.  Going multiple places if you have to figure out a spouse and daycare/schooling etc. is kind of a non-starter.  You’ll spend all your time planning and either lose out on the work or the leisure.

How to convince the family to sabbatical?  Well, the kids and pets don’t get a choice.  They’re going because they can’t stay home alone.  It’s really just the significant other… and that’s got to work with the significant other’s work.  My DH has been really supportive– he took a year of unpaid leave and worked for a start-up for our first leave, and then was telecommuting for his second leave.  The only big change for him was dealing with taxes, which were crazy.  He’s really enjoyed spending the year someplace totally new and getting to know various paradises.  On his first leave, he did a project to find the best croissants in the greater metropolitan area that we were staying.  And there were a lot of bakeries to try.  (The secret:  cultured butter.)  He also really got to know a lot of local coffee shops.

We will have another one or two posts on sabbatical/leave coming up as there were more questions!

Grumpy Nation, do you have experiences to share with Nikki and Lisa?

First paycheck of the year and boy have we been giving a lot of money away

We give to political causes.  We give to donorschoose.  It’s just so easy to spend when you’re hitting all the obvious savings goals.

When I got my paycheck, I was seriously contemplating putting 10K of our savings into taxable stocks (note:  my paycheck is not 10K!  We had some additional excess in savings from reimbursements etc. after the unpaid summer was over that gave us close to 10K over my target for cash).  But then we lost a tree and then another tree and DH decided it was time to replace all our fluorescent light fixtures with LEDs (including the ballasts– which we had an electrician come out and do) and those little emergencies/home repairs ate into our excess so we no longer had 10K to move.*

Which makes it easier to donate to political stuff even if it’s a black hole (hopefully it isn’t!), because we have the money.  Because there’s money just there wanting to be used.

And then we talked to DC2’s first grade teachers and thought we should give them visa gift cards like we gave the kindergarten teachers last year.

Since we’ve been meeting our tax-advantaged savings goals and aren’t really aiming to move to paradise anytime soon (we really don’t have enough money for that), I can’t really think of a better use of our money at a time like this than to give it where it is needed more.  There are a lot of things we could be spending money on that people spend money on, but we’re good with our house and our cars and not having personal assistants or housekeepers (I’m not sure we could comfortably afford those anyway) or fancy vacations… so the money we could be spending on those things just kind of builds up.  It’s a nice feeling.  I feel a little powerful knowing that I can give $1K (anonymously) to DC2’s teachers without it being likely to impact our bottom-line in the future.

We don’t yet give until it hurts.  And it’s crazy to me how much we can just give away without it hurting.  My Catholic upbringing tells me to feel guilty about this, but my pragmatic academic training tells me that good causes prefer larger amounts of money that don’t hurt to smaller amounts that do.  (My Catholic upbringing then tells me that charities would prefer even larger amounts that do hurt.  I tell my Catholic upbringing to shut up and maybe I’ll be more generous when I’m dead.  Then I feel guilty.  Because.  Well, you know why.)

The trade-offs we’re making are for some unknown future.  10K in the stock market will bring us closer to being able to move to paradise or to weather a permanent job loss or to flee to Canada or to even to pay for someone to travel to get an abortion should that become necessary.  10K spent now eases suffering now and may help the fate of our country come January.  Giving now seems to be the right choice.

*If we don’t come up with better ideas, the next couple of money Mondays will probably be about our spending on home repairs/improvements… we are slowly inching down DH’s repair list to the kitchen remodel, but we’re not there yet because things keep breaking, as things are wont to do.  Of course, kitchen remodeling is another way to feel artificially poor and to use up money that would otherwise be going to taxable stocks or good causes.

My iphone 6 is dying

I got my first smartphone 3 years ago when we were on leave in Paradise.  Not wanting to spend a zillion dollars, we got a new iPhone 6 instead of an iPhone 7 or whatever the latest model was at the time.

When I was at a conference this summer, it started eating the battery quickly every time I unplugged it, pretty much after it updated to the latest IOS 11.4 something.

I don’t have many apps.  I don’t even use my iphone that much except for hangouts, surfing the internet, calling my senators, and google maps.  I don’t have a whole lot of apps installed.

I went through all the online things about how to figure out what’s going wrong and how to save power.  I turned lots of switches from green to not-green.  I noted that my analytics was constantly updating the required things like amdd, whereas DH’s updated them rarely.  I put myself on battery saver mode most of the time.  The problem seems worst when there’s trouble with internet or cell coverage, so it may be something there, but the last two hot and hard crashes were in my bedroom where service is not usually a problem.

The only remaining possible software problem, the internet suggested, was IOS 11.4.  The IOS 12 update should fix that problem.

I waited for the IOS 12 update.  It never came.

My phone battery life dropped to 94%.  Then 92% after a major crash in which it heated up and then blacked out.  Then it dropped to 78% after another major crash while on safari that didn’t involve overheating.  Now it says it needs to be serviced.  Right before a trip that requires 4 hrs of driving, of course.  (I will take my laptop and the garmin and the ipad, so I won’t be completely stuck.)

The nearest certified apple services are over an hour away (and sadly not in the same place as my roadtrip).

So, do I get a new phone and then get this one serviced and hand it down to DC1 after it has a new battery?  Or do I go phoneless for however long it takes to send it some place and get it back?  Or is there a different option I should pursue?  We can afford a new phone, but I really don’t need one, except that I need a phone, preferably one that runs google maps.  Plus the battery alone is ~$80 (the iphone 5 didn’t get a discount for the throttling thing they were doing a while back), and labor is probably more.  Update:  Actually it is an iPhone 6 and it is covered under the discount thing.  So I should just send it in or spend a weekend in the future at an apple store in the city, though I’m not sure I can wait that long.

what should I do?  What would you do?

Fear of running out of money

This July a bunch of bloggers gave retrospectives of their time after achieving financial independence and leaving The Man.  I think I missed a couple, but here are three of them: mrtakoescapes , our next life , and retire by 40 .

And in these uncertain times, I just can’t.


Let me back up a bit.  We have had enough money for a while that we could retire to DH’s home town where his parents still live, buy a decent house for under 100K (or a nice one for under 200K) and live off our savings.  We would have nothing to buy and nothing to do.  There wouldn’t be money for frills or travel, but we’d see his family a lot.  The library isn’t very good.  The hospitals are neither near nor great.  (DH’s mom is a healthcare professional and is adamant about going to the city several hours away for anything important.)  This is really a non-starter for either of us, especially with kids.

Right now, and only recently, I think we have enough money to retire in place where we are right now using the 4% rule.  We’d have to cut out city trips, eating out, donations etc. and we’d have to drive to DH’s parents’ instead of fly.  But we could do it.  Most of our money is locked into retirement savings, but some of that is Roth principal and some of that is 457, so I think we could access it.  I would get bored or extremely upset here (because I would throw myself into political action which would be frustrating and unpleasant) with nothing to do.

We do not have enough money to move to paradise and live indefinitely.  There’s so much free stuff to do in paradise.  We have so many friends living in paradise.  Politics are so much less brutal in paradise.  (There’s no job for me in paradise that allows me to keep my professional identity or we’d move in a heartbeat.)  We can’t afford to buy a house in Paradise in a decent school district even using our current house’s proceeds as a downpayment.  If we’d bought a house 10 years ago, sure, but then we’d have gotten a million dollars in appreciation and would be even richer.

So that’s where we are, working someplace that’s not great to live and could be worse, wishing we were somewhere else, but not enough to actually move there because we’re not willing to make those trade-offs.


Lately I’ve been thinking– what would be the number that would allow us to live in Paradise without income?

And then I worry about the future.  What if health care costs continue to skyrocket and Paradise doesn’t have enough wherewithal to keep the ACA going state-wide?  What if property taxes or rental costs go way up?  What if the US becomes dangerously fascist and starts targeting people like me and we need to flee?  What if we start regressing in the next generation so that our kids don’t have the ability to move up without a trust fund?  What if we regress to being even less like the American Dream and more like those regency England books that I read where it is truly dangerous not to come from a family with money?

And I start understanding the impulse to leave a monetary legacy for my kids and their kids.  So they have more second chances.  Screw the millionaire next door.  We’re living in a different world now.  Maybe.  And there’s plenty of families that don’t just piss away their parents’ legacy on luxuries.

And if I can continue earning an upper-middle-class salary and saving it for doing meaningful work, why would I stop?  Even if I’d prefer to spend my days hiking and trying out new farmers markets and chatting with other highly educated liberals in a state that believes in bringing the bottom up.

Maybe there’s still a number I could retire at, but it would have to be one in which my salary is trivial compared to my investment income.  Not just one where I count on being able to not quite spend down before I die.  And I don’t see us ever getting there.  The future is too uncertain.


This fear is new and entirely caused by our political landscape starting to resemble dictatorships with wide inequality.  It is more important than ever to be a “have” because it is getting harder than ever to move out of “have not”.  The American Dream may have already been mostly a myth, but I still benefitted from it.  It will be harder for those in my children’s generation.

Have your beliefs about retirement and leaving a legacy changed?  At what point could you say goodbye to The Man?

Pondering getting a new mattress: Any advice?

I love my DH very much.  But I think I would love him even more if we had a king-sized bed.

Why a king?  I used to think king-sized beds were crazy and extravagant and unnecessary.  As DH has gotten older, he’s started to snore a bit.  He’s got some kind of nasal thing going on (the dentist has talked to him about it) in which if he gets overweight he has trouble doing nose breathing and to fix it he’d either need surgery, a CPAP, or to lose weight.  So far he’s been trying the lose weight option, but it never sticks long-term.  Also in the winter I love cuddling close to him through the night, but in the summer I’d rather be as far away as possible.  He has trouble sleeping without me, but I sleep way better when he’s gone.  That year in paradise where we had a king-sized bed I slept really well.  We also sleep well in hotels when we get a genuine king bed.

Right now our house has 3 queen sized beds of various ages and comfort levels and one twin bed.  The bed we’re currently sleeping on is 18 years old (and is a pretty high quality standard mattress), but spent quite a bit of the time in the interim as an extra bed in an empty room.  DC1 sleeps on an (extremely expensive organic) Omi Midori twin; it is about 10 years old.  DC2 sleeps on an (extremely expensive organic) Omi queen that used to be ours, though I forget what kind.  It is ~8 years old, and DC2 (age 5) has been using it by hirself for something like 3 or 4  years.  We were very worried about chemical off-gassing when they were little.  The guest bed was a $300 emergency buy– the cheapest full bed option for right after we’d bought the house, had no money, and DH’s parents were visiting.  It is not… uncomfortable… but it’s also not terribly comfortable either and it’s smaller than our other queens.

We have to flip the bed monthly or I wake up with my back hurting.  And sometimes flipping is not enough.  Often it is enough though.

There are two directions that I see we could go right now.

  1.  We could buy another OMI mattress for $4-8K.  These guys are supposed to last decades, but one of the reasons we gave ours to DC2 was that it wasn’t as comfy after 5 years, even with regular flipping.  I’m fairly sure we could talk them into giving us a platform bed for free (that’s one of their rotating specials).
  2. We could instead spend $700 on a Tuft and Needle online, and then buy a platform bed frame from Walmart or someplace similar for <$200.

Or, of course, we could continue to do nothing.


#2 says:  King-size is 100% worth it.  Just buy a Casper like everyone else, and then you’re done.  You need 2 twin box springs, or a platform.  Casper even sells a platform.

They did not pay me to say this, but you can always paypal to grumpyrumblings at gmail dot com.

Take one-quarter (or less!) of what you would spend on another mattress and buy a decent CPAP machine.  The difference in life quality (not to mention silence for your bedmate) once you get that sucker properly adjusted is mind-blowing.  Once you get used to it, you will wonder how anyone functioned without it.

What do you guys think?  What are your suggestions for mattress buying?  How did you buy your last bed?  Any suggestions for brands that are still comfortable after 10, 15 years?


  • Lately I’ve been feeling a bit creative about foods.  For example, I recently decided to make savory pancakes with Northwoods seasoning (similar to Emeril’s, but available from Penzey’s– kind of a paprika thyme garlic salt mix) and no sugar, just eggs, flour, a little olive oil, and seasoning.  We also made a roasted red pepper dip that I really want to add sour cream to and use as the base cream for a vegetable tart which would be like a fruit tart but with roasted veggies instead of fruit and this red pepper cream instead of custard.  Maybe puff pastry on the bottom.  I wish we still had easy access to WW puff pastry squares with butter like we did back in Paradise.
  • When dealing with blog/internet drama, we often ask, “What would Scalzi do?”  That’s generally a good guide.
  • I made the mistake of looking at the youtube comments on Georgy Girl (the song) and they were full of misogynist men ranting about feminists and how songs like this were so wholesome (and to go to the Ukraine to get wives because they’re totally subservient)… but… Georgy Girl (the movie) is one of the least innocent movies I’ve ever seen.  Maybe these commenters see themselves in the position of the creepy rich old man at the end (more likely they just don’t actually know anything).  (Georgy Girl is definitely a movie that works as a cautionary tale for women to never be dependent on a man!)
  • I’ve noticed my OCD tendencies gradually getting worse.  I suspect this has to do with feeling like I have no locus of control with world events.  So nameplates need to be centered and teas need to be organized and categorizing things is even more soothing than usual.  (Looking at my home and workplace you’d never know I had these tendencies unless you looked at my spices or my bookcases.  I am a very alphabetized slob.)
  • My fear of crowds has also gotten worse since I had that panic attack at the first women’s march.  I had to do CBT breathing walking around a dealer’s hall at a spec fic convention in a nearby city, which is something I haven’t really had to do before because the level of crowding didn’t used to hit my panic-meter (unlike, say, amusement parks during the busy season).
  • I am excited that wide pants are coming back (at least where I live– my most recent trip to the east coast shows they’re still wearing skin-tight pants) and that ripped jeans are in and that it’s summer.  This means I was able to unearth my favorite pair of jeans that got put into storage many years ago because the knee is ripped across and I am a grown-up.  They are SO COMFY!  And fashionable!
  • If you hate a lot of people, chances are I am one of them.  (Not counting the hate we should all have for fascists and racists and Nazis.)  Except #2 likes me, which is the exception that proves the rule.
  • Obviously the room labeled “Quiet Area” is where you go to have a conversation. Of course. Because it’s quiet.
  • DC1 was in the “worst” (and largest) of 3 orchestras in middle school this past year.  Zie was kind of upset because zie had hoped zie would at least make it into the middle orchestra after the previous year, even though zie started a year behind (in 5th grade zie played trumpet while we were on leave instead of violin).  Zie worked super hard this year, practicing at least 30 min/day every day and doing more pointed practicing (zie read the intro to “Practice Perfect” and a lot of what hir previous orchestra teacher had been trying to say about how to practice finally made sense), and we got a better (and very strict) outside teacher who started teaching hir basic stuff like how to correctly hold a bow.  (DH and I both played brass so we are completely clueless when it comes to strings.)  Zie is one of TWO kids moving from the enormous “bad” orchestra to the smaller “best” orchestra.  (Most of the movement comes from the middle orchestra to the small best one or from the best players at the previous school.) We weren’t expecting this outcome at all– DC1 had been hoping to make it to the middle orchestra and is worried that zie isn’t ready for the small elite one, but we have 3 months and lots of summer lessons for hir to get ready.  I’m super proud at how hard zie has worked.  :)
  • The fourth child (third daughter) of DH’s relative is going to graduate from high school a year early (!) and has definite college plans.  She wants to be either a teacher or a journalist, but probably a teacher (because her top choice state school isn’t the journalism school but has a good teaching program).  We told the relative not to bother with community college since she’s state-school eligible and we would 100% foot the bill.  We’re trying paying for high school summer camp for her even though that didn’t work out well for the oldest when we tried 7 or so years ago because of homesickness.  But they are different people.  And if there is homesickness, I guess that will help make the community college or not decision.  It would really be nice if the last two kids get degrees right out of high school.
  • i made chicken tetrazzini (cooking light style) and I really liked it.  It was a real comfort food which is odd because it isn’t one my family made, but definitely a midwestern potluck staple.  So much comfort food that is out of style these days.  I did leave out the pimiento and increased the mushrooms and roux (with milk in place of water) instead of using a can of cream of mushroom soup.  So updated a bit and the cooking light version had more veggie than the tetrazzini of my youth.
  • I saw a high temp forecasted for tomorrow and I said, I kid you not, “Holy schnorkles!”  I do not know what has happened to my words.
Posted in Uncategorized. Tags: . 18 Comments »

Thoughts on ways to become more obnoxious with money

I was reading through the Gourmet magazine cookbook I got for my birthday the other day (used because Gourmet is sadly defunct).  In the entertaining section it has a couple of pages recommending that when you throw a party, you just hire caterers and be sure to rent 3x the wine glasses you think you’ll need.  I guess not unexpected advice from a book that starts with 33 pages of cocktails*, though perhaps a bit unexpected from a cookbook that one has bought, presumably, to cook the recipes therein.  I’ve been to catered parties for work, but I’d never thought of actually throwing one myself.  In fact, other than Thanksgiving and the occasional playdate (either DC1 or DH will have a friend or two over to play boardgames, and/or in DC1’s case, video games), we really don’t throw parties at all.  That year in paradise we would have people over and we’d get take-out (usually dips and salads from the local Israeli place), which is sort of like catering, but much less expensive.  Here, presumably, we’d go into the city the weekend before throwing a party and get lots of frozen canapes from WF and TJ’s to reheat.

The military couple who owned our house before us set up the kitchen for caterers with lots of warming trays and heat lamps and an entire wall of our huge pantry filled with alcohol (the side where we keep tupperware, plastic cutlery, the mini fire extinguisher, extracts, and where the children keep their personal candy stashes).  So maybe catering is something that “normal” upper-middle-class people do, or more likely, they catered a lot of work events so someone else was paying.  The state-side military seems to be into government funded catering.

I wonder at what income/wealth point people hire personal assistants and if we will ever get there.  I’m guessing not.  (What would we use a personal assistant for, you ask?  This weekend we decided that finding a competent handi-person was too difficult so DH is in our back yard pressure-washing the deck himself and after it dries, 3/4 of us will work on staining it.  A good personal assistant would find a handi-person and negotiate a reasonable rate for hir services.  Similarly this PA would find a reasonable yard service that doesn’t have to be told every single week not to cut the grass so short, not to use leaf blowers, etc.  So, I guess a good PA would mainly find ways to spend more of our money.  I’m guessing we will never get to that point.)  I do know economics professors who have personal assistants, but they’re dual-economist couples at top schools who are jointly making somewhere around $500K/year (or more).  So, maybe the answer is $500K/year, adjusted for inflation?  Must be nice.

Is this why obnoxious people say you cannot possibly be rich in the Bay area on a mere 300K/year?  Because they can’t afford to live the life of movie stars from the 1930s?  Is this why the evil rich want more income inequality, so it’s easier to hire competent servants?

How could you become more obnoxious with (lots more) money?  Giving to charity or saving it not allowed for this thought exercise!  Hiring a toothpaste sommelier, on the other hand, is totally allowed.

*Two thumbs up for their Moscow mule.  Also the chocolate egg creme.

The children’s allowance as an antidote to the gimmies

Over Christmas break, the entire extended family went to Cracker Barrel for lunch.  Since there were 14 of us, we ended up waiting in their store for quite some time.  All the other cousins asked for (and occasionally whined for) random trinkets and junk food, but our kids didn’t.  I wracked my brain as to why my kids weren’t and really never do, and when I asked DH he said, obviously it’s because our response is always, “Did you bring your allowance?  Do you have enough money saved up from your allowance?”  And that makes total sense.  Our friends in Paradise all gave their kids allowances and their kids never had the gimmies when we were out and about either.

DC1 saves up hir allowance to purchase big things like video games and board games (and holiday/birthday gifts for other people).  DC2 buys stuffed animals or candy every time zie goes to the grocery store.  In the end, I think they probably end up with as much random stuff as their cousins (or maybe a little bit less, I dunno), but all in all it is much more pleasant for us because we’re not put in the position of having to say yes or no.   We just give them a predictable amount each month (currently 20 cents per year of age, which is not that much money!) and they make their own purchasing decisions.  (DC1 also makes some money from doing RA work for me, and they both occasionally get $10 or $20 bills in cards from grandparents.)  They may also end up with stuff that they prefer because they’re the one making those yes/no decisions so they’re in the position to optimize rather than just getting what our more random choices give them.

DC1 did complain recently that hir friends who get allowances all get $5 or more per week but zie only gets $2.20.  Sorry, kid!

How do you deal with the gimmies?  Did you have an allowance growing up, and did it help?  If you didn’t have an allowance, how did you get little luxuries (if any)?

Networking FTW (part 2)!! Or how to get the job you really wanted in 10 short years

(See Part 1 here)

How to get the job you’ve wanted for 10 years:

Step 1:  Graduate from graduate school.  Be a lecturer for a year and some change because the job market sucks.

Step 2:  Get a faculty position.  Occasionally meet people who work for the place you will want to work because your research overlaps with theirs.  Apply to where they work a couple times when a job looks particularly interesting since your partner still lives in Paradise and you hate being without him.  Hear nothing.

Step 3:  Decide to quit your tenured faculty position.  Decide you really want to work for this other place, but it is several states away.   Apply along with a bunch of other places in Paradise.  Fail to hear back.

Step 4:  Move to Paradise, where the place you want to work is located.

Step 5:  Apply again and again as jobs come up and never hear back.

Step 6:  Get a different job where you regularly meet with people who work at the place you want to work because that is part of your job (one of the parts you like best, solidifying your desire to work there).

Step 7:  Find out that your applications for the other place never made it through the hiring screening system for reasons that nobody understands or can tell you, but the screening is automatic and very bureaucratic.

Step 8:  Do a great job at your current job, learn new skills and research areas (including writing under review papers!) that make you more attractive at the place you’ve wanted to work for several years, and as time passes, be more convincing that you’re ok with not being tenure track just by dint of not being tenure track.

Step 9:  Realize that while you value the flexibility and academic freedom aspects of your current job, you dislike the personal assistant parts of your job and you kind of wish you were still working more in your research area as part of the job that you get paid for.

Step 10:  Apply for jobs broadly.  Get a couple interviews for places that you would have enjoyed working at probably (or at least would have enjoyed the higher salaries at), but you weren’t a slam dunk fit for.  Fail to get those jobs.

Step 11:  Get an email from someone at the place you’ve wanted to work at for 10 years asking if you or your boss have any students who might be interested in a position that has opened up that looks like an even better match for you than the jobs you’ve applied for there previously.

Step 12:  Respond, “YES!  ME!!!!”  Have a conversation with the person.  Then apply, but this position also doesn’t require the full system for various bureaucratic reasons not detailed here.  Your application does not get lost.  Ace the interview which is more like a conversation because you’ve been working directly with this person off and on for the past few years and had met her even before that.   Hear from a friend that your references have been checked.  Have your boss tell you that he’s sad to lose you.  Hear the person you interviewed with tell your boss that she now owes him.  Get the job offer.  Note the salary and benefits are both better than what you have now.  Accept.  Get paperwork.  Get a start date.  Tell your boss your last day.

Step 13:  Get a terrible terrible cold because you always get sick after deciding to quit a job.  This time it better not turn into pneumonia.

Step 14:  Document and organize everything because you want to leave your previous position in a much better place than you found it!

Congratulate #1 in the comments below!