Soliciting more ask the grumpies

Turns out when you run ask the grumpies almost every week instead of every other week, you run out of them a lot faster!

Ask the grumpies is a feature we run every Friday or every other Friday depending (sometimes it alternates with the less-popular but still fascinating google questions).  You ask, we answer, or we punt and ask the grumpy nation to answer.  In any case, you get the benefit of not only our wisdom but the collective wisdom of the far wiser grumpy nation.

Any lurkers have questions they’ve been wanting to get answered?  How about our regulars?

What questions do you have for us?  What can we bring clarity or further confusion to?  What can the grumpy nation ponder and discuss on your behalf?  Ask in the comments below or email us at grumpyrumblings at gmail dot com.

Ask the grumpies: Questions about living in paradise

Mid A asks:

[W]ould [you] want to live in paradise permanently, now that you have experienced it as a family? What income would you ideally generate to live a comfortable life (fancy cheese, travel to relatives, satisficing for keyboards, etc.)? Is the school environment more competitive and if so, what is your take on it?

Would we want to live here permanently?  Well… if I could move my job here, sure.  But I can’t.  Or if we were idle rich and not Mr. Money Moustache definitions of rich– like actually rich and could afford to buy a reasonably nice (for paradise) house someplace reasonably nice with cash and pay taxes and so on.  We knew we liked it here before living here as a family, though there are other paradises that we like more for some things and less for others.  So, given that I can’t move my entire department here, we’re going to stay in our small town.  If DH loses his telecommuting job, we will reconsider.  But up until that point, we’re staying put.  I honestly don’t know what I would do out here.  There are some SLACs, but they’re small, so there’s no guarantee they’d even have openings in my field.  Prestigious schools might have soft money openings.  Non-prestigious schools sound like high teaching loads and low salaries.  There’s not a ton of government or industry in my field of interest around here.  So who knows.

5 years ago when rents weren’t so high (3k/mo instead of 5k/mo — we’re currently paying 4k/mo because we got a deal on this place), I sat down and made that calculation including the increased tax burden and came up with 120k/year as a renter. That includes high quality full-time daycare for one kid for a year but only one car. And it is possible to get deals on housing if you keep your eye out for lazy landlords, so there are still places if you move quickly and are attractive to lazy landlords where you can get even 2K/mo for a 1200 sq ft 2-bedroom, but you have to be fast and seem like you’re going to stay for a long time.  We also have friends who bought at a good point and are paying less than 3K/mo on their mortgage.  In addition to rent increases, inflation has also happened since then.  So the answer would be something more than 120K/year if we’re renting and aren’t going to make a whole lot of sacrifices.  I don’t know what the answer would be exactly, though I will probably do that calculation at some point after we’re done, maybe without dealing with the additional tax burden though because that’s a pain to figure out if you don’t have to.

The school environment we’re in isn’t very competitive.  However, there are a lot of communities around here that have different levels of competition and different types of competition.  We were limited in where we ended up by DC1 wanting to stay grade-skipped (which knocked out one reputationally very competitive district and several not at all competitive districts), our inability to afford an extremely expensive place, and most landlords at the top of our price range not wanting us as tenants (cats, kids, the one year thing).  On top of that, within our district, many of the competitive parents send their kids to a lottery school that you can only get into by lotterying in the spring before kindergarten.  So my answer to that:  if you’re worried about too much competition, there’s a lot of heterogeneity across districts and within districts.  The same is true of preschools.  Here and in other paradises.  (And if you *want* the competition you may have difficulty being allowed to compete since the most competitive places tend to require waitlists or lotteries.)

Have any of you done the “What income would I need to live comfortably in paradise” calculation (for your paradise)?  Are you living in your paradise, why or why not? 

Ask the grumpies: What do you think about that horrible Wendy Williams and Stephen Ceci article?

Taia asks:

I read your blog occasionally and am interested in your comments on this article studying hiring preferences for male/female academics in science fields.
http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2015/04/08/1418878112.abstract

Anything for an occasional blog reader?

There’s already some great commentary on this terrible article (shame on PNAS for publishing it!) <– scroll down in the link for a bunch of linked studies.

In addition to all of the problems already illuminated in the linked criticism, but there are some elements of the survey design right off the bat that have been shown to decrease predicted discrimination.  For example, comparing two functionally identical resumes next to each other results in decreased implicit bias (according to a much better written PLOS One article).  That’s why good lab studies will compare across participants rather than within participants.  Field studies do often compare within participants (job openings), but they aren’t the only two resumes being considered, and even so, a new working paper by a researcher (David Phillips) from Hope college shows that by sending functionally identical resumes in these field studies, matched pair audit studies do change how the resumes are perceived.

Also the quality of the candidates matters– there seems to be a winner take all thing going in many stem fields so when women are at the top of the distribution they’re preferred, but when they’re not at the top, they are discriminated against compared to similar males.

Finally, even if the research designs were externally and internally valid (which they are not, see linked commentary), there have been at least 19 studies showing the opposite of this study, so it’s unlikely, but these results could just be random.

(That’s not even including the history that the authors have of doing bad science to support their demonstrated agenda.)

Ask the grumpies: When to upsize or downsize a house

First Gen American asks:

When do you downsize, upsize, etc. When you can no longer afford the house you live in, how long do wait until you make the decision to sell. (Due to a life change..job loss, stay home with kids, etc)

We got nuthin’ for this one.  We’ve never been in that situation and never wanting to be in that situation means we haven’t bought as much house as we could afford or bought a house at all and we’ve always had lots of money in the bank.

So yeah, we’re not the people to answer this question.

The people we know who have been in this situation have generally not made the decision to sell at all– just the decision to short-sell or foreclose when forced.  On the internet, we’ve seen people take in housemates to help pay the rent, though IRL I don’t really know of this happening.  People we know tend to upsize over time and only downsize when their kids go to college or they get divorced.

It’s a good reason to live under your means and to lifestyle inflate slower than you can afford to!

#2 notes:

I have definitely moved, but not for can’t-afford-it reasons.

I got a bigger place when my partner joined me in Blasted Place after three years there alone; my place was fine for me but wouldn’t have been enough room for the two of us. We downsized when we moved to Paradise because Paradise is expensive.

#1 says:

Yeah, when moving across country we’ve sometimes moved into smaller but more expensive places (see: our current rental).  But we’ve never sold a house!

Once again, does the grumpy nation have a better response than our poor one?  It must…

Ask the grumpies: TV Policies for kids

The frugal ecologist asks:

Curious about what your tv policy is for your kiddos. We have done zero screen time for our 2 year old. That’s been easy, and I’m not sure when/if we want to break the glass…as a kid I had a limit of one 30 min show per day, but I remember zoning out to hours of tv if my mom wasn’t home…

When did your kids start watching tv? Do you set limits? Do you treat it as a reward? Do they watch on a regular set or on a device – tablet etc. maybe this should be an ask the grumpies!

No judgement, just curious how other folks approach this…

Well, nursing time was Comedy Central time for me, so DC1 started out from almost day one really liking The Colbert Report and to a lesser extent The Daily Show.  As for when did DC1 start watching tv hirself, it took a while for DC1 to be able to concentrate on shows by hirself without screaming, and we did have shows in moderation because when zie was able to watch shows by hirself, we wanted to be able to put a show on and have hir captivated.  We had friends who always had the tv on and the kid would just ignore it.  So they didn’t have a magic bullet when the baby-sitter called in sick or what have you.  Tv time went up probably around age 3, but by that point zie was reading well too (helped by Starfall and the Talking Letter/Words Factory videos).

DC2 has probably never not had screen time.  The amount went up dramatically after we got an ipad because kids are really good with ipads and ipads are way more interesting than say, Reading Rainbow.

We are really lazy parents.  So we don’t have the tv on by itself.  (Technically we haven’t owned a tv since early grad school, but we have had a movie projector and we do have computers and now the ipad, so it’s essentially the same thing.)  But we also don’t really limit things either.  DC1 has to do hir chores before even thinking about using the ipad.  DC2 gets to use it if DC1 isn’t using it for chores and if we feel like zie hadn’t been watching too much or not getting enough parent time or what have you.  I do suspect that this may be part of why DC2 isn’t dramatically improving with reading skills the way DC1 did at this stage (the other part being that this preschool isn’t academic like the one DC1 went to at this age/stage).  We were also much better at controlling *what* was watched by DC1, so there was a lot more educational programming.  There are a lot of things I really dislike about netflix, and not being able to keep specific shows from appearing on the kids screen is a big one.  (We did eventually get rid of the youtube app because that always ended up either with someone twerking or, worse, with one of those women advertising for toys talking about how princesses/girls/women really enjoy shopping and make-up.)

So I don’t know.  We sort of set limits but they’re not hard and fast limits, they’re lazy limits that have a lot to do with how busy we are and what else is going on.  We don’t treat it as a reward.  They watch it on a device these days and used to watch it on the movie projector.

There are a lot of parents who would condemn us, and a lot of people who think we’re hippie weirdos.  We are what we are, which is mainly lazy.  Our kids are going to be amazing no matter what, so whatever, yo.

What were your parents’ policies growing up?  If applicable, what are your policies now?  How do you access media?

Ask the grumpies: favorite shows/movies for kids

Leah asks:

What’s your favorite shows/movies for kids?

My little pony: Friendship is magic.  Except the first season has a couple of problematic episodes in terms of race. Oh why oh why oh why did they feel it necessary to include the magic negro trope (Zecora) or to trade native buffalo land for apples.  I mean, really?  But with the exception of those two episodes, it is a wonderful wonderful feminist series that is really entertaining for all ages.

Imma go old-school:  Reading Rainbow, back in the day.

(#1 notes:  both my kids hated Reading Rainbow because it is SO SLOW)

edit:  related tv for toddlers

What are your recommendations, Grumpeteers?

Ask the grumpies: Not as good as ask a manager

Rented life asks:

Tips on “managing” bosses who need to be reigned in when they are over excited about projects you’re in charge of–especially since the excitement means he’s worrying about things 15 steps ahead of where we really are. I need the info for step 1! (He means well, just not good at focusing.)

Obligatory reference to Ask A Manager.

Maybe Wandering Scientist would be a better person to ask this question?

Man, if I figure this out I won’t be stressed at work anymore.  My boss is a great, great guy.  And kinda like this.  :)

#2 says… maybe checklists?  Yeah, I got nuthin’.

Does anybody in the greater grumpy nation have better advice for Rented Life?

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