Ask the grumpies: What are your parents’ long term care/end of life plans?

First Gen American asks:

Do your parents have plans? Will you be helping with their care, why or why not?

#1:  My parents… they have a lot of money saved.  We probably won’t have to help them monetarily because likely their money will get them into a nice nursing home and Medicaid can take over when it runs out.  They’re both still living at home and seem active, though my father obviously has some kind of dementia and my mother is in denial about it.  When my grandma got Alzheimer’s my mom swore she would get herself into one of those communities where you live in an apartment on your own and are guaranteed to gradually transition to nursing care (my grandma was too far gone to get into the one in our town, so she ended up living with one of my mom’s younger brothers since after my sister went to college my parents had nobody able to lift my grandma anymore).  But unless my father dies first, I don’t think that’s going to happen.

My in-laws do not have plans.  My MIL definitely wants to be allowed to die if she ends up with dementia.  She’s got all sorts of “DNR” stuff signed.  She did not enjoy taking care of her mother and does not want to go through that herself or put her children through that.  We’re not sure about my FIL.  If they need help we will work together with DH’s siblings (probably us dealing with the money stuff and some set of them being boots on the ground since they live in the same state and we make more money) to figure out what needs to be done.  It’s likely they would move the debilitated family member to a care facility closer to them like my MIL moved her mother.

#2:  No, and possibly.  Parents are still in pretty good shape.  MIL may need help sooner and FIL passed away early and unexpectedly.


Ask the grumpies: Worry and the intangible nature of wealth

First Gen American asks:

Do you ever worry about the intangible nature of your richness? If the world really goes sideways, is having physical stuff of value (art, etc) another way to hedge your bets? I keep thinking back to the Jews who used their prized violins and things to get passage out of the country during the holocaust. That was in my moms lifetime so not that long ago.

Good lord yes, I worry very much.  In terms of alternate stores of wealth, no, not so much.

I think I’m worried that artwork etc. are too cumbersome to take with me, and jewelry is so bad at keeping its value.  Maybe there’s something to be said for having actual gold bullion, but that is heavy and so attractive to thieves.

I’m hoping that we’d be able to have liquid assets outside of just the US and we’d be able to get out if we needed to.  But it’s hard to say.  Right now it hasn’t been a priority (#Biden), other than keeping probably more money than we need in savings accounts and having assets scattered across several different financial institutions.

Ask the grumpies: Favorite podcasts redux

Leah Asks:

How do you feel about podcasts? do you have a favorite podcast?

We both like podcasts.  They are especially great for commuting.  #1 likes them better than books on tape for short commutes because podcasts are generally easier to jump in and out of than are books.  Especially superficial podcasts can be good for doing boring data work.  Apparently we haven’t answered this question in 5 years!

Here’s some previous lists of favorites:

Favorites in 2010

Favorites in 2014

Favorites in 2016

Some from 2018

If you like book podcasts, definitely check out the above links!  #2 is still really into book podcasts.

In addition, some new ones (none of these are affiliate links and I just pulled the first link off google so they’re all different places–listen wherever you get your podcasts):

Anthropocene Reviewed by John Green.  I LOVED this one and am a little sad it’s over.  I do have the book though!

Dear Hank and John (I have actually been listening to this since it started, so it might be on a previous list)

The official Taskmaster podcast.  (This is my current commute listen.  I love it so much.)

Young House Love has a Podcast seems to be on a permanent hiatus, but I listened to all of them!

By the Book Podcast

The Trypod, though to be honest I stopped listening after Ned said something sexist and then his apology was cringy.  He’s not there anymore so I will probably go back eventually if I run out of Taskmaster and Dear Hank and John episodes.

Linda T Says:

I hate podcasts. I am a visual learner and can read faster that they speak.

maya agrees:

OMG–YES! I always feel curmudgeonly–because I’m like I don’t want to waste my time on your subpar banter…

Debbie M adds:

I think I could like podcasts, though without visuals, my mind tends to wander. What I hate is a lack of editing. I will never watch anything live, and most podcasts do have a lot of rambling. This is part of why I love “Dear Hank and John.” Highly edited! But also interesting.

Ask the grumpies: Thoughts on Prairie Home Companion?

Leah asks:

Do you have strong feelings about Prairie Home Companion?

Not fans.  I will turn it off if it’s on or leave the room.  Oddly I did like Garrison Keillor’s morning poetry bit before we found out he was a bad person.  #2 disliked it less than does #1.

Ask the grumpies: At what age do kids manage their own screen time?

First Gen American asks:

At what age do you let your kids, if ever, manage their own screen time?

We’ve been playing it by ear for the most part.  When the kids were toddlers, we limited screen time so that when we really needed them to be occupied they would look upon screen time as a treat.  Sometime in elementary school we stopped limiting it, but then chores didn’t get done, DC1 “forgot” to do schoolwork, and (later) DC2 would just get super grumpy after too much screen time.  So we put in rules about no screen time (specifically games/videos) on weekdays, chores first, and 2 hours unrestricted solo-screen time on weekends through upper elementary and middle school (with group video games allowed and educational videos ok after other chores are done).  Then in high school we would have stopped limiting screen time but DC1 is too busy with work, so fun screen time doesn’t really happen during the school year.  During breaks DC1 has had no limits as a high schooler, and I assume DC2 will follow suit.

So I guess we haven’t had any hard and fast rules about age– it’s more pragmatic.  Do we need screen time to be a reward?  Are they doing well with the rest of the things they need to be doing?  Are they jerks if they play too many video games or watch too much tv?

Grumpy Parents, what say you?  Grumpy Nation, (when) did you have screen rules when you were a kid?

Ask the grumpies: Favorite brand of sheets?

First Generation American asks:

Do you have a favorite brand of sheets?

I do not!  When we need new sheets I tend to go to (not an affiliate) and buy something with a high thread count in Egyptian cotton.  I have to be extra careful that the threadcount doesn’t include twisted multi-threads because that doesn’t make for a smoother sheet and I am like the proverbial princess with the pea when it comes to bedding.

Ask the grumpies: Do sabbaticals work?

First Gen American asks:

Do sabbaticals work? If someone is burnt out, does it really help light the fire back under your butt by getting a break?

In my experience, yes!

Though coming back after is always difficult.  I tend to be more relaxed and get less done until I get overloaded and burned out again.  And thus the cycle continues.

But the best thing about sabbaticals is breaking all the service ties and usually it takes a little bit for those to get rebuilt.  (Envisioning Gulliver in Lilliput right now as a metaphor.)

I don’t have any experience with non-academic sabbaticals.  I don’t think unemployment spells are really the same thing at all.

Grumpy Nation– Do Sabbaticals Work?

Ask the grumpies: Awkward silences in conversation and “do you have kids?”

Awkward Academic asks:

Recently I was at a social at a conference and I was talking to a friend of a friend after our mutual had moved on.  Like you and several of your readers, my child is going through the college application process this year and she asked me a lot of questions about it.  After a while I realized the conversation had been very one way with her asking questions and me answering and when I notice that happens, my habit (after reading about it somewhere– I am, as my name says, extremely socially awkward) is to mirror back the question I was asked.  In this case, though, asking about a child’s college experience is a little weird if you’re not sure there’s a child, but instead of asking if she had been through the experience recently, I asked her if she had children.  She said no and there was one of those awkward silences.  I know from online that a lot of people consider this to be verboten question for various reasons and I just wasn’t thinking when I asked it– I was trying to do that mirror thing, but didn’t do it properly.

Now for my question:  How do you rescue yourself from this kind of situation when you’ve said something that stops conversation cold?

Oh gee, that’s rough.  I’m also not great about social interactions.  I guess ideally I would try to followup with a question like, “How do you know so much about college applications?” or something, but that would require quick thinking which I am not good at.  Changing the subject completely is probably what I would end up doing like, do you have any pets?  But if they say no then the silence gets even awkwarder and longer.  Apologizing I think just makes it sound like there’s something wrong with not having kids, which of course there isn’t.

#2:  It doesn’t bother me when people ask if I have kids (unapologetically child-free), but I know it does bother some people.  No real advice for what to do with awkward silences.

Maybe there are less awkward members of Grumpy Nation who can give advice?


Ask the grumpies: New positive habits?

First Gen American asks:

What are some positive habits you’ve been able to implement in your life since the pandemic began?

This is a good question for the new year, eh?

Exercise, I guess.

I’m better able to work from home now– home computer isn’t just for goofing off.

Not sure what else…

Grumpy Nation, what positive habits have you been able to implement in the past few years?

Ask the grumpies: Is all irrational behavior rational?

CG asks:

Is most/all economically “irrational” behavior actually rational for one reason or another from the individual’s viewpoint?

Nope!  This is why we have the field of behavioral economics!  Behavioral economics deals with ways that people are systematically irrational.  That is, they deviate from rational assumptions of economics, but in ways that we can model.  (Other social sciences sometimes talk about irrational behavior we can’t model.)  A really good example is present discount bias– basically why we procrastinate or eat too much etc.  We value now more than we value later, even though we would be willing to pay for a commitment device that forces us to work instead of play video games, eat healthy food instead of junk, save for retirement instead of spend, etc. etc. etc.  That’s not rational.  Another example is when you break transitivity… like if you value a>b>c you should value a>c, and it shouldn’t matter if there’s also a d option that you value less floating around.  And yet, menus, for example, are designed with expensive items almost nobody buys in order to encourage people to buy something pricier than they normally would.  Irrelevant options do affect people’s decision-making and not just through information channels.  Behavioral economics is fun and exciting!

That said, some seemingly irrational behavior actually is rational.  For decades if not centuries, the (white male) economist answer to why women and minorities make less in the market place was because they don’t behave enough like men.  Women and minorities were irrational– they didn’t get the education needed, they didn’t ask, they weren’t competitive enough.  It’s only been in the past 15 years or so that this idea that no, women and minorities are just as rational as white men, perhaps even more so, but they’re playing different games.  They don’t get the education needed because there are barriers in the way or it isn’t rewarded, they don’t ask because they’re punished for asking, they avoid competition because the games are rigged against them or they get punished whether they win or lose.  Their (Our) behavior is actually rational given their different constraints.