Ask the grumpies: How do you feel about poetry?

Leah asks:

How do you feel about poetry?

#1:  I am a big fan of doggerel.  Also patter.

#2:  I have no particular feelings about poetry. I’m not into it, myself…  I just… don’t really care about poetry.

#1:  Though you do know some of the more famous poems, at least enough to have written this lovely apology to Jenny Joseph .  And this link love of yours from 2014 was super impressive.  I have no doubt you will someday do your own take on This is Just to Say if you haven’t already.  Even though you’re not on twitter.

#2 says, YOU wrote all those things!!!

#1 I would have remembered writing when I am an old tenured woman.  I have never had any desire to dye my hair purple!  Or any color (other than getting highlights at the Vidal Sassoon school as a favor to a stranger in graduate school).

How do you feel about poetry, grumplings?

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Ask the grumpies: Can kids have too many books? (Spoiler: so long as they’re not in danger of being crushed, no)

Leah asks:

How many kids’ books are too many?

Does not compute.

Ask the grumpies: Masters programs

Anoninmass asks:

Applying for a Master’s program and it feels so difficult and annoying yet I cannot seem to get ahead without it….why???

Some professions have so many people interested that they can require a masters degree (see:  social work, library science, other “helping” kinds of jobs).

Some professions, particularly in government, require a masters degree that teaches management kinds of skills for getting ahead.  Management is a different skill-set than being a police officer or fire fighter and so on, so these kinds of jobs will require new skills taught in masters programs for getting promoted to management.

I’m not sure why the teaching masters degree is rewarded.  Presumably it’s teaching skills that help in the classroom?  But it’s also not required except in California, so I don’t know.  It seems to be something desired by teachers unions, not school districts.  So… I dunno.

I will mention that masters applications are down this year across the board (the labor market is tightening), so it should be easier than usual to get in!  Our masters program has rolling admissions this year which is unusual for us (last year we had record numbers).

Good luck!

Ask the grumpies: Blog of a female asphalt engineer?

Bonnie asks:

 I’ve been trying to find the link on your blog to another blog written by a female asphalt engineer. I’ve searched your site, as well as Google, and I can’t find it.

We have no idea.

Here’s a civil engineer:  https://www.engineerbecomesamom.com/ .

Does anybody have any ideas that would help Bonnie?

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 sabbaticalhomes.com 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 do you pick which book to read next?

Steph asks:

Most of my postdoc-salary lifestyle inflation has gone to my local indie bookstore, and I waaaay overbought in 2018. My TBR pile has ~30 books, plus at least a dozen graphic novels/comics collections. I find I’m paralyzed with indecision when I confront the pile! How do you pick your new books to read? Any suggestions for wading through a massive TBR stack? (I’m already forbidding myself from most new book purchases for a while, except for a couple new releases like Rebecca Roanhorse’s Storm of Locusts)

#1:  Back when I was a kid, what I would do would be to line up the books I was considering in a grid.  Then I would close my eyes and let fate guide my hand like with a Ouija board.  It always seemed to work out pretty well for me.

Now what I do instead is look at the book on top (either of the literal pile of unread books or on my kindle) and if it looks too hard, I look at the book under it, and so on.  When I’m on the plane and need something easier than what I have in my “new” kindle section (which, in addition to things I’ve gotten from my amazon wishlist, includes a bunch of classics I got from Gutenberg before DC2 was born… which I’m sometimes good with on trips and sometimes are too hard), I will go to the last page of my “read” section and see if there’s anything in there that looks like a pleasant reread.

Personally I don’t think there’s anything wrong with having unread books in the stack.  I’ve had some for decades.  One day they may be what I need, or I’ll actually get to them and decide they’re not ever going to be worth reading all the way through and I’ll pass them on.  I read books for pleasure and not for improvement, so being forced to get through a stack seems like the opposite of fun for me.  Though sometimes I do find unexpected gems when I decide to wade through a pile (which I used to do back when I was sending my unwanted stuff to DH’s relative’s kid, but now have much less incentive to do).

Library books do get a bit of a priority bump because I know they’re going to have to go back.

#2: I use the implicit method of “whichever one I feel like”. I don’t really have a method. Sometimes it’s LIFO sometimes it’s random, sometimes it’s when the next book is out, sometimes I’m reminded of it, sometimes I feel like a fantasy, or a romance, or whatever…. I don’t even know. All of the above, none of the above.

#1: That reminds me.  Sometimes I take a picture of my pile and send it to #2 and ask her which I should read next.  She’s usually right.

#2:  Other suggestions:  Roll some dice.  Pick the nicest cover.  Or the one on the bottom instead of the one on top (FIFO).

Ask the grumpies: How to find a smart fee-only financial planner, or should we just give up and do it ourselves?

CG asks:

How to find a smart fee-for-service financial planner? We (especially DH) think we are pretty smart about investing (index funds!), but we have enough money saved now that we really would like another set of eyes on our choices. The people we’ve gone to so far are hearty retired-athlete types who are probably good at relationship building in general, but not with us. Basically we have to feel like the person is truly an expert and as smart as or smarter than we are or else we won’t be getting anything out of it. Do such people exist?

Here’s Walter Updegrave’s suggestion on the CNN Money Site and on his own website.

If you have a lot of money and are thinking about asset transfer/tax avoidance, then maybe a tax attorney or CPA.  I’m not sure how to find a good one of those as we’re not in that bracket.  If you have money in stocks there’s probably things that can be done with losses and conversions etc. to save money on your annual tax bill.

You are probably best off posting on the Bogleheads forum and asking your questions direclty. It is likely that the people who truly are experts and smarter than you are at this stuff are outside of what you’re willing to pay for their services.  If you are willing to spend a large sum, then you’d be best off asking rich friends to ask their rich friends, though many of them are probably also getting shafted by people who aren’t actually doing what’s best for them.

If what you want is just about balance of assets, then asking the Bogleheads forum is going to work well.  There are lots of smart and expert people on Bogleheads who are just giving financial advice to upper income folks away for free.

In addition, there’s a wide range of acceptable even given your personal risk tolerances.  There really isn’t one optimal mix given uncertainty and our uncertainty about how certain we are.  Because you are smart and have the basics down, if you do it yourself with the help of online calculators there won’t be much that a financial advisor can add.  If you’ve exhausted your annual retirement savings and have space for taxable, here’s our thoughts on what should go where when you’re investing.

To sum:  You are probably doing just fine.  But if you have doubts, check out the Bogleheads forum.  If you still want a financial planner, read through the Updegrave links above and you might get lucky, or be prepared to spend a lot and still have a chance of not getting much out of it.

Does anybody have better advice for CG?  Have you found a financial planner you love?  How?