Ask the grumpies: What do you watch on Netflix?

Leah asks:

Do you watch much Netflix? Any favorite Netflix originals? I really like One Day at a Time, and there’s several Netflix originals kids’ shows we love. Treehouse Detectives is the most popular right now in our house.

#1:  I don’t… um… watch anything on netflix.  DH watches Lucifer and when the next season of The Good Place is up he’ll be watching that.  DC1 doesn’t watch anything except the occasional movie that DH is watching (usually super hero or star wars based).  DC2 has mainly been watching youtube these days.  Zie is a fan of Arthur, Wild Kratts, and Johnny Test, though zie watched them all on Youtube.

What do you all watch on Netflix?

Advertisements

Ask the grumpies: How will the Republican tax thing affect charitable donations?

FGA asks:

Because I no longer have mortgage interest as a deduction, it actually was better for me to take the standard deduction. My charitable contributions were no longer deductible even though it was many thousands of dollars. I am frankly worried about how this will Impact nonprofits moving forward. Grumpy thoughts?

It should discourage charitable giving because there will be fewer taxpayers who will find it in their interest to itemize, and also with marginal tax rates down etc. the savings for people who itemize will also be lower.  If you’re getting 25 cents back instead of 33 cents, for example, you might be less likely to donate.

I’m not a tax economist, but there are actual tax economists who have predictions, including this article from the Urban Institute/Brookings tax center that has estimates.

There are a few complications of course.  Fears of the future, beliefs about what the government is or isn’t funding compared to what needs funding, and just how the economy is doing will all effect giving, even in the absence of the tax cuts and job act.  Additionally, the increase in donor advised funds has made it more beneficial to put money in the fund all at once to get a tax break and then to hold onto it before disbursing as it gains money.  It made sense for a lot of people who were going to be losing their mortgage deductions to put money in DAF before the tax law went into effect.  I don’t know if that actually happened though.  I assume sometime in the next year or two academic economists will be trying to sort this all out.

I’ve certainly increased my charitable (and political) donations because of Trump, but definitely not because of any changes to the tax code– all of our donations are going in without any tax breaks.  Which does make it easier to donate to places that aren’t tax-exempt (political non-profits, for example).

Ask the grumpies: Which is more important: Macro or Micro?

Leah asks:

Which is more important, macro or micro economics?

For most people, microeconomics is more important.  Both, however, are very important for the government, particularly the federal government.

Macroeconomics tells us about whether there should be a Fed, how should we peg the monetary system (if we should), when should the government spend and when should it pay back debt, how can the government lower unemployment and inflation using monetary policy, and so on.

Microeconomics tells us everything else.  How do we best invest in kids?  How to firms set prices?  How do we help marginalized groups?  How much should people save for retirement?  How do we best finance schools?  And on and on and on…

So… both are incredibly important, but there are a lot more microeconomists out there.

Ask the grumpies: teens today

Anoninmass asks:

[T]een daughter wants birth control but refuses to learn how to drive, is this weird?

No… not weird.  Kids today are less likely to want a driver’s license right away.  We don’t really know why. But this is documented all over the place, even including cities with crappy public transportation.  My guess is that kids like being chauffeured and their parents are more willing to do it (and the current generation of dads are more involved with their kids) whereas boomer parents were less likely to drive kids places so they needed a car to get anywhere.  But that’s completely uneducated based on no real research.  Maybe it’s easier to walk places now and no reson to go to the mall.  Who knows!

Even though teens are not more promiscuous compared to recent generations, apparently they’re being much better about using birth control.  Long term birth control is also much better than it used to be.  I also do not know why teen sex hasn’t changed (maybe a combination of a more permissive society being balanced out by more attentive parenting) or why kids are more likely to actually use birth control than in the past.  My guess there would be a better job of culture making birth control seem normal (you can tell a hero is a good guy because he puts on a condom in romance novels and tv shows) although there is still an erosion of non-abstinence based education or planned parenthood in much of the country.

So… basically your teen daughter is completely normal for her generation!

Ask the grumpies: Where to find hope

Leah asks:

How do you find hope in the world? In general, I suppose, and also specifically right now.

I am finding hope in the state of Texas, of all places.  Beto didn’t win, but his coattails caused enough of a change in the state legislature that the bathroom bill didn’t get discussed much less voted on (last legislature it almost passed), they didn’t vote on a draconian heartbeat bill punishing women unlike the rest of the south and much of the Midwest, and although an anti-voter bill (SB9) passed the senate it died in calendars in the house.  Activism– all those people campaigning for Beto– caused change.  That gives me hope that the more we do, the more we fight evil, the more terrible policies we will keep from happening.  In places that are already limiting the right to vote, those of us with privilege need to fight with and for those without.

I also find hope in how (relatively) quickly the perception of LGBTQ people is changing for the better, and how there are more and more LGBT rights are being legislated, and are being discussed as obvious.  Matt Baume is a source of joy and inspiration.  What he reports on is not always happy (see:  military bans), but he does a great job of providing historical context and hope for the future… along with a nice dose of humor.  (I am enjoying his book on the road to LGBTQ marriage, Defining Marriage.)

I find hope that the majority of people still believe that women should have the right do control their own bodies and that we should not treat minorities poorly because of the color of their skin of their ancestry.  (In fact, being “pro-life” aka forced birth right now is not something people want to admit in polite company.  They frown at us as we protest, but they don’t say anything.)  We still want to be good people.  We still want to do the right thing.  Even in the face of Bond villains.  And yes, in the short term it’s not been enough, but without the resistance things would have been far worse– they’ve tried to make things much worse and had to back-off.

I find hope and inspiration in Wandering Scientist’s weekly actions.  And in swingleft and indivisible and racies texas and the ACLU.  And the spirit of the resistance.  The ability to slog through even when things seem to be getting worse.

Doctors without borders recently sent me a totebag and a note that I should be finding hope in how much better the developing world is getting in terms of disease, which is true and is something that John Green finds hope in.  I still did not send them money because any nonprofit that wastes money sending me a totebag unasked for is not one I want to encourage. (John Green also finds hope in third tier English soccer, which… me not so much.)

So, although it is trite, I find hope in actions and in the actions of others.  Viva la resistance.  (*French —> Spanish intentional.)

Where do you find hope?

Ask the grumpies: what’s your computer setup like?

Leah asks:

Mouse or trackpad? Laptop or desktop?

#1:  Mouse, desktop.  I have a laptop but I mostly only use it for meetings that require I have computer access, which is pretty rare.  When I was on leave it was my main computer at work, but I had it hooked up to two big monitors.  I guess I do have a fancy mouse at home (Evoluent Vertical Mouse 3– not sponsored) to help combat RSI, though the only thing special about my work mouse is that it has a cord.  I carry a mouse with my laptop as well because it’s so much less of a hassle than the trackpad or nub.

#2:  laptop at home, desktop at work. Nothing fancy or special.

Ask the grumpies: What to do when you suspect students cheating off each other?

Lecturer asks:

I give a take-home exam every semester and this year it was clear that two students had the same bizarre wrong answers.  So I gave them both zeroes for the final (25% of their grade) which earned one of them a D for the class and the other an F.  Now the student with a D is protesting his grade and has filed paperwork to drop out of the program because he says that he did not cheat on the exam and thinks the other student copied him without his knowledge since he turned his exam in early to my mailbox.  What should I have done instead?

Cheating is the worst!  We at ask the grumpies have had to deal with so many instances.  And sometimes it really is just that one person copied off the other without the first kid’s knowledge.  (#1 had a student turn in his roommate in his first year because he was planning to go back to his home country as a government official and could not have any stains on his record– he is now an ambassador!)

So… what we do is generally the following:  As soon as the cheating is detected, make xeroxes of the offending documents.  Then talk to your chair to either inform them of what you are going to do or ask for advice about what to do.  Then email both students separately and ask them to come in to talk with you ASAP.  If you are a junior professor or lecturer or adjunct, you may want to ask for a more senior professor to sit in the room with you– I found that helpful when I was in my 20s but no longer need it now.  When the student comes in, just show them the documents and ask what happened.  Why are they so similar?  A surprising number of students will just admit to you that they copied from each other at that point.  In one case I had a student (different one from the future ambassador), after some confusion, narrow his eyes and say he bet he knew what happened and that he was planning on having words with his housemate (who must have copied his problem set when he left it out).  Said housemate was extremely apologetic and corroborated that theory and took full responsibility and the group of guys living in the house teased him about it for the rest of the semester (and started coming to office hours and learning the material).

I’d say in over 80% of the the cases one or both students admits responsibility and takes the punishment.  In the cases in which they don’t, I then go to my chair and ask for advice– I have had supportive chairs who I can trust on these matters.  #2, before she left academia, did not and in her last year got overruled by a chair on an obvious cheating case in which the students confessed and is so glad to be out of that [excrement]-hole. (#1 again) In one case in which the student did not admit wrong-doing, it turned out that my chair knew she had also been caught cheating in another class, so we pursued that (she decided not to take it to the honors counsel and eventually left our program).  In another case, the plagiarism from the wikipedia page was blatantly obvious so we pursued that one as well– he appealed to the honors counsel and we went through the full proceedings and they were not happy with him in the least.  For weaker cases in which they don’t admit responsibility we’ve just continued to monitor the situation and future assignments– usually they’re scared to try anything further at that point.  I haven’t had any weak final exam cases, only problem sets.

Once you find plagiarism and decide on a punishment, it is very important to see what your university rules are about reporting it.  Our university requires professors to notify the university so that they can put the incident on the student’s internal record.  If they get a certain number of reports of cheating (I think 3, but it might be more) then they are subject to a suspension or expulsion depending on the severity of the complaints.  One of my favorite things about our honors system is that you can force students to take a semester-long hour per week seminar on how not to cheat which I think is a fantastic punishment, especially for our students who plead that they didn’t know it was wrong to plagiarize.

Additionally, if you are going to have take-home exams, it is always good to do a few things to make it more difficult to cheat.  That includes doing things like telling them to put the exam in a sealed envelope if they turn it into your box (if you have an office you can also allow them to put it under your door).  I also like to have problems that include choice, like everyone chooses a dependent variable from a list of 50 dependent variables.  That makes things harder to grade but also more interesting to grade and even if they cheat they can’t just copy each other directly (or if they do, then it’s even more obvious that they copied), they have to learn a little bit.

Good luck and I hope you don’t have to deal with this much in the future!  It’s never fun.

Academic grumpeteers, how do you deal with student cheating problems?