Ask the Grumpies: Favorite books for pre-readers?

Leah asks:

Fave books for kids not quite ready to read?  We’re rocking a lot of Curious George, Corduroy, and Pout Pout Fish. Just looking for new library reads for my 2.5 year old who LOVES books.

Rented Life adds:

My kid, same age, loves books too. I second that question.

Allyson adds:

I also have a two-year-old and we could use good library reads, lots of books in the house already. Her fave is Where is Spot? and we have it in English and Spanish. Lift-the-flap books are big in my house. Can I add a request for recommendations of classic children’s books in Spanish that may be easy to find? Some translations seem to work with the rhythm of the originals and some are more literal and not as much fun to read.

First up, check out the comments in this recent post.

Leah– one series I would add to that list is the Froggy books.  Those along with the Clifford books hit our DC’s interest at the same time as Curious George.

Allyson– Our favorite lift the flap books are the ones by Karen Katz, of Where is Baby’s Belly Button fame.  She has a bunch of these.  We also loved Dear Zoo.  A related much loved cut-out book is Where’s that cat?  There are a ton of Where’s Spot books as well, though I am not a fan of the Easter one (the kids like it, but it bugs me that [spoiler] Spot finds an egg on the table after mean old female hippo tells him to get off the table; Spot also gets more eggs).

Spanish translations: Our favorite Spanish translations are Buenas Noches Luna and Insectos asombrosos (which you probably won’t find).  We also like the bilingual books by Eric Carle, such as Animals Animales — these are fun because they have moving pieces.  Our DCs also really loved My First Spanish Word Book.  We do have a bunch of other Spanish translations but they’re not popular.  Wandering Scientist is probably good for asking for other suggestions.

Our general recommendations for these age groups are:  Anything by Sandra Boynton, anything by Mo Willems.  These will age well as your child ages.  Your children are probably also on the cusp of being able to sit still for Red Fish Blue Fish or Dr. Seuss’s ABCs or Go Dog Go! or Put Me in the Zoo, but you could also wait another year.  They will definitely like the board book versions which are shorter.

Related:

Books for 3 year olds

Favorite children’s books (this has a number of classics like The Little Engine that Could and Ferdinand and The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes)

What say you, Grumpy Readers?

Ask the grumpies: Recommendations for audiobooks?

Chelsea asks:

Also, I’d love to hear people’s favorite audiobooks. Right now I’m 1/2 way through the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon, which is fantastic, but in a mere 200-ish more hours, I’ll be done. What should I listen to next?

To Say Nothing of the Dog has a fantastic audible and is a fantastic story.  First top choice.

Redshirts was absolutely fantabulous.  Wil Wheaton is the perfect voice narrator for the book, and it’s funny until the codas and then you cry a lot.  But a good kind of crying.

We recently did Agent to the Stars on a roadtrip and it was a lot of fun.

Most Scalzi books have good audible, including his latest short piece, The Dispatcher.  We did end up not finishing Little Fuzzy though because it was kind of boring.

My DH likes both the Iron Druid and the Harry Dresden series on audible.  I’ve listened to the first two Iron Druids and the voice acting is pretty good, but I couldn’t handle any more of the series after [spoiler redacted].

Grumpy listeners, what do you recommend?

Ask the Grumpies: What to do for people who have lost a loved one?

First Gen American asks:

 What can you do for people who have lost a loved one after the funeral.

Our Midwestern automatic answer is: Freezable casseroles, a card, and possibly flowers. Definitely the first two.  Casserole in disposable containers they don’t have to give back to you.

Offer to walk the dog, babysit the children, hire a housecleaner.  Let the grieving person pet your cat.

If you’re close, offer to send the form letters to the creditors that say “this person died, please write off the account”.  Offer to clean the house.  Buy them the really nice kind of Kleenex that is soft.

Send Calming Manatees.

Rented Life adds:

If local, be sure to check on them, take them out for coffee after all has settled. People will flock around shortly after but a month or more out, people are back to being busy with their own lives.

Ask the grumpies: Suggestions for American foods to import

Zenmoo asks:

An American food store has opened in my town – they import products on request. I’ve got a few foods I like but don’t know good brands- so suggestions wanted for products in the following categories: dark chocolate peanut butter cups, white or yellow cornmeal muffin or cornbread mixes, healthier boxed mac & cheese …

The best dark chocolate peanut butter cups come from Trader Joe’s.  But it’s unlikely your food store will be able to import them because a store in Canada tried and got sued.  This is very sad for you.  :(  Justin’s brand is pretty good (though possibly not Orangutan safe?).  Neuman’s own is also pretty good.  For a truly American experience, Reeses occasionally puts out a dark chocolate version of their peanut butter cups (and these, of course, will still be extremely sweet).  You’re most likely to find the small versions at holidays like Easter or Christmas in my experience.

I like the Ancient Harvest brand quinoa mac and cheese (a discovery in our bad days of wheat allergy, but I still buy it).  The most ubiquitous “healthier” boxed mac&cheese is Annie’s.  Annie’s tends to add yeast extract to things (not their mac and cheese though) so I don’t trust it (disclaimer:  I get headaches from yeast extract) and I’ve just never really been a fan of their boxed mac and cheese.  I mean, I’d eat it if it were actually healthy, but for something that isn’t truly healthy I’d far rather go Kraft or a Kraft imitator.  There are lots of different kinds of mac and cheeses, but if you’re going true american you’ll get a kind that comes with a pouch of powdered cheese to which you will add butter and milk.  The other kind uses velveeta or a similar cheese product and will come with a creamy cheesish substance.  In any case, if you want to experience true Midwesternism, add a can of tuna and some peas for a stove-top casserole.  Yum.

I’m not entirely sure why you’d want to import cornbread mix unless they don’t make cornmeal in New Zealand(?) because it is super easy to make yourself with just cornmeal and a recipe.  However, Jiffy is the brand if you like Northern style sweet cornbread.  This is the cornbread of our youth and our holidays.  If you like Southern style not-sweet cornbread, you’re best off buying the cornmeal itself and making your own.  You’ll want a stoneground cornmeal.  We like Hodgson, Bob’s, or Arrowhead Mills.

Grumpeteers, what are your favorite of the requested American products?

Ask the grumpies: Should I get a phd? And if so, should I do it in CS or linguistics?

To PhD or not to PhD?

I’m currently between programming jobs, having been laid off from my last job with a good severance package, healthy savings, and a spouse with a high paying job.  I haven’t yet started job hunting and instead have been focusing on getting a masters degree part-time in a program related to artificial intelligence and I’ve been working as a TA for the program.  I have enjoyed the TAing.

I have been thinking off and on throughout my career about switching from industry to a PhD program.  What things should I consider to help me make this decision?

My area of interest is Computational Linguistics. If I go for a PhD, should I apply to CS or Linguistics departments?  Should I apply broadly across the US or stick with the local program here (given I own a house and have a dual-body problem and the local program, though not a top 5 in my field, is decent)?

Should I take an industry job in this subfield prior to applying for a PhD or should I apply for a PhD first?  I love tech jobs, but I’m tired of being a generalist.

Our answer for the first, “should I get a phd” question is similar to our answer for the accountant who wrote in with the same question, with one important exception.  Salaries for accounting phds are higher than for those of accountants.  Salaries of CS PhDs are not that different than salaries of highly skilled programmers without a degree.  The main difference in our experience is in levels of specialization.  (Note:  this is based more on personal experience than on hard data, but there are also a lot of not so great and poorly paid programmers who would be unlikely to get a PhD.  I don’t think anything has been done looking at wages controlling for underlying ability.)  So yes, there’s still demand for CS professors, but there’s also demand for CS PhDs in industry and for programmers without degrees as well.  (My DH with the PhD makes a little less than #2’s DH who dropped out of college to become a programmer.  They both make very nice salaries.)

As with the accountant, we recommend that you work as a research assistant if you can.  This will probably be an enormous paycut from your last industry job, but it will give you a feel for the kind of work that PhDs do.

This paragraph is also still true, but replace “accounting” with “computer science”:

Even with an accounting degree, you get very little choice about where you move to after you’re done. We’re living in places we wouldn’t choose if it weren’t for the job. There’s a limited number of professor jobs in any discipline each year and you have to have a certain amount of flexibility. If you absolutely have to live in a specific city, it’s unlikely you’ll get a TT job there. It’s possible, but not likely. If you are location dependent, see what kind of jobs you can get with a PhD in accounting in industry and/or government (depending on the location).

which means lots of heart-to-heart talks with the other half of your two-body problem and you’ll have to consider selling/renting your house.

Also you will want to check how long it takes to get a CS PhD, especially given your masters work.  How many years are classes, how long do people generally take to finish the research portion?  And so on.

My general impression is that if you’re doing computational linguistics, you’re better off getting the CS degree (or one of the funky specific degrees you can get from places like MIT) than the linguistics degree for the same reason that people who do economic history are better off doing economics than history. The baseline of what you can do with the econ/CS is just so much higher than the baseline for history/linguistics that it’s better to go with the former even if you end up doing the same work with either label.  I could be totally wrong about this, so definitely talk with professors at these programs and look into job placement for people in the programs you’re considering.  But, I do have a friend who dropped out of a linguistics PhD program because she realized someone would have to die in order for her to find a job opening.

If you want to go the academic route, then you would most likely want to apply broadly and, if possible, to go to MIT or Stanford or another top school in your area because that will give you more options later. People at MIT are more likely to actually finish the PhD and go into academia (people at Stanford are more likely to drop out and do a startup and get really rich).  Stanford has better weather along with a higher cost of living.  The major problem with academia is that unless you are extremely good or extremely lucky it is very difficult to choose where you want to live with an academic job.  For industry, the local program is probably fine.

My husband prefers the work he does that requires a PhD to what the people in the same company/field without the advanced degree do.  Even in the tech industry the PhD does seem to be a gateway into less generalist work.  It sounds like you find that rewarding, which suggests that even if you do go into industry the PhD would not be wasted time.

Grumpy Nation, what advice do you have for To PhD or Not?

Ask the grumpies: Self-care during a bigoted election season

Anu asks:

What are your suggestions for self-care during this crazy election, particularly when there is rampant misogyny and racism in the air?

#1 and #2 have had two very different approaches to this.

#1 recommends ostriching.

#2 has been spending way too much time following things.  She strongly recommends reading docrocktex26.

She’s also been donating money, subversively wearing pro-Hillary shirts on weekends, and cheering on her sister’s volunteer efforts (and feeling slightly guilty for not volunteering herself).

Looks like the washington post reports that the APA also has those two suggestions— either limit your media reading or go do something about what’s bothering you.

[It should be noted that #1 seems to be in perfectly good health this election season and #2 keeps getting sick (currently with an upper respiratory infection).  So maybe ostriching is healthier.  Or maybe students are just foul vectors of disease during midterms.]

Also I like the Hillary Shimmy song and I watch a lot of Seth Meyers.  I watch other comics too but turn them off when they get sexist.  (Seth Meyers has been really good about that this election season… so, oddly, has been Bill Maher.  Colbert a bit of a disappointment in that respect, and Trevor Noah varies– sometimes he’s spot on with regards to misogyny and sometimes he completely misses.  And of course Samantha Bee.)

And, like HRC herself, we are big fans of cat videos.

There’s not that much time left until November 8th. So hang in there!

How about you, grumpy nation, what self-care tips do you have for this election season?

Soliciting more ask the grumpies

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.

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.