In which we teach DC1 how to bend the truth…. er I mean estimate

DC1 has a lot of homework at hir new school.  One of the homework things is that ze must read for at least 30 min/day at least 4 days a week.  Ze has a log that ze has to fill out that says how many pages and how many minutes and what the title of the book is and then we have to sign it.

Research on intrinsic motivation has found that with good readers, intrinsic motivation decreases when kids are paid to read.  With poor readers, their intrinsic motivation actually increases as they become better readers.

This regular homework assignment is not for people like DC1 who already read a lot and are already excellent readers.  This regular homework assignment, is, in fact, really irritating for everyone involved at home.  DC1 began by bringing a timer every time ze started to read and would try to remember to turn it off and the add the minutes etc.  Ze would get very frustrated when ze forgot.  Or when ze didn’t remember the page number count.  We kept not being able to find the timer when we needed it for say, cooking.

The final straw was at 3am when DH was gone on business and DC1 somehow rolled over the timer after falling asleep with it in bed and set it off.  This happened two nights in a row before I figured out where that @#$32ing beeping was coming from.

At that point I decided it was time for DC1 to learn that not all assignments have to be followed to the letter.  Sometimes you need to just get the spirit right and/or to show the minimal when you’ve checked off a box even when you’ve actually done more.

So we’re estimating.  Every time ze reads, ze puts down at least 30 min, that have been estimated.  Ze guesses (based on past reading) how many pages were read.  Ze puts down one of the book titles that ze read that day.  No need to be exact.  No need to record everything.  No need to put down a session less than 30 min.

I’m not sure if this is a good life lesson for DC1 or not, but it does fit in with our grand theme of lazy parenting and fixing things when they make our lives more difficult.  In an ideal world we would have checked with the teacher to make sure it’s ok, but we know this assignment really isn’t for DC1, so it’s just easiest to you know, bend the truth estimate than it is to explain why our kid is a special snowflake.

Taking someone else’s goal

There are a lot of fads in the internet community.  For goal-oriented people, there are a lot of goals out there that people can latch on to.

Things like marathon training, whole30 (#2 doesn’t even know what that is.  No no, don’t tell me.*), early retirement, minimalism, and on and on and on.

Sometimes taking one of these outside goals leads to self-improvement and happy changes.  Often they seem to lead to unhappiness for those attempting things or guilt from those who don’t attempt them but are still part of the relevant communities.

Why do you think these things gain so much traction?

Is it because they’re great ideas and we just never thought about them before?  Is it because of peer pressure– everyone else is doing it?  Are we trying to fill up some void in our life?  Is it something about how human beings are social and like to follow Bellwethers?  A hope for quick cash from blog revenue?  (paypal to grumpyrumblings at gmail, in case you were wondering, though we are now BOTH gainfully employed and do not need it as much as your favorite charity does)


*too late–it’s kind of like a Paleo diet that you do for 30 days.  People who do it also tend to use the word “cleanse” a lot.**

**can you tell by the dated fads listed that this was another post pulled out of ancient drafts?  I think this one was from when minimalism was going through the PF community, not its most recent iteration through lifestyle blogs.***

***had to add this footnote because Whole30 is starting to make its way through the public finance internets!  They use words like “healing”.  Everything old is new again… with a different internet community.



Would you rather


a dog that will not stop barking all night (whether inside or out, though if outside the neighbors will call the police ~10pm)


a cat that occasionally pees on things that are not hir litterbox (for example, your bedspread or the couch)?

Why?  (Answers do not need to be in Haiku.)

Should parents help out kids equally?

Occasionally one of us will flip to the Mr. Money Moustache Forum and poke around while procrastinating.  This thread on whether or not parents should help kids out equally was really thought provoking.

DH’s mom is excruciatingly fair when it comes to doling out presents.  This means that our kids get a TON of stuff from his parents even though we don’t really need it because DH’s siblings are in much worse financial shape than we are (and also live close to DH’s parents so they can see what the kids need).  It was especially bad the year DH’s then-unemployed brother and SAHM wife were living in his parents’ basement.  We don’t really have a choice in the matter, and, since they focus on the kids, we don’t really feel like it’s our place to suggest they cut back (or put the money towards a 529 etc.).  It is, after all, their money, and they’re giving it to the kids, not to us.

My father is much more like Jacob from ERE than like Mr. Money Moustache in terms of spending, infrequent cold showers and all.  That means over the years my parents’ small nest-egg has grown enormously.   I don’t know how much, but I do know my father is concerned about avoiding inheritance taxes and wants to give up to the gift limit every year.

With the exception of when DC1’s school was about to go under (and he donated a considerable sum to it on our behalf), I have told him no.  I do not want their money.  I want them to SPEND it, or failing that, give it to charity.  I want them to move some place nice after my mom stops working and just enjoy life, even if it costs more to live there than it does in my small college town home town in the Midwest.  They’ve taken me up on the giving to charity bit and have set up a number of local scholarships for graduating high schoolers to go to college or for the library to reward customer service or to keep the paper version of the stock books he loves to spend hours going through to do value added investing.  (He says he needs to consolidate everything to index funds, but he keeps not doing it.  If he ever dies, the estate is going to be a nightmare to unravel.)

My sister, on the other hand, does not mind accepting their money.  So she does.  Neither of us needs the money.  It just gets put away and saved (or rather, it stays in whatever complicated 1980s mutual fund or single stock it was originally invested in because having to deal with selling it is a pain in the rear, which may be part of the reason I’d rather they just give the money to charity(!)).

It doesn’t bother me.  It’s their money.  (Though to be honest, a little bit of me worries about the extreme cost of assisted living expenses and wonders if it might be a wise idea to accept that money and put it in a “for parents’ assisted living expenses” account in case they’ve underestimated their health costs in old age.  I know there’s Medicaid for nursing homes after the money runs out, but I also know that $ buys higher quality care.  They don’t have long-term care insurance and my father is too old to get a policy.)

In terms of fairness for college– they paid for both of us, room, board and supplies.  My sister’s college cost substantially more than mine did, but a portion of that is that I got a lot more need-based financial aid because they were wealthier when my sister went to school than when I did.  Should she be penalized or I be rewarded for the stock market doing well or my mom taking on a temporary administrative position?  (They did give my sister more spending money than they gave me– I had to work for my spending money, but that probably didn’t add up to much and she did take on a heavier class-load and more hard-core extra-curriculars than I did.)

We used the same ancient Oldsmobile to learn to drive on.  Then my parents gave me a no-frills (as in 2-door, manual, no a/c) new Hyundai Accent as a college graduation present that my sister drove the two years (and seriously dented) because I couldn’t afford to pay for car insurance while in graduate school.  They gave her her own no frills new Accent when she went away to college, but she also went to school in driving distance of home whereas I went half a country away.  She paid for her own new car post-graduation (one with a/c!), the same  year we moved to our real jobs and bought our own new cars for ourselves.

They paid for my wedding (~3K, though 1K of that was alcohol my father insisted on providing)– it was either that or there was not going to be a wedding because DH and I had no money just out of college.  My sister doesn’t have a boyfriend, and when/if she does get married it will likely be much fancier than mine was.  I do not know what my parents will do if she does settle down.  And I won’t mind whatever happens.

I suspect though, it might bother me if they hadn’t offered both of us the same deal.  We’ve both been offered stock transfers (though after I said no the second time, they stopped offering).  We were both told that college would be paid for us– not that we’d get the same amount of money, but that we could each go to whatever college we wanted (the reward my mother negotiated with my father for her to go along with his frugality-to-the-extreme ways).  We both got new cars, even the same type, though at different times in our lives.  So the offers seem fair, and we’ve been allowed to react to them in ways that seem fair.  That choice means that if there’s any favoritism going on, it isn’t going on through money channels.  And that seems like a good thing.

I suspect DH and I would not mind if his parents showered a little less on us, but in this case we are so much better off than his entire family that it really feels like the money should be flowing in the other direction.  And maybe it will, some day.  Until then, we accept their generosity and save the money we would have spent on clothing and toys.  We’re pretty sure his parents can afford what they’re doing, but at the cost of working longer than they might otherwise have.  Still, while I wouldn’t say they enjoy working, they do get value out of work, so perhaps that’s not such a bad thing.  If it turns out they miscalculated, we will have savings to spare.

What are your thoughts on financial assistance to individual kids when there are multiple children?  If you have siblings, do you think your parents treat(ed) you fairly?  If you have kids, do you have a philosophy for financial assistance?

Read the book first or watch the movie first?

While watching old vlogbrothers videos, I found out they have a campaign to “read the book first“, that is you should read the book before watching the movie.

The book is (almost always) better than the movie… I think everyone can agree on that.  It’s an almost universal truth with only enough exceptions that they prove the rule.

Because most people prefer pleasure to increase over time rather than decrease, it makes sense to save the best for last.  Watch the movie.  Then read the book.

What about spoilers?  I’m the kind of person who doesn’t like surprises, so I’m fine with spoilers.  I love wikipedia so much because I can read plot synopses before deciding to watch a show.  If you really love to be surprised, then yeah, you should probably read the book first, though keep in mind that the movie often deviates substantially from the book for cinematic reasons, so you might not be as spoilered as you think you are.

#2 says:  The correct answer is: read the book first and watch the movie never.  The movie is NEVER as good as what’s in my head when I read!  It’s not worth it.

There, solved that for ya.

#1 disagrees.  CASE IN POINT:  The Princess Bride.  YES, the book is better, but the movie is AMAZEBALLS.  Watch the movie first, then cherish the book.  Similarly, Captain Blood.  Delightful movie with Errol Flynn and Olivia DeHaviland.  Even better book (free on kindle!).  Both are worth the experience.  And then there are fantastic adaptations, think Clueless based on Emma.  Same plot, different experiences.

Obviously some movies suck and aren’t worth watching ever even though the book is good (I’m looking at you, Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh).  But there are a lot of excellent movies adapted from excellent books.  Experience both!

What about you?  Which first?

Thoughts on Brave New World

In college we had to give a writing sample on a book that changed the way we view the world.  I wrote about Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World.  I failed that writing test in college and had to re-take the test with a different question (so as not to have to take remedial writing!) because I’m fairly sure the person who graded me didn’t like what I got out of it.  I knew what I was supposed to get out of it, but the tired civilized man dystopia/ wild man utopia always seemed false to me and I felt it must have been tacked on because Aldous Huxley had created a world that, though frightening and different than our own, was too perfect.  Huxley had to come up with a way to destroy its merits, and that destruction fell flat in my mind.  1984 is a far more obvious dystopia; Huxley had to work at destroying his utopia.  Instead, I wrote about how I learned to think like an anthropologist from the book , though I didn’t phrase it as being thinking like an anthropologist.  I just talked about how it showed me that culture shapes the way we view our world (using um, culture’s views of sex being a primary cause of rape as my primary example, which I still know to be correct– if there is no shame to sex, it can no longer be used as a weapon).*

I’ve been thinking about Brave New World and how what I got out of it is different than most literary theory about it.  Anyhow, I think I got something different out of Brave New World for two main reasons:  1.  Although none of the true main characters are women (the one main character woman is kind of a cog who exists to reflect the male main characters), women in that utopia world sure have a hell of a lot better life than women in the real world, even if men don’t necessarily and 2.  I’m an alpha and when I read Brave New World life sucked so much as an alpha and if I rebelled against the social order in Brave New World my punishment would have been to go to a true island utopia populated only by other alphas and oh man oh man that was a dream world for middle-school me (one that came true in high school!).

So I looked up feminist criticisms of brave new world on google, and after adding the name “huxley” so as not to get so much stuff about modern sex that just uses the phrase, I came up with a few interesting articles.  Margaret Atwood (who literally wrote the book on feminist dystopia) has an interesting article on how it has stood up after 75 years.   This google book has some neat discussion questions from a feminist perspective.

And I wonder about how our perceptions in our current society shape what we view as utopia and dystopia, and how clear it is that we need more authors willing and able to write from different perspectives.  How much literary theory only makes sense from a middle-class white male viewpoint?  How many messages seem shallow when you’re not the intended audience?  Feminist theory shouldn’t be relegated in its own niche and ignored by everybody who isn’t a feminist theorist.  We could all benefit from a little anthropology in our world-views.

How often do you feel like you’re not the target audience?  Do you feel like that has shaped your world-view for when you are the target?  And what did you get out of reading Brave New World?**

*Despite not finishing the make-up test and freaking out about that, the writing instructor who graded the make-up told me that based on that writing, it didn’t make sense that I had to take the make-up in the first place, which made me feel better.  I got asked to be a writing tutor a year later.  So I’m pretty sure whoever graded me just didn’t like my arguments.  Another reason for me to never go into the humanities.  And yes, my formal writing is much less stream-of-consciousness than my blogging.  I’m a big believer in outlines and topic sentences.

**It’s short!  And not as traumatic as say, The Handmaid’s Tale (to me, anyway).

Making friends as a professor or as an adult

One of the problems with being a young untenured sort of person is that, outside of your department, the majority of people you meet your age are graduate students.  Graduate students have this unfortunate tendency to graduate and LEAVE.

You can be friends with colleagues, but you can’t tell them too much before tenure.  And sometimes if you get too close you realize they’re not only crazy but you have to work with them for potentially the next SIXTY YEARS.  So a little distance with most of them can be nice.

If you have kids, you will end up socializing a lot with parents of other kids, but a lot of times even though your kids may be able to discuss Minecraft for hours, you actually have little to nothing in common with them.  Of course, if you’re not extroverted, then having kids and kids having activities uses up all your people time and you’re just kind of stuck not really wanting to talk to anybody else.  (Hopefully you enjoy spending time with your family!)

If you live in a thriving metropolis, you can meet people with your interests online or through meet-ups.  Even in smaller towns you can be active in interest groups.  Maybe politics.  Maybe school board.  Maybe board-games.  If your hobbies and interests go more in the direction of watching bad tv and reading novels, that’s not going to work so well.  (Recall that book clubs seem like *work* to many academics.)

In the end, after my new friends left and graduated, and I found the right amount of closeness/distance with colleagues, and I split children’s activities with DH, most of my new friends are conference buddies.  I see and socialize with people I like and enjoy talking with (small-talk even!) a few times a year.  Sometimes we email in between, sometimes we don’t.  Sometimes we miss each other for a year or two or three, sometimes we see each other several months in a row.  Sometimes we make time to have meals, sometimes we just chat at 10 min breaks.  It’s odd having closer friends that I travel and see than I have in my own home town, but I bet I’m not alone in this.

Have you made friends as an adult?  How have you gone about it?  Do you wish you had more or are you happy with what you have?


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