Ask the grumpies: How do you steer a conversation away from complaining?

Debbie M asks:

how do you steer conversation away from complaining? I like a good rant as much as the next person, and sadly I also complain as much as the next person. But I don’t like that.

Some negative things absolutely need to be discussed and handled, and some problems need venting. But I don’t want those to be the ONLY topics of conversation for hours on end. Think: complaining about work problems in a very repetitive way. Probably shouting, “You already told me that three times!” is not ideal.

Just three?  You’re lucky!

Not so long ago (before someone switched jobs) I may have asked #2 a “hypothetical” question similar to this one.  She suggested kitten pictures, but I kind of wonder if that’s just rewarding the problem.  (She also got the hint though… especially when my immediate reaction the next time was to send kitten pictures.)

#2:  My favorite topic-changer is to talk about kittens.  No matter what the conversation is about, just start talking about how kittens are great, they are so fluffy and pouncy and cute and they hop and they purr…

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Ask the readers: How do I get more patience (at work)?

#1 asks:

How do I become more patient?  I can think of good reasons to be more patient (e.g., “this is just their policy for their business, it’s not personal against you, you know.” and “this isn’t that big of a deal, you can let it go” and “fuming doesn’t help anything and being calm might get better results” and even “bless their hearts, they can’t help being stupid, poor things”) but NONE OF THEM WORK.

I am all out of patience for [BS] and I’d like to buy some more, please.  How?

#2:  I don’t think you should do illicit drugs.  And you’ve tried CBT, so probably not that.  And having kids is probably also a non-starter.  Have you considered distracting yourself with novels?

#1:  It’s kind of hard to do when my boss is in the same office with me

#2:  I guess you have to distract yourself with other work then.

 

Ugh–I saved too much in the Dependent Daycare Account (DDA)

Note:  unlike non-academics, our DDA cycle is from September to September, not January-January.  So all childcare money must be used up by August 31st.

What happened was when I did the election, I was assuming we’d be sending DC1 to an expensive two week STEM daycamp, which would knock out 1K.  What happened instead is that this year that camp decided that they would only have a residential option, so now we’re spending even more on the residential option but we can’t use the DDA because the DDA isn’t allowed to be used for overnight camps.   Plus it looks like the bilingual daycamp we want to send DC2 to is going to at most be 2K for the entire summer, more likely it will be closer to $1650 because of that vacation they’ll be taking to Disney, which is less than we had been expecting to pay for hir.  (The museum camp we used to send DC1 to is $155/week + $50/week after care + $25/week before care, but DC1’s last year there had some problems with bad management so we are reluctant to send DC2 there given that the management hasn’t changed.  The children’s museum camp isn’t as good as the multi-lingual camp we picked out, but I think it is also more expensive.  I’d been expecting one of those or something similarly priced.)

So we’ve got somewhere between 1K and 2K excess that can only be spent on daycamp, not on overnight camp.  Most likely that means additional camps for DC1.  Unfortunately, at age 11 and going into 8th grade, DC1 has outgrown most of the regular daycamps in town.  The fun local summer camp where they do summer camp things overlaps with Disney, so that’s not happening this year (even though zie loved it last year).  Zie did the university’s math camp last year and can’t do it again this year (plus it was only $100).  Zie is doing another week-long university daycamp for a different department, but it is free(!)  Zie has done almost all of the half-day STEM camps in the area and I’m not sure they’re worth repeating, though we will check to see if the local makerspace has anything new.  There is a non-profit in the town next to ours that should have something cool zie can do (last year zie did game programming in Unity, the year before was art), but the one for hir current age range changes every year so we don’t yet know when or what it will be.  I wish places would put their schedules (and prices) up!

Maybe zie needs to do cooking classes.  That’s $175/week for a half-day camp…  It looks like there are art camps that are $200/week for a half-day camp.  Summer etiquette camp looks pretty creepy (the webpage laments how social upheaval in the 60s and 70s destroyed good manners).  Drama camp is half days at $125/week.  All of these have age 11 as the max of the age range, so DC1 would be the oldest.

Have you ever put too much in a flexible savings account?  What did you do when school was out as a kid?  If you have kids, what do they do now?

Who is selfish?

Warning:  cattiness below.

So I was waiting at the bus stop with DC1 because you have to be I forget how old to wait without a parent.  This is usually DH’s job, but he was out of town on a business trip.

While we were waiting for the bus, a truck with a kid pulled up and parked at the corner across from the bus stop.

Then a mini-van/suv thing came and parked right where one would expect the bus to you know, pull up.

That meant that when the bus finally came, it had to stop in the middle of the street and the kids all had to walk into the middle of the street to load the bus.  The truck discharged one little girl with her dad.  The van discharged two with their mom.  (The two little girls and their mom, incidentally, live maybe two houses farther than we do from the bus stop, so maybe 5 houses away from the bus stop total.  I don’t know where the truck people live, but the bus does stop every block and a half to two blocks and our cul de sacs aren’t very long, so it can’t be that far.)

Let’s see if I can make a picture of the bus stop area using nothing but keyboard characters.

I feel like this is totally selfish.  That bus really should be able to pull safely up to the curb, which would be easier to do if the truck weren’t there and and is impossible with the van there.  (When the van isn’t there, the bus does pull up.)  The van had to make a U-turn to park where the bus is supposed to go and could have very easily parked across the street (on the side that didn’t make it into my picture), though if they’d done that, it would have only been like 4 house lengths away from their house instead of five.  The truck could have parked back a little further to make it easier for the bus to pull up.

But then, maybe I’m the totally selfish one.  I make my DC2  walk three house lengths to wait for the bus out in the cold.  I mean, sometimes it gets down into the 40s(!), and sometimes the wait is as long as 7 min (if the bus is late).  Maybe if I weren’t so selfish, I’d be keeping hir nice and warm in a heated vehicle while we waited for the bus instead of making hir suffer.

I should note that there’s one other family that takes the bus from this stop– their parents are immigrants and connected to the university somehow.  Their kids walk– I don’t know how far, but it’s longer than 5 houses.  (The dad used to walk with them, but the youngest had a birthday and is now old enough to wait by hirself, so they do.  Both kids are super nice to DC2.)

So that’s my catty parenting rant.  I guess if it really bothered the bus driver, the bus system would send out a reminder not to block the bus stop while waiting for it.  It’s a good thing waiting for the bus is usually DH’s job.  (Which is at least partly selfishness on my part, even though it makes more sense logistically and from a who needs to interact with adults standpoint.)

We’re having bad weeks

this was supposed to be a kitten post with adorable kitten pictures of #2’s adorable kittens… but…

work is hard and we’ve both been getting bad (work-related) news… so we’re gonna punt today

Friday we’ll post an ask the grumpies about college savings.

What does statistical significance mean?

One of my students sent me this article because we spend some time in class covering Type 1 and Type 2 errors.

All the .05 threshold means is that you have a false positive 1/20 times.  A .005 threshold would say you’re getting a false positive 1/200 times.  So by moving to a .005 threshold, you’re less likely to get a false positive.  That’s good, right?  In common parlance, we’d be less likely to send an innocent person to jail.

Well, that depends.  At the .005 threshold, we’re more likely to get a false negative than you would at the .05 level.  That means we’d be more likely to get a guilty person go free.  (Indeed, the only guaranteed way to send no innocent people to jail would be to send nobody to jail.  I, for one, am happy that folks like Charles Manson are behind bars.)

It isn’t as easy as saying, oh we should just switch to .005.  When you adjust the p-value you’re making trade-offs between type 1 and type 2 error.  With a lower p-value threshold you’re going to be getting a lot more false negatives even with fewer false positives.  What we always need to be cognizant of when we’re doing policy is that significance isn’t everything– we also have to think about what the damage is if this information turns out to be incorrect.  For example, doctors recommend that pregnant women should heat up cold cuts if they’re worried about listeria, which is a very low probability event but if it happens it’s horrible.  It’s pretty easy to avoid room temperature cold-cuts for 9 months, so unless there’s some other difficulties attached to diet, women will probably follow this recommendation.  (And if one accidentally eats room temperature coldcuts while pregnant, one shouldn’t freak out because the probability of getting listeria is very low!)  But if we’re talking about something like doing chemotherapy or surgery, that’s a much more onerous action and we might want to be more sure we need it before going ahead with it.

Another thing to note is that the article talks about how physics and genetics have already made this switch, while most social sciences haven’t.  One big difference between the fields that have made the switch and the fields that have not is how easy it is to get large samples.  A larger sample size will make it so your sample behaves more and more like the population that you’re trying to study.  We can reduce both Type 1 and Type 2 errors simply by increasing the sample size.  So why don’t we do that?  Well, it turns out that increasing the sample size can be very very expensive when you’re dealing with people and behavior.  Sometimes doing the study with a large enough sample to get 80% power and an alpha of .005 might be more expensive than just throwing that same money at the intervention you’re trying to decide about, whether or not it actually works.  There probably is some resistance because people in these fields want to be able to publish their 5% results, but that’s not the main or only reason we haven’t yet made the switch.  Research is complicated and expensive and we have to make trade-offs.

The context for these really does matter, and you shouldn’t necessarily put off making policy choices just because your sample size is too small to get significance (or to make policy changes just because you have significance).  You always have to be aware of the costs and the benefits.

 

(Incidentally, in case he comes across this, Hi Dan!  I’m assuming that the reporter greatly simplified your arguments here because I know you must know this stuff.)

Things that negatively affect my mood

Lack of sleep

Lack of a feeling of control/feeling overwhelmed/being told I have to do stuff or that I’m not doing enough stuff

Having future deadlines but not being able to work on them even though I planned to work on them because other people have dropped the ball and there’s nothing I can work on in the meantime while I wait because I already did it all or I would have to get into the mindset for a completely different project and I just don’t have that mental load and I know everybody is going to get back to me at the same time too close to multiple deadlines and I’m going to be stressed out.

Eating sugar or refined carbohydrates and sugar-crashing

Low blood sugar more generally

Mild tummy aches/headaches

impatient drivers behind me who want me to risk my life making a left turn across traffic

Sometimes hormonal imbalances

Whining (other people’s not my own, and literal whining)

Mansplaining

Did I mention people flaking out on me?

Grumpy nation, what harshes your buzz?