Ask the grumpies: Luxury or roughing it on vacation?

Leah asks:

Is it better to indulge in some luxury on vacation (for example, getting a king sized bed or a fancy rental car), or do you prefer to “rough it” so home feels more luxurious?

#1:  I can’t tell you what my revealed preference is on this because the only time we tried to take an actual vacation we inadvertently caused a pandemic through our hubris instead (not really– correlation is not always causation unless you’re the protagonist in a work of fiction).  I’m pretty sure the house we rented was in a good location but not as nice as our current house, which is pretty par when you live in a nice house in the middle of nowhere.  I remember when we bought our house out here, for the first time going to conference hotels was no longer nicer than where we lived (previously we’d lived in ancient urban apartments or dorm rooms).

In general, I think we have a minimal standard of what’s good for travel– in NYC that may be a tiny hotel room, in the rural Midwest it might be a nice AirBNB.

I am not at all a fan of roughing it.  Count me out of hiking trips unless there’s a cabin with running water and electricity involved.

#2:  We do not “rough it”.

Ask the grumpies: Favorite breakfast cereal? Or favorite breakfast food in general?

Leah asks:

Favorite breakfast cereal? Or favorite breakfast food in general?

Leftover cold pizza!

For cereal I like various kinds of muesli.  I don’t like having sugar for breakfast and it seems like almost everything is sugary.

If I’m feeling fancy, I like breakfast tacos or breakfast burritos.  Or an open face toasted cheese sandwich with a runny egg yolk.  Yum.  Avocado toast also good.  Ricotta toast too.

Ask the grumpies: Alternatives to grading

Leah asks:

I enjoy teaching but can’t stand grading. I find it demoralizing when students put in very little effort. Are there better ways to grade? Or should I consider a different career option?

It’s funny, I’m fine with grading when I’m not the one teaching (in fact, it is how I got spending money in college), but not so fine when it’s me they’re disappointing.  Why didn’t they listen?  Did I go wrong?  Why don’t they care?

The ideal solution is to have someone else do the grading.  TAs are the best.  Especially when they tell you general areas in which students need more work.  I don’t let them grade exams though, only homework.

And that costs $$.

Depending on what you’re doing, you can utilize multiple choice, or fill in the blank and so on and just not give partial credit.  I don’t do that though because I feel like students should get partial credit?

You can have students grade each other if you’re careful about FERPA (numbers, not names on papers) and it’s things where there’s a correct answer, though in those cases you could just have the computer grade.  :/

I dunno.  Grading sucks.

Here’s some posts on grading motivation and pens.

Grumpy Nation, do you have better advice?

Ask the grumpies: ritz vs. saltines vs. wheat thins vs. triscuits

Leah asks:

Which are better: ritz, saltines, wheat thins, or triscuits?

#1  Triscuits, hands down.  We go through two boxes a week.  Wheat thins are good but if you think about them while eating them you’ll realize they’re kind of sweet like cookies.  Saltines bring back memories of being broke and having a lot of saltines with peanut butter, which actually isn’t such a bad memory since they’re tasty and filling, but saltines are also kind of like salty paste, so…

#2:  Ugh.  Ritz or saltines. Boo whole wheat.  Wheat thins ore ok.

Note that triscuits and ritz and saltines should be boycotted until nabisco stops abusing its workers.

Update:  Strike is over!

Ask the grumpies: What’s your reading speed?

Leah asks:

With books, do you tend to read through quickly, or do you like to take breaks and let the story simmer?

#1 says:  Both!

#2 says:  It depends on the book.  Mostly I read stuff that goes down easy and that gets sped through but sometimes I’ll read something delicious like Boyfriend Material and I have to take breaks to savor.  Or I’ll read something that’s ok and I take breaks because it is put-down-able.  Or I’ll read something that’s harder than my usual fare and I have to take breaks because it’s hard.  Or sometimes I will speed through the first time and savor the second (I do this a lot with KJ Charles).

Grumpy Nation:  What is your predominant reading style?  When do you read what how?

Ask the grumpies: Ice cream preferences

Leah asks:

Hard scoop ice cream or soft serve? Best flavors? What about things like cold stone, DQ, etc?

I remember the first time I had soft serve ice cream.  It was from a food truck at a lake where we went camping in Northern California.  It was a revelation to me.

Later I had soft serve places like McDonalds and similar food places.  It was… not as good.

Then I had soft serve ice cream from a food truck in San Francisco maybe half a decade ago and it all came back to me.  It was the Northern CA high quality soft-serve that was good, not my memories that were wrong.  Inferior soft serve is not as good as hard scoop, but superior soft-serve is better than superior hard scoop.  Since then we’ve found a single food truck in the city closest to ours that has similarly good soft-serve… I don’t know if it is still in business though.

Just straight-up vanilla for soft serve.  Or a vanilla chocolate twist.  Yeah, the vanilla chocolate twist is best.

For hard scoop I like lots of flavors– probably my favorite is anything with mint and chocolate.  But I also like chocolate with other things as well.  And I like fruit ice creams and gelatos.  I mean… it’s all good.

Not crazy about cold stone– I think it’s overpriced.  Mixins are interesting, but I’d rather have them mixed in during churning or on top.  The last time I had DQ I was six months pregnant with DC1 (driving from grad school city to work city) and threw it up so I haven’t been able to eat it since.

Man, I LOVE ice cream.  Here are more posts about ice cream.

Ask the grumpies: Thoughts on tattoos?

Leah asks:

What are your thoughts on tattoos?

#1:  I don’t have tattoos but I think lots of tattoos are really cool.  I watch art shows about tattoos.

#2:  I guess now is my time to talk about whatever undiagnosed psychological problem it is that I have about body ornamentation.  I have never had pierced ears or any other piercings.  I do not have tattoos.  I’m fine with other people’s tattoos and earrings.  I get feelings of revulsion thinking about permanent or even semi-permanent body modification of my own body.  I don’t wear jewelry except my wedding ring and watch and then only when I’m out and about.  I take things off as soon as I can.  I think I would be pretty comfortable in a nudist colony assuming my allergy problems didn’t keep me permanently covered in hives.

When I was little I always assumed I’d eventually get pierced ears, probably around age 14 which was when one of my friend’s moms said she could get them.  But then in middle school when other girls started getting pierced ears, one of the girls in my gym class had a dangly earring torn out of her ear (thankfully not in my gym class– possibly at home, possibly as child abuse) and it never healed up right.  Then a couple years later in middle school a bunch of other girls got horrific infections and… just… no.

And on top of that when I was younger, tattoo inks weren’t as good as they are now and there were so many older people at the grocery store with sagging skin and ugly blue tattoos that no longer fit their bodies because they’d been different shapes decades before when they first got them.  And I just … didn’t want to get something as a teen or 20 year old that would look terrible when I turned 70.

And then I went to the field museum and saw an exhibit on body modification…possibly set up to thrill and disgust, but it made me realize that in the Western world we do the exact same things– if you find the neck lengthening necklaces problematic or the bumpy tattoos like they showed in Black Panther, well, it’s not really different in the US.  What’s culturally accepted seems normal while something only slightly different elsewhere seems bizarre.  But really, body modification is kind of bizarre no matter what or where it is.  (See also: circumcision– most men in our generation in the US are circumcized.)

That said, I was in support of my other high school roommate when she got her first tattoo– it was a pretty cool rose (on her breast) and the inks were good and could be updated.  Lots of millennials have fascinating or adorable tattoos these days and more power to them.  And it’s easier to get them removed if one has second thoughts or one’s body type changes.  I can appreciate other people’s adorable earrings.  But… not for me.  Do Not Want.  No piercings, no tattoos.

Ask the grumpies: Favorite apps for life/productivity

Leah asks:

Do you have any favorite apps for life/productivity?

This is a timely question!  This summer I have decided to try Trello with two of my summer RAs and Github for another project.  These are both project management apps and for myself I have a Trello board that I’m using like a to-do list (sort of kanbanish, but not quite).  I am liking Trello very much.  Github is more complicated but it can do more and has better integration with things our university owns, particularly in terms of file attachments.  After working with both for a few weeks, Github’s project management software is not very good, nor is it as well-integrated as it should be with the repo.

DH uses Pivotal Tracker for work and likes it.  My university doesn’t have it for free so I haven’t tried it, though it’s probably available in some limited fashion for free.  Jira is also popular, but the free version is limited to 10 people so I haven’t tried it.

Probably my biggest productivity app is the leechblock add-on for firefox.  This keeps me from reading twitter and other common sites except during scheduled breaks and outside of work.

I’m eager to hear what productivity tools people in Grumpy Nation have found helpful!  Three years ago it seemed like only a few people were using project management software (preferring low-tech things like google docs or to-do lists), but suddenly it seems a lot more common.

What do you all recommend or find not worth the effort?

Ask the grumpies: Best kinds of couch

Leah asks:

Which is better: sectional couches with chaise portions or a traditional couch with a coffee table or a traditional couch with a comfy ottoman?

… I don’t know?

We have both a sectional and a traditional couch.  Both are good.  We have two coffee tables and two ottomen.  So I guess the best of both worlds?

I think the best couches are the ones that are best to take a nap on, so that’s about stuffedness and firmness.  I personally prefer something stuffed but firm.  I suppose some people might care about aesthetics, but I’m all about function.

Grumpy Nation, what are your couch preferences?  What do you look for in a couch?

Ask the grumpies: Why are firms so short-sighted?

Leah asks:

Why do so many companies make decisions based primarily on short term economics and not long-term health of the company? Is it just the stock market, or is there more going on than that?

I am sure that people really do know the answer to this one in terms of how systems and laws and so on have changed to favor short-term over long-term… and I do know that a lot of that has to do with how bonuses and CEO compensation has radically increased over time, meaning short term gambles pay off a ton more than they used to.  So some of it is the stock market, but some of it is also how compensation and tax structures have changed.  This is really outside of my knowledge area though– my knowledge basically comes from skimming paper abstracts of general interest journals and working papers.

My short answer is that even though companies are supposed to be risk neutral, and are supposed to be trying for immortality, they are run by people.  And people are short-sighted.  If the rewards are for the short term and not for the long term, then that’s the direction they’ll go.