A snapshot of DH’s unemployment chores list

  1. Get and install curtains for the office.  [Ed:  this is my requested Christmas present this year so my face isn’t half blindingly white while zooming]
      1. Rod hanging style
        1. We do not want a curtain rod that attaches inside the door frame, because that will interfere with the screen door.
        2. We could use inside mount brackets and mount the curtain to both side walls, but then there would be a long rod sticking out over the filing cabinets for no reason.
        3. We could use an inside mount bracket on the side wall by the desk, and a normal bracket (to the window’s wall) on the other side, but that’s going to look asymmetrical.
        4. I think we use a normal rod attached to the same wall as the window, and it equally extends on either side of the door frame, which will put the end next to the desk almost up against the side wall, and put about 12” of space between the edge of the window and the end of the rod on each side.  To get the bracket close to the side wall next to the desk, let’s use the blackout rods that curve back into the wall.
          1. It would also be nice to minimize the depth, so the curtain is close to the wall.
      2. “Door” width 70.5” including the molding.
        1. Add 24” -> 94.5” wide curtain.
          1. Divide by 2 panels -> 48” panel width.
        2. Add ~10” -> 80.5” rod.
      3. 4.5” from the outside edge of the molding to the nearest wall.
      4. Do we need two panels or just one?
        1. I think 2 panels would look better.  We could get a single panel 100” wide, but I think when the curtains are open they will look better framing the door.
      5. Door height: 83.25” from floor to molding.
        1. So an 84” long panel? Then we set it above the top of the door and it won’t puddle on the ground.
      6. For curtain color, I think anything light or black is too extreme. Probably best to just go with brown.
  2. Fix the broken fence board.
  3. Clean the guest bedroom. [Ed:  this used to be DH’s office]
  4. Use the copper test kit.  [Ed:  Our water was strikingly blue for a little while.  We turned the whole house filter back on.]
  5. Clean the junk on the floor in front of the printer. [I suspect he means his 3d printer which is on the floor of the guest bedroom]
  6. Get the car inspected and registered.
  7. Clean out my work desk drawer.
  8. Keep the wooden boxes currently in the garage, break them down, or get rid of them. [Ed: More work stuff]
  9. Cash bonds.  [Ed: Both of our families bought us small savings bonds that have stopped accruing interest back in the early 1980s when there was a sale]
  10. Glue “Baking with Julia”.  [Ed: Wonderful cookbook, terrible binding]
  11. Ant hill by corner.  [Ed: Red ants are evil]
  12. Fix gate.  [Ed: I’m not sure what gate he means since the one to our dogrun just sort of fell over and we removed it and it’s no longer a dog run… we now have a more open concept backyard.  Come to think of it, there’s a gate on the other side that we never use that is under a bunch of wisteria, so maybe that’s what he means.]
  13. Replace the lightbulb in the refrigerator.  [Ed: One of MANY lightbulbs that heard DH was going to have a bunch of free time and decided to die]
    1. Ordered replacement.


I have no questions.  But it is nice having a highly qualified personal assistant!

Holiday Donations!

So, a lot of people need your dollars this year.  The federal government isn’t doing its job.  One thing that you can do even if you don’t have money to donate is call your senators and tell them to stop letting Mitch McConnell take Covid relief hostage to allowing firms to put their workers in danger without fear of lawsuit.  Because that’s what is happening– Mitch McConnell won’t even allow a relief bill to go to the floor unless companies are legally allowed to be negligent.  And if that gets passed, there will be a race to the bottom because only negligent companies will be able to compete.  People need relief and they need workplace safety.   We cannot have a bill that forces negligence on companies.

So, with that in mind, if you have dollars, people need them.  I think the best place for those dollars this year is anything that provides children with basic necessities.  So– donate to a foodbank, either your local bank or a state spinoff of Feeding America, or Feeding America itself.  Kids need food most of all.  Money is the best gift because they can use it to buy in bulk, but your unexpired cans, dry goods, diapers, toiletries, etc. are also useful.

A lot of people are having more troubles with anxiety, family problems from too much proximity, and so on.  There are a number of different crisis hotlines you can donate to.  The suicide prevention hotline, the crisis text line, and for LGBTQ folks, the Trevor project.  For victims of abuse, there’s the domestic abuse hotline, but you may want to look up a women’s shelter near you to donate to, either cash or in-kind.

If there is a non-profit for refugees near you, check out their webpage.  I bought some things off an amazon list for the one in our nearest city.

As state and local budgets get cut, you may want to donate to libraries.  I donated to the state library that’s letting me get free e-books, though I do that every year.  They have a lot of programs for kids in the city in which they are located, which has been having spotty schooling, and I want them to be able to keep that up.

If you’re on twitter, a lot of folks have been spreading the word about smaller projects– when they look legit and the donation is in-kind (like, on their list are things that probably don’t have a ton of resale value but are things that people need), I will often buy something off the amazon list of one of these projects.  It’s not that I don’t believe people with gofundmes are deserving, it’s that I don’t know if the person running the gofundme is actually legitimate or a scammer.  So I bought some reasonably priced kitchenware off one of these lists.

Here are some charitable donations pages from previous years.

Grumpy Nation, what charities would you like to highlight? Post in the comments below!

Unemployment insurance or not?

Last time DH was unemployed, he couldn’t get unemployment insurance because he’d left his (professor) job, and the only way he could have lost the job would be to quit or be fired.

This time, DH is in a textbook layoff situation– first furloughed (but didn’t bother getting unemployment supplementation even though he could have) and now the company has gone entirely out of business.

Sadly, our state does not currently have the covid provision that you can get unemployment even if not looking for work.  If he wants unemployment insurance money, he needs to look for work.

If he gets unemployment insurance, he would qualify for somewhere around $500/week or $2000/month, which is not nothing.  Back when we had a mortgage, that would have been our mortgage.

The hang-up is about looking for work.  DH wants a break before going to the next job.  Last time he had a 3 month break (basically summer) and enjoyed it immensely.  But he was also younger then.  More attractive to companies, maybe?  (We don’t actually know that much about age discrimination in high level tech positions even though we very much WANT to know.  It seems like some of the problem is that when you’re older you are expected to have connections.  And DH does have connections– everyone who has ever worked with him LOVES him and he’s done pro-bono stuff for companies when I’ve had technical issues with their technology.)  And will there be a problem with an extended length of unemployment (again, we don’t really know much about higher level workers and the effects of unemployment duration– really big literature, but nothing specific for our case… the closest is the Farber et al. work which suggests it maybe won’t be a concern for DH).

He’s also not sure what he wants to do next.  Ideally he’d do some kind of consulting where he swoops in and fixes difficult technical problems for people and they feel grateful and he’s done something that matters.  But… that’s not how large consulting companies work (particularly not the consulting company that his labmate wants him to work at)– they tend to be called in for CYA reasons or management doesn’t understand technology reasons and do something superficial that isn’t actually helpful and doesn’t get used.  That’s totally demoralizing.  He does not at all want to be an adjunct or lecturer at the university even though he could get a job doing that easily (and be paid very little to do so!).

One of his former coworkers is now working for a company that they worked with in the past that sounds to me like it would be a good fit.  They’re larger than the previous company and actually get products out to market instead of being an SBIR-mill.  And they allow working from home.  And he likes the people.  But DH is holding back on asking about it.  There’s something about it he can’t articulate that makes him not currently interested.  It may just be that he wants a sabbatical and this could lock him in for work for another decade.  I don’t know [update:  DH says the project they worked on together didn’t go well for reasons involving a third company not holding up their end].  I keep saying that once his former coworker gets settled DH should find out if he likes working there and hit up that network.

He could also switch from medical the-thing-he-does to just the-thing-he-does which is used in many industries, not just medicine.  There are several older members from his grad program actively looking for new employees at their companies.  Or he could just do computer programming– he’s one of those types who can pick up any new language in a few days.  And he’s known at a company I’ve bought specialized equipment from since he worked with them to fix some of their bugs that were causing me problems.  His plan for the month was to work on gimp via github, which is an open source project that would allow him to do labor for free that he could put on his resume to get his computer science cred up.  Or he could lean back on his imaging and instrumentation experience, which he has kept his hand in.

Anything that isn’t work from home, we’d have to move for.  And I cannot move.  There are like 20 jobs for people at my level in econ this year, and I did not apply to any of them.  (Though I think I would have had a shot at a couple of the jobs in Boston, but I can’t move poor DC1 in the middle of hir high school career from high school in the south to high school in Massachusetts for so many reasons.  Even if it would be so much better for DC2.)  Moving makes more sense in a couple of years when DC1 is out of high school and DC2 hasn’t yet started.

Then there’s all the jobs listed on the state unemployment website.  DH is over-qualified for many of them, but they’re not really good fits at all.  It looks like he wouldn’t have to accept jobs from them if offered because they likely don’t pay enough, but I’m not sure that he wouldn’t still have to apply to some number in order to get unemployment benefits.  If getting a job is most likely through networking, how much active cold applying will he have to do?  He’s going to look into that more.

Is it better to be able to say, “I took time off from applying to jobs to work on these fun projects and to help deal with the covid schooling situation” or to put the minimum amount of intensity into finding a job in order to get unemployment benefits, risking getting one that isn’t a good fit?  Or should he tap those networks hard to see if he can get a job, even though covid means a lot of places won’t be hiring?  (And we just found out that his friend who got him this job 7 years ago and left a few years back took 8 months to find a new position, though he didn’t quit his old job first and was definitely looking for something remote and stable that pays well.  Sadly for DH, he landed at a start up that can’t afford another engineer!)

I know hiring cycles start in January, so maybe we should just wait until the new year to worry about it after DH has had a break.  It looks like he can put off applying for unemployment insurance about that long without triggering any red flags.  I’m not sure how long he can put off applying before it gets difficult to apply though.  The website only says, things like “we encourage you to apply the first week you’re unemployed.”

Have you ever applied for unemployment insurance?  Have you taken breaks between jobs?

Ask the Grumpies: What to do with a windfall/how much to keep in cash/etc.

anonymous in the midwest asks:

My husband and I are also sitting on too much cash, and I’m trying to get over my fear of putting it in the market now. We had $30K in a 3% CD at our local credit union, but that matured and now we’ve got $50K earning nothing in our savings account. We (especially my husband) want to get some kind of return, but we also want to spend a good chunk of it on a new minivan and/or a bigger house in the next 5 years or so. I’m also wary of complicating our tax situation – we’ve never had non-tax-sheltered investments before. We’re considering bonds, but I don’t know if that’s a good idea.

A minivan has a well-defined price, but a bigger house doesn’t, so I don’t really know how much we’ll want to spend on these big things (and we might decide not to do either one). I guess the questions I’d like to see answered are more along the lines of:
-how do you decide how much $$ to keep in cash?
-how do you (and readers) think about which investments to put in tax-sheltered versus taxable accounts? Do tax implications play a role in those decisions?

Jenny F. Scientist says:

My mother decided to give each of us (3 daughters) $100,000 so I, too, need to figure out what to do with too much cash!

First disclaimer:  We are not professional financial planners.  See an actual fee-only financial planner with fiduciary responsibility or do your own research before making any important financial decisions.

Second disclaimer:  I keep WAY too much money in cash.  Especially now that Trump is not going to be president soon and it becomes less and less likely we will need to flee the country or worry about having some of our assets being seized illegally.

Here’s some earlier posts:

What to do with a windfall (we put it in the mortgage)

Do I see a financial planner about a 300K inheritance?  This one has some commentary on college savings.

What we did with an extra 40K.

What does a 20 year old do with 600k?

How much should we have in cash?

How your cash emergency fund can change as your net worth grows.

How to account for large purchases in your budget/cash flow.

How we approach diversification

A post on what to put in taxable vs. not taxable accounts

You already know the heuristic to not put any money into the stock market that you will need in the next five years.  I’m not Suze Orman (and don’t have all your financial details) so I can’t tell you how much to spend on a mini-van or house vs. not.

In terms of how much to keep in cash:  Every year when the new academic year starts for me, I take a spreadsheet that has an estimate of how much we spent the previous year, then tinker with known changed costs (ex. childcare going away, health insurance prices going up, etc.), to get an idea of about how much we spend each month.  Then, since my summers are unpaid, I make sure I have 3 months of summer spending (this will probably not be the case for you), then add a month in case of emergency, and call that the minimum amount we’re allowed to have in savings by May.  Now, I can’t be fired without several years of warning, so I don’t need more than 3 months in savings.  If I could be fired, I would probably want at least 6 months of money in cash, just because people tend to lose jobs about the same time the stock market is tanking and I’d want to not feel terrible selling stocks when I was already stressed out about money and work.  Back when we had less income, we necessarily only had about 1 month in cash, and we just knew we’d have to get loans if there was an emergency that couldn’t cover things.

So, to sum:  Have 3-6 months of spending in your account in case of job-loss (less if you are just starting on saving and need to start saving for retirement– the principal in an IRA Roth can be used as an emergency fund).  Have up to a year if a year of spending is only a small part of your net worth or you work in an especially volatile industry.  Add more if you have any expected large expenses coming up like replacing your heating/a/c unit or buying a new car and so on.  Or if you’re saving for a downpayment for a new house.  Remember that money is fungible, so if you have 3-6 months of spending and your hvac goes out unexpectedly, you can replace the hvac and then rebuild the emergency fund.

Disclaimer redux:  I have a little over a year of $ in cash right now, spread out over 3 different banks.  This is ridiculous and I was going to move some to taxable stocks, but then DH found out about his job going away and isn’t sure he wants to even get unemployment (since he’s not sure he wants to job search), so I just kept it in cash, figuring maybe we’ll want to spend it.  I do plan to put some of it in IRAs in January, and it will get chipped away into DC2’s 529 plan every month unless our financial picture changes.

In terms of what investments to put where:  We only recently hit the point where we ran out of tax sheltered places to put new money (we had some money in taxable stocks back when we didn’t have work retirement accounts and the IRA limits were much smaller).  So… max out your work retirement accounts.  Do Backdoor Roths every year that you can if your income is too high for a regular IRA.  If you work at a company with a mega backdoor Roth 401k, look into putting money there.  If you have kids, consider 529 plans.  We talk in much more detail about what kinds of money to put in what kinds of accounts given tax implications in this post.  Remember, perfect is the enemy of the good– it is better to have a money allocation that is non-optimal than it is to do nothing (unless, of course, you decide you want to keep the 30K in cash!).

Re:  what to do with a huge windfall?

    1. Pay off high interest rate debt (if any)
    2. Create an emergency fund
    3. Max out all retirement savings
    4. Pay off lower interest rate debt (though you may want to wait a couple years on any student loans– there is a non-zero chance some portion of them will be forgiven in the next year, but who knows)
    5. Put money in 529 plans (if applicable)
    6. Max out an emergency fund
    7. Taxable savings and/or fun!

Grumpy readers, what did I miss?  How would you answer these questions?

Christmas Gifts this year

So…. this year DH’s family departed deeply from tradition and decided to draw lots for Christmas.  We pulled DH’s sister, hir oldest girl, and both preemie twins.  All Amazon links are affiliate links.

DH’s sister‘s Amazon wishlist usually, in the past, pre-preemies, has had things for hir work as a teacher which I love buying because it feels like we’re donating to the school, and random trinkets for herself (like jewelry or cosmetics).  DH, from what I can tell, randomly picks stuff off her list until he gets to $50.  This year is very different.  Hir list has more necessities and fewer luxuries.  Clothing, bathroom supplies, kitchen supplies, and so on, with notes about how they need to replace things that have been lost or are worn out.  So… with the twins and maternity leave (such as it is) we suspect they’re short on cash whereas they’d been doing well before. [Update:  The actual drain on their budget is that they’ve put both older kids in face-to-face schooling at a private school since the public schools are all remote except for special education.]  I have made an executive decision to pick the silverware option and we will be getting her silverware from liberty flatware, probably the Annapolis pattern (Update:  NOT this one– in person it looks like somewhat higher quality versions of cafeteria spoons), unless they end up being too big (we’ve ordered a sample).  (Looking through I really really want the American Garden pattern for ourselves, but we already have a full set of the Martha Washington which is also nicer quality.  There’s just something about flowers on kitchen stuff that is very nostalgic for me.  But the Martha Washington pattern is also nostalgic!  And we don’t need a second set of flatware.  Nor do we need their adorable Christmas flatware.)  Update:  DH ended up getting a full set in the flame pattern.  They are a bit bigger than what we have, but DH’s sister’s family is also much bigger (not just in numbers!) than I am so they can handle European-sized silverware.

There are about a bazillion baby sitter skipper and other baby related items on the list for niece (at $20/each too!), and a bunch of make-up kits (she’s in kindergarten)… we got *one* of the barbie sets (we chose veterinarian) and then got most of the books, which are from the If you give a Mouse a Cookie series and the Llama Llama series, both of which are great sets of kids books.  I’m disappointed we don’t have the oldest kid, because he’s the same age as our youngest and there’s a lot of really good fun science/engineering/etc. stuff on his wishlist.  DH’s family is still unconsciously into gender roles.  I did sneak in The Most Magnificent Thing.

We asked about the twins and were told that they “don’t need anything” which we think is code for “we have enough clothes/toys etc, please give us gift cards.”  At least that’s how we’re going to take it.  So we got a couple of cute Target giftcards with little Christmas puppies on them.

Then we had to decide whether or not to give gifts to DH’s parents despite the names drawing that they breached.  Cabela’s was having an interesting gift card sale where you got the card at a discount so long as it only got used after Christmas.  So we got FIL one of those.  For MIL, DH and the kids are making a Christmas themed shadow box kit that incorporates all 8 grandkids.  DH is hoping for packages with names or tiny tree ornaments, but I think two rows of 4 named stockings would be cute.  We’re going to let the kids choose based on their paperworking skills.  We’re also sending a copy of an instapot cookbook that MIL had on her amazon wishlist but then went out of stock before she could get a copy– we happened to buy a copy after we finished the wonderful Indian food instapot book we had and when we got it were like, we will never use this because we already make these new American things without the instapot, so… it’s kind of like regifting?  (We got ourselves a different Urvashi Pitre instapot book instead— she is THE BEST.)

DH got his relative a bunch of different kinds of pens for people with arthritis because he’s been complaining about how hard it is to write when things get bad.  We didn’t send them earlier because he switched doctors and got on a medication that was helping, but this seemed like a good time.

My mom is getting a Barnes and Noble books gift card.

My sister has asked for a big cast iron skillet.  So she will get that, and some flaxseed oil because it is miraculous at seasoning a pan.  If you have an iron skillet and have to keep re-seasoning it, get some organic flaxseed oil and use this method.

For our own kids… their amazon wishlists are full of books they’ve read from the library that they want their own copies of.  It’s hard to know what to get for DC1 who will be turning 14 right after Christmas.  Last year the theramin kit (and arduino) and lockpick sets went over really well and got a lot of use during the Spring and summer along with a subscription to an adobe video editing software.  But school has started for real again and zie has no time for hobbies that aren’t directly related to school work.  We’d been kicking around the idea of a unicycle for a while and finally got one.  Maybe zie needs a fancy computer chair?  But we asked and zie said no.  We’ll have to come up with something for hir birthday, even if it’s just a giftcard to one of the magic websites [update:  we have settled on cold hard cash].  DC1 has a number of smaller things on hir amazon wishlist, like villainous expansions, and US classic historical novels, but we already get enough complaints from people about there not being enough on there that I figure we’ll have to wait until people have finished their shopping (though it’s hard because my family often puts off shopping past the last minute).

In addition to books, DC2 wants various balls.  We’ve already got a basketball and a four square ball (which when I was growing up we just called a “school ball”… or a “kick ball”– you know, one of those big rubber balls that don’t hurt too much when used inappropriately at recess).  But DC2 wants a volleyball and a soccer ball and so on.  Zie will also be getting more sketch pads.  For hir “big” present, zie has asked for a scooter.

For stocking stuffers, DC2 wants a fidget spinner that spins, and DC1 needs something with a hinge that zie can break without upsetting other people in the family (see, for example, the ipad holder that used to have a little protective thing over the plug area until DC1 worried it off).  I went with a smaller number (1 each) of expensive items that aren’t full of “this came broken/leaves sparkly bits on my fingers/etc.” reviews rather than a larger number of cheaper fidget toys with such reviews.  Hopefully we will get the right items…

Have you been getting interesting things for friends and family?

Ask the Grumpies: Dollar Cost Averaging

First Gen American asks:

I’ve been sitting on too much cash for almost a year now. (I had 2 pension payouts among other things and it’s still not invested). Market has scared me and being very close to my magic retirement number I am much more gun shy now and I know it’s something I need to address….or do I? I think dollar cost averaging is the answer as that is why I didn’t invest when everything was 18000 because I don’t think at the time It was the bottom. It dropped more in 2008…but everyone says finding the bottom or top of the market is near impossible.

We are not professional financial advisors.  Please do your own research or listen to a fee-only financial planner with fiduciary responsibility (Not Edward Jones!) before making any important investing decisions.  #Disclaimer #pleasedontsueus

Walter Updegrave, who is one of my favorite professional popular personal finance peeps says that you should just invest the lump sum all at once in the asset allocation that you want.

This is retirement money.  Even if you start drawing on your retirement money in 10 years, you’re not going to be drawing down all of it for decades yet.  That means that the long term is what’s important, not the short term.  And by delaying, you are missing out on market ups, not just the market downs.  It is extremely unlikely that you will accidentally put money in at a 10 year peak.  Most likely, even if you put it in during a peak,

Remember, without a working crystal ball, you cannot optimize the market.  You can only get a good expected value.  You can only mitigate risk.  By the time you need this money, the market will have gone up, and it will have gone up more than leaving it in your 0.5% savings account.  On average, according to Updegrave, you’re better off putting the money into the market/bonds in a lump sum than you are dollar cost averaging.  In simulations, dollar cost averaging wasn’t even close to lump sum, assuming that your lump sum took into account your stock/bond mix.  The trick is that you diversify with market allocation, not just market timing.  That is, when stocks are doing well, bonds aren’t as attractive and when stocks aren’t doing well, bonds are more attractive.  Market allocation is something you can specify, but you cannot time the market itself.

So, bottom line, decide on your overall stock/bond allocation and use these lump sums to get your money into those percentages.  That’ll help you rebalance too!  Which is another thing that you can control better than you can control market timing.  You may also be able to save some on fees with a lump sum depending on how your brokerage works (if it’s a flat fee vs. %).

The one exception is if you are putting off doing lump sum investing because you’re trying to time the market.  If you just keep putting it off, then for goodness sakes, some of that money in the market is better than none, so dollar cost average it.  Basically, if you have a lump sum:  lump sum > dollar cost averaging > putting off putting a lump sum in.  If dollar cost averaging helps you actually take the plunge, then set it up!  Otherwise, just put that lump in today!

We had to get a new router (and better internet)

Our house or something near our house got hit by lightening, which killed the wired connection to both of our computers somehow (it also blew a ton of fuses and somehow managed to break two of the lighbulbs above the stove, but nowhere else).  The wireless was still fine, but half the router was fried.  (Thankfully DH is super risk averse and has a very fancy surge protector on our desktops.)

On top of that, having 4 people needing to video conference at the same time was putting us dangerously close to our data limit and would occasionally cause DC1 to drop internet during things like exams (this was especially problematic after the lightening strike).

So we upped our internet plan to get unlimited data for an additional $10/month, which also doubled our speed.

After some searching, DH decided on this router, and this modem, though he got them from best buy instead of amazon (all amazon links are affiliate links).

It is great.  We haven’t had any data dropping problems since.  It does a much better job of covering DC1’s station in the breakfast nook and DC2’s station in the dining room.  Wireless is still about the same speed as before, but my and DH’s wired speed has doubled to just under 200 Mbps dl.  And we can walk around the house without losing and then picking up wireless again, which is a nice bonus.  DH says that’s because it switches between 5g and regular wireless automatically.

I had also tried to get a new webcam since DC1 needed DH’s for school and DC2 has commandeered my laptop.  Since March I’d basically been using my iPad Pro as a camera which meant I had to have two zoom windows open (not a problem for office hours when I need to switch between whiteboard and desktop so need both windows anyway, but a problem for some meetings).  But when we tried, they were all out of stock everywhere.  Just recently, DH’s relative’s kid, the only one in community college, needed a web-cam for remote school exams and looking for one made us realize that they were back in stock.  We got her a cheap $40 one and we got me a super fancy C922x Pro Stream by logitech.  (I think we would have made this same choice had we known DH’s company was going under at the time.)

If you want more information, here is DH back in September:

The recent storm damaged our current modem + router, the Arris SURFboard SBG6782-AC, such that the ethernet sockets no longer work, though the wifi does. This has 8 download channels and 4 upload channels (8×4).

I am going to buy a new modem and router, because I am worried that this one will eventually fail.

Our ISP says that any DOCSIS 3.0 compatible modem will work. That apparently includes DOCSIS 3.1 modems that are also compatible with 3.0, according to Amazon reviews of various modems.

I think I want to get a separate modem and router, instead of an all-in-one, because I want a better router that will reach across the house.

Puma chips are bad. https://www.classactionlawyers.com/puma6/

Meanwhile, Broadcom chips may be susceptible to the Cable Haunt exploit. https://cablehaunt.com/
The Netgear CM1000 is listed as vulnerable, as is the Arris Surfboard SB8200. But not the Motorola MB8600.

The Motorola MB8600 is Wirecutter’s “upgrade” pick, a 32×8 DOCSIS 3.1/3.0 modem. https://www.nytimes.com/wirecutter/reviews/best-cable-modem/

On the router side, wifi 6 (i.e., 802.11ax) has been released relatively recently, and though we do not have any devices that would take advantage of it, I would like to get it if possible. Tri-band is more important though.
I looked into mesh router systems, but they are expensive and they all seem to get seriously negative reviews. Our house isn’t that big (~2800 sq feet unheated area [Editor:  (!)]), so a single good router should be sufficient. Review sites recommend making sure the router has a good processor and RAM.

Based on the Wirecutter recommendation, and the price point of ~$200, I got the TP-Link Archer A20 (AC4000), which is a wifi 5 tri-band.

And here’s DH after purchasing:

I’ve really been enjoying the higher speeds, the higher reliability (and lower congestion due to the router’s two 5GHz channels, aka tri-band), the ability to get a good signal all the way at the other end of the house, and the router’s “smart connect” that automatically switches between the three bands.

The modem and router are somewhat overkill, because they could handle a 1Gbps speed, while our plan tops out at 400Mbps, but they work so well that I’m glad we went with these.
And they run a bit warm to the touch, but not hot like some modem+router combos we have used before.

Has your place ever been hit by lightening?  How do you handle internet problems?  What’s your internet situation?

Ask the readers: The Christmas lottery has already been breached

Dearest readers,

Long term readers may remember how SIL, upon being diagnosed with twins (children #3 and #4) this summer, suggested that instead of everybody giving gifts to everybody as that is DH’s family’s love language, that instead we draw names from a bag and only give to the person whose name we had drawn.

It is not yet Thanksgiving and we have all four of us already received Christmas gifts from MIL.  (Also from SIL, but only for DC2, whose name she drew.  The kids’ gifts are sitting in boxes in my closet waiting for after Thanksgiving to be put in gift bags.  Except Children of Virtue and Vengeance because DC1 has it on hold from the library and there’s a long line after hir so…)  I *think* it’s less money than she usually spends (~$30/person instead of $80-$100+… not that I keep track), but also… it’s not yet Thanksgiving.  We often think she’s done with holiday purchases and end up being wrong.  This may just be the “off our wishlists” portion.  Or it may be all.  (Except DC1 will probably get something for hir birthday.)

DH also just bought a (bread baking) book for his brother’s wife but was like, this is not a Christmas gift, do not retaliate (brother was all, no worries, this is not a big deal, but I’m sure his wife is happy to have expectations made explicit), and also wants to buy his brother a cheap video game that they can play together with the other relative they’re friends with.

And should we renew the Braille subscription for DH’s brother’s blind daughter?

Should we also ignore the name drawing thing and send gifts back to MIL and FIL?  Just have the kids send (homemade crafty) gifts to MIL?  Send something smaller than usual? Stick rigidly to the name drawing thing?  Not worry about it because the in-laws have savings and nice pensions and I still make a lot of money so whatever we do is fine?

What would you do?  Any stories of what happens when these kinds of rules break down?


  • One of DH’s relative’s kids has gotten married and is moving out (this is the one in year 3 at the local community college).  What’s really weird is that renting a house is $650/month, but there are houses for purchase for $20K!  And although they all need major work, none of them are former meth labs (last time I checked for one near DH’s parents house before DH’s sister had twins and I was thinking about future Christmas visits, there was a former meth lab listed super cheap).  I joked that we should buy one (not a meth lab) and rent it out, but then I remembered that rent is probably so high because it’s really risky renting out to people in that town– if they were good with money they’d buy a place.  Nice houses that don’t need work are more in the 100-200K range, which is still pretty cheap.
  • Another of DH’s relative’s kids was going to have a Halloween party, but then one of his friends got Covid and all the rest ended up in quarantine for two weeks.  So… lucky miss there.  Also DH’s tiny home town is in bad shape with covid, if it isn’t obvious.
  • DH’s sister’s tiny town is also having a bad covid outbreak.  It’s like they have no cases and then *bam* they’re in the redzone because it gets to a couple of nursing homes.  I guess this is why it’s important to be careful even if it seems like it is silly.  You never know when it’s going to hit your town unless there are good systems of contact tracing etc.
  • Boy, savings rates (APY) sure have plummeted since March.  My online is only getting 0.5%, which I guess is better than nothing but maybe it’s time to move some cash into the market.  Though every time I think something like that, the market crashes so… maybe I should just spend it.  :)  [Narrator:  She did not just spend it.  And the market crashed, but that’s ok because it is still sitting in savings.]
  • The second hero in Boyfriend Material eats this thing called Bircher for breakfast.  Since I made DH read the book, he noticed it and decided that we should try it.  It’s basically muesli soaked overnight in almond milk, both things we had (the grocery store we’ve been doing curbside at has these promotions where if you buy one thing you get something else free, so we ended up with a thing of almond milk, and I really like having cereal with no added sugar so we tend to have muesli if it is available, which it has been).  He also put in a grated apple.  Turns out Bircher is really good AND I don’t get hungry or even want to snack until like 1pm.  There are recipes, but it’s basically just a recipe to make your own muesli and then soak it overnight with almond milk and fruit.
  • Thoroughly Modern Millie the movie is … racist.  But I tried watching the broadway version and Jimmy is such a jerk!!!  The meet cute in the movie (Tapioca!  Everybody!) is SO much better than the meet cute in the musical.  Like, if I were 20 years younger and not in love with DH, I would totally want to date movie Jimmy.  I still like the sound tracks of both though.  (Also this elevator scene! So fun!)
  • The grocery store we’ve been doing curbside with had a special on cheap frozen pizzas (Tombstone and DiGiorno), so I got some.  They tasted like nostalgia to me.  But DC1 was a bit repulsed and said they tasted like school pizza on the non-Pizza Hut days.  Sometimes I wonder if we’ve created monsters with our kids, DC1 in particular.  (DC2 tends to be more open and interested in trying new foods.)  On the one hand, DC1 dislikes a lot of truly unhealthy food.  On the other hand, living on just sushi alone can get expensive!  Though DH said he never got frozen pizza growing up, they only had pizza from the local place.
  • Speaking of pizza– if you want a super easy elegant savory dessert, take pizza dough, then cover it with walnuts and blue cheese and bake.  You can also add lemon or lime zest and a little olive oil on top before baking for an additional elegance.  (Idea courtesy of Williams Sonoma.)

DH’s company is ending a month early and I decide to stop putting off going up for full

DH’s job was supposed to end in December, but they lost a small contract (recession-related), so it is ending at the end of November (they are still paying for health insurance for another month).

DH has been baking a lot of bread.  But for the most part he seems fine.  I keep reminding him that he could actually just never work again and we will still be ok.  But I assume he’ll probably want to, knowing him.  And I can’t lie– I really really liked being high income and just not having to think about money AT ALL.

Having looked over our finances, I want more wiggle room.  I want to not have to draw down savings at all until DC1 is in college, even though we could go through quite a bit of savings and still be fine long-term.  I also want to do that without having to worry about cutting expenditures.

So what that means is that I need to make more money.

There will be no raises in the foreseeable future.  Except the 10% raise people get with promotion.  I sure could use another 10% raise.

I have been putting off going up for full for YEARS at this point.  Mainly I wanted an equity bump first (that finally came last year) because I figured it would be harder to get at full since there’s so much more variation in full professor salaries than associate professor (some people do just stop researching and are fine with that).  And then second mainly is that there are a LOT of committees that I am wanted on and a lot of committee leadership positions I will be tapped for once I’m a full professor.  I’m fresh meat and I actually get things done.  Specifically I’ve been avoiding heading the P/T committee because I wanted to wait until we were done with a likable junior faculty member who wasn’t doing great’s case.  But Covid has put that off another year.  I can’t wait hir out forever.  PLUS zie is doing a LOT better– after the dismal third year review, zie actually started getting new work done instead of shipping the same dissertation papers, and everything has been hitting, so it’s a less depressing (but potentially more contentious) case.  And at this point I’ve been put on so many committees that don’t require being full professor that it might be nice to swap out some of those.

I’m hoping not to head the curriculum committee because that involves a lot of herding cats.  The curriculum committee head very much wants me to take over.  One of the things I absolutely hate is trying to get other faculty members to answer emails for service reasons.  If I have to do something, I’d rather head P/T, mainly because I have been on SO MANY of these that I think I know how to write the letters at this point and I like the mentoring aspects.  I don’t think I would do as good a job as the current head who is a brilliant writer for these kinds of reports, but his three year term will soon be up again so someone would replace him anyway.

Another reason I delayed was because I had a little gap in my publications… not technically a gap, but I did a bunch of invited things that got easy pubs at second tier journals (literally 5 in one year, though it’s more spread out on my cv), and some other servicey stuff for a grant in higher education journals, and then a bunch of grant proposals and new work of opportunity including lengthy data collection, which meant … basically I hadn’t had a top field pub in like 3 years, which is embarrassing.  [And WAY too much service for the department, but that’s another post.] But I have a solid pub forthcoming (even though it should have published better than it did, but what can you do), I have 3 little papers under review, and I have one paper that just needs about a month more work and it should place in a top field journal (I may send it higher first)… and some other papers.  Basically what I’m saying is my pipeline was unbalanced but I’ve gotten through the clog, so I wouldn’t be embarrassed to have people look at my body of work and write letters at this point.  And my google scholar page looks impressive– all my highest cited works are single-authored.

Anyhow… money is not the stupidest reason to go up for full.  And presumably with DH at home I will not have to worry about what is for dinner or if the laundry needs to be done at all.

I should also work on some more grants, I guess.  If it weren’t for money, I would wait until I was done with my current backlog.  But I have two big grants coming to a close this year and only one small grant starting up.  So…

I guess DH being unemployed is theoretically good for my career?