I really do have an addictive personality: 1 week of coffee = 3 days of pain

I’ve talked about my addictive personality before in terms of why I don’t play video games and how it’s difficult for me to get off fora (until I’m kicked off or quit cold turkey).

I almost never drink coffee.  Usually this is because when I get a migraine, coffee + aspirin + sleep is the only way to make it go away, so I want to keep my tolerance low.  But occasionally after a bad night I’ll partake in some decaf or when things are really bad, a full cup of regular.  I almost never do this more than 2 days in a row.  And never after 11am if I want to get any sleep at night.

Recently I had some bad deadline times.  So I drank coffee for a full 7 days, starting with a cup of decaf and ending with 2 cups of regular by the time the week was over.  I started craving it and could feel it making my life better.

Then I turned in the thing and crashed hard.  The next day I had a major headache and had a cup of decaf to try to wean down.  It helped a little but not enough.  When the weekend came, I stopped drinking coffee and ended up in bed with a pounding headache.  I kept wanting coffee so badly.  A little sip of DH’s salted caramel mocha made angels sing in my head, but wasn’t enough to truly make things right.

I still want coffee.

Most people can drink caffeine for 7 days straight (some of them decaf or only half a cup!) and then go cold-turkey with maybe only a little bit of tiredness as an effect.  I can’t.

Most people take longer to become truly addicted to something.  Apparently not me.

I had Valium once prior to a surgery.  If it were available OTC, I would eventually never leave my bed.  I still want Valium.

So, this is why I don’t do drugs.  Because it doesn’t take me long to crave them and to crash when I don’t get them.  And it’s scary not being in control of my body.  Also, I don’t like withdrawal symptoms.

Do you have problems with addiction?  Do you ever wean yourself off caffeine?  How does that go?

Paradise puts me in charity with the world

We’re both living in our own paradises this year.  #1 has to go back in not so long from now.  #2 has no end date in sight.

But we’ve both noted that paradise seems to make us happier and more mellow.

Part of that I am sure is the weather.   It’s hard to be sad when the sun is shining and your toes are neither too hot nor too cold.  And #2’s Bad Place really did seem to be trying to kill her.  Like literally, with allergies and pneumonia and stuff.

And the food is always good.  And the libraries are awesome so there’s always something to read.  And there are lots of cool people around to socialize with if we want to socialize.  And nobody is talking about how awesome Donald Trump is.  It’s really easy to think that all is right with the world.

It’s not that bad stuff doesn’t happen.  Papers and grants still get rejected.  But that somehow doesn’t seem like such a big deal.*

#1 wishes there were a job for her in paradise.  But it isn’t like I was unhappy where we normally live.  It’s just so much easier to be happy here.  It’s like that nothing really matters feeling you get with middle age coming even faster.  It’s easier to focus on the important stuff– comes automatically instead of with effort.  I think we would live longer if we lived out here.

Does where you live affect how you view the world?  Are you happier living in different places?

*Personal tragedies are still just as tragic as they were when we were living elsewhere.  But the stuff that can be not sweated, well, why sweat?

How to avoid pointless parenting anxiety

Here we’re talking about whatever the current guilt-inducing fads are.  I would give examples of what they currently are, but the truth is, I don’t know!  But like 5 years ago they were things like:  not bringing store-bought baked goods places, using the right kind of sunscreen, avoiding BPA, etc.  I think there were a lot more, but that’s what I remember.  (Disclaimer, we still use the old-fashioned neurotic fad approved sunblock, because DC2 is allergic to conventional kinds.)

There are many other paths, but here’s one.   Most of this stuff is really easy to avoid if you don’t live in NYC or the ritzy suburbs of Los Angeles (or similar enclaves).  But if you do live in those places, you can still do the following:

  1. Don’t read anything about parenting (mothering) on NYTimes ever
  2. Stay away from parenting (mommy) forums
  3. If you read parenting books pick them carefully (read: evidence based) and remember that one size doesn’t fit all
  4. Send your kids to a (high quality, obvs) daycare that caters to working parents.
  5. Avoid anxiety-inducing blogs
  6. Avoid anxiety-inducing playgroups

And there ya go.  No more worrying about pointless parenting stuff.

Do you get swept up into ridiculous parenting anxieties?  The kinds that come with, “worried about other people judging me” attached?  If so, where do they come from?  If not, how do you avoid them?

Can toilet paper spark joy?

Pretty much everyone has heard of the Konmari book about minimalism and cleaning and only keeping things that “spark joy.”

Detractors often say that some utilitarian things are just not going to ever spark joy.  Now, we believe in small well-made tools to the extent that we’ve recommended people give tweezers and pencil sharpeners for Christmas.  These little luxuries really do spark joy for me whenever I have to sharpen a pencil or tweeze an errant hair or open a jar or what have you.

What, of course, makes them spark joy, is the memories of using pencil sharpeners that don’t sharpen right, or tweezers that take a lot of effort.  Or jar openers that take too much hand strength.  And on and on and on.

Often people will say, “Toilet paper will never spark joy.”  And I submit that those people did not grow up with crappy toilet paper.  One of my guilty pleasures in life is buying really nice quality toilet paper.  Toilet paper that doesn’t melt upon contact with water.  That doesn’t scratch.  That doesn’t take handfuls and handfuls per use.  (It’s a guilty pleasure because I know it’s not the best choice for the environment, but I buy it still!)

So… how to make sure even your mundane objects spark joy?

  1. Use crappy cheap versions of the object
  2. Find the best version of the object
  3. Use that instead
  4. (dispense with the crappy versions if you’re Konmari-ing)

Joy sparked!

Of course, if you haven’t suffered, you’ll never know the joy.  I suppose that if you do get rid of everything that doesn’t spark joy then you’ll have a lot of unsharpened pencils until you get a new sharpener, at which point, its eliminated absence will cause new joy to be sparked.  So…

Ah, the cirrrrrcle of hedonic adaptation.

Do mundane objects spark joy for you?  Which ones?

Life with a smartphone

So I’ve had the smart phone for a little over two months at this point.   Has it changed my life for the better?  Um, yes.  Has it taken over my life?  Well, not yet, but it probably will eventually.

Our first two bills have been less than our dumbphone sprint bills.  The most recent was just under $50.

I still need to get google maps because the map program that came pre-installed both sucks and doesn’t seem to work on my phone.  DH has googlemaps on his and it’s a dream.  Maybe I should do that now.  I always think of it when I’m lost in a city and am having to use the cell for data (which is why our bill was higher this past month), which is not a good time to download it.

I’m *mostly* good about just using the wireless for data stuff, though when I’m traveling I’m not as good, and worse than that I have forgotten to turn the cell data off twice so it eats money in the background.

It is wonderful having yelp on hand, even if I don’t like the smartphone yelp app.  It’s still more wonderful than nothing.  (We knew this was going to happen– so many times I had wanted yelp when out and about and did not have it!)

I’ve used it to take a few pictures.  I now understand why my students are always using theirs to take pictures of the board or their homework or whatever.  Sometimes it is easier to just take a picture than to try to explain something.  My sister sent me a bunch of pictures she took with the kids, which was pretty awesome.

One thing I didn’t anticipate– I LOVE facetime.  I had always thought of video chat like Skype… which is just not fun to use.  Facetime is so much better.  So clean and fast, even when we’re both using wireless.  It’s like DH is in the room with me except I can’t touch him (which sucks).  And we’ve been using it for family rather than for work stuff– I still prefer just the phone for work stuff.  I don’t like having to worry about how I look or moderating my facial expressions and so on if I don’t have to (wearing pants is a big part of this).  The kids love facetiming with my sister and with DH or me when one of us is traveling for work.  And it’s so much easier to understand what they’re saying than when they’re using the phone as a phone.

DH has used his for a lot more stuff.  I’m trying to keep it slow because I easily get addicted to things.  But I do see there’s a lot of potential for life improvements.  (DH has also started using Uber for the airport, which my bleeding socialist heart isn’t crazy about, at least until Uber has more safety/worker regulations attached to it, but I do also really appreciate not having to get the kids bundled into the car late at night or in the wee hours of the morning.)

Google hangout is also pretty awesome since that’s how I keep contact with my RAs while I’m out of state.  Now I don’t have to be chained to the computer if they have a question.  (Also:  when chatting with DH, I only need to make 3 clicks to say “I love you”– it just knows!)

I do think, though, that I’m getting a bit more ADHD about checking the internet now that I have the phone and *can* check it.  Like Scalzi, I’ve been feeling pretty distracted recently and wonder if I should, like him, make some sort of productivity goal before I’m allowed to check the internet.  I don’t know.

One nice thing about paradise is that our internet cable company has this deal that if you use their internet, then when you’re out and about you can steal other people’s internet if they have the same company.  It doesn’t work when a lot of people are trying to steal the same internet, but it has been really nice when we’re out and about when there aren’t too many other people around, especially in residential neighborhoods.  When we get back home, we’re no longer going to have that option so either we’ll stop using the phones so much when we’re away from home (which might be good for say, conversation etc.) or we’ll have higher Ting bills from data usage (and me then forgetting to turn off cell).

So, do I recommend it*?  Well, if you can afford the hardware, having a smart phone is pretty awesome.  Given the hardware purchase, our break even point is a long time from now.  I do kind of wish we’d bought one earlier, but sunk cost, yo.  Ting is working out pretty well for us (though it does not process the friends discount unless you badger them about it, which I find to be kind of obnoxious).  I’m not sure it will work as well when we don’t have as much access to free wireless when we’re out.

Do you have any technological improvements you’ve been enjoying?  How has owning a smart phone changed your life, if at all?  Is there anyone left without a smart phone?

*not that anybody in the world is still sans smartphone (other than #2).

Ask the grumpies: Questions about living in paradise

Mid A asks:

[W]ould [you] want to live in paradise permanently, now that you have experienced it as a family? What income would you ideally generate to live a comfortable life (fancy cheese, travel to relatives, satisficing for keyboards, etc.)? Is the school environment more competitive and if so, what is your take on it?

Would we want to live here permanently?  Well… if I could move my job here, sure.  But I can’t.  Or if we were idle rich and not Mr. Money Moustache definitions of rich– like actually rich and could afford to buy a reasonably nice (for paradise) house someplace reasonably nice with cash and pay taxes and so on.  We knew we liked it here before living here as a family, though there are other paradises that we like more for some things and less for others.  So, given that I can’t move my entire department here, we’re going to stay in our small town.  If DH loses his telecommuting job, we will reconsider.  But up until that point, we’re staying put.  I honestly don’t know what I would do out here.  There are some SLACs, but they’re small, so there’s no guarantee they’d even have openings in my field.  Prestigious schools might have soft money openings.  Non-prestigious schools sound like high teaching loads and low salaries.  There’s not a ton of government or industry in my field of interest around here.  So who knows.

5 years ago when rents weren’t so high (3k/mo instead of 5k/mo — we’re currently paying 4k/mo because we got a deal on this place), I sat down and made that calculation including the increased tax burden and came up with 120k/year as a renter. That includes high quality full-time daycare for one kid for a year but only one car. And it is possible to get deals on housing if you keep your eye out for lazy landlords, so there are still places if you move quickly and are attractive to lazy landlords where you can get even 2K/mo for a 1200 sq ft 2-bedroom, but you have to be fast and seem like you’re going to stay for a long time.  We also have friends who bought at a good point and are paying less than 3K/mo on their mortgage.  In addition to rent increases, inflation has also happened since then.  So the answer would be something more than 120K/year if we’re renting and aren’t going to make a whole lot of sacrifices.  I don’t know what the answer would be exactly, though I will probably do that calculation at some point after we’re done, maybe without dealing with the additional tax burden though because that’s a pain to figure out if you don’t have to.

The school environment we’re in isn’t very competitive.  However, there are a lot of communities around here that have different levels of competition and different types of competition.  We were limited in where we ended up by DC1 wanting to stay grade-skipped (which knocked out one reputationally very competitive district and several not at all competitive districts), our inability to afford an extremely expensive place, and most landlords at the top of our price range not wanting us as tenants (cats, kids, the one year thing).  On top of that, within our district, many of the competitive parents send their kids to a lottery school that you can only get into by lotterying in the spring before kindergarten.  So my answer to that:  if you’re worried about too much competition, there’s a lot of heterogeneity across districts and within districts.  The same is true of preschools.  Here and in other paradises.  (And if you *want* the competition you may have difficulty being allowed to compete since the most competitive places tend to require waitlists or lotteries.)

Have any of you done the “What income would I need to live comfortably in paradise” calculation (for your paradise)?  Are you living in your paradise, why or why not? 

Solving problems structurally: For scatterbrained people with no willpower

I have no willpower, and this lack of willpower just gets worse when I’m sleep deprived or hungry.  (Don’t tell my mom, but the only reason I didn’t get pregnant in high school is because DH was seriously responsible.)

I am naturally disorganized (with the exception of being vaguely OCD about alphabetizing spices and bookshelves). If I were living alone, my stuff would be organized by having the newest stuff on top and the oldest stuff in the layer closest to the carpet.

My ability to remember all the things I need to do or need to carry or need to have is pretty weak.  I have failed to bring my laptop cable to work two days in a row at this point and am out of battery juice tomorrow unless I go over and put that cord in my bag right now.  Despite my best efforts, I still occasionally have to buy lunch because I left my made lunch on the counter.

I am, however, pretty good at putting together a system of kludges that allows me to function and even succeed– aligning my current actions with my long-term goals.  Reading the Willpower book I was astonished with how much of, “I do that” I actually do.  If there’s a tip or trick for not allowing myself to descend into my basest wants (which are many), I use it.

It’s pointless and way too much effort trying to fix myself.  However, I can change circumstances so that I can still get ahead.  I’ve gotten to know myself pretty well over the past few decades and I’m pretty good at figuring out what makes me tick.

In college, I was forever losing my keys.  So… each time I got a new keychain or key, I would just add it to the one I carried around with me.  Eventually it got so massive that it has become very difficult for me to lose.  People often make fun of me for it, and they often question whether or not I’m hurting the ignition on my car, but the massive structure is easy to find and it’s noticeable when I don’t have it.  Additionally, when I get home, I try to put it in the same place next to the door.  This doesn’t always work, but I’d say a majority of the time it’s there in the morning.

I keep clutter down by not buying things in the first place and by putting unwanted gifts in the gift/donate closet right away.

I am very bad about forgetting things.  My world is full of lists and lists of lists.  I carry a day planner and enter things in as soon as I get them and check the planner every morning.

I have habits and rituals.  Back in college I had a boyfriend who would always say, “wallet watch glasses keys” before he left the room and it often goes through my head as well, though I keep my glasses in the car and never take them out so that I always have them for driving.  Similarly, after opening Stata, I always change the directory, set more off, and OPEN A LOG FILE.  Because the log file will rescue me from many of my other bad Stata habits and mistakes.

Mistakes aren’t limited to coding– part of the reason we have such a big slush fund is to make it so mistakes aren’t so painful.  Last weekend, for example, we got a parking ticket because we were 10 min late getting back to our car.  For want of 50 cents, we owe $43.  But that’s an annoyance more than a catastrophe (and DH has said he’ll pay it out of his allowance since he feels responsible and doesn’t want me to feel bad about it– that’s what the allowance is for, he says).

Mental accounts also help with money concerns.  Retirement savings come straight off the top so I don’t even see that money so it can’t make me feel rich.  I reconcile the checkbook as soon as I get a bill even if I delay the actual payment.  That emergency/slush fund stays in savings and checking is what is supposed to take care of regular expenses.  (And when either the checking or emergency fund number gets too low, it is time to cut back.)

I also have a huge problem with willpower.  That means I do not buy things I shouldn’t eat, unless it’s something I can totally resist (like licorice– yuck).  I have not played video games since my first year of graduate school because once I start I can’t stop.  So I don’t start.  Cold turkey.  A hard line in the sand.

I could try to make myself remember things better.  I could work on myself to try to give myself stronger ability to resist temptation when it comes calling.  Yes, it would be great if I were calmer, more productive, had a better memory.  But, ain’t nobody got time for that.

Do you have problems with willpower?  How do you solve problems structurally?  Have you been successful at changing your base self, and if so, how?

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