amazon prime = I buy more stuff (from amazon at least)

Huh, Amazon is having a big “prime” day on the 15th.  We didn’t know that when we first queued up this post.  Go us?

#1 had resisted getting Prime for a long time.  Not because of the annual cost of the thing (we spend more than that on Netflix each year), but because of the behavioral changes I worried might come with it.  It’s not so bad to wait for products– waiting encourages introspection and makes it easier to put something on the wishlist since getting it in 7-10 days isn’t so much different than getting it at the next holiday (or failing that, getting it at Target on the weekend).  Once it’s on the wishlist it either displaces a potentially unwanted present, or it might no longer be needed.

Without Amazon Prime I would also batch up orders to make sure I could get to $35 before purchasing to get free shipping.  Though sometimes if I needed something, I would either have to pay shipping or find something I didn’t need right away to add to the list (but, of course, there’s always the wish-list for those items).

But then I needed Blues Clues and Dora the Explorer because DH had taken the ipad and its children’s games with him.  We do have Netflix, but at the time it mainly only had PBS Kids stuff (now it’s got a lot more variety, like My Little Pony, which I swear is the best show on kids’ TV these days, except maybe Doc McStuffins).  Also DC1 wanted to read more Diary of a 6th Grade Ninja and that’s on the list of things that can be read free (one book a month) for Amazon Prime members.  So we did their free monthly trial.

Like many technology things, Amazon Prime is one of those things that you don’t need until you have it and once you’ve had it it seems essential.  Yes, it has increased our amazon spending– if we need something soonish, we really do just go on amazon and order it.   This is especially useful for when we get a flyer from school at the beginning of the week saying we need something by Friday.  However, it has also, I think, cut down on our Target and Home Depot purchases.  So I’m not sure what the overall net effect is on spending and stuff-acquisition.  The number of amazon boxes randomly showing up at the house seems to have slowed in the months since we first got it, though I’m not sure how much of that is due to the Prime effect slowing down and how much is due to, you know, getting ready to move.

Should you get Prime?  Probably not, unless you care more about convenience than spending and stuff acquisition, which you may.  Or really want Nickelodeon kids’ television.  Once you have it, you may find it hard to ever give up, even after the free month is over.

#2

The shelter put the foster kittens on a kind of kibble that I can’t find in my local stores, so I ordered it from Prime rather than driving around to any more stores.  Also the special kitten-safe litter, just because that’s heavy and awkward to carry home from the store 2 blocks away with the other groceries.

Privilege, I haz it.  And it’s super-great!

I shop through smile.amazon.com, which is the exact same as amazon (same interface, account info and preferences) except it also donates to a charity you choose.  Not a lot (a Google search suggests .5% or $5 for every $1000 you spend), but more than 0.  Partner and I don’t factor this in to our yearly charitable donations.

This post is not a plug, we don’t get paid for this post (though we do get paid a bit if you buy any stuff through affiliate links).  We’re just spitballin’ about the conveniences of our lives.

We know very well that Amazon can treat people badly.  We are not unconflicted about this.  But the convenience is just too much.

Do you use Amazon Prime?  Why or why not? If you do, have you noticed it affecting your spending habits at all?

OMG we are spending SO MUCH MONEY

Mint keeps emailing to tell me that we’ve had an unusual amount of spending in various categories.  Usually we spend far less on these categories, Mint says.

I’m not even talking about the required increased expenses, like daycare costs doubling or our rent being 2x our mortgage.  I’m talking about the optional things that all those early retirement blogs would say we’re horrible people for doing and a few career women blogs would say we should do more of.

Turns out DC1 is a chatterbox when not in regular organized activities, so instead of having hir home all summer keeping hirself entertained with homework books, video games, novels, and the like, we quickly realized that ze will have to have some organized activities once we get to Paradise because we won’t have built-in playdates to take any of the edge off, at least not until school starts.

And the organized activities available through the park district in paradise look SO COOL.  Unfortunately the prices also add up.  $700 later, DC1 is enrolled in two week-long half day camps (engineering/minecraft/legos) and 2 week-long full day camps (traditional crafts + swimming + games + field trips etc.).  Also swimming for the rest of the summer at an additional $55/week for 30 min each morning.  There’s a lot of weeks left that ze will still be at home alone with DH and I’m not sure what we’re going to do about that.  The park district daycamps that still have spots for the remaining weeks are $300/week (10am-4pm) which we just cannot justify spending.  The YMCA also has some daycamps that are $250/week (7:30am-6pm), and we don’t know if they still have slots or not.  If DH goes crazy we’ll investigate those.  Or maybe DC1 will find neighborhood kids to play with, though I’m not really sure how one does that in these hyper-vigilant parenting days.

At some point I also said “screw it” on moving expenses.  We ended up not driving any of our stuff to Paradise except what will fit in a car or on the airplane.  For $1K we got a couple of big pieces of furniture that we needed (beds + mattresses) and a bunch of stuff we don’t really need, or a higher quality of stuff than we really need (like a wooden table with leaves and wood chairs rather than a folding card table with folding chairs) from a family moving away from paradise.  Then we needed to get a uhaul to pick it all up and I figured, why not get the 2br size instead of the studio.  And yes, we need dollies.  And hey, instead of getting day laborers who are potentially illegal immigrants at $15/hr, let’s spend $200 on a couple of people from a uhaul-connected moving company.  That way I won’t have a  Zoe Baird moment if the president wants to appoint me to government office decades from now.  So I dunno, is $1500 less than what we’d be paying buying cheap stuff new (with potentially free or cheaper delivery), browsing craigslist, and waiting for hand-outs from people wanting to empty out their garages?  Probably not.  But we saved some time.

We also ended up not bringing our piano, even though it’s digital, because it won’t fit in the car with all the electronics DH needs to bring in the car for work.  We might end up getting one free from a friend wanting to empty her garage, but we’ll still have to pay piano movers and probably a tuner.  We can rent one locally for ~$400 for the year including shipping.  Or we could buy a cheaper one from amazon for the year.  We’ll see what happens.

We’re also going to have to store my car for half the year (our tenants are allowing me to keep it in the garage until January, but then they’re planning on purchasing a second car and ours isn’t nice enough for them to rent).  That’s $400, though I could spend $250 on a parking permit at the university, but then I’d have to be vigilant about getting someone to move it the few occasions that the lot has to be emptied of cars.  The bluebook value is $3.5K, and logically I should just sell the car and buy a new one when we get back, but that’s a hassle and I’m attached to my car.

Then there’s all these after school programs at a few hundred dollars a pop (most of which I didn’t value at cost when DC1 was getting them for free in private school!) and we might pay for bussing at $800/year (which is a complicated subject– the school is 20 min away and the bus stop is 10 min away but closer to DC2’s daycare so DH’s drop-off/pick-up commute would be cut in half).

I’m also planning to spend a lot of $ eating out.  And I’ve got all these local vacations planned.  And fun activities for the weekends that will not all be free.

I keep going back and forth between “OMG we’re spending so much” and “screw it.”  I think, as is evidenced by not paying for the $300/week daycamp, that we’re hitting a happy medium that won’t leave us having to dip into our secondary emergency fund (the one in the stock market), but I’m not so sure that there will be money leftover from the trip to allow a kitchen remodel when we get back.  We will see!

Still, it’s hard to see the numbers in earmarked savings going down so rapidly.  Hopefully that pace will slow once we’re actually settled.

Have you been in a situation where you spend a lot more than you’re used to?  How do you feel when you spend a lot of money–Do you feel terrible, do you hit “screw it” and let the floodgates open, or are you super-rational about it?

would you choose your education/career path again?

The shu box asked a really interesting question to her MD peeps– if they had to do it all over again, would they?  We thought we’d extend that to higher education more generally, not just MDs but other post-bachelor credentials.

Do you wish you’d gotten higher education (earlier, given that you could always get some now)?  Would you choose to get higher education again?  Would you have done things differently?

#2:  I’m very happy with my education.  My PhD program treated me a lot better than #1’s program treated her, and I still talk to my dissertation advisor.  I still collaborate with fellow students in my program and we have published together frequently.  I am facebook friends with some of my former professors (and one or two, with whom I’m not friends, I’m glad I never have to encounter them again).  I probably should have published more in grad school, but I did some, and that was fine.

I am reasonably happy with my career choices, even though I’m now a career-changer.  I did what I set out to do: got a tenure-track job and then got tenure.  I’m glad I did that; if I hadn’t, I would always have wondered if I could.  I wish the job had been somewhere less soul-sucking.  But it’s turned out ok, and I can’t say I have regrets.

#1:  Man, if I could go back and redo the phd program now I would be so badass.  They would think I’m a genius.  I kind of wish I’d taken a year off and gotten some maturity and knowledge before starting, but if I’d done that I probably wouldn’t have gotten into the program that I did.  And, realistically, I probably wouldn’t have ended up getting a PhD at all if I hadn’t stayed directly on the academic path because as ambitious and amazing as I am, I tend to get interested in things the more I know about them so whatever path I started on was most likely going to be one I took to the end.  But who knows!

I do seem to have gotten over most, if not all, of the PhD trauma and I like my current job and current socioeconomic status a lot.  So I think I’m happy with the path life has taken me on.  DH is pretty happy with his current job now too, so I (mostly) no longer feel guilty about the years he spent in a job he didn’t like so much (and by extension, the PhD program he went to so I could go to my #1 choice program).  (He, btw, has no regrets, so it’s irrational for me to feel the least bit guilty.)

There’s an alternate world me out there that is probably deliriously happy moving to SF right after college with DH and the two of us making bank during the dot com boom (DH moreso than me– I probably ended up without stock options).  We’ve bought a house when the market was at a low and are happily living the good life.

But I suspect there are many alternate world mes out there in various states of happiness.  Even though it might not have seemed like it from middle school (where I was bullied) and graduate school (where I suspect birth control pills and poor eating habits added to my anxiety), I’m essentially a happy person who tends to bloom where planted.

What about you?

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?

Two years after leaving academia: DH is flourishing

DH just got back from his second business week-long trip this month.  It was an important trip and really clarified some things for both of us.  I was considering turning this into my annual anniversary post, but I’ve already written one with a little bit more me-centered-ness.

Anyhow…

When he was trying to figure out what he wanted in a job, he realized he wanted to work in teams.  He wanted regular feedback.  He wanted to feel as if he was doing something productive and valuable that would really help people.  He wants to feel valued.  He wanted to do programming but not just programming.

With his new job that he’s been working at for well over a year, he works on teams.  He gets regular (weekly) feedback.  He’s producing something valuable that will be literally saving lives within the next two years, should all go well.  (Engineering ROCKS.)  He’s doing computer programming, but not just programming, and he’s managing a project and a programmer.  He’s written as many successful grants in the past year than he did during his entire time as a professor.  Telecommuting and a bigger salary also haven’t hurt.

DH is happier than he has ever been before.  And I’m so very proud of him.  He is truly amazing.  Talking to him on the phone after a particularly successful meeting I felt my uterus twinge and had to remind it that I have already reproduced (twice) with this amazing man.

I feel a little bit guilty that he wasted all those years teaching undergraduates who didn’t realize the value they were squandering by not paying attention to their studies.  Truly we should have been less risk-averse and maybe he should have left academia earlier.  But things have worked out.  Being able to live together has definitely been a bonus and it isn’t clear that he would have been able to find such a great job 10 years ago.  Spouses of some of my colleagues haven’t been so lucky and either house-husband or live apart.  It’s hard to say what the counterfactual would have been.

Academia is still working well for me, but leaving academia is working extremely well for DH.  We are truly blessed.

Finding what interests me in a new career

One of us is job-hunting after quitting academia and moving to paradise.  I have been looking for jobs I want, but I haven’t been finding that many to apply to–I still have enough resources at this point to be able to focus my search on jobs I would like rather than taking any job.  I have applied for about 20 things and gotten 1 phone interview and no in-person interviews or offers.

What do I want?  I want something sciency and researchy, in the social sciences.  I am not a clinician and not a certified CRA.  I am not a biologist or pharmacist or engineer and I do not use Hadoop (I could learn if I had to but it doesn’t seem necessary now).  I don’t program (other than several standard social science statistics softwares and some dabbling in things like .html etc., but not like C++ kind of programming) and I don’t want to.

I have [#2: excellent] skills in data analysis, writing, editing, literature review, and many things about the research process [#2:  I fully vouch for these– she reads every paper of mine before I send it out and she’s helped me a ton when stat-transfer fails me, and more than once she’s saved my rear end doing last second RA work when I was up against a deadline and I found a SNAFU.  I’ve also shamelessly stolen a lot of her teaching stuff, but that’s probably irrelevant since she doesn’t want to adjunct or lecture.]!  (See the second table below)  I can do tons of research.

I am not an extrovert and interacting with people most of the time drains me, but I interact quite successfully in teams and research groups.  I’m not interested in being a manager of people in a pure managerial sense, though I can do some and I am experienced supervising teams of research assistants.

Ever since I was a little kid, every “career interest” test I have ever taken has always come out that I should be a professor, and it still does.  However, nope nope nope!

I played with this online thing for scientists and it was kinda enlightening.  It tells you, among other things, about what your values, skills, and interests are in a career.  Here are mine.

First, here are my values of things that are unimportant and important to me in a new career:  (for these big tables, click to embiggen).  I know this is a lot to ask for, but it represents the ideal.

My Values in a job image

Second, here are my scientific skills, what I think I am good and bad at:

Science Skills Summary image

Third, here are my interests:

Interests Summary image

The jobs it suggests for me include faculty at a research university (nopenopenope) and the things I am already applying for, such as research manager stuff.  I would be happy to manage someone’s lab, although I can’t put up with a job where the ONLY thing I do is make other people’s travel arrangements.  I could do quite a good job in something like research administration, if it focused on compliance and not budgets (though I can and will do budgets so long as it isn’t the *only* thing). I am good at teaching but I will never do it ever again.  I love collaborating with other scientists but am not crazy about managing people.

I would like to work for a nonprofit or the VA (which keeps failing to hire me over and over).  I’m not against working at a for-profit company though, especially if the pay is good and the work is interesting.  Program-analyst type stuff seems to be a title I come across a lot for job postings.  The site also suggests that I be an epidemiologist (interesting but I’m not trained for it), a clinical diagnostician (not trained for it and don’t want to be), and a teaching faculty (NOPE NOPE NOPE).  I would be fine as non-academic staff at a university.  I do not do drug testing, nor do I have any wet-lab skills.

You can be sure that my cover letter and resume are shiny, personalized, revised, and proofread by #2 [and, #2 notes, more importantly, the career office at her former grad school went over her resume when she did the change from cv to resume].

I’m not expecting to go in at the highest level, and I don’t really want to. I am definitely willing to work my way up to some extent, but not all the way from the proverbial mailroom. My retirement funds are anemic and if the job is really poorly paid, it might be more profitable to spend that time searching for a better job, rather than being tied to a job that’s both low-paying *and* boring.

Mostly I’ve been applying for jobs that I find on Indeed.com.  But I need to expand.  And yes, I know I should be networking more (and I swear I am networking!)– this post is part of that effort.  ;)

I promise I’m not as much of a special snowflake as I sound like here; I have skills that would really help an employer if only I could convince them of that [and, #2 notes, if she could find more job openings, preferably before they’re advertised…].  Help!

Grumpeteers, what say you?  How can I get a job that pays decently and is also suited to my skills, interests, knowledge, and background?  

On budget constraints, endogeity, and interconnectedness: A deliberately controversial post

I was reading another mommy blog off a blog roll and came across an article talking about another article.  The original article made the argument, Fly-lady like, that if your life is a mess, then your bathroom floor is a mess, and to make your life less of a mess, you need to clean your bathroom floor because this is all interconnected.  Sort of a broken windows hypothesis for your life.

How do you know your life is a mess, asks the article?  The proof is whether or not the area behind your child’s car seat is sparkly clean.  Ignoring for the moment that that test says that all but the most OCD or wealthy enough to afford servants have lives that are messes, there are several logical and mechanical reasons that making a causal link from cleaning your house to cleaning your life doesn’t make sense.

Let’s start with the mechanical arguments.  As Laura Vanderkam is fond of noting, there are 168 hours in a week.  Every hour you spend cleaning behind the car seat is an hour you don’t spend organizing your paid work, your meals, your finances, your exercise routine, or anything else that people find worth organizing that makes them happier.  I’m guessing that area behind the car seat that is just going to get messy again ranks pretty low on most people’s priority list.  (Unless, of course an apple core got wedged there, then clean away!  But the example in the article didn’t include potential for rot or bad smells.)

Adding to the time-based mechanical arguments is research on willpower.  If cleaning is unpleasant, it takes willpower to do.  We have limited reserves of willpower that are replenished with sleep, rest, and food.  Willpower used on cleaning behind the car seat is willpower not used at work.  Or it is willpower to be replenished with sugar leading to unhealthiness.

Finally, even if there is a correlation between having a clean bathroom and feeling together with the rest of your life, that doesn’t mean that the clean bathroom *causes* you to have (or to feel like you have) the rest of your life together. There could be endogeneity.

Endogeneity comes in two flavors.

The first is reverse causality.  Here, feeling together would be the cause of the clean bathroom, not vice versa.  Maybe you have free time from being organized and good at delegating so you can clean the bathroom.  Maybe you’re so awesome at work and confident in yourself that you can easily hire a housecleaner.

The second source of endogeneity is omitted variables bias.  That means there is something else that causes both your bathroom to be clean and you feeling like you have your life together.  An omitted variable could be something like, being Martha Stewart.  Or having a really low sleep need and high reserves of will-power.  If you only need a few hours of sleep per night you have more time to do everything and to have a clean bathroom.  Or maybe having a partner who is supportive and enjoys cleaning– that could lead to both clean bathroom and the rest of life working.  (Just like having a partner who acts like an additional toddler rather than a caring and sharing adult can lead to messy bathrooms and unhappiness in other areas.)

 

Do you think that if you want to be perfect at one thing, you have to be perfect at everything?

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