What do you do when your local library is going to be closed for 7 months?

It’s not a great library, but it’s better than nothing!  The closest other library in the system is 30 min away in the next town, which we only go near when I have to drop off voter registration forms.  (That will drop off a lot once students settle in.)

DC1 will be ok because hir school library is already better than the local library for hir reading needs (they have multiple copies of popular YA books, unlike our local library which has long wait lists and series gaps that take a long time to replace when a kid loses a book).

What would you do?  Where do you and yours get reading material?

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How do you get enough fruits and veggies?

Our local CSA went out of business about a year ago.  That was great for getting more veggies in our diet because we’d get a box of mostly veggies that we would have to use up, so we’d plan recipes around what was in the box.

It’s harder to go the other direction.  We were brought up to plan meals around a meat, so when things get busy that’s the easiest thing to do.  We do pretty well on bananas and apples and whatever fruit is in season because those all make great snacks, but our veggie consumption is way down without the weekly box.

#2 has a subscription to Purple Carrot.  That’s really not a fit for our life since it’s optimized for 2 people and at $12/plate we could get pretty fancy take-out around here.

How do you get fruits and veggies into your diet?

Pondering getting a new mattress: Any advice?

I love my DH very much.  But I think I would love him even more if we had a king-sized bed.

Why a king?  I used to think king-sized beds were crazy and extravagant and unnecessary.  As DH has gotten older, he’s started to snore a bit.  He’s got some kind of nasal thing going on (the dentist has talked to him about it) in which if he gets overweight he has trouble doing nose breathing and to fix it he’d either need surgery, a CPAP, or to lose weight.  So far he’s been trying the lose weight option, but it never sticks long-term.  Also in the winter I love cuddling close to him through the night, but in the summer I’d rather be as far away as possible.  He has trouble sleeping without me, but I sleep way better when he’s gone.  That year in paradise where we had a king-sized bed I slept really well.  We also sleep well in hotels when we get a genuine king bed.

Right now our house has 3 queen sized beds of various ages and comfort levels and one twin bed.  The bed we’re currently sleeping on is 18 years old (and is a pretty high quality standard mattress), but spent quite a bit of the time in the interim as an extra bed in an empty room.  DC1 sleeps on an (extremely expensive organic) Omi Midori twin; it is about 10 years old.  DC2 sleeps on an (extremely expensive organic) Omi queen that used to be ours, though I forget what kind.  It is ~8 years old, and DC2 (age 5) has been using it by hirself for something like 3 or 4  years.  We were very worried about chemical off-gassing when they were little.  The guest bed was a $300 emergency buy– the cheapest full bed option for right after we’d bought the house, had no money, and DH’s parents were visiting.  It is not… uncomfortable… but it’s also not terribly comfortable either and it’s smaller than our other queens.

We have to flip the bed monthly or I wake up with my back hurting.  And sometimes flipping is not enough.  Often it is enough though.

There are two directions that I see we could go right now.

  1.  We could buy another OMI mattress for $4-8K.  These guys are supposed to last decades, but one of the reasons we gave ours to DC2 was that it wasn’t as comfy after 5 years, even with regular flipping.  I’m fairly sure we could talk them into giving us a platform bed for free (that’s one of their rotating specials).
  2. We could instead spend $700 on a Tuft and Needle online, and then buy a platform bed frame from Walmart or someplace similar for <$200.

Or, of course, we could continue to do nothing.

 

#2 says:  King-size is 100% worth it.  Just buy a Casper like everyone else, and then you’re done.  You need 2 twin box springs, or a platform.  Casper even sells a platform.

They did not pay me to say this, but you can always paypal to grumpyrumblings at gmail dot com.

Take one-quarter (or less!) of what you would spend on another mattress and buy a decent CPAP machine.  The difference in life quality (not to mention silence for your bedmate) once you get that sucker properly adjusted is mind-blowing.  Once you get used to it, you will wonder how anyone functioned without it.

What do you guys think?  What are your suggestions for mattress buying?  How did you buy your last bed?  Any suggestions for brands that are still comfortable after 10, 15 years?

On life and planners

Yesterday after work I went to Staples and got myself a small planner.  I’m gonna get my life together!  (Well, ok, *sort of* together.)

It has a pretty cover.

In my previous job, I had a google calendar on my work account that other people could see, and I could see theirs.  This made meeting planning more easy.  For personal life, I wrote things on scraps of paper.

In my academic job before that, I had a large paper planner with 1 page per day and I wrote EVERYTHING in there, which was the only way I stayed sane.  Haircuts, office hours, meetings, to-do lists, deadlines, birthdays, everything.

Now, I have too many scraps of paper and work calendars aren’t great.  I was hoping to share an electronic one with my boss, but she has an idiosyncratic system so that’s not gonna work.  So!  For the first time in like FOUR YEARS I am going back to an integrated calendar for work and life.  It’ll be on paper so I don’t have to log into anything to see it wherever I am.  And it’s pretty.  I discovered I needed it when I (finally!) made a haircut appointment and had no good place to write it down.

Isn’t it great how many varieties of little notebooky things there are these days???

It’s really hard to find perfection.  I spent a long time at Staples.  The good news is, they have many customizable and build-your-own options there, so you can put in the types of pages you want.  (task-planning?  to-do list?  month-per-page?  day-per-page?  etc.)

I think there’s some metaphors for life in the above.

#2 has a Moleskine notebook that isn’t perfect, but she’s satisficing.  (Perfect was the free calendars that various professional groups used to give away each year before everyone had online calendars on their phones instead.)  Her DH keeps all the family stuff on Google calendars, but #2 hasn’t switched over yet (plus her work is still on Outlook calendar(!)), though she does have google calendar on her computers and phone.  There’s still something nice about being able to flip through a paper book to see things and to be able to write things down with a pen instead of thumbs (plus I’m bad about keeping my phone on me– I often leave it attached to a charger, whereas my dayplanner generally stays in its dedicated spot in my Binh bag when not in use).

How do you plan your life, your work and everything?  Are you old school paper?  100% electronic?  100% memory?  100% personal assistant?  Do you integrate work and life or have separate systems for separate spheres?  How has your planning changed over the years? 

Options for handling the long unpaid summer

Academics and teachers are often on 9 month contracts rather than 12 month.  That means that there’s often not a paycheck coming in for 3 months out of the year.  For folks used to budgeting the 9 month paychecks as if they were 12 month, that can be a problem.

There are a number of different ways that people deal with the summer months.

Let the school do the math

Perhaps the easiest (though not economically optimal) is to ask the school to prorate the 9 month salary and pay it over 12 months.  Not all schools offer this option, though some offer it as the default (it is very common for K-12 teachers, for example).  The benefit to doing this is that no planning needs to go into this option.  The negative is that you get three months worth of income later than you would have otherwise, which means you miss out on debt repayment savings or investment gains while you wait.  Back when she was an academic, #2 chose this option. She calculated the interest she could earn on the extra money if she got it over 9 months, and it was something like $11. She decided it was worth $11 to her in order to get the same amount of money every month.

Get more $

An attractive option is to earn additional summer money, although this requires extra work.  Summer money can come in the form of teaching summer classes, taking on additional administrative roles, or getting summer money through grants.  For people who do not have university options, it is possible to take on another job or make some additional money via consulting.  #1 loves getting grant money, but it doesn’t happen every year.

Another attractive option is to be married to someone who makes enough money to live on during the summer without having to save, although this requires either luck in love or sacrifice.  This option requires not lifestyle inflating to the point where you cannot live on the spouse’s salary alone for three months.  This summer #1 is sort of doing that, but with a hefty back-up emergency fund that she’s been saving to refill after our most recent car purchase.

Save when you’re paid

For many of us, saving is the best (or only) option.  There are different ways to save.

If you generally make a lot more than your expenses, you can just save what you don’t spend and then figure out what to do with the leftover money in the Fall when you get your first paycheck of the new school year.  This method requires you to be putting away more than your required summer expenses during the school year and to be able to moderate your optional expenses based on how much you have in the bank.  This method is basically what we did the first few years when we were living like graduate students on professor salaries.  That additional money would end up going into IRAs every October.  Ironically, this is how we handled money when we didn’t have as much money because we also didn’t have enough of an emergency fund to have many luxuries built into our budget.  As our savings and income grew, we were able to take more risks with spending (ex. eating out once or twice a week), and our monthly spending has become more predictable.

If your gap between income and spending isn’t that large, then you’ll need to do some math.  You can figure out the expenses needed for 3 months, by taking your annual expenses, dividing by 12 and multiplying by 3, though if any big bills come due in the summer (property taxes, life insurance, etc.) those will also need to be taken into consideration.  Then you can save up until you hit that target number.  Alternatively, you can divide the total amount needed by 9 and put the same amount away every month, possibly via an auto-deposit.  #1 saves up to the Target number and then pads it with some additional emergency fund (the emergency fund part is larger when her DH is unemployed than when he is employed– likely this summer most of that money will just roll over to next year).

If you have the resources or have problems with impulse control, you can put money in CDs or Termshares that come due when you need the money in the summer.  Some credit unions also allow “Christmas clubs,” where they automatically deduct money from your account that you can’t touch until a pre-determined date, that are more general than just saving for Christmas, though they generally charge you money rather than giving you interest for the option.  Back in grad school when #1 got paid 2x/year, she put a significant portion of her first paycheck into a CD due 9 months later so that we’d have money to live on during the summer (interests rates were high and my income was low, so the $200 or so that we got in interest via doing that was highly welcome).

If you have a lot of resources, you can undrip dividends from stocks during unpaid months, though it’s not clear this would be optimal unless you have a lot of wealth but not a lot of income (maybe if you’re one of those mythical trust-fund humanities profs that people on the Chronicle forums loved to complain about).

Trick yourself

Sometimes it is just hard to save money when you have it.  When that happens, it is likely that the summer will be leaner than it should be.  There are a few ways to trick yourself into spending necessary money when you have it so you don’t have to pay it when it runs out.  For example, you can prepay required summer expenses like insurance or summer camps during the paid months.  Another thing #1 used to do when money was tighter was to put off getting reimbursements for things like daycare or credit card rewards until Summer– those little credit card rewards were really helpful when checking got low near the end.  Another trick is to put reimbursements and other “found” money in a bank account that is separate from your main one and then only tap it when you need it or make regular transfers from it in the summer.   #1 is a big fan of hiding money from herself in online savings accounts as a way to decrease unnecessary spending.

Those of you on 9 or 10 month contracts, give or take, how do you handle the unpaid months?

Ask the grumpies: How to covertly practice for a job interview as a tenured faculty member

Susan asks:

it looks like I may interview for [a new job] soon, so here’s a somewhat urgent question: do you have suggestions for how to sharpen up my interview skills (like the chalk talk) as an already-tenured faculty? The last time I interviewed was as a postdoc, so there were plenty of coaching opportunities, but now I need to be covert. I think I’ll be ok with the talk itself, but it’s all the other soft skills

Disclaimer:  neither of us has applied for a tenured job after being tenured.  #2 has applied for non-tenure-track jobs after, but #1 has really only done one year faculty development leave stints.  However, #1 has been through the hiring process for the other side about a bazillion times both for her department and for related interdisciplinary departments that sometimes need to call in more (female or maybe just well-behaved?) economists for their searches.

Really the job talk is probably the most important thing, so if you’re ok with that, you’re ok!  Depending where you are in your career and what they have asked you to do, you’ll either want to be presenting a new piece of research or giving them an overview of a big chunk of your research agenda (as well as how it fits into your teaching and service).  If they just want a piece of research, you should easily be able to get people to listen to your practice talk just by telling them you need to practice for your upcoming talk.  If you’re doing one that has an overview of your entire agenda, you may want to stick with folks outside your department and/or close friends if you’re keeping things on the down low.

In terms of other soft skills… honestly, I don’t think you will need to practice them.  You’re an already-tenured faculty.  You don’t *need* this other new job.  You’ve most likely been on the other side of interviews and know more about what matters and what doesn’t matter for applicants.  (I am embarrassed now by what I thought mattered but nobody actually cares about!)  Just be a polite slightly more extroverted version of yourself (if you’re an introvert) and you should be fine.  Talk about research and teaching and service.  If it’s for an administrator position, talk to people at the department in advance so you have ideas for what the issues and concerns for the unit are going forward.  It’s ok not to have ideas and to just talk about how you make decisions based on faculty input, but you should be aware of any landmines as well as being able to do some discussion of the pros and cons of major issues.  If it’s for a faculty position, just pretend you’re there to give a seminar but add some more questions about things that you care about, whatever they may be.  Senior hires give so much more power to the candidate and are so much more relaxed than junior hires.

But maybe you’re wondering what kinds of questions you should be asking?  I get a lot of questions about the public and private schools (and I volunteer that information for everyone even if they don’t ask), housing, food, restaurants, distance to the nearest city.  More senior candidates feel more comfortable asking about quality of life information than do junior candidates.  I don’t know if they realize it is important or if it actually is more important or if they feel more comfortable signaling personal information.  Additionally more senior candidates are more likely to have make-or-break things– if X isn’t met, then they don’t really want the offer, and they’re happy to let us know that.  I also get more questions about how people in the department get along and how everyone gets along with the chair and the dean and so on, though sometimes that signals that the person is coming from a more dysfunctional place which can be a bit of a red flag– it’s usually best to signal that you’re happy where you are but you’re excited about this new opportunity for some other reason (like less snow or family or it’s ranked higher or you have friends on the faculty etc.), but not always.  Other than that, talking about interesting research, yours, theirs, other people’s, is always good (unless, of course, it’s a department where nobody does research).  And it’s easier to do as a senior person when you realize you don’t have to know the minutia of every person you meet’s cv than it is when you’re junior and don’t realize it’s ok to ask about things you don’t know or understand (or maybe that was just me).

#2 notes that for the two jobs she’s gotten post-tenure, the interviews were more like conversations.  She wasn’t even really aware the one for the second job was an interview.

So, we don’t really know, but we’ll throw this up to grumpy nation, and maybe send a signal over to historiann to ask for a boost.

Grumpeteers, any advice for Susan?

A mostly unscheduled weekend snapshot

One weekend:

Saturday:

Extended morning cuddle time.
DH and DC1 go grocery shopping:  8-9:45
DH takes DC1 to robotics (last Saturday before tournament, DH is there because the last two times DC1 went by hirself we got complaints from the teacher about DC1 wandering around):  10-4
I take DC2 out for lunch:  11am-whenever
Kids chores (I help with workbooks) and homework
I do so much laundry and dishes (kids fold their own clothing– usually DH joins too but I did his stuff while he was at robotics) and made a bunch of food (start beet salad, freeze the rocky road liquid that DC2 and DH made the previous night).
Finished and scheduled a bunch of blog posts.
DC1 and DH watch Paddington Bear in preparation for seeing Paddington 2 in theaters. It is too scary for DC1 and we spend the next few nights with hir complaining about being too scared to sleep. Paddington 2 is nixed.

Sunday:

Extended morning cuddle time.
DH does online gaming with friends (I help kids with chores and putter with other chores): 9-12
DH helps my students with a tricky programming problem:  12-1
I finish making beet salad and make tuna noodle casserole.
DH and DC2 make angel food muffins with the eggwhites leftover from the ice cream we made Friday/Saturday.
Did a bunch of financial/family chores (2018 IRAs, ordered a book from the library for DC1, emailed about getting on the middle school math practice mailing list, etc.  I had a list of about 9 things that needed to get done sometime that weekend and worked on them in between answering math questions.)
DH and I kiss a bunch.
Cranked through some work emails in preparation for Monday.
Listened to a bunch of 1960s and 1970s songs and sang and danced. Taught the kids the mashed potato and a few arm moves from the 1970s (that I learned in kindergarten in California…) DC1 showed us hir preferred hopping dance move. DC2 has an impressive group of dance moves. I realize that I really need to wear a sports bra if I’m going to twist like we did last summer.
Help my sister with some activism stuff.

I just cannot schedule weekends.  It makes me really unhappy to have them scheduled.  I could be getting more work done, and before kids I worked 6 days a week, but I have a really hard time doing that now.  DC2 especially is really good at interrupting me when I’m trying to get something done that requires thinking.  I really enjoy unstructured weekends.

How do you deal with weekends?  Feel free to link up to your previous weekend scheduling posts if applicable.