RBOC

  • Another unexpected death this year… Werner Troesken passed away last September and I just found out. I feel like I was just talking to him about being interviewed by reporters about Flint.  (He’s an economic historian with an amazing book on the effects of lead solder in water pipes.  Other fantastic books about segregation etc. as well.)  People are dying too young.  I had never met Devah Pager or Alan Krueger (though I have read so many articles by both and had seen Krueger give talks), but Werner I knew and liked as a person.
  • It’s a little weird seeing old “faces” on the internet and remembering when everyone was saying, “NOooooo do not do that stupid thing with your money”… and then they did anyway, and now the thing that everyone said could happen did happen and the person is in bad shape because of it.  I think it’s more sad than schadenfreude, but also, do not do stupid things with your money.  And don’t be a jerk when you ask people for their advice and don’t like what they say.
  • DC2 fractured hir wrist in two places falling off the monkey bars.  :(
  • One of the things I hate about being a woman is how journal editors and occasionally referees will use any even marginally related previously done paper as evidence that the paper I’ve submitted is not novel.  Even if all it does is use a related novel technique looking at a completely different question.  Or uses the same dataset for a completely different literature.  When I’m refereeing guys papers that never ever gets said by the other referees (or me).  It’s like the initial assumption is let’s find any reason to reject, even a flimsy one.  It’s such a hard bar to pass.  Women’s papers have to be more than perfect.  I see this in refereeing all the time and it’s so unfair.  I hate it when it happens to me.  And big name guys can submit stuff that does the most minimal of lit reviews and provide no spec checks and somehow their stuff gets sent out and negative referee reports often get overruled.  It is just unfair.  And I’m not good enough to get over that hurdle.  I can’t get the line just right.  I put so many checks in footnotes.  And it takes me forever to do all the checks I need to put in in order to get the paper not rejected by an editor and to get the writing so it is concise but also contains enough material while also not having so much people overlook things (I have not managed this balance yet for all reviewers), and by the time I’ve done that, someone else has published something marginally related, and that’s enough of a reason not to accept what I’ve done.  So why did I bother in the first place?  And when the paper is finally accepted, there’s enough cut out to publish a second paper in another journal.  Though it has to be a lower quality journal because, of course, I already used that dataset or looked at a different subset or whatever.  FML.
  • our local library’s opening has been delayed until September.  Apparently the city counsel delayed ordering furniture and are now at the end of the furniture buying queue behind all the school districts.
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How do I adult?

I went to the grocery store. Now I have to cook, UGH. While I was at the grocery store, I wasn’t cleaning the bathroom or calling my mother or reviewing an article.

All I want to do is read books all the time when I’m not at work. Just because I have SO MANY great books and reading books is awesome and fun.

Now I need to go buy cat food and pick up a package but first I have to sit in this chair for 8 hours.

How do you adult?

“Pretending” to be a Darth Vader husband is not cool or funny.

There’s this personal finance blogger who often “pretends” to be a jerk to his wife.  It’s a running gag with him and he puts in her commentary as editors notes.

For one of these he spent the entire post complaining about how much laundry she does.  It read very much like a painful other side of a captain awkward post.  So in the comments I told him it wasn’t funny, and explained why.

Two days later we got a bunch of blog hits from him mocking me for calling him Darth Vader (which I didn’t—I was explaining why that humor isn’t funny in the context of Captain Awkward).  Turns out he elevated my comment to a post, twisted it, and accused me of reading incomprehension because he didn’t understand I was complaining about his failed attempt at humor.

So, in short, “pretending” to be a jerk to your wife in a public forum isn’t funny.  Back in the day more people probably thought Ralph Cramden’s  repeated line from the honeymooners about sending his wife Alice to the moon with a punch right in the kisser was funny.  Now we are less likely to laugh about threatened spousal abuse.  I hope that one day doods like this guy will stop their controlling husband shtick because nobody finds controlling husbands acceptable anymore.  Until then, these kinds of posts further the patriarchy by making the unacceptable seem acceptable.  And that’s really not funny at all.

Scalzi says the failure mode of clever is asshole, and misogynistic humor fits right in there.  Even if the woman is “in” on the joke.

In which #1 ends up singing about Dunning Kruger Homesteaders

#2:  My FIL watches a reality television show where this guy from Alaska goes around and saves people who tried homesteading but are doing a horrible job at it

#1: I’ve seen commercials for that. It makes me want to laugh in Schadenfreude.

#2: He recounted one of the episodes with a TSTL* couple for us. It was a bit astonishing. They’d planned like Pa Ingalls, which his to say not at all.  [*too stupid to live]

#1: I have spent enough time on a farm to know the daily slog is NOT for me.  (I hope they get Lyme disease) [ed:  not really]

#2: Even if they’d been doing everything perfectly, their land wasn’t big enough to homestead on, and they were not doing anything right. I don’t understand people who would want to homestead. It takes up so much space and it’s so much labor. Economies of scale! Comparative advantage! Efficiency! Gains from trade!

#1: I mean, you CAN build your own house but you should be some sort of engineer first. And some sort of agricultural specialist. And an herbalist. And a veterinarian. And, and, and….
“Flush toilets exist but we’d rather play house in the backyard until we die of dysentery.”
Let’s make soap! First, lye…(ugh, lye soap)
When ur animals inevitably die, you can boil their hooves for glue….
Also, I wonder if they know what poison oak looks like…
Did you know that goats can get polio and pigs can get rickets? If not, u shouldn’t be homesteading….

#2: How do you know so much about homesteading?

#1: I watch a lot of shows about veterinarians in rural areas.
If you have cows, you gotta know the right (and wrong!) way to pull a calf out alive.
Can you properly sterilize and stitch a wound? If not, don’t homestead. Can you set a simple broken bone? If not, don’t homestead.

*whistles nonchalantly off to my appliance-equipped kitchen*

Also if you hire labor, you’d best know your tax law!

*whistles another tune about rabies and tetanus combined*

This song goes, “Would you like to drain an abscess in an animal’s hooooooof?”

dum de dum, giardia doot de doo….

Ask the grumpies: What is real when it comes to nutrition advice?

Sandy L. asks:

Nutrition advice. What is real. I find it hilarious that eggs and coconut oil were such villains in the 90s and now they are “the perfect food”. I bought an old cookbook a few months back and it was talking about avoiding coconut oil. It made me laugh.
Now fat is okay but sugar is bad.

First, a tiny rant from #1, “In which research on “nutrition” is nonsense.”:

#1: haha: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3793920/

#2: People underestimate how much they eat?

#1: People write articles based on stupid, meaningless data and then use those articles to influence policy recommendations.

#2: The nhanes is the best information we have for a lot of things.

#1: It’s true. But the nutrition stuff is messed up. When asked how they eat, people misreport. Then the researchers convert the amount of various foods into calorie amounts, using incorrect databases that are filled with wrong info. Then they change methodology. Then reports are based on those data…

Most of the nutrition database info (about how many calories are in the reported food intake) hasn’t been actually checked scientifically.

For example, on the plane I had some beef. What cut was it? I have no idea. But different cuts of beef can have TWICE as much kcal as another cut. Which one do they write down? it’s kind of random!

It’s a good thing our policy is so coherent… oh wait…

People should also read Dances with Fat.
Enjoy, Grumpeteers!

#2 notes that you may be interested in reading this article about the history behind sugar and nutrition .  A bunch of people in high school had/got to read a book about the vast Sugar conspiracy for their world history class at our high school back in the 1990s.  It had some pretty horrifying stuff in it about sugar and tea and trade.  The capitalist conspiracy is ancient and vast!  The sugar dynasty is powerful and has been for centuries.

But…. there’s also non-political-economy reasons we don’t know a ton about nutrition.  The first is that nutrition is incredibly complex and there’s a lot of heterogeneity so it’s just hard to tease things out.  Generally, we start with looking at correlational evidence from places like the Framingham nurse’s study.  Those correlations provide headlines about eggs being bad when it may actually be the nitrates from bacon (eaten with eggs) or a million other things.  But correlations are a good place to start when you’re trying to figure out how things work because it narrows down the testing frame.  Then after correlational studies we can move into animal trials or human trials.  Generally that’s when things don’t pan out– there really wasn’t anything wrong with eggs, so randomized controlled trials failed to find anything wrong with eating eggs.  There was correlation but not causation.

What is real?  Who knows!  It seems likely that eating whole grains and unprocessed food and getting fiber and nutrients is a good thing.  But maybe not for everyone and maybe not to extremes.  I’m interested in seeing where all the research on gut flora ends up going.  (And, TBH, I’m really interested in getting better smelling underarm flora…)  Should you drink milk or eat meat?  Who knows!  Me, I generally listen to what I’m craving and pay attention to how I feel after.  That doesn’t always steer me right– sometimes I lose my ability to comfortably digest say, beef or raw veggies and that ability has to be rebuilt, but it’s the best idea I’ve got.

 

(Mis-)Adventures in trying to get a whole house water filter.

I’m allergic to the water in our area.  If I take a bath or the shower filter wears out, I end up with super-flakey skin and sometimes it itches.  Generally we handle this with a shower filter in the master shower and a sink filter for drinking water in the kitchen.  But then I started getting an itchy spot on my back where one of my bra straps hits (sort of on the right side), and we thought maybe instead of a blemish (there’s no bumps) or some kind of neurological problem it might be me becoming allergic to cloth, specifically the water it’s washed in (we’ve already narrowed down laundry soaps I can use).  I’m not convinced that the itchy spot is from the water, but we figured this was something to try.  Add to that that DC2 seems to have inherited a lot of my skin allergies, and the praise one of my colleagues who is allergic to chlorine gives his whole house water filter, we decided this was worth trying.

In fact, we decided it was worth trying back this summer when DH started getting paid again.  (This was our celebratory purchase.)  We decided it so much that I ended up buying a whole house water filter on “60%” sale from aquasana off amazon (quotes because it’s always on at least a “40%” sale).  From online searching, we determined it would probably cost another $700 -$1K to get the thing installed, and we were fine with that.

We still don’t have whole house filtered water.

My colleague had told us it was so easy.  They just hook up to the waterline and put it in your garage, he said.

My colleague does not have a corner lot where the garage is on the other side of the house (with the pipes imbedded in the concrete slab under the house).  There is no real feasible way to put the filter in the garage.  It has to be attached where the waterline comes into the house.

So we had the plumbers out and they said first we’d have to find the water line, which they could do but they didn’t have the specialized equipment so that would mean digging up a good portion of the lawn searching for it.  So they recommended a service who doesn’t do plumbing but just finds leaks.  That guy found our water line… and a leak (a real leak– that part of the lawn was definitely much greener than the rest of the lawn, we just hadn’t noticed).

So we had the plumbers out again to fix the leak.  Our home water pressure improved noticeably.  They still needed to get back to us on the cost of installation of the water filter.

Then weather happened and the plumbers couldn’t do non-emergency stuff for a while.

Then school happened and we didn’t have time to contact the plumber.

Then our sprinkler system started leaking, so we had to have a new sprinkler repair person out.

Then some hose connections started leaking (at which point we began to suspect that the increased pressure was busting out wherever it could bust) and we had the plumbers out again and they were able to get us an estimate on the whole house filter while they were out.

Then we accepted the estimate and made an appointment.

Then the two plumbers who were supposed to come out couldn’t because one had a wife in the hospital and one had a baby in the hospital (both emergencies, though with the baby it was a preemie so not entirely unexpected and the prognosis and eventual outcome was good).

Then they rescheduled for the next week when I was out of town for a conference.  They came out and fixed another hose connection thingy.

Upon further inspection, they realized that the hot water closet didn’t have enough room for both the water heater already housed there and the whole house water filter and told DH to get a shed.  DH took the day off work and went out and purchased a $300 ugly grey plastic shed and spent $30 on truck rental to get it home.  Then he put it together.  Then he realized he’d need a concrete floor or something to use it for the filter.  Then he realized the plumbers wouldn’t be coming back that day.  Then he realized the shed violated our HOA agreement.  [Update:  he has since resold the shed on Cragislist and so is only out $130, not $330, and we no longer have the ugly thing in our backyard waiting for the HOA to notice it.]

After much discussion, we decided to contact the HOA architectural committee for advice.  They didn’t give advice (the helpful lady had stepped down and was replaced by a guy who spent a long time explaining to DH why rules are important) but they gave us a horrifically lengthy and detailed document we would have to fill out if we wanted to get a shed (only wood are allowed, and boy are they pricey and difficult to find as small as we would want).

Then Thanksgiving happened.  Then Christmas happened.  And today is New Year’s.

So now we have three options which may or may not work.

  1.  (The one we’re leaning towards):  Install the filter without the pro kit (looks something like this but is 10-year, not 6-year).  This cuts the width from ~44 in to ~22 in and might allow it to share the outdoor closet with our water heater.  We don’t know yet and would have to have the plumbers out again.
  2. Remove our tanked water heater (which is going to have to be replaced in a year or two anyway) and replace it with a tankless water heater.  Then install the entire filter.  This should be possible, but it may cost another $2K, one K for the tankless water heater, another $1K for installation.  We have to do more research on this.  If money were no option, we’d be in the ideal situation for tankless as this water heater services two bathrooms and nothing else (meaning if we all took showers and baths at the same time we’d only be using 8 gallons max) and we’re in a warm climate.   Apparently the installation of tankless water heaters could be difficult or could be easy depending on where the hookups are and how big the tubes are.  Some newer tankless heaters have more standard hookups than did older models.  But we have to figure out which is which.  (Our garage water heater replacement will be another tank because we like running the dishwasher and clothes washer at the same time.)
  3. We could keep trying to get a shed just for the water filter.

Am I wishing that I’d held off buying this filter?  YES.  Especially since my back hasn’t had that itchy spot for a while (it went away whenever I traveled, so right now my primary suspect is a different environmental allergen).  And the plumbers aren’t returning our calls.

We could cut our losses at this point and either try to return the filter at a loss or sell it on Craigslist at a loss.  But it would also be nice to take a bath from time to time without having to shower afterward (or regretting it later).

So I had hoped to have a happy post about how great whole house water filters are and how it’s changed my life etc…. but… instead I have this warning post about how corner lots and HOA suck and man, home improvement sure can suck away a lot of time and energy.

Have you ever gotten a whole house water filter?  How about a tankless water heater?  Any advice on getting a small (under 6 feet) wooden shed (and does it need a concrete bottom)?

A small rant about bad retirement options

It all started when we asked SIL if she could open a 529 account for her second child so we could contribute to it as we’d been contributing to that of her first child.

She told us that her financial advisor at work had told her not to open a second 529 plan.  I wondered at the quality of that advice as we’d recently done an ask-the-grumpies post on that very topic.

DH asked who her advisor was.  Turns out it’s some company named AXA.  If I say too much that’s terrible about AXA, their lawyers will likely contact us, just like they did the owner of the finance for teachers site.  AXA features (along with a similar company named Legend) in the  NYTimes article(s) below about 403(b) plans that are a terrible deal for teachers because of their high fees and lock-in periods.

It makes me so mad that we’re doing this to our teachers!  Especially since teachers from my parents’ generations have great defined benefit pensions, while those starting out now are, like the rest of us, largely dependent on putting money from our take-home pay into defined contribution plans.  It is terrible that for many of them, their only 403(b) options are eating away at their retirement savings with high fees and bad advising that pushes them into higher fee funds.  K-12 teachers (especially those who aren’t high school math teachers and maybe should know better) should be able to trust that their employer is going to pick out a good plan so all they have to do is save money for retirement.  Why can’t TIAA-Cref manage more K-12 403(b) plans?

I mean, it’s bad enough that my FIL’s company uses Edward Jones.  (This summer upon retirement, he informed me that he would be saving 10K/year rolling over his retirement assets to Vanguard on retirement.  My MIL noted that’s equivalent to 4-5 online classes she does not have to teach.  Made that generous $200 donation his EJ broker gave each year to his local hunting club fundraiser seem pretty negligible.)  I am so glad we got him that Bogleheads book on investing after his nth email asking us about some risky single stock his EJ broker was pushing on him.

Do you have decent 401(K)/403(b) retirement options at work?  How big are the fees on your plan?