September 26, 2016

Terrible financial advice from startup founders

Maybe not all of them are unhinged but these soundbites from startup founders in a survey where they answered questions about their finances sure make them sound like it. I noted that only 6 of the respondents were women so it’s likely there’s some sort of self selection bias going on there. 

“Don’t save for retirement. That’s like betting you’ll fail.”

The complete logic fail here is astounding. It assumes that the only success will leave you so wealthy as to have your retirement secured. It ignores the fact that you might succeed but only modestly so, or that you might have more expenses in retirement than a buyout could cover, or that you might succeed but not ever be bought out. Running a business doesn’t always end in being acquired for billions. It also links the act of saving to actively betting against yourself which doesn’t make any sense at all. I have supreme confidence in myself and my success but you betcha I save for retirement because I want one, and I don’t control everything around me.

“You can’t save your way to being wealthy.”

Yes, you can. You could also, if you were really savvy, probably spend (invest) your way to being wealthy. Refusing to do one or the other if you have the opportunity to simply because it’s not the quick and easy way is pretty shortsighted.

“Bet on yourself rather than on external investments (housing, stock market, etc.).”

We all know that’s not an either/or proposition, don’t we? Of course one of our biggest assets is our ability to earn. But that shouldn’t be your only asset if you have a choice about it.

Does this founder also put everything on red and let it ride? Because betting solely on yourself as a single asset and refusing to diversify is pointblank stupid. What happens if you’re killed or crippled in an accident? What if you’re struck by a chronic disease that severely limits your ability to function? What if a dependent family member falls ill and needs full time or long term care?

I don’t pose these as unlikely hypothetical scenarios just to be contrary. All of them have happened to us or a family member.

Other bad advice

That got me thinking about times in my life when I was given pretty bad advice and was chided for being too stubborn to heed it.

I did listen to good advice, I wasn’t immune to all advice, but some of these were just too much.

“Maybe he’s just being nice.”

When a manipulative abusive boss tried to give me cash for a vacation.

No, he was never just being nice. He wanted to buy loyalty for petty change and the loyalty he wanted was unreasonable and unprofessional. You know what I’m talking about. 

“You should have kids when you’re young and have energy”

A cousin 12 years my elder pressed me on this point when I was 21 and definitely unprepared for marriage, much less kids. To my family, who expects to see us married by 24 at the latest, it was looking like I’d spend all my time working and never getting married and having kids.  The joke was on her, apparently. 8 years later she said, ok, yeah, you should enjoy your life while you can.

Thank you, I believe I will.

Yes, there are times I wished I had JuggerBaby earlier so Mom would have met and enjoyed zir too. But that’s one tiny fraction of the entirety of our lives that I enjoy so much: having amazing flexibility and autonomy in my job, being financially stable, having a solid marriage and partnership, these things would be missing from the equation. Only their fledging counterparts would have been there: paying down debt, managing my health, and growing my career would have been so much harder and would have meant I’d miss so much more of JuggerBaby’s life. We were late to having a kid but because of it, I’ve been lucky enough to enjoy so much of zir growing up. (May we always have this stability and flexibility.)

To be fair to her, it wasn’t objectively a terrible bit of advice. It was just a bad idea to suggest that I should model my life on everyone else’s. I prefer to aim for a little more extraordinary, and that doesn’t fit the safe cookiecutter lives they encourage. 

::What bad life advice have you gotten? What’s the best advice you’ve gotten or given? How have you strayed from the expected path?

September 22, 2016

Just a little (link) love: panda petting edition


Where employers get creepier with the aid of a start-up: tracking employees’ job hunting related activities to see if they’re looking to leave? They claim it’s to pinpoint troubled areas so they can address them and I call that lazy and bullpucky. There are so many other things you could do to achieve this goal. How about being actively engaged with them? How about paying them competitively and managing well?

The economics of living in the Bay Area make it incredibly hard to be a single income family. “…for a lower-mid-range worker, sometimes your dream job can’t make up for the cost of living in the Bay Area.” We could possibly manage it on one income but we are also impacted by supporting 2 families, having an aggressive savings plan, wanting to travel and enjoy life. Plus neither one of us is suited to being the primary stay at home caretaker in addition to being the money person who squeezes every penny out of the dimes we bring home. Each of us could manage one or the other but not both, and I think you’d need your stay at home parent to be both.

Speaking of salaries, Penny’s pursuing her passion knowing that it won’t buy her an early retirement and still thinks it’s worth it. I once pursued mine and deeply regretted the poor pay, but had to be mainly because of the family debt. Had it just been me, free and clear, I probably wouldn’t have felt such pressure and ingratitude for the ability to make a living at something that I thought I’d enjoy. Now? I don’t know. We need people who can afford to do what Penny does – teaching is a hugely important profession. But even if I could be any good at teaching (highly doubtful), in my own life, I also need to be able to keep my family housed and fed, and that costs quite a bit.


September 24th is Free Museum Day!

The science of air turbulence


Oneika’s blog is a new discovery and it’s awesome! All her reasons for traveling alone are my reasons for making sure that PiC and I continue to enjoy our individual pursuits without each other even though we COULD do them together, probably.

We have a presidential candidate whose entire platform is that America isn’t good enough right now, and meanwhile the Santa Clara PD thought it was a good idea to threaten to boycott doing their actual jobs because they didn’t like a football player’s quiet personal protest of police not doing their jobs of protecting the citizenry without bias, thereby proving Kaepernick’s point that the police pick and choose how and when to do their jobs. The only thing that surprises me is that they finally rescinded that idiotic boycott threat. By the way, I think it’s telling that people will boycott the NFL for someone not standing during the anthem but not for having rapists, abusers, and woman-beaters on the roster. That’s all ok, right?

Commentary on the Philly Inquirer article about a family “taking a chance” on a public school. Ugh.

Hesperia is aggressively, and I suspect unconstitutionally so, trying to make it impossible for non-violent felons to live in halfway houses intended to help them reintegrate into society. If someone has been to prison and done their time for their crimes, how are they justifying saying they don’t have the right to help or support in adjusting back into normal society? What, do a crime and be punished for the rest of your life, by never being allowed to move on from that moment, and therefore have to turn to crime to survive? How does that make sense? Hesperia is utterly shameless, referring to people as “roaches”.

This is heartbreaking. WHY are we locking girls up for not making their beds, breaking curfew, or running away? These aren’t the answers for minor transgressions that any kid would commit in the course of being a kid and growing up!

Apply here: panda petting

September 21, 2016

Pupdate: A 3-year anniversary with Seamus

3 year pupdate: rescuing dogs is one of the most rewarding things we do We dubbed him Seamus in the first, rough, weeks of his homecoming, a play on “Shamey-y”.

I can’t be more grateful that we weathered those days, welcoming him even when he broke almost every rule trying to learn the ropes, even when we had a baby on the way and weren’t sure how it would all happen.

From the moment he met JuggerBaby, the squirmy little bundle of noise and mess, with interest and hope, he’s been a trooper, the saintly dog you’d always hope for in just such a circumstance.

Life with DOG!

JuggerBaby and Seamus have a curious sibling relationship. You’d think they didn’t care whether the other existed, until you made the mistake of raising your voice or provoking screeches (which, to be fair, is really easy to do for a toddler of JuggerBaby’s age). Seamus would quietly insert himself into the room and check on everyone, clearly concerned that ze would survive the day, and leave just as quietly when it was clear no one was a casualty.

Likewise, you’d think JuggerBaby was kind of a jerk the way ze petted him like he was a first class drum set, until you notice that zir carefully leaning in to give him Mmmmwah! kisses, before and after overenthusiastic pets. And woe betide you if he looks bored and ze knows where the Chuck-its are hidden. Like an extension of Seamus’s will, ze unearths the toys, presents it to you with a demand: BA!! and points at zir brother. Throw that thing, parent, and do it now! He’s bored! And soon after, carrots! Ze pulls them out and points insistently, EY! Give him treats!

As part of my weekly grocery shop, I prep packs of carrot sticks for Seamus. They sit sit together on the floor, box of carrot sticks clutched in JuggerBaby’s still chubby fist, staring at me for permission to hand them over, one by one. Once in a while JB’s enthusiasm brims over and ze offers him the entire container. He’s no fool, he looks at me for the nod. Even when ze dumps the entire box on the floor in front of him, he waits for the nod before reaching for any.

We do bedtime together, he lays at our feet while we read bedtime stories and sing bedtime songs, then he and I decamp to the living room for his care: brushing teeth, pedicure, cream for his itchy and raw skin. He lays his head on my knee and naps for a while, before his last nighttime stroll with PiC.

Medical woes

His weight has stabilized, he’s lost much of that sympathy pregnancy weight, but he has had a rough road.

He’s had an ulcerated eye, twice.

JuggerBaby nearly poisoned him (maybe).

His skin looks worlds better than it did when he first came home but he still breaks out into hot spots so I’m always on alert for any new trouble areas. Twice a year it gets bad enough for the heavy hitting meds. They’re effective but we don’t want him on steroids more than 20 days a year, they aren’t great for his organs, so I aggressively treat all flare-ups to keep them from progressing past hot spots.

He’s had an endless stream of infections. They crop up when he gets scraped up playing too enthusiastically and sometimes just because it’s fun to make me jump. I’m his on-call emergency medic, always carrying a full kit of topical antibiotics, ointments, bandages and gauze.

We make it through each one because he’s generally an astoundingly good patient, for a dog who surely doesn’t understand why I’m making him lay still while I poke and prod his painful parts, and our vet is good about working with me in filling the appropriate medications when we need them instead of making me bring him in for an exam every time. This saves us anywhere from $200-500 a year.  

3 year pupdate: Some days are harder than others but happy dogs = happy days

A Dog and Our Money

I’ve been using the saved proceeds from the blog to pay for his numerous medical needs. Unfortunately, since this isn’t a cash cow, we’ll need another way to fund his care soon. 

We can cashflow his food, supplements, the occasional toy, and any other gear a good pup needs out of our regular income.

I do most routine maintenance at home for the cost of materials: war cleaning, nail clipping, pilling, first aid. These could all add to the price tag but luckily I enjoy animal husbandry. 

We’d love a companion pup for him, he does best when he has appropriate canine company, but I’m not sure we can take on Number Three any time soon. It’s nearly as much work as a kid in a lot of ways and the costs pile up quickly if you’re not careful. 

And another pup would make travel even more expensive. When we go on vacation, so does he. Turns out all the dog sitting I did as a favor to friends back in the day, because I knew I’d appreciate it if I needed the same? Well, there is no dogsitting karma. Nor is there babysitting karma. 

Please, keep reminding me of that, because I might still lose my head and adopt another senior dog one day. 

:: Are you a dog / cat / other animal person? What makes them great?

September 14, 2016

My kid and notes from Year 1.7

My Little Dobby

This child cannot be convinced of the one sock & one shoe per foot rule. Ze is constantly asking me to add another shoe on top of the one ze is already wearing. The best we can do is layer socks, though, and ze has stolen several pairs of socks from me so as to better mix and match zir footwear.

Transitions and weanings

It’s occurred to me that, despite my worries about never managing it or fighting over each step, our several weanings, off the bottle, off pre-sleep milk, and fuss-free naps ended up going much smoother than I’d been led to expect.

At daycare pickup one day, I overheard a parent telling the teacher: yeah he’s still on bottles. His doctor would kill us if she knew but it’s just easier! The kid was two years old, at least, and was running around with a bottle clenched in his teeth. I think I let that, and JuggerBaby’s general stubbornness, get in my head.

Looking back, though, it really didn’t suck. One day I realized that no part of me wanted to be dealing with bottles, bottle brushes, or any of that nonsense on our travel in 2016. In the Spring I decided we were doing it. Ze had been using a sippy cup for water already, so I started offering both milk and water in sippy cups during the days with meals. After a few days, since ze didn’t seem to care much, I offered the milk in a sippy cup for pre-nap fill-up. The first time I did that, I got Such A Look. Ze firmly pushed it away. It took three tries for zir to convince me that this was not happening. Fine. I switched to the bottle and ze sucked down the milk contentedly.

But the next time, I offered the sippy again. Ze considered it, and decided that yes, ok, this was acceptable. And so for about four days, ze only got milk in a bottle before bedtime. Otherwise, it was all sippies.

By the end of the week, because ze was eating so well and drinking plenty of milk at dinner, I changed it up again and gave zir a water sippy cup at bedtime. This changeover was accepted with equanimity, as long as there was something to occupy zir hands and mouth while we read bedtime stories, zir full belly didn’t care if it was milk.

This was strategic: zir teeth were coming in and I didn’t want zir to be so in the habit of having milk right before bed that those teeth rotted out of zir head before permanents come in. (#ParentingHorrorStories)

Naturally, it was time to introduce a few new habits since ze was going so well! We used to let zir nurse or get milk drunk before naps, now I’d give zir a sippy, change zir diaper and started rocking zir on my shoulder for a couple minutes with a song. Same song, every time.

Sooner than even I anticipated, ze absorbed what I was hoping to ingrain, and that was if I’m holding you and singing, it’s time to nap. Within a couple weeks I was able to stop giving nap sippies and ze responded very positively to the Pavlovian signal of being picked up, patted on the back and sung to. This is a kid who normally pops up like a jackrabbit the second you lay zir head on your shoulder – no way was ze going to miss any action! Now, unless ze is overtired, if you scoop zir up at the right time and start singing, plop! Zir head goes down on your shoulder. It’s a pretty reliable signal – if ze isn’t ready to sleep at all, ze stays head up and alert. Mostly we’ve finally gotten the timing right.

Sometimes we get it very wrong and even just suggesting that we’re going to pick zir up sets off a wail and collapse to the floor like you cut zir strings. That’s when you’re unforgiveably overdue and zir heart is broken. Broken, I tell you!!

We’re getting better at avoiding that, too.

Most days, the transfer from shoulder to crib is smooth. Tuck zir in, ze hugs a plushie or kitten-pounces a blanket and folds over on zir side. There’s not a lot of the popping back up to stare at you accusingly like in days of yore. I thought we’d NEVER get a baby that would sleep like a reasonable human, but nowadays ze just mumbles to zirself for a while and then passes out.

I don’t know what’ll happen when it’s time to free the creature from zir cage, though. Ze is already outgrowing zir crib and I dread giving zir the freedom of crawling out of bed to play. It’s almost inevitable. Because of how we sleep trained zir, the school of drop off and run, there’s no staying by zir side til ze sleeps, that would be an undeniable invitation to play. How much worse will be once we remove the crib door?

We’ll see. That’s a fight for another day. I’m just going to be grateful that these transitions went as well as they did. It was anyone’s guess how ze would take losing bottle privileges or pre-nap milk top-ups, and so the next step is a mystery too. Unless I can dig up some kind of trial run to ease zir into the idea of sleeping voluntarily when not caged in a crib, or perhaps devise a netted dome situation. Or a stationary human baby hamster ball.

Things we are loving

Since our transition off bottles, and the arrival of teeth, we’ve been fighting a losing battle against JuggerBaby’s biting and shaking of sippy cups. The standard Munchkin sippy cups with straws and biteproof / leakproof cups were no proof against the chompers. Everything leaked or dripped after ze had zir way with it. Since ze also knows how to drink from a cup, I hunted down our latest aquisitions, the Munchkin Miracle 360 Trainer Cups, and they work wonderfully. 

Ze figured out this new set within seconds and sucked down three cups of water in zir fascination with the new cups.

The only bad thing is that they’re not easy for me to open, my hands can’t get a grip on the slippery outside, but they’re ten times easier to clean, and except for one user failure (mine) to properly re-affix the silicone lid to the trainer handles, we’ve had zero leaks despite all zir best efforts.  And believe me, ze tries. Ze shakes them upside down, slams it against the tray, walls, zir head. I love them. I highly recommend them.

Read Months 1-18!

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