November reading update

I read 15 books for this month.  It was also an ebook-only month, which is pretty unusual for me.  It usually means I’m mentally overexerted and want easier stuff to read.  So almost everything was fluff, esoteric, or esoteric fluff.

I read seven short novella-length ebooks about spies and true crime.  I also read Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle’s love letter to fandom and when nerds *really* loved science, Fallen Angels.  That one is cute and parts of it remain terrifyingly plausible.

I also continued reading a light D&D-ish series, as the third book was just sent to the mailing list and was a happy surprise.  In similar vein, I read the wrap-up book of a pretty good zombie series, also a surprise release earlier than the author said.

I tried out Kindle Unlimited, and I’ll probably keep it for a couple months.  I used that to read a truly fascinating biography of Cordwainer Smith, a collection of Clifford Simak shorts that reminded me of why I am just not that into his work, a very silly but cool-concept sci-fi book about magic being introduced into the world when humanity is banned from using space technology by evil aliens, and a very cute Tanith Lee novella.

I also used Kindle Unlimited to read the very funny, very sharp, but also very “written by a Boomer” satire “The Narrative.”  It’s by Deplora Boule and quite spot-on.

Anyway, 87 books down, 13 to go.

 

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Married parents and the public school exit.

No matter how many ways you slice the onion, it’s becoming more and more the case that married parents are exiting or very strategically accessing the public school system.  This poses real medium and long term issues regarding funding and support for public school teachers.

What does exit mean?  It means 30%+ of married parents’ kids are outside the public school system or inside it via de facto segregation tactics like specialized, high-parent-participation “options” or outright effective magnets/charters within a larger public school.  About 15% are in private schools, with a steady increase in private Protestant schools specifically (although the general private school split is 45% Catholic, 40% Protestant, and secular bringing up the rump end at around 15%.  The classical Christian academy is maturing away from co-op models to full-time private schools all over the country.  Another approximately 7% are homeschooling full time, typically longer than a year but less than full K-12.  Another 8-10% are doing various combinations of specialized public school programs, homeschooling using the public school curriculum (public-private partnership, “alternative educational approach”, the various names for this make it hard to break out on its own), and mixed schooling (combining several part-time school options).

Homeschooling is completely normalized now as an option to include in the college prep race among the very parents who dominate married parenthood, the college educated majority.  It’s not part of a “fundie fringe”, it’s something a double digit percentage of married parents do for at least one year between K-12.

Also, kids just never stop costing money now, because all these options have costs in time and money.  Either you’re writing checks, one parent is not working full time or outside the home, or both.  The other side of it is that public schools push fringier and fringier views on the remaining children whose parents can’t optimize them into a special program where that stuff doesn’t come up or is cheerfully waivered out.  Where I live, essentially in our version of the higher-end NYC public magnet schools, an example fringy goal is to teach transgender advocacy to kindergarteners in the “regular” public schools.    It’s already approved, implementation is coming in another school year or so.

So even the very liberal parents who might be fine with this in junior high are making plans to do for-pay K or even K-3, on top of 7k/mo mortgages and 1k/mo property taxes to pay 100k salaries to teachers and 150k salaries to administrators who added this stuff to the curriculum.  Exit isn’t cheap, and it’s not getting cheaper, but it is increasing over time anyway.  This is not a stable equilibrium.

 

Life in the Lion’s Den: How grocery shopping more frequently saves us money

One of the learning curves we’ve experienced living in suburbia is kitchen design.  Our old kitchen in the sticks was tiny (almost no prep space), but with very generous pantry space.  It was set up to reheat large portions of shelf-stable foods and not for multi-course cooking.

We had about this much pantry space, but split on each side of the fridge.

The current kitchen has, effectively, no pantry, but lots and lots of custom soft-touch shelving to grab the array of dishes for the gourmet meals you’ll definitely be cooking for that special someone.  Even bachelors can dream big.

We have a zillion of these instead of real cabinet space.

We also went from this type of refrigerator

Ok, it wasn’t outside though. But this is it.

to this type

We have this but narrower, if you can believe.

The change in fridge shelving meant it was much harder to figure out where stale/old food was piling up.

The upshot of all this kitchen change was that we had to switch from weekly shopping to shopping 3-4x a week.  And we are saving a surprising amount of money.  Like 25% off the old grocery budget.

How can such a thing be?

We have found that since the kitchen is not designed to store large amounts of food that we can keep track of our food consumption easier by buying smaller portions.  Then when it’s gone, it’s really gone, not crammed somewhere random.  Things fall behind the super deep shelves of our weirdly narrow fridge.  So less is better, less likely to get shoved into the back and fall into the fridge-abyss.

Also, we used to avoid buying what we wanted if it was supposed to be eaten in a couple of days (usually deli meals, sushi or ready-made salads).  But here buying that stuff means we know what everyone’s eating a lot more easily and if the kids have a picky phase, we aren’t struggling through a stockpile of bulk whatever.  Also, yes, we can buy lighter, lower-cal stuff for Mommy and Daddy this way.

Yes, we buy oatmeal in the single serving packets.  And we’re spending less money than when we bought the bulk sack because half of it doesn’t end up on the floor when someone tiny has a meltdown.

It’s all very counter-intuitive, but it was also a nice feeling to add up the budget for the month and get a pleasant surprise.

Also, and this isn’t really money-related, but we get a lot of decent social interaction out of shopping more often.  People being nice, striking up conversation, just a lot of positivity.  The store managers know us and are glad to see us, and the kids even have their own little shopping carts they can use.

The stores we go to are real “third places” and very mother-friendly rather than “kid-friendly”.  One of the kids has leveled up to “runner” and I don’t have to bring him back or face judging about his breaking and running.  Given that in suburbia I pretty much always have more kids than any other mothers, it’s really a relief and comfort that the grocery store is a place where I’m welcome and acceptable.

(This was in fact true in the boonies too (not the kids thing, there were some larger families, usually 5 kids that would pop in now and again), but we just shopped less often, so I wasn’t seeing that aspect nearly as often going 3-5x a month vs. a week.)

“All states experienced an increase in the percentage of interracial and interethnic married-couple households from 2000 to 2012-2016.”

“The percentage of married-couple households that are interracial or interethnic grew across the United States from 7.4 to 10.2 percent from 2000 to 2012-2016.”

From interracial marriage reporting from the Census Bureau.

ETA an interesting note from a working paper about health status in interracial relationships. “Having a White partner is associated with higher self-rated health for Hispanic, Black, and Asian men and women, relative to having a partner of one’s own race/ethnicity. For White women, but not for White men, having a non-White partner is associated with worse self-rated health. ”