Category Archives: family

Ask Uncle Quo: should I change my name when I get married?

Commenter RG asks:

Not relevant to this post, but curious to your thoughts: Debate is about a 26-28 year old woman who wants to keep her last name in marriage because of her professional identity. My response was to laugh, what identity do you have at that age? I said, sure there are a couple of hot shots – you came to mind – but I bet they could change their name to a peace symbol and still retain their professional identity. She’s not going into witness protection, FFS. curious what you think about name changes at marriage, reputation, and loss thereof? You seem like someone who would have considered it.

I wanna be like Cathy and answer random people’s questions on Sunday mornings!  In homage to Aunt Pythia I will answer as “Uncle Quo.”

Changing your name seems to me like it would be a massive gluteal agony.  Short answer, independent of any issues of professional identity:  Why would I ask my wife to do something I would never do myself in a million years?

Well, here’s one reason why:  there was a time and a place where not having the same name as your spouse was sufficiently weird that it carried with it its own long-term irritations.  But those days, in the social tranche where I hang out, are not just going, they are long, long gone.  As I said in the comments to the other thread, when I think about couples I know at UW, mostly in the “parents of young kids” demographic like me, it’s very hard for me to think of any who share a surname; the only example I can think of is a couple who both took a double surname (separated by a space, not a hyphen) with the wife’s original surname last.  When I think of couples I know in Madison outside the university, I do know some where the wife adopted the husband’s surname, but in each case they go by three names, no hyphen:  “firstname birthsurname newsurname.”

Professional identity:  in math, at any rate, of course this matters!  If you’re 28, you likely already have a Ph.D. and a couple of papers out, maybe you’re finishing a postdoc and you’re about to apply for tenure-track jobs, you’re going to be on a list of 400 applicants and you want someone on the hiring committee to recognize your name and look at your file, and you’re suddenly going to change your name to something nobody’s ever heard?

WonderWomanHellNo

 

As for me and Tanya, we got married 10 years ago and never considered changing names.  We had some vague idea of using my last name “socially” but we quickly realized there was no social situation where that felt appropriate.  Occasionally we get invited to a bar mitzvah by my older relatives on which Tanya is called by my last name.  And I changed my middle name on the Harvard alumni list to her last name.  Our kids have two middle names, the second of which is Tanya’s surname, and their surname is mine.  Nobody seems to be confused about the fact that we’re a family.

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Yossef Zisman, 1832-1925

 

This is my great great great grandfather, Yossef Zisman, who lived in Corjeuti, in what is now Moldova.  He died at 92 when his cart overturned in the snow and he was crushed by his own horse.YossefZisman

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My grandfather, Julius Ellenberg

He died a couple of years before I was born.  He was a dapper guy.  He went by “Joe,” and I’m named for him (in Hebrew we’re both “Yehuda.”)  I wonder how old he is in this picture?

bihjdbgb

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Mean beef stroganoff

You know, my mom is a distinguished scientist, and she, too, made a mean beef stroganoff when I was a kid.  Of course, it was “skid road stroganoff” from Peg Bracken’s classic I Hate To Cook Book, friend to working scientists of all genders with small kids and twenty minutes to get dinner on the table.  Wouldn’t it be great if that’s what Yvonne Brill made, too?  I truly love this dish and I make it for my own family every once in a while, but the sad truth is that only AB and I actually like it, and AB is not picky.  

Skid Road Stroganoff

8 ounces uncooked noodles (about 4 1/2 cups)
1 beef bouillon cube
1 garlic clove, minced
1/3 cup onion, chopped
2 tablespoons cooking oil
1 pound ground beef
2 tablespoons flour
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon paprika
Two 3-ounce cans mushrooms
1 can condensed cream of chicken soup, undiluted
1 cup sour cream
Chopped parsley

Start cooking those noodles, first dropping a bouillon cube into the noodle water. Brown the garlic, onion and crumbled beef in the oil. Ad the flour, salt, paprika, mushrooms and tomato paste, stir, and let it cook five minutes while you light a cigarette and stare sullenly at the sink. Then add the soup and simmer it – in other words, cook on low flame under boiling point – 10 minutes. Now stir in the sour cream – keeping the heat low, so it won’t curdle – and let it all heat through. To serve it, pile the noodles on a platter, pile the stroganoff mix on top of the noodles, and sprinkle chopped parsley around with a lavish hand.

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Most tech writers are single but most phone buyers aren’t

Matthew Yglesias, in Slate, says you’d have to be nuts to buy a phone on a contract:

If you buy a subsidized iPhone 5 from AT&T, the cheapest plan available costs $85 per month and only comes with 1 GB of data, a minimum of $2,040 over the two years of the contract. A basic T-Mobile unlimited voice plan with 2 GB of data costs $59.99 per month, $1,440 over the two years. In order to get that $450 iPhone discount, you would end up paying $600 more to AT&T over the life of the contract, and get less data….

Of course, customers have to actually recognize that the new deal is better. The subsidy model is basically a scam, but it only arose thanks to our own collective mental failings

All this is true – if you’re buying a single phone.

Otherwise, it’s wrong.

On the basic AT&T family plan with two lines, you get your $450 subsidy on both phones, and you pay $40 for voice plus $45 per phone; so $130 a month in all.  On T-Mobile, with no annual contract, you’re paying $120 per month for your two phones; the $240 in bills you save over the life of the 2-year contract doesn’t come close to making up the money you lose by forgoing the $900 phone subsidy.  AT&T has LTE coverage in major cities already, and Verizon has even more; T-Mobile doesn’t even start building LTE until next year.  Now the T-Mobile family will have 2GB of data each, but the AT&T family will have only 1GB to share.  1GB is fine for me and my wife (I’ve never used more than 300MB in a single month) but if you want more, you can get 4GB shared between the two phones for $150 a month.  You’re still coming out ahead on money, plus you can share your 4GB of data however you like instead of splitting it 2 and 2, and you’re on a faster network.  By the way, if you want tethering on T-Mobile, you’ll have to pay extra:  on AT&T’s contract, it comes with.

The details of the AT&T family plan aren’t really the point — the point is that people who write about tech are largely drawn from the universe of young single people.  What applies to them does not apply to everyone!

 

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Living in the future

I just learned that my father orders his breakfast cereal from Amazon.

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Menopause Matters

It’s a little outside the usual stomping grounds of this blog, but I thought I’d mention that my cousin-in-law the doctor, Julia Edelman, has a new book out, Menopause Matters. Julia is the mom of this cousin-in-law, by the way.

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In which CJ is goth

CJ was on the phone with my mom for about fifteen minutes today. They were talking about my late grandfather, my mom’s dad, from whom CJ takes his middle name.

I wasn’t sure how much CJ had understood, so after the conversation I asked him what he and his grandma had been talking about.

“About people and how they’re dead!”

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If you had a brother, would he like cheese?

My mom pointed out that Elliot Sober did not, in fact, write the “If you had a brother, would he like potato pancakes?” joke. She says she heard it as a child from my great-grandfather. And it’s older than that: one version of the joke appears in the 1858 comedy Our American Cousin (most famous nowadays as the last play Abraham Lincoln ever saw.) The comic engine of Our American Cousin is the upper-class twit Lord Dundreary, who brought the house down with business of this nature:

Dun What do they keep in pigeon houses? Oh! pigeons, to be sure;
they couldn’t keep donkeys up there, could they? That’s the dairy,
I suppothe?

Geo Yes, my lord.

Dun What do they keep in dairies?

Geo Eggs, milk, butter and cheese.

Dun What’s the name of that animal with a head on it? No,
I don’t mean that, all animals have heads. I mean those animals
with something growing out of their heads.

Geo A cow?

Dun A cow growing out of his head?

Geo No, no, horns.

Dun A cow! well, that accounts for the milk and butter;
but I don’t see the eggs; cows don’t give eggs; then there’s the cheese–
do you like cheese?

Geo No, my lord.

Dun Does your brother like cheese?

Geo I have no brother. I’m so delicate.

Dun She’s so delicate, she hasn’t got a brother. Well,
if you had a brother do you think he’d like cheese?

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The [Viennagram:]

We just came back from Mrs. Q.’s cousin’s bar mitzvah in my ancestral home of Montgomery County, Maryland. There I learned that Mrs. Q’s cousin (not the bar mitzvah, another cousin. There are a lot of cousins) has moved from Lakeville, MA to Providence to try and make it in the world of dissonant, brass-driven avant-garde rock music with his band The [Viennagram:]. And I think they might make it! This is great stuff, with a kind of extraterrestrial 1940s sound, and a lot of chanting. The only thing I can really compare them to is the geniuses of Man Man (deliverers of the best Madison rock show of 2007.)

Coincidentally, I also have cousins in Lakeville, and one of them also decided to make it as a rock star, and is now reasonably famous, most recently playing bass behind Natalie Merchant for six shows last month in New York.

Watch The [Viennagram:] play an outdoor show while being pelted by, and eventually repelting, rotten fruit:

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