Democratic vs. Republican occupations

by Grace aka costofcollege

Your Surgeon Is Probably a Republican, Your Psychiatrist Probably a Democrat

New data show that, in certain medical fields, large majorities of physicians tend to share the political leanings of their colleagues, and a study suggests ideology could affect some treatment recommendations. In surgery, anesthesiology and urology, for example, around two-thirds of doctors who have registered a political affiliation are Republicans. In infectious disease medicine, psychiatry and pediatrics, more than two-thirds are Democrats.

The author suggests that salary and gender play a role in the political leanings of doctors.

Here’s another measure of politics and occupations that is based on political contributions.

Democratic vs. Republican occupations
Most librarians are Democrats. Most farmers are Republicans.
As a group, doctors are in the middle, though pediatricians lean left and urologists right

Do you see these trends among people you know?  Do you fit in with any overall political orientation among your colleagues, or do you usually feel out of place?  What about with your neighbors, friends, and relatives?  Do you talk politics in real life?

String Theory

by Honolulu Mother

String theory has always had the problem of being essentially unfalsifiable. I’ve wondered myself if it’s just particle physics’s version of epicycles. Thus, I was very intrigued by the suggestion in this Atlantic article on string theory (I know, that reputed science journal, the Atlantic) that insofar as string theory produces testable hypotheses, they’re being borne out:

Using the physical intuition offered by strings, physicists produced a powerful formula for getting the answer to the embedded sphere question, and much more. “They got at these formulas using tools that mathematicians don’t allow,” Córdova said. Then, after string theorists found an answer, the mathematicians proved it on their own terms. “This is a kind of experiment,” he explained. “It’s an internal mathematical experiment.” Not only was the stringy solution not wrong, it led to Fields Medal-winning mathematics. “This keeps happening,” he said.

Do you have an opinion on string theory, or any other cutting edge field of science? Or failing that, do you support the level of public spending necessary to, say, prove the existence of the long-predicted Higgs-Boson particle?

Open thread

by Grace aka costofcollege

We have an open thread today, with a side conversation about tracking apps.

What do you all think of tracking apps?  I’ve seen kids and parents go to both extremes.  Some kids are nonchalant about the use of this technology, finding nothing offensive about having parents know every move they make.  Others are fiercely resistant about their privacy and want none of it.


One mother I know wanted to use a tracking app for the times when her 19-year old daughter was taking public transportation late at night after work. Her daughter was against it, and they compromised with agreeing to regular texting from the daughter.   On the other hand, another mother and her twenty-something daughter seem to know each other’s every move by using Find My Friends.  Young people I know use that app to keep track of each other.

Do you or will you use a tracking app with your high school or college kids? What about with younger kids?  Do you think it’s helicoptering, or just a common sense safety measure?

Public displays of faith

by Honolulu Mother

This 538 article discussed an interesting survey of what public or shared displays of faith make nonbelievers uncomfortable, versus what public or shared displays of faith believers *expect* to make nonbelievers uncomfortable.  Sometimes the differences are striking:


Then again, perhaps the true explanation is that for each category, the survey only questioned those believers who regularly engage in a given act — in other words, only the approximately 1/3 of believers surveyed who routinely ask people to pray with them were asked to predict nonbelievers’ comfort level with the request. Perhaps the believers who expect nonbelievers to be made uncomfortable by such a request are among the 2/3 who don’t regularly ask people to pray with them!

Do you see ways in which religious believers and nonbelievers misunderstand one another? And is that necessarily a bad thing?

Strong communities

by Louise

Totebaggers, we often hear about doing good for our communities. In today’s world what does that mean?  Volunteering, donating or taking care of our families and helping out our friends the best we can?  What are the issues facing your communities?  How about experience with government programs at the community level. Have they worked?

I feel with this election cycle there has been a long period of time where we have become distracted by day to day sound bites and have lost focus on the issues that really affect our communities.


Generations and the Subject We Don’t Discuss

by Honolulul Mother

Yes, it’s an article on sex! This Pacific Standard article by Malcolm Harris looks at the trendline showing that millenials are waiting longer to become sexually active than earlier generations, and reframes the question:

Instead of asking why Millennials are having less sex, we could also ask why Boomers and Gen-X had more. Rather than asking why Millennials are so weird, we could compare birth cohorts in a way that doesn’t assume any of them as the baseline. Sexual norms and practices are in constant flux, and we ought not treat them as fixed.

The author has a theory:

One possible explanation based on the data, and on what we know about gender and power in America, is that young women who don’t want to have sex (or aren’t sure) are having their wishes respected at a greater rate. This explanation also fits with the crime data we do have on teen sexual assault victimization, which has declined significantly over the time in question.

Do you think his theory has merit? (I do.) Do you think the trendlines are showing a real change, or a blip? And do you agree with his reframing of the question as why the two previous generations had more sex, instead of why millenials are having less?

Keeping family close

by Grace aka costofcollege

Do you maintain close ties with your parents, siblings, and extended family?

Frank Bruni and his family place great value in having a week-long family reunion every year.

… we’re also dedicated to it, and we’ve determined that Thanksgiving Day isn’t ample, that Christmas Eve passes too quickly, and that if each of us really means to be central in the others’ lives, we must make an investment, the biggest components of which are minutes, hours, days. As soon as our beach week this summer was done, we huddled over our calendars and traded scores of emails to figure out which week next summer we could all set aside. It wasn’t easy. But it was essential.

Marjorie Rosenblatt’s youngest child is in high school, and she wants to be sure to stay close to her kids as they become independent adults.

While I recognize this progression toward independence was our eventuality, even our goal, it felt and still feels somehow unnatural to me; how can we as parents know the comings and goings of and daily events in the lives of our children, only to accept that this degree of involvement would be relatively abruptly replaced by an occasional text or phone call? How can our family, an indivisible unit, disperse, and yet (we hope) continue to be solid? How can we stay close as a family as our lives diverge?

She suggests group travel, text threads, traditions, and care packages.  Gretchen Rubin and her family send frequent email “updates” to each other as a way to maintain close contact.

I like some of these ideas, but they do require a commitment to make them work.  I’ve seen how easy it is to let family ties fray.  One way I maintain contact with some extended family is through a private Facebook group, where we post updates about what is happening in our lives.  We feel we can share more on this private group than on our regular timeline.

Has your extended family kept close ties?  If so, how have you made it happen?  Have you thought about ways to maintain close contact with your children as they become adults?   If your children are grown, are you satisfied with the type of relationship you now have?  On the other hand, do you prefer to keep a friendly distance from some relatives?

‘Am I introverted or just rude?’

by Méme

I don’t have to write a blurb – the title speaks for itself. The comments are mostly from introverts trying to figure out why it is considered rude not to be social. I think this might overlap with elitism for some – my time is too valuable to waste on you, your conversation is too plebeian, but for most of us (I am not an introvert, but I hate parties and chit chat) it is mostly just how do I want to spend my limited time.

Am I Introverted, or Just Rude?

Bad Design

by Honolulu Mother

Looks Can Kill: The Deadly Results of Bad Design by Lena Groeger

The linked article discusses recent instances of death or serious injury caused by bad design. What I found especially interesting was how many of the examples were of designs that had gone in the wrong direction from a safety standpoint — taking a standard and well-understood design and deciding to visually jazz it up, in a way that increased the possibility of harmful errors. For instance, the laundry pods that look like candy, fuel additives packaged like energy drink shots, detergents packaged to look like fruit drinks, or the shifter design on the right:

which has been blamed for a recent death because it makes it difficult to tell whether your vehicle is really in park.

Design is an important feature in our consumer culture. Good design been credited with propelling some product lines to the top, as in the conventional wisdom that Apple’s design has traditionally been both aesthetically pleasing and intuitive. But does the quest for a redesign to make a product stand out from its competitors sometimes run counter to the quest for better product safety?

And, how important is design to you? Do you pay the premium to buy your kids the interesting or fun school supplies or do you stick with the cheaper basic versions? When you look for furniture, does comfort rule or are you willing to trade it off for the look you want? Are there everyday items you consider examples of especially good or bad design?

Fall Recipes

by Honolulu Mother

Moving through September and into October doesn’t make much of a difference in the weather here, but I still start to think of making more pumpkin or apple based recipes, perhaps inspired by the Halloween stuff appearing in stores. For those of you in temperate climes, I’m sure your cooking style changes more noticeably with the seasons. So, please share some of your favorite fall recipes!

Here’s a collection to get you started:

Fall Recipes

And, here’s a recipe for a simple apple bundt cake — I don’t have my copy on hand but I found a copy online:

Apple Dapple Cake

College Confidential (Totebag Version)

by Louise

Totebaggers with older kids, what is the criteria for getting into a college that people would recognize ? I am not talking of Highly Selective Schools but maybe a tier below ?

Also, if you have experience with HSS, please share that. Some Totebaggers have left the decision on where to apply, how hard to work to their kids, others may have offered tips or made suggestions.

Still others have inside experience as readers of applications, college administrators and professors. I would love to hear your views on this edition of The Totebag College Confidential.

The Mixed Message: School’s Creating Helicopter Parents

by AustinMom

Last week I went to a freshman (high school) parent night and was told about all the things I should be doing to ensure my child’s success. These included (1) making sure they were using the agenda the school gave them, (2) regularly checking their grades, (3) each weekend helping them select the appropriate FIT sessions for the next week, (4) subscribing to the teachers’ webpages for those using that system to get emails when each assignment is posted, (5) logging into my student’s account to see what the assignments are for the teachers using that system, and (6) in my account, I should also set it up so that I get a notification for missing grades, absences/tardies, and when the child’s average falls below a family determined level.

Before I go on, FIT sessions are mandatory 25 minute tutoring/study sessions that occur 3 days a week. Teachers post the topic/style of each of their sessions each week, such as Q&A review for Pre-AP Biology Test 2 or Review of Quadratic Functions, or the student can select a quiet study hall or a “open” study hall that allows talking so kids can work on group projects. Teachers or counselors can sign a student up for a FIT session that the student cannot change.

Yes, I set up my parent account so I can see grades, get notifications for missing grades and when an average falls “too low”. However, I think the rest of those items are my student’s responsibility, but I am absolutely willing to help her with any issue if she asks. The teachers and counselors have told them to do these things and have showed them how. I believe that my student should not be counting on me to do these things and then remind her about all her assignments. If she does not handle the responsiblity appropriately, then it is my job to step in and help her figure out what needs to happen differently.

The next day this article (Standford Dean) comes through my feed about the negative effects of helicopter parenting and not to do “everything” for them. The event last night that told me what “good”, “involved” parents should do seems to be promoting helicopter parenting.

About 5 days later I attended a set of college presentations with my HS junior. One of the speakers introduced the term “helium parenting”. The article (Helium Parenting) describes it better, but think about how a balloon is tethered to your hand when you hold it, but it can still move around freely within limits. Then, when you let go, it goes off completely on its own. Helium parents provide that freedom within boundaries knowing that they will ultimatley let go.

Totebaggers, do you feel that you are getting mixed messages about how “involved” you are to be in your child(ren)’s school life? Do you feel like you are a “helicopter” or “helium” parent?

What a Stanford Dean Says Parents are Doing That’s Ruining Their Kids

Helium Parenting

Are athletic fees too high?

by Finn

A recent discussion delved into possible reasons college is getting so expensive. One factor we didn’t consider is the increasing cost to students of supporting increasing intercollegiate athletic budgets.

Sports At Any Cost

Why students foot the bill for college sports, and how some are fighting back

On the other hand:

NBC Accounts for $100 Million for Notre Dame Financial Aid

With fees supporting athletic departments running to hundreds of dollars per year, for many students that can mean additional thousands of additional dollars of college debt. For those relying on Pell Grants, it could mean millions of our tax dollars supporting athletic departments, many of which spend millions of dollars on coaches’ salaries alone.

What do you think? Are athletic fees excessively burdensome to students, especially those scraping through by borrowing and/or part time work and/or taking semesters off to work? Should there be limits on government spending supporting athletic departments?


Never will I . . .

by Rhett

Cordellia mentioned that her house has three water heaters because as a child she promised herself she’d never take a cold shower as an adult. I grew up in a house that was hot in the summer and freezing in the winter so I promised I’d always have powerful HVAC.

What are some of the things you’ve promised yourself as a child that you’ve achieved as an adult? What are some of the things you haven’t achieved?

You won’t believe this secret rule that you know without ever being taught!

by Honolulu Mother

Ha, sorry, creeping Buzzfeeditis strikes again.

I am of course referring to the recent story about how there’s a fairly complex order in which adjectives modifying a noun must be listed, that native speakers use without realizing that they even know it because it just sounds wrong otherwise. Here’s the BBC article on it.

Why the green great dragon can’t exist

Do you think that order is correct? Can you think of other grammatical rules that we don’t know we know?

(And speaking of clickbait, did you see the professor who played with a #clickbaitsyllabus on Twitter recently?

You won’t believe how this college prof clickbaited students. Or what happened next.

Supersmart kids

by Finn

If we’re all honest with ourselves, many of us have very smart kids. Perhaps they’re not supersmart, but they’re well above average, and common topics of conversation here are related to our kids being smarter than their classmates, and sometimes smarter than their teachers.

So these accounts of a study of supersmart kids will likely be of interest. Some here have mentioned some level of participation in the Johns Hopkins programs for very bright middle schoolers, and my niece participated, but I was totally unaware that the program was part of such a study of supersmart kids and how to help them maximize their potentials.

How to Raise a Genius: Lessons from a 45-Year Study of Supersmart Children

Want to Raise Wildly Successful Kids? Science Says Do This for Them (but Their Schools Probably Won’t)

What are your takeaways from these articles? Do they suggest any possible directions you will take regarding the education of your kids?

Election 2016, September 25 — October 1

Trump-Clinton debate expected to shatter records

The first presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump promises to be the most watched ever, with an audience that could exceed 100 million people, according to experts interviewed by The Hill.

A debate with an audience that size would be something never seen before in U.S. politics and would be a figure close to what the Super Bowl gets.

The first debate is tomorrow, September 26.

Urban Suburban

by Louise

This article talks about mixed use, denser development in the suburbs. It is definitely a trend in my city. Apartments and town homes are being built at a rapid pace in suburban centers and construction cranes fill the skyline. No large lot is left unbuilt.

What do you think of this tend ? Did you start off or still live in a dense setting ? Discuss.

Suburbs Trying to Attract Millennials Diverge on Development Patterns

Would you ban your college age kids from a major?

by Honolulu Mother

This Washington Post clickbait, I mean article, discusses parents who forbid their college student offspring from choosing a liberal arts major.

Meet the parents who won’t let their children study literature

I assume the parents in question are paying for college. Would you ever place specific subjects off-limits as a field of study for your college-aged offspring? And if so, what subjects?

To me it seems inappropriate and controlling. But, I’m not paying for college yet so ask me again when one of mine announces s/he has discovered a grade-free program of study in Video Gaming as Narrative that involves playing as many games as possible and then discussing them at informal seminars to be held Friday nights over a keg.

High-achieving siblings

by MBT

Then don’t even mention Calculus…..

Here is the summary of a study on high-achieving siblings, and the commonalities in how they were raised. A lot of what these parents did seems contrary to the Amy Chua, or even Totebag parenting ideals. In particular, there seems to be a willingness to allow children to fail that we really don’t seem to have here. However, they mention drug and alcohol problems, teen pregnancies, and other stumbles on the path to adulthood. Many on this board would not consider those outcomes to be a success. The siblings profiled all did achieve success in their chosen fields, so there must be something more than chance going on. I’m not sure how that can be, though, because Calculus is not mentioned anywhere in the article. Do you see any similarities between your parenting styles and those profiled here? Do you consider these families to be successful?

Secrets of Super Siblings

Out of state students

Both MooshiMooshi and Rhode sent in posts for this topic.

by MooshiMooshi

Are cuts to public state universities forcing kids to go out of state?

This article, from the NYTimes, contends that increasingly, this is the case. The article discusses reasons why some states are sending so many students out of state, and the second article shows the data, state by state.

Public Colleges Chase Out-of-State Students, and Tuition

How Cuts to Public Universities Have Driven Students Out of State

In my experience, some states have traditionally sent lots of students out of state – CT and MA come to mind immediately. Even back in the 80’s, it was assumed in CT that many students would leave. Both states had relatively underfunded flagship public universities at the time, and little tradition of widespread public university education. The best students always went private. But other states, like CA, had a long standing tradition of public higher education. In the state where I graduated HS, very few students went out of state, and that appears to still be the case. But CA is now sending a lot of students out. And Illinois???

How is your state doing according to the data? If your state is sending a lot of kids out of state, do you agree with the reasons given? Do most students in your state go to public universities or do many go to private schools? And do you think we should continue to have state based public higher education systems? Or should everything thing be national, or even private?

* * * * * *

by Rhode

This article describes how public college students migrate. Did you follow the pattern of your home state? What about your kids?

The interesting backbone to this article is the reduction of state aid to public colleges. How does this affect you? Are your children’s colleges choices or how far the budget will stretch affected?

The broader question I have is what do you think about the reduction of state aid to public colleges?

At least in RI, the aid from the state is supposed to subsidize RI student costs, so that way our state public colleges are very affordable. In an odd twist, the cost to keep the lights on is the cost of out-of-state tuition, so the state aid basically fills the gap between “what the state thinks RI students should pay” and “what it actually costs to run the college”. I’ve never agreed with the model – it’s a catch-22. The college needs to recruit out-of-state students to keep the lights on, so the state thinks that the college doesn’t care about in-state needs, and then reduces aid, forcing tuition to increase across the board. If the college focuses on drawing in-state students, then programs may be cut because the college doesn’t have enough out-of-state tuition to keep the lights on.

What about your state? Is funding to public colleges decreasing? Do you think it’s important for states to fund public institutions? What about the federal government? Should more aid be given to reduce tuition costs across the board?


by Honolulu Mother

My daughter spends her evenings in a Hamiltrash chat via Instagram. I have heard (upon information and belief) that many other teens do the same.

Hamilton’s teenage superfans: ‘This is, like, crazy cool’

What, if anything, will it mean for this age group that their big teenage musical obsession involves a rap battle over whether to found a national bank instead of the usual boy band output? Will this come to be considered a generational marker?

Locations in three words

by Anonymous

Have you heard of what3words? It’s a new addressing system to help people communicate specific locations. One can currently do that with coordinates, but those are prone to error – telling the pizza guy you want your order to come to 34.057905°N 118.208899°W may get you to the entrance of USC’s hospital but giving the guy 31.057905°N 118.208899°W will get you a few hundred miles off of the Mexican Coast.

In order to have accuracy, you have to have a lot of numbers. In order to use traditional addresses, you need an agreed upon system of words and numbers – which much of the world doesn’t have. Enter what3words – a set of word-based coordinates that identify a 3×3 meter square.

I think it is the most interesting thing. My college’s art gallery is matrons.defend.smokers, which is awesome. Given the size of the gallery (or your house) there are 10s or 100s of choices. Some of them are brilliant. The whole ideas is a combination of nerdy, whimsical and social justice – being able to provide ambulance or mail delivery to the slums changes people’s lives.  [link updated]

what3words keeps Olympics visitors on track in Rio

This is probably not the discussion where people disclose the coordinates of their front door – but perhaps their favorite beach. What do you use to find your way without addresses? How can that be improved? Is everyone else as in love with this as I am?


The long and short of height stagnation

by winemama

Make America Tall Again? Height Stagnation in the 20th Century

It’s good to be tall. Tall people live longer, are considered more attractive, and make more money – an extra inch of height is correlated with an additional $800 in income….

Countries with tall people are wealthier, have longer average life spans, and are less likely to have experienced conflict. There’s no better sign of a country’s health and wealth than height….

Rather than genetics, diet and well-being during infancy and adolescence are the primary determinants of a country’s average height. During these growth periods, the body has the greatest need for nutrients. Sickness and malnourishment in childhood can mean a loss ofthree to four inches in height….

The Dutch are the tallest people in the world. The average man is nearly 6 feet tall, compared to 5’ 9” ½ in the United States, and the average woman is 5’ 6” ½ compared to 5 4” ½ in the U.S….

The United States was once among the tallest countries in the world.

According to the data, Americans born in 1896 were the 3rd tallest in the world, and as recently as 1951, Americans were 10th. But the second half of the 20th Century was a period of sharp relative decline for American height. Today, the United States ranks 40th, and the height of the average American (5’ 7”) is no greater today than it was for those born in 1950….

The most likely answer is that with equally distributed economic growth, average height across the world could grow several more inches, but not much more. Anthropometric researchers and anthropologists tend to agree that the Dutch have reached close to the limits of human height.


All About McMansions!

The Worst of McMansions blog elicited post ideas from two Totebaggers.

Honolulu Mother has some thoughts on this:

We’ve talked before about what makes a McMansion a McMansion, versus a large house or an actual mansion. Now someone has helpfully done an entire blog series for us architectural n00bs, explaining the rules of graceful construction and how McMansions violate them:

McMansions 101: What Makes a McMansion Bad Architecture?

There are links to other posts in the series at the bottom.

Let’s talk about McMansions! Do you live in one? Do your neighbors? Do you have strong feelings on the subject?

Rocky Mountain Stepmom has similar questions:

Totebaggers, do you agree with the distinction between mansions and
McMansions? Do you live in one or the other?

Our uncivilized public lands

by WCE

As Homeless Find Refuge in Forests, ‘Anger Is Palpable’ in Nearby Towns

In many western states (see Time magazine link for details by state), the federal government owns a majority of the land, either as national forest or as Bureau of Land Management land. This allows for great hiking and camping opportunities, as well as grazing, firewood cutting and mushroom hunting, but so much open land has disadvantages as well.

The NY Times article discusses the mess and risks associated with disadvantaged people who live on public lands. Two of my friends who are PhD wildlife biologists have confirmed that there are significant risks when hiking and camping on public lands. Unlike cities, which are usually well-policed, forest lands have very limited law enforcement. Growing marijuana and drug trafficking are probably the most common crimes. A single officer may be responsible for hundreds of square miles. Even with the cooperation of local law enforcement and fire departments, crime and wildfires are very problematic. The federal government has reduced/tried to eliminate “payment in lieu of property taxes” for forest lands, so the costs of busing kids to school in these areas is high and borne by counties with an artificially low tax base.

Do you have any thoughts (or maybe questions, since there are a few of us in states with lots of federal land) about how federal land should be managed? Do you agree or disagree that it is under-resourced in terms of fire/police protection? Any other thoughts about how federal land ownership affects western states?

Teasing and Friendship

by Honolulu Mother

Recent articles from New York Magazine and Quartz suggest that kids need to learn to distinguish between good-natured teasing, which can be an important part of friendship, and the kind of unfriendly jibes we might consider bullying.

Teach Your Kids to Take a Joke or They’ll Be Bad at Friendship

Teasing has many benefits, when done right

From the NYMag article:

Boston University psychologist Peter Gray tells Quartz that if parents and teachers try and shield their kids too much from any sort of smack talking, then they don’t learn to enjoy the crass banter that’s such a part of growing up or to stand up for themselves when it goes too far. Those sheltered kids have “heard from adults that [light-hearted teasing] is bullying and so they get really upset about it rather than knowing how to roll with the punches,” he says. It’s like the social equivalent of the microbiome: If your parents didn’t let any microbes into your house growing up, there’s a better chance you would develop asthma. And if they didn’t let you exchange barbs with your friends growing up, it might be harder to accept the vulnerability that’s a part of talking shit as an adult. . . .

We do a lot of teasing within our family, which I think has helped our kids to see it as an affectionate thing within the right context. In the school context, I think that kids teasing one another often are honestly uncertain themselves whether they mean it as friendly banter or mean teasing — often it’s the target’s reaction that decides it for them. So I do agree with the article that it’s helpful for kids to experience teasing as a part of normal social interaction, so they can distinguish between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ teasing as they grow up.

Can your kids join in to friendly teasing, and give as good as they get, or do these interactions upset them? Are your family members fond of teasing one another?


by Risley

After being advised by my son for several months that I simply must listen to the SERIAL podcast (masterminds behind This American Life and available for free on iTunes), I finally downloaded the first season a week or so ago, and listened to the first few episodes on a drive to the other side of the state. Oh my — HOOKED!

For those who haven’t heard of it, season 1 is about a 15-year-old murder case (a HS senior was murdered and her HS senior boyfriend was tried, convicted and is serving time for the crime. He is now 32). The host, Sarah Koenig, interviews various witnesses and experts, as well as the defendant, and reviews all the evidence, presenting a case that (this far into my listening, at least) seems very far from cut and dried. Did he or didn’t he? I have reasonable doubts, to be sure.

I’m up to episode 8 now and am already mourning the impending ending of season 1. I’m so glad there are 2 more seasons left. (I assume each season presents a different case, but I’m afraid to look at the website in case there are spoilers. I was on there earlier, looking for Sarah’s Twitter handle, and already learned info about Season 1 that I didn’t want to know now). I didn’t watch Making a Murderer on Netflix, but I imagine fans of that show would love Serial.

Also at my son’s insistence, I started listening to Revisionist History, Malcolm Gladwell’s podcast. It’s interesting, but not nearly as riveting (to me) as Serial. DS and I recently flew together, and we spent the flight sharing headphones and listening to Revisionist History shows stored on his phone.

In addition to these new (to me) shows, I have always loved This American Life, The Moth, and a few shows on CBC Radio. And I’m sure DS will keep me apprised of any he gloms onto in the future.

I actually don’t make time in my week for podcasts. I don’t have much of a commute anyway, and on the 2 days I go to the office, I listen to Morning Edition en route there, and Fresh Air en route home (or I call friends/relatives to chat). On the other days, I don’t really have any spot in my schedule for podcasts. If I happen to catch these shows when I’m on long drives, I cheer and listen raptly; otherwise, I miss them.

Or at least, that’s how it was *before* Serial. Not anymore! Now that my son has gotten me hooked on this show, I’ll be finding pockets of podcast time in as many days as I can. Maybe while I walk the dogs, or while I do my 15 minutes/day of gait therapy on the treadmill? I can’t see listening to podcasts during more vigorous exercise, like spinning. But maybe as an alternative to reading, especially on nights when my brain’s fried from work? I don’t have a gadget to attach my phone to my pants, but maybe I’ll get one, and listen while I clean the kitchen? I’d listen to/from the cottage, which is my only regular drive over 20 minutes, but it’s rarely only me in the car then, and unless DH and the kids are at the same spot in the show that I’m at, it would be no fun for them to play it then.

What about you? What podcasts are you hooked on? When do you listen to them? Do you have a system for keeping your phone/iPod storage files cleared of old ones, so you can make room for the new? Are there any your entire family listens to together, or you and your partner? Are there any that you actually pay for?

Ask the Totebag: Transitions

by Denver Dad

DS just started high school. During the first week, he seemed to be a bit moody and was starting to show signs of the anxiety issues he had a few years. At the end of the week, he sent an email to DW, the gist of it saying that he doesn’t like HS and wants to go to an online school. It was very mature and well thought out. I know HS is a tough transition, and more so when you go from a small school (550 students total in K-8) to a 1,200 student HS. DW and I agree he needs to give it time so he can settle in, and agree that online school is not an option (I am not interested in debating that).

We’ve already talked to our pediatrician about restarting the antidepressant he was when he had the issues a few years ago, and we are working on finding a counselor/therapist as well. We are going to reach out to the guidance counselor to see what she suggests because I’m sure other kids from his previous school have gone through the same thing (a lot of them go to this HS).

My question is, what are some things that you did to help your kids with the HS transition that seemed to help? And conversely, what are some things to avoid saying or doing that just made things worse?

And we can discuss the transition to college as well.

Worst pets

by Honolulu Mother

Researchers in the Netherlands have recently identified the mammals least suitable as household pets — science! — and this Vox article helpfully runs through the 25 worst:

The 25 worst mammals to keep as pets

Grizzly bear and bison seem like obvious bad ideas, but it’s a good thing they warned us about that fennec fox.

Do you have pets? Cat, dog, or small mammal / bird / fish? Have you ever had or considered having an unusual pet, or worked with an exotic animal in some other context?

Allowance and chores

by Seattle Soccer Mom

I thought it would be fun to compare notes on how much allowance kids receive, what (if anything) they have to do to receive it, and whether they have to save parts of the allowance for long-term savings or charitable donations. I also thought it would be interesting to share info on what kids do for chores (I often learn that my kids are capable of much more than I’d been asking them to do).

Here’s what we do:

Allowance: 11 year old DS receives $5 a week. He doesn’t have to do anything to get his allowance but does have to do chores (see below). 16 year old DD has to do dishes 4 times in order to earn her $10 allowance. We added this requirement last year when it was hard to tell if DD genuinely didn’t have time to do the dishes because of homework or if she was just trying to get out of doing the dishes.

Both kids can spend their allowance however they want; we don’t make them put part of it towards long-term savings or charitable donations. DD is naturally a saver and doesn’t spend much. DS is a natural spender and doesn’t save much. The only time DS has intentionally saved money was when he was saving up to buy a mini-iPad. This was a good experience for him. Most of the other things DS wants are inexpensive – either hotwheel cars or songs on iTunes.

Chores: Both kids are responsible for doing their own laundry and putting it away although “putting it away” is loosely defined. DS shoves his clothes in his drawers (no folding involved). DD keeps her clothes in the laundry basket or strewn about her room (she has both a bureau and a closet but does not seem to make much use of them). I’ve decided that as long as I don’t have to deal with their clothes, I don’t care.

Both kids have to unload the dishwasher and put their dirty dishes in the dishwasher. DD has to do dishes after dinner. In the summer, each kid has to cook dinner once a week. We have a housecleaner who comes every two weeks; the kids are responsible for making sure their rooms are clean enough to be vacuumed and that they’ve put out clean sheets. If they fail to do so, then on the weekend, they get to pick up their rooms, vacuum, and change their own sheets.

DH would like the kids to help out with yard work but he keeps hoping they will naturally volunteer on their own. I have told him pigs will fly before that happens and he needs to tell the kids he wants their help rather than making it an optional activity.

Exercise at work

by Honolulu Mother

We’ve all heard how dangerous it is to spend all day sitting, and it’s recently been reported that we should be getting at least an hour a day of moderate exercise to counteract the effects of sitting down the rest of the day. But finding the time is difficult.

This Thrillist article proposes that exercising at work should be normalized:


I have a yoga ball, aka an adult hippety-hop, that I sit on from time to time, although I’m dubious as to whether that really does much for my core. I just like bouncing while I work. Other than that, I just try to walk out a bit at lunchtime and take the long way to and from the bathroom. I do think my colleagues would look a bit askance at deskside burpees, wall squats, and so forth.

How about the rest of you? I remember that Risley has her under-desk cycle — is it still working out well? Have others found a good way to get in a little exercise at work? And do you think exercising at work should be a thing?

Making new friends as you get older

by Honolulu Mother

This Vox article talks about the increased difficulty of making new close friends as one moves away from young adulthood:

On the other side of the 30, we keep adding casual friends, but most of us won’t gain close friends like before; no more best friends. The 30s are a time for settling in to friendly acquaintances and hanging on to faraway friends over texts and Facebook.

Author Kate Shellnutt notes various reasons for this, including increased work and family responsibilities as well as the presence for most people of a spouse who may fill the role of best friend. However, she also concludes that making new friends isn’t easy at any age, and it’s still a goal worth striving toward.

I certainly find it much slower to make new friends now than in college or grad school, and really I’m more likely to develop family friends than individual friends. And that’s not surprising — whereas once I shared meals and living quarters with roommates / housemates and had plenty of free time to do things together and just hang out, now I live with my own family and my schedule is pretty full. But perhaps as we become empty nesters, that will change again.

What has your experience been of making new friends in your 30s, 40s, and later?


by Louise

This article caught my eye. One party was fired by their firm, the other was not fired by another firm and continues on.

On a radio show, I listen to callers describe situations and listeners and radio hosts guess whether they were fired or not. Many times, I have thought the callers must have gotten fired, but no – they carried on.

Have you been fired? Or know of situations where people should or should not have been fired?

Fifth Third Fired Counsel Over Relationship With Fannie CEO

Caught between two countries

by Rocky Mountain Stepmom

A certain well-received novelist has written this essay about feeling
caught between two countries:

A writer with two countries

I’m very clearly USAn. I use that instead of “American” because I get
yelled at by my Canadian friends if I say “American”. I’ve lived in
California, North Carolina, Arizona, Indiana, Illinois, and Colorado.
But I feel like either a Californian or a Westerner. The whole gun
control debate doesn’t hit me the same way it hits East Coast folks.
(Yes, gun violence is bad. I’m against it. But I don’t have the same
revulsion to guns that East Coast people seem to have). I don’t know as
much about Colonial history as my East Coast friends, but I can tell you
a lot about Junipero Serra and SIr Francis Drake and the 1906 SF
earthquake, and my mom’s wedding ring was made out of a gold nugget that
was dug up by one of my dad’s 49er ancestors.

Do you feel fully USAn, or do you have a more regional alliance? Are you
a Southerner, an East Coast elite, or something else entirely?

What I ate yesterday

by Grace aka costofcollege

The Weird Appeal of ‘What I Ate Today’ Videos

Inspired by the popularity of YouTube “What I Ate Today” videos, I propose we all share similar information.

What did you eat yesterday?  List it all, if you dare.  Or you can make something up if you’d rather keep your secrets.  We’ll never know the difference anyway!  But I am genuinely curious about Totebaggers’ real eating habits.  If you can remember that long ago, list what you ate over two or more days.  Add commentary to help us understand your choices.

Was yesterday typical?  Was your day rushed or relaxed?  Did you cook, take out, go out, have leftovers, or something else?  Are you happy with your diet or do you wish you ate better?  Do family members struggle with trying to eat healthy?  What have you eaten today?

What are your favorite “fast food” meals, either traditional like McDonald’s or something easy to prepare at home?

Trend alert:  US retail sales of eating and drinking establishments are now higher than those of grocery stores.

Expand demand-based pricing?

by Fred MacMurray

So we’ve come to accept variable, demand based, pricing in:

  • airline tickets — you might have paid $hundreds more or less than the person you’re sitting next to depending on when you bought your ticket.
  • sporting events, where some games are now “premium” and ticket prices are higher for those games than “regular” games
  • Uber, depending on the current demand for their services
  • Auto insurance, which is based on your driving record and even your credit rating
  • Flowers (Valentines Day)
  • Some restaurants (holiday brunches, Mothers’ Day)

And there are others.

How do you feel about demand-based pricing? What if your mechanic adopted the same thing (e.g. the Friday or Wednesday before Thanksgiving it costs 2x the normal rate because everyone wants their car looked over, the oil changed and tires rotated before the big drive to Grandma’s)? Your barber / hairdresser? Why are we accepting/understanding of this scheme for travel, but not for some/many other day-to-day things?

Flow = Adult ADHD??

by Honolulu Mother

I was interested in this article’s suggestion that the experience of “flow,” when you’re intensely focused on your work and distractions seem to drop away, may actually be an expression of adult ADHD.

When Adult ADHD Looks Something Like ‘Flow’

If I weren’t distractible I wouldn’t be a Totebag regular, but when I shut my door and set my status to busy and really dig in to some big project I do experience flow and am often surprised to find that hours have gone by. Do you find this article to be consistent with your experiences?

Summer Reading Fun!

By Seattle Soccer Mom

Fellow Totebaggers – what are the books you’ve enjoyed reading this summer? Or the books you haven’t liked?

Here are some books I’ve read and enjoyed this summer:

“Lab Girl” by Hope Jahren – combination memoir and science writing. Very good.

“Fool Me Once” – a page-turner thriller by Harlan Coben. I couldn’t put it down.

“Eligible” by Curtis Sittenfeld – a fun, lighthearted retelling of Pride and Prejudice.

“Cure: A Journey into the Science of the Mind over Body” by Jo Marchant. I found this book fascinating – it looks at the connection between the mind and the body. It’s written by a science reporter who has a PhD in genetics and microbiology – but is very readable (lots of really interesting stories).

“The Golem and the Jinni” by Helene Wecker – a chance meeting between mythical beings takes set in turn-of-the-century New York. Part fantasy and part historical fiction with a fairy tale-like quality about it.

And of course “Untethered” by Julie Lawson Timmer.

Open thread

by Grace aka costofcollege

Today we have an open thread to discuss any subject of your choosing.

August marks the end of summer for many of us.  I am trying to enjoy every minute of the warm weather, and I’ve decided summer is my favorite season.  What’s your favorite time of year?

Here’s another thought.  Did you ever watch Wife Swap?

Wife Swap is an American reality television program that was first broadcast on the ABC network in 2004. In the program, two families, usually from different social classes and lifestyles, swap wives/mothers – and sometimes husbands – for two weeks. The program will usually deliberately swap wives with dramatically different lifestyles, such as a messy wife swapping with a fastidiously neat one, or a wife who only cooks vegan swapped with a non vegan wife, documenting the cultural and social differences that the two families discover with the new family member….

Which Totebagger would you switch with to make for an entertaining episode of Wife Swap because of your “dramatically different lifestyles”.  Or which other Totebag family is so similar to your own that you would blend in seamlessly?  Can you imagine swapping with a famous family, like the Kardashians, the Duggars, the Mr. Money Moustaches, or others?

What’s So Special About Finland?

by WCE

This Atlantic article discusses differences between the U.S. and Finland. I liked the emphasis that speaking English as a first language is a natural advantage that people in the United States have. I enjoyed the part about what citizens receive in return for high taxes, because in the U.S. model, upper middle class citizens pay taxes at marginal rates comparable to those in Scandinavia but must still pay significant amounts toward childcare, healthcare and college for their children. I think that the diversity of the U.S. compared to Finland in terms of the background and culture of its citizens is both a benefit and a disadvantage, depending on the situation. Discuss!

What’s So Special About Finland?

“In terms of immigration, if you have a situation like you have now in Europe—huge numbers of immigrants coming in all of a sudden—that’s a very difficult situation for any country. But if a lot of these immigrants also [have] education levels [that] do not help them in this society to find work, then this puts strain on the system. The system is built on the idea that everybody works, everybody pays taxes, and then they get these things in return. Whereas in the United States you don’t really have any [government-provided] benefits. That’s not so much of a problem in terms of immigration.

In higher education, the Nordic approach of offering everyone free tuition is a really good system for educating the whole population well. On the other hand, the U.S. has fantastic research institutes, leading Ivy League universities [that] are amazing, [and] their resources are very different from the resources that Nordic [universities] have.

Friedman: Many Americans might say, “This all sounds great, but you guys are paying sky-high taxes. We don’t want anything to do with that.” How would you respond?

Partanen: First of all, the taxes are not necessarily as high as many Americans think. One of the myths I encounter often is that Americans are like, “You pay 70 percent of your income in taxes.” No, we do not. For someone who lives in a city like San Francisco or New York City—where you have federal taxes, state taxes, city taxes, property taxes—the tax burden is not very different [than the tax burden in Finland]. I discuss my own taxes in the book and I discovered this to be true: that I did pay about the same or even more in New York than I would have paid on my income in Finland. I’ve talked to many Nordics in the U.S. who say the same thing.

The second thing is that there’s no point in discussing the levels of taxes in different countries unless you discuss what you get for your taxes. Americans in many states, certainly, or cities—they might pay less taxes [on] their income or [on] property than Nordics do. But then, on top of that, they pay for their day care, they pay for their health insurance, they pay for college tuition—all these things that Nordics get for their taxes.


by Honolulu Mother

Atul Gawande now has a book out based on his 2007 New Yorker article on the use of checklists in medicine, piloting, and other fields:


The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right

His basic take is that although those doing complex work are reluctant to adopt a tool so simple as a checklist, they have proved a very worthwhile way to reduce costly errors and improve outcomes.

Do you use checklists for work or home tasks, or do you create checklists for others to use? How helpful do you find them?

Reconnecting with an old love

by Mémé

Every now and then I’ll come across an article that stirs a memory or just have a stray thought and search FB for a long lost friend. About a year ago I did that and found my first boyfriend from sophomore year of high school. His current picture was not much to look at, but I did see an old photo on his public page that reminded me of how handsome he had been. I sent him a message (which goes into Facebook purgatory unless you pay money) and said, well, if he ever finds it I’ll hear from him. He did reply six months later, we did a heartfelt “friend”, and I decided to schedule a meet up on my recent trip to DC.

We sat in a coffee shop for 2 hours and caught up on the 43 years since we last ran into each other. We didn’t reminisce much about high school because we only went out for six months and went on with our lives. However, he is the only guy other than my two husbands that is at the level of “in love” for me.

I am still processing the experience. I felt awkward after a while, not for romantic reasons, but because my life turned out so much better than his. There was no increase in heart rate, although at one point he cocked his head just so and I caught a glimpse of the boy inside the man. He has a quiet responsible life, late marriage with youngest kid 20 years old, not happy in his marriage, middle class and tied to working as long as he is able, but his conversation was full of regrets about the road not taken`, recounting all sorts of recent sad events – not bitter, just resigned and a bit hard on himself. He never finished college because he went off the rails at 21 for a year or two and was just afraid of risk after that. (I guess it turns out he is a depressive, too. I am three for three.) I took a 15 year hiatus from myself from age 26 to 41 and lived through some tough luck, but I got myself back. He just figured out how to get by. I did ask him if his grand passion, a fabulous artistic woman he fell for at 17 and whose eventual rejection sent him into a tailspin, prevented him from moving on personally. He loved her like a guy in a tragic romance novel to a degree I have never again encountered from a man in real life. He said to me, I don’t think so, that’s an interesting observation. Still, my wife did ask me to burn all the pictures from that era (he just hid them). Ya think?

Totebaggers, please share your experiences of going back to the past, happy or not. Do you have any desire to track down old friends?

Handyman for a day

by Grace aka costofcollege

I’ve been seeing variations on this Angie’s List deal.

$279 Handyman for the Day

Are you tempted?

Your list of projects around the house seems to keep growing with no end in sight. Skip the hassle and let the professionals do the work for less with this great offer!

$279.00 for 8 labor hours of skilled handyman services (1 worker for 8 hours or 2 workers for 4 hours each)
Deal can be used for everything from shelving installation to minor electrical and minor plumbing repairs

Assuming you could get a competent handyman, do you have any projects you’d like to get done?  I can think of a few, including that sagging garage trim that needs to be straightened, weatherstripping around some doors that needs to be replaced, and a new doorbell.  If I gave it more thought, I’m sure I could come up with lots more.  What about you?  How about landscaping or housecleaning chores that you’d like to take care of with a similar deal?

Have you ever used a service like this?  One thing I thought of was that I’d want to be very organized and make sure to have all the materials on hand so that minimal time would be wasted on trips to the hardware store.

What’s your next home project?

Financial education for kids

by Finn

Having a kid who’s close to graduating from HS, this article caught my attention:

5 Financial Concepts To Teach Your Teen Before High School Graduation

What do you think? Do you agree with the five concepts? Are there any others you think should be added? How do you plan to teach these concepts to your kids?

On a related note, do your kids’ schools offer classes in personal finance? My kids’ school offers one, but DS tells me he won’t take it because he’s already maxed out on the number of classes he’s allowed to take, and doesn’t want to give up any of them.

Next year they plan to offer some short courses, with personal finance being one possible subject. With the PSAT being moved from Saturday to a school day, the school decided to cancel classes on PSAT day, and instead offer things like personal finance seminars for the freshmen and seniors. Another possible time for some short classes is the weeks after AP testing.

When fictional children grow up

by winemama

Harry Potter and the curse of middle age: should fictional children ever grow up?

The best children’s books celebrate the innocence and joy of childhood. They capture and preserve it. Do we really want to know that Just William became an accountant or that Charlie sold his chocolate factory to Nestlé and took up golf? Speaking personally, I felt a sense of betrayal when we glimpsed Harry as an adult at the end of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I was reminded of a wonderful film, Joseph Losey’s The Go-Between, which is as much about childhood as it is about love. At the end, the youthful Leo, played by Dominic Guard, is transformed into the elderly, ghost-like Michael Redgrave. “Leo, you’re all dried up inside,” he’s told and he doesn’t disagree. That’s what growing up can do to you. It’s what children’s books fight against.

Thoughts about seeing favorite characters as grown-ups?
Do you enjoy seeing this peek into the future, or does it ruin the magic?

A link between neurotic unhappiness and creativity

by WCE

Creative and neurotic: Is neuroticism fueled by overthinking?

This article positing a link between neuroticism and creativity discusses a correlation with no known mechanism, so we can speculate unencumbered by data. Mr WCE and I both have trouble turning off, and for him especially, that leads to sleep difficulties. I can’t tell how neurotic I am, but I know I spend a lot of time living inside my own head. When I spent a month in the hospital before my twins were born, it was hard to read books and so I mostly did Sudoku puzzles and thought, with some listening to music. Apparently not everyone is like that.

What’s The First News Story You Remember?

by Honolulu Mother

This Deadspin (Gawker affliate) item asked its readers what was the first big news story they were aware of as kids:

What’s The First Big News Story You Were Aware Of As A Kid?

Judging by the comments, either the Challenger explosion or the first Gulf War was the first memorable news story for many readers. Totebag readers probably skew older, though.

For me, it was Watergate. I think my parents had as much fun trying to explain that one as they did answering my question about whether Watership Down was about bunnies, or people. (“Well, it is about bunnies, but it’s really about people.” DID NOT COMPUTE.)

How about the rest of you? What was your first news story?

The 90’s are back!

by wimemama

The 90’s are making a comeback in fashion, film and television.

Netflix has brought back Full House (1987-1995). Boy Meets World has a spin-off show, Girl Meets World.

There was a re-make of Total Recall and another film in the Jurassic Park franchise.

’90s Trends That Made a Comeback

Get The Look: 90s Style Icons

What 90’s influences do you see around you?

What were your favorites from the 90’s in fashion, music and entertainment?

What to Wear or Not When It’s Hot: Office Dress Codes

by Anon for This Topic

Today (mid-July), I received an email from our HR department reminding us of the office dress code policy.  I can’t post it for obvious reasons, but here is a bullet summary:

  • Employee’s appearance is a direct reflection on the level of professionalism at the organization.
  • Employees must follow the accepted standards of professional office attire.
  • Clothing or jewelry that could present a safety hazard is not permitted (although not in the policy the email goes on to say that flip flops are in this category)
  • Employee’s who do not meet with the public can wear business casual, but it cannot be inappropriate or provocative.
  • All attire must be neat and modest (although not in the policy, the email goes on to say that must be free from rips/tears, clean and no logos or printing other than employer issued shirts)
  • Supervisors can answer questions about what is appropriate.
  • Employees who violate the dress code can be asked to go home and change.  Time away from work to do this is uncompensated.

This comes on the heels of the following article in the New York Times.

The End of the Office Dress Code

This raises the question for me about how does one, especially women, figure out what the standards of professional attire are? I would not feel comfortable asking many of the supervisors I have had for input on this topic, but I have asked mentors. I have provided feedback to those I have mentored, both men and women, when asked or when it was clearly an issue. However, my preferred approach is to watch what my peers and higher ups wear and try to figure out their definitions of professional attire vs. business casual.

In general, I think my employer is fairly laid back as far as dress code standards, so I am curious who has worn what that prompted this. Does summer prompt dress code issues in your workplace or do you struggle more in the summer? Do you ever feel that this is just another area of ambiguous rules that can be bent to fit the situation?

City sidewalks

by Honolulu Mother

What kind of sidewalk walker are you?

There Are 3 Kinds of Sidewalk Walkers

I walk quickly so I’m probably a give-way type, as I need to snake through the slower walkers and the old ladies with pull-carts of shopping and the bus-stop crowds. But I do sometimes bump shoulders with that certain type of guy who walks down the middle of a narrow sidewalk and looks right at an on-comer and doesn’t move an inch to either side. I guess I’m not *that* willing to give way?

And, what kind of sidewalk behavior would you ban if you were the Monarch of the Sidewalks?

How much have you saved?

by Finn

While this story is about college financial aid, what I found most interesting was the finances of the families involved:

An inside look at financial aid offers from private Franklin & Marshall College

For example, Student A comes from a family with an AGI of $400k, with $635k in home equity and $360k in assets not in retirement accounts. While recognizing the possibility that they could have millions stashed in retirement accounts, doesn’t that seem like a net value of less than $1M outside of retirement accounts is low for that level of income? Granted, I also don’t know what sort of special circumstances they might’ve faced, e.g., expensive medical treatments, long periods with much less income, but if we assume they didn’t face any of that, wouldn’t you think they’d have accumulated more?

Side note: This example does suggest that maximizing retirement account contributions is one way to maximize financial aid.

Looking through the other examples, while some families have assets that seem commensurate with their incomes, especially the families with low incomes, it seems to me that others should’ve been able to accumulate more assets, including home equity.

What do you think? I know I’m well above national norms in terms of how much I save, but do you think these levels of assets and home equity seem low relative to their incomes, taking into account where they live?

The GOP’s future?

by Rhode

Republicans Left Wondering If Donald Trump Will Kill The Party Or Just Maim It

I’m interested in people’s opinions on this one. Is the HuffPost right about this one? Is the Republican Party as fractured as we are led to believe?

For those of you who lean right and tend to vote for Republicans, what are your thoughts on the Grand Ole Party?

Is a Trump Presidency as dire as the HuffPost believes?

Adult summer camp

by Grace aka costofcollege

Seattle adult summer camp provides escape from stress

What’s your fantasy adult summer camp?  Active or lazy?  Luxury or bare bones?  Hiking, crafts, swimming, boating, sports, performing arts, computers, science, language immersion, reading, yoga, boozy parties, or something else?  The sky’s the limit.  Describe what your ideal camp schedule might be. Or, would you rather skip camp all together?

Did you attend camp as a child?  Do your children attend camp?  Many people I’ve known have strong opinions on sending away their children to sleepaway camps that last six weeks or more.

Here’s a summer camp that seems geared toward a young party crowd, with DJ dance parties and alcohol all day long.

We went to an adult summer camp—and had a blast

Is it crazy to believe in the devil?

by WCE

As a psychiatrist, I diagnose mental illness. Also, I help spot demonic possession.

Dr. Gallagher writes about his efforts to distinguish mental illness from possible demon possession. He added this explanatory comment after the article was published.

Dr. GALLAGHER responds: Greetings to all. Since this essay garnered such enormous interest, I will add some context. I was asked to write this piece by the Post, not the reverse. As the superb editor made clear, it was NOT to be a scientific article about the evidence for or against possession, but rather my experience as a psychiatrist involved with suffering people. Yes, many of these individuals presented to me with paranormal and tormenting symptoms — and one is free to believe me or not, but I KNOW that to be unequivocally true. These cases are rare and they are not patients of mine. Further, despite the misleading title (which I did not assign the piece), I do not “diagnose” possession, as I stated, but just inform pro bono various clergy (not all Christian btw), as also stated, that as a very experienced physician these features may (or may not) go beyond medical pathology. I make no apology that I am expertly trained to do so (unlike some armchair experts). An article arguing for the reality of demonic possession, a complex and highly controversial subject, would require a much longer essay and a very different way of marshaling the evidence; I was not asked to do that. I thank the many readers who appreciated the piece and I predicted others would react with (many juvenile) ad hominem and sometimes ignorant and anti-Christian vitriol. What else is new?…

Big Data keeps tabs on college students

by Rocky Mountain Stepmom

Institutions collect startling amounts of information on students. Do the students have a right to know how it’s being used, and should they be able to opt out?

As Big Data Comes to College, Officials Wrestle to Set New Ethical Norms – The Chronicle of Higher Education

[The linked article is behind a paywall, but here’s a PDF that will stay posted for a limited time.]

20160710.As Big Data Comes to College, Officials Wrestle to Set New Ethical Norms – The Chronicle of Higher Education (1)

Eat your veggies!

by Honolulu Mother

Here’s a Vox article on some of the reasons why Americans don’t eat enough vegetables, and some ideas for fixing that:

4 fixes for the astonishing lack of vegetables in the American diet

What do you think of those ideas? And do you have any favorite recipes or techniques for getting veggies on the table?

I’m partial to oven-roasting, especially cauliflower. And warm weather months are a good time for panzanella! I make a fairly simple one, and only when I have good tomatoes available. Ripe juicy tomatoes, big chunks of bread that were toasted in the oven at low heat, olive oil, salt, pepper, torn basil leaves, and mozzarella pearls, all tossed together — add cucumber or corn if you have some fresh — and there’s dinner! (Possibly with some questions from the kids like “Is this dinner?” and “Are we having any meat?”)

Credit cards

by Finn

A recent exchange of posts with Lemon brought this article to mind:

5 Signs It’s Time to Shop for a New Credit Card

How often do you shop for new cards? What criteria do you use in selecting which cards you get, and which cards you use?

We try to pay our balances every month, so we don’t really look at interest rates. What we look at primarily are rewards and annual fees. We value cash rewards over airline miles, due to its versatility, and the fact that we can use even small amounts of cash. We also look for cards with no foreign transaction fees, but since we don’t spend a whole lot of time outside the US, and already have a couple cards without those fees, that’s not a primary consideration.

We value the Discover Card cashback over others, because we can redeem cashback there by purchasing discounted gift cards from places we shop (e.g., Gap, Lowe’s). We once redeemed some cashback by buying several $100 gift cards for a hotel chain for $50 each, just before going on a trip in which we used those gift cards.

If you’ve found a card that offers a particularly good benefit, please share!

The new middle

by Rhode

A Portrait Of America’s Middle Class, By The Numbers

Our favorite topic – what is the middle class…

Do you agree with the numbers?

I found the shape of the middle class by numbers interesting. Who knew Sheboygan had 3.6 million people? But seriously, the more expensive the area, the larger the proportion of lower income (and the lower the median income). The McAllen Texas area is telling – and probably more representative of “middle America” than we on the coasts would like to believe.

How do you think these numbers will shape decisions at the Federal level? When we talk of political candidates talking to the middle class, do we mean middle class by income (like this article), or is it a more “cultural” middle class defined by attributes and values?

The unbearable hellishness of customer support

by MooshiMooshi

This article popped up in the NYTimes the other day. It is about how terrible phone and online customer support is, and more importantly, reasons why companies make their support so bad.

Having recently spent hours with Verizon trying to set up a kid-tracking service for our smartphones (the support tech never got the app to fully function, and she managed to delete my account in the process, despite assurring me she wasn’t going to mess up my account), and time today with the Marriott reservations (where I had to tell the machine bot screener what my question was, which of course it couldn’t parse, until I resorted to machine pidgin speak “reservation! cancellation! question!”, and then the agent had no idea what the cancellation policy on the booking site meant, and couldn’t even see the same rooms I was seeing), this is very much on my mind.

My most hated customer service companies are Verizon (totally, hands down) and any airline. My DH especially despises Apple, mainly because every time he tries to download a movie onto one of the kids Nanos, it fails and he ends up with customer service trying to make the download happen.

Who has the worst customer support in your opinion? Are there any that shine? (The small Linux-oriented company where I purchased my behemoth machine was fantastic when the laptop wasn’t charging properly, and I have had really good luck with Kindle support too). Do you have any particularly hilarious or horrifying customer support stories?

And, online support chat – yea or nay? I personally love it and always choose a chat over the phone. Much easier to follow, I can do other things at the same time, and I get a transcript.


University of Adjuncts

by Honolulu Mother

Gawker recently ran a series on the plight of the growing class of full-time-adjunct professors who, more and more, are doing the actual teaching in U.S. colleges and universities. You can see the whole series here:

Your Professors Are in the Struggle and They’re Not Winning Yet

Executive summary: it’s a terrible career path, and adjuncts don’t have the time or institutional support to be available to students outside of class the same way tenure-track professors are.

One obvious takeaway is that getting a PhD with plans to become a professor is highly inadvisable in this academic environment. But this trend may be concerning to Totebaggers for other reasons. For instance, as a parent of kids coming up on college age, I find it striking that the amount an individual college student pays per credit is similar to the amount the adjunct teaching the entire class is being paid per credit. That math seems wrong. And college students are going to find it more difficult to come up with references for first employment or grad school applications if the people teaching their classes are as likely as not to be gone the next year or the year after.

Is this a trend you’ve been following, and what are your thoughts on it?

Vacation splurges

by Denver Dad

We are going to Iceland next month and we booked a tour for an obscene cost. It’s a helicopter ride to the Thrihnukagigur volcano and then you take an open elevator down to the volcano floor. It’s the only place on earth where you can go into the magma chamber. We went back and forth on it, and finally decided it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and we figured if we’re going to do it, we might as well go all in and do the helicopter ride instead of hiking up.

What are the biggest splurges you’ve made on vacation? What was worth it and what wasn’t?

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)

by winemama

What are your thoughts on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Both Donald Trump and Hilary appear to be against it.

TPP: What is it and why does it matter?

“It involves 12 countries: the US, Japan, Malaysia, Vietnam, Singapore, Brunei, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Mexico, Chile and Peru.

The pact aims to deepen economic ties between these nations, slashing tariffs and fostering trade to boost growth.

Member countries are also hoping to foster a closer relationship on economic policies and regulation.

The agreement could create a new single market something like that of the EU.”

Trans-Pacific Partnership Supporters Pin Hopes on Lame-Duck Vote

Election 2016, July 10-16

I thought I would change the weekly election post to Sunday so it would not distract attention from our regular Monday post.  Please continue to give me feedback on your preferences.

Any thoughts on our political races?  This commentary caught my attention.

What’s missing from “Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton Struggle to Be Unifying Voice for Nation” by Patrick Healy in the NYT.

Before you push us to judge whether Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump would do better in bringing us together in racial harmony, Mr. Healy, please say a few words about why President Obama has failed. Of course, neither Clinton nor Trump inspires hope for a new opportunity at racial harmony. That’s what Obama did in 2008. He was ideal for that issue and we voted for the hope. Now, so many years later, things seem even worse. Can you analyze how that happened? Because that did happen. I don’t see how we can begin to think about what more Trump or Clinton could do unless we understand why President Obama failed.

If Obama couldn’t unite us, why should we think either of the current candidates can?

Smug style?

by Rocky Mountain Stepmom

The smug style in American liberalism

I don’t agree with everything in this long essay, but some of it rings true. I take the author’s point about boycotting Indiana over the marriage equality issue but failing to boycott over the failure-to-expand Medicaid issue. “But few opinion makers fraternize with the impoverished”. I don’t know if that’s true. I do fraternize with the impoverished, and I’m usually horrified at how racist and reactionary they are, but I try not to be condescending about it and I try to figure out where they’re coming from. I don’t always succeed.

Charter Schools, Traditional Public Schools, and $$

by Honolulu Mother

Charter and Traditional Public Schools Fight Over Money

The linked American Prospect article discusses conflicts between traditional public schools and public charter schools over the limited available pot of public education dollars. The specifics of the conflict vary from place to place depending on state laws, but I would think that the existence of the conflict must be pretty universal.

To me, both types of school have a place in the public education system, and I think our state does a reasonable job of balancing the interests by limiting the number of charter schools that can be created so that they offer an alternative to, but not a threat to the existence of, neighboring public schools. Our main problem is ensuring that freeing charter schools from the usual bureaucratic oversight doesn’t result in nepotism and other egregious misuse of public money. However, it sounds like some states have been less successful in finding a funding structure that works for both traditional and charter schools.

I’m sure you all have thoughts on this.

The Administrative Burden of Getting Healthcare

by Honolulu Mother

In this Vox article, Sarah Kliff describes the process of coordinating her health care for a minor medical issue as “a part-time job where the pay is lousy, the hours inconvenient, and the stakes incredibly high.” She writes that

But American medicine demands another scarce resource from patients, and that is their time. The time it takes to check in on the status of a prescription, to wait for a doctor, to take time away from work to sit on hold and hope that, at some point, someone will pick up the phone.

I found dealing with the copious administrivia stemming from my daughter’s broken limb last year to be frustratingly time-consuming, and I wasn’t even dealing with the lion’s share of it. The billing disconnects between providers and insurer, the denial based on my husband’s name having been accidentally entered in the patient slot for one provider, the confusion as to whether some new piece of mail was an issue to be attended to or just another routine notification; it seemed that once we left the safe and familiar harbor of routine annual appointments we were at sea without a compass.

How have your experiences as a patient or patient’s family member been? Do you think the burden of administrative health care management falls on patients because practitioners aren’t aware the burden is there, or do you think it’s a more deliberate outsourcing as suggested by the following quote?

“Patients can often become the health care system’s free labor,” Mayo’s Montori says. “The health care system knows that patients are motivated, that they want to get better. So it gains efficiencies by transferring the work.”

Election 2016, July 4-10

This week I’m trying something a little different with the election update.

At the request of some Totebaggers who want to see election comments show up in the “recent comments” feed on the side bar, this week’s election update will be an extra Monday “post” instead of the usual “page” that shows up as a tab on the blog header bar.  Due to the way WordPress works, this is easiest way to make comments show up in the regular feed.

Speak up if you like it or if you don’t.  Or if you have other suggestions or comments.

Carry on.

What is a Totebagger?

by Grace aka costofcollege

What is your definition of a Totebagger?  Can you list the essential qualities/values/behaviors of a TB?  I’d be curious to see what you write before you read any comments already posted.

While the TB profile may be crystal clear to most of you, I find it hard to describe with precision.  It probably contains an important core component, along with squishy edges that meld into other categories of people.

How Totebaggy are you?  100%, or considerably less?  What are your most Totebaggy values or behaviors, and what are your least?

Terrorism is not hate

by WCE

As media elites have become, in my view, more narrow in their viewpoints, it becomes harder to find well-written essays that contradict what “everyone knows”. I liked this essay arguing that violent incidents with roots in a political decision are different from violent incidents with roots in hate. What do you think?


… The violence he will commit is properly called terrorism. It is motivated by a political judgment, and committed by reactionary non-state actors in an asymmetric warfare with military powers. It is fundamentally different from incidents in which the perpetrator is deranged by some strong emotion—“hate”—as were Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold. We don’t call the Columbine massacre “terrorism.” Nor do we call the Sandy Hook massacre, with its mentally ill shooter, “terrorism.” In both cases, violence had psychological roots and no political meaning.

Terrorism has political roots. One could say that the Italian anarchists who (most historians assume) bombed Wall Street in 1920, killing thirty and injuring hundreds, “hated” capitalism. But their feelings about capitalism were incidental. Their judgment of capitalism—that it was unjust, and that in the interest of humanity it should be destroyed—was decisive. The same could be said for Alger Hiss. He was a communist spy not because he “hated” America, but because he thought history was on the side of communism. He made a political judgment and acted on it. The same could be said for Timothy McVeigh. He saw the United States government as an enemy of the people. Having formed this political judgment, he acted on it.

The same should be said for Muslim terrorists, including Omar Mateen. So why do our leaders, when speaking of the Orlando shooting, have recourse to “hate”?

Because our leaders cannot imagine a rational anti-Americanism. This is due in part to the narrowing effect of multiculturalism. Paradoxically, instead of broadening our capacity to entertain ways of thinking not our own, multiculturalism has made us parochial. We compliment ourselves endlessly for our tolerance, inclusiveness, and diversity. Since we are so tolerant of others, we assume, there is no reason others shouldn’t tolerate us. Since we are never offended, we must be inoffensive.