2018 Politics Open Thread, May 27- Jun 2

“I’m sick and tired of old men sitting around in air conditioned rooms here in Washington, dreaming up wars for young men to die in.” — George McGovern

Memorial Day is a time to remember and honor those who died in military service.     In my (Mémé’s) opinion, there is no greater honor than to stop adding to their number.




What’s in a (middle) name?

by Mémé

From time to time we have discussions on names, and trends in names.   Unfortunately, the anonymous nature of the site means that we can’t relate much of anything about the actual names used in our families.

Do you have a middle name?   Do your kids have them?    Is there something in your ethnic or regional background that dictates what is used as a middle name or how many or the order?    What about using two or more last names from both sides of the family?  How about Saints’ names?  Or the Southern custom of using  a family surname for a middle name and going by that instead of the more vanilla first name?

And if you feel like it, please share some of your real ones.    In my immediate family the middle names are  Biblical:   Asher, Isaiah, Ruth, Elizabeth, Jochebed (pronounced yō-‘HEH-but, Moses’ mother), Abraham.   Except for me.  My 1950s mom was assimilated in the fashion oand didn’t want to be ethnic, so it is Beth to honor my late grandmother, Beile (BAY-luh).

Are Bookstores Relevant?

by Lemon

I came across this opinion piece and was taken aback at the thought that Barnes & Noble may disappear. I love bookstores and love that there is a B&N five minutes from me. I often go with my kids so they can explore and find books that interest them. We’ve adapted to their changes (smaller store, much smaller kids section with no reading nooks or chairs to lose yourself in a book, and less staff), and it looks like we may have to adapt some more.

We are avid users of our library too but there is something about an outing to the bookstore that we love to do as family.

Would you be sad if Barnes and Noble closes? Do you think Amazon is to blame? Will you use the library more or seek out independent booksellers?

Make School Tougher to Improve Behavior?

by L

The calculus track can keep kids on the straight and narrow! Who’d’ve thought?

For those outside the paywall, the abstract of the original paper.

Previous studies have shown that years of formal schooling attained affects health behaviors, but little is known about how the stringency of academic programs affects such behaviors, especially among youth. Using national survey data from the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBS), we study the effects of mathematics and science high-school graduation requirements (HSGR) on high school students’ risky health behaviors–specifically on drinking, smoking, and marijuana use. We find that an increase in mathematics and science HSGR has significant negative impacts on alcohol consumption among high-school students, especially males and non-white students. The effects of math and science HSGR on smoking and marijuana use are also negative but generally less precisely estimated. Our results suggest that curriculum design may have potential as a policy tool to curb youth drinking.

Mémé’s comment:   The author of the NYT article completed the assignment, but  without saying in so many words conveys the impression that correlation is not causation in this case.   The study’s authors did account for the effects of increased standards on dropouts who are not counted, but they have made a less than half hearted attempt to explain anything else.

Open Thread

Topics for the rest of the week:




There will be a new Open Thread started on Memorial Day and  assigned topics for the rest of that week.      There is now a tentative full slate of posts for an entire month,  (Way to go!! )   The tentative schedule is adjusted on the fly to balance serious vs light, insert new submissions that enhance the set list,  and to push back any that duplicate a long tangential discussion.  The goal is to be fully scheduled for three-four weeks out at all times.

Just in case there is still confusion about submitting posts that include links to sites behind a paywall.    All submissions are welcome to either administrator.   If the link is behind a paywall (other than the NYT), please provide excerpts or a summary in the body of the post OR send me (Mémé) an email with a link I can access and I’ll do the work of selecting excerpts.      Some readers don’t choose to establish an email relationship at all, or want to stick with July only.    The Suggest Posts page is for everyone’s convenience.

Also, topics presented on Suggest Topics or via email ready to go as posts will likely end up in the queue earlier than a statement in the regular thread or on Suggest Topics along the lines of,  why don’t we have a post about x topic.

How to Maintain Sibling Relationships

by Lark

We frequently touch on our siblings, but have we discussed them in depth?

Do you have strong sibling relationships? What are you doing to foster strong sibling relationships among your kids? Could your parents have taken steps to make you closer to your siblings


Some tips from the article on how to repair/maintain relationships

Heal the past

The first step to establishing a healthy adult sibling relationship is to release baggage you’re carrying from childhood.

Share your goals

An easy topic to bond over is where you want to go in life, both in terms of this specific relationship and your overall goals.

Avoid contentious issues

When talking with your sibling, don’t bring up anything that could create strife, like politics, religion or even rehashing traumatic childhood memories. Accept that some topics will be off-limits

Don’t compare yourselves

“These comparisons people make as if they had it the same is really a lie,” Dr. Caspi said. “People don’t have it the same.” They have different experiences with different teachers and coaches and peers, all of which shape a person’s sense of self.

Verbalize your appreciation

Cultivate a friendship

2018 Politics Open Thread, May 20-26

I am sure there will be plenty to discuss this week.    Things are heating up internationally and domestically.

Submitted articles or thoughts that are political  or likely to stimulate oft repeated back and forth will be placed on the politics page as starters.  If you see what you  construe to be a  very liberal  topic starter, rest assured that soon after there will be a very conservative one, and vice versa.    Some weeks there will be no starter.     Next week is liberal, the week after conservative.     WCE is doing her part to help me out with sources.

Where would you choose to live in 1500?

by honolulumother

This post comes courtesy of my youngest, aka Tuxedo Boy.

If you were going to be sent back 500 years into the past to live but could choose the location, where do you think would be the best place to live?  You can keep your basic talents and personality, but you’re rolling the dice (or we’re drawing a Rawlsian veil of ignorance) as to your social class, sex, and race / ethnicity.  Alternatively, where do you think would be the worst place to live?
I chose China for my best place to live — they’re in the middle of the Ming dynasty so if I’m a peasant my crops aren’t so likely to be burned, and they promote based on civil service exams instead of who your parents are.  My worst place to live is the Aztec Empire.  It’s already the kind of place where they think nothing of sacrificing you and wearing your skin as a cape, and yet things are about to get significantly worse.
How about you?  Where would / wouldn’t you choose to live 500 years ago?

Paying For College

by Lark

We have a number of readers now whose kids are in college or heading off this fall. How’s the financial aspect been? Did you save enough? Have there been expenses you didn’t anticipate? How much are you requiring your kids to contribute, either to tuition or incidentals? If you could go back 5 years, is there anything you’d do differently financially?



by saacnmama

This is a very verbal group, and we are fortunate to have some great writers here. Whatever our level of writing skill, it’s clear that we all like words to some degree; how else would we stick with a group that communicates nearly exclusively in writing?  By this point, most of us have a good guess of the others’ ages. But stepping into the wayback machine, we may have deduced which generations others belong to partially based on vocabulary.

 Do you use any of these words, or have you used them in the past? I never slept on a Davenport or asked anyone about “tricks”, but I not only said “mood ring” and “pet rock”, I had them (a magic 8 ball and Twister too). I still catch myself asking someone to “roll” down a car window and referring to “tape”.
Of course, this is not a complete listing. And there are words the next generation may find embarrassing that we don’t see as problematic. Have you caught yourself using any of these words or phrases? Are there others you have consciously dropped?


by Mémé

“How does a word get into a dictionary? It gets in because we use it and we keep using it, and dictionary editors are paying attention to us. If you’re thinking, “But that lets all of us decide what words mean,” I would say, “Yes it does, and it always has.”Dictionaries are a wonderful guide and resource, but there is no objective dictionary authority out there that is the final arbiter about what words mean. If a community of speakers is using a word and knows what it means, it’s real. That word might be slangy, that word might be informal, that word might be a word that you think is illogical or unnecessary, but that word that we’re using, that word is real.”    

Anne Curzan

Link to ted talk on the subject

Have you adopted new words from your children, or colleagues, or social media?




Open Thread

Mémé:  I am trying out different ways to present articles that are behind paywalls.  I intend to pick out some choice sections and include them in the body of the post.  Feedback will be appreciated.  Most of the submissions so far are from the NYT, where I have a subscription, so I can fiddle around.   (I repeat my request for submissions from those of you who are regular readers of sites other than  NYT, WaPo, Vox, Slate.)    Be advised that I don’t pay for WSJ (no free articles), so I need some of the content provided via email or inserted into the body of the post so that I can share with the group.

July is planning to do some cleanup on the site. For now, Politics will stay as is.

There will  be 30 day challenges again.  My first reaction was that to enable maximum participation it may be best to wait until after summer vacation season.   However, there appears to be a movement for a fitness challenge in the near future.    So we will facilitate that for after Memorial Day.     I am not up to speed yet on how to set it all up.

Topic titles for the rest of the week are:




Resolutions for Parents of Grown Children

by Risley

From a January NYT article.

Resolution No. 1: Be as polite and uncritical as you would be with comparative strangers. I’ve been working on this one for years; it’s the one that encompasses the need to keep quiet about a child’s choice of attire or music or crush object, the way you would about a colleague’s. We are almost all of us able to refrain from needling the people we work with, the people we meet at parties, the people who ask us for directions on the street. It might not seem like a high bar to show that same level of fairly bland and often insincere courtesy toward children, instead of letting them know where there’s room for improvement, but it takes a lot of reminding and a lot of resolving.

Equal and opposite: Go ahead and be yourself every now and then; we’re all family here.

Resolution No. 2: Give grown-up children credit for being grown-up. They are more competent than you think. They manage perfectly well when you aren’t around. They solve problems, they manage their lives. If you seize on some convenient (and amusing) example of non — grown-up behavior (brought dirty laundry home, left the dirty dishes piled up on the counter), you are probably missing a plethora of quiet examples of a young adult navigating the world without making a big fuss about it.

Equal and opposite: Relish the fact that sometimes the whole point of coming home for grown-up kids is to stop being grown-up for a while.

Resolution No. 3: Don’t try to keep up too much of a good front; they’re old enough to know that their parents are human. Part of helping our children navigate adult life is often admitting things to them which we might have kept quieter when they were young: jobs are difficult and sometimes frustrating, long-term relationships have their ups and downs, parents are vulnerable and fallible and often confused, just like everyone else. The truth is, of course, that our children come to know us very well as they grow up, and they are unlikely to be shocked, or even mildly surprised, by our faults — but acknowledging those faults with an increasing degree of rueful honesty is a way of acknowledging our children as equals.

Equal and opposite: Don’t tell them what they don’t want to know.

Resolution No. 4: Don’t track them too closely. This one plays out in so many ways, from the message-me-that-you-got-home-safe requests to the less than subtle ways that I have tried to extract details of not only my own children’s health and well-being, but also the health and well-being of their friends and roommates. I tell myself that my motives are good, whether parental or pediatric, but the truth is, I would have deeply resented any such intrusiveness on the part of my own parents. When your children grow up, you should track less and let them tell you what they want to tell you.

Equal and opposite: Just tell them: Message me that you got home safe. I’m your mother. I won’t be able to go to sleep myself till I know you’re O.K.

Here is a link to the whole article:


Note:   Next Monday the topic, suggested by Lark, will be  Maintaining Relationships with your Siblings, so the general discussion of adult family dynamics will have a second chapter.


2018 Politics Open Thread, May 13-19

WCE suggested this WSJ article on Ben Carson’s proposals for HUD rent increases.  It is behind the paywall, so I reproduce it in its entirety.

The rationale for Lyndon B. Johnson’s “War on Poverty” was that the government should take a more active role in helping people get on their feet. Today the federal government is more active than ever in this regard, but whether its efforts are truly helping is debatable.

Ben Carson, a former neurosurgeon who now runs the Department of Housing and Urban Development, or HUD, understands that often the best way for the government to help the poor is by getting out of their way. In an interview Monday, Mr. Carson explained to me how some of America’s federal rental-assistance programs have become barriers to upward mobility by effectively discouraging work, marriage and other behaviors that tend to help people advance economically.

“We have stagnation,” Mr. Carson said. “We have people in public housing not for a few years but for a few generations, with no incentive to come out.” In New York City, which has the nation’s largest public-housing system, the average tenant has been there for almost 20 years. “We’re trying to get people out of chronic poverty.”

Many of Mr. Carson’s critics are more interested in defending a status quo that keeps poor people dependent on government aid. HUD is urging Congress to pass legislation allowing local public-housing authorities, among other things, to impose work requirements and reduce red tape. In public housing, the more money you make, the more you pay in rent. The incentives couldn’t be more perverse, often leading people to hide income or work less.

William Russell, the head of the public-housing authority in Sarasota, Fla., who testified before a congressional subcommittee last month, told me that his biggest frustration is how the system discourages families from increasing their incomes. “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to explain to someone, who’s gotten a job and their income has gone up, that now their rent has to go up,” he said. “And they don’t understand how this makes any sense.” Mr. Russell worked at HUD during the George W. Bush administration and was a New York City housing official in the 1990s.

In the real world, two-parent households have clear economic advantages, since everything from child care to transportation to housing costs is shared. But in the world created by federal rental-assistance guidelines, people think differently. In a typical scenario, Mr. Russell told me, the significant other comes over at night and then sneaks out the next morning to avoid detection by the housing officials. “That sets up a horrible dynamic between us and our families,” he said. “The truth is, I want more fathers and men to be in the community, living there and being active in their kids’ lives and offering more stability in general. This current policy is holding back our families.”

Mr. Carson aims to change this dynamic. HUD’s proposals are based on successes in places like Atlanta; San Diego; Charlotte, N.C.; and Cambridge, Mass. Under a federal program initiated in 1996 and expanded in 2015, around 140 of the nation’s 3,400 public-housing agencies have gained the freedom to tailor rental-assistance policies to local needs. Since San Diego implemented its program under the new guidelines in 2013, tenant incomes have increased 25%, according to the city’s housing commission. Mr. Carson wants to give more housing authorities similar flexibility.

The most controversial part of HUD’s proposal would raise monthly rents for people receiving federal housing subsidies. They would pay 35% of gross income instead of the current 30%. The plan would also triple the minimum monthly rent for the poorest households to $150. Naturally, liberals have pounced. Democratic Rep. Cedric Richmond of Louisiana, chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, called the proposal “immoral” and “the latest example of the Trump administration’s war on poor people.” Calm down.

The reality is that about half of the 4.7 million families on rental assistance would be unaffected by the changes. The elderly and disabled are exempt, and additional carve-outs are available for financial hardship, such as a death in the family or the loss of employment. About 712,000 households on housing subsidies would have their monthly rents raised to $150, according to HUD. Mr. Carson told me that the rent increase was necessitated by budget constraints. The last time Congress increased rents was 1981, when they rose to 30% of income from 25% for the same reason.

Mr. Carson said he wishes rents didn’t have to rise but thinks the proposal is still a net plus for participants. He also stressed that this is the beginning of a legislative process and that he’s open to hearing ideas from Democrats on how to make the housing program more effective and sustainable.

“We’re all ears,” he said. So far, he’s heard only jeers.


Favorite Gadgets

by Houston


Gadgets! What are your favorite gadgets? Either oldies but goodies, or recent purchases? Do you have any gadgets that were a total waste of money?

For our family, we love our Chrome Casts. We have two (one for each tv) that allow us to stream content easily. We also bought one for DS at college and my in-laws.


The article mentions 1) Alexa and her cousins, 2) Roku, etc., and 3) the following

The gadget that finds all your lost gadgets

In 2013, a small company started a crowdfunding campaign, met its goal, racked up more than 200,000 presales and earned a loyal customer base. Today that company, Tile, makes a well-known Bluetooth tracker that attaches to anything you deem important and keeps track of it via a mobile app. There are now other Bluetooth trackers that make finding your keys, wallet or anything else easier than ever.

Wirecutter recommends the Tile Sport for its Bluetooth range, alarm volume and handy crowd-finding feature. Basically, if you lose an item that has a Tile attached to it, anyone with the Tile app who passes by will help ping the location of your lost item to you. The person doesn’t have to actively use the app to help you (and won’t know you lost something).

If you prefer a Bluetooth tracker with a replaceable battery (but less stellar Bluetooth range and no crowd-finding), Wirecutter recommends the TrackR Pixel. You can replace the battery, rather than the whole product, and the alert system includes flashing lights.


That Mom

by Louise

The other day, I jokingly told DD that I was going to email the middle school and request more homework based on the light homework pattern I’d seen with her brother. She rolled her eyes and told me not be That Mom.

It got me thinking about who exactly is That Mom.  The antithesis of Mom and Apple Pie, Strawberries and Cream, Pretty Flowers and Cards.

I think of her as the woman who pushed for doctors and teachers to take notice, provide treatment or a plan of action and didn’t give up. If her own child couldn’t benefit it pushed the door open wider for others. She became an activist for a cause.

I think of her as a woman doing her best to provide for her kids. When her kids are hesitant to ask the teacher about things neither they nor her understands she pushes and prods. Tiger Mom she is not, it is more like Mama Elephant.

When I celebrate Mother’s day with my mother, I won’t be celebrating the seemingly sweet looking petite older lady. I’ll be celebrating That Mom.

Eat your greens, but watch out for E coli

by MooshiMooshi

Reasons why lettuce in particular, and raw veggies overall, are now the big culprits in E. coli outbreaks.

I  try to avoid bagged lettuce in general because it is too often not as fresh as I would like, and also often has a strange smell and texture. I would rather rip and wash my own lettuce, but it is getting harder and harder to buy whole head lettuce. In the summer, I grow a lot of lettuce but that does not work well in winter.
What do you guys do to lessen the risk?


Open thread and topics request

by Mémé

I am not undertaking any significant travel until the fall, and so will be the post scheduler and first line of administration for the next four months.   July is still actively involved, but she deserves a rest from the day-to-day admin duties.   Please bear with me as I get more familiar with WordPress.

I plan to reinstitute Fun Fridays.    Nothing heavy, unless current events warrant it, on Fridays.    Non-holiday Mondays will always have a topic.  Tuesdays will normally be Open Thread days, with a listing of the topics for the rest of the week.    If you have submitted topics on college or finance, be advised that I will be spacing those out since many of our daily threads veer off into those areas.    If I don’t have contact info for you, I will not be able to tell you in advance that your topic has been scheduled for a particular day.

Conservative readers, including lurkers and occasional commenters, I implore you to submit articles from some of your regular reading sources.     Submissions can be made by adding a comment to Suggested Topics, above.   Or send me an email at memetotebag @ outlook.com.  During this time, July will forward posts to me if you submit them to her.

I also ask that if any discussion thread or posted item on the Politics thread is perceived by the regulars over there to get out of hand (and that would take a lot), or if the page gets spammed, please alert me via email or FB for those who know me IRL.   I won’t be checking into that page frequently or even reading every post, especially during the hundred post heated back and forth exchanges.

This week’s remaining topic titles:


Th –  THAT MOM  (Mother’s Day Post)





When time runs out to mend a relationship

By Mémé based on a post by saacnmama

Have you ever had a break in a significant relationship, one that you intended to mend, but the person died before you could?

S&M mentioned that seeing praise in the memorial comments for the traits you knew back in the day makes it all the more strange.

Sometimes a break is mostly a matter of drifting apart.   I am sure most of us have been on the sending and receiving end of mid life facebook inquiries.   Sometimes there is follow up, sometimes not.

0ther times there was a clear event or series of events that caused the break.    If we were primarily at fault, we can look to the well known  9th step of AA and other recovery programs.   “Make direct amends to persons [you have harmed], except when to do so would injure them or others.”   Making amends is not merely apologizing or asking forgiveness, but taking action to repair any harm, if possible.

And reaching out to someone when we feel that we are the aggrieved party is very tricky.    “I forgive you” is probably not the best opening line, even if it is true in a spiritual sense.

I recall a book in the 1980s, something like  how to make peace with you parents  (even if they are dead).      That one was helpful to me.  I think my Mom recommended it in the days before we had become close again.



A Totebag change

by July

Starting Monday, May 7, Mémé will take on the role of co-administrator for the blog. Thank you, Mémé!

What does this mean for you?

Submitting post topics:

  • You may submit posts to Mémé at: memetotebag @outlook.com
  • You may continue to submit posts to me at: gntotebag @gmail.com
  • And, of course, you may continue to add post requests in the comments to the SUGGEST TOPICS page in the header of the blog.

Any and all blog communications may be directed to Mémé or to me. We will be in close contact with each other to coordinate all administrative functions as needed. Two administrators looking out for smooth blog operations should be better than one!

Mémé has some ideas that I think can revitalize the blog conversations we have here, so I look forward to that.

We welcome suggestions or comments. Long live The Totebag!

Any other topics on your mind? We have an open thread today.

Con Artists

by Honolulu Mother

This Vanity Fair article describes the author’s friendship and travels with an “heiress” whom she eventually realized was actually a con artist. It was an expensive lesson.


Have you ever been taken by, or narrowly avoided, a con? Or have your run-ins been limited to emails from Nigerian princes in exile and phone calls from Windows Security?

Everything must go!

by July

The other day this ad appeared locally.

MOVING Everything Must GO!!

You name it and we are selling it….Lots for Free and Sale

Furniture, Home Accessories, Clothes, Tools, Jewelry, Fitness Equipment, Mirrors, Small Kitchen Appliances, Lawn and garden, Dishes, Glassware, Corningware, knick-knacks, Electronic, TV’s, Anything hanging on walls- ETC.

We Are Taking Nothing with us

Describe your fantasy (or nightmare) downsizing that would enable you to move into a new house on wheels.  What would you keep and what would you get rid of?  What would you move into?  Where would you go?  Mostly motor around or mostly stay put?

Food shows!

by Honolulu Mother

Do you enjoy watching food and cooking shows on your screen of choice? NYMag suggests the best cooking shows to match different moods:

The 7 Best Food Shows to Match Your Mood

Cooking shows aren’t a harmless pleasure to everyone, though. Like this Quartz article, some have questioned whether the competition shows’ judges really have the knowledge base to fairly rate the execution of the wide variety of cuisines that may come before them:


And of course, there are the long-standing complaints that most food tv shows don’t so much teach viewers how to cook as put viewers off cooking, by making it look too difficult and setting an unobtainable standard. I’ve watched some of a French show that’s certainly guilty of that — it takes a bad but functional cook’s signature dish, and a chef has them do a version that bears only a slight relation to the original and is many times more expensive and time-consuming. For instance, from spaghetti with jarred sauce and chopped cucumbers:

to some kind of tubular pasta structure filled with a meat-and-vegetable reduction inspired by bolognese sauce, napped with bechamel and garnished with cucumber:

The message is, “Your stand-by dinner is terrible, and the way to fix it is to spend ten times as much time and money.” The show, for anyone interested, is:


(No, it doesn’t have English subtitles, but it’s reality tv — your French doesn’t have to be that good for you to still get the gist.)

What, if any, food tv shows do you watch?

Early retirement

by a regular lurker

My brother is about to retire at 45 after a few expat assignments and 20-year career in the oil industry. He and his family plan to live in a relatively low cost area on interest/dividends from an investment portfolio.

Totebaggers, what are your thoughts on early retirement? If you or someone you know has retired early, what are your biggest lessons?

At 72, a finance icon inspires a new cult of early retirees

Stop trying so hard to improve your life

by July

To Change Your Life, Consider the Easy Route

… What if the key to success isn’t trying hard but not trying very hard at all?

How does this actually work?  We’ve discussed aspects of this idea before.  Don’t overtax you willpower.  Remove temptations.  (Don’t keep ice cream in the house.)  Start with small changes that will develop into good habits.

Use “The Loop” approach.

The trick is to recognize that self-control isn’t an all-or-nothing proposition. We can carve out small, manageable areas of good behavior and gradually build trust in our ability to hold fast. I call this approach “The Loop”: First, find a rule that will bring you a little bit closer to your self-control goal, but will be so easy that you have no doubt you’ll be able to stick to it. Then, each day keep track of whether you’ve done it or not. That’s all. Don’t worry about solving the big problem; focus on staying on The Loop. If it starts to feel like a struggle, then dial the rule back to make it easier. As time goes by, The Loop will become second nature and you’ll be able to crank it up to a more ambitious setting.

I’ve used The Loop in establishing some good habits, including exercising and reading more books.  I start out small with modest commitments, and over time I find I’ve developed better habits rather painlessly.  It could be termed the lazy man’s method.

What works for you?  Do you prefer to start off with a more ambitious plan, maybe because you’re impatient?  Do you use a version of The Loop?  Have you tried to make any changes in your life over the last year?  Success or failure?  Any life changes you’d you like to make?  Do you think we’ve become too obsessed with improving our lives?

Tax day

by July

First we do their homework for them, then their taxes.

Yes, It’s Tax Day and You’re Still Doing Returns for Your Adult Children
Parents are preparing returns for their grown children even into their 40s, with no plans to hand over the chore

Every spring like clockwork, Bridget Cusick receives a package from her father. This year, she opened it to find two manila envelopes, stamped and pre-addressed; one to New York state; one to the Internal Revenue Service. Her address was written in the top left-hand corners. There were forms, too: three stacks, held together by paper clips. A Post-it Note stuck to one said, “your copies.”

“It’s very turnkey for me,” says Ms. Cusick. “He puts little sticky arrows that say, ‘sign here.’ ”

Ms. Cusick is 42 and the director of marketing with the Archdiocese of New York. She has never done her taxes. Her 74-year-old dad, a retired attorney from Barron, Wis., does them for her.

“It’s not like I don’t think I could learn how to do it,” she says. “But if my dad legitimately seems to enjoy doing it and it saves me time, why not?”

“He enjoys it.” “She’s good at it.” Such is the party line of adults who still have their accounting needs handled by their parents. This includes Ms. Cusick’s younger brother and his wife, who receive a packet of their own each spring.

“I think about it every year when the time comes around, that it’s probably a skill that I should have learned,” says Patrick Cusick, who works in marketing and lives in La Crosse, Wis. “I don’t really know why he hasn’t been like, ‘Son, you need to learn to do your taxes ’cause you’re 34 years old.’ ”

Their father, David Cusick, says having them learn on their own makes him nervous. “I’m just kind of concerned that they’ll make a mistake and then have the IRS bugging them,” he says.

At what age did you start doing your own taxes?  What about your kids?  Was your tax return easy this year?  How’s your tax day going?

Buying Wine Online

by Honolulu Mother

According to this Washington Post article, it’s become harder to buy wine online in recent years:

Why is it becoming harder to buy wine online?

According to the article, the court victory a few years ago didn’t significantly change things because it applied only to direct-from-winery shipments:

We thought we’d won the direct shipping battle a decade ago when the Supreme Court ruled in 2005 that states should not treat their wineries favorably over wineries from other states. But that ruling didn’t end the battle over direct shipping; it just put it back into state legislatures, perhaps with a more even playing field. Most of us can now buy directly from wineries in California, Oregon or elsewhere in the United States — but not from retailers in those states.

In fact, only 13 states and the District of Columbia allow shipments from out-of-state retailers to their residents, while more than 40 states allow such shipments from out-of-state wineries, according to winefreedom.org, a website operated by the National Association of Wine Retailers.

And the states have been cracking down, so wine lovers who used to be able to order from out-of-state retailers are finding it’s no longer possible.

We’ve ordered wine from out-of-state retailers on a few occasions, though mostly pre-kids. Around the time our oldest was born the local retail options got better, and we suddenly found that we no longer were drinking any category but inexpensive week-night go-to bottles. I did do a big shipment a year and a half ago, though, not of wine, but of various obscure liquors that I’d been unable to get locally. How about you? Do you, or does your spouse, like to order wine from wineries or retailers outside your state? Or are you content with your local options?

‘Turning Kids Into Grown-Ups’

by Used to Lurk

Thursday’s NPR TED Radio Hour Podcast episode was “Turning Kids Into Grown-Ups” which would be right up this group’s alley. The podcast is 53 minutes but you can up the speed or skip through the ads.

Turning Kids Into Grown-Ups
Parenting is fraught with uncertainty, changing with each generation. This hour, TED speakers share ideas about raising kids and how — despite our best efforts — we’re probably still doing it wrong.

The first segment was former Stanford dean Jullie Lythcott-Haims who is advocating that we stop parenting our kids like they are Bonsai trees and managing their every move. She has a book titled “How to Raise an Adult” and her TED talk is “What’s the harm in over parenting”. She advocating that parents back-off the micromanaging of their kids lives and accomplishments.

The second segment was former firefighter Caroline Paul and her talk is about how to raise brave daughters.

The third segment was author Peggy Orenstein, who has written numerous books on teaching girls about sex. The talk involves talking to both daughters and sons.

The fourth segment was psychologist Dr. Aaia El-Khani and is focused on how to parent in a war zone and the work she has done in refugee camps.

The final segment is a poem by Sarah Kay about what she wants her daughter to know.

I enjoyed the entire podcast but there is value in just listening to segments that interest you. I found it very informative. I think this group could talk about Julie Lythcott-Haims points for quite a while.


by July

This chart was created by a person with anxiety disorder.

I’ve tried to explain my anxiety again and again until I was blue in the face, yet I’ve been met with blank stares or judgments more often than not. I finally sat down and made an overly simplified chart, similar to the pain level chart used in doctor’s offices, in the hope that it might be more relatable and help others understand.

I might disagree that the average person starts their day at zero, just because many people I know always have something in their lives that is bothering them.  But maybe that’s specific to me and the people around me.

Anxiety disorder affects almost one-third of adults and adolescents.  Many of us have personally experienced it or seen it firsthand among our loved ones.  Anxiety can significantly alter our quality of life.  It can make the regular challenges of life seem overwhelming.  A panic attack can be frightening, especially a first occurrence.  Sometimes even the anticipation of suffering from anxiety can provoke anxiety.  Anxiety among peers seems to uncover or create more anxiety for some individuals.  On the other hand, sometimes observing so much anxiety around them can help a person control their own.

Do you find this chart helpful?  What’s your current anxiety level, on a scale of 1 through 10?  What’s the highest you’ve experienced?  How have you helped yourself or others in managing anxiety, whether mild or severe?  Do you believe we have an “epidemic” of anxiety disorder?  What’s to be done about elevated anxiety levels?  Other thoughts?

Keeping up with friends can be good for your marriage

by July

Are you and your spouse one of those married couples “who tend to withdraw into their coupledom”?  Apparently this tends to occur among the affluent.

. . . as income rises, the advantages of married over never-married individuals evaporate and even reverse. While affluent never-married people continue to multiply their interactions with friends, neighbors and family, affluent married couples don’t. This could well be why, at the highest income levels, married people are actually more likely to report depressive symptoms than their equally affluent never-married counterparts.

The advice is to nurture relationships with people outside of your marriage, including going on “double dates”.

Your thoughts?

Post-Vacation Blues

by Honolulu Mother

Does coming home from a much-anticipated vacation leave you feeling down? If so, you’re in good company, according to this Daily Beast article:

Spring Breakers, Beware of the Impending Depression

The article has a couple of suggestions for easing the transition back into your everyday responsibilities:

DiMarco said it’s also important to prepare for the post-travel depression by giving yourself time to get back into your normal routine. Try to preemptively clear your work calendar for the first few days you’re back and schedule fun things like a manicure or an intramural sports game to be excited about.

“Knowing that you’re going to be a little bummed out your first two days back from vacation can help mitigate that,” she said. “You can also do some self care when you get back, yes you were just on vacation but it doesn’t mean you need to come home and punish yourself.”

There is no way my work would cooperate with giving me a clear calendar for the first few days I’m back after a trip. But I do find that post-vacation (and post-holiday season, for that matter), it helps to just accept that I’ll be feeling down for a week or so before I readjust to the usual hectic routine.

Do you have ways to deal with the post-vacation blues? Or do you not experience that?

Artificial intelligence

by Used to Lurk

Fresh Air had on Cade Metz who was discussing AI and how companies are trying to teach it to learn. It was fascinating and raised many questions and taps into those fears of how we might not be able to stop it since we don’t understand the AI brain. I then read his article from last week and thought it might be a good topic.

Robots Are Now ‘Creating New Robots,’ Tech Reporter Says

Open thread

We have an open thread all day today.

I was wondering about this:

You’re gonna miss me when I’m gone

by S&M

We’ve talked seriously about plans for retirement and death. We stayed on those grim topics very obediently. Now let’s have a little fun with the end of life!

The Taj Mahal was famously built by an emperor grieving his wife’s death. Famous for its harmonious beauty, it is the epitome of romantic love. A general in Italy also had a memorial built for his wife, as he mourned her death. Only one octagonal structure in the sculpture park bears her name, but the entire park was supposedly dedicated to her.

An Italian duke created the Park of Monsters, filled with stone creatures, as a way of coping with his wife’s death

How about you? Assuming unlimited funds, what would your memorial look like? Would it reflect you, or your relationship with another person? This is all silly fantasy, a light-hearted look at your self-image, so no simple urns.

Amusement Parks

by Honolulu Mother

Here’s a March Madness tournament for amusement parks – the regional bracket:

Tournament 2018: The regional semifinals begin

and for the individual competitions, they’re mostly in the March articles:

Theme Park News from March 2018

Do you enjoy amusement parks, either for yourself or for your family? Are there any located within day trip distance for you, or does an amusement park mean an overnight or longer trip?

For us, there is a water park locally and an “adventure” place that does zip lines and a ropes course and paintball. Beyond that, the closest amusement parks are in Southern California or (going the other direction) Japan. So we’ll work a visit in if and when we can, but don’t plan our travels around amusement park visits.

Parenting advice is ‘largely bunkum’?

by July

Do parents really matter?
Everything we thought we knew about how personality is formed is wrong

… The emphasis on nurture dictates that identical twins, reared apart and reunited later in life, should not be all that similar. And yet they are. Contrastingly, adopted children who share no distinguishing DNA with one another but are raised together should be quite similar. Yet they are not, and this poses some problems for traditional ideas about how parents shape children.

It’s not just Bouchard’s work that suggests parents have less influence than we think. Decades of research into behavioural genetics — twin studies, family studies and the adoption and identical-twin stories I have already mentioned — all point in the same direction. The shared environment, the experiences that create similarities between siblings raised together — the part of the environment that most often captures parenting influences — are all secondary when it comes to personality, behaviour or intelligence. What’s more, my own work as a criminologist, and that of my colleagues, has revealed the same pattern of findings when applied to violence, antisocial behaviour and crime.

What does that mean for parenting advice?

A child is not a blank canvas. How many books have been written about the way people should and should not parent their children? How many approaches have been suggested by experts who are not really in a position to know? Yes, they may hold advanced degrees, but the truth is that the advice they offer tends to ignore the genetic influences that we now know to be at work. The studies that identify those influences often find that parenting — unless it is actually malign — has very little impact on how children turn out. The huge ‘parenting advice’ industry is largely bunkum.

What are your thoughts?  Have your views changed over time?  What was your opinion at age 25 vs age 45 or later?

Notwithstanding all this, what’s your latest and greatest parenting advice?

Climate change, infrastructure and the role of government

by WCE

This article educated me about the history of disaster response in the U.S. My leanings make me consider how infrastructure should be built and disasters responded to by the federal government in light of climate change. Relevant to Totebaggers are the likely effects of more frequent disasters on municipal bond holders. I was interested by the opinion that wealthy states should pay more for their recovery than poor states. That approach seems likely to undermine disaster relief. Key quotes include:

In the decades before Harvey, for example, Houston approved the development of more than 10,000 homes in a floodplain, inside the very reservoirs that take in the water spillover when federal dams that protect older parts of the city reach capacity. As the Texas Tribune reports, most residents of the upper-middle-class neighborhoods built within the reservoirs seemed to have no idea that they were living in a dormant, man-made lake until Harvey inundated them with days’ worth of standing water last summer. The episode points up how federal incentives interact with the local imperative to build: the national flood-insurance program’s official flood maps put the reservoirs outside of floodplains, on the grounds that they are man-made “flood pools,” indicating to residents and their home lenders that it was safe to build, according to the Houston Chronicle. For that reason, mortgage lenders did not require homebuyers there to take out federal flood insurance, though residents have received temporary housing and other assistance after Harvey—and are now suing the Army Corps of Engineers for not deliberately flooding the area to protect its dams, exactly what the corps was supposed to do under the dams’ design.

Building unwisely puts all residents, old and new, at risk. As Samuel Brody, coastal-planning professor at Texas A&M–Galveston, points out, Houston has less permeable landmass—places where water can go—than anywhere else except Los Angeles….


Consider: of the $278 billion that Washington spent over the decade before 2015, the government spent $37 billion on flood-insurance payouts. The flood program racked up $22 billion in claims from Katrina and Rita in 2005, $15 billion after Hurricane Sandy, and still-untold billions over this past year. These figures understate the amount spent rebuilding private housing, as the government also distributed $24 billion in block grants to states, which used some of that money to help homeowners after storms. And just this fall, Congress forgave $16 billion in debt owed by the flood-insurance program. “The U.S. government has provided an unprecedented level of support for flood losses in recent years,” says Brian Schneider, senior director in insurance at Fitch Ratings, a bond-analysis firm.

As Washington protects private homeowners from loss, it neglects what it should be doing: working with state and local governments to build better public infrastructure. Overall, of FEMA’s disaster-relief fund, which constitutes about half of all federal disaster spending, 53 percent goes to helping governments replace what they lost and 22 percent to helping people rebuild. Only 7 percent goes to “hazard mitigation,” or prevention. The Army Corps of Engineers’ annual budget to build and maintain levees is just $4.1 billion—far less than the flood-insurance losses from this year’s storms.


… Instead, Washington should offer more financing to support state and local governments that invest in better infrastructure to reduce flood risk—drawing some of these monies from funds previously used to rebuild and replace state and local infrastructure and private homes. Washington should also consider each region’s income and resources. New York and Houston, for example, have high personal incomes and thriving economies and don’t need billions of dollars in reconstruction money from poorer taxpayers elsewhere. As the CBO comments, federal aid “may underestimate a given state’s capacity to recover from a disaster using its own resources.” After Harvey, however, Texas’s governor, Greg Abbott, has resisted using the state’s $10 billion rainy-day fund to defray storm costs, even though the storm was, literally, a rainy day.


… Brody also suggests that Houston beef up its requirement for freeboard—the elevation of a house above sea level—from one foot to three feet. “Inches matter,” he notes, as keeping the usable part of a home above a flood zone avoids damage to much of the structure and contents of that home.

Are you interested in the role of flood plains, zoning codes and flood insurance on infrastructure development? (I would rather not be.) Given the general lack of interest in such topics, do you think government can make economically sound choices to mitigate the effects of climate change? If so, how?

Storm Surge

Open thread

We have an open thread all day today.

What’s your favorite fashion accessory and why?  It could be a scarf, belt, hat, shoes, purse, wallet, jewelry, or something else.  Are both form and function equally important to you?

Games of chance

by Lemon

As good Totebaggers we all know that the lottery is a sucker’s bet. Sometimes a game of chance is fun, especially if you are a math wiz and figured out a way to bet the system. I came across this article recently about a retired guy who figured out a way to win and made it his fulltime job to play.

Jerry And Marge Go Large

Do you play the lotto regularly? Only when the jackpot gets big? Never? What about scratch off games or pull-tabs?

Family Stories

These two submissions seemed to go together:

by Honolulu Mother

According to this Psychology Today blog post,

C]hildren and adolescents who know more of their family stories show higher well-being on multiple measures, including higher self-esteem, higher academic competence, higher social competence, and fewer behavior problems.

It goes on to offer a set of 20 questions that can serve as a starting point for telling family stories.

My kids like to hear family stories, though I don’t think they could answer all those questions. I specialize in telling embarrassing stories about my siblings, although some about me may slip in from time to time.

Do you share family stories? Have you created some of your own that your kids might pass on to their own families?

Our Parents’ Stories

by Swim

The link to the article about cliques in nursing homes made me very sad. So much going on under the surface there. Made me think of a topic suggestion: what have you learned about your parents that surprised you? Young kids and adult children think they know their parents, but often have little idea of their parents younger lives, or even how interesting their lives are when kids leave home.

Changing your views

[Here’s a meaty topic that we can try to discuss on the main section of our blog.  If you think the comments are getting out of hand let all of us know.  —  July]

by Becky

We are all well aware that we have a variety of political leanings among Totebaggers. This article describes research into the origins of those leanings. Do you agree? Have you had life experiences that led you to change your views to a more conservative or more liberal stance?

I had a moderate anti-gun stance growing up. We did not own a gun, and a story my dad told me about a friend of his that I knew stuck with me. Someone had attempted to break into their house while he was home. He grabbed his gun and chased the guy down the street. The criminal was younger and more fit and got away from him. He was telling my dad the story and saying that he thanks God that the kid got away. He was just a teenager, and he was thinking afterward “I’m gonna shoot a kid over a TV?” However, the patient voices on here and some friends helped me see a different perspective, and my views are much different now. This is NOT a gun discussion, that is just an example of how my coming to feel less fearful of a subject made me change my views on it. Has anyone had a similar experience?

At Yale, we conducted an experiment to turn conservatives into liberals. The results say a lot about our political divisions.

Month-long trips

by July

Some of us have expressed an interest in traveling to various locations and staying there a month or more just getting to know and enjoy the areas.  These would likely be post-retirement trips since we typically don’t have the vacation time to do this while we’re working.

To my surprise Miami Beach recently caught my eye as a place to spend a leisurely month.  Maybe I’m too old to enjoy the cool vibe of South Beach, but I’m still intrigued.  Plus it’s just a generally beautiful location that probably offers a number of short side trips that would be worth exploring.  What do you think?  Yay or nay on Miami Beach?

What, if any, locations would you consider for a month-long stay?  Domestic and international.  What locations would you recommend?  Give us details on local activities that would help us decide if they might tempt us.  Let’s share our inside scoop on long-term trip possibilities.

Here’s a retired couple that spends most of the year on long trips all over the world.  Ultimately they built a home in California that precisely meets their needs and was designed to easily rent out to other travelers while they are away.

Home Free Adventures

How to measure a trend

by S&M

How do you measure a trend? To these researchers, it seems to be about numbers at peak popularity, and perhaps about staying power. I would measure a trend by how rapidly it spread, and how rapidly it faded away. For names, that means that there are some people whose age you can guess fairly accurately simply by knowing their first name. Kohl/Cole might be such a name for boys. There are three in my son’s age group basketball league at the Y; I don’t know anyone else with that name.

Does it always make sense to measure trends the same way, or how should trends other than names be measured?

This Is the Trendiest Baby Name in US History

2018 Politics open thread, March 11-17

Here is our weekly politics thread.

by Rhett

Right around the same time, New York University psychologist, Jonathan Haidt, was formulating a theory about why liberals and conservatives have such a hard time productively conversing.

After mucking around in a lot of survey data, he came up with this basic idea: Liberals and people of the left underpin their politics with moral concerns about harm and fairness; they are driven by the imperative to help the vulnerable and see justice done. Conservatives and people of the right value these things as well but have several additional moral touchstones — loyalty, respect and sanctity. They value in-group solidarity, deference to authority, and the protection of purity in mind and body. To liberals, those sincerely held values can look a lot like, in Dr. Haidt’s words, “xenophobia, authoritarianism and Puritanism.” This asymmetry is the fountainhead of mutual incomprehension and disdain.

When Smug Liberals Met Conservative Trolls

I don’t think that’s really correct. What do you think is the basis of disagreement?

Favorite Dinners / Suppers of Your Childhood

by Honolulu Mother

Towards the end of the day the discussion on a recent topic turned to old family favorites, especially those from childhood. Mémé mentioned tamale pie:

Several of us were familiar with variations on the other one she mentioned:

“It is called American Chop Suey in New England, sometimes goulash elsewhere. Ground beef, canned chopped tomatoes, tomato paste, onions, bell pepper, and macaroni.”

The variation I knew as a childhood favorite was tallerini (tollerini? talerinei?), which was egg noodles cooked in an electric skillet with ground beef and onions, tomatoes (maybe tomato sauce), black olives, and corn. I see various recipes online calling for adding cheddar cheese on top and baking, but the version I knew was served from the skillet.

Another regular on my childhood table, and a favorite of mine, was creamed tuna on rice. We always had it with mayonnaise to mix in and peas on the side (also good mixed in!), a tradition dating from my mother’s childhood when her younger brother accidentally got some mayonnaise from his sliced avocado mixed in with his creamed tuna. The rest of the family didn’t initially believe his assertion that it was good that way, but when he kept adding mayonnaise every time it was served they were convinced. This is one I think you have to grow up with — my grandfather, and my own father, who didn’t, were not fans. Luckily for me my husband also grew up with creamed tuna!

What were your favorites of the regular family dinners from your childhood? Do you ever make them for your own family?

Death planning

by L

Do you talk about death with your children? How about your end-of-life wishes?

Little Mirrors of Mortality
How one late-in-life parent discusses death with his children.

Cake Raises $1.35M to Help You Talk About End-of-Life Planning

and by Milo:

Last Saturday, my kids and I were driving to lunch at Chick-fil-A when we were delayed at the traffic light nearest our house. Two police officers, who had been waiting for their cue, activated lights and sirens and stopped traffic in all directions. I had no idea why, as we’re nowhere near the typical political motorcade territory, but then a couple of limos, a hearse, and a line of about 40 or 50 cars followed their slow, dignified path on the way to the cemetery.

So, my kids and I got to talking about funeral traditions. I have some limited (thankfully) familiarity with what I assume are standard, middle-class Catholic Northeastern customs: an evening viewing with an open casket, a lot of old people nobody’s seen in 20 years coming to pay their respects after seeing the obituary in the paper, a casual impromptu dinner at a pizza restaurant afterward, another gathering at the funeral home the next morning where the casket is solemnly closed, an escorted drive to mass, How Great Thou Art and maybe Nearer My God to Thee or Be Not Afraid, another escorted drive to the cemetery, and a luncheon afterward. (In earlier decades, and when there is still a significant amount of family living in the area, this part can happen at someone’s house. My dad refers to one particular dish of chicken, tomato wine sauce, and orzo as “funeral food,” because any time there was a funeral, at least one or two aunts would bring over a huge pot of it.)

Most of my grandparents were lucky, in my mind, to have outlived so many people that their funeral processions were much smaller than what I saw on Saturday. (As an aside, in college, I once heard a very entertaining talk by Ross Perot that was peppered with a lot of folksy sayings. On the topic of incompetence in leadership, he quipped that he “wouldn’t trust this guy to lead a *two-car* funeral.”) The older men who worked as attendants at the funeral home and did the little things like drive the hearse and limo reminded me of mob extras on the Sopranos with their dark jackets and ties and feathered fedoras.

How different are the customs in your family or geographic, religious community? Do you find them familiar and comforting, or torturous? If you had to plan your own funeral, what would it look like?

Retirement stuff

by July

Are you on track to meet your financial goals for retirement?

The Fidelity Retirement ScoreSM
Know where you stand for retirement in just 60 seconds. Answer 6 simple questions to get your score and additional steps to consider as you save for retire

What states have you considered for your retirement years?

All 50 states ranked for retirement from worst to best

Lately as I have become more educated about Social Security and Medicare I have realized how much I did not know.

5 things the average American should know about Medicare

Has it been relatively easy for you or your relatives to make decisions about Medicare and Social Security?  What have been good sources of information on these topics — the government, professionals, or other resources?

Book Reviews: Should They Sting?

by Honolulu Mother

In a Baffler article, Rafia Zakaria complains that book reviews have become too reluctant to criticize, ranging in tone from praise to neutral description and leaving off the part of the spectrum running from critical to scathing.

Waiting for the critic’s verdict used to be a moment of high anxiety, but there’s not so much to worry about anymore. The general tone and tenor of the contemporary book review is an advertisement-style frippery. And, if a rave isn’t in order, the reviewer will give a stylized summary of sorts, bookended with non-conclusions as to the book’s content. Absent in either is any critical engagement, let alone any excavation of the book’s umbilical connection to the world in which it is born. Only the longest-serving critics, if they are lucky enough to be ensconced in the handful of newspapers that still have them, paw at the possibility of a negative review. And even they, embarking on that journey of a polemical book review, temper their taunts and defang their dissection.

She blames this largely on political correctness, for reasons that I found rather twisty and difficult to follow. I think she may be right about the decline of the negative review, but I suspect it has more to do with the cutbacks in print journalism and hence a drop in the number of review writers for whom writing book reviews is their primary job, as compared to general style section writers who may take the same approach to book blurbs as to home decoration trends or travel tips: pointing out what’s new and interesting, not critically distinguishing between the good and the bad.

As far as the benefit of negative book reviews, I find them helpful from a critic whose judgment I trust, less helpful from an unknown writer, and downright annoying from a writer who appears to be more focused on showing off his or her own clever turns of phrase than on giving the prospective reader a good sense of what the book is like.  Given the choice between the latter and a plot summary from late, great Harriet Klausner, I’d take the plot summary.

Do you like negative book reviews? And if so, is it mainly because you find them informative, or mainly because you enjoy reading those British-style negative reviews that tear the subject to pieces?

Prepared and safe

by July


You never know what might happen on the road. Stepping out your door into the unknown is what makes travel so exciting. Each day brings endless possibility, but that possibility is for both good and bad. You may end up enjoying a day sightseeing in Paris — or getting robbed in Berlin. You may spend an amazing day on the beaches of Thailand — or suffer food poisoning in Costa Rica.

The author’s tips are basic and include packing a flashlight, taking extra credit cards, and keeping a list of emergency contacts.  But I know travelers do not follow this advice.

Here is someone who shares her advice after a bad experience.

What I learned after being robbed at gunpoint in Mexico

Being prepared and staying safe is not just important for traveling.  Even just stepping out the door for local trips should include some thinking in advance.  I always try to have some cash with me, but some young people don’t seem to find that to be a necessary precaution.

And then there’s the gender difference.

28 Things Women Do On A Night Out That Men Rarely Have To Think About

What’s your experience?  Your thoughts?  Any advice?

Slackchat and IM-at-work

by Honolulu Mother

I don’t use Slackchat myself, but my son has been using it, I think primarily in connection with an internship he’s doing. I was interested to see this Vanity Fair article suggesting the way it’s set up blurs the lines between work and home:

Slack Made Work More Social. What Does It Do to Your Social Life?

I must admit, I’m not quite clear from the article how Slackchat is qualitatively different this way from something like the Skype-for-business that my office uses, or Google Hangouts. It sounds like you still have the option to never open it outside the office; it’s just that people have been using it with friends and acquaintances outside work so end up catching their work messages since they’re already on. But perhaps I’m misunderstanding it.

Do you use a work IM service, and do you find that it blurs the lines between work and personal life for you, or do you mostly just use it at the office?

‘Amazon wants a key to your house’

by Finn

Amazon wants access to your house, via an electronic lock that they can remotely unlock. Would you let them have access? I can see that it might be a benefit if package thefts are a problem, or if you don’t have a place out of the weather for package delivery.

Who else would you allow access to your house?

Amazon wants a key to your house. I did it. I regretted it.

I think I’d only do it if I could create some sort of delivery area from which the rest of the house could be secured. I’d also have an old-fashioned lock or two on the door with the Amazon lock, and only unlock those locks when I’m expecting a delivery.

Bond Investing

by Rhett

Bond Investing… I’m not there yet but eventually I’ll need to move into fixed income*. What do I need to know? What books should I read? I was reading that bond index funds don’t work nearly as well as stock index funds. Is that true?

* or do I?

Leadership and IQ

by Honolulu Mother

Apparently a leader’s intelligence has diminishing returns for his or her popularity — it increases perceived effectiveness up to a point, but higher-IQ leaders are perceived as less effective regardless of their actual performance.

Why People Dislike Really Smart Leaders
Those with an IQ above 120 are perceived as less effective, regardless of actual performance

On average, the sweet spot is an IQ of around 120, but it could vary across fields:

The ratings peaked at an IQ of around 120, which is higher than roughly 80 percent of office workers. Beyond that, the ratings declined. The researchers suggest the “ideal” IQ could be higher or lower in various fields, depending on whether technical versus social skills are more valued in a given work culture.

Have you seen this at work in your office or elsewhere?

The future of football

by Flyover

Boxing was mainstream entertainment in the 50s and 60s, but has turned into a niche sport today. Will football go the same way? Given what we now know about brain injury, I believe the football landscape will look far different 50 years from now. I expect that, at some point, a school district, youth league, or college will lose a football-in jury-related lawsuit and insurers will raise the price of insuring programs such that they will become unjustifiable financially.

Neither of my boys was interested in playing tackle football, though both enjoyed playing touch in the backyard with friends. A flag football league would have been a nice option.

Maryland to introduce bill to ban tackle football under age 14

2018 Politics open thread, February 18-24

Here’s our weekly political thread.

by MooshiMooshi

I found this article interesting and ironic because it seems to me that the young Amphibians that David Brooks celebrates are exactly the multicultural, urbane, elites, that engender so much dislike these days. Are they really our hope, or will the countervailing trends of nationalism prevail?

The Rise of the Amphibians

No-host Birthday Parties

by Honolulu Mother

This Washington Post article declared that the writer would be opting out of birthday parties where it’s not clear whether guests are expected to pay for themselves and the birthday celebrant (or where it’s clear that they are).

Stop charging me to attend your celebrations — #guestsdontpay

The writer, Michelle Singletary, explains the problems she’s seen:

Too many times, I’ve shown up for an event and been told after consuming the meal that I’m expected not just to pay for my food, but to chip in for the guest of honor. I’ve been at events when others — caught by surprise or knowing they don’t have the money — skip out without paying their share. This leaves the remaining guests to pick up the cost of what wasn’t paid.

I would have thought a decision to avoid such events would be uncontroversial, but apparently the column sparked off Facebook debates that also drew in the new Facebook thing of doing a birthday fundraiser and exhorting friends to contribute to a chosen cause.

I haven’t been seeing this myself, probably due to a combination of stage of life (my peers have money and houses now) and generation (I don’t think that inviting people to join you for dinner and expecting them to pay for your meal as well as their own was as much of a thing in my misspent youth). How about the rest of you — have you seen this trend? What do you think of it?

Making your day more productive

by July

Why The 8-Hour Workday Doesn’t Work

The ideal work-to-break ratio was 52 minutes of work, followed by 17 minutes of rest.

What schedule works best for you?

This NYT article makes reference to deliberate practice, which also applies in academics and sports.

At least one of our regulars can relate to this.

How Hard Do Professors Actually Work?
A recent Twitter battle revealed that faculty members themselves can’t agree on an answer.

What are your observations about working smarter?  Any advice?

Fill in the blanks

by Finn

Fill in the blanks:

Aside from a _____, a _____ will be the most expensive thing I will ever buy.

Aside from a _____, a _____ has been the most expensive thing I”ve ever bought.

I’m sure you’ve seen statements like this many times, with various things in the blanks. What accurately fills the blanks for you? How does that compare to other ways you’ve seen them filled?

Open thread

We have an open thread all day.

Anyone watching the Olympics?  Ann Althouse “had 2 big problems with the Olympics opening ceremony”.

1.. Phony nationalities: There were way too many “Olympians” who were there because they marched under a flag that was not, in fact, their home country, and these people seemed to be mostly Americans…

2. All those references to “Asia” in the script: The NBC announcers had a script to read as the dance/theater extravaganza unfolded, and for some reason, instead of telling us about how the various costumes, symbols, movements, and projections said something about Korea, they kept saying things like “and Asia,” “and all over Asia,” and “and Asian people in general.” Why?! Asia’s a big place, with culture and history that didn’t take place in one united whole group …

She also commented on the costumes.

Ranking every piece of Team USA’s Winter Olympics opening ceremony outfit


by Honolulu Mother

According to a PsychToday post, profanity has its benefits, including pain relief!

Profanity Can Be Therapeutic AF

How often do you swear? Are you ok with others’ use of profanity? What if those others are your colleagues? Or your children?

I am an occasional profanity user, and tolerate a certain amount of kid profanity given that mine are teens who hear it from peers all day, but draw the line when it’s directed at other family members (i.e. no you cannot call your sister / brother that!)


Two submissions on one topic:


by MooshiMooshi

My kids do not use their lockers. My oldest gave up on it in 8th grade when it became clear it was one of the reasons he was misplacing things and coming home without the materials he needed for school. His ADHD coach suggested he keep everything in his backpack, he tried it, and it was so much better that he has not visited a locker in years now. His little brother, who tends to be a hoarder anyway, adopted the same practice as soon as he hit middle school. I would see the little guy trudging off to school with a backpack almost bigger than himself, largely because he stuffed it with large history books and D&D manuals. He said he really liked having everything he wanted with him all the time. My third kid, now in 6th grade, is also following the practice after she mistakenly left her cellphone in her locker over a weekend. The horror, a whole weekend without texting!

But I thought it was just my weird kids. No, it is a trend, and here is the article to prove it.

Schools and lockers: No longer the right combination


by Honolulu Mother

Do your kids use their lockers? Has your school gotten rid of them or do they still find them useful? Do they even have textbooks or papers to lug around any more? And is this a bit of Americana, like the rite of passage of a learner’s permit at 16, which is disappearing?

I thought my kids were just weird about not wanting to use their lockers. Then I saw this WaPo article about how most high schoolers aren’t claiming lockers anymore:

Schools and lockers: No longer the right combination

Per the article,

The trend has expanded so rapidly and widely that schools are now removing individual student lockers from their hallways, and builders and designers for many new high schools don’t even include them in their plans.

The students quoted cite reasons ranging from the impracticability of always stopping by one location on a large campus with a short time between classes (this is what my kids say, and based on my Open House night experiences, they’re right!), to the use of online textbooks or shared textbooks kept in the classroom. Locker manufacturers are looking at different types of lockers for school hallways:

Now, the company is introducing new products — including smart lockers that are shareable, open with the swipe of an ID and are wired to charge electronic devices — to respond to the downward trend. And, the company notes, lockers for high school athletic facilities remain in demand.

InMyDay, lockers were still a central point for a lot of high school socializing and who your locker neighbors were could have a big effect on your experience. But for my kids, that’s never been a part of their high school experience, and apparently they’re not alone. How about your family — do/did your middle or high school aged kids use a locker? Did you?

Global Potty-training

by Honolulu Mother

Here’s one for Rhode, WCE, and others still going through the potty wars. The WaPo has taken a culturally relativistic look at potty training in different world cultures:

Toilet training at 2 is normal in U.S. but very late in China and other countries

We followed a pretty standard American potty training timeline, with my boys trained around 2.5 to 3, and my daughter trained at more like 1.5 (she’s close enough in age to her older brother that they both learned at the same time). No potty boot camp or anything like that, just a family-wide preoccupation during the relevant period with who needs to potty, when everyone last pottied, where the nearest potty is, and so on.

Was your family’s approach a typical American one? Any odd wrinkles? Anyone try split pants, elimination communication, or another different approach? And those currently in the trenches, how’s it going?

Parenting success stories

by Finn

DS is back in school now, after being home for nearly a month during semester break. While he was home, he said a few things that warmed my heart:

-A couple of times when I asked him if he wanted to go with me to work out, he said, “OK;” this after always declining when he was in HS. He also mentioned that trips to the gym are part of his normal routine in school, even as the weather turned cold.

-He took me up on my offer to take some of my cold-weather clothes, from my days dealing with frigid SV winters, back with him.

-He spoke of how difficult it was to get adequate amounts of fiber through cafeteria food, and how nearly all of their starches were refined. He’s addressed that by eating a lot of vegetables, and is even contemplating eating oatmeal.

-He mentioned that one of the reasons he joined the school orchestra was that he thought it would be a good way to meet people.

What parenting success stories do you have?

Fun data on people who move

by MooshiMooshi

This article looks at which cities attract new people. It is an especially fun article because it slices and dices the data in all kinds of interesting ways. In particular, it looks at moves in terms of distance (from another county, from another state, from another country), moves adjusted by population (which really changes the results), and by ethnicity (which changes things yet again). One of the takeaways – white people are moving to Colorado.

Broadly, one thing stands out: White people love Colorado. Denver, Aurora and Lakewood together account for the 21st largest metro area in the United States in terms of total population by our measure, yet it’s the seventh most popular among whites.

I also notice that black people seem to prefer to move South.

The top 10 places people are moving, and how their choices differ by race