Generators

by Rhode

We just experienced our second power failure this summer. In 9 years in RI, we’ve lost power 2 times before this summer. This trend makes me think about generators.

Our knee-jerk reaction is to buy a whole house generator. Is it worth the cost? Could we get away with a generator to run the refrigerator, a lamp, a charger, and maybe a space heater?

Do you have a generator? What type? How large? What appliances or electronics do you run on your generator?

Family Movie Night

by Seattle Soccer Mom

On Friday nights, we often like to order takeout/delivery and watch a movie. Our kids are 15 and 10 so it can sometimes be a challenge to find a movie that both kids enjoy. Here are some recent movies all four of us liked.

  • Galaxy Quest with Tim Allen, Sigourney Weaver, and Allen Rickman. PG. Highly recommend this comedy – all of us enjoyed it.
  • My Cousin Vinnie with Joe Pesci and Marisa Tomei. Rated R because close to every other word is the F word. If you don’t have a problem with frequent use of the F word, it’s a pretty funny movie. All of us enjoyed it.
  • Oceans 11 with George Clooney and Brad Pitt. PG-13. What’s not to love?
  • Groundhog Day with Bill Murray. PG. A classic.
  • Elf – we like to watch this at Christmas and let the kids invite friends over to have an Elf dinner: spaghetti with chocolate sauce, candy corn, pop tarts, etc.
  • When the kids were younger, we really enjoyed Hayao Miyazaki’s movies: Howl’s Moving Castle, Castle in the Sky, Spirited Away,….

Fellow Totebaggers – what movies or tv shows do you like to watch as a family?

The Really Big One

by WCE

The Problem:
The Cascadia subduction zone will likely experience a magnitude 8-9 earthquake off the Oregon/Washington Coast. Based on historic periods between major quakes and knowing that the last major quake was in 1700, the chance of a major quake by 2060 is estimated at 1 in 3. Coastal regions will be inundated by the resulting tsunami. Utility infrastructure, roads and bridges are expected to be severely affected.

WCE’s Commentary:
This article is kind of long, so I’ll summarize it and paste a quote for the less interested. I will also note that if your child wants to become a paleoseismologist, (s)he should consider Oregon State. I was motivated to read it in part by paying the bill for our Earthquake insurance, which is 50% of our regular homeowner’s insurance premium and has a high deductible. Another article noted that 80% of Oregonians don’t carry earthquake insurance. One author helpfully noted that the federal government will pick up the tab in the event of a disaster. A bridge/seismology expert for the State of Oregon (met her once) is concerned by the lack of interest/concern regarding the likely destruction of much of our infrastructure. A tsunami would affect the Oregon/Washington/BC Coast- I’ve included a map of the likely Oregon effect from a related article.. So this post could go in all kinds of directions. :)

From the article:

… In Oregon, it has been illegal since 1995 to build hospitals, schools, firehouses, and police stations in the inundation zone, but those which are already in it can stay, and any other new construction is permissible: energy facilities, hotels, retirement homes. In those cases, builders are required only to consult with DOGAMI about evacuation plans. “So you come in and sit down,” Ian Madin says. “And I say, ‘That’s a stupid idea.’ And you say, ‘Thanks. Now we’ve consulted.’”

These lax safety policies guarantee that many people inside the inundation zone will not get out. Twenty-two per cent of Oregon’s coastal population is sixty-five or older. Twenty-nine per cent of the state’s population is disabled, and that figure rises in many coastal counties. “We can’t save them,” Kevin Cupples says. “I’m not going to sugarcoat it and say, ‘Oh, yeah, we’ll go around and check on the elderly.’ No. We won’t.” Nor will anyone save the tourists. Washington State Park properties within the inundation zone see an average of seventeen thousand and twenty-nine guests a day. Madin estimates that up to a hundred and fifty thousand people visit Oregon’s beaches on summer weekends. “Most of them won’t have a clue as to how to evacuate,” he says. “And the beaches are the hardest place to evacuate from.”

Those who cannot get out of the inundation zone under their own power will quickly be overtaken by a greater one. A grown man is knocked over by ankle-deep water moving at 6.7 miles an hour. The tsunami will be moving more than twice that fast when it arrives. Its height will vary with the contours of the coast, from twenty feet to more than a hundred feet. It will not look like a Hokusai-style wave, rising up from the surface of the sea and breaking from above. It will look like the whole ocean, elevated, overtaking land. Nor will it be made only of water—not once it reaches the shore. It will be a five-story deluge of pickup trucks and doorframes and cinder blocks and fishing boats and utility poles and everything else that once constituted the coastal towns of the Pacific Northwest.”

The Really Big One

Schulz-The-Big-One-Map-11

Cutting The Cost Of College

by MooshiMooshi

Everyone loves to discuss the high costs of university education, and everyone seems to have an opinion as to how to get those costs down. This article looks in some depth at the effort to deal with significant funding cuts at U Wisconsin Eau Claire, which is a classic directional state U, and one with a pretty good reputation. The son of one of my best friends went there, and had a lot of good things to say.

There are some points of interest in this article. First of all, the funding cuts forced the administration to look closely at some of their processes, which really made no sense in some cases. Layers of administrative approvals to get catering? That is the kind of thing that just adds to everyone’s workload. As I have noted before, a lot of times universities end up with lots of bureaucracy, added costs, and added workload (usually dumped on faculty and lower level administrators) because there are no real chains of command. Everyone in the various administrative offices are all doing their own thing. The one-stop student services office is also a great idea. I have never understood why universities make students run from office to office to get things done. So there is a silver lining to these cuts – forcing the school to weed out and streamline offices and processes.

However, the centralized advising is a huge mistake in my opinion. And each advisor will have 300 students? In a school with a 30% 4 year graduation rate? Seriously? My department is actually trying to wrest advising away from the central advising process, largely because we think it will improve retention. The centralized advisors make so many mistakes, mistakes that actually cause students to have to spend more time here.

And of course they will end up with fewer course sections, which will also make it harder for students to get finished on time.

It is interesting that they used alums to help identify inefficiencies, instead of hiring consultants. I assume the alums were volunteering their time? That is actually a really interesting idea – instead of hitting up alums for money, ask for time instead.

Struggling to Stay True to Wisconsin’s Ideals

As usual, the comments on the article are interesting too. Do you have anything to add? How would you approach drastic cuts at a school like this if you were the president?

Are Engineers Good Marriage Material?

by Grace aka costofcollege

 10 Reasons Engineers Make Good Partners

I don’t agree with all their reasons, but some good points are made.  Let’s explore this further.

10 Reasons Engineers Make Bad Partners

10 Reasons [fill in the blank with another profession] Make Good/Bad Partners

What makes for a good or bad partner?  Any correlation with profession?

Alcohol or Marijuana?

by Seattle Soccer Mom

Dr. Aaron Carroll is a professor of pediatrics at Indiana University who also writes columns for the NY Times Upshot. In the linked article below, he sorts through the dangers of alcohol vs. marijuana for teens. Dr. Carroll argues that alcohol is a factor in 40% of violent crimes (no link for pot); there are alcohol related deaths (e.g. binge drinking deaths) but not pot related deaths; more ER visits due to alcohol than pot; alcohol is more of a danger when driving; and a higher % of users end up dependent on alcohol than on pot.

His conclusion:

When someone asks me whether I’d rather my children use pot or alcohol, after sifting through all the studies and all the data, I still say “neither.” Usually, I say it more than once. But if I’m forced to make a choice, the answer is “marijuana.”

Fellow Totebaggers, which would you rather your teen experimented with – alcohol or marijuana? (and yes, let’s assume the first choice would be “neither.”)

For me personally, since I’ve never smoked pot, I’m more comfortable with the idea of DD experimenting with alcohol. After reading the article though, I’m a little less freaked out about the idea of DD experimenting with pot (my first choice is still “neither.”)

Alcohol or Marijuana? A Pediatrician Faces the Question

Pets and More Pets

By Sky

We already have a cat, but my kids have decided we also need a dog. Luckily the pleas of the youngest are still limited to pointing at dogs and saying “woof woof” plaintively, because the other two bring it up every time we see one.

I think I have persuaded DD and DS1 to settle for some betta fish for now, but I started to wonder if I should have campaigned for a virtual pet when I started reading about tank cycling and betta sororities. I manage sibling fighting all day as it is!

What pets have you had? What low maintenance pets would you recommend? Have you had any exotic or unusual pets?

What about pet care? How much do you think is reasonable? Does your pet get holiday gifts and go on the family vacation?

And most importantly, who does the work? Are there any Totebag children who walk the dog and clean up the mess, or is it all on the parents? (I know what the answer will be in my house, so we are not getting a dog!)

Continue Ban On Gay Blood Donors?

by winemama

Should the Red Cross change its stance on blood donations from gay men in light of the Supreme Court’s decision on gay marriage and other recent events? Safety is the main factor, but I would think they could ensure safety without such a strict rule (male who has had sexual contact with another male, even once, since 1977). It seems like it is based on an out-of date stereotype.

Currently this is the rule:

You should not give blood if you have AIDS or have ever had a positive HIV test, or if you have done something that puts you at risk for becoming infected with HIV.

You are at risk for getting infected if you:
  • have ever used needles to take drugs, steroids, or anything not prescribed by your doctor
  • are a male who has had sexual contact with another male, even once, since 1977
  • have ever taken money, drugs or other payment for sex since 1977
  • have had sexual contact in the past 12 months with anyone described above
  • received clotting factor concentrates for a bleeding disorder such as hemophilia

Panel Recommends U.S. Keep Ban on Gay Blood Donors

Joint Statement Regarding National Gay Blood Drive

Blood Donor Eligibility: Medications & Health | American Red Cross

Home Remodeling Advice

by axs54

This post is from a long-time lurker from the TOS.  Recent discussion has prompted me to submit a post.

We have been living in our house for about 9 years and are considering doing a large addition (add master suite, expand kitchen, add mudroom, etc). Our house is a typical (for Boston suburbs) 1960’s raised ranch, which our family of four is outgrowing (it is 1,500 sq. ft.)

We are in the very initial stages of the project. We have hired an architect and he is just beginning his work on the plans. We are looking for any suggestions re: contractor management, accommodations (we would have to move out for at least one month), and any other pitfalls that Totebag readers have experienced. It seems that a decent number of regulars has gone through a significant home improvement project, so please share your wisdom!

Why Organic Agriculture is a Colossal Hoax

by WCE

The Colossal Hoax Of Organic Agriculture

I’ve mentioned before my concerns about organic agriculture and how it’s implemented. This article discusses some of the issues that affect consumers but it doesn’t discuss the production issues, such as lower yields, associated with organic agriculture. Organic produce is popular among my set in the Pacific Northwest but its proponents don’t seem particularly knowledgeable about its pros and cons, so I’ve learned to smile and nod. Is anything in this article (it’s short) new information for you? Do you share my skepticism about organic food from China or Mexico?

 

Dressing Down At The Office And Elsewhere

by Grace aka costofcollege

The trend toward more casual dressing draws mixed opinions.  I mainly like it, but sometimes it goes too far.

For the love of God, stop dressing like crap

… So while you can hold on to your crop tops and ratty band tees, you may also think twice about where and when you wear them. After all, if you dress better, you’ll feel better.

Recently while enjoying sushi at a “nice” local restaurant, I couldn’t help but notice the guys at the table next to us who were dressed like this guy, but with team logo tank tops.

20150811.TTankTop2

 

I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s sometimes a bit confused about appropriate dress.  Lately my questions have been more about men’s sartorial style.

What does “business casual” actually mean at your workplace?  This seems to be common garb for the men I’ve seen lately on their way to the office.  Later when the weather turns cooler, many will add a blazer to their look.

20150809.TBusCasual3
Is the “3-day beard” look acceptable at your office?  Even if you don’t look like Ben Affleck?

20150809.T3DayStubble

And can men wear shorts everywhere these days?

Do you trend toward casual or more dressed up?  How do people dress at your workplace?  Do you care how other people dress?

Interstates

by Honolulu Mother

My husband suggested this article for a Totebag topic:

How to Fix Our Interstates

The following are his comments on it.

“I found this interesting on several levels.

First, the article is in contrast to my father’s perspective on the interstate coming to Washington state during his coming of age as a driver. His claim was that many of the planners of the initial interstate build favored ring roads around the major cities, but that the merchants of the day overrode that in pursuit of tourist dollars.

Second, having commuted the “interstate” in Hawaii for several decades, I have often found myself stuck in traffic and wondering if the whole thing would move better if we added stoplights for through traffic and merging traffic at major choke points and treated it like any other major city street. Our highway in urban Honolulu is actually grandfathered under design requirements of the 60s. As I understand it, our upgrade options are severely limited short of bringing the system into compliance with current requirements.

Third, I lean libertarian and tend to agree that if we left transportation funding and decisions at the local level we would achieve better results. Under the current system, if a local government spends ninety cents in added costs for federal compliance to receive a dollar of federal funding it counts as ten free cents.

It’s traffic, folks, I know everyone’s bound to have opinions.”

Rewards That Aren’t Raises

By AustinMom

When we first start out in our careers, it is often all about the money as parents withdraw their financial support and our paychecks must cover all of our basic needs plus our desires. However, when pay exceeds those basic needs, do we value that raise or other rewards, such as more time off?

The article below opines that workers who are taking other rewards in lieu of raises may be hurting themselves in the long run. In my opinion, the article mixes some non-monetary and monetary benefits in the same category. For example, paid health insurance – assuming you will carry health insurance, shifting the cost from the employee (automatic payroll withdrawal) to employer paid does free up cash for the employee. Others, such as time off or access to a gym membership you won’t use (due to location or desire) do not impact your paycheck.

Has your company shifted to other rewards in lieu of raises? How has it affected you? How do you see it affecting the next generation of workers (including your kids)?

Companies have found something to give their workers instead of raises

What’s for Dinner?

By Seattle Soccer Mom

I’m always on the lookout for dinner ideas that I can make in 45 minutes or so and that at least 3 of the 4 of us will eat.

Do you and your partner split the cooking or does one of you handle most of the cooking? I do most of the cooking; DH cooks once a week and makes something easy that doesn’t require a recipe. This summer, I’ve started having the kids each cook dinner once a week. DD is 15 and DS will soon be 10.

Cooking a family dinner was one of the bigger adjustments we had to make after having kids. Before kids, DH and I would often do our own thing on weeknights. I’m ok with having cereal for dinner while DH likes a hot dinner preferably including meat/fish. DD takes after DH. DS is a pickatarian. I love sauces – so I often make things where the sauce is added at the end or on the side so DS can have his plain (or uncontaminated depending on your perspective). I aim for cooking something that 3 of the 4 of us will eat.

Here are some typical dinners for my family – what does your family like to eat?

Fish –salmon, Dover sole, or halibut. Generally pan-seared with some sort of sauce (salmon with a port wine sauce; Dover sole that’s been breaded or coated in parmesan with a tarragon sauce). If we’re splurging, crab cakes from a local fish store (easy and delicious but expensive). Clams steamed in white wine. I learned to eat seafood as an adult so my repertoire is pretty limited.

Chicken/Steak – on the weekend, I often like to do some version of roast chicken thighs – easy but takes a little more time. Pan-seared chicken cutlets with a lemon white wine sauce or steak with a stone-ground mustard sauce. Panko crusted chicken thighs with egg noodles.

Pasta – favorites include pasta with a tomato-vodka cream sauce (with either prosciutto or bacon); kale bacon pasta with fresh oregano; pasta with a sausage-vermouth cream sauce.

Easy – tacos; steak salad (broiled/grilled steak on top of a bed of greens with goat cheese, tomato, avocado); spaghetti with marinara; ravioli with prosciutto, pear, and avocado as optional toppings; grilled cheese/BLT’s.

Other – chicken pot pie, lasagna – I have two easy recipes from a great cookbook called “Keepers.” For the chicken pot pie, you use puff pastry for the topping – and it includes bacon. Yum.

Where do you take your out-of-town visitors?

by Grace aka costofcollege

One Los Angeles resident wanted to offer his out-of-town visitors “authentic” local experiences as well as typical tourist attractions.

Figuring out how to provide an authentic experience that isn’t challenging for visitors who aren’t intimately familiar with this city’s quirks is a true local struggle.

I’ve faced this dilemma twice in my seven years of Angeleno-hood, and for the second time last weekend. For my parents’ most recent stay, I wanted to switch things up, focus less on tourist attractions and more on the places I find most interesting in Los Angeles.

My out-of-town visitors can check out famous local attractions like the Statue of Liberty and Broadway shows, but they can also spend a quiet afternoon at a less well-known place like Untermeyer Gardens on the Hudson River.

20150805.TUntermeyer1

What are the famous tourist attractions near you?  And what are some other “authentic experiences” that visitors to your area might enjoy?  Do you host visitors very often?  How does it usually go?

College Budgeting Fail

by ssk

I just read this online and thought it might be a starting point for a blend of two of our favorite topics: paying for college and teaching fiscal responsibility.

22-year-old college student blows her $90,000 college fund and blames her parents

While this article (and the accompanying videos) is tongue-in-cheek, it makes you wonder about how you have done (or will do) teaching your children about finances. Has anyone encountered a young person like “Kim”?

Marriage In The Real World

by Moxiemom

The Wedding Toast I’ll Never Give

Saw this in this week’s Modern Love column and felt like it really spoke to my 19 years of marriage and would be good required reading for all people considering marriage. I also found the positivity of the comments section to be a big surprise. How about you, do you think this is a realistic portrayal? Do you wish someone had told you something like this before you got married? Unmarried toters – does this make marriage more or less appealing? Discuss.

Household Appliances

by SWVA Mom

I’m getting ready to move into my new home, and fortunately it comes with all appliances except washer & dryer. The laundry room is a little tight – just a space between the garage and kitchen – so I don’t want the extra-large, super-capacity set from my current house. (And H wants to take them anyway.) Anyone have a recommendation?

I’m also very sad to be leaving my dishwasher behind. We were never happy with the one we originally selected for this house because it was too loud. So when the dishwasher in our rental property died a few years ago, we got a new one for home and had the installer take the old one to the rental. It’s a Miele, and I can actually have a phone conversation in the kitchen while it is running. The dishwasher in my new place is actually the same brand I had before but the model is one step down! I guess I’ll just have to remember to run it when I leave in the mornings or when I go to bed.

Totebaggers, what are your favorite home appliances? And let us learn from your mistakes – what about choices you have regretted?

Housing ‘Trends’

by Grace aka costofcollege

The tiny house movement

Could you live in a tiny home that measured “between 65 to 400 square feet”?  I’m enjoying the tiny home shows on HGTV, but no thanks for me.  Maybe 1,000-1,200 square feet could work.  This family likes their small space.

4 People, 650 Square Feet: A Love Story

This made me laugh.

And, real talk, when someone went No. 2, the house had to be evacuated. The bathroom’s proximity to the kitchen was equally disturbing. The folding door did not, I repeat, did not seal odors well, and you had to wash your hands at the kitchen sink.

Modular homes

9 new built-in-a-day modular homes rise in Yonkers

The factory-made houses appear to be very well made, and offer some nice architectural details and lifestyle choices, including hardwood floors, crown moldings, second-floor outdoor decks, master suites, glass pocket doors on either side of the dining room, granite counters and stainless-steel appliances in the kitchen, and a washer/dryer on both floors. The bedrooms are carpeted and the bathroom fixtures are chrome.

Check out the slide show at the link to see the process of building these module homes.

20150725.TYonkersModularHome

Here are the listings.  At $650,000 each, they are relatively affordable for the area.


Why is homeownership slumping?

Homeownership rate drops to 63.4%, lowest since 1967

Household formation, however, is rising. The number of occupied housing units grew, but all on the renter side….

What’s your take on this analyst’s opinion?

“All the governmental attempts (certainly aided and abetted by many players in the private sector) at boosting homeownership has gotten us to this point in time with all the havoc it wreaked over the past 10 years. It’s just another governmental lesson never learned, of don’t mess with the free market and human nature.”

What housing trends interest you?  What do you foresee?  Are you ready to downsize, upsize, or stay put?

When Reality Hits

by Rocky Mountain Stepmom

I’m 28, I just quit my tech job, and I never want another job again

Young person learns that jobs are sometimes boring and stupid and your
personal fulfillment isn’t the boss’s priority. Film at 11.

More seriously, should we be doing more to help our snowflakes
understand that the adults around them will suddenly stop caring about
their Maslovian self-actualization as soon as they turn 22 and hit the
workforce?

Should You Book Your Flight On A Tuesday?

by Grace aka costofcollege

You’re booking your flights all wrong

This article says it’s a myth, but last week I booked a flight that dropped in price on a Tuesday, and I’ve had that same experience at least a couple of times before.

What’s your experience?  Any tips for booking flights?  Hotels?  AirBnB?  Other travel tips?

Summer Books

by Honolulu Mother

I meant to send this topic in the late spring, so it’s a bit late in the season, but since we’re apparently low on posts I thought I might as well send it in.

Let’s talk about beach books, aka shit lit. What are you reading this summer? Trashy nonfiction still counts — Primates of Park Avenue, the book by the lady who claims to have uncovered “wife bonuses” came out last month. All the also-reads for Primates seem to be shit lit — I haven’t read the sample of Crazy Rich Asians, linked to from the Primates book, but unless the cover is greatly misleading, it’s shit lit. I read a lot of genre fiction for my light reading — mysteries, fantasy, SF — and in that line, I really enjoyed Naomi Novik’s new book, Uprooted. That one’s probably too well written to really be shit lit, but it’s fast paced and very readable.

One of our road trip audiobooks was The Colonel and Little Missie, by Larry McMurtry. It was a fun look at the lives of Buffalo Bill Cody and Annie Oakley, with the story-telling feel you might expect based on the author. Bear in the Back Seat is another eminently readable non-fiction choice. My 10 year old ended up reading part of it too after hearing me laughing. Those of you with a farming background may particularly enjoy his description of how he decided to change his focus away from agriculture.

If you’re reading Dostoevsky or Piketty this summer, I suppose you can share that too. Are more serious books on your summertime reading list? Or do you save those for the fall, or for the twelfth of never?

The Course Not Taken

By Sky

What class do you regret not taking?

While in graduate school in a non-medical field, I had the opportunity to take an EMT course for free, as long as I committed to a certain number of volunteer hours. Back then, I had the time for the class, but not enough to be sure I could do the volunteer hours.

Now I wish I had taken it, even if I had to pay for it.

I have had to deal with all sorts of minor medical kid emergencies, and I really have no idea how to tell a sprain from a break, or the start of anaphylaxis from bad hives. I’ve spent much more in unnecessary co-pays than I would have on the class – today’s jaunt to the x-ray for a possible broken ankle will cost me $800.

What class would you have taken if you could do it over again?

What would you take now if you had more time?

Managing Screen Time

by WCE

Screen time v play time: what tech leaders won’t let their own kids do

This article on how different technology leaders manage their kids’ use of technology made me consider what limits are appropriate. My boys love TV, Netflix, Minecraft, etc. and their daily time is subject to completion of chores and homework. It can also be revoked for misbehavior. We have a Waldorf school nearby and I know people who like it, but avoiding screen time/electronics until you’re 12 seems unnecessary and a lot of work for the parent… and I’m all about avoiding lots of work for the parent. On the other hand, I worry about excessive gaming by my future-young-adult sons. Lack of self control in this area has affected college achievement and marriages of people I know.

When I spent a couple hours in the hospital lab for gestational diabetes testing, I took along a Disney Classics book from the library book sale and read my children the long stories I never read them at bedtime, due to lack of anything else to do. I try to make choices to interact in nontechnological ways. I sometimes waste too much time on the computer, especially when I’m tired or stressed or know I’ll be constantly interrupted if I try to read a real book. However, I also do lots of work on the computer (paid work as well as paying bills, researching travel, e-mailing with family, reading up on taxes or home repairs, managing finances). Sometimes the distinction between doing work and wasting time isn’t always clear. When our carpet cleaner seemed to be misbehaving, I read a lot about what was wrong and watched some videos on how to disassemble it, but read far more Amazon comments on different machines than strictly necessary since we didn’t end up replacing it. I do a lot of shopping online. Knowing where to find a replacement for the electric teapot and ordering a long-sleeved white shirt for Twin 1’s Storm Trooper costume are cases that come to mind.

What are your views of screen time and kids? Am I the only one who admits to wasting time this way as an adult?

Telemedicine — Yay Or Nay?

by Grace aka costofcollege

Telemedicine may be the wave of the future for many types of health care.

The same forces that have made instant messaging and video calls part of daily life for many Americans are now shaking up basic medical care. Health systems and insurers are rushing to offer video consultations for routine ailments, convinced they will save money and relieve pressure on overextended primary care systems in cities and rural areas alike. And more people like Ms. DeVisser, fluent in Skype and FaceTime and eager for cheaper, more convenient medical care, are trying them out….

But telemedicine is facing pushback from some more traditional corners of the medical world. Medicare, which often sets the precedent for other insurers, strictly limits reimbursement for telemedicine services out of concern that expanding coverage would increase, not reduce, costs. Some doctors assert that hands-on exams are more effective and warn that the potential for misdiagnoses via video is great.

Legislatures and medical boards in some states are listening carefully to such criticisms, and a few, led by Texas, are trying to slow the rapid growth of virtual medicine. But many more states are embracing the new world of virtual house calls, largely by updating rules to allow doctor-patient relationships to be established and medications to be prescribed via video. Health systems, facing stiff competition from urgent care centers, retail clinics and start-up companies that offer video consultations through apps for smartphones and tablets, are increasingly offering the service as well.

My new doctor has a terrific email system that allows us to conveniently discuss health issues.  I know a person who is very happy with her Skype psychotherapy sessions.  The possibilities are intriguing.

What’s your experience with telemedicine?  Do you welcome the convenience, or fear that it will lead to many errors and lower quality healthcare?

‘Odd’ Jobs

by Sheep Farmer

The many different ways people make a living fascinates me. Most of us who read the Totebag have predictable jobs-lawyers, professors, engineers, etc,, but what I find interesting are the unique ways that people have found to make a living. For example, DH has a friend who is an apiarist. He makes his money not only from selling the honey and the beeswax. but also from selling bees to those who want to start their own hives. DD has a classmate whose dad has a business making large fiberglass sculptures for theme parks and other road side attractions. Totebaggers, what jobs do your friends and family have that you find most interesting? Do any of you have any unusual business ideas that you hope one day to pursue?

Summer Homework – The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

by AustinMom

Students scramble to complete summer homework

I came across this article, just after my daughter received her third summer homework assignment. So far, she has to (1) read a novel for English class, (2) read a book for World History, (3) read a couple chapters out of the World History textbook and answer some questions, (4) read a chapter out of one Chemistry text and answer the questions for that chapter, (5) read 2 chapters out of the second Chemistry text and answer the questions for those chapters, and (5) watch 2 Chemistry videos and complete the guided notes. All this is due on the first day of school. She is also expecting some pre-calculus homework as well.

I have mixed feelings about this. On one hand, this is the equivalent of 2-3 nights of homework for each class or similar to what a week will feel like once school starts with her block schedule. If it seems overwhelming now, it will give her the chance to change her schedule the first day from all AP and Pre-AP to a mix that includes some “on level” classes as well. On the other hand, she worked very hard in school all year, she uses summer to catch up on her pleasure reading, and she went to an academic camp for 3 weeks that included reading almost the entire textbook, a short research paper, a presentation on another topic, and small group project. In short, she isn’t vegging out for 11 weeks in front of the tv or computer. But, even if she were, don’t these students deserve down time?

Totebaggers, do your students have summer homework? Did you? Is this summer homework really necessary? Does it only result in students dropping higher level courses to get out of the homework? Do the students benefit? If so, then why is summer homework focused on the higher performing students and not assigned across the board?

Public Speaking

by Grace aka costofcollege

Hillary Clinton Can’t Give a Decent Speech. Does It Matter?

… Great speeches require something Clinton has refused to give: exposure, access, the illusion of intimacy….

Rhetorical skill alone has become something of an essential skill for the modern politician. It has put several of them on the map as serious presidential contenders, from Ronald Reagan to Mario Cuomo to Barack Obama and Elizabeth Warren.Consider the defining campaign speeches. At the 1992 Democratic convention, Bill Clinton memorably invoked his belief in “a place called Hope,” while George H. W. Bush delivered a weak and disjointed address littered with phrases like “serious business” and “You bet.” There were Obama’s 2008 remarks on race and John F. Kennedy’s on religious freedom.

Speech making may be important to politicians, but I doubt anyone counts on beating Clinton just “because she can’t give a good speech”.  And it’s not as if many of her opponents are particularly outstanding in that department.

I agree that great public speakers give “the illusion of intimacy”, and in that way they effectively engage their audience.

Are you a good public speaker, or even a great one?  How did you build up your skills?  Or, do you fear public speaking?  How have good or bad public speaking skills affected your career or other parts of your life?  Which politicians are the best and the worst speechmakers?

Related:  “How I Overcame the Fear of Public Speaking”

Out-of-print Children’s Books

by WCE

I looked for Scott Corbett’s book The Lemonade Trick at the library and was disappointed to find it was no longer available. Fortunately, Amazon has used copies. A couple other favorite children’s authors — Sally Watson and Sydney Taylor (All of a Kind Family) — now have their books back in print. We have a collection of Childhood of Famous Americans books (including lots of out of print ones) and other history books, including the Badger books. What books did you enjoy as a child? Are they still available? Have they been removed from libraries for a reason? (I doubt that drinking unknown concoctions made with your Feats o’ Magic chemistry set is still an acceptable plot line for children’s literature.)

Who Goes To College?

by MBT

Here is a chance to test your knowledge based on years of discussions on this site. The NY Times wants you to draw a graph showing the relationship between family income and college enrollment. The article links to a couple of other similar studies plotting relationships of various markers of achievement to family income. How accurate is your graph?

You Draw It: How Family Income
Predicts Children’s College Chances

The Sins of the Fathers Are Visited on the Grandchildren

by Rocky Mountain Stepmom

Many childrearing practices are reactionary — parents raise their kids partly in rebellion against how they were raised. We often complain about how every kid now has to be treated like a special snowflake, and groan about helicopter parents making bizarre demands on schools and colleges. But I know why that happened — when I was growing up, we kids conformed to the system, not vice versa. We didn’t get any snacks during the day and I was often hungry. Not only was there no school choice, but your parents couldn’t even pick which teacher they wanted you to have. No one had learning disabilities — you were either smart or dumb. Things like Scout Camp were long exercises in being scolded for all your moral and physical failings, and being forced to eat disgusting canned carrots, being punished as a group for something stupid that one or two of the brat-girls did, and so on. Rules were rigid and punishments were swift and often unfair. Childhood was in large part a matter of putting up with a lot of injustice, having no choice over outside activities, enduring nasty behavior from teachers and other authority figures who were never held accountable because Adults Were Always Right, and so on.

So that’s partly why today’s kids are snowflakes, and each has to have customized care and an IEP, and why no one can have peanut butter because Madison’s allergic, and why frantic parents are now faced with a million decisions about schools and programs and teachers. It’s because my generation said “As God as my witness, my child will never eat canned carrots or put up with Mrs Sorenson for 6th grade. Their lives will be better.”

Totebaggers, what do you think this generation of kids is going to rebel against? What will schools look like in 40 years? How will recreational activities be handled? Will future children get one bowl of gruel per day and a sound beating for being dyslexic? Will they complain that they didn’t have parents, just friends who happened to be biologically related? Will it be Tom Brown’s School Days?

Sunday Routines

by Grace aka costofcollege

I enjoy reading the New York Times “Sunday Routine” series, where “prominent New Yorkers recount their weekend rituals”.  It fascinates me that so many stick to a consistent routine on weekends, but I must admit that I’m the same.  These days my Sundays are usually relaxed, often taken up by a leisurely family activity followed by a grilled steak dinner.  Pretty boring.

Make-up guru Bobbi Brown usually takes a walk and then does brunch with her son.  Tim Gunn of Project Runway always spends a few hours at the Metropolitan Museum, where he has a lunch of tea sandwiches with a glass or two or wine.  Yankees Executive Jane M. Rogers usually sees her grandson and cleans house while still checking in on job duties.

What’s your Sunday routine?

Credit cards for kids

by Finn

I can see the light in the tunnel that is the approaching train of DS graduating from HS and heading for college. Some time before that, I should get him a credit card so he has a chance to learn how to use it before he leaves for college.

When do you plan to get your kids their first credit cards? What kind of card will it be? Will it be just his or her name, or will it be connected to your account? Do, or will, you let your kids use your card before they get their own?

DS has used my card a couple of times, on a trip. We sent him across the street from the hotel to get some breakfast for us, and there was no problem with him using my card.

Flying Alone

by Sky

At age 8, my father took the train alone over 100 miles, and transferred trains in New York City, to get home from summer camp.

At age 14, I flew cross country by myself, with transfers, in the days before cell phones.

When do you think kids should be allowed to travel alone?

When would you (or did you) allow your child to fly, or take a city bus, subway, or train without an adult accompanying them?

What limits have you set with your tween/teenage kids about traveling by themselves? What were you allowed to do?

The 4th of July open thread

by Grace aka costofcollege

Feeling patriotic this weekend?  Or just feeling happy that you have a long weekend?  Going out or staying in?  Are you going to see a fireworks show?

Here’s your chance to hijack our discussion with anything that’s on your mind.  Some random links to get us going:

Eating ‘healthy’ food may not make you fit: Study

Take a walk for your mental health.

President Obama and Jeb Bush find common ground in their stance against adding peas to guacamole.

The dance recital

by Mémé

We often spar on the Totebag about what is Middle Class, invoking regional and educational differences in raw income numbers and in cultural markers of that status. But recently someone remarked about dental health that an astounding percentage of US kids now have braces at some point in their lives. So straight teeth are a fairly universal middle class marker.

I recently had the opportunity to observe another of those universal middle class markers. The end of year Dance Recital.

20150625.TDanceRecital

A neighbor suggested that they take my eldest granddaughter to dance class along with their same aged girl. Her Cambridge/Portland alternative style parents had no idea what they were getting into. Coco and Ella (assumed names) ended up on stage for 130 seconds of a 2 ½ hour extravaganza in 50 dollar gold and sequined tutus stomping their tap shoes to a cover version of The Lion Sleeps Tonight. I knew enough to bring several wrapped and beribboned roses for presentation to the young performer.

The school is clearly the secondary “fun” one in their area – the only marginally competent numbers were adult tap and the break dancers. But all was forgiven after the chubby mentally handicapped teen with glasses and a diaphanous gown glided across the stage with her group as best she could to Every Little Thing You Do is Magic.

Totebaggers, please share your recital stories from your children’s or your own life. Parents of physical or mind sport athletes, feel free to weigh in on sports banquets and the like.

Fashion trends

by MooshiMooshi

Are Totebag tastes migrating to the upper class? Evidently rich people are increasingly rejecting flashy items with logos.

Why Louis Vuitton, Gucci and Prada are in trouble

And Gap is doing poorly, in part because millennials are also rejecting logoware.

How millennial shoppers have made Gap’s uniform look obsolete

Will Totebaggers need to start adopting flashy items in order to differentiate themselves from the rich bozos and the teens?

Who should be on our $10 bill?

by Finn

It looks like we will be seeing a woman on our $10 bill soon. What woman do you think should be on that bill, or what woman would you like to see on that bill, and why?

One restriction is it cannot be a living person, so that rules out Beyonce and the Notorious RBG, among others.

And please, no suggestions of so-and-so because that means she’s dead.

Rich or Poor – Can You Teach It?

by AustinMom

Will Your Child be Rich or Poor? 15 Poverty Habits Parents Teach Their Children

This came through my Facebook feed as it likely did for other totebaggers. I found the initial list of items of how the rich differ from the poor as interesting. However, the author then provides a list suggesting what we (parents and schools) should teach our children. I was expecting some level of parallelism between the two lists, but to me it seems that he went on to suggest what he thought was important. I noted that he did not suggest that parents attend back to school night, encourage academic achievement in order to make the honor roll, or instruct their children on proper flossing habits. What did you think of the list? Do you have other things you think are more important than the list the author provides?

Neighbors From Hell …

by Anonymous

Do you like your neighbors?  Apparently there is a link “between having good neighbors and a healthier heart”.

Maybe your neighbors are not the friendliest, but at least they don’t take advantage and quietly buy part of your property after a mix-up with property taxes.

Woman whose home straddles two states loses half the property in tax mix-up and discovers her life coach neighbor has snapped it up for $275 and will only give it back for $35,000

Then you have the case of the Michigan man who had his neighbor’s house demolished after secretively switching address signs.

Most of my neighbors are wonderful, but there’s the one whose kid stole some precious items from us and then blamed it on another neighborhood kid.  And then we have the feuding neighbors who have a spite fence between their properties, and the guy who tried to bribe the housing inspector so he could illegally rent out part of his house.

Do you love or hate your neighbors?  What good or bad neighbor stories do you have?  Are you a good neighbor?

Life Insurance And Guardianship

These two topics seem to go together.

L sent in a post about life insurance.

Kind of a different take on this. Do Totebaggers have life insurance?

Lean In Isn’t Just About Professional Fulfillment. It’s Also About Worst-Case Scenarios.


Rhode has questions about guardianship.

A recent Totebag topic shifted to safeguards in the case of death of a spouse. I worry about what happens to DS if DH and I were to die together.

Now, I know both families would rally and DS would want for nothing. But who should we ask to be DS’s guardian? Should that person (people) also have control of any finances? How do we make sure that DS is still integrated with both families?

On being a guardian: Have you, or someone you know, denied a request to be a guardian? Why? Also, DH and I are guardians to my godson and his older sister. Do we have to include them in our guardianship plans?

For quick background – I am an only child but am very close to my extended family. DH has 4 siblings and is somewhat close with his extended family. We have a few good friends, though I’m not sure how many would want to parent my son. DS’s godparents are my best friend and DH’s BIL.

What else do we need to discuss?

Coping With Fatigue And Frustration

by Mémé

20150619.TRetired

Twenty one months ago I took down my shingle for good. Rhett (and several of my children) were sure that after a few months I would go stir crazy and want to get back to work, or failing that descend into some twilight state on the recliner with HGTV on continuous loop.

I am happy to report that I am usually busy when awake. Sometimes it even feels like too busy.

Prior to retirement I never understood how people who had very hectic lives while working suddenly felt so busy when 30-50 hours per week were eliminated from the schedule. I now know the reason. Any time I put on shoes and venture off my own property, it counts as a half-day. Not in real time, but in psychic time. When I was working full time, if I took off a morning I crammed in grocery shopping, haircut, maybe a doctor’s appointment too. If I only had one of those things to do, it was an hour’s add-on to a full work day, perhaps time shifted a bit. No longer. The one- to one-and-half-hour errand is it for the morning or the afternoon. If I actually spend four hours on an activity, I often add late lunch or a short errand on the way home. That counts as a full day.

Of course the most precious regular activity is taking care of my grandchildren. It appears that what works best is for everyone is for me to be the go to sitter for those random but constant short time slots when mama can’t be in two places at once. We have arrived at the point where Nana is just one of the regular adults who might or might not be the one to show up at preschool pickup or meet the school bus. This is beyond price.

The one concern I have is sleep. Not that I don’t now have plenty of time to get it, but after years of running on fumes I was not expecting the degree to which I can’t really do well with the slightest unplanned deficit. It takes all of my adult self control and then some to keep my patience if a last minute grandma call, especially to watch all three kids, means that I have to get up two or three hours early.

Totebaggers, how do you cope with schedule disruptions, especially those that make you tired and strung out? Do you have any tips or restorative foods or back up plans that you go to when your fatigue and frustration makes likely an imminent explosion or serious error or words you can’t take back?

Middle School And Beyond

by Louise

Totebaggers – I need a middle school and beyond road map. Basically what exams, classes and camps to look out for. I am swimming upstream not knowing when to sign kids up for PSAT/SAT and other exams, how to have kids prepare etc. Now all school information for parents is online, so if I don’t look carefully I am afraid I’ll miss things.
I know for instance there are 8th grade placement exams – what does that mean?
Not having been through this school system facing decisions on what to have kid take, I value the Totebag collective wisdom.

Vanity

by Louise

Totebaggers, from the brand post, it seems that only a few of us care for brands. Many of us value experiences. Experiences aside, are there things we are vain about? My old neighbor, a regular guy who couldn’t care about brand names, did all the work around his house and yard himself, drove a very ordinary car, had two fine looking old convertibles in his garage. He drove them in the summer and I was always taken by those cars when he went past with a jaunty wave. These days, I see vintage open bed trucks with families driving to Starbucks on a Saturday morning.

Like these gentlemen, do you have something you are vain about? Do you have great hair for example, that you wear just so? What about a fit figure? A pretty garden? Any signature dishes you make? Any collections you are proud of ? What are you vain about?

What Have You Learned Lately?

by Grace aka costofcollege

Learning opportunities are everywhere — your job, your family, books, your community, travel, schools, and the Internet.

Lynda.com is an online education company “offering thousands of video courses in software, creative, and business skills … taught by industry experts. Members have unlimited access to watch the videos, which are primarily educational.”

Lynda Weinman founded Lynda.com in 1995, and recently sold the company to LinkedIn for $1.5 billion.  Weinman was ahead of her time in exploiting the benefits of online education.

“Everything we are talking about right now in online learning—how can we create lifelong learners, how can we support people changing careers, all of this stuff she was doing before it was the hip thing to do.”

Some Lynda.com photography courses caught my eye, and I hope to use them soon to learn more about editing and organizing photos.  A local camera shop may offer supplementary instruction.  I keep meaning to take a course in statistics.  Over the last few years I feel as if I’ve slacked off on learning new skills or improving existing ones.

What have you learned lately?  Do you consider yourself a “lifelong learner”?  Have you tried Lynda.com or something similar?  Or are you in a phase of life that leaves little time to learn new things because you are simply too busy keeping up with your juggle?  (Not that you don’t learn many valuable things just from doing that!)  Maybe when you retire you’ll have more time to focus on your continuing education.  What learning goals, personal or professional, do you have?

News from yesterday:  LinkedIn Offers Users Free Lynda.com Courses for the First Time

Related:  25 Killer Sites For Free Online Education

Your Big Backyard

by WCE

I attended land grant universities. In a college discussion, Finn asked me if the local land grant university is a good school. “It depends, ” I thought. If you want to study volcanoes, oceanography, veterinary medicine, rangeland management, wildlife biology or forestry, it’s a very good school. We have excellent researchers in the cultivation of pears and berries. But it probably doesn’t rank very high with US News. (It’s #138.)

Recently, I saw Facebook posts from a friend who studied forestry and then moved to Montana and Wyoming. She posted a picture of a young moose stripping leaves that she took on their family hike (below) and a video of a grizzly bear across a stream from them. I also saw a NY Times article about what researchers at University of Montana (#194 according to US News) are learning about songbird communication in the presence of predators. (It’s linked below).

20150611.TMoose

I’d like to know more about birds, and the sounds I hear when I meet the bus or go for a walk are mostly those of various birds and squirrels, so the article interested me. My kids recently watched a video about pythons in southern Florida, and they were impressed by a huge python that had crawled through the sewage system into someone’s toilet. What’s interesting about nature where you live? Do you know what is under study about nature in your local area?

Here’s the NY Times article on bird warnings that I enjoyed.

When Birds Squawk, Other Species Seem to Listen

How Those Crazy Studies Make the News

Both Honolulu Mother and Rocky Mountain Stepmom sent in posts about this article.

I Fooled Millions Into Thinking Chocolate Helps Weight Loss. Here’s How.


by Honolulu Mother

We’ve all noticed how contradictory the conclusions from “scientific” studies in the news can be on many topics — what foods are good or bad, what type of exercise is effective or injurious, what parenting choices have good or bad effects. Sometimes this may be the result of a better understanding of a subject over time — surely the fact that eggs and butter, so reviled a generation ago, are now good for you again is an example of the arc of the moral universe bending toward justice. But most of the time, contradictions multiply and it’s never clear from the reporting what the studies were even based on.

Now a hero of our time has provided the explanation: it’s because the news media will publish any piece of crap study that sounds authoritative and has a headline-worthy conclusion, as outlined in the article linked above.

But notwithstanding the flaws in the study identified by its own author, I’m going to stick with his conclusion and make sure to get my chocolate every day. Because science!


by Rocky Mountain Stepmom

The article linked above is about the way science journalism works, or doesn’t work. One of its main points is that journalists are lazy. That resonated with me because of two work experiences I’ve had.

In 1983, I finished a Masters of Library and Information Studies degree at Berkeley. World’s easiest degree, but that’s not important right now. I had an internship at the KPIX news library. KPIX was and maybe still is the CBS affiliate in San Francisco. I got to see the local news produced every evening, and it was…startling. The reporters and producers just trolled popular magazines for stories they could regurgitate. I fetched Glamour magazine articles for the reporters to crib from. They stole from every conceivable source. It was disheartening.

My first job after library school was as an indexer for what was then Information Access Corp. (Remember Reader’s Guide to Periodical Literature? It was like that.) We indexed popular magazines, trade magazines, and five newspapers: New York Times, Chicago Tribune, LA Times, Christian Science Monitor, and the Wall Street Journal. We sat in front of our Apple 2e computer and read every single article in the papers and assigned index terms. It was a very peaceful way to make a living. But one thing I learned very quickly was that the newspapers all stole from each other regularly. The same article, with just a few changes, would appear in all the papers, and no, those articles weren’t from UPI or AP. They were by-lined by staff writers. There was clearly no independent verification going on. See article, crib article, print article. Again, very distressing to naive little me. The worst was the “end of year wrap-up” stuff. You might as well just burn all the papers from about Dec. 10 to Jan 5, because unless Manhattan gets nuked, there will be NO actual news whatsoever.

Totebaggers, do you trust the news? What’s your preferred source? Are you as skeptical as you would like to be? Or do you tend to believe stuff just because it’s in print? And do you believe that chocolate can accelerate weight loss?

How Much To Spend On A Wedding Gift

by Grace aka costofcollege

June is a big month for weddings.  A recent CollegeConfidential discussion asked about the appropriate amount to spend on a wedding gift.  Opinions vary, to say the least.

This comment …

This is sooooo variable, by region of the country, socioeconomic status, how close you are to the people involved. There are weddings where I’d give $100 and feel fine, and those where I’d give $1,000 (my nieces/nephew)….

… prompted this response:

I can’t imagine spending that much for anyone but my own kids.

Several factors come into play.

In addition to region of country, another factor quite simply is your income. One family’s $300 check is done without a blink of an eye, another, $300 is the grocery bill for the month!

How much do you spend on wedding gifts?

How Does Your Garden Grow?

by Honolulu Mother

In Hawaii we don’t really have an off-season for gardening . Grass grows year-round, and there’s no general off season, although specific crops are seasonal — and it looks like a good year for lychee! I know that most of you are more tied to the seasons on this, though, and you must be well into the gardening time of year now.

Our gardening and landscaping focus is on the edible or the fragrant. I have an herb pot (a strawberry pot with herbs in the holes) convenient-ish to kitchen along with a giant rosemary bush. We periodically plant eggplant, tomatoes, and other veg in a bed up on the hill behind our house; right now it’s had all the overgrown junk ripped out for a reboot after we return from our summer travel. We have an assortment of fruit trees, an allspice tree that produces no allspice berries but is very fragrant when it flowers, scented roses, gardenia, and night-blooming jasmine.

There is very little in the way of garden design in the yard, as we just tuck plants or beds in where they seem to fit. Perhaps with more time we would do this in a more planned manner and without the periods of neglect when school and kid activities get busy. I see lots of retirees gardening as I head out or return home on weekdays, and their yards show the benefit of regular care.

What do you do with your yard or garden? Are there any serious gardeners out there? Do you outsource it all to a yard service or teenaged child? Or do you combine yard service with your own gardening? Do you try to grow your own food to any significant degree? How much do you try to design your garden? And whether or not you actually execute these plans, would your ideal garden be the grounds at Versailles, a cottage garden, a rock garden, or something else altogether?

What We Owe Our Elders

by Sky

My husband and I both come from large families with several childless aunts and uncles. Over the past few years, we’ve learned that some of them have put us in charge of their affairs as well as our parents’.

For geographic and professional reasons, we are the obvious choice to be someone’s executor or to hold the power of attorney.

But they are all within a decade of each other, and the prospect of managing the care of 6 or more 80-somethings across a few states is daunting. Better than the alternative, of course, but still daunting.

What have you needed to do for your older relatives? Other than making sure the documents are in order, what recommendations do you have?

Fast Dinner

by Sky

I’m a poor cook with low standards that probably disqualify me from the Totebag, but I’m trying to improve.

Several nights a week my daughter has practice that ends at dinnertime. I’ve been coping by buying dinner at the restaurant in the same complex, but this is not doing the waistline any favors.

What reasonably healthy dinner can you prepare in 15 minutes or less?

Assume ownership of all kitchen appliances, including an Instant Pot and sous vide, but lots of distraction while cooking and limited toddler palates that aren’t going to eat sriracha :)

Financial Safeguards For The Unemployed Spouse

by Sara

I’m a new empty nester and 2 mothers in my situation have been dumped by their husbands – and neither has worked in 15 years. Turns out their husbands blew through all their joint savings accounts so now both women are going back to work in low-level jobs. I think there still needs to be more awareness of long-term consequences of giving up your career as a mother – and actions you can take to stop free spending spouses if they seem out of control ( freeze bank accounts is one).

Tell us about your schools

by Grace aka costofcollege

Tell us about your local schools.

Do you have school choice?  Do you have charters, magnets, or other options for selecting public schools outside your neighborhood?  Do you use private schools?

What do you like about your schools?

What do you dislike about your schools?

Have your children been well served by their schools?

What else can you tell us?  Demographics?  Amount of homework?  Grading?  Discipline policies?  Quality of instruction?  Technology?  Communication to parents?  How they address needs of special education and/or gifted students?  Choice of extra-curriculars?  Transportation?  Class sizes?  SAT/ACT scores?  Number of NMSFs?  Anything else?

How about the schools you attended?  Are your kids’ schools better or worse?

Did your local high school make it on the U.S. News Best High Schools Ranking?

Use GreatSchools to complete the following surveys for the HIGH SCHOOL your child attends, attended, or will likely attend.  (Reduced price lunch program information is under the “details” tab.)

Do You Know Brand Names

by Grace costofcollege

In many business and social situations, there’s value in being savvy about brand names.  Like it or not, we are often judged by our clothes, cars, and other accouterments of life.  And knowing the same about others can help us be more astute in all types of relationships.

Here’s the hierarchy of luxury brands around the world

Do you know how to pronounce Hermes or other brand names?  To make it easy on myself, I only say “Stella” when ordering my favorite beer.

The Right Way To Say 15 Brand Names You’re Mispronouncing All The Time

Are you brand-savvy?  Can you tell the difference between a Cartier and a Timex? (Okay, that’s probably an easy one.)  How important is it for you to know brands?  Do you feel judged by the shoes you wear or the car you drive?

Dating And Marriage Across The Lines

by Louise

My children are first generation Americans. As they grow, I wonder what advice I should give them about dating and marriage. In the home country, marriages that used to last till death do us apart, are increasingly coming apart at the seams. So, advice on this topic is hard to impart.

Here, it seems that there are invisible lines. I wonder how other families would feel at having a first generation Asian boy/girl dating their kids. At school and in their lives my kids are surrounded by other Totebagger type families of all stripes. I am presuming it is most likely they will date/marry Totebagger Junior.

How have your kids handled dating/marriage. What about dating across lines? What advice do you have for kids?

Too Much Academic Pressure On Students?

by Sara

Real question: how hard should parents push top academic students without crossing the line. Where is the line? Valedictorian at our school had no friends or hobbies – like an academic robot programmed for Harvard. At our high school, one father said he wouldn’t pay for a non- ivy. Another mother hired tutors for every subject to give her daughter the edge (daughter now struggling academically at an ivy).

Memorial Day 2015

by Grace aka costofcollege

201104.eWashingtonDC67AID

“People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.”

This photo is from a Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington Cemetery, a moving ritual that honors U.S.soldiers who gave their lives for their country.  The dedication and precision demonstrated during the ceremony was impressive and confidence-inspiring.

What’s on your mind this Memorial Day?

Vacation Talk

by Rhode

Spring has finally sprung in my neck of the woods, and it has me thinking of how to use my vacation and personal time…

What is your favorite vacation spot?

Also, if money and time are no object, where would you go on vacation, who would you take with you, how long would you stay, and what would you do?

Will The Future Judge Us Moral?

by WCE

Once and future sins

I read this article on how values and norms may change in the next 100 years and Grace’s request for posts prompted me to submit it. My parents have commented on how rapidly norms and values change compared to what they remember. In all likelihood, some of these changes are good and some aren’t, and only through the lens of history will anyone be able to judge what’s what.

I am particularly intrigued by the idea of considering future people (zoning to maintain historic neighborhoods and fossil fuel consumption, for example) more in moral decision-making. I also thought about moral problems that bother me (prison rape and general mistreatment of prisoners, for example) that don’t receive much attention in society at large. How do you think norms and values will change? How do you think they should change? How do we weigh unknown and unknowable future risks (earthquakes, fracking, global warming, etc.) against known current harms? What, if any, religious norms will influence social moral change? (I’m thinking of previous movements like abolition and temperance here.) Will norms and values continue to vary across social classes?

Here’s a quote, since the article is a bit long.

The tricky question is who exactly counts as the ‘other’ whose interests we should set above our own? Every society has had its own answers, as does each one of us: we expect you would go to much greater lengths to do good for your child than for your neighbour, and it would be easier to lie to your boss than to your spouse. And some beings, whether animal, vegetable or microbial, are outside the realm of consideration altogether. In moral terms, some always matter more than others. This understanding offers us a fairly straightforward idea of moral progress: it means including ever more people (or beings) in the group of those whose interests are to be respected. This too is an ancient insight: Hierocles, a Stoic philosopher of the second century, describes us as being surrounded by a series of concentric circles. The innermost circle of concern surrounds our own self; the next comprises the immediate family; then follow more remote family; then, in turn, neighbours, fellow city-dwellers, countrymen and, finally, the human race as a whole. Hierocles described moral progress as ‘drawing the circles somehow toward the centre’, or moving members of outer circles to the inner ones.

The ‘Dadbod’

by Grace aka costofcollege

What Is the ‘Dadbod’? What Does It Mean?

… The dadbod is a physique characterized by undefined muscles beneath a light layer of flab, usually topped off with a beer belly. “The dad bod says, ‘I go to the gym occasionally, but I also drink heavily on the weekends and enjoy eating eight slices of pizza at a time,'”…

Do you (or your partner) have a Dadbod?  What about your peers?  Do you work hard to fight against the Dadbod, or do you embrace it.  What’s the female version?  Are we more accepting of Dadbods than of Mombods?

What Historical Character Would You Like To Be?

by Louise

Wolf Hall is coming to an end soon. I am a big fan of historical fiction and often wonder what it would be like if I actually lived in those times.

Who would I be? From what I have read I would have liked to be at court in the time of Elizabeth I. I am afraid my head would be chopped off under Henry VIII or worse still I would be burned at the stake.

Which character from history would you like to be?

Favorite YouTube Channels

by Honolulu Mother

I recently added some new YouTube channels to our list from a Gizmodo article on DiY channels.  They join a list including channels with some educational value (RimStar, BrainScoop), assorted exercise channels, some British and French tv, Dead Gentlemen, Cracked, and of course such kid favorites as Kids React, Roseanne Pansino, and every Yogscast channel known to man.  This is in addition to the playlists — I have a karaoke one with everyone’s favorites for family karaoke night, a playlist with videos related to our upcoming trip that we used to help decide on our itinerary, a general to-watch list, and several playlists related to school subjects such as the Renaissance or the Silk Road.

I think we watch more shows off YouTube than we do Netflix, Amazon, or cable tv.  Perhaps more than all of those combined.  With the YouTube channel on Roku and similar devices, it’s easy to watch on the big screen, and over the course of its 10 year history YouTube has become a surprisingly broad entertainment option, with something for everyone in our family.

Does your household have favorite YouTube channels that might be of interest to other Totebaggers?  Is YouTube a part of your regular tv rotation, or do you stick to other online sources or cable or broadcast tv?  Do we have any swimming-against-the-tide Vimeo users?  And has your usage changed over the last few years?

Income Disparities and Dealing With Them

by Pregnant Teen Mom

I have a really neat problem.

A very good friend of my little family and his wife are hedge fund people. They are Mitt Romney wealthy—certainly not Warren Buffett wealthy, but what’s the difference, really? I don’t really speak to my friend all that often. He is too busy. We were puppies together in New York. But his wife and I probably yak on the phone every other day. They are both close to my son.

The thing is, they are very generous. Where do I draw the line? I mean when they come visit, they stay in a suite at the Biltmore. When they go to the Keys they stay in the Chica Lodge. We are always invited, and I can barely pay the Resort Fee. Vacations are in St. Bart’s or some equivalent place. They’re taking the Fund’s jet. Do we want them to pick us up at Tamiami?

I have always paid my own way. My friends are by no means pretentious and their invites are sincere. I know they would pay for Junior and me, but I don’t want them to. Junior and I are solidly middle class. I am pretty much retired. I don’t want Junior to get used to flying even in coach—except as a privilege—much less in a hedge fund jet.

I know my friends are well meaning and extraordinarily generous. But I am fiercely independent. (Yeah, I know that sounds like a “severe conservative”, which I am most definitely not.)

Any thoughts?

Family-Friendly Perks

by Regular Poster

My husband had a recent period of employment by one of the technology giants. Given the reputation, I expected that our lives would be much improved (in what way, I don’t really know). However, as a spouse and mother of small children, it was unpleasant to hostile. He went there from an environment that had been very inclusive (a start-up that had frequent gatherings, invited partners to important company announcements, celebrated employee milestones, etc.) Visiting the new office required registration and a badge, and after 18 months I didn’t know the name of a single co-worker.

While it is a luxury to complain about how generous benefits and perks are not working out well for your family, this recent NYT article rang true.

Silicon Valley: Perks for Some Workers, Struggles for Parents

The “great benefits” technology company he worked for had amazing things going on – I think. All of the information was contained on a secure company wiki. That means I could not find out about anything without asking DH pointed questions. There was no employee handbook. I think there was a gym benefit, there might have been some other things we could have used. In order to sort through health insurance options, I had to look over DH’s shoulder — he took seriously the admonitions about company security and not allowing me to navigate the wiki. In the end, we never used our vision insurance because it was just too complicated for me to manage.

But these examples exaggerate how family-friendly tech companies are, especially after the newborn phase… Some benefits, like free meals and on-site laundry, have a flip side of discouraging people from leaving.

In our experience, the family friendly programs seemed to be geared for employees in the first few years of parenthood. There was generous leave for new parents – sounded awesome, but we are past that stage. There was emergency child care coverage – but they would only pay for a specific day care center – and had to be booked in advance (somewhat negating the “emergency” part of the program). It was complicated – the center required for us to have vaccination records on file. The two times we tried to use it was unavailable for three children – and was a non-starter once kids had to be in school.

In any case, he ended up leaving because he didn’t like the work he was doing. He is now employed with a far more traditional employer with fewer benefits and a higher salary. He is home for breakfast and dinner. I have to say it is an improvement.

Totebaggers, what has your experience been with “family-friendly perks”? What would you want a company to offer? Would you stay for any of these benefits? A lot has been written about Google’s failed foray into on-site childcare — do you see that ever becoming a benefit that high-demand employees can expect?

Were you told to suppress your high ambitions?

by Grace aka costofcollege

Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook and one of the most successful women in the field of technology, has urged women to “lean in” to achieve ambitious career goals.  She wants us to break down barriers, both external and internal, so that more women will be represented in leadership positions of business and government.

A truly equal world would be one where women ran half our countries and companies and men ran half our homes.

I was struck by Sandberg’s own struggle with self doubt.

My entire life I have been told, you know, or I have felt that I should hold back on being too successful, too smart, too, you know, lots of things.

She grew up in an affluent household, the daughter of a doctor and a college teacher.  Presumably she enjoyed many advantages and abundant encouragement from that upbringing, yet she remembers being told to tamp down her ambitions.

I am a bit older than Sandberg and grew up in different circumstances, lacking the advantages of her upper-class upbringing.  Yet I don’t remember being told to hold back on my accomplishments.  Sure, there were times when I was discouraged from pursuing lofty ambitions, but it seems those were the exceptions.  It’s a bit puzzling why Sandberg felt so constrained and I did not.  Was I just oblivious to the negative messages all around me?

Have you or the women you know been told to hold back on being too successful?  Do you think you may be sending that message to your daughters or other young women?  Does society send that message?  If so, why do some women seem to ignore this negative directive?

Should we be encouraging women to lean in to create a society where they run half our countries and companies while men run half our homes?

Sadly, Sandberg’s husband died unexpectedly earlier this month, leaving her a widow with two young children.  She has returned to work on a modified schedule.  She “will not be doing any traveling for the time being and will adopt a slightly modified schedule that fits with when her children are at school”.

Middle Class Discussion

by AustinMom

While the term “middle class” is frequently used, even the Census Bureau does not have an official definition because the middle is relative to the entire spectrum.  A 2011 Pew Charitable Trust Study, listed the range the 30 to 70 percentiles of income in America (in dollars that is $32,900 to $64,000). However, this percentile income range for “middle class” also varies based on the cost of living and salaries in your area.  This means “middle class” is more about a frame of mind or what is viewed as important – as of August 2012 that was a secure job and health insurance (Secure Job – Ticket to the Middle Class).

The nebulousness of middle class is borne out in two recent articles.  The first article talks about middle class from a psychological perspective, near the end is an interactive chart that is interesting. (Economically Insecure Middle Class)

The second one shows how defining “middle class” by income as a fixed dollar range can be misleading.  (Living Paycheck to Paycheck on $75K).

I used the this Census site (Census State Income) to get a rough estimate of middle class based on the percentile definition. The range is $25,000 to $75,000. Based on this figure, we have dipped into the middle class in the last 10 years, but overall have remained slightly above that. However, within Texas I live in an area (as are most big cities in the state) where the cost of living is slightly above the average national cost of living. (Cost of Living)  Including this measure, our income is slightly more than the city’s average cost of living. Since that does not include saving for totebag important items such as retirement and college, I would say our family falls in the definition of middle class.

Do you think you are middle class based on your income and location?

The Engineer’s Perspective

by Milo

Yeah, it’s just another article, but it’s a great one. And it touches on a lot of recurring TB themes–personality type differences, allocation of government resources, the vast differences between our perceptions of risk and reality, emotion vs. facts, feeling vs. thinking, and, of course, cars.

I love the joke about the golfers. I feel like some form of that conversation has happened on the blog hundreds of times.

The Engineer’s Lament

Your High School Clique

by Grace aka costofcollege

Freaks, Geeks, and Mean Girls: 15 Famous Women on Their High-School Cliques

Here’s Edie Falco:

“I think we were called by the other people, the nerds. That was it. I was in the choir. I spent a lot of time in the art classes. There was nothing fancy or cool about it. It was a little horrifying, in fact. There was one group we called the circus people. I think it was just because they bought a lot of crazy clothes from thrift shops, so they always looked a little bit like clowns and like they had dressed up. I kind of tiptoed my way through school hoping nobody would beat me up.”

Describe your high school clique.  Do you have happy memories, or would you rather forget those high school days?  Do you see patterns repeated with your kids’ cliques, or are they following different paths?

Kind Criticism

by Louise

In a world where everyone gets a trophy how do we offer constructive but kind criticism?

With my kids a tug of war has ensued over my feedback of their Lego projects. An honest opinion from me is termed as being “too negative”. Too negative? Ha! Good thing they didn’t grow up in the home country where a few people told me, that I needed to watch my diet and get more exercise. It was true that compared to my peers I was fat.

How do you give criticism that is kind but effective? How can the receivers absorb the message yet not take offense? Let’s hear it for kind criticism.

Your Fantasy Home Remodel

by Rocky Mountain Stepmom

So, we’ve had our house now for about 11 years. It was brand-spanking new when we bought it. Since then, we’ve redone the floors and repainted and done a few minor things. Now that my mom has been gone for two years, and the dog is gone, and it’s down to just us and the very elderly cat, we’re thinking about redoing the basement. Currently it’s just a big storage mess. Bit by bit over the last two years DH has tossed virtually all of my mom’s stuff, and I owe him a huge debt of gratitude because I just couldn’t do it — too emotional.

But what are we going to do with it? I go in circles. We could make it into a living space of sorts. Add a bathroom (it’s set up for one), try to mute the noise from the furnace, etc. Part of me thinks we should be ready to either rent it out when we get old, or use it to house homeless persons/persons in transition, though DH usually smacks some sense into me when I start thinking that way. Or we could make it into a rumpus room and wait patiently for grandchildren to show up. In the meantime, if I wanted to host Bible study groups or something, any kids could be watched in the rumpus room. The whole house is really not set up for multi-family use. It’s too open. Not enough doors. Even if we tried to make the upstairs more of a self-contained living space, it’s still a problem because all the bedrooms are upstairs, including the master.

Anyway, we have a designer/architect coming over to talk to us and help us think things through. My proposed discussion question is: If someone dropped $100K on your head and said you had to use it to remodel or fix up the house, what would you do?

Fund-Raising and Participation

by L

Totebaggers, many of us have experience with mandatory fund-raising as part of a group. We may have been part of the Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts as kids (with cookie- or candy- or gift wrap-selling expectations), or now have kids in those programs; we may be board members of a nonprofit; we may be officers of a church; we may be part of a non-profit social group, masonic lodge, etc. Or our workplace may do an “optional” fund-raiser with the United Way.

My small non-profit had a very poorly attended fund-raiser recently. Many of the members of the group, and about 1/4 of the board members, did not attend! Should we be forcing members to attend or buy tickets? If so, what would be the best way to communicate this expectation to the group? If you have experience with this type of fund-raising, what strategies have worked best for you and your organization? If your workplace sponsors a United Way or similar fund-raiser, do you contribute (and if so, do you feel forced to contribute)?

How Are You Paying For College?

by Grace aka costofcollege

As the deadline for high school seniors to choose a college approaches, the challenge of how to pay is has been a recent topic of discussion for many families.  Totebaggers are savers and unlikely to qualify for much need-based financial aid, so this timeline may not be relevant to many readers here.  But it does show some generalized steps along the path to saving and paying for college while giving us a starting point for discussion.

20150412.COCPlanningTimelineB

Before High School

Start saving for college ASAP:  This is the relatively uncomplicated part.  Although we can’t predict the costs of college over a child’s lifetime, it almost always makes sense to begin saving early on.  Even if MOOCs or other innovations make higher education more affordable in the future, there’s usually not much of a risk in saving too much since there are options for dealing with “left-over money in your 529 plan”.  Still, it makes sense to look at all the pros and cons of 529 plans.

Before Junior Year of High School

  • NMS potential:  If your child tends to score in the 95%ile of standardized tests, he may have a shot at earning a National Merit Scholarship.  A little test prep can make the difference in qualifying for significant merit financial aid.
  • Base Income Year (BIY): If there is a chance your family may qualify for need-based financial aid, you should explore ways to minimize income during the BIY, which is the 12-month period that begins January 1 during your child’s junior year.  Since the BIY is used as a snapshot for determining financial need, you may want to avoid selling stocks or property that will create large capital gains, refrain from converting to a Roth IRA, and defer bonus or other income if possible.

Junior Year of High School

  • Create list of schools:  Get serious and make a realistic list that includes academic and financial safeties.
  • Can we afford it? 1-2-3:  Determine affordability by using the 1-2-3 Method or something similar.

Senior Year of High School

Senior year is the busiest time for families as they handle the many details of the college application process, including final determination of how they will be paying.  Some important acronyms:

The two main forms used in determining financial aid eligibility are the FAFSA and PROFILE.
FAFSA is the Free Application for Federal Financial Aid. It is a form submitted to the government that collects the financial information needed to decide eligibility for federal FA. It’s also used by many colleges to determine institutional aid.
PROFILE is the financial aid application service offered by the College Board, used by about 400 colleges to learn if students qualify for non-federal student aid. There is a fee to submit a PROFILE, whereby the FAFSA is free.

The SAR (Student Aid Report) is a summary of your FAFSA responses and provides “some basic information about your eligibility for federal student aid”.

What’s your approach in planning on how to pay for college?  Do you feel well prepared, or a bit nervous about how you’ll handle the costs?  If your kids are older, tell us what you learned.  Share your wisdom and ask your questions.

(A version of this post previously appeared in Cost of College.)

What Works For Children Of Divorce?

by Anonymous

Almost everyone has been touched by divorce. Many of you are divorced, some remarried, some have step-kids. If you’re blessed to have been happily married to only one person, you probably have a friend who was not so lucky. Or maybe your parents or your friends’ parents are divorced.

My question to you today: What is really best for the kids? What custody sharing arrangements have worked (or not), in the same town, across the country, or somewhere in between? What strategies worked (or not) to help children with the transition to separate homes? What worked (or not) in planning for expenses, like extracurriculars, cars/insurance, and college? Please share both the successes and failures you have had or observed with co-parenting.

Moving During Retirement

by L

What Mistake Do People Make When Moving in Retirement?

Grandparents Uprooting Their Lives to Move Near Grandchildren

Depending on which stage of life Totebaggers are in, either they or their parents might consider moving to be nearer their grandchildren or to live in a warmer (or lower-tax) state. Have any Totebaggers (or parents of Totebaggers) gone through a move in early retirement? What do you see as the pros and cons?

Tortes and Tarts

by Louise

“Mini tarts for an aging tart”. I loved this line and I have come to think of Totebaggers as Tortes (the guys) and Tarts (the girls).

BTW, my neighbor called her friends, women over seventy “the girls”.

As you, Tortes and Tarts have gotten older, what are things you do, that are the privilege of being a certain age? Speaking your mind, two glasses of wine, instead of one, a full cookie instead of half? What are your thoughts on aging?

Here is a snapshot of people who are 100 years old – there is drinking, dancing and marathon running.

David Bailey: this is what 100 looks like

Sex Ed

by saacnmama

My son recently brought home a paper from school:

Your son/daughter will be receiving instruction about AIDS/HIV/STDs in the 7th grade. Because of the present lack of a medical solution to AIDS/HIV/STDs, prevention has been identified as the only viable alternative for controlling AIDS/HIV/STDs. Education is the first step to prevention.

The six areas of study will be

• Abstinence
• Facts concerning AIDS/HIV/STDs
• HIV and the immune system
• The transmission of AIDS/HIV/STDs
• Risk behaviors and preventative practices
• A general overview of other sexually transmitted diseases
• Peer pressure refusal skills

Emphasis will be placed on abstinence from sex and drugs as the most effective ways to prevent AIDS/HIV/STDs.

This unit will be taught in Science class. They are just wrapping up a unit on mitosis and meiosis, so this follows logically. Over the years, I have answered lots of questions from my son. Our approach has always been biological. Explaining that the reason sex feels good so that people and animals will do it and procreate, but they sometimes do it “extra” because of that good feeling, makes sense to me as long as he sees no other reason for it. I do not know if the state we live in (Florida) is one of the states required to focus on abstinence, but that would not surprise me. This article gives some interesting information on abstinence teaching and why it may not be most successful at reducing disease and teen pregnancy. The approach it seems to suggest would be very hard to implement as just one parent, because it involves societal values.

The days of the biological scientific approach are limited. His schoolmates apparently give him plenty of examples of sexual desire at work, and he reported that one of the principle ways girls at the first and only school dance he’s been to danced was running their hands up and down their own bodies. I am sure it will not be too long until circuits are connected and his lights and buzzers start going off. He has already begun to ask me questions about my own experiences (beyond the initial “you did that once? I know you did, to make me”). I have far more experience than I think is healthy to discuss with him. I have already mentioned that I did not do a good job picking out a husband or his father (to which he snorted and agreed), that I do not want him to follow in my footsteps, that I want him to have a long and good relationship with his partner. Right now, the system is powered down and this sounds good to him. When his questions become more detailed and insistent, my plan is to switch to “don’t kiss and tell”, including how girls’ reputation, more than boys, can be ruined by this, and that he should never discuss what or he someone else has done sexually.

All of us have been through this ourselves, “in the Dark Ages”, and many of you have guided one or more youngsters through it. What do you recall, and what recommendations can you make?

Totebag Demographics

by Grace aka costofcollege

Have you tried the Esri Zip Code Lookup?  It shows you median income and age, population density as well as the predominant demographic segments for your zip code.  Try it HERE.

Take these polls to share what you found from the zip code lookup:


Do the results match what you observe?  Any surprises?  How about the demographic segments?  Which segment matches you best?  Where would you rather live — your ideal zip code?

The Good Old Days

by MooshiMooshi

I love living in today’s world. I love how DH and I can settle friendly arguments by whipping out a smartphone and hitting Wikipedia. I love that I can see constant photos of my DH’s baby relatives posted on Facebook. I love, love, love navigating with Google maps or my Garmin. It makes me far more willing to drive to unknown places. I am happy that I rarely have to enter a big box store like Kohl’s or HomeDepot. I am thrilled that I can stream Bollywood movies, or obscure Japanese art movies, or old episodes of West Wing, whenever I want.

I like a lot of the changes in the world, too. The fact that I have been to China three times, and that I realistically can visit Vietnam or Tibet, just boggles my mind. When I was 18, I never would have envisioned that. Granted, the middle east is a scary place, but it has been a scary place for a long time.

But there are some things I miss from the old days. Some of these things make me sad. I miss bookstores – not the cheesy mall bookstores of my youth or weird dusty bookstores. I miss the oldstyle university bookstores, which used to be packed with intellectual, specialized books instead of logoware. I miss the fun of a trip to Borders, and spending lots of time hanging out in their comfy chairs looking at history books.

I miss getting lots and lots of Christmas cards, with actual handwritten messages inside.

I miss vinyl records, and big splashy album cover art.

I miss thinking that it was really cool that you could write a lowlevel C program that would shoot a message through a socket, and another C program on another machine could actually read that message.

I miss feeling like it was a big deal when I got a letter from overseas stamped AIRMAIL, PAR AVION,… with lots of fancy stamps

What do you miss about the old days? What has gone away that perhaps you hadn’t even noticed was gone?

Cars For Kids

by Finn

In a recent post, Fred mentioned that he might be buying a car for his DS in the near future.

Providing cars for our kids is not something we’ve discussed much here, and this seems as good a time as any. This is especially the case for us, as DS now has a learner’s permit, DW and I are getting tired of driving him to his activities and would like him to be able to drive himself, and DW has talked about getting a new car for herself and letting DS drive her current car.

Totebaggers with kids at or above driving age, have you provided cars for your kids? If so, what kinds of cars? What responsibilities did you tie to the use of cars?

If not, how did you juggle your existing vehicles to allow your kids to drive? Or, did your kids just not drive during HS?

Many years ago, a coworker told me he had his kids pay their own insurance premiums to drive, and educated them on how moving violations would affect those premiums, and how his kids were extremely careful as a result. Would you consider this?

Sources Of Inequality

by WCE

This article argues that parental IQ, not parental income, is the primary cause of inequality. I always appreciate analyses that look at trends in countries other than the U.S., whether that’s stock market performance or educational inequality. I also appreciate the point that society needs to value nonacademic character traits, those currently referred to as “grit”.

“All high-quality academic tests look as if they’re affluence tests. It’s inevitable. Parental IQ is correlated with children’s IQ everywhere. In all advanced societies, income is correlated with IQ. Scores on academic achievement tests are always correlated with the test-takers’ IQ. Those three correlations guarantee that every standardized academic-achievement test shows higher average test scores as parental income increases…

The more strictly that elite colleges admit students purely on the basis of academic accomplishment, the more their student bodies will be populated with the offspring of the upper-middle class and wealthy—not because their parents are rich, but because they are smart. No improvement in the SAT can do away with this underlying reality.

I haven’t used the word “meritocracy” to describe this because it doesn’t apply. Merit has nothing to do with possessing a high IQ. It is pure luck. And that leads to my reason for writing this.

As long as we insist on blaming inequality of academic outcomes on economic inequality, we will pursue policies that end up punishing children whose strengths do not lie in academics. We will continue to tell them that they will be second-class citizens if they don’t get a college degree; to encourage them to accumulate student debt only to drop out or obtain a worthless degree. Worse, we will prevent them from capitalizing on their other gifts of character, grit and the many skills that the SAT doesn’t test.”

The reason I’m sending the article, of course, is that I think Charles Murray is mostly right. But I know many people think inequality is a problem that government can or should solve. Is the role of government in reducing inequality limited to income transfers from the poor to the rich, or can the factors underlying inequality be changed more than Murray argues?

Why the SAT Isn’t a ‘Student Affluence Test’

(Google the title if the link doesn’t work)