Change your location, change your personality

by Grace aka costofcollege

Your Personality Changes When You Move to a New Place

… The degree of influence that place has on an individual can depend on what’s driving that place’s personality to begin with. Jason Rentfrow, a psychologist at the University of Cambridge, has reviewed three different potential factors that may, together or separately, drive state and regional variation: migration patterns, ecology, and social influence….

… the most powerful influence on someone who moves may be good ol’ peer pressure. Cultural institutions and values span generations and inculcate newcomers through “social contagion,” and people tend to absorb practices and values of those around them. Schaller says social susceptibility may be one of the strongest forces in encouraging new residents to dial up some personality traits while toning down others. For example, a network of happy people can make a person happier; on the other hand, adults who move to new areas where they are in the ideological minority often feel isolated and become less able to take the perspective of others.

This seems right.  For example, I’ve seen a person become more assertive and brash when they moved from the south to a big city up north.  Have you observed or experienced similar changes?  Is it better to adapt, or to keep your hometown personality?  If you’ve moved, how would you describe your hometown’s personality compared to that of your present location?

Safety in schools

by WCE

Portland is progressing toward an “equity” policy for school discipline similar to that described in St. Paul. If my children’s school became unsafe, I would quit my job and homeschool. These are the stories my rural relatives tell about schools in “the cities.” (MSP is the major airport closest to everyone.)

To what extent do you believe that the push for equity in school discipline supported by former President Obama has contributed to the school discipline situation in St. Paul? What other thoughts do you have about safety in schools?

No Thug Left Behind

Open thread

Open for discussions on any topics of your choosing.

Here’s a new twist on a much discussed topic — juggling career and family.

A Strategy for Happy Dual-Career Couples
How some working parents make a counterintuitive approach work: Both take on new or challenging jobs at the same time

This article rubbed me the wrong way.  Maybe it was the suggestion that an au pair was the solution for families with two challenging careers that demanded long hours. Or maybe it was this declaration by one of the fathers featured in the story.

“There was no question that Michelle needed to be offering her talents and passions to a wider community” after caring for their children at home for several years, says Mr. Martin, 41. They met during college while both were studying in Spain, and he understands her desire to do international development work. “It’s kind of like, ‘You can’t stop the wind,’” he says.

What do you think?

Kangaroo Care

by WCE

When I read this article on kangaroo care for premature babies in poor countries, it gave me joy. The world is a better place because premature babies in developing countries are receiving good care from their parents. My first three children were 37 and 35 weekers and I remember the hours spent fighting jaundice, helping them eat, and, once they were six weeks past their due dates, spending hours calming their reflux-y selves. What has recently brought you joy?

Saving Babies’ Lives by Carrying Them Like Kangaroos

Open thread Presidents’ Day

Are you off from work today?  Do your kids have this week off from school?  Any special plans?

What else is on your mind today?

I am still slowly going through the Washington Post Presidential podcast series.  Yesterday I listened to the Andrew Jackson episode again after reading about comparisons between him and Donald Trump.  My latest “favorite” president is James Garfield, who may have been great had his term not been tragically cut short by an assassin’s bullet (and the poor medical care he received).  Do you have a favorite president?

Return policies

by Finn

Do you avail yourselves of any generous refund policies? Do stores’ return policies affect your decisions about where to shop?

It looks like Nordstrom is going to tighten up one of the most generous return policies:

$2 Billion of Retail Fraud Could Be Ruining Nordstrom’s Legendary Return Policy

What stores that you shop at have the best return policies? Which have the worst?

The power of essential oils

by S&M

I’m intrigued by this idea. I think of essential oils as expensive, but maybe not, compared to cleaning products. Have you tried this or anything similar? How did it work?

Add essential oils to your cleaning routine.

Just as color can lift our mood, scent can be calming, energizing, or clarifying. Rosemary is refreshing and makes a great disinfectant; tea tree oil is calming and makes a good all-purpose cleaner; and orange oil is cheerful and works well for degreasers. The Kitchn archives are full of recipes for any mood or mess.

10 Ways to Fill Your Kitchen with Positive Energy

The Rise and Fall of DARE

by Honolulu Mother

According to this article, DARE has seen its funding mostly dry up in recent years as education departments finally took notice of all the evidence that it didn’t actually work:

DARE: The Anti-Drug Program That Never Actually Worked

Yes, the program known for giving our nation’s police officers a nice family-friendly outing and PR opportunity and for causing a generation of kids to lecture their parents about the beer in the cooler at the family cookout. I don’t know if they’ve stopped offering it in the local schools now, but if so, it was too late for my kids, who all went through it in late elementary and picked up all kinds of interesting alternative facts from the friendly police officers teaching the class. My favorite was the assertion that alcohol and coffee work the same way: first they make you more active, then after you drink more, they slow you down and put you to sleep.

Did you, or your kids, go through DARE? What do you think of it? Are their better alternatives for drug education?

Happiness, marriage, divorce

by Grace aka costofcollege

Feeling romantic on this Valentine’s Day?  Here’s a theory that would support trying to stay in a marriage that is not horrible.

We have a script in our heads about what divorce does, much of it lifted from the divorce revolution of the 1960s and 1970s. Two people meet … they fall in love … they develop irreconcilable differences, or they grow apart, and must split so that at least one of the parties can develop into their truest, highest self.

But more recent research suggests a very different truth about happiness. As Daniel Gilbert argues in the brilliant book “Stumbling on Happiness,” unless our circumstances are truly unbearable, our brains will seek to find their natural level of happiness, like floodwater evening out across a plain. Whatever we are stuck with … whatever we commit to … we will find ways to make it work — and we will be just as happy with it as we would have been with any other outcome.

Under this theory, all other forces being equal, those who avoid divorce end up with the same long-term level of happiness that they would have had post-divorce … and they skip the short-term financial and emotional pains of separation.

What do you think?

And have you seen evidence of this trend?

Study: More Older Adults Prefer ‘Living Apart Together’

Among the comments, this one made me laugh:

My friends and I all want to be married on the national guard plan. 1 weekend a month. Two weeks in the summer.

Favorite Museum Exhibits

by WCE

This WSJ article discusses the visit of historic medieval manuscripts from Oxford College to the Folger museum in Washington, D.C. (starts Feb. 4) and then to New York’s Center for Jewish History in May.

Most of the works in “500 Years of Treasures From Oxford” will be making their U.S. debut. Among them are some historic best sellers. A 15th-century manuscript of Chaucer’s “The Canterbury Tales” includes an elaborate floral border around rows of exquisitely rendered Middle English text and penciled-in instructions, never erased, for the book’s decorations. A 15th-century manuscript of Homer’s “Iliad,” in Greek, features unusual red-orange designs that run alongside the text and are attributed to the scribe Ioannes Rhosos of Crete.

…. the collection contains 13 rare Hebrew manuscripts, an extraordinary number for one library. A 12th-century prayer book once owned by a Sephardic Jew who traveled to England contains notes that use Hebrew characters to write Arabic words on the fly-leaves—the only such example from medieval England. A 13th-century book of psalms includes side-by-side Latin and Hebrew versions. The college’s scholars likely would have used these works, which will be part of the tour, to learn Hebrew.

The rarity and scale of the exhibit reminds me of a King Tut exhibit I visited ~15 years ago in the Bay Area. If I were closer to Washington, D.C. or New York City, I would want to visit this display and I would take my children along, whether they claimed to be interested or not.

For those of you near one of those cities, do displays like this appeal to you? What museum exhibits do you find most memorable?

An Oxford College Sends Renaissance Rarities to the U.S.

How did your home get its ‘look’?

by S&M

This could go two ways–home offices or decorators.

A couple of regulars work from home frequently, and some of us might remember a regular having an office space constructed at home a few years ago. What kinds of spaces do people here use, and what office space do they envision in their ideal home?

We’ve talked about what people have on their walls, but how did it get there, and how did the rest of people’s homes get their “look”? Has anyone used a decorator, either full-on or something like this online service?

5 Fantastic Home Offices We Love

Open thread

by Grace aka costofcollege

Open thread today so discuss whatever is on your mind.  Here’s one topic to consider:

What are your family traditions, either now or when you were growing up?  For instance, have you always celebrated birthdays in a certain way, maybe with a certain type of cake?  Do you have traditional yearly trips or events?  Family game nights?  Bedtime or dinner rituals?  Holiday celebrations?  Often religion is an important part of family tradition.  So is food.  What about traditional songs or games?

How important are traditions to your family?

Never Give All the Heart (to your colleagues)

by Honolulu Mother

This NYMag article briefly summarizes a much longer Harvard Business Review article by Adam Grant and Reb Rebele on the trade-off between being a giver at work (good for the organization!) and being too generous with yourself (bad for you!)   The sweet spot is apparently to be generous, but to know your limits and keep something back for yourself.

Where do you fall along the spectrum from taker to selfless giver (there’s a grid in the HBR article), at work and at home?  I suspect most of us will self-report as self-protective givers, the sweet spot, but I also suspect that category covers a wide range from aiming to have everyone owing you just one more favor than you owe them, to being an almost-selfless giver who holds just enough in reserve to avoid burnout.  And, I suspect most of us are closer to the selfless-giver end of the spectrum at home than at work.

What are you watching?

by Louise

I have found discussions of shows, especially on streaming services and movies, to be a great ice breaker and a source of conversation with people around town I interact with.
I learn the names of some new shows, we have a good chat about shows we have watched. Beats talking about the weather.

I began watching Outlander. I had read one book in the series a while ago (didn’t realize there were so many). I am learning about Scotland as I go along. Very good place for a hiking holiday.

So, what shows have you been watching ? Any movie recommendations ?

Where the 1% attend college

by MooshiMooshi

Here is an utterly fascinating collection of data charts, showing where the types of colleges that the 1% attend vs the schools that the bottom 60% attend. It isn’t surprising that elite private schools do not enroll many of the bottom 60%. Near the bottom is a great chart showing the colleges with the highest mobility rates – the schools that propel students from lower income families into a higher income category, The chart shows the top 10, but you can type in the name of any school and get its position. My own employer came in at 75, which is not bad at all considering there are at least over 1000 schools on this list. We also have less than 1% enrollment of one-percenters, and 48% from the lower 60%.

The question that must be asked: why isn’t more charitable giving directed to the schools that are most successful at propelling lower income students into higher income categories? Charitable giving to universities is dominated by money going to the elites, which do not function well as engines of mobility. I think this idea of mobility as a measure of success needs to be more publicized, and donors who care about education should be encouraged to give to the schools that are already doing a good job at mobility.

Some Colleges Have More Students From the Top 1 Percent Than the Bottom 60. Find Yours.

Opinions? Should colleges be rewarded for helping more students move upwards?

Furniture

by L

We haven’t talked about furniture in a while. Has anyone found any new pieces lately? Any particular recommendations for dining room furniture? The Abbey needs a new dining room table as the children have destroyed the previous one (Pottery Barn) as well as the chairs (Jordan’s, even worse!). Looking for wood, no leather or upholstered seats.

Recently we were struck by the price difference between the “factory outlet” store, with a table and 4 chairs for $700, and the “handmade in Vermont” store, where the tables start at around $4,000! Feel free to comment on price/quality differences and how tariffs could change these.

Art Imitating Life: Smoking and Drinking in Movies

by Honolulu Mother

I was amused by this Pacific Standard article noting James Bond’s transition from a heavy smoker to a nonsmoker over the course of his cinematic life:

The Smoking Habits of James Bond

It reminded me of some instances of changes in society’s attitude toward something being noticeable when watching older movies — for instance, we no longer see anything like the drunken goose uncle in Aristocats and the moonshine-swigging swamp mouse in The Rescuers, Disney movies released during my childhood. And the ones dating from my childhood were no longer using stereotypes such as the crows from Dumbo (and the portrayal of plantation life in the not-available-for-viewing Song of the South), not to mention those nasty gossiping elephants.

Another old movie trope that just seems weird and fetishy now was the feisty-woman-who-needs-a-spanking, as detailed here by Jezebel:

‘I Don’t Know Whether to Kiss You or Spank You’: A Half Century of Fear of an Unspanked Woman

Do you have any favorite examples of things in old movies that wouldn’t be there in something made today?

Breaking survivalist stereoptypes

by Rocky Mountain Stepmom

This article interested me because I have survivalist tendencies. I don’t have the proverbial snowball’s chance of ever actually surviving any natural or man-made disaster, but I look at the big tubs of freeze-dried food from Costco, and wonder vaguely about acquiring some more gold, and just generally spiral down into wondering if I should develop an arsenal and start making hundreds of pounds of jerky in my neglected dehydrator.

DOOMSDAY PREP FOR THE SUPER-RICH

2017 Politics open thread, January 29 — February 4

We’ve had some spirited discussions recently.  Too heated or appropriately provocative?  What’s your opinion?  Do you want to continue this weekly politics thread?

 

Social class and career opportunities

by Grace aka costofcollege

Do you have a high class profile?

High-Class Hobbies Will Help You Land a Top Job, Unless You’re a Woman

Social class operates visibly and invisibly: Obvious signals include who your parents are, the neighborhood you grew up in, and the schools you went to. But there are less obvious clues, too, like what you do with your free time (playing polo or basketball) and the music you listen to (country or classical). Sending the right signals could lead to a career breakthrough — depending on how privileged your gender is.

Compare these two examples.

If you read the article you’ll see that the picture is complex, with race, sex, college, and type of employer coloring the results.

Rate your profile using the factors listed in the table above.  Where do you fit in on the High/Low Class spectrum?  Have you ever tried to manipulate your profile?  Do you think your profile matters in your particular situation?  Has a lower class profile ever worked in your favor?

Referencing the movie “Hidden Figures”, this article offers another perspective on what helps in opening doors to career growth.  With quantitative skills there is less need “to impress interviewers with nice clothes or family connections”.

Why more minorities should pursue a career in mathematics

Wealth concentration

by S&M

These two articles go together, and have a lot in them that people might want to discuss, from social issues to nit-picking the methods used.

Was there ever a time when so few people controlled so much wealth?
Oxfam’s latest report says that the richest 62 people own as much as the poorest 3.6 billion. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Do 8 men really control the same wealth as the poorest half of the global population?
According to the latest Oxfam report, the richest eight people in the world are as wealthy as the bottom 50% of the world’s population. But let’s scrutinise these numbers a bit more.

 

 

6 Habits of Highly Organized People

by Honolulu Mother

As a disorganized person, I thought the advice in this Washington Post article was pretty good:

6 Habits of Highly Organized People

The first two tips, keeping organizational systems simple and using the force of habit and routine to get things done, are two of the major things that work for me to keep on top of things. I have certainly found that complex organizational systems — especially those designed by others! — are something I’m more likely to work around than to benefit from, or worse yet procrastinate doing whatever task they’re supposed to support because the system is a pain to deal with.

I have more trouble putting into effect the “a place for everything and everything in its place” suggestion, not because I disagree, but because in a small house with five people plus pets we have more of the ‘everything’ than we do of the places to put it. I think Hesper Desloovere, the author of this Hairpin article, put her finger on something important here:

The Life-Changing Magic of Money (love the title!)

The brilliant and bonkers documentary Queen of Versailles was originally meant to chronicle the construction of the most expensive house in America by one of the wealthiest families in the world. Instead, the filmmaker, Lauren Greenfield, had the good luck to capture bad fortune, as the Siegel family hemorrhages money, staff and sense during the 2008 economic crisis. It’s striking how quickly their perfectly manicured mansion goes to literal shit. As they lay off butlers, maids, nannies, chauffeurs and gardeners, their sprawling house begins to resemble one that would be featured on the show “Hoarders:” days-old dishes left to rot, animals neglected, and dog poop everywhere….

. . .Jackie was actually a hoarder all along. She pathologically acquired stuff, animals and children, leaning on an army of staff to squirrel the purchases away, feed the kids and clean up the shit. When the vast wealth starts to evaporate, it lays bare her problems and exposes a counterintuitive truth: stuff is a poor-people problem….

Like juicing, spinning and other rich white lady pastimes, the driving force behind the KonMari method is competitive deprivation….

Do you agree with this take?

And, do you have any tried-and-true organization tips that don’t require significant time or money or both?

Overemphasis on quarterly earnings?

by WCE

This article discusses emphasis on quarterly, rather than long-term, earnings. This is one of the biggest changes at my employer in my career. Managers used to be focused on technical aspects of projects and developing people, and now they spend a lot of time managing quarterly finances. (Cash flow is not an issue at the company.)

How to Stop Short-Term Thinking at America’s Companies

My favorite fact was one I’ve tried to find unsuccessfully in the past: 8% of stocks were held by institutional shareholders in 1950 compared to 70% of stocks today. I don’t know how 401(k) accounts are considered in that allocation, but pension funds will definitely have their returns affected by any increase in corporate taxes.

Despite the emphasis on profitability, the S&P including reinvested dividends has had historically moderate growth for the past couple decades. Since I opened a 401(k) in ~December 1998, the S&P (with dividends reinvested) has increased by 3.0% annually after inflation. Is there any agreement on the long-term expectation and whether this is expected to be typical? I’ve long been skeptical of the graphs by financial planners, but I’m 20 years into my career and I’m even more skeptical. Or am I missing something?

Calculator here:
S&P 500 Return Calculator, with Dividend Reinvestment

Why Does Sports Participation Drop Off by 13?

by Honolulu Mother

Apparently of the kids who play organized sports, only 30% are still playing by the end of middle school, as written up in this Washington Post article:

Why 70 percent of kids quit sports by age 13

The article suggests a number of reasons, which largely come down to the way the system is designed to be up-or-out and narrow down to the most serious and competitive players, in combination with similar increases in time demands and competitiveness in other activities forcing kids to choose just one or two things to focus on.

Do you have thoughts on this phenomenon? Is there a place for a once-a-week fun league in high school? Have your high schoolers found other fun ways to keep active when they’re not in organized sports?

‘Compass Goals’

by Risley

Here’s an article from Tiny Buddha on setting “compass goals” instead of typical New Year’s resolutions. Have you made resolutions for 2017? If so, would converting them to “compass goals” be beneficial to you, or do you prefer the traditional type? Also, did you make resolutions for 2016, and if so, how did you do?

And related: do you subscribe to any daily e-mail services like Tiny Buddha, to receive articles on life improvement or other topics? Which ones do you find helpful and which do you usually delete without reading?

How to Set New Year’s Goals You’ll Actually Enjoy Pursuing

Non-negotiables in house hunting

by Grace

Many of us have must-haves when shopping for a house.  These could include features like gas cooking, master bath with a large tub, eat-in kitchen, easy commute, top public schools, attached garage, no corner lot, two story, one story, etc.

What are your non-negotiables?  Look through this College Confidential discussion if you’d like to get more ideas.

Related, do you have any regrets about choosing your present home?  What features would you change if you could?

‘Opposition to Galileo was scientific, not just religious’

by WCE

This article detailing an alternative to Copernicus’ view that planets travel around the sun intrigued me, because correct hypotheses in science are usually the ones we learn and remember. It reminded me of the modern controversy over short term global cooling and warming trends and how to interpret the past 50 years of planetary temperature data, in light of limited historical data. Had you heard of Locher? Does he remind you of any other scientist? Does the controversy remind you of any other scientific controversy?

Opposition to Galileo was scientific, not just religious

Big projects

by S&M

New Year’s Day has come and gone. Did you use it for a big project? Friends of mine reportedly spent it quilting, reading Dostoevsky’s oeuvre on the couch, and watching a Scooby Doo marathon, and I’m sure some were watching football and parades. I got started cleaning out my closet. I’ve made stacks for things that are: too big, ready for recycling, a good fit, for when my waist is 2″ smaller, and for when my waist is 2″ smaller than that. It’s slow going, because there are very few items I’m not trying on. Here is another suggestion of a project worthy of at least one day, cleaning the kitchen. Did you undertake any projects on that day, or do you have any planned?

10 Ways to Reset Your Kitchen for the New Year

Sausage-making and the SAT

by Honolulu Mother

For those with high schoolers, here’s a deep dive into the sausage-making leading up to the new SAT this past spring. It sheds some light on where it’s coming from and is also entertaining in an industry gossip sense:

College Board faces rocky path after CEO pushes new vision for SAT

For everyone else, sorry about this topic! Perhaps you’d like to discuss actual sausage making? Have you ever tried it? We have and it’s a production, but having a freezer stocked with the end product is nice. Do you have a favorite sausage maker, either a national brand or local product?

‘Where is he that is born King of the Jews?’

by WCE

Only rarely do my interests in history, software modeling, Biblical interpretation and astronomy come together, so when I read a modern hypothesis of what the Magi (aka wise men) saw that brought them from “the East” to King Herod in Jerusalem, I was intrigued. Many of the events recorded in the Bible are so long ago, and recorded in such a way that it is difficult or impossible to understand what was written in its historical context. I had long considered “the Star” that brought the Magi from “the East” to be an example of such a mystery. However, use of astronomical modeling software makes trivial calculations that were excessively laborious for Kepler, who used his laws of planetary motion to attempt to understand the mystery of “the Star in the East” soon after discovering the laws.

Unfortunately, Kepler relied on a copy of the works of Josephus printed after 1544, which contained an error that caused Kepler to believe Herod had died in 4 BC, and so Kepler searched the skies for the two years prior to Herod’s death. Subsequent scholarship has identified an error in the 1544 printing of the works of Josephus and 1 BC is now believed to be the year Herod died, so the hypothesis of interest focuses on 2/3 BC. In September of 3 BC at the time of the Jewish New Year, the planet Jupiter came into conjunction with the star Regulus. The Babylonians called Regulus “Sharu” and the Romans called Regulus “Rex”, both of which mean king, so the Magi observed the King Planet come into conjunction with the King Star, which happens every 12 years. However, due to retrograde motion, a triple conjunction occurred due to a wobble in Jupiter’s orbit, which is much less common.This triple conjunction occurred within the constellation Leo. The expected Messiah would be from the tribe of Judah (Genesis 49:10), which was represented by a lion (Leo). Leo is followed by the constellation Virgo and the expected Messiah would be born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14), so it seems possible that the Magi (some of whom may have been Jews whose ancestors were left behind in Babylon) would associate kingship, Leo and Virgo with the expected Messiah.

Regardless of whether this hypothesis regarding the astronomical event that brought the Magi from “the East” (probably Babylon or Persia) is correct, some event caused the Magi to travel an extraordinary distance, to inquire of King Herod and to set off a slaughter of male infants in Bethlehem, a slaughter that was recorded by the historian Josephus and the apostle Matthew. It seems apparent that the Magi were priest-astronomers and had no idea their inquiry would result in infant slaughter. Philo the Elder of Alexandria wrote about Magi from the East with great respect for their knowledge of the natural world. The response of Herod and the priests in Jerusalem suggests that they respected the Magi as well. It is possible that Magi gained awareness of Jewish culture during the Babylonian captivity, when the Jewish elite including Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego became officials in the Babylonian Empire and Nebuchadnezzar made Daniel a Chief Magus. Even though we don’t know how the Magi gained knowledge of Jewish culture and writings, a few hundred years after the Babylonian captivity, the Magi had sufficient interest in the birth of a Jewish king to travel to Jerusalem and to inquire of Herod.

After being informed by Herod and the chief priests that the Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem, the Magi proceeded from Jerusalem to Bethlehem and did not return to Jerusalem in order to inform Herod about what they had found, a situation which made Jesus’ birth one of if not the best-documented birth in ancient history. His death is, if the hypothesis is correct, equally well-documented. Passover begins on the 14th day of the Jewish lunar month of Nisan. Jesus must have died in a year on which that 14th day was a Friday, and Pilate was Roman procurator from 26 to 36 AD, so inquiry should focus on that date range. In 30 AD, Passover began on the equivalent of Friday April 7 and in 33 AD, Passover began on the equivalent of Friday April 3. The latter date is likely correct for a couple of reasons. First, Pilate seems reluctant to crucify Jesus. Sejanus, a notorious anti-Semite and regent for Emperor Tiberius, was killed in 31 AD for being a traitor and official Roman policy became to let the Jews alone. In 33 AD, Pilate would have every desire not to upset the Jews. Second, there was a lunar eclipse from noon to three on April 3, 33 AD, and an earthquake centered in Bithynia. A lunar eclipse resulted in a “blood moon”, which had particularly dark significance to ancient people. The lunar eclipse and earthquake just before the beginning of Passover (which began at sundown) made that Passover particularly memorable.

I found this hypothesis so convincing that I believe Jesus died at age 35 and not age 33, as has long been thought. Can you think of any other situations where astronomical information allows us to re-interpret ancient literature? Does any information in this summary surprise, frustrate or intrigue you, or change your thoughts about Epiphany, the traditional Christian feast to celebrate the visit of the Magi, held on January 6? (That’s just after the 12 days of Christmas.)

Biblical Reference:

Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him. When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born. And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet, And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Judea, art not the least among the princes of Judea: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel. [WCE comment: A reference to Micah 5:2]

Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, enquired of them diligently what time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also. When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense and myrrh. And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way. Matthew 2:1-12, King James Version

Kepler Reference:De Stella Nova (1606); De vero anno (1614)

Interfamily financial friction

by Anonymous

This CollegeConfidential post must have hit a nerve because it generated so many comments.

Is this “greedy”? Really?

FIL passed away recently. FIL (and the sons) were terrible about money in the sense that they were always throwing wads of money at each other. “Here let me pay for that. No really I INSIST.” “No really WE INSIST.” Yada, yada.

Typical situation: When everyone was returning to base for the funeral week, SIL spent $200 to stock up the MIL/FIL house with food for the incoming hoard (it was empty for the season when they winter over in the south). H gave SIL $100 because MONEY. Not sure why it was our responsibility to pay for stocking the house (there are 5 siblings) since we live in the same place and were not the ones eating all that food, but that’s how it is. We’re wealthy – it’s not like it matters.

So people were spending hither and yon, and H and I had a discussion about whether everyone was going to keep track and start billing each other. We agreed that since MIL is not poor in any sense of the word, and all this tracking and billing would be a PITA (and why?), we would generally have MIL pay for her own expenditures as we went along.

Since she has a hard time getting around, one of the things I am trying to do now is pick up things at the market once a week or when I happen to be going I ask if she needs something. I get a separate bill and have them bagged separately and she reimburses me when I take them in. Tonight, I picked up a few things she asked for and made dinner at her house as well. H showed up and tried to waive off the $10 for her groceries. I took the money because that was the plan. Now he is having fits and says I’m just greedy. I basically told him to pound salt.

The initial comments indicate some readers believe other issues besides money are at play here.  But isn’t that usually the case?  Money can represent so many things — love, prestige, self-worth, independence, etc.

Misunderstandings can easily occur.  I was recently surprised when a relative insisted on compensating me for my Uber expenses after I did her a favor.  At first I was a bit surprised, as if she considered it a financial transaction instead of a favor.  Then I realized that she just viewed these types of things differently and did not want to burden me financially.  And I made a mental note that she would probably expect to be compensated if I asked her for a similar favor.

How does your family operate?  Do they “nickel and dime” expenses among each other?  Or do they tend to be more casual?  How are restaurant bills split?  Have you had major (or minor) disagreements?  Financial dealings between parents and their children can be particularly touchy.  Part of what makes these types of dealings potentially more complicated are discrepancies between family members’ wealth.  But even when everyone is in a similar financial position, misunderstandings can occur.

Have you ever borrowed or lent money to family?  How did that turn out?l

The most important historical events of your lifetime

by MooshiMooshi

What are the most important historical events of your lifetime?

Time magazine published this poll in which people ranked the most significant historical events in their lifetimes. Not surprisingly, 9/11 came out on top. But it is more interesting when the rankings are broken out by generation. The Silent Generation has a very different list from the Millennials. For the Silent Generation and the Baby Boomers, wars and civil rights dominate. For Generation X and Millennials, we see Obama’s election, mass shootings, and bombings. Generation X saw the end of the cold war as very important, but it doesn’t even appear on the list for Millennials. Only Millennials list the most recent recession. Perhaps everyone else has lived through multiple recessions and just saw this as one more?

The list that is closest to my personal list would definitely be the Generation X one. I would probably replace the Challenger disaster with Sandy Hook (which does appear on the Millennial list) because that was so huge for me, whereas I wasn’t realy following Challenger. How about you? Do your picks for important moments in recent history match up with your official generation? Are there other events you think are important that were unnoticed?

Americans Rank These 10 Historic Events as Most Important in Their Lifetimes

The List

by AustinMom

The Washington Post has compiled its annual list of what is “IN” and “OUT” for 2017. The article also provides a link to lists as far back as 1978.

What do you think of the list? Will you be happy that the “OUT”s are leaving us? Did you see the “In”s coming? Or, did you have look up what some of the items are?

Discuss!

The List 2017

2016 Totebag year in review and looking ahead to 2017

by Grace aka costofcollege

It’s been quite a year for discussions, particularly those of a political nature.  Since they were week-long posts, I excluded the weekly political open threads from this list.

Totebag posts that received the most page views in 2016:

  1. Hot political issues
  2. Totebaggy values
  3. Open thread
  4. Secret shame
  5. Supersmart kids
  6. On the fundamental inequality of the sexes
  7. Lean in?
  8. The unbearable hellishness of customer support
  9. The Frugalwoods
  10. Monday open thread & The GOP’s future? (tie)

Any thoughts?  What were your favorite posts and topics?  Any ideas for changes for our blog?  Do you think politics will continue to be a hot topic?

Open thread

by Grace aka costofcollege

For the last regular Totebag post of 2016 we’ll have an open thread.  Here’s one topic to get the conversation going.

If you don’t make New Year’s resolutions, how about choosing a “theme” for 2017.

A Fun Way to Make a New Year’s Resolution: Choose a One-Word Theme for 2016.

… for the last several years, I’ve identified one idea, summarized in just one word, as an overarching theme for the entire year.

My sister Elizabeth often does this kind of resolution, too. Last year her theme is “Novel.” One year was the year of “Free Time,” another, “Style,” another “Hot Wheels” — that year, she got a car and started driving; she and I have both struggled with a fear of driving, which was much tougher for her, given that she lives in Los Angeles and I live in New York City.

Another friend of mine does the same thing. One year, I remember, was “Dark,” another was “Make.”

For 2015, I chose “Upgrade.” In this post from January 2, I wrote, “I want to take many areas of my life to the next level.

This may sound gimmicky, but if you were making a resolution what theme would you choose for 2017?  (You can cheat and use a two or three words!)  Also, what theme word(s) would you use to describe your 2016?

 

Educational Spending and Inequality

by WCE

I enjoyed this map detailing the difference in educational spending between typical and high poverty rate schools by state. Missouri has the biggest gap in spending. What I found more interesting than the within-state gap, however, was the gap between states. Wyoming, Alaska and some New England states have per capita spending in the high teens. Most southeastern states, Oklahoma, Utah and Idaho have below average spending, around $7000. I would guess the national population-weighted average (not the average of 50 states) is $10,000/student, without knowing how technicalities like the need for new buildings being greater in some states is handled.

The site notes that some states have determined that unequal funding between districts within a state is unjust, but this gap is negligible compared to the gap between states. Do you think the inequality between states is unjust? What, if anything, do you think should be done about it? Other than New York, it appears that many states with the poorest students and the most ESL students have the lowest funding.

Map: 41 States are Shortchanging their Neediest Students

Interviews and Salary

by Honolulu Mother

I found the responses, and comments on the responses, interesting for this Quora topic:

How should I respond when an interviewer asks what your current base salary is?

The five-point response from the recruiter I found especially disingenuous, explaining why everything is for the best in this best of all possible worlds and you should definitely give an interviewer your current salary when requested. Many commenters also took issue with his response.

Do you have a preferred way to approach this?

2016 books and more

by Grace aka costofcollege

Get ideas and give us your take on your 2016 reading.

Who Read What in 2016
Steph Curry, Dava Sobel, Mike Lee, Yaa Gyasi, Abby Wambach, Jeff Bewkes and 44 more of our friends name their favorite books of 2016.

Here’s another from Vox.

The best books we read in 2016

What did you read this year?  What were your favorites and your not-so-favorites?

Here are some listening ideas.

The 50 Best Podcasts of 2016
From politics shows to horror series, highlights from a year of listening

Do you read free books and magazines from Amazon?  (I missed this announcement when it came out in October.)

Introducing Prime Reading – The Newest Benefit for Prime Members
Prime members are now able to read as much as they like from a selection of over a thousand top Kindle books, magazines, short works, comic books, children’s books and more – all at no additional cost.

What about 2016 TV shows, movies, music, and other media?  Give us your reviews.  What are you looking forward to in 2017?

Worst Holiday Music

by Honolulu Mother

As we get to the point in the season where we’ve all had LOTS of opportunity to hear all the holiday music, perhaps it’s time to reflect on the holiday songs that least bear repeated hearings.

This LA Times article by Randy Lewis can get you started:

Ho, ho, no! 12 of the worst holiday albums of the last 20 years

My contribution to this topic is the album “All I Want for Christmas is a Goat.”  It’s hilarious at first, but a little of it goes a very long way.

How did it work out?

by Finn

One of the things I like about this group is the hijacks and side discussions that take place, often started by someone asking for advice.

Let’s share how things worked out. What car did you buy? What computer did your DH buy? How are those working out for you? Have the bullying problems been worked out?

More generally, what advice or suggestions have you received here that has been particularly useful?

Videogame / screen addiction

by Honolulu Mother

Caitlin Gibson of the Washington Post took a recent look at a case of videogame addiction:

The next level
Video games are more addictive than ever. This is what happens when kids can’t turn them off.

I really think this may be the biggest challenge for our kids’ generation. Maybe the boys lean a little more toward videogame addiction and the girls lean a little more toward social media addiction, but they’re all faced with the challenge of pulling themselves away from a virtual world that’s been deliberately designed to be immersive and addictive (because that’s what makes for a successful game / app / platform), and is always available at any time of the day or night. Even though most of us had video arcades and MTV and maybe an Atari or early Nintendo available in our teens and college years, the technology and availability weren’t comparable: we just didn’t have the same level of temptation to face down.

We don’t have problems at the level portrayed in this article, but I certainly wouldn’t say my kids are immune to this and they’re still trying to find ways to be able to have a little screen time after school and still be able to pry themselves loose back out before too long to get back to homework or other projects. We don’t have particularly strict screen time restrictions, as my theory is that this is something they really have to learn to self-monitor to be successful in college and adulthood.

How do your kids deal with the call of the screen? Are they independently able to exercise moderation, do they exercise moderation primarily through parental strictures, or is this a problem area for your family?

More holiday season conversation

by Finn

With T-day in our rear-view mirror, we’re well into the holiday season.

Are you sending out cards? What kind do you send? Do you attach a newsletter to your cards? How do you feel about receiving newsletters with cards?

If you do send out cards, here’s some grammar help:

Are Your Holiday Cards Grammatically Correct?

Do you have travel plans for the holiday? Kids coming home from college? Do you have any travel planning tips to share? Ever tried Google flights?

Making travel planning less stressful this holiday season

Do you have any gift ideas to share? What items seem to be this year’s “it” gifts?

Holiday Letter

by Louise

Very few people send out holiday letters anymore but two of my relatives do and I must say I have enjoyed reading them.  Their letters are balanced, not over the top cheery nor down in the dumps.

It has been a tumultuous year. Capture that spirit in your own holiday letter spoof. You can pretend to be someone else. Make us laugh, spread the cheer!

Terrible Twelves

by Honolulu Mother

My youngest, a seventh grader, has been a challenge to live with (and to teach) lately, in similar ways to his older brother at the same age. (My daughter went through the phase less severely and about a year earlier.) It led me to google “terrible twelves,” which turned up this NY Magazine article

Age 12 Is Like a Second Toddlerhood

Do you agree?

(And, remind me again that this stage will pass . . .)

Pizza

by Fred MacMurray

What’s your favorite when it comes to pizza?

There are, of course, the big national chains Domino’s, Pizza Hut, Papa John’s, Little Caesar’s.

For a more sit-down approach, and a much wider menu than just pizza there are California Pizza Kitchen and Uno Chicago Grill. And of course there are regional favorites like Giordano’s (Chicago) and brands that cover a lot of area, just not nationally, like Shakey’s and Round Table.

So, where should totebaggers get pizza when they are in your area? Are there toppings that make the experience unique? And what else should they order from the pizza place for that local experience?

2015 Pizza Today Top 100 Pizza Companies List

Tips for Holiday Entertaining

by Honolulu Mother

Do you entertain during the holidays? An open house kind of thing for friends and family, a work-related thing, a cookie-decorating party, the big family dinner, a cocktail party? Let’s share our holiday entertaining tips!

My household relies heavily on Costco when doing a big party. We get the shrimp tray, the crudite tray, the cookie tray, some of the booze, the frozen spanakopita. Sam’s Club we use to supplement (sometimes they have better selection of frozen puff pastry hors d’ouevres), along with a couple of trays of finger food items from a nearby restaurant. I avoid having much cooking to do during the party as I find that even having to remember to take a pan out of the oven is more than enough to remember once the party is rolling.

Our biggest challenge is probably finding a date, as it seems like most people we know have packed weekends in December full of kid activities and family obligations. We just aim for earlier in the month and cross our fingers.

Do you have holiday entertaining tips to share, or stories to tell?

2016 Politics open thread, December 11-17

Scott Adam’s blog post about two separate reality paths made me think of our blog, which reflects what I observe among many other people I know in real life.

The election of Donald Trump to the Presidency of the United States has effectively forked reality into two versions that are running in parallel. Clinton’s supporters believe they are living in a world that is a repeat of 1930s Germany, with Trump playing the part of Adolf Hitler. See this reaction for a typical example.

Meanwhile, the other half of the country believes we elected a highly-capable populist who will “drain the swamp” and bring a business approach to government along with greater prosperity.

How can it simultaneously be true that Trump is OBVIOUSLY the next Hitler while it is also true that half the country didn’t notice? There are at least three ways to explain-away this dissonance. Maybe…

  • Half the country are sexist, racist monsters too, so they like Trump.
    or…
  • Half the country is stupid and can’t identify a Hitler that is right in front of them.
    or…
  • Clinton supporters have been duped into believing something ridiculous about Trump.

What do you think?

(Via Althouse)

Bargain travel

by Grace aka costofcollege

Despite her initial doubts, this NYT travel writer gave a positive review of a trip she took using a bargain package deal.

Looking for a Bargain Vacation? Don’t Rule Out Hawaii

For years I’d seen online ads for surprisingly affordable prefab vacations — airfare and hotel, with maybe a car and a tour thrown in — through unexpected vendors like Groupon and Costco. I remember thinking, “Do people actually buy vacations through Costco?” To me, packaged bulk trips were the five-pound tub of mozzarella balls of travel. Sure, it’s a bargain, but how bland? What quality could you possibly get for that impossibly low price? I was, in short, the worst kind of travel snob.

I regularly check deals that come my way, mainly Groupon Getaway and Travelzoo.  But I’ve never tried any.  Sometimes they seem too good to be true and sometimes they seem to scrimp more than I’d like.  (Are the hotels lacking?  Can I get an aisle seat on the plane?)  Sometimes they don’t seem like such a great value when I start to compare low airfares and housing options that I could assemble on my own.  But I keep telling myself that one day I need to throw caution to the wind and buy a five-night inclusive trip to the Caribbean for under $600.  How bad could it be?

Here are three travel deals I recently came across, all departing from New York:

  • 11-day Thailand & China Tour w/Air for $1499 that includes hotels, transfers, daily breakfasts, and several tours including one of the Great Wall of China
  • London & Rome 6-Night Trip for $799 that includes air, hotels, transfers, daily breakfasts
  • Punta Cana 5-nights all-inclusive beach side resort including air for $589

Do these sound enticing to you?  Have you ever bought one of these deals or have you considered it?  Do you know people who’ve had good or bad experiences?  Do you avoid these mainly because they’re too conventional and you prefer more personalized travel?  In other words, are you a “travel snob”?  Any advice for someone who’s considering buying one of these deals?

Also, do you have any travel plans coming up or any dreamy destinations that you’d like to visit soon?

Jobs, Industries, Workplaces

by Louise

It has been a while since we talked about or vented about our jobs. Let’s talk about that. Also, what about our respective professions, industries and workplaces. Any changes there ? Any impacts from the election, favorable or unfavorable ? Did anyone make changes that worked out or not career wise?

To Vaccinate or Not

by AustinMom

In my area, as noted in the article, we have a fairly large opposition to vaccinations for children. I think, as the article notes, that many parents of young children today never had the disease vaccinations target nor even have known anyone who had them which leads them to think the disease is eradicated vs. controlled. Our family knows families who by choice do not vaccinate at all by, vaccinate selectively, and/or vaccinate on a much longer schedule than recommended for healthy children. We also know a family who can only vaccinate on a limited basis due to health reasons. Lastly, I grew up with a friend who cannot build an immunity to chicken pox and would have it almost annually; even as a mature adult still gets it every few years.

My mom, who passed away in her early 90’s, was very pro-vaccination as she and most everyone she knew had these childhood diseases and she saw first hand the symptoms and the effects. I received all the vaccines that were available during my childhood. As there were no vaccines, I had chicken pox (mild case) and mumps (on one side and then on the other), but not measles. My children have had all their shots and some that at the time were recommended by our pediatrician before they became required by my state for attending school. While still not required, my children have had the HPV series.

I fully understand families with health issues that prevent them from vaccinating or that require vaccinating on a modified schedule. I understand how vaccinating their peers helps reduce the likelihood that those who cannot be vaccinated will become ill. My pediatrician, who is clearly pro-vaccination, hasn’t issued any requirements for being vaccinated to remain a patient.

Do you think that families should be able to refuse to have their children vaccinated for any reason other than medical necessity? Would you change pediatricians/clinics if they required all patients to be fully vaccinated, unless prevented by health issues?

On vaccinations, a pointed shift for pediatricians

Corporate Malfeasance

by WCE

I recently read two articles that made me ponder the role of whistleblowers in revealing corporate malfeasance.

The WSJ article (first) discusses how the medical testing company Theranos used its attorneys to intimidate a young Stanford grad who went to work at Theranos and observed irregularities in its medical testing methodology. I identified with Tyler’s youthful idealism and interest in data. I also thought about our legal system, compared to other “loser pays” systems and thought about its disadvantages. I suspect that pressure to conform to the vision of a startup is not uncommon. The NY Times article (second) describes how Princess Cruise Lines is being fined $40 million for improper waste dumping around the world on many ships from ~2004-2013. The illegal dumping was observed and reported by a new engineer who observed the illegal dumping and promptly reported it to the British authorities and quit his job at the port of Southampton.

Do you think government regulatory bureaucracy can/should do a better job of protecting potential whistleblowers? Do you think boards of directors should do a better job of overseeing internal company practices? Have you pondered the complexities of international environmental regulatory compliance, from both a legal and an engineering point of view? How can governments do a better job of seeking out likely cases of illegal behavior, both to avoid the behavior and to protect ethical competitors? (Volkswagen emissions and Wells Fargo also come to mind.)

Theranos Whistleblower Shook the Company—and His Family

Princess Cruise Lines to Pay $40 Million Fine for Illegal Dumping

Your franchise dream

by Grace aka costofcollege

What it costs to open one of america’s ten most popular franchises

Inspired by this article, I let myself dream a little about having my own franchise business.  I don’t consider myself the traditional entrepreneurial type and I am not interested in any business that deals with food, but I have toyed with the idea of having a Kumon franchise.  The hours seem reasonable and I foresee an ongoing need for their services.

Here’s one list that has Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwiches (I’ve never heard of them) as number one.

The Top 10 Franchises of 2016

Some totebaggers run their own businesses, but most of us do not.  What’s your dream franchise or business of any kind?  And even if you don’t realistically see yourself as an entrepreneur, what business would you be interested in trying if the usual obstacles were magically removed?

 

Open Plan Offices – What do you think?

by Kerri

Open-Plan Offices Are the Worst

My office recently changed to an open plan (other than for senior management) and I am struggling with it.

It was pitched to us as a way to improve collaboration and foster creativity. When pressed, management acknowledged it also resulted in cost savings.

A few thoughts –

  • If we had been told this was, bottom line, a cost saving measure, instead of hearing spin about collaboration, creativity and innovation, would that have made the transition easier? Why the spin?
  • As an attorney, my job is to provide legal advice and to discuss sensitive issues. I have real concerns about confidentiality and my client’s willingness to share information with me in an open setting where others may overhear. I could book a conference room (although those are limited), however that extra step may inhibit candid discussions. Call it the PITA factor.
  • As an attorney, a good chunk of my job is reading really long documents, which requires a lot of focus. We have headsets but they are not noise canceling (again a cost saving measure). How am I going to function?
  • I feel a loss of status in losing my office. I see this in my colleagues as well, moral is not good. While I have an assigned desk, some of my (non-legal) colleagues are “hot desking” – taking what is available. We’ve also been discouraged from personalizing our work area.
  • I now have the option to work more from home. I don’t have a home office but have worked from home occasionally in the past. I usually get more done, including the laundry and the dishes =), but feel less connected. In the past I’ve been told face time is important for career advancement and to “lean-in”. (My company is big on buzzwords.) If more people are working from home, what does “leaning in” look like?
  • I am an introvert. I am really concerned that I will be less productive and more exhausted at the end of the day.
  • Are in person, telephone communications a thing of the past? How concerned are you about what’s in your e-mails?

How Wall Street titans Jamie Dimon, Warren Buffett, and Carl Icahn avoid using email

Have you transitioned to an open office? Any advice, tips? Any advice on working from home? Do you use e-mail extensively or limit its use?

Manners

by Honolulu Mother

Sometimes it takes an outsider to notice what our unspoken customs and expectations are, as noted in this Atlantic article:

Welcome to America, Please Be On Time: What Guide Books Tell Foreign Visitors to the U.S.

If you’re an adult with an etiquette question or even just trying to figure out the basics, there are places you can turn, like this forum (if you’ve never seen it before, set a timer before you start poking around!), or of course Miss Manners and whoever is the new Emily Post, plus more up-to-date versions of the advice column.

But with our kids, we have a responsibility to teach them this stuff before they head out into the world, and it doesn’t necessarily follow that raising them to be considerate and empathetic will necessarily lead them to just intuit how table settings work, or what the standard phrases are for congratulating or commiserating on life events, or the different expectations on arriving by the appointed time for a party versus a job interview.

Do you have a conscious program for teaching manners, or do you just try to work it in as you go along? Have you ever considered a class? And, at what point is it time for you to bite your tongue and figure that your kids are now beyond your jurisdiction — at 18, or later, or earlier?

Open thread

by Grace aka costofcollege

Today’s post is open to any topic.  Here’s what was on my mind:

Since I’m trying to establish a more minimalist approach to possessions, this article caught my eye.

The Diderot Effect: Why We Want Things We Don’t Need — And What to Do About It

The Diderot Effect states that obtaining a new possession often creates a spiral of consumption which leads you to acquire more new things. As a result, we end up buying things that our previous selves never needed to feel happy or fulfilled.

Some examples:

  • You buy a new dress and now you have to get shoes and earrings to match.
  • You buy a CrossFit membership and soon you’re paying for foam rollers, knee sleeves, wrist wraps, and paleo meal plans.
  • You buy your kid an American Girl doll and find yourself purchasing more accessories than you ever knew existed for dolls.
  • You buy a new couch and suddenly you’re questioning the layout of your entire living room. Those chairs? That coffee table? That rug? They all gotta go.

Have you ever fallen victim to the Diderot Effect?  How’s your clutter management coming along these days?

The Electoral College over time

by WCE

After Trump’s strong showing in the Rust Belt, I thought about how the electoral college has changed over time. When my kids asked whether New York or Texas had more electoral votes, we had to look it up — it turns out Texas is way ahead, and New York is tied with Florida.

This link projects changes for 2020 that reflect ongoing Rust Belt emigration and population increases in Texas (3!), Colorado, Florida, California, North Carolina and maybe Virginia, Oregon and Arizona.

Updated 2020 Reapportionment Projections

This link shows the electoral college and how each state voted over time. I was surprised to learn that Kansas and California each had 10 electoral votes for the 1908 election and Florida had only 5. New York’s share of the U.S. population peaked in the 1930’s and 1940’s, when it had 47 electoral votes. I find the chart fascinating and I also admire the wisdom of the Founding Fathers for creating a system that added (later apportioned) electors based on a census every decade.

Historical Timeline

Thanksgiving open thread

by Grace aka costofcollege

We have an open thread for any discussion topics over the Thanksgiving weekend.  How are things going?

Related to previous conversations about the “bubble” in which we live, here’s a version called the Thanksgiving Bubble courtesy of CollegeConfidential.

Is Your Thanksgiving in an Elitist Bubble?

No green bean casserole: 0 points
From scratch using a recipe off epicurious and fresh green beans and mushrooms: 1 point
Canned soup base, canned green beans, French’s fried onions: 5 points

Heritage breed, free range, humanely raised, hormone free turkey sold by your local butcher or Whole Foods at price that could pay for a nice dinner out for a family of four: 0 points
Pre-cooked turkey dinner bought at Dean & DeLuca: 0 points
Fresh turkey, nothing special: 1 point
Frozen Butterball Turkey: 2 points
Store brand turkey that you saved up the store receipts for months to get for free: 3 points
Turkey you shot yourself in the woods, gutted and dressed yourself: 10 points, with bonus point given for deep frying it.

Homemade cranberry sauce with fancy ingredients like candied ginger, figs or kumquats: 0 points
Homemade cranberry sauce, nothing fancy: 1 point
Canned whole berry cranberry sauce: 2 points
Canned jelly cranberry sauce still bearing the ridge lines from the can (my favorite kind ): 5 points
No cranberry sauce because you’re from the deep south and they don’t do the cranberry thing there: 7 points

Fresh sweet potatoes with a brown sugar/rum glaze (family favorite): 0 points
Fresh sweet potatoes with store bought marshmallows: 2 points
Fresh sweet potatoes with homemade marshmallows: -2 points
Canned sweet potatoes with store bought marshmallows: 5 points

Fresh whipped cream for your pie: 0 points
Whipped Cream from a can: 1 point
Premium ice cream: 0 points
Store brand ice cream: 1 point
Cool Whip: 5 points

What’s your score, both from your childhood and from today?

 

Presents and shopping

These two related topics dovetail nicely so they are posted together.

Holiday Gift Giving

by North of Boston

OK, Totebaggers, the Holidays are upon us, so let’s talk presents. What are you planning to give your loved ones? What are you hoping to get? Are you changing your gift-giving habits this year (e.g. expanding or contracting your recipient list, or spending more or less on gifts than you have in the past)? And if you’re stuck on what to get someone, here’s your chance to ask for suggestions!

————

Shopping Deals

by Finn

With Thanksgiving rapidly approaching, that can only mean one thing: Black Friday is also approaching, to be followed by Small Business Saturday, then Cyber Monday.

Are you looking to take advantage of any deals offered in this shopping season? What are your strategies? Are there any great deals out there that you’re willing to share?

What’s your favorite board or party game?

by Honolulu Mother

Amazon has done a couple of sales on board games recently, probably in anticipation of the holidays, and it’s got me thinking about games for a crowd, or just a family game night.  I bought Escape: The Curse of the Temple for this year and have high hopes for it, especially since each round of play is so short that agreeing to play isn’t an hour-long commitment.  I’m also considering God Hates Charades, a promising-sounding mashup of Charades and Cards Against Humanity that might be perfect for a theater-loving extended family where the youngest is a cynical twelve.

Do you have favorite games, past or present? I’m thinking especially of the ones played with multiple people in the same place at the same time, though feel free to share your favorite solo games too! This can include not just board games, but computer or gaming system party games like Dance Central or Mario Kart. I always enjoyed Cranium, though I haven’t played it for years — perhaps it’s time to introduce it to the kids! And I do indeed like Dance Central. How about you?

How common is your surname?

by WCE

This website tells you how common your surname is around the world. Both my maiden name and my married name are relatively uncommon, with a few hundred or a thousand people around the world who have each. Is your surname common or rare? If it’s common, where in the world is it common? Are there any surnames you input for fun where something about the results surprised you?

Search for Meanings & Distribution of 11 Million Surnames

Teaching your kids to drive

by Denver Dad

My son just turned 15, which means he is going to get his learner’s permit. I’m hoping DW and I can be patient driving instructors for him. When my brother and I were learning to drive, my mom would always jam her foot on the imaginary break and turn the imaginary wheel and yell “Watch! Watch!” when she’d see a car coming on a side street a half-mile down the road.

What were everyone’s experiences like teaching their kids to drive? How well did you handle it? And for those whose kids aren’t old enough, what do you think you’ll be like as a driving instructor?

I Can Resist Anything But Temptation

by Honolulu Mother

This Vox article argues (based on a few studies and talking to a couple of psychologists) that the key thing with willpower is not so much having the self control to resist a temptation when it’s looking you in the face — apparently we’re all pretty bad at that — but instead developing a taste for virtue and cultivating habits that don’t bring you into temptation’s path, Other factors less conducive to individual control are winning the genetic lottery of being conscientious and abstemious by nature, and having the financial stability to focus on the future instead of just the moment.

Do you have any favorite tricks to avoid temptation?

Dealing with loss

A week ago Hillary Clinton suffered a crushing defeat at the polls.  A couple of days later one of her supporters encountered Clinton out hiking near her home in Chappaqua.

20161112-hrchiking

This news caught my eye because I remember after suffering one of the most devastating losses of my adult life I took to walking almost every day for hours.  It was therapeutic, and I frankly could not think of any other way to deal with my misfortune.  And it helped me understand that taking one day (or one step) at a time was an effective way to deal with life’s adversities.

How do you deal with loss and disappointment?  Whether it’s a small setback like not getting an expected promotion or a large one like the death of a loved one, we’ve all had to find ways to handle loss.  Do you try to put it out of your mind and carry on with your regular routine?  Do you exercise?  Do you overeat or drink?  Does religion offer you comfort?  Do you turn to deep self-analysis?  Do you seek out support from close friends?  What works, and doesn’t work, for you?

 

Electives, seminars and classes

by Louise

The Editor’s share their favorite electives

This topic is right up the Totebag alley. What is the most fun elective you took in school/college ? What are some interesting seminars or classes you attended where you learnt something outside your field ?

I had limited opportunity to take non core classes at school/college but the few classes that I was able to take taught me things which I still remember and I had fun taking them.

What electives have your kids chosen ? Anything interesting?

Selective Public High Schools

by Honolulu Mother

This Atlantic article discussed a recent study finding that students in selective public high schools didn’t end up with greater academic benefits than similar students at other schools:

The researchers divided schools into four groups: selective, top-tier, middle-tier, and bottom-tier. The first group consisted of schools that admit students based largely on test scores. The latter three groups were ranked by their students’ ACT scores and high-school graduation rates.

The study compared students against peers who attended different-tier schools but were otherwise similar based on traits including past test scores, degree of parental involvement, and home neighborhood. This approach isn’t perfect, but it allows researchers to estimate the impact of schools while holding student characteristics constant.

When simply making raw comparisons between students at selective-enrollment versus other city schools, the differences appear stark: Students at selective schools scored more than seven points higher on the ACT, which has a maximum score of 36. Yet when researchers controlled for a variety of factors to isolate the effect of attending a selective school, the disparities all but vanished. Attending a selective-enrollment school led to only a statistically insignificant bump in the ACT of half a point. The selective schools also seemed to have little or no effect on the likelihood of taking Advanced Placement classes, graduating from high school, or enrolling and staying in college.

The article notes a couple of caveats, though: the comparisons of individual students across schools were not typically across the whole spectrum of schools, but rather from selective to top-tier, or middle-tier to bottom-tier; and the study did find some non-academic benefits as to attendance and suspension rates, peer behavior, perceived safety, and their trust level in teachers.

We don’t have selective public high schools here, so I don’t know to what extent they’re comparable to the selective private schools that we do have (which were not part of the study). Those of you with experience with selective public high schools, do these conclusions ring true to you? And what do you think of selective public high schools in general — are we missing out on a good thing here? Does it require an urban area over a certain population size for the concept to work?

Grandparenting styles

by Grace aka costofcollege

The Hands-Off Grandma

… my mom is what you might call a “hands-off” Grandma—or Bubbe, as she is affectionately referred to. She loves her grandkids. She enjoys spending time with them, in small doses. She cares about their well-being and what is happening in their lives. But she is not interested in participating in the grunt work of raising them: the tasks that include bodily fluids and flailing limbs, tears and stall tactics and four outfit changes in as many minutes. In so far as it is possible to engineer, my mother, at 70, is looking to experience the good bits associated with young children, the fun bits, and not the slog.

For her, this is the line between what it is to be a grandparent and what it is to be a parent. This is the privilege you earn with the prefix “Grand.” “I’ve done my time,” she says, and she certainly has. She is the mother of three children, across eight years and two marriages. She did everything for us as we grew up—playdates, parties, projects—everything. She watches some of her friends “grandparent” in a way she finds unappealing, women, she says, who are attempting motherhood all over again. “I have my own life,” she reminds me, with perfect kindness and accuracy. “I don’t need to re-live having children through yours.”

What type of grandparents did you have and what type of grandparents are your own parents?  What would you prefer, hands off, hands on, or something in between?  What type of grandparent are you or will you be?

Happiness

by Honolulu Mother

This long Oatmeal cartoon muses on what happiness means, and suggests that our definition of happiness is too limiting. The author won’t call himself happy. Instead, he says, “I do things that are meaningful to me, even if they don’t make me ‘happy.'”

(The cartoon is way too long to display in the post; you’ll have to follow the link)

If asked, would you describe yourself as happy? Or content? Unhappy? Or do you agree with The Oatmeal that those terms are too limiting to really capture the experience of living?

And if you’d like to be happier, the internet has no shortage of suggestions. E.g.

25 Science-Backed Ways to Feel Happier

Election 2016, November 6-12

After this Tuesday we should know who will be our next president.  Even after all this time, I’m not sure if I’m ready.

Any comments on the Electoral College?

How Does The Electoral College Work And Is It Fair?

This article lifted my spirits a bit.

History Repeats as Farce, Then as 2016
‘We’ve been divided in much, much worse fashion before, like 1861 when we were actually killing each other.’

Open thread

by Grace aka costofcollege

We have an open thread today, but first a question.  Do you feel a need to bust out of your rut?

101 Rut-Busting Things to Do This Weekend
Tired of same-old Saturdays and dismal Sundays? From real-estate adventures to pet-related impetuousness, this list of suggestions will shake up your downtime. Bonus: Try the Random Idea Generator

Okay, most are outlandish and silly, but some got me thinking.  Coding, open houses, blindfolds . . .

Anything on the list catch your fancy?  Or do you have something else you’ve been thinking about doing to shake up your life a little?  Or maybe some of you are too busy juggling the basic functions of family life to even think about anything else now.

U.S. healthcare

by MooshiMooshi

Along with all of today’s articles on the issues with increasing plan costs under Obamacare, came this article.

Why the U.S. Still Trails Many Wealthy Nations in Access to Care

Despite our stereotype that other countries with more socialized forms of medicine are morasses of long waiting periods and lack of access, it turns out that we are worse on those measures than many other countries. And we pay more to boot.

While Obamacare may not be the most perfect system out there (my own opinion is that if they put real teeth into the penalties, they would fix the rising plan costs in a hurry, but I digress), it is clear that our healthcare system is a mess and it was a mess before Obamacare, and that we need to be moving towards the models used in other industrialized countries (which doesn’t have to be single payer, by the way).

I have one pet theory: I think Americans value healthcare less, at least while they are healthy. Perhaps that is why healthy Germans, Swiss, and Canadians will pay more taxes or pay for their mandated plans, while healthy Americans simply won’t. That of course is what leads to the dreaded death spiral – if healthy people don’t participate in the system, only sick people are left, driving up costs. It seems like other industrialized nations have figured out how to get everyone into the system, but we haven’t.

Opinions?

Why do Americans Move More Often than Europeans?

by Honolulu Mother

This Atlantic article notes that Americans move more often than Europeans do, and wonders why:

Decades of data, including a more recent Gallup study, characterizes the United States as one of the most geographically mobile countries in the world. “About one in four U.S. adults (24 percent) reported moving within the country in the past five years,” the report noted. With the comparable exceptions of Finland (23 percent) and Norway (22 percent), Americans also move considerably more than their European peers.

According to the article, the main reason people move is for work, but the large size of the country and having a common language throughout doesn’t hurt. However, we’re moving less frequently than we used to:

During the 1980s, 3 percent of working-age Americans relocated to a different state each year; that figure had been cut in half by 2010. “While part of the decline can be attributed to the Great Recession,” the authors suggest, “the bulk of this phenomenon took place over the course of several decades and is unlikely to be related to the business cycle.”

So why are more people staying put? A round-up of theories by Brad Plumer at The Washington Post included the aging of the U.S. workforce (older workers are less apt to move), the further rise of two-income households (logistics are tougher when there are two earners), the burdens of real estate (read: underwater mortgages and high rents), evolving workplace culture (telecommuting is more acceptable than ever), as well as the flatlining of wages, which makes moving away for a job, on average, a less rewarding financial proposition.

Most of my moving was done before I began my career — I’ve only moved once, within the city, since then — and my kids haven’t ever moved house. But we moved around some when I was young, and my college and grad school years, and my summer jobs, had me moving frequently and over long distances.

Have you moved often, as a child or as an adult? Do you think of geographic mobility as good, bad, or neutral for a society?

Sunday To-Dos

by Lark

As I’m typing this it’s early Sunday afternoon, and I’m working my way through my usual Sunday to-do list. We try to have a fair amount of downtime on Sundays, but I also try to spend at least a couple hours getting ready for the week. Here are the things I routinely do on Sunday to make the rest of the week easier:

1) Finish up the kid laundry. Adult and household laundry gets done throughout the week, but I try to make sure all kid laundry is done by Sunday afternoon, so they can put it away before bed. Because they wear uniforms, I’ve learned the hard way to start the week with a full supply.

2) Clean out the fridge. After breakfast on Sunday, I do a big clean out of the fridge, getting rid of all the bits and pieces from the previous week, and adding to the grocery list for things we’re running low on.

3) Meal plan and grocery shop. These days I sketch out a meal plan on Sunday morning, and it goes Sunday through Friday. Then I do a big grocery run. As soon as I get home, I season and prep any meat that will be used over the next few days, and have it ready to go in the fridge.

4) Prep smoothie bags. Our kids love smoothies in the mornings, so I make a week’s worth of pint sized ziplock freezer bags containing sliced bananas, strawberries, blueberries, and spinach. Those go in the freezer, and all I have to in the morning is grab a bag, dump it in the blender, and add yogurt and almond milk.

5) Long run. I try on Sundays to do my longest run of the week. (I use the term ‘long’ loosely – anywhere from 4 to 6 miles). This is the one time each week I run on my own (weekday runs are with a couple of girlfriends), so I use the time to think about the week ahead and generally get my head in the game for the upcoming week. It’s really a nice way to get that ever-elusive thinking time.

6) Work e-mails. Fridays are the one days my kids never have sports (at least for now, this could change for the winter season), so I actually like to work late on Fridays and make sure the week is completely put to bed before checking out. However, if something prevents that, then I do spend about an hour on Sunday cleaning out my inbox, attending to any small tasks, and preparing the Monday morning to do list. Then when I get to my desk on Monday, I’m ready to hit the ground running.

Do you guys have regular things you do on the weekends in preparation for the upcoming week?

Halloween open thread

by Grace aka costofcollege

Here’s the most popular Halloween treat by state

Candy corn was the most popular in five states.  Really?

Influenster halloween candy map

Candy Corn Lovers Will Eat Candy Corn Anything—No Matter What It Tastes Like
Trick or treaters will score candy-corn flavored Oreos, Peeps and M&M’s, but confectioners often have no idea what candy corn should taste like; ‘eating an antique candlestick’

Here’s another description:  “It’s not candy, it’s not corn, it’s earwax formed in the shape of a rotten tooth”

What’s your favorite candy and how is your Halloween celebration coming along?