Monday open thread

We have an open thread all day.

Starter topic:  Were you an indoor or outdoor kid at heart, if there is such a thing?  A mix?

As an indoor kid at heart, it took me a while to warm up to being outside all day every summer. I could easily fill an entire day reading library books, creating new outfits for my Barbie out of candy wrappers, or practicing crochet chains with the giant ball of yarn my grandma gave me. Inside was full of wonder, mystery, and the life of the mind. Outside was a hellscape of insects, rusty nails, and scraped knees.  —  Adapted from Danielle Henderson’s The Ugly Cry: A Memoir.

Are you going back to the movies?

by Houston

DH and I will likely not go to see a movie at a theater this summer. We are usually big summer movie goers but just don’t feel like it right now. Perhaps we’ve gotten used to watching movies at home?

Have you see any movies this summer? Did you watch them at home or in a movie theater? Feel free to recommend any movies you enjoyed.

Advice Column Friday

by Finn

Dear Amy: One of our sons and his wife are consistently late for every get together, most of which are held at our home.
They are parents to our 2-year-old grandson.
They can be between two and four hours late — it seems they just pop over when they feel like it.
We usually set a time for what they have said works best for them!
This past Father’s Day, everyone came over at 1 p.m.
I did all of the cooking (as usual), and they showed up at 5 p.m.!
Our other four married children are also parents. Due to the lateness, the rest of the family is not getting to spend any time with this one grandchild/cousin because they are ready to go home by the time the latecomers arrive.
This has become a big issue.
We have stopped waiting for them to eat and decline their offers to bring a dish or dessert because it’s not here when we need it!
As a parent I’m torn. I’m not comfortable saying anything to my son or DIL, and I don’t think my other kids want to, either.
Do you have any suggestions on what we can do to try to get them to see that this is rude and inconsiderate?
— Upset Mother

Upset Mother: If you and other family members are too afraid of your rude and inconsiderate son to point out the obvious, then I can’t help you.
If the words “rude” or “inconsiderate” are too daunting for you, you could say, “I am completely thrown off when you are always so late, and it is starting to affect your relationship with me and other family members.”

Upscale mobile home living

by Kim

Sometimes mobile homes would not be considered ‘affordable housing’, as I learned from this NYT article.

Betsey Johnson lives in a “gated trailer park” where homes sell for up to $1 million or more.  Here’s a tour of her home.

Johnson’s path to acquiring her Point Dume home started in 2016, when she moved from the East Coast with her daughter, Lulu Johnson, and two granddaughters. After a stint in a trailer, which she also painted pink, in nearby Paradise Cove, the designer bought and began renovating a 3,000-square-foot house in the same area with 360-degree views of the mountains and sea. As soon as the papers were signed, however, and especially when Covid-19 hit shortly after, Johnson developed misgivings about its size. “I thought, ‘What the hell am I doing?!’” she says. As it happened, Lulu had recently found a listing for a trailer in Point Dume — a three-bedroom, one-story colonial-style one with white interiors and exteriors — and Johnson leapt at the opportunity, selling off the house. At 2,300 square feet, the trailer is undoubtedly more modest, but Johnson also appreciates its setting. “I love the idea that, with a trailer park, you’re in a kind of community,” she says. “At my age, if I fall down in the middle of the street, I want someone to go, ‘Hey! What’s that girl doing in the middle of the street?’”…

Suddenly mobile home living looks more appealing as a retirement option, although I would opt for a simpler decorating style.

What do you think?  Have you seen these types of upscale mobile home parks?  What’s your general impression or experience with mobile homes?

If you want to see what’s currently on the market, check out the Point Dume Club.

Friday open thread

We have an open thread all day.

Starter topic:

Do Farmhouse Sinks Make Sense Without a Real Farmhouse? (WSJ)
The bulging vessels appear in Hamptons beach houses and San Francisco townhouses. Some say they’re charming and chic. Others think they’re silly and overused. Here, design pros fight it out.

If I bought a house with double sinks, the first thing I’d do is replace them with a large single sink, farmhouse style or not.

Thursday open thread

We have an open thread all day.

Starter topic from Finn:

Totebag Acronyms

What acronyms do we commonly use here?

What are some commonly used totebag acronyms that you had to ask about or figure out?

What acronyms do your find can be confusing? One example: SIL can be Sister in Law or Son in Law, and sometimes there’s not enough context to figure out which, or that context doesn’t come until later.

Career choices

by Kim

Let’s discuss career choices:  the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Examples from the thread:
Traps:  3D (CG) artist, veterinarian, film/tv, architect
Lucrative:  janitor, funeral director, carpenter


When a Bot is Your Boss

by Lemon Tree

I didn’t even realize Amazon had another level of employees – gig workers. I’m naïve to the gig industry, but I’d guess that Bots determine Uber, Grubhub, Instacart, etc. employment status as well. I’d be curious is this type of managing will be expanding into entry level jobs. I’m picturing fast food, where there is a restaurant manager, but a Bot is telling the manager to fire employee ID 240743 because they are not fast enough on the register or scooping out fries. Well, maybe not in the near future, since fast food places are desperate for employees, but eventually.

Amazon is reportedly using algorithms to fire Flex delivery drivers

Advice Column Friday

by Louise

With vacations in mind…

AITA for inviting my (29M) Girlfriend (28F) on an expensive vacation and expecting her to pay all of her share? (I make a lot more than her)
Hello. My girlfriend, myself, my parents, and my brother and his wife all went on vacation in another country a week ago. My brother and I were the ones who did most of the planning of the itinerary although we did ask everyone else for input. For background, I make around $150,000k as an IT consultant, my girlfriend is a teacher making $45,000k. My parents are pretty affluent as well as my brother and sister in law.

My girlfriend knew this trip was coming up and took on a second job waitressing on the weekends for several months to get ready for it. We have always split things 50/50 in the 2 years we have been together. There were a few times on the vacation when she did not go on outings with us- wine tasting/scuba diving/etc. She also would only eat 2 meals a day, simply stating that she was on a budget. My family does favor more high-end (*expensive*) places. My parents thought it was very strange that she only eats 2 meals a day although normally she eats 3.

When we got home I asked her why she skipped out on several of the outings and only ate 2 meals a day- I mentioned how I heard her stomach growling one night and said I was concerned about her having an eating disorder. She got teary eyed and said that 3 meals a day wasn’t fiscally feasible for her and neither were the outings that she chose not to go on (she went on 3 of 6 outings). She said she was not expecting everything to cost so much and she was overwhelmed.

She also said she doesn’t know if this is going to work long term if she is expected to go on vacations like that with people who make so much more than her. I feel bad that I did not pick up on her discomfort sooner. But we did agree to split everything 50/50 and I don’t know why she agreed to come if the cost was an issue.

Politics open thread, July 4-10

It can be patriotic to discuss politics.

From Rocky Mountain Stepmom:

There’s a longish essay (which I think is not paywalled, but let me know) about how men, and Black and hispanic men in particular, dropped out of college at alarming rates during the pandemic. The essay gives a number of reasons why, e.g., teaching welding via Zoom doesn’t really work.

Between the loss of male students of color from the colleges and community colleges, combined with the loss of women from the workforce because you can’t work and homeschool kids at the same time, I await with interest to see the rise of conspiracy theories that the pandemic response was actively designed to keep women and minorities down.

I don’t think it was an active conspiracy, but I do think the response had that effect.

The Missing Men
The gender gap among college students only worsened during the pandemic. Is it a problem colleges are willing to tackle?

Getting back into the swing of travel planning

by Lark

I’m in the process of booking a few trips to for college touring, and having to shake off the cobwebs. First I had to remind myself what travel benefits our credit cards have, and which is the better to use right now for booking flights and hotels. These are details I could have recited to you 2 years ago, and yet I couldn’t remember a thing. (Note: I compared flight prices both directly on Delta and booking through American Express, and American Express was $300 cheaper for one of our trips.)

Then I logged on to my Marriott and Hilton accounts to be sure my status was still active and see what points we have (turns out for Marriott there was a snafu with a downgrade in status, but I called and theoretically it will be fixed). Next is the fun part of deciding which hotels to book (many thanks to this crowd for the excellent Boston suggestions).

I feel a bit of giddy anticipation at the idea of traveling again. DH gave me a new carry-on suitcase for Christmas 2019 that hasn’t even seen the light of day yet.

I know some of us have dipped toes in the travel waters – how’s it going? Any trips being planned for winter breaks?

Post-Covid Return to Work

by Swim

Many large companies who sent employees home to continue their work are now starting to bring those employees back to the office or have tentative plans to do so in September when children return to school. Will your working situation change? Do you prefer WFH or in-office? Career implications for those at home v in-office? Hiring implications? Experienced v. new employees?

Politics open thread, June 20-26

You can discuss politics here.

From Cassandra:

Supply chain glitches….There is no Roundup available in California. Their is a shortage of plastic caps for milk jugs and other plastic bottles. Last week there were no chicken thighs at Costco.

Have you been dealing with shortages of pre-Covid readily available items? Do you think this will contribute to inflation? Do you think this is a short or long term problem?

Advice Column Friday

by Kim

I am a young professional starting my first major job at a large company. I was fortunate, in my early 20s, to invest in nice designer pieces. Most of the clothing is inconspicuous, but the shoes, and especially the purses, are obviously designer goods. I don’t want to send the wrong message to my colleagues or bosses, especially as someone low in the pecking order. But I already have this nice stuff that I’d like to get use out of. Plus, I’d have to spend even more money to buy items I really don’t need if I can’t wear the ones I already have. What should I do? — Elizabeth, Chicago

This could also relate to watches, autos, and leisurely pursuits like travel.

Related:  When should I wear a tie to an interview or to work?

Will Ties Ever Be Relevant Again?
Neckwear was on the decline long before WFH Zoom shirts made menswear even more casual. We explore whether the accessory can regain its relevance in post-lockdown life.


by Rhett

What do you all think?

WASHINGTON — American intelligence officials have found no evidence that aerial phenomena witnessed by Navy pilots in recent years are alien spacecraft, but they still cannot explain the unusual movements that have mystified scientists and the military, according to senior administration officials briefed on the findings of a highly anticipated government report.


Good Intentions, Undesired Consequences

by Lemon Tree

Recently a suburb of Minneapolis/St. Paul decided to remove waste receptacles in 11 of their 60 parks. Doing so brought them into compliance with a county ordinance that was amended in 2019. That county ordinance, which reflects a 1989 state law, requires that there be a recycling bin with every trash bin. It should be noted that the law and ordinance were not being enforced, so cities were being fined or penalized.

In order to comply with the law, the city estimates they’d have to spend over $250,000 on 240 recycling bins, another garbage truck, and an employee to operate. The county provided some funds to cover some of the recycling bins at other parks, but the city decided the rest would be “Pack In, Pack Out”. The parks that still have waste receptacles now have fewer of them.

As you can imagine, this has led to an outrage by park users and neighbors of these parks, as well as an increase in litter, especially dog waste bags.

The county and state thought these ordinances and laws were helping the environment. The City thought they were helping the environment and saving taxpayer dollars. What started as good intentions has led to an increase in litter, angry citizens, and micro aggressions against government.

What good deeds have you done or witnessed that resulted in a less than desirable outcome?

What problem is THAT supposed to solve?

by Cassandra

My new car has a key fob instead of a key. In the two months, at least three people have walked off with the fob. At one point, I drove about half a mile before realizing that the fob wasn’t in the car. I’m not impressed with this bit of technology.

What other new and improved stuff have you come across that seems to be a nifty invention looking for a problem? Can you enlighten me on the benefit of the key fob? Aside from holding off dementia?

Post-Covid Petty Complaints

by Houston

I enjoyed complaining about hosting both sets of grandparents for DS1’s college graduation. Nobody told me their plans ahead of time and our house can’t fit everyone comfortably. It’s nice to get back to normal petty complaints.

Feel free to share your post-Covid petty complaints. Is seeing real people requiring you to shave your legs more? Have you gained a few pounds? Do you hate your clothes? Did you secretly like having an excuse not to socialize?


by Becky

Totebaggers seem to like data, so are you familiar with USA Facts? It is a site compiled by Steve Ballmer, formerly of Microsoft, where he shares all sorts of government data in a digestible format for those of us who like random pieces of information you might not otherwise come across. I get his newsletter and although I don’t always read it, when I do I usually find it worthwhile.

Here he has published what he is calling the 2021 US Government 10-K. See if anything surprises you.

Welcome to the 2021 Government 10-K

Advice Column Friday

by Finn

Amy Dickinson at WaPo gave what I think is bad advice to a soon to be college student, then doubled down shortly afterwards.

Do you agree with Amy? What advice would you give?

Dear Amy: I am headed to college this fall, and soon I’ll be choosing which classes to take.
I was wondering if you could give me any advice on how to choose my classes.
I want to pick classes that I like, but I have also heard it is not bad to step out of your comfort zone and try something different.
I want to mostly take engineering classes, but I’m also interested in marine biology.
What is your best advice on picking other classes at college?
Should I stick to only classes that interest me or ones that may seem different in order to try new things?


Conflicted: Many colleges require that all students take a freshman seminar, where they all study the same curriculum. This offers you an opportunity to better gauge what you want your college experience to be like.
If you ultimately decide to major in either engineering or marine biology (or both!), these fields are rigorous and will require a lot of dedicated course work.
My advice is to start out broad, and then narrow your focus as you go. Take a drama class, join an intramural team, robotics club, and/or service organization.
Yes, college is the perfect place to leave your comfort zone, and I hope you will.

Dear Amy: “Conflicted” recently wrote seeking guidance on how to pick college courses, was interested in both engineering and marine biology, and was curious about sticking to courses that were interesting or others that were out of the comfort zone.
I’ve been involved in college and higher education for over 30 years as a professor and researcher.
I agree with the “start broad” advice you gave, but I also emphasize the need to follow your heart and passion — regardless of where it takes you.
In all fields, you will face challenges and have opportunities that will stretch you intellectually and emotionally, and having a deep caring for the subject will be what sustains and energizes you not only through college — but beyond.
Rick Murray, deputy director and vice president for science and engineering, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

Rick Murray: Thank you for offering your wise insight.

Thursday open thread

We have an open thread all day.

Starter topic:  What specific symbols of class status, high or low, do you find reliable?   What about “expensive sports, hobbies, foreign languages, interest in art, etc.’?

4/28/21  Open thread



Money diaries

by LfB

Saw this in the NYT:

I don’t want to create another “my God, how could these people be so stupid” rant session, which is what stories of people struggling always seem to turn into. But I found the different priorities and gaps between the various families fascinating. There are of course bad choices (e.g., the family that seems to be struggling the most also seems to spend the most on food), but the differences also seem to illustrate gaps in our safety net (e.g., the woman who probably shouldn’t be driving based on her accident record spending $1100 on car insurance because there’s no good public transport where she lives [my observation, not hers, btw]; the guy in a wheelchair who has to spend $1500/mo. for a high-deductible health insurance policy).

Politics open thread, May 30 — June 5

Time to talk politics.

From Rhett:

The United States is spending exorbitant amounts of national treasure providing a military presence that helps guarantee the free flow of oil that benefits China. While we are at present a net exporter of petroleum, Beijing is dependent on the continued free flow of Middle Eastern oil for its survival—yet China spends virtually nothing to guarantee that flow while American taxpayers are left, every year, holding the bag. That needs to change.

Beyond basic financial literacy

by Anonymous

By Nature or through Nurture, TB kids have the basics of saving and budgeting. Roth IRAs and / or doing their own taxes are also common here.

What about the next level? How do they learn to decide funds distribution, where to put short-term vs long-term savings, the kinds of things Lark asked and the market mechanisms Lauren’s daughter absorbed through her parents?

Where did you learn these things and, those of you whose kids are past college, how have you guided them in learning them?

Let them eat no Cake !

by Louise

During the pandemic, I had more time, so I started baking. It was nice to have home made treats. It’s not like I was baking every day but definitely more often.
When my parents arrived, they were grateful for the treats. However, now they are back to stricter diets for health reasons.
I discovered the Red Truck Bakery at Goldbelly so any big gaps in my baking are supplemented by a cake delivery. However, DH and myself are also watching our sweet intake so any cake whether bought or baked stretches on.
My kids discovered Door Dash. It’s more a treat than a regular occurrence. We try to eat home cooking.
What changes have you made during the pandemic, have your food habits taken a turn for the better or worse ?

Are Americans having fewer kids than they want?

by Finn

I found this column interesting, but a couple paragraphs in particular got me thinking:

“When asked about the “ideal number of children for a family to have,” Americans’ answers have shrunk over the years, from an average response of 3.6 kids in the 1950s, down to 2.7 when Gallup polled most recently in 2018. Even so, 2.7 remains much higher than the number of children Americans are actually having.

“The most recent CDC data on the total fertility rate — how many babies a woman could be expected to have over her lifetime, if age-specific fertility rates stayed constant over time — suggest that the average woman will have just 1.6 children. These and other metrics suggest Americans are having fewer kids than they want.”

Did you have fewer kids than you wanted? If so, why?

I’m wondering why there’s the difference, and how real it is. Could a significant factor be the stereotypical difference of wives wanting kids and husbands not wanting kids?

Is there perhaps a flaw in the comparison in that most couples have exactly as many kids as they, as couples, decide they want, but the cited poll is of individuals rather than parenting couples?

Advice Column Friday

by Finn

In the weddings in which you’ve been a member of the party, who paid for the bridesmaid dresses?

One of the things I’ve learned here is how customs and traditions have regional variation, and I wonder if this is one of those situations.

I’ve also noticed that Miss Manners does not seem to be aware of or acknowledge customs and traditions different than hers.

We paid for the dresses of our bridesmaids. DW was a bridesmaid in a few weddings, and the brides paid for her dresses for those. BTW, I also paid for tux rental for my groomsmen.

OTOH, IIRC in the movie 27 dresses, Katherine Heigl’s character paid for her own bridesmaid dresses, which at the time I just assumed reflected different wedding customs in her social circles.

Dear Miss Manners: What are the responsibilities of a bridesmaid?
My wedding was several years ago, but one of my bridesmaids recently contacted me because someone told her that a bridesmaid is supposed to pay for her own dress. At the time of my wedding, I thought it felt odd to ask someone to pay for a dress of my choosing, so I didn’t say anything and paid for all the dresses myself. Though at the time, I certainly would have appreciated the financial help.

Since so much time has passed, I simply thanked my bridesmaid and told her not to worry about the cost of the dress. But it got me thinking about all the other “duties” people claim bridesmaids are responsible for: showers, bachelorette parties, helping the bride with planning, decorations and getting dressed on the big day.

It seems that some of this must be part of the trend of weddings getting out of hand in general. And yet, my own bridesmaids did little more than walk down the aisle and stand there, and I confess I did feel a little neglected at the time. What can a bride reasonably ask of her attendants?

To show up at the wedding clothed and sober. At least enough to give the toast.
However, Miss Manners will add to the bride’s responsibilities: not to find ways to harbor newfound resentment years after the fact. While you were not required to pay for the dresses, it was generous. The honor of paying for a dress that will be worn only once is not, in fact, a treat and should be acknowledged, even if not monetarily. Allowing the bridesmaids some choice in the matter would be magnanimous and appreciated.

The long list of things that have become commonplace for the wedding party to pay for includes, but is not limited to: multiple bridal (and sometimes baby) showers with accompanying presents, bachelor and bachelorette parties in far-off tropical places, elaborate and expensive clothing for all such occasions, flights, hotels and who knows what else. (Although the pandemic has led to charmingly modest weddings, inflated registries seem to have sprung up as compensation.)

Miss Manners has noticed that because of the exorbitant cost, it has also become commonplace to decline the offer, causing rifts in friendships. You might hold on to the warm feelings that seem to have preserved yours by not indulging in feelings of latent neglect and entitlement now.

Tuesday open thread

We have an open thread today.

For a starter topic, we usually like talking about popular baby names:

2020’s most popular baby names certainly look familiar

Henry joined the top 10 list of boy names at the No. 9 spot for the first time in over a century. According to SSA, the name has been steadily rising in popularity and last appeared on SSA’s top ten list in 1910.

Most Popular Baby Names Today Versus 50 Years Ago

Simon and Schuster

by Fred

WSJ April 26, 2021
Simon & Schuster Employees Submit Petition Demanding No Deals With Trump Administration Authors

An employee petition at Simon & Schuster demanding that the company stop publishing authors associated with the Trump administration collected 216 internal signatures and several thousand outside supporters, including well-known Black writers.

The employees submitted the petition Monday to senior executives at the publishing house, according to the company and a person involved in the employee effort. The petition demands that the company refrain from publishing a memoir by former Vice President Mike Pence. The letter asks Simon & Schuster not to treat “the Trump administration as a ‘normal’ chapter in American history.”

Simon & Schuster Chief Executive Jonathan Karp sent an internal letter last week rejecting the employee demands, when the company was aware the petition was circulating. It has now been formally submitted. A spokesman for Simon & Schuster on Monday declined to comment. The petition and letter were sent to Mr. Karp and Dana Canedy, publisher of Simon & Schuster’s flagship imprint.

The 216 employees who signed the petition represent about 14% of Simon & Schuster’s workforce. Among the more than 3,500 outside supporters, according to a letter accompanying the petition, were writers of color including Jesmyn Ward, a two-time winner of the National Book Award for fiction. A representative for Ms. Ward confirmed that she signed the petition.

The petition accused Mr. Pence of advocating for policies that were racist, sexist and discriminatory toward LGBT people, among other criticisms of his tenure as a public official. The petition also calls on Simon & Schuster to cut off a distribution relationship with Post Hill Press, a publisher of conservative books as well as business and pop culture titles. A spokesman for Mr. Pence declined to comment. Post Hill Press publisher Anthony Ziccardi said, “We’re proud of our publishing program, that’s what we’re focused on.”

In rejecting the group’s demands, Mr. Karp last week said in his internal letter that Simon & Schuster’s core mission includes publishing “a diversity of voices and perspectives.”

The letter from Simon & Schuster employees on Monday said, “When S&S chose to sign Mike Pence, we broke the public’s trust in our editorial process, and blatantly contradicted previous public claims in support of Black and other lives made vulnerable by structural oppression.”

Bertelsmann SE has agreed to acquire Simon & Schuster from ViacomCBS Inc. for almost $2.18 billion. The deal is expected to close later this year, pending regulatory approval.

I’m with Simon and Schuster on this. They have a business to run. And, honestly, what are the 216 employees going to do if their petition gets ignored? Are they all going to walk?

Subscription Fatigue?

by Houston

We subscribe to Netflix, HBO, Hulu, Amazon Prime, Disney + and Paramount. It feels like too much sometimes, but it is unlikely that we will cut any of these entertainment options out in the next 12 months. Kids subscribe to Spotify. I have friends who subscribe to Audible and monthly boxes such as Fab Fit Fun.

What subscriptions do you have? Meal kits? Patreon? Substack? Online yoga? Is it too much, too little, or just enough?

How subscriptions took over our lives
On platforms like Substack and Patreon, subscriptions can be emotional purchases. But others, like Amazon Prime, feel more like utilities.

Holistic admissions

by MooshiMooshi

This article, which appeared in the Chronicle of Higher Ed, expresses exactly my thoughts on holistic admissions, and says it far better than I could. Holistic admissions, which stresses “opening one’s soul up” and “authenticity”, is not just unfair to kids who don’t come from privilged backgrounds, but it is a process that is intrusive, and painful for many kids who don’t particularly want to bare their souls to admissions committees at various universities but who are afraid if they don’t, they will seem too superficial. I know because my younger son, who has a lot of baggage in his life, really struggled wth the feeling that he had to reveal too much of himself on the applications. And at the same time, he was afraid that “faking it” would look too fake. It will be a problem for my daughter too, if she applies to schools with holistic admissions, because she does not like to reveal ANYTHING about herself. My oldest had less trouble because he was applying to the kinds of schools that were interested in test scores and AP science courses. He just wrote about his research project and teaching programming at a tech camp for his essay and that was fine. Although he did feel he had to throw in a bit about teaching non-neurotypical and nonbinary kids so he could get something social-justice-y in.

The author proposes something that I have heard proposed on this site: Uber-selective schools should just use a lottery – and I agree. Any ideas for doing things differently?

The Abiding Scandal of College Admissions

The article link is at

Friday Advice Column

by Lemon Tree

Is It OK to Use Money Raised for a Child’s Cancer Care on a Car?

My grandchild is being treated for leukemia. A friend of the child’s parents set up a GoFundMe page for them. They’re both well loved and have siblings who know a ton of people. So the goal was surpassed in three hours, and donations totaled more than double that amount. They plan to donate anything over and above direct hospital-related expenses to leukemia research organizations.

This couple have some needs that aren’t strictly related to the child’s care, like a new car. Am I rationalizing by saying they need to drive the child to the hospital and should use some of this money for a dependable car? Is there a strict line you would not cross? And is it germane that they’re not extravagant and extremely honest? Name Withheld

Parents today

by Rocky Mountain Stepmom

From the Atlantic:

Parents Are Sacrificing Their Social Lives on the Altar of Intensive Parenting

Inequality has seemingly caused many American parents to jettison friendships and activities in order to invest more resources in their kids.

The article goes on to talk about the things that we old people have described — kids who ran out to play in the mornings and didn’t come home til lunch time, Moms who went to play mah jongg or take tap dancing lessons (okay, that one was my mom), Dads who belonged to clubs and played golf. The author argues that

“The financial and emotional burden on families has grown in ways that were almost unimaginable just a half-century ago,” writes the University of Pennsylvania sociologist Frank Furstenberg. Parents’ anxiety about financial security and the world that awaits their kids pushed American households into a frenzy of work and parenting, seemingly causing many to jettison friendships and activities in order to create more time to supervise and advance their kids.

Overnight millionaire

by lauren

The anonymous millionaire author of this article shares some interesting insights, but I don’t agree with some of the author’s feelings about how the money was earned. Also, I am happy to introduce the author to an excellent financial advisor as the author didn’t seem to put much effort into finding an experienced advisor.

What do you think you would do with this type of windfall and how would you feel about it?

Confessions of an Overnight Millionaire “I constantly ask myself, Do I deserve this money?

Liars and cheaters

by Kim

How college students learned new ways to cheat during pandemic remote schooling

  • Students say that working remotely makes it easier to use phones and notes during exams, and cite constraints in online learning as reasons to explain their behavior.
  • A study from Imperial College London found a near-200% increase in questions and answers posted to Chegg’s homework help section between April and August 2020.
  • Experts say the empirical data on Covid cheating is slim, but many students are doing it because during the pandemic remote learning shift they think no one is watching.

It can be easy to justify cheating under our current particularly stressful conditions, especially when you know the majority of your classmates are cheating.  One parent of teens who is well-connected in her community said that many high school students wanted to stay with remote learning because it was easier to cheat.  What are your thoughts?  Has cheating significantly increased over the last year?

West Point is taking action.

West Point to End Policy of Leniency for Cadets After Covid-19 Pandemic Cheating Scandal
Dozens at academy were punished in worst honor code breach in at least four decades but avoided expulsion

The policy, known as the “willful admission process,” can protect a cadet who admits to wrongdoing from being thrown out. It was put in place in 2015 to increase self-reporting without fear of removal and to encourage cadets to confront peers about honor violations without having them kicked out of school.

The policy, however, didn’t achieve the desired intent, said Lt. Gen. Darryl A. Williams, superintendent of the academy, in an interview. “It’s clear to me, it has to go.”

What about cheating on business taxes?

The withholding system remains the cornerstone of income taxation, effectively preventing Americans from lying about wage income. Employers submit an annual W-2 report on the wages paid to each worker, making it hard to fudge the numbers.

But the burden of taxation is increasingly warped because the government has no comparable system for verifying income from businesses. The result is that most wage earners pay their fair share while many business owners engage in blatant fraud at public expense.

In a remarkable 2019 analysis, the Internal Revenue Service estimated that Americans report on their taxes less than half of all income that is not subject to some form of third-party verification like a W-2. Billions of dollars in business profits, rent and royalties are hidden from the government each year. By contrast, more than 95 percent of wage income is reported.

Unreported income is the single largest reason that unpaid federal income taxes may amount to more than $600 billion this year, and more than $7.5 trillion over the next decade. It is a truly staggering sum — more than half of the projected federal deficit over the same period.

Teaching financial literacy

by Houston

DS2 is going to college in the fall, so we’ve had several conversations with him about managing money, budgeting, investing, etc. I mentioned in a prior post that I helped him set up his own Vanguard account.

How are you teaching your children to be financially literate?

The 1% threshold

by Finn

RMS recently posted a link to the Knight-Frank Wealth Report.

As I skimmed through it, one datum in one graph jumped out at me. The graph shows the net wealth thresholds, by country, to join the top 1%. The datum is the US threshold of US$4.4M.

What’s your initial reaction to that datum?

It grabbed my attention because my initial reaction was that it seemed low.

The accompanying article does not mention what’s included in net wealth, but very early in the report, thresholds for Ultra-high-net-worth individual (UHNWI) at US$30M including primary residence, and High-net-worth individual (HNWI) at US$1M, including primary residence, are defined.

I’m assuming they’re being consistent, and the $4.4M threshold includes primary residence, which buttressed my initial reaction.

In discussions here, one definition of ‘rich’ that had received a lot of support was having enough wealth to comfortably support an UMC lifestyle without a job.

Is $4.4M enough wealth to make you feel comfortable quitting your job?

Keeping in mind the $4.4M includes primary residence, that only would leave somewhere around $3M to invest after subtracting the value of a comfortable residence and some rainy day cash. Investing in bonds with 2% to 3% yields would provide $60k to $90k in income, and if you weren’t working, that would have to cover medical insurance.

The article did compare the 1% thresholds to their UHNWI threshold, which suggests that the 1% threshold is for individuals, not couples or families.

So my second reaction was that $4.4M is an individual threshold, so for a couple it would be somewhere around $8.8M, although the part about including primary residence clouds things a bit since many couples share a primary residence.

With $8.8M between us, I could perhaps see DW and me being able to quit our jobs and still live comfortable UMC lives, once we structured our assets to generate income as well as appreciate. We’d have somewhere approaching $7M to invest to generate income, and even in safe bonds at about 2% that would give us $140k in income, and I’m pretty sure we could live comfortably on that, but that still doesn’t compare favorably to a lot of totebaggers’ earned incomes.

But I’d have thought that people at the 1% level would be wealthy to the point of their wealth generating a lot more income than that, or at least being able to (I suspect many of the 1% have a lot of investments targeted at growth rather than income). Perhaps in my dreams, I’m not aggressive enough with my investing.

Your thoughts?

Thursday open thread

We have an open thread all day.

Small-Town Natives Are Moving Back Home (WSJ)
For many young people, returning to struggling communities means exchanging prosperity for a more rooted life.

… Over the past few years, a growing number of Americans have been moving back to the small towns and rural communities they were once encouraged to leave. Thanks in part to the Covid-19 pandemic, 52% of adults age 18 to 29 lived with their parents in 2020, the largest share since the Great Depression, according to the Pew Research Center. Meanwhile, Census Bureau data indicate that large metro areas have seen declining growth and in some instances population losses since 2010.

Many people move home to help out with family businesses, support aging loved ones or share the joys of small-town life with their kids. I left Fruitland, Idaho, for college on the East Coast in 2009 and now live in northern Virginia. While writing a book about the farm community where I grew up, however, I discovered many people who have chosen to move back home as part of a larger mission. They are fighting rural poverty, restoring broken food economies and bringing health back to neglected soil. Their vision of success has less to do with financial prosperity or personal comfort than with the more demanding values of stewardship, investment and care.

Returning home isn’t just beneficial to environmental renewal or civic health. It’s good for the returners, too. As the philosopher Simone Weil once wrote, “To be rooted is perhaps the most important and least recognized need of the human soul.” We grow roots, she added, through “real, active and natural participation in the life of a community.”

The hardships of 2020 have reminded me how much I miss being close to family and how much I want to invest in the land and community that raised me. The farmer, poet and essayist Wendell Berry got it right: “No matter how much one may love the world as a whole, one can live fully in it only by living responsibly in some small part of it.”

Do you agree with this top comment?

Feel good, statistically insignificant anecdotal reporting.

In any case, would you consider moving back to your hometown, whether it’s a small town or a big city?  If circumstances somehow found you living back where you grew up, what would your life be like?

Allergy season

by Kerri

As a Spring time allergy sufferer, this was welcome news to me. Maybe I’ll get to enjoy this year’s Cherry Blossom festival without being doped up on Zyrtec and coffee. Any other suggestions on how to get through allergy season?