Worst pets

by Honolulu Mother

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

The 25 worst mammals to keep as pets

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

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

Allowance and chores

by Seattle Soccer Mom

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

Here’s what we do:

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

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

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

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

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

Exercise at work

by Honolulu Mother

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

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

YOU SHOULD BE ABLE TO EXERCISE AT WORK WITHOUT FEELING LIKE A  FREAK

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

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

Making new friends as you get older

by Honolulu Mother

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

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

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

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

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

Fired

by Louise

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

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

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

Fifth Third Fired Counsel Over Relationship With Fannie CEO

Caught between two countries

by Rocky Mountain Stepmom

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

A writer with two countries

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

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

What I ate yesterday

by Grace aka costofcollege

The Weird Appeal of ‘What I Ate Today’ Videos

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

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

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

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

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

Expand demand-based pricing?

by Fred MacMurray

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

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

And there are others.

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

Flow = Adult ADHD??

by Honolulu Mother

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

When Adult ADHD Looks Something Like ‘Flow’

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

Summer Reading Fun!

By Seattle Soccer Mom

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And of course “Untethered” by Julie Lawson Timmer.

Open thread

by Grace aka costofcollege

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

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

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

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

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

What’s So Special About Finland?

by WCE

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

What’s So Special About Finland?

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

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

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

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

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

Checklists

by Honolulu Mother

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

THE CHECKLIST

The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right

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

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

Reconnecting with an old love

by Mémé

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

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

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

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

Handyman for a day

by Grace aka costofcollege

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

$279 Handyman for the Day

Are you tempted?

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

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

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

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

What’s your next home project?

Financial education for kids

by Finn

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

5 Financial Concepts To Teach Your Teen Before High School Graduation

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

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

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

When fictional children grow up

by winemama

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

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

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

A link between neurotic unhappiness and creativity

by WCE

Creative and neurotic: Is neuroticism fueled by overthinking?

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

What’s The First News Story You Remember?

by Honolulu Mother

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

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

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

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

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

The 90’s are back!

by wimemama

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

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

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

’90s Trends That Made a Comeback

Get The Look: 90s Style Icons

What 90’s influences do you see around you?

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

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

by Anon for This Topic

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

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

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

The End of the Office Dress Code

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

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

City sidewalks

by Honolulu Mother

What kind of sidewalk walker are you?

There Are 3 Kinds of Sidewalk Walkers

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

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

How much have you saved?

by Finn

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

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

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

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

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

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

The GOP’s future?

by Rhode

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

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

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

Is a Trump Presidency as dire as the HuffPost believes?

Adult summer camp

by Grace aka costofcollege

Seattle adult summer camp provides escape from stress

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

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

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

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

Is it crazy to believe in the devil?

by WCE

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

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

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

Big Data keeps tabs on college students

by Rocky Mountain Stepmom

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

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

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

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

Eat your veggies!

by Honolulu Mother

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

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

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

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

Credit cards

by Finn

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

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

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

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

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

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

The new middle

by Rhode

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

Our favorite topic – what is the middle class…

Do you agree with the numbers?

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

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

The unbearable hellishness of customer support

by MooshiMooshi

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

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

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

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

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

 

University of Adjuncts

by Honolulu Mother

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

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

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

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

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

Vacation splurges

by Denver Dad

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

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

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)

by winemama

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

TPP: What is it and why does it matter?

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

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

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

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


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

Election 2016, July 10-16

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

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

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

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

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

Smug style?

by Rocky Mountain Stepmom

The smug style in American liberalism

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

Charter Schools, Traditional Public Schools, and $$

by Honolulu Mother

Charter and Traditional Public Schools Fight Over Money

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

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

I’m sure you all have thoughts on this.

The Administrative Burden of Getting Healthcare

by Honolulu Mother

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

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

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

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

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

Election 2016, July 4-10

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

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

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

Carry on.

What is a Totebagger?

by Grace aka costofcollege

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

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

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

Terrorism is not hate

by WCE

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

TERRORISM IS NOT HATE

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

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

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

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

Brexit

Two Totebaggers have Brexit on their minds.

by Finn

Now that the voters in the UK have spoken on Brexit, how does it affect you?

Some of us have jobs with companies that are based in Europe. Anyone whose jobs are in the financial sector probably will be affected more than most others.

Did anyone make any financial moves, or does anyone plan to make any financial moves, based on Brexit? Anyone see the resulting dip in the stock market as a buying opportunity?

 

by WCE

My attention to politics is limited but the Brexit vote has caught it. This article draws attention to what economists have long identified as the primary hurdle to a strong social safety net, global immigration.

Why Britain Left
The June 23 vote represents a huge popular rebellion against a future in which British people feel increasingly crowded within—and even crowded out of—their own country.

Stock market shenanigans?

by MBT

I read the book Flash Boys and found myself so appalled at how sketchy and underhanded the market is, and how little I know of how it works, that a handful of other people in my life got the book because I kept talking about it. The SEC has approved a new stock exchange run by the men who were central to the book.

IEX Group, Critical of Wall St., Gains Approval for Stock Exchange

Many of you know much more about the markets than I do. Do you see this as a good thing? Something that will last? Are the warnings that it could hurt small investors accurate?

National Parks

by Honolulu Mother

We’ve talked about national park visits before, but it’s summer so why not take the chance to reminisce, plan, and share experiences again.

This FiveThirtyEight article, The National Parks Have Never Been More Popular, notes that the park system continues to get more and more visits over the years. Even though on a per person basis we’re visiting a bit less often than previously, population growth has driven visitor numbers upward. The article goes on to list parks from the most-visited to the least-visited, so if you want to avoid a crowd you can look to the bottom of the list.

Based on the list, the least-visited one I’ve been to recently was Mesa Verde, which was indeed vastly less crowded than the Grand Canyon (our next stop) and for that reason was beautiful and peaceful in a way that Grand Canyon village really couldn’t compare with. We were able to sit out on our porch having a drink and watching the cottontails scurry around in the scrub outside our room while the daylight slowly faded, feeling like we had the place to ourselves.

And I clearly should plan a visit to the North Cascades, which MooshiMooshi so highly recommended and which is in a state we often visit!

What park experiences have stood out for you? What is the least-visited park on the list that you’ve been to? And do you think visitor numbers are all that important in planning a trip, or do you go with the theory that even in the Great Smoky Mountains, you’re pretty much on your own once you get a little way down a trail?

How important is work?

by Grace aka costofcollege

Why Do Americans Work So Much?

Economist Benjamin M. Friedman studied why “increased productivity has not translated into increased leisure time”.  One reason may be that because of economic inequality, the gains of increasing productivity are not widely shared.  But that’s not the whole explanation, because rich people work very hard.

… he theorized that for many top earners, work is a labor of love. They are doing work they care about and are interested in, and doing more of it isn’t such a burden—it may even be a pleasure. They derive meaning from their jobs, and it is an important part of how they think of themselves. And, of course, they are compensated for it at a level that makes it worth their while.

Is there a danger in eliminating the need for work?

Mickey Kaus fears a future in which robots do all the work and we, consequently, have no basis for self-respect.
“Evolutionarily, we are designed for work. We are unhappy when we’re not working. We become a sociopathic bachelor herd…. What do we do with all these people who have no productive work?”

Even if robots don’t eliminate the pressing need to work for money, would a universal basic income cause more people to forego employment?  Earlier this month Switzerland overwhelmingly rejected a plan to give a guaranteed monthly income to all residents.

The Dream—Or Is It a Nightmare?—of No Work

Work gives people something welfare never can. It’s a sense of self-worth and mastery, the feeling that we are in control of our lives. This is a source of abiding joy…. Studies show that people who receive public support are twice as likely as those not receiving public support to report feeling worthless. “Very happy” people work more hours each week than those who are “pretty happy,” who in turn work more hours than those who are “not too happy.”

Some people find it hard to imagine a fulfilled life without doing paid work or playing a key role in raising children.  Others find fulfillment in volunteer work.  What do you think?  How important is work?  Is it vital for self-respect and dignity?  Do we “need” to work?

Changes in Society Reflected in Wedding Announcements

by Honolulu Mother

In this article, Todd Schneider took a look at the changes in American society through the lens of the New York Times wedding announcements:

How love and marriage are changing, according to 63,000 New York Times wedding announcements

You can search for the trends he didn’t mention at his site, Wedding Crunchers.

What’s the weirdest or most notable change you’ve seen in wedding announcements, ceremonies, receptions, or another part of the wedding-industrial complex? Are you going to any summer weddings?

Overinvestment in College Lending

by WCE

College Loan Glut Worries Policy Makers

I was intrigued by this article, because both of my babysitters hoped to “go to college to improve themselves” but in my opinion, would have been more suited for a vocational program or apprenticeship.

I think that government continues to loan money to people who are poor risks (housing followed by education) because government is unwilling or unable to discern who is a worthy borrower without appearing racist or classist. Lending laws affecting banks and private lenders may or may not have similar effects, depending on how they are written and enforced. Lending money requires judging people and that’s hard for both social and policy reasons. Repayment depends in part on family/cultural background and not just on individual, statistical creditworthiness, which makes judgement even more complicated in a society where credit decisions are based solely on individual (or possibly married couple) attributes.

Agree or disagree? What do you think about a European-style approach to higher education, where slots are more subsidized but limited to applicants with higher demonstrated academic aptitude?

Excerpt:

The U.S. government over the last 15 years made a trillion-dollar investment to improve the nation’s workforce, productivity and economy. A big portion of that investment has now turned toxic, with echoes of the housing crisis.

The investment was in “human capital,” or, more specifically, higher education. The government helped finance tens of millions of tuitions as enrollment in U.S. colleges and graduate schools soared 24% from 2002 to 2012, rivaling the higher-education boom of the 1970s. Millions of others attended trade schools that award career certificates.

The government financed a large share of these educations through grants, low-interest loans and loan guarantees. Total outstanding student debt—almost all guaranteed or made directly by the federal government—has quadrupled since 2000 to $1.2 trillion today. The government also spent tens of billions of dollars in grants and tax credits for students.

New research shows a significant chunk of that investment backfired, with millions of students worse off for having gone to school. Many never learned new skills because they dropped out—and now carry debt they are unwilling or unable to repay. Policy makers worry that without a bigger intervention, those borrowers will become trapped for years and will ultimately hurt, rather than help, the nation’s economy.

Treasury Deputy Secretary Sarah Bloom Raskin compares the 7 million student-loan borrowers in default—and millions of others who appear on the same path—to homeowners who found themselves underwater and headed toward foreclosure after the housing crash.

“We needed individual households to stabilize property values and help revive communities,” she said. “We want to stabilize this generation of student borrowers and revive their prospects for the future. I think students are essential to our future economic growth and contributions to productivity.”…

The Obama administration faced criticism that it was too slow to help ailing homeowners during the foreclosure crisis, which impeded the economy from recovering more quickly from the recession. The administration is determined to avoid similar criticism with student-loan borrowers.

It has already put forth an array of programs to help borrowers, including slashing monthly bills by tying payments to incomes, and forgiving some of their debt. But this time they face a different challenge: How to get borrowers to pay anything—even a penny—for an asset they never received.

Bad eats

by Louise

Guacamole Lovers Say Low-Fat Florida Avocados Are the Pits

I read this article with a smile. It is about the Florida avocado that doesn’t quite measure up to the Hass Avocado.  I am glad that fat is no longer on the bad list because some purchases of low-fat and sugar-free items didn’t go well in my house.

Totebaggers, any examples of food that you dislike ? Have you successfully substituted ingredients in any recipes ? How about those following or cooking a certain diet ? Any tips for the rest of us ?

Financial Benefits of Primping

by Honolulu Mother

This Washington Post article reports that for women, having a groomed and coiffed appearance seems to bring higher pay, well beyond the halo effect of attractiveness in general. I guess that Ipsy subscription isn’t an indulgence, it’s an investment.

While men also get an attractiveness bonus, theirs doesn’t hinge so much on grooming per se:

They found that a substantial amount of attractiveness was the result of grooming, and here’s where they found gender differences, Wong says. “For women, most of the attractiveness advantage comes from being well groomed. For men, only about half of the effect of attractiveness is due to grooming.”

For women, on the other hand, it seems we look disheveled at our peril:

In fact, as the charts below show, less attractive but more well-groomed women earned significantly more, on average, than attractive or very attractive women who weren’t considered well-groomed.

When I picture a senior woman in my field, the look that comes to mind could certainly be described as well-coiffed. I wouldn’t say the men are not well-groomed, though; it may be simply that there’s a lower bar for men to clear there. Totebaggers, do you see this effect in your profession?

Open thread

by Grace aka costofcollege

What’s on your mind today?  Current events?

Here’s a distraction if you’d like it.

Psychologists Have Invented a Test to Measure Your Secret Need for Drama

Can you predict any totebaggers who might score high on the need for drama?  I think most totebaggers avoid drama.  Do you know any drama queens in real life?  Is it mainly tiresome or fun to be around them?  How did you score?

Totebaggy travel

by winemama

How totebaggy are your vacations? Do you pass on the Mousetrap?

To me, teaching moments and travel go hand in hand. So our family vacations are designed to incorporate elements of enrichment: exposure to foreign culture, a brush with history, interaction with nature, discovery of new foods, engaging in activities that make us step outside our comfort zones. Sure, Disney is fun. But school breaks are few and handled with extreme care.

5 Family Vacations That Don’t Involve Disney World

Unwilling to move for better jobs?

by laurafrombaltimore

This article discusses Americans’ apparent decreased willingness to move for better economic opportunities.

Fewer Americans Strike Out for New Jobs, Crimping the Recovery

I’m not sure I really follow some of the arguments here. E.g., they point out that workers are not moving out of entry-level and temporary jobs at the same rate, but they characterize those short-term employment opportunities as “road-testing” by young workers; thus, they seem to assume that the change represents an intentional decision by these workers to be less adventurous and more risk-averse, when it seems that the far likelier explanation is that those workers have just not been able to find better jobs to move on to.

They also, IMO, give short shrift to the increase in two-earner families, and most specifically on the economic reliance of so many families on earning two paychecks. Their note that “the addition of career-minded women into the work force” might make it harder to move is buried in a list of many possible explanations. I haven’t found a definitive study, one site suggests that two-income families have increased from about 40% of married couple families in 1980 to about 60% today.

Working Family Values Factoids

The Department of Labor points out that much of this increase is comes in the higher-income quintiles (which is logical, as poor women generally didn’t have the choice to “opt out” of work and so had higher historic labor force participation to begin with).  (Scroll down to II.)

futurework Trends and Challenges for Work in the 21st Century

And, of course, those higher-income jobs are likely the ones that are more likely to be specialized and more difficult to replace. Meaning, in sum, that there are more families relying on two jobs, and more of those families have jobs where it will be more difficult to find two comparable jobs somewhere else in the country.

What do you think? Is decreased mobility a problem? If so, what do you think are the root causes?

Procrastination

by Risley

Which Of These Five Types Of Procrastinator Are You?

I found this article on procrastination in my Twitter feed, and thought this group might want to discuss it. For me, the first 2 categories do not apply, but the last 3 do, and sometimes all 3 at the same time. I find that keeping my work space tidy all of the time (so I don’t need to waste a 2-hour chunk of any day cleaning up), making daily to-do lists (to keep me on task and to allow me to break up huge projects) and creating, and then being strict about, self-imposed deadlines are the most effective ways of keeping myself from putting things off (for too long). What kind of procrastinator are you, and how have you overcome it?

Safety First

by Louise

The basic — but often ignored — rules of zoo safety

The Gorilla Incident that occurred on Memorial Day Weekend caught my eye. I am a safety first person and get uncomfortable when others put themselves in dangerous situations. Though I can swim, I will heed all warnings about currents, not swimming too close to fishing piers etc.

Have you observed any dangerous behaviors? Any safety tips?

Online Reviews of TV Shows

by Honolulu Mother

Walt Hickey, writing for Fivethirtyeight, argues that men are skewing online reviews of tv shows aimed at women downward, while women reviewing shows aimed at men are not returning the favor:

Men Are Sabotaging The Online Reviews Of TV Shows Aimed At Women

Should we be mentally adjusting the review numbers when trying to compare across genres? I probably do that anyway, at least in the sense that I’ll notice that certain types of shows or movies seem to be universally lower-rated so if the premise sounds appealing, I shouldn’t assume that a low rating means I won’t like it. On the other hand, that thinking led me to waste 10 minutes of my life watching Another Period.

Do you review movies or tv shows online (Amazon counts)? Do you ever think about whether a show (or for that matter a book or product) was really aimed at you before rating it as a stinker?

Office dress codes?

by L

The end of the office dress code? Totebaggers, your thoughts?

The End of the Office Dress Code

Casual Friday and the ‘End of the Office Dress Code’

 

[Note:  Great minds think alike!  Louise sent in the same article with this comment:]

… But we can discuss all sorts of dress codes. School uniforms, prom fashions, guest at a party or wedding, bridal fashions, casual wear/athleisure – what’s acceptable, what’s not….

Can you foster a growth mindset?

by Honolulu Mother

This Pacific Standard article discusses research suggesting it’s best to encourage kids to think of intelligence as something that can be developed rather than an inherent ability that you have or don’t: How to Get Kids Into a Growth Mindset. I assume the same thinking would apply for other abilities, such as athletic talent, artistic or musical ability, or people skills.

Do you agree with this approach? Is it something you try to foster with your own kids?

Ask the totebag: Moving tips

by winemama

So we have closed on our house now and are still looking (locally) for where to live. We have 3 weeks to vacate our current house and will be staying with my in-laws (say a prayer for me!) until we get moved into a new house.

Any moving tips? We will be getting a storage unit for most of our stuff.

Any tips on keeping all five of us sane? (Myself, DH, 5 year old DS, MIL and FIL)

Totebag 30-Day Challenge — DONE!

by Grace aka costofcollege

Today on Memorial Day we honor the memory of members of our armed forces who died in service to our country.  Like many other places across the country, our town has a parade and memorial service today.  Barbecues, ballgames, and beaches are also popular spots for this day.  What are you doing today?

***

ALSO, for POLITICAL COMMENTS we now have dedicated weekly pages.  Check it out!

***

The Totebag 30-Day Challenge is DONE!

We have completed our challenge.  Your thoughts?  Good, bad, indifferent?  Would you do another one?

Choosing a Vacation Destination Based on its Economy

by Honolulu Mother

Vox put together this Vacation Index showing which countries are the best – and worst – bargains for vacationers at the moment. According to the article, it’s not intended to compare bang for the buck in absolute terms, but rather to show which countries are cheaper or more expensive than they usually are. Do you think the index is an accurate representation of that? Would you consider choosing a vacation destination based on it?

Our next vacation is to the very worst bargain listed, and yet the exchange rate is still better than it was the last time I was there. I think the index is looking at a relatively short-term timescale.

Socialism?

by Rhode

Venezuela should be rich. Instead it’s becoming a failed state.

This article came across my Facebook news feed. The person who shared it asked that if socialism failed in Venezuela, is it wise to try to bring it to the US? He’s a very strong conservative who tows the party line every chance he gets.

I have to ask, does this article scream “socialism”? Is that really what caused the downfall of Venezuela? Or was it cronyism? Does cronyism equal socialism, or can it equal socialism?

Some services (police, fire, ambulance, public education) are all socialist ideas because everyone pays for the service even though they don’t need it or use it. Can other socialist ideas (health services, so-called entitlement programs) exist and thrive in the US? Would we then be a socialist country?

Your smart home

by Rocky Mountain Stepmom

Amazon Wants Alexa to Take Control of Your Smart Home

I was thinking, “Good thing I have a dumb home.” Then I realized that my
sous vide talks to my phone, and my phone talks to Alexa, so probably
Alexa and my phone gossip about the sous vide. Never mind the horror
stories about the smart houses taking over and killing us. I expect that
the Internet of Things will form cliques, unfriend each other on
Facebook, ditch each other right before prom, cry a lot, and refuse to
cooperate on group projects.

Oh, and my phone answers the doorbell, so who knows who they’re letting
in for parties while I’m out?

Totebaggers, how smart is your house? How smart do you want it to be?

Multilevel marketing

Both L and Honolulu Mother sent in posts about mulitlevel marketing:

by L

MLMs: your thoughts? Does anyone have FB or real life friends selling these products? What about the church connection?

I have one friend on FB who sells LuLaRoe, but I have never been to an MLM party or been pressured to attend one.

Why your Facebook feed is filled with women selling essential oils and press-on nails

my boss wants to secretly recruit my coworkers and me into a money-making scheme

 

———

by Honolulu Mother

Let’s all gripe about our “friends” selling Jamberry on Facebook!

This Vox article tackles the important question of “Why your Facebook feed is filled with women selling essential oils and press-on nails.” Actually, mine really isn’t, but that’s because I know how to use the “hide” feature. In some circles, though, MLM’s parasitical profiting off the social and family connections of its victims / salespeople is hard to avoid.

Totebaggers, your thoughts on multilevel marketing?

Graduation costs

by Grace aka costofcollege

This time of year many families are celebrating graduations, whether preschool, elementary school, middle school, high school, or college.  The costs can mount up, as discussed in this CollegeConfidential thread.

Cap and gowns, diplomas, yearbooks, photos, rings, invitations, dinners, parties, travel, and gifts are some of the typical expenditures.  If your child is receiving honors of various types, costs for awards dinners can mount up.  One parent with twins complained she would be spending several hundred dollars for those.  Other end-of-year expenditures like recitals and proms can also strain family budgets.

How lavish is your spending for graduation celebrations?  What is common among your friends and relatives?  What about spending for other types of milestones, like First Communions or bat/bar mitzahs?

Work for free?

by Sara

When does it make sense to work for free? I have a 24 year old daughter starting out in digital marketing and a friend at a start up asked her if she would create and manage their social media program for free. I told her that she should go for it – great experience, resume builder, and opportunity for good references. Plus, if it’s not a great experience – or you get a paid job offer – you can just resign (they’re not paying you!)

I wonder what group’s advice would be – I know several senior finance execs who got laid off in tough market and were out for several years. Coming back and working for free at a small financial boutique is a way to get back in the game, prove yourself and demonstrate your value. Several ended up impressing the CEO to such a degree that they ended up getting hired by the firm.

Is Luxury Fashion in Trouble?

by Honolulu Mother

This Daily Beast article on the flagging performance of various luxury fashion brands suggests alternately that luxury brands have saturated the market to the point that they no longer seem, well, like a luxury; that they’ve alienated the consumers who buy the real stuff by focusing more on celebrities who borrow gowns for the Oscars than on the paying customers; and that it’s simply priced itself out of the general clothing market.

Do you think luxury fashion’s time has come and gone, or is this a blip? Is it something you find worth paying for?

Let’s Talk Cars!

by Fred MacMurray

Time to talk about how we all express ourselves through our cars.

– what do you drive as your everyday (commute/errand) car(s)? why did you pick those?
– is anyone a real “road” warrior, driving >20- or 25,000 miles a year?
– do you have a separate “fun” car for the summer or just because?
– what’s your dream car, the one you’ll buy to satisfy your mid-life crisis, because you win the lottery, etc.
– do you have your car serviced at a dealer, an independent shop, national/regional chain? Why? Speak up if you / partner do-it-yourself.
– anything else we should know about your automobile state of mind?

This post was inspired by:

Why Americans Are Buying More Trucks And SUVs Than Cars

Is there hope for weight maintenance?

by MooshiMooshi

The article on the study that followed the contestants from The Biggest Loser was huge last week. Basically, they found that all of the contestants they followed gained the weight back, sometimes more, despite their best efforts. The reason? Their metabolisms were lowered to the point where they couldn’t keep the weight off. And the lowered metabolisms appeared to persist over time.

After ‘The Biggest Loser,’ Their Bodies Fought to Regain Weight

Some of the followup articles are even more depressing. This article pretty much says that if you want to keep weight off after dieting, you are condemned to a near-anorexic way of life, and that nothing else works

So what hope is there for weight maintenance?

Anecdotal reports by people who have succeeded in keeping weight off tend to have a common theme: constant vigilance, keeping close track of weight, controlling what food is eaten and how much (often by weighing and measuring food), exercising often, putting up with hunger and resisting cravings to the best of their ability….

Short Answers to Hard Questions About Weight Loss

The takeaway for me is “Never get fat in the first place”. Maybe we are just a species evolved to exist at near starvation levels and that eating enough to be comfortable is unhealthy.

Am I being too bleak? Are these articles too bleak? Has anything worked for you?

Bubbles within bubbles

by Honolulu Mother

We’ve talked before about the idea that Totebaggers generally live within a comfortable urban-coastal bubble. But this Prospect article suggests that many of our business and political leaders live in yet a smaller and more comfortable bubble, which makes it difficult for them to understand the everyday experiences of the great majority of their fellow citizens:

Sanders, Trump, and the Hassles of Regular People

Daily life is more and more of a hassle for more and more people, whether it involves insecurity of jobs, of pay, of schools, of health care, of retirement, of unaffordable apartments and tuitions, of long lines and crumbling transit systems—you name it. And the super-elite doesn’t care, because they literally don’t experience any of this.

The article is short and unfocused and a bit of a humblebrag, but the idea it raises is an interesting one. Totebaggers, what do you think?

Innovation

by Louise

I watched this documentary – Silicon Valley. I was struck by the description of the atmosphere of innovation described in Silicon Valley. The many companies that were started as a result. Have you been at places where there was something new being discovered or something old being reinvented ? What do you think of risk taking, not being afraid to fail which accompany innovation ? Have you been innovative at work ? Any other areas ?

Silicon Valley

Does parenting destroy creativity?

by Honolulu Mother

An interesting article on the effect of parenthood on the ability to create:

A Portrait of the Artist As a Young Mom

I pretty much agree with the conclusion, that having a house full of kids can pretty much eliminate any prospect of having the mental space, the Woolf-style Room of One’s Own, to write or do other creative work; but in the long term, the immediate chaos will lessen and the parenting experience gives one a richer experience of life to draw on in creative work.

What do other Totebaggers think?

Language choices

by Louise

The choice of foreign language comes up during discussion of academic choices. A lot of kids are taking Spanish. Their parents hope that they will be able to communicate with Spanish speakers in the U.S. There are a couple of issues though. The teaching of foreign languages, at the neighborhood schools (excludes language magnets or immersion programs) is not rigorous enough in my opinion. The languages are in many cases taught by non native speakers and the graduation requirement is only two years. It seems that the goal of being fluent in a language is not achieved. I am not sure if fluent in a language was ever the goal of the education system. I know some posters studied abroad during high school and college. What has been your experience as a student or as a parent ? Any language teachers among us who want to weigh in ?

Paying for luxury

by MBT

How much are you willing to pay for the good life?

I know some totebaggers extol the virtues of paying extra for first class air travel, particularly on international flights. Others find big vacation splurges, or luxury cars, or home renovations to be worth it. What luxury experiences are worth it to you? Are you willing to pay extra to not rub shoulders with the hoi polloi, as the article suggests?

In an Age of Privilege, Not Everyone Is in the Same Boat
Companies are becoming adept at identifying wealthy customers and marketing to them, creating a money-based caste system.

Noncompete agreements: Good, bad, or indifferent?

by Honolulu Mother

Job hopping helped Silicon Valley thrive. So why do other states restrict it?

This Vox article points to enforcement of noncompete agreements as the villain in the shrinking of Route 128’s hi-tech sector relative to Silicon Valley’s. It also raises concern over the growth of noncompetes in such areas as sandwich making and janitorial services, where the argument that they protect trade secrets is unconvincing.

Does your state support noncompete agreements? Do you have personal experience with them? Do you think they’re a bad thing, a good thing, or a necessary evil when appropriately limited?

How do our young teens spend their summers?

by Denver Dad

In a recent thread, I talked about our issues finding a suitable “camp” or
other activity for the summer for 14-year-old DD. Some people commented
that they don’t understand why a teenager needs to go to camp.

So I’ll ask the question: what are your young teenagers doing for the
summer, or if you have older kids, what did they do when they were in the
13 to 15 range? I’m particularly interested in replies from families
where both parents work outside the home so the kids can’t get to/from
activities that are less than a full day.

Are you a Rebel?

by Grace aka costofcollege

The start of the Totebag 30-Day Challenge seems an appropriate time to learn about Gretchen Rubin’s Four Tendencies and how they affect habits.

When we try to form a new habit, we’re setting an expectation for ourselves. Therefore, to change our habits, it’s crucial to understand how we respond to expectations.

I suggest you take this quiz before you read more.

Gretchen Rubin’s Quiz: The Four Tendencies

Are you an Upholder, Questioner, Obliger, or Rebel?

Rubi_9780385348614_roughpages_8.25.14.indd

Do you think the quiz reveals your tendencies?  Or is all this just a frivolous exercise in pseudo science?

If you’re participating in the Totebag 30-Day Challenge, go to the WEEK ONE page to check in.