Friendship in the Age of Facebook

by Louise

How has friendship changed for you and your kids in the age of social media ? Do you feel happy at all of your friends achievements and lives as displayed on social media ? Is there an undercurrent of resentment or wishing you had not known about the latest vacation (with photos, live videos) or perfect families ? Have you come across friendships disintegrating due to bullying online or offline ?

I found Bad Art Friend fascinating, worthy of a novel or screen adaptation in and of itself.

Instant noodles

by MooshiMooshi

Here is a fun foodie topic

The Strategist, which usually publishes lists of “Stuff you want to buy on sale this week” (usually stuff I don’t need, or ugly clothes), did a list of various food writer’s favorite instant noodle brands. We are big lovers of instant ramen – my daughter in particular is addicted – and I was happy to see that the family favorite, Nongshim Shin Noodle (spicy) made the list. There are lots of others that look pretty cool so I am off to the Hmart to search them out.

The Best Instant Noodles, According to Chefs and Food Writers

Besides just eating instant noodles straight as a lunch, we like to use them for fast desperation dinners. In that case, I doctor it a little – extra ginger and garlic, some quick thawed frozen shrimp, handfuls of spinach-from-the-bag in each bowl, and anything else that is quick, like the kimchi in the back of the fridge. I am ashamed to admit this, but this is high up on the list of favorite dinners in our house.
Do you eat instant noodles? Do you doctor it up with anything? And, favorite brands?

Virtual college tours

by MooshiMooshi

College tours are a common experience on this site, and many posters even plan fun vacations around these tours. We take it for granted that we will get to spend some nice bonding time with our kids, traipsing around leafy campuses in interesting places. But what about the many kids who cannot do this, because of finances or parents who cannot travel or family responsibilities? This article interviews a group of students who have had to rely on college websites and virtual tours to learn about campuses. They give their advice to colleges on how to better engage prospective students like themselves. This is important, since these students are the demographic of the future.

I also felt very sympathetic to them because I was also unable to do college tours back when I was applying to college. Granted, it was much less common back then. But we didn’t even have websites to look at. When I headed off to my university as a new freshman, I literally had no idea what the school looked like. But, I guess I didn’t have that expectation.

Anyway, here is a different perspective on college tours.

Since this appeared in the Chronicle, and is likely paywalled, I am dumping the text, without all the accompanying photos, here

Virtual Tours Could Get More First-Generation Students to College. Here’s What They Want to See

By Taylor Swaak
OCTOBER 6, 2021

The fall college-tour season is here once again. And for many prospective students — especially those who are first-generation and unable to travel — that means scouring institutions’ websites and social media to find the right fit.

It also means taking virtual tours.

Virtual tours gained momentum as a way for colleges to introduce themselves remotely to prospective students when Covid-19 shut down campuses last year. But the definition of such tours varies considerably. At some colleges, it might be a three-minute YouTube video or a Google Maps page with building markers. At others, it’s a more interactive experience on platforms like YouVisit, where a user can get 360-degree views as an enrolled student, clad in college apparel, talks about campus history and culture. Still other colleges offer live virtual tours or information sessions students can sign up for.

Yet prospective students using those tools say they often leave much to be desired. And Jeff Kallay, a campus-visit consultant for more than 15 years, agrees.

Too often, such virtual experiences are more about colleges’ touting their “best buildings” and their “best-looking students” than trying to learn about and appeal to prospective students, he says. “It is institution-centric, it is not designed for the end user. … We have to ask the students what their needs are, and what their wants are, and then craft.”

That will be important even once the pandemic is under control, given changing student demographics. Ffiona Rees, board chair of the National Association for College Admission Counseling, says colleges should invest in connecting with students who are unable to travel for health, financial, child-care, or other reasons.

Especially from an equity standpoint, incorporating virtual tools into recruiting offers “significant benefits,” she says. “Virtual allows students to look at a much broader range of colleges, as far as size, as far as type, as far as geographic location.”

Colleges are taking notice. YouVisit, for example, is fielding more inquiries daily from interested institutions than it used to field in a week, and has added more than 160 colleges to its client base since the pandemic began, according to a spokesman for EAB, which owns the platform. An Inside Higher Ed survey of 206 admissions officials in August found 76 percent assumed some or many students would continue to watch videos in place of visiting campuses.

The Chronicle recently interviewed first-generation students about what they’ve liked and disliked about existing virtual tools. Their answers revealed a need for more human interactions, real-time Q&A opportunities, insights into the surrounding community, virtual sessions spotlighting clubs, and translation services, among other things.

Here’s what each had to say:

Yuliana Caravantes, high-school senior, 17
South San Francisco High School
Interested in: cardiology

While Caravantes plans to stay in California, not all of her options are nearby — the University of California at Los Angeles, for example, is six or seven hours from home — and traveling to see them in person isn’t an option. Caravantes has a 6-year-old sister and an 8-year-old brother her parents must attend to; her mom and dad also work long hours at a local grocery store. Sometimes, her father rises before the sun to get there at 4 a.m. and works until 4 p.m.

Her college search, then, has been all online. She prefers some virtual tools to others: In her experience, Google Maps “doesn’t show you much,” she said. YouTube videos might if they’re longer than a few minutes, though she wonders if she’s getting a complete picture. Platforms like YouVisit, which allows her to roam around a 3D map of a campus, have been the most helpful, especially in discerning the flow and walkability of a campus, she said.

Still, Caravantes would like to see many more elements. She wants tours to note what’s off-campus: Is there a downtown area? A grocery store within walking distance? A pharmacy?

“A lot of students, if you’re going far away, you’re on your own, and you want somewhere where if you need something quick, you can have access,” she said.

As a student whose parents didn’t attend college and aren’t fluent in English, Caravantes said she’d also like to see more virtual resources offered in Spanish or other languages, or with subtitles, so parents could be more involved.

Chi Luu, high-school senior, 17
Seattle Waldorf School
Interested in: international business

Luu is considering colleges both in state and out of state, including Florida, Oregon, and Texas. She isn’t able to visit those campuses in person, though, because of Covid-related safety concerns and financial constraints.

“Even if we don’t have Covid, I don’t think I would go because my family couldn’t just pay for me to travel around the United States to just visit colleges,” she said. “We don’t have that money.”

What Luu cares about most as she’s researching colleges is getting questions answered about financial-aid options; her parents can’t pay for her college education, and she’s determined to graduate with minimal student loans. Unlike her more-affluent peers, “I don’t really have the luxury of being like, ‘You know what? I like the vibe of this college, maybe I’ll apply here,’” she said.

Live virtual tours haven’t been particularly helpful, she said. Luu recalled signing up for a one-on-one tour, “expecting someone to be there for me, but it was a prerecorded, 30-minute video … there was a chat box, but they weren’t talking at all,” she said.

She’s found a bit more success with virtual information sessions, but still feels presenters could be more forthcoming with details about how they support low-income students financially. “There’s not much clarity unless I’m the one asking,” Luu said. “They’ll say something like, ‘We give lots of scholarships,’ and then move on to the next topic about how great this school is.

“But then I’m like, ‘Wait a second. What kind of scholarships? Can you talk more about that? How do you qualify? What are you going to judge me on?’”

Lesly Quizhpi, high-school senior, 17
Baltimore City College High School
Interested in: psychology , public health, anthropology

Quizhpi is looking largely out of state, to Massachusetts, New York, and Pennsylvania. But the cost of travel, paired with her own commitments — extracurriculars, volunteering at church, and helping watch her 12- and 1-year-old sisters — means an in-person visit isn’t feasible.

Going to a college that has a tight-knit community and feels like home is important to Quizhpi. She’s been disappointed, she said, when she logs on to live virtual tours and gets a slideshow presentation instead of the chance to shadow a student who’s actively walking around the campus and popping into classrooms.

If tours like those aren’t possible, Quizhpi emphasized that something as simple as enthusiasm would go a long way. She’s still thinking about a recent live virtual tour of one university in which a student ambassador fangirled about one of their annual campus events. “She was talking about strawberry cakes — gluten, vegan, no nuts — and she just kept on going. And it was funny,” Quizhpi said. “She was showing the enthusiasm for us. And it made me really happy.”

Quizhpi also said that she’d love to see additional live virtual sessions that feature departments. She often digs through college websites to learn more about what majors are offered through which departments, which professors are teaching those classes, and what their research interests are.

“Students have a variety of ideas of what they want to major in” that can’t be addressed in the main virtual events, she said, so “I would find that really useful.”

Aldo Ruiz Parra, college freshman, 18
Pomona College
Interested in: computer science

Ruiz Parra enrolled at Pomona College from Austin, Tex., wanting to “get out my bubble, get out of my comfort zone,” he said. Part of what ended up sealing the deal for him on Pomona, in particular, was its virtual “fly-in” program, a two-day event that connects prospective students directly with professors and enrolled students.

When researching other colleges, Ruiz Parra said he had mixed experiences with their virtual resources. He thought interactive tools that allowed a student to drag a mouse around a campus map while a tour guide narrated were “super-cool,” though he noted that views were often limited to the outside of buildings. And while some live virtual tours on Zoom were small and engaging, with breakout rooms, others were packed, with participants’ cameras shut off — something that “distracted me,” Ruiz Parra said. None, he added, were tours with a person actually walking around the campus in real time (they were slideshows).

Like Quizhpi, what Ruiz Parra felt was missing the most was a sense of colleges’ communities — a deciding factor in where he would attend.

That’s hard to capture virtually, he acknowledged. But he thinks adding topic-specific virtual sessions, like events hosted by campus club members, could help. “In order to show community, you have to show a small representation of different communities within it,” he said. “And clubs are just that.”

Freddy Barrera, college junior, 20
New York University

Barrera didn’t have the benefit of virtual tours in 2018, when he was in Utah eyeing colleges on the East Coast. And in-person visits were out of the question — on top of cost, his parents, who are undocumented, couldn’t fly with him.

“I wouldn’t have had the courage to go by myself to a different city just to view a college,” he said.

Instead, Barrera recalled watching YouTube videos and student Instagram takeovers, hoping to learn more about campus diversity and which colleges offered support services such as mentorship programs, mental-health resources, and scholarships. Looking back, he wishes he’d had access to live virtual tours like the one he now helps host at NYU.

During NYU’s live biweekly virtual tours, two ambassadors run through a slideshow highlighting areas on campus they’d typically stop at in person. Meanwhile, two other ambassadors wrangle the chat section, answering participants’ written questions.

The tours are well attended, Barrera said, with about 70 people on average. And he’s noticed the groups tend to be “a lot more diverse“ than the in-person tours he hosts.

“These virtual options are better at reaching first-generation students and students from low-income backgrounds,” he said. If colleges “really want to promote diversity … put some action behind it. Keep this channel open.”

True Crime Tuesday

by Rhode

Jelani Day’s disappearance was made famous by Gabby Petito’s. I’ve attached three links to a series of articles from the Chicago Sun Times.

(4) will be coming ~October 15th.

And a follow-up clarifying some statements made in article (3).

So what happened to Jelani?

Jeffersonian Dinner

by Rhode

I recently participated in a Jeffersonian style lunch (info here: It’s an idea where a group of people gather for a meal, and think about one topic. Usually, the participants don’t always agree with each other, and the topics can be very heavy-hitting.

I thought it might be nice to try that with the Totebag. So, think about this starter question, and post your answer below.

The starter question: “Knowing what you know now, what is a moment that you can look back on that you would say made you more resilient?”

As “moderator” I’ll go first… When I was first asked about this question, I couldn’t answer it. Resilience for me has been a life-long skill. I had a troubled childhood that required just moving forward. And so I did. I never thought I was resilient – in fact, most of the time I just said “I need to live through today”. This level of “survival” followed me through tough times in college, through fertility issues, my son being diagnosed growth restricted and with a cleft lip/palate. Then a surprise pregnancy (where I was borderline HG) followed by my father’s sudden death and being bed-ridden with pneumonia. I just had to make it through the day. But I do know that because I survived all that, most of life’s messes don’t get to me. I find I’m resilient without ever really understanding what it was.

Zodiac trips

by Kim

Forget love languages or Myers Briggs, it’s astrology that truly defines you.  Here is the ideal road trip for your zodiac sign.  Did they get it right?  If you HAD to take your zodiac road trip, what would be the best and the worst about it?  What are other good road trips?


Buying art

by Mafalda

Do you buy original art? My grandparents and parents always had originals on their walls. Nothing super valuable, just paintings they collected from art festivals, a charity auction, maybe a friend or relative who is an artist. We have done the same, I especially enjoy looking for pieces when I travel.

Now that I’m an artist, I realize that this is kind of unusual? I have moved in my l artistic career” from gifting all my work to selling to strangers- some of my works have sold from being in a juried exhibit or from someone seeing them at a local cafe that has been displaying my works. I actually sold one because of Instagram. I am about to participate in my first fine art fair -setting up the booth,etc. I’m really curious to get real time feedback and what it will be like dealing with the public. Please share your art buying experiences and what inspires you to make a purchase.

Income taxes on wealthy people

by Fred

This kind of reporting gets me going:
“Billionaires’ income taxes are a tiny fraction of their wealth, White House says.”

Billionaires’ income taxes are a tiny fraction of what they make, White House says. Here’s their average tax rate

I am not arguing the facts here. The headline and article have the underlying facts correct.

But by and large, excepting the estate tax and the gift tax for sure, we tax income (as defined in the Internal Revenue Code), not wealth. So the headline is mixing at best apples and oranges.

If it were reported on NPR or the TV I’d be yelling at them.

Hell, if you measured what % of DW’s and my wealth we pay in income taxes the result would probably be in the low single digits.

And the difficulties of implementing a ‘wealth tax’ been well covered in the recent press.

Choosing a paint color

by Kim

Choosing a white paint color.  Haven’t we all been there?

Simply White, Snowfall White, School House White: Proliferation of White Paint Shades Stupefies Renovators
Or maybe Chantilly Lace or Cotton Balls? Variations keep coming, and the pandemic wave of redecorators is frustrated; ‘life is about to change.’

… Choosing a shade of white paint from more than a thousand nearly identical hues has long been confounding. As homeowners flocked to hardware stores for renovation projects during the pandemic, sales of paint spiked, along with stress levels.

The process is only getting harder as companies roll out new variations with particular undertones for those looking to achieve a warm, crisp or cool vibe.

Isabel Ladd, an interior designer in Lexington, Ky., said sometimes a client will call and ask, “Will you come over? I have put 15 swatches of white on my wall,” looking for guidance.

“I’m a maximalist and I know what’s too much,” the designer said. “And that’s too much.”

She tries to provide some perspective—which may have been lost around sample number seven—that the ultimate decision isn’t really that high-stakes. “They’re like, ‘Life is about to change,’ ” she said. Her stock response: “This is paint. This is white paint. This is not cancer.”

Ms. Ladd maintains a spreadsheet listing paint colors from past projects, with notes about undertones and other impressions. From that, she has established four go-to Benjamin Moore shades, depending on if the client wants a creamier color (Lily of the Valley), a blue undertone (Cotton Balls), green hints (French Canvas) or has no idea at all (White Dove).

Benjamin Moore’s Lily of the Valley, Cotton Balls, French Canvas and White Dove.

Okay, pick your white from the choices above.

Or, follow this simple advice from one of the top comments:

Most men cannot see gradations of color as can most women, but most men sense movement quicker than most women, something to do with cones and rods in our eyes and 5 million years of evolution.

Here’s the easiest way to deal with choosing a white paint color, these are a standard in commercial office spaces for a good reason:

Benjamin Moore’s “Linen White” for walls (eggshell)
Benjamin Moore’s “Decorator’s White” for trim (semi-gloss)

What has been your experience in choosing paint colors, fixtures, or other elements in home design?

Thursday open thread

We have an open thread all day.

Conversation starter, if you care to go there:


Looks like about 8% of men (and 3% of women) are psychopaths…

“Although some researchers use psychopathy and sociopathy interchangeably…The psychopath is believed to have been ‘born bad,’ whereas the sociopath is believed to have been ‘raised bad'”

AI detects students’ emotional distress

by Louise

Interesting article. We can go anywhere with the comments beyond the obvious ones of privacy and issues students are facing. The algorithms and machine learning comes into play too. How does that compare to more contact with students by the adults in their lives ?

How to Detect Your Child’s Emotional Distress Before the School’s AI Does
Schools implement software to scan students’ email and web searches for signs of self-harm or violence—but parents can take proactive steps

The Villages and HOAs

by Kim

Lets discuss two related topics:  The Villages and HOAs.

It’s clear that The Villages appeals to many retirees.  Does it or similar type of housing appeal to you, either as a retiree or pre-retirement?


On the topic of HOAs, the most popular response to this AITA was:

you’re always NTA when it’s you vs the hoa

Do you agree?  What’s your opinion or experience with HOAs?

More on The Villages, which was designed by former Disney Imagineers:

There’s One Thing We Can Learn From the Villages’ Success

Wednesday open thread

We have an open thread all day.

An starter topic from Finn:

Job interviews

In a recent Freakonomics podcast, their guest, Richard Thaler, who is BTW a brilliant behavioral economist, said job interviews are ‘pretty much useless,’ because the correlation between the quality of work and quality of interview is almost zero.

Does that match your experience?

In my SV experience, one of the major goals of the job interview process was to weed out a$$holes, and IME, in-person interviews were very useful for that.

The Benezet experiment

by Rhett

In the Benezet experiment, a school district taught no math at all before 6th grade (around age 10-11). Then in sixth grade, they started teaching math, and by the end of the year the students were just as good at math as traditionally-educated children with five years of preceding math education. I interpret this to mean that a lot of education involves cramming things into the heads of very young students who would be able to learn it very quickly anyway when they were older. Certainly it doesn’t seem like a child missing math class in grades 1-5 should have much of a long-term effect.

I’ve always been fascinated by the need people have to make things more difficult than they need to be. With that in mind – what if, for the sake of argument, the item above was true?

Life advice

by Sunshine

Stolen from Twitter:

What’s the best life advice, or maxim, that you were taught or shared with your family members….in 5 words or less.

Using, 5ish words, here are some I shared with my kids:
– Life isn’t fair
– work before play every single day

You’ll ascertain from my examples that I am not the fun parent. There were many more inspirational ones in the Twitter thread.

Academic Fashion Choices

by MooshiMooshi

It turns out professors are not all that keen on elbow patches or tweed. I got some good ideas here. I think I may adopt alien face masks and purple Doc Martens for my on-campus days.

As you return to your office, are you changing your fashion choices? I started using much redder hair dye during the pandemic, and I think I may stick with it. I also acquired some face masks with Indian style prints for my teaching use, and I think I will ditch the glasses I normally wear when teaching even though I look better in them and they also allow me to see my students faces. But it is too hard with a mask. I also need to acquire some new shoes.

This is from the Chronicle, and is behind a paywall so I just extracted the text, meaning you can’t see the cute drawings that went along with it.

What are Academics Wearing? Readers Share their Campus Fashion Choices

By Fernanda Zamudio-Suarez
AUGUST 25, 2021
Inspired by the sartorial choices in the new Netflix series The Chair, we asked Chronicle readers, among other things, what you wear to campus, if the pandemic changed your fashion choices, and of course, your stance on elbow patches. You gave us a closet full of answers.

Is the stereotypical professor wearing a camel-colored sweater — or gray tweed jacket — with big chestnut or black elbow patches? Turns out, many faculty members prefer their own look, at least according to a Chronicle questionnaire with more than 460 respondents.

Here’s what some of you told us.
What do you wear to campus?

“Jewel-toned silk charmeuse blouses tucked into gray or black pencil skirts. In cooler weather, cashmere sweaters.” —Joy Castro, professor of English and ethnic studies at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln

“Button-down shirt, Wrangler blue jeans, and boots.” —James Eldridge, kinesiology professor at the University of Texas of the Permian Basin

“Dockers, golf shirt, or shirt with sweater.” —Jim McHugh, political-science professor at the University of Akron

“Lots of dresses, heels, and full makeup. I work in an engineering department and want to stand out from the khakis and button-down shirts worn by my colleagues. I also want to signal to young women in the program that if you identify as a feminine woman, you don’t have to hide that femininity to be an engineer.” —Nancy Barr, professor of practice, engineering communication at Michigan Technological University

Has the pandemic changed your choices?

“Ties and jacket were dropped because they could not be home laundered.” —John M. Perkins, reference-services librarian at Mercer University School of Law

“Have added fun masks (dogs, aliens, etc.).” —Stephanie Kolitsch, director of accreditation at the University of Tennessee at Martin

“I tend not to wear many bright colors or patterns. After the pandemic, I am looking for something brighter and happier.” —Larissa Larsen, chair of urban and regional planning and associate professor at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor


What’s your favorite piece of clothing or accessory to teach in? What about for research?

“My research go-to is an oversized men’s hoodie. I’m a humanist, and libraries are COLD.” —Sarah Ferrario, associate professor and chair of Greek and Latin at Catholic University

“For teaching, it’s footwear — I love shoes (and boots), and I favor four-inch heels. For research, I have a large collection of linen clothes (bright but modest) for hot climates.” —Beth Dougherty, professor of international relations at Beloit College

“Bow tie for teaching.” —Jim Moore, associate professor and director of political outreach at Pacific University

Do you have a “lucky” piece of clothing?

“A forest-green suede shirt: It’s been loved for years.” —Patricia Taylor, graduate school and fellowship adviser at Marist College

“I used to have a red plastic pendant watch with a human(ish)-looking face. His name was Mr. Boethius. The students and I all spoke to him.” —Kathryn Lynch, English professor at Wellesley College

“Purple Dr. Martens.” —Wendy Christensen, associate professor of sociology and criminal justice at William Paterson University

“Greek evil eye earring.” —Christopher Richter, professor at Hollins University

Do you own a piece of clothing with elbow patches?

“Not on your life. In the English Department we avoid clichés at all costs.” —Regina Flynn, associate professor of English at Salem State University

“Yes — as a satire, because it’s such a cliché.” —Teri Balser, provost at the University of Calgary

“No — my wife won’t let me.” —Benjamin Wilson, assistant professor of chemistry at the University of Tampa

“Sport coat. Sometimes enjoy the stereotype.” —Stephen Preacher, dean of the Benson School of Business at Southern Wesleyan University

Advice Column Friday

by Denver Dad

My Husband’s Family’s Gifting Traditions Are Rote and Joyless
How can I make them embrace surprise?

Dear Care and Feeding,

I have a low-stakes question, but it bugs me. Everyone in this scenario has similar (sufficient) economic means and is from the same social class and race and religion. In my family of origin, gifts are thoughtful surprises. We all take care and joy in seeking out presents that will be meaningful to the recipient. There is joyous beloved surprised excess at gift-giving occasions (and no off-season gifts). Giver and recipient derive happiness. Packages are wrapped at home, sometimes in fancy paper, sometimes in newspaper, sometimes in whatever paper would have been recycled but was instead painted by a child, etc. We mail these things across the country as needed in advance of the relevant occasions.

Now that we are adults, my siblings and I do not exchange birthday presents with each other, just our children, but we maintain the same traditions (and go all out for Christmas). But in my husband’s family, gift-giving is a commercial exchange. He grew up circling items in a catalog and having them arrive, just as requested, no surprises. Christmas presents were exchanged whenever they arrived, not under the tree. These days it is all very tit-for-tat (“my sister gave me $75 shoes, so we will buy her a $75 sweater”), gifts are rarely wrapped, and the whole affair is joyless.

When our children were little, there was no conflict as my in-laws would just give them little kid toys, and while often I had to wrap the presents, I didn’t mind that much. But now that my kids are 8 and 10, their grandparents and aunts/uncles are treating them in the same transactional way they treat one another, the way my husband was brought up (“please circle what you want in the catalog, up to $XX and we will send it to you”). In addition, the grandparents bring presents anytime they come to visit (I stopped protesting this because it was futile—and of course my kids are now miffed that my parents don’t do this too, so now we’re working on having gratitude attitudes).

Over 15 years of marriage, my husband has adapted to my ways, and he’s come to enjoy surprising me. He understands that when asked for a “wish list” I will provide some inspirational jumping-off points, not specific items. He generally finds shopping for my family fun, and if he gets stuck or frustrated I help, because none of this should be stressful (which he appreciates). I am getting increasingly frustrated by his family, though. Recently someone on the in-law side emailed me to ask what my son would like for his birthday next month. I replied, “Thanks for asking! I know he’ll love whatever you choose. Right now, he is into X, Y, and Z. He also still loves building things. His clothing size is M, and he likes shirts that are soft and pattern-blocked.
His favorite YouTuber is A, who has a merch store, and I’m sure anything from there would be appreciated. Hope this helps! xoxo.” She replied, “Oh, he has always been such an interesting kid! Could you please provide two items from here in that we should buy him?”

I honestly feel like they shouldn’t bother, but I don’t know how to say this (“If you don’t want to take the time to consider my children’s personalities and interests and what might be fun or interesting—and if you get it wrong, that’s what receipts are for!—then just donate to the college fund and be done with it!”?). Or maybe I should just forward all such requests to my husband? The problem is that he wouldn’t know what to choose. Last year he gave both of our children Lego sets they already own. He simply doesn’t pay attention, whereas I know where everything in the house came from and on what occasion—and if things were presents, I remember who gave them. (My husband’s family also doesn’t write thank you notes, but that is a hill I will die on: Our children write them.)

—In the Land of Plenty, Who Wraps the Presents?

Vacation days

by Finn

I recently heard on a podcast that people have been taking less vacation time than normal this year, to the point that taking use or lose vacation time between now and the end of the year was a factor considered in lowering GDP projections for the rest of the year.

What’s your vacation situation? Do you have a lot of vacation days to burn over the next few months? How do you plan to use your vacation days?

Cleaning Conundrums

by Jeanne-Marie

My family and I have recently repatriated to the US after living overseas for two years. Currently most of our belongings are somewhere in France waiting for the shipping company to find a cargo ship willing to bring them back to the US (this is a whole ‘nother story for another day!). In the meantime, we are living in a 2 bedroom / 2 bath corporate apartment.

For many reasons I’ve decided to take on the responsibility of cleaning the apartment myself rather than outsourcing this job. Since I don’t have any of my cleaning supplies with me, I’m starting from scratch. I know during the pandemic many of us started cleaning our own homes. What products, tips and timesavers can you recommend? RMS recommended Huck towels instead of microfiber towels. I have a friend who swears by a mixture of 1 part Dawn dishwashing detergent to 1 part white vinegar to clean just about anything. Any other great products you rely on (homemade or store bought)?

What do you use to mop your floors? Previously I had a steam mop, that I liked. The apartment came with a brand-new sponge mop so I bought a bucket and a bottle of Pine-Sol, but I haven’t used it yet because just the thought of smelling Pine-Sol makes my stomach turn. I am still relying on my mother’s cleaning methods of the 1970s. Surely things have improved.


by Rhett

When I was young I would have said, of course! Now that I’m older, I’ve noticed plenty of people doing pretty well with a lot less thinking and angst by just going with the default options.

Why Is It So Hard to Be Rational?
The real challenge isn’t being right but knowing how wrong you might be.

Advice Column Friday

by Louise

AITA for not wanting my fiance’s grandmother (98F) at our wedding?

My fiance (30M) and I (28F) are getting married next month. Everything is going great, but we’ve been having a serious argument about having his grandmother at our wedding.

We’ve agreed to not have kids at our wedding, as we want the reception to be a huge party for your adult friends and family with dancing, loud music and an open bar. However, for precisely the same reasons that we don’t want kids there, I don’t want his elderly grandmother at our wedding either. I said she can come to the ceremony but not the reception. It will be extremely loud and I want it to be a party atmosphere, and she will be extremely out of place. For context, none of my grandparents are still alive, and he still has his last living grandmother.

This has caused a huge fight, since she said she has always dreamed about being at her grandson’s wedding (he is her oldest grandchild and she probably won’t make it to the next family wedding). Which is why I said that she’s more than welcome at the ceremony, but she will just be too out of place at the reception. She and he both insist that she will be fine and wants to go to the party. But I just know it will inevitably lead to us dealing with her and taking care of her, and I just want to get drunk and let loose with my friends.

She’s now really upset and won’t talk to me, and my fiance is also angry. I think I am within my right to make this request, I am the bride after all.

Thursday open thread

We have an open thread all day.

Starter topic:  What emergency gear do you carry in your car?

Doing things differently

by Houston

What things do you do differently from your spouse? What do you do “better” and what do they do “better”? Does this cause conflict or have you learned to live with each others foibles?

I think that DH and DS1 fold shirts so much better than I do. However, I do the laundry and folding/putting away. They are just happy to get clean clothes.

And of course, I have to rearrange the dishwasher because DH loads it “wrong”. You need to spread out the utensils *equally* in all the little containers and not crowd them all in just one or two baskets. Geez…

Back to school shopping

by Houston

It’s that time of year again. How is your family preparing for the start of school? DS2 will be going to college next week and we’ve gone shopping for his new dorm. Nothing as complex as the article below, but the usual–toiletry caddy, twin XL sheets, shower shoes, etc.

Whey my kids were in K-12, shopping consisted of trying on clothes and shoes and replacing anything that was too small/too worn. My kids hate shopping and hate trying on stuff, so this chore was spread over a few days. Cue parental lecturing (DH and me equally) on how when *we* were young, we didn’t get so many new clothes and they should be grateful…

What’s on your shopping list this year?

The college dorm shopping industrial complex is real
For college students, dorm decor can showcase newly discovered identities. For parents, it can be a second nesting phase. It all adds up to a lot of shopping.

Common sense and SAT scores

by Rhett

Meme made a comment about common sense the other day that got me thinking.

And then there was a discussion about why a hotel would reserve the right to renegotiate rates if a guest asked to modify their reservation.

Which got me to wondering:

1. Does the ability to answer those types of questions correlate with SAT/GPA measured intelligence?

2. How much does the ability to answer those questions vary within the set of people with X SAT and Y GPA?

Rethinking senior care

by Kim

Recent events have caused me to rethink eldercare options, particularly home care.

For years, staffing shortages have plagued the home care industry — a hodgepodge of for-profit companies and chains, nonprofit programs and publicly funded care through Medicaid, all operating under a confusing welter of state and federal regulations, plus an uncharted “gray market” of clients who avoid agencies and hire privately. But Covid-19 has intensified the problem….

The bigger problem, industry sources say, is growing demand. Whereas nursing home occupancy has declined for years and fell further during the pandemic, and assisted living is at about 75 percent of capacity, the number of people seeking home care keeps increasing.

More than 800,000 older and disabled people who qualify for Medicaid are on state waiting lists for home care. Agencies serving private-pay clients are turning away business.

Congregate living looks less attractive after Covid, as residents died and family members were locked out for months. Moreover, a return to workplaces means that some adult children can no longer provide elder care. Even before the pandemic, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projected the addition of one million home care jobs by 2029.

What have you seen that works or doesn’t work for senior care?  What do you envision for yourself or for your parents?

Here are two articles related to this topic.  If the discussion gets too political, it can move to the weekly politics page.

Three weeks

by Finn

Consider the scenario recently brought up in one of our discussions:

“It’s like if we suddenly got an “breaking news” alert on our phones that there is a 3 cubic mile asteroid on a collision course with Earth and it’s due to hit in 3 weeks. Someone on twitter would go, “It’s all a lie. They are just trying to use this to declare martial law.” A lot of people would buy that because it’s a lot easier to believe it’s all fake than to acknowledge we’re all going to die a fiery death in 3 weeks.”

In this case, what would you do in those three weeks?

Travel prep and more

by Kim

Do you have tips for efficient travel preparation?  Would you be ready to leave on a trip with a day’s notice?  Or do you need more time to consider and prepare what you’ll take on your trip?  Maybe you’re the type that quickly pulls stuff from your closet and drawers to put in your bag, grabs your wallet and phone, and is ready to go.

34 Useful Things You’re Totally Going To Want When You’re Traveling

I’m trying to be more systematic and efficient in preparing for travel.  Before I took my first pandemic-era trip last month, I cleaned out my stash of travel stuff that had accumulated over the years and reduced it down to the most useful essentials, organized to be ready to pack and go on short notice.  Out went old hotel toiletry bottles, mismatched bags, extra toothbrushes and many other items.  I kept and organized my trusty compression packing cubes, clear plastic pre-packed toiletry bag, and some other must-have accessories.

In addition, I updated my packing list template from which I can check off items I need for a particular trip, including clothing, documents, and electronic accessories.  I keep things simple, pared down to minimal needs so I can go almost anywhere with one carry-on bag.  And I also have a list of things that must get done before I leave, like boarding the dogs and stopping the mail.

Do you tend to overpack?  How are your travel plans going?  Are you eager, or reluctant to travel?

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.


by Houston

Let’s talk about toys! What were your favorite toys as a child? What are/were your kids’ favorite toys? What toys do you love? What toys do you hate?

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.