Your franchise dream

by Grace aka costofcollege

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

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

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

The Top 10 Franchises of 2016

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

 

Open Plan Offices – What do you think?

by Kerri

Open-Plan Offices Are the Worst

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

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

A few thoughts –

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

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

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

Manners

by Honolulu Mother

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

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

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

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

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

Open thread

by Grace aka costofcollege

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

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

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

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

Some examples:

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

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

The Electoral College over time

by WCE

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

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

Updated 2020 Reapportionment Projections

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

Historical Timeline

Thanksgiving open thread

by Grace aka costofcollege

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

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

Is Your Thanksgiving in an Elitist Bubble?

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Presents and shopping

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

Holiday Gift Giving

by North of Boston

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

————

Shopping Deals

by Finn

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

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

What’s your favorite board or party game?

by Honolulu Mother

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

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

How common is your surname?

by WCE

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

Search for Meanings & Distribution of 11 Million Surnames

Teaching your kids to drive

by Denver Dad

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

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

I Can Resist Anything But Temptation

by Honolulu Mother

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

Do you have any favorite tricks to avoid temptation?

Dealing with loss

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

20161112-hrchiking

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

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

 

Electives, seminars and classes

by Louise

The Editor’s share their favorite electives

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

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

What electives have your kids chosen ? Anything interesting?

Selective Public High Schools

by Honolulu Mother

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grandparenting styles

by Grace aka costofcollege

The Hands-Off Grandma

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

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

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

Happiness

by Honolulu Mother

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

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

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

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

25 Science-Backed Ways to Feel Happier

Election 2016, November 6-12

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

Any comments on the Electoral College?

How Does The Electoral College Work And Is It Fair?

This article lifted my spirits a bit.

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

Open thread

by Grace aka costofcollege

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

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

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

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

U.S. healthcare

by MooshiMooshi

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

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

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

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

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

Opinions?

Why do Americans Move More Often than Europeans?

by Honolulu Mother

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday To-Dos

by Lark

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Halloween open thread

by Grace aka costofcollege

Here’s the most popular Halloween treat by state

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

Influenster halloween candy map

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

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

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

How Not to Raise Brats

by Honolulu Mother

This Washington Post article has some thoughts on what leads kids to act ungrateful or entitled, and how we as parents can try not to promote those traits. The article is framed in terms of behavioral economy / psychology, but its suggestions can be summarized as:

– Train them to think about other people’s experiences and perspectives
– Avoid hedonic adaptation, i.e. don’t spoil them
– Show them how the world outside their bubble lives
. . . . especially by focusing on individual examples
– Don’t bribe them for desired behaviors

I’m not sure I entirely agree with the last one — sometimes bribery can be a way to get the ball rolling, especially if it’s phrased as a token of appreciation for their help and accompanied by verbal appreciation as well; and in a short-term situation bribery can be the tool that gets everyone through. But by and large, these seem like time-honored and common sense strategies.

Do you consciously try to follow these or similar strategies? Is the list incomplete? Have you ever been startled by some piece of entitled or ungrateful behavior by your child or children?

Charisma

by Grace aka costofcollege

What are the components to charisma?

Charismatic behavior can be broken down into three core elements: presence, power, and warmth.

When people describe their experience of seeing a charismatic person in action, whether Bill Clinton or the Dalai Lama, they often mention the individual’s extraordinary “presence.” Presence turns out to be a core component of charisma, the foundation upon which all else is built.

But if presence is the foundation on which charisma rests, power and warmth are the stuff of which it is built….

You need all three to be charismatic, but the degree of each determines the kind of charisma you have….

You can become more charismatic.

Stare like a lover, stand like a gorilla, speak like a preacher….

Learn more:

How to Master the Art and Science of Charisma

Do you agree with the components listed in the quote, or would you describe it differently?  Are you charismatic?  Do you work on it?  In what specific ways have you seen charisma benefit someone?  Who is the most charismatic person you personally know?  Can you teach your children to be more charismatic?  What suggestions would you have for someone trying to be more charismatic?

Open thread

by Grace aka costofcollege

Today we have an open thread.  Here’s a topic to get us started.

Opinion: Workers will simply try to survive, rather than prosper, as tech takes over the economy

Refute his argument, if you can.  The author touches on topics previously discussed here, like the possibility of a growing class of “unemployables”.  He focuses on the role of the technology sector.

A common assumption was that new jobs in new industries would take up displaced workers. Unfortunately, the reality has been different.

The number of people employed in technology has remained modest, around 5% to 6% of the workforce. By one estimate, only 0.5% of the U.S. labor force is employed in industries that did not exist in 2000. In Silicon Valley, only 1.8% of workers are employed in new industries.

One reason is that many new industries are not labor-intensive, and when they are, the tasks are outsourced to the cheapest supplier in the world. A leading technology company like Google GOOG, -0.02% has only around 60,000 employees worldwide.

 

On the fundamental inequality of the sexes

by WCE

I’ve never found a Fertility and Sterility medical journal article that seemed appropriate for The Totebag, but this article on the tradeoffs of healthy pregnancy/babies as a function of maternal age and career choices seems ripe for a Totebaggy discussion. I am somewhat vocal on the blog about my view that male/female career/social equality is difficult or impossible, and this article is a good summary of the statistical reasons.

Do you think people (men and women) should think about these facts when planning their lives? Do you think both sexes will?

If the link doesn’t work and you care, the article may be available from your library login.

Reproduction at an advanced maternal age and maternal health by Mark Sauer 

For those not interested in/unable to access the whole article, the summary paragraph is this.

It is difficult to publically challenge convention, and it seems that these days it is politically correct to portray women enjoying the best of both worlds when it comes to family and work. However, if this is achieved by delaying pregnancy then the risk of complicated pregnancy, infertility, and childlessness must also be understood and accepted. The goal should be to promote earlier efforts at procreation, while condemning myths suggesting “you can have it all” by delaying reproduction until a time that it is convenient. Starting a family is never convenient and it never has been. A social re-engineering back to a more conventional time may be difficult, if not impossible to do, but a failure to do so will result in increasing numbers of women left childless and without adequate medical interventions to reconcile their needs. To succeed in this endeavor doctors will need to enlist the support of partners in all aspects of life: educators, employers, lawyers, theologians, and legislators. Finally, accurately portraying the difficulties faced by both older patients attempting pregnancy and those who are experiencing it is long overdue. Realistic characterization should not scare patients away from trying to have children but rather serve as a warning of the perils of postponement and be sobering reminders that all stages of life are fleeting and pregnancy is still best accomplished while young.

Respectful disagreements

by Rocky Mountain Stepmom

Recently I’ve come across two articles about how to communicate with / persuade people who disagree with you.

The first is from the Harvard Business Review, written by Deepak Malhotra, who has a book about negotiating in impossible circumstances. He suggests finding ways to let your opponent save face, and to find ways to include them in your tent.

How to Build an Exit Ramp for Trump Supporters

The second is by Daniel Dennett, who is a big shot in the philosophy world. This one is more about how to argue with people so that you can actually make some progress down a given intellectual path. Believe me, most philosophers don’t follow this approach, but they probably should.

How to Criticize with Kindness: Philosopher Daniel Dennett on the Four Steps to Arguing Intelligently

I freely admit that I’m not very good at following any of these rules unless someone is paying me to do so. Totebaggers, what do you think of the advice from Malhotra and Dennett?

Election 2016, October 23-29

The end (of the campaign) is near.  Voting takes place in 15 days.

Ricky Gervais:

“If [Trump] gets in, good luck to him. That’s what the people wanted….”

Ann Althouse:

Yes, this is a democracy, and if Trump becomes President, there’s no blaming Trump. It’s something the people made happen. The same goes for Hillary and for our awful predicament having Hillary and Trump as the candidates. That’s us….

Democratic vs. Republican occupations

by Grace aka costofcollege

Your Surgeon Is Probably a Republican, Your Psychiatrist Probably a Democrat

New data show that, in certain medical fields, large majorities of physicians tend to share the political leanings of their colleagues, and a study suggests ideology could affect some treatment recommendations. In surgery, anesthesiology and urology, for example, around two-thirds of doctors who have registered a political affiliation are Republicans. In infectious disease medicine, psychiatry and pediatrics, more than two-thirds are Democrats.

The author suggests that salary and gender play a role in the political leanings of doctors.

Here’s another measure of politics and occupations that is based on political contributions.

Democratic vs. Republican occupations
Most librarians are Democrats. Most farmers are Republicans.
As a group, doctors are in the middle, though pediatricians lean left and urologists right

Do you see these trends among people you know?  Do you fit in with any overall political orientation among your colleagues, or do you usually feel out of place?  What about with your neighbors, friends, and relatives?  Do you talk politics in real life?

String Theory

by Honolulu Mother

String theory has always had the problem of being essentially unfalsifiable. I’ve wondered myself if it’s just particle physics’s version of epicycles. Thus, I was very intrigued by the suggestion in this Atlantic article on string theory (I know, that reputed science journal, the Atlantic) that insofar as string theory produces testable hypotheses, they’re being borne out:

Using the physical intuition offered by strings, physicists produced a powerful formula for getting the answer to the embedded sphere question, and much more. “They got at these formulas using tools that mathematicians don’t allow,” Córdova said. Then, after string theorists found an answer, the mathematicians proved it on their own terms. “This is a kind of experiment,” he explained. “It’s an internal mathematical experiment.” Not only was the stringy solution not wrong, it led to Fields Medal-winning mathematics. “This keeps happening,” he said.

Do you have an opinion on string theory, or any other cutting edge field of science? Or failing that, do you support the level of public spending necessary to, say, prove the existence of the long-predicted Higgs-Boson particle?

Open thread

by Grace aka costofcollege

We have an open thread today, with a side conversation about tracking apps.

What do you all think of tracking apps?  I’ve seen kids and parents go to both extremes.  Some kids are nonchalant about the use of this technology, finding nothing offensive about having parents know every move they make.  Others are fiercely resistant about their privacy and want none of it.

TRACKING APPS: HOW TO GET BUY-IN FROM YOUR TEEN

One mother I know wanted to use a tracking app for the times when her 19-year old daughter was taking public transportation late at night after work. Her daughter was against it, and they compromised with agreeing to regular texting from the daughter.   On the other hand, another mother and her twenty-something daughter seem to know each other’s every move by using Find My Friends.  Young people I know use that app to keep track of each other.

Do you or will you use a tracking app with your high school or college kids? What about with younger kids?  Do you think it’s helicoptering, or just a common sense safety measure?

Public displays of faith

by Honolulu Mother

This 538 article discussed an interesting survey of what public or shared displays of faith make nonbelievers uncomfortable, versus what public or shared displays of faith believers *expect* to make nonbelievers uncomfortable.  Sometimes the differences are striking:

libresco-publicprayer-2

Then again, perhaps the true explanation is that for each category, the survey only questioned those believers who regularly engage in a given act — in other words, only the approximately 1/3 of believers surveyed who routinely ask people to pray with them were asked to predict nonbelievers’ comfort level with the request. Perhaps the believers who expect nonbelievers to be made uncomfortable by such a request are among the 2/3 who don’t regularly ask people to pray with them!

Do you see ways in which religious believers and nonbelievers misunderstand one another? And is that necessarily a bad thing?

Strong communities

by Louise

Totebaggers, we often hear about doing good for our communities. In today’s world what does that mean?  Volunteering, donating or taking care of our families and helping out our friends the best we can?  What are the issues facing your communities?  How about experience with government programs at the community level. Have they worked?

I feel with this election cycle there has been a long period of time where we have become distracted by day to day sound bites and have lost focus on the issues that really affect our communities.

Discuss.

Generations and the Subject We Don’t Discuss

by Honolulul Mother

Yes, it’s an article on sex! This Pacific Standard article by Malcolm Harris looks at the trendline showing that millenials are waiting longer to become sexually active than earlier generations, and reframes the question:

Instead of asking why Millennials are having less sex, we could also ask why Boomers and Gen-X had more. Rather than asking why Millennials are so weird, we could compare birth cohorts in a way that doesn’t assume any of them as the baseline. Sexual norms and practices are in constant flux, and we ought not treat them as fixed.

The author has a theory:

One possible explanation based on the data, and on what we know about gender and power in America, is that young women who don’t want to have sex (or aren’t sure) are having their wishes respected at a greater rate. This explanation also fits with the crime data we do have on teen sexual assault victimization, which has declined significantly over the time in question.

Do you think his theory has merit? (I do.) Do you think the trendlines are showing a real change, or a blip? And do you agree with his reframing of the question as why the two previous generations had more sex, instead of why millenials are having less?

Keeping family close

by Grace aka costofcollege

Do you maintain close ties with your parents, siblings, and extended family?

Frank Bruni and his family place great value in having a week-long family reunion every year.

… we’re also dedicated to it, and we’ve determined that Thanksgiving Day isn’t ample, that Christmas Eve passes too quickly, and that if each of us really means to be central in the others’ lives, we must make an investment, the biggest components of which are minutes, hours, days. As soon as our beach week this summer was done, we huddled over our calendars and traded scores of emails to figure out which week next summer we could all set aside. It wasn’t easy. But it was essential.

Marjorie Rosenblatt’s youngest child is in high school, and she wants to be sure to stay close to her kids as they become independent adults.

While I recognize this progression toward independence was our eventuality, even our goal, it felt and still feels somehow unnatural to me; how can we as parents know the comings and goings of and daily events in the lives of our children, only to accept that this degree of involvement would be relatively abruptly replaced by an occasional text or phone call? How can our family, an indivisible unit, disperse, and yet (we hope) continue to be solid? How can we stay close as a family as our lives diverge?

She suggests group travel, text threads, traditions, and care packages.  Gretchen Rubin and her family send frequent email “updates” to each other as a way to maintain close contact.

I like some of these ideas, but they do require a commitment to make them work.  I’ve seen how easy it is to let family ties fray.  One way I maintain contact with some extended family is through a private Facebook group, where we post updates about what is happening in our lives.  We feel we can share more on this private group than on our regular timeline.

Has your extended family kept close ties?  If so, how have you made it happen?  Have you thought about ways to maintain close contact with your children as they become adults?   If your children are grown, are you satisfied with the type of relationship you now have?  On the other hand, do you prefer to keep a friendly distance from some relatives?

‘Am I introverted or just rude?’

by Méme

I don’t have to write a blurb – the title speaks for itself. The comments are mostly from introverts trying to figure out why it is considered rude not to be social. I think this might overlap with elitism for some – my time is too valuable to waste on you, your conversation is too plebeian, but for most of us (I am not an introvert, but I hate parties and chit chat) it is mostly just how do I want to spend my limited time.

Am I Introverted, or Just Rude?

Bad Design

by Honolulu Mother

Looks Can Kill: The Deadly Results of Bad Design by Lena Groeger

The linked article discusses recent instances of death or serious injury caused by bad design. What I found especially interesting was how many of the examples were of designs that had gone in the wrong direction from a safety standpoint — taking a standard and well-understood design and deciding to visually jazz it up, in a way that increased the possibility of harmful errors. For instance, the laundry pods that look like candy, fuel additives packaged like energy drink shots, detergents packaged to look like fruit drinks, or the shifter design on the right:

which has been blamed for a recent death because it makes it difficult to tell whether your vehicle is really in park.

Design is an important feature in our consumer culture. Good design been credited with propelling some product lines to the top, as in the conventional wisdom that Apple’s design has traditionally been both aesthetically pleasing and intuitive. But does the quest for a redesign to make a product stand out from its competitors sometimes run counter to the quest for better product safety?

And, how important is design to you? Do you pay the premium to buy your kids the interesting or fun school supplies or do you stick with the cheaper basic versions? When you look for furniture, does comfort rule or are you willing to trade it off for the look you want? Are there everyday items you consider examples of especially good or bad design?

Fall Recipes

by Honolulu Mother

Moving through September and into October doesn’t make much of a difference in the weather here, but I still start to think of making more pumpkin or apple based recipes, perhaps inspired by the Halloween stuff appearing in stores. For those of you in temperate climes, I’m sure your cooking style changes more noticeably with the seasons. So, please share some of your favorite fall recipes!

Here’s a collection to get you started:

Fall Recipes

And, here’s a recipe for a simple apple bundt cake — I don’t have my copy on hand but I found a copy online:

Apple Dapple Cake

College Confidential (Totebag Version)

by Louise

Totebaggers with older kids, what is the criteria for getting into a college that people would recognize ? I am not talking of Highly Selective Schools but maybe a tier below ?

Also, if you have experience with HSS, please share that. Some Totebaggers have left the decision on where to apply, how hard to work to their kids, others may have offered tips or made suggestions.

Still others have inside experience as readers of applications, college administrators and professors. I would love to hear your views on this edition of The Totebag College Confidential.

The Mixed Message: School’s Creating Helicopter Parents

by AustinMom

Last week I went to a freshman (high school) parent night and was told about all the things I should be doing to ensure my child’s success. These included (1) making sure they were using the agenda the school gave them, (2) regularly checking their grades, (3) each weekend helping them select the appropriate FIT sessions for the next week, (4) subscribing to the teachers’ webpages for those using that system to get emails when each assignment is posted, (5) logging into my student’s account to see what the assignments are for the teachers using that system, and (6) in my account, I should also set it up so that I get a notification for missing grades, absences/tardies, and when the child’s average falls below a family determined level.

Before I go on, FIT sessions are mandatory 25 minute tutoring/study sessions that occur 3 days a week. Teachers post the topic/style of each of their sessions each week, such as Q&A review for Pre-AP Biology Test 2 or Review of Quadratic Functions, or the student can select a quiet study hall or a “open” study hall that allows talking so kids can work on group projects. Teachers or counselors can sign a student up for a FIT session that the student cannot change.

Yes, I set up my parent account so I can see grades, get notifications for missing grades and when an average falls “too low”. However, I think the rest of those items are my student’s responsibility, but I am absolutely willing to help her with any issue if she asks. The teachers and counselors have told them to do these things and have showed them how. I believe that my student should not be counting on me to do these things and then remind her about all her assignments. If she does not handle the responsiblity appropriately, then it is my job to step in and help her figure out what needs to happen differently.

The next day this article (Standford Dean) comes through my feed about the negative effects of helicopter parenting and not to do “everything” for them. The event last night that told me what “good”, “involved” parents should do seems to be promoting helicopter parenting.

About 5 days later I attended a set of college presentations with my HS junior. One of the speakers introduced the term “helium parenting”. The article (Helium Parenting) describes it better, but think about how a balloon is tethered to your hand when you hold it, but it can still move around freely within limits. Then, when you let go, it goes off completely on its own. Helium parents provide that freedom within boundaries knowing that they will ultimatley let go.

Totebaggers, do you feel that you are getting mixed messages about how “involved” you are to be in your child(ren)’s school life? Do you feel like you are a “helicopter” or “helium” parent?

What a Stanford Dean Says Parents are Doing That’s Ruining Their Kids

Helium Parenting

Are athletic fees too high?

by Finn

A recent discussion delved into possible reasons college is getting so expensive. One factor we didn’t consider is the increasing cost to students of supporting increasing intercollegiate athletic budgets.

Sports At Any Cost

Why students foot the bill for college sports, and how some are fighting back

On the other hand:

NBC Accounts for $100 Million for Notre Dame Financial Aid

With fees supporting athletic departments running to hundreds of dollars per year, for many students that can mean additional thousands of additional dollars of college debt. For those relying on Pell Grants, it could mean millions of our tax dollars supporting athletic departments, many of which spend millions of dollars on coaches’ salaries alone.

What do you think? Are athletic fees excessively burdensome to students, especially those scraping through by borrowing and/or part time work and/or taking semesters off to work? Should there be limits on government spending supporting athletic departments?

 

Never will I . . .

by Rhett

Cordellia mentioned that her house has three water heaters because as a child she promised herself she’d never take a cold shower as an adult. I grew up in a house that was hot in the summer and freezing in the winter so I promised I’d always have powerful HVAC.

What are some of the things you’ve promised yourself as a child that you’ve achieved as an adult? What are some of the things you haven’t achieved?

You won’t believe this secret rule that you know without ever being taught!

by Honolulu Mother

Ha, sorry, creeping Buzzfeeditis strikes again.

I am of course referring to the recent story about how there’s a fairly complex order in which adjectives modifying a noun must be listed, that native speakers use without realizing that they even know it because it just sounds wrong otherwise. Here’s the BBC article on it.

Why the green great dragon can’t exist

Do you think that order is correct? Can you think of other grammatical rules that we don’t know we know?

(And speaking of clickbait, did you see the professor who played with a #clickbaitsyllabus on Twitter recently?

You won’t believe how this college prof clickbaited students. Or what happened next.

Supersmart kids

by Finn

If we’re all honest with ourselves, many of us have very smart kids. Perhaps they’re not supersmart, but they’re well above average, and common topics of conversation here are related to our kids being smarter than their classmates, and sometimes smarter than their teachers.

So these accounts of a study of supersmart kids will likely be of interest. Some here have mentioned some level of participation in the Johns Hopkins programs for very bright middle schoolers, and my niece participated, but I was totally unaware that the program was part of such a study of supersmart kids and how to help them maximize their potentials.

How to Raise a Genius: Lessons from a 45-Year Study of Supersmart Children

Want to Raise Wildly Successful Kids? Science Says Do This for Them (but Their Schools Probably Won’t)

What are your takeaways from these articles? Do they suggest any possible directions you will take regarding the education of your kids?

Election 2016, September 25 — October 1

Trump-Clinton debate expected to shatter records

The first presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump promises to be the most watched ever, with an audience that could exceed 100 million people, according to experts interviewed by The Hill.

A debate with an audience that size would be something never seen before in U.S. politics and would be a figure close to what the Super Bowl gets.

The first debate is tomorrow, September 26.

Urban Suburban

by Louise

This article talks about mixed use, denser development in the suburbs. It is definitely a trend in my city. Apartments and town homes are being built at a rapid pace in suburban centers and construction cranes fill the skyline. No large lot is left unbuilt.

What do you think of this tend ? Did you start off or still live in a dense setting ? Discuss.

Suburbs Trying to Attract Millennials Diverge on Development Patterns

Would you ban your college age kids from a major?

by Honolulu Mother

This Washington Post clickbait, I mean article, discusses parents who forbid their college student offspring from choosing a liberal arts major.

Meet the parents who won’t let their children study literature

I assume the parents in question are paying for college. Would you ever place specific subjects off-limits as a field of study for your college-aged offspring? And if so, what subjects?

To me it seems inappropriate and controlling. But, I’m not paying for college yet so ask me again when one of mine announces s/he has discovered a grade-free program of study in Video Gaming as Narrative that involves playing as many games as possible and then discussing them at informal seminars to be held Friday nights over a keg.

High-achieving siblings

by MBT

Then don’t even mention Calculus…..

Here is the summary of a study on high-achieving siblings, and the commonalities in how they were raised. A lot of what these parents did seems contrary to the Amy Chua, or even Totebag parenting ideals. In particular, there seems to be a willingness to allow children to fail that we really don’t seem to have here. However, they mention drug and alcohol problems, teen pregnancies, and other stumbles on the path to adulthood. Many on this board would not consider those outcomes to be a success. The siblings profiled all did achieve success in their chosen fields, so there must be something more than chance going on. I’m not sure how that can be, though, because Calculus is not mentioned anywhere in the article. Do you see any similarities between your parenting styles and those profiled here? Do you consider these families to be successful?

Secrets of Super Siblings

Out of state students

Both MooshiMooshi and Rhode sent in posts for this topic.

by MooshiMooshi

Are cuts to public state universities forcing kids to go out of state?

This article, from the NYTimes, contends that increasingly, this is the case. The article discusses reasons why some states are sending so many students out of state, and the second article shows the data, state by state.

Public Colleges Chase Out-of-State Students, and Tuition

How Cuts to Public Universities Have Driven Students Out of State

In my experience, some states have traditionally sent lots of students out of state – CT and MA come to mind immediately. Even back in the 80’s, it was assumed in CT that many students would leave. Both states had relatively underfunded flagship public universities at the time, and little tradition of widespread public university education. The best students always went private. But other states, like CA, had a long standing tradition of public higher education. In the state where I graduated HS, very few students went out of state, and that appears to still be the case. But CA is now sending a lot of students out. And Illinois???

How is your state doing according to the data? If your state is sending a lot of kids out of state, do you agree with the reasons given? Do most students in your state go to public universities or do many go to private schools? And do you think we should continue to have state based public higher education systems? Or should everything thing be national, or even private?

* * * * * *

by Rhode

This article describes how public college students migrate. Did you follow the pattern of your home state? What about your kids?

The interesting backbone to this article is the reduction of state aid to public colleges. How does this affect you? Are your children’s colleges choices or how far the budget will stretch affected?

The broader question I have is what do you think about the reduction of state aid to public colleges?

At least in RI, the aid from the state is supposed to subsidize RI student costs, so that way our state public colleges are very affordable. In an odd twist, the cost to keep the lights on is the cost of out-of-state tuition, so the state aid basically fills the gap between “what the state thinks RI students should pay” and “what it actually costs to run the college”. I’ve never agreed with the model – it’s a catch-22. The college needs to recruit out-of-state students to keep the lights on, so the state thinks that the college doesn’t care about in-state needs, and then reduces aid, forcing tuition to increase across the board. If the college focuses on drawing in-state students, then programs may be cut because the college doesn’t have enough out-of-state tuition to keep the lights on.

What about your state? Is funding to public colleges decreasing? Do you think it’s important for states to fund public institutions? What about the federal government? Should more aid be given to reduce tuition costs across the board?

Hamilteens

by Honolulu Mother

My daughter spends her evenings in a Hamiltrash chat via Instagram. I have heard (upon information and belief) that many other teens do the same.

Hamilton’s teenage superfans: ‘This is, like, crazy cool’

What, if anything, will it mean for this age group that their big teenage musical obsession involves a rap battle over whether to found a national bank instead of the usual boy band output? Will this come to be considered a generational marker?

Locations in three words

by Anonymous

Have you heard of what3words? It’s a new addressing system to help people communicate specific locations. One can currently do that with coordinates, but those are prone to error – telling the pizza guy you want your order to come to 34.057905°N 118.208899°W may get you to the entrance of USC’s hospital but giving the guy 31.057905°N 118.208899°W will get you a few hundred miles off of the Mexican Coast.

In order to have accuracy, you have to have a lot of numbers. In order to use traditional addresses, you need an agreed upon system of words and numbers – which much of the world doesn’t have. Enter what3words – a set of word-based coordinates that identify a 3×3 meter square.

I think it is the most interesting thing. My college’s art gallery is matrons.defend.smokers, which is awesome. Given the size of the gallery (or your house) there are 10s or 100s of choices. Some of them are brilliant. The whole ideas is a combination of nerdy, whimsical and social justice – being able to provide ambulance or mail delivery to the slums changes people’s lives.  [link updated]

what3words keeps Olympics visitors on track in Rio

This is probably not the discussion where people disclose the coordinates of their front door – but perhaps their favorite beach. What do you use to find your way without addresses? How can that be improved? Is everyone else as in love with this as I am?

 

The long and short of height stagnation

by winemama

Make America Tall Again? Height Stagnation in the 20th Century

It’s good to be tall. Tall people live longer, are considered more attractive, and make more money – an extra inch of height is correlated with an additional $800 in income….

Countries with tall people are wealthier, have longer average life spans, and are less likely to have experienced conflict. There’s no better sign of a country’s health and wealth than height….

Rather than genetics, diet and well-being during infancy and adolescence are the primary determinants of a country’s average height. During these growth periods, the body has the greatest need for nutrients. Sickness and malnourishment in childhood can mean a loss ofthree to four inches in height….

The Dutch are the tallest people in the world. The average man is nearly 6 feet tall, compared to 5’ 9” ½ in the United States, and the average woman is 5’ 6” ½ compared to 5 4” ½ in the U.S….

The United States was once among the tallest countries in the world.

According to the data, Americans born in 1896 were the 3rd tallest in the world, and as recently as 1951, Americans were 10th. But the second half of the 20th Century was a period of sharp relative decline for American height. Today, the United States ranks 40th, and the height of the average American (5’ 7”) is no greater today than it was for those born in 1950….

The most likely answer is that with equally distributed economic growth, average height across the world could grow several more inches, but not much more. Anthropometric researchers and anthropologists tend to agree that the Dutch have reached close to the limits of human height.

Discuss

All About McMansions!

The Worst of McMansions blog elicited post ideas from two Totebaggers.

Honolulu Mother has some thoughts on this:

We’ve talked before about what makes a McMansion a McMansion, versus a large house or an actual mansion. Now someone has helpfully done an entire blog series for us architectural n00bs, explaining the rules of graceful construction and how McMansions violate them:

McMansions 101: What Makes a McMansion Bad Architecture?

There are links to other posts in the series at the bottom.

Let’s talk about McMansions! Do you live in one? Do your neighbors? Do you have strong feelings on the subject?

Rocky Mountain Stepmom has similar questions:

Totebaggers, do you agree with the distinction between mansions and
McMansions? Do you live in one or the other?

Our uncivilized public lands

by WCE

As Homeless Find Refuge in Forests, ‘Anger Is Palpable’ in Nearby Towns

In many western states (see Time magazine link for details by state), the federal government owns a majority of the land, either as national forest or as Bureau of Land Management land. This allows for great hiking and camping opportunities, as well as grazing, firewood cutting and mushroom hunting, but so much open land has disadvantages as well.

The NY Times article discusses the mess and risks associated with disadvantaged people who live on public lands. Two of my friends who are PhD wildlife biologists have confirmed that there are significant risks when hiking and camping on public lands. Unlike cities, which are usually well-policed, forest lands have very limited law enforcement. Growing marijuana and drug trafficking are probably the most common crimes. A single officer may be responsible for hundreds of square miles. Even with the cooperation of local law enforcement and fire departments, crime and wildfires are very problematic. The federal government has reduced/tried to eliminate “payment in lieu of property taxes” for forest lands, so the costs of busing kids to school in these areas is high and borne by counties with an artificially low tax base.

Do you have any thoughts (or maybe questions, since there are a few of us in states with lots of federal land) about how federal land should be managed? Do you agree or disagree that it is under-resourced in terms of fire/police protection? Any other thoughts about how federal land ownership affects western states?

Teasing and Friendship

by Honolulu Mother

Recent articles from New York Magazine and Quartz suggest that kids need to learn to distinguish between good-natured teasing, which can be an important part of friendship, and the kind of unfriendly jibes we might consider bullying.

Teach Your Kids to Take a Joke or They’ll Be Bad at Friendship

Teasing has many benefits, when done right

From the NYMag article:

Boston University psychologist Peter Gray tells Quartz that if parents and teachers try and shield their kids too much from any sort of smack talking, then they don’t learn to enjoy the crass banter that’s such a part of growing up or to stand up for themselves when it goes too far. Those sheltered kids have “heard from adults that [light-hearted teasing] is bullying and so they get really upset about it rather than knowing how to roll with the punches,” he says. It’s like the social equivalent of the microbiome: If your parents didn’t let any microbes into your house growing up, there’s a better chance you would develop asthma. And if they didn’t let you exchange barbs with your friends growing up, it might be harder to accept the vulnerability that’s a part of talking shit as an adult. . . .

We do a lot of teasing within our family, which I think has helped our kids to see it as an affectionate thing within the right context. In the school context, I think that kids teasing one another often are honestly uncertain themselves whether they mean it as friendly banter or mean teasing — often it’s the target’s reaction that decides it for them. So I do agree with the article that it’s helpful for kids to experience teasing as a part of normal social interaction, so they can distinguish between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ teasing as they grow up.

Can your kids join in to friendly teasing, and give as good as they get, or do these interactions upset them? Are your family members fond of teasing one another?

Podcasts

by Risley

After being advised by my son for several months that I simply must listen to the SERIAL podcast (masterminds behind This American Life and available for free on iTunes), I finally downloaded the first season a week or so ago, and listened to the first few episodes on a drive to the other side of the state. Oh my — HOOKED!

For those who haven’t heard of it, season 1 is about a 15-year-old murder case (a HS senior was murdered and her HS senior boyfriend was tried, convicted and is serving time for the crime. He is now 32). The host, Sarah Koenig, interviews various witnesses and experts, as well as the defendant, and reviews all the evidence, presenting a case that (this far into my listening, at least) seems very far from cut and dried. Did he or didn’t he? I have reasonable doubts, to be sure.

I’m up to episode 8 now and am already mourning the impending ending of season 1. I’m so glad there are 2 more seasons left. (I assume each season presents a different case, but I’m afraid to look at the website in case there are spoilers. I was on there earlier, looking for Sarah’s Twitter handle, and already learned info about Season 1 that I didn’t want to know now). I didn’t watch Making a Murderer on Netflix, but I imagine fans of that show would love Serial.

Also at my son’s insistence, I started listening to Revisionist History, Malcolm Gladwell’s podcast. It’s interesting, but not nearly as riveting (to me) as Serial. DS and I recently flew together, and we spent the flight sharing headphones and listening to Revisionist History shows stored on his phone.

In addition to these new (to me) shows, I have always loved This American Life, The Moth, and a few shows on CBC Radio. And I’m sure DS will keep me apprised of any he gloms onto in the future.

I actually don’t make time in my week for podcasts. I don’t have much of a commute anyway, and on the 2 days I go to the office, I listen to Morning Edition en route there, and Fresh Air en route home (or I call friends/relatives to chat). On the other days, I don’t really have any spot in my schedule for podcasts. If I happen to catch these shows when I’m on long drives, I cheer and listen raptly; otherwise, I miss them.

Or at least, that’s how it was *before* Serial. Not anymore! Now that my son has gotten me hooked on this show, I’ll be finding pockets of podcast time in as many days as I can. Maybe while I walk the dogs, or while I do my 15 minutes/day of gait therapy on the treadmill? I can’t see listening to podcasts during more vigorous exercise, like spinning. But maybe as an alternative to reading, especially on nights when my brain’s fried from work? I don’t have a gadget to attach my phone to my pants, but maybe I’ll get one, and listen while I clean the kitchen? I’d listen to/from the cottage, which is my only regular drive over 20 minutes, but it’s rarely only me in the car then, and unless DH and the kids are at the same spot in the show that I’m at, it would be no fun for them to play it then.

What about you? What podcasts are you hooked on? When do you listen to them? Do you have a system for keeping your phone/iPod storage files cleared of old ones, so you can make room for the new? Are there any your entire family listens to together, or you and your partner? Are there any that you actually pay for?

Ask the Totebag: Transitions

by Denver Dad

DS just started high school. During the first week, he seemed to be a bit moody and was starting to show signs of the anxiety issues he had a few years. At the end of the week, he sent an email to DW, the gist of it saying that he doesn’t like HS and wants to go to an online school. It was very mature and well thought out. I know HS is a tough transition, and more so when you go from a small school (550 students total in K-8) to a 1,200 student HS. DW and I agree he needs to give it time so he can settle in, and agree that online school is not an option (I am not interested in debating that).

We’ve already talked to our pediatrician about restarting the antidepressant he was when he had the issues a few years ago, and we are working on finding a counselor/therapist as well. We are going to reach out to the guidance counselor to see what she suggests because I’m sure other kids from his previous school have gone through the same thing (a lot of them go to this HS).

My question is, what are some things that you did to help your kids with the HS transition that seemed to help? And conversely, what are some things to avoid saying or doing that just made things worse?

And we can discuss the transition to college as well.

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?