Politics open thread, September 15-21

Our weekly politics open thread starts now.

A topic suggestion from WCE:

For the politics page: left vs. right on global warming

Empiricism and Dogma: Why Left and Right Can’t Agree on Climate Change


Questionable work behavior

by Swim

After my post about being annoyed at hearing nail clipping at work, here is a topic suggestion:

What have you seen or heard at work or any other environment that made you raise your eyebrows?

What have you done yourself that might raise some eyebrows, and why?

Smart people acting dumb

by Becky

We all know people that seem smart in whatever realm they need for their job but not particularly clever overall. This article touches on rationality as a cognitive component separate from intelligence, as well as people relying on gut instinct over evidence. Do you think being rational is a separate skillset from general intelligence?

Why the smartest people can make the dumbest mistakes

How family traditions start

by Rhode

Why this teenager greets his younger brother in a costume every day after school

I saw this video while dying from a norovirus this week. I love how the family has these videos and the brothers have this bond. You know this started as a way for the older brother to embarrass his younger brother and it took on a life of its own. Have you done something (or had something done to you) that seemed annoying, stupid, or insignificant in your life, yet turn into a tradition?

Trying to minimize the impact of your vacation

by MooshiMooshi

There has been a lot of discussion lately about the negative impacts of vacation travel, including the the impact of air travel on climate change, the way that AirBnB can drive up rental costs for locals (and even drive locals out of touristy neighborhoods), and the overall ethics of travel to poor countries or neighborhoods that can sometimes feel like the privileged gawking at the poor. There is a great example of that in the film Gully Boy, a recent Indian film that is grittier than the usual Bollywood film.

I found this article in the New York Times which discusses the angst of vacationing. The writer talks about the issues and ultimately comes up with a set of guidelines which I mainly agree with. When I travel to Europe, I realize I have to fly, but once there I try to stick with trains, which I think are far more pleasant than those low cost flights anyway, or bicycles. I also am a big believer in staying in one place for longer amounts of time. Not only does that minimize fuel consumption, but I feel like I also connect better and get to know a place better. And that is a big point that this article makes – travel is a gift, but also expensive ecologically, so try to make it high value.

. Do you really need to take that many trips a year? There are platitudes aplenty about travel — it inspires, it educates, it reduces bigotry. But not all trips meet those standards: Consider an educational exchange program in Vietnam compared to a week at a resort in the Maldives. Most leisure travel, of course, falls somewhere in between. So I recommend setting a high bar for your travel, making sure any trip maximizes your connection with the place you’re visiting, whether that be through volunteer activity, seeking out a particularly responsible tour operator or traveling where you have friends who can help you live truly local.

The author, however, admits he has trouble giving up AirBnB. Sorry, but I will not go there. I hate what AirBnB is doing to so many cities, where entire buildings are now taken up with short term tourists, and neighborhoods are drained of real residents. I stay away from AirBnB and its ilk, and still have no trouble finding decent interesting places to stay.

In the end, while I think we should all be more mindful of the costs of our vacations, and try to create higher-return trips, I actually think mindless business travel is far more the culprit. I have to travel for a conference planning meeting every September, and I hate it. We could do every bit of the work via video conference. I use Webex for lots of meetings now and it works REALLY WELL. I honestly think a huge proportion of flight-heavy business travel could be eliminated and no one would ever notice a difference. That is where travel environmentalists should focus their efforts. A corporate tax on travel, perhaps?

Tuesday open thread

We have an open thread all day.

Can you relate?

19 Hilariously Real Costco Tweets Someone Needs To Frame Immediately
“Just changed my relationship status from ‘Single’ to ‘Costco Member.'”

Upcoming topics:

Wednesday  —  Sneakers or tennis shoes?  (S&M)
Thursday  — Trying to minimize the impact of your vacation  (MooshiMooshi)
Friday  —  Spend $1000 on your hobby  (July)
Sunday —  Politics open thread

Low cost but high impact purchases

by Finn

What inexpensive purchases have you made that have had an outsize positive impact? For this discussion, let’s set an upper limit of about $500.

Here’s one example: a little over a year ago, after our cable company had changed to all digital signals, which left us with a TV in our kitchen without any source media, we spent about $20 on an Amazon Fire Stick. That one-time cost made available on that TV all sorts of media; we started with a a lot of YouTube videos and some Amazon Prime videos, then I discovered an app that opened the door to a bunch of K-dramas, where I was able to watch a couple dramas recommended by DD, which gave me something else to share not just with DD, but with some of her friends as well. All for a $20.

Thursday open thread

We have an open thread all day.

Here’s a question.  Would you rather give up air conditioning or wifi on vacation?

Majority of vacationers would rather have no air conditioning than no internet

OTOH, this Energy Star recommendation was not well received by many who strongly prefer cooler sleeping temperatures.

78° F when you’re home
85° F when you’re at work or away
82° F when you’re sleeping

Deep concentration — a crucial 21st century skill?

by July

… the greatest driver of both personal satisfaction and economic value in the work you do is your ability to sustain states of deep concentration on a single task. “To do good physics work,” he quotes the eminent physicist Richard Feynman saying, “You need absolute solid lengths of time … it needs a lot of concentration.” This is true of most knowledge work, and, Newport points out, the ability to produce unique work of merit has never been more highly rewarded in the marketplace.

At exactly the same time it has never been harder to accomplish. Our time and focus are constantly fractured and fragmented and this makes it harder to find and make use of sustained blocks of time in states of deep focus. We’re constantly interrupted by email and text and social media as well as our own desire to ‘check the internet’… I mean ‘research’ something.

Over time this shapes how we function. Day after day of scattered reactivity driven by our inboxes versus sustained effort in thinking about the most important problems in our world results in our losing the ability to sustain the habits of mind that allow us to our best work. It’s a bit like the way we’re losing our ability to read deeply- a topic I recently wrote about that also has direct relevance for schools.


It seems as if many totebaggers spend their work days checking in on this blog and other online sites.  Does at least part of your job require sustained “states of deep concentration on a single task”?  Or does your job mainly require you to shift your focus constantly to new tasks?  Or both?

After seeing that I was having trouble becoming too distracted to focus deeply on tasks, I found that getting back into the habit of reading books helped “rewire” my brain to be able to concentrate over longer periods.  (Check out the link to Forgetting How to Read to learn more about this.)

Your thoughts?  In particular, how does this relate to students?

Do most schools think about limiting focus and distractions and NOT constantly switching activities as highest-value learning environments? They do not. In fact they are probably more worried about “keeping students engaged” through group work or consumer-facing technologies or activities designed to pander to rather than reverse short and skittish attention spans. The overuse of group work might be an example in some cases.

Gaming the college financial aid system

by Becky

We frequently discuss here whether the cost of some schools is worth the premium price for those of us who make too much to qualify for much financial aid but not enough to afford exorbitant tuition. Here is an article on how some families have decided to game the system. Your thoughts? How far would you go to make school affordable for your kids?

Parents Are Giving Up Custody of Their Kids to Get Need-Based College Financial Aid
First, parents turn over guardianship of their teenagers to a friend or relative. Then the student declares financial independence to qualify for tuition aid and scholarships.

Tuesday open thread

We have an open thread all day.

Here’s a question that came up on Reddit.

A stranger becomes you for 24 hours, what is one question they would ask you when the 24 hours is up?

Highest-rated answers:

1. “Why do you still work there?”

2. “Is there any way to turn the volume down on your thoughts?”

3. “Why don’t you own any shoes?”


5. “Are your friends on holiday or something?”

6. “Nothing. They’d just walk away in silence while avoiding eye contact.”


by S&M

We’ve talked all about destinations and what happens in-flight with seat selection, meals, etc, but how do you like to spend your layovers? Do you ever get to your home airport early to enjoy its amenities, or linger in the airport after arrival?

After TPA’s renovation a few years back brought in lots of restaurants from around town, I was tempted to find a way to spend time there. When we once got to the airport and learned our flight had been delayed, we went straight to Colombia and had a good meal. On another delay, en route to my nephew’s wedding, I noticed much too late that I could’ve spent the past couple of hours in a spa getting my legs waxed, and maybe getting a massage.

To kick conversation off, here are recommendations of airport restaurants. Have you been to any of them? Did it deserve this praise?

Fine dining at airports around the world

Your latest food finds

by July

I learn about many of the latest food trends from my kids.

Why everyone is obsessed with Jollibee fast food — from its sweet spaghetti to fried chicken better than KFC

I only noticed a Jollibee location as I walked by it recently because my son had raved about it.  I would have tried it out except there was a long line of customers waiting to place their orders.  Maybe next time.  I’m curious.

What about all the juice bars that sell expensive “healthy” fresh juice that promise to cure everything that ails you?  My daughter has to have her regular fix and has convinced me to try some, but I’m not sold on their promises.  When you become a member of Pressed Juicery you get discounts on their juice bottles and shots.

I’ve noticed that power “bowls” have become options even at Taco Bell and other fast food places.  Impossible burgers are becoming available at more places, including Burger King.  People have become obsessed with hard seltzer.

What recent food discoveries have you made?  Maybe they’re only new to you.  Have you tried new ethnic foods lately?  Do you consider these fads or do they have staying power?  Have your go-to foods or restaurants changed very much recently?

Thursday open thread

We have an open thread all day.

Do you have songs that pump you up, whether for exercising or other activities?  I saw this request on Twitter:

i need your most “buckle up and get shit done” song for a playlist to pump me up tomorrow morning

Many years ago there was a time I used to play “Centerfield” at full volume every morning on my way to work to get my blood going for the day’s challenges.

Put me in coach, I’m ready to play today
Put me in coach, I’m ready to play today
Look at me, I can be, Centerfield

The odds of needing long-term care

by July

Do you think much about long-term care needs?  What has been your experience with family or friends?  What are your plans?

The duration and level of long-term care will vary from person to person and often change over time. Here are some statistics (all are “on average”) you should consider:

Someone turning age 65 today has almost a 70% chance of needing some type of long-term care services and supports in their remaining years

Women need care longer (3.7 years) than men (2.2 years)

One-third of today’s 65 year-olds may never need long-term care support, but 20 percent will need it for longer than 5 years

How Much Care Will You Need?

Do these costs-of care numbers seem reasonable?

The Odds on Needing Long-Term Care – WSJ

Thursday open thread

We have an open thread all day.

A starter topic from Finn:

Say you have a source of clean, free electricity at home, with the catch that it is not unlimited, is only available when you and your family are away from home, and you have no way to store that electricity.  How would you make use of that electricity?

Raj Chetty’s plan

by Dell and WCE

The Economist Who Would Fix the American Dream
No one has done more to dispel the myth of social mobility than Raj Chetty. But he has a plan to make equality of opportunity a reality.

WCE has this comment.

I enjoyed this article on how economist Raj Chetty is using big data to identify areas of opportunity in the United States. I especially appreciate how his work is bipartisan and how he’s trying to keep it that way. While I don’t think we understand the laws of economics as well as we understand the laws of physics, I believe there are negative consequences to violating either, due to unintended consequences. Chetty wants us to improve society for the long-term in ways that obey the laws of economics.

Thursday open thread

We have an open thread all day.

This week marks the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11.  For those of you who are old enough, what do you remember of it?  What about other iconic events like Watergate in the 70s, the Challenger disaster in 1986, and 9/11 in 2001?  What are your very first memories as a child?

Water parks

by Lemon Tree

It is amazing that this water park stayed in business for as long as it did. I was so intrigued by this story that after I read it I went on YouTube to find videos of the rides mentioned.

Do any Totebaggers remember Action Park? What about other water parks of your youth? Good memories or bad? Do you like going to them as an adult?

Remembering Action Park, America’s Most Dangerous, Daring Water Park

Paying the kids’ bills

by July

This is not a new topic, but recent articles have highlighted how some parents are sacrificing their own retirement security by helping pay their adult kids’ bills.

Adult children are costing many parents their retirement savings

Clients delay retirement to help kids pay for cars, weddings

This chart seems to indicate a trend.

In a recent Ameriprise survey, just over half of respondents told the financial services firm the next generation will have a harder time paying for expenses such as a first car or a first home, and a third said they have delayed retiring or would do so to support their kids.

The survey showed a clear desire among clients to do more for their children than their parents did or were able to do for themselves. For example, 80% of clients said they have helped or intend to help their children buy their first car, but only 54% said their parents had done them that favor. Forty-percent of respondents said they have helped or intend to help their children buy their first home, but only half that number report their parents did the same for them.

How would you answer the survey questions?  Did your parents help you with these expenses?  Did you or do you intend to help your children?  What other expenses fall into this category?  Do our kids have a harder time than previous generations paying for some of these expenses?

Commonly spoken languages

by AustinMom

This was an interesting map. Note, that it excludes English and Spanish. I find it to accurately reflect my experience in my state. I regularly hear people speaking Vietnamese, and Arabic. I know people who speak Chinese, Japanese, Turkish, and Hindi with family members at home, but usually speak English if an English speaker is present. What about other totebaggers? What languages do you regularly hear?

This map shows the most commonly spoken language in every US state, excluding English and Spanish

Thursday open thread

We have an open thread all day.

“What people consider luxury items has changed throughout the years,” said Mr. Amaro. In our always plugged-in moment, headphones can easily outrank clothing as an important investment. “I don’t think as much about the clothes I’m wearing every day,” said the Brooklynite Mr. Kellogg, “but my headphones, my phone, I use those constantly….they just feel ubiquitous in our lives [in a way] that maybe other markers of luxury aren’t.”…

Do AirPods Make You Look Rich_ These Millennials Think So – WSJ

What do consider luxury status symbols, either for yourself or for others?  What makes a person look “rich”?

Tech based education may save money, but also may leave many students behind

by MooshiMooshi

This article, found in the Chronicle of Higher Education, details an innovative way of teaching remedial math that was enthusiastically adopted at many schools. The idea, called the emprorium model, was to have lots of students working with online math software as tutors circulate around the room, swooping in and helping as needed. This was supposed to be beneficial because it lets students work at their own pace, and spend enough time mastering each concept before moving on. It also means that students are actively learning by solving problems rather than passively listening to a lecture. Active learning in STEM has been shown in many studies to be a superior learning method.

I also suspect that many cash strapped schools, especially community colleges, were enthusiastic because the emporium model looks like it could save money because fewer instructors are needed.

Virginia Tech uses this model and it has worked out well for them. However, according to the article, two new studies have come out that found that the emporium approach many not work so well for very underprepared students, especially at community colleges.

“The Kentucky study found that students were 10 percentage points less likely to pass their courses in one semester, compared with peers in a traditional class. The Tennessee study found that while students passed the remedial math course taught in the emporium model at about the same rate as those taught conventionally, they struggled more in other ways, later on.”

A Tech-Based Model to Teach Math Has Spread Across Higher Education. But for Some Students, Could It Do More Harm Than Good?

I am not surprised that Virginia Tech has more success with this model than the community colleges in the KY and TN studies. Research on online education in general finds that marginal students do not do as well in online courses as they do in traditional face to face courses. They probably need more interaction with faculty and more direction. In fact, one of the studies found that the self paced nature of emporium classes was a problem for many students who waited until the last minute to try to complete all the work. They also noted that the mastery model was a problem – students could not move on until they had mastered each module, and often got stuck.

The observation in the TN study that students who took emporium classes did not do as well in later math courses as students who took traditional courses is particularly interesting to me. In general, I wish more education researchers would look at performance in followup courses when they study approaches. I think that is a very important measure of learning that often gets ignored. My pet theory on this result is that online math learning modules often stress rote performance at the expense of understanding. While being able to solve problems quickly and correctly is important, students need to also understand what they are doing. I think an understanding gap can become very apparent in later courses, and that may be what is going on here.

Have any of you seen courses like these? What is your general opinion on computer-based education – salvation or destroyer? Or in between?

Tuesday open thread

We have an open thread all day.

This is a rather provocative statement.

“autism spectrum”

by Rocky Mountain Stepmom

This is longish, but I found it very interesting. It’s about the “autism spectrum”.

As you can see, the various parts of the [visible light] spectrum are noticeably different from each other. Blue looks very different from red, but they are both on the visible light spectrum. Red is not “more blue” than blue is. Red is not “more spectrum” than blue is. […] Autism isn’t a set of defined symptoms that collectively worsen as you move “up” the spectrum…[A]utism isn’t one condition. It is a collection of related neurological conditions that are so intertwined and so impossible to pick apart that professionals have stopped trying.

“It’s a Spectrum” Doesn’t Mean What You Think

Food delivery robots coming to your campus…

by MooshiMooshi

This article from the Chronicle profiles on campus food delivery robots. One company called Kiwi has been delivering food to students by robot for a couple of years and is trying to expand to other schools, including Rutgers and Stanford. Another company is partnering with Sodexho, the big campus dining hall company, to start a service at George Mason. In fact, these aren’t truly robots since they are remotely piloted. I guess they are dronebots.

Food-Delivery Robots Are the Next Big Thing for Campus Dining. No, They Don’t Accept Tips.

I am trying to figure out how this will work on a practical basis. Rutgers, for example, is incredibly spread out around New Brunswick. Maybe they only work within a certain radius? At urban campuses like NYU or BU, how would they navigate streets and traffic?

And this part of it I find slightly horrifying

fleets of pixel-faced robots, each about the size of an Igloo cooler, piloted remotely by low-wage workers in Colombia, rolling around idyllic greens and quads to deliver nourishment to busy students.

So is it all about replacing on campus workers with workers overseas? I can remember the people who worked in my undergraduate dining hall – a mix of students and immigrants from the Azores who mainly spoke Portuguese. At my current university, the dining workers all seem to be elderly Polish ladies, as well as students. But I guess people in Colombia are cheaper.

But judging from the photo, the robots are kind of cute, like coolers on wheels. I’d like to see these at campgrounds. And I bet liquor stores near campus would find them useful…

Tuesday open thread

We have an open thread all day.

This is how Americans spend their money based on their education level

Here’s the spending for those with graduate degrees.

Do these numbers, at least the percentages, seem consistent with your observations?

Upcoming topics:

Wednesday  —  Food delivery robots coming to your campus… (MooshiMooshi)
Thursday  —  Open thread
Friday  —  No post
Sunday —  Politics open thread

Estate planning conflicts

by L

How many plot points in movies, murder mysteries, etc., hinge on estate planning or the lack thereof? And in real life, what family conflicts have you seen caused by estate planning?

We watched all 20 seasons (!) of Midsomer Murders and easily over half of the cases turned on who was named as the heir in the murdered person’s will!

Mental illness

by July

This recent comment seemed to set off a spirited discussion on the treatment of mental illness:

I believe we have redefined normal life suffering as pathological.

I thought of this when I read about Dr. Paul McHugh, a “professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and a tenacious skeptic of the crazes that periodically overtake his specialty”.

First, let’s be clear that he believes “mental illnesses are real things . . . that need to be studied, and can be treated”.  On the other hand, he believes some illnesses are “iatrogenic—a Greek word meaning “brought on by the healer”—implanted by the therapeutic process that purports to discover them”

Dr. McHugh gives some examples of iatrogenesis:  some cases of recovered memory, transgender/sex reassignment surgeries, and PTSD.

Dr. McHugh argues that the treatment of returning soldiers for the liberally applied PTSD diagnosis is another example of iatrogenesis. Such diagnoses are far rarer among Israel Defense Forces veterans, who experience plenty of trauma. Israelis “know that you can get a terrible psychological reaction out of a traumatic battle. And they do take the soldiers out, and they tell them the following: ‘This is perfectly normal; you need to be out of battle for a while. Don’t think that this is a disease that’s going to hurt you, this is like grief. You’re going to get over it, it’s normal. And within a few weeks, after a little rest, we’re going to put you back with your comrades and you’re going to go back to work.’ And they all do.”

By contrast, American psychiatrists say: “ ‘You’ve had a permanent wound. You’re going to be on disability forever. And this country has mistreated you by putting you in a false war.’ They make chronic invalids of them. That’s the difference.”

Standing Against Psychiatry’s Crazes – WSJ

What are your thoughts?

Some related links if you feel like reading some more:

The Real Problems With Psychiatry
A psychotherapist contends that the DSM, psychiatry’s “bible” that defines all mental illness, is not scientific but a product of unscrupulous politics and bureaucracy.

Psychiatry’s Incurable Hubris
The biology of mental illness is still a mystery, but practitioners don’t want to admit it.

In 1973 the American Psychiatric Association voted to declare that homosexuality was no longer a mental illness and thus should be removed from the DSM, psychiatry’s “bible” of illnesses.

The obvious question—how scientific is a discipline that settles so momentous a problem at the ballot box?—was raised by the usual critics.

Tuesday open thread

We have an open thread all day.

I’m not a regular churchgoer so when I attended a funeral mass recently I was a bit surprised to see two large projector screens that gave lyrics and other guidance for the attendees.  The music style was mostly contemporary, including a Carrie Underwood song.

What have you seen that’s relatively new in houses of worship?  Do you like the changes or do you agree with this writer?

Why Churches Should Ditch The Projector Screens And Bring Back Hymnals
Christians need to understand that relying on screens and other technology is not leading to better worship, it’s ruining it.

Totebag Fantasy Vacation

by Honolulu Mother

I’ve been doing some travel daydreaming lately, probably because the travel I have lined up for this summer is just some college visiting and I not-so-secretly would rather be doing a big trip. So I thought others might like to do some travel daydreaming as well, with a set of rules and conditions to give some form to it.

The challenge: You have money to burn – a $75,000 budget specifically – and you are planning a dream trip for 6 to 8 people (inviting along friends, bringing the kids, inviting a sibling and spouse or other family), to last a week or a week and a half excluding travel time getting there and back. We’ll assume that for the purpose of this dream vacation everyone can get time away from work or school at the desired time. What do you plan?

You can charter a boat with a skipper and a chef and still come in well below budget, it appears – https://www.moorings.com/ .  Even renting a chateau or villa doesn’t put that much of a dent in it — I suppose you could hire the staff to go with it and that would raise the price.  (If you go to https://www.landmarktrust.org.uk/Search-and-book/#Search and sort by price descending you’ll see that you could find some pretty interesting places and still be well below that generous budget.)

I suppose I’m thinking too small — too much like my usual way of travel.  Here’s a place I would very much like to visit where bringing six to eight people for a week would burn right through that generous budget: https://www.wildretreat.com/ .  And this London accommodation, considering whatever the additional cost must be for adding the connecting suite for the third bedroom, would blow up the budget without leaving anything for meals! https://www.theritzlondon.com/book-a-signature-suite/the-prince-of-wales-suite/ .  Setting up a customized tour like this https://kerdowney.com/ker-downey-difference-east-africa/ would pretty much use up the budget and you couldn’t be choosing the highest-end option for everything.  It’s not hard to be spendy in Japan, with options like this https://www.relaischateaux.com/us/japan/senjuan-gunma-minakami and this https://www.jrailpass.com/blog/seven-stars-kyushu-luxury-train.  And if your dream trip is a family ski vacation in somewhere like Aspen or Banff between Christmas and New Year’s . . . that can add up.

So, given the $75K budget, what week to week and a half dream vacation would you treat your group to?

College housing culture clash

by Rocky Mountain Stepmom

The trust-fund hippies vs. the actual low-income students.

Low-income students question whether UC Berkeley co-ops are living up to mission

I was exhausted just reading this article. So glad I have a house of my own, with just my husband.

Where did you live in college? Would you make the same choices? Do you think your kids should live in dorms, apartments, co-ops, at home, or where?

Tuesday open thread

We have an open thread all day.

Anyone else interested in back pain relief?

A comprehensive guide to the new science of treating lower back pain
A review of 80-plus studies upends the conventional wisdom.

You can try to find a “back whisperer”.

These “back whisperers” come from many different backgrounds: doctors of physical therapy with an orthopedic clinical specialist certification, personal trainers with a degree in exercise science, physical therapists.

Or maybe just pop an Aleve as needed.

Upcoming topics:

Wednesday  —  College housing culture clash  (Rocky Mountain Stepmom)
Thursday  —  Open thread
Friday  —  Totebag Fantasy Vacation  (Honolulu Mother)
Sunday —  Politics open thread

How many towels?

by July

Everyone Seems to Be Divided on How Many Towels to Own—Here’s What We Think
Why is this so difficult?

Twitter user Advil launched the tweet that started Towelgate this weekend, and has garnered almost 2,500 replies. He believes that 10 is the perfect number of towels for a couple to own—but his girlfriend, not so much.

Soon enough, the internet’s replies came pouring in, with everyone wanting to put their two cents in on the Great Towel Debate. Some said 10 was just perfect, others replied that you definitely need more than 12, and some were more stumped than ever before….

While it definitely depends on how many people are living in the household, how many guests you typically have visit you, and a few other factors, we can all agree that most households should have more than one. (C’mon, what are you going to dry off with while your sole towel is being washed?!)

For a more definitive answer though, we’re going to need Marie Kondo to weigh in.

How many towels should you own?  What about sheets sets, blankets, or kitchen towels?  How many are too much?

Country clubs on the decline?

by July

Death of the Country Club
A changing culture imperils a venerable institution.

The country club, once a mainstay of American suburbia, faces a cloudy future, with a changing culture eroding its societal influence. Golf and tennis, the traditional club pastimes, have lost popularity. Declining marriage and fertility rates mean fewer families joining. Young professionals, many burdened with limited incomes and high debt, balk at paying dues. And a yearning for broader community makes the clubhouse’s exclusivity unappealing. The country club is increasingly a refuge for retirees—and, upon closure, a site for mixed-use development.

What do you think?  Do you see this happening  locally?  What replaces a country club for younger generations?

Tuesday open thread

We have an open thread all day.

Sleeping with the TV on may make you gain weight

Or it may not.  But I’ve seen enough reporting on the role of sleep in maintaining good health that I’m willing to believe it could be true.  Do you have a TV or other screen devices in your bedroom?  Do you watch in bed?

Upcoming topics:

Wednesday  —  Country clubs on the decline?  (July)
Thursday  —  Open thread
Friday  —  How many towels?  (July)
Sunday —  Politics open thread


by Anonymous

Podcasts – what are you listening to these days? In my regular queue I’ve got:
Happier with Gretchen Rubin
Fresh Air
Market Foolery
For the Love (Jen Hatmaker)
No Limits
Serious Eats
Motley Fool Money
Without Fail
Start Up
Ali on the Run
Bon Appetite

I’d love a good travel podcast but haven’t been able to find one that is actually interesting. Would also love a good health/fitness one – also surprisingly challenging to find.

Do you listen to podcasts? What are your favorites?

Thursday open thread

We have an open thread all day.

Do you have a favorite World War II book?  I’m currently reading Code Girls: The Untold Story of the American Women Code Breakers of World War II, which IIRC was recommended here. It offers fascinating insight into an aspect of the war effort that has not previously received much attention.

Here’s a short informative video about D-Day:


by July

A recent comment here about a volunteer having to ask permission from her organization’s finance committee to scan receipts instead of stapling paper copies to cover sheets got me thinking about the challenges and headaches of volunteer work.  I have often found myself short of patience when doing volunteer work so over the years I have not given as much of my time as I feel I should have.  I know it’s not necessarily supposed to be “fun” to volunteer, but still.

Why do you volunteer?  How much do the recipients benefit?  What do you get in return?  Is the juice worth the squeeze?  Do you feel comfortable just giving your money rather than your time?

Tuesday open thread

We have an open thread all day.

Do you get to the airport early or late?

Upcoming topics:

Wednesday  —  Volunteering   (July)
Thursday  —  Open thread
Friday  —  Podcasts  (Anon)
Sunday —  Politics open thread

On alert

by WCE

This malware article made me think of “the other 1%”- the activities of people, including rogue governments, bent on destruction. As humans, we don’t think about protecting ourselves, militarily and otherwise, because we don’t want to assume the worst about people, but often we should- and budget to protect ourselves.

Scamming jobseekers in Appalachia

by MooshiMooshi

This article, from the NY Times, is a sad tale of a “coding bootcamp” that took advantage of people in West Virginia seeking to better themselves. The bootcamp, called Mined Mines, was endorsed and promoted by Joe Manchin, the National Guard, and various news organizations. And yet, it was clearly a fraud, and ended up a disaster for the people who signed up.

They Were Promised Coding Jobs in Appalachia. Now They Say It Was a Fraud.
Mined Minds came into West Virginia espousing a certain dogma, fostered in the world of start-ups and TED Talks. Students found an erratic operation.

My take on this, and you can see from the commenters that many shared this opinion, was that even beyond the obvious fraud, this was a scheme that could never work. They promised to take pretty much anyone, run them through 16 weeks of “coding” instruction, and then an apprenticeship at their own tech consulting firm, and at the end of all this, the graduates would find high paying software development jobs.

OK. First of all, to be a successful software developer, one needs to know a lot more than just “coding”, whatever that is. Software systems have become really sophisticated, and everyone wants to integrate machine intelligence algorithms, cybersecurity best practices, oh, and it better be scaleable and run on highly distributed architectures. That means that developers need to know stuff – how to build security practices into the code, how to write system that can be parallelized, how to choose data structures and algorithms that scale, and so on. No one can learn all that in 16 weeks! The second problem is that the participants likely did not have the best academic preparation, and would have struggled even in a 4 year program. So it isn’t surprising that none of the people who went through this program actually ended up in development positions, or it seems, IT positions of any kind. I doubt they could have ever gotten through a standard technical interview.

And finally, I think the idea that if you train people in IT, they are going to somehow find remote jobs while remaining in Appalachia is pretty unrealistic. There is a reason that the tech industry congregates in certain areas. Not only do the companies have a choice of the best talent RIGHT THERE, but the people themselves network with each other, and learn from each other. It is hard to be a fledgling developer, and trying to do it remotely would be much harder. Software developers spend a lot of time talking to each other and getting advice from each other. It is hard to do that from your trailer in rural West Virginia. The reality is, for people in rural areas who want to get into tech, they are going to have to move.

Do particular toys inspire particular interests?

by Louise

The Sum of the Parts of STEM Toys Can Equal a Giant Mess
A new generation of knickknacks meant to inspire a love of science and math can become a headache for parents; Legos aren’t the only floor hazard

Do these STEM toys really make kids want to take up STEM ?

Legos were big in my house for a stretch but now one kid turns trash into treasure and the other one likes video games. I am not certain bombarding kids with specific toys increases interest that much. Same with Disney princesses, no evidence so far of any princess behavior

What’s new in the world of laundry?

by Becky

I’m not posting a link to the product here because I don’t want people doing a search for it to end up here, but I was at Costco this weekend and saw the LG Styler. It is a steam closet for your clothes that would go in your laundry room. You put your clothes in and close the door, and the lovely machine freshens them up for you. There was a contraption in the door to hold slacks and press them. I was enthralled with this thing and am trying to find a justification to buy it. What items make your laundry life easier, other than making other families do it?

Is it a sin, crime, or both?

by Swim

I remember making a joke to a college friend about something we didn’t like, “UGH, that’s a sin AND a crime!” We laughed, and it became a recurring comment. DH and I will sometimes make that comment as a joke, but other times we’ll use it to see where we stand on other value litmus tests. Jaywalking at an empty intersection? Crime but no sin. Nasty gossip? Sin but no crime.

It has been interesting to use it as a discussion point with the kids when having serious conversations that revolve around values.

Faking it

by S&M

“Putting things away creates the illusion that the clutter problem has been solved” — M. Kondo on using bins and baskets to corral things

De-cluttering is the new morality. Some of us would be happy to fool ourselves and keep on sinning. (In other words, I want my stuff, but not the disaster when my sleeve catches on a stack and sends it careening.) Anyone who’s going to embrace Konmari as their lifestyle probably has by now. Personally, I still have enough stuff that beating it back is a regular activity. This little list is about ways to hang onto “clutter” without feeling cramped by it, as well as other clean-house cheats. Some of the tips (we seem to be past “hacks”, hooray!), like “make your bed”, are old hat, but some might feel new, if not novel. I am into trays right now, Easter-baskets-as-organizers are surprisingly good, and we have plants, a wooden bathmat and a diffuser.

How about your household? Does any of this sound familiar? What other strategies do you use for a cleaner feeling home?

7 Ways to Make Your Home Feel Cleaner Than It Is
Fake a clean home in less than 15 minutes.