Tortes and Tarts

by Louise

“Mini tarts for an aging tart”. I loved this line and I have come to think of Totebaggers as Tortes (the guys) and Tarts (the girls).

BTW, my neighbor called her friends, women over seventy “the girls”.

As you, Tortes and Tarts have gotten older, what are things you do, that are the privilege of being a certain age? Speaking your mind, two glasses of wine, instead of one, a full cookie instead of half? What are your thoughts on aging?

Here is a snapshot of people who are 100 years old – there is drinking, dancing and marathon running.

David Bailey: this is what 100 looks like

Sex Ed

by saacnmama

My son recently brought home a paper from school:

Your son/daughter will be receiving instruction about AIDS/HIV/STDs in the 7th grade. Because of the present lack of a medical solution to AIDS/HIV/STDs, prevention has been identified as the only viable alternative for controlling AIDS/HIV/STDs. Education is the first step to prevention.

The six areas of study will be

• Abstinence
• Facts concerning AIDS/HIV/STDs
• HIV and the immune system
• The transmission of AIDS/HIV/STDs
• Risk behaviors and preventative practices
• A general overview of other sexually transmitted diseases
• Peer pressure refusal skills

Emphasis will be placed on abstinence from sex and drugs as the most effective ways to prevent AIDS/HIV/STDs.

This unit will be taught in Science class. They are just wrapping up a unit on mitosis and meiosis, so this follows logically. Over the years, I have answered lots of questions from my son. Our approach has always been biological. Explaining that the reason sex feels good so that people and animals will do it and procreate, but they sometimes do it “extra” because of that good feeling, makes sense to me as long as he sees no other reason for it. I do not know if the state we live in (Florida) is one of the states required to focus on abstinence, but that would not surprise me. This article gives some interesting information on abstinence teaching and why it may not be most successful at reducing disease and teen pregnancy. The approach it seems to suggest would be very hard to implement as just one parent, because it involves societal values.

The days of the biological scientific approach are limited. His schoolmates apparently give him plenty of examples of sexual desire at work, and he reported that one of the principle ways girls at the first and only school dance he’s been to danced was running their hands up and down their own bodies. I am sure it will not be too long until circuits are connected and his lights and buzzers start going off. He has already begun to ask me questions about my own experiences (beyond the initial “you did that once? I know you did, to make me”). I have far more experience than I think is healthy to discuss with him. I have already mentioned that I did not do a good job picking out a husband or his father (to which he snorted and agreed), that I do not want him to follow in my footsteps, that I want him to have a long and good relationship with his partner. Right now, the system is powered down and this sounds good to him. When his questions become more detailed and insistent, my plan is to switch to “don’t kiss and tell”, including how girls’ reputation, more than boys, can be ruined by this, and that he should never discuss what or he someone else has done sexually.

All of us have been through this ourselves, “in the Dark Ages”, and many of you have guided one or more youngsters through it. What do you recall, and what recommendations can you make?

Totebag Demographics

by Grace aka costofcollege

Have you tried the Esri Zip Code Lookup?  It shows you median income and age, population density as well as the predominant demographic segments for your zip code.  Try it HERE.

Take these polls to share what you found from the zip code lookup:


Do the results match what you observe?  Any surprises?  How about the demographic segments?  Which segment matches you best?  Where would you rather live — your ideal zip code?

The Good Old Days

by MooshiMooshi

I love living in today’s world. I love how DH and I can settle friendly arguments by whipping out a smartphone and hitting Wikipedia. I love that I can see constant photos of my DH’s baby relatives posted on Facebook. I love, love, love navigating with Google maps or my Garmin. It makes me far more willing to drive to unknown places. I am happy that I rarely have to enter a big box store like Kohl’s or HomeDepot. I am thrilled that I can stream Bollywood movies, or obscure Japanese art movies, or old episodes of West Wing, whenever I want.

I like a lot of the changes in the world, too. The fact that I have been to China three times, and that I realistically can visit Vietnam or Tibet, just boggles my mind. When I was 18, I never would have envisioned that. Granted, the middle east is a scary place, but it has been a scary place for a long time.

But there are some things I miss from the old days. Some of these things make me sad. I miss bookstores – not the cheesy mall bookstores of my youth or weird dusty bookstores. I miss the oldstyle university bookstores, which used to be packed with intellectual, specialized books instead of logoware. I miss the fun of a trip to Borders, and spending lots of time hanging out in their comfy chairs looking at history books.

I miss getting lots and lots of Christmas cards, with actual handwritten messages inside.

I miss vinyl records, and big splashy album cover art.

I miss thinking that it was really cool that you could write a lowlevel C program that would shoot a message through a socket, and another C program on another machine could actually read that message.

I miss feeling like it was a big deal when I got a letter from overseas stamped AIRMAIL, PAR AVION,… with lots of fancy stamps

What do you miss about the old days? What has gone away that perhaps you hadn’t even noticed was gone?

Cars For Kids

by Finn

In a recent post, Fred mentioned that he might be buying a car for his DS in the near future.

Providing cars for our kids is not something we’ve discussed much here, and this seems as good a time as any. This is especially the case for us, as DS now has a learner’s permit, DW and I are getting tired of driving him to his activities and would like him to be able to drive himself, and DW has talked about getting a new car for herself and letting DS drive her current car.

Totebaggers with kids at or above driving age, have you provided cars for your kids? If so, what kinds of cars? What responsibilities did you tie to the use of cars?

If not, how did you juggle your existing vehicles to allow your kids to drive? Or, did your kids just not drive during HS?

Many years ago, a coworker told me he had his kids pay their own insurance premiums to drive, and educated them on how moving violations would affect those premiums, and how his kids were extremely careful as a result. Would you consider this?

Sources Of Inequality

by WCE

This article argues that parental IQ, not parental income, is the primary cause of inequality. I always appreciate analyses that look at trends in countries other than the U.S., whether that’s stock market performance or educational inequality. I also appreciate the point that society needs to value nonacademic character traits, those currently referred to as “grit”.

“All high-quality academic tests look as if they’re affluence tests. It’s inevitable. Parental IQ is correlated with children’s IQ everywhere. In all advanced societies, income is correlated with IQ. Scores on academic achievement tests are always correlated with the test-takers’ IQ. Those three correlations guarantee that every standardized academic-achievement test shows higher average test scores as parental income increases…

The more strictly that elite colleges admit students purely on the basis of academic accomplishment, the more their student bodies will be populated with the offspring of the upper-middle class and wealthy—not because their parents are rich, but because they are smart. No improvement in the SAT can do away with this underlying reality.

I haven’t used the word “meritocracy” to describe this because it doesn’t apply. Merit has nothing to do with possessing a high IQ. It is pure luck. And that leads to my reason for writing this.

As long as we insist on blaming inequality of academic outcomes on economic inequality, we will pursue policies that end up punishing children whose strengths do not lie in academics. We will continue to tell them that they will be second-class citizens if they don’t get a college degree; to encourage them to accumulate student debt only to drop out or obtain a worthless degree. Worse, we will prevent them from capitalizing on their other gifts of character, grit and the many skills that the SAT doesn’t test.”

The reason I’m sending the article, of course, is that I think Charles Murray is mostly right. But I know many people think inequality is a problem that government can or should solve. Is the role of government in reducing inequality limited to income transfers from the poor to the rich, or can the factors underlying inequality be changed more than Murray argues?

Why the SAT Isn’t a ‘Student Affluence Test’

(Google the title if the link doesn’t work)

Business Travel

by Grace aka costofcollege

What are the benefits of business travel?

201503.eMiscMarPhoto1BI

A lifetime supply of hotel shampoo may be one benefit, but what else?  Chances to travel to places you would otherwise never go?  (That could mean Paris or Peoria.)  A break in the office routine?  (Too many breaks can be stressful.)  The ability to build up mileage and the associated perks?  (Even deluxe airport lounges can’t make up for too much time away from family.)

My perfect travel schedule would probably be one trip about every other month, planned well in advance, to destinations that have attractions above and beyond mundane office parks.

Do you like business travel, or hate it?  Do you travel much in your present job?  What would be your ideal work travel pattern?  Tell us your best and worst travel stories.

Best Cleaning Products of 2015

by WCE

My favorite spray stain remover, Tide Boost, has been discontinued so I’m looking for a replacement. Thankfully, my wonderful mother-in-law found and bought me 8 bottles on close-out so I have a little time to experiment. When I read this article on cleaning supplies, I decided to try Shout Triple Action. (I’m underwhelmed by the old Shout gel and Resolve/Spray ‘n’ Wash is just OK.) I already use Cascade dishwasher detergent. I may try the Great Value disinfectant wipes for cleaning the camper kitchen on our next trip but I’ll probably stick with my favorite dish soap, Palmolive, instead of seeking a particular variety of Method. Bar Keeper’s Friend is already under my sink. Weiman carpet cleaner doesn’t seem to be available locally and last year my current carpet cleaner, Resolve, won the contest so I may wait for potty training before my next round of carpet cleaner experimentation. I use the original Murphy’s Oil soap occasionally and use a rag and a bucket, rather than a mop, for heavy cleaning. I use Clorox toilet bowl cleaner and Scrubbing Bubbles bathroom cleaner already. Fels Naptha soap and Kids n Pets (good on mattresses) are missing from the list, but otherwise I thought it was thorough.

I became interested in cleaning supply performance when some friends took jobs with Procter and Gamble. On the rare occasions I care about germs, my biologist friend convinced me that Lysol, Pine-Sol and bleach are the most effective, and which is most effective depends on the germ. I will study this more if anyone in my house ever has a weak immune system.

Where I live, lots of people limit their cleaning supplies to water and vinegar, in order to avoid toxic household chemicals, so I can’t have this discussion with local friends. The regulars know I don’t worry much about chemicals.

Do you think about cleaning or cleaning supplies? What recommendations do you have? Or are you thankful you don’t have to deal with cleaning because someone else does it for you?

Friday Fun: Dessert Buffet

by Louise

The discussion of cakes – buttercream vs. fondant had me thinking of desserts. My parents used to go to a wonderful restaurant serving continental (French) food and the finale was a dessert cart. There was a chocolate cake, a black forest, a pineapple cake and a chocolate ganache cake. A soufflé and other assorted treats. I would look forward eagerly to dinner there. The restaurant changed over the years and although their food is still good and they serve individual desserts after a meal the dessert cart has vanished into the sunset.

Totebaggers what is your favorite dessert?
Do you have any recipes to share?
Are there any favorite dessert places or treat shops that you frequent. Share with us your dessert haunts.

Slow Or Fast Reading?

by Grace aka costofcollege

Maybe you should slow down your reading speed.

Slow reading advocates seek a return to the focused reading habits of years gone by, before Google, smartphones and social media started fracturing our time and attention spans. Many of its advocates say they embraced the concept after realizing they couldn’t make it through a book anymore….

Slow readers list numerous benefits to a regular reading habit, saying it improves their ability to concentrate, reduces stress levels and deepens their ability to think, listen and empathize. The movement echoes a resurgence in other old-fashioned, time-consuming pursuits that offset the ever-faster pace of life, such as cooking the “slow-food” way or knitting by hand.

Clicking on links may actually lead to lower comprehension.

Screens have changed our reading patterns from the linear, left-to-right sequence of years past to a wild skimming and skipping pattern as we hunt for important words and information.

More academics and writers are advocating a return to absorbing, uninterrupted reading—slow reading, as they call it. One 2006 study of the eye movements of 232 people looking at Web pages found they read in an “F” pattern, scanning all the way across the top line of text but only halfway across the next few lines, eventually sliding their eyes down the left side of the page in a vertical movement toward the bottom.

None of this is good for our ability to comprehend deeply, scientists say. Reading text punctuated with links leads to weaker comprehension than reading plain text, several studies have shown. A 2007 study involving 100 people found that a multimedia presentation mixing words, sounds and moving pictures resulted in lower comprehension than reading plain text did.

Skimming news articles online is different than reading a book or other longer pieces that require closer concentration, and I can see how too much Twitter and Tumblr could create habits that impair reading comprehension skills needed in other areas.  Here’s an antidote:

At Least 30 Minutes of Uninterrupted Reading With a Book or E-Book Helps

What’s your take?  How important are “slow reading” skills, or does a future filled mainly with videos and Tweets make them unnecessary?  Should schools change their instruction in any way?

Test your reading speed by clicking this link: How Fast Do You Read?  I’m betting most Totebaggers are fast readers.


QUESTION FOR EVERYONE:  ARE YOU INTERESTED IN A TOTEBAG BOOK CLUB?
 If so, would you like to suggest a book?  The idea of a book club has come up before, but I don’t remember if anyone expressed a willingness to organize and lead it.  If you are interested in taking on that role, please let me know.

Peeps Must Die

by saacnmama

We’re having a party! This Saturday, ‘saac is inviting his nerdiest friends over to destroy Peeps, a la http://www.toadhaven.com/Peep%20Science.html or the website peeped search dot com. The “science” will be entirely tongue in cheek, but the humor and creativity should be full-on.

I haven’t figured out yet if it will be indoors or out. If they’re indoors, they would be in the kitchen, where they could heat the suckers up on the stove (or in the oven), nuke ’em, and pour various things over them in the sink. Outside, we’d probably go to the shelter next to the pool. We’d take a bucket or two of water, and they could use the charcoal grill. When they’re done grilling, I could make Providence’s pizza while they jump in the pool. I’m not knocking myself out for this one, but am very open to your suggestions on how to make it easy and fun.

The Emptying of the American Countryside

by Honolulu Mother

The part of this article that most interested me was his point that rural areas of the U.S. are much emptier of people than they once were, which means that there are far fewer eyes to catch changes to the landscape and far fewer people with an ongoing connection to a particular and undistinguished little corner of the countryside (as opposed to having spent some time visiting a national park to see the natural wonders).

Farmland Without Farmers

We have an upcoming national-park-visiting trip planned, and the article made me muse on the difference between a pilgrimage to, say, Yellowstone, and regularly walking a circuit of the same few fields, meadows, copses, and country roads (like the area around my in-laws’ house) and noticing the small changes through the seasons and over the years.

Totebaggers, do you have a piece of semi-wild countryside that you feel connected to? How does that compare to a visit to the official wilderness in the form of a national park or surrounding area? And do you share the article writer’s concern about the people drain out of the country’s rural areas?

The Cost of Extracurricular Activities

by Louise

Kids’ Extracurricular Activities May Cost More Than You Think

Totebaggers – I was talking to a lady who was spending approx. $350/month on dance lessons for her two daughters. This didn’t include recital, costumes or other fees. Her daughters had been in dance since they were little but now as high schoolers their interest had waned and they were on the fence about continuing lessons. Their mother decided to cut the lessons out. “I’m tired and spending too much money”. There was some drama but the parent wanted a firm exit rather than continue to pay and have the kids not go.

Totebaggers, what do you think of all the activities your kids have been involved in ?
Worth it or not ? Are we collectively spending too much time and money ?
We have new parents who may benefit from the advice.

A New Mom’s Questions

by Rhode

I’m returning to work next Monday. My husband is taking 8 weeks paternity leave starting today.

How did moms and dads handle the transition between leave and return to full-time work? Any tips?

Also, now that my mom is moving, I’m staying with my in-laws when visiting NJ. I’m not terribly comfortable there. It is emotionally draining to be a better version of myself. With my mom, if I want to cry in a corner I can. With my mother-in-law, I need to be stoic and bite back any strong emotions. I don’t even feel comfortable enough to wear my pajamas to breakfast. Any tips from Totebaggers on how to get comfortable in their home? Any tips on how to let them help me parent my son?

Who Inspires You?

by Sheep Farmer

Several years ago, when my family was on vacation in Ohio, we made a stop at the John Rankin house. Rankin was a staunch abolitionist in the 1800s. He lived in a small house on top of a hill on the outskirts of the town of Ripley, just across the Ohio River from the slave state of Kentucky. Rankin was instrumental in the abolitionist movement. As a Presbyterian minister, he preached about the horrors of slavery; he helped runaway slaves cross the river into the free state of Ohio and he fed and housed them before they continued on their journey north. Here was a man with everything to lose and nothing to gain by helping complete strangers, yet he felt that it was his moral duty to do so. I find his story inspirational and I keep a picture of his house on my desk. Totebaggers, who do you find inspirational and why?

‘I don’t…’

by Grocery Bags

Whoopi Goldberg: I don’t eat vegetables.
Joy Behar: You don’t eat vegetables?!?!
Whoopi Goldberg: I drink V-8.
Joy Behar: But V-8 has so much sodium!
Whoopi Goldberg: I drink the low sodium kind.

Marshawn Lynch: I’m just here so I don’t get fined.

Bill Clinton: I did not inhale.

Grocery Bags: I don’t like onions. I don’t like rosemary. I don’t wear skirts. I don’t do everything my yoga teacher tells me to do. I have a Twitter account, but I don’t tweet.

Totebaggers, what are your “I don’ts…”?

April Fool’s Ideas?

by Tulip

Just throwing this one out there, but I never do anything to “celebrate” April Fool’s Day. I suppose there’s been some conversation at school because my DD came home a few days ago asking if I’d do something to fool her for the day. I think the fact that she asks for it and expects it sort of defeats the idea, but that’s an entirely different issue! At any rate, I could google and search pinterest and be in way over my head, but I am guessing that other totebaggers have some low-investment ideas for April Fool’s pranks to pull on the kids?

Tax Time

by Finn

We’re now in the middle of everyone’s least favorite time of year: tax time.

We’ve already touched on a number of tax topics this year, but perhaps it’s time for a day of asking our questions, sharing our knowledge, and airing our complaints.

Totebaggers, what have you learned over the years that you can share with your fellow totebaggers that will help ease this time of year? What questions do you have that others here might be able to answer? If someone died and made you king, what changes would you make to our income tax system?

Is Fear Driving Your Career Growth?

by L

Building Your Career: Based on Fear?

I found that I gained confidence and credibility in my job once I was no longer afraid of being fired. This fear had stayed with me for the first 10 years of my career (and I had been fired more than once!). I like to think that I can see the fear behind others’ business developments efforts, perhaps in their going to as many events as possible, or over-billing for tiny tasks, or in the slightly desperate air that comes from using someone’s name 30 times in a half-hour conversation.

Totebaggers, do you feel that your career-building efforts, whether marketing, networking, or doing your job tasks as well as possible (or for some of us, as well as possible based on unit of effort) are based on fear? Or is what you do to further yourself in your career based on personal pride, type-A outdoing yourself or others, or, as the book says, “love”?

Emotional Intelligence

by Louise

Totebaggers have often mentioned social skills, emotional intelligence, soft skills – call it what you like.

Emotional intelligence (EQ) is the ability to identify, use, understand, and manage emotions in positive ways to relieve stress, communicate effectively, empathize with others, overcome challenges, and defuse conflict.

The one aspect emotional intelligence covers is how to communicate effectively with others. This is an area that needs working on for many people.

What tips can you share with other posters on how to apply emotional intelligence in different situations?

There are a few of us who are academics, lots of lawyers, engineers and other professions – what social skills have your students, coworkers, managers, employees displayed that you have been impressed with ?

As a parent what advice would you give to your children about this topic? I’ve come to realize that this is covered at my kids’ school in guidance class.

Discuss!

Ask The Totebag: A Parenting Surprise

by Anonymous

Fellow Totebaggers: I am asking your advice anonymously, as my question involves my child. I suspect it will be easy to figure out who I am, but I’d appreciate it if you’d maintain the fiction for my kid’s privacy. Thank you in advance.

Today, my kid (teen-aged) told me that s/he is bisexual, and I don’t want to screw this up.

If you figure out who I am, you will know that I have no problem with this, either philosophically or religiously or politically or any other “-ly.” I am just surprised and unprepared (and surprisingly unprepared), because I had not seen any signs; all prior teenage crushes had been opposite-gender, and while my kid could have been covering, they seemed convincing to me.

I am also not entirely sure this is, for lack of a better word, “permanent”; recently, 4-5 kids in class have come out as gay/bi, and this group of friends is very into gay rights; hard to tell if it is my kid finding an accepting peer group that allows him/her to be him/herself, or if it’s my kid trying to fit in with a peer group/trying on different identities like every other adolescent. But I also know that one standard parental response is to find excuses why that can’t be their kid. And whatever my kid might feel at 25, this is who s/he is right now — s/he has told me, directly, and it is my job to assume that s/he means it. It took a lot of guts for my kid to tell me this, and it was something s/he had obviously worked up to over some period of time. It would be unfair and disrespectful to assume I know better, to treat this as a phase or something that s/he will outgrow.

So where I am now, after a grand total of four hours of thinking it through, is that it’s my job to support, not question. These are some new waters for both kid and parents (for one, the idea of sleepovers just got a lot more complicated), and I need to help my kid learn how to navigate them, on top of all of the other adolescent pressures and insecurities. This is the part that I don’t want to screw up.

For the moment, I just said “you’re always safe with us” and gave the kind of half-hug you can give while driving, then asked if there was a particular crush involved (there is, although like the earlier opposite-gender ones, this one also doesn’t seem to know my kid exists). Now I just need help with the next conversation. And the one after that, and after that. . . .

Do You Use Math Much?

by saacnmama

You’ve Been Cutting Your Cake Wrong All Your Life

We talk about calculus enough in here, and have made a few jokes about its use beyond the classroom. At my undergrad university, either calculus or formal logic could be used to fulfill one of the liberal arts requirements. In other words, the value of calculus was seen not in being able to derive anything, but in following steps to make an analysis. How do you use your math background? Using simple algebra to calculate exposed area per volume of remaining cake could be one way to test out this method of cake cutting. Where else is math handy for you, and what level math do you use most often?

A Look At Luck On St. Patrick’s Day

by WCE

How luck works

I liked this article on luck better than the comments, because the article focuses on a range of views about luck (is luck stable or fleeting?) as well as casual references (medical school admission, hot hands in basketball) that describe the ambiguity with which people refer to luck. In my own life, I’ve felt comfortable taking more risks in the academic realm than in the obstetrics realm, based on my relative success over time in each of those areas. This article also made me think about how a single event (massive layoffs announced during my twin pregnancy vs. uneventful pregnancy with current baby) can shape my emotional outlook for a period of years.

A quote from the article:

For example, a gambler who had just won three times in a row, won 67 per cent of the time on his fourth bet. If he won on his fourth bet, then he cleaned up 72 per cent of the time on the fifth bet. Those who lost their first bets were just 47 per cent likely to win on the second and, if they lost again, only 45 per cent likely to win on the third. Could good luck beget good luck and bad luck really beget bad luck, just as the rich get richer and the poor get poorer?

The team then dug deeper to reveal why these streaks were in fact real: it was the bettors’ own doing. As soon as they realised they were winning, they made safer bets, figuring their streaks could not last forever. In other words, they did not believe themselves to have hot hands that would stay hot. A different impulse drove gamblers who lost. Sure that lady luck was due for a visit, they fell for the gambler’s fallacy and made riskier bets. As a result, the winners kept winning (even if the amounts they won were small) and the losers kept losing. Risky bets are less likely to pay off than safe ones. The gamblers changed their behaviours because of their feelings about streaks, which in turn perpetuated those streaks.

What do you think about luck? How do recent successes or failures influence your willingness to take risks in a particular realm?

Drop-in Guests

by Grace aka costofcollege

Imagine that a friend is in your neighborhood and decides to stop by your house for a quick hello. Since it’s a last-minute thing, they may or may not call or text you ahead of time.  Is your home visitor-friendly, clean and clutter-free?  What is your reaction?

A)  My house is a mess and I’m in the middle of a million things that have to get done, so I’ll tell them it’s not a good time.  Please just go away.

B)  As I open the door I’m trying to manage a smile to hide my annoyance at an unexpected guest.  I hope they don’t stay long.

C)  I have a ton of things to do, but they’re not more important than a chance to catch up with a friend.  Mi casa es tu casa, anytime.  What a nice surprise.

Now that the visitor is at your house, what snack or drink will you offer?  Do you have a stand-by stash of snacks to offer guests?  Or do you figure offering refreshment will only encourage this kind of uncivilized social behavior?  How often do you get unexpected visitors?

What about the kids?
When my kids were younger, neighborhood friends would sometimes drop by unannounced.  But now there’s usually texting before FTF visiting takes place.  However, it’s not unusual to have a group of teens converge on my house at the last minute, and it can be a challenge to feed them.  Seltzer, popcorn, cookies, nacho fixings, and boxed mac-n-cheese are easy to keep in the pantry.  Take-out pizza is almost always welcome.  What do you feed young guests?

Sweet Briar College Is Closing

by SWVA Mom

This article touches on some typical Totebag topics: STEM vs. liberal arts, rural vs. urban, having a variety of choices to find the right college fit, and the soaring cost of higher education.

Shocking Decision at Sweet Briar

This story caught my eye because I worked on a design & construction project at Sweet Briar many years ago. The campus is so beautiful – I hope someone will find a new purpose for the property. Another small, historically women’s college in Virginia was purchased by the Mormon Church several years ago and seems to be thriving, and a well-known Evangelical Christian university in Virginia has been growing both its online presence (recently hit 100,000 enrollment) and its campus ($400 million construction program), so maybe a church will step in and make a go of it.

Lessons From The Great Recession

by Louise

Totebaggers, it seems like The Great Recession happened eons ago. I still think about how bad things could have been for us as a family. We were lucky in that we had no job loss during that time.

Lots of changes took place in the financial services industry. Some Totebaggers have described changes to their jobs and lives because of the crisis.

How did the Great Recession impact you? Did it change your spending habits, your assumptions about the value of real estate?  What about the role of government?

Discuss…

The Kids Are Alright

by Rocky Mountain Stepmom

Yeah, I know, it’s not spelled that way. It’s a Who reference, OK?

So my proposal is that we review our acquaintances and see the 20-somethings who are doing all right in life even though maybe they weren’t taking Differential Equations when they were 9. I’ll start.

First, there’s my new DIL, who majored in non-profit management and is doing very well at a large national non-profit with local, autonomous branches. She just got a 30% raise, in fact. Though she did take Calculus, the reason for her success is her good work habits, attractive personality and appearance, and excellent social skills. And of course she’s quite bright.

From church, there’s a young couple with a 6-month-old and 2 1/2 year old. Young Mama has $140K in student loans, but she has an MSW and a license to practice therapy, and she makes around $40K per year. Her hubby majored in engineering for 2 years, hated it, quit, and became a CNC engineer. He makes $45K base salary and usually pulls in $60K because of overtime. They do all the right totebaggy things to get out from under their debt — no cable, no Internet, Grandma watches the kids for free, etc. They never eat out. They’re burning down the debt and should be okay in a few years.

Also from church, we have (yes!) a nurse and a correctional officer. They have reasonable salaries and good bennies. They have one 2.5-year-old and hope to have more. They own a house waaaaay out towards Kansas, so they have long commutes in to Denver. They also have a Grandma watching the kids for free.

Come on, in addition to all the young people who know who are drowning, you must know some who are doing okay, even if they aren’t Mark Zuckerberg. Let’s hear about them.

Basic Investment Rules

by Grace aka costofcollege

Do you think your investment portfolio is diversified?  Morgan Housel at the Motley Fool believes there’s only one way to tell if you’re truly diversified.

You are only diversified if some of your investments are performing worse than others.

Losing money on even a portion of your portfolio is hard for some people to swallow, so they gravitate toward what is performing well at the moment, often at their own expense.

In other words, some people gravitate toward selling low and buying high.

That was one of 16 Rules for Investors to Live By recently published by the WSJ.

Do you agree with these rules?  Which ones seem particularly important to you?  What rules would you add?  Have you been happy with your investment portfolio?

ADDED:  If you’re having trouble seeing the WSJ article, try clicking this link to Google and then select the first result.

Do Schools ‘Require’ Helicopter Parenting?

by saacnmama

Teacher sends father a stern note scolding him for his daughter’s ‘unhealthy’ pack lunch of ‘chocolate, marshmallows, a cracker and a pickle’ – unfortunately for the school, dad’s a doctor

We’ve had lots of sideline chatter about “requirements” to be helicopter parents recently. If we want to bring it front and center, this is as good a starting place as any.

Friday Fun: The Experienced Parent

by Louise

As my kids pass each stage, I have learnt a lot. For example, in the early years I would give more of the “make your kid smarter toys” as presents, now I gift the cheesy fun toys that the recipient will actually play with.

I remember to have a few snacks floating around, wet wipes for certain outings, when to sign up for certain activities, the list goes on. What have you learnt as a parent? If not a parent, then observations from your own childhood or as an aunt or uncle.

Coffee Talk: The Hidden Cost of a Flexible Job

by Honolulu Mother

The Hidden Cost of a Flexible Job

According to this article, the flexibility to work from home tends to come with more, not fewer, hours worked; and for workers in general, the office has encroached on the home. The article concludes:

It wasn’t always this way. Once upon a time, the limitations of technology set a firmer boundary between work and home: If you weren’t at the office, you often couldn’t do your job. But that’s no longer the case.

“Technology now sets no work boundaries,” Williams says. “So we have to set these work boundaries through social norms.”

The only problem, she says, is that we aren’t doing that.

“I’ve been working on this problem for 25 years, and I actually have come to the conclusion that these organizations just aren’t going to change.”

What do you think? Are social norms a realistic way to get the office out of workers’ personal lives?

Small Gestures Make A Big Difference

by Grace aka costofcollege

Three small things

Long term relationships and marriage are hard work. But take some cues from older couples who’ve shared the secrets to keeping the spark alive after decades together: It’s all about the little surprises.

Dr. Karl Pillemer, a gerontologist at Cornell University, writes on Psychology Today that the elders she interviewed for her books said that the most effective things they’ve done for their relationships is build a habit of doing small, positive things for their partners. Specifically, these three types of gestures: surprises (spontaneous nights out or buying flowers for no specific holiday), chores (taking over an odious chore unexpectedly), and compliments (who doesn’t like positive feedback?).

This makes a lot of sense to me.  Often it’s just the small things that make a big difference.  Besides marriage, this principle can also apply to friendships, business colleagues, and many other types of relationships.  For example, an unexpected written note can make a big impression on a new business contact.  What are small things you do, or should do, that help relationships endure.  Are you the recipient of these types of gestures?  Any advice on this?

Differences In Educational Privilege

by saacnmama

Teacher: I see the difference in educational privilege every day. I live it. I am disgusted by it.

We’ve discussed this as a side issue several times. Do people want to focus on the differences in educational opportunity and what can be done about it? Note that there is a link to an article on race towards the beginning of this piece. We might want to draw it in as well.

What’s Wrong With A Services Economy?

by Fred MacMurray

Something I thought about recently as we are doing some projects with costs requiring DW and I agree on before proceeding.

Things on the immediate list include:
• Updated wills, including powers of attorney and healthcare proxies
• Having some of the rooms upstairs repainted
• Refreshing the landscaping
• Replacing our furnace (and maybe the air conditioner)
• Refacing our kitchen cabinets
• Updating the sinks/counter in the family bath

My line of thinking…so what’s wrong with a services economy?

As the economy has recovered, oftentimes in the monthly (un)employment report there’s a comment along the lines of “…most of the news jobs were in the services sector, where pay is lower…” (than in manufacturing, for example).

As I look at the list of things we are looking to spend maybe $20-25k on, it looks to me that maybe 75% of the costs are for “services” (attorney, painter, landscaper, plumber/hvac, carpenter) and maybe 25% are on the goods (the actual furnace and a/c unit, plants, hardscape, countertop). All of those services providers make pretty good money, IMO.

Both DW & I work for services providers, as do/did many of totebaggers (attorneys, professors, nurses, banking, consulting, not-for-profit management). What’s your take on a services economy?

Feeling Poor In Silicon Valley

by LauraFromBaltimore

A blast from the past:

In Silicon Valley, Millionaires Who Don’t Feel Rich

This article hits a number of favorite Totebag topics, like why high-income earners don’t feel “rich,” overspending/keeping up with the Joneses, and the uncertainty/fear associated with trying to get ahead today. My personal favorite line was “Over the years, he has tried to live off his salary, but not always successfully” (dude. Think we figured out the problem).

I wonder, though, if the article missed a critical point about the rise of the professional class. If you think back to the Richie Rich days, people got rich off of other people’s efforts: they built factories that made things — or built railroads or bought oil leases, etc. — then paid other people to do the work. It’s what Rich Dad, Poor Dad described as “other people’s time” and “other people’s money.” This required tremendous amounts of efforts to get established, but once you got over that hump, you could hire managers, delegate most of the day-to-day work, and continue to collect your profits or dividends without much effort.

In Silicon Valley, on the other hand, people are becoming rich largely by their own brains and labor (and luck): they have jobs that pay salaries and give them access to many stock options and bonuses, which provide the hope of great wealth if the company hits it big. But when you work a job instead of own a company, you can’t simply hire managers and delegate 75% of the work and wait for the dividend check — your options are to stay full-time on the treadmill, or quit. And quitting is terrifying, because you are completely severing the very income stream that got you wealthy in the first place. Of course, they could invest their nest eggs and live off of the dividends, like the old-time capitalist. But I have to think that when you’re in an industry that changes so rapidly, with companies starting up and failing right and left, that itself seems even more risky. So they keep plugging away — and then spending most of it for all of the reasons addressed in the article.

Of course, it could also be selection bias (the kind of people who are drawn to the excitement of Silicon Valley are also the kind of people who are not going to be satisfied kicking back when they have saved $3-5MM). Or any number of other things.

And as an aside, I would dearly love to see an update piece to see how — or if — some of these folks weathered the crash.

Discuss!

 

Digital Assets

by L

The latest wrinkle in estate planning: Digital assets

Wisconsin Family Struggles to Obtain Access to Deceased Son’s Facebook and Gmail Accounts

Digital assets are the new hotness in estate planning. With so many of us doing our banking, investing, and correspondence online, not to mention social media, many forward-thinking estate planners (ahem!) are struggling with how to manage planning for clients’ digital assets.

Recently, the Uniform Law Commission completed a draft of a new uniform law to address the problem:

“The Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act solves the problem using the concept of “media neutrality.” If a fiduciary would have access to a tangible asset, that fiduciary will also have access to a similar type of digital asset. UFADAA governs four common types of fiduciaries: personal representatives of a deceased person’s estate; guardians or conservators of a protected person’s estate; agents under a power of attorney; and trustees.”

Have you thought about what will happen to your digital assets if you become incapacitated or pass away?

Child Genius

by Louise

Risely brought up this program, so I gave it a go. I haven’t made it all the way through but probably will by the time this post goes up. It is a competition that tests children of high IQs in various areas like math, vocabulary, anatomy, astronomy, geography etc.

There is one child at ten, who has graduated high school and is now taking college level courses.

There are kids who are very motivated and study for long hours for the competition in addition to their packed schedules. Looking at the printed schedules in their rooms made me dizzy. The schedule was packed. There were driven parents no doubt, but two parents in particular stood out the classic Asian Tiger Mom and another Asian Tiger Dad. Then there was the bright but budding rebel who chose Boy Scout camp instead of spending the weekend studying for the competition. The prize is $100k for college.

Totebaggers many of you have high IQs. Many of you are gifted, have many interests and did very well academically. What do you as adults think of a childhood defined by the child genius label? In what way is your life better or worse?

If one of your kids was gifted how would you handle it? Enter them in competitions, spend a lot of time studying or would you say a competition is fine, but go ahead attend the Boy Scout camp?