Do You Know Brand Names

by Grace costofcollege

In many business and social situations, there’s value in being savvy about brand names.  Like it or not, we are often judged by our clothes, cars, and other accouterments of life.  And knowing the same about others can help us be more astute in all types of relationships.

Here’s the hierarchy of luxury brands around the world

Do you know how to pronounce Hermes or other brand names?  To make it easy on myself, I only say “Stella” when ordering my favorite beer.

The Right Way To Say 15 Brand Names You’re Mispronouncing All The Time

Are you brand-savvy?  Can you tell the difference between a Cartier and a Timex? (Okay, that’s probably an easy one.)  How important is it for you to know brands?  Do you feel judged by the shoes you wear or the car you drive?

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Dating And Marriage Across The Lines

by Louise

My children are first generation Americans. As they grow, I wonder what advice I should give them about dating and marriage. In the home country, marriages that used to last till death do us apart, are increasingly coming apart at the seams. So, advice on this topic is hard to impart.

Here, it seems that there are invisible lines. I wonder how other families would feel at having a first generation Asian boy/girl dating their kids. At school and in their lives my kids are surrounded by other Totebagger type families of all stripes. I am presuming it is most likely they will date/marry Totebagger Junior.

How have your kids handled dating/marriage. What about dating across lines? What advice do you have for kids?

Too Much Academic Pressure On Students?

by Sara

Real question: how hard should parents push top academic students without crossing the line. Where is the line? Valedictorian at our school had no friends or hobbies – like an academic robot programmed for Harvard. At our high school, one father said he wouldn’t pay for a non- ivy. Another mother hired tutors for every subject to give her daughter the edge (daughter now struggling academically at an ivy).

Memorial Day 2015

by Grace aka costofcollege

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“People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.”

This photo is from a Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington Cemetery, a moving ritual that honors U.S.soldiers who gave their lives for their country.  The dedication and precision demonstrated during the ceremony was impressive and confidence-inspiring.

What’s on your mind this Memorial Day?

Vacation Talk

by Rhode

Spring has finally sprung in my neck of the woods, and it has me thinking of how to use my vacation and personal time…

What is your favorite vacation spot?

Also, if money and time are no object, where would you go on vacation, who would you take with you, how long would you stay, and what would you do?

Will The Future Judge Us Moral?

by WCE

Once and future sins

I read this article on how values and norms may change in the next 100 years and Grace’s request for posts prompted me to submit it. My parents have commented on how rapidly norms and values change compared to what they remember. In all likelihood, some of these changes are good and some aren’t, and only through the lens of history will anyone be able to judge what’s what.

I am particularly intrigued by the idea of considering future people (zoning to maintain historic neighborhoods and fossil fuel consumption, for example) more in moral decision-making. I also thought about moral problems that bother me (prison rape and general mistreatment of prisoners, for example) that don’t receive much attention in society at large. How do you think norms and values will change? How do you think they should change? How do we weigh unknown and unknowable future risks (earthquakes, fracking, global warming, etc.) against known current harms? What, if any, religious norms will influence social moral change? (I’m thinking of previous movements like abolition and temperance here.) Will norms and values continue to vary across social classes?

Here’s a quote, since the article is a bit long.

The tricky question is who exactly counts as the ‘other’ whose interests we should set above our own? Every society has had its own answers, as does each one of us: we expect you would go to much greater lengths to do good for your child than for your neighbour, and it would be easier to lie to your boss than to your spouse. And some beings, whether animal, vegetable or microbial, are outside the realm of consideration altogether. In moral terms, some always matter more than others. This understanding offers us a fairly straightforward idea of moral progress: it means including ever more people (or beings) in the group of those whose interests are to be respected. This too is an ancient insight: Hierocles, a Stoic philosopher of the second century, describes us as being surrounded by a series of concentric circles. The innermost circle of concern surrounds our own self; the next comprises the immediate family; then follow more remote family; then, in turn, neighbours, fellow city-dwellers, countrymen and, finally, the human race as a whole. Hierocles described moral progress as ‘drawing the circles somehow toward the centre’, or moving members of outer circles to the inner ones.

The ‘Dadbod’

by Grace aka costofcollege

What Is the ‘Dadbod’? What Does It Mean?

… The dadbod is a physique characterized by undefined muscles beneath a light layer of flab, usually topped off with a beer belly. “The dad bod says, ‘I go to the gym occasionally, but I also drink heavily on the weekends and enjoy eating eight slices of pizza at a time,'”…

Do you (or your partner) have a Dadbod?  What about your peers?  Do you work hard to fight against the Dadbod, or do you embrace it.  What’s the female version?  Are we more accepting of Dadbods than of Mombods?

What Historical Character Would You Like To Be?

by Louise

Wolf Hall is coming to an end soon. I am a big fan of historical fiction and often wonder what it would be like if I actually lived in those times.

Who would I be? From what I have read I would have liked to be at court in the time of Elizabeth I. I am afraid my head would be chopped off under Henry VIII or worse still I would be burned at the stake.

Which character from history would you like to be?

Favorite YouTube Channels

by Honolulu Mother

I recently added some new YouTube channels to our list from a Gizmodo article on DiY channels.  They join a list including channels with some educational value (RimStar, BrainScoop), assorted exercise channels, some British and French tv, Dead Gentlemen, Cracked, and of course such kid favorites as Kids React, Roseanne Pansino, and every Yogscast channel known to man.  This is in addition to the playlists — I have a karaoke one with everyone’s favorites for family karaoke night, a playlist with videos related to our upcoming trip that we used to help decide on our itinerary, a general to-watch list, and several playlists related to school subjects such as the Renaissance or the Silk Road.

I think we watch more shows off YouTube than we do Netflix, Amazon, or cable tv.  Perhaps more than all of those combined.  With the YouTube channel on Roku and similar devices, it’s easy to watch on the big screen, and over the course of its 10 year history YouTube has become a surprisingly broad entertainment option, with something for everyone in our family.

Does your household have favorite YouTube channels that might be of interest to other Totebaggers?  Is YouTube a part of your regular tv rotation, or do you stick to other online sources or cable or broadcast tv?  Do we have any swimming-against-the-tide Vimeo users?  And has your usage changed over the last few years?

Income Disparities and Dealing With Them

by Pregnant Teen Mom

I have a really neat problem.

A very good friend of my little family and his wife are hedge fund people. They are Mitt Romney wealthy—certainly not Warren Buffett wealthy, but what’s the difference, really? I don’t really speak to my friend all that often. He is too busy. We were puppies together in New York. But his wife and I probably yak on the phone every other day. They are both close to my son.

The thing is, they are very generous. Where do I draw the line? I mean when they come visit, they stay in a suite at the Biltmore. When they go to the Keys they stay in the Chica Lodge. We are always invited, and I can barely pay the Resort Fee. Vacations are in St. Bart’s or some equivalent place. They’re taking the Fund’s jet. Do we want them to pick us up at Tamiami?

I have always paid my own way. My friends are by no means pretentious and their invites are sincere. I know they would pay for Junior and me, but I don’t want them to. Junior and I are solidly middle class. I am pretty much retired. I don’t want Junior to get used to flying even in coach—except as a privilege—much less in a hedge fund jet.

I know my friends are well meaning and extraordinarily generous. But I am fiercely independent. (Yeah, I know that sounds like a “severe conservative”, which I am most definitely not.)

Any thoughts?

Family-Friendly Perks

by Regular Poster

My husband had a recent period of employment by one of the technology giants. Given the reputation, I expected that our lives would be much improved (in what way, I don’t really know). However, as a spouse and mother of small children, it was unpleasant to hostile. He went there from an environment that had been very inclusive (a start-up that had frequent gatherings, invited partners to important company announcements, celebrated employee milestones, etc.) Visiting the new office required registration and a badge, and after 18 months I didn’t know the name of a single co-worker.

While it is a luxury to complain about how generous benefits and perks are not working out well for your family, this recent NYT article rang true.

Silicon Valley: Perks for Some Workers, Struggles for Parents

The “great benefits” technology company he worked for had amazing things going on – I think. All of the information was contained on a secure company wiki. That means I could not find out about anything without asking DH pointed questions. There was no employee handbook. I think there was a gym benefit, there might have been some other things we could have used. In order to sort through health insurance options, I had to look over DH’s shoulder — he took seriously the admonitions about company security and not allowing me to navigate the wiki. In the end, we never used our vision insurance because it was just too complicated for me to manage.

But these examples exaggerate how family-friendly tech companies are, especially after the newborn phase… Some benefits, like free meals and on-site laundry, have a flip side of discouraging people from leaving.

In our experience, the family friendly programs seemed to be geared for employees in the first few years of parenthood. There was generous leave for new parents – sounded awesome, but we are past that stage. There was emergency child care coverage – but they would only pay for a specific day care center – and had to be booked in advance (somewhat negating the “emergency” part of the program). It was complicated – the center required for us to have vaccination records on file. The two times we tried to use it was unavailable for three children – and was a non-starter once kids had to be in school.

In any case, he ended up leaving because he didn’t like the work he was doing. He is now employed with a far more traditional employer with fewer benefits and a higher salary. He is home for breakfast and dinner. I have to say it is an improvement.

Totebaggers, what has your experience been with “family-friendly perks”? What would you want a company to offer? Would you stay for any of these benefits? A lot has been written about Google’s failed foray into on-site childcare — do you see that ever becoming a benefit that high-demand employees can expect?

Were you told to suppress your high ambitions?

by Grace aka costofcollege

Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook and one of the most successful women in the field of technology, has urged women to “lean in” to achieve ambitious career goals.  She wants us to break down barriers, both external and internal, so that more women will be represented in leadership positions of business and government.

A truly equal world would be one where women ran half our countries and companies and men ran half our homes.

I was struck by Sandberg’s own struggle with self doubt.

My entire life I have been told, you know, or I have felt that I should hold back on being too successful, too smart, too, you know, lots of things.

She grew up in an affluent household, the daughter of a doctor and a college teacher.  Presumably she enjoyed many advantages and abundant encouragement from that upbringing, yet she remembers being told to tamp down her ambitions.

I am a bit older than Sandberg and grew up in different circumstances, lacking the advantages of her upper-class upbringing.  Yet I don’t remember being told to hold back on my accomplishments.  Sure, there were times when I was discouraged from pursuing lofty ambitions, but it seems those were the exceptions.  It’s a bit puzzling why Sandberg felt so constrained and I did not.  Was I just oblivious to the negative messages all around me?

Have you or the women you know been told to hold back on being too successful?  Do you think you may be sending that message to your daughters or other young women?  Does society send that message?  If so, why do some women seem to ignore this negative directive?

Should we be encouraging women to lean in to create a society where they run half our countries and companies while men run half our homes?

Sadly, Sandberg’s husband died unexpectedly earlier this month, leaving her a widow with two young children.  She has returned to work on a modified schedule.  She “will not be doing any traveling for the time being and will adopt a slightly modified schedule that fits with when her children are at school”.

Middle Class Discussion

by AustinMom

While the term “middle class” is frequently used, even the Census Bureau does not have an official definition because the middle is relative to the entire spectrum.  A 2011 Pew Charitable Trust Study, listed the range the 30 to 70 percentiles of income in America (in dollars that is $32,900 to $64,000). However, this percentile income range for “middle class” also varies based on the cost of living and salaries in your area.  This means “middle class” is more about a frame of mind or what is viewed as important – as of August 2012 that was a secure job and health insurance (Secure Job – Ticket to the Middle Class).

The nebulousness of middle class is borne out in two recent articles.  The first article talks about middle class from a psychological perspective, near the end is an interactive chart that is interesting. (Economically Insecure Middle Class)

The second one shows how defining “middle class” by income as a fixed dollar range can be misleading.  (Living Paycheck to Paycheck on $75K).

I used the this Census site (Census State Income) to get a rough estimate of middle class based on the percentile definition. The range is $25,000 to $75,000. Based on this figure, we have dipped into the middle class in the last 10 years, but overall have remained slightly above that. However, within Texas I live in an area (as are most big cities in the state) where the cost of living is slightly above the average national cost of living. (Cost of Living)  Including this measure, our income is slightly more than the city’s average cost of living. Since that does not include saving for totebag important items such as retirement and college, I would say our family falls in the definition of middle class.

Do you think you are middle class based on your income and location?

The Engineer’s Perspective

by Milo

Yeah, it’s just another article, but it’s a great one. And it touches on a lot of recurring TB themes–personality type differences, allocation of government resources, the vast differences between our perceptions of risk and reality, emotion vs. facts, feeling vs. thinking, and, of course, cars.

I love the joke about the golfers. I feel like some form of that conversation has happened on the blog hundreds of times.

The Engineer’s Lament

Your High School Clique

by Grace aka costofcollege

Freaks, Geeks, and Mean Girls: 15 Famous Women on Their High-School Cliques

Here’s Edie Falco:

“I think we were called by the other people, the nerds. That was it. I was in the choir. I spent a lot of time in the art classes. There was nothing fancy or cool about it. It was a little horrifying, in fact. There was one group we called the circus people. I think it was just because they bought a lot of crazy clothes from thrift shops, so they always looked a little bit like clowns and like they had dressed up. I kind of tiptoed my way through school hoping nobody would beat me up.”

Describe your high school clique.  Do you have happy memories, or would you rather forget those high school days?  Do you see patterns repeated with your kids’ cliques, or are they following different paths?

Kind Criticism

by Louise

In a world where everyone gets a trophy how do we offer constructive but kind criticism?

With my kids a tug of war has ensued over my feedback of their Lego projects. An honest opinion from me is termed as being “too negative”. Too negative? Ha! Good thing they didn’t grow up in the home country where a few people told me, that I needed to watch my diet and get more exercise. It was true that compared to my peers I was fat.

How do you give criticism that is kind but effective? How can the receivers absorb the message yet not take offense? Let’s hear it for kind criticism.

Your Fantasy Home Remodel

by Rocky Mountain Stepmom

So, we’ve had our house now for about 11 years. It was brand-spanking new when we bought it. Since then, we’ve redone the floors and repainted and done a few minor things. Now that my mom has been gone for two years, and the dog is gone, and it’s down to just us and the very elderly cat, we’re thinking about redoing the basement. Currently it’s just a big storage mess. Bit by bit over the last two years DH has tossed virtually all of my mom’s stuff, and I owe him a huge debt of gratitude because I just couldn’t do it — too emotional.

But what are we going to do with it? I go in circles. We could make it into a living space of sorts. Add a bathroom (it’s set up for one), try to mute the noise from the furnace, etc. Part of me thinks we should be ready to either rent it out when we get old, or use it to house homeless persons/persons in transition, though DH usually smacks some sense into me when I start thinking that way. Or we could make it into a rumpus room and wait patiently for grandchildren to show up. In the meantime, if I wanted to host Bible study groups or something, any kids could be watched in the rumpus room. The whole house is really not set up for multi-family use. It’s too open. Not enough doors. Even if we tried to make the upstairs more of a self-contained living space, it’s still a problem because all the bedrooms are upstairs, including the master.

Anyway, we have a designer/architect coming over to talk to us and help us think things through. My proposed discussion question is: If someone dropped $100K on your head and said you had to use it to remodel or fix up the house, what would you do?