The power of routine

by Grace aka costofcollege

The Morning Routines of 12 Women Leaders

What’s your routine?

How 12 Highly Productive People Used The Power Of Routine To Achieve Greatness

Keeping to a routine can help save your energy for other more important stuff.

Avoiding Decision Fatigue: Why I eat eggs for breakfast everyday

Mark Zuckerberg:

He said even small decisions like choosing what to wear or what to eat for breakfast could be tiring and consume energy, and he didn’t want to waste any time on that.

Do you use the power of routine to achieve greatness, or at least to enhance your happiness and productivity?  How important are routines to you?  Perhaps you’re more of a free spirit who believes routines are boring and confining.

Marriage and car maintenance

by Thang

Some time ago, I was thinking about marriage, as one of my friends was going through a divorce, and I felt that it was like watching a car accident. So I was thinking how can we help people understand what they have to do to maintain their marriage. I figure since everyone drives/own a car and so should at least understand the care and maintenance of a car, and once you equate a marriage to that, it’s much easier to digest.

So, here is my car analogy

What kind of driver/car owner are you?
Car Marriage Rationale:
Gas Sex If you don’t put gas in car, it doesn’t go far
Scheduled Maintenance- oil change, 15K tune ups, etc Anniversary, Birthday celebrations Without maintenance car would begin to fall apart
Maintenance – new brakes, tires, etc. Vacations Not replacing worn out parts caused car to fail
Car wash Movies, dinner out Not washing/cleaning car cause it to look old/shabby
Not causing accidents by driving badly Not causing marriage troubles by treating wife/marriage badly Sometimes cars in accidents are never the same again because of structural damage
Not getting into accidents by driving defensively Not causing marriage troubles by being aware potential trouble spots and avoiding it. No matter whose fault it is, an accident will damage a car, sometimes irreparable
x
What kind of car are you?  
Type Characteristics
sedan bland, functional
sports car flashy, fun, not functional, often high maintenance, attract lots of attention
van bland, functional, family oriented
fancy sedans flashy, functional, often high maintenance
trucks functional but not family oriented, not comfortable

 

The ‘simple’ life

by LauraFromBaltimore

I almost didn’t read this:

Cabins, the New American Dream

I don’t really have a cabin fetish, and I’m not really drawn to the “tiny house” movement, so I thought, meh. And then I got to this part:

“The truth is, without a modicum of success and career-preoccupation, this life would look a bit like poverty — like the rural existence people have struggled for so long to escape. The desire to have not is a desire of the haves.”

Which seemed to explain why I don’t really have a cabin fetish and am not really drawn to the “tiny house” movement. I think my people are just a few generations too close to the farm to appreciate the “simple” life. The movement (such as it is, and as generally photographed in the NYT) feels a little like modern-day slumming, with wealthy dilettantes rhapsodizing about the joys of the simple life and playing house in the woods for a few days before going back to the real world. I look at the kitchen in the picture and don’t see simple, plain, humble; I think, dude, try cooking three meals a day in that puppy, then tell me in a year how awesome it is.

And yet I do feel the pull of self-sufficiency. I make jams and cook, DH woodworks, and none of this is economically efficient; we do it because we like doing for ourselves. I watch Tiny House Hunters and see twenty-somethings building teeny homes on a $20,000 budget, and I am happy to see them deciding for themselves what they truly need and what makes them happy. I read in the Washington Post about people building communities of tiny houses in alleys and back yards and I think, awesome, good for them. I look at Airstream trailers and I get it: affordable, beautiful, well-designed freedom.

So maybe it’s not the thing itself. Maybe there’s nothing wrong with a cabin in the woods. Maybe it’s the difference between building something genuinely humble with your own hands, because that is what you can afford, and building an $800,000 cabin that only looks humble, so you can really-truly-I-mean-it experience “the simple life.”

Exotic locales

by Ada

I enjoyed this recent piece in the Atlantic about someone who has achieved his goal of going to every recognized country in the world – and the 10 places it was most difficult to obtain visas to visit (who knew that Saudi Arabia did not allow tourists?).

The Hardest Places in the World to Visit

It reminded me of this piece published in The Onion during the Arab Spring – when tourists were evacuated from many Middle Eastern nations. A good friend had just been to Libya the month before – she had talked up the trip for months – such a safe place, amazing Roman ruins, really under appreciated. She had a great experience – and fortunately missed the turmoil by a matter of days.

State Dept. Asks U.S. Citizens In Libya What The Hell They Were Doing In Libya

Another interesting take on this is about a place where guidebooks still matter – Myanmar. “The travelers one sees there are mostly Germans, many of them visibly miffed that we’d brought our daughter somewhere so seemingly remote as to be at the very end of the Lonely Planet. If a three-year-old’s there, it must be too late.”

Confoundingly Picturesque

We traveled to the Amazon headwaters to stay in a lodge several years ago. We took a plane over the Andes from Quito, a bus several hours down a dirt road and then a motorized dug out canoe several hours into the rainforest. Our travel time from Quito was about 10 hours. I realized that it would be faster to get from Quito to New York City than to the jungle cabin we slept in

What remote places have you been?

Boyz to Men

by Louise

My experience prior to having a boy has been around girls and women. I had male cousins but still women dominated. Then, I became the mother of a boy. It was a different experience. There is lots of energy that has to be channeled or burnt off.

Band Aids fly out of the medicine cabinet. The learning process is different. The color blue was with us for many years. Now, it is a gradual transition from a boy to a man. Socks, shoes and athletic wear are a riot of colors. The brighter the better. Unkept hair is giving way to a more groomed look. The one male teacher is the leader of the pack.

What are your experiences around boys and boyhood? How about the transition from a boy to a man? Three cheers for boyhood!

Best and worst retailers

by Grace aka costofcollege

4 reasons Walmart is the most-hated retailer in America

Probably no surprise to most of us, Nordstrom scored the highest and Walmart the lowest.

When I bought a prom dress at Nordstrom last spring their service was impeccable, as usual.  I have enjoyed the service and atmosphere at Walmart stores in other parts of the country, like Texas and Arizona, but not so much here in New York.

Which retailers are your favorites for service, and which do you loathe?  Are you gravitating to more online shopping, or do you prefer brick-and-mortar stores?

 ***  ALSO, we’re running short on posts so feel free to send some in.  ***

Getting the chores done

by Sky

What systems do you use to keep your household running smoothly?

I’m starting to think about going back to work, but will need to streamline the household work first. We have a once-monthly housekeeper, but the rest of it is my job. DH expects the house to be clean and organized when he gets home at 9 PM, but his participation is limited by his work and commute. (His own stuff is always impeccably neat, at least until the children find it.)

For chores, I’ve just assigned each day of the week a time-consuming chore:
Mondays = Laundry
Tuesdays = Baking & dusting (I have to do a fair amount of baking due to kids’ food allergies)
Wednesdays = Floors & errands
Thursdays = Laundry again
Fridays = Meal planning & grocery shopping
Saturdays = Yard work

About a month in, this seems to be working, except that with sports practice and games on Friday, Saturday and Sunday I often have to throw in another load of laundry on Saturdays.

I clean the bathrooms and kitchen and tidy up the kids’ toys every day.

My kids all have their own chore lists – even the toddler. There is a small cash incentive for each chore completed, because my kids are not motivated by stickers.

The chores for the younger two include making their own beds (with help), wiping the kitchen table, putting dishes in the sink, sweeping the floor, and putting away toys.

The oldest (6) is expected to make her own bed and lunch. I’ve heard that some of her friends can do laundry and cook breakfast, so we are working on those. With the return to school and sports, the incentive system is not getting me the amount of work I would like – DD decided this morning that she would rather watch Curious George than get 25 cents for making her bed.

How have you gotten your kids to do their chores? What kinds of chores do you expect them to do?

Back to school night

by Denver Dad

What do people thing about back to school night? We’ve usually found it to be pretty informative and worthwhile, but our school changed it around this year and it was pretty much a complete waste of time.

They used to do it the standard way where you started in your kid;s homeroom and then went to their classes where the teacher provided the syllabus and discussed the specific class. You got to meet all of their teachers and find out what would be covered in each class, what they were expecting from the kids, etc. It worked very well.

We have a principal who is starting her second year and she decided to change it up this year to try to fix what she thought the flaws were, which were time spent moving between classes, and juggling classes for multiple kids. So the new format was to have a room for each grade (there are only 2 classes per grade so space wasn’t an issue) and have the teachers come to the room. Then they had a second session, where they would repeat the presentations so you could go to one grade and then to another if you needed to.

However, in our opinion it failed miserably. First, they do performance grouping, and there was only one math and one language arts teacher in each room. I went to 8th grade and DS’ math teacher wasn’t there, and DW went to 7th grade and DD’s math teacher wasn’t there. And they just talked in generalities – all I found out from DS’ LA teacher is that they will read 7-10 books and have to do a 10 page research paper. No specifics as to what books or anything else. The math teacher said they are using a new curriculum this year, but didn’t give any info as to what will be covered at each level. DW said the math teacher in her room went over what they are covering in 7th grade math, but DD is in 8th grade math so that didn’t help.

Then the science and social studies teachers stayed in one room. So all we found out about 8th grade science is they are doing chemistry and physics, there was nobody to answer questions or provide more information. DW said all they heard about social studies was what they read on the PowerPoint slide because nobody in the 7th grade room knew anything about it. And because they were doing two sessions, it was too short. Time ran out before the SS teacher could start his talk in the 8th grade room, so he had to whip through it in about 60 seconds. The Spanish teacher did go to both rooms, but because of the time crunch, she only talked for about 2 minutes and couldn’t get into nearly as much detail as she has in previous years.

How do they do BTS night at your schools? Do you find it worthwhile?

I want a pink iPhone

by Grace aka costofcollege

The 10 most important things from Apple’s iPhone 6S event

Are you buying anything new?  I’ll probably get an iPhone 6s, maybe in rose gold.

As usual, my brain seems to shut down when it comes to shopping for electronics.  Particularly now that Verizon is ditching contracts and subsidized devices in favor of new contract-free plans.  This comment from a CollegeConfidential thread was helpful.

There are 2 reasons to buy the new iPhone. (I pre-ordered the large one this AM.)

1. 3D Touch. This changes how you access and do things on your phone. We all have lists of emails and messages, etc. and we have to open this and then tap to move back and do something else to shift to another program. 3D Touch – which is an accurate name – uses the force of your press to “peek” into an email or message or a little harder to “pop” it open and then be able to do stuff like reply or whatever all without actually opening up the app, having to move back and forth among apps, etc. … Once you see this in action, it changes how you interact with your device….

2. Live Photo. Think Harry Potter: the new default for the camera is to capture 3 seconds with your shot “in the middle”. If you think about it, it’s an application of burst mode converted algorithmically into something else. What happens is you get a picture just like now but if you touch it, it comes alive. So your kid smiles at you. And you can put one on your lock screen and Facebook and Instagram, etc. will be supporting it soon. It’s really that Harry Potter effect of living pictures. … it’s on by default and you just touch the photo and it moves.

They talked a lot about the camera improvements but I haven’t seen any work yet other than their demo….

What grabbed me about the new iPhones is they presented the great mass of users with immediate ways to simplify their interactions with their phones and immediate ways to enjoy them more.

There’s also an interesting change in the way we buy phones. First, Apple’s new way is you can now buy the phone from them for a monthly charge AND this charge is not excessive and includes Applecare+, which lasts 2 years and includes accidental damage (though the service fees for replacing or repairing a wrecked phone remain high). Basically, a 64GB phone is $36 or $40 (for the Plus) a month and that’s $4 more than Verizon, for example, charges but includes Applecare+ and you can upgrade each year. Second, I use Verizon and decided to order from them because they “offer” a credit against your line charge when you buy. So I’m paying about $35/month for the 64GB 6S Plus but they credit me $25/month. That needs a bit more explanation. You’ve probably seen the new ads for Verizon’s plans. If you get one of those and buy a new iPhone, they’ll give you a $20 credit each month but since I already have a plan I can keep mine and get $5 more. So to me the actual cost per month is $10/month and I’m selling my old phone for about $120 so I’m not actually paying anything other than an activation fee for the new phone. And I can sell my new phone and keep this cycle going with very little to no outlay for the newest phone.

What are the latest and greatest technology products or features you are currently enjoying, or just lusting after?  Let’s talk technology.

Kids riding shotgun

by Finn

When your kids ride in a car, where do they sit?

In the September 2015 issue of Consumer Reports, there’s an article that says that, “In cars made after 2006, a person sitting in the rear seat, even when wearing a seat belt, has a 46 percent greater chance of dying in a car crash than someone riding in the front passenger seat, according to a recent study….”

“The rear seat is still best for kids under 9 years old, probably because of the added protection of child restraints. We still recommend that all children under the age of 13 ride in the back.”

Shortly after reading this, DD sat in the front seat of my car for the first time (well, for the first time while the car was being driven). We were going to a camping trip, and the back of the car was full of stuff, so that worked out well, and she and I had a very nice conversation as well; she was quite excited about going back to school.

When will your kids move up to the front seat? For families with multiple kids, does this signal a return to the days of kids fighting over the front passenger seat?

Non-traditional learning

by Louise

Why Unschooling Is the Next Wave of Home-Based Education for Kids

What is Unschooling?

Unschooling 101

I know families who are homeschooling their kids. In these families the mother was already at home and for whatever reason, starting very early the decision was made not to send the kids on to traditional schools. These families follow curriculums put out by publishing companies. For high school they are thinking of supplementing with online courses. This is still not unschooling which goes a step further.

Does your family or people you know follow non traditional learning approaches? How has that worked out?

Please bring a main dish and salad or dessert . . .

by WCE

Between scouts, church and sports, potlucks are common in my life right now. I’m interested in potluck-friendly recipes that aren’t too fussy. A crockpot meal or casserole is a straightforward main dish and I have tons of great dessert recipes, but salads are harder. I don’t like them to require mayonnaise, be too time-consuming to prepare, require me to visit a specific grocery store, require ingredients that aren’t “adequate” year round, be too high in calories or anything my kids won’t eat, since we’ll be eating the leftovers. I also would like my salad to be visually appealing, so I typically choose a yellow bell pepper to contrast with the avocado, red onion, black beans and tomato in this salad. (You can also use mini peppers in a pinch.) This recipe is one of my favorites. What other suggestions do you have for potlucks? Feel free to expand this into a general recipes post — I partly just want to share this salad recipe, since it’s become a favorite. The lime juice, olive oil and salt in this particular quantity are ideal.

2 c shell macaroni, cooked according to package directions
1 c tomatoes, chopped (or use grape tomatoes, halved)
1 avocado, peeled and diced
1/3 c diced red onion
1 diced bell pepper
1 (15 oz) can black beans, rinsed and drained (I like low salt S&W)
4 T chopped fresh cilantro
2 T extra virgin olive oil
juice of one lime (I use ~3 T bottled lime juice)
1 t salt

Toss ingredients through cilantro with pasta. Mix olive oil, lime juice and salt into a dressing; toss salad with dressing mixture. Ideally, refrigerate for 1-4 hr before serving.

Are You a Super Recognizer?

by WCE

Do You Have a Face-Finding Superpower for Fighting Crime?

This National Geographic article on people who fight crime by recognizing faces exceptionally well intrigued me. I read the New Yorker article (linked within) on prosopagnosia by Oliver Sacks and did the University of Greenwich facial recognition test. I recognized 5 out of 14 faces, so I’m not good at it, even though the faces are Caucasian and I grew up around mostly other Caucasians.

I’m curious about whether women would be easier to recognize than men are and whether women have roughly the same range of facial recognition ability as men do. I’m also curious if this ability changes with age. The military is largely young and male, and it seems like this ability would be really useful when fighting terrorism. I’m also curious if Mooshi thinks computers will ever be as good at recognizing people as super-recognizers are. Of course, I accept at face value the claim that the distribution of this talent in the population is largely Gaussian, like virtually every other human characteristic.

On a personal level, I read the article because I feel like I’m bad at remembering people and wondered just how bad I am. In the lab where I work, we wear bunny suits that cover your face. People have observed that colleagues notice women’s pregnancies earlier when they wear bunny suits, because of how their gait changes. In the lab, we recognize people by their gait rather than their face.

The article on Oliver Sacks made me think of my Dad and Mr. WCE, who can both remember how to get somewhere after a single visit. My Dad sometimes remembered which way to turn in a village in Germany nearly twenty years after his only visit. Mr. WCE carries a GPS now, but he hunted with topographic maps for his first couple decades in remote areas of Washington and Montana. To my knowledge, he’s never been lost. One of my friends has an uncanny ability to remember what people wear. She remembers my clothing, including shoes, and has occasionally made comments like, “You were wearing that shirt last time I saw you.” This talent amazes me, since in my world, the purpose of clothing is to keep other people from having to look at me naked. On an emotional level, I’ve enjoyed watching the development of Baby WCE’s face over the past months as I nurse her, from squished newborn to a face so like her father’s that my colleagues who saw her commented that she looks JUST like her Dad.

Are you a super-recognizer? Do any of my reactions trigger similar thoughts of your own?

Farmed Fish

by Louise

Farmed fish could bring us cheaper food, but is it ethical?

I have wanted to discuss this topic. We like fish but usually don’t buy salmon or tilapia. We prefer wild caught but will buy farm raised shrimp. We eat fish often enough where we can tell if something doesn’t taste right but we are not experts able to tell if the fish is farm raised or wild caught. We also buy fish from Asian markets which are frozen and shipped over (mainly Asian mackerel and sardines). Are those from waters that are over fished? I don’t know. It’s fishy, all right….discuss.

‘September is the Other January’

by Grace aka costofcollege

Agree, Disagree? September is the Other January. Time for a New Start.

… January is the official start of the new year, and I always get a burst of renewed zeal at that time … September also gives the same feeling of an empty calendar and a clean slate. The air seems charged with possibility and renewal.

Back-to-school is a time of self-evaluation and reflection–and also a time when I feel the urge to clean out my office.

I’m back from summer traveling and feel energized to start and finish some projects.  I look forward to getting back into a more structured routine.  How about you?

How much does your routine change when school starts?  Do you welcome the change?

Horrible Jobs

by Grace aka costofcollege

In advance of Labor Day on Monday, let’s talk about jobs.

You may not be surprised to learn that middle managers are some of the unhappiest workers.

… In a new study from researchers at Columbia University, of nearly 22,000 full-time workers (from a dataset from the National Epidemiological Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions), they saw that 18 percent of supervisors and managers reported symptoms of depression. For blue-collar workers, that figure was 12 percent, and for owners and executives, it was only 11 percent.

What’s so bad about a middle management job?

All of the downsides of being a subordinate, combined with all of the downsides of having to tell people to do things they don’t want to do.

What’s your opinion?  Are you or have you been a middle manager?  What is the worst job you ever had?  And what did you learn from that experience?

There will not be a post on Monday, Labor Day.  But we can keep our conversation going here.

School Start Times

by AustinMom

I know my kids’ private school start dates are earlier than many as both start the week of August 17 this year.  The article below talks about school start times and how middle and high schoolers shouldn’t start before 8:30 am given their internal clocks stay up to11 pm and they need to get the requisite 9 hours of sleep.  Our middle school begins at 8:00 am and high school begins at 8:20 am.

In our metro area we have at least 6 different school districts with different start dates, though not before August 24, and different start times.  Those high schools with 9 am start times do not let out until 4 pm and kids riding the bus are often not home until 5 pm.  The main complaints of parents I have heard about this later start time are (1) the kids have an hour or more at home after the parents have left for work before they have to leave for school, (2) after school sports practices then often go over into the dinner hour, and (3) it often means the kids are up doing homework after parents have gone to bed.

Some discussions I have had with other parents have raised the following points about 9 am starts – (1) start time really doesn’t matter because often club or some sports practices are moved to the mornings which still puts the kids on campus as early as 7 am, (2) after school activities are just shifted later, so a 4-6 pm practice moves to a 5-7 pm practice, which interferes more with the dinner hour, especially if you have younger kids whose school hours in the same district are 7:45 am to 2:45 pm, (3) kids with lots of homework (especially after an after-school practice) often aren’t in bed by 11 pm as you have just shifted it later in the day, and (4) even to take the bus for a 9 am start kids are to be “at the stop” by 8:15 am, so assuming they are getting up at 7:30 am, they would have to be in bed by 10:30 pm to get their 9 hours.

Totebaggers – What hours do your kids attend school?  Do they start earlier than 8:30 am?  Do you think it’s a problem?  Do you like later start times, if your district has them.

You won’t believe how early school starts in some states

Generators

by Rhode

We just experienced our second power failure this summer. In 9 years in RI, we’ve lost power 2 times before this summer. This trend makes me think about generators.

Our knee-jerk reaction is to buy a whole house generator. Is it worth the cost? Could we get away with a generator to run the refrigerator, a lamp, a charger, and maybe a space heater?

Do you have a generator? What type? How large? What appliances or electronics do you run on your generator?