Scary stories

by Rhode

It’s Halloween time and I’m all for scary stories…

I love lists like these…

14 Creepy Things Kids Have Actually Said

There’s also this take – scary 2 sentence stories (Reddit has a similar 5-word scary story thread).

20 Terrifying Two-Sentence Horror Stories. I Didn’t Think It Was Possible Until #5… When The Hair On My Neck Stood Up

Totebaggers, share with us your creepiest kid-tale or your scariest story in 2 sentences or less…

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How adversity affects us

by Grace aka costofcollege

This topic was touched upon in a recent Totebag thread.

The Funny Thing About Adversity

Does adversity harden hearts or warm them? Does experiencing deprivation, disaster or illness make a person more — or less — sympathetic to the travails of others?

You’ve probably encountered examples of each: survivors of hard knocks who lend a compassionate ear to beleaguered souls, and those who offer only a disdainful “suck it up.” As a result, it may seem that adversity’s effect on kindness is unpredictable.

Some studies help explain this unpredictability.  In general, adversity increases our compassion.

… Those who had faced increasingly severe adversities in life — loss of a loved one at an early age, threats of violence or the consequences of a natural disaster — were more likely to empathize with others in distress, and, as a result, feel more compassion for them….

But it’s different when we have endured the same adversity someone else is facing.

… reflecting on your own past experience with a specific misfortune will very likely cause you to underappreciate just how trying that exact challenge can be for someone else (or was, in fact, for you at the time). You overcame it, you think; so should he….

I recognize these conflicting feelings within myself.  Do you?

Look who’s asking for work/life balance

by Rhode

So Paul Ryan did something I didn’t expect – he asked for work/life balance.

Paul Ryan’s Remarkable, Personal Demand For Becoming Speaker

While he is known as the “family man”, he’s also considering a position that will require a lot of dinners with donors, hand shaking, and kissing babies. A powerful position requiring more career and less family time.

If the Republicans accept his terms, and he becomes Speaker of the House, do you think his family-time request will become mainstream? Could this change our national view on work-life balance?

And because I have to ask – what does this mean for the Republican party?

Parent Teacher Conference Season

By AustinMom

It’s that time again, the announcement and sign up for parent teacher conferences is here. Elementary conferences were pretty straight forward, with usually only one teacher to visit. If you weren’t certain about what topics to raise a quick search provides a plethora of results.

Middle school and high school conferences, at least in our area, are both set up for you to allow you to visit every teacher, or at least as many as you choose to. For both of our schools, you get a 10 minute slot per teacher, making it important to use that time effectively. With the current technology, we see grades posted online and generally have a good idea in advance of how they are doing from a numeric perspective.

At this level, I find that the teacher rarely has something specific they want to convey and the parent must lead the conversation. I have a few questions I ask every year tailored to each of my kid’s general approach to school. For my introvert, it focuses on class participation and advocating for herself. For my child who receives minimal accommodations, it focuses on feedback that these are working, which generally tells you if the teacher is implementing them. I also always ask for feedback on where each child is compared to their peers, about any standardized tests that have been taken, and anything that is coming up before the end of the semester that I should be aware of, especially if they require parental involvement. In the Spring I ask about next year’s class placements, will they be recommending the more rigorous courses, such as accelerated math in middle school or AP Calculus AB or BC in high school.

Totebaggers, Do you go to the conferences? If so, what do you try to glean from them? Do you have a favorite question or topic to discuss? Or, do you think they are a waste of time?

Halloween activities and food

Finn and Honolulu Mother have some thoughts about Halloween.

by Finn

Halloween is coming up soon, a fact of which you are well aware if your kids (or you) have been watching the Disney Channel, which has been trying to turn the entire month of October into Halloween.

This year it’s on a Saturday, which will change its dynamic relative to the more common weekday Halloween.

What are you and your family doing for Halloween this year? Throwing a party? Going to a party? Treating it like any other Halloween? Hiding in the bushes with a water hose?


by Honolulu Mother

Do you make any special recipes for Halloween? A spiderweb cake, mini hot dogs wrapped in pastry to look like mummies, a ghastly punch? Or perhaps food traditions that may not be Halloween-themed but that you associate with it?

We’ve taken to having pizza on Halloween night as it’s easy to eat for costumed people and also is something the kids are likely to at least eat a slice of before heading out to gather sweet Halloween bounty.  We’ve also made various Halloween-themed treats, both for friends’ parties and our own place.  The Taste of Home website has a bunch of Halloween recipes, broken down by category (spider theme, graveyard theme, etc.).  If you prefer a more upscale approach, Martha Stewart’s site is another option.  A couple of years ago I made a shrimp mousse brain, similar to this one.

So in addition to Finn’s questions, please also let us know what special foods or drinks you might be trying for Halloween!

Smart slackers

by Grace aka costofcollege

“I divide my officers into four classes; the clever, the lazy, the industrious, and the stupid. Each officer possesses at least two of these qualities. Those who are clever and industrious are fitted for the highest staff appointments. Use can be made of those who are stupid and lazy. The man who is clever and lazy however is for the very highest command; he has the temperament and nerves to deal with all situations. But whoever is stupid and industrious is a menace and must be removed immediately!” — General Kurt von Hammerstein-Equord

20151019.TLazyIntelligentMatrix

WHY LAZY AND INTELLIGENT PEOPLE ACHIEVE MORE IN LIFE

Do you agree? Which quadrant do you occupy?

As a kid, I got lectured for only doing the bare minimum to complete a task. As an engineer, I get paid to do just that.

Does this work in real life?  How do you apply this idea when parenting?  And, is there a gender component to this way of thinking?

Picture-perfect families

by Grace aka costofcollege

Does your family look like this at holiday gatherings?

20151010.TFamilyGathering2

Looking at this photo and other similar ones from a recent Lands’ End catalog reminded me that few families present a picture-perfect image during holiday gatherings.  And not only in appearance, but also in behavior.  Maybe you’ve observed some of this firsthand.  Does your teenager spend all evening texting instead of chatting with grandma?  Does your brother-in-law insist on bringing up politics or other controversial topics that intrude upon pleasant conversations?  Do any of your relatives drink just a little too much?

On the other hand, many Totebaggers probably do bear some resemblance to the happy family in the catalog photo.  Do you play flag football after Thanksgiving dinner?  Do your little ones play nicely with their cousins?  Does everyone wear stylish clothes?

What does your family look like during holiday gatherings?  What do you all do before and after your meal?  Does everyone behave?  How do your gatherings today compare with the ones when you were growing up?  Do you look forward to getting together, or do you dread it?

Individual eating habits

by Louise

This post has come about because increasingly we have to cook around whatever issues the adults in our family have with certain foods. These are not allergies, just that some foods don’t agree with them.  Then, there are my parents who would like to eat everything but cannot due to health reasons. It seems that as I come to know of and would like to try new things, my family is moving the opposite way, becoming more restricted in their eating. Totebaggers have mentioned various diets and I confess to be bewildered by them, since I am still following my everything in moderation playbook from twenty years ago. I don’t think I am alone. What have you learnt from your diets, cooking for a family with differing food tolerances and eating healthy in general.

Trip review — Rome & Spanish Basque Country

by Fred MacMurray

I thought I’d share my experiences on a recently completed trip to Rome and the Basque Country of Spain.

Rome

Hotel Teatro Pace
Via del Teatro Pace, 33
(just west of Piazza Navona on a quiet street; excellent location to walk pretty much anywhere in the areas tourists will want to visit)
Price (euros): 250/night double room; 140/night single room, breakfast included

Very good accommodations on the European scale. Quiet, clean, rooms, firm beds. Breakfast is served in the room, choose what you want from the menu the night before. Worked very well. I’d stay there again.

Some restaurants:
Campo di Fiore: Il Mercato. Kind of typical tourist restaurant, but pizza, pasta, salads, grilled vegetables were good. I had eaten there in 2009 and went back. Probably one of the better “touristy” places you can eat at for a reasonable price

Il Forno: pizza to go. Excellent.

Navona (about 4 doors down from the hotel): La Pace del Palato. Via del Teatro Pace, 42. Not a touristy menu at all. Very nice service and food. Recommend as a more upscale place when you’ve had enough regular pizza/pasta.

Gelato: not that you can really go wrong, but a couple we liked: Ice Crome and Frigidarium, both on Via del Governo Vecchio.

For the Vatican, I used MyVaticanTour.com . This was very good; I had also used them in 2009.
For Roman Forum & Colosseum, we went with The Rogue Historians. We had a private tour with Ian, but there are also group tours that are less expensive but also a mile wide and an inch deep.


Spanish Basque Country

Stayed in Bilbao
Hotel Miro Bilbao (5 min. walk from the Guggenheim Museum)
Price (euros): 200/night junior suite; 180/night deluxe king including breakfast and a complimentary snack bar in the lobby.
Modern hotel; would fit right in the US.

Restaurant
Serrantes III (right next to the hotel) Great seafood, especially the Fish Soup and the Fish Salad. Tremendously fresh food and good service

Pinxtos (Tapas) Bar
Casilda. Pinxtos are the Basque version of tapas. Much more elaborate than typically found in Madrid and other parts of Spain. There are plenty of other bars offering similar pinxtos; this place had the widest variety and best price (1 euro each).

Note: while there is plenty of English spoken in Rome…I think you could do it without knowing a word of Italian, English is much less common in Bilbao and the rest of the Basque Country. I happen to speak good enough Italian and I used to be practically fluent in Spanish, so my experience may have been atypical.

Happy to answer anybody’s questions, whether in the comments or privately.

Totebaggers, what places can you recommend to other travelers?

Before and after ‘constant connection’

by Rhode

What it feels like to be the last generation to remember life before the internet

I’m going to go out on a limb and say that all of us were born before 1985. According to Michael Harris, the author of The End of Absence: Reclaiming What We’ve Lost in a World of Constant Connection, we are the last generation to know life before the internet. We remember the Before and After, as he puts it.

So how has that shaped your life?

Do you remember working when you had a room full of typists clacking away? Or have you only ever worked on a computer or word processor?

Do you use Back In My Day to discuss life before 24/7 communication? Other than the typical eye rolling, have those stories elicited a response/conversation that’s beneficial?

Do you miss a time when you weren’t connected 24/7?

And lastly, Michael Harris talks about “analog August” where he went off the internet grid for a whole month to finish the book. Back in 2014, his publisher promoted the book by having readers go off the grid for a weekend. Could you do it? Have you done it? Did it change you?

Ask the Totebag – Van Talk

by Up North

Our family is planning to upgrade our minivan soon. We currently have a 2008 Town & Country that we bought new. The 2008 was a new model year and we experienced many issues with the van (most covered by warranty). I don’t mind the general style of the T&C and like the stow ‘n go seats and doors that open and close with the push of a button. However, given the issues with our T&C and a desire for AWD, we are thinking about buying an AWD Toyota Sienna. We haven’t done any test drives yet.

I’d appreciate any minivan buying advice this group has to offer. Any thoughts on Toyota vs. Honda vs. Chrysler? Is getting an AWD minivan worth it (for winter driving)?

Any general car buying advice is welcome too. It’s been awhile since we bought a vehicle. Last time, it made financial sense to buy new since used vehicles were relatively expensive. I’m not sure if that is still the case or if getting a year old van would make sense.

‘self-directed eugenics’?

by Grace aka costofcollege

What If Tinder Showed Your IQ?
A report from a future where genetic engineering has sabotaged society.

As genetic science becomes more precise, the potential for editing your unborn child’s genes to select for higher intelligence is growing. With that, however, will come a cultural shift in how we value intelligence—and how attractive it is when seeking out a potential partner. Parents will have to grapple with not just their unborn child’s chances of being smart, excelling in school, and getting a job, but also with their chances of getting a date.
We imagine a future where dating apps like Tinder don’t just let users judge others based on pictures of themselves, but on their intelligence scores, too.

Although this article is about an imaginary future, it’s possible to imagine the serious downsides of reprogenetics.

But there was a catch. There was always a catch. The science of reprogenetics—self-chosen, self-directed eugenics—had come far over the years, but it still could not escape the reality of evolutionary tradeoffs, such as the increased likelihood of disease when one maximized on a particular trait, ignoring the others. Or the social tradeoffs—the high-risk, high-reward economy for reprogenetic individuals, where a few IQ points could make all the difference between success or failure, or where stretching genetic potential to achieve those cognitive heights might lead to a collapse in non-cognitive skills, such as impulse control or empathy.

Against this backdrop, the embryo predicted to have the higher IQ also had an eight-fold greater chance of being severely myopic to the point of uncorrectable blindness—every parent’s worst nightmare….

The early proponents of reprogenetics failed to take into account the basic genetic force of pleiotropy: that the same genes have not one phenotypic effect, but multiple ones. Greater genetic potential for height also meant a higher risk score for cardiovascular disease. Cancer risk and Alzheimer’s probability were inversely proportionate—and not only because if one killed you, you were probably spared the other, but because a good ability to regenerate cells (read: neurons) also meant that one’s cells were more poised to reproduce out of control (read: cancer).3 As generations of poets and painters could have attested, the genome score for creativity was highly correlated with that for major depression.

But nowhere was the correlation among predictive scores more powerful—and perhaps in hindsight none should have been more obvious—than the strong relationship between IQ and Asperger’s risk….

Do you care about this?  What is your prediction about how this will go?  Mostly positive, or ruinously negative?  And for both today and tomorrow, how do you feel about your offspring marrying someone with a much lower or higher IQ?  Does it matter?

Recycling

The popular topic of recycling drew submissions from three totebaggers.

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by LauraFromBaltimore

Following up on our recent thread on recycling, this article suggests that it is significantly overrated:

The Reign of Recycling

In the interest of full disclosure, the article dove me nuts — it was like a clever legal brief that cherry-picks facts and makes apples-and-oranges comparisons to lead to a misleading premise. For example, why talk about all of the extra recycling trucks on the road and ignore all of the extra trucks and miles that would be necessary to ship regular waste out to this farmland that some unidentifiable states are apparently so eager to convert to landfills? Why measure bottle recycling to cross-country flights, instead of, say, the costs of manufacturing them from scratch? Why point out the composting facility that was forced to shut down while totally ignoring the huge citizen opposition to the new landfills and incinerators he advocates? (I have been tangentially involved in a couple of those, and I can tell you, it is about as ugly as you can imagine).

All of which frustrates me, because I do think he has a point — I just struggle to see it through the rhetoric and stacked comparisons. I would love to see an objective assessment of the relative costs and benefits of recycling vs. the various other disposal options.

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Proactive not Reactive

by Grocery Bags

In my town, you have to pay for curbside recycling pickup. It is a mixed bin with lots of restrictions – only 1 and 2 plastic and no glass. We are definitely not this!:

Here’s a Clip from Portlandia Season Two: Recycling!

In the neighboring town, there is no curbside recycling and my friend complains that hauling her recycling to a drop-off center makes her feel like it is still 1997. Then I read this article (similar to the NYT articles) and posted it to FB.

American recycling is stalling, and the big blue bin is one reason why

But in response to the economic arguments, one of my friends said, do we pay the price now (by paying to recycle or maybe subsidizing recycling companies maybe) or later (by having to clean up our land and water) and quoted William McDonough: “There is no away”

Honolulu Mother posted an article a while back about Costco that said the one near her was the world’s busiest. That reminded me of the last time I was in Hawaii for vacation. I saw a family hauling their Costco purchases, including a case of bottled water (the worst thing on Earth, IMHO), into their condo, and I thought, this is an island! Where do these people think the trash and recycling go? I know, they don’t think about it, but I do. (BTW, I learned there is at least one waste-to-energy facility on Oahu, but I don’t think it accepts trash from the other islands.)

So my personal, Totebaggy goal is simply to try to consume less upfront. Be proactive – fill up reusable bottles rather than buy bottled water – and not reactive – because it appears that recycling is not going to save us from ourselves.

What about you? Do you care what happens to your trash and recycling?

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And from WCE:

Let’s Modernize Our Environmental Laws

‘Friends’

by Grace aka costofcollege

‘Friends’ Has New BFFs: New York Teenagers

Young people have discovered old sitcoms.

… If you are somewhere between 13 and 20, however, and particularly if you live in New York, you may find yourself very much in the “Friends” zone. This is not because you landed on an episode, after coming home semi-wasted, on late-night television, where it is almost always on in syndication, but because you watch it methodically, on Netflix, in sequence, through its more than 230 shows.

20151005.TFriends

Which “Friends” character are you?

… “We are really into categorizing each other as a Rachel or a Monica; it’s fun to play into that.”…

My teen has even categorized one of our dogs as more of a “Ross” and the other as a “Joey”.

What old (or new) TV shows are your kids (or you) binge-watching?  What were some of your favorite TV shows from your younger years?  Have they aged well?  Have you bonded with your kids over old shows, movies, or music?

 

The Funnies

by Honolulu Mother

I recently came across an article on Charles Schultz’s long run with Peanuts, and the way the strip changed over the years.  I grew up with those paperback Peanuts compilations that everyone had, so the 60s and earlier strips were familiar to me, and then of course I was reading the 70s strips in the paper every day as they ran.  I agree with the article that the later strips all about Snoopy and his extended family were . . . not good.  It was somewhere in the midst of an extended story arc about Spike talking to a cactus that I finally stopped reading the strip.  Although Woodstock I always liked as a kid.  Then again, I liked Garfield and Marmaduke too at that age, so I wasn’t really a discerning comic connoisseur.

Calvin and Hobbes wasn’t around yet when I was a kid; I’m sure I would have loved it if it had been.  My own kids certainly do.  The same goes for Foxtrot, for that matter.  The kids have pretty well loved my Foxtrot and Calvin and Hobbes paperback collections to death.  I have a particular fondness for Foxtrot’s Camp Bohrmore story arc.

Bloom County was big during my teen years, along with The Far Side.  My husband has a precious, irreplaceable Far Side mug that he sweats over whenever a kid uses it.  Calvin and Hobbes appeared on the scene when I was in college, and that was also when I discovered Life in Hell — this was in Matt Groening’s pre-Simpsons years.

Of currently running comic strips, there are several I enjoy, like Pearls Before Swine, but none that really stands out as The Best.  I have mixed feelings about some of the family-based strips.  Take Zits — it never was a favorite, and still isn’t, but lately I keep getting the unsettling feeling that I may actually be the mom from the strip.  Regardless, the Sunday funnies is far and away the most thoroughly read piece of the paper every week, especially by the kids.

Some old-style comics have online, unofficial “improved” versions with strategic editing.  Garfield Minus Garfield, for instance, or Dysfunctional Family Circus.

And then, of course, there’s the wide world of webcomics, which is a whole field by itself.  Skin Horse, XKCD, and Hark! A Vagrant are some of my favorites.

Does your household still get a newspaper in which to read the funnies?  Or do you read them online, or in book form (even checked out of the library)?  Which strips are your favorites?  And are some of them associated with different parts of your life?

College rankings

by LauraFromBaltimore

This article follows up on a recent discussion we had:

College Rankings Fail to Measure the Influence of the Institution

The article and accompanying graphic seem to do a decent job of discussing the different ways to measure the value of a college degree, including the pros and cons of each. Personally, I like the “value added” approach they discuss (the revised Brookings approach in the article), because it tries to take away the impact of a number of factors that seem to be self-selecting (and I’m sure it’s, ahem, entirely coincidental that my own alma mater looks a lot better under that analysis than under the College Scorecard approach). But this crew seems to enjoy nothing more than data analysis and college education, so — discuss!

How are you parenting wrong?

by Honolulu Mother

How are you parenting wrong?

Now I want to try Twitch Plays Parenting. My sons would pay more attention to that than my actual parenting.

My failings that I’m aware of are probably: insufficient tigering, does not hold their feet to the fire enough on chores, not always willing to listen to some long account of some tedious thing. In other words, all the things that result from getting home tired and with not that long a time to get everyone fed in the evening. My failings that I’m not aware of, I’ll hear about years from now.

Sports Betting vs Daily Fantasy – What’s the Difference?

by  Mémé

Here is one of many recent articles prompted by the deluge of DraftKings and FanDuel ads during fall sports broadcasts.

Why Betting on Fantasy Sports Is Legal But Betting on Regular Sports Is Not

Totebaggers,

1. Do you play fantasy sports (in the old sense of a league among friends/colleagues with modest cash prizes and a lot of beer, pizza and bragging rights)?
2. Do you play daily fantasy games?
3. Do you place bets with a bookie?
4. Do you see any difference between 2 and 3?
5. Do you see a difference between betting on sports and other gambling activities?
6. Do you consider gambling a victimless crime and think it should be legal across the board?

Or do you just dislike (as I do) the proliferation of shows and segments and ads ads and more ads focused on fantasy not actual games?