Did I miss my calling as a government bureaucrat?

by WCE

Room for Debate:  Is VW Proof That Businesses Can’t Regulate Themselves?

I enjoyed this “Room for Debate” article on the necessity of regulation and strongly disagreed with Ian Adams. Companies are NOT going to regulate themselves well. The safety and environmental practices of oil companies in the late ’80’s and ’90’s, when oil prices were at an inflation-adjusted low, convinced me of that. No (Almost no?) company will lose money in order to comply with expensive regulations

However, compared to some countries, the US politicizes its regulation and forces particular geographic areas to bear the costs of federal regulation. (If we would allow removal of dead trees and/or limited logging on public lands, forest fires in the West might be less severe.) In China, the bureaucrats are all from one party, so they can focus on the technical, economic and social effects of their policies, rather than whether a particular policy will appeal to a party’s base.

In addition to understanding technical aspects of policies, regulators also need to be knowledgeable and to understand unintended consequences. In my opinion, they should be non-partisan. I can imagine an appropriate role for academics in drafting regulation, since they are less vulnerable to corporate volatility and profit demands than people employed by companies in competition with one another.

What skills would it take to become a good regulator? Would you have any interest in this type of career, or is regulatory policy so convoluted and partisan that real improvement is virtually hopeless?

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Gratitude

by Grace aka costofcollege

Among the 8 Tips for Dealing with Difficult Relatives During the Holidays is this one.

8. Find reasons to be grateful. Be thankful that you get to cook, or that you don’t have to cook. Be thankful that you get to travel, or that you don’t have to travel. Be thankful for your family or your friends. Be grateful for electricity and running water. Find something. Studies show that gratitude is a major happiness booster. Also, feeling grateful toward someone crowds out emotions like resentment and annoyance.

What are you grateful for?  Do you expect to encounter difficult relatives tomorrow?  Do you have relatives who put the “fun” in dysfunctional?  I think tip #6 that recommends we not expect perfection is a good one.  What else is on your mind this Thanksgiving eve?

What time do you usually eat Thanksgiving dinner?  We’re eating earlier than usual this year, 1:pm,  because some guests have to get on the road by early evening and some will be working early on Black Friday.

There will not be a post on Thanksgiving Day or on Friday, but let’s chat about anything you’d like.  How’d your dinner turn out?  Are you shopping on Black Friday?  Is the global travel alert stressing you out or making you yawn?

Happy Thanksgiving!

Life grows bigger, then smaller

by Mémé

When I retired, Rhett was very worried about what I would do all day.
I quickly found plenty to do, taking up or increasing time spent on hobbies and activities, helping out with my grandchildren, and making plans for lots of travel. I had money, energy, time, and my sweetie. Then a young family member got sick and I had to keep my time flexible for most of a year just in case. When that passed my husband was diagnosed with a serious heart condition and exotic travel is no longer on the agenda. Managing his medication, rest, and diet in addition to running the household, the calendar and being his companion, uses up a lot of time and mental energy. The dear cats we adopted have increased in importance from cuddly greeters when we got up or got home to our full-time furry roommates. We are still planning to travel, but in geezer class, not active retiree class.

I don’t have any wisdom to impart from these life developments beyond carpe diem. I have a good life and the ability, at least in decent weather, to engage in solo outdoor activity for both physical and mental health. I guess it is a bit like waking up a few months or years after the children are born, especially if one or more has serious issues or if other life events intervene– elderly parents or tragedy or divorce or job loss – and realizing that although your life is different and in the long run good, it is even less in your control than you expected or imagined it would be.

Today as the days shorten I am just feeling the little losses. By the time the post goes up I’ll be restored and bubbly and positive, I am nothing if not resilient. (I am editing the post the day after initial composition and just the writing of it has given me an idea. I am going out, in the car, to purchase a wheeled shopping cart so that I can do my local grocery runs on foot.) So please share encouragement or challenges or hopes – whatever you feel today – about how to hit the curveballs of life.

Would you welcome Syrian refugees in your community?

by AustinMom

I came across three links in my Facebook feed this week that I found very interesting. The first I thought it was a helpful primer. The second shows where those refugees already allowed into the US have been settled. The third shows those states opposed to and/or refusing to accept more refugees. My state is one that has a number of refugees and is “refusing” more. How do you feel about this? Would you welcome them into your community?

And, lastly, is a fourth link about the US opposition to accepting Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi Germany. Do you see this as the same or different and why?

Syria’s war: A 5-minute history

Paris Attacks Intensify Debate Over How Many Syrian Refugees to Allow Into the U.S.

Here’s a map of every state refusing to accept Syrian refugees

Pre-WWII poll shows that Americans did not want to accept Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi Germany

My new favorite things

by Mémé

These are a few of my (newly acquired) favorite things….

In addition to posts on a specific consumer topic, rarely a day goes by that someone in hijack form does not describe a new acquisition or activity, or ask for advice on how to do something or on a purchase,.    I noticed that this year I had come across a number of small items that have improved my day-to-day life.  So I will list my modest household acquisitions from 2015 in no particular order, and invite you all to do the same.

  1. Free programs to change the hue and intensity on all electronic devices with time of day. Read, work, or play games closer to bedtime without blue screen stimulation.   I use f.lux on my laptop,  Twilight on my android phone,  still trying out the somewhat limited offerings on the Kindle Fire.
  2. “No Cry” kitchen gloves. This is something I read about on the Totebag.  The various graters and the mandoline have been retrieved from the back of the cabinet and are in daily use.
  3. Teak shower stool. When the shower was constructed during the master bath reno 6 years ago, I made sure that there were grab bars and enough space for a stool, but never purchased one.  I finally did after DH got home from the hospital.   I can’t recall anymore how I washed my feet or shaved my legs without it.
  4. Apple peeler/corer/slicer – simple hand-operated machine that attaches to kitchen counter with suction. DIL has one.   Lots of apple desserts for the winter.
  5. Nonstick Egg/pancake rings. I saw them at my daughter’s house and make perfectly sized pancakes or uniformly cooked whites on fried eggs on my griddle.
  6. Wireless charging pad for the Samsung Galaxy.    The charging port was going to give out far before I was ready to trade in the phone
  7. PVC woven placemats – I use attractive gray ones matching my kitchen color scheme on top of my need-ironing midcentury table cloths. Apparently they are okay right on wood as well

Duds –  Fitbit, TV-advertised headlight wipe cloths.

2015 also saw the acquisition of many 50s vintage decorative items and pricey kitchen machines that give me great pleasure and use, but it is the little handy things that sometimes cause me to slap my head and say, why didn’t I get that before?

The long and winding career path

by Grace aka costofcollege

When asked how she ended up as White House press secretary, Dana Perino explained that her career began with an unlikely job.

Well, it started with a job as an overnight country music DJ in southern Colorado. The truth is, there’s no clear path. Everything I did — taking lots of risks, getting over my fears — led me to be the right press secretary at the right time.

Many careers take a winding path.  My first job out of college was in the dusty oil fields of West Texas, and my last job was amid the skyscrapers of Wall Street.  I’m both delighted and nervous to observe the unlikely paths of my children’s careers,  As happens in many cases, the jobs they have now were not on their radar screen until very recently.

Has your career followed a straight and narrow path, or a crooked and winding one?  What do you observe around you?  What do you see or expect for your children?  What relevant career advice would you like to share?

Also notice that Perino’s big job required her to sacrifice work-life balance.

Q: How did you maintain a healthy work-life balance when you were working in the White House?

A: I didn’t. I ate little, slept terribly and was susceptible to migraines. But I got through it. I think it helped that there was an end date, so I could give my all for those days, knowing the best opportunity of my life wasn’t going to last forever.

Healthier habits

by Risley

Here’s an article about the recent announcement re: the carcinogenic properties of red meat and processed red meat. The article dispels the “red meat causes cancer” scare by explaining something many of us in this group have said many times: all things in moderation. A bit of red meat, like a bit of sun or a bit of alcohol, has benefits. A ton of red meat, like a ton of sun or a ton of alcohol — not a good plan.

Red Meat for Health: A Recent WHO/IARC Ruling

What health scare information — real or imagined or later debunked — has changed the way you approach your health? Here are some of the changes we’ve made in our house, some based on actual science (though I’ve already forgotten the details) and some based on overreaction or instinct:

Limited microwave use. Not so recent, actually–we’ve been doing this for many years. As I write this, though, I can’t recall reading a single thing that says microwaves are a health risk. I don’t recall if we read something about this once and I’ve simply forgotten it, or if we came up with this ourselves. It makes sense to me instinctively though, so I avoid them. (Meanwhile, I go through the x-ray scanner at airports quite happily. This is not a post about consistency, evidently!)

Limited processed soy. I read that processed soy is a potential issue, particularly for young girls. Something about hormones in the processed soy, maybe? No memory of it, but I have three young women in the house, two of whom eat a lot of tofu at their mother’s, so I figure our house should be pretty much soy free, to be safe. (I understand certain tofu–extra soft, maybe?–is okay but other kinds aren’t Obviously, I’m not good at remembering details, so I just avoid it all, for the most part).

No more plastic unless it’s BPA-free. Again because of reproductive health, and all the girls running around this house. We do have some of those little IKEA dishes (plastic). I’ve told the kids not to eat hot things in those and not to put them in the microwave. I really should just dump them all, I suppose. Again, I’m not scoring consistency points.

Limited/no lunch meat. Again, the processed meat thing. And a nitrate thing I vaguely recall reading. We used to use those little squares of ham in fried rice, but now we sub in shrimp. Of course, now the go-to sandwich choice around here for kids is PB + Nutella, so I’m not sure this was a true health move.

Michael Pollan’s rules. I still try to keep us following these. Things like, “Don’t eat something with more than 10 ingredients/with ingredients you don’t know/that your grandmother wouldn’t recognize/that comes from the aisles of the grocer rather than the perimeter” etc. One thing I love about The Lady is that her ingredient lists are 90% or more from the perimeter, so I don’t have to think about it much. No idea if they’ve debunked these guidelines but I can’t see how we can go wrong eating mostly produce and avoiding processed food with a ton of chemicals, so I’m sticking with Mike. We’ve taken this to another level over the past half year or so, meaning that we no longer cheat as much. I’d say we cheat 0-5% on groceries and a little more when out. Those numbers used to be far, far higher. I swear I have more energy, particularly in the afternoons. It could be because of something else, but I’ve decided it’s from cutting out sugar and processed food.

Probiotics. One every morning for gut health. Maybe it’s these little guys, or maybe it’s that DH and I have stepped up our workouts quite a bit over the last several months, but he and I have reached a whole new level of lean lately. We had already been following the Pollan guidelines more strictly, so it seems like the final step of adding a probiotic was the game changer.

No more than one drink/day for women. Breast cancer risk if you drink more than one. No idea if this has been debunked or not, but I can think of various other good reasons to stick to one/day, so I’m sticking to it and have warned the girls a trazillion times that they should do the same.

What about you? Have you taken things too far for reasons you can no longer recall, or for reasons that may never have existed in the first place, except in your gut? Or do you figure that all these rules/discoveries/warnings change all the time anyway, so there’s no sense getting too fired up about them, and just stay the course instead, eat/drink what you’ve always consumed, whether in moderation or not, and assume it’ll all be fine?

Freedom of speech on campus

by Sky

Two incidents involving freedom of speech on campus have made the news in recent days:

Yale:

October 28: Dean Burgwell Howard and the university’s International Affairs Council sent an email to students, discouraging students from wearing costumes that featured feathered headdresses, turbans, blackface, and war paint, noting that “while students…have a right to express themselves, we would hope that people would actively avoid those circumstances that threaten our sense of community or disrespects, alienates or ridicules segments of our population based on race, nationality, religious belief or gender expression.”

October 30: Wife of the Silliman Master (the faculty adviser who lives in one of the undergraduate dorms) Erika Christakis sends an email to Silliman residents in response to students’ questions. The key excerpt:

Even if we could agree on how to avoid offense – and I’ll note that no one around campus seems overly concerned about the offense taken by religiously conservative folks to skin-revealing costumes – I wonder, and I am not trying to be provocative: Is there no room anymore for a child or young person to be a little bit obnoxious… a little bit inappropriate or provocative or, yes, offensive? American universities were once a safe space not only for maturation but also for a certain regressive, or even transgressive, experience; increasingly, it seems, they have become places of censure and prohibition. And the censure and prohibition come from above, not from yourselves! Are we all okay with this transfer of power? Have we lost faith in young people’s capacity – in your capacity – to exercise self-censure, through social norming, and also in your capacity to ignore or reject things that trouble you? We tend to view this shift from individual to institutional agency as a tradeoff between libertarian vs. liberal values (“liberal” in the American, not European sense of the word).

Nicholas says, if you don’t like a costume someone is wearing, look away, or tell them you are offended. Talk to each other. Free speech and the ability to tolerate offence are the hallmarks of a free and open society.

Protests erupted on the Yale campus, and a confrontation with Erika’s husband Nicholas was filmed and posted on YouTube. The undergraduates surround Christakis and yell obscenities at him over his wife’s email.

Despite the efforts of the administration to quell the outrage, the protests continue and the students involved are now demanding that the university hire black psychologists for the campus health center and adopt more ethnic studies curricula. (Yale recently announced a $50M effort to hire more ethnically and racially diverse faculty.)

University of Missouri:

September 12: People in a passing pickup truck allegedly shout racial slurs at the student government president, who is black.

October 5: A drunk white student allegedly yells a racial slur at a group of black students. The university chancellor posts on a blog in response, condemning racism on campus.

October 8: Mandatory online diversity training for faculty is announced.

October 10: Black protestors block the University president’s car in the Homecoming Parade, demanding he talk to them about the incidents.

October 21: A student group called Concerned Student 1950 issues a list of demands, including an apology from the university president and his removal; diversity training for all faculty, staff and students; and more funding for black faculty and staff and for social justice centers on campus.

October 24: A swastika drawn in feces is found on a dorm bathroom wall.

November 2: A graduate student begins a hunger strike until the university president resigns. Students protest.

November 7: The football team announces that it will not participate in practices or games until the university president resigns.

November 9: The university president and chancellor resign.

* * *

The atmosphere at Yale was described to me as a “witch hunt,” even before the Halloween email controversy.

In My Day – which was not so long ago – even the most progressive students gave lip service to the value of diverse views. What has changed? Is this a return to the campus activism of the 1960s, or something different?

Paris open thread

by Grace aka costofcollege

This post was created in case you all want to post thoughts and opinions on the Paris attack.  If you’re not interested, please ignore.

Paris Attacks Were an ‘Act of War’ by Islamic State, French President François Hollande Says

PARIS—French President François Hollande on Saturday blamed Islamic State for the terrorist attacks across Paris that left at least 127 people dead, and vowed to retaliate.

“It is an act of war that was waged by a terrorist army, a jihadist army, by Daesh, against France,” Mr. Hollande said, using an Arabic name for Islamic State. “This act of war was prepared and planned from the outside, with accomplices inside,” he added, saying France would respond to the attacks.

“France, because it was freely, cowardly attacked, will be merciless against the terrorists,” Mr. Hollande said in an address to the nation broadcast on French TV. “France will triumph over barbarism.”…

Mr. Hollande’s remarks may herald a sharp escalation of France’s military action in Syria and Iraq against Islamic State. France has been bombing the group’s positions in both countries, but has so far refused to put troops on the ground.

President Obama characterized the attack in a slightly different way.

… it’s an attack not just on the people of France, but this is an attack on all of humanity and the universal values that we share.

What does this mean?

We stand prepared and ready to provide whatever assistance that the government and the people of France need to respond….

Is this act of terrorism a turning point of some kind?  Troops on the ground?  More aggressive routing out of potential terrorism within country borders?

Old clothes

by Grace aka costofcollege

What’s the oldest piece of clothing you own?

Style blogger Angie recently wrote about the golden oldie items in her closet.

In an era of throwaway fashion and where purging our closets to minimal status is popular, it makes me feel GREAT that I’ve had these pieces for years and am still wearing them with a happy heart….

You’ve probably heard the saying, “I’ve got ties older than you”.  I’m sure I have clothes older than some of you.  I got this faded hoodie about 35 years ago on my first visit to Yellowstone.  (That was before they were called “hoodies”.)

201511.eMiscNovPhotos2LF

Wedding gowns, special baby outfits, and team jerseys are some types of clothing often saved for sentimental reasons.  Sturdy jeans and classic suits are saved for continual wearing.

What old clothes do you own?  Do you still wear them?  Are you an investment shopper, or more likely to buy the latest styles?  Have you found yourself resurrecting old clothes that have been put away for a while?  Do you keep some old clothes for sentimental reasons?  Do you ever buy vintage clothing?  Do old clothes make you feel old?  Do you periodically clean out your closet?  Maybe it’s as simple as “when in doubt, throw it out”?

Presidential politics

by Grace aka costofcollege

Are you a democratic socialist like Bernie Sanders? Take the quiz.

I suspect most Totebaggers are democratic socialists.

Who’s your candidate at this point, a year ahead of the presidential election.  You can use ISideWith.com to help you decide.



Would you prefer that the Totebag avoid political topics?

Cancer

by WCE

I was fascinated by two aspects of this article on cancer — the lay description of how cancer cells work, and the frustration with how outdated laws inhibit cancer research.

Death of cancer

Here’s an excerpt of the biology part:

Humans derive their energy from two forms of metabolism: oxidative phosphorylation and glycolysis. Oxidative phosphorylation, the most efficient form of metabolism, takes place in the presence of oxygen carried by red blood cells in the bloodstream (that’s what ‘oxidative’ means). It results in the complete metabolism of nutrients to glucose; that glucose is then converted into water and carbon dioxide, which are easily excreted by the lungs and kidneys.

On the other hand, humans generally derive energy from less-efficient glycolysis only when oxygen is in short supply. Glycolysis is the metabolic system tapped by the muscles of long-distance runners, for example, after oxygen has been spent.

Very rarely, however, glycolysis can take place when oxygen is present. One of those rare instances includes the circumstance of the cancer cell, which prefers glycolysis, as inefficient as it is, because it burns glucose only incompletely, leaving parts of molecules behind that can be used to synthesise DNA and other large molecules that rapidly dividing cells need. The cancer cell, like the embryo, retains the ability to switch back and forth between the two forms of metabolism, depending on a cell’s needs at the time.

The political aspect of this article is how outdated laws — on overtime, the environment, and cancer research, among others — are very difficult to fix. What do you think of “sunset provisions” for laws, where a law either has to be re-approved after a period of time, re-approved with changes or lapse? Would this result in legal chaos? I know we have enough lawyers that I’ll get an informed opinion.

School dress codes

by Finn

Do your kids’ schools have dress codes?

The Sexism of School Dress Codes

If so, what are those codes? What do you find good and bad about them? Do the codes treat boys and girls (and others) equally? Are boys, girls, and others treated equally in enforcement of the codes? Is it difficult to find clothes that meet those codes?

What changes would you like to see in your kids’ dress codes and their implementation and enforcement?

No Memorial Service or Funeral for Me!

By Pregnant Teen Mom

I just redrafted my will. I think Rhode is the one who wants my Lincoln so much, and I want to make her happy.

In this draft of the Will, which I went over with Junior, other than the Lincoln, he’ll get the house in The Villages, the cat, the golf cart, the box of Depends from Costco and pretty much everything else.

This time, I put in boldface: “IN NO EVENT DO I WANT A FUNERAL OR A MEMORIAL OF ANY KIND. THIS IS A DECISION THAT I HAVE MADE UPON SERIOUS REFLECTION AND IN FULL CONSIDERATION OF MY SURVIVORS.

Now, of course, this declaration doesn’t mean anything. Upon my death—and I do plan on dying—Junior (if he is 18) will have custody of my body and he can do what he wants. If he wants a parade with a jazz band down Jeb! and Columba’s street, he can do it. But I hope he won’t. My guess is that I won’t know.

I am aware this will bug some of those I am close to. This may also bug Jeb! and Columba. That is not my intention.

I find funerals and memorial services beyond gruesome. Far from providing closure for those most closely affected, they tear open a fresh wound and provide a spectacle for those who wish to gawk.

I so regret my wife’s service. My dad had to practically hold me up. My mother had the pain of trying to explain things to my son. I am sure there were many people who wondered why I couldn’t “man up”.

I left the reception before I could enter. My mother graciously greeted guests (but she didn’t like my wife).

I would never want to put my loved ones through that! Even if they have to pretend.

The evils of helicopter parenting

by laurafrombaltimore

Yet another article on the evils of helicopter parenting:

Former Stanford dean explains why helicopter parenting is ruining a generation of children

I think the folks here know me well enough to know I’m not a helicopter. But this time, all I could think was “that’s rich.” Why? Because by definition, her experience is with helicoptering that is aimed getting the kids into a “top” college – specifically, Stanford, for which she served as dean for a decade. But that means her experience is based on *the students that Stanford chose to admit* (and via an extremely selective admissions process to boot). She has written a whole book criticizing parents for doing what it takes to get their kids into Stanford – and doing it better than everyone else.

So what’s her analysis of the “college admission arms race,” which she admits drives much of this? It appears to boil down to “well, not everyone has to go to Stanford,” with maybe a soupcon of “not my problem.” All of her suggestions (optional SAT/ACT scores, limiting the number of schools each kid can apply to) impose the constraints on the students, not the college – not to mention make it less likely that those who actually follow her advice will get into that top college (who here really thinks Stanford will choose the kid who “opts out” of the SATs over one with a 1560?). And the colleges are (conveniently) scot-free to continue to operate as they always have.

How about this: if top colleges really care about “life skills and a work ethic,” how about they base their admissions decisions on those criteria? If colleges think it’s so valuable to have kids do chores and have jobs and such, then how about requiring that information on the applications – and actually weighing that more than, say, sitting 4th chair in concert band? Parents who care about getting their kids into a top college are going to do what they think those schools value, period. If the result of that arms race is brittle, helpless kids, then that says as much about those colleges’ admissions priorities than it does about the parents and students who are doing the best they can to play the game based on rules they didn’t write.