The world we have lost: Evenings before TV

by Honolulu Mother

My attention was caught by this paragraph in a FiveThirtyEight article about the decline of terriers in dog shows and national attention over the last century:

And then television came along. While Black Tuesday changed the business from the U.S., a few decades later, mass media changed it from England. The English working class that was largely responsible for raising the dogs turned to other leisure pursuits. “So instead of you going outside in a cold shed and pulling hair, you can watch a football game, and you’re sitting in your kitchen by the fire,” Green said. “Well, which would you rather do for a hobby?” And so went the terrier supply.

Terrier care and breeding is time-intensive, apparently, the kind of thing that might be worth doing as a hobby you enjoy and get a little extra money from but not as a job in its own right.  I don’t know if the article is correct that a collapse in supply led to a decline in terrier popularity, but I don’t doubt that sitting indoors watching tv is a more appealing method of relaxation than sitting out in a cold shed grooming terriers.

What interested me was not the terrier angle so much as the idea that a shift toward more passive, in-home types of leisure activities can affect something so seemingly unrelated as what dog breeds are popular.  I’ve seen something similar with community theaters:  I’m aware of a couple that have shut down because there are no longer enough people interested in spending their evenings rehearsing, painting sets, and so on, not to mention people interested in turning out to see their friends and neighbors perform when they could just Netflix and chill.  There’s no population loss to blame; it’s the internet, and before that, tv, giving people an easy alternative evening pastime.

I don’t mean to tsk tsk over this — people can spend their leisure time how they choose! — but I do find it interesting how such a shift can eat away at those parts of our cultural and commercial life that sit on the boundary between profession and hobby.  Perhaps I should also fold in the Garden Clubs and Ladies’ Societies that once depended on the volunteer work of women who weren’t expected to work for pay after marriage.

Are there parts of our world that are fading away in response to the ease and variety of in-home entertainment options?  I live in a city, and there are still community orchestras and theaters and orchid clubs to supplement the professional options, but does it take a larger town than it once did to support a community theater or put on a flower show?  And is the internet also responsible for a contrary trend toward greater interest in jam-making, crafting, and other Pinterest-worthy hobbies?

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155 thoughts on “The world we have lost: Evenings before TV

  1. On the contrary trend, I find the explosion of homemaking blogs fascinating. I think between HGTV/Pinterest/Houzz and all of the blogs there is this focus on homemaking and decorating that has permeated the middle class that just wasn’t there when I was growing up. And in the about me section on those blogs, it is always a woman who has a passion for decorating/cooking/baking.

    We still have Garden Clubs where I live.:)

  2. *sniff* I miss community theatre. Also, I fear that I am now too old to play all the roles that I wanted to play when I was growing up! :(

  3. Mooshi – true, but what does Hillary stand for? Is she in favor of the “gold standard” TPP, or do we believe that she’s been converted by Bernie?

    To many, Trump offers Hope and Change from the Establishment, and as we’ve seen, sometimes that’s enough.

  4. My kids school has a garden club which kind of surprised but then not surprised me. With all the interest in food and where it comes from. DS ate the stir fry from the garden club veggies and professed it to be quite good.
    We have a non profit organization here that promotes arts in the community. Their aim is to make it easy, accessible and cheap for the commoners to enjoy the arts. Though there is no “world class” anything here there is enough grass roots type things. The public schools also scheduled visits to the opera, theatre and ballet so it doesn’t feel like these things are out of reach. Overall a good job at encouraging the arts.

  5. “I think between HGTV/Pinterest/Houzz and all of the blogs there is this focus on homemaking and decorating that has permeated the middle class that just wasn’t there when I was growing up.”

    I have just blown several hours this morning playing around with floor plans and placing furniture in the on-line floorplans of a development going up near me. I am in an angsty-annoyed-considering-moving funk right now (need to decide within @ 1 week whether to plunk down still more $ for garage in a house that is now the “wrong” school zone), and I am finding the magic of the interwebs to be an excellent outlet for daydreaming about alternatives (not to mention insomnia, as I was measuring floorplans at 2 AM last night). I guess in the old days I’d talk it through with a friend over wine or something, instead of the interminable sit-and-spin made possible through the magic of science.

    One other twist on the community theater kind of issue is that HS productions seem MUCH more prominent. I remember being lucky if my parents showed up for one night. Now my kid’s play was sold out well before showtime, as not just parents but students from other schools and people in the neighborhood came. I guess if you like theater, it’s easier just to pay $4 for a ticket to the local HS shows (there are a half-dozen within @ 10 miles) vs. dedicating your own time and energy to set design, playing in the orchestra, fundraising, etc.

  6. I have thought of L because some of my colleagues are in a community choirs which are seem to be doing OK.

  7. Evening TV was a family event at a specific time. On certain nights, at certain times, the entire family, in the early days with guests who did not own tvs, sat around to catch the broadcast, frequently live. The weekly episode of Perry Mason and of course the Ed Sullivan show on Sunday night were our mainstays. You might not be willing to bowl in a league on a certain night if you would miss your favorite show, but most people did not watch for hours on end night after night. Soap operas were on in the early afternoons when housewives were usually in the house awaiting the kids from school, but not when morning ladies’ club or church meetings were being held.

    I think that community theater and all that has become less popular for a number of reasons. The timing of family formation is a big reason. Most people InMyDay® did theater or singing beyond sunday choir before they had kids or with one baby, and picked it up again when it was not necessary to have a babysitter (kids at 12 or so in the old days – you might be 36 at that point). Going out for more than one night a week for rehearsals requires a lot of coordination between spouses. Child rearing was not so unrelentingly labor intensive. Kids didn’t have evening activities, either. Adult exercise and athletics have become the personal activity of choice for many. A second reason is attributable to mass entertainment – one’s tolerance for adult enthusiastic but bad performance goes down when you have a lot of other entertainment options. There is still a lot of semi pro performance that is really quite good (the amateur orchestra is usually the weak point, not the singers or actors), but there is not the support for a company in every style in every other town.

  8. Quite honestly, right now I am not interested in any real hobbies or, broadly writ, ongoing community involvement. One shot deals are a different story. I left my leadership post of a prominent local community group in 2012 and have not looked back or tried to replace it. It was like having a second job for maybe 8 years and I have needed the breather. I’ll look to start back up doing something, maybe as a literacy volunteer, once DS3 starts college a year + from now.

    I think the overall trend HM raises is similar to what was addressed 15 years ago in this book: http://www.amazon.com/Bowling-Alone-Collapse-American-Community/dp/0743203046

  9. OT, I think more than Netflix and Reddit, the decline of these pastimes and institutions has more to do with kids’ activities, the reluctance to hire babysitters or do a co-op (for many, 12 is too young for cheap babysitting, the sitters themes aren’t as interested in working, and for co-ops, everyone’s kids are a lot more individually needy.)

    Also, many of these are traditionally upper class pursuits. The middle class was too busy doing housework. (I believe HM said that her parents are the kind to have cocktails and smoked oysters for an hour before dinner.) Now those people are more likely to be dual-income.

  10. LfB – This affects DS, right, not DD? I moved into across the county in order to go to a particularly high school, and then they informed us that our newly built building was going to be zoned to the brand new school opening two months later. My mother almost lost it, but luckily I was allowed to go the old school with the “grandfathered” kids because the new school didn’t offer Latin at all or French at the level for which I qualified.

  11. Sky – good idea! Although by then we will have to change all the keys to accommodate creaky old voices. ;)

  12. IIRC one thing that has influenced the shrinking of community organizations is the lack of a truly shared experience across broad society in 70+ years. Post WWII people (men) who had been in the military and served overseas came back and wanted to spend time with others at the VFW, American Legion, Elks, Moose, etc. Many of the home-based women (whether Rosie the Riveter types, or housewives as they were called) also had shared experiences and joined groups of their own to do things while the kids were at school.

    IMO this is the biggest cause.

  13. Milo – Community theater might not have been a working class pursuit, but bowling was. And a lot of the musicians DH worked with in community productions for many years were economically not particularly prosperous, although class is not just a matter of income for artist and academic types – otherwise they would never do what they do. Also, remember that your life arc, including hobbies and second careers, will be, and mine was, so different from many of the others on this site because we had our kids in our 20s.

  14. Argh. We always had a split between ES (“good”) and MS (“bad”). They redistricted because they are building a new ES and said they were focusing on keeping neighborhoods together. But then they “fixed” it by going with the MS boundaries for both, which splits off my street and one other from the rest of our neighborhood. Every single friend of DS’ would go to the other (existing) school, and there is literally no friend he could walk or bike to (other than our two blocks, the other three neighborhoods are divided from us by very major streets).

    I am *totally* overreacting, because DS is probably grandfathered for his last year of ES, and MS was always going to be an issue. But now I am fretting about pouring more $$ into this house, since the new ES isn’t as desirable (it’s perfectly good, but people look for the other one) and our property values probably just dropped. And I am focusing on all the stuff that we don’t have here that a new place offers, like energy efficiency and huge open floor plans and a big unfinished basement/exercise room and an ATTACHED garage and a beautiful setting in the trees right next to the state park and minimal maintenance (I figure with 10 yrs left here, a new house means no windows/roof/HVAC/etc. until after we leave) and both kids having really good friends within a block or two. I am fantasizing about us all playing happily in the woods and them running around like I did as a kid. I ran the numbers, and we could make the change without much difference, and I think the new place is the better long-term investment given that people come here for the schools. But I am ignoring all of the stuff I love about this place, like being walkable to everywhere and having close to an acre of land (with room for batting cage) and most of all the character of the house and all of the personalization we’ve done. I don’t know if I would be as happy going back to a generic kitchen, even an “upgraded” one, giving up the easy walks to the library and ice cream shop, etc. So I’m basically driving myself bat guano over something that I’m never actually going to pull the trigger on.

  15. DH’s working class father spent a lot of time bowling, and a lot of time at the VFW hall drinking beer. His mom often went “out with the girls”. But they also spent a LOT of time watching TV

  16. “Evening TV was a family event at a specific time” I miss this. Everyone watched the same show at the same time, and could talk about it the next day. We actually reserved time for our favorite TV shows.

  17. I have no interest in volunteering for anything or spending time on more activities. After work, dinner, chores, exercise, and homework, I’m ready for tv and bed!

  18. I never experienced the “evening TV was a family event” thing because we mainly didn’t own a TV, or had a little B&W portable that got drug from room to room when I was a kid. But now, that is very much how we watch TV (well Roku, but same idea). Kids get to watch a show in the evening when I make dinner, and on Fridays we all watch something together

  19. LfB – Your default reaction to almost everything not being as envisioned/expected is bat guano fretting, but you and your family know that, which may not make you feel better immediately or prevent short term disruption in your orbit, but gives perspective a few hours or days down the road. I think that the best outcome with respect to your beloved money semi-pit is that if you stay you will only do repairs or those improvements that are necessary to enhanced quality of life, and you won’t spend as much energy on the esthetics or making things perfect.

  20. My kids school has a garden club which kind of surprised but then not surprised me. With all the interest in food and where it comes from. DS ate the stir fry from the garden club veggies and professed it to be quite good.

    I joined our school’s “health and wellness committee” a few years ago. Last year, they decided to build a garden, so now it has essentially become “the garden committee” and every meeting is about the ongoing plans for the garden, so I’ve completely lost interest. They had a garden elective for middle school last fall that DD did, which she didn’t like at all but only picked it because her friends were in it.

  21. I miss the common experience of TV shows. The last one I remember is the final episode of the Sopranos. Everyone at my work watched it and everyone was discussing it the next morning. Now we watch House of Cards but cannot discuss it because of spoilers.

    I was talking to my MIL this past weekend and she was talking about how my days are so different from hers as a SAHM. She used to play bridge 2x/week, have luncheons a lot and volunteer a bit for the kids’ school. Now women in her equivalent social group exercise and try to out-mom each other. No wasting the day away playing cards with friends. Too bad, because that sounds a lot more fun.

  22. @Meme — you are, of course, right. I also think my reaction is exacerbated by free-floating anxiety about DH’s job (he had a really big, bad thing hit last week — still employed, but a lot of the excitement has gone out of it, and there’s probably 2 years of trudging uphill in front of him to be happy again). So the school thing just feels like one more rug pulled out from under us. And it’s probably not the rug that I really care about — it’s just the only one I feel like I can do anything about, so I am overly fixated on it. Displacement being an excellent coping tool and all.

  23. “Evening TV was a family event at a specific time” I miss this. Everyone watched the same show at the same time, and could talk about it the next day. We actually reserved time for our favorite TV shows.

    I miss this as well. We do watch some shows together as a family, but I miss the community shared experience. Even into the 80s, the top shows had ratings in the 20s or 30s. Last year, the top rated non-football show was The Big Bang Theory at 7.1.

  24. @Milo — it’s not that we’re *planning* to go anywhere, more like that’s when we’re free to decide if/where we want to go, because the kids will be out of school and the house will be paid off and we should have college covered and so can retire. I could see keeping this as a home base (DH does need a shop, after all), or trading down to a couple of townhouses/condos in different places for less maintenance and more fun.

  25. I was talking to my MIL this past weekend and she was talking about how my days are so different from hers as a SAHM. She used to play bridge 2x/week, have luncheons a lot and volunteer a bit for the kids’ school.

    Mahjong was big in my mother’s social group.

  26. Now we watch House of Cards but cannot discuss it because of spoilers.

    Yes, it’s gone to the other extreme now where you can’t talk about the shows you watch because of the spoiler issue with time-shifting and streaming.

  27. LfB – so sorry to hear that DH’s job situation is that unpleasant for him. I am sure DS will be grandfathered for the elementary school sixth grade. You can make a stink if necessary, but likely it won’t be. The property value thing is only a factor right now if you sell. Who knows what the school boundaries will be in 10 years?

    Cat – the women who played cards now have book clubs. Some bridge games had wine in those days, but not all. You can’t spend time at something unless it is self improving. Even a commitment to cooking is not “gourmet” anymore, but “healthy”. However, when you are old, playing bridge takes on a self improving hue because it is good mental exercise and gets you out of the house. Young people mostly play bridge online.

    Fred – Every few years I let someone prevail upon me to take on a serious volunteer commitment usually involving responsibility for money. After about six weeks I remember that what drove me away is the constant interpersonal wrangling, not the actual job I am asked to do.

  28. “and so can retire”

    Hmm. I guess you’ll be about 60, so that makes sense. It just surprised me the way you wrote that.

    My thoughts are that the redistricting probably doesn’t affect your kids at all, and even if it does, it’s just one year. While I, personally, would take my soulless suburban tract house over your drafty handyman’s special :), you guys seem to like it well enough. If the value has dropped, then it’s dropped, and there’s nothing to be done about that. The percentage of the garage costs that you’d recuperate in a sale did not change appreciably.

  29. LfB – I will say as a dweller in an older home that the new house sounds great. It is a new house but in an older neighborhood correct ? Best of both worlds.

  30. LfB, if it’s any comfort I lost three nights of sleep last week to the same redistricting fun, just in another state.

    And then they announced they aren’t going to do it after all.

    Which is great, but now I want my lost sleep back.

    If your DS thinks he can survive, I vote that you should stick with your current house. Our house gives me something neutral and attainable to fuss about in the wee small hours, which is a useful function in itself :)

    On topic, it’s all exercise and competitive mothering here. I keep thinking of starting a
    hobby group, but if I go back to work in the fall as planned I won’t be able to keep it up.

  31. As another owner of an older house with “character” and “charm”, I vote for the new house. : )

    Imagine, a new roof, new windows, no drafts….

  32. I recently moved from a charming older house to a new one. So nice! It has improved my life so much!

  33. LfB – I would vote for the new house. If I could convince my husband to build a new house in our existing neighborhood I would do it (slowly planting seeds now).:)

    Our neighborhood garden club is more social – wine and speakers brought in about gardening and interior design, but they do some neighborhood beautification stuff too (greenery on mailboxes at Christmas and flags in everyone’s yard for Memorial Day/4th of July). I go once in a while but it has moved from monthly to quarterly (I think people are busy with kids and so the monthly just wasn’t getting enough attendance).

    I actually think the SAHM thing is pretty nice down here. Sure, the moms go walking/to the Y or play in a tennis league but there doesn’t seem to be much competitiveness about it. And there seems to be actually very little focus on curbing sugar consumption for kids. I was talking to a friend of a friend who moved down here from your neck of the woods Sky and she said her son could not believe all of the candy passed out in school, he thought it was the best school ever.

  34. @Houston — I know, right? Tell me — does this not look awesome: http://www.khov.com/find-new-homes/maryland/catonsville/21228/k-hovnanian-homes/catons-reserve/tomasen? With the FR extension, home office, and island, of course. And did I mention that it’s in the trees next to the state park, in the most desirable neighborhood?? And energy-efficient??? :-)

    @Milo — Yeah, I surprised myself, too. I was trying to do the financial comparison, and when I realized we’re down to 10-12 years (yikes!), it hit me that maintenance could be a lot less because things wouldn’t start breaking until after we may decide to leave. :-)

    Anyway, thanks for all the perspective. I don’t think I’d made the connection to DH’s job thing until I wrote it out to Meme (this has been about my 3rd bout of insomnia in the past week), so this has actually been really helpful.

  35. We are like Atlanta – yes SAHMs do work out more but generally things are pretty relaxed. The families are average of three kids and a lot of time gets spent in carpool or shuttling to kid activities. Family life less frenetic than a dual income household

  36. LfB- I’m a huge sucker for model homes. I remember when Toll Brothers first started developing near where I grew up, when I was in high school, and my Mom and I drove over to see the model. I even remember the name of the floorplan: Madison Federal.

    You walk in, and every single light is on, the fireplace is lit (in June), warm chocolate chip cookies are forever coming out of the oven, every interior door has been removed, the wood floors are gleaming, the white carpets are pristine. Everything is exactly where it should be, and there are just enough books (3) lying around and clothes in each closet (2 outfits per imaginary resident), pressed and hanging, or in coordinating hat boxes, to suggest that it *IS* possible to live this way, with nothing superfluous, if only you, you slob, could get your act together. It all smells of fresh carpeting, fresh paint, and vanilla extract.

    God, what a magical place.

  37. “What happened to all the love for old houses?”

    We had to replace one of our water heaters yesterday. A quick $1500. Our wood floors are bumpy and crooked and there is not a straight wall on our first floor. And my husband has been working on converting a little room off of our dining room into his office and that’s led to having to completely redo the walls (rotted out 2 x 4s when we did some demo) while vacuuming out copious amounts of mouse droppings. Just not feeling the love today.:)

  38. Well, good news for all of you looking to get new homes…the Fed has decided to leave interest rates alone for a while. So not only will mortgage rates stay at essentially record lows, the equity markets are currently rallying on the news.

  39. I love old houses. Around here though that’s only early 1900s. I’m not a big fan of open concept floor plans though, so it makes it easier to like old houses.

    I want to pretend to move – empty out the house and then move 1/3 of the stuff back in. I have a bunch of stuff in my attic from when my mom and grandmothers died that I need to purge.

  40. The Garden Club still makes me smile. My DS was thinking of joining to get his community hours in. When he told me that I nearly LOL. He should be allowed only to design their irrigation system. Otherwise, I can see him pulling out the veggies thinking they are weeds much to the horror of the garden club junior ladies.

  41. @Fred — yeah, that doesn’t hurt. We are a few years into a 15-year at 2.875, and much to my surprise I discovered that I can now get a 10-year for 2.75%, so I can stay on track or even accelerate for basically the same $$.

    @Milo — for me it’s the plans. I don’t know why, I *love* house plans (I used to draw my own as a hobby). I can just “see” everything in my head.

  42. LFB, gorgeous homes. Very tasteful. Not too big. I personally think you need a 3 car garage, though. Unless your DH has a separate shed for his tools…

  43. Our local rose club is folding, essentially for lack of membership. Women of the usual age are more likely to be employed and/or helping with grandchildren in their spare time. In addition to terrier clubs, amateur music skills have declined dramatically since my FIL’s time growing up in South Dakota. In the 1950’s, there wasn’t much to do in the winter besides practice your trumpet, I suppose.

    When people do want to have community organizations, higher relative property costs (a larger and more geographically concentrated population competing for space) and regulatory/liability issues make it harder/more administratively challenging to share space. The Indoor Park (needs a large open space for toddler/preschooler playhouses and ride-on toys) lost its space when the Boys and Girls Club prioritized volleyball over Indoor Park. The Indoor Park carries its own insurance. The local home school group has churches that will let it use their space, but only if it carries its own insurance. The local schools stopped letting the Boy Scouts meet in their buildings. Fortunately the Elks Club welcomed us like long-lost grandchildren. But the Elks Club has a liquor license, and for the Pinewood Derby to use the large space in that room, the bar had to be open, and when the bar is open, no drink containers may be brought into the room, so Baby WCE has to drink her bottle in the car, and since Mr WCE has been in Europe for both Pinewood Derby events, I leave the boys “unsupervised” (with a zillion other parents) to take care of her.

    Maybe life was always this complicated.

  44. @Houston — that is what the unfinished walk-out basement is for. I have already sketched out where the wine cellar goes and where the exercise room goes; the rest of it is his shop. :-)

    I do agree, though — I would just go from kvetching about not having an attached garage to kvetching about having 3 cars and only two parking spaces (and a cul-de-sac with minimal street parking). :-) Also don’t know whether we could fit the 40′ long batting cage.

  45. WCE – “no drink containers may be brought into the room, so Baby WCE has to drink her bottle in the car”

    You follow this rule? I bring my water bottle (and sippy cups/bottles when we had them) everywhere, even where they are supposedly banned. The only time I have to leave them behind is at Fenway.

  46. Tangent on boy scouts…my experience. I truly believe scouting is a good thing but…

    I did cub scouts all the way thru and boy scouts all the way to getting my first rank, second class scout. The troop was structured to be a place to learn in a fun way; progress at your own speed or not, when at meetings/campouts help out and don’t cause any problems. I really liked it.

    Then my mom remarried and we moved to a totebaggy town where the troop was much more shall we say ‘achievement oriented’: this rank by this time…everyone on the path to Eagle, up or out. Not my thing; I quit.

    Fast forward ~30 years: My kids all do cub scouts to the finish. First two cross-over to boy scouts and find out that all the troops in our area are…wait for it…’achievement oriented’. One adult leader even told my middle kid that he was behind the others in his class and he’d need to catch up. What ever happened to progress at your own speed or not, when at meetings/campouts help out and don’t cause any problems?

    Maybe for that reason I’m not as gung ho about scouting as I could be if the approach were more as I experienced in my first troop.

  47. Hey L – MLB rule is one 16oz/0.5L unopened bottle of water allowed per customer. Not your own, but Poland Spring or whatever.

  48. L, the bar tender asks you (by law) to leave the premises. I had a similar issue at the bowling alley when I tried to take water in when I was pregnant, two weeks before delivery. I ended up going out to the car for drinks of water. The bowling alley staff didn’t seem worried that I was imbibing anything but water that Saturday morning.

  49. Fred – I should remember that for next time. Unfortunately I only keep 1L bottles (seltzer) around regularly.

  50. WCE – that is so odd. I just take it in in my bag and no one bats an eye (same thing at the movie theater) – have never had an issue with taking water into a bar either.

  51. I feel for you with that redistricting because one street can make a large difference here in property values. I assume that you live within the official city limits vs. burb because to redistrict a school district in the burbs vs. one of the large cities such as NYC, Yonkers or Rochester would take years. It is extremely difficult even in the city as Mayor de Blasio is finding on the upper west side. I recently met a HS senior that is involved with a volunteer project in NYC public schools. They have a study that shows that some of the schools remain more segregated than schools in other parts of the country because it is so difficult to redistrict or combine districts in NY state.

    I just finished House of Cards earlier this week. DH won’t watch it any longer because he thinks they’re insane. I have to agree, but I hate all of the main characters so much that I appreciate their acting skills. The actors in that series are great, even though the characters are insane.

  52. My neighborhood has a women’s club and a garden club, but both meet during weekdays, so are not an option for working women. There is a men’s poker group that meets one night a month. I have a high school friend that does community theater, and some of my other friends with that skill volunteer on a lot of high school productions. Growing up, my family never went to those kind of things, so I would have no way to know if things have changed in that regard. I do remember people from work who couldn’t work late on certain nights because of 90210 or ER, and I remember everyone at working anticipating the Seinfeld finale.

    I am also a new house fan. I love the clean feeling of living in a house no one has ever lived in before. But I also love the HGTV shows where they gut a house and replace it with all new stuff. So I might like an old house if all of the wiring, plumbing, HVAC, etc was all new and up to code. My husband spent his whole life having to fix thing on the house or on cars because there was no money for repairmen – it is not an enjoyable hobby for him at this point. One of his priorities is a house and a car that doesn’t need him to spend his free time working on it, and that works for me.

  53. I wonder if part of the segregation in the Northeast is that you’re not experiencing [as much] population growth so opening schools (and the associated redistricting) isn’t as common. Pasco opened Ellen Ochoa (astronaut) middle school in ~2002 and I thought, “Naming a school after someone who is only 44 years old is gambling that they won’t mess up later in life.”

  54. Lauren – I am about 1/2 way thru this season. I do not hate the characters, except maybe Claire.

    And you’re right about the redistricting. In the city, everyone seems to want their neighborhood school even though by all objective measures it sucks. In our burb, where we once had one big middle school for all the kids, we now have two. We were not involved given our kids go/went private but there was HELL TO PAY during the mapping process. Some people who were to stay with the existing school wanted their kid(s) in the new one and some who were mapped to the new one wanted to stay with the old one for convenience/proximity etc.

  55. L you can bring an unopened bottle of water as Fred described into Fenway. You can buy them on the street not far away for a dollar from a guy with a cooler. I also have some of those flat plastic water containers that expand when you refill at the fountains (also good for air travel) – those are okay. I used to walk over with yogurt for lunch and juice boxes in the years I was going to Fenway on foot with the little kids, but nothing is easy these days.

  56. Fred: I agree that troop personality is so important. We intentionally chose our troop because it was more laid back and was boy-led (scouts planned all activities, with help from the leaders). Luckily, we have different flavors of troops to choose from. One is very religious, one is a super-organized Eagle factory, and then there’s us.

  57. The middle class was too busy doing housework. (I believe HM said that her parents are the kind to have cocktails and smoked oysters for an hour before dinner.)

    They still do their own housework. But you’re probably right that the community theaters always skewed a bit more toward the professional classes.

  58. Finn, we have done a few college visits this week, primarily to state schools within 3 hours of Houston. While walking from the parking garage at A&M, he mentioned that one thing he knew he didn’t want was a school where there would be 200+ kids in a class. One of the things the admissions counselor mentioned was that they should be prepared for classes of 200+ their freshman year. His options really amount to big or bigger. The all-in price will be roughly $24K for year one, and I’m sure climbing from there. The one smaller private school we looked at was around $54K all-in. The scholarship criteria all revolve around being in top 10%, which he is not, so it will almost certainly be full freight for us, which knocks that school out of the running. So of course, that was his favorite. It would involve a freshman class of around 900 vs 12,000, and average class sizes of 17. We have more to look at later in the week, but it’s been fun and he’s learning what matters to him and how to evaluate a little better. On the plus side, he did not reject any of them due to the shoes the tour guide was wearing, which according to College Confidential, is not uncommon.

  59. On the plus side, he did not reject any of them due to the shoes the tour guide was wearing, which according to College Confidential, is not uncommon.

    “Back at it again with the white Vans!” [crosses school off list]

  60. “One of the things the admissions counselor mentioned was that they should be prepared for classes of 200+ their freshman year.”

    This whole concept is foreign to me, so it makes me wonder how that’s any better than just doing it online (or going to the community college)?

  61. Our local troop was achievement-oriented, which was not what my boys were looking for. There was a LOT of attrition from Tiger to Webelos.

  62. “he mentioned that one thing he knew he didn’t want was a school where there would be 200+ kids in a class”

    My experience is that a class with a stellar instructor and 200 students is considerably better than a 20 -person class taught by an adjunct or graduate student. Unless the class is designed as a seminar, it doesn’t always matter how many other students are sitting in the room. DH’s department deliberately puts the best professors in the large introductory classes, in order to entice more students into the major.

  63. MBT: I’ve heard that UT Dallas is a good choice, for certain majors. UT prices, with a smaller and more nurturing environment. New dorms, too.

  64. “But you’re probably right that the community theaters always skewed a bit more toward the professional classes.”

    yeah, considering Meme’s comment, also, my Dad’s father liked to bowl. It’s just that my grandmother worked a night shift at the hospital, so he probably didn’t bowl regularly until the kids were old enough to look after each other.

    Similarly, my Dad started playing a lot more tennis after he finished coaching our sports leagues, which was 9th grade. He still plays a couple nights a week, usually through the county’s ladder.

  65. Honolulu: How achievement oriented can a cub scout troop be? The general gist of the meetings is 1) kids run around screaming, 2) quiet down for pledge of allegiance, 3) do a craft for 5 minutes, 4) run around screaming again.

  66. “I wonder if part of the segregation in the Northeast is that you’re not experiencing [as much] population growth so opening schools (and the associated redistricting) isn’t as common.”

    Hmmm, nope, at least not by us. We are redistricting because all of our schools have gotten completely overcrowded since we moved here, and they have actually had to build 2 new schools in the area (which I find hard to believe, because we have so few new homes; this new development with @ 30-40 homes is the biggest thing to hit here in, well, ever). The school board specifically tried to “even up” the socioeconomics between the “good” (new) ES and the “better” (existing) ES by transferring my neighborhood from the one to the other. But, of course, all of the people in my neighborhood ranted and raved about losing their “better” school, so they carved it back to only @2 streets transferring over.

    So IMO, segregation continues because the UMC tends to have more political clout to keep it that way.

  67. LfB – I think the Tommen? is pretty, but all those 2500 sq ft homes seem a little cramped upstairs. I like the Callahan II with the double master – downstairs one for guests or mother in law, a nice big one upstairs. the 3 other bedrooms upstairs would be more like 2 br plus office, with only one bath between them and a kid area loft. Then the basement could be entirely your husband’s domain. I am not sure which models are scalable to a 3 car garage, and how big the lots are.

    I can’t imagine preferring a new home to a really old one. However, I have the worst of all worlds, something built in the 1980s (and the powder room still has the original seashell sink).

  68. How old is “really old”? In my city, post WWII homes are designated “historic”, which means you can’t replace the windows with energy efficient ones.

  69. I don’t really understand the point of Scouts anymore. My dad was an Eagle Scout, but that was back when Boy Scouts was a paramilitary organization, as God intended. To become an Eagle Scout I think they had to do earn badges and then do something like hike off into the mountains with just a fry pan and a Bowie knife and stay there for three days. Now the boys do “community service”, which is often something like building a park bench. Um. Okay. DSS stuck with Scouts for a long time, but (to my annoyance) didn’t finish the Eagle because he hated the scoutmaster.

    I mean, I guess it’s a group you can go camping with. That’s pretty much all Girl Scouts was back in my day.

  70. The local woman’s club either downsized dramatically or petered out. It used to be very active up until about 1990, but I think as has been mentioned women keep busy with other activities.

    The youth community theater group folded recently, but the private theater camps are still going strong. I think UMC are willing to pay for a lot of stuff instead of relying on community groups. There are local music schools that offer private/group lessons, and they have their orchestras. But we don’t have a “community” orchestra.

    Our boy scout troop was the right blend, with the boys in charge but “tiger dad” volunteers pushing most of them along the Eagle route.

  71. “Segregation continues because the UMC tends to have more political clout to keep it that way.”

    The UMC chooses to lose sleep over the schools its children attend. In contrast, my working class BIL was surprised to learn that his children would not attend the school near his house, AFTER he bought the house. But he didn’t lose sleep over it, nor is he losing sleep over any subsequent redistricting possibilities.

  72. We have tons of old homes in the Northeast that are not historic. I think that unless it was designed by a famous architect the sort of restrictions you cite only get applied to homes built before 1870. And you can always change the windows, you might just have to get super expensive custom ones made with frames in the proper wood or something very close.

  73. RMS, my son got to carve soap with his pocket knife at Scouts. It wasn’t a Bowie knife, but they certainly wouldn’t let 8 year olds carve with a pocket knife at school.

  74. “And you can always change the windows, you might just have to get super expensive custom ones made with frames in the proper wood or something very close.”

    Point taken- that is allowed. I’m just too cheap to see the value in that for post WW II homes.

  75. @Meme — Yeah, ITA with the upstairs issues; the Callahan II was my overall upstairs fave, and I loved the downstairs master for visiting in-laws, but I didn’t like the kitchen size or the kitchen-dinette-FR orientation (I love the look of a morning room coming off to the side of the kitchen, so you can have FR-K-DR all in one comfy open “L,” and turn the unnecessary LR into an office and formal DR into a separate den for DS and DH to play their videogames). Plus most of the lots won’t handle that model.

    But, you know, I’m done. I just took an hour off and drove over there to look at the actual lots and get a sense of the quality of the available upgrades and how much things would really cost when you let me loose in there. No one was there despite their published hours, which annoyed me. But I realized that what was making me smile was driving by all of the *other* houses in that neighborhood, hoping “maybe *that* one will go one the market sometime.” I guess I am just an old house person; I am tempted by the space and the pretty, but I am drawn to the quirky and the character. Plus if I’m fretting about DH’s job happiness (he currently has my express permission to quit at any time), then I will feel better NOT taking on new financial commitments, like selling one house and building/financing another. We need more simplicity, not more complexity. So I just tossed all of last night’s and this morning’s drawings. I do think those houses will appreciate more than this one, but as with the new dryer, we are fortunate to be in a position where we don’t have to optimize our choice to get the maximum profit when we do sell.

    And, luckily, this is my easy kid we’re talking about. All of the schools are good, he is a very likeable kid who will make friends and be loved by his teachers, he will be in the GT program wherever he goes, so even my worst-case scenario is that he will be Just Fine.

  76. DS just got his Eagle in an “Eagle factory” troop. For him it was a good thing; he is a little too much work-at-your-own pace, so the learning to work on someone else’s time table was a good life lesson.
    In other news, he got his first college rejection last night. Since he already has options he liked better, I’m very much “blessings of a skinned knee” about it, after I got over the initial “how could anyone reject my perfect baby.” He’s still a little bummed, but will move on. We’re on spring break with 10 other boys and moms, so there’s been some disappointments so far in the group this week, and we moms are currently on our second case of Chardonnay.

  77. Houston, the meetings were chaotic, but from about 3rd grade on there were the regular emails about what badges you were supposed to be making progress on and what you needed to be supplementing at home to be on track for Arrow of Light. We just didn’t do it. My oldest stuck with it through 5th grade but by then it was just him, the slacker, and the two boys who were doing Arrow of Light and heading to Boy Scouts. My youngest quit after 4th grade as I recall. If there had been a path for those who just wanted to attend meetings and go camping, they might still be in it.

    But we are still getting Boys’ Life, for some reason, which is nice since my older two both seem to enjoy some of the articles, especially the ones about heroic rescues and extreme camping.

  78. “I don’t really understand the point of Scouts anymore.”

    To learn skills both outdoor and other, teamwork, leadership, “values”, community service. They get to do stuff they normally wouldn’t in other situations, everything from personal financial planning to learning about firearms. Plus it’s a great networking tool. One of my son’s Scout friends is interviewing with my husband’s firm now, and my son’s first internship was through his Scouting network.

  79. WCE, around here “really old” means built before 1780 – one of the neighbors has a 1690 house.

    “Old” is 1780-1900, and everything after that is considered ordinary housing stock.

    Most really old homes here are not designated historic unless they are in the official historic district regardless of age. As a result some pine hole new neighbors just tore down a gorgeous 1770 house in great shape, with 12″ board floors, to build a hideous faux shingle style McMansion.

    Luckily we are too civilized to egg that monstrosity, but they are going to be waiting a long time for dinner invitations.

  80. Thanks, Sky. In Iowa, late 1800’s farm houses are torn down with impunity, because no one wants to live in them or maintain them, and I think that’s how the world should work.

    By the university, people who want to “Maintain Our Community” get regulations passed that prohibit what I view as logical choices, like replacing old, single pane windows with modern, energy efficient windows that are not prohibitively expensive. The same people support affordable housing and reducing carbon emissions in ways other than letting people replace their energy-inefficient windows cost-effectively.

    This is why I’m happy to slum it 10 miles down the road, where the police are delighted to have families moving into neighborhoods they know they can “underpatrol.”

  81. “Most really old homes here are not designated historic unless they are in the official historic district regardless of age.”

    Ditto here. The potential stupid investment property we toyed with was on the national list, but that’s one of a handful of homes with restrictions. I think even our so-called “historic district” tries to encourage preservation through tax credits vs. prohibitions.

  82. In our city there is no redistricting in the older neighborhoods as they are all built up and there would be hell with Totebaggy parents. The new and newer neighborhoods freely redistrict as the schools built even less than 5 years ago are overcrowded. The schools are not very far from each other and these are all middle and UMC neighborhoods so the school quality and student demographic is about the same.

  83. Where DW went to HS, the neighborhood/subdivision is so big that they demanded and got their own public elementary school that serves only the kids in the neighborhood. That house remains in their rental portfolio.

    I remember talking to one real estate agent when we were shopping who warned us that schools do get redistricted from time to time, and that has stuck with DW. However, our neighborhood is still growing, and it’s at the point where, if all the kids were moved in a group to a different school, then it would become a strong (-enough) school.

  84. “The all-in price will be roughly $24K for year one”

    Really? All-in as in including tuition, room, board, books, fees?

    I guess I shouldn’t complain, because I set DS on the ‘aspire high’ path, but the schools he’s looking at are currently in the 60s, all-in. By the time he’s a senior, those schools will probably be in the 80s.

    DS has pretty much ruled out local flagship U. While my original plan (hope?) was for him to be NMSF and get free tuition at some flagship, it will be hard to say no if he gets accepted at a HSS, given that he’s not just done almost everything we’ve asked of him (other than clean his room), he’s left those expectations in the dust.

    He did not, however, follow my path into Scouts, in part because I did not push him in that direction at all.

  85. “Also don’t know whether we could fit the 40′ long batting cage.”

    How long will you need that? Isn’t your DD just a few years from college? Or is it really for you?

  86. Finn – It sounds like you’re conceding defeat in your long-standing college cost battle with WCE. Now imagine you have twice as many kids.

    I think the batting cage comment is partially sarcastic, because it shouldn’t be hard to find 40′, but the HOA is likely the real impediment.

  87. “So IMO, segregation continues because the UMC tends to have more political clout to keep it that way.”

    I’m thinking it has a lot to do with small school districts.

    I don’t think segregation is a big problem here, where all the public schools are in the same district and the barriers to changing school aren’t huge.

  88. Milo, no, I still think WCE’s kids are likely to have many college options that are at least as affordable than their local land grant U, especially if there aren’t huge changes in the way aid is disbursed. They will likely have some great opportunities for aid at certain flagships that aggressively recruit NMSF (to my knowledge, the LGU near WCE is not among those), as well as at privates that aggressively recruit to improve their academic profiles.

    Having so many kids would increase the chances need-based financial aid, especially at HSS.

  89. OT, I think a big part of the change is that kids are so much more scheduled these days (e.g., there were no play dates when I was a kid), and parents are so much more wrapped up in their kids’ activities.

  90. “The weekly episode of Perry Mason and of course the Ed Sullivan show on Sunday night were our mainstays. ”

    When I was a kid, our top appointment TV show was The Wonderful World of Disney, in living color (not to be confused with In Living Color, which came much later).

  91. BenL, does that mean he’s already received some acceptances? Were any of them from early action or rolling admission, or did they just come in the last week or so?

  92. Indeed Finn, a divorce, an out of work/self employed ex, and 4 kids close in age definitely led to increased need based aid from HSS. Must have been a well thought out plan on my part….

  93. “Must have been a well thought out plan on my part….”

    Definitely a much better plan than ignoring the opportunities available to your kids based on their circumstances. Lemons, lemonade. . .

  94. Finn–two EA, one rolling, one regular so far.
    No one on our trip got into MIT, but a boy in another group (on another spring break trip) did. We all ate pie on 3/14 anyway.

  95. Milo, if you’re really serious, you buy the house that has the huge basement so the batting cage is indoors.

  96. BenL, was (is?) this trip largely a college campus visit trip? If so, how long ago did you plan?

    I’m curious as to how you determined which colleges to visit. It’s too late for deciding where to apply, but potentially too early to look at the schools from which acceptances have been received.

    We’d left a window open this coming summer for DS to visit campuses to help him decide where to apply, but he told us he’d already seen enough to decide where to apply, and he’d rather wait for acceptances before making a trip (or trips) to decide where to matriculate.

  97. DD, that was LfB who wants the batting cage, or perhaps her DD who just made the team.

  98. Thanks Houston- that sounds like something we should look at. Milo- after seeing the $24K price tag (which is a lot to me, despite being half the price of Finn’s target market), my son was interrogating us on the cost of community college for the first year or two. Some of his charter school friends already know they are going to go this route. When we told him the cost, he looked at us like we were idiots and asked why we weren’t having him just do that. The joy of a practical child. So we discussed with him that if he chooses that route, that will allow us to help pay for some of grad school, so that option is under consideration. The average class size at the community college is around 25. It is not something that I ever would have thought he would be considering, so I think I’m the only one struggling to come around to it, but he’s only a junior so I’ve got time.

  99. Perhaps by the time WCE’s kids are ready for college, kids with many siblings will be an URM.

  100. MBT, I went to community college and took engineering physics (same class) at community college and land grant U, to make sure I wasn’t missing anything. The community college instructor was way better than the Land Grant Tenured Professor. Our local community college offers dual enrollment with land grant university, so you can take the courses offered by local community college in small classes at low cost at the same time you take any specialized classes (sophomore level Intro to Chemical Engineering) at Land Grant U. One of the guys in my small group at church is a senior engineering professor and he thinks far more people should choose that option. FYI

  101. MBT, I was talking to a friend recently whose kid won a full-tuition academic scholarship for all four years. The scholarship does not cover living expenses and books, and he’s paying around $20k/year for that.

  102. @honolulu – very, very impressed with your “Damn Daniel” reference. Well executed.

  103. Coc – the city still aspires to quality education for every school kid. I like the level of cooperation and civic mindedness that still exists around this goal. I don’t think busing is the solution though. It is more of a poverty issue now than a racial issue because as a city we have many black families that are middle class and above. One curious thing I discovered in looking at schools of predominately one race is that there are two middle surburban schools that show up in this category. They are predominately Asian. The parents happened to buy those shiny new houses. I feel in a few years those schools will get hyper competitive creating the hand wringing that comes with it.

  104. Finn, that story you linked is what I was envisioning.

    We will have to be on the lookout for Carmen Miranda headgear….

  105. he looked at us like we were idiots and asked why we weren’t having him just do that.

    Because going away to college is the most amazing thing ever? I know for some of us the more dour and joyless the better. But, come on! It may very well be the best time of your life. My $0.02.

  106. Finn, I think the segregation occurs because the UMC/Totebaggers know how to work the system. NYC is a perfect example of this because it isn’t a micro district and there is segregation. This can occur within a few blocks because certain people know how to get into certain elementary or middle schools. They can even hire consultants to help them deal with the craziness of getting into a MS, and it goes on and on. This occurs in very large and small districts.

    As for the micro district segregation, that occurs because there are economic barriers to overcome to live in the district. The Federal govt actually did something about it in our county and there was a lawsuit that resulted in a mandate for lower income housing in most of the micro districts. The housing was built, but it will just be a small dent in many of these districts.

    BTW – i have some updates on college acceptance info front his week for my micro district. There were no seniors admitted to MIT this year. 3 kids were admitted to Wash U, and one of the 3 kids is a legacy. 6 kids applied to USC, and none of the kids were admitted.

  107. Finn, that makes up $10-$12k of the cost here. And my daughter is now commuting to the local 4 year, although she may get an apartment with friends next year. Both my kids think they can study better without people always around. We haven’t decided in what manner we will gift her the remaining funds (house down payment when she’s ready, set it aside if she decides to pursue further schooling some day, or something else)

    WCE, that is the next thing he will look into. At A&M the admissions counselor mentioned that when answering an aspiring engineer’s question.

  108. Rhett – I only mentioned the CC option in terms of the class sizes, but if someone is socially better suited to adjusting to college independence by first living at home, that could work well, too.

  109. Rhett – for both me and my husband it was the best time ever. That is why I had never even considered that they wouldn’t both choose that path. I can say with absolute certainty that I would have never chosen that option. And it’s not a final decision or anything – it wa just a talking point over lunch. I was just stunned that he would consider it such a reasonable solution. At 17 I was not particularly interested in practical.

  110. “Both my kids think they can study better without people always around.”

    I’m wondering if they have any basis for this, or if they are just assuming or guessing.

    While I can see that there may be fewer distractions away from others, there is also the accompanying lack of anyone to consult or compare notes with. From an academic standpoint, that was one of the big pluses I found with dorm life, and one that was most pronounced in the earlier years, when more kids were taking the same classes.

  111. Rhett – for both me and my husband it was the best time ever.

    What was his response when you told him that?

  112. I had a wicked thought. I should spread the word that the two majority Asian middle schools here are feeder schools to the high school which is about to become the Southern Palo Alto High. Now, I have to work on starting a tech hub here.

  113. Finn–this is a spring break beach trip with DS, his besties, and moms. No college visits, just kids learning college decisions while we’re here.
    We visited all the schools DS applied to, plus a bunch more he didn’t like. We’ll revisit his top choices in April.

  114. Sky, I love, love that idea of L, me, and the rest of us doing community theater at The Villages. I’ll even appear onstage (40 years later) onstage in my underpants.

    Well, maybe not.

    I’ll happily sing a raspy duet with L, though.

  115. I love festivals so….

    Happy St. Patrick’s Day ! Spring is here, so all here are in a joyful mood.

  116. Mooshi, I was lazy and didn’t plant the vegetables last weekend, and now I’m glad.

    Hope it doesn’t wreck all the daffodils and tulips….

  117. MBT – I know the CC route is disappointing but if that is what your DS thinks will be best for him, give it serious consideration. If he is able to transfer easily in 2 years, he’ll go straight to living in an apartment near 4 yr campus vs. being in a dorm. It is also 2 years more of maturity and bypassing to some degree the partying and temptations that seem to derail academics. I have heard from parents (mainly of boys) that the first year away has been tough on many.

  118. DD, that was LfB who wants the batting cage, or perhaps her DD who just made the team.

    Milo was the one who mentioned the HOA having an issue with it.

  119. I was talking to a guy at work recently whose daughter is looking at colleges (Va, in-state). She likes Virginia Tech, but isn’t sure that she wants to be so far away. He’s not sure if he should push her.

    It’s a different generation, that’s for sure. Very, very close to their parents.

  120. Louise, I watch freshman boys self-destruct every semester. I think many are not mature enough for college. I don’t see enough freshman girls to know if they have similar issues.

    I also don’t think this has changed over time. I saw many freshmen self destruct when I was in college too, and my DH has legions of stories of kids who bombed out from his public state flagship, mainly due to drinking and gambling

  121. Yes, I was sort of laughing at myself about the batting cage (#firstworldproblems). But, you know, it would be a completely voluntary move, so why would I “upgrade” to a new home where we couldn’t use it? Same way any house with no room for a shop is just off the list. (And I hadn’t even thought about the HOA — the lots they have left are being cut into a hillside, so I was trying to figure out if they will have a @20′ x 60′ flat spot).

    Luckily, the discussion yesterday helped me see what I was really fretting about, so I talked to DH last night and slept like a baby. Without a new house. :-)

  122. We would have had a lot more people self-destruct if the school didn’t have the means to compel classroom attendance and, for those who are slipping, mandatory study hours.

  123. Gambling? Huh. I don’t remember that being a particular issue. Drinking, yeah, absolutely.

  124. “She likes Virginia Tech, but isn’t sure that she wants to be so far away.”

    Umm, wow!

    I also *really* didn’t want to leave home — which is why I forced myself to go halfway across the country. I knew if I were an easy drive from home, it would be too tempting to run home to mommy/old friends/old haunts every time things got tough.

  125. I really didn’t want to be far from my parents, so I stayed within 30 miles. And yet, now I can dress myself and everything. It’s not the end of the world.

  126. And I tell you what, Fred, many’s the time I would drive across that bridge muttering/praying “please don’t have an earthquake, please don’t have an earthquake”. So you’re right, it was 30 SCARY miles!

  127. At first I told my daughter she had to stay on this side of the Rockies. We compromised on this side of the Mississippi. If she gets into an Ivy, we may have to compromise again. There is a UC less than 100 miles from here, that she got into, but it’s too close. Apparently, yet again I missed the appropriate parenting techniques.

  128. I had several friends whose parents offered to buy a new car if they’d go to the closest UC campus and commute while living at home. I asked my dad once why he didn’t make a similar offer. He said if that was what I wanted to do, he’d probably do the same. Primarily, he didn’t want me to choose how close or far to go to school based on a car. He said he’d be disappointed if I made my college decision based on fear. I ended up at a school where having a car would have been out of my budget anyway, so it worked out well.

  129. RMS – gambling? Sure. I wouldn’t say it is super widespread, but I know a few people firsthand who self destructed from it in college. It is probably even more common these days with all the online opportunity.

  130. “I had several friends whose parents offered to buy a new car if they’d go to the closest UC campus and commute while living at home.”

    There are some kids who plan to go to the localish CSU and commute to save money. It is a 120 mile round trip. Never understand the thinking that made this a good idea.

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