Friday open thread

by Grace aka costofcollege

Today we have an open thread to discuss anything on your mind.

The Totebag 30-Day Challenge is scheduled to begin on May 1.  My initial idea had been that each participant could pick a particular activity they want to do, not that we would all do the same thing. However, some Totebaggers would prefer that we all do the same activity.  A compromise would be to select one activity for the group, but leave open the option for individuals to select their own personalized challenge activity if they wish.

Let’s brainstorm.  You can suggest group challenge activities in the comments,  Or let us know if you have a particular activity you’re considering for yourself.


127 thoughts on “Friday open thread

  1. well, there’s always the obvious not-to-be-mentioned activity, which, of course, can be spun like anything else (do every day, more often, less often, never).

    on a related note, I have stuck with my no ice cream at home New Years resolution. And, in fact, I’ve only had ice cream twice since then (normal would have been something like 5x/week.)

  2. I am going to vote for something that I used to do frequently and now hardly ever do…read books. I’ll start with one about baseball, what with this being the first week of the new season and all.

    Happy even year! Go Giants!

  3. I think something simple and quick, like 30 pushups per day–three sets of 10 (or adjust as necessary).

  4. “there’s always the obvious not-to-be-mentioned activity, which, of course, can be spun like anything else (do every day”

    I’m worn out just thinking about it.

  5. I’d love to do 10,000 steps a day but that’s probably not realistic every day. We just got back from spring break where we walked a ton and biked around and it felt so good to be active every day.

    Lark – thanks for recommending that book How to Raise an Adult. Read it at the beach this week and loved it. I missed yesterday’s conversation because we were in the car but it’s a great read if you’re worried about college admissions.

  6. I’ll second Fred’s read books idea (just started The Man in the High Castle by Philip K Dick) and Milo’s 30 pushups (or situps or body squats or whatever) a day idea. Keep it simple.

  7. “on a related note, I have stuck with my no ice cream at home New Years resolution. And, in fact, I’ve only had ice cream twice since then (normal would have been something like 5x/week.)”

    On a related note, our local ice cream parlor just opened again for the season, thus once more adding greatly to my evening enjoyment while at the same time detracting greatly from my efforts to be healthier.

    My office is soon to be starting a 10,000 steps a day challenge. Maybe I need to make the ice cream shop the last stop in a 6- or 7-mile loop, kill multiple birds at the same time. :-)

  8. I like a Do It Now type challenge. I made a list of 30 items (none of which had enforceable deadlines during April) in anticipation of an April challenge (I broke big items into small steps) and I have done exactly one so far, so that is what I will choose to do. CoC’s permitted self chosen option is ideal for an only child like me. My whole life I have been perfectly happy not to participate and go my own way if I don’t care for a group choice, and can’t understand why that is taken as a social friendship violation – apparently everyone is supposed to do something they don’t like in rotation as a part of group solidarity.

  9. Yesterday, a colleague of mine said that she had enrolled in a fitness boot camp guilting me to start walking at least 30 minutes a day – note activity yet to be started.
    Meme – I have noticed that my neighbors who run/walk never do that together. They want to huff and puff (or not) by themselves.

  10. I’ll follow Meme’s lead and amend Milo’s idea a bit to work for me: I like push-ups, but I hate planks with a passion. I’ve often thought that if only I’d do them more often, I wouldn’t hate them so much. I have also read recently that planks are related to gait–if you hate planks, you likely have a gait issue (and both trace back to lack of strength in some stabilizing muscle or other that you might not need much, other than for planks and gait). So, I’ll do 30 days of planks, presumably longer each time as the 30 days go on. I’m hoping that over the 30 days, my hatred decreases to a mere strong dislike. :)

  11. I will do whatever the group wants to do. As a middle child from a largish family, I probably won’t do anything if everyone just does his/her own thing. I need the group solidarity!

  12. Books…I mean, there are books and then again there are books. I whizzed through Dr. Feelgood, about the physician who doped up Kennedy and half of Hollywood with his special vitamin shots that were mostly meth. Sitting next to me is Rawls’ Political Liberalism. At the rate of about 3 pages a day I might finish it before I die. Maybe. So if we pick “read a book”, maybe we should talk about which book.

  13. May 1, we will be heading into finals. I doubt I will have the cycles to start anything

  14. I did a personal March challenge to record daily me eating in MyFitnessPal. I told my coworker that I’d pay her $50 if I didn’t do it. That public accountability helped me succeed. Normally, I’m good for a week or so and then forget.

    My new personal April challenge is no alcohol and no family restaurant or delivery meals. I hope that by publicly stating that goal will help me be more accountable. I don’t think I have the discipline that a lot of others on this board do. I definitely lean more towards eating the whole cookie. I feel like I have more motivation right now to be better about my health due to relative’s recent diagnosis. I’ve been repeating to myself multiple times a day “Relative has [disease]” and that’s been inspiring me to do the right thing more than I normally would.

    I had been thinking for May of something along the lines of 10,000 steps. I’m also trying to read more. I’d be up for either one of those.

  15. “I like push-ups, but I hate planks with a passion.”

    I’ve read that push-ups work the same core muscles as planks, in addition to pecs and triceps. So why not drop the planks for push-ups? Have you found that planks do work muscles that push-ups don’t, or that they work them better?

  16. I ordered and received the Piyo DVDs. It’s a 60 day program so it will be a 60 day challenge I guess. Another one that I had in mind was doing low carb for 30 days in anticipation of starting a whole 30 like program after.
    I can also join the 10000 steps a day program.

  17. “I’ll second Fred’s read books idea (just started The Man in the High Castle by Philip K Dick) ”

    I have that book, based on my middle kid’s recommendation. Maybe it’ll be the second book.

  18. I’m doing a walking challenge for work, and it’s not yet miserably hot here, so I’ll do the walking challenge. As an additional one, I’ll also do the plank challenge. I think a stronger core will help with back pain.

    On an annoying note, took number 2 child for driving test today, and followed the instructions I had for when he got his permit. Since that’s been 2 years, an additional affidavit was required that we did not have. Next available appointment for driving test is in late May. I really thrive on life running efficiently, so am put out way out of proportion to this inconvenience.

  19. Finn – straight planks do feel similar to push-ups for me, and aren’t a real issue. I’m really talking about “planks plus” — i.e., planks w/ mountain climbers or other leg movement, side planks w/ side leg raises, etc.

  20. Well, I am an only/oldest who is working on being more sociable, so I’ll take a look at what the group challenge is and decide how much I want to do it, then probably do my own thing. :-)

    I feel a little like Mooshi, don’t have mental bandwidth for something that requires significant effort right now. So something quick, like a “do it now,” is more likely to last. But I also want to focus more on my health again, which I’ve let slide. But MIL’s cancer is back (after almost 2 years), and while she was here this last week for the tests she spent most all day just sitting at the table doing crossword puzzles (pre-treatment, this is her normal daily life). And it’s another reminder that the people in my life who stay active do well, and the people who don’t have shorter years and don’t get to enjoy as much during them, so I need to care less about deadlines and making my kids’ games and other work or just-plain-fun-but-lazy stuff and add in some time to the self-care that is going to keep me around and healthy longer.

  21. “I’ve read that push-ups work the same core muscles as planks, in addition to pecs and triceps. So why not drop the planks for push-ups? Have you found that planks do work muscles that push-ups don’t, or that they work them better?”

    I guess you’re talking about guy push-ups, not the knees on the floor type push-ups. I’ll have to work back up to ‘real’ push-ups. Overall I need to (again) improve my upper body strength. How far I’ve fallen since I haven’t been seeing a trainer. =(

  22. I like the planks idea. I already have my exercise video routine in the mornings, but maybe I’ll add that as an office thing — a daily break to do 30 seconds of mountain climbers or something. That should be doable without getting me inappropriately sweaty, will be a good midday heartrate boost, and I can shut my door for it.

  23. “Next available appointment for driving test is in late May. I really thrive on life running efficiently, so am put out way out of proportion to this inconvenience.”

    I can relate. We showed up to get an extension of a learner’s permit only to learn that the rules had changed and if he got an extension he would have to wait six months to take the driving test. But if he were ready to take the test RIGHT THEN, there had been a cancellation and someone was available to test him. So that’s what he did, and she must have been merciful, because he wasn’t quite ready but passed anyhow. Any chance that your DMV takes walk-ins?

  24. “Next available appointment for driving test is in late May.”

    How is this even possible? Even if people think that teens getting licensed is frivolous, isn’t there the occasional adult who has to take the driving test? And since the rest of us can now renew our licenses and registrations online, wtf are DMV workers doing all day?

  25. I would like to do the push ups, but I can only do a few very meagre “real” ones – obviously I need to do them because I have weak arm muscles. I’ll do a mix of easy ones and real ones.

    MBT – we have that problem with the DMV here as well. Can you go to an outlying office? That is what I did for DS – people often go up to Marin or down the Peninsula to the more suburban DMVs, where they have a lower customer/tester ratio. It may be a longish drive, but they shouldn’t be as crowded.

  26. Sign me up for a Do It Now challenge. However, I need a buddy/group to keep me on track.

    I’m also up for the push ups challenge.

    My problem is that I feel run down at the end of the day and lazy in the evenings. Need to do something after dinner other than watching TV.

  27. I’m up for the “read a book” challenge. Also “do it now” and some exercise that will tighten the core. Pilates? And walking, and weight-bearing exercise.

  28. Milo, on your comment from yesterday, about moving the Smith Mountain lake, “That, and Nashville’s less than seven hours away.” And Floyd Fest is maybe an hour. You can spend 3 days in your RV with the music and the gorgeous surroundings.

  29. Scarlett, the daily plank / mountain climbers would work for the core.

    I suppose we could do daily burpees as a variation too, although if I do that in my office I *definitely* need to close the door!

  30. I’m not going to do the “read books” challenge, tempting as it is . . . that’s like having a “Use leisure time and enjoy yourself!” challenge.

  31. “something simple and quick, like 30 pushups per day”

    hahahahahahahahahahahahaha … hahahahahahahahahaha … yeah, right.

    I could go for planks.

  32. “hahahahahahahahahahahahaha … hahahahahahahahahaha … yeah, right.

    I could go for planks.”

    I empathize. Time was, I could do 15 pull-ups like it was nothing. Now, God, two? three?

    Maybe pull-ups should be my month-long challenge. It’s not just the arms, it’s that there’s a lot more to pull up.

  33. I never could do a pull up as a kid. There would be no way now after 3 hand surgeries

  34. I’ll be trying to eat healthier foods, putting off the whole 30 until after move, I see a lot of take out in my future in May (moving month)

  35. Yeah, pull-ups were my nemesis in the Presidential Fitness Challenge. (When did schools stop doing that?)

  36. and a 30 day sit-up challenge, did this one a couple years ago and then quit after the 30 days…want this to be a daily thing (with a few days of rest peppered in )

  37. “Next available appointment for driving test is in late May.”

    Perhaps that meant the next available appointment for a time that worked for MBT’s son.

    Trying to make an appointment for DS has been similar, given that we’ve self-limited the available days and times to not school days.

  38. MBT, I filled my tank today, and the price was up 15 cents since the last time I was there (couple weeks or so ago).

    I talked to someone from CA earlier this week, who mentioned that gas is cheaper her than in CA.

  39. I’m definitely up for a Do It Now challenge, push ups, and/or planks. I can do 10 “real” pushups, but that 10th one my arms are shaking and I’m barely there. I’d love to be able to really pound out 10 or more with “ease.” Especially in time for summer.

    And I like Meme’s idea of making a list of 30 things for Do It Now. I was thinking I could just wander around the house and pick one each day.

  40. “I suppose we could do daily burpees as a variation too,”

    Slow down there HM! planks, mountain climber, and burpees?! Do you happen to know my trainer or something?

  41. Honolulu — When I did the Presidential Fitness Challenge (circa 1980), you didn’t have to do a pull-up — you could just hang from the bar (you had to keep your chin above the bar for a certain amount of time). I earned one of the patches when I was in 7th grade, and I was so, so proud of it.

    I’m not up for a fitness challenge, but I might do a clutter-clearing challenge. Maybe commit to getting rid of one piece of household crap per day for 30 days.

  42. Late May is the first available, not for my schedule. She said if he wanted to go watch the video for 2 hours and come back, we could wait around to see if there is a cancellation. And that is the office 20 minutes further out than my far suburb – very small town. I plan to research to see if either of the newish mega centers can get him in more quickly. His afternoon ride home from school fell apart 2 days out of the week, and I’ve been leaving work to get him. (School is 10 miles from home and all his friends live miles the opposite direction.). I do not want to have to patch together rides for the next 6 weeks.

  43. And the answer to how this can be is it’s taxpayer-funded. There were 2 employees and at least 25 people waiting when we left at 8:30 this morning. She said a part-time person was coming in this afternoon. This is what we are trading off for low taxes. Clearly, no members of the legislature are trying to get a license.

  44. NoB, come to think of it, that was an option, and I sank so fast I hit my chin on the bar on the way down. Upper arm strength has never been my forte.

    ATM, I guess it’s a side effect of doing the video / home workouts — they like to use those same no-equipment-needed exercises that the trainers go for.

  45. “When I did the Presidential Fitness Challenge (circa 1980), you didn’t have to do a pull-up — you could just hang from the bar (you had to keep your chin above the bar for a certain amount of time)”

    IIRC, that was just for girls.

  46. Milo,

    I looked it up and MA has 42 examiners who administer 234,000 road tests per year. That works out to be 3.4 per hour. Could you imagine if your job was to get behind the wheel with dozens of newly minted teenage drivers every day. Shudder. They must have stories.

  47. No public transportation in our neck of the woods. He does not want to count on the availability of an Uber driver. His school is pretty strict about if you don’t have a specific reason to be at school, you have to be gone. If he’s still there at X minutes after dismissal, he has to wait in the office and be signed out to leave. I could possibly explain the situation to the school and work out a short-term solution, but he really doesn’t want to use Uber. He especially would not want his friends to know. I’m in the process of trying to schedule online at some other centers to see if any have an earlier appointment. This day job thing keeps getting in the way.

  48. We have high taxes in NY, and the wait times at the DMV aren’t great unless you can get to one of the quick visit places.

    My neighbor went to take her road test last week with her driver’s ed class. She failed the test the first time in the fall, and there was a certain part of the permit that she was supposed to get back to re-take the test. It was a paper that included the proof that she passed a drivers ed class. It was missing, so they wouldn’t let her take the test. Next available date in that town was 2 months from now. The next available date any where in the county was 3 weeks away in a city such as Yonkers. Some people like to avoid the city test because it is usually harder to pass because the streets are busier.

    I know you’re frustrated by TX right now, but I hope you feel better knowing that you could be paying 1000s of $ more in taxes and have the same DMV problems.

    I’m up for any kind of 30 day challenge. I really want to lose weight, but I’m open to any kind of challenge.

  49. Several years ago my parents gave me a bag filled with all my k-12 mementos. Included in that bag were two Presidential Fitness Awards! Those were the days when I could run a mile in under 7 minutes with zero effort. And it didn’t take a lot of muscle to do the chin hold (I probably weighed 55 pounds). I still don’t know how I passed the sit and reach since I can’t even touch my toes. I was so proud to find the Presidential Fitness Awards that they hung with pride on the kitchen fridge for a month or so. My DH never earned one. :)

  50. I’m in for the plank, crunch, mountain climber challenge. I need to get more cardio in my life (so I guess mountain climbers and burpees would be the best. but I may die…).

    The only book I should be reading is the one that was mailed to me a while back and labelled “perfect for the mom of a baby”… I think that will be my vacation read. On serious books, I’m reading one about the sociological/ecological history of my region.

  51. “That works out to be 3.4 per hour. Could you imagine if your job was to get behind the wheel with dozens of newly minted teenage drivers every day. Shudder. They must have stories.”

    When I did it, we just drove around the parking lot course, made a three-point turn, and parallel parked.

  52. When I did it, we just drove around the parking lot course, made a three-point turn, and parallel parked.

    We had to drive around in traffic, pull off to a side street, do a three point turn and drive back, although I don’t think we had to parallel park.

  53. NY DMV – when DS3 and I went online in the middle of March (in NY you can’t search for an appt until within 30 days of your eligible date) the 3 closest driving test locations were offering late May/early June appts. Widening the search to 30 mins from home, we got an appt April 20. That’s only a week after he’s eligible to take his road test so we said yes.

    And the system is set up so if you want to see if there’s another, better date or time for you, you have to give up your current slot before they’ll let you “shop”. So we’ll just keep the original slot.

  54. Milo,

    It was also a regular suburban street on which we had to perform the three point turn. I can only imagine if someone bought a house on that street and then they are home some random week day and they can’t figure out why there is a constant stream of people attempting three point turns in front of their house.

  55. I got the Presidential Physical Fitness award in 7th grade, so that would have been 1973. I didn’t bother to try after that.

    I am so sick of decluttering the basement that I will bow out of a decluttering challenge. I’ve already thrown away a bunch of stuff I didn’t want to, and we accidentally took the box of books that we were saving over to the Goodwill. By the time we realized it, the big truck had already left. Grr.

  56. ” and then they are home some random week day and they can’t figure out why there is a constant stream of people attempting three point turns in front of their house”

    lol. When my friend down the street, who was a year older than me, and I were about 13/14, 14/15 or so, we used to waste time by setting up cones on the road and practicing parallel parking his Mom’s inherited 1983 Chevy Caprice and tell her that we were preparing for the driver’s test, to which she would just shrug and say ” have fun.”

  57. We live on a very wide, quiet street. The local driving school loves to use our street for the kids to practice parallel parking. The cars that are parked on our street are usually very spread out, so the instructors will have the kids pull up alongside a car that is parked, but that doesn’t have any cars parked anywhere nearby behind it. The kids will then try to parallel park between the real car in front of them, and the imaginary car behind them.

    When I was in high school, I was an awesome parallel parker, but that is one of the (many) skills that I seem to be losing as I age. I need to get one of those cars that has the automatic parallel-parking feature.

  58. RMS, can you do some decluttering by using duplicate stuff to outfit your new place?

  59. DS hasn’t gotten his license yet, but is a pretty good parallel parker. Most of his practice driving has been between home and school, and at the school, a lot of the parking is parallel, and the spaces are much shorter than most marked spaces on public roads, to maximize the parking capacity. If you can park there, public streets are easy.

  60. If you live in a city such as Boston or NYC, you should get a lot of practice with parallel parking unless you always park in a garage. I drove in today, and I lucked out as someone was pulling out of a free spot. I had 5 seconds to be able to pull in because a cab was already honking behind me. My mother taught me to never give up a spot even if they have to wait a minute. I’m still not great at parallel parking on the left, but the camera in my car makes it much easier for me to get it done on the first try. I have to parallel park any time I go to see my parents or grandmother, and DD has many things to say about the speed of my parallel parking skills vs. DH.

    BTW, did you see that Bruce canceled his concert scheduled for April 10 in North Carolina? I understand that he is trying to send a message, but it is really unfair to his fans.

  61. RMS, did you ever see the Brady Bunch episode where a diary is “donated” with a box of books? I Your post immediately reminded me of the Bradys sorting through a lot of boxes to find the box that was donated in error.

  62. Lauren, eek! That would be awful. I forgot that episode. Actually I do think some off-prints of DH’s and my papers got donated, so someone at Goodwill will doubtless pay a fortune for my brilliant analysis of Iris Murdoch’s philosophy of art, or DH’s views on Brandt’s theory of rationality.

    Finn, you have to weigh the cost of transporting the crap against the cost of buying it new.

  63. The delays for road tests have existed forever. I got my license at age 23, and did my road test at a semi-rural DMV in CT. I had to make the appointment 2 months in advance. I planned to take the test using my BF’s car. The morning of the test, his muffler fell off. Of course you can’t take the test in a car with no muffler. So he frantically drove to a Midas Muffler in Hartford, where he begged them to get the muffler back on within the hour so we could slide into the test on time, because otherwise I would have had to wait another couple of months. We made it. He is now my DH, btw.

  64. “If you live in a city such as Boston or NYC, you should get a lot of practice with parallel parking unless you always park in a garage. ”

    I lived in both cities for quite a few years. I never parallel parked even once – because like many in those two cities, I had no car!

  65. Man, I got my license on my 16th birthday, and if they had turned me away, there would have been hell to pay, I tellya.

  66. I failed my first time for a “dangerous” action. I completed the test, and we were on the way back to the drop off point. I had to make a left turn to get to that street, and a car was coming from the other direction. I thought I had plenty of time, and I made the left. He failed me because of that turn even though I had would have passed. It was a tough lesson, and I had to take the road test a few weeks later in the Bronx because the appointment was available.

  67. DH failed his first driving test because he did that thing that cool kids do, single palm on the steering wheel to turn (instead of the infinitely safer hand over hand maneuver that instructors recommend.) I’ve never taken a driving test – it was not required when I got my license if you had completed driver’s ed, and 6 hours of driving instruction.

    I require my Au Pairs to take the driving test (though they can legally drive on their home license for a year). It causes them a lot of anxiety about their driving, making sure they actually understand right of way, etc, which is kind of my point. A few years ago we could get appointments without much trouble (a few every day). My state (which has no income tax) has outsourced this to all driving schools – so it is pretty much available at your convenience.

  68. “I failed my first time for a “dangerous” action.” — I almost failed because of my no-fail parallel parking method:* back in until you hit the curb. Pull forward a foot, crank the wheel hard, and back in again and you will slide up right next to the curb. Apparently, every time you hit the curb, you lose 3 points. I hit the curb twice and passed with 2 points to spare.

    *In all honesty, this was not an intentional no-fail parking method at the time. It was a giant effing mistake because I couldn’t get the stupid manual car with no power steering in at the right angle. But then I discovered how well it works and I’ve done it ever since.

    “(instead of the infinitely safer hand over hand maneuver that instructors recommend.)” — The actual race instructor looked at my hand-over-hand in barely-disguised horror. “You should *never* cross one hand over the other, it is very unsafe if you need to make an emergency maneuver.” It is also, alas, practically impossible to train myself out of.

  69. I really like the idea of a 30d “do-it-now” challenge. I am a terrible procrastinator and have just moved into a new house full of a million little things that need to be done.

    On the plank vs pushup discussion – for most women, I believe, the limiting factor for doing push-ups is arm strength, and the limiting factor for duration of plank is core strength. If we did a push-up challenge, I would suspect I would spend the whole month building up arm strength (of which I have very little) without making much impact on the core muscles.

  70. We had to take the road rules/signs test again in order to get our NC license when we moved here. We didn’t have to retake the road test which I thought strange. If they distrusted other states tests they should have required both. Anyway, the questions they ask on the rules/signs test are so obscure that lots of adults fail. Someone helpfully posted a cheat sheet on the web with likely questions. We we saved from going through the huge book and only looking through the likely questions.

  71. I have no memory of having to have an appointment, but went on my 16th birthday, after having scoffed at my Dad’s suggestion that I go practice on the course at the DMV, and rolling my eyes at my mom on the way to the test when she told me I wasn’t doing a complete stop. Did not do a complete stop on the test and failed. Ruined my birthday.

    When my daughter got her license, we did ‘parent taught’ drivers ed, and I just had to sign an affidavit that she had mastered the necessary skills. That ended about two months after she got her license (correlation?). Students now have to parallel park and drive around the area near the DMV. They schedule driving tests every 20 minutes. He could burn the majority of that on just the parallel parking.

    I tried all DMVs in the area, and could only find an appointment about 2 days earlier, so we’ll just stick with what we’ve got. Another thing I hate about that one though is that it is just a couple of days before we go out of town for a long weekend and leave him at home. I think I’ll probably ban him from driving while I’m gone, except to nearby places for food.

  72. “you have to weigh the cost of transporting the crap against the cost of buying it new.”

    Yeah, I guess you won’t be driving there very often, so it’s not like the weekend cabin.

  73. LfB, I’m sorry to hear about your mother-in-law’s situation. When I submitted my already-gathered genome data to Promethease for analysis, one of the things on their analysis is whether you are likely to respond to gemcitabine if you have pancreatic cancer. It isn’t FDA approved or anything, and I don’t know the sample size of the research on which it was based, but my Promethease report says I am unlikely to respond to gemcitabine if I get pancreatic cancer (most people don’t) and I know my mom didn’t.

    Please let me know you saw this or I’ll try to send an e-mail via CoC.

  74. Do any of you live in states with deregulated electricity? This is another annoyance of mine today. My one-year contract is going to expire next week.I can renew with my current provider,at a not-particularly competitive rate, or I can go to a website and select another. One the website, there are 334 contract options ranging from 3 months to 2 years, and with all different price structures. The one I’m looking at offers an average cost per kwh of $0.117 if I average 500 kwh per month, $0.017 per kwh if I average 1000 kwh per month, and $0.087 per kwh if I average 2000kwh per month. All of them seem to be a variation of this, with costs weighted more heavily to lower usage or to higher usage. So I have to go to my current provider’s website and review my usage for the year and try to figure out which of these variations will cost me the least. Then I have to figure out if the plan I like has a base usage fee each month that adds on to that cost. I’m looking at about 3 variations and will pick from there, because it’s not going to kill me if I don’t get the absolute lowest possible cost for the year. But I have an MBA and a CPA and I find this to a giant pain in the ass. I cannot imagine how people who no internet access do this, or don’t have the mental bandwidth to figure out what all these options mean. If you don’t pick a plan, you pay the spot rate, which is orders of magnitude higher. I suspect that lower income people and immigrants get completely ripped off by this system. This is absolutely something that should be a function of government. People just want the electricity to be there when they turn on the light switch – they do not want to contemplate the various business models (different ratios of renewable energy, etc). Bah humbug.

  75. MBT– Wow, there’s a strong incentive to use 1000kwh/month, and encourages customers using about 500 kwh/mo to find ways to use another 500 kwh/mo.

    One thought that comes to mind is a plug-in hybrid. Another is find someone you know with an electric car who lives nearby. A more wasteful way would be to run the AC more.

    What’s your current use? Around here, I think what HECO, the local utility, uses as a typical household is 500 or 600 kwh/mo; 600 kwh/mo currently translates to a bill (if you buy your electricity from HECO) of about $180, as low as it’s been in a while.

  76. @WCE — thank you. Do you know whether that is true only for the “typical” variety, or for the less typical versions? MIL is lucky (if you can use such a word) that she has one of the highly unusual ones — lucky because it has a survival rate that is fully 10x higher than the usual strain. I know one of the challenges her docs have had is figuring out what version of chemo will work best, because they just don’t have a big sample size, and it seems more closely related to other endocrine cancers and even melanoma. They will be back next week to meet with the chemo specialist at Hopkins and get a treatment plan.

    Please do feel free to email me at Laurafrombaltimore (at) gmail — it does make me feel bad to bring down a fun conversation on a beautiful day with sucky news. This is a brave new world that I’m not particularly happy to be (re)entering, so any advice from the Queen of All Data Analysis would be most appreciated. Thanks.

  77. MBT, I’m curious, do any of those electricity purchase plans have rates that vary depending on time of day?

    Locally, there’s a push for lower rates mid-day, when PV generation is high and demand is moderate, and possibly higher rates during evenings, when demand peaks and the sun is down.

  78. And since the rest of us can now renew our licenses and registrations online, wtf are DMV workers doing all day?

    In Colorado you have to renew in person at least every 15 years.

  79. We were discussing CC the other day, and I thought this thread may appeal to one or two totebaggers.  I will say that I take everything on CC with a grain of salt, but after a while it becomes easier to know which posters are more to be trusted than others.

    Parents of the HS Class of 2017 – 3.0 to 3.4 GPA

    I’m negligent about checking utility pricing, just as I am with cable pricing. I’m sure I’m wasting money. Maybe I can somehow use the 30D Challenge to improve on that. But somehow I am very inefficient about cost shopping. What I think will be a 10 minute task turns out to take hours sometimes. I had that happen with a car rental yesterday. After 30 minutes I just said it wasn’t worth it to save MAYBE $50 or even $100.

  80. Finn, that’s the opposite of most places. Usually the talk is to increase rates during the day when demand is the highest and have lower rates on the evening and night when demand is lowest. But you’re area probably has a much higher usage of PV than most places.

  81. As for MA RMV, you can renew online for most things other than road tests, there are or used to be a few kiosk type sites in big Malls, and AAA has storefronts now with RMV services. I had to go in for the ten year photo and eye test and went to a local strip mall. There are very few customer facing RMV employees anymore, but interestingly enough until 2007, the driving tests were given by state troopers. It is bound to be cheaper to use civilians. When I got my license at 30, I had to do a three point turn on a hill in a residential neighborhood. When my daughter got hers (after being refused the test once for a broken tail light), the very young trooper was astonished that a girl could drive a stickshift, and well. As soon as she didn’t grind the gears, she was gin.

  82. Thanks, Fred. That site was helpful. Finn, we have about two months per year where we use less than 500kwh, about 6 using 1000-1500, and 4 using in the 2000kwh range. They do offer the plan you describe but with savings for using less during the day. But the rates for peak usage are somewhat punitive, and we typically have people home during the day in the summer so we are running the AC all the time. Those plans cost us more. Using the current low rates, my annual bill is likely to be less than my single worst month’s bill at my previous house, and less than two month’s of a typical summer bill. So I finished the night feeling pleased with the decision to move a couple years ago. This house is so much more energy efficient.

  83. Our “DMV” has express offices which really aren’t bad if you just need to renew.

    I’ve never had to take a driving test. I took Driver’s Ed in HS, and that was enough for my first license. Every state I moved to made me take a written test, but never a driving test. The road signs tests were always a bit painful. So many obscure signs.

  84. I don’t know if this will come through, and probably most of you haven’t been sysadmins, but it’s really hilariously on point.

  85. “Usually the talk is to increase rates during the day when demand is the highest and have lower rates on the evening and night when demand is lowest. ”

    Interesting… This suggests that solar energy conversion to electricity, e.g., PV, is well matched to usage patterns, i.e., the electricity output peak matches, or nearly matches, the demand peak.

    The big problem we have with PV here is the mismatch between PV output and demand. If our demand patterns were like yours, we’d have even higher PV penetration than what we have now, which I believe is by far the largest in the country.

  86. Finn, I’m surprised that you have a demand pattern like that. I would think the need for air conditioning, if nothing else, would create a significant demand during the day there.

  87. Finn – I believe most of your non-solar power comes from burning diesel fuel, obviously shipped over, so rates are about $0.36/kw*hr, roughly three times what most of us pay. With that motivation, we’d be inclined to add PV, too.

    With a daytime surplus, I wonder if they could build some elevated lakes and pump seawater uphill.

  88. How UT-Dallas Transformed Itself into a Top Texas College

    Texas totebaggers have probably seen this piece.  This college has been discussed here as an option for some of our kids.

    U.S. News and World Report now ranks it third among public universities in the state, behind UT-Austin and Texas A&M University. Since 2005, the university’s four-year graduation rate has jumped from 30 percent to over 50 percent. During that time, it spent more than $1 billion on campus construction and continued to attract some of Texas’ best students.

    The university’s average incoming freshman ACT scores regularly equal, or even surpass, the freshman classes at UT-Austin and A&M. ….

    Wildenthal arrived as provost in 1992 and quickly focused on recruitment. His first year, he convinced university officials to offer full-ride scholarships to students who were semifinalists for National Merit Scholarships, which are awarded based on PSAT scores.

    Wildenthal predicted that the program would increase UT-Dallas’ number of freshmen by about 20 — and no more than 40. Instead, it grew by more than 250. The sharp increase in students strained the university’s financial and teaching resources.

  89. I started watching The Goldbergs and found it funny. For those who have seen this serial and Modern Family – do you recommend Modern Family ?

  90. I think the two shows are different. I watch the Goldbergs because it reminds me a lot of my own childhood. In my opinion, Modern Family is a better show. I think the quality of the writing is better, and I think the actors are great. I wonder if you might “get” more of the jokes in Modern Family since some of the jokes in the Goldbergs might not make sense to you since some it is almost an inside joke about stuff or references during that period in the US. poking fun at that period.

  91. @Lauren – in the early 80s the home country opened up and there was a flood of shows, music etc. from America. There was a lot of bad imitation of the hair, clothes etc. It was the era of Micheal Jackson and all the boys practiced his dance moves. It does take me back to growing up in the 80s too.

  92. That is interesting because I think the primary reason I like the Goldbergs is because I would have been the same age as the kids.

  93. UT-Dallas is mentioned a lot in CC by parents looking for merit aid, especially parents of NMSF.

  94. I think I am up for a DO IT NOW challenge.

    Last week my mom decided that it was in her best interest to stay in skilled nursing until assisted living comes available. Although she is not technically next (many people in her community put their name on the AL list as soon as they arrive, that way every tme a slot comes open, they can accept or decline it.), those above her have are likely not ready to move yet. Given the cost of skilled nursing, she has decided to give up her independent living apartment and put the stuff that will go to AL in storage, minus a few things we will move to skilled nursing. The reality is that by the time AL is available, she may not be well enough to go – I think she knows this, but we aren’t discussing it directly.

    This means – I am the one to downsize her stuff, clean out the apartment, move the phone, get the storage unit, etc. We spend 5 hours there yesterday and I was very tired and overwhelmed about decision making. My partner says – just box everything! I’m holding out that he is crazy because (1) why pay to store stuff she will never use again, (2) if she goes to AL, it all won’t fit and I’ll have to sort it then from a stuff storage unit, (3) if it becomes the property of her estate it will be easier to deal with less than more plus all important papers need to be identified and properly stored, and (4) if we need to store season clothes in storage, they need to be easy to identify and get to.

    That is a long story to get to DO IT NOW will be all these things that have to be done in the midst of my 8th graders end of middle school sprint (her school makes a big deal of it), regular end of school year events, and work with a June deadline for a fairly big project. I need to follow Meme and make a list. We could post which do it now thing we did that day.

  95. Austin Mom – I hired a senior move specialist to do that for me in the Washington DC area. I was still working at the time and Mom had been relocated up here with rental furniture in her Asstd living. She went through everything and sent photos for me to make a quick yes or no. I am sure that a similar service is available locally and at a much cheaper rate in TX than in DC.

  96. I started watching The Goldbergs and found it funny. For those who have seen this serial and Modern Family – do you recommend Modern Family ?

    I love Modern Family. It’s showing it’s age, as shows tend to do when they’ve been around this long, but it’s still very funny.

    I still think the Goldbergs is the funniest show on TV right. Part of the appeal is as Lauren said – that’s when I grew up – but it’s freaking hilarious any way you look at it.

    A couple of other good sitcoms are Fresh Off the Boat and Black-ish.

  97. I had a totebag moment this weekend. DS decided he wants to apply for the magnet program at the HS he’ll be going to (robotics, software engineering, web design among the options). DW spoke to someone at the school and they said he should be able to get in if he gets his application in quickly. The application involves an essay. Saturday night he actually sat down and wrote it. We told him to sleep on it and we’d review it Sunday.

    After breakfast Sunday I asked him if I could review the essay for him. He replied that he submitted it already. I hate to admit that my first thought was “why did you do that without letting us review it?” But sanity returned quickly and I was happy that he took the initiative to get it done, because that’s something he usually doesn’t do. And I think they’ll appreciate that he did it all himself. And worse case if he doesn’t get in, there are ways to apply later on, and even if he ends up not doing it, he’ll still be on the calculus track :)

  98. DD – the magnet program sounds great. If he gets in, keep us updated about the quality of the program.
    LfB – sorry about your MIL.

  99. Austin — Mémé’s advice sounds great. I wish I’d done that! At a bare minimum, hire someone who helps people organize. You are going to need moral support and help with all the decision-making. The decision-making is brutal and drains you of psychic energy. That’s why I simply packed up Mom’s entire house and moved it to my basement. Only now, three years later, have we finally gotten rid of most of the stuff.

  100. We did the downsizing service when my parents went from their 2500 square foot home to the 1050 square foot IL apartment. The goal was that this next step would be easier. Well, both of my parents – though they kept saying this was what they wanted to do – sabotaged it to a degree, so there is still way too much stuff and worst, is that there is minimal rhyme or reason to what is where. The biggest diff

  101. aust is me and fat fingers this morning – The biggest difficulty is she has good jewelry and money stashed everywhere. I have two friends helping me this week, one of whom went through this with her aunt. Those services are pricey here too! I focused this weekend on what she needs in skilled nursing – 5 hours made a decent dent with two of us working. Three bags of trash, two bags of donations, two boxes to go to storage, and one box (copy paper box) to go to skilled nursing. My DDs want all her craft stuff, so for now we are just segregating it into one section of a closet. That will likely come home with us to sort through here. My DD consolidated all her coats in the coat closet – took off 5 broaches, found $40, plus at least an entire box of kleenex in the pockets – count 25 coats/jackets/vests.

  102. Austin,
    So sorry you are dealing with this now. I think that your partner may be right. Any chance you can do a first-cut triage to locate and secure important papers and anything else you want easily available, and then box up the rest and send it to storage? Hang the cost — it may be worth it to preserve your emotional and physical energy so that you can more easily handle your work and school crunch, plus be available to help your mom cope with her health issues. I did essentially what RMS did in a similar situation — it was much easier to sort through everything and make decisions when the dust had settled. In your case, you don’t know now whether your mom will be able to move to AL, so you may end up having to re-sort at the storage unit anyhow.
    Just a thought.

  103. “The biggest difficulty is she has good jewelry and money stashed everywhere.”

    Yeah, this. After my great-aunt died, my mom found several thousands of dollars tucked away in various hidey-holes, like between the pages of books. She was also the one who had $2,000 china figurines stored next to grinning plastic Santas she’d bought from an 800-number next to a huge number of other ceramics that might-or-might-not be valuable. It does make it so much harder when you can’t just toss everything into boxes labeled “save” or “chuck.” Sorry you are having to deal with this on top of everything else.

  104. MBT: I’m shopping for electricity now, too. This is what I do. 1) Go to and put in zip code. 2) Sort by one year fixed plans (which is what I want). 3) Sort by price. 4) Ignore the cheapest ones and go up until you find companies that you recognize. 5) Choose plan.

    Before choosing your plan, figure out how many months you are over 1,000 kwh and under. The majority of our months are over, so we pick the best rate according to the 1,000 kwh price (which is the default.

    Hope this helps.

  105. 12 month usage is on your bill. You don’t need to go to your provider site. Just look at # months above and below 1,000 kwh.

  106. Austin – that’s a lot for you to deal with, after months of having to deal with so much. I like the “box it all” idea because, as others have said, it lets you get the things handled now, and you can sort later, at a leisurely pace. Absolutely post your what-I-did during the 30-day challenge and we’ll cheer you on!

    LfB – sorry to hear about your MIL.

    Denver – good for your son! And good for you to bite your tongue on that one. Let us know if he gets in.

    Off topic, but relating to another we discussed recently, I spent the weekend cursing the weather (still more snow), and DH spent it looking at furnished, pet-friendly, 3-month rentals in Santa Monica. I could see taking the minpin down there, but I think I’ll pawn the lab off on one of the kids, who’ll be living off campus by then. These are the small details I like to pretend are the only thing left to sort out before we make the move.

  107. @Ris — how cool! Just think of how much more inspiring it would be to gaze out on ocean vs. snow. . . .

  108. You guys got me curious. Our average usage is 1164 kW*hrs per month, and four of the past 12 months were under 1,000.

  109. 10 year old DS and I are fans of Modern Family. I get the DVDs from the library and we’re making our way through them. We’re partway through Season 2. It’s a good show if I want something to watch while I fold laundry or if it’s just DS and me for dinner and we want to eat in front of the tv.

  110. OMG, yes, the depression-era mothers and their tucked-away valuables! When I was selling my mother’s house, I felt like I had to go through Every Single Item before tossing or donating it, since I never knew where a couple of $100 bills or a piece of jewelry might be hidden. Largely for this reason, I have started keeping my jewelry in a single drawer, and any cash on hand in a different single drawer. If someone breaks in and this stuff gets stolen, then oh well. The thought of making things easier for people after I drop dead makes me willing to take that chance.

    Sorry you’re going through this, AustinMom.

  111. Austin, I’m sorry you’re dealing with all of this.

    When my great-uncle died, he left behind a very large record collection. My uncle was looking at few of them and when he tried to put one back in the sleeve, it wouldn’t go in all the way. He looked inside and found $500. So then he had to go through over 500 albums to see if there was money stashed in any others. (There wasn’t.)

  112. Austin, one suggestion I can make is rather than just box everything to put in storage and go through later, you quickly and roughly go through as much as you can. Anything that you need to think about whether or not to keep, you keep, and only dispose of stuff that are no-brainers to not keep.

    This is what I’ve done, and I find it minimizes the mental and emotional strain. It doesn’t take care of most of the stuff, but I’ll do it iteratively, and find that each time I’m able to get rid of some stuff.

    Another thing I’ve found helps is to take photos, which I’ve found makes it easier to let go of physical stuff, knowing that I still have something more tangible than a memory, that can be shared with my kids.

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