‘Where is he that is born King of the Jews?’

by WCE

Only rarely do my interests in history, software modeling, Biblical interpretation and astronomy come together, so when I read a modern hypothesis of what the Magi (aka wise men) saw that brought them from “the East” to King Herod in Jerusalem, I was intrigued. Many of the events recorded in the Bible are so long ago, and recorded in such a way that it is difficult or impossible to understand what was written in its historical context. I had long considered “the Star” that brought the Magi from “the East” to be an example of such a mystery. However, use of astronomical modeling software makes trivial calculations that were excessively laborious for Kepler, who used his laws of planetary motion to attempt to understand the mystery of “the Star in the East” soon after discovering the laws.

Unfortunately, Kepler relied on a copy of the works of Josephus printed after 1544, which contained an error that caused Kepler to believe Herod had died in 4 BC, and so Kepler searched the skies for the two years prior to Herod’s death. Subsequent scholarship has identified an error in the 1544 printing of the works of Josephus and 1 BC is now believed to be the year Herod died, so the hypothesis of interest focuses on 2/3 BC. In September of 3 BC at the time of the Jewish New Year, the planet Jupiter came into conjunction with the star Regulus. The Babylonians called Regulus “Sharu” and the Romans called Regulus “Rex”, both of which mean king, so the Magi observed the King Planet come into conjunction with the King Star, which happens every 12 years. However, due to retrograde motion, a triple conjunction occurred due to a wobble in Jupiter’s orbit, which is much less common.This triple conjunction occurred within the constellation Leo. The expected Messiah would be from the tribe of Judah (Genesis 49:10), which was represented by a lion (Leo). Leo is followed by the constellation Virgo and the expected Messiah would be born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14), so it seems possible that the Magi (some of whom may have been Jews whose ancestors were left behind in Babylon) would associate kingship, Leo and Virgo with the expected Messiah.

Regardless of whether this hypothesis regarding the astronomical event that brought the Magi from “the East” (probably Babylon or Persia) is correct, some event caused the Magi to travel an extraordinary distance, to inquire of King Herod and to set off a slaughter of male infants in Bethlehem, a slaughter that was recorded by the historian Josephus and the apostle Matthew. It seems apparent that the Magi were priest-astronomers and had no idea their inquiry would result in infant slaughter. Philo the Elder of Alexandria wrote about Magi from the East with great respect for their knowledge of the natural world. The response of Herod and the priests in Jerusalem suggests that they respected the Magi as well. It is possible that Magi gained awareness of Jewish culture during the Babylonian captivity, when the Jewish elite including Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego became officials in the Babylonian Empire and Nebuchadnezzar made Daniel a Chief Magus. Even though we don’t know how the Magi gained knowledge of Jewish culture and writings, a few hundred years after the Babylonian captivity, the Magi had sufficient interest in the birth of a Jewish king to travel to Jerusalem and to inquire of Herod.

After being informed by Herod and the chief priests that the Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem, the Magi proceeded from Jerusalem to Bethlehem and did not return to Jerusalem in order to inform Herod about what they had found, a situation which made Jesus’ birth one of if not the best-documented birth in ancient history. His death is, if the hypothesis is correct, equally well-documented. Passover begins on the 14th day of the Jewish lunar month of Nisan. Jesus must have died in a year on which that 14th day was a Friday, and Pilate was Roman procurator from 26 to 36 AD, so inquiry should focus on that date range. In 30 AD, Passover began on the equivalent of Friday April 7 and in 33 AD, Passover began on the equivalent of Friday April 3. The latter date is likely correct for a couple of reasons. First, Pilate seems reluctant to crucify Jesus. Sejanus, a notorious anti-Semite and regent for Emperor Tiberius, was killed in 31 AD for being a traitor and official Roman policy became to let the Jews alone. In 33 AD, Pilate would have every desire not to upset the Jews. Second, there was a lunar eclipse from noon to three on April 3, 33 AD, and an earthquake centered in Bithynia. A lunar eclipse resulted in a “blood moon”, which had particularly dark significance to ancient people. The lunar eclipse and earthquake just before the beginning of Passover (which began at sundown) made that Passover particularly memorable.

I found this hypothesis so convincing that I believe Jesus died at age 35 and not age 33, as has long been thought. Can you think of any other situations where astronomical information allows us to re-interpret ancient literature? Does any information in this summary surprise, frustrate or intrigue you, or change your thoughts about Epiphany, the traditional Christian feast to celebrate the visit of the Magi, held on January 6? (That’s just after the 12 days of Christmas.)

Biblical Reference:

Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him. When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born. And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet, And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Judea, art not the least among the princes of Judea: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel. [WCE comment: A reference to Micah 5:2]

Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, enquired of them diligently what time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also. When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense and myrrh. And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way. Matthew 2:1-12, King James Version

Kepler Reference:De Stella Nova (1606); De vero anno (1614)


178 thoughts on “‘Where is he that is born King of the Jews?’

  1. WCE, this is one of those questions that fascinates me but no one I know IRL right now :) Where do you find articles about this?

    And have any of you come across any books you enjoyed about the historical Christ? I’ve been looking for a coherent biography or explanation of what we know from an archaeological, astronomical and contemporary account perspective.

    WCE, in entirely unrelated news, I just started up the new 3D printer I got for Christmas and it’s awesome – well, less than a centimeter into the build ;). I’m trying to figure out something my kids’ teachers could use it to do….

  2. My understanding is that a lot of work went into trying to fit Jesus’s story into existing Old Testament prophecy. For example, in Matthew 1:1 he claims that Jesus is a decedent of David via his legal father Joseph. Jesus’s actual father is God so that seem somewhat tenuous.

  3. Rhett, interpretation definitely depends on your existing biases. Luke gives the genealogy through Mary. And whether Joseph was Jesus father or not is a more controversial discussion than whether Jesus grew up in Nazareth. One made it into the Apostle’s Creed; the other didn’t. :)

  4. The Guinea Pig Nativity is a family Christmastime favorite:

    and it led to a household discussion of the Slaughter of the Innocents a week or so ago. We didn’t get into dates, though.

  5. Sky, some/much of this information (I tried to leave out the strongly Christian parts) came from the starofbethlehem.net website. My favorite book on the historicity of Christ is Lee Strobel’s _A Case for Christ_

    For people fascinated by the details of ancient times, I think there’s a journal of Biblical Archaeology. I’m not that fascinated so I haven’t read it.

  6. While some of this is of interest to me, but except with my closest friends (who are not very interested in this), I avoid discussion. We have a lot of very conservative literal Bible readers – if God made the world in 7 days, then he did it in 7 – 24 hour days and since the Bible doesn’t specifically mention dinosaurs, they didn’t exist. This puts many scientific and political, not to mention religious discussions in the “off limits” category.

  7. Thanks for the post. I had heard something about this but hadn’t looked into it. I find it very interesting.

  8. When I was about 10 or 11 I learned about Pompeii (AD 79), and everything was “perfectly preserved”. I became convinced that the path to finding out if Jesus was “real” was to see if they had a bible. Obviously, if he had been real, there would be bibles all around. Which is really just to say that I am astonished in the lack of rigor and depth (even in elementary school) of my social studies/history/religion curriculum.

  9. Temp – yes. I grew up Catholic surrounded by a lot of other Catholics and Jews and maybe some Lutherans and Baptists. The most evangelical people we knew were Baptists and had not really come across people that believed in the literal creation of the world until I moved to Texas. My son got chastised (in public school) by a classmate insisting he wasn’t really a Christian because he believed in evolution and that the dinosaurs existed millions of years ago. Frankly, fervent religious belief of any form scares me a little bit.

  10. WCE, IIRC from my history classes, the gospels were all written 120-200 AD, so they were probably trying to squish the chronology into the existing historical record as best they could.

    I think it is fascinating how Christianity came along and co-opted/adopted portions of existing indigenous and pagan celebrations (solstice!) and how long that continued – so you get a mashup of cultural references in lyrics like in the Huron Carol referencing “mighty Gitchi Manitou” and “The chiefs from far before him knelt With gifts of fox and beaver pelt”. The carol was written in Wyandot/Huron around 1642, but this English translation is from 1926! Makes me want to go back to school and take more medieval history classes. :)

  11. Temp Handle – literalism really bothers me, especially when you ask them about linguistics and the difficulty of translating from one language to another and the answer is something like “um, divinely inspired”.

  12. L, three of the gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke, aka the synoptic gospels) were written quite a bit before that, as was the book of Acts, which was also by Luke. (The temple in Jerusalem being sacked after Acts was written is the best known historical marker in the discussion.) I think the best date for Mark (first gospel) is late 60’s.

    The gospel of John was written later, perhaps while John was exiled on Patmos, and its style is very different.

  13. It didn’t occur to me until I was driving in a bit ago that it’s actually Epiphany today, so this is very apropos.

    And since it’s an Epiphany topic, is it too off-topic to raise my theory that we actually do still celebrate 12 days of Christmas, we just start earlier so that the 12th day is January 1 instead of January 6?

  14. L – Yes. And, the other rabbit hole to run away from is when other bait those to take the Bible literally with the where does the Bible talk about homosexuality. One of my DD’s friend’s parents liked to start that conversation. It wasn’t long before that poor child wasn’t invited to anything.

  15. L and Temp Handle…

    To annoy literalists, I ask about Polar Bears and Penguins. If Noah took 2 of every animal with him, then why do we have animals on earth that are not listed in the Bible? And how did the polar bears and penguins get to Noah to begin with?

    I also bring up MRSA quite frequently… micro-evolution at its finest.

    It’s a good thing I don’t have many literalists in my life… :)

    As bad of a Catholic as I am, we will celebrate Little Christmas tonight… we’ll exchange stockings and have a nice family meal, watch a few movies. It’s our RI Christmas – the tree is still up, the interior decorations are still shining bright (we pulled the exterior ones so we wouldn’t lose them in the snow). Tomorrow the pretty things go away… so sad…

  16. I don’t argue with literalists. If I’m extra cranky, sometimes I’ll quote Crossan:

    “My point, once again, is not that those ancient people told literal stories and we are now smart enough to take them symbolically, but that they told them symbolically and we are now dumb enough to take them literally.”

  17. ” It’s our RI Christmas – the tree is still up, the interior decorations are still shining bright ”

    The thought of this gives me fits. DW has made a total convert out of me. Put everything up early so there’s less to worry about in December (weekend before Thanksgiving is fine), and then get it all cleaned up and orderly before New Year’s.

  18. WCE, did you work all of this out or is there a reference I can show other people? In any event, it’s very cool. One little detail I find interesting is that the days of the week seem to have continued in a completely stablile fashion from then until now, such that searchig the day of the week something occurred actually works. I haven’t looked it up, but my guess is that they probably came from just over 200 miles away. Is that Babylon (I know, lazy geographer!)

    I think it’s interesting that some Christians find historical evidence for events in the Bible to be useful dem strations of the correctness of their faith, whereas others find them offensive, as if they undermine the mysteries of the faith.

  19. HM, the ads counting 12 (or some other number) days sometime in December drive me nuts!!

    Milo, my parents were the same way for years. Dad grew up with his father setting up the tree after the kids were in bed Christmas Eve, and it stayed up until epiphany. People visited each other while it was up. My Mom couldn’t stand having it up that long. There used to be disagreements annually, but now they fly back to Florida before New Years Eve, so she wins by default.

    Those of you who also are not religious, do you teach your kids about Christianity so they can be culturally literate? I would like my son to know what’s up with the 12 days of Christmas, and to get the joke when I say “you are my son. In you I am not well pleased”. He absolutely does not see the point. If you have been successful in getting your secular kids to learn the basics, how have you done it?

  20. “(weekend before Thanksgiving is fine”

    ABSOLUTELY NOT! December 1st – Jan 6th is the only time that Christmas decorations and music shall be played. Christmas celebrations shall not begin while we are celebrating the harvest season (my fall decorations stay up until Nov 30/Dec. 1).

    Our live tree gets purchased and put up about December 8th. We decorate (less now that I have 2 little hands to worry about), and keep it shining until Jan 7th. All other decorations come out slowly starting on December 1st. Outdoor decorations are usually the first up. In our Creche, Jesus is not put in place until we leave for NJ (usually on the 22nd or 23rd) and the Magi are not put in place until Jan 5/6th.

    When we moved to RI, we decided that Little Christmas was our Christmas. It’s nice to not stress about it, and have one quiet family night in the season. Wouldn’t be surprised if we watched an Xmas movie tonight.

  21. Well I modify slightly… We use Advent to guide our season, so if the first Sunday of Advent is in Nov, we adjust accordingly. Either way, the season doesn’t end until the Epiphany.

  22. Put everything up early so there’s less to worry about in December (weekend before Thanksgiving is fine), and then get it all cleaned up and orderly before New Year’s.

    I’m fascinated by the practice of putting up the tree Christmas Eve after the kids went to bed. It seems awesome in terms of theatrics. The pile of presents is impressive on it’s own but imagine waking up to find not only presents but a tree! That would blow your 4 year old mind.

    Two problems:

    1. Pulling it off without making too much noise would be hard.
    2. As such, I don’t know how common this was/is if it ever was common.

  23. My parents used to put the tree up Christmas Eve *Eve* after we went to bed, and they said Santa brought it. I have a very clear memory of being about five years old and explaining this extra visit by Santa to some adult at a Christmas party my parents threw.

    It’s just that my DW is someone who gets stressed out if there are all these things that need to be done “soon,” but aren’t getting done. So a tree that needs to go up, among a bunch of other things like teachers’ gifts and shopping, will cause her to lose sleep. But since it doesn’t need to be up before we leave for Thanksgiving, if we get it done by then, it will be off the mental list.

  24. Rhett, I think it was practiced back when you didn’t have nearly so many decorations to put on (nor so many presents to stack underneath).

    My in-laws still put the tree up Christmas Eve — they use candles so it needs to be plenty fresh. I can well imagine that with young children in the house, you could leave the cut tree in the barn until they were in bed.

  25. Rhett, What I don’t get about that timing in the small Wisconsin town where my dad grew up is that many of the residents there were of German descent, as in some of my great-grandparents didn’t speak any English. But in Germany it’s typical that gifts are exchanged on Christmas Eve, not Christmas morning. So how did they get started putting up the tree after the kids went to bed Christmas Eve? I wonder if that was part of the celebration for the grown-ups.

  26. S & M, we go the Christmas show at Radio City every other year to teach her about Christianity. Just kidding.

    One of my favorite things about the holidays is that it does give you a chance to explain about different religions because kids are curious. When you are raising a child as Jewish, they practically ask every year why they can’t have a tree etc. We have taken the time to explain about other religions so she understands some of the beliefs and differences.

    She learns a lot in Hebrew school about history and since the religions are tied together in history, she has learned about Christianity.

    They a very long unit in 6th grade social studies about different religions. These included Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddism and Judaism. They went into so much detail that I learned A LOT from quizzing her before each test.

    The interesting thing about living in NY metro is that there will usually be at least one kid in each social studies class that can share their experiences from each of these religions with the class.

  27. Milo – why doesn’t your wife do the teachers’ holiday shopping or other little things before Thanksgiving? I have 60-70% of my shopping done for the holidays by the end of Small Business Saturday. That frees up a ton of time in December to enjoy putting up decorations and baking cookies, etc.

    S&M – I’ve wondered that too. We used to get a small gift on Christmas Eve to open before Midnight Mass (which was at midnight, unlike some churches now that do it at 10pm). I wondered if they used Christmas Eve Eve instead.

  28. I’ve often wished that we, as a society, would celebrate the 12 days of Christmas, rather than a month long extravaganza where everyone is sick of Christmas by the time it actually gets here. Alas, I have no societal or household support for this. My mom keeps her decorations up until Epiphany-ours came down last weekend. It was a relief to no longer worry about the baby getting into the tree.

    I think WCE’s article is fascinating. A “magical star” getting throw into the story has always struck me as something that makes the whole thing lesss believable. Cool that there is some scientific basis for it.

  29. “why doesn’t your wife do the teachers’ holiday shopping or other little things before Thanksgiving”

    We do some. But there’s always going to be something else. For example, she was pushed into being the Room Mom for one of the kids, at least in time for Christmas this year, so she was coordinating gifts for that.

    Complicating matters is that December tends to be her busiest month work-wise, with the total hours worked for the month right around the threshold for a full-time employee. And this year we’ve been doing it with no paid childcare, other than thrice-weekly preschool for my youngest.

  30. Rhett – We watched that movie Christmas Eve afternoon. Would you believe FIL and SIL had never seen it? Crazy!

  31. My MIL was telling me her mother did the same thing with the fully decorated tree and presents all on Christmas Eve and I had never heard of this before. We always got our tree in early December and took it down before NYE. It seems sad not to enjoy the tree for as long. I still have our fake Christmas tree and decorations up because we’re getting snow tonight and my son said he wanted to see the decorations in the snow. Also, for most of December the tree was wedged in between two couches and a refrigerator in our living room because of our renovation so I feel like I didn’t get to enjoy all of the decorations this year. Usually I am a strict decorations come down on Jan. 1st kind of person.

  32. The closest thing to label our family is agnostic. My DDs went to a day care where the kids came from Christian, Hindu, Muslim, Buddist, and Jewish faiths. Then they went to Christian, but not Catholic, elementary and middle school. One DD is in Catholic HS the other in public.

    My DD in Catholic school learned early on that you need to learn what they are teaching to pass the test, just like math or history, but you don’t have to believe any of it. This realization came in about the 3rd Grade. She is now very put out that the Catholic kids do not seem to know their theology and do badly on tests and can’t remember concepts from one year to the next. On top of that, she is surprised about how ignorant they are of any other religion. A teacher said that ONLY Christians recognize Jesus existed. DD argued that was not true, but that only Christians recognized Jesus as the Savior. The same teacher put all non-Catholic Christians in the same bucket saying they all believed the same exact things. That time DD kept her mouth shut, but was very annoyed.

  33. My psycho neighbor, the one who always has something very dramatic going on, just posted on Nextdoor about how their dog needs to be put down, but she’s livid about how much their regular vet wants to charge. She’s asking for recommendations for a vet who won’t “profit off her [dog’s] condition.” She then goes into great detail about the numerous afflictions from which this poor creature is suffering, now culminating in kidney failure.

    Someone is going to post a very simple, inexpensive solution very soon. I can almost guarantee it.

  34. We always did tree up over the Thanksgiving weekend (Sat/Sun) and down no later than New Year’s Day. I think this was as much for my mom to get my dad to man-handle getting the tree in the house and up and then out of the house on his days off. Also, with the crazy kid schedule, I’m glad everything was “school-ready” on the first day back.

  35. “If you have been successful in getting your secular kids to learn the basics, how have you done it?”

    I was not successful, and they learned some stuff from their friends or classes. When he was young my son was fascinated by zombie Jesus, which is what he called Christ rising from the dead at Easter. Although I was raised Catholic, I never studied the bible directly but was taught catechism lessons. I became skeptical pretty quickly and never developed a strong interest in religion.

    My IL’s used to put up their tree on Christmas Eve. I like keeping our tree up until at least the Epiphany, and some years have kept it up longer. It doesn’t bother me, maybe because I like the ambiance it creates at night. We usually celebrate Little Christmas in some fashion.

  36. SM, there’s some coverage in the Cartoon History of the Universe books (Old Testament in book 1, New in book 2), and of course there are comparative religion courses available through Great Courses (like http://www.thegreatcourses.com/courses/cultural-literacy-for-religion-everything-the-well-educated-person-should-know.html ) as well as Christianity-specific ones. That will certainly cover the basic principles and beliefs, and some of the memorable stories. But I don’t think you can expect a boy who hasn’t been having regular religion classes as he grew up to have the kind of familiarity with Biblical phrases that he would need to get your joke. (Sort of like Ian Frazier’s Laws Concerning Food and Drink http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/1997/02/laws-concerning-food-and-drink-household-principles-lamentations-of-the-father/305013/ — it’s not as funny if you don’t recognize the cadence of the language).

  37. We are definitely on the Rhode start-of-Advent-thru-Epiphany calendar. All DW’s doing since she’s the believer (she’s tried with the kids, but they are at that late-teen/early adult non-believer stage. I’m a lost cause.) Whatever the weather, everything comes down tomorrow…outdoor lights (yeah I know, if it’s really cold I can just unplug them till we get a warm spell), boughs, trees/ornaments, decorations.

    And also, +1 to Milo: “my DW is someone who gets stressed out if there are all these things that need to be done “soon,” but aren’t getting done. So a tree that needs to go up, among a bunch of other things like teachers’ gifts and shopping, will cause her to lose sleep.”

    And then she gets cranky and we always have a tiff because I say something Martian (male) like, “ok, we have a couple of hours before we need to do x, what are the most important things on the list?” and she’ll say “all of them” because “(she doesn’t) have time to got thru the list”, which is again mental and not actually written down where someone could project-manage it.

  38. CoC, my youngest has made that same connection. I was like, ok, I do see where you’re coming from with this, but he was actually uncorrupted when he rose and that’s a pretty important feature of the story, so definitely not a zombie, and furthermore I hope you know better than to say this to your proselytizing classmates.

    And now he’s full of questions about how omnipresence works. Is the divine supposed to be a special form of matter or what. I swear it would do him good to go argue with a Jesuit, preferably one accustomed to 12 year old boys.

  39. “pushed into being the Room Mom”
    Milo, I can assure you there is no such thing. Your DW may not have done it if no one had pulled her leg, but I am sure that she enjoys it secretly if not publicly. :)

    We start with the Christmas music and decorations the day after Thanksgiving. Otherwise there is no way to listen to all your favorite albums enough times before Epiphany! (Especially if you are at the office and forget to bring your CDs with you…ask me how I know) The decorations are coming down this weekend.

  40. I don’t think so, L. She does volunteer about once a week, but she really didn’t want any additional administrative responsibility. It’s just that it became apparent, as Christmas got closer, that nobody else was going to do it.

  41. HM, I was like your son, except I didn’t argue. I stewed about these things and mostly decided someone was bamboozling all these adults. :)

  42. He’s equal-opportunity opinionated; for our Japan trip we had to have the talk about “please do not share your surprisingly vehement views about Pure-land Buddhism while in Japan.” (He thinks it’s a betrayal of the founding principles of Buddhism, for reasons he’d gladly explain to you.)

  43. CoC, and I’m not a believer either, so it’s not like I have answers that I find convincing!

  44. Whatever the weather, everything comes down tomorrow…outdoor lights (yeah I know, if it’s really cold I can just unplug them till we get a warm spell),

    I don’t do outdoor lights, but if I did, I would just leave them up year-round and unplug them for the other 11 months. Every year I see the same neighbors climbing up on their roofs to put up lights and then climbing up later to take them down. It seems incredibly inefficient.

  45. oh I only have to climb up a little ways on my 6′ ladder at the highest. The rest are net lights covering shrubs, so easy to do.

  46. In the home country Christmas preparations started around Dec 19th and the Christmas season till Epiphany. Most people though were done by New Year. The Christmas season is cooler and it is also wedding season. So along with Christmas we had to attend weddings especially between Christmas and New Year. The lights served two purposes in function places Christmas and weddings. Some clubs hold member dances outdoors on their grounds. Very festive.
    The best season to be in the home country.

  47. It’s just that it became apparent, as Christmas got closer, that nobody else was going to do it.

    Your wife is also my husband. DH is especially like that at work, which drives me batty. So what if no one else does it? If no one does it, then apparently it’s not as important as the Powers that Be would like you to think.

  48. HM, your son needs a good Medieval Philosophy class. At the end of it he’ll be so sick of worrying about substance and attributes and immanence and so on that he’ll say “let’s just call it all symbolic and move on”.

    (Or he could come over and talk to my DH, who has a theory about how the medieval view of substance and attributes is the underlying reason for all the obsession about the metaphysics of the Trinity. He has a solution for it too, but I won’t reconstruct it here. Basically I think your son should come hang out with DH and talk Christian metaphysics and go sledding. They’d both have fun.)

  49. RMS, they totally would! Seriously, I’m ready to send him. Surely the school doesn’t want him back that badly . . .

  50. “So what if no one else does it?”

    I normally agree. But in this case, the teacher is divorced with two kids. Her DH just up and decided that he was done, no interest in counseling, nothing. Just done.

    Anyway, the gift she put together was the recently Pinterest-popular “money tree,” of the style pictured below (except it wasn’t all singles, mostly 10s and 20s):

  51. Looks like Little Christmas will be very festive this year…. NWS is calling for 4-10 inches of snow for my area. Good thing I told DH to pick up some chicken tonight as I don’t think we’ll be getting out tomorrow.

  52. On the original topic – WCE, I find that story fascinating. I always have. That we’ve been able to connect the astronomical events to the written accounts (despite the uncertainty of the calendar) is so interesting. And I do start to wonder… how much is total truth and how much is legend.

  53. The money tree as a gift to the teacher from classmates’ parents? Probably the hands-down favorite! Milo, I’m glad your wife was willing and able to coordinate that for someone who could certainly use it. But still, one of the joys of being room parent is protesting how much you didn’t seek the role, you’re just a simple mom, etc.

    Fred, your last paragraph is my mom! In the last few years, we’ve gone up a couple days before Christmas and come back with them to spend New Year’s Day together at their Fla house. She guilt-tripped me nearly the whole time, but never with any clear anything that needed to be done. And if I’d go to get out the glasses, she would have decided not to use the crystal this year, etc. Same with putting things away; I did not know that the snowman was kept in the guest bathroom closet. This year we didn’t arrive til late on the 23rd, and my sisters miraculously appeared for part of Taking Down Christmas. This also happened to be the year I figured out the best way to run that event: station Mom in either the storage or basement, list off for her all the decorations in a room, have her say which come to where she is, and repeat. For the second half, it was obvious that everything went to the basement, so I could have a crapload awaiting her when she went down there. One sister was still there, so we both helped locate the correct containers for each. I also did the obvious stuff: way more dishes than the two of us used, and finished a couple loads of parents laundry from wet in machine to folded in basket in their room (did ours once we got home). Flow of tasks could have been optimized; since the list is only in her head, I couldn’t do that, but I did get luggage into my rental the night before driving to the airport, which she thought was genius. No, it isn’t. Just something that I knew needed to be done. A list sure would be helpful!

    HM, thanks for the suggestions. As it is, he thought the joke was Star Wars related.

  54. Rhode, that sounds so cozy and snug!

    Fred, if you leave them up, pizza delivery will always be able to find your house.

  55. Milo – I was reflecting that when DS was in elementary there were sometimes joint Room Moms. Now in middle school a sign up genuis invite is sent out and hardly any parents will put their names down to contribute treats for the occasional class celebration.
    It seems like the signs of caring stop at elementary. It found the sudden cut off odd.
    I like the money tree BTW!
    DS’s school did away with class Christmas collection. Now they do one schoolwide collection which is shared among the staff.

  56. Here an amusing sight was a pick up with a snow plow. Haven’t seen that in a long time.

  57. I normally agree. But in this case, the teacher is divorced with two kids. Her DH just up and decided that he was done, no interest in counseling, nothing. Just done.

    What does that have to do with a room parent? After having two kids go through elementary school, I never did figure out what the room parents actually do other than go to the classroom so they can feel important.

  58. Louise, one of the MDs I work with just got back from a two week trip to your home country for a wedding.

  59. Milo, I share your DW’s reluctance to be room parent, but I almost went for it for the same reason- I thought no one else was going to do it. I also share your DW’s stress when I have too many things to do at the last minute.

    Sometimes, the school makes contributing really hard- they needed milk for a party, and I had to figure out a way (I can put milk in the staff room refrigerator) to make this not need to happen right at the beginning of the school day.

  60. “He has a solution for it too, but I won’t reconstruct it here. ”
    Rats. I really wish you would.

    WCE, your post was fascinating. Thanks for taking the time to research and write it.

  61. S&M – atheist family here. Yes we celebrate Christmas. Yes we talk about religions and what they believe. We also talk about why we don’t believe and what we do believe in which is basically Believing in God doesn’t make you good and you can be good without believing in God. and Be kind because the world is nicer for everyone when you are. We live in an area with people from all over the world so they get a lot of exposure to many different religions. It is my hope that in college they will take a comparative religion class because it is important to understand them and how they motivate social and political forces around the world. When I went to college, I was surprised at how little my Catholic religion professor knew about the Protestants. I think most people know a lot about their faith and very little about others. I think my kids know a little about a lot of faiths.

  62. Rats. I really wish you would.

    Uh, really? Well, tell you what, if I’ve got insomnia tonight (as usual) I’ll try to write it out.

  63. Denver, based on evidence presented here, I’d say that the connection between room mother and ex-husband finking out on the teacher & their kids is that the room mother coordinated a damn good Christmas gift for the teacher, which must have been a *blessing*.

  64. RMS, yeah, everyone here is sick, and the snowmageddon of up to an inch is supposed to hit the upstate of SC, and I’m all in for some philosophy and hot cocoa this weekend.

  65. L’s response on the timing of the gospels made me think about the difference between “draft” and “final” version of the gospels and about how assumptions shape historical interpretation.

    Certain parts of the gospels in my Bible are marked as “not in the earliest manuscripts” and may or may not be what L’s professors were thinking of when they describe the gospels as “written” as late as 200 CE. There are also hypothesis about protogospel(s) that were referenced by the eventual writers, whether you believe those writers are Matthew, Mark and Luke or whether you believe the writers are anonymous.

    Many scholars believe Matthew, Mark, Luke and Acts were at least drafted before the fall of the temple in 70 AD. There is considerable debate between liberal and traditional scholars, similar to that about the historicity of the Old Testament before the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, about whether all the authors just happened to write after the fall of the temple while giving no suggestion that it had fallen.

  66. “Likewise if you receive a portion of fish from which every piece of herbal seasoning has not been scraped off, and the herbal seasoning is loathsome to you, and steeped in vileness, again I say, refrain from screaming.” http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/1997/02/laws-concerning-food-and-drink-household-principles-lamentations-of-the-father/305013/

    HM, thanks for that Ian Frazier link. It is one of the funniest things I have ever found online. Impossible to read aloud with a straight face. My kids still say “for we do not do that, that is why” and it’s been years since I read it to them. It was funny all on its own, but even funnier after they studied the Old Testament and recognized the source material.

  67. Denver – yeah, saac said it. I was pointing out that the teacher has had to set up a brand new household recently for herself and her kids, so some extra cash is likely helpful.

    I could be mistaken, but I really don’t think she agreed to it out of self-importance.

  68. Milo – in that case it might be Catholic (or insert other denomination here) guilt. I have that too, but in my case it’s not-disappointing-my-choir-director guilt. ;)

  69. I am a room mom – we actually have to fill out an application, so it’s hard to pretend I didn’t want the job :)

    In the earlier grades there are two per class, and in later grades they have a harder time finding people so there may be only one.

    Our job is (1) creating class contact lists, (2) collecting money for teacher gifts and purchasing them, (3) organizing class wide play dates for kindergarten classes several times throughout the year (not done for other grades), (4) getting volunteers for field trips and parties, (5) getting parents to send in classroom supplies the schools do not provide, and (6) organizing cocktail parties for the parents.

    On a really exciting day I also forward PTA emails :)

  70. I am interested to see Sky’s list, because room mom wasn’t a thing at my kids’ elementary school (nor, obviously, at their middle and high school), so I’ve been curious about what they do.

    In my kids’ classes, without room moms, (1) on Sky’s list didn’t happen, (2) didn’t happen, (3) didn’t happen, (4) the teacher did via sign-up at open house plus email if needed, (5) was via the school supply list sent out by the school before each school year, and (6) didn’t happen.

    And, someone in the school office would send out a weekly email blast that included upcoming PTA meetings and fundraisers along with reminders of school events and other announcements.

    So, it sounds like the room mom partly takes on some of the administrative stuff that otherwise the school does, and partly serves as a social connector for the students’ families outside the classroom, is that right?

  71. The class moms in my elementary school do everything on Sky’s list and shop for any class parties. These parties were held more often in the younger grades to celebrate certain holidays or year end. As of Jan 1, ALL food for parties, birthdays, after school clubs is banned. The only food that can enter the building is for snack or lunch. No exceptions ever. It was based on meetings with parents of kids with allergies and diabetes. It was just getting too hard to keep the food outside of the classrooms, and kids with air born allergies were at risk.

    The policy didn’t trickle up to our middle school or high school. There are no parties or class parents in middle school. no time! The HS has a lot bake sales as fundraisers to fund all of the clubs and other extras for teams. They said no way to the ban, and they assume (hope) that kids are old enough to be able to understand when certain foods are not safe.

  72. “We always did tree up over the Thanksgiving weekend (Sat/Sun) and down no later than New Year’s Day. I think this was as much for my mom to get my dad to man-handle getting the tree in the house and up and then out of the house on his days off. Also, with the crazy kid schedule, I’m glad everything was “school-ready” on the first day back.”

    This is what we do. It is so much easier to do it all in long weekends. And by NYE, I am SO done with Christmas even though I really do love the holidays. This year we took the tree down on the 26th which felt Scroogey, but we were going to visit my parents the next day & the cleaning people came while we were gone. They got the last of the glitter & needles.

    I was room mom in K. The teacher guilt tripped me. I vowed never again to be caught off guard, and I have become more practiced at saying no. It was administrative stuff like forwarding PTA and school emails, organizing class “gathering” nights, and organizing the “class community service project” which was a farce with 3-6 year olds. Ugh. Oh yeah, I also had to set up & maintain the class “share” website for photos, event calendar, field trip forms, etc.

  73. Oh, those “special days”. Ugh! My son hated them. School was frightening to him anyway, a d then to have a day of craziness thrown in was just bad. Especially because they tended to be at times when he was worn out anyway, and could have really used a quiet, restful day, whether at school or at home. They happened a couple times every quarter. Dreadful.

  74. “Bible talk about homosexuality. One of my DD’s friend’s parents liked to start that conversation. It wasn’t long before that poor child wasn’t invited to anything.”

    Reminds me of yesterday’s topic, and how people who don’t pay their share tend to not get invited out again.

  75. Denver – yeah, saac said it. I was pointing out that the teacher has had to set up a brand new household recently for herself and her kids, so some extra cash is likely helpful.

    Why does someone have to be an official room parent to coordinate a Christmas gift? I agree that it was very thoughtful of her to get that together, but I’m not seeing why you have to volunteer to be a room parent to organize a gift.

    Our job is (1) creating class contact lists, (2) collecting money for teacher gifts and purchasing them, (3) organizing class wide play dates for kindergarten classes several times throughout the year (not done for other grades), (4) getting volunteers for field trips and parties, (5) getting parents to send in classroom supplies the schools do not provide, and (6) organizing cocktail parties for the parents.

    At our school (and yes we have room parents, I just never figured out what they actually do):

    1. That’s done by the school.
    2. We don’t do organized gifts. People give individual ones.
    3. Never heard of that.
    4. The school does that.
    5. The school/teachers ask for those.
    6. Not done.

    It was administrative stuff like forwarding PTA and school emails, organizing class “gathering” nights, and organizing the “class community service project” which was a farce with 3-6 year olds. Ugh. Oh yeah, I also had to set up & maintain the class “share” website for photos, event calendar, field trip forms, etc.

    That sounds like a colossal waste of time.

  76. Great topic WCE. I found it very interesting. As a Catholic I have very little knowledge of the Bible and have never given it much in depth thought. I do love when science and religion come together!

    In room parents – Sky’s duties are very similar to what they do at my kid’s school. I’m very thankful for the work they do. Just organizing the Halloween party seemed like a lot of work.

  77. At our school room moms were coveted positions. I had to wait a year or two after I applied before a spot was open. In addition to some of the duties on Sky’s list, in pre-e-communication days we had to organize phone chains for school closings and such. We helped plan class parties and special projects, but never parent cocktail parties, which sounds like a great idea.

    One thing I found as a volunteer was that most parents wanted relatively simple jobs that allowed them to interact with kids and teachers, but did not want to have to manage bigger projects or organize other volunteers. So it was easy to get class moms but harder to recruit PTA presidents. That was understandable because of the time commitment and nasty politics that sometimes occurred. And managing other volunteers was like herding cats, IME.

  78. I forgot the class auction project – got it done in September because this year’s auction was early :) And we do the class shutterfly site.

    We have the same no food in the classrooms rule, and as a parent of a child with severe allergies it is awesome – I used to have to come in before parties and read ingredients. Our district is totebaggy enough that people fuss if you don’t bring organic/gf/no red dye 40 even for the non allergic kids.

  79. Now in late elementary/middle school my kids have classroom breakfasts once a month. There are hardly any other parties. The RM sends out a sign up genuis and you indicated what you want to bring (from the choices listed) or you can send money in. I have contributed directly to the RM via a PayPal link. Sign up genius and online payments have made organizing much easier.

  80. The elementary school has a once a year big auction that brings in a lot of money.
    MS has online auction which does pretty well. Both auctions involve a ton of work and there is a separate PTA auction committee to handle it.

  81. Louise, do you have a lot of snow? It is just starting to snow here, and we are supposed to get 2 – 4 inches. This wouldn’t be a big deal on a normal Sat, but DD has two bar mitzvahs today. One is in the northern part of the county. As long as the highway crews keep up, it will be fine. I would much rather be siting inside today instead of driving all over the place.

  82. Our auction is done by a separate 501c3 that is an education foundation. Many of the communities in NY and NJ have separate foundations to raise money from their schools. Out PTA actually raises more money than our foundation, but that isn’t the case in many of these towns. My friend is the chair of one in Summit NJ, and they even have an endowment.

    The PTA/PTSAs have to follow strict rules about fundraising and how funds are distributed. There are also rules about whether any alcohol can be served, so it just easier to set up a separate foundation. They tend to attract volunteers from both genders so it can be easier to recruit some of the volunteers.

  83. Lauren – we got ice last night, then a break. However, it started to snow in the morning and will be done by 1 pm. Probably will be right on forecast of 4 to 7 inches.
    As usual we are housebound but kids are outside playing in the snow.

  84. Lauren, public schools have foundations?

    ” As a Catholic I have very little knowledge of the Bible ” I never understand when people say this. Protestants aren’t required to go to Church, but Catholics have that duty every Sunday and Holy Day of Obligation. Twelve years of that growing up meant I heard the readings four times each. It isn’t the whole Bible, but is a big portion of it. I also went to daily mass for a while in high school, and was that kid who wanted to discuss/argue about the sermon with the priest. Oddly enough, the one Jesuit priest I knew, in high school, had great banter but was far less willing to engage arguments than the others (who may have been Franciscan, but maybe that was just the nuns)

  85. SM – I take “little knowledge of the Bible” to mean that you can’t quote chapter and verse like some folks from other Christian denominations can.
    When I think of Protestant preachers, someone like Billy Graham for instance they had the Bible memorized (almost).
    When we visited the Billy Graham museum which is nearby his Bible on display was very worn out and passages had been underlined . (The joke our priest made was that Catholics have a Bible but it is as good as new).

  86. I went to a school with kids from a multitude of religions so I have a fairly wide if not deep knowledge not only of other religions but also customs of those religious followers. I find the customs and culture part fascinating including the variations among sects of the same religion.

  87. We have nothing like the RM duties of your schools. No cocktail parties, no foundations. The school has gotten sensitive to allergies, so anything for a classroom/group event has to be commercially prepared, but the few GF or anti-dye freaks are grossly outnumbered, so they keep their mouths shut. If you tell people store cupcakes, we’re not in a rich enough area where anyone would insult cupcakes from Walmart’s bakery.

  88. No. The foundations are created by the parents. I’m sure there’s a different history in every district, but parents create an foundation for the purpose of raising money for the schools.

    Parents are the officers and they run the auctions or other annual fundraisers. They may also have investment committees, or committees that vote on how to distribute funds. If you’re curious, just google some of the big towns such as Chappaqua NY or Summit NJ. Bylaws, money, distributions all there.

    Schools in NYC do this too. This is the idea of “private” publics. My district is tiny and not as wealthy as some of these others, so it’s not the same here. Our foundation pays for extras over the top stuff like a virtual classroom.

  89. Louise – that is exactly what I mean. In all the CCD classes I attended the focus was never on specific verses (well, maybe it was but it never stuck) but on doing good deeds and being kind to others. Even now, in the renamed Faith Formation my DD is not learning Bible verses. My Lutheran SIL knows a lot more details of stories from the Bible, whereas my family just knows general stories.

  90. Fascinating. I grew up in mostly Lutheran/nearly entirely Protestant small town. We did have to memorize bible verses and the confirmation service included questioning in front of the entire congregation. I didn’t realize that was so different than Catholics. I figured since they went to classes and had a similarly formal confirmation, they were also detailed in their biblical studies. However, in my case, the strong indoctrination was for naught, as the Missouri Synod church I was in required my marriage vows to include the word “obey”. I left the church nearly immediately following my wedding.

  91. Lemon – ironically my parents began reading the Bible as part of their daily evening prayers. When I asked them about it, (Bible reading was not part of my childhood, though saying the rosary was) my Dad joked that it was now or never as they were nearer my God to thee.
    I find religious practice in my family to be tinged with humor.

  92. Lemon – I had the same experience with CCD. I learned very little about the actual bible. DH grew up Missouri Synod. My Dad was Catholic and my Mom was ELCA. We are now ELCA. I joke we both converted. My DH us astounded at how little I know about the Bible. I’m learning along with my kids as they learn at Sunday school. They also go to a private religious school, so they get a fair amount of religious education.

  93. Speaking of parent volunteers … A similar situation occurred at our school, but it was for after-school clubs.  Clubs were cut because parents were not allowed to volunteer. I wonder if most totebaggers would support the teachers union.

    When the librarian was let go, parents volunteered to help. But that’s a union job only, we were told.

    Due to a combination of budget cuts and enrollment numbers that were lower than expected, Pritzker’s librarian was laid off shortly after this school year began. Without a librarian, Pritzker students aren’t allowed to use the library. Dozens of parents have offered to volunteer in the library to keep it open. There was so much interest that the parent-teacher organization created a rotating schedule of regular volunteers to help out.

    But before parents could begin volunteering, a teachers union member filed a formal complaint with the school system, objecting to the parents’ plan. Several weeks later, a union representative appeared at a local school council meeting and informed parents that the union would not stand for parental volunteers in the library. Although the parents intended to do nothing more than help students check books in and out, the union claimed that the parents would be impermissibly filling a role reserved for teachers. The volunteer project was shut down following the meeting and the library is currently being used for dance classes.

  94. Lauren, were your events cancelled? I saw quite a few other events were cancelled, and stores closed early even in the city.

  95. CoC, I generally support teachers and I think the conservative line of “teacher unions are responsible for all the problems in the public schools” is totally absurd, but stupidity like that is why people feel so strongly about the unions.

  96. No, and it was one of the worst snow “drives” in 30 years of driving in snow.
    It was sneaky because there wasn’t a lot of snow. Just a few inches, so visibility was fine. Issue was how cold and and icy road conditions. Every where! We had to drive through Westchester county to southern border of Putnam county. A ride that normally takes 40 to 45 minutes turned into two hours. We didn’t want to blow off either bar mitzvah, but it was a very scary drive to/from the first party.
    I am very fortunate that the one tonight is just a couple of miles away.

    There was ice on every highway and state road. White knuckle driving. The storm is over, and I’m glad that I can see some 50s in the forecast for next week!!!

  97. CoC, I hope the parents rallied to gather support for rehiring the librarian, either by pressuring the district or through fund-raising. I know of at least one elementary school in Tampa where several similar staff positions are supported through the PTA, not the district. And ultimately, those positions need to be funded (at living wage levels) in all schools, not just those in wealthy areas that can raise thousands auctioning off student art and hosting a dance for parents.

  98. Related to recent discussion of Title IX

    “Although Title IX itself does not explicitly mention sports, it is most commonly associated with gender equality on the athletic field. And almost immediately after Obama took office, his administration set about reshaping how the law applied to female athletes.”

    “{A}n even bigger change — one that could become the defining legacy of how Obama and Vice President Joe Biden approached Title IX — arrived when the administration took on an issue activists and students had pressed them on for years: campus sexual assault.”

    “There’s bipartisan support for Senate legislation that could force sweeping changes in how colleges handle sexual assault cases. And schools have begun to take action on their own. … Schools now believe they have the responsibility to address these issues, and those attitudes won’t be easy to change.”


  99. On Title IX and college sexual assault cases, another view:

    “But colleges and universities do not deal with criminal charges. They treat sexual misconduct as a form of sex discrimination and the charges are civil not criminal, like other accusations brought under civil rights law, in this case Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. They are found responsible or not responsible, as opposed to guilty or not guilty. As such, their sons (and in some cases their daughters) are not protected by the same rules that govern criminal prosecutions.
    And they are shocked, because while the accused may not face a prison sentence, he may face expulsion and lifelong stigma. There’s no judge but rather an investigator who works for the university. And there’s no jury, but, on most campuses, small tribunals that may include a student and other university employees.”


  100. @Denver Dad

    It was absolutely a colossal waste of time, and I’m still pissed at myself that I didn’t say no. They have since pared back the expectations – no class community service project for preschoolers, for one thing.

  101. If assaults are reported to the police, I believe they are handled as crimes–if at all. I know some on this board have felt women could and would wantonly accuse their innocent sons of assault, just for kicks. IMO, either police nor campus security have consistent records of being as thorough in investigating sexual crimes/misbehavior as they ought to be.

    Ivy, I’m trying to picture a service project for preschoolers. Singing in the old folks home? Drawing pictures to thank firefighters or some other public servants? Picking up litter (which my son *always* wanted to do, particularly on the walk home from preschool) Seriously, what did they do?

  102. ” I know some on this board have felt women could and would wantonly accuse their innocent sons of assault, just for kicks.”

    Like Jackie?

  103. The problem is not necessarily “wanton” accusations, though that obviously sometimes happens, but rather the difficulty of sorting out the truth in a “he said/she said” situation in which there are no witnesses, little physical evidence, and both parties under the influence of alcohol or other drugs. The difficulties are magnified when unaccountable secretive university boards decide these matters without the customary legal protections and procedures offered to the accused in a court of law.

  104. Milo, idk who Jackie is, and I don’t recall who made the comments. Just recall scratching my head trying to figure out what she was talking about, because she didn’t explain that she thought women would lie or exaggerate, just said that the way rapes are handled on campus was dangerous to her son(s). At first I thought it was a typo (as many people find this to be a way of sweeping sexual assault under the rug/ not taking women’s safety seriously). Seeing how a young woman’s life is destroyed by this kind of thing, I could hardly see how her primary concern could be for a young man would be upset by the response to his actions. And we live with the knowledge that my kid will at some point be seen as criminal just for the way he looks.

  105. Like Jackie?

    Or the Duke lacrosse team accuser.

    I think we all agree that sexual assault cases can be very messy and difficult to determine the truth. IMO, these should be handled by the police (the “real” police, not campus police) and not school discipline boards or whoever. I believe that is in the best interests of the accuser and the accused.

    For those unfamiliar with the Lizzy Seeberg case at Notre Dame, here is what can happen when a school doesn’t like a sexual assault allegation http://deadspin.com/5897809/this-is-what-happens-when-you-accuse-a-notre-dame-football-player-of-sexually-assaulting-you

    And here is an example of how the accused can be expelled despite a lack of solid evidence http://nj1015.com/bad-hookup-or-rape-nj-university-expels-student-never-prosecuted-for-sex-assault/

    We absolutely need to address how police handle these cases so they are fully investigated and charges brought when appropriate. Letting schools handle these cases is only causing problems for both victims and alleged perpetrators.

  106. Charlie, Henry, Ava and Clara are very popular around these parts. Can’t swing a cat without hitting one. I love Olive as a stand alone name.

  107. Edith and Beatrice are popular here for girls.
    George and Henry for boys. One friend has a three-year old named Saul.
    So far, no Gertrudes.

  108. I knew an Aurelia who was a little younger than me. Speaking of the Bible, I realized that some of DH’s cousins have very uncommon Bibical names.

  109. The Amelia in my life is 13. Ruby is 3. So many boys named Eli in my church, from age 17 on down to newborn. Their diploma name tends to be Elijah and Eli is a nickname. Lillian is a beautiful name. The one I know is 60 ish. I’d love to see that name come back.

  110. I do not want Gertrude to come back! My grandmother had a sister with that name, and we called her Aunt Gertie. My husband has an aunt named Gladys, and I hope that is another name that never comes back.

    Eli, Charlie, Henry, Eli, Ava and Clara are popular. We have a lot of Olivia’s, but I haven’t met an Olive. It is a pretty name, but be prepared for lots of teasing.

  111. Lauren, my mother had an “Aunt Gert” and also a college roommate called Trudie. If someone insists on Gertrude making a comeback, I vote for Trudie as the nickname. Much cuter than Gertie!

  112. Oh, you mean the Rolling Stone thing! I thought you meant someone here. Prosecution by third party journalists is yet another (bad) option. Seriously, universities need to just open up to the police in the first place. RS often has very good journalism, but not in this case!

  113. Yahoo! P&K have set the date for July. Any advice on being a good auntie to (one side of) a wedding couple?

  114. As a society, do we have the resources or the desire to devote police resources to the “He said, she said” situations of (often) drunk young adults? Isn’t lack of police resources the reason why many of these cases are ignored? It feels a lot like society’s decision to transition to no-fault divorce- it’s impossible for judges, etc. to sort out other people’s problematic relational dynamics.

    I would prefer police to focus on the cases that are reported to them in a time frame where prosecution is a realistic option- too many rape evidence kits are never fully analyzed.

    In my own geographic area, the decision to have the police wear cameras has dramatically increased the amount of time to prepare for any criminal case, because of the additional time necessary to identify and review all potential evidence from videos. I’m not opposed to police wearing cameras, but it’s another case where no thorough analysis of unforeseen costs is completed.

  115. WCE,
    Not sure that lack of police resources is the issue, or should be an issue. Every woman (and it’s usually a woman) who believes that she has been the victim of a sexual assault should be encouraged to make a police report. If there isn’t any physical evidence or witnesses, which is often the case, then it is indeed difficult to determine whether the alleged assailant can be charged. But in many instances, the victim doesn’t make a report to the “real” police, or decides at some point to drop the charges. Or, as you noted, she waits too long and by the time she makes a report, the physical evidence has vanished.

    Universities are not equipped to handle criminal cases, and should not be expected to do so. I do not understand why all cases of alleged sexual assaults are not referred to local police.

  116. WCE, I’d we don’t have enough police resources to fully investigate alleged crimes then we need to come up with them. And you are seriously equating trying to determine if a rape occurred with divorce? Just wow.

    And on the police cameras, I see taking more time to investigate cases because there is more evidence available as a very good thing.

  117. Scarlett, the schools don’t want them reported because it makes the schools look bad.

    Yes, these are often very difficult crimes to investigate and prosecute. That’s all the more reason why they need to be reported promptly and the police need to have the resources to do their job.

  118. DD,
    Some schools don’t really want to be responsible for investigating and resolving these cases either. There is a lot of political pressure to find alleged assailants “responsible,” but, as noted in the WaPo article, young men who regard themselves as innocent are increasingly likely to lawyer up and sue. Our GC, at least, would much rather kick these cases to the local police departments, especially when athletes are involved, and let the chips fall where they may.

    The real issue IMO is not police resources or campus politics but the appalling degree to which college students put themselves at physical and legal risk after binge drinking sessions. So long as they are engaging in high-risk behavior, these cases will unfortunately continue.

  119. Denver Dad, yes, I am.
    Based on descriptions from the girls on my soccer team (I knew I was having sex with the first 4 guys at that party, but I was too drunk to consent with the 5th guy), there are indeed some cases where determining whether rape occurred is akin to deciding who is at fault in a divorce.

    And not all cases of “abuse” alleged in divorce when fault had to be determined by law met the legal standard of abuse either.

  120. If you’re blackout drunk, which is what you’re describing when you say “I was too drunk to consent with the 5th guy”, then you’re too drunk to consent and the men shouldn’t be having sex with you. Unless you think the men all ravening beasts with no moral or cognitive abilities.

    You may think it’s distasteful. That’s your right. But being too drunk to consent means there was no consent.

  121. Being too drunk to consent usually means being too drunk to remember critical details of the circumstances of the alleged assault, such as the name and description of the alleged assailant and the time and place of the alleged assault. The man is generally also intoxicated in these situations, limiting his ability to judge the extent of the consent and further complicating the “he said/she said” dynamic.

  122. And if I have sex with 1) George Clooney 2) Peter Capaldi 3) Tom Conti (circa 1975) 4) Timothy Omundsen* in sequence in one night, it doesn’t follow that I want to have sex with Donald Trump. Drunk or not.

    *Did you watch Galavant? OMG, Timothy Omundsen was to die for. I lurve him.

  123. I think the disagreement may relate to class issues and police resources (police in my town were overworked dealing with incest, sex with kids 12 and under, etc.) and weren’t too focused on 18 year old guys failing to determine that 17 year old girls were capable of consent after 6 beers but not after 7 beers.

    I don’t think either men or women should behave promiscuously, but I think sex with kids under 14 (especially when incest is involved), sex trafficking and rape cases reported in a timeframe where prosecution is a potential should be the police priorities.

  124. I think the disagreement may relate to class issues and police resources (police in my town were overworked dealing with incest, sex with kids 12 and under, etc.) and weren’t too focused on 18 year old guys failing to determine that 17 year old girls were capable of consent after 6 beers but not after 7 beers.

    Cite? That happens 700 times a day where you are? There are only two cops in the entire state of Oregon? Golly.

  125. Public schools here are closed tomorrow. We have ice patches here and there that haven’t melted. My snowflakes have a delayed opening. Their school doesn’t like to cancel because their campuses are ice free. Temperatures in the 20s forecasted tomorrow.
    Now, don’t y’all in the North and West giggle at this, it is like the Antarctic to us, we are freezing.

  126. Based on descriptions from the girls on my soccer team (I knew I was having sex with the first 4 guys at that party, but I was too drunk to consent with the 5th guy), there are indeed some cases where determining whether rape occurred is akin to deciding who is at fault in a divorce.

    You are completely missing the point of no-fault divorce laws. The point is that very often, there isn’t anyone at fault in a divorce, sometimes marriages just don’t work out. But before no-fault divorce laws, these couples (such as my parents) would have to make up a story that one partner cheated or otherwise wronged the other in order to get a divorce. The problem wasn’t that it was difficult to determine who was at fault, it was that someone had to be determined to be at fault in the first place.

    I think the disagreement may relate to class issues and police resources (police in my town were overworked dealing with incest, sex with kids 12 and under, etc.) and weren’t too focused on 18 year old guys failing to determine that 17 year old girls were capable of consent after 6 beers but not after 7 beers.

    Then the police should be given the resources they need so they can fully investigate all alleged crimes. I’d think if you were a victim, you would prefer that the police take your allegation seriously rather than blow you off because you had a couple of beers.

  127. Scarlett, the accused men should be lawyering up and suing in cases where they haven’t received due process, which unfortunately, seems to be much too frequently.

    Rocky, the problem is often the man is too drunk to recognize that the woman is too drunk to consent, so when she gives her drunken consent, he accepts it.

    Again, I think we agree that a lot of these cases are very messy and it’s often very difficult, if impossible, to determine exactly what happened and if it was rape or not. That’s why these should be reported to the police they can do a thorough investigation. They shouldn’t be handled by the schools as discipline issues.

  128. WCE doesn’t drink, and if she did drink, she would never allege rape.

  129. I think I agree with Denver Dad, even though I didn’t realize it.

    RMS, if you go to the August 14 and 18, 1990 issues of the Des Moines Register and search on Lester, you can see the citations. My reference was to my high school soccer team, the last time I interacted regularly with people whose annual sexual partner count numbered in the dozens.

  130. They shouldn’t be handled by the schools as discipline issues.

    Right. It’s bizarre that it is. They wouldn’t handle armed robbery that way. Turn it over to the real cops.

  131. RMS, one of the victims was my study partner for our 9th grade social studies test on the 50 states and she was also my folder partner in choir. I asked her even though she was tone deaf. I thought it would be hard to keep your chin up when your father’s trial for incest was underway.

    On the list of things that shaped me, watching her go through that might make the top 10 list.

  132. And my grandmother was raped repeatedly by my grandfather, but she was still “at fault” for “leaving” him when she didn’t follow him.

    Everyone’s got a story.

  133. RMS, excellent point at 6:29.

    WCE, why aren’t you arguing that the police should be adequately funded and well enough trained to do all of their job well? Have you never spoken with anyone whose life changed for the worse because of an assault? Last time we hashed this out, Milo and I had a long exchange in which I described that the prof who had told me about the PhD program I was in and wrote a letter of rec for me decided at a conference that we should get drunk and screw. I did not get that drunk, said no, and thank goodness he accepted “no” as no. But it still screwed me up for a couple years. Complete imposter syndrome because I thought the only reason I was in that program was because of a twitch in his pants, until my advisor snapped at me “we would have wanted you even without that letter”. If the assumption/request could make such a mess of me, imagine if I had accepted a few more drinks, or if he had overpowered me. There is absolutely serious reason for sexual assaults between adults to be prosecuted. I wasn’t on the party circuit in college, but wr all know that what i experienced that one time is not rare in the least. That does not make it acceptable. Given what you’ve told us about yourself on here, I don’t understand how you shrug your shoulders at it.

  134. I think I agree with Denver Dad, even though I didn’t realize it.

    I didn’t realize it either :)

  135. Louise, if they’re giggling at your city, they’d guffaw at mine. It’s in the 40s. Cold shelters have opened up for the night. I just dropped off a box of cold-weather clothes my bean sprout has grown out of in the past year

  136. S&M, tell me what property tax rates would have to be in my town, where the median price of a house is currently $75,000 and the median income $42k in order to fund the schools, hospitals, social services, police and juvenile services at an adequate level and calculate how much people would have left for food, transportation, and utilities.

    That would be a good start to the funding discussion.

  137. Everyone’s got a story.

    RMS, I don’t know why that struck me like it did, but that statement is so true. Literally everyone I am close to has a story.

  138. WCE, that depends on how much fed support there is for such things, which depends on how high military spending (by far the biggest expense in our national budget) is.

  139. The actual temp is in the single digits this morning. It hasn’t been above freezing all weekend, but it was nice to mostly stay home and relax. There was just enough snow for some sledding, and when I shoveled the driveway, the residual layer immediately re-froze, so it was almost counterproductive. I’ve had a North Face coat for, well, jeez, I think since college, but it doesn’t have that thick inner liner. Last winter, for skiing, I bought a Gerry coat that’s one of those three-in-one coats, where the liner can be removed and serve as its own jacket (and that alone is pretty warm). Zipped all together, shell and liner, this is by far the warmest coat I’ve ever had.

    It’s this one, except in gray:

  140. I’m really glad you posted about the Gerry because the zipper on my husband’s north face is driving him nuts. He doesn’t like LL Bean for the same reason, so I’m going to tell him to check out the Gerry.

    My car said six degrees, but the girls with Snapchat in the car said it was ten.
    It’s ugly and I hate January.

    I was happy about the Crown, but bummed for Felicity and The Americans. A few of my local friends just finished the Americans. They loved it, and one mentioned that she was happy that she found something to watch with her husband.

    I’m going to check out the Amazon show that won an award for Billy Bob Thornton last night at Globes.

  141. Lauren – It’s got to be synthetic. I think it’s from Dick’s, and when I Googled it for a picture, that’s the retailer that came up. It’s probably a house brand for them. (DW bought it for me when we were getting ready to go skiing and my NF coat was temporarily lost).

  142. A few people were driving with packed snow on their cars that was flying off causing a hazard to other drivers. (no implements to get the frozen snow off or hadn’t warmed the car to let the snow slide off)

  143. It’s supposed to be 60 here today. We had the bitter cold and 8 inches of snow in the middle of last week. The kids were ticked that they missed out on a snow day because they were still on break. I took DS to an empty parking lot the other day and had him skid around in the car so he could get used to that feeling.

  144. Milo, thanks for info.

    Louise, I tried to watch Mozart, and I just couldn’t get into it.

  145. A few people were driving with packed snow on their cars that was flying off causing a hazard to other drivers. (no implements to get the frozen snow off or hadn’t warmed the car to let the snow slide off)

    I hate that. It’s better for your car to start driving right away rather than have it idle to warm up, but if nothing else, you can use your hands and arms to brush off the bulk of the snow.

  146. “I took DS to an empty parking lot the other day and had him skid around in the car so he could get used to that feeling.”

    Did you disable the electronic traction/stability control?

  147. Did you disable the electronic traction/stability control?

    No, he’s not going to be driving without it. We still got into some nice skids.

  148. “A few people were driving with packed snow on their cars that was flying off causing a hazard to other drivers.”

    It’s not only a hazard to other drivers — the snow can slide off the roof in a single clump or fly from the hood and bury the stupid driver’s windshield. At that point, I suppose, it also becomes a hazard to other drivers. I used to point out those cars on the road and tell the boys “Don’t do that.”

  149. Jackets/coats in the Gerry brand show up at Costco too. I think that might be the brand of the packable down jacket the I bought for DS, but I’m not sure. There were multiple models for kids this year. I was going to suggest to Louise that the 3-in-1 type parka/coat is a good idea for her climate because you can use the top layer as a raincoat and the inside layer as a jacket for when it is “normal cold” for the area.

    It’s warming up here – it’s a balmy 22! I had to take my hat & gloves off on my walk to work because I got too hot.

    I agree with just about everything DD said in the discussion from yesterday afternoon about sexual assault.

  150. It’s the law here (and I think CT, NJ) that people have to brush the snow off their cars before driving, but that’s frequently ignored.

    Feeling pretty good about the weather here. Sunny & bright Saturday, around 20, so I got all the Christmas decorations down from the outside. I actually wore sandals all day, including a run to the butcher and grocery. Yesterday was snowy and 20 but we only got 2-3 inches. Today is supposed to be mid 20s, no snow then later in the week we get the warm weather DD experienced.

  151. Sandals, Fred? Even while you took down the outside decorations? You take the cake! lol. Did you also wear cargo shorts? *smirk* When I lived in Texas the transplants from up north would wear light jackets or shirt sleeves while we natives would pile on the down coats whenever the thermometer got below 50.

    Wait. Aren’t you from CA?

  152. The ice on the top of the cars is selfish. It is a law in NY, but frequently ignored.
    If you can’t reach the top of your car to clean it, don’t buy it.

    My neighbor drove out today in a sedan, and his entire rear window was covered in snow. He had two days! Just turn it on and warm it up. People are so lazy.

  153. Today was the only day that I didn’t see a boy in shorts at school drop off. I did see a couple of walkers in sweatshirts with no jackets or gloves.

    The girls are all bundled up in Uggs and warm jackets.

  154. “Today was the only day that I didn’t see a boy in shorts at school drop off.”

    We had to go to a birthday party on Saturday when it was 4 degrees out. DS threw an absolute fit when we made him put on long pants. “But it won’t be cold insiiiiiiiiiide.” Boys are ridiculous.

  155. Kids just don’t feel the cold like adults. When I was a kid my mother would be yelling at me to put my jacket on all the time when I was outside and I wasn’t cold at all. It will be 30 and snowing her and half the kids will still be wearing shorts or skirts with bare legs.

  156. This crowd will appreciate this. SIL’s stepson has struggled through school for a variety of reasons. He is a senior with a 2.6 GPA. He has applied to a bunch of schools that he has no chance of getting into. He is now claiming that he was accepted at Alabama (a mere 3 weeks after applying, no less). Of course he won’t show his father or SIL the email.

  157. DD, I believe Bama has rolling admissions. On CC, a bunch of parents reported that their kids applied early, not EA/ED etc, but just very early in the admissions cycle, e.g., beginning of October, and getting acceptance notifications within a few weeks.

    If he’s OOS and paying full fare, his story is quite conceivable.

  158. “It’s supposed to be 60 here today. ”

    It’s recently been getting that cold around here too.

  159. If he’s OOS and paying full fare, his story is quite conceivable.

    Except he is refusing to show anyone the actual acceptance email.

  160. DD, I feel for that kid who, for whatever reason, doesn’t want to tell his own parents the truth about admissions!

    Finn, our high today was 64; when we left for the bus, it was 41. DS hadn’t checked the weather, so had shorts on. He did go back for a sweatshirt jacket. I’ve been enjoying these temps!

    When I was growing up, I remember going out on the porch (cement, with a roof so no ice or snow) barefoot to get firewood. My first winter in Berlin (@ 30), I froze, but that’s because I didn’t have money for food (was literally dumpster diving) and I didn’t know how to dress.

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