Office Holiday Parties

by Honolulu Mother

NYMag ran some advice for shy people attending office parties:

Advice for Shy People Forced to Attend Holiday Parties

Since I’m in the government sector, my office just doesn’t do the kind of party described there, but for those of you who do attend dressy evening office parties, do you think the article offers good advice? What tips would you add?

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163 thoughts on “Office Holiday Parties

  1. My office party is always in the same venue (stuffy, old Boston WASP environment) and it is LOUD. I have trouble when things get too loud – I hold my ears at bus and subway squeaks, etc. – so for the past few years I have worn earplugs, which really helps. You can still hear people talking but the background roar is much less. (Note – I couldn’t do this when my hair was short!)

    I find office parties easier than networking events – at the latter I don’t always know people, but at the office party I know everyone except some of the spouses.

  2. Oh man. The holiday parties in my current industry are a bit different. They are drunken HR nightmares that are over the top in every possible way – food, booze, bands, nightclubs, go-go dancers, professionally produced shows/movies for the “leadership message” portion of the program. Dates/significant others not welcome. I am getting way too old to enjoy that kind of thing, so I went to the show part of the party, nursed a few drinks politely, and then snuck out early.

    https://digiday.com/marketing/agency-holiday-party-dos-donts-horror-stories/

    I did do the fancy evening holiday party with a date thing in other jobs, and those were nice. I mean, it’s still a work function, but it’s the more tolerable kind since at least there is usually good food, booze, and entertainment. I also did the lunch potluck/white elephant gift exchange parties, which were okay too. I love the holidays in general, so these sorts of things are a nice break.

  3. My prior workplaces had evening holiday parties in large event spaces with lots of food, DJ but limited alcohol. The companies tried to be as careful as possible of liability. The worse thing was that any behavior was closely watched by colleagues. So, one young woman who got drunk and a manager dancing wildly had those things gossiped about.
    For several years now, I have attended holiday lunches – in smaller groups vs. a large company gathering. Pretty low key compared to the evening events.

  4. My company does fun family things for our holiday parties. Two years ago it was at the Children’s Museum, last year it was at the History Colorado Museum, and this year it was at the Zoo Lights. However, last year they only had light hors d’oeuvres, at a party that started at 5:30. We had to stop for food on the way home because we were starving. This year they said that’s all the were having but you could buy food around the zoo. We didn’t go because I didn’t see the point in it. The way my company is set up, we never see our coworkers, so the main point of these events is the chance to actually meet in person the people I work with, and everyone would be wandering around the zoo so we wouldn’t see anyone.

    I had a previous job where they did the big fancy parties. I went a couple of times but didn’t see the point in making small talk with coworkers and their spouses for several hours so we stopped going.

  5. My work party was last Monday. Yes, Monday night. Food, drinks, some people dance, most of us put in an appearance for an hour or two then head out. The younger crowd may go out afterwards but again it was on a Monday. There’s usually some kind of roving entertainment – fortune teller, stilt walker, magician, something.

  6. I’m in lower Manhattan today and I was thinking about a very fun holiday party that I attended in the WTC. In the good old days, the bank would pay and it was usually a night of fun with coworkers. Everyone would show up and you could see people in person that worked in other office locations.

    I only worked for one bank that hosted parties on a Sat night with dates. All of the other parties were easy to dress for because it was after work.

    Things have changed in financial services and fewer parties are large, drunk etc. There seem to be smaller team lunches or dinners in restaurants. Cuts down and cost and hopefully less drinking that might lead to other problems.

    I don’t think I ever attended a holiday party where I didn’t know at least a few people. I still go to a couple of holiday parties that are hosted by law firms. It’s fun because I get to see people that I worked with many years ago.

  7. “I still go to a couple of holiday parties that are hosted by law firms.”

    I’m going to a preview of the new Star Wars movie with my kids, hosted by a law firm. The law firm books several theatres and has fancy snacks and goodies. The kids are excited!

  8. Kerri – that sounds amazing! I wish my firm would do that! ;) The food was bad enough this year that I think next year the younger partners are going to stage a coup and book the party somewhere else.

  9. The article missed the most obvious response, likely because it is not something a newspaper can recommend in print: a drink. One, not multiples (for longer parties, up to two). I head straight for the bar, followed by the snack table, as soon as I get to an unfamiliar event. The little hit of alcohol helps take the self-consciousness away — and the snacks help prevent the “little hit” from turning into a “big wallop.” :-)

    We have a big DC party each year at an “event” place. I decided to blow it off this year — just not in the mood to do chatting, especially since we just had the retreat a couple of months ago. I will, however, go to the Balt. office party, which is always held at a nice restaurant with delicious food (although this one is getting big, too, compared to when I moved back to town c.13 years ago).

  10. Wow, Kerri! That sounds like so much fun.

    I don’t think I’ve run in to many people who were shy about attending holiday parties. It’s been more that they think the parties are a PITA or boring or just another off-hours work obligation that cuts into personal time, especially during this busy time. OTOH, other people love these parties as a chance to drink, eat, and have a merry time.

  11. “The little hit of alcohol helps take the self-consciousness away ”

    I agree, at least for some people.

  12. Have been to a range of things, mine or SO’s. In the government sector, they are more low-key, typically potluck – managers bring the meat/main dish, worker bees bring sides/desserts – with maybe a white elephant exchange. Generally, held during the day, which excludes family and need to worry about dress code. Also, tend to be by department reducing the “crowd” to 30 or less vs. the entire organization.

    One place I worked it was on a Saturday night and family was invited. Another place I worked had a informal happy hour (in to the wee hours) on a Friday night at a local club. It was not fun if you didn’t know people already as you didn’t know which people were from your organization and which ones weren’t.

    My current employer treats it as a holiday “team building” so it is a half day during the day, a lot of groups do the 10-2 timeframe and have lunch, but one group does an 8-12 and does breakfast and then some activity. My group is small, so our boss picks up lunch and then we have an activity – typically shopping. I have tried suggesting other things, but we are stuck in a rut. As I am the only real non-shopper in the group, this isn’t unusual.

    Have gone to SO’s parties, one employer’s were very stressful as you could tell upper management was judging if you were going to be an asset to the company when the employee was taking clients out or if you were expected to host small events in your home. Appropriate behavior was to have a drink that didn’t need ice and nurse it for a long time! Other SO employers were more low key – dinner/dancing at a large venue where everyone sat by department anyway to an event geared towards families with kids and Santa Clause visited and handed out small gifts.

    What I wonder about more and more is the discomfort of employees who are of a culture and/or religion that do not celebrate a holiday at this time of year. It doesn’t seem as though many employers attempted to make those employees feel comfortable or even recognize they exist. As a family, we have tried to teach our children to not assume that EVERY ONE celebrates Christmas and that Hanukkah and Kwanzaa are not just different versions of Christmas (as one well-meaning, but ignorant adult tried to tell my DD’s at an early age).

  13. I only ever worked at one place that did a true evening Christmas party – the software company – and I only ever went once. Even though the developers and QAs were the bulk of the employees, they mainly did not go. The party was really for a weird mix of managers, secretaries, the mailroom staff, and the guys who set up the computers. The party involved bad banquet food, and really loud dance music. I didn’t have to rehearse any conversations because no one could hear me!

    The healthcare IT place was too cheap to have any kind of holiday party.

    In grad school, and at the first university where I worked, the Xmas party was a potluck thing in the afternoon. At my current school, we will have an hour long gathering in a lounge with university cookies and pastries, and the dean will bring her collection of Italian espresso makers (she is from Italy, so really into coffee).

    My husband avoids the blowout parties at his employer, but the software group is going to Sur La Table tonight for a cooking class/appetizer party. I think it is supposed to be one of those teambuilding parties. It definitely beats paintball, which we were subjected to once when I was at the software company.

  14. “Things have changed in financial services and fewer parties are large, drunk etc. There seem to be smaller team lunches or dinners in restaurants. Cuts down and cost and hopefully less drinking that might lead to other problems.”

    This is exactly what has happened at my husband’s company.

  15. As for alcohol taking the edge off – I would never ever drink at any employer event. That is just too dangerous.

  16. DH’s office party is generally lovely. Usually at a nice restaurant, on a Friday or Saturday, but no band, no dancing, just a couple hours of socializing with open bar and heavy hors d’oeuvres. Spouses/dates are always invited, which is nice because that’s how you really get to know people as real people , not just workers. I enjoy seeing his co-workers and their families.

  17. Kerri, I bet it will be a lot of fun. We went to something similar when Happy Feet was released. I think DD got a bunch of swag too.

  18. Austin – All the parties are styled as “holiday” or “year end” parties so as to avoid any religious or cultural issues.

    Lauren – last year the kids got bobble head star wars figurines and candy. Yep, good swag.

    BITD when DH worked for a private company, his real estate development clients hosted a holiday dinner. Spouses were invited and wow, did the drinks and crazy amounts of unbelievably yummy food flow. That was the craziest, best holiday party I’ve ever attended. Real estate developers really know how to have a good time!

  19. When we lived in LA, DW’s last employer there took over the huge ballroom of the Century Plaza Hotel for a blowout Saturday night formal-dress party with spouses/so’s. Big door prizes for the lucky, great food, drink, parting gifts for all.

    Her office party is this week, in the office. Since she works out of our home (5hr drive away) she’ll be skipping it but it’s catered simple food, work-folks only.

    My employer has a spouse-invited cocktail party starting about 5pm one evening for the senior managers hosted by the CEO. I think actually it was last Tuesday, so I was unable to make it. Most everyone has a drink or two, there are nice hors d’oeuvres.

    Separately, our small group of 6 will go out for a meal, last year it was breakfast. We all get along well, so it’s just a relaxed work meal. This year they’re waiting for me to get back, so it’ll probably be in early January.

  20. “My group is small, so our boss picks up lunch and then we have an activity – typically shopping. I have tried suggesting other things, but we are stuck in a rut.”

    Is s/he buying? :-)

    Reminds me of the time my law firm tried to be au courant and give us technology-based cash, i.e., they’d reimburse us for up to $150 on any tech stuff that would allow us to work at home better. So, (a), they pissed everyone off to start with, because most people didn’t appreciate a gift that said “you should be working more, even when you’re not here.” And (b), there was nothing we could get for $150 — I ended up paying $300 for a modem (yes, Stone Ages). And then (c), turns out we also had to pay taxes on the $150. So basically, a @$100 net value gift cost me $200. And of course (d) technology changed so quickly at that point that I don’t think I even used the modem for more than a year or two.

  21. One of my employers once decided to forgo the December holiday party and have a Winter Fest or whatever they called it. It was a terrible idea. They threw out several excuses like not everyone celebrates in December, too expensive, lots of people are off….
    January had terrible weather, people were just not in the mood and work was busy, so an evening in January even at a nice restaurant wasn’t the same as a festive December gathering.

  22. I used to hate my office Christmas parties, and I hate DH’s office Christmas parties. I skipped the one on Saturday, and it was just as well, because DH stayed until about 11:00 pm talking to various people. It’s marginally better now that I’ve known all the other spouses (oh get real — they’re all wives) of the partners for 20 years. Also now the associates and their spouses have to suck up to me instead of me being the associate’s wife having to suck up to the partners and families. But I still don’t like it.

  23. At my old office, the Christmas party was always a lunch at a restaurant. We were all sternly ordered to go back to the office after lunch, and we all went home instead. Some days I wonder how our executive director lived with himself. Always issuing blustery orders and always totally ignored.

    Oh, and we were allowed one glass of wine each. It was always terrible wine. And there was an ENDLESS yankee gift swap. Oh god, I’m getting hives just remembering it all.

  24. Ivy, I just read your article . . . wow. Very different culture. Office parties in my world have no financial support from the employer so the budget is based on $10 or $15 for person, covering either prizes (lunch purchased separately) or prizes AND in-office lunch, depending on the planners. There’s really no opportunity for career-endangering misbehavior.

  25. Mooshi – LOL – I would never survive work events without drinking! Being pregnant at them was the WORST. ;)

  26. RMS – please be nice to the female associates. Meeting the (almost always male) partner’s spouse (really, wife) was always incredibly awkward when I was an associate. A gracious partner’s wife who didn’t (a) want to gab with me for hours or (b) sneer derisively at me was always a welcome change.

  27. I always hate them. If I wanted to see more of a coworker outside of work, I would make that happen. I do not want to know their spouses. I have always hated that they took up valuable social real estate on a Friday or Saturday night during the holidays when I’d rather be with friends. If you want to do something for employees – give them cash or just close the office early the day before the holiday or give everyone a half day they can use any time during the year – making me hang out more with my coworkers and or their spouses is the LAST thing I ever wanted.

  28. May I briefly hijack? I really need a Christmas gift idea for DH. Had been planning to get him the apple watch but I now think he wouldn’t like that (based on a comment he made). Is there something super cool out there I’m missing?

    Past hit gifts have been Bose noise canceling headphones, basketball tickets, hiking paraphernalia, and quick trips somewhere. He enjoys fishing but we are giving my dad a day trip of deep sea fishing for his gift, and DH will accompany him for that, so that sort of covers the fishing.

    He really is tough to buy for.

  29. RMS – please be nice to the female associates. Meeting the (almost always male) partner’s spouse (really, wife) was always incredibly awkward when I was an associate. A gracious partner’s wife who didn’t (a) want to gab with me for hours or (b) sneer derisively at me was always a welcome change.

    I am always nice to the associates. In all areas of my life, I kick up and kiss down. I really don’t know how I managed to get as far as I have in life, given that I’m always screaming at my bosses and cutting everyone else too much slack.

  30. Lark – No great ideas, but I am in the same boat with DH. I’m getting him a jacket (he just ordered it himself last night) and tickets to a Broadway show – a treat for both of us – and clothes. Everyone is getting a lot of clothes this year. It feels a bit lame.

  31. Yes – lame is the right description for where I am so far. I ordered him wireless earbuds instead of the apple watch, but that’s all I really have.

    One thing I found for my boys that others might like is glow in the dark basketballs. Amazon. And they are also getting some new playstation thing, several books that I know they’ll love, t-shirts I know they’ll like (they love t-shirts, for some reason), and then a few fun stocking stuffers. They are well taken care of. It’s DH I’m struggling with, and it’s unlike me to leave it this long. I really thought the watch was the winner. Urg.

  32. Lark, I have been sleeping next to this man for 20 years and I have no idea what to get him. Am considering a sexual favor coupon book or a book of coupons that he can redeem when he wants me to stop talking about that thing I’ve talked about 800 times before (“yes I know how you feel about people who don’t return carts in the parking lot) – that’s how bad things are. I did get him a new travel mug tho!

  33. Lame: One year the kids got DH Christmas lights because he was always complaining about how few we had.

    Really, DH just is impossible to shop for! I’m fortunate in that he really doesn’t care about gifts.

  34. I never liked office parties. But my small group in grad school always had a lab party – those were fun. But we were friends outside of the lab, so that was nice. My current group went out for lunch at the beginning of the month. That’s all. We are lame. :)

    DH is getting stocking stuffers again – but we always do this. We just fill a stocking for each other for under $50. I have a small stuffed dragon he wanted as a new mascot (probably for his desk at work), and I’m sure I”ll find boxers or something else (not that I’ve been shopping). I suck at buying him presents. I’ve known him for almost 19 years and I cannot think of one thing that would make him go “you are awesome”. Except maybe for Hamilton tickets and I don’t think that is happening any time soon.

  35. Places I like looking for unique, useful boy gifts:

    -duluth trading company (lots of manly handy gifts)
    -uncommon gifts
    -the grommet

    My dad and brother were ecstatic (really) about a good cargo net and some tie downs I gave them a few years ago. External power supplies for phones are useful.

    Also, I’d really like this, but I am going to wait till the knockoff that costs 90% less comes out:
    https://lyric-speaker.com/en/index.html . I saw it in real life and loved it.

  36. DH is excited about plasma lighters this year – an electric lighter that gets charged, doesn’t use fuel (uses an arc to light things.). Attraction not clear to me.

  37. DH is getting some nice leather dress gloves and whatever he orders for himself for his Shopsmith.

  38. For this manly man, there are a lot of things I’d like at places like Home Depot and Lowe’s.

  39. @HM – DH is in local government and his holiday parties are the same as yours. Our holiday party was absolutely shocking to me the first year I was here.

    @Lark – Sonos?

  40. “a book of coupons that he can redeem when he wants me to stop talking about that thing I’ve talked about 800 times before (“yes I know how you feel about people who don’t return carts in the parking lot)”

    HA! Oh, this is a good one.

  41. The Sonos are a good idea but another year’s gift was the Bose equivalent – we have speakers all over our house!

  42. Guy here – and I am impossible to buy for. I really don’t want more STUFF. My in-laws sent me a BIG check. Just for me. Last year they sent me half of what they sent me this year and I bought a new laptop and an new (really nice) watch. This year, maybe some new patio furniture? Trying to stay away from just using the money for stuff we normally would/should fund from household management (e.g. new roof) or just putting in savings. Yeah, there is “artwork” but I’m not that into it. Some I’ll set aside for a trip I’m planning with DS1 about a year from now. I don’t drink enough wine to say that now we’ll move from $15/bottle to $25/bottle where it’d make a difference.

  43. Hi, Jack– DW pulled the trigger yesterday and put down a deposit on a new Prius Prime, the plug-in version of the Prius.

    There’s no factory options for this model; the only choices at that level are color and trim level, although she just picked the one she liked best of what’s on the next ship.

    The options available are the dealer options, e.g., floor mats, extended warranty. Any advice on these?

    My suggestion was she not choose any of them other than, possibly, the window tint. I can’t see paying $120 for a set of floor mats when we can get a similar set for $20 at Costco.

    The tinting is actually subbed out to a local company, so I think she’s going to see how much they charge if we go directly to them.

  44. Kerri – doing great, thanks for asking. This morning my PT therapist gave me a bunch of new exercises to add to my routine and we went thru all of them while she was here, so I’m feeling kinda beat up right now. But I am noticing improvement every day. I have to re learn walking since I was favoring my bad hip for so long and that’s mentally taxing also.

  45. My in-laws sent me a BIG check.

    As Ron White says, “If you get the chance to marry a rich girl, do it.”

  46. DW pulled the trigger yesterday and put down a deposit on a new Prius Prime, the plug-in version of the Prius.

    You have a PV system, right? It’s so cool you’ll be driving at least partially with your own juice.

    As for the extended warranty, how much is it?

  47. Is there something super cool out there I’m missing?. Do you already have an Amazon Echo or Hue lights?

  48. Lark, or someone else – could you explain the Sonos/Bose systems to me? My DH wants a new shelf stereo system for Christmas because our current one is dying. This is a system that can play CDs and also has a port for his iPod classic, where much of our music colllection resides. The problem is, he wants the exact same thing again, and I sort of feel like it is old technology that no longer meets our needs.. For example, I would like to be streaming Christmas music from Amazon through the Roku, but since the stereo system is separate from the TV, which has the Roku, we can’t do that. So I don’t really want to spend $250 on a system that is for CDs and an iPod that hasn’t been manufactured in 10 years.

    The problem is, I can’t seem to get a grip on what is out there, probably because I don’t have time to research it fully. I see a lot of Bluetooth speakers, but they are tiny, and seem to be oriented to working with your phone or echo or something. Also, photos always show just one of them – how do you get stereo sound? They just seem so, so, non-audiophile. Another option would be to get one of those bar shaped speakers for our TV, and stream music through that, and also another shelf system for the CDs and iPod. Is there anyway to easily combine all of it? And have good sound? And wtf IS a Sonos anyway and why do they cost so much???

  49. We have a keeping up with technology post coming up! In the meantime I’m going to research Hue lights. Right now all my holiday twinkle lights and candles that are on timers just went on and my house is glowing without me lifting a finger. I could get used to this.

    We don’t exchange Christmas gifts so that’s something I don’t have to worry about. Except for one kid who gives me an extensive, detailed list so she makes it easy.

  50. But where do the Sonos speakers get the music? Are they only for streaming from services? If I want to play a CD, what do I hook them to? Not getting this.

  51. I would like to be streaming Christmas music from Amazon through the Roku.

    Does it have to involve the Roku? I’m asking in case one of the kids doesn’t have a phone yet and you’d like them to be able to use it.

  52. MM – sorry. Anon was me.

    I usually stream from Sirius or my downloaded songs. Or Spotify. You can hook up a CD player (at least through one type), but I have never done that. I think that you connect the CD player to the speaker and hen just play it.

  53. I really don’t want to have to stream from a phone. The Roku is easy to use and ties to Amazon. Also, my husband usually controls the music playing and he can’t install apps on his phone due to company policy.

  54. Birdie – you don’t need an amplifier or anything? And if it is just a speaker, where does it get the music if it isn’t attached to a CD player or Roku? Does it use Bluetooth? If it is just a speaker, can’t I just buy a cheaper one? What makes Sonos special?

  55. You can stream Amazon music to play on Sonos or Bose using your smartphone or Echo Dot. I’m interested in Sonos but my H already has another system he likes.

  56. MM, remember you can always get whatever system-with-CD-player you think your husband would be happy with and then also get an Echo Dot and plug it into the Aux input via minijack cable (the now-standard headphone type connector). Then you can leave it on that by default and do the voice control, streaming of playlists or other online stuff, by talking to the Dot, and when you want to play a CD, just change the source from Aux to CD.

    Meme has mentioned that the Sonos speakers now come with Alexa built in so you can do the talk-to-them-and-stream thing directly without having to buy a Dot to be the voice / cloud interface. But I’m not sure to what extent the Sonos systems work for CDs — someone else can probably enlighten you on that one.

  57. Most of our music is on CDs, or locked up in iTunes which all of us hate interacting with, plus iTunes doesn’t work with the Roku. We don’t use Spotify or anything similar because we like to choose exactly what to listen to rather than have a service choose. We aren’t radio listeners either.

  58. July, we don’t own an Echo Dot and I thought they had poor sound quality. I don’t want to tie up a phone streaming music. None of these solutions sounds like they would have good sound. Do the BOSE systems work the same way?

  59. It is wireless and uses your wifi. I have no idea what makes it special. My husband was the driver of our system. I think he liked it because it has great sound and you can move the speakers around easily. You probably can buy something cheaper. I think you have to use the App, so maybe it isn’t a good choice for you. I find it really easy to use and like it a lot.

  60. I have manually switched some of my iTunes music to Amazon. By manually I mean I had to recreate my playlists in Amazon. I hate iTunes.

  61. And stupid question – if I have two, are they stereo? Can I get a nice room filling sound with them? You can tell I am clueless with this stuff

  62. If what your husband really wants is something like this, in other words, plug the old ipod in via the USB connection, add in $30 for a Dot (currently on sale probably through Xmas) to plug into the Aux (or use Bluetooth), and you’ve got your voice control and your cloud streaming functionality added to the CD player / ipod access that you don’t want to lose.
    https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00N9QQVR8/

  63. You don’t want to use the Echo Dot’s own speaker for playing music. That’s why you plug it into your receiver or connect via Bluetooth.

  64. “then also get an Echo Dot and plug it into the Aux input via minijack cable (the now-standard headphone type connector). ”
    Does this affect the sound quality? And can I interact with a Dot without talking to it? Do they have a remote? I really, really, really do not want to have to talk to my stereo system!!

  65. “we don’t own an Echo Dot and I thought they had poor sound quality”

    I know very little about all this stuff, but I thought the sound quality depended on the speakers not on the Echo Dot.

  66. You shouldn’t need anything else except your music. What do you mean by stereo? We have a bunch throughout our house, but in each room, we only have one except for the ones that go with the tvs, in which case we have subwoofers, too.

  67. “And can I interact with a Dot without talking to it? ”

    I control some of the actions through the app. I can select a station or a playlist to play through the app.

  68. @MM – I listen to FM radio all day, so I empathize a little bit. We have an old school (90’s early 00’s) stereo system that is set to FM radio 99% of the time. The sound quality is great. I have no idea what to replace it with, and I don’t care how old it makes me – I LIKE my local FM radio station.

    Outside and when traveling, we stream to a mini bluetooth speaker from our phones (usually iTunes or SiriusXM)

  69. MM, the sound quality via a minijack connection is fine. You can use the ones with the gold plated heads if you want, though I don’t know how much difference it really makes.

  70. With the Dot you can control it with your voice, or if you prefer you can do as July mentioned and control it via the Alexa app on a phone or tablet.

  71. I listen to my favorite local stations using Echo and mini-speakers. I use iHeart radio but I thought other vendors also had local stations available.

  72. I don’t care how old it makes me – I LIKE my local FM radio station

    If you ask Alexa to play your local radio stations she will. (You May have to enable the iHeart Radio skill first.)

  73. “What do you mean by stereo? ”
    Generally, to get good stereo sound, you need separation between the two speakers, and a stereo signal so that the speakers are getting different stuff. Anything that drives headphones is emitting a stereo signal, but I don’ understand what happens when there is just one speaker.

    July – the sound quality has a lot to do with the signal format. CDs were the best quality. Mp3 is not as good because the sound get compressed. I can’t really tell with headphones or through the car speakers, but I can definitely tell when played through our current system

  74. Fred glad to hear you are up and about! Hang in there, I can only imagine how difficult it all is!

  75. “Generally, to get good stereo sound, you need separation between the two speakers, and a stereo signal so that the speakers are getting different stuff. ”

    Back in the stone ages, a lot of recordings were made with two microphones, on on each side of the performers, and the signal recorded from the left mic became your left channel audio that was reproduced by your left speaker, and what was recorded from your right mic came out of your right speaker. So, e.g., if the piano was on the left side of stage, it would be louder from the left speaker than the right.

    This gave depth the the sound reproduction.

    Movie sound systems took this to another level, so e.g. when something zoomed across the screen from left to right, the sound from that something would also move from left to right.

    Next I will explain:

    -Why we cc people on email.
    -Broken records.
    -Dialing a phone.
    -Hanging up a phone.

    I’ve already recently explained ‘ice box.’

  76. Mooshi, we have sonos – they are all in different rooms. You can play different things in different rooms. Hubby loves it. Ours are old and it has been wonky so I’ve been using the Big Blue Party that i got for my husband from target several years ago that just uses bluetooth.

  77. Mooshi, I empathize. I’m pretty ignorant of the new audio tech, and still think in terms of my old stereo system.

    Caveat for the following is that I’m not sure of any of it.

    I believe the echo is sort of like a preamp, with an output that you can run to an amp/speaker system. DW just bought one, so I’l try to play with it over the holidays. IIRC, it’s like an Echo without a speaker, but with an audio output.

    I also believe the term, “speaker,” these days often refers to units that includes both speaker and amplifier.

  78. “It doesn’t come with standard floormats?”

    I believe it does, but the option is for upgraded floor mats.

  79. I got all of these, although bcc does not make sense:
    – Why we cc people on email.
    -Broken records.
    -Dialing a phone.
    -Hanging up a phone

    You just need one speaker.

  80. Asking here because this isn’t really political. But is a bit if hijack. From nyt: The same logic applies to any other expense that you can currently itemize: The deductions are likely to be worth more to most people this year than in the future. If you can afford to pay some of your mortgage or student loan bills early, including interest — or pay for big, anticipated medical expenses — you will probably get a bigger benefit if you do it this year. The downside to these strategies: “You have to write a check,” said Steven Rosenthal, a senior fellow at the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center. “That’s always true in life — you have to have money to make money.”

    Can I prepay interest? Aren’t I all caught up? What does that look like?

  81. “You have a PV system, right? It’s so cool you’ll be driving at least partially with your own juice.”

    Yes, we have a PV system. But it’s not putting out much more than we use; over the last year or so, we’ve put about one months’ consumption, net, onto the grid. Our use has been fluctuating a lot; I attribute that to DD’s use of the AC in the one room we have with the split AC.

    It costs quite a bit more to run the car in all electric mode than on gas if we have to pay for electricity, so we didn’t want an all-electric vehicle.

    We’re thinking that when DD flies the nest, the PV system will provide more than half the energy to drive the car.

    “As for the extended warranty, how much is it?”

    $2k to extend to 7 years/100k miles. I think there was also a $1.8k option to extend to 7 years/60k miles, which is still more than our history suggests we would drive.

    My current car is just over 7 years old and has needed no work beyond regular maintenance (~44k miles). I’m pretty sure we didn’t spend more than about $500 on work beyond regular maintenance on DW’s current car in its first 7 years.

  82. “You just need one speaker.”

    This suggests mono sound, not stereo. I’m guessing it’s L+R.

  83. I guess it can do either. From their website q/a: hat is one of the unique features of Sonos, each Play unit can be used as a single standalone speaker playing both stereo channels, or they can be paired, with the L/R each playing one channel.

  84. “Can I prepay interest?”

    Yes, I’ve done that many times in the past. E.g., if you have a mortgage payment due in January 2018, make the payment in December 2017 and you can deduct the interest in TY2017.

    Similarly, if your property taxes are due in Feb 2018, you can prepay them in 2017 and deduct them on your 2017 taxes.

    Medical expenses may be different. I am not sure, but I believe that the year you can deduct those is based on when the services were rendered, not when you paid the bill.

    If you have a kid about to get braces, you might want to get into the orthodontist’s office this month and prepay for the entire course; you can probably get a discount for prepaying on top of having the entire amount deductible for 2017.

    Keep in mind that medical expenses currently are subject to a floor based on income (I believe AGI).

  85. “hat is one of the unique features of Sonos, each Play unit can be used as a single standalone speaker playing both stereo channels, or they can be paired, with the L/R each playing one channel.”

    That’s not unique. Pretty much any speaker system can do that; it just depends on what signal you send to it.

  86. Now I am glad that DH got a few Google Homes and I can cast Spotify (which actually has most of our albums on it) to our speakers in different rooms. I think the speakers are Cambridge SoundWorks (previous owner installed) so pretty good quality.

  87. “bcc does not make sense.”

    Back in the stone ages, bcc meant the secretary (as admin assistants were called back then) added an extra sheet of carbon and paper to create an extra copy, which was then given to the bcc recipient, whose name was not listed on the memo.

  88. MM,

    I think it depends on how much of an audiophile you are. 80%, if not more, of people are going to think one Sonos or Bose speaker sounds fine.

  89. “80%, if not more, of people are going to think one Sonos or Bose speaker sounds fine.”

    Kinda like how people are satisfied with the video they get on their handheld devices, which makes me wonder the point of, say, a 70″ 4K display.

    I once was able to distinguish audible differences between different speaker wires.

  90. Our local assessor is saying they will not accept prepaid property taxes. You can only pay it next spring when it’s due. So you might want to check.
    But if you pay estimated state taxes, pay your fourth quarter in December.

  91. MM, indeed, the sound from one speaker playing both channels is not the same as the sound from two separated speakers each playing a separate channel. I prefer the latter. But clearly there are plenty of people who are happy with a single decent-quality speaker.

  92. Kinda like how people are satisfied with the video they get on their handheld devices, which makes me wonder the point of, say, a 70″ 4K display

    It would depend how far you are from the screen I presume.

  93. Mooshi, why the hell are you still using iTunes and an iPod? Just copy the songs onto your phone already. Or play them on your pc with one of the 5,000 media player apps that are available.

  94. DD, IIRC Mooshi has one of the iPods with a huge capacity, e.g., 160GB, more than most (any?) phone could hold.

  95. Yes, my phone doesn’t have the capacity. We have an entire large musical collection sitting on that thing (and on the computer and on the backup, and so on). Also, my phone is always filled with photos. It is mainly a texting, email reading (but not writing because I hate typing on it) and snapshot device for me.

    Don’t people have huge music collections any more? We used to be so into our record collections. My parents had hundreds of albums, and at one point, my DH had about 1000. NOw we pile up the music on the computer. I never was much of a radio listener, and I don’t like those algorithm based streaming systems like Pandora – they always get my taste wrong.

  96. Don’t people have huge music collections any more?

    Most people never did, and now with all the streaming radio / playlist options they have still less reason to. Now according to Amazon I have 91,176 songs in my cloud library, so I can reasonably say that I have a huge music collection, but I don’t think my music acquisition habits are a good guide to what is normal.

  97. One of my retirement projects is to go through my vinyl collection and convert stuff to mp3. There are some favorite albums that, TMK, aren’t available from Amazon or iTunes.

    I think DS would enjoy a lot of that stuff.

  98. Yes, my phone doesn’t have the capacity

    You should pay your kids to export your iTunes music to Cloud Player or the Amazon version. Then you could instantly access terabytes of songs from any of your devices.

  99. MM,

    The answer to all your problems is Apple
    Music streaming for android. You can listen to any song they have available for streaming as well as any song you have in iTunes. So if ripped a cassette of The Clash into MP3 and loded it into iTunes 10 years ago you can listen to it on your android phone.

  100. “One of my retirement projects is to go through my vinyl collection and convert stuff to mp3. ”
    Finn, you know all the millennials are buying up vinyl versions of what they had in their mp3 collections, right? Turntables are hot right now. And for good reason. When we converted our vinyl to mp3, it was just sad. You can really hear the difference. Maybe we should join the millennials and go back to vinyl. Unfortunately my DH lost his huge collection in a flood when a hurricane hit back around 1999.

  101. I never thought of myself as a true audiophile, but a single little speaker churning out mp3s from a phone probably would not do it for me. I can really hear the difference between a CD played through good speakers, placed correctly in the room, and what my daughter plays off her Nano through a little bluetooth speaker in her room.

  102. I just would rather use my phone as a phone, and have a real stereo system. I am back to thinking that the best idea would be to hook our TV to the speakers and use the Roku. It would make movie viewing on the TV better too.

  103. MM,

    You would add the Apple Streaming app to your Sonos speaker and then you could play any of your iTunes songs or any of your Cloud Music songs from that. My point is there is no reason to worry about the iPod or device storage capacity anymore. You can have any song playing on any device you want.

  104. ” have a real stereo system.”

    Those seem hard to find these days. What is more common is “a real sound system” that can be integrated into an AV system. It’s been awhile since I was in that space, but stuff like Dolby 5.1 had kinda swallowed up old-fashioned stereo systems.

  105. Mooshi, I have no desire to go back to vinyl; I would rather go back to CDs.

    I can still remember the many drawbacks of vinyl, including how records would deteriorate with playing. I used to buy albums, then copy them to cassettes and play the cassettes to minimize this, as well as the wear on my styli, which were pretty expensive (IIRC, I used to pay around $60, 30 to 40 years ago, for a new stylus).

    I found CD sound quality to be better than vinyl, even direct to disc albums, without the deterioration and level of care required.

    The main advantage of vinyl was larger areas for cover art.

    Unfortunately, some of my favorite albums on vinyl apparently never were released on CD, or at least I haven’t been able to find them. These are the ones I’d rip to mp3.

  106. Rhett, I do not want to listen to music on my phone. That is just sad.

    You didn’t think I meant play it with the speaker on your phone did you? Play it on your phone means via Bluetooth or WiFi to a speaker.

    As for the phone being a phone, it’s now (for most people) the primary way you interact with and control technology. If you want to tell Amazon’s server farm to send a song to the speakers in your kitchen you use your phone.

  107. I just would rather use my phone as a phone, and have a real stereo system.

    Get a surround sound set up. You can use your iPod, pc or phone as an input device. You can also listen to CDs. And you have great sound when watching t.v. and movies.

  108. And I really doubt you’re just using your phone as a phone currently. You probably use it to email, surf the web, use the calendar, whatever other apps you have.

  109. Mooshi, do mp3s ripped from vinyl really sound that bad?

    I just found one of my favorite albums that I have on vinyl, but never saw on CD or as mp3s, on ebay for $30 for the CD.

  110. My sound system, that’s integrated into our AV system, came with a dock that allowed old iPod touches and DW’s iPhone 4 to serve as signal sources.

  111. Just FYI, you can tell Spotify what to play. It doesn’t have to choose for you. Tell it to play “Striking It Rich” by Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks and it will.

  112. If mp3s are too lossy for you, rip your stuff to FLAC. This isn’t rocket surgery.

  113. Rhett, that article (The Western Elite from a Chinese Perspective) is hilarious! Highly entertaining. Thanks for posting that.

  114. RMS, I’m not familiar with Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks, but I remember Dwight Hicks and His Hot Licks.

    I’m guessing Fred does too.

  115. I once was able to distinguish audible differences between different speaker wires.
    …..
    Mooshi, do mp3s ripped from vinyl really sound that bad?

    Finn, if your ear is really good enough to differentiate between speaker wires, then I’m sure you will think mp3s from vinyl will sound like crap.

    I have about 40 CDs in my car.

    Why? Rip them and put them on your phone.

  116. I haven’t read all of the stuff already posted about Sonos, but a close family member is employed there so I have a full set in the house. It sets up its own wifi network based on your household wifi. I don’t know what that means. Mooshi et al probably do. We subscribe to Classical Archives, a huge streaming service, for 79 a year. We can play the included Amazon Prime Music through it, and could also play from Amazon cloud if we did that. Pandora, spotify, etc. MLB radio (subscription), local radio stations. Sirius. Alexa is hooked up to control most of these I say, Alexa play Judy collins on Kitchen (you have to name your speakers), and it shuffles the Amazon Prime Judy collins selections. I say, play Pandora station The Stanley Brothers in the Office (one of mine, I luvvvv Bluegrass), and it does so. So far I have to use the phone app to access our stored music or some of the services, but the offerings increase every month. There are plenty of other music sources available, and each month Apple stuff gets easier to use with Sonos, but I am not up on the details. Google talk is coming after the new Year.

    Our speakers are One midsized in the kitchen, one midsized in the office, full media with TV bar, bass and two surround speakers for the big TV in the basement, one high end single speaker in the living room and we will be getting the alexa Sonos one as an Xmas gift. We will probably change them around to two midsize in the living room, the big one in the office, the new alexa one in the kitchen. And we also have two echo dots which will be in the office and the bedroom to link into the system so that we can use voice to control the Sonos speakers in multiple rooms and also the Fire TV (only used in the bedroom) and use as an intercom.

    The new Sonos One has Alexa built in and is a very good small speaker. It would go well in the kitchen or a bedroom or office. Buy a whole set!!!! We ripped all our CDs in uncompressed format to a Microjukebox from Small Green computer that is accessed by our Sonos system, but you could use an old computer with your files on it in compressed format for the whole family, and each person would have access to everything on his own personal speaker in his room if you went that way.

    Sonos is a speaker company, and makes good ones. Bose and Cambridge Soundworks and others make good speakers too, but Sonos is completely wireless and is at the forefront of integrating directly, controlled by its own app, with many music sources, and in partnering with all of the other players who are willing (looking at you, apple)

  117. “Why? Rip them and put them on your phone.”

    I don’t have a good way to get them from the phone, or any other device, into my audio system. The aux input stopped working.

  118. I admire Totebag posters who have so much of music knowledge. I don’t. DH has picked up a lot on his own but he too has no formal training.

  119. This music conversation is entertaining. I did not know that Echo Dot music played through speakers is lower quality than smartphone music played through speakers. Is that really true? My H refuses to believe that wireless music sounds as good as cabled music, so that’s why he ruled out Sonos.

    The last time I was at the car dealer service there was a little old lady (actually only a few years older than me) who had brought in her new car because her CDs were sticking and not ejecting smoothly. The auto technician spent some time patiently explaining that it was only the library CDs with the extra label on them that were sticking. She was adamant that it was a problem with all her CDs. She refused to consider another source for listening in her car. Maybe some books and music from her library are only available on CDs.

  120. I miss having CDs in the big car. When #3 was about 2 she stuck the Frozen CD in on top of another CD and it’s been broken since then. We asked the dealer about fixing it and it was $900 *just to take it in* and probably $1800 to fix it but they couldn’t guarantee that it would be fixed at all! Sigh.

  121. My team party is Friday evening at a restaurant. Most of my immediate team is in another state, so I’ll only know a few people. I’m glad it’s at a restaurant because there will be less mingling required. There is also a gift swap. I am going and bringing DH, but of the three friends that sit near me when I go in, only one is going. I feel like I should make the effort.

    DH has always worked in oil and gas, and until about two years ago they had elaborate parties. They are always in a hotel ballroom, with open bar, sit down dinner, dancing, ten various dessert stations set up around the room. They get employees discounted room rates and encourage people not to drive home. They typically had raffle drawings every hour, and prizes were gift certificates ranging from $100-$1000. When they had the aggressive downsizing two years ago, they dropped the party and now do nothing.

    DD has to go to her first adult-job party at the home of the company founder, and I can see she has some anxiety about it. Opinions: 23 yr old new hire going to top boss’s house (small company) – does she need to bring a bottle of wine or a token gift?

  122. I’d like to hijack for a minute. I have some unplanned medical expenses and home repair expenses all at once. I hate parting with any of my investments. I am considering doing a 401k loan, which will be at 5.25% payable to my 401k account. For some reason, this appeals to me more than using a credit card. Is this a bad idea? I’m only talking about $12K-ish.

  123. My H refuses to believe that wireless music sounds as good as cabled music, so that’s why he ruled out Sonos.

    They are digital signals it’s all just a stream on 01001010001111001 not matters what these days. I think your husband may be thinking of analog wireless from 20 years ago where it used an analog radio signal that was all static and didn’t work very well. That’s totally different.

  124. My husband did the cooking class Xmas party/teambuilding exercise last night. He described it as “Cooking for 6 year olds”. He thought it was pretty lame but the CTO brought good wine.

  125. I have some unplanned medical expenses

    Have you checked what the terms are on the medical expenses? Many hospitals are happy that you’re paying anything so they offer automatic 0% financing.

  126. Anon – Just put it on your credit card. Bonus points if you find a separate card before the billing cycle is due that will give you a year or so of 0% intro APR on balance transfers.

    USAA offered me that on a card that I hadn’t used in years (since before getting married), but I had never closed. I figured it was stupid to be paying my brother 3% for our boat loan when USAA was offering 0%, so I took it.

    One point of caution – this particular card only had an $11,000 max (I was a college student when I opened it). I initially put more than half of the max on it with a “convenience check” that I wrote to myself. This dropped my credit score temporarily.

  127. “I hate parting with any of my investments.”

    But a 401k loan causes funds to be taken out of your investments. If you don’t already have one, you can get a Chase Sapphire Preferred or similar credit card that will reward you 50,000 reward points is you charge a certain amount ($4000 I think) within 3 months. That’s worth a few hundred dollars. Plus they waive their annual fee the first year. Other cards probably offer similar deals. Maybe charge the expenses first and then consider paying them off with the 401k loan.

  128. Charge the expenses, and, if necessary, depending on your budget, repay those balances by reducing your 401(k) withholdings (but not reducing them below any employer match).

    Also, since it’s medical, is there any option for pre-tax payment with an FSA or HSA? If, like Rhett said, you can get the medical providers to give you a payment plan, that would be beneficial because you could pay them with next year’s FSA/HSA money, if necessary.

    Where we are, doctors and dentists and orthodontists are always offering payment plans by default. We’re in an area with a lot of single-earner families and a SAHP. Nobody assumes that any normal family can pay $3,000 for orthodontic treatment all at once.

  129. Anon – I used 401k loans occasionally when I had to make the biannual tuition payments, or when I had to buy a new car before the insurance settlement came in. The main reason it is not a terrible idea right now is that the market is very high. If you take money out now the market may retrench by the time you put the cash back in and you get a benefit. I always paid it back as soon as possible over a time frame of less than a year (my employer’s plan did not allow for prepayment, that is you had to pay the entire interest due even if you paid off early) but it is money you are paying yourself. I am assuming that the home repair guys only take cash/checks or that your credit card position is such that you don’t want to put 12K on it. Unexpected cash needs is why many of us keep money in cash or easily accessed cash equivalents, not all in investments whose sale will generate significant tax liability, but life intervenes sometimes.

  130. We asked the dealer about fixing it and it was $900 *just to take it in* and probably $1800 to fix it but they couldn’t guarantee that it would be fixed at all! Sigh.

    Try taking it to a private service place. They are usually cheaper than dealers.

  131. I did not know that Echo Dot music played through speakers is lower quality than smartphone music played through speakers. Is that really true?

    No.

  132. “We asked the dealer about fixing it and it was $900 *just to take it in* and probably $1800 to fix it but they couldn’t guarantee that it would be fixed at all! Sigh.”

    Ditto on DD’s suggestion. My guess is that for well under $900 you could have a new CD player/receiver installed.

  133. My Buick Century has a CD player, music input jack and and slot for a music card, because the original CD/cassette player was ruined by the twins putting coins in the CD player as toddlers. I concur with Finn that the cost should be less than $900 installed. My stereo was ~$200 with free installation by Mr WCE and I did not choose the cheapest stereo.

    For cash needs, our credit union has a no-fee HELOC with a ~4% interest rate, no minimum duration. I looked into this as an option for our remodel and we’ll need to discuss it. (I prefer not to sell stock for short-term cash needs but awaiting/dreading final remodel bill discussion with Mr WCE.)

    I concur with others about asking for 0% financing for medical expenses.

    In lieu of a holiday party, I received this handy light up multi tool as contract company swag.
    http://www.lightgod.com/product/688-scwlvl/Light-Up-MultiTool-Screwdriver-set-Level.aspx

    Finn is undoubtedly jealous.

  134. I have no idea if my car has a CD slot. I don’t think I’ve listened to a CD in 5 years or more. Probably more. All of our music is on our phones.

    I definitely don’t care about quality as much as you guys. A song played via apple music app through my Bose speaker sounds just fine to me. I don’t need anything more.

  135. “23 yr old new hire going to top boss’s house (small company) – does she need to bring a bottle of wine or a token gift?”

    If unsure, I think it’s safer to bring something small than nothing at all. Since it’s at the boss’ house, how about a small ornament for the boss’ tree?

  136. Given the areas I’ve lived in, I would take a flower arrangement rather than a bottle of wine- I don’t assume people drink.

  137. Given the areas I’ve lived in, I would take a flower arrangement rather than a bottle of wine- I don’t assume people drink.

    Agree. I think flowers are underrated as presents.

  138. “I think flowers are underrated as presents.”

    Yeah, that’s a great idea. I don’t like giving stuff, because it’s hard to know what stuff someone would really value enough to keep, so I think consumables make good gifts in these situations. Flowers fall into that category, and can be enjoyed by everyone, no matter how many people are at the party.

  139. “vinyl vs CD in terms of sound quality.”

    Vinyl is a pure analog technology, with all the pluses and minuses associated with that.

    IMO, vinyl can only approach or exceed CD sound quality if the playback equipment is very good, and the weakest part of that largely determines the sound quality. This would include the turntable, stylus, cartridge, cables, and pre-amp (once you get to the amp and speakers, everything is analog).

    IMO and IME, unless you’re willing to spend (or have already spent) a fair amount on playback equipment, and to properly care for your vinyl collection, and perhaps buy multiple copies of records you will play frequently, CDs are the way to go. IMO and IME again, CDs will give you the best sound on modest or cheap playback equipment.

    I believe audio CDs can also be copied bit for bit, which can be used to protect your collection.

  140. Apropos of nothing, this is really such a sweet holiday song for kids:

    Santa Will Find You, by Mindy Smith.

  141. “if your ear is really good enough to differentiate between speaker wires, then I’m sure you will think mp3s from vinyl will sound like crap.”
    “Everyone, though, agrees that mp3 is inferior.”

    I was thinking about this on my way home last night.

    Mp3 compression algorithms are lossy, so that explains why mp3 is inferior. How inferior will depend on how much compression was used in the ripping process.

    For creating mp3 files from vinyl, the quality will depend not just on the mp3 compression, but also on the components used to create the analog signal that will be converted to a digital file– the turntable, stylus, cartridge, cables, and preamp.

    Most turntables I’ve seen to create mp3 files from vinyl are in the $100 range, less than the cost of a good cartridge, so my guess is that is a big reason many people think mp3 files created from vinyl do not sound good.

    So perhaps an early order of business once I retire is to look for a good system for such conversions. Or maybe just look for CD versions of all the albums I want to listen to.

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