Open thread

We have an open thread all day today.

As usual, if you have no interest in this topic just ignore and discuss whatever else is on your mind.

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132 thoughts on “Open thread

  1. I can’t get past the paywall to read the story. We had parent-teacher conferences last week. Our first grader tests at a fifth grade reading level. His teacher said she thinks he is more at a third grade reading level and is scoring higher because he is really good at taking tests. She said she sat with him and watched him reason out what answers were wrong in order to figure out what was right rather than knowing what the right answer is. I think taking tests is a skill that has overstated importance in school. I tested well and did well at school but there are lots of other things I’m not very good at. I’m not sure how much test taking skills translates to real life success.

  2. TCM – but being able to ferret out the red herring is an important skill. Stops you from believing everything people do/say/post on the internet. The buzzword/jargon would be “critical thinking ability.”

  3. Myth: Tests Are Not Related to Success in the Real World

    Clearly there are many factors, beyond what is measured by tests, that have an impact on long-term success in work and life. But fundamental skills in reading and math matter, and it has been demonstrated, across tens of thousands of studies, that they are related, ultimately, to job performance.

    2004 meta-analysis published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology looked at results from a test that was designed for admissions assessment but was also marketed as a tool for making hiring decisions. Though originally intended as a measure of “book smarts,” it also correlated with successful outcomes at both school and work.

    Longitudinal research has demonstrated that major life accomplishments, such as publishing a novel or patenting technology, are also associated with test scores, even after taking into account educational opportunities. There is even a sizable body of evidencethat these skills are related to effective leadership and creative achievements at work. Being able to read texts and make sense of them and having strong quantitative reasoning are crucial in the modern information economy.

    BUT, as was pointed out in the comments, the authors “have received research funding from the College Board, which administers the SAT.”

  4. Test taking is important as a first level metric, kind of like being tall to play basketball or being compact to compete in gymnastics. Oregon uses the same standardized test, Smarter Balance, in grades 3-11 and has set a particular numerical score that represents “college and career ready” for 11th graders. When I looked up that score on either the math or verbal scale (I forget which) for 3rd graders, it translated to a 67th percentile third grader.

    So by Oregon state testing standards, many (less than 1/3, because some kids don’t meet the required score on both math and verbal tests) third graders are already “college and career ready” by Oregon public school standards. For those kids, the metric isn’t very important. They have already hit the “academic skill” threshold needed for life competence and something else (interpersonal skill, specialized academic skill, work ethic, family obligations) will probably limit their life trajectory.

    Where the test taking metric IS important is for the ~10% of students who struggle to achieve the cutoff Smarter Balance math/verbal scores as 11th graders.

  5. Nice Milo! We just bought our season passes for a local ski hill. It was $749 for a family of four. We just have to go 4 times to breakeven (which isn’t a problem). Unfortunately they don’t have tie in to any resorts out West, so we’ll have to pay full price when we do our big trip.

  6. July – I love the extra hour of daylight at the end of the day, too. I wish we would just stay on DST all year, instead of going back an hour for the months of November through February. I have often thought to myself that I could get behind almost any politician who promised me (1) DST all year, and (2) burying the power lines (a topic that’s on my mind as we’re gearing up for our third nor’easter in two weeks).

  7. Re. standardized tests, sadly, my kids don’t seem to score all that high. They do OK, but not great. I’m pretty sure there will be no NMSF kids in our household. :(

  8. burying the power lines

    When I drive through my urban/suburban area, neatly landscaped with trees, the view is blighted by the power lines. Worse, our roads are sloping and winding, so go too fast and you end up crashing into a power pole with the front of your car smashed in. Numerous accidents like that, every day.

  9. Hijack – DD#1 was accepted to her first choice school and we will be attending the accepted student event in April (plane tickets, car and hotel booked) before she makes her final choice between school #1 and school #2. School #1 provided all the merit aid at time of acceptance on 3/10, but school #2 still has a bit of time to do so. Not sure about her stress level, but mine sure dropped!

    OT – DD#1 is a natural standardized test taker, plus the tips and tricks for AP classes has helped her hone that skill a bit more. BITD, people only took the SAT/ACT once and at least in my neck of the woods there was no prep or similar tests we took as proxies. I think it was seen more as a checkbox for going to college than a critical criteria. DD#2 generally does well, but not as well as DD#1. However, give DD#2 a practical problem, especially if it is hands on, and she can solve it.

    DD#1 reports that alumni from her high school report they were well prepared to handle the college course load and style of grading, where tests make up more of the grade. I think this type of test taking is different from standardized test taking, but some of the strategies still apply.

    For example, a friend of DD#1 goes to a different school where she struggled in a dual credit course because (1) homework didn’t count as a grade, (2) tests were on more than what was covered in class (meaning if it was in the book but not discussed in class it was still fair game on the test), and (3) no extra credit was offered to help bring up low test grades. Plus this friend scored just over the “college ready” threshold on the SAT. When DD#1 heard this she was shocked as #2 and #3 are true at her school and #1 is sort of true as each year (9-12) they phase out the percent homework counts as a grade. For example, this year in AP Chemistry, she homework = 10%, labs 20% and tests 70%. Compared to a class designed for sophomores where 25% is homework, 25% is labs and 50% is tests.

  10. Buried power lines should be required! My city is about 50-50. Even our neighborhood has some of both. Also, it keeps squirrels out of the transformer box, which in my neighborhood as a kid seems to knock out our power monthly.

  11. AustinMom,
    Congrats to your DD. Is your DD 1st choice school the one with a goat as a mascot?

  12. Trying again.

    The key conclusion in the IEEE power line study is on slide 15.
    Cost: benefit ratio is 0.3 for the area studied, meaning costs of burying power lines exceed benefits by more than 3:1 according to the metrics in the study.

  13. An observation. My kids were used to having homework but not that used to studying for a test. When tests count for more of the grade, I don’t think they were as prepared as they should have been. OTOH, in the home country tests, quizzes and mid term exams were a fact of life starting in first grade. There was homework in Math but in all the other subjects, you were supposed to review and know the material, test yourself on the questions at the end of each chapter. Most of the grade was tests and exams, not homework.

  14. Rhett.
    Dunno, don’t have time to read it in detail. They did note that burying power lines makes sense in high density areas, which is the same conclusion we came up with the last time we discussed burying power lines.

    It’s really expensive to bury power lines, and the magnitude of that cost needs to be considered in the decision. Last time, we noted that Totebaggers can afford to have their power lines buried but for the population at large, the aesthetic considerations would not be the best use of public dollars. Totebaggers can afford to prioritize aesthetic considerations. Power grid decisions have many complicated costs and externalities. I’m not knowledgeable in that area but I am knowledgeable enough to believe that the trade-offs should be analyzed by specialists, with conclusions brought to a legislature for possible regulation.

  15. Sheep – Thanks! No, she has not heard back from that school yet. Her first choice is a little over 2 hours to the NW, and slightly bigger with fewer women (about 30%). Their hockey mascot is “puckman”.

  16. WCE – When people say that the “power lines should be buried,” I wonder at what level they mean. Obviously, we’re not going to be burying 500kV transmission lines. And of course it would include the lines directly into their house at 240V.

    But what’s the cut-off point in between?

    You’d be surprised at the number of people in our area — maybe they’re newcomers — who will say “Oh we don’t have to worry about power outages, our lines are buried.” Well, yeah. In your neighborhood. But when you leave your neighborhood, have you ever looked up?

  17. Personally, I care about the aesthetics of the above-ground power lines even more than the power outages. They are a visual abomination.

  18. Obviously, we’re not going to be burying 500kV transmission lines.

    Why do you say that?

  19. Rhett – It’s possible, but probably not economically feasible considering the distances that we transmit power in this country.

    Burying lines would be something that starts from the house upward. (not saying that correctly, but your house to your block to the main road to the substation, etc.)

  20. Milo, usually the high voltage lines are taller and more robust. They are almost never affected by falling trees or windstorms, the sorts of things that affect residential electricity delivery here.

    Our house is at the end of the power grid distribution so there is probably only one main line that feeds into our neighborhood grid. For key customers that can’t lose power, the grid is designed for redundancy, so different “arteries” from different parts of the grid can provide power in the event one “artery” is disrupted. (Hospitals are at the top of this list at no cost to the hospital; my employer historically paid a substantial cost to have access to multiple “arteries” as do industries like aluminum smelters.)

  21. Austin – congrats. I hope she gets into her #1 because, man, the hometown of Puckman is bleak. IMO.

  22. Fred – Puckman’s home town is the first choice. When we were there in August, we had time to look around the town and the tri-city area. Downtown is going through a revitalization. Though in part it is all about tasted as she did not like NYC.

  23. Rhett – It’s possible, but probably not economically feasible considering the distances that we transmit power in this country.

    We have a huge natural gas distribution network that’s mostly underground. A quick googling says we have 300k miles of interstate natural gas pipelines and 200k miles of high voltage transmission lines.

  24. On a disturbing note, my city has had 2 packages delivered (1 today) in the past two weeks that exploded on people’s front porches. Two people are dead and another seriously injured. Police are telling people to stay away from any package they aren’t expecting.

    Just shocked and saddened,

  25. Sorry for the misunderstanding. The school is great and, of course, most of the time she’ll be on campus.

  26. The package thing is terrifying!

    Yeh, it could be Amazon’s version of the Tylenol tampering.

  27. Jeez, Austin, that’s really creepy.

    (The packages, not the college acceptances, obv.)

  28. Rhett, aerial transmission of natural gas would not be cheaper.

    I just mean that it’s feasible and the technology exists and is well developed.

  29. Well it would remove cable cuts as one of the top causes of habitat fragmentation in forest ecology…

  30. That’s great AustinMom (the school news obviously).

    I remember HS and college being similar – math and science classes were heavily weighted on tests, humanities were heavily based on written assignments with some testing of facts where possible. Social sciences were a mix – tests in the introductory classes, with the upper level classes being more based on research, written papers, case studies, etc.

    DS seems to be a pretty good test taker. He’s always test well on standardized tests, but he also is pretty good at memorizing facts and applying concepts in slightly different situations. He seems to ace his spelling tests every week because he can memorize the words, but he is still an atrocious speller in general, so I don’t know what that says about his test-taking abilities vs. real abilities. I was too. I think it’s a good skill to have for school and some of the skills probably translate well to business applications as well – like handling stress and eliminating bad answers. I’m glad that he is good at standardized tests though because getting into a MS/HS program is 67% test and 33% grades. Bad for the outlier kids who are smart but bad at testing.

    I think that standardized tests probably do correlate with success because I don’t think that there are enough kids that are really book smart but bad at taking tests to throw off the averages.

  31. Austin, congrats to your DD!

    DH and I were both very good at standardized tests. So far #1 is only average (#2 and #3 haven’t been tested yet).

  32. I for one am not happy about 15 in of snow coming tonight and tomorrow. However, the power lines to our complex are buried (for 30 plus years new construction, street widening, and major renovations have required it). I did a google view of the lines on the main street coming up to us and they are very clear of tree branches and kept in good repair. I think that the town does a great job with the pruning. Most of the houses along that main street and on the side streets are older, so there are spindly wires going out to them, but when they go down it is one or two houses. We rarely have widespread power outages. The sight of power lines being blown down onto a major thoroughfare two towns over was surprising, to say the least.

    In other news, I have been fighting with FIOS for three months, because their telephone salesman re-upped me in Nov with a host of deals, I have the email, they acknowledge they have the email, and they refuse to honor it because it wasn’t an authorized package. I was supposed to get STARZ and HBO for 10 for 24 months. He showed it as 10 for STARZ and 0 for HBO. The bill charges me 10 and 15 and when I call up they open a ticket. Last month I got them to give me a 15 credit and it would be fixed. Credit went thru, but nothing else. So I gave up. I called up and cancelled STARZ/Encore which I almost never watch (not an Outlander fan) and will pay 15 for HBO. Now I know it isn’t much money, net $5 for what I actually use, but sometimes it is the principle of the thing. We do have Xfinity as an option, and I probably will switch over at some point. I like FIOS and have it bundled with Verizon wireless, which is by far the best carrier for my needs, but I have my limits.

  33. power lines – and trees – ugh. I just lost most of today because of power and cable lines that are not buried. We lost power a few times last week as a result of the two storms and transformer fires. We lost cable because two trees came down on a main road that hit Verizon, Optimum and Con Ed lines. Our road was blocked too. All three companies managed to restore everything by Friday, but our cable and internet wasn’t working. First appointment was today from 8=11. I got that appointment in Thursday night. The guy showed up at 1:15!!!!!!!!!!!! I couldn’t leave because I didn’t want to miss him. Canceled multiple meetings, a class and lots of other stuff. He just left and it is fixed.

    My immediate community actually has buried power and cable lines, but it all feeds out to a main road and that is all of the old fashioned stuff. They do a lot of tree trimming around here, but the wires that came down were hit by really old, and very large trees. These were trees that came from across the street and they weren’t dead. Just crazy winds and too much water in the ground.

  34. Austin,
    Puckman is a great school, but if you were to ask anyone at DD’s school they would tell you that it is a terrible school. Apparently there is an intense rivalry between the two schools.
    I wonder how many kids apply to both. DD only applied to the school where she is now but did look at Puckman and was put off by the huge gender imbalance.

  35. Sheep – DD#1 did apply to both. In Naviance, the two schools seem to come up together if you are looking at certain criteria.

    In other news, we had a 2nd exploding package today. This is not good at all!

  36. Austin, Congrats and a load off your mind. However, If she goes to #1, you may have to talk her through the first winter. The temps, and gray skies, and surroundings will be a shock despite a summer visit. I think Sheep Farmer mentioned that it has been an adjustment for her child at the rival. If #2 is in a warm climate and the money is good, she should definitely think carefully about her choice.

  37. I concur with Meme about the weather factor. It is very different visiting the Northeast in the summer vs. facing months of winter weather when school is in session.

  38. Although bad winter weather does remove the temptation to hang around on the campus lawn instead of studying.

  39. Scarlett – good point but speaking from our experience with DS1 weather is not necessarily a factor in how much studying/reading/productive stuff gets done.

  40. Since it’s an open thread and I find this story facilitating:

    After he died in 2015, the foundation paid out billions of dollars to his more than 30 children, about $340 million to each son and $200 million to each daughter.

    According to one relative and two associates of the Abdullah family, his children are allowed to withdraw $26,000 per week each from their accounts to cover their expenses.

    Interesting to note that at a 4% withdrawl rate $26k a week is 90% less than they were getting before.

  41. Austin, congrats to DD. I just spent most of the weekend with a grade of juniors from our high school, and all they talk about is college (and sports).

    Their siblings were all in the basement playing Fortnite. Is this a big thing with your kids? My DD isn’t playing, but it seems like ALL of her male classmates play and they love snow days because they can play Fortnite all day.

  42. “However, If she goes to #1, you may have to talk her through the first winter.”

    Both DDs wanted to go to college in a warmer place than we live. It limited their choices a bit.

  43. Austin, congrats to you and your DD!!

    Didn’t she win a scholarship to #1 when she was a junior?

    Given the proximity of #1 and #2, are you planning to visit both on the same trip?

  44. “Both DDs wanted to go to college in a warmer place than we live. It limited their choices a bit.”

    HM has listed the 4-year options here. I believe there are 5 on this island, and two on other islands.

  45. My DD isn’t playing, but it seems like ALL of her male classmates play and they love snow days because they can play Fortnite all day.

    Yup and talk to their friends and laugh loudly as they play. Their way of socializing.

  46. “I think taking tests is a skill that has overstated importance in school.”

    Perhaps, but in my field, the reasoning abilities your DS demonstrated are very useful.

    IMO, part of the utility of testing is in measuring test taking ability as a proxy for reasoning ability and capability of logical thought processes.

    And don’t forget the employers who will ask their prospective employees to provide their SAT scores.

  47. My guess is that the cost of putting utilities underground depends a lot on when that’s done relative to other construction in the area.

    E.g., when a new subdivision is being developed, if conduits are put into the roadbeds before paving, that cost would be much lower than replacing overhead transmission lines with underground lines in established neighborhoods, although those costs could probably be mitigated by moving sections of transmission line underground in conjunction with other major projects, e.g., replacement of underground water mains or gas lines.

  48. Both DDs wanted to go to college in a warmer place than we live. It limited their choices a bit.

    I should say so! How do they feel about Bahrain?

  49. I’m on my phone, so a bit abbreviated response.
    1. We visited both last summer. She has not heard from Puckman’s rival and it is her 3rd choice, so I don’t anticipate another visit.
    2. Blind leading the blind as I have never experienced a winter north of Dallas, Texas. I’ll be reaching out for advice if this is her final choice.
    3. What drew her to this school? Size, nerdiness (can explain when not on phone), ease of combining engineering and computer science, most live on campus. Being away from home is also a draw.

  50. Finn – choice 2 is in our state. Choice 3 is puckman’s rival. Yes she received the merit aid as a junior from puckman.

  51. I have to say I’m still amused by how people here are so reluctant to give the actual names of the colleges their kids apply to.

  52. DD – I’ll play. My guys applied to the following colleges, in the order they come to mind now. Location details as needed if there is >1 school with that name:
    UMass (Amherst)
    UConn
    Quinnipiac
    Seton Hall
    St. Joseph’s (in Philadelphia)
    Scranton
    Castleton State
    Siena
    Niagara
    Pitt
    Robert Morris
    Dayton
    Arizona St
    Ithaca
    Kent St
    La Salle
    Drexel
    Michigan St
    SUNY – Buffalo (the University, not Buffalo St.)
    Bowling Green St
    Colorado State

    Other schools that were seriously considered but ultimately not applied to: Fordham, St. John’s (Queens), Temple, (Mighty) Oregon, Marist, Xavier, probably 2-3 others.

    We let them choose and they had to have a reasonable explanation of why the school made the cut before we’d fork over the application fee. For a lot of them the fee was $0, so no harm in seeing what happened. For others, the fee was waived by the baseball program.

  53. Fred, that was among three kids, right? It still blows my mind how many schools kids apply to these days.

    What I find amusing about it is that people will provide more than enough info so everyone knows what the schools are (or can figure it out in 30 seconds with Google), they just won’t post the actual names.

  54. yeah three kids. One of them skewed the total because of his interest in baseball and coaches’ interest in him. I think DS3 only applied to 4 schools with serious intent plus one other because he got an invitation in the mail, kind of like the ‘pre-approved’ credit card offers we all get, where he basically just had to sign on the dotted line and have his grades sent in by his HS. He got accepted in about 10 days, so that took a lot of pressure off. But he never really seriously considered the school.

  55. “It still blows my mind how many schools kids apply to these days.”

    Given the list price of college these days, it makes sense to cast a wide net if for no reason other than to maximize the chances of a good financial aid offer.

  56. I’m happy to hear updates on college news. We should have a post mortem post in May on “what I learned about college applications”.

    The weather issue is not important for all kids. My oldest did not care at all. His two final choices ended up being in sunny Texas and frigid Chicago, and the climate did not influence him a bit.

    Living in a different area for a few years, where there will always be some things you hate and some things you love, can be a wonderful opportunity for a young person. Of course, it’s not ideal for everyone and sometimes sticking close to home makes more sense.

  57. “The weather issue is not important for all kids.”

    As my dad would say “Good grief, just put on a coat.” (Actually, he would say this to his mother when she would make her frequent declarations that she could never move back East because of the cold.)

    The current MMM post is interesting, and unusually self-reflective and self-deprecating of the author.

    https://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2018/03/09/money-and-confidence-are-interchangeable/

    Highlights:

    Since I was a kid, I’ve always had confidence issues. I was afraid to attend the birthday parties of other kids, if there were too many strangers around. I was afraid to try new foods or join any teams. It took me a long time to become outgoing enough to start meeting girls in high school.

    I compensated for these things by trying to be really good at everything, in an attempt to alleviate feelings of worry. Insisting on A+ grades even on the most pointless of assignments, just because I felt that “winning” was a safe defense against bullshit workloads.

    I engaged in slightly compulsive weight training and with some of my fellow status-seeking schoolmates until we were all well-dressed two hundred pound muscleheads, safe from the risk of bullying and gleefully (but needily) soaking up the status rewards of having more prestigious outer appearances. We would have all claimed it was for fun reasons or health reasons, but there was plenty of teenage insecurity driving up those barbell plates at 5:30am as well.

    Even as a young adult, my desire to build up a massive financial surplus was probably at least partly driven by a desire to protect myself from things that could go wrong – like unemployment or being stuck in a job that I no longer enjoyed.

    I’m not ashamed to admit all of this, because you need to see your opponent clearly in order to beat it. I went through this journey of insecurity and came out on top – in the safety of a well-designed life with lots of advantages. But since then, as I have spent the subsequent thirteen years learning more about that life, and meeting new people with entirely different successful lives, I have come to realize something I wish I could have known earlier:

    I had nothing to worry about in the first place.

    Every day, I get emails from people describing their plentiful savings and unpleasant jobs, and then a description of the golden handcuffs or fearful assumptions that keep them working in their jobs.

    They wonder when, if ever, they’ll be able to quit. When really, the problem is not the money, it’s the confidence. With confidence, they could quit right now.

    Confidence allows you to change your current life entirely and instantly, without the need to change anything – because you’re just rearranging the feelings in your mind.

    Imagine for a moment that you’re Jill CTO or Joe Attorney, locked into a prestigious firm and a two point six million dollar Washington DC dream townhouse. You’ve got an entire department reporting to you, your ex-spouse to manage, two kids in private schools, a standardized and rigorous vacation plan to address both sets of inlaws, and a comfortable, safe 2016 Lexus Hybrid SUV that you use several times per day because although you agree with Mr. Money Mustache that more people should be riding bikes, it just doesn’t work with your lifestyle right now.

    You’re a high achiever, no doubt about it. But what is all this achievement buying you in life happiness today? Are you selling off your current years of youth to The Firm, and putting off your happiness because in just another decade or so, once the kids are grown and things settle out, then you’ll give yourself permission to be happy?

    A Recipe For Badass Confidence
    I will always be able to get a job if I need one.
    •Billions of people are living far less expensive lives than mine, and yet many millions of these people are surely happier than me. What is their secret?
    •While I don’t control the entire world, I am in control of my response to everything I experience. And my response is the part that determines my happiness.
    •I am in control of my cost of living. Everything I do is a decision, and it’s made by me, not the world around me.
    •I can always learn new things. With proper dedication, I can gain any skill that I want or need. This means when I depend on other people, it’s just a positive choice we are both making. When others depend on me, they are acknowledging my strength and I will choose to pass some of it on to them.
    •My kids will be just fine. Just by giving them my love and support and being honest with them. They don’t need prestige and they don’t need the support of multimillionaire parents to prosper in life. Nobody does.
    •Exotic Travel (just like any other luxury) is not a necessity for a happy life. At a moment’s notice, I could choose to spend the rest of my life within driving distance of this spot, and still lead a completely blissful existence forever.
    •But on the other side of that same coin, I can always move. My current location is a mixture of chance and choice, but people move all the time and their lives are usually better for it.
    •I can always make friends. No matter where you drop me in the world, I could build up a loving support network of warm and caring relationships. Because people are the same everywhere – we all just want to be valued and given some warm attention.
    •I know that my real goal in life is happiness, and I will always have the right tools available to me to maximize my happiness. They’re everywhere, and they are free.
    •Millions of others have achieved this before me, with fewer advantages and in harder times. I have more than enough personal power to get this shit done, in spades.

  58. @Austin: congrats! DH was there the year they won the hockey national championship, which he talks about to this day. Let me know you want me to hook you up with him for more info (although he was there quite a few years ago).

    And yeah, definitely want the May download, as we will be there next fall! As of now, DD seems to be focusing on RPI, WPI, Franklin W. Olin, and of course Columbia, the dream school. Stevens also seems like a good fit, as does Cooper Union, assuming we can get her to look at them. A few CA schools are also possibilities (largely UCSB, based on pics DH sent home from a conference, and UCSD, given their strong focus on different versions of bio engineering). So a significant range of “match” to “reach” to “you’re dreaming.” She will also probably apply to Wake (close to my dad and his awesome new house) and UMBC (safety but with a great program/scholarship for women in engineering), and possibly one or two more real fliers (e.g. Harvey Mudd).

    The testing thing has been interesting for us (in the “is it a blessing or a curse?” sense). As y’all know, DD is NOT a natural test-taker. She hates ambiguity and abstract concepts, so the SAT in particular drove her nuts. I am feeling very relieved that the ACT clicked better with her – she has a good “resume” otherwise, but she needed the test scores that matched the rest of it to give her a realistic shot at some of the schools she really likes.

    There’s just so much pressure on the kids – they feel like the course of their life depends on making the “right” choice, and don’t realize that all of the options range from “just fine” to “awesome.” DD is currently feeling second-best because one of her friends, who is looking at similar schools, is being recruited by several schools for her softball prowess. DD doesn’t have the experience to realize that her friend is also under a ton of pressure because she really needs the scholarship and is going to have to choose whichever school gives her the best aid. I can already tell that my job for the next year will be to stress that they are all good choices, and that DD is going to have many opportunities no matter where she does or doesn’t get in – everything she is looking at is good enough to provide good job or grad school options as long as she does well. Of course, my efforts will probably be as effective with her as my mom’s efforts were with me. 😉

  59. Milo, that’s very zen of MMM. And I agree with a fair amount of it, but as usual, he doesn’t seem to be paying attention to old age and disability. But it’s an interesting essay.

  60. Yeah, I took some issue with the you can *ALWAYS* get a job. My grandfather worked part-time retail until he was 81, and my mom and grandmother were thrilled when the store went out of business, saving him from the otherwise-inevitable indignity of being fired, because we have no idea how he could have heard the customers. (His unassisted hearing was bad enough to keep him out of WWII 60 years earlier.)

  61. I will always be able to get a job if I need one.

    Age discrimination is real.

    I can always learn new things.

    I’ve been told repeatedly that above a certain age it become hard to impossible.

    I could choose to spend the rest of my life within driving distance of this spot, and still lead a completely blissful existence forever.

    You can’t delude yourself to bliss.

  62. I also agree with quite a bit of MMM’s recipe for confidence. It definitely comes across as being full of himself, but hey, that’s confidence! The always gets a job bothers me. We once had a neighbor that lived a bit like MMM, but without the millions squirreled away. He could always get a job, but couldn’t keep a job. He was master of finding work doing odds and ends for neighbors (mostly the retirees). The only problem was that he did a terrible job doing it. He’d shovel the driveway for $25, but wouldn’t do it until 2pm. He re-sodded a retiree’s front yard, but took all summer to do it, in the end laying down dead sod (because it sat rolled up for a few weeks), promising to fix it, but then winter came, and then next summer he was working on someone else’s project. The neighbors all gave him a break, “he is a nice guy, he needs the money, he works hard”, to justify their frustration and payments, but he did a terrible job.

  63. “I could choose to spend the rest of my life within driving distance of this spot, and still lead a completely blissful existence forever.

    You can’t delude yourself to bliss.”

    Oh, I totally could be completely blissful for the rest of my life with everything that’s within a three-hour drive. I’ve got the lakes, the Blue Ridge Mountains, the Bay, DC/Richmond/Baltimore, and a bunch of affluent small towns with incredible restaurants. Four hours gets me OK skiing and the ocean.

    Scaling down, I could be content with our immediate area, including access to books (Amazon, B&N, library), Comcast, and Netflix.

  64. Oh, I totally could be completely blissful for the rest of my life with everything that’s within a three-hour drive.

    In your case it would be – if I could never have a boat I could live in bliss forever.

  65. In MMM’s case it would be – if I lost it all I could be blissful having to work for the man for the rest of my life.

  66. And Tillerson’s out on his ass. I’m sure he’s thrilled to have given up being CEO of Exxon for this goat rodeo.

  67. To be fair, MMM really doesn’t have to worry much about old age and disability seeing as he is probably worth many many millions these days. And I absolutely believe that he would be fine hanging out in Colorado for decades. I think he’s more right than he is wrong.

    Age discrimination and health care are things that I worry about and try to plan to mitigate, but at some point, I am going to quit working for pay anyway even though there will always be some chance that the money will run out. He’s not wrong that people dumber and less lucky than me have survived much worse than I will ever face.

  68. Rhett – I seriously snorted at “goat rodeo”. Goal for today is to use that in conversation.

  69. I think MMM, like most people, has shown himself capable of self reflection and personal growth. When he was building up his brand and becoming a cult hero, he was in some ways playing a part – moving the fridge with a bike, for example – is no different from Bear Grylls thinking up new ways to put himself in artificial peril to make yet another show. Maybe it starts out as a personal challenge, but soon just becomes a shtick and a chore. A while ago he discovered that the diehard fans were ready to turn on him as he made money and eased up.

    The aspect of his guruship that he is trying to address in the excerpts Milo provided is that many in his audience don’t understand his underlying purpose and message. They focus on a different goal than his. His goal is freedom today, or as soon as possible. We on this board often felt like what he was describing as freedom was more work than a traditional job and less fun. That reflects our preferences. But clearly many are using his tips to live in a much more constrained manner today not to “retire” at 40, but to increase their retirement number. Most of us who think we need 5-10 mil to retire enjoy our jobs or are married to people who enjoy their jobs or both. We suspect that we won’t find enough to fill 35-45 years of retirement even if we have all the money we think we want or need.

  70. We have a friend an MMM type who is just like Lemon’s neighbor. None of the projects he took up in his own home are complete. One has to have discipline to be MMM.

  71. Agree with Meme.

    In practical terms, and as I’ve discussed with some friends at work, I think the greatest barrier is the significant and sliding cost of family health insurance. If you want to retire early and live on $35k or $40k a year, you can do so and essentially get Obamacare for free. And that’s not going away. At most, it will change flavors, but it will be there.

    If you want to live on $80k a year, you need to come up with $20k just for health insurance. DW is paid very well for part-time work in no small part because she gets no health insurance. This works out great for us, as long as I keep providing very good health coverage.

    I can think of plenty of ways to keep busy in retirement right now, but they mostly involve spending some money, not DIY maintaining my house and cars (as we speak, I’ve got one guy putting in a new upstairs HVAC unit, and another guy doing $1300 worth of regular maintenance on my van). So I keep getting up every morning to go down the mines.

  72. “Exotic Travel (just like any other luxury) is not a necessity for a happy life. At a moment’s notice, I could choose to spend the rest of my life within driving distance of this spot, and still lead a completely blissful existence forever.”

    I totally agree.

  73. Houston,

    ““Air conditioning (just like any other luxury) is not a necessity for a happy life. At a moment’s notice, I could choose to spend the rest of my life without it and still lead a completely blissful existence forever.”

  74. MMM forums crack me up. He rarely posts any more since he is so busy with the new business endeavors, but the forums aren’t as carefully considered as the posts. ;) Sometimes I want to post there that I’m planning to spend $30K (or whatever) on our new 7 passenger family vehicle, and which one should I pick, just to see how the commentariat foam at the mouth. :)

  75. I could move to New England and be content without air conditioning.

    Otherwise, I think air conditioning plays a very underappreciated role in the honest-to-God prolonging of lifespans. It affects how well you can sleep, which has to be significant in terms of quantifiable outcome.

  76. Milo – I have a acquaintances who feel they cannot stop working, even past 65 when they personally can go on medicare, if they are responsible for dependents with significant medical conditions. That can be a younger spouse, but with later life marriage/childbearing it is often a young person under 26. The fear of what will happen to said kids at 26, especially with mental health/substance issues or for survivors of a serious disease or serious accidents/sports injuries, also makes them want a larger number than they would seek for their own needs.

    The delusion for many early super thrifty retirees is that insurance is not needed by reason of clean living and routine self provided medical care. They are probably correct that the prepaid health care component of our modern “insurance” system is not required, but the catastrophic portion is.

  77. Moving this: Or are they saying the federal government should do more to incent it?(If that’s a word.) from the politics page only for the language discussion.

    Directive is a word, and direct (verb) is also a word.
    Incentive is a word, and although I have always thought/felt incent really isn’t a word, apparently it is one, and not just a recent thing. It’s from the mid 1800s here in the US. https://www.google.com/search?q=incent&sourceid=ie7&rls=com.microsoft:en-US:IE-Address&ie=&oe=

    Also, the news around here is about a kid who apparently committed suicide late last week. Sad, yes, but I’m still on the language point.

    Many news outlets are using the wording: “He had autism”.

    My thinking is the wording should be “He was autistic.”

    The first, to me, sounds like “He had the flu” i.e. a contagious malady, temporary. Whereas the second is the correct way, to me, to communicate a permanent condition.

    Thoughts?

  78. Fred – I think either is fine in that case. I understand your point, but I could also understand an argument for the opposite. Saying that he “had” something does less to lump the person’s entire identity with the condition. People understandably bristle at the casual reference that so-and-so “is ‘special needs’.” That’s clearly a lot worse than saying “is autistic,” but you see the point.

  79. I totally agree Fred. Saying he had autism makes autism seem like a negative. In my daughter’s medical community there is a big movement to embrace your condition as a lifestyle, and not just a word that describes you (which often is viewed in a negative light).

  80. Lemon – just trying to understand. Do you mean using e.g. “She is autistic” as a descriptor of how someone is like saying “She’s lesbian”?

  81. The web site and Facebook page for Autistic not Weird have an ongoing back-and-forth about whether they prefer to called “person with autism”, “autistic person” or something else. Often the discussion ends with someone saying “I want to be called a person, with autism as a descriptor later”.

  82. Fred – exactly. Just like she is tall or she is short.

    My dad often refers to my daughter’s condition as a disease. Sure, it meets the definition, but it sounds like it is something that either can be cured (it can’t), or is devastating/bad (the initial diagnoses was devastating, but has been a blessing for many reasons). As a child, making it sound like a disease can really hurt your psyche.

  83. Otherwise, I think air conditioning plays a very underappreciated role in the honest-to-God prolonging of lifespans. It affects how well you can sleep, which has to be significant in terms of quantifiable outcome.

    I lived in Chicago during the summer of 1995. Air conditioning is absolutely important to survival. Over 700 deaths from the heat.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1995_Chicago_heat_wave

  84. God, that was a horrible summer. In my office we had fans everywhere and we still sweltered.

  85. The web site and Facebook page for Autistic not Weird have an ongoing back-and-forth about whether they prefer to called “person with autism”,

    Is anyone watching Atypical on Netflix? One of the episodes had the dad getting in trouble at group therapy for not using the right terms.

  86. “I have a acquaintances who feel they cannot stop working, even past 65 when they personally can go on medicare, if they are responsible for dependents with significant medical conditions. That can be a younger spouse, but with later life marriage/childbearing it is often a young person under 26. The fear of what will happen to said kids at 26, especially with mental health/substance issues or for survivors of a serious disease or serious accidents/sports injuries, also makes them want a larger number than they would seek for their own needs.”

    I know people like this, too. And it does make me stop and think that “maybe” I still don’t have enough in savings. I know parents with kids on Medicaid, and it’s not easy for them sometimes.

    The people I know who have one spouse ineligible for Medicare can sound so indignant when they complain about how much the non-Medicare spouse’s health insurance costs. Duh. No, Obamacare didn’t mean that all your healthcare costs would magically decrease. These are UMC folks.

  87. “God, that was a horrible summer. In my office we had fans everywhere and we still sweltered.”

    It might surprise you to hear me say this, but part of that is because our buildings (and now our houses) aren’t designed for passive cooling or airflow.

    Only because of my academic and armchair interest in heat transfer and thermodynamics am I interested in the history of features from, in rough chronology, cupolas to attic fans to the aluminum awnings on the windows of every single 1940s rancher, and screen doors in the front…

    It wasn’t that long ago we were still putting them on cars:

  88. It was quite an old building, and it was designed by Mies van der Rohe, Mr. Form-Follows-Function himself. As with all the other buildings designed by him, it was both ugly AND non-functional.

  89. ““Air conditioning (just like any other luxury) is not a necessity for a happy life. At a moment’s notice, I could choose to spend the rest of my life without it and still lead a completely blissful existence forever.”

    Rhett: could say the same about heat. Indoor heating, after all, is not a necessity for a happy life–at least, not in my world. : )

  90. Ah ! I have lived through many a sweltering summer. I guess it’s just what you are used to. Lots of people remained indoors and took sisetas in the middle of the day, and as Milo mentioned cross ventilation was key.

  91. So, I have to agree with 100% of what he says? Why? Is this some sort of gotcha thing?

  92. My college dorm didn’t have air conditioning, although it does now. That does not stand out as a significant factor in my memory, even thinking about when I lived there during the summers. We would spend most of our time in shorts and a T-shirt, had all windows open, and slept with fans blowing. We sweated more, and showered a few times a day, but you get used to it.

    Another possible factor is that you’re surrounded by granite, so maybe it just doesn’t heat up very quickly.

    Also, you’re no older than 22.

  93. @Rhett – Air conditioning =/= exotic travel. What are you even trying to argue? That when people say that they could be happy without certain luxuries they are lying to themselves? To be frank – how the hell would you know what other people need to be happy?

    I agree with those pointing out that the people who say that they don’t need to worry about health care costs because they are fit and eat vegan are delusional. But people who say they’d rather retire earlier and live a lifestyle that revolves more around the library, bridge club, and spending time with their local grandkids rather than work longer and take exotic trips to Asia are not necessarily delusional. They may just not be all that interested in exotic trips to Asia.

  94. Houston,

    You said I totally agree. to MMM point that he could easily live blissfully without luxuries. But you don’t actually think that. You’d have a hard time being happy without the luxuries you care about.

  95. Mies van der Rohe was (a) full of shit about form following function given the highly stylized appearance of his buildings, and (b) focused on the “function” of the building itself (i.e., the structure), and secondarily the interior flow. The comfort of the actual people who live and work within said all-important structure was largely irrelevant for pretty much all modernist architects.

    ITA with Milo that cultures that inhabited a world with hot summers without AC were much, much better at designing homes that mitigate the impacts of that heat on residents.

  96. @Rhett – Air conditioning =/= exotic travel. What are you even trying to argue? That when people say that they could be happy without certain luxuries they are lying to themselves? To be frank – how the hell would you know what other people need to be happy?

    Um… let’s review what he said. Exotic Travel (just like any other luxury)is not a necessity for a happy life.

  97. Houston,

    How is it a gotcha thing? His point obviously wasn’t that you can live happily without the luxuries you don’t care about. Obviously you can. His point that you can live blissfully without the luxuries you do care about. Which is obviously nonsense. Remember, this is MMM, he thinks a Houston summer with no AC builds character.

  98. To quote the great man himself, The Mustachian Way is to think of Air Conditioning as a pleasant luxury to be used when all other efforts fail.

  99. No question that houses used to be built with circulation in mind until the twentieth century. That’s why crunchy types look back at earlier models for passive heating and cooling design.

    Age and location make a huge difference in whether heat or AC are necessary. The heat broke halfway through our year in Southern Georgia. I didn’t call the property owner. I didn’t want to deal with him, and turning on the bedroom space heater at night was just fine.

    “dad often refers to my daughter’s condition as a disease”. Ouch. I’m sorry!

  100. I’d be much more inclined to not using air conditioning in the Spring if it didn’t include all the pollen.

  101. The fear of what will happen to said kids at 26, especially with mental health/substance issues or for survivors of a serious disease or serious accidents/sports injuries, also makes them want a larger number than they would seek for their own needs.”

    Yep…living that reality right now. DS’s condition makes it difficult for him to manage a full time schedule in our considerably less than demanding high school. He is also less likely to manage to pull in the scholarships that make eldest DD’s college expenses less than planned and will possibly make DD2’s expenses less than planned. It is also likely that he will take more than four years to finish. We are hoping that once he turns 18 and can access a wider variety of meds he will be less sick. If not, it will be harder to be employed full time.

    So, DH and I are working harder than we might otherwise to be able to provide all three with a baseline income, in case DS needs it. Because it isn’t fair to the older two who have worked so hard to get shortchanged because they are healthy. It also isn’t fair not to account for the reality that DS got dealt a bad hand. He still has to play his hand as well as he can, but he does have few options than the healthy kids.

  102. DS’s condition is a disease not a blessing…I haven’t got anywhere to the point where I see this as a bad thing.

  103. Coprrection DS’s condition is a disease not a blessing…I haven’t got anywhere to the point where I see this as anything but a bad thing.

  104. When I went to college, many of the dorms didn’t have air conditioning, and even the ones that did, didn’t turn on the AC under after three days in a row of temps above 85.

  105. Sorry, but i love Mies Van der Rohe’s work. I find his urban office buildings to be beautiful. DS2 and I did a Van der Rohe walking tour in Chicago a couple of years ago, and I was blown away by the beauty of the lines, and the openness of the buildings.

    I have never worked in one of his office buildings, so I can’t comment as to whether they are comfortable or not. Honestly, office buildings in general are not comfortable, and in fact, the older ones from the late 1800’s or early 1900’s are the worst offenders – low ceilings, teeny rooms and halls, no circulation, inadequate heat, and an overall sense of claustrophobia.

  106. “cupolas to attic fans to the aluminum awnings on the windows of every single 1940s rancher, and screen doors in the front…”

    I’ve been looking at these sorts of things recently for our house.

    I’ve installed a couple of ceiling fans in the living; roll-down solar shades outside glass patio doors; awnings over a few windows, a shade sail over an inside corner of our house, and a whole-house fan.

    I’m considering more awnings and screen doors over our front doors.

    The goal is to make our house more comfortable without resorting to AC. We prefer to use electricity our PV system generates beyond our other needs to charge our car.

    Were we ever to have a new house built for us, I’d definitely consider including a cupola.

  107. Finn, is it dry enough to benefit from a swamp cooler? My engineer-uncle in Colorado installed one in his house and really liked it.

  108. WCE, no. One of the big benefits of AC here is dehumidification.

    Were we to add AC for our major living area (kitchen/living/family rooms can’t be separated), we’d consider an undersized AC unit that might not bring the temperature down much, but having it constantly running, and thus dehumidifying, might be enough to make a significant improvement in comfort.

    OTOH, when I want to cool the house down, e.g. if we’re having company in the evening, I’ve found that hosing down the sidewalks, cement patio area, and sunny side walls several times has a noticeable cooling effect.

  109. @Mooshi – oh, I agree that the aesthetic can be very compelling. I just get the sense from someone of those guys that the Theory of Architecture, the Message, is a higher concern than the proletariats that will use/live in the place. Sort of like all the products that are designed “for women” based on what men think women want, but no one bothered to ask real live women what they actually want.

  110. we’d consider an undersized AC unit that might not bring the temperature down much, but having it constantly running, and thus dehumidifying, might be enough to make a significant improvement in comfort.

    No, no, no. That won’t do at all. Yes, it may act as a dehumidifier, but it will have no tangible effect unless you close all your windows. Now you’ve closed off the breeze and trade winds, your house is baking in the sun, and you’re trying to benefit from an undersized A/C.

    Get a properly sized AC unit if you get anything. They’re inexpensive and extremely efficient.

  111. “es, it may act as a dehumidifier, but it will have no tangible effect unless you close all your windows. Now you’ve closed off the breeze and trade winds,”

    I don’t think I’d ever want to run the AC with the windows open.

    The times we need the dehumidification and AC the most is when the trades die and the humidity soars. That’s when it’s most uncomfortable here.

  112. “Duh. No, Obamacare didn’t mean that all your healthcare costs would magically decrease. These are UMC folks.”

    This goes back to Rhett’s point about social programs needing to provide benefits to everyone to have broad support.

    I’ve read and seen features about the resentment of many LMC folks against Obamacare and the increased medical coverage payments it caused them while giving better coverage for less to people who didn’t work, or didn’t work as much or as hard

    I’m coming around to being more supportive of a very bare-bones Medicaid for all.

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