The American Dream

by Finn

In a recent post on fashion, the following phrase in the referenced article caught my attention:

“the traditional American Dream of upward mobility through hard work.”

Is that consistent with your understanding of the American Dream?

It’s consistent with mine.  What I’ve seen is a lot of generational steps, in which parents work hard to provide their kids with opportunities, that weren’t available to them, that allow their kids to move up the SES ladder, with succeeding generations continuing to get higher than their parents.

What’s your take on the American Dream?  Have you and your family lived it?  Do you think your kids and grandkids will live it?

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Open Thread and Admin Change

Jby Mémé

Next Monday, July will take over as primary administrator.   Topics this week are:

Wed  –  The American Dream   (Finn)

Th –       Kids’ Internet Use  (tcmama)

Fri –       Favorite Limericks   (WCE)

The Old Site was originally a workplace diversion, allowable to many of us because it was on the WSJ website AND because back then we spent lots of dead time on butt-in-seat conference calls.   We migrated to The Totebag as our work and personal lives changed.   We are spread out over many time zones.     And of course, the “regulars” are a shrinking, not a growing community, although we do have a lot of wonderful lurkers who post from time to time and have sent in a few topics this year.

As a novice admin I did put in a lot of time, more than is really necessary.  July is not only more conservative politically than I, she is more laid back and doesn’t mind some of the comments I find unacceptable.   Her touch will be lighter at the helm.    We make a good team, which was most evident in the resolution to the privacy and retention issues on which we initially held views at opposite ends of the continuum.

The most frustrating aspect of my six months was the general lack of group interest in topics with substantive content.    I was even admonished not to use submissions from certain contributors because they were too boring.   Heartfelt posts from personal experience and serious ones usually generated very little direct on topic discussion.     Part of that is because we are not checking in as frequently in the way we did when tied to a desk.     Part may be due to the same problem that any workplace lunchroom or kaffeklatsch has – if there is no immediate interest in a topic what remains are variants on the same conversation day after day.     And there are few or no new voices joining in.

After all these years, I wonder if in The Totebag’s present 6-day a week format the juice is still worth the squeeze.    Perhaps we could cut back to Politics on Sun plus 3 posts during the week, say a Monday general interest topic , a family/education topic on Wed,  a lighthearted topic on Friday.    Readers would continue to bring up other topics, ask for advice,  and check in,  just as we do now.    We could try out “threading.”   Or perhaps we could just autopost this on the other two weekdays:

 

Parenting Standards Then and Now

By Louise

Parenting Standards  have been a recent topic of discussion with both my mother and MIL. Both remarked about being one of five siblings and parents not having time or resources to care for each one individually. The kids had food, clothing, shelter and in my mother’s case all her siblings went to high school and a couple completed college. In my MILs case, I think only one completed college later in life.
There were some things that siblings did that are now exclusively parental duties – taking younger siblings to the doctor or attending parent teacher conferences.
What do you think of parenting standards and expectations today ? Are they too onerous? What are some things you would like changed ? What do you think of the past ? Any learnings from there ?

Celebrations (holiday or otherwise)

by Lark

How do you celebrate? Are holidays, birthdays and anniversaries a big deal or low key in your family? Do you go big on presents? What about for milestone birthdays and anniversaries?

How do you celebrate other events, such as paying off a chunk of debt, getting a new job, or advancing to a new school/grade?

And what’s up for Hallowe’en?

Cutting the [Cable] Cord

by Rhett

Last week I noticed that we’d spent the entire week watching Jack Ryan on Amazon, Rick Steve’s Spain shows on Youtube, Lords and Ladles on Netflix, etc. Then on Friday, I open the Comcast bill and it’s $201! I call in a rage, as I usually do, and say, “Cancel the whole thing!” They say, “I can’t do that let me send you to Customer Retention.” Customer Retention says we can get it to you for $138 – as they always do. But this time I said, “Nope, not anymore. I want you to go ahead and cancel everything we just need internet.” Which is $59.

To add insult to injury, we’d been paying $11/month to rent the cable modem. It turns out you can buy a cable modem for $59. Comcast even has a page listing approved equipment.

https://mydeviceinfo.xfinity.com/

The plan going forward is to use Hulu, Amazon, Netflix and Youtube to bridge the gap. I did a quick googling and it looks like everything that’s popular in our house – Bravo, HGTV, etc. is available from Hulu.

Has anyone else thought about getting rid of cable?

Open Thread

Wed –  Cutting the Cable Cord (Rhett)

Th – Free College!!  (WCE starter)

Fri – Celebrations (Lark)

Mon – Parenting Standards Then and Now (Louise)

Wed +1 – The American Dream (Finn)

Th +1 –  Kids and the Internet (tcmama)

Fri +1 – Favorite Limericks (WCE)

Investing for (in?) the Apocalypse

by RMS

Here’s an utterly insensitive topic. What’s the best way to invest for inevitable climate change? Never mind saving the world. Where’s the money going to be? Will the oil industry collapse with the arrival of electric vehicles? Should I buy a resort property in Nunavut? Does anybody know which insects are going to proliferate, and are they edible?

Unique Occupations

by Rhode

Hakai Magazine (Thanks Rhett!) has a neat section – Coastal Jobs.  These are jobs that are unique in some ways to the coast.  Here are their most recent entries:
What are some unique job titles (or experiences) you’ve run into?  We’ve talked how Totebaggers are somewhat risk averse, or look at ROI for jobs/careers.  If you weren’t a typical Totebagger (or you aren’t a typical Totebagger), what unique or odd job would you do right now?

Teaching Children about Class Differences

Topic suggested by L – Mémé expansion

Many of our political conversations on the other thread focus on the fact of economic, social or intellectual differences between people, whether these should be ameliorated in some way,  and if so, who should bear the cost.

Do you teach your kids about privilege, haves and have-nots, and other differences between people?    Do you have formal conversations with them on these topics,  let it come up organically, rely on the school programming, or participate as a family in hands on activities?     Or do you think they should be sheltered?    Do you find a need to counteract messages they receive from the media or from their local environment?

Update Wednesday

by Houston

Let’s invite everyone to share their updates on topics raised earlier this year. I raised the idea of re-doing certain areas in the house that needed focus. I was at a loss on how people budgeted for home improvements, and several people had great suggestions. Shout-out to Lark, who gave a specific example with a budget attached to her planned improvements. That was really helpful.

I budgeted $12,000 and improvements we have made include: new furniture for DS2’s room (transition from elementary school furniture to more grown up furniture), fixing door and window trim that had experienced rot from moisture seepage, some landscaping, and fixing the AC and roof.

I look forward to hearing about everyone else’s updates.

by Finn

Over the years, many of us have asked our fellow totebaggers for advice via thread hijacks and on open thread days for many subjects ranging from car selection to college selection to dealing with club politics.
 
Please share what advice you decided to take, and how that worked out.  Based on your experience, what would you recommend to other totebaggers in a similar situation? 

 

Loneliness

by Cassandra

The theme of recent book club book was loneliness, which led to a discussion of whether we felt lonely, if we saw loneliness looming in the future, how we reacted to people we viewed as lonely, and whether we were acting taking steps to counteract loneliness.

Do you fear loneliness in the present or future?

by MooshiMooshi

Ben Sasse has a new book out on loneliness and the crumbling of ties in modern society. While this is not exactly a ground breaking idea, I think it is important because I think loneliness and isolation underlies so many current health problems – not just the obvious problems like drug addiction and suicide, but also other chronic diseases like diabetes, which are hard to manage for people with no family or friends.
The problem is, we can’t go back to a world of small towns where everyone knows everyone else – and honestly, I am not sure how universal that ever was. Yes, we have this image of America in the 19th century as being made up of friendly little towns – but the reality was different. There were a lot of socially disconnected young men prowling the West, and people trapped out on homesteads far from everyone, and hordes of immigrants in unwelcoming big cities.
George Will’s review of Sasse’s book hits on all of these themes, and ends by saying we need new habits
The crumbling of America’s social infrastructure presents a daunting challenge: We do not know how to develop what Sasse wants, “new habits of mind and heart . . . new practices of neighborliness.
and also this
Sasse, a fifth-generation Nebraskan who dedicates his book to the Kiwanis and Rotary clubs and other little platoons of Fremont, Neb., (population 26,000), wants to rekindle the “hometown-gym-on-a-Friday-night feeling.” But Americans can’t go home again to Fremont.
And I think he is right

Politics Open Thread, Oct 14-20

by WCE

Given the role that chemical engineers play in developing and manufacturing pharmaceuticals, pharmaceutical regulation has long interested me. I believe in a role for government in regulating drugs, but use of international approvals/studies rather than national ones and international discussion of on how drug development and safety demonstrations should be funded could improve lives and optimize healthcare spending.

In a private report leaked to news outlets in April 2018, the Goldman Sachs analysts caution against investments in pharmaceutical or biotechnology companies aiming to develop outright cures, and cite Harvoni as a case study. It’s a simple point to make – if profit is your goal, then a product that eradicates its own demand might not be a wise investment.

Though it sounds bad, it’s not a nefarious perspective. The overwhelming majority of pharmaceutical development occurs in the United States or other market economies abroad, where private industry is the force majeure that drives progress. And industry, as much in pharmaceuticals as in any other business, is at the game for revenue rather than the greater good. Much benefit can and has come from this arrangement, but it’s something of an externality to the powerful incentive to make money.

The predominance of the market in US healthcare has taken plenty of flak for promoting profit over quality, and for crescendoing costs.

But there’s a deeper set of issues surrounding how the market influences – or distorts, maybe – the very bedrock of healthcare and medicine. In a system driven primarily by profit, certain diseases or treatments must languish simply because they’re not lucrative. And how can such a system do other than favour revenue over patients?

https://aeon.co/essays/will-medicine-ever-recover-from-the-perverse-economics-of-drugs

Social Media – Privacy for College Students

by AustinMom

My DD#1 is not into social media. She now has a Facebook account out of need rather than desire. Her college has a group for her Class (Class of 2022) and some of her clubs have groups to communicate. She follows these groups and several friends (from high school and from college) contact her this way. Also, since her phone is android, she uses the feature to video chat with me. The students also set up a number of snapchat groups, but she was not ready to go that far yet.

While there are lots of articles about what not to post, how to secure your account, etc., I found an interesting take by another parent. Social media is a way to create the appropriate amount of distance between you and people you “friend”. For each person, you can choose how much of “you” is shared with them and how much of what they are willing to share with you that you see. As you get to know them in real life, you can increase the amount that is shared or at the other end unfriend them all together.

When I talked about this with my daughter, whose initial reaction was it is just easier to text, she said that this point of view was one that made the most sense for her to use social media.

What do Totebaggers think?

Hiring a Friend

by Becky

Any thoughts on hiring friends? My job has grown, and I’m taking on a major two year project, so they are divvying up my responsibilities and hiring a contractor for the length of the project. My last hire, from the limited pool of internal candidates, didn’t work out. So, I wanted a sure thing. I sought and received permission to hire a former colleague who I’ve remained friends with for over twenty years. (I framed it as former colleague and didn’t refer to her as a friend, because I don’t want her perceived as my buddy rather than a completely competent professional). I’m really looking forward to working with someone I enjoy and who I know is good at her job and won’t require a lot of babysitting once trained. Is this a mistake? Are there any pitfalls I should watch out for? Right now I see nothing but upside.

Open Thread

For a couple of weeks I am  holding back topics that even remotely deal with gender or privilege.      Here is the very interesting lineup for the next week.

Wed  –  Hiring a Friend (Becky)

Th     –  Social Media Privacy for College Students (AustinMom)

Fri    –  Eileen Fisher and #menocore fashion (SM)

Mon –  Loneliness (Cassandra) 

Are Middle Children now in the minority?

by honolulu mother

There have been a few articles recently pointing out that most people were middle children through most of history, but they’ve become a shrinking minority.  Here’s one article from NYMag:

As far as why this might matter, the gist of the argument is this:
[T]he more you learn about the skills of classic middle children — peacemakers, risk takers, levelheaded loyalists with expansive friend groups — the more middle children seem essential to our survival. Salmon cites “independence and resilience” as “characteristics I’d hate to see disappear in a future population of only small families — especially at a time when our world so needs these particular skills.”
For what it’s worth, I also ran across an article (that I didn’t bookmark and don’t have to hand) that dug into whether it’s true that middle children are disappearing, criticized the various statistical assumptions made, tore apart the reasoning, but ultimately concluded that yes, middle children really have become an endangered group compared to historical norms.
But does it matter?  Do you buy the reasoning that middle children are shaped by their middleness in important ways that make them a group with interpersonal skills the rest of us need?  As an oldest, I am of course dubious, but I have to say the middles I know, including my sister and daughter, fit the classic middle child description.
Are you a middle or are you close to a middle?  Are we losing something as middle children slowly vanish from the population at large?

Appliances from Back in the Day

by LemonTree

I recently came across this website and was shocked at how much goods cost back when I was growing up. For example, Mr. Coffee was $35 back then. I just bought a 12 cup Mr. Coffee for my parents. It cost less than $20. And the funny thing is that they didn’t want to throw out the coffee maker it was replacing because it was still “sort of working fine” according to them.

I can still remember the time my parents came home with a microwave. It was amazing (and huge). I also remember the first remote controlled TV we got. That was life-changing for me. I no longer had to be the channel changer. Looking at these prices my parents had to pay a significant chunk of their paycheck. What are your fond memories of these luxuries?

http://www.thepeoplehistory.com/80selectrical.html

Learning Differences

by GreenEyes

I know we talk a lot about how exceptional and gifted Totebag snowflakes are, but some of us have also alluded to having kids with learning differences, too. This article popped up in my newsfeed:https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.wired.com/story/tyranny-neurotypicals-unschooling-education

Do Totebaggers think their public schools appropriately accommodate learning differences?

Leading by example

by July

I came away from reading this article with the realization that both “relentless effort and emotional control” are important qualities I’ve observed in many exceptional leaders.

The Two Contagious Behaviors of a Great Boss
There are only two essential qualities for leading by example; George Washington mastered both

Over the last decade, I’ve studied scores of leaders who have achieved long-lasting success in business, sports and the military.

Among the many flavors of contagious leadership behavior I’ve observed, only two have consistently produced superior results—and George Washington was the embodiment of both….

The first was a combination of seriousness, courage, tenacity and outsize effort—I’ll call it relentlessness. Ron Chernow’s vivid 2010 biography showed that when Washington pushed his troops to the limits of their endurance, he was always right beside them….

The best example may be Washington’s actions at Princeton. After wheeling around to face his fearful troops, he beseeched them to keep fighting. Then, according to one account, he reined in his horse and faced the enemy directly.

Studies have shown that an extraordinary effort by one team member can compel everyone else to give more. It’s fair to say that Washington’s actions at Princeton infected his ragtag army of outnumbered amateurs. One young officer who witnessed them left no doubt. “Believe me,” he wrote, “I thought not of myself.”…

Washington’s second leadership posture was ironclad emotional control….

Again, it was Princeton that showed the depth of Washington’s emotional fortitude. After he’d rallied his army to victory, a teary aide approached him to express his relief that the general hadn’t been killed. Washington quietly took his hand and changed the subject.

“Away, my dear colonel,” he said, “and bring up the troops.”…

Leading others by relentless effort and emotional control demands immense personal sacrifices. The good news is that it doesn’t require exceptional talent. Washington had many gifts but he was a middling military strategist with a long list of defeats.

In the end, the source of Washington’s greatness was simple, even if it wasn’t easy to pull off.It was a function of the choices he made consistently, every day, in darkness or light.

Do you think “relentless effort and emotional control” are key behaviors of a great leader?  What other qualities would you consider important and can you give examples?  Should core leadership behaviors vary considerably depending on the situation?  For example, would these two qualities be important for both a school principal and the head of an investment banking firm?  What about other types of everyday leaders, like the head of a family or the key member of a sports team?

Open Thread

Thanks for more articles.     I will be rotating off as primary admin in mid November, so please keep up the good work so I can leave a few weeks filled up for July when I go on vacation.

Wed       Leading by Example (July)

Th           Learning Differences (GreenEyes)

Fri          Appliances Back In the Day  (Lemon Tree)

Mon       Are Middle Children now in the Minority?  (Honolulu Mother)

Are Totebaggers too risk averse?

Rhett proposed this as “Are Totebaggers too prudent and responsible?”  I switched the emphasis  to spark discussion.     And for those regulars who in the past did NOT take the safest or default path, have you noticed a disinclination for further risk as you became more prosperous and entered middle age?

A few random links

https://www.nateliason.com/blog/rethink-risk

https://www.fastcompany.com/3045577/seven-ways-to-cure-your-aversion-to-risk