Open Thread

Wed – Updates on Prior Projects and Discussions (Houston)

Th – Teaching Children about Class Differences (L)

Fri – Unique Occupations (Rhode)

Mon – Investing for (in?) the Apocalypse (RMS)

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86 thoughts on “Open Thread

  1. So here is my pet GE theory. All of GE’s management greatness was just a scam. They had one good idea – GE Capital. All the six sigma, rank and yank nonsense was just a way to claim that it wasn’t one good idea but rather widespread management genius. Once GE Capital failed (or as Warren Buffet would say when the tied went out) we found out who was swimming naked.

  2. Sears was the Amazon of its era, a total disruptor of the old way of selling goods. Alas, all disruptors end up becoming the status quo, and then get disrupted out of existence. That fate will someday come to Amazon too.

  3. We were talking this past weekend about how cyclical retailers seem to be now and how the department stores, especially some of the ones (Sears/JCPenney) who have changed their operational models over time, are not responding to the change. It started when a friend brought up that her favorite stores from her teen/young adult years are gone and this pattern continues as many the brands/stores her daughters like seem to be around a couple of years and then they are gone. My friend was lamenting the end of Casual Corner from her era and Delia’s from her daughters.

    Do you think in the past Sears was able to change from catalog to store front, but then wasn’t able to shift to the online marketplace? Or, they couldn’t get their image updated?

  4. I don’t even think they transitioned well to storefront. They have been in decline since the 70’s.

  5. I hope with Sears this means the KMarts will all close. Back in the 70s, my city allowed KMart to build a building that closed off a main thoroughfare. I would love for them to tear it down and reopen the street l.

  6. Rhett – I enjoyed reading a lot of Joshua Kennon’s writings, on his blog and for about.com, but it’s stories like that, about GE, and Fred talks about Kodak, that makes me reject his 20/20 hindsight-based writings about how you only need to pick great companies with a long history of good dividends, etc. He loved writing about Coke and Hershey and P&G and Johnson&Johnson and McDonald’s and Exxon. But only in hindsight.

    I never knew a Sears catalog, but I wonder if Sears’ image was paradoxically harmed by their success with tools and the Craftsmen line. It became synonymous with good-quality ratchet sets. Remember their campaign jingles of (early 90s?) “Come see the softer side of Sears”?

  7. tcmama – I would love to see that one torn down. The City keeps talking about it…lets hope it happens soon. It is especially annoying having it closed off during this four year construction project.

  8. you only need to pick great companies with a long history of good dividends, etc.

    Look at Ford’s 7% dividend and PE of 5. No one is apparently expecting it to survive the transition to our autonomous and/or electric future. Many car bloggers are convinced that Ford, Toyota, Mercedes etc. will get it figured out. But, for some reason, companies can almost never make that kind of transition.

  9. See, if I were someone to buy individual stocks, I’d be loading up on Ford. They should be able to outsource the autonomous driving.

  10. Fascinating article on Sears. Thanks anon for posting it.

    @ Rhett, I agree with you re: GE. Though find it fairly fascinating that the current CEO, who seemed perfect comfortable pointing out GE had been swimming naked and it would take some time to find a bathsuit that would fit, had such a short Board leash.

  11. Enjoyed the Sears article. Wonder how the items that black southerners were buying were paid for – assuming that the banking system and checking accounts were not easily or gladly made available to that group? Was that much cash sent in the mail? Money order?

  12. They should be able to outsource the autonomous driving.

    Sears outsourced their online presence. How well did that work out?

  13. Postal money order, most likely. The money order is actually only payable at a post office to the named recipient. The customer would buy one at the post office for the stated amount executed in whatever fashion Sears demanded, insert it into the envelope with the filled out order form, seal the envelope and mail it.

  14. They should be able to outsource the autonomous driving.

    Like IBM outsourced MS-DOS to Bill Gates and Paul Allen?

    Now that I think about it you may have hit on the problem. Software, web design, AWS, is an Amazon core competency. IBM missed the boat by outsourcing DOS to Microsoft. Similarly Sears presumably thought of the online presence like they thought of their ERP system. Just something IT does. Not that it should become the very core of their business. And that’s why they went bankrupt.

  15. @Rhett-

    My theory is the exact opposite. GE Capital brought them down in the end because they were making all these risky financing deals that didn’t hold up in the financial crisis. But they weren’t a bank. They were just playing at being a bank.

    And a lot of the other stuff they actually make is very mature – heavy industrial electrical equipment, appliances, light bulbs, etc. Maybe they also didn’t innovate in those fields enough. Maybe moving so much offshore hurt them in the end. They’ve definitely underperformed Siemens and Whirlpool and Phillips though.

    What I do know is that I cashed out in 2000, and that was the luckiest financial decision I ever made.

  16. Also – Welch was a really strong leader with a really strong presence within the company. He was always going to be an impossible act to follow.

  17. Welch was a really strong leader with a really strong presence within the company….They’ve definitely underperformed Siemens and Whirlpool and Phillips though.

    My understanding is Welch slashed R&D spending and let GE Capital make the money and that plan a imploded. When the GE Capital gravy train ended they it revealed that they hadn’t invested enough in their other businesses to compete effectively.

  18. I actually go to Sears because I do my Lands End returns there when I am in a nearby shopping center for restaurants or other stores. I heard the one near me won’t close, but I hope this is true. I do buy some stuff there – we bought a vacuum last year and I’ve bought some grades stuff when I couldn’t wait a few days for Amazon.

    I could use some advice…most fo you know that DD is an only. She had a bio test. It is honors bio, so the questions are tricky. The test was about acids and bases, and a bunch of other stuff that is related to chemistry such as atoms. She studied a lot, but lost points on the multiple choice questions that weren’t strategy forward. Stuff that she isn’t used to yet such as a/c or none of the above. Also, he tries to make the questions harder since it is the honors section. The curriculum is essentially the same because it is still a regents class, but he wants them to be prepared for the SAT2 if they decide to take it in June.

    Anyway, she couldn’t believe that many of her friends got perfect scores not he multiple choice because it was so hard. She came home today mad/angry/jealous etc because she found out that all of the kids on soccer got the questions from older kids/siblings. They told her that they had tests from last year and the 2016. This is a class with 9th/10th graders so several of the kids had access to the old tests. She doesn’t have this kind of access and she was upset. I tried to tell her that it could come back to bite them eventually if they really don’t know the material. She still seems jealous and angry that some kids have access to something like this because it feels like cheating.

    I don’t want to go to the teacher, but I just wish this teacher had changed even one question. One of her friends said that it was identical to last year.

  19. @Rhett- Doesn’t that mean the opposite of what you said initially? They banked too much on GE Capital which tanked the whole damn thing?

  20. They banked too much on GE Capital which tanked the whole damn thing?

    Exactly. Jack slashed R&D to boost profits in the short term and then used GE Capital to cover it up the losses. When GE Capital collapsed it revealed how weak the rest of the business was. Welch wasn’t a great leader he was a fraud.

  21. Lauren – You could point out that anyone who’s an oldest child is going to be in the same situation.

    I think it’s good to stress that it *could* come back to bite them if they’re relying too heavily on just memorizing the test. However, if she continues to study the material and learn it, then I don’t think it would be a bad thing to try to get her hands on a copy of old tests.

    Even if he were to change it, there are only so many ways you can test the same topic.

  22. Lauren – First, it is cheating and would she really feel good about herself if she had seen the prior tests? Also, she can talk to the teacher and say, I hear that a good way to study for this class is to review the tests given the past couple of years. I don’t have any siblings or know older kids who have taken this class, so I was wondering if you’d be willing to provide me copies?

    Second, there are books on the SAT and AP test strategies that help you find the “best correct” answer rather than just “a correct” answer. Some of DD#1s teachers went over these kinds of strategies, but others just gave old AP multiple choice as class tests and let them sink or swim on their own. She found getting a review book at the beginning of the year, rather than waiting a few months before the tests was VERY helpful.

  23. “First, it is cheating”

    I’ve had this discussion before IRL, and I really don’t agree that it’s cheating. The test is out there, in the public domain, no different than looking at old SAT practice tests. It’s not like they stole a copy of what he had just written for this year’s test.

  24. I second Austin’s suggestion — nice subtle way to let the teacher know that’s what kids are doing, and s/he can either give everyone access to the past tests, or change up the questions in the future.

    Also, assuming your daughter’s goal in taking this class is to learn biology, that is actually better accomplished by studying the subject matter as she’s been doing than by memorizing a list of correct multiple choice answers from last year’s test. So as vexing as the situation is in the short term, in the long term she may have more subject matter knowledge to build on in future classes.

  25. I think the question of whether it’s cheating is interesting (and probably outside the scope of your question). In medical school, we were assigned a “big sib.” It was a school directed program, the primary purpose was for each person to hand down their box of old exams. We all had about 10 years. The instructors all took this into account when writing tests – it was not a secret.

    There are only so many ways you can ask certain kinds of questions. Learning the material means you can figure out the question no matter how it is phrased. Learning last year’s test doesn’t do the same thing.

    I agree that she should ask for copies from the teacher or from her friends. If the teacher is shocked, shocked, shocked, perhaps s/he will write a new exam.

  26. Yes, I think it’s important to make the teacher aware of the situation.

  27. Just be careful to keep it discreet so she is not labeled a snitch.

    Yes. Perhaps this would be a good time to learn how to set up a fake email address and send the message from a spoofed IP address. What? Those are always good skills to have.

  28. I don’t see any way Lauren’s daughter can tell the teacher even indirectly without grave social consequences.

  29. Yes, I think it’s important to make the teacher aware of the situation.

    1. No one likes a tattle tale.

    2. What will the teachers reaction be?

    A. Thanks for point that out.

    B. I had been looking forward to a bottle of Pinot Grigio and binge watching the Romanoffs tonight but gee now I can spend it redoing all my exams.

    C. A series of nast words.

    D. B & C

  30. “I don’t want to go to the teacher, but I just wish this teacher had changed even one question. One of her friends said that it was identical to last year.”
    Some of our teachers do that too. They won’t let the kids keep the tests, for obvious security reasons, This practice makes me so frickin’ mad. Not only is it total laziness, but if the kid can’t keep the exam, how does he or she review the mistakes and improve????
    What I do, and many of my colleagues do, is to give the kids the graded exams, and change our questions every year. I notice at my kid’s college, the physics and math professors actually post all their old tests online!! I usually give out a sample test that is based on older tests. That helps the kids prepare, and makes it fair for everyone. But it is a lot of work because it takes me hours to create an exam.

  31. I’m really not kidding about writing the teacher an anonymous note. Obviously it can’t be handwritten, and obviously it has to be emailed or mailed from a public postal drop.

  32. So, when I got married and changed my name, I had to get a new social security card. I submitted my marriage license, got a new name, and the Social Security Administration decided to change my birthdate. Now to change my birthdate back to the correct date, I have to produce a birth certificate, or maybe my passport might work. The SSA told me that I could go to the nearest SSA office (an hour away) and the clerk could look at my passport and decide if they would accept it as indicating my correct birthdate. My birth certificate is in a courthouse a seven hour drive away.

    And I am only doing this because I need a social security card to a REAL ID.

    I hate the government.

  33. But Cass, can’t you send away for a certified copy of your birth certificate? You shouldn’t have to drive there.

  34. @ Cassandra – I recently had to get birth certificates, and learned you can order certified copies on-line, at least in the 2 states I needed them from. They came priority mail in 2 days.

  35. I keep certified copies of my own birth certificate, DH’s, DSS’s, and for good measure, my late father’s and mother’s as well. I don’t know why. I generally figure that at some point I’m going to have to flee the country, so I’ll need ID. Yes, I know I’m not really going to have to do that. It’s just general paranoia.

  36. When my mother, who born at home in Kansas, went to school, she was registered with her English first name and a birthdate of Oct 4. She used that for all official purposes until she applied for her first passport in the 1960s. It took months for the state of Kansas to find her birth certificate because it was recorded as Sept 26, under her old language first name, and although the last name was spelled correctly, her parents first names were recorded on documents in different ways, sometimes bella, or bertha or buelah for her mother, sometime judah or Julius or J.L. for her father. This was only a problem when she went on medicare, because the govt believed the birth certicate and she refused to change her birthday and later of course was assumed to be gaga because she insisted on the later date.

  37. I wasn’t going to bother changing my birthdate but apparently I need to to get a REAL ID. I’m tempted just to keep my passport up to date.

    And I really don’t understand why my passport isn’t good enough for either the Social Security office or the DMV.

  38. UK trip report! (I’d rather not have it up on the travel page for a long time – thanks!)

    We left Friday night at 930 and it was a quick flight. This is not a good thing because when we arrived everyone was extremely tired (except me). Ride to the flat through their car service. We stayed in Mayfair – about 8 minutes’ walk to the tube but otherwise ideal, quiet street, etc., except for the wifi which was TERRIBLY slow. DH, #2 and #3 took a nap while I went to M&S with our nanny and #1 to get a few groceries (mostly breakfast stuff, tea, milk etc.). Then around 130 I dragged the family on a death march (raining, 50 degrees) to the National Gallery (packed, ugh) and Regent St – we had to stop to get DH food. Kids perked right up when we got to Hamley’s (also packed, ugh). After about 1.5 hrs looking at toys we got home around 6 – I was pleased that I managed to keep them mostly awake all day.

    Sunday – we took the train to Oxford to see my friend from choir camp and her family. Walked around, had lunch, went punting, got cookies and afternoon tea, got home around 8.

    Monday – day 1/2 of the London Pass. Well worth it if you go to a bunch of tourist attractions, but you have to do it on consecutive days. We went to the Tower of London until 2 pm, then a boat cruise to Westminster, then Westminster Abbey (packed, ugh), snack, then hop-on-hop-off bus (we just stayed on for about an hour to see the city). Then I took #1 to see Mamma Mia for her birthday present. (I only recommend this show if you like Abba!)

    Tuesday – day 2/2 of the London Pass, we spent the whole day at Hampton Court Palace (got there around 11, left at 5). Really amazing building and even more amazing grounds. There is also a new “Magic Garden”, which is a beautiful playground that is all fenced in etc. The kids liked that part the most. DH and I also met up with one of his college friends for dinner.

    Wednesday – we went on the London Eye, then the kids went on the big swing thing (like an amusement park ride) next to it, then lunch and walked to Trafalgar Square, then up to Fortnum & Mason (tea) and Liberty (tie) and back to the flat to change. We took the kids to Wagamama, then met up with another friend from here over dessert, then went to Aladdin (v good show – I recommend, although not all of the new songs are as good as the originals).

    Thursday – Harry Potter studio tour. We took a bus straight there from King’s Cross and spent the whole day, then arrived back to King’s Cross at 5.

    Friday – kids were tired, so I went out shopping early by myself, then we hit up Primark around noon and walked to Buckingham Palace. Then our nanny took them (around 2) so we had a late lunch and wandered around Carnaby St by ourselves. :) Also met up with a new work colleague of DH’s over drinks (19 pounds PER DRINK, good grief).

    Things I didn’t realize: how tired DH and the kids would be, that DH would want hot breakfast every morning (and breakfast sandwiches from Pret would not be OK), that our nanny would not be food adventurous. We also should have gotten the Amazon visa card with no foreign transaction fees. I used a lot of cash (ordered at $1.37) but it wasn’t enough. I also missed seeing several of the things on my unofficial list (St Paul’s, Globe, Victoria & Albert, science museum, Windsor Castle, Tate Modern, etc.). It was a great trip though!

    For reference, cost was about $3500 for flights (we paid for the nanny, so that is 6 people), $4000 for the flats (2 2-bedroom, we paid for the nanny but her husband paid for himself), and $5500 for activities, travel, food, and shopping.

  39. L that sounded great, if exhausting. You are a traveler definitely of the Ada- Honolulu mother-Mooshi ilk.

  40. Thanks for the info. I can order them, semi online. The forms are online, then I need to get my signature notarized, and then find a fax machine to send them off.

    All because Social Security decided to change my birthdate.

    Then, I have to go to the Social Security office, nearest one at least an hour a away, wait in line and hope that they accept my documents, to fix their mistake.

    I feel no shame in evading each and every tax I can.

  41. wait in line

    you do not want to apply for benefits online, or you need to speak to us for any other reason, you can schedule, reschedule or cancel an appointment by:

    Calling us at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) between 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday; or
    Contacting your local Social Security office.

    As for a fax machine. They an app for that:

    https://www.thegrizzlylabs.com/genius-fax/

  42. wait in line

    you do not want to apply for benefits online, or you need to speak to us for any other reason, you can schedule, reschedule or cancel an appointment by:

    I called SSA, they told me I had to come to the office, wait in line, and the clerk would decide if my documents were good enough.

  43. appointments are only for people who are retired

    I’m tempted to call and see what they say to me.

  44. appointments are only for people who are retired

    I’m tempted to call and see what they say to me

    Go ahead. I was also told that what documents were acceptable was determined by the clerk at the counter. Likely the answer on the phone is as changeable.

  45. Did you call the 800 number or did you call the office?

    To make an appointment in your local office DO NOT CALL THAT OFFICE. Local offices do not make their own appointments. Instead, call the toll-free number 1-800-772-1213.

  46. Did you call the 800 number or did you call the office?

    To make an appointment in your local office DO NOT CALL THAT OFFICE. Local offices do not make their own appointments. Instead, call the toll-free number 1-800-772-1213.

    I called the 800 number and they told me to call the local office and gave me the local office number.

  47. Sounds like a great trip L!

    that DH would want hot breakfast every morning

    So did he cook it himself or did he insist on going out? I really hope you didn’t make it for him.

    You are a traveler definitely of the Ada- Honolulu mother-Mooshi ilk.

    I’m of that ilk as well. I figure if we are going to spend the money and time to go someplace, we should see as much as we can. If we just want to relax and not do much, there are plenty of places close to home we can do it.

  48. Cass, I’m wondering if you have any documentation from the SSA from before you were married that shows your birth date.

    Our Dept of Health issues birth certificates, and allows us to buy as many official copies as we like. So when our kids were born, I got about 4 official copies for each kid. Since it’s that much of a pain for you to get one, I suggest you consider getting at least one extra, so you can keep one at home, and one in your safe deposit box.

  49. went punting

    I had to google this. I was pretty sure you weren’t kicking footballs but I had no idea what else it meant.

  50. “I wasn’t going to bother changing my birthdate but apparently I need to to get a REAL ID. I’m tempted just to keep my passport up to date.”

    The potential problem with that is if the only drivers licenses issued are REAL ID, and you can’t get a license without the SS card.

    I don’t know where my SS card is, but I was able to get my license (albeit not REAL ID) by showing all my other IDs, and a W-2 with my name and SSN.

  51. “You are a traveler definitely of the Ada- Honolulu mother-Mooshi ilk.”

    IOW, a traveler as opposed to a vacationer.

    My family are travelers, but I’m hoping DW and I can do some vacationing in retirement, or possibly even sooner.

    If ski vacations count as vacationing, I hope to do more vacationing well before retirement.

  52. In response to the link Meme posted on Rent the Runway being used for work, someone said she preferred less fancy versions. It makes sense to me for there to be less expensive versions, but I didn’t know what any were until this arrived in my email today. https://www.infinitestylebyanntaylor.com/?tc=T-144032&utm_source=dbEmail&utm_medium=email&utm_content=-&utm_campaign=db_infinitestyle_oct2018-10.16_campaign_lapsed&CID=E0012744&dtm_em=8B829DFC314099D2E6D27CE9853FB5DAF71D994007106507147572D8704B56B3&tp=i-H43-Q6D-4WK-1XIww9-1q-14TUV-1c-1XJ3hX-1Xr79i

  53. L, thanks for the travel report. You packed a lot in!
    I’ve been so frustrated with my son when we travel lately. I’m not even trying to get him to run around to all the tourist stuff like you did, but just want him to leave where we are staying and get a taste of what life might be like where ever we are. Two afternoons exploring and hanging out in parks & cafes seems to be his limit.

  54. Denver, no, I didn’t cook anything! There was a place across the street that had eggs, so he went there most days, and we stopped by an ‘acceptable’ place a couple of times. I agree with you, we spent all that money to travel there, might as well see as much as we can!

  55. L, sounds like a great trip with a lot packed in! So nice to have your nanny along to allow you some adult time.

    Speaking of stock valuation:

    Uber Proposals Value Company at $120 Billion in a Possible IPO
    Eye-popping offering, which could take place early next year, is nearly double the ride-hailing company’s valuation in a fundraising round two months ago

    At $120 billion, Uber would be worth more than Detroit’s Big Three auto makers combined.

    GM, Ford, and Chrysler combined equal $112.2

    https://www.wsj.com/articles/uber-proposals-value-company-at-120-billion-in-a-possible-ipo-1539690343?mod=?mod=itp&mod=djemITP_h

  56. Well, I think it is possible to be a genuine traveler as opposed to a what is being termed a vacationer and to spend one’s time sitting in a café on the street, going to worship with the locals, taking long walks or leisurely hikes or bike rides and stopping when the fancy strikes, with an occasional museum or major attraction or side trip scheduled. Perhaps not with active children, though, and not as easily in a major metropolitan area full of great history or on a once in a lifetime trip. Having a shared interest or business connection with local folks whom means you can meet up with them in person for the first time, share a meal, which is another way to be a traveler.

  57. My initial reaction to that Uber valuation is that it’s way too high. But I didn’t try to buy Google at its IPO because I was waiting for it to come back down a little, and talked DH out if buying Apple at $15 because “they’ve got nothing!” I’m like George Costanza – you should do the opposite of whatever my investing advice is.

  58. Meme, I agree. You are still exploring the locale, although at a more leisurely pace.

    I think of “vacationing” as lying on the beach or by the pool. or otherwise spending most of the time hanging out at the resort/hotel.

  59. I made Spanish chicken and rice and we watched some Rick Steves Spain shows while we did some trip planning last night. The biggest issue was how to bridge our 6:30 am flight arrival with the fact that restaurants in Madrid don’t start serving dinner till 9pm. As it turns out museums, Palaces, etc in Madrid don’t close till 8pm. So we’ll check in at 8am grab some coffee and a snack and then head to the palace at 10 when it opens. Then have a nice lunch and take a nice 2 hours siesta, then hit to the Prado till 8 and then head to dinner at 9. Or at least that’s the plan.

  60. The nice thing about a country like Spain with its late nights/late mornings is if you can push through that first day, your schedule is not dramatically different from being at home – jet lag isn’t so bad. Do you have lie flat seats?

  61. We do a mix of the vacationer/traveler. There are enough things on the “to see” list but if we don’t get to all of them, that’s fine. There is downtime built in for lunch/dinner at area restaurants, time by the pool, leisurely breakfasts etc. Our day to day has a lot of click watching so DH hates to do that while on vacation. If I want to do a more planned vacation I will have to do it without DH.

    For Saac – some people like doing more outdoorsy type things like hiking, canoeing etc rather than city vacations. Maybe Saac is interested in something like that ? (Although July mentioned lots of hiking on her vacation which the family wasn’t keen on after a few days)

  62. The nice thing about a country like Spain with its late nights/late mornings

    I was also reading why things start so late in Spain. Turns out back in the 30s Franco had Spain move to Germany’s time zone as some kind of fascist thing. So Spain is in the same time zone as Belgrade which is 2500km to the east. Turns out the Spanish kept doing everything at the same time they always had, the clocks just moved. That’s why in the winter the sun doens’t rise till 9am and in summer the sun’s still out at 10pm.

  63. I’ve been to a local SS office about a dozen times in the last decade to get a SSN/card for an Au Pair. It’s always a hassle, you can’t make an appointment, there are armed guards, harsh rules and metal detectors. The appointments are not mostly for the retired (as “normal” people can manage almost all of their SS needs from home) – it is the disabled, the people who lost disability payments because they were in prison, the people who want to be evaluated for disability, the people who can’t get their SS payments because they don’t have a bank account, etc. It is an odd, angry group of people who live on the edge of society and populate your local SS office. It’s a super pleasant place to spend an hour or two with a few toddlers and an Au Pair.

  64. Anyway, it inspires me to move to a country, pay more taxes and have better functioning systems for people living on the margins of society. It does not make me feel like I should avoid every possible tax.

  65. Hmmm, maybe it is site-specific — when my mom was having issues with SS, she was able to make an appointment online and get taken back in a reasonably timely manner.

  66. I should note that we had many, many complaints about the complexity and opaqueness of the system, but getting an appointment was not one of them.

  67. Meme, I’ll agree with you on the vacation/travel distinction. What you describe is very much what i think of with the word “traveler”. Lying poolside to me is “vacationing” and if I had to put the mad dash to museums and Historic Sites into either of those categories, it would be “vacationer”, because most of the people you’ll meet will either be tourists too, or will be locals who have expressly decided to meet tourists. But really it should probably be a 3-way division: vacationer, tourist, traveler. I’m in the third category, doing the sorts of things you describe, off the tourist track (although I might throw in one or two per trip). My son can do a little of the first, but then moves straight to the first category. A big part of what he loves at his favorite hotel is that they come around the pool periodically handing out frozen grapes or chilled washcloths, and they bring the food/drink you order to your lounger.

  68. A big part of what he loves at his favorite hotel is that they come around the pool periodically handing out frozen grapes or chilled washcloths, and they bring the food/drink you order to your lounger.

    He is turning into Rhett !

  69. I have been to a SS office exactly once – to get my name changed after I got married. I took an L train 3 stops from my house, walked half a block, walked in, waited about 15 minutes for a person to speak to me, and walked out having accomplished my goal. It was pretty painless.

    But I agree that having to drive long distances to go to an office and wait for hours is a reason to pay MORE in taxes, not less.

    “A big part of what he loves at his favorite hotel is that they come around the pool periodically handing out frozen grapes or chilled washcloths, and they bring the food/drink you order to your lounger.”

    That does sound lovely. I like a little of that on vacation for sure.

  70. But I agree that having to drive long distances to go to an office and wait for hours is a reason to pay MORE in taxes, not less.

    Why pay more? I already have to pay with my time. It isn’t like if I paid more in taxes I would get more or better services.

  71. Cassandra – good luck with SS and getting everything resolved. When my mom passed away, somehow my dad also got marked as deceased. He spent months and months and tons of time trying to get it resolved with SS. If I recall correctly, many of the people would pass him off because they didn’t know what to do in his situation and how to make an update. Turns out it is difficult to change from being dead to alive.

  72. tcmama, thanks. Part of what is really irritating is that the SSA totally agrees it was their fault in creating this problem, but still, I’m the one who has to go on a document scavenger hunt.

    Cass, I’m wondering if you have any documentation from the SSA from before you were married that shows your birth date.

    Finn, SSA changed my birthdate well over twenty years ago, which was also a couple houses ago. I don’t have any documentation of my birthdate from that time period, but the SSA office does. Of course all my other ids have my real birthdate.

  73. Why pay more? I already have to pay with my time. It isn’t like if I paid more in taxes I would get more or better services.

    Yes you would, that’s the point. When you underfund services like these, you get what you pay for. But now this is getting political.

  74. @Cass – I didn’t mean to be flip in my last comment. This does sound incredibly frustrating. Needlessly so.

  75. “We also should have gotten the Amazon visa card with no foreign transaction fees. I used a lot of cash (ordered at $1.37) but it wasn’t enough.”

    There are a lot of cards that don’t have foreign transaction fees. We usually use our Costco Visa when traveling out of the country.

    We just learned that we can get ATM cards for our Schwab account and use it to get cash in other countries, and Schwab will reimburse the ATM fees.

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