Open thread

This week we’ll start the new format we discussed last week of having only three specific topics per week and three open threads.  Here’s the plan:

Monday, Wednesday, Friday — specific topics
Tuesday and Thursday — open threads
Sunday — politics open thread

Mon-Wed-Fri topic discussions can carry on to the next day to make it easier for more participants to chime in.  Tues-Thurs posts will allow new discussions to start without creating excessively long threads on the other days.  Sunday posts will remain as a place for hot-button topics to be discussed all week long.

We can tweak this format as desired, so keep your comments and suggestions coming in.

Upcoming topics:

Wednesday  —  Jury Duty (Finn)
Thursday  —  Open Thread
Friday  —  My paternal grandpa’s middle name?  (Cassandra)
Monday  —  The Portion Paradox and the Half Cookie  (Finn)

Advertisements

64 thoughts on “Open thread

  1. Question from this tech-challenged Totebagger: We have a telephone landline through Verizon (no other services from Verizon), and internet service from Comcast (no other services from Comcast other than basic cable TV). We would like to get rid of the landline. My question is, will getting rid of the landline mess up our internet service? Or are the internet and phone connections totally separate (even though they seem to be “housed” on the same utility poles)?

  2. Or are the internet and phone connections totally separate (even though they seem to be “housed” on the same utility poles)?

    I would guess you still have an analog copper wire phone line, in which case it’s totally different than what you get from Comcast (although they do share a poll.)

  3. And even if it was shared (which The Google says isn’t a thing) you’re services shouldn’t be impacted.

  4. NoB – we have the exact same set-up. Now that DS has a cell phone that he actually uses and keeps charged, I’m thinking we could get rid of our landline. Although part of me likes keeping it if I ever needed to call 911 in a true emergency (e.g. DS having a severe allergic reaction). I know I could use my cell phone as well – this is an emotional reaction, not a logical one. And the landline is handy when I need to reach someone at home and they aren’t picking up on their cell phone.

    Quick parents weekend update. DS and I went to visit DD for parents weekend. It was a good visit – the best part is that it seems like she’s made friends with some really nice, interesting kids. Overall, it seems like DD has settled in really well.

    We spent a good 90 minutes getting DD her final Men B vaccine shot (the shot itself only take 30 seconds – it was finding a place that had the vaccine in stock and then waiting once we were there). After Nov. 2, DD’s school puts a hold on student’s grades and won’t let them register for the next quarter’s classes until they’ve completed their Men B shots. So lots of students were trying to get vaccinated. The first 3 places we called were out of the vaccine; the 4th had one dose left. We ended up going to the pharmacy at a Safeway. I’d ranted here a couple weeks ago about the difficulty of finding out from my insurance company (Aetna) where DD could get the vaccine at an in-network provider (the school’s health clinic isn’t in-network). I talked to several other parents who also spent hours trying to figure this out. I think insurance should cover vaccines at all health care providers rather than just in-network providers. The cost should be the same at all providers given that the procedure takes 30 seconds and they’re all buying the vaccines from the same suppliers.

  5. Questions for those with current or recent college students, or who work in higher ed, and student “holidays” and their travel.

    I realize where you live and where your student goes to school impacts how far in advance you need to plan for them to come home/return to school. DD#1 is roughly 1850 miles from home. The school has a firm “dorm closed date” and rule that says you are to be off campus within 24 hours of your last final, whichever comes first. If you can’t meet this, you are supposed to go talk to student living and register that you are on campus “late”. The dates/times of finals are not announced until mid-October with finals ending on December 21.

    I booked her flight in July (as this 24 hour rule wasn’t clearly published anywhere) and there were not many options at that point. She is flying through Orlando to get to Texas from New York. When I went in to look at prices in mid-October, they had increased by $200-300, though I could get her on the same flight she is currently on. On the return side, dorms open on Tuesday for a Thursday start of classes. Many of the parents within driving distance are complaining about taking off work in the middle to the week to drive the student back (no cars for freshman or sophomores).

    Is this 24 hour rule common? Do many people wait until mid-October to book mid-to-late December flights? Is this mid-week dorm opening and start date common?

  6. NoB, your cable and your landline are very likely to be entirely separate. Like, 99% certain to be separate, unless your situation is super unusual. If you call up Comcast, they may give you a really good deal on phone service. So your “landline” would be Internet-based, and when the Internet crashes you’d lose your “landline”, but you’d still have your cell phones, I assume. I find it marginally useful to have a Comcast phone number to give out to spammers.

  7. Also as Finn pointed out a couple weeks ago, high school seniors should get their Men B vaccines before leaving for school. Depending on the vaccine, it’s either a 2 dose or 3 dose series – so you can’t wait until right before school starts or you won’t be able to complete the series in time. I would start the series in the spring of senior year.

  8. Austin, that seems draconian. At various schools that I’ve attended/worked for, the housing office usually has one dorm that remains open for the vacation period. (Or more than one, if it’s a big school.) The kids (especially the international kids) pack up some stuff and shift over to the open dorm for the vacation period. You do have to sign up for it.

    Is there a nearby motel or someplace she could crash?

  9. Is this 24 hour rule common? Do many people wait until mid-October to book mid-to-late December flights? Is this mid-week dorm opening and start date common?

    When DD1 lived in the dorms, that rule was in place, it is also apparently in place in DD2’s school. However, the finals schedule is available before the kids sign up for classes, so that as soon as I know my kids know their course schedule, they know their finals schedule. It seems odd that finals schedule isn’t known up front. I booked DD1’s flight as soon as I knew her finals schedule. This year, she lives in an apartment and she booked the flight herself.

    Side note, both DDs have a credit card as an authorized user. One of the DDs is under 18. Getting DD2 on as an authorized user was one the few things that being under 18 hasn’t been an issue for.

  10. RMS, the rule isn’t really draconian. Think about it…some kids studying for finals, other kids done and frolicking. It is a recipe for chaos and conflict.

  11. Is there a nearby motel or someplace she could crash?

    Exactly. I bet the rule isn’t vigorously enforced unless there is a problem. If you get caught just stay in a hotel.

  12. RMS – To be clear there is a work around to get past the 24-hour rule, especially the further away you live from the school. And, it is proving to my DD#1 the wisdom of “know the rules well enough to use them to your advantage”.

    My bigger issue, personally is the 60 days notice. The other issue is the “arranged” transportation from the school to the airport/bus/train are only on the last two days. So, it seems if they want you gone, they’d offer it the five day period.

  13. RMS, the rule isn’t really draconian. Think about it…some kids studying for finals, other kids done and frolicking. It is a recipe for chaos and conflict.

    I suppose you’re right.

  14. AustinMom — We ran into similar issues with arranging trips back and forth from campus. Sometimes some of this information is simply not available in advance. Then you throw in a wrench like a prof decides to make the final optional or something else. We did not book trips that far in advance, but we did not have such a long distance as you have. All in all, the logistics and extra costs can be a hassle. I will say that the free shuttle transportation to and from the airport was not always especially convenient to coordinate with flights. Plus taxi service was not very reliable, so it would have been nice to have Uber back then.

  15. My DS will be having his tonsils out soon. Does anyone have any ideas to make the recovery easier?

  16. Seems as though we hit the college drift.

    PSA for those with high schoolers – my college freshman stumbled on a happy benefit of being in the honors college at his school. When it came time to schedule classes for spring semester, the honors college (hoco) pre-registered him for his major-specific classes, which in his case are chem and bio, both popular classes where the best time slots fill quickly. Hoco does this so that you may participate in the hoco seminars without having conflicts with your major-specific classes. When registration opened, he only had to register for his hoco classes and seminars, which was easy as he already knew his bio and chem class times and simply had to work around those.

    When he went to accepted students day, hoco did a great presentation that sold him on signing up, but he didn’t remember that being mentioned as a benefit. Most students in his major don’t do hoco because of the additional class and paper writing requirements and he was on the fence as to whether he should commit to the added work.

    If you have a student who ends up with that option and is on the fence, preferred scheduling (if available) may tip the scales.

  17. I know this doesn’t usually get any traction as a topic but I’ll post anyway.

    Now a pair of Harvard researchers are raising the possibility that Oumuamua is an alien spacecraft. As they say in a paper to be published Nov. 12 in The Astrophysical Journal Letters, the object “may be a fully operational probe sent intentionally to Earth vicinity by an alien civilization.”

    https://www.nbcnews.com/mach/science/scientists-say-mysterious-oumuamua-object-could-be-alien-spacecraft-ncna931381

  18. Tonsils – In my experience day 5-7 (when the scabs fell off) were the most painful. Good luck to your DS.

  19. Think about it…some kids studying for finals, other kids done and frolicking. It is a recipe for chaos and conflict.

    We did exactly that when I was in college and there wasn’t any chaos or conftict. They have these places on campus called libraries (as well as plenty of other places) where you can go to study.

  20. Cassandra, two of my little turkeys have had their tonsils out and the week after is pretty rough. The problem we ran into is that many of the recommended squishy foods (pudding, yogurt, etc) are sugar bombs and after a couple of days on that garbage, they feel terrible because of the diet. So the sooner you can get them on scrambled eggs and mac’n’cheese, the better. Also, be aware that 4 or 5 days in, just when things are getting better, the scabs come off and the pain gets worse again. Good luck to you and your kiddos. It’s a minor procedure, but always scarry when your kids have surgery.

  21. My friend made home made smoothies that were thick enough her daughter could eat like pudding/yogurt. She put in more real fruit (but looked for things that didn’t have seeds to deal with) and added protein powder to them.

  22. Now a pair of Harvard researchers are raising the possibility that Oumuamua is an alien spacecraft.

    Good to see that Timothy Leary’s and Richard Alpert’s influence at Harvard lingers on.

  23. Austin – yes, it’s pretty common. I think someone upthread suggested getting your DD a hotel/motel room for the gap period…maybe one near the airport if it’s only 1 night so she can take the hotel shuttle to her flight.

    I was floored the learn when DS1 went to college that the finals schedule came out in October; same for DS2. My model was that the finals schedule was known at registration so if nothing else you could try to plan your finals accordingly if you had a choice of sections for a common class.

    DS2’s last final this semester is on the last possible day, latest slot. He has until 10am the next day to be out of his room. I’m planning to drive there (5 hrs) the night before after work (a Tues) and meet him the next morning for the drive home. He could actually fly home on the Wednesday for $100-$150 depending on the flight + bag check fees + uber to the airport, so maybe $250. But that would require him to be highly organized about what he wants to bring home. In true economic terms (~$0.55/mile all in + my hotel + food) it’s more expensive for me to drive but I’m ok with it because of the added flexibility + I get some 1:1 time with him + I have a ton of vacation time build up.

  24. Our finals schedule was pre-set based on class times – MWF at 9 had finals at 8 am on Tuesday or whatever. Except that the large classes with multiple sections (CHEM 101, etc.) had combined finals and they didn’t announce the day/time until there was about 3 weeks left in the semester.

  25. Fred – The email and postings they put out make it sound like a hard and fast rule. But, as I think I noted before, there is a loophole and it is a pretty big one, but you only find out about it if you ask. DD#1 has to jump through one small hoop since she will be out before the dorm closes. They do grant international students a waiver to stay on campus even after it closes, but again only if you ask and only if you jump through a few bigger hoops.

    DD#1 has two final on Thursday, with one from 4 – 6 pm and her flight out is Saturday morning. Moving her to Friday is possible, but it means she’d have to be at the airport by 5 am. She prefers to take her final and then sleep until she wakes up without an alarm, do laundry, clean her room and then get on a 10 am flight on Saturday, which means being at the bus stop no later than 8 am.

  26. Fred I love road trips one-on-one with my adult kids. I find we have great conversations. I hope you enjoy it.

  27. For the first time ever last year, my retired sib found out he should be paying taxes quarterly on top of what is taken out of the small summer job he has. He paid in April because it was tax month and the due date was very close April 15. But, then summer job started, life got busy and he just realized this week (triggered by some end of year reminder from his brokerage company) that he hasn’t paid the July or October payment.

    Anyone have experience with this? Should he just send it the two quarterly payments now?

  28. “I hope you enjoy it.” If he doesn’t snore too loudly that will be a plus.

    Becky – in between the naps, I always have a good time on these trips. I do try to extract some actual information about his well-being, friend & living (roommate) situation, plans for the break, concerns he has etc. But we also talk a lot about sports.

  29. Meme will have the absolutely correct answer, but fwiw, my approach would be to make a January payment for whatever he estimates is owed from his work from April to the end of the year. My rationale: if you make the October payment now, it’s late and there might be a penalty for that. If the January payment is made on time, no late payment penalty.

    The IRS is trying to match the taxes collected to the same time period (roughly quarterly) the earnings were generated.

    Given the IRS is working with computers and software which are only a little younger than I am I think there’s little risk in getting caught as long as the total remitted is about what’s owed for the full year.

  30. Good to see that Timothy Leary’s and Richard Alpert’s influence at Harvard lingers on.

    A statement like that would have been true 30 years ago. Reputable scientists didn’t discuss these things. But with the discovery of the first extra-solar planet in 1992 and the eventual discovery that essentially every star has numerous planets, the big scientific question is now the one first posed by Enrico Fermi: “Where is everybody?”

    Kepler was launched in 2009 and it discovered 1284 new planets. The data indicates that just the Milky Way contains 40 billion rocky Earth like planets in the habitable zone.

    TESS was launched in April and it will scan 85% of the sky and is expected to discover 20,000 new planets.

    In 2021 NASA will launch the James Webb Space Telescope which will be able to image extra solar planets. It is expected that the data will show oxygen in the atmospheres of at least some of those 40 billion rocky Earth like planets. The would indicate life.

  31. Tell him my money’s on the zoo hypothesis and ask about his favorite theory.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zoo_hypothesis

    With a slight modification, my theory would be that it’s not that they’re deliberately not contacting us, it’s that we’re so common and uninteresting that it’s not worth anyone’s time to even bother.

  32. anon – If your relative does not choose to use an accountant or Turbotax, which will generate the vouchers for him (or her, we will use “him”) based on the prior year’s results, and his investment income and SS are roughly the same from year to year, he should divide the difference between the fed tax owed for 2017 and the amount withheld on his summer paycheck in 2017 into 4, round up each voucher to the nearest 100, say, and make those payments Apr 15, Jun 15, Sept 15 and Jan 15. Or he can have turbo tax or whatever program he uses suggest the amounts (you can ask it to round to tens or hundreds or thousands) and print out vouchers for him.

    If most of his outside income is capital gains distributions from mutual funds at year end, or RMDs from his retirement accounts at year end, he can wait and make a balloon payment of the two missed installments plus no 4 in Jan. He will have to fill out a detailed form with the dates of his income receipts (dividends, SS, cap gains) in details to reduce the penalty for the annualized income exception. Not something people who aren’t accountants or turbo tax junkies like to do. If it is mostly dividends and SS and annuities/pensions received during all the year, he should make his two missed payments now. The “late clock” stops when the EFT is recorded or the check received (if snail mail is used, get a stamped receipt at the post office). So waiting until Jan to send in all three payments at once means additional penalty interest will be charged from today until Jan 15 on the earlier late payments.

    How much money are we talking about, anyway? People hate penalties, even if they are 12 dollars. But is it worth (to him) the work to avoid it?

  33. So waiting until Jan to send in all three payments at once means additional penalty interest will be charged from today until Jan 15

    Is it still 1/2 of a percent per month?

  34. I posted last week that I finally got a Vitamix and I am trying some new recipes. I made a roasted red pepper and tomato soup yesterday. One of the issues that I have is that I can’t get rid of the cooking odor(s) in my house during these colder months with the windows shut etc.

    I wouldn’t care if it was just us, but DD has a tutor here today and our house definitely smells like onions, and other cooking stuff from last night.

    I got rid of the garbage, and I tried candles, hood vent and opening the windows. What do you guys do to get rid of these lingering odors?

  35. Rhett, Here’s his reply: “If you were on Twitter you could see me in full curmudgeon mode over this. An immense amount of first rate work was done by an international community of planetary scientists, and yet the brass ring goes to a senior extra-galactic astronomer who pops off about aliens.”

    I’m off to follow him on Twitter.

  36. Meme – I don’t know exactly, guessing each payment might be as high as 2k. I think the issue stems from not being able to withhold enough from the summer job to pay in the “right” amount for the full year. So, the quarterly payments are there to make up the difference. I think he had/has the vouchers. It was mainly a first year fumble.

  37. “What do you guys do to get rid of these lingering odors?”

    Live in a reasonable climate and open the windows :)

  38. Lauren – what kind of a vent fan do you have? How many cfm does it move, etc.? I would usually run the fan on high when everyone was out of the house, open a window across the room/house from the fan and boil some cinnamon and orange peels on the stove. Usually took about an hour. But this was with a 1200 or 1600 cfm fan.

  39. I second Febreeze. We have spicy cooking odors and sometimes even our kitchen exhaust can’t deal with the ordors. A puff of Febreeze, and a short while later you can’t smell the cooking.

  40. Febreze air spray the linen or rain type not sweet or piney scents. Bacon cabbage and fish odors go quickly. There is something on the formula that breaks up the odor not just masks it. Cinnamon stick and citrus peel simmered on the stove help as well, more to make the place smell good again.

  41. “I used linen scent in the shop when DH was less-than-absolutely careful about where he let the elk’s bodily fluids wind up during butchering.”

    This is such a wonderful sentence on so many levels.

  42. I’ve never purchased Febreze, but I will try it because I didn’t realize it more than just mask the odors. Thanks for sharing that article.

    It is definitely better because I used the vent over the cooktop and I opened more windows because it wasn’t as cold today.

  43. I can’t take febreze – the scent gives me a headache. I haven’t been able to find any unscented, either.

  44. I love the elk comment.

    I haven’t had a vent hood in over 10 years, but will be getting one soon. When shopping for one I was told that the key is to have the fan running before you turn the stove top on. I also learned to wash the filter on a regular basis. These two things, I was told, see the key to removing odors, smoke, steam from the kitchen.

  45. “DD#1 is roughly 1850 miles from home.”

    That’s relatively close. DS is over 5000 miles away. One of his closest friends is even further from home.

    “The school has a firm “dorm closed date” and rule that says you are to be off campus within 24 hours of your last final, whichever comes first. If you can’t meet this, you are supposed to go talk to student living and register that you are on campus “late”.”

    That’s’ sucky (or is it suckful?). DS’ dorm closes the day after the last day of finals, but students aren’t required to leave before that. Last year, he had his last final almost a week before the dorm closed, and this year it’s about the same.

    BITD, my dorm had a similar policy.

    “The dates/times of finals are not announced until mid-October with finals ending on December 21.””

    It’s about the same for DS.

    What sucks for us, like for you, is that the lower priced plane seats sell out before the finals dates are known. What makes it worse is that the fares are significantly higher on the day the dorms close and the day before it. If we could knew his finals schedule in in late August, or even early September, we could’ve gotten a much lower fare for an earlier flight.

  46. My first semester in college, I had my last final from 10-12 on Thursday, and had to be out of the dorm by 2pm that day.

    I found away around that sort of thing for subsequent semesters. There was an exception for participants in commencement exercises, so I asked if that exception applied to the musicians. I don’t think that question had ever been asked before, but our RA shrugged her shoulders and said, “I guess,” so I volunteered to play in the band.

  47. “On the return side, dorms open on Tuesday for a Thursday start of classes. Many of the parents within driving distance are complaining about taking off work in the middle to the week to drive the student back (no cars for freshman or sophomores).”

    Wow, no time to recover from jet lag?

    DS’ dorm opens a bit over a week before classes start. He’ll fly up midweek, when air fares are the lowest, and he’ll also have time to adjust to the time change before classes start.

  48. “a happy benefit of being in the honors college”

    Another benefit at many schools is an honors dorm. Many schools that offer merit aid to NMF also offer honors colleges and dorms as benefits to them.

  49. “the big scientific question is now the one first posed by Enrico Fermi: “Where is everybody?””

    My guess is that question was asked before Fermi asked it.

  50. “I also learned to wash the filter on a regular basis.”

    That’s one of the things I’ll put in the dishwasher whenever it’s not very full.

  51. Do your hood fans vent to the outside? Ours doesn’t so it’s pretty useless, even with a brand new filter.

  52. “Do your hood fans vent to the outside?”

    Yes.

    Before we remodeled, our cooktop was up against and exterior wall, so it was easy to run a vent to the outside. When we remodeled, the contractor had to build a soffit to run a duct to the exterior wall.

  53. “I was told that the key is to have the fan running before you turn the stove top on. I also learned to wash the filter on a regular basis. These two things, I was told, see the key to removing odors, smoke, steam from the kitchen.”

    +1. Also, opening a window on the other side of the kitchen helps, as it provides an easy path for the replacement air to come in and thus improves the draw of the fan. Every time I stir-fry, the fan goes on its highest setting and the patio door gets opened before the burner even gets turned on.

  54. Thanks for the Febreze recommendation. Cabbage smell is the worst.

    One of my neighbors has been posting some drone pictures on FB. In a way it’s creepy but this one is a beautiful image of the fall colors in my neighborhood. My house is in the mix.

  55. Re: aliens: why is there even really a question about why no one has visited us? We’re really, really, really far from the closest inhabitable planet, and almost incomprehensibly far from those thousands of others. So unless someone else has figured out faster-than-light travel or wormholes or whatever else that defies the laws of physics as we currently know them, any sort of contact would involve hundreds or thousands of generations worth of travel. Why would anyone do that, unless they were looking at something like imminent planetary destruction? And even if they did, why would they choose us, instead of any of the other (closer) options? And even if they chose us, why would we assume that they would reach here within the @5,000-ish years since we began actually recording history, and not before or after?

    Seems to me almost inevitable that there is sentient life out there, but also highly unlikely that all of the stars would align to produce aliens among us within such a ridiculously short window of time.

  56. why would we assume that they would reach here within the @5,000-ish years since we began actually recording history, and not before or after?

    Very good point. In addition we’ve only had the ability to detect their passage inside the solar system within the last few years. Ship sized objects outside the solar system are currently beyond out capabilities. We could be right next to a major trade route and we’d never know.

Comments are closed.