A Retirement PhD

by Rhett

Totebaggers are generally very into learning. But mainly in the sense of acquiring knowledge that is already known. Calculus would be example #1. But what about discovering something that isn’t currently known? If you had the chance to investigate something – what would it be?

For me I have two possible topics.

1. PhD in Economics: What goes into a company’s decision to recruit at some schools and not others? Stanford vs. Berkeley vs. San Jose State vs. Chico State, etc.

2. PhD in Transportation Engineering: Traffic waves and how they can be reduced or eliminated.

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

What about you?

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98 thoughts on “A Retirement PhD

  1. Rhett – I assume you mean “isn’t currently known” to ME vs. trying to do basic research in a area.

    For me, about 4 years ago when I took this part-time job, I only had a basic idea of what was involved both the tasks and the subject matter were new. It required me to get a certification in a new area and then to apply that knowledge to 3 different organizations (which were not as alike as they first seemed). After being in the job about a month, I thought OMG – I have bitten off more than I can chew. But, I persevered and am still learning new things and diving deeper to get a more robust understanding in other topics.

    About 5 years ago, I jumped into a new form of exercise for me. I have since become certified and next week will begin teaching my first class.

    I agree that the things I have “known” longer are still more comfortable, regardless of whether it is becoming more physically proficient or a gaining new knowledge or skills. A good deal of the reading I have done about staying mentally sharp talks about truly challenging ourselves (mentally and/or physically) vs just taking on the next incremental level of something we already know.

  2. OMG yes traffic waves — in DH’s old town, they used to be called “NARs,” for “no apparent reason” stoppages. That would be an awesome area of study, sort of a combination of fluid dynamics and psychology.

    I’d also be interested in studying economics, in particular behavioral economics, to try to figure out why people do self-defeating things (e.g., buy stuff on credit when they have no reason to believe they will make more money in the future to pay it off) and the best ways to combat that.

    But really, if I were to delve into a course of study, it would most likely be some kind of creative writing. I do love writing, but most of what I do is pretty left-brain stuff, so it would be interesting to exercise the other half of the brain for a while and see what I can shake loose. It’s not exactly scientific discovery, but it would theoretically be creating stuff that didn’t yet exist (for good or evil TBD).

  3. I assume you mean “isn’t currently known” to ME vs. trying to do basic research in a area.

    I mean basic research. Is there something you’ve always wondered about that isn’t currently well understood? Or something that is “understood” but the understanding is wrong.

  4. LfB,

    Good call with the creative aspect of it. That’s certainly applicable. Maybe sculpt, cast bronzes, 3d print something, write, paint, compose music, a comedy routine, etc.

  5. I would really like to dig into computational linguistics. And if it were retirement and I didn’t have to worry about working for pay, then a PhD in art history would be wonderful. I wonder if I could combine my knowledge of data mining with studies of medieval manuscripts in some way

  6. My preference for school was always broad rather than deep, but combining the areas in which I have interests would have me study organizations and systems. Why are so many systems created (student loans and healthcare insurance come to mind) with so little apparent thought to the possibly-unintended consequences and long-term costs? Why do normal humans have a positivity bias and how does that affect the choices they make?

  7. I would love to explore why people who KNOW that older folks are likely to have sudden medical crises that imperil their ability to continue their living arrangements nevertheless fail to make a plan for such crises. This question applies both to the older persons and their adult children (who may also be older persons themselves). Over the past several years, this scenario has played out numerous times just among extended extended family and friends. not to mention all of the conversations I overhear at the gym and outside the church.

    Is it lack of executive function? Or financial resources? Or simply stubborn denial?

  8. I don’t think you need a PhD n Economics to understand corporate recruitment targets. Mainly schools are chosen out of habit, or because a lot of upper management came from particular schools, or even more likely, the head of HR is used to working with particular schools. Maybe a PhD in Organizational Behavior would be more useful.

  9. Studying the music composition and how it has changed over time appeals to me, but I’d want to do it at a high level, not the very-specific-to-a-short-time period level that is typical of a modern PhD.

    In terms of useful things, I’ve thought about joining with some imaginary SWE friends in retirement to help DHS fix its data systems so they can track kids better. DHS systems stink and it’s part of why foster care is such a bad experience for many kids.

  10. I want the opposite. I already did the damn PhD and now I’m totally over it. I just finished my Lifeguard and Water Safety Instructor certifications last weekend, and I’m reverting to my adolescence. I’m already hired with the city. I’ll probably start next week. I’m excited! And I don’t give a damn about deep knowledge anymore. I want to work with cute kids and yell at people to walk on the deck, not run.

    One bounce on the diving board, young man!

  11. with so little apparent thought to the possibly-unintended consequences and long-term costs?

    That’s a good question. I think it comes down to what is economically efficient vs. what is politically viable. Like the WWII wage and price controls that led to our employment based health insurance system. It would have been better to let prices reflect supply and demand but voters would never have stood for it.

  12. Scarlet – to your question of “why people who KNOW that older folks are likely to have sudden medical crises that imperil their ability to continue their living arrangements nevertheless fail to make a plan for such crises?”

    Well speaking for me – a) I haven’t had the capacity to take this on for my father so b) I’ve been living in denial. It does feel like a mental load though in terms of I feel like I’m always waiting for a crisis to happen when he can’t live on his own anymore and I’ll have to figure it out. I guess I should be more proactive as my father certainly won’t take any proactive steps on his own. Ugh.

  13. Yeah, my parents wouldn’t have done anything about moving to assisted living even if I’d agitated for it. They were stubborn. And then Dad died and I put up with Mom for 19 months in my house because I’m an idiot, and then shoved her into assisted living. Magical thinking, that’s all I can figure.

  14. Or simply stubborn denial?

    People really don’t like contemplating their own mortality. Best not to think about it.

  15. Or simply stubborn denial?

    This. I’m not sure there needs to be much study into it.

    RMS, DS loves using his “lifeguard voice” with the kids.

  16. And some, though not all, is related to outdated notions of what an Old Folks’ Home is like.

    And then sometimes, like my friend’s mother, there’s simply no money so she’s not willing to think about it, because it doesn’t bear thinking about. She just hopes to die quickly.

  17. I’m not sure there needs to be much study into it.

    I think the question would be are there approaches that can move the needle more than other approaches.

  18. I’d love to study the brain and learning disabilities. Specifically how how grey and white matter is involved, but I’d be open to digger deeper into understanding learning disabilities.

    I also like Scarlett’s idea. I think stubborn denial is the winner on that one. I don’t know if it is a course of study, as much as it would require boots on the ground preaching that we are all going to die someday.

  19. RMS. me too. I’ve already created my original research, got the pubs. I want to get the horse and go riding.

  20. I think a lot of things people don’t think have been studied actually have been studied. It’s a matter of finding the studies (and evaluating them).

  21. I guess I am the outlier because I have a PhD and do research but I would totally love to have the time to study a new topic at that level. There are areas that I would love to branch into but cannot because I simply don’t have the time to completely master a new area. I think this is common, in fact, among midcareer academics – they have pretty much done everything possible with their area of specialization but no longer have the ability to dig fulltime into something new.

  22. More on topic – I don’t want to get a PhD in anything but I’d love to take some intro classes (aka relatively accessible classes) in art history, poetry, linguistics, and behavioral economics. The first two (art history and poetry) are areas where I know very little but wonder if I’d appreciate more if I knew more. I also know little about linguistics but would like to learn more (I find little nuggets like why are words for meat that we eat different than the animals (e.g. beef/cow or lamb/sheep) and how they came from French (I assume the Normandy invasion of England and it’s affect on the upper class). So linguistics intertwined with history.

    And then I was an econ major – and if I was going to major today, I’d focus on behavioral economics (not an option at my school in the 80’s).

    Also I’d like to take piano lessons.

  23. Scarlett, it is definitely denial. We have the same issue in T&E, there are SO MANY PEOPLE who don’t set up a will, even, because they don’t want to think about mortality. Then we get stuck straightening out the estate after they die.

  24. DD, I think there are a lot of areas of human behavior that have been studied endlessly, to no particular conclusion. The problem is that we don’t have good research methods for studying human behavior. There is more focus today on trying to replicate results of studies, and the track record in psychology has not been encouraging.
    https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/scientists-replicated-100-psychology-studies-and-fewer-half-got-same-results-180956426/

  25. Scarlett,

    The other issue could be sample bias. Everyone I know, relatives, friend’s parents and grandparents, etc. have all just dropped dead. That might be the issue for some people. On the other hand I think totebaggers tend to overweight the odds of a slow and costly slide into dementia vs. droping dead.

  26. On topic, I would like to (1) get back into piano and play at a higher level, (2) take voice lessons and get paid for gigs at some point, (3) composition classes. I could get interested in more studies/classes if I were retired – I don’t have enough bandwidth to focus on things right now.

  27. I think reading up on topics is interesting, but doctoral programs are frequently highly political. Yes, even the cherished hard sciences have political drama. Sometimes I want to pay an expert to come to my house, have a cup of coffee, and summarize all the interesting research they’ve done on traffic waves, or whatever. I do not want to actually go start some hideous, high-stress program where the faculty have their little favorites and you have to suck up, and you have to make sure the other students aren’t cutting your throat.

  28. RMS,

    Would that be true if you were just a rich old person funding your own projects? Then again if you just wanted to research and publish anyone can do that.

  29. I’ve been listening to a history course via Yale Open Courses on the War for Independence with Prof. Joanne Freeman. It’s excellent. I’m hoping there are other free courses on U.S. history when I’ve finished this one. I’ve also purchased a few history books to read in my leisure. I’d love to do more of this kind of stuff in my retirement and hopefully travel to some of the places I’ve learned about.

    Rhode – Rhode Island is such an outlier during the colonial period. Now I’m really curious to visit. Maybe I can talk DH into a road trip over the summer looping in Boston and RI.

    I’d love to understand why people litter. There are garbage cans feet away and people still litter. What is up with that?

  30. A lot of these suggestions are sort of Malcolm Gladwell-like in that they have some flavor of most people have forever misunderstood how this really works, and I’d like to finally show them the truth. I’ve been listening to a lot of his Revisionist History podcasts. I think that would get to a lot of WCE’s perpetual questions about why systems are established that one should clearly have been able to predict are less than optimal. I’m in the middle of his interview with some researcher who looked into the data about a hockey coach pulling the goalie (removing the goalie in order to have another player on offense, usually when your team is already down at least one goal. you’re more likely to lose by a wider margin, but it also gives you a better chance at tying the score). Apparently (I’m no hockey fan) this is done with a minute to 1.5 minutes remaining in the game. The data suggest that it should be done with five minutes remaining, if the team is down by one, and 11 minutes remaining if the team is down by two.

    But it’d be REALLY hard for a coach to do that when most people think it’s suicidal.

    On topic, having spent a lot of time over the years reading about cars and boats, I’d like to study the area of intersection between what designers and manufacturers sell, what attributes they market, what people claim to want, what people actually want, and what makes them want to buy. I’m having a hard time putting this into a hypothesis, or even more succinctly (so this is going to ramble), but I’m remembering a TTAC article that talked about the attribute of “handling” in a car, and perceptions vs. reality, and other similar characteristics. People say they want a car that handles well, which I think is quantified by the amount of sideways (radial?) acceleration the car can manage in a tight/fast turn before sliding out and losing control. But if you make a really capable car that can maximize that, you end up insulating the driver from it. The car might be handling beautifully, with objectively superior numbers, but the driver doesn’t “feel it.” The driver doesn’t feel like he or she is putting it near a limit and doesn’t experience that thrill, so they end up saying that the car feels “boring.” Conversely, small, light, often cheaper cars get the best ratings for “fun” and “sportiness” precisely because they perform worse at the particular attributes of being sporty, but they put you closer to the thrill.

    And I think boats are much, MUCH more vague about what they’re selling vs. what you want and what you’re getting, etc. There are endless online debates about what constitutes seaworthiness for ocean crossing.

    Clearly, I would need a very good doctoral adviser.

  31. I would like to work on social mobility. Somewhere tied into this is learning Spanish. I My church already has a program but IMO, it needs to stop being fluffy and kick into a higher gear.

  32. “Everyone I know, relatives, friend’s parents and grandparents, etc. have all just dropped dead. That might be the issue for some people. On the other hand I think totebaggers tend to overweight the odds of a slow and costly slide into dementia vs. droping dead.”

    I was going to say something like this. DW and I had eight grandparents between us. The youngest that anyone died was about 71, but only two of the eight went into assisted living, or had reason to do so.

  33. what people claim to want, what people actually want, and what makes them want to buy

    That’s a good one. There is a growing body of research that says the brain makes decisions first and then we justify those decisions after the fact. It would be interesting to learn how different the after the fact justifications are from what actually motivated the decision.

    One example might be SUVs. It’s 95% what’s in style vs. 5% any legitimate reason. But very few people would say style is the #1 (by a large margin) reason they went with the MDX vs. the TLX.

  34. I don’t want another PhD. I’d love to be able to spend the same amount of time studying and learning deeply, but without the drama and the hoop jumping. I just want to learn.

    Kerri – Yes, it’s a very odd little postage stamp of a state. Not many people know the role RI played in the slave trade, or the pirates, or other quirky things. Including some from WWII. I think you just gave me another topic idea for my friend’s book club. But I’d need to find a good book on RI history. Please come visit.

    I’ll definitely have to check out that course. I hope these open courses are available in a few years when I can devote a bit more time to those things. Even just figuring out how do listen to it, like you are Kerri. Because they sound so cool.

  35. “I think reading up on topics is interesting, but doctoral programs are frequently highly political. Yes, even the cherished hard sciences have political drama. ”

    I assume you mean politics in the academic petty politics sense? Both my husband and I were really lucky that we avoided that stuff as grad students. I had the most amazing, sweet, lowkey adviser. He was good at what he did and always had plenty of grant money so I could get support, but there was simply no drama in our research group. None. My whole department, with the exception of one crazy Greek who constantly yelled at meeting that she deserved a better parking spot, was free of drama. But I have heard horror stories from friends at other schools.

  36. “I’d love to understand why people litter. There are garbage cans feet away and people still litter. What is up with that?”

    To broaden the topic, why do people drop their dirty clothes on the floor right next to the hamper?

    But seriously, I don’t have a burning desire to undertake original research. For one thing, the nitty gritty detail work is not appealing. Maybe if I could hire a team of research assistants it would be fun. There are many things I’d like to learn about, but they are things already known.

    Milo’s hockey goalie story made me think of this that I learned from a behavioral finance show about the wisdom of staying put with your investments.

    What’s the best way to stop a penalty kick? Do nothing: just stand in the center of the goal and don’t move.

    That is the surprising conclusion of “Action Bias Among Elite Soccer Goalkeepers: The Case of Penalty Kicks,” a paper published by a team of Israeli scientists in Journal of Economic Psychology that attracted attention earlier this year. The academics analyzed 286 penalty kicks and found that 94 percent of the time the goalies dived to the right or the left — even though the chances of stopping the ball were highest when the goalie stayed in the center.

    If that’s true, why do goalies almost always dive off to one side? Because, the academics theorized, the goalies are afraid of looking as if they’re doing nothing — and then missing the ball. Diving to one side, even if it decreases the chance of them catching the ball, makes them appear decisive. “They want to show that they’re doing something,” says Michael Bar-Eli, one of the study’s authors. “Otherwise they look helpless, like they don’t know what to do.”

  37. “I’d love to understand why people litter. There are garbage cans feet away and people still litter. What is up with that?”

    To broaden the topic, why do people drop their dirty clothes on the floor right next to the hamper?”

    And then there is my daughter who insists on hurling used bubble gum at the trash, missing, and then never picking it up. I find wads of hardened gum around the trash. Even making her scrape it up hasn’t helped so I have banned bubble gum from the house.

  38. “’I’d love to understand why people litter. There are garbage cans feet away and people still litter. What is up with that?”

    To broaden the topic, why do people drop their dirty clothes on the floor right next to the hamper?’

    And then there is my daughter who insists on hurling used bubble gum at the trash, missing, and then never picking it up. I find wads of hardened gum around the trash. Even making her scrape it up hasn’t helped so I have banned bubble gum from the house.”

    Externalities.

  39. ““I’d love to understand why people litter. There are garbage cans feet away and people still litter. What is up with that?””

    We were skiing over Christmas break, and the snow conditions were such that the trails had enough of a base combination of manmade and natural snow that they were skiable, but the rest of the mountain was bare ground. This means that under the path of the lift, you could see where people had dropped empty beer cans on the way up. And on multiple occasions, resort employees were out there hiking along the path of the lift picking them up.

    My guess is that littering is something that is almost solely done by really trashy people, no pun intended. And I’m wondering if it has something to do with a subconscious desire for the person to feel a sort of heightened social status, as they may not perceive that from anywhere else. “I may be low, but look, I can throw trash on the ground, and there’s someone even lower” (in their mistaken perception of hierarchy) “who will have to pick up after me.”

  40. “They want to show that they’re doing something,” says Michael Bar-Eli, one

    The Titanic wouldn’t have sunk if they had just rammed the iceberg.

  41. Lemon Tree, I was going to say the same thing. I feel like I’ve done graduate level research in the 17-18 years since I realized I knew nothing. There is so much more info available now, and so much ongoing research. I am fascinated by how the brain works. Helping kids with learning disabilities in the early elementary years pays lifetimes of dividends. I wish it was something schools put more effort into.

    I would also like to do more math. I strongly regret not majoring in it, and would love to learn more. I intend to spend my retirement taking courses, but not at PhD level, because hey – I’m retired. I’m not working that hard.

    My ideal would be to move around to different college towns taking classes, but if there are grandkids around, I’ll stay wherever they are.

    Great topic, Rhett!

  42. “My ideal would be to move around to different college towns taking classes, but if there are grandkids around, I’ll stay wherever they are.”

    With more and more schools having online courses, you won’t have to go far ever for a fantastic education. And you can always create some travel time to do intensive study in a particular location.

  43. (I find little nuggets like why are words for meat that we eat different than the animals (e.g. beef/cow or lamb/sheep)

    And why are there multiple words for meat from the same animal, like pork, bacon and ham? “Yes Lisa, one magical animal.”

    DD, I think there are a lot of areas of human behavior that have been studied endlessly, to no particular conclusion. The problem is that we don’t have good research methods for studying human behavior. There is more focus today on trying to replicate results of studies, and the track record in psychology has not been encouraging.

    Mooshi, I agree completely.

    On the other hand I think totebaggers tend to overweight the odds of a slow and costly slide into dementia vs. droping dead.

    And as we’ve often discussed, they also overweight the odds of getting a rare illness and needing highly specialized care.

    But it’d be REALLY hard for a coach to do that when most people think it’s suicidal.

    These kinds of analytics are starting to be more widely accepted in sports. Baseball is the most obvious since that has been subject to statical analysis the longest, but even in football they are being used more. For example, analysis has shown that if you are down 14 points late in the game, you increase your chances of winning by going for the 2-point conversion if/when you score the first TD. This goes completely against conventional wisdom, but the Giants actually did it in a game this season. (They didn’t score the second TD so it was moot.) So I’m sure at some point hockey coaches will start pulling the goalie sooner.

  44. (I find little nuggets like why are words for meat that we eat different than the animals (e.g. beef/cow or lamb/sheep)

    And don’t get me started on spelling reform! Although that would be more something to fund as an eccentric billionaire. People don’t realize that in other languages there is no difference between spelling and punctuation. I can’t recall the language but one is so close they said if you asked someone how to spell something they’d just pronounce it slower – it would be like asking an English speaker how to spell FBI.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/German_orthography_reform_of_1996

  45. “And why are there multiple words for meat from the same animal, like pork, bacon and ham?”

    Because they’re different things? It’s all pork. Ham is a leg of pork that has been cured in some way (and is sometimes used to denote the pork leg itself); bacon is a belly of pork that has been cured in some way.

    And of course if you want to be Italian, then you have the distinction between cooked and raw ham (cotto and crudo), and then you need to distinguish the various crudos by specific location (Parma, San Daniele, etc.) — and then bacon can be smoked or not (speck vs. pancetta), and rolled or not. ;-)

  46. Yes, there have been a lot of studies about “what” people do and we have a fair amount of knowledge to predict the “what”. But, I agree we don’t know either “why” or if the “what” they did was intentional or the unintended consequence.

    If we are talking a truly deep dive into basic research, I don’t have that much interest. I’d rather get a more “Malcolm Gladwell” -type synopsis of the topic.

    On older folks and assisted living, I think it boils down to:
    1. People with a slow decline don’t realize how much “ability” they have lost until something acute puts it in focus. (For my mom it was a trip for her 90th birthday that she had “always” done with ease and it was tough.)
    2. The loss of control when you are in a facility from the small to the big. Some of these are real and some are just perceived.
    3. Money – the more you have the more choices you have in the type, the location, and the additional services that can make it more pleasant.
    4. Culture – if your cultural background and the one you currently live in say that going into a facility means that your family doesn’t love you then it must be the absolute last resort.
    5. Visitors – if you think your family friend won’t visit, you resist. IME, those with more visitors seem to get better care (someone will notice and say something if nothing else) and, at least at my mom’s facilities, everyone knew who had visitors and who didn’t.

  47. Interesting topic, Rhett.

    I’ve been getting audiobooks on that Libby app and listening to them at 1.75x speed to finish faster. Since starting this new position and feeling over my head in a number of areas, I’m not going for a deep dive into any one topic, but am trying to learn just enough about a long list of things.

    I like RMS’s idea of inviting someone over to summarize their work. I’m considering that service that gives you a 15-min summary of books, which is similar.

  48. Rhett – that’s in the range of Totebag special splurge. Are you going to get you one, and a pilot’s license?

  49. I am also fascinated by behavioral economics. If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend the book Misbehaving, by Richard Thaler. Realize that mostly it will confirm for you that people do not always make the rational choice. Thus, inertia and denial can outweigh other salient facts. Which can be frustrating if you’re looking for a more scientific approach. But, reality.

  50. DD and I were discussing some of this the other day and her insight is that people past childhood need purpose in life, not necessarily just meeting a series of personal goals. They need to feel of use. It ties into the topic of why rich people keep working, and this one about purposeful activity in retirement, and much more importantly into why the lack of workforce participation by young men is so corrosive.

  51. I noticed that my neighbors who can afford the pricey and very nice retirement and assisted living community are packing up in time, selling their homes and moving. On the other hand those folks who less well off are concerned about the money running out so will defer moving as much as possible.

  52. Mémé’s daughter’s comment about purpose reminds me of my friend’s father, who (statistically) should have died of heart disease a few years ago. Regular grandchild care and visiting shut-ins (he’s a former Quaker pastor, and someone gave him another vehicle when his old one quit working) has allowed him to persevere despite his heart disease well into his 80’s.

  53. Louise, sometimes I have seen exactly the scenario you describe, but in other instances the senior person with resources is incredibly stubborn about continuing an unsuitable living arrangement, and the one without such resources is willing to listen to their family members and move.

    Another thing I have noticed is the almost total lack of candid information about retirement communities, as compared with, say, major corporate employers, colleges or apartment complexes. I keep thinking that someone, somewhere, will figure out that baby boomers and their kids will expect to be able to read detailed online reviews on Countryside Acres before making that kind of major move. Especially if a steep upfront payment is involved.

  54. scarlett – you have to consider how much people like Finn LOVE being on collegeconfidential.com.

    Few people want to spend that kind of time discussing their final years, even if they’re inevitable, and such research would be totally rational.

  55. Scarlett – true about the comparison and more over the lack of transparent pricing. The sales consultant became irritated at my mother who was posing detailed pricing related questions.

  56. Some communities are better than others about showing things online. Several in our area now have floor plans and lists of amenities, but are still vague about costs and other details. And, it is the more expensive ones that put out more information than those that are made up of mainly Medicaid / Medicare patients.

    I think they realize adult children are helping and/or making many of these decisions and will bypass a place that makes it too hard to get information. Plus, many of them that locally seem to be a local business are really parts of larger entities, so it isn’t each individual location creating a separate website.

  57. In my area retirement places like everything else are hidden behind trees and low walls. However, when I looked closely, I was quite comforted to see quite a few places scattered around. Also, my kids do service hours in retirement places around town so they have a good idea of how it is on the inside and can advice me when the time comes. Actually DD’s friend suggested a place she visited with the school to her grandmother and now her grandmother lives there.

  58. AustinMom said “And, it is the more expensive ones that put out more information than those that are made up of mainly Medicaid / Medicare patients.”

    That is because the places that mainly have Medicaid residents don’t need to put out information. There is a real lack of such places, so people can’t be picky.

  59. My father and stepmother went back to school after they retired. They don’t intend to get degrees, but they’re in programs that they really enjoy. My stepmother goes to NYU and she is studying art. She travels to the Village and even takes the subway to take classes at their main campus as well as visits to major art museums all over the city. My father enrolled at Fordham and he’s studying US history.

    They both worked for many years for large US corporations in business/strategic positions. I think it’s great that they want to take classes and it gives them a routine since they go to the classes at least twice a week. I think the universities have cheaper rates for seniors too.

    I’m bouncing between my happy/healthy retirees and the daily drama with my in-laws. I thought it couldn’t get worse than days spent at Sloan with other terminal cancer patients, but then my FIL got shingles. He just spent the last week with MIL at Sloan while she was receiving treatment and he was probably already sick. The planning and all discussions about home health aides and where to live is so depressing.

    It’s hard, and there aren’t any great choices. I would much rather deal with college confidential or urban baby etc.

  60. Re. planning for aging and death — DH is a total avoider (he gets upset when I refer to us as “middle aged,” even though he’s 55 and I’m 51). Doesn’t want to think about it at all. I think about it regularly, though. I deal with these issues all the time in my professional life, and I find them really interesting. Lately, I’ve been reading lots of books written by people with terminal illnesses, or by people who care for the chronically critically ill or the dying. I know that sounds morbid, but I find these books quite beautiful, and, oddly enough, comforting. They are also helping me clarify my thoughts regarding how much medical intervention I would or would not want in certain situations. I don’t like the idea of dying any more than anyone else, but I feel compelled to try to face the reality head-on, and not leave my family with a mess.

  61. If anyone is looking for a show The Marvelous Mrs. Maizel is fantastic.

    My only issue with it is her father. They live in a huge apartment on the upper west side with a full time maid. Columbia professor salaries average $200k with a range of $100k to $300k. Where is all the money coming from?

  62. @Rhett: because it’s 1958, when NY real estate wasn’t so stratospheric, and “everyone” had a maid?

  63. But I totally agree – I adore that show! Just need DH to head out on a business trip so I can binge season 2.

  64. Rhett – The finances of the apartment are explained in season 2, episode 10. The finances of the Mom and daughter couture wardrobe are never addressed. But it is a fantasy, after all.

  65. The Marie Kondo Show – I like her idea of putting all the clothes in a pile. I think it’s too easy to keep adding clothes to closets in various rooms, keeping them neat but never getting rid of anything. The lady who owned the first house we bought took a month and a half to empty all her jam packed closets and the attic storage space. At that point, it was just her and her daughter living in the house.

  66. I watched the first episode of Tidying Up with Marie Kondo last night and it did not spark joy for me. Maybe I was expecting helpful advice and/or more drama. The couple was just mildly annoying and hard to watch for an hour. I guess I need the high drama of shows like the Real Housewives to hold my attention.

    I’ve heard so many good things about Mrs. Maizel and I even downloaded some episodes during my last trip but never got around to watching. I’ll keep it on my list. OTOH, the only must-see show I’ve seen all episodes of in many years is My Brilliant Friend. I’m now re-reading the book. IMO the series amplifies and enhances the book, probably unusual for this type of thing.

  67. The Real Housewives of New Jersey are very much like many of the people I know locally, but on steroids. It makes it particularly entertaining to watch

  68. Thanks for the Mrs. Maizel recommendations..I wanted to watch it over vacation, but DH wasn’t interested. We always struggle to find shows to watch because DH is picky. He usually asks me what “my blog people” recommend, so now I’ll tell him it comes Totebag approved!

  69. Did you read Emily Nussbaum’s review of Mrs Maisel in the New Yorker? She kind of put me off it. MMM is by the creator of the Gilmore Girls, and it sounds like it has all the annoying features of Gilmore Girls with fewer redeeming features. But then again the most recent season of Gilmore Girls left a terrible taste in my mouth, even though I liked the original series. Usually.

  70. I have never seen The Gilmore Girls, but I just finished the second season of Mrs. Maisel. I liked the first season more than the second season, but I still enjoyed watching this show. They film some scenes in the second season in other locations and I thought they did a great job re creating the details of the 50s in those locations. Fun show that shows how hard it was for women during that time period.

    I saw a clip about the Captain & Tennille earlier today. Love Will Keep Us Together is one of the first songs that I remember playing over and over again in my 8 track cassette player. The first tape I ever played in my own cassette player was the Love Will Keep us Together album.

  71. I thought of Rhett as I watched Marie Kondo. He would be exactly the opposite, come in like a drill sargent and order everyone to throw their sh*t out. No “does it spark joy” nonsense.

  72. Changing topic… All of my college kid’s grades finally got posted, and….straight A’s. Far better than he has ever done before, on a relatively demanding set of classes (he claims that he learned more calculus in physics2 than he ever learned in calculus). I know he worked really hard for it – he always has to put in more effort than the typical kid. I also know he really liked his classes, well, except for the comp class.

  73. Mooshi – what does he find the difference to be between high school and college in terms of keeping himself organized ?

  74. I am not sure. Assignment wise, it isn’t much different from HS – every class had multiple due dates for stuff each week. Exams are weighted pretty heavily in the math and physics classes, but that was true in HS too, and he had a physics lab with weekly reports that had to follow a fussy format and a complicated signin/signout process. I always thought that would be his weakest class, but he managed to navigate it. He is pretty much using the same organizational system that he used in HS – a big paper planner that he put together himself. Most of the classes had online hand-in systems which always work better for him, but the comp class had weekly assignments on paper and he managed to get those in. He also made a habit of visiting the profs weekly to make sure he wasn’t missing anything. I encouraged him to do that – I have students who do the same, and it never bothers me because they tend to be very good students.
    But generally, I think he just worked really hard at it. He had a big scare at the end of his senior year – he relaxed too much in the last quarter and got D’s in a couple of important classes. He was really mega-upset about that because they were in classes he cared about.

  75. I was working with a neighbor last night because she’s trying to secure an internship for the upcoming summer. She is a sophomore and has a 4.0. She thinks college is much easier than HS because all she has to do is attend classes and study. She was a three sport varsity athlete in HS, played on a club soccer team, and participated in 3 or 4 clubs. Throw in learning to drive, SAT prep, babysitting, and college apps. I can see why many college students would be able to focus on their classes even if they work or participate in extra curriculars.

  76. Certainly my kid’s school is a good place for focus because there isn’t a lot of partying. But he wasn’t massively involved in extracurriculars during HS. He did run cross country, and he was in the academic quiz bowl club and worked some weekends at a program that taught programming to middle schoolers. He isn’t much different in college – he does the orchestra, a programming contest team, an art club, and mandatory community service hours.

  77. High school was the most difficult thing I’ve done. That includes graduating from competitive college and grad school, as well as corporate finance in NY. So much pressure and competition! Everything was downhill from there.

  78. MM,

    Is he doing 15 credits a semester? If so that’s significantly less than half the number of classroom hours versus high school. Also what time do his classes start? Some days not till 11? For kids who do better in college than in HS i think those factors can make a big difference.

  79. I had the opposite experience. College was way, way harder than HS! Except in France, I had so little homework in HS that I could usually get it done during the bus ride home.

  80. Rhett, that may have been a factor although in addition to his regular classes he had a required noncredit honors seminar that met for 90 minutes a week, and 1 credit lab that met for 2 and a half hours a week.

    His schedule was pretty sucky overall with both early morning and late afternoon classes, 5 days a week. He says he generally prefers morning classes because of the way the ADHD meds work.

  81. Mooshi, that’s awesome!

    I found college to be much more challenging than HS because I had too much freedom. There wasn’t anybody staying on me to go to class and keep on top of things. I find Houston’s comment very interesting because I had the complete opposite experience. I went to a very totebaggy HS and was in the top 10% of my class, but I didn’t feel any competition or pressure at all.

    We just got an update on my step-nephew. He got all Ds and Fs this semester because he hardly ever went to class or did much work, so his dad told him he needs to pay him back $7,000 for this semester, and he’s not going to pay for next semester. SIL said he’s been spending all of his break trying to get student loans so he can pay his dad.

  82. Rocky, just read the article, and I couldn’t disagree more. And my radical feminist mom agrees — she’s the one who insisted I watch the show.

    Mooshi, congrats to your DS!! That’s awesome.

  83. He got all Ds and Fs this semester because he hardly ever went to class or did much work,

    That would make an interesting thing to study. It certainly happens often enough.

  84. RMS. I never saw Gilmore Girls. Nussbaums review is one of many pushback reviews this year in which the wildly successful show is dissected as if the reviewer is insulted that this bit of idealized froth and its creator (which has done a great job with the sets and the gorgeous clothes and a top line cast, but still has a few anachronisms and repetitive storylines), have stolen the streaming spotlight from all the edgy black comedies and indistinguishable dystopian/disfuntional family/historical/FSF/crime/horror shows that “merit” serious attention

  85. In the home country preparation for the 10th grade state exams and subsequent admission to junior college were so stressful that I wished for an a gap year or at least a few months of break. I think many seniors mentally take this sort of mental break after they get admitted to colleges.

  86. As an example – for kids with a background like DD’s step nephew randomly send out acceptance letters half for immediate acceptance and half for delayed acceptance. We’re offing you XYZ but we think you’d benefit from a gap year so we’ve pushed your start date from 2019 to 2020.

  87. One thing about college, at least for students living on campus, is that everything is right there. You can roll out of bed, grab a coffee and get to even an 8 am class without having to get up at dawn. If you’re playing a sport, the practice facilities are right there, not across town. DS saved more than an hour every day simply by not having to commute from school to the pool and then home. And you don’t have to take out the trash, pick up younger siblings from school or soccer practice, or otherwise be responsible for anything or anyone but yourself.

  88. “One thing about college, at least for students living on campus, is that everything is right there.”
    This is very true for my kid’s college, which has an extremely compact urban campus. All of the buildings are jammed into a small area.

  89. DD – predictable result for your nephew given effort expended. I’ve been there with my oldest. At least DS3, your nephew’s classmate, hasn’t had that happen (yet). It may not be the most challenging school around but it seems like they take seriously showing up, doing the work, participating, and doing reasonably well on tests/papers.

  90. stolen the streaming spotlight from all the edgy black comedies and indistinguishable dystopian/disfuntional family/historical/FSF/crime/horror shows that “merit” serious attention

    Exactly.

    Emily Nussbaum is everything wrong with the world.

  91. DD – predictable result for your nephew given effort expended.

    How much do you think a gap year would have helped? A little rumspringa to get it out of there system before college.

  92. Rhett, maybe a gap 3 years might have helped, but I don’t think 1 year would have made much difference.

    Fred, he just has no motivation. It’s too bad because he’s a bright kid.

  93. Well, he’ll either find a career he likes that doesn’t require a college education, or he’ll get bored with lower-level work and decide to go back and suck it up.

  94. or he’ll get bored with lower-level work and decide to go back and suck it up.

    He could also learn how the world works. We all know that with skills you can make twice as much money for half as much work. Laying asphalt in Atlanta in August vs. slinging spreadsheets in some air conditioned office, etc. People aren’t born knowing that. And many people can’t be taught that – they can only learn it.

  95. “Well, he’ll either find a career he likes that doesn’t require a college education, or he’ll get bored with lower-level work and decide to go back and suck it up.”

    Or he’ll get a lower level job and keep it for decades while complaining about not having any money all the time and how the world isn’t fair and how put upon he is that no one recognizes his genius.

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