Summer plans?

by July

The Value of a Self-Directed Summer for Kids
This race to the elusive top is causing many young people to experience severe anxiety, depression, and hopelessness.

Some research shows that increased autonomy helps reduce stress in kids and that overscheduling kids is detrimental to their development.

What are you and your family doing this summer?


Scamming jobseekers in Appalachia

by MooshiMooshi

This article, from the NY Times, is a sad tale of a “coding bootcamp” that took advantage of people in West Virginia seeking to better themselves. The bootcamp, called Mined Mines, was endorsed and promoted by Joe Manchin, the National Guard, and various news organizations. And yet, it was clearly a fraud, and ended up a disaster for the people who signed up.

They Were Promised Coding Jobs in Appalachia. Now They Say It Was a Fraud.
Mined Minds came into West Virginia espousing a certain dogma, fostered in the world of start-ups and TED Talks. Students found an erratic operation.

My take on this, and you can see from the commenters that many shared this opinion, was that even beyond the obvious fraud, this was a scheme that could never work. They promised to take pretty much anyone, run them through 16 weeks of “coding” instruction, and then an apprenticeship at their own tech consulting firm, and at the end of all this, the graduates would find high paying software development jobs.

OK. First of all, to be a successful software developer, one needs to know a lot more than just “coding”, whatever that is. Software systems have become really sophisticated, and everyone wants to integrate machine intelligence algorithms, cybersecurity best practices, oh, and it better be scaleable and run on highly distributed architectures. That means that developers need to know stuff – how to build security practices into the code, how to write system that can be parallelized, how to choose data structures and algorithms that scale, and so on. No one can learn all that in 16 weeks! The second problem is that the participants likely did not have the best academic preparation, and would have struggled even in a 4 year program. So it isn’t surprising that none of the people who went through this program actually ended up in development positions, or it seems, IT positions of any kind. I doubt they could have ever gotten through a standard technical interview.

And finally, I think the idea that if you train people in IT, they are going to somehow find remote jobs while remaining in Appalachia is pretty unrealistic. There is a reason that the tech industry congregates in certain areas. Not only do the companies have a choice of the best talent RIGHT THERE, but the people themselves network with each other, and learn from each other. It is hard to be a fledgling developer, and trying to do it remotely would be much harder. Software developers spend a lot of time talking to each other and getting advice from each other. It is hard to do that from your trailer in rural West Virginia. The reality is, for people in rural areas who want to get into tech, they are going to have to move.

Do particular toys inspire particular interests?

by Louise

The Sum of the Parts of STEM Toys Can Equal a Giant Mess
A new generation of knickknacks meant to inspire a love of science and math can become a headache for parents; Legos aren’t the only floor hazard

Do these STEM toys really make kids want to take up STEM ?

Legos were big in my house for a stretch but now one kid turns trash into treasure and the other one likes video games. I am not certain bombarding kids with specific toys increases interest that much. Same with Disney princesses, no evidence so far of any princess behavior

What’s new in the world of laundry?

by Becky

I’m not posting a link to the product here because I don’t want people doing a search for it to end up here, but I was at Costco this weekend and saw the LG Styler. It is a steam closet for your clothes that would go in your laundry room. You put your clothes in and close the door, and the lovely machine freshens them up for you. There was a contraption in the door to hold slacks and press them. I was enthralled with this thing and am trying to find a justification to buy it. What items make your laundry life easier, other than making other families do it?

Is it a sin, crime, or both?

by Swim

I remember making a joke to a college friend about something we didn’t like, “UGH, that’s a sin AND a crime!” We laughed, and it became a recurring comment. DH and I will sometimes make that comment as a joke, but other times we’ll use it to see where we stand on other value litmus tests. Jaywalking at an empty intersection? Crime but no sin. Nasty gossip? Sin but no crime.

It has been interesting to use it as a discussion point with the kids when having serious conversations that revolve around values.

Faking it

by S&M

“Putting things away creates the illusion that the clutter problem has been solved” — M. Kondo on using bins and baskets to corral things

De-cluttering is the new morality. Some of us would be happy to fool ourselves and keep on sinning. (In other words, I want my stuff, but not the disaster when my sleeve catches on a stack and sends it careening.) Anyone who’s going to embrace Konmari as their lifestyle probably has by now. Personally, I still have enough stuff that beating it back is a regular activity. This little list is about ways to hang onto “clutter” without feeling cramped by it, as well as other clean-house cheats. Some of the tips (we seem to be past “hacks”, hooray!), like “make your bed”, are old hat, but some might feel new, if not novel. I am into trays right now, Easter-baskets-as-organizers are surprisingly good, and we have plants, a wooden bathmat and a diffuser.

How about your household? Does any of this sound familiar? What other strategies do you use for a cleaner feeling home?

7 Ways to Make Your Home Feel Cleaner Than It Is
Fake a clean home in less than 15 minutes.

Tuesday open thread

We have an open thread all day.

If you’re in the mood to rant, go right ahead.

Public Behavior – What Are Your Peeves?

This question set off a long and rambling thread.  Some complaints included taking a long time to pull out of parking spot (controversial), keyboard sounds not muted, slowpokes in the checkout line, kids in restaurants (also controversial), pedestrians who walk diagonally across the street in parking lots, and more.

Upcoming topics:

Wednesday  —  Faking it  (S&M)
Thursday  — Is it a sin, crime, or both?   (Swim)
Friday  —  What’s new in the world of laundry?   (Becky)
Sunday —  Politics open thread

Strange interviews

by Sheep Farmer

DD recently had an interview for a summer job in the water department of a small New England city. One of the questions that they asked her was if she knew how to operate a boat. It was a question that DD was not expecting.* What is the strangest question that you have been asked or have asked in an interview?

*DD told the interviewer that she did not know how to operate a boat, but that she lives on a farm and knows how to drive a tractor and that her truck is a manual transmission and that she is sure that she would have no problem learning how to operate a boat. DD got the job.


by Swim

Friday fun topic: do you have an unusual hobby – perhaps something that you’re obsessive about that those around you don’t find as interesting? Did you turn it into a profession or is it something that just makes you happy?

Connecting across generations

by Sheep Farmer

I recently attended a memorial service for an 87 year old woman. She had outlived her husband and all her kids. Her grandchildren were scattered with families of their own.

One of the speakers at her service was a 21 year old young man. When he was 15 he started working for this woman on her sheep farm. Over the next six years they developed a deep friendship. This young man credited this woman with teaching him a lot about life, about running a business and a farm. One of his comments was that she was his college education and that she taught him more than he could have learned from four years in a classroom. This special friendship developed into more than either could have ever imagined. She willed her farm to him.

I don’t want this to turn into a college vs. no college discussion. Obviously this man is going to be very successful without ever having stepped foot into a college classroom. What stood out for me was his admiration and respect for this woman who was old enough to be his grandmother and the kindness and generosity that she showed him. Have any of you ever had a special relationship with someone of a different generation who was not family member?

Tuesday open thread

We have an open thread all day.

Here’s a starter topic.

Rise of the Lady Backpack
Some white-collar women are ditching their purses for a more practical toting solution. They say they’ll never go back.

For both men and women, what’s your preference for business or travel — backpack, tote bag, purse, briefcase, or something else?  If you use a backpack, do you go for a more stylish, professional version?

Paying for higher education

by MooshiMooshi

Since we all love to discuss higher education issues, I thought this might be a fun one. This article from Inside Higher Education compares two approaches to funding university education: Elizabeth Warren’s plan, and Arizona State University’s plan to partner with corporations to deliver online education to their employees.

Elizabeth Warren v. InStride: Two Different Paths for Higher Education

I have major issues with both approaches. I think Elizabeth Warren’s plan is unworkable, doesn’t do anything to hold down costs, and would have the unintended effect of decimating private colleges. The second approach seems more like a way to accomplish employee training and skills augmentation than a workable approach to financing higher education. If that model were widely adopted, I think it would exacerbate inequality. The wealthy would continue to send their children to traditional universities and everyone else would have to go work for a corporation that partners with a provider of an online learning platform.

There has got to be a better way….

What sparks special memories for you?

by Sheep Farmer

“We all have a song that somehow stamped our lives.  Takes us to another place and time.” Kenny Chesney from the song “I Go Back”.

It does not have to be a song. Maybe seeing a particular movie or revisiting a place brings back special memories.

Vision correction

by Finn

Most of us probably need some sort of vision correction, and any of us who don’t can look forward to needing it as your eyes age.

I’ve needed correction since I was in the 2nd grade (interestingly, the same point as for DS). For many years, I just used glasses, but when I started skiing as a 20-something I found a couple of reasons to start wearing contacts.

When I started skiing, I wore glasses with clip-on dark glasses. But I found that when I walked indoors, the warm air instantly caused my glasses to fog up. I also had difficulty finding goggles that worked with glasses, and a lack of good options for dark glasses.

Once I started wearing the contacts, I found they had many advantages over glasses, especially in situations that involved sweating. Some positive feedback from females also brought vanity into play, and I’ve been using them as my primary vision correction since.

However, at about the time of my last birthday ending with a 0, I had to start using reading glasses, and more recently, I’ve needed an increasing array of correction levels. For computer work, no contacts and computer glasses works best; contacts and very weak reading glasses also work. I’ll need to talk to my optometrist next time about possibly using contacts with each eye’s correction optimized for different distance vision.

What sort of vision correction do you use, and why? What have you found works well for you, what have you found doesn’t work well for you, and what solutions do you which existed?

Tuesday open thread

We have an open thread all day.

Do you have an opinion on this?

Now that the holiday meal is over, I have a question.

Was invited to Easter Brunch at a friend’s home. Took several dishes and some liquor. There were leftovers which I would have taken some home but was never asked. I should have asked but didn’t think it was proper. When they come to my house I always offer and they accept. Is it okay to ask to take food home?

Upcoming topics:

Wednesday  —  Home affordability  (AustinMom)
Thursday  — Vision correction   (Finn)
Friday  —  What sparks special memories for you?  (Sheep Farmer)
Sunday —  Politics open thread

Staying in touch with former teachers

by Sheep Farmer

Recently I was talking to a friend who is a retired professor and she was mentioning that she still keeps in touch with a handful of her former students. She said that the ones that she remains in contact with would just visit stop by her office and talk to her about non school stuff and over time friendships developed.

Before DD left for college I encouraged her to befriend a professor or other adult in case she ever found herself in an emergency situation and needed help. I also encouraged to keep in touch with her high school chemistry teacher. This teacher taught DD twice, wrote recommendations for her and just looked out for DD. Of course DD has not done so.

Do any of you still keep in touch with any of your former teachers, either from high school or college? For those of you who teach, do you keep in contact with former students.

Politics open thread, May 5-11

Let’s talk politics.

From WCE:

For the politics page, on what companies and workers should do about the questionable use of technology by various governments.

“We can forgive your politics and focus on your technical contributions as long as you don’t do something unforgivable, like speaking to the press.”

This was the parting advice given to me during my exit interview from Google after spending a month internally arguing, resignation letter in hand, for the company to clarify its ethical red lines around Project Dragonfly, the effort to modify Search to meet the censorship and surveillance demands of the Chinese Communist Party.

When a prototype circulated internally of a system that would ostensibly allow the Chinese government to surveil Chinese users’ queries by their phone numbers, Google executives argued that it was within existing norms. Governments, after all, make law enforcement demands of the company all the time. Where, they asked their employees, was the demonstrable harm?

How I lost my cellphone

by Swim

Topic suggestion: How I lost my cellphone and was SOL because of it. Subtopic: How my kid lost their cellphone and was SOL because of it and how their problem then became my problem. Sub subtopic: what’s your contingency plan for when you lose your cellphone and suddenly find yourself SOL because of it.

Feeling middle class

by Austin Mom

This article touches on a topic we have visited before – what is middle class. For me, this one is more accurate in describing what I see in the world around me.

I found it odd that this was based on a family of three vs. a family of four. With a family of four (I count the college student in our family still), I am pretty confident we still fall just slightly over the line into upper middle class. But, the amount of money we live off of is definitely in the middle class range. This is because we generally reinvest all investment earnings, and save (for general and retirement purposes) out of current income.

I also agree with the comments about lifestyle creep. So totebaggers, do you think this article more accurately describes you see?

This is why everyone thinks they are middle class (even if they aren’t)
It might not feel that way, but you might actually be upper middle class.