Time Sinks

by Rocky Mountain Stepmom

We’ve discussed some other blogs, and some advice columns, but another entertaining time sink is the Money Diaries section of Refinery 29. Young women (it’s almost all young women) post a week’s worth of spending and then the commenters tear them apart. You might feel sympathy towards the poster, but getting torn apart is the whole point. N.b: I have Chrome set up with enough ad blockers and whatnot that the comments don’t show up. I have to use a different browser to see them. 

https://www.refinery29.com/en-us/money-diary

What other time sinks have you found lately?

174 thoughts on “Time Sinks

  1. Our town public library has ebook and audiobook services, but I haven’t used them much. I also have a Queens Public Library card, free in my case, but haven’t done much with it. I can’t keep up with the stack of books I already have on my Kindle and on my bedroom floor…

  2. RMS – I take it the Denver library has a more limited selection of e-books and audio books than the Brooklyn library? The Seattle Public LIbrary has e-books and audio books – and you can also access a wide variety of movies and music online.

    Twitter is my time sink. My more recent and much more positive time sink is doing puzzles. I received a puzzle board for Christmas which means I can now do puzzles in a part of our house with good lighting (our dining room doesn’t have great lighting). I find working on puzzles soothing – and spending 15-20 minutes working on a puzzle makes a nice way to transition out of work. Bonus – DS helped me quite a bit on the last one. Although the next one coming up is based on a painting by Gustav Klimt (The Kiss) which I think will be difficult – a lot of repetition in the pattern.

  3. Jigsaw puzzles are a time sink. I rediscovered them, and now usually have one set up in our basement family room. I’ll go down there and the next thing I know 90 minutes have passed.

  4. I have mixed feeling about the Brooklyn library thing. I am sure it won’t surprise most people, but there wasn’t one NYC library for all five boroughs. I lucked out because I always lived in the Bronx or Manhattan so I had one library card for most of my life until I moved to the burbs. Manhattan and the Bronx do share a library system. The $50 is a good way to raise money, but I wouldn’t want someone from another state to be able to take a place in the queue for an ebook or audiobook. Like I said – mixed feelings.

    One silver lining of the virus is that my library system has access to millions of things now including ebooks, audio books and lots of other stuff that I never have time for because there is almost too much content that now comes with our library card.

  5. My DD’s both report that our city library is quite good, especially for audiobooks. DD#2 needs to “update” her card to an adult card. But, with all checkouts currently being curbside, she didn’t even try to figure that out since she turned 18 in late June.

    I am not really sure what it claiming my time, but I am not getting nearly as much done as I should. I find myself reading news, blogs, or emails. In the evening, I have been binge watching series. I am trying to make myself shut off the tv after the show I sat down to watch is over.

    This week I have gone back to a very old technique of setting work timers. First thing in the work day, I set them for 30 minutes. If I find myself off-task two “work blocks” in a row, I shorten it to 20 minutes, if I still find myself off-task two work blocks in a row, I take a 15 minute break and then start back at 20 minutes again. I go the other way too, if I am on-task and powering through work, I may extend the timer to 40 minutes or 60 minutes. By off-task, I mean things like reading/commenting here all the way to avoiding the task at hand in lieu of something else.

  6. SSM — Denver is the largest and best-funded library between Chicago and San Francisco. We have tons of stuff. Nevertheless, I like to know what else is out there, and each library has its own strengths and weaknesses. In contrast to what Lauren says about the NY boroughs, in Colorado, if you have a library card in your home town, you can get an additional card (barcode, really) from any other library in the state. Pre-COVID, the trick was that you had to actually go to the library you wanted the barcode from. I don’t know if that’s changed this past year in the pandemic. I think the goal was to make the resources of the entire state available to all state residents, but not TOO available. If you live in Grand Junction you can get a Denver library card but you have to put up with driving or taking the bus over the mountains.

  7. SSM – I just googled ‘puzzle board’ and now I am intrigued! I agree with LT puzzles are a HUGE time sink. I find them so satisfying that I can’t stop. Turn off Netflix? no problem. Not search for that piece that I. Know. Fits. HERE? no way!!

    LT – I haven’t opened my Monet Waterlilies puzzle yet. It’s 1000 pieces, and we don’t really have space to spread the pieces out, but if I get SSM’s puzzle board I just may take the plunge!

  8. My library card does allow me to access materials from around the state and I know that my parents have the same with their NYC public libraries. The access to other library materials (online) is now much greater vs just a few years ago.

  9. I have “rediscovered” the library since moving here. Back home I would take my kid, but I rarely ever checked out a book. I just got in the habit of buying books on my Kindle. We go to the library at least every other week, and I am always checking out books. We can also check out magazines, which I enjoy.

  10. I love jigsaw puzzles. DD1’s boyfriend got me one for Christmas and I have been fairly useless since.

  11. On that Monet puzzle I’d easily spend thirty minutes and only find 1 piece…but it was so satisfying. J-M, either get a puzzle board or wait until you move back to the States. I can’t remember how long it took, but for sure over a month.

    My library covers the whole county – all 1.2 million residents. The downside is that I have holds on books for 6+ months. I was just at Barnes & Noble and a book sounded interesting. There are only 2 ebook copies and 60 requests. For the actual book there are 14 copies, and 100 requests. But, if a book isn’t very popular, I can usually get it within a few days.

  12. I am a big user of the Chicago Public Library. We have a great branch just a block away. I had been a big ebook user. Since the pandemic, I’ve been taking out physical books more often too – no lugging them in my work bag, so it’s fine. I get whichever is more convenient or available. I don’t use the online resources enough, although I have watched some movies/other content through Hoopla. I don’t buy many books at all.

    The new time sink I picked up this year was doing the NY Times Crossword puzzle and reading the corresponding Wordplay column. It’s not mindless like scrolling through Instagram, but it’s also not work or pandemic-related, so it’s a little break everyday.

  13. I, too, love puzzles. I can only do the 500 piece ones, though.

    I looked up puzzle boards. So many choices! Any advice on how to select one?

  14. At one community potluck I attended, where people didn’t necessarily know each other, a huge jigsaw puzzle was set up on a card table and you could wander over and work on it a bit, and it provided a way to chat with people you didn’t necessarily know.

  15. I like puzzles as well. The 1000 piece ones are my sweet spot. I got a great puzzle mat so I can roll them up and put them away when not working on them so the cats don’t steal the pieces.

    Rhett, there’s a radio host here who did that a few years ago with some massive puzzle. He donated the finished product to Children’s Hospital and they have it hanging in the lobby.

  16. My new time suck is cars. We finally went to look at a few cars yesterday because we had to call AAA to jump the MDX. I’ve been driving the MDX and the car is not well. Sometimes, the screen doesn’t work. This is a minor inconvenience for the radio, but I can’t see the temps or back up camera so that is not ideal.

    I spent most of last night on car web sites and then I found out that my DH was doing the same. We did decide that we are not buying three cars right now because we don’t need a third car until September 2021. We did look at Subarus around New Years and I do like the crosstrek for DD if we buy her a car.

    We are going to replace my car when it comes off lease this summer, but we can’t figure out what to buy to replace the MDX. We are going back to look at the Audis – Q3,Q5 or A4 for me, and Q5 and Q7 for the MDX. We also looked at the Lexus NX and RX.

    We went to Lexus yesterday because so many of my friends drive the RX. The Lexus is so much easier to buy vs. other cars. Everything is included in the RX and the only choices are size of the tires navigation. THATS IT. Also, the price includes everything that is an “extra” on the BMW. I think BMW is dumb in some ways because they already have me as a customer. I would be happy to just upgrade to the x3 if the price is right, but it is too expensive vs. similar cars in that category. The value stinks compared to comparable mid size SUVs.

    One pandemic silver lining is that they just give you the cars to test drive. No one from the dealer goes with you in the car so there is no need to make small talk about the car during the test drive.

  17. Unrelated question: Does anyone know of anyplace to put $25k where it will be safe and liquid, but earn more than 0.6% or whatever savings accounts are giving these days?

  18. My DH loves to look online at cars. Not cars for us to buy, but really expensive ones that he would consider if we won the Powerball or Mega Millions.

    Zillow and VRBO are big time sucks for both of us. Did you know that in the exclusive golf community that Ivanka plans on moving to the houses are $50 million?

  19. One thing I loved about ferries in the San Juan Islands – almost always a puzzle or three that were left sitting on the tables, half finished. We would grab our snacks, claim a puzzle table and ignore the majesty of nature for an hour. Sometimes we could finish the puzzle and then tear it apart for the next person. Sometimes you would come back on the same boat a few days later and pick up exactly where you left off.

  20. This year – moving, getting the new place set up, and getting the old place ready to sell took a lot of time. Now that the new house is pretty well done for now, there is less to do. Just waiting for a few things that have been on backorder (lamps, bookshelf – no major pieces). This weekend was the first in awhile that I didn’t have any home projects to cross off the list. It felt great!

    When I looked at my Goodreads year in review, I would have thought that I read way more in 2020 than 2019, but it was almost identical. The real uptick was between 2018 and 2019 when my reading more than doubled. Late 2018 is when I took a new role at work that required a lot more travel – I read a LOT of books on planes and sitting at the airport in 2019!

    I like doing puzzles, but the other people in my house aren’t so into them. And I don’t care enough to carve out a dedicated space. I would totally be into a puzzle-and-wine club!

  21. Our podunk library (which is actually a very nice building when you can go to it) allows access to the Boston Public Library, which is pretty good, but has more people waiting for copies of things, so it’s a mixed bag.

    I don’t do puzzles, just more clutter for the house! I waste time here, Corporette, ask a manager, and the Atlantic, also trolling real estate on Zillow (sometimes that is a joint activity with DH).

  22. Cars – Long story short – We may get DD#2 a car for Ft. Collins. She will be off campus in the fall, wants to volunteer at an animal shelter and maybe get a part-time job. The goal is that while she would drive up to FOCO in August and home in May/June, she would not drive in home at Thanksgiving/Christmas/Spring Break.

    She wants an AWD car, her dad says a FWD is fine. DD#2 has never driven in snow. The parents FB page recommends good all season tires vs “snow” tires. Those of you who see more than 1-2 inches every 3-5 years, what is your take?

  23. On library does have a process to check books out from other library systems in the state. You have to renew it more often. I have done it twice, in both cases to then be able to get a University of Texas library card to get access to research material for me or DDs.

  24. We are going back to look at the Audis – Q3,Q5 or A4 for me, and Q5 and Q7 for the MDX. We also looked at the Lexus NX and RX.

    What about a GV80? All the reviews say it’s amazing and much nicer than an RX.

  25. Anon 1245 – from bank rate monitor the best 1yr CD yield is:

    CFG Community Bank
    Member FDIC
    CD Details 0.67 % APY

    Offer rate as of 1/19/2021
    Minimum Deposit $500

    You’re going to have to compromise on the “safe” requirement if you want more yield.

    Please check your local credit union. Often they run CD specials.

  26. Ivy – speaking of home projects, it takes FOREVER to clean L’Abbey. This weekend (Friday-Monday) I vacuumed the house (the kids did their own rooms) and cleaned a bunch, and it took such a long time! (World’s tiniest violin, I know)

  27. Austin, I would look at new or used Subarus. AWD isn’t just for snow and I think it is easier than dealing with snow tires.

    I find it useful to have AWD for even small amounts of wintry mix. We’ve seen neighbors get stuck or slip on tiny hills because they didn’t know how to drive in snow or sleet.

    My mom has been driving for almost 60 years in the northeast. She thinks FWD is fine, but she knows how to drive in the snow.

  28. Rhett, I am frugal, but I am also brand conscious. Call me shallow, but I can’t drive that car around here. It looks great, but I don’t want to pull up in that car.

  29. Speaking of cars and interest rates. I was idly looking at new cars, as I often do. I ran the numbers and I was shocked. My first car, bought in 1998 was $22,500 and the payment was something like $525 for 60 months. I’m looking at much more expensive cars and the payments aren’t all that much higher. I thought…what is going on. Turns out the prime rate in 1998 was 8.5% and car loans were 8.7%. Which explains it. It’s striking to think how much interest people used to pay.

    A $300k house in 1998 at 6.97% would result in $414k in interest over 30 years. The same loan at 2.86% (today’s rate) would result in $147k in interest.

  30. Lauren,

    You should at least test drive it. It’s so much nicer than an RX to drive it just might be enough to get you past your brand consciousness. And really, there hasn’t been any snob appeal in Acura for 20 years.

  31. Austin Mom, If AWD is available on a model, in snowy regions they dont even bother anymore to stock FWD only. So if a snowbird is planning to get a new car to leave in FL or AZ or presumably TX she flies down and buys it there. That should answer your question.

    As for joint time sink, we do the Spelling Bee puzzle of NYT every day, and Th Fr NYT crosswords. He does Japanese nonogram puzzles online. I watch you tube nerd commentary videos on Marvel, DC,, Star Wars, high fantasy shows. Or watch pros play bridge on Twitch.

    I use my library card via the Libby app for many books. I dont mind waiting. I always have something coming up from on hold. Plus Kindle unlimited.

  32. She wants an AWD car, her dad says a FWD is fine. DD#2 has never driven in snow. The parents FB page recommends good all season tires vs “snow” tires. Those of you who see more than 1-2 inches every 3-5 years, what is your take?

    Everything depends on where she’s going to be driving it. If she’s just driving around Ft. Collins, FWD is fine. They plow the roads, sow the mag chloride, and you’re fine. But if she wants to go into the mountains, or even the foothills, AWD becomes a big deal because they waive the chain restrictions for AWD vehicles. I personally think this is a stupid rule, because if your AWD vehicle has bald tires, you’re still going to slide off the mountain. But they didn’t ask me. Since young people might very well like to pile into the car and go up to Steamboat or Eldora or someplace for the weekend, AWD becomes very important.

    Very few people driving around on the flats in Denver, Colorado Springs, Ft. Collins, etc., have snow tires. Those who live up in the mountains definitely do. The compromise that most Front Range people (that’s us) make is to get an AWD vehicle so we can go up to the mountains occasionally without futzing around with chains.

    This is all in distinct contrast to the Sierras, where they make you put chains on your AWD vehicle when it even looks like it might snow. The rules in the Rockies are different. There are times when you have to put chains or snow tires on your AWD vehicle, but those are times when you really shouldn’t be driving around anyway.

    TL;DR: How often is she going to go up into the foothills or mountains? That will determine whether she needs AWD or FWD.

  33. AustinMom: CO gets a lot of snow, but there is also a lot of sun to melt it. If she doesn’t have to drive IN a snowstorm (and doesn’t plan on going into the mountains in winter), she should be fine with FWD and good tires. *However*, my little Integra refused to get me up the hill our house was on several times in snow,* so if she will need to deal with hills, AWD is worth it. And if she is going to go into the mountains to ski, AWD + snow tires. Do NOT cheap out on snow tires if she is going to need them — they make such a huge difference, even on FWD cars.

    Speaking of kid cars: we’ve just realized we will need one for DS in the not-to-distant future — the only car we have that is suitable to learn on is DH’s, and that one is *huge*, and so if we’re going to get him one anyway, might as well do it sooner rather than later. So, any suggestions? I’m thinking 2015 or later for the crash-avoidance tech; I’d prefer to spend less, but given what I’ve heard about the used car market, we may need to go new. I also want a car that handles well (based on my belief that the best crash protection is avoiding the accident in the first place) and that can go with him wherever he goes to school. My immediate choices are Mazda 3 (handling) and Subaru Impreza (AWD). Any others we should be looking at?

    My new time suck is shopping for decrepit castles in Italy. ;-) I taped “Escape to the Chateau,” and much to my surprise, DH is totally fascinated by this — particularly since they are doing this whole thing on a completely ridiculous budget. He told me if I can find a similar property in N. Italy for a similar price, I have the all-clear, so of *course* I was up in bed on my phone until midnight last night. Alas, all the suitably castle-ey ones are like $3M and mostly renovated already (or $1M and need $2M of work).

    DH forwarded me this tweet, which I think encapsulates both of our attitudes:

    “Billionaires are F****** boring. Your mega-mansions with all-white furniture make me sick. How could you have that kind of money and not live in a haunted castle with a moat, hedges shaped like animals, and a groundskeeper with a questionable past?”

    *The problem with FWD going uphill in snow is that gravity will de-weight the front wheels, which means they spin much more easily.

  34. Back in March, we went puzzle crazy over here. My girls night out text string morphed from planning happy hours to front door drop off puzzle swaps. I found myself sometimes spending too much time on them and having a sore neck from leaning over the table and had to wean myself off them.

    Audiobook hack: I use Overdrive to check out audiobooks and transfer them to an old 16 gig ipod. The ipod doesn’t recognize any digital rights so they stay there until I’m ready to listen to them. To atone for my sin, I check the audiobook right back in so that the next person waiting gets their book right away.

    I’m listening to “In the Garden of Beasts” based on some of your recommendations. It’s hard to enjoy it because so many of them are awful people, made worse since it’s real.

  35. On the car topic, the GV80 is still pretty scarce, though I just checked inventory and I see a few around me now. Also, L, did you know there is a new MDX model coming out – supposed delivery date is 2/2. I currently drive an RX. It’s a fine car. Not especially fun to drive and I’m not considering getting another one. My current consideration list includes XC60, ‘22 MDX, GV80 or an F-pace (also would wait for redesign for the 2021 year but I don’t think it’s expected until summer).

  36. My immediate choices are Mazda 3 (handling) and Subaru Impreza (AWD). Any others we should be looking at?

    The Mazda 3 is now available with AWD.

  37. @ LfB – after driving every available car on the market (or at least it felt like it) for our DS when he was turned 16, we came to the conclusion that if you’re not going to pass a car down, it’s really hard to beat a new Subaru forester for a teenager. Great safety, great features, great price, and looks really good. High enough roof height for a tall kid if you have one.

    (In the end, we handed down my 5 year old car instead of buying new.)

  38. “The problem with FWD going uphill in snow is that gravity will de-weight the front wheels, which means they spin much more easily.”

    So you reverse up hill as necessary.

  39. Minca – that link to the Nick Offerman Megan Mullaly finished puzzles was hilarious.

    One feature I like about my puzzle board is it has 4 pull-out drawers which makes sorting pieces much easier. For example, I put all the blue water pieces in one drawer, the brown building pieces in another. Then when I was working on that section of the puzzle, it was easier to find the pieces I was looking for. The drawers pull out all the way so it’s easy to set them on my lap or near the section I’m working on.

    The puzzle board DH gave me for Christmas is roughly 26 inches by 35 inches which is a great size for 1,000 piece puzzles. I LOVE my puzzle board. Total game changer for me because I didn’t have a place to do puzzles before.

  40. Also on the car topic, I read the book about the Audi emissions cluster and decided I wouldn’t buy from that company. I just learned a bit too much about how they’re willing to bend/shatter rules. They’ll never miss my $60k, but I’ll feel better not enriching that family.

  41. In early Jan, we looked at the Mazda 3, Subaru Impreza and Subaru Crosstrek. See what you think about the Mazda. Is he tall? My head was practically touching the roof of the car and I am not a talk person. Cute car, but small windshield and front interior. It was an AWD model.

    Rhett, I do agree the MDX is not trendy, but people my age or younger drive the MDX. Lots of people. No one is driving that car around here unless they are retired. Could be a geography thing, but no one drives it.

  42. AWD becomes a big deal because they waive the chain restrictions for AWD vehicles. I personally think this is a stupid rule, because if your AWD vehicle has bald tires, you’re still going to slide off the mountain.

    If you have AWD you still have to have 3/16″ of tread to be legal. I would get her AWD because I can’t imagine she’s not going to want to go up to the mountains.

    She will be off campus in the fall, wants to volunteer at an animal shelter and maybe get a part-time job.

    You’ve been around here long enough to know that if she has time to get a job, she should take extra classes instead so she can graduate earlier. That’s a much better ROI on her time. :)

  43. LfB, the potential problem with the Mazda and a teenager is that it might be too much fun to drive.

    There’s something to be said for staid for a teenager.

  44. My dad has an MDX and he couldn’t figure out how to set the favorite stations. He was at the dealer for something and asked someone to show him. That guy couldn’t figure it out and had to bring someone else over. It took the second guy 10 minutes to figure it out.

  45. Fred, that’s what I figured but I thought maybe and I’d get lucky and someone here knew of something.

  46. Finn, that advice does not make sense. It is possible to reverse drive in a quiet street or driveway, but not on a road with other traffic.

    To drive our train station, we drive on a major road that the Town plows. It has a small slope in one turn. We drive up that small slope with no problem until we get stuck behind someone driving an Odyssey or Accord. The road is slick and often has remnants from the plow. Those FWD cars can’t get up this tiny slope because it is steep. It is usually easier when there is measurable snow vs. a tiny amount or wintry mix. The cars without AWD have more traction in packed snow. The AWD is fine in almost any condition except ice.

  47. “AWD becomes a big deal because they waive the chain restrictions for AWD vehicles. I personally think this is a stupid rule, because if your AWD vehicle has bald tires, you’re still going to slide off the mountain.”

    Also, AWD (or 4WD FTM) doesn’t buy you any advantage in braking.

    When I used to drive in the Sierra in winter a lot, my friends and I observed that it seemed that a disproportionate number of vehicles that skidded off roads were AWD/4WD.

  48. DD, The media, tech and digital controls are the main reason that we are not considering the MDX or RDX. It is terrible and every review mentions how difficult it is to learn or use while driving.

  49. Lauren, no one is driving the GV80 because it’s a brand new car. There are hardly any on the road, but a much anticipated arrival among the car bloggers. About a month ago, maybe 6 weeks, there weren’t any showing in inventory. Finally there’s a few around now.

    (And apologize, I typed L earlier right and should have directed my car comments toward Lauren.)

  50. Tires:

    There is a 3rd entrant into the all-season vs snow tire discussion. ALL WEATHER tires which offer better ice and snow traction than a typical all-season tire and longer tread life than a winter tire. I just put them (Toyo Cesius) on DW’s Q7. 60,000 mileage warranty.

  51. Lauren, friends with FWD ran into that problem from time to time when we went skiing.

    Typical roads aren’t so steep that they are have that problem. It was most common on driveways, and sometimes on side streets that only led to a few houses,

  52. I am not arguing about the new Genesis. It looks like a great SUV with trenendous value. I looked at their sedan after Ivy posted about her car.

    I’ve lived here for a long time and I am telling you that the under 55 crowd around here is not going to buy that car. One reason is simple and Ivy mentioned it. No separate dealer for sales or service so it is still with Hyundai. Also, for whatever reason, Genesis is viewed as a brand for older folks. I might buy the Lexus SUV, but I would never buy one of their sedans. Same image problem. So, I admitted right away to being shallow and caring about this factor in my decision.

  53. “We drive up that small slope with no problem until we get stuck behind someone driving an Odyssey or Accord. The road is slick and often has remnants from the plow. Those FWD cars can’t get up this tiny slope because it is steep.”

    So what happens when an Odyssey or Accord can’t make it up the slope? Especially when there are other cars behind?

  54. Austin, here’s something I learned a while back that really helped me when I drove in snowy/icy conditions, regardless of the car, and would help your DD drive more safely.

    You have a certain traction budget while driving, and that budget can be spent accelerating/braking or steering. In most dry warm conditions, the budget is high, but water in various forms can reduce that budget, with dirt, grease, and oil also reducing it, particularly in concert with various forms of water. Painted surfaces in particular lose traction when wet.

    Skids happen when that budget is exceeded, and the most typical way to exceed that budget is to brake/accelerate while using to steering to go in a direction other than straight.

    So when driving on roads where you might expect to have a limited traction budget, avoid accelerating/braking while changing direction. When approaching a curve, slow down before the curve, then drive through the curve without braking, i.e., get off the brake before starting to turn. Wait until clearing curves before accelerating (especially avoid this with RWD, especially something like an empty pickup truck with very little weight on the rear wheels).

    And obviously, avoid hard braking/accelerating, as that requires more traction. Similarly, the faster you go through a curve, the more traction is required.

    With an ICE car, I’d typically steer through curves without touching any pedal, reserving my entire traction budget for steering. Not sure how that would work with an electric car.

  55. So, I admitted right away to being shallow and caring about this factor in my decision.

    I appreciate your honestly. We all have various non-rational hangups. Airbnb? Eww, shudder.

  56. “So you reverse up hill as necessary.”

    No. Just no. I am NOT reversing for a half-mile up a steep hill IN A SNOWSTORM. I took my chances walking it — even 7 mos. pregnant. (Then I bought an AWD car).

    However, your advice immediately above is right on. ;-) Never, EVER, brake and turn at the same time in snow if you can possibly avoid it — that’s the fastest and easiest way to lose control. Also don’t be afraid to downshift or use the “low” setting on the car, as a lower gear will help keep you from gaining speed too quickly, and will often allow you to slow down enough without having to touch the brakes. One of the worst miles I ever drove was down that same hill in a snow/ice storm in the company Taurus, which was (a) a behemoth, and (b) an automatic with no “low” option. OMG. Now THAT was a luge ramp.

    Thanks for the Mazda info — we’ll check the height, as he’s already taller than DH. And no, Rhett, he’s not getting mine. ;-)

  57. Finn,

    Your driving advice is solid. But by far the biggest issue, from what I can tell, is panic. The car starts to move in an unintended direction and if you just let your foot of the gas and held the wheel steady you’d soon recover. But some people, when the car starts to slide, they slam on the brakes and start sawing at the wheel and they end up in the woods.

  58. I like Finn’s explanation. I remember I spun 360 one time in in Iowa but because I had coasted to a stop before attempting to make a turn at an icy intersection, the car stayed in the intersection because it had no momentum.

    I’ve never had a car that most would consider to have “great” handling, but I notice a huge difference between the tires a new vehicle comes with and the best/most expensive all weather tires, similar to what Fred mentions. When there is so much water on the road that hydroplaning is likely, it’s somewhat like driving on ice.

  59. “I am NOT reversing for a half-mile up a steep hill IN A SNOWSTORM.”

    The common scenario we experienced was a snowy/icy driveway, so reversing was limited to less than a 100 feet or so, and only attempted with a FWD car after RWD cars went up the same driveways with no problem.

    “Also don’t be afraid to downshift or use the “low” setting on the car, as a lower gear will help keep you from gaining speed too quickly”

    OTOH, be careful about downshifting. Don’t downshift if there is a mismatch between your speed and the gear to which you’d be shifting; this amounts to hard braking, which can cause a skid.

    If you’re going down a long downhill and find yourself going too fast, gently apply the brakes first, the downshift when you’re at an appropriate speed.

    Downshifting is best used to keep yourself from going downhill too fast, e.g., at the top of the hill rather than partway down.

  60. IOW, downshifting is best used as a proactive, not reactive, method of controlling downhill speed on roads with limited traction.

  61. “But by far the biggest issue, from what I can tell, is panic.”

    Perhaps. But I think another big issue is that some drivers don’t know what they’re supposed to do, i.e., if you asked them in a theoretical manner what they should do in various skid situations, they wouldn’t know, so they revert to what they know for non-skid situations.

    BTW, the other piece of advice for driving in limited traction situations is to drive more slowly than you would drive on those same roads when the conditions limiting traction do not exist.

  62. “But by far the biggest issue, from what I can tell, is panic. The car starts to move in an unintended direction”

    Also, panic doesn’t become an issue if you drive carefully, don’t exceed your traction budget, and don’t get into a skid.

    But I am an advocate of going to an icy, wide-open parking lot, preferably ringed by large snowbanks, and initiating some low-speed skids.

  63. I have driven AWD Subarus since we lived in MA. I would not drive anything else as long as I live in places where the liklihood of having to drive in snow is high. It makes such a difference when you have to get home during a snowstorm and the plows are not keeping up or you have to get up inclines. When we lived in MA, we had a driveway that was so steep that when I would get into my car, I felt like I was in the capsule on top of a Saturn rocket waiting for liftoff. When it was snowy, my car would go up the driveway but DH’s car could not so he always was stuck parking on the street and then digging out after the plows buried his car. Another example – during the snowpocalypse a couple of years ago, I had to drive home (took me FIVE HOURS) from Queens. There was little evidence of any plowing whatsoever once I crossed the bridge and hit the Bronx. Cars were spinning out everywhere. The worst thing was a lot of exits closed because so many cars spun out that they were blocked. For some reason, almost no one was taking 95 – they were all jammed up on the Hutch, so I went that way, and by driving really carefully, managed to not slide, and found an open exit. It had an upwards incline, and no sign of plowing, but my nice little Subaru went right up the incline without a problem. Thank god, I was finally off the highway and fairly close to home. If I had been driving a FWD vehicle, I don’t think I could have taken that exit.

  64. This conversation reminds me of when DS1 had a driver’s training class one day scheduled for right after school and it snowed. I was temporarily wondering if it would be canceled, and then I quickly realized how lucky I was that his first snow driving experience was with a teacher, not me! This driving school, by the way, had all Mustangs as their cars. Wouldn’t have wanted to be them. Most of the time it was a great marketing tool, because the kids didn’t mind getting picked up or seen in the Mustangs.

  65. When I used to drive in the Sierra in winter a lot, my friends and I observed that it seemed that a disproportionate number of vehicles that skidded off roads were AWD/4WD.

    IMO this is because the drivers are over-confident because they have AWD/4WD and aren’t as cautious as they should be.

  66. “BTW, the other piece of advice for driving in limited traction situations is to drive more slowly than you would drive on those same roads when the conditions limiting traction do not exist.”

    Too many morons do not seem to understand that. They also think that they can go fast and slam on the breaks when driving on ice, or (and this makes me bezerk), go across intersections in the same small break in traffic that they would use in sunny dry conditions. Folks, the cars approaching the intersection cannot stop as fast when it is snowing so wait for a bigger gap.

  67. Yet another thing that I have in common with many of you! I too am a puzzle freak. This “dream home” we built had to have a puzzle specific area. I have a 36 x 36 beautiful table near the window in the family room. It opens into a 72 x 36 table and I have a special armoire to store my favorite puzzles that I do over and over. It is like a neighborhood lending library. People borrow them all the time.

  68. “When I used to drive in the Sierra in winter a lot, my friends and I observed that it seemed that a disproportionate number of vehicles that skidded off roads were AWD/4WD.”

    When we lived in MA, I used to see big SUVs that had skidded off the road all the time. But, I never saw modest little Subaru Legacies off the road. It wasn’t because the Subarus were better. It was the psychological difference between people who drove SUVs back then and people who drove Subarus. Subaru drivers tend to be the cautious sort.

  69. “IOW, downshifting is best used as a proactive, not reactive, method of controlling downhill speed on roads with limited traction.”

    That is what I meant. I almost never get out of second gear on surface streets in snow.

    “‘When I used to drive in the Sierra in winter a lot, my friends and I observed that it seemed that a disproportionate number of vehicles that skidded off roads were AWD/4WD.’

    IMO this is because the drivers are over-confident because they have AWD/4WD and aren’t as cautious as they should be.”

    Or as the CO newscasters used to say: “four-wheel drive = four-wheel go, NOT four-wheel stop.”

    I was both terrified and proud of myself for getting to the ABQ airport a few years ago. Night before I had to drive down from Taos through a blinding snowstorm in a little generic FWD sedan; I got VERY lucky, because by the time I hit the worst of it and was wondering if I was going to have to pull over, a salt truck went by, and I was able to follow directly in his wake. Then overnight, the streets became a complete ice rink — I have truly never, ever driven on anything like that before. I was only about a mile from the airport, but getting there required going down a long (but not steep, thank GOD) hill, and then making a left and going uphill around a turn onto the highway. I just put-putted through in the lowest possible gear. At one point a guy slid by me at about a 30-degree angle, and I was just SO glad he was in the next lane! I also had to navigate past 3-4 cars in front of me that didn’t make it up the entrance ramp — I waited until the path was clear, so I didn’t get stuck right behind someone struggling (because I knew I’d never get going again), and just chugged up the hill. I swear I did not top 5 mph that whole trip — but dammit, I got there, when hundreds of other people did not!

    Of course, then my flight was hours late because the flight crew couldn’t get there. ;-)

  70. “If we’re going to get him one anyway, might as well do it sooner rather than later. So, any suggestions? I’m thinking 2015 or later for the crash-avoidance tech; I’d prefer to spend less, but given what I’ve heard about the used car market, we may need to go new.”

    It seems like getting the car sooner rather than later means you’re buying into a seller’s market for used cars. Perhaps if you waited the market would be more buyer-friendly.

    My guess is that if/when most of the population is vaccinated, the demand for cars will subside, and perhaps some of those who’ve bought extra cars will be trying to sell them.

  71. “If I had been driving a FWD vehicle, I don’t think I could have taken that exit.”

    Yeah, I don’t advocate reversing up an exit.

  72. “This driving school, by the way, had all Mustangs as their cars. “

    RWD? That can really be exciting on icy roads.

  73. “They also think that they can go fast and slam on the breaks when driving on ice”

    They can. However, the consequences are different.

    “Folks, the cars approaching the intersection cannot stop as fast when it is snowing so wait for a bigger gap.”

    Not to mention reduced traction means less acceleration, and trying to accelerate too much will spin them out, likely right in front of an oncoming car with braking capacity also limited by lack of traction.

  74. WRT downshifting, one caution about driving in a low gear is that increases the chance of losing traction when accelerating.

    I imagine one must be extra careful not to accelerate too hard on icy roads when driving an electric car.

  75. A lot of teens in my neck of the woods are driving Subarus.

    We live at the top of a steep hill. The trick to navigating the hill in the snow is to maintain moderate, consistent pressure on the gas as you’re climbing the hill. If you ease up on the gas you’ll lose your momentum and start to slide.

    I gave a lot of puzzles this year as Christmas gifts. They ship well because they’re lightweight and unbreakable. I need to look into puzzle boards.

    I used to read much more than I do now but I’ve been watching too much Netflix and YouTube. I’m a big fan of audio books. I have a subscription to Audible but I’m thinking of cancelling it because the selection at my library has really improved over the past couple of years. I don’t see much need for Audible.

  76. “Downshift caution is related to standard advice to use higher gears in mud.”

    Or, as I was taught, to start in second gear in snow.

  77. Wow, the Hanging Gardens of Mafalda and a dedicated puzzle space, not to mention an artist studio. Your home sounds great!

  78. “We live at the top of a steep hill.”

    We live partway up a steep hill. However, we’ve never had problems getting home due to traction issue. The biggest problems have been the stop sign part way up (the kids have been driving my car) and being out of shape (biking).

    “The trick to navigating the hill in the snow is to maintain moderate, consistent pressure on the gas as you’re climbing the hill. If you ease up on the gas you’ll lose your momentum and start to slide.”

    And, I imagine, to much pressure on the gas also results in lost traction.

  79. I was listening to the local news as I prepared dinner and the local weather person kept warning about the dusting of snow that is expected in this area tomorrow. He kept calling it dangerous for driving even though it would just be a coating to an inch of snow.

  80. Lauren, I wonder if it’s because it’ll be warm enough during the day to melt the snow, but cold enough at night to freeze it.

  81. I remember my driver’s ed teacher told me re: driving in snow to (1) drive like your grandma is in the car (slowly) and also (2) drive like you have a glass of wine balanced on the dashboard, that you cannot spill. Very useful! I also had several of my driver’s ed sessions in the snow, which was useful (they had Camrys, no AWD).

  82. I guess puzzles are my “things everyone else loves that I hate” thing. I am so not a puzzle person. To me, they just seem like so much effort for so little reward.

  83. On libraries, I have started using the Libby app. I tell it what my regular library is and enter my library card #, and I can request ebooks and audiobooks, or they have a section with “available now”. I’ve been picking audiobooks off the available now list, and many/most have been on bestseller lists. I’ve spent so much less on books since I found this I feel guilty.

    RMS – I think I’m going to regret you sharing that site. A time sink for sure.

    My time sink the last few days is plotting out exactly how I’m going to handle the lottery windfall when I win. My charity is named and has its mission, and I’ve selected my accounting firm to help me structure everything. I just need to win! (And before anyone feels like they need to lecture me on the odds – I bought one ticket for each. Either it’s meant to be or it’s not.)

  84. “My time sink the last few days is plotting out exactly how I’m going to handle the lottery windfall when I win.”

    That was a fun topic here a few years or so ago when the Powerball jackpot was somewhere stratospheric.

  85. And…..the College Board has dropped the subject tests and the optional essay. This was news to me.

  86. HFN – the College Board news came out just yesterday.
    Once colleges started deemphasizing even the main SAT the appetite for these extra exams and the essay went way down. A tremendous change very quickly.

  87. The home country folks have found lots of people of home country descent on Biden’s team and have been posting pictures. Everyone has a cousin on the team ;-).

  88. My kids dislike the College Board throughly. They equate it to the Evil Empire of sorts. I think they read articles on how and how much money it makes from the students and the data it sells.

  89. Conversely, the College Board tests were very good for my older two. I doubt either would have done as well in terms of merit aid and even admissions without those scores. I also think it is going to make admissions far less fair, because colleges will be forced to rely on intangibles like essays and extracurriculars, to distinguish between the vast hordes of kids with 3.7 HS averages.

  90. MM, I agree with you.

    Some colleges were overwhelmed with applications this year and it is hard to know which high schools have grade inflation etc., without any type of standardized test except for an AP exam. DD just completed a brag sheet for her guidance counselor because they are meeting for the first time to discuss college. Her counselor barely knows her since they’ve only met two times and that was to discuss class selection for junior year. Our HS does not weight classes so DD doesn’t have an inflated GPA. In addition, most of her teachers are angry about the cheating this year and they are not giving anything away due to covid. Her exams are challenging and her teachers are not curving the results. This will put her at a disadvantage in the application process if she is just judged on her GPA. She is scheduled to take the ACT in Feb and it hasn’t been canceled yet.

  91. I see the HS transcripts for our majors. They are totally indistinguishable. The grades cluster so much, and I cannot tell what type of classes the student has taken. What kind of class is “Drama Methods” and how does that compare to “Forensics Investigations” or “Computer Applications”? Like many colleges in the US, we aren’t particularly competitive in terms of admissions, but we do reject some students. I have heard that our admissions staff now give favor to certain schools in the region because their data shows that students from those schools are more likely to complete. While the elite colleges always weight certain high schools more heavilly, I think that is going to become more pervasive at lower tier schools.

  92. I can literally see it both ways with standardized tests. One of my kids is a tremendous test taker, the other is just not. Including a standardized test score for the kid that is not is actually a penalty. I had to fight the school every year as they used the standardized test scores as a for placement into honors classes. There is a huge difference between test scores and GPA in one case, in the other case both the test scores and GPA are congruent.

  93. I’m not sure there’s any way to make the admissions process fair. I think the College Board tests disadvantage kids who don’t test well, as well as kids with rich parents who can pay for college test prep tutors.

  94. Minor PSA. appletv+ free trial has been extended until June 21 fir those whose 1 yr free trial was scheduled to expire. They have been very slow to add new content. Eventually I think they will give it up. Device plus content is not a natural marriage. They dont need programming to sell devices.

  95. When I hear ” kids who don’t test well,” I hear, “Timmy got 1092 on his SATs. Oh, he’s a smart kid. He just doesn’t test well.” Ah….I’m sure that’s it. No one actually gets a slightly above average SAT score.

  96. “Is that actually a thing?”

    Raises hand. In middle school and early high school I would get anxiety and coughing fits, resulting in plenty of Cs. The daily assignments and extra credit is what boosted my grades. Eventually I took a bunch of how to study and how to relax classes at the local community college to teach myself how to take tests.

  97. LT,

    Do you think that’s typically the case? Or is it most often a defense against being average?

  98. The reason schools can’t use grades alone is because they are so clustered, and are based on wildly differing standards and classes. I know there was unfairness in testing because wealthy parents can hire test prep tutors, but wealthy parents also hire college essay consultants (very common here) and that will just get more prevalent as schools start weighting the essay more. Plus, kids can actually prepare for the SAT pretty cheaply using one of those SAT prep books.

  99. The admissions changes will further disadvantage low income students who come from mediocre schools not on the admissions staff radar. They won’t have test scores to set them apart, their letters of recommendation will be canned and unhelpful, and even their usually good grades may be affected by remote learning challenges. They will also certainly be penalized by schools that take into account ability to pay.

  100. “Is that actually a thing?”

    I know this isn’t is a popular Totebag stance but in my case, when I can actually see it, I would say it’s a thing.
    Some people don’t do well with the format or feel anxious with a high stakes test.

  101. I have told this story before, my youngest child was in a full double immersion Spanish English program from K to 4. It was not particularly effective at teaching Spanish to the Anglo kids in part because it was a magnet and was only chosen by Spanish speaking families who knew the system and whose kids had already been to preschool or already spoke some English. However, they gave the standardized tests in both languages to all the kids. My son, who could not hold a conversation Spanish if his life depended on it, received the highest score in the city on one years spanish test. So, Rhett, if we grant that he aced the test because he has native test taking ability, why cant we grant that others have native test taking deficits.

  102. Rhett, that is a good question. I would say in my high school I was an average student and even if they took out exams I still would not have been at the same level as the top students. In my case I was always very nervous to sit in a quiet room, notice kids flying through the exam seemingly without trouble, trying to regurgitate information, that was worth a large portion of my grade. Once I learned techniques on how to study for an exam, and how to relax before and during the exams it was a lot easier.

    I suspect there are many average to bright students at average to below average schools who don’t know how to take a test. The Totebag Timmy’s skew our view.

  103. So, Rhett, if we grant that he aced the test because he has native test taking ability, why cant we grant that others have native test taking deficits.

    I’d say the test accurately reflected the cognitive ability he inherited from his mother. Didn’t you meet your husband in college?

  104. “So, Rhett, if we grant that he aced the test because he has native test taking ability, why cant we grant that others have native test taking deficits.”

    Exactly.

  105. Ivy,

    If you heard Madison got an 1055* SAT score would you usually think, “Obviously she’s just a poor test taker. The score should have been 1450.” Or would you think, “Yeh, she’s probably just average.”

    * Keeping in mind 1055 is the 80th percentile of all people and 58th percentile of all SAT test takers.

  106. “‘kids who don’t test well,’

    Is that actually a thing?”

    30 years ago I would have said absolutely not, unless you had a massive test anxiety. I have come round to the other side of the spectrum, though, just watching my two kids. Test-taking is an art; particularly for tests like the SAT, you are not trying to figure out the right answer, you are trying to figure out what the *test writer* thought was the right answer. E.g., one SAT Q I still remember from DD’s prep was a reading comprehension bit about an article. The article had two main themes — one in the first half, then a shift to another in the second half. The first question was what was the main theme of the article — and then the follow-on questions were along the lines of “what examples does the author use to illustrate that theme?” I am a former NMS and English major who has worked extensively with the written word and interpreting texts for over 30 years since graduation — and *I* guessed wrong about which of the two themes the test writer thought was most important.

    Between my kids, DS inherited my standardized-test-taking gene, and DD did not. Yes, she has some significant test anxiety, but the SAT in particular was not her thing. OTOH, anything that requires a detailed knowledge of a particular subject matter? She’s all over it and will spout more facts at you than you ever wanted to hear about. Her ACT scores were the equivalent of 150 points higher than her SAT scores. But back in my day, when the SAT was deemed to equate to innate intelligence, she would have been screwed on college admission.

    To put it in Myers-Briggs terms, I am an “N,” and she is an “S” — she cares about what something IS, whereas I care about what it MEANS. So she will delve into all of the little details to really understand something, whereas I am looking to connect that thing to other things I know at high level to figure out how it all fits together. Basically, she is Pisarro, putting together a picture from all of the little bits; I am Matisse, beginning with strong lines to create the overall picture, and then filling in the details as much as I need to flesh things out. You can decide that one is “better” than the other, or you can decide that they both have their own merits and are just different.

  107. Or would you think, “Yeh, she’s probably just average.”

    If I didn’t know what I know now, I would say Madison is below average. But what I have seen is that average SAT scores may not necessarily correspond to what a student is capable of achieving academically. I have had to change my thinking on this.

  108. But what I have seen is that average SAT scores may not necessarily correspond to what a student is capable of achieving academically.

    That’s a good point. She could be “totebag average” i.e. in the 80th percentile of all people but be very diligent and conscientious. One think I’ve certainly noticed as an adult is that diligence, conscientiousness and personability are a larger component of success than raw cognitive ability.

  109. @Rhett – I don’t know anything about theoretical Madison, so I’d say either is possible. Saying that some people are not good at taking tests is quite different from saying that anyone who does poorly is just a bad test taker. I agree with LfB that standardized test taking is a skill like anything else, and some people are people are better at it than others and their scores reflect that. It also depends on the format of the particular test and how it is written.

  110. “If tests primarily measure test taking skill, what do you grades measure?”

    I didn’t say that. It’s a factor that is real, not THE thing that is being measured. Just like grades measure conscientiousness along with knowledge of the material learned.

  111. Rhett, you are misinterpreting people saying “some people are not good test takers” as them saying “anyone who does poorly on a test is a bad test taker” and that’s not what anyone is saying. And it’s no different than your common refrain about how some kids don’t get good grades because they don’t do well with all the busy work even though they do well on the tests.

    I think the tests are a good thing because they give kids like Mooshi’s DS a chance to show their grades aren’t representative of their ability.

  112. DD,

    Right my question is, what percentage of the “poor test taker” claims are valid? 20%, 80%, etc.

  113. Right my question is, what percentage of the “poor test taker” claims are valid? 20%, 80%, etc.

    How would you know? What standard would you use to determine the “truth” about whether they’re smart or not?

  114. How would you know?

    MM deals with it every day. If the kid has a 1050 SAT score and a 4.2 GPA and flunks out of Intro to CS, it’s likely the SAT more accurately reflected their innate cognitive horsepower than their grades did.

  115. Rhett – MM also says that some kids just don’t care to do the work or seek help. We don’t know if they are smart but lazy and didn’t do the work or don’t get it, are overwhelmed and gave up. It could be either.

  116. I will rest the issue of standardized tests but just witnessing it, with my own kids has been eye opening.

  117. Louise,

    From what you’ve said in the past I assume you feel that in most cases you can substitute effort for cognitive ability. And you certainly can in many instances. So in this scenario you would tend to think it’s an effort issue. But I assume you agree that there is only so much that effort can do to overcome a given level of cognitive ability.

  118. Rhett. That same kid was hit hard by the divorce and suffered from the paternal family depression which I did not recognize or understand at the time. He was an indifferent student through 10th grade, didnt test well enough on PSAT for NM qualification, but took the verbal prep book I bought him, made flash cards on his own initiative and raised his verbal score 120 points for SAT by learning the words and technique and giving a sh-t. Jr year AP US history teacher wanted to remove him from the class until he saw Mom and Dad because he presented as wrong side of the tracks and had zero study skills and a generous C first marking period. He ended up with a B+ and a 4. Yes there was native cognitive ability. But that didnt change between October and June. The kid did and his teacher’s expectations did.

  119. “native test taking ability”

    IMO, this is another manifestation of cognitive ability, which is exactly what tests like the SAT purport to measure.

    I’ve related before about my brother, who could be characterized as having ‘native test taking ability.’ One of the reasons he did well was that he analyzed the tests and how they were scored, and based his approach to the tests on that analysis. E.g., for the SAT, he quickly surmised the benefit of eliminating the choices that were clearly wrong, or the Newtonian method of eliminating multiple choices at once.

    IOW, his ‘native test taking ability’ was really a reasoned approach to the test, and reasoning ability was one of the main things the old SAT purported to measure.

  120. “in most cases you can substitute effort for cognitive ability.”

    There is a school of thought that the (or a) reason Asian kids do better in math than non-Asian American kids is this exact attitude, as opposed to a self-defeating attitude of just not beign good at math.

  121. “My kids dislike the College Board throughly. They equate it to the Evil Empire of sorts. I think they read articles on how and how much money it makes from the students and the data it sells.”

    Your kids should consider not filling out the personal information that the College Board sells.

  122. “the College Board has dropped the subject tests and the optional essay.”

    My guess is this is going to make it even harder for home-schooled kids, of which there are a lot more these days due to the pandemic, to get into HSS.

  123. “Some colleges were overwhelmed with applications this year and it is hard to know which high schools have grade inflation etc., without any type of standardized test except for an AP exam.”

    The schools my kids applied to didn’t ask about AP scores. I don’t know if they looked at them even if applicants submitted them.

    “Our HS does not weight classes so DD doesn’t have an inflated GPA”

    GPA can be inflated for any class, not just honors/AP.

    But a lot of kids in your DD’s year will be especially hard to judge because of the pandemic, which made grading more difficult than usual. In many cases, kids were not even given normal grades, e.g., pass/fail grades were given much more often than in non-pandemic times.

  124. “Great news for the totebag teens who are now spared the essay and subject tests!”

    Not necessarily. My guess is that those would’ve strengthened the applications of many totebag kids, e.g., Lauren’s DD.

  125. “kids who don’t test well,
    Is that actually a thing?”

    Definitely. There are multiple reasons for this, and one is that some kids have poor analytical skills, while another is not choosing to apply analytical skills to the test taking approach.

    I’m curious of how the split between exam scores and homework/extra credit contributions to grades compares between the kids who ‘test well’ in the PSAT/SAT, and the kids who ‘don’t test well.’

  126. “I think the tests are a good thing because they give kids like Mooshi’s DS a chance to show their grades aren’t representative of their ability.”

    I think Mooshi’s kids would end up fine with or without the SAT.

    The kids who will really be hurt are the very bright kids in very bad schools and/or situations, who would not be identified as very bright without tests like the SAT.

  127. Rhett – I am saying that the SAT should not be used as a proxy of cognitive ability. That’s why, assuming that if you scored 1050 on the SAT means you are dumb is not correct. I’d actually like to go back to an IQ test that does properly measure cognitive ability to identify those students who do have the cognitive ability. I don’t discount cognitive ability, but don’t like the SAT used as a proxy.

  128. There are multiple reasons for this, and one is that some kids have poor analytical skills, while another is not choosing to apply analytical skills to the test taking approach.

    I was trying to think of an example and what I came up with is most Jeopardy questions.

    America’s largest national park, Wrangell-St. Elias, covers more than 8 million acres in this large state.

    You don’t have to actually know the answer. Logically the most likely answer is Alaska.

    That’s a different kind of test than on Monday the lesson is, “The capital of Alaska is Juneau.” Friday’s quiz, “The capital of Alaska is?”

    Speaking of time sinks. There is a compendium of Jeopardy questions.

    http://www.j-archive.com/

  129. “I don’t discount cognitive ability, but don’t like the SAT used as a proxy.”

    I was just coming here to say that. The SAT over-rewards certain types of cognitive ability and life experience, and under-rewards others. The ACT does the same thing in the opposite way.

    I like language and puzzles and logic. The SAT was a breeze for me; it wasn’t just about applying certain teachable skills, like when to guess, or knocking out clearly wrong answers, it was also about seeing the whole test as a game and looking for the ways they were trying to trip you up, and extrapolating from what you knew to figure out what you didn’t know. But I was raised by two English professors, and I had a Latin class in 4th grade that was expressly designed to help kids learn to break down words to figure out their meaning. So even though we were poor as hell, my own innate ability and interest was nourished and supported by my environment for 15+ years before I took a test that, just so coincidentally, was designed to measure those exact skills. But most others have different backgrounds and different skill sets. You can have a kid with similar innate skills who isn’t exposed to the wonderful world of words like I was. Or you can have kids like DD who really don’t care about beautimus language but can tell you everything there is to know about a tree frog.

    I go back to my Seurat* vs. Matisse example. If you define “artistic ability” as the ability to draw lines to convey shape, then boy is Matisse pretty awesome, and then what’s up with that Seurat guy who can’t even draw a line? But they both make some pretty fine pictures.

    Or what about my DH? I am great at the theoretical. DH is great at the practical — he doesn’t give a crap about the stuff that jazzes me, but he can build basically anything and has a tremendous ability to translate something from the theoretical to the manufacturable. Does that mean that I’m smarter, just because the SAT favors my skill set over his? I mean, I scored like 100 points higher than him back in the ’80s, when 100 points was a lot. So if your thesis holds, then I definitely have more cognitive ability than him, and his more middling SAT scores should have limited him to a good but not cutting-edge career, right? So what do his Ph.D, multiple patents, and current leading-edge quantum computing work say about your thesis?

    I’m going to stop here, because I’m getting annoyed. In closing: there are several people here who live with kids with different types of “cognitive ability” and who are telling you, based on their own extensive experience, that a low(er) score on the SAT does not mean someone is stupider than someone else with a higher score. It is a very limited test that measures a very limited kind of ability, and that ability is very powerfully influenced by each individual’s background and resources. IOW: a very high SAT score means that someone is very smart. But the converse is not necessarily true.

    *My apologies, I don’t know why I pulled Pissarro out of my head when I meant Seurat — that’s one of those “details” I tend to skim right over.

  130. I definitely have more cognitive ability than him,

    I’m sure you do. Do you think the SAT accurately reflects that you are a bit smarter than he is?

    more middling SAT scores should have limited him to a good but not cutting-edge career, right?

    Not at all. As I’ve said repeatedly, there is a lot more to success than raw cognitive ability.

  131. I’ll share that I had a very high MCAT score – I’ve never met anyone who had a higher one (and I went to the most selective medical school in the country). I also had a very low USMLE Step 1 score (taken after 2 years medical school). I’ve met one person who failed, but no one else with a score as low as mine. I was very confident about my test taking ability and in denial about how much of a content test it would be. The low score had big ramifications – I couldn’t get interviews at almost any of the places I wanted to go for residency. Things worked out, and I’ve never had to take a high-stakes standardized test since (I’ve taken harder and more difficult tests – i.e. board certification, but failure would have been expensive and annoying, but would not have affected my career trajectory at all).

    Anyway, just musing on the idea that standardized tests, as they exist for high school students, test one kind of test-taking ability. There are other kinds, too.

  132. “Do you think the SAT accurately reflects that you are a bit smarter than he is?”

    Absolutely not. In fact, he is the first person I ever dated who I thought was a bit smarter than me. I just happen to be smart *verbally*.

  133. @Ada – Exactly. That aligns to what LfB was saying – it also depends on the type of test and the mindset of the test writer.

  134. I don’t think things are the same as BITD when we took the SAT. One difference is that kids read books. My curriculum included grammar in my elementary and junior high school classes.

    My DD learned more about grammar in her Spanish classes than she did in all of her ELA classes. Her ACT tutor had to teach her some of the material in the English section of the ACT. I never looked at the ACT until last year and I didn’t know that the exam separates ELA into two sections – reading and English. My DD didn’t need any test prep for the reading section, but she crashed and burned in that English section without prep. As soon as she learned it, she was able to get a decent score. Also, she doesn’t like to read books. She is in AP English, but it isn’t the same AP English that I took in high school. It is something called AP Language. She barely reads any books in this class. I waited years for her to finally take AP English because I thought she would finally be required to read several books, but no…that is not how it works unless she takes AP Lit in 12th grade.

    I love to read books and newspapers. I get excited when I go into a bookstore or the library. She seems to represent her generation because her love is for her phone or anything digital. There are still kids that love books and read books in their spare time, but these kids seem to be the exception.

    There are also unfair advantages that we’ve discussed before on the Totebag, but now I am seeing play out with her friends. Several of her friends have extra time for these exams. I would estimate that 1/3 of DD’s friends have time and half for classroom tests, APs and SAT/ACT. The reason that I think this is unfair is that many of them got this for anxiety. Guess what, my kid has anxiety too, but some of these kids are stretching the truth a bit. I am all for extra time for the kids that really need it, but now I see the crap that goes on since I’ve known most of her friends for over a decade.

    My DD is unable to finish 60 questions in 60 minutes on the math portion of the ACT. It isn’t possible for her to finish so she consistently scores the lowest in this section vs. the other 3 sections. Is it fair that many people have an additional 30 minutes to complete the math section? In my opinion this is crap unless you really have a valid reason for the extra time.

    DD’s high school just announced that they are going to allow juniors to take the SAT on a weekday in March. The school has never offered this before and it is due to Covid. DD said she is willing to take the test even though she has prepped for the ACT because the math section is dragging down her overall score. Several of her girlfriends took the SAT instead of the ACT and they told her that they prefer the math section on the SAT. Aside from the cost, there isn’t much to lose so I am going to register her for the SAT.

  135. I just happen to be smart *verbally*.

    An important component of general intelligence. Not the only component of course.

  136. It seems to me, Rhett, that there is no way to disconfirm your thesis, given the way you’ve set it up. All arguments against you are therefore doomed to fail. Anyone claiming to be smart despite bad test scores, or claiming to know someone who is smart despite bad test scores, is necessarily deceived or lying.

  137. some of these kids are stretching the truth a bit.

    What do you think would happen to these kids if they tried to follow your career path? Do you think it would soon get to the point where their managers say, “At the end of the day she’s just not getting it. Considering that she went to X it kind of shocking. But we’re going to have to let her go.”

  138. Is there some study out there that confirms that timed tests reflect intelligence? How was it determined that 60 questions in 60 minutes in math would be the marker? I’m thinking about my DD, who has legit medical and neurological issues. She is wicked smart based on her IQ, but wouldn’t be able to do 60 questions in 60 minutes.

    DD’s 504 prevents timed tests, but the school (and State tests) no longer have timed tests.

  139. My kids had mentioned to me about some of their friends qualifying in the later grades for more time on tests. To Lauren’s point they have been with these kids since kindergarten and were surprised to find that those kids were facing previously unknown issues that now allowed more time. I didn’t pay attention to it then.
    Then Varsity Blues came out and it became clear that test takers had found loopholes to grant them more time. What is a legitimate accommodation is being abused.

  140. It seems to me, Rhett, that there is no way to disconfirm your thesis

    I think there might be. If the are in MM’s class and they study and they go to office hours and they just can’t get it. That would confirm a low SAT score. If they start at Amalgamated Widget and they end up getting let go because they “just aren’t getting it.” That would also be confirmation.

  141. You need a way to disconfirm the thesis. Someone gets 950 on the SAT and aces all the CS classes at MIT.

    Ah. If they tried their best on the SAT and that happened I’d be very surprised. Keeping in mind that not giving a shit is something quite different from being a poor test taker.

  142. “Is there some study out there that confirms that timed tests reflect intelligence? How was it determined that 60 questions in 60 minutes in math would be the marker? I’m thinking about my DD, who has legit medical and neurological issues. She is wicked smart based on her IQ, but wouldn’t be able to do 60 questions in 60 minutes.”

    +1. What we call “intelligence” is actually a number of factors. When we did DD’s evaluation, she tested very high on the factors that were tied to innate intelligence (however you want to define that), not super great on executive function (hello ADHD!), and in something like the 8th percentile for audio processing. IOW, she has the mental acuity to understand complex and difficult subjects, but if you ask her to try to manage too many things at once, things will slip — and if you tell her something orally, that literally will not make it into her long-term memory, because that part of the process just does not work correctly. She is the kid for whom the phrase “in one ear, out the other” should have been coined.

    We also discovered later that her hearing is ridiculously acute — she can hear me scratching my leg over the car radio while driving, or someone chewing with mouth closed all the way on the other side of the table, and it drives her nuts. So my thesis is that her super-hearing + questionable executive function makes it incredibly difficult to focus on whatever it is she is being told, so things just don’t make it from the short-term memory into the long-term memory. And not surprisingly, when she got a bad grade in school, it was almost always due to having missed something she was told or was supposed to do and forgot (the classic being the 50% on the math test because she forgot to turn the paper over). She is doing better now because she has developed workarounds — like listening to music while she studies to drown out those unpredictable distracting sounds.

    The thing is, I don’t think she is much different than many other kids. I think we have a box that we have labeled “smart kids,” and that people who both have innate intelligence AND have all their parts working properly AND have parents that support their academics AND have the personality traits teachers like get assigned to that box. And that people who don’t fit that mold are deemed to be less smart — when in reality, they may have the same or more innate “intelligence,” but some other aspect of the whole system involved in “learning” isn’t operating on a high enough plane to keep up.

    On a side note, all of DD’s tests this year were open-book tests. To my mind, that is the real test of academic ability, because it forces the professors to ask harder questions that go beyond just memorizing facts and formulas and into whether you understand the issue well enough to actually use it as intended. She pulled straight As in a tough set of classes at a pretty decent school. So, yeah, I think my DD is pretty damn smart, despite her middling SAT scores.

  143. Malcolm Gladwell did a great podcast on how the LSAT is a bad tool for law school admissions because it only tests speed. A lot of people who end up being really good lawyers don’t do well on it because they are deep thinkers, not speed thinkers.

    The example he used was of a former clerk for Scalia. Scalia said on more than one occasion that he only took his clerks from Harvard because he figured getting into Harvard was a good screening. But to get into Harvard you have to do well on the LSAT. But then Scalia said that the best clerk he ever had was a guy from Ohio State who he took because he knew the guys father or something. The guy is now a federal judge, but he didn’t do well enough on the LSAT to get into Harvard.

    My point is that having to do 60 math problems in 60 minutes measures one kind of intelligence. There are other kinds of intelligence that that don’t involve speed.

  144. My point is that having to do 60 math problems in 60 minutes measures one kind of intelligence. There are other kinds of intelligence that that don’t involve speed.

    Keeping in mind that inability to do 60 problems in 60 minutes does give one valuable insight into what kinds of careers might be a good fit.

  145. “You need a way to disconfirm the thesis. Someone gets 950 on the SAT and aces all the CS classes at MIT.
    Ah. If they tried their best on the SAT and that happened I’d be very surprised.”

    I’d be very surprised by someone with a 950 SAT getting into MIT.

    Which is consistent with RMS’ point.

  146. “Keeping in mind that inability to do 60 problems in 60 minutes does give one valuable insight into what kinds of careers might be a good fit.”

    IOW, they’re perfect for a legal career, where work is billed by the hour.

  147. Rhett, I had to manage or work with a few people that were the babysitter’s brother or the son of the kid on my lacrosse team etc. Some people squeak through life using loopholes or favors for most of their lives. I can think of someone immediately that fits that image, but fortunately is no longer living in a white home.

    I don’t think I ever asked someone about a standardized test score, but I did see a few on the resumes of some kids that were looking for internships or first jobs.

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