Dear Younger Me / Future Self

by minca

Have we done an “advice to my younger self” topic recently? Could also be “things I hope I remember 10 years from now.” I’ve learned a lot from everyone here over the years and am grateful as it has definitely expanded my general POV and improved my parenting style, but I’m sure some of the most needed words of wisdom will go out the window when faced with the reality of a 16-year-old (vs my current sweet kindergartener). What approaches to life do you want to hold on to? What would you advise younger you to have done (consistently or differently)?

And Rocky Mountain Stepmom adds this:

This might be something to combine with Minca’s suggestion at 12:49. The title is “The Algebra of Wealth”, but it’s really Galloway’s reflections on how to live and how to choose your path in life, with special emphasis on how to be rich(er).

Successful people often unwittingly head fake young people with the humblebrags of ‘follow your passion’ and ‘don’t think about money.’ This is (mostly) bullshit. Achieving economic security requires hard work, talent, and a tremendous amount of focus on . . . money. Yes, some people’s genius will be a tsunami that overwhelms a lack of focus and discipline. Assume you are not that person.

The Algebra of Wealth

What are you learning?

by S&M

The phrase “life long learner” can make me roll my eyes, but given the fondness for the calculus track, desire to stay mentally fit as we age, and enjoyment of learning, that phrase likely applies to this group.

I’ve complained for years about not being able to find my recorder at my parents’ house. When I saw a wooden one for €15, I decided Santa needed to place it under our tree (actually a Christmas cactus). It probably isn’t much better than the plastic ones at dollar stores. I want to get good enough at it to start taking lessons for real and eventually join a group playing Medieval/Renaissance music, maybe switching to alto recorder.

How about you? What are you learning this year?

Predicting the Stock Market is Hard

by WCE

Last year at this time I published my prediction for what the stock market might return in 2020: it would likely be up but it was possible that it would be down. I made this prediction based on historical data that the market is up about two-thirds of the time no matter what happened the prior year.

My prediction for what the market will return in 2021 is the same as my 2020 prediction: it will probably be up, but it might be down.

What Will The Stock Market Return In 2021?

Email sign off etiquette

by Lemon Tree

I recently went down the rabbit hole of a Tweet about how to sign off an email. Many people indicated that “Regards”, “Best”, and “Best Wishes” are rude and “Thanks” is passive aggressive. There was a difference between Americans and British, with the tweets from England agreeing that “Sincerely” is most definitely rude and should not be used. One Canadian shared that he uses Sincerely to mean “please read what I wrote VERY carefully and have a think”.

Some suggestions to use were: Be Well; Stay Healthy; Til Then; Cheers;

I admit that 90% of the time I use “Thanks!”. The rest of the time I use “Cheers!”. Early in the pandemic I would use “Stay Healthy” but I rarely do that anymore. What do you use? What do you think is rude or passive aggressive?

Thursday Open Thread


Next week she will resume active administration of The ToteBag. Please fill up the Suggest Topics page for her. Friday Advice Column items are especially welcome.

As a conversation starter, but feel free to digress, Finn asked the following:

Most of us invest in indexes. Mutual funds or ETFs? What are the pros and cons of each? Which do you use?

Abundance vs Scarcity Mindset

by Minca

I have an enduring scarcity mentality, which I have to actively fight against. I’m generally happier when I maintain an abundance mindset (I can be more generous, decisive, and less caught up in optimally managing “stuff” if I have faith that the resources needed will be there in future and I can “spend out”/don’t need to “hoard” them now—because I’m still saving and am confident in my own resourcefulness if things hit the fan). But I still worry that this attitude is environmentally and economic irresponsible. Temporally, I can be a procrastinator—which may be consistent: time is scarce, so delay and (theoretically) compress the unpleasant tasks (assuming you can still enjoy leisure with to-dos hanging over your head). Are you naturally more “abundance” or “scarcity” oriented and how does it impact your decisions?

College Demographics

by MooshiMooshi

Since we all love to talk about college issues, here is an article from Inside Higher Ed on the “dirty little secrets of higher education”. Most of these are not secrets at all to anyone who is following higher education. But they all make good discussion starter points, so have fun with them. Some of my faves
4-year institutions are graduating a third more women than men; community colleges, 50 percent more.

Over a quarter of students at 4-year institutions live with their parents

Less than 20 percent of colleges and universities admit less than 50 percent of applicants – and just 46 admit less than 20 percent.

Do any of these seem surprising to you, or is it all old news?

Moving and Remote Work

Several articles have discussed trends magnified by the pandemic

Statistically speaking, Idaho is one of America’s greatest economic success stories. The state has low unemployment and high income growth. It has expanded education spending while managing to shore up budget reserves. Brad Little, the state’s Republican governor, has attributed this run of prosperity to the mix of low taxes and minimal regulation that conservatives call “the business climate.”

But there is another factor at play: Californians, fleeing high home prices, are moving to Idaho in droves. For the past several years, Idaho has been one of the fastest-growing states, with the largest share of new residents coming from California. This fact can be illustrated with census data, moving vans — or resentment.

Home prices rose 20 percent in 2020, according to Zillow, and in Boise, “Go Back to California” graffiti has been sprayed along the highways. The last election cycle was a referendum on growth and housing, and included a fringe mayoral candidate who campaigned on a promise to keep Californians out. The dichotomy between growth and its discontents has fused the city’s politics and collective consciousness with a question that city leaders around the country were asking even before the pandemic and remote work trends accelerated relocation: Is it possible to import California’s growth without also importing its housing problems?

“I can’t point to a city that has done it right,” said Lauren McLean, Boise’s Democratic mayor.

From Louise

SAN FRANCISCO — The Bay Area struck a hard bargain with its tech workers.

Rent was astronomical. Taxes were high. Your neighbors didn’t like you. If you lived in San Francisco, you might have commuted an hour south to your job at Apple or Google or Facebook. Or if your office was in the city, maybe it was in a neighborhood with too much street crime, open drug use and $5 coffees.

But it was worth it. Living in the epicenter of a boom that was changing the world was what mattered. The city gave its workers a choice of interesting jobs and a chance at the brass ring.

That is, until the pandemic. Remote work offered a chance at residing for a few months in towns where life felt easier. Tech workers and their bosses realized they might not need all the perks and after-work schmooze events. But maybe they needed elbow room and a yard for the new puppy. A place to put the Peloton. A top public school.

They fled. They fled to tropical beach towns. They fled to more affordable places like Georgia. They fled to states without income taxes like Texas and Florida.

That’s where the story of the Bay Area’s latest tech era is ending for a growing crowd of tech workers and their companies. They have suddenly movable jobs and money in the bank — money that will go plenty further somewhere else.

What have you seen in your areas ? People moving in or out ? What trends do you forecast ?

Family Matching

by S&M

Who in your family looks like who? What do you think is nature, and what’s likely nurture? 

People have remarked since my son was little that he looks like me, particularly in the way he moves. Now that he’s full-sized and near final form, we see that his legs are built very much like mine, with strong quads and calves. His stance is often similar to my dad’s, and to my sister’s son. We move in very similar ways and have similar facial expressions. He has his father’s eye sockets and “allergic circles” under his eyes from my side of the family, poor kid!

When I was growing up, strangers occasionally asked me “are you Dr X’s little girl?” Yes, I was, spit & image. My older sister looked like our mom. The youngest didn’t look like anyone, but these days she looks like our mother. My sisters, parents and I all have pale blue eyes with freckles on the irises; the next generation all has brown eyes.

What about you and your family?

Editorial addition:

Since a fairly large number of Totebaggers have immediate family groups related by law, custom, or adoption, as well as by blood, please also reflect on family traits that are shared despite a lack of genetic connection.

When is the Last Time You Danced?

by MooshiMooshi

Note: This article is behind the WaPo paywall, and has a lot of graphics so I don’t know if it would work well in text format. See what you think

The Decline of Social Dancing.

I read this fun article on our various President’s social dancing skills (or lack thereof). Reading this article, it is clear that men were expected to know how to dance, and that it was for a long time a type of social grease. In my own family, men in the older generation still danced. Both of my grandfathers could dance, in particular my maternal grandfather, who could cut quite a figure on the dance floor, as could my grandmother. My father in law was also a great dancer and loved weddings so he could show off. When he and his wife socialized, polkas and waltzes were always a part of parties, combined with cards and booze. By my parent’s era, though, old school couples dancing was uncool, and at their parties everyone did those 60’s go-go dances, and later, disco moves. However, people still danced at parties back then.
I realized when I read this article that outside of weddings, proms and organized dorm dances, I haven’t been to a party than involved dancing since my parent’s time. In particular, I don’t think I have been to a party in a house with dancing. Teens have their own dance moves, as they always have, but once they hit adulthood, how many of them dance at parties? I think that the era of adults needing to be able to dance as a form of social grease is long gone.
Ah, but then I remembered…. TikTok. Perhaps the social grease function of dancing has simply moved, like everything else, to social media.

Anyway, here is the link to the article on Presidential dancing skills. It is quite fun. I had no idea that Betty Ford was such a good dancer, or that LBJ was taught to dance by his mother, who taught square dancing in the Texas hill country to kids.


Two Totebaggers mentioned Sleep as an issue

From North of Boston

I am finding that sleep can be hard to come by these days, with pandemic-related stresses piled on top of regular life stresses. Totebaggers, how are you sleeping? What are your best tips for getting to sleep, staying asleep, and getting back to sleep if you wake up during the night?

From AustinMom

Can we talk sleep and blursdays? Pre-pandemic, I was a fairly typical early to bed (10-10:30 pm) and early to rise (5:30-6:00 am) though not all nights were restful. Weeks had a pattern to them; I knew what day of the week and date it was every day.

College students coming home shifted us all to later bedtimes, some much later than others. With one back on campus, we are slowly shifting a bit earlier, but I am really struggling to get into a routine. In the past month or so, I am having more blursdays where I find myself checking the calendar not just for the date, but the day of the week.

Last week for the first time in a while seemed more focused and productive along with being more oriented to the day of the week. This week is starting out a bit of a blursday. 

Are others facing this challenge? How are you dealing with it?

2021 in Sports

by Mémé

Now that the Super Bowl is behind us, what are you looking forward to this year in Sports, both spectator and participatory? For yourself, your family members, your community.

I still have my Red Sox season tickets. Since I can roll over the paid up balance from one year to the next, and I doubt there will be fan seating before mid summer, I have decided to keep them through 2022, which I expect will be the first full season with crowds. Sunk cost and all that, even though I have a right to a refund of cancelled dates.

Advice Column Friday – The Horror

by Ada

This Ethicist column has been a long-standing inside joke between my husband and I. Whenever we discuss some difficult decision or hear about someone grappling with and ethical dilemma, we say, “But at least it’s not as bad as bedbugs in the chateau!”

Last summer, I visited friends at their chateau in France — good company, excellent food, but a lumpy mattress full of bedbugs. Badly bitten, I said nothing, but I know I’ll be invited back. How can I politely tell them about their infestation? Or more politely, must I remain silent and simply decline the invitation? — JS, Fort Lauderdale, Fla

You’re waiting until now to tell them that their house is infested? What would you do if the chateau were on fire, mention it demurely in a few months? If this situation involved only your own comfort, you could keep silent, but because other people are at risk, you must speak up. Here’s how you tell them: You tell them — on the telephone, using a fake accent and a false name. No, no — openly, honestly, calmly. I can understand your desire not to embarrass your friends or imperil your relationship, but I hope they will value your candor and realize that having bedbugs is not a moral failing. 

This was during a dark period for the NYT Ethicist. They seemed to have forgotten that ethical dilemmas are complicated and instead published a bunch of letters that were really just “awkward problems” or “should I do what’s right or what’s easy?” problems. They have emerged from that now and occasionally quote a philosopher or two and tackle some complicated things. 

But for fun today, or maybe “fun” – let’s talk about the awkward horrors of travel with friends! I’ll start. You may recall we have a very tiny trailer (that came across an ocean to be with us.). It’s basically a queen bed in a 5x6ft box, though my claustrophobic mother and 6ft husband have both slept comfortably in it (after some initial reluctance). I think (somewhat irrationally, it appears), that it makes a very great guest room. We have now had a 6’6” friend stay, who feigned appreciation. A couple who required us to shuffle kids around and couldn’t sleep in the trailer because he needed a place to plug in the CPAP. A parent who worried that it was unsafe for our daughters to be unattended overnight in the backyard (though the girls found it magic). At this point, I should start renting it out on AirBnb so I can let the disappointments and hilarious awkwardness pile up!

Thursday Open Thread

by Mémé

Thanks to all the Totebaggers for articles and topics posted on Suggest Topics page. I am working through what is there, but more are always welcome, especially the fun ones I am less likely to find on my own.

We always have a lot of finance, and food. So I am going to dole those out one per week, or combine two into one. So if your submission is not posted right away, I am not ignoring it.

Tomorrow we will have an Advice Column post.

The biggest technology failures of 2020

by Rocky Mountain Stepmom

I think this is not paywalled, but if it is, I’ll post a copy.

From the MIT Technology Review

Details for each item in the list are in the article.

1. Covid tests
2. Unregulated facial recognition
3. Quibi’s quick collapse
4. Mystery microwave weapon
5. #zoomdick
6. Light pollution from satellite megaconstellations
7. The vaccine that make you test positive for HIV
8. Cyberpunk 2077
9. Hydroxychloroquine, the covid drug that never worked

Introverts vs Extroverts Stuck at Home

by Houston

For introverts: How do you keep from become too introvert-ish? It is so easy during these times to just sink into yourself. How do you care for the extroverts in your life?

For extroverts: How do you care for yourself and your introvert? How do you get enough social interaction during COVID quarantine?