What would you do if the [Stuff] really hit the fan?

suggested by Rhett and others.

Milo wrote:

We would need to address different tiers of hitting the fan.

Off the top of my head, in loosely increasing order of severity:
1) 90% crash in stock market
2) 50% nationwide unemployment
3) exponential inflation of the dollar (taking wheelbarrows of cash to buy a loaf of bread)
4) major war on our soil/Red Dawn
5) total breakdown of civil law/roving marauders and bandits
6)  outbreak of deadly pathogen or disease

I originally was going to post this a Friday fun topic, but Totebaggers are known for contingency planning, and I have considered all of the above at one time or another.  I would rank them a bit differently than Milo, since I actually expect number 6 to happen with a rapid 25% reduction in world population, possibly within my lifetime.



Open Thread

Thanks to L for Monday’s post.    And there are many  new submissions while I was traveling,  so the queue will fill up soon.

Wed –   What would you do if the [stuff] hits the fan? (Rhett et alii)

Th   –  Life changing tech for school/work (S&M)

Fri  –   Recipe Swap, Harvest Edition (honolulu mother)

Hoarder or minimalist?

by L

Are you a hoarder or a minimalist, or somewhere in between? What are your views on keeping or discarding (1) kids’ papers? (2) mismatched cups and bowls? (3) towels that have become hard or threadbare through years of washing?

I only have a hard time getting rid of clothes, particularly work clothes that are still ‘perfectly good’ but out of style or that I never wear any more. For everything else, it’s out the door! DH has a hard time getting rid of anything, though, so we have more stuff around the house than we would if I was in charge!

Sleeping during a performance

by Honolulu mother

This Washington Post article raises the question:

Why pay $100 and more for a theater ticket if you sleep during the performance?

The author sets the scene:

The esteemed Manhattan theater in which I spent several hours on a recent Saturday night might as well have been a dormitory. Up and down the rows and aisles, people could be seen in various states of drowsy repose. A woman in the row ahead of mine had her head thrust all the way back, as if she were paying the audience member behind her to shampoo her hair. A younger man at the opposite end of the row behind me was fighting to stay awake, his droopy head snapping back to upright each time his eyelids became heavy. The woman next to me slept through the entire first act. She opted not to return for the second.

He goes on to raise the question of whether, apart from being an expensive way to take a nap, sleeping at the theater is also a disservice to the performers themselves:

Do people attending plays and musicals have a moral obligation to the performers to try to stay awake? Would earlier curtain times offer some mitigation of crowd fatigue? I recently talked about the impact of audience snoozing with a highly regarded director of contemporary and classical plays, and what he told me shed light on how even one sleeper can take the air out of a performance. Sometimes, he said, actors can lose their edge at the sight of dozing spectators. (Many times, I’ve seen people in seats in the front row hunched over in slumber.) When the actors exit the stage, the idea can be conveyed to other members of the cast waiting to go on that, well, tonight is just not a good house. And being human, the cast, the director said, might perceptibly deflate, maybe even pull back a tad on the reins of their performances.  

However, he never really gets to the question that immediately occured to me:  Just how sleep-deprived are we all?!  Snoozing through a powerpoint is fodder for jokes, and powerpoints are, well, soporific, but you have to be genuinely tired to sleep through the dramatic climax of an opera.  The second question that occurred to me was, of course, is this a business opportunity?  I can purchase old theaters, install comfy chairs, and instead of paying all that money to screen first run films, I’ll simply turn the lights down and run a soundtrack of relaxing massage music for two hours!
Do you fall asleep during performances or movie screenings?  If so, does it bother you?  And do you think theaters can or should do anything to help patrons stay awake?
For the Friday Fun aspect, Mémé adds a link to a favorite Everly Bros song about falling asleep at the movies.

Student Loans, Family Obligations, and Career Path

by WCE

I understood the loan and family concerns of the working class immigrant woman who wrote this article.   Note from Mémé, her family was working class in the US, but her parents were trained as engineers in the home country, not an uncommon story.


Corporations and Social Change

by Louise

Here is an article (behind paywall, but there are numerous others on the same topic for free – M.) about Starbucks. It has to walk the line between negative publicity when it asks guests to leave (or calls law enforcement on them) or lets them stay even if they don’t buy anything.

The other corporation in the news is Amazon, with the question of affordability in whichever city it chooses as HQ2.

What do you think about corporations and social change, especially in the age of social media where an immediate response is required. What about long term impacts in cases like Amazon. Do they owe the cities they operate in, anything more than their success or should they try to do more as corporate citizens ?


Open Thread

Admin coverage will be spotty this week.    If your comment appears to get hung up in moderation or spam, please try again with the Lark/Lemon extended handle method.    The three dots don’t always work.

Thanks to Swampy for Monday’s topic.

Rest of the week:

Wed-   Corporations and Social Change (Louise)

Th  –    Student Loans and Career  (WCE)

Fri –    Sleeping at the Theater  (HM)

Politics Open Thread, Aug 5-11

starter from WCE

Interesting article on a location-focused tax benefit to help disadvantaged areas like Fresno, California. Economists quoted seem to agree it will likely help disadvantaged areas, but not the MOST disadvantaged areas, but disagree over whether not helping the MOST disadvantaged areas is acceptable policy.


What did you love about History Class?

by Houston

Controversy! History! AP! Multiculturalism!

What do you think about the new changes to AP History outlined in the article below? How were history classes taught when you were young? What changes do you suggest be made?

History is one of my favorite subjects and I still enjoy reading about it. My favorite topic is ancient (i.e. Roman, Greek) military history. What is your favorite topic in history? Why?


Productivity and Scheduling

by Houston

Let’s talk about productivity. Please share your tips on maximizing productivity and minimizing distractions. Are you most productive in the morning? In the evening? Are you a list-maker? Do you use a timer?

I have the problem outlined in the article, and am now trying to schedule more back to back meetings or errands to increase my productivity.


And from L

Have you used any of these productivity tips when your output was lagging? What other strategies would you suggest?



Open Thread / Gone Fishin’

Mémé is traveling for two weeks.   I will check in late evenings and mornings, but only from handheld devices. A flurry of new submissions, thanks especially to the first timers, caused postponement  of a few previously scheduled posts.

I suggest that travelers post in two places.   Once to the daily page and once to the permanent Travel page.     Or post for the record with lots of detail  to the travel page and  select some excepts as highlight/lowlight for the daily page.     The water cooler factor of the daily back and forth seems to be the preferred and more effective interaction method for most readers.

Thanks to Dell for Monday’s post.

Rest of the week

Wed –   Productivity and Scheduling  (Houston, L)

Th –      What did you like about History Class?   (Houston)

Fri –     True Crime Favorites  (Rhett)

Dry Cleaning and Alternatives

by honolulu mother

This article runs through the at-home alternatives to sending your dry cleaning out to a commercial facility:

A lot of them come down to spot treatment, steaming, and freshening up. Oh, and being aware of your washer’s gentle cycle. But perhaps the article is aimed at people who dry clean at the drop of a hat. Consider, for instance, this quote:
A lot of times, we take things to the dry cleaner just because they’re wrinkled.
Who does that?!
Anyhow, my primary approach to dry cleaning is to avoid garments that require dry cleaning, but I make some use of the gentle cycle and Dryel alternatives, and I will occasionally send something out for full-on drycleaning. I also have oberved that there’s some cleaning inflation going on with laundry tags — “gentle cycle” garments are generally ok with the regular cycle, and “dry clean only” ones are generally ok on the gentle cycle — perhaps the manufacturers just want to forestall complaints about garment durability.
How do you approach dry cleaning? Do you regularly send it out? Do you mostly use home-based alternatives? Or do you not have anything that can’t go in the regular wash?

Are the Humanities essential to a University?

Is it not only  unnecessary but wrong to try to justify Humanities degrees as having any practical or job related application at all?


by Houston

This is interesting to me, as none of my family members studied humanities in college, except me (including aunts, uncles, cousins, in-laws, husband’s family….). Neither of my kids is interested in humanities. Humanities are giving way to STEM and STEAM in K-12. Kids are encouraged to code, and not necessarily to read, as they grown older. Can we save the liberal arts degree?


What is your work environment?

by L

Open offices: how many Totebaggers work in one? If you have experienced both an open office and ‘closed’ office plan, which is more conducive to productivity? http://mentalfloss.com/article/550775/want-chat-your-colleagues-dont-work-open-office

by Louise

What is your work situation WFH or at the office ? Do you have flexibility to go in or not? Is virtual collaboration effective or not ?

Open Thread

This week I would like to give a shout-out to our most consistent and prolific topic contributors, in no particular order.

Louise, L, Houston, Honolulu mother, S&M, WCE, Rhett.    There are a number of others who send something in every other month or so.   Thanks to all of you as well.   The objective is to increase the number of participants in the latter group (like alumni giving statistics-by-class, no amount is too small/ no topic too trivial).     Controversial topics are welcome, but will likely be posted to the Politics page.

From now on I am going to insert the post authors on this list, with mention of the Monday post author.   (S&M sent in the topics for yesterday and next Monday)

Rest of the week:

Wed –   What is your work environment?  (mash up L and Louise)

Th –  Humanities in the University  (Houston)

Fri –  Dry Cleaning and Alternatives (HM)

Setting Personal Boundaries

Text taken/modified from a seminar description sent in by S&M

Did anyone directly teach you about boundaries?
No? Me neither. Don’t you wish someone had?
Most of us fumble through, making mistakes over and over before we hopefully learn from them. Much of that can be avoided though, with a little bit of clarity.
Here’s one of the biggest mistakes people make:
They confuse “I can’t take it anymore” with their Boundary. These are not the same thing! Your boundary is crossed much earlier.
We’ve become so good at delayed gratification. It seems like if we can just tolerate an uncomfortable situation a little longer, it might resolve without any drama.
Then the tension mounts.  By the time we take action, it’s not calm and measured…but it could have been! We missed the opportunity. We could have handled it well, if we’d been more attuned to our boundaries and taken action sooner.
What are some of  your boundaries and what do they feel like?
Our teenaged children’s ability to experiment safely depends on them feeling and defending their boundaries, especially in social and/or intimate situations.   How can we help them to identify their boundaries and assert them in time?

How do you like to waste time?

by Houston

What are your favorite ways of relaxing or taking a break (i.e. wasting time)? Please don’t mention the Totebag–We are not wasting time! We are…..having productive conversations with like minded people. Very edifying!


I have two favorites: Watching make up reviews on You Tube, and playing Solitaire (I’m old school that way) Please share your favorites–maybe I can waste even more time!

Legacy admissions vs diversity

by Fred  (WSJ article in full)   Please use to kick off Education Thursday

As Harvard, Notre Dame, Georgetown and others pledge to increase diversity, admitting the children of alumni at higher rates complicates their efforts

Top colleges have pledged to become more socioeconomically diverse, but the admissions edge many give to children of alumni may make that goal harder to achieve.

At the University of Notre Dame, the University of Virginia and Georgetown University, the admission rate for legacies is about double the rate for the overall applicant pool, according to data from the schools. At Princeton University, legacies are admitted at four times the general rate, or roughly 30% compared with about 7% overall over the past five years, the school says.

Legacy applicants at Harvard University were five times as likely to be admitted as non-legacies, according to an analysis of admissions data from 2010 through 2015. The numbers—33.6% for legacies and 5.9% for those without parental ties—were submitted in a June court filingfor a case claiming Asian students are being discriminated against in the name of greater diversity at the school.

All of those schools have signed on to or plan to join the American Talent Initiative, a Bloomberg Philanthropies-backed effort to enroll 50,000 more low- and moderate-income students by 2025.

Concerns over the legacy advantage reflect broader unease about competing priorities in admissions. Diversity initiatives have led to complaints by white students that minority students have a leg up. Meanwhile, highly qualified Asian students say they should get more slots based on academics. Both say long-standing traditions like legacy admissions soak up coveted spots.

Advocates for considering legacy status argue that favoring the children—and, in some cases, grandchildren—of graduates helps maintain an engaged and generous alumni base and lets students serve as ambassadors to new campus arrivals.

Cornell University President Martha E. Pollack has said legacy admissions help perpetuate “a Cornell family that goes on for generations.” In an interview with the student newspaper in May, she said the practice isn’t about giving preference or an advantage to legacies, but such a designation is one of many “balancing factors.”

Critics say giving legacy applicants any preferential treatment undermines diversity initiatives, especially for schools that aren’t growing.

“I really don’t see how our best universities can continue to justify this practice,” said William Dudley, Federal Reserve Bank of New York president, in an October speech. “Such an approach only preserves the status quo and constrains economic mobility.”

A handful of elite schools, including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and California Institute of Technology, don’t consider legacy status in admissions.

A coalition of groups focused on supporting first-generation college students circulated a letter in February calling for a dozen schools, including Brown University, Duke University, Swarthmore College and Emory University, to review their legacy admission policies.

“Anything that’s unpopular, has a discriminatory history and doesn’t have the data to back it up, deserves a second look,” said Shawn Young, a public policy major who has coordinated the campaign at Brown.

Legacy preferences, which historians say were originally developed to keep Jewish students from prestigious colleges in the early 1900s, generally benefit applicants who are wealthy and white, as they reflect the student body from a generation earlier.

Calling legacy admissions a “classist, racist institution,” Brookings Institution senior fellow Richard Reeves said, “There is an inescapable hypocrisy of an institution saying, ‘We are going to be open and meritocratic,’ and maintaining a hereditary privilege.”

Schools say it is a false choice, and they can give consideration to legacy status while increasing a class’s racial and economic diversity. Legacies made up roughly 5% of the applicant pool and 15% of this fall’s entering class at the University of Virginia. The school also says it has near-record-high numbers of minorities and first-generation college students, at 34% and 11%, respectively.

“We need to keep doing a better job of finding high-ability, low-income students to apply,” said Don Bishop, associate vice president for undergraduate enrollment at Notre Dame. Legacies outnumber first-generation college students there by more than three to one.

Schools that do weigh legacy status generally state as much, but say it doesn’t make any candidate a shoo-in.

Diana Brown, a rising senior at Cornell University whose mother also attended the school, has had classmates question her qualifications because of her legacy status. Photo: Diana Brown

On an alumni website, Duke says its admissions officers “give special consideration to these applicants, including an additional round of review.” The school also says academic achievement is the most important factor in admissions.

“ ‘Special consideration’ refers to the longstanding practice of the dean of admissions and his staff carefully reviewing applicants whose parents or grandparents are alumni before final decisions are made,” said Michael Schoenfeld, Duke’s vice president for public affairs and government relations.

Columbia University’s undergraduate admission website refers to a “slight advantage” for “extremely competitive” candidates whose parents attended Columbia, while Harvard’s site says that among “similarly distinguished applicants,” those whose parents attended Harvard’s undergraduate college “may receive an additional look.”

Mr. Bishop and representatives from other schools say much of the differential in admission rates can be explained by legacy applicants’ higher academic credentials and cultural fit. They say legacies also enroll at higher rates than other accepted students.

Diana Brown, a 20-year-old rising senior at Cornell University, recalls a freshman-year classmate questioning her qualifications because her mother was a hotel-school graduate who remains involved in the alumni community.

Ms. Brown said her high school grades were strong, and she has performed well in college, so she now brushes off people’s comments.

“I obviously know that I’m qualified and I deserve to be there,” she said.

Wellness Culture vs Natural Causes

by Rocky Mountain Stepmom

Barbara Ehrenreich has a new book out,  Natural Causes.

Once associated with play, exercise is now closer to a form of labor: measured, timed, and financially incentivized by employers and insurers. Like any kind of alienated labor, it assumes and intensifies the division between mind and body—indeed, it involves a kind of violence by the mind against the body. Ehrenreich is tired of being told to “crush your workout,” of being urged to develop “explosive strength” through a “warrior” routine. She cites the copy from an advertisement for a home fitness machine: “A moment of silence please, for my body has no idea what I’m about to put it through.” Exercise, for some reason, has become a struggle to the death. As Oscar Pistorius—the amputee and Olympic runner convicted of murder in 2015—has tattooed on his back, “I beat my body and make it my slave / I bring it under my complete subjection.”

As the title of the article suggests, it’s really a much deeper critique of the idea that we have total control and agency over our bodies, and also suggests that more attention be paid to social justice and less to trying to control something that’s fundamentally out of our control — our mortality.



Open Thread

With summer travel, the reserve of topics, especially light hearted or lifestyle ones, is getting thin.   Because of upcoming travel by the two admins,  during the two weeks starting  July 29 the site may occasionally be on autopilot.   Please keep ’em coming!!

Wed- Wellness Culture

Th — Legacy Admissions

Fri — Time wasters

Honoring requests of deceased loved ones

by Rhode

We’ve talked fairly frequently about members of our families passing on and the requests they’ve made. We talk about writing everything down to ease the strain on the surviving family. But we’ve never really addressed the surviving family side.

I never thought about this until my dad passed. I knew he wanted to be cremated and his ashes scattered. Until recently, Catholics were not to be cremated. While the Vatican changed its position, and deceased Catholics can be cremated, their ashes cannot be scattered.

Any reservation I had about scattering his ashes had nothing to do with Catholic law. My issues were solely legal. I knew he wanted his ashes scattered on public and federal land. So I had a few options: (1) get permits (2) don’t ask don’t tell (3) don’t do it. I explored option 1 getting frustrated at the state of NY, and ended up following option 2. I couldn’t bring myself to not fulfill his wishes. I had plenty of reasons not to – “not my responsibility” was top on my hit parade. This was his wife’s (now widow’s) job, but she left him at the funeral home for six months while she planned her move to Florida. But at the end of the day, I couldn’t stand the thought that he would sit somewhere and be forgotten. My moral conviction to honor his wishes outweighed any issues with potentially breaking a law.

This led me to wonder about other cultures and how they handle death and funeral practices…

Click on  TED for a ~14 minute video is a fascinating look at life through death, and the transition of a person from living to ancestral. Text summary here (if you can’t watch the video).

Have you been privileged to witness a funeral tradition unlike yours? Or, when honoring requests, have any of you been asked to do something that you cannot honor?Honor

Politics Open Thread, July 15-21

Here are some thoughts from WCE on land/wildlife management as a starter.

While we were at White Sulfur Springs, one of the topics of conversation with random locals in the hot pool was wolf management and their interaction with cattle. This article describing someone treed and rescued in Washington brought those conversations to mind. Mr. WCE saw lots of wolf sign and few young elk while hunting last year, suggesting that many calves are being killed by wolves. One of the challenges of environmental and wildlife management is the rural/urban divide. When should decisions be made democratically vs. by people most affected by the decisions or by wildlife managers?


Life’s little luxuries

by Becky

I’ve been thinking lately about the little luxuries in life that make me happy.

This started because I spend too much time reading news and politics, and it’s making me cranky. So I have been making a concerted effort to spend some time each day on things that I know make me happy. In addition to nightly walks with DH, I am making more time to read.

As I crawled into a freshly made bed to read, the first time I’ve read in bed in more than a year, I realized that to me this is the ultimate in luxury. I enjoy the quiet, the soft lighting, and the chance to just relax and take my mind off the day.

What are little things that feel like a luxury to you?

Weighing Student Privacy vs Suicide Risk

Article suggested by Rhett on a Hamilton College Student

Should colleges notify  parents if they become aware of a student “at risk?”

Have student privacy rules gone too far in keeping the tuition payers in the dark about everything in their student’s life, including grades or academic probation  or health center admissions or unpaid campus bills?

The Downside to Changing Your Eating Habits

by Honolulu Mother

A while ago I ran across this article by a woman who tried eating in a more French style (or her understanding of that) for a week, and found that not only were there lifestyle elements that made it challenging for her, she also felt that by the end of the week the differnet diet was having a negative impact on how she felt.  She’d been eating a lot more bread than usual and blamed that for feeling extra hungry during the day, and she was also tired of bread.

(If you use an adblocker you’ll need to pause it and reload the page to read the article.)
The article made me muse about how much a dramatic change of diet, by itself, can throw off how one feels all day and in some cases (such as we discussed a couple of weeks ago here!) can give you serious digestive upset when it’s combined with unfamiliar microbes in a place you’re visiting.  I don’t think this is necessarily a question of one diet being objectively better than another, so much as that our gut does adjust to the foods we usually eat.  And indeed, science has been looking at the relationship between “gut microbiota” and diet in recent years, e.g. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29332901 .
On a personal level, when we travel to the mainland it seems like we end up eating more fries and sandwiches and less rice and shoyu/garlic/ginger based flavors generally, and after about a week we need to cook or seek out a suitable restaurant.  (I’ve already planned on this for our Europe trip — Paris and London have plenty of options but I don’t want to be out in the French countryside and realize that everyone is craving rice!)  I don’t see this as a matter of one diet being more healthful than another, so much as a habitual diet having a powerful, powerful effect on what food makes us feel right.
For people trying a dramatic change of diet for health reasons, I’m sure this increases the challenge — not only are you perhaps getting fewer calories than you’re used to, but what you are eating isn’t what your body is craving.
Have tried a different diet than usual, whether as part of a regimen like Whole 30 or just as a side effect of travel?  Did you notice changes in how you felt?

Open Thread plus mini starter

Topics for this week:

Wed –  The Downside to Changing Your Eating Habits

Th – Student Privacy vs Suicide Risk

Fri – Life’s little luxuries


SPAM TRAPPING:   Several more posters have been getting caught in spam.   One person suggested that it relates to clearing cookies or other privacy settings on your browser or device.    I observe that almost the posters who are occasionally held up have handles that are words in ordinary language or appear to be place names.    Perhaps in the spam catching algorithm identifies them as bot generated handles.   We work on it, but at midday I am often out and can only free it up when I get home.

PRIVACY INITIATIVE:   The administrators may have bitten off more than we can chew in promising the complete change for July 1.    Please be patient.   We have other things going on in our lives, and most of this has to be done by “July” since for some reason “Mémé” doesn’t have the right sort bulk editing functionality for WordPress.

The fact that my administrative view in WordPress is limited provides a nice segue into a starter topic.       There are websites that work and display completely on my desktop Mac but not on my husband’s desktop PC (and I have logged into them via Google Chrome on both, so it is not browser specific), and vice versa.   There are mobile versions that lose partial functionality on the Ipad but not on the Android phone and vice versa.   Tech savvy folks, why is this?   Help!!!!





Relationships with our parents as they age

by S&M

Milo mentioned no longer being able to tease his parents about certain topics (I can’t recall teasing my parents ever having been appropriate). Louise commented on expecting her parents to call when they get home from a long trip, which I think many of us do. After months (maybe over a year) of me pointing it out plainly, my mother may be beginning to realize that when she refuses to put things into words, or thinks things go without saying, I probably won’t have any idea what she’s thinking.

How has the relationship changed for you over time?   For older posters, are you seeing changes in the ways your launched adult children relate to you?   For those who no longer have living parents, please share your past experiences.

College Admission DeBrief

by Houston

This article reviews several changes to the current college admissions process in the US including a lottery and limiting the number of schools to which students can apply. What do you think about these options (other than the fact that some could be illegal). Parents of high school seniors: how did the college application process go for your child?   How are the plans for the actual departure going?   Parents of high school juniors: how are you preparing for the coming college application process?


Travel Topic and Schedule for the Week

There will be no topic tomorrow on the holiday, the college process recap topic  on Thursday, July 5 and no new topic on Friday    Back to regular schedule next week.

If it’s from Apartment Therapy, you know it’s from me [S&M]

We’ve discussed the pros and cons of packing cubes so often that most people on the blog can probably tell you who does and doesn’t use them. But what about other travel organizers? This article, which first came out a year ago, includes a variety of organizers to take on the road.

I can vouch for the usefulness of a toiletries bag, but it has been years since I used the folding one from LLBean with a hook on it. I think my mom uses the one I gave her, but she checks luggage. We almost always carry everything on, so our bottles of liquids are much too small to take advantage of that bag. What I use most often is a little one from American Airlines that has a mesh compartment and a couple of pockets. I love it, and am surprised ti’s held up so well for several years. I wish I could find similar for sale, for when it eventually gives out. On the other things on this list—that’s a swanky looking jewelry organizer, and an itinerary that required so many baubles would probably be pretty luxe as well. Sigh. Not my life. I’m a sucker for things like the $5 organizer bag, but doubt I’d actually use it or the tech accessories thingy. Further downhill, replacing my usual system with a passport wallet would probably throw me into disarray, and the thought of a special bag just for bras makes me laugh. I’m on the fence about laundry bags; of course it’s useful to separate dirty things from clean, but if I shift things around in my packing system, then it doesn’t all fit together the same way. Besides, when I’m traveling, the only things that I absolutely rule out re-wearing because of hygiene are undies, and those don’t need a whole bag. Even a shirt with something dribbled down the front can work as a layering piece. I note that many commenters mention plastic bags and clear vacuum bags. I’ve been using vacuum bags recently (I like U-Haul’s much better than Zip-Locks; they’re harder to rip and easier to zip), and compression cubes are the one type that make sense to me.

What about you? What are your favorite travel organizers? Do you replace your usual daily routine when you travel, or expand it greatly?


Medical Issues, Cost, Quality of Life

by Louise

Recently there was some discussion of premature babies and the cost immediate and ongoing. I have also become aware of people in my community (in their 40s) who are on the list for organ transplants. This has involved ongoing fund raising within the community.
What has been your experience with medical issues ? How have families managed costs ? Did people do everything to save their loved ones, regardless of the quality of life or the cost ?

2018 Politics Open Thread, Jul 1-7

This week we start with WCE’s submission of an article that attacks  liberal thinking and motives (the word evil can be found).    I requested conservative sources – please do not assume that she endorses every assertion.


Because the MSM articles we post on the regular threads often have a culturally liberal slant, I haven’t solicited far left ones to provoke discussion here, seeing the politics page as a place where the moderate to right wing viewpoints usually start us up.    However, if any of you debate lovers have anything that is left of NYT/Vox/Slate, send it in.

Why is this in my Inbox/Mailbox?

by Mémé

Now that most of my transactions are online, the amount of incongruent commercial and solicitation snail mail has fortunately decreased.     And even that is easier to discard, because the recycle bin is adjacent to the mailbox and it does not even have to enter the house.   I can recall a subscription to Horse Lover or some such that I received many years ago.   I called them and it took quite a while to convince them that I had not subscribed.  I said, I live in an apartment in the city.   Someone is playing a joke.

But even with spam and bulk mail filters on the electronic inbox, I occasionally find myself on the receiving end of newsletters that give me a chuckle.     The current one that has been coming for months is This Week in Weed.   It is all about the Massachusetts introduction of recreational marijuana sales.

What strange humorous stuff comes to your home or computer?   Does it bother you or amuse you?    Do you take steps to reduce both paper and electronic junk mail?

Who Needs Calculus? Not High Schoolers

by Fred

A topic that seems perfect for our group   WSJ article reproduced in full.

Who Needs Calculus? Not High-Schoolers

They’d be better off taking AP statistics or computer science.

By James Markarian

Thousands of American high-school students on Tuesday will take the Advanced Placement calculus exam. Many are probably dreading it, perhaps seeing the test as an attempt to show off skills they will never use. What if they’re right?

I started thinking about this recently when my 14-year-old daughter was doing her pre-calculus homework. I couldn’t help wondering: Is this the best direction for children her age? Students need skills to thrive in the 21st-century workplace, and I’m not convinced calculus is high on that list. Sure, calculus is essential for some careers, particularly in physics and engineering. But few eighth-graders are set on those fields.

It’s clear, on the other hand, that the American economy has entered a new age of data. Workers increasingly must analyze reams of numbers to improve products, increase sales or cut costs. Maybe high schools should spend more time on subjects like statistics and probability.

The Labor Department estimatesthat “statistician” will be one of the fastest-growing job categories over the next decade, faster than “software developer” and “information security analyst.” The pay isn’t bad either: The median statistician made $84,060 in 2017.

Yet in 2016 nearly 450,000 high-school students took an AP calculus exam. Fewer than half that took the statistics test, and fewer still took an AP exam in computer science.

Calculus classes have expanded dramatically in high schools since the 1980s. Intense competition for elite colleges is probably pushing students to take calculus because they hope it will increases their chances of admission.

But if high schools “teach to the test,” gearing classes to help students pass the AP exam, it could be counterproductive for students who wind up choosing physics or engineering. When college comes around, they may struggle if they are allowed to skip first-semester math classes even if they haven’t truly grasped the basics.

I’m not saying high schools should stop teaching calculus, but perhaps colleges should reconsider awarding credit for it. Changing the incentives could encourage students to take subjects relevant to their ambitions. Statistics and probability are much easier to apply to real-world problems, such as traffic analysis or election polling, which helps keep adolescents engaged. Failing at math is sometimes cited as an “academic trip wire” that causes students to drop out of school.

There’s evidence that parents already favor a change in curriculum. In a 2015 Gallup poll, 9 of 10 parents said computer science should be taught in schools, but many districts don’t teach it well. The education system is not aligned with the reality of today’s workplace.

One positive shift is that outside opportunities for learning have greatly expanded. Millions of people world-wide have signed up for MOOCs, massively open online courses, which facilitate self-directed study. Popular courses include machine learning, data science, and the programming language R, which is widely used in data science and statistics.

So spare a thought on Tuesday for the half-million teenagers drudging through derivatives. I hope the test gets them into the colleges of their dreams, but how much it will help them build careers is uncertain. As for the next generation of high-schoolers: Statistics is calling. You might like it, and it can get you a good-paying job—in all probability.

Mr. Markarian is chief technology officer of SnapLogic.

Appeared in the May 15, 2018, print edition.


How to Survive your 40s

Rhett suggested an article from the NYT by Pamela Druckerman, author of Bringing Up Bébé.   She has a new book coming out.


Click here for full article


If you want to know how old you look, just walk into a French cafe. It’s like a public referendum on your face.

When I moved to Paris in my early 30s, waiters called me “mademoiselle.” It was Bonjour, mademoiselle” when I walked into a cafe and “Voilà, mademoiselle” as they set down a coffee.

Around the time I turned 40, however, there was a collective switch, and waiters started calling me “madame.” These “madames” were tentative at first, but soon they were coming at me like a hailstorm. Now it’s “Bonjour, madame” when I walk in, “Merci, madame” when I pay my bill and “Au revoir, madame” as I leave. Sometimes several waiters shout this at once.

On one hand, I’m intrigued by this transition. Do these waiters gather after work for Sancerre and a slide show to decide which female customers to downgrade? (Irritatingly, men are “monsieur” forever.).  The worst part is that they’re trying to be polite. They believe I’m old enough that the title can’t possibly wound.

This has all happened too quickly for me to digest. I still have most of the clothes that I wore as a mademoiselle. There are mademoiselle-era cans of food in my pantry.

But the world keeps telling me that I’ve entered a new stage. While studying my face in a well-lit elevator, my daughter describes it bluntly: “Mommy, you’re not old, but you’re definitely not young.”

I’m starting to see that as a madame, even a newly minted one, I am subject to new rules. When I try to act adorably naïve now, people aren’t charmed — they’re baffled. Cluelessness no longer goes with my face. I’m  expected to wait in the correct line at airports and show up on time for my appointments.

And yet brain research shows that in the 40s, some of these tasks are harder: On average we’re more easily distracted than younger people, we digest information more slowly and we’re worse at remembering specific facts. (The ability to remember names peaks in the early 20s.) You know you’re in your 40s when you’ve spent 48 hours trying to think of a word, and that word was “hemorrhoids.”

These days, when I think, “Someone should really do something about that,” I realize with alarm that that “someone” is me.    It’s not an easy transition. I’d always been reassured by the idea that there are grown-ups in the world out there curing cancer and issuing subpoenas.  In an emergency, I’ve always trusted that grown-ups — mysterious, capable and wise — would appear to rescue me.

I’m not thrilled about looking older. But what unsettles me most about the 40s is the implication that I’m now a grown-up myself. I fear I’ve been promoted beyond my competence. What is a grown-up anyway? Do they really exist? If so, what exactly do they know? Will my mind ever catch up with my face?

Open Thread with Starter

Wed – How to survive your 40s

Th – Who Needs Calculus?

Fri – What’s in your Inbox/Mailbox?

Note:  There will be only two discussion topics posted during the following week that includes Independence Day.     Thanks for sending in some new ones to fill up the rest of the month.


Here’s a Vox interview (Guy promoting a book) as a starter for today.


Possible NSFW alert.  The full form of BS appears in the title and throughout the article.

Pair Novels With Your Destinations

by saacnmama

Skimming through a Popsugar list of ways to have a better European vacation, (https://www.popsugar.com/smart-living/Europe-Trip-Tips-43838449#photo-43838992 )  I found this direct hit for the Totebag crowd. It combines travel with fiction.

If you think reading guidebooks before embarking on your journey paints the picture, try devouring a delicious plot that captures the culture, scenery, and must dos of a destination all at the same time. There isn’t a destination anywhere (not just in Europe) that isn’t written about prolifically.
 As an example, if Cinque Terre is on your bucket list, read Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter first.

Pair Novels With Your Destinations


Totebaggers,  suggest pairing of literature, art or film with your previous, scheduled or wish list destinations.

Open Thread

Retention policy update:

Here are the latest poll numbers: 

94 total
29% / 28     don’t care
35% / 34     3 months or shorter
35% / 34     6 months or longer
The administrators have decided to go with 4 months public access, starting July 1.  It will be 4 previous months plus  the current month.      Older posts will not be permanently deleted immediately, but held for at least a year as private.


Since education is the most popular topic by far, occupying the Open Thread two weeks ago and the Politics page (perfectly civil discussion) last week,  we will try out Education Thursday to go with Relationship Monday and Open Tuesday.

Offline, we received a observation that some types of topics don’t get a lot of traffic with the implication that we would be better served by providing different ones.    So we are asking people outside of the usual group of 5-8 to submit things of interest to them with a story or a link.     And be aware that summer is slow.   Fewer people are in need of a workday time-filler.

Topics for the rest of the week:

Wed-  Paying workers off the books

Th—   Alternatives to College

Fri–   Pair Novels with your Destinations



Are Americans too attached to their pets?

by MooshiMooshi
This article, which is from the National Review, presents the idea that we have become too close to our pets and that this is getting in the way of forming real relationships.
I think in some cases, there could be some truth in that. But sometimes people become obsessed with pets because they fill a gap. I know someone who wanted kids, but her husband did not, so now that they are older she fills in by doting on her cats and dogs. She posts endless photos on social media just as we do with our kids, and she even paints portraits of them. I think it helps her, though.  I see many other parents bringing dogs and cats into their lives as their children migrate off to college and jobs. On the other hand, a friend of mine from college collects cats. He has never managed to have a longterm relationship, and I think the 6 or more cats at any time in his apartment are one of the barriers.
In this era of floof and blep and emotional support peacocks, have we gone too far in adoration of our animals?

What do you keep in the fridge?

by Rocky Mountain Stepmom

I refrigerate ketchup, mustard, flavored vinegars, hot sauce, and basically anything else that I can wedge into the fridge. I got this from my mom. DH thinks that not all condiments have to be refrigerated. How about bread? Nuts? Flour? Peanut butter?  The current stick of butter in the dish?


Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

by WCE

Interesting article on the limitations of machine learning


“In that case, what do you think about free will?

Pearl: We’re going to have robots with free will, absolutely. We have to understand how to program them and what we gain out of it. For some reason, evolution has found this sensation of free will to be computationally desirable.

Hartnett: In what way?

Pearl: You have the sensation of free will; evolution has equipped us with this sensation. Evidently, it serves some computational function.

Hartnett: Will it be obvious when robots have free will?

Pearl: I think the first evidence will be if robots start communicating with each other counterfactually, like “You should have done better.” If a team of robots playing soccer starts to communicate in this language, then we’ll know that they have a sensation of free will. “You should have passed me the ball—I was waiting for you and you didn’t!” “You should have” means you could have controlled whatever urges made you do what you did, and you didn’t. So the first sign will be communication; the next will be better soccer.”

The post header is, of course, the title of the Philip K Dick story on which Blade Runner is based (inserted by Mémé).    The TV series Westworld also explores issues of robot consciousness.    What do you think about machine learning in general and the wider issue of “free will” in machines?    What would you like to see in your lifetime?




Identity and Clan

by Louise

The Rachel Divide

A very interesting documentary is out on Betflix about a white woman by birth who has identified as black.   (Rachel became notorious a few years ago because she was an NAACP official.    She was a white bio child, whose family adopted several black sibs, and she allied herself with them against the parents, altered her hair and complexion.)

Beyond the exploration of her actions and motivations,  the film raises wider questions about identity.   Who we are, who are our people and our community.   It many a time rears its head when we think about adoption, relocating far from our places of birth.    It also appears when we participate in an activity historically associated with one group or another.

In a nation where we can be who we want to be (or at least are lead to believe so) discuss what identity means to you.

What happens when the group you identify with (either by origin or your active choice) rejects you in public and in subtle ways?     How do you deal with and move on from that?

Open Thread

Please participate in the poll.   Regulars, lurkers, those who are waiting for a final policy to determine whether to continue.    We two administrators followed people’s comments both on and off line and came to radically different conclusions about what group really wants.   We need hard data.

Topics for the rest of the week

Wed –   Identity and Clan

Th – Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

Fri – What do you keep in the Fridge?


Following up with old Classmates


Have you kept touch/regained touch with old high school (or college) friends? Were you surprised at how well or poorly they turned out? Not just financially, but emotionally, spiritually, that they just became good, cool people, or got really boring?

On some blog or other, an inveterate FB old acquaintance seeker really couldn’t understand why people from high school and college would not want to re-connect with her.   Here are some of the reasons she tried to imagine for their refusal to engage.

  •  They are now different people with totally different lives and interests.
  • There are aspects of their past they don’t want to re-live.
  • Their plate is already full of friends, acquaintances, and relatives
  • She was a jerk to them, without knowing, and they don’t want to be part of her self discovery narrative.
  • They really don’t know or remember her.

Has anyone from those days tried to reconnect with you, for good or for ill?


Non-travel Wish/Bucket List

by Rhett

Unfulfilled Bucket List Items

I’ll give mine.

1. Go to an event requiring a tuxedo. Ideally white tie.

2. Attend an auction.

3. Conduct business while being fitted for a custom made suite, like guys do in the movies.

Who will clean your self driving Uber?

by L

Unforeseen problems with self-driving cars: who will clean them? https://slate.com/technology/2018/05/who-will-clean-self-driving-cars.html?via=article_recirc_recent

Being one of those people who gets carsick easily, I can foresee this being one of the most important reasons for me not to buy a self-driving car. (On long trips, I always drive so I don’t get sick.)

What unanticipated problems do you for see for on-the-horizon  technological advancements or have you already encountered with those already introduced?

Summer plans

Fred wondered if we had already done a formal post on summer or other vacation plans.     Not expressly, but the discussion meanders into that territory frequently.

Memorial Day is the unofficial start of summer season in many parts of the country (but not New England) .   Also, there are still many posters dealing with child care gaps during the summer, as well.    How are you dealing with the kids’ schedule?

Winemama is considering a trip overseas, her first. She would appreciate a review of how to find cheap airfares and other tips for travelers.

Kerri asked for summer reading suggestions for adults and children, and wonders what was on your or your kids’ high school summer reading lists.

If you have firm plans, what are they? If not, or you’re just dreaming about something, what are you thinking about?

Open Thread

Totebag 30 day challenge week 4 will go live on Thursday.   I’ll put it on the top level to remind everyone.

Anyone who still has privacy concerns or requests should email one of the admins. We will respond offline.

We are unable to figure out why the name “Lark” ends up being flagged as spam.   Perhaps it has joined the list of names used by Russian girls who want to be your friend.   Lemon’s post of last week just had too many links and went into pending approval.

Upcoming posts.




What is GDPR and why should I care?

topic submitted by saacnmama

From an internet article.

If you’re a person on the internet, you’ve probably been getting a lot of emails from companies about privacy updates, all related to a new law that just went into effect in the European Union: the General Data Protection Regulation, known as the GDPR.

1. What is the GDPR?

It’s a set of data privacy laws that was approved by the European Parliament in 2016, and after a two-year transition period, it’s now law. It affects any company that handles the personal information of anyone in Europe, and that means any company that does business in Europe, even if it’s based in the United States or somewhere else in the world.

It’s much stronger than privacy regulations in the United States. It basically says that companies have to get explicit permission to collect and use your data, and that they have to let you see what they’re storing and allow you to remove it. If you’re in the EU, that is. 

2. Why is the EU putting new regulations in place (and why isn’t the United States)?

The EU, being made up of lots of different countries, has a lot of rules around privacy and data collection and how data should be stored by companies not based in Europe. So really simply, the GDPR is an attempt to create one set of rules that everyone can follow, and it happens to enact the most consumer-friendly set.

The United States essentially has no federal privacy regulations around data collection, use and notification. The difference is really cultural; privacy is considered a human right in Europe, and of course, it’s a much more regulation-friendly environment. American citizens have a lot less concern about trading information for free goods or services, like email, maps, chat or photo sharing, and it hasn’t seemed necessary.

3. What do the new privacy regulations mean for users in the United States?

It depends on the company. In the short term, it means a lot of emails about updated terms of service and privacy policies, which you’ve already probably noticed. But some companies, like Microsoft, have said that it’s going to make the rules of the GDPR standard for every user, even people in the United States. So in theory, that could mean that you could call up Microsoft, ask to see what personal information it has about you and maybe ask Microsoft to delete it.

4. What do businesses need to do to comply?

First, they have to figure out if this applies to them. It applies to any business that processes the information of anyone located in the EU. There are probably some businesses that don’t realize that their mailing list is international.

And even if they don’t understand exactly how to comply with the new rules — because they are a little bit vague — experts say that they at least have to make a good-faith effort to get consent from people in the EU to collect and use their information.

5. What does the future hold for new privacy regulations? Could this be a new standard?

That’s the hope of a lot of privacy advocates. It is likely to have a trickle-down effect on big companies, at least. It will just be easier in the long run to have one set of behaviors for how you treat personal information . And it could lead other jurisdictions to craft new privacy rules in the image of the GDPR. California is working on very strong regulations, for example.

It’s also important to note, though, that this will have a lot of downstream impacts on companies, especially small ones that can’t take the risk of large fines if they expand into Europe.    So the big will stay big and get bigger.

Totebaggers, have you been reading the new privacy notices?   Are you planning to take any action to examine the data held on you?    Are you actively concerned about privacy issues in general?

Note:   Our site was established under an earlier version of WordPress that allows fully anonymous comments with no requirement to provide an email address.  (Some posters have routinely filled in the box, but it is not necessary.)    So far an update has not been forced on us.   We therefore do not request or “monitor” personal data.    We also do not engage in economic activity.

2018 Politics Open Thread, Jun 3-9

From WCE

This article on fiscal capacity- many red-leaning states lack enough rich people to tax to provide adequate public services- summarizes what is a primary reason for the political divide. Areas with wealthy people to tax lean blue, and neither the affluent blue areas nor the less affluent red areas truly “see” the other. Both New Mexico (blue) and Utah (red) are exceptions to the general rule. Other countries including Canada do more to equalize the provision of public services.


Weddings, Proms, Graduations and Parties

by Louise

It’s the season for celebrations. The Royal Wedding was perhaps the biggest such media event of the year. Do you have any celebrations coming up ? Are you the host or hostess or a guest ? Have you looked at an invitation dress code and wondered what to wear ? Any trusty outfits you routinely dust off and wear again ?
Let’s talk about celebrations, the trends, the fashions and departures from custom.

Apparently, some people like to Cry

by Mémé

This article from the NYT piqued my interest.   You see, I HATE to cry, and rarely do.   Sentimental stuff doesn’t turn on the waterworks.    Most of the the crying I have done in my life after childhood is the hard, ugly, devastated and/or frustrated kind.     The only kind I have ever found cathartic is the one associated with biological reaction to a sudden physical injury.

The author states:

I cry. I am a crier. Crying releases the anger and frustration. Crying gets the sad out, and it humbles me in a good way. In the aftermath of crying, I experience clarity of thought and a burst of productivity.

And then she lists her favorite ways to make herself cry.   In the internet era, she likes to seek out soldier surprise homecoming videos, tragic gofundme campaigns.   And there are the old standbys –  books like Beaches, TV shows like This is Us, and apparently daytime TV such as Ellen deGeneres.

Are you someone who finds crying a welcome release?   Do you seek it out?   What odd things make you cry?


That which does not kill us, makes us stronger


A high school friend is sailing from California to Florida. He has done a number of things in his life, military, acting, private investigator and is now retired in his early 50s and sailing from California to Florida. One of the many refreshing things about his FB posts are his refusal to worry about material possessions. He has lost a house in a wildfire, rebuilt it, wrote a how to book about the process, and generally refuses to worry about lots of stuff.

Someone expressed recently expressed concern about a big storm/potential hurricane in the Gulf, and his response was basically: I’ll ride it out, or get behind a sea wall and get a hotel. If the boat sinks, I have insurance and will buy another one.

I recall in high school he was as worried as the rest of us about how life would pan out. Now, not so much.

Have you been able to navigate life challenges and jettison baggage/concerns/worries because, well you faced a challenge, saw it through and realized that it was handle-able?

5 Chores You Should Never Skip (Even If You’re Busy)

 by saacnmama
From the site Apartment Therapy

1. Making the bed

2. Doing the dishes

3. Picking up dirty laundry

4. Quick countertop swipes

5. Vacuuming common areas

The complementary list of weekly(?) chores that they think can be skipped if you are busy.

1. Mopping

2. Scrubbing the shower

3. Taking out the trash

4. Doing laundry

5. Organizing your entryway, dining room or coffee table

These are so different than mine! When I make the bed during the day, it makes no difference to me.  I fold back the sheets to air out when I wake up, and pull them straight sometime before going to bed.  What is really worth making time for is putting things away.   I have no trouble rinsing dishes off as they’re used or tossing things in the hamper, or even in the washing machine, as long as that next step isn’t blocked. What about you? What are your “must do” chores to keep your home clean?


Memorial Day Open Thread

Here are the topics for the rest of the week :





Totebag challenge week 3 will go up Wednesday.  The final challenge day in June is a Friday, so weeks 3 and 4 will be Eight Days a Week.



2018 Politics Open Thread, May 27- Jun 2

“I’m sick and tired of old men sitting around in air conditioned rooms here in Washington, dreaming up wars for young men to die in.” — George McGovern

Memorial Day is a time to remember and honor those who died in military service.     In my (Mémé’s) opinion, there is no greater honor than to stop adding to their number.



What’s in a (middle) name?

by Mémé

From time to time we have discussions on names, and trends in names.   Unfortunately, the anonymous nature of the site means that we can’t relate much of anything about the actual names used in our families.

Do you have a middle name?   Do your kids have them?    Is there something in your ethnic or regional background that dictates what is used as a middle name or how many or the order?    What about using two or more last names from both sides of the family?  How about Saints’ names?  Or the Southern custom of using  a family surname for a middle name and going by that instead of the more vanilla first name?

And if you feel like it, please share some of your real ones.    In my immediate family the middle names are  Biblical:   Asher, Isaiah, Ruth, Elizabeth, Jochebed (pronounced yō-‘HEH-but, Moses’ mother), Abraham.   Except for me.  My 1950s mom was assimilated in the fashion oand didn’t want to be ethnic, so it is Beth to honor my late grandmother, Beile (BAY-luh).

Are Bookstores Relevant?

by Lemon

I came across this opinion piece and was taken aback at the thought that Barnes & Noble may disappear. I love bookstores and love that there is a B&N five minutes from me. I often go with my kids so they can explore and find books that interest them. We’ve adapted to their changes (smaller store, much smaller kids section with no reading nooks or chairs to lose yourself in a book, and less staff), and it looks like we may have to adapt some more.

We are avid users of our library too but there is something about an outing to the bookstore that we love to do as family.

Would you be sad if Barnes and Noble closes? Do you think Amazon is to blame? Will you use the library more or seek out independent booksellers?

Make School Tougher to Improve Behavior?

by L

The calculus track can keep kids on the straight and narrow! Who’d’ve thought?

For those outside the paywall, the abstract of the original paper.

Previous studies have shown that years of formal schooling attained affects health behaviors, but little is known about how the stringency of academic programs affects such behaviors, especially among youth. Using national survey data from the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBS), we study the effects of mathematics and science high-school graduation requirements (HSGR) on high school students’ risky health behaviors–specifically on drinking, smoking, and marijuana use. We find that an increase in mathematics and science HSGR has significant negative impacts on alcohol consumption among high-school students, especially males and non-white students. The effects of math and science HSGR on smoking and marijuana use are also negative but generally less precisely estimated. Our results suggest that curriculum design may have potential as a policy tool to curb youth drinking.

Mémé’s comment:   The author of the NYT article completed the assignment, but  without saying in so many words conveys the impression that correlation is not causation in this case.   The study’s authors did account for the effects of increased standards on dropouts who are not counted, but they have made a less than half hearted attempt to explain anything else.

Open Thread

Topics for the rest of the week:




There will be a new Open Thread started on Memorial Day and  assigned topics for the rest of that week.      There is now a tentative full slate of posts for an entire month,  (Way to go!! )   The tentative schedule is adjusted on the fly to balance serious vs light, insert new submissions that enhance the set list,  and to push back any that duplicate a long tangential discussion.  The goal is to be fully scheduled for three-four weeks out at all times.

Just in case there is still confusion about submitting posts that include links to sites behind a paywall.    All submissions are welcome to either administrator.   If the link is behind a paywall (other than the NYT), please provide excerpts or a summary in the body of the post OR send me (Mémé) an email with a link I can access and I’ll do the work of selecting excerpts.      Some readers don’t choose to establish an email relationship at all, or want to stick with July only.    The Suggest Posts page is for everyone’s convenience.

Also, topics presented on Suggest Topics or via email ready to go as posts will likely end up in the queue earlier than a statement in the regular thread or on Suggest Topics along the lines of,  why don’t we have a post about x topic.

How to Maintain Sibling Relationships

by Lark

We frequently touch on our siblings, but have we discussed them in depth?

Do you have strong sibling relationships? What are you doing to foster strong sibling relationships among your kids? Could your parents have taken steps to make you closer to your siblings


Some tips from the article on how to repair/maintain relationships

Heal the past

The first step to establishing a healthy adult sibling relationship is to release baggage you’re carrying from childhood.

Share your goals

An easy topic to bond over is where you want to go in life, both in terms of this specific relationship and your overall goals.

Avoid contentious issues

When talking with your sibling, don’t bring up anything that could create strife, like politics, religion or even rehashing traumatic childhood memories. Accept that some topics will be off-limits

Don’t compare yourselves

“These comparisons people make as if they had it the same is really a lie,” Dr. Caspi said. “People don’t have it the same.” They have different experiences with different teachers and coaches and peers, all of which shape a person’s sense of self.

Verbalize your appreciation

Cultivate a friendship

2018 Politics Open Thread, May 20-26

I am sure there will be plenty to discuss this week.    Things are heating up internationally and domestically.

Submitted articles or thoughts that are political  or likely to stimulate oft repeated back and forth will be placed on the politics page as starters.  If you see what you  construe to be a  very liberal  topic starter, rest assured that soon after there will be a very conservative one, and vice versa.    Some weeks there will be no starter.     Next week is liberal, the week after conservative.     WCE is doing her part to help me out with sources.

Where would you choose to live in 1500?

by honolulumother

This post comes courtesy of my youngest, aka Tuxedo Boy.

If you were going to be sent back 500 years into the past to live but could choose the location, where do you think would be the best place to live?  You can keep your basic talents and personality, but you’re rolling the dice (or we’re drawing a Rawlsian veil of ignorance) as to your social class, sex, and race / ethnicity.  Alternatively, where do you think would be the worst place to live?
I chose China for my best place to live — they’re in the middle of the Ming dynasty so if I’m a peasant my crops aren’t so likely to be burned, and they promote based on civil service exams instead of who your parents are.  My worst place to live is the Aztec Empire.  It’s already the kind of place where they think nothing of sacrificing you and wearing your skin as a cape, and yet things are about to get significantly worse.
How about you?  Where would / wouldn’t you choose to live 500 years ago?

Paying For College

by Lark

We have a number of readers now whose kids are in college or heading off this fall. How’s the financial aspect been? Did you save enough? Have there been expenses you didn’t anticipate? How much are you requiring your kids to contribute, either to tuition or incidentals? If you could go back 5 years, is there anything you’d do differently financially?



by saacnmama

This is a very verbal group, and we are fortunate to have some great writers here. Whatever our level of writing skill, it’s clear that we all like words to some degree; how else would we stick with a group that communicates nearly exclusively in writing?  By this point, most of us have a good guess of the others’ ages. But stepping into the wayback machine, we may have deduced which generations others belong to partially based on vocabulary.

 Do you use any of these words, or have you used them in the past? I never slept on a Davenport or asked anyone about “tricks”, but I not only said “mood ring” and “pet rock”, I had them (a magic 8 ball and Twister too). I still catch myself asking someone to “roll” down a car window and referring to “tape”.
Of course, this is not a complete listing. And there are words the next generation may find embarrassing that we don’t see as problematic. Have you caught yourself using any of these words or phrases? Are there others you have consciously dropped?


by Mémé

“How does a word get into a dictionary? It gets in because we use it and we keep using it, and dictionary editors are paying attention to us. If you’re thinking, “But that lets all of us decide what words mean,” I would say, “Yes it does, and it always has.”Dictionaries are a wonderful guide and resource, but there is no objective dictionary authority out there that is the final arbiter about what words mean. If a community of speakers is using a word and knows what it means, it’s real. That word might be slangy, that word might be informal, that word might be a word that you think is illogical or unnecessary, but that word that we’re using, that word is real.”    

Anne Curzan

Link to ted talk on the subject

Have you adopted new words from your children, or colleagues, or social media?




Open Thread

Mémé:  I am trying out different ways to present articles that are behind paywalls.  I intend to pick out some choice sections and include them in the body of the post.  Feedback will be appreciated.  Most of the submissions so far are from the NYT, where I have a subscription, so I can fiddle around.   (I repeat my request for submissions from those of you who are regular readers of sites other than  NYT, WaPo, Vox, Slate.)    Be advised that I don’t pay for WSJ (no free articles), so I need some of the content provided via email or inserted into the body of the post so that I can share with the group.

July is planning to do some cleanup on the site. For now, Politics will stay as is.

There will  be 30 day challenges again.  My first reaction was that to enable maximum participation it may be best to wait until after summer vacation season.   However, there appears to be a movement for a fitness challenge in the near future.    So we will facilitate that for after Memorial Day.     I am not up to speed yet on how to set it all up.

Topic titles for the rest of the week are:




Resolutions for Parents of Grown Children

by Risley

From a January NYT article.

Resolution No. 1: Be as polite and uncritical as you would be with comparative strangers. I’ve been working on this one for years; it’s the one that encompasses the need to keep quiet about a child’s choice of attire or music or crush object, the way you would about a colleague’s. We are almost all of us able to refrain from needling the people we work with, the people we meet at parties, the people who ask us for directions on the street. It might not seem like a high bar to show that same level of fairly bland and often insincere courtesy toward children, instead of letting them know where there’s room for improvement, but it takes a lot of reminding and a lot of resolving.

Equal and opposite: Go ahead and be yourself every now and then; we’re all family here.

Resolution No. 2: Give grown-up children credit for being grown-up. They are more competent than you think. They manage perfectly well when you aren’t around. They solve problems, they manage their lives. If you seize on some convenient (and amusing) example of non — grown-up behavior (brought dirty laundry home, left the dirty dishes piled up on the counter), you are probably missing a plethora of quiet examples of a young adult navigating the world without making a big fuss about it.

Equal and opposite: Relish the fact that sometimes the whole point of coming home for grown-up kids is to stop being grown-up for a while.

Resolution No. 3: Don’t try to keep up too much of a good front; they’re old enough to know that their parents are human. Part of helping our children navigate adult life is often admitting things to them which we might have kept quieter when they were young: jobs are difficult and sometimes frustrating, long-term relationships have their ups and downs, parents are vulnerable and fallible and often confused, just like everyone else. The truth is, of course, that our children come to know us very well as they grow up, and they are unlikely to be shocked, or even mildly surprised, by our faults — but acknowledging those faults with an increasing degree of rueful honesty is a way of acknowledging our children as equals.

Equal and opposite: Don’t tell them what they don’t want to know.

Resolution No. 4: Don’t track them too closely. This one plays out in so many ways, from the message-me-that-you-got-home-safe requests to the less than subtle ways that I have tried to extract details of not only my own children’s health and well-being, but also the health and well-being of their friends and roommates. I tell myself that my motives are good, whether parental or pediatric, but the truth is, I would have deeply resented any such intrusiveness on the part of my own parents. When your children grow up, you should track less and let them tell you what they want to tell you.

Equal and opposite: Just tell them: Message me that you got home safe. I’m your mother. I won’t be able to go to sleep myself till I know you’re O.K.

Here is a link to the whole article:


Note:   Next Monday the topic, suggested by Lark, will be  Maintaining Relationships with your Siblings, so the general discussion of adult family dynamics will have a second chapter.


2018 Politics Open Thread, May 13-19

WCE suggested this WSJ article on Ben Carson’s proposals for HUD rent increases.  It is behind the paywall, so I reproduce it in its entirety.

The rationale for Lyndon B. Johnson’s “War on Poverty” was that the government should take a more active role in helping people get on their feet. Today the federal government is more active than ever in this regard, but whether its efforts are truly helping is debatable.

Ben Carson, a former neurosurgeon who now runs the Department of Housing and Urban Development, or HUD, understands that often the best way for the government to help the poor is by getting out of their way. In an interview Monday, Mr. Carson explained to me how some of America’s federal rental-assistance programs have become barriers to upward mobility by effectively discouraging work, marriage and other behaviors that tend to help people advance economically.

“We have stagnation,” Mr. Carson said. “We have people in public housing not for a few years but for a few generations, with no incentive to come out.” In New York City, which has the nation’s largest public-housing system, the average tenant has been there for almost 20 years. “We’re trying to get people out of chronic poverty.”

Many of Mr. Carson’s critics are more interested in defending a status quo that keeps poor people dependent on government aid. HUD is urging Congress to pass legislation allowing local public-housing authorities, among other things, to impose work requirements and reduce red tape. In public housing, the more money you make, the more you pay in rent. The incentives couldn’t be more perverse, often leading people to hide income or work less.

William Russell, the head of the public-housing authority in Sarasota, Fla., who testified before a congressional subcommittee last month, told me that his biggest frustration is how the system discourages families from increasing their incomes. “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to explain to someone, who’s gotten a job and their income has gone up, that now their rent has to go up,” he said. “And they don’t understand how this makes any sense.” Mr. Russell worked at HUD during the George W. Bush administration and was a New York City housing official in the 1990s.

In the real world, two-parent households have clear economic advantages, since everything from child care to transportation to housing costs is shared. But in the world created by federal rental-assistance guidelines, people think differently. In a typical scenario, Mr. Russell told me, the significant other comes over at night and then sneaks out the next morning to avoid detection by the housing officials. “That sets up a horrible dynamic between us and our families,” he said. “The truth is, I want more fathers and men to be in the community, living there and being active in their kids’ lives and offering more stability in general. This current policy is holding back our families.”

Mr. Carson aims to change this dynamic. HUD’s proposals are based on successes in places like Atlanta; San Diego; Charlotte, N.C.; and Cambridge, Mass. Under a federal program initiated in 1996 and expanded in 2015, around 140 of the nation’s 3,400 public-housing agencies have gained the freedom to tailor rental-assistance policies to local needs. Since San Diego implemented its program under the new guidelines in 2013, tenant incomes have increased 25%, according to the city’s housing commission. Mr. Carson wants to give more housing authorities similar flexibility.

The most controversial part of HUD’s proposal would raise monthly rents for people receiving federal housing subsidies. They would pay 35% of gross income instead of the current 30%. The plan would also triple the minimum monthly rent for the poorest households to $150. Naturally, liberals have pounced. Democratic Rep. Cedric Richmond of Louisiana, chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, called the proposal “immoral” and “the latest example of the Trump administration’s war on poor people.” Calm down.

The reality is that about half of the 4.7 million families on rental assistance would be unaffected by the changes. The elderly and disabled are exempt, and additional carve-outs are available for financial hardship, such as a death in the family or the loss of employment. About 712,000 households on housing subsidies would have their monthly rents raised to $150, according to HUD. Mr. Carson told me that the rent increase was necessitated by budget constraints. The last time Congress increased rents was 1981, when they rose to 30% of income from 25% for the same reason.

Mr. Carson said he wishes rents didn’t have to rise but thinks the proposal is still a net plus for participants. He also stressed that this is the beginning of a legislative process and that he’s open to hearing ideas from Democrats on how to make the housing program more effective and sustainable.

“We’re all ears,” he said. So far, he’s heard only jeers.


Favorite Gadgets

by Houston


Gadgets! What are your favorite gadgets? Either oldies but goodies, or recent purchases? Do you have any gadgets that were a total waste of money?

For our family, we love our Chrome Casts. We have two (one for each tv) that allow us to stream content easily. We also bought one for DS at college and my in-laws.


The article mentions 1) Alexa and her cousins, 2) Roku, etc., and 3) the following

The gadget that finds all your lost gadgets

In 2013, a small company started a crowdfunding campaign, met its goal, racked up more than 200,000 presales and earned a loyal customer base. Today that company, Tile, makes a well-known Bluetooth tracker that attaches to anything you deem important and keeps track of it via a mobile app. There are now other Bluetooth trackers that make finding your keys, wallet or anything else easier than ever.

Wirecutter recommends the Tile Sport for its Bluetooth range, alarm volume and handy crowd-finding feature. Basically, if you lose an item that has a Tile attached to it, anyone with the Tile app who passes by will help ping the location of your lost item to you. The person doesn’t have to actively use the app to help you (and won’t know you lost something).

If you prefer a Bluetooth tracker with a replaceable battery (but less stellar Bluetooth range and no crowd-finding), Wirecutter recommends the TrackR Pixel. You can replace the battery, rather than the whole product, and the alert system includes flashing lights.


That Mom

by Louise

The other day, I jokingly told DD that I was going to email the middle school and request more homework based on the light homework pattern I’d seen with her brother. She rolled her eyes and told me not be That Mom.

It got me thinking about who exactly is That Mom.  The antithesis of Mom and Apple Pie, Strawberries and Cream, Pretty Flowers and Cards.

I think of her as the woman who pushed for doctors and teachers to take notice, provide treatment or a plan of action and didn’t give up. If her own child couldn’t benefit it pushed the door open wider for others. She became an activist for a cause.

I think of her as a woman doing her best to provide for her kids. When her kids are hesitant to ask the teacher about things neither they nor her understands she pushes and prods. Tiger Mom she is not, it is more like Mama Elephant.

When I celebrate Mother’s day with my mother, I won’t be celebrating the seemingly sweet looking petite older lady. I’ll be celebrating That Mom.

Eat your greens, but watch out for E coli

by MooshiMooshi

Reasons why lettuce in particular, and raw veggies overall, are now the big culprits in E. coli outbreaks.

I  try to avoid bagged lettuce in general because it is too often not as fresh as I would like, and also often has a strange smell and texture. I would rather rip and wash my own lettuce, but it is getting harder and harder to buy whole head lettuce. In the summer, I grow a lot of lettuce but that does not work well in winter.
What do you guys do to lessen the risk?


Open thread and topics request

by Mémé

I am not undertaking any significant travel until the fall, and so will be the post scheduler and first line of administration for the next four months.   July is still actively involved, but she deserves a rest from the day-to-day admin duties.   Please bear with me as I get more familiar with WordPress.

I plan to reinstitute Fun Fridays.    Nothing heavy, unless current events warrant it, on Fridays.    Non-holiday Mondays will always have a topic.  Tuesdays will normally be Open Thread days, with a listing of the topics for the rest of the week.    If you have submitted topics on college or finance, be advised that I will be spacing those out since many of our daily threads veer off into those areas.    If I don’t have contact info for you, I will not be able to tell you in advance that your topic has been scheduled for a particular day.

Conservative readers, including lurkers and occasional commenters, I implore you to submit articles from some of your regular reading sources.     Submissions can be made by adding a comment to Suggested Topics, above.   Or send me an email at memetotebag @ outlook.com.  During this time, July will forward posts to me if you submit them to her.

I also ask that if any discussion thread or posted item on the Politics thread is perceived by the regulars over there to get out of hand (and that would take a lot), or if the page gets spammed, please alert me via email or FB for those who know me IRL.   I won’t be checking into that page frequently or even reading every post, especially during the hundred post heated back and forth exchanges.

This week’s remaining topic titles:


Th –  THAT MOM  (Mother’s Day Post)





When time runs out to mend a relationship

By Mémé based on a post by saacnmama

Have you ever had a break in a significant relationship, one that you intended to mend, but the person died before you could?

S&M mentioned that seeing praise in the memorial comments for the traits you knew back in the day makes it all the more strange.

Sometimes a break is mostly a matter of drifting apart.   I am sure most of us have been on the sending and receiving end of mid life facebook inquiries.   Sometimes there is follow up, sometimes not.

0ther times there was a clear event or series of events that caused the break.    If we were primarily at fault, we can look to the well known  9th step of AA and other recovery programs.   “Make direct amends to persons [you have harmed], except when to do so would injure them or others.”   Making amends is not merely apologizing or asking forgiveness, but taking action to repair any harm, if possible.

And reaching out to someone when we feel that we are the aggrieved party is very tricky.    “I forgive you” is probably not the best opening line, even if it is true in a spiritual sense.

I recall a book in the 1980s, something like  how to make peace with you parents  (even if they are dead).      That one was helpful to me.  I think my Mom recommended it in the days before we had become close again.