Thursday open thread

We have an open thread all day.

This week marks the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11.  For those of you who are old enough, what do you remember of it?  What about other iconic events like Watergate in the 70s, the Challenger disaster in 1986, and 9/11 in 2001?  What are your very first memories as a child?


Water parks

by Lemon Tree

It is amazing that this water park stayed in business for as long as it did. I was so intrigued by this story that after I read it I went on YouTube to find videos of the rides mentioned.

Do any Totebaggers remember Action Park? What about other water parks of your youth? Good memories or bad? Do you like going to them as an adult?

Remembering Action Park, America’s Most Dangerous, Daring Water Park

Paying the kids’ bills

by July

This is not a new topic, but recent articles have highlighted how some parents are sacrificing their own retirement security by helping pay their adult kids’ bills.

Adult children are costing many parents their retirement savings

Clients delay retirement to help kids pay for cars, weddings

This chart seems to indicate a trend.

In a recent Ameriprise survey, just over half of respondents told the financial services firm the next generation will have a harder time paying for expenses such as a first car or a first home, and a third said they have delayed retiring or would do so to support their kids.

The survey showed a clear desire among clients to do more for their children than their parents did or were able to do for themselves. For example, 80% of clients said they have helped or intend to help their children buy their first car, but only 54% said their parents had done them that favor. Forty-percent of respondents said they have helped or intend to help their children buy their first home, but only half that number report their parents did the same for them.

How would you answer the survey questions?  Did your parents help you with these expenses?  Did you or do you intend to help your children?  What other expenses fall into this category?  Do our kids have a harder time than previous generations paying for some of these expenses?

Commonly spoken languages

by AustinMom

This was an interesting map. Note, that it excludes English and Spanish. I find it to accurately reflect my experience in my state. I regularly hear people speaking Vietnamese, and Arabic. I know people who speak Chinese, Japanese, Turkish, and Hindi with family members at home, but usually speak English if an English speaker is present. What about other totebaggers? What languages do you regularly hear?

This map shows the most commonly spoken language in every US state, excluding English and Spanish

Thursday open thread

We have an open thread all day.

“What people consider luxury items has changed throughout the years,” said Mr. Amaro. In our always plugged-in moment, headphones can easily outrank clothing as an important investment. “I don’t think as much about the clothes I’m wearing every day,” said the Brooklynite Mr. Kellogg, “but my headphones, my phone, I use those constantly….they just feel ubiquitous in our lives [in a way] that maybe other markers of luxury aren’t.”…

Do AirPods Make You Look Rich_ These Millennials Think So – WSJ

What do consider luxury status symbols, either for yourself or for others?  What makes a person look “rich”?

Tech based education may save money, but also may leave many students behind

by MooshiMooshi

This article, found in the Chronicle of Higher Education, details an innovative way of teaching remedial math that was enthusiastically adopted at many schools. The idea, called the emprorium model, was to have lots of students working with online math software as tutors circulate around the room, swooping in and helping as needed. This was supposed to be beneficial because it lets students work at their own pace, and spend enough time mastering each concept before moving on. It also means that students are actively learning by solving problems rather than passively listening to a lecture. Active learning in STEM has been shown in many studies to be a superior learning method.

I also suspect that many cash strapped schools, especially community colleges, were enthusiastic because the emporium model looks like it could save money because fewer instructors are needed.

Virginia Tech uses this model and it has worked out well for them. However, according to the article, two new studies have come out that found that the emporium approach many not work so well for very underprepared students, especially at community colleges.

“The Kentucky study found that students were 10 percentage points less likely to pass their courses in one semester, compared with peers in a traditional class. The Tennessee study found that while students passed the remedial math course taught in the emporium model at about the same rate as those taught conventionally, they struggled more in other ways, later on.”

A Tech-Based Model to Teach Math Has Spread Across Higher Education. But for Some Students, Could It Do More Harm Than Good?

I am not surprised that Virginia Tech has more success with this model than the community colleges in the KY and TN studies. Research on online education in general finds that marginal students do not do as well in online courses as they do in traditional face to face courses. They probably need more interaction with faculty and more direction. In fact, one of the studies found that the self paced nature of emporium classes was a problem for many students who waited until the last minute to try to complete all the work. They also noted that the mastery model was a problem – students could not move on until they had mastered each module, and often got stuck.

The observation in the TN study that students who took emporium classes did not do as well in later math courses as students who took traditional courses is particularly interesting to me. In general, I wish more education researchers would look at performance in followup courses when they study approaches. I think that is a very important measure of learning that often gets ignored. My pet theory on this result is that online math learning modules often stress rote performance at the expense of understanding. While being able to solve problems quickly and correctly is important, students need to also understand what they are doing. I think an understanding gap can become very apparent in later courses, and that may be what is going on here.

Have any of you seen courses like these? What is your general opinion on computer-based education – salvation or destroyer? Or in between?

Tuesday open thread

We have an open thread all day.

This is a rather provocative statement.

“autism spectrum”

by Rocky Mountain Stepmom

This is longish, but I found it very interesting. It’s about the “autism spectrum”.

As you can see, the various parts of the [visible light] spectrum are noticeably different from each other. Blue looks very different from red, but they are both on the visible light spectrum. Red is not “more blue” than blue is. Red is not “more spectrum” than blue is. […] Autism isn’t a set of defined symptoms that collectively worsen as you move “up” the spectrum…[A]utism isn’t one condition. It is a collection of related neurological conditions that are so intertwined and so impossible to pick apart that professionals have stopped trying.

“It’s a Spectrum” Doesn’t Mean What You Think

Food delivery robots coming to your campus…

by MooshiMooshi

This article from the Chronicle profiles on campus food delivery robots. One company called Kiwi has been delivering food to students by robot for a couple of years and is trying to expand to other schools, including Rutgers and Stanford. Another company is partnering with Sodexho, the big campus dining hall company, to start a service at George Mason. In fact, these aren’t truly robots since they are remotely piloted. I guess they are dronebots.

Food-Delivery Robots Are the Next Big Thing for Campus Dining. No, They Don’t Accept Tips.

I am trying to figure out how this will work on a practical basis. Rutgers, for example, is incredibly spread out around New Brunswick. Maybe they only work within a certain radius? At urban campuses like NYU or BU, how would they navigate streets and traffic?

And this part of it I find slightly horrifying

fleets of pixel-faced robots, each about the size of an Igloo cooler, piloted remotely by low-wage workers in Colombia, rolling around idyllic greens and quads to deliver nourishment to busy students.

So is it all about replacing on campus workers with workers overseas? I can remember the people who worked in my undergraduate dining hall – a mix of students and immigrants from the Azores who mainly spoke Portuguese. At my current university, the dining workers all seem to be elderly Polish ladies, as well as students. But I guess people in Colombia are cheaper.

But judging from the photo, the robots are kind of cute, like coolers on wheels. I’d like to see these at campgrounds. And I bet liquor stores near campus would find them useful…

Tuesday open thread

We have an open thread all day.

This is how Americans spend their money based on their education level

Here’s the spending for those with graduate degrees.

Do these numbers, at least the percentages, seem consistent with your observations?

Upcoming topics:

Wednesday  —  Food delivery robots coming to your campus… (MooshiMooshi)
Thursday  —  Open thread
Friday  —  No post
Sunday —  Politics open thread

Estate planning conflicts

by L

How many plot points in movies, murder mysteries, etc., hinge on estate planning or the lack thereof? And in real life, what family conflicts have you seen caused by estate planning?

We watched all 20 seasons (!) of Midsomer Murders and easily over half of the cases turned on who was named as the heir in the murdered person’s will!

Mental illness

by July

This recent comment seemed to set off a spirited discussion on the treatment of mental illness:

I believe we have redefined normal life suffering as pathological.

I thought of this when I read about Dr. Paul McHugh, a “professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and a tenacious skeptic of the crazes that periodically overtake his specialty”.

First, let’s be clear that he believes “mental illnesses are real things . . . that need to be studied, and can be treated”.  On the other hand, he believes some illnesses are “iatrogenic—a Greek word meaning “brought on by the healer”—implanted by the therapeutic process that purports to discover them”

Dr. McHugh gives some examples of iatrogenesis:  some cases of recovered memory, transgender/sex reassignment surgeries, and PTSD.

Dr. McHugh argues that the treatment of returning soldiers for the liberally applied PTSD diagnosis is another example of iatrogenesis. Such diagnoses are far rarer among Israel Defense Forces veterans, who experience plenty of trauma. Israelis “know that you can get a terrible psychological reaction out of a traumatic battle. And they do take the soldiers out, and they tell them the following: ‘This is perfectly normal; you need to be out of battle for a while. Don’t think that this is a disease that’s going to hurt you, this is like grief. You’re going to get over it, it’s normal. And within a few weeks, after a little rest, we’re going to put you back with your comrades and you’re going to go back to work.’ And they all do.”

By contrast, American psychiatrists say: “ ‘You’ve had a permanent wound. You’re going to be on disability forever. And this country has mistreated you by putting you in a false war.’ They make chronic invalids of them. That’s the difference.”

Standing Against Psychiatry’s Crazes – WSJ

What are your thoughts?

Some related links if you feel like reading some more:

The Real Problems With Psychiatry
A psychotherapist contends that the DSM, psychiatry’s “bible” that defines all mental illness, is not scientific but a product of unscrupulous politics and bureaucracy.

Psychiatry’s Incurable Hubris
The biology of mental illness is still a mystery, but practitioners don’t want to admit it.

In 1973 the American Psychiatric Association voted to declare that homosexuality was no longer a mental illness and thus should be removed from the DSM, psychiatry’s “bible” of illnesses.

The obvious question—how scientific is a discipline that settles so momentous a problem at the ballot box?—was raised by the usual critics.

Tuesday open thread

We have an open thread all day.

I’m not a regular churchgoer so when I attended a funeral mass recently I was a bit surprised to see two large projector screens that gave lyrics and other guidance for the attendees.  The music style was mostly contemporary, including a Carrie Underwood song.

What have you seen that’s relatively new in houses of worship?  Do you like the changes or do you agree with this writer?

Why Churches Should Ditch The Projector Screens And Bring Back Hymnals
Christians need to understand that relying on screens and other technology is not leading to better worship, it’s ruining it.

Totebag Fantasy Vacation

by Honolulu Mother

I’ve been doing some travel daydreaming lately, probably because the travel I have lined up for this summer is just some college visiting and I not-so-secretly would rather be doing a big trip. So I thought others might like to do some travel daydreaming as well, with a set of rules and conditions to give some form to it.

The challenge: You have money to burn – a $75,000 budget specifically – and you are planning a dream trip for 6 to 8 people (inviting along friends, bringing the kids, inviting a sibling and spouse or other family), to last a week or a week and a half excluding travel time getting there and back. We’ll assume that for the purpose of this dream vacation everyone can get time away from work or school at the desired time. What do you plan?

You can charter a boat with a skipper and a chef and still come in well below budget, it appears – .  Even renting a chateau or villa doesn’t put that much of a dent in it — I suppose you could hire the staff to go with it and that would raise the price.  (If you go to and sort by price descending you’ll see that you could find some pretty interesting places and still be well below that generous budget.)

I suppose I’m thinking too small — too much like my usual way of travel.  Here’s a place I would very much like to visit where bringing six to eight people for a week would burn right through that generous budget: .  And this London accommodation, considering whatever the additional cost must be for adding the connecting suite for the third bedroom, would blow up the budget without leaving anything for meals! .  Setting up a customized tour like this would pretty much use up the budget and you couldn’t be choosing the highest-end option for everything.  It’s not hard to be spendy in Japan, with options like this and this  And if your dream trip is a family ski vacation in somewhere like Aspen or Banff between Christmas and New Year’s . . . that can add up.

So, given the $75K budget, what week to week and a half dream vacation would you treat your group to?

College housing culture clash

by Rocky Mountain Stepmom

The trust-fund hippies vs. the actual low-income students.

Low-income students question whether UC Berkeley co-ops are living up to mission

I was exhausted just reading this article. So glad I have a house of my own, with just my husband.

Where did you live in college? Would you make the same choices? Do you think your kids should live in dorms, apartments, co-ops, at home, or where?

Tuesday open thread

We have an open thread all day.

Anyone else interested in back pain relief?

A comprehensive guide to the new science of treating lower back pain
A review of 80-plus studies upends the conventional wisdom.

You can try to find a “back whisperer”.

These “back whisperers” come from many different backgrounds: doctors of physical therapy with an orthopedic clinical specialist certification, personal trainers with a degree in exercise science, physical therapists.

Or maybe just pop an Aleve as needed.

Upcoming topics:

Wednesday  —  College housing culture clash  (Rocky Mountain Stepmom)
Thursday  —  Open thread
Friday  —  Totebag Fantasy Vacation  (Honolulu Mother)
Sunday —  Politics open thread

How many towels?

by July

Everyone Seems to Be Divided on How Many Towels to Own—Here’s What We Think
Why is this so difficult?

Twitter user Advil launched the tweet that started Towelgate this weekend, and has garnered almost 2,500 replies. He believes that 10 is the perfect number of towels for a couple to own—but his girlfriend, not so much.

Soon enough, the internet’s replies came pouring in, with everyone wanting to put their two cents in on the Great Towel Debate. Some said 10 was just perfect, others replied that you definitely need more than 12, and some were more stumped than ever before….

While it definitely depends on how many people are living in the household, how many guests you typically have visit you, and a few other factors, we can all agree that most households should have more than one. (C’mon, what are you going to dry off with while your sole towel is being washed?!)

For a more definitive answer though, we’re going to need Marie Kondo to weigh in.

How many towels should you own?  What about sheets sets, blankets, or kitchen towels?  How many are too much?

Country clubs on the decline?

by July

Death of the Country Club
A changing culture imperils a venerable institution.

The country club, once a mainstay of American suburbia, faces a cloudy future, with a changing culture eroding its societal influence. Golf and tennis, the traditional club pastimes, have lost popularity. Declining marriage and fertility rates mean fewer families joining. Young professionals, many burdened with limited incomes and high debt, balk at paying dues. And a yearning for broader community makes the clubhouse’s exclusivity unappealing. The country club is increasingly a refuge for retirees—and, upon closure, a site for mixed-use development.

What do you think?  Do you see this happening  locally?  What replaces a country club for younger generations?

Tuesday open thread

We have an open thread all day.

Sleeping with the TV on may make you gain weight

Or it may not.  But I’ve seen enough reporting on the role of sleep in maintaining good health that I’m willing to believe it could be true.  Do you have a TV or other screen devices in your bedroom?  Do you watch in bed?

Upcoming topics:

Wednesday  —  Country clubs on the decline?  (July)
Thursday  —  Open thread
Friday  —  How many towels?  (July)
Sunday —  Politics open thread


by Anonymous

Podcasts – what are you listening to these days? In my regular queue I’ve got:
Happier with Gretchen Rubin
Fresh Air
Market Foolery
For the Love (Jen Hatmaker)
No Limits
Serious Eats
Motley Fool Money
Without Fail
Start Up
Ali on the Run
Bon Appetite

I’d love a good travel podcast but haven’t been able to find one that is actually interesting. Would also love a good health/fitness one – also surprisingly challenging to find.

Do you listen to podcasts? What are your favorites?

Thursday open thread

We have an open thread all day.

Do you have a favorite World War II book?  I’m currently reading Code Girls: The Untold Story of the American Women Code Breakers of World War II, which IIRC was recommended here. It offers fascinating insight into an aspect of the war effort that has not previously received much attention.

Here’s a short informative video about D-Day:


by July

A recent comment here about a volunteer having to ask permission from her organization’s finance committee to scan receipts instead of stapling paper copies to cover sheets got me thinking about the challenges and headaches of volunteer work.  I have often found myself short of patience when doing volunteer work so over the years I have not given as much of my time as I feel I should have.  I know it’s not necessarily supposed to be “fun” to volunteer, but still.

Why do you volunteer?  How much do the recipients benefit?  What do you get in return?  Is the juice worth the squeeze?  Do you feel comfortable just giving your money rather than your time?

Tuesday open thread

We have an open thread all day.

Do you get to the airport early or late?

Upcoming topics:

Wednesday  —  Volunteering   (July)
Thursday  —  Open thread
Friday  —  Podcasts  (Anon)
Sunday —  Politics open thread

On alert

by WCE

This malware article made me think of “the other 1%”- the activities of people, including rogue governments, bent on destruction. As humans, we don’t think about protecting ourselves, militarily and otherwise, because we don’t want to assume the worst about people, but often we should- and budget to protect ourselves.

Scamming jobseekers in Appalachia

by MooshiMooshi

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

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

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

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

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

Do particular toys inspire particular interests?

by Louise

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

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

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

What’s new in the world of laundry?

by Becky

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

Is it a sin, crime, or both?

by Swim

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

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

Faking it

by S&M

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

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

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

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

Tuesday open thread

We have an open thread all day.

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

Public Behavior – What Are Your Peeves?

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

Upcoming topics:

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

Strange interviews

by Sheep Farmer

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

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


by Swim

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

Connecting across generations

by Sheep Farmer

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

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

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

Tuesday open thread

We have an open thread all day.

Here’s a starter topic.

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

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

Paying for higher education

by MooshiMooshi

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

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

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

There has got to be a better way….

What sparks special memories for you?

by Sheep Farmer

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

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

Vision correction

by Finn

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday open thread

We have an open thread all day.

Do you have an opinion on this?

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

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

Upcoming topics:

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

Staying in touch with former teachers

by Sheep Farmer

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

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

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

Politics open thread, May 5-11

Let’s talk politics.

From WCE:

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

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

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

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

How I lost my cellphone

by Swim

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

Feeling middle class

by Austin Mom

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

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

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

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

Tuesday open thread

We have an open thread all day.

I’ve seen quite a bit of social media discussion generated by this article.  It’s a topic we’ve discussed here a time or two.

Daniela Jampel and Matthew Schneid met in college at Cornell, and both later earned law degrees. They both got jobs at big law firms, the kind that reward people who make partner with seven-figure pay packages.

One marriage and 10 years later, she works 21 hours a week as a lawyer for New York City, a job that enables her to spend two days a week at home with their children, ages 5 and 1, and to shuffle her hours if something urgent comes up. He’s a partner at a midsize law firm and works 60-hour weeks — up to 80 if he’s closing a big deal — and is on call nights and weekends. He earns four to six times what she does, depending on the year.

It isn’t the way they’d imagined splitting the breadwinning and the caregiving. But he’s been able to be so financially successful in part because of her flexibility, they said. “I’m here if he needs to work late or go out with clients,” Ms. Jampel said. “Snow days are not an issue. I do all the doctor appointments on my days off. Really, the benefit is he doesn’t have to think about it. If he has to work late or on weekends, he’s not like, ‘Oh my gosh, who’s going to watch the children?’ The thought never crosses his mind.”…

For Ms. Jampel and Mr. Schneid, both 35, two more equal and less time-intensive jobs weren’t an option, they said. For one, they’re hard to find in corporate law: “At the end of the day, these jobs are client service jobs, so if you’re not responding to your clients, someone else might be more responsive to them,” said Mr. Schneid, who does commercial real estate law.

Also, they would be leaving money on the table — both now and later, because by putting in long hours now, he’s setting himself up for higher future earnings. If he had a 40-hour-a-week job and she had her current half-time job, they would be working 60 hours a week total — but earning significantly less than he now earns working 60 hours, they said.

They’d be earning significantly less and living a more harried life, with daily juggling of child and home issues.  I’ve also seen this in couples with jobs in other fields.  For example, the plumbing contractor works long and unpredictable hours while his teacher wife works a routine schedule that means she handles most of the childcare.  The article seeks a solution to this so-called problem, but some families don’t see this situation as a problem but rather an option that works fine for them.

Upcoming topics:

Wednesday  —  Feeling middle class  (AustinMom)
Thursday  — How I lost my cellphone  (Swim)
Friday  —  Never did it (Sheep Farmer)
Sunday —  Politics open thread

Meal kits

by Rhode

Are meal kits the saving grace for high-quality home-cooked meals AND the environment?

Meal Kits Have A Smaller Carbon Footprint Than Grocery Shopping, Study Says

I guess that depends…

Results suggest that meal kits’ streamlined and direct-to-consumer supply chains (-1.05 kg CO2e/meal), reduced food waste (-0.86 kg CO2e/meal), and lower last-mile transportation emissions (-0.45 kg CO2e/meal), appear to be sufficient to offset observed increases in packaging (0.17 kg CO2e/meal). Additionally, meal kit refrigeration packs present an average emissions decrease compared with retail refrigeration (-0.37 kg CO2e/meal). Meals with the largest environmental impact either contain red meat or are associated with large amounts of wasted food. The one meal kit with higher emissions is due to food mass differences rather than supply chain logistics.

Comparison of Life Cycle Environmental Impacts from Meal Kits and Grocery Store Meals

Real estate topics

by July

When the housing crisis hit in 2007, they thought their time to buy had come. They bought a condo in the Fontainebleau, a resort in Miami Beach, in 2010, after prices had bottomed out, paying 60 percent less than it had sold for two years earlier. The condo has since doubled in value.

In hindsight I regret not snapping up a distressed Miami condo back a few years ago as recommended by more than one person I know.  What about you?  Have you had success in real estate investing?  Or, are you just not interested?  Or, like me, have you had a bad experience that soured you on that sector?

What’s your take on this?

A Growing Problem in Real Estate:  Too Many Too Big Houses – WSJ

Uncertainties are a sure thing

by S&M

I thought this was fascinating. It’s only about one set of words, but it’s a set I was fairly certain I could use precisely. I believe you also are likely to feel you know just what’s being communicated with them.

Measuring Perceptions of Uncertainty

What is the difference between an event that is probable and one that is highly likely?

The two terms seem mostly interchangeable, but each individual’s interpretation is actually highly subjective. That means that when stakes are high, such as for the intelligence community or for high-ranking government officials, a slight misinterpretation in the meaning of these phrases could be a matter of life and death.

Another area where such differences in definitions crops up is in colors; one person’s tomato red is another person’s orange, and is that indigo or deep blue? Is “berry” one color or a range?

One more that I’ve run into recently is “usually”. When someone tells me this is the way things “usually” go, my expectation is that they are about to introduce an exception. That turns out not to be true. Any time I’ve been confused by this has not ended well for me. Those people who use “usually” to mean “always, it is a hard and fast rule that cannot be abrogated for any reason” are offended when I take their “usually” to mean “not always” and find questions about the exceptions offensive. I believe this tendency is stronger in Southerners, with that genteel fear of saying exactly what one means, and expectation that others will infer meaning.

Where have you run into differing understandings of words in languages you speak well, how did you learn the other person did not mean what you thought they meant, and how was it resolved?

Tuesday open thread

We have an open thread all day.

Pick one.

As of earlier this morning we had no submitted posts in the pipeline except for those listed below.  I encourage you all to send in topics otherwise we’ll be seeing more open threads coming up.  That could work, too.  But if you have topics you’d like to see posted, send them in or put them in the comments here.

Upcoming topics:

Wednesday  —  Uncertainties are a sure thing (S&M)
Thursday  —  Open thread
Friday  —  Real estate topics  (July)
Sunday —  Politics open thread

Politics open thread, April 21-27

Any political comments?

Two Universes, One Report
The release of Robert Mueller’s findings was a choose-your-own-adventure moment for political punditry.

From the moment the 448-page document was published, two separate news universes took shape. In one, the special counsel’s report was presented as a smoking-gun chronicle of high crimes and misdemeanors. In the other, it was heralded as a credibility-shredding blow to the president’s opponents.

Decade by decade

by July

This writer had an unusual way of commemorating her 30th birthday.

My 20s passed away Thursday morning at their home in Brooklyn. It has been confirmed that they expired after a lengthy battle with expectations. At the time of their departure, they had just turned 10 years old.

My 20s are best known for creating, producing and distributing panic attacks. Although most episodes of my 20s’ panic attacks were centered on career issues, several of the most attention-grabbing installments were stand-alone: They include such classics as “Casual Sex,” “Could Be Doing More to Save Democracy” and, of course, the annual holiday episode, “Immediate Family.”…

The final hours of my 20s were spent in the presence of dear platonic friends. At the time of passing, there was singing. One friend described the gathering as “kind of like a celebration.”

My 20s are survived by my 30s, who ask for privacy at this time.

Here’s another article marking the end of a “period” in the author’s life.


How would you characterize your 20s or other decades you’ve lived?  How do you remember the expectations, relationships, and goals of your past when compared to today?  Highs and lows?  Do the stages of your life have definitive themes or do they all meld together?  Do you miss aspects of some decades, or do you wish them “good riddance!”  Would you like a redo for some years?  No need to try to be clever like the linked essays, but you can write obituaries if you’d like or just simply reflect on olden days.

D&D is what our kids need

by MooshiMooshi

My kids are dedicated D&D players and have been for years. I’ve come to appreciate how important it is in their lives, and the way it allows them to form close bonds with a small group of friends in this era of Instagram and selfies. We host a weekly D&D session which has persisted for a year and a half now. The kids who come are not the socially awkward geeks of Stranger Things. They are the cool artsy kids, the kids who do drama and AP art and play in rock bands. The session goes on for 3 to 4 hours, with the kids all gathered around our dining room table. It sounds like the Superbowl every week, with the kids hooting and cheering loudly (and using a certain amount of bad language). After it is done, my kid sits with a few of them for a while longer, or they walk up and down the sidewalk outside, discussing religion and art and politics, as well as school gossip.

Both kids participate in another D&D session, which started about 3 years ago. Most of the kids have gone on to college, but every week they do their session, using Google Hangouts. This one is more subdued, but the kids are absolutely dedicated to it.

I just missed D&D myself. We had role playing games in college and I loved doing them, but my high school years were just a bit before D&D, and it wasn’t a thing at my university either. The next generation in our family, the ones who are in their 40’s now, played and still reminisce wistfully about those days. But I think it is even more important for today’s teen players, since it is one of the few activities left in which kids meet up face to face and talk to each other

This is a great OpEd from the NYTimes that expresses exactly what I have seen. I also think it is funny that an activity that was heavily criticized as leading kids into Gothdom and doom and Satanism back in the 80’s is now seen as a salvation from the doom of social media.

How do your kids engage with each other face to face? Do they have activities that encourage them to get off their phones and talk?

Politics open thread, April 14-20

Welcome to our weekly politics discussion.

From WCE:

I was reading about Buttigieg and thinking about how the Democrats would likely win the election with a Rust Belt candidate. That led me to this article about the challenges of declining moderate-sized cities.

My favorite quote about per capita GDP explains why the education systems and social support of wealthy cities like Seattle and Boston are not economically feasible in cities like Michigan City and Saginaw.

I’ll remind the regulars of previous discussions about the importance of winning the geographic lottery at birth, which means living in a place where being well-educated lets you get a good job. If being well-educated doesn’t get you a better job, you just have a pile of student loan debt unless you move to where the jobs are.

Gross Domestic Product. In addition to weak growth, or even decline, in population and jobs, left-behind metro areas also have lower-value economies than average. Only two of the 48—Trenton, New Jersey, and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania—had a real per-capita GDP greater than the 2017 U.S. average, $52,273; and 31 had a real per-capita GDP below $40,000 per year. By contrast, Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue (Washington) had a real per-capita GDP of $80,833, and Boston-Cambridge-Newton (Massachusetts/New Hampshire) had a real per-capita GDP of $78,465.

How Stagnating Cities Can Prepare for the Future

Your first apartment

by July

What was your first apartment like?  Bare bones or tastefully furnished?  What about your college dorm experience?  Your first home, with or without a partner?  Did you get help from parents or from others?  For those with adult children, what has been their experience?  Give us details.  Any lessons learned or regrets?

Does this look familiar to anyone?


by S&M

Now that we’ve all presumably adjusted to Daylight Savings Time, I thought this might be interesting.

I’ve always said that I’m a morning person, when I’m awake for it. Forcing myself to get up early generally backfires just as described here, but when I get enough rest and get up with my natural rhythm, morning is my best work time. Early evening is a distant second. That’s always been true. Equally true is that naps for me are 15-30 minutes long. Even if we both stay up late and both are really tired, my son knows that the next day, I’m likely to stick to that length of time for a nap, while his stretch to 3 hours, easily. Skipping my nap often makes it hard for me to sleep at night—I wake up after half an hour, and can’t really fall back asleep for 1 or 2 more hours.

One thing this skips over that I think is important is the assumption about how much sleep we need. I recall a prof from grad school who routinely was awake well after midnight and awake before 6. Any more sleep than that made him groggy, he said. Between that and being single and childless, he had many more productive hours than most people do.

Have you ever tried to reset your sleep schedule? Why, and how did it go?

Is the 5 a.m. Club the Worst Idea Ever? Read This to Find Out

Tuesday open thread

We have an open thread today.  What’s on your mind?

Upcoming topics:

Wednesday  —  Sleep  (S&M)
Thursday  —  Open thread
Friday  —  Your first apartment  (July)
Sunday —  Politics open thread

Growth mindset theory

by WCE

On growth mindset, favorite quotes:

An enduring criticism of growth mindset theory is that it underestimates the importance of innate ability, specifically intelligence. If one student is playing with a weaker hand, is it fair to tell the student that she is just not making enough effort? Growth mindset – like its educational-psychology cousin ‘grit’ – can have the unintended consequence of making students feel responsible for things that are not under their control: that their lack of success is a failure of moral character. This goes well beyond questions of innate ability to the effects of marginalisation, poverty and other socioeconomic disadvantage. For the US psychiatrist Scott Alexander, if a fixed mindset accounts for underachievement, then ‘poor kids seem to be putting in a heck of a lot less effort in a surprisingly linear way’. He sees growth mindset as a ‘noble lie’, and notes that saying to kids that a growth mindset accounts for success is not exactly denying reality so much as ‘selectively emphasising certain parts of’ it.

and on the importance of understanding the direction of causality:

In their book Effective Teaching (2011), the UK education scholars Daniel Muijs and David Reynolds note: ‘At the end of the day, the research reviewed has shown that the effect of achievement on self-concept is stronger that the effect of self-concept on achievement.

The growth mindset problem
A generation of schoolchildren is being exhorted to believe in their brain’s elasticity. Does it really help them learn?

Bad news and good news

by Swim

Friday fun topic: The bad news is _______. The good news is _______.

The bad news is the freezer isn’t keeping things completely frozen. The good news is the ice cream is *perfect*, no need to wait for it to melt a bit before eating.

We’ve all had one of these happen at some point. What was your silver lining?

Cultivating a look

by July

Elizabeth Holmes used a deep voice (fake by many accounts), black turtlenecks, and blonde hair to cultivate a look that helped as she guided her company Theranos to a meteoric rise and later disastrous fall.  She’s now facing federal criminal charges that she tried to defraud investors and patients.

Even if you’ve never achieved the “success” and failure of Holmes, can you relate to cultivating a particular look, either for business or pleasure? Have you ever tried to make your voice sound deeper and more authoritative?  Do you have a clothing style or uniform that you consistently wear?  Have you colored your hair?  This may seem more geared to women, but men also frequently try to build a certain image in the way they dress or behave.

Anything else you find particularly fascinating about the Theranos story?

Elizabeth Holmes’ Baritone

Why the Black Turtleneck Was So Important to Elizabeth Holmes’s Image
It has a long and symbolic history.

Why we care so much about Elizabeth Holmes’s “bad hair”
It’d be easy to believe that the Theranos founder’s split ends were part of the scam. But there’s a simpler answer.

It might not be a leap, then, to suggest that Holmes’s hair was just another calculated component of her aesthetic. It is, of course, dyed blonde, an unexceptional quality for an American white woman to have, but made slightly more exceptional when noting that while just 2 percent of the population has naturally blonde hair, 48 percent of female CEOs at S&P 500 companies do, which could have been Holmes’s way, conscious or otherwise, of attempting to become one of them.

Young people are not forming romantic relationships

by MooshiMooshi

This study found that 51% of people between 18 and 32 do not have a steady romantic partner.

Just over half of Americans between the ages of 18 and 34 — 51 percent of them — said they do not have a steady romantic partner, according to data from the General Social Survey released this week. That 2018 figure is up significantly from 33 percent in 2004 — the lowest figure since the question was first asked in 1986 — and up slightly from 45 percent in 2016. The shift has helped drive singledom to a record high among the overall public, among whom 35 percent say they have no steady partner, but only up slightly from 33 percent in 2016 and 2014.

My just turned 19 year old has never dated, and since he attends a school where women are distinctly in the minority, he doesn’t have a ton of current prospects. My 17 year old also has never dated. Their friends don’t seem to date very much either. However, my 12 year old reports something that is new to me – the girls are dating – each other!! They talk about their dates and snuggling and have one month and two month anniversaries. And it seems to involve a lot of the girls. Are they all going LBGTQ+, or is this just innocent practice for the future?

The article mentions people trying to find partners through online platforms and apps. I personally think that is a big part of the problem. Young people increasingly live their lives online and don’t get together face to face all that often. And when they do, they spend a lot of the time peering at each others phones. I just don’t think it is a way to form the kind of deep bonds that lead to romance. Thoughts?

What’s On Your Grocery List?

By Seattle Soccer Mom

Comments on a Totebag post made me wonder how we all handle meal planning, grocery shopping and what types of items are usually on the grocery list.

Every weekend, I plan what we’ll eat for dinners for the week and do a weekly grocery shop.  I usually plan on cooking 4-5 nights a week and then we have leftovers/fend for your self or go out/order delivery the other nights. I cook 3 times a week; DH cooks once a week; and in the summer, the kids cook once a week.  We all eat breakfast at home (I scramble eggs, put them in a thermos, and then eat them at work).  DS brings a lunch to school; DH buys his lunch; and I pick up salads from the grocery deli that I bring to work.

Standbys on our list include fresh fruit (blueberries, bananas, apples), fresh veggies (broccoli, cauliflower, spinach), milk, eggs, cheese, meat/fish, ice cream, cookies, chocolate, wine, ravioli, macaroni and cheese, frozen pizza, cereal, bagels, bread. I’m sure I’ve forgotten things.

How do you handle meal planning and grocery shopping? Who does the cooking in your household?

Tuesday open thread

Open thread all day.

Upcoming topics:

Wednesday  —  What’s On Your Grocery List?   (Seattle Soccer Mom)
Thursday  —  Open thread
Friday  —  Back in the day   (July)
Sunday —  Politics open thread

Effective learning

by Rocky Mountain Stepmom

How Can We Convince Students That Easier Doesn’t Always Mean Better?

The problem is: Effective learning requires a lot of hard work, and students — much like all humans — prefer things to be easy.

One learning principle that takes more effort but has been demonstrated to produce lasting results is “interleaving” — the practice of studying subjects in a mixed, recursive order, as opposed to “blocked” (or “massed”) learning in which students study one topic at a time in depth before moving on to the next.

Say you have to learn three new concepts: A, B, and C. In blocked learning, you focus first on concept A until you feel you have it mastered. Then you do the same for concepts B and C. With interleaving, you study concept A for a while, but then move to concept B before you’re completely ready. You return to A, and then maybe try C for a while.

There’s lots more in the article below.

How Can We Convince Students That Easier Doesn’t Always Mean Better?