2018 Politics open thread, May 6-12

Any political thoughts?

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A Totebag change

by July

Starting Monday, May 7, Mémé will take on the role of co-administrator for the blog. Thank you, Mémé!

What does this mean for you?

Submitting post topics:

  • You may submit posts to Mémé at: memetotebag @outlook.com
  • You may continue to submit posts to me at: gntotebag @gmail.com
  • And, of course, you may continue to add post requests in the comments to the SUGGEST TOPICS page in the header of the blog.

Any and all blog communications may be directed to Mémé or to me. We will be in close contact with each other to coordinate all administrative functions as needed. Two administrators looking out for smooth blog operations should be better than one!

Mémé has some ideas that I think can revitalize the blog conversations we have here, so I look forward to that.

We welcome suggestions or comments. Long live The Totebag!

Any other topics on your mind? We have an open thread today.

Con Artists

by Honolulu Mother

This Vanity Fair article describes the author’s friendship and travels with an “heiress” whom she eventually realized was actually a con artist. It was an expensive lesson.

“AS AN ADDED BONUS, SHE PAID FOR EVERYTHING”: MY BRIGHT-LIGHTS MISADVENTURE WITH A MAGICIAN OF MANHATTAN

Have you ever been taken by, or narrowly avoided, a con? Or have your run-ins been limited to emails from Nigerian princes in exile and phone calls from Windows Security?

Everything must go!

by July

The other day this ad appeared locally.

MOVING Everything Must GO!!

You name it and we are selling it….Lots for Free and Sale

Furniture, Home Accessories, Clothes, Tools, Jewelry, Fitness Equipment, Mirrors, Small Kitchen Appliances, Lawn and garden, Dishes, Glassware, Corningware, knick-knacks, Electronic, TV’s, Anything hanging on walls- ETC.

We Are Taking Nothing with us

Describe your fantasy (or nightmare) downsizing that would enable you to move into a new house on wheels.  What would you keep and what would you get rid of?  What would you move into?  Where would you go?  Mostly motor around or mostly stay put?

Food shows!

by Honolulu Mother

Do you enjoy watching food and cooking shows on your screen of choice? NYMag suggests the best cooking shows to match different moods:

The 7 Best Food Shows to Match Your Mood

Cooking shows aren’t a harmless pleasure to everyone, though. Like this Quartz article, some have questioned whether the competition shows’ judges really have the knowledge base to fairly rate the execution of the wide variety of cuisines that may come before them:

A COOKING SHOW CONTROVERSY OVER CRISPY CHICKEN REVEALS THE LACK OF CULINARY DIVERSITY ON TV

And of course, there are the long-standing complaints that most food tv shows don’t so much teach viewers how to cook as put viewers off cooking, by making it look too difficult and setting an unobtainable standard. I’ve watched some of a French show that’s certainly guilty of that — it takes a bad but functional cook’s signature dish, and a chef has them do a version that bears only a slight relation to the original and is many times more expensive and time-consuming. For instance, from spaghetti with jarred sauce and chopped cucumbers:

to some kind of tubular pasta structure filled with a meat-and-vegetable reduction inspired by bolognese sauce, napped with bechamel and garnished with cucumber:

The message is, “Your stand-by dinner is terrible, and the way to fix it is to spend ten times as much time and money.” The show, for anyone interested, is:

NORBERT COMMIS D’OFFICE

(No, it doesn’t have English subtitles, but it’s reality tv — your French doesn’t have to be that good for you to still get the gist.)

What, if any, food tv shows do you watch?

Early retirement

by a regular lurker

My brother is about to retire at 45 after a few expat assignments and 20-year career in the oil industry. He and his family plan to live in a relatively low cost area on interest/dividends from an investment portfolio.

Totebaggers, what are your thoughts on early retirement? If you or someone you know has retired early, what are your biggest lessons?

At 72, a finance icon inspires a new cult of early retirees

Stop trying so hard to improve your life

by July

To Change Your Life, Consider the Easy Route

… What if the key to success isn’t trying hard but not trying very hard at all?

How does this actually work?  We’ve discussed aspects of this idea before.  Don’t overtax you willpower.  Remove temptations.  (Don’t keep ice cream in the house.)  Start with small changes that will develop into good habits.

Use “The Loop” approach.

The trick is to recognize that self-control isn’t an all-or-nothing proposition. We can carve out small, manageable areas of good behavior and gradually build trust in our ability to hold fast. I call this approach “The Loop”: First, find a rule that will bring you a little bit closer to your self-control goal, but will be so easy that you have no doubt you’ll be able to stick to it. Then, each day keep track of whether you’ve done it or not. That’s all. Don’t worry about solving the big problem; focus on staying on The Loop. If it starts to feel like a struggle, then dial the rule back to make it easier. As time goes by, The Loop will become second nature and you’ll be able to crank it up to a more ambitious setting.

I’ve used The Loop in establishing some good habits, including exercising and reading more books.  I start out small with modest commitments, and over time I find I’ve developed better habits rather painlessly.  It could be termed the lazy man’s method.

What works for you?  Do you prefer to start off with a more ambitious plan, maybe because you’re impatient?  Do you use a version of The Loop?  Have you tried to make any changes in your life over the last year?  Success or failure?  Any life changes you’d you like to make?  Do you think we’ve become too obsessed with improving our lives?

Tax day

by July

First we do their homework for them, then their taxes.

Yes, It’s Tax Day and You’re Still Doing Returns for Your Adult Children
Parents are preparing returns for their grown children even into their 40s, with no plans to hand over the chore

Every spring like clockwork, Bridget Cusick receives a package from her father. This year, she opened it to find two manila envelopes, stamped and pre-addressed; one to New York state; one to the Internal Revenue Service. Her address was written in the top left-hand corners. There were forms, too: three stacks, held together by paper clips. A Post-it Note stuck to one said, “your copies.”

“It’s very turnkey for me,” says Ms. Cusick. “He puts little sticky arrows that say, ‘sign here.’ ”

Ms. Cusick is 42 and the director of marketing with the Archdiocese of New York. She has never done her taxes. Her 74-year-old dad, a retired attorney from Barron, Wis., does them for her.

“It’s not like I don’t think I could learn how to do it,” she says. “But if my dad legitimately seems to enjoy doing it and it saves me time, why not?”

“He enjoys it.” “She’s good at it.” Such is the party line of adults who still have their accounting needs handled by their parents. This includes Ms. Cusick’s younger brother and his wife, who receive a packet of their own each spring.

“I think about it every year when the time comes around, that it’s probably a skill that I should have learned,” says Patrick Cusick, who works in marketing and lives in La Crosse, Wis. “I don’t really know why he hasn’t been like, ‘Son, you need to learn to do your taxes ’cause you’re 34 years old.’ ”

Their father, David Cusick, says having them learn on their own makes him nervous. “I’m just kind of concerned that they’ll make a mistake and then have the IRS bugging them,” he says.

At what age did you start doing your own taxes?  What about your kids?  Was your tax return easy this year?  How’s your tax day going?

Buying Wine Online

by Honolulu Mother

According to this Washington Post article, it’s become harder to buy wine online in recent years:

Why is it becoming harder to buy wine online?

According to the article, the court victory a few years ago didn’t significantly change things because it applied only to direct-from-winery shipments:

We thought we’d won the direct shipping battle a decade ago when the Supreme Court ruled in 2005 that states should not treat their wineries favorably over wineries from other states. But that ruling didn’t end the battle over direct shipping; it just put it back into state legislatures, perhaps with a more even playing field. Most of us can now buy directly from wineries in California, Oregon or elsewhere in the United States — but not from retailers in those states.

In fact, only 13 states and the District of Columbia allow shipments from out-of-state retailers to their residents, while more than 40 states allow such shipments from out-of-state wineries, according to winefreedom.org, a website operated by the National Association of Wine Retailers.

And the states have been cracking down, so wine lovers who used to be able to order from out-of-state retailers are finding it’s no longer possible.

We’ve ordered wine from out-of-state retailers on a few occasions, though mostly pre-kids. Around the time our oldest was born the local retail options got better, and we suddenly found that we no longer were drinking any category but inexpensive week-night go-to bottles. I did do a big shipment a year and a half ago, though, not of wine, but of various obscure liquors that I’d been unable to get locally. How about you? Do you, or does your spouse, like to order wine from wineries or retailers outside your state? Or are you content with your local options?

‘Turning Kids Into Grown-Ups’

by Used to Lurk

Thursday’s NPR TED Radio Hour Podcast episode was “Turning Kids Into Grown-Ups” which would be right up this group’s alley. The podcast is 53 minutes but you can up the speed or skip through the ads.

Turning Kids Into Grown-Ups
Parenting is fraught with uncertainty, changing with each generation. This hour, TED speakers share ideas about raising kids and how — despite our best efforts — we’re probably still doing it wrong.

The first segment was former Stanford dean Jullie Lythcott-Haims who is advocating that we stop parenting our kids like they are Bonsai trees and managing their every move. She has a book titled “How to Raise an Adult” and her TED talk is “What’s the harm in over parenting”. She advocating that parents back-off the micromanaging of their kids lives and accomplishments.

The second segment was former firefighter Caroline Paul and her talk is about how to raise brave daughters.

The third segment was author Peggy Orenstein, who has written numerous books on teaching girls about sex. The talk involves talking to both daughters and sons.

The fourth segment was psychologist Dr. Aaia El-Khani and is focused on how to parent in a war zone and the work she has done in refugee camps.

The final segment is a poem by Sarah Kay about what she wants her daughter to know.

I enjoyed the entire podcast but there is value in just listening to segments that interest you. I found it very informative. I think this group could talk about Julie Lythcott-Haims points for quite a while.

Keeping up with friends can be good for your marriage

by July

Are you and your spouse one of those married couples “who tend to withdraw into their coupledom”?  Apparently this tends to occur among the affluent.

. . . as income rises, the advantages of married over never-married individuals evaporate and even reverse. While affluent never-married people continue to multiply their interactions with friends, neighbors and family, affluent married couples don’t. This could well be why, at the highest income levels, married people are actually more likely to report depressive symptoms than their equally affluent never-married counterparts.

The advice is to nurture relationships with people outside of your marriage, including going on “double dates”.

Your thoughts?

Post-Vacation Blues

by Honolulu Mother

Does coming home from a much-anticipated vacation leave you feeling down? If so, you’re in good company, according to this Daily Beast article:

Spring Breakers, Beware of the Impending Depression

The article has a couple of suggestions for easing the transition back into your everyday responsibilities:

DiMarco said it’s also important to prepare for the post-travel depression by giving yourself time to get back into your normal routine. Try to preemptively clear your work calendar for the first few days you’re back and schedule fun things like a manicure or an intramural sports game to be excited about.

“Knowing that you’re going to be a little bummed out your first two days back from vacation can help mitigate that,” she said. “You can also do some self care when you get back, yes you were just on vacation but it doesn’t mean you need to come home and punish yourself.”

There is no way my work would cooperate with giving me a clear calendar for the first few days I’m back after a trip. But I do find that post-vacation (and post-holiday season, for that matter), it helps to just accept that I’ll be feeling down for a week or so before I readjust to the usual hectic routine.

Do you have ways to deal with the post-vacation blues? Or do you not experience that?

Open thread

We have an open thread all day today.

I was wondering about this:

You’re gonna miss me when I’m gone

by S&M

We’ve talked seriously about plans for retirement and death. We stayed on those grim topics very obediently. Now let’s have a little fun with the end of life!

The Taj Mahal was famously built by an emperor grieving his wife’s death. Famous for its harmonious beauty, it is the epitome of romantic love. A general in Italy also had a memorial built for his wife, as he mourned her death. Only one octagonal structure in the sculpture park bears her name, but the entire park was supposedly dedicated to her.

An Italian duke created the Park of Monsters, filled with stone creatures, as a way of coping with his wife’s death

How about you? Assuming unlimited funds, what would your memorial look like? Would it reflect you, or your relationship with another person? This is all silly fantasy, a light-hearted look at your self-image, so no simple urns.

Climate change, infrastructure and the role of government

by WCE

This article educated me about the history of disaster response in the U.S. My leanings make me consider how infrastructure should be built and disasters responded to by the federal government in light of climate change. Relevant to Totebaggers are the likely effects of more frequent disasters on municipal bond holders. I was interested by the opinion that wealthy states should pay more for their recovery than poor states. That approach seems likely to undermine disaster relief. Key quotes include:

In the decades before Harvey, for example, Houston approved the development of more than 10,000 homes in a floodplain, inside the very reservoirs that take in the water spillover when federal dams that protect older parts of the city reach capacity. As the Texas Tribune reports, most residents of the upper-middle-class neighborhoods built within the reservoirs seemed to have no idea that they were living in a dormant, man-made lake until Harvey inundated them with days’ worth of standing water last summer. The episode points up how federal incentives interact with the local imperative to build: the national flood-insurance program’s official flood maps put the reservoirs outside of floodplains, on the grounds that they are man-made “flood pools,” indicating to residents and their home lenders that it was safe to build, according to the Houston Chronicle. For that reason, mortgage lenders did not require homebuyers there to take out federal flood insurance, though residents have received temporary housing and other assistance after Harvey—and are now suing the Army Corps of Engineers for not deliberately flooding the area to protect its dams, exactly what the corps was supposed to do under the dams’ design.

Building unwisely puts all residents, old and new, at risk. As Samuel Brody, coastal-planning professor at Texas A&M–Galveston, points out, Houston has less permeable landmass—places where water can go—than anywhere else except Los Angeles….

and

Consider: of the $278 billion that Washington spent over the decade before 2015, the government spent $37 billion on flood-insurance payouts. The flood program racked up $22 billion in claims from Katrina and Rita in 2005, $15 billion after Hurricane Sandy, and still-untold billions over this past year. These figures understate the amount spent rebuilding private housing, as the government also distributed $24 billion in block grants to states, which used some of that money to help homeowners after storms. And just this fall, Congress forgave $16 billion in debt owed by the flood-insurance program. “The U.S. government has provided an unprecedented level of support for flood losses in recent years,” says Brian Schneider, senior director in insurance at Fitch Ratings, a bond-analysis firm.

As Washington protects private homeowners from loss, it neglects what it should be doing: working with state and local governments to build better public infrastructure. Overall, of FEMA’s disaster-relief fund, which constitutes about half of all federal disaster spending, 53 percent goes to helping governments replace what they lost and 22 percent to helping people rebuild. Only 7 percent goes to “hazard mitigation,” or prevention. The Army Corps of Engineers’ annual budget to build and maintain levees is just $4.1 billion—far less than the flood-insurance losses from this year’s storms.

and

… Instead, Washington should offer more financing to support state and local governments that invest in better infrastructure to reduce flood risk—drawing some of these monies from funds previously used to rebuild and replace state and local infrastructure and private homes. Washington should also consider each region’s income and resources. New York and Houston, for example, have high personal incomes and thriving economies and don’t need billions of dollars in reconstruction money from poorer taxpayers elsewhere. As the CBO comments, federal aid “may underestimate a given state’s capacity to recover from a disaster using its own resources.” After Harvey, however, Texas’s governor, Greg Abbott, has resisted using the state’s $10 billion rainy-day fund to defray storm costs, even though the storm was, literally, a rainy day.

and

… Brody also suggests that Houston beef up its requirement for freeboard—the elevation of a house above sea level—from one foot to three feet. “Inches matter,” he notes, as keeping the usable part of a home above a flood zone avoids damage to much of the structure and contents of that home.

Are you interested in the role of flood plains, zoning codes and flood insurance on infrastructure development? (I would rather not be.) Given the general lack of interest in such topics, do you think government can make economically sound choices to mitigate the effects of climate change? If so, how?

Storm Surge

Family Stories

These two submissions seemed to go together:

by Honolulu Mother

According to this Psychology Today blog post,

C]hildren and adolescents who know more of their family stories show higher well-being on multiple measures, including higher self-esteem, higher academic competence, higher social competence, and fewer behavior problems.

It goes on to offer a set of 20 questions that can serve as a starting point for telling family stories.

My kids like to hear family stories, though I don’t think they could answer all those questions. I specialize in telling embarrassing stories about my siblings, although some about me may slip in from time to time.

Do you share family stories? Have you created some of your own that your kids might pass on to their own families?
—–

Our Parents’ Stories

by Swim

The link to the article about cliques in nursing homes made me very sad. So much going on under the surface there. Made me think of a topic suggestion: what have you learned about your parents that surprised you? Young kids and adult children think they know their parents, but often have little idea of their parents younger lives, or even how interesting their lives are when kids leave home.

Month-long trips

by July

Some of us have expressed an interest in traveling to various locations and staying there a month or more just getting to know and enjoy the areas.  These would likely be post-retirement trips since we typically don’t have the vacation time to do this while we’re working.

To my surprise Miami Beach recently caught my eye as a place to spend a leisurely month.  Maybe I’m too old to enjoy the cool vibe of South Beach, but I’m still intrigued.  Plus it’s just a generally beautiful location that probably offers a number of short side trips that would be worth exploring.  What do you think?  Yay or nay on Miami Beach?

What, if any, locations would you consider for a month-long stay?  Domestic and international.  What locations would you recommend?  Give us details on local activities that would help us decide if they might tempt us.  Let’s share our inside scoop on long-term trip possibilities.

Here’s a retired couple that spends most of the year on long trips all over the world.  Ultimately they built a home in California that precisely meets their needs and was designed to easily rent out to other travelers while they are away.

Home Free Adventures

2018 Politics open thread, March 11-17

Here is our weekly politics thread.

by Rhett

Right around the same time, New York University psychologist, Jonathan Haidt, was formulating a theory about why liberals and conservatives have such a hard time productively conversing.

After mucking around in a lot of survey data, he came up with this basic idea: Liberals and people of the left underpin their politics with moral concerns about harm and fairness; they are driven by the imperative to help the vulnerable and see justice done. Conservatives and people of the right value these things as well but have several additional moral touchstones — loyalty, respect and sanctity. They value in-group solidarity, deference to authority, and the protection of purity in mind and body. To liberals, those sincerely held values can look a lot like, in Dr. Haidt’s words, “xenophobia, authoritarianism and Puritanism.” This asymmetry is the fountainhead of mutual incomprehension and disdain.

When Smug Liberals Met Conservative Trolls

I don’t think that’s really correct. What do you think is the basis of disagreement?

Death planning

by L

Do you talk about death with your children? How about your end-of-life wishes?

Little Mirrors of Mortality
How one late-in-life parent discusses death with his children.

Cake Raises $1.35M to Help You Talk About End-of-Life Planning

——
and by Milo:

Last Saturday, my kids and I were driving to lunch at Chick-fil-A when we were delayed at the traffic light nearest our house. Two police officers, who had been waiting for their cue, activated lights and sirens and stopped traffic in all directions. I had no idea why, as we’re nowhere near the typical political motorcade territory, but then a couple of limos, a hearse, and a line of about 40 or 50 cars followed their slow, dignified path on the way to the cemetery.

So, my kids and I got to talking about funeral traditions. I have some limited (thankfully) familiarity with what I assume are standard, middle-class Catholic Northeastern customs: an evening viewing with an open casket, a lot of old people nobody’s seen in 20 years coming to pay their respects after seeing the obituary in the paper, a casual impromptu dinner at a pizza restaurant afterward, another gathering at the funeral home the next morning where the casket is solemnly closed, an escorted drive to mass, How Great Thou Art and maybe Nearer My God to Thee or Be Not Afraid, another escorted drive to the cemetery, and a luncheon afterward. (In earlier decades, and when there is still a significant amount of family living in the area, this part can happen at someone’s house. My dad refers to one particular dish of chicken, tomato wine sauce, and orzo as “funeral food,” because any time there was a funeral, at least one or two aunts would bring over a huge pot of it.)

Most of my grandparents were lucky, in my mind, to have outlived so many people that their funeral processions were much smaller than what I saw on Saturday. (As an aside, in college, I once heard a very entertaining talk by Ross Perot that was peppered with a lot of folksy sayings. On the topic of incompetence in leadership, he quipped that he “wouldn’t trust this guy to lead a *two-car* funeral.”) The older men who worked as attendants at the funeral home and did the little things like drive the hearse and limo reminded me of mob extras on the Sopranos with their dark jackets and ties and feathered fedoras.

How different are the customs in your family or geographic, religious community? Do you find them familiar and comforting, or torturous? If you had to plan your own funeral, what would it look like?

2018 Politics open thread, February 18-24

Here’s our weekly political thread.

by MooshiMooshi

I found this article interesting and ironic because it seems to me that the young Amphibians that David Brooks celebrates are exactly the multicultural, urbane, elites, that engender so much dislike these days. Are they really our hope, or will the countervailing trends of nationalism prevail?

The Rise of the Amphibians

Parenting success stories

by Finn

DS is back in school now, after being home for nearly a month during semester break. While he was home, he said a few things that warmed my heart:

-A couple of times when I asked him if he wanted to go with me to work out, he said, “OK;” this after always declining when he was in HS. He also mentioned that trips to the gym are part of his normal routine in school, even as the weather turned cold.

-He took me up on my offer to take some of my cold-weather clothes, from my days dealing with frigid SV winters, back with him.

-He spoke of how difficult it was to get adequate amounts of fiber through cafeteria food, and how nearly all of their starches were refined. He’s addressed that by eating a lot of vegetables, and is even contemplating eating oatmeal.

-He mentioned that one of the reasons he joined the school orchestra was that he thought it would be a good way to meet people.

What parenting success stories do you have?

Should You Have a Bucket List?

by Honolulu Mother

This Thrillist article considers the pros and cons of keeping a bucket list:

WHY THROWING AWAY MY BUCKET LIST MADE ME A BETTER TRAVELER

In short, it suggests that if you’re going to keep one, have a carefully considered one that is based on your real interests (rather than what might sound cool to others) and don’t be driven by it.

Thrillist also offers some advice for recovering from the flight when you do make it to a distant bucket-list destination:

HOW TO RECOVER FROM A LONG-ASS FLIGHT, ACCORDING TO FLIGHT ATTENDANTS

I don’t have a bucket list as such, although I do have some places in the back of my mind as ones I’d like to someday visit (Iceland, India). How about others – do you keep a bucket list? How has that worked for you?

Ask the Totebag — Divorce

by winemama

My ex and I separated last summer after 13 years of marriage. We have one son, who is almost 7. He spends one week with Dad, then one week with me, switching after school on Fridays. The first holidays were rough.

I saw DS part of Halloween for trick or treat. I got DS for Thanksgiving lunch, ex got him for Thanksgiving dinner. Vice versa for Christmas Day. DS has his birthday in the spring.

Any suggestions from folks who have been through this before?

Tips for handling his birthday? Try to celebrate together or not?

I’m dating someone now (for almost 3 months), when to introduce him?

Things to avoid?

Divorce will be final in February.

House styles and wall art

by July

This Pop Chart Lab poster features “121 hand-drawn American homes divided up into seven primary categories—Colonial, Folk/Vernacular, Romantic, Victorian, Eclectic, Modern, Neo-Eclectic—and 40 subdivisions, such as Italian Renaissance Revival, Ranch, and the dreaded McMansion”.  (Click to enlarge image.)

Which drawing most closely resembles your home?  Which one is your dream home style?  Are they one and the same?  If you live in a multi-family building, what is the style?

Would you hang this poster in your home?  What do you like to hang on your walls?  Fine art or posters, traditional or not, colorful or muted tones?

Robocalls and spoofing

by Honolulu Mother

I’ve been getting a lot of robocalls lately, and many of them seem to come from spoofed phone numbers (usually from my same area code). Apparently I’m not alone:

How robo-callers outwitted the government and completely wrecked the Do Not Call list

It’s an arms race between the robocallers and the callblockers, and the robocallers are winning. The unfortunate side effect is that it makes everyone less likely to answer the phone for an unfamiliar number, which cuts down on the utility of the phone as a communications device. (I pick up anyway as my kids are known to forget their phones at home and call from a friend’s phone.)

Have you been getting more robocalls? Have you tried a callblocking app? And, do you still pick up for unfamiliar numbers?

Restaurant Menus

by Honolulu Mother

I thought the group would be amused by this WaPo article complaining about incomprehensible restaurant menu listings:

It’s not just you: Restaurant menus really are confusing

I am familiar with pommes paillasson but the other examples given would have at least one unfamiliar term for me. However, I thought it was funny/ironic to have the Post’s food writer making this complaint since the inclusion of non-English or specialized language in restaurant menu listings has been something of a class test for over a century — think of all those fancy urban restaurants in the late nineteenth century using French for all the menu items despite being located in an English-speaking city. If you couldn’t understand what you were ordering it showed you were an outsider. I’d say that your more aspirational restaurants today do the same thing, assuming a level of diner familiarity with more obscure ingredients and current food trends that may be standard for well-heeled urbanites but leaves others feeling left out. So the real issue is that these restaurants dialed their menu obscurity level up to “11 – even restaurant critic can’t understand it.”

On the other hand, although I may be familiar with pommes paillasson, I’ve been baffled in the past by questions such as whether a DQ Blizzard is a drink (I now know it is ice cream) when outside my zone of familiarity. In other words, a part of this phenomenon is just restaurants aiming their menus at their usual crowd rather than deliberately trying to exclude infrequent diners.

Have you run into restaurant menus where you felt at a loss as to what was being offered, or how much food an item was likely to involve, or whether it would come with sides included? Are there ways you think restaurants could improve their menu writing? And do you place the blame for diner confusion more on restaurants trying too hard to be precious, or just on some restaurant staff doing a poor job of describing their food?

Create an ad for a marriage partner

by July

What’s the Best Way to Match a B’ful, Homely Bride With a H’som W’stld Groom?
India’s parents use abbreviation-stuffed newspaper ads, not the internet, to seek marriage partners for their children

A majority of marriages in India are still arranged, often with parents meeting before the potential bride and groom get a chance to see each other….

Potential brides are B’ful and grooms H’som. SM4 is suitable match for, and Send BHP means send biodata (or a résumé), horoscope and photo. W’stld is well settled, meaning well paid. Wkg is working. PQ means professionally qualified, T’tot is a teetotaler, and a PSU is a public sector unit—where jobs impress.

The ads also often list the father’s job—fthr sr bnk offcr, or father senior bank officer, for example.

The personals also have their own unique vocabulary. If a woman is listed as “homely” it means she doesn’t work. If a man is issueless (abbreviated as i’less) after a divorce, it means he doesn’t have children. Potential mates listed as having a “wheatish” complexion have light-brown skin.

Let’s play matchmaker.  Write a marriage ad for someone — your children, another relative, a friend, or even yourself or your spouse.  Highlight their most attractive qualities.  (Add in “buyer beware” warnings if you want.)  Do your best sales job!

What’s your opinion of arranged marriages?

‘Healthy’ habits you can’t quite defend

by Honolulu Mother

The writers of 538 helpfully shared some of the “wellness” habits they love despite the lack of any real evidence of effectiveness:

The Wellness Habits We Love Too Much To Investigate

Are you willing to share here? And to those commenters inclined to cavil (you know who you are), no fair pointing out that someone’s cherished habit shared in this thread is likely to be pointless — they know that or they wouldn’t be sharing it here.

I’ll start: when I eat a falafel sandwich I cling to the belief that it’s a healthful choice and try not to think about the “deep fried” part of how falafels are made.

Open thread

We have an open thread all day today on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

Do you have a neighborhood bar or hangout?  Describe it for us.  Do you wish you had one?  What would it be like?

Calendaring

by Honolulu Mother

We haven’t had a post on family calendar systems for a while. This may risk bringing the Cozi hordes back down on us, but has anyone changed calendaring system? Still happy with the one you have? Looking for a change?

We’ve long used a paper calendar in the kitchen as the main family calendar, supplemented to some degree by Google calendar that only I ever looked at or got notifications from. Since changing the kitchen Echo out for an Echo show, though, the Google calendar notifications are very visible for all because they’re part of the rotating newsfeed on the Show’s screen when it’s idle (with a slideshow of family photos in the background). It’s also easier to ask to show a specific date in, say, April, than to flip forward in the paper calendar. As a result, I’m now making the effort to get everything into my Google calendar so it’ll show up in the newsfeed. We basically have two parallel systems going now, the paper one and the electronic one.

What’s your calendaring news?

Nursing: A Great Career for Guys?

by MooshiMooshi

This is a really nice article about the potential of nursing as a career for men. It discusses the fact that there is a growing number of men in nursing – still just 13% but that represents real growth. The article notes that across all of the allied health professions, there has been an uptick of men going into those fields. And it profiles a bunch of guys who have chosen nursing as a career.

‘Forget About the Stigma’: Male Nurses Explain Why Nursing Is a Job of the Future for Men (NYT)

However, I wonder if this is really a solution for towns like the one profiled in the Chronicle article. Nursing and the other allied health professions typically require 4 year degrees or even longer programs, and are considered to be challenging majors. Is this realistic for towns where the many unemployed people, both men and women, are not interested in college degrees and may not have the academic preparation? Furthermore, is this an option in areas where nursing programs are few and far between, and where access to higher education is lacking in general?

A DYING TOWN
Here in a corner of Missouri and across America, the lack of a college education has become a public-health crisis.

There have also been reports that many men are still resistant to entering what are often termed “the caring professions”.

Why Men Don’t Want the Jobs Done Mostly by Women (NYT)

Opinion? We often discuss nursing as a good field for people who want to have a solid steady career.

Hobbies

by L

Who has taken up a new hobby as an adult? Playing an instrument, boating, dancing, a new sport? Whose hobbies (like mine) are activities that you have done since childhood? Does anyone have hobbies that they hope their kids *don’t* take up?

An Ordinary Childhood?

by Louise

Reading the comments about Megan Markle’s childhood, commentators were saying at how ordinary/not so great it was. From all accounts, it struck me as being quite a happy childhood. Yes, she is biracial, has divorced parents, half siblings but seems to have been a happy kid who went to parochial school, is college educated and pursued her interest in performing in her career as an adult. Even without a prince in the picture, she was doing fine.

Have our standards for what constitutes a great childhood increased dramatically? What do you think is basic/good enough for your kids ? What are extras ? Discuss.

Open thread

We have an open thread all day today.

Inspired by the discussion on the politics thread and by recent changes within my family, I’m running a poll.

Do you have choices for health insurance?  Are you happy with your choice?  How have your recent experiences been with health care/insurance?  Good, bad, indifferent?  Any other comments or advice?  Please keep political comments on the other thread.

Different Types of Health Plans: How They Compare

Family estrangement

by July

Debunking Myths About Estrangement
New research challenges the deeply held notion that family relationships can’t be dissolved and suggests that estrangement is not all that uncommon.  (NYT)

I’ve only recently noticed more cases of family estrangement, both among people I know and among celebrities, and I agree with the myths as explained in this article.  No family is immune, and for the first time I’ve considered the possibility that this could happen in my nuclear family.  It’s sobering.

What are your thoughts?

2017 Totebag year in review and looking ahead to 2018

by July

We’ve wrapped up another good year of discussions and camaraderie here on The Totebag.

When I put together a list of our most popular 2017 posts I noticed that money was a more popular topic than it was in 2016.  Have you noticed this shift in our conversations?  (Political posts are excluded from this list.)

Totebag posts that received the most page views in 2017:

  1. How would you cut your household spending?
  2. Money lessons
  3. ‘Embarrassment of riches’
  4. Your retirement location and home
  5. Gender imbalance in the workplace
  6. Paying for college
  7. A Quick Fix for the Blues
  8. Nosy, or not?
  9. What would you do with a windfall?
  10. Are you pretending to be middle class?

Do you have any comments or suggestions for our blog?

For those of you who are reluctant to email I’ve added a page on the blog header where you can submit posts.  I will try to do my best to check those comments for any submissions.

2017 Politics open thread, December 31 — January 6

We have a new year for political discussion!

This past summer Scott Adams predicted we would see ‘anti-Trump media gracefully pivot from “chaos and incompetence” to a story of “effective, but we don’t like it”’.   Adams points to this NPR story as support for his prediction.

Trump Accomplished A Lot In 2017, But At What Cost?

For someone who ran as an unconventional candidate, Trump has turned out to be a surprisingly reliable conservative as president, conventional even — aside from his social media habits, rhetoric and occasional feuding with his fellow Republicans….

“It depends on how you define success, but he has definitely accomplished some key goals of the conservative movement,” said Neera Tanden, president of the Center for American Progress, a group that has been fighting Trump’s agenda at every turn. “I expected Donald Trump to pursue a far right agenda and he is meeting those expectations and he is succeeding.”

But, as Tanden sees it, Trump’s success is coming at a cost. The left is highly energized, and his approval rating is south of 40 percent.

Another view is that President Trump is “consistently underperforming even the lowest of expectations”, thankfully kept in check by the media, the courts, and Congress.

What do you think?  Has he been effective or underperformed?  Or both?  Will he continue to be effective or will he underperform in 2018?

Here’s another question.

Does Trump Deserve Credit For His Year One Achievements?

 

Your 2017 ‘ta-da list’

by July

Instead of diving into a list of New Year’s resolutions, Gretchen Rubin suggests a Year-End Review with Myself.  One part of the review process involves making an end-of-year ta-da list.  It might inspire you to visualize priorities for the coming year.

Ta-da list:

In episode 134 of the “Happier” podcast, for our weekly “Try This at Home” tip, Elizabeth and I suggested making a ta-da list. Make a list of everything you’ve already accomplished. You’re often pleasantly surprised and energized to see how much you’ve done, and giving yourself credit for your efforts often make it easier to keep going.

What’s on your 2017 ta-da list?  Does it inspire you to build on any specific accomplishments for 2018?

Related, what were your best and worst financial moves in 2017?  Which purchases and financial planning actions were winners, and which were losers?

The Kids’ Menu

by Honolulu Mother

This guy feels strongly that kids’ menus should not be a thing:

Why ordering from the kids menu is harmful to children

I cannot say I agree. While we didn’t rely heavily on the kids’ menu when ours were in that age group, clearly there are pickier eaters out there than mine were and why shouldn’t restaurants offer some safe and relatively inexpensive options for families that want them? He sounds like a man who would have strong views on screen time.

However, I do agree that if you’re not dealing with a picky eater, there’s no reason to limit kids to the kids’ menu options, For smaller kids with smaller appetites sharing food works well, and you can order an appetizer to supplement if needed. And of course they eventually want to order their own entrees, which our policy was to allow as long as the kid would reliably eat what s/he ordered and the item wasn’t ridiculously expensive (and even if the kid thinks hot chocolate is the ideal beverage choice to go with salmon).

How about others? How long were your kids ordering off the kids’ menu? Do you agree with him that it’s preferable to avoid the kids’ menu? Does anyone agree with him that restaurants should not even offer a kids’ menu?

House – the next phase

by Louise

I have been thinking a lot about what sort of home design I want when the kids leave.

I love our lot and neighborhood. I feel like razing our house and starting over. Whatever we do, our house will have to work for the next phase. What features would posters want in their empty nes(x)t homes?

The first thing, I can think of the stairs, we will be better off in a ranch home. Next thing I can think of is size, keep the same square footage or downsize? I still like our yard, will continue to outsource its care, but may add more flower beds (ambitious add perhaps).

What things can you think of in home design for people getting older?

Preparing your home for a trip

by Finn

“About 8 years ago we returned home from dinner to find our basement flooded from a burst HWH.”

This line above from an earlier discussion provides a segue into today’s topic:

What steps do you take when preparing to leave for a trip?

One step I typically take is to unplug our garage door openers. There have been numerous reports here of garage doors mysteriously opening when military exercises (e.g., RIMPAC) are being conducted nearby. We also have friends whose garages somehow opened while they were gone. In one case, their garage was entirely cleaned out by the time they returned. In another, he lived near us, and I saw his garage open when I knew he was skiing with other friends, so I closed it for him.

Favorite charitable activity or community event

by Louise

In my area lots of group activities involve some activity done for charity or the community. My workplace regularly organizes groups for Habitat for Humanity and Back to School events. At this time of year, there are elves needed to sort and wrap donated gifts, put together food baskets and tons of other volunteer opportunities.

Then there are community events and performances.

Which activities for charity do you like or dislike ? Do you participate in or support certain community events?

Do share….

Superpowers

by Finn

Personal superpowers have entered our discussions from time to time. Mine is the ability to read and understand what people have written. It has served me well in providing me with amusement. Unfortunately, it did not come with the complementary superpower of being able to always understand what people meant when it was not what they wrote.

What is your superpower?

2017 Politics open thread, December 17-23

Welcome to our weekly political thread!

This looks interesting.

Keeping up with Technology

by Louise

Let’s have a discussion of all things Tech.

Do you think you have kept up with technology? What are you favorite gadgets? Eagerly awaiting self driving cars? Afraid of handing over your keys to big brother? Is Alexa spying on you? Do you think kids should not have electronics (or hardly any) like one of our neighborhood families?

Discuss…

‘Blue Christmas’

by Anonymous

And when those blue snowflakes start fallin’
That’s when those blue memories start callin’
You’ll be doin’ all right, with your Christmas of white
But I’ll have a blue, blue, blue, blue Christmas

Sometimes it’s hard to be cheerful during the holidays.

If you have a loved one who’s suffering, “Happy holidays!” can feel like a cruel joke. The most wonderful time of the year? Not for everyone.

This topic is heavy on my mind because I have a dear friend who is dealing with recent deaths and serious financial difficulties.  She lives across the country so it’s hard to know how well she’s handling it.  Here in our small community at least two local families are dealing with the deaths of their sons this year, including one who was buried only last week.  We probably all know someone who is not having such a happy holiday.  Maybe it’s you.

Holiday blues: Four mistakes we make when comforting friends who are struggling

Do the holidays always lift your spirits or have you had to cope with sad holidays?  Are you prone to sadness or melancholy during this time of the year?  How have you tried to help others in this situation?  Do you ever feel guilty about enjoying this wonderful time of the year while others close to you are suffering?  Are you having a happy holiday this year?  What are the best and worst parts of the holidays?

Office Holiday Parties

by Honolulu Mother

NYMag ran some advice for shy people attending office parties:

Advice for Shy People Forced to Attend Holiday Parties

Since I’m in the government sector, my office just doesn’t do the kind of party described there, but for those of you who do attend dressy evening office parties, do you think the article offers good advice? What tips would you add?

Cookies

by July

On the heels of the holiday music topic from yesterday, today we can discuss cookies and other holiday sweets.

Frosted sugar cookies are included in my favorites.  I go for the rustic look with no sprinkles or other decorations that take away from the basic cookie and frosting combination.

What are your favorite cookies?  Is baking cookies a holiday tradition?  Do you give sweets as gifts?  Which cookies remind you of your childhood?  Which are your least favorite?  Please share your favorite recipes.  And feel free to discuss other holiday recipes.

Christmas music

by Honolulu Mother

It’s time for our somewhat-annual discussion of Christmas music! What are your newest favorites? What are your classics? And what are your never-play-that-agains?

I will remind you of the existence of All I Want for Christmas is a Goat. That’s very distinctive, and pretty low on my list of Christmas favorites.

I have many that are high on my list of favorites, but for this year I’ll pick Christmas Island by Leon Redbone, and Holiday Songs and Lullabies by Shawn Colvin.

How much money do you make?

by July

During a recent dinner conversation I found a sharp division between generations on the topic of sharing salary numbers.  Older employees thought secrecy was a good idea but younger ones thought transparency was best.

Ask Me How Much Money I Make: Pay Gets More Transparent
Nearly half of millennials surveyed said they talk about their compensation with friends, compared with 36% of Americans overall

Managing a generation of young people inclined to share relationship statuses and meal photos on social media requires employers to adjust the way they approach compensation, experts say.

“Pay and promotions are not secretive topics anymore,” says Mary Ann Sardone, who consults with large employers on compensation issues and leads the workforce-rewards practice at benefits consultant Mercer, a unit of Marsh & McLennan Co MMC 1.33% s.

“Companies are spending more time ensuring their pay decisions are fair, and highlighting career paths under the assumption that the information is going to be widely shared,” she says….

When Cameron Feenstra received a job offer this summer from Prattle Analytics, a St. Louis-based research firm, the first thing the 22-year-old did was call his sister. Although he was willing to take a below-market salary for the chance to work at a fast-growing startup, Mr. Feenstra wanted to ensure that his offer of $42,000 was a fair annual salary for his role as a junior quantitative analyst.

After talking about salaries with friends and family, and consulting anonymous career and salary-sharing websites such as Glassdoor, Mr. Feenstra decided to negotiate for more money, even though it was his first real job in the field.

“People who don’t ask around never learn how to negotiate, because they don’t know where everyone else is” in terms of salary as a reference point, Mr. Feenstra says. He got a pay bump to $45,000 before accepting the offer.

The attitude shift has put greater pressure on employers to explain why some workers are paid more than others and to formalize compensation and promotion practices, says Kristina Launey, a partner at law firm Seyfarth Shaw LLP, which specializes in labor and employment issues.

What do you think?  Secrecy or transparency?  Do you believe that secrecy helps perpetuate the gender wage gap?  Do you share salary information with co-workers, friends, or extended family members?

Why Do We Keep Salaries Secret?

Do you want to share, at least anonymously?