Oldsters online

by Rocky Mountain Stepmom

Uh oh. We oldsters are ruining the world. We’re dumber than dirt and spread lies. You youngsters must stop us!

“They’re alone, relatively wealthy, alienated, and stuck in places where they don’t know anybody and feel angry,” he said. “And they have access to the internet.”

Old, Online, And Fed On Lies: How An Aging Population Will Reshape The Internet


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

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?

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?

Chronic illness

by July

A chronic illness can affect your life in many ways.

It’s hard to be a good employee when you need extended time off. It’s hard to be a good friend when you cancel plans last minute. It’s hard to be a good partner or parent when you barely have the energy to get out of bed. No matter how much you try to explain, people expect you to get better already — and when you don’t, they resent you, consciously or not. Some relationships end entirely, casualties of an unfair and misunderstood illness, while others get stronger as you find your true support system.

But most of all, your relationship with yourself changes. You grieve a version of yourself that doesn’t exist anymore, and a future version that looks different than you’d planned.

You might have to give up career goals, hobbies and family plans, learning a “new normal” in their place. “In trauma therapy we call this ‘integration,’ the task of integrating a new reality into one’s life and worldview,” Mr. Lundquist said. “This emotional work can look a lot like grief therapy for a passing loved one.” Try to be patient as you get to know the new version of yourself.

Side effects from the ongoing treatment for a chronic illness can be a source of constant worry. The financial burden may affect your sense security and overall quality of life. It’s easy to start feeling helpless and overly dependent on others.

Any thoughts or advice?

Food and grocery delivery services

by Louise

Discuss food and grocery delivery services, meal kits, personal chef – any trends you see towards convenience in food. I think we like the idea of home cooked meals but actually cooking everyday…that’s another story.

Consumers Love Food Delivery. Restaurants and Grocers Hate It.
Fresh food sellers can’t afford to ignore the consumer demand, even though most orders lose money

‘I’m Addicted’; Why Food-Delivery Companies Want to Create Superusers
DoorDash, Instacart and others want to turn casual customers driven by discounts into repeat users who rely on their services regularly

Coolest towns

by North of Boston

The 25 coolest towns in America: 2018

One of the local Chambers of Commerce in my area has been heavily promoting this article, since a north-of-Boston town (Newburyport, MA, which is actually a city) was named in the article as one of the “25 Coolest Towns in America.” I enjoyed looking at this list, and it has given me some ideas for future vacations. Totebaggers, weigh in on this list. If you know any of these towns, are they as cool as advertised, or not? Do you have other favorite towns that should have been on this list?

Behavioral economics

by Denver Dad

In a previous discussion, I talked about why I decided against joining a gym to play racquetball. The gist of it was that the cost was $28 a month, it’s a half-hour away, and I figured realistically I would go twice a month at most. So I decided not to join given the distance and the limited use (and some annoyance about the actual fee structure).

I thought this was a great example of behavioral economics. From a purely economic standpoint, $14 for a session of racquetball is pretty reasonable. When you compare it to some of the other things I spend money on, it’s actually pretty cheap. We go out to dinner a few times a month and that’s $75 or whatever each time, and I have no problem with that. When we go to the movies, it’s $40 for the four of us, not that we go that often. But from a psychological standpoint, the gym felt like too much money for some reason.

What are the things people don’t spend on even though they aren’t much money, and what are the things that you splurge on that probably don’t make economic sense?

Read the fine print

by Rhode

When Not Reading The Fine Print Can Cost Your Soul

This made me laugh out loud today. What’s some of the weirdest fine print you’ve encountered? have you started looking for these “easter” eggs?

Until this year, my company had a clause that said any content developed by my company did not necessarily reflect the opinions of my company. Which prompted me to ask “if we don’t stand behind what we write, who does? And, what does this mean if we try to publish anything?”

It was a moment of “mom washes the dishes before she puts them in the dishwasher. What does the dishwasher do?”

Optimum amount of leisure time

by WCE

This article talks about how having an appropriate amount of leisure is conducive to happiness, and either too much or too little makes people less happy. When others on this blog recall their busy days with young children, it gives me perspective that my current busy season will not last forever and I should make choices (and spend money!) to make this season easier when I can.

Are you happy with the amount of leisure you have? Do you agree with the observations in the article?

How Much Leisure Time Do the Happiest People Have?
Too little, and people tend to get stressed. Too much, and people tend to feel idle.

Thursday open thread

We have an open thread all day.

As always, if you don’t care to discuss this starter topic feel free to ignore it.  It’s been discussed a few times before.

From elementary school through college, girls are more disciplinedabout their schoolwork than boys; they study harder and get better grades. Girls consistently outperform boys academically. And yet, men nonetheless hold a staggering 95 percent of the top positions in the largest public companies.

What if those same habits that propel girls to the top of their class — their hyper-conscientiousness about schoolwork — also hold them back in the work force?

When investigating what deters professional advancement for women, the journalists Katty Kay and Claire Shipman found that a shortage of competence is less likely to be an obstacle than a shortage of confidence. When it comes to work-related confidence, they found men are far ahead. “Underqualified and underprepared men don’t think twice about leaning in,” they wrote. “Overqualified and overprepared, too many women still hold back. Women feel confident only when they are perfect.”

As a psychologist who works with teenagers, I hear this concern often from the parents of many of my patients. They routinely remark that their sons do just enough to keep the adults off their backs, while their daughters relentlessly grind, determined to leave no room for error. The girls don’t stop until they’ve polished each assignment to a high shine and rewritten their notes with color-coded precision.

Tuesday open thread

We have an open thread all day.

Here’s something to kick off our conversation.

Forget about income or net worth, this may be the most definitive measure of middle-class status.  Take the quiz to find out if you qualify!

If You Have 17/38 Of These Items In Your Fridge, You’re Definitely Middle-Class
It’s the only way to know for sure.

Upcoming topics:

Wednesday  —  Solving crimes  (Rhode)
Thursday  —  Open thread
Friday  —  Optimum amount of leisure time  (WCE)
Sunday —  Politics open thread


by Denver Dad

In a previous discussion about cars, Lark said she is an over-researcher. So it got me thinking about the things I over-research. The big one is travel. I spend way too much time trying to get the best flight times, find the best places to stay in the perfect location for the best price, etc. I probably over-research other things as well, but not nearly to this extent.

So what are the things that you research to death? And what are the things that you research very little or not at all?

Politics open thread, March 3-9

A new political discussion starts today.

From WCE:

I often think that no political label fits me- pragmatist doesn’t seem to be one of the choices. I enjoyed this article on Amazon’s withdrawal from New York City. It discusses the need for progressives to embrace economic development. My favorite quote is, “Progressives need to talk about jobs and economic development; we can’t just operate on the assumption that this is a rich nation with ample resources that simply need redistribution.”

Since the West Coast has high housing prices in part due to the long-term consequences of the anti-growth initiatives of the 1970’s, the argument applies here too.

Progressives Risk Killing More Than the Amazon Deal

The Moneyist

by July

The Moneyist column is one of my guilty pleasures.  It bills itself as “the ethics and etiquette of your financial affairs”, and typically features a money problem tinged with family drama.  Like this one from Disgruntled Wife:

I just discovered that my husband is leaving his personal savings …to his mother

As is the case with every column, the Moneyist responds and then readers chime in with their comments.

How would you advise Disgruntled Wife?  What about these other sticky situations?

My dad didn’t love me! He only left me $10,000

My boyfriend and I have two kids — should I pay off his $130,000 student debt?

The next time you go anywhere, remember the $1 tip is dead

Can you personally relate to these cases?  Do you have any Moneyist stories?

Are they done yet?

by S&M

Three recent things bring me to this question:

A mother’s Facebook response to her son’s post looking for tips on getting to sleep better. Had I not known she was his mother (and a mother I have always admired), I would not have recognized it from this, or any of her comments on his page. She seems to fully accept that he is now a (young!) adult, making his own decisions and his way in the world.

A conversation with my son, in which he asked if I think he’s “turned out well”. I don’t think he’s “turned out” yet at all, think we have a couple more very important years to go. At his age, no one would have predicted what I’d be like by the time I was 25+.

This news article, in which a father says he ignored his son’s warning that something was illegal, basically because he’s a bratty kid who shouldn’t be taken as seriously as he wants to be.

GOP candidate slams his ‘arrogant’ and ‘judgmental’ son who warned him about breaking election laws in North Carolina

So my questions are: when do you think a kid is grown up? How did your relationship with yours change, or how do you expect it to change? What do you see as an ideal relationship between parent and adult child?

I have been enjoying my son’s recent personality developments, his interests and his sense of humor. I will always be there if he wants advice or shelter, but at his request. Mostly I hope that we will be able to interact much as I would with any bright young person making their way in the world. I see it as my job now to prepare him to be an active agent in the world, making his own choices and able to accept the results, good or bad. I hope we will stay close, and that I’ll be close to any grandbabies. I think accepting him as an adult a few years from now will be key in developing that closeness. How about you?

Carpe diem

by July

This tweet is from a daughter whose mother died leaving behind many of her best things that she was never able to enjoy because she was saving them for some distant day.

Are you finding the right balance between enjoying it now and prudently saving for the future?

Don’t wait, enjoy it now

I’ve done a lot of thinking about life and death, growing older and mortality in the past few months. I was quite depressed for a while, could not escape the thought that one could be perfectly fine today, but wake up tomorrow with a lump or a pain that was going to change everything.

Feeling better now and have come to realize that this is the time to enjoy life more and do the things that bring me joy. DH and I are planning two trips this year, and I am not going to delay them because what if my parents need me or maybe we should pay off a few more bills first, we are going this year.

I just purchased a new comforter and window shades for our bedroom and am having the room painted next week. Not 100% necessary, but it will make me happy every day.

What else? What can you do today or this month or this year that makes you happy?

Dealing with negative thoughts

by Swim

How do you keep yourself from letting negative thoughts intrude on your day? There are days when I feel bulletproof – negativity and drama will roll right off me. Other days I am rattled by small things, and when I find myself rattled I scold myself for being rattled and a downward spiral begins. When you find yourself in one of those moods, how do you pull yourself out?

The long and short of commuting

by AustinMom

WCE’s comment on 2/8/18 regarding the preschool choice made me think about commutes for work, school or extra-curricular activities. For my first 10 years in my city, I lived less than 4 miles of my workplace and all my routine activities were within a 10 mile radius. When I met SO, he lived 12 miles from my workplace, but his house was paid for and I rented. It took me a long time to adjust to tripling my commute. From a 4 to 12 mile one way trip. A 4 mile commute doesn’t change much with more/less traffic, but when your 6 miles at 60 mph becomes 6 miles at 20 miles an hour, it makes a huge difference. Normal days, it was a 45 minute round trip.

We were willing to commute for DD#1’s school – 12 miles one way, but a different direction from work! Until she could drive, we had her use the school-provided transportation as much as possible, though we still had to take/pick up from a central location about 3 miles from home. Although DD#2 commutes to a school in another district, we live close to the border, so the distance isn’t much different, but there is no school-provided transportation.

My part-time job’s commute most days is to walk up the stairs. About once a month, I make the 12 mile commute downtown. Recently, I started a second part-time job teaching a fitness class. My current drive is 40 minutes each way to teach an hour class. However, no later than September, my drive will remain the same and I will be teaching for 4 hours. Most of it is highway driving and it is outside of “rush hour” and even then going the opposite direction. My overall commute is typically 80 minutes a week, and one week a month is becomes 2 to 2.5 hours.

How far (distance) and/or how long (minutes/hours) are you willing to commute for work, school or extra-curricular activities? Here is a link to states with the longest and shortest commutes. Does your experience match up?

These are the states with the longest and shortest commutes — how does yours stack up?

Silly jokes

by Swim

What are your favorite silly jokes? This one still cracks me up:

A skeleton walks into a bar. Bartender says, “What’ll ya have?” Skeleton says, “Gimme a beer…and a mop.”

Gets me every time.

Technology Q&A

by July

Let’s talk tech.

33 Mostly Free Ways to Fix Your Family’s Tech Problems – WSJ

Do these tips make sense to you?  What other advice do you have for tech problems?

I can relate to this:

Spam calls have stopped people from answering their phones

Plus mostly good stuff on the horizon:

From Wi-Fi to Bluetooth to 5G, All Your Wireless Is About to Change – WSJ

Does you have any questions about technology issues?  Post them in the comments and we may be able to help each other out.

Enjoy a cocktail and improve your Spanish

by July

It’s True: Alcohol Helps You Speak a Foreign Language Better

You know this is true.  After a drink or two the words flow more easily, in any language!  Remembering my youthful days traveling in Mexico, I always had more confidence yakking it up with locals once I had a drink or two.

Let’s talk languages and imbibing.  What foreign languages do you speak, fluently or passably?  Do family members speak other languages besides English?  What about your drinking habits?  Are you drinking less, more, or about the same as ever these days?  What’s your favorite adult beverage?  Any health concerns?  And is the decriminalization of marijuana having any effect on the partying habits of people you know?

Also, do you have specific examples where knowing another language has helped in career growth?

Break down the silos

by Rhode

May be best for the political page, but I found some similarities to what we’ve talked about here and what this Tedx talk focused on – the idea that we are in silos and respond only with “like minded” people, so we never push to the folks we don’t know well enough and have a conversation. We don’t leave room for compromise. The title of the talk is “Why we’re the reason Washington’s broken”

This is part of pre-homework I have for the leadership program. This month’s focus is on leading in this complex age, how to use conversations as a mechanism for leadership (that you must engage all levels rather than top-down directives), that you must be willing to be disturbed (that is have your opinions tested, and listen to others rather than react), and find a way to have safe conversations to draw out those people who don’t want to be heard for fear of reprisal or judgement.

Tuesday open thread

We have an open thread today.

For a starter you can take this challenge:

What do you pack for a one-week trip to . . . San Francisco?  Or San Diego?  Or pick another location.  Can you stick to carry-on?  What do you wear on the plane?

I was inspired by this thread:  Help Me Pack

Since I try to be a minimalist packer, I like the advice in this NYT article to leave behind ‘Most of the clothes you’re thinking of bringing’ and ‘Anything you “might” use’.

Upcoming topics:

Wednesday  —  Break down the silos  (Rhode)
Thursday  —  Open thread
Friday  —  Enjoy a cocktail and improve your Spanish   (July)
Sunday —  Politics open thread

Parental advice

by North of Boston

We Totebaggers are full of good, prudent advice. But what advice of yours have your children actually taken? If they didn’t take your advice on something, how did it turn out? (i.e., did the outcome make you think, “Well, they proved me wrong on that one”, or did it make you think, “I told you so!”) If you had to rank all the pieces of advice that you give your kids, what are the top two or three that you hope they follow, even if they disregard everything else?

And on the other side of the generational divide, what advice that your parents gave you are you particularly glad you took or did not take? What advice do you regret taking or not taking?

* * *

Plus, this from Louise:

Weird news from New Jersey

by Rhode

Weird News… from NJ this time (home of weird things…):

I don’t wanna be hamburger! Cow leaps onto I-80 from slaughterhouse-bound truck.

Cow ends up on Route 80 in Paterson (not known for its farm animals…). But the story gets better:

The cow that escaped the slaughterhouse gave birth, and her new baby is udderly adorable

She gave birth!

Anyone have a commuting “weird” story??

Charging Your Kids Room and Board

by Ginger

My daughter, a recent college graduate, moved back home after graduation. She has a well-paying job and she’s living at home to build up her savings. She has no student loans. DH and I discussed that once DD starts working full time, she should contribute to household expenses, and we agreed on a monthly amount for room and board.

We broached the topic with DD a couple of months before she started her job. She was angry and offended. She’s reluctantly paying room and board while slowly getting used to the idea. She’s also finding out that some of her friends are paying room and board, too, as well making student loan payments.

DH and I both paid room and board for the short time that we lived at home after college. Totebaggers, did you pay room and board if/when you moved back home after college? Do you plan on asking your kids to contribute to household expenses if they live with you post-graduation?

My grown kid lives at home. How much rent should I charge?

Why you should consider charging your kids board

Tuesday open thread

We can discuss whatever’s on our mind today.

Soup is on my mind.  Some of you have recently mentioned making soup.  Care to share recipes?  (I still make and enjoy Lark’s easy white bean soup, spiced up for our tastes.)

Upcoming topics:

Wednesday  —  Charging Your Kids Room and Board   (Ginger)
Thursday  —  Open thread
Friday  —  Weird news from New Jersey  (Rhode)
Sunday —  Politics open thread

Admissions lottery for college

by North of Boston

When we’ve talked about the admissions process for highly-selective colleges in the past, people here have remarked that choosing randomly from amongst a college’s applicant pool would probably be just as good as a big, high-priced admissions committee hand-picking individuals from that pool. Well, apparently some people who study such things agree that a lottery system would be a good idea:

Why elite colleges should use a lottery to admit students

So, Totebaggers, what do you think? For any college (not just the elite ones), do you like the idea that applicants should just have to show a baseline level of academic proficiency, and then just have a lottery determine who gets in?

Utilities failure

by WCE

Pacific Gas and Electric may declare bankruptcy over liability for California wildfires. Given that utilities are heavily regulated and limited to ~5% profitability by those regulators and that trimming trees and burying power lines are both expensive, I’m not sure that having some other company owning the pipelines and power lines in California will make much of a difference. Based on maintenance of school buildings and public housing, I suspect state or federal governments would do a worse job of funding routine maintenance if government owned utilities outright.

PG&E to file for bankruptcy following devastating California wildfires WaPo

MLK Day open thread

What’s on your mind today?

Upcoming topics:

Tuesday  —  Put out to pasture too soon   (Rocky Mountain Stepmom)
Wednesday  —  Pantry pests!  (Rhode)
Thursday  —  Utilities failure   (WCE)
Friday  —  Admissions lottery for college  (North of Boston)
Sunday —  Politics open thread

Tips for Aging Well

by Seattle Soccer Mom

I’ve been meaning to write this post for a while and then was inspired by Scarlett’s question of why people don’t plan for older folks who are likely to have sudden medical crises (my answer – living in denial (about my father) seems easier in the short run than actually dealing with it; also there do not appear to be any good options).

Here are my thoughts on what I plan to do as I get older – but I’d also greatly appreciate tips on dealing with aging parents who have little financial resources and have not done any planning.

  • Exercise so I can maintain mobility for as long as possible. My mother a) did not exercise and b) was quite heavy the combination of which made her final years when she was dealing with cancer even more difficult. And even before the cancer diagnosis she would complain about all the stairs in our house or if she had to walk a couple blocks or walk up hill. This was in her 60s. When she was understandably quite weak from cancer, the fire dept. had to be called a couple times to help lift her as she was too heavy for her caregivers to lift.
  • If I’m going to relocate, try to do so when I’m in my 60’s and still have the capacity to make friends and develop a social network. My father relocated to Seattle when he was 77. He has short term memory issues which makes connecting with people and making new friends difficult. He is quite lonely as I am his only social support. My MIL, on the other hand, has lived in Tacoma almost her entire left and has a great support network.
  • Aging in a city seems or in a small/mid-size town where you can walk everywhere seems much easier than in a rural area (or a suburban area that requires driving). The plus of my dad moving to Seattle from Palm Springs is that he can walk to the grocery story and the gym and then take Uber and/or bus/train to places outside of his walking zone.
  • If you relocate, consider how easy it is for family to visit. My mom relocated in her 50s to Northwest Arkansas – beautiful area (Ozarks) – but it required 2 plane rides followed by a 2 ½ hour drive for any of us to visit her. She had to drive to go anywhere. When she got sick with pneumonia she was stuck (we rotated flying out to stay with her but that wasn’t a practical long-term solution). This experience caused my mom to relocate outside of Sacramento – easy airport access for the rest of us.
  • Move out of our current house (not at all age friendly and not really possible to make it age friendly) into a more age friendly house in our 60’s. Don’t wait until we are 83 and need a walker to realize that our current house isn’t age friendly.
  • Try to be proactive in planning for my old age and not just wait for a crisis that forces my kids to deal with it (aka my father’s approach).

Fellow totebaggers – what tips do you have? And I’d greatly appreciate any that have to do with aging parents who are stuck in denial (and don’t have the assets to move into a retirement community). And/or lessons learned from working with your parents.

Silly Tricks for Budgeting

by Louise

Now, that Holiday shopping is coming to a close, let’s examine our spending. Did you spend too much and a fiscal shutdown is in order or are there still a few dollars in the piggy bank ? What are some of your budgeting tricks ? Putting money away in discretionary spending accounts, not going over a certain amount in your bank or credit card, waiting for returns to be credited before buying more, no more Amazon . Share with us your tricks for spending less.

Tuesday open thread

We have an open thread all day.

I’ve been wondering how people feel about this.

Is Marie Kondo Wrong About Books?

… The books you read convey meaning to you; the books you keep convey meaning to others. The best reason to keep books in your home is to show them off to other people.


More opinions:

Keep your tidy, spark-joy hands off my book piles, Marie Kondo WaPo


Book people, especially, have balked at the idea that they should dispose of any books that don’t spark joy.

Upcoming topics:

Wednesday  —  Silly Tricks for Budgeting  (Louise)
Thursday  —  Tips for Aging Well  (Seattle Soccer Mom)
Friday  —  Weird News: What about your town?   (Rhode)
Sunday —  Politics open thread

Hometown food favorites

by Cassandra

We recently picked up out of state DD from the airport with an In N Out milkshake in the car, tritip and crab on the dinner menus for her time with us. Other foods were also requested. What do your out of state kids want to eat when they get back? What foods sing to you of home? Do your children enjoy your childhood comfort foods?

It’s a small world

by Becky

I was in New Orleans recently for a long weekend, and it turned out that a good friend from high school and college who lives about 900 miles from me and whom I haven’t seen in at least a decade was staying in the same hotel as me. We were able to meet in the lobby for a drink and catch up. It was a delightful coincidence.

Share your “small world” stories!

Parenting teenagers

by S&M

Parents of current and former teens, please chime in! I understand that this curve represents the norm of teen years and parenting thereof, and now am experiencing it myself. Please post, in solidarity, stories of highs and lows, humorous or heart-tugging.

I don’t know which line is the parent and which is the kid, lol!

Tuesday open thread

We have an open thread all day today.

Here’s a starter topic if you’re interested.

Duvets and Comforters, recommendations

I’m sure some totebaggers have ideas on this, particularly on “the pros and cons” of duvet covers.  Apparently many people struggle to get a comforter inside a duvet cover and to make it stay in place.  But duvet covers do seem to fit in nicely with the idea of no top sheets.

I find a down comforter inside a white duvet cover just perfect.  What do you like?

Upcoming topics:

Wednesday  —  Parenting teenagers  (S&M)
Thursday  —  It’s a small world  (Becky)
Friday  —  Hometown food favorites  (Cassandra)
Sunday —  Politics open thread

‘Superstar’ cities

by Louise

Where You Should Move to Make the Most Money_ America_s Superstar Cities – WSJ

Totebaggers what do you think of where you are located in terms of jobs, opportunities and quality of life. Are you in one of the established metros or in an upcoming “hot” city. Do you want to move?

Let’s discuss location.

[Original WSJ link: Where You Should Move to Make the Most Money: America’s Superstar Cities]

What’s your spirit holiday?

by S&M

As was recently evident from my zealous posting (sorry!) on The Gift Post, I like selecting, wrapping, and giving presents. That makes Christmas a tough-to-beat holiday for me, although this buzz quiz says I’m not a total fanatic. I also love birthdays, gifts or not. My son and I lean heavily into “it’s your special day” whether that means an outing, a special supper, or simply granting wishes/following directions especially fast. This year he “gave” me dinner out, including him eating something he never would have tried another day.

What about you? What holiday do you like to get in the spirit of, and what is that “spirit”? Scaring people at Halloween? Partying like it’s 1999 on New Years Eve? Backyard glamping or a building a truly rustic booth for Sukkot? Bonus points for stories illustrative of your holiday spirit.

The value of a ‘super-selective’ college

by Fred

Does It Matter Where You Go to College?
Research suggests that elite colleges don’t really help rich white guys. But they can have a big effect if you’re not rich, not white, or not a guy.

Key points:
(1) “The difference we found is that college selectivity does seem to matter, especially for married women, by raising earnings almost entirely through the channel of increased labor force participation,” she says.

If you’re not an economist, that might sound complicated. But it’s pretty simple. For the vast majority of women, the benefit of going to an elite college isn’t higher per-hour wages. It’s more hours of work. Women who graduate from elite schools delay marriage, delay having kids, and stay in the workforce longer than similar women who graduate from less-selective schools.

(2) ” lower-income students at an elite school such as Columbia University have a “much higher chance of reaching the [top 1 percent] of the earnings distribution” than those at an excellent public university, such as SUNY Stony Brook in Long Island”

(3) ” The simplest answer to the question “Do elite colleges matter?” is: It depends on who you are. In the big picture, elite colleges don’t seem to do much extra for rich white guys. But if you’re not rich, not white, or not a guy, the elite-college effect is huge. It increases earnings for minorities and low-income students, and it encourages women to delay marriage and work more”

What do you think?


Calculating the Risk of College

(Original link from the WSJ:  Calculating the Risk of College)

A Retirement PhD

by Rhett

Totebaggers are generally very into learning. But mainly in the sense of acquiring knowledge that is already known. Calculus would be example #1. But what about discovering something that isn’t currently known? If you had the chance to investigate something – what would it be?

For me I have two possible topics.

1. PhD in Economics: What goes into a company’s decision to recruit at some schools and not others? Stanford vs. Berkeley vs. San Jose State vs. Chico State, etc.

2. PhD in Transportation Engineering: Traffic waves and how they can be reduced or eliminated.


What about you?

New Year’s Eve open thread

Happy New Year!  We have an open thread today and tomorrow.

Tonight’s the night to celebrate the end of 2018 and the beginning of 2019.  What’s your celebration style, raucous partying or quiet evening at home?  Or something in between?

Do you have any resolutions for 2019?  And what were your biggest accomplishments of 2018?

Since one of my latest life priorities seems to be downsizing and organizing my life, I can relate to this tweet.  (Sometimes little things can give great satisfaction.)

Upcoming topics:

Wednesday  —  A Retirement PhD   (Rhett)
Thursday  —  The value of a ‘super-selective’ college   (Fred)
Friday  —  What’s your spirit holiday?   (S&M)
Sunday —  Politics open thread

Weird news: Unloved books

by Rhode

Tweeting about a book that sat on the shelves for 27 years…A little Totebag love for the “unloved” books.

Bookstore’s Tweet On The Sale Of A Children’s Book After 27 Years Goes Viral

What’s the oddest title in your collection (print or digital)? Or the oddest “section” of books if you’re like me and organize your shelves by topic then author?

(At work, I have “A Treatise on Limnology”… I very rarely talk/research about lakes, but I own a book that is 2 inches thick all about them.. We won’t talk about the book on managing wastewater.)

What motivates really rich people?

by WCE

I wouldn’t have chosen the title of this article, but the idea that wealthy people are driven more by competitiveness than desire for money was interesting. It makes me ponder taxing the incomes of people who are not dual professional couples paying off student loans more.

The Reason Many Ultrarich People Aren’t Satisfied With Their Wealth
At a certain point, another million dollars doesn’t make anything newly affordable. That’s when other motivations take over.