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.


Changing your views

[Here’s a meaty topic that we can try to discuss on the main section of our blog.  If you think the comments are getting out of hand let all of us know.  —  July]

by Becky

We are all well aware that we have a variety of political leanings among Totebaggers. This article describes research into the origins of those leanings. Do you agree? Have you had life experiences that led you to change your views to a more conservative or more liberal stance?

I had a moderate anti-gun stance growing up. We did not own a gun, and a story my dad told me about a friend of his that I knew stuck with me. Someone had attempted to break into their house while he was home. He grabbed his gun and chased the guy down the street. The criminal was younger and more fit and got away from him. He was telling my dad the story and saying that he thanks God that the kid got away. He was just a teenager, and he was thinking afterward “I’m gonna shoot a kid over a TV?” However, the patient voices on here and some friends helped me see a different perspective, and my views are much different now. This is NOT a gun discussion, that is just an example of how my coming to feel less fearful of a subject made me change my views on it. Has anyone had a similar experience?

At Yale, we conducted an experiment to turn conservatives into liberals. The results say a lot about our political divisions.

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

How to measure a trend

by S&M

How do you measure a trend? To these researchers, it seems to be about numbers at peak popularity, and perhaps about staying power. I would measure a trend by how rapidly it spread, and how rapidly it faded away. For names, that means that there are some people whose age you can guess fairly accurately simply by knowing their first name. Kohl/Cole might be such a name for boys. There are three in my son’s age group basketball league at the Y; I don’t know anyone else with that name.

Does it always make sense to measure trends the same way, or how should trends other than names be measured?

This Is the Trendiest Baby Name in US History

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?

Favorite Dinners / Suppers of Your Childhood

by Honolulu Mother

Towards the end of the day the discussion on a recent topic turned to old family favorites, especially those from childhood. Mémé mentioned tamale pie:

Several of us were familiar with variations on the other one she mentioned:

“It is called American Chop Suey in New England, sometimes goulash elsewhere. Ground beef, canned chopped tomatoes, tomato paste, onions, bell pepper, and macaroni.”

The variation I knew as a childhood favorite was tallerini (tollerini? talerinei?), which was egg noodles cooked in an electric skillet with ground beef and onions, tomatoes (maybe tomato sauce), black olives, and corn. I see various recipes online calling for adding cheddar cheese on top and baking, but the version I knew was served from the skillet.

Another regular on my childhood table, and a favorite of mine, was creamed tuna on rice. We always had it with mayonnaise to mix in and peas on the side (also good mixed in!), a tradition dating from my mother’s childhood when her younger brother accidentally got some mayonnaise from his sliced avocado mixed in with his creamed tuna. The rest of the family didn’t initially believe his assertion that it was good that way, but when he kept adding mayonnaise every time it was served they were convinced. This is one I think you have to grow up with — my grandfather, and my own father, who didn’t, were not fans. Luckily for me my husband also grew up with creamed tuna!

What were your favorites of the regular family dinners from your childhood? Do you ever make them for your own family?

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?

Retirement stuff

by July

Are you on track to meet your financial goals for retirement?

The Fidelity Retirement ScoreSM
Know where you stand for retirement in just 60 seconds. Answer 6 simple questions to get your score and additional steps to consider as you save for retire

What states have you considered for your retirement years?

All 50 states ranked for retirement from worst to best

Lately as I have become more educated about Social Security and Medicare I have realized how much I did not know.

5 things the average American should know about Medicare

Has it been relatively easy for you or your relatives to make decisions about Medicare and Social Security?  What have been good sources of information on these topics — the government, professionals, or other resources?

Book Reviews: Should They Sting?

by Honolulu Mother

In a Baffler article, Rafia Zakaria complains that book reviews have become too reluctant to criticize, ranging in tone from praise to neutral description and leaving off the part of the spectrum running from critical to scathing.

Waiting for the critic’s verdict used to be a moment of high anxiety, but there’s not so much to worry about anymore. The general tone and tenor of the contemporary book review is an advertisement-style frippery. And, if a rave isn’t in order, the reviewer will give a stylized summary of sorts, bookended with non-conclusions as to the book’s content. Absent in either is any critical engagement, let alone any excavation of the book’s umbilical connection to the world in which it is born. Only the longest-serving critics, if they are lucky enough to be ensconced in the handful of newspapers that still have them, paw at the possibility of a negative review. And even they, embarking on that journey of a polemical book review, temper their taunts and defang their dissection.

She blames this largely on political correctness, for reasons that I found rather twisty and difficult to follow. I think she may be right about the decline of the negative review, but I suspect it has more to do with the cutbacks in print journalism and hence a drop in the number of review writers for whom writing book reviews is their primary job, as compared to general style section writers who may take the same approach to book blurbs as to home decoration trends or travel tips: pointing out what’s new and interesting, not critically distinguishing between the good and the bad.

As far as the benefit of negative book reviews, I find them helpful from a critic whose judgment I trust, less helpful from an unknown writer, and downright annoying from a writer who appears to be more focused on showing off his or her own clever turns of phrase than on giving the prospective reader a good sense of what the book is like.  Given the choice between the latter and a plot summary from late, great Harriet Klausner, I’d take the plot summary.

Do you like negative book reviews? And if so, is it mainly because you find them informative, or mainly because you enjoy reading those British-style negative reviews that tear the subject to pieces?

Prepared and safe

by July


You never know what might happen on the road. Stepping out your door into the unknown is what makes travel so exciting. Each day brings endless possibility, but that possibility is for both good and bad. You may end up enjoying a day sightseeing in Paris — or getting robbed in Berlin. You may spend an amazing day on the beaches of Thailand — or suffer food poisoning in Costa Rica.

The author’s tips are basic and include packing a flashlight, taking extra credit cards, and keeping a list of emergency contacts.  But I know travelers do not follow this advice.

Here is someone who shares her advice after a bad experience.

What I learned after being robbed at gunpoint in Mexico

Being prepared and staying safe is not just important for traveling.  Even just stepping out the door for local trips should include some thinking in advance.  I always try to have some cash with me, but some young people don’t seem to find that to be a necessary precaution.

And then there’s the gender difference.

28 Things Women Do On A Night Out That Men Rarely Have To Think About

What’s your experience?  Your thoughts?  Any advice?

Slackchat and IM-at-work

by Honolulu Mother

I don’t use Slackchat myself, but my son has been using it, I think primarily in connection with an internship he’s doing. I was interested to see this Vanity Fair article suggesting the way it’s set up blurs the lines between work and home:

Slack Made Work More Social. What Does It Do to Your Social Life?

I must admit, I’m not quite clear from the article how Slackchat is qualitatively different this way from something like the Skype-for-business that my office uses, or Google Hangouts. It sounds like you still have the option to never open it outside the office; it’s just that people have been using it with friends and acquaintances outside work so end up catching their work messages since they’re already on. But perhaps I’m misunderstanding it.

Do you use a work IM service, and do you find that it blurs the lines between work and personal life for you, or do you mostly just use it at the office?

‘Amazon wants a key to your house’

by Finn

Amazon wants access to your house, via an electronic lock that they can remotely unlock. Would you let them have access? I can see that it might be a benefit if package thefts are a problem, or if you don’t have a place out of the weather for package delivery.

Who else would you allow access to your house?

Amazon wants a key to your house. I did it. I regretted it.

I think I’d only do it if I could create some sort of delivery area from which the rest of the house could be secured. I’d also have an old-fashioned lock or two on the door with the Amazon lock, and only unlock those locks when I’m expecting a delivery.

Leadership and IQ

by Honolulu Mother

Apparently a leader’s intelligence has diminishing returns for his or her popularity — it increases perceived effectiveness up to a point, but higher-IQ leaders are perceived as less effective regardless of their actual performance.

Why People Dislike Really Smart Leaders
Those with an IQ above 120 are perceived as less effective, regardless of actual performance

On average, the sweet spot is an IQ of around 120, but it could vary across fields:

The ratings peaked at an IQ of around 120, which is higher than roughly 80 percent of office workers. Beyond that, the ratings declined. The researchers suggest the “ideal” IQ could be higher or lower in various fields, depending on whether technical versus social skills are more valued in a given work culture.

Have you seen this at work in your office or elsewhere?

The future of football

by Flyover

Boxing was mainstream entertainment in the 50s and 60s, but has turned into a niche sport today. Will football go the same way? Given what we now know about brain injury, I believe the football landscape will look far different 50 years from now. I expect that, at some point, a school district, youth league, or college will lose a football-in jury-related lawsuit and insurers will raise the price of insuring programs such that they will become unjustifiable financially.

Neither of my boys was interested in playing tackle football, though both enjoyed playing touch in the backyard with friends. A flag football league would have been a nice option.

Maryland to introduce bill to ban tackle football under age 14

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

No-host Birthday Parties

by Honolulu Mother

This Washington Post article declared that the writer would be opting out of birthday parties where it’s not clear whether guests are expected to pay for themselves and the birthday celebrant (or where it’s clear that they are).

Stop charging me to attend your celebrations — #guestsdontpay

The writer, Michelle Singletary, explains the problems she’s seen:

Too many times, I’ve shown up for an event and been told after consuming the meal that I’m expected not just to pay for my food, but to chip in for the guest of honor. I’ve been at events when others — caught by surprise or knowing they don’t have the money — skip out without paying their share. This leaves the remaining guests to pick up the cost of what wasn’t paid.

I would have thought a decision to avoid such events would be uncontroversial, but apparently the column sparked off Facebook debates that also drew in the new Facebook thing of doing a birthday fundraiser and exhorting friends to contribute to a chosen cause.

I haven’t been seeing this myself, probably due to a combination of stage of life (my peers have money and houses now) and generation (I don’t think that inviting people to join you for dinner and expecting them to pay for your meal as well as their own was as much of a thing in my misspent youth). How about the rest of you — have you seen this trend? What do you think of it?

Making your day more productive

by July

Why The 8-Hour Workday Doesn’t Work

The ideal work-to-break ratio was 52 minutes of work, followed by 17 minutes of rest.

What schedule works best for you?

This NYT article makes reference to deliberate practice, which also applies in academics and sports.

At least one of our regulars can relate to this.

How Hard Do Professors Actually Work?
A recent Twitter battle revealed that faculty members themselves can’t agree on an answer.

What are your observations about working smarter?  Any advice?

Fill in the blanks

by Finn

Fill in the blanks:

Aside from a _____, a _____ will be the most expensive thing I will ever buy.

Aside from a _____, a _____ has been the most expensive thing I”ve ever bought.

I’m sure you’ve seen statements like this many times, with various things in the blanks. What accurately fills the blanks for you? How does that compare to other ways you’ve seen them filled?

Open thread

We have an open thread all day.

Anyone watching the Olympics?  Ann Althouse “had 2 big problems with the Olympics opening ceremony”.

1.. Phony nationalities: There were way too many “Olympians” who were there because they marched under a flag that was not, in fact, their home country, and these people seemed to be mostly Americans…

2. All those references to “Asia” in the script: The NBC announcers had a script to read as the dance/theater extravaganza unfolded, and for some reason, instead of telling us about how the various costumes, symbols, movements, and projections said something about Korea, they kept saying things like “and Asia,” “and all over Asia,” and “and Asian people in general.” Why?! Asia’s a big place, with culture and history that didn’t take place in one united whole group …

She also commented on the costumes.

Ranking every piece of Team USA’s Winter Olympics opening ceremony outfit


by Honolulu Mother

According to a PsychToday post, profanity has its benefits, including pain relief!

Profanity Can Be Therapeutic AF

How often do you swear? Are you ok with others’ use of profanity? What if those others are your colleagues? Or your children?

I am an occasional profanity user, and tolerate a certain amount of kid profanity given that mine are teens who hear it from peers all day, but draw the line when it’s directed at other family members (i.e. no you cannot call your sister / brother that!)


Two submissions on one topic:


by MooshiMooshi

My kids do not use their lockers. My oldest gave up on it in 8th grade when it became clear it was one of the reasons he was misplacing things and coming home without the materials he needed for school. His ADHD coach suggested he keep everything in his backpack, he tried it, and it was so much better that he has not visited a locker in years now. His little brother, who tends to be a hoarder anyway, adopted the same practice as soon as he hit middle school. I would see the little guy trudging off to school with a backpack almost bigger than himself, largely because he stuffed it with large history books and D&D manuals. He said he really liked having everything he wanted with him all the time. My third kid, now in 6th grade, is also following the practice after she mistakenly left her cellphone in her locker over a weekend. The horror, a whole weekend without texting!

But I thought it was just my weird kids. No, it is a trend, and here is the article to prove it.

Schools and lockers: No longer the right combination


by Honolulu Mother

Do your kids use their lockers? Has your school gotten rid of them or do they still find them useful? Do they even have textbooks or papers to lug around any more? And is this a bit of Americana, like the rite of passage of a learner’s permit at 16, which is disappearing?

I thought my kids were just weird about not wanting to use their lockers. Then I saw this WaPo article about how most high schoolers aren’t claiming lockers anymore:

Schools and lockers: No longer the right combination

Per the article,

The trend has expanded so rapidly and widely that schools are now removing individual student lockers from their hallways, and builders and designers for many new high schools don’t even include them in their plans.

The students quoted cite reasons ranging from the impracticability of always stopping by one location on a large campus with a short time between classes (this is what my kids say, and based on my Open House night experiences, they’re right!), to the use of online textbooks or shared textbooks kept in the classroom. Locker manufacturers are looking at different types of lockers for school hallways:

Now, the company is introducing new products — including smart lockers that are shareable, open with the swipe of an ID and are wired to charge electronic devices — to respond to the downward trend. And, the company notes, lockers for high school athletic facilities remain in demand.

InMyDay, lockers were still a central point for a lot of high school socializing and who your locker neighbors were could have a big effect on your experience. But for my kids, that’s never been a part of their high school experience, and apparently they’re not alone. How about your family — do/did your middle or high school aged kids use a locker? Did you?

Global Potty-training

by Honolulu Mother

Here’s one for Rhode, WCE, and others still going through the potty wars. The WaPo has taken a culturally relativistic look at potty training in different world cultures:

Toilet training at 2 is normal in U.S. but very late in China and other countries

We followed a pretty standard American potty training timeline, with my boys trained around 2.5 to 3, and my daughter trained at more like 1.5 (she’s close enough in age to her older brother that they both learned at the same time). No potty boot camp or anything like that, just a family-wide preoccupation during the relevant period with who needs to potty, when everyone last pottied, where the nearest potty is, and so on.

Was your family’s approach a typical American one? Any odd wrinkles? Anyone try split pants, elimination communication, or another different approach? And those currently in the trenches, how’s it going?

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?

Fun data on people who move

by MooshiMooshi

This article looks at which cities attract new people. It is an especially fun article because it slices and dices the data in all kinds of interesting ways. In particular, it looks at moves in terms of distance (from another county, from another state, from another country), moves adjusted by population (which really changes the results), and by ethnicity (which changes things yet again). One of the takeaways – white people are moving to Colorado.

Broadly, one thing stands out: White people love Colorado. Denver, Aurora and Lakewood together account for the 21st largest metro area in the United States in terms of total population by our measure, yet it’s the seventh most popular among whites.

I also notice that black people seem to prefer to move South.

The top 10 places people are moving, and how their choices differ by race

Should You Have a Bucket List?

by Honolulu Mother

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


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:


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?


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?

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.


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….


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?


‘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?


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?

2017 Politics open thread, December 3-9

What’s on your mind this week?

We have a post today:

Family Values

by MooshiMooshi

This appeared in the NYTimes recently, and is clearly Totebag fodder. Surprise, surprise, blue staters are better at practicing family values than red staters. This article goes along with many things we have discussed here. And the fact that families are more stable, have lower divorce rates, and less teenage pregnancy in the blue states has been a trend for many,many years. Two key points

The liberal impulse may be to gloat: Those conservatives thunder about “family values” but don’t practice them. But there’s also perhaps a measure of hypocrisy in the blue states. As Cahn and Carbone put it: “Blue family values bristle at restrictions on sexuality, insistence on marriage or the stigmatization of single parents. Their secret, however, is that they encourage their children to simultaneously combine public tolerance with private discipline, and their children then overwhelmingly choose to raise their own children within two-parent families.


More broadly, conservative values don’t directly lead to premarital sex or divorce. Rather, statistical analysis suggests that religious conservatives end up divorcing partly because they marry early, are less likely to go to college and are disproportionately poor.

So the deeper problem seems to be the political choices that conservatives make, underinvesting in public education and social services (including contraception). This underinvestment leaves red states poorer and less educated — and thus prone to a fraying of the social fabric.

So does better education and social services lead to a higher likelihood that children grow up in two parent families? Or are two parent families more likely to be willing to invest in education and social services? Or is there something else, completely unrelated, that leads to better family value outcomes in blue states?

Happiness is other people…

by MooshiMooshi

This is something I had been thinking about for a long time, so it is nice to see my thoughts pulled together more coherently than I ever could. The gist of this article is that we have bought into the idea that happiness is an inner quest to undertaken in solitude. And yet

Study after study shows that good social relationships are the strongest, most consistent predictor there is of a happy life, even going so far as to call them a “necessary condition for happiness,” meaning that humans can’t actually be happy without them. This is a finding that cuts across race, age, gender, income and social class so overwhelmingly that it dwarfs any other factor.

And according to research, if we want to be happy, we should really be aiming to spend less time alone. Despite claiming to crave solitude when asked in the abstract, when sampled in the moment, people across the board consistently report themselves as happier when they are around other people than when they are on their own. Surprisingly this effect is not just true for people who consider themselves extroverts but equally strong for introverts as well.

The article goes on to make a point that I really agree with – our emphasis on self reliance even when it comes to happiness is causing us to ignore the very thing that will make us happy: other people. We push our children out, we push our elders away, when we become elders we proudly insist we don’t need to involve our kids. Long commutes and work hours make it hard to develop new friends when we are middle aged. Teens don’t get together any more – and I can attest to that one. While it certainly can be argued that unhappy people put less effort into social relationships and that is why they don’t have a good network of friends, I have also seen many examples of people who are depressed or anxious, but still part of a strong family or friendship network. It seems to me that people in that position have an easier time of it, because they have more support.

I’ve always found that I am happiest when I am part of a dense, full, social network of people who are physically present. I think that for the future, I am going to worry less about whether I should meditate or be mindful or surround myself with inspirational quotes, and instead focus more on keeping my relationships and building new ones.

Are you actively trying to build your social network, or do you think it really doesn’t matter?

The Dark Underbelly of Online Mattress Sales

by Honolulu Mother

Oh brave new world this is, that has such business models in it!

The War To Sell You A Mattress Is An Internet Nightmare

I have noticed the many Amazon reviewers mentioning that they got a free or discounted product in return for an honest review, but had no idea how thoroughly the cash-for-recommendations model had infiltrated the mattress business.

How do you filter online reviews? I like to look for a certain shape of review bars — a nice exponential curve that’s fat at the five star end and fades to almost nothing at the one star end. A spike at the one star end, even a small one, is bad news, although with some products (cell phones) it seems like you can’t avoid it. And of course you have to read to see if there are patterns to what people like, or dislike, about a product.

Give us your review of online product reviews!

Decluttering your kitchen

by July

29 Things to Get Rid of in the Kitchen (That You Won’t Miss)

  1. Take-out menus.
  2. Sugar packets.
  3. Parmesan cheese and red pepper packets from pizza deliveries.
  4. Decorative bottles of herb-infused olive oil.
  5. Duplicate salad tongs.
  6. All but one each of large, medium, and small spatulas.
  7. Half-used candles.
  8. Magnets you’re intending to fix.
  9. Advertising magnets.
  10. Kids’ meal toys, including character cups.
  11. Extra napkins you picked up from the burger joint.
  12. Ketchup packets.
  13. Chipped mugs.
  14. Aunt Jane’s highball glasses that you never, ever get down from the top shelf.
  15. The George Foreman grill you’ve used twice in the history of your decade-long marriage.
  16. Anything more than four hot pads.
  17. Stained or holey dish towels.
  18. All but five of the nice glass jar food containers and lids you’ve been hoarding.
  19. The serving platter that you never liked but kept because it was a gift.
  20. Take-out chopsticks.
  21. Extra whisks.
  22. Duplicate ice cream scoops.
  23. The cheese slicer.
  24. Old water bottles that you never reach for.
  25. Tupperware without lids.
  26. Lids without tupperware.
  27. Duplicate can openers.
  28. Duplicate garlic presses.
  29. Baby utensils you no longer need.

Any of these things hanging out in your kitchen right now?

If you have any of these items, can you justify keeping them?  Any other kitchen things you know you should discard?  On the other hand, what kitchen things are you missing or coveting?

Open thread

We have an open thread all day.

This is the time of year for deciding on a health insurance plan and other employee benefits.  It can be complicated.  Our plan includes the use of a health advocate at no extra cost.  Among the services offered are open enrollment assistance, care coordination, and assistance with complex medical conditions.

Have you completed your enrollment paperwork?  Any questions or advice to offer?

DIY or do-it-for-me?

by July

Homeowners’ Shift Away From DIY Projects Dries Up Paint Profits
Rising incomes and a stronger housing market have many hiring professional painters

Homeowners are increasingly leaving painting to the pros, complicating business for paint makers and retailers…..

“More and more is being done by the professional painter,” said Dan Calkins, president of global sales at Benjamin Moore & Co. “People just don’t have the time.”

Nicole Buddin, a 31-year-old marketing manager in Chicago, recently hired pros to help paint her new house in the suburbs after she and her husband painted their condo in the city themselves three years ago.

“It’s just so time consuming,” she said. “We swore we wouldn’t do that again.”

Whether it’s home renovations, repairs, or maintenance, it seems the people around me are relying more on professionals.  Maybe it’s because we’re getting older!

Have you noticed a “shift from DIY to do-it-for-me”?  Did you used to do more around the house?  Any DIY projects planned for this long Thanksgiving weekend?  Is tomorrow’s meal DIY or do-it-for-me?