Taking care of your kitchen

by S&M

This may speak to the many cooks in the group. I’m sure many have thought about the unifying effect of food, or felt what the interviewer describes in feeding his daughter (note: it’s become familiar to me again recently, as my son’s tastes have widened. Last night he happily ate chicken and yellow rice I made. The first few times that happened, a month ago, I literally cried.). But the interview also has a “things to teach your kid before they leave home” list that comes from a different slant than the very pragmatic perspective of other lists we’ve discussed. My favorite part of it is the following exchange, which connects global and local, personal and political:

FL: Right now, we are in an intense moment, maybe an existential moment, in our politics. You are obviously very busy because of that. This is a weird question to be asked, because we asked you onto our food show, but does it feel trivial, in this moment, to be talking about baking pies?

CR: We’re all human beings. We have to live through this period, and I actually think it’s really important that we retain our humanity now. One of the things that has been interesting to me – and I feel like people are recognizing that – is that at a moment in which the message out of some politicians is so divisive, they speak about fellow human beings in ways that dismiss their very existence or their right to exist, I think it’s really important that we have other things that can begin to bring us together. One of the things I have felt so strongly about and why I’m traveling around the country now talking to women is I think we haven’t been listening to each other very much. I think a lot of politicians are telling us what we should believe, they’re not really listening to people. Cooking meals, eating, sharing food, is something that is so basic to our humanity, and I think folks are retreating to some of these tried and true methods of being people together. So, I love it; I think it’s important. Probably the most special times of my lifetime are ones where I remember being around the table with family or friends, cooking and enjoying food together. There’s something that is just a common thread that runs through all of us.

Pie and politics: Cecile Richards on the unifying power of food

I think this interview on “taking care of the kitchen that takes care of you” went a bit awry—think she was more after things like how to refresh your cutting board by oiling it, and he was more into the food– but the topic (from both interviewer and interviewee’s perspectives) is an interesting one.

The best thing I’ve done for my kitchen recently is ditch half of it. I decided a few years back that I like a pattern on some china I have from my grandma better than what I chose at my wedding, and I started buying pieces to complete the set. I also have lovely mixing bowls from my grandmother, but one has a crack, so I asked for similar ones for Christmas a few years ago. What my sister got me, a set made of plastic that can go in the freezer, with lids that seal well, that have an ugly shape, just irritated me every time I used them. So the china went to Replacements.com, and the plastic bowls, along with a lot of hand me down odds and ends all went out. The things that are left are things I intentionally chose. I don’t want to get all Kondo here, but that little pang of love and happiness I’ve always gotten from using the original bowls (which I have kept) shows up a lot more often these days, when I pull out something I decided to keep.

What about you? What do you do to take care of the kitchen (or other spots) that take(s) care of you?


What stands the test of time?

by Rhode

[I’m giving this potentially contentious topic a try in our regular section.  You all can decide if it can be discussed without too much politics involved.  Let’s see how it goes.  —  July]

I saw these two articles and thought they’d be interesting to discuss.

“The Breakfast Club in the age of #MeToo” (stolen from the New Yorker)

These are two accounts – one a review of a live script reading of the Breakfast Club and a personal account of the Brat Pack films (by Molly Ringwald) in the #MeToo era.

Rediscovering ‘The Breakfast Club’ With … Jesse Eisenberg?

What About “The Breakfast Club”?
Revisiting the movies of my youth in the age of #MeToo.

What iconic movies from your life stand the test of time? Could they be made today exactly as they were? What movies don’t stand up? Do you still enjoy those films and forgive them their transgressions? Or do you boycott them because they don’t stand up to our current societal “moral code”.

This could move to other things – renaming of places, removal of monuments, etc. But that could get very political very fast.

Tuesday open thread

Our Tuesday open thread is open for business.

Since we currently seem to have a backlog of topics (a good thing!), we will not have an open thread this Thursday.  Upcoming topics:

Wednesday  —  What stands the test of time? (Rhode)
Thursday  —  Taking care of your kitchen  (S&M)
Friday  —  The TMI post  (Houston)

The Portion Paradox and the Half Cookie

by Finn

A recent study looked into the effects of portion size and consumption of all vs part of those portions.   Of particular interest to totebaggers, they specifically investigated consumption of entire cookies vs. partial cookies.   The article suggests it may be preferable to eat smaller cookies than to eat half of cookies that are twice as large.


Do you eat, or serve your kids, half cookies?    When you go out to eat do you bring home doggie bags?  What strategies do you have to avoid overeating, whether eating out or at home?

Politics open thread, Nov 11–17

Today we honor and thank veterans who have served in our armed forces.

The day the guns fell silent
At 11 a.m. on Nov. 11, 1918, bugle calls ended the ‘war to end all wars.’ After four years of carnage, you could hear the ticking of a watch.

Sgt. Robert Cude remembered that the bugle call, “Stand Fast” — cease fire — sounded across the foggy landscape of the British lines that morning.

The American motorcycle courier Leon George Roth noted that in the sudden quiet, he could hear his watch ticking.

Near the Moselle River in northeastern France, recording equipment that had been tracking the thunder of artillery flatlined.

It was 11 a.m. on Nov. 11, 1918 — a century ago Sunday — the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.

Armistice Day.

Now called Veterans Day in the United States, it was the end of World War I, the Great War, which had killed and maimed millions of people and turned parts of Europe into a wasteland.

It was the end of four years of unimaginable calamity.

What else is on your mind this week?

My paternal grandpa’s middle name?

By Cassandra

I just set up another online account and struggled through the security questions. I had to pick four questions, and I could only come up with answers for four questions and at least one was pretty shaky. I am not sure I’ll be able to remember it. The questions seem so off base and hard to answer:

What was my second pet’s name? I am not even sure which animal was my second pet.
What is my favorite pet’s name? I’ve had a number of dogs, and there were some pretty good ones. My favorite? I don’t know.

I have no idea where I was on New Year’s Eve for 2000. I don’t know what hour I was born and I’m not real sure of my grandparent’s occupations.

Am I the only one who has difficulty with this? Who comes up with these questions.

Jury Duty

by Finn

I don’t think we’ve ever discussed jury duty here.  I’ve had some recent experience, having been called, and sitting through a trial as an alternate juror.  This was my second experience with jury duty; my first was over 20 years ago, when I was seated in the jury box, but was the defense’s first peremptory challenge.

What has been your experience with jury duty?  Do you think it is something to avoid, or to you look forward to serving?  Please share your jury duty stories.

My Mom’s jury duty story:

My mom had never been called to serve until she was retired.  One night, a sheriff’s deputy drove over to her house to personally serve a jury summons, to which my mom responded along the lines of, great, I’ve always wanted to serve on a jury, and now that I’m retired I can serve as long as it takes, which totally flummoxed the deputy, who’d never had that sort of reaction.

So she shows up for the trial, makes it through the preliminary screening, gets seated in the  jury box, and…  was the first peremptory challenge.    She was never called for jury duty again.

Open thread

This week we’ll start the new format we discussed last week of having only three specific topics per week and three open threads.  Here’s the plan:

Monday, Wednesday, Friday — specific topics
Tuesday and Thursday — open threads
Sunday — politics open thread

Mon-Wed-Fri topic discussions can carry on to the next day to make it easier for more participants to chime in.  Tues-Thurs posts will allow new discussions to start without creating excessively long threads on the other days.  Sunday posts will remain as a place for hot-button topics to be discussed all week long.

We can tweak this format as desired, so keep your comments and suggestions coming in.

Upcoming topics:

Wednesday  —  Jury Duty (Finn)
Thursday  —  Open Thread
Friday  —  My paternal grandpa’s middle name?  (Cassandra)
Monday  —  The Portion Paradox and the Half Cookie  (Finn)

The Workplace – Annual Review

by Louise

This is the time of year when it’s time to take stock of different things related to our jobs. It’s open enrollment season, getting ready for performance reviews. It’s also time to look at changes in culture – impact of the MeToo movement (the Google walkout was notable), diversity efforts, different working arrangements and spaces.

We could also discuss impact of individual company performances (trouble at GE).

Totebaggers the company town hall or water cooler is open for discussion.

Politics Open Thread, Nov 4–10

Our starter topic comes courtesy of Rocky Mountain Stepmom.

Is Multiculturalism Bad for Women?

(Spoiler alert: Yes.)

By Susan Moller Okin, one of the very best Anglo-American feminist theorists of the late 20th – early 21st century. I just learned today that she died in 2004 at age 57, and I am sad about that. The article is rather long, but very readable and clear. She was always a clear, thoughtful writer.

Controlling kids’ internet use

By tcmama

I realized tonight I should be monitoring what my kids are doing on their iPads. They are in second and third grades. Is there a way to monitor what websites they visit? Is there a way to block/restrict web access? What limits do you put on your kids? I am very lazy in some ways in regards to parenting, so I know that I have a blind spot in monitoring web activity


The American Dream

by Finn

In a recent post on fashion, the following phrase in the referenced article caught my attention:

“the traditional American Dream of upward mobility through hard work.”

Is that consistent with your understanding of the American Dream?

It’s consistent with mine.  What I’ve seen is a lot of generational steps, in which parents work hard to provide their kids with opportunities, that weren’t available to them, that allow their kids to move up the SES ladder, with succeeding generations continuing to get higher than their parents.

What’s your take on the American Dream?  Have you and your family lived it?  Do you think your kids and grandkids will live it?

Open Thread and Admin Change

Jby Mémé

Next Monday, July will take over as primary administrator.   Topics this week are:

Wed  –  The American Dream   (Finn)

Th –       Kids’ Internet Use  (tcmama)

Fri –       Favorite Limericks   (WCE)

The Old Site was originally a workplace diversion, allowable to many of us because it was on the WSJ website AND because back then we spent lots of dead time on butt-in-seat conference calls.   We migrated to The Totebag as our work and personal lives changed.   We are spread out over many time zones.     And of course, the “regulars” are a shrinking, not a growing community, although we do have a lot of wonderful lurkers who post from time to time and have sent in a few topics this year.

As a novice admin I did put in a lot of time, more than is really necessary.  July is not only more conservative politically than I, she is more laid back and doesn’t mind some of the comments I find unacceptable.   Her touch will be lighter at the helm.    We make a good team, which was most evident in the resolution to the privacy and retention issues on which we initially held views at opposite ends of the continuum.

The most frustrating aspect of my six months was the general lack of group interest in topics with substantive content.    I was even admonished not to use submissions from certain contributors because they were too boring.   Heartfelt posts from personal experience and serious ones usually generated very little direct on topic discussion.     Part of that is because we are not checking in as frequently in the way we did when tied to a desk.     Part may be due to the same problem that any workplace lunchroom or kaffeklatsch has – if there is no immediate interest in a topic what remains are variants on the same conversation day after day.     And there are few or no new voices joining in.

After all these years, I wonder if in The Totebag’s present 6-day a week format the juice is still worth the squeeze.    Perhaps we could cut back to Politics on Sun plus 3 posts during the week, say a Monday general interest topic , a family/education topic on Wed,  a lighthearted topic on Friday.    Readers would continue to bring up other topics, ask for advice,  and check in,  just as we do now.    We could try out “threading.”   Or perhaps we could just autopost this on the other two weekdays:


Parenting Standards Then and Now

By Louise

Parenting Standards  have been a recent topic of discussion with both my mother and MIL. Both remarked about being one of five siblings and parents not having time or resources to care for each one individually. The kids had food, clothing, shelter and in my mother’s case all her siblings went to high school and a couple completed college. In my MILs case, I think only one completed college later in life.
There were some things that siblings did that are now exclusively parental duties – taking younger siblings to the doctor or attending parent teacher conferences.
What do you think of parenting standards and expectations today ? Are they too onerous? What are some things you would like changed ? What do you think of the past ? Any learnings from there ?

Politics Open Thread, Oct 28 – Nov 3

From WCE

On a day when the benefits and ease of “new technology” at work seem particularly overhyped, I stumble on this article identifying the challenges of some important inventions. The money quote is, “The best things in life are not virtually free and usually can’t move fast.”


Celebrations (holiday or otherwise)

by Lark

How do you celebrate? Are holidays, birthdays and anniversaries a big deal or low key in your family? Do you go big on presents? What about for milestone birthdays and anniversaries?

How do you celebrate other events, such as paying off a chunk of debt, getting a new job, or advancing to a new school/grade?

And what’s up for Hallowe’en?

Cutting the [Cable] Cord

by Rhett

Last week I noticed that we’d spent the entire week watching Jack Ryan on Amazon, Rick Steve’s Spain shows on Youtube, Lords and Ladles on Netflix, etc. Then on Friday, I open the Comcast bill and it’s $201! I call in a rage, as I usually do, and say, “Cancel the whole thing!” They say, “I can’t do that let me send you to Customer Retention.” Customer Retention says we can get it to you for $138 – as they always do. But this time I said, “Nope, not anymore. I want you to go ahead and cancel everything we just need internet.” Which is $59.

To add insult to injury, we’d been paying $11/month to rent the cable modem. It turns out you can buy a cable modem for $59. Comcast even has a page listing approved equipment.


The plan going forward is to use Hulu, Amazon, Netflix and Youtube to bridge the gap. I did a quick googling and it looks like everything that’s popular in our house – Bravo, HGTV, etc. is available from Hulu.

Has anyone else thought about getting rid of cable?

Open Thread

Wed –  Cutting the Cable Cord (Rhett)

Th – Free College!!  (WCE starter)

Fri – Celebrations (Lark)

Mon – Parenting Standards Then and Now (Louise)

Wed +1 – The American Dream (Finn)

Th +1 –  Kids and the Internet (tcmama)

Fri +1 – Favorite Limericks (WCE)

Investing for (in?) the Apocalypse

by RMS

Here’s an utterly insensitive topic. What’s the best way to invest for inevitable climate change? Never mind saving the world. Where’s the money going to be? Will the oil industry collapse with the arrival of electric vehicles? Should I buy a resort property in Nunavut? Does anybody know which insects are going to proliferate, and are they edible?

Unique Occupations

by Rhode

Hakai Magazine (Thanks Rhett!) has a neat section – Coastal Jobs.  These are jobs that are unique in some ways to the coast.  Here are their most recent entries:
What are some unique job titles (or experiences) you’ve run into?  We’ve talked how Totebaggers are somewhat risk averse, or look at ROI for jobs/careers.  If you weren’t a typical Totebagger (or you aren’t a typical Totebagger), what unique or odd job would you do right now?

Teaching Children about Class Differences

Topic suggested by L – Mémé expansion

Many of our political conversations on the other thread focus on the fact of economic, social or intellectual differences between people, whether these should be ameliorated in some way,  and if so, who should bear the cost.

Do you teach your kids about privilege, haves and have-nots, and other differences between people?    Do you have formal conversations with them on these topics,  let it come up organically, rely on the school programming, or participate as a family in hands on activities?     Or do you think they should be sheltered?    Do you find a need to counteract messages they receive from the media or from their local environment?

Update Wednesday

by Houston

Let’s invite everyone to share their updates on topics raised earlier this year. I raised the idea of re-doing certain areas in the house that needed focus. I was at a loss on how people budgeted for home improvements, and several people had great suggestions. Shout-out to Lark, who gave a specific example with a budget attached to her planned improvements. That was really helpful.

I budgeted $12,000 and improvements we have made include: new furniture for DS2’s room (transition from elementary school furniture to more grown up furniture), fixing door and window trim that had experienced rot from moisture seepage, some landscaping, and fixing the AC and roof.

I look forward to hearing about everyone else’s updates.

by Finn

Over the years, many of us have asked our fellow totebaggers for advice via thread hijacks and on open thread days for many subjects ranging from car selection to college selection to dealing with club politics.
Please share what advice you decided to take, and how that worked out.  Based on your experience, what would you recommend to other totebaggers in a similar situation? 



by Cassandra

The theme of recent book club book was loneliness, which led to a discussion of whether we felt lonely, if we saw loneliness looming in the future, how we reacted to people we viewed as lonely, and whether we were acting taking steps to counteract loneliness.

Do you fear loneliness in the present or future?

by MooshiMooshi

Ben Sasse has a new book out on loneliness and the crumbling of ties in modern society. While this is not exactly a ground breaking idea, I think it is important because I think loneliness and isolation underlies so many current health problems – not just the obvious problems like drug addiction and suicide, but also other chronic diseases like diabetes, which are hard to manage for people with no family or friends.
The problem is, we can’t go back to a world of small towns where everyone knows everyone else – and honestly, I am not sure how universal that ever was. Yes, we have this image of America in the 19th century as being made up of friendly little towns – but the reality was different. There were a lot of socially disconnected young men prowling the West, and people trapped out on homesteads far from everyone, and hordes of immigrants in unwelcoming big cities.
George Will’s review of Sasse’s book hits on all of these themes, and ends by saying we need new habits
The crumbling of America’s social infrastructure presents a daunting challenge: We do not know how to develop what Sasse wants, “new habits of mind and heart . . . new practices of neighborliness.
and also this
Sasse, a fifth-generation Nebraskan who dedicates his book to the Kiwanis and Rotary clubs and other little platoons of Fremont, Neb., (population 26,000), wants to rekindle the “hometown-gym-on-a-Friday-night feeling.” But Americans can’t go home again to Fremont.
And I think he is right

Politics Open Thread, Oct 14-20

by WCE

Given the role that chemical engineers play in developing and manufacturing pharmaceuticals, pharmaceutical regulation has long interested me. I believe in a role for government in regulating drugs, but use of international approvals/studies rather than national ones and international discussion of on how drug development and safety demonstrations should be funded could improve lives and optimize healthcare spending.

In a private report leaked to news outlets in April 2018, the Goldman Sachs analysts caution against investments in pharmaceutical or biotechnology companies aiming to develop outright cures, and cite Harvoni as a case study. It’s a simple point to make – if profit is your goal, then a product that eradicates its own demand might not be a wise investment.

Though it sounds bad, it’s not a nefarious perspective. The overwhelming majority of pharmaceutical development occurs in the United States or other market economies abroad, where private industry is the force majeure that drives progress. And industry, as much in pharmaceuticals as in any other business, is at the game for revenue rather than the greater good. Much benefit can and has come from this arrangement, but it’s something of an externality to the powerful incentive to make money.

The predominance of the market in US healthcare has taken plenty of flak for promoting profit over quality, and for crescendoing costs.

But there’s a deeper set of issues surrounding how the market influences – or distorts, maybe – the very bedrock of healthcare and medicine. In a system driven primarily by profit, certain diseases or treatments must languish simply because they’re not lucrative. And how can such a system do other than favour revenue over patients?


Social Media – Privacy for College Students

by AustinMom

My DD#1 is not into social media. She now has a Facebook account out of need rather than desire. Her college has a group for her Class (Class of 2022) and some of her clubs have groups to communicate. She follows these groups and several friends (from high school and from college) contact her this way. Also, since her phone is android, she uses the feature to video chat with me. The students also set up a number of snapchat groups, but she was not ready to go that far yet.

While there are lots of articles about what not to post, how to secure your account, etc., I found an interesting take by another parent. Social media is a way to create the appropriate amount of distance between you and people you “friend”. For each person, you can choose how much of “you” is shared with them and how much of what they are willing to share with you that you see. As you get to know them in real life, you can increase the amount that is shared or at the other end unfriend them all together.

When I talked about this with my daughter, whose initial reaction was it is just easier to text, she said that this point of view was one that made the most sense for her to use social media.

What do Totebaggers think?

Hiring a Friend

by Becky

Any thoughts on hiring friends? My job has grown, and I’m taking on a major two year project, so they are divvying up my responsibilities and hiring a contractor for the length of the project. My last hire, from the limited pool of internal candidates, didn’t work out. So, I wanted a sure thing. I sought and received permission to hire a former colleague who I’ve remained friends with for over twenty years. (I framed it as former colleague and didn’t refer to her as a friend, because I don’t want her perceived as my buddy rather than a completely competent professional). I’m really looking forward to working with someone I enjoy and who I know is good at her job and won’t require a lot of babysitting once trained. Is this a mistake? Are there any pitfalls I should watch out for? Right now I see nothing but upside.

Open Thread

For a couple of weeks I am  holding back topics that even remotely deal with gender or privilege.      Here is the very interesting lineup for the next week.

Wed  –  Hiring a Friend (Becky)

Th     –  Social Media Privacy for College Students (AustinMom)

Fri    –  Eileen Fisher and #menocore fashion (SM)

Mon –  Loneliness (Cassandra) 

Are Middle Children now in the minority?

by honolulu mother

There have been a few articles recently pointing out that most people were middle children through most of history, but they’ve become a shrinking minority.  Here’s one article from NYMag:

As far as why this might matter, the gist of the argument is this:
[T]he more you learn about the skills of classic middle children — peacemakers, risk takers, levelheaded loyalists with expansive friend groups — the more middle children seem essential to our survival. Salmon cites “independence and resilience” as “characteristics I’d hate to see disappear in a future population of only small families — especially at a time when our world so needs these particular skills.”
For what it’s worth, I also ran across an article (that I didn’t bookmark and don’t have to hand) that dug into whether it’s true that middle children are disappearing, criticized the various statistical assumptions made, tore apart the reasoning, but ultimately concluded that yes, middle children really have become an endangered group compared to historical norms.
But does it matter?  Do you buy the reasoning that middle children are shaped by their middleness in important ways that make them a group with interpersonal skills the rest of us need?  As an oldest, I am of course dubious, but I have to say the middles I know, including my sister and daughter, fit the classic middle child description.
Are you a middle or are you close to a middle?  Are we losing something as middle children slowly vanish from the population at large?

Learning Differences

by GreenEyes

I know we talk a lot about how exceptional and gifted Totebag snowflakes are, but some of us have also alluded to having kids with learning differences, too. This article popped up in my newsfeed:https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.wired.com/story/tyranny-neurotypicals-unschooling-education

Do Totebaggers think their public schools appropriately accommodate learning differences?

Leading by example

by July

I came away from reading this article with the realization that both “relentless effort and emotional control” are important qualities I’ve observed in many exceptional leaders.

The Two Contagious Behaviors of a Great Boss
There are only two essential qualities for leading by example; George Washington mastered both

Over the last decade, I’ve studied scores of leaders who have achieved long-lasting success in business, sports and the military.

Among the many flavors of contagious leadership behavior I’ve observed, only two have consistently produced superior results—and George Washington was the embodiment of both….

The first was a combination of seriousness, courage, tenacity and outsize effort—I’ll call it relentlessness. Ron Chernow’s vivid 2010 biography showed that when Washington pushed his troops to the limits of their endurance, he was always right beside them….

The best example may be Washington’s actions at Princeton. After wheeling around to face his fearful troops, he beseeched them to keep fighting. Then, according to one account, he reined in his horse and faced the enemy directly.

Studies have shown that an extraordinary effort by one team member can compel everyone else to give more. It’s fair to say that Washington’s actions at Princeton infected his ragtag army of outnumbered amateurs. One young officer who witnessed them left no doubt. “Believe me,” he wrote, “I thought not of myself.”…

Washington’s second leadership posture was ironclad emotional control….

Again, it was Princeton that showed the depth of Washington’s emotional fortitude. After he’d rallied his army to victory, a teary aide approached him to express his relief that the general hadn’t been killed. Washington quietly took his hand and changed the subject.

“Away, my dear colonel,” he said, “and bring up the troops.”…

Leading others by relentless effort and emotional control demands immense personal sacrifices. The good news is that it doesn’t require exceptional talent. Washington had many gifts but he was a middling military strategist with a long list of defeats.

In the end, the source of Washington’s greatness was simple, even if it wasn’t easy to pull off.It was a function of the choices he made consistently, every day, in darkness or light.

Do you think “relentless effort and emotional control” are key behaviors of a great leader?  What other qualities would you consider important and can you give examples?  Should core leadership behaviors vary considerably depending on the situation?  For example, would these two qualities be important for both a school principal and the head of an investment banking firm?  What about other types of everyday leaders, like the head of a family or the key member of a sports team?

Open Thread

Thanks for more articles.     I will be rotating off as primary admin in mid November, so please keep up the good work so I can leave a few weeks filled up for July when I go on vacation.

Wed       Leading by Example (July)

Th           Learning Differences (GreenEyes)

Fri          Appliances Back In the Day  (Lemon Tree)

Mon       Are Middle Children now in the Minority?  (Honolulu Mother)

Are Totebaggers too risk averse?

Rhett proposed this as “Are Totebaggers too prudent and responsible?”  I switched the emphasis  to spark discussion.     And for those regulars who in the past did NOT take the safest or default path, have you noticed a disinclination for further risk as you became more prosperous and entered middle age?

A few random links




Politics Open Thread: Sep 30 – Oct 6

No suggestions.   Events will likely dictate.

Note: We have several previously submitted and interesting topics for the regular thread that (after consultation with others) are being  held back for a few weeks because the discussions could end up as charged/political in the glare cast by the Supreme Court confirmation hearings and we don’t want to exclude the general readership by posting them here.

Electric Scooters? Really?

From MooshiMooshi
I had not even been aware of the tiny electric scooters until I visited SF in early May and saw them everywhere. Evidently they are rented out for short time periods.  I saw lots of millenial yuppies scooting about on them.  SF temporarilly banned them in early June because they were making such a mess. They don’t use docks, so people were just abandoning them everywhere.  We don’t have these in Westchester, but we now have a plague of Lime bikes, and while I am all for biking, I also get annoyed when I see these things blocking sidewalks, building entrances, and mailboxes.
The case for the scooters is that they take up much less space than a car and thus might ease congestion. I don’t really understand that. In cities like NYC and SF,  people already walk and use mass transit quite a bit. Any trip that is short enough to make sense for a scooter is probably also quite walkable or bikeable. An electric scooter is certainly not as bad for the environment as a car, but it is worse than a bike, and not nearly as healthy for the rider as walking or biking would have been. And in the more typical sprawling, freeway bound cities of the South and West, I can’t see why anyone would be using a scooter.
Plus, people look seriously dorky on them.
What do you think?  Will these replace cars or replace walkers/subway riders?  Just a millenial trend moment or are they here to stay? And what about those Lime bikes? 


Online shopping and excess stuff

by S&M

I haven’t been around much lately, or online at all, really, but I did see this article which reminded me of the group and the high percentage of people there who use Amazon. We’ve talked about clutter before, and how to get rid of it, but what about the nature of  online shopping habits themselves?   Have you observed changes in your habits in the last decade?

I bought lots of clothing from Nordstrom Rack online over the past two years as I lost weight. At variance with the article, I returned nearly everything I didn’t wish to use (I was caught earlier this year when they tightened up their formerly generous return policy). My son uses Kindle Unlimited reading, but not Prime Reading; our Prime anniversary date is on the calendar to remind me to cancel later this year. I don’t need incentives to shop online, and “free” shipping is easy to get without paying the annual fee.


Open Thread and New Topics Needed

I have two more for next week and that is it.   The well has run dry.   Unless there are a large number of new submissions, starting next week I’ll have two weekday Open Threads Tues and Th and on Th include  a link to one of the  scholarly or wonkish news articles I have in reserve  for the group to enjoy (or not) with no particular expectation that a discussion on that topic will ensue.

Wed –  Online Shopping and Excess Stuff (S&M)

Th –  Financial Education for Kids/Teens (Kerri)

Fri –  Electric Scooters (Mooshi)

Mon –  Are We Totebaggers too risk averse?  (Rhett)




Home Alone – Playing Hooky for Adults

by AustinMom

Everyone else in my household gets the house to themselves somewhat regularly. Back in July I was looking forward to the house to myself for 36 hours, but due to DD#1’s delayed flights, it was barely 6 hours, of which I had to work for four. Fast forward to today, I’ve been unproductive for a few days now, partly due to missing DD#1 and the rainy weather that makes me want to crawl back in bed. However, I got home from the gym and SO said he was off to do thing with friends for the rest of the day. At first, I tried to work and then realized, I had to jump on this opportunity for home alone time. I called in sick and am luxuriating in the quiet house to myself.

I found this article about how much other adults want time home alone. What are your preferences? Is it good enough when others are home but asleep?


Politics Open Thread, Sept 23 – 29

On why infrastructure is more difficult/expensive to construct in the U.S. than elsewhere in the world.    From one of WCE’s conservative sources.

German-speaking transportation planners have a maxim: Organisation vor Elektronik vor Beton, or “Organization before electronics before concrete.” They mean that inefficiencies in a transportation system should be fixed first by improving coordination among different agencies, then by upgrading electronics systems, and only then by heavy construction. Visitors to Berlin can see this maxim in effect. The Verkehrsverbund Berlin–Brandenburg (VBB), a corporation owned jointly by 20 state and local governments, coordinates public transportation over 11,794 square miles in Berlin and the surrounding region. The 38 public and private operators that VBB oversees use a completely unified fare system: the same tickets that work on buses, ferries, and subways also work on longer-distance regional trains, and fares depend only on the route traveled, not on the mode of transportation. Transferring from one operator’s lines to another, unlike transferring from New York’s subway to the commuter rail or PATH, does not require paying twice. Such feats of organization are hardly unique. In Basel, Switzerland, the regional rail network, the S-Bahn, crosses into French and German territory and is operated jointly by all three nations’ national rail companies. And in Japan, holders of any of ten interoperable fare cards issued by regional railways can use them on virtually every urban train in the nation.


International food quiz

by July

How Many Of These Foods From Around The World Have You Actually Tried?
Are your tastes ~international~?

We have so many more international food choices among local restaurants and grocery stores than even a few years ago, even if we don’t live in big cities..  It wasn’t too long ago that the variety of dishes in this article could only be had by traveling outside the United States.

Take the quiz.  What are some of your hits and misses from the list?  Do “international” dishes make up a big part of your regular meals?

Air Conditioning in Schools

by honolulu mother

My older son pointed me to this paper on Heat and Learning, which as the abstract explains suggests that hot classrooms contribute substantially to difference in academic performances across regions and socioeconomic groups, and that air conditioning classrooms is a solution:

We provide the first evidence that cumulative heat exposure inhibits cognitive skill development and that school air conditioning can mitigate this effect. Student fixed effects models using 10 million PSAT-takers show that hotter school days in the year prior to the test reduce learning, with extreme heat being particularly damaging and larger effects for low income and minority students. Weekend and summer heat has little impact and the effect is not explained by pollution or local economic shocks, suggesting heat directly reduces the productivity of learning inputs. New data providing the first measures of school-level air conditioning penetration across the US suggest such infrastructure almost entirely offsets these effects. Without air conditioning, each 1° F increase in school year temperature reduces the amount learned that year by one percent. Our estimates imply that the benefits of school air conditioning likely outweigh the costs in most of the US, particularly given future predicted climate change.


My son fully agrees that non-air-conditioned classrooms impede learning — most classrooms at the high school he recently graduated from, and that his younger siblings still attend, are not air conditioned.  In fact, lack of air conditioning is problem for Hawaii’s public schools generally, and despite efforts to get air conditioning into more classrooms the expense of doing so has limited its spread.
Have you, or your children, had experience trying to learn in hot classrooms?  Do you agree that it makes it significantly more difficult to learn?  And, do you think air conditioning should be considered an essential part of school infrastructure?

Open Thread

Let’s hope for a calm week on the regular threads.    Not so sure about the political threads.

Wed –  Points and Other Rewards (S&M)

Th –    Air Conditioning in Schools (honolulu mother)

Fri –  International Food Quiz (July)

Mon –  Home Alone – Playing Hooky for Adults (AustinMom)

No More Alcohol, Study Says

by Risley
is a bit of a downer but is consistent with what I was recently told by an oncologist—that they have lowered the “one drink/day” limit for women trying to avoid breast cancer to 3 drinks/week. For ages, we’ve been told a drink/day is better than *not* having a drink/day, so this new guidance was very surprising to me. From the article, it’s clear it’s not only breast cancer that’s an issue. (FWIW, the oncologist also told me 2 drinks/day *doubles* a woman’s risk of breast cancer).
What I wonder is how many Totebaggers will change their habits based on this new guidance.    I’ve been amazed at how many people (including science/medical types) have told me to ignore the 3 drinks/week limit. I’m a rule follower!! (Not for everything, but for something like limiting my risk of breast cancer, I am.)
The broader question is how many sacrifices we are willing to make, and/or how many obligations we are willing to take on, for our health. Prophylactic prescriptions? Avoidance of, or limitations on, of certain foods, beyond the basic “watch caloric and fat intake” and now, for me at least, alcohol?

I thought everybody did that!

by honolulu mother

This article (post?) lists things that various people who grew up wealthy assumed everyone did, only to learn in college or early adulthood that they were not typical.  A couple of them (11 and 13) seem more like signs of being financially secure rather than wealthy as such, but it’s still an interesting list and an amusing thing to think about.

What things did you think were standard, as a child, only to later learn they were particular to your family or some other particular group?  I’m not limiting this to things reflective of family money — count in the military brats accustomed to PCSing every few years, the small towners accustomed to everyone being fixated on the preferred local sport, the professor kids thinking everyone’s parents have PhDs.

Our [job title] are too educated

by Rhett

What else could we do to increase the efficiency of the educational system?

Or as Dylan said,  20 years of schoolin’ and they put you on the day shift.  (Mémé)

Our doctors are too educated

By Akhilesh Pathipati
August 13
Akhilesh Pathipati is an ophthalmology resident at Harvard University’s Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary.

I had just finished an eye examination for one of my patients and swiveled around to the computer. It was clear that he needed cataract surgery; he was nearly blind despite his Coke-bottle glasses. But even before I logged in to the scheduling system, I knew what I was going to find: He wouldn’t be able to get an appointment with an ophthalmologist for more than three months. Everyone’s schedule was full.

Moments like these are far too common in medicine. An aging population with numerous health needs and a declining physician workforce have combined to create a physician shortage — the Association of American Medical Colleges projects a shortfall of up to 100,000 doctors by 2030.

Policymakers have proposed many solutions, from telemedicine to increasing the scope of nurse practitioners. But I can think of another: Let students complete school and see patients earlier.

U.S. physicians average 14 years of higher education (four years of college, four years of medical school and three to eight years to specialize in a residency or fellowship). That’s much longer than in other developed countries, where students typically study for 10 years. It also translates to millions of dollars and hours spent by U.S. medical students listening to lectures on topics they already know, doing clinical electives in fields they will not pursue and publishing papers no one will read.

Decreasing the length of training would immediately add thousands of physicians to the workforce. At the same time, it would save money that could be reinvested in creating more positions in medical schools and residencies. It would also allow more students to go into lower-paying fields such as primary care, where the need is greatest.

These changes wouldn’t decrease the quality of our education. Medical education has many inefficiencies, but two opportunities for reform stand out. First, we should consolidate medical school curriculums. The traditional model consists of two years of classroom-based learning on the science of medicine (the preclinical years), followed by two years of clinical rotations, during which we work in hospitals.

Both phases could be shortened. In my experience, close to half of preclinical content was redundant. Between college and medical school, I learned the Krebs cycle (a process that cells use to generate energy) six times. Making college premedical courses more relevant to medicine could condense training considerably.

Meanwhile, the second clinical year is primarily electives and free time. I recently spoke with a friend going into radiology who did a dermatology elective. While he enjoyed learning about rashes, we concluded it did little for his education.

In the past decade, several schools have shown the four-year model can be cut to three. For instance, New York University offers an accelerated medical degree with early, conditional admission into its residency programs. The model remains controversial. Critics contend that three years is not enough time to learn medicine. Yet a review of eight medical schools with three-year programs suggests graduates have similar test scores and clinical performance to those who take more time.

Finally, we can reform required research projects. Research has long been intertwined with medical training. Nearly every medical school offers student projects, and more than one-third require them. Many residencies do as well. Students have responded: The number pursuing nondegree research years doubled between 2000 and 2014, and four-year graduation rates reached a record low. Rather than shortening training, U.S. medical education is becoming longer. The additional years aren’t even spent on patient care.

Done right, this could still be a valuable investment. Intellectual curiosity and inquiry drive scientific progress. But that’s not why most students take research years. I conducted a study showing that less than a quarter do so because of an interest in the subject matter. The most common reason was instead to increase their competitiveness for residency applications.

And because having more research published represents greater achievement in academic medicine, students are presented with a bad incentive to publish a large amount of low-quality research. Many of my peers have recognized this, producing more papers than many faculty members. It’s no surprise that there has been an exponential increase in student publications in the past few decades, even though a majority are never cited.

Medical schools need to realign incentives. This starts with the recognition that students can do valuable work even if it doesn’t end up in a journal. It’s time we get them out of school and in front of patients.Too

Traveling with your adult children

by July

There is nothing like traveling with your adult children to make you feel dazzled and impressed that they are truly all grown up, competent citizens of the world. And there is nothing like traveling with your adult children to remind you that they are still your children and sometimes you need to take care of them.

Is this a trend, as the NYT suggests?  What is your experience, from your perspective as both a parent and as an adult child?  What are your observations?  Pros and cons?

From the kids’ perspective:

How To Have An Adult Vacation With Your Family — Without Losing Your Mind

Open Thread

I have two weeks plus 2 days of posts scheduled, so I need some new ones, especially on everyday subjects.    Thanks to the less frequent post contributors who have been stepping up, including Finn for yesterday.   I will include next Monday in the list from now on, but if events indicate a change I reserve the right to move it.

Wed –  Traveling with Adult Children (July)

Th –  Our [job title] are too educated (Rhett)

Fri –  I thought everybody did that! (honolulu mother)

Next Mon –  New guidance on Alcohol (Risley)

Starter idea for today.   If you were a baseball player, what would you use as a walk up song?   For the sports-challenged among you, here is an example of a walk up song.   NSFW dialogue later in the clip.

The “Price” of Parenthood

by Finn


An economic mystery of the last few decades has been why more women aren’t working. A new paper offers one answer: Most plan to, but are increasingly caught off guard by the time and effort it takes to raise children.

The share of women in the United States labor force has leveled off since the 1990s, after steadily climbing for half a century. Today, the share of women age 25 to 54 who work is about the same as it was in 1995, even though in the intervening decades, women have been earning more college degrees than men, entering jobs previously closed to them and delaying marriage and childbirth.

The new analysis suggests something else also began happening during the 1990s: Motherhood became more demanding. Parents now spend more time and money on child care. They feel more pressure to breast-feed, to do enriching activities with their children and to provide close supervision.

The people most surprised by the demands of motherhood were those the researchers least expected: women with college degrees, or those who had babies later, those who had working mothers and those who had assumed they would have careers. Even though highly educated mothers were less likely to quit working than less educated mothers, they were more likely to express anti-work beliefs, and to say that being a parent was harder than they expected.

Though the study did not analyze fathers’ role in depth, it found that their beliefs did not change significantly before and after having a baby. They were less likely than women to say that parenthood was harder than they expected.


Totebaggers tend to plan their lives more than most, so parenthood was likely planned by most of us.  Were you caught off guard by the price of parenthood?  Did the actual price of parenthood affect subsequent decisions whether or not to have additional kids?

What’s on your walls?

by Finn

DS just asked my thoughts on renting a framed print from a university museum for $30/semester.
Besides being an interesting concept that was never an an option that I knew of during my college years, it got me to wondering: 
How are your walls decorated?  Framed prints?  Family photos?  Commissioned paintings? 


School Lunches

by Houston

Here is an article advocating simple, fuss-free lunches that your kids will actually eat.


Do you agree, or do you and your family like more variety and creativity? Do you pack lunches for your kids and yourself or do you buy lunch? What do you and your kids eat for lunch? Any lunch questions or suggestions?

I rotate between 2-3 sandwiches and 2-3 snacks for DS. This simplicity helps keep my shopping list straight forward. I usually eat leftovers. DH does a mix between sandwiches and leftovers.

Reefer Madness ?

by WCE.   (Title by Mémé)

Marijuana is legal in Oregon. I didn’t vote for legalization for all the reasons described in this article. I was satisfied with “medical marijuana” and didn’t much care about prescriptions to treat depression and irritable bowel syndrome. I don’t think marijuana should be a Schedule 1 (highest risk of abuse, no medical use) substance. How should public policy balance the risks and benefits of relatively low risk recreational substances like alcohol and marijuana? How should the costs of abuse be paid?


The Empty Nest – Plans and Parental Reinvention

by Louise

This week I heard from a far relative who had just gone back to work. Her only son is in high school, she is an engineer who gave up her job once she had her son. I wasn’t expecting her to get a job at nearly fifty years old. On thinking about this I realized that over the years I had heard of women heading back to work once their kids reached the end of high school. They could spend a good ten to fifteen years in the work force.

Some of us on the other hand are looking to cut back or quitting as soon as that last tuition bill is paid. I have always felt my best has yet to come or if put negatively yet to grow up…

How old is too old…?
Too old to get married….to have kids…..to take up a musical instrument…..learn a new sport..
What are your plans for the empty nest years ? Any advice from Totebaggers who are already on this phase ? Do other things tend to occupy your time – elder assistance comes to mind.


Labor Day Open Thread

Topics for the Rest of the Week

College and college prep is on everyone’s mind, so I suggest a pre college topic for Education Thursday.    I composed the headline for WCE’s topic (title of a  1930s educational film).    And I can’t estimate the betting odds against a  Friday Fun topic from Finn.

Tu — The Empty Nest (Louise)

Wed  – Reefer Madness (WCE)

Th  –   School Lunches  (Houston)

Fri  –  What’s on your Walls?  (Finn)

Invisible disabilities in the Workplace

by S&M

We often discuss how to navigate the education system for our children with special issues.   As they   move up and out into the big wide world including employment, those “kids” will need to take on the task of negotiation themselves, in a very different environment.

Open Thread and Holiday Schedule

Thanks to Denver Dad for Monday’s topic.

Wed – Invisible disabilities in the Workplace (S&M)

Th – why don’t kids go into the trades? (Denver Dad)

Fri. – 100 Skills Everyone Should Know. (RMS)

No post for Monday, Labor Day.

That is the day I will be sorting through all the recent submissions. The list of repeat contributors is growing.

Teaching girls to stop saying “sorry”

by Denver Dad

My wife found this article about Barbie trying to teach girls to stop
saying sorry when it is not needed.

I’m coaching a 10U softball team and the habit is very noticeable with some
of the girls. They sah sorry almost every time theu miss a ball or such.
What do people recommend to try to help the girls break the habit?

Don’t hire me for this job!

by Rhett


I was watching a very good documentary about a women who stole $53 million from the small town of Dixon, IL over 20 years.


In the end, they talk to the new comptroller about all the process she had to put in place to make sure it didn’t happen again: dividing up responsibilities, making sure multiple people had to sign off on checks/payments, strict auditing, etc. Which got me thinking, “Wow, I’d be terrible at that job. I tend to trust people and I hate paperwork and process.”

With that in mind, what jobs would you be terrible at?

Do Selective Colleges and Employers discriminate against Introverts?


Personality traits and income (Houston).


How has your personality affected your career choices and income? Do you see a similar or different trend with your spouse?

WaPo article reproduced in full.  (Denver Dad)

Do Harvard and other elite universities illegally discriminate against Asian American applicants?

I’m not sure. But there’s another group of people who definitely face routine prejudice in college admissions. They’re the quiet types who keep to themselves, often preferring a relaxed evening at home to a rowdy night out. They like to study alone, not in groups. And they’re often the last ones to speak up in class.

I’m talking about introverts, of course. And if there’s one thing we’ve learned from reports on the recent lawsuit against Harvard University’s admission system, it’s that introverts routinely get the short end of the stick.

The lawsuit alleges that Harvard has engaged in unlawful “racial balancing” by systematically discriminating against Asian Americans, who were given lower “personality” scores by admission officers. It’s a hard charge to prove. If an Asian applicant received a lower personality score, how can we know if that’s because she was Asian?

We can’t, without evidence. But here’s what seems apparent: Harvard’s “personality” evaluation favors people who are outgoing, gregarious and comfortable in the spotlight: in a word, extroverts.

Consider this example, which the New York Times drew from the hundreds of documents that have been filed in the Harvard lawsuit. An Asian American applicant was described as a “hard worker,” but “would she relax and have any fun?”

Other Asian American candidates were characterized the same way — industrious and high-achieving but often lacking in “distinguishing excellence” (or “DE” in admissions shorthand). Nor were they likely to be seen as “leaders,” the figures who stand out from the crowd by standing in front of it.

And that’s what our elite schools are looking for, unabashedly and unapologetically. When Harvard says it wants people with a “positive personality” who are “widely respected” — two other criteria the Times extracted from the court filings — it’s not talking about the kid who will stay in her dorm room on Saturday night to study or watch a video. Introverts aren’t always shy — sometimes they can be quite chatty — but they also need time alone.

And they definitely don’t need to be the center of attention, which makes them markedly less attractive to admissions committees. Colleges want the applicants who will take the bull by the horns and the campus by storm! That means joining as many groups as possible and ideally being the president of each one. And it means participating in — maybe dominating — every available conversation, in and out of class.

That would be defensible if we knew that extroverts were more intelligent or successful than other people. But they’re not. As Susan Cain shows in her indispensable 2012 book, “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking,” extroverts have us snowed. We perceive people who talk a lot — and, especially, those who talk quickly — as more able. And there’s zero evidence for that.

Ditto for the presumption that they make better leaders. As Cain shows, there are plenty of introverts — including Bill Gates and Charles Schwab — who have become famously effective leaders. They govern by example rather than charisma, by listening rather than talking.

Going back to the 1950s, some colleges have argued that the corporations that hire graduates — and that also donate millions to the colleges — preferred the “gregarious, active type,” as one dean told sociologist William Whyte, author of the 1956 classic “The Organization Man.” The dean added: “We see little use for the ‘brilliant’ introvert.”

That’s still generally the case at our selective universities, as recent research on admissions suggests. Never mind that not all of our students intend to enter the corporate world, or that a wealth of research demonstrates that introverts can flourish in that world as much as extroverts can. We want “strong” personalities, who make their mark in public performance rather than behind the scenes.

And we’re sticking with that story, despite evidence that Asians are less likely to display these traits than Westerners are. Cross-cultural studies have demonstrated that people in the East tend to emphasize traits such as humility and hard work, while Americans more often favor cheerfulness and enthusiasm.

So do our admissions policies. I don’t know if that makes them racially discriminatory. But I do know that they’re scientifically indefensible, especially in light of everything we have learned about personality over the past half-century.

This week, the rest of the Ivy League — including my employer, the University of Pennsylvania — closed ranks behind Harvard, defending the use of race in college admissions and emphasizing “the profound importance of a diverse student body for their educational missions,” as the schools wrote in a friend-of-the-court brief. I agree with them. I just wish they were friendly to diverse personalities, not just diverse races. Without that, we’ll end up with students who look different from each other but think and act the same.


Real Estate

by Louise

We haven’t discussed real estate in a long time. I have been watching very escapist fare namely Escape to the Continent on Netflix.
I am interested in what buyers want in a house and the compromises they have to make. Of course, the series features beautiful locations in Europe.
Any real estate transactions closer to home ? Any real estate shows worth watching ? How about growth and prices in your area ?

Open Thread

Thanks for all the submissions, including Monday’s post from RMS

Wed –  Real Estate (Louise)

Th –  Introverts – College Admission/Income/Employment  (Houston, Denver Dad)

Fri –  Don’t Ever Hire me for this Job!  (Rhett)

What “alternative therapies” have you found most effective for your own illnesses and ailments?

by Rocky Mountain Stepmom

Many of the insurance-covered treatments don’t work for back pain, but the non-insurance-covered treatments do, at least to some extent. Yoga, tai chi, massage, etc., are more effective than surgery and opioids. As a decades-long back pain sufferer, I have found that massage and yoga go a very long way towards keeping my lower back pain in check.


Politics Open Thread, Aug 19-25

suggested by NoB, who said

the author’s (Colin Woodard’s) book “American Nations” went a long way toward helping me understand other parts of the US.

It is much better to click through to the full NYT article  because there are detailed maps with text that I can’t paste here.

from NYT

Contrary to conventional wisdom, the most significant and abiding divide in American politics isn’t between city and countryside, but rather among regional cultures. Rural and urban places certainly have distinct interests and priorities, but in our awkward federation their differences have taken a back seat to the broader struggle between our constituent regions.

Sectionalism isn’t, and never has been, as simple as North versus South or an effete and domineering East against a rugged, freedom-minded West. Rather, our true regional fissures can be traced back to the contrasting ideals of the distinct European colonial cultures that first took root on the eastern and southern rims of what is now the United States, and then spread across much of the continent in mutually exclusive settlement bands, laying down the institutions, symbols and cultural norms later arrivals would encounter and, by and large, assimilate into.

Understanding this is essential to comprehending our political reality or developing strategies to change it — especially as we approach a momentously consequential midterm election.


Tracing our history, I’ve identified 11 nations, most corresponding to one of the rival European colonial projects and their respective settlement zones. I call them Yankeedom; New Netherland; the Midlands; Tidewater; Greater Appalachia; Deep South; El Norte; the Left Coast; the Far West; New France; and First Nation. These were the dominant cultures that Native Americans, African-Americans, immigrants and other vital actors in our national story confronted; each had its own ideals, assumptions and intents.


Look at county-level maps of almost any closely contested presidential race in our history, and you see much the same fault lines: the swaths of the country first colonized by the early Puritans and their descendants — Yankeedom — tend to vote as one, and against the party in favor in the sections first colonized by the culture laid down by the Barbados slave lords who founded Charleston, S.C., or the Scots-Irish frontiersmen who swept down the Appalachian highlands and on into the Hill Country of Texas, Oklahoma and the southern tiers of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Missouri.

The Quaker-founded Midlands, the swing region of American politics that makes up a great swath of the heartland, has often been the physical and political buffer between rival regional coalitions, its pluralistic, community-oriented culture at peace neither with the Yankee’s utopian drive to engineer social improvements nor Southern culture’s emphasis on individual freedom above all else. It played the kingmaker’s role again in 2016.

Pundits speak of the “solid South,” but Yankeedom has had stalwart allies as well. The people of the slender Pacific coastal plain from San Francisco to Juneau, Alaska, have backed the same horse as the Yankees in virtually every contest since their states joined the union, and in opposition to the candidate favored by the majority of people in the interiors of their own states. Yankees have long found partners in the Dutch-founded zone in and around New York City and, in recent decades, the sections of the Southwest that were effectively colonized by Spain in the 16th to 19th centuries.

The cultural differences between these regional cultures have a greater effect on our politics than the size and density of our communities. I ran the numbers for the past three presidential elections, comparing the voting behaviors of rural and urban counties within each “nation.” In five regional cultures that together constitute about 51 percent of the United States population, rural and urban counties voted for the same presidential candidate, be it the “blue wave” election of 2008, the Trumpist upheaval of 2016 or the more ambiguous contest in between. In the Deep South, Greater Appalachia, New France and the Far West, rural and urban majorities supported Republican candidates in all three elections, whether voters lived in central cities, wealthy suburbs, mountain hollers or the ranches of the high plains. In El Norte, the Spanish-colonized parts of the Southwest, both types of counties — empty desert or booming cityscapes — voted Democratic.

Recipe Swap, Harvest Edition

by Honolulu Mother

We haven’t had a recipe swap post for a while!  Since it’s late summer and most of you are experiencing a seasonal bounty of produce, let’s focus this one on ways to use up all of those gorgeous fruits and vegetables — what are your favorite recipes for zucchini, basil, corn, other produce?  All recipes are eligible, though, you’re welcome to post your hearty winter fare or pantry-based staples too.

I’ll start us off by sharing one that’s primarily pantry-based, though it does use some fresh basil.  And it’s a worknight quickie for the Instant Pot!
Penne Alla Vodka for Instant Pot
(adapted from Instant Pot Italian by Ivy Manning)
2 TBSP unsalted butter
3 medium garlic cloves, sliced or squeezed through a press
2 TBSP tomato paste
1 14.5 oz can crushed tomatoes (or diced)
1/4 cup vodka
16 oz dry (uncooked) penne
pinch of red chile flakes (optional)
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
1/2 cup or more fresh basil leaves, torn in small pieces
Put the butter in the pot, select saute, and adjust to normal / medium heat.  When the butter has melted, add the garlic and cook till fragrant, 45 seconds.  Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring frequently, until it begins to brown, 1 minute.  Add the tomatoes and vodka and simmer for 1 minute to boil off some of the alcohol.  Press cancel.
Add the rigatoni, red chile flakes (if using), 3 1/4 cups cold water, 1 teaspoon salt, and several grinds of black pepper.  Lock on the lid, select the pressure cook function, and adjust to low pressure for 6 minutes.  Make sure the steam valve is in the “Sealing” position and that the “Keep Warm” button is off.
When the cooking time is up, quick-release the pressure.  Remove the lid.  Add the cream and stir to combine.  Let the pasta stand in the pot, uncovered, for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, to allow the sauce to thicken.  Stir the cheese and basil into the pasta and season with salt and black pepper if needed.

Life changing tech at school and work

by S&M

We often discuss our favorite new gadgets.    But let’s look at the ways you can use technology or even mechanical improvements  to change your life, not just how to be lazy about the light switch.     An example might be kids and adults with anxiety or other quirks/disabilities who need to be able to wear earbuds with soft music to get them through their work/school days.     Or the use of word processing software for children for whom handwriting is a barrier to completion of assignments.     Not to speak of medical conditions that can be ameliorated by improvements.

How have electronics & other tech developments changed the way you or your loved ones live?

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

suggested by Rhett and others.

Milo wrote:

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

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

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


Open Thread

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

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

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

Fri  –   Recipe Swap, Harvest Edition (honolulu mother)

Sleeping during a performance

by Honolulu mother

This Washington Post article raises the question:

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

The author sets the scene:

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

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

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

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

Corporations and Social Change

by Louise

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

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

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


Open Thread

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

Thanks to Swampy for Monday’s topic.

Rest of the week:

Wed-   Corporations and Social Change (Louise)

Th  –    Student Loans and Career  (WCE)

Fri –    Sleeping at the Theater  (HM)

Politics Open Thread, Aug 5-11

starter from WCE

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


What did you love about History Class?

by Houston

Controversy! History! AP! Multiculturalism!

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

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


Productivity and Scheduling

by Houston

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

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


And from L

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



Open Thread / Gone Fishin’

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

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

Thanks to Dell for Monday’s post.

Rest of the week

Wed –   Productivity and Scheduling  (Houston, L)

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

Fri –     True Crime Favorites  (Rhett)

Are the Humanities essential to a University?

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


by Houston

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


Open Thread

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

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

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

Rest of the week:

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

Th –  Humanities in the University  (Houston)

Fri –  Dry Cleaning and Alternatives (HM)

Setting Personal Boundaries

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

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

How do you like to waste time?

by Houston

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


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

Legacy admissions vs diversity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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