Carpe diem

by July

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

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

Don’t wait, enjoy it now

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

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

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

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

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Dealing with negative thoughts

by Swim

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

The long and short of commuting

by AustinMom

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

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

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

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

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

Technology Q&A

by July

Let’s talk tech.

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

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

I can relate to this:

Spam calls have stopped people from answering their phones

Plus mostly good stuff on the horizon:

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

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

Enjoy a cocktail and improve your Spanish

by July

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

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

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

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

Break down the silos

by Rhode

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

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

Tuesday open thread

We have an open thread today.

For a starter you can take this challenge:

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

I was inspired by this thread:  Help Me Pack

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

Upcoming topics:

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

Parental advice

by North of Boston

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

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

* * *

Plus, this from Louise:

Weird news from New Jersey

by Rhode

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

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

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

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

She gave birth!

Anyone have a commuting “weird” story??

Charging Your Kids Room and Board

by Ginger

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

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

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

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

Why you should consider charging your kids board

Tuesday open thread

We can discuss whatever’s on our mind today.

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

Upcoming topics:

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

Admissions lottery for college

by North of Boston

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

Why elite colleges should use a lottery to admit students

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

Utilities failure

by WCE

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

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

MLK Day open thread

What’s on your mind today?

Upcoming topics:

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

Tips for Aging Well

by Seattle Soccer Mom

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

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

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

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

Silly Tricks for Budgeting

by Louise

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

Tuesday open thread

We have an open thread all day.

I’ve been wondering how people feel about this.

Is Marie Kondo Wrong About Books?

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

Huh?

More opinions:

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

And:

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

Upcoming topics:

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

Hometown food favorites

by Cassandra

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

It’s a small world

by Becky

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

Share your “small world” stories!

Parenting teenagers

by S&M

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

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

Tuesday open thread

We have an open thread all day today.

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

Duvets and Comforters, recommendations

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

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

Upcoming topics:

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

‘Superstar’ cities

by Louise

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

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

Let’s discuss location.

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

What’s your spirit holiday?

by S&M

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

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

The value of a ‘super-selective’ college

by Fred

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

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

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

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

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

What do you think?

Also:

Calculating the Risk of College

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

A Retirement PhD

by Rhett

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

For me I have two possible topics.

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

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

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Traffic_wave

What about you?

New Year’s Eve open thread

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

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

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

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

Upcoming topics:

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

Weird news: Unloved books

by Rhode

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

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

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

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

What motivates really rich people?

by WCE

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

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

Christmas Eve open thread

Merry Christmas!  Today and tomorrow we can chat here on any topic as we enjoy the holiday.

Upcoming topics:

Tuesday  —  No post
Wednesday  —  Share your holiday party disasters  (S&M)
Thursday  —  What motivates really rich people?  (WCE)
Friday  —  Weird news: Unloved books  (Rhode)
Sunday —  Politics open thread
Monday  —  New Year’s Eve open thread

Parents in the school lunchroom?

by Swim

Ban on parents at school lunchrooms roils Connecticut town

The headline made me roll my eyes, but a paragraph in the article made me think of our discussion earlier this week about eating out and ‘fast food.’

Other districts have wrestled with lunchroom visitation policies including Beaverton, Oregon, where restrictions were added last year because many Indian and Pakistani families were bringing warm lunches from home daily for their children. The elementary school added a rack where parents can drop off lunches, and the district assesses visit requests on a case-by-case basis, district spokeswoman Maureen Wheeler said.

I’m not familiar with the idea of bringing lunch to school at lunchtime, but bringing in a warm lunch from home (which I’m equating with home cooked and therefore ‘healthier’) sounds like a habit to encourage and the solution seems to meet the needs of the parents, students and school staff.

National parks in crisis

by Denver Dad

Totebaggers are fond of our national parks, but now the parks are becoming victims of their own success. What do people think should be done to maintain them?

Horseshoe Bend is what happens when a patch of public land becomes #instagramfamous. Over the past decade photos have spread like wildfire on social media, catching the 7,000 residents of Page and local land managers off guard.

According to Diak, visitation grew from a few thousand annual visitors historically to 100,000 in 2010 – the year Instagram was launched. By 2015, an estimated 750,000 people made the pilgrimage. This year visitation is expected to reach 2 million.

Crisis in our national parks: How tourists are loving nature to death
As thrill seekers and Instagrammers swarm public lands, reporting from seven sites across America shows the scale of the threat

Tuesday open thread

Open thread all day today.

Upcoming topics:

Wednesday  —  National parks in crisis (Denver Dad)
Thursday  —  Parents in the school lunchroom? (Swim)
Friday  —  You Must Buy… (Louise)
Sunday —  Politics open thread
Monday  —  Christmas Eve open thread

Retiring Abroad

by Ada

Here on the Totebag it seems that most people imagine retirement as getting closer to kids. Maybe it’s my phase of life (I love my kids and have SO much closeness with them) but a little space seems nice. I see my parents 4-5x per year; if I lived in Ecuador, I could make the trip to visit the grandbabies/museum openings/bail hearing at roughly the same frequency.

Also, due to my line of work, I see a lot of people who deeply regret the retirement choices they made – the 66 year old who find out he has a year to live, for example. Of course, they are statistical abnormalities, but their stories stick.

Retirement in America? Too Expensive.
A new book examines the lives of expats in Ecuador and their struggle to stay in the middle class.

Weird News: Shark theft

by Rhode

Here’s the original.

Thieves snatch shark from San Antonio Aquarium, wheel it out in a baby carriage

Yes – the video is real. Thieves snatched a shark from an aquarium using a baby carriage. It’s like a Bugs Bunny cartoon come to life.

But the culprits did not get away.

Suspected shark thief in San Antonio Aquarium heist charged with felony robbery

Felony. Imagine the conversations in jail… “I’m in for stealing a shark.”

A ‘cash-free future’?

by Flyover

Many societies are becoming more and more cashless. Some restaurants won’t even take cash anymore. I usually take $200 from the ATM at a time, and this will usually last me at least six weeks. The NYT says that in Sweden, which has moved towards cashless more quickly than some other countries, “the government is recalculating the societal costs of a cash-free future.”

The article also references the fact that some tech types in Sweden are implanting a microchip into their finger which can be used to pay for things.

Thousands Of Swedes Are Inserting Microchips Under Their Skin

(Although it’s still a TINY number — “thousands” of Swedes are doing this, but the country has a population of 10 million.)

Cell phones and kids

by Louise

Cell phones – particularly as it concerns kids. I am finding that a lot of parents of older kids are taking phones away as discipline tools. What about the younger kids ? I see cell phones quietly being given to keep kids entertained. Of course there is question of when to give kids a cell phone – what is the Totebag consensus ?

I find myself texting my kids after they leave the house and before they begin school and conversely they text me when they are done with school – all mundane matters. Is that good or bad ?

Tuesday open thread

We have an open thread all day today.

Upcoming topics:

Wednesday  —  Cell phones and kids  (Louise)
Thursday  —  A ‘cash-free future’?  (Flyover)
Friday  —  Weird News: Shark theft  (Rhode)
Sunday —  Politics open thread

Leaving or staying in your hometown after college

by WCE

On going to college from the Blackfeet Indian Reservation:

The Blackfeet Brain Drain
Some Native kids who leave to pursue education find themselves stuck between a longing to help their community and the lack of viable employment back home.

We’ve talked about winning the geographic lottery at birth, which occurs when you are born/grow up somewhere with professional job opportunities. One of the reasons some people are reluctant to invest in higher education is that they don’t want to move and their communities have few jobs with returns to higher education.

The gift post!

We have ideas from two totebaggers:

From Swim:

Gifting gone wrong, and of course it’s opposite – gifting gone right.

From Houston:

Help: Are you having trouble finding that perfect gift for a friend or family member? Ask the Totebag community for suggestions.

Traditions: What are your family’s gift giving traditions? Have they changed as you’ve had kids, or your kids have grown up?

It’s all about me: What are you hoping to receive as a present? Do you buy yourself a present during this time of year?

Complaints: Complain about any aspect of holiday gift giving. Grinches welcome!

Generation Z

by Rocky Mountain Stepmom

Did I already submit this? Anyway, it’s a report (that I’m not going to pay for) about how to teach Generation Z. The description page actually touches on all the relevant issues. What do you think, you parents of Gen Z? Are your kids “skeptical and money-conscious”? (Good. They’ll make excellent Totebaggers.)

The New Generation of Students: How Colleges Can Recruit, Teach, and Serve Gen Z

Tuesday open thread

Talk amongst yourselves.

Since we still have many good topics in the pipeline, this week we will only have one open thread.  I’ll continue to schedule only one open thread per week as long as we continue to have a generous flow of submitted posts.

Here’s a starter.  Nate Silver got a lot of disagreement on this tweet.  Feel free to rank the months in your city, in NYC, or anywhere else.

Upcoming topics:

Wednesday  —  Generation Z  (Rocky Mountain Stepmom)
Thursday  —  Work life balance can mean tough trade-offs  (Fred)
Friday  —  The gift post!  (Swim & Houston)
Sunday —  Politics open thread

What is the Most Influential Book of the last 20 years?

by MooshiMooshi

This article, from the Chronicle of Higher Ed, asks this question to a number of scholars. Not surprisingly, many of the books that are listed are dense reads. Some are overtly political; others have to do with culture, or the arts, or even the place of humans in a world of algorithms. I am definitely going to put some of these on my reading list. And of course, I started wondering what books I think are important. There are two ways to think about this. Which recent book or books are most influential to my own way of thinking? And which recent books or books are most influential to people in our society in general? What would you list? I am all ears, because I might find even more books to add to my already staggeringly long to-read list.

The New Canon
What’s the most influential book of the past 20 years?

Weight management and exercise

by S&M

Several people here have lost significant amounts of weight in the last couple of years, and some are concerned about spouses or in-laws. I thought the gender differences focus of this article might be fun to talk about. One issue I notice with it is that it seems to be about number of pounds, not percent of body weight. The metabolism point, however, probably holds true for most people.

The other article is my current interest. I have replaced the weight bench in our living room with a drawer of smaller, lighter-weight equipment: a Swiss ball (it *did* fit in the drawer before I inflated it), mini bands, suspension gear (Jungle Gym) that can go over a tree branch or on a hook or behind a door, yoga mat, blocks, and strap, and an ab roller. This variety lets me be more flexible in what workouts I do, which I think leads to me working out more often, even when I can’t get in “the whole thing”. The exercises are nearly all body-weight based. I’m also trying to roll out muscles more often, but am not doing as well with that—it doesn’t feel like “work” so I tend to devalue it. I’m curious how others’ workouts have changed recently, and if anyone here is focusing on body-weight movements. Also, I’ve given up on the balance disk—I could never do anything other than flank from one side to another, without ever really slowing down to catch a moment of “balance”. I can do a great tree pose, but am wondering what there might be in-between these two extremes.

Do Men Really Lose Weight Faster Than Women?

10 Essential Bodyweight Exercises

When ideology trumps science

by WCE

This NY Times post on reading instruction reminds me of the disagreements my Mom had with her professors while she was getting a master’s in reading during the whole language movement. She had taught infantrymen who hadn’t learned to read in school during the Vietnam War, and she was a strong proponent of phonics instruction, which resulted in some poor grades in graduate school. Eighty percent of her students passed the GED, compared to 40% rates for comparable literacy teachers with the same soldier population, so she clearly did something right. That was true even when soldiers switched from a teacher with low pass rates to her class, so she didn’t cherrypick students.

What current ideologies do you think will change in 20-40 years time? Why is conformance to the reigning ideology so important in academia? (Industry is less rigid, IMHO, because we have to make money.)

Tuesday open thread

What would you like to discuss?

Upcoming topics:

Wednesday  —  When ideology trumps science (WCE)
Thursday  —  Weight management and exercise (S&M)
Friday  —  Weird news: witches work as life coaches (Rhode)
Sunday —  Politics open thread

Fast food and income levels

by Lauren

The percentage of adults consuming fast food on a given day differs by family income level for 2013–2016.

This section is from the CDC study and I was surprised to learn that the numbers rose with income because I would have expected the opposite result.

The percentage of adults who consumed fast food increased with increasing family income level (Figure 3). Overall, 31.7% of lower-income (less than or equal to 130% of the federal poverty level [FPL]), 36.4% of middle-income (greater than 130% to less than or equal to 350% of FPL), and 42.0% of higher-income (greater than 350% of FPL) adults consumed fast food on a given day. A similar pattern was observed for both men and women. Within each income level, there was no significant difference in the percentage between men and women who consumed fast food.

I looked at the numbers in detail and I realized that I did not consider pizza to be fast food when I thought about my own household. If I consider pizza to be fast food, our numbers are also high because of the number of times we eat pizza at parties, meetings and just last minute dinners.

How many of you have similar results in your own families?

Making and keeping friends

by Swim

The loneliness topic this week was interesting and sparked conversation about creating and maintaining friendships.

How do you maintain friendships?

We have all heard funny stories about how couples have met, so what are the funniest ways you have ever met or made a new friend?

Politics Open Thread, Nov 18-24

Let’s talk politics.  Here’s a starter topic from WCE.

The Working Hypothesis:

…But what if people’s ability to produce matters more than how much they can consume? That ability cannot be redistributed. And what if smaller losses for those at the bottom of the economic ladder are much more consequential to them than the larger gains for those already on top? Under those conditions, rising GDP will not necessarily translate into rising prosperity.

Such considerations have deep implications for society’s longer-term trajectory. Even if gains exceed the costs initially, what happens if the losses undermine stable families, decimate entire communities, foster government dependence, and contribute to skyrocketing substance abuse and suicide rates? Such considerations have deep implications for society’s longer-term trajectory. What if the next generation, raised in this environment, suffers as well—perhaps reaching adulthood with even lower productive capacity? What if, in the meantime, cheap capital from foreign savings has fueled enormous increases in government and consumer debt, while the industrial policies of foreign governments have left the American economy with fewer opportunities to create well-paying jobs for less-skilled workers? Such costs show up nowhere in GDP—at least initially. Sadly, they appear to have been much more than hypothetical, and have proved much costlier than anyone imagined.

The explanation for why economic piety steered the nation off course, and the roadmap to recovery, are encapsulated in what I call the Working Hypothesis: that a labor market in which workers can support strong families and communities is the central determinant of long-term prosperity and should be the central focus of public policy.

Alongside stable political institutions that protect basic freedoms, family and community provide the social structures necessary to a thriving society and a growing economy. Those institutions in turn rely on a foundation of productive work through which people find purpose and satisfaction in providing for themselves and helping others. The durable growth that produces long-term prosperity is the emergent property of a virtuous cycle in which people who are able to support their families and communities improve their own productivity and raise a subsequent generation able to accomplish even more.

full essay can be found here.

The Working Hypothesis

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 ?

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?