Holidays from hell

by Grace aka costofcollege

What was your holiday from hell?  Maybe you’ve not suffered from situations as horrible as those in the article linked below, but have you had any time time when your carefully planned trip did not turn out as smoothly as anticipated?  Illness, injury, missed flights, dismal accommodations, horrible weather, unruly or incompatible traveling companions, disappointing destinations, or something else?

Holidays from Hell: From frisky elephants to a loo filled with frogs, tourists reveal the hilarious moments their trips went VERY wrong

One of my recent travel disasters caused me to miss my kid’s college graduation ceremony.  The series of unfortunate events began with a widespread thunderstorm pattern that cancelled our flight and ended with me pulling up to campus the next day just after the last graduate had been handed their diploma.  In between were many snags, including a daylong wait at the originating airport, outrageously priced replacement tickets, misplaced luggage, unexpected highway construction on the way to campus, and a clueless cab driver who asked me for the best alternate route.

My sister once spent the night with her toddler at O’Hare International on Christmas Eve. What travel mishaps or disappointments have you had?  Can you laugh at them now in hindsight?

Change your location, change your personality

by Grace aka costofcollege

Your Personality Changes When You Move to a New Place

… The degree of influence that place has on an individual can depend on what’s driving that place’s personality to begin with. Jason Rentfrow, a psychologist at the University of Cambridge, has reviewed three different potential factors that may, together or separately, drive state and regional variation: migration patterns, ecology, and social influence….

… the most powerful influence on someone who moves may be good ol’ peer pressure. Cultural institutions and values span generations and inculcate newcomers through “social contagion,” and people tend to absorb practices and values of those around them. Schaller says social susceptibility may be one of the strongest forces in encouraging new residents to dial up some personality traits while toning down others. For example, a network of happy people can make a person happier; on the other hand, adults who move to new areas where they are in the ideological minority often feel isolated and become less able to take the perspective of others.

This seems right.  For example, I’ve seen a person become more assertive and brash when they moved from the south to a big city up north.  Have you observed or experienced similar changes?  Is it better to adapt, or to keep your hometown personality?  If you’ve moved, how would you describe your hometown’s personality compared to that of your present location?

Happiness, marriage, divorce

by Grace aka costofcollege

Feeling romantic on this Valentine’s Day?  Here’s a theory that would support trying to stay in a marriage that is not horrible.

We have a script in our heads about what divorce does, much of it lifted from the divorce revolution of the 1960s and 1970s. Two people meet … they fall in love … they develop irreconcilable differences, or they grow apart, and must split so that at least one of the parties can develop into their truest, highest self.

But more recent research suggests a very different truth about happiness. As Daniel Gilbert argues in the brilliant book “Stumbling on Happiness,” unless our circumstances are truly unbearable, our brains will seek to find their natural level of happiness, like floodwater evening out across a plain. Whatever we are stuck with … whatever we commit to … we will find ways to make it work — and we will be just as happy with it as we would have been with any other outcome.

Under this theory, all other forces being equal, those who avoid divorce end up with the same long-term level of happiness that they would have had post-divorce … and they skip the short-term financial and emotional pains of separation.

What do you think?

And have you seen evidence of this trend?

Study: More Older Adults Prefer ‘Living Apart Together’

Among the comments, this one made me laugh:

My friends and I all want to be married on the national guard plan. 1 weekend a month. Two weeks in the summer.

Non-negotiables in house hunting

by Grace

Many of us have must-haves when shopping for a house.  These could include features like gas cooking, master bath with a large tub, eat-in kitchen, easy commute, top public schools, attached garage, no corner lot, two story, one story, etc.

What are your non-negotiables?  Look through this College Confidential discussion if you’d like to get more ideas.

Related, do you have any regrets about choosing your present home?  What features would you change if you could?

Bargain travel

by Grace aka costofcollege

Despite her initial doubts, this NYT travel writer gave a positive review of a trip she took using a bargain package deal.

Looking for a Bargain Vacation? Don’t Rule Out Hawaii

For years I’d seen online ads for surprisingly affordable prefab vacations — airfare and hotel, with maybe a car and a tour thrown in — through unexpected vendors like Groupon and Costco. I remember thinking, “Do people actually buy vacations through Costco?” To me, packaged bulk trips were the five-pound tub of mozzarella balls of travel. Sure, it’s a bargain, but how bland? What quality could you possibly get for that impossibly low price? I was, in short, the worst kind of travel snob.

I regularly check deals that come my way, mainly Groupon Getaway and Travelzoo.  But I’ve never tried any.  Sometimes they seem too good to be true and sometimes they seem to scrimp more than I’d like.  (Are the hotels lacking?  Can I get an aisle seat on the plane?)  Sometimes they don’t seem like such a great value when I start to compare low airfares and housing options that I could assemble on my own.  But I keep telling myself that one day I need to throw caution to the wind and buy a five-night inclusive trip to the Caribbean for under $600.  How bad could it be?

Here are three travel deals I recently came across, all departing from New York:

  • 11-day Thailand & China Tour w/Air for $1499 that includes hotels, transfers, daily breakfasts, and several tours including one of the Great Wall of China
  • London & Rome 6-Night Trip for $799 that includes air, hotels, transfers, daily breakfasts
  • Punta Cana 5-nights all-inclusive beach side resort including air for $589

Do these sound enticing to you?  Have you ever bought one of these deals or have you considered it?  Do you know people who’ve had good or bad experiences?  Do you avoid these mainly because they’re too conventional and you prefer more personalized travel?  In other words, are you a “travel snob”?  Any advice for someone who’s considering buying one of these deals?

Also, do you have any travel plans coming up or any dreamy destinations that you’d like to visit soon?

Your franchise dream

by Grace aka costofcollege

What it costs to open one of america’s ten most popular franchises

Inspired by this article, I let myself dream a little about having my own franchise business.  I don’t consider myself the traditional entrepreneurial type and I am not interested in any business that deals with food, but I have toyed with the idea of having a Kumon franchise.  The hours seem reasonable and I foresee an ongoing need for their services.

Here’s one list that has Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwiches (I’ve never heard of them) as number one.

The Top 10 Franchises of 2016

Some totebaggers run their own businesses, but most of us do not.  What’s your dream franchise or business of any kind?  And even if you don’t realistically see yourself as an entrepreneur, what business would you be interested in trying if the usual obstacles were magically removed?

 

Open thread

by Grace aka costofcollege

Today’s post is open to any topic.  Here’s what was on my mind:

Since I’m trying to establish a more minimalist approach to possessions, this article caught my eye.

The Diderot Effect: Why We Want Things We Don’t Need — And What to Do About It

The Diderot Effect states that obtaining a new possession often creates a spiral of consumption which leads you to acquire more new things. As a result, we end up buying things that our previous selves never needed to feel happy or fulfilled.

Some examples:

  • You buy a new dress and now you have to get shoes and earrings to match.
  • You buy a CrossFit membership and soon you’re paying for foam rollers, knee sleeves, wrist wraps, and paleo meal plans.
  • You buy your kid an American Girl doll and find yourself purchasing more accessories than you ever knew existed for dolls.
  • You buy a new couch and suddenly you’re questioning the layout of your entire living room. Those chairs? That coffee table? That rug? They all gotta go.

Have you ever fallen victim to the Diderot Effect?  How’s your clutter management coming along these days?

Thanksgiving open thread

by Grace aka costofcollege

We have an open thread for any discussion topics over the Thanksgiving weekend.  How are things going?

Related to previous conversations about the “bubble” in which we live, here’s a version called the Thanksgiving Bubble courtesy of CollegeConfidential.

Is Your Thanksgiving in an Elitist Bubble?

No green bean casserole: 0 points
From scratch using a recipe off epicurious and fresh green beans and mushrooms: 1 point
Canned soup base, canned green beans, French’s fried onions: 5 points

Heritage breed, free range, humanely raised, hormone free turkey sold by your local butcher or Whole Foods at price that could pay for a nice dinner out for a family of four: 0 points
Pre-cooked turkey dinner bought at Dean & DeLuca: 0 points
Fresh turkey, nothing special: 1 point
Frozen Butterball Turkey: 2 points
Store brand turkey that you saved up the store receipts for months to get for free: 3 points
Turkey you shot yourself in the woods, gutted and dressed yourself: 10 points, with bonus point given for deep frying it.

Homemade cranberry sauce with fancy ingredients like candied ginger, figs or kumquats: 0 points
Homemade cranberry sauce, nothing fancy: 1 point
Canned whole berry cranberry sauce: 2 points
Canned jelly cranberry sauce still bearing the ridge lines from the can (my favorite kind ): 5 points
No cranberry sauce because you’re from the deep south and they don’t do the cranberry thing there: 7 points

Fresh sweet potatoes with a brown sugar/rum glaze (family favorite): 0 points
Fresh sweet potatoes with store bought marshmallows: 2 points
Fresh sweet potatoes with homemade marshmallows: -2 points
Canned sweet potatoes with store bought marshmallows: 5 points

Fresh whipped cream for your pie: 0 points
Whipped Cream from a can: 1 point
Premium ice cream: 0 points
Store brand ice cream: 1 point
Cool Whip: 5 points

What’s your score, both from your childhood and from today?

 

Dealing with loss

A week ago Hillary Clinton suffered a crushing defeat at the polls.  A couple of days later one of her supporters encountered Clinton out hiking near her home in Chappaqua.

20161112-hrchiking

This news caught my eye because I remember after suffering one of the most devastating losses of my adult life I took to walking almost every day for hours.  It was therapeutic, and I frankly could not think of any other way to deal with my misfortune.  And it helped me understand that taking one day (or one step) at a time was an effective way to deal with life’s adversities.

How do you deal with loss and disappointment?  Whether it’s a small setback like not getting an expected promotion or a large one like the death of a loved one, we’ve all had to find ways to handle loss.  Do you try to put it out of your mind and carry on with your regular routine?  Do you exercise?  Do you overeat or drink?  Does religion offer you comfort?  Do you turn to deep self-analysis?  Do you seek out support from close friends?  What works, and doesn’t work, for you?

 

Grandparenting styles

by Grace aka costofcollege

The Hands-Off Grandma

… my mom is what you might call a “hands-off” Grandma—or Bubbe, as she is affectionately referred to. She loves her grandkids. She enjoys spending time with them, in small doses. She cares about their well-being and what is happening in their lives. But she is not interested in participating in the grunt work of raising them: the tasks that include bodily fluids and flailing limbs, tears and stall tactics and four outfit changes in as many minutes. In so far as it is possible to engineer, my mother, at 70, is looking to experience the good bits associated with young children, the fun bits, and not the slog.

For her, this is the line between what it is to be a grandparent and what it is to be a parent. This is the privilege you earn with the prefix “Grand.” “I’ve done my time,” she says, and she certainly has. She is the mother of three children, across eight years and two marriages. She did everything for us as we grew up—playdates, parties, projects—everything. She watches some of her friends “grandparent” in a way she finds unappealing, women, she says, who are attempting motherhood all over again. “I have my own life,” she reminds me, with perfect kindness and accuracy. “I don’t need to re-live having children through yours.”

What type of grandparents did you have and what type of grandparents are your own parents?  What would you prefer, hands off, hands on, or something in between?  What type of grandparent are you or will you be?

Open thread

by Grace aka costofcollege

We have an open thread today, but first a question.  Do you feel a need to bust out of your rut?

101 Rut-Busting Things to Do This Weekend
Tired of same-old Saturdays and dismal Sundays? From real-estate adventures to pet-related impetuousness, this list of suggestions will shake up your downtime. Bonus: Try the Random Idea Generator

Okay, most are outlandish and silly, but some got me thinking.  Coding, open houses, blindfolds . . .

Anything on the list catch your fancy?  Or do you have something else you’ve been thinking about doing to shake up your life a little?  Or maybe some of you are too busy juggling the basic functions of family life to even think about anything else now.

Halloween open thread

by Grace aka costofcollege

Here’s the most popular Halloween treat by state

Candy corn was the most popular in five states.  Really?

Influenster halloween candy map

Candy Corn Lovers Will Eat Candy Corn Anything—No Matter What It Tastes Like
Trick or treaters will score candy-corn flavored Oreos, Peeps and M&M’s, but confectioners often have no idea what candy corn should taste like; ‘eating an antique candlestick’

Here’s another description:  “It’s not candy, it’s not corn, it’s earwax formed in the shape of a rotten tooth”

What’s your favorite candy and how is your Halloween celebration coming along?

Charisma

by Grace aka costofcollege

What are the components to charisma?

Charismatic behavior can be broken down into three core elements: presence, power, and warmth.

When people describe their experience of seeing a charismatic person in action, whether Bill Clinton or the Dalai Lama, they often mention the individual’s extraordinary “presence.” Presence turns out to be a core component of charisma, the foundation upon which all else is built.

But if presence is the foundation on which charisma rests, power and warmth are the stuff of which it is built….

You need all three to be charismatic, but the degree of each determines the kind of charisma you have….

You can become more charismatic.

Stare like a lover, stand like a gorilla, speak like a preacher….

Learn more:

How to Master the Art and Science of Charisma

Do you agree with the components listed in the quote, or would you describe it differently?  Are you charismatic?  Do you work on it?  In what specific ways have you seen charisma benefit someone?  Who is the most charismatic person you personally know?  Can you teach your children to be more charismatic?  What suggestions would you have for someone trying to be more charismatic?

Democratic vs. Republican occupations

by Grace aka costofcollege

Your Surgeon Is Probably a Republican, Your Psychiatrist Probably a Democrat

New data show that, in certain medical fields, large majorities of physicians tend to share the political leanings of their colleagues, and a study suggests ideology could affect some treatment recommendations. In surgery, anesthesiology and urology, for example, around two-thirds of doctors who have registered a political affiliation are Republicans. In infectious disease medicine, psychiatry and pediatrics, more than two-thirds are Democrats.

The author suggests that salary and gender play a role in the political leanings of doctors.

Here’s another measure of politics and occupations that is based on political contributions.

Democratic vs. Republican occupations
Most librarians are Democrats. Most farmers are Republicans.
As a group, doctors are in the middle, though pediatricians lean left and urologists right

Do you see these trends among people you know?  Do you fit in with any overall political orientation among your colleagues, or do you usually feel out of place?  What about with your neighbors, friends, and relatives?  Do you talk politics in real life?

Open thread

by Grace aka costofcollege

We have an open thread today, with a side conversation about tracking apps.

What do you all think of tracking apps?  I’ve seen kids and parents go to both extremes.  Some kids are nonchalant about the use of this technology, finding nothing offensive about having parents know every move they make.  Others are fiercely resistant about their privacy and want none of it.

TRACKING APPS: HOW TO GET BUY-IN FROM YOUR TEEN

One mother I know wanted to use a tracking app for the times when her 19-year old daughter was taking public transportation late at night after work. Her daughter was against it, and they compromised with agreeing to regular texting from the daughter.   On the other hand, another mother and her twenty-something daughter seem to know each other’s every move by using Find My Friends.  Young people I know use that app to keep track of each other.

Do you or will you use a tracking app with your high school or college kids? What about with younger kids?  Do you think it’s helicoptering, or just a common sense safety measure?

Keeping family close

by Grace aka costofcollege

Do you maintain close ties with your parents, siblings, and extended family?

Frank Bruni and his family place great value in having a week-long family reunion every year.

… we’re also dedicated to it, and we’ve determined that Thanksgiving Day isn’t ample, that Christmas Eve passes too quickly, and that if each of us really means to be central in the others’ lives, we must make an investment, the biggest components of which are minutes, hours, days. As soon as our beach week this summer was done, we huddled over our calendars and traded scores of emails to figure out which week next summer we could all set aside. It wasn’t easy. But it was essential.

Marjorie Rosenblatt’s youngest child is in high school, and she wants to be sure to stay close to her kids as they become independent adults.

While I recognize this progression toward independence was our eventuality, even our goal, it felt and still feels somehow unnatural to me; how can we as parents know the comings and goings of and daily events in the lives of our children, only to accept that this degree of involvement would be relatively abruptly replaced by an occasional text or phone call? How can our family, an indivisible unit, disperse, and yet (we hope) continue to be solid? How can we stay close as a family as our lives diverge?

She suggests group travel, text threads, traditions, and care packages.  Gretchen Rubin and her family send frequent email “updates” to each other as a way to maintain close contact.

I like some of these ideas, but they do require a commitment to make them work.  I’ve seen how easy it is to let family ties fray.  One way I maintain contact with some extended family is through a private Facebook group, where we post updates about what is happening in our lives.  We feel we can share more on this private group than on our regular timeline.

Has your extended family kept close ties?  If so, how have you made it happen?  Have you thought about ways to maintain close contact with your children as they become adults?   If your children are grown, are you satisfied with the type of relationship you now have?  On the other hand, do you prefer to keep a friendly distance from some relatives?

What I ate yesterday

by Grace aka costofcollege

The Weird Appeal of ‘What I Ate Today’ Videos

Inspired by the popularity of YouTube “What I Ate Today” videos, I propose we all share similar information.

What did you eat yesterday?  List it all, if you dare.  Or you can make something up if you’d rather keep your secrets.  We’ll never know the difference anyway!  But I am genuinely curious about Totebaggers’ real eating habits.  If you can remember that long ago, list what you ate over two or more days.  Add commentary to help us understand your choices.

Was yesterday typical?  Was your day rushed or relaxed?  Did you cook, take out, go out, have leftovers, or something else?  Are you happy with your diet or do you wish you ate better?  Do family members struggle with trying to eat healthy?  What have you eaten today?

What are your favorite “fast food” meals, either traditional like McDonald’s or something easy to prepare at home?

Trend alert:  US retail sales of eating and drinking establishments are now higher than those of grocery stores.

Handyman for a day

by Grace aka costofcollege

I’ve been seeing variations on this Angie’s List deal.

$279 Handyman for the Day

Are you tempted?

Your list of projects around the house seems to keep growing with no end in sight. Skip the hassle and let the professionals do the work for less with this great offer!

$279.00 for 8 labor hours of skilled handyman services (1 worker for 8 hours or 2 workers for 4 hours each)
Deal can be used for everything from shelving installation to minor electrical and minor plumbing repairs

Assuming you could get a competent handyman, do you have any projects you’d like to get done?  I can think of a few, including that sagging garage trim that needs to be straightened, weatherstripping around some doors that needs to be replaced, and a new doorbell.  If I gave it more thought, I’m sure I could come up with lots more.  What about you?  How about landscaping or housecleaning chores that you’d like to take care of with a similar deal?

Have you ever used a service like this?  One thing I thought of was that I’d want to be very organized and make sure to have all the materials on hand so that minimal time would be wasted on trips to the hardware store.

What’s your next home project?

Adult summer camp

by Grace aka costofcollege

Seattle adult summer camp provides escape from stress

What’s your fantasy adult summer camp?  Active or lazy?  Luxury or bare bones?  Hiking, crafts, swimming, boating, sports, performing arts, computers, science, language immersion, reading, yoga, boozy parties, or something else?  The sky’s the limit.  Describe what your ideal camp schedule might be. Or, would you rather skip camp all together?

Did you attend camp as a child?  Do your children attend camp?  Many people I’ve known have strong opinions on sending away their children to sleepaway camps that last six weeks or more.

Here’s a summer camp that seems geared toward a young party crowd, with DJ dance parties and alcohol all day long.

We went to an adult summer camp—and had a blast

What is a Totebagger?

by Grace aka costofcollege

What is your definition of a Totebagger?  Can you list the essential qualities/values/behaviors of a TB?  I’d be curious to see what you write before you read any comments already posted.

While the TB profile may be crystal clear to most of you, I find it hard to describe with precision.  It probably contains an important core component, along with squishy edges that meld into other categories of people.

How Totebaggy are you?  100%, or considerably less?  What are your most Totebaggy values or behaviors, and what are your least?

How important is work?

by Grace aka costofcollege

Why Do Americans Work So Much?

Economist Benjamin M. Friedman studied why “increased productivity has not translated into increased leisure time”.  One reason may be that because of economic inequality, the gains of increasing productivity are not widely shared.  But that’s not the whole explanation, because rich people work very hard.

… he theorized that for many top earners, work is a labor of love. They are doing work they care about and are interested in, and doing more of it isn’t such a burden—it may even be a pleasure. They derive meaning from their jobs, and it is an important part of how they think of themselves. And, of course, they are compensated for it at a level that makes it worth their while.

Is there a danger in eliminating the need for work?

Mickey Kaus fears a future in which robots do all the work and we, consequently, have no basis for self-respect.
“Evolutionarily, we are designed for work. We are unhappy when we’re not working. We become a sociopathic bachelor herd…. What do we do with all these people who have no productive work?”

Even if robots don’t eliminate the pressing need to work for money, would a universal basic income cause more people to forego employment?  Earlier this month Switzerland overwhelmingly rejected a plan to give a guaranteed monthly income to all residents.

The Dream—Or Is It a Nightmare?—of No Work

Work gives people something welfare never can. It’s a sense of self-worth and mastery, the feeling that we are in control of our lives. This is a source of abiding joy…. Studies show that people who receive public support are twice as likely as those not receiving public support to report feeling worthless. “Very happy” people work more hours each week than those who are “pretty happy,” who in turn work more hours than those who are “not too happy.”

Some people find it hard to imagine a fulfilled life without doing paid work or playing a key role in raising children.  Others find fulfillment in volunteer work.  What do you think?  How important is work?  Is it vital for self-respect and dignity?  Do we “need” to work?

Open thread

by Grace aka costofcollege

What’s on your mind today?  Current events?

Here’s a distraction if you’d like it.

Psychologists Have Invented a Test to Measure Your Secret Need for Drama

Can you predict any totebaggers who might score high on the need for drama?  I think most totebaggers avoid drama.  Do you know any drama queens in real life?  Is it mainly tiresome or fun to be around them?  How did you score?

Graduation costs

by Grace aka costofcollege

This time of year many families are celebrating graduations, whether preschool, elementary school, middle school, high school, or college.  The costs can mount up, as discussed in this CollegeConfidential thread.

Cap and gowns, diplomas, yearbooks, photos, rings, invitations, dinners, parties, travel, and gifts are some of the typical expenditures.  If your child is receiving honors of various types, costs for awards dinners can mount up.  One parent with twins complained she would be spending several hundred dollars for those.  Other end-of-year expenditures like recitals and proms can also strain family budgets.

How lavish is your spending for graduation celebrations?  What is common among your friends and relatives?  What about spending for other types of milestones, like First Communions or bat/bar mitzahs?

Are you a Rebel?

by Grace aka costofcollege

The start of the Totebag 30-Day Challenge seems an appropriate time to learn about Gretchen Rubin’s Four Tendencies and how they affect habits.

When we try to form a new habit, we’re setting an expectation for ourselves. Therefore, to change our habits, it’s crucial to understand how we respond to expectations.

I suggest you take this quiz before you read more.

Gretchen Rubin’s Quiz: The Four Tendencies

Are you an Upholder, Questioner, Obliger, or Rebel?

Rubi_9780385348614_roughpages_8.25.14.indd

Do you think the quiz reveals your tendencies?  Or is all this just a frivolous exercise in pseudo science?

If you’re participating in the Totebag 30-Day Challenge, go to the WEEK ONE page to check in.

Storage and the ‘4Ds’

by Grace aka costofcollege

Need to Store That? Booming Self-Storage Industry Says No Problem
Extra Space Storage shares surge; investment firms look to cash in

It’s possible to profit from our pack-rat habits.  Why is the self-storage industry booming?

… Some refer to the 4Ds—death, divorce, downsizing and dislocation….

Have you gone through any of the “4Ds”?  How did you deal with storage issues?  Any general tips for taming the storage beast?  Any good investment tips?

Related:

10 things to throw away right now


ALSO:
 Go vote for your preferred group activity if you plan to participate in the TOTEBAG 30-DAY CHALLENGE.

Open thread

by Grace aka costofcollege

Today we have an open thread to talk about anything we’d like.

We can keep conversations going online here indefinitely.  But what about IRL, either in person or on the phone?

The best way to end a conversation, according to science

I sometimes have a hard time easing out of a long-winded conversation, particularly on the phone.

In other news, I’m excited about possibly having a chance to make a difference in the upcoming New York presidential primary.  I’m very curious to see how my neighbors will vote.

Friday open thread

by Grace aka costofcollege

Today we have an open thread to discuss anything on your mind.

The Totebag 30-Day Challenge is scheduled to begin on May 1.  My initial idea had been that each participant could pick a particular activity they want to do, not that we would all do the same thing. However, some Totebaggers would prefer that we all do the same activity.  A compromise would be to select one activity for the group, but leave open the option for individuals to select their own personalized challenge activity if they wish.

Let’s brainstorm.  You can suggest group challenge activities in the comments,  Or let us know if you have a particular activity you’re considering for yourself.

Advice for ‘your “average” excellent student’

by Grace aka costofcollege

Truthful advice about getting into top colleges, for your “average” excellent student

… Your excellent student, (especially if a white girl, or Asian), in a good school district, with excellent test scores, grades, and a range of ECs is very, very unlikely to get into any school with an acceptance rate under 20%. UNLESS the kid is, or does, something exceptional, or is hooked.

That’s one CollegeConfidential parent’s opinion after going through the college application process with her daughter this year.  I suggest you read through the discussion if you’re interested in this topic.

Many families have unrealistic expectations for their “average” excellent kids.

In our town (and all over the Northeast, I suspect), a smart, hard working white or asian girl with good/great stats is a dime a dozen. Actually, I think the same is applies to the boys as well.

We have a number of young men and women who are still shell shocked that they did not get into certain schools. It was all so predictable, and unfortunate that their parents did not “get it”. I know of one mother who is embarrassed her daughter was only accepted to UVA. It’s heartbreaking.

Not all Totebaggers aspire to have their children attend tippy-top colleges.  Some just want their children to be academically qualified for the most selective schools so as to be eligible for merit scholarships elsewhere.  Other Totebaggers would be happy with their children attending your average state school.

Your thoughts?

Our future virtual life

by Grace aka costofcollege

Where does your imagination take you as we consider the ways that technological innovations will continue to change our lives?

Here’s one way learning may be made more efficient and easier.

Scientists develop Matrix-style technique of ‘feeding’ information directly into your brain

“As we discover more about optimising, personalising, and adapting brain stimulation protocols, we’ll likely see these technologies become routine in training and classroom environments.

“It’s possible that brain stimulation could be implemented for classes like drivers’ training, SAT prep, and language learning.”

We may be able to implant memories of vacations that we actually never took.

More possible trends:

Anthem Tells Customers to Visit Virtual Doctors, Therapists, and Psychologists
Growing number of insurers push virtual visits to doctor

The Rich Are Already Using Robo-Advisers, and That Scares Banks

The Language Barrier Is About to Fall
Within 10 years, earpieces will whisper nearly simultaneous translations—and help knit the world closer together

Roaches to the rescue: insect provides blueprint for robotic first responder
Researchers at University of California at Berkeley are developing a mechanical roach after finding its exoskeleton is uniquely suited to fitting into small spaces

Robots will force experts to find other routes to the top
If grunt work of professions is automated, an important way that juniors hone skills will be lost

Domino’s Is Testing the World’s First Pizza-Delivery Robot

Isn’t sex the driving force behind so much of technology?

Makers of ‘mindblowing’ sex robot with virtual vagina swamped with orders

The sex toys of the future: Talking high-tech dolls can be given a personality via an app to create the ‘perfect lover’

What Women and Men Want from Sex Robots

And the scariest proposition of all?

A lot of people who make over $350,000 are about to get replaced by software

Let’s discuss the good, the bad, and the ugly of how technology will affect the future for us and our children.

The 30-day challenge

by Grace aka costofcollege

The New Era of 30-Day Fitness Challenges
Options to help people spend a month focusing on running, yoga, exercises for abs and more are proliferating …

The 30-day exercise challenge is increasingly popular, especially as an alternative to New Year’s resolutions, which often fail this time of year. The pitch is to stick with a commitment for a month, whether to reach a specific benchmark, mix up a routine or try to establish an exercise habit.

Thirty-day challenges push people to chase goals big and small, from cutting out soda to writing a novel. More than 200 smartphone apps for Apple’s iOS operating system have “30 day challenge” in the title, 10 times the number available in 2014, according to App Annie, an analytics and market-data company. Internet searches for “30 day challenge” have climbed 140% since 2013, according to Google. Gyms and yoga studios offer them as a way to win customers, hoping that a 30-day stint will turn into a habit.

Some Totebaggers have done the Whole 30 Program successfully.  Many other types of 30-day challenges exist — eliminating soft drinks or another food from your diet, reading, acts of kindness, walking or running, planks or pushups, journaling, decluttering, etc.  Part of the appeal is that the commitment is relatively short term.

We recently had a post about the challenge of developing good habits.  What do you think of the 30-day challenge trend?  Have you tried it?  Is the idea appealing to you?  What activity have you done or would you consider doing?  Are you interested in doing a Totebag 30-day challenge, one where we could each pick a particular activity and track our progress here on the blog?

Heart attacks and other silent killers

by Grace aka costofcollege

She thought it was only a 24-hour bug. What she really had almost killed her.

A 46-year old woman awoke suddenly before dawn feeling “kind of funny”, and then ran to the bathroom to throw up.  Her husband insisted on taking her to the emergency room because he thought she could be having a heart attack.  It turns out he saved her life.

Don’t think it can’t happen to you and don’t trust your instincts. 

I would tell you to trust your instincts — except in this case my instinct was to chalk up my symptoms to something else and to worry about whether the doctors and nurses would think I was crazy. So I’ll say don’t trust your instincts, if your instincts are to wait and see what happens. When you just don’t feel right, don’t ignore it. Fredi says that 9 out of 10 women with my symptoms would not have gone to the hospital. I wouldn’t have gone either, if it weren’t for Tim.

Many women have no chest pain, no tightness, no pain in the arm or jaw until it is much too late. Many women suffering a heart attack simply “don’t feel right,” just as I did. So if that happens, don’t ignore the feeling and don’t worry about someone thinking you’re crazy. Get yourself checked out. The worst thing that happens is they send you home and tell you you’re fine. You can live with that.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who has thought about similar scenarios, and hopes to make the right decision if a heart attack, stroke, or other calamity strikes.  I can relate to the woman in this article.  Once while on a tropical island vacation I woke up in the middle of the night with severe pain in one arm.  Although I considered that I might be having a heart attack, I ultimately decided not to go to the hospital.  It turned out to be the right choice, but I could have been deadly wrong.

Have you ever wavered in deciding whether to rush to the emergency room?  How did it turn out?  Do you feel confident about knowing how to react to the symptoms of heart disease, the “No. 1 killer of women in the United States”?  What lessons have you learned from the experiences of family or friends?  Any advice to share?

Skills that kids need

by Grace aka costofcollege

The skills Americans say kids need to succeed in life

Pew Research Center recently asked a national sample of adults to select among a list of 10 skills: “Regardless of whether or not you think these skills are good to have, which ones do you think are most important for children to get ahead in the world today?”

The answer was clear. Across the board, more respondents said communication skills were most important, followed by reading, math, teamwork, writing and logic. Science fell somewhere in the middle, with more than half of Americans saying it was important.

Rounding out the bottom were skills more associated with kids’ extracurricular activities: art, music (sorry, right-brained people) and athletics. There was virtually no difference in the responses based on whether the person was a parent of a child aged 18 and younger or not.

20160305.PewKidsSkillsI take it that communication skills include speaking and writing.  Go to the link to see differences based on the respondents’ level of education.

Your thoughts?

Touchy-feely

by Grace aka costofcollege

No Touching: The Countries That Dislike Physical Contact the Most
A study suggests you should hug a Finn, but not a Brit.

Do you greet a stranger by kissing them on the cheek or giving them a firm handshake? In the largest study ever quantifying where people were comfortable being touched and by whom, 1,300 men and women were asked the same question. The results suggest that when greeting most people, you’re better off with a handshake.

The participants, from Finland, France, Italy, Russia, and the U.K., detailed where strangers, family members, friends, and romantic partners were allowed to touch them. Researchers from the University of Oxford and Finland’s Aalto University then combined the results to create a so-called “heat map.”

It is not surprising that the study found “some nationalities were less enthusiastic about touching than others”.

…True to their stereotype, British participants were right at the bottom on the touchability index. And to the researchers’ surprise, Italians were less comfortable with being touched than Russians.

Some families are lavish in expressing affection with hugs and kisses.  Lately I’ve noticed that it’s still not uncommon to see Latin Americans and some Europeans of both genders walking arm in arm down the street.   It seems some stereotypes still hold.

These cultural norms can get tricky in dealing with business colleagues from different countries.  Intermarriage between different cultures is another area that can get complicated for families.

What’s your style, touchy-feely, stand-offish, or in between?  Have you had to adjust your style for family or business?  Any awkward situations?

What other cultural differences have you had to navigate in your personal or professional life?

How to be persuasive

by Grace aka costofcollege

How to change someone’s mind, according to science

A new paper from researchers at Cornell University sheds some light on how and why people are convinced to change their minds. The researchers analyzed nearly two years of postings on ChangeMyView, a forum on the internet community reddit where posters present an argument and invite people to reason against them….

Their research suggests that the arguments that end up changing people’s minds have certain dynamics. Numbers are important: The more people that try to persuade the original poster, the greater the likelihood of changing their view. So is timing: Those who write back first to the post first are more likely to persuade the original poster than those who write later, as the lefthand chart below shows.

Interestingly, the researchers find that some back-and-forth exchange between participants is a sign of success in convincing someone, but that a lot of it is a sign of failure …

More on this study:

Why are people more persuasive when they use language like “it could be the case”?

A Subreddit Sparked a Scientific Inquiry Into How to Change Someone’s Mind

What do you think?  Have you seen these dynamics play out on this blog or on other online forums?  How does this relate to real life discussions?

Open thread on President’s Day

by Grace aka costofcollege

Today we have an open thread.  Any and all topics are welcome.

Would you be tempted to participate in a reality show in return for $40,000 in home renovations?

HGTV’s Property Brothers are returning to my area, and this caught my eye.

What’s the budget you need to have to be considered?

‘Buying & Selling’ is the best deal you’re going to get from any television show. It’s unreal; the homeowners contribute from $10-$15,000 and they’re getting a $50-$60,000 renovation. For one house, we just redid the entire exterior siding, which was lemon yellow, before we even filmed. It’s huge benefit to have this quality of renovation and to have this incredible team come in to renovate your house.

 

Open thread — food manners, Super Bowl recipes, or whatever

by Grace aka costofcollege

Today we have an open thread, with hijacks welcome.

Here’s a topic to get you started:

Don’t cut spaghetti, never ‘air butter’ bread and slice bananas on the plate: Expert reveals the correct way to eat the trickiest foods in public (politicians take note!)

I have never noticed anyone using an empty mussel shell to eat mussels.  I’m guilty of air buttering and other infractions.  Do you have perfect food manners?  What do you notice among other diners?  Any pet peeves?  Any embarrassing incidents?

What do you do when you’re a guest and you are served something you don’t/can’t eat or is unappetizing?  I recently ran into food that was too hard to cut with the flatware I was given, so I picked it up with my hand to eat it.  It was a little tough, but edible.

Any good Super Bowl recipes to share?  What else is on your mind today?

Also . . .
I’ve been using these open threads to fill in due to the recent scarcity of submissions. These open posts are fine to free up discussions for timely topics of our choosing, but if you submit more posts we can make sure they don’t become too frequent. As always, your ideas and comments are welcome.

Race in America

by Grace aka costofcollege

On Martin Luther King Day, 5 facts about race in America

Here’s one.

A growing share of Americans say that racism in society is a big problem. Half of Americans now say this, up from 33% five years earlier, reflecting an increase across all demographic groups. Nearly three-quarters of blacks characterized racism as a big problem, as did 58% of Hispanics. Although whites were far less likely to say racism is a big problem (44%), the share of whites expressing this view has risen 17 percentage points since 2010. There is a partisan divide too: 61% of Democrats say racism is a big problem, compared with 41% of Republicans – though the share of Republicans saying racism is a big problem has doubled since 2010, when it was just 17%.

What are your thoughts on this?  Are you surprised we have not experienced more racial healing over the last few years?  Anything else on your mind today?

To splurge or not to splurge?

by Grace aka costofcollege

Some questions to ponder:

  1. What is worth splurging on?
  2. What were splurges that were NOT worth it?
  3. What was the splurge that got away?  The one you regretted not buying?

A splurge doesn’t necessarily have to be exorbitantly expensive.  It could be a small luxury that you feel is worth the few extra bucks.

Some examples of splurges that are totally worth it might include water-view hotel rooms, a housekeeper, or premium quilted toilet paper.  Some examples of splurges that were not worth it might be expensive meals that disappointed, fancy dining room furniture that is rarely used, or a treadmill that ends up serving mainly as a clothes hanger.  The splurge that got away may be that fixer-upper home in the San Francisco Bay area that you passed on a few years ago.

Here are some of mine:
Splurges that are worth it:  Aisle seats on a plane and non-stop flights.
Splurges that were not worth it:  Upgrade to business class.
Splurges that got away:  That cute gemstone necklace I saw in a Brooklyn boutique but I thought was too expensive.  I still think about it and I’ve never seen anything I like quite as much.

This post was inspired by these CollegeConfidential threads:

Stuff worth SPLURGING for

Splurges That Weren’t Worth It

The one that got away or what I should have splurged on

2015 year in review and looking ahead to 2016

by Grace aka costofcollege

Let’s reflect on 2015.  During this past year we had births, deaths, and other important life events here among Totebaggers.  Many of the less momentous topics of discussion — parenting, meal planning, careers, personal finances, etc. —  led to lively discussions and improved understanding for many of us.


Totebag posts that received the most page views in 2015:

  1. Hot political issues
  2. Totebaggy values
  3. Open thread
  4. Secret shame
  5. Supersmart kids
  6. On the fundamental inequality of the sexes
  7. Lean in?
  8. The unbearable hellishness of customer support
  9. The Frugalwoods
  10. Monday open thread & The GOP’s future? (tie)


2015’s highs and lows, ups and downs, hits and misses. And looking ahead to 2016.

I’m not sure what the highlights of 2015 were for me, but I’m thankful I escaped death and serious illness among close family members.  After some challenging times, both my kids had a good year with important accomplishments.  I reconnected with extended family members.  We bought a new car that has improved the convenience and comfort of our daily lives.  I continued to be disappointed in my eternal quest to significantly improve my personal productivity, but I did find that the simple trick of prioritizing with razor-sharp focus on just 3-4 tasks a day has made a difference.  And I look forward to an important family wedding this coming spring.

Was it a good year for you?  Or are you mainly relieved you survived 2015?  Did you get a promotion?  Or were you stagnant or downsized at work?  What new gadgets or habits helped make your life easier?  Did you improve your finances, or find yourself spending more than intended?  Did you find any particular Totebag advice that helped or did not help?  What was most memorable about 2015?  What are you looking forward to in 2016?  Any New Year’s resolutions?

Company benefits and perks

by Grace aka costofcollege

Inspired by a CollegeConfidential discussion about Work Holiday Perks I began to wonder about the most common or latest types of employment benefits.  Long-term parental leave has been in the news recently, with New York City one of the latest to offer this to some of its employees.

A young person I know scored big with time-off policies when he recently changed jobs to a London-based employer.  They offer at least 24 vacation days to everyone, plus they close the week between Christmas and New Year’s.  He was thrilled because most employers only offer 10-15 vacation days for their U.S.-based junior employees.

Flexibility is an important workplace perk for Totebaggers.  What other benefits do you value?  Do you see any trends, positive or negative, in job benefits?

Happy New Year!  There will not be a post tomorrow, but maybe you can share how you rang in the new year and any other topics on your mind.

What makes a good party?

by Grace aka costofcollege

With holiday season in full swing, the question of what makes a good party was posed to some celebrities.  Some of their answers were predictable (the mix of guests) while others were slightly more eccentric (topless vacuum girls).

10 Celebrities on What Makes a Great Party

Another writer is unhappy that her friends seem to squeeze “90 percent of the year’s parties into two godforsaken weekends” during the holidays.  She wants fewer lame holiday parties and more parties spaced out during the rest of the year.

… Is it really so hard? Is it rocket science, buying a case of beer and a bag of pita chips? Don’t bother vacuuming. Throw a real party, in January, or June, or October. You know you want to. You love parties. You miss them. You want to throw a rager so bad it hurts. And you know just the thankless curmudgeon to invite.

Stop Throwing Terrible Holiday Parties

Are you attending many parties this holiday season?  Are you hosting a party?  Or are you spending the holidays cocooning at home or pursuing other activities?

What makes a good party?  What are some of the best and worst parties you’ve attended or hosted?

SURVEY TIME:
We typically host large family dinners during the holidays, and the topic of seating arrangements seems to elicit strong opinions among some people.  At dinner parties, do you prefer to be seated next to your Significant Other or do you prefer to sit next to other guests? (This assumes that tending to young children is not part of the equation.)

 

No post tomorrow on Christmas Day, but we can comment on how our holiday weekend is coming along.  Which gifts were winners, and which were losers?

Merry Christmas!

Rules for being a gentleman or a lady

by Grace aka costofcollege

Are there certain rules for being a gentleman or a lady?

When to text an emoji, riding a horse… and undoing a bra with one hand: Country Life reveals its 39 key skills every modern gentleman should have

The 39 rules for being a lady: Country Life decreed this week there are 39 rules for being a gentleman. In the interests of equality, LIBBY PURVES offers her exquisitely witty response

Many of the rules listed make sense to me, for both men and women:

6. Wears his learning lightly

25. Can pay the tab in a restaurant without making it obvious.

Some might be considered less important.

29. Would never own a Chihuahua

I actually like most of these.  What do you think?  What are your rules?

Gratitude

by Grace aka costofcollege

Among the 8 Tips for Dealing with Difficult Relatives During the Holidays is this one.

8. Find reasons to be grateful. Be thankful that you get to cook, or that you don’t have to cook. Be thankful that you get to travel, or that you don’t have to travel. Be thankful for your family or your friends. Be grateful for electricity and running water. Find something. Studies show that gratitude is a major happiness booster. Also, feeling grateful toward someone crowds out emotions like resentment and annoyance.

What are you grateful for?  Do you expect to encounter difficult relatives tomorrow?  Do you have relatives who put the “fun” in dysfunctional?  I think tip #6 that recommends we not expect perfection is a good one.  What else is on your mind this Thanksgiving eve?

What time do you usually eat Thanksgiving dinner?  We’re eating earlier than usual this year, 1:pm,  because some guests have to get on the road by early evening and some will be working early on Black Friday.

There will not be a post on Thanksgiving Day or on Friday, but let’s chat about anything you’d like.  How’d your dinner turn out?  Are you shopping on Black Friday?  Is the global travel alert stressing you out or making you yawn?

Happy Thanksgiving!

The long and winding career path

by Grace aka costofcollege

When asked how she ended up as White House press secretary, Dana Perino explained that her career began with an unlikely job.

Well, it started with a job as an overnight country music DJ in southern Colorado. The truth is, there’s no clear path. Everything I did — taking lots of risks, getting over my fears — led me to be the right press secretary at the right time.

Many careers take a winding path.  My first job out of college was in the dusty oil fields of West Texas, and my last job was amid the skyscrapers of Wall Street.  I’m both delighted and nervous to observe the unlikely paths of my children’s careers,  As happens in many cases, the jobs they have now were not on their radar screen until very recently.

Has your career followed a straight and narrow path, or a crooked and winding one?  What do you observe around you?  What do you see or expect for your children?  What relevant career advice would you like to share?

Also notice that Perino’s big job required her to sacrifice work-life balance.

Q: How did you maintain a healthy work-life balance when you were working in the White House?

A: I didn’t. I ate little, slept terribly and was susceptible to migraines. But I got through it. I think it helped that there was an end date, so I could give my all for those days, knowing the best opportunity of my life wasn’t going to last forever.

Old clothes

by Grace aka costofcollege

What’s the oldest piece of clothing you own?

Style blogger Angie recently wrote about the golden oldie items in her closet.

In an era of throwaway fashion and where purging our closets to minimal status is popular, it makes me feel GREAT that I’ve had these pieces for years and am still wearing them with a happy heart….

You’ve probably heard the saying, “I’ve got ties older than you”.  I’m sure I have clothes older than some of you.  I got this faded hoodie about 35 years ago on my first visit to Yellowstone.  (That was before they were called “hoodies”.)

201511.eMiscNovPhotos2LF

Wedding gowns, special baby outfits, and team jerseys are some types of clothing often saved for sentimental reasons.  Sturdy jeans and classic suits are saved for continual wearing.

What old clothes do you own?  Do you still wear them?  Are you an investment shopper, or more likely to buy the latest styles?  Have you found yourself resurrecting old clothes that have been put away for a while?  Do you keep some old clothes for sentimental reasons?  Do you ever buy vintage clothing?  Do old clothes make you feel old?  Do you periodically clean out your closet?  Maybe it’s as simple as “when in doubt, throw it out”?

Presidential politics

by Grace aka costofcollege

Are you a democratic socialist like Bernie Sanders? Take the quiz.

I suspect most Totebaggers are democratic socialists.

Who’s your candidate at this point, a year ahead of the presidential election.  You can use ISideWith.com to help you decide.



Would you prefer that the Totebag avoid political topics?

How adversity affects us

by Grace aka costofcollege

This topic was touched upon in a recent Totebag thread.

The Funny Thing About Adversity

Does adversity harden hearts or warm them? Does experiencing deprivation, disaster or illness make a person more — or less — sympathetic to the travails of others?

You’ve probably encountered examples of each: survivors of hard knocks who lend a compassionate ear to beleaguered souls, and those who offer only a disdainful “suck it up.” As a result, it may seem that adversity’s effect on kindness is unpredictable.

Some studies help explain this unpredictability.  In general, adversity increases our compassion.

… Those who had faced increasingly severe adversities in life — loss of a loved one at an early age, threats of violence or the consequences of a natural disaster — were more likely to empathize with others in distress, and, as a result, feel more compassion for them….

But it’s different when we have endured the same adversity someone else is facing.

… reflecting on your own past experience with a specific misfortune will very likely cause you to underappreciate just how trying that exact challenge can be for someone else (or was, in fact, for you at the time). You overcame it, you think; so should he….

I recognize these conflicting feelings within myself.  Do you?

Smart slackers

by Grace aka costofcollege

“I divide my officers into four classes; the clever, the lazy, the industrious, and the stupid. Each officer possesses at least two of these qualities. Those who are clever and industrious are fitted for the highest staff appointments. Use can be made of those who are stupid and lazy. The man who is clever and lazy however is for the very highest command; he has the temperament and nerves to deal with all situations. But whoever is stupid and industrious is a menace and must be removed immediately!” — General Kurt von Hammerstein-Equord

20151019.TLazyIntelligentMatrix

WHY LAZY AND INTELLIGENT PEOPLE ACHIEVE MORE IN LIFE

Do you agree? Which quadrant do you occupy?

As a kid, I got lectured for only doing the bare minimum to complete a task. As an engineer, I get paid to do just that.

Does this work in real life?  How do you apply this idea when parenting?  And, is there a gender component to this way of thinking?

Picture-perfect families

by Grace aka costofcollege

Does your family look like this at holiday gatherings?

20151010.TFamilyGathering2

Looking at this photo and other similar ones from a recent Lands’ End catalog reminded me that few families present a picture-perfect image during holiday gatherings.  And not only in appearance, but also in behavior.  Maybe you’ve observed some of this firsthand.  Does your teenager spend all evening texting instead of chatting with grandma?  Does your brother-in-law insist on bringing up politics or other controversial topics that intrude upon pleasant conversations?  Do any of your relatives drink just a little too much?

On the other hand, many Totebaggers probably do bear some resemblance to the happy family in the catalog photo.  Do you play flag football after Thanksgiving dinner?  Do your little ones play nicely with their cousins?  Does everyone wear stylish clothes?

What does your family look like during holiday gatherings?  What do you all do before and after your meal?  Does everyone behave?  How do your gatherings today compare with the ones when you were growing up?  Do you look forward to getting together, or do you dread it?

‘self-directed eugenics’?

by Grace aka costofcollege

What If Tinder Showed Your IQ?
A report from a future where genetic engineering has sabotaged society.

As genetic science becomes more precise, the potential for editing your unborn child’s genes to select for higher intelligence is growing. With that, however, will come a cultural shift in how we value intelligence—and how attractive it is when seeking out a potential partner. Parents will have to grapple with not just their unborn child’s chances of being smart, excelling in school, and getting a job, but also with their chances of getting a date.
We imagine a future where dating apps like Tinder don’t just let users judge others based on pictures of themselves, but on their intelligence scores, too.

Although this article is about an imaginary future, it’s possible to imagine the serious downsides of reprogenetics.

But there was a catch. There was always a catch. The science of reprogenetics—self-chosen, self-directed eugenics—had come far over the years, but it still could not escape the reality of evolutionary tradeoffs, such as the increased likelihood of disease when one maximized on a particular trait, ignoring the others. Or the social tradeoffs—the high-risk, high-reward economy for reprogenetic individuals, where a few IQ points could make all the difference between success or failure, or where stretching genetic potential to achieve those cognitive heights might lead to a collapse in non-cognitive skills, such as impulse control or empathy.

Against this backdrop, the embryo predicted to have the higher IQ also had an eight-fold greater chance of being severely myopic to the point of uncorrectable blindness—every parent’s worst nightmare….

The early proponents of reprogenetics failed to take into account the basic genetic force of pleiotropy: that the same genes have not one phenotypic effect, but multiple ones. Greater genetic potential for height also meant a higher risk score for cardiovascular disease. Cancer risk and Alzheimer’s probability were inversely proportionate—and not only because if one killed you, you were probably spared the other, but because a good ability to regenerate cells (read: neurons) also meant that one’s cells were more poised to reproduce out of control (read: cancer).3 As generations of poets and painters could have attested, the genome score for creativity was highly correlated with that for major depression.

But nowhere was the correlation among predictive scores more powerful—and perhaps in hindsight none should have been more obvious—than the strong relationship between IQ and Asperger’s risk….

Do you care about this?  What is your prediction about how this will go?  Mostly positive, or ruinously negative?  And for both today and tomorrow, how do you feel about your offspring marrying someone with a much lower or higher IQ?  Does it matter?

‘Friends’

by Grace aka costofcollege

‘Friends’ Has New BFFs: New York Teenagers

Young people have discovered old sitcoms.

… If you are somewhere between 13 and 20, however, and particularly if you live in New York, you may find yourself very much in the “Friends” zone. This is not because you landed on an episode, after coming home semi-wasted, on late-night television, where it is almost always on in syndication, but because you watch it methodically, on Netflix, in sequence, through its more than 230 shows.

20151005.TFriends

Which “Friends” character are you?

… “We are really into categorizing each other as a Rachel or a Monica; it’s fun to play into that.”…

My teen has even categorized one of our dogs as more of a “Ross” and the other as a “Joey”.

What old (or new) TV shows are your kids (or you) binge-watching?  What were some of your favorite TV shows from your younger years?  Have they aged well?  Have you bonded with your kids over old shows, movies, or music?

 

The power of routine

by Grace aka costofcollege

The Morning Routines of 12 Women Leaders

What’s your routine?

How 12 Highly Productive People Used The Power Of Routine To Achieve Greatness

Keeping to a routine can help save your energy for other more important stuff.

Avoiding Decision Fatigue: Why I eat eggs for breakfast everyday

Mark Zuckerberg:

He said even small decisions like choosing what to wear or what to eat for breakfast could be tiring and consume energy, and he didn’t want to waste any time on that.

Do you use the power of routine to achieve greatness, or at least to enhance your happiness and productivity?  How important are routines to you?  Perhaps you’re more of a free spirit who believes routines are boring and confining.

Best and worst retailers

by Grace aka costofcollege

4 reasons Walmart is the most-hated retailer in America

Probably no surprise to most of us, Nordstrom scored the highest and Walmart the lowest.

When I bought a prom dress at Nordstrom last spring their service was impeccable, as usual.  I have enjoyed the service and atmosphere at Walmart stores in other parts of the country, like Texas and Arizona, but not so much here in New York.

Which retailers are your favorites for service, and which do you loathe?  Are you gravitating to more online shopping, or do you prefer brick-and-mortar stores?

 ***  ALSO, we’re running short on posts so feel free to send some in.  ***

‘September is the Other January’

by Grace aka costofcollege

Agree, Disagree? September is the Other January. Time for a New Start.

… January is the official start of the new year, and I always get a burst of renewed zeal at that time … September also gives the same feeling of an empty calendar and a clean slate. The air seems charged with possibility and renewal.

Back-to-school is a time of self-evaluation and reflection–and also a time when I feel the urge to clean out my office.

I’m back from summer traveling and feel energized to start and finish some projects.  I look forward to getting back into a more structured routine.  How about you?

How much does your routine change when school starts?  Do you welcome the change?

Are Engineers Good Marriage Material?

by Grace aka costofcollege

 10 Reasons Engineers Make Good Partners

I don’t agree with all their reasons, but some good points are made.  Let’s explore this further.

10 Reasons Engineers Make Bad Partners

10 Reasons [fill in the blank with another profession] Make Good/Bad Partners

What makes for a good or bad partner?  Any correlation with profession?

Dressing Down At The Office And Elsewhere

by Grace aka costofcollege

The trend toward more casual dressing draws mixed opinions.  I mainly like it, but sometimes it goes too far.

For the love of God, stop dressing like crap

… So while you can hold on to your crop tops and ratty band tees, you may also think twice about where and when you wear them. After all, if you dress better, you’ll feel better.

Recently while enjoying sushi at a “nice” local restaurant, I couldn’t help but notice the guys at the table next to us who were dressed like this guy, but with team logo tank tops.

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I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s sometimes a bit confused about appropriate dress.  Lately my questions have been more about men’s sartorial style.

What does “business casual” actually mean at your workplace?  This seems to be common garb for the men I’ve seen lately on their way to the office.  Later when the weather turns cooler, many will add a blazer to their look.

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Is the “3-day beard” look acceptable at your office?  Even if you don’t look like Ben Affleck?

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And can men wear shorts everywhere these days?

Do you trend toward casual or more dressed up?  How do people dress at your workplace?  Do you care how other people dress?

Where do you take your out-of-town visitors?

by Grace aka costofcollege

One Los Angeles resident wanted to offer his out-of-town visitors “authentic” local experiences as well as typical tourist attractions.

Figuring out how to provide an authentic experience that isn’t challenging for visitors who aren’t intimately familiar with this city’s quirks is a true local struggle.

I’ve faced this dilemma twice in my seven years of Angeleno-hood, and for the second time last weekend. For my parents’ most recent stay, I wanted to switch things up, focus less on tourist attractions and more on the places I find most interesting in Los Angeles.

My out-of-town visitors can check out famous local attractions like the Statue of Liberty and Broadway shows, but they can also spend a quiet afternoon at a less well-known place like Untermeyer Gardens on the Hudson River.

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What are the famous tourist attractions near you?  And what are some other “authentic experiences” that visitors to your area might enjoy?  Do you host visitors very often?  How does it usually go?

Housing ‘Trends’

by Grace aka costofcollege

The tiny house movement

Could you live in a tiny home that measured “between 65 to 400 square feet”?  I’m enjoying the tiny home shows on HGTV, but no thanks for me.  Maybe 1,000-1,200 square feet could work.  This family likes their small space.

4 People, 650 Square Feet: A Love Story

This made me laugh.

And, real talk, when someone went No. 2, the house had to be evacuated. The bathroom’s proximity to the kitchen was equally disturbing. The folding door did not, I repeat, did not seal odors well, and you had to wash your hands at the kitchen sink.

Modular homes

9 new built-in-a-day modular homes rise in Yonkers

The factory-made houses appear to be very well made, and offer some nice architectural details and lifestyle choices, including hardwood floors, crown moldings, second-floor outdoor decks, master suites, glass pocket doors on either side of the dining room, granite counters and stainless-steel appliances in the kitchen, and a washer/dryer on both floors. The bedrooms are carpeted and the bathroom fixtures are chrome.

Check out the slide show at the link to see the process of building these modular homes.

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Here are the listings.  At $650,000 each, they are relatively affordable for the area.


Why is homeownership slumping?

Homeownership rate drops to 63.4%, lowest since 1967

Household formation, however, is rising. The number of occupied housing units grew, but all on the renter side….

What’s your take on this analyst’s opinion?

“All the governmental attempts (certainly aided and abetted by many players in the private sector) at boosting homeownership has gotten us to this point in time with all the havoc it wreaked over the past 10 years. It’s just another governmental lesson never learned, of don’t mess with the free market and human nature.”

What housing trends interest you?  What do you foresee?  Are you ready to downsize, upsize, or stay put?

Should You Book Your Flight On A Tuesday?

by Grace aka costofcollege

You’re booking your flights all wrong

This article says it’s a myth, but last week I booked a flight that dropped in price on a Tuesday, and I’ve had that same experience at least a couple of times before.

What’s your experience?  Any tips for booking flights?  Hotels?  AirBnB?  Other travel tips?

Public Speaking

by Grace aka costofcollege

Hillary Clinton Can’t Give a Decent Speech. Does It Matter?

… Great speeches require something Clinton has refused to give: exposure, access, the illusion of intimacy….

Rhetorical skill alone has become something of an essential skill for the modern politician. It has put several of them on the map as serious presidential contenders, from Ronald Reagan to Mario Cuomo to Barack Obama and Elizabeth Warren.Consider the defining campaign speeches. At the 1992 Democratic convention, Bill Clinton memorably invoked his belief in “a place called Hope,” while George H. W. Bush delivered a weak and disjointed address littered with phrases like “serious business” and “You bet.” There were Obama’s 2008 remarks on race and John F. Kennedy’s on religious freedom.

Speech making may be important to politicians, but I doubt anyone counts on beating Clinton just “because she can’t give a good speech”.  And it’s not as if many of her opponents are particularly outstanding in that department.

I agree that great public speakers give “the illusion of intimacy”, and in that way they effectively engage their audience.

Are you a good public speaker, or even a great one?  How did you build up your skills?  Or, do you fear public speaking?  How have good or bad public speaking skills affected your career or other parts of your life?  Which politicians are the best and the worst speechmakers?

Related:  “How I Overcame the Fear of Public Speaking”

Sunday Routines

by Grace aka costofcollege

I enjoy reading the New York Times “Sunday Routine” series, where “prominent New Yorkers recount their weekend rituals”.  It fascinates me that so many stick to a consistent routine on weekends, but I must admit that I’m the same.  These days my Sundays are usually relaxed, often taken up by a leisurely family activity followed by a grilled steak dinner.  Pretty boring.

Make-up guru Bobbi Brown usually takes a walk and then does brunch with her son.  Tim Gunn of Project Runway always spends a few hours at the Metropolitan Museum, where he has a lunch of tea sandwiches with a glass or two or wine.  Yankees Executive Jane M. Rogers usually sees her grandson and cleans house while still checking in on job duties.

What’s your Sunday routine?

The 4th of July open thread

by Grace aka costofcollege

Feeling patriotic this weekend?  Or just feeling happy that you have a long weekend?  Going out or staying in?  Are you going to see a fireworks show?

Here’s your chance to hijack our discussion with anything that’s on your mind.  Some random links to get us going:

Eating ‘healthy’ food may not make you fit: Study

Take a walk for your mental health.

President Obama and Jeb Bush find common ground in their stance against adding peas to guacamole.

What Have You Learned Lately?

by Grace aka costofcollege

Learning opportunities are everywhere — your job, your family, books, your community, travel, schools, and the Internet.

Lynda.com is an online education company “offering thousands of video courses in software, creative, and business skills … taught by industry experts. Members have unlimited access to watch the videos, which are primarily educational.”

Lynda Weinman founded Lynda.com in 1995, and recently sold the company to LinkedIn for $1.5 billion.  Weinman was ahead of her time in exploiting the benefits of online education.

“Everything we are talking about right now in online learning—how can we create lifelong learners, how can we support people changing careers, all of this stuff she was doing before it was the hip thing to do.”

Some Lynda.com photography courses caught my eye, and I hope to use them soon to learn more about editing and organizing photos.  A local camera shop may offer supplementary instruction.  I keep meaning to take a course in statistics.  Over the last few years I feel as if I’ve slacked off on learning new skills or improving existing ones.

What have you learned lately?  Do you consider yourself a “lifelong learner”?  Have you tried Lynda.com or something similar?  Or are you in a phase of life that leaves little time to learn new things because you are simply too busy keeping up with your juggle?  (Not that you don’t learn many valuable things just from doing that!)  Maybe when you retire you’ll have more time to focus on your continuing education.  What learning goals, personal or professional, do you have?

News from yesterday:  LinkedIn Offers Users Free Lynda.com Courses for the First Time

Related:  25 Killer Sites For Free Online Education

How Much To Spend On A Wedding Gift

by Grace aka costofcollege

June is a big month for weddings.  A recent CollegeConfidential discussion asked about the appropriate amount to spend on a wedding gift.  Opinions vary, to say the least.

This comment …

This is sooooo variable, by region of the country, socioeconomic status, how close you are to the people involved. There are weddings where I’d give $100 and feel fine, and those where I’d give $1,000 (my nieces/nephew)….

… prompted this response:

I can’t imagine spending that much for anyone but my own kids.

Several factors come into play.

In addition to region of country, another factor quite simply is your income. One family’s $300 check is done without a blink of an eye, another, $300 is the grocery bill for the month!

How much do you spend on wedding gifts?

Tell us about your schools

by Grace aka costofcollege

Tell us about your local schools.

Do you have school choice?  Do you have charters, magnets, or other options for selecting public schools outside your neighborhood?  Do you use private schools?

What do you like about your schools?

What do you dislike about your schools?

Have your children been well served by their schools?

What else can you tell us?  Demographics?  Amount of homework?  Grading?  Discipline policies?  Quality of instruction?  Technology?  Communication to parents?  How they address needs of special education and/or gifted students?  Choice of extra-curriculars?  Transportation?  Class sizes?  SAT/ACT scores?  Number of NMSFs?  Anything else?

How about the schools you attended?  Are your kids’ schools better or worse?

Did your local high school make it on the U.S. News Best High Schools Ranking?

Use GreatSchools to complete the following surveys for the HIGH SCHOOL your child attends, attended, or will likely attend.  (Reduced price lunch program information is under the “details” tab.)

Do You Know Brand Names

by Grace costofcollege

In many business and social situations, there’s value in being savvy about brand names.  Like it or not, we are often judged by our clothes, cars, and other accouterments of life.  And knowing the same about others can help us be more astute in all types of relationships.

Here’s the hierarchy of luxury brands around the world

Do you know how to pronounce Hermes or other brand names?  To make it easy on myself, I only say “Stella” when ordering my favorite beer.

The Right Way To Say 15 Brand Names You’re Mispronouncing All The Time

Are you brand-savvy?  Can you tell the difference between a Cartier and a Timex? (Okay, that’s probably an easy one.)  How important is it for you to know brands?  Do you feel judged by the shoes you wear or the car you drive?

Memorial Day 2015

by Grace aka costofcollege

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“People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.”

This photo is from a Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington Cemetery, a moving ritual that honors U.S.soldiers who gave their lives for their country.  The dedication and precision demonstrated during the ceremony was impressive and confidence-inspiring.

What’s on your mind this Memorial Day?

The ‘Dadbod’

by Grace aka costofcollege

What Is the ‘Dadbod’? What Does It Mean?

… The dadbod is a physique characterized by undefined muscles beneath a light layer of flab, usually topped off with a beer belly. “The dad bod says, ‘I go to the gym occasionally, but I also drink heavily on the weekends and enjoy eating eight slices of pizza at a time,'”…

Do you (or your partner) have a Dadbod?  What about your peers?  Do you work hard to fight against the Dadbod, or do you embrace it.  What’s the female version?  Are we more accepting of Dadbods than of Mombods?

Your High School Clique

by Grace aka costofcollege

Freaks, Geeks, and Mean Girls: 15 Famous Women on Their High-School Cliques

Here’s Edie Falco:

“I think we were called by the other people, the nerds. That was it. I was in the choir. I spent a lot of time in the art classes. There was nothing fancy or cool about it. It was a little horrifying, in fact. There was one group we called the circus people. I think it was just because they bought a lot of crazy clothes from thrift shops, so they always looked a little bit like clowns and like they had dressed up. I kind of tiptoed my way through school hoping nobody would beat me up.”

Describe your high school clique.  Do you have happy memories, or would you rather forget those high school days?  Do you see patterns repeated with your kids’ cliques, or are they following different paths?

How Are You Paying For College?

by Grace aka costofcollege

As the deadline for high school seniors to choose a college approaches, the challenge of how to pay is has been a recent topic of discussion for many families.  Totebaggers are savers and unlikely to qualify for much need-based financial aid, so this timeline may not be relevant to many readers here.  But it does show some generalized steps along the path to saving and paying for college while giving us a starting point for discussion.

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Before High School

Start saving for college ASAP:  This is the relatively uncomplicated part.  Although we can’t predict the costs of college over a child’s lifetime, it almost always makes sense to begin saving early on.  Even if MOOCs or other innovations make higher education more affordable in the future, there’s usually not much of a risk in saving too much since there are options for dealing with “left-over money in your 529 plan”.  Still, it makes sense to look at all the pros and cons of 529 plans.

Before Junior Year of High School

  • NMS potential:  If your child tends to score in the 95%ile of standardized tests, he may have a shot at earning a National Merit Scholarship.  A little test prep can make the difference in qualifying for significant merit financial aid.
  • Base Income Year (BIY): If there is a chance your family may qualify for need-based financial aid, you should explore ways to minimize income during the BIY, which is the 12-month period that begins January 1 during your child’s junior year.  Since the BIY is used as a snapshot for determining financial need, you may want to avoid selling stocks or property that will create large capital gains, refrain from converting to a Roth IRA, and defer bonus or other income if possible.

Junior Year of High School

  • Create list of schools:  Get serious and make a realistic list that includes academic and financial safeties.
  • Can we afford it? 1-2-3:  Determine affordability by using the 1-2-3 Method or something similar.

Senior Year of High School

Senior year is the busiest time for families as they handle the many details of the college application process, including final determination of how they will be paying.  Some important acronyms:

The two main forms used in determining financial aid eligibility are the FAFSA and PROFILE.
FAFSA is the Free Application for Federal Financial Aid. It is a form submitted to the government that collects the financial information needed to decide eligibility for federal FA. It’s also used by many colleges to determine institutional aid.
PROFILE is the financial aid application service offered by the College Board, used by about 400 colleges to learn if students qualify for non-federal student aid. There is a fee to submit a PROFILE, whereby the FAFSA is free.

The SAR (Student Aid Report) is a summary of your FAFSA responses and provides “some basic information about your eligibility for federal student aid”.

What’s your approach in planning on how to pay for college?  Do you feel well prepared, or a bit nervous about how you’ll handle the costs?  If your kids are older, tell us what you learned.  Share your wisdom and ask your questions.

(A version of this post previously appeared in Cost of College.)

Totebag Demographics

by Grace aka costofcollege

Have you tried the Esri Zip Code Lookup?  It shows you median income and age, population density as well as the predominant demographic segments for your zip code.  Try it HERE.

Take these polls to share what you found from the zip code lookup:


Do the results match what you observe?  Any surprises?  How about the demographic segments?  Which segment matches you best?  Where would you rather live — your ideal zip code?

Business Travel

by Grace aka costofcollege

What are the benefits of business travel?

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A lifetime supply of hotel shampoo may be one benefit, but what else?  Chances to travel to places you would otherwise never go?  (That could mean Paris or Peoria.)  A break in the office routine?  (Too many breaks can be stressful.)  The ability to build up mileage and the associated perks?  (Even deluxe airport lounges can’t make up for too much time away from family.)

My perfect travel schedule would probably be one trip about every other month, planned well in advance, to destinations that have attractions above and beyond mundane office parks.

Do you like business travel, or hate it?  Do you travel much in your present job?  What would be your ideal work travel pattern?  Tell us your best and worst travel stories.

Slow Or Fast Reading?

by Grace aka costofcollege

Maybe you should slow down your reading speed.

Slow reading advocates seek a return to the focused reading habits of years gone by, before Google, smartphones and social media started fracturing our time and attention spans. Many of its advocates say they embraced the concept after realizing they couldn’t make it through a book anymore….

Slow readers list numerous benefits to a regular reading habit, saying it improves their ability to concentrate, reduces stress levels and deepens their ability to think, listen and empathize. The movement echoes a resurgence in other old-fashioned, time-consuming pursuits that offset the ever-faster pace of life, such as cooking the “slow-food” way or knitting by hand.

Clicking on links may actually lead to lower comprehension.

Screens have changed our reading patterns from the linear, left-to-right sequence of years past to a wild skimming and skipping pattern as we hunt for important words and information.

More academics and writers are advocating a return to absorbing, uninterrupted reading—slow reading, as they call it. One 2006 study of the eye movements of 232 people looking at Web pages found they read in an “F” pattern, scanning all the way across the top line of text but only halfway across the next few lines, eventually sliding their eyes down the left side of the page in a vertical movement toward the bottom.

None of this is good for our ability to comprehend deeply, scientists say. Reading text punctuated with links leads to weaker comprehension than reading plain text, several studies have shown. A 2007 study involving 100 people found that a multimedia presentation mixing words, sounds and moving pictures resulted in lower comprehension than reading plain text did.

Skimming news articles online is different than reading a book or other longer pieces that require closer concentration, and I can see how too much Twitter and Tumblr could create habits that impair reading comprehension skills needed in other areas.  Here’s an antidote:

At Least 30 Minutes of Uninterrupted Reading With a Book or E-Book Helps

What’s your take?  How important are “slow reading” skills, or does a future filled mainly with videos and Tweets make them unnecessary?  Should schools change their instruction in any way?

Test your reading speed by clicking this link: How Fast Do You Read?  I’m betting most Totebaggers are fast readers.


QUESTION FOR EVERYONE:  ARE YOU INTERESTED IN A TOTEBAG BOOK CLUB?
 If so, would you like to suggest a book?  The idea of a book club has come up before, but I don’t remember if anyone expressed a willingness to organize and lead it.  If you are interested in taking on that role, please let me know.

Basic Investment Rules

by Grace aka costofcollege

Do you think your investment portfolio is diversified?  Morgan Housel at the Motley Fool believes there’s only one way to tell if you’re truly diversified.

You are only diversified if some of your investments are performing worse than others.

Losing money on even a portion of your portfolio is hard for some people to swallow, so they gravitate toward what is performing well at the moment, often at their own expense.

In other words, some people gravitate toward selling low and buying high.

That was one of 16 Rules for Investors to Live By recently published by the WSJ.

Do you agree with these rules?  Which ones seem particularly important to you?  What rules would you add?  Have you been happy with your investment portfolio?

ADDED:  If you’re having trouble seeing the WSJ article, try clicking this link to Google and then select the first result.