Are Middle Children now in the minority?

by honolulu mother

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

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

by honolulu mother

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

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

I thought everybody did that!

by honolulu mother

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

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

Recipe Swap, Harvest Edition

by Honolulu Mother

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

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

Sleeping during a performance

by Honolulu mother

This Washington Post article raises the question:

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

The author sets the scene:

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

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

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

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

Dry Cleaning and Alternatives

by honolulu mother

This article runs through the at-home alternatives to sending your dry cleaning out to a commercial facility:

A lot of them come down to spot treatment, steaming, and freshening up. Oh, and being aware of your washer’s gentle cycle. But perhaps the article is aimed at people who dry clean at the drop of a hat. Consider, for instance, this quote:
A lot of times, we take things to the dry cleaner just because they’re wrinkled.
Who does that?!
Anyhow, my primary approach to dry cleaning is to avoid garments that require dry cleaning, but I make some use of the gentle cycle and Dryel alternatives, and I will occasionally send something out for full-on drycleaning. I also have oberved that there’s some cleaning inflation going on with laundry tags — “gentle cycle” garments are generally ok with the regular cycle, and “dry clean only” ones are generally ok on the gentle cycle — perhaps the manufacturers just want to forestall complaints about garment durability.
How do you approach dry cleaning? Do you regularly send it out? Do you mostly use home-based alternatives? Or do you not have anything that can’t go in the regular wash?

The Downside to Changing Your Eating Habits

by Honolulu Mother

A while ago I ran across this article by a woman who tried eating in a more French style (or her understanding of that) for a week, and found that not only were there lifestyle elements that made it challenging for her, she also felt that by the end of the week the differnet diet was having a negative impact on how she felt.  She’d been eating a lot more bread than usual and blamed that for feeling extra hungry during the day, and she was also tired of bread.

(If you use an adblocker you’ll need to pause it and reload the page to read the article.)
The article made me muse about how much a dramatic change of diet, by itself, can throw off how one feels all day and in some cases (such as we discussed a couple of weeks ago here!) can give you serious digestive upset when it’s combined with unfamiliar microbes in a place you’re visiting.  I don’t think this is necessarily a question of one diet being objectively better than another, so much as that our gut does adjust to the foods we usually eat.  And indeed, science has been looking at the relationship between “gut microbiota” and diet in recent years, e.g. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29332901 .
On a personal level, when we travel to the mainland it seems like we end up eating more fries and sandwiches and less rice and shoyu/garlic/ginger based flavors generally, and after about a week we need to cook or seek out a suitable restaurant.  (I’ve already planned on this for our Europe trip — Paris and London have plenty of options but I don’t want to be out in the French countryside and realize that everyone is craving rice!)  I don’t see this as a matter of one diet being more healthful than another, so much as a habitual diet having a powerful, powerful effect on what food makes us feel right.
For people trying a dramatic change of diet for health reasons, I’m sure this increases the challenge — not only are you perhaps getting fewer calories than you’re used to, but what you are eating isn’t what your body is craving.
Have tried a different diet than usual, whether as part of a regimen like Whole 30 or just as a side effect of travel?  Did you notice changes in how you felt?