Pets!

by laurafrombaltimore

What pets do you have? What do you like best about them? What drives you nuts?

I’ve recently posted about fostering kittens, and about how in the process I was adopted by a rescue cat who was missing a leg (thanks to some pitiful excuse for a human being who thought it would be fun to shoot her). We have now taken “Shelly”* home, and here are the first pictures of her making herself at home in the kids’ dump zone. She is sort of ridiculously sweet and friendly given what she went through.

*”Shelly” is what the shelter named her. Please give us some better ideas, we’re running low on creativity.

8/15/17 UPDATE:  SECOND PHOTO ADDED

 

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Unwilling to move for better jobs?

by laurafrombaltimore

This article discusses Americans’ apparent decreased willingness to move for better economic opportunities.

Fewer Americans Strike Out for New Jobs, Crimping the Recovery

I’m not sure I really follow some of the arguments here. E.g., they point out that workers are not moving out of entry-level and temporary jobs at the same rate, but they characterize those short-term employment opportunities as “road-testing” by young workers; thus, they seem to assume that the change represents an intentional decision by these workers to be less adventurous and more risk-averse, when it seems that the far likelier explanation is that those workers have just not been able to find better jobs to move on to.

They also, IMO, give short shrift to the increase in two-earner families, and most specifically on the economic reliance of so many families on earning two paychecks. Their note that “the addition of career-minded women into the work force” might make it harder to move is buried in a list of many possible explanations. I haven’t found a definitive study, one site suggests that two-income families have increased from about 40% of married couple families in 1980 to about 60% today.

Working Family Values Factoids

The Department of Labor points out that much of this increase is comes in the higher-income quintiles (which is logical, as poor women generally didn’t have the choice to “opt out” of work and so had higher historic labor force participation to begin with).  (Scroll down to II.)

futurework Trends and Challenges for Work in the 21st Century

And, of course, those higher-income jobs are likely the ones that are more likely to be specialized and more difficult to replace. Meaning, in sum, that there are more families relying on two jobs, and more of those families have jobs where it will be more difficult to find two comparable jobs somewhere else in the country.

What do you think? Is decreased mobility a problem? If so, what do you think are the root causes?

Common Core

by laurafrombaltimore

In the interest of setting things off, here are two hot-button issues rolled into one: Trump and Common Core.

Donald Trump Doesn’t Understand Common Core (and Neither Do His Rivals)

OK, really, I was more interested in the discussion of Common Core, because the description here fits my experience: there is a huge difference between what Common Core is and what people think it is.

Example: as seems to happen every spring, DD went into one of her periodic grade spirals, and so we did the standard swoop-and-poop (our deal is that she can handle her work on her own, as long as she’s actually handling her work; when she doesn’t, she gets to do it our way). During the discussion of why her math grade went from a 90-something to a 70-something, she exploded about her frustrations with Common Core. ??? Hunh? What does a 14-yr-old know about Common Core?

The answer is that DD had head this from her math teacher. He is having them work in groups, because Common Core “requires” student-led learning, where they all work together to figure out how to approach problems and get to the answer; the teacher explained that he is allowed to ask questions but cannot give them the answers when they get stuck. And DD’s entire group basically cratered on one particular chapter (so, what, I am supposed to be happy that she got a 70-something when the others in her group got a 30-something?).

We had a little re-education of our own at home that night, explaining that Common Core is just the standards kids need to understand. The Board of Ed is the one that determines whatever dumb-@$$ method-du-jour the teachers need to use to get there.

What do you think about Common Core? Have your districts made changes in their teaching methods in an effort to achieve the Common Core standards?

Kitchen trends and fads

by laurafrombaltimore

My favorite topic: kitchen porn! Fad or trend?

Small Kitchens, by Choice

My nominee for the “well, duh” award: “The novelty of a small kitchen may well change once the millennials start families.” Ya think? Well-paid singles and DINKs have always found ways to blow their extra money and time; for DH, it was mountain bikes and scuba gear; for these guys, it’s the “overpriced hipster 7-Eleven” and food shopping several times a week. But priorities tend to change when the kids come along.

What are your favorite/least favorite kitchen trends or fads?

The evils of helicopter parenting

by laurafrombaltimore

Yet another article on the evils of helicopter parenting:

Former Stanford dean explains why helicopter parenting is ruining a generation of children

I think the folks here know me well enough to know I’m not a helicopter. But this time, all I could think was “that’s rich.” Why? Because by definition, her experience is with helicoptering that is aimed getting the kids into a “top” college – specifically, Stanford, for which she served as dean for a decade. But that means her experience is based on *the students that Stanford chose to admit* (and via an extremely selective admissions process to boot). She has written a whole book criticizing parents for doing what it takes to get their kids into Stanford – and doing it better than everyone else.

So what’s her analysis of the “college admission arms race,” which she admits drives much of this? It appears to boil down to “well, not everyone has to go to Stanford,” with maybe a soupcon of “not my problem.” All of her suggestions (optional SAT/ACT scores, limiting the number of schools each kid can apply to) impose the constraints on the students, not the college – not to mention make it less likely that those who actually follow her advice will get into that top college (who here really thinks Stanford will choose the kid who “opts out” of the SATs over one with a 1560?). And the colleges are (conveniently) scot-free to continue to operate as they always have.

How about this: if top colleges really care about “life skills and a work ethic,” how about they base their admissions decisions on those criteria? If colleges think it’s so valuable to have kids do chores and have jobs and such, then how about requiring that information on the applications – and actually weighing that more than, say, sitting 4th chair in concert band? Parents who care about getting their kids into a top college are going to do what they think those schools value, period. If the result of that arms race is brittle, helpless kids, then that says as much about those colleges’ admissions priorities than it does about the parents and students who are doing the best they can to play the game based on rules they didn’t write.

Recycling

The popular topic of recycling drew submissions from three totebaggers.

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by LauraFromBaltimore

Following up on our recent thread on recycling, this article suggests that it is significantly overrated:

The Reign of Recycling

In the interest of full disclosure, the article dove me nuts — it was like a clever legal brief that cherry-picks facts and makes apples-and-oranges comparisons to lead to a misleading premise. For example, why talk about all of the extra recycling trucks on the road and ignore all of the extra trucks and miles that would be necessary to ship regular waste out to this farmland that some unidentifiable states are apparently so eager to convert to landfills? Why measure bottle recycling to cross-country flights, instead of, say, the costs of manufacturing them from scratch? Why point out the composting facility that was forced to shut down while totally ignoring the huge citizen opposition to the new landfills and incinerators he advocates? (I have been tangentially involved in a couple of those, and I can tell you, it is about as ugly as you can imagine).

All of which frustrates me, because I do think he has a point — I just struggle to see it through the rhetoric and stacked comparisons. I would love to see an objective assessment of the relative costs and benefits of recycling vs. the various other disposal options.

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Proactive not Reactive

by Grocery Bags

In my town, you have to pay for curbside recycling pickup. It is a mixed bin with lots of restrictions – only 1 and 2 plastic and no glass. We are definitely not this!:

Here’s a Clip from Portlandia Season Two: Recycling!

In the neighboring town, there is no curbside recycling and my friend complains that hauling her recycling to a drop-off center makes her feel like it is still 1997. Then I read this article (similar to the NYT articles) and posted it to FB.

American recycling is stalling, and the big blue bin is one reason why

But in response to the economic arguments, one of my friends said, do we pay the price now (by paying to recycle or maybe subsidizing recycling companies maybe) or later (by having to clean up our land and water) and quoted William McDonough: “There is no away”

Honolulu Mother posted an article a while back about Costco that said the one near her was the world’s busiest. That reminded me of the last time I was in Hawaii for vacation. I saw a family hauling their Costco purchases, including a case of bottled water (the worst thing on Earth, IMHO), into their condo, and I thought, this is an island! Where do these people think the trash and recycling go? I know, they don’t think about it, but I do. (BTW, I learned there is at least one waste-to-energy facility on Oahu, but I don’t think it accepts trash from the other islands.)

So my personal, Totebaggy goal is simply to try to consume less upfront. Be proactive – fill up reusable bottles rather than buy bottled water – and not reactive – because it appears that recycling is not going to save us from ourselves.

What about you? Do you care what happens to your trash and recycling?

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And from WCE:

Let’s Modernize Our Environmental Laws

College rankings

by LauraFromBaltimore

This article follows up on a recent discussion we had:

College Rankings Fail to Measure the Influence of the Institution

The article and accompanying graphic seem to do a decent job of discussing the different ways to measure the value of a college degree, including the pros and cons of each. Personally, I like the “value added” approach they discuss (the revised Brookings approach in the article), because it tries to take away the impact of a number of factors that seem to be self-selecting (and I’m sure it’s, ahem, entirely coincidental that my own alma mater looks a lot better under that analysis than under the College Scorecard approach). But this crew seems to enjoy nothing more than data analysis and college education, so — discuss!

The ‘simple’ life

by LauraFromBaltimore

I almost didn’t read this:

Cabins, the New American Dream

I don’t really have a cabin fetish, and I’m not really drawn to the “tiny house” movement, so I thought, meh. And then I got to this part:

“The truth is, without a modicum of success and career-preoccupation, this life would look a bit like poverty — like the rural existence people have struggled for so long to escape. The desire to have not is a desire of the haves.”

Which seemed to explain why I don’t really have a cabin fetish and am not really drawn to the “tiny house” movement. I think my people are just a few generations too close to the farm to appreciate the “simple” life. The movement (such as it is, and as generally photographed in the NYT) feels a little like modern-day slumming, with wealthy dilettantes rhapsodizing about the joys of the simple life and playing house in the woods for a few days before going back to the real world. I look at the kitchen in the picture and don’t see simple, plain, humble; I think, dude, try cooking three meals a day in that puppy, then tell me in a year how awesome it is.

And yet I do feel the pull of self-sufficiency. I make jams and cook, DH woodworks, and none of this is economically efficient; we do it because we like doing for ourselves. I watch Tiny House Hunters and see twenty-somethings building teeny homes on a $20,000 budget, and I am happy to see them deciding for themselves what they truly need and what makes them happy. I read in the Washington Post about people building communities of tiny houses in alleys and back yards and I think, awesome, good for them. I look at Airstream trailers and I get it: affordable, beautiful, well-designed freedom.

So maybe it’s not the thing itself. Maybe there’s nothing wrong with a cabin in the woods. Maybe it’s the difference between building something genuinely humble with your own hands, because that is what you can afford, and building an $800,000 cabin that only looks humble, so you can really-truly-I-mean-it experience “the simple life.”