Breaking survivalist stereoptypes

by Rocky Mountain Stepmom

This article interested me because I have survivalist tendencies. I don’t have the proverbial snowball’s chance of ever actually surviving any natural or man-made disaster, but I look at the big tubs of freeze-dried food from Costco, and wonder vaguely about acquiring some more gold, and just generally spiral down into wondering if I should develop an arsenal and start making hundreds of pounds of jerky in my neglected dehydrator.

DOOMSDAY PREP FOR THE SUPER-RICH

Respectful disagreements

by Rocky Mountain Stepmom

Recently I’ve come across two articles about how to communicate with / persuade people who disagree with you.

The first is from the Harvard Business Review, written by Deepak Malhotra, who has a book about negotiating in impossible circumstances. He suggests finding ways to let your opponent save face, and to find ways to include them in your tent.

How to Build an Exit Ramp for Trump Supporters

The second is by Daniel Dennett, who is a big shot in the philosophy world. This one is more about how to argue with people so that you can actually make some progress down a given intellectual path. Believe me, most philosophers don’t follow this approach, but they probably should.

How to Criticize with Kindness: Philosopher Daniel Dennett on the Four Steps to Arguing Intelligently

I freely admit that I’m not very good at following any of these rules unless someone is paying me to do so. Totebaggers, what do you think of the advice from Malhotra and Dennett?

All About McMansions!

The Worst of McMansions blog elicited post ideas from two Totebaggers.

Honolulu Mother has some thoughts on this:

We’ve talked before about what makes a McMansion a McMansion, versus a large house or an actual mansion. Now someone has helpfully done an entire blog series for us architectural n00bs, explaining the rules of graceful construction and how McMansions violate them:

McMansions 101: What Makes a McMansion Bad Architecture?

There are links to other posts in the series at the bottom.

Let’s talk about McMansions! Do you live in one? Do your neighbors? Do you have strong feelings on the subject?

Rocky Mountain Stepmom has similar questions:

Totebaggers, do you agree with the distinction between mansions and
McMansions? Do you live in one or the other?

Caught between two countries

by Rocky Mountain Stepmom

A certain well-received novelist has written this essay about feeling
caught between two countries:

A writer with two countries

I’m very clearly USAn. I use that instead of “American” because I get
yelled at by my Canadian friends if I say “American”. I’ve lived in
California, North Carolina, Arizona, Indiana, Illinois, and Colorado.
But I feel like either a Californian or a Westerner. The whole gun
control debate doesn’t hit me the same way it hits East Coast folks.
(Yes, gun violence is bad. I’m against it. But I don’t have the same
revulsion to guns that East Coast people seem to have). I don’t know as
much about Colonial history as my East Coast friends, but I can tell you
a lot about Junipero Serra and SIr Francis Drake and the 1906 SF
earthquake, and my mom’s wedding ring was made out of a gold nugget that
was dug up by one of my dad’s 49er ancestors.

Do you feel fully USAn, or do you have a more regional alliance? Are you
a Southerner, an East Coast elite, or something else entirely?

Big Data keeps tabs on college students

by Rocky Mountain Stepmom

Institutions collect startling amounts of information on students. Do the students have a right to know how it’s being used, and should they be able to opt out?

As Big Data Comes to College, Officials Wrestle to Set New Ethical Norms – The Chronicle of Higher Education

[The linked article is behind a paywall, but here’s a PDF that will stay posted for a limited time.]

20160710.As Big Data Comes to College, Officials Wrestle to Set New Ethical Norms – The Chronicle of Higher Education (1)

Smug style?

by Rocky Mountain Stepmom

The smug style in American liberalism

I don’t agree with everything in this long essay, but some of it rings true. I take the author’s point about boycotting Indiana over the marriage equality issue but failing to boycott over the failure-to-expand Medicaid issue. “But few opinion makers fraternize with the impoverished”. I don’t know if that’s true. I do fraternize with the impoverished, and I’m usually horrified at how racist and reactionary they are, but I try not to be condescending about it and I try to figure out where they’re coming from. I don’t always succeed.

Your smart home

by Rocky Mountain Stepmom

Amazon Wants Alexa to Take Control of Your Smart Home

I was thinking, “Good thing I have a dumb home.” Then I realized that my
sous vide talks to my phone, and my phone talks to Alexa, so probably
Alexa and my phone gossip about the sous vide. Never mind the horror
stories about the smart houses taking over and killing us. I expect that
the Internet of Things will form cliques, unfriend each other on
Facebook, ditch each other right before prom, cry a lot, and refuse to
cooperate on group projects.

Oh, and my phone answers the doorbell, so who knows who they’re letting
in for parties while I’m out?

Totebaggers, how smart is your house? How smart do you want it to be?

Cliques, social groups, and popular kids

Today we have two posts on similar topics

Cliques and social groups

by Rocky Mountain Stepmom

Grace:  Oh, he’s very popular Ed. The sportos, the motorheads, geeks, sluts, bloods, wastoids, dweebies, dickheads – they all adore him. They think he’s a righteous dude.


I had an interesting discussion with some online friends the other day. In my high school, the social groupings were very much like the scene above from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Well, not quite, but we had the rah-rahs, the jocks, the jockettes, the nerds (represent!), the burnouts, the Beautiful People, the Jesus Freaks, the stoners, the Band Geeks, and more that I’m probably forgetting.

My friend from Florida: “Are you crazy? We had three groups. The whites, the blacks, and the Cubans. That’s it”
My friend from rural Ontario, Canada: “We didn’t have social groups. We were all rural Canadians.”

And I kind of get that. At Paly in my day, we had a black kid. Her name was Cammie. She didn’t really count as a social group, though. So the many, many white kids all subdivided ourselves into the groups I mentioned.

Do your kids go to a school with many different social groups, or are they mostly divided by race? By rural/urban? Something else? What about your high school?

*********

Popular kids

by Louise

Recent posts from Totebaggers have described taking action against bullies. My kids are now navigating through the tween years where kids split into groups. I would describe my kids as being in the middle – generally getting along with everyone. Do you see a change from when you went to school ? Have the anti bullying and respect for different types of kids programs worked ? If you could go back what would you do differently ?

Popular Kids

The eyes have it

by Rocky Mountain Stepmom

What Google Learned from Its Quest to Build the Perfect Team

This is a long article about which work teams are successful, and why.
It has a lot to do with the soft skills of being able to read others’
facial expressions and body language and respond to those. I think there
are parallels for families, too. Do the conclusions seem correct to
you, Totebaggers?

All the single ladies

by Rocky Mountain Stepmom

The Single American Woman

This is a long article about the influence of single women on the
political scene. On the Totebag we have several members who hold strong
opinions about single mothers, for example. This article addresses why
remaining single often seems to be in women’s self-interest. It looks at
affluent single women as well as lower-income women. Totebaggers, if you
found yourself single tomorrow, would you look for another partner? Or
would you say “BTDT” and forge ahead independently?

She Blinded Me With S̶c̶i̶e̶n̶c̶e̶ Funding

by Rocky Mountain Stepmom

Here’s a discouraging article from the Chronicle of Higher Ed on the way funding agencies can manipulate science. From the article:

I am very concerned about the culture of academia in this country and the perverse incentives that are given to young faculty. The pressures to get funding are just extraordinary. We’re all on this hedonistic treadmill — pursuing funding, pursuing fame, pursuing h-index — and the idea of science as a public good is being lost.

I wouldn’t expect private funding sources to be any better than the government ones. Is there a solution?

The Water Next Time: Professor Who Helped Expose Crisis in Flint Says Public Science Is Broken

Another way to label income groups

by Rocky Mountain Stepmom

And here’s a piece from Robert Reich. I mostly found it interesting because he has new labels for various income groups. Whether Bernie is The Answer is up for debate. For Totebaggers, I think some of us are “Overclass” and some of us exist in the apparently unmentionable land between $300K and $1M.

There are now four classes in America: an underclass, an anxious class in the middle, an overclass, and an oligarchy at the very top.

The underclass is the bottom 20 percent with family incomes under $26,000 this year, who live in marginal neighborhoods, whose kids attend lousy schools, and whose families are in continuous danger of hunger, homelessness, or serious medical problems.

The anxious class is the old middle class — 75 percent of Americans, with family incomes between $26,000 and $80,000 a year, whose jobs are becoming less secure and who are living paycheck to paycheck, and most of whose children will not live as well as they do.
The overclass is the top 5 percent, earning between $80,000 and $300,000 a year, who still feel pressured and worry about the future but can afford to live in good neighborhoods and send their kids to good schools.

The oligarchy is the top 0.1 percent, most earning over $1 million a year and sitting on over $15 million of wealth, who now possess almost all the power. Through their political contributions, lobbying, “think tanks,” and media, they essentially rule America – influencing politicians and organizing the market to get most of the economic gains.

It’s a vicious cycle. The only way to reverse it is through a political revolution of the sort Bernie has been advocating.

What do you think?

Different types of spiritual communities

by Rocky Mountain Stepmom

When Some Turn to Church, Others Go to CrossFit

Do you have a “church”? For those who actually go to church, is that your “real” church in the sense described in the article?

I can tell you that for those who are a little too old for Crossfit, I’ve seen Aqua Fitness classes function as “church” in every place I’ve ever lived. They even served that way for my dad before he died. The entire group at the pool sent a very touching sympathy card when he passed.

The Sins of the Fathers Are Visited on the Grandchildren

by Rocky Mountain Stepmom

Many childrearing practices are reactionary — parents raise their kids partly in rebellion against how they were raised. We often complain about how every kid now has to be treated like a special snowflake, and groan about helicopter parents making bizarre demands on schools and colleges. But I know why that happened — when I was growing up, we kids conformed to the system, not vice versa. We didn’t get any snacks during the day and I was often hungry. Not only was there no school choice, but your parents couldn’t even pick which teacher they wanted you to have. No one had learning disabilities — you were either smart or dumb. Things like Scout Camp were long exercises in being scolded for all your moral and physical failings, and being forced to eat disgusting canned carrots, being punished as a group for something stupid that one or two of the brat-girls did, and so on. Rules were rigid and punishments were swift and often unfair. Childhood was in large part a matter of putting up with a lot of injustice, having no choice over outside activities, enduring nasty behavior from teachers and other authority figures who were never held accountable because Adults Were Always Right, and so on.

So that’s partly why today’s kids are snowflakes, and each has to have customized care and an IEP, and why no one can have peanut butter because Madison’s allergic, and why frantic parents are now faced with a million decisions about schools and programs and teachers. It’s because my generation said “As God as my witness, my child will never eat canned carrots or put up with Mrs Sorenson for 6th grade. Their lives will be better.”

Totebaggers, what do you think this generation of kids is going to rebel against? What will schools look like in 40 years? How will recreational activities be handled? Will future children get one bowl of gruel per day and a sound beating for being dyslexic? Will they complain that they didn’t have parents, just friends who happened to be biologically related? Will it be Tom Brown’s School Days?

How Those Crazy Studies Make the News

Both Honolulu Mother and Rocky Mountain Stepmom sent in posts about this article.

I Fooled Millions Into Thinking Chocolate Helps Weight Loss. Here’s How.


by Honolulu Mother

We’ve all noticed how contradictory the conclusions from “scientific” studies in the news can be on many topics — what foods are good or bad, what type of exercise is effective or injurious, what parenting choices have good or bad effects. Sometimes this may be the result of a better understanding of a subject over time — surely the fact that eggs and butter, so reviled a generation ago, are now good for you again is an example of the arc of the moral universe bending toward justice. But most of the time, contradictions multiply and it’s never clear from the reporting what the studies were even based on.

Now a hero of our time has provided the explanation: it’s because the news media will publish any piece of crap study that sounds authoritative and has a headline-worthy conclusion, as outlined in the article linked above.

But notwithstanding the flaws in the study identified by its own author, I’m going to stick with his conclusion and make sure to get my chocolate every day. Because science!


by Rocky Mountain Stepmom

The article linked above is about the way science journalism works, or doesn’t work. One of its main points is that journalists are lazy. That resonated with me because of two work experiences I’ve had.

In 1983, I finished a Masters of Library and Information Studies degree at Berkeley. World’s easiest degree, but that’s not important right now. I had an internship at the KPIX news library. KPIX was and maybe still is the CBS affiliate in San Francisco. I got to see the local news produced every evening, and it was…startling. The reporters and producers just trolled popular magazines for stories they could regurgitate. I fetched Glamour magazine articles for the reporters to crib from. They stole from every conceivable source. It was disheartening.

My first job after library school was as an indexer for what was then Information Access Corp. (Remember Reader’s Guide to Periodical Literature? It was like that.) We indexed popular magazines, trade magazines, and five newspapers: New York Times, Chicago Tribune, LA Times, Christian Science Monitor, and the Wall Street Journal. We sat in front of our Apple 2e computer and read every single article in the papers and assigned index terms. It was a very peaceful way to make a living. But one thing I learned very quickly was that the newspapers all stole from each other regularly. The same article, with just a few changes, would appear in all the papers, and no, those articles weren’t from UPI or AP. They were by-lined by staff writers. There was clearly no independent verification going on. See article, crib article, print article. Again, very distressing to naive little me. The worst was the “end of year wrap-up” stuff. You might as well just burn all the papers from about Dec. 10 to Jan 5, because unless Manhattan gets nuked, there will be NO actual news whatsoever.

Totebaggers, do you trust the news? What’s your preferred source? Are you as skeptical as you would like to be? Or do you tend to believe stuff just because it’s in print? And do you believe that chocolate can accelerate weight loss?

Your Fantasy Home Remodel

by Rocky Mountain Stepmom

So, we’ve had our house now for about 11 years. It was brand-spanking new when we bought it. Since then, we’ve redone the floors and repainted and done a few minor things. Now that my mom has been gone for two years, and the dog is gone, and it’s down to just us and the very elderly cat, we’re thinking about redoing the basement. Currently it’s just a big storage mess. Bit by bit over the last two years DH has tossed virtually all of my mom’s stuff, and I owe him a huge debt of gratitude because I just couldn’t do it — too emotional.

But what are we going to do with it? I go in circles. We could make it into a living space of sorts. Add a bathroom (it’s set up for one), try to mute the noise from the furnace, etc. Part of me thinks we should be ready to either rent it out when we get old, or use it to house homeless persons/persons in transition, though DH usually smacks some sense into me when I start thinking that way. Or we could make it into a rumpus room and wait patiently for grandchildren to show up. In the meantime, if I wanted to host Bible study groups or something, any kids could be watched in the rumpus room. The whole house is really not set up for multi-family use. It’s too open. Not enough doors. Even if we tried to make the upstairs more of a self-contained living space, it’s still a problem because all the bedrooms are upstairs, including the master.

Anyway, we have a designer/architect coming over to talk to us and help us think things through. My proposed discussion question is: If someone dropped $100K on your head and said you had to use it to remodel or fix up the house, what would you do?

The Kids Are Alright

by Rocky Mountain Stepmom

Yeah, I know, it’s not spelled that way. It’s a Who reference, OK?

So my proposal is that we review our acquaintances and see the 20-somethings who are doing all right in life even though maybe they weren’t taking Differential Equations when they were 9. I’ll start.

First, there’s my new DIL, who majored in non-profit management and is doing very well at a large national non-profit with local, autonomous branches. She just got a 30% raise, in fact. Though she did take Calculus, the reason for her success is her good work habits, attractive personality and appearance, and excellent social skills. And of course she’s quite bright.

From church, there’s a young couple with a 6-month-old and 2 1/2 year old. Young Mama has $140K in student loans, but she has an MSW and a license to practice therapy, and she makes around $40K per year. Her hubby majored in engineering for 2 years, hated it, quit, and became a CNC engineer. He makes $45K base salary and usually pulls in $60K because of overtime. They do all the right totebaggy things to get out from under their debt — no cable, no Internet, Grandma watches the kids for free, etc. They never eat out. They’re burning down the debt and should be okay in a few years.

Also from church, we have (yes!) a nurse and a correctional officer. They have reasonable salaries and good bennies. They have one 2.5-year-old and hope to have more. They own a house waaaaay out towards Kansas, so they have long commutes in to Denver. They also have a Grandma watching the kids for free.

Come on, in addition to all the young people who know who are drowning, you must know some who are doing okay, even if they aren’t Mark Zuckerberg. Let’s hear about them.