Sunday free-for-all – November 16, 2014

IMG_2703It’s the weekend free-for-all.

This comment section is open for any non-work-related discussion you’d like to have with other readers, by popular demand. (This one is truly non-work only; if you have a work question, you can email it to me or post it in the work-related open thread on Fridays.)

Have at it.

{ 768 comments… read them below }

    1. Sarahnova*

      I love you for saying this, and also for thinking that we’re noticing your linens and not the cute fluffy face sitting on them. :)

      1. Sourire*

        I did actually notice her shelf liner paper however, but only because my linen closet has the exact same one (installed by previous owners)

    2. Robyn*

      It’s a good thing you said that. I could never take management/job tips from someone with a messy linen closet.


    3. Elkay*

      My cat loves the linen closet (although I’m British so ours is an airing cupboard) it’s stacked really high but he gets his back legs flat and basically belly surfs to the back where there’s some room for manoeuvre.

        1. ProductiveDyslexic*

          All the airing cupboards I have known in the UK have (at one stage) contained a hot water tank typical of the non combination type boilers common here until about 20 years ago.

          Hence it was a warm cupboard to put difficult to dry (in our wet and not often especially warm climate) items like towels and bedsheets.

          Hot water tanks are getting less common, but I suppose the name and place to store things stuck.

          We Brits have cupboards rather than closets; the exception being the phrase “coming out of the closet”.

          1. Cath in Canada*

            My mum always dries towels in the machine, but then puts the towels in the airing cupboard next to the hot water tank for storage. It’s lovely always having warm towels available (although when we were kids we’d always want a fresh one instead of re-using a perfectly clean, but cold, towel).

            1. Catherine in Canada*

              And when we lived in freezing-what’s-central-heating? Scotland, my mom would put bread dough to rise in the airing cupboard. It was way too cold on the kitchen counter!

          2. Anonsie*

            My. God.

            I want one of these. I bet I could put that radiant heating stuff for floors in my linen closet.

      1. Vicki*

        We have a t-shirt cabinet that our cats climb into just like this. (They can’t open the linen closet door, but the t-shirt cabinet doors slide.)

      1. Liane*

        “So there are these things called “linens”? And they go into closets?”
        Wow! Are you a teenager? This sounds like something my 17 & 18 year old would ask. They are still having a bit of trouble with the concepts of Sheets Go On Your Beds & Changing Sheets 101, I think. (Am not sure, because son is at college now & I avoid looking closely at my daughter’s room because it improves our relationship.)

        But I would love to know how an “airing cupboard” came to be called that.

        1. Felicia*

          I think Persephone was asking why it’s called an airing cupboard by the British (and the answer above is fascinating!)

        2. Mister Pickle*

          You ch1rp1ng me? I can’t even! 41ring cupbo4rd is where you store your Nike’s! Turn up the turnt and mupload dat ish, hashtag kk?

          1. Carrington Barr*

            Please don’t. I know you’re trying to be funny, but … no.
            This is one website that I’m thankful is free of semi-literate garbage!

    4. Not So NewReader*

      I dunno, your cat- occupied linen closet seems pretty neat to me. I see what my dog does to his blankets and my comforter and your cat could teach my dog something–like not every. single. thing needs to be wadded up into a big ball.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          It is, but it’s kind of stinky. I mostly got it because it was narrow enough to fit into my bedroom (and has beautiful carving on it). I had to refinish it, which was a pain!

  1. NYCGirl*

    Never Ever did I think I would be the first to comment . Better yet- it is my first time commenting after reading every day for years. Thank you all for your insights and inspirations!!!

    1. ProductiveDyslexic*

      I concede that Alison’s cat is very cute, but did you see the margay kitten on Zooborns this week?

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Okay, I had to go look. That kitten is incredible. And it blends in with mom so well. I love how mom keeps baby on top of her.

  2. LikeOhMyGod*

    Oh, also, today I went ice skating for the first time ever. I only fell like 5 times, and I didn’t break anything! Anyone have any skating tips or amusing anecdotes?

    1. Renegade Rose*

      Only that every time I go ice skating I end up surrounded by small children who are infinately better at it than I am. Seriously, I’ll be excited that I haven’t fallen and I’ve kept moving easily and then a five year old girl skates by on one leg going backwards. I’m not bitter at all. ;)

      1. LikeOhMyGod*

        Ahhhh! This exact thing happened to me! There was like this seven-year-old who was SO sweet, she hung around me, teaching me how to keep my balance, she was all, ‘Is this your first time skating? Don’t worry. It’s my first time too!’ as she skated around and around and around me in circles. Oh it was so humbling.

        She was really helpful though.

    2. kas*

      I love ice skating. I was going to provide tips but I think they’re all easier said than done.

      I went skating last winter (first time in years) and I forgot how fun it was. Definitely planning on going ice skating again this winter.

    3. triple flip*

      I do! I’ve been skating for 20 years. The first thing to remember is that the rental skates are not great quality and don’t provide a lot of support. This can make a big difference on how comfortable you feel on the ice. I have on my own skates and those things are like lovely concrete blocks. :) Wearing two pairs of socks helps too.

      Something else I’ve noticed is that beginners try to walk instead of glide. They also don’t bend their knees as much. Bending your knees is very important.

      The first thing I teach people is how to fall properly. Yes, you read that right. :) When you fall, make sure to get your hands and arms out of the way. Tuck them in until you feel comfortable enough to stand up, then stand up one leg at a time. The first time I went skating, I saw a young girl’s fingers get skated over because she wasn’t paying attention. :(

      1. Elizabeth West*

        I figured you’d chime in! :)

        Bending–yes. You can’t really do anything if you don’t bend your knees. But try not to lean forward when you do. It’s more like a crouch than a bend, really. When I was learning crossovers, my coach told me to bend my knees really deep and cross my legs at the top like I had to pee. That really helped me remember. And you’re right on about falling–that’s the first thing they taught us in Learn to Skate, too. I think adults are really way more frightened of that that kids, because they’re afraid they’ll get hurt and miss work, but I’ve only gotten hurt badly enough to be off-ice one time.

        My current coach is trying to get me to jump higher, so she tells me to imagine a shoebox stood on end and to kick through so I fly up and over the shoebox (without knocking it over). So far it’s a really small shoebox, LOL.

        Funny thing–I was practicing my “I See Fire” program for the holiday show yesterday and leaned too far forward when doing my spiral and fell flat on my face. >_< I haven't derped like that for a while.

    4. Felicia*

      bend your knees, when i forget to do that, i fall. And long glides rather than walking. I skated for the first time shortly after I learned how to walk, at probably under 2 (I’ve only seen home videos and heard my parents talk about it), and have gone a few times a year since then, and I still sometimes fall. So nothing to be embarrassed about ~!

    5. Cath in Canada*

      I seem to go skating every couple of years or so – just long enough to forget everything I learned the previous time! Last time was at an office outing – I was doing OK (although our Canadian, Swedish, and Ukrainian colleagues who grew up on skates were laughing at the rest of us) but then wiped out and fell on my arse on my last lap. I had to sit in the pub with wet jeans and some uncomfortable bruising all evening! I also hurt my wrist, which was even less fun – it took several weeks before it felt quite right again

    6. Anonyby*

      I took ice skating classes when I was a kid. The first set of classes, I didn’t go a single one without falling, and in the first two or three I spent more time on my butt than on my feet! (I must have been somewhere around 7 or 8 at the time.) It took me a while to get the hang of skates! Of course, my ballet training didn’t help–my feet had a turnout from ballet that gets you in trouble on the ice.

      And just remember this, many of the pros fall regularly as well. There was one Olympics where one of the youngest competitors got gold simply because all of the big names that were expected to get gold fell during their long program, and she stayed on her feet.

    7. Vicki*

      Now I’m nostalgic and missing skating. I grew up in Central Pennsylvania. The University had a rink. I went first in 5th grade and many times thereafter.

      Now I live in California and there’s a rink … somewhere… in San Francisco? I think? But it’s not cold and snowy and I just don’t think about it.

      1. Anonyby*

        Both San Francisco and San Jose have outdoor rinks around Christmas/New Years (and maybe other cities too, but those are the ones I know about!). There’s also a scattering of indoor rinks around the area, which is where I learned!

      2. Phyllis Barlow*

        I live in the South, so no ice skating here; but we DID/DO have roller skating rinks. I used to spend my whole week-end at them when I was growing up. It’s really the only sport (except bowling) I ever really enjoyed. We even took the kids up until we were in our 40’s. However, now the only rink we have has a concrete floor (growing up, it was hardwood) and at my age (63) I am afraid of breaking a bone if I fall, so no more skating for me. :(

    8. Shell*

      I skated a lot in childhood and stopped completely as an adult, but I distinctly remember once I tripped on my toe pick and smashed my chin open on the ice. It was apparently pretty bad, because I had to get my chin glued back together (they elected to not do stitches for reasons I can’t remember). There was a hospital involved, but I remember it didn’t hurt for some odd reason.

      I mostly remember the rink staff freaking out and asking me if I wanted Lion King bandaids and I was just looking at them and thinking “what’s the big deal? It doesn’t hurt…”

      (It hurt for several days after. Ha.)

  3. MJ (Aotearoa/New Zealand)*

    This weekend my husband ripped up a significant portion of our living room wall to repair the water damage in the wall. So, I basically have a sheet as a wall right now.

    1. Sarahnova*

      I feel you. We recently had to have several walls and all the external render on our house ripped out to deal with damp problems. Expensive, noisy, and left dust everywhere. I’m so glad it’s done.

    2. CAA*

      You have my sympathies. I just finally got my laundry room back four weeks after a pipe leaked inside the wall, causing about $13K in damage to two rooms. I hope your repairs go quickly and nothing unexpected happens.

  4. Miki*

    Need help : buying a first car (it can be either new or used): have a very good credit score, also have credit union with good loans; employer has deals with Ford and GM, but I am looking into Toyota: Corolla, Camry or Rav4. Any suggestions, has anyone bought used from rental companies, or do I just go for a brand new one?

    1. skyline*

      My first (and only) car so far was a certified used Toyota Corolla. I found that was a good way to get a used car with a little extra peace of mind, but I know I paid a bit of premium to do that. I’m of the school of thought that buying new is rarely worth the money, given how cars depreciate, so I suspect my next new-to-me car will be another late-model used one. Any reason you’re not looking at other used options?

      As for choosing between models, I think it depends on your lifestyle and needs. Do you need to be able to haul a lot of stuff or many passengers? Do you care about mileage? Do you need AWD?

      1. Dan*

        Your post makes it sound like one should never buy new — and that’s a frequent school of thought. At the same time, it just comes down to the specific car. At the time I bought the Versa, my wife was doing some heavy road travel on a regular basis. One of the reasons I bought new was for the included warranty and peace of mind. A) I didn’t want a car that would be breaking down frequently, and B) If it did, I didn’t want to get stuck with repairs.

        But when you look at “how cars depreciate”, you have to really look at the specific make/model. Smaller cars (like the Versa) depreciate much more slowly than larger or exotic vehicles. Some of that has to do with gas prices; when gas prices are higher, smaller more fuel efficient vehicles have higher resale value (and thus lower depreciation) than larger gas-guzzling vehicles.

        1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

          Ha. I bought a brand new Versa, put 40,000 miles on it two years, and sold it for $1800 less than I paid for it. New might to worth it if you can get a great deal.

          1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

            I should add, though, that I hated the Versa. Parts kept falling off and the road noise was awful. I went back to a Sentra….my fourth.

          2. E.R.*

            thats amazing. I bought a used 2012 Versa this year (so, two years old) from the Nissan dealer in my neighbourhood, and paid half of what it retailed for. It is still under warranty until 100k (currently at 60k now) and so far, so good. In Canada at least there are additional fees on new cars, and of course the sales tax is higher when you spend more in the first place (since its percentage based). Anyways, right now I’m really happy I bought used, and I’m happy with the Versa.

      2. Stephanie*

        It depends. I got my VW Golf new because (1) VWs are hit or miss depending on the year and (2) I found used late-model VW Golfs weren’t that much cheaper than a new one and I got the benefit of the dealer warranty for a couple of years.

        1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*


          My last new car was a 2010 VW Jetta Diesel TDI. Yes, it’s a diesel. Yes, fuel is more expensive – right now $3.38 for a U.S. gallon (versus $2.90 for regular unleaded petrol/gasoline) .. but it kicks, well, kicks donkey.

          Not bad. 4 1/2 years, 86,000 miles, absolutely nothing has gone wrong with it.
          PLUS – they do not depreciate much.

          If you live in Europe – check out their “BlueMotion” line, and the Volkswagen Polo.

          1. Stephanie*

            Yeah, I noticed that with the VWs. They keep their value pretty well and people like to modify Golfs/GTIs, so a used one (without extra modifications) was close to the same price as the dealership. I haven’t had any major problems in the first three years of ownership.

            I think diesel only makes sense if you drive a lot. Diesel where I am now would be great, but I wouldn’t have really reaped the benefits when I lived in a way denser area and walked or took transit more frequently.

      3. Observer*

        Besides what the others mentioned, a lot depends on how long you plan to keep the car. If you want to be able change cars frequently, then depreciation is a big deal. If you plan to keep a car at least 5 years, it’s not going to make all that much difference. But, depending on the car, that 5th year could go very, very differently. On this car it would have been a touch more expensive, but not too bad. On out last car, we might not have made it through the 5th year, and if we had we would have had to put substantial money into the car.

        1. Pennalynn Lott*

          I bought my car new back in 2004. It’s now over 10 years old, runs like a charm, only has 40K miles on it, and has a decent resell value (it’s an Acura TSX). I don’t switch cars frequently or drive them to death, so buying new made sense for me, especially since I didn’t want a car with an unknown history (accidents, maintenance, food spills – or worse – in the interior, etc.).

    2. Dan*

      Some cars are better off new, others used. It just depends on the Make/Model. You have to research the type of car you want and how it holds its value.

      Some people swear that you should never buy new; I bought a 2010 Nissan Versa new and don’t regret it in the least. I had to part ways with the car, and last year bought a 2010 Nissan Altima used. I don’t regret that in the least either.

      My first car was a 1999 Chevy Malibu, which I bought from Enterprise Used Car sales (that’s the arm that sold off the rentals). It held up fine for many years, with minimal repairs, but I ended up junking it at 138,000 miles. I don’t know if it was the car or my usage pattern. I put so few miles on the car, that I was able to let repairs just build up to the point where it cost $6000 to get it up to inspection standards. At that point, when the car was only worth $1000, it was an easy decision to junk it. Because I had the car so long and didn’t put many miles on it, I can’t tell if “normal” usage patterns would have had me putting $500/yr into the car. I.e., I would have spent the same amount in total on repairs, but because I spread them out each year, it wouldn’t have felt so bad. I was irritated to part with the car for so few miles.

      TL;DR: Your question can’t be answered in a sentence or two. It all depends on the specific car that you are buying, and who you are buying it from.

      1. Artemesia*

        for years we bought used BMWs as BMW owners tend to be into cars and buy new cars fairly often and so you could get a real deal on one just a few years old sometimes still on warranty. We never paid more than half the price of a new car and so my husband could afford to drive the kind of car he wanted.

        I always drove Volvos and owners drive those into the ground, so I was reluctant to buy a 3 year old car assuming it was likely to be a problem car; we always bought new Volvos and drove them for 10-12 years.

      2. Raine*

        Oooooo, I have definitely looked at Enterprise’s used car sales service before and wondered how that went. My first car is a used Ford Taurus, which I bought for $4000 at 100,000 miles from a small place where they guy had bought it at auction. I’ve had it just over 5 years now and it just passed emissions for another 2-year registration requirement. I did have to put some money into it upfront — it was at exactly 100,000 miles — but it was minimal. Maybe I was lucky.

        In any case, I know most people would cringe at the thought of buying a used car from a car rental company, but they keep fleet cars in continuous inspection and repair and only for three years max, I think. The vast majority I’ve looked at online have a fraction of the miles on them that my Ford did. But I’d love to hear another opinion.

        1. Observer*

          What we did when we decided to get a car from a rental fleet was to take a mechanic with us. This was actually a good part of his business – inspecting cars at these auctions and advising buyers. We got a pretty good buy, and the car was going strong several years later (when it got totaled in an accident.)

        2. Crow*

          Both my boss and I bought from Enterprise Car Sales. Good deal on a one year old car, no haggling or commission on the price, which I was very happy for. Of course, they pushed a million different warranties on us, but those are easy to say no to. I will certainly go back when my old Jeep finally dies.

          The only thing to watch out for is the fact that these rental cars rack up a lot of miles in the one or two years they are in operation as a rental. Our 2010 Hyundai Santa Fe had 26,000 on it when we bought it, after only one year in the fleet. As a result, it’s already needed maintenance that would normally take place after several years of ownership. In our case, all new spark plugs and battery, both of which were definitely needed.

      3. Mike C.*

        Yeah, I didn’t buy my BRZ used because it wasn’t available used, and I really didn’t want to buy a used sports car.

        Do you realize what kind of jerks drive sports cars? :p

    3. Sandy*

      We have had both a used Corolla and a certified used Rav4. The Corolla lasted 12 years or so and my husband is really rough on his cars. The Rav is a 2009 and still going strong. We haven’t needed any repairs to it that weren’t related to its overseas move (so probably not a concern for you!) I thought the Rav was going yo be way too big after the Corolla but it turns out that I love it.

    4. Julie*

      I bought a used 1995 Camry in 2002 as my first car, thinking when I graduated college I’d get something nice once I had a steady income. In 2013 I finally gave up on it the day it rolled over to 250,000 miles. Some high school kid bought it off of me for $1200 and I moved on to a Camry Hybrid. My entire family converted to Toyotas over the years and not a one has had problems. My parents and siblings all drive the Rav4 and seem to love it but I’m a car and fuel efficiency kind of person. I think if you’re already considering a Rav4 then the compact size of a Corolla might not be for you.

      I bought my Camry Hybrid and my husband’s Prius new because 1) Used Toyotas still cost a premium over other used brands and 2) the dealer got me 0% financing on both cars with 25,000 miles worth of service and one time I even got a $1000 credit towards the deposit. I’d absolutely trust a used Camry but dealership incentives may make a new one worth it.

      1. Dan*

        Yeah, I have to say the “should I buy a Carolla or an Rav4” question is sort of like two extremes. When the question is posed like that, the answer depends on what your needs and budget are, and not something random strangers on the internet can speak much to.

        It would be different if the OP was asking about how to choose between two sub compacts or two “light” SUVs for example.

        1. DeadQuoteOlympics*

          I agree about the small SUV vs sub-compact question. I bought my Audi A3 sport back (hatchback — the size of a VW Golf) back in the day new, and have no regrets — it was new to the market, new cars get you the newest features, especially safety features, and it was a reward for a new job with a significant commute. I’m now driving a leased VW Tiguan small SUV), but the next car I actually buy will probably be a used small luxury crossover with low mileage.

          Here’s what I miss about my Audi: I live in a city and have street parking, and that car was a dream to park, including parallel parking. It was nimble and fun to drive. However, on old urban uneven streets, the low clearance was an issue (yes, I scraped my undercarriage a time or two). But because the car was light, small and didn’t have high clearance (and I didn’t have AWD in this model), it didn’t drive particularly well in snow, although I never got stuck. We still have it, and it’s got 130,000 miles on it, but I drive long distances sometimes and I don’t trust it like I used to. My husband is driving a even older VW wagon that we bought used and I don’t think that thing is ever going to die. So even less-reliable brands of car can keep going for quite some time — we are sticklers for proper, regular maintenance, which makes a huge difference. If you are buying used, make sure you can verify the service records.

          I like the Tiguan for its handling in the snow (does have AWD) – the high clearance is much better for unplowed streets, and visibility in heavy rain is much better. It does a better job on my urban brick streets. I have about the same cargo space (the hatchback is incredibly roomy) and both cars have the ability to fold the back seats flat. However, parking in the city is harder with even a small SUV– I need a bigger spot, and the height somehow makes judging proper angles more difficult for parallel parking (and navigating in particular — you can’t see anything on the ground very well and that can affect tight corners, etc.) I’m kind of a closet gear head, so handling, road feel, and acceleration matter to me more than fuel economy or the German inability to make a reliable electrical system (srsly Germany, what the what? The Audi has a passenger seat ghost who randomly lowers and raises the window on that side).

          I couldn’t go back to no AWD, and I don’t know if I could go back to low clearance, given the climate and urban streets. I won’t ever go back to a sedan — I like the cargo space in hatchbacks/SUVs too much. Plus, you can’t put a large dog and a kid together in the back of a sedan :)

      2. Mister Pickle*

        Just me, but I’m still a bit leery about hybrid technology; I’d be concerned about entering a world of hurt buying, say, a used Prius.

        1. attornaut*

          The first prius came out about 17 years ago, so I think at this point, it’s been pretty well tested in the lightly used category. Having said that, I’d still buy it new because you don’t get a ton of depreciation on the prius and most dealerships will offer 0% financing and 2 years of service to make up for what depreciation there is.

    5. Stephanie*

      Eh, I wouldn’t buy from a rental car company. I’d be worried about wear and tear from all the rental use.

      1. Dan*

        That just comes down to mileage and price. I bought from Enterprise used, and held on to that car for 12 years. I put very little money into until all of the repairs piled up and then I junked it. I think I averaged 9,000 miles/year on it; I junked it at relatively low mileage, but few people would say that a car lasting 12 years was a bad buy.

      2. Kiwi*

        Generations of my family have been buying ex-lease/ex-rental vehicles and we’ve been extremely happy with all vehicles. We get pre-purchase inspections, buy them only a few years old, from a reputable lease company and ensure that they’ve been regularly serviced. Had far more trouble with ex-private vehicles. Love ex-lease vehicles.

        Helpful hint, though – get the auto. Think of all those renters learning to drive manual in your new car…

    6. Sharon*

      I was debating this about a month ago and ultimately went for the new car (Corolla 2015 bought in Oct. 2014). We were able to talk the dealer down to just about $1,000 more than what a certified used (Corolla 2013) would’ve cost. This was my first car too, but my family and I have experience in buying cars and we know how to talk the salesman down. I think it was a good deal, but obviously, that’s not going to be the case for different makes/models. Do your market research and compare the difference between an average used car and a brand-new one. And obviously, do some smart haggling.

      I wouldn’t suggest buying used from a rental company though, but that’s just me. I have to drive long distances (300+ miles one-way) every few months, and when I was considering cars, I already had that in mind, so a car that already had 40,000+ miles on it after 1 year wasn’t an option for me. Even with Carfax reports, I dislike the idea of not knowing how rough people have been with a car either, and rental cars go through much more than personal-use vehicles. But that’s just me! It really depends on your own use and needs for the car.

    7. Observer*

      It depends on a lot of factors. What are you looking for in a car? How long do you expect / want to keep it? How many miles would expect to drive annually?

      If you are looking for a lower TCO and to keep the car for a long time, then your up front cost is actually not the biggest issue. Fuel economy and reliability are your two biggest indicators. When we looked at our current car, I figured out that, even allowing for the additional financing costs, the savings in gas would more than cover the purchase price difference of the more expensive car – and that was with gas prices that are substantially lower than they are now. If you want / can trade in your car every 2-3 years that’s an iffy calculation. If you want to keep your car for 5 years, that allows for considerably more fluctuation in gas prices while still being financially worthwhile.

      We have a Toyota Corrola, 10 years old. This is the first year that we’ve really had to think about whether it makes financial sense to replace the car. (It doesn’t, yet.) Outside of routine maintenance, we’ve just had to do very, very little with it. And the gas mileage is good enough that it will be hard to get better unless we get a hybrid – something that till recently was rather unlikely for us. The price difference was substantial, the capacity was often lower, and reliability / repair cost was pretty bad. That’s been changing, though.

      Consumer Reports has some good information.

      1. Paula*

        I think everyone buying used must check out consumer reports issue on used cars (or online subscription). We just “buried” our ’93 honda accord (300000+ miles) 2 years ago. Have had many good cars from the list (toyota camry, two more accords, nissan altima). None of them made less than 200,000 miles. Our teenager just got a Civic for himself. If I didn’t want a car on the list, I would definitely consider buying new instead.

        1. neversawthatb4*

          This. Consumer Reports. Just bought a used 2013 certified preowned Mazda3. Was considering corolla, civic, elantra and mazda3. Info on CR helped me decide which car AND which model year was right for me (which may not be what is right for you).

    8. Denied Employment*

      Echoing everyone else, it really depends on your need, I’ll also add what you want.
      My very first car was a brand new 1997 Toyota Corolla, I purchased it through my credit union. They really walked me through the car buying process from a bank’s standpoint. I was able to really gauge what I could afford. I remember wanting the Mazada 626 and my banker was like–no—unless you want to put down x and pay y. I ended up being happy with the Corolla, even though it was a compromise.
      But one of the best piece of advice came from my friend, when I was purchasing my car 2 years ago. She said, “remember you will be paying a note on this car for 4-5 years. You don’t want to be driving around and paying for something you don’t necessarily want.” I thought about the Mazada 626, while my money back in 1997 couldn’t afford the 626 (def wouldn’t purchase that car now) I was definitely in a better position to shop around for a car above a certain range and something I really wanted, I’d be happy driving and paying the note.
      The bank will say one thing, the dealerships another and sometimes what you want gets lost in all the chaos. Shop around, then shop around some more–don’t let anyone pressure you.

      1. Observer*

        Well, if at all possible, you do NOT want to be paying on the car for 4-5 years. I would much rather go a bit lower on the car than have to extend the length of the loan. I do not mean the basic stuff, but the extras or the “nice” factor.

        But, yes, do think about what YOU want, not what the dealer wants to sell you…

    9. Csarndt*

      I bought a new ’03 honda element (in ’03) because I was buying it to move out of state so I didn’t have time to scope out used, and I needed the factory warranty to travel with me. So 11 years later, I still have it, still love it, and don’t mind a bit that I “paid for depreciation” because it has held its value extremely well. In ’12 we bought a toyota tacoma new (baja edition, very nice) because there simply are not gently used tacomas on the market, everyone keeps them for 15-20 years, it seems. Again, we love it and don’t mind “paying for depreciation” because you just can’t buy them used. Between the element and the tacoma, we bought a used ’99 Buick century from my great aunt’s estate because it was low mileage but needed some TLC and she must’ve sideswiped everything in the county with it before the state revoked her lisence. We knew we could do the work and we didn’t have money for anything newer at the time. Still a great purchase, we sold it to a kid going off for college for more than we paid for it (but less than we put into it) so we basically drove for 3 years for about $600.

      So I guess my point is, if you can afford it, buy what you really want instead of going with “conventional wisdom” of internet advice. If you understand that new cars have a premium to be paid, and you don’t mind, go ahead and buy new, they’re easier to finance, low maintenance, shiny, and have that new car smell. If you want to spend two weekends trying to eliminate all the evidence of rodents, trash, and rotting walnuts from an old Buick because you got a crazy deal, go for it…and buy seat covers because whatever was spilled in the passenger seat ain’t coming off.

      1. Artemesia*

        Our car died on our honeymoon and so our first financial act as a married couple was to acquire a car. We were both in grad school and had no money. We bought a new car because we could afford the then $65 a month car payment, but we could not afford to pay to fix a car if there were a serious problem. Having the car on warranty was key. We drove that one about 10 years — an old Oldsmobile Omega (basically a Chevy Nova).

    10. ExceptionToTheRule*

      My first car was a 1979 Plymouth Horizon fastback that was 10 years old when it was gifted to me by the non-custodial parent. It lasted 6 months before the transmission literally fell out of it. I then proceeded to purchase a string of used cars and dumped an extraordinary amount of money into them through the rest of high school and college while never driving any of them for more than 3 years. I finally sucked it up and bought a new car (ok – truck) and was able to drive the wheels off of it for 10 years. Here’s what I learned: you can get a much better interest rate and much better incentives with a new car. My first new truck cost the same as my last used truck and lasted twice as long. YMMV.

      My second new truck cost more, but I finally upgraded to a 4WD vehicle.

    11. Christy*

      Like a lot of people have said, it depends on your situation. When I bought my Nissan Versa in 2011, I was all set to buy gently used until I realized that they cost almost the same as the new, given the great financing deal that I (ok, my mom, I was in grad school at the time) qualified for. Plus, I was driving 90 miles/day back then, and I didn’t want the car to already have 40,000 miles on it.

      So just make sure you do the cost comparison for new vs used. And make sure you do a cost comparison on the different models, too, if you’re really undecided.

    12. Not So NewReader*

      I buy from a place that rents/services/sells cars. I do not by their rentals. I usually pick up something that they have brought in for the purpose of resale. (They like to keep their rental vehicles.) A couple of points here. They are not locked into one brand like Ford or GM. So there are a variety of choices. They go over their vehicles with a fine tooth comb. I am confident buying from them. And the biggie- when something breaks they CAN handle it without me taking out a second mortgage.
      I was going to dealerships for repairs- but since I started going here, my annual car repair expense dropped by 75%. Yeah, big difference. And this is my main point. Buying a car is a moment in life. But the repair department is a recurring relationship. Those are the people who are going to make or break your experience with your vehicle. When you narrow it down to a couple of choices research the reputation the repair department has. Allow that reputation to factor into your final decision.

      I owned one brand new car. It caused me to sweat. I worked a lot of retail and cars get banged up in retail parking lots. I fretted over dings and scratches. I did not enjoy the vehicle the way I should have. Now I buy good used cars and I am happy. My current car was previously owned by the state- it was used on official business. For it’s age it had extremely low mileage. The service record for the vehicle was online. I could check it before I bought. I have had it for about five years. I plan on replacing it next year. (It will be 16 years old next year.) I can do this stuff (buy cheap/keep it a while) because of the service department.

      It’s a balancing act. Your monthly costs are not just gas and loan payment. You will also need money for repairs/maintenance and don’t forget insurance. You can call your insurance company BEFORE you buy and get an estimate on how much it will cost you to insure it. That is another reason why I buy these used cars. I can keep my insurance costs down.
      If you buy something that is slightly less than you feel you can spend, you will never regret exercising that caution.

    13. Mallory*

      I bought a used 2006 Toyota Prius in 2010 with 104,000 miles on it and would recommend the Prius model to anyone and everyone. I knew that the Prius battery “engine” was warranted to 250,000 miles(California model, not all have that) and for a Prius 100k isn’t much.
      Obviously, the gas mileage is fantastic. I average 43 mpg in summer, 45 mpg in spring and fall and 40 mpg in winter.
      It’s the extra things I didn’t know when I purchased the vehicle that I’ve learned in the last year or two that I like the most:
      The engine actually slows the car down more than the brakes and according to my dealership, he’s only replaced the brakes one ONE Prius in 10 yrs. Low maintenance and low cost of ownership!
      It also has some sort of traction control, it locks the wheels up if the computer feels the car slide in snow. I’m not describing it well, but if I pull up to a stop in snow, and I slide, the car locks up the wheels to stop the car, over the brakes.
      On the snow part: as long as it has clearance, it does AMAZING.
      My husband and I are now considering getting a second, newer Prius because we’ve liked this one so much!

    14. Mister Pickle*

      My $0.02: my son A is now a freshman in college, my daughter M is a sophomore in college. Back in April, my son totalled the car we’d inherited from my father – no injuries, thank God, and my son didn’t even get the ticket. Long story short, we needed a car for the kids.

      After doing a lot of looking around, a lot of reading, and a lot of math, I ended up leasing a new 2014 Honda Civic CX. My very first lease, and I know that leases are controversial. But here was my thinking on it:

      – I got a new car with all of the latest safety features on it for about $3,000 down and 36 months of payments of just under $200/month. Total cost is like $10,200. This included gap insurance.
      – The car has all of the usual warranties and is (I assume) pretty reliable. Given the cost of college, I’d rather the kids not be spending lots of time at the garage.
      – The car gets amazing gas mileage, something like 38mpg on average.
      – At the end of the lease, I can buy the car outright for like $9000.
      – Total rise in my car insurance was miniscule.

      So I’m not trying to push the notion that leasing a car is the best way to go for everyone. But for me and mine, in this instance – where safety and reliability were key factors – it made sense. When I worked the numbers, the total cost of buying a new car outright tended to be the equivalent of 2 back-to-back leases.

      1. DeadQuoteOlympics*

        Also, at least with my current lease, and also when I bought a new car, roadside assistance and regular service maintenance was free for the warranty period. Depending on the kind of driving that’s being done, that can be an advantage in terms of peace of mind or incentive to get routine service done.

    15. littlemoose*

      I had a Scion tC (a Toyota brand) for eight years and loved it. Very dependable, only one minor mechanical problem in 109K miles of driving. Why did I get rid of it? Some fool pulled out in front of me, I hit him and the car was totaled.

      So, I needed a new car. I looked into gently used cars, mostly Hondas and Toyotas, and realized that they hold their value so damn well that they cost almost as much as a new one. If I’m already spending that much, I might as well get a new one and get it exactly the way I want it. Bought a 2013 Sentra and we love it; great gas mileage, huge trunk space.

      I did look around for another older tC, because I loved mine so much. But they were still pricey for a small used car, relatively, and they were hard to find. Only a few were for sale at all in the major metro area where I live. My sister encountered a similar problem when she wanted to buy a used Toyota Sequoia – very hard to find one for sale at a decent price without a zillion miles on it. I think Toyotas can be somewhat scarce on the used market, as someone else mentioned, because people hang on to them. I think that speaks well for their durability and value, and might make it more logical to spring for a new one.

    16. Kyrielle*

      We have a Corolla and I like it – it has an amazingly large trunk for its size.

      My one bit of wisdom is, never, but never, buy a new car from the first model year of a new model from anyone. Yes, it might be fine – but that’s when the car is most likely to have major issues, annoying recalls, etc. – since they haven’t been out on the road long enough to iron out the stupid issues.

      Also, not all dealerships will, but some will try to hard sell you. Keep in mind what you do and don’t want, and be prepared to walk away if you don’t like something, unless you really can’t afford to (in which case, know that you’re giving them the upper hand). Many are perfectly nice, but it depends on both the dealership and to some degree on the salesperson you get.

    17. fposte*

      Two points: one, these days there are a lot of serious manufacturer’s warranties, and they don’t always transfer with the title, so if those are important verify your eligibility (purchase date can factor into this too, apparently) or stick to new.

      Second point: you will probably be fine whatever you do. You’re talking about solid cars that will likely last you well whether bought new or used.

      1. littlemoose*

        Good point, fposte. OP is debating some very solid vehicles that will serve her well no matter which she chooses.

    18. danr*

      I have a Rav4 and I love it. Almost all of my other cars were American station wagons and the Rav4 compares very nicely. It’s nimble, has good acceleration and good gas mileage. Service is cheap… Although the tires it came with wore out quickly. It came through a side blow from a deer with minimal damage.
      If you can afford it, get a brand new car. Keep up the service and you’ll have it way past the end of the loan payments.

    19. Julia*

      I’ve had three Corollas and am ready for my fourth. I’ve always bought slightly used, i.e., in the current model year with under 5000 miles. You save a lot and it’s still essentially a new car. I had Corolla one for 7 years and 150000 miles, Corolla two for 11 years and over 100000 miles, and my current car is 11 years old with 110000 miles. I never spent any money on anything other than tires and brakes. And after I paid off the loan on the first car, I kept on saving the payment every month and was able to buy car two, three, and, soon, four, for cash.

    20. Windchime*

      I just bought my second-ever brand-new car, and I love having brand-new. However, in 1997 I bought a 1995 Toyota Corolla that had 45k miles on it. I paid in the neighborhood of 10k for it and I drove it for 5 years. I then sold it to my son who is still driving it; it will be 20 years old next year and is very close to having 200,000 miles on it. We have replaced pieces of it over the years (including a door from the time that he literally rolled it), but it has been an awesome car. It doesn’t look or sound so good, but it is reliable and good on gas.

    21. king*

      I bought an ex-rental years ago and it lasted 21 years. It was a Toyota Camry and I adored it. I just bought a new one recently and I love the car but do not love the payments. I also started listening to Dave Ramsey lately and he advises to always buy used. Something about letting someone else take the first years depreciation…

    22. Clever Name*

      As others mentioned, what is your lifestyle? As far as the RAV4, it hasn’t gotten good reviews as far as small SUVs go. I’m still driving my 2005 prius 9 years later. It’s never broken down. Just normal maintenance and a few recalls. We had a Pontiac heat broke down every 6 months. I had a 10 year old Camry that I drove for 5 years and my husband drove his for about 10 years. We tend to keep our cars forever.

    23. Vicki*

      We have loved our Toyotas. We’ve had a Corrolla, two Camrys, and a Scion xB. They last and last. They always pass the smog tests. Used ones are usually still in good shape. We put 200,000 miles on our Corolla and the first Camry.

      We recommend Toyota to everyone and anyone!

  5. Garland*

    Something that has been bugging me for many years: why did Mr. Wickham run off with Lydia? She had no money. Was it just for sex?

    1. Traveler*

      It’s been awhile since I’ve read… but he was a soldier, so I don’t think he ever really had hope of getting anyone with money. I just assumed he knew her family was well enough connected that he’d get some money, and for him some money was better than no money? I also suspect he had an inkling of the relationship brewing between Darcy and Elizabeth, and figured he could exploit that.

      1. Sarahnova*

        He has hopes of marrying money for most of the novel; that’s why he never goes for Elizabeth despite genuinely liking her – the Bennets are too poor for his taste/debts.

        By the time he runs off with Lydia, he is deeper into debt and has to leave his regiment for this reason. Lydia, being manipulable, he is able to persuade to have sex with him without marrying her, which he could never have managed with Elizabeth or with most women of the gentry, either because they know well it would ruin them or because they are “protected” by their families from being in similar situations. Mr. Bennet, remember, is viewed as being eccentric, reclusive and socially rather weak as well as not well off, and his judgement in letting Lydia go to Brighton is questionable for the time.

        I love this discussion, BTW

        1. Traveler*

          I know he had hopes of marrying for money at the beginning – with his connections to Darcy’s family and all, but I didn’t remember after his fall with Darcy’s sister having hopes for something still. Looks like I need to go back and reread!

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Sex and companionship. He had no intention of marrying her but she was up for a good time (and I don’t mean that sexually in particular) and he had terrible judgment, so what the hell, here’s a traveling companion for him.

      1. Sourire*

        Terrible judgment yes, but I do think he was shrewd enough to pick up on the fact that she was silly and naive enough to buy his lies and promises about a future together and sleep with him based on that, in a time when not many other girls would, particularly not those who would have to worry about ruining the reputations of their entire families.

      2. Sarahnova*

        This. He never intended to marry her (he only does so when Darcy and Mr. Gardiner force/pay him to), but he needed to do a flit from the regiment due to the debts he’d run up, and hey, here’s someone dumb enough to go with him who’ll sleep with him and was, he thought, unlikely to send vengeful brothers or fathers after him.

      3. AvonLady Barksdale*

        Yup. I don’t think he ever expected Darcy to come along and help Mr. Gardiner meet his terms.

      4. fposte*

        Death Comes to Pemberley, especially in the television version, does a nice job of bringing that out. They’re not a bad match, all told.

    3. C Average*

      Because she was young and dumb, and he was hot and persuasive. (See also Capulet, Juliet, and Montague, Romeo.)

    4. king*

      I would like to ask an additional question – if you read this article , does it change your mind about Mr. Collins and Mrs. Bennet? I mean if you don’t have a job and see that someone like Lady Catherine de Bourgh is hiring, wouldn’t you act like Mr. Collins to secure the job? Also, you know that these girls need to get married or they will end up being servants
      (governess, waiting on an older woman, whatever); so is Mrs. Bennet all that crazy for pushing marriage so heartily at the girls? You know that some of the girls aren’t smart enough to get a job as governess. You have to feel the fear that they might be on the tiles if things go wrong. People in this era didn’t get the luxury of marrying for love. So it was a sensible thing for Mr. Collins to do when he offered for Lizzy’s hand and no wonder he was perplexed when she said no. So he then offers for Charlotte who realizes that in the world they live in, you can’t always have love with your marriage, just make sure the guy has a job and hope he will treat you kindly.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Mrs. Bennett wasn’t wrong for pushing marriage on her daughters; that was the only viable economic option available to women of that class at the time. It was her manners that were in the wrong, and her allowing Lydia and, to a lesser extent, Kitty to behave in wanton fashion.

      2. Observer*

        What Allison said.

        The thing is that even then, the wrong marriage can be pretty terrible, even if it makes some economic sense. And, Lizzy herself could have fended for herself had she needed to, on the one hand, and on the other hand, there is little doubt Mr. Collins would have been a very good haven for the other girls in the worst case.

        As for Mr. Collins, your explanation doesn’t fly. Charlotte, and her behavior to Lady Catherine, is understandable. But that’s not Mr. Collin’s behavior at all. For instance, I could understand him being surprised and perplexed that Lizzy would say no. But his proposal and response to her refusal go waaaay beyond that. The only reason Lizzy is not more offended, I think, is that she realizes just how stupid he is. After, he did admit at the dinner table that he actually prepares the flattery he’s going to feed Lady Catherine and her daughter ahead of time. He shows his stupidity and self-centered nature all over the place. And, unlike Charlotte (who is too smart to try to change his mind), he takes on Lady Catherine’s causes as his own to a foolish extent.

      3. Sarahnova*

        Oh, the whole point of the novel is that the Bennet girls have no choice but to marry, because the social and legal circumstances of the time have left them up sh*t creek without a paddle. Austen is a social satirist, not a fluffy rom-com writer. Elizabeth says herself early in the novel that “one of us at least will have to marry extremely well” – otherwise all five of them plus Mrs. Bennet could literally be out in the street when Mr. Bennet dies. Becoming a governess would have been a serious social step down, and besides, none of them actually had the education to do it.

        The point with Mr. Collins is that he is an incredible idiot, and Lizzy is keenly aware just how miserable it w0uld be to be tied for life to such a fool. That’s the other side of their dilemma; they know from their own home how long you have to regret an ill-matched marriage. It makes pragmatic sense for Mrs. B to be keen on one of the girls marrying him and keeping Longbourn, but Mrs. B is too snowed by the grandeur of Lady Catherine and Mr. Collins’ obsequious manners to realise what a blockhead he is (because she is also shallow and none-too-bright). Charlotte is able to make the best of being Mrs. Collins because a) her options are significantly more limited than Lizzy’s and b) she is more pragmatic and down-to-earth.

        I’d just like to add that I busted out my BBC Pride and Prejudice DVD last night after this discussion. I had a very strong urge to hear Mr. Bingley declaring, “Had they uncles enough to fill all Cheapside, it would not make them one jot less agreeable!”

  6. Dan*

    This one is for our peeps Down Under:

    I’m going to spend a month traveling Australia next March/April. I’m gonna spend about a week each in Sydney, Cairns (well, the GBR and the Daintree) and end at Melbourne. But I’ve got a week that I’m not entirely sure what to do with. I can spend it in the Red Center, Tasmania, or Perth (or the surrounding region.) Some stuff I’ve read indicates that the Outback (Alice Springs/Uluru) is like none other; other stuff says it’s just a big rock and what’s the BFD. Taz looks beautiful, but my understanding is that it’s not really unique to Australia. What to do? I have to admit, a three-day camping trip out of Alice Springs is cheap and looks interesting. I can use points to stay in Perth; Taz is all cash.


    1. MJ (Aotearoa/New Zealand)*

      Personally, I feel like Perth does not get enough love. It’s a cool city but visitors tend to (reasonably) focus on the East Coast with the occasional Alice Springs jaunt.

      1. Em*

        I think it’s a cool enough city, but if someone is already going to do Sydney/Melbourne, I can’t really recommended Perth over Alice Springs.

    2. Em*

      Not to insult Perth, but there isn’t anything in Perth that Sydney or Melbourne won’t be able to offer while Alice Springs will give you something interesting and different, while Perth would be kinda ‘just another big city’ but without the culture of Melbourne or the sights of Sydney.

      1. For the benefit of Mr Kite*

        I have to disagree with you there. There is plenty Perth offers that is unique and different to Sydney and Melbourne. Even Canberra has the National War Memorial.
        Swimming with Whale sharks
        Monkey Mia
        The Pinnacles
        Rottnest Island
        Perth Mint
        Perth Zoo
        Swan Valley
        National parks on the outskirts of the city.
        Go two hours south and see a completely different climate and landscape, tourism activities which are not replicated if you travel two hours north or east.

        1. Dan*

          Thanks for the list, I’ve come across most of it already. But the real question is, with 6N/5D, do I go to Perth, Taz, or the Outback?

          In no place I have ever been has one city ever been exactly like the other. The question usually becomes “how much diversity should I seek.”

      2. Dan*

        That’s kinda the vibe that I got. My flights from/to the US arrive Sydney and depart Melbourne, so those are obligatory stops for a first timer. As much as I want to do something that nobody else does, I can’t really justify Perth because it doesn’t seem to offer anything that the others don’t. I could easily visit the Kimberly, but it looks like at that time of year the weather up there sucks.

        So Uluru or Taz it is. But Taz seems to cost a lot and doesn’t necessarily offer anything that I can’t find elsewhere. And… camping in the outback looks kinda fun. I haven’t camped since I was a kid.

          1. Dan*

            Thanks. I’ve slept in more countries than I have states, so the American Southwest is not something I have any experience at all. (I say “slept in” as opposed to “been to” because I’ve moved cross-country twice. I’m hesitant to claim I’ve been somewhere if I’ve never gotten off the highway there.)

            Some day when I get old, I will see more of the US.

    3. For the benefit of Mr Kite*

      A week in Sydney? Why? Once you’ve done the Bridge Climb, The Rocks and the Opera House three maybe four days max. So much more to see out of the cities to get a true taste of Australia. I would recommend Uluru travelling the Nullabor Plains if you’re a golfer go the Nullabor Plains golf links and Western Australia – goldmining in Kalgoorlie, wineries and the caves Down South Treetop walks and the Wheatbelt to see the Golden Water Pipeline and New Norcia – Amazing places. whatever you decide enjoy your time down under.

      1. Dan*

        Well, technically six nights/five days, so not a full week. This particular leg is most efficiently done in multiples of two, so it’s either 4N/3D or 6N/5D. Considering that Sydney is my first stop from the US, jet lag is going to be an issue, and the older I get, the less easier that gets. A few years back, the last time I went to Bangkok, I barely left the hotel the entire four days we were there because of jet lag.

        If I get tired of Sydney fast, there’s plenty of day trips to make, ie the Blue Mountains.

        The other thing is, my flights in and out of OZ are rather fixed. So within the country, the question becomes “do I do several three night stays in many cities, or longer stays in fewer cities”. For three night stays, all it feels like you do is constantly pack your bags and barely have any time to actually enjoy the places you’re going. So I could do like 8 three-night stays, which just wouldn’t be that enjoyable. 4 6-7 night stays gives me more time to relax. Plus more places = more transit costs.

        1. For the benefit of Mr Kite*

          That makes much more sense. I’ve added a link with WA based Tourism to another comment which will assist should you decide to visit WA. I am sure the other states have similar for your day tripping jaunts.

          1. Dan*

            Deciding to visit WA means giving up Uluru/Alice Springs. I think I could justify it if I were heading up to the Kimberly, but the weather at that time of year sucks up there.

            So… what say you? WA or the Red Center, given what else I have on my place? That’s really what this comes down to. Which one of those, if I skipped it, would I regret more?

            1. For the benefit of Mr Kite*

              Well I am biased as I live in regional WA and work in a museum. I have visited Alice Springs & Uluru many moons ago and I did enjoy it. As I did the East Coast as well. It really depends on your travelling style and what you want to achieve in your time. Being WA based of course I am going to say come out west. If your choice is the Red Centre or Tassie, sorry but the Red Centre it is, especially if your heart is set on camping. Between WA and Red Centre… well I haven’t done the camping trip to Uluru so it would depend on what the tour operator is offering on the trip – how close do you get to Uluru? Does it include King’s Canyon, the Olgas etc? Being an Indigenous Sacred Site the tour maybe allowed around the base or only viewing from a distance so I would check those details. I do recommend visiting the regional centres and the smaller museums and galleries wherever you decide to go. March is hot in Australia regardless of location. I hope this helps

              1. Dan*

                Thanks for the advice. My style is fairly broad. I’m a bit of a foodie and a craft beer guy, so I tend to like the cities for that kind of thing. But I also like eco tourism, particularly seeing animals in the wild. I realize the Outback isn’t quite going to provide that, but I do enjoy getting away from the cities and spending time in nature.

                My heart isn’t set on camping, but it’s not something I’ve done in 18 years. The Outback camping package does look interesting, and the price is certainly right. I do my own version of “go go go” touring, and I’m not sure how enjoyable I’d find those tours where you’re up at 7am and spend every night in a different hostel.

                If I went to Perth, I’d park my butt in a hotel for five nights and do a bunch of day trips. One limiting factor is that I’m on my own and I hate driving in foreign countries — and one of the allures of Perth for me is heading down to the Margaret River Valley.

      1. ExceptionToTheRule*

        My mother did a two week trip of NZ/Aus and the part she continues to rave about the most (6 years later) was the week spent driving from one end of New Zealand to the other. Absolutely stunning pictures she brought back and great stories about the local people and their habits/customs/etc…

        1. Dan*

          Did she spend two weeks in each country, or two weeks total, split across NZ/Aus? My understanding is that for a short trip, NZ makes more sense. If you went to Aus for a week, you pretty much just drove from Sydney to Cairns or something.

          One of the reasons I chose Aus is because I’ve got the time to actually go out and see a bunch of different stuff. I also want to spend some time on or near water, and during the time I’m going, the weather in NZ isn’t quite as suitable for it.

          1. ExceptionToTheRule*

            It was two weeks total. She did about 8 or 9 days in NZ and the rest in Sydney, if I remember right, although there might have been a couple of days in Melbourne. They drove and spent a day or so in the major NZ cities. Did a lot of touristy things – whale-watching, helicopter tour of the Southern Alps, etc. They went in January and the weather was very lovely – obviously the height of summer down there.

            I really don’t think you can go wrong with whatever you decide to do.

    4. Apollo Warbucks*

      I’d recommend going to Alice it’s amazing, go and watch the sunset over Uluru it’s something else.

      Perth is pretty cool and worth a visit but I’d not chose to visit over Alice.

      I never went to Tasmania and don’t think I missed a lot.

    5. Mister Pickle*

      I’m jealous. I have a really good friend down in Melbourne and I’d love to see her. Don’t know when that will ever happen.

        1. Not a kiwi*

          I was married in Quebec Canada and honeymooned in NZ. Aukland, Hamilton, Waitomo Caves and Rotorua. Sailing, glow worms, sulfur baths. Ahh the memories.

  7. Sourire*

    Possibly one of the more weird/random queries to be asked on AAM, but here it goes anyway…

    Is anyone familiar with Bagel Bites (brand name for microwaveable mini bagels with pizza toppings) and if so, have you ever seen anyone eat them with a utensil? I saw a coworker eating them for lunch the other day (not counting this as work related, it just happened to be a coworker) and he was using a fork. We were both mystified at each other*. Him for the idea that I don’t use utensils, and me for never having seen anyone eat them other than as a finger food. I’ve seen people use a fork and knife for regular pizza, but never bagel bites. I was reading AAM on my phone at the time and vowed to ask the readership about it the next time Sunday rolled around.

    *This is also how I felt when I first went to Ohio and my shocked expression at eating chili on spaghetti was met with many shocked faces in return. Cultural food norms are always so interesting to me.

    1. Julie*

      Bagel bites do not need a fork. I guess you could but why?

      I’m a chili mac kind of girl in STL. I blame Steak n Shake and my mom trying to stretch homemade chili across meals. I’ve also done chili on rice but that’s just not my jam now that I’m not on the poor person diet as much.

      1. Sourire*

        Hmmm, have never had it over rice, but I once had chili over mashed potatoes and it was actually pretty good. My father did not heed my warnings about the new hot sauce I brought him to try, and the only way it was edible was to add a starch, mashed potatoes being what we had laying around.

        1. Phyllis Barlow*

          We always have rice with our chili. Along with grated cheese, chopped onion, and sometimes, sour cream. This got started because when my grandmother made chili it was hot enough to burn the lining of your mouth out (hot meaning spicy) the only way us kids could eat it was serving it over rice. Now I don’t season mine quite so aggressively, but I still like it with rice. I didn’t think about how most people don’t do that, and when my kids ate chili in other places, they would come home and say to me, “Mom!! Can you believe they served chili and NO RICE!!???”

      2. Mister Pickle*

        I keep a little informal list in my head of AAM people who are worth paying attention to, and having grown up in the STL area with Steak’n’Shake, White Castle, Imo’s, etc, Julie you’re now on my list!

    2. Stephanie*

      Huh? I thought they were designed to be eaten by hand. And they’re so small! I feel like a fork would just make things awkward.

      1. Felicia*

        Glad i’m not the only one! Eating them with my hands gets my fingers messy (even if i don’t accidentally touch the top, which sometimes happens, the sides have like a residue, or sometimes sauce/cheese gets on the sides.) I love bagel bites~!

    3. Denied Employment*

      Is this person from another country?

      This brings back memories of I believe kindergarten or first grade when my best friend brought sprinkles to school. I think this was my first time seeing these little bits of candy. She gave me 3 maybe 4 sprinkles– like really 3 or 4 and I was trying to bite and chew them…lol I must have looked really awkward because she was like no you don’t eat them like that. I just couldnt grasp the concept of this candy! Haha! Needless to say I’m not a fan of sprinkles!

      1. Denied Employment*

        BTW I’m from the US, just wondering if this person just doesn’t know they are designed to be eaten with the hand.

      2. Emily*

        I never understood the point of sprinkles when I was younger! I’m okay with them now (woo, colors and a bit of extra crunch!), but for the longest time I was unimpressed because they don’t actually taste that good.

        (Other foods I disliked included: pickles, mayonnaise, oreos, and root beer. I guess I was only picky about snack foods.)

    4. DeadQuoteOlympics*

      I still love Pittsburgh for the unexpected appearance of french fries at the bottom of my salad.

      1. Mallory Janis Ian*

        I never heard of chili over spaghetti, either, until a coworker brought it to a potluck and introduced it as “Cincinnati chili”.

        I eat mine with saltine crackers (if I’m lazy) or cornbread (if I feel like baking). Being from the south, I bake cornbread in a cast iron skillet; I’d never seen anyone cook it otherwise until my mother-in law made hers in a square glass casserole.

        1. the gold digger*

          I love Skyline chili. I had never heard of chili being served on spaghetti, but it sure is good.

          My mom’s version of chili includes macaroni, so I was totally shocked when we moved to Lubbock when I was in 5th grade and the chili at school had no macaroni.

          I thought I could no longer be surprised by pasta in anything, but when I moved to Memphis, I discovered BBQ chili. I also discovered fried pickles. It took me a few years to try each because they sounded so bizarre, but now I am like, “Where have you been all my life?”

      2. Traveler*

        Yes and it is DELICIOUS. The chili has cinnamon and chocolate in it too (just to blow your mind a little further).

        1. nyxalinth*

          I was born in Cincinnati, but haven’t been there since. I did get to go to Skyline chili in Florida with a friend, and I loved it :D

    5. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I once went out for BBQ with a guy from South Africa who had been raised “veddy properly” and ate his RIBS with a knife and fork. Took a lot of skill. I don’t necessarily think it’s weird that the guy was eating Bagel Bites with a fork, but I do think it’s weird that he thought it was the norm! If it were a general thing about eating with his hands, then I get it, but… it’s a Bagel Bite. Does he eat chips and dip with a spoon? (Which I would totally do if it were socially acceptable.)

      1. Rowan*

        I ALWAYS eat ribs with a knife and fork, because I’m a big weirdo who can’t bear having sticky saucy food on my fingers.

        1. AvonLady Barksdale*

          Amazing! Does the same go for wings? (And I’m honestly fascinated, I promise I’m not sitting here thinking you’re a Giant Weirdo.)

          1. Felicia*

            I also eat both wings and ribs with a knife and fork. I just hate the feeling of anything sticky on my hands. I rarely eat either of those things because of it.

          2. Rowan*

            Yes, though I’m a Brit so wings are not such a Thing. I don’t eat anything with sauce or sticky coating with my fingers.

      2. Felicia*

        yea i eat Bagel Bites with a fork, but i know most people dont:) I anyone commented on me eating them with a fork though Id be super embarassed. I thought it was the norm not to comment on how other people eat their food

      3. Nervous Accountant*

        I’ve been known to eat chips with chopsticks at work because I didn’t want to get my hands dirty… Asian coworkers thought it was funny, but not offensive. OTOH , eating chips at work, unprofessional…..maybe.

        1. AvonLady Barksdale*

          I should try that, because my favorite chips are salt & vinegar, eaten at my desk. Chopsticks would help with a lot of random typing issues and the subsequent smell.

      1. Mints*

        Fingers, always. If there’s an option of eating with my fingers, I choose it. To the point that I’ve gotten werid looks and comments about cake, salad, steak…

        And to the original, bagel bites are definitely finger food. Even if he was trying to be less messy for work, I’m really surprised he thought that was the norm

    6. Pepper Pot*

      I am usually one of the fork and knife folks – I have eczema on my hands and when it flares up, food is the last thing I want to touch. I assume I’m getting weird looks about it, but I’m old enough not to give a rip. :)

    7. INTP*

      I haven’t seen a bagel bite since I was a child, and of course we didn’t use forks then. But at work I eat a lot of things with a fork that don’t require it. I’ve been known to eat apples and pears with a fork. I just hate getting my fingers sticky and then touching my keyboard, and it’s a pain to go wash my hands between every bite!

        1. fposte*

          Oh, man, I think juicy ripe mangoes are probably best eaten in the bathtub. I’d never dare to try at my desk.

    8. Anx*

      I use forks and knives when I otherwise wouldn’t if I’m eating near a work space or haven’t had a chance to wash my hands first, just to keep things neat and sanitary.

    9. louise*

      I’m late to this party, but my husband eats Cheetos with a fork to avoid messy fingers. I suspect that’s the reason with the bagel bites, too. But it’s ridiculous. :)

  8. Anon123*

    Does anyone have any tips for meeting deadlines (not at work, but in life in general)? I keep missing deadlines not because I’m super busy or can’t get the task done, but because I have gotten into the bad habit of not taking deadlines seriously. I’ve been completing tasks, applications, paperwork, etc. in my own time, and nothing bad comes of it. I just apologize, own up to the fact that its my fault its late, and ask about the best way to proceed. And again, nothing bad has come of it, so I find myself doing it more and more. Does anyone else fall into this trap? Thoughts about how to get out of it?

    I know its bad/a crummy thing to do to others, but that hasn’t been enough motivation to change.

    1. Graciosa*

      Can you bribe yourself to do a certain amount of this at a regularly scheduled time in exchange for letting yourself off the hook otherwise? I’m thinking about something like committing to doing two solid hours of activities in this category on Thursday night (or until you finish if sooner) and not having to do any over the weekend – or treating yourself to a Friday night or weekend activity but *only* if you put your time in.

      It’s hard to be disciplined about this kind of stuff, but sometimes you can bribe your inner child. :-)

      1. Not So NewReader*

        It is a discipline. You can use the reward system, as Graciosa describes. You can decide that you have one day a week or one period of time during each day that you handle these matters. I find that if I do something daily it’s only 15-20 minutes each day. One thing I have had success with is doing it before work. This way I can go through my day feeling like I have already accomplished something.

        Or you can do a tough love thing with yourself. You can say, “So far I have been lucky that missing deadlines has not really hurt me. But at some point, I am going to miss a deadline and really get screwed. Then I will have to face the fact that I did this to myself.” [Not that I would know anything about this first hand, or anything! lol.]

        Do you have an area in your house for your paperwork and your household management? If your paperwork is all over your home that can really be discouraging and make it easy to miss deadlines. I got into reading “The Paper Tiger”, to tame the flow of paperwork in my home. (not that this book is gospel or anything, but it gave me ideas).

      2. puddin*

        I put all to-do’s like this in a pile that I review every Friday. I try to complete everything regardless of due date. Rather than focus on the due date, I just use a weekly scheduled time to get everything done.

    2. B*

      No but I feel you. I’ve known all year my driving licence needs renewing next week but once the paperwork arrived I forgot :( now I have a week to renew.

    3. Raine*

      This is tangential, but when my sister was constantly late to meetings with friends, or appointments, basically everything in life, her husband finally sat her down and said that it wasn’t about her, it was about showing respect to everyone else, whose time and patience she was sucking out to an extreme degree. I don’t know that this applies to you, as you say nothing bad ever comes of missing (self-imposed?) deadlines, but I thought I’d throw it out there if all it takes is a perspective adjustment to see the situation differently.

    4. C Average*

      Do you know how long things actually take to complete?

      I find that if I don’t get real with myself about how long things will actually take (factoring in my attention span, fairly predictable interruptions I’ll encounter, administrative sub-tasks, and miscellaneous crap like that), I vastly overpromise and then get mad at myself for not coming through.

      I like to try to mentally go through a project before signing on to it, factoring in the time it’ll take to wrap my brain around it, the time it’ll take to get anything I need from other people, the money I’ll have to spend, transit time, prep time, necessary supplies, etc. It’s hard to do this accurately for something new, so if it’s something new, build in generous grace periods and then base your deadline on that estimate.

      In other words, the problem might not be you. The problem might be the deadlines. Try tweaking them and giving yourself some breathing room. See if that helps.

    5. INTP*

      I got into this habit in college. I managed to talk my way out of every missed deadline for awhile, but it eventually became so bad that I was missing even the extended deadline I talked my professors into and at that point, they knew my excuse the first time was BS and I nearly failed a semester.

      I’m not sure how to change before things hit rock bottom, because I definitely did. But one thing that helps me somewhat with school is to give myself deadlines well before the actual deadline for each step of a project and try my hardest to stick to them. I still miss most of them, but I’ve built in enough cushion that it’s not a huge deal.

    6. Alissa C*

      My issue isn’t about not taking deadlines seriously, but about managing priorities and expectations. If 10 clients tell me their projects are all high priority, I’m left to my own to figure out which is highest priority.

      But even outside of work….send me a renewal notice, and I’ll tack it to my bulletin board and forget about it. Suddenly I’m scrambling to get things done post-deadline, and paying more for it.

      A few things I’ve found helps, which may or may not be useful to you:
      When something comes in, do it right away. Especially if it takes only a few minutes. Chances are if I”m opening mail/email and finding a new to-do, I’m not in the middle of anything else.
      Every night, write up a to-do list for the next day. Put the hardest things on the top. There’s a name for this process, and a lot of people call it “swallowing the frog”. If you swallow a frog first thing, nothing bad can happen the rest of your day. The lest fun tasks/projects get done first, everything else seems easier in comparison.
      Multiple reminders. Google calendar, plus Trello, plus phone. I can ignore one, it’s harder to ignore many.
      I use Trello as a calendar (it’s a paid feature). Unlike my google calendar which has tasks/project deadlines & appointments/social event, Trello has only my project deadlines. It’s easier to see in advance where things need doing. And if I complete something early, I reward myself. I can also set multiple deadlines. So project needs done by 12/31. But the steps within the project need done 11/1, 11/15, etc. Breaking big stuff into little things makes me feel less overwhelmed. When I get overwhelmed, I get anxious, so I start avoiding things.

      Remind yourself why it’s important to meet deadlines. I had a friend who just sailed through never getting things done on time “because why does it matter, nothing bad happens”. The part he wasn’t seeing is that he was losing respect of peers, coworkers, bosses, and also losing friends. The “bad” was stuff that was subtler, and harder to him to notice (it happens slowly over time). There may not have been a write-up, or a failing grade, or a public breakup with a friend, but there were effects over time. And maybe ask the people giving you deadlines to impose a penalty each time you miss. Once you do suffer, for lack of a better word, you may find that spark of motivation in yourself to ramp up how you handle deadlines in the future. It’s great if people are accommodating, but that sometimes has a negative effect on those who need some external motivation.

      1. Anon333*

        I’ll throw this out in case it helps – I actually do the opposite of “swallowing the frog” – I much prefer to do all the little small tasks first, and then settle into to the larger task. Nothing worse to me than getting the big one done and still needing to do a bunch of stuff.

    7. HR Manager*

      Do you have a calendar on your phone? I have never bothered with it much, since I am tied to work laptop and calendar, but I was annoyed I was missing things I really wanted to take care of (or remembering them late), so I started using the calendar on my phone and it works! I can set alarms or not, and I find it so helpful. I don’t sync it up with work – this is only for my personal stuff (appts, dinner/lunch dates/ friends, tasks, etc.). I also have a separate task list manager but it’s primarily for my shopping list…

  9. Em*

    I am looking at going to University and the course I am interested in has a couple of Microeconomics/Stats/Quantitive units that I’m REALLY scared of doing because I’m not naturally a numbers/maths person. How hard is it get through intro units in this area and do OK and any tips?

    1. Emme*

      Nope, just because you weren’t good at something doesn’t mean you can’t become good at it. Put extra practice into math/econ and spend extra time working to make it better. I faced a similar dilemma at school, and I decided I really wanted to learn the material because I didn’t want that subject to hold me back anymore. So I lied to myself every time I opened my book, and said, out loud, “this material is interesting and I’m excited to learn it”, and then started my reading. It still wasn’t easy, but an attitude adjustment made a huge difference. Also, I decided that I would tell myself I was good at that subject but it was just something I had to work at a bit longer to understand.

      1. Em*

        Yeah, I feel like not being a ‘maths person’ is holding me back and limiting my options in life but it really just doesn’t come naturally to me, so I think I make the mistake of psyching myself out because I’ve convinced myself I’m awful at it. I will try convincing myself I’m not as ‘dumb’ as I think I am.

        1. Sarahnova*

          The idea that it “comes naturally” to anyone is just another reiteration of the idea that there are maths-y people and non-maths-y people, which is bull. You have to LEARN all of this stuff – none of it is intuitive or instinctive – and everyone on the planet has to work at it. Some people have better teachers and/or strategies, that is all.

          Try reading up on Carol Dweck and “learning mindset” – the belief that every skill is acquirable is an incredibly powerful one, psychologically. Get a good tutor or find a good website teaching the core skills in an accessible way – maybe people here can recommend some? And remind yourself that the more you work at this, the more you will learn it and succeed. It is completely in your control.

          1. Cristina in England*

            Seconded! Carol Dweck spoke at a conference I went to and she really changed my thinking in so many ways.

          2. Steve G*

            I don’t agree with you but I am going to check out this Carol Dweck’s stuff.

            Maybe some people are just naturally doing the stuff she recommends already?

            Said as someone who get economic theory really well, but got a D in econometrics in college and a C in both stat classes. I really know I knew that the professors were talking about and felt I followed the lectures better than many of the other people, but when it came time to get the right answer and actually due the math, I didn’t do so hot. And I still make demand curves with many inputs in my job:-)

          3. Colette*

            I completely disagree that math doesn’t come easily to some people, but agree that most if not all people can learn math skills.

            IMO, saying that everyone has the same ability in math is the same as saying that everyone can learn to run equally fast or paint equally well. Everyone has things that come easier to them than others, and it does everyone a disservice to minimize the effort it takes to become good in something that you don’t naturally have an aptitude for.

            (I say this as someone with a math degree who didn’t learn to work at math until third year university.)

            1. Felicia*

              This. Math doesn’t come naturally to me. Writing does. Let’s say I got a 90% in both English and math class – in English that would be effortless, and in math that would require an extra tutor and hours of studying. Not impossible, but a lot more effort. People have natural aptitudes for things and not for others. I think for me to learn math i had to accept that it didn’t come naturally, so that i could find someone to teach it in a way i could understand, which is different than the way it was being taught by my teachers, and not feel bad that other people seemed to get it more quickly/easily.

              1. fposte*

                Though what complicates things is that we emphasize activities involving our natural/preferred aptitudes–people for whom reading and writing comes effortlessly are usually people who spend a lot of time reading, for instance. They don’t spend the equivalent amount of time doing math, but somehow the difference gets laid at the door of aptitude rather than practice.

            2. Sarahnova*

              The extent to which “aptitude” plays a role in people’s ability at anything has turned out, in field after field, to be overreported, though. Actual differences in “inherent” ability are likely to be very small. What makes a difference is practice; the small differences in “inherent” ability get exaggerated over time by the amount people practise and try, which is largely controlled by their view of their own ability. There are, for instance, significant cultural differences in the extent to which maths ability is viewed as something you have or don’t have, and surprise surprise, where it’s viewed as something acquirable, the vast majority of people acquire it.

              Take a look at some of Van Gogh’s early pencil drawings; they suck. He wasn’t born an artistic genius. He worked hard, over years, to refine his skill, and most people who worked as hard as he did would have ended up roughly equivalently skilled. That’s not to say they would have produced the same art, but if they put in the identical amount and kind of work, they would have ended up equally technically skilled.

            3. catsAreCool*

              I think math comes more easily to some people than others – why should math be different than anything else? However, the quality of the teaching you get on math is huge in how easy/possible it is to learn math.

              Some universities have free tutoring services and/or a mathematics lab that can be enormously helpful. Also, many teachers are very nice about answering questions, especially during office hours or after class.

              One thing I’ve noticed about math teachers though – some of them are so used to the math, that it is “intuitively obvious”. If you get one of those teachers, they probably won’t be much help. The tutoring should be better, since that’s done by another student.

      2. Nervous Accountant*

        This makes me feel a little better. Math was an easy subject for me…effortless, never had to try etc. Until I got to middle school, I was placed in an advanced class, 100s fell down to 70s and 80s….high school was even tougher and I opted for the graduation track that involved as little math and science as possible (so I haven’t taken a math or sci class since sophomore year of HS). Always figured these things weren’t my strong suit, and it was backed up by writing that confirmed it (some people are creative some are #s oriented etc). Now I wish I’d applied myself more.

        My username may be a bit ironic. Just haven’ tneeded to use algebra or polynomials at work yet :-]

        1. Pennalynn Lott*

          I love your username, Nervous Accountant! I just recently made the decision to go back to school to get an accounting degree. . . and I suck at basic arithmetic! If handed a problem that contains the following, “A company obtains a loan of $100,000 at 7% interest (APR), how much interest payable will they have accrued in six months?” I have to break out a calculator. Seriously.

          I’m hoping calculators, spreadsheets, and accounting software (that does the calculations for you) are the norm in the real-life accounting. :-)

    2. Dan*

      I’m guessing you’re from what we Americans call “overseas”, in part from your replies to my Aussie question, and also because Americans never use the phrase “going to University.” (For some reason, we “go to college” even when the college itself is actually a university. Don’t ask.) And to us, “math” is never plural.

      I can’t give you anything useful though. I am a math guy for a living (studied it in college too), but math comes easy for me. Much easier than any sort of lit class ever well. So can I say that intro math classes are easy, and you shouldn’t worry about them too much? Math is your friend, mastering it will make some parts of your life much better. At the same time, I suck at reading comprehension. I can understand things that are spelled out in black and white (like math text books) but suck at trying to understand the double meaning of things like John Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath.”

      1. Em*

        Haha yes, I am from Australia! Born in the UK, but grew up here.

        I do really want to learn maths because I feel like it will make many aspects of my life easier (including awful aptitude tests for jobs, it’s holding me back a lot) but I just don’t have that natural ability so….I’m scared.

      1. Em*

        This sounds so much like me! It doesn’t take me long at all to throw things into the ‘too hard’ basket!

        1. Dan*

          Break things down into smaller, manageable chunks. Sure, the big puzzle might be an unmanageable pain the ass, but smaller parts might not be. When you do a jigsaw puzzle, most people start out with the edges and the corners.

          I’ve spent the last 8 months working on this ginormous relatively undefined problem at work. What I did was broke it down into several smaller sub-problems. Some I know I can easily solve, others I know I can’t. I solve the stuff I know I can do, work through the stuff I’m not sure about, and accept the fact that the stuff I can’t is too complicated for the time and budget that I have to work with.

    3. Dan*

      So to tag along on Emme’s comment (my first one to this got stuck in moderation), what parts do you want to become good at? Frankly, I think straight arithmetic is useless and overrated (I’m a math guy for a living.) Knowing how to do 383×924 with pen/paper is pointless. What’s useful is being able to do basic math (any addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division) through all of the single digits (like 10+10, 9×9, 8/6, or 7-4) and estimation in your head. Estimation is critical. If 383×924 is hard (and it is, particularly if you’re lazy and don’t want to reach for your iPhone like me), knowing how to do 400×900 is going to get you a good enough answer fast. Also learn how to deal with the zeros. When you multiply, learn how to separate the zeros (the answer to that problem is 9×4 followed by 4 zeros). So you’ve gone from a problem that’s “hard” to a “close enough” answer that you’ve got in about a second.

      1. Em*

        I don’t know…..I guess Math in general. Right now, I need a calculator for 15+7, which is shameful because I’m not dumb, I just…..I don’t even know!

        1. Dan*

          Break things down… again, estimating is your friend. 15 sits on the hump, but if you’re going to round 7 to ten, then 15 goes down to 10. You sum that to 20, which is only 10% off from the real answer of 22. That’s close enough for whatever answer you’re going to need on the spot in real life.

          You just have to drill all of your single-digit tables until it’s second nature. Once you get good at that, the rest is easy… says the guy who can “see” numbers in his head.

          1. Persephone Mulberry*

            Just for comparisons sake, when I see 15+7 I think “5 plus 7 is 12 plus 10 is 22.”

            As Dan (and someone else) said, to start you really have to know those single-digit facts by rote. I don’t think there’s any way around that. Fortunately, the internet is full of printable worksheets and games that can help you drill those facts. And anything more complicated than that is fair game for a calculator, IMO. Then it becomes about looking at the information and knowing how to arrange it to figure out the info you need.

            Also, I don’t know about the UK but at my school, you were required to take and pass a basic math course before they would let you enroll in stats or micro. And most schools also offer remedial/refresher math for people who need to drill down father than that.

            1. Mister Pickle*

              Just another datapoint: for me 15 + 7 is

              15 + (5 + 2)
              (15 + 5) + 2
              20 + 2

              to start you really have to know those single-digit facts by rote.

              That’s pretty much how all math works: you start with a base set of axioms, and then use them to construct more complex theorems by means of proofs.

              1. fposte*

                I’m not a huge math person, but I’ve found that those single digit basics stay in my head based on opportunities to beat them into my head (solitaire means I know what adds up to thirteen, for instance). If that’s an interest, there are a couple of apps I’ve played with that are diverting and useful: Math Bingo, which has levels of difficulty and then lets you win a critter to shoot at stuff, and Mathemagics–Mental Math Tricks has an overview of stuff like the nines tricks.

        2. Calacademic*

          I agree with Dan — don’t look at “Math” and think 15+7. Mathematics, in particular, is a way of thinking about the world in very, very, very, very abstractly. A mathematician can look at a coffee cup and a donut and say — hey, these two things are the same (topology). (Personally, this is NOT my bailiwick, which is why I went into something nice and concrete like physics. :))

          While society in general throws Economics and Statistics into the general pool which is “Math”, the subfields are fairly different and play to different strengths. What opportunities do you have to “try it out” and see if it fits? Can you take an intro course for a semester and see if you sink or swim?

          Remember: Biology is really chemistry, chemistry is really physics, physics is really math, and math is a language. Best of luck!

        3. Phyllis Barlow*

          I feel for all you fellow math-phobes. I am the same. The only reason I didn’t receive an AA in Applied Science is… I needed a semester of algebra and a semester of accounting. I tried the accounting, but on my first test I made the awe-inspiring grade of…32. I dropped the class (without any push-back from the instructor) and never even attempted the algebra. According to my son, the family math whiz, I would need 3 semesters of what he refers to as bone-head math before I even get to algebra. That just seems too much for me.

          Besides, I am 63 years old now and I figure if I’ve gone this many years without needing it, chances are I will be OK. I don’t even work in that field anyway. However, I did hate the feeling of not finishing what I started.

        4. catsAreCool*

          15+7 – what I do is take 5 away from the 7 and have 20+2 = 22
          So 15+7 = 15 + 5 + 2 = 20 + 2

          Does that sound funny? It does work.

      2. Denied Employment*

        This is me. While people grab out calculators when it’s time to split a lunch/dinner bill. I’m dropping zeros, dividing and multiplying in my head by rounding up or down. I hit close enough.
        Also +1 on your Grapes of Wrath comment!

    4. Grand Mouse*

      Khan Academy has some great videos in all different subjects that work with my learning style. I have a learning disability that makes math harder and those videos finally made it make sense. It’s not just math either.

      1. Jill of All Trades*

        I second Khan Academy. I’m not sure you can get all of it in Oz but I think it started on YouTube, and I’ve heard really great things about it.

        And for what it’s worth, I work in finance and I’m far more naturally capable in reading comprehension and literature. It takes practice, practice, practice. Try to have some fun with it so it doesn’t seem so tedious or scary.

    5. KayDay*

      Try to find out what type of math is used in the courses (do you need to know just basic algebra, or do you need calculus…?) Some quant courses are more demanding in terms of prior math knowledge than others. Secondly, review your algebra rules–(I second the above recommendation to look for some of the khan academy videos) A lot of not-a-math-person people find that stats/econ is easier than straight math because it is more concrete and uses examples that can help you understand the theory. Finally, if you get to choose between a group of courses to meet the quant requirement, be sure to find a professor who uses concrete examples, and not one who focuses mostly on proofs and deriving equations.

    6. Schmitt*

      I hear you. I’m very, very definitely not a numbers person by nature – I don’t seem to have the brainspace to hold all the parts of complex operations simultaneously and any basic operation with 7 in it takes twice as long.

      However: I am a programmer. Because 1) like Dan says, estimation is your friend. I can get close enough to figure out if something makes sense or if I need to get bogged down in the details with a calculator and a coworker. And 2) I can write a program to do the math for me if I understand the framework around it. ;)

      I took a couple stats classes for my major and really, truly loved them. I would recommend them to anyone, regardless of major / career intentions.

    7. matcha123*

      I don’t have any tips because I’m the same. I’ll be reading through the replies like you.

      I used to enjoy doing math, but after some incidents in school I started to hate it and now I can’t do anything. Thinking about math makes me panic-y and nervous and when I do start on problems that others consider “easy” I come close to crying. I’ve shed many tears over math.

    8. Jim*

      If you are interested in the subject matter, you will learn the material. I was not good at mathematics in high school. I had a hard time early in college with calculus, but I learned it. Today, I am an engineer. I even have a Master’s Degree in Engineering. No sugar coating it, you will have to work harder than some others to learn the math, but get help, audit courses if you can, get a tutor, youtube, etc. Good luck!

    9. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Take advantage of the help your instructors are willing to offer! My bf teaches a microeconomics course and gets frustrated when students do poorly on an exam, don’t come to him for help, then complain when they do poorly on the next exam. They’re usually there and willing to help you. Study groups are good too, especially when there’s a balance of talents– one person’s good at stats, one is better at micro, etc. Good luck!

    10. Mister Pickle*

      If you’ll pardon some mild constructive criticism:

      I’m not naturally a numbers/maths person.

      You need to stop thinking that / believing that. So many people sabotage themselves at the start by just giving up and accepting that they’re not a _____. The truth is that you’ve likely never done well in math because you weren’t motivated, had poor teachers, had lots of other things going on, and you simply didn’t care about it enough to succeed. What you need to be thinking is “I’ve never really applied myself to math.”

      I was like that in High School. I got C’s and B’s in high school math. Then I went to college and studied Computer Science in the Engineering school. First semester, 8am: Calculus. Five days a week. For three semesters. And then we started on the *hard* material.

      But here’s the thing: the teachers want you to learn it! It took some work and discipline, but it all came down to this:

      – Attend every class. Pay attention, and take notes with pen and paper. Don’t socialize in class. Don’t play computer games.
      – Do all of the reading and all of the homework problems the day they are assigned. Don’t just read a problem and think “yeah, I know that”; *do* the problem.
      – Any ‘optional’ class sessions are not optional. “We’re going to have an optional session at 7pm Wednesday to review for the exam” says your TA or your Prof. This is code for “we’re previewing what’s going to be on the exam.” You need to be there.
      – Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Go to TA office hours. Find a study group. Hire a tutor if necessary.

      This will work. I ended up taking over 30 semester hours of math as an undergrad and got A’s in each and every class.

      You can do it. You just need to commit to putting in the time and effort, and then go and make it happen.

      1. catsAreCool*

        What Mister Pickle said “‘optional’ class sessions are not optional” consider them the way the teacher helps you do well on the test.

        Also, anything that the teacher emphasizes a class or two before the test, write it down and memorize it. The teacher is trying to help you.

    11. Not So NewReader*

      My husband was sick as a child and missed a lot of school. He never got remedial help in math. This was a curious thing because the man was a brilliant techie, he just lacked a strong foundation in math.
      What happened next was odd. If you put a dollar sign in front of 2 + 2 and asked him to add, he would have to reach for a calculator. If you put an ohms sign or watts sign next to those numbers he could do it in his head. Same darn numbers, go figure.

      My suggestion to you is that there is a difference between applied math and theoretical math. If you have $20 to buy five items at the grocery store, are you able to figure out if you have enough money for those items? If your car has a half a tank of gas and you know you have a 12 gallon tank are you able to figure out how much gas you will buy?

      See, different people have different hurdles with math. In my husband’s case he did not have a pure math problem, he had a money problem. He worried about money to the point that he lost his ability to handle numbers.

      Me, I cannot stand math theories. I am bored to tears. And I cannot follow along. So what does this look like? I got a D in calculus and a B in physics. I could see the relevance of the numbers in physics class and I was able to work with them. For similar reasons I had solid grades in economics and accounting. I did poorly in finance and statistics- those subjects were not anchored strongly enough to real life situations for me. I have to have real life situations in order to follow along.

      Think about your experiences with math. Rethink how you may be using math daily and not even realizing. Then decide if this class is for you. Perhaps there are people you can talk to on campus to get additional inputs.

      1. Mister Pickle*

        If you put a dollar sign in front of 2 + 2 and asked him to add, he would have to reach for a calculator. If you put an ohms sign or watts sign next to those numbers he could do it in his head. Same darn numbers, go figure.

        I can sooo relate to this. For whatever reason, “20Ω” is interesting; “$20” is not. It’s sad, ’cause like most people, if I find something interesting, I can learn to be fairly good at it. And if I thought money was interesting, I might well be rich today! But this has not ever happened.

        At least not yet. I have a new friend who is involved in writing high-frequency trading programs, so maybe that will bring it all to life for me.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          I am chuckling. My mother went a different route with numbers. Her belief was put a dollar sign in front of anything and most people would be able to add that up. hahaha.

          There have been times where I have put a dollar sign in front of some numbers and I was able to overcome whatever brain fart I was having. Too funny.
          It’s whatever works for ya.

    12. Kyrielle*

      What others have said, and also, check out online education sites perhaps? There are a lot giving free college courses, so you could find a similar intro course and get a little practice in, not only to see how you do and build confidence, but so that when you take it for credit, it’s a second view of the material rather than the first time ever.

    13. Emily*

      I don’t have any tips because I’m naturally decent at math, buuuut I know a few people who struggle with math and have gotten through the types of classes you’re talking about. It’s definitely possible to do learn this stuff even if you’re not naturally good at it!

      One thing I’ve heard is that it helps to find a good teacher/tutor/friend to help you. This may be someone like you, for whom this stuff is not completely intuitive, because they’re more likely to know how to explain things in a way that you’ll find easier to grasp.

      1. Felicia*

        I’m not naturally good at math, adn i totally agree with this! Most of the reason i hadn’t done well in math classes before is because the teachers i’ve had only knew how to explain it for people with a natural inclination for the subject. You need to find a teacher or tutor who knows how to explain it to someone it doesn’t come naturally to. THe only reason I got through my university math course is because i got a tutor who knew how to explain it to me. I find that for a lot of math teachers, math comes naturally to them so they don’t know how to explain it to someone who doesn’t think like them. Not all but lots. Just because something doesn’t come naturally to you doesn’t mean you can’t learn it. Though probably means that to learn it you need someone to teach it to you in a different way.

        I had the same trouble with teh HTML class i took (which is why i don’t really know it at all), the teacher only knew how to teach it to people who had a natural inclination for it, and didn’t know how to explain it any differently to the people who didn’t get it the first time.

        1. catsAreCool*

          Yeah, what Felicia said.

          A good teacher can explain something in different ways and can explain to people who don’t have a natural inclination for it.

    14. C Average*

      There’s some great advice in this thread, but I’m gonna throw in a possibly discouraging but very real perspective. It’s only my own, and I don’t think it should necessarily inform anyone else’s decisions, but it’s a point of view that also does exist.

      We all have limits to our aptitude. We can expand those limits, but there are limits to our capacity to expand our limits. And we have to be realistic about which limits are worth pushing.

      I recently dropped out of an MBA program I was really enjoying and getting a lot out of because I just couldn’t hack the statistics class. I’d done all the reading multiple times and had attended every class, taken thorough notes, etc. But I just didn’t GET it. When I worked the practice problems, I had to hunt out examples in the book or the sample exams that were set up the same way so I could just “plug and chug.” Anything calling for actual comprehension of the material such that I could apply it in new, more interpretive ways was just beyond me. I ran into an absolute brick wall. Having worked through difficulties and challenges in the past, I recognized this one as one I wasn’t going to be able to overcome. And, because the course was considered foundational to the program, continuing in the face of my utter lack of mastery (even if I could’ve managed to eke a C out of the class, which I think would’ve been a miracle) would have been foolish.

      Each of us has strengths, weaknesses, and limits. Try new things and do your best. When you reach your limits, respect those limits and be gentle with yourself in the face of failure.

      (Something worth mentioning as well: My difficulties are part of a diagnosed learning disability that goes well beyond being “not naturally a maths/numbers person.” I knew that going in and knew I was taking a risk in investing my time, money, and effort in something that on paper I was unlikely to succeed at. If your difficulties are more garden-variety, the suggestions others have offered may be effective for you. I hope they will! I just think it’s important to remember that not everyone can mind-over-matter their way past real limits.)

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I am sincerely hoping there was more than one reason for dropping the MBA. I hope you talked to someone about dropping if stat was the only reason.

        1. C Average*

          Oh, boy. This is going to be long and overshare-y. I haven’t really had anyone I can talk to about this. Sometimes a bunch of strangers on the internet are really the only ones to whom you can speak honestly about these things.

          I had a few reasons. They mostly surround stats. Because it’s a part-time program (6 – 10 p.m. Monday and Tuesday, two classes per semester), any one class represents a pretty big chunk of the experience. So there wasn’t a lot else to balance out the weight of that impending failure.

          I have failed at a lot of things. I’ve invested my energy and my material resources trying to do things for which I ultimately just didn’t have any aptitude. I often stuck with those things long enough to see other people take them up and quickly overtake me. I sometimes stuck with them long enough for someone well-intended to tell me I was wasting my time and should take up something different for which I had more promise. I’ve received failing grades in classes I worked hard in. I’ve received harsh criticism on projects I did my best work on. I’ve seen firsthand that there are thousands of situations in which my best is nowhere close to good enough. So now I tend to heed the early cues and avoid the sunk costs. I know exactly the way that train looks when it’s bearing down on me, and I’m going to jump out of the way. I know that might look like quitting to a lot of people. It probably is.

          (I don’t quit things that bring me joy, even if I abjectly suck at them. They’re in a different category.)

          I’m also just weary of everything being so damned hard. I’ve been married for going on four years, and love my husband and stepkids with every fiber of my being, but there’s a lot about being a part of this family that’s challenging. The schedules, the needs, the details, the relationships, the basic realities of sharing space with other people for the first time in my adult life–that’s all been hard. I’ve been in the job I’m in for going on three years, and it’s been a bad fit from the very beginning and a slow drain on my energy and optimism and overall joy in life. I’ve been a pretty good recreational runner for many years and, after surgery for a running injury four years ago and the inexorable onward march of time, it’s harder and harder to hit the paces that used to come easy, and to stick to the training schedules that will help me achieve my goals. Everything feels uphill, both ways, in the snow. And school felt like that, too. It kind of brought home to me how free my life is of things that come naturally to me, and how the things that don’t come naturally have crowded out the things that do. I miss the things that do. I want to make space to have those things again.

          I also realized that everything that went with being in school–the time, the resources, the energy–prevented me from exhibiting my best trait: unflappability. In my house and on my team, I’m always the person with the cool head who’s cracking jokes in the war room and making things OK when crisis hits. I am amazing at this. I value this part of myself and wasn’t willing to trade it in for any degree and any future job prospects. It’s too valuable a part of who I am.

          And finally, though it took some sussing out, I gradually figured out that my overall goal wasn’t to get a higher-level job than the one I have; it’s to have a DIFFERENT job than the one I have. Maybe even an easier one that pays less–that would be fine. I don’t necessarily want to manage people or be in charge of big, important initiatives. I want to show up every day and do something useful that I’m actually good at. My goals are pretty modest, and I don’t think it will take an MBA to meet them. It will take hard work, focus, soul-searching, some resume tweaking, some reaching out to old contacts, some acquisition of new skills, but these are all things I can do for free. There’s no reason to spend the time and money on a degree that’s total overkill for my actual goals.

          And can I just say that sometimes I’m sick of trying to be a better version of myself? It feels like my entire existence sometimes is about being smarter, hipper, faster, and more competent at everything from learning PhotoShop to baking to racing 5ks to building my personal brand (gag). Sometimes I want to declare to the world, “I am forty-one years old! I am the version of myself that you get. There isn’t a 2.0 version in development. The tired, unimaginative, frizzy-haired, underachieving woman you see before you is the real me.”

          So, wow. I sound my barbaric yawp over the rooftops of the world. Aren’t you glad you asked?

          (That felt GOOD.)

          1. Not So NewReader*

            Applause, applause. VERY well explained. And welcome to middle age.

            When I hit 40 my aunt busted on me about aging. (The woman is very dear to me and she herself was in her 70s- context matters when consider this remark.) I gave her a big grin. I said, “I think from here until I am in my late 80s are going to be the best years of my life. I know who I am. I know what I stand for and what I don’t stand for. I know what is important to me and what isn’t. I like me better than I ever have. I hope that people like me but my world is not going to crumble if they don’t. I do enjoy people and that is all I need to know.” My aunt nodded and said, “You’re getting this.”

            Middle age is not about sufficing or abdicating to one’s circumstances. Middle age is about finally figuring out what makes sense in our lives and what doesn’t. We plant ourselves somewhere and grow some roots and some branches. In other words, we develop in ways we never planned or even thought of.

            I, also, decided against a Master’s program. It was the right move for me. That degree would price me right out of my local market. I would have to move. I don’t want to move. Yeah, staying here is the harder road in some ways, but why would I wander the world looking for what I already have right here?

            When I first saw your name, I got a big kick out of it. I got mostly Bs and Cs in high school. College about the same. Then I dropped out. (long story) I went back years later and knocked myself out to make the dean’s list. I had friends tell me I was stupid because I had to sit up to 11 pm every night to get the material into my skull. I shrugged the comment off- but I learned to watch what I say to people more closely- as in don’t talk like that to people. When I finally finished my degree it was while I was under a lot of pressure. So I did not enjoy my last two years as much as I did my first two years.
            I was very fortunate to have a father that did “eh” in school also. He went on to get numerous US patents in his field. He said that school grades only reflect certain aspects of learning but do not reflect everything the student has learned. I asked him about IQ tests (this conversation happened in the 60s). He said IQ tests measure an aspect of intelligence, not the whole of intelligence. Radical talk for that time period, today we know he was correct. He ordered me to take four years of math and science in high school. He envisioned that I would live in a world where it would be important to have some idea of how some things worked. That was his reason that I had to have 4 years of each of these subjects.
            He never nagged about grades. When I got to college he never even asked to see my grades- even though he was paying the bill. Again, pretty radical for those times.
            I have tried a lot of things that I am not good at. On the other hand, I have tried things and been totally surprised by getting some level of result! haha. I think it is more important to keep trying things than anything else. I marvel at how skills can transfer. I was not a fantastic seamstress, but when I was learning to drive the feel of the gas pedal reminded me of learning the feel of a sewing machine pedal. Years later I found I was not great at cake decorating but I was surprised how caulking the bathroom was similar to handling frosting coming out of that tiny little cake decorating tip. I can do an okay job of caulking. No experience is ever wasted EVEN if we only do a mediocre job at it.
            And the friends that said I was stupid for having to study all the time, I don’t see them much anymore. But I still think warmly of them- water meet duck’s back.


            In short, C Average, you’re getting this!

            1. C Average*

              “Water meet duck’s back.” Love it. Love all of this. THANK YOU for this.

              (There’s a whole story behind C Average. Before I got married my initials were CCC, which I always thought was pretty appropriate, given that I’m a thoroughly average person: a mousy brunette of undistinguished achievement, not in any way destined for greatness, other than the amazing novel I will one day complete. Occasionally in college my friends and I would fantasize out loud about what we’d do if we unexpectedly found ourselves independently wealthy. I always said I’d start the C Average Foundation, dedicated to helping the mediocre try something new and mildly audacious. Not the overachievers, who have lots of opportunities; not the screw-ups, who have various programs that offer them paths to redemption; not the cancer patients or the paraplegics or the other victims of tragedy, who have various charities dedicated to their causes. Nope, instead I’d help the boring middle manager finally visit Paris, or the out-of-shape mother of three train for the Ironman, or the kid with straight Cs attend a writing workshop. The idea would be for people who had been average all their lives to try something new and interesting and outside of their comfort zone.)

    15. hamster*

      I would like you to stop conflating math with numbers in your head. I’m not a numbers person either. But i found out around 18 that I am a totally math person. How? Arithmetic is just boring ( for me at least, so my brain just looks and the numbers and goes meh ) but calculus, mathematical analysys, algebra those are really cool stuff. think of it as being an abstract thinker person. I learned just enough math to get physics ( in high-school) and in college quite a lot ( computer science and electronics major here ) and i’ve come to realise all this habit of abstract thinking does help to organise your view of the world. For example, my girlfriends were making fun that when i read a complex recipie i “compile it in my head” and spot the mistakes( if there is a step missing/ingredient list incomplete/wrong) before i actually start doing . They actually laughed at me when i estimated the difference in thickness of pie resulting from switching from a round pan to a rectangular ( and bigger one). :))
      And statistics do improve your intuition. After a while, as an engineer you run away from computing and use a lot of pre-defined models, but just learning those models is great. at some point in my career i worked closely with business analystes, and let me tell you, those who got math were asking more complex and intereesting questions from me( and getting fun answers) . If you make the efort to try it, it will really improve your life. Remember, you don’t have to use all the theory every day, but taking some abstract thinking units i think it really is a good idea

  10. Stephanie*

    Two-part question/rant (parts are related).

    (1) I am heading to Albuquerque part of Thanksgiving Weekend. Suggestions for things to do/see/eat there? I am driving up from Phoenix, so I also welcome suggestions for points of interest on the drive up. I’m on the east side of the Phoenix area, so I won’t go through Flagstaff, but could make a detour if there’s anything anyone recommends. Planning to stop at Petrified National Forest.

    (2) I am heading to Albuquerque for part of the weekend because we are hosting an absurd number of guests for Thanksgiving Dinner. I believe the tally is 22, including us. Four or five people are staying with us (along with the four of us that live in the house, plus a dog). Everyone else is staying at hotels, but more than likely they will just sleep there. These include the horrible house guest relatives I mentioned a few months back. Anyway…I need an escape (and my bed has been volunteered, so not really sure where I’m sleeping anyway), so hence Albuquerque. Dreading Thanksgiving as Mom and I are trying to figure out how much food will feed 22 and dealing with everyone’s food preferences (“Oh, I don’t eat spicy food…” or “No, I want the box mix stuffing” or “You didn’t cook the greens long enough…”).

      1. Pennalynn Lott*

        Holy crap! I won’t even open my front door if *friends* show up unexpectedly, and they’re people I enjoy spending time with! Good for you for getting away for at least part of the time.

    1. Dan*

      One man’s spicy food is another man’s bland food. To which I say, “Travel to Thailand. When you come back, you will never ever call my food spicy again.”

      And damn. Who are you visiting in the ABQ? I’m just sticking it out with an old college friend and his SO. I can’t deal with the stress of hosting 22 people and figuring out where they are all going to bunk.

      How’d the ‘rents take your turkey-day cold-shoulder?

      And how the F do you take 22 people’s food preferences into account? Sounds like a nightmare. I limit my guests to 8, and they eat whatever I cook.

      1. Stephanie*

        Staying with a HS friend and also seeing some old college roommates who also live there.

        I’m around and cooking for the actual holiday meal, so I think I get brownie points for that. I also have to make two trays of lasagna earlier in the week (to feed all these people).

        I don’t think my parents care all that much. My mom asked me to take her as well as some of these relatives don’t like her (all on my dad’s side). And everyone’s coming for like a week (Or maybe more? I honestly have no clue), so I will see everyone before I leave and probably when I get back. And these are all distant relatives I’m not particularly close with, who will spend the vast majority of their time here sitting around the house watching TV and asking when the food’s ready.

        1. Graciosa*

          No great insight into activities in Albuquerque, but I am relieved that you’ve managed to escape those relatives. I didn’t click on the link, but think I remember enough to wince at the idea of spending a week with them.

          Congratulations to you, and condolences to your mom.

      2. AdAgencyChick*

        And one man’s “absurd number of guests” is another man’s normal. It is very, VERY normal in my family to have Thanksgiving for 35. My mother’s side of the family came to this country within the last 30 years, and they have *enthusiastically* adopted American Thanksgiving. So there are both family members (blood relations) AND their in-laws, sometimes even their in-laws’ in-laws. Not joking. The first time I brought my husband to Thanksgiving (when we had been dating only a few months), I noticed him giving me a dirty look after an hour or so. I asked him what was wrong and he said, “Why aren’t you introducing me to your family?” and I had to tell him, “I don’t know who everybody here is. I just have to call them Uncle and Auntie.” He gets it now, but I am used to never having the kind of Thanksgiving dinner you see in movies, where people sit around a table and someone carves a turkey in the middle. Nope. Nobody has a table big enough for that, so you just grab space wherever you can. I recall eating my turkey on a piano bench many times :P

        Anyway…this is not to minimize Stephanie’s pain, because since I’ve been doing the American food for our Thanksgiving for about 10 years now (my mom used to do it, then I took over because she’s not in great health), I feel that pain! Some tips I’ve learned:
        * Make a couple of crowd-pleasers and then make whatever the hell you want to make on top of that. People will eat what they want to eat and skip what they want to skip. If they complain, assign them the dishwashing.
        * Make a schedule of what dishes need to be done when. Thanksgiving is tricky because so many dishes need the oven. So it seems anal, but I would be lost without my printed schedule that lets me know that yes, I can make the spinach while the turkey is doing, but I have to have the stuffing done first and then rewarm it later.
        * Enlist potluck help, if you can. This is where I feel for you — it sounds like EVERYONE is traveling and there is only one home with a kitchen available? (At least in my case, my aunts make the Chinese food, and s I’m responsible only for about 1/3 to 1/2 of the feast.) If this is so, do as many no-cook appetizers and side dishes as you can, and dragoon your army of relatives into helping make them!

        1. AdAgencyChick*

          Oh yes, and:
          * Whatever you can make the night before, do it and then it’s just a matter of rewarming the next day.
          * Disposable aluminum pans are your friend (unless it’s someone else’s job to wash the dishes).
          * Don’t be afraid to supplement your cooking with store-bought items (hummus, guacamole, etc.).

          Some no-cook recipes I love:
          * Apricot-stuffed almonds (a tasty little appetizer):
          * Fennel-orange salad:
          * Salty-sweet broccoli salad (okay, you do have to cook the bacon; just use store-bought mayo to keep it easy):

        2. Stephanie*

          Oooh, good tips! Yeah, almost everyone is traveling. And our kitchen really isn’t big enough (or maybe it’s just the awkward layout) for more than two people in there…which is ok as my elderly aunt is the type to stand over my shoulder and criticize my cooking.

          1. QualityControlFreak*

            Kudos to you for staying to help with the cooking! (And good on you for then making your escape.)

            We host thanksgiving here, but there are only a dozen of us – which is quite enough! This year I have the added challenge of cooking without an actual sense of smell/taste so my son and spouse will be helping with details like seasoning.

            We buy a disposable metal pan for the bird and put it on a cookie sheet for stability. We’re very casual; dinner is served buffet style in the living room (we serve our elders first, asking what they want on their plate and bringing it to them at their chosen seat). We have a dining area, and we bring in an extra table. I do the pies the day before; I have two ovens but I make homemade dinner rolls which I like to serve warm from the oven, so between that and the bird, pies need to be done ahead. Relatives bring side dishes, appetizers, desserts. It works for us.

          2. Dan*

            Thanksgiving this year is going to be me, my long-time college buddy, and his partner. Maybe a few more, depends on who he feels like inviting.

            I can show up for a large crowd, but I can’t plan/prep for one. I don’t run a restaurant, and I don’t charge you to eat. You’re going to eat what you get, and if you don’t like it, keep your mouth shut and cook next year.

          3. AdAgencyChick*

            I say send her into the dining room with a no-cook recipe. She can chop and assemble while you do your thing.

            I don’t envy you. I have a sh*t-ton of people to cook for, but at least they know better than to complain about it!

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Complaining, really??? I’d tell them if they did not bring a dish to share then they have no stake in complaining about the food. If you know you are on a limited diet bring something you can eat and make enough of it to share with others. It’s so obvious, yet somehow this escapes people.

      I’d really want to tell them that due to all the complaints about the food and the lack of help with the food, next year’s gathering is canceled.

      Clearly, you have more patience than I do!

      1. C Average*


        My mom always had a rule that we weren’t allowed to complain about free stuff. Didn’t like the meal someone else served or the gift someone else bought or the prize you got at school? Keep it to yourself. If you paid for it or had a hand in making it or earning it, you bought the right to offer constructive input. Otherwise, say “thank you” and rearrange it on your plate or discreetly re-gift it later.

      2. Lamington*

        Those guests are terrible. Sorry Stephanie. If they complained to me, I would be happy to direct me to the closest buffet. Hope your trip to Albuquerque is nice!

    3. TL -*

      Abq! Do old town and the botanical gardens (and the aquarium since you’ll be right there.) The state fair grounds are fun to walk around if there’s anything going on; eat some food with green chilis – the owl cafe is good or Garcia’s but really any new Mexican place. If you like the outdoors and don’t mind the chill, do the the tramway or go hiking in the Sandia mountains. It is a super easy city to navigate, so explore freely in you car.

      1. Forrest Rhodes*

        Abq is wonderful. It was my home for 8-9 years, I’ve been away for much too long, and I think about it every day. Just offhand, I’d recommend visiting the UNM campus (Zimmerman library, the duck pond, the chapel); checking out The Little Professor bookstore that’s just off Central Avenue across from the library (at least, that’s where it used to be); spending some time sitting next to the Rio Grande at Coronado Monument in Bernalillo; and probably having breakfast at The Mule Barn on 4th Street NW or Sadie’s on 2nd Street NW.

        Also the Natural History museum: rocks, dinosaurs, history beyond history, too much good stuff to see in one day.

        Given the time and the wheels, I’d head west and south to El Morro, Inscription Rock, for a day of walking through time, reading the inscriptions carved into the base of the rock that start in 1604 and move forward; if the trail’s open, I’d hike to the top of El Morro to ponder Atsinna, the ruins of an ancient Zuni village there. This trip would also include a visit to the nearby Ice Cave (a semi-collapsed volcano tube that has ice year-round), and several stops to just soak in the sight of the Malpais, the ancient and not-so-ancient lava flows that cover the area.

        On summer Saturdays Abq has international fiestas downtown—each Saturday, a different local international group takes over the plaza with food, history, legends, stories, dances, music, etc. Abq is a wonderful salad bowl of nations—Thai, Turk, Sikh, Greek, Cambodian, Samoan, Peruvian, and more, and more, in addition to the Big Three: Native American, Hispanic, Anglo. The city’s flavors are too many to list and mostly easy to find.

        Definitely I’d head up the Tram for a sunset, but give yourself a day or so in the city to acclimate before doing so. I had more than one visitor actually faint as we stepped off the tram at the 10,600-foot summit; they just wouldn’t believe me when I said, “It’s higher than it looks!” Look to the sides of the path as you walk from the Tram to the restaurant; the fossils you see there are sea-bed critters … now at 10,600 feet. Mind-boggling.

        And I’d have to go to Los Cuates for stuffed sopaipillas, prob’ly every day. You can’t describe ’em, you just gotta eat ’em.

        Finally, on a visit lasting more than a couple days, I’d take I-40 east and then go north on the Turquoise Trail, up the east side of the Sandias, through the old mining towns of Madrid, Golden, et al., to Santa Fe. Or just start in Abq, pick a direction and a two-lane highway; in 5 minutes of driving you’ll be so far away from the city that you’ll forget it exists, and the sights and distances are stunning. Living in New Mexico is like living in a geology book, and everywhere you look you feel like you’re seeing through time.

        Ah, shoot. I’m sorry to have gone on so long, but lord, it’s a place I sincerely do miss. Thanks for giving me an opportunity to talk about it for a bit.

        1. Stephanie*

          No, these suggestions are awesome! Thanks for the tips.

          Trying to figure out the weather. Sounds like it’s similar to Flagstaff in the winter? It also looks significantly higher in elevation than Phoenix (1000 ft vs 4000+ ft). Would you recommend I break out the sleeping bag coat or could I stick with something slightly more flattering?

          1. Turanga Leela*

            Very comparable to Flagstaff. It will be colder if you go hiking in the surrounding area or go up to Santa Fe (which I forgot to mention you should totally do if you have time—great museums, especially the International Folk Art one). If you’re planning to spend any time outside, I’d bring the down coat.

            Don’t forget that the elevation makes alcohol more potent. Drink lots of H2O and go easy on the wine at Thanksgiving.

          2. RR*

            Displaced ABQ native here — (and wimp when it comes to cold weather). It will be colder — I know what you mean about the less flattering style, but I would be inclined to go with the warmer coat. Weather can vary greatly, so perhaps a lovely warm wrap to layer over the more flattering less warm coat if you don’t want to look like that tire company mascot…

            1. Stephanie*

              Oh, I’m a wimp, especially after being in Phoenix for over a year. My puffy coat (kind of) has a silhouette! The belt helps. My friend said it’d probably be best to bring the puffy since it’ll be in the 20s at night.

              But yeah, I did have a white puffy coat that wasn’t fitted in the slightest. I looked exactly like the Michelin Man. And it was constantly dirty.

    4. VintageLydia USA*

      At 22 people, you really just need to cook whatever you can and damn the preferences. I mean, make sure everyone has at least one thing they can eat (vegetarian? Maybe sub in veggie broth for the chicken broth in the stuffing or whatever.) But beyond that, they can eat what is served. No one is entitled to having every single dish that is served being 100% their preference.

      Also make ahead as much as possible. A lot of Thanksgiving food reheats super well, so if you can through everything in the oven at 350 to reheat it while the turkey (turkeys? you probably need 2 unless it’s a monster.) rests, you don’t have to stress about the lack of oven. Also a turkey roaster unit would be worth it. It doesn’t cook as nice a bird as in the oven (it doesn’t really crisp up the skin) but with so many sides, that’s fine.

      1. Stephanie*

        Not vegetarian, just super picky and particular (nothing spicy, nothing too “weird”, etc).

        Yeah, we’re getting two turkeys and a ham.

    5. danr*

      Good guests will find something to eat. We usually have around 20 (or so) for Thanksgiving. We make a 20+ pound turkey with stuffing, fancy mashed potatoes, fancy green beans and a small pot roast for the person who ‘doesn’t eat animals that had feathers’. (don’t ask… since her kids devour turkey and chicken). Everyone can eat or not eat what we make but can’t complain. For those that don’t eat much, there is always dessert. All carving and cutting is done in the kitchen and the meat is brought out on platters. We’ve learning not to let the platters go to the table until right before we also sit down, or we don’t get much.

    6. Turanga Leela*

      I’m no good at recommending stuff to do, but I have food recommendations! When you need to escape and eat New Mexican food, try the Frontier (by UNM) or Mannie’s. They’re both cheap and good. There’s also shockingly good Vietnamese food in Albuquerque—try Pho Linh. As a bonus, if you like the Cohen brothers, you should recognize the Pho Linh parking lot from No Country for Old Men.

      Someone recommended El Morro, which is fun but a significant trip from Albuquerque. (It might be on the way if you’re going through the petrified forest, though.) If you do make that trip, be careful on Highway 53, which gets icy in winter. And get lunch at the Ancient Way cafe, which has good food and a fun, gender-nonconforming waitstaff.

      Finally, bring a warm jacket! New Mexico gets COLD in late November.

      1. Forrest Rhodes*

        Great suggestions, T. Leela.How could I have forgotten to mention the Frontier, with its fresh-baked, three-inch-thick cinnamon rolls; and that mesmerizing tortilla-making machine; and those green chile chicken sopas … you’ll have to excuse me now. I need to check my calendar and see how soon I can be heading New Mexico way …

  11. Stirring the Pot*

    I’m a big fan of Jimmy Fallon. The other night on his show, he did a joke about the G20 summit and was talking about Russia and China. As part of his joke, he did an imitation of Putin with a Russian accent. It got me wondering, why is it OK and funny to do a Russian accent, but if Fallon, or anyone else were to do a Chinese or other Asian accent, they would be labeled a racist, crucified in the media, and stripped of their livelihood. Why is that? Isn’t one just as bad as the other? Or, isn’t one not that big of a deal as the other, if you lean that way?

    1. coconut water*

      That’s an interesting question. I was watching that night-he is really good with imitations and accents.

    2. AnonyMostly*

      One of my favorite King of Queens show is when they had mold problems and had to hire the Russian contractors. I never new that was a stereotype. Then the Olympics– and it made it so much funnier to me. But I have seen comedians do Asian impressions too. I think comedians have a bit more leeway as long as its not insensitive-like slavery and particularly lynchings, the Holocaust,911, us bombing Hiroshima and the like. I do think there are certain topics off limits. Matter fact, one of them late night guys went in on how Obama and the Chinese president sorry don’t know his name looked like back up singers for an R &B group. I died. laughing. My bf, who’s Asian, insisted they were well dressed–which i knew but culturally to me it did look like they were about to perform a doo-woop. I also loved the president’s choice in shoe (flip-flops). Then again my bf is Asian and he where flip flops, a over coat, and hat in the dead of winter….

    3. Jazzy Red*

      Because Putin is Caucasian. And because he’s Russian, and we still consider them the enemy (and he is).

    4. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

      The first thing you’re working with is that he’s doing an impersonation of an actual person, not a stereotypical group.

      White individuals do impressions of black individuals without being offensive. Bill Cosby, example, – I’ve seen it done a million times and I’m sure I’ve seen Jimmy Fallon do it. Digging around in my brain, I’m pretty sure I’ve seen Fallon do impressions across a number of racial and cultural lines. As long as you nail the person it’s not offensive. Now, if you did Bill Cosby or Jesse Jackson or Morgan Freeman or Samuel Jackson or James Earl Jones in a bad, stereotypical black american accent, that’s super offensive.

      And that’s the same with Asians or Jewish people or Southerners or whatever, the need to stick to the individual and not stereotypical accents that are often used to make fun of people by group.

      All that said, Putin is well in the dog house in the US atm, so I think you’ll get a lot more rope with anything related to making fun of Putin.

      1. LisaS*

        Well, what also kicks in is the difference between making fun of a group seen as a “powerful enemy” vs making fun of a group traditionally subject to bias/prejudice – humor relying on stereotypes of the disenfranchised have never been funny, really, but now they are also recognized as being offensive because that bias has had such a negative impact on the lives of those being made fun of. Whereas humor at the expense of the powerful rarely translates to actual impacts on actual lives.

        1. Traveler*

          This might be a factor as well. Look at all the awful racist depictions of the Germans and Japanese during WWI and WWII.

        2. Mints*

          Yup, both of these. Imitating a specific person isn’t offensive the way making of “generic young black man” or “every Korean maincurist” is.

          Plus, it’s worse to make fun of groups that have been historically opressed if you’re in the majority because of the political implications that still exist. (So no, it’s not the same)

          1. Rich*

            As a history buff I take umbrage this premise. Every race and group have been oppressed at one point in time. Google White Slavery and you will probably be surprised at the results. I’ve seen Japanese comics making fun of Chinese and vice versa. Everything is as funny as you want to make it and everything is as serious as you want to make it.

            As our attitudes change different things offend different people. My wife hates when I do a generic gay male impersonation. I’m not doing anything out of meanness, I’m going for the humor. And that I think is and should be the criteria which we base our offenses. If I attack a person or group and do it to cause harm or out of meanness then yes, that is wrong. But if I’m making fun of a situation or stereotype without intent of offense then we as a society should relax and try to have fun.

            I will use one of my favorite comedians as an example. Jeff Dunham just released a Comedy Central special All Over the Map and one of the bits has Achmed the Dead Terrorist in Belfast, Ireland. Achmed quipped that he thought he was there for a job interview. The audience loved it. While in Tel Aviv, Israel, Achmed said, “look at all the Jews in the audience.” Again rousing laughter. Jeff has stated that his little friends can get away with saying things that he never could. Why, we all know that it is Jeff actually saying these things through his little friends. Oh, both countries are predominantly Caucasian and have a long history of the people there being oppressed.

            We all have out sensitive parts of ourselves that evolve over time and what you might find offensive one day you love the next. People forget about context and how important a role that plays when you start getting offended.

            1. PuppyPetter*

              LOL – you forgot the crack he made in South Africa! Not sure if it was peanut or Achmed looked out and asked several times because the audience was so Caucasian!
              (He is very funny & now he won’t be touring for a while since he’s doing Vegas – BUMMER)

    5. fposte*

      Yes, I think there’s a punching up vs. punching down question.

      That said, I offended a student years ago by joking about a Canadian accent. As I was joking about my Canadian dad, I still think I had a fair bit of prerogative there, but she was Canadian and really felt diminished by it. There’s never going to be an official category of okay vs. not okay that’s going to have all those being joked about on board.

      1. Cath in Canada*

        As someone who’s moved around a lot and lived in several cities with very distinct accents, I dislike it when people really focus in on accents. It makes it feel like they’re less interested in what I’m saying than in how I say it. It’s amazing how many people think it’s OK to listen to someone say something and then laugh and imitate how you said one of the words instead of responding properly.

        1. fposte*

          Though it makes me sad that it does get so tied into prejudice and privilege, because how we say stuff is fascinating and delightful, and it’s a whole lot of fun with people who are friends enough to know it’s just about language to play with the differences.

      2. Felicia*

        I hate all the making fun of Canadians that goes on in the American media, especially the stereotypical “Canadian” accent which doesn’t sound like any Canadian I know. Just like the US there also isn’t one “Canadian” accent, and a lot of Americans i’ve met have been surprised that I’m Canadian because I speak with a fairly bland kind of American newscaster accent, as most people from the biggest Canadian cities do. I think as a Canadian you’re used to constant mocking from American tv shows which is mostly what we get so it annoys such people. Most people don’t mind but it isn’t as funny (i think it goes to making fun of a specific person vs making fun of a whole country”. It’s probably no big deal as long as you stopped when she said it bothered her though! It just would have bothered me too.

        1. esra*

          Agh, they had a Canadian ambassador on Madam Secretary and it just took me completely out of the show. Seriously guys, half your shows are filmed up here, no one’s ever met an actual Canadian?!

              1. Mister Pickle*

                And their bizarre insistence that the War of 1812 ended in a tie.

                But seriously: I don’t get it, but some Americans really do seem to have some kind of issue with Canada. This is probably one of those life-experiences that I will never be able to relate properly, but the last time I was in Canada, I think it was circa 2003, I was flying back from Ontario, and at the airport, just outside of American Customs, there was a military-style HumVee on a pedestal. I am not sure quite how to put this into words, but there was a tangible sense of “f**k you, we’re America” to it. I was seriously weirded out – I mean, a HumVee? Who put it there, and why?

          1. Traveler*

            Wait, what was offensive about him? I don’t remember an accent? And to me they were poking fun at the fact the American/Canadian relationship is always so played up, that we’re always so dramatic about it, when we really aren’t that different.

            1. esra*

              Hahaha he had the worst accent! He was like a robot. Although that’s not that far from the PM, admittedly.

              Beyond the weird accent and mannerisms, the politics were also pretty off. We’re not that different in some superficial ways, but when it comes to values, night and day.

        2. Not So NewReader*

          “I think as a Canadian you’re used to constant mocking from American tv shows which is mostly what we get so it annoys such people.”

          Things like this really embarrass me about my country.

          1. Felicia*

            It’s not the whole country! Just a lot of your movies and TV shows! Though I have met a few ignorant Americans who believe that is an accurate portrayal of Canadians which suck. Like the group that was shocked that I sounded just like them and that it’s not a land of constant winter – we do share a border that most Canadians live fairly close to! It’s not another dimension!

            1. Jules103*

              Your Vernors is from Detroit.

              The Canadian American thing is more like sibling rivalry. At least in michigan, my native state, Canadians are not very different, we go there frequently, many of us with cousins or inlaws there, and we know that much of it (the parts of Ontario we are most likely to visit) are south of us. Plus we grew up listening to Canadian radio and watching Canadian tv.

        3. Cath in Canada*

          One example that really started to get on my nerves was a preview for a new season of How I Met Your Mother, in which Neil Patrick Harris’ character said “do you know how hard it is growing up in Canada, with America right there?

          It didn’t bother me the first time, or the second, but it was one of those commercials that got played over and over and over and over for days and weeks on end. Sometimes two or three times during a one-hour show. It really started to grate – I just keep thinking “don’t they know that these commercials are playing in Canada too?”

    6. Anonyby*

      As a less-serious answer, my friends joke that “it’s not racist to make fun of countries in Europe!”

      While that’s not technically true, it does often seem that way (especially here in the US). I think it comes from the fact that the dominant population in the US (“white”) are descended from europeans, so we subconsciously extend the white privileges onto them? We often don’t recognize bigotry against dominant populations as such.

      1. Mister Pickle*

        When I grew up, “polish jokes” were quite common. I don’t know if it was just happenstance due to the area I lived in, or if they were universal. I haven’t heard anyone even attempt to make such a joke in many, many years.

    7. Jules103*

      The standard seems to be that it is ok to humorously imitate an accent of a non-oppressed people, or more precisely, one that “your people” have not oppressed. So most Asian accents are out (look at American history with regard to Japanese and Chinese) but Indian accents, at least in America, seem to be ok. (Following this rule it’s probably not ok in Britain.) so, German, Russian, Italian, French, British… Usually ok. (Not that Russians have not been oppressed, but not by Americans.) The other thing is that imitating an individual, as others have stated, is not usually racist unless it’s a bad impersonation relying on stereotypes and not personal style.
      At this point, doing Putin is probably most similar to doing hitler in the 30s and 40s…using humor to undermine his power at least in the minds of those sharing the joke. For instance the jokes about how gay he appears to be in his hypermasculine poses. Normally I would not enjoy jokes about how gay something was, but for tyrants like that, anything is fair game.

    8. HR Manager*

      Not sure racist is the right term here, but it could be just as offensive from a stereotyping perspective. There’s a lot of leeway given in the media right now, because Putin and the US do not have a good relationship. But as others have noted, Putin and caucasians in general don’t have a history of being oppressed or discriminated against in the US, whereas there is a long history of discrimination against Asians and other minority groups that many argue are still live on today.

  12. Roan*

    I’m trying to replace food-related rewards with something else, but struggling to come up with ideas. I really dislike shopping and manicure/spa type things, which seem more like a chore than a reward to me. So far I have: getting a new book, trying out a new recipe (still food related, but its healthy food) and going for a walk. Does anyone else have any ideas?

    1. Sandy*

      Do you knit? Yarn is a favourite reward of mine.

      That and the mental “permission” to have a quiet hour in the morning with a hot cup of tea.

    2. Elkay*

      Box sets. We often set aside a weekend to watch a complete box set if we’ve been having a really hectic time.

    3. nep*

      A new book and a walk are great ideas.
      Certain gadgets or supplies that make the workday more enjoyable?
      Giving yourself the time for a hot bath?

    4. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Movies. I rarely go out to the movies, but when I want a real treat, I go to the local Super Serious Arthouse at an odd time of day and indulge.

      1. Raine*

        Anymore going out to the movies also borders on a chore for me (and I love movies). It takes however long to get there, and parking is always a pain, and you have to set aside a ridiculous amount of time because directors don’t keep it at 2 hours or below anymore, and on top of that are the previews, and then there’s the almost certainty of obnoxious people in the audience answer their cell phones and texting with the glow of the smartphones on, it’s not even a pleasant experience anymore (and an additional $40 for any snacks).

        1. AvonLady Barksdale*

          I freaking hate movie audiences. HATE THEM. I went to a screening of Gone with the Wind and people talked, texted, etc. And I love the movies. So I only go to places where talking is met with glares. Though that’s not an exact science either– I once went to a really nice reservations-only theater to see The Artist (a silent movie!) and had to tell the woman next to me to shut up more than 5 times. Sigh.

          1. fposte*

            I think some people give themselves a loophole where they believe it’s okay to talk if you’re not drowning out words. But I didn’t agree to that loophole, and you’re really not enhancing my ballet experience, so shut it.

    5. DeadQuoteOlympics*

      I’ve been thinking about the same thing also. Yes to books; also yes to buying a streaming series on iTunes or Amazon and binge watching. What about treating yourself to a subscription recipe service? I’ve been pondering fresh20 or CookSmart. Or what about “food upgrades” — buying the fancy tea, olive oil, or french lentils instead of your regular everyday ones? I struggle with the “can’t be more work for me at the end of the day” issue also. So I am trying to look for things that make my life easier and/or fit into my day. Dropping off your laundry at a laundry service? Fresh flowers (available at your grocery?) Every lip balm available at your drugstore that you’ve ever wanted to try? New phone app? New headphones? Music streaming service/music downloads?

      It’s harder to think of no-cost things. I love a walk too, but weather and darkness often interfere — what about a stretching session? 100 strokes of hair brushing with a good hairbrush? I know those involve work, but usually I feel better at the end of them.

      1. Roan*

        These are all great ideas. I especially like the idea of food upgrades, or treating myself to fresh flowers.

        1. DeadQuoteOlympics*

          I just thought of another one — luxury dish or hand soaps. Method foaming hand soaps — more expensive, but oh so worth it!

    6. Not So NewReader*

      For immediate go to’s- I would suggest a glass of cold water, while you contemplate what you are going to do next. This is a stall tactic but a healthy one.

      Food rewards are instant. There are very few things that can occur as instantly as a food reward. It is very important that when ever you decide to reward yourself that you follow up on that reward. For example: You take on a horrible task at work. You have decided Horrible Task will be done by the time you go home. Use water to take a pause in the task as you go along. Let’s say you promise yourself a soak in a hot bathtub when you get home from work- that is your reward. Notice- it’s not an instant reward you have to wait. So you get home and you con yourself into believing- “No that soak is not that important, I will just have dinner and read.” Stop right there. You promised YOU a hot soak. Go get it. Follow up on whatever you promised to yourself.
      The more you follow through on your promises to yourself, the easier this will get. You will think of more and more ways to reward yourself. Currently, my reward is “if I do x, y and z, then I can go and read AAM for a while.” I am very happy with this plan.

    7. Kyrielle*

      Is there a place you like to go? (For me, it’s the Portland Japanese Garden, the local park, etc.)

      Are there things you rarely give yourself time to do, but enjoy? A craft, sure, but also drawing/sketching, photography, taking a long hot bath, curling up with that good book and perhaps a mug of tea or hot chocolate, an hour to do nothing or to play a particular game, etc. (All, of course, with the “…and not feel guilty about it” tag because you’ve earned it.)

    8. INTP*

      My main ones are television and general lazy couch time. On rare occasions, buying things (if I had disposable income, that would be my biggest motivator). Honestly, I find the vast majority of suggested rewards to be more like chores. Long baths, mani pedis, and at home facials are chores I do to maintain my appearance. For a reward to be truly motivating to me, it needs to be immediately gratifying, not rewarding after an initial non-pleasurable investment – so as relaxed as I might feel after doing them, reading (takes awhile to get into the book), going for walks or making a special trip anywhere (the effort it takes to get out the door), etc don’t work very well either. Even watching a movie can be more taxing than rewarding because there’s that 30 minutes of being a little bored while I’m trying to get into the movie (whereas with television, I stick to shows where I already know the characters and storylines so they’re immediately gratifying). Currently I am actually rewarding myself via HabitRPG for things like reading, taking a walk, or relaxing silently with a glass of wine, with the goal of making them more of a habit and reducing my need for more stimulating types of relaxation.

    9. HR Manager*

      Maybe because I’m a geek, but I love work-related books. They are interesting, and might even be a helpful tool in long-term development.

  13. Elkay*

    I went on a 7.5 hour hike yesterday in new boots and having not walked that far/ long in a really long time. I now have two huge blisters and achy shoulders/neck from watching where I was walking (2+ hours in the dark). I plan to spend the day on the sofa.

  14. Carrie in Scotland*

    I have been gone a while as I’ve been on holiday to London & Bruges (in Belgium).

    Something that happened to me when I was in London was that I was in the Imperial War Museum on 11/11/14 and around 11.30 or so we were all told to stand to the side. When I got out, minutes later, there were police everywhere. Apparently, someone had left an unattended item in the park/green space next to the museum. I think it is without a doubt one of the strangest/scariest things to happen to me.

    1. JamWheel*

      I believe that earlier in the week there had been some credible threats received by the police on the Queen, so I wonder if they were being extra careful.

      I remember on my first visit to the UK in 1997 I was waiting for a friend to try on some pants in a GAP changing room when all of a sudden they evacuated the entire mall type area and a bunch of police came storming in. Apparently a bomb threat had been called in by the IRA and they had to evacuate everyone. This was in Bristol, not London, but that same trip I was also in Manchester and there was still a giant hole there from the bomb the year before.

      It was definitely confusing, especially since my local guide was in the changing room and there weren’t mobile phones then so much, so I just went along with the crowd to the safe points and he eventually also made it out, albeit with tags hanging off his pants!

      1. Carrie in Scotland*

        JamWheel, there was something about the Cenotaph on the Sunday as well, having had a threat about it.

    2. Traveler*

      The IWM has had a bombing before if I remember correctly, so they’re probably extra sensitive to it. That is frightening though.

    3. INTP*

      That happened to me in Paris the day I planned to visit the Eiffel Tower – someone left a backpack so they closed the tower and cleared out a radius around it for a few hours.

    4. Elizabeth West*

      I think I might have heard about that (I read the London papers online). Scary!

      Otherwise, did you have fun? What did you do? Go anywhere really cool? I miss London!

      1. Carrie in Scotland*

        I did have fun! Stressful though – I keep on panicking about losing my passport/oyster/tickets/phone/camera etc every other 10 minutes.

        What did I do? I went to Portobello Market & bought some beautiful origami paper butterflies, I ate a huge ice cream sundae in Harrods, I enjoyed going to see The Mousetrap at the theatre, I had lunch with a friend, and met another at the 02 for the tennis – was a bit disappointed in my tennis, as in they both ended within an hour with scorelines of 6-1, 6-1. I saw the poppies at the tower. I saw some Paddington Bears (to advertise the movie). I was near the Cenotaph for Remembrance Sunday and discovered a bell can give you shivers. I visited the War Museum & again got shivers from their Remembrance Day event.
        Then over to Belgium & enjoyed more cake. So much cake! I climbed The Belfry (huge tower in the market place – 366 steps) and enjoyed wandering around.
        Yes, it’s strange to come back to my city where everything is quiet…

        1. Elizabeth West*

          Oh it sounds lovely! I’m glad you got to see the poppies–those were really poignant and awe-inspiring.

          LOL I still have my Oyster in my purse, along with the little Tube map (the Oyster still has money on it). I refuse to take it out. :) I’ll need it again in April, so I might as well keep it handy.

        2. Pennalynn Lott*

          “Panicking about losing my oyster…”

          I am almost 100% sure that you’re not talking about the edible critter hauled out of the ocean, but I’m at a loss as to what it really is.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            LOL an Oyster card is the contactless payment card you use on the tube and bus system in London. You put money on it and then when you get on the bus or go through the ticket barrier at the tube station, you touch the card to the big yellow button and it deducts the fare. You have to touch in AND out on the tube, but not on the buses. Here’s a picture I took of mine:


            I have no idea why it’s called that.

  15. ProductiveDyslexic*

    What personal data do you like keeping and drawing graphs of? How do you collect the data? Do you have neat ways of analysing it?

    Work-wise, I recently stopped being a hands-on lab scientist and now work as an editor. I miss having data to analyse. I have a load of data on how long it takes me to edit various kinds of documents, which my computer pomodoro timer collects with my input.

    I think recording my cycle mileage and trying to improve my Eddington number (I currently estimate mine @ 30) might be a good new year’s resolution.

    1. Steve G*

      Not personal, but I work in energy, paying for real time energy changes, usually due to heat waves, and I love doing graph for the events that happen, when we call big electric users to turn down their usage….the graphs look like a picture of the grand canyon from the side. Participating buildings like getting them too so they can see how much energy they dropped.

    2. Brian_A*

      I don’t do graphs (yet!), but I record the fruit/vegetable output of my garden. I just started when I moved two years ago, but I like being able to compare, say, how many kg of zucchini I got this year over last. It’s a small garden, but I find it very satisfying to know how much I can grow for food.

      I also track cycling and running workouts on Strava. I’ve been cycling for years and have never heard of the Eddington number, but I may start to track that, too!

    3. themmases*

      I keep track of food, exercise, and weight on Lose It that I sometimes analyze. For me the combination of attractive app and endless data was very motivating to keep using it and recording things truthfully. Any data you put into Lose It can be exported by you as a .csv file to use how you want, and some basic reports and graphs are available on the website. Usually I export data and play around when an auto report doesn’t show me quite what I want, or I want to overlay two types of information. The goal feature is flexible enough that you don’t have to use it to lose weight if you don’t want to. Some people are trying to gain, maintain, train, or have a specific health reason like that they are pregnant or breast feeding.

      You could also check out and explore or even try to link public data sets that are of interest to you. I’m a public health person, and when I used to just Google for practice data I would get dummy sales numbers that mean nothing to me. is catnip to me.

    4. Judy*

      I chart our utility usage, water, electricity and natural gas. Both cost and quantity. I chart them on one plot per value, overlaying different years. I’m an engineer , what can I say?

      I can prove our water usage dropped by about 1000 gallons a month when we got our HE washer. Pictorially

    5. Cath in Canada*

      I totally hear you on missing having data to play with!

      I have a graph of our remaining balance on our mortgage, and spreadsheets full of all kinds of personal data. I have fewer since I acquired some data to play with at work :D

    6. fposte*

      Talk to me more about graphs. I love doing spreadsheets in Excel and I feel this might be a pleasing new dimension for me. Do you use Excel or something else?

      1. QualityControlFreak*

        Excel rocks for charts and graphs. If you already have the data in spreadsheets, just click on the charting tools and play around with it.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Oh yeah, Excel can put stuff in a chart or graph and make your work look really great.
          In Excel, go to “insert” then select “chart” and a chart wizard will come up. (Or at least that is how it is on my older version of Excel.)
          You’ll have a lot of fun, fposte.

      2. ProductiveDyslexic*

        I am using Excel for my editing stuff.

        My favourite graphing program is called Origin, but unfortunately I no longer have access to a licenced computer…

      3. Aardvark*

        Excel graphs are a great gateway drug to data visualization :) One thing to keep in mind is that Excel’s defaults are ugly as heck. BUT, if you’re in 2007+ (and probably before, but it’s been a while!) you can modify most of the elements pretty easily (change their color, make them translucent, change the graph bounds) and make them easier to read (and far prettier) by right-clicking and choosing the “Format series/axis/chart area”.

        If you don’t mind sharing your data, you could try Tableau Public for free. I’ve only used it a little because I find their interface annoyingly over-automated (but then I am annoyingly picky about certain things and would rather write the code than fight with a graphical user interface that thinks it’s smarter than me).

    7. LabTech*

      Not exactly comprehensive, but I’ve taken to recording the exact times and temperature settings when I bake cookies out of necessity. I’ve found that 10 minutes at 300 F then 14 at 350 (ideally rotating a little past half way through) gives the best results for my oven (assuming medium to small sized, roughly hemispherical cookies [as opposed to flat ones], room-temperature batter, and an aluminum baking sheet).

      If I don’t bake it exactly at those times, they come out under-cooked, or burnt on the ourside and raw on the inside. There’s so much thermodynamics that goes into baking confectionaries right – I have no idea how non-sciencey people do it so well!

    8. skyline*

      I track my running with the Runkeeper app on my iPhone. I don’t do any fancy analyzing of it because my app does it for me–time, pace, elevation, splits, personal bests. One of my favorite parts of unwinding after I get home from a long run (and shower, and eat) is tapping through all the data on hand. It’s much easier than when I used to try myself and run the data all manually when I got home.

    9. Clever Name*

      I graphed the ammonia, nitrate, and nitrite levels of my aquarium when I was cycling it so I would know when to add fish. :)

  16. Carrie in Scotland*

    The TV is on some music channel currently blasting out US based songs and I’m having a small break in between clearing and cleaning as much of my flat as possible before people come round to value it tomorrow morning. I am both excited and incredibly nervous – it’s no surprise that a lot of internal re-decoration is needed, as I’ve had previous water issues.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      Ugh, cleaning. I should be doing that today but instead I’m reading AAM. When I’m done with the open thread, I will write on Secret Book. I can clean tomorrooowwwww…..

  17. Mister Pickle*

    Anybody feel the occasional “artistic impulse”? I’m attempting to learn a bit about “digital painting”. I’ve got a couple of stylii I’m checking out, a Wacom Intuous Creative and an Adonit Jot Touch 4. They’re designed to work on an iPad and provide pressure sensitivity via Bluetooth.

    Any tips or suggestions from people who do this sort of thing would be greatly appreciated! I’m used to doing things in Photoshop with a mouse or track point, so this is very, very different.

    1. Traveler*

      There is a guy on youtube (his name is escaping me but he does reviews of the Wacom’s too) who teaches tutorials on this that I’ve found really helpful!

    2. catsAreCool*

      How do you like Photoshop? I’ve been using an editor named GIMP, which is free, but it seems somewhat limited.

      I’ve heard good things about Wacom Bamboo, but I haven’t tried it.

    3. esra*

      Designer/illustrator here. I swear by Wacom. They’ve been around for ages, great reputation and I’ve never had a bad one.

      I don’t know anyone who draws on their ipad instead of a though, I guess I’d worry about damaging the screen? For me personally, it’s hard to drop the pressure habits of drawing, I’m constantly replacing nibs on my stylii. Although I guess if you are just doing more casual sketches and painting it would be different.

      /goes back to pining for a cintiq.

      1. Mister Pickle*

        Heh. I go back and forth on the Cintiq thing. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be happy with anything but the 24″ HD version. But aside from costing a small fortune, it weighs more than 63lbs!

        The biggest issue I’ve been having with using the Wacom and Adonit pens on the iPad has been that Photoshop doesn’t run on the iPad. Instead, I have to use some other paint program. Admittedly, there are a fair number of them, but I’ve been using Photoshop for many, many years, so it’s what I’m used to.

        (catsAreCool: yes, I’m a big fan of Photoshop. I know about the GIMP, but I’ve never used it. I seem to recall hearing that it got a makeover some years ago and that the UI resembles Photoshop now. And I’m pretty sure it will run Photoshop plug-ins. I don’t know if it has some of the ‘content-aware’ features that showed up in CS5 and CC6, but SIGGRAPH published the underlying PatchMatch algorithm (and probably anything else), so — my guess is that functionally there’s really not a whole lot of difference between the two).

    4. JAL*

      I can’t draw worth anything, but I have a full stock of adult coloring books, gel pens, and colored pencils for when I get these impulses. I also have been trying to get into digital scrapbooking.

      I also took some graphic arts courses in high school and drawing on the Wacom tablet was always fun, even if it didn’t look good.

    5. Persephone Mulberry*

      I do a fair amount of digital work for, well, work, so when I need to indulge my artsy-craftsy side I usually go for something more tangible. Still, I’ve got a Wacom tablet on my Christmas list.

  18. AvonLady Barksdale*

    It’s that time of year again… the time when our mailboxes fill up with catalogs! I am an unabashed catalog junkie, though I do most of my actual shopping in-person or online. Anyone else a fan of looking at crazy stuff they will never buy? My favorites are: Vermont Country Store, Hammacher Schlemmer, Uncommon Goods, and, of course, SkyMall, which I save for plane trips. I have also recently discovered the bizarre joy of Pajamagram.

    Anyone with me? What are your favorites?

    1. nep*

      Love Uncommon Goods. I also enjoy perusing catalogs, looking at stuff that would be fun to have but I’d never buy. It’s like window shopping.

      1. nep*

        (When I was a kid, I used to absolutely love when my grandma would get new catalogs in the mail — I’d go straight to the children’s bedrooms section. I guess I liked looking at all those ‘perfect’ rooms and dreaming of having one like that one day. To this day I adore looking at the IKEA catalog.)

    2. Elsajeni*

      I love the Pyramid Collection and the various “As Seen On TV”-type catalogs — I used to get Harriet Carter, that was a good one. (I also enjoyed the, uh, risque catalogs we started getting when my mother-in-law died and we had her mail forwarded to her house — apparently she had some surprising mail-order shopping habits.) But I also really like looking at more “aspirational” catalogs, with stuff that various fantasy versions of me totally would buy — if I were a little richer, if I had kids, if I lived in a different climate, etc. In that category, I do L.L. Bean and other outdoorsy/wintery clothing, Pottery Barn, Edmund Scientific, any kind of toy catalog, fancy children’s clothing catalogs… Skymall even kind of falls in this category for me… mmm. Catalogs. I gotta get on some mailing lists at my new address.

        1. Elsajeni*

          They’re not eager to send it out! I manage to get one print catalog every time I move and put my new address into their website, but then if I don’t order anything they won’t send a second one.

    3. danr*

      Yes… the Hammacher Schlemmer catalog is wonderful to look at. We also get various food and kitchen catalogs. I like the cheapo ones that scream.. This is your last catalog unless you order something. But it never is.

    4. fposte*

      Does American Science and Surplus still do a print catalogue? Those are seriously delightful, though I really need to steel my not-buying-random-crap shields when I read them.

    5. Elizabeth West*

      For a while I had tons of catalogs coming. My favorites were Vermont Country Store, Domestications, Brylane Home, Hobby Builders Supply (doll’s house miniatures and building components), and LTD Commodities (their shipping is INSANE, however). I stopped most of those, but Eddie Bauer is inundating me thanks to me ordering a brolly and a mac through them. I need to get off that mailing list.

      Online, I get ones from, Long Tall Sally, Eddie Bauer, Chadwicks, and GoG (Good Old Games).

    6. Cruciatus*

      It’s not a catalog (at least not one that I get), but I always like to check out the online MOMA store. They always have neat little things for any price range (though you can usually get them cheaper elsewhere…but I love that site for introducing me to stuff).

    7. JAL*

      I miss getting the huge JCPenny and Sears catalogs in the mail.

      I also miss the Brand Names and Service Merchandise catalogs and show rooms.

      I feel so old now that I can reminisce on these things….

    8. Stephanie*

      I like Restoration Hardware, Crate and Barrel, IKEA, and Anthropologie. Anthropologie, in particular, because all their stuff is styled so prettily in the catalog, but looks absolutely ridiculous in person. I do have good luck with some of their more basic items (I’m wearing a dress from there now) after it gets deeply discounted, but the more ornate and twee stuff that looks great on the catalog model looks absolutely ridiculous on me.

  19. triple flip*

    I just discovered the show “This is life with Lisa Ling” on CNN. Does anyone else watch this?

    1. Wonkette*

      I watch it too. I was amazed that she managed to get women to talk about their work as strippers (because I can imagine how it’ll affect their ability to get work in the future and not because I’m looking down on them in some way). It seems okay so far.

    2. Anon333*

      Yep, just discovered this and have seen 3. They’ve been amazing, and I really really admire her low-key and sensitive interview style. She’s so trustworthy. I’d tell her everything :)

    3. Windchime*

      I like it. It’s really similar to the show she had on the Oprah channel for a couple of years. I think that one was called “Our America”. I find Lisa Ling to be a really authentic journalist and I like the kinds of pieces that she does.

  20. triple flip*

    Has anyone else started their holiday shopping? I’ve noticed that people in my city are getting an earlier start this year. The shopping centers have been really busy the last few weeks.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        ME! I generally pick up what little I need through out the year. I hate big bills this time of year and I hate fighting the crowds. When I was growing up holiday shoppers were happy people. Now, not so much.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            Yes. I find myself getting more and more unsettled each year about how the holiday season is so commercialized and how the joy is just going out of it. I would estimate that at least 80% of the people I know roll their eyes at the thought of spending time with their family. They have expended all their energy elsewhere. Spending time with family is now sort of like punishment. Although, I understand, I still find it sad.

      2. BRR*

        I do minimal. I was brought up Jewish so I never did but now I’m marrying into a family that celebrates christmas so I’m get my future in laws and future nieces and nephew a little something.

        1. AvonLady Barksdale*

          The first Christmas I spent with my bf was eye-opening. I had a spreadsheet. I ordered a lot online. I spent a ridiculous amount of money and finally understood why people go broke over Christmas. The following year I cut the spend in half, but it still stresses me out, especially when I ask my boyfriend what his stepmother might like for Christmas and he has no earthly idea, but that’s a different issue.

          1. Nerd Girl*

            I know it sounds corny, but some of the best gifts aren’t bought in a store. My husband gave his cousin (a man who seemed to have everything!) a copy of a photograph he’d found in one of his mom’s albums. He had it enlarged to a 5×7, put in a wooden frame he’d picked up on sale at Walmart, and the result was a present his cousin loved. His cousin got an $800 camera that year and all he kept showing people was the photo in the cheap $3 frame. :)

      3. Emily*

        I do holiday shopping, but it is for a very limited set of people: my mom, my dad, my sister, something small for my grandmother, and perhaps my boyfriend or a few close friends.

        Sometimes my mom asks for things like “a donation to such-and-such charity”, my dad is happy to receive candy if I don’t have anything specific in mind for him, and I’ve made small things or gotten chocolates for my grandmother in the past, so my task is overall pretty simple. Which is good – shopping stresses me out!

      4. the gold digger*

        Me. My husband and I have all the stuff we need. His parents sure don’t need any more junk – it’s already going to take us weeks to clean their house when they die. My family is not in the habit of exchanging gifts.

        Unfortunately, my husband’s mom will still want to send us something. Items in the past have included a framed photo of herself and my husband’s dad (they gave us the choice of two frames – four years later and that photo is still in the bottom drawer of the dresser in the dining room, under some tablecloths), a custom jigsaw puzzle of a map of our neighborhood (we donated that to the fundraiser for the church youth group), a tropical plant (we live in a very non-tropical area), and a gift certificate for a spice store in Texas, where, alas, we do not live. We do, however, live in a city that is home to a very famous spice chain. She is immune to my husband’s pleas that we do not need or want STUFF.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          It took us 4 months to empty my father’s house and 1.5 years to empty my inlaw’s house. Never. Ever. Again.
          I did learn a lot though.

          1. BRR*

            My parents are moving in a couple years when they retire and I’ve made it my goal to clear out as much as possible. My future in laws have the mentality of if it’s not broke they might use it someday. So their 6 bedroom house plus attic is full of crap. Did I mention they live alone.

            1. Not So NewReader*

              Did I mention all the learning that came from a van and a half of brown paper bags?

              Brown… paper…. bags…..

              1. the gold digger*

                My husband’s mother moved – paid someone by the pound to move for her – a paper bag full of newspapers. Not significant papers, like the ones about her winning the Nobel Prize (which she has not), but just ordinary papers.

                Actually, there may be more than one bag of papers. I found only the one bag, but I have looked in only the one closet – the one in the guest room, which also holds all of her winter clothes. May I note that they no longer live in a place with snow or even with winter.

        2. king*

          I wish people would stop giving me stuff as well. What I like the best are experiences. Just promise to take me to a hockey game in January – that would be the best present – time with people I love and watching the greatest sport of all time. For Valentines Day, let walk in the park and then watch something light and enjoyable on the dvr. I don’t need things, I want time with people that I love.

      5. C Average*

        Haha! Yeah, me. I’ll pick up a token something for immediate family, and I always make lots of yummy seasonal food (the husband and stepkids are Jewish, so it’s often Jewish-inspired, and my mom’s side of the family is Danish, so aebelskiver and butter cookies are generally on offer), but I’m not a big holiday shopper at all.

        I *am* a big for-no-reason gift buyer pretty much all year long, though.

      6. Tris Prior*

        Me! Boyfriend and I stopped exchanging gifts with pretty much everyone except his dad and stepmom (because they made a HUGE stink about it. :( ). We get a joint gift for ourselves that we can both enjoy – usually a box DVD set, though this year we are probably stocking our bar with fancy booze as there’s nothing coming out this Xmas that we’re too excited to watch. And, that’s it. It’s wonderful.

        And yeah, I know we shouldn’t care that his dad and stepmom expect gifts – that must be bought at some sort of chain store; I learned from experience that handmade/homemade is definitely Not OK with them. I usually just leave this up to Boyfriend as I’m kind of disgusted by their attitude. Also, lack of store-bought gift usually results in pointed questions about our financial state, which leads to Boyfriend being told “Why do you live in such an expensive city; come on home to {rural area} where it’s cheaper and you can meet a God-fearing girl and have lots of babies….”

        1. Not So NewReader*

          There. That ought to bring on the Christmas warmth, right there. /snark

          And here we see why people are eager to LEAVE their family’s home on Christmas.

      7. Cath in Canada*

        I do as much of mine online as possible, and usually not until December. I did find a lovely necklace at a gallery a couple of months ago that I know my sister will love, so I’m ahead of where I usually am!

      8. skyline*

        Mine is pretty minimal. Presents for parents, presents for nieces and nephews. My siblings and I decided to stop exchanging birthday and Christmas gifts a while back, which I think was a great idea. We are all at places in our lives where we can buy ourselves what we need and don’t need much more stuff.

        (Though my sister has sometimes snuck me a Christmas gift if I am visiting her on that holiday. I think she feels bad that I have no kids that she buys gifts for. I don’t think I convince her that’s not necessary, so I’ve settled for convincing her not to spend a lot of money.)

      9. Mephyle*

        Me. We don’t do presents. Sometimes we get something we’ve been wanting and call it our “Christmas present” to each other, but we do that anyway at any time of the year, so there isn’t something special about Christmas materialism. Same thing with gifts to our (adult) children. We don’t exchange gifts among the extended family, either.

      10. PuppyPetter*

        I try to avoid it myself. For the little ones under 12, I try to do some sort of family item, but by the time they are in their teens, they usually have more spending cash than I do! I want to spend time with family friends and would rather do that than deal with the present fiascos and bills

    1. Bee*

      I’m trying to finish shopping by the end of November. Doing that last year made the holidays so much easier for me, and this way I’ll have December to work on handmade gifts. I think some stores are offering sales and shipping deals for early shoppers, too.

      1. AdAgencyChick*

        I used to be really good at having my Christmas shopping done before Black Friday, because I HATE shopping in December. Then a life in advertising slowly encroached on that.

        This year I’m trying to get back on track. I’m a pretty good way there — I have gifts purchased for my side of the family and my friends. So I just need to do the husband and the in-laws and that’s it.

    2. OfficePrincess*

      As of yesterday, the only person I have left to shop for is my husband. My parents are visiting next weekend so everything going to our hometown has to be wrapped and ready by then so we don’t have to pay to ship it. Honestly, having a deadline this early really helped because it forced me/us to make time to shop before the crowds really hit the mall.

    3. Raine*

      I am basically done. Ideally I use time over Thanksgiving-Black Friday-that Weekend to wrap, then get the gifts in the mail the following week.

    4. fposte*

      Most years I try to do it throughout the year as I see stuff. Helps avoid the financial and time crunch at the end of the year, though the people I’m shipping stuff to still get bought for in December.

    5. Wrench Turner*

      May I humbly suggest you look for local artists/artisans for your holiday shopping? Place your orders now so they have time to make them but what you purchase will put food on their table while it decorates yours.

      I’m an artist and this time of year means literal mortgage and food money for me. It’s hard to compete with the cost of Made in China stores, so I do what I can. It’s not made in China, it’s made here, by me, for you.

    6. Mallory*

      I started Christmas shopping in early October, but I have to ship presents back to California to mine and my husband’s families, so I try to be done by early Dec. I’m actually pretty much done now, just waiting on a few online orders to arrive. I haven’t shopped for my husband yet, but that’s the shopping I will do in December!
      My husband is a Christmas Eve shopper, which is my idea of torture!

    7. Elkay*

      I’m almost done. I’ve got one thing for my husband that is currently out of stock. I need a small present for my parents but my brother may come up with something (we give them a joint gift from both of us and well as both buying them individual ones), I’m currently thinking along the lines of food to avoid filling up their house. The in laws will be wrapped and sent by Amazon in a couple of weeks.

        1. fposte*

          I think that gets especially true as I get older and am trying not to add stuff. I’d love to hear about any additional suggestions in this area that don’t just devolve into generic gift cards, which I really don’t like. I’m currently looking at artsy-type passes for one relative.

          1. Claire*

            In the part I’ve bought theatre tickets, concert tickets, spa day passes, event packages (golfing/karting etc), museum/gallery memberships, and ____ of the month club memberships (so far whisky, cheese and fragrance versions). The latter still results in stuff, but it’s small amounts that get used up quickly hopefully. Works especially well with consumables, and gives them a gift each month effectively.

      1. Elkay*

        That should say “The in laws present will be wrapped and sent by Amazon”, I’m fairly sure my in laws don’t live in an Amazon warehouse…

    8. Stephanie*

      I haven’t even thought about it. Since finances are tight this year, it will probably be small gifts for my family and baked goods for a few close friends. For the baked goods, I usually get a bag of nuts from Costco and go on a candying spree (the rest of the ingredients are all staples we already have). My mom bought a vacuum sealer with her Costco rewards one year and that thing is awesome for keeping mailed baked good fresh (there are also quite a few mason jars floating around).

      1. QualityControlFreak*

        Home-baked goods for local relatives, box of smoked salmon for FIL who lives out of state. We buy gifts only for the kids in the family. Everyone else gets food.

    9. Anx*

      I’ll probably do some around Thanksgiving. I love going on on Black Friday and throughout the weekend, but not at big box stores.

  21. whatnow*

    Anyone got any advice on being organized? This is vaguely work related -as I’ve started a new job and they keep giving me last minute tasks which mean I have to drop everything and do that, and completely lose track of what I was doing originally. But also personal/life/goals related, I’m trying to write a lot of things, get a blog up, maybe start a small business, also bigger things – move, pay off debts. I really need a simple very visual way of figuring this out.
    Anybody got advice/interesting links? Thanks :)

    1. nep*

      Simple lists have always been the way to go for me. Do you make lists? Does it help any?
      That, and breaking up big pursuits into smaller steps/goals and setting deadlines for those.

      1. whatnow*

        I find to do list get written, and then forgotten, or become overwhelming – far too detailed or related to things that may or may not happen. And not very visual, or at least the way I’m doing it’s not :) I think I need something that at a glance I know what I need to be focusing on and what’s coming up.

        But then again I’m a terrible planner, I’m very much do what’s in-front of me, which is why it’s hard when people keep changing the ‘goalposts’ at work and having me move from a big idea to a small task at rapid speed because they’ve emailed me about it and expect an immediate response.

        1. nep*

          I hear you — and it’s not necessarily a bad thing to be more oriented to ‘do-what’s-in-front-of-me’. You get things done that way and can put it behind you and move on to others. But I can see how it can feel like you’re getting thrown off-track when someone at work is constantly handing you small ‘urgent’ tasks.
          I still use paper calendars as opposed to digital. I always get one that has the month at a glance — even if I need pages with room for daily appointments, I really like that visual of seeing the entire month.

        2. JMW*

          I have started using an on-line to-do list called WorkFlowy. It is free if you keep the list under 250 items, and something like $49 for a longer list. It is one of my home-pages when I boot up my work or home computer so it’s always available at a click. You can add tags very simply. I keep urgent things near the top. I add tags with topics (#boardmeeting, #staffmeeting, #PR) or people’s names (@Jane, @Bob) to individual line items, so when I am working on the board meeting agenda, I click on the tag and those items come up, or if I am meeting with Jane, I can quickly see what I need to follow up with her on. Easy to add to and mark as completed (or delete). You can nest levels if you want to store details for a topic.

          I use mine mostly for to-dos and followups, but I also use it for all sorts of other lists. It saves automatically when you add to it. I store hints for my passwords, phone numbers, links to oft-used websites. I can access it from any computer. Easy to clean out without any re-typing. Very handy!

        3. Colette*

          One of my coworkers uses sticky note – one task per note – and organizes them by importance. The notes closest to her are the priority, farther away ones are not.

          So it’s a list, but it’s dynamic and more visual.

        4. fposte*

          It’s so individual. Honestly, my iPod (yes, it’s that old) really changed my life. I know some people have a streamlined master list, but I actually function better with an app for the house, a budget app, a calendar, and a separate to-do list that can emphasize or point to the above. The thing about a lot of apps is they’re toylike and attractive enough to be enjoyable to use and visually reinforce productivity. (Does anybody know of a to-do app with a progress bar, by the way? I’d be all over that.)

          1. Kali*

            Might not be what you’re looking for, but Todoist gives you Karma points and goals for getting things accomplished. I like it because it’s on my work computer, home computer, and phone and it’s visually attractive and easy to use, especially if you learn the keyboard shortcuts.

    2. Bee*

      I use a to-do list at work, but I have the same tasks and deadlines every week. A to-do list is just the easiest thing to do.

      Do you use a planner or calendar or anything like that? iCal might work. It’s simple, you can color-code everything, and it includes a to-do list that you can sort by priority or deadline.

      1. whatnow*

        I probably need like a massive to-do list, and then a smaller day one, which I don’t really add to I just know I’m focusing on that stuff. It’s just implementing that sort of stuff. Also not very good at, or sticking with :)

        1. Mister Pickle*

          I have one text file that is always up and open on my computer. Any ‘to-do’ task gets typed into the file. I’ve written about this here before, I’ll put a ‘-‘ (dash) before an item than needs doing, an ‘x-‘ before an item that’s in-process, and just an ‘x’ before an item that has been finished. Ie,

          – wash hair
          – get onions
          x- call Bob about onion shampoo
          x replace shower head

          It’s simple but it’s worked very well for me for many years.

          1. catsAreCool*

            I do something similar. I use a word doc, but it has immediate tasks and stuff I want to get to eventually.

            For stuff at home, I’ve been using a small notebook that fits in my purse. It’s not perfect, but it’s better than nothing.

        2. VintageLydia USA*

          Honestly this is what I do. I work week by week, so Sunday night or Monday morning I figure out what needs to be done that week and try to guesstimate what days I’ll do them. Then each morning over breakfast I’ll write the daily to-do list referring to my weekly list/guide. That’s when I get more detailed (and it’s easier for me if my to do lists re ridiculously detailed. It means I can cross things off much faster which is a huge motivator for me. An example: I need to clean the bath room so under that heading I’ll add wipe down counters, clean toilet, wipe down tub, scrub shower, sweep floor, mop floor.)

        3. Was Layla*

          I have the same problems as you –
          Right now I’m in my organised phase-
          I use Remember the Milk for work stuff. It’s free (web & phone ) unless you pay for Pro, which I do.
          I keep different lists for different projects, but smart search allows me to pull up all due today. You can press postpone and it defers the task by 1 more day. I set recurrent tasks for stuff that I’m procrastinating on / may not be able to get done in 1 day / require me to check in with vendors for follow up – to prevent them getting buried at the bottom of the list. This way I get regular reminders of the task

          Combined with email folders ( categorised by priority )
          Works right now , helps that I’m not immensely overwhelmed I guess.

          For home I just use a simple notepad- with a time table. E.g- 12-1 laundry. Etc. Keeps me on track for at least half a day and that’s good enough for me.

        4. Aardvark*

          I use ToDoist for this — you can organize things into projects for the macro view and add granular tasks to the projects. It also lets you assign a due date/time and a priority to a task, so when I get in in the morning I can reload the page and see what I have to do that day. It’s pretty easy to use–there are plugins so you can add a website or an email as a task, and there’s a points system that’s surprisingly motivating.

          I’ve got some for “Project XYZ” and “Yard” which are major/recurring projects, and then I have some catch-all projects like “Troubleshooting”, “Work”, and “Other Personal”, for grouping together the little things that come up. I pay something like $30/year to be able to view all past tasks in chart form which helps me figure out how much of my #$@* time I spend on the little things and maybe someday plan my time better…

          1. Anon333*

            I use an Excel file. . . 5 columns. One row for each”project” – a client if at work, “errands” for instance if at home. The columns are “project”, date I need to check in on it (coded by “do today”, “do this wk”, “do Tues”, Waiting on someone today”, waiting on someone this week), time estimate, then “Next step”, and “waiting on – next step”. Then I usually filter by date and sometimes add a fill color for priority. This sounds really complex when I type it out, but it’s super easy, and I get physically anxious when it’s not updated – that’s how much I depend on this.

            The gap is how to update when I’m not at my work/home computer. Wish I could easily figure that out with just an iPhone.

    3. Outlook Task Fan*

      I combine MS Outlook’s task function with color coded categories.

      You can name the categories anything you want, and organize the task view by category, due date, or anything else you wish. For example, I have a category for my boss, which can things I want to remember to discuss as well as actual work to be performed for her.

      You can assign multiple categories to an item; I have a category for top priorities to identify my focus items for the day regardless of other categories. You can flag emails in your inbox as tasks with a color code and due date in just a couple clicks.

      Tasks turn red when overdue, and my color printout of my task list (by category first, then due date, with top priorities first) is how I manage my day.

      This works well for me – but the key is finding a system that works well for you. Anything you don’t keep up with is a failure and a waste of your time.

    4. Raine*

      “I never could have done what I have done without the habits of punctuality, order, and diligence, without the determination to concentrate myself on one subject at a time.” ~~~ Charles Dickens

    5. Mallory*

      Are you disorganized? Or, better put: are you not crossing the big things off your list because you’re distracted by the little disorganizations around you? Such as: laundry to be put away or washed, disorganized pantry, stack of papers to be filed?
      If that’s the case, make a list of what little things are distracting you from the big things and once you’ve crossed those off, start on the big things but make your list in chronological order, from what you’re most excited about or what is most necessary. Also, it may help to write only one to three things per piece of paper to avoid feeling overwhelmed by looking at ONE LONG LIST.

    6. Anx*

      I have to be considerate of the fact that organizing my space is not the same as organizing my time. But it still helps me.

      Try starting backwards maybe? As in, what do you need to have done before you leave the house on a moment’s notice? Work backwards from there.

      For me that means making sure my makeup counter is ready, making sure I keep a backup pair of socks and underwear in a side drawer so I don’t have to wait for laundry, that sort of thing.

    7. Was Layla*

      Have you read Getting Things Done ? It helps address all of your concerns listed
      My only issue with it is on the implementation. I’ve tried a partial implementation with Remember the milk as mentioned above, but I’m very far away from following everything that is needed. It’s a good concept to keep at the back of one’s mind though !

      1. skyline*

        I also like GTD. I haven’t fully implemented the system, but have chosen some parts of it that work for me. I think I may be one of the only managers at my organization who doesn’t have 1000 messages their email inbox.

  22. BRR*

    I’m attending a cookie swap this year and looking for recipe ideas. It’s basically a holiday party with a lot of cookies and at the end we all take home different leftover cookies. I want something unusual. Last year I made these bars that were a layer of cookie dough, a layer of oreos, then topped with brownie batter and then baked. I was thinking this year about trying to do some cookies that contained booze (the alcohol wouldn’t be a problem for this crowd). Anybody have any show stopping recipes?

    1. Rebecca*

      I’ve made Creme de Menthe brownies and they’ve always gone over great. They’re a moist brownie recipe with a topping made with powdered sugar and Creme De Menthe liquor. One time someone made rum balls, and they were good too.

    2. Colette*

      These ones don’t have alcohol, but they are awesome. (They aren’t particularly pretty, either.)

      Ingredients: 4 cups flour 1 1/2 cups margarine/butter
      3 egg yolks, slightly beaten 1 cup sour cream 1 tsp vanilla
      Preparation: Mix flour and margarine. Add egg yolks, sour cream, and vanilla. Mix well, chill. Divide dough into 8 parts. Roll each part into a circle on board dusted with icing sugar. Cut into 8 or 12 wedges.

      Filing: 3 egg whites 3 tbsp sugar 1 tbsp vanilla
      Preparation: Beat egg whites until fluffy, add sugar and vanilla. . Brush rolled dough with egg mixture, sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon. Roll each wedge loosely, starting with the wide end. Place on greased cookie sheet, bake at 400 F 10-12 minutes.

    3. Mints*

      Someone I know brought Boozy Oreos once to a get together and they were a huge hit. They’re a bit labor intensive for a normal thing I think, but good for a baking party where people will appreciate them properly.

      I don’t have a recipe, but they were simple chocolate cookies, with some type of alcholic cream filling/frosting, and homemade caramel that was also alcoholic iirc. I’m sure there are recipes online. Really good!

    4. anon in tejas*

      rum balls? I don’t have a good recipe, but this is a favorite with my husband’s family in the past!

  23. Sandra Dee*

    Been on jury for 3 days last week and the trial continues into the coming week. First time I have every been called, and got called for US Federal court. Not county, not State, but federal court. It has been interesting, to say the least. Good news is that since I am sitting on a jury, I will have served my time and will not be required to continue to report for the rest of the month. Federal jury duty is for an entire month, and at least here, you call every Monday to see if you report on Tuesday. Every week for the entire month. I think I lucked out being picked for November since a federal holiday and the thanksgiving holiday means a reduced court schedule.

    1. Rebecca*

      I am wishing and crossing my fingers to be chosen for jury duty, anything to get me out of work for a while. Our company pays full hourly pay for jury duty. Of course, I’ll never get chosen!!

      1. Wrench Turner*

        I’ve been called 3 times for jury duty – all in places I hadn’t lived in years. If student loans and charities can track me so dang fast why can’t the jury pool?

      2. AvonLady Barksdale*

        I enjoyed jury duty. As a law junkie, I thought it was fascinating to see the whole process. Deliberation was hard, though, and since it was a murder trial involving organized crime, the verdict was stressful. But it was amazingly rewarding. When people talk about getting out of jury duty because it’s annoying or whatever, I get all incensed and “do your civic duty!” and such. Definitely worth it, and I’m glad your company pays in full!

        1. Livin' in a Box*

          It’s annoying because it can financially destroy you. In Ontario (where I live), you get $0 a day for the first 10 days and then $49 a day from day 11 to 49. (Minimum wage here is $11/hr). Civic duty doesn’t pay the bills! I want to be a juror but I could never afford to. :(

          1. fposte*

            And while I would still get paid, I would also still need to produce the same amount of work. I’ve done a pre-call noting that I might be available in April, and I’m hoping that I get used or kicked fast, because I’m not looking forward to starting work at 6 pm.

            So I agree with the civic duty, but I also understand the PITA thing.

            1. Tris Prior*

              Yes, this. And, if one is self-employed, then the work hours have to be made up somehow. Assuming that one’s self-employment does not involve being available during business hours – if it does then one is really screwed.

              I agree with civic duty too, but if it means losing gigs or not being able to pay the mortgage, that is a real problem for me.

              (and, why is it that every time I get called, it’s to the courthouse that’s in one of the worst neighborhoods in the city, that takes 2 hours each way on public transport to get there?)

          2. Stephanie*

            I think it’s interesting as well, but it is a PITA if you don’t get paid or have adjustments made at work. When I was a Fed, I got full salary and work adjustments–I worked in a production-based environment and had my required quota adjusted due to jury duty (so less work). When I was in a private industry job, however, I only had a week paid and would have had to use vacation (or take unpaid leave) if the trial exceeded that. I felt a little guilty that I was hoping I didn’t get selected, just because it’d be somewhat of a financial burden.

          3. catsAreCool*

            When I had to go in for jury duty, it was half an hour away in a city I’d never been to, and they made a big deal that we must be on time. I’m not a morning person and telecommute, so I had to get up a lot earlier, and I got lost on my way home.

            We waited around most of the day.

            I get that it’s my civic duty, but once I was called when I was brand new to my job and trying really hard to impress the boss, and once I was called when my team at work was already seriously understaffed (co-worker took long vacation).

        2. Natalie*

          I didn’t mind it at all, either, although I was never actually in a jury. (Empaneled twice but both trials were continued.) But it is extra easy to serve in my city – you can call in rather than go sit in the jury room – and I got paid full wages by my job.

        3. Anx*

          I think it’s reasonable to be annoyed when there’s so much at stake.

          I was unemployed for years, never called to jury duty. I was called to it when I had moved out of state, which was annoying to have to explain why it was a hardship. I was still unemployed, but couldn’t afford to travel.

          I wish they had called me up when I was unemployed.

          If I were called for jury duty now, I would probably try go get out of it. I cannot do my work if I”m not there at very specific times. It would also probably ruin my semester academically, so there’s that to.

        4. skyline*

          I got a jury summons this fall but was able to delay my service to early next year in hopes of getting better timing. I’m actually very intrigued about serving, and my company pays us our regular salary during jury service, but an extended trial (anything longer than the standard 2-weeks for county court here) would be a huge pain from a work standpoint. I imagine I’d just be working a lot at night at stuff!

    2. Finny*

      I’ve been called for jury duty three times. Once I was called in Colorado when I was at university in Boston. Once I was called in Boston when I was home in Colorado. And most recently I was called in Canada, when I am a permanent resident, and thus not permitted to serve on a jury.

      Maybe someday I will get called when I can serve. Though that has its own share of issues between my severe vision and hearing issues, combined with how confusing I find legal stuff.

    3. Lisa*

      I was on a jury 6 months ago. I wish I had known about Jury Nullification at the time. If I had, I would have voted differently. I was the forewoman. Check this out:

  24. Steve G*

    Panera Bread internet – Has anyone else had trouble finding a seat at a Panera because there were too many people using it as a private internet café? I went to the one on Woodhaven Blvd in Queens yesterday, which is near a lot of shopping, so gets busy…..and we had to wait for a seat. When a 2 seater came available me and my friend had to run over there. On our left were 2 people who just has coffee taking up a 4-seater, playing on their laptops. On our other side was a kid with a laptop and earphones in….then further down a guy taking up a nice, private corner booth with only a laptop and a cup of coffee. When the 4-seat behind us became available, 2 people who looked like they were working rushed over to take it, opened their laptops, and started working, without ordering anything. They kept their coats and everything on them, so I’m sure they didn’t work for the place.

    So while people were walking in and walking out because it was too crowded, and people like us who were ordered a lot of stuff couldn’t find places to sit, people who bought almost nothing were taking up the largest, best seating.

    I am the type of person that makes room for people if I have a big table and is considerate and takes the smallest table, knowing that at some point, a family is going to come and want the bigger ones. The rudeness of the internet hogs is annoying, as is the unwillingness of the managers to do nothing about it. Not everyone can say “oh its full, lets just take it to go.” More likely, they just lose the business. I wasn’t gonna take it to go back to my friends 1/2-torn-about house with no furniture, and where we had the water off because he was redoing the kitchen!

    1. fposte*

      Not at Panera, but it’s happened to me at coffee shops; some I just don’t bother with anymore because of this. Since I’m in a college town, some venues have developed restrictions on this kind of parking–not fun to police, I’m sure, but otherwise you’re risking ending up with all non-paying customers for a good part of the day.

      1. Natalie*

        An acquaintance of mine used to own a coffee shop, and for several years she didn’t allow personal chess sets. There had been a group of chess players who took up multiple tables for hours, just drinking coffee and refills, and we’re incredibly annoying to boot.

        You could rent a board for $2 an hour if you really wanted to play.

      2. Cath in Canada*

        One of the 24 hour coffee shops around here gives out WiFi passwords only with a purchase, and the password expires after 2 hours. I’m not sure how the technical end of that works, but it’s a good system.

    2. Raine*

      Some of these places now have a minimum order and have somehow times the access to WiFi based on the receipt, having it time out after half an hour or whatever. Which is perfectly reasonable. But I’ll admit, I only vaguely remember this starting and don’t know the details because, as you say, It’s Such A Turnoff as a customer legitimately in need of a place to sit that I almost never return once I’ve sussed out this is the norm.

    3. Artemesia*

      I have seen people at Starbucks with their work spread out over a 6 person table making it clear that no one else is welcome to sit while they nurse a cup of coffee for hours. I don’t know how businesses can stay in business if they don’t police this better.

      I wrote a book at a local coffee shop — I would arrive, get breakfast, get midmorning coffee, and then get lunch — so I was constantly buying something to pay table rent — so I get that working in a coffee shop can be pleasant — but the Panera situation is out of hand. I would turn and leave if there weren’t going to be seats. Some restaurants with counter and seating actually police people not squatting on a table while their friends wait in line — if everyone waits until they have food to get a table, it goes smoothly but if some people sit on tables for 20 minutes or more then those with food can’t find space. They have a worker who just directs people without foot into line and only allows those with their food to get tables.

      1. Stephanie*

        I’d guess Starbucks and its ilk make some money from marking up the coffee a ton. Even the black coffee, which probably costs them $0.07, costs $2.

    4. Wrench Turner*

      I’ve seen multiple articles about small cafes losing money because customers camp there for hours with a $5 purchase, when a similar table could have done hundreds of dollars in business that day – which might mean a day’s lost tips to the server that deals with that table if that’s how the place is set up. Your mileage may vary.

      Having been on both sides of that problem – server and served- I try to be self-aware. If the place is slow, I don’t feel bad about hanging out. If it’s busy, I try to move my party along so we can free up the table. If it’s just me with my drawing book, I’ll try to take up the smallest table or (better yet) sit at the bar.

      If you are going to camp out at a table like that, keep ordering stuff and/or leave a big -big tip.

    5. JMW*

      Definitely a business problem they haven’t figured out how to address in the US. Cafes in New Zealand often give you a password that times out after 30 minutes or an hour. It works great. I can check my email over breakfast, and when the wifi times out, I finish up my coffee and move on.

    6. Stephanie*

      Our local equivalent of Panera has signs basically saying “Please allow for other patrons to sit” when you log onto the wifi.

      I’ve seen some cafes restrict wifi access to 1-2 hours and allow renewal either with a new purchase or requesting a new code. There’s a popular coffee shop near the local college campus that I think intentionally makes its wifi crappy to encourage turnover.

      1. Steve G*

        I think this is the best solution. Panera logs you out but you can log back in without getting anything else. I’ m just not getting why so many people still need to go somewhere to get internet. It’s not like its some new thing anymore!

        1. JMW*

          It’s about wanting to work in proximity to others instead of working at home alone. It’s nice to do in a cafe because there is food and coffee, but a lot of people do it in libraries as well.

          1. Stephanie*

            I also find changing my work environment to be helpful I’m stuck on something. If I’m at a coffee shop, I usually try to buy something every hour if I think I’m going to be there a while.

          2. Cath in Canada*

            I’ve tried writing in cafes and I just don’t like it – I prefer to be at home where I can control the lighting and the music. There are a couple of 24 hour places near me that cater specifically for students and writers, and they’re better, but I can’t work at, say, Starbucks.

          3. Nina*

            Yep. Too much distraction at home so I get more done when I’m out studying, but if I get hungry or drowsy after a while, there’s really nothing you can do at a library. If I’m studying at a Panera or a Starbucks, I’m definitely buying more than coffee. But it’s not something I do often, simply because it gets expensive. And where I sit usually depends on the nearest outlet, not the wifi itself.

        2. INTP*

          I am my most productive in coffee shops. At home I just get distracted much more easily. I find fluorescent lighting depressing – I literally get more tired and depressed from being in it – so the library is the last place I want to go. It’s not that it’s the only place I can get internet, it’s just offered there and it’s the best place for me to work. If a business was obviously trying to discourage this kind of lingering, though, I wouldn’t go. Most of them in my area seem to encourage it. There are tons of options for places with coffee, wifi, outlets, and comfy seating, and they’d just be empty except for weekend lunchtimes if they encouraged the workers and studiers to go somewhere else.

      2. Mister Pickle*

        It’s an unplanned design feature of WiFi: you get enough people on an SSID and it goes to crap all by itself.

    7. INTP*

      I don’t tend to go anywhere like that unless I plan to use the internet for a few hours so I haven’t had this frustration. However, I’ve been on the opposite end of it – using a coffee shop as a place to study (which coffee shops here encourage, so I don’t think that lingering in them is wrong), and someone who chose to come to a crowded coffee shop midday on a weekend and order lunch after seeing how crowded it was, in a mall with plenty of less-crowded eateries if she really couldn’t wait for a table, proceeded to complain intentionally within earshot about how I was taking up a table with just my almost-gone coffee and then ask me to sit down at my table. (I said sure, by the way. It was no skin off my teeth – I ignored them and kept working.)

      For what it’s worth, I do take the smallest table available as long as it’s comfortable and near an outlet if I need one – in this case, my four seat table was the only option when I came in as the sun was glaring harshly into the window (so the bar of seats along the window wasn’t an option for anyone) and the two seats were taken. Most coffee and sandwich places do a pretty good job of clustering the outlets near bars or two-seat tables in my experience. I would also never go to one and not order unless I was part of a large study group and other people were ordering. I just think it’s silly to go to a crowded place at a crowded time, continue to order despite seeing how crowded it is, and then complain because other people got there first and are using the business in a way that the business encourages (lingering). (It seems to be encouraged here, places here usually don’t experience much crowding except at the busiest times of the week and even in the little village where I live, there are many places within walking distance with wifi, coffee, and outlets so they have competition. I see why it’s frustrating to people who visit these places on weekends but the lingerers are the ones who are around 90% of the week when hardly anyone else is.)

      1. themmases*

        I agree, it is encouraged at places in my neighborhood and I get some of my best work done when I get out of the house. I just feel more urgency because even though I might want to spend a couple of hours there, if know I won’t spend all day. It’s also easier to just not bring things that might distract me, like a fun book or my cat. :)

        I’m disappointed when I can’t get a seat somewhere, but all kinds of people linger– not just wifi users– I don’t see it as the fault of the other patrons unless it is someone taking up a large table all by themselves with their stuff. I’ve shared my (small) table with people who just asked me and I’m sure I’m not the only one. Maybe this is different because I go to actual cafés with small food menus, not places like Panera where more people go just to eat.

        What I’ve found is that there are plenty of places in my neighborhood (even though it’s a popular place where lots of people like to go out and pass the day) that are unappreciated and lovely. Often they are local and you’re doing more good by seeking them out than wondering how Starbucks will ever stay in business. I don’t even try to sit at Starbucks or Caribou in my neighborhood on the weekends, but there are beautiful Turkish and Greek cafés here that don’t get enough love, where I always get a seat and am happy to order something every hour.

        1. INTP*

          It’s funny that people wonder how Starbucks would ever stay in business when Starbucks actually has a program designed specifically to get people to linger. (The free refills for loyalty program members – this program is the only reason I even go to starbucks.) They want to attract the people who spend hours in coffee shops and keep them there!

      2. Anx*

        This is pretty much how I operate.

        I try to be concientious, but I’m not ordering a lot of food. I just can’t afford it. The only time I treat myself to baked goods or coffee drinks is as a reward for working on a project. I leave if it gets too crowded for other customers if I’ve been parked for a while.

        (Also, I can only drink 1 coffee a day, if that. It makes me sleepy).

    8. tea drinker*

      I work in a library – we want those patrons to come to us and use our wifi. The more traffic we get, the happier we are. If you are one of these table parkers, please come check us out. The more patrons we can serve, the more funding we can get to serve our community. We don’t charge, we are free.

      1. Anx*

        In my experience, libraries don’t want people coming in to read, work or study. They seem to court kids for activities.

      2. INTP*

        I would do this if I could find a library with a good ambiance but that fluorescent “office lighting” has a negative effect on my energy levels, mood, and everything else. I even get hungrier during the day yet enjoy my food less if I’m in that lighting! Coffee shops and cafes with ample natural light during the day and soothing lighting at night just work better for me.

    9. Lamington*

      We had a similar coffee shop by the house with that problem, unfortunately they closed due to low amount of sales.

    10. Elizabeth West*

      A bunch of places have started putting limits on how long people can sit there because of this. Or that you can’t get the wi-fi code unless you order something (or so I’ve heard). I don’t work at coffee shops/restaurants because I can’t concentrate with a bunch of people in my face, and once I really get going, I may not surface for a couple of hours.

  25. brightstar*

    What did everyone think of this week’s Serial?

    I’ll admit I have no idea whether Adnan is guilty or not and don’t think there will ever be a clear answer to what really happened. Though, judging from the Serial reddit, I’m in the minority in thinking I don’t have enough information to judge what happened.

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I think we’ll get more clarity as things progress. Jay still has some ‘splainin’ to do, though. I think he’s a fascinating character. I read a theory the other day that Jenn and Jay did it, or maybe that Stephanie did it… Damn I want to hear from Stephanie! Right now I’m leaning toward Adnan being guilty, but only because I feel like I can’t think of him as innocent without thinking of someone else as guilty.

      1. Cath in Canada*

        I was so disappointed that Jay didn’t want to be interviewed! How dare these people let their worries about privacy and public perception get in the way of satisfying my curiosity?!

        It was interesting that the two producers seemed to find him very convincing. I really don’t know why he’d have made the whole thing up, especially because he was at risk of going to jail himself and if he hadn’t come forward it doesn’t sound like they’d have had him on their list of suspects. But the inconsistencies in his story are striking.

        I think the episode where they go into the defence attorney’s approach is going to be super interesting. The audio of her cross-examining Jay was quite something.

    2. Jubilance*

      I still struggle with understand Jay’s motivation in all this – if he’s not telling the truth, what’s his motivation to pin this murder on Adnan? Sadly I think the truth is somewhere between Jay’s story & Adnan’s but we’re never going to get confirmation of it.

      I did find it very interesting to hear the jurors say that they held Adnan not testifying against him, even when the judge’s instructions told them not to. That shows how hard it is to let go of biases even when we know we should. I also was surprised to hear the juror say that she thought Jay was going to get jail time.

      1. Stephanie*

        Yeah, I thought it was odd too that that jurors held it against Adnan. Now I need to go find this, but I either read or heard in a podcast that most defense attorneys don’t like to put defendants on the stand and that it usually doesn’t help their case.

        1. brightstar*

          I read that, if they’ve confessed to the lawyer, they can’t put that person on the stand due to suborning perjury. And most defendant’s won’t hold up under cross examination. If Adnan was saying then, as he says now, that he really doesn’t remember what happened that day, he probably wouldn’t have been effective, and that is if he didn’t tell his attorney he did it.

          Reading Rabia’s blog, apparently a lot hasn’t been mentioned including transcripts of interviews with Stephanie and evidence that hasn’t been mentioned in the podcast.

          1. Turanga Leela*

            Reaching way back to law school here… Defendants have an absolute right to testify in their own defense if they insist on it. In some jurisdictions, there are complicated rules for how attorneys are supposed to deal with this if they know the client is lying. Sometimes the lawyer has to withdraw. Sometimes the lawyer puts the defendant on the stand but doesn’t ask questions and just lets the defendant talk. This is not ideal because it signals to the judge/jury that the defendant is lying.

            Some lawyers get around this by treating “knowledge” as a very high bar. For example, even if the client confessed to the attorney, the attorney doesn’t KNOW that the confession was true and the testimony is false; the opposite could be true.

            I remember being fascinated by these rules in my legal ethics class. I’m not a defense attorney, though, so this issue doesn’t come up in my practice.

          2. AvonLady Barksdale*

            Interesting about Rabia’s blog, which I admit I haven’t read. If there’s evidence that hasn’t been mentioned, then I fully expect Sarah Koenig to cover it– she’s got a great way of tempering the drama and shaping the story.

        2. Turanga Leela*

          That’s true for the defense attorneys I know. In general, you don’t want to have a defendant testify.

          At the end of the episode, it sounded like Koenig was teasing a specific reason that Adnan didn’t testify. That makes me think there was some issue—something Adnan had done in the past, probably—that would have come out on cross-examination and looked really bad.

          Also, I think I remember that Adnan’s first trial ended in a mistrial. Maybe he testified there and said something he shouldn’t have. (I’m completely speculating here.)

  26. dangitmegan*

    About to head out to Paris for work again. I think this is the fifth time in two years. I’ve done all the touristy things, been to all the museums, wandered around getting lost a lot. Does anyone have any suggestions on things that are off the beaten path? Or maybe even day trip ideas? I have one full day off and then a few half days without much planned. The two things that are still on my Paris bucket list are the Catacombs (closed every single time I’ve gone) and the fashion museum which finally reopened but is between exhibits right now.

    1. Artemesia*

      We went to the Catacombs in November and there was no line at all.

      My favorite less well known site that has big payoff is Basilica St. Denis — where the French kings were buried — it is just outside Paris but it on the metro (Basilique St. Denis station). It is one of the most interesting sites in Paris — definitely recommend it

      There are many smaller museums worth a look if weather is bad — Nissim Camondo on the edge of Parc Monceau (the family story behind it makes me cry); Marmottan where many of the great Monets are; Jacquemart Andre, which also has a good lunch room.

      Dozens of great day trips although weather is an issue this time of year. Crecy la Chapelle is charming with its canals and bridges and such; Auvers sur Oise where Van Gogh lived his last days and it buried is a great day trip; if you haven’t done Chartres yet, go and get in on a Malcolm Miller ‘tour’ (lecture) if he is available your day.

      Ahhhh Paris.

    2. the gold digger*

      My husband and I really liked the sewer museum. We both really like history and we like understanding how things work, and this was the perfect combination of the both.

      I was really disappointed with the gift shop, though. Not that I wanted to buy stuff, but they missed what I thought was a great marketing opportunity.

      1. Cruciatus*

        This is just a TV show and not a fun touristy thing, but based on what you wrote, you and your husband might like the show that just finished airing on PBS called “How We Got to Now” (which is also based on a book). It was neat watching how one invention/discovery led to more innovation in the (then) future. The first episode was about “Clean” and starts with the raising of Chicago so they could put in sewer lines, which leads to needing clean water and it all leads to the next innovation. Other topics include Light, Sound, Cold, Time. Anyway, at least on my local station it looks like they’ll be reairing episodes.

    3. Crow*

      If you’ve never been, go see Eglise de Saint-Sulpice. Ignore all the junk from The DaVinci Code, and just go see a gorgeous church with cool astronomical tools and amazing art. Notre Dame felt dark and stuffy, Saint-Sulpice felt open, light, and airy.

      1. Chocolate Teapot*

        I liked the Musee Carnavallet but I think it is being renovated at the moment. Even so, the collection of revolutionary objects is interesting.

      2. Artemesia*

        They have a hilarious sign near the rose line in the church with a tendentious refutation of the things in DaVinci Code about Saint-Sulpice. Do people really think stuff like this is true?

    4. INTP*

      If you haven’t been to the Cité des sciences et de l’industrie (it’s on the outskirts of the city), it is definitely worth a trip, if you’re remotely interested in science museums.

    5. JennS*

      If you like tennis, check out a tour at Roland Garros. I’m not a big tennis buff (though my husband is), and we really enjoyed it! Tours are given in English or French, and give you access to the locker rooms, press areas, and center court.

  27. Case of the Mondays*

    I posted in the comments to a question a couple of weeks ago about my experience refinancing my student loans with SoFi. I said I would come back and make an independent post on a Sunday Open Thread. Here it is.

    I had a mix of federal and private loans post law school. The private loans had a variable 8.61% interest rate that had a cap of 19%!!! My husband also cosigned on those and would be on the hook still if I died or became disabled. My federal loans had 6.3, 5.8 and 6.8% interest rates. I looked into refinance 4 1/2 years into paying my loans.

    SoFi offered me a five year, 5.375% fixed interest rate (with auto payments, 5.625 without). I’m paying slightly more per month than I was before but will be saving $17,000 over the life of my loans. They were very easy to deal with and had great customer service. I’m going to post my referral link as a reply in case it goes into the spam filter. If you are interested in checking out SoFi, use the link and you will get $100 if you are approved and I will get $100 for referring you.

    1. fposte*

      Oh, good for you, Case. 8 and change is *huge*. It’s always worth checking on doing this–the worst you’ll be is where you are already, and as Case notes, you may save $17,000.

      1. Case of the Mondays*

        Yeah the $17k saved is if my 8% one stayed the same. Since it was variable pre-re-fi I’m likely saving much more than that.

    2. BRR*

      Thanks for posting this. My project today was to look into private loan consolidation so this is great timing.

    3. brightstar*

      That’s great! I had consolidated my student loans years ago at 3.75% interest, but am currently in the rehab program because they went into default.

    4. Case of the Mondays*

      If you use specific federal programs like IBR or public service forgiveness than this isn’t for you. I was on the standard 10 year repayment and not in a job that qualified for the special programs. They do offer emergency forebearance and if you lose your job they have a career services/networking service. The loans are funded by alumni investors so they want to keep you working so they get repaid.

  28. Elizabeth*

    We just finished eating a late breakfast: whole wheat biscuits with sausage cream gravy. Yesterday was pumpkin pancakes with maple syrup. (It’s a far cry from the usual bowl of instant oatmeal eaten at my desk.)

    What are you favorite indulgent breakfasts?

    1. fposte*

      I love to make waffles, French toast, and pancakes (especially these amazing little light pancakes made with sour cream and a little bit of cake flour), and I adore real maple syrup.

      I’m also a huge fan of breakfast out. The pancake house here is a big part of a lot of people’s mornings, to the point where when an elderly acquaintance died recently it was mentioned there by name (“and his friends at the pancake house”). I decided it’s our answer to pub culture.

        1. fposte*

          No, they’re little very fluffy silver dollar pancakes, and they’re fragile enough that they can turn into wads if you don’t get under them properly to take them off the griddle. It’s the texture that makes them so amazing–they’re kind of like teeny souffles, almost.

          Full recipe is:

          4 eggs
          1/2 teaspoon salt
          1/2 teaspoon baking soda
          1/4 cup cake flour
          2 cups sour cream
          3 tablespoons sugar

          I’ll just do a quarter of that for a single serving breakfast. You can slap it all into a blender if you want–it’s pancakes, so you just mix it up and put little guys on the griddle as per usual.

    2. Nerd Girl*

      I make a brunch dish with a potato hashbrown base, eggs, cream cheese, green onion, sausage and tomato. It’s so yummy. I only make it around the holidays because it’s one of those things that everyone loves and leaves me with little leftovers. I end up eating too much of it when there’s no company. LOL!

      1. Finny*

        Recipe, please? I’m looking for more breakfast casserole bake type things, particularly using cream cheese.

    3. themmases*

      I make breakfast rice. When I have leftover brown rice and nothing left to put on it, I heat it on the stove with water, butter, and granola (for crunch since it has nuts and because the kind I buy has sugar on it that dissolves into the breakfast rice). After about 5 minutes when it’s a medium thick porridge I remove it from heat and put marmalade or jam on it. I don’t have much of a sweet tooth so this is a big treat for me.

      My partner and I also became obsessed with smoked salmon on a recent trip to London– I probably ate it for either breakfast or lunch every day for a week. So sometimes if we know we want to have a lazy weekend day we will prepare by buying lox, English muffins, and cream cheese the night before.

    4. AvonLady Barksdale*

      We had bread and cheese for dinner last night– occasionally we’ll splurge on delicious bread and fancy cheese and olives and such and have just that and wine– and while it sounds so simple, toasted sourdough with real butter and a bit of butterkase was my breakfast this morning and it was sooooo good.

    5. INTP*

      On Sundays I love to make aebelskivers and dip them in strawberry jam, with sides of fresh fruit and either fried eggs or greek yogurt with strawberry jam and pine nuts. It’s accompanied by a big pot of earl grey tea, of course.

    6. Nina*

      Eggs Benedict Florentine. There’s a restaurant that makes them and they’re so good. Not an everyday indulgence, but I enjoy it when I have it.

    7. Elizabeth West*

      Usually I just have an egg and Marmite toast at work, or a meal replacement thing if I can’t/don’t have time to eat. But if I’m going to go all out and you can fix this stuff the way I like it, give me the following:

      –Ideally, two poached eggs (and no runny white or I’ll send the damn things back). Fried is okay if not crunchy, or scrambled if nice and fluffy (I make incredible scrambled eggs, ha ha)
      –Toast with butter and/or Marmite or jam
      –Fruit (preferably berries). If it’s a full English, I’m fine with the tomato
      –Bacon (I cannot even believe I’m saying this, but I don’t want U.S. bacon anymore after indulging in the British variety, which sadly I cannot get here :'{ )
      –Tea or coffee
      –I only want sausage if it’s kind of small and for some reason, I like it burnt
      –A full English has beans, which I can eat any time of day, but hold the mushrooms please–yuck!


      –Waffles or pancakes with butter and syrup OR French toast with confectioner’s sugar (really)
      –Tea/ coffee
      I sometimes have this for dinner. :)

      My family used to have waffles every Sunday. Our waffle iron was square and made four at a time. I can only find the round ones nowadays for some reason.

    8. Anonyby*

      My family’s MOST indulgent breakfast is fried indian bread with warm strawberry sauce, and OJ or coffee are the only drink options. lol We only get this once a year (Christmas), which makes it even more special.

      The more ‘everyday’ indulgent breakfast are cinnamon buns. Especially homemade ones. YUM.

  29. triple flip*

    So I’ve spent the morning catching up on past episodes of “2 broke girls” – I forgot how much I enjoyed that show! Is anyone else a fan?

    I have to say that I am in love with Caroline’s hair cut. I’m getting my hair cut this week and am thinking of taking the plunge and cutting my hair shorter like hers. I have long hair now (about three inches past my shoulders) and am over it.

    1. Mimmy*

      My husband and I used to watch, but we got tired of it last year I think. The suggestive dialogue was starting to get on my nerves. I love the restaurant staff though!

  30. Dr. Doll*

    Does anyone have a recommendation for one of those password sites like LastPass? My passwords are driving me crazy! My partner is quite skeptical, so any comments about the sites’ security would be great.

    1. Natalie*

      I’ve found Lastpass super easy to use. I wish the mobile plugin wasn’t premium, but what’re ya gonna do?

      1. Judy*

        That’s what we use, too. The program and database reside on your pc or device. (If you want them synced all over, I think you would need to use dropbox or google docs for the database storage, I’m pretty sure it doesn’t have a way to share in itself.)

    2. Alissa C*

      I’m a huge fan of 1Password. App, not site. I have it on all my machines, and my phone. And since all my business clients use it, they can securely share their password info w/ me (for instance, asking me to use their info when taking over travel planning), via a password protected vault.

      I work primarily w/ software people, very hardcore about security, and they’re the ones who got me hooked on 1Password. So while I can’t say how it stacks up to the comparable products, I can say it’s easy-peasy to use (great user interface) which is how I tend to primarily grade software.

    3. skyline*

      I’ve been happy with LastPass, and have found it worthwhile to spring for mobile access. I was astonished by how many accounts I had in there once *everything* finally got added.

  31. C Average*

    What do y’all do for fun?

    I’m in kind of a funk lately. My work pays the bills but doesn’t interest me, and some hobbies I used to really enjoy now feel like just more responsibility and obligation. I hate feeling like this and want to do something new and fun. I’m hoping just hearing about miscellaneous things other people enjoy might offer some inspiration.

    1. Nerd Girl*

      I like scrapbooking and paper crafts. :) Something about cutting, gluing, and creating art like this makes me feel like I did when I was a kid in art class. :)

    2. themmases*

      I love to read, and I will put ebooks on hold at my library so they arrive and there’s urgency to read them. When I’m feeling really bored sometimes no book sounds good to me, but wanting to finish the book while I have it (that I put on hold when I was feeling more interested in stuff) gets me going until I’m invested in the story. I highly recommend this if you’re in a funk– it doesn’t become another errand to pick up and return at the library, the books just appear on your phone or computer or whatever you use.

      I also like to knit or crochet while I pick a show on Netflix to watch all of, go for walks and try to pick streets I’ve never been down before to check out the architecture, do nothing in particular at cafés, research stuff like price comparisons or public data sets keeping track of my graphs and findings in Excel, and try to teach myself Ruby.

    3. BRR*

      I check theaters to see what evens they have coming up. They have a variety of events including comedians, musicians, musicals, and do Rocky Horror every year. I also check my local news’ website which has a fun things to do this weekend section. One local farm had a pie tasting this weekend although I didn’t go.

    4. whatnow*

      In similar sitch. Just got a new job (yay!) but now don’t have that wonderful all encompassing ”hobby” of looking for a job, and most of my friends seem to have done far better than me in life, and are all over the place. So lacking friends and hobbies.

      I was looking into volunteering. There’s not a lot going on around where I live which makes this harder…

      1. Artemesia*

        See what meetups are available near you. We moved to a new city where we know no one except one of our married kids. Two years later we have a very rewarding social life acquired through my participation in meet ups and then following up with interesting people.

        A book club of young professional women, an ultimate frisbee team, a club that meets for local excursions — it is easy to try things out and just continue the ones that work for you. Pick one thing and try it out and if it doesn’t work, pick another.

    5. John R*

      I’m a web developer and work alone most of the time. For fun, I like to play Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Games where I join in with about 20 other people and fight dragons, etc. Nerdy, I know, but fun.

      I also take my dogs hiking once a day–longer hikes on weekends and ride my mountain bike to and from work for commute instead of sitting in traffic in a car.

    6. QualityControlFreak*

      Hiking, gardening, landscaping, beach-combing. I’m recharged by contact with nature. I also enjoy making things (papier-mâché, leather work, costuming), music, reading, writing and drawing.

    7. Elizabeth West*

      Gah, I don’t have fun much lately–I’m either too busy or there’s nothing to do. I love to read, so there’s that. I like to go hang out with my Doctor Who fan buddies. Sometimes we watch episodes and sometimes play games. That only happens once every two weeks, usually.

      I’m so BORED most of the time that I’m not working/writing. I might try to finish some miniature stuff. I have all these doll’s house things and I haven’t finished one project. :P

    8. Anonyby*

      I’m constantly rotating between creative hobbies (various crafts, baking, gardening, etc.), at least when I have the time & energy for them. I also read and write fanfiction, read books…

      My friends and I gather once a week for game night. We have a regular rotation of tabletop RPGs to play (and it’s my first time DMing tonight!), but we’ll also play board or card games on off nights when the normal game needs to be cancelled and no one else is prepared enough to switch to their game.

    9. Mister Pickle*

      I tend to do music and art stuff. Whether or not the results are actually “music” or “art” is a matter of opinion, but I don’t care. I rarely show off the finished results to anyone. *shrug* and on the rare occasions that I do – nobody ever seems to care. Oh well.

      This afternoon I scored a Jackson JS32RT for next to nothing, and I’m going to mod it and f**k it up to an extreme level. I might put in a hex pickup and make each string independently pannable (ala the Kramer Ripley). This might take years, but that’s okay. I’m attempting to answer C Average’s question, and it sorta comes down to that at any point in time, I tend to have several projects like this that I can work on. I even finish some of them!

    10. CheeryO*

      Knitting and crocheting have just enough of a learning curve to be challenging, but not enough to be too frustrating IMO. When I learned to knit a couple years ago, I was totally engrossed in YouTube tutorials and picking out patterns on Ravelry and looking at yarn and needles for months, and I’m usually someone who burns through hobbies quickly.

    11. Schuyler*

      I’ve taken a few archery classes over the last few months. I haven’t done it in several weeks (must be since mid-September or so, since it was before I went on vacation). It was pretty fun… I’ll need to get back into that.

  32. Nerd Girl*

    I took my daughter to see the musical “Annie” yesterday. She couldn’t stop laughing at me for the first few songs because I literally cried through them. As a kid, Annie was really important to me. I loved it so much but never got the chance to see the stage production. Yesterday was my first time seeing it on stage and I was sharing it with my daughter who is roughly the same age I was when I loved Annie so much. I was an emotional mess. LOL! My daughter kept hugging me and telling me that I was a nerd but it was done with love and affection. :) It was a nice day for sure!!!

  33. Cath in Canada*

    Well, I’ve had a very peculiar week, in which my cats have suddenly become famous!

    I tweeted my favourite photo of them with a very geeky caption last week, went to bed, and woke up to literally thousands of replies and retweets. It’s still going, albeit at a reduced rate, to the extent that I’ve had to turn off notifications on m phone because it was driving me nuts, and I keep missing things my friends send me because they get buried in the avalanche. My original tweet has 8,000 RTs, other people’s responses that mention me have similar numbers, I’m seeing my caption get translated into multiple other languages, and my friends keep sending me links of my cats showing up on other sites – Twitter, they’re all over Tumblr, blogs, and even Reddit (mostly uncredited, but I’d rather have the kitties than the credit).

    It’s all been very strange (for me, the cats don’t care). I write as a hobby – I’ve co-written a text book, blogged for a major UK newspaper, and had a short story published – and it’s quite something to realize that I will never, ever, be as famous as my cats!

    1. whatnow*

      Wow can you link to the cats? It’s so weird how cats are such a big deal online… (I love mine… but I still don’t get it.)

    2. fposte*

      You’ve gone viral! That’s hilarious. Now you know that your obituary will open with a line about your cats.

        1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd*


          For people waiting for the link, you can search “schrodinger” on Twitter and it pops right up.

          Well done, Cath!

  34. Mimmy*

    Just wanted to thank those who offered advice about my friend in last Sunday’s thread. One commenter suggested to let her take the lead when I call (sorry, don’t remember who it was). Unfortunately, I got nowhere. She was glad to hear from me, but there was zero back-and-forth. I just said that (husband) and I were thinking of her and to let us know if she needed anything. All I got out of her was “good to hear from you” and “thank you”. Our mutual friend said it was likely due to not feeling well (she’s in the midst of an evil bout of depression secondary to having bipolar).

    I really want to go see her, but I have a feeling it’ll be the same thing. Oh I know she’ll greatly appreciate my coming, but I don’t drive, and I can’t bring myself to make my husband take me as the facility she’s at is a good 20-30 minutes away.

    I feel like such a evil friend–I guess I’m having a harder time dealing with this than I’m willing to admit. I’m tearing up now just writing about this :'(

    1. fposte*

      It’s hard to feel like you can’t help a friend. I think your friend’s reaction sounds pretty understandable–when somebody’s in the hospital they generally aren’t going to be up to much back and forth, so normal conversational rules are suspended. It sounds to me like your call was what it should have been–you called to tell her that you’re thinking of her and that you care about her, and you achieved that.

      I don’t know what kind of traffic and time-crunch your husband would be dealing with, but I think a 40-60 minute round trip isn’t out of order to visit a hospitalized friend (I think I’m a little disappointed in your husband for not suggesting it, in fact, since I imagine he knows that you don’t like to ask for such things). If you can’t, that’s totally okay, of course, but this doesn’t seem like an onerous thing to request, either.

    2. Rebecca*

      Maybe you could send her a nice “thinking of you” type card? That way she’d know you reached out to her, and could reach back out to you if she feels up to it. It’s nice you’re thinking of her; many people don’t want to bother with people if they have problems. Too much work for them.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      Aww, crap. I can feel your heartbreak on this one.

      Okay. Consider that a start and move to step two.

      Wait a few days and either call again or ask your husband to take you to see her. Yes, bite the bullet and ask your hubby. (or it could be that you know your neighbor goes by there often and you could ask your neighbor- toss in a couple bucks for gas or buy her a hot coffee.) Anyway start figuring out which one of these you are going to do or see if you come up with yet another idea.
      If you go, bring some silly little thing- like a deck of cards or a small game. You can either leave the game with her or sit and play together. If you play the game together it might help with lags in conversation.
      My father used to visit a man who was in terrible condition and was terminal. My dad would bring the Sunday comics and read them out loud. Not the same as your friend but the over all idea is of value.
      If you call, tell her you’ll keep the call short but you will be calling again, just to visit for a few minutes.

  35. Hummingbird*

    Every since I got IOS 8 on my iPhone 4s, I have the hardest time with Safari. Many times it needs to reload because a problem has occurred. Does anyone else have this problem?

        1. Hummingbird*

          Ok, so while the problem sucks, at least I know my phone (as hardware) is not getting old and just malfunctioning.

    1. Ada Lovelace*

      Yes! My 4S and iPad mini compete for which will get chucked at a wall first. I was really looking forward to it, but it has severely limited their functionality. My 4s gets 5-6 hours of battery time now.

  36. Rebecca*

    It seems like Fall lasted about 5 minutes here in Pennsylvania, and I’ve been keeping up with my 10,000 or more steps per day goal, so far. Since we’re on Daylight Saving Time now, I went into town and walked on the dike walkway once, but to be honest, there were weird people there and I felt less safe than I do out in my rural neighborhood without sidewalks, street lights, or even lines painted on the road. And it’s not just me. One of my friends described the same creepy guy the night she walked with her kids and said she thought he was really odd.

    I’ve been experimenting with various layering options to stay warm when it’s windy, but not too warm so I sweat and get cold anyway. A while back I asked for suggestions, and got some inexpensive items by Danskin Now, and Cuddlduds, plus Tek Gear and Fila Sport (on sale at Kohl’s). So far, I’ve managed to be quite comfortable, although the other night was below freezing and I didn’t wear my fleece hood and my poor chin felt frozen. Plus, I don’t want to have so many layers that I look like Ralphie’s brother on “A Christmas Story”.

    I’m really hoping I can continue to exercise throughout the winter. I guess the true test will come when we get snow storms :) Then we’ll see how sturdy I am!

    After my walk today, I’m looking forward to pork and sauerkraut. It’s in the slow cooker now, and smells wonderful already!

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Congrats on sticking to your 10,000 steps! I’ve been doing the same, though it’s a bit easier because I have a dog to motivate me and we do at least half of our steps in the morning. For your chin, I highly recommend a scarf– you can loosen it if you get too warm. And don’t underestimate the importance of gloves! I find that when my hands and feet are cold, I just can’t get warm no matter what.

    2. Trixie*

      I’m saving up to invest in Icebreaker merino wool layering pieces. Winter athletes swear by them, and well-made when will outlast the less expensive items I’m making do with now.

  37. John R*

    I made pancakes from scratch this morning for the first time ever and they were GOOD. Much cheaper and tastier than using a mix. The secret–use 1/4 cup of cornmeal to displace 1/4 cup of the flour. Adds a nice taste without being overpowering.

    1. Natalie*

      To make it even easier – make a bunch of the dry mix ahead of time and keep it in an airtight container. When you want pancakes, make the wet mix and then scoop enough dry mix in to get the right consistency.

  38. INTP*

    I need to vent about my apartment management company again.

    A couple of weeks I posted about their method of giving “notice” to enter – they leave notes *outside* the doors at 8 or 9 pm saying that they might start coming in at 8 or 9 am. (It’s legal because my state only requires 12 hour notice with no requirement that the tenant ever actually receive the notice.) I’m usually in my apartment for the night well before that, so I usually only see it as I’m leaving for work, and if my apartment happens to be messy that day can only take the time to make whatever they’re working on accessible if I can afford to be a few minutes later. These are for things that are planned in advance, not emergencies (for those they just go in and don’t say they’ve been there or anything) – I know for a fact that with one, they knew several days in advance and even came to the property in that time, but still didn’t give the notices until 12 hours before. It’s almost like they don’t want us to have notice. When I leave for work, most of the neighbors’ notices are still outside on the floor, so they aren’t seeing them either.

    Anyways, the heat was broken so they most recently gave a notice Sunday afternoon that said they’d be in between 8:30 and 4:30 any day the following week. Like a lot of the residents of my building, I’m a student and don’t have a regular 9-5 job so I can’t just plan to be ready to vacate at any moment during the week! One morning I heard them banging on my door at 8:15. They woke me up so I stayed in bed hoping they’d go on to the next apartment as they had to handle every unit in the building. They tried to open the door but I had the chain on, and they also got their manager to try to open the door. A few minutes later I was up and saw them opening my door again (the chain was still on) – I guess they were planning to try to get the chain off with me still in the apartment? I told them I would need some time to shower and get dressed before they could come in and they said “Oh, we don’t need to be in your apartment for a few hours, we just needed to get the chain off.” So I guess they were just going down the halls waking everyone up at 8:15 so they wouldn’t be inconvenienced later? (I understand why the workers would do this, they’re expected to be efficient. I just feel like if they don’t want to be inconvenienced, they need to plan ahead and give narrower time frames than all business hours in an entire week in a building full of students. Not sure if it was the contractors or the property management who were so disinclined to plan ahead.)

    Because the heat was broken for weeks after the temps had started going into the 30s, at one point they brought us new, in-the-box space heaters. (It’s not that generous. Our leases say management pays for the heat, but with these space heaters of course, we paid for the electricity to run them.) The day that they got the heaters turned on, they *immediately* took away the space heaters. So it was still freezing for a day while the new boiler and the radiators had time to heat up. I guess it was just to avoid a second trip back to the building? I’m not sure why they’d need them ASAP unless they’re going to con whatever store they bought them from into taking them back for a refund.

    I know a lot of this is normal and it’s all probably legal. I’m just getting annoyed with them having zero regard for resident convenience.

    1. Traveler*

      I seriously hate that at apartments, they can just come in whenever they want – not just maintenance but anyone the apartment company has hired too. I almost beaned a maintenance guy over the head with a large piece of metal because he came into my apartment when I was asleep and I thought I was being robbed!

      I’ve also had evidence of them going into rooms/items that they had no business being in. But my biggest fear is that they are going to catch me while I’m in the shower!

      It’s a stupid reason to buy a house, but ugh. Sometimes I daydream about it. I feel your pain.

      1. INTP*

        Yes, this is why I am grateful that I at least have a chain. Otherwise at some point they probably would come in while I’m in the shower or something.

        It drives me nuts that the spirit of the law is that they do need to get notice to people before they come in but they completely bypass it with technicalities. I don’t feel like a note left outside the door 12 hours before with zero effort made to make sure the person actually sees it (at the very least, shove it under the door) should count. I also don’t think it should be allowed to say “We will come in tomorrow and then at any other point until the project is finished” without a time limit, which they’ve also done – how is that even notice? It doesn’t give you warning of a specific day, they could come in three weeks later and say it was related to the same thing.

        And I wish they would at least tell me when they’ve been in for an “emergency.” The only time I ever got a notification about that was when there was a big hole in the wall so they couldn’t hide it. Once I came home to find plumbing equipment in my sink and I was terrified at first before I figured out what it was, because clearly someone had been in my apartment. But just a sticky note saying “We’ve been inside” is to much effort to ask of these aholes.

        1. catsAreCool*

          The odd thing is that from a business point of view, what the landlord is doing is pretty stupid. He’s increasing the likelihood that people will leave, and not giving notice makes it harder for people to deal with the workmen.

          Does the landlord have a boss? Maybe the landlord’s boss should get notified about this.

          1. INTP*

            Yes, I’m confused too. It’s not even logical from the standpoint of the property manager being lazy, because wouldn’t he want to minimize the number of trips he has to make or do it during the workday instead of late in the evening? And it would make a lot of people’s lives easier if he would take the extra 2 seconds per residence to slide it under the door. There was one time that they came in and couldn’t do what they needed to do because my apartment was so messy. I had been sick, then had a birthday, so things were very cluttered and I had laundry and groceries (nonperishible) not put up and such. I saw the notice on my way out the door but couldn’t be late for work that day.

            There are owners of the property management company who have authority over our property manager, but I don’t have their contact information as they aren’t as involved in the day-to-day stuff and can’t be reached at the general office number.

            1. catsAreCool*

              I have had this work occasionally and usually without problems – I say something like “It’s too bad that there isn’t earlier notice about the whatever-it-is, because I bet that would make life so much easier for you.”

              And using a concerned, earnest, naive voice helps with this. For some reason, sort of suggesting that something can’t be done, seems to get people to think, hey, I could do this.

  39. INTP*

    I need to vent about my apartment management company again.

    A couple of weeks I posted about their method of giving “notice” to enter – they leave notes *outside* the doors at 8 or 9 pm saying that they might start coming in at 8 or 9 am. (It’s legal because my state only requires 12 hour notice with no requirement that the tenant ever actually receive the notice.) I’m usually in my apartment for the night well before that, so I usually only see it as I’m leaving for work, and if my apartment happens to be messy that day can only take the time to make whatever they’re working on accessible if I can afford to be a few minutes later. These are for things that are planned in advance, not emergencies (for those they just go in and don’t say they’ve been there or anything) – I know for a fact that with one, they knew several days in advance and even came to the property in that time, but still didn’t give the notices until 12 hours before. It’s almost like they don’t want us to have notice. When I leave for work, most of the neighbors’ notices are still outside on the floor, so they aren’t seeing them either.

    Anyways, the heat was broken so they most recently gave a notice Sunday afternoon that said they’d be in between 8:30 and 4:30 any day the following week. Like a lot of the residents of my building, I’m a student and don’t have a regular 9-5 job so I can’t just plan to be ready to vacate at any moment during the week! One morning I heard them banging on my door at 8:15. They woke me up so I stayed in bed hoping they’d go on to the next apartment as they had to handle every unit in the building. They tried to open the door but I had the chain on, and they also got their manager to try to open the door. A few minutes later I was up and saw them opening my door again (the chain was still on) – I guess they were planning to try to get the chain off with me still in the apartment? I told them I would need some time to shower and get dressed before they could come in and they said “Oh, we don’t need to be in your apartment for a few hours, we just needed to get the chain off.” So I guess they were just going down the halls waking everyone up at 8:15 so they wouldn’t be inconvenienced later? (I understand why the workers would do this, they’re expected to be efficient. I just feel like if they don’t want to be inconvenienced, they need to plan ahead and give narrower time frames than all business hours in an entire week in a building full of students. Not sure if it was the contractors or the property management who were so disinclined to plan ahead.)

    Because the heat was broken for weeks after the temps had started going into the 30s, at one point they brought us new, in-the-box space heaters. (It’s not that generous. Our leases say management pays for the heat, but with these space heaters of course, we paid for the electricity to run them.) The day that they got the heaters turned on, they *immediately* took away the space heaters. So it was still freezing for a day while the new boiler and the radiators had time to heat up. I guess it was just to avoid a second trip back to the building? I’m not sure why they’d need them ASAP unless they’re going to con whatever store they bought them from into taking them back for a refund.

    I know a lot of this is normal and it’s all probably legal. I’m just getting annoyed with them having zero regard for resident convenience.

    1. Nina*

      You have my sympathies. My property managers pull this kind of crap all the time. One new thing is them shutting off the water for a few hours without notice. Not pleasant when you want to take a shower. Or the elevator stops working, so you take the stairs…which are flooded with rainwater.

      They don’t try to come in the house without notice anymore, but they have done that in the past.

    2. BRR*

      Not having working heat might actually be a violation in your state. It also might be a violation to have that many space heaters running. If you saw them actually trying to cut your chain I would raise a stink.

      You also don’t need to vacate your apartment when they’re there. I actually prefer to be around when something is being repaired in my apt.

      1. INTP*

        They don’t force me to vacate, that’s true. It’s just impossible to do a lot of things while they are, like shower and get dressed (my bathroom is too small to get dressed in and I have to walk across the hall between my bathroom and bedroom) or focus on work. They were in there at one point while I was eating breakfast and there were men in literally every room of my apartment being quite loud. So while I mispoke about being expected to vacate at a moment’s notice, I meant that I was expected to be able to drop everything and let them in and stay out of their way (or at the least, be ready to do so within 10 minutes) at any point during the week.

    3. Stephanie*

      Because the heat was broken for weeks after the temps had started going into the 30s, at one point they brought us new, in-the-box space heaters. (It’s not that generous. Our leases say management pays for the heat, but with these space heaters of course, we paid for the electricity to run them.)

      Yup, been there. Heater had an issue and broke. Between scheduling repair times and waiting for parts to arrive, we ended up having no heat for three weeks. That happened to be a cold winter in DC, so it was tough. Our landlord gave us large space heaters, which ended up tripling our electricity bill that month. We were in a rent-by-owner place and on good terms with the landlord, so we successfully negotiated a rent concession to cover the additional electricity costs. Are you able to do anything like that?

  40. Elkay*

    Feliway – anyone had success with using the plug in to stop cats scratching furniture? My male cat (neutered) has become a huge PITA scratching furniture. He also keeps jumping on the flat screen TV. He’s driving me insane.

    1. Sparrow*

      I’ve tried Feliway before, but it never seemed to have any effect on my cats. For furniture scratching, there is a product called Sticky Paws that you can put on the furniture to help deter the scratching. When we had a cat jumping on the counter, we placed a place mat with rolled pieces of duct tape and he didn’t like the sticky feeling on his paws.

      Does he have a good scratching post? The SmartCat Ultimate Scratching Post is great. Very sturdy and durable. A lot of scratching posts have sisal. You could experiment with different materials – carpet or cardboard to see what he likes best. There are also horizontal scratching boards if he likes to stretch out and scratch. You could place a small post near the furniture and re-direct him to that.

      Also, I like the book Starting from Scratch: How to Correct Behavior Problems in Your Adult Cat by Pam Johnson-Bennett. It addresses issues for various cat problems including scratching.

      If your cat is active, maybe he needs some playtime to tire him out. Perhaps that will help with the jumping? And, is he jumping on the TV to look out a window? Maybe he needs his own cat perch so he has in own space.

      Good luck!

      1. Elkay*

        Thanks I’ll check out the book. We’ve got lots of scratching posts but you’ve reminded me that I was going to look into a longer one for him. Part of the problem is that he lies on his back and scratches with his paws up so it’s tricky to find a scratcher that imitates that. He goes outside (frequently and on demand, I’m basically the doorman) and the TV is in the centre of a blank wall, maybe he’s just a bit stupid…

        1. Programmer 01*

          Haha, oh cats. Double-sided tape is a lifesaver (they HATE it) and helps me re-train my cats every time I move that Counters Are Not For Kitty Paws and No, Leather Couches Are Not For Scratching. I definitely agree with big scratching posts — one of my cats is a long 20lb furbeast, and regular scratching posts are too wobbly for her, so we have a giant, solid cat tree they can fling themselves at and it won’t budge. For some reason she also likes the cheap-o cardboard scratching pads (double wide) so I go through a few of those, but it absolutely keeps her need to scratch happy and NOT doing so on my furniture. Placement’s a big thing too, as cats like to scratch when they wake up, so one by the kitty bed zone and one by Sunbeam Central mostly helps. If your cat likes to scratch upside-down I’d get all crafty with command strips + cardboard scratch pads and install them onto the underside of stuff that seems to be at the right height for his scratching, because who’s going to notice anyhow, and command strips are AMAZING at Securing Things To Things.

          For the TV, I don’t even know. If he wants a tall place to look down on you, you could install a cat shelf nearby. We have cat beds/cubes/blankets in multiple levels of our bookshelves because we are but humble servants to our cat deities, but it definitely keeps them from doing Cat Parkour on things we don’t want when they have designated tall places. Cats really like levels, so depending on how it fits your decor/ability to deal with CAT ON WALL cat shelves are actually pretty great, or multi-tiered cat trees. I got mine off Craigslist (totally unused, the person’s cat hated it) for dirt cheap, it would have cost me an arm and a leg otherwise, but there are a lot of places online that sell them for reasonable amounts and they are not Incredibly Fugly. Mine looks like a tree, complete with bark, it’s quite slick.

          Although I was babysitting my sister’s cat recently and that cat is like an olympic athlete, he’d jump from standing start to on top of the fridge, so now my two beasties are going “Wait, you can DO THAT?”. Augh.

          1. Elkay*

            I’m going to give sticky tape a try. We have a huge cat tree which he loves the top of, means he can keep an eye on things as it’s right by the balcony door, bonus points if his sister is on the shelf below because he can lean down and bat her.

    2. John R*

      I’ve had cats that were scratchers and dogs that were diggers and there’s nothing you can do except redirect the behavior–I’ve always found trying to stop it flat out will never work.

      For dogs: bury some toys in a specific spot and then fill it in. Let them dig in that spot, praise them when they do, and keep them away from the other spots. Make that one spot the most appealing.

      For cats: Put a variety of sisal scratching posts around, with some cat treats nearby to get them interested in going to the location. Once they start scratching that particular spot they’re less likely to go after your furniture.

  41. just a girl*

    Please share anxiety success stories with me. Have you suffered acute anxiety that got in the way of your daily life? Have you successfully overcome it? I would love to hear the details.

    Thank you.

    1. Turanga Leela*

      I’ve never had an anxiety disorder, but I used to get inappropriately anxious whenever my boss wanted to talk to me about something. I always felt like I was about to get in trouble or even be fired. It was very helpful for me to use cognitive techniques to stop doing that. I made a list of reasons I knew my anxiety wasn’t rational: when my boss had asked to talk to me in the past, I had never been in trouble; my boss had repeatedly told me he was happy with my performance; and he always told me directly when I’d done something wrong. When I felt myself getting anxious, I would go through the list in my mind. I also tried to think about it when I wasn’t anxious so that I could think about my anxiety objectively, and I talked to friends who confirmed that I had no reason to be anxious.

      I had to do this for a few months, but it has basically cleared up my anxiety. I was able to do this on my own, but it also might have been helpful to do a few sessions with a cognitive-behavioral therapist.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      I was never formally diagnosed with anything. Somehow I just got into to doing alternative things and stuck with that. I was having panic attacks and I had extremely high levels of worry. I could never turn off my “on switch”.

      The number one thing that helped me was removing artificial sugars from my diet. The second best thing was to remove common allergy foods- dairy, wheat, etc. The third thing was learning breathing techniques. And that one clinched it. The panic attacks went away. All the while my worry levels went down.

      I did this with a practitioner watching me and I would have to caution anyone about doing this without expert help. Interestingly, at the time I changed my diet I was also seeing a shrink regarding dealing with profound grief. I dropped the shrink after 8-10 visits of going absolutely no where. Lesson here is if you pick a counselor don’t wait as long as I did to realize nothing is happening. This dude even bragged that people always tell him they get massive headaches on the days they have appointments with him. I understood why. Might as well take $125 and flush it- same net result.

      It’s fine to look at anxiety from a psychological perspective, but I think it’s really cheating yourself if you don’t consider there could be physical causes that exacerbate the whole situation.

      1. just a girl*

        I have had TERRIBLE experiences with psychologists. I was humiliated and yelled at by one, and had another bad experience by another one that I really liked and respected :( The second did help, but that bad experienced soured things and I never went back. I would go as far as to say I was traumatized by both experiences.

        I will definitely look into the dietary changes, especially the artificial sugars, since they are so useless. Thanks.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Start looking around at alternative therapies. I totally get being turned off by psychologists. But you still can look at breathing exercises, yoga, nutrition and many other things.
          And I suggest reading on your own about various things that have impacted your life. Knowledge is power. Let’s say someone grew up in an alcoholic home. If they learn that behaviors x, y and z are fairly normal in an alcoholic home and learn here is how others have handled it, this someone can change their own life. knowledge is power.

    3. Programmer 01*

      I’ve dealt with depression all my life, but it recently came with the bonus prize of anxiety — and it was the anxiety that made me question what was going on, as it wasn’t presenting with the expected symptoms/thought patterns. It led to my diagnosis of PTSD, which has been a HUGE life-changer for me, and I am happier and doing better than ever because we finally know what the heck is going on with my brain! I was having full-blown panic attacks at work (in the hallway or stairwell or wherever I could get alone) and it was just brutal.

      So I still have anxiety, and I take as-needed anxiety meds (just a real mild muscle relaxant) and they work GREAT. I can feel a spiral starting so I’ll take half of one, and then can take a full one later if I’m still upset, and it seriously nips panic attacks (or potential ones) in the bud and there isn’t that low-level anxiety background noise anymore. Just carrying them around in my pocket actually reduces the amount of stress and anxiety I otherwise have, if that makes sense? I know I’m in control, and if something really bad happens, I will be okay until I am able to get home. It really has changed my life, along with other things.

      It also makes events that I KNOW will cause my anxiety to flare up hard a lot easier to handle, because 1/4 of a pill before means I am chill enough to get there, and then once I’m there I’m fine and happy because I swear 90% of my social anxiety occurs pre-event.

      I also have a therapist, and I screened real hard and still lucked out hard with her (sometimes I feel like people have to play doctor or therapist whack-a-mole until they find someone who clicks), she is wonderful and helps me dig out some of what’s causing anxiety, or in some cases at least identifying things that make it much worse and how to combat them. She is incredibly professional but at the same time caring, doesn’t push, and I LIKE her. That all makes such a difference.

      1. just a girl*

        Interesting you mention PTSD. I am positive I have it. That is when my symptoms started (after trauma in my life) and eventually became out of control in certain situations. I am glad you are doing well.

  42. The Other Dawn*

    I just made some chocolate chip cookies and oh how I miss eating the dough! I’m a bariatric patient so I don’t do well with a lot of sugar. I don’t think I miss the dough itself so much, but more the process of eating the dough while I’m making cookies. I don’t miss much about my old life, but once in a while something comes along and I miss how it used to be. Like soda. I don’t miss the soda, but I miss having a soda while I’m at the diner. *sigh*

    1. INTP*

      Cookie dough is amazing. Most batches of cookie dough I prepare never even get baked. I keep it in the fridge and dish it out into ramekins to warm up and eat with a spoon.

      (I’m sorry if this was insensitive, you just really inspired me to think about cookie dough, haha!)

      You may want to look into Nikki’s Healthy Cookies on 101 cookbooks. The dough isn’t good to eat but the cookies are pretty good and contain no added sugar, just subtle sweetness from banana and bittersweet chocolate chips.

      1. The Other Dawn*

        Mmmmm…. sounds good! The warm dough and the no sugar added cookies. :)

        The cookies came out really good. I didn’t have brown sugar and I found a recipe without it. And I subbed coconut oil for part of the butter. A hint of coconut really made this taste good. I stuck to having just one and was OK with it; they’re very rich.

  43. Julie*

    Folks that are freelancers and consultants – how much of your income generally goes to taxes? I am considering taking on a consultant role and am trying to figure my hourly rate. I’ve read everything from 1.3 to 2x your hourly rate as an regular employee. If I go this route, I’ll get an accountant for sure, but want to make sure I can make it work financially first.

    1. CAA*

      It depends a lot on how much you make and what state you’re in. Also, are you trying to make up for the employer provided benefits you’re no longer getting? If so, you have to factor in the cost of healthcare premiums, missing out on a 401K match, etc.

      For just the tax question, you could try to get your hands on a copy of TurboTax for last year and run through the program as if you were self-employed to see what your final Federal and State tax liabilities are.

    2. Alissa C*

      My suggestion: Figure out what you can live on (build in the cost of benefits as well), and double it.

      It’s a good rule of thumb that you should put 50% of each paycheck into a separate tax savings account. So when it comes time to do your quarterlies, you have plenty of cash on hand to pay the bill. Whatever is left over at the end of the year….Yay money! Goes into savings, retirement account, buy new supplies, take a vacation.

      Chances are low that you’ll need that entire 50% to pay for taxes (as you’ll have stuff to deduct that you didn’t have prior to being a freelancer/consultant). But I live by the motto that it’s better to be over prepared then under. (I’ve been working for myself for going on almost a decade now)

      A lot of accountants that cater to small business owners/self-employed tend to give the same, or very similar advice. Or at least the ones I work with (on behalf of my small business/self-employed clients), do. :)

    3. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

      Setting your rate is less about your need for income than about what you can command in the marketplace. I’d instead ask around in the consultant world to get a sense of the going rate, then adjust based on your level of experience in your sector and the fact that you’re just starting out and need to build a book of business.

  44. Trixie*

    Wardrobe question. Found a lovely sweater dress I’d like to use for interviews. It’s a thicker material and just skims the body, not a fine gauge or too tight. I was thinking tights with it but wondering if a slip is necessary. i think the tights or hose will act enough as a smoother, and again it’s not fitted.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      I’d wear a slip because I’d want that extra assurance that my dress isn’t doing something I should know about. Plus, it’s cooler now and it’s not like I would roast because I had on too many clothes. I don’t what to be thinking about what my clothes are doing as I interview.

    2. Sparrow*

      The blog Wardrobe Oxygen had a post recently about shapewear to wear under knit dresses. The same might be helpful for sweater dresses. I’ll post the link separately.

  45. catsAreCool*

    My doctor wants me to go gluten-free and dairy-free for over a month. I’ve started, but it’s tough to find a varied diet. I’m also supposed to avoid almonds, and I’m a vegetarian.

    Any suggestions?

    1. Sparrow*

      This sounds similar to the Whole30 eating plan. Check out whole30 dot com. Then on their site search for “vegetarian” and you should find some info about meal plans and recipe ideas. I believe there is also a forum on the site, which may be helpful.

    2. NOLA*

      Good suggestion from Sparrow on the whole30 site. I also recommend paleomg dot com for some good, yummy ideas. Or search for paleo recipes in general

      I’ve had a lot of success taming my gut issues by cutting way down gluten (but I haven’t had to go to zero). Best of luck!

    3. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Experiment with different grains and veggies. We eat a lot of brown rice in our (vegetarian) house, and I’m a big fan of quinoa, millet, all those good things, which I use in place of pasta. I’ve also been on a polenta kick recently. There are a lot of wonderful Indian recipes you can make without gluten or dairy, and if you like Asian food, I’m a big fan of glass noodles, plus there are a bunch of recipes you can make with rice (and substitute tamari for soy sauce, which has gluten). Winter is wonderful for root and cruciferous vegetables like kohlrabi and turnips and cauliflower. You can also do black bean chili and white bean stews (I made an Italian stew last week with white beans, kale, and potatoes which was really, really good) and all kinds of soups, no gluten or dairy.

      What I like to do when I’m searching for recipes is stock up the cupboard and fridge with things I like, then search by ingredient. The Eat Well blog from the New York Times has been a great resource for me:

    4. AdAgencyChick*

      Ooh, the vegetarian thing makes it harder. Are you full-on vegan, or are you willing to eat eggs? At least eggs can help with getting enough protein (frittatas, poached eggs over salads, scrambled-egg breakfast-for-dinner, etc.) — and if you’ll go a step further and eat fish, that will open up your options even more.

      I was going to recommend Melissa Joulwan’s books Well Fed and Well Fed 2 — they are Whole30-compliant recipes, so no grains (ergo no gluten), dairy, or legumes. But because of the no-legumes part, you may find them less useful because the recipes rely entirely on animal sources for protein.

      For side dish recipes, I’d check out Melissa’s website (The Clothes Make the Girl — Google it, I didn’t want to get this post pushed into moderation by adding the link) as well as Michelle Tam’s site Nom Nom Paleo.

      1. catsAreCool*

        I’m not really a vegan, but I don’t like eggs, and a recent test shows that my body is probably intolerant to eggs anyway. Thanks for the suggestion.

        I can eat beans and most nuts though.

      2. INTP*

        A vegetarian perspective on the Well Fed books – I rented them through Amazon Prime and I only see them as being useful to a vegetarian who doesn’t know how to cook or season vegetables. The books focus mainly on simple mix-and-match preparations of vegetables and meats (choose cooking method X, seasoning Y, voila), but most vegetarians who cook are skilled enough at cooking vegetables to know plenty of preparations that don’t involve flour or butter or cheese. There was nothing really new to me except some seasoning combinations which aren’t worth purchasing an entire cookbook for. I would recommend them to omnivores going paleo who don’t know how to cook or season things without dairy or flour or vegetable oils or who don’t know how to put a paleo meal together. The food prep ideas in the first book are also great for paleo, but since vegetarian meals aren’t quite as compatible with the mix and match “vegetable + protein + seasonings = dinner” format, I didn’t find the process very applicable to me. Sometimes that works with an omelette or a tofu stir fry but more often I want to eat dishes where proteins are cooked into things – casseroles, lasagnas, enchiladas, stews, pastas, soups, etc so weekend meal prep is a different process. (I don’t mean to argue with you here, I’m just throwing the perspective out there in case vegetarians reading are curious.)

        OP, there are a number of doctors that advocate a mostly gluten-free, low fat, vegan diet (so recipes would be low on nuts and free of eggs or dairy). Look into Engine 2 diet, Forks Over Knives, Caldwell Esselstyne (I’m probably butchering that name and others in this post), Dr. McDougall, Dr. Fuhrman. A blogger HealthyHappyLongLife used to post recipes compliant with that sort of diet – she isn’t posting anymore but there are recipes in the archives of the site.

    5. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

      Two recipes that saved me when I was eating Whole30:

      1) “Egg McNothin’s”: Crack an egg into muffin liners (in a muffin pan), add whatever chopped veggies you’re into, cook for ~15 minutes or until the whites are set. Done. You could line the muffins with faux deli meat if that sounds good.

      2) Apple Bumpkin Breakfast Bake: Uuuuh-mazing.

    6. Mephyle*

      What is working for me (the only vegetarian in the house) to have a varied diet with minimum effort is to always have some beans and about two cooked vegetables in the fridge at any time. Then I can combine beans and a vegetable in a skillet, and heat it up. It tastes different each time because I vary the herbs or spices that I add. For the beans, I generally alternate between black beans, light-coloured beans, and garbanzos, and occasionally lentils – I cook enough for several days, and when they are nearly finished, I cook a different kind. You could also cook bigger batches and freeze some in one or two-serving amounts if you have room to keep them.

  46. Programmer 01*

    My game came out this week. :) I don’t know if this is work-related or not, since now that it’s released into the wild, it’s not mine anymore? It’s all about the enjoyment now.

    Reception’s been pretty good despite the bugs (which the poor QC are tearing their hair out over trying to reproduce, they’re so rare), and while it may not be reviewing game-of-the-year great, it’s selling extremely well and the general feedback I’ve gotten from non-journos has been “Wheeee!”. So! I hope people are having fun with it, that’s all I really want, and to keep doing better.

    I’m doing really well and still read here, just have been super low on ability to really post/reply, but I’m still grateful for you folks being as awesome as you are! I’m actually way better than I was, despite the snow (ugh). One of the biggest quality-of-life changes happened when a co-worker (who also has PTSD) cottoned me on to an alpha-blocker medication (Prazosin) — I was having awful nightmares every single night (like wake up crying/in a panic attack awful) and it has done a remarkable job of cutting them off at the knees. Turns out PTSD nightmares aren’t actual nightmares, but night-time flashbacks (remixed for your further enjoyment) so your body’s responding as if it were a daytime flashback, but without any of the coping skills/medication/emotional armour, your brain’s flooding your body with adrenaline, and there’s no sleep paralysis (to the peril of my partner and cats). So this has cut out 99% of the problem, as I still have nightmares most nights, but the adrenaline is blocked from being produced, so I wake up going “Wow, brain, that was really awful, thanks” and can go on about my day. I take pleasure in de-fanging the PTSD beast like this, but it still sneaks in a really nasty and upsetting thing that shakes me for the rest of the day now and then. Still, I’m not afraid to go to sleep anymore!

    I also had septal surgery (which is especially why I haven’t been around!) and it was the best thing I have ever done for myself, because I NO LONGER HAVE SLEEP APNEA. NONE. Instead of shambling around on 8 hours of sleep I automatically wake up around there, and won’t sleep 12+ hours if left to my own devices. I feel good. I feel GREAT. I can BREATHE! I am getting better sleep than I have since I was a little kid!! It is snowing and I do not have a sinus infection! I did indeed have a deviated septum (docs wouldn’t believe me because I’d never broken my nose) and it was fixed and while healing was hell, oh wow oh wow do I feel great.

    I also took my nephew to see Big Hero 6 yesterday and WOW that movie was great, he loved it and so did I, and he didn’t make fun of me for crying because he did too.

    1. Anonyby*

      That’s awesome about the game! And I’m glad you feel so much better after your surgery!

      Big Hero 6 is awesome. I went and saw it with friends on Monday. If they hadn’t taken me, I’m not sure I would have seen it in theaters because the trailers were so meh. Now I’m casually planning costumes from it for Halloween next year!

    2. nep*

      Wonderful to hear. What an immense relief that must be — the effects of that operation. Good for you.
      Thanks for the updates. All the best.

    3. just a girl*

      Really glad you had an awesome week!

      Sleep is priceless! Sleep cannot be overrated! I am glad your sleep quality has improved dramatically!

    4. MommaTRex*

      I just wish Disney did not feel the need to kill off so many family members ALL the time to create “drama”. Just once, I wish their protagonist was not orphaned or did not lose a close family member. But my six-year-old boy loved Big Hero 6.

      1. MommaTRex*

        P.S. No spoiler alert needed – first of all, it’s a Disney movie, so you should already know, and second, the protagonist comes pre-orphaned.

  47. NOLA*

    Tattoo question — I want to get another tattoo, but I still have weight to drop. I’m at about 200 (from a high of 250), and I hope to get down to 160-170 ish (still a bit high according to BMI, but realistic for me (female, 5’7″, very busty)). Given my current rate of weight loss, I won’t be at goal for another year and a half at least, and I don’t want to wait that long.

    I’d like to get the tattoo on my thigh. The design will be hardcover books in a stack with some books with wings, flying above the stack. Any thoughts on if losing 30-40 more pounds (and gaining more muscle) will distort the tattoo? The older ones on my hips/torso still look pretty good, but those designs are more traditional and simple (flowers). A tattoo artist who I asked was noncommittal. Any thoughts?

    1. Mints*

      Would you be okay getting the books intentionally warped? Like doing some wavy or curvy lines? That way any weight changes (better or worse) won’t affect the tattoo so much. Harsh lines and right angles make me kinda wary in general for tattoos

    2. nep*

      Well done on that weight loss. Getting away from the tattoo question here, but would you mind sharing how you’ve lost the 50lbs? What has worked, what hasn’t?

      1. NOLA*

        Sure thing nep! Upfront disclaimer — I’ve found that weight loss, diet and fitness is very specific to each individal. This is what worked for me after much experimentation/false starts:

        1. Eating very clean 5-6 days a week. Eating clean for me means very low carb and as gluten free as possible. I try to always have a protein and 2 veg cooked in my fridge so things are easy to grab and go. I have gut issues (IBS) and have to avoid certain foods like greens, so no salads. I don’t eat out very frequently, but I try not to worry too much when I do. Each meal or snack is a fresh start — I try not to stress out about what I already ate that day. When I first started, I used an app to track calories and nutritional content. It was helpful to get a realistic sense of portion size, but I found it made me neurotic about eating. I generally eat more during the day than at night and try not to eat carbs without a protein.

        2. Weight lifting three times a week. Basic stuff. I learned a lot from the videos and commentary at Nerd Fitness dot com

        3. Incorporating a walk a couple of days a week. Fast enough that I’m huffing a bit and would be slightly difficult to carry on a conversation. I hate running, but I do try to sprint for at least 2 blocks several times each walk to spike up the heart rate. Each walk is about 45 mins to an hour.

        The food choices were the major change…actually the real change has been my attitude towards food and not using empty calories as a reward.

        As for the exercise, I had previously done boot camps 5x’s a week and didn’t drop hardly any weight. I got very strong and fast (which is awesome!), but remained very heavy because I was justifying eating whatever I wanted because I was being so “good” exercising.

        All this has been very gradual — years in the making and still on the journey. Don’t hesitate to let me know if you have any more specific questions

        1. nep*

          Indeed Every Body is unique and different approaches work for different people.
          When you say ‘very low carb’, what kinds of things have you cut down on or cut out?
          Thanks for sharing this. All the best.

          1. NOLA*

            Low carb for me equals no bread, wraps, pastas or grains.

            I do not worry about or count the carbs that naturally occur in fruits or veggies. I eat a ton of fruit — which a strict low carb person wouldn’t do.

            I’m also not terribly strict about gluten as it occurs as in ingredient in things like soy sauce. I’m not bothered by gluten per se.

            It’s a bit of a cliche, but I pretty much try to only eat things they sell on the perimeter of the grocery store and not in the aisles. Hope that makes sense!

            1. nep*

              Absolutely. Middle of most grocery stores = mostly packaged, processed food-like products.
              Sounds like you’ve done things quite sensibly and sustainably. Thanks for explaining your experience. All the best.

  48. Anonyby*

    So, I’ll be moving in a week and I could use some advice on everything I need to remember to transfer over! I’ve never moved before (discounting living in college dorms, but those weren’t a permanent residence for me).

    1. Programmer 01*

      Whee moving! Good luck to you!

      Stuff to transfer addresses over immediately: Credit card and bank card (if they are separate), mailing address (and if you can get mail forwarding for a few months, it’s totally worth it if you have packages in limbo), Amazon or other online places you regularly shop from, in my case Steam and Paypal or other online digital services I regularly buy from, cable/internet/phone if you have any combination of these, and uh the government for your driver’s license/what-have-you. Also insurance (ALL kinds) if you have any.

      The rest will mostly pop up as you go (I just had a place think I was still living where I lived 4 years ago, whoops, you can tell how often I order stuff from them!), but banking info tends to be the most important. Some places (here, the postal service and ISPs) actually provide moving help with recommendations etc, so their websites might be worth checking out as they have all kinds of checklists!

      1. Anonyby*

        Thanks. The move itself is going to be bittersweet. And thankfully I don’t need to deal with insurance or ISPs… Insurance is already set to go to the other place, and the phone/cable/internet is just going to be cancelled because the new place already has that as well.

        Would updating my address with the DMV also switch over other government things? I’m thinking things like voter registration and jury duty.

        1. fposte*

          State by state on what DMV controls. Even if you *can* switch it at the DMV, you may need to explicitly ask rather than assuming the DL change will trigger it.

      1. De Minimis*

        Bank account is a big one, I made the mistake of not changing mine [bank address was at a PO box that I continued to use] and had a hassle buying groceries because they thought someone had stolen my check card.

        Any utility accounts you need to do immediately, you want service where you live and you don’t want to be paying for utilities at a place you’re no longer at.

        You’re probably right as far as jury duty and the DMV, seems like many places use DMV records for juror pools. You will probably have to do a separate voter registration but you can do that at the DMV.

  49. Elizabeth West*

    *Whinge warning*
    It snowed today. Ugh. I hate winter. I probably wouldn’t mind so much if it didn’t plunge to Arctic temperatures after we get snow. 30 F I can handle, but when it hits the teens for highs, as it is supposed to do this week, I’m just done. On the bright side, I skated fairly well yesterday and today, despite my feet feeling like two blocks of wood.

    I’m clearly not working right now. This book is like pulling teeth and it’s getting worse since things have been NOT going my way. Just have to force myself to do it. I HATE writing first drafts so much. I wish I could just download that bit of my brain into the computer.

    Also, I sent my previous book to a publisher who takes unsolicited submissions and left the SASE sitting on my desk. I discovered it when I got home from mailing it. Way to make myself look like a complete derp.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      We are supposed to get a few inches tomorrow. I hope not. I keep thinking it will be mild this winter.

      1. De Minimis*

        We got about an inch of snow here….I hate winter weather with a passion after last year, but this wasn’t too bad. Didn’t cause any travel problems this morning and it wasn’t all that cold yesterday.

        I’m still hoping we might have a milder winter. I am really wanting this to be our last winter in this location.

  50. Elizabeth West*

    Oh, Alison? I just gave Psycho Kitty a can of Sheba and she inhaled it. I think she likes it. :)

    Plus I got a case of it for only thirty cents more than the case of Fancy Feast, and it had six more cans in it than the FF did!

  51. Persephone Mulberry*

    TL;DR: What would you do with an older car that runs but is no longer reliable?

    I bought a new-to-me car back in January, and opted not to trade in my old one because I figured we could get a better price selling it private party (it runs, could run better with a little work), than what the dealership offered on trade. Well, life happened and it sat and I’d occasionally remember to repost it on Craigslist and we’d get a couple of nibbles but no takers and now it’s been 10 months and I just want the thing gone. Sitting around for almost a year has probably degraded its status from “beater” to “fixer upper” but not quite to “for parts” and I don’t know if I want the hassle of trying to PP it. Has anyone SOLD a car to a dealership, and how did the payout compare to trade in value?

    1. C Average*

      Not sure how attached you are to getting money for it, but if that’s not a factor, you can donate it to various causes and take the tax write-off.

      Goodwill, PBS, and various other nonprofits accept donation of vehicles.

      When my husband’s beloved 18-year-old Civic died a couple years ago, he donated it to a local high school’s shop class. It made him happy to know a group of aspiring mechanics was working to make Civvie run again. Is something like that an option?

      1. Persephone Mulberry*

        I thought about the donation option, and if some unexpected expenses hadn’t come up this year I’d probably already have donated and been done with it. But I’m pretty sure the cash we could get still beats what we’d actually save on taxes, and philanthropy doesn’t buy Christmas presents.

    2. Mints*

      I’d probably repost weekly on Craigslist and keep dropping the price. It’s a hassle to watch the ad, but once you get a buyer, you can get cash back and boom, done.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      I have no idea if the price of metal is up or down. But you could call salvage yards and see what they would give you. If they need to come get it- let them know so they can factor that into the price. Call more than one place- some of these places are not so hot.

  52. NL*

    Does anyone know if you can negotiate down student loans? For example, let’s say I owe $10K for a student loan. Could I call and offer to pay $8K now if they’ll consider it paid off after that? Or do student loans not work that way? (I know you can do this with some other creditors.)

    1. BRR*

      I don’t think it’s possible. Because student loans are usually not able to be discharged in bankruptcy they have no incentive to cut a deal. Credit cards do this because getting $8k and calling it a day is often better than the alternatives. But it never hurts to ask, the worst they can tell you is no.

      1. De Minimis*

        Have you tried some of the various payment plans that take into account income, like IBR? Of course, I know those aren’t available for all loans or for all borrowers.

  53. Mints*

    This is a lot more personal than I usually post on here, but it’s still anonymous so…
    Mr. Mints and I are on a break. We’ve had rough patches before but they usually end with us both promising to do better.
    He moved in with his parents last week, and it feels a lot longer term. We’ve just started couples counseling and the goal is to move back together and try again with the counseling help. It’s a weird situation and everything is in limbo. We still talk every day but things feel strained or artificial sometimes. I haven’t told many people irl because we know we’re going try again, but I don’t know when.
    It’s really rough right now. I’m sad a lot when I’m alone and trying to stay active.

    I’d appreciate success stories of breaks that end up “…better than ever.”

    1. fposte*

      Ah, Mints. People are so complicated. My best wishes to you and Mr. M.

      My brother and sister-in-law are reconciled and happy survivors of a bigger bustup than that, so I know it happens.

    2. acmx*

      I’m sorry, I hope it works out. I do not have a personal story other than a coworker and his wife split (for a few years!) and are still together.

    3. Carrie in Scotland*

      No advice Mints, but just -hugs- and positive thoughts for you & your husband going forward.

    4. C Average*

      My parents split up for a few years when I was around 10. It started with my dad doing a graduate program that involved a semester in another state, but then he didn’t come back home when the program ended and instead got a job in his new city, several hours away. There was infidelity on my mother’s side and fairly open talk of divorce. When we moved to a new house in my dad’s new city, the cynical tween that was me wrote it off as the dumbest idea in the world.

      They made it. They have been together for 45 years next month. They adore each other and are having a wonderful semi-retirement together. I admire the holy hell out of them. Everything I know about real grownup love I’ve learned from watching them put that relationship back together.

      Good luck.

    5. Not So NewReader*

      I wish I knew the name of the book. The writer talks about the stages of marriage. I believe he said there are 4 stages. Stage three is where most divorces occur. He said that it starts with a struggle for each person in the relationship to have their own identity and then at some point there is a shock of sorts that “yep, we are two separate people”. His comment was if couples survive this they will probably stay together for the rest of their lives. I think he indicated the relationship is rewoven or re-designed.

      I wish I could remember the name of the book. Maybe someone here knows. I was really impressed with the little I read about the book- I liked how the author seemed to make sense out of all the stuff couples get hit with. I also like that he talked about what it takes to get through the crisis and he indicated that it is actually fairly normal for couples to go through this. (Notice, no mention of it being easy. NO, it’s freakin’ hard.)

      Maybe you can find something like that to read and possibly share with Mr Mints.

      Sending positive wishes your way.

      1. fposte*

        I don’t remember this particular part, but I wonder if it could be John Gottman, who does some really interesting nuts and bolts stuff about marriage.

    6. just a girl*

      Sending good thoughts your way. I just wanted to mention that your not telling people you know is best. I know you might feel like commiserating, but it’s best to keep it between both of you. I’ve had similar situations happen to me, and have seen it happen with other people.

  54. The Maple Teacup*

    The last few months I’ve been saving money for the next time Alison offers to look over resumes. Just a bit here and there and finally collected enough. I also care for a 13 year old cat (Morrie) who has been getting progressively skinnier as time passes. Concerned, I took Morrie to the vet last week. The vet suspects pancreatitis and recommended an abdominal ultrasound for more information. A funding choice had to be made (Resume vs ultrasound) and medical care won out. I regret nothing! :) Please send Morrie good thoughts.

    1. nep*

      Good luck. Sending out good thoughts and vibes for Morrie. How wonderful of you that Morrie’s ultrasound won out.
      (I think a fund should be set up for AAMers to help you buy that resume review.)

    2. MommaTRex*

      Sending good thoughts.
      Please send some back for my 14-year-old Squirt. Considering a biopsy for what is probably a cancerous tumor on his back leg. Just mad that we’ve already spent a bunch of money on tests to tell us it is probably cancer, but it isn’t “definitive”.

      Anyone have advice on whether we should consider amputating his leg? It’ll cost a lot more just for the tests to find out if he is a good candidate. At 14 years, I don’t know if I can do that to my sweetie. But he is otherwise healthy; you wouldn’t know there is anything wrong with him other than the large growth.

      1. Persephone Mulberry*

        I know this is hard, but for a 14 year old cat (probably for any age cat) I probably would not.

        1. MommaTRex*

          Thanks. I’m trying to compare it to me – – at what age would I say “no way” to doing it to myself? I know cats are living longer lives than ever, but I think I’m tending to agree that 14 is over the borderline age for treatments that could hurt his quality of life. I already know that I won’t put him through chemotherapy.

  55. Anx*

    Does anyone know if the IRS will automatically add tax breaks to your return? Once I got extra money back that I didn’t apply for during that time a few years ago–I think it was stimulus related. I’m in the US.

    I’m asking because this year I ended up overestimating my income, got laid off, and never updated my profile for ACA advanced tax credits. But I don’t make enough to pay income taxes. I made about 3,000 this year.

    Next year I plan to make more and I will be graduating. I have no idea how to estimate my income. I cannot afford health insurance without any subsidies; Medicaid is not an option (I have no children) and my old crappy plan is dropped of course.

    I think I can realistically hope to make over 12,000 next year. As it is I will be making about 700 a month if I keep my hours as is and I do hope to get full-time job at some point after the spring. But there’s a good chance that tax deductions I don’t won’t can jeopardize this.

    Any advice?

  56. Masters Degree Searcher*

    I’ve been seeing my boyfriend for around 9 months. I met his mom, and she is awesome. They both are incredibly warm, friendly, hilarious amazing people. Problem is–my parents. My mom’s dealbreakers are if the guy is not of a certain ethnicity, and the guy cannot come from what she terms a “broken family.” My boyfriend’s dad had a breakdown/did really bad white collar stuff and left the family; his mom coped and moved on, and my boyfriend does chores at the house every weekend and is as devoted as can be.

    My mom acknowledges that it’s not a guy’s fault if he comes from a ‘broken family’ but I can’t date a guy like that. However, I am. I haven’t told either of my parents at all (they subsidize my phone bill since I’m in a contract job and applying to fellowships at the moment). I can’t afford my phone if they cut me off. (I do have my own apt and pay my own groceries).

    At what point do I tell my parents I’m seeing a guy who is 1. White, and 2. Comes from divorced parents?
    I once joked to my bf that it’d be well after being hypothetically hitched and me possibly with child. He laughed and said he hopes it’s earlier than that, but he knows how difficult my parents can be, and how protective they are of me (only girl in the family).

    Thoughts? Ideas? Thanks…

    1. Diet Coke Addict*

      Well, your mom can have all the dealbreakers she likes, but she is not dating this person, you are. You live on your own, your parents cannot forbid you from dating anyone you please (as you have demonstrated).

      You’ve been dating this person for nine months, but there’s no time limit on this. If you want to reveal this to your parents, you are the only person who can come up with the appropriate time to do it. If you think it is, it probably is. In which case it’s time to come up with a script and a plan. A script for what to say to your parents, and a plan for what to do if they cut off your phone bill.

      The script will probably be along the lines of “I have something to tell you. I have been dating This Person for a while now, and he is great.” If your parents press for more information, like his ethnicity, “He is white.” If they don’t like that, “I’m sorry that you don’t like that, but I am going to continue seeing This Person.” If they threaten to cut off your phone bill, that is where your plan comes in–either go without a cell phone, or downgrade to a pay-as-you-go, or whatever. It may suck, but is it worth it to you to be out from under your parents’ thumb?

      It’s pretty racist to tell you that you’re not allowed to date people from a certain race, and it sucks. But you are really the only person who can make a judgment call about whether or not your parents should know and how much they should know. Try searching the archives at Captain Awkward for scripts on difficult conversations with parents. Good luck.

    2. nep*

      Is the main concern that they would cut off your phone were they to find out? If so, are there any alternatives that would allow you to free yourself from that financial tie?
      I hope you’ll be able to follow your heart and be true to yourself, however things might evolve. It might just have to be the unfortunate reality that what you want does not make your parents happy — but that is life. You are your own person; don’t you think they have to respect you enough to let you be with the person you want to be with?

      1. Masters Degree Searcher*

        Re: respecting me enough to let me be with the person I want to be with: True in theory, but tough to implement. They’ve paid for my schooling and come from a strict culture dictating that parents have the say over all else, and there is no such thing as “respect” for kids—that’s an American thing. I’ve got a job (contract) and I’m applying to top roles so hopefully I can escape soon.

    3. Graciosa*

      You tell them when you are a mature adult who is fully responsible for her own life and her own choices.

      You know your parents’ ideas are not consistent with your own values, but it sounds like you’re not willing to risk losing your phone subsidy by letting them know you disagree. If that’s the case, you will have to wait until you can find enough money in the budget to cover your phone – and anything else they pay for – before breaking the news.

      I am more sympathetic to the difficulty of being self-sufficient while in school than I probably sound, but it’s close to impossible to make the “I’m an adult, and this is the choice I have made in my life” speech about your boyfriend when your parents are going to come back with any reference to your continued financial dependance.

      Good luck.

    4. Alissa C*

      Dan Savage has general advice (that I tend to agree with) of: if you’re living at home/in college and financially dependent, keep relationship stuff to yourself. If you’re generally independent, be truthful, and find ways to go without the stuff they’re subsidizing. (Because being thrown out of home or college could wreck your life more than not sharing your relationship info).

      In general you are independent, if they only thing they’re helping to pay for is your cell phone.
      There are so many cheaper phone options out there. Pay as you go is seriously cheap, especially if you limit your usage to what you need (job search calls).

      Your mom saying you “can’t” date a guy like X…well is wrong since you can and are. :)
      You’re dating someone you obviously think is wonderful. It may be hard, and you might need to take a break from your parents until they can learn to be nice again (assuming they have a bad reaction), but you’re an adult, you care about your boyfriend, and he deserves to fully be a part of your life, the way he’s made you fully a part of his.

      Instead of dropping a “bomb” on them, why not just invite them to meet your boyfriend, without breaking it down into describing him by race or childhood home life?
      It might be good to invite them out someplace public to meet him, to cut down on potential drama, and give you an easy out if you need to withdrawal.

      Of course, you may be worrying for naught. They could surprise you and embrace your boyfriend for the great person he is.

      Either way, Best of Luck with whatever you decide.

      1. Masters Degree Searcher*

        Re: home life/etc: When I’m on the phone, my mom asks 2 questions regarding if I’m seeing someone: 1. Is he white, and 2. Does he come from a broken family. My first boyfriend’s parents were divorced, and he didn’t treat me well. Also, my cousin’s ex-husband was an attorney who did cocaine and lied about his bad finances. My mom’s paranoid about all this/worried I guess.

    5. fposte*

      Sometimes there’s something to be said for framing your choice as, in fact, what they raised you to do: “You always told me that I should find someone who appreciated me, treated me well, and respected me. I think you’ll be proud of how well I’ve taken your advice to heart; I hope I’ll be proud of how you treat him.”

    6. BRR*

      You know your parents better than I do obviously but do you think that if they met him and saw how great he is they would get over it? Could you leave out the white and broken home part until later or maybe just reveal one? While usually I don’t approve of dragging other people in do you have a sibling or a family member who can be an ally? I’m not sure if any of these are stellar ideas but thought I’d throw them out there.

      1. Masters Degree Searcher*

        The sibling I was supposed to have was stillborn (very sad story). Anyways, I am, however, meeting a cousin’s future wife who has the same educational background as me, and adding cousins, aunts, and uncles on facebook, where I post about me & my boyfriend’s super-cool day-to-day adventures..

    7. Not So NewReader*

      Since 50% of marriages end in divorce, it’s going to be tough to find someone who is not from a “broken home”. Although, I am not divorced myself, I hate-hate-hate the way divorced people are still treated in this country.
      I suspect your parents are religious people? If so, remind them that Jesus said above all else love each other. Tell them that applies to your boyfriend and his family, too. They need to learn to love their fellow human being. And this means, brotherly/sisterly love.

      But as another poster pointed out the one who holds the purse strings in the one who calls the shots. A wise person told me, be careful who you take money from. Something is always expected in return. Always. Basically, when we accept money from other people they are buying a part of us. Oh, it may not seem so at first, but after a bit we start to realize, “hey, I am stuck here.” And this is what is happening to you. Even living under their roof without using their money still constitutes accepting money from them. They are providing shelter and utilities, which have monetary value.

      Notice I am not mention fairness here. Because fairness never enters the discussion.

      If they have a church they attend maybe you can talk to their pastor for some insights or help.

    8. Observer*

      If your phone is really the only thing your parents are subsidizing, you need to decide whether your boyfriend (and independence?) are more important to you than the phone. Of course, as the others have pointed out, it won’t hurt to find ways to reduce the cost of the phone.

      If you are ready to take the chance you stop hiding. You don’t have to bring everything up all at once, but you can let the fact that you are seriously dating out in the normal course of events. After that, let things take their course. You do need to decide what your red lines are and how you are going to respond. eg If you mom uses racial epithets, you politely end the conversation with “Mom, I can’t continue the conversation when you talk that way about my BF”

    9. INTP*

      The correct point is when you can handle the financial fallout, and it’s worth it to you. I personally would probably not say anything until financially independent. If you are very serious about this relationship and you want to take it to a level where it would be difficult to hide, then start working on becoming financially independent now so you can make it happen sooner rather than later. If you can hold out, it’s probably best for you to wait until after school (I just tend to believe it’s better in the long-term if people can focus on school in school rather than making ends meet).

      You know, waiting until you are with child might not be such a bad idea. People can be more compromising when there’s a grandchild in the picture that they risk losing all access to! (I’m only being about 10% serious here.)

      1. Masters Degree Searcher*

        I completely agree with this advice re: financial independence. I’m actively interviewing for longer-term (non-contract) roles and praying that one of them (and/or fellowships) miraculously come through..

  57. Cassie*

    I’m thinking of getting a spiralizer (spiral slicer) to cut up veggies into noodle-like strands. The Paderno spiral slicer seems popular on Amazon. Anyone have this or something similar?

    1. nep*

      Funny you should mention this today — I’ve been looking at those on Amazon, reading reviews…still on the fence about whether to get one. I’ll be interested to see the replies. I use a julienne slicer on zucchini, cucumbers, and carrots just about every day and I quite like how that turns out. Seems it would be great to have that spiral slicer.

    2. Alissa C*

      Have you checked out It doesn’t help w/ recommending a brand (she recommends one, though I haven’t tried it). But when I was considering buying it, I went through all her recipes to think about whether or not I’d actually use it frequently enough. Were there enough recipes that I -had- to make regularly to make room in my limited kitchen storage for a new potentially “unitasker” gadget?

      I ultimately decided against it….for now. But seeing the stuff people make helped me decide if I’d use it enough.
      (I have friend who have tried the handheld ones, and the put your on countertop ones, and say the handheld ones are more limiting if you work with a lot of thicker veggies).

      1. Cassie*

        I did, actually! I stumbled onto the site and immediately decided that I needed to get a spiral slicer ASAP. And then I thought “wait, am I actually going to use this?” and back and forth and back and forth. I finally bit the bullet and got the Paderno one (which, I think, is the one recommended at the site) – we’ll see how it goes :)

  58. Kat*

    I usually check your website from my phone, it’s an android. Whenever I click the post to go to comments, it forces a shut down of my internet. Every. Single. Time. I am using the default browser on the phone.

    I am on the laptop now. I just wanted to put this out there and see if anyone else has had this issue and if so, how did they work around it?

    1. fposte*

      She actually mentions this as a known problem with older Androids in yesterday’s post; it sounded like no fix was forthcoming.

    2. Anonymous Educator*

      I’m on Android also. Maybe try Firefox or Chrome instead of the default browser? I haven’t had issues with those two browsers on this site.

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Yes — the default browser on older models of Android phones has this happen, but if you use Firefox or Chrome, it will work. Unfortunately the cost in making it work correctly on that default browser on older phones ended up just being prohibitive :(

      1. Kat*

        Thank you everyone for the replies. I missed seeing it mentioned in the post yesterday.
        I will probably download one of the other two browsers to use just for this website, I really enjoy reading the comments even if I rarely post.

  59. Anonsie*

    Here’s a pickle for y’all. I love Thanksgiving. LOVE IT. I love turkey and cranberry and mashed potatoes and greens and all that kind of goodness. It’s also usually the only time I get to see my family all year because I live in another state. I look forward to it all year.

    Plans changed suddenly this year and rather than come to visit me, my extended family is going to my hometown instead. A family member passed away a few weeks ago and I imagine that has something to do with it. I’ve been on the fence about paying for an ungodly expensive plane ticket, even though I really want to go. My partner’s parents, who are immigrants and don’t really celebrate any such holidays, heard we had some time off and wants us to do the half day drive out to see them for that Thursday and the following weekend. The thing is, they don’t really speak English and I don’t speak their language, so visiting them can be a little rough. I tentatively agreed but said I was still thinking about it, but I’m pretty sure my partner told them we were coming because he is allergic to nuance sometimes.

    Now I’m not sure if I’ll offend my partner’s family more by backing out and going home, or if I’ll upset my own extended family more by not coming to visit while everyone is mourning. There hasn’t been a funeral yet (it’s in January, Arlington is apparently extremely difficult to get in to) and they are kind of discouraging us from going to the funeral so even though they haven’t said it, this holiday is somewhat of a stand-in for that I think. I don’t really want to do either thing.

    1. Jazzy Red*

      You and your partner can start your own holiday tradition this year. Spend your time together doing whatever (big dinner, volunteering at a shelter, planning your shopping), call your family and your partner’s, and then consider spending one day and one night with your partner’s family. If you are planning to stay together long term, it would make sense to want to celebrate Thanksgiving your way, and the families should recognize that.

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