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DCUM Weblog

Monday's Most Active Threads

by Jeff Steele last modified Feb 27, 2024 07:19 PM

Yesterday's topics with the most engagement included a dispute between sisters about wedding invitations, laws about divorce and pregnancy, a self-immolation at the Israeli embassy, and a cook with poor planning skills.

I'm going to have to work my way up to discussing the most active thread yesterday. As many are aware, DCUM originally started as a mailing list. The first use of forums was to offload posts advertising or searching for nannies because they were creating too much traffic for the mailing list. After that, the forums grew organically and we mostly added them at the request of users. I don't remember the circumstances that led to the creation of the "Family Relationships" forum, but I am fairly certain that it would have been due to users' requests. I would never have come up with the idea for this forum and have never had great expectations for it. For years the forum trundled along almost like a backwater with nothing much happening within it. But more recently the forum has become a source of endless drama. Posters have a knack for turning the most mundane of interactions in to a double-digit page length spectacle. Such was the case with yesterday's most active thread. Titled, "Invitations haven't been sent yet" and, as I alluded to, posted in the "Family Relationships" forum, the original poster's conflict could hardly be less remarkable. Her niece, who lives across the country, will be getting married this summer. Apparently a date for the wedding has been agreed upon, but not officially announced. The original poster contacted her sister to ask if the date is solid because she wants to purchase airline tickets while they are still cheap. It will be an expensive trip regardless and she doesn't want to have to pay even higher prices later. The original poster's sister responded by saying, "Invitations haven't been sent yet" which angered the original poster and seems to have brought to the surface other longstanding resentments she has towards her sibling. The original poster seems to have meant this post mostly as a vent. The entire incident is pretty simple from the original poster's point of view. Her sister is strange and inconsiderate, she provided a strange and unhelpful response, not for the first time she has upset the original poster, and the original poster will simply ask her niece about the date instead. Personally, I can't imagine a response to this post beyond, "I understand your frustration and I hope it all works out." That, of course, is only if I bothered to respond at all, which I wouldn't have. But, those who did respond are not like me. Instead, multiple posters attacked the original poster with one calling her "way out of line" and accusing a her of pressuring a stressed-out bride. Others analyzed the sister's response, suggesting it might mean that either the wedding is in trouble and might not come off or that the original poster is not invited. No amount of assurances by the original poster that this was not the case would stop the speculation. I am not sure why the original poster chose to repeatedly engage the responders. That only seemed to cause them to pick more holes in her story or find new reasons to criticize her.

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The Most Active Thread Since Friday

by Jeff Steele last modified Feb 27, 2024 08:27 AM

The topics with the most engagement since my last blog post included parents' issues with DEIB, changes at WAMU, a letter to mother-in-laws, and moms who continue to pursue careers even though they have high-earning husbands.

The three most active threads over the weekend were ones that I have discussed before and will therefore skip today. That means that I will be starting with what was actually the fourth most active thread. That thread was titled, "Why do parents have such an issue with DEIB" and posted in the "Private & Independent Schools" forum. I was aware that Diversity, Equity, and inclusion or DEI initiatives had become a popular bugaboo in certain quarters, in many cases replacing Critical Race Theory, or CRT, as the root of all evil, but I was hitherto unfamiliar with the additional "B". Some quick Googling revealed that the "B" is for "belonging" and that "DEIB" is a popular alternative to "DEI". The original poster of this thread suggests that many parents have misconceptions of what is involved with DEIB and that she never sees assignments of the sort that others claim are prompted by DEIB. She says that she knows of parents who claim to be basing school choices on the avoidance of DEIB and wants to know why they are so threatened by it. This is the sort of discussion that can go one of two ways on DCUM. Because DCUM's users, especially in the private school forum, tend to be highly-educated, experienced, and, might I say, worldly, there could be a nuanced, sophisticated, and intelligent discusion. But, this is a polarizing topic and the discussion could be one that reflects simplistic and overly-generalized arguments that are often based on stereotypes or false impressions. Because the smart move would be to avoid this type of discussion in the first place, there are more posts from the second category than the first. In very broad strokes, the extreme positions in this thread are, on one hand, that any one who opposes DEIB is a racist and, on the other hand, that White people are tired of being called racists and, therefore, don't like DEIB. A more nuanced example was a post suggesting that an emphasis on race and gender ignores other important social divisions, particularly those involving class. While affinity groups for Black or LGBTQ groups are embraced, one poster wondered how parents would react to "a ‘working class’ affinity group in the schools? Particularly one in which teachers shared their experiences of their salaries and what it’s actually like to teach the children of the upper class?" Many of the criticisms of DEIB seem to of the sort described by the original poster and demonstrate a misunderstanding of DEIB. Throughout the thread posters make claims about DEIB but then, when asked, are unable to provide specific examples. Several posters say that they support the goals of DEIB but that efforts have "gone too far". One dilemma with which I see posters struggling is how to reconcile often conflicting values. For instance, affinity groups can be both important support mechanisms for groups that don't align with the majority, but also divisive factors that hinder unity and cohesion. This thread also attracted a couple of posters who seem to perennially argue about DEI, DEIB, wokeness, and so on.

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Thursday's Most Active Threads

by Jeff Steele last modified Feb 26, 2024 12:19 PM

Yesterday's most active topics included Yale becoming "text flexible", MCPS's Virtual Academy, and Wisconsin Avenue development. Concluding today is a look at a day in the life of one of DCUM's most active trolls.

Yesterday's most active thread was the one about the soccer club merger. The rumor that started that thread finally turned out to be true with official announcements of the merger. The most active thread after that was titled, "Per NYT, Yale now ‘test flexible’" and posted in the "College and University Discussion" forum. I was disappointed with the effort put into the initial post by the original poster. While the title referenced a New York Times article, there was no link to the article. Nor was an excerpt provided, but rather a short, one-sentence summary. Yale University has decided to once again require that standardized test scores be submitted by applicants. However, the policy that Yale describes as "test flexible" will allow applicants "to submit scores from subject-based Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate tests in lieu of SAT or ACT scores." I have discussed a number of test-related threads in this blog and this thread has much in common with previous threads. The various points of view are well-established. At one end of the spectrum are posters who believe that standardized tests are the best method of identifying the students most likely to be successful in college. These posters often claim that test optional policies are simply a ruse allowing admission of less prepared minority students. At the other end of the spectrum are posters who oppose tests which they believe may be biased against minorities and subject to gaming by affluent families who can afford extensive test prepration and test retakes. As was the case earlier when Dartmouth University reversed its test optional policy, this policy change is being cast as being in the interest of underrepresented minority students. The theory is that such students have not been submitting their scores because they believed them to be too low. However, schools would have viewed the scores in context of the students' background and given weight to scores even if they were lower than those of more privileged students. Therefore, by not submitting test scores, these students were actually hurting their chances. This sounds great in theory but I am skeptical about how it will work in practice. The Supreme Court decision prohibiting race from being a factor in admissions was based on evidence that Harvard University and the University of North Carolina were admitting minority students with lower test scores than White or Asian students. Now, Yale and Dartmouth are essentially saying that they plan to do exactly that. When asked about the legal implications of this by the New York Times, Yale's dean of undergraduate admissions basically shrugged it off. As a result, I am somewhat suspicious that the claims about URMs are a cynical cover story and the real motivation for dropping test optional policies is to appease certain stakeholders who are likely to benefit from requiring test scores (or at least believe they will benefit). So it will be interesting to see how this plays out in practice.

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Wednesday's Most Active Threads

by Jeff Steele last modified Feb 22, 2024 11:53 AM

The topics with the most engagement yesterday included concern about a choice of a less prestigious college, the Supreme Court of Alabama's ruling regarding embryos, the School Without Walls' application process, and the intrusion of religion into the legal system,

The two most active threads yesterday were both threads that I discussed in yesterday's blog post, the one about about broke men on online dating and the one about the soccer club merger (still no official announcement). I will skip those two and start with a thread titled, "Talk me off a ledge" and posted in the "College and University Discussion" forum. The original poster says that her daughter has been offered a full scholarship to East Stroudsburg University and even though she has been accepted by more prestigious universities — though without aid — she is considering accepting the scholarship. The original poster does not appear to be very impressed by the university and cannot find any information about its outcomes for pre-health (e.g. pre-med) studies which her daughter plans to pursue. The original poster is worried that choosing this school will limit her daughter's chances for graduate school and professional opportunities. She asks that others help her gain some perspective. This is a situation over which the college admissions fantasy league players salivate because they can not only game out undergraduate admissions, but graduate admissions as well. Most of them simply requested more information about other schools that accepted the student. A number of posters suggested giving the school a chance and possibly transferring later. Quite a few other posters thought that East Stroudsburg might be an ideal choice. The original poster's daughter could hopefully stand out as a big fish in a small pond, earn a high grade point average, and be a great candidate for medical school. Moreover, not paying for undergraduate studies will leave money for graduate school. Later in the thread, the original poster says that anyone who reads the college forum generally would understand her concerns. This alludes to the fixation most of the forum's posters have on top universities. There seems to be a conviction among many of the forum's posters that failing to attend a school within the top 50 is a sign of failure. Another concern about East Stroudsburg that some posters had was not about the academics, but rather the social aspects of the school. These posters thought that the relatively small non-commuter student body and the perceived caliber of students that attend could have a significant impact compared to the atmosphere at other schools. Several posters strongly rejected the idea of attending a school such as ESU. For the most part these posters did not explain their reasoning, perhaps believing the explanation was self-evident, but they were very adement that paying for another university would be better than attending ESU for free.

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Tuesday's Most Active Threads

by Jeff Steele last modified Feb 21, 2024 12:25 PM

Yesterday's topics with the most engagement included a rumored partnership between soccer clubs, an unhappy marriage due to an affair, too many poor men using online dating, and starting 1st grade at 7 years of age.

The most active thread yesterday was a bit of a surprise. Titled, "ECNL forcing Brave & Union Partnership" and posted in the "Soccer" forum, this is the second thread from the soccer forum to be among the most active threads this month. Like the earlier one, this thread consists mostly of rumors and discussion of rumors. The thread was started nearly a week ago with a post simply saying, "Fall 2024 - ECNL is forcing Brave to partner/merge with Union. Confirmed." As I said when I discussed the soccer thread last week, I have no idea what any of this means. I think that ECNL is some sort of administrative body or league within which various clubs compete. Brave and Union, I deduce, are clubs that have both boys and girls teams of various ages. The thread added roughly 9 pages of new posts yesterday which accounts for its being the most active thread of the day. A couple of caveats: this is a 28 page thread and I have read very little of it. I have no idea whether the original rumor is true, but one of the latest posts in the thread says that a formal announcement will be made today. So, I guess we will see. The only other thing that I will say is that this thread is a perfect illustration of how you ruin a website such as DCUM. Because the original post was completely based on a rumor with nothing to support its validity, many posters did not believe it. The original poster's use of the word "Confirmed" became an object of mockery with posters posting outlandish rumors followed by saying "confirmed". Basically the thread consists of little more than pages of nonsense and I don't know why anyone would waste their time reading it. Some time ago, the soccer forum became so unruly that I changed it to require registration in order to post. This led to months of posters repeatedly requesting that I remove that requirement, which I eventually did. But, this thread suggests that posters in the forum still do not have the ability to behave responsibly. The forum participants are also terrible about policing themselves. Just about the only ones to ever report posts in the forum are coaches who have been bashed and want the negative posts about them removed. The regular posters seem to be quite happy with endless drivel. As a result, not only was this thread the most active yesterday, but it was probably also the most useless. Confirmed.

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Monday's Most Active Threads

by Jeff Steele last modified Feb 20, 2024 11:38 AM

Yesterday's topics with the most engagement included rejecting Joe Biden, colleges checking parent's LinkedIn, a surprise email from a federal supervisor, and Beyoncé's foray into Country music.

The most active thread yesterday was the Gaza war thread that has held this position frequently. But, since I have discussed that thread already, I'll move to the next most active. That one was not altogether unrelated. Titled, "I tipped over the line this week and can’t support Biden", and posted in the "Political Discussion" forum, the original poster says that she has finally reached the point where she can no longer vote for President Joe Biden. She says that she cannot vote for a candidate who supports genocide and emphasizes that she is a 50-something Christian with no direct connection to the Gaza conflict. She agrees that former President Donald Trump is worse, but says that is not enough and she will sit this election out. I am not sure that Biden and his campaign staff are aware of how widespread this sentiment is among otherwise faithful Democratic voters. Many are aware that this position is widespread among Arab and Muslim Americans, as well as young voters who are allegedly influenced by TikTok, but it is increasingly common among those such as the original poster who don't fit those categories. This is a real danger to Biden's reelection which was already in trouble without this added risk. The responses to the original poster are basically the same as those we see on the national political scene. The the most frequent response, that Trump is worse, is obviously true, but has already been considered and rejected by the original poster. Others try to argue technicalities such as disputing that Israel's actions in Gaza amount to genocide or that Biden doesn't actually support the most extreme measures. Arguments about what is or is not genocide matter little to those such as the original poster and arguing that the killing of nearly 30 thousand people, most of whom are civilians, is not genocide is not convincing. Almost weekly the Biden administration publicizes its concerns about Israel's actions, but immediately follows those up with approvals of more arms transfers. Actions matter more than words, regardless of the number of leaks about Biden's private irritation with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Another reaction is a lot of foot stomping and bullying by Biden supporters. But this is likely to backfire and simply make things worse. Name-calling, ridicule, and attempted intimidation are not particularly successful methods of persuasion. The United Nations Security Council is currently considering a resolution calling for a permanent ceasefire. The Biden administration has already promised to veto the measure. This action will be interpreted by the original poster and others as support for Israel's continued devastation of Gaza and only make Biden's problems with such voters worse. Perhaps demonstrating some understanding of the electoral threat, Biden is reportedly considering a substitute resolution calling for a temporary ceasefire. But Biden's ability to dig himself out of this hole with half-measures is doubtful.

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The Most Active Threads Since Friday

by Jeff Steele last modified Feb 19, 2024 02:57 PM

The topics with the most engagement since my last blog post included preventing a son from getting a tattoo, the intellect of business majors, a 13-year-old caught drinking, and a 39-year-old trainer's disappointing dating experiences.

The most active thread since my last blog post on Friday was the one about the court proceedings in Georgia that I've already discussed and will skip today. The most active thread after that one was titled, "Best way to keep kid from getting a tattoo while in college" and posted in the "Tweens and Teens" forum. When I first read the title of this thread, I thought this was a very esoteric concern given the full spectrum of things that can go wrong during college. But the original poster's explanation, that her son plays a sport in college that has a strong tattoo culture and he is feeling pressured to get one, made the concern understandable. Most of those responding seemed pretty pessimistic about the chances of preventing the child from getting a tattoo. Instead, they suggested offering advice about the placement and design of it instead of trying to prevent a tattoo altogether. Some posters suggested threatening to stop paying for college if he got a tattoo. Others took the opposition approach and suggesting offering a cash reward if he didn't get one. The most innovative idea, though not necessarily the best one, was for the original poster to get a tattoo herself, likely turning off her son from the ideas. This sort of reverse psychology was behind suggestions to praise tattoos and to declare them to be good ideas. I was a bit dismayed that almost none of those responding suggested simply having calm and mature discussions about the pros and cons of tattoos. They all seemed to prefer either control, manipulation, or resignation. One exception was a poster who suggested having a conversation about the opinion of the Maori people about specific tattoo trends and other pitfalls of tattoos. The poster also advised discussing non-permanent ways in which the original poster's son could decorate himself. The original poster explicitly stated that she was not intending to start a debate about tattoos themselves, but that was clearly wishful thinking. Before long, posters who support tattoos and posters who don't were not only arguing, but calling each other childish names. Over half the thread is probably substance-free bickering, none of which had much to do with the original poster's question.

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Thursday's Most Active Threads

by Jeff Steele last modified Feb 16, 2024 12:38 PM

The topics with the most engagement yesterday included being called a "sadsack", a sexual assault by an Uber driver, test optional college admissions, and the impact of children on a women's career.

The most active thread yesterday was titled, "My mother-in-law called me a ‘sadsack’" and posted in the "Family Relationships" forum. The original poster says that her husband makes enough money that she was able to quit a job that she hated and has been staying home enjoying the chance to decompress. Over the weekend, her mother-in-law came over to babysit and asked the original poster, when she would stop "sitting around like a sadsack." This greatly upset the original poster who has been dwelling on it for several days and even emailed her mother-in-law teling her that she had been offended. The mother-in-law is a retired lawyer for whom work was always very important and she probably can't relate to the original poster's desire to relax for a while. While the purpose of the thread was for the original poster to simply vent, the family relationships forum has an amazing ability to turn the most mundane of topics into a lengthy thread and this one has already reached 16 pages. Much of the discussion is provoked by the specific term used by the mother-in-law, "sadsack". This normally refers to someone who is sitting around moping and feeling sorry for themself. The original poster says that this does not describe her and the suggestion that it does is offensive. Nevertheless, many posters contend that the mother-in-law's choice of that term must reflect her perception of the original poster. As such, some posters suggest ways that the original poster might try to change that perception. Other posters try to explain, if not outright justify, the mother-in-law's description of the original poster. Many posters suggest simply shrugging the whole thing off. On the other hand, a number of posters are sympathetic to the original poster and are critical of the mother-in-law. Some argue that having time to decompress is normal and healthy and that there is no reason to criticize the original poster for not working. What contributes to making this thread lengthy are posts that attempt to read into the original poster's situation, for instance suggesting that there might be some truth to her mother-in-law's remark or, going further, arguing that the original poster is taking advantage of her husband and possibly overburdening him. This in turn provokes complaints about negative stereotypes about women who don't work out of the house. Ultimately, I have to agree with the poster who wrote, "10 pages of handwringing over the word "sad sack." Some of you need thicker skins." Little did that poster know that the handwringing would continue for another 6 pages.

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Wednesday's Most Active Threads

by Jeff Steele last modified Feb 15, 2024 11:18 AM

The topics with the most engagement yesterday included Girls Lacrosse, MCPS high school bathrooms, the Charles Allen recall effort, and Arlington losing young families.

One again, the Travis and Taylor thread was the most active, but like yesterday, I will skip that thread today because I have already discussed it. The next most active thread after that was titled, "2028 Girls Lacrosse" and posted in the "Lacrosse" forum. I know almost nothing about lacrosse so asking me to discuss the topic is similar to asking a group of blind people to describe an elephant. They each might get an individual part of the animal correct, but will probably miss the larger picture. It is my assumption that the "2028" in the title refers to the high school graduation year of the players which would mean that this thread is meant to discuss middle school-aged athletes. But I would not be surprised to learn that I am even wrong about that. This thread was started last November, but became active yesterday after a post beginning, "Here is some pre-season material from BOTC to get you fired up:". I have no idea who or what "BOTC" is, but the post did have the effect of firing up other posters. Or, perhaps "fired up" is too strong but it certainly got them posting. There was a ton of back and forth regarding which teams would do well and how one team might match up with another. But that did not even rise to the level of trash talk. Things got a bit heated when discussion turned to a team — at least I think it is a team — called "Lumberlax". If I understood correctly, a parent associated with that team was accused of "poaching" players from other teams. Moreover, one poster reported that Lumberlax parents had made some controversial statements about another team. But, then it turned out that Lumberlax isn't really a full-fledged team but more or less an ad hoc effort organized for a small number of games primarily to raise money for charity. Moreover, almost everyone denies that the alleged controversial statements by parents that were described had actually been made, but they are deeply sorry if they were. Most posters seem to believe the post about the statements was a troll. The only other thing I picked up from this thread is that it is entirely appropriate to respond to any question by writing, "IYKYK" and not only is there a "IYKYK guy", but he has an assistant. I'm sure that being the assistant to the IYKYK guy is very prestigious and a position to which we should all aspire.

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Tuesday's Most Active Threads

by Jeff Steele last modified Feb 14, 2024 03:58 PM

Yesterday's topics with the most engagement included the foreign aid bill passed by the Senate, a search for a surrogate, not taking precautions while having covid, and potential changes to MCPS programs.

Yesterday the most active thread was the Travis and Taylor thread that I've already discussed and will therefore skip today. The second was a thread about a two-hour delay in opening Montgomery County Public Schools yesterday. However, that thread was started with only a link — a violation of DCUM guidelines — and was simply 12 pages of posters complaining about the delay. It is no longer relevant and combined with the link-only first post, I decided to delete it rather than discuss it. That left the first thread to be discussed today to one titled, "The Senate passed a $95.3 billion aid package for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan" and posted in the "Political Discussion" forum. This aid package has had a long and complicated history. The Biden Administration originally requested significant aid to Ukraine as part of the National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA, which Congress considered toward the end of last year. Republicans in the House of Representatives opposed the assistance unless it was accompanied by an immigration bill strengthening border security. As a result, the NDAA was eventually passed with only a small assistance package for Ukraine and a bipartisan group of Senators began negotiating an immigration bill that could be part of a larger aid package. This month, Republican Senator James Lankford announced that he had achieved bipartisan agreement on such a bill, but former President Donald Trump immediately announced his opposition to the bill because he would rather have border security be an issue during the presidential campaign. Reflecting Trump's influence, almost all Republicans — even some of those who had helped negotiate the bill — announced opposition to it. Ultimately only 4 Republicans would vote in favor of the legislation which failed to overcome a Republican filibuster. Senators then pulled the foreign assistance package from the combined immigration/foreign assistance bill and voted on it separately. This thread was started after passage of that legislation. However, the bill must now return to the House for passage in that chamber. House Republicans, who had joined Trump's opposition to the bipartisan Senate immigration legislation and rejected immigration reform, are now demanding that immigration reform be part of the bill. This reflects two 180 degree flips in the House Republican position since December. House Republicans face a number of challenges that are preventing them from producing any serious legislation. First, the caucus has a laser-thin majority which will become one seat less after the winner of yesterday's special election to fill the seat of disgraced Republicans Congressman George Santos is sworn in. This, combined with an insistance by Republican hardliners that important legislation be passed with a Republican majority rather than reliance on Democrats, makes a bill of this nature almost impossible to pass. Several Republicans outright reject any further aid to Ukraine and, like Trump, seem to have no concern about Russia taking over Ukraine. So, there just aren't enough Republican votes and passing such a bill with Democratic votes would likely result in the ouster of House Speaker Mike Johnson. Johnson, rather than risk his speakership or see the aid bill defeated by Republicans, prefers to cloud the issue with demands for immigration reform. The result will likely be a stalemate unless the defense industrial complex, with its eye on billions of dollars, can convince Johnson and his Republican colleagues to have a change of heart.

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