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DCUM Weblog

The Most Active Threads Since Friday

by Jeff Steele last modified Feb 12, 2024 01:47 PM

The topics with the most engagement over the weekend included the non-football aspects of the Super Bowl, helicopter parents being proven right, the Super Bowl halftime show, and a poster angry about Arlington's Missing Middle project.

The most active thread over the weekend was the one that I previously discussed about the special counsel investigation in to President Joe Biden. Skipping that one, the next most active thread was titled, "Non-football Super Bowl 2024 talk" and posted in the "Entertainment and Pop Culture" forum. The Super Bowl is one of those rare sporting events in which the sport itself almost secondary, attracting many viewers who are not football fans and may not even know much about the sport. Hence, as this 24-page thread demonstrates, the pregame and halftime entertainment, commercials, and even audience members can attract as much, if not more, attention as what happens on the field. This thread was created exclusively to discuss the non-football aspects of the event. One off-field drama that has been dominating headlines for weeks involves the relationship between Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce and singer Taylor Swift. The couple, who even have their own dedicated DCUM thread, have been the subject of considerable discussion concerning everything from Swift's travel from Japan to Las Vegas for the game to hopes (among some) that the game might be the venue for a marriage proposal. The other major topic was the halftime show that one posters dubbed the "Usher Concert". Headlined by Usher, a number of other entertainers also were schedued to participate and much of the early discussion involved speculation about who might make an appearance. Opinions about Usher were definitely split with some posters proclaiming Usher to be the only thing of interest in the event and others saying that they were not familiar with any of his songs. Just about everyone's fashion choices were either criticized or praised but Kelce's sparkling black suit was the subject of an especially high number of posts. Reading this thread I am inspired to paraphrase Winston Churchill and summarize the thread by saying, never have so many said so much that amounted to so little. Despite the over 370 posts in the thread, there is not a lot of juice that can be squeezed. But, since the fairytale like marriage proposal didn't materialize, we can assume that the Travis and Taylor show will go on.

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Thursday's Most Active Threads

by Jeff Steele last modified Feb 12, 2024 11:05 AM

Yesterday's topics with the most engagement included the Supreme Court hearing about keeping Donald Trump on the ballot, the Special Counsel report into Joe Biden, stay-at-home-moms, and a Montgomery County Council hearing about MCPS.

Yesterday's most active threads had a distinctly political slant with three of the four top threads dealing with political topics. The first of those was titled, "Supreme Court Hearing on 14th Amendment and Trump" and posted in the "Political Discussion" forum. As the title makes clear, this thread is focused on yesterday's oral arguments before the Supreme Court as it reviewed the Colorado Supreme Court's decision to remove former President Donald Trump from the presidential primary ballot. Several of the posters were listening to a live stream of the proceedings and then posting their immediate reactions. Mixed in with those posts were questions, statements, and opinions from other posters. Almost everyone was pessimistic that the Court would keep Trump off the ballot, they only disagreed about why the justices would make such a decision. Explanations ran the gamut from such a decision being legally and morally justified to it being the result of a corrupt and bought-off court. One of the issues that both the justices and and posters debated was whether removing Trump from the ballot would result in Republican states removing Democratic candidates in the future. While many posters saw this as a realistic possibility, they were frustrated by the suggestion that removing Trump for a real reason — provoking an insurrection — would result in Democrats being removed for manufactured reasons. One poster responded to this discussion by writing, "If Trump murdered someone and we sent him to jail for it, would that open the floodgates to accusations that Democrats committed murder even if they never killed anyone?" Both the justices and DCUM posters agreed that potential problems could be avoided if the Court defined what is or is not an "insurrection", but justices made their reluctance to do such a thing clear. Posters also critiqued a distinction that some justices attempted to make between an officer vs an office. Ironically, given that this case hinges squarely on Trump's involvement in an insurrection, the Court mostly stayed away from addressing the insurrection or Trump's involvement. Not only did the Court shy away from suggestions that it define "insurrection", but despite the wish of many posters that the Court decide whether or not Trump engaged in an insurrection, that is not the role of the Court in this instance and there were no attempts to address that question. Several posters expressed consternation that Justice Clarence Thomas had not recused himself from this case due to his wife's involvement in the January 6 insurrection. To them this exemplified both Thomas' corruption and the larger Court's illegitimacy.

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Wednesday's Most Active Threads

by Jeff Steele last modified Feb 08, 2024 05:16 PM

Yesterday's most active topics included the cost of attending Tufts University, diversity trends in area private schools, prestige of colleges and universities, and filming fights in MCPS.

Yesterday the King Charles thread was again the most active thread of the day. But since I have already discussed that thread, I'll go on to the next which was titled, "Tufts tuition" and posted in the "College and University Discussion" forum. The original poster says that he checked the cost of Tufts University on the school's website and saw that it comes to $88,300 per year. The title only mentions tuition, but this amount is actually what colleges refer to as the "cost of attendance" that includes food, housing, books, and other expenses. The original poster seems astounded by the price and asks how any school can be worth this amount and wonders what Tufts offers to justify charging 2 or 3 times the price of other equally-good colleges. Several posters question whether there actually are comparable universities that cost significantly less. They argue that this is simply the going price for private colleges and even many public universities. Some posters attribute this to the market pricing of universities and suggest that as long as someone is willing to pay the cost, that is what it is worth. Others argue that students are simply paying for the name or connections that can be made at the school and that the education is not significantly better. Posters suggest Michigan State University and Florida State University as colleges that offer merit aid to highly-qualified students that brings down the cost to less than half of Tufts. Another poster suggested Rutgers University. Other posters contested the idea that any of these schools were the same caliber as Tufts. There are a couple of different arguments going on in this thread. One is that expensive colleges such as Tufts offset the price by offering merit aid to "high stats" students. But one poster, whose son has great grades and extracurriculars, says that their experience is that even with merit aid the colleges are too expensive. The second dispute is similar to those about the value of private k-12 schools compared to public. Posters point to smaller class sizes and a more exclusive student body as advantages. Much of the college forum is taken up by threads about admissions and who is being advantaged and who is getting an unfair deal. But, increasingly, discussions about the cost of college are becoming almost as popular. Thread after thread highlights that while the super wealthy can simply write a check and the very poor can count on financial assistance, those in the middle are challenged by the costs. Posters can make any argument that they want to justify the cost of selective private colleges — and indeed they make many — but if others can't afford the cost, none of those advantages matter. As a result, in real life just as in this thread, many are beginning to see more value in lower-cost public universities.

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Tuesday's Most Active Threads

by Jeff Steele last modified Feb 15, 2024 03:55 PM

Yesterday's topics with the most engagement included showering every day, a family vacation with a husband who wants to "relax", a dream boyfriend who doesn't make enough money, and a thread involving soccer and Arlington which I don't understand.

The most active thread yesterday was the one about King Charles which I already discussed and will, therefore, skip today. The next most active thread was titled, "Question for child health experts: Does a tween/teen HAVE TO shower every single day?" and posted in the "Tweens and Teens" forum. The original poster explained that she was performing a support role in a meeting between a child therapist and a 15-year-old girl and the therapist advised the girl that a daily shower or bath is medically essential. The girl in question does not have any hygiene problems and the original poster was shocked by this advice which contradicts much of her prior knowledge. She asks for opinions about whether a daily shower or bath are medically necessary, but she wants to limit responses to "therapists, pediatricians/doctors, counselors, psychologists, and child development experts." This stipulation is obviously not going to be adhered to by DCUM posters. The one place that you never want to find yourself is between a DCUM poster with an opinion and a keyboard because nothing is going to stop them from posting. In fact, the very first response is not only not from such a professional — or at least has no appearance of being from one — and does not address the topic, but rather questioned the original poster's motives. While a few of the professionals whose opinions were requested did reply, the limitation was honored more in the breach than the observance. More common were parents simply explaining their own children's showering habits or giving their personal preferences and opinions on the topic. Needless to say, this resulted in posters slugging it out from various points of view. Some think that daily showers are absolutely necessary. Some believe a day or perhaps even two can be skipped. Others argued that it depends on other factors such as whether the child has been exercising or done something else to become especially smelly or dirty. At least one poster argued for a more nuanced approach and said that showering needs can differ between children. A few posters argued that a lack of desire or interest in showering or bathing is connected to mental health and could be a sign of depression. In this regard, the posters thought the therapist might have been clumsy in the manner she discussed the issue, but not out of line. In the end, the original poster concluded from the responses, as well as additional opinions from professionals whom she knows personally, that there is no medical necessity for a daily shower or bath. However, she recognized that daily showers could have other benefits such as making it easier to fall asleep. The most surprising revelation of this thread for me is that there is a poster who has established a reputation due to her habit of changing underwear three times a day. Moreover, the poster does not seem to be perturbed by being identified as such. The poster further implied that those who don't share a similar dedication to hygiene are simply blind to their own body odor.

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Monday's Most Active Threads

by Jeff Steele last modified Feb 08, 2024 08:07 PM

Yesterday's topics with the most engagement included King Charles' cancer diagnosis, Dartmouth College requiring test scores, the Grammys, and a 13-year-old eating a bag of Oreos.

There are very few topics that can produce 28 pages of posts in just a few hours. But, one of those topics is the British Royal Family. Yesterday when news broke that King Charles had been diagnosed with cancer, a poster apparently was so eager to post about it that she seemed to have lost use of her mental facilities in the process. The poster referred to "Prince" Charles in the thread's title and posted nothing more than a link — a violation of DCUM's policy that requires threads to be started with discussion and not just a link. So, I deleted that thread. Shortly after that, another thread titled, "King Charles diagnosed with cancer" was posted in the "Entertainment and Pop Culture" forum. I wouldn't say that there was an immediate outpouring of sympathy from DCUM posters. Far from it. The first responses mostly dealt with Prince William's appearance and then a discussion of the "Alanis Morrisett" song "Ironic". Next, the thread turned to whether this would bring about a reconciliation with Harry. Amidst all of this was a smattering of conspiracy theories involving the Duchess of Wales. The same instant cancer experts that came out of the woodwork in the thread about Kate Middleton being hospitalized made reappearances to speculate about the type of cancer afflicting Charles. It should be noted that despite the discussion about Kate, there is no indication that her hospitalization had anything to do with cancer. Meanwhile, posters began tracking Harry's movements like little kids following Santa's path on Christmas Eve. DCUM's Royal Family obsessives were attracted to this thread like moths to flame. And, quite a diverse group they are. There are Kate fans and Kate-haters. Those obsessed with Meghan who are mostly haters, but also some fanatical supporters. There are those who are most interested in Harry, either seeing him as sympathetic and misunderstood or as a cynical money grubber who has sold out his own family. Posters who detest the Royal Family due to their sins of the past took over the more recent pages of the thread. Beyond that, a number of posters already have Charles dead and buried and are debating who will do what in terms of Royal duties when William is King. Depending upon who you believe, Harry will have no choice but to return and shoulder some of the responsibilities or he will find that he has lost any opportunity of rejoining the family due to animosity between him and William.

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The Most Active Threads Since Friday

by Jeff Steele last modified Feb 05, 2024 07:24 PM

The topics with the most engagement since my last blog post included Dr. Monifa McKnight's departure from MCPS, a pregnancy after a breakup, an effort to recall Charles Allen, and an unwelcome encounter with a person knitting in the OBGYN waiting room.

The most active thread over the weekend is really the continuation of a previous most active thread. The earlier thread was the one about the Montgomery County Public Schools Board of Education asking for the resignation of Superintendent Dr. Monifa McKnight. Friday afternoon, the board and Dr. McKnight mutually agreed to separate. As a result, a new thread titled, "Board Fires Dr. McKnight" and posted in the "Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS)" forum became the most active over the weekend. The thread was originally titled, "Board Fires Monifa" but I changed it because, as I said when I discussed the earlier thread, the use of first names for women, especially Black women, is a means of diminishing them and is often tinged with racism and sexism. A number of other area school superintendents have recently left their positions in controversial circumstances and not a single one was routinely referred to by first name. I don't see why Dr. McKnight should be treated differently. Even the revised title was criticized as inaccurate because, strictly speaking, Dr. McKnight resigned rather than being fired. As for the thread itself, it mostly rehashed the substance of previous threads. Dr. McKnight has been a lightening rod of criticism on DCUM with posters blaming her for the many ills they see affecting MCPS. Most recently, Dr. McKnight has been criticized for the handling of complaints of harassment and bullying by Principal Joel Beidleman. Beidleman was was promoted despite being under investigation and subsequent investigations found that MCPS had not properly followed procedures. It is unclear how much knowledge Dr. McKnight had of the Beidleman situation, but the Board — which listed "ensuring compliance with internal policies" as its first priority going forward — seems to suggest that she was being held responsible. Many posters argued that replacing McKnight is not going far enough and that school board members should resign as well. There is also considerable discussion in the thread about Alexandra Robbins whose article in the Washington Post first shed light on the allegations against Beidleman and his promotion. Many posters were thankful for her reporting and credited her with precipitating Dr. McKnight's departure. On the other hand, Dr. McKnight had a strong contingent of supporters, many of whom believed that Dr. McKnight was being treated more harshly than male or White superintendents. Some posters were focused on looking forward rather than back and were more interested in discussing possible candidates to replace Dr. McKnight. The proposals for new superintendents were closely linked to opinions about the future direction of the school system. In particular, there seemed to be widespread hope that a new leader would clean house of a number of other administrators. One issue that may affect the choice of a new superintendent is that all large school systems, and even some smaller ones, seem to be facing the same sort of serious challenges. Many superintendents have left or been forced out. As such, the job may not be as desirable as some might think and, as a result, may not attract the best candidates.

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Thursday's Most Active Threads

by Jeff Steele last modified Feb 02, 2024 12:28 PM

Yesterday's most active topics included the expression "happy wife, happy life", test optional college admissions, a teacher who didn't give an unearned passing grade, and obtaining custody of children without going through the court system.

Yesterday's most active thread was the Gaza war thread which I will skip because I've already discussed it. The next most active was a thread titled, "Happy wife, happy life" and posted in the "Relationship Discussion (non-explicit)" forum. The original poster asks, "Why men's happiness isn't considered as valuable?" This thread really could have ended after the first reply which was nearly perfect, saying:

"Because it's an old-fashioned saying that dates to a time when women's financial and physical wellbeing depended almost entirely on their husband's behavior, and men's emotional wellbeing depended almost entirely on their wife. The more current version is ‘happy spouse, happy house‘"

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Wednesday's Most Active Threads

by Jeff Steele last modified Feb 01, 2024 11:22 AM

Yesterday's topics with the most engagement included covid lockdowns, a mom's attractiveness, Gen Z's lack of romance will cause the end of the world, and a college applicant's bad choices.

The "Travis and Taylor" thread was again the most active thread yesterday. But, since I 've already discussed it, I'll start with the next most active thread which was titled, "One by one, the lockdown myths are crumbling" and posted in the "Off-Topic" forum. I had not noticed this thread until this morning and, when I did, I was disappointed to see that not only are thread on topics such as this still being created, but that they are among the most active. It has been clear for some time that some individuals have been so traumatized by the response to the pandemic that they may never get over it. There seems to be a deep set desire among these folks to receive some sort of official acknowledgement of wrongdoing and a full apology. The problem is that very few of those who supported the measures in question have changed their opinion to any significant agree. They don't think anything done was wrong and feel no compulsion to apologize. So, threads such as these result in little more than endless debate that neither advances the discussion nor satisfies anyone. In this specific case, the original poster linked to an opinion article in "The Telegraph", a British newspaper. The author claims that British officials who once promoted "zero covid" now claim to have only supported the "maximum suppression" of covid and considers this to be a significant backtracking that reveals the bankruptcy of the entire lockdown endeavor. Of course, it does nothing of the sort. Whether the officials are truly backtracking or simply making a distinction without a difference — "zero covid" is not that much different than "maximum suppression" — that is a discussion of goals, not methods. It is a stretch beyond reason to suggest the change in terminology amounts to a renunciation of anti-covid measures such as lockdowns. Nevertheless, this is how covid discussions tend to go on DCUM. A poorly reasoned article that most users can't read because it is behind a paywall is accepted as fact and off to the races we go. Many of those responding are, like me, well past the limits of their patience for these topics. They point out the advantages of hindsight (which in this case doesn't appear to have been an advantage at all) and argue that it is, in fact, those like the article's author that are attempting to rewrite history. Moreover, lockdown conditions in the United Kingdom were considerably different than in the United States so the article is not even relevant to our experience. But, those angry about covid measures are not to be denied their opportunity to air their grievances. As usual, there are complaints about school closures. What I have realized about schools is that some families suffered terrible experiences while for others, while the time probably wasn't great, it was not all that bad. Those in the first group tend to fixate on school closures and emphasize any negative impacts. The second group, which in my experience is much larger, has a more nuanced view and is less interested in rehashing the topic. Therefore, what is at issue here is really two different realities. Bridging the gap between the two is probably impossible and this dispute is unlikely to ever be resolved.

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Tuesday's Most Active Threads

by Jeff Steele last modified Jan 31, 2024 11:26 AM

The topics with the most engagement yesterday included a husband taking "guy trips", "normal smart kids" and Ivy League admissions, NCS grade point averages, and expensive products that are worth it.

Yesterday's most active thread was the one about moms who are "just" wives and mothers that I discussed in yesterday's blog. I'll skip that one today and start with the next most active thread which was titled, "I hate ‘guy trips’" and posted in the "Relationship Discussion (non-explicit)" forum. The original poster says that her husband takes one or two trips a year with guy friends of his. While the trips normally only last a long weekend, her husband returns tired and behind on work. While he is gone, the original poster is stuck taking care of the kids and running the house 24/7 and even after he returns he is not able to contribute for a few days while he recovers. While the original poster is glad that her husband has maintained his friendships and understands that he needs time to decompress, she doesn't like these trips. Responses range from those that sympathize with the original poster to those who are entirely on the side of her husband. One poster says that the original poster's attitude demonstrates why men shouldn't get married. Probably the most common response was to identify the days the husband takes to recover as the main issue. Most posters don't have a problem with the trips themselves, but believe the husband should jump right back into parenting upon his return. Several emphasize that is what would be expected of a woman. As such, several posters suggested ideas for how to deal with the days after the husband's return. Some said the original poster simply needed to tell her husband to suck it up. Others suggested having him spend his first day back in a hotel so that he could recover and the original poster wouldn't have to put up with his moping. Others suggested outsourcing more during the time the husband and gone and during his recovery period. More DoorDash dinners and possibly a cleaning person, for instance. One poster who described being in a similar situation wrote that, "I feel these situations really emphasize to me how tightly stretched we are all the time and I wish my husband would agree and be open to making changes." The original poster responded to this post suggesting that it had captured the essence of what she was feeling. A couple of the male posters said that they have similar trips with their friends and, as they have aged, they have also found that recovery takes longer. But, they have built this into their planning so it is not an issue when the get home. Quite a bit of the thread is devoted to discussing what is "fair" in a relationship. For instance, the husband works more and makes more money. Therefore, should he be entitled to more time off? Some posters attempt very strict accounting for what each partner in the relationship deserves. Others reject this sort of bean counting with one poster insisting that it kills relationships.

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Monday's Most Active Threads

by Jeff Steele last modified Jan 30, 2024 08:58 PM

Yesterday's topics with the most engagement included colleges that change lives, stay-at-home moms, an assault at a MCPS middle school, and how to lose 15 pounds.

The most active thread yesterday was an old thread that I have already discussed and, therefore, will skip today. That was the thread titled "Travis and Taylor" which is about Travis Kelce and Taylor Swift. The thread has received renewed interest because Kelce is going to the SuperBowl and Swifties, who doubted the authenticity of this relationship in the beginning, are starting to have second thoughts. The second most active thread is another one that I will skip, the Gaza war thread. The most active thread after those two was titled, "Favorite College that changes lives?" and posted in the "College and University Discussion" forum. This will require a bit of explanation for the uninitiated. "Colleges That Change Lives" was originally a 1996 college guide written by Loren Pope that profiled 40 liberal arts colleges that Pope believed were particularly focused on educating students and performed better than many of the traditional "top" colleges. In 1998, a non-profit with the same name was created to promote the colleges reviewed in Pope's book. DCUM has a small group of posters who are huge fans of CTCL colleges and either frequently start threads about the schools or bring up the colleges in other threads. Similarly, there is a group that is very cynical of this entire endeavor and consider CTCL to be little more than a marketing organization that promotes second-rate schools. Whenever these two groups interact, it results in many posts being reported and an increased workload for me. This thread was started by the original poster asking which schools users like, hate, or about which they know nothing. Several colleges from the list are mentioned as ones that posters like and several posters also asked for recommendations of colleges with specific characteristics. It is clear that several posters accept the premise that these schools punch well above their weight. Almost implicit in the CTCL discourse is the assertion that traditional college rankings should be ignored because these schools are flying under the radar. So much so that when a poster mentioned the two CTCL schools ranked highest on the US News & World Report rankings, the poster was criticized for pursuing the "wrong outcomes". One of the usual critics of CTCL argued that the schools are second tier and "attract mediocre students who wouldn’t have a chance at top schools." One thing about CTCL schools that I think is misunderstood is that the schools are chosen based on their perceived commitment to student achievement. Outside of that factor, the schools don't necessarily have much in common. This provides both fans and critics the ability to cherry pick and promote either one school's accomplishments or another school's failures as representative of the entire list. I suspect that for many of the CTCL colleges, inclusion on the list provides little more than marginal benefit as several of the schools have reputations that have been established independently of CTCL.

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