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DCUM Weblog

Monday's Most Active Threads

by Jeff Steele last modified Jan 16, 2024 11:25 AM

The topics with the most engagement yesterday included weather-related closures, the college admissions game, actors and actresses who can't act, and questions about being an alcoholic.

Yesterday the District of Columbia region received its first significant snowfall of the year, though as a native midwesterner, I am practically required to scoff at what Washingtonians consider "significant snowfall". Nevertheless, with little more than flurries that barely stuck to the pavement, posters could hardly write about anything other than snow-related closings. Fully half of the top ten most active threads were weather related. Therefore, rather than discuss a bunch of threads that are all pretty much the same, I'll lump the five weather-related threads together and discuss them all at once. The most active of the bunch was titled, "Snow day predictions? Anyone" and posted in the "Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS)" forum. As I mentioned in a recent blog post discussing a thread about Montgomery County Public Schools closing early due to wind and rain, MCPS is particularly sensitive about weather issues, leading to repeated controversies. Next was a thread titled, "Snow closing tracker" and posted in the "Private & Independent Schools" forum. In the world of private schools, nearly anything can be turned into a competition and reactions to snow is no exception. Either being the first to announce a closure or the last can be a point of pride depending on one's pont of view. Third was a thread titled, "Will schools be open next week?" and posted in the "Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS)" forum. This thread was actually started last Friday by a poster looking ahead but gained more traction — apparently unlike cars on Fairfax County roads — yesterday. After that was a thread titled "ROADS ARE BAD STAY HOME!!!!" which, if I remember correctly, was originally posted in the "Off-Topic" forum before I moved it to the "Cars and Transportation" forum. Other than the snow, the most discussed issue in this thread was "236" and exactly what road that is and whether or not anyone actually calls it that. Finally, rounding out the top ten most active threads as well as the top five snow-related topics was a thread titled, "Chances that school will be canceled tomorrow?" and posted in the "DC Public and Public Charter Schools" forum. This thread, in addition to the snow discussion, was dominated by a debate about whether fathers can competently adjust to the threat of a delayed opening or cancellation. Apparently the logistics of this are well beyond the capabilities of some men. Good job to the guys who have figured out that acting helpless can secure a couple of hours of extra sleep on a snowy day while their wives struggle with the kids.

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The Most Active Threads Since Friday

by Jeff Steele last modified Jan 15, 2024 04:37 PM

The topics with the most engagement since my last blog post included unsolicited fertility advice, Texas sending migrants to Illinois, celebrating college admissions, and an award for Prince Harry.

The most active thread since Friday was the Gaza war thread which, like the war itself, shows no sign of ending. Because I've already discussed that thread, I'll go on to the next most active which was titled "What is it with people given childless couples unsolicited fertility advice?" and posted in the "Relationship Discussion (non-explicit)" forum. The original poster says that she is 36 and her husband is 34. They have remained child-free due to financial reasons. Others, generally people who are not even all that close to the original poster and her husband, constantly give them fertility advice such as encouraging her to freeze her eggs or not to delay motherhood. The original poster is fully cognizant of the issues involved and doesn't need other telling her about them. The original poster asks why some people are so concerned about other's fertility. I'm not sure the relationship forum is the best forum for this topic, but I am also not sure which forum would be better. So, I'll leave the thread where it is. The first several posters made at least half-hearted attempts to address the question, but ironically, they couldn't stop themselves from also offering fertility advice. In fact, the thread almost immediately became emblematic of exactly the phenomenon about which the original poster was complaining. Without knowing a single thing about the original poster beyond the sparse information contained in the original post, poster after poster presumed to be in a position to "fertilitysplain" to her. I didn't have to read very much of this thread before I concluded that the answer to the original poster's question about why people are obsessed with the fertility of others is that a huge number of them lack any ability to prevent themselves from commenting on the topic. The advice appeared to come so automatically to some posters that I doubt that they realized what they were doing. If this were not an important topic to the original poster, it would be funny. She basically asked, "why is everyone so concerned with my fertility?" and ninety percent of the responses were "you have to have children now, right now!" Probably because DCUM has such a generally affluent userbase, very few users seemed capable of understanding that someone realistically might face financial challenges. As the original poster responded with additional information, it emerged that she has had to support herself since age 18 and always worked in retail. She has not had the opportunity to go to college and has exhausted her earning power. Her husband is apparently in a similar situation. I wonder what the reaction would have been had the original poster started a thread describing her financial situation and stated an intention to have children? She probably would have been derided as a prospective wellfare queen or criticized for poor financial planning. As it was, one DCUM Marie Antoinette expressed shock that an adult works in retail. She may as well have advised the original poster to eat cake.

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Thursday's Most Active Threads

by Jeff Steele last modified Jan 12, 2024 10:05 AM

The topics with the most engagement yesterday included judging men and women, a decline in White Army recruits, taking classmates' college spots, and college freshmen GPAs.

Yesterday's most active thread was one that I will skip because I discussed it yesterday. That was the thread about the college choice of a "donut hole" family. The most active thread after that was titled, "Do you judge men who are wealthy and well educated but choose to marry fitness influencer/dancer/yoga instructor" and posted in the "Relationship Discussion (non-explicit)" forum. My first reaction to this is that the forum is really getting into the realm of the esoteric with this thread. Personally, I don't judge such men because I can't think of a single one who meets the description. As such, the question in the title is completely theoretical to me and, in theory as well as reality, I have better things with which to concern myself. But I guess my reaction is not widely shared because this topic managed to produce 12 pages of responses in a single day. There were a number of posters, perhaps maybe even a majority of those responding, who unequivocally claimed not to make such judgements and to consider the question to be ridiculous. One perceptive poster pointed out that this question actually implies judgement of the women rather than the men. Other posters pointed out that the assumption that yoga instructors or dancers are necessarily uneducated is a misconception. Much of this thread consists of off-topic tangents involving posters dealing with their own neuroses. One poster appears overly fixated on her financial advisor ex-boyfriend and a male poster touts the advantages of dating women who are significantly younger than him. While the original poster's premise appeared to be that the women in this scenario are educationally and socially well below the men, several posters pointed out that this is frequently not the case. As mentioned before, women in these roles are often well-educated. One poster who says she is a yoga instructor touted two master's degrees and the ability to speak four languages. Others pointed out that it is not uncommon for well-educated professional women married to wealthy men to give up their careers to raise children and take up yoga or dance instructing as a hobby, sometimes turning that into a second career down the road. The men married professional women who only became instructors or dancers later. The original poster responded throughout the thread, generally not identifying herself as the original poster but not really sock puppeting either. She was very argumentative and if there were a common theme to her posts it is that men generally choose poorly when picking a mate.

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Wednesday's Most Active Threads

by Jeff Steele last modified Jan 11, 2024 11:24 AM

Yesterday's topics with the most engagement included a decision about paying for college, stay-at-home-moms vs work-out-of-the-house moms, options for a UVA early decision reject, and a friend who is negative about a new business.

The most active thread yesterday was titled, "Donut family: Pay for T10 or go to state for almost free" and posted in the "College and University Discussion" forum. Yesterday I discussed a thread that was about "dead zone" families who are families in the top 3-10 percent of income but struggle with admissions to elite colleges because they are beat out by the top 1 percent. Sometimes, however, children from those families, and families just below them in income level, do get accepted. Those families often face a separate issue. They are too wealthy to be awarded financial aid but don't have the financial resources to pay expensive tuitions out of pocket. These families are often referred to as "donut hole families". The original poster says that her daughter has been accepted to a top 10 university but has been awarded minimal financial aid. It will cost them about $60k per year  for her to attend the university. In constrast, she can go to the University of Maryland-College Park for a third of that. The family has limited retirements savings, currently rents, and has been saving for a downpayment on a house. They have about $200k household income. The original poster's daughter plans to study something in the arts but is otherwise undecided. The original poster wants her daughter to have the best degree possible, but also wants to prioritize retirement savings. There are of course a variety of opinions about which option is best, otherwise this would not have been such an active thread. One view is represented very succinctly by a poster who wrote, "[t]he way to set her up as well as possible is to minimize both loans and the chance that she will have to support her destitute parents in retirement." With this in mind, UMD or a comparable option would be the best choice. But, others argue for the value of a degree from a top 10 university and suggest pursuing that option even if it requires taking out loans. That view is very much in the minority, however. Several posters question the original poster's financial planning and prior financial decisions. Others question the value of an arts degree. Quite a few posters point out that the daughter will probably need to attend graduate school. Therefore, the undergraduate school is not that important. The original poster's plight highlights one characteristic of financial aid calculations that continually irks me. She has $250k sitting in a savings account to be used as a downpayment for a house. From a school's point of view, that is tuition money and, therefore, offsets need for financial aid. As a result the original poster is being punished for saving. Had she spent that money on a house last year — or even blown it over a wild week in Las Vegas — her daughter would be in a stronger position for financial aid calculations.

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Tuesday's Most Active Threads

by Jeff Steele last modified Jan 10, 2024 11:30 AM

Yesterday's topics with the most engagement included MCPS early dismissal, unhappiness with the likely presidential candidates, the "dead zone" for upper middle class families for college admissions, and presidential immunity.

The most active thread yesterday was titled, "Possible early dismissal Tuesday?" and posted in the "Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS)" forum. The thread was started Monday evening by a poster suggesting that, due to flood and high wind warnings for Tuesday, the Montgomery County Public Schools system might want to send students home early to ensure that they were off the buses before things got bad. If you are surprised that a thread on this topic could end up as the most active of the day, you are not familiar with this area's parents of school children. Parents are divided between those who expect schools to be open during anything short of nuclear war and who would rather have a voluntary root canal than be forced to change their schedules and those who constantly fear the worst and advocate for school closures at the drop of a leaf, particularly if that leaf dropped as a result of inclement weather. In this type of situation, schools face a no win situation. Decisions must be made in advance or they get criticized for last minute changes. That often requires working with imperfect information and changing weather forecasts. Failing to close when they should have can leave children stranded and in danger. But, closing and then having the weather turn out to be fine results in second guessing and complaints. A large system like MCPS that covers an extensive geographic area has an even more difficult time because the conditions in one part of the county might be considerably different than another part. Debates about what to do can be especially vehement when they are taking place at a time when the weather is particularly nice as was the case in this instance. Posts ranged all the way from those warning of the possibility of buses "floating away" to those complaining that DCUM posters were "cheering on the hysteria". When the school system finally announced that schools would close 2 and a half hours early, approximately a third of Montgomery County's residents rushed to post the news in this thread. There is nearly an entire page of posts repeating the same information. This provoked a round of scoffing from those scornful that schools would close "because of rain". One complained that "families shouldn't have to leave work for this nonsense." Those posters, in turn, faced their own pushback with one saying, "I assume these comments are coming from people who walked 10 miles to school each day, uphill both ways, in the dark, across live power lines, in five feet of snow, fighting off wolves, and they were fine so why don't we do that now?" The rest of the thread was spent with posters criticizing almost every aspect of the decision from almost every angle. For some, the decision was made too early, for others too late. For some it was justified, for others not. Some were bothered by repeated notices of the closure, others complained that they had not been informed. The debate about whether the schedule change was justified continued well into the evening and even into today with no agreement in sight.

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Monday's Most Active Threads

by Jeff Steele last modified Jan 10, 2024 11:05 AM

Yesterday's topics with the most engagement included the current presidential election outlook, a likely troll thread about an affair 9 years ago, reconsidering standardized college entrance exams, and the value of family.

The most active thread yesterday was titled, "CNN’s inaugural Road to 270 shows Trump in a position to win the White House" and posted in the "Political Discussion" forum. The original poster linked to a graphic produced by CNN showing US states color-coded by the current leading presidential candidate. According to CNN's analysis, former President Donald Trump is currently leading in enough states to secure 272 electoral votes, two more than necessary to win the election. Notably, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Arizona, all states that President Joe Biden previously won, are listed as "toss-ups" with their votes not being distributed. However, even if Biden were to pick up all three, he would still be short of the winning number. Therefore, Biden will need to flip at least one state currently leaning towards Trump. As is the tendency for political threads, most of those responding simply engage in partisan bickering. Pro-Trump posters beat their chests and make outlandish predictions. Pro-Biden posters argue that the current polling does not reflect the probable results in November. There are a few sensible posts from those who attempt serious analysis, though it is often difficult to tell where these posts cross the line to wishful thinking. As is also the tendency for political threads, posters do a poor job of staying on topic and the thread soon goes off in several different directions. By the end of the thread posters were engaged in a debate about whether or not Trump should legally be allowed on the ballot. My own thoughts about this are that early polling is often inaccurate, but it is undeniable that Biden is carrying a lot of baggage that he did not have during the last go around. Democrats have a terrible time controlling the narrative and, as a result, Biden's age and mental acuity have become issues with many voters while Trump's similar age and obvious mental shortcomings have not. More importantly for Biden, his policy regarding Israel and Gaza has turned off many young voters who have been key to Democrats' success. Expected red waves over several elections have failed to materialize due to women and young voters motivated by abortion rights. Whether that same pattern will hold true remains to be seen. In Biden's favor, almost constant predictions of a recession have been proven wrong and now conventional wisdom has turned away from such expectations. With inflation coming down and the job market remaining strong, the economy should favor Biden. Many prognosticators say that is the single biggest factor in elections. A lot can and probably will happen between now and the election, so it would be unwise for anyone to begin counting chickens or reconciling themselves with defeat.

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The Most Active Threads Since Friday

by Jeff Steele last modified Jan 08, 2024 10:54 AM

The topics with the most engagement since my last blog post included a stolen car with a baby inside, Bill Ackman defends his wife's plagiarism, a father who dislikes fatherhood, and a possible fantasy thread about a husband being pursued by a pretty neighbor.

The Gaza war thread was again the most active over the weekend but I will skip it since it has been previously discussed. Similarly, I will skip the second most active thread which was the one about a woman in Ohio being charged after miscarrying. After that was a thread titled, "Baby Missing After Carjacking in Georgetown Early This Evening (30th & M St. NW)" and posted in the "Metropolitan DC Local Politics" forum. The thread was started after a report that a vehicle had been carjacked in Georgetown while a 4-month-old baby girl was inside. Not quite a hour later, the baby was discovered outside the door of a house in DC's southeast quadrant (Georgetown is in northwest) where the carjackers apparently dropped her off. The car has still not been recovered as far as I know. This thread represents almost all that is wrong with crime discussions on DCUM and most other mediums. On the one hand are posts from those simply interested in obtaining or sharing facts and expressing concern. I have no issue, of course, with those posts. But, other posters seem to simply be triggered by any mention of crime in a thread's title and rush to post reflexive talking points regardless of their relevance. There were a number of complaints about ANC 3C, which represents Cleveland Park. This crime was in a completely different ward, not to mention ANC district. Similarly, posters rushed to blame the DC Council with one poster wrongly asserting that the Council had attempted to change the law so that offenses such as this would not be considered kidnapping. Ironically, the tweet that the poster embedded to support his allegation actually said the opposite, but I guess the poster didn't bother reading it completely. There, of course, were the normal complement of racist posts that I had to delete. Much of the focus of the thread was on the mother involved. She had apparently left the vehicle running with the child inside, but it was not clear why she left the car. Information provided by police said that she claimed to have had a flat tire but witness reports circulating on social media said that she had gone into a store. It is not clear how a car with a flat tire could drive around DC for a hour or more and some posters suggested that the woman and invented the tire explanation to avoid legal problems as a result of leaving the child unattended. At any rate, the fact that the mother was not in the vehicle when it was taken caused the crime to be reclassified as car theft rather than carjacking. There was also discussion about what public officials describe as the difficulty of prosecuting carjacking and car theft. When stolen vehicles are recovered, apparently fingerprints can't be used as evidence because the cars may have passed through multiple drivers and it is not clear which had stolen it. Discussion also touched on whether or not an Amber Alert had been issued. Police said that they were in the process of preparing one when the baby was found.

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Thursday's Most Active Threads

by Jeff Steele last modified Jan 05, 2024 11:19 AM

Yesterday's topics with the most engagement included top colleges for "standard strong kids", a small town right outside Washington, DC, the demise of the Washington Post's Metro section, and how Americans would behave during an emergency airplane evacuation.

The two most active threads yesterday were the Harvard president's resignation thread and the Gaza war thread. I will skip both of them since I've discussed them previously. After those was a thread titled, "Top colleges that are actually on the table for unhooked standard strong kids." and posted in the "College and University Discussion" forum. The original poster lists a number of prominent universities that she believes are realistic targets for a student with a high grade point average, a test score, and strong extracurricular activities. As the title says, she describes such students as "standard strong" and specifies that they are "unhooked", meaning that they are not legacy admits, supported by a major financial donor, athletic recruits, or underrepresented minorities. In other words, where does a run-of-the-mill White kid with a 3.8 to 4.9 GPA, 1500 SAT, and a handful of ECs have a shot of being accepted? Those responding dispute some colleges on the list and suggest others. There is also a discussion about what constitutes a "standard stong" applicant and what might instead be a "standout" student. Posters also argue that in most cases, admission to these schools will only be possible through Early Decision applications. As such, the proposed schools cannot be viewed as a list of targets because applicants are limited to one ED application. So, at best, potential applicants could only make one selection from the list. Even then, as some posters point out, their chances will be very narrow due to the highly-selective nature of these schools. Many of the posters describe admissions records of high schools their children attended and others demonstrate detailed knowledge of admissions of a range of schools. As I've written in the past, a number of posters in this forum follow college admissions with the dedication of a sports fan obsessing over runs batted in or catches per yard statistics. It occurred to me while reading this thread that, if I could figure out how to do it, a "fantasy college admissions league" would be a successful enterprise. Forum members could "draft" college applicants and win points based on their admission results. There could even be different rounds for each application type such a ED, early admissions, regular admissions, and so on. This could keep a number of these posters busy from September through April.

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Wednesday's Most Active Threads

by Jeff Steele last modified Jan 04, 2024 11:19 AM

The topics with the most engagement yesterday included not being invited to a wedding, unwanted gifts, college early decision applications, and the GOP and women.

Yesterday's most active thread was the one about Harvard's president resigning which I discussed yesterday and, therefore, will skip today. The next most active thread was titled, "Not invited" and posted in the "Family Relationships" forum. The original poster says that she is close with her cousins, normally celebrating holidays together and spending a lot of time with each other. A child of one of those cousins is getting married and seems to have intentionally not invited the original poster. The original poster is hurt and upset about being left out. In a subsequent post, the original poster added that she had talked with the parents of the groom and was simply told that the couple is paying for the wedding themselves, implying that she was not invited due to the expense. This did nothing to alleviate the original poster's feelings. Those that responded mostly agreed that it is understandable that the original poster feels hurt about not being invited, Several suggested possible reasons for the slight such as space constraints or an effort to save money. Posters advised not taking it too seriously and allowing the incident to harm her relationship with her extended family. A number of posters argued that not being invited demonstrated that the original poster's cousin's child does not view the original poster as being as close as the original poster does. While that is a sad, it is not an unusual situation, they argue. They further assert that if the original poster ever needs to cut extended family members from an event, she can begin with couple getting married. Other posters suggested a more forceful response including not sending a gift or even a card or going so far as ending her relationship with those relatives entirely. Some posters honed in on the exact relationship and the relationships of those who were invited. They drew fine lines between first cousins, first cousins once removed, aunts, and uncles. They made determinations about whether the original poster should have been invited based on the exact degree of relationship. The original poster and several of those responding emphasized that the groom celebrated Thanksgiving this year at the original poster's home, suggesting that indicates a close relationship that merited an invitation to the wedding. But, as another poster pointed out, the cousin's child was likely just "tagging along with their parents" and was mostly there as an obligation. A few posters believe that the original poster is being overly dramatic and should not make such a big deal out of this.

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Tuesday's Most Active Threads

by Jeff Steele last modified Jan 05, 2024 05:55 AM

Yesterday's topics with the most engagement included the resignation of Harvard President Claudine Gay which was discussed in two of the most active threads, evangelization vs. proselytization, and covid exposures during holiday gatherings.

Yesterday the top two most active threads were both on the same topic, the resignation of Harvard President Claudine Gay. The first was titled, "Claudine Gay resigns as Harvard University’s president" and posted in the "College and University Discussion" forum. There was some debate about whether this topic belonged in the college or political forum (it was posted in both), but I ultimately decided that it was a political topic. The controversy surrounding Gay began with a Congressional hearing and the opposition to her was led by overtly political figures. Therefore, I locked this thread and well as several similar threads also started in the college forum. By the time I locked the thread, it had grown to 10 pages in just 3 hours. On the surface, opposition to Gay was based on concerns that she was not sufficiently combating antisemitism and had engaged in plagiarism. But, beyond that, opponents made clear that they saw Gay as a symbol of the "woke" environments that they believe are dominating elite universities. Gay, who is Black, was attacked by many who saw her as unqualified and chosen more for her skin color than her abilities, much as they allege that unqualified minority students are admitted to elite universities in place of more deserving White and Asian applicants. Gay has been the target of a campaign led by Christopher Ruffo, the same person who turned Critical Race Theory into a political weapon to be used against school boards. Right-wingers were ecstatic at the news of Gay's resignation. But, they were quick to declare that they were not stopping here. "Two down, one to go", wrote one poster referring to the previous resignation of University of Pennsylvania President Liz Magill and the apparently hoped for resignation of Massachusetts Institute of Technology President Sally Kornbluth. Magill, Gay, and Kornbluth all had appeared at a Congressional hearing in which they came under agressive questioning about antisemitism on their campuses from Representative Elise Stefanik. Other posters signaled their desire to see the entire Board of Harvard replaced. Rufo has broadened his CRT attacks into a campaign against the entire framework of "diversity, equity, and inclusion" and gained traction among many who view DEI practices as unfairly benefitting minorities. One poster expressed his criticism of DEI by accusing it of "[e]levating highly unqualified and mediocre talent into senior roles and fast tracking people simply because of the need to fill an identity gap." This entire effort is aimed at reclaiming elite academia for those who rise based purely on merit, as if such a world ever really existed.

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