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DCUM Weblog

Wednesday's Most Active Threads

by Jeff Steele last modified Dec 03, 2023 08:17 AM

The topics with the most engagement yesterday included Maury Elementary School, a daughter who was groped at school, Covid vaccine uptake, and raising kids without structured activities.

Once again the Gaza war thread was the most active of the day yesterday. The most active thread after that was titled, "Maury Capitol Hill" and posted in the "DC Public and Public Charter Schools" forum. This thread was actually started back on September 21 by a poster who had heard about a Parent-Teacher Association meeting at Maury Elementary School, a District of Columbia Public Schools school located on Capitol Hill. The poster had heard of two issues that came up in the meeting. One was the current effort to reevaluate DCPS school boundaries and the other was a loss of Title 1 funding that is aimed at low-income students. The poster was concerned about how these developments might impact property values. This was an active thread that grew to 23 pages prior to yesterday. But, yesterday the thread added 10 new pages. I didn't read the first 23 pages but apparently the interest yesterday was generated by a subsequent meeting about school boundary changes. A poster summarized that meeting, saying that DCPS wants to cluster Maury with another nearby elementary school, Miner Elementary School. The purpose of the proposal is to address socioeconomic disparities between neighborhood schools. If I understand the "clustering" idea correctly (and there is a good chance that I do not), kids from both schools will attend younger grades together at one location and older grades will be combined at the other building. Students at Maury apparently perform better than those at Miner and it seems that the hope is that by spreading the higher-performing kids around, it will improve the weaker school. Overlying this is the issue of race. Maury is nearly 60% White while Miner is 80% Black. As a result, some of the posters see this as an attempt to "spread the White kids around". To make matters worse, the DCPS plan is not yet fully baked and DCPS staff members were unable to answer a number of basic questions. Needless to say, this has created all kinds of consternation among Maury, and likely Miner, parents. Parents who have seen Maury improve over the years are worried that that progress will be set back. But, not all posters see this idea as entirely negative. As mentioned by the original poster, increasing affluence at Maury resulted in the school losing Title 1 status and, with it, significant extra funding. One result was apparently that free preschool is no longer offered by the school. Clustering with Miner would restore Title 1 funding and free preschool. As one poster pointed out, currently Maury has plenty of students who could benefit from extra funding, but without Title 1 status that money is not there. The ultimate problem for DCPS is that administrators can try to orchestrate diversity goals, but in a school system that emphasizes school choice, parents have options and will not always cooperate.

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Tuesday's Most Active Threads

by Jeff Steele last modified Nov 29, 2023 10:19 AM

Yesterday's topics with the most engagement included covid vaccination refusers, sex partners, non-selective liberal arts colleges, and what to do about an alcoholic son.

The Gaza war thread continued to be the most active thread yesterday, but just barely. Second was a topic that is perhaps even more controversial than the Israel-Palestine conflict. Titled, "Are antivaxxers all just contrarians and conspiracy theorists?" and posted in the "Off-Topic" forum, the original poster asks if there are critical thinkers among those who oppose vaccinations. It is not apparent from the original post whether the original poster is referring to those who oppose all vaccinations or those who are only against the covid vaccination. Regardless, most of the thread focuses on the covid vaccine. This, of course, is not a new topic and there is very little, if anything, new in this thread. I think there are a few obvious facts related to this topic. First, the vaccine was originally oversold, with many believing that the shots would prevent contracting and transmitting covid. That's obviously not the case, though the vaccine does appear to significantly limit both catching and spreading the disease and results in less severe illness among those who are infected. Second, there were relatively widespread side effects to the vaccine that caused suspicion, hesitation, and reluctance to get vaccination. Finally, there has been widespread campaigns, often politically-motivated and frequently based on misinformation, in opposition to the vaccines. The result is that anyone who wants to convince themselves not to get the shot can easily do so. Threads like this one demonstrate different types of vaccine opponents, Of course there are the right-wingers convinced that the vaccine is an attempt to turn them into transgender Marxists who are controlled by 5G radio signals, and the traditional granola leftists convinced that vaccines cause autism, but the covid vaccines have led to another category of vaccine-hesitant individuals. This is the "I support vaccines except for covid" group. Members of this group have a host of reasons for justifying their covid vaccine reluctance. Frequently, they claim to have "done their own research" which often consists of simply reading a few Facebook posts. The new boogyman, as several posters point out, is fear of "spike proteins" that they contend have horrendous side effects. But, I was surprised by the number of posters in this thread who are avoiding covid boosters because they claim the shot knocks them out for a day or two. If they are having that type of reaction to the vaccine, I wonder what will happen to them if they catch actual covid? Conversely, a number of posters in this thread report not having had an interest in the booster until a friend or family member fell ill with the disease. Having witnessed what they went through, these posters have either gotten or or planning to get the shot.

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Monday's Most Active Threads

by Jeff Steele last modified Nov 28, 2023 10:19 AM

The topics with the most engagement yesterday included Alexandria possibly eliminating zoning for single family homes, another student walkout in MCPS, an epidemic of estrangement, and a daughter's mysterious emergency room visit.

Yesterday the Gaza war thread continued as the most active thread. Skipping, that one, the most active thread was titled, "Alexandria on the Cusp of Eliminating All SFH Zoning" and posted in the "Metropolitan DC Local Politics" forum. The original poster claims that Alexandria is plagued by a number of negative factors such as failing schools and an increasing number of murders and now the Council is going to completely destroy the city by eliminating zoning for single family housing. There is apparently a vote on this topic today. First, just to clarify what this proposal is all about. Currently, some parts of Alexandria are zoned exclusively for single family houses. In an effort to expand housing options, the Council proposes to remove this zoning and allow the development of multifamily housing units in those areas. Posters variously see this as either enhancing the value of their property or destroying it. Those in the first group suggest that what is now a single family home could be sold for a higher profit if it were purchased in order to develop multifamily housing. Others, on the other hand, believe that higher-density will destroy their current community and cause their current homes to lose value. This illustrates the dilemma of housing costs. Those in search of housing are eager to see more affordable housing which, proponents of development argue, can best be achieved by increasing the supply of housing. As such, encouraging the replacement of single family homes with multifamily units should increase affordability. But those who currently own property are not interested in seeing it lose value and that is exactly what they fear will happen if their current property is suddenly surrounded by lower-cost housing. Regardless, there is no agreement about the best course of action. Some posters think it makes sense to sell to a developer and take the money and run. Others think staying put until single family homes are scarce and sell for a significant premium makes more sense. Several posters are also worried about an increased number of residents overburdening city services, especially schools. Anger with the proposal is such that many posters who apparently currently own single-family homes make all sorts of threats about how they will react, such as turning their homes into brothels or raising pigs in their back yards. Sadly for these posters, the new zoning proposals will not allow for brothels or pig farms.

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The Most Active Threads Since Friday

by Jeff Steele last modified Nov 27, 2023 10:20 AM

The topics with the most engagement since my last blog post included the declining popularity of liberal democracy, unattractive "other women", Angel Tree gifts, and antisemitic and Islamophobic hate crimes.

Over the weekend, the Gaza war thread was again the most active thread, adding over 600 new posts. The second most active thread was also one that I've already covered, the thread about weird things that in-laws do. So, I'll start with what was actually the third most active thread over the weekend. That thread was titled, "A difficult truth to accept: Liberal democracy is not favored around the world" and posted in the "Political Discussion" forum. The original poster contributes a rather lengthy essay summarizing various musings he has had about opinions in other countries regarding politics. The main thrust of the post is that the ideas espoused by liberal democracy are not universally popular and that in many parts of the world, authoritarian ideas are supported. The responses in the thread go in many different directions, but one surprise for me is how many supporters of dictatorships there were. I guess one outgrowth of Trumpism is that authoritarianism is now popular among some Americans. This is a 14 page thread and instead of trying to summarize the responses, I'll just provide my own reaction to the original poster's thoughts. First, and most importantly, I think that it is important to separate the ideas and values espoused by liberal democracies, especially the United States, from the practices actually implemented abroad. More often than not, the US quickly discards its stated values when its perceived interests are at risk. There are any number of examples of the US assisting in or actively leading the overthrow of democracies because the winner of the election was not sufficiently pro-American. This hypocrisy does not go unnoticed and, as a result, our professed values ring very hollow in much of the world. In many countries, citizens are not presented with a choice between liberal democracy supported by the US or authoritarianism supported by Russia or China. Rather, their choices are pro-American authoritarians or pro-Russian or pro-Chinese authoritarianism. Free elections and democracy are supported by the US only to the extent that they produce pro-US politicians and policies. Moreover, "pro-US" is frequently, "pro multinational corporations". When faced with an economic landscape dominated by international corporations, the residents of many countries lose any enthusiasm they may have for capitalism. Just as in the case of American political values which are often seen as empty to foreign audiences based on the lack of application of those values internationally, claims about free enterprise and the benefits of capitalism are frequently betrayed by how capitalism is actually implemented abroad. That is often in the form of monopolistic foreign entities that dominate local businesses. To summarize, it is not that liberal democracy as we understand it is becoming less popular internationally, but that foreign populations are rejecting the hypocritical version of "liberal democracy" practiced abroad that generally lacks most of the values of true liberal democracy.

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Wednesday and Thursday's Most Active Threads

by Jeff Steele last modified Nov 24, 2023 11:19 AM

The topics with the most engagement since Tuesday included weird things that in-laws do, Kate Middleton's legs, a father tracking his adult daughter with an AirTag, and redevelopment of the Chevy Chase Community Center.

Thanksgiving is traditionally one of the slowest days on DCUM as users are travelling, spending time with family, or, like me, spending a great deal of time cooking. Since I took yesterday off from this blog, I'll review the most active threads of the last two days. Both days, as expected, had much less traffic than normal days. The Gaza war thread was back at the top of the most active list, but with barely more than 100 posts a day, the thread is a shadow of what it once was, previously receiving more than 900 posts a day. The second most active thread, the one about Covid lockdowns, was also one I've previously covered. The third most active thread, and the first one I will discuss today, is mostly a repeated topic even though the thread itself is new. Titled, "Come here if your in laws do weird crap at thanksgiving." and posted in the "Family Relationships" forum, the original poster claims that her father-in-law flosses his teeth at the table. Based on the original poster's example, I assume that this thread was meant to highlight strange idiosyncrasies, but it almost immediately turned into a general complaint thread, mostly about mothers-in-law. One of the first examples — a mother-in-law who attempted to divide a rotisserie chicken with her bare hands, was not considered by everyone to be strange behavior and caused a long-running argument between posters. Disagreement about whether the mother-in-law was wrong was still continuing 13 pages later. Another example, serving ham slices rolled around a dill pickle and cream cheese, was also not seen as weird by all posters and actually inspired several posters to try it. Frankly, most of these posts could have gone into the "petty vents" thread that I discussed earlier this week because none of them really amounted to much. Another example that was not universally received as being weird, but rather funny by most who responded, involved a long-delayed wedding gift. Apparently, the poster's sister-in-law went down in her basement and retrieved a wedding gift that had been meant for the poster's husband's first marriage 30 years ago. The poster, in her own words, "pitched a fit" and made her sister-in-law take it back. Several posters wanted to know what the gift was, a question that could not be answered since the gift was not opened. Moreover, it later turned out that this happened last Thanksgiving, not even this year. I didn't realize that serving Thanksgiving buffet style is the current trend (at least according to this thread), but a number of the "weird" behaviors involved how food was served for the holiday meal with mother-in-laws often being found out of sync.

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No Post Today

by Jeff Steele last modified Nov 23, 2023 10:10 PM

I'm busy with Thanksgiving but will be back tomorrow.

I am busy with Thanksgiving preparations this morning so I'm going to skip posting today. But, I am thankful for all the great users who have helped make this website a success over the years. DCUM could not exist without our wonderful users who provide such great advice, humor, and interesting content. I appreciate all of you. I'll be back to regular posting tomorrow.

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Tuesday's Most Active Threads

by Jeff Steele last modified Nov 22, 2023 07:14 PM

Yesterday's topics with the most engagement included petty Thanksgiving vents, increased interest in Duke University, weird Thanksgiving foods, and Trump leading polls.

The most active thread yesterday was titled, "I think I win the Thanksgiving 2023 petty vents already" and posted in the "Family Relationships" forum. Complaints about family members around Thanksgiving are, of course, fairly common and threads about such issues are an annual DCUM tradition. Just as in the case of yesterday's bagel controversy thread, many of the complaints tend toward the petty end of the spectrum. The original poster of this thread owned the nature of her gripe which involved her in-laws arriving at her home 9 hours before the were expected. As the original poster acknowledges, it's not the worst thing that could have happened, but it was a nuisance. She and her husband were working at home during the day and, therefore, not available to entertain guests that early and had not finished their preparations. There was laundry still to be done and beds to be made. However, if the original poster thinks that this is going to be the most petty complaint over the holiday, she vastly underestimates DCUM. As this 16 page thread demonstrates, DCUMers can vent about a lot more petty things than this. The annual petty vent thread has a lot of fans. I guess it is sort of a guilty pleasure. Posters can enjoy other's misery but, since it's only petty, they don't really have to feel bad about it. Those who don't understand the concept and urge the venters to "get over it" are met with disdain. "Here for the petty, rolling my eyes at every poster who's told a venter to suck it up/she's the problem", wrote one poster. Because yesterday was a bit early for many posters to already have vents, petty or otherwise, some posters brought up things from previous years. One poster complained about her mother-in-law moving furniture around in order to search for dust bunnies. The poster recounted how she gave her mother-in-law the phone number for her cleaning service and asked her to lodge a complaint with them. Another poster's petty vent got quite a bit of attention. In this case the poster was the guest, visiting her brother and his wife. The poster says that she doesn't have high expectations for how she is treated, but it appears that her sister-in-law has taken the advice commonly offered on DCUM and made the poster her brother's responsibility. He, in turn, hasn't seemed capable of offering the poster a cup of tea, some cheese to eat, or even clean sheets or the bed. The initial post from this poster appeared to blame the lack of hospitality on her sister-in-law, causing a number of replies questioning why her brother was such a poor host and why the poster expected better treatment from her sister-in-law. This poster's story, buttressed by constant subsequent posts that did little to calm the storm, practically took over the thread and she was dubbed variously the "tea poster" or "cheese lady". She may well go down in the annals of DCUM folklore.

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Monday's Most Active Threads

by Jeff Steele last modified Nov 21, 2023 11:09 AM

The topics with the most engagement yesterday included a tragic car crash, an obnoxious sister, covid school closures, and a husband who won't discuss his wife's health fears.

For only the second time since October 7, the Gaza war thread was not the most active. In fact, it slipped all the way down to fourth most active. This is really not a surprise as the thread has become unreadable and consisting of little more than an exchange of insults. The thread that was the most active was titled, "Hoping these kids are OK" and was posted in the "Tweens and Teens" forum. The thread is about a tragic event that occurred yesterday morning at around 5 am. A SUV in which 7 teenagers were riding crashed into a tree, apparently at a high rate of speed, and spun several times before coming to rest across the street. Five of the occupants were ejected from the vehicle and one was trapped and needed to be extricated. Only the driver, who seems to have been the only one using a seatbelt, was able to walk away from the crash. The 17-year-old driver was initially charged with Driving Under the Influence, but was then released without charges. Charges remain pending and the investigation is continuing. The thread started out with posters simply trying to gather more details. Several posters, including the original poster, live near the scene of the crash and were very concerned about the condition of the kids. One topic posters wondered about was which school or schools the vehicle's occupants attend. That information began to trickle out as first one school, then another, and then a third, released statements. My understanding is that one of occupants attends McLean High School, one goes to Longfellow Middle School, and the rest are students at Marshal High School. Posters also focused on what might have lead to the accident. They found it odd — as do I — that teens would be out early on a school day morning and under the influence of drugs or alcohol. There was speculation that they might have stayed the night after a party or been up the entire night. Posters wondered why parents would allow their kids out over night. This launched a huge debate about the ability of parents to control headstrong teenagers who have been known to sneak out of their homes without their parent's knowledge. Some posters have apparently turned their houses into virtual prisons to ensure their kids are home at night. There is considerable discusion about whether poor parenting contributed to this tragedy with some posters more than willing to put full blame on the parents and others arguing that even the best parenting is sometimes not enough. In reaction to events such as this, there is often a rush to identify a factor that parents don't believe applies to them or their children in order to provide some assurance that this couldn't happen to them. This thread is full of such efforts. For instance the insistance of several posters that their kids would never be out at such hours without a legitimate need. But other posters are quick to remind them that you can't be smug when it comes to parenting.

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The Most Active Threads Since Friday

by Jeff Steele last modified Nov 20, 2023 11:03 AM

The topics with the most engagement since my last blog post included asking personal questions on high school tours, Covid lockdowns, a monologue from the "Barbie" movie, and paying for a son's wedding.

As has been the case every day except one since October 7, the Gaza war thread was the most active with over 900 new posts since Friday. The most active thread after that was titled, "Stop asking student tour guides where they're applying to college". The thread, which was posted in the "Private & Independent Schools" forum, was started by a poster whose son conducts tours for prospective students at his high school. The original poster says that on almost every tour, he is asked to which colleges he is applying. The original poster considers this to be personal information and asks others to stop asking this question. I've noted before that DCUM can be very supportive to those that responders believe to be in legitimate need, but can be brutal to those whom users don't find sympathetic. The original poster appears to have fallen squarely into the second category. While there are posters that agree with the original poster, most of the responses reflect various levels of hostility. The first poster to respond called the original poster a "snowflake" and suggested that her son was not cut out for the job of tour guide. Other posters considered the question to be perfectly acceptable and suggested that her son should know how to politely deflect it. This thread managed to make it to 21 pages over the weekend which I think is surprising for such a mundane topic. The original poster sock puppeted a number of responses, but not really in a manner that would provoke conflict. Without having read all 21 pages, it appears that the main issue of debate is whether a question such as "where are you applying to college" is personal or not. A number of posters argued that private school students are more likely to consider this to be a personal question than public school students. Their reasoning is that the prestige of educational institutions is more important to private school students and parents. If this is true, and I don't know that it is, it may well be rooted in the commonly-held belief that one motivation for choosing private schools is to open doors for prestigious colleges. If a parent on a tour with a perspective student is mentally doing a cost-benefit analysis of the school and one benefit is thought to be enhanced college application prospects, it is understandable how this question might come naturally. At the same time, it is similarly understandable that a tour guide who knows the parent is hoping to hear "Harvard, Yale, and Princeton" may be reluctant to answer, "The University of Maryland, Rutgers, and Tufts". Some posters recognize that college opportunities are an important question to perspective students, but argue that the question should be asked generally. Instead of "where are you applying?", it should be asked as "Where do students normally apply?". Still others argue that where they apply is less interesting than where they actually end up attending and that information can be found elsewhere.

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Thursday's Most Active Threads

by Jeff Steele last modified Nov 17, 2023 11:09 AM

The topics with the most engagement yesterday included a demonstration at the DNC, a troll thread about high schools and college admissions, personal battles, and TikTok and bin Laden.

Again the Gaza war thread was the most active thread of the day yesterday. The most active thread after that one was somewhat related. Titled, "Capitol currently in lockdown" and posted in the "Metropolitan DC Local Politics" forum, the thread is about a lockdown of the US Capitol building that resulted from a demonstration at the Democratic National Committee headquarters. Both this thread and much of the media reporting of the story show how a distorted understanding of events can become widespread. Semafor reporter David Weigel was at the DNC when events occurred. He posted a considerable amount of video of what took place on X (formerly Twitter). In addition, other witnesses also made video available. Based on first-hand reports which are supported by video, what occurred was that a group of peaceful demonstrators consisting of members of mostly Jewish peace groups who support a ceasefire in Gaza blocked all or almost all doors of the DNC headquarters. This building is located about 3 blocks from the Capitol grounds and is not part of the Capitol complex. The protesters stood with their backs to the doors and locked arms in a human chain. They made no attempt to enter the building. Police tried to pull the protesters away, but this was made difficult due to their interlocked arms. Police appeared to get frustrated and angry and became more violent as time went on. In addition, at least one of the doors was at the top of a set of stairs. As police pulled protesters away from the door and shoved them down the steps, some protesters fell. The scene grew very chaotic as police struggling with protesters who were resisting being removed intermixed with one another with police doing a lot of pushing and shoving. Video and photographic evidence shows one police officer unleashing pepper spray at the protesters. None of the protesters were shown to be using pepper spray and none of the witnesses reported such a thing. Other than Weigel, I don't think any reporters from major media outlets were on the scene. They, therefore, had to rely on second-hand information and many led with an account by Congressman Brad Sherman that was extremely misleading. Sherman accused the protesters of being "pro-terrorist" and "pepper spraying police officers and attempting to break into the building." None of this is supported by either first-hand accounts or photographic evidence. In fact, as I have said, the opposite appears to be true. This sort of misleading report was circulated widely and became the basis of many people's understanding of the event. Right-leaning posters in this thread seized on the misleading account to compare the protest to the January 6 insurrection led by former President Donald Trump. Pro-Israel posters challenged the authenticity of the Jewish organizations behind the protest. But, soon enough the thread went completely off-topic in several different directions. At that point, I locked the thread.

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