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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.

The next most active thread was posted in the "Off-Topic" forum and titled, "‘I’m from a small town right outside of Washington D.C.’". The original poster asks what town comes to mind when someone makes the statement in the title. If there was ever a thread to highlight the litigious and argumentative nature of DCUM posters, it is this one. Posters list whatever geographic designations come to mind only be hit with a wave of posts pointing out that, for instance, Arlington is a county and not a town or Alexandria is a city and also not a town. There are disputes about what constitutes "small". Some posters even deny such a thing exists with one writing, "There are very few towns in the DC area and none of them are small." The original poster followed up to say that the person she had heard say this was referring to Cheverly, Maryland. This prompted a number of posts discussing whether Cheverly qualified with some posters thinking it did while others arguing that even if did qualify on technical grounds, they were still not willing to accept it. As one poster wrote, "I think of Cheverly as more of a neighborhood." Some posters had no idea where Cheverly is located, perhaps justifying the description used by the person who described it with the phrase in the title. Multiple posters commented about how residents of Cheverly almost always manage to work "small town" into any discussion of where they live. As one of these posters said, "Either their marketing team is batting 1000 or people genuinely love that place." The revelation of which town was being described did not stop posters from continuing to provide their own suggestions. Olney, MD was repeatedly brought up even though one poster insisted that Olney is not a town, but rather a lowly "census designation". Kensington, MD was also repeatedly brought up and it seems to meet all of the qualifications. But, sadly for Kensington's proponents, it was not the small town right outside of Washington, DC in question.

Next was a thread titled, "Everyone is gone at the Washington Post... Almost no Metro section left..." and posted in the "Metropolitan DC Local Politics" forum. The original poster describes how the Metro section of the Washington Post was once so robust that "you went there first!" She describes how there was considerable excitement when Jeff Bezos bought the Post because he made major investments. But, as a result of recent buyouts, the Post's Metro staff has been decimated with a number of well-known figures leaving. The original poster says that she may even cancel her Post subscription because she gets better local news from "DC City Cast, Washington City Paper and DCist." Reaction is largely based on the political leanings of those responding. Moreover, very few responses actually focused on the point of the original poster: that the Post's local news coverage is dying, not the entire paper. To the contrary, the Post is well-positioned nationally and, while a number of posters expressed hope for its demise, that does not seem even remotely likely. It is not unusual for posters to allow their politics to distract from their ability to stay on topic, but this thread is a disaster in that regard. One poster is particularly fixated on Post reporter Taylor Lorenz, who covers technology and online culture. The fact that basement-dwelling incels are obsessed with her is understandable, but she has nothing to do with local news and is not leaving in any case. A few posters agree that it is disappointing to see the Metro section lose staff, but they won't necessarily miss some of the prominent personalities mentioned by the original poster. Other posters dispute whether blame lies with Bezos and suggest that other members of the Post's leadership might have more to do with it. As a Post subscriber for almost 40 years, I am also disappointed to see reduced emphasis on local news coverage by the paper. But, if there is silver lining to this otherwise black cloud, it is included in the original poster's post. Other publications and news sources are available to fill the void. DC is lucky in the sense that it is large enough to support multiple local news sources. The same is not true of smaller cities and towns throughout the United States that have lost almost all local news coverage. My own beef with the Post where local politics is concerned has always been with its editorial board with has practically universally been out of touch with the District and its residents. Decimating the Metro desk will do nothing to fix that problem, unfortunately.

The final thread that I will discuss today was posted in the "Off-Topic" forum and titled, "Do you think American passengers would have evacuated as timely/orderly as JAL 516 passengers during fire emergency?". The original poster describes events in Tokyo, Japan following the collision of two aircraft on the runway. Over 360 passangers were safely evacuated from one airplane while is was on fire. The original poster asks whether a plane full of Americans would have fared as well. She suspects that Americans would have demanded to bring their luggage with them and engaged in pushing and shoving. I think I can safely say that basically nobody in their right mind believes that Americans would have behaved as well. The first poster to respond, a flight attendant, says passengers "would rather die than leave their precious carry-on behind" and that she has no plans to sacrifice herself to help those who choose to "fool around" rather than quickly evacuate. Nearly every poster is in full agreement that Americans would not follow proper procedures in the manner that the Japanese did. As one poster writes, "I think an evacuation of a plane full of Americans would be worse than a plane full of Japanese, as the Japanese society is more about rule-following and what's the best for the society not the individual." If there is any consolation, it is that many posters don't believe this is limited to Americans. Canadians and Europeans are predicted to also suffer heavily in such a situation. Two posters knew someone who had been a passenger on the airplane that emergency landed in the Hudson River. According their accounts, everyone was calm even when the plane began to take on water. So, they said not to count Americans out. In response, multiple posters said that our society has changed significantly for the worse in recent years and that passengers are unlikely to be as cooperative as they might have been in the past. Both the flight attendant poster and others mentioned that the airlines' habit of separating families can contribute to slowing emergency — and normal — deplaning. A mother whose children are several rows behind her is unlikely to leave the plane without them and would probably cause a delay if not outright traffic jam in the aisle trying to unite with them. 

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