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Tuesday's Most Active Threads

by Jeff Steele — last modified Mar 27, 2024 11:35 AM

The topics with the most engagement yesterday included the collapse of the Key Bridge, donut hole families, a wife using pregnancy as an excuse, financial support for adult children.

It will be no surprise to anyone living in the DC region that yesterday's most active thread was about the Francis Scott Key Bridge collapse. Titled, "Key bridge in Baltimore collapses after cargo ship crashes into it" and posted in the "Off-Topic" forum, this was actually the second thread on the topic. The first had been posted about an hour earlier in the "Political Discussion" forum, but I locked that one since this is not really a political topic. The initial posts in the thread were mostly aimed at gathering and disseminating information about what had happened. But fairly quickly a number of topics emerged upon which posters focused throughout the thread. One of those involved tugboats with users questioning why the Dali — the ship that hit the bridge causing its collapse — was not under the control of tugboats at the time. While it later turned out that tugboats had initially been used, ships are sent on their own in that part of the river. Next was the question of cruise ships and what would happen to them. Some posters saw this topic as insensitive given the circumstances, but other users were concerned about Baltimore-based cruise ships that would not be able to return to port. Any ships in the harbor are trapped for the foreseeable future and the few Baltimore-based cruise ships at sea will land elsewhere and their passengers will be bussed to Baltimore. Probably the strangest divergence was that dealing with how to escape a car that has plunged into water. A surprising number of posters seem to have long-standing fears of traveling across bridges and described carrying life jackets and hammers for breaking windows when they have to cross large bridges. There was considerable discussion in the thread about the best ways to escape a car that has landed in the water or even the possibility of doing so. Some users touted various tools that are supposed to break windows of a submerged car while other posters said the tools would not work. It turns out that bridge authorities were able to stop vehicle traffic just prior to its collapse and it appears that no cars were traveling across the bridge at the time. The 6 deaths were all construction workers repairing potholes on the bridge who were not warned in time to escape. A topic that was discussed throughout the thread dealt with liability for the collapse. Almost immediately posters were eager to cast blame. Some suggested the bridge was poorly constructed and fell down too easily. Others suggested the port authority and the lack of the aforementioned tugboats were responsible. One poster, supported by a number of others, hypothesized that cost-cutting measures by the Dali's owners may have resulted in a lack of maintenance, leading to the power failure that sent the ship out of control. One thing this incident did was reveal the many-layered owner and management arrangements common among ships of this nature. There are so many different companies involved, with all likely pointing fingers at each other, that it will probably be difficult to determine exactly who is responsible for what. Posters also discussed the economic impact the closure of the port of Baltimore would have on the region. In addition, there was considerable sympathy for the workers who were lost in the collapse.

The next most active thread was posted in the "College and University Discussion" forum and titled "Donut hole reality". Donut hole families are those whose income is too high to receive need-based financial aid for college but too low to easily afford expensive colleges. These families appear to make up the bulk of the college forum's users and topics similar to this one are common in the forum. A number of them have been among the most active threads that I have discussed in this blog. The original poster of this thread says that her niece paid $100k for freshman year at Boston College, an amount that the original poster does not think is unusual among selective private schools. She believes that paying such high costs rather than choosing a cheaper in-state public university is ludicrous and she is surprised that we have reached the point where an undergraduate degree costs $400,000. The parameters of this discussion have been well established and are familiar from the many earlier threads. Some posters are particularly attached to selective private universities and either have planned financially to be able to afford the schools or hope for merit aid. Some have saved, but simply haven't saved enough because costs grew more than expected. Posters with multiple children attending college at the same time are particularly stretched. The original poster's contention that attending in-state public universities is a wiser alternative is one shared by many posters. However, many of these schools are also expensive, even at in-state tuition levels, and competition for the most prestigious public universities has heated up. As a result, even some state schools are out of reach for many these days. One thing that frequently comes up in this thread is a conflict between "ability to pay" and "desire to pay". Some posters complain that their expected family contribution is more than they can afford when what they actually mean is that they don't want to make the sacrifices required for them to do so. Similarly, there is a dispute about whether a family that can afford an in-state college but can't afford a selective liberal arts college is really a "donut hole" family rather than simply attempting to live beyond their means. Posters argue that there are options available for students of all financial means and, therefore, cost should not be an obstacle to attending college. But, these posters argue, families who don't have the financial means for expensive colleges should not expect others to pick up the tab. Other posters argue that students who have the credentials to be accepted by a selective school shouldn't be prevented from attending due to cost. They argue that an educated populace benefits everyone and not providing for those who can't afford it is "elitest". There is also disagreement between posters who somewhat smugly describe how they saved for college and those who think college savings were a poor investment and that the money could have been used more wisely in better investments. Of course, that determination relies heavily on hindsight.

Next was a thread titled, "Wife Using Pregnancy As An Excuse" and posted in the "Relationship Discussion (non-explicit)" forum. The original poster complains that his wife is using her pregnancy to not do things and to get things that she wants. Almost immediately posters started suggesting that this poster was a troll. More specifically, a poster asked whether the original poster might be the original poster of a thread that I discussed on Monday about a poster's wife not being a good stay at home mom. In that post I noted that the original poster, who claimed to be a man in the thread, had also started another thread about struggling with breastfeeding and therefore I thought that the original poster was not being truthful. Looking into things this morning, I could not find conclusive proof that both this thread and the earlier thread were started by the same poster, but I found enough circumstantial evidence to satisfy myself that is the case. Moreover, I found a number of other threads that are sufficiently, if not conclusively, linked to this poster. In those threads, as I found earlier, the poster posed as a woman who is breastfeeding. So, what we have here is a poster who alternates between being a husband who is upset with his wife and a mother who is breastfeeding. This caused a lot of bells to go off for me. Years ago I repeatedly encountered one of the strangest trolls that I ever experienced. The poster would submit "reports" saying that a thread was a troll thread. When I looked at the thread, it would seem pretty normal. The only strange thing is that the threads were always started by the poster reporting them. I wondered why a poster would report their own threads as trolling and decided that the poster probably wanted to remove their own threads for some reason and this was their way of doing it. But this behavior went on long enough that I got tired of it and attempted to block the poster. At that time, the poster was easily identifiable. Rather than stop the poster, it seems that the poster took steps to be less identifiable and stopped reporting their own threads. I would still discover the poster's threads when other posters reported them or I somehow noticed sock puppeting because the poster sock puppeted a lot. The poster was particularly fixated on breastfeeding. So much so that my private nickname for the troll was "breastfeeding troll". Because the original poster of this thread, though claiming to be a man, also identifies as a breastfeeding mother, I suspect that this poster is actually the "breastfeeding troll". If I am correct, and I have more reasons than I am revealing to believe that I am, this poster is obviously not mentally healthy. Rather the poster is simply one more inmate is what is rapidly becoming the Internet's insane asylum.

Also on Monday I discussed a thread about parental monetary contributions to help their children purchase homes. The last thread that I will discuss today, posted in the "Money and Finances" forum, is somewhat similar. Titled, "Who here is regularly supporting their adult children financially?", the poster asks a series of very specific questions about about giving financial support to adult children. Those responding tend to provide some amount of financial support, though there is significant differences in the amounts involved. At the upper end is a poster who gives the gift limit maximum to each of his kids. One of them needs the money and the other puts it in a college-savings plan for the poster's granddaughter. While some posters don't provide any financial help, the low end of those who do is allowing their adult children to remain on their mobile phone plans. A number of other posters say that their children who have recently graduated still live at home. They have jobs and are saving money, in some case with plans to purchase condominiums. But most of the thread is dominated by discussion of the situation described by one poster who responded. That poster says that he pays childcare for his daughter's children. She is married to man who pays child support for two children from a previous marriage. When they had their own children, they could not afford either childcare or for one of them to quit working and stay home. Therefore, the poster started paying for childcare, though he is not happy about it. In follow-up posts he laments that his daughter and her husband made an "emotional decision" to have children without thinking things through. They just expected things to work out, which they have thanks to the poster and his wife. Posters weigh in with lots of advice and comments for this poster with considerable disagreement about whether his financial support is laudable or contributing to his daughters failure to develop responsibility. As was the case with the home purchase thread I discussed earlier, posters have varying feelings about financially supporting their adult children. Some, like the poster who pays for his grandkids' childcare, do so somewhat grudgingly. Others are happy to provide support and proud to be in a position to do so. Others are proud of their children who have achieved financial success without requiring parental financial assistance. Several posters emphasized the importance of adult children acquiring financial responsibility. Posters argue that financial help from parents can help achieve that, but sometimes it can result in children failing to learn responsibility. Therefore, many posters urge cautious approaches to such financial support.

Anon says:
Mar 28, 2024 08:56 AM
Great analysis of the "breastfeeding troll"!
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