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2024

Sub-archives

Monday's Most Active Threads

by Jeff Steele last modified Apr 02, 2024 12:04 PM

The topics with the most engagement yesterday included a service for snowflake college students promoted by a sock puppet, a professor who dislikes Elon Musk, comparing today's new hires to those of 25 years ago, and homosexuality and the Bible.

The most active thread yesterday was one that I already discussed. That thread was the one about the double murder in Fairfax County. There was a court hearing yesterday which not one, but at least two, DCUM posters attended and posted first-hand accounts. The most active thread after that one was titled, "College ‘Moms’ Service Provider" and posted in the "College and University Discussion" forum. Let me start off by saying that I hate everything about this thread. Most of all, I hate that nobody reported it within the first few posts so that I could have deleted it before it really got started (some posters did report subsequent posts but I'll get to that later). The original poster posted a link to a site that provides "moms" to provide comfort and care to kids away at college and asked how she could find such a service at Cornell University. The original post looks very much like an ad. Removing any doubt of that suspicion was the second post in the thread which was sock puppeted by the original poster. The original poster would go on to post throughout the thread promoting the service. As most people would expect, there is a huge outcry from posters who think that such a service is a terrible idea created to coddle "snowflakes". There are repeated posts urging the original poster and others like her to cut the cord and allow their children to learn independence. The original poster simply sock puppeted replies defending and justifying the service. The original poster ultimately posted at least 12 times, not once mentioning that she was the original poster and occasionally responding directly to her own posts. There was a suggestion that this was an April Fool's joke, but the service is real. Moreover, adding to the things I hate about this thread, it took a decidedly unfunny turn when a poster made a snide reply about the demographics of two universities at which the original poster — sock puppeting — claimed the service was popular. This was interpreted by other posters as an allusion to the large number of Jewish students at those schools and, hence, as anti-Semitic. This led to discussion about anti-Semitism. I did receive a report of the first post and I removed it. But, unbeknownst to me, the post had already been quoted and provoked its own discussion that I didn't notice until this morning. While readers of this blog are probably aware, I want to reiterate a few things about how the site is moderated. I can't possibly read all of the posts. As such, I probably won't know about an inappropriate post unless it is reported. I try to respond to reports quickly, but sometimes a response may be delayed. Reporting a post, but then also replying to it, will only make things more difficult for me and make the thread harder to clean up. It also risks, as in this case, that I won't notice the replies. Because I removed the inappropriate post after it was reported, it continues to exist on the site only because it was repeatedly quoted.

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Wednesday's Most Active Threads

by Jeff Steele last modified Mar 21, 2024 12:19 PM

Yesterday's topics with the most engagement included a neighbor with long COVID, a kindergartener and racism, taking kids on vacation without a custody agreement, and a Supreme Court ruling about Texas's immigration law.

The most active thread yesterday was titled, "Neighbor is living her best life on Disability with ‘Long Covid’" and posted in the "Off-Topic" forum. The original poster writes that her neighbor, who is a federal employee, has not worked since the summer of 2020 because she has long COVID. Nevertheless, the neighbor plays tennis, hosts a book club, and frequently leaves on vacation, all the while collecting disability. The original poster concludes by saying that if this is what long COVID looks like, she would like to be signed up. I have no evidence that this is a troll post, but if it were a troll post, it is almost perfectly designed. It is full of hot button issues. It not only has COVID, the inspiration for multiple most active threads, but long COVID. The neighbor is said to be a federal employee, a group constantly attacked on DCUM as being lazy. Finally, the specter of welfare cheaters living lives of luxury is one that has long been used to manufacture outrage. So, of course, plenty of outrage was manufactured. "I hate people who take advantage of the system. She is taking advantage of the system" wrote one responder. Similarly, another replied, "I hate scammers." But, not all of those responding were ready to immediately grab their torches and pitchforks. To the contrary, one of the most frequent responses was to tell the original poster to mind her own business. As the original poster had predicted, many cautioned that the symptoms of long COVID are not always obvious and that the original poster has no way to know the neighbor's true health situation. Others explained that obtaining eligibility for disability is a complicated process that would require that doctors support the neighbor's diagnosis. Some pointed out that disability does not pay that much and questioned whether it would fund the type of lifestyle the original poster describes. A few posters claimed that long COVID is itself a scam. On the other hand, some posters were willing to accept the original poster's allegations at face value and offered advice as to how to respond. They suggested contacting the federal agency that employs the neighbor and provide an anonymous report. Others suggested that there might be a hotline that she could call. There were also suggestions to contact the Social Security Administration's fraud department. There are enough angles to this scenario to keep posters busy debating various combinations of them. For instance, there is considerable debate about how exactly disability works and whether or not the neighbor might be expected to do another job if she is unable to do her original job. As for her part, the original poster appears to have disappeared after a single follow-up report, perhaps leaving on vacation or catching a quick game of tennis.

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Thursday's Most Active Threads

by Jeff Steele last modified Mar 15, 2024 11:39 AM

The topics with the most engagement yesterday included boys volleyball in FCPS, Meghan Markles' new lifestyle brand, "working poor" at $100k per year, and being mistaken for a race, nationality, religion, etc. that you are not.

The top three most active threads yesterday were all ones that I've previously discussed (Kate photo, soccer club merger, over-scheduled kids). Therefore, I am starting with what was actually the fourth most active thread yesterday. Titled, "What season is boys volleyball?" and posted in the "Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS)" forum, this is not the sort of topic that you would expect to see as the first thread that I discuss in one of these posts. The original poster simply is curious about whether boys volleyball will conflict with her son's primary sport. You might think that this is a fairly simple question — I certainly did — but then you, like me, would be wrong. The answer is that boys volleyball is a Fall sport in Fairfax County Public Schools. What complicates things is that this is a new sport that will be introduced in the next school year. Therefore, the thread begins with a discussion about whether boys volleyball even exists within the school system. Once it is established that the sport has been approved, there is a dispute about whether there is interest in the sport. Many see volleyball as a girls' sport and claim that they don't know a single boy who plays the sport. Other posters point out that there is an active and popular recreation league that is proof of strong interest in volleyball among local boys. In addition, a number of posters point out that boys volleyball is popular in other parts of the country. Federal regulations require that boys and girls have an equal number of sports, so another point of discussion involved which sport would be introduced for girls. That turns out to be girls wrestling, which was equally, if not even more, controversial. Once again, posters claimed that they didn't know any girls interested in wrestling. However, another poster wrote that several girls wrestled at the high school her kids attend. In addition to the expected lack of interest in the sports, the other reason many posters were upset about the new sports was the concern that the sports might complete for space in gyms. Several posters argued that the limited gym space at their schools was already booked up and that there wouldn't be room for two more sports. Another objection was financial. Apparently, the cost of the two new sports was included in a budget which also asked for a 10% increase in funding from the County. One poster wrote, "It’s an irresponsible idea that came out of a small group of boys volleyball players and their parents badgering [the schools superintendent]". This poster expected that the sports would be cut before the final budget is approved.

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Wednesday's Most Active Threads

by Jeff Steele last modified Mar 09, 2024 09:31 PM

Yesterday's topics with the most engagement included the prevalence of non-binary individuals, a young mother at private school (a thread disrupted by a troll), restaurants that don't live up to their reputations, and an inappropriate remark about Israel by a work colleague.

The most active thread yesterday was titled, "Trans Non Binary - minority?" and posted in the "College and University Discussion" forum. The original poster says that she has toured at least six colleges in the last 2 1/2 months and on every tour at least one guide has used "they/them" pronouns. This prevalence of non-binary gender is much higher than the original poster has been told exists in the population at-large and she wonders if being non-binary is simply more common among college students. Anything related to transgender or non-binary gender is a hot button issue these days, but even I was surprised that this thread grew to 18 pages in just a few hours, at which point I locked it. The immediate issue I saw with this thread was that it appeared that many posters were significantly more interested in writing than reading. This resulted in many posters talking past each other. One poster repeatedly insisted that other posters did not know the difference between sex, gender, and sexual orientation despite almost every poster appearing to have a fairly solid understanding of those concepts. In response to the original poster's question about the prevalence of being non-binary, posters suggested that the numbers were actually higher than the original poster had been told and that numbers were higher yet among young people. Other posters pointed out that even individuals who are not non-binary often choose to use "they/them" pronouns for a variety of reasons. Therefore, the tour guides the original poster encountered might not necessarily identify as non-binary. The thread was soon bogged down in the normal tedious debates surrounding transgender and non-binary topics. One poster made an ill-conceived comparison of non-binary individuals to tomboys. This provoked nearly every tomboy who has ever set foot on DCUM to weigh in claiming that they never once considered themselves to be non-binary. Most of the thread is simply unreadable and, hence, I didn't read much of it. I think the only relevance to colleges or universities was some petty bickering about which posters would do better on their SAT exams. Given the inability of so many posters to communicate successfully, I wouldn't hold out much hope for any of them. The one conclusion that was easily discernible is that a number of posters hate when other people use pronouns such as "they/them". They view this as forcing them to categorize themselves in ways in which they don't identify and they resent it. They hate the idea of having a label forced on them so much that they demand that those individuals who choose to identify as "they/them" be forced to use one of two acceptable labels instead. Another irony that I noted is that many posters reacted to "they/them" pronouns by complaining about there being too many categories of gender. One of the main characteristics of identifying as non-binary is that it erases gender. So, if fewer categories is better, this would seem ideal.

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Tuesday's Most Active Threads

by Jeff Steele last modified Mar 06, 2024 11:23 PM

The topics with the most engagement yesterday included a rise in antisemitism, how much debt posters have, fears and hopes if Trump wins, and attractive men falling for "ugly" women.

The most active thread yesterday was, somewhat inexplicably, the thread from some time ago about the merger of two soccer clubs. But I've discussed that thread before and will skip it today. The next most active thread was titled, "The golden age of American Jews is ending" and posted in the "Religion" forum. The original poster linked to an article by Franklin Foer in "The Atlantic" that was titled the same as this thread. The original poster provided a one sentence summary saying that anti-Semitism on both the right and the left is threatening to end an unprecedented period of prosperity for American Jews. This thread really should have been posted in the political forum because this is more of a political discussion rather than a religious one. Jewish identity is a complex topic that is not solely based on religion. Moreover, the complicated relationship between Jews and Israel makes things even more convoluted. It is very clear that most, if not all, of the examples of anti-Semitism on the left that Foer provides are rooted in political divisions, not religious. Some of those examples can reasonably be argued to not be anti-Semitic at all, though they can equally reasonably be interpreted that way. This all makes for a very difficult discussion to have, particularly in a forum such as DCUM. This was clearly demonstrated when a poster alleged that some American Jewish groups have promoted extreme practices in Israel and responded to criticism of those actions by labeling it anti-Semitic. The poster suggested that the groups have gone too far and concludes, "If being against genocide makes me an antisemite, so be it." Indeed, another poster immediately accused that poster of being an anti-Semite. This provoked a tangent into history and disagreements about what Israel is actually doing. Or, perhaps "tangent" is not the right word because that discussion dominated the thread from that point on, leading to me locking the thread. On one side are posters who believe that criticizing Israel's actions is perfectly justified and has nothing to do with the Jewish religion but rather the acts of the state and government of Israel. They see charges of anti-Semitism as a method of shielding Israel from legitimate criticism. On the other side are posters who see anti-Semitism as a motivation for many of the attacks on Israel. What one side sees as legitimate criticism of Israel, the other side often views as inappropriate attacks on Jews. One side views accusations of anti-Semitism as cynical exploitation of a delegitimizing designation while the other side views "anti-Zionism" to be thinly-veiled anti-Semitism. It is clear that anti-Israel discourse has reached unprecedented levels in the US and most American Jews have probably never previously encountered, and perhaps maybe never even envisioned, such widespread opposition to Israel. But, whether this reflects a rise of anti-Semitism that threatens American Jews as Foer would have it or is simply the same type of political activity that has previously been focused on other countries such as apartheid South Africa, is probably more a question of perception than something that can be established with precise certainty.

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The Most Active Threads Since Friday

by Jeff Steele last modified Feb 19, 2024 02:57 PM

The topics with the most engagement since my last blog post included preventing a son from getting a tattoo, the intellect of business majors, a 13-year-old caught drinking, and a 39-year-old trainer's disappointing dating experiences.

The most active thread since my last blog post on Friday was the one about the court proceedings in Georgia that I've already discussed and will skip today. The most active thread after that one was titled, "Best way to keep kid from getting a tattoo while in college" and posted in the "Tweens and Teens" forum. When I first read the title of this thread, I thought this was a very esoteric concern given the full spectrum of things that can go wrong during college. But the original poster's explanation, that her son plays a sport in college that has a strong tattoo culture and he is feeling pressured to get one, made the concern understandable. Most of those responding seemed pretty pessimistic about the chances of preventing the child from getting a tattoo. Instead, they suggested offering advice about the placement and design of it instead of trying to prevent a tattoo altogether. Some posters suggested threatening to stop paying for college if he got a tattoo. Others took the opposition approach and suggesting offering a cash reward if he didn't get one. The most innovative idea, though not necessarily the best one, was for the original poster to get a tattoo herself, likely turning off her son from the ideas. This sort of reverse psychology was behind suggestions to praise tattoos and to declare them to be good ideas. I was a bit dismayed that almost none of those responding suggested simply having calm and mature discussions about the pros and cons of tattoos. They all seemed to prefer either control, manipulation, or resignation. One exception was a poster who suggested having a conversation about the opinion of the Maori people about specific tattoo trends and other pitfalls of tattoos. The poster also advised discussing non-permanent ways in which the original poster's son could decorate himself. The original poster explicitly stated that she was not intending to start a debate about tattoos themselves, but that was clearly wishful thinking. Before long, posters who support tattoos and posters who don't were not only arguing, but calling each other childish names. Over half the thread is probably substance-free bickering, none of which had much to do with the original poster's question.

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Wednesday's Most Active Threads

by Jeff Steele last modified Feb 15, 2024 11:18 AM

The topics with the most engagement yesterday included Girls Lacrosse, MCPS high school bathrooms, the Charles Allen recall effort, and Arlington losing young families.

One again, the Travis and Taylor thread was the most active, but like yesterday, I will skip that thread today because I have already discussed it. The next most active thread after that was titled, "2028 Girls Lacrosse" and posted in the "Lacrosse" forum. I know almost nothing about lacrosse so asking me to discuss the topic is similar to asking a group of blind people to describe an elephant. They each might get an individual part of the animal correct, but will probably miss the larger picture. It is my assumption that the "2028" in the title refers to the high school graduation year of the players which would mean that this thread is meant to discuss middle school-aged athletes. But I would not be surprised to learn that I am even wrong about that. This thread was started last November, but became active yesterday after a post beginning, "Here is some pre-season material from BOTC to get you fired up:". I have no idea who or what "BOTC" is, but the post did have the effect of firing up other posters. Or, perhaps "fired up" is too strong but it certainly got them posting. There was a ton of back and forth regarding which teams would do well and how one team might match up with another. But that did not even rise to the level of trash talk. Things got a bit heated when discussion turned to a team — at least I think it is a team — called "Lumberlax". If I understood correctly, a parent associated with that team was accused of "poaching" players from other teams. Moreover, one poster reported that Lumberlax parents had made some controversial statements about another team. But, then it turned out that Lumberlax isn't really a full-fledged team but more or less an ad hoc effort organized for a small number of games primarily to raise money for charity. Moreover, almost everyone denies that the alleged controversial statements by parents that were described had actually been made, but they are deeply sorry if they were. Most posters seem to believe the post about the statements was a troll. The only other thing I picked up from this thread is that it is entirely appropriate to respond to any question by writing, "IYKYK" and not only is there a "IYKYK guy", but he has an assistant. I'm sure that being the assistant to the IYKYK guy is very prestigious and a position to which we should all aspire.

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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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Thursday's Most Active Threads

by Jeff Steele last modified Jan 26, 2024 10:49 AM

The topics with the most engagement yesterday included pride in being an American, college applicants skipping "target" schools, a mother and daughter who hate each other, and Trump blocking immigration reform.

Yesterday's most active thread was titled, "How proud are you to be an American?" and posted in the "Off-Topic" forum. This thread is currently 23 pages long and, to be honest, I don't really feel like reading a single post. The entire text of the original post is "Politically and philosophically speaking." which did nothing to increase my interest in the thread. Moreover, the thread should have been posted in the political forum because almost immediately most of the posts turned political. I skipped to the last page and, sure enough, things were even worse. As a result, I locked the thread. As would be expected, some posters are proud to be an American and others are less so. In many cases, feelings seem to be closely aligned with support or disagreement with President Joe Biden or former President Donald Trump. I, of course, am not a big fan of the "love it or leave it" mentality often evinced by those with perhaps too much pride in our country. Nor, however, do I think we need to permanently hang our heads in shame. The vast majority of us had no say in becoming Americans. We were born that way and, if anything, the primary thing we should feel is lucky. America, like it citizens, is responsible for both good and bad contributions to the world. It is a country with flaws and it helps nobody to ignore or gloss over those shortcomings. Ironically, some of the most vocal critics of America today are exactly those who proclaim themselves "patriots". Many of them would have us believe that pride in the country is best expressed by waving a flag while attempting to usurp its fundamental institutions. This highlights another issue. What exactly is "America"? Is it simply a land within its borders, a legal designation, or a government? Is it its people, a culture, neither of those, or something more? Have increased travel, communication, and other aspects of globalization made being an American less significant? The few posts that I read in this thread suggested that many poster's feelings about America were tied to their support for one side or the other of the Israel-Gaza war. By the end of the thread the discussion appears to have lost all relevance to the original topic and is solely about immigration.

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Monday's Most Active Threads

by Jeff Steele last modified Jan 23, 2024 11:13 AM

Yesterday's topics with the most engagement included the future of MCPS Superintendent McKnight, alternatives to Joe Biden, adults who haven't learned how to drive, and paying for in-law's mortgage.

The most active thread yesterday was titled, "Board wants Monifa to step down". Posted in the "Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS)" forum, the title refers to a report in the Washington Post that the Montgomery County Public Schools Board of Education has requested that Superintendent Dr. Monifa McKnight step down from her position. According to the Post article, McKnight contends that the Board has not previously communicated any concerns about her performance and has no cause to remove her from office. Therefore, she plans to remain in her position and contest efforts to force her out. McKnight has been controversial from the start. While she was serving as Interim Superintendent before officially being hired as Superintendent, the Montgomery County Education Association — the teachers' union — passed a vote of no confidence in her. Her efforts to address the fallout from the covid pandemic have not won her many fans and significantly increased criticism of her leadership. More recently, a controversy involving the promotion of Joel Beidleman, a MCPS middle school principal who was promoted to high school principal while under investigation for bullying and sexual harassment, has raised questions about her involvement in events. McKnight has denied any knowledge of the charges against Beidleman but several top administrators have been found to have been involved. This has led to the classic conundrum that if McKnight knew what was happening, she was malfeasant and, if she didn't know, she was incompetent. But, much of the discussion in this thread focuses on the school board. Many posters call for board members to step down along with McKnight because the board has approved all of McKnight's actions. Moreover, many posters see the board as mishandling McKnight's dismissal. If the board has indeed not communicated grounds for her removal and McKnight is unwilling to go quietly, there will likely be a significant financial payout to get her to leave. Months of unwanted controversy regarding this issue can also be expected. A sideshow debate in this thread involves how McKnight is addressed by posters. There has long been a tendency in the forum to identify the superintendent as "Monifa" — something that happened even in the thread's title. Several posters object to this, believing that the frequent habit of referring to women in general and Black women in particular by their first names is lodged in sexism and racism. I have noticed this propensity, frequently as it relates to Vice President Kamala Harris, and I also agree that the use of first names in such instances are posters' efforts to diminish these women. Loudoun County went through a major controversy leading to the removal of Dr. Scott Ziegler as schools superintendent and never once do I remember him being called "Scott". Neither was former Fairfax County Public Schools superintendent Dr Scott Brabrand referred to with that name during his controversial tenure.

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