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2024

Sub-archives

Wednesday's Most Active Threads

by Jeff Steele last modified Apr 11, 2024 06:37 PM

Yesterday's topics with the most engagement included the "Big 15" private and independent schools, intelligence and political alignment, choosing between a tenured professorship and a husband's advancement, and the Arizona Supreme Court abortion ruling.

Yesterday's most active thread was titled, "Big 15??" and posted in the "Private & Independent Schools" forum. The original poster provided a list of 15 private and independent schools and suggested that posters rank them using various criteria that the original poster provided. The original poster also said that others could not add or subtract from the list. Almost from the beginning of this forum's creation there has been an obsession among some posters with the rank of schools. There have been bitter battles waged over which schools should be considered the "Big 3". The "Big 3" or "Big 5" or even the "Big 10" has been so contentious that the forum even has a "sticky" post on the topic. Expanding the list to the "Big 15" may be taking things a bit too far and the stipulation that schools cannot be added or removed seems a kind of controlling if I am honest. But, as you would expect from DCUM in general, and this forum in particular, posters are not too concerned about following rules. Before the first page was complete posters had already started adding and removing schools. The position of various schools in the original poster's list is disputed with boosters of particular schools arguing that they should be higher on the list and detractors arguing they should be lower. These disputes are sometimes accompanied by derogatory comments such as those accusing both Holton and Georgetown Day School supporters of being "delusional". The thing about a thread like this is that the original poster knows it will turn into a train wreck and everyone replying knows that it will be a train wreck. Yet, they can't help themselves. I probably received a half dozen reports about this thread from posters complaining that it is a train wreck. Of course it is, why would anyone expect anything else? I finally locked the thread this morning mostly so I could write this post without being interpreted by additional reports about it. The original poster had warned against adding BASIS Independent McLean, a member of the BASIS independent school network that has become quite controversial. The school, normally referred to as "BIM" on DCUM, has a group of extreme boosters who I've repeatedly caught sock puppetting supportive posts. The boosters tend to stake their claim for the school's superiority on ratings by Niche, a website that collects data and reviews about schools. I really know nothing about Niche and can't comment on the accuracy or validity of it ratings. BIM supporters and detractors obviously hold contrary opinions of the website. Despite the original poster's prohibition on adding BIM to the list, a BIM booster was not to be stopped and promptly put BIM at number 1 in her list. Then, true to form, the poster immediately sock puppetted a response quoting her own post and describing the list as "Very accurate". Other posters attempted to add public schools to the list, creating their own controversy. Just to be clear, I think any thread of this nature is pretty stupid and a waste of time. If your ego is so fragile that it hinges on whether your kids' school is number 1 or number 5 on a list, you would probably be better off spending money on therapy than private school. The only redeeming value of such threads is that the vast majority of posters don't take them seriously.

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Tuesday's Most Active Threads

by Jeff Steele last modified Apr 11, 2024 09:22 AM

Yesterday's topics with the most engagement included the name "Saoirse", estranged parents and college graduation, colleges for kids with 1400 and below SAT scores, and buying condoms for teens.

The most active thread yesterday was a bit of a surprise. Titled, "Is Saoirse cruel?" and posted in the "Expectant and Postpartum Moms" forum, I honestly had no clue what this thread was about based on its title. My first thought was that it was referring to a new fangled birthing method or the latest fad child-rearing philosophy. But, it turns out that "Saoirse" in an Irish name that the original poster is considering using for her daughter. The original poster is Irish-American and has loved this name for many years. She would like to give her daughter an Irish name as way of connecting the child to herself and her family. But she wonders if a lifetime of mispronunciations and poor guessing is a cruel burden to put on the child. To make things even more confusing for readers, the original poster added that they would also use the nickname "Sari (said like hair, just like how we'd say sair-shuh)". The immediate reaction from those responding was that not only did they not have any idea how to pronounce "Saoirse", they could not comprehend how "Sari" could be said like "hair". Therefore, as you might expect, there was a wave of responses advising the original poster not to choose this name. The orignal poster has also mentioned that there might be more awareness of the name because of Saoirse Ronan. I had to Google "Saoirse Ronan" in order to learn that she is an actress, but one whose performances I've never seen. So, she was, in fact, no help in my case. I seemed to not be alone in this regard. Amidst the warnings that nobody would be able to either pronounce or spell the name, a few posters were supportive of using it. They think the name is beautiful and argue that the original poster should not worry about the concerns expressed by others. Some posters suggest that "Saoirse" might, in fact, be getting more well known in the US and that many children have unusual names these days. There was an entire side debate about the appropriateness of Irish-Americans using Irish names, especially ones that are not even that common in Ireland and, as in this case, have political significance. Multiple posters, including one who herself has an Irish name that is difficult for Americans to pronounce, believe that parents who choose such names are being pretentious and "try-hard". They think such parents enjoy correcting others and either showing that they are worldly or stressing their Irishness. However, every objection to the name was met with a response brushing off the criticism. There were also suggestions for alternatives such as using "Saoirse" as a middle name or spelling it phonetically. For her part, when the original poster finally returned to the thread, her reaction was "Woah I didn't expect people to have this much to say!" Welcome to DCUM. Or should I say, fáilte.

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Wednesday's Most Active Threads

by Jeff Steele last modified Mar 28, 2024 01:08 PM

Yesterday's topics with the most engagement included lowering expectations for a potential spouse, things posters in the college forum wish they had known, Biden and housing zoning policies, and avoiding those with mental health issues while dating.

Yesterday's most active thread was titled, "Do I need to lower my expectations ( dating)" and posted in the "Relationship Discussion (non-explicit)" forum. The original poster says that she is a 27 year old woman who has a career that she loves, makes decent money, owns a home, and has no debt. She has been dating in hopes of finding a husband but coming up empty. She hopes to find a guy who earns as much or more than she does, lives alone, has not been previously married, does not have children, and has no debt. Because she can't find these characteristics in men her age, she has been looking at somewhat older guys. But, since she has been unsuccessful, she wonders if she should lower her expectations. A number of posters suggest easing up on the salary requirements and dropping the requirement that the guy live alone. Living with roommates is both economically efficient and indicates an ability to successfully live with others they say. In response, the original poster emphasized the importance of income because she hopes to quit her job or work part time to raise kids who she also wants to send to private school. Several posters note that she is not considering some important attributes in a mate with one poster suggesting that she look for "someone who shares your values and will be a good partner." As another poster writes, "You sound like you're vetting loan applicants, not life partners." The original poster agreed that shared values are important, but her initial set of expectations was simply to screen for dates. She explores values and compatibility during dates. Posters warned that in order to attract the sort of man she is seeking she would need to meet certain beauty standards. "Are you Instagram fitness model caliber or nah?", asked one poster. The original poster's response, at least in my mind, left that as an open question. But, then on the second page of the thread a poster wrote, "Every single one of these threads lately reads like the ‘wife is a bad sham’/‘using pregnancy as an excuse’ troll" referring to a troll about whom I wrote in yesterday's blog post. Agreeing that this poster was on to something, I began to investigate that possibility. That particular troll uses DCUM in such a way that it is not possible to make conclusive determinations about his/her identity. So, I can't say that I know for sure that this poster is that troll. But, there are signs that indicate this might be the case. Enough signs that I have locked the thread this morning. But, I should emphasize that I could very easily be wrong in this identification. Assuming that I am correct, one reason that this troll has been so successful at creating threads that are among the most active threads of the day is through their shear tenacity. The poster posted more than 50 times in the thread yesterday.

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Tuesday's Most Active Threads

by Jeff Steele last modified Mar 28, 2024 08:56 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.

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Tuesday's Most Active Threads

by Jeff Steele last modified Jan 27, 2024 06:38 PM

Yesterday's topics with the most engagement included a spouse from an underdeveloped country, a wife arrested for DWI, the point at which private colleges don't justify their cost, and should women marry for money?

The most active thread yesterday was titled, "Vent about marrying someone from a very underdeveloped country". The thread was originally posted in the "Off-Topic" forum but I moved it to the "Relationship Discussion (non-explicit)" forum. The original poster says that she and her family are visiting her husband's family in a country that is much less developed than the United States. They are staying with her husband's family in a house in which taking a warm shower requires mixing boiling hot water with cold water and using a bucket. There is no air conditioning or heat and stores that have the items they would like to purchase are a three-hour drive away. The original poster and her kids are miserable but her husband is not understanding of the challenges they are facing. The original poster is very upset with him and using this thread to vent. This thread has already reached 21 pages. There are posters who are not sympathetic to the original poster and generally criticized her attitude and provided advice regarding what they believe are easy things that she can do to adjust. Other posters are more supportive of her and critical of her husband. The original poster has previously posted other threads about her husband and travels to his native country which results in the original poster being recognized by others who linked to her earlier threads. There are a number of disputes about whether or not the original poster is a troll, with one poster even starting a thread asking this in the "Website Feedback" forum. As I said in that thread, the poster is posting from Bangladesh, the country to which posters identified her as referring. However, this morning I noticed that the original poster has done quite a bit of sock puppeting, mostly offering what appears to be third-person defenses of herself. The thread is full of repeated patterns in which the original poster complained about something, posters offered advice for improving whatever that is, the original poster then explains why the advice won't work, other posters criticize her, the original poster sock puppets a supportive message, and then the original poster again explains why the advice won't work. The thread is also full of Indians, people related to Indians, or people who have been to India who believe that they have all the answers for the original poster. But, as with all other advice, the original poster is not receptive and is convinced that what applies to India is irrelevent to Bangladesh. Some posters engage with this thread as if it is some sort of mystery that they must solve. The city in which she is visiting was identified and posters provided the average daily temperatures, population statistics, and other information that they think shows the original poster is misstating the reality of conditions. Given the frequency with which the original poster has been posting — over 60 posts in 24 hours — it is clear that while the home in which she is staying may not have running warm water, heat, or a modern kitchen, it has a good Internet connection.

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The Most Active Threads Since Friday

by Jeff Steele last modified Jan 24, 2024 04:03 PM

The topics with the most engagement since my last blog post included repeat posters, the UVA rush, marching band in APS, and a 30-year-old not shoveling snow.

The most active thread over the weekend was the Gaza war thread which I have discussed before and will skip now. After that was a thread titled, "Do you ever recognize repeat posters?". Posted in the "Off-Topic" forum, the original poster says there are a couple of posters who are "frequent flyers" and she is able to recognize their posts. She asks if others are able to recognize anyone. For some reason DCUM posters love to reminisce about old threads and, in many ways, this thread is simply a version of doing this. While some posters do seem to have someone specific in mind, in many cases the descriptions of alleged repeat posters really describe trends or habits instead of individuals. For instance, one poster complained about someone who constantly writes, "Try to keep up", but that phrase is used by a host of users. Similarly, another poster suggested "The grammar Nazi", which could refer to any number of different users. Perhaps in response to these posters, one person claimed to recognize "The posters (plural) who think only one person ever writes certain words or phrases". Another poster, wrote, "Many of the examples listed are not about repeat posters, rather they posted something memorable. That's a different discussion." But, this is the destiny of any thread that provides DCUM posters the opportunity to wax nostalgic. Despite all of this, a few posters did describe repeat posters who are recognizable to me. But, those posts normally went unremarked upon. An exception was a poster who I have been combatting for sometime who likely suffers from some sort of mental health issue. The poster has a few recognizable posting patterns and, as a result, was mentioned by multiple posters, though without apparent understanding that they were all describing the same poster. I am fairly certain that they were describing different habits of the guy, without knowing they were describing the same person. Later in the thread, posters started multiple debates over whether a single or multiple posters were responsible for some of the poster's posts. As a result, that poster was probably the most mentioned individual in the thread. Some posters claimed that they recognized a poster who would use a specific phrase only to have another poster chime in saying that they used that phrase but that it was also used by others. When a poster brought up someone who is obsessed with DEI, a debate about DEI broke out. If nothing else, that clarified that there are multiple posters obsessed with DEI to the extent that they can't even control themselves in a thread of this sort which has nothing to do with the topic. One poster appears have recognized himself and offered a defense saying, "Today white men are facing the greatest discrimination known on this earth" which left me uncertain about whether this was satire or the guy actually believes this.

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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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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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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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Last Year's Most Active Threads

by Jeff Steele last modified Jan 02, 2024 09:00 AM

Wars dominated the topics with the most engagement last year and two threads from last year's list made return engagements.

Happy New Year to everyone in DCUM land. To start the year off, I am going repeat something that I did last January 1st. Instead of looking at the most active threads over the weekend as I would normally do, I am going to review the top ten most active threads for the entire year. Most of these are ones that I have discussed in blog posts so I won't say very much about each thread. But, this might provide an interesting overview of the topics that dominated DCUM in 2023. As is suited for a New Year's countdown, I am going to start from the bottom of the list and work towards the most active.

The tenth most active thread of 2023 was titled, "APS Closing Nottingham" and posted in the "VA Public Schools other than FCPS" forum. I originally discussed this thread on July 3, describing plans by Arlington Public Schools to send current Nottingham Elementary School students to other nearby schools and convert Nottingham into a "swing space" to be used by students of schools that were being renovated. The thread reached 180 pages before I locked it. Ultimately, as one poster wrote, "Notties always win...", and APS reversed its plans and will keep the school as it is.

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