[syndicated profile] captainawkward_feed

Posted by JenniferP

Dear Captain Awkward,

Short Version: I (she/her) have a friend (she/her) who is irrationally jealous of her boyfriend, and it’s driving all our friends apart. I don’t know whether to try help her, or just to distance myself from our friendship.

Longer explanation: She and I have now been friends for about five years, including during grad school. Overall, she can be a kind, thoughtful, and generous person. However, when it comes to her boyfriend of one year, she transforms into someone I don’t even recognize. Based on what she has said in the past, her relationship is stable and he has never given her cause to doubt his fidelity.

But recently, whenever he talks to another woman, even casual chat at a party, she becomes incredibly jealous. She has made scenes, calling women out in front of everyone, or sending messages that say “stay away from my boyfriend, bitch.” She insists that all the women in the friend group (even married, much younger, much older, etc.) want her boyfriend. I think I’ve escaped her jealousy only because I’m gay. Sometimes after one of her scenes, she apologizes and tries to smooth things over, but more often she remains convinced that someone is a “bitch” and expects everyone to agree with her. But everyone does NOT agree with her, and people are starting to distance themselves.

I’d like to remain friends, but I’m starting to seriously rethink the relationship. I believe that a lot of this is coming from her anxiety/depression, but I can’t stand to hear her reduce all these lovely, smart, funny women to “scheming bitches,” and I can’t let her believe that I’m on her side in this. Nobody else actually wants her boyfriend! I know if I confront her, she might get really angry with me, too, and I don’t do conflict well. We all work in a similar niche field (science-related), so I’d like to somehow maintain friendly relationships with all these people, if it’s even possible now. What do I do?

Thank you!

What a rough situation!

I want to be clear from the beginning that someone who is behaving this way may not take kindly to any attempt to address it, even the most friendly, mild, benefit-of-the-doubt-assuming inquiry might get a pretty harsh backlash and it may not be able to “maintain friendly relations” with her after you bring this up.

However, how “friendly” are the current relations if they mean putting up with this behavior?

One avenue you (and the associated friends) have is interrupting this in the moment where it happens, “Listen, nobody wants your doubtless-one-of-a-kind-godlike boyfriend, you are being really really weird about this, what are you doing?” Given the way she’s behaving, returning the awkwardness to sender in the moment is not out of line. It might lead to another big blow-up, but is that really worse than having all the not-argument-starting people quietly ghost?

If you want to  have a private conversation and start by asking your friend what’s going on. Here’s a script:

“Friend, I keep seeing you snap at almost every woman we know and accuse them of trying to steal your boyfriend whenever we hang out and it’s leaving a bad taste. Where is this coming from? What is this based on? Are you doing okay?”

Listen to what she has to say. What does she think is happening? It might be a skewed perspective but it would be helpful to know where she is coming from.

If her clinical-sort-of anxiety/depression are in a flare that can be a factor here (not an excuse, but a contributing factor). It would be interesting to see if she brings that up.

I’m working on a longer post about how to handle conflict with someone who has disclosed a condition like this to you that’s not quite baked yet, but one hands-down rule is “Do not automatically associate or assume negative behavior is a direct result of another person’s mental health diagnosis, even if you think you know” and another is “You ask people how they’re doing, you do not tell them.” If she’s talked explicitly about her mental health with you before, something she tells you might give you an opening to ask, “Hey, if this is all stressing you out so much, do you have all the MH support you need right now? Is it time to see a counselor/check in with your team and see if there are ways you can feel better?” 

If her boyfriend is cheating on her, has cheated on her, has constant mentionitis of other women, etc., lots of people aren’t comfortable going after the partner who is causing all their anxiety about a relationship so they blame everyone else. Alternately, there might be history with one of the other members of the group that you’re not fully up on.

Hyper-monitoring a partner for signs of cheating and constantly accusing them of cheating can be an abuse dynamic, (though so can making it seem like a partner is in constant competition with everyone else all the time to keep them off-balance and paranoid). Without knowing these people neither I nor the readers can tell you which is going on (depressingly it might be both), nor is it your job to be the Relationship Detective and get to the bottom of this decisively, especially absent your friend confiding in you. Ergo, your best bet is probably to speak in terms of  behaviors *you* are observing and how that is affecting *you.* 

For example:

From what I can see, nobody wants your boyfriend! Is there some history I’m missing?

See what she says. Follow-up could be:

Ok, but if your boyfriend were to cheat on you, that’s probably a BOYFRIEND-problem, not a every-woman-on-earth problem, right? 

I really look forward to our time with [career-adjacent social group], I generally find it relaxing and supportive, which is rare in our field. Can I count on you to stop calling people out about this when we’re all together? If Women-In-Science Happy Hour becomes Fighting-Over-A-Disappointing-Dude Happy Hour my gay ass is going to have to find a new place to hang, and I would really hate that.

I hope you know that I care about you a lot and I just hate seeing you so unhappy.” 

Key points: You care about her, this behavior is annoying you, you’d like her to stop doing this stuff. You can also ask more questions like “Is there something your friends can do right now?” and/or “What would allow you to relax and feel comfortable again?”

Avoid traps: Keep it focused on your observations, your needs, your friendship with her, do not invoke the feelings of the group (“Everyone agrees with me…” “You’re alienating everyone…”) even if that’s true and you are scared and want the cover of other people. It’s such a tempting thing to do, right? You can lend yourself the authority of the group while you do this scary conflict thing! Unfortunately, as soon as you switch from “I have noticed a thing you are doing” to “Everyone feels the same way” you risk switching the entire discussion away from your friend’s behavior over to “Who is everyone? What exactly did they say? Why are you on their side? See, everyone is against me!

I think that’s the kindest, most direct, most giving-her-room-to-be-her-best-self approach I can generate. It might get you good results, or she might decide to shoot the messenger, she’s shown already that she’s volatile and willing to throw blame everywhere. If that happens it’s not your fault. Sometimes the best kindness we can give someone if they are in the middle of a crisis or emotional flare-up and don’t handle a conversation like this well is the gift of a reset at some later time. It doesn’t mean you have to put up with shitty behavior, it just means that if this is normally a good friendship and the person is behaving out of character, you’re in a better emotional place to make no drastic decisions at this moment. 

Good luck.

Moderation Note: Comments are open, though I meant what I said in the paragraph about the Letter Writer and us not being Relationship Detectives who have to solve the “Who is the asshole?” mystery. Generating worst-case scenarios or placing responsibility on the Letter Writer to somehow solve the relationship dynamics or save the people in the couple from each other is off-limits.

Instead, tell us, have you ever had to have a difficult conversation with a friend about them behaving badly that went well? What worked?

[syndicated profile] snopes_feed

Posted by Associated Press

Nouman Raja was the first person in Florida in nearly 30 years to be convicted and sentenced for an on-duty killing — and one of only a few nationwide.

What brought you here will stay unheard of

Thursday, April 25th, 2019 05:17 pm
sovay: (PJ Harvey: crow)
[personal profile] sovay
I missed that yesterday was the international commemoration of the Armenian genocide. I was reminded by a post noting that the United States of America does not officially recognize the organized extermination of a million and a half human beings for the sake of their ethnicity as genocide these days, even though in the 1950's it was held up as one of the archetypal examples and there was plenty of American eyewitness and outcry at the time. I always heard it described as a genocide myself.

The other week I was re-reading Otto Penzler's The Black Lizard Big Book of Black Mask Stories (2010) and found myself really struck by William Campbell Gault's "The Bloody Bokhara" (1948), a tale of antiques and double-crosses set in the oriental rug trade in Milwaukee—narrated not by a detective, a policeman, or even a buyer, but by first-generation Armenian-American Levon "Lee" Kaprelian, being raised in the rug business by his immigrant parents. Insofar as I can judge, it's good writing-the-other. Instead of exotic local color, Lee's world of pilaf and appraisals and spring dances at the Junior League of the AGBU is the ordinary, working-class one suddenly invaded by a blonde-haired, blue-eyed girl with a secret, a four-hundred-year-old carpet potentially woven by a Persian master, and threatening strangers who drag with them ghosts of the old world, the one that Lee's parents and their beloved, competitive cousin fled a decade before Lee was born: their families died there. The story is so matter-of-fact about the Armenian genocide that it shocked me; at one point Lee witnesses a confrontation between his father and his father's cousin and one of the aforementioned strangers that leaves everyone alive but his father trembling with anger and trauma, having had to order out of his shop in safe, free America a man of the age and nationality to have been a perpetrator of the genocide he survived as a young man, who more than two decades later addresses him with the contempt of one. "His mind, I would guess, was back in Sivas, under the Turks." Is it a major piece of the story? No, but it's a major piece of the history of the Armenian diaspora, so it's there and it's acknowledged. Otherwise, when Lee who gets told he looks like Tyrone Power enters an apartment and hears Khatchaturian's "Sabre Dance" on the record player, he feels a little set up. He lives in America.

Anyway, in 1948 an American pulp writer could feel confident that his readership would know about the Armenian genocide; it's weird to me that my country doesn't recognize it, even if the state I live in does. It's not just a nicety of language, it's a form of denial not to name it. How you speak of people's deaths matters. These things feel even more important now.

Tiger Attacks Founder of Arizona Animal Rescue

Thursday, April 25th, 2019 08:27 pm
[syndicated profile] snopes_feed

Posted by Associated Press

The man took the blame for what he called an "accident" and said "these situations occur when there is human error."

Posting music when it's ready

Thursday, April 25th, 2019 03:00 pm
drwex: (VNV)
[personal profile] drwex
The new theory is that when I have five music tabs I make time to post them. I had been trying to organize things into groups, or balance the entries out but that leads to long delays and lots of open tabs. Sometimes "good enough for now" is good enough for now.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cQ05hz9JEvU&feature=youtu.be
Have I mentioned I have a New Minion at New Job and she's into music? Like, into it. She knew who Shpongle were but also she's young and non-American so her musical upbringing is different from mine and there are lots of things I've been able to toss to her. And she tosses some things back, like this. Mop Mop is a lot more jazzy than my usual fare but this performance (it's live) has a good high-energy rhythm powering it along and it doesn't noodle and wander the way some jazz does.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FafT6m4uQxg
First of two from DJs from Mars mashes. This one is simple, combining the recent (disturbing) pop track "Sweety but Psycho" from Ava Max with M83's "Midnight City" - itself a pretty disturbing track. The majority of the mash is carried by Max's vocals, which remind me a lot of Gaga's early work. The DJs put in a couple of segments of their own work but it's pretty minimal, more of a remix than a true mash.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WO43XZ1zXBg
The DJs doing a mega-mash of Avicii tracks as a tribute to him on the anniversary of his death. I wrote about it shortly after it happened and it's hard to believe it has been a year already. This mash-up is brilliant because it showcases both the number of popular hits that Avicii produced in his short career as well as the DJs' skills at mashing things up. If you don't watch the video you may miss the transitions because they're so smooth and well-chosen. I like that the video also includes a variety of different clips from live performances to the music videos.

https://soundcloud.com/enormouschills/lika-morgan-california-man
Lika Morgan's "California Man" is listed as a "chill" track but I think of it as a more standard dance-pop tune with the expected catchy riffs and simple lyrics. It's not bad by any stretch and I quite like it, even on third listen. The vocals are promising, particularly at the end of this track. I'm surprised I haven't blogged Lika Morgan before. I'll likely pick another track or two to write about.

https://soundcloud.com/candemirmusic/can-demir-feat-orhan-yildirim-jelka-original-mix
Can Demir's "Jelka" is also a little outside my usual wheelhouse. It's a high-BPM d&b-adjacent Israeli track - no surprise I got a pointer to it off Maya Jakobsen's feed. Still, I like it enough to blog it - tell me if it appeals to you.

Did NYC Ban Hot Dogs?

Thursday, April 25th, 2019 06:35 pm
[syndicated profile] snopes_feed

Posted by Dan Evon

Government-run facilities in New York City are definitely cutting back on processed meats.
[syndicated profile] snopes_feed

Posted by Associated Press

The giraffe population in Africa has declined by about 40 percent in the past three decades, according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.

~April Boston-area meetup~

Thursday, April 25th, 2019 03:51 pm
[syndicated profile] captainawkward_feed

Posted by sgoch

Apologies for the late posting!

When: Sunday, April 28th, 2019, 10 am

Where: Harvard Art Museum Cafe

32 Quincy Street, Cambridge, MA 02138

The closest T stop is Harvard, on the red line. The museum is about a ten-minute walk across the Harvard yard from the station.

Venue: The cafe is located in the atrium of the art museum. You do not have to pay the entrance fee to sit in the cafe area. The cafe has a small selection of pastries and other snacks, but if you have specific dietary requirements you may need to bring your own food. The building is accessible via a ramp on Prescott Street.

How to find us: I will claim a table and set up a paper sign. I will have my knitting and/or a painting project. I have coloring sheets, but you can also bring coloring sheets! Or sketchbooks!

What to bring: Crayons, colored pencils, paints, coloring books, a puzzle, fun facts about Megatherium and/or fungal networks in forests!

If you need more information, you can inquire on the “Boston” thread at FOCA.

Looking forward to seeing you all there!

How to maintain first and second language skills

Thursday, April 25th, 2019 03:11 pm
[syndicated profile] languagelog_feed

Posted by Victor Mair

In the comments to "Cantonese as a Second Language" (4/22/19), there's an interesting discussion going on about how to maintain and / or acquire competency in more than one language.  This post started out as a comment to that thread, but it soon grew too long, so I've separated it off here.

My son was born in Taiwan and spent the first two years of his life in Taipei in an all-Mandarin household with lots of members (father, mother, grandfather, grandmother, and two aunts), and plenty of other relatives in the Taipei area (more uncles, aunts, cousins, etc.) — all mainlanders.  They all spoke Mandarin with him.

We moved to America (Boston area) when TK was two years old, and the core of the family moved with us, so the Mandarin-speaking nucleus of the extended family was still intact.

For the next four years, most of the people we visited with and his closest playmates also all spoke Mandarin.  During that period, he continued to speak almost exclusively in Mandarin.

Many of TK's older Chinese relatives had thick Shandong accents, and the younger ones spoke Táiwān guóyǔ 台灣國語 (Taiwanese Mandarin), and there were also varying amounts of Sichuanese thrown in to the mix, because the family had spent about a decade in that province during WWII and picked up a fair amount of Sichuaneseisms there and in the communities they lived in after they moved to Taiwan toward the end of the 40s.

Despite all the topolectal influences swirling around him, my son spoke only perfect, exact Modern Standard Mandarin (MSM), because my wife spoke that to him, and I followed suit.  My son's MSM at age three was so good that he could correct his Grandma's pronunciation.  I shall never forget when she was telling him the story of "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs", she pronounced the heroine's name with a Shandong accent so thick that you could cut it with a knife, something like "bei4shyueh3 gung1choo4", and little TK merrily and enthusiastically chirped with perfect MSM tones, vowels, and consonants:

"Bù, wàipó.  Bùshì 'Bei4shyueh3 gung1choo4'.  Shì 'Báixuě gōngzhǔ'."

"不,外婆,不是'Bei4shyueh3 gung1choo4'. 是'白雪公主'."

"No, grandma.  It's not 'Pansis Sney Wit', it's 'Princess Snow White'."

I could tell endless stories of this sort about TK's fantastic Mandarin at age two (here's one), and also about my mother-in-law's linguistic inventions and adventures trying to communicate in America when she had only a smattering of English (e.g., "Radcliffe" became  "Dawtaw Hawfo" — see if you can figure that one out).

TK's Mandarin from ages two to six was so good and so confident that my sister Heidi, when my wife and I were working at the Middlebury Summer School of Chinese in 1972, came to help us by babysitting TK and learned quite a bit of the language from him so that now, nearly half a century later, she can still say with exquisite pronunciation:

wǒ yào táng
wǒ èle
wǒ yào niàoniào
māmā zài nǎ'er

我要糖
我餓了
我要尿尿
媽媽在哪兒

I want candy
I'm hungry
I have to peepee
Where's Mom?

At age six, like most other children in America, TK went to elementary school, and then he learned English rapidly.  But his Mandarin to this day is still pretty good, because he had such a solid foundation, and we often were in situations, whether in America or in Taiwan or in China, where everybody was speaking Mandarin.

As for Chinese characters, we never forced TK to learn them, but he already recognized a few before we left Taiwan and he did acquire some literacy by attending weekend classes while he was in middle school.  When he was in his early 20s, TK spent a year in Hangzhou and learned to read and write with characters fairly well then.  We still have a precious scroll on which he wrote a long, loving poem to his Mother — all in Chinese, and illustrated with beautiful Chinese-style water colors.

I think that the lesson to be learned from my son's experience with Mandarin and Chinese characters may best be exemplified by one of my favorite Chinese expressions:  "Tīngqízìrán 聽其自然" ("Let nature follow its own course; let it be").  Never compel a child to learn a language or a script.  If it's meant to be, provide a nurturing environment, and just let it happen.

[syndicated profile] snopes_feed

Posted by Associated Press

With so little else to go on, it's a common practice for North Korea watchers to pay extremely close attention to Kim's every word and gesture when he makes public appearances.
[syndicated profile] snopes_feed

Posted by Associated Press

Joe Biden is paying special attention to his native Pennsylvania, a state that swung to Trump in 2016 after voting for Democratic presidential candidates for decades.

Four Fermented Foods I Love to Make at Home

Thursday, April 25th, 2019 02:00 pm
[syndicated profile] thesimpledollar_feed

Posted by Trent Hamm

A few years ago, my wife bought me a copy of The Art of Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz. She knew that I loved to experiment with foods and unusual recipes and figured I’d enjoy digging into this book, especially since there was a long tradition in my family of making homemade sauerkraut.

She was absolutely right.

Making fermented foods and beverages has developed into a low-cost hobby of mine over the last few years. I’ve tried and failed and succeeded at making all kinds of strange fermented foods: some that were delicious, some that were not so delicious, and some that were decidedly strange.

After many, many experiments over the last several years, I’ve come to realize that there are really four things that come out on top in terms of things I’d recommend to others. These four items are often being made in our home. They perfectly balance flavorful and useful with being relatively easy to make. (I really enjoy a few other things, but they’re a lot of work – keeping a sourdough starter alive comes to mind here.)

Here are the four fermented food items that I think offer the most “bang for the buck” in terms of making them yourself. They’re easy to make, don’t require much equipment, and use pretty inexpensive ingredients. If you make these even twice, you’ve paid for any equipment compared to buying these foods in the store; if you make them several times, you’re saving a ton of money versus buying them in the store.

Sauerkraut

Sauerkraut is simply finely chopped fermented cabbage. You simply take a head of cabbage, chop it up into small bits, add some salt to it, mash it around until a lot of the liquid comes out of the cabbage, and then store that juicy salty cabbage in a jar for a few weeks. That’s literally all you do. Sauerkraut is something of a family tradition for me, as my father used to make large batches of it every year in a giant crock in the garage when I was growing up.

My preferred easy way of doing this is to use a large wide-mouth quart Mason jar and put a simple air lock fermentation lid on top. Those are the only two things you need that you might not already have in your kitchen (besides the cabbage and salt). You might also want some glass fermentation weights, but they’re not essential, merely very useful.

The process is about as simple as can be. Go to the store and buy a head of cabbage – weigh it while you’re there and note the weight in pounds. When you get home, take the cabbage head and remove a few of the big outer leaves from the head and set them aside for the moment. Take the rest of the cabbage and chop it up into fine pieces – I usually aim for pieces that are roughly the size of a small matchstick and I discard a small portion of the stem.

To that chopped cabbage, add one tablespoon of salt for every two pounds you weighed in the store. Mix the salt in and let it sit for about 15 minutes, then start squeezing it with your hands or with a blunt instrument. Your goal is to try to get as much water out of the cabbage as you can, and the salt will naturally help with this; you don’t want to discard the liquid, but make a salty “soup” out of the cabbage. Do this for about 10 minutes or so. You’ll be left with a lot of salty liquid and a bunch of squeezed cabbage. Fill a jar about 3/4 full with the wet cabbage, then pour on enough of the liquid so that the cabbage is fully submerged. Take one of the leaves, cut a circle out of it that’s a little wider than the size of the jar, then stuff that cabbage circle down on top, pushing it down below the liquid level. If you have a fermentation weight, put that on top of the cabbage leaf to keep it weighted down so that it’s less likely that the sauerkraut will push up above the liquid level.

Then, pop on the fermenting lid and let it sit for three weeks or so. You might see a bit of white mold on the very surface of it if any of the cabbage is exposed, and that’s okay – you can just toss that part – but if you see any other colors, your liquid wasn’t salty enough.

After three weeks, it’s ready to eat! You can serve it as a condiment or as a side dish with many different meals. You can also experiment with future batches by adding other ingredients to the mix, such as shredded radish, caraway seeds, shredded beets, jalapeño peppers, or minced garlic.

Here’s a great recipe for homemade sauerkraut with more details.

Kombucha

Kombucha is fermented sweet tea. The fermentation process gives the tea a bit of a distinct flavor – it’s still sweet, but it has a hint of pleasant sour to it as well. I personally like to mix it with a small bit of fruit juice.

Again, making kombucha is pretty easy. The only permanent equipment you need is a gallon glass jar, a clean cloth to cover the opening, and a rubber band to secure the cloth in place. If you want to individually bottle it and try to make it fizzy, you’ll need a few resealable bottles – I use these for all kinds of homemade beverages, including kombucha.

You’ll need to buy a bottle of kombucha at the store – this is the “starter” you can use to get your own batch going. I highly recommend the popular GT’s Kombucha brand for this because I’ve personally verified that you can get kombucha started from it. Don’t worry about which flavor to buy.

This part is going to sound crazy, but what you’ll want to do is simply open up the bottle of kombucha, cover the opening with the cloth, use a rubber band to secure it, and just leave it out in the open at room temperature. I’m not kidding in the least. You’ll want to leave it for about a week or two.

What will happen is that a small layer will form at the top of the liquid. It might look more like a small ball, or it might be a layer along the top – both are fine, and the one that forms depends entirely on the type of kombucha you have and the ambient air in your home. That layer or ball is called a scoby, and it’s a key ingredient in making kombucha. This can take a couple of weeks, so don’t sweat it if you don’t see any changes after several days.

Note that, as with any fermentation, if you see anything that looks hairy or black, there’s a problem and you should toss the mixture, but this is a rare occurrence and generally only happens when you’ve messed up a step.

Once that little ball or layer has formed, give it another few days, then you’re ready to make your first batch.

You’ll need 14 cups clean water, 6 bags of black tea, 1 cup of sugar, and your bottle of kombucha. First, simply boil the water in a large pot on the stove. When it reaches a boil, remove it from the heat and put the tea bags in. Let them steep for five minutes or so, then remove the tea bags and let the entire mixture cool to room temperature over a few hours. When it’s at room temperature, add the cup of sugar, stir it thoroughly, then pour it into the clean gallon jar. Then, pour the contents of the kombucha bottle right into the jar, scoby and all. Stir it for a minute or so, then put the cloth over the top of the jar and rubber band it in place.

Let it sit for a couple of weeks. What you’ll notice is that the scoby will grow a lot larger over this time. That’s a good thing.

When you decide it’s time to try it, you’ll want to remove the scoby and two cups of the liquid from the mixture. What you may find is that the scoby separates into multiple pieces or layers; that’s fine. Keep at least one scoby and the liquid. The rest of the remaining liquid is kombucha that’s ready to drink – be aware that it’s not carbonated at all and at room temperature. If you want to carbonate it and add a fruit flavor, add two cups of your preferred fruit juice to the jar, mix it thoroughly, then fill some of the resealable glass bottles mentioned earlier. These will carbonate over the next several days; leave them out on the table and check one of them each morning and evening by simply opening one of the bottles quickly and closing it. When you open one and hear a small popping sound, then carbonation is happening and I would recommend moving them to the fridge and drinking them in the next few days.

The scoby and two cups of liquid that you saved can serve as the starter for your next batch. Just repeat the above process, using your scoby and starter. If the scoby is getting really thick and hard to handle, you can easily divide it into smaller pieces; this allows you to start making multiple batches at once.

Here’s a great kombucha primer from Joy of Cooking.

Fermented Pickled Vegetables

There are a number of ways to “pickle” vegetables. Some of them involve vinegar as a way to introduce acetic acid to encourage the pickling process. Others simply use salt and allow the pickling process to occur naturally. In both cases, you can wind up with a delicious treat.

I personally like many different fermented pickled vegetables. Cucumbers are an obvious choice, but pickled carrots and pickled cauliflower and pickled peppers and pickled radishes are all delicious. I also like mixing vegetables in this process.

My process is simple. I just use a wide-mouth quart jar and a fermenting lid, as described in the earlier section about sauerkraut. I also use a glass fermentation weight or two, as noted earlier. I cut up four cups of vegetables that I want to pickle and put them in the jar – I’ll cut pickles into spears or carrots into smaller long strips or trim down cauliflower florets or cut peppers into strips. If I want to add some spices, I add them now – for example, I like to add peppercorns to many vegetables and dill to pickles. You’ll want to leave at least an inch and a half of space at the top of the jar, if not more. Then, I add three tablespoons of salt to the water and stir it thoroughly, then add that salty water to the vegetables, covering them completely in the salty liquid. I’ll put a fermentation weight or two on top to keep the vegetables down in the brine, then put on the fermentation lid and the ring.

Then, I just let them sit on the countertop or in the cupboard for a few weeks. I usually taste the vegetables at about the two-week mark and then weekly after that until I’m happy with them.

As I noted earlier, this is a delicious way to prepare cucumbers, cauliflower, peppers, carrots, radishes, and beets, among other things. For most of them, you don’t need to add any spices at all, though I like adding peppercorns and dill to pickles at least.

If you’d like to know more about making fermented pickled vegetables, this is a great guide.

Kimchi

Kimchi is a Korean condiment that is made up of a variety of shredded vegetables. I view it as being a “long lost cousin” of sauerkraut, because the two often remind me of each other. Kimchi has a particularly strong flavor, however, and that’s due to some of the more unusual ingredients.

The process for making kimchi is pretty similar to making sauerkraut, actually. You’ll need the things mentioned earlier (wide mouth quart jars, fermentation lids) as well as a blender, as the sauce in kimchi is made up of more than just water and salt. I like to make several jars of this at once, so what follows is a recipe for enough kimchi to fill quite a few jars.

Start with a head of cabbage, three large carrots, and a handful of green onions. Chop the cabbage head until it’s reduced to thin strips, then chop the carrots into long matchsticks. Add half a cup of salt to these vegetables in a big bowl and mix it thoroughly with your hands, then add enough cold water to cover all of the vegetables. Let this sit for an hour or two, then strain off the salty water and save it.

Meanwhile, chop off the green portion of the green onions (and save that green part), then dice them. Put the onions, half a cup of chili powder, 20 garlic cloves, four inches of peeled ginger root, a tablespoon of fish sauce, and four tablespoons of white miso paste in a blender and puree it. It’ll be a very thick paste – add water and re-blend it until it’s like a thin pancake batter or a milkshake.

Take the green parts of the onions, chop them into small pieces, then toss the cabbage-carrot mix, the green onion pieces, and the paste together in a very large bowl. Mix everything as thoroughly as you can; you can/should use your hands, but wear gloves!

Then, just start cramming this stuff into the jars, pressing it down as much as you can. Ideally, some of the thick liquid should move up to the top, covering the vegetables. If this doesn’t quite happen, add just a small bit of the saved salty water until the vegetables are thoroughly covered. I advise you to keep the top of the liquid about an inch and a half from the top of the jar. Put a fermenting lid and a ring on each jar and leave them out at room temperature for three days; they’ll probably start to bubble. When you start to notice bubbling, open each jar and press the vegetables down with a knife, releasing the bubbles. Do it again each day after that. After three days (at least two of which involve noticeable bubbling), put them in the fridge on top of a plate or a pan of some kind, because sometimes this stuff can bubble up and overflow the jar.

This stuff is delicious, but it has a very very distinct flavor that can be a love-it-or-hate-it kind of thing. I’m in the love-it camp.

Here’s a more detailed version of the above recipe.

Final Thoughts

In all four of these cases, these recipes are far less expensive than buying the equivalent amount of that item in the store, and the homemade version is usually tastier because it’s fresher and you’ve selected the ingredients to match what you like.

However, these food items aren’t for everyone. I encourage you to try these things before making batches of them at home to make sure you’ll even like the end product. I really like all four of these things, but I know that even within my own family, some of these things are… not well liked.

If you find these kinds of foods and procedures interesting, I highly recommend the book The Art of Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz as a great reference. There are a number of good books on fermentation out there, but that was the one that really “set the hook” in terms of my own interest and discovery.

Good luck! Now, if I could just figure out how to keep a sourdough starter alive…

Read more by Trent Hamm

The post Four Fermented Foods I Love to Make at Home appeared first on The Simple Dollar.

In the Midst of the Sea

Thursday, April 25th, 2019 01:00 am
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Posted by Rabbi Yoel Glick

“Speak to the Children of Israel that they go forward.” – Exodus 14:15

“He who can forebear, lives. He who cannot, is lost.” – Sri Ramakrishna [1]

There are times in life when we feel closed in on all sides, moments when the way back is cut off, and the path forward is blocked. At such times, all we can do is hold on to God and put one foot in front of the other. Under such circumstances, we need to move forward even when there appears to be nowhere to go.


This, Rebbe Natan of Nemirov explains, was the situation of the Children of Israel at the shores of the Red Sea. Behind was the Egyptian army coming toward them in hot pursuit. In front of them lay the waves of the Red Sea standing as a wall of water blocking the path ahead. Trapped and cornered, they began to panic. Even Moses did not know what to do and cried out to God for help. But God did not perform a miracle or provide Moses with guidance; instead the Almighty turned to Moses and declared: “Why are you crying out to me? Speak to the Children of Israel that they go forward.”

Moses raised his staff, expecting the Children of Israel to move ahead, but nothing happened. The people just stood there arguing about who should go first. Finally, the Midrash informs us, Nachshon ben Aminadav took his courage in his hands and jumped into the sea, the waves suddenly parted and the people strode forward “on dry land in the midst of the sea.” (Exodus 14:16)

Nachshon ben Aminadav, Rebbe Natan tells us, is showing us how we need to respond to the moments of confusion and distress in our lives. We need to turn away from all of the doubts and fears that are assaulting us. We need to ignore the whirling thoughts and emotions which tell us to give up and change our course. We need to push everything aside, grab on to God and move forward with faith and determination.[2]

Accomplishing such an act of faith is no simple matter. It requires enormous courage and strength. It means controlling the mind and stilling the emotions even as they thunder against us with all of their might.

There are three principles that will help us succeed at this difficult task. The first principle, Rebbe Natan urges, is to keep up our spiritual practices no matter what happens. We cannot allow our anguish or misery to stop us from maintaining our inner devotions. We need to concentrate our mind on God through continual prayer, constant remembrance of the Presence, and spiritual reading or study. These are our tools in battling the inner demons that attack us.

 

The second important principle in crossing the turbulent waters is to develop a certain measure of detachment. If we are to survive the storm raging around us, then we have to place some distance between ourselves and the situation. Detachment is essential if we are to act with clarity and strength. However, let no one be mistaken, the detachment that we are trying to achieve is not a heartless, emotionally-numb state. The following incident from the life of Swami Ashokananda of the Vedanta Society of San Francisco makes this point clear.

After the sudden departure of one of his much-loved disciples, Swami Ashokananda remarked:

“I sometimes think that when I die they will find my bones like those of Dhritarashtra [a central figure in the Indian epic the Mahabharata], all full of holes. At first they thought that it was because of the arrows that had been shot at him. But no, it was his grief for the loss of his hundred sons. My bones will be like that.”

In response to his words, once of his disciples asked:

“But Swami, I thought monks were supposed to be detached!”

“That is detachment,” he replied, “when there is no self mixed up in it. Do you think detachment and hard-heartedness are the same thing?”[3]

Of course we feel the pain and sorrow of a loss or betrayal, if we didn’t; then we wouldn’t be human. However, we do not allow anger, personal hurt, and ego to take over our hearts. We refuse to give in to the self-pity, pettiness and self-recriminations of the lower self. We do not permit sentiment, accepted conventions or our own trepidation to turn us from doing what we believe to be right and true.  This is real spiritual detachment.

 

The final principle that is crucial if we are to reach the dry land in the midst of the sea is to learn to just let go. Turning to heaven, we offer up our troubles, worries and struggles at the feet of the Lord. Is not the Source of all Life in control of everything that happens to us? Does not the Divine Architect have a plan for each of our lives? Is there anything that the Omnipotent and Omniscient cannot do? Do we really have faith or is our faith merely a lot of empty words?

We do not have to find all of the answers. We do not have to solve all of our problems on our own. If we can surrender our burdens and rest in God, then God will step in and lead the way.

“A handmaid saw at the Red Sea what [the prophet] Ezekiel, son of Buzi, did not see.” – Mechilta Beshlach, Ch. 3

All of these crises are not only times of immense difficulty; they are also moments of spiritual opportunity. It is in when we are faced with the most painful circumstances, when we confront seemingly impossible dilemmas that the most profound revelations can occur. These situations force us to reach beyond ourselves to discover new strengths, qualities and understanding that we did not know that we possessed. Through the tension of these struggles we are lifted into a higher realm where God is very close, where the power of our true Self floods into us, where the wisdom that we need to move forward is revealed.

The Torah states, “And the waters parted. And the Children of Israel went into the midst of the sea on the dry ground.” (Exodus 14:21-22) Rebbe Natan teaches that the mystical interpretation of this verse is that the sea of supernal wisdom was revealed to the Children of Israel. Through their suffering the Children of Israel opened the door to the Divine source from which all knowledge comes, the ocean of pure consciousness which is the Mind of God.[4]

This, the Zohar teaches, is the hidden meaning of the verse in Genesis (1:3), “and the Spirit [ruach] of the Lord moved upon the surface of the waters.” It was the spirit of God moving on the waters of the Red Sea that caused it to split, as it is written, “With the blast [ruach] of Your nostrils the waters were piled up.” (Exodus 15:8) And it was the spirit of God moving on the waters that split the sea of supernal wisdom and caused the wellsprings of revelation to flow forth, as it is written, “A handmaid saw at the Red Sea what Ezekiel, son of Buzi, did not see.”

Both the physical as well the spiritual salvation occurred through the intervention of the spirit of God. It is to spirit that we turn when we are faced with the stormy waters of life in this world. It is to spirit that we look for guidance and inspiration as we strive to move forward in our lives. [5]

According to the tradition, the crossing of the Red Sea took place on the night of the seventh day of Pesach. May we all experience a great revelation on this night of ruach kodesh (holy spirit). May we find the courage, detachment, and the strength of spirit that we need to tread on the high ground of spiritual consciousness even as we walk in the midst of this worldly sea.

copyright © 2010, by Yoel Glick
first published 4/4/2010

Acknowledgements    (↵ returns to text)
  1. Swami Prabhavananda, Eternal Companion, p. 237
  2. Natan of Nemirov, Likutei Halachot Yoreh Dayah, Shiluach Hakain, halacha 4,7
  3. Sister Gargi, A Heart Poured Out, p. 281
  4. Natan of Nemirov, Likutei Halachot, Yoreh Dayah: Kibud Av v’Aim, halacha 2, 12
  5. Natan of Nemirov, Likutei Halachot, Orech Chayim, Tefillin, halacha 6, 12

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No Emergency Fund? Start With Your Tax Refund

Thursday, April 25th, 2019 11:00 am
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Posted by Holly Johnson

Life is full of surprises — some good and some bad. Most of us just try to ride the wave the best we can, making the most of what we have.

When it comes to our financial lives though, there are steps we can take to ensure life’s “surprises” don’t throw our lives into a tailspin. You can’t predict when your car will break down or you’ll face a medical emergency, but you can plan for those “what ifs” in a financial sense.

Unfortunately, not everyone who needs emergency savings has enough — or any at all. A recent survey from Bankrate revealed that only 40% of respondents could cover a $1,000+ emergency expense with savings. Everyone else would have to charge their emergency bills to a credit card, take out a personal loan, or find some other way to pay.

Four Reasons to Save Your Tax Refund This Year

With tax season wrapping up, you may want to consider throwing your refund into your emergency savings — then leaving it alone. The average federal tax refund in 2018 worked out to $2,899, while the average 2019 refund (for last year’s tax season) is still $1,949 so far this year.

That may not be enough to solve all your financial problems, but it’s a good start. Here are some of the ways saving your refund could leave you better off in 2019 and beyond.

You Can Reduce Money Stress

One of the worst consequences of not having any emergency savings is the money stress it adds to our lives. When you’re living paycheck-to-paycheck, even a minor hiccup like needing new tires or an emergency room co-pay can throw you off track. Then you’re left scrambling to figure out how to cover those surprise expenses while also keeping the lights on and food on the table.

Financial coach Anthony Kirlew of Fiscally Sound says that’s why he suggests his clients build up emergency savings in addition to paying down high-interest debt.

“It takes discipline to save money that you were not expecting to receive, but in the long run, saving your tax refund reduces your stress because it will help ensure that you have a financial cushion to cover an emergency without hurting your budget or racking up credit card debt,” he said.

Even if your tax refund is only $1,000, having that money set aside could help you sleep easier. And when the next random expense comes along, you won’t have to panic.

Make a Big Impact All at Once

Financial planner R.J. Weiss says one major concept in behavior science is the concept of willpower depletion — the idea that we have a limited amount of self-control which gets used the more decisions we make. In other words, making one good decision is easier than making multiple small decisions, he says.

Your tax refund is one of the few chances throughout the year where you can make one good decision with a sizeable initial impact. “Instead of saving, say, $200 a month for 12 months to build an emergency fund, which may require dozens of small decisions a month, you can simply save it all in one big chunk,” he says.

For someone who has struggled to build up emergency savings in the past, saving a tax refund in a separate savings account is a smart way to jumpstart a financial turnaround.

Improve Your Life in the Long-Term

CPA Logan Allec of Money Done Right says he has seen people make some big mistakes with their tax refunds during his career, from splurges on gadgets his clients don’t need to gambling it all away in Vegas!

For example, several years ago one of his clients used his refund to purchase a new PlayStation 4 and almost a dozen games. A few months later, the same client’s car broke down and he didn’t have an adequate emergency fund to cover the repair. Not surprisingly, he wound up charging the cost on his credit card.

“This sent him down a financial hole that took him years to recover from — and this recovery involved selling his beloved PlayStation 4 on Craigslist,” said Allec.

This just goes to show the importance of an emergency fund, and how wasting your tax refund could harm you in the short-term.

“Yes, you may have a lot of fun going on a shopping spree with your tax refund,” said Allec. “But sooner or later, some unforeseen expense is going to come up, and I guarantee that you will be kicking yourself for not having used that refund money to build your emergency fund.”

The bottom line: Save your tax refund in a high-yield savings account, and your future self will thank you.

Save Money Over the Long-Term

While you may not earn a ton of money in interest by stashing your tax refund in emergency savings, having the money to cover a pricey home repair or surprise medical bill could easily save you hundreds — or even thousands — of dollars over the long-term. When you cover emergency expenses with savings instead of a credit card, you’re saving big money by avoiding high-interest debt.

Currently, the average credit card APR is well over 17%, making credit cards one of the most expensive borrowing options available. Emergency savings can help you avoid this type of debt and all the interest payments that come with it.

The Bottom Line

Life is stressful enough without having some emergency savings set aside. You work hard all year long and you do the best you can, so you shouldn’t have to have your life turned upside down when an unanticipated bill is thrown your way.

Why is using your tax refund the perfect way to jumpstart your emergency savings? As financial coach Todd Tresidder of Financial Mentor so wisely puts it, “you don’t miss what you never had.”

Windfalls like a tax refund can easily be saved without any sense of deprivation. The money hasn’t been yours all along, so you may not even miss it.

Open a high-yield savings account or add your tax refund to the e-fund you already have. Then, no matter what you do, don’t look back.

You’ll never regret saving for life’s surprises, but you could very well regret it if you don’t.

Holly Johnson is an award-winning personal finance writer and the author of Zero Down Your Debt. Johnson shares her obsession with frugality, budgeting, and travel at ClubThrifty.com.

Related:

The post No Emergency Fund? Start With Your Tax Refund appeared first on The Simple Dollar.

All the things that split us up are soft-spoken

Wednesday, April 24th, 2019 08:36 pm
sovay: (Rotwang)
[personal profile] sovay
This morning when I woke was full of sunlight and spring blossom against the sky; now the view out my window is full of slate-blue steel-lighted clouds suggesting either imminent thunderstorm or sorcerous apocalypse, although the forecast tells me it's just going to be cold. The cherry blossoms are doing their impermanence thing and covering a block of our street with small fallen fragile pink petals. I didn't get a picture of them, which is all right.

Yesterday the buses were so terrible that [personal profile] spatch and I just walked to Davis Square so that I could make my doctor's appointment and he could get to work, in between which we had bowls of different kinds of soup (boat noodle, khao soi) at Dakzen. Today I walked to the library to discover that my traditional route of access—a concrete stair up the hill behind the high school—has been blocked off with chain-link and plywood, which with all the GLX going around makes me instantly nervous. I would prefer not to have to feel protective about every single piece of twentieth-century architecture within walking distance of my house, especially since some of it is objectively meh. The library's on the National Register of Historic Places, at least. I am fairly confident Eleanor Farjeon's The Glass Slipper (1955) is a novelized play like The Silver Curlew (1953); it has the same feel of translated pantomime, although I liked the other, sillier, more numinous story better. Samuel Fuller's Brainquake (2014) was gonzo and now I really want to read The Dark Page (1944).

I have been sleeping very badly for weeks, but last night I zonked out at something halfway resembling a reasonable hour and dreamed of rafting down the Charles, which I don't know if anyone actually does. Then I dreamed of rafting down canals which are currently train tracks; awake I recognized one from the commuter rail, one from the Orange Line, both rather attractively framed between Venice-walls of brick. I hope that wasn't prophecy.

This first-century cameo of Minerva looks amazingly over everyone's nonsense.
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Posted by Dan Evon

This "hold my beer" story may seem like a work of fiction, but the aerial exploits of Thomas Fitzpatrick are well-documented.
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Posted by Dan MacGuill

Social media memes in spring 2019 exaggerated the implications of a law passed by the North Carolina legislature almost six years earlier.
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Posted by Associated Press

Just as cockroaches navigate along walls, the catheter maps its path through the heart, tapping periodically against the heart's valve and wall ever so lightly.

Woozy.

Wednesday, April 24th, 2019 03:47 pm
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Posted by languagehat

My wife and I have discovered another divergence in our understanding of an English word (cf. sleet); this time it’s woozy. It turns out she understands this to mean a slight feeling of nausea (for her, it’s synonymous with queasy); for me, it means ‘dizzy.’ I turned to AHD to see what lexicography had to say, and discovered, to my horror, the following:

1. Dazed or confused.
2. Dizzy or queasy.

“Dizzy or queasy”? What the hell kind of definition is that? You might as well define a word as “Cat or bedspread.” When I’m dizzy, I’m not queasy, and vice versa; I can imagine having both conditions at once, just as a cat can on occasion serve as a sort of bedspread, but come on. So I tried M-W:

1 : mentally unclear or hazy // seems a little woozy, not quite knowing what to say— J. A. Lukacs
2 : affected with dizziness, mild nausea, or weakness
3 : having a soft, indistinct, or unfocused quality : vague, fuzzy

That’s even worse: “dizziness, mild nausea, or weakness” (“a cat, a bedspread, or a napkin”). Finally, the OED (not fully updated since 1928) has:

1. Dizzy or unsteady as when fuddled with drink; muzzy; ‘dotty’.
1897 Voice (N.Y.) 22 Apr. 3/2 In the woozy lexicon of the voting church there is no such word as power. […]
2. Representing or marked by muddled thinking or unclear expression; lacking rigour or discipline; sloppy.
1941 W. H. Auden New Year Let. ii. 37 All vague idealistic art..Is up his alley, and his pigeon The woozier species of religion. […]

I don’t often say this sort of thing, but woozy seems like a completely useless word, since it’s impossible to know what it means. At any rate, I turn to the assembled Hatters: what does woozy mean to you?

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Posted by Trent Hamm

When you’ve devoted a lot of effort to fixing your own finances and putting yourself on a great financial track and you’ve spent a lot of time absorbing and thinking about good financial practices, the financial conversations you hear can sometimes be really frustrating.

You’ll hear people talking about their huge financial missteps as though they’re no big deal or even as though they’re a good thing. For example, maybe you’ll hear from a relative who is proud of the fact that they replace their new vehicle every three years with another new one when they barely make $40,000 a year.

That alone isn’t a big deal, but it’s often coupled with conversation about how they’re struggling financially and how the entire financial system is unfair. That same cousin who showed up in the brand new pickup truck that looks virtually identical to the brand new pickup truck they bought three years ago complains about how the whole system is rigged and that they’ll never retire, and then they’ll turn to you and expect agreement and reinforcement.

Even worse is the relative who takes you aside to give you a long sob story of financial misfortune, one that would have been mostly solved with an emergency fund, and then asks for a “loan” that you both know they’ll never pay back.

Those situations happen to me on occasion, and I used to find them incredibly frustrating and almost anger-inducing. Their financial mistakes were incredibly obvious and I wanted to simply say, “Can’t you see that you’re doing this financial damage to yourself?”

Over time, as I matured a little and heard many, many stories like this from readers, I came to realize something very important: most people do realize their own financial mistakes. That cousin knows how much those trucks are costing him. That other cousin knows that they’ve made some bad moves to wind up in a position where they’re swallowing their pride and basically begging for money. People are not unaware of their own financial missteps.

If people aren’t unaware of their missteps, what’s going on, then?

For starters, while understanding (at least some of) your mistakes can be pretty easy, actually correcting those mistakes is pretty hard. It requires a lot of behavioral changes. It requires a lot of self-denial. Most people won’t commit to those kinds of changes in their life unless it’s desperate.

At the same time, if you’re not making a ton of money, it’s very hard to get ahead financially because you just don’t have a lot to work with and there isn’t much room for error. You can make lots of good financial moves, but if you don’t have a lot of money to begin with, one or two missteps or one big unfortunate event can undo a lot of effort, and that contributes strongly to a sense of hopelessness.

Another factor to consider is that while many people might not like aspects of their life – like their retirement situation – they like other aspects of their life a lot and thus, on the balance, they prefer things as they are rather than making changes. I know a lot of people in this camp. While they might long to have more money or have a healthy retirement savings, when they look at their life on the whole and the changes they perceive that they would have to make to get on a different path, they don’t want to make those changes. Their life, as it is now, is better for them on the whole.

I’m sure that, in some aspects of your life, there’s something you’re unhappy with, that you’d like to correct, but you don’t do so because the balance that you have in your life right now is better than what it would take to correct that thing, so you table it. Many, many people do that with their finances.

Furthermore, people often want to blame forces outside of their control for the things that go wrong in their life. Undoubtedly, forces outside of our control can smash into our life like a meteor, but we made a lot of decisions leading up to those events and after those events. Did we prepare our life to be future-proof, or did we live in the moment? It takes some introspection to see this, but it’s a flavor of introspection that many people don’t want to take on. It doesn’t mean they’re bad, it just means that they want an easy explanation for their financial difficulties and unexpected events are an easy thing to point at.

When you consider those factors, it becomes clear that when you see someone else being financially irresponsible, it shouldn’t frustrate you; rather, it’s simply a different choice of priorities. It does not mean that your priorities are right and theirs are wrong, nor does it mean that their priorities are right and yours are wrong. Very likely, your priorities are right for the condition of your life and your own personal characteristics, and their priorities are right for the condition of their life and their characteristics.

So, let’s roll things back to that family event where your cousin who has that brand new vehicle is complaining about never being able to retire because the system is stacked against them. It might feel frustrating, particularly if you’ve worked hard to put yourself in a position where you can retire and you know from personal experience that it can be done with hard work, but what should you actually do?

Nothing. That’s what you should do.

Just sit there and listen to their story. It’s not your story. It’s their story. Just listen.

If you feel frustrated, just try to envision the world through their shoes for a while. That person probably has a lot of personal pride in that truck of theirs, which is why they’re always buying a new one. That other person probably feels overwhelmed by a series of unfortunate events in their life.

There is almost no case in which your interjections about financial responsibility are going to be welcome.

Instead, try to find a rapport or common ground with that person. Ask questions about their story. Compliment their truck and look it over with positive reactions to it.

There will come a time when you are telling your story (but probably not today), and that’s the point where you can slip in some financial wisdom. Today, listen to their story and use that opportunity to build a stronger relationship.

What if you’re being asked for money in some way? If the person is asking you for money, then you should absolutely feel free to say “no.” There should never be an obligation to just fork over money upon request, no matter what the relationship and no matter what the situation. Just say “no.”

Being in a situation where you’ve loaned money to a relative or a close friend creates a lender-borrower relationship, and no one on earth has warm and fuzzy feelings for their lender. They might be appreciative of the loan, but they’ll never feel joyous about repaying it, and that means some degree of negative feeling from them is going to be levied toward you.

Rather, look for other ways to help. Offer to help them find work or to polish their resume. Offer to look over their business plan. Offer to give them a ride to work for the next few weeks until their car is fixed.

If you absolutely feel as though you should help them directly, then make it a fully no-strings-attached gift. Just put the money in their hand and tell them that it’s theirs.

If you absolutely feel you must give someone some advice, get them into a one-on-one situation and tell them that you have some experience with getting one’s financial house in better shape and you’d love to give them some suggestions, if they want. Leave the ball in their court – don’t thrust unsolicited financial advice at them as it will often be resented.

Aside from those things, the best thing you can do is stand back and try to gain an appreciation of their story as a distinct journey through life, not just an extension of your own story. Many, many family conflicts occur when you try to substitute what you value into someone else’s story that’s centered around what they value. You don’t know what’s best for them, so don’t fall into that trap. There’s very little benefit and a whole lot of pain down that path.

Good luck!

The post Handling the Financial Irresponsibility of Family Members appeared first on The Simple Dollar.

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Posted by Associated Press

The Guardian obtained Signal chats involving Republican Rep. Matt Shea and three other men proposing to confront leftists with a variety of tactics, including violence, surveillance and intimidation.

Boy Scouts Could Be Hit with More Sex Abuse Claims

Wednesday, April 24th, 2019 02:38 pm
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Posted by Associated Press

A veteran lawyer of major sexual abuse lawsuits against the Catholic Church said his team has signed up 186 clients in a few weeks.

note to brain

NSFW Wednesday, April 24th, 2019 09:29 am
gingicat: (oops - Agatha Heterodyne)
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Nine Signs It’s Time to Drop Your Insurance Company

Wednesday, April 24th, 2019 12:00 pm
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Posted by Mia Taylor

While it’s far easier to simply renew an insurance policy year after to year rather than shop around for a new provider, it should go without saying that inertia can be costly.

Most industry experts suggest obtaining quotes from competitors every six months to one year, because the reality is that many insurance companies change their rates regularly and doing a little bit of research can save you quite a bit of money.

Cutting costs however, isn’t the only reason to leave one insurance company behind for another. We asked insurance industry experts to share some of the top signs it may be time to part ways with your insurance provider, whether it’s life insurance, home insurance, car insurance, or any other type of policy. Here are some reasons to cut ties.

1. Sudden Rate Increases

Unexpected and unjustified rate spikes should be a big red flag signaling it’s time to find a new provider, says Jonathan Fritz, who has more than a decade of experience working with property and casualty insurance and co-founded the site NoExam.com.

“It could be that the insurance company has recalculated their risk profiles and you have been grouped into a higher risk classification,” said Fritz. “At this point, it’s a good idea to start shopping around for the same coverage amounts with different providers.”

It’s expected that insurance rates will increase between 2% to 5% each year with inflation, explained Fritz. When price hikes approach 10% or more, however, it’s time to move on.

2. You’ve Got Renters Insurance, and You Just Bought a Home

Making the leap from being an apartment dweller to owning your own home is a major life change, one that may require finding a new, more appropriate insurance company.

“When you own a home, you need to protect both the physical structure and what’s inside, whereas renters only need to worry about protecting what’s inside, as the landlord has to cover building itself,” explains Fabio Fashi, property and casualty team lead at Policygenius. “If your carrier specializes in renters insurance and you buy a home, look into carriers with homeowners insurance coverage.”

3. Unfair Claim Denials

The essential promise of any insurance company is to be there when you need them, says Kathryn Casna, an insurance specialist from TermLife2Go.com. If the company is not living up to its end of the bargain, shop around.

“It’s what you’re paying for, so kick the insurance company to the curb if it’s not fulfilling its promise to you,” said Casna.

John Espenschied, and agency principal and owner with Insurance Brokers Group, offers similar advice, adding that if your company’s claims department can’t explain why a loss isn’t covered by your policy, it’s time to take your business elsewhere.

“There’s nothing more frustrating after having a loss than to find out it’s not covered by your insurance,” said Espenschied.

4. Increased Complaints from Consumers

A sudden spike in complaints about the insurance company, specifically related to how it handles claims, may also mean you may want to find a policy elsewhere.

“Are customers leaving bad reviews online about your insurance provider?” says Fritz. “It may be a good idea to check and see if people are having problems. A few good places to check are the Better Business Bureau (BBB) and Consumer Affairs. If bad reviews are flying in, it may be time to shop around.”

5. Your Insurer Isn’t Keeping Up With the Times

The insurance industry isn’t known for being particularly innovative, says Casna, especially life insurers.

“Some companies are better than others, but if your company doesn’t have a user-friendly app, lacks online claims options, or still asks you to fax documents, it may be time to drop that dinosaur,” said Casna.

A 2018 J.D. Power study found that insurance companies by and large are falling short on digital customer engagement. However, a few leaders are already establishing best practices in this space. In particular, Allstate was ranked well for the digital shopping experience it offers consumers, according to the study, offering ease of navigation, availability of key information and clarity of information.

GEICO, meanwhile, sets the bar for digital service experience, according to J.D. Power. The company outranked all of the competition thanks to strong performance in all five of the study’s key barometers – ease of navigation; appearance; availability of key information; range of services; and clarity of information.

6. You Don’t Understand Your Coverage

Most consumer-oriented policies are fairly straightforward, and it’s an insurance company’s job to help you understand any part of the coverage that may be confusing, says Quinten Lovejoy, an insurance risk advisor with Crane Agency.

“Helping a client understand what they’re buying should not be beyond the reach of a competent insurance professional. If the company is not able to help walk you through a policy’s various provisions and clauses, look for a company that is willing to do so,” says Lovejoy.

In addition, consumers should always carefully examine policies that seem “too good to be true,” added Lovejoy, and be wary of an insurance product that seems “out of the ordinary” in terms of promises made juxtaposed to the price quoted.

“Whether it’s base limits within a policy, deductibles, claims handling, exclusions, or other factors, consumers may be surprised at the time they least need surprises,” said Lovejoy.

7. Poor Customer Service

This is fairly straightforward: If your insurance company makes communication challenging, they don’t deserve your business.

“In this day and age, communication…should be the least of your concerns,” said Lovejoy. “If you’re waiting more than 24 to 48 hours for a return call, email, or text message, it might be time to find (a company that) is willing and able to provide timely responses to your questions or concerns.”

8. Financial Vulnerability

It’s a good idea to keep an eye on your insurance company’s financial strength ratings via industry reports like A.M. Best, Moody’s, Fitch, and Standard and Poor’s.

Espenschied suggests finding an A-rated insurance company in order to be sure you’re dealing with a quality provider on firm financial footing.

A company with this rating is generally one that performs at the top of its industry in terms of creditworthiness and financial profile when compared to competitors. Ratings range from A to D, with D being the worst.

“The reason you buy insurance is for the unexpected losses and you want to know your company is going to be there in a time of need,” said Espenschied.

9. It’s Not You, It’s Me

Sometimes the need to shift from one provider to another is about you, and not the insurance company, noted Casna.

Insurers offer pricing and coverage options based on the particulars of your situation, Casna explained. “So, if something big changes in your life such as you buy a home, start a family, develop a health condition, or retire, then it’s time to shop around,” she said.

Similarly, if you move to a new state, the insurance company with the best coverage for you could change, added Fashi, of Policygenius.

“This applies to all types of insurance, like homeowners or auto insurance,” said Fashi. “For example, the best homeowners insurance company in Colorado could be much different than the best one in Georgia, as they specialize in different coverage types for different environments.”

Mia Taylor is an award-winning journalist with more than two decades of experience. She has worked for some of the nation’s best-known news organizations, including the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the San Diego Union-Tribune. 

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The post Nine Signs It’s Time to Drop Your Insurance Company appeared first on The Simple Dollar.

'Cause we're going fishing

Wednesday, April 24th, 2019 12:52 am
sovay: (Otachi: Pacific Rim)
[personal profile] sovay
Dean C. Marcial and Brett Potter's Sea Devil (2014) is a weird tale in nine minutes, a sketch of a sea-haunting on the model of great gulfs and depths and strangenesses of which the just-skimmed surface is all we ever see; it's been working on me like pearl-grit since I watched it. I can't tell if I'm missing the key. I can't tell if there is one. The effect is sort of a miniaturized Mary Celeste courtesy of Robert Aickman. Sort of.

There may be a clue in the film's tagline: Immigration is hell. What do you call a coyote when he works across open water instead of desert borders? That's the American skipper of the Carrie Lynn (Antoni Corone), accepting a fat envelope of bills to run a Cuban father and daughter (Mario Ernesto Sánchez and Taylor Rouviere) overnight into Miami as if they were the crew of his shrimp trawler, rigging the nets and picking through dumped weed and bycatch of crabs to the clang and clatter of the winch and the engine, the low hum of sodium light, and the reggae lilt of Sister Nancy's "Bam Bam." And then the apophenia kicks in. He's much too corporeal for a ghost, this beautiful young man scraped off the seabed with barnacles crusting his brown skin like cowries and a wet fringe of weed and tangled shells trailing from the stumps of both knees and one wrist (he is played by real-life triple amputee Moise Brutus), but what in the shape of this story is he? Put me back, he repeats ever more urgently in a language no one else on the boat understands, heaving for breath like a landed fish; his skin glistens stickily. We are all dead. Does he mean the people on the boat with him, the people under the water where he came from? His face swirled with barnacles like tribal scars, his shoulders patched with sea-growth recall the coral-colonized sculptures of Jason deCaires Taylor, whose Vicissitudes (2007) was not after all a tribute to the dead of the Middle Passage; where did he come from? What to do now he's here? "We got to help him," the father says to the skipper. "Why don't you go help him?" the skipper says back. Neither of them move. The girl at the tiller sings aimlessly in the windy night. The skipper stares at the palm of the hand that touched the sea-stranger, grabs the shotgun with it. Propped against the railing, his skin drying, the stranger gasps, She's coming for me—

It feels important to me that we never see clearly or even properly understand her, even in the film's final moments of voices rising like a storm-babble out of the overcast, empty, translucently green sea, though that sense of fractured pattern means I can't tell if any of the associations the last shot evokes for me were the filmmakers' intentions. I wondered about anglerfish. I thought of Peter Maxwell Davies' The Lighthouseit smells of cold sea-graves in here, of sea-wrecks, of sea-death. The sea shall give up her dead. This film is based on true events, the opening titles informed us, but which ones? The trawler found drifting in Biscayne Bay? The exploitation of immigrants? Refugees lost at sea, enslaved captives thrown overboard? Who's the title, even? American hauntings, American drownings; it makes more of a prose poem than a narrative, but I'm still thinking about it. One of the features I'm enjoying about the Criterion Channel lately is its wealth of short films I might not otherwise run into, but fortunately for recommendation purposes this one is also freely streaming. I wouldn't mind seeing it at a festival someday, both for the practical effects of the stranger and the close-quarters sea-sway of the cinematography by Noah Chamis. The small, isolated fragility of the trawler is a constant, the vast abyss of the sea that upholds it, and yet one shot of the Carrie Lynn seen from underneath, silhouetted by her own smoky, rippling, amniotic light, is as powerful for beauty and menace as anything in a deep-sea documentary. This catch brought to you by my enigmatic backers at Patreon.

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