Are You a Typical American Adult?

Except for the years (and years) spent going to college, I have lived the life of the typical American adult, at least on one metric.

Based on an analysis of data collected as part of the Health and Retirement Study (HRS), a project sponsored by the Institute of Aging and the Social Security Administration, the New York Times discovered that the typical American only lives 18 miles away from their mommy, and only 20 percent live more than a couple of hours’ drive from their parents.

When my wife and I got married, we lived in Ambler, just 10.4 miles away from where I grew up (King of Prussia), and where my mom and dad still loved. After a few years we moved to Rosemont, which was even closer at 6.2 miles (perfect for when I wanted to run a 10K, which I never did).

A few years later, after my Dad passed away, my mom and aunt moved into our neighborhood, their house just 0.2 miles from ours.

In other words, I haven’t wandered very far away from my mom; even the years I spent in college weren’t too far away from King of Prussia – East Stroudsburg, Pittsburgh, and Philadelphia.

One of the biggest determinants of how far people venture from home is education. Those with college and professional degrees are much more likely to live farther from their parents than those with a high school education, in part because they have more job opportunities in big cities.

So at least from an educational perspective, there should have been a good chance that I was one of the ones that moved further away from home than the typical American. But I am, admittedly, somewhat of a homebody, and I had little desire to see what opportunities there may have been outside my neck of the woods.

Another significant determinant is income. Wealthier people can afford to pay for services like child and elder care, while low-income families are more likely to rely on nearby relatives.

Other determinants of where one will live as an adult include geography, marital status, gender, and race:

  • Families live closest in the Northeast and the South, and farthest apart on the West Coast and in the Mountain States.
  • Married people live farther from their parents than singles.
  • Women are slightly likelier than men to leave their hometowns.
  • Blacks are more likely to live near their parents than whites, while Latinos are no more likely to live near their parents.

The most-cited reason for living near home is the tug of family ties, while the most-cited reason for leaving is job opportunities, according to a Pew Research Center survey. It found that with the exception of college or military service, 37 percent of Americans had never lived outside their hometown, and 57 percent had never lived outside their home state (I would be part of that 57%).

So while I may be “typical”, two of my sons could be considered atypical. One oldest son lives in Raleigh, NC (425 miles away), and our middle son lives in Hawaii (4,380 miles away). Our youngest son makes up for those distances a bit, since he lives at home. On average, that makes the average distance that our sons live from their mom over 1,600 miles.

That must mean there’s a lot of adults, like me, who must live much closer than 18 miles away.

So while I have been happy with the choice of where we have lived, I think our two oldest sons are also happy with where they are living.

Fortunately for us, the two locations are great places to visit…

It’s All about the Battery

This past summer I wrote about my purchase of an electric lawnmower, and I said in that post that I would offer a follow-up post focused on my experience with the mower. Well today is the day you have been waiting for.

Let me start by saying that overall, the mower has been great. It does a great job cutting the grass, and is easy to start, and very quiet when running. The only negative is that it carries with it the potential of running out of battery power.

During the summer, the battery was never a problem. Since I wanted to get rid of any gas I still had in my old mower and in a couple of plastic containers, I would use my old mower for our front lawn and the electric mower for the back yard.

So I never ran out of battery power, at least not until today.

Today was the first time I tried using the mulching feature as a way of dealing with the leaves on my lawn. As I’ve written about before, I prefer to get rid of my leaves in this way, as opposed to raking them into the street for collection by our township.

Well the combination of the time needed to cut both my front and back yard, as well as the extra battery power required on occasion to mulch through some significant amount of leaves, was simply too much for the 40 V battery.

The battery died, and I probably was about75-80% of the way done. I did recharge it, and when I went out a second time, the battery only lasted about 10 minutes.

The battery is now charging, and should be ready to go in the morning. The potential of running out of battery power was realized, but it doesn’t seem like that big a deal; a minor inconvenience at best.

In an ideal world it would be nice if batteries could be made that last longer, a topic I’ve also written about before.

Battery life became a big issue this past year with my iPhone. I was still carrying around an iPhone 5, and it’s battery life, with minimal use, was typically less than 8 hours, on a fully charged battery.

I kept putting off getting a new phone until I saw what Apple’s new phone would be like, as well as the new Pixel. Neither one impressed me enough to warrant the significant asking price, so I opted to get an iPhone 7 Plus. One of the main reasons I got the Plus model is because I heard that the bigger size allowed for a bigger battery. A bigger battery meant a longer life.

So far, the new phone has been great. I’ve never come close to running out of battery life, and when combined with my switch back to AT&T from T-Mobile, I now have a phone that has enabled me to make a call or access the web from anywhere I’ve been. For whatever reason, the same could not be said for T-Mobile. I’m not sure if it’s the phone or the new service that has offered me such a great customer experience; my guess is that it’s a little of both.

I think I would prefer it if Elon Musk just focused on making better batteries, of all types and sizes for all uses. I think such a breakthrough would have a bigger impact on society than his electric cars or SpaceX could have.

Just think of all the people around the world who rely on batteries for both business and pleasure. And if you could make everyone’s day just a little more productive and a little less exasperated, think of what the demand would be for such products.

I think I’ll wrap this post right here; the battery on my laptop is just about out of juice…

Six Myths about Choosing a College Major

Jeff Selingo, author of There Is Life After College, recently wrote an article in The New York Times that explored six myths surrounding the choice of what to major in college, suggesting that much of the conventional thinking about majors is wrong.

Here are the six myths, with some details that I found interesting:

  • For the big money, STEM always delivers.

Here’s an interesting graphic comparing the lifetime earnings of a variety of majors; in many cases the difference is not as much as what many would expect.

  • Women want to have it all.

When it comes to selecting a major, what women choose tends to segregate them into lower paying fields, such as education and social services. If the proportion of women in fields where men dominate increased by just 10 percent, the gender pay gap would narrow considerably: from 78 cents paid to women for every dollar men receive to 90 cents for every dollar men receive.

  • Choice of major matters more than choice of college.

More than half of students at less selective schools major in career-focused subjects; at elite schools, less than a quarter do. Yet data shows that students who graduate from more selective schools tend to make more money. Students at elite colleges are also more likely to have two majors than students at second-tier colleges.

But there is a caveat, and it is a point I try to impress upon my students: While complementary majors with overlapping requirements are easier to juggle, two unrelated majors probably yield bigger gains in the job market. I always suggest to my students that if they want to have a second major, to choose something outside of the business school. Unfortunately, most students pay no attention; we have a large number of students with two majors, but both majors are within the business school

  • Liberal arts majors are unemployable.

The competencies that liberal arts majors emphasize — writing, synthesis, problem solving — are sought after by employers. A 2017 study by David J. Deming, an associate professor of education and economics at Harvard, found jobs requiring both the so-called soft skills and thinking skills have seen the largest growth in employment and pay in the last three decades.

While liberal arts students may have more difficulty landing their first job, if liberal arts graduates gain proficiency in one of eight technical skills, such as social media or data analysis, their prospects of landing entry-level jobs increase substantially.

  • It’s important to choose a major early.
  • You need a major.

“Majors are artificial and restrictive,” said Christine Ortiz, a dean at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology on leave to design a new nonprofit university that will have no majors, and also no lectures or classrooms.

Majors tend to lag behind changes in the workplace. No wonder fewer than a third of college graduates work in jobs related to their majors. And picking one based on today’s in-demand jobs is risky, said Dr. Webber of Temple, especially if the occupation is threatened by automation.

I agree with virtually everything in the article. I would also add that I think it’s important to major in a field that you are passionate about, or at least find interesting, and not base such a decision primarily on what the job opportunities are immediately at graduation.

Plus it’s important to get the message out that what a student majors in does not determine what their career path will be.

So why not major in something that you find interesting, enjoyable, and challenging. Doing so will make for a much better college experience, and likely lead to a more interesting, enjoyable, and challenging career.

Spoiled Milk and Broken Turnstiles

DirecTV has had some great commercials over the years (remember Rob Lowe?), and I’ve really enjoyed a couple of its most recent ones.

The commercials feature the tagline “but some people still like cable”, and highlight individuals enjoying painful situations.

The commercials aren’t enough to make me switch from Verizon’s FIOS, which I’ve been very happy with for a few years now, but DirecTV wins the battle of TV commercials.

Fun fact: the ad agency responsible for these commercials is the Grey Global Group out of New York. The company is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year.



Hold On to 16 as Long as You Can? No Thank You!

The first part of the headline above is a line from the classic John Mellencamp song, “Jack and Diane“.

The next lines are:

Changes come around real soon
Make us women and men

The song came on the car radio the other day, and as I pondered the words, I thought to myself that 16 is probably one of the ages I would least like to hold on to.

It was the middle of high school, certainly my least favorite span of four years.

I certainly wasn’t the type to “run off behind a shady tree”. More like the type to stay in my bedroom and do math puzzles.

Fortunately, college was the exact opposite (except there was still no running off behind a shady tree, actually there never has been…). I loved my four years of college, and was able to wean myself away from doing math puzzles, thanks to good friends and cheap beer.

All of this also got me thinking about a story I recently read in the New York Times about how hard it is for people to make new friends once you hit the age of 30.

Here’s a few excerpts from the article:

In your 30s and 40s, plenty of new people enter your life, through work, children’s play dates and, of course, Facebook. But actual close friends — the kind you make in college, the kind you call in a crisis — those are in shorter supply.

As people approach midlife, the days of youthful exploration, when life felt like one big blind date, are fading. Schedules compress, priorities change and people often become pickier in what they want in their friends.

No matter how many friends you make, a sense of fatalism can creep in: the period for making B.F.F.’s, the way you did in your teens or early 20s, is pretty much over. It’s time to resign yourself to situational friends: K.O.F.’s (kind of friends) — for now.

In studies of peer groups, Laura L. Carstensen, a psychology professor who is the director of the Stanford Center on Longevity in California, observed that people tended to interact with fewer people as they moved toward midlife, but that they grew closer to the friends they already had.

As external conditions change, it becomes tougher to meet the three conditions that sociologists since the 1950s have considered crucial to making close friends: proximity; repeated, unplanned interactions; and a setting that encourages people to let their guard down and confide in each other, said Rebecca G. Adams, a professor of sociology and gerontology at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. This is why so many people meet their lifelong friends in college, she added.

After 30, people often experience internal shifts in how they approach friendship. Self-discovery gives way to self-knowledge, so you become pickier about whom you surround yourself with.

Much of that seems true, at least based on my own experience. While there is no one from high school that I would call an “actual close friend”, there are many from college who fall into that category (one of whom is my best friend, and wife).

I am grateful for those friendships, many of which are now more than 40 years in duration.

So forget about holding on to 16 as long as I can, but I would have gladly held on to 20 for a few more years.

And fortunately, even though life did go on once I got past those magical years, the thrill of living isn’t gone…

Another Sensational Singing Family

Once again, I’m left wondering how one family gets all this talent.

Cimorelli  is a singing group from El Dorado Hills, California that first gained popularity on YouTube singing cover music. They were subsequently signed to Universal Music’s Island label. Now composing and writing their own songs, Cimorelli is made up of six sisters: Christina, Katherine, Lisa, Amy, Lauren, and Dani. Their music is mostly made up of a cappella singing with occasional instruments. As of November, 2017, the sisters have 3.9 million subscribers on YouTube and over 1 billion views.

That’s about all I need to say, the videos below say it all.

It’s hard to match the greatness that is Anna Kendrick singing the Cups song, but this one comes close:

Not just the sisters, but too good not to include:

I bet you Cimorelli wouldn’t keep their fans waiting for two hours:

A little Adele (with a few bloopers at the end):

And one to get you in the holiday spirit:


The Beauty of Mashups

Thomas Friedman (New York Times columnist and author of The World Is Flat), in what I consider one of the best 45 minute speeches I have ever watched, stated his belief that the ability to mash things together is a key skill today, and is at the heart of innovation and creativity.

If that is the case, then Kenny Holland and his sisters are among the most innovative and creative people I have come across on YouTube. I’ll write a bit more about Kenny below, but let me get right to one of his videos:

Certainly one of the best videos you’re going to come across on YouTube.

Here’s a little bit of background on Kenny, from his official bio:

Holland is a singer-songwriter from Phoenix, Arizona. After beginning his musical journey with piano lessons at age 8, he would find his origin as a performer playing for tips at local frozen yogurt shops by age 14. At age 16 he released his first single entitled “So What” which was later released on his debut album “Heart & Keys” as he built a local following.

Later in his career he began gaining the attention of industry professionals & creating a loyal fanbase through the phenomenon of social media and today Kenny’s supporters number in the millions.

Kenny has performed in front of sold out audiences nationwide, sharing the stage with Demi Lovato, Aaron Carter, Rae Sremmurd, The Summer Set, and The Rocket Summer, among others.

He also made his acting debut in 2016 in the feature film “Saturday’s Warrior.”

So while Kenny is an accomplished solo artist, what I find fascinating and magical are the many videos he has posted to YouTube of him and his sisters performing a variety of mashups.

Here are a few for your listening pleasure:

And while this next one isn’t a mashup, it is one of the most beautiful versions of one of my favorite songs. A perfect way to get you in the holiday spirit:

All of that talent in one family; all I can say is that I am grateful that they are sharing their gifts with the world.

I look forward to seeing what the future holds for the Holland family.

Dreams, Blogging, and Regrets

My youngest son sent me the image above, part of a running joke about my obsession with my blog.

Most of the jokes relate to me having no time to do anything else because I’m always working on my blog.

So to prove him wrong, I’ll keep this one short.

And by the way, just in case you are at that stage in life where you have given up on your dreams, then by all means, follow my blog (just type your email in the box to the left and hit subscribe).

I just hope following my blog doesn’t cause you any more regrets…

This Is Why I Never Grew a Mustache as a Young Teacher

I recently heard a story about a Pakistani man who was fired from his teaching job because his mustache gave “liberal ideas” to students.

The teacher, Haseeb Ali Chishti, elaborated on the story with

“So I was hired right before the school term started. I taught for a week before finding out from another colleague that the school directors are looking for my replacement. When I confronted them and asked the reason why I was being replaced they replied that after seeing me in school with my liberal appearance (I questioned what they even meant) they were afraid the female students might become inspired by me. I thought being inspiring is part of a teachers job but evidently here they meant they don’t want their young girls to be inspired to do something indecent. I reminded them of my two years of teaching experience before but they insisted that I was too young and good looking enough to distract their students.

Here’s an excerpt from Chishti’s post on Facebook about the incident (the post has since been taken down):

Being told ‘your moustache gives liberal ideas to students’ and ‘you’re a young, handsome man… it will distract our girls and faculty’ is probably the funniest reason for being let go from a job but it is also a damning indictment of the mindset prevelant in the education sector in Pakistan. 

Haseeb seems to have survived the incident, and is currently part of a non-profit group called ‘Theatre Wallay’, where he has been involved in producing plays from world literature, creating original works for the stage, and working on an agenda for social change.

Unlike Haseeb, I realized early on that I likely had no marketable skills other than being an accounting teacher, so I made sure I did everything to keep my job.

Since student evaluations play a critical in the tenure process, I couldn’t afford to have reviews such as:

“I think he’s a good teacher, but to be honest I had trouble paying attention to what he was saying because I was so mesmerized by his mustache.”

“In our accounting study group all we could talk about was Borden’s mustache and how lucky his wife is. We never seemed to get anything else done.”

“I think I would have rather had the chance to twirl Prof. Borden’s mustache than get an A in this course.”

“I couldn’t stand Borden’s class. My girlfriend kept asking me why I couldn’t grow a mustache like his.”

So I made a conscious decision to not grow a mustache so that I could further my career.

It must have worked.

I got tenure.

And I’ve never been asked to be the face of the University…

if only…

The Benefits of Giving Gratitude

The Wall Street Journal had a story in today’s paper about an 83-year old woman who has spent much of the past two decades finding out as much as she could about the families who risked their lives to save her Jewish family during the Nazi occupation of Greece. She wanted to chronicle their good deeds and give thanks—and do so before it was too late.

The story then pointed out the many benefits of being grateful. Studies have shown that it strengthens our immune systems, helps us sleep better, reduces stress and depression and opens the doors to more relationships. But to reap those rewards, we need to do more than feel grateful, says Dr. Emmons, a psychologist and author at the University of California, Davis.

“The word ‘thanksgiving’ means giving of thanks,” says Dr. Emmons. “It is an action word. Gratitude requires action.” It might mean composing a letter, or posting a photo and caption on Instagram.

One of the problems though is that most people aren’t very good at giving thanks. Only 52% of women and 44% of men express gratitude on a regular basis; those who are religious or spiritual tend to be more grateful, as are married couples. Younger people—18-to-24-year-olds—express gratitude less often than any other age group.

Family and freedom top the list of things that those surveyed are most grateful for. Jobs rank last, except among those who earn $150,000 or more.

Keeping a journal may be a good way to reflect on what one is grateful for.

Reading the article made me think about my very first post, nearly three years ago. The title of the post was “Thank you.” I used that post as an opportunity to thank the many people who have been a key part of my life. I closed the post with this:

I am grateful for all the help, support, and love I have received over the years, and that the best way to thank everyone is to offer my help, support, and love to others who need it.

Those words from three years ago still hold true today, and all I can say is,

Thank you.