asks “What is a McMansion?” defines financial terms and recently look at the term McMansion:

The financial term of the day is: “McMansion”

“McMansion” is a disparaging term used to describe homes that are oversized and opulent, but also without a whole lot of uniqueness. McMansions are loosely defined as houses between 5,000 and 10,000 square feet with soaring, grandiose entryways and multicar garages, often shoehorned onto relatively small lots.

McMansions are giant homes that have sprouted up in the suburbs the way fast-food restaurants have — hence the name.

Three features of this definition stand out: (1) marking the term as a disparaging one – it is rarely used positively and can be used effectively when criticizing others; (2) it highlights their mass-produced nature (not very unique, sprouted up); and (3) sets some square footage limits so that McMansions are larger than most American homes but don’t run into mansion territory. Several other parts of the definition, including common design features and small lots, may be common but are not part of all McMansions. However, the video is disappointing. I was hoping for some classic images of McMansions…

I also wonder if this is Bankrate’s definition of a McMansion as Americans see them or as a financial publisher? Here is a little bit about

We at Bankrate, Inc. have over three decades’ experience in financial publishing. Bankrate was born in 1976 as “Bank Rate Monitor,” a print publisher for the banking industry…

Today, Bankrate, Inc. is the Web’s leading aggregator of financial rate information, offering an unparalleled depth and breadth of rate data and financial content. Bankrate continually surveys approximately 4,800 financial institutions in all 50 states in order to provide clear, objective, and unbiased rates to consumers. Our flagship Web site,, provides free rate information to consumers on more than 300 financial products, including mortgages, credit cards, new and used automobile loans, money market accounts, certificates of deposit, checking and ATM fees, home equity loans and online banking fees.

In addition to rate data, we publish original and objective personal finance stories to help consumers make informed financial decisions.

What exactly does Bankrate think about McMansions?


Trying to give people warm feelings about traffic tickets

I think it is safe to say most people don’t like receiving traffic or moving violation tickets. Could there be a way to help people feel better about receiving these tickets? Cambridge, Massachusetts is trying to improve the image of driving tickets:

But the city of Cambridge, Mass., is looking to cultivate a Zen-like demeanor among parking offenders with the New Age-themed tickets it’s handing out these days.

“It’s trying to debunk the idea that all parking tickets are a hostile action, because I don’t think they are,” Susan E. Clippinger, the city’s transportation chief, told the Boston Herald.

According to the Herald, the parking ticket makeover in Cambridge — home to Harvard and MIT — is part of public art project by the city’s artist-in-residence, Daniel Peltz. In addition to the 40,000 new parking tickets Cambridge printed, the city is incorporating mood-enhancing imagery in its approach to parking enforcement, as the Herald notes: “There are new street signs explaining traffic rules in offbeat ways; ‘10,000 Excuses,’ a mural of excuses given by ticketed drivers; and plush, stuffed ‘soft-boots’ to give the ultimate parking penalty a warmer, fuzzier feel.”

An interesting program. One thing that may work in their favor: changing up the signage and typical protocol might shake people out of their complacent driving behaviors.

What about trying another tact: framing the tickets as part of a larger campaign of public safety. Could drivers be placated a little if the tickets came with an explanation about how driving within/at the rules saved lives, injuries, and money (and tax dollars)? This would give the often solitary activity of driving a more communal focus: we need people to obey the traffic laws and regulations to help everyone get where they need to go safely. If you break the rules, it is not a “victimless crime.”

Farming back on the upswing in Massachusetts

Farming is not a common occupation in the United States today. According to these figures from the EPA, less than 1% of Americans claim farming as an occupation and about 2% of people live on farms.

Yet the Boston Globe reports that farming is on the upswing in Massachusetts. According to the figures:

From 2002 to 2007, the number of farms in Massachusetts jumped by about 27 percent to 7,691, according to the US Department of Agriculture census. That’s a reversal from the previous five years, when there was a 20 percent drop in the number of farms and, presumably, farmers, many of whom sold land to developers.

But the start-up farms are smaller than the family enterprises of the past. The average farm in Massachusetts, 85 acres in 2002, was 67 acres five years later.

American society experienced such a shift away from agriculture from the late 1800s to today that I wonder if this is part of a shift toward a slightly more balanced world between agriculture and other sectors of society. There are plenty of books and pundits talking about how we are disconnected from the land and our food – perhaps a new generation is listening (and the article does make it sound like many of the new farmers are younger) and charting a new course.

(Even after an upswing, the number of farms in Massachusetts is still small. A lot more people would need to go into agriculture to become a movement.)