Wednesday open thread

We have an open thread today.

Starter idea:

They Found a Radical Cure for Loneliness: the Phone Call (WSJ, may be a free link)
Make time for gabfests by getting up early or talking while folding laundry

Shari Edelson, 54 years old, says she schedules phone dates with a number of friends, including longtime friend Chris Tanner. He lives in Atlanta and she lives in Marlton, N.J.

Ms. Edelson blames social media for the increasing distance between friends. “Friendship isn’t commenting on a picture someone posted on Instagram or commenting on a text,” she says. “Hearing someone laugh or cry, that’s friendship.”

A few weeks ago, the two talked for six hours. Mr. Tanner, 53 years old, says he rarely talks to male friends on the phone: “Guys, in general, don’t talk to guys on the phone much.”

Do you have regular phone calls with any family or friends?

Snack food trends

by Rocky Mountain Stepmom

The landscape of eating has fundamentally changed”, sez this article about new snack foods. It claims that during the pandemic people switched over to snacking all day instead of eating meals, and food manufacturers have created new snack foods to accommodate these changes. I think there were tons of snack foods before, but maybe there are more now. Do you snack more than you used to?

Oh, and miniatures are in. “Miniatures are trending: Frito-Lay introduced fun-sized versions of Doritos, Cheetos and SunChips; Hostess Bouncers are a new line of bite-sized Twinkies, Ding Dongs and Donettes.”

This article isn’t paywalled.

Fun foods proliferate as Americans snack more than ever (Axios)


by Kim

We’ve recently had discussions about some of our kids who have “gone off the payroll”.  Are they now “adults”?  When did you consider yourself an adult?

The lines between “child” and “adult” aren’t as clearly defined for us as they once were, says Jeffrey Arnett, senior research scholar at Clark University. Prof. Arnett coined the term “emerging adulthood” to describe the period from 18 to 29, when people are often struggling to build a “more adult” life for themselves.

“This has been there for at least 30 years,” he says of the anxiety and shame people feel about this. “It isn’t a black and white thing, and it is usually more complicated than leaving home or finishing an education or making a purchase or getting married. It tends to be multifaceted. To my surprise, people wouldn’t generally say ‘yes or no,’ but they would give an, ‘I feel adult in these ways, but I don’t feel adult in these other ways.’ ”

Prof. Arnett encourages people to instead consider the ways in which their lives revolve around three big criteria: financial independence, accountability for one’s actions and the ability to make decisions alone.

You Don’t Have to Own Things to Be an Adult. So Why Do I Feel Like I Do? (WSJ, may be a free link)
The ways we used to define ‘adult’ no longer apply. The hard part is figuring out what we use now.

Wednesday open thread

We have an open thread all day.

Starter idea:

“Email In Next 30 Minutes…”: Zoom CEO Announces 1,300 Job Cuts
Zoom lay-offs: “If you are a US-based employee who is impacted, you will receive an email to your Zoom and personal inboxes in the next 30 minutes…” Zoom chief executive Eric Yuan said on a blog post

Do you have a layoff story?  Ever been fired?  Have you had a ‘take this job and shove it’ experience?  What have you learned?

Accounting degree

by Sunshine

We have several accountants here, or at least people with accounting degrees. What say you?

Accountants Have to Go to College for Five Years. Some Are Rethinking That. (WSJ)
Accountant shortage prompts Minnesota and other states to consider alternative paths to becoming a licensed CPA

I graduated over thirty years ago, so only had 120 hours to get my degree and sit for the exam. Given what I hear from interns that we hire, I’m not sure students learn much in their fifth year that they didn’t the first year of work bimd. They spend time in internships and do CPA exam review. I took Becker at night while working my first year out. Overall, I think the fifth year should be optional, and go back to a 4 year degree plus a couple of years experience to get certified. As it was, I passed the exam but never worked in public accounting, so was never licensed.

I think it’s foolish for the profession to lose bright minds to other industries over this 5th year approach that isn’t being used for technical training. Admittedly, my 120 hours was very prescriptive and it was hard to fit in any electives. That part would have to revert to how it was, because you really don’t have much time for other stuff if you pack it all in to four years.

Friday open thread

We have an open thread all day.

Starter idea:  Many of you may not want to rehash this old topic, but here it is for those who are interested.

Dishonor Code: What Happens When Cheating Becomes the Norm?
Students say they are getting ‘screwed over’ for sticking to the rules. Professors say students are acting like ‘tyrants.’ Then came ChatGPT . . .

When it was time for Sam Beyda, then a freshman at Columbia University, to take his Calculus I midterm, the professor told students they had 90 minutes.

But the exam would be administered online. And even though every student was expected to take it alone, in their dorms or apartments or at the library, it wouldn’t be proctored. And they had 24 hours to turn it in.

“Anyone who hears that knows it’s a free-for-all,” Beyda told me.

Beyda, an economics major, said students texted each other answers; looked up solutions on Chegg, a crowdsourced website with answers to exam questions; and used calculators, which were technically verboten.

He finished the exam in under an hour, he said. Other students spent two or three hours on it. Some classmates paid older students who had already taken the course to do it for them.

“Professors just don’t care,” he told me.

Non-English Words We Need to Add

by Denver Dad

Merriam-Webster started a Twitter thread recently asking non-English speakers for words in their language that are perfect, but don’t translate easily into English. Here are a few of the replies:

Sobremesa (so-breh-MEH-sah): Spanish for “that chill time around the table” after dinner, just hanging out.

Vorfeude (for-FROY-duh): A German word that’s sorta like “pre-joy,” when you’re thinking about something in the future.

Tsundoku (soon-DOE-koo): A Japanese word for when you buy a lot of books and let them pile up without reading them.

Merriam-Webster Asks For Best Non-English Words And The Results Are Awesome
These words need to be added to the English dictionary — pronto!

What are other language words that you would like to have an English equivalent for? Or just anything you think we need a word for, even if you don’t know of a word for it in another language?

What are you watching?

by Houston

There have been a slew of articles on the “streaming wars.” How many streaming services do you have? Do you still watch “regular tv”?

What are your favorite shows to watch 1) alone, 2) with your spouse, and 3) with your family? What shows do you think your fellow Totebaggers would enjoy?

Hosting without cooking

by Kim

Don’t Want to Cook? You Can Still Put Together a Fabulous Dinner Party (WSJ, may work as free link)
It begins with good bread, tasty things in tins and a dash of what the Italians call sprezzatura

“Italian Bread With Anchovies and Butter”  I’m a bit skeptical so I’d like to try before I serve to guests.

What are your no-cooking hosting ideas?  Do you ever outsource cooking when you have people over to your home?

Here’s TikTok with more ideas.  The presentation can make a big difference. That salad looks delicious and easy.  BTW, the woman hosting the dinner party runs food tours in Italy in case you’re interested.

Income Tax

by Fred

Where do you stand on doing your 2022 Income Taxes (federal, state where applicable)?

I’m probably going to do ours, both, in a couple of weeks. Also DS3’s but I’m going to try and get him to prep his own. DS1 & DS2 did their own last year and I don’t see any reason why that should change.

Phone security tips

by Becky

From second-hand stories of people being mugged of their smartphones, it seems thieves are forcing their victims to unlock their phones before turning them over. In one case, the damage done by the teen thieves was just some food delivery and uber rides. In another case, the victim was a woman roughly my age. In the 10 minutes it took her to walk home from the theft, the thief and whatever accomplice had started trying to access her accounts. She had taken a significant retirement distribution not long before, and was able to contact the institution and lock down the account, but apparently the thieves had already attempted to reset the password so they could gain access.

This got me thinking about what thieves could access if they had control of my phone. My cell phone is what I use for two-factor authentication codes. Even if I changed that to email, they might be able to access my email on my phone. I need to go through all of my accounts and see what relies on face id, where I have passwords saved so they don’t have to be typed in each time, and where the password reset could be accomplished by choosing “forgot my password” if someone had my phone.

Do any of you have experience with this, or any security tips on how to keep from having your accounts completely cleaned out if someone were to obtain your unlocked phone? I’m particularly worried about my mother’s phone now, but there is no way I will be able to explain over the phone how to remove any passwords she has saved. Once I figure out all the steps I need to take to make my phone more secure, I think I’m going to have to make an in-person visit to address her phone as well.

While we’re at it – are there any other tech-driven vulnerabilities I’m not thinking of?

Thursday open thread

We have an open thread all day.

Starter idea:

You Might Live Longer Than You Think. Your Finances Might Not (WSJ)
Financial planning tends to overlook longevity, a factor that can far exceed life expectancy

Many Americans live a lot longer than they expected.

People can look up their longevity risk with an online Longevity Illustrator maintained by the American Academy of Actuaries and Society of Actuaries, based off the latest mortality data from the Social Security Administration.

Gen Z driving habits

by MooshiMooshi

This is definitely the case with my kids. Only the oldest has his license so far, and he didn’t get it until he was 21 (and it took three attempts at the driving test). DS2 lives in Manhattan and is adamantly anti-driving. I keep telling him that he should get his license just for flexibility, but he doesn’t want to hear it. Their friends from HS all got their licenses late too, mostly around their first year of college. DD has shown some interest but thinks the process is a hassle and doesn’t have any real need. Most of her friends are local and she walks over to the track to see them. She sees her fencing friends 3 times a week at practice, and the rest of the time they socialize online. I think she will have a hard time getting through the process because of her anxiety issues and difficulty focusing.

I actually learned pretty late for my generation – I was 21 when I got my license. I had been going to school in Boston before that point, at a school that had no parking for kids in dorms, and located in an area with great mass transit. It wasn’t until I went to grad school out in the boonies that I needed to drive.

The article mentions that Millennials already showed a decline in getting their licenses and driving when they were young, and have increased their driving as they got older – but they still lag behind the older generations. It mentions factors like the increased difficulty of getting a license, costs of owning a car, the rise in anxiety diagnoses, and the move to online socializing, which all seem likely to me. I

When I was in HS in France, I noticed that none of the kids could drive. In France, you have to be 18 to get a license, and it is hard, or at least it was back then. You had to take a special course from a driving school first, and once you got the license, had to drive under speed restrictions for 2 years. Perhaps we are just moving to a system more like that.

‘I’ll call an Uber or 911’: Why Gen Z doesn’t want to drive
Zoomers are shunning cars and driver’s licenses. Will it last?

By Shannon Osaka
February 13, 2023 at 9:37 a.m. EST

When Madison Corr was 18 years old and in her first year of college, she started the process of getting a driver’s license. Corr, who was living in New York at the time, got an adult learner’s permit, did drug and alcohol training, and put in 10 to 15 hours behind the wheel and attending driver’s ed classes. But when it came time to schedule a road test to get her license, she simply … didn’t. “I just felt like I didn’t need it,” she said.

10 steps you can take to lower your carbon footprint
Now 24, she lives in Philadelphia and still doesn’t have a license. “My parents put a lot of pressure on me to get one,” she said. “But I haven’t needed one to this point. If there’s an emergency, I’ll call an Uber or 911.”

Gabe Balog, 23, waited to get his license until he was 20 and didn’t get a car until two years later. “I didn’t want my parents teaching me,” he said. But he also felt ambivalence toward America’s car-centric culture, only getting a car because his job as a peer mental health worker required one. “It would be so much better for everyone if public transport were just more accessible.”

Balog and Corr reflect a growing trend among Generation Z, loosely defined as people born between the years of 1996 and 2012. Equipped with ride-sharing apps and social media, “zoomers,” as they are sometimes called, are getting their driver’s licenses at lower rates than their predecessors. Unlike previous generations, they don’t see cars as a ticket to freedom or a crucial life milestone. The question — for American drivers and for the planet — is whether that trend will last.

In 1997, 43 percent of 16-year-olds and 62 percent of 17-year-olds had driver’s licenses. In 2020, those numbers had fallen to 25 percent and 45 percent. “Anecdotally, we’re hearing that younger people aren’t driving or getting their licenses as quickly as in the past,” said Mark Friedlander, the director of communications at the Insurance Information Institute.

The trend is most pronounced for teens, but even older members of Gen Z are lagging behind their millennial counterparts. In 1997, almost 90 percent of 20- to 25 year-olds had licenses; in 2020, it was only 80 percent.

(diagram appears here)

Gen Zers point to many reasons they are turning their backs on cars: anxiety, finances, environmental concern. Many members of Gen Z say they haven’t gotten licensed because they’re afraid of getting into accidents — or of driving itself. Madison Morgan, a 23-year-old from Kennewick, Wash., had multiple high school classmates pass away in driving accidents. Those memories loomed over her whenever she was behind the wheel.

“When I was learning with my parents, a lot of times I would end up crying because I was so stressed out,” she said. After failing the driving test twice, she decided to take a break until she felt more confident. She now lives in Seattle and takes public transportation or the occasional Uber or Lyft.

Others point to driving’s high cost. Car insurance has skyrocketed in price in recent years, increasing nearly 14 percent between 2022 and 2023. (The average American now spends around 3 percent of their yearly income on car insurance.) Used and new car prices have also soared in the last few years, thanks to a combination of supply chain disruptions and high inflation.

And members of Gen Z, according to one Pew poll, are more likely to talk about the need for climate action than members of previous generations.

Louisa Sholar, a 24-year-old graduate student at Georgetown University, has a license but has stayed car-free due to high costs of insurance and the availability of public transit in Washington, D.C. “I’m in favor of having more public transport for environmental reasons,” she said. “I’m quite conscious of my footprint.”

E-scooters, e-bikes and ride-sharing also provide Gen Zers options that weren’t available to earlier generations. (Half of ride-sharing users are between the ages of 18 and 29, according to a poll from 2019.) And Gen Zers have the ability to do things online — hang out with friends, take classes, play games — which used to be available only in person.

“Their thumbs have become much more mobile than their legs,” said Ming Zhang, a professor of regional planning at the University of Texas at Austin.

Whether this shift will last depends on whether Gen Z is acting out of inherent preferences, or simply postponing key life milestones that often spur car purchases. Getting married, having children, or moving out of urban centers are all changes that encourage (or, depending on your view of the U.S. public transit system, force) people to drive more.

Those phases “are consistently getting later,” said Noreen McDonald, a professor of urban planning at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Gen Zers are more likely to live at home for longer, more likely to pursue higher education and less likely to get married in their 20s.

Millennials went through a similar phase. Around a decade ago, many newspaper articles and research papers noted that the millennial generation — often defined as those born between 1981 and 1996 — were shunning cars. The trend was so pronounced that some researchers dubbed millennials the “go-nowhere” generation.

That shift reverberated on the nation’s roads and highways. The average number of vehicle miles driven by young people dropped 24 percent between 2001 and 2009, according to a report from the Frontier Group and the U.S. Public Interest Research Group. And at the same time, vehicle miles traveled per person in the United States — which had been climbing for more than 50 years — began to plateau.

(another diagram)

Researchers at the time didn’t know whether the trend would hold. “There was speculation at the time that millennials would ultimately drive as much as baby boomers” once they passed the same life stages, explained Zhang, the U.T. Austin professor.

But according to a study Zhang and his co-authors released last year, adult millennials continue to drive around 8 percent less every day than members of Generation X and baby boomers. As millennials have grown up, got married and had kids, the distance they travel in cars has increased — but they haven’t fully closed the gap with previous generations.

It’s too early to tell if the same will be true for Generation Z. Its youngest members are only 10 years old, and the covid-19 pandemic has likely interrupted some driving plans of older Gen Zers. Researchers say that more studies will be needed to evaluate whether Zoomers end up driving even less than millennials. “We just don’t know that much about Gen Z yet,” said Tony Dutzik, a senior policy analyst at Frontier Group.

But, he added, data has shown that U.S. car culture isn’t as strong as it once was. “Up through the baby boom generation, every generation drove more than the last,” Dutzik said. Forecasters expected that trend to continue, with driving continuing to skyrocket well into the 2030s. “But what we saw with millennials, I think very clearly, is that trend stopped,” Dutzik said.

If Gen Zers continue to eschew driving, it could have significant effects on the country’s carbon emissions. Transportation is the largest source of CO2 emissions in the United States. There are roughly 66 million members of Gen Z living in the United States. If each one drove just 10 percent less than the national average — that is, driving 972 miles less every year — that would save 25.6 million metric tons of carbon dioxide from spewing into the atmosphere. That’s the equivalent to the annual emissions of more than six coal-fired power plants.

The big question now, according to Dutzik, is whether policymakers and city planners will help shift American society away from near-total reliance on cars. “You have a group of people signaling with their actions that they want something different from the transportation system,” he said. “They need more options to be able to live their lives the way they want to.”

College in less than four years

by Kim

College Doesn’t Need to Take Four Years (WSJ)
For many students, the standard bachelor’s degree program has become a costly straitjacket.

The standard bachelor’s degree requires the completion of 120 credit hours. But as many as 30 of those credits are earned in elective courses. Such electives often have no clear objective relevant to the students’ goals, and they often function as little more than diversions from more rigorous courses in students’ majors. Worse still, they can even force the four-year degree to extend to five years because of conflicting course and department schedules.

Colleges and universities should reconsider the need to collect credits beyond the major and general education requirements, particularly for vocationally focused degrees. This would eliminate approximately one year of required instruction, with all its cost in time and resources

… The time has come for new ways of thinking about the four-year straitjacket. There will always be a place for university education in the classical mode—a place for Latin, history and the liberal arts. But there should also be a practical shape to education within the university, one that will meet the diversifying needs of a rapidly changing nation.

What makes this issue even more compelling is that most students take more than four years to complete a college degree.

Thursday open thread

We have an open thread all day.

Starter idea:

Cancel Culture Comes for Sleepovers

… the Washington Post informed me that sleepovers are now controversial among parents.

There are families for whom slumber parties are out of the question; in certain cultures, allowing your child to stay overnight with someone outside the family is not an accepted practice (many Gen-Z TikTok users have meme’d the awkward experience of turning down sleepover invitations because of wary parents).

Millions of parents post under the viral hashtag #NoSleepovers. They flock to parenting influencers and psychiatrists on TikTok who expound on various sleepover risks.

Have you seen this?  What other restrictions commonly exist today for playdates or sleepovers?  How does this compare to your childhood?

Couples in separate bedrooms

by Sunshine

Anyone here sleep separately? Or have close friends or family who do? We don’t, thought I’ll admit that I slept in the spare room for a while after a trip to ensure I didn’t have Covid cooties, and I slept SO well. DH did start to wonder if I was going to return. I did. Our master/primary bedroom is much nicer so it wasn’t really that tempting.

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Advice Column Friday

by Kim

A faux pas when making new friends?

My husband, son and I moved to a new community where we don’t know many people. Recently, we invited a new co-worker to our home for dinner with his wife and their child. It was a casual invitation: “Do you want to come over for takeout?” When they accepted, we sent them a menu. They made their selections (including an expensive seafood dish). We called it in, picked it up and paid for it. A fun time was had by all! But when they left, they didn’t offer to contribute to the large dinner bill, nor did they mention reciprocating. I find this baffling and rude. My husband wants to give them another chance. What say you?

You seem to have buried the lead: Congratulations on making new friends in your new town! That’s the significant takeaway (for me). And it would be a shame to spoil that for the price of a seafood dish.

Over the years, I have heard from many readers who split the cost of takeout on the spot, as well as from many others who take turns paying in their homes. It doesn’t sound as if you mentioned payment, so your guests may have thought they were following your lead. Why not give them some time to reciprocate? You can even be cheeky with your new pals: “So, when is takeout night at your place?”

Nepo babies

by Finn

Are you a nepo baby? Are you in the same profession or career field as a parent? Did your parents provide you with any advantages for entry into, or advancement within, your professional careers? If so, what were those advantages?

Are any of your kids likely to be nepo babies, following a parent into a career field, and being advantaged by your knowledge and networks? If so, what guidance and advantages do you think you will provide?

What Would The Totebag Do?

by Lemon Tree

On a recent trip I took a car service, arranged by the hotel, from Manhattan to LaGuardia. When we got to departures the guy told me it would be $70 (hotel told me $60), and when I took out my card he shook his head and said cash only. I had very little cash on me, and never have I had a car service not take a credit card. There was no previous discussion about cash only. He told me to find an ATM. I refused. I asked about Venmo, and he said that he doesn’t have a bank account and no taxes. He placed a few calls, lots of rushed discussion in Spanish, and then told me would take my card, where he texted my card numbers to someone and told me I’d see a charge for $85. The charge did go through, and I haven’t noticed any unusual activity.

I wasn’t comfortable with this transaction for several reasons, and I probably could have walked away without paying. I could have taken Uber/Lyft for half the money, but I like the guarantee of a car ready when I need to get to the airport, especially in a city where the traffic can significantly impact travel times.

Curious what other Totebaggers would have done in this situation. Feel free to share your own stories as well.

What are you cooking?

by Houston

In a prior thread, we discussed how a lot of us were cooking at home more, and eating out less. What are you cooking now-a-days? Are you experimenting with new recipes, or focusing on family favorites? Are you cutting down on certain foods?

Where do you go for your new recipes? Websites, cook books, or cooking shows? Feel free to share recipes!

Friday open thread

We have an open thread all day.

Starter topic:

Do you have daily or weekly rituals?  What are the little things you do regularly that make you feel good, whether physically or mentally or both? Do you write in a journal? Stretching? Walks or runs?  Morning coffee?  Afternoon tea?  Prayer?


Brag thread

by Houston

Feel free to brag accomplishments large and small. Bonus points for Totebag-centric achievements that you feel like you can’t talk about with people in your “normal life”.

Your ‘groups’

by Kim

What “groups” do you belong to enrich your life?

… Definition of group? I’m going to say:

something outside of work obligations though it might be work related (like if you’re a development person and you belong to a community philanthropy group)
you get together with other people for a common interest. Could be a “group” of 3 – or 30 or 300!
if brings some satisfaction to your life.
Specific church groups, community groups, book clubs, fitness, health….

What groups do you participate in – or would you like to be part of???

Banished words

by MooshiMooshi

Evidently, Lake Superior State University publishes a list of words that should be banished every year, and has done this since 1976. Here is this year’s list, which came out on Dec. 31

Here are the list of the banished words and terms for 2023 and the reasons for their banishment. I totally agree with #3 and #10


The acronym for Greatest of All Time gets the goat of petitioners and judges for overuse, misuse, and uselessness. “Applied to everyone and everything from athletes to chicken wings,” an objector declared. “How can anyone or anything be the GOAT, anyway?” Records fall; time continues. Some sprinkle GOAT like table salt on “anyone who’s really good.” Another wordsmith: ironically, “goat” once suggested something unsuccessful; now, GOAT is an indiscriminate flaunt.

2. Inflection point

Mathematical term that entered everyday parlance and lost its original meaning. This year’s version of “pivot,” banished in 2021. “Chronic throat-clearing from historians, journalists, scientists, or politicians. Its ubiquity has driven me to an inflection point of throwing soft objects about whenever I hear it,” a quipster recounted. “Inflection point has reached its saturation point and point of departure,” proclaimed another. “Pretentious way to say turning point.” Overuse and misuse.

3. Quiet quitting

Trendy but inaccurate. Not an employee who inconspicuously resigns. Instead, an employee who completes the minimum requirements for a position. Some nominator reasons: “normal job performance,” “fancy way of saying ‘work to rule,’” “nothing more than companies complaining about workers refusing to be exploited,” “it’s not a new phenomenon; it’s burnout, ennui, boredom, disengagement.” On the precipice for next year’s Banished Words List as well for ongoing misuse and overuse.

4. Gaslighting

Nominators are not crazy by arguing that overuse disconnects the term from the real concern it has identified in the past: dangerous psychological manipulation that causes victims to distrust their thoughts, feelings, memories, or perception of reality. Others cited misuse: an incorrect catchall to refer generally to conflict or disagreement. It’s too obscure of a reference to begin with, avowed sundry critics, alluding to the 1938 play and 1940/44 movies.

5. Moving forward

Misuse, overuse, and uselessness. “Where else would we go?” wondered a sage—since we can’t, in fact, travel backward in time. “May also refer to ‘get my way,’ as in, ‘How can we move forward?’ Well, guess what? Sometimes you can’t,” another wit stated. Politicians and bosses often wield it for “semantic legitimacy” of self-interest, evasion, or disingenuousness. Its next of kin, “going forward,” banished in 2001, also received votes.

6. Amazing

“Not everything is amazing; and when you think about it, very little is,” a dissenter explained. “This glorious word should be reserved for that which is dazzling, moving, or awe-inspiring,” to paraphrase another, “like the divine face of a newborn.” Initially banished for misuse, overuse, and uselessness in 2012. Its cyclical return mandates further nixing of the “generic,” “banal and hollow” modifier—a “worn-out adjective from people short on vocabulary.”

7. Does that make sense?

Submitters rejected the desire, perhaps demand, for clarification or affirmation as filler, insecurity, and passive aggression. “Why say it, if you must ask? It just doesn’t make sense!” tsk-tsked one. In this call for reassurance or act of false modesty, enquirers warp respondents into “co-conspirators,” deduced another. Needy, scheming, and/or cynical. Let me be clear, judges opined: Always make sense; don’t think aloud or play games! Misuse, overuse, and uselessness.

8. Irregardless

Sleuth confession: “It makes my hair hurt.” As well it should—because it’s not a word. At most, it’s a nonstandard word, per some dictionaries. “Regardless” suffices. Opponents disqualified it as a double negative. One conveyed that the prefix “ir” + “regardless” = redundancy. “Take ‘regardless’ and dress it up for emphasis, showcasing your command of nonexistent words,” excoriated an exasperated correspondent, adding, “Why isn’t this on your list?” Misuse.

9. Absolutely

Banished in 1996, but deserves a repeat nope given its overuse. Usurped the simple “yes,” laments a contributor. Another condemned it as “the current default to express agreement, endemically present on TV in one-on-one interviews.” Frequently “said too loudly by annoying people who think they’re better than you,” bemoaned an aggrieved observer. “Sounds like it comes with a guarantee when that may not be the case,” cautioned a wary watchdog.

10. It is what it is

Banished in 2008 for overuse, misuse, and uselessness: “pointless,” “cop-out,” “Only Yogi Berra should be allowed to utter such a circumlocution.” Its resurgence prompted these insights: “Well, duh.” “No kidding.” “Of course it is what it is! What else would it be? It would be weird if it wasn’t what it wasn’t.” “Tautology.” “Adds no value.” “Verbal crutch.” “Excuse not to deal with reality or accept responsibility.” “Dismissive, borderline rude.”

Students are offended

by MooshiMooshi

Adjunct art history professor fired for showing an image that offended Muslim students…
This has been all over the news, so many of you may have already read about this incident. The instructor showed an image of Mohammed, an Islamic work from the 14th century which is considered to be important and which is regularly discussed in art history courses. At the time the image was made, representations of Mohammed were not forbidden in Islam. Even today, this ban, while common, is not universal. While it is easy to look at this as yet another example of “woke cancel culture”, when I delved into the incident, I thought it was much more fundamental than that. It really has more to do with academic freedom vs religious belief, and reminds me more of the battles over the teaching of evolution. Even the fact that the adjunct had put warnings that images of religious figures would be shown in the class in the syllabus, and had made viewing them and discussing them optional shows how fraught this issue is. Will we need to start providing warnings if we show artwork with humanlike images of God, which is not permitted for many religious Jews, or present Jesus as a historical figure without a divine nature, which devout Christians might object to? And should non-Muslim students be denied an objective discussion of the changing nature of representations of Mohammed in Islam?

And of course this also touches on the issue of the powerlessness of adjuncts. And hamhanded administrators who are more concerned with keeping their enrollments up rather than promoting discussion and learning.

The NY Times writeup has the most detail and explanation of what happened so I am posting the link here, and will try to include the text.


A Lecturer Showed a Painting of the Prophet Muhammad. She Lost Her Job.
After an outcry over the art history class by Muslim students, Hamline University officials said the incident was Islamophobic. But many scholars say the work is a masterpiece.

By Vimal Patel
Jan. 8, 2023
Erika López Prater, an adjunct professor at Hamline University, said she knew many Muslims have deeply held religious beliefs that prohibit depictions of the Prophet Muhammad. So last semester for a global art history class, she took many precautions before showing a 14th-century painting of Islam’s founder.

In the syllabus, she warned that images of holy figures, including the Prophet Muhammad and the Buddha, would be shown in the course. She asked students to contact her with any concerns, and she said no one did.

In class, she prepped students, telling them that in a few minutes, the painting would be displayed, in case anyone wanted to leave.

Then Dr. López Prater showed the image — and lost her teaching gig.

Officials at Hamline, a small, private university in St. Paul, Minn., with about 1,800 undergraduates, had tried to douse what they feared would become a runaway fire. Instead they ended up with what they had tried to avoid: a national controversy, which pitted advocates of academic liberty and free speech against Muslims who believe that showing the image of Prophet Muhammad is always sacrilegious.

After Dr. López Prater showed the image, a senior in the class complained to the administration. Other Muslim students, not in the course, supported the student, saying the class was an attack on their religion. They demanded that officials take action.

Officials told Dr. López Prater that her services next semester were no longer needed. In emails to students and faculty, they said that the incident was clearly Islamophobic. Hamline’s president, Fayneese S. Miller, co-signed an email that said respect for the Muslim students “should have superseded academic freedom.” At a town hall, an invited Muslim speaker compared showing the images to teaching that Hitler was good.

Free speech supporters started their own campaign. An Islamic art historian wrote an essay defending Dr. López Prater and started a petition demanding the university’s board investigate the matter. It had more than 2,800 signatures. Free speech groups and publications issued blistering critiques; PEN America called it “one of the most egregious violations of academic freedom in recent memory.” And Muslims themselves debated whether the action was Islamophobic.

Arguments over academic freedom have been fought on campuses for years, but they can be especially fraught at small private colleges like Hamline, which are facing shrinking enrollment and growing financial pressures. To attract applicants, many of these colleges have diversified their curriculums and tried to be more welcoming to students who have been historically shut out of higher education.

Meanwhile, professors everywhere often face pushback for their academic decisions from activist students or conservative lawmakers.

Dr. López Prater’s situation was especially precarious. She is an adjunct, one of higher education’s underclass of teachers, working for little pay and receiving few of the workplace protections enjoyed by tenured faculty members.

University officials and administrators all declined interviews. But Dr. Miller, the school’s president, defended the decision in a statement.

“To look upon an image of the Prophet Muhammad, for many Muslims, is against their faith,” Dr. Miller’s statement said, adding, “It was important that our Muslim students, as well as all other students, feel safe, supported and respected both in and out of our classrooms.”

In a December interview with the school newspaper, the student who complained to the administration, Aram Wedatalla, described being blindsided by the image.

“I’m like, ‘This can’t be real,’” said Ms. Wedatalla, who in a public forum described herself as Sudanese. “As a Muslim and a Black person, I don’t feel like I belong, and I don’t think I’ll ever belong in a community where they don’t value me as a member, and they don’t show the same respect that I show them.”

Todd H. Green, who has written books about Islamophobia, said the conflict at Hamline was “tragic” because administrators pitted natural allies — those concerned about stereotypes of Muslims and Islam — against one another.

The administration, he said, “closed down conversation when they should have opened it up.”

The Image
The painting shown in Dr. López Prater’s class is in one of the earliest Islamic illustrated histories of the world, “A Compendium of Chronicles,” written during the 14th century by Rashid-al-Din (1247-1318).

Shown regularly in art history classes, the painting shows a winged and crowned Angel Gabriel pointing at the Prophet Muhammad and delivering to him the first Quranic revelation. Muslims believe that the Quran comprises the words of Allah dictated to the Prophet Muhammad through the Angel Gabriel.

The image is “a masterpiece of Persian manuscript painting,” said Christiane Gruber, a professor of Islamic art at the University of Michigan. It is housed at the University of Edinburgh; similar paintings have been on display at places like the Metropolitan Museum of Art. And a sculpture of the prophet is at the Supreme Court.

Dr. Gruber said that showing Islamic art and depictions of the Prophet Muhammad have become more common in academia, because of a push to “decolonize the canon” — that is, expand curriculum beyond a Western model.

Dr. Gruber, who wrote the essay in New Lines Magazine defending Dr. López Prater, said that studying Islamic art without the Compendium of Chronicles image “would be like not teaching Michaelangelo’s David.”

Yet, most Muslims believe that visual representations of Muhammad should not be viewed, even if the Quran does not explicitly prohibit them. The prohibition stems from the belief that an image of Muhammad could lead to worshiping the prophet rather than the god he served.

There are, however, a range of beliefs. Some Muslims distinguish between respectful depictions and mocking caricatures, while others do not subscribe to the restriction at all.

Omid Safi, a professor of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies at Duke University, said he regularly shows images of the Prophet Muhammad in class and without Dr. López Prater’s opt-out mechanisms. He explains to his students that these images were works of devotion created by pious artists at the behest of devout rulers.

“That’s the part I want my students to grapple with,” Dr. Safi said. “How does something that comes from the very middle of the tradition end up being received later on as something marginal or forbidden?”

A Warning, and Then the Image
Dr. López Prater, a self-described art nerd, said she knew about the potential for conflict on Oct. 6, when she began her online lecture with 30 or so students.

She said she spent a few minutes explaining why she was showing the image, how different religions have depicted the divine and how standards change over time.

“I do not want to present the art of Islam as something that is monolithic,” she said in an interview, adding that she had been shown the image as a graduate student. She also showed a second image, from the 16th century, which depicted Muhammad wearing a veil.

Dr. López Prater said that no one in class raised concerns, and there was no disrespectful commentary.

After the class ended, Ms. Wedatalla, a business major and president of the university’s Muslim Student Association, stuck around to voice her discomfort.

Immediately afterward, Dr. López Prater sent an email to her department head, Allison Baker, about the encounter; she thought that Ms. Wedatalla might complain.

Ms. Baker, the chair of the digital and studio art department, responded to the email four minutes later.

“It sounded like you did everything right,” Ms. Baker said. “I believe in academic freedom so you have my support.”

As Dr. López Prater predicted, Ms. Wedatalla reached out to administrators. Dr. López Prater, with Ms. Baker’s help, wrote an apology, explaining that sometimes “diversity involves bringing contradicting, uncomfortable and coexisting truths into conversation with each other.”

Ms. Wedatalla declined an interview request, and did not explain why she had not raised concerns before the image was shown. But in an email statement, she said images of Prophet Muhammad should never be displayed, and that Dr. López Prater gave a trigger warning precisely because she knew such images were offensive to many Muslims. The lecture was so disturbing, she said, that she could no longer see herself in that course.

Four days after the class, Dr. López Prater was summoned to a video meeting with the dean of the college of liberal arts, Marcela Kostihova.

Dr. Kostihova compared showing the image to using a racial epithet for Black people, according to Dr. López Prater.

“It was very clear to me that she had not talked to any art historians,” Dr. López Prater said.

A couple of weeks later, the university rescinded its offer to teach next semester.

Dr. López Prater said she was ready to move on. She had teaching jobs at other schools. But on Nov. 7, David Everett, the vice president for inclusive excellence, sent an email to all university employees, saying that certain actions taken in an online class were “undeniably inconsiderate, disrespectful and Islamophobic.”

The administration, after meeting with the school’s Muslim Student Association, would host an open forum “on the subject of Islamophobia,” he wrote.

Dr. López Prater, who had only begun teaching at Hamline in the fall, said she felt like a bucket of ice water had been dumped over her head, but the shock soon gave way to “blistering anger at being characterized in those terms by somebody who I have never even met or spoken with.” She reached out to Dr. Gruber, who ended up writing the essay and starting the petition.

An Emotional Forum
At the Dec. 8 forum, which was attended by several dozen students, faculty and administrators, Ms. Wedatalla described, often through tears, how she felt seeing the image.

“Who do I call at 8 a.m.,” she asked, when “you see someone disrespecting and offending your religion?”

Other Muslim students on the panel, all Black women, also spoke tearfully about struggling to fit in at Hamline. Students of color in recent years had protested what they called racist incidents; the university, they said, paid lip service to diversity and did not support students with institutional resources.

The main speaker was Jaylani Hussein, the executive director of the Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Muslim civil rights group.

The instructor’s actions, he said, hurt Muslim students and students of color and had “absolutely no benefit.”

“If this institution wants to value those students,” he added, “it cannot have incidents like this happen. If somebody wants to teach some controversial stuff about Islam, go teach it at the local library.”

Mark Berkson, a religion professor at Hamline, raised his hand.

“When you say ‘trust Muslims on Islamophobia,’” Dr. Berkson asked, “what does one do when the Islamic community itself is divided on an issue? Because there are many Muslim scholars and experts and art historians who do not believe that this was Islamophobic.”

Mr. Hussein responded that there were marginal and extremist voices on any issue. “You can teach a whole class about why Hitler was good,” Mr. Hussein said.

During the exchange, Ms. Baker, the department head, and Dr. Everett, the administrator, separately walked up to the religion professor, put their hands on his shoulders and said this was not the time to raise these concerns, Dr. Berkson said in an interview.

But Dr. Berkson, who said he strongly supported campus diversity, said that he felt compelled to speak up.

“We were being asked to accept, without questioning, that what our colleague did — teaching an Islamic art masterpiece in a class on art history after having given multiple warnings — was somehow equivalent to mosque vandalism and violence against Muslims and hate speech,” Dr. Berkson said. “That is what I could not stand.”

In interviews, several Islamic art scholars took issue with the idea that Dr. López Prater’s intent was to disrespect the prophet, and said that it was nothing like the cartoons in Charlie Hebdo, the French satirical magazine that had reprinted mocking cartoons of Prophet Muhammad. That led to the deadly 2015 attack at the magazine’s offices, which the scholars also denounced.

Edward Ahmed Mitchell, the deputy executive director of the national chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said that he did not have enough information to comment on the Hamline dispute. But while his group discourages visual depictions of the prophet, he said that there was a difference between an act that was un-Islamic and one that was Islamophobic.

“If you drink a beer in front of me, you’re doing something that is un-Islamic, but it’s not Islamophobic,” he said. “If you drink a beer in front of me because you’re deliberately trying to offend me, well then, maybe that has an intent factor.”

“Intent and circumstances matter,” he said, “especially in a university setting, where academic freedom is critical and professors often address sensitive and controversial topics.”

Dr. Safi, the Duke professor, said Hamline had effectively taken sides in a debate among Muslims. Students “don’t have to give up their values,” he added. “But some part of the educational process does call for stepping beyond each one of our vantage points enough to know that none of us have the monopoly on truth.”

Dr. Safi has his own personal image of the prophet. When he was 14, his family fled to the United States from Tehran during the Iran-Iraq war. He packed an image of Muhammad holding a Quran into one of the family’s few suitcases.

That image now hangs on his wall at home.

Investment recommendations

by Fred

I am wondering how we are feeling about investments after the lousy return provided for stocks and bonds (generally) in 2022? What good, great, questionable recommendations do you, and/or your investment advisor(s) recommend?


by Rhett

We’ve talked a little about this before. This is a new totebaggy twist. I highly suggest taking the quiz if you’re able.

I’ll add some spoilers in the comments so keep that in mind if you are able and want to take the quiz.

Friday open thread

We have an open thread all day.

Starter idea:

… one woman I used to know had almost an entire closet full of black pants, and when I expressed a bit of puzzlement about why she needed so many, she looked shocked. “Each of them is different!” she said.

She was an extreme case, but according to Vogue, every woman should own at least five pairs of black pants: tuxedo, denim, leather, leggings and slacks.

For the women, how many pairs do you own?  For everyone, do you own multiples of another wardrobe staple?

Thursday open thread

We have an open thread all day.

Starter idea:  Do you know cases where kinless seniors have received care from friends or extended family members?  Or cases where seniors handled old age alone?  How did it work out?


Fun quiz

by Rhode

Everyone Loves To Debate Whether These 40 Names Are “Dog Names” Or “Human Names”

Is it a dog name or a human name? I saw some of our posters’ name on the quiz and thought it would be fun to see if the world thinks the name is for a human or a dog.

In fairness… In high school, I owned a dog named MacKenzie. Flash forward a few years, and a cousin named her daughter MacKenzie… My DH (then boyfriend) confused this cousin because he and I were chatting about my dog and she thought we were talking about her daughter! Currently we have a dog named Finley… Fin for short. Sorry Finn!

Happy New Year!

by North of Boston

Happy New Year! What are you looking forward to in 2023? Vacation plans? Personal or family milestones? New jobs? Retirement? Is there anything on the calendar that you’re anxious about, or even dreading?

The history of Internet chic, or why Millennials are now total cringe

by MooshiMooshi

This is from Vox, and hopefully not paywalled. It recounts the history of Internet “cool” from what they think are the earliest days. A couple of observations…

First, they define “Old Internet People” as people who “were on the early forums and message boards of the late 1990s and early 2000s: Usenet, Something Awful, or 4chan (back before it carried the alt-right connotations it does now),”. But there was a time in Internet history before the late 1990’s, the era of the “Internet Dinosaurs”, perhaps, and I am one of those people, along with people like Linus Torvalds and the early open source crowd. Richard Stallman announced GNU on Usenet in 1983

and Linus Torvalds posted his famous announcement of his “hobby” on Usenet in 1991, and I actually saw it at the time.
I am of the generation that remembers ftp and using gopher to get weather forecasts from Weather Underground (a site that is also of the dinosaur generation).

Second, I am totally struck by how much my oldest kid, technically but just barely Gen Z, and all his friends were influenced by “Millennial cringe”. He used dogespeak all the time, and still refers to our cat as “much floof”. He loved the “I can has cheezeburger” cat, Spoderman and “dat boi” memes. Yes, he, and his younger brother, are “straight white millennial dudes who love Marvel”. But so are their older cousins, who are borderline GenX/Millenials.

Third, I am struck these days by where the Internet has gone – both weirdly bland and also filled with rage. Corporate algorithms drive everything. Instagram reminds me of looking at a very slick magazine in the 90’s, a combo of Martha Stewart wannabees and photography of makeup and food that could have come straight out of Vogue or Gourmet in 1995. Of my three kids, only my youngest is truly a Gen Z stereotype. My oldest won’t even go on TikTok, saying that he doesn’t get it, and that earlier video sites were better (ah, yes, I guess he is getting old).

So how long before Gen Z becomes cringe?


by Kim

Did you receive any books this holiday season?  Did you give any?  What were some of your 2022 favorites?

A little history on holiday book gifting:

 …The first American advertisement for Christmas gifts, Nissenbaum found, was placed by a Salem, Mass., bookshop in 1806.

By the mid-1800s, many publishers were beginning to issue books specifically to be given as gifts during the holidays — from “St. Nicholas’s Book” for children to “Literary Gem,” “Flowers of Loveliness” and “Affection’s Gift” for adults. These special editions were beautifully designed. “This is the season of Book-blossoms,” The Times reported in 1851. “The Holidays act upon books like April upon trees.” The article continued, “Thousands there are who rightly deem the richest present they can make to a friend to be a good book; and they naturally wish for it outward comeliness, as well as intrinsic worth.”

A book of any kind was a rare luxury for most consumers, but a gift book, tasked with communicating one’s affection toward the receiver, had to be particularly special. These books “purport to represent authenticity and sincerity, and yet they were by definition the most avant-garde products of commercial culture,” Nissenbaum said. “They are meant to be purchased for the sole purpose of being given away. I don’t know of anything that came before that was designed like that.” Often, the books themselves were named for other gift-worthy luxury items, such as jewels (“Amethyst,” “Diadem,” “The Pearl”) or flowers (“Christmas Blossoms,” “Rose Bud,” “Hyacinth”).

Buying a beautifully bound edition signified one’s own social status, as well as the esteem in which one held the intended recipient. “‘Gift book’ should be considered a charming designation,” The Times declared in 1914. “It implies a graceful compliment to the book buyer, it implies that he is too modest, too unselfish to buy richly decorated volumes for himself, that he will buy them only to give to his friends.”

And a comment by an e-book hater:

When reading a physical book, I can look at two pages at once to clarify something. I can instantly glance ahead or back a few pages to measure my progress. I can often remember where a phrase or passage is by its location on a page. These, and more, are essential parts of my reading comprehension.

With so-called E-Books and their simulated pages, which are really just subdivisions of a scroll of text viewed through a small window, I can’t do these things, or at best I can do a few of them with tedious difficulty.

Case closed. And the “E-Book” too.

College Days

by Louise

The Totebag has lots of posts about getting into college. However, much fewer about the college scene itself. What have you heard from your kids or other college aged kids that are changes from when you went to college ? Any surprises or concerns ?

2022 Google searches

by Louise

Local Year in Search 2022

See what your geographic area searched for in 2022. One surprising search item for my area – Halal white sauce ! BTW, my family loves the Middle Eastern plates with a meat, the yogurt sauce and rice or salad. Many other people in my city possibly like it as well, hence the search.

halal white sauce recipe

What Wedding Traditions are Changing?

by Lemon Tree

I recently attended a wedding where the bride and groom didn’t have a bridal party. No Best Man. No Maid of Honor. There was also no bridal bouquet, flowers or other centerpieces, assigned seating, or wedding favors. But it still had a traditional wedding feel. Around 150 guests, in a beautiful Totebag members only club. The Bride walked down the aisle, the officiant was typical. After the ceremony we adjourned to the bar for drinks and hors d’oeuvres, and then a wonderful dinner, followed by cake and dancing. There wasn’t a Best Man speech. Instead the Bride and Groom answered a list of questions that people had asked over the course of their engagement (where did you meet, any significance about this venue, how did you propose).

It was a fabulous wedding, filled with cheer. It got me thinking if more simplistic weddings will be the trend. No need to fuss about flowers or chair covers, or worry if people will like the favors. Is a church ceremony necessary? Didn’t COVID teach us that God is all around us and we don’t need to be in a specific house of worship? Do we need to have the ceremony at 1pm, tell our guests to go someplace and wait for hours, and then go someplace else for dinner?

What are others seeing at weddings? What would be your ideal wedding as a guest? If you could go back in time, what part of your own wedding would you change?

Petty holiday complaints

by Houston

‘Tis the season to complain, so feel free to share your complaints here. The pettier, the better.

My complaint–My “love language” is not gift giving. My sister’s family is big on Christmas presents. It takes hours to unwrap everything. I find myself getting everyone 2-3 gifts each, because that is what they give us. It’s so out of control.

Yes, I can disengage (without hard feelings from my sister), but then I feel guilty. My gifts are well received and I can easily afford it, but I feel like I’m a cog in the Christmas/capitalist machine. Am I going to change my behavior? No. Will I complain here, to my Totebag friends? Certainly.

‘How Old Do You Feel?’

by Kim

Is it true that you’re only as old as you feel?

Studies are finding a link between people’s “subjective age” or “psychological age” and their future health and longevity. Psychological age can differ from chronological age, and some psychologists and gerontologists say there might be ways to improve physical health by making yourself feel younger—or at least taking a positive attitude toward aging.

Feeling older than your chronological age is associated with a higher likelihood of dementia, frailty, stroke and heart disease, according to recent research by scientists and academics studying links between psychology and health.

Some research focused on the correlation between attitudes and mortality have linked positive feelings about aging—and feeling younger than you actually are—with a longer life. In one German study of 2,400 adults over more than 20 years, participants who said they expected to continue to grow and develop into old age lived on average 13 years longer than those who didn’t expect such growth.

“It is really good and important to feel younger. It is soft protection. If I feel younger, I am more motivated to be engaged and active,” says Susanne Wurm, professor at University of Greifswald and an author of the study published earlier this year in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 

Participating in new experiences, such as traveling or taking classes, and resisting negative assumptions about getting older might help you feel younger and improve your outlook, researchers say.

Ah, but your health likely affects how old you feel so you can’t simply think yourself into feeling younger.

Being in good health is a big reason why many people might feel younger than they are—and therefore might live longer, according to scientists who study the psychology of aging. Many of those researchers believe the effect can go the other way, too, noting that those with a younger and more optimistic sense of aging might be more apt to take care of themselves.

How old do you feel compared to how old you are chronologically?

To assess your subjective age, start by asking: How old do I feel? You can ask the question on any given day or in specific situations, such as when you are with younger people, Dr. Touron says. You can also ask how old you feel in different areas, such as your physical abilities, mental performance or social connections. There is no set formula, she says. 

Have you tried to keep yourself from feeling and acting older than you are?

How Old Do You Feel? The Answer Can Reveal a Lot About Your Health, Scientists Say (WSJ)
Research is uncovering links between your ‘subjective age’ and your future health and longevity.

Wednesday open thread

We have an open thread all day.

Starter idea: Has splitting the bill become easier?

Peer-to-peer payment apps, such as Venmo and Cash App, have made it easier than ever to equitably divide a bill, especially at places where it’s a hassle to split the check. Often, one person covers the total and asks their fellow diners to pay back their fair share.

But if someone forgets to pay back the person who covered the bill it can become awkward.

How do you usually handle splitting the bill?