Thursday open thread

We have an open thread all day.

Here’s a chart to start a conversation.

Percentage of the U.S. population with a college degree, by gender 1940-2019
Published by Erin Duffin, Mar 31, 2020
In an impressive increase from years past, 36.6 percent of women in the United States had completed four years or more of college in 2019. This figure is up from 3.8 percent of women in 1940. A significant increase can also be seen in males, with 35.4 percent of the U.S. male population having completed four years or more of college, up from 5.5 percent in 1940.

Regional Differences in Home Design

by Seattle Soccer Mom

An author (who lives in Texas) had a question on her blog that sparked an interesting conversation in the comments. Question: why don’t homes in Maryland have master bedrooms on the ground floor? Here are some of the responses. What regional differences in home design have Totebaggers noticed?

Texas typically has masters on the first floor, because we live in the Sunbelt: an area that would be miserable without air conditioning in summer. People either slept on sleeping porches in the summer and not indoors at all, early prairie houses had breezeways and the kitchen/living area was in one building, the sleeping in another, and masters were on the main floor because heat rises and it was cooler. The GRAND historic multi story homes, do tend to follow more of the colonial American influence with masters up stairs. But since most of our Texas architectural infrastructure came from a building and population boom that a/c enabled in the 1950s onward, we have newer homes, and buck the design trends of the architecture you see in other areas. A/C changed things ALOT, and it’s no surprise mid century modern design came into being when A/C was booming and took off in places like Nevada, Southern California, Texas, Florida, New Mexico. These days we think more of our knees and aging in place as factors of the design, than we do having downstairs public places, and upstairs private places.

It is going back to the fact that if you are building a 2nd story to give more living space, you do not want your guests going UPSTAIRS to visit, so you have the upstairs more private areas. Some houses have the 2nd, 3rd, etc. bedrooms upstairs, but if you are constrained by land space (common in more developed communities) you end up putting more on the other floors to give more yard. Or looking at newer houses, to reduce how much space you allocate per house instead (building UP instead of OUT).

I was always fascinated by the differences when I travel – Seattle and Portland houses have a totally different feel from coastal NC where I grew up…more and larger windows. Whereas NC (especially hurricane areas) go with fewer and smaller it feels like. Both for a heat AND for a danger aspect.

What do you keep obsessively checking on ?

by Louise

With so much information now at our fingertips it’s possible to obsessively keep track of things. In the old days people started the day with the newspaper while eating breakfast. But they moved on to other things. They didn’t have the tools to check on their stocks, bank accounts, what their friends, neighbors and random strangers had posted. They couldn’t see if a new prayer or motivational post had appeared.
What do you obsessively check on ?

Money, money, money

by Kim

Let’s discuss money.

Do you want to take a crack at the four questions?  Some may be hard to answer.

Why is it OK for you to have money when other people don’t
What does living well mean to you?
What is the No. 1 job you want money to do?
How does money connect you to other people?

And here’s a discussion of “subjective” and “objective” standards of living.  Among other things, technology is the difference.  As with many issues related to money, it’s a matter of perception.

Here’s the source.

Trends and Disparities in Subjective Upward Mobility since 1940

Why might subjective and objective mobility indicators diverge? Over the past decades, rising inequalities and a slowdown in educational expansion, occupational upgrading, and income growth all contributed to reversing intergenerational progress. Still, countervailing trends may have improved life for the average American in other respects. Throughout the post–World War II era, the diffusion of modern lifestyles and new technologies revolutionized both leisure and labor, not least within the household (Gordon 2017). During the same period, successive generations saw rising health and life spans, the expansion of civil rights, access to cleaner air and water, and improved safety from crime (Carlson and Burtraw 2019Pinker 2018Stevenson and Wolfers 2008Zimring 2006). More recently, “techno-optimists” have argued that the proliferation of new and often free digital goods and services is changing consumption across the income spectrum in ways that standard price indices fail to detect (Brynjolfsson and McAfee 2014).

Vacation Food Treats!

by Fred

This/these can be your favorite junk food, or just something local to the place(s) you’ve been and/or go back to every year.

DW’s family has a place in Ocean City, NJ and we go there every year. Some of mine/ours (w/DW) from there:
– Cheesesteak sandwiches from Voltaco’s
– Johnson’s popcorn
– Shriver’s Salt Water Taffy
– DW’s annual Funnel Cake on our night on the Boardwalk

Tell us yours!

Tuesday open thread

We have an open thread today.

Conversation starter from MooshiMooshi:

I saw this conversation starter on the Facebook group “NY Times Cooking”. It had 733 responses, many of which were entertaining. I wonder what our group can come up with
What’s the most interesting or random food fact you know?

Musical artist draft

by Denver Dad

Let’s do a musical artist draft. We take turns selecting our favorite bands or singers and explain why we like them, and list some of their best songs and albums. You can’t pick someone who has already been taken.

I did this on another forum and it’s a lot of fun, and it gives you some ideas for new music to explore. We did it in a strict draft order but that’s not really feasible here, so just let some other people pick before you pick again.

Travel Plans for the Holidays and 2021

by North of Boston

In normal times, this is the time of year when many of us would be in various stages of planning winter, spring, and even summer vacations. Even though nothing is normal now, I imagine a lot of us are dreaming about getting away at some point. What is everyone thinking about for 2021 vacations? Do you think you’ll stay put and just do staycations? Are you planning to go away, but only to places you can reach by car? Do you think you’ll fly somewhere? Has anyone gone ahead and booked plane tickets, given that some airlines are waiving fees if you change your plans?

As for the rest of 2020, what are your travel plans (or lack thereof) for Thanksgiving and the Holidays?

Conspire to such attire when you retire

by Tired

This couple looks fabulous in an ageless kind of way. She wears gloves, presumably to cover age spots, and he might need that cane to get around. But their attitudes of sass and class really make these pix come alive. Will you dress like this when you retire? How much attention do you pay to your appearance now? And the big question…do you have have that “it” attitude—how do you carry yourself?

This Elderly German Couple Steals The Show Every Time They Go Out


by Kim

The New York Times has been running a “series on resilience in troubled times“.

… Resilience is the ability to recover from difficult experiences and setbacks, to adapt, move forward and sometimes even experience growth.

How to Build Resilience
Interviews with large numbers of highly resilient individuals — those who have experienced a great deal of adversity and have come through it successfully — show they share the following characteristics.

  • They have a positive, realistic outlook. They don’t dwell on negative information and instead look for opportunities in bleak situations, striving to find the positive within the negative.
  • They have a moral compass. Highly resilient people have a solid sense of what they consider right and wrong, and it tends to guide their decisions.
  • They have a belief in something greater than themselves. This is often found through religious or spiritual practices. The community support that comes from being part of a religion also enhances resilience.
  • They are altruistic; they have a concern for others and a degree of selflessness. They are often dedicated to causes they find meaningful and that give them a sense of purpose.
  • They accept what they cannot change and focus energy on what they can change. Dr. Southwick says resilient people reappraise a difficult situation and look for meaningful opportunities within it.
  • They have a mission, a meaning, a purpose. Feeling committed to a meaningful mission in life gives them courage and strength.
  • They have a social support system, and they support others. “Very few resilient people,” said Dr. Southwick, “go it alone.”

Do you agree with these characteristics?

An individual’s resilience is dictated by a combination of genetics, personal history, environment and situational context. So far, research has found the genetic part to be relatively small.

I’d say that Totebaggers are a resilient group.  Or maybe they’re mainly lucky.  Can you build resilience or are you mostly born with it?  How did you become resilient?    Have you found a way to help your children or others become better at recovering and moving on from difficult experiences?

The future of WFH

by Louise

JPMorgan Top Brass Tell Trading-Floor Staff to Come Back to the Office
The bank, which just notched a record trading quarter, told staffers they need to return by Sept. 21 unless they have child-care or medical issues

Many Totebaggers are still WFH. Has your workplace announced any immediate or future changes that are WFH friendly ? Is your job one that is performed more effectively in an office setting ? What changes do you personally see in your industry post pandemic ?

Random questions

by Houston

Random questions. Do you have any random questions to ask the Totebag hive-mind?

Here is mine: I usually foster rescue dogs, but I have recently started fostering cats. They are fun and easy, but the litter box smell is driving me nuts. I clean the litter box twice a day and use high priced litter. Any tips on best ways to contain litter box odor?

Describe your car

by Swim

HFN described her car in the brag post:

“My brag is that I finally broke up with my Subaru Outback, which was basically my long time abusive boyfriend that I kept spending tons of money on because I was sure I could fix him, and whom I kept going back to even though I couldn’t count on him, because everyone else loved him and he was super popular. I now drive a Hyundai, which is the quiet band geek boy who would treat a girl right if she just wasn’t so busy chasing after the quarterback.”

That was brilliant. Can you describe your car or other favorite/despised inanimate object so eloquently?

Jobs You Don’t Want

by Swim

Sewage testing for COVID is a great idea, but do you want to be the person who does it? What jobs do you appreciate but know that you would not want to do? What jobs are you certain that you would not be successful at?

Find your match

by Blythe

Something on the lighter side:

Take this (weirdly precise!) quiz to find out which fictional character’s personality matches yours.

Ever wonder how similar you are to Petyr Baelish?  Take this scientifically-based quiz to find out:

Statistical “Which Character” Personality Quiz

The Statistical “Which Character” Personality Quiz is part of the Open-Source Psychometrics Project, a website that seeks “to educate the public about various personality tests, their uses and meaning, the various theories of personality and also to collect data for research and develop new measures.”

To play, you use sliders to indicate where you land on a series of 30 spectrums. The result is a ranked list of the fictional characters whose personalities most align with yours. After taking the quiz, you can contribute to the research behind it by ranking the personalities of characters with whom you are familiar.

For the record, I’m more Jane Bennet than Littlefinger, which I think is a good thing!  Who do you resemble? Are you surprised?

Tiny and unwilling acts of defiance

by Anonymous

Tiny and unwilling acts of defiance; the weaker the better.

For example: My library book is due today, but I haven’t finished it yet and still have over 100 pages to go. However, there are currently no late fees because COVID, so technically I can keep it out as long as I want. But I know this particular book has a long waitlist. I, myself, waited a month and a half for it

Despite this, every fiber of my being is wanting to bring it back to the library. I’m too much the rule follower.

Sound familiar to anyone else?

Labor Day open thread

We have an open thread all day.

Do you think WFH arrangements will become “a more permanent reality”?  If so, what are the implications for families, careers, cities, real estate, the economy, inequality, etc.

Why do you think working remotely is morphing into a more permanent reality?

The stigma associated with working from home prior to COVID-19 has disappeared. And working remotely is now extremely common, though under very challenging conditions, as I’ve written about earlier.

And a number of corporations are developing plans for more work-from-home options beyond the pandemic. A recent separate survey of firms from the Survey of Business Uncertainty that I run with the Atlanta Federal Reserve and the University of Chicago indicated that the share of working days spent at home is expected to increase fourfold from pre-COVID levels, from 5 percent to 20 percent.

Of the dozens of firms I have talked to, the typical plan is that employees will work from home one to three days a week, and come into the office the rest of the time.

Stanford research provides a snapshot of a new working-from-home economy

Owning your own business

by Louise

As an offshoot of the “Toys” discussion and discussion about owning a boat, the topic of owning your own business has come up repeatedly. Some Totebaggers do own their own businesses or have spouses who do.
From the comments there seem to be junior Totebaggers who seem to have the personality suited to owning a business. Maybe our favorite HVAC example could work for one of them ?

In the immigrant community there is a section of the population who own their own gas stations, motels and fast food franchises.
My father owned his owned business started with seed capital from his parents. Neither my sibling nor myself took it over but I had a good view of the ups and downs through the years.


Brag thread

by Houston

Feel free to share any large or small accomplishments in your lives. Here are mine: DS1 got his drivers license at the age of 20. DS2 has his permit at the age of 17 and is making nice progress on his driving skills.

Wednesday open thread

We have an open thread all day.

Conversation starter:  You probably already know your chronotype, but this quiz can confirm that.

In recent years, a wealth of new science has begun explicating the complex roles of cellular clocks and chronotypes in our health and lifestyles. Thanks to this research, we know that each of us contains a master internal body clock, located in our brains, that tracks and absorbs outside clues, such as ambient light, to determine what time it is and how our bodies should react. This master clock directs the rhythmic release of hormones, such as melatonin, and other chemicals that affect sleep, wakefulness, hunger and many other physiological systems.

Responding in part to these biochemical signals, as well as our genetic inclinations and other factors, we each develop a chronotype, which is our overall biological response to the daily passage of time. Chronotypes are often categorized into one of three groups: morning, day or night. Someone with a morning chronotype will naturally wake early; feel most alert and probably hungry in the morning; and be ready for bed before Colbert comes on. Day types tend to wake a bit later and experience peak alertness a few hours deeper into the day. And evening types rise as late as possible and remain vampirically wakeful well past dark….

Over all, the study’s findings suggest that late risers may want to monitor how frequently they move, Ms. Nauha says. “Evening types may need to work harder to try to ensure they exercise.”

If you are unsure of your chronotype, a version of the questionnaire used in this study is available online here.

Fall Haikus

by Houston

Fall is almost here
Back to school and all that stuff
Write us a poem!

I am about to put out my Halloween decorations, even though it’s still really hot here. How are you doing? What Fall traditions are you still keeping, in this…unique year?

Pandemic fun and games

by Kim

23 Cool Games You May Want If You’re Over The Ones At Your House

In a moment of weakness I purchased Spontuneous from this list.  Although it turned out to be a fun game with a lot of laughs, I came out the loser every time.  Pro tip:  watch out for competitive players who select obscure lyrics from the third verse of a song.

The Floor is Lava looks like a good game for kids, along with adults, to burn off some energy.

Have you played any of these games?  Have you discovered any new ones during our stay-at-home time?  What are some games you like?  What other types of entertainment have you been enjoying at home?

Seeking executor advice

by Wils

How did you choose an executor? Have you been involved in a will where there was a conflict or where the executor was connected to a beneficiary? Was the will contested? Have you ever asked someone to change their executor, or has anyone asked you to do so? Any other advice around this topic is appreciated.


by Louise

Our house could do with a porch and if/when we redo our house, a nice front porch and a screened in back porch would be nice. I would like a covered patio vs. a deck.
I have also given thought to what rooms/areas in a house I want to have and what I would eliminate. I don’t want to go above our current square footage and want to eliminate/consolidate any spaces that we will not use.
What architectural style of house do you prefer ? Any must have rooms/areas ? What do you dislike in a house ?

Education pods

by Houston

Several people mentioned that they are considering education pods to supplement or replace public schooling for their children. What do you think? Are you confronted with a similar choice?

How are you approaching your child’s education this next academic year?

Streaming services

by Houston

So many streaming services! Which ones to you subscribe to and why?

We have Netflix, CBS All Access, Hulu, and Disney +. This gives us a wide variety of content that we are enjoying. Personally, I don’t miss going to the movie theater at all. 

Also, what TV shows are you enjoying? Recommendations and reviews welcome!

You’re too clean

by Rocky Mountain Stepmom

James Hamblin, a physician who writes for The Atlantic, has a new book out. Main thesis: Everyone should stop showering. Here’s a shortened version from The Atlantic.

Would you be willing to skip showering? Did you try that system of not shampooing your hair that was popular a few years ago? Are you terrified that your teenage boys will find Hamblin’s book and never clean themselves again?

House cleaning standards

by Houston

How have your habits and standards on cleaning your home changed during quarantine?

Being in my home all day has made me focus on keeping the house as clean and clutter free as possible (per my standards). Seeing cluttered counter tops gives me stress, as I have to live with them 24-7 now. What are the areas of your house that *have to* be clean? What do you let slide? Any favorite cleaning products?

Health care in the time of Covid-9

by Kim

What are your observations about health care over the last few months?  Do you like some of the changes?  Have you felt confident visiting doctors in person?

The Promise and the Peril of Virtual Health Care
During the coronavirus pandemic, telemedicine looks like the future of health care. Is it a future that we want?


This article gives details on the medical conditions that pose greater risk for Covid-19 patients:

Covid-19 Poses More Risk to Patients With Chronic Illnesses—and That’s Bad for the U.S. – WSJ PDF

In a paper published in the journal Nature this month, researchers at the University of Oxford and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine examined the medical records of 17 million English residents to see which factors are linked to a higher risk of death from Covid-19.

The linked paper has specific informations such as how they define high blood pressure.

Grammar police!

by Swim

Grammar police! What makes you want to issue a ticket? What do you consider a felony versus a misdemeanor?

Is it less v fewer? There v their v they’re? The dreaded dangling participle?

You are judge and jury – have at it.

For those who are not particularly pedantic but have some other issue that they feel strongly about, you may also issue a ticket. Example: let’s issue a ticket to people who throw fast food trash out of car windows. The punishment will be an excessive number of hours cleaning trash from roadways, satisfied only in inclement weather.

Open thread plus college talk

We don’t need a special day to discuss college, but here are some recent articles that may be of interest to many of us.

NYU professor Scott Galloway predicts hundreds of universities will shutter, possibly for good, if they reopen in the fall

You can download his spreadsheet of all the schools here.

It’s a fluid situation:

Back-to-College Plans Devolve Into a Jumble of Fast-Changing Rules – WSJ PDF

Michael Young, president of Texas A&M University, helped draft a plan to unify East and West Germany when he worked for the State Department three decades ago. He said that was easier than figuring out how to bring back 65,000 students, 3,500 faculty, and thousands of staff this fall to the campus in College Station, Texas. At present, the plan is for some students to come back to campus to take small, in-person classes, while others will take them remotely.

How’s the K-12 school year shaping up?

Car Talk

by Houston

We will need to buy a car shortly for DS1. How did you think about the purchase of a car for a child? New car? Used car? Did you give him/her your old car and buy a new car for yourself? What type of car did you buy and why? So many questions!

Also, are you thinking about buying a new car in the near future? Are you less likely to buy a car because of COVID? What kind of cars do you currently have? All Car Talk welcome!

Happily Ever After

by Louise

I know many Totebaggers are far from the Newly Wed stage of life but many must be coming up on or have celebrated milestone anniversaries.
What I have been struck by in this pandemic is couples going ahead with simpler celebrations instead of the mega celebrations as dictated by the wedding industrial complex.
What are your thoughts on weddings and marriages ? What would you have changed looking back ? What advice would you give to younger people ?

The non-political mask discussion

by Finn

OK all, let’s discuss the practical, everyday aspects of masks, and leave the politics of whether to wear a mask to the politics page.

What kind of masks do you wear? What features have you found that you like, and don’t like?

Have you experienced maskne? What have you done to minimize or avoid it?

How do you care for your masks? Do you wash with your laundry, hand wash, or use disposables?

‘Maskne’: Why your face is breaking out under your mask and how to stop it

Your childhood toys and activities

by Kim


When I saw this dollhouse my first thought was that I would have loved it when I was a kid.  Make believe play with dolls or cars was one of my favorite childhood activities.  Riding our bikes around the neighborhood was a daily activity, and after getting tired out we’d watch TV or read books we’d picked out at the library.

What were your favorite toys and activities when you were a kid?  Besides electronics, how were they different from how your children spend their leisure time?


by Houston

Has the current COVID situation effected your investment strategy? Have the market swings turned you into a more active trader/portfolio manager? Are you investing more or less? Active or passive? Are you still on track with your financial goals? Or are you studiously avoiding thinking about the market, like I am?

Cashless future?

by Flyover

We cleaned out my parents’ house for sale recently, and found several jars of coins which, when rolled, added up to about $500. The bank was happy to receive them. My parents traveled a lot, and it was kind of fun to see the variety of foreign coins from all of their travels mixed up with the US ones.

The only place we’ve spent cash in the last four months has been the local ice cream store, a cash-only place. For an $8-something total, we give them a $10 and tell them to add the change to the tip jar:

We always have an “emergency $20” tucked away in each car, and keep a few hundred in the house, but otherwise we’re mostly cashless. I feel like we should probably be more concerned with privacy / data collection, but feels a little like that ship has sailed and the convenience is worth it to us.

Has your cash vs. plastic spending changed during the pandemic? If so, do you see those changes becoming permanent?

Books – The Shockers !

by Louise

I suggested that DD read The Girl with Seven Names based on Totebag suggestions. She was looking for a second book for summer reading for school. DD’s choices for school have to fit into what she thinks the school will deem appropriate. Note that the school has never found issue with any of her book choices. DD and I had a good discussion about Anne Frank and the history of that time in the war.

As a child, no one at my house cared what I was reading unless, it was a romance novel with a suggestive cover.
As a result my reading was age inappropriate and very different from most of my peers. It was more in line with well read adults. I find it hard to do book club because my preferred choices are so different from everyone else’s.

What books have impressed you over the years, to merit a reread or a recommendation for some one younger ?
Any summer reading suggestions ?

Creepy houses

by S&M

OH my goodness! A friend of mine–an atheist and a bit of a pragmatist, and some might say a brave guy, just bought this house with his wife. I believe it’s history brought the price down a bit.

Would you ever buy a house in which someone had been murdered? What sort of past events would prevent you from purchasing a house, or at least make you reconsider?

Is your house in this database, or any others in your area/that you know?

What Happened at 1517 Oklahoma Avenue?

Lockdown lessons

by tcmama

How would you have prepared differently for lockdown? If the virus spikes again and we have to shutdown, what changes would you make?

If we have a lockdown in the colder months, what items do you think will have a surge in demand? For instance, I couldn’t find a kid’s bike anywhere as they were out of stock.

Thursday open thread

We have an open thread all day.

I just noticed this feature.

You have 10 unlocked articles to share this month. Anyone can read unlocked articles, even if they’re not a Times subscriber.

So even if you’re not a NYT subscriber you should be able to read this unlocked article I posted.  Let’s see if it works.

Splurge and scrimp

by Swim

What is the item you will splurge on, and what is your “no way am I paying for that” item?

Recently I posted that I cleaned the gutters because I was afraid that wasps were building a nest there. Wasps are scary flying venom machines. I could have paid someone to do it but instead I just hauled out the ladder on a 90 degree day and filled many buckets of blackened leaves. I had a (potential) problem and I wasn’t waiting for someone else to solve it. I talk pride in solving my own problems and I am always impressed when others figure out a way to solve their problems. This problem was easy to throw money at but I knew I could take care of it in a few hours and I wanted to see firsthand what was going on up there. If I figure in the time/effort of hiring someone to do it, as compared to the effort and dirt involved, it wasn’t a wash, definitely a net loss.

The week before the gutter cleaning I went out to dinner with the kids while dad was away. Only outdoor seating is allowed so we ate at tables set up under an event tent in the parking lot. The restaurant was trying for ambiance but there is only so much you can do. We tolerated the noise of traffic in an attempt to keep one our favorite places afloat and keep their employees employed. The menu was limited and definitely more expensive than the Before Times. A cucumber martini was $15 which not normal for our area, and I could have easily made them at home for a fraction of the cost, but it was worth it. I had two. And left a big tip on the whole meal. Zero regrets. Those two martinis and tip probably cost what it would have to clean the gutters.

I’m happy with both decisions.

If context matters, share your reasons why you will or won’t spend on your chosen items.

Advice thread

by Houston

Do you have a problem you’re wrestling with? Do you need a gift recommendation for a special someone? Ask a question to the Totebag Hivemind! No question too big or too small. Special award goes to the most Totebaggiest question. The judge, of course, will be the possessor of the Golden Totebag, Rhett!

Did you ask for advice in the past? We would love an update from you! How did it go?

A New Beginning in an Uncertain Time

by Louise

I am helping a friend plan her move to another city. She has a new opportunity there. The initial happiness at getting the opportunity has worn off and now the actual process of finding an apartment and moving is proving to be very daunting for her. She has support from her family and friends. She has a good friend living in the new city who has gone apartment hunting with her. However, being in the middle of a pandemic means far less in person support from family and friends than would have happened otherwise.

How are you dealing with any upcoming new beginnings ? It’s a uncertain time, what have you had to do differently ?

Brag thread

by Houston

Tell us about your or your family members’ recent accomplishments. This is a brag thread. Nothing too small or too large. Passive aggressive accomplishments also welcome.

Here’s mine: My senior in college is FINALLY learning how to drive. Will take driving test in mid-July and might actually get a license! I don’t know if this is an actual brag or a passive aggressive brag… smh