Vacations of yesteryear

by Kim

Beginning in the 1970s, Holiday Inn was looking to reinvent their hotels and further cater to traveling families and business clientele

The adult amusement park of yesterday, the Holiday Inn Holidome

This made me think of childhood vacations.  What are your memories, good and bad?  Is there a modern equivalent of the Holidome?

The good parts of 2020

by TCM

What are you grateful for? What were the highlights of 2020 for you?

I’m grateful for The Totebag and all of you, my anonymous internet friends. I’m grateful that my life is still pretty great despite Covid. I’m grateful that my kids are best friends. I’m grateful that I have a job that allows me to WFH.

The Art of Stepping Back

by Louise

In the past months, there has been a lot of heated debate about politics, the virus and all sorts of issues. Being in the house with family and reading social media posts has resulted in heated back and forth both in person and in some forums. Also, unfortunately the back and forth sometimes spirals out of control into ugliness with ancient history dredged up.

I decided to step back. Not abandon reading but abandon heated arguments and back and forth discussions. I didn’t quit any groups and stalk away angry virtually but I told people that I would stop engaging, if I see things spiraling out of control.
It has helped me be in a more cheerful and positive frame of mind.

What are your strategies for dealing with conflict and disagreement both in person and online ?

What do you want?

by S&M

Holidays are coming; many of us are trying to figure out gifts to give. A way to help each other out might be to share our wishes. Not the big things from your spouse; what would you like to get from your siblings or others with whom you normally exchange gifts? What are the usual parameters for presents in your set: are there areas to be avoided, a usual price range, or other expectations?

Politics open thread, December 6-12

Your place to discuss politics is here.

From WCE:

Thanks to the pandemic, the shift from coal to natural gas to generate electricity, and falling renewable energy prices, U.S. emissions fell at about the same rate during the four years of the Trump administration as the prior eight years of the Obama administration. Biden’s election likely means that the United States will rejoin the Paris Agreement that aims to strengthen the global response to climate change. He will overturn some executive actions undertaken by the Trump administration, and reinstate others undertaken in the Obama years. But, like the Obama administration, Biden’s is likely to find its ambitions hamstrung by a range of long-standing political, economic and technological constraints….

In the weeks since the election, prominent philanthropists, activists and scholars have insisted that climate voters have given the Biden administration a “mandate,” that low-income communities of color are the strongest proponents of climate action, and that, contradictorily, more resources need to be invested in communications and organizing within those communities to convince them of the necessity of climate action.

In reality, the preconditions for politically viable and sustainable climate action have always pointed in the opposite direction. The balance of power in American politics is held by rural and industrial states with energy intensive and resource-based economies. Those states tend to be culturally hostile and economically vulnerable to the regulatory and pricing agenda that the environmental community remains doggedly committed to, and Democrats can’t win or sustain governing majorities without them.

As such, there is no path to significant U.S. climate action that is predicated upon routing these areas politically, and thereby moving the nation away from fossil fuels via brute-force regulations, mandates and taxation. This has been the case since climate issues first emerged in the late 1980s, and it remains so today.

A more pragmatic environmental movement would have long ago come to terms with these realities….

Hitching the future of the climate to the political fortunes of one party—particularly one increasingly centered around Americans who work in the knowledge economy, live in coastal cities, and won’t bear the lion’s share of the costs associated with cutting emissions—was never a good idea.

To Fight Climate Change, Get Real
Activists want the Democrats to transform America. That isn’t happening.

Thursday open thread

We have an open thread all day.

A conversation starter:

Today’s older people are increasingly offended that they can’t find themselves in the ads. Instead when they turn on their TV or laptop, they see a lot of young people using that new software or having fun at that resort, or driving cool cars. As an older woman or man, you don’t see yourself, and you realize that you have been erased, and that is surely not a way to win over a customer. Enough is enough.

Hmm.  I see older people in ads.  May be due to what I’m watching or reading online.

Navigating the Holidays in a Pandemic

by Louise

I am thinking about this as I have two sets of seniors to consider and kids who are attending school in person.
My thought is to have the kids do remote school for a week and half (is that enough ?), so we make a sort of a bubble to enclose our family. I am not going to bubble for Thanksgiving, just make sure I visit my parents the day of and take them food. I’ll muddle through somehow and hope that I have taken enough precautions to come out of the holidays safely.
What are your plans for the holidays ? Is it going to be better or worse than years past ? DD has already given me her Christmas list !

Thanksgiving in a Pandemic Means Smaller Birds, Fewer Leftovers
Holiday season brings new challenges to grocers and food makers

The Hottest Ticket in Town This Year Is Your Family’s Covid-Constrained Thanksgiving
Cities and states around the country have capped gatherings at 10, creating angst for holiday hosts


Favorite shops

by sunshine

Many of us have mentioned paying our cleaners, tipping extra-generously and supporting our local shops. Which of those shops are hidden gems that rise to the level that even people from other places would adore? Give them a shout-out on here, perhaps even with sharing with us what your favorite things are from the shop. Many of these shops have worked hard to figure out an online platform….maybe we can find some unique treats or gifts and show some totebag love to these businesses.

If there’s a special backstory for your love of the shop or how you discovered it, please tell us about that too.

Follow-up Friday

by Finn

Many of us have consulted with The Totebag for thoughts and advice on various situations, or mentioned new things in their lives. What did you end up doing, and how did that work out? What would you advise fellow Totebaggers who might find themselves in similar situations?

Sky, how’s your DS’ math program? Allie, how’s your motorcycle? Minca, how’s the wine making? Mooshi, what sort of window treatment did you buy for your bedroom window? What headphones did you end up getting? Did you ever figure out how to play CDs through speakers? DD, how’s your volunteer gig as a college coach? Meme, how’s the Cam Newton signing working out?

Black Friday in a Pandemic

by Finn

The pandemic is obviously going to mean a much different Black Friday shopping season in in recent years. What are your shopping plans? Anything in particular you’re shopping for? Any good deals you want to share with your fellow Totebaggers?

These two articles recently were reprinted side by side in my local paper:

The first article suggests a possible “shipaggedon” during the holidays, and the second suggests an alternative.

The death of undergraduate teaching degrees

by MooshiMooshi

Enrollment is way down in undergraduate education programs, and some schools are closing their programs now. Most likely, many of us see this as a good thing. I myself have long advocated that teachers, especially at the high school level, should major in an academic subject and then take some teaching courses and then enter a teaching apprenticeship program.

But the reality is that undergraduate education degrees are being replaced by “alternative certification pathways” that may be far worse than the undergraduate programs they are replacing. I first realized this a few years ago when a friend of mine, who had an undergrad general business degree and who had worked as an office manager for 10 years, was able to get certified as an advanced mathematics teacher at the HS level after only 6 months of online classes! I happen to know she barely made it through business calculus back in college.

‘Death by a Thousand Cuts’
Teacher education programs were facing major problems even before the pandemic, but are they dying of natural causes or being killed off? Either way, what’s lost when they go away for good?

This article details what is going on. Here is a quote on the alternative certification programs
“The first programs focused on getting “content-proficient” adults with backgrounds in science, math and other fields into secondary classrooms without making them earn another degree. But alternative paths to teaching have since proliferated. The national council, in its 2014 study of 85 alternative programs, gave the majority D or F grades. In general, they all ask the teacher candidate to serve simultaneously as the “teacher of record” and an “intern” prior to obtaining certification. Learning happens first and foremost on the job.

Failing grades mean the programs have no required grade point average for applicants, or a minimum GPA of 2.5. There is generally no standardized test or teaching audition required. Required fieldwork prior to teaching amounts to a week or less, and there is no clinical practice. Teachers within these program are observed infrequently.”

I suspect most Totebaggers would prefer that our kids have teachers who have passed a test, have a good GPA, and have spent more than a week learning how to teach. I know that I would not want my friend the former office manager teaching pre-calc to my kids. These alternative certification programs sound more like a way of getting warm bodies in front of classes, preferably at low pay, than a way of attracting good candidates with STEM backgrounds. While I think that a serious reform of teacher education programs is long overdue, I do not think this is the right way.

OK, opinions?

2020 Year-End Giving

by Fred

Many of us have actually saved money/are better off financially than we might have otherwise been because of Covid…no/limited commute costs, eliminated/reduced housekeeping costs, less clothes buying/dry cleaning, little restaurant dining, no real vacation spending. Perhaps offset by wants or needs brought on by the pandemic to make our nests more comfortable. If you find yourself in this situation, and I realize at least a couple of regulars’ spouses have lost their jobs so I know it’s not universal among us, are you stepping up your charitable giving as we approach the Holiday season, especially to social services agencies like food banks, or adding (more of) them to your list? Or have you been doing more all through 2020?


by Louise

What things about food did you discover during the pandemic. It could cover anything from supply chain, growing season to how easy or difficult it was to make certain things. Did you miss any specific restaurant food ? Do you want to share any new food shows or cook books ?

Friday open thread

We have an open thread today.

stretch jeans now make up 23% of the men’s jeans market, compared to 19% a year ago: “There’s a lot of opportunity there.”

Really?  I thought it might be higher.

Men’s Jeans Are Back, So Suck in Those Guts
During lockdown, men cast stiff jeans aside, relying on looser, lazier sweats and gym shorts. This fall, denim—tweaked to be more comfortable—is worth reaching for again.

Coping strategies

by Kim

How are you coping with stress these days?

Usually I don’t find these types of articles to be very helpful, but all these recommendations are ones that actually make a difference for me.

Mindfulness coach: 5 mental shifts that will instantly enhance your life

1. Adopt a ‘can do’ mindset.
2. Embrace the uncomfortable things.
3. Develop a desire to help others.
4. Avoid social disconnectedness.
5. Be present.

Embracing discomfort or uncertainty is the hardest for me.  What helps you cope, especially in dealing with everything that’s going on these days?  What about exercise, music, or an occasional cocktail?

This article combines #s 2 and 5 from the list as a way to handle stress:

What ultimately helps is being present, even if that means sitting with uncertainty, sadness and, yes, a certain amount of worry — approached intentionally…

Basically, accept and even “schedule” your worries, but try to be fully mindful and present at other times.

Small Triumphs

by WCE

After a few years of saving the plastic twist ties from the bread products, because my sons often broke them when attempting to replace twist ties on the bread products, it appears that everyone over 10 in my house can now use a twist tie successfully. What small triumphs have occurred at your house lately?

Not the calculus track

by Rhett

I thought this article offered an interesting contrast to the totebag focus on the calculus track.

Stanford dropped 11 varsity programs, including fencing, squash, and men’s crew, citing factors such as gender equity, potential savings, and fan interest….Taken to the extreme, the fear is that the coronavirus will become a mass-extinction event for squash and fencing and their ilk.

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