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Send Joy During a Stressful Year With a Holiday Card



It was only October, and an unseasonably hot and sunny day to boot, but Rovonne Staten’s front steps in Grapevine, Texas, brimmed with Christmas-y props. For her family’s holiday-card photo shoot, there were poinsettias and wreaths, tinsel and tartan, an oversized ornament emblazoned with the letter “S,” a plate of cookies for Santa — and a sign reminding him to please stay outside.

“Santa can’t come in the house because of Covid,” joked Ms. Staten, 41, a project engineer, adding, “I want people to have a bright spot by looking at our picture and thinking, ‘Oh, that’s cute; that’s nice — you know, it looks like things might be OK.’”

At the end of a year marked by distance and disconnection, Ms. Staten will send holiday cards for the first time ever. And she is not alone. Paperless Post, an online card and invitation company, found in a recent survey that 60 percent of users plan on sending holiday cards this year (compared with the 38 percent of respondents who sent them last year). The craft site Etsy has had a 23 percent increase in searches for holiday cards in the last three months, compared with last year. Of the 2,000 Americans surveyed in September by, a home-décor and stationery company, nearly three-quarters agreed that holiday cards have more sentimental value this year than in previous years.

Understand the realities of the situation.

Many cards of holidays past paired sun-dappled vacation collages or magazine-worthy images of grinning children with pleasant messages about joy. But after a year marked more by worry and stress than merriness, and with the pandemic and its economic toll raging on, some card senders, stationery companies and portrait photographers are taking another approach: out with the honeyed sentiments, in with masks and other depictions of the realities of this era.

“We should send holiday cards as a way to connect with people,” said Elaine Swann, a lifestyle and etiquette expert. “And I believe that we can reference the pandemic in this medium, because everyone has been impacted in some way and it’s important to be upfront about it.”

For Ms. Staten, that meant purchasing red masks (she hot-glued white fuzzy Santa trim to her husband’s) and enlisting a local photographer to capture her family of five from 10 feet away. Even that style of portraiture is a cultural outcrop of the pandemic: The photographer, Rachna Agrawal, first photographed the Statens for the Front Steps Project, for which photographers around the world captured socially distanced images of families as a way to raise funds for local nonprofits and small businesses.

Shrutti Garg, a Brooklyn-based photographer who also participated in the Front Steps Project this spring, said she has several clients planning to repurpose those photos, however casual they may be, for holiday cards.

“You can imagine they’re not the best photos,” Ms. Garg said. “But there’s a lot of families that are still going to use them, because it is what it is: This year, we were all in our pajamas at home.”

One Front Steps client, Mai Nguyen-Huu, rehired Ms. Garg to shoot another set of outdoor family portraits for holiday cards. She and her husband have two daughters, about 4 months old and almost 2.

“I think everyone needs to laugh,” said Ms. Nguyen-Huu, 39, who works in the fashion industry and lives in Brooklyn. “But we’ll probably be careful who we send it out to — we probably won’t send it to people who have been affected in a way where this would offend them.”

As a workaround, Ms. Nguyen-Huu will make a few different cards by mixing and matching photos and copy. In some images, Ms. Nyugen-Huu and her husband wear masks. Some show an ice bucket filled with Champagne and Purell; others, a gift basket brimming with Clorox wipes and toilet paper. She’s toying with a few messages, including “Celebrating (at home) with the finest bottles of alcohol” and a more sincere one wishing recipients “a happy and safe holiday season.” She is also considering a “super-safe version” with a traditional portrait and greeting.

Mariam Naficy, Minted’s founder and chief executive, said the question of tone has added weight for the independent artists whose card designs are sold on the site.

“With so many people passing away, we knew there was a line that we could not cross,” she said. “It’s a very subtle thing. We didn’t want to be inappropriate because we don’t want people to take this lightly.”

Lizzie Post, an etiquette author and the co-president of the Emily Post Institute, thinks that’s a question senders should think about, too.

“I think if you’re making light of the pandemic, you risk insulting those who have families and loved ones who’ve passed away,” Ms. Post said. “But if you’re wearing masks or showing social distancing as a sincere support for those acts, I’m all behind you 100 percent, and I think etiquette would be behind you too.”

That will be Ms. Staten’s approach. Although she hasn’t ordered the cards from Costco yet, she has drafted the following greeting: “We’ve been diligently wearing our masks and staying socially distant this year, but we miss you so much! Hope this card finds you well and we can exchange big hugs soon!”

Ms. Naficy has seen card designs and messaging rise and fall with external events; for example, the word “peace” became popular after the 2016 presidential election. Now, she said, other trends are emerging.

“On the more serious side, ‘hope’ is a very popular word, as is ‘gratitude,’” said Ms. Naficy. “Then on the funny side, there are a lot of people who are clearly interested in the humorous take: Our family has been through a lot, I’m sure yours has, too.”

Even seemingly timeless messages (say, “Best Wishes For the New Year”) have distinctly 2020 vibes (say, when paired by the Minted artist Gwen Bedat with an illustration of “CTRL+N,” a keyboard shortcut used to open a new browser window or document).

Holiday messages on cards available on Etsy range from “Adios 2020” to references to hand-washing. One by the designer Tina Seamonster shows a dumpster fire emblazoned with “2020,” along with two words above it: “We Survived.”

“We’re constantly seeing emerging inventory that reflect the zeitgeist, and this year’s holiday cards are no exception,” said Dayna Isom Johnson, Etsy’s trend expert.

All it took for Kristen Hope’s holiday card to materialize was a friend’s message on Twitter depicting the enormous disposable face mask adorning the facade of the Science Museum of Virginia. The museum is about 100 miles south of Ms. Hope’s home in Arlington, Va.

“I thought, ‘Oh, that would make a great Christmas card, especially because we didn’t really do much in terms of family vacations this year,” said Ms. Hope, 48, a stay-at-home mother of a 14-year-old and 12-year-old twins. “We were bored one Saturday, so we grabbed our selfie stick, jumped in the car, took a photo, got back in the car and drove home.”

A former research librarian who diligently keeps her address list up-to-date, Ms. Hope ordered cards from Minted (“Happy Holidays From Our Quaranteam To Yours”) and plans to send them around Thanksgiving. Her only regret? Leaving the backside blank.

“I should have put a little asterisk that said: ‘We didn’t go inside. We used a selfie stick. We had our masks with us,’” she said.

Like Ms. Hope, Elise Miller has always been a holiday-card devotee. She has traditionally tapped a photographer friend to shoot bright, elegantly composed family portraits.

By contrast, this year’s card, which she purchased through Minted, is a screenshot.

“We had been Zooming with our family so much,” said Ms. Miller, 52, who works at the Conference on World Affairs at The University of Colorado, Boulder. “And one day, I was looking at the screen and I thought, ‘You know what, we should just take a picture because this would be a great holiday card.’”

Four of five family members, including the Millers’ 16-year-old twins, beamed in from separate rooms of their home in Boulder. Their 20-year-old daughter, a junior at Boulder, joined from her off-campus apartment.

“The photo isn’t perfect, but neither was the year,” Ms. Hope said. “I’m trying to embrace the fact that it’s the holidays, and this year will be over. This year will be over! And maybe we’ll have the chance to start over.”

By: Sarah Firshein
Title: Send Joy During a Stressful Year With a Holiday Card
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Published Date: Sat, 14 Nov 2020 01:14:23 +0000

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What could you order from Ansett Airlines’ inflight bar in the early 1970s?




People have always liked to drink on board flights, especially people from Australia. Therefore, it should be no surprise to anyone that there was an inflight bar offering in the 1970s.

Ansett Airlines were a major player in the Australian domestic market up until their demise in September 2001. For many years, there were two domestic airlines, Trans-Australia Airlines (TAA) and Ansett.

Ansett’s Inflight Bar

At the time, Ansett operated Boeing 727s, Douglas DC-9s and Fokker F27 Friendships on domestic routes in the country. Airline tickets were quite expensive, with tariffs agreed upon by both airlines thanks to Australia’s weird two-airline policy at the time.

While tickets were expensive and food complimentary, you still had to pay for a drink at the bar. Here is an inflight bar menu from the era, showing the drinks available and their prices.

Clearly the pricing is astounding by today’s standards – 30 cents for a beer? I’ll have thirty-three please! I like how Australian gin is 35c while the imported gin is just 5c more. Which would you choose?

You can tell it is from another era as you can buy cigarettes on board. These price up at 45c, a far cry from the extortionate prices people in the west pay these days for a smoke!

Overall Thoughts

The on board offering is pretty comprehensive for internal flights, and I imagine you’d be hard pressed not to find something you might like. In those times, all payments would have been by cash as well, which would have meant a lot of coinage being handled on board.

Of course, things haven’t changed too much over the years. On many airlines you pay for your drinks just as they did back in the 1970s. Shame the prices aren’t the same of course!

Did you ever buy drinks on board flights from the inflight bar back in the day? Do you still? Thank you for reading and if you have any comments or questions, please leave them below.

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Featured image by Daniel Tanner on via Wikimedia Commons.
Menu image by Ikara on Australian Frequent Flyer.

By: The Flight Detective
Title: What could you order from Ansett Airlines’ inflight bar in the early 1970s?
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Published Date: Thu, 19 Nov 2020 15:03:14 +0000

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These Shrimp Leave the Safety of Water and Walk on Land. But Why?




The shrimp stop swimming at dusk and gather near the river’s edge. After sunset, they begin to climb out of the water. Then they march. All night long, the inch-long crustaceans parade along the rocks.

The parading shrimp of northeastern Thailand have inspired legends, dances and even a statue. (Locals also eat them.) During the rainy season, between late August and early October, tourists crowd the riverbanks with flashlights to watch the shrimp walk.

Watcharapong Hongjamrassilp first learned about the parading shrimp, and the hundred thousand or more tourists who come each year to see them, about 20 years ago. When he started studying biology, he returned to the topic. “I realized that we know nothing about this,” he said: What species are they? Why and how do they leave the safety of the water to walk upstream on dry land? Where are they going?

Mr. Hongjamrassilp, a graduate student at the University of California, Los Angeles, decided to answer those questions himself. His findings appeared this month in the Journal of Zoology.

Working with wildlife center staff members, Mr. Hongjamrassilp staked out nine sites along a river in Thailand’s Ubon Ratchathani province. They found shrimp parading at two of the sites — a stretch of rapids, and a low dam.

The videos they recorded revealed that the shrimp paraded from sundown to sunup. They traveled up to 65 feet upstream. Some individual shrimp stayed out of the water for 10 minutes or more.

“I was so surprised,” Mr. Hongjamrassilp said, “because I never thought that a shrimp can walk that long.” Staying in the river’s splash zone may help them keep their gills wet, so they can keep taking in oxygen. He also observed that the shells of the shrimp seem to trap a little water around their gills, like a reverse dive helmet.

DNA analysis from captured shrimp showed that nearly all belonged to the species Macrobrachium dienbienphuense, part of a genus of shrimp that live mostly or fully in freshwater. Many Macrobrachiumspecies spend part of their lives migrating upstream to their preferred habitats.

Most parading shrimp that Mr. Hongjamrassilp captured were young. Observations and lab experiments showed that these shrimp probably leave the water when the flow becomes too strong for them. Larger adult shrimp can handle a stronger current without washing away, so they’re less likely to leave the water.

Walking on land is dangerous for the little shrimp, even under cover of darkness. Predators including frogs, snakes and large spiders lurk nearby, Mr. Hongjamrassilp says. “Literally, they wait to eat them along the river.”

And the shrimp can survive on land for only so long. If the parading crustaceans lose their way, they may dry out and die before they get back to the river. A few times, Mr. Hongjamrassilp came across groups of lost shrimp dead on the rocks, their once-translucent bodies baked pink.

Yet most navigate upstream successfully, and scientists have spotted other freshwater shrimp around the world performing similar feats, scaling dams and even climbing waterfalls.

Leaving the water when the swimming gets tough may have helped these animals spread to new habitats over their evolutionary history, Mr. Hongjamrassilp said. Today, the number of parading shrimp in Thailand seems to be declining. He thinks tourist activity may be a factor, and learning more about the shrimp might help protect them.

The study’s authors made “some really excellent observations,” said Alan Covich, an ecologist at the University of Georgia who was not involved in the research. But understanding why the Ubon Ratchathani shrimp move upstream, and how far they travel, will require more research, he said.

“The most surprising thing to me was that it attracted so many tourists,” Dr. Covich said. He doesn’t know of any other example of people gathering to appreciate a crustacean in quite the same way.

“We have crayfish festivals, we have all kinds of things,” Dr. Covich said, “but generally it’s people eating them, not watching them move.”

By: Elizabeth Preston
Title: These Shrimp Leave the Safety of Water and Walk on Land. But Why?
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Published Date: Wed, 18 Nov 2020 17:02:07 +0000

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Will Aer Lingus launch transatlantic flights from Manchester?




There are reports that Aer Lingus have applied for 1,500 slots at Manchester Airport for the Summer 2021 season. This will allow the airline to base four aircraft there and service flights to the United States.

At present, there have been no press releases from the airline stating what is going on. Even so, it probably makes sense for the Irish airline to do this in the current market.

Aer Lingus And Manchester

From what is known, there will be three Airbus A321LRs and an A330 based at Manchester. These will operate non-stop services to New York JFK, Boston, Chicago and Orlando, and the season starts on 28 March 2021.

With Thomas Cook having gone out of business, there is likely space for another competitor. New York and Orlando will see competition from Virgin Atlantic, while the other two routes have no airline flying at the moment.

Aer Lingus has been connecting passengers over Dublin very successfully from the UK regions for a while now. Due to this, they will have visibility on traffic patterns, potential yields and more, making this an informed decision.

I imagine they also hope to cream off some of the connecting traffic that routes through London Heathrow on British Airways and Amsterdam on KLM among others. It would prove to be quite successful.

Transatlantic Joint Venture Approval

The US Department of Transport has tentatively given its approval for Aer Lingus to join the oneworld transatlantic joint business. This is operated by American Airlines, British Airways, Iberia and Finnair.

These airlines coordinate schedules and pricing, share revenues and expenses. For the consumer, it means more choice – those making a booking on British Airways across the Atlantic will also see options on American Airlines on the BA web site as one example.

Theoretically, it would allow people seeking flights on the British Airways web site to automatically be given options to fly non-stop with Aer Lingus, along with the Manchester-London Heathrow-US city connecting itinerary.

Whether Aer Lingus will join the oneworld alliance, even in a oneworld connect capacity remains to be seen. Frequent flyers would welcome it, especially those in Ireland.

Overall Thoughts

No doubt the boffins have been working behind the scenes to see if the business case for transatlantic flights from Manchester stack up. As things have proceeded as far as a slot application, I would guess chances are good that it will go ahead.

Either way, let’s see if this happens and if it does, whether Aer Lingus will stay for the long haul. If they can make more money elsewhere, they’ll up sticks and leave. Regardless, it is an interesting development in European aviation.

What do you think of Aer Lingus starting transatlantic services from Manchester? Thank you for reading and if you have any comments or questions, please leave them below.

To never miss a post, follow me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
All my flight and lounge reviews are indexed here so check them out!

Featured image by N509FZ via Wikimedia Commons.
Aer Lingus A321neo LR by Pitmanaaron via Wikimedia Commons.
Business class cabin via One Mile At A Time.

By: The Flight Detective
Title: Will Aer Lingus launch transatlantic flights from Manchester?
Sourced From:
Published Date: Wed, 18 Nov 2020 18:03:48 +0000

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