Tuesday’s TPS Report: Cambridge Blazer

Our daily TPS reports suggest one piece of work-appropriate attire in a range of prices.

Cambridge Blazer - Two Penny BlueReader K wrote in to recommend this blazer, and I think it looks gorgeous — I love both the fuchsia and the red. Note that for every jacket purchased, a school uniform is donated to a girl in need in Africa. The blazer is $355 at Two Penny Blue. Cambridge Blazer

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Comments

  1. I like it!

    These Olympics have gotten me thinking: Do y’all believe in American exceptionalism? In other words, do you believe that the United States is the best country in the world? I absolutely do, but I feel like that belief is becoming less common these days. So, it’s time for an unofficial poll.

    • Cornellian :

      No, I guess I don’t. I think America was on so many ways a forefather of great 20th century ideals, but that we’ve failed to update them sort of post 1970s and are being usurped. The things that I think made America a great country, both for the people livign here and as a leader of the world, are becoming less and less valued, I think. For me those things are probably: class mobility (relaly, originally, a lack of royalty), an ability and willingness to integrate everyone who reaches our shores, and a sense of community not based on language, ethnicity, class\, or religion. I think we’re losing those things, and other countries are gaining them.

      • Yes, I agree (born US, grew up in Canada). There are amazing things about the US. It’s an inspiring country, it has done great things, and it has wonderful people. However – the US used to be the country of economic opportunity for everyone. It seems that it’s becoming less and less compassionate and increasingly unequal. It shocks me how so many of the things I take for granted about Canada don’t exist in the US and are considered to be radical and crazy – like health care, subsidized university, paid maternity leave. If my family had stayed in the US, I could not have gone to a top-ranked university, or done a Master’s degree, without incurring hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt. It makes me so sad to see some of the conversations here about maternity leave where six weeks is a long time, unpaid is the norm.. it’s crazy. Canada’s not perfect by far, and I have always defended the US to my friends here, but it’s disappointing and frustrating to see the political climate and rhetoric in the US. At this stage, I wouldn’t move back.

        • I hesitate to compare us to Canada with respect to universal benefits, like health care, etc. I just don’t think you can compare our population, which is much more diverse, to theirs. It’s like when people say government-run healthcare works great in Sweden. Well, the Swedes are generally healthy, well educated, homogenous, etc. It just isn’t the same as our melting pot.

          That said, I think we can do better. I’m just saying I don’t think it’s a fair comparison.

          • Why not? Canada’s not Sweden. Sure, our population is much smaller (but higher population = higher tax base), more concentrated near the border, but we’re pretty diverse and we are increasingly seeing the same kind of health challenges that the US faces (obesity, inactivity, rising rates of diabetes). We also have a federal-provincial structure (feds provide cash, provinces run health care) although it’s more intertwined than the US fed-state relationship and we’re less antsy about government.

            What country would you accept as a fair comparison? Why is the US some kind of magic country where national healthcare won’t work.. even though it works everywhere else?

          • Cornellian :

            THIS! Come back and talk when you’re not a country of (until the last ten years) unbelievably genetically homogenous, religiously identical, literate, relatively uniformly distributed people with a shared history going back 300 years, no meaningful climate differences within the country, etc, etc, etc.

            But Canada is very close, I have to say. They have the French population, for example, and 20% of their population is foreign born (versus our 13). You of course won’t get a perfect comparison, but Canada’s pretty close.

          • That’s true that Canada is closer than Sweden. I’m just not that familiar with Canada’s income levels, to be honest. Are most people paying taxes? I know they generally have a much higher tax rate than we do; I’m curious whether they also have a large portion of the population paying no taxes but using the healthcare system.

          • Maybe they’re healthy because they have universal health care.

          • aesthetic intelligence :

            Would England do?

          • Ummm, I’m not sure why you would say the Canadian population is not as diverse as the US. I live in Vancouver, which is about as diverse as it comes, and has what is called the poorest postal code in Canada as well as extremely wealthy venture capitalists and the like. We also have a lot of very poor communities in the far north where I can pretty much guarantee that most of the population are not paying income taxes. Canada is not homogenous in the least, economically or ethnically.

    • Absolutely not. And I think the idea that the US is somehow inherently better than other nations has lead to a lot of terrible policies and decisions both foreign and domestic.

      • Ditto. In my anecdotal experience, the only ppl who think America is exceptional are those who have not traveled extensively.

        • Ugh, I get so tired of statements like this. I have traveled extensively, more than most people, and I believe we are exceptional. I think there is a real tendency to say that people who disagree with you are ignorant, just don’t know better, etc. That’s just not true.

          • I agree, b23. I don’t believe we are the best country in the world (though I do believe we do many things very well), but I can understand how an educated, well-traveled person would disagree with me.

            That said, I believe that my views on this topic are more in line with Syndey Bristow and Cornellian, below. I don’t think the U.S. is the greatest country, but I’d be hard pressed to name one that I thought was, in fact, overall the best. I see the us as having many strengths, and other countries as having other, different (though sometimes enviable) strengths.

          • co-sign.

          • My college honors thesis in a blog comment. Rock on.

          • I think America is the best county BECAUSE I’ve traveled extensively.

        • I disagree. I’m very well-traveled, and LOVE traveling and seeing new places but there is no way I would want to live anywhere else, even if you hypothetically could somehow transplant my family & give me a good career there.

      • Completely agree. I am a US citizen, and the idea that the US is somehow better than everywhere else is revolting and ethnocentric.

        • She’s not saying better than. She’s saying best. Is it the best country, if you rank them. If not, which country do you think is the best.

          I get made at America almost every day. But I believe it is the best, hence why I am still here. I think we are falling behind, but I still think we are the best in terms of religious freedom, freedom of speech, economic freedom and opportunity.

          • I would venture to say that when ranking countries, the US would certainly not come out on top in anything, except perhaps in military spending. The US is definitely not the best in health care, educational attainment, life expectancy, infant mortality rate, homelessness, civil rights, etc.

            I think that American exceptionalism is an antiquated belief.

          • How would you define economic freedom? I do not think there is equal economic freedom and/or opportunity across all income levels within the US. There is a certain level of freedom and opportunity, but that is in direct correlation to your socioeconomic status. It is too hard for someone to better themselves in our society. I am not talking about people on welfare or “getting handouts”. I am talking about the family living on $150,000 a year who will forever be indebted (mortgage, student loans, etc.) for trying to improve their socioeconomic status. Not to mention the tax system in our county. I don’t comprehend how someone making $100,000 a year can be paying the same EFFECTIVE tax rate (or in some instances far more) as someone making over $1m. Our political system has failed us on so many levels. Globally we are falling behind fast. The most devastating effect is on our children who are being denied the public education they deserve. Personally, I am afraid to have children. I am scared of the uncertain future of our country and the impact it could have on their lives.

          • cfm, I agree.

    • Sydney Bristow :

      I’ve thought anout this some lately too. I think our place in the world has changed and that while we are still a great country, I do not view us as the greatest in the world. I don’t know which country I would consider to be the greatest in the world though. I guess there are all sorts of ways to define exceptionalism in these terms though. We are exceptional in some ways and other countries are exceptional in others.

      On that subject, there is a book that I’ve been wanting to read called “That Used to Be Us: How America Fell Behind in the World It Invented and How We Can Come Back” by Thomas Friedman. Has anyone read it? What did you think?

      • Cornellian :

        I don’t think there is a greatest country in the world anymore. I think there arguably was in the British Empire and the United States, both of which (arguably) combined (then) progressive ideals with great economic and military power. I think those are being decoupled. And nation states in general may be becoming less important, although that seems more questionable than ten years ago.

        Try Reus Smit: American Power and the World Order.

      • I would agree that there’s been a transition from unipolarity to multipolarity, but at the same time, I struggle with the assumptions behind judging a country as “the best.” Am I proud to be a US citizen? Undoubtably. I suppose my struggle to proclaim one country superior to all others stems from a doubt that I have perfect information of all the metrics that would go into such a judgment.

    • I think that belief is becoming less common because it’s hard to ignore all the evidence to the contrary. In what sense is our country the “best?” Certainly not in terms of education, health care, income equality, social mobility, etc., etc., etc.

      • Cornellian :

        I think people are actually great at ignoring all of that evidence, which is really why I’m pessimistic about us remaining a high-quality country to live in. America’s dealt with huge social and economic challenges before, but by actually facing them in some sort of united front. It doesn’t seem like we’re capable of that anymore. every man for himself!

      • Yes!

      • Yes, exactly. As I’ve been reading all this, I find myself asking, what is “best”? It depends on what your values are. If you value a military presence, certainly the US ranks quite high. If you value universal healthcare, it would rank quite low. If you are looking at overall quality of life, doesn’t it depend on the class that you come from? Americans seem to value economic mobility quite highly and say everyone is equal, but as a non-American observer, I don’t see that very much in real life.

    • Living abroad I notice two types of Americans: the “Go America!” type and the “I hate everything American!” I think neither is especially productive or helpful. The “Go” team just alienates people abroad and refuses to look critically at what can be improved and the “Boo” team is so cynical and jaded. We should look at our country how we should look at ourselves, with love and affection but also a willingness to accept criticism and an eye towards self-improvement.

      • goirishkj :

        I think there’s some of that among those of us who haven’t spent extensive time abroad. This country has provided me great opportunity, and because of that I’m probably jaded into thinking that America is special. However, there’s always something we can do to improve. Looking at things that other countries do well and figuring out how we might implement those programs doesn’t take anything away from what this country does well. I think a lot of the “exceptionalism” argument turns into the Boo/Go! split that you identified and I agree that it is not even close to helpful. I realize this isn’t an answer to the OP’s question, but I guess that’s because I don’t think whether we’re “exceptional” should matter. There are things we as a country could do better and we should focus on always being better.

    • Honey Pillows :

      Eeeeehhh, I’m really uncomfortable with the idea of American exceptionalism. There’s an egotism in many Americans that I didn’t experience living abroad for much of my childhood, and the sheer audacity and entitlement of many Americans took my breath away when I moved back to the States.

      That said, we do a lot of things better than a lot of countries, and I love being an American for the idealism, the independent spirit, and (let’s be honest) the luxury. A lot of our current strength and power comes from previous generations working their bums off and being incredibly innovative -we still value those things, but we don’t embrace them as much. I think we had the right traits at the right time in the right circumstances -and we should take pride in that, be patriotic, love our country and do our best to keep her strong, but I don’t think it’s a sign of an inherent exceptionalism.

      Re: the Olympics, part of our success does come from our determination to succeed, our belief that “you can be anything,” and our ability to dream of Olympic wins. However, a big part of our success comes from having a large enough leisure class to allow kids and their parents to devote huge swaths of time to the training the Olympics require, and having enough money to pay the expensive coaches, and having a system in which coaches can expect to make a living.

    • I absolutely do, as well. (I wonder if it has something to do with Texans?) I think the proof is in the pudding: people are literally dying to get in this country. Do I think the United States is the best it can be? No. I think there are a lot of areas for improvement. But other countries also have their issues and I think the opportunities afforded here and the protections granted from the Constitution and Bill of Rights are exceptional.

      • Cornellian :

        I disagree. But agree, possibly, with your Texas comment, having spent years there.

        People are literally dying to get in to the European Union, as well, and I think the rights afforded people once they get inside Fortress Europe are amazing. ECHR, European welfare states, etc. The German Grundgesetz, , although 70 years old, is a hell of a document for indiviudal rights, and their jurisprudence is unbelievably tight and well-argued, as a rule.. I read a fascinating book on the fall of the US Supreme Court jurisprudence on individual rights in other supreme courts/their equivalents’ minds recently… essentially for 180 years we defined rights jurisprudence, and no longer do.

        I think the things that I really love about America and make me a cranky egoist American abroad are soft: the ability to talk to strangers and our (still) civil culture. I’ve lived in five (ish) European countries (including Russia), and people constantly are taken aback by the way in which Americans will sometimes go out of their way to help a lost stranger, drive someone home from the airport, etc. I think our sense of community and of all being in it together is amazing, but I’m afraid it’s shrinking.

        • Those countries in the EU don’t generally have individual liberties like we do. For example, in France, Muslim women can’t wear headscarves to school. It’s hard to argue that French women have the same individual rights that Americans do. Similarly, we have a far greater right to speak out than other countries. In France, you can’t name a pig Napoleon. Very random example, but there are a lot of other rules limiting speech.

          I’m a big civil libertarian, and I just don’t think you can beat the United States in that arena. I also think we’re losing a lot of that, particularly religious freedom, as people start to think the greater good is worth silencing people’s voices.

          • I think I’d rather have paid maternity leave, free daycare, and unrestricted access to reproductive healthcare than the ability to name a pig Napoleon.

          • Although I absolutely agree that state-enforced secularism is just as bad as theocracy.

          • Yes, it’s really amazing the extent that some of the European countries go to when trying to make sure that schools are secular. In France, it’s not just that women can’t wear headscarves. You can’t wear a cross (on a necklace, bracelet, ring, etc.). Catholic kids that wear saint medals around their neck have little pouches to cover the medals while in school.

          • Cornellian :

            Certainly not all European countries have individual rights like we do. I definitely tend towards the American/libertarian/liberal “let the nazi party have their marches” position on free speech, and the tendency to silence for a greater good does sometimes bother me in Europe.

            But, bringing rights jurisprudence forward in to the 20th/21st century is not something American jurisprudence has done well, I’d argue. What does it mean that you have the right to free speech if your school is so poorly funded that you come out illiterate and unemployable, for example. There’s great German jurisprudence on the Ausgleich (balancing, roughly) of the inviolable rights of two different groups or people, and I think our jurisprudence on what happens when two fundamental rights clash is much less developed.

            I also think we’re forced in to pushing things in to the little boxes our constitution has set up in order to make our laws remotely modern (see eg recent healthcare ruling, lochner, etc), and that we really need to think about some larger way (second constitutional convention?) to make our law-making process capable of handling the modern world.

          • I agree. Some of the people in these comments are equating individual liberties with government handouts (free universal healthcare, paid maternity leave for all, etc.). What makes the US exceptional is not the depth of the government handouts here. It’s the civil liberties we enjoy and the opportunities available for economic success, the American Dream, which I think still exists.

          • It’s not an either/or. I prefer the U.S.’s approach to things like religious freedom as well. But the fact that I think it’s better than France on that particular axis doesn’t mean I think it’s generally “better” than France. “Better” and “best” are so subjective and vague as to be meaningless – and therefore always come off as biased and arrogant – when you’re talking about an overall scale.

        • I agree. I spend a lot of time on the phone and my colleagues get a kick out of my distinctive accent but also my insistence on asking how people are doing, tell them to have a great day, etc. It does risk reading phony or overwhelming in some cultures (it’s so not British) but there is a genuine warmth and openness behind it and people really respond to it.

      • People are dying to get into lots of other countries, too. The mere fact that some countries to our south are so bad that people are willing to take huge risks to migrate here doesn’t support the conclusion that the US is the best country in the whole world. And I’m curious as to why you find our constitution so exceptional. It may have been 200+ years ago, but it’s got a lot of problems and there are much better constitutions out there. If you want to see an exceptional constitution, check out South Africa’s.

        • Cornellian :

          Have you read William Forbath on the South African constittuion?

          on that note, I am signing off and trying not to lose my job by posting about American exceptionalism all day.

        • That’s aasy. Our Constitution was groundbreaking. And it has survived 200+ years with peaceful transfers of democratically elected power. People complain about how difficult is it to do anything in Washington? That was the point – it’s supposed to be difficult because it’s a check on government power. The entire concept of a government of enumerated powers and leaving the bulk of the powers to the states has afforded substantial protection of personal rights.

          • Charlotte :

            This, plus 100000000000!!!!

          • The entire concept of a government of enumerated powers and leaving the bulk of the powers to the states has also given us slavery, Jim Crow, segregation, and institutionalized discrimination. It’s also given us same-sex marriage in Massachusetts. I don’t think that either the federal government or the states have a monopoly on the defense of individual rights, but if you look at the broad sweep of history, the federal government is definitely on the winning side with respect to the protection of rights.

    • I don’t think American exceptionalism and America = best country in the world mean the same thing.

      I believe in American exceptionalism because this is still the only country in the world that draws people from all over the world to come here and start lives and businesses and it’s the only country (or one of the very few) as far as I know that will genuinely treat those people and their children as Americans. I think to the extent that continues to exist, it will always count for something and make America special.

      But that hardly makes the US the greatest country in the world. By any measure other than self esteem and military spending, America just isn’t the best anymore.

      • BTW, this isn’t to say it sucks or is evil or whatever else. Just not the best.

        • Good point, AIMS. I was surprised to learn last year that the United States accepts more immigrants (legally) than all other countries in the world combined. That is just amazing to me.

      • Cornellian :

        that is a good distinction.

        I am really disgusted by the amount of entitlement I see in Americans, as well. I don’t feel like it’s always been this way, but I really am amazed at the distances to which Americans can go to delude themselves in to fitting reality to their politics. The tea party medicaid position comes to mind, but also a widespread lack of concern with the effects of the crap processed food we eat on our health and our wallets. The typical American diet costs us SO MUCH MONEY.

      • American exceptionalism means something quite different from the USA being the best country in the world, at least in the sense in which the phrase was originally used by de Tocqueville and subsequently by historians and analysts.

        But for a different perspective, here are some of the things which the rest of us admire about the US from the outside :
        : The idealism of its founding fathers who believed they were establishing a new and different kind of nation-state to what they had left behind in 18th century Europe
        : The continuing attempts at idealism and ‘the higher moral ground’ in its foreign policy – many other countries simply do what’s best for themselves (‘realpolitik’) but the US does try for the higher ground even if it sometimes (often ?) results in hypocrisy when confronted with realpolitik
        : The willingness of its extremely wealthy to serve in public office (the last 2 Treasury secretaries prior to Tim Geithner) or run for political office (the current Republican presidential nominee, the mayor of New York) – in many other countries, these people opt to privately enjoy and extend their wealth without the invasion of privacy associated with public office
        : The philanthropic interests of other very wealthy Americans (the Carnegies and Mellons in the early 20th century, the many individuals who’ve recently signed up for the Buffett pledge) – giving it all away isn’t something which has acquired momentum elsewhere.
        : Its continuing ability to embrace and reward innovation – Facebook was a twinkle in an undergrad’s eye less than 10 years ago, whether the market thinks it’s valued at 50 million or 100 million now. Similar for Google.

        I’m a banker though – am sure a teacher or an artist would find different things to admire !

        • I would add the charitable works of ordinary Americans, not just the very wealthy. Some of the poorest states have the highest per capita contributions to charity.

      • downstream :

        I am also under the impression that many other countries don’t grant citizenship at birth – i.e., if you’re born in the U.S. you’re automatically a citizen, which is not the case in other countries (I’m thinking of France and Germany in particular). If that’s the case, then that is also pretty exceptional.

        • Cornellian :

          there’s been a change in France and Germany, but when I last lived there there were many third generation Turks without citizenship despite even their parents having lived there! crazy pants.

      • Agree in most part with AIMS here. I do believe America is a great country with educational and economic opportunities still unmatched with rest of the world. As someone who came here for college as an international student, I am so lucky to have that opportunity.
        But the current state of legal immigration even for those educated in US with advanced degrees and already working here for several years is a nightmare with huge backlogs. It is no longer as easy or even feasible as it was back in the 60s or even 80s/90s. I don’t know if I will ever get my green card even in next 10 years though my employer has done everything and we are just waiting and waiting. Given the rising opportunities in other parts of the world, US will possibly loose out many highly educated people who no longer want their lives stuck in a limbo due to immigration policy designed 50 years ago and can take their skills and experience elsewhere or back to their home countries.

      • As a forgeigner I can tell you that even though I have never been in this country illegally, paid high school and college dues here and have a well paying job that unless one gets married to an American or limits oneself one employer (who then goes through a lengthy process sponsoring an endless string of visas before you can arrive at a green card and making one very guilty for it or saves those expenses otherwise) it is nearly impossible to stay here long term.

        Don’t get me wrong. I LOVE this country. I spent more than half of the last 12 years here, but eventually I would like get to a point where I settle at least to the point where I buy a car or a house. How do you do that and sleep at night, when you can get kicked out of the country with barely any or no grace period at all just because you happen to lose your job (which in my book is always a possibility)?

        • Cornellian :

          I don’t mean to undermine your situation at all, because it’s awful, but I’m not sure that precariousness is unique to America. When I’ve lived abroad in various EU countries and in Russia, it was the same thing. I think there’s an argument that the entire nation-state concept is out of date, but I don’t think the US is a particularly bad transgressor.

      • “I believe in American exceptionalism because this is still the only country in the world that draws people from all over the world to come here and start lives and businesses and it’s the only country (or one of the very few) as far as I know that will genuinely treat those people and their children as Americans. I think to the extent that continues to exist, it will always count for something and make America special.”

        I take great issue with this statement. I honestly think that this is a great example of American egotism and ethnocentric thinking. As well as the US, Australia, New Zealand and Canada are considered ‘settlement’ countries. 25.0% of Australians are foreign born, compared to 13.6% of Americans. Australia has also, so far, been essentially the only country to escape relatively unscathed by the Global financial.

        I think this sort of US special snowflake attitude is what people on other countries just don’t understand.

      • I agree with AIMS and also with the comment above re federalism. One of the most amazing things about this country is that anyone born here, no matter who they are or where they come from, or what their parents did, are automatically american citizens. most places aren’t like that. I think that in itself is quite amazing, along with the fact that US accepts more immigrants than any other country (could it be more? yes, but it’s good that we accept as many as we do). I’m in silicon valley and I do truly think that we have an exceptional entrepreneurial culture that values innovation and rewards merit. I also think it’s quite remarkable that we have had hundreds of years of peaceful elections and transfer of power, including the 2000 presidential elections. I wouldn’t say that the United States is the “best” but I do believe that with all its faults, there are some exceptional things about this country.

    • I don’t, at all, but that doesn’t mean I’m not very patriotic. I can love my country w/o thinking we’re better than other countries.

      • I never understood why people say they’re proud to be an American. Unless you’re an immigrant, you don’t have much to be proud of; you didn’t do anything to become American. I’m happy to be an American, but pride is a dangerous sentiment.

        • I disagree 100%. Having pride in your community or country is a positive thing. I have pride in the town I grew up in, my undergrad alma mater, etc. – but that means that I speak highly of them when asked and contribute money or time to improve them in any way I can. I don’t see how that’s dangerous.

          • I agree with this. Sure, like many parts of my life, I am an American by chance of birth. However, I don’t think that precludes me from embracing that (one could argue I have the option of immigrating elsewhere). I think pride is a motivational sentiment. Because I am proud of my country, I am inclined to support it it, the same way I am proud of my family, neighborhood, school, etc. While the nationalistic side of pride is dangerous, there is also a part of pride that drives us to contribute and enrich the thing of which we’re proud.

        • Sydney Bristow :

          I think I understand your point Bluejay, but there may be pride in participating in the American process of government being proud of your fellow citizens when they come together to do something remarkable, etc.

          Your point about pride being a dangerous sentiment does make sense to me though, at least when that pride drives people to do certain negative things in the name of that pride.

        • Co-sign, 100%. Nationalism is never a good thing.

          • downstream :

            Extreme statements, however, are always a good thing.

            I can think of several instances where nationalism is a good thing. Do you really think that we’d have the social programs that we have (albeit limited as they are) if there wasn’t some sense that as a nation we need to take care of our fellow Americans?

        • I’m often not proud of my country (and often am) but I love it, care about it, and root for it to do well. I’m very liberal politically and don’t like when liberals cede patriotism to the other side (not saying you were doing that, but I think it does happen).

        • For Christians out there – isn’t pride one of the deadly sins? How do you reconcile being proud to be an American (if you are) with the sin of pride itself? I’m just not very versed in Christianity, and would much appreciate a response. Thank you.

          • I am a Christian and that’s one of the reasons I’m suspicious of both pride and nationalism/patriotism, but I suppose I’m not the person who can answer your question about how it’s reconciled with Christian beliefs. The deadly sins, though, are not really a doctrine of Christian belief. It’s more like a list of vices that are likely to lead to sin.

    • I wish I could vote no 100 times. No, I don’t believe in American exceptionalism, and I find the widespread acceptance of it so offensive to others and so damaging to our standing in the world.

    • I think the system of governance and the rights protected in the US Constitution and Bill of Rights is the best, regardless of what country is using that system. I also think that the US has basically abandoned all pretense of actually caring about the Constitution and Bill of Rights, and many other countries are much “better” than the US is at the moment. The US was once an exceptional country, not due to any God-endowed privilege but due to the early development of a system of semi-democratic governance with the protection of certain rights, but the rest of the world has advanced while we’ve remained stagnant or even backslidden.

      • I should add, though, that my comment has nothing to do with American exceptionalism (and neither do any of the rest of these comments here). I do agree that the US has a special mission to spread liberty and democracy around the world (as do all other democratic nations), even though we actually do so only selectively.

    • long-time lurker :

      I love my country and am very proud of our collective achievements to date. I think we can do much better however. I’m conflicted however … I try to see the glass half full in terms of progress with the ACA being upheld, our first black President, many states allowing gay marriage, and the success of women like Hillary Clinton/Madeline Albright in the foreign relations area. We are a giant melting pot, still and that is a great thing. People still want to come here. Someone like me, a first generation college graduate, can achieve success with hard work. With the ACA I think we are on the baby steps path to the modernized health care other countries have, but I agree with someone who posted upthread about how countries like Sweden are smaller and more homogeneous and the systems that work for them may not work for us.

      Then on the other side we have things like mass shootings, a backlash against feminism (many countries we consider beneath us have far more women in politics), we are slipping in education ratings, we have a huge gap between rich and poor that seems insurmountable and growing every day. I think we need to never stop trying to be better and we really need to come together as a country. Let’s not lose our edge by assuming we are the best and ignoring the lessons we can learn from the rest of the world in what is increasingly becoming a truly global economy.

    • I think at one time we were, I’m not so sure now. I think the intangibles that make/made us great – ability to do better than your parents, work hard and earn a decent living, a great cutting edge education system, freedom and respect for your fellow citizens – are sadly things that are slipping away. I’d love to see us stop reminiscing about the good old days where we made widgets and see our country really figure out how to move forward and give future generations the same chances that our parents (or grandparents depending on how old you are) had.

    • It’s sort of a strange question, isn’t it? What makes a country the “best” in the world? Is there a basis for comparison? And assuming that the U.S. is the best, what’s the prize? As you and some others have noted in the discussion, other countries do certain things better than we do (health care being an obvious example), but there are trade-offs. It sounds like you would not want to live in France (which is fine, I don’t really, either, and I’m kind of a Francophile), but maybe the French are happy with their arrangement. I’m not sure that makes one country better than the other.

      As for whether the U.S. is exceptional – I think the U.S. has a unique history as a nation of immigrants and occupies even to this day a unique position in the world. I am proud to be an American citizen and have no desire to live anywhere else, even if I don’t really see a point in declaring ourselves The Best.

      Anyway. I hate hate HATE politics, so I’m not very knowledgeable about a lot of global and economic measures and issues that might make for a useful comparison among countries. I think others in this thread have expressed their thoughts more eloquently than I have, but that was my gut reaction to your question. I hope that was informative (and not insulting to you).

      • Yes. I agree with this completely, but I am also not very political so maybe that’s why? Anyway, being “the best country in the world” is sort of like being “world’s greatest mom”: it’s a dubious honor with no prize and no set criteria. Which also makes it a debate that can never be resolved and thus, to political people like myself, is not worth having (what would be the point of resolving it- do we all get “world’s best” mugs or something?).

        All I can add otherwise is that I love living in the US, despite its flaws. Every time I travel elsewhere, I am very happy to come back home. It’s the only country I’ve ever lived in, so I can’t really compare it to any other in the world’s best competition. I don’t think traveling in another country is sufficient to give you any real basis for declaring whether living there would be better or worse. Kind of like how, as a teenager, you might think your friend’s mom is cooler than yours, but your friend thinks you’re crazy because her mom is so annoying and you just have no idea what it’s really like.

    • Elle Urker :

      I’m trying not to be snarky here but can someone really put together a coherent argument for why America would be the best country in the world? It’s not education, health care, civil liberties, quality of life or equality. What exactly is America best at?

      The civil liberties thing is a serious point. America has betrayed its own principles so many times in the areas of human rights, equal rights, all the constitutional freedoms it championed. But unlike other countries, in which there is some shame attached to the gap between fantasy and reality, Americans seem unable to integrate the reality of their failures into their national identity.

      • This is interesting, Elle Urker. I notice no-one has replied to you. I’m not American and, while I am not trying to take sides at all in this debate (because I don’t feel qualified), I am genuinely interested in a response to this question too.

      • Ask the people in Anaheim, California how free they feel right now.

      • Anonymous :

        Agreed. Seems like many people loudly pronounce “civil liberties” but conveniently forget about Japanese interment camps, Gitmo, McCarthyism, and separate but equal (and this is just in the last hundred years). Civil liberties are really great until as long as you are in the majority.

      • We’re the strongest, both militarily and economically, and therefore the greatest in terms of influence over other countries.

        I think the sense of national identity, even insofar as the embrace of a “fantasy” version of the country, is part of the absolute uniqueness of America. The sheer size and diversity of the population, the vast differences between rural and urban, the population spread out across such a huge geographic area, are all huge hurdles to the development of a national identity, and yet there still is such a strong sense of being an American, a patriotism and unity that I think are a necessary part of having a functioning government despite the geographic and cultural diversity. Even subregions with fairly strong identities (Texans, or New Yorkers, or Californians) also identify pretty strongly as American, sometimes even as part of that regional identity (like those strange people who proudly fly both the confederate flag and the American flag).

        If we didn’t have some sense of nationalism, we wouldn’t have a United States of America.

    • Motoko Kusanagi :

      Any other Newsroom fans out there?

      See Jeff Bridges’ character’s response to whether or not he thinks America is the greatest country in the world –

      http://patrick.net/forum/?p=1214009&page=4

    • Exceptional in a Bad Way :

      As far as I can tell, the single most exceptional characteristic of the American electorate is its indignant disinterest in knowing or learning or analyzing facts before spewing emotion-based myths and voting based on them.

      And I say this as a third-generation immigrant (had my great grandparents not come here from Eastern Europe, my family would have died in the camps) who will jump to my feet for the National Anthem in a nanosecond at every opportunity and who spent years as a pro bono civil rights attorney.

      • We have a civil righta to spew those emotion-based myths and vote based on them. That makes us exceptional.

      • No, we’re certainly not exceptional because of our contributions to charity, which far outrival any other developed country. And we certainly aren’t exceptional for being a nation of immigrants that has created a sense of community. Better just to denigrate the entire electorate.

        • Cornellian :

          Americans are individually definitely the most generous people I’ve had any experience with. But even if you add private charity donations with government spending, you still don’t get up in the Norway range of charitability.

          I think I like the sort of informal/non-monetary charitability more… I really have only seen Americans pick up strangers’ checks, for example, or agree to drive neighbors on an airplane home having met them two hours prior. There were Brits I met at a bar in Texas they were visiting for a music fest, and when I offered to drive them in my own car downtown to drop them off so they didn’t have to get lost in the bus system/pay 40 for a cab, they really, truly thought I was crazy/going to kill them in an alley. But I think you can only really afford this sense of hospitality/charitability if you feel secure enough in your own life, which fewer and fewer Americans are.

          • Americans are definitely not the only people who will step up to help strangers like that (though I agree it’s a positive trait). I was blown away by how often things like that happened when I lived in Egypt, for instance.

          • Cornellian :

            Em- I almost added a sort of sidenote that I hear this is not rare in north Africa and southeast Europe. I got some of it short-term in eastern Europe, but sometimes only until they realized I was foreign, which was a bit disconcerting. Living in Europe really drove home to me how desperately I need those sorts of interactions, and made me question whether I could live more than a year or two in a culture that comes off as so cold/uncaring to me.

          • SF Bay Associate :

            This thread is fascinating, and I’m not sure what I can contribute yet, but I will say that I would also think you were crazy or going to kill me in an alley. Maybe it’s from growing up in a city. I would never, ever get into a car with someone I didn’t know.

          • Cornellian :

            SF Bay- I actually grew up (mostly) in a pretty violent area of Philly. But this was after years of livign in Texas, so that may have changed things. It would have been two men and two women against 120 lb me, though…

          • I was lost on my first day in Tokyo and was too jet-lagged to muster any Japanese. This woman who didn’t speak English saw where I was trying to go, chaperoned me on the train, and walked me to my hotel. Then, she smiled and waved, and headed back toward the train. I have an example like that in every country I’ve spent more than a week in. Also I agree that I’d never get in a car with someone I don’t know.

      • Two of my grandparents are child survivors. As a kid I always heard about how wonderful this country is and how it affords everyone, immigrants included, the same opportunity to succeed and truly live the American Dream. I don’t feel like I still live in that country, but that doesn’t mean I am not happy/proud/thankful to be an American. However, my grandparents have started to recently terrify me because they see this country voting purely based on emotion and living in fear while scapegoating the “other.” Because of their background, they want all of my generation to have a backup plan. When I think about their fears, I definitely don’t think the US is the greatest or best country in the world. Generally, I do believe that the US is great, but is slowly losing its advantage because of the lack of quality education, civil rights for all, women’s rights, rising income inequality etc. It makes me quite sad, because I really do love the country.

      • Have you traveled much? As far as I’ve seen, this is far from a uniquely American characteristic.

    • downstream :

      America: the land of free ketchup and unsolicited water at restaurants.

      If that doesn’t make America exceptional and the best country, I don’t know what does.

    • Are you really interested in hearing what people think, or are you mostly just interested in proving that you think that you are right? It seems like you’re arguing against anyone who disagrees with you in the slightest. Perhaps I misunderstood what you were trying to achieve with this poll.

      • This was meant for the original poster – I found the responses to be thought provoking.

        • I’m glad you clarified that you were only being rude to me.

          I’m honestly befuddled by your comment. I’m certainly not arguing against anyone who disagrees with me in the slightest — I’ve been called ethnocentric, nationalistic, etc., and I haven’t responded to that at all. I’ve responded to a couple of points that I thought could use more development, and I admitted I was uninformed and that others had a good point in the Canadian healthcare discussion above. I hope nobody else thinks I was just interested in proving that I think I am right, because that’s not it at all.

          • Don’t forget revolting and antiquated. Weird how the name-calling has only appeared on one side.

          • eh, b23 asks questions of the hive from time to time and I get the sense she is genuinely curious for other viewpoints, is respectful, and appreciative that other people take the time to respond.

          • Thanks, b23, for asking an interesting question that has given me a lot to think about. Though people have strong views, I think the discussion has been pretty even-handed. I love that we get sensitive about heel height and lace but can have a great discussion about American exceptionalism without resorting to name-calling (mostly!).

          • Thanks, guys. I’ve really enjoyed this conversation and was a little hurt by Mouse’s comment, so I’m glad to hear y’all don’t necessarily agree with her.

          • My 2 cents… I didn’t know it was possible to have a conversation where you don’t respond with your points of view, isn’t that the whole premise behind asking a question… The subsequent discussion and collaboration with others and sharing of different POVs thereby learning things that you didn’t know prior to the discussion. That’s all I took from this thread and for what it’s worth that would be my thinking for why b23 was responding, to encourage discussion and open up different avenues of thought for the group which I appreciated.

          • @ b23, I thought it was a thoughtful discussion.

            FYI- It looks like whoever is running STFU C0rporette had the same criticism as Mouse.

            http://stfucorporette.tumblr.com/

            Kat, are you aware of this tumblr site dedicated to slamming your commenters?

          • My earlier comment is stuck in moderation, but to b23- I saw your original comment as intending to provoke a thoughtful discussion. FYI- whoever runs the tumblr STF[you] [this site name] blasted you for the same reason as Mouse. Kat, are you aware of this tumblr site that slams you and your commenters?

    • I have so many opinions on this, but i have a super crazy day, so I am going to abstain from this (lengthy) discussion… but you start the most interesting debates, b23! ;o)

    • I think this convo is winding down but I absolutely believe the US is the best country ever, in the history of the world–coming from a California liberal. I think the numbers ranking the US in terms of education, healthcare, etc. hide the fact that Americans are the best, kindest, most creative people.

      Yes, other countries have wonderful things about them and I hope we learn from them.

      Yes, we have issues. Manifest Destiny and Rugged Individualism have had their time. Dominionism is a tragedy. Do I think the US is “inherently” better than other countries? No. I think we are better because we try, we fail or succeed, we learn, and we move forward.

    • Yes, absolutely. There are very few countries in which the citizens enjoy the freedoms we have here.

    • I can’t think about American exceptionalism without remembering the quote, “God has a special providence for fools, drunks, and the United States of America.” ~Otto von Bismark (At least as attributed by the book Special Providence, which I read for a foreign policy class once upon a time.)

      There was a CNN article recently on this topic, pointing out that even in things you think of as bastions of Americanism like free speech/press, entrepreneurship, etc, the U.S. is no longer #1. But so many people still insist on the YAY US!! mindset, and I do find that troubling. We’re kind of insulated and navel-gazing, and the idea that other countries might have some good ideas doesn’t play well with a large portion of the electorate. Lots of other countries liberally borrowed from “our” ideas, but we, collectively, aren’t as ready to borrow from others because we like to do everything ourselves; I think that independent streak is making it difficult to stay ahead in a rapidly changing world.

      I’ve lived and traveled fairly extensively in Europe, and I think a lot of things about it are great. I also am really impressed from afar with some aspects of Asian nations. But even if the reality doesn’t line up so well anymore, the idealized vision of the United States and what it is *supposed* to stand for (freedom! democracy! opportunity for all!) is special and inspiring for a lot of people worldwide, and I love that best.

    • Divaliscious11 :

      I believe in American exceptionalism, I just don’t quite think I define it the way you do. I define it as the place where ANYONE can overcome obstacles and hurdles to be who they want to be and be successful by their own definition of success. That doesn’t mean it will be easy or even likely but it IS possible. I’ve traveled and spent lots of time in lots of countries, and I still see the kinds of social obstacles that can be overcome here. So yeah, if you have a dream, America is the best place in the world to try to pursue it. But woo, good golly, we still have our issues!

    • Anon in PNW :

      I cannot believe that an educated woman would actually say this.

      • Leslie Knope :

        Would you care to expand on that statement?

      • And to think, people stereotype the PNW as snobs!

      • @Anon in PNW – that’s a bit harsh but….

        I’m too lazy to google, but I think there have been a number of studies lately showing that social and economic mobility is better in places like Great Britain and some other Northern European countries than in the US. It’s harder and harder for ANYONE to overcome obstacles. I mean, my dad was able to work his way through college, I got through without loans because my parents, who earned a good living but were not wealthy, were willing and able to pay. Kids now, whose parents are of the same income level as my parents were, have insane amounts of loans, in my opinion, especially given their job prospects. These loans limit their ability (or willingness) to do things like buy a house or even a car, start their own business, and even in some cases marry and have children. I think this is a huge drain on our economy.

        I don’t know how to fix it. But I think there is a strain of “I’ve got mine, scr@w you!” rampant in American society today that makes me sad. I think if something like the space program or even the Manhattan Project was proposed now, many Congresspeople and Americans would be against it because they could not easily and immediately see what’s in it for them.

        • To be fair, where I live I don’t notice a strain of “I got mine, scr@w you!” What I notice is that successful people rely on private non-profits and privately-funded organizations to provide for those less fortunate, as opposed to simply relying on the government to provide.

          So, when people are against increasing social services from the national government, it’s not because they want those less fortunate to go hungry. It’s because they believe that it’s not the government’s place to provide those services in lieu of private charities, etc. Study after study of charitable giving demonstrates this: self-identified conservative people give to charity at a statistically higher rate than any other political persuasion. Just because people in American society don’t feel like it’s the national government’s place to provide healthcare, contraceptives, etc etc etc, doesn’t mean that those people are against it full stop.

      • Research, Not Law :

        FWIW, this wasn’t me. Although I do think the PNW is the best country in the world. It’s true that we’re snobs, but only because we’re better than the rest of you.

        Seriously, though, I think the USA is fantastic, but I don’t think it’s the best country in the world. It’s overly simplistic to label one country as “best.”

      • Divaliscious11 :

        I can’t tell if your comment was in response to mine, but being the best place to do X does not equal being the best place on earth, and I thought that was clear from my space. Their is a whole strata in Great Britain that one can’t break into, regardless of ones personal success, and sorry but social mobility in relatively homogenous nations is comparing apples to oranges. With all of our issues, the mobility, be it in fits and starts, over the time of our existence as a country is unmatched. And I say this as a woman of color whose grandparents weren’t allowed to vote until they were middle aged. You might want to get out your privilege. There are few places where EVERYONE has a shot, no matter how difficult.

        • karenpadi :

          Huh? What? “Their is a whole strata in Great Britain that one can’t break into, regardless of ones personal success.”

          Have you not seen the Royal Wedding staring Kate Middleton and Prince William (second in line for the throne)? Her parents were “common”.

          • Midwesterner :

            I’m super late to the conversation, but I have to disagree with your disagreement here. Kate Middleton was teased by William’s friends because her mom was a stewardess early in her career and her grandfather was a miner. The fact that a) they knew this as college kids and b) cared illustrates the degree of class snobbery in Great Britain.

          • Anne Shirley :

            I’ve seen the part where she has to curtsey to her tacky-hated cousins-in-law. I like to maintain this indignity is the only reason I haven’t married Harry :)

        • Contrary to popular belief, social mobility in many countries in Europe is higher than in the US. We lie to ourselves about the accessibility of the American dream — and it is becoming less attainable for those less fortunate.

          http://www.economist.com/node/15908469

    • Mitt Romney :

      I sure do! I also believe the Constitution was Divinely inspired!

      • Its stuff like this that makes me want to vote republican out of spite.

        (My disclaimer is if I lived where there are a lot of republicans I’m sure I would be feeling the opposite.)

    • Yes we are exceptional in being a civilized country with no respect for civil rights. We have 5% of the world’s population and 25% of the world’s prison population. Up until a few years ago, we executed the mentally retarded and juveniles. We are a police state.

    • I love my husband. I would do anything for him. I feel lucky to have married him, and I am proud of his accomplishments. I want him to succeed in life and if that means that I have to push him to do things differently, then I will push – because I know he can be extraordinary. If he falters, I’ll hold him accountable. I’ll even yell once in a while. And I’ll do my best to make sure that he is happy and responsible and successful and the best person he can be.

      Does that mean that my husband is the Best Husband? Nope. But he sure is the best for me. And that’s basically how I feel about America. Is America the Best Country? No. But that’s not even the relevant measure. I love my country; I’m proud of its successes (civil rights, Obamacare!) and I weep for its failings (income inequality, health care, the state of our infrastructure, the child poverty rate). I hold America accountable for its faults and failures, and I try to be a responsible, engaged citizen who helps to make it a better place. You don’t have to think that your country is the Best Country Ever to love it. Patriotism doesn’t meant that you don’t see faults and try to improve.

    • Equity's Darling :

      For so so many reasons, I would not willingly consider moving to the US from Canada- though if I was forced to move for some reason (pretty unlikely, since I was born here), the US would make the list of the next top 5 countries that I’d consider moving to.

      I love our universal health care, our relatively accessibly universities, social support systems, gun control, legalized gay marriage across the entire country, our significantly less divisive politics (though we are kind of apathetic about politics, which I don’t particularly like), our broadly more liberal and progressive attitudes (though not in my province usually), our lack of capital punishment, etc. These are all things that I value highly. Plus, on a more personal level, our legal system isn’t nearly as saturated, so job-wise I’m way better off.

      I can say that I do think highly of the US in many ways (in other ways…not so much). I thoroughly enjoy visiting the US, and when it comes to cheering on the athletes, when Canada fails to qualify, the US one of the countries I’m most likely to cheer for, but I personally would not classify it as the best country in the world, at least not for me.

      So, yeah, as an outsider vote, I would not classify the US as the best country. A great country, with many exceptional characteristics, yes. But the best? Nope.

      • [Emerges from woodwork waving a Canadian flag to high-5 ED.]

      • Mousekeeper :

        Now if only Canada wasn’t so god awful cold . . .

      • Anon in Canada :

        What she said.

        FWIW, I was born and raised in the States, moved to Canada at 21 and obtained dual citizenship this past March. Until the US healthcare system gets well and truly socialized, you could not pay me to move back.

        (Also, Canada’s mosaic > the States’ melting pot.)

      • Aussie lurker :

        As patriotism can lead to jingoism and mateship can lead to cronyism, This conversation is indeed thought provoking.

        I’m in Australia and agree entirely with Equity’s Darling points.
        Both Canada and Australia, and likely Norway, Sweden and Switzerland among others, I believe, are far better countries for Women, in comparison to America.

        And to Mousekeeper – You’d love Australia- I’m in the depths of Winter now and it’s a balmy 18 degrees, not sure what that is in your funny measurements ;-) but it sure is nice!

  2. Sadly outside of this actual [grad]schoolgirl’s price range but I do love it.

    • I need another a Raise to buy this! The Manageing partner said my raise is effective tomorrow, but I already budgetted that in. FOOEY! I need another one fast!

      I am workeing my tuchus off on my new Cleints’ cases and need to look profesional when I go to court. Jim says that means MORE conservative clotheing and NO open toe shoe’s. FOOEY!

      I told this to the Manageing partner and he said he will see what he can do. Yay !

  3. Who is your daddy and what does he do?

  4. Does anyone have recommendations for smaller (in length) belts meant to be worn at the waist? It seems like most of the belts I find are made for the hips. I’ve considered punching extra holes in the larger belts, but then the tail would be disproportionately long. Thanks!

    • Cornellian :

      I have had good luck with J Crew’s small size patent leather belts, but i’m not particularly small. maybe a 27 or 28 inch waist…

    • I am not particularly small but I’ve lost some weight recently and have a few M/L belts which need extra holes if I want to wear them at my waist. I’ve been trying to charm the porter in to doing them for me but no luck so far.

    • momentsofabsurdity :

      I have a really small waist and I like skinny belts, and the only solution I’ve found for this is woven belts where you can put the hole anywhere you please. If you do punch extra holes and the tail is long, you can tie a belt knot like this

      http://www.cuteandlittle.com/2011/06/tutorial-double-loop-belt-knot.html

      But I’ve found that doesn’t look as good with patent belts (and if it’s lower quality, can damage the belt). Does look great with matte belts though.

    • Check out extrapetite – she shows ways to use a hip-length belt as a waist belt by tucking in the extra “tail” in cute ways.

    • Senior Attorney :

      If the tail isn’t too TOO long, you can use some fashion tape to stick it to the rest of the belt so it won’t flop around all day. I’ve had reasonable success with that.

    • You can shorten a lot of belts as well. On woven belts, pry the metal end cap thingy loose carefully, cut to desired length, refasten end thingy. You can cut the extra tail off leather belts too. If you want the tail to be hole-free, either start with a really long belt or take it to a shoe repair store and let them shorten it on the buckle side (by removing the buckle and then reattaching it at the right length.
      Or check the children’s department for shorter belts (boys dep. is probably best for formal looks).

  5. This sheath dress isn’t for me, but it struck my attention due to the great price tag ($69) and the fact that it looks super-flattering due to the side panels. And! it comes in beautiful blue and raspberry colors. Thought I would post here in case someone else finds it intriguing. It is the Tinely Road Colorblock Ponte Dress (I’m linking to Piperlime in a comment).

  6. Over the last six years, I’ve had five different jobs, mainly due to family relocations. Despite the different jobs, I have no gaps in my resume. I was thinking of removing one of the jobs, a 3 month consulting contract assignment at a well-known organization, from my resume and linkedin profile to make my job history look less inconsistent. But that will leave a 3 month gap in my resume. Which is worse: job-hopping or gap in resume?

    • a gap is worse.

    • Gooseberry :

      I think a gap is worse for two reasons. 1 – some people just look for gaps as an initial sweep. Weird, but true. If you don’t actually have a gap — might as well not leave one for them to find. 2 – a gap calls into question why you left the pre-gap position. Not having a gap causes a less questioning, I think (i.e., people are less likely to hone in on any particular position and wonder if you left for performance, etc, but if there is a gap, they may).

    • In this situation a gap looks bad because you didn’t actually have one and the 3month consulting job is easily explained.

    • A gap–unless it’s explained by a medical issue or caring for family. Most employers understand having to take a short-term job that is less than ideal to pay the bills. If they don’t, you don’t want to work for them.

  7. Sing Along :

    This seems like a ridiculous post because it so shows that I really don’t have problems in life. But, I can’t figure out what to do and am hoping objective parties can help me.

    About a year ago, I started taking voice lessons to learn to sing better. I am a lawyer who has no desire to perform, but I want to be able to sing happy birthday and not have people wince. I don’t feel like I’m making progress—my teacher keeps making the same corrections, which says to me that I’m just not getting it. At my last lesson, I was in tears because I’m so frustrated. So now I’m trying to figure out whether this frustration is just part of learning to do something new, or should I just give up (recognize I’m never going to get the singing thing), or should I change teachers?

    I realize that almost everything I’ve done in my life I could measure—grades in school, improving my running speed or distance, etc. And now I’m faced with the “how do I know if I’m getting better because I can’t measure it” question. I can’t remember every quitting anything before in life (I’ve lost interest in things and stopped doing them, but not quit) and I’m a perfectionist who keeps going until I figure it out. But I don’t want to keep going if this road isn’t going anywhere. Advice?

    Yes, I realize that if this is the biggest problem in my life, my life is a cake walk.

    • I would change teachers. It doesn’t sound like she’s helping.

      • Agreed. I’m a singer and honestly, not all voice teachers are good at what they do. Find a new teacher who understands your objectives. Not knowing what your problems are exactly, I can’t say if it’s something that is more about physical ability (to match pitch, etc.) or really something that can be learned. But find a teacher who can help you explore that.

    • momentsofabsurdity :

      I would change teachers and I would start recording yourself every day so you can actually objectively look at whether you are making progress.

    • Change teachers. I took voice lessons, also for the heck of it once, and the first teacher was doing the same stuff with me without explaining much and without really helping me connect the dots on technique. She was also a b*tch (and yes, I call people that if that’s what they are. It is a matter of accuracy in word choice. Down with the thought-police and speech-police.)

      Changing teachers made all the difference.

      • You said it, honey! I had a horrible voice teacher in college – just an evil woman who was having an affair with the (married) chair of the dept. She told me that I’d never be any better than the best singer in my community choir. Given my aspirations, she was probably right – good thing I have a career I love and still have singing as a paid gig. I have come to call a certain type of voice teachers the “German mindf*ck school of vocal pedagogy.”

        • Wow, what a nasty piece of work.

          Mine was a yeller (isn’t that supposed to be bad for the voice?) And if I didn’t sing something properly she’d yell at me, but never explain the actual mechanics of what I had to do to get it right. She’d bark, “AGAIN, do it AGAIN until you get it right. Are you stupid?!!”

          Foolish me for doing 3 lessons with her, I should have left after the first one. Although she hid her fangs and claws well enough on the first lesson, and I made excuses for her on the second (“oh, she must be having a bad day….”)

          A friend of mine took lessons with this wackadoo @sshole who’d throw the score at his students and launch into tirades about how this generation of singers was all crap and that we as a civilization were doomed.

        • My high school chorus teacher, after not casting me in a major role for the last musical my senior year, and hearing through the grapevine that I was upset about it, sat 17 year old me down to tell me: “Honey, don’t beat yourself up for the fact that you don’t have a good voice. You are good at stuff *behind* the scenes!” … that was awesome…

    • Sing Along :

      Thanks, guys. I really like my teacher (personally) and so I don’t want to leave him. But it sounds like its time.

      • By the way, I think what you’re doing is really cool!

        • Sing Along :

          Thank you! I feel so discouraged right now. I really appreciate your encouragement. And I’ve just emailed a friend who sings to see if she has a rec for a new teacher.

      • Gooseberry :

        Where are you? I have a suggestion, but obviously depends on geography!

        • Sing Along :

          Dallas.

          • SMU?

          • I can also recommend a good voice teacher, and she is willing to work with people who want much more basic skills if you decide you do want to change teachers.

            As much as you like your teacher personally, he may not be a match for your goals. I stayed with the same teacher for about 5 years, and finally, she told me that she couldn’t help me anymore. It wasn’t that we had issues, it’s just that I reached a plateau, and more lessons from the same person wouldn’t help me crash the plateau. It’s like working out, in a way. It’s not that your same running distance or weights are bad, but if you don’t change it up, you won’t grow.

            I would ask the teacher for more specific feedback on how things should feel, and I would also sing in front of a mirror. For example, my teacher kept telling me to drop my jaw, I kept feeling like I was dropping my jaw… then she made me stand in front of the mirror to sing, and I realized what she meant about dropping my jaw! Anyways, there are a lot of things that can help, and sometimes having a fresh perspective might help you improve.

    • As a former semi-professional singer who’s taken years of voice lessons, I can make a couple suggestions. First, frankly, not everyone can sing. If people really wince when you sing happy birthday, you may be tone deaf (which means you’re unable to distinguish between musical notes). This is not a learned behavior and you cannot “fix” it. So it’s entirely possible that your voice teacher is taking your money when she knows perfectly well that you are not capable of becoming a good singer.

      Assuming you’re not tone deaf, voice lessons are generally not intended to teach people how to sing at such a basic level. All of the voice lessons I ever took focused on breath control, vocal exercises to expand or maintain my singing range, etc. Most people who take voice lessons already are good singers in terms of hitting the right notes and having a pleasant-sounding voice. So your voice teacher may not be prepared to teach at a beginning level.

      Finally, you may have improved and you just aren’t aware of it. Have you been recording yourself? Do you sing for others and get their assessment of your abilities?

      At any rate, I agree you should change teachers. Either she’s not honest or she’s just not good at her job.

      • I disagree. I took voice lessons for awhile to help me at really a basic level. I come from a family of musicians (including several singers) and really did not inherit the talent. My ability to match pitch isn’t good and I have a unique quality (almost no vibrato so I sound more like a boy soprano than a woman). I also have trouble hearing my line amidst several other voice parts and my sense of rhthym is less than stellar (I know, I know, it’s awful). My voice teacher helped me learn to place the sound to get a much better quality, which also helped bring up the pitch. He also gave me some tricks to learn tempo better and helped me practice singing my own line admist other harmonies. I know my parents thought I was hopeless and that music is a gift you either have or you don’t. I think many gifted artists think this and as someone with almost no artistic gifts (my mother is also an illustrator and completely dispairs of my abilities despite years and years of intensive art classes) I think most art forms can be learned at a technical level. With voice, you can’t go buy a new instrument if yours isn’t the best quality. But I do think you can learn to use it to its fullest. I’ll never be a great singer, but I sing well enough to be in a community chorus or to sing while I do housework without hurting anyone’s ears (my husband, bless him, thinks my voice is lovely).

        • I agree with this. I don’t have a great ear but I do have a generally pleasant voice, good rhythm, etc. Good directors greatly improved my ability to match pitch, and learning proper breathing and vowel sounds, etc. really helped my singing as well. Plus all that practice really improved my range. If you feel like you’re not making progress, change teachers. I will always struggle with certain things related to not having a great ear (I’m just never going to pick out a harmony on my own, someone needs to sing it to me or write down the notes for me to look at), but the quality of my voice was greatly improved with good instruction.

        • Blonde Lawyer :

          Glad to read this. I’ve been in choirs my whole life and told I have a “beautiful voice” . . . so long as one other person is on my part with me. Try to get me to sing solo or be the only alto in a quartet, I crash and burn. I even have trouble with karaoke if the background music doesn’t match my part. I enjoyed “practicing” with wii rock back and got a little better. I still have some fear of missing my note and once I do I can’t get back on track easily. I’m thinking of taking voice lessons and your experience tells me they might actually be able to work with me!

      • Sing Along :

        Thank you all for telling your stories of improvement. Hopefully I too will get there. If I don’t see progress with the next teacher, I’ll probably throw in the towel and accept that I love to sing in the car (alone) and that’s good enough.

    • Anita (formerly S) :

      Not everyone can sing in tune. You may be inherently unable to hear the difference between notes and no amount of training will ever change that. Your voice teacher should have told you this up front. It’s telling that the things you list at having achieved through hard work are mainly those that can actually be accomplished through “practice makes perfect.” You must know that certain abilities are not like that.

      • Cornellian :

        This is fascinating. I’ve been playign with the idea of getting some sort of voice lessons. I’ve recently realized that I sort of want to be able to play instruments and sing with friends. I can read music and play a few instruments basically, but singing would be cool. I played around a few weeks ago with a friend of mine who’s a voice teacher ( think she has an MFA), and her (allegedly) honest evaluation was that I can carry a tune, am on the lower end of the alto spectrum in choral music, and might benefit from lessons. Anyone have any NYC recommendations? I’d be interested in finding someone with a flexible (nights/weekends/early AM) schedule.

        • e_pontellier :

          One of my best friends is an incredibly talented singer (lives in NYC), but she has a day job (i.e., something other than singing). I can ask if she has ever given voice lessons.

        • K...in transition :

          one of the best I know does skype sessions from NYC and has attended AMDA and New School… her name is Julia Osen Averill. Look her up, I think her website has her own vocal performance videos as well as her contact info :)

    • Senior Attorney :

      I can’t really comment on what you should do, but I will commiserate a little. I started taking tap dancing lessons a few years ago, and oh my lord! My tapping talents are modest in the extreme! And I am such a slow learner because I am a words-on-the-page girl and that’s not how dance instruction works, obviously. I get horribly frustrated because I can’t just pick it up quickly, and because I am obviously the worst dancer in my small class of three, and because normally if I’m not great at something, I just quit.

      That said, I really love it and I have decided to consider my tap lessons the Weekly Humility Sessions. I figure it’s probably healthy to be doing something that doesn’t come easily and quickly. And looking at the video of our recent recital, I can tell that I have come a long way.

      Sorry for the ramble, but this is a subject of intense interest to me and I hope maybe it’s a little helpful to you! Good luck with the singing!

    • Anonymous :

      Just wanted to say that I’m so glad someone else feels this way and is taking lessons. I’ve thought of doing it many times and now maybe I will.

  8. Ms. Basil E. Frankweiler :

    Got my DP order and wanted to report back. I ended up with the raspberry peplum dress, a faux wrap dress, a nice t-shirt (no longer available), and a three pack of belts.

    The peplum dress: The fabric is an amazing ponte knit type. The color is a little pinker than a true raspberry, but still gorgeous. The website said the length was 104 cm, I am 5’9″ and the dress stops at the bottom of my knees, but still high enough that it doesn’t become dumpy. Really stretchy, I probably could have gone down a size.

    Can any seamstresses tell me if this dress could be altered fairly easily?

    The faux wrap dress: More of a true raspberry color. Really nice high neckline; this is the one thing I was worried about because on the mannequin it looked a little revealing. But I am a DD and there was little to no cleavage depending on what angle you’re looking from. I think this one will be good with a sweater and belt over it or a tissue turtleneck under in the winter. Comes down to the top 1/3 of my kneecap. (I’ve posted another color since the raspberry is no longer available).

    The fancy t-shirt was nice, but a bit shorter than I was expecting. But I just need to wear it with high waist items. I’d rather make it work than pay to return.

    Belts: The belts were really big, I got an XL, but probably could have sized down to a medium since I want them to go around my waist. But not I can do the loop thing that I’ve always wanted to try.

    Links to follow. Hope this help!

  9. Good morning, ladies. I am simultaneously trying to be positive and optimistic while bracing for impact as my new boss starts tomorrow. I am tired from our huge summer project that ended last week (well, it hasn’t really ended) and he has taken a few months off before starting and I am worried that I will be exhausted and overwhelmed even before school starts. But still, trying to keep the faith that it’s going to be great. So please send me some good vibes!

    On a completely different note, we are throwing a wedding shower at work (very informal, just dessert and presents after our big all-organization meeting) for one of my staff who will be married up north in the fall. I’m supposed to bring a dessert and I’m thinking about a tart with a chocolate cookie or graham crust. I’ve been making a lemon blueberry no-bake tart that I love but blueberries are now out of season here, so I was thinking about peanut butter or caramel or something else. Any ideas?

    • Good luck! Those transitions can be so tricky. Can you take a day off or run out a bit early, to give yourself some breathing time before the new boss?

      I’ve made these cheesecake brownies for work before and they are always a huge hit (you can use frozen raspberries): http://www.kayotic.nl/blog/raspberry-cheesecake-brownies

    • Good luck! Here’s hoping the new boss will not throw a monkey-wrench into the works.
      >>> Good vibes in your direction >>>>

      A tart with either a chocolate cookie or graham crust sounds wonderful, just delightful.

      I’m also partial to shortbread crusts, and will really eat just about any cake or pie, but that’s just decadent ol’ me. :-) Really awesome that you’re doing a wedding shower for a colleague.

      • Thanks! She’s really awesome and has been killing herself this summer on this project. We never could have pulled it off without her. Everybody wanted to do something special for her and, since we can’t go to her wedding, it seemed like the next best thing. And my new boss is bringing a dessert!

    • Can you sub in another fruit that is in season by you? The tart sounds fantastic. As much as I like fruit, a chocolate cookie crust with caramel would be heavenly.

      • I thought of that but couldn’t figure out what it would be. The fruit season here is so early. With the no-bake tart, I just make a lemon filling with gelatin and sprinkle fresh blueberries on top. It’s very popular with my colleagues!

        • Cherries? Blackberries or raspberries?

        • I picked up some crystallized ginger chips and have been using them in my lemon yogurt bread instead of poppy seeds or blueberries, it’s a nice flavor combination. Does that appeal at all?

          • I would consider peaches and ginger (a combination I like) but I have not been able to get peaches to ripen without rotting. My kitchen is warm (air flow and too far away from my big air conditioner in an old house) so I think that’s the problem. I’m wondering if I should start putting them in a basket on my diningroom table.

    • No bake nutella cheesecake. Epic and easy.

    • Anything from SmittenKitchen’s archive – she is my go to gal for baking. (Please make the bourbon peach handpies.)

      Along with Susan, I love me some shortbread crust.

    • NotYourKindofGirl :

      Speaking of smitten kitchen, I made her triple berry summer buttermilk bundt cake a couple of weeks ago. It was absolutely gorgeous – like stained-glass berries, suspended in cake, if that makes any sense – and really delicious. I used four cups of berries (roughly chopped strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries), and I would suggest you skip the glaze (it hides the pretty berries and is too sweet. It would be absolutely perfect for a shower!

    • phew, here’s hoping things go well with the new boss!!! {{{Good vibes}}}}

    • Mousekeeper :

      Here’s a no-bake dessert idea that I received raves and requests for the recipe (from the internet) – panna cotta, which is basically cream and sugar and vanilla blended with gelatin (I’m summarizing). There are scads of recipes for different variations on it, but I picked the one with light cream and it was heavenly. I don’t recommend using any lighter than that or it will taste bland. You chill it in a mold and then put just fruit or fruit with a sauce on the top. So easy.

    • I think the solution is to make two! :)

  10. I’d like to start adding to my fall wardrobe but I am on a limited budget..when is the best time to buy fall items? August?

    • momentsofabsurdity :

      No definitely not. August is when most retailers introduce their fall collections, so everything is at full price and very little is on sale. Most retailers start putting out their first fall sales in October/November, if you can wait that long, but really the *best* time (price wise) to buy fall clothing is when retailers introduce their spring/summer collections in February or so.

  11. I had a professor and a former supervisor at a job write letters of recommendation for me for state appellate level judicial clerkships. The applications have been submitted and interviews will be in the next couple of months.
    I’m wondering about timing of thank you notes, and if I should do anything else. I don’t need to send a small gift do I? Should I send a thank you note now, since I know they sent the letters in last week, or wait until I actually go through interviews even though I may know nothing until November?

  12. Vara Shoe Question :

    Too late for the shoe discussion yesterday, but does anyone have any comments (good / bad) on the Farragamo Vara shoes? They have a low and chunky heel, which my feet tend to adore. And I’m feeling a bit spendy (will *finally* pay off school soon). Worth it? Have been debating this purchase for a long time, but haven’t met anyone who actually has a pair (but I work mainly w/ men).

    • I think they’re a classic, although not flattering with my height (5’4). I instead bought the Carla (I think) style a few years ago, which has a slightly higher heel that’s a stiletto shape, and have been very happy with comfort level and how much use I’m getting out of them. Check reviews for sizing; I sized up 1/2 a size for the Carlas, although they have stretched some with wear.

    • a passion for fashion :

      I cant speak to that shoe, but i own a few pairs (and just bought one last week that im wearing today) and they are all swome of the most comfortable shoes i own. They can run a little narrow, though that actually seems to be an issue if they come from the outlet (like maybe they are actually mismarked, which is why they are at the outlet) because my most recent pair is from Nordstrom and it fits like a glove. Love, love them.

  13. Suggestions for Istanbul?  DH and I will be there for 2 1/2 days and 3 nights in October. (Short visit because it is a layover on the way home from visiting family in the Middle East.)

    * suggestions for hotels in the Sultanahmet?  I would like to stay at the Four Seasons, but it is US$700/night!

    * suggestions for evening plans?  (We are not nightclubbers.)
    N
    * ideas for daytime sightseeing in addition to:

    – Blue Mosque
    – Hagia Sophia
    – Grand Bazaar (several hours, especially the jewelry wing)
    – Bosporus boat tour (if time permits)
    – Tiled Mosque (if time permits)

    * suggestions for Istanbul-themed fiction to get us in the mood?

    TIA!

    • Jacqueline :

      I posted a long response to someone’s Istanbul questions a few months ago — maybe you can find it by searching the archives. But quickly, Hotel Amira in Sultanahmet is incredible, and I highly recommend it! The staff is warm and kind, the Turkish breakfasts were superb, and the rooms were immaculate and adorable.

      For sightseeing, don’t forget Topkapi Palace, especially the harem and the internal museums, which are full of dazzling scepters and jewels.

      A few more:
      *The Istanbul Archeological Museum next door to Topkapi is also cool if you’re interested in ancient history — you can see Alexander the Great’s sarcophagus, among other outlandish tombs.

      *Definitely do a Bosphorus boat cruise — they’re only 1.5 hours, and they’re well worth the chance to see the seaside towns and get a glimpse of Istanbul from the water.

      *The Istanbul Modern is a very manageable museum with gorgeous art that you can easily see in 1-2 hours.

      Have a wonderful trip!

      • Now that you mention it, I recall that post. I will go find it.

        The Amira Hotel is fantastic. It looks great, and the location is incredible. How is it possible that a standard room is only US$122/night?!

        Thank you!

    • If there’s any chance you can afford to splurge on the Four Seasons Sultanahmet, it’s worth it! We stayed there for a couple of nights a few years ago, and it really is wonderful. But definitely agree on finding a place to stay in Sultanahmet — we loved being able to walk to most of the attractions.
      You MUST go to Topkapi Palace. It doesn’t actually take very long to do the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia, so you can do them all in one day together with Topkapi Palace.
      Also, if you don’t mind a long-ish walk, here’s a great one: from Sultanahmet, walk across the Galata Bridge (fabulous views from the bridge looking back towards Sultanahmet) to the Karakoy district. Go up the Galata Tower (even more fabulous views, and don’t worry, you go most of the way up on an elevator, it’s just the last few flights that are stairs), then reward yourself with what many believe is the best baklava in Istabul at Gulluoglu (also in Karakoy, near where the cruise ships dock). Walk back across the Galata Bridge, and do the Spice Market, which is just at the end of the bridge on the Sultanahmet side. I actually enjoyed the Spice Market more than the Grand Bazaar, which I found interesting at first and then quickly overwhelming.

    • If you are into fastasy, Guy Gavriel Kay’s books Sailing to Sarantium and Lord of Emperors are excellent. They take place in an alternate historical Istanbul during the time of Justinian.
      In addition to your list, we really liked the basilica cisterns, the national history museum (ruins upon ruins!) and Topkapi palace.
      I can’t recommend any hotels because we stayed at a very tiny, very cheap place and it doesn’t sound like that is what your are looking for.
      Turkish breakfasts are excellent, we would gorge for breakfast and barely need to snack for lunches.

      • I must add, one of my favorite memories of my trip was the hour I spent by myself at the little outdoor tea/pastry vendor in the park right below Topkapi palace, on the cliff overlooking the water. I was about the only foreigner there and had a great time, leisurely drinking my tea and watching the boats go by.

    • Here are some more suggestions :
      Evening : have dinner and stroll around the Asmalimescit area (southern tip of Galata, easy to reach from Sultanahmet on tram then funicular). Not nightclubby, just a series of cute alleys with folks meeting, eating and drinking with friends.
      Daytime : the cistern museum (it’s underground with entrance more or less across the road from Blue Mosque/ Hagia Sophia), the Suleimaniye mosque complex recently and stunningly restored, definitely the Bosphorus cruise.
      My own 2 cents would be to skip the several hours in Grand Bazaar and go up the Bosphorus instead – perhaps try to do jewelry shopping in your mid-east destination (esp if you have family who can take you to their regular goldsmith) ? Some nice spots to hop off and explore the neighbourhood : Arnavutkoy, Bebek, Kanlica, Kadikoy. These used to be villages on the Bosphorus and are now suburbs of greater Istanbul. All have their own vibe.
      Getting in the mood : Orhan Pamuk’s Istanbul memoir, his Ottoman murder mystery ‘My Name is Red’ and for fun, the Istanbul-set Bond film ‘From Russia with Love’

    • For fiction, I recommend Birds Without Wings by Louis de Bernieres.

    • I recommend the Hotel Grand Peninsula. It is more of an upscale guest house than a hotel (~$40/night). It’s cute, clean, includes a traditional Turkish breakfast buffet, the owners are really helpful, and it’s less than a 10 minute walk from the Blue Mosque.

      I also second Topkapi Palace… it’s amazing. Also agree that you should try to make time for a Bosphorus boat ride, even if you only take a commuter ferry across the straight to the Asian side, hope off, walk around some of the Asian neighborhoods for a few hours, then ferry back to the European side.

      Also, don’t miss the spice market! You might accidentally meander your way there from the Grand Bazaar, but definitely make a point to find it. There are huge bins of spices, dried fruits, etc.

      In the evening, a lot of people relax and people watch in front of the Blue Mosque (there are tons of benches), and buy tea and foods from vendors. Otherwise, you can check out a tea shop or hookah if that interests you.

      Don’t forget to eat a lot of baklava too!!

    • My husband is from Istanbul, so I have little experience with hotels because we usually stay with family. But my parents once stayed at the Crown Plaza and we’re very happy with it. It’s a little further away, past the Grand Bazaar and near the University, but was still fairly convenient because it’s right on the streetcar line.

      I agree with whoever said not to spend too much time at the Grand Bazaar, it’s mostly touristy junk nowadays. The architecture is beautiful, but the spice market is much more fun. The basilica cisterns are a must, and they’re very close to Aya Sofia, the Blue Mosque, and Topkapi Palace (all within about 5 minutes of each other).

      As far as things to do that haven’t already been mentioned, the Prince’s Islands are a great day trip. They are in the middle of the Marmara Sea, about 30-45 minutes by ferry. Buyukada is the largest (literally “big island”) and Burgaz ada is also very beautiful. There are many old-style Ottoman homes and very few cars are permitted (basically emergency and utility vehicles) so people travel by bicycle or horse and carriage. If you are feeling adventurous, you can climb along a dirt road to the top of Buyukada, where there is an old complex called the Monastery of St. George, a pretty decent restaurant, and unbelievable views of the city and the surrounding islands. The only downside of the islands is that it really does take most of the day, so I’m not sure if you’d want to go on such a short stay there.

      One of my other very favorite things about Turkey is that they love their desserts. There’s a fabulous profiteroles shop partway down the Istiklal Caddesi, which is a street lined with all sorts of shops that runs down the hill from Taksim Square. There are stores that sell twenty-some different kinds of baklava. There is a chain called Mado, which you’ll probably see everywhere, and they consistently have wonderful desserts. Nom nom nom.

      Also, consider doing a Turkish bath (hamam). If you’re shy, bring along a bathing suit, they are used to it, but it’s a better experience if you just let it all hang out, haha. Cemberlitas Hamami was built in the 1580s by the famous architect Sinan (you’ll see his buildings all over the city) and is very well-run. It has separate sides for men and women, but afterward you can hang out in the central lounge and drink fresh-squeezed pomegranite juice…best stuff on earth. IIRC, the hamam is open pretty late so it can be a nice thing to do in the evening, after a long day of sightseeing.

      Finally, if you like jazz, there is a jazz club at the top of the Galata Tower that is supposed to be very good. My hubby keeps promising to take me but we haven’t made it yet (well, he has been many times in the past), but it could be worth checking out for one of your evenings.

    • Dear All:

      Thank you for your wonderful and thoughtful comments. I have a lot of ideas now.

      @ Anon Whose Husband Is From Istanbul: do you mean the Nardis Jazz Club that is on the same street as Galata Tower? That is the only one I could find online. But if there is one on the top of the tower, I would definitely prefer to go there.

      Thanks.

  14. My husband is taking me to dinner at an upscale historic hotel in that is located in a summer resport town. I have no idea what to wear. I imagine it wouldn’t be the same thing I would wear to a nice dinner in NYC so I don’t want to feel out of place. Ladies are required to wear either a pantsuit or dress. I imagine a skirt would be acceptable too.

    Suggestions??

  15. Styling help please! :

    I’m considering buying the Trellis Lace Pencil Skirt from Talbots in the Melon Ball color (looks like a softer lime green – link to follow), but I’m having trouble thinking of enough outfits to wear it with to justify the purchase. (I’m buying either this skirt or another one I’m looking at, and the winner will be whichever one is more versatile.)

    I know some of the colors that will look good (navy, white, pink), but I’m not sure what kind of tops to wear with a skirt with this kind of texture – nice t-shirts seem off, but anything with embellishment seems to compete with the skirt lace. Any ideas? Thanks!

    • Styling help please! :

      Here is the link – the color is the “Melon Ball” green: http://www.talbots.com/online/browse/product_details.jsp?rootCategory=cat70010&id=prdi28854

    • Button-downs, if you can do it. Or blouse-type shirts – I know there are conflicting opinions about sheerness and floppy bows, but I like the drapey-ness of these kinds of shirts. I’d also pair this skirt with cardigans or sweaters that are relatively thin/non-bulky and smooth. I think the key is to keep the top feminine and not too bulky or overdone.

      I think this is a beautiful skirt and will look fabulous with the colors you mentioned (especially navy!) and also maybe black and white prints (I think there’s conflict on whether those look dated or not, but I think there are some nice modern ones out there), maybe some grays? Maybe purple to be really daring – although when you think about, purple + green = iris, so if it’s seen in nature, it can’t be that clashy! I’m kind of cheap, so my suggestions will reflect this, but I’d take a look at places like Limited, NY&Co, Dorothy Perkins, maybe even ModCloth to find some feminine tops in colors that would go with the green.

  16. I have a very similar skirt, in cream, from Macy’s. Honestly, I’m not sure that I love the Melon Ball color. I don’t hate it, but I do see why you’re having a hard time figuring out what to wear with it. With the cream colored skirt that I have, I usually wear a lightweight knit silk sweater or twin set (in a light beige color, that matches a pair of open-toed pumps). The silk knit looks polished and put together, while still letting the skirt be the focus of the outfit.

  17. "Allergies" PSA :

    Update for Godzilla

    I saw the ENT yesterday after finishing my 24-day medication regimen. He scoped me and performed a CAT scan. He reported that whereas my sinus cavities had been 100% occluded before the regimen, they were now about 80% occluded. He gave me three options:

    1. Start allergy testing and treatment/shots on the off chance this was caused by an allergy I don’t know I have. 50% chance of success after 3 years. If it hasn’t worked by then, it will be too late to save my sense of smell by other means. I eliminated this option.

    2. Perform the surgical procedure now.

    3. Try another similar round of medication (oral Prednisone, strong oral antibiotics and Pulmicort spray) for 30 days and reassess at that time.

    Because he said there is no risk to taking the meds for another month or to waiting a few months to do the procedure (which I have decided I will do if the meds don’t work), I started another round of meds yesterday. 12 days of Prednisone (starting at 60 mg and tapering to 10 — I can already smell a little bit) and 30 days of antibiotics and Pumicort.

    My next appointment is August 30.

    How goes the war on your front?

    • Sending you wishes to get well.
      Big hugs and good luck on the second round of meds

    • Hey, I was wondering how you were doing. Here are my opinions on your 3 options:

      1. This is stupid. Allergy shots are custom-made for each person, depending on what he or she is allergic to. They keep on injecting you with your allergens until your body stops reacting to it. You can do an allergy test anyway, it’ll just make you itchy for 30 min if you *do* wind up having allergies. But what if you don’t? That doesn’t really help the fact that you have a problem NOW. But it may not be a bad idea to find out if allergies are what caused this in the first place.

      2. That sounds scary but at least you have option 3.

      3. This is what I would’ve picked also. In one month, tho, you’re going to have to decide what the threshold is for surgery time. So you might want to think about that.

      Me? I’m taking steroids, too, the 6-day thing. Almost done with that. I’m still dealing with the constant sinus pain and watery/itchy eyes (I literally had tears rolling down my face at one point today, at work, and I was not crying). Combining that with being useless without a vision aid, I’m considering laser eye surgery because I cannot handle contact lenses or eyeglasses. My appointment is Aug 8 with the allergist. I may have to do more imaging and than based on that, I’ll find out if I get to hook up with an ENT surgeon.So it looks like you and me are approaching this from opposite ends. Good luck =).

      • "Allergies" PSA :

        You know that yours is caused by allergies, right? In that case, it makes sense to be addressing the cause directly.

        Is the laser something that you would do anyway, even if your eyes weren’t running because of the allergies/sinus issue? I briefly considered laser a few years ago and was relieved when the opthalmologist said that because of my vision I wasn’t a candidate because, frankly, I was a coward about it.

        Please share after your appointment on the 8th.

        Good luck.

  18. anon in NC :

    Fashion TJ – I am supposed to pick a Tory Burch tote and other items this afternoon but first would like the opinion of the hive on the Tory Burch brand, (quality, reputation, and yes perception). I am considering purchasing a work tote, small handbag clutch, and a wallet but am having second thoughts because I am not all that familiar with the brand? Any advise is appreciated, I do not want to spend the dollars without doing the research. I am in law and in a fairly senior position – not sure if that will make a difference. Thank you!

    • I had a Tory Burch tote and the color on the gold trim wore off. It was a year old and only used it moderately. Not impressed with that handbag. I have some TB sunglasses and they are fine, nothing special.

      • anon in NC :

        Thank you, they told me that after a year there do not honor any repairs etc that they are limited in what they will do for customers since they are smaller.

        • I have a Tory Jaden tote and after about 2 months of limited use the color on the leather rubbed off on the handles. I sent it to customer service to be repaired and it came back in worse shape than when I sent it in. They did not do a nice job repairing the leather and there where tears in the leather on other parts of the bag that were not there before. I called to complain and the person I delt with was not helpful and in the end they offered to give me a $150 gift card if I returned the bag to them. I paid $400 for the bag originally. They would not offer to replace.

          Because of my experience I wouldn’t recommend a Tory. There are other bags that are higher quality at the same price point.

    • I splurged (for me) on a Tory Burch handbag last year, I think it was a “floor model” so I got a good deal off eBay, in a gorgeous bright yellow color and classic shape. I get more compliments on that purse than on any other purse I own. IOW, the shape, color, and brand are very well-received. Quality-wise, I am having some issues with color transfer from my clothes to the back of the purse, and the Nordstrom purse repair shop was unable to fix that. But I suspect that is an issue for yellow leather, not a problem with Tory Burch’s quality. The only other thing worth mentioning is that I think the clasp on my purse is slightly off-kilter — it doesn’t line up easily and requires just a bit of tugging to get closed, which annoys me on a purse I spent so much on. That said, I do not regret the purchase at all and continue to window shop the brand.

    • e_pontellier :

      I *love* Tory Burch shoes, especially ones with an a-typical (for her) logo. They are good quality and comfy. I am saving up for a wallet and have seen a lot of women in NYC with her bags.

      As far as reputation, I find that most people feel positive toward her brand, except for people who consider themselves particularly fashionable (e.g., chanel handbag wearers).

    • Just curious, why does it have to be Tory Burch?

  19. Most inappropriate work comment of the day:

    My secretary comes up to me near the water cooler and asks, “Are you having a baby?” After several seconds of stunned silence, I ask, “Why do you ask that?” She responds, “Well, I saw in your calendar that you have so many hospital appointments and I figured that you were having a baby.” At which point I decide to tell the truth and admit that I am in fact 13 weeks pregnant (I was planning to announce at work next week).

    Who in the world asks such a thing? She doesn’t have the power to accept or decline appts on my behalf, so I’m not sure why she was even looking at my calendar (note to self: mark appts private). Way to out me at work!

    • Cornellian :

      inappropriate! wow. I’m going to go change all my zocdoc appointments to private, as well… although I’m not pregnant, and my secretary is lovely.

    • Private in Outlook :

      Something I noticed recently: when I add an entry to either my Outlook calendar or my Outlook contacts (both of which reside on my work computer and to which my assistant has access) on my iPad or iPhone, there is no option to mark the entry private. I have to remember to do it once I am officially in Outlook (either at the office or remotely on my laptop).

      Anyone notice this and have another solution?

    • Sydney Bristow :

      Weird, you’d think she would have asked you in private. It makes sense that she’d want to know Sknce she is your secretary, but I can’t imagine asking anyone that myself. Did you ask her not to tell anyone before you make the announcement yourself?

    • Ugh. I totally feel for you and am so sorry, because…WOW. I’ve been in similar positions before and it’s just so weird!

      Nothing more except sympathy from my corner. Depending on your relationship with your secretary, you could in fact ask her to meet about this with you — say that it really took you off guard, that you weren’t ready to discuss the pregnancy with anyone, and that in future you’d appreciate her discretion — but that of course she’d be among the first to know such important news when you’re ready to share it. Up to you if you want to go there or not. Some people are just so genuinely excited about babies being born that they can’t help themselves (a terrible excuse, I know!).

      • I would definitely ask her to use discretion in the future and remind her that the conversation could have been really awkward if you miscarried or if you weren’t pregnant.

    • Oh, I sympathize. Some people are just too nosy, combined with no sense of etiquette! A paralegal straight-up asked me in the bathroom if I was pregnant before I was ready to tell, and I had to fess up. I also did not appreciate that!

      • Thanks everyone. I did tell her to keep it confidential and she said that she would. She is part of a secretarial pool and I work with her the least, so it was particularly strange coming from her since I never work with her. But I know that she’s not malicious and seemed genuinely happy for me, so I’m just going to let it go. But yeah, it was strange. Fortunately I don’t think there was anyone close enough to hear our conversation.

        • oh lordy. Not to be a downer but by next week everyone will know your news.

          I used to work as a legal secretary and those women love, love, love to gossip. Especially about the attorneys.

    • Not to play I can top you, because that’s totally, miserable, but I can commiserate. I had a miscarriage and got some blood work at the hospital I work out. Two days later, two different people who shouldn’t have had access to my lab work asked MY HUSBAND if I was pregnant. He was furious and I was horrified. He made one of them cry when he pointed out to them that we hadn’t even told our parents that I had miscarried.

      Some people have no tact and I’m really not sure what there is to be done about that.

  20. Random –

    Does anyone have suggestions/feedback on a bluetooth headset? I work from home and I’m on my cell all day but I’d like to get something with more reliable clarity.

    • anon in NC :

      Jawbone – love them.

      • My husband has had two Jawbones for work and they have both broken in relatively short order. I don’t know what he has now, though.

        This very well could be a commentary on how rough my husband is on his gadgets (several car key fobs have gone through the washing machine and dryer and one Jawbone did, as well, although after it was broken) and not a commentary on the longevity.

      • academicsocialite :

        Not helpful, but our dog chewed my husband’s Jawbone as one of his first acts of destruction when we got him (he was a rescue). Apparently dogs gravitate towards objects that smell strongly of their owners, and headsets are in that category.

        I just joked that it was, after all, a ‘bone’ so the dog thought it was for him. My husband was less amused.

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