March 2008


Several weeks ago I did a post featuring some highlights of the Interests and Activities sections of the several hundred resumes I had received for intern positions. (Update: We did not hire the whittler, but we did hire the erstwhile racer. The beer snob turned us down.)

Two days after I posted the list, (of course), I got a resume with the most unbelievable Interests and Activities section I have ever seen. This candidate carefully listed his interests in “Paris in September, Ella, Aretha, fine German wristwatches, golden retrievers, and bespoke.”

I mean honestly. Paris in September? Fine German wristwatches? Bespoke? Did he include that just to show off his vocabulary? I was pretty sure I knew what it meant, but I had to look it up to double check. (adj: (of clothes) made to individual order; custom-made.)

In addition to being insufferable on paper, this candidate was also very qualified, so we interviewed and then actually hired him. I absolutely cannot wait to see his wardrobe.

I am fascinated by this idea of bespoke. It makes sense, I suppose, in a culture where it’s totally normal for there to be 87000 possible variations on a coffee beverage, for people to like things just the way they want them, and to be willing to pay a premium for super-custom items. Is this idea of bespoke really catching on? Let’s take a little tour of bespoke on the internet, shall we?

Of course there are clothes (if it’s good enough for Deion Sanders, it’s good enough for me):

You can get a bespoke gift basket (though this one seems a little obvious- people expect to be able to customize corporate gift baskets, don’t they?)

You can schedule a bespoke cooking party, where you get to choose the food you and your friends will make in the caterer’s kitchen for $100 a person:

Rolls Royce offers a Bespoke programme, (“a service designed to help our customers realize the particular vision they have for their Rolls Royce”):

When in Paris, it’s apparently trendy to get yourself some bespoke perfume (and for a mere 30,000 Euro they’ll guarantee that no one else can ever use your formula):

But my personal favorite has to be this one: bespoke chocolates. The master chocolatier will help you design a bespoke chocolate portfolio, using a series of interviews to learn your tastes, the sending of some samples, and finally, a collection of 120 chocolates presented in a hand-made custom wooden box.

Note: my birthday is in May. For anyone looking for that perfect gift, $2400 seems like a reasonable price tag for 120 pieces of custom-designed chocolate, no?

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I know that I say this every year, but this year I really mean it: enough, winter.  Enough.  Give it a rest.

Snow?  TWICE in the last week of March?  It’s just unnecessary.  I don’t need Spring, even, just lay off the sloppy frozen stuff.  I would like to send my pants to the dry cleaners to clean the speckles of salt on their cuffs off once and for all, and until you get this mess under control, I can’t.

Several months ago, I read Becoming Justice Blackmun, an interesting sort-of biography of Blackmun (the Supreme Court Justice who penned Roe v. Wade, among other distinctions) based largely on his personal papers. In an unusual move, Blackmun decreed that his papers should be released to the Library of Congress only 5 years after his death (many justices want much more time between their death and the release of their papers,) so there was quite a swirl of attention around their release a few years ago and the resulting book.

Blackmun is interesting for a lot of reasons that I won’t go into here (you are all capable wikipedia searchers, I’m sure,) but one small note in the book really struck me. Among the voluminous archives in the Library of Congress was a sort of diary that Blackmun kept for his whole life. Rather than a day to day narrative of the details of his activities, the diary was more of a record of significant events- he’d jot down career accomplishments, birthdays, weddings, significant court decisions, etc. What was most interesting to me was that in addition to recording these personal events (birth of a child, death of a friend) he also recorded events of national significance (wars, deaths of world leaders, etc.)

I thought this was a really cool idea: it would be very interesting, I thought, to look back 5, 10, 20 years later and see both what I had been up to personally and what had been going on in the world at the time. What was going on in my life at the time of the 2008 election, for example? What world events occurred around the time I got married?

So inspired was I by this idea, I started a similar record of significant events for myself. I’ll admit- I am struggling a little. What to put in it? What is significant enough to make the book? I don’t want it to be limited to only the Most Significant Events Ever, because I’m likely to sort of remember those anyway, but I don’t want to crowd it with totally minor mundane details, either. And the world events thing has proven to be much trickier than I would have imagined. Blackmun had the advantage of writing some of the most significant Supreme Court cases of the day. I do not. And just looking to what stories have garnered lots of news media attention is not necessarily a good way to determine what to include. I’m pretty sure, for example, that in 20 years I do not need to remember the ongoing, never-ending search for Stacy Peterson (sad as it is,) and the controversy swirling around her douchebag husband, despite the fact that that one story has dominated the news around here for MONTHS. I am left to decide: is this current newsy event something worth noting, or will I look back and say “good grief, why did I think it was worth noting that the mayor of Detroit got indicted?”

So I’m interested: if you had to pick one thing that had happened and been in the news in the past month to put in a journal, with the idea that years from now you would look back at it and it would give you an insight into the state of the city/state/country/world at the time, what event would you choose?


Recently, I have been going to a lot of meetings that occur in office buildings other than my own. Several of these buildings are very tall, (as is true of so many buildings in Chicago) and many of them have little tvs in the elevators, to entertain you as they whoosh you up from the 1st to the 66th floor in 25 seconds.

I know! TV in an elevator! Ridiculous, right? Because that 30 seconds of un-media-saturated time was just making us feel so out of touch, you know?

Anyway, the C aptivate tv network, which does all of this elevator tv programming, conducts surveys about random topics and publishes the results on the little elevator tvs. (Imagine explaining THAT to people at a cocktail party: “what do you do?” “oh, I write surveys for the elevator tv network.” “um……wow. That’s…..um, great?”)

Today’s survey: “What new service should airlines offer passangers?”

The winner, with more votes than “free wifi” and “modified seatback reclining policies”:

Child-free flights.

SERIOUSLY? This is the worst thing about flying, the fact that there might be a child sharing the stale plane air with you? I mean, we’ve all had the crying baby sitting near us on a flight, and it’s not awesome, I’ll admit, but saying child-free flights would be BETTER THAN FREE WI FI? Who ARE these voters? It’s almost enough to make me want to log on to the C aptivate network’s website. Almost.

Last week:

This week:

In other words: I had a vacation? Wha? I hardly remember.

Oh, wait, yes I do! There were volcanoes involved!

We hiked to the rim of the volcano crater and saw this cool lake…except it wasn’t a water lake, it was a LAVA lake. Awesome. And then we hiked down from the rim into the crater and across the lake. Double Awesome.

It was crazy to hike across a frozen lava lake, knowing it was bubbling boiling lava only 50 years ago. See? (same volcano, swear to god:)

Also, we hiked to a pretty waterfall:

I wanted to jump in, but John wouldn’t let me. Jerk.

We also spent time at the beach, dressed mostly in long sleeves and floppy hats under umbrellas wearing SPF eleventy thousand. Still, I managed to get this:

That would be my upper arm, with a quarter-sized patch of sunburn on it. It is totally unclear to me how this happened. I’m just grateful that was the worst of my sun problems.

So now I’m back, pale as ever but marginally more relaxed, reflecting fondly on mai tais and volcanoes and wondering how it is, exactly, that I ended up back in a place where the weather on March 21 looks like this:

How was your week?

No coherent narrative here, folks, just bullet points:

         Thanks for all the nice comments about Sister.  She left Mayo with some new medicine and (more importantly for someone who has been as sick as she has for as long as she has) a sense of guarded optimism about her potential to feel better.  It was good that we went. 

         I would like to officially register my displeasure with the commentator on CNN who said on Tuesday night that the real x factor in the Ohio and Texas primaries was going to be the white men.  Why?  Because “their” candidate John Edwards dropped out, they now had to decide who to throw their support behind.  Ah yes, because all women vote for the woman, all people of color vote for the person of color, and all white men would have wanted the white man and are now forced to choose a second-best option.  Please take your totally nonsensical offensive crap elsewhere, we are all full up over here.

         I have become an impatient and angry public transit commuter, the kind who rolls her eyes and sighs deeply when confronted with the incompetence of others.  Yesterday, on an incredibly crowded el train, the man standing next to me spent the entire ride swiveling back and forth, knocking his huge backpack into people on all sides as he did.  I dug my elbow into his arm to retaliate.  Listen: rush hour = take off your backpack and put it on the floor so you don’t whack the people around you.  And while I’m at it: going up the escalators to get out of the subway during rush hour, there are rules, people.  Walk on the left, stand on the right.  This is not hard.  If you are new to public transit and do not know these rules, perhaps 8:30 am on a weekday morning is not the time to start your own personal adventure on the CTA.  You will only piss people off.

         Work is threatening to kill me slowly with its recent spate of projects with ill-defined expectations and sighs of displeasure at my performance. 

Really, all of this grousing should tell you that I am sort of needing a vacation.  Fortunately, I have a vacation scheduled, starting as soon as tomorrow!  See you in a week!