Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Recent Small Joys


In no particular order, here are a few things that are bringing me some small amount of joy and levity these days, as my household looks ahead to the daunting prospect of continuing to observe fairly strict social distancing for the indefinite future. NYC's relatively favorable COVID-19 numbers are continuing to hold steady, so the mostly outdoors activities allowed to us do feel quite safe. (Though we should all continue to exercise caution by wearing masks while outside the home, of course.) But there remains a lot of uncertainty for everyone here about whether any significant new indoor activities - including in-person schooling - can safely resume in the foreseeable future.

1. // I've been working on a pro bono litigation project that's part of the larger fight against police violence and racially discriminatory policing in NYC. I'm very grateful to have the opportunity to contribute directly to these efforts. 

2. // I'm really enjoying the loose leaf tea I got from Blk & Bold. The passion fruit black tea is delicious, it smells lovely and the taste of passion fruit works perfectly with the black tea. Their jasmine green tea has a subtle jasmine fragrance and flavor that makes it a good "everyday" sort of green tea. (That's different from the dragon pearl jasmine and Yin Hao jasmine green teas I get from Harney & Sons, which have an extremely assertive jasmine taste that might be a bit more polarizing.) Sadly, both teas are currently sold out from Blk & Bold's website, so it may be a while before any new customers can try it.

3. // K and I binge-watched all four and a half currently available seasons of the Showtime show Billions in extremely short order in recent weeks. We really enjoy Billions, it's fast paced with highly creative storylines - to the extent where the legal and courtroom drama side of it is completely, absurdly unrealistic, which is typical for just about any legal drama on television, but Billions is just a bit wilder than most - and some really hilarious writing. While the various legal storylines are mostly quite absurd, there are occasionally some very on-point jokes about our experience of the legal profession in NYC that K and I really appreciate.

Though I should note that the main characters in Billions aren't very likable, and definitely aren't especially moral or ethical in their behavior. (Given that one of the main characters is a billionaire hedge-funder and the other is an increasingly corrupt prosecutor, this is not especially surprising.)

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4. // I'm still completely enamored with my new fountain pen hobby.  My current favorite inks are Pilot Iroshizuku Ku-Jaku (a gorgeous teal shade), Pilot Iroshizuku Tsuki-yo (a deep blue-gray color which looks particularly good on the pale blue paper contained in Smythson notebooks; this color is actually supposed to have a hint of teal, but not in my experience with any of the finer nibs I've tried with it), and Sailor Shikiori Oku-Yama (a nice, moody dark red with a surprising amount of complexity).

Keeping this post relatively light and brief today! Work has gotten a lot busier for me recently, which is a good thing - particularly as my pro bono work is a significant part of it - but I find that it's hard to feel like I have any work-life balance when there's so little separation between my "work" space and "home" space. 

Monday, July 27, 2020

July 2020 Shopping Reflections

via Unsplash

I'm somewhat surprised to report that July ultimately turned out to be a no-shopping month for me in terms of clothing, shoes, and accessories. (I'll also admit, however, that it was very much not a no-shopping month for me in terms of my new fountain pen hobby.) I believe this is only my fourth fashion no-shopping month since January 2015, when I first began writing these monthly shopping reflection posts. While it's certainly not a big achievement to go just a month without a new addition to one's closet once in a while, it's clearly a bit out of character for me!

As K and I go into our fifth straight month of practicing fairly strict social distancing with no real end in sight - due to how badly the US national response to COVID-19 is going - I've found myself completely losing interest in shopping for new-to-me things to wear. I had a bit of a "false alarm" about feeling this way back in March, but it ultimately lasted barely two or three weeks. This time around, though, the feeling seems to be here to stay a while. I ordered the Jasmine Chong scrunchie from June quite early in that month, and haven't really browsed in earnest for any clothing, shoes, or accessories since. So it's been around six or seven weeks now that I haven't been interested in new-to-me things for my wardrobe. That's definitely not impressive or anything, in the grand scheme of things, just highly unusual for me. 

I'm technically still waiting on my Elizabeth Suzann ("ES") order, for the Bel skirt in silk, from the very last day they took new orders back in late April. (I reported it as a May purchase, so it's already accounted for in my monthly shopping posts.) That's my only currently pending fashion-related purchase. Given ES's planned shutdown schedule, I'll probably receive a shipping confirmation from them soon, right before this iteration of the company finally closes by August. I'll miss ES so much, as I really admired the way the company was run!

Given my well-documented and extremely robust shopping history - and my known tendency to be a bit impulsive about purchases when I see something I think is really beautiful, no matter how much I try to plan out and spend time thinking through shopping decisions before I make them - I definitely can't reliably predict that my no-shopping period for my closet will last much longer. It's certainly possible that I might have another no-shopping month or two coming up. But I do know that if I saw something I thought was pretty and fit my criteria for something I thought would work in my closet - and if on top of all that, the price was right - I'd probably still decide to order it in a heartbeat. 

How was your shopping month? If you're based somewhere in the US, is the ongoing botched COVID-19 response here affecting your shopping habits?

Thursday, July 23, 2020

A New Hobby

My current pen and ink collection, minus one ink. (I have the 15 ml bottles of each, not the full-size 50 ml bottles.) I don't have the neatest handwriting...

I haven't been shopping for clothes or accessories this month, but that doesn't mean I haven't been spending on discretionary things. As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I was recently inspired to try writing with a fountain pen after seeing Adina's Instagram post about some of her favorite fountain pen inks... It did not take long before I was totally hooked.

Since early July, my pen collection has grown quite a bit: I started with just a Pilot Metropolitan medium nib, but have since acquired several other pens. (So far, the Pilot Metropolitan is still my favorite.) In addition to the pens I tested out in the above photo, I've also ordered a TWSBI Eco. My ink collection is also expanding at a similar rate: I got four 15 ml bottles of different Pilot Iroshizuku inks to start, then added two more, and I just ordered a dozen 2 ml sample vials of inks from different brands to try. 

With this new hobby, I'm going through a lot more paper than before. I used to write barely half an A5-sized page once every few days in the journal section of my primary bullet journal-ish notebook, but after starting to write with fountain pens, I've easily been writing two to three A5-sized pages per day. Half of what I write is just lengthy prattle about the differences between each of my pens, how pretty some of the ink is, and what additional pens and inks I might like to try. In other words, I keep writing even if I don't have much of substance to say, just so I can continue admiring the different inks and enjoying the way the pens glide over paper.

So far, my favorite ink colors are Pilot Iroshizuku Ku-Jaku (a teal shade that's a bit more blue and a touch brighter than the very similar Syo-Ro, which leans a bit more green) and Pilot Iroshizuku Momiji (a magenta shade that's more red-pink than purple).  Though some of the dozen ink samples that are on their way might potentially displace these colors as my top favorites!

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Out of the paper I currently have on hand, both the Leuchtturm1917 notebook paper and the 68 gsm Tomoe River paper (from a notebook I bought on Etsy, which is currently not available for purchase) are quite suitable for showing off different ink colors. Most colors look just a bit more complex and multidimensional on the Tomoe River paper, but the Leuchtturm notebooks are a lot more moderately priced. The featherweight paper in my Smythson notebook is also quite nice to write on with a fountain pen, but because the paper itself is light blue, ink colors aren't shown to their best advantage on it.

There do appear to be noticeable quality differences between the paper in my old Leuchtturm1917 A5 dot-grid notebook, which I originally purchased back in November 2017, and the paper in the brand-new one I just purchased. A few - but not all - of the pages I've tested out in the newer book seem to be thinner, with a significant amount of ink from my writing bleeding through to the back of the page with all the fountain pens and inks I have on hand. I had a few dozen blank pages of my old Leuchtturm left that I could test out my new pens on, and haven't had any issues with ink bleeding through there.

Are any of you fountain pen users? Do you have any favorite pens or inks or notebooks? So far, I've bought everything in my pen and ink collection at its full US retail price, so this is fast becoming a fairly expensive hobby. 

Monday, July 20, 2020

Social Distancing Life Lately: 19 Weeks

Another old photograph from December, when I visited the Vessel in Hudson Yards.

As it turns out, the reopening of my office was not as mandatory for attorneys as I initially expected, so K and I are now officially in our 19th week of fairly strict social distancing. We continue to stay in our apartment building, except for an essential grocery or pharmacy trip approximately once every three to four weeks. 

For now, I'll appear at the office only if I have tasks that need to be done in-person. Given everything that's going on - federal courts are mostly not reopen for in-person proceedings and, for obvious reasons, clients are disinclined to have in-person meetings - I probably won't need to go to the office much anytime soon.

By now, many biglaw offices in NYC have indicated that they don't expect to require most employees to return through the end of the calendar year. My very small workplace - we have slightly fewer than 20 employees total - may try to bring us back in sooner, but whether that's possible depends on how quickly the government will allow NYC to continue its reopening. Apparently, state law currently requires that employers allow discretion to work from home to categories of employees that can perform most of their duties remotely, a group that includes attorneys. I'm not sure how likely it is that the government will revoke this policy in the near term. 

NYC is officially in Phase 4 of its repoening, but with all significant new indoor activities taken off the list of what's permitted. Originally, indoor dining, malls, gyms, and museums were supposed to be allowed to reopen in Phase 4, but the government reversed course on all those things in recent weeks. That's probably the correct decision, as I think any of those new indoor activities would carry some risk of increasing the number of COVID-19 cases here, given our population density and the possibility of visitors coming in from out of state. 

I'm still putting off that haircut and routine doctor's appointment. Although I expect both excursions to be quite safe - given all the new government-mandated precautions, either appointment would likely be significantly lower-risk than any of our grocery shopping outings - I also don't feel a particular need to hurry and get either errand done. 

K and I continue to be incredibly fortunate, with no significant new disruptions as of yet to our ability to work from home or to our household income. I suppose we've never particularly enjoyed outdoor activities, nor did we particularly like being out and about in the city during the summer - too hot and humid for my tastes - so we're quite comfortable and happy staying indoors right now, even if it's been over four months of this.  

I've been feeling increasingly distressed and angry about how poorly the US national response to COVID-19 is going. I imagine that everyone reading here agrees with me about this, regardless of what country you live in. While New York and a few other states are doing alright, things seem to be very not good in most parts of the country, with no real end in sight. My relatives abroad in Taiwan are certainly shocked and appalled. 

How are you and your friends and family doing?