Thursday, December 2, 2021

Blog Thoughts, Year Seven

Just like that, it's almost Invincible Summer's seven year blog anniversary! Much like 2020, this year has really been something, for reasons completely unrelated to keeping this blog. Back when I wrote last year's "blogiversary" post, I had no idea that, a month later, we'd see an attempted coup. Events since then have also been... complicated. 

But I'm thankful everyone aged 12+ in the US was eligible to get a COVID vaccination by June or so, and that vaccine eligibility has since opened up here to children aged 5 to 11 for their first shots and to everyone aged 18+ for their booster shots. I'm also grateful that by now most adults in Taiwan - including my extended family members - have also been able to get a full round of a COVID vaccine. 

As I say every year, I continue to be so grateful to everyone who reads here. Even if blogging is sort of an outdated activity that isn't as popular anymore compared to the use of other, more current social media platforms, I'm still having fun writing this blog and reading other blogs. I'm happy you're here and I also hope that you're also able to find something to enjoy in my writing here at Invincible Summer. Thank you so much for your time and your presence. 

Now that I've been on Shopstyle's Cost per Acquisition ("CPA") model for a little over a year, I feel like it's safe to say my approach to writing about items and shopping hasn't changed for the negative? Or at least, I hope so. I was originally quite nervous because it felt like a big change for my Shopstyle compensation to go from a flat rate Pay Per Click ("PPC") to getting varying percentage rate commissions on actual sales resulting from my links (at no extra cost to the shopper). 

In actual practice I've found that, for a blog as small as mine, there's so much randomness to how many sales occur each month - and at which retailers - that I honestly don't think I'd even know how to reliably drive more sales even if I wanted to. From the limited Shopstyle tracking data available, even on CPA, I still make an average of two sales a month, though there can be a lot of fluctuation both up and down on a month to month basis. For the most part, those sales are not just of the L.L. Bean boots or the J.Crew Sophie and Juliette sweater blazers anymore. Nordstrom now accounts for most sales made through my links, but because of their liberal return policy, the sometimes lofty initial commissions I'm credited with are often adjusted downwards by significant amounts within a few weeks. 

Because of how long CPA commissions take to become finalized after retailers' return windows close, it's actually hard to say for sure whether my average monthly CPA compensation currently reliably exceeds my old pre-pandemic average of ~$15/month in PPC earnings (more like ~$32/month if you just average out my highest earning years in 2018 and 2019). Though my 2021 CPA earnings are definitely beating the ~$5 to $7/month I was getting in 2020, when Ann Taylor and J.Crew PPC earnings were temporarily disabled for months at a time, most likely due to bankruptcy restructuring-related issues. Furthermore, I definitely get fewer page views now than I did in, say, 2018-2019, so it's not really possible to do a one-to-one comparison of CPA versus pre-pandemic PPC earnings. 

Before jumping in to specific 2020 numbers, a quick note about taxes. As far as I can tell when entering the relevant numbers into Turbotax each year, I pay my marginal tax rate of ~40%+ on my blog-related income, which I continue to report on a Schedule C-EZ. To date, I still have not made enough from this blog in one year from any single source to receive any 1099s for blog-related income. (This is not to be taken as legal advice about the tax implications of blog-related income.)

Please follow the link below for a detailed 2021 blog income report. Thank you again for your support of Invincible Summer all this time!

Monday, November 29, 2021

November 2021 Shopping Reflections

With both this month's purchases, I think you'll really see what I mean about having some new personal style preferences from my full return to office life. I'm in the market now for some attention-grabbing items - particularly shoes - to go into outfits I hope are interesting and stand out a bit in a good way. I feel like both November purchases are unlike anything I've ever bought before, in all my years of keeping this blog, so that's how you know I'm definitely interested in things that are quite new to me. 

And ah, I think you'll also see what I mean about my willingness to allow a fair bit of lifestyle inflation in my wardrobe spending, now that I'm completely done with paying off my student loans. This was probably already obvious as early as August, was also certainly confirmed by October, and there's definitely no denying it anymore. 

Please note that this post contains affiliate links that could result in my earning a small commission - at no extra cost to you - if you click and make a purchase. Thank you for your support!

November's shopping list also means my recent bout of being busier and more stressed at work has caused me to do more online window-shopping with the potential to turn into actual shopping, not less. I'm definitely not having one of those times where I'm too tired to browse online stores. Though I was also a bit too mentally tired this year to have kept track of any Black Friday or Cyber Monday sales ahead of time. (I did end up doing a little bit of Black Friday/Cyber Monday sale shopping, but mostly just for socks and some Stasher standup silicone storage bags.)

I'm also too frazzled to have started with any of my year-end holiday gift shopping yet, which is highly likely to bite me in the rear in a big way with shipping and supply chain issues these days. I have a few recipients I really need to buy gifts for, but no ideas at all for what to get them.

Fashion - (TOTAL: $928.16)

  • Tibi Brancusi Jeans, regular length, indigo denim - $419.17* - (also here and here) - This item is probably a particular surprise. After all, didn't I just say I wasn't interested in more dramatic wide-leg or barrel-shaped jeans because they were too far out of my style comfort zone? These Tibi Brancusi jeans are, however, fairly different from most other barrel jeans I've seen: They have a more relaxed waist designed to sit at the hip and not the natural waist in your true denim size - though it isn't a low-rise jean per se, it can also be belted and worn more high-waisted - and the fit is relaxed throughout. It's initially difficult to get a good read on how these fit from store photos, as different retailers style them very differently and might sometimes size down on their models. When a fairly tall model wears the "regular" length designed for women 5'6'' and under - as opposed to the "long" length for 5'7'' and above - the jeans can also look super-cropped. These Instagram posts give a good approximation of how my "true" size indigo Brancusi (the 28 regular) looks on me. Most Tibi employees on Instagram seem to prefer wearing their true jean size in denim Brancusi, even if the waist may be relaxed enough to technically allow sizing down. (They size up in the faux patent leather version, though) The Tibi store team has some videos and Stories on Instagram about how the Brancusi fit.  Amy Smilovic suggests it might make sense to toss your true size denim Brancusi in the drier after washing to get a slightly sleeker fit, which I'm seriously contemplating. At 5'3'' with shorter-than-average legs for my height, the length and volume of these jeans currently suit me better when I wear them belted and higher-waisted. I've worn these jeans out maybe four times now and they've also relaxed noticeably since I pulled them out of the package. Because of how the hem is tucked in and sewn at the cuffs, these should be practical even when there are rain puddles or snow and slush on the ground. The wider parts near the hem won't drag on the floor and get wet or dirty easily, something I'd worry about with most wider-leg pants or jeans. 
  • Office of Angela Scott Mr. Logan Oxfords, black - $508.99* - (also herehere, and here) - The price reflects a sale, and I'll also get a 2% Rakuten rebate. These shoes are certainly unlike any other pair I've bought in the years since starting this blog, with the hardware for the laces and the lug sole. I've mentioned the Office of Angela Scott twice, but never featured any of their shoes, so it may surprise you to learn this is the third of their styles I've ordered and tried on. With the other two designs, the Miss Button Derby (also here) and a discontinued one, I tried them on while shopping for a birthday gift from my mom, so I never specifically mentioned them. After trying three Angela Scott designs, I don't think the brand is generally a great fit for me, as someone with fairly wide feet. These shoes tend to feel more substantial and thus more stiff than other brands I've tried, which takes some getting used to. That combined with the narrow toe boxes on some styles, including the Miss Buttons - but not these Mr. Logans, which have a more spacious round toe box - makes it hard to find the right fit and can require fairly dramatic sizing up. When sizing up in the discontinued style I previously tried - these Mr. Georgies are probably the most similar-looking in the brand's current lineup - I found my heel easily slipped out in the size that accommodated the rest of my wide foot. In short, finding the right size in a particular Angela Scott shoe may take more trial and error than usual. I took my recommended size 38 in the Mr. Logans from the company's website (for someone who always wears 7.5, has a wider foot, and never sizes down but rarely sizes up), and I think that's definitely the right one. It's a close just-right fit in the toe box, but I do have to lace them tightly or else my ankle could slip a bit. I've worn these out once for a full day at the office, and breathed a sigh of relief after because they didn't cause pain or blisters and the slipping at the ankle wasn't too bad in practice, even though I was only wearing thin Falke tights and not thick socks. 
*Indicates that price includes sales tax. 

And that's it for this month! I'm not too sure what December's shopping for my wardrobe is going to look like, outside of my Black Friday/Cyber Monday sock purchases. I'm definitely also still eagerly awaiting the release of another skirt from Tibi, and I'm probably sure enough about it that I'll likely jump on it immediately when it's released, whenever that ends up being. 

Outside of that, I know I'm interested in adding some more variety to my selection of tops and shoes, but I don't think I'm actually in a hurry to do that. I can almost certainly wait for the post-New Years' winter sales, but if I remember correctly, last year's winter sales weren't that great and were also quite slow to get started, so maybe I won't end up buying anything else in the very short term. How's the rest of your shopping year looking? Were you able to find anything good during the Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales this year, whether for your closet or otherwise? 

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Federal Judiciary Financial Disclosures

via Unsplash

Now this is a terribly un-festive and rather unseasonable post to publish so close to Thanksgiving! I already had most of this one written before things got really hectic at work in early November, so I figured I should just go ahead and publish now that it's ready. Even if almost no one who reads here is as interested in the United States federal judiciary as I am, I still like to think and write about these things...

Because I've been so busy at the office recently, I haven't had any interest in Black Friday sales this year. I'm even a bit too frazzled to think about the year-end holiday gifts I'm somewhat obligated to buy, but have not yet started shopping for (which is probably going to cause headaches for me with all the ongoing supply chain and shipping issues). Long story short, I don't think I'll be making any posts fully dedicated to Black Friday/Cyber Monday sales or holiday gift shopping this year. 

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The Wall Street Journal recently did some in-depth reporting about what's apparently a significant number of US federal judges who have - sometimes through the judge's spouse, financial advisor, or a family trust - either held or actively traded the stocks of companies with active litigation pending before them. I was shocked and appalled. It's critically important that our federal courts avoid even the appearance of impropriety, and this is an obvious and profound failure in that area. The law is also extremely clear, holding the stock of a particular company - however small the number of shares - means the judge must recuse themselves from all cases concerning said company. 

Based on the WSJ articles, it seems these were generally not knowing violations of the judicial ethics rules and laws. In the federal courts I'm familiar with, case assignment is random, done by a spin of the wheel, whether virtual or physical. The clerk of the courts' offices - not the judges' individual offices - automatically screen cases to ensure no judge is assigned to one they have personal conflicts with. Judges have the responsibility of providing their court clerk's office with an updated conflicts list or "recusal list." Any case including a company the judge owns stock in is obviously off limits, the judge is automatically recused from cases involving those companies. Or at least, that's what happens when things work as they should.

Certain judges probably didn't keep their recusal lists fully updated to reflect all stock transactions as the trades occurred. Some of the judges have stated the trades were done by a spouse or financial advisor, and the judge had no idea they happened.  

Monday, November 22, 2021

Reentry Thoughts: Wardrobe and Personal Style Changes

I'm interested in getting this Tibi skirt when it eventually becomes available. My outfits with it would look a little different, though.

Please pardon me for disappearing completely for nearly three weeks! Work really ended up taking me by surprise, it's been fire drill after fire drill in my professional life lately. That can be difficult, but overall I'm glad things are finally returning to a pre-pandemic level of busy at the office. My caseload in particular saw considerable COVID-driven disruptions for well over a year - that wasn't true across the industry for all litigators, I got it worse than most - so I'm ultimately happy to have more to do at work than in most of 2020 and the earlier part of 2021. 

As of late last week, I've now had my third shot of the COVID vaccine. Minimal side effects this time, not even a sore arm near the injection site. It's kind of wild to think that, as late as March 2021, I had no idea how quickly I'd be able to get my first shot. Fast forward to now, and it's easy for basically any person aged 18+ to get their Pfizer or Moderna booster in NYC, as long as it's been at least six months since they finished their first full round of the vaccine. Very recently, NYC authorities expanded eligibility to include the entire group, with no need for any qualifying health conditions. (I'm less familiar with the booster guidelines for Johnson and Johnson.) 

I've been fully back in the office since mid-July, and may even be back to doing some international business trips as early as next January or February. Many court appearances in NYC are back to being in-person and various other in-person meetings are also happening, at least on the litigation side. Suffice to say, I feel like my working life is almost entirely back to pre-pandemic "normal", except that we still wear masks in indoor public settings - which I'm perfectly happy to do - and we try to keep events with an indoor dining component to a minimum. 

Now that I've been fully back in the office for several months, I have some thoughts on how my wardrobe needs and preferences have changed, after most of my outdoor clothes and shoes went almost entirely unused during my more than 15 months of COVID social distancing. One big - and possibly temporary - factor causing these changes is that my workplace still allows a casual dress code for now, a pandemic-driven change from our previous business casual dress code.