Monday, July 31, 2017

July Shopping Reflections

So this was a high-volume shopping and totally bad at minimalism month, though many of my purchases were secondhand, at least. I started window shopping over July Fourth weekend and suddenly found that I'd ordered a completely ridiculous quantity, including an APC half-moon bag (discounted to $380 USD at Ssense, but now sold out). Then I sent most of it back because very little of it worked. Womp womp. The half-moon bag was a bit too big for my height and build, and too stiff for my tastes. My battered and much-beloved Coach City fills the same niche more comfortably (used at Etsy here and here, or more affordably on Ebay including here). Other things, like a Madewell Central shirt, just didn't flatter on me. I still ended up keeping quite a few things, mostly unseasonal items.

This month was my first time shopping at ThredUp. I had a good experience, with their reasonable prices and a 40% off your first order discount. I did make a few mistakes, but those are on me. It's expected that their return policy wouldn't be as forgiving as a retail store's (returns within 14 days to original method of purchase). I, er, misinterpreted their policy initially, and assumed all returns were store credit only, so I ended up keeping (and paying for) a few sweaters I wasn't sure about and haven't listed. Those will be gifted to my younger sister, W, as they'll suit her much better!

As for my yearly budget for 2017 ($150 x 12 = $1800), it's not looking fantastic in terms of my staying under, though I technically made a tiny bit of progress this month. I'm now $162.98 over budget for the year, rather than last month's $168.18 (($150 x 7) - $555.98 - $154.21 - $94.79 - $35.93 - $128.80 - $98.47 - $144.80 = $162.98).

I buried this detail in another post last week, but I may be taking a new job that will change some of my work wardrobe needs, and could result in not getting back on track for this year's original clothing budget. It's very exciting, and I'm so happy with it, but I definitely couldn't have predicted it!

Fashion - (TOTAL: $144.80)
  • Uniqlo Womens Volume Skirt - $29.90 - I've been wanting a navy blue midi skirt (inspired by Adina!) for more than a year, but was never able to find one I wanted to try on. I ended up experimenting with a striped J.Crew Factory skirt (similar in limited sizes here and here) last year, but that was pretty far from the design I had in mind. This year, Uniqlo had two skirts that were close, this one almost exactly. These skirts are actually not super-practical for me. They're cotton-poly blends, and not terribly comfortable in high summer heat and humidity, because of the volume of fabric. They go a little past mid-calf on me (maybe an inch past how it looks on the models.) Both have very elastic waists, to the point where I'm not sure exact sizing... matters terribly much, there's so much fabric, and the waist so stretchy. I picked a size M in both. Wearing these to work is outside my comfort zone, so it remains to be seen how much actual use I get out of these.
  • Uniqlo Women High-Waist Belted Flare Midi Skirt - $29.90 - I like the belted waist design here, though this design is less like the simpler look I had in mind for a midi skirt. I originally intended to keep only one, because I definitely don't need two midi skirts that I'm generally not inclined to wear to work, but I ended up not being able to pick. This was a bad-at-minimalism month for sure. Even with the downsides of these, I just find them really fun to twirl around in, even if only indoors, and I couldn't resist.
  • ThredUp - ~$85.00 (after typical 40% off first order, for discount of up to $50, coupon)
    • Club Monaco Open Cashmere Cardigan - This drapey open cardigan is essentially identical to an item that's still in stock at Club Monaco, which I've linked. It seems to be a design they redo frequently. I got this in M/L, which has a very generously sized shawl collar that is nice and cozy, but is otherwise not too oversized on me. 
    • J.Crew Linen Sweater - Not sure how old this is, but it's 100% linen and very boxy. I love this, despite the dull color and boxy-ness. It feels like a very Eileen Fisher-like look when I wear it with my Grana silk ankle pants (use my referral link for 10% off your first order, and I'll get $20 store credit if you make a purchase, thank you for your support!). I can't find anything similar in linen at J.Crew or other mall stores, though this Loft sweater in cotton-nylon blend has a very similar look and feel in brighter colors and this Lou and Grey all-cotton sweater is similar in spirit and color, but much slouchier. 
    • Madewell Patterned Sweater - I think Madewell does a sweater like this almost every year in recent memory. I have a slouchy patterned sweater from H&M and before I started monthly budget posts that's a favorite, though one that's not held up terribly well to regular wash and wear. Thus, I'm generally partial to wearing a loose-fit patterned sweater (that requires a black camisole underneath, I like these from H&M and they last for years) over dark skinny jeans in winter. 

Have you shopped at ThredUp before? Were you able to find any gems? 

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Wear to Work: "Appropriate Attire"

Recently, there was controversy about the women's dress code at the House of Representatives. Specifically, multiple women journalists had been barred from parts of the building for wearing sleeveless dresses. Apparently, the text of the rule left some room for interpretation, providing for "traditional coat and tie" for men, while providing only for "appropriate attire" for women. After several congresswomen spoke up about what was, in their view, an archaic interpretation of "appropriate attire" or "appropriate business attire" to exclude sleeveless business casual attire, change is promised

This is an interesting question for me, because, well, even as I loathe "full dress" business formal with all of my being, I nonetheless believe in its importance for certain occasions, particularly court and job interviews. My natural tendency is to push the business casual boundaries towards the casual as much as possible for any given workplace. Nonetheless, I'd still be shocked - shocked! - if I saw anyone appearing for an interview with me or before a court in "problem" attire (peep-toe shoes, loud colored shoes, etc.).

Of course, congresswomen themselves are absolutely the most qualified and the most vested with the authority to make decisions about what is appropriate in their workplace! Furthermore, the expectations for journalists who happen to be conducting interviews or otherwise working in the building should absolutely not be the same as, say, for someone speaking on the House floor. If one is to draw an analogy to the courtroom, of course the attorney likely should be in a suit (they may not need to be, but a failure to don one, of the right general color and formality level could cause a jury or a judge to react poorly), but there's no such expectation for members of the jury, or for witnesses, or for people observing the proceedings, including journalists. Absolute formality in business clothing has its place, but a somewhat limited and specific place, only for people in certain roles. 

It's not too surprising, now that I've been in the field for quite some time, to find that expectations for women's business formal dress are generally more conservative for lawyers than in other business fields. The bit about Supreme Court dress codes is particularly interesting (page 3 of the linked article). Everyone, men and women, was wearing rather archaic "morning dress" until quite recently, apparently. More recently, I've definitely heard that at least one Supreme Court justice, even in the last six or seven years, will still criticize women for wearing suits of any color other than black. Apparently, the propriety of pantsuits is also not universally accepted nationwide, though I've been lucky enough that I've never needed to work anywhere where that's really a thing. (I prefer skirt suits, but I'd resent a system in which it wasn't optional.)

As for me, well, thanks to a recent job offer after a long, long interview season, I may be becoming part of that dramatically high attrition rate statistic (also see piece from 2006) for minority women in biglaw. I'm possibly destined never to be back after having worked in biglaw for a little less than a year before my clerkship. It's incredibly exciting, though not set in stone just yet! One side effect of the possible change will be a need to buy more suits and expand my collection of more formal work clothing. Back in biglaw I'd often have several days, perhaps even several weeks on end where I wouldn't expect to see or speak face-to-face with anyone but my officemate and other junior associates, but that's looking to change. More client contact and more court proceedings or important proceedings may be in my future. 

Monday, July 24, 2017

Moving in NYC

Moving is my least favorite chore, bar none. Now that I've done it three times, I have enough experience to offer a few tips on in-NYC moves. I've moved between buildings in Manhattan twice, and, a few weeks ago, I moved between two units in my building. Given how much things cost, how most NYC residents don't have cars and don't know anyone with one, etc. etc., general best practices for cost-conscious moving in the city are likely a little different than elsewhere. 

One note: moving is an area in which I'm a bad minimalist. Because of the realities of how expensive it is to move and store things here, it can offer be better to throw things out and replace them later than to keep them. While I'm not especially prone to frugality while moving (convenience and not needing to lift my furniture myself wins out every time, I've always used professional movers and tipped well), frugality always beats minimalism for me when moving. Back when I left student housing, I was at least able to give away much of what I wasn't keeping, which was nice for the recipients, the planet, and also for me because I didn't have to drag things out to the curb. 

Also, this helpful post is generally accurate for the details that I can corroborate and seems to be quite useful as another data point on this topic. With that, here are my tips for moving in NYC.

1. Just say no to the storage unit rental. This isn't a concern in all moves, but it was a possibility when I briefly moved out-of-state to study for the bar exam between graduation and starting work. Normally, a NYC-dweller would impose on the kindness of friends and store things in their apartments, but my friends were all doing similar moves, so that was out. K was working and able to store some things, but he lived in a studio furnished to near-capacity, and I didn't want to crowd him in his own place. I didn't want to keep much, just the objects pictured above and an Ikea Hemnes dresser and nightstand, but I worried the dresser wouldn't fit. 

As it turns out, even a small storage unit for three months cost more than the replacement cost of the dresser and nightstand, and that was before factoring in the money I'd inevitably need to spend transporting everything to and from the storage unit. Most frugal types agree that storage units are a giant waste of money. The dresser, nightstand, and everything else ended up fitting comfortably in K's studio, so that worked out. 

2. Do what you can by yourself. This is regardless of whether one is hiring movers. Generally, moving fees correlate to how long a move will take, so if you've packed everything yourself, and disassembled overly bulky furniture, that will keep costs down. It's fine, in my experience, to keep bare-bones bedframes (like this) and most other furniture assembled, but fancier beds may need disassembling. K and I try to move ultra-fragile items that require special handling, i.e. the television, ourselves, often with the help of his parents and their car, so the movers can work more quickly. 

3. Hire movers, probably, and comparison shop. For myself and my NYC-based friends, there's no way to avoid hiring professional movers. No one is comfortable with driving in the city, certainly not enough to drive a rented Uhaul. It's really far too big an imposition on our friends to have them spend hours on a weekend helping with a move anyway, and we would never ask. Movers are the way to go.

Finding and hiring the right movers can, however, be much easier said than done, especially for a fair price. That author I linked was quoted a shocking range of prices for her move, from a very fair $418 from one company for moving one person's worth of items (roughly equivalent to a studio apartment's worth?) into a high-floor walkup, a roughly two-hour job, to $730 elsewhere, and then $900 from a company that apparently made the slightly preposterous claim that it's normal to spend a month's rent on a move (definitely not!). All for the same job! Plus, Yelp reviews don't always seem that trustworthy or reliable

I generally never call around to find movers because I mostly relied on Unpakt to comparison shop. I felt very comfortable using Unpakt because I could see a range of rates from different companies and lock in a fixed rate, rather than running the risk of the bill being based on unpredictable factors affecting how long the move takes (i.e., traffic), or that a moving company would suddenly impose surprise extra fees. The downside is the need to book very early to lock in the fair, but still slightly inflated rates I got. Unpakt's pricing algorithm was also completely unable to give me a fair price for my most recent same-building move ($550 was the best quote for a move that ultimately cost $240). I generally was paying a  premium on Unpakt, probably something like $50-$75 extra on each of my two small, elevator-building moves, compared to if I'd shopped around more. (I imagine the Unpakt premium would increase with larger, more complicated moves.) 

  • Move 1: $282 before tip, very small move, two elevator buildings, total time 1.25 hours. This was for the boxes, two suitcases, that dresser, and the nightstand. I probably overpaid for this, and I booked a month and a half early, but keep in mind that most movers require paying for a two-hour commitment even if a move takes less, so this also wasn't that overpriced. (I'd be surprised to be able to hire a company to come out for much less than $240.) 
  • Move 2: $430 before tip, fairly typical studio apartment move, two elevator buildings, total time 2.25 hours. I booked a month ahead. I'd have expected to pay maybe $360 for this move before tip if I had comparison shopped. Incidentally, the moving company proactively arranged for a partial refund because we ended up having fewer objects than we listed when we booked, which was a pleasant surprise. This move was originally $450
  • Move 3: $240 before tip, same-building one-bedroom apartment move, elevator building, total time 45 minutes. This was my first time booking a move without Unpakt. It's very possible that I'd have gotten a better rate if I shopped around more, for a company willing to forego a two-hour minimum (the $120/hour rate for movers is likely one of the lower rates out there), but I had been averse to looking more because the first company I called quoted me $700, making $240 feel like a steal. Also, I think it's fair to require paying for two hours, given that movers need to drive in to Manhattan with a truck so that they can bring dollies and moving blankets. 

Also, please do tip your movers well, as they're performing a difficult and important service. I strongly believe there's a moral obligation to tip well in this context. All of my tips have worked out to ~$30-35/person on the crew for fairly quick, small-ish, elevator-building moves. This seems a reasonable and somewhat generous rate (look at the most recent post from a few months ago, not the ones from five years ago). I would expect to tip more if I was moving to or from a walkup.

4. Ecletic storage solutions are often necessary, and may need to be replaced in the next apartment. I've been lucky enough that my apartment kitchens have always had reasonable cabinet and counter space until just now. My current apartment has an extremely illogical lack of cabinets, as you see above.

Space may be extremely limited, so it's not unusual to need something like a kitchen cart with a wooden top to create counter space for food prep or a (somewhat unattractive) set of wire shelves to compensate for a lack of cabinets. Spices, dry goods, etc. may all end up out in the open. Illustrative examples of common storage solutions are below, though in actual practice, I think these things should be fairly easy to find on Craigslist and the like, as most any apartment presents unique challenges on the kitchen storage front. These items are also quite expensive at retail!

As for K and I, we opted for the most frugal option we could find to solve our kitchen cabinet problem, using interlocking stackable wire shelves (different size online). We also got a sliding drawer mesh organizer for spices on our counter, but alas, we somewhat resent how much it cost. (Storage items are so pricey, and generally cheaply made.) These items were, at least, on the frugal end of what was available, and potentially versatile enough for future apartments. 

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Sunday Reading: Rising Above

Given the recent social and political climate, here's a quick disclaimer. Today's post absolutely does not deny the importance of standing up and speaking out bluntly regarding truths that those in disagreement may find harsh or alienating. The role models I am describing do not, by any stretch of the imagination, shy away from arguing things that make others uncomfortable. See, e.g., Justice Ginsburg's Shelby County v. Holder dissent (starting page 32), Justice Sotomayor's Schuette dissent (starting page 51), and Justice Sotomayor's Trinity Lutheran dissent (starting page 27). Also, as she notes in her memoir, Justice Sotomayor once reported a law firm when an attorney, during a recruiting dinner, said that she could only have gotten into Yale because of affirmative action. Assuming law school then was anything like law school now, that's a highly scary thing to do. My role models "rock the boat" when needed. My point here is solely about conduct within the narrow confines of the workplace, in contexts where it is necessary to get things done.*

I've noticed that one thing unites those I admire most in the legal profession. It isn't something all of them would voice in these exact words, but Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg puts it best in her "Advice on Living":
When a thoughtless or unkind word is spoken, best tune out. Reacting in anger or annoyance will not advance one’s ability to persuade. . . . Collegiality is crucial to the success of [the Supreme Court's] mission
The same, in my experience, goes for legal work, particularly in litigation, and interactions with colleagues and opposing counsel. Justice Sonia Sotomayor's excellent memoir (one of the books that has made the strongest impact on me) doesn't say this as such. but it's strongly implied. In particular, she casts no stones about not getting a full-time offer from her summer firm, blaming only herself. Given how long it took the industry's doors to open to women (see, e.g., the section on the 1970s in this academic article and this piece on more recent trends), it's not a huge stretch to speculate that prejudices about race, gender, and the combination thereof may have played a role. 

These role models are people who treat every person, even those voicing views sharply in contrast with their own, with the utmost respect and civility. The most vivid and well-know example is probably the famously close friendship between Justice Ginsburg and the late Justice Antonin Scalia (his Romer v. Evans dissent may be instructive as to why this may be a shock, i.e. in paragraph two). They are people who rise above the slings and arrows directed their way in order to be the best attorney they can be. 

In Justice Ginsburg's case, she encountered particularly overt sexism, given the timeline of when she attended law school and began her career. You'll rarely hear her speak of it. I had to search hard for a readily accessible online citation for how things were: "Upon graduation from Columbia Law School with top honors in 1959, she received no job offer from any law firm in New York City, presumably because white shoe law firms were aghast that a woman, a mother and a Jew would dare think she was qualified for the job." She has also written that, back then, law firms simply "would engage no women" as a matter of absolute policy.

There is a difficult balance to be struck between exhibiting the collegiality, civility, and grace that the best attorneys embody while still taking a stand for what is right. It has sometimes been so, so hard to rise above. It's entirely likely that, in the next few months or years, I'll sometimes write about some of the challenges in this profession that make it difficult to face down everything with the ideal amount of collegiality. But that's a story for another day.

P.S. This piece from a former Justice Ginsburg clerk regarding his decision to stay home with his daughter for a time is entirely unrelated, but also a good read.)

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Shoes of Summer

I'm now in year three of wearing my trusty, if not terribly attractive, Fitflop Skinny fit flops (worn in photos linked here) as my primary summer shoe. They've had a good run, accompanying me through many a summer thunderstorm and to a few beaches, but they're starting to show their wear, with worn-down heels and a slightly stretched-out uppers. They're still much more comfortable to walk and stand in than ballet flats or sandals with less arch support, but my feet and legs are starting to ache the way they do when I wear running shoes that are over the hill, and have had their inner cushioning worn down by excessive wear. In short, it either is almost time or is already time for a new pair of summer shoes. 

I've had the hardest time deciding whether to make a purchase now at all, much less decide on what to get. It probably makes the most sense to get another pair of Fitflops, either the Skinny or the Skinny Crisscross Slide. I could maybe also consider a pair of Birkenstocks (probably the Arizona or the Gizeh), which is what I had been thinking of before picking the Fitflops instead, though I remember that I thought they looked a bit clunky on my feet. I imagine the Birkenstocks would be hardier than Fitflops, though.


Perhaps unwisely, given that I should only really be in the market for a pair of comfortable sandals to replace the Fitflops, I had also thought about getting a pair of cute, embroidered Soludos espadrilles (maybe with lemons, or oranges!). That's an impulse that I really should not indulge in, however, as espadrilles seem to not be the most durable of shoes (likely to last only one season?) and that they could easily be damaged if they got wet, so they're not suitable for NYC's unpredictable, sometimes thunderstorm-prone summer weather. Also, I assume that I wouldn't want to be wearing socks with them in summer, which means they'd get gross and sweaty, and probably smelly, way too easily.

What are your go-to summer shoes? Are espadrilles actually more practical than they seem on paper? 

Friday, June 30, 2017

June Shopping Reflections

I had another busy month: My interview season continues to run a fair bit longer than expected. I also moved apartments, but only in the same building, which was significantly easier than previous moves. This didn't leave much time for shopping, and well, I always find summer very uninspiring because on the fashion front, because of my extreme distaste for heat and humidity. 

The only thing I want to wear, now that summer weather has finally set in, is breezy and relaxed-fit linen. This month's purchases fall into that category, and I've also been window-shopping for linen items from more ethical sources like the handmade offerings of Etsy stores such as LinenHandmadeStudio and notPerfectLinen (note: notPerfectLinen sometimes closes on weekends, but reopens on weekdays). Presently, I've just been struck, after reviewing the linked inspiration photos here, by a sudden passionate desire for a pair of blue linen ankle pants, something with a shape like these H&M Premium Quality linen joggers, but maybe not joggers. My heart's desire may be a pair of more formal linen trousers of that general shape, maybe with a paperbag waist and tie belt. I've not seen anything that fits the bill, just joggers (Joie) and more joggers (Athleta). Alas, I may be hoping for something that doesn't exist this year.

I am getting closer to being on track for my yearly budget limit. I am now "over budget" by $168.18 (($150 x 6) - $555.98 - $154.21 - $94.79 - $35.93 - $128.80 - $98.47 = $168.18). By now, I think it's looking somewhat clear that last year's $170/month, rather than this year's $150/month, was a better monthly target for me, but we'll see how the rest of the year goes.

Fashion - (TOTAL: $98.47)
  • J.Crew Factory Embroidered Floral Dress - $49.50* - The bright blue, the giant embroidered flowers, and the "boob tent"-effect (for lack of better phrasing) prone shape all make this something that should not be my thing, but somehow, this dress works for me. Like other relaxed-fit J.Crew Factory dresses, it runs a little large, such that a XS might work for me, though I kept the S, which still fits largely as expected, based on the model photo. (I'd normally expect to be an M or S in similar dresses from other mall brands.) With my chest size and the design, there is a slight tent-y effect that's not seen on the model. I did find, with the rest of my order, that J.Crew Factory's fitted, number-sizing dresses, especially this Origami Sheath, run very small to me because they're cut for someone with significantly less curve in both the chest and hips (I don't have particularly full hips either - I'm closer to an inverted triangle than a true hourglass). I prefer belting this dress, leading to this month's other purchases.
  • H&M Premium Quality Leather Belt - $17.99 - Before this, I didn't have any belts in my closet. I shopped around for secondhand belts, but felt very unsure of what I'd be getting, so I opted for H&M. (It doesn't align perfectly with my minimalism-ish to shop there, though as with anything I buy, I intend to cherish for its entire natural lifespan. With a leather belt, I'm not expecting it to wear out anytime soon.) 
  • H&M Premium Quality Braided Leather Belt - $12.99 - Same as above. I wanted both a skinny braided belt and a thicker belt. 
  • H&M Premium Quality V-Neck Linen Tee - $17.99 - (similar gray v-neck in S) This  came partially out of my recent obsession with linen, and partially out of a need to reach the free shipping quantity. The temptation of "just add one more item for free shipping" is typically a thing to assiduously avoid, but I was so close (and truly in need of more linen tees to add to that Everlane scoop neck linen tee I picked up last year) that it seemed alright. H&M's size chart is pretty wonky, so while I should be an M, the M is actually little too big on me, though not enough to want an exchange in this fairly relaxed-fit design.
*Includes return shipping cost on the rest of my order, which did not pan out.

Anyone else inordinately fond of linen for summer? 

Thursday, June 8, 2017

The Cost of: A Course of Dermatologist Treatment

via, my real dermatologist's office is honestly fancier

As I mentioned in April, I've been seeing a dermatologist, which has been a good but imperfect experience. I was inspired to go because my current government insurance is likely the best I'll ever have and my skin had been acting up differently (not product-induced, as I hadn't added anything new in the preceding four months). I'd been extremely happy with my previous CosRx BHA-centric routine (briefly described here, cheapest on Amazon, resulted in an unprecedented four months "cyst"-free* until the problem week that inspired the dermatologist trip), but then I had a really icky bump that, in a new development, seemed like it might leave a textured scar. So off I went, to a well-regarded NYC-area dermatologist primarily known for botox and related aesthetic treatments, but also for aggressive acne treatment.

I can't be the only chronically acne-prone American with this experience, but being able to just call in and schedule my own dermatologist appointment, with someone very willing to administer cortisone shots and prescribe a broad spectrum of new medications if the previous one(s) didn't work promptly, still seems an impossible luxury! As a young teen with persistent acne and restrictive health insurance (had one dermatology referral ever, when I presented with all over the face cystic acne, the worst it's ever been, and it still wasn't enough for Accutane to be in the realm of consideration), I've always longed desperately for the ability to get the level of dermatologist care I'm receiving now. I suppose that's part of what's inspired me to follow through with several months of (still-expensive, even with insurance) treatment, an urge to resolve the question of whether that "impossible luxury" of easy access to a dermatologist would have alleviated my persistently "cyst"-prone acne sooner, and better, than the years of experimentation and over the counter product-centric routine I eventually discovered (old, pre-CosRx routine described here).

Nearly four months in, I find that I prefer my old CosRx-centric routine (a two-step combo of the BHA A-Sol and BHA Blackhead Power Liquid) and that I may regret my dermatologist experiment. It's involved a few new prescriptions, which required stopping BHA and my Vitamin C Serum, not a great trade-off. I have only a few months before I switch insurance again, which will likely stop this process. Presently, I've been referred to another specialist, and am curious about the result, so I'll keep going. Overall, my skin has not done better than I believe it would have on my previous routine. While prescriptions were always an important part of treating my persistent acne and I would certainly recommend a dermatologist, if at all possible, if one's acne ever takes a sudden, extreme turn for the worse, for my more low-level but chronic acne problem, a hybrid prescription and over the counter routine, without any of my new medications, still seems best.

There've been a few valuable lessons though. Cortisone shots are pretty magical, and this experience makes me more willing to schedule an emergency cortisone shot if I ever have a nasty cyst that conflicts with an important life event. It's expensive with insurance, but could be worth it because, well, vanity. Also, despite another non-dermatologist doctor's recommendation, scaling back Retin-A Micro to once every other day was not good for my acne. When I went back to daily use on the derm's advice, I had a similar, though much briefer, adjustment period as when it was first prescribed to me, and I saw some immediate improvement with my acne.

The most obvious downside of my experiment is that, even with good insurance, it's been extremely expensive. Each visit averages out to $150, including the $35/visit specialist copay and post-insurance fees for a cortisone shot at each visit, and sometimes an extraction. I've been doing monthly follow-ups,  this doctor's usual practice until it's very clear that a new regimen is working, so it adds up. Note that one's mileage with costs will vary based on insurance provider and policy.

The co-pays on my prescriptions have been... slightly jaw-dropping, for someone accustomed to the same $10/refill copay for everything, even when on less robust insurance. This derm's aggressive approach occasionally involves specially compounded medications, so they default to sending prescriptions, even ones that can be fulfilled at chain pharmacies, to a specialty place with higher co-pays. Admittedly, I could have opted out for most of my medications, but I chose not to in order to give this experiment a full try. I was given Acanya (a 1.2% clindamycin and 2.5% benzoyl peroxide gel, which I don't like, as the BP wreaked complete havoc on my skin at first), which is always expensive, at $40 with insurance and a manufacturer coupon. I'll be coy about the other copays, as I'm a little embarrassed, many could likely have been adjusted down significantly had I immediately called back and asked for the prescription to be sent to a normal chain pharmacy. 

*Acne nomenclature has always confused me. I've had medical professionals, including this derm, refer to my usual breakouts, which always come to a head eventually (TMI acne treatment-related post warning) as cystic acne and to some of the bumps as cysts. Yet there's also evidence that "true" cysts don't come to a head. I've had that kind also, though thankfully it's extremely rare and hasn't happened in years. Those cysts tend to be smaller as they don't really get inflamed, and they hang around for months before disappearing on their own. 

Monday, June 5, 2017

Long Weekend in D.C.

Xu Bing's Monkeys Grasp for the Moon

For the Memorial Day weekend, I visited my younger sister, W, in the Washington, D.C. area. W graduated with her master's degree last year, and now lives and works in the D.C. suburbs. We had a wonderful time! I'd been to D.C. before, so we didn't feel any pressure to go out and see too many things, just wandered through D.C., Georgetown, and the Old Town area of Alexandria. We also saw LP in concert, and she was fantastic. (I think people are most likely to know her from one of her songs having recently been in Orange is the New Black, but I hadn't watched that season and her music was new to me before I went to the concert.)

We splurged on one fancy meal, at 1789 in Georgetown. I really enjoyed the food, and the restaurant is located in a cool historical house. Pictured above is the foie gras dish (a dainty but satisfying portion - looks bigger in the photo than it actually was!) and the duck, both of which were delicious. The plates were all beautifully composed, and they make good use of seasonal vegetables. (I had a burrata dish, not pictured, where asparagus and peas were the highlight of the dish, and I don't usually especially like either vegetable.)

Follow the link for a few more photos, from some of the Smithsonian museums, and restaurant recommendations!

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

May Shopping Reflections

This month's shopping was exclusively done secondhand, via eBay and TheRealReal. I haven't been discussing minimalism terribly often recently because it has taken a backseat while work and life have been so hectic, but I continue to believe that using the secondhand market for clothing whenever possible is the least complicated way of being an ethical fashion consumer. There are so many challenges when trying to identify truly ethical brands to buy new, given the lack of transparency in the industry. (Working in law, I have an unusually hard time trusting any company's representations to their customers.)

My view on secondhand clothing is that, once an item hits the secondhand market, it's already been produced and sold once at retail, to at least one customer who didn't end up particularly wanting it. At that point, if someone is able to buy it and put it to good use, that's better than it going to the landfill. The only morally weird things that I can think of is if retail customers use "well I can always resell" to encourage overconsumption, but I'm skeptical that this is a big problem for most mall brands that I'm in the market for, as those items don't hold their value well.

That's not to say that everyone can feasibly embrace secondhand shopping for all their clothing needs. This thoughtful post by SA touches on the many challenges with that, and I can certainly vouch for how relying overly much on TheRealReal would cause various problems. Particularly when one doesn't have time for or access to good thrifting, shopping entirely secondhand may be a real challenge. "Mistake" purchases generally can't be easily returned, increasing the amount of money one needs for the whole effort. Shipping and return shipping on TheRealReal cost about $18 combined, and their size measurements are super-wonky, so one has to do considerable research or know a brand well to attempt educated purchases, and even then, mistakes will still happen.

With two out of my three secondhand purchases this year, the outcome has been imperfect in terms of sizing and how well the style works for my body. Don't get me wrong, they're both wearable and I've been wearing each problem dress a fair bit, but they're things I would have had to think seriously about returning, had I bought them retail. Still, while I haven't been the most successful with my secondhand purchases, I never truly regret them. All were items that I noticed and was interested in back when they were originally in stock, months or years ago. After they sold out, I'd occasionally search eBay for them. I'd always done my best to research sizing too, and made the most educated guess I could about what sizes I would buy, if the price was right. So they were well thought-out choices on which I knew I was assuming a risk.

This also wasn't the most frugal month, so I'm still quite "over budget" for the year so far, by $219.71 to be precise (($150 x 5) - $555.98 - $154.21 - $94.79 - $35.93 - $128.80 = -$219.71). I'll have to shop carefully for quite a few more months, it seems. As for next month, I'm very likely to try a few things from J.Crew Factory, as I recently mentioned. Also, while wandering around D.C. with my sister this Memorial Day weekend, we stopped by Anthropologie and I was very taken with this opal and rose quartz Rosaline stacking ring set and may be tempted to snag it. (I've wanted a dainty opal ring on and off for years now, but had been thinking it should be fine jewelry instead, though generally never had room in my budget. I'm not sure costume jewelry is the best way to satisfy the urge, particularly when Anthropologie's offerings might not be the highest quality.) Whatever I settle on, hopefully it'll be a bit under my monthly target, so I'll continue making up the current shortfall. 

Fashion - (TOTAL: $128.80)
  • Tory Burch T-Shirt Dress - $87.95 - (old, similar styles but dramatically different prints) - I saw this years ago and thought it was pretty, but the price was higher than I could spend. Every so often, I'd search eBay with no luck. I finally saw it on TheRealReal in medium and I decided to go for it. Well, I guessed wrong about my size, as it runs big. It's a 100% pima cotton unlined t-shirt dress, which Tory Burch seems to do in new prints most years, and it's stretchy and meant to fitted and even a bit clingy (it's a thick enough fabric that it should skim the body nicely rather than emphasize things awkwardly). I thought I'd need to size up to accommodate my chest, but a small would have fit and the medium is a little baggy everywhere. I still like wearing this because it's so comfortable, it's machine washable, and it's pretty too. The style is fantastic for business-casual days at work in summer. Franish has one, but I can't find the post!
  • Madewell Moontide Dress (old, eBay) - $40.85 - I kept eyeing this in the Madewell sale section back in the day and had ample opportunities to get it then, but never pulled the trigger. This design is relatively common on eBay, but generally not at a price I'm comfortable with, so when it came up in medium at this price, it seemed meant to be. This dress is a cotton-silk blend with a cotton lining, which is a bit of a rarity with Madewell. (They do a lot of silk dresses with a poly lining, ick.) The cotton-silk has no stretch, and this design also runs a tiny bit tighter in the chest than many of their other relaxed fit-looking dresses. It fits right, so I consider this a successful purchase. My one quibble is that the fabric is a touch thicker and heavier than I hoped for a summer dress, but that's probably a good thing to prevent possible wardrobe malfunctions.

Somewhat relatedly, I used to really love Madewell, particularly the dresses and sweaters, but it's now been several seasons since I've seen anything I like there. My last purchases, until now but this month likely doesn't count because it was on eBay, were in October and December of 2015. This silk bell-sleeve dress is the only thing they currently have that I'd even take a second look at. (I don't love bell sleeves, but that one isn't too exaggerated and is balanced out by the simplicity of the rest of the design.) I don't know what happened, or if it's just me being weird and picky! Am I the only former Madewell fan who feels this way?

Linking up with Franish and the Budgeting Bloggers this month, as usual. Please do go check out what everyone else bought this month.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Odds and Ends

I started this month with the best of intentions, blogging-wise. Then one of my cases went to trial and all those good intentions were scuttled. Whether as a clerk or attorney, trial is probably the most intense of undertakings that a litigation-inclined lawyer ever encounters. It's also increasingly rare  in American federal courts (as to both criminal and civil). I've had two trials in my ten months as a clerk, one co-clerk had four, and another co-clerk had zero, but with one coming up.

There's been almost no shopping, though I did snag two items on the secondhand market that I had been thinking about for a long time. Because I detest polyester summer clothing, cold shoulders, most sleeve ruffles or flares, and off the shoulder tops and dresses, most of my usual retail stores currently have nothing of interest. J.Crew Factory's been the only place I've seen anything that I'm remotely interested in trying: there's a striped cotton midi skirt very similar to the one I loved last year, though with an elastic waist instead of a zipper, and the linen-cotton sidewalk skirt in fun colors that I might want to try out next month. I also find the bright and beachy embroidered linen dress pictured above to be oddly compelling though the shape is outside of my comfort zone. 

Here are a few other non-shopping things I've been thinking about in the last few hectic months.

Fitness Trackers

I sort of resent what I spent on my Fitbit Flex (old version I own here). I'd suspected that fitness trackers are one of those things that's rarely a good idea from a frugality perspective. The simpler ones (still retailing at ~$80) are really just expensive pedometers, as they can't track heart rate and therefore have no hope of tracking calories burned accurately. From reading reviews back when researching the purchase, the entire genre seems prone to breaking down in significantly less than a year of normal use. I'd almost think that one should just get the Apple Watch because it would at least be reliable, have a real warranty, and actually have some real functions in addition to fitness tracking.

As for my specific complaints about the Fitbit Flex? It stopped holding a charge well about two months in. The silicone wristband was so badly designed that each one began splitting and soon became unusable within three months. Good replacement bands are hard to find. I have this, but the metal clasps cause heinous contact dermatitis, so I can only use it as a silent alarm clock and keep it on my wrist as little as possible. The irony is that I'm likely getting my money's worth: I needed a reliable silent alarm because I had a year of waking up two and a half hours earlier than K. It seemed clear that the cheaper pillow-shaking or wrist-shaking silent alarms weren't reliable. Cheaper fitness trackers also didn't seem to have a reliable alarm. As a silent alarm clock, in which case the problems aren't as important because I only wear it to sleep, the Fitbit Flex has actually been just fine.

American Medical Care

I finally went to a branch of the New York Public Library and got myself a library card for access to their e-book collection, which has been fantastic. One of the best-written books I've read since is Paul Kalanithi's When Breath Becomes Air, which is excellent and also incredibly sad. 

Only somewhat relatedly, as someone prone to thinking about worst case scenarios, I have considerable anxiety about American medical care and well, paying for it. I have no reason to be anxious right now, as a generally healthy young adult with decent (if expensive, but that's never news) employee-sponsored health insurance, but well, I can't help but think that no matter how financially secure I become in the future, after decades of work, a solid bout of serious illness in the family could easily decimate that work within weeks or months.  

Early on in Kalanithi's book, he spends months with frequent bouts of serious, what sounds like an eight on a scale of ten pain. He, a working doctor, specifically thought of cancer as a possible cause. When he finally saw another doctor, he or she concurred. They didn't end up running a test, and so he wasn't diagnosed then, and the cancer grew. I don't think cost or access was the issue, more his punishing schedule as a neurosurgical resident. Still, cost or access is the issue so often here. I myself have nothing to fear budget-wise or insurance-wise, yet even I still get antsy and drag my feet, worry about receiving a shocking bill in the mail, every time I need to schedule an appointment. 

I can't help but contrast the American experience with that of extended family in Taiwan (home of one of the cheapest and best health care systems in the world). Last year, there were two cancer scares, each starting with some kind of whole-body preventative, just-because scan (must have included something like a MRI, though I might be wrong) that cost something like $500 USD each. The scan caught, for one person, possible colon cancer that thankfully proved benign after a surgical biopsy and a multi-day hospital stay, and in the other, the earliest stages of breast cancer. Diagnosis and treatment in both cases was easy, swift, and not at all the cause of any financial anxiety. For additional, far less serious, context about the Taiwanese system, I'm not on the national healthcare system, but during a 2011 trip, I had a walk-in visit with a popular dermatologist and got a two-month's supply of name-brand acne prescription medication, all for $15 USD out of pocket. All this is unimaginable here.  

Friday, April 28, 2017

April Shopping Reflections

My interview season has finally come to a close and, with that, I'm hoping to get back to writing more regularly. With my commute on top of the normal level of busy for my current job (I've been spending significantly more hours out of the house for work than K at his biglaw firm for months now - many biglaw practice groups have been slow this year) on top of the interviews, I've been worn out. Part of the problem is that I don't think I'm physically capable of fully adjusting to my new sleep schedule. My law firm schedule aligned perfectly with my natural sleep cycle, and moving everything up by two and a half hours has not been fun. I've been on my current schedule for half a year now, and even with the assistance of melatonin, I still have trouble falling asleep every night. 

This was a fairly low-shopping month, which is proper, in light of last month's dramatic spending. I am now $240.91 over budget for the year (($150 x 4) - $555.98 - $154.21 - $94.79 - $35.93 = -$240.91), compared to last month's $354.98, so I'll need a few more low-shopping months to catch up, but I am on the right track. 

In other news, I've been seeing a kind of fancy dermatologist, mostly out of curiosity and because, as a short-term government employee, I briefly am in possession of the best health insurance I'm likely to ever have (biglaw firms are not known for robust health insurance offerings). This will probably be the only time in my life that I can justify regularly seeing a dermatologist for fairly routine care.

Spoiler alert: The dermatologist prescribed some new medications, but I don't think their course of treatment actually works better for me than my most recent over-the-counter CosRx BHA-centric routine (cheapest on Amazon, see my quick review here). Cortisone shots are miraculous, but imperfect, but those are expensive even after insurance. I haven't been reporting on my skincare purchases these past two months, because they've fallen more in the category of medical necessity rather than discretionary purchase while my skin adjusts to new prescriptions. 

Fashion - (TOTAL: $35.93) 
  • Ann Taylor Mosaic Lace Shift Dress (only one size left) - $35.93 - I couldn't help but snag this dress when it briefly popped back in stock in my size. I actually have another one in a near-identical color (navy blue rather than this royal blue) from late summer of 2015. I loved that one so much, I wanted a back up. I couldn't tell from the stock photos, but the lace pattern on the 2015 version was different, a bit more delicate. The fabric is otherwise the same cotton and nylon blend for the lace with a polyester lining. The dress is quite light and good for most seasons, even summer (though if the lining weren't polyester, it'd breathe better). I also wear the older dress in cold weather with tights, a cardigan, and a coat. Ann Taylor is currently stocking a lace shift dress in this same cotton-nylon blend in bright pink and steel gray, but in a leaf-patterned lace. Note that this dress runs quite large, though it's also a bit short of hem. I normally am a 4 or 6 regular in Ann Taylor dresses, but a 2 regular gets a "just right" fit for me in this dress. 

Linking up with Franish and the Budgeting Bloggers as usual this month. Please do go check out what everyone else bought this month! 

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

March Shopping Reflections

Long time no blog! The interview process, on top of my regular commute and work schedule, has been exhausting. I think it's starting to wind down at last (I'm leaning strongly towards my old firm), so I'll hopefully have more energy to write again in the near future. 

This month involves a bit of a first for me. Throughout the two years-plus of monthly budget posts, I don't think I've ever gone dramatically over budget without having "banked" enough to cover it from previous under-budget months that year. Until now. A few months ago, I mentioned an interest in a new colorful wool-blend coat, though the desire made me feel sheepish (I didn't need-need one) and it didn't pan out. What I hadn't mentioned was that I'd, somewhat relatedly, developed an interest in the Ted Baker wrap coat after seeing it on a few other stylish women in the city. The big sticking point was price. I wasn't seeing any sales on it before most sizes sold out and the sticker price was above the general range of what I'd feel comfortable spending. Then I saw the Ted Baker coat on sale ($384 before tax). Only the oxblood color was available, but they had my likely size. Past experiences with oxblood colored clothing suggested it wouldn't work for me, but nevertheless, I ordered it. I could always take it back to the store.

As for the two pairs of drapey black pants, there was a fleeting turn towards Spring weather here earlier this month that ended up being extremely deceptive. I expect to get a lot of wear from these once the weather warms up, even if they really may push the NYC attorney's business-casual envelope a bit. I'll write more about what motivated those purchases later, but it came out of a desire for more comfortable work clothing. 

Fashion - (TOTAL: $555.98)
  • Ted Baker Long Wrap Coat - $418.08* - I was so sure I would be sending this back, but it was just too pretty, and I was fairly confident that this was the best sale price I would get without looking to the secondhand market. The oxblood shade is more purple and less red than other oxblood-colored clothing I've tried, and somehow it works (similar shades have previously just looked wrong on me). Size 3 (the equivalent of an US 8) was the right one to accommodate my chest. The neckline is a bit finicky though, as Julycheee had mentioned about the short version of the coat. 
  • Uniqlo Women Drape Jogger - $29.90 - Because winter returned with a vengeance and remained for most of March, I haven't worn this out of the house yet. On my short for my 5'3'' height legs, these pants are the exact right length, no hemming needed, though they may show a bit less ankle than on the model. 
  • Grana - $108.00** 
    • Silk Ankle Pants - As with the Uniqlo drape jogger, March weather has not allowed me to wear these out yet. I bought the short length, which are exactly right as ankle pants on me. 
    • Women's Oxford Boyfriend Shirt - This was an impulse buy, one I decided on before the Ted Baker coat ate up my budget for the next several months. I've never had a relaxed-fit white button-down that I could see myself wearing with casual outfits (I wre the J.Crew Stretch Perfect Shirt with my suit for interviews when I was in college, but that's a very fitted look and wasn't what I wanted for casual wear). Because I trusted Grana's size measurements and general quality, I thought this was one to try. This kind of shirt for casual wear is a little out of my comfort zone, so we'll see how it works out for me once the weather warms up. 
*Including sales tax. 

**After $20 referral credit, thank you to readers who signed up through my link. If you are a new customer and sign up through my link, you will get 10% off your first order, and I will get $20 Grana store credit for the referral after you purchase. Thank you for your support!

Off-Budget Fashion Purchases 
  • Sam Edelman Tristan pumps - I finally put in an order for the ultraconservative interview shoes I needed. These were the first pair I ordered, and they were comfortable immediately (for the duration of a three hour job interview with walks around the office building halls a few times, which is not always a given) and seem to require no breaking in. At a 3'' heel, they're a bit taller than my previous tallest pair of pumps, so I'm still getting a little used to the height. I my experience, Sam Edelman shoes have a better track record for comfort than Cole Haan ones (the alternatives I would have considered next) so I was fairly confident about keeping these instead of trying others. They're slightly discounted at Zappos, by the way! 

For 2017 so far, I am now $354.98 over budget (($150 x 3) - $555.98 - $154.21 - $94.79 = -$354.98), or over budget by about 2.4 months. This doesn't mean I absolutely cannot shop again until June, as my budget is flexible month-to-month. (I commit to staying under budget for the year, this year at $150 x 12 = $1800, but otherwise I don't sweat it.) This is the most off track I've ever been since I first started doing these posts way back in 2015, though, so I have to be significantly more careful for the rest of the year, at least until my budget starts looking more on track.

Linking up to Franish and the Budgeting Bloggers, as usual, this month. Be sure to go check out what everyone else bought! 

Monday, February 27, 2017

February Shopping Reflections

Lots of  J.Crew the year so far, when it comes to my clothing purchases (though this month's was done on eBay). As with the Ruffle Trim Shift Dress last month, the Presentation Dress (old, seen on other blogs here, here, and here) purchase was inspired by seeing a stranger wearing it out and about. Whereas the time gap between seeing the real life inspiration and ordering the Ruffle Trim Shift Dress was only about two weeks, I waited much longer on this one, almost seven months. I had doubts about whether this style would suit me, but I kept on thinking about it, on quite a few different occasions, so by the time I purchased, I was at least sure that I wouldn't regret it.

I ended up with the 6R in this style (which most people said ran large), though I had been hoping for a 6P or 8P (with, say, Ann Taylor, regular sizing dresses are often best, but with J.Crew, petite sizing works better for me). I'd been looking on eBay on and off without seeing the exact size and color combination I wanted, so when I saw this one, which was close, at a good price, I finally bought it. The 6R works pretty well. I find it right on the edge of snug at the shoulders (as in, there's slightly restricted movement if I reach above my head because of something odd about the sleeve design) and around the chest (a 6P may have been too small), though it's a little roomy in the hips, as is usually the case for me.

This month's other purchases were items I've bought before. I've worn the same cultured pearl earrings close to every single day since I purchased them in early 2015. I've been extremely satisfied with how they've held up. (I've occasionally lost one of the backs, and generally replaced with these sterling silver backs.) I finally lost a earring, and purchasing a replacement was a "must" for me. I've also been working out slightly more frequently and doing laundry a bit less frequently, so it was high time to add a second sports bra to my collection, in the exact same style as my other one.

Fashion - (TOTAL: $154.21) 
  • J.Crew Presentation Dress (old, via eBay) - $40.22* - It's fairly easy to find this dress on eBay, though it's often a little more expensive than the price I paid. I like this dress, though I do find the sleeves odd, as I mentioned above. 
  • Cultured Pearl Earrings, 6.5-7mm, 14k gold posts - $43.99 - Before I first purchased these, I wore cultured pearl earrings on sterling silver posts (exact, it's lower-priced than these), which looked about as nice, but were less durable. One of those pearls fell off the post about a year later, though I glued it back with super glue and kept wearing it for a while, repeating the procedure about once ever two months, until I purchased my first set of these.
  • Panache Underwire Sports Bra - $70.00 - I really like this sports bra, though I'll admit that a large part of why I picked it was that it was the only one that didn't run so small and tight (considering that I had bought them all in my actual bra size) that I could actually wear it comfortably! Note that it still starts out quite snug in the band even if it is "true to size," in my experience. I'm quite busty, enough that I pretty much need both my bikinis and sports bras to come with underwires and in bra sizes, which gets pricey. This sports bra does its job well, including when wear it to run, i.e. for high-impact exercise. 
*Indicates that price included shipping. 

Beauty and Skincare - (TOTAL: $29.23)
  • Hada Labo Hyaluronic Acid Lotion - $9.39 - Best prices are on Amazon, with the lowest prices generally being from Japan-based sellers. I ordered this bottle in early February, but because of unpredictable free international shipping, it has yet to arrive. This was poorly planned out on my part, as I had already depleted my previous bottle almost entirely by the time I ordered...
  • Hada Labo Hyaluronic Acid Lotion - $14.40 - ...Which led me to ordering this bottle from a Prime-eligible seller only a week or two later. This is a tried and true holy grail item in my skincare routine, and I can't even count how many bottles I've used up by this point. It's a moisturizing toner, not what most US-based people would describe as a "lotion." I'd imagine that it's suitable for almost all skin types.
  • CosRx Acne Pimple Master Patch - $5.44 - Another holy grail item in my skincare routine, though thankfully not one that I need to purchase quite as often as the Hada Labo lotion. This item helps speed up healing for  certain types of acne, as I explained in this post

I'm a little over budget this month, though not by much, and everything should even out by the end of the year. I'm linking up with Franish and the Budgeting Bloggers this month, as usual. Please do go check out what everyone else bought this month!

Friday, February 24, 2017

(Shopping) Life Lately

Today's post is a quick one, mostly about items I tried on recently. It's been so long since I last interviewed for jobs in earnest, way back in the summer of 2013 before the start of my 2L year, and I had forgotten how exhausting it is!

Alas, I'm finding that the chances of getting a position that I would choose over returning to my previous firm are much slimmer than expected. There's this common wisdom that litigation associates generally have a hard time finding good "exit options" from their original firms, particularly when they're very junior, and I may be experiencing that. I'm also a fairly "average" post-clerkship candidate rather than a superstar, so that's another factor. I loved working with the people at my original firm, so this is no great tragedy, though it does make all this effort feel a bit wasted. 

The upside is that I may well be done interviewing before spring fully sets in, while it's still cold enough for black tights (Uniqlo Heattech when it's around 35 to 40 degrees Farenheit and fleece lined tights when its colder) and my trusty Sam Edelman Petty booties under my skirt suits. I'll be able to put off shopping for interview shoes for another good long while, which is probably for the best, as it's a genre of shoe that brings me very little excitement. 

As you'll soon see in my forthcoming monthly shopping budget post, I only did a little bit of actual clothes shopping this month. I also tried a few items that didn't pan out. I didn't like this J.Crew Cropped Lady Jacket at all (limited sizing, petite sizing no longer available, but judging from the regulars I tried, the petite sizes would have been too cropped on me). The neckline is a little too large and the material is much thicker and heavier than expected. With jackets in this style, I'd want to wear them indoors, like a blazer, but most NYC office buildings have robust enough central heating that a jacket of this weight and thickness would be too warm. 

While doing some off-budget shopping for underthings at Uniqlo (thanks to that misadventure with my laundry), I also tried on the Rayon Flare Long-Sleeve Tee Blouse, but found the sleeves too exaggerated. I shouldn't have been surprised, as I'm generally not sold on the bell-sleeve trend. I've been vaguely in the market all season for machine-washable long-sleeved blouses, whether in polyester or rayon, but nothing I've tried (mostly from Loft or Uniqlo) has worked As for underthings, I feel rather sheepish that I keep going back to Uniqlo, as its solidly "fast fashion", but I've found that their cotton styles (5% spandex) are considerably more sturdy, just as comfy, and a much better value than, say, pairs from Calvin Klein or Natori

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Civil and Appellate Procedure Imbroglio

The United States Supreme Court, via.
I wrote my last entry a few days before I posted it, as is my general habit. Thus, the post was written a few days before legal chaos was about to break loose. We live in strange times, lawyers especially. In my current role, there are restrictions on political activity, political speech, and practicing law, restrictions that I never thought would chafe as much as they do. I was having trouble sleeping, had fitful dreams about court orders not being enforced. Inspiration, blogging-wise, faded, and has been extremely slow in returning.

Without expressing an opinion regarding either electoral politics or the legal merits of issues in active litigation, my thoughts in November about the importance and the near-sacred duty of our judicial institutions now appear... perhaps remarkably prescient. In that general vein, below are several links that I find particularly educational in laying out some of the current issues. Certain links are, it cannot be denied, partisan in their implications, but are offered here only for educational and informational purposes: 
  • "The Quiet Grandeur of the Courts," a New York Times Editorial Board piece, is an elegant explanation of one of the underlying issues in the background of it all. This other opinion piece, by New York Times columnist Charles Blow, is a bit more fiery, but in the same vein. 
  • The Ninth Circuit has posted filed documents and other information regarding the appeal on an official public information page. The news media and twitter have generally been about 15 minutes ahead of this page when it comes to breaking news. Given the status of the case, however, I don't expect breaking news to appear in the next few days.
  • The Western District of Washington case and ensuing Ninth Circuit Appeal is actually in an exceedingly strange and confusing procedural posture, hence the title of this post. It's technical, but in a way that any law student with 1L Civil Procedure under their belt could at least begin to expound on and attempt to unpack. This informative and very accessible piece was written by Sarah Jeong, who graduated law school not long before I did, and I think it does a good job of explaining why it's odd. 
    • P.S. there's one extra step that Jeong's diagram omits. Ninth Circuit rules also allow for one additional stage after en banc review, should it occur,  a "super en banc" if you will. This has never actually occurred in the decades since the rule allowing for it was promulgated. 
  • What happens next? Due to the current procedural imbroglio, it's somewhat unclear. Prior to a Ninth Circuit's judge call to have the case heard en banc, Professor Josh Blackman wrote a post providing a very complete explanation of some of the options. Ensuing events have closed some of the doors he described. (Professor Blackman's more technical post, part 1, regarding the current procedural status of the case is here, but with more editorializing and commentary on what may or may not be procedurally proper or improper.) 
  • Judges rarely, almost never, make public comments that can be construed as directly political. Chief Justice Roberts may, however, occupy an unique position as the head of the Judicial Conference of the United States, as CNN reports. (The generally recognized norm that judges should refrain from political comment may or may not be as sacrosanct as many assume, at least as to the Supreme Court. All that is probably for historians and academics to comment on.)