Monday, September 21, 2020

On Justice Ginsburg

A photograph of Justice Ginsburg with other members of the Harvard Law Review. She was the first female member of the Law Review, and one of only nine women in her Harvard Law School class of over 500 students ( link, if needed). Due to family reasons, she ultimately moved to New York City and completed her 3L year as a graduate of Columbia Law School instead.

I was devastated to learn of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's passing last Friday. Justice Ginsburg was a trailblazer in the profession, entering it in a time when women were, by and large, unwelcome. 

Three years ago, in July 2017, I wrote a blog entry discussing some of Justice Ginsburg's personal writing, focusing mainly on her opinion piece about her "Advice for Living," which she wrote for the New York Times in October 2016 ( link, if needed). In that entry, I made sure to emphasize just how extraordinary she was, just how extreme the obstacles were against her and against all women who sought to become attorneys in her day:
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, [Justice Ginsburg] 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. [See Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, The Changing Complexion of Harvard Law School, 27 Harv. Women's L.J. 303, 307 (2004).] 
So I don't think it's an exaggeration to say that all women attorneys practicing today - regardless of political views or preferred judicial philosophy - should reasonably consider Justice Ginsburg to be a role model, someone who helped make it possible for us to participate fully in the profession today.  We are all, in a way, part of her legacy to the profession. While the legal profession remains an extremely challenging one for women and minorities to navigate, it has come a very long way since the early days of Justice Ginsburg's career. 

By now, you've probably also seen that, long before she was appointed to the Supreme Court, Justice Ginsburg was a brilliant attorney. In that time, she argued several key cases before the Supreme Court that developed our gender discrimination jurisprudence under the equal protection clause of the United States Constitution, practically from the ground up. 

One nuance that isn't always fully headlined in non-lawyer discussions about gender discrimination law is that - based on their facts - the landmark cases that Justice Ginsburg argued also made clear that women's rights are everybody's rights. Just as the law must not restrict the rights of women based on antiquated stereotypes about a woman's "proper" role in the home or in society, the law is also not to burden men based on those same stereotypes: husbands of those serving in the United States military should be entitled to the same dependent spouses' benefits as the wives of those in the military, Frontiero v. Richardson, 411 U.S. 677 (1973); widowers should be entitled to the same Social Security survivors' benefits as widows, Weinberger v. Wiesenfeld, 420 U.S. 636 (1975); and boys should be entitled to purchase alcoholic "near-beer" beverages at the same age as girls, Craig v. Boren, 429 U.S. 190 (1976).

After hearing about Justice Ginsburg's passing last Friday evening, I am currently staying off Twitter and limiting the time I spend on news sites in order to protect my mental health. Up until now, I've never before in my life felt the need to separate myself from social media or from the news like this, but last Friday pushed me over that edge. I simply cannot tolerate hearing about what the President or Mitch McConnell are saying right now, for at least a few more days. 

I have also made donations to the Biden/Harris campaign and to the "Get Mitch or Die Trying" fund. (Sadly, I understand that the polling data shows Amy McGrath probably has no real chance of unseating Mitch McConnell, so the latter fund donates to other Democratic senate campaigns that have a better chance.) With regards to the Supreme Court as an institution, and regardless of how Justice Ginsburg's seat is filled, I don't really see any way around needing some radical change to the structure of the Court, such as by court-packing. This was true even before last Friday, and it remains true now. 

Friday, September 18, 2020

Social Distancing Life Lately: Six Months and Counting

via Unsplash

When my colleagues and I abruptly rushed home from Luxembourg in mid-March, none of us could truly have imagined that, six months on, life would still not be anywhere close to normal. As we transited through Heathrow that day - after having booked new tickets last-minute in the wee hours of the morning, upon being woken up by concerned friends and family back home following the President's sudden announcement of a proposed Western Europe travel ban - the pandemic didn't feel real yet. Barely anyone at the airport was wearing a face mask. Things still looked almost normal, even if we knew they were not. 

Local Policies in NYC 

Now, six months later, NYC has - since June or so - controlled the spread of COVID-19 better than many other places in the US. Yet the prospect of resuming any substantial new indoor activities here - things bringing bigger groups of people together in closer quarters than the retail stores or museums that are currently open with drastically limited capacity - still feels potentially perilous. For the attorneys amongst us, participating safely in in-person court proceedings - particularly jury trials - and in-person depositions still feels like an impossibility. (Especially when we keep in mind that at least some participants or attorneys typically need to travel from out-of-state for such events.) 

Our state and city government are generally moving slowly and cautiously to gradually allow more significant indoor activities. In-person schooling at NYC public schools may restart in phases starting next week, on a partial schedule for the families that opt-in. Restaurant dining rooms may be allowed to open at the end of the month, at 25% capacity. 

Personal Comfort Levels

Completely separate from the issue of what's legally allowed, there's also the question of my personal comfort level with additional activities. I would not be happy about being forced to attend in-person court proceedings anytime soon. Nor am I willing to put others and myself at risk by partaking in indoor restaurant dining before a vaccine becomes widely available. Nothing short of a court order - and the fear of being in contempt of court - or a serious family emergency would get me on a plane before I'm vaccinated. 

I am somewhat apprehensive about when my workplace might start requiring attorneys to come into the office more often. New York officially allowed white-collar workplaces like law firms to reopen with certain safety precautions back in early July. But up to now, state law has also required that categories of employees who can perform the vast majority of their duties from home - attorneys included - be offered the choice to continue working from home, something I've availed myself of to the fullest extent. I'm not sure when that state policy might change.

K and I have loosened up somewhat since I last wrote about our ongoing social distancing experience in late July. We've both had our long-overdue haircuts now, and we each felt quite safe with all the new safety precautions at New York salons. In the next month or so, we'll probably both go to our first routine doctor's appointments since the COVID-19 shutdowns began. As mentioned in my recent money diary, we also ended up needing our building's superintendent and then a contractor to come in to our apartment for some repairs, across a few different days. And that also felt just fine, with everyone wearing masks and given NYC's continuing trend of favorable COVID numbers. 

While we've applied for absentee ballots, we may yet decline to use them and choose to vote in-person instead - most likely by early voting - knowing there were... some issues... with absentee ballots actually getting counted during the recent New York primary. To be fair, our election procedures have changed to directly address these problems, including to allow voters to track their own absentee ballots and have an opportunity to cure alleged defects instead of the ballot just being thrown out.

But I think it's fair to say our household is technically still practicing fairly strict social distancing. Outside of the errands described above, we are still staying home except for essential grocery and pharmacy trips, which we continue to limit to approximately once every three weeks. And our friends in NYC are still not quite ready to socialize yet, even outdoors.

Monday, September 14, 2020

Money Diary: COVID-era Staycation, Part 2

And here's part two of the COVID-era staycation money diary I started last week! When I left off, a contractor was in the process of replacing a large swath of floorboards in our living room, and we'd relocated our coffee table and office chairs to our bedroom for the duration of the work. The repairs were going to take three days total, factoring in that certain things needed time to dry or set. 

Only day one of the work had been completed so far, and the contractor needed to come in at 9:00 AM the following two days. This meant we needed to set our alarms for 8:00 AM to have enough time to get dressed and eat before the contractor came by. That's a very early wake-up call by our standards, alas, but we'll be glad to have the repairs done before we're technically back to work next week. 

We wake up at 8:00 AM so we can cook and eat before the contractor arrives at 9:00. The easiest and fastest dishes we can make are either grilled cheese, like we had on Monday, or eggs and bacon, like on Tuesday. So it's grilled cheese with mozzarella (Trader Joe's pre-sliced fresh mozzarella log, to be exact) and prosciutto again! I cook and K cleans up after. 

We mask up when the contractor arrives, before letting him in, and then we stay masked if we're in the living room while the contractor is working. We have an ample supply of disposable surgery masks, because my mom and her friends in California participated in charity drives to order dramatically large quantities of surgical masks and other PPE to donate to local hospitals, senior centers, and the like. While doing those orders, they also bought enough surgical masks for their families, so my mom has kept my sister and I well-supplied. 

That being said, now that K and I know we need to settle in for the long haul when it comes to COVID precautions, we're trying out some reusable, washable fabric masks. A friend of a friend recommended "Happy Masks" a small company that sells masks with an extra filter layer sewn in, and that's what K and I use today. I find these Happy Masks very comfortable because the elastic ear loops are quite secure, yet also quite soft, causing no discomfort even after several hours of staying masked up. The front of the mask is shaped so there's some space under the mask (like with a N95 or a cone-shaped mask that's molded or sort of 3D in shape, so only the edges of the mask sit on the face) and the fabric isn't directly in contact with the nostrils and mouth (like with a standard disposable surgical mask that's fully touching the face). I like the Happy Masks a lot, but I don't have enough knowledge about the science to vouch for the relative merits of the extra filter layer they sew in. 

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Money Diary: COVID-era Staycation, Part 1

Approximately once a year, I get inspired to write a money diary post in the Man Repeller format (focused on that week's spending only, without additional details about overall finances like at Refinery 29). I've done a 2018 "atypical week" money diary (part one, part two) and a 2019 "slightly more typical week" money diary (part one, part two). And now, with COVID-19 and everything else that's been going on, here's part one of a 2020 money diary! (I was definitely also inspired by Luxe's recent COVID-era weekend money diary.)

This year's money diary covers a six-day period. There's no point extending the diary to a full week, because the days immediately before and after this six-day period were both extremely boring, with no spending or outings further away than our apartment building's lobby. Heck, there are already two no-spending days in this diary, which was unthinkable for me in pre-COVID times! 

During the six days covered by this diary, both K and I were technically not working, and were instead enjoying a staycation. Though you'll see I still needed to do some work, some of it billable and some of it not. Until late August, I hadn't taken any vacation time in 2020. My supervisors at work encouraged me to take some time off, even if one can't go many places without potentially needing to do a two-week quarantine afterwards, pursuant to New York state law. 

For my part, I've always enjoyed staycations. I'm even known to take an extra vacation day after a trip is over, so I can relax at home a bit before returning to the office. (K prefers not to do this, as he doesn't think it's a great use of a vacation day. He'd rather head straight back to work!) 

But, well, I obviously also miss normal, pre-COVID times, when we'd have been able to freely use our vacation time to, say, go to Taiwan and Japan, as we were about to do in April. Maybe in late 2021? I can only hope...

Wow, a no-spending day! I didn't have a single one of those across my 2018 and 2019 money diaries... 

We sleep in a bit, as is typical for us on the weekends. I wake up around 10:00 AM, a bit ahead of K. Once K is up around 10:30, I start making brunch. I use the oven to cook Trader Joe's frozen hash browns and make an egg scramble on the stovetop with cheddar and chopped-up Trader Joe's "garlic herb" chicken sausage. (That's not my favorite flavor, the "spicy jalapeno" - which isn't actually spicy - is better, but they didn't have any in stock on our last Trader Joe's trip two weeks ago.) I cook and K cleans after the meal.  

Monday, September 7, 2020

Link List: More About Workplace Discrimination


Of late, I've been preoccupied with some of the smaller topics that have come up in connection with recent conversations about race and discrimination in the US. Because of certain of my own less happy professional experiences, and because I've experienced firsthand how difficult it is to truly and meaningfully challenge discrimination in the legal profession, I have a deep interest in discussions about workplace discrimination across various industries, not just in the law. 

1. // This first article, from Vice, is not technically about workplace discrimination, though my personal encounters with its subject matter have tended - distressingly, and somewhat creepily - to occur in the biglaw workplace and the law school recruiting process to get into said workplace. The article is about a joke t-shirt displaying the message "I Don't Need to Know About Your Asian Wife" and about the experiences with racism and sexism that caused the frustration and anger leading to the creation of said t-shirt.

One recurring theme to my personal reflections about all these discussions is that I'm fully cognizant of the relative privileges I've experienced as an Asian-American of East Asian descent - solidly within "model minority" stereotypes - and this is true here too. Within the article, the most distressing and sexually objectifying experiences with "Asian wife guys" are generally not from interviewees or Twitter users of East Asian descent. 

This is consistent with my personal experience. My biglaw and on-campus recruiting encounters with a number of "Asian wife guys" have all been comparatively... benign. They're definitely not making a pass at me, they genuinely just seem to think - perplexingly - that... it's a good way to make friendly small talk with the Asian-American junior associate or law student. And if this "Asian wife guy" is someone at your firm and in your practice group, this particular trait is probably going to be part of a combination of things that clearly show you over time that this person - almost always a partner, ugh - is likely... not going to be a particularly good professional mentor or sponsor for your career development.

2. // This next article from The Cut is actually about workplace discrimination in biglaw. Specifically, it's about how "Racism at my Job Literally Gave Me PTSD" ( link, if needed), from the perspective of a Black woman and former associate at a prominent biglaw firm in NYC. (She's previously written at least one other article about her time in biglaw.) 

Here's another instance in which I recognize my comparative privilege as an Asian-American of East Asian descent, one with many markers of the "model minority" stereotype. While I had no real chance to succeed from my very first days in biglaw, well before I had a chance to prove myself a good or bad worker (so it had nothing to do with my merits as an associate) - and while I also felt some of the emotions the author describes in The Cut article in my first months at my subsequent jobs as a result - what I experienced is still nothing in comparison to what my Black and Latinx colleagues face. In the end, no one ever actually said anything to me that could form the basis of a Title VII discrimination claim, and people from my demographic are extremely well-represented in the biglaw junior ranks.  

I'm reminded of a moment from my summer associate days: A well-meaning - but somewhat graceless - white classmate questioned how the firm described our summer class as extremely diverse; if almost every attorney of color in the class was Asian-American, that isn't exactly meaningfully diverse, is it? For context, the summer class consisted of several dozen people (I'm being intentionally imprecise to protect my anonymity). Almost half of us were attorneys of color. (And I can further confirm that most Asian-American members of the class happened to be of East Asian descent, to add to the sense of lacking genuine diversity.) My classmate probably shouldn't have said this thing in front of me, it resembles the "there's too many Asians here" type of racism that's reared its head a number of times in my life, in descriptions of communities I'm a part of - commentary often affirmed by fellow Asian-Americans, it's a very complicated thing - but this classmate also wasn't wrong. 

The author described her entering law firm class in her office as counting only four Black women among its roughly 60 members. My entire firm's newly entering class my year - including robustly-sized classes in several other major-market offices besides NYC, for a total of well over 100 new associates firm-wide - barely had more than that. 

3. // Going back to discussions of workplace discrimination in other industries, here's a Grub Street profile of Tammie Teclamarian ( link, if needed), a.k.a. @tammieetc on Twitter, who can fairly be described as an important food media whistleblower. Teclamarian played a significant role in revealing the misdeeds and problematic behavior that led to the departure of Adam Rapoport, former Editor in Chief at Bon Appetit, and also of Matt Duckor, former head of video at Conde Nast, as discussed in one of my July blog entries.

Teclamarian has also been a major player in the discussions that led to the resignation of Peter Meehan from the Los Angeles Times food section. In the weeks since, it became clear and was well-corroborated that Meehan was often an emotionally volatile and terrible person to work under, just like Teclamarian reported before his resignation. 

Sadly, it's now clear that Conde Nast won't fix the pay disparities associated with the Bon Appetit YouTube channel, which became public knowledge in June and which has since caused the departure of a large percentage of the individuals previously appearing in their videos. As I stated, I personally committed to never again viewing another Bon Appetit YouTube video until this problem was fixed. So because Conde Nast doesn't ever plan to fix it, the Bon Appetit YouTube channel is now dead to me forevermore. Good riddance! 

Thursday, September 3, 2020

Some Recent Money Wins (And a Really Wild Money Diary)

Tory Burch Perry Card Case (affiliate link)

Two good money things have happened recently, one small and one not-so-small. Both of these money wins came with essentially no effort on my part, I was just lucky they happened!

And there was also a truly wild Refinery29 money diary this week (see also the very active r/MoneyDiariesActive discussion) that I just had to share. Normally, when a money diary becomes controversial mostly because of the diarist's high income, I generally think much of the skepticism is unfounded or unnecessarily nit-picky. But the numbers in this one really don't make sense if the diarist actually derives all their income from a law firm, as described. 

Actual Refinery29 employees have confirmed on Twitter that their editor "worked extremely hard to protect this person's identity," but without specifying exactly what measures were taken, outside of - at a minimum - taking out "a whole lot of fun stuff... for security's sake." And even if they only subtracted and didn't actively change or add details, there's maybe a question about whether something becomes misleading because too much material information is removed. But I digress... 

Money Win 1: The Mysterious Unclaimed Property

By now, most Americans have probably heard it's good to check your state's unclaimed property listings once in a while, because various types of payments or reimbursements often get lost. I've never really thought it likely I'd ever benefit much from this advice. Because I closely track all my finances to a somewhat excessive level of detail, it'd be a shock to discover I'm owed any money I wasn't already aware of. I keep a close eye on everything, and am generally prompt and proactive about following up if I think I'm missing any payments or refunds, no matter how small. 

But recently, when I checked New York state's unclaimed funds page, I was surprised to discover I apparently had some unclaimed money to my name, apparently from CVS Caremark and associated with my law school apartment address. This was strange, as I didn't recall having any dealings with them during that time. Getting my unclaimed property was painless and quick: I entered some information on the state comptroller's website to confirm my identity and they promptly sent me a check, which I received within a week of making my claim. I had no clue what the amount would be until I received the check, and was pleasantly surprised to see it was $20. (I was expecting more like $5 or $10.) I still don't know what it was for, though... 

Money Win 2: A Better 401(k) Provider

I used to have no choice when it came to the investment of my 401(k) at my current workplace. There was only one actively managed fund, with shockingly high fees - approximately 1% - several orders of magnitude more expensive than anything I'd ever choose for myself. And, to add insult to injury, the fund more or less consisted of what's in a S&P 500 index fund, except in different proportions and it tended to underperform the index in recent years. 

Well, all that is over now because my employer is officially switching us to a better 401(k) provider! We'll now be investing through one of the "big three" providers known for offering a wide range of low-fee index funds (Fidelity, Schwab, or Vanguard). And we'll have access to a full complement of competitively-priced index funds, even more than the solid range of offerings available through my first biglaw employer's 401(k) provider at another of the "big three". I am super, super excited. 

And a Controversial Money Diary

One of this week's Refinery29 money diaries - by a purported 36 year-old Salt Lake City-area family law attorney making $700,000/year, as part of a $1,600,000/year household with 9 children - is truly wild. There's a lot that doesn't add up in this diary, as many people pointed out in the comments there and on Reddit. (I am, by the way, one of the many participants in the Reddit discussion.) 

Keep in mind I'm normally the type of reader where my first impulse is to say "well, actually, this income level is plausible" when I see money diary-type stories that many people decry as fake mostly because of very high income at a relatively young age. Do you recall that controversial - and most likely fake for other reasons - graphic that went around Twitter last year about the alleged $500,000/year two early 30s-lawyer, two-kids household that still felt "average"? One of my first gut reactions was that it quite frankly probably understated the real household income of two attorneys like that, given where the biglaw salary scale has gotten.  

It's difficult for someone like me to confidently state exactly what an accurate-ish income would be for a 36 year-old family law attorney - likely a partner - at a smaller law firm in a lower cost of living area. There's not much transparency in biglaw about how much the partners make, unless you're actually a partner or maybe a fairly senior associate in serious contention. In any case, biglaw in a major market like NYC is not going to be at all comparable to a small firm there, much less to one in a very different market. 

But I still believe I can reasonably say the $700,000/year is not realistic here. I know of quite a few reliable anecdotal data points suggesting that a good number of younger partners at highly profitable NYC biglaw firms make ~$400,000 to ~$500,000/year. And that's within a giant firm where even the most junior associates might bill over $400/hour, mid-level and senior associates over $700/hour, and partners over $1,100/hour at the high end, with the majority of attorneys trying to bill at least 2,000 hours a year (which generally requires significant late night or weekend work at some point). Biglaw-level family law attorneys and practices certainly exist, but they're not common. 

The more interesting issue raised here is the offhanded admission by at least one Refinery29 employee that certain editing work is done to "protect" a diarist's identity. And that apparently they do fact-check with "ID/receipts/documentation."

I doubt anyone from their team will ever share anything more than these vague comments, but this does lead to many big questions: How much editing do they do to "protect" the diarist's anonymity, and does it involve more than just taking out "a whole lot of fun stuff" for "security's sake"? Do they add or revise details, not just subtract? (Regardless, it's possible for certain omissions to be so drastic they render the entire story misleading.) What exact type of documents do they think make for adequate "ID/receipts/documentation" to confirm a $1,600,000/year household income? And why would a purported lawyer share such documentation with Refinery29, essentially just for fun, without even getting any clout or fame for it, if the diary is anonymous?

Monday, August 31, 2020

Kitchen Gadgets That Bring Disproportionate Joy

Our kitchen storage situation is unusually cramped. Typical units in our building have an overhead cabinet on the wall in this space, but somehow ours ended up without.  The overhead cabinets on the opposite wall are also extremely small. Photo is from when we first moved in, and this corner now holds even more pantry items, now that we're cooking every day!

I recently posted about some things I haven't been spending on or buying due to COVID-19 shutdowns. But there are also certain things I've been buying because of staying home to socially distance. Today, I thought I'd write about some of the smaller items in that category, namely a few fairly basic kitchen tools or gadgets that have brought me a disproportionate amount of joy through their utility. Now that I finally have them, I wonder why I waited so long to acquire them!

For the most part, these are items for which I first recognized the need or potential use at least a few months - if not years - ago. But, in each case, I dragged my feet regarding the purchase for an unnecessarily long time. It's only now that we're cooking every single meal at home that I was finally inspired to actually buy these kitchen tools.

I've mentioned a few times over the years that I can be really weird about putting off certain basic and fairly inexpensive purchases for the home and kitchen, even when the need for them is abundantly clear. K and I put off buying a full-size vacuum cleaner for years, sticking with a small hand vacuum I bought when I started law school, even as we started getting to an age where our bodies make complaints known about our repeatedly crouching down to the floor to use a hand vacuum to clean our entire - admittedly not that large - apartment. And I've previously used significantly warped cutting boards and also oven mitts on which the protective silicone layer was actively peeling off... for an almost stupidly long time, before finally replacing them. That's despite the obvious potential kitchen safety issues caused by both things. 

Friday, August 28, 2020

August 2020 Shopping Reflections

I can never quite figure out whether it makes more sense to report made-to-order purchases in the month where I place the order, or in the month where I receive it. For the most part this year, I've been doing the former. I suppose this is partially because I've made a personal commitment to avoid troubling people with return shipments as much as possible while the COVID situation remains serious. If I make an order these days, I'm pretty certain about keeping the item, or at least, about finding a new home for it on the secondary market if I've made an error in judgment about whether something will suit me.

This month's purchase has, in a way, been on my radar for a long time. I've had a photo of this dress pinned to my spring and summer personal style inspiration board on Pinterest since quite a while ago, but I didn't know the designer at the time. I never really looked up whether the dress would be within reach for me price-wise, and I never knew whether the item was from a long-ago season or whether it was currently available. 

Separately, I noticed that a few people I follow, namely Erica and Elaine, had purchased Heinui dresses in the past few months. And even then, after I started following the designer on Instagram, I didn't initially realize this was the designer and brand that made the exuberant blue and white printed dress I'd seen on Pinterest. It took a while for me to put two and two together, as the designer's website wasn't selling any dresses in this specific print when I first started following her. 

Fast forward to a few days ago, and the designer posted on Instagram stories that she had just enough fabric left to make a handful more of these "Cora" dresses in this exact print. But because she lives in a different time zone, those dresses were all sold out by the time I saw the posts. I was disappointed, but hopeful that maybe she'd re-release the dress again sometime. Then later that day, she decided to take more pre-orders for the dress in this print, and so I jumped right on it. In other words, this kind of does count as an impulsive purchase, as it really only took less than an hour for me to make a decision after the designer opened up new pre-orders for this dress. She's hoping to make and ship the dresses by the end of September, so it'll be a while before I receive this order. 

Fashion - (TOTAL: $327.11) 

  • Heinui Cora Dress, blue girls and koi print - $327.11 - So this dress design is definitely one of those that probably billows down and out from the widest point of the bust, something I used to be really nervous about when it comes to selecting clothes for myself. (It's a bit crude, but I feel like the best way to describe how this general silhouette can look is by saying that it could cause a "boob tent" effect.) I'm a fairly busty hourglass, measuring approximately 37''-28''-38'' on my 5'3'' frame before we embarked on the current staying-at-home-to-avoid-COVID lifestyle, and I generally prefer to deemphasize my chest measurement a bit with how I dress. But over the years, I've bought enough of these potential "boob tent" dresses that it seems clear I've shaken off my apprehension about wearing such silhouettes. I probably don't need to fuss so much about such designs anymore, as I clearly seem to be comfortable wearing them in most instances! Though I think this Heinui dress is a more intentionally oversized look and a lighter, floatier material than any of my other dresses that flow down and out from the widest point of the bust, so it might still take some getting used to. I really love the print and how exuberant it is.

And that's it for this month's shopping! Now that I have quite a few more fountain pens and inks than I did this time last month - enough that I'm not too far from owning so many pens that I can't really actively use my entire collection at once - my brain seems to be slightly more inclined to thinking about shopping for my closet again. I do remain focused on trying not to shop too much, though, so I'll try to keep those shopping impulses to reasonable limits. 

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Link List: On Federal Mail and Wire Fraud

via Unsplash
Current events from this past week give me some opportunity to discuss a topic about which I have some general professional knowledge, namely the law governing US federal mail and wire fraud. So let's get right to it! There actually manage to be two significant news stories from last week that illustrate certain distinct things to do with federal mail and wire fraud. 

And because today's post discusses legal topics, a reminder: While I am an attorney at my day job, I am not your attorney. Nothing in this blog should ever be construed as legal advice or as forming an attorney-client relationship. 

1. // First up, Steve Bannon and a number of alleged co-conspirators were arrested on a federal indictment for - among other charges - mail and wire fraud in connection with what started as a GoFundMe scam, purportedly to help the government "build the wall" along the US's southern border. In part to extract the ~$20 million originally raised on GoFundMe for this, to put it lightly, truly bonkers purpose (there appear to be various legal and regulatory complications associated with trying to gift money to the federal government to "build the wall"), defendants allegedly represented that they would not be paid out of the donated funds. Those representations have allegedly been shown to be false. (See paragraphs 19 to 25 of the indictment.)  

This story corroborates an unrelated point I recently made when discussing some viral tweets - initiated by at least a few known alt-right agitators - that accused the Minnesota Freedom Fund or "MNFF" (a small local bail fund and beneficiary of an unprecedented-for-them ~$30 million in donations in the days immediately following the killing of George Floyd) of misusing funds due to failing to immediately spend that money in barely two to three weeks. 

At that time, there was no real basis for any reasonable actor to believe funds were being misused. It had been barely two or three weeks since the donations came in. MNFF had been operational for at least a few years before 2020, and had always made clear that part of their work was immigration bail, not just bail for defendants arrested on criminal charges. They appear to have been well-known in their own community. They promptly asked for donations to start going elsewhere within the first few days, which I tried to honor when I wrote about my donations. They had already spent six figures on bail by the time the viral tweets accusing them of wrongdoing started going around. 

Regardless, the US is a country where GoFundMe or other crowdfunding donation scams occurring conspicuously in the public eye become a likely target for prosecution. The indictment and arrest of Steven Bannon and his alleged coconspirators is certainly evidence of that. Should these defendants be convicted, I'd be willing to bet real money that their sentences will be longer than a year - and probably by a significant margin - unlike the sentences associated with this next story... 

2. // Secondly, by now you may also have heard that Lori Laughlin and her husband were sentenced last Friday for their role in the "Operation Varsity Blues" case, as parents who paid someone to facilitate getting their children into college with falsified credentials. Lori Laughlin received two months incarceration, and her husband five months. These are not long sentences by any conceivable standard. They are also fairly "typical" sentences for the parent defendants in this case, for those who have already been sentenced. Nor did the Government typically request significantly longer sentences than each of the parents actually got. 

There are so many ways in which the American criminal justice system is both immensely cruel and profoundly unjust. While my professional experience with federal criminal defense is limited, I can at least point to certain background facts relevant to understanding the sentences for the Varsity Blues parent defendants. I have not generally been surprised by the duration of these sentences, including Felicity Huffman's 14-day sentence. There are at least two major reasons for this.

Friday, August 21, 2020

COVID-19 Spending Changes

Chloe Alphabet Wallet (affiliate link)

This post about COVID-19 lockdown-driven changes to my spending is somewhat inspired by Luxe and Kathy. Over the past five months of staying home and observing fairly strict social distancing, I've continued my longtime practice - six years and counting - of tracking my spending down to the individual transaction - no matter how small - using old YNAB. With all the data I've collected, it's easy to look back and analyze exactly how much my spending has changed due to our new lifestyle under COVID. 

Although New York's already-favorable COVID numbers are continuing to improve, K and I still expect to observe fairly strict social distancing through at least the end of the calendar year. Our friends in the city are still not inclined to socialize in-person. My  mom would also not take lightly the decision to have my sister or I get on a plane to see her - or vice versa - basically until we've all been vaccinated. We are mentally preparing for the possibility that we may not feel comfortable enough with air travel to visit each other during the Christmas holiday period this year.

K and I desperately miss indoor dining at our favorite restaurants, but we would absolutely not feel it was safe - or socially responsible - to sit down inside a typically-cramped NYC restaurant before a vaccine becomes widely distributed. In any case, indoor dining is still banned in NYC, and there's no indication of when our state or local government would consider allowing restaurant dining rooms to reopen. 

In short, I think it's likely most of my spending changes from the past five months of COVID-19 lockdown could persist through the end of the year. I don't see any way K and I will go back to traveling or restaurants before 2021. And unfortunately - because the US national response to COVID has gone so poorly - we might end up needing to stay away for longer than just through the end of the calendar year.

Monday, August 17, 2020

Working From Home Lately

via Unsplash

Oops, it's been quite a while since I last posted! I've been incredibly busy with work for the last two weeks, including for two days straight where another team member and I both needed to work until 5:00 AM. But I don't mind it too much, because long - sometimes punishingly long - hours are just part of the job of private-sector legal practice in biglaw - and biglaw-adjacent - workplaces. And a lot of our work recently has been pro bono and directly related to the fight against police violence and racially discriminatory policing, which is extremely important. 

I should note that, in all my years in the industry, I've never had to stay up anywhere near this late before, much less for two days straight. Though staying at the office until 10:30 or 11:00 PM and doing at least some follow-up work from home afterwards was not uncommon in pre-COVID times. (Now most of us just do those same hours from home.) And I don't think working past 1:00 or 2:00 AM is especially common for litigators in general. Between all my litigator friends and I, we've only each done that a handful of times at most, in several years of practicing law. 

And I think, if these were pre-COVID days where we were all in the office for business completely as usual, those 5:00 AM nights would not have run anywhere near as late. I've found there's a lot of inefficiencies added to the workday in these pandemic times. Those inefficiencies are particularly noticeable when productivity is - to a large extent - measured by an attorney's billable hours. I used to pretty consistently bill seven or seven-and-a-half hours in a typical 9:30 AM to 6:00 PM day at the office, with normal lunch and coffee breaks (which included going out and taking a quick walk to buy said lunch or coffee). But these days, it typically takes me until at least 7:30 PM to bill seven hours, even with all the commuting and going out for takeout time completely eliminated from my schedule. 

I'm reminded that I once wrote a post about working from home, mostly focused on my typical practice of wearing very relaxed-fit and relatively un-cute lounge clothes anytime I'm at my apartment, including if I'm working a full day there. Now that I'm working from home all the time, I haven't really changed my manner of dress. I'll put on Zoom-appropriate "real people clothes" if I have a video call, but otherwise it's schlubby lounge clothes all day long, mostly just a short-ish cotton tee-shirt dress (affiliate link) without sweatpants or a sweatshirt now that it's summer. 

By now, you've probably already seen that long-form New York Times article about "The End of Fashion," which touched somewhat on COVID-driven changes to workwear and increased interest in loungewear, but is also a lot more focused on larger disruptions and changes to the fashion industry from recent, pre-COVID, years. It definitely isn't the end of business formal wear for my industry. Someday, courts will reopen, and we'll no doubt still need to dress as formally as we used to for that. But I don't know if COVID might cause long-term changes to what we typically wear day-to-day at the office, once we're able to return there consistently. 

Has COVID-19 caused any changes to your efficiency or productivity levels when working from home? (It's hard for me to compare my current level of productivity with how it was pre-COVID because I worked from home so rarely back them.) If you read that "End of Fashion" article in the New York Times, what did you think? 

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? 

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Complicity and Discriminatory Workplaces

via Unsplash

With all the recent discussions about employment discrimination and racism in media and journalism, including at Bon Appetit and Refinery29, I've become troubled by one particular question: To what extent can a person fairly be considered complicit in a discriminatory system in which they have no, or minimal, power? It's a question I've been thinking about when I see Asian-American women writers around my age respond to recent conversations about racial discrimination at certain publications. 

This question first occurred to me when I saw Christina Chaey's post on Instagram about Bon Appetit (she was one of the nonwhite employees featured semi-regularly on their YouTube channel without extra compensation for appearing in videos). In it, she apologizes for her "complicity in a system that made me feel lucky that I got a seat at their table," explaining that she "hold[s] [her]self responsible for not doing more to support my BPOC colleagues past and present." She then goes on to state that "I've been complicit in - and at times have contributed to - the toxic white culture these men [Adam Rapoport, former Editor in Chief of Bon Appetit ("BA"), and Matt Duckor, former head of video at Conde Nast, both of whom have now resigned due to past racist behavior documented on their personal social media] and many others have cultivated at BA. Like so many Asian Americans given some level of power and voice within predominantly white institutions, I haven't checked a system I benefited from at the expense of other BPOC colleagues."

By her own account, Ms. Chaey has not been given a raise or promotion since she was hired in 2017 as an associate editor at BA for a salary of $68,000. In other words, it does not appear she had any real power within the company.

Monday, July 6, 2020

Social Distancing Life Lately: 17 Weeks

Homemade okonomiyaki, made by yours truly.

K and I are now in our seventeenth week of fairly strict social distancing. We continue to avoid leaving our apartment building, except for essential trips to the grocery store or pharmacy. At this point, most people living here would consider our behavior excessively cautious, given that the data suggests NYC has had COVID-19 well-controlled for weeks now. NYC is technically now in Phase Three of reopening. But, in actual practice, life for us - and for most of our friends in the city - still looks fairly similar to when we were on a full government-mandated shutdown. Most of our friends aren't ready to socialize yet, even outdoors. 

It appears that most larger offices in NYC - including in biglaw - have yet to fully reopen or require most employees to return to working on-site, even though that was technically allowed back in Phase Two. Originally, indoor dining with new social distancing precautions was supposed to be allowed in NYC during Phase Three, but that's been retracted because indoor dining seemed to contribute to increased COVID cases in other states. In any case, K and I would not have been comfortable dining indoors at restaurants anytime soon.

Because my workplace is extremely small, with slightly less than 20 employees total, we're currently scheduled to reopen the office next week. I haven't received guidance yet on whether attorneys should expect to return full-time, or only part-time. Assuming that our office reopening happens on schedule - because COVID-19 data for NYC and New York state suggests we've continued to keep the number of new cases and hospitalizations under control for quite some time now, I see no reason why it wouldn't - I'll have been away from the office for just over four months. When I left for my lengthy - and soon to be disrupted - international business trip in early March, I had no idea what was coming.

K and I have been incredibly privileged to be able to work from home all this time, with no disruptions yet to our job security or income. I do think that the other shoe has yet to drop when it comes to COVID-19's financial impact on our industry. But for the time being, biglaw firms seem to have stopped announcing sweeping salary cuts, furloughs, and layoffs. (Some firms may be doing these things secretly and on a smaller scale, without sending firm-wide announcement emails.)  I'll continue to make $350/month in charitable donations for the time being.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

June 2020 Shopping Reflections

It may be a bit presumptuous to post my June 2020 monthly shopping post now, with so many days left in the month. But I'm also quite confident that no other purchases are forthcoming in the next few days! It's almost a pity too, because I've been learning about so many great Black-owned clothing and accessories companies that do such incredibly beautiful work, but I'm just not in the frame of mind to buy much for myself right now.

In the last week or two, I've suddenly started feeling much more well-adjusted about our continued period of fairly strict social distancing. Admittedly, K and I are probably... excessively paranoid about COVID-19, especially now that NYC has turned back the curve so well and the danger is significantly reduced compared to when the shutdowns started. For the foreseeable future, we expect to continue sticking to largely the same practices, avoiding public transit and staying home except for essential trips to the grocery store and pharmacy, which we currently do approximately once every three weeks. In between those trips, we typically order from Southeast Asian Food Group, a restaurant supplier that now does home deliveries within NYC (they sell fresh produce, but no fresh meat).

Now that NYC is in Phase Two of reopening, I may need to start returning to the office at least part-time starting in July, but that's probably the only big change I expect to our social distancing practices before fall. I'll plan to wear a face mask at basically all times during my walking commute and once I'm at work, except maybe when I'm alone in my office with the door shut. I think that will pretty much be a legal requirement, actually, under New York state's reopening rules. 

I understand that K and I may be outliers with our continued adherence to strict social distancing. (I follow a NYC-based emergency room physician on Instagram who was on the front lines of the pandemic, and who is fairly cautious. Even he's started socializing recently, though only after being tested for COVID antibodies.) Being this extreme about staying home is probably only possible because we don't have children, are privileged to have been able to work entirely from home until now, and already tended to be homebodies on weekends before this all started. Then again, pretty much all our close friends still in NYC are somewhat similar, none of them have any intention of socializing - even outdoors - in the near future. 

My worries in May about my job security ended up being a mostly false alarm, even though the non-COVID disruptions to our business were significant. I do think the other shoe has yet to drop for the biglaw industry as a whole when it comes to the impact of this recession, and that could affect my workplace too. Let's just say I'm definitely not holding out hope for a year-end bonus. And I wouldn't be shocked if there was a salary cut at some point, though it's not looking too likely in the near future. Overall, I would say I'm reasonably confident I won't see any disruptions to my job or salary through the end of July.

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All the uncertainty about the economy, and about possible future shutdowns or a "second wave" of COVID-19 in NYC, seems to now (finally!) be having a chilling effect on my willingness to browse for and buy clothing and accessories. Given my extremely robust shopping history, I can't say for sure that this current low-shopping period will last indefinitely, but it's not showing any signs of letting up for now. 

Fashion - (TOTAL: $57.42)
  • Jasmine Chong "Ella" Scrunchie, lavender - $57.42 (including shipping and tax) - This is totally another sort-of-impulsive purchase of a category of item I would likely never have contemplated before the shutdowns, much like the matching loungewear set and the sweater too chunky to be practical for me. I don't think I've worn a scrunchie since I was in elementary school! And I was, I'll admit, somewhat inspired to get this specifically because of how it would look on Zoom or other video calls. This scrunchie is designed to be large and dramatic, and I've been wearing it with a high, jaunty ponytail so that the scrunchie peeks out from behind the top of my head. (I have thick hair, so I use another hair tie to secure the ponytail first, before putting this fancy one on. I don't want to accidentally break the elastic!) This is definitely on the expensive side for a hair accessory, but I think the $50 retail price is fair because it's handmade from silk organza by Jasmine's team in NYC, and they've sewn in these lovely little pleats that must be labor-intensive and are also fairly unique, as far as details on designer scrunchies go. In fact, at $50 before shipping and tax, the Ella is actually even... sort of on the affordable end, compared to its direct competitors. Among other things, the Net-a-Porter sale has many fancy scrunchies discounted to a similar price point, including a vaguely similar dramatically large white silk organza one in white and an intensely ruffled, carnation-like scrunchie in pink or green silk, and Sophie Buhai silk scrunchies start at $120 retail. Some similar competitor products are also linked in the Shopstyle widget below. 

Have things reopened where you are? How have you been adjusting your household's approach to social distancing, if at all, as places start reopening? Have you bought any clothing or accessories almost solely because of how they'll look on Zoom? I'm also always looking for more recommendations for additional Black-owned businesses or Black creators and artists to support!