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.