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indoor dining with new social distancing precautions was supposed to be allowed in NYC during Phase Three, but that's been retracted because indoor dining seemed to contribute to increased COVID cases in other states.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.

NYC's Reopening for Our Household

When my office reopens, that will technically end our household's period of strict social distancing, since I'll likely be required to make regular appearances at the office. (I expect my colleagues and I will need to wear masks at all times indoors, except when we're alone in our offices with the door closed.) K and I have been staying in for so long now that it'll be strange to start leaving the apartment building frequently again. I'm very lucky that we live walking distance from my office, as I'd be nervous about using public transit. (We technically also live a further, slightly less comfortable walking distance from K's office, though he's never really needed to be in the office and certainly won't be required to go back in the foreseeable future.) 

At some point this month, I'll probably schedule a haircut, for which I'm seven months overdue.  K's also contemplating a haircut, but because getting to his salon requires using public transit, unlike with mine, it's a harder decision. (Salons were allowed to reopen at the start of Phase Two, with substantial new precautions, including having the customer and stylist each wear masks at all times.) Within the next month or two, I'll probably also schedule a routine doctor's visit. (That doctor's office hasn't yet reopened for routine, non-urgent appointments, however. So there's some uncertainty about when I'll get to do this.) Once I'm back to work, I'll probably also go back to my habit of picking up takeout for lunch when I'm at the office. 

Outside of that, I'm not sure K and I expect our shutdown habits to change much. We'll continue to keep trips to the grocery store and pharmacy at a minimum. We also don't expect to go to other retail stores. Because we enjoy our cooking a bit more than we would a lot of the takeout and delivery options currently open in our neighborhood, we've been slow to go back to getting restaurant food. Outdoor dining would not be particularly enjoyable at any restaurant near us - think cramped sidewalks and being right next to piles of garbage bags as cars and pedestrians continually pass by a bit too close for comfort - so I don't think we'll be doing that anytime soon.

On Things Postponed

I really do appreciate how lucky K and I are that we and our loved ones - including extended family living abroad - have found COVID-19 and the related shutdowns relatively manageable. Most of our family members live abroad in countries that have controlled the pandemic much better than the US. Our only elementary school through high school-aged relatives live in countries where schooling has resumed. We also don't really have any college or graduate school-attending relatives or friends here that need to make tough decisions about whether to pay full tuition for a mostly-remote semester or school year.

For K and I personally, the most significant disruption - and I wouldn't even dream of calling it an actual hardship, given everything else going on in the world - is that our wedding planning will remain on hold indefinitely, until COVID-19 is handled well enough in the US that a critical mass of our friends and family would be comfortable traveling - some internationally - for a large social event. Under current COVID conditions, I suspect that - at some point not too long from now - we may need to plan on moving forward with a small civil ceremony, with the larger reception or party we would have wanted to come at some - possibly very distant - future time.

On Small Joys

I continue to not be in the mood for shopping for clothing, shoes, or accessories. But I've been indulging in some other purchases for fun.

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Whether or not you're currently looking for books by Black authors to add to your shelf, I highly recommend N.K. Jemisin's books to all sci-fi/fantasy fans. I couldn't put down the books in her debut series, The Inheritance Trilogy, and will pick up one of her other series next. (I'm totally late to the party when it comes to reading and recommending N.K. Jemisin. People have known her work is awesome for a long time!) The Inheritance Trilogy has really creative, original world-building, and the stories are fast-paced and engaging.

After seeing Adina post about some of her favorite fountain pen inks on Instagram (including in some now-expired stories), I couldn't resist getting a starter fountain pen and some ink samples of my own. I ordered a Pilot Metropolitan pen and a few Pilot Iroshizuku ink samples to try - including in Syo-ro and Ku-jaku, both pretty teal shades - and I think I might be hooked. I may have just ordered another pen or two, and another few shades of ink. Longtime readers may recall that I developed a bit of an infatuation last year with some varieties of relatively expensive paper, though I wasn't a fountain pen user at the time, and probably couldn't appreciate some of the properties of those expensive papers as a result.

Based on my initial tests, I can report that one gets a lot more benefit from Tomoe River paper when using a fountain pen: When I write on the 68 GSM Tomoe River paper (I don't have any of the 52 GSM variety at hand) with a fountain pen, the ink color looks richer and more multidimensional than on most other types of paper I've tried. I get a similar multidimensional effect from the Smythson 50 GSM featherweight paper in Smythson notebooks, but because that paper is a pale blue shade, ink colors don't show on it as well as they do on white paper. I also pulled out my old Leuchtturm A5 dot grid notebook - my previous vaguely "bullet journal"-style planner - to test out my new ink on that paper, and I do get some of that multidimensional shading effect from these inks on that notebook as well.

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