Monday, November 30, 2020

The COVID-era NYC Rental Market

via Unsplash*

As I mentioned briefly back in May, we signed our most recent lease renewal then, in the earliest months of the pandemic. K and I live in a rental-only apartment building in Manhattan - somewhere south of 59th Street, in a distinctly un-hip neighborhood, and a bit far from the subway - run by a large, corporate landlord. They initially sent us a lease renewal offer in early March, before the US started shutting down due to COVID-19. That initial offer was for a ~6% rent increase over our previous lease renewal in 2019. 

At the time our landlord extended their initial offer, the proposed rent of ~6% more than the previous year was perfectly in line with market rates for new leases on comparable units in our neighborhood. (One can search online and get a fairly accurate and up-to-date sense of the NYC rental market using StreetEasy.) But because we live in a building marketed as a "luxury apartment" building, there were tons of cheaper, similarly-sized apartments in less fancy buildings nearby. We also have that somewhat rare for NYC luxury of in-unit laundry, which, in normal times, adds maybe ~$100 to $150/month in rent over comparable apartments without that feature. In other words, we were starting to feel like our apartment was too overpriced, particularly because we were also thinking one or both of us might lave biglaw - or, in my case, biglaw-ish - private practice sometime in the next year, likely resulting in a significant pay cut. 

Then came March 12 and my abrupt return from my business trip, which also felt like the first day a critical mass of people in NYC realized COVID-19 was already a serious problem here. Barely a week later, the state government would order a full shutdown of all non-essential businesses. 

K and I didn't really have the mental energy to think about our lease renewal until early May. By then, the number of COVID-19 cases here was still high, and the first phase of NYC's reopening would not begin for another month. We were in agreement that we felt safer paying slightly inflated rent - we each held robust cash "emergency funds" of well over six months' living expenses at the time and could reluctantly weather overpriced rent costs, even if COVID ended up bringing salary cuts or layoffs down the line - than trying to move in the middle of the pandemic. Furthermore, the pandemic had scuppered our plans to leave private sector legal practice in the next year, we were no longer looking to switch jobs for a possible pay cut.  

After two months of shutdowns, the NYC rental market was already starting to turn, at least in our neighborhood. Whereas that ~6% increase over our 2019 rent was in line with market rates for new leases for comparable apartments in early March, rents had fallen slightly by early May, to maybe ~$100 to $150/month less for new tenants compared to our 2019 rent, after factoring in the standard one or two months' free rent concessions. 

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Black Friday and Cyber Monday Sales on Things I Like

via Unsplash

It isn't too common for a Black Friday or Cyber Monday sale to include clothing, shoes, or accessories I've had my eye on. Generally, the better sales for products in that category come after Christmas or New Years, provided the specific products I was looking at didn't sell out in the meantime. This year, I thought I'd make a list of Black Friday or Cyber Monday sales that include specific items I've bought and liked - generally available in at least slightly different colors than when I bought the item - or fairly narrow categories of items I feel I can somewhat vouch for. 

I'll keep this list updated throughout the next few days. Happy Thanksgiving to those of you in the US, or who are currently celebrating the holiday! 

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

Babaa Sweaters and Lounge Sets: The Spanish slow fashion knitwear brand Babaa is running a fairly broad holiday sale, apparently through this weekend. The brand doesn't offer sales too, too often, and their products are - reasonably - quite pricey, so this is an alright opportunity if you've been eyeing some of their sweaters or lounge sets. A number of the merino wool lounge sets are on sale, through sadly the light turquoise "seaside" color I bought is sold out. That dramatically chunky No. 15 jumper I got is also on sale in a few colors, including the gray-brown "oak" color I have. Admittedly, the No. 15 jumper is so intentionally oversized and chunky that it isn't too practical, I can't layer it under any of my coats. 

Jasmine Chong Ella Silk Organza Scrunchie: This handmade pleated silk organza scruchie was a social distancing-time pick-me-up I purchased in June this year, and I think it's quite lovely and well-made. I was happy with my purchase at full price, though I know I won't likely get too, too much use from it once I'm back to working in-person. I definitely don't expect super-small brands and businesses to run Black Friday sales, though I certainly appreciate when they do. Jasmine Chong is running 20% off accessories this year, including this scrunchie (use the code HOLIDAY20). 

Cuyana Leather Totes and Cases: Cuyana has put a limited number of their leather totes and leather cases on sale through Monday, with a 15% off discount applied at checkout. K got me this set of two leather travel cases for Christmas one year. I also own the non-zipper version of their classic leather tote -  the zippered version of which is on sale - and both are good, unbranded, and very simple-looking leather tote for work. Their classic totes are nice and feel sturdy, but the leather is also very soft and pliable, which makes the bags a bit floppy. 

L.L. Bean Boots and Blankets: L.L. Bean is running a sitewide 15% off sale (with code THANKS15) that includes both the Wicked Cozy blanket I've recently become so fond of and my trusty L.L. Bean boots lined with Gore-Tex and Thinsulate

J.Crew Sweater Blazers: This is admittedly a set of products that doesn't get any use from me while I'm not going to the office - for now, I prefer softer, less structured sweaters - but in normal times I wear my J.Crew sweater blazers frequently throughout the fall and winter. (Though always layered under a wool-blend or down coat, these are not made to block the wind, as I personally found from wearing one out without a coat on one chilly day.) I particularly like the collarless Juliette sweater blazer (styled for work here; styled casually here) for wearing over sheath dresses as part of my "work uniform". I mostly keep the collared Sophie sweater blazer (styled for work here; styled casually here) at my office for use year-round as an "office sweater" when the HVAC system runs too cold, though I think it suits my outfits best as a more casual piece. Note that, at least when I bought them, both sweater blazers ran very large. I ended up taking a size XS in both, which is almost unheard of for me! 

As of today, November 25, J.Crew is currently running a 50% off full-price items and extra 60% off sale items Black Friday/Cyber Monday sale (use the code EARLY) that includes both sweater blazers, though some colors seem to be backordered and might not ship until after the New Year. 

In the past, I believe J.Crew has sometimes run a pretty good sale leading right into Thanksgiving and then slightly hiked up the discount percentage afterwards for Black Friday or Cyber Monday. But given the size of the discount right now, I'm not sure that's likely this year. One relevant anecdote: I specifically recall holding on to a bunch of potential J.Crew purchases to take advantage of this hoped-for increased discount in 2018. I wasn't the only one with that idea, because J.Crew's website couldn't handle the volume of customers throughout the Black Friday weekend that year, and it took me several hours of trying on and off before I could check out successfully online. J.Crew's social media accounts were inundated with a dramatically large number of complaints that year, and I was taken aback at how intensely angry people were willing to get on Twitter and Instagram, where the comments are publicly visible. 

Vince Boiled Cashmere Funnel Neck Sweater: I was just talking about how much I enjoyed this cozy, very soft (but a bit unusually fuzzy, zoom in on the most close-up store photos to see what I mean) sweater I bought last year. Sizing-wise, it's intentionally oversized, and even at a 38'' bust measurement, I still get a slightly oversized look from the size S. Vince is currently running a 30% off sale site-wide (use the code NOVEMBER30). (I feel like I  recall last year's Black Friday or Cyber Monday discount being only around 15%!) From browsing the Vince store and Nordstrom in person back in pre-COVID times, I've found that Vince sweaters for the fall/winter season generally all feel nice, thick, and soft in person. Though I'd still look carefully at the fabric composition details when shopping, because I'd prefer all-natural fibers at their fairly lofty price point! 

Alighieri Jewelry: As is typical, based on at least some of the past few years, Alighieri is running their own sale this year on a limited number of designs. This year's "Archive Sale" has the most generous discounts (more than 40%, I think) I've ever seen for the brand, though not on any styles I own. But because this is from the London-based brand's own store, prices are in GBP (and will incur a foreign exchange fee unless you're using a payment method without one) and international shipping will also be fairly pricey. 

More Alighieri Jewelry: A number of Alighieri jewelry designs are currently on sale at SSENSE and Matches Fashion, though not any of the styles I own. I've bought a slightly extreme number of Alighieri pieces over the years, and haven't seen any tarnishing with the 24 carat gold plating they use. I just love their organic, antiqued aesthetic. (I store my jewelry in a set of stackable jewelry trays with a lid from Amazon, to keep the vermeil and gold-plated pieces away from too much exposure to air. But that isn't enough to keep some of it from tarnishing, unfortunately, as most of my Mejuri collection isn't doing that well...) I'll drop my favorite of the currently on-sale designs of Alighieri jewelry into the Shopstyle widget below. 

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

November 2020 Shopping Reflections

It may be premature to draft this post before some of the post-Thanksgiving Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales have begun. But given that any post-Thanksgiving orders I make will almost certainly be delivered after December 1 - and that I generally don't report purchases until I've made a final decision about whether to keep or return, with occasional exceptions for made-to-order items with a longer lead time - I think the tally for November should already be final.  

No surprises this month, my sole purchase is something from my planned shopping list for the rest of 2020. Preorders for The Curated's Classic Coat in camel (many sizes still available) opened in the first few days of November, a little earlier than I originally expected. Shipping was also remarkably fast, they sent out my package barely five days after I put in my order! 

Please note that this post contains affiliate links that could result in a commission, typically a few cents, for me if you click. Thank you for your support!

I'm satisfied with my Classic Coat purchase and I think the price is very fair, but my feedback also needs to be taken with a huge grain of salt because I likely won't get a real chance to road-test this coat outdoors until some time in 2021. As The Curated is a very small direct-to-consumer company - and each of their out-of-stock items seem to be on its own schedule when it comes to when the next preorder might begin - it can be a bit difficult to shop from them. I felt like I needed to follow their Facebook group (thank you to Kristy for recommending it!) and Instagram to keep track of things. But the company owner is very responsive in their Facebook group, and I'm sure their customer service team is responsive by email as well. 

Fashion - (TOTAL: $375.00) 

  • The Curated Classic Coat, camel - $375.00 - The price of this coat for US customers is $350 and shipping costs $25. They generally use DHL to ship items from abroad, which may account for the significant shipping price, particularly with larger packages like coats. Much like the bloggers I linked to in my previous post about this coat, I really like it! The 70% wool, 30% cashmere blend feels nice and it's fairly thick and soft and drapes nicely over the body, even though the coat is unlined. I don't have experience with many good comparator items because wool or cashmere-blend coats with no synthetic fibers in the shell are not common at this general price point. 100% wool Fleurette coats on sale may be the only generally available thing fitting this criteria. A number of Fleurette designs get into the ~$350 range when discounted, for example at Hautelook or Nordstrom Rack here, here, and here. (I tried on a 100% wool shell Fleurette coat in 2018 and it felt nice, but was also a bit stiffer or more structured than this coat feels.) I own an older Polo Ralph Lauren coat (no longer available, worn here) - a generous birthday gift from my mom -  that's 90% wool, 10% cashmere and which started at ~$550, but went on sale for closer to ~$350 when my mom got it for me. That material is noticeably thinner; a little rougher to the touch; and drapes less well, even with a lining. I'm 5'3'' and roughly 38''-28''-38'' right now, and the size M of this Classic Coat was the correct choice, I think it fits exactly as intended. One thing to watch out for is that this coat is very straight up and down, it doesn't taper out at all around the hips, unlike most other women's coat designs. I think the smaller-than-expected hip measurement tends to be what throws things off for people who feel they ordered the wrong size. 

Happy Thanksgiving to those of you in the US! K and I are staying home, and we'll cook a special meal for just our household. We'll use Google Meet or FaceTime for a video chat with his parents and my family. K's cold symptoms last week were super-mild and fleeting, he's already feeling much better. But given the timing and our inability to get COVID-19 testing without additional indoor exposure to people outside our household, canceling our Thanksgiving plans was absolutely the correct and responsible thing to do.

As for Black Friday or Cyber Monday sales, I'll definitely only be shopping online, but that isn't too different from other years. The Reset is doing a 25% off discount code starting now, so I'll think about that polo sweater a bit more and possibly put in that order towards the end of the week. Recently, some sparkly slippers have caught my eye, like these colorful sequin Ugg "Scuffette" slippers (I particularly like the dark purple "medallion" color) or these gold glitter Birdies (mostly sold out, may not restock in time for Christmas), but I've never really liked wearing slippers at home when given the opportunity, so I think I should stay away from this idea. Plus, I'm not sure either shoe will be part of any special Black Friday or Cyber Monday sales. 

Friday, November 20, 2020

Social Distancing Life Lately: Change of Thanksgiving Plans

via Unpslash 

Well, we always knew this was a possibility. Two days after my previous "Social Distancing Life Lately" post went live - on the ninth day of our stricter-than-usual 14 day pre-Thanksgiving quarantine - K started experiencing some very mild cold symptoms. Naturally, our plans for K's parents to come pick us up and to spend Thanksgiving with them are now officially cancelled. 

K's feeling just fine, the symptoms are almost nothing compared to when we both came down with nasty colds a few weeks ago, and I haven't been sick at all this time around. But in this situation, where symptoms began within 14 days after our last outings - one masked grocery trip together and my visit to the office for some work that needed to be done on-site - and it's not currently possible for us to get a COVID test without additional indoor contact with people outside of our household, the right thing to do is clear. We cannot spend time indoors with K's parents and risk getting them sick. (See, for example, this CDC-derived graphic that's been going around, and these charts from the New York Times, which I learned about here.)

We're all disappointed. K's parents haven't seen him since February, except for a few curbside exchanges where they drove to our apartment building in NYC and stayed in their car with masks on while we also masked up and dropped off some things they'd asked for in their trunk - typically some Asian groceries delivered by Southeast Asia Food Group - and picked up items they'd gotten for us, including their extra Instant Pot. We wouldn't be able to live with ourselves if we got them sick. Cancelling our plans now is the correct and necessary thing to do. 

To tell the truth, K and I had been feeling some uncertainty about whether our original plan to spend the holiday together was going to work. Because we would need to travel through our apartment building's lobby - a shared space that generally has at least our or two other people around, even if everyone is masked - at least one time when they picked us up, it's impossible to have a perfectly airtight 14 day quarantine before we see each other. The risk there is probably minimal, it'd take barely a minute to pass through, but it can't be eliminated. 

Plus, COVID-19 conditions in all parts of the US can change so rapidly, both the NYC-area COVID data and the national conversation surrounding how to approach Thanksgiving kept shifting between when we first formed the plan in late October; when we started quarantine after I got back from the office on November 10; and as the days of our quarantine ticked by. The situation throughout the US has only gotten worse - far, far worse in some parts of the country - throughout those weeks. 

It's strange, I felt sometimes like K and I had sort of been outliers since July or August, in terms of still taking so many precautions and staying home so much while NYC was doing great with its COVID numbers. But, by having potential plans with his parents until today, we suddenly sounded reckless and foolhardy in the past week or two. So many of my friends - generally all very cautious, but who didn't always stay in quite as much as we did during the summer, particularly if they had their own car or could rent a car - cancelled potential holiday plans with their families at least a few days before we did. 

K, his parents, and I are still holding on to plans to start another 14 day - or longer - quarantine before Christmas Eve, in hopes of maybe trying again to be able to spend a holiday together. (We may even be able to arrange for it to be 17 or 18 days.) Once again, we are all in agreement that we would pull back and cancel if any of the four of us gets any symptoms during the 14 days, or if work makes it impossible for me to adhere to the quarantine due to being needed in the office again. But with how easy it seems to be to pick up a cold just from masked grocery trips outside the home - and with our lack of easy access drive-through COVID testing in NYC and the unknown availability of outdoor testing -  the likelihood of moving forward with December holiday plans may not be great. 

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Recent Small Joys

Part of me still feels the occasional flutter of stress about the recent US presidential election. Obviously, the outcome it abundantly clear, it's not a remotely close call. President-Elect Biden and Vice President-Elect Harris will be inaugurated next January. But with all the undignified posturing and truly bonkers lies about election-related litigation coming from our outgoing President and his team, it's hard for me not to feel some momentary distress at times. 

All that "amateur hour" litigation work done on behalf of the Trump campaign by the time major news networks called the election results last Saturday has been followed only by maneuvers plumbing shocking new depths of incompetence. I cringe frequently from secondhand embarrassment when reading about their lawyers' statements during hearings and in some written filings, knowing these are the sort of things that'd likely earn a well-deserved scolding and withering retorts from basically all judges I've ever practiced before. And that's usually exactly what happens. 

Admittedly - at least in the SDNY, where I practice most frequently - judges regularly administer remonstrations and sharp words even when it actually isn't particularly warranted, something I've personally experienced more than a few times. So any tale of judicial exasperation or anger, no matter who it's directed to and how richly they deserve it, brings back bad memories. But I digress. Long story short, anyone as pleased as I was with the outcome of the US presidential election has nothing to fear at present from the courts. 

Ah, but let's move on, because this is meant to be a light-hearted post about things that have brought me some small bits of joy and levity in recent days! 

Please note that this post contains affiliate links that could result in a commission, typically a few cents, for me if you click. Thank you for your support!

Election Celebration: Following the widespread acknowledgement of the presidential election results last Saturday, K and I couldn't help but want to celebrate, just the two of us at home. I made the Cook's Illustrated "Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies" and K made us Instant Pot ribs. (His parents gave us their extra Instant Pot - not sure how they ended up with two - during a socially distanced and fully masked curbside exchange a few months ago, when we gave them some Asian groceries they requested from Southeast Asia Food Group's delivery service.) Both recipes are pretty good.

The Swan Rescue: I thought this was a sweet and very NYC story, about how an experienced wildlife rehabber rescued a sick swan from Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge in Queens. Getting the bird to the Wild Bird Fund in the Upper West Side of Manhattan was apparently an arduous journey that involved taking the swan on the subway, where apparently none of the other passengers had any real reaction. (It's definitely typical NYC behavior to ignore strange sights on the subway.) There's a video update in this Daily Show clip, among other places, and the swan seems to be on her way to recovery. 

Time's 100 Best Fantasy Books: I've read and enjoyed 27 books on Time's list of the "100 Best Fantasy Books of All Time". I thought it was a great list, with an expansive view of the genre, including works geared towards all age groups and books that aren't all shelved in the sci-fi/fantasy section of your average bookstore or library. My one small quibble is that maybe it's a little arbitrary to include two books from certain series but not others. (Though in each instance where I've read both books on the list from the same series - C.S. Lewis's The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader; the Harry Potter books; and Ken Liu's The Grace of Kings and The Wall of Storms - I agree that both books are strong.) 

Standout favorites of mine include: The Ken Liu books, particularly The Wall of Storms, though you'll need to read The Grace of Kings first; N.K. Jemisin's The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, but the only reason I can't yet vouch for her other novels on the list is that I haven't been able to read them yet; Guy Gavriel Kay's Tigana, though I'd personally recommend The Lions of Al-Rassan or Sailing to Sarantium instead to a first-time Kay reader; and David Mitchell's The Bone Clocks. But it's really hard to choose, because so many of the books I've read on this list are wonderful!

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Social Distancing Life Lately: Eight Months, The Holidays, and Beyond

via Unsplash

EDITED 11/22/2020: Nine days into our pre-Thanksgiving quarantine, K started coming down with super-mild cold symptoms. Because there is no way for us to get COVID testing without risking at least some indoor exposure to people outside our household, we decided on November 20 that we needed to cancel our Thanksgiving plans in order to protect K's parents. We're all very disappointed, but I think what we know about the science makes very clear that this is the right and necessary thing to do. The original text of this post, from before we made this decision, is below.

- - - - -

When I wrote my previous "Social Distancing Life Lately" post in mid-September, I was really hoping it would be the last. Obviously, the COVID-19 pandemic wasn't over, and it probably wouldn't be over in the US until an effective vaccine was widely distributed. K and I knew we were going to need to continue taking precautions and practicing social distancing until then, at least through the end of 2020 and probably for at least a few months beyond. 

But the COVID data had been relatively good and stable in NYC for several months by mid-September with gradual reopening. I hoped this meant we had settled into a "new normal" here, in which life could continue moving forward, with further reopening of schools and other indoor settings in a limited way with heavy precautions without causing serious spikes in new COVID cases. In other words, I was optimistic that while social distancing would certainly need to continue here in NYC, there wouldn't be any new, significant negative developments worth writing about. 

Unfortunately, that hasn't quite been the case. When last I wrote about our COVID progress, NYC had maintained a citywide percent positive rate of ~1.5% or less since mid-June, trending closer to ~1.2% or less since mid-August, all with robust COVID test availability. By mid or late September, public schools reopened for in-person classes two to three days/week for students opting in, and indoor dining rooms at restaurants were also permitted to reopen at 25% capacity at the end of the month. To my knowledge, those were the only significant new indoor activities allowed by our state and city government since September. 

Our citywide COVID percent positive creeped up towards ~1.7% or so in early October, but remained stable there. That number didn't seem to be considered a "danger zone" in terms of closing schools or anything else back down. There were local hot spots or clusters with significantly higher percent positive rates, which the state government responded to with targeted shut-downs in those neighborhoods. This month, our citywide percent positive climbed solidly past 2%, then 2.5%. At 3% positive, NYC public schools may be shut down. Like in other parts of the US, things aren't moving in a good direction. 

The Holidays

K and I are currently halfway through a stricter-than-usual 14 day home quarantine in preparation for spending Thanksgiving with his parents at their home. To tell the truth, this two-week period of stricter-than-usual social distancing doesn't actually look all that different from our typical lifestyle these past eight months. We generally went at least three or four weeks between trips outside our apartment building regardless, so the only newly stepped-up precaution is that we're also avoiding picking up packages from our doorman. When we've completed our quarantine, K's parents will drive from their home in the Connecticut suburbs to pick us up. 

Our quarantine is not completely airtight. When K and I leave, we'll need to pass through our apartment building's lobby - mask on, of course - and while it's never crowded there, the doorman and maybe one of our neighbors will probably be in that medium sized space. We take out our trash to a chute down the hall - mask on, again - once every few days, though generally there's no one else around when we do so. K's parents may ask us to make a grocery delivery order or two for our visit - generally brought by contactless drop-off - if they're not comfortable with shopping in-person due to increased COVID cases in Connecticut. Those are the only weak points from our end. 

K's parents take the same day-to-day precautions we do - generally encountering no one outside their household but for occasional fully masked trips to the grocery store, pharmacy, doctor's office, and so on - except that because they live in a single-family home and own a car, they're able to go outdoors more easily while staying socially distanced. If they decide that Thanksgiving groceries should be done by delivery to us instead of their taking an in-person trip to shop, they won't come into contact with anyone outside their household in the two weeks before they pick us up. (They'll stay in the car when they're picking us up.) 

Obviously, if any of the four of us comes down with what looks like COVID symptoms in the meantime, our Thanksgiving plans will be scrapped. COVID testing is not part of our visit "protocol" because - having recently gotten a test at our closest NYC public hospital-run testing site - I know from experience that one encounters at least as many masked people in an indoor setting while waiting to register for the test as one does at the grocery store. 

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Skincare Update: Trying out Curology

Via Unsplash, where I think Curology has provided a lot of their own stock photography.

One random and somewhat unexpected consequence of life in the COVID-19 era is that my skin really doesn't seem to like my new working from home, never really going out lifestyle. My persistent adult acne - a decade-long issue for me, unfortunately - is noticeably worse than it generally was for the past year or two before March 2020. And it's almost certainly not because of wearing face masks whenever I leave my apartment, as most of the breakouts are on parts of my face that aren't covered by a mask. 

It's probably silly - and clearly premature - to write a blog post to announce I'm trying Curology when I only just received my prescription serum yesterday and haven't yet spent much time using it. (I always start slow with new products for my face, testing on my wrist on the first day; on a small spot on my face or neck the second day; and on a larger patch of my face the third day.*) But I've been around the block more than a few times - alas! - when it comes to seeking medical assistance for my acne. With all that experience, I'm comfortable with Curology's approach so far. 

Curology is, essentially, a dermatology telemedicine startup that prescribes custom compounded topical treatments with combinations of some of the active ingredients typically found in prescription skincare products. My prescription topical formula currently includes tretinoin, clindamycin, and azelaic acid. The first two active ingredients are ones I've used for years in other prescription products.  

I've been aware of Curology - originally called Pocketderm - for a while. It was popular with the skincare bloggers I was reading back in 2015. And over the years, a few different readers here have also commented with positive feedback. If I remember correctly, the fees have always been ~$20/month for acne treatment. I have this vague memory of their offering a higher price tier for anti-aging treatment at some point, but that's no longer the case. These days, the prescription formula is $19.95/month, plus tax and $4.95 shipping after an initial "free" month's trial, for which the new customer just pays shipping. Customers can also add Curology-branded cleanser, mosturizer, etc. for an extra fee. 

Until now, I've never been interested in trying Curology for myself because the numbers simply didn't work. Back when I first heard of them, my total co-pays for doctor's visits plus acne-fighting prescriptions always worked out significantly cheaper than the ~$20/month cost of Curology. Unfortunately that started to change for me by 2017 or so. I've always had fairly good insurance coverage, but the co-pays for the same dermatology prescriptions I've used - some on and off, some constantly - for over a decade have just kept climbing. From 2015 through late 2016, my Retin-A Micro 0.1% and Clindamycin topical refills still cost ~$10-$15/each, like when I first started using those products around 2005. From 2017 on, the co-pays grew to ~$40-$45/refill per product. Since 2019, it's more like ~$75/refill. Ouch! I believe my experience is consistent with larger industry trends for dermatology prescriptions. 

Saturday, November 7, 2020

What a Week (But it Ended Happily!)

Because of my worries about the outcome of the US presidential election last week, I wasn't able to write anything here. (Nor was I sleeping well nor able to focus much on work either, I was doing even more doom-scrolling for news on Twitter than I was at the start of the COVID-19 shutdowns here in NYC!) I'm definitely in the group of people still traumatized by the memory of 2016 and by the specter of Bush v. Gore (plus the knowledge that we have a 6-3 conservative US Supreme Court). 

Americans were waiting on pins and needles for several days before any of the major news networks were willing to call the election outcome for President-Elect Joe Biden and Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris. By and large, I think most sources were giving us enough information to be fairly certain by sometime on Thursday or Friday, but it's still hard to feel sure until everyone actually starts announcing it. 

Throughout the week, I was also keeping an eye on the election-related litigation with considerable trepidation. But it was quickly becoming clear that the election was not likely to come down to a single state (one of the necessary conditions, it seemed to me, to create a real risk that a Supreme Court case could decide the election) and that none of the currently pending cases was likely to affect a large enough quantity of votes in any state to affect the overall outcome there, in any case. Of course, we never know such things for sure until every vote is actually counted, but these seemed like very reasonable educated guesses by Thursday or Friday. And the Trump campaign's election-related litigation strategy to date has been a truly hot mess, it's all extremely "amateur hour."  

I breathed a huge sigh of relief when the major news networks and the Biden campaign made their more formal announcements this morning. The fight is far from over, especially with the runoffs for Georgia's Senate seats coming up, but for now, there is something to celebrate.