Thursday, April 29, 2021

April 2021 Shopping Reflections

via Unsplash

And now I officially have two consecutive no-shopping months in the books! This is a first for me in the six years since I started tracking my fashion-related shopping every month here on this blog. 

I guess it's becoming clear to me that I probably won't become interested in browsing for anything new for my wardrobe again until my lifestyle gets closer to its pre-COVID normal: until I'm back in the office most days of the work week; can socialize freely with my friends; and might even contemplate dining at a restaurant again. I'm getting my second dose of the vaccine this week, but I'm not sure if I'll feel ready to fully resume activities outside the home immediately after I hit the two-week mark following my second dose. 

In terms of returning full-time to the office, I expect that to start up again not too long from now. My workplace has always been very old-fashioned about wanting people to work in the office. Frankly, I'm surprised it's taken this long before they really started pressuring all attorneys to start coming into the office more! Judging from what I hear from my friends in the industry, I'll be back in the office regularly at least two months earlier than most biglaw attorneys in NYC or many other major markets.

I'm not sure if my supervisors will also expect a return to our typical business casual office dress code right away. (They'd dropped that requirement when the state government first allowed people to return to NYC offices last July.) At any rate, I probably won't start dressing in business casual again until I receive the explicit instruction to do so. It's been quite nice to be able to wear jeans to the office on the rare occasions I've needed to go in during the past year. 

Because my return to the office will likely be so soon, I'm not sure May will end up being another no-shopping month for me, even if I won't feel like online window-shopping again until my life is almost back to its pre-COVID era normal. Also, with the potential for some of my job interviews to be in-person - I have no way of knowing how fast any of the government agencies I'm applying to will go back in to the office full-time - I may want to buy myself a new suit soon. 

Follow the link below to continue reading, but please be warned that I briefly mention body shape and weight changes. I do so in vague terms that I don't think could cause offense, but I thought I should flag it anyway, just in case you wish to avoid that kind of thing!

Monday, April 26, 2021

Checking In

Oops, pardon me for disappearing for a week! One thing I didn't take into account when I said I thought I would be able to return to a more regular posting schedule this month was that I get incredibly stressed out when preparing for and thinking about upcoming job interviews. Ever since the earliest days when I've needed to do them as an undergraduate student, I've always found job interviews particularly challenging. But I hadn't done any interviews since early 2017, so I'd forgotten how much of my mental energy they take up. 

But I'm very lucky to have already had a job interview to prepare for. I've only been applying in earnest to government jobs for around a month, and frankly, I wasn't expecting my first interview to come around so soon. 

My interview was done remotely via videoconference, and in the near future, I'd expect all or most of my interviews to be done that way. I was initially quite nervous about the format - I've only ever done in-person job interviews and also haven't had the opportunity to participate in a videoconference court hearing or deposition yet - but I was surprised to find I actually quite liked it. I was less nervous than I usually am during in-person interviews, and being able to see myself on the computer screen helped me stay calm and think through my answers. 

I did alright in my first interview, though I could definitely have done better on one or two of my answers during the half-hour session. (There will be three rounds of interviews for this particular job - to hire just one candidate - so my best guess is that I have a decent chance of advancing to the second round, but am almost certainly not standing out as the single best candidate so far.) I had worked hard to prepare, but my focus was a bit off: I over-prepared for certain types of more technical legal questions - that were, in hindsight, highly unlikely to be part of this first round  - and so I underprepared for some other types of questions. The important thing is that I know how to prepare better next time, whether for the second round for this job or a first round interview at another job. 

Here are a few small things that have made me happy recently while I've been preparing for and worrying about my job interviews:

Succession on HBO: A good friend suggested a few months ago that if I had enjoyed Billions so much, also on her recommendation, I should also try Succession. It took me forever to follow her recommendation. Succession sounded like it would be darker and overall have a more serious tone than Billions, and I wasn't sure I would actually like that. 

Recently - when K and I decided to subscribe to HBOMax for a month or two to watch a few other things - we finally decided to also try Succession. After the first few episodes - the pilot episode is clunky and there are so many important characters that it takes a few episodes to get a handle on all of them - we were completely hooked! It's an incredible television show, extremely well-written and well-acted. The overall subject matter is quite dark and most of the characters are somewhat terrible and selfish - there's a particularly awful moment in the pilot that almost turned me off the entire show - but there are also so many absolutely hilarious moments. 

I can't think of any other show quite like Succession. There are many shows I enjoy just as much, but I can't think of many other shows that are so consistently well-written and so smart about it all. (Admittedly, I haven't watched a lot of the frequently-recommended, all-time great shows out there, such as Breaking Bad or Mad Men.) 

Successful Rent Negotiation: As I mentioned a few months ago, rents had fallen significantly in many parts of NYC after the pandemic started, including in our neighborhood. By late November last year, rents for new leases on units comparable to ours were ~$700 to $800/month less than our current lease, after factoring in rent concessions of one or two free months (when we'd signed back in May 2020, the market hadn't fallen so much yet and our rate was probably ~$100/month less than new tenants were getting). 

When I posted, we were still approximately six months off from when we'd need to sign our next lease renewal, but we were already pretty certain we wanted to continue living in our current apartment through our next lease term. Cat made the helpful suggestion that we should try to renegotiate immediately, that we could lock in a better deal that at least partially reflected the new, lower market rate in exchange for offering to commit to whatever new, additional time period was agreeable to us. 

We ended up not initiating the negotiation as quickly as we should have. December through February ended up more difficult than expected, we started feeling the pandemic blues badly and I had some additional stressful things going on at work. By the time we opened up negotiations in late February, the market looked like it might be starting to recover slightly, but we were at least able to successfully negotiate for a savings of ~$500/month, and we committed early to a new lease covering the period through summer 2022. 

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

March 2021 Shopping Reflections

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And that's one more no-shopping month on the books for me! I really shouldn't be surprised anymore, no-shop months have not been uncommon for me since the start of COVID-19 shutdowns last year, and yet I still find myself a little bit shocked every time I manage it. 

Who would ever have thought - based on my 2015 shopping patterns and my repeated insistence that shopping fasts and shopping bans simply didn't work for me - that I could ever get through any single month without wanting to at least order something to try on, much less have several such months in a year? Knowing myself and my habits, I would certainly never have guessed.

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The biggest factor keeping me from shopping in March was work. I had a fairly stressful month at the - mostly virtual - office, and was particularly busy in the second half of March. I didn't really have the mental energy to think about anything but work. Things are far less busy now in April, but we have some complicated topics we're trying to figure out, so I'm still quite preoccupied with work. 

I've also started applying in earnest for my next job, which adds another layer of stress. My dream next jobs are all in government and would involve my taking nearly a 60% pay-cut, or something in that zone. (Due to some industry and workplace-specific quirks, I have the full blessing of my current employers to actively seek this type of next job. So that's one less thing to stress about, at least, I'll never really need to hide that I'm actively looking.) I should be earning quite a bit more at a future government job than when I was clerking - in keeping with how I now have several more years' work experience under my belt than I did back then - but it obviously won't be anything remotely close to what I earn right now as a sixth-year attorney at a biglaw-ish private sector workplace (I get the base salary, but I don't earn bonuses anywhere near the biglaw market rate). 

My primary type of dream job in government is known to sometimes have an extremely long interview process, in some instances it can take longer than a year between the date of the first application and the date a successful applicant ultimately receives a job offer. Afterwards, there might also be additional time needed - in the vein of a few more months - before the new attorney can be fully onboarded and actually start work. Chances are, I almost certainly won't have an offer in hand before I'm done paying off my student loans in August or early September. (My total student loan balance is now down to ~$22,000.) 

I made my last purchase for my closet, the Quince sweater from February, fairly early that month, and I received it by the second week of February. Since then, I haven't had any real ideas for things to online window-shop for. In other words, I haven't really had any ideas about any clothes, shoes, or accessories to even browse for in nearly two months now. 

This is particularly unusual for me. Even though I had three no-shop months last year - in February, July, and December - I never went too many weeks without having at least a vague idea about something to online window-shop for, even if it was mostly just loungewear. It's strange, I'm definitely not used to being completely without anything to daydream about adding to my closet for long.  

We'll see in a few weeks if I end up with any shopping this month. If I ultimately manage to have a second no-shopping month in a row, that will be a first since I started doing these monthly shopping reflections in January 2015. I almost find myself worrying I'll run out of ideas for things to write on the blog if I actually become significantly less interested in fashion-related shopping than when I first started writing here. (But it's only been two months or so, it's too soon to actually think this could be a long-term change in my habits and tastes...)

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

March 2021 Reading Reflections

As I suspected, I lost significant momentum with reading for fun in March when things got busy at work. It's not a big deal, because I definitely don't have a goal of reading a specific large number of books this year or anything like that. As long as I'm having fun and enjoying the books I pick out throughout the year, it's all good!

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At the moment, I seem to be having a bit of a murder mystery phase. Most of the books I read last month come from that type of genre. None of my March books are frontrunners for my favorite books of the year, but they were all pretty enjoyable and engaging. 

Here are the books I read this month, listed in the order in which I read them:

  • Broken Harbor by Tana French - I've now read most of Tana French's Dublin Murder Squad series, and I think this volume may be my favorite of the series so far. The Dublin Murder Squad series is somewhat unique in that each novel is told from the point of view of a different detective, and they each have dramatically different personalities, so each book can feel very different from the last. The main detective in this novel isn't really my favorite of the group - he seemed like a total jerk from his appearances in the previous volume - but he grew on me. I also thought the mystery at the center of this book was the most interesting and strange out of the others in the series. 
  • Moonflower Murders by Anthony Horowitz - I picked up this book after seeing Adina mention it with a positive review in her Instagram stories. It's very much a "cozy mystery," which is unlike most of the murder mystery fiction I read, there's no real content warnings needed here. Anthony Horowitz was a new-to-me author, and I was happy to find I greatly enjoyed this book because it means I have a new author I like whose back catalog I can seek out. This book uses an interesting "novel within a novel" device that I was initially nervous about because I thought it would break up the momentum of the story when the second novel started up about halfway in to the book. But I was pleasantly surprised to find that I was quickly swept up into the second novel as well, and its placement in the larger story didn't distract from my enjoyment of the book too much. 
  • The Southern Book Club's Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix - I decided to read this book after seeing Gabby describe it as a good, entertaining read. Like Gabby, I also enjoyed this book. It's a fun read and has a fairly unique take on vampires, one that really emphasizes how gross and monstrous they can be. The story builds up a bit slowly, but becomes a wild and fast ride towards the end. It's equally about social expectations in the main characters' well-to-do Southern suburban community as it is about the vampire. 
  • The Aosawa Murders by Riku Onda - I randomly saw this book listed among the popular recent  releases on the New York Public Library's ebook website and I decided I wanted to try it. I really enjoyed this novel, and I couldn't put it down! The story is told from the perspective of a number of different characters who are tied, in some way, to the event mentioned in the title, a mass poisoning at a family party. Some Goodreads reviewers report that this was a difficult book to get into, the book definitely doesn't hold your hand or clearly tell you who each point-of-view character is and how they're related to the larger story. Instead, that information is revealed slowly in each character's chapters. I didn't mind this detail about the book, and didn't find it too confusing. The ending of this book is a bit cryptic and possibly frustrating: The identity of the person ultimately responsible for the murders is made fairly clear from early in the novel, but their motives remain somewhat opaque, even at the very end of the story. 

What have you been reading recently? Anything particularly good to recommend?

Monday, April 5, 2021

Time to Get Vaccinated

Recycling another old, pre-COVID era photograph. K and I will be getting our vaccines at Javits Center, not far from Hudson Yards, where I took this photo.

I'm happy to report that K and I are officially getting vaccinated with our first doses of the Pfizer vaccine on April 7! 

For the first two days after New York state opened COVID vaccine eligibility to our 30+ age group starting at 8:00 AM on March 30, it was extremely difficult to get an appointment in NYC. Both K and I basically needed to keep refreshing several sign-up websites repeatedly throughout the day and could only get the opportunity to sign up for an appointment if we got very lucky and clicked very fast when something popped up. That was how we were eventually able to book the April 15 slot I mentioned on my Instagram stories. (Between the two of us, we were only able to sign up for that one single appointment in the first two days. We agreed I should have it instead of K because I would likely be expected back in the office much sooner than he would be.) 

By midday on April 1, however, both the state and city government-run vaccine sites and also some of the hospitals and pharmacies began releasing large blocks of up to thousands of appointment slots. Afterwards, it became significantly easier to find a COVID vaccine appointment here in NYC without needing to continuously refresh several different websites at a time. So K and I were both able to sign up for appointments on April 7 without too much trouble, and I then cancelled my April 15 appointment so someone else could take it.

My mom in California was able to get her first dose of the vaccine on April 2, and K's parents just got their second doses in Connecticut this past weekend. My sister should hopefully be able to sign up for an appointment in the Washington D.C. area in the next week or two. I'm just so happy and relieved that we and our loved ones here in the US are finally going to be protected! 

I don't believe too many readers here live in the NYC area, but if you do and you still need a COVID vaccine appointment, I've gotten most of my information about how and when to sign up through @turbovax and @nycshotslots. Both accounts post updates in a fairly timely manner when various providers in the NYC area drop a large block of new vaccine appointments. 

Based off K and I's experience, I expect that when New York state first opens up the next eligibility group, to all ages on April 6, it'll initially be difficult to get an appointment in the first few days. But it seems like the government-run vaccine sites, hospitals, and pharmacies are constantly getting in new supply and posting new appointments, so it hopefully won't take too long before it becomes fairly easy to find an appointment.