Archive for the “Daily Life” Category

Or more accurately, stolen and recovered.

I’m a member of 24 Hour Fitness. Last night at the gym, I put my backpack in a locker and put my lock on the outside as normal. I thought I closed the lock, but it may have gotten stuck just before latching, a problem I’ve immediately rectified in the past. It just takes once to learn a lesson though, and boy, was I in for it.

After my workout, the locker where I’d left my stuff was empty, save for my towel (which told me I had the right one, at least). A wave of incredulity washed over me as I thought not about the normal stuff that’s always in a gym bag, but the valuables in my backpack: my electric wet/dry razor; a comb that had been a gift from a close friend in Japan; my wallet with about $50 in cash, driver’s license, and bank card; my cell phone; and my passport, recently used on a short trip into Canada. Oh, and the car keys without which I was neither going to drive home nor have easy access to my bed.

Slightly lightheaded by now, I checked the lockers around where I’d left it- nothing. I jogged out to the front desk and begged the girl working there to tell me someone had turned it in, but of course no one had.

Returning to the locker room, I glanced in the trash cans, thinking a thief might have taken the valuables and dumped the rest, but no luck. Slightly panicked now, I started opening all the unlocked lockers. At the far end of the locker room, about a hundred lockers away from where I’d left it, I found my backpack.

A hurried search revealed my passport, keys, and driver’s license, but conspicuously absent were my cell phone, debit card, and cash (I assume the thief threw away the lock). At least I could drive home. So I did, after using the gym’s phone to report my debit card stolen.

At home, I sat down at my computer to see if I could track my cell phone, but it looked like it had been turned off as it was removed from my locker, because the last point before it went dark in Google Maps’ Location History was at 24 Hour Fitness. I also looked up my phone’s location using Android Device Manager, but it couldn’t establish a connection to the (currently offline) phone.

So there I sat, thinking about having to get a new phone, while occasionally refreshing the Android Device Manager page just in case the thief might turn it back on.

To my great astonishment, it showed back up after about two hours. It was on just long enough to get a GPS fix, then turned back off. The phone was practically across the street from the gym, in a housing tract just on the other side of a cinderblock wall.

So I called the police. The friendly officer on the non-emergency 311 line informed me that GPS fixes can be off by anywhere from 50 to 150 meters, and the police will not respond to a location just from that. I told the nice lady that the GPS fix was confident to a 20 meter radius, which only covered three houses, but she was firm. In fact, she specifically advised against going to look for it.

Now I faced a dilemma- my phone had been stolen, I knew exactly where it was, and the police were not going to help get it back. I knew time was of the essence if I had any hope of getting it back intact, so I went.

Of the three houses, two were dark, with no signs of life. The third had a cluttered front yard with two cars… and a man sitting in a lawn chair in front of the garage smoking a cigarette.

I took a breath, walked up this man’s driveway, and said something akin to “Excuse me, but I’m looking for my lost cell phone. It was stolen from a men’s locker in 24 Hour Fitness a couple hours ago, and the phone’s GPS locator tells me it’s here.”

Without hesitation, the man stands up and hollers inside for his son, asking him what he’d done this time. At this point I figured I’d come to the right house.

Three teenage boys mope out of the house onto the front stoop, while the father asks if they stole a cell phone. Two boys say they don’t know anything about a cell phone, but the third says “I got to the gym late tonight, so I don’t know anything.”

At this point I knew I was in the right place, and things start happening fast.

Dad calls his son on the phone when he realizes he’s not actually among the assembled, and it turns out he was already on the way home. Son arrives in the back seat of a female friend’s Lexus and denies knowledge of any theft, but won’t get out of the car, forcing his dad to walk out in the street and talk through a half-closed window. Dad spends a few minutes arguing with his son, and one of the ladies in the front gets out, slams her door and runs inside. When she comes back out, can you guess what she had in her hand?

Yep, my cell phone, along with my debit card. The phone was still in the process of booting to the recovery console when she handed it over, an act to which one of the original deniers quickly copped. He sounded irritatingly proud of himself as he described how easy it was, in fact.

The back of the phone wasn’t properly seated, so I checked the SIM and SD cards. The SD card with about two thousand of my photos was still there, thank goodness, but the SIM card was gone. When I pointed that out, the son and two of his friends quickly volunteered to GTFO go search the pool area where they’d left it last seen it after it was removed by “some Mexican kid.”

After they ran off, I told dad the boys were on a wild goose chase, and he told the two boys remaining that they were now going to have to pay for my new SIM card in addition to replacing the $50 from my wallet.

David, the original denier who knew the button combination to start the recovery console on my phone, said he had $20, but since SIM cards were only $15, did I have any change?

For a teenager just caught participating in the theft of a $500 phone (a felony in Nevada), this kid had some big brass balls. I told him he could get the change from one of the other kids who took my cash, then realized he was probably paying me off with my own $20 bill anyway.

The son calls at this point, and says they’d located the pieces of the SIM card, right where they’d left them seen “some Mexican kid” drop them.

At this point, I was done. It was obvious to me that dad was incapable of offering meaningful consequences to the boys, who all still denied any involvement in the actual theft. I had my phone, my now-cancelled ATM card, $20 of the $50 taken from me, and a very well-learned lesson.

So I left, thinking about how well it had gone compared with how poorly it could’ve, and counted my lucky stars.

I’ve now ordered a new SIM card from Credo, my cell phone provider, and a new bank card from Citibank. I doubt I’ll pursue any legal action, just as I doubt the boys learned anything from their experience. It’s certainly not my place to teach them how to live their lives, but it’s obvious they have some maturing to do. I just hope they don’t do something that lands them in jail before they do it.

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Here’s what it looks like when they refuse to collect your garbage. It’s often because something is wrong with the way you’ve prepared your recycling, or you’ve put the wrong kind out for that day’s collection (as I believe this person has done); you get a nice little sticker explaining why they didn’t collect it.

This picture was taken before Matsuyama got stricter about plastic collection. You used to be able to put bags of mixed plastic like this out for collection, but now you have to take the labels and caps off PET bottles, and put just the bottles out on another day.

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It’s not unusual for me to go a day or two without using “regular” utensils.

We were out shopping a couple days ago and Yuko asked me a question I never imagined I’d hear-
“Do you think we need another fork?”
-and it reminded me that until last weekend we had exactly one fork and exactly one (table) knife.

In our “silverware drawer,” there’s a section for cooking utensils (including two pairs of 30cm chopsticks and standard slotted spoons and whatnot), a section for chopsticks (filled to overflowing, in fact… just counted, eight pairs), and a section for miscellaneous utensils (including a couple muddlers, four full size spoons, a few dessert spoons and dessert forks, and the utensils you see pictured here).

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Here’s a video of me riding my bicycle to work. It’s really not all that exciting, but I wanted to try recording with my friend Tomas’s camera just for kicks. (If you’re interested, it’s the GoPro HD Hero2 with fisheye lens housing mounted loosely to my handlebars using an old flashlight mount.)

It’s “unlisted” on YouTube out of a vague sense of… not privacy concerns per se, but because I’d rather not have directions to my apartment searchable on YouTube, really.

Anyway, it’s only five minutes long, so even though the mount is pretty shaky, you can probably suffer through it. 😉

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Here’s another “Hey, that’s a good idea” moment.

Convenience stores in Japan often sell small buckets already filled with ice, as well as individual plastic cups filled with ice (including lids and straws, if you look carefully).

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Here is the 海苔 – のり – nori (shredded and formed seaweed) shelf in a local supermarket.

In this photo alone, you can see over a dozen varieties, and you can tell the shelf is in need of restocking.

Japanese people eat a lot of seaweed, let me tell you.

I can also tell you the names of the kinds I don’t like, and ways to prepare it that taste like slimy, salty rubber.

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Fish heads like this are available in most supermarkets with a fresh fish section. While the fact that that’s a large majority of supermarkets around here may not be surprising, perhaps it may surprise you that I know of only ONE supermarket with an actual deli counter. (And would you believe that they only have one variety of ground beef that isn’t mixed with pork?)

One of my … eccentricities … is that I dislike picking food off the bone and despise picking bones out of my mouth, especially finicky little fish bones. Despite that, I’ve eaten this particular type of fish head on two separate occasions. The cheeks are each about one small bite each, and the rest is just a PITA.

If you’re curious, this is 鯛 / たい / tai, which my dictionary tells me is “sea bream,” but seems to be sold as “red snapper.” The fish makes superb sushi, and has earned its place as my second favorite fish to eat raw (after salmon, not counting o-toro, which would be like saying you prefer 1947 Cheval Blanc over a $5 bottle of merlot). But I digress.

On the upside, the heads are pretty cheap, at only about $1 each.

And because I know you’re waiting for it:
Fish heads, fish heads, roly poly fish heads.
Fish heads, fish heads, eat them up, yum.

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I took this picture at my bank while waiting in the lobby.

This poster explains how the bank’s ATM lottery works. Instead of cash, you’re basically using the funds in your account to withdraw lottery tickets, which pop out of the same slot.

I’m not sure if this would be illegal in the US (Can banks get a gambling license? There’s a scary thought.), but even if they could I can’t imagine a bank ever doing it because at best the gambling association would seem in especially bad taste after the recent financial sector turmoil.

At worst, I could see people getting the idea that their money isn’t safe in a bank that likes to promote gambling.

I haven’t noticed the bank gambling away my money, though perhaps that’s why Japanese banks don’t pay interest on deposits. 😉

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It may seem obvious, but unsliced sashimi is available from every supermarket in Japan.

On the left is tuna (maguro) and on the right is salmon (sake).

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Breakfast cereal isn’t consumed in Japan the same way it’s consumed in the States. Most Japanese people prefer a traditional Japanese breakfast including rice, fish, vegetable pickles, raw egg, and/or miso soup, with hurried professionals and college students recently starting to eat dry toast (by itself), but the drink is always green tea.

Because of this, the variety of breakfast cereal available here is very small, consisting mostly of corn flakes (in plain, frosted, and chocolate varieties) and a few varieties of granola, which is what I usually eat for breakfast.

You can get boxes of stuff like this in a few places around town, but it’s really expensive. This box was about $4.50, and is barely big enough for two days’ breakfast. You can see my cell phone there for size.

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