Miss Patience and the Long Journey to a New Card

All I wanted was a bank card issued in this millennium. After a while I was afraid it might take a millennium to get it.

On Monday I went to the bank to get a new bank card. My card had been issued in 1999 after I moved to Tokyo. It had held up reasonably well over 16-and-a-half years but it had a couple problems. 1) the magnetic strip, which had been hidden, had been exposed and begun to wear out. 2) Although the ATMs still recognized it, the bank that had issued it no longer existed.

I arrived at the bank before closing, explained what I wanted, and then was sent upstairs where I filled out a form, was given a number and waited until my number was called.

Once my number was called, a very nice clerk, lets call her Miss Patience, started to process my application. The first problem was with my address. I’d said that I didn’t want to change my address but Miss Patience pointed out that the address I’d written on the form didn’t match the address on my card. After she told me part of the address, I thought she was talking about the company I work for but she assured me the address was listed as my home address.

The problem was the address listed on my account no longer existed. In fact, it hadn’t existed for several years because the building had been torn down and new buildings put in its place.

I do not know if this means I’ve been breaking the law for several years–and it might explain why I was rejected for a credit card last week–but Miss Patience managed to get the address changed. That, however, led to the next problem: my signature didn’t match the signature on the account and since the card was older than my marriage I couldn’t remember how I’d signed it.

Every time I wrote my signature Miss Patience sighed, told me that was wrong and dropped a few hints.

Clearly I was pathetic enough that she didn’t believe I could be a con artist.

Eventually I figured out how I’d signed it (long story involving miscommunication) and everything was changed. I also managed to get my first and last names on the card rather than both my given names (another long story).

Along the way Miss Patience kept disappearing and reappearing with different forms and we both made mistakes requiring new forms. After an hour together, I was finally informed that my card would be mailed to me exactly “some time next week” and that if I needed money I should go to the counter.

Because the lower level of the bank had closed, I had to take an elevator to the ATM room in order to escape the bank.

As banking encounters in Japan go, it was surprisingly painless given how long it took. Now I’m just waiting to see if the card arrives to see if things actually worked out.


Dangerously Expensive Free Times in Tokyo

After I moved to Tokyo, the company I work for used to send me around town to teach various classes at various companies and schools. Because of the nature of the scheduling, I often found myself with a couple hours to waste before my next job.

This is a dangerous thing for a pen addict.

One of the dangerous things about giving a pen addict lots of free time in Tokyo is the store Ito-Ya. It is several stories of pen, ink, paper and paraphernalia that in its prime (before it became the Apple Store for stationery) was a great place to explore. Like a good bookstore, every time I went there I found something I couldn’t live without and had to take home. The fountain pen store (located in the alley behind the main store) is still worth a visit.

Near Ito-Ya is a large LOFT, a large MUJI and Tokyo station. Near Tokyo station are two other dangerous places: Maruzen Books (link in Japanese) and the Yaesu Book Center. I spent lots of time perusing the English sections of both of those bookstores. Yaesu is nice because it meets my standard for creepiness. The English section is on the eighth floor and you can only take the elevator halfway. Once you get there it’s kind of cramped.

For book lovers, the most dangerous place in Tokyo is the Jimbocho area. It has dozens of tiny bookstores selling a variety of used books in a variety of languages. In one store I could have bought an entire James Joyce research library with scholarly books and journals in English and Japanese. You can easily waste several hours here just looking at old Japanese books.

Last, of the most dangerous areas is Shinjuku. It’s got two Kinokuniya bookstores (one older, one relatively new), a modern, but very nice Tokyu Hands, an entire block of camera and electronics shops and Kabukicho, Tokyo’s red light district.

Kabukicho isn’t that interesting during the day, but it’s worth a quick walk through. But also hidden away in Shinjuku is Kingdom Note, a fairly posh pen shop with lots of original goods, including pens and ink, and lots of used pens.

Near all of this, on the other side of the station is the SeKaiDo main store, which has several floors of art supplies.

I’m glad I didn’t learn about it when I had all that time to kill. I might have tried to become a painter.

Staying the Same While Still Changing Things

Today is the six month anniversary of the start of my diet/lifestyle change. Unfortunately, the guy whose plan I was following has run from the public eye after his larger plans failed.

I’ve mentioned before how I started following a plan outlined by Vic Magary and, somehow, managed to stick with it.

I still like his style. Although he’s former military and he called some of his plans “boot camps” and promised to “act like a drill sergeant” if we didn’t turn in our food journals every day, he never tried to be one of those “exercise like a Green Beret/Navy SEAL/Ranger/French Foreign Legion Commando/now you’re ready to go to WAR” types. Instead, he promised to help us reach our goals without gimmicks or hype.

For the most part, that was true, and as of today’s official weigh in, I’m at 82 kilograms (just under 181 pounds) which means I’ve lost 17 kilos or about 37ish pounds since I started. More importantly, for the last month I’ve kept my weight around that number, which means I’ve been able to stop the drop without triggering a rebound. (Although our youngest, who takes notes while watching a Sunday morning medical show–long story–did accuse me of having a rebound after my New Year/in-law visit weight gain.)

I’ve been spotty with the exercise routine recently as my evening schedule has been changed. However, I still drag myself to the tatami mat room in our apartment and exercise at least three times a week. Also, on school days I have a 3ish mile (5 kilometer) round trip walk that I count as exercise even as it destroys my shoes.

My goal now is to work on strength. I didn’t lose any strength as I lost weight–had no where to go but up–but the exercise routine needs to move to the next level.

Unfortunately, Vic’s ventures didn’t succeed the way he’d hoped (apparently not for the first time) and he’s now cocooned back into less risky work. Also, despite student encouragement, he’s pulled all his books from circulation (except one on martial arts). The Facebook page linked above is the last social media he’s kept active, but he doesn’t seem to respond to any posts. All his other websites are down.

Since he’s not around to do it, the only advice I can give is up your protein and vegetables; lower your carbs and liquid calories; replace your between meal snacks with smaller, healthier alternatives; write down everything you eat, about how much and when; do something resembling exercise every day (and write down what you did); and get more sleep.

Oh, and pick one day a week for your official weigh-in. Don’t weigh yourself every day. You’ll be shocked how much your weight moves around from day to day and it will freak you out.

Ginza Blade Show 2016–Accessorize

I nodded at them; she gave a polite smile back; he latched on to her and held her close to let me know she was with him. They went strait to a table to look at knives made from agate. That was the start of the Ginza Blade Show today, and it was actually a promising start.

In the past, there haven’t been many women at the shows and it’s especially rare to see young women take an interest in knives, even it was the ones made from stone.

The display of stone knives made by Takeji Kitabayashi. I like the display more than the knives.

The back lit display of stone knives made by Takeji Kitabayashi. I like the display; the knives are pretty good, too.

Oddly, today’s show seemed deliberately targeted towards women and people who usually don’t show an interest in knives. It featured the most knife-related accessories of any show, including lots of stuff made from leather and paracord, and several accessories that were just stylish, not knife-related. There were also hand-forged Damascus steel pizza cutters.

Pizza cutters made from Damascus steel hand-forged by Shoichi Hashimoto. They were 1350.

Pizza cutters made from Damascus steel hand-forged by Shoichi Hashimoto. They were $1,350 each.

Because of this, it was a larger show than usual. There were enough makers present that some of them got sent to the “little kids room” on the other side of the lobby.

Steam punk designer Lotus_Maple_Walnut, had a display featuring a glowing box, steam punk key chains, and $50 steam punk covers for your $1 box of mints.

Lotus_Maple_Walnut's key chains and accessories.

Lotus_Maple_Walnut’s key chains and accessories.

Pen and knife maker Hidetoshi Nakayama had a table with only four items: a knife with a unique deployment method (that I couldn’t get a good picture of), an ugly knife, a key chain knife shaped like peanuts, and an ivory bolt action pen.

I wonder if this is airport security compliant.

I wonder if this is airport security compliant.

I didn't bother asking the price of this pen, but he did let me play with it.

I didn’t bother asking the price of this pen–it’s only a ballpoint pen after all–but the maker did let me play with it.

As for knives, there was a good mix of different styles. In the past the shows have been overwhelmed by variations of Bob Loveless drop point hunters or expensive slip joint pocket knives or fantastic art knives that belong in a museum and out in the field. This time, there were folders of various shapes and sizes and a lot of the items seemed to priced to move, especially to up and coming knife people. If you want new people in your hobby, you can’t scare them off with $600 knives (that comes later).

One of my favorite knife makers had dropped his prices around 20% and other makers had a good range of prices. I ended up buying a $26 dollar knife I can practice sharping on.  I didn’t catch what steel it is, but it came with a cord wrapped handle. After I bought it, the maker, Hideo Yamazaki (who lives in my town) threw in an extra small knife for free.

Later, I saw a small slip joint folder and mentioned to my Canadian friend that I liked it but it was just out my price range. Suddenly, the maker made it cheaper and I couldn’t resist. Three knives for the price of two. Not bad.

I hope this trend toward the different, the cheaper and the accessory continues in future shows. The Tokyo Folding Knife Show is next month. I guess I’ll see then.

Note: Here are a few photos from the day:

The crowd begins to arrive right as the doors open.

The crowd begins to arrive right as the doors open. The cool couple are in the top right corner. 

Mamoru Fujita's incredible detail work.

Mamoru Fujita’s incredible detail work.

Mamoru Fujita's Mount Fuji blade.

Mamoru Fujita’s handcarved Mount Fuji blade.

Still available from the last show I attended: Kiku Knives first flipper.

Still available from the last show I attended: Kiku Matsuda’s first flipper.




Rage-Quitting Without Stopping

It was a good idea, but the timing was wrong. Then I should have stopped but didn’t.

I tried to do a couple things today and they didn’t go well. Or, at least, I wasn’t in the mood to do them and that caused things to turn out less as well as I would expect.

I then tried to relieve stress by playing a couple games. Unfortunately, because I was already in a bad mood, I didn’t play the games as well as I could have. In fact, I found myself swearing at the screen and looking for a safe place to throw my keyboard. (It was not mindless rage, just rageful annoyance.)

(Note: rageful is totally a word. More or less.)

This caused me to forget the basic rules of gaming:

–If you’re not having fun, stop.
–If playing makes you more angry than you were before, stop.
–If you’re ruining your stats, stop.
–If you are thinking f@#k my stats, you should have stopped a long time ago.

In my go-to game, World of Tanks, I was especially bad. Instead of having fun and ridiculing myself for my silly mistakes, I was playing like a reckless beginner and could see my stats falling. Rather than rage-quit and walk away, my frustration caused me to redouble my efforts which doubled the rate of the free fall. It was as close as I could get to rage-quitting while still playing.

Eventually, I stopped and found other things to do. The things were no more productive than world of tanks, but they didn’t make me think about throwing my keyboard across the room.

That only happened when I tried to think about a topic for this post. (One of the things that didn’t work out well today was my first idea for today’s post. Long story.)

Walking the Walking Dead Walk

We all showed up, today, but none of us were really there.

One of the quirks of the school where I work is we have lots of odd days with little to do because of entrance exams. Because of this, when we finally have something to do, it’s often been so long since we had to do it that we forget how it was done.

Throw in illness and a migraine hangover, and you’ve got recipe for zombies.

One of us had a toothache and was popping pain killers which left him less than 100%. Others were losing energy as they encountered students who either had too much energy or, more likely, too little. As they say, you can lead a horse to water, but no matter how many times you it with a stun gun, you can make it drink (something like that).

In my case I was nursing a migraine hangover. (I got the migraine aura right before supper last night. The spot was in my left eye which usually means a brutal one is coming.) I thought I was fine until I got to class and could feel the leftover hint of nausea and the leftover hint of migraine at the side of my head. The effect of this was to make me cranky in a “shut the f@#k up” kind of way.

It didn’t help that in my second class, seven of nine speeches had to go again, including five people who were already going again. Then, despite it having been translated for them, they pretended they didn’t understand that they had to go again in the same class. This led to more crankiness in a “What are you people? On dope?” kind of way.

At the end of the day, even though today was the only full day of the week, we were all like the walking dead. We were walking slowly; we were hungry; and we all needed a brain.

Oh, and in a follow up from yesterday’s post: I didn’t get approved for the credit card. 


You Really Gotta Want It

My first ever argument She Who Must Be Obeyed involved a credit card. Today we managed to collaborate over one, but I’m afraid we’ll have to do it again and things will get bad.

Soon after I started dating She Who Must Be Obeyed we went shopping for something or other and I used my credit card. The problem was, I was apparently the first person in history to attempt to use a credit card at this large shopping center. The clerk studied the card, sighed in an “are you f@#king serious” way, and then put the card, at least to my eyes, through the machine upside down.

The machine beeped and the clerk shrugged. I said to try it again. At this point, She Who Must Be Obeyed jumped in and told them I was using a debit card (which we had talked about before in the community English class she’d joined; long story). The clerk seemed relieved and I started to hand the card back and I insisted she try again.

She Who Must Be Obeyed tried to intervene again and at that point I said “Don’t help” and she complied by storming away. Eventually, the clerk called someone and the card cleared. However, the clerk never stopped looking at me with suspicion. She Who Must Be Obeyed eventually spoke to me again.

I bring this up because today, at long last, I decided to apply for a Japanese credit card. The problem is, the Japanese are still, to my mind, behind in designing and using browser based forms. As such, each form has lots of extra steps and different lines have to be done in different sized Japanese letters. Even with good Japanese, there’s so much technical jargon it’s even hard for Japanese to do.

Therefore, She Who Must Be Obeyed stayed nearby as I attempted to fill out the form. After almost 45 minutes, and several backtracks to figure out what was wrong–luckily this form was modern enough to save previous work–I finally got the form submitted.

Now, I have to wait and hope I get approval. However, the odds are not necessarily ever in my favor. (I know one person who was rejected several times and ended up having to get a kind of debit card.)

If it doesn’t clear, we may have to go through all this again and that could be problematic.

Leaving the House Eventually

I’m not agoraphobic, but I find that the more time I spend in the house doing things, the less interested I am in leaving it. This is a reverse cabin fever that I don’t fully understand.

This week, because of entrance exams, we’ve been on a strange schedule at the school where I work. I, of course, totally worked on several things for the company I work for, but well, yeah.

After a few days of totally working on these projects–which I have to do in the morning— today I decided I needed to get out of the house and do things like “see the sun” and “breathe fresh air” and “put on trousers” (not necessarily in that order).

The trouble is, my brain began running through excuses for why I didn’t actually want to leave the house. (It did this the last couple days as well.) The excuses included: no reason to go out; what you need to do you can put off: what you can’t put off you can order off the internet; breathing stale air makes you stronger, fresh air will make you weak; you’ll just spend money.

In that end that’s what made me leave. I need to price some computer parts and then decide if I want the adventure of replacing them myself. (I’m not afraid to do it especially as the adventure will provide lots of fodder for this daily bit of blather it’s just a pain in the behind to find all the stuff and pick a day to do it.) I also need to see if it’s cheaper to just buy a new computer.

I gathered up all my stuff, made a list of the specs for the components I needed and set out on my daily adventure. After I went to the ATM to get some cash, I realized I’d forgot the list of parts specs. I went to the shop and looked over a few things but only got a couple prices. Then I went to a couple pen shops and managed to not buy anything. (No, really.)

I then finally got to enjoy the chicken chicken I was denied a couple months ago. (I probably won’t need to eat for days now.)

However, after a couple hours, I just came home. I bought some healthy snacks and then waited to have beans thrown at. (I’ve written about that before.)

It wasn’t a productive day, but it was relaxing.

Cleaning and Eating the Old Stuff

Because nothing bad has happened I have small problems in both my office and in our house. I solve some of the problems by eating them.

After the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, and the countless aftershocks, we became very diligent about our escape plans and assembled a couple bugout bags, including one at school. A couple years ago I updated them and we’ve now reached the time of year when I have to update them again.

At home that involves dusting things off, checking dates and deciding what to do with the stuff inside. Some of it will be replaced and the rest thrown away or, if it seems in reasonable shape, left for another year.

The problem happens when I check the food as my first instinct is just to eat it, even it’s well past its BEST BY date. This also She Who Must Be Obeyed’s natural instinct. In the past we’ve eaten five year old canned bread and biscuits (cookie-like things) and rice (and fed them to our girls as well). The only things we don’t eat are things in dented or damaged cans or things in rusting cans.

In my case, after I started cleaning out my Get Home bag at work, I decided to eat the old “cup noodle” soups. One was very tasty, the other wasn’t that good. Neither of them appeared to be bad, but I did get a headache the day I ate the second one.

Tomorrow I will attack our big bag and decide what needs to be updated and replaced. I also want to spread stuff around to a couple other bags now that the girls are old enough to carry some stuff. (In fact, I want them to help assemble the bags.)

As for the food, well, some of it might end up being my lunch tomorrow. This means I can’t promise tomorrow’s post will be especially appetizing.



Inks Come With Decisions and Regrets

The ink’s only been in the pen a few hours, but I can already tell this relationship isn’t going to last.

One of the fun parts of having a fountain pen addiction is that you get to develop, on the side, an ink habit. (Which is totally not an addiction.)

Thanks to Massdrop (note: that link requires free registration; if you register and make a subsequent purchase, you help this site produce more blather) and occasional sales here and there, I’ve managed to acquire a decent supply of ink. The trouble is, with fountain pens, changing ink is a hobby by itself.

With a ballpoint pens–in their various paste, gel ink, roller ball forms–changing inks involves a little twisting, a little inserting, and a little more twisting. If you don’t like an ink, you repeat the process and get something you like with little trouble. You then throw away the refill you don’t like.

With fountain pens changing inks involves twisting, disassembling, rinsing, flushing, draining, soap and ammonia, soaking and a long period of drying. Then you get to load the ink and start using it. If you want to use a new ink tomorrow, you have to start preparing today. If you don’t like an ink, you have to dump it out (probably wasting what’s in the pen) and then you’re stuck with a bottle that would last a long time under normal use but seems to precious to just dump out and throw away.

The more inks you have, and the more you want to try them, the more you have to go through this process.

I personally haven’t gone as deeply down the ink rabbit hole as others because, luckily, I’m fairly picky about how I want my pens to work. I want the ink to go down smoothly and evenly and to dry quickly. If an ink doesn’t feel right, I might try it in another pen and then abandon it. it’s a bit like when TV shows keep the same character but change actors. Yeah, everything is still the same, but something is not quite right.

Today and yesterday, though, as part of a plan to use things or “loose” them, I cleaned several pens and filled them with inks I’ve acquired and have been meaning to try. I kept six of them the same because I either like the ink/pen combinations too much to mess with right now or they were recently changed or I don’t have a suitable replacement.

My current pen and ink load out. Some have changed, some have not.

My current pen and ink load out. Some have changed, some have not.

Most of the inks and pens work together well, but one pairing doesn’t seem to be working out. The Diamine Amber and the Nexus Aluminum don’t seem to be playing nicely together. The Amber looks great once it dries but it feels dry as I write. I have a feeling this relationship isn’t going to last and Amber will be moving on to someone else.

The trouble is, that means I have to clean two pens, so maybe I’ll see if I can keep this couple together for a while.