Pretty priceless pigeonholes

Last year, I ranted about precarious pigeonholes. It’s unlikely I’ll ever accept when people use nothing but appearances and superficial conversations to draw conclusions about another person’s character. Neither am I amused with one-dimensional personality-based pigeonholes. This anecdote is an exception:
Let me start by recognizing that I used to be a bit of a nerd (if you ask the duck, I still very much am one. Well, I do love lists a lot); I was serious about my studies and fair comprehensible grading. That’s why my demeanor becomes particularly serious when I relate to my seniors, superiors, or people responsible for judging my work. In contrast, those who know me better (and in more casual situations) must suffer through my bad jokes and occasionally annoying cheerfulness.
One day, my friends/coursemates and I convened with a lecturer who had known us for a few years. After a long serious discussion, we were all exhausted and frustrated. I made a jokey remark, and my friends responded with a polite chuckle. When we realized our lecturer was staring at me perplexed, we froze. “Did you just make a joke?” he asked, looking as if I’d admitted to stealing a staircase.* Fancy pigeonholeI don’t remember the rest of the meeting, just that we couldn’t wait to leave the room and have a long, healthy laugh about the situation. Days, even years later, we still chuckled, imagining what kind of person I must have been in our teacher’s mind. It seems my “professionalism” worked too well on him.
Don’t get me wrong, I still resent feeling pigeonholed. But the way our lecturer was so sure of his reading of me and how this gave us all something to laugh about in an otherwise bleak situation made this a pretty priceless pigeonhole – one with a crystal chandelier (if we’re going with the literal sense of the word)!

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So many books!*

That’s what the duck and I exclaim whenever we look at our read list from this past winter. Even my past regularly-reading self would deem the current duck and me worthy conversation partners. Last year, we met our absolutely achievable reading goal. So, for 2023, we increased it by a single book. And, before the beginning of spring, we were more than halfway there. Believe me, the duck and I didn’t start the year thinking we should try to reach our noncommittal reading goal as soon as possible. But then two things happened that appealed to our personalities so much that reading more than usual became inevitable:
#1 Like last year, the duck and I participated in a reading challenge for which we read a little bit every day in January. That went smoothly until, in a weak moment of particularly powerful procrastination, we joined two more reading challenges, comprising a combined 16 prompts to consider when picking books to read this year. As stubborn (still-) completionists and faithful friends of frugality, the duck and I were committed to finishing these two extra challenges, ideally at little to no additional cost.

This is where #2 comes in:

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Our favorite jogging podcasts pt. 2

As I mentioned last month, my moderate jogging skills virtually worsened through most of last year. While music may potentially boost my speed, our dedicated jogging podcasts, paired with the duck’s cheers and my stubbornness, were my master motivator. Without them, I’m not sure I’d have regularly stepped out of the house to attempt another hopeless jog with lots of walking breaks.

Last year, the duck and I curated a list of our favorite jogging podcasts. We have since listened to a bunch of new ones during our jogs – enough to warrant a new list of our favorite jogging podcasts:

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Windy weather

A few years ago, whenever someone asked me about my favorite weather, I would respond, “windy!” without hesitation. My “windy” was a refreshing breeze by the ocean, dancing leaves in the fall, and fresh air atop a mountain. I enjoyed leaning into powerful gusts or receiving a determined push toward my destination from them. Sometimes, I still do. Even when I started living in Tokyo, a city occasionally visited by powerful typhoons, I was convinced I liked windy weather.
It took a series of surprised looks and chuckles from my coworkers after my favorite weather proclamations to make me question my conviction. I began observing my reaction to all kinds of windy weather. WindyWhen the wind was accompanied by rain, and I worried about the well-being of my umbrella, or when it was so strong that I had to squint to shield my eyes, I wondered if I really liked windy weather the best. I recalled a period when I lived in an old building next to a park. Each time it was stormy out, I worried that my single-glazed window would shatter from a loosened branch or the pressure of the wind.
After a while, I aligned with the majority and made sunny weather my favorite. Despite my previous beliefs in the superiority of windy weather, I’ve always been a regular sucker for sunshine, more so than wind. My mood heavily depends on it.
I still love a breeze on a hot day or watching swaying trees through my double-glazed window. But each time I go for a slow jog on a windy day, I curse the wind when it amplifies my struggle to keep going. In those situations, the duck always asks me how I could ever have considered windy weather my favorite. You know what? Despite all that, I still feel like saying I like windy days (and imagine a refreshing breeze while I do). I suppose my volition to swim against the tide is firmer than my common sense (figuratively speaking. If I had to literally swim against the tide, I would give up after a few seconds).

The podcast/music dilemma

It’s that time of year again when the duck and I reminisce about our running slow jogging progress. Or shall we call it “regress” this time? “Running for ten hours” would be the logical continuation of our previous post titles. But the duck and I like to stay truthful, and there is no way we will ever deliberately run for ten hours (I’m not even sure zombies would get us there). We did unexpectedly pass the one-hour mark a few weeks ago, though.* However, this was a once-in-a-blue-moon occurrence in an otherwise slow year. I want to blame it on my post-Covid energy decline that over 90% of our jogs contained walking breaks (the duck slowed down in solidarity). But one weird occurrence clearly contradicts that. It concerns the duck and my jogging entertainment (because the outside alone isn’t entertaining enough for us to keep jogging).

This is where the uncharacteristic title of today’s post and the following question come in:

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Cashless considerations

After years of cheerfully p(l)aying with physical money, the duck and I switched to using our debit card instead. Shopping has felt slightly less exciting since – even as a child, I would opt for coins to pay for my pretend shop. The duck was always happy helping out in the filling-our-shopping-basket-to-the-brim part of our shop and then sitting back and watching while I paid for our groceries. Clearly, the switch has been easier for the duck.

So, to return the favor from two months ago, the duck accumulated some local grocery store flyers for me to study – I hadn’t assembled applicable offers for our detailed shopping list for the week yet. Then, the duck asked for some paper and a pen from our neverending stash and collected bullet points for a list of advantages of paying by card. After finalizing the shopping list, I would get to compose one more list together with the duck – what a wonderful late new year’s present! Because it was so much fun, the duck suggested I share the outcome (of the latter). Voilà:

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A Shopping Basket Mystery

When I shop, I consistently choose shopping baskets over shopping carts. If there are no baskets, a shopping bag from the stash inside my backpack will have to do. But I prefer baskets. Can you imagine my disappointment when one of the few local basket-carrying grocery stores had seemingly run out? It was mild but memorable.
During another shop, I overheard an exchange between the cashier and an acquaintance of his, presumably a civilian-clothed (former) coworker. It went roughly like this:
Civilian: “Where did all the baskets go?”
Cashier: “They were (getting) stolen!”
Then, a shared knowing look and a chuckle (I might owe an embellishment credit to my memory for this part).
I wish I could recall the exact wording of the cashier’s statement, as there is a difference between: “All the baskets were stolen. There aren’t any left,” and “The basket supply was dwindling. We removed the remaining few”. The former sounds more exciting, though I suspect the latter to be true.
A few weeks later, when I entered the store, shopping bag ready, I was shocked to see the baskets had returned. I had expected their removal to be a permanent solution, especially after the overheard exchange. Then, I wondered: Had the baskets been removed to install anti-burglary chips? Had they been held hostage until a decision about their future was made? Maybe the no-basket period was simply a parenting tactic to teach the criminal neighborhood a lesson on appreciating the things it takes for granted? The more I thought about it, the more I believed in this sequence of events: The cashier and his friend, fed up with the regular disappearance of shopping baskets, had planned this stunt well in advance. FDucktective basketirst, they would hide all baskets. Then, they would stage several performances of the shopping basket conversation to ensure most patrons would witness it. Maybe, they multi-cast the role of “Civilian” to reduce suspicion. Either way, they must have done extensive purchase behavior studies beforehand so they wouldn’t hit the same clientele twice. Perhaps management was in on it? Maybe they hired professional actors? Possibly, this has the potential to become a new ducktective case. Probably, I’m overthinking this. Obviously, I need to know.
Asking outright would be too embarrassing. Maybe I could hire the duck to infiltrate the store and investigate the staff through some offhand new coworker questions? What do you think?

Grocery shopping has changed, man!

It’s been a while since the duck and I last professed our undying love for grocery shopping. Since then, there have been a few changes. Let’s start with the obvious one: In the last three years, various rules concerning store capacity, face visibility, and personal space were introduced and adapted. However, the biggest one for the duck and me was paying for our shop – we finally learned about checkouts and ceased walking out of the store, bags almost bursting with free groceries- ouch! The duck’s bad joke nudges have become more forceful. I should probably look into limiting the duck’s regular yoga master drills to five per day.
Bad jokes aside, I used to love playing store with miniature groceries, plastic money, and cash register sound effects. The only reason I stopped was a halt in playdate invitations. Fortunately, real grocery shopping turned out to be nearly as fun. Can you imagine my delight when I get to use self-service checkout machines? Even at a regular register, paying for my purchases in cash, ideally with exact change, was fun. As a bonus, I always precisely remembered how much I had spent on my shopping trips.

When shoppers were asked to kindly pay cashless in 2020, I acquiesced. At first, I used the chip readers and was called back to fetch my card several times. Once, I left it at a self-service checkout. When I returned the next day to retrieve it, I was scolded by the employee as he returned my card.
I have since progressed to touch-to-pay. Fortunately, I’m naturally frugal (which is what I should call my stinginess from now on), so I’m never severely surprised by the total on my receipt. But that’s because I already am when I see the price tags in-store and internally exclaim: “I remember a time when bread was basically free… because I was a freeloading child-” ouch! When we saw that most of our staples were spared from intense price hikes, the duck and I boldly declared our fortunateness. Unsurprisingly, inflation caught up with us. Now we cry whenever we buy oatmeal at a 40% higher price than before. We’re still shopping cheaper and healthier than in Japan, so we shouldn’t complain.

What’s your stance on grocery shopping? Do you have a preferred way to pay? What is your favorite country/city/store to shop in?

… faraway couches

Earlier, I disclosed that having almost all our friends live at least an hours-long train ride away has taken a toll on the duck who is much more social than I am. We’ve had a long talk in which I apologized for not honoring the duck’s extravert needs, and the duck promised to give me a heads-up before sending off any villain-club application forms. Like the duck, I don’t love living far away from most of our friends. But I also think it isn’t all bad. When I asserted that in our discussion, the duck demanded scientific proof. I laughed. The duck stared at me with a straight face.

Befuddled, I grabbed a pen from my neverending stash, some paper, and a couch catalog for the duck to peruse as I composed this list:

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Being a completionist pt. 2

At the beginning of the year, I wrote about wanting to break my habit of being a completionist. I‘ve gotten worse am still working on that.
‘Tis the season of Christmas cookies and extra-delicious food, a.k.a. the perfect backdrop for writing about one completionist habit I don’t mind (though it does annoy people around me): food. Whenever I prepare a meal that’s not entirely inedible, I will eat it. I happily finish my plate, refrigerate or freeze intended leftovers, and always use up all the ingredients I buy – unless they’ve gone bad prematurely. The only time I’m not happy with this habit is when I eat out and haven’t brought an empty container for leftovers. Last summer, in a rare instance of outside dining, I ordered a vegetable pasta dish that was served in a medium-sized frying pan! The portion was at least 2-3 large leftover lunches large. I determinedly switched to main quest mode and began shoveling. When I had reached satisfactory fullness, you could hardly tell I had transferred any skillet pasta onto my plate. I was on a mission. So, I kept eating. I hadn’t felt that full in months years! takeaway boxBut my aversion to wasting food trumped the growing fear of my stomach bursting. I kept on eating… until a knight in shining armor and an apron appeared at my side. Our excellent server had noticed my pained face and offered me a takeaway box for my leftovers. Yes! There’s no way I could have finished this pan-sized portion. My no-food-goes-to-waste-willpower has its limits.
I felt regret: Why hadn’t I thought about inquiring about a container myself (I would have happily paid for one) before the pain had set in? But I was also happy that I had one more day of good food before reverting to my own miserable cooking attempts. Thankfully, the duck wasn’t there to witness my embarrassment… or cheer me on all the way to my painful demise.