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I foresee a market for non-conductive selfie sticks. Normally when I see warnings, I imagine they were inspired by actual dire consequences. Surely the warnings on the London Tube to “Mind the Gap,” respond (correspond?) to many real incidents. In this case, the Japanese organizational aptitude combined with frighteningly oblivious foreign (Chinese) tourists could have inspired these warnings without actual fatal incidents.

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When I saw corndogs at the local convenience store, I had to try one. The Japanese often elevate dishes from other countries to high art. Indeed it was refined, but it lacked  strong and distinct corn and frankfurter flavors. Another sign informed 283 kilocalories. I had to ask how they are called in Japanese. They are “American Dogs,” so I will remember it is not an insult.

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Although appearing surprisingly young for fire fighters, their expressions of alarm and determination represent their profession well. They are too small to be manholes (more likely access to spigots or valves), I do not know a better term. This was somewhere in Shinbashi. The middle character means “fire,” and the lower rayed and dotted circle is the symbol for Tokyo.

For anyone with interest in Japanese manhole covers, Wikipedia mentions a photography book “Drainspotting,” by Remo Camerota.

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My daughter is reading Wallace’s “Infinite Jest,” which she finds has many unusual words. She asked me what “formication” might mean. I could not help but recall the scene in the movie adaptation of Roald Dahl’s “Maltilda” when Maltilda’s father reacts with outrage hearing she is reading a book with the obscene title “Moby Dick.”  I suggested, “Perhaps ants being romantic?”

A few days later, I saw ants formicating on the remains of a small reptile. Those tiny limbs and short conical tail suggest a skink, and I have seen what I suspect to be Ablepharus kitaibelii (European snake-eyed skink) in that area near the sea. I did not want to disturb the ants at work, so I did not flip it over for diagnostic markings.

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We did not see it, but this couple claims Charmander was right there at Ocean Beach in Golden Gate park. They had some sort of app called Pokemon Go to see spiritual entities invisible to us, and they were very excited.

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After passing over Red China and within spitting distance of North Korea on the way back from Tokyo last week, passing over Syria and Iran completed our axis-of-evil set. Added bonuses may be claimed for Iraq, the former Soviet Union, and the North Pole. The Lebanese national carrier, Middle East Airlines, still flies over Syria and Iraq: most airlines use the southern route over Jordan and Egypt that adds an hour.

Of course, “Danger Zone,” 1986, came into my head, though back then, the closest US airstrikes were against the late Qaddafi in Operation El Dorado Canyon. Remember the “Line of Death” across the Gulf of Sidra? Unfortunately, the tune is an earworm, and I have no antidote that itself would not perpetuate suffering. “California Dreamin” might work.

The 16-hour flight from Abu Dhabi to San Francisco had us a bit worried: Etihad is comfortable and has good food, but there are limits. Consider 200 economy passengers, 2 lavatories, and 16 hours. We thought of comfort and cost when choosing the flight without noticing the duration. During the layover, we realized that the Persian Gulf was unlikely to supply many travelers to California. Australians would go east, Europeans go west, and the only part of the world with any population who would travel north over the pole would be South Asia. Then, it twigged: Silicon Valley. We decided to expect Indian programmers and hope for Indian food, and indeed, more than nine in ten were from the sub-continent, and the food was dhal, paneer, biriani, and very good. Even better and completely unexpected was clearing US Immigration and customs in Abu Dhabi, thus replacing a crowded stress and frustration after more than 24 hours of travel with a mild, line-free activity during the layover. Axis of evil or Silk Road.

 

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There may be a competition for attractive manhole covers between Japanese districts.

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This place not only had a beautiful lantern, its posted menu looked good with pictures of grilled pork belly and gyoza. It looked like it could be a local clientele, so I sent the wife and daughters in first. The man said, “Do you speak Japanese?” My wife said, “No.” He said, “No speak, no eat.” He was probably worried about us taking too much of his time trying to communicate, scaring away real customers, no ordering enough drinks, and trying to use a credit card. I would have been willing to dime on only pork belly, gyoza, and beer. We went instead to a non-specialist place around the corner that took orders using tickets issued from a vending machine with English language options. The waitress and we communicated with gestures well, but they had no gyoza. Kirin,  270 Yen a glass.

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Nearby, photogenic at night, but none sampled.

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Isetan department store in Shinjuku, Tokyo has many colorful and delicious things. The rooftop garden is available for consumption of purchased snacks. Not shown are the tonkatsu sandwich and yakitori.

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