Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, Ph.D.

I study people, technology, and the worlds they make


There’s been a small epidemic of break-ins in our usually safe neighborhood– robberies when people are away at work. Yesterday it was our turn.

I got home with the kids about 5:30, and as I was pulling up to the house, saw the front door open. I left the kids outside, went in, and pretty quickly it was obvious that we’d been hit sometime during the day. Of course, I called the police immediately, they came and did a report, then I spent 45 minutes on hold with Allstate, waiting to file a report.

The thieves were very selective. Lots of little electronics (games, the Wii, a couple iPods and DS Lites), some silver, and a significant portion of my wife’s jewelry, most of which (like 99.9% of the jewelry in the world) has a much higher sentimental than financial value. But lots of little things add up to a non-trivial chunk of change.

I lost a couple things– in particular some nice headphones a Danish think-tank gave me a couple years ago– but the stuff I cared about was untouched, mainly because the burglars didn’t care to take books (which are all inscribed) or DVDs (for whatever reason), and I don’t know enough about jewelry to have any. Later I realized that most of the highly portable and valuable things I care about are in my garage office, or in my pockets or about my person. If I were mugged I’d lose my entire personal data infrastructure.

But this was like the twister that leaves one trailer untouched and carries its neighbor to the next county (or nearest pawn shop).

An odd piece of karma. Or like a flu that hits everyone, but leaves one parent well enough to take care of the rest of the family.

The experience makes me want programmable RFID tags, so I could more easily mark small, expensive things that don’t necessarily have unique serial numbers. And better locks on the windows. At least the latter I can get at Home Depot.



  1. Sorry that happened to you. It must be very scary. It is good that no one was home so nothing worse or more violent occurred.

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