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"Letter-Letter 287"
January 27th, 2001
"Just a Coincidence!"
"At Shin-Okubo"
"Handy?"  by DSL & LHS
"Looking for Answers"  by ELL & LHS
"July 1, 1993 / February 1, 2001"
"From Zimbabwe"  by ZVT
"That's an Interesting Idea..."  by KFE
"Headed South to New Zealand"  by SZS & LHS
"Around Midnight Brisbane Time"  by SYH
"Drawing the Line at the Computer"

"Just a Coincidence!"     [Top of page]

I'm in the middle of editing this one right now... and looking over the titles so far, I see that I've hit on that heaviest of themes three times... certainly not by design, and not to become a habit!  But as this letter is a sort of reflection of life in general, sometimes there is a rush of one thing or another... sometimes a happy theme, and sometimes something else.  Why this disclaimer at the top?  I'm hoping not to scare people away with too many heavy themes... yet they came up, and so I'm not deleting them either.....  On to the first heavy theme:

"At Shin-Okubo"      [Top of page]
(January 27th, 2001)

I had an extremely busy day at work yesterday... just about every soul in the office threw something at me to "proof" (rewrite), and I did speed-reading/speed-writing all day to try and get myself out of the office by 18:00 so I could meet the guy who introduced me to the printing company that printed my book.  (I wanted to give him a signed copy to thank him for his help, and to have a drink together somewhere.)  Aside from 90 minutes out of the office to rush over to Akihabara to pick up another 256MB RAM board for my computer (I'm using two 256MB boards now, bringing the memory up to 512MB - more on that later...), I just slaved away at the computer all day - making full use of the translation software, two J-E/E-J dictionaries, two English dictionaries (American English and British English), Netscape Messenger, and of course (not that I like it) Word.  When 18:00 came around I still had some things to do, so I called Mr. Insatsu to say I'd be a little late... he said "No problem, I'll just do some work on my laptop here in Ebisu for an hour and you can call me again when you arrive".

19:05 - I shut down my computer, punched out, bid good-bye to the quarter of the office staff still working, took the elevator down to ground level... and speed walked to Shinjuku Station.  As soon as I got halfway down the stairs to the Saikyo Line platform, I realized that something was wrong with the trains - there were some people standing uncertainly on the stairs, looking at the platform message boards, obviously debating whether to continue down the stairs or to go back up... and when I got down to the platform, I heard that there had been a "jinshin-jiko" (which generally means someone has committed suicide by jumping in front of a train) at Shin-Okubo Station.  I called Mr. Insatsu again and explained the situation - he told me not to worry about it, that he'd wait for me.  Forty minutes later, with still no trains running in that direction, he called and said that he'd take a train up from Ebisu to Shinjuku (the Yamanote Line was running in that direction only).  Using our cell phones, we met up on the Yamanote Line platform and then took the Odakyu Line to Yoyogi-Uehara Station.

"Smiles" - the coffee shop by day/drinking place by night that I sometimes go to and have written about before (even sent a couple of LL's out from there - using a laptop and cell phone).  I showed him the book, signed it "Thanks for your help..." etc., and we talked about printing, computers, politics, computers, revolving doors, computers.....  I showed the book to the owner of the shop and his wife, and they both looked through it a little, and commented: "It's in English....."  (There being only a very tiny market for English books here, I had the book printed with the expectation that I will only be able to sell it overseas through the mail.)  After a few hours, we said good-bye to the owner, his wife, one of the customers I met there recently, and Y7,500 (Tokyo is expensive...)...  Arriving back in Shinjuku, we walked over to the Saikyo Line and found the platform to be extraordinarily crowded... full basically, with a very slow moving line of people walking precipitously close to the edge of the platform in an attempt to get further along where they would be able to get on the middle of the next train to come in.  They announced that due to the "jinshin-jiko", the trains were more crowded than usual (as those trains usually run very near to maximum capacity - "more crowded than usual" means they are nearly or actually unboardable, not that the seats are taken).....  The train came in, already packed from Ebisu and Shibuya, about 80% of the people who wanted to get on the train managed to somehow (hello) and it was a real sardine run to Ikebukuro, where I bid my friend good-bye and got off... walking down the platform to watch the spectacle of vastly more people wanting to get on the train than could physically be pushed in.  Being close to "last train connection in Akabane" time, a lot of people would not give up on getting on the already overfull train.....  At one point on the train, four platform employees had to push with all their might to force the bodies into the train so the doors could close.  As I write that, I imagine people think I'm exaggerating, but I assure you I'm not!  I wish I had a video of it, as you'd have to see it to really believe it - but then it would be rude to enshrine people in that position on video tape......

This morning - I was sitting in my kitchen listening to the radio, and they described what had happened.  It seems that an inebriated man had fallen off the platform, and a Korean man (from Korea, not Korean-Japanese) jumped down to help him, followed by a third man (a photographer from Yokohama).  All this happened seconds before a train come in, and all three were killed - no wonder the trains were stopped for a long time.  Until now, I've always assumed that the "jinshin-jiko" were people committing suicide, so it struck me as very tragic that the two men who jumped down to help the guy who fell off were killed.  The guy who was drunk... he must have really been in a bad state to fall off the platform in the first place, but it was his own doing.  The Korean man and the Japanese photographer who jumped down to help on the other hand... it seems very tragic to die that way.  I have to wonder if the constant barrage of people getting away with very narrow escapes in the movies has led to faulty risk assessment in a case like this.  Those eleven car Yamanote Line trains come into the stations very fast - braking fairly hard to stop by the time the lead car is eleven car lengths down the platform... so at the leading edge of the platform, the speed of the train is much too fast to pull someone off of the rails and then get back out of the way if you can see the train coming.  Were it not for the movies, maybe that man would have instinctually known that there simply wasn't time to do anything to help.....      [Top of page]

"Snow!"      [Top of page]
2001/01/27  17:14  Nishi-Shinjuku

There was no hint of it last night, but when I woke up this morning, it was snowing hard and quite a bit had pilled up already - later they were joking about it on the radio saying that enough snow had piled up fast enough that Tokyo didn't have to be embarrassed about it compared to the snowier areas of Japan.  Around noon, a cold, wet and not-very-happy looking delivery man brought me the original manuscript I had left with the printers.  It's been one of those days where you're very happy to be inside out of the wet and cold (it's a very wet snow - a little warmer and it would turn to rain).  The main reason I bring it up now is that I just got back from a walk, and remembered - once again - that I grew up with snow and it feels comfortable to experience it again from time to time.  Also, with the heat on, it's much nicer inside when there is a lot of snow outside, as Tokyo is generally extremely dry in the winter.

Hmm..... now I find myself looking at the paragraph above and wondering why I thought this was something worth writing about...  I think what motivated me was a moment I had just before walking back in the door of my apartment - when the past was very near - and I thought "Where you grow up becomes a part of you....."

"Handy?"      [Top of page]

Date:  Sun, 12 Nov 00
From:  DSL  [Malaysia]
Subject:  "Handy"

If you have a cell phone, when was the last time you tried to make a phone call?  Did you get connected the first time?  Did you have to redial half a dozen times before you could finish your conversation because you walked or drove into a "bad reception area?"  Did you get a "Network Busy" message on your backlit, wide screen US$500 icon of cellular technology?  If you answered "No" to any of the above questions, you must be living in the US, Japan, or Germany and not in Malaysia!

What is a telephone for?  My definition of a telephone is that it is a device, electrical, electronic or two tin cans connected by a long string, which enables me to talk to a person too far away to communicate with in person.  That's all.  I don't need a telephone to be a personal computer, music playing machine, a dating service or a stock exchange board or anything else.  All I want it to do is to enable me to make telephone calls.  So, why don't the companies who provide us with cellular telephone services ever provide us with that most basic service?  Instead they swamp us with any number of other services that most of us don't need.  Dial in for your favorite music?  Are there really many people who would use their cell phones to listen to music on a regular basis?  Perhaps your teenage kids would, on their way to giving you ulcers for spending all your hard-earned money on dialing up useless services.

Check your stock prices.  Okay, I guess there are phone users who appreciate this service because they have invested their life savings in useless shares in a depreciating market and need to visit their shrinking money every ten minutes.  Check your e-mail?  What e-mail is so important as to require using your mobile phone to receive it?  If the e-mail is that important, make a phone call and speak to the person directly... if you can get though that is!  'Network Busy', 'No Service'.....  Voice messaging services are fine - depending on when you are finally able to access the message that is.

The telephone companies spend millions each year bombarding us with slick, colorful commercials expounding their myriad 'value added' services and why we should sign up - and pay up!  In all likelihood you've seen similar ads, with young, hip types looking cool and ecstatically happy using their cellular phones for everything except making normal telephone calls.  Dancing with their phones, hanging them around their necks like designer jewelry, swaggering in slow motion wearing heavy overcoats.  Calling their young children from wintry Tokyo (New York, London...), which always makes me think that the telcos may be making fun of us with all these commercials.  Like, you can call from New York but if you try calling your wife who is shopping somewhere in Kuala Lumpur from your office just a few blocks away... 'Network Busy'!

Of course all the phone manufacturers have also gotten into this good thing.  They come up with new phone models every month.  Phones that are smaller, lighter, more colorful, with more memory, phones that have computer games, phones that allow you dial just by uttering the name of the person you are calling, etc.  And we stupidly go on buying, upgrading - perhaps in the hope that the next new model will improve the telephone companies' basic service.  It is not going to happen, not in this region anyway.

I am not 100% sure, but I think that we may have set some sort of record for having enough telephone companies in Malaysia to service a country five time the size of ours.  Unfortunately, none of them has delivered on their promises.  Maybe it's the same in your country, but I doubt it.


Actually, the first thing I must comment on is the word "Handy" (edited out of the original story above) which is Japanese-English for portable.  Unfortunately, many Japanese-English dictionaries have, when you look up "keitai" (Japanese for portable/cell phone), "portable" (correct) and "handy", which is "benri" in Japanese.  Every Japanese I've asked agrees that "benri-denwa" is a ridiculous term, and yet the manufacturers, by putting "Handy Phone" on the cell phones they are exporting, have led people in non-native English speaking countries to call their phones "Handy".  It shouldn't matter to me, but as I make my living by correcting Japanese English, the advertising companies busily mucking up my native language irritate me no end!

That complaint about Japanese-English out of the way...  The connections in Tokyo are pretty good now - after getting off to a shaky start.  In the beginning I was nervous about being in a position of waiting for someone to call, as I never knew if the signal would make it through to my phone or not - but now I can both call out and receive calls from just about anywhere.     [Top of page]

"Looking for Answers"      [Top of page]

Subject:  True Friendship
Date:  Mon, 20 Nov 2000  +0200
From:  ELL  [Estonia]

Last spring my best friend announced that she was bored with studying and needed a break.  I guess some of the influence required for the decision came from a certain young man, but to a certain extent it was her own decision as well.  So they announced their plan - take one year of academic leave and go hitchhiking around Europe.  And so they did.  Surprisingly, I was one of the very few people who opposed the plan.  In the middle of September they bought a tent, packed their bags and hit the road.  Now they've been away a little more than two months.  Winter is approaching everywhere, forcing them to the southern parts of Europe, where I guess they will stay until the first signs of spring start to appear.  They've managed to get Internet access every 1-3 weeks, so some news of their life has reached their friends back here.  Everybody misses them, I miss her more than I want to, but I can't really imagine what her parents must be going through.  She said that she had to go, that she feels she needs to change and that it's not possible back here.  I can't say I understand her.  Estonians are typically rather attached to their homes.  People often live in one place all their lives, the opposite impression of what I think is the custom in America.  I personally believe that if you can't find answers in yourself, then you can't find them anywhere.

At some point, when I was rather upset over the fact that she left, even when I had told her that I'd feel very hurt if she did (rather egoistic from my side, I guess), I started to think about things like the real meaning of friendship - what are friends supposed to do and what not.  I found myself wondering how hurt I am supposed to (willing to) feel for her, and when it would be ok to think that a person causing so much pain can't possibly be a friend of mine... I wanted to forget that she ever existed, although we've been best friends for something like eight years so far.....  The funny thing is that I didn't have a clear idea why I felt so bad in the first place - then I took one step further and told her that perhaps it was too much for me to bear... but having said these words finally made me realize that they were too strong, that it was not enough reason to throw her out of my life for good.  She thought so as well, and then I realized that all I really wanted was some attention.  Now everything is calm again, we write each other occasionally, and although there aren't many days that go by without thinking about her - hoping that everything is ok, and that she'll come back sooner rather than later, it's ok I guess.  Sometimes I wonder if she'll change a lot during the year, perhaps I even fear it a little.  Not that I'd wish she'd always stay the same, but rather the fear of not being able to change with her... nevertheless, I don't think I'll ever be able to say that it was for the better, not even in 30 years I suppose.  I've come to terms with the current situation, accepted the fact that she's not coming back real soon, but I still haven't been able to find anything positive about the situation.  Perhaps someone somewhere can.  I would be glad to hear if that's the case.


This is something I haven't thought about for a long while... as I left the US over sixteen years ago, and other than for a few short trips back, (once in the past twelve years) I would definitely be on the went-away side of the story here, but reading ELL's letter also brings back feelings I had when my best friend in high school went off to Australia.  It was the same thing - I felt that I was abandoned or something, and resented that he left.  Having done exactly the same thing myself now, I don't find fault with it anymore.....  It's a topic begging for thorough discussion, but I will just comment on two things.

1) Finding answers -  There are similar moments that stand out clearly in my mind - such as standing on a hill in Boise, Idaho, looking over the city to the horizon and imagining a land to the west... specifically California.  Still now I wonder why I should have had such strong feelings of wanting to see what was over the horizon... both my grandfather and father having been born in California, could it be an instinctual thing?  Finding answers... I had an overpowering feeling that the answers were over the horizon - and to this day I have no regrets about the move to California (luck, not choice, as my father was transferred there), nor my move to Sunnyvale (Silicon Valley) from Sacramento or from Sunnyvale up to San Francisco.  Then I found myself standing in Sutro Heights Park in San Francisco facing an ocean wind - looking out over the Pacific Ocean and imagining Japan.....  Same pattern as always for me it would seem, but after sixteen years in Japan, the feelings are much more complicated than they were/are for the other moves.  Is it the place or amount of time?  Or both.....  There are moments feeling both ways - glad I came - or asking myself "Why??"  I have found some kind of truth, which is a form of answer - and I continue to seek answers/the truth.  Where would I be if I had not jumped the ocean?  Thus the second thing:

2) Having been so sure of the wisdom of my moves all along, it was a shock to discover upon my return to San Francisco four(!!) years ago (wherewherewhere has that time gone?) that I had radically changed - not necessarily for the better.  One moment in particular stands out - I was sitting in the car I had rented, stopped at a traffic light.  I looked through the windshield - across the intersection to the sidewalk corner on the right - and suddenly there was a crystal clear vision from 1983/84... myself standing on that corner.  I had just come out of a movie theater after seeing "Terms of Endearment" one evening, and I looked at my new digital Casio watch (that beeped on the hour) before heading off into the San Francisco night to catch a bus into the Avenues where I lived.  Those are the external details, but far more important was the complete package - all the feelings of the moment suddenly superimposed upon my 1996 Tokyo self sitting in the rent-a-car.  Suddenly - very suddenly from that moment, and continuing through to the moment I'm writing this (February 4th, 2001), I realized that not only had I gained new knowledge from a radically different culture, but I had lost something perhaps equally as important.......  I had always thought that in going to a new place I would learn more while still knowing what I had learned from the old place - but now I have this overpowering feeling that rather than having simply gained something new, I abandoned one road for another - and the fuel tank half empty, there's now no knowing what I would have known if I had stayed in San Francisco.  I want to meet the me who didn't cross the Pacific Ocean - and yet, in so saying, I think of the shocking news from 1993 that I just read for the first time a few days ago... (next story).     [Top of page]

"July 1, 1993 / February 1, 2001"      [Top of page]

In rewriting my resume (so happy at work am I...) I checked the Internet for "Pettit & Martin", the law firm I worked at as a long-term temporary worker while living in San Francisco - both to check the spelling of "Pettit" and to see what sort of site they had.  I didn't have any luck in finding a site for them, so I tried doing a search for the name only... and some news articles popped up, and then the words "Pettit & Martin shootings" caught my attention.  I clicked on that link, and read this:

July 1, 1993
Apparently dissatisfied with the legal services he had received from the law firm of Pettit & Martin, he entered their offices on the 34th floor of 101 California Street at 2:57 PM and within 4 minutes had killed 8 people and wounded 6. He then is reported to have killed himself.

When people came back to work the following week, armed guards patrolled every entrance and exit of the law firm's four floors. People had to show identification to move between floors.

For months the attorneys and staff were in a haze. Some wept openly, but immediate on-site counseling was available.

Work suffered, revenue plummeted and the cost of counseling and security rose into the six figures, said former managing partner Ted Russell.

In between funerals and visiting the wounded, attorney John Heisse and others began re-evaluating their lives.

"People tended to be less work-driven and more home-driven, which is a good thing, I suppose," Heisse said. He stayed at Pettit & Martin for another 10 months, mostly out of loyalty to the others at the firm.

The thing is - in thinking back, I remember seeing a news story about a shooting in San Francisco on the news here in Japan, and there was a video clip of police in the first floor lobby area of the 101 California building.  I saw that and said "Hey!  That's the building I used to work in!", and looked over at the person I was watching TV with - who gave me a doubtful look... I looked back at the TV, which was then showing the announcer talking about the event (in Japanese), and thought "No... must not be - but it sure looked a lot like the building I worked in before....."  End of memory, but here I am in 2001 finding out that not only was it indeed the building that I used to work in, but that the news story concerned the very offices I walked the halls of!  Seven and a half years ago this thing happened, but having just realized it last Thursday, it feels to me to be of last week.....  On the Internet, there were photos of six of the eight people murdered - two of which I remember.  One a receptionist I used to say "Good morning" to when coming into work in the morning, and the other a friendly looking man I used to often pass in the hallways.....

It's very strange to think of those people being gunned down at work - very very strange.  I keep imagining myself being in the office and there suddenly being a madman up from the ground 35 floors below in the office utilizing death making technology to end as many lives as he can.  Say what you will about guns being good or bad, but I'll take a knife wielding madman over a gun wielding one any day!  Not only do you stand a better chance of defending yourself, but there is a more plausible option of running away.

In all the time I worked there, never did my imagination construct any scenario that included a visit from a deathman.  Not that you would generally imagine being shot down as you go about trying to make a living anyway, but there is also something about being up there in the sky in a quiet office with a beautiful view from the windows.....  You feel as though you are above the real world (which you literally are...) and that bad things happen on the streets, but not in the clouds.

Questions, questions, questions...  Did somebody at the company do something to the guy (a former client) to push him over the edge?  It seems that they won the case for him.  I do remember one new lawyer at the company who was talking to a long-winded client - so he would put the man on speakerphone and lean back in his chair, picking up the phone now and then to say "Uh-huh... uh huh" and then putting the guy back on speakerphone.....  There were three of us in the room at the time, and the woman I worked with seemed to think it was pretty funny, and I'm afraid I laughed myself, but I also remember feeling uneasy at the situation... who was paying who after all?  Probably no connection, but why... why... why......?

Back to 2001 and me wanting happier employment - it seems that the company "Pettit & Martin" is no more.  Back in 1983/84 when I worked there, I was basically in charge of calling IBM, Xerox, etc. to service the company's fleet of typewriters, copy machines, etc., and not involved in the legal goings on in any shape or form, so I have no idea how the company ranked among law firms, but it seemed to be a fairly large company.  I only had cold water in the garage I rented (spent all my money on photography and printing), so I would come in early and use the shower on the 36th floor (there for early morning joggers).  I also met my former Japanese-American girlfriend there - and we came to Japan together.....

...................................................................      [Top of page]

"From Zimbabwe"      [Top of page]

Subject: Hi
Date: Tue, 31 Oct 2000
From: ZVT  [Zimbabwe]

How is everything there Saxon?  Here everything is going on alright.  Here in Zimbabwe it is fine and we have just entered into summer, so it's a bit hot, but the weather is fine.  Early summer rains came just a week ago.  How is the weather in Japan?  I hope that it is super fine.  Pal, I need your help!  If you know or if you can help me get in touch with somebody or any material regarding computer programming (PASCAL), as well as information on Computer Architecture, I would be very grateful.  If you know any sites which provide such things, please send them to me.  (I am still at college.)


"That's an Interesting Idea..."      [Top of page]

Date: Wed, 1 Nov 2000
From: KFE  [UK]

..............  The office that I work in, which is a nine story block in central London, is a far cry from your own.  There are around 400 people working here and I rarely come across any political infighting or maneuvering,  This is in marked contrast to an American corporation that I worked for a few years back - there you had to constantly watch your back and look for the hidden agenda in colleagues actions.  When you have to spend more effort maintaining your position than getting on with your actual work, it's time to bail out.  I'm a pragmatist and a realist - if someone brainstorms up a really off-the-wall idea and I know it won't work, I say straight up that it's a no-go and explain why.  This was unacceptable to the corporate players at that company - rubbish a rubbish idea and you are being negative, which is not good for your future career prospects.  What you have to do is say "That's an interesting idea, lets run it up the flag pole and see how it flies, I'll do a study and come back to you".  You then go back in a couple of weeks, say you've researched it thoroughly and these are the pros and cons of doing it.  In reality you do nothing apart from putting on paper what you could have told them on day one.  A total waste of time.

I see you've been upgrading your hardware, at home I upgraded to a Dell PIII 600 last February, at the time 700's were just becoming available, but at fantastic cost.  Last week Dell sent me their leaflet, P1000 is now the norm, at around the cost of the 600 I'm still paying for.  My 16 year old son monopolizes it, I can never get on until he goes to bed at around 11 on a school night, at weekends it's into the early hours before he'll give it up.  Fortunately we have NTL as a provider who give free Internet access with no call charges, he spends around 9,000 minutes a month on line - I'd hate to have to pay for that, even at a penny a minute.  Our Dell has a CD re-writer and normal CD drive.  The boy downloads a lot of stuff off Napster and keeps promising to make me some music CDs, I don't think he has been able to figure out how to convert the Napster MP3 format to whatever is needed for a music CD without buying expensive software, he's pulled various programmes off the net but hasn't managed to get one to work yet.  I wish I had the disposable income to buy expensive gadgets... life can't be so bad in Japan.

Well, I'm writing this at work - I guess I owe it to the company to do some work now, so take care & watch out for the knives at work.


"Headed South to New Zealand"      [Top of page]

Subject: Greetings
Date: Wed, 01 Nov 2000
From: SZS  [UK]

I thought I would just drop you a line to show you I am still alive (ha).

Not much happening in the UK at the moment.  We have just had a farmers and road haulers blockage of the oil refineries.  This nearly brought the country to a standstill.  My own personal view is that no one group of people should be allowed to bring the country to a halt no matter what the situation is.  That is why we have elections.

I received an invite to visit New Zealand next year.  My friend down there has been writing to me for two years.  I first started writing to learn the e-mailing thing.  Now we talk on the phone.  I have always wanted to visit NZ in order to watch the whales swimming in the sea.  Such graceful creatures - why anybody would want to harm them is beyond belief... which is a bit political of me - knowing the Japanese people and others eat them.  I am a vegetarian myself and I believe all life on planet earth is not for the human race to treat as it wishes.

Still in the college slaving away to be educated for that job that does not exist when you are at that certain age.  My young nephew has just been circumcised for medical reasons.  Of course you would think in this day and age it would be straightforward.  Wrong!  The surgeon(?) put the stitches in too tight.  Down he went to the operating room again.  We where told he would be fine after two weeks.  ...........  Now we are told it will be three months before they can rectify any underlying damage.  This means my sister-in-law having three months off work.  (She is head of foreign languages at her school.)  The little one is only three.  To say we are all annoyed would be an understatement.

Well, back to the grindstone


(01/02/06 - Yotsuya)  Speaking of the grindstone - I spent all morning working on a "proof" (rewrite) of a very badly written resume for someone (no name - probably a friend of the Prez) - a tiny part of which I've copy-pasted below as an example (verbatim):

"I had been committed and experienced with a various type of communications activities and division managements representing its group corporate headquaters.  This means to have functioned with its company directions and growth making synergy-effects for company business development and  management inside and outside."

It's one thing to skim over something written like that to catch the overall general (probable) intending meaning, but something else to have to go over paragraph after paragraph of that junk and make it into proper English.  Now I've got a headache... but the result is much better - and could be improved still more, but I zapped it off to the Prez after just two re-writes... and hopefully will see it no more.  Mind you, I don't mean this as cold criticism of people struggling with English, but rewriting something you're interested in and rewriting something you have absolutely no interest in at all is a different matter.

Just past 2:00 p.m.  I haven't done anything for lunch yet, so I think I'll stop here and get out of the building for a bit.

(2001/02/07  11:16 a.m.  Nishi-Shinjuku)  Getting out of the building yesterday was definitely a good thing.  I zoned out in a coffee shop while eating a bagel sandwich - and then bought a bottle of grapefruit juice that I drank while standing in an island of sunlight.  I don't generally lose headaches so quickly, but by the time I got back to the office, I was feeling fine.

Now I'm trying to get some stuff done at home before going into the office late (reluctantly allowed once a week).  I'm working on my 565MHz Dimension while waiting for someone at Dell Technical Support to get me off of hold and answer a question I have about fixing a reinstall problem I've run into with my new 700MHz Dimension.  Time and again I am able to be productive on computers only when I have at least two machines to work on... this way I can work on one while the other one is mucked up or tied up with something or other.     [Top of page]

"Around Midnight Brisbane Time"      [Top of page]

Subject: SQ006 all over the world.
Date: Wed, 01 Nov 2000  +1000
From: SYH  [Singapore]

I suppose you've heard about the Singapore Airlines (SIA) plane crash in Taipei?  There were 180 passengers and crew on board.  I was reading exam notes when a friend in Singapore sent me an ICQ message.  She said that an SIA plane had crashed in Taiwan.  I didn't believe her initially... but then another friend sent me the first URL from CNN.  While waiting for the web page to load up, I received several e-mails from friends all over the world with similar headers and messages about the disaster.

The accident happened at around midnight Brisbane time, and the news reached me about an hour later.  Immediately, I called a flight attendant friend of mine in Singapore to see if she was alright.  Her brother answered my call and calmed me down with the news that she was on another flight.  I stayed up till about four in the morning hoping for news that everyone on the plane survived... and then fell asleep hoping to hear good news in the morning.

I was abruptly awakened the following morning by my classmate - asking about some exam notes she failed to take.  After finishing my conversation with her, I called my mum in Singapore to check on the latest news on the crash - hearing that the death toll was 66 at 9:00 a.m. (Brisbane time).  Later, I drove over to the usual hangout near my university, and while there, I heard a few students talking about the crash as well.  (From their accents, I'm fairly certain they were also Singaporeans.)  After lunch, I went to the library and checked CNN news for updates regarding the plane crash.  There was more bad news... the death toll had reached 78.

How unfortunate and sad this news is.  I was reading Singapore's local newspaper online and found some articles about the next of kin of those passengers.  Shortly after they heard the news on the radio, they went straight to the airport to check for more details, because they don't know where else to go to.

The thing that touched my heart was the bondage of Singaporeans all over the world concerned about this news.  My friends are all talking about it, saying how they feel empathy with the passengers and their loved ones.

I've got to get back to my studies now, meanwhile, you take care.

SYH      [Top of page]

"Drawing the Line at the Computer"      [Top of page]
(February 12th, 2001  5:04 a.m.  Nishi-Shinjuku)

I'd rather be asleep, but I spent the morning servicing the machines (not for fun, mind you...), and the rest of the day working on a bookshelf I'm building in my kitchen in a desperate attempt to create more storage space in this small apartment.

I'd rather be talking about something other than the battlefield again, but I may get myself fired, so I suppose it's an exciting time.  In the midst of action is the best time to put form to things if you ever hope to explain what happened.  So - (some of) the basic facts leading up to me sandbagging my computer and drawing battle lines in the office.

1) The Prez unofficially promised to get me involved in the consulting end of the business - and promptly backed off when there was opposition within the company to the lowly "proofreader" not knowing his proper place at the bottom of the totem pole.

2) The Prez called myself and the former IT into his office one day and announced that I was to be phased into the IT work in the company as the IT guy was getting busy with other work and I was next in line in the office in computer proficiency.  There were ugly faces here and there at me stepping out of my corner again, but virtually the entire office being functionally computer illiterate, there was no one with the power to challenge me on what I was doing.  No one that is, until Mr. Uragi was hired with some computer knowledge- prompting a mighty cheer from the racists in the office - finally the computers could be taken away from the red barbarians!

Such was their hope - and Mr. Uragi has stepped onto the battlefield (after an initial quiet period) with guns blazing...  However, Mr. Uragi doesn't in fact know very much about computers.  Politics on the other hand he is very eagerly playing.

3) Mr. Uragi and Mr. Chudoku (previously mentioned in here as "Mr. N") got together and convinced the Prez to call a meeting with myself and Mr. Uragi in which Mr. Uragi passionately told a frightening tale of a red barbarian running amok in the office damaging computers and frightening the gentle human beings (read "non-red barbarian").  Mainly I just listened to the attack in a depressed state of mind - already realizing that in a "bottom-up" managed office like that one, any dissent from the ranks will not be opposed by the man at the top.  As my respect for Prez took another dive - I only defended myself on a couple of the more outrageous charges, and mentally shook my head at the sight of the Prez once again reversing himself.....

4) Bad for the company, but good for my ego after the false accusations leveled against me, there have been many IT problems since responsibility for the computer network was handed to Mr. Uragi and Mr. Chudoku.  Most obvious being the malfunctioning computer that took Mr. Uragi a day and a half to get working again... for a week that is!  Then it shut down and despite both Mr. Uragi and Mr. Chudoku investing huge chunks of time in it, shut down it stayed.  They gave up and gave the guy who had been using it one of two new computers that had been sitting in a corner for two months - and then they couldn't get him onto the company network.  (When the former IT guy came by to wrap up some loose ends, he took care of it.)

5) Back in my corner doing "proofreading" (rewriting), I realized that I have backed up as far as I can forgive myself for.....  In this state of mind, I have begun returning incoming missiles with outgoing missiles of my own - one example being the next letter, which is typical of several I have sent out since taking up position behind the sandbags, but not the point of the above text.  The second letter below, to Mr. Chudoku, is the one that might get me fired......

Subject: NotMcDonald's
Date: Fri, 09 Feb 2001 16:18:42 +0900
From: Lyle Saxon <lylesaxon@prezcon.com>
Organization: Prez Consulting
To: Kigaoi Desuyo <kigaoid@prezcon.com>
[BCC: Prez]

February 9th, 2001

Dear Ms. Desuyo,

I understand that you are eager to get business taken care of as quickly as possible, but I don't understand why you become upset if I type the corrected version of a letter you show me.  Not only is it faster, but (more importantly), it is more accurate than scribbled notes.  There is also the issue of record keeping... you may remember that in the case of the problem with the Aabbb ads, the only way you were able to quote your own previous correspondence was because I still had the data in my computer (you had deleted it in your own).

Also, I don't understand why you are the only one in the company who expects instant service.  If I don't help you immediately, you then (like yesterday) skip the proof and just send out the letter.  I am not someone at a McDonald's fast food restaurant - but even if I were, there are times when the customers have to wait five or ten minutes for their hamburgers.


Lyle Saxon

PS For your reference, here is the letter that you didn't want me to type, and were very rude to me about as I tried to help you.

[Attached letter deleted for obvious professional reasons.]

A few quick notes about the following letter - first, the recipients... in case you're wondering about the omission of Mr. Uragi - it's quite intentional... and likely to be noticed.  Mr. Yokuzangyo Gasuru is the man who does more to hold the company together than anyone else - and who often works past midnight.

The specific incident that triggered the letter was Mr. Chudoku ordering me to remove password protection on my computer so that anyone in the office can use it... and repeating several times that it was the company's property.....

Subject: ProperComputerUse
Date: Fri, 09 Feb 2001 18:37:24 +0900
From: Lyle Saxon <lylesaxon@prezcon.com>
Organization: Prez Consulting
To: Osake Chudoku <chudoku@prezcon.com>
CC: Prez Boss <prezb@prezcon.com>,
     Yokuzangyo Gasuru <zangyo@prezcon.com>
BCC: [The other two red barbarians in the office]

February 9th, 2001

Mr. Chudoku,

I am writing this letter to set the record straight regarding computer use at PrezCon.

I understand fully well that the computers in the company are the company's computers.  However, it is my responsibility to proofread a lot of material, some of it of a confidential nature, including letters for Prez Boss, and I think it is in the company's best interest that my computer not be a general use computer for anyone to just walk up and use.  We need to be concerned with confidentiality, and as such, password protection is common sense.

Also, in a meeting with Prez Boss and Mr. Uragi, one very specific reason given by Mr. Uragi (and agreed with by Prez Boss) for me not to be involved with the company's computer network is that people think it is "kimochi-warui" to have someone else touch their computers.  Please remember that I was doing so in a supportive role to the former IT Manager, but nevertheless, if this is the company policy - not to ever touch someone's computer without their express consent, then I feel I am not remiss in expecting the same level of respect.

Another very important reason I password protected my computer is that before I did so, someone (as a practical joke I presume) mucked it up a couple of times by changing the settings.  I don't know who did this, but that it happened is a fact - and as it is my responsibility to proofread, it is also my responsibility to safeguard the computer I use from mischievous hands.

Regarding using my computer for testing job applicants, although I am against this, as per a request by Prez Boss, I arranged things so that my computer could be used for a test... in fact, Nwguy Canada took his interview test on my machine....

Another matter I must touch on is computer memory - basically, the only complication we have in the company with memory (aside from the one IBM and two Compaqs), is that the old OptiPlex GXa computers came with 66MHz memory boards while everything after that - including the newest batch of computers, has come with 100MHz boards.  The GXa computers work fine with 100MHz memory boards by the way, but 66MHz and 100MHz boards should not be mixed in the same machine (a mistake I made with Mr. Kawaguchi's computer before I fully understood the situation).  Memory is something I could go on and on about, but I will say this - for only about Y4.980 each, the company could buy several 128MB 100MHz memory boards to upgrade the fleet of computers we have, and thus improve the productivity of the employees - an extremely cheap cost for a gain in productivity!  (Many of the computers only have 64MB which really isn't enough for serious computing.)

I apologize for the length of this, but feel that the above information needed to be put into clear form.


Lyle Saxon

So... what's going to happen?  I can't imagine a happy outcome on the battlefield, but returning fire before going home on Friday, I was able to walk in my apartment door without the tight feeling in my chest that I often get after a day in that %$#& office.  I need the paycheck, but I also need to live with myself - if you hate the image in the mirror, what's the point?  And so I have downgraded the paycheck from the number one slot and replaced it with self-respect and a strengthening desire to oppose that which is blatantly wrong.  Incoming missiles?  Return fire!      [Top of page]

Sore dewa,


Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon
Images Through Glass
Nishi-Shinjuku, Tokyo
February 12th, 2001
[Top of page]