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"Letter-Letter 289"
February 28th, 2001
"Not More of That..."
"Polarization & Murahachibu"
"Shopping for Christmas"  by EAI & LHS
"Grandchildren & Karaoke"  by Laf
"Triangles & Madogiwa"
"The Last Installment"  by KTW
"Sore wa Saiko ni Omoshiroi-s-yo!"
"December, 1941"  by HHE
"Dose of MMH - 2000/12/07"  by MMH
"The Window & The Copy Machine"
"The Nikon FM-2"
"Worries & The House"  by SAJ
"Heavy Traffic & One-Type Only" by KFE & LHS
"Busy in Canada"  by CJK
"Computers & Transmissions" by KCM
"Looking Out the Window & Watching the Play"

"Not More of That..."     [Top of page]

I am trying to catch up on the letters... but am quite behind, as you will see with talk of the Christmas season in some of the letters!  Now that the first book is out and I'm working less overtime at the jungle warfare office, I should be able to find more time for editing though.  The first story "Polarization & Murahachibu" is more of office politics I'm afraid, but by "Sore-wa Saiko ni Omoshiroi-s-yo!", the tone brightens a bit... it's all a matter of being in the jungle with a different purpose in mind.

"Polarization & Murahachibu"     [Top of page]

In the aftermath of my letter to everyone in the jungle warfare office I work at, there was an immediate polarization with a few of the people I had always thought indifferent to things expressing compassion for my plight there and the rest giving me the "murahachibu" (ostracization) treatment that is the sister to "Deru kui wa utareru".  The new guy from Canada told me yesterday as we walked to Yodobashi Camera (to buy a terminal adapter and phone for his new apartment) "Get out of that place man, it's toxic there and it's not going to get any better".  He's right, and it carries that much stronger a punch coming from a straight-talking newcomer with clear vision.  (For factories, Japan is second to none, but offices are another matter.....

What to do... I've been through the gauntlet of murahachibu before, and it's not something you can really ignore... about all I have for defense is a passion against outrage that they cannot fathom, and what you cannot fathom you cannot properly target.

"Shopping for Christmas"     [Top of page]

Date: Fri, 24 Nov 2000 -0000
From: EAI  [UK]

Hope you are fit and well and have fully recovered from your cold and cough now... mine has gone now at last but it did drag on.  We are still having bad weather with lots of rain, flooding and high winds - at least living on top of a hill I escape the flooding but am a good candidate for the high winds, as you already know.

During the last week I have been shopping every day, getting Christmas presents and goodies - I'm trying to get finished before the rush starts, unfortunately everyone else has the same idea!  Some people are so rude when they are shopping, they seem to get a killer instinct and must get to the tills before you at all costs, I think after today, I should be finished thankfully.

Do you go back to America for Christmas?  I expect times like Christmas and Thanksgiving make you a bit homesick, I know that was the worst time for me when I was abroad, I found it rather strange spending Christmas day on the beach instead of near a roaring fire.

On Monday I have the pleasure of workmen around the place again, the garage doors are being replaced and we are having alterations done to the bathroom.  It's going to be such fun, especially with all the rain about at the moment - I shall have to stock up on tea bags before they arrive or nothing will get done!!


I've spent every Christmas and New Year's here in Japan since I arrived in 1984... actually, it's gotten to the point where I'm forgetting what it would be like were I in the States.  There are moments when I remember things from my childhood though - those memories seem as though they are from another world.  (They are in fact exactly that I suppose, come to think of it!)  I'm about ready for a good long vacation out of Tokyo, which is a very stressful place to live.....      [Top of page]

"Grandchildren & Karaoke"     [Top of page]

Subject: Welcome To The Jungle
Date: Sun, 05 Nov 2000
From: Laf  [US]

Welcome To The Jungle (The Visit of Grandchildren).  This weekend was Aabbb's weekend with her sons.  She had planned a yard sale, so Bbccc offered to have the boys here all day.  He and the boys watched movies, played in the pool, went through coins... made messes... and generally had a great time.  I got a little quality time with them myself.  Boy!  I can tell you that two healthy active boys can turn a normally neat home into a real jungle.  It was loud and messy, but it was fun.  Aabbb called a couple of times and asked if they were behaving.  I was delighted to say "Of Course".  It was a good day.

And We Were Singing (Karaoke Night).  Wow!  Friday night was marvelous!.  We went out as usual to sing.  Bbccc and Ccddd played darts with friends.  Although Bbccc had to sit out some of it.  His toe hurt.  (Another story).  I got to sing a lot since there wasn't a huge crowd.  I am afraid that the fact that so many of us really good singers go there to try out music, we are driving the not so talented amateurs away.  The crowd is changing to mostly a set of regulars who are into performing.  Although there are a few not so talented people who get up every week.  There is this girl who tries every week.  She is sweet, but couldn't carry a tune if a dump truck was available for assistance.  But she keeps trying.  I always say something nice to her to encourage her.  I figure if she keeps trying, she deserves praise for that alone.  This guy looked over Friday and sarcastically commented "What are you, the music teacher?"  I looked him straight in the eye and said "No, I am the fan of anyone with the courage to get up there and sing.  Were you planning on getting up there or just acting as critic?"  He kind of shut up.  Subtlety was never one of my strong suits...

And The Right Toe's Connected To... (Health)  Well this has definitely not been a great couple of weeks for Bbccc.  He managed to get his arm messed up by a nail... then this week he actually dropped a refrigerator on his toe.  Boy does that ever look nasty.  He refused to go to the doctor.  His comment was something to the effect that even if it were broken they would only tape it to the next toe and he could do that for free.  So he has a toe that would do an artists palette proud... truly Technicolor.  It also is really sore.  He is favoring it and of course cannot wear the shoes he should have had on the day he injured it... you know, the safety type.


"Triangles & Madogiwa"     [Top of page]

Soon after Mr. Nantoka began working at the company, he became a thorn in my side - an employee of a temporary agency, he wanted to prove himself, and in the process we crosses swords on a few occasions.  Enter Ms. Iropoi, a woman also working for a temporary agency who started working at the company soon after Mr. Nantoka came.  Within a fairly short period of time, the two were often seen leaving the company together - and a miraculous change came over Mr. Nantoka.  He looked like a happy and contented man, and we ceased to cross swords any longer.

Enter Mr. Newbie, the new guy from Canada (gave notice on Tuesday!)... who took a momentary liking to Ms. Hone, the ex-ANA flight attendant who sits next to him, but she being extremely skilled in putting men off (ex flight attendant...), he rapidly lost interest in her and told me (looking a little embarrassed after having said he liked Ms. Hone just days before) that he now was finding himself liking Ms. Iropoi.  Working on the other side of the office from Ms. Iropoi, I very rarely spoke with her, so can only imagine her feelings, but seeing her and Mr. Newbie talking together back by the printers a couple of times, they seemed to get along fine...

Fast forward to move day...  I have been moved to the far corner - which I view as a good thing, as the desk faces a window, so I get natural lighting and a view out the window - but was a definite move down in the power structure of the company - basically, I've been marginalized.  Temporary worker Ms. Iropoi's contract expired, and I moved my stuff over to her desk on her last day (they gave my former desk to a new employee the next day).  My former seat was windowless, but a very interesting seat for a number of reasons - as follows:

1) I was sitting next to the company president's secretary, so I heard most of his exchanges with her (as well as about them from the secretary herself).

2) The two desks (mine and the secretary's) were situated near the entranceway to the company, so I observed 100% of the comings and goings of everyone in the office - one reason I know about a couple of affairs (including another triangle between Ms. Piman, Mr. Ebaru, and Mr. Seiruzu - more on them later).

3) There is a partition around those two desks, which was useful for two reasons.  One very obvious reason being that the physical barrier afforded a certain amount of privacy, and the other being that the Plexiglas corner of the partition allowed me to turn around and see (without its being obvious) who was holding impromptu meetings out on the balcony, as well as seeing how often and how long the nicotine addicts were getting their fixes.

4) The desks being right next to the conference room, I could see who was using the room at any time of day (that Plexiglas corner provided a view of those coming and going to the room), and there being an open space at the top of the wall for ventilation, I could hear much of what was said in the conference room (very educational!).

So, after a little too much background regarding my old seat - I return to the story of Mr. Nantoka, Ms. Iropoi, and Mr. Newbie.

As Mr. Newbie had given notice to leave the company himself that very day, and it was Ms. Iropoi's last day, he made a move - "Do you have a minute?" - said he.  Apparently she did, and they disappeared out on the balcony together for about ten minutes.  While they were out there, I ran into Mr. Nantoka, who was not looking so good... he had a look on his face like the wind had been knocked out of him, and there was this strange electricity in the air that I suddenly remembered from a time when I was 16 and on the losing end of a shifting triangle myself.....  When the balcony pair came back in, Mr. Newbie was looking happy, so I presume things went well for him.  Ms. Iropoi later spent a few minutes talking with Mr. Nantoka and by the end of the day, he was looking normal again.....  There is much I feel like commenting on here, but I suppose the picture is clear enough.

Madogiwa - a "window seat" or as my Japanese-English dictionary puts it "at the window".  This is a term used in Japanese to refer to someone who has been marginalized, and moved to the edge of the office by a window - and ignored in the hope that they will get the hint and leave the company on their own.  I found the term odd when I first heard it years ago, as I had grown up with no bad connotations to being by a window at all.  It still seems a little odd to me, but there are two things about it that make (local anyway) sense.  In offices like mine, there is a central power island, and the further removed you are from that, the less you are part of the group.  For all of the growing individualism of people in Japan over the past 130 years or so, still most power resides in the group.  Another reason I think is a strange aversion to sunlight for many people.  This is pure speculation on my part, but there could be historical reasons for this.  One being that in the old days, refined people spent their time indoors and those who were outside all the time were labeled as such by the sun's rays...  That's one thing - but I have also run into fair complexioned people here who went out of their way to roast themselves in the sun to cover their whiteness of which they seemed to be ashamed.  "Hmmm......" thought I - "What does all this mean?  How do these conflicting signals find a common ground?"

"Thought", but not "think".  After all, no one has definitive answers to this type of complicated issue, so it's just one of those things that help to keep life from getting boring.  Anyway - you end up with strange places like my office - where they installed extra blindingly bright florescent lights because some of the workers complained that it was too "dark" - and yet they completely shut the venetian blinds to block out the light of day because it's too bright!  (Logic?  Say what?  Where?  No such thing!)  Last, but certainly not least, is the noisy copy machine just behind my new seat... at least for light, being on the very end, I have control over the venetian blinds in the window just behind my computer monitor.

("Thought, but not think" - um... well, in re-reading the above I find myself thinking about it again!  I suppose it's just the group thing.  People with dark complexions are afraid of the sun's rays pushing them beyond what looks like everyone else, and people with very light complexions want to roast themselves into the group?  "Deru kui ha utareru" after all...)      [Top of page]

"The Last Installment"     [Top of page]

Subject: The Final Installment
Date: Sun, 3 Dec 2000  -0500
From: KTW  [US]

In June 1953, I and three others from the Headquarters Platoon start a ten day furlough by getting seats on the C-47 (civilian DC-3), daily mail flight to Tokyo.  There we shopped at the massive Post Exchange and in The Ginza.  We strolled the palace grounds and visited the Dai-Ichi Building, General Douglas MacArthur's headquarters from 1945 to 1951.  In the evenings, we stopped at the USO Club, where we ate dinner and chatted with pretty American hostesses.

After three days, we took the train to Numazu, a fishing village eighty six miles to the south on Suragu Bay.  We checked into the Shizuura Hotel, a Special Services resort for the Army.  Four hundred yen, $1.11 American, got us three meals, maid service and two to a room.  Our maid's salary was three hundred yen per day.  We tipped her two hundred each day so she was awe struck and never stopped bowing each time we met.

We took swims in the bay, watched the fishermen pull up their boats and repair nets.  One morning when leaving the hotel, I spotted a six year old boy walking without shoes.  I felt sad so I bought him a pair of sandals.  He returned later and took us to meet his parents who insisted we stay.  After a fish, rice and greens dinner, we drank saki wine from small cups and were entertained by their three year old daughter.  She danced in a silk hula skirt made with parachute cord to Japanese folk songs played on an old wind up record player.  The father told us in 1944 he served in the Philippines against our division and showed us photographs of many friends he lost.  Tears filled his eyes as he remembered.  No one wins in war.  All in all, it was a great ending to a great vacation.

A month after we returned, on July 27, 1953, the Korean truce was signed and the fighting stopped.  I rested a little easier now.  I had thirty three points with only six months left to my enlistment.  Soon the Army would be sending me home, but I liked it here and toyed with the idea of asking for a discharge in Japan and bumming around the islands for a year.  The Army would agree and pay mileage home, but the Japanese Government required I have means of support, a job.  I took a five day leave, hopped the mail shuttle again to Tokyo and looked for a job.  I went to Remington, ESSO, Gulf and a few Japanese companies but was unsuccessful.  I returned to Hokkaido and began the countdown.  Six weeks later, the company clerk told me orders were in.  I should sever any ties and close loose ends because I was going home.

The day before I left, I was called to the orderly room where the Company Commander handed me a letter of commendation from the Battalion Commander.  That was a proud moment for me.  My last night was Bonus Night at the Post Service Club.  Beers and hamburgers were five cents, and whiskey a dime so the boys threw me a party.  The next morning with tear filled eyes and a little under the weather, I bid K Company good-bye and boarded a truck to the Sapporo rail station.  A few days later in Yokohama, I boarded the USNS H.B. Freeman and was headed back across the Pacific.  On November 13, 1953, the Freeman docked in Seattle, exactly two years to the day I escaped the trap on Old Baldy.

Four days later I boarded an Eastern Airlines chartered Constellation for a two stop, fourteen hour flight to Newark.  We arrived late at night and were met by an Army bus that took us to Camp Kilmer in New Jersey.  The next morning I was handed leave papers, ushered to finance and paid up to date.  I had forty five days home now and didn't have to report back until January 4, 1954.  My dad, mom and sister came to pick me up and after a tearful re-union, we drove home.  During the next six weeks I renewed old friendships and had a great time.  After the New Year, I reported back to Camp Kilmer and was sent to school learning how to bank fires.  After a one week course, I was placed in charge of men keeping the furnaces going in the WAC barracks.  Real great duty for a young soldier.  We were the only males, except the Military Police, allowed in the WAC area.

With a Class "A" sticker on my left front bumper, I had no problem driving through the main gate.  In an hour, I was home.  They never checked on me so I stayed home days at a time.  One morning while having a late breakfast in the mess hall, the Military Police nabbed me and ushered me to a barracks with six ranking officers sitting at a long table.  They ordered me to sit and began telling me about the benefits of military life.  It was a re-enlistment inquisition but I would have none of it.  If I'd stay in for six more years, they promised me one year close to home, two years in a theater of my choice, two more stripes and a $360.00 bonus.  I remembered the broken promise two and a half years earlier in Alabama so I declined their kind offer again, as I did in Pusan, fourteen months earlier.

At 1000 hours on February 18, 1954, I was discharged and my military career came to an end after one thousand ninety six days.  No strings, no reserve, no nothing.  I made a wise decision because had I stayed in, I would surely have been sent to Vietnam by President John Kennedy, young and combat experienced, but not eager.  One war was all I could handle.


KTW - I've always enjoyed reading the things you sent - both the historical stuff and recent news, so I'm unhappy to read the words "Final Installment" in the header of your e-mail.  Hope to hear from you again - any topic is okay!     [Top of page]

"Sore wa Saiko ni Omoshiroi-s-yo!"     [Top of page]

On Tuesday, I went ot Smiles (the drinking place in Yoyogi-Uehara I occasionally go to) so I could give the owner a couple of copies of "The LL-Letters" book, and I ended up talking to the customer sitting to my right about the social side of life in the jungle warfare office I work in.  I mentioned the triangle involving Ms. Piman, Mr. Ebaru, and Mr. Seiruzu, and the guy started laughing, saying "Sore-wa saiko ni omoshiroi-s-yo!" ("That's a really great story!"), and he kept asking for more details about Ms. Piman.  I didn't exactly understand why her aspect of the triangle was so fascinating to him, but as we laughed and talked about it, with him periodically repeating "Sore-wa saiko ni omoshiroi-s-yo!", I began thinking about it, and suddenly my purpose of being in that company has taken a radical change.  Whereas before I was serious about working and finding something within the company structure - like you normally do with a job - now I discover that it's something like a stage play, and I'm afforded a spot on and backstage to observe that which I could never have seen or heard without having jumping the Pacific.  What to do?  Write!

"December, 1941"     [Top of page]

Date: Fri, 8 Dec 2000  -0600
From: HHE  [US]

It's December 8th here and I always think of being in high school and hearing President Roosevelt speak his famous and oft-repeated speech to a joint session of Congress.  The principal called us to an assembly in the auditorium.  I can hear the president saying, "Yesterday, December 7th, 1941 - a date which will live in infamy, the forces of the Empire of Japan....."  My buddy, Robert, and I had heard the news while sitting in a drugstore the day before (drinking 10 cent chocolate sodas) and I'll never forget his remarks that the war would probably only last three to four months and that the Japs (sic) must be crazy.  He was wounded on Iwo Jima in February, 1945 - a whole lot longer than three to four months later.  Most Americans were as naive as we were.  And it wasn't until June, 1942 that the tide turned in the US's favor at the Battle of Midway.


"Dose of MMH - 2000/12/07"     [Top of page]

Subject: Weekly Dose of MMH 12.07.00
Date: Thu, 07 Dec 2000  -0800
From: MMH  [US]

This week has been full of Christmas shopping for friends and family.  I also have picked up a few jobs and finished off a few others.  In all, a good time.

I asked Aabbb what movie she wanted to see this weekend.  I was hoping she would say "Unbreakable" but instead she said "Rugrats go to Paris".  Oh well, there are worst things in life than going to a matinee movie and being surrounded by hordes of screaming children.  But not many.  I told her we could go but we definitely needed to see "Unbreakable" before it left the theater.  I also want to see "Castaway" but that has yet to come out in Tacoma.

Last week when Aabbb and I were at the EMP (Experience Music Project) we found a group we never heard before called Pepe and the Bottle Blondes.  They were an absolute riot.  Great fun to listen to and just the type of thing Aabbb and I have been enjoying.  I think I will pick her up a copy for Christmas (unless someone tells me not to).

There is a pile of gifts waiting to be wrapped on the dinning room table.  I went into the storage closet and pulled out the box we keep all the Christmas wrapping supplies in.  We were surprised by how much was in there.  Often, we will go out to the stores and buy the paper that is on sale after Christmas and put it in the box for next year.  We must have done that last year because there is a whole lot of nice paper that we totally forgot we had.


"The Window & The Copy Machine"     [Top of page]
Nishi-Shinjuku  01/03/03  11:37 a.m.

I've sort of settled into my new spot between the window and the copy machine.  On the plus side, natural light and a view out the window.  On the (not inconsiderable) minus side, the copy machine which is just behind me to the right - so close that if I lean back I bump into it (literally!), so there is the noise and the irritation of there often being someone standing just behind me.  I'm thinking of buying myself a sort of rear-view mirror, so I don't have to keep turning around to see who's standing back there (looking over my shoulder?).....

Those are the first things I noticed... and then the audio factor hit me - whereas before I was able to monitor the goings on in the conference room, I was out of earshot of the main work area.  Now I am so far away from the conference room that I don't even know if there is a meeting in progress or not, but... now I can hear the ongoing conversations of the main work area.  This is quite interesting actually, as I'm seeing a side of the company I only caught in bits and pieces before in my strolls to and from the printers.  An example from the new seat:

Mr. Uragi was talking to Mr. Ishinu about the Seattle earthquake - a conversation that went something like this:

Ishinu:  "There was an earthquake in Seattle?"
Uragi:  "Yes!  Didn't you hear about it?"
Ishinu:  "No....."
Uragi:  "It was a strong one, but no Japanese are reported injured"

I took it as par for the course, but the more I thought about it, the more my fingers wanted to dance on the keyboard, and so I sent the following diplomatic (compared to recent correspondence that is!) e-mail to him:


I know I've been sending too much e-mail recently, but there's something I really do want to say here, so.....

I heard someone talking about the Seattle earthquake, and then saying that no Japanese were reported injured or missing.  This seems to be the norm in terms of NHK-style Japanese, but since my brother is living in Seattle with his family and I'm worried about them, I feel bad to hear people talking about the incident as though it doesn't matter what happened to the people in another country, so long as Japanese nationals are ok.  I don't think I would be very happy to hear that about any country, but it particularly bothers me when someone is talking about something that concerns my own family.  (Actually, this is an example of racism.)



The next day, he came over and apologized about it, saying that he hadn't meant anything bad by his statement - which I believe, as I was around the corner where he couldn't see me when he said it - but still... what he said is an indication of what I meant by my previous statement that Japan is fundamentally a racist country.  State TV (NHK) regularly does that.  I suppose all countries do, so it's a matter of degrees, but my position as an extreme minority here makes me sensitive to these things.....      [Top of page]

"The Nikon FM-2"     [Top of page]

In 1995, I had my Nikon FM-2 camera with a 50mm f1.4 lens stolen on the Yamanote Line.  It was a fairly traumatic experience for me, as I didn't have enough money to buy a replacement, and the camera itself was something I had been wanting to buy for about 14 years before I finally had the spare cash to do so... and then after a few short years, it was stolen and I was back to wanting to buy one but not being able to due to my old foe - lack of cash.  I would have replaced it a few years ago if it weren't for computers, but they have consistently and maddeningly eaten up all my spare change.  And so, with each purchase of something at Yodobashi Camera (my favorite discount camera & electronics store in Shinjuku) - a CD-R drive here, a new hard drive there, a digital camera - I would silently sigh and think "... I could have used this money towards buying another FM-2..."  Periodically, I would get worried that Nikon would stop producing the model and I would not be able to buy another one - so I would go up to the professional equipment floor at Yodobashi Camera (with just purchased computer parts in hand) and check that the model was still available.  Seeing that it was, I would look at it and get sad about the fact that mine had been stolen by some lowlife in the first place, and promise myself to buy another one before it was too late.

And so, on Friday (yesterday), when I headed down the stairs from the fourth floor after picking up some prints, a poster caught my attention with the name "FM-3".  I thought "Oh no... don't tell me that the FM-2 is no more!" and I hurried to the professional camera floor and breathed a sigh of relief to see my old friend the FM-2 still sitting on display.  I then went back to the poster in the stairwell for a closer look, and saw that the FM-3 goes on sale in late March... "Late March... that's very near!....." thought I......

And... after going back to the display counter with the FM-2, and spending some time talking with a salesman about the differences between the new FM-3 and the FM-2 that it's replacing, I decided to - in spite of not really being able to afford that high of an expenditure right now - buy one.  The decision to purchase was helped along by a man who came up asking about the price of a Nikkor 35mm f1.4 lens.  Upon being told that it was Y80,000 (close to $800 dollars!), I watched his "I want it - I can't afford it - I want it....." gears turning, and reminded myself that I already had that very lens at home just awaiting the Y60,000 FM-2 camera body that I wanted to attach it to.

It was a strange feeling after buying it - partly happy that I at last had the long awaited camera in hand - but still sad with that sad/heavy feeling... thinking that had the first one not been stolen, I wouldn't have had to go the past five years without a proper camera body, and wouldn't have had to spend the Y60,000 (that I can't really afford) to buy a second one.  And there was something else... something to do with photography moving into electronics and leaving behind the mechanical machinery I've spent so much of my life admiring and using.....

Feeling like an old man, I went to the film floor (basement), and found myself standing in front of the boxes of Kodak Tri-X - the film I always used in the US - from my first single lens reflex camera in Boise - a Praktica that I got for my 14th birthday, to an Olympus XA (I think... it's been awhile...) and a Minolta with an 85mm lens that I used in San Francisco and sold to help finance my Pacific Ocean jump.  I still had that heavy feeling on the train on the way home, but once I moved the 35mm f1.4 lens from the beat-up Nikkormat to the new FM-2, loaded the Tri-X, and had taken a couple of photos, I was suddenly happy to have a proper camera again, and the heavy feeling at long last began to recede.

The Nikon FM-2, in case you don't know, is a fully manual camera body that - other than a battery for the in-camera meter - has nothing electronic about it at all.  Without even having a battery in the camera, everything works.  It's such a good design, that Nikon has been selling the model unchanged for... I'm not sure, but something like 20 years.  Now that I have one in hand again, I'll scan some of the photos I take with it for the photo letter (next one out in a day or two by the way).      [Top of page]

"Worries & The House"     [Top of page]

Subject: 23/11/2000
Date: Thu, 23 Nov 2000  +0100
From: SAJ  [US / Holland]

...........  I have been working non-stop on the house since before the 10th.  I had hoped to take today off and just do whatever I really felt like doing - however Ccddd called last night and hopes to be home tonight, which means I need to spend most of the day cleaning up the house.  And does it ever need it since the last time I gave the house a good cleaning was around the 8th of this month.

Things are all up in the air right now.  My Mom had a couple of small strokes last week and refuses to go to the Doctor.  I have called my younger brother in hopes that maybe she will listen to him.  He has e-mailed me telling me that I don't need to buy a ticket to the States, as he will drive down from Alabama to Sarasota if needed to take care of her.  She would like for me to come for Christmas though... but we really don't have the money to go to the States twice, and Ccddd can't get away from his company until spring.  So do I go alone just in case, and spend a week, or chance it until spring and be able to spend three weeks?  And then what if she does have a serious stroke and I need to return to the States to take care of her?  I knew when I moved here this could happen one day, but wasn't thinking it would happen so soon.  Well I am sure you don't wish to read about all of my worries right now so I will move on to a different subject.

The house is starting to fall into place.  The wall cabinets in the living room are painted and up. They look so nice.  I have filled the glass ones with most of my little treasures I brought over from the States.  Ccddd had one of the three shelves built for the CD's - I've painted it so it's ready to hang on the wall when he gets home from Germany.  With help from his father, he and I wallpapered the water closet yesterday and I only need to find some odds and ends (paper holder etc..) for it and it will be done.  We have the flooring picked out, and maybe with a little luck will have it down by the first of the year.  Ccddd still has to build the counter top with drawers to go under the cabinets in the living room, and finish running the electrical wiring, then we can plaster and paint the rest of the walls.  Of course it all depends on how much time he has away from work to get all this done.....


"Heavy Traffic & One-Type Only"     [Top of page]

Re: 5:45 a.m.
Date: Fri, 24 Nov 2000
From: KFE  [UK]

Strange hours you keep, you're thinking of going to bed a quarter of an hour after I've had to get up for work.  I can't remember if I've already told you that I live about 40 miles from my central London office, the commute is between an hour and a half and two hours by car.

A few weeks back we had a rail crash, I should say another rail crash, and this time the fault was found to be a broken rail at a place called Hatfield.  Normally our trains crash because the drivers ignore or fail to see red signals, the railway industry has an interesting acronym for these: SPAD signals passed at danger.  Anyway, because Hatfield was due to a faulty rail, Railtrack, the company that runs the infrastructure, decided to overhaul the whole system, presumably killing a few travellers pricked their corporate conscience.  The upshot of this work is total chaos on the rail network, cancelled trains, unscheduled termination of journeys, and other delays aggravated by lack of information to passengers on what was happening to their particular service.  As a car commuter I should be unaffected by all this, unfortunately a load of totally pissed off rail commuters decided to give their cars a go and (it is said) the result is a 25% increase of traffic on the roads.  It was a delicate balance before, the commuting road routes to London were already struggling to cope with the level of traffic, a 25% increase hasn't quite lead to total gridlock but its on it's way.  You may wonder why I don't move my home closer to work or work closer to home.  The answer is economics, I can't afford the property prices in the capital or the wage cut that I'd get by doing a similar job closer to home.  Fuel for commuting costs me around 1700 pounds (approximately $2.5k), the vehicle is a company car, so the wear & tear on it doesn't cost me.  Realistically I could expect a drop in salary equivalent to $20k if I worked near home.  I can't afford this and consequently have to join the lemming like rush towards London each morning.  Going home at night can have its moments, but that is another story.

I was amazed by what you said about companies advertising for Japanese nationals - over here (and I would have thought in the States), this would be illegal on the grounds of racial discrimination.  The closest we could get to doing this would to to include a skill or competency in the job specification, e.g. must speak fluent Japanese.  My only experience of American law comes from once working for one of their corporations and watching law shows on telly.  Unfortunately, not many legal pearls of wisdom come from watching Ally McBeal, but there is something rather interesting about her...  Anyway, I'm rambling, the point I was going to make is I thought there was something about American companies not being allowed to do abroad things that are illegal in the US.  Maybe I've got it wrong.....


P.S. The only problem I've found with Yahoo mail is that it likes to decide how long an e-mail should be and will chop off the end and stick in "message truncated" I always put my name at the end of a letter, if its missing from one of my e-mails, let me know cause that would mean you've only got part of what I sent.  Of course I really should stick this at the front of the e-mail as it would be the bit to get truncated if Yahoo decides to cut this one down to size.  Oh well.....

I would have thought that American corporations operated similarly worldwide myself, but it doesn't seem to be the case.  So far as I can tell, local law rules, so you find American corporations advertising "Japanese nationals only".  I still shake my head thinking about the irony of American corporations advertising that Americans are not allowed to apply for job openings.....  They pay huge sums of money to transpacific American execs and their families to live in one of the most exclusive areas of Tokyo, but won't even accept applications from Americans already here - the message seems to be "Americans who have 'gone native' not acceptable".  But don't get me started on that one.....      [Top of page]

"Busy in Canada"     [Top of page]

Subject: Friday Night in Edmonton
Date: Sat, 25 Nov 2000 -0700
From: CJK  [Canada]

............  I have a partial shift to work later on this morning until late this afternoon.  Then I have a final ballet rehearsal to attend for the show this Sunday, and then Saturday night, I am going to see some friends (who dance in another local ballet company) do their performance before I grab some more sleep, and get set to do technical rehearsals all Sunday morning.  Then the show will be at 3:00 pm Sunday afternoon, and after that, one of my friends is turning 19 so I will probably end up hitting the town on Sunday evening...  I had better go and get some sleep now before I get started on all of that.


"Computers & Transmissions"     [Top of page]

Re: Sunday Night
Date: Mon, 27 Nov 2000  -0800
From: KCM  [US]

A question for you: how do I go about buying floppy drives for my laptop?  My modular floppy drive died on me and my friend recommends that I buy one to replace it.  Sometimes I wish I were a computer geek so that computers wouldn't hate me.

Anyway, my friend installed NT4 on my laptop and it's working beautifully, except my modem card crashes the system, so I can't use the Internet.  I guess that's just as well; I'll probably get more work done this way because I won't be procrastinating on AIM all the time.

........  Before we left, my younger sister's car's transmission died.  So luckily, we got a lift from my cousin and his wife, who live in San Diego.  It was very nice of them, except they are both such slow drivers... at one point my cousin was driving 55 mph.  My sister gets impatient when people are doing 70 because she's so used to doing 80 in San Diego.  I tried to pay for gas, but my cousin is 20 years older than I am and have you ever tried to do this with a Chinese person?  It's extremely frustrating; according to Chinese custom you're supposed to try to give and the other refuses and it doesn't end until someone gets tired and gives up and accepts the money.  It works if you're an older person; not very well for a younger person trying to pay back the elder.  Finally my sister decided to "accidentally" leave a 20 in the car.

I don't normally get depressed about not having a boyfriend; I've actually been taught not to let it affect me that much.  My sisters say as long as I can take care of myself, it doesn't matter if I'm with someone or not.  It wasn't until college that everyone I knew talked about who he or she liked, who they would date and why they wouldn't date that kind of guy or girl - it was just making me insecure.

Time for class....


"Looking Out the Window & Watching the Play"     [Top of page]
(Yotsuya  March 5th, 2001  "Cigarette Break")

As I type this, I take in the view out the twelfth floor window of... 100% buildings - mainly eight to fifteen story structures, with a cluster of fifty story high rises in the background, on the west side of Shinjuku Station.  Not a tree to be seen anywhere... such is Tokyo, where open dirt is a luxury not affordable in most of the central area.  One of the telephone woman is standing behind me making copy after copy after copy...  I commented on it, and she said: "They're for a court case, and..." I held up my hand and stopped her, saying "Court case eh?  Paper is a lawyer's lifeline!"

Rewind to last Friday evening - 18:30, as I was wrapping up the last job of the day (I'm trying to leave at six, honestly...), Mr. Seiruzu, Ms. Piman, and Mr. Ebaru suddenly materialized to the left of my new seat where their desks are.  (I had thought they were gone, but I guess they were in the conference room.)  Mr. Seiruzu and Mr. Ebaru were talking in an area somewhere between discussion and argument...  I watched with interest as the two lobbed darts at each other (ostensibly discussing business), while Ms. Piman looked on for awhile, before sighing and turning away to straighten papers on her desk.  I sensed something in the air... which might best be explained by visions of male animals fighting it out while the female stands by and waits for the strongest one to emerge from the fray.....

It's a sad commentary on my job that watching the stage play is more interesting than work, but maybe that's normal - why else does virtually every movie have at least a passing reference to male-female relationships?

Whatever!  More work just came in, so I'll call this one a wrap.  I'll print it out at home, and zap it out into the telephone wires after running a printed version check.

The Japan Times (17:07)

The Japan Times runs the largest number of help-wanted ads on Monday.  What's interesting about this, is that every Monday several people in the company I'm working at peruse the help wanted ads of the company's subscription copy every week and sometimes ask me to proof-read their English resumes!  I've taken to scanning the paper myself, and sent out a couple of (unanswered so far) resumes last week, and wrote down a fax number for another company today.  It used to be done more in a furtive way, but people are getting more open about it recently. - obviously I'm not the only worker at that jungle warfare company who is less than happy about the working conditions and pay there......     [Top of page]

More fun next week for sure!

Talk to you later!

Sore dewa,

Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon
Images Through Glass
Nishi-Shinjuku, Tokyo
March 6th, 2001
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