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"Letter-Letter 291"
March 19th, 2001
"Old Japan"  by SAJ & LHS
"Fun at the Dentist, Bank, Etc."  by MMH & LHS
"Backlog & B-Day"  by LHS & BKH
"Could it Be the Building?"
"Flying Laptop"  by PBU
"So You're Going Back to School?"  by KCM
"New Faces in the Office"
"Focus on the Individual?"  by MCG & LHS
"Aaggghhh!  Those Names!"  by EKH & LHS
"What Was Her Name?"
"Books & Partners + Letter from/to Prez Boss"  by SAJ & LHS
"Disappearing Karaoke Bar"  by Laf

"Hmmm??"     [Top of page]

Something interesting/strange happened at work this morning.  The company's server computer was down, and Mr. Uragi and Mr. Aruchu were talking about it.  From what they said, the computer wasn't recognizing the LAN card, but as Mr. Aruchu is extremely computer illiterate and Mr. Uragi, although knowing a little, is no expert himself, the problem was likely something else altogether - nevertheless, since they had their hearts set on changing the LAN card, and Mr. Aruchu was recommending pulling a LAN card from the last of the (yet unused) new computers that had been ordered a couple of months back, I could contain myself no longer in hearing range of such blatant incompetencey.  I walked over to them and said:  "Sorry for breaking in, but if you're going to change the LAN card, you don't need to cannibalize a new computer....", to which Mr. Uragi cut me off with "I don't have time to listen to this!".  I was on the verge of responding in-kind, but held myself back and said "I was just trying to help.  I'll be sure not to help any more!"

This, surprisingly, seemed to carry some punch - as the guy came around later and asked for help with opening up the server computer in what I took as an apologetic way... but this after they had asked a new guy to do surgery on the new computer - and it was in pieces (ouch...).  I mentioned that there was a fairly new LAN card in one of the old junk computers in the stairwell - and ended up pulling it out for him.  Which computer they ended up using it in I don't know, but either way, it was needed - for the server or for the poor ex-squeaky-new computer.  Probably the LAN wasn't the problem anyway... but after Mr. Uragi spent half the day mucking about with the server, it ended up coming back on-line.  Mr. Uragi admitted himself that he didn't know why, just that it happened... but when the other American guy asked him "Did you fix it, or did it fix itself?", Mr. Uragi said in a suddenly defensive tone "It was my intention to fix it".

I only bring all this up because I'm beginning to suspect that a lot of the trouble I've had (am having) in the company seems to trace back to Mr. Aruchu, and I've been pondering today whether Mr. Uragi's "I don't have time..." bit of rudeness was at least in part an act for Mr. Aruchu?  I probably shouldn't try to figure it out - "You can't argue with a sick mind" eh?

"Old Japan"     [Top of page]

Subject: Re: Weekend"Work"
Date: Wed, 17 Jan 2001  +0100
From: SAJ  [US / Holland]

In your LL letters you talk about life in Japan on an everyday basis, but I would like to hear more about the old Japan.  I know that Japan has changed so much, and so fast since the War... a never ending race in the modern world with over-working, over-crowding and high tech everywhere.  Yet I find it hard to believe that the old culture has vanished.  Surely it has not.  On my window shopping trips I see all these cheap brightly colored glazed items such as figurines, vases and wonder if they are for tourists or if people really have these things in their homes in Japan?  I am not interested in buying that type of thing, but do like the more subtle things... which I have yet to see any of here in Holland.  Of course, since I want to find them, I can't.  That's the way the story always goes when I am looking for something here.  We are not only refurbishing the rooms but starting from ground zero with decorating.  I did have some of my things shipped over (none of them oriental), but what I am not able to use I will take back little by little.  In any case, I need to know more about Japan to get the real feel of what is right.  I have often seen people going overboard in copying a culture - with nothing about it being right.  I don't wish to join their club.  A little bit goes a long ways I think.  Less is more, and a touch is better then drowning in it.


Old Japan....... there are certainly moments, but having spent the overwhelming majority of my time in Tokyo, those moments have been rather few and far between.  One evening in Tokyo... a well-off student took me and an American (a supplier for his stores) to dinner at a traditional Japanese restaurant, and after dinner, as we drank saki ('sake' is a better spelling, but looks like an English word), the kimono clad waitress played the shamisen and sang a traditional Japanese song.  I turned away from my companions at the table to face her, and the vision was as though purely from the past - sitting on tatami mats, drinking saki, and watching/listening to a Japanese woman wearing a kimono, singing in Japanese and playing a Japanese instrument.  (Singing in Japanese and playing a Japanese instrument might sound like something obvious in Japan, but far more people learn how to play classical Western music here than Japanese.....)  It's hard to describe my feelings at the time exactly, but as I watched and listened to her, the moment was pure pleasure.....

In Nagano City, when I went there to see what the city was like during the Nagano Olympics - there was another of those moments one evening at a temple there.  I suddenly realized that there was something in the air... a mystery that I had come to Japan in search of......

So, yes SAJ, I have escaped the city from time to time, and even discovered places right here in Tokyo, but aside from that not being the norm, I suppose I've read so much about "mysterious Japan" that I've ended up avoiding the topic myself.  Incidentally, there's a movie I recently saw on video called "Tokyo Biyori", which has sort of a weird story line, but is a good movie to see if you want to know what Tokyo is like, as it has a lot of well-filmed scenes taken outside on Tokyo streets, in restaurants, of Tokyo Station, etc.  The story line is one I don't think many people will like much - about a couple, the man a freelance photographer (so he can be wandering around the streets of the city all the time - very convenient for the story line) and the woman is semi-psychotic - not only making her more tragic, but giving her license to be weird, as she is terminally ill.  Cool story line huh?  I don't know enough about Japanese movies to say definitively that it's a typical story line, but I've seen similar movies before.....  The other interesting thing about the movie is that there's a scene where the couple escapes Tokyo for a vacation out in the country - where they stay at a traditional Japanese inn.  What they don't discuss, is how much it costs to stay at places like that!  Strangely, it's cheaper to travel to Hawaii, which is a foreign country, than it is to go to Okinawa, right here in Japan.  From air fare to hotels, everything tends to be quite expensive here... which is one reason I end up being stuck in Tokyo all the time.......      [Top of page] 


"Fun at the Dentist, Etc."     [Top of page]

Subject: Weekly Dose of MMH .12.22.00
Date: Fri, 22 Dec 2000  -0800
From: MMH  [US]

I had three teeth done at the dentists.  Since I was a little kid, the dentist and orthodontist have played a big part in my life.  While Aabbb might only have three cavities, my mouth was a warehouse for them.  Then there were the years of braces with headgear.  And we are not talking simple behind the neck straps.  We are talking behind the neck, over the head and behind the head.  My mother let me grow my hair long so that I could cover up the horrible thing.  I gave up on the look of my hair a long time ago as a result.  Anyway, some of the fillings I had installed over a decade ago were cracking and falling out, so they had to be replaced.  This last visit had the dentist take out some ceramic that never bonded properly - thus allowing decay to leach in underneath.  Next time he works on them, I am looking at crowns.  A third tooth just had a new cavity.  This is my fourth visit to this dentist... each time he tackles another section of my mouth.  Only one old cracked filling to go.  Thankfully he allows me to pay what I can when I can.  Cool guy.  Not like my other dentist.....

Gee.  I didn't think I would ramble on so much about the dentist.

Having caught up on the main project at work, I decided to catch up on the little stuff and do some accounting.  I opened up my bank statement and found that someone wrote a fraudulent check to my checking account and was able to steal $800.  Merry Christmas, ho ho ho.  So the next day I closed that account and opened a new one.  I then filed a fraud form with the bank, which they require you do via mail.  I swear bank service is worthless anymore.  You go into your branch expecting someone to help you, and all the teller does is dial the 800 number so that you can be on hold while you wait for someone to think about helping you.  It will be weeks, maybe months before I see that money again.  Meanwhile I have a new hobby.  I get to call and nag the bank.  Woo Hoo.  Thankfully, most of my work was done this week so I could devote myself to filling out forms, etc.

Aabbb and I have a long list of movies we want to go see.  I know it sounds strange to people in a lot of other countries, but a lot of Americans spend Christmas at the movie theaters.  You open up the presents in the morning, stuff yourself at lunch, and hit the movies in the afternoon.  That way you have something to talk about during dinner other than why you're not producing more grandchildren.  My family doesn't normally go to movies during Christmas.  We open private presents at home, go to a family gathering and open more presents.  Followed by a big meal, a short wait to let it go down so you can cap off with a couple of pieces of pie.  Our main goal is consumption.  Consumption of gifts, food, and each other's warmth and laughter.  I am really looking forward to that.  Since Christmas is on Monday, that give Aabbb and me the weekend to plow to the movie theaters as a reward for getting all our Christmas shopping completed.


What MMH says about going to the bank and having them call a faceless voice on the phone reminds me of some fun I had with Microsoft.  My first computer was an old IBM laptop PS/55, which I bought a new copy of Windows 3.1 for.  I was having some trouble installing it, so I reasoned (stupid me) that if I went to Microsoft's offices here in Tokyo, someone would be able to help me with my questions.  I went to Microsoft, and explained to one of the receptionists that I wanted to talk to someone about installation problems I was having.  She nodded, picked up a phone, called a faceless someone (in the building I think), and handed the phone to me.  Ms. Faceless on the other end of the line then explained that support was only offered via phone, and gave me the phone number to call for Windows 3.1 support.

I was miffed at the time - that after traveling for an hour to get there, they didn't even bother to talk to me in person, but the tech support for W-3.1 turned out to be a great thing for me.  As this was in 1996, I don't think there were many new users of W-3.1, so I was able on several occasions to talk with tech support for (literally!) hours as they led me step by step through a difficult installation.  Difficult for three reasons.  One; it was my first computer and I didn't know the first thing about how to use it.  Two; it had a rather small hard drive (40MB!), and three; it didn't have a mouse!  On one occasion, I was on the phone for about four hours!  I found with newer Microsoft products that they would rush me off of the phone, but with that first purchase, the tech support basically became an over-the-phone computer course which made the price of the software quite a bargain.  On the other hand, I had a lot (a lot, and I really mean a lot) of trouble when I used MSN as a provider - mediocre service, bad performance, overcharging, black-holed e-mail... which is probably the main reason I'm now writing this with Sun Microsystems StarOffice instead of MS Office.  When I saw Bill Gates on TV saying that his competitors were complaining, but his customers were happy, I felt like raising my hand and saying "Hey!  Over here!  I'm an unhappy customer!  Talk to me!".  I suppose I shouldn't be "Microsoft-bashing", but I really liked (still do) Netscape Messenger much better than Outlook, but Microsoft basically destroyed Netscape, and for that reason alone I feel like complaining... (as I search for alternatives!).     [Top of page]

"Backlog & B-Day"     [Top of page]

Here it is late March and I'm still running letters from December!  This is the last LL with letters from last year though, and I'm picking up the pace with editing, so I'll be lessening the lag between receiving letters and getting then in the LL-Letter.  Unfortunately though, I've had to drop a number of good letters due to the pressures of time and space.  Anyway - here's the last letter from 2000:

Subject: Re: LL-284
Date: Tue, 19 Dec 2000
From: BKH  [Barbados / US]

I'm now home with my family.  Finals finished December 13th and the very next day I was on a train back to New Jersey.  It was rather a scenic route actually, at least the parts that I didn't sleep through.  I was pretty excited coming 'home' - especially since my mom, sister and grandmother were arriving on the exact same day I was.

I'm relieved that school is over.  I could hardly wait for a break from that place.  I must admit though that I do miss it a bit with all my friends and all.  Living on campus isn't all that bad, but still there's no place like home.

December %th was my 19th b-day.  It really wasn't anything spectacular.  Family was really missed; phone calls aren't everything but they surely do help!  I didn't do anything for my birthday... my room-mate and my friend from the end of the hall made me a birthday cake out of Rice Krispies with a number 19 on top made out of Fruity Pebbles I guess they're called.  I got b-day cards and a present and hugs and such.  For the rest of the day I got to help my friend look for books in the library, and then at 8:00 p.m. I got to help my other friend study for his Spanish test, even though he knew quite well that it was my birthday... also he had me go to him and then on top of everything I had to wait till he was finished with his ping-pong game, then he had the gall to ask if I was angry.....


"Could it Be the Building?"     [Top of page]
(Nishi-Shinjuku  2001/03/25  12:07 p.m.)

As yet another company-swap began on one of the floors of the building I work in, I wondered at the fact that not only is there a spinning revolving door of constantly changing employees at the company I work at, but that the tenants in the building are also constantly changing!  Possibly related, on Friday I noticed a chemical smell - something like paint thinner - coming from the door to the stairwell (which is right next to my new seat).  I imagine one of the new companies (after repainting their office), is storing the paintbrushes, thinner, etc., in the stairwell...  If the smell persists, I'll not be able to sit at my desk all day long... I suppose I'll be able to print things out and do the work by hand somewhere.....

Another reason to change jobs I suppose.  It's got me to thinking though - as I've seen a pair of men in the building on four different occasions with a cart of equipment that they told me is for checking the quality of the air...  I didn't think much of it initially, but I've occasionally noticed a smell of smoke - like burning cardboard - that was also noticed by Mr. Newbie (who quit the company after one month!).  So, now I want to investigate two things.  First, I'm curious about what was at the site of the building before it was constructed, and secondly I want to know about those guys I've seen checking the air.  After reading about "sick buildings", I'm wondering is I'm in one of them!

"Flying Laptop"     [Top of page]

Subject: aalooo.....
Date: Thu, 04 Jan 2001  -0000
From: PBU  [Pakistan / UK]

............  Hope you're enjoying the Japanese winter... I'm still alive in the Jersey cold!  Just came back from the shops, shaking and shivering :)  I had four days off and it was nice to relax... but I'm back to working again.  Once again, as history repeats itself, my computer department is on strike... now I'm sitting here in the library and writing to you.  Actually, my old PC hasn't been working for ages, so I've been using my laptop... until my daughter knocked it from a chair to the floor, and now the poor laptop has had it :)  It needs repairing, so I'll be in touch with the nearest PC shops... and I'll have to relax my pocket a little bit!  I'm also thinking of taking my laptop with me when I visit Pakistan in February, where I can get it repaired at a lower rate :)


"So You're Going Back to School?"     [Top of page]

Subject: Happy New Year!
Date: Fri, 05 Jan 2001  -0800
From: KCM  [US]

I spent New Year's at Disneyland with some friends.  It was really fun, and exhausting.  I went with three other girls and a guy, two who told lies about who they were going with to avoid trouble at home.  The guy told his family he was going with high school friends; neglecting to mention they were three girls and that one of them was his new girlfriend.  His girlfriend claimed to be going with me and my sisters and forgot to mention the new boyfriend.  They were even denying it to us - holding hands when we weren't looking...  They gave that up after the first day, though.  I told my family in a McDonald's and concerned, confused looks crossed my parents' faces.  "But aren't you going back to school?"  "Yes, Dad, after Disneyland."  Later, "When are you going back to school?"  "After Disneyland."  "So you're going back to school?"  "Yes Dad."

I called my dad from the inn when I arrived and he wanted to know what time I was going back to school.

I called my mom, later, from a friend's house, and she thought I was back in the Bay Area.  She was also concerned about me going back to school.

Later, my sister informs me that my parents think I'm at school, despite me telling my mom clearly that I was staying with a friend for a few days.

Disneyland itself was a lot of fun.  We got to go on everything twice, because there were short lines after the New Year's Eve festivities.  We also took advantage of passes that let you cut ahead of the lines at certain times.

I used to be so terrified of roller coasters.  I'm not sure if it's just the fact that I've gotten older or that Disneyland doesn't have such scary rides, that I'm no longer scared, the way I used to be.

Before that, I also went cave-exploring with a few friends in the National Pinnacles Monument, somewhere south on I-80, past Gilroy and Monterey.  The two girls and I were not accustomed to doing nature stuff, especially hiking up steep hills and things like that, but we managed to survive.  We learned to distrust our guide (computer geek friend) when he said, "It's just like steps."  The cave itself was pitch black and cold.  There was nothing there and if we hadn't had flashlights we would have been lost.  Next our friend took us up the "extreme" trail because he wanted to explore a tunnel at the top of the cliff, but didn't inform us how strenuous it was going to be, since "If I told you, you guys wouldn't go."  We never did end up at the tunnel, since it was getting dark and we didn't want to get locked in the park.  (It took us an hour to get up - 20 minutes to get down.)

I came back to my dorm room today, sans laptop because Dell has delayed sending me the laptop drive I ordered (two, three weeks ago) until the 10th, after transferring me back and forth on the phone and putting me on hold forever, until I gave up and just went online.  I hated their website, too, because their layout was just stupid, even if there were nice graphics.  It took several tries before I found what I wanted.  I kept having to click on menus that seemed to take me nowhere.

My room was also filthy, dirtier than when I'd left it and things were growing in my fridge.  I almost threw up when I opened it.

Other than that, I'm kinda tired... I need to go take a nap or something.

Ja ne,

KCM      [Top of page]

"New Faces in the Office"     [Top of page]
(March 25th, 2001  Nishi-Shinjuku)

Thought I'd introduce some of the new faces at the JW office.  (I might have mentioned a couple already, I'm not sure.):

Ms. Eigodekinu.  Another balcony smoker, who spent a few years living in a small town in Colorado in the US, and speaks mostly correctly pronounced conversational American English - but can't write very well.  She deeply resents my position of correcting her poorly written English in the company, as it shows her up for being something less than the expert that she would have the people lower down the English speaking ladder believe.

Ms. Kakoii.  A friendly person who joined the company just last Friday.  Hard to say how things will turn out after meeting someone only once, but she seems like a nice person, and best of all, she actually has a sense of humor!  A sense of humor in that war zone!  Yow!  The humorless ones will likely start shooting arrows, so I'll have to see if I can back her up somehow... without it being obvious.

Mr. Hetakuso.  A friendly enough guy, but he's mucking up the computers - not of his own accord really.  Mr. Uragi orders him to do double-fool things to the poor machines (foolish in the first place, compounded by not knowing how to do anything with computers anyway).  He's sitting in my old seat next to the conference room, doing work that has nothing to do with secretarial stuff - as I had been told was the reason they needed to move me off to the far corner of the office.  Why bother lying to someone when the lie will be obvious within a month?  I guess they figure I'm too stupid to notice what work the guy is actually doing.....

Mr. Runtime.  An American guy who can't write (in English or Japanese!) very well, and is looking frayed around the edges.  A long-stay gaijin, he's becoming less employable by the year - not unlike myself I'm very unhappy to admit.  The funny thing about Mr. Runtime (as in "running out of time"), is that he was asking Mr. Newbie about the company!  So old-timer Mr. Newbie, after being in the company an entire month, was filling in the new guy on his second day in the office!  I don't think the revolving door can spin very much faster!

Mr. Howlong.  Another American, another long-stay guy, and a very "good-gaijin".  "How long"... in my first conversation with that bozo, he brought out the "So... how long have you been in Japan?" question, asked in fake casualness (pathetic).  He is very proud of his ten years here... the thing I wrote before regarding there being some kind of contest to be here longer than other foreigners - an extraordinarily irritating mental illness that a lot of Westerners seem to catch here.  Actually, I have a different nickname for the guy, staring with "W", but it would be too rude to use it in here......  One warning to any American thinking of living in Japan though - be prepared for the fact that your worst enemies will be other Americans.  Fellow countrymen?  It just doesn't usually happen like that.  Like overly ambitious actors trying to upstage each other in a play, it's generally anything but friendly.

"The other American guy" - Now that another pair of Americans have come upon the scene, I have to come up with a name for the guy who started working at the company just after me.  Hmmmm........ how about Mr. Lookingfor, as in "Looking for other work"?     [Top of page]

"Focus on the Individual?"     [Top of page]

Subject: Re: LL-285
Date: Sun, 7 Jan 2001
From: MCG  [US]

I was reading in the Wall Street Journal that the Japanese culture is changing - focusing more on the individual.  This sounds very interesting considering the past rigid focus on the corporation.  Some of this change was accredited to the economy.  Do you see evidence of this, or is the article I read possibly overstated journalism?

Things are a little unsure in the United States with the new president and the way the stock market is acting.  Interest rates were lowered but little has resulted so far.  We have had record snow in some areas of the Midwest.  Driving to Chicago, the road was strung with overturned trailers and tankers.  The snow had literally piled on top of them because emergency equipment could not get there.  This never really made the news that I saw... but it looked like a war zone.  We have now warmed up a bit and the snow has abated.  The East Coast was hit hard also.  I spoke with one of the ports we ship accessory parts to and they had to shut down due to thirty plus inches of snow.  They could not clear the cars produced from the output lots which go on rail cars or are trucked to dealers in their area.  They were shut down for the week.


In Japanese society, there have always been those who didn't fit into a large group.  In feudal times, this made things rough for some groups from birth.  That's mostly gone, but still there are different levels of jobs in Japan.  Since arriving here in 1984, I have met plenty of people who go from job to job... but not people working for large corporations like Mitsui, Hitachi, etc.  So far as I can tell, most employees of companies like that are still very much in it for life.  Forgetting Eastern and Western cultural focusing for a minute, another way of looking at society on this group of islands right now, is to imagine how life has been for the current generation entering the working world.  Like myself, they have grown up mostly not worrying about whether they would be able to find a job or not, but only what type of job.  In this situation, you naturally tend to think more about lifestyle and yourself than you would if there were less of a chance of things working out.  Most dangerous times bring families closer together - the group being definitely stronger than lone individuals.  When you don't need that protection though, you also don't need to pay into the pool with submissiveness.  In this sense then, it's only natural that the current generation is more focused on their own welfare than their parents were.  The media however, gets more attention and more advertising revenue if they make things sound sensational.  They don't really care if the pictures they paint are real or not - their "news" is more to make a living than to convey what is really new.......

That said, it should be noted that at the office I work at, although it's a collection of semi-social outcasts, and they are more individualist than most traditional groups in the country, they stick together by nationalism - presenting a unified face against foreigners in the company.  Remember my former position just outside the conference room - I heard a lot of things I was not meant to hear, which is probably the main reason they made me move over by the copy machine.  The things I heard were not only regarding myself, but the other foreigners in the company.  The consistent undercurrent running through everything is that the "gaijin", being inferior to the locals, should stay in their place at the bottom of society.  When the former IT guy was promoted, there was such opposition from Mr. Aruchu (third from the top) and the people he hangs out with, that the president/owner of the company canceled the promotion - ostensibly due to the guy having taken more than two weeks off (just under three) for a summer vacation.  This is not conjecture, I overheard Mr. Aruchu talking about it.  His own words, from his own mouth.  He would never had said what he did in front of me - but it missed his attention that I was in hearing range.  After Mr. Lookingfor had an argument with the Prez about something, Mr. Zangyo (the number two guy) called a meeting in the conference room (following a talk he had with Prez immediately after Mr. Lookingfor went home), and discussed gradually fazing Mr. Lookingfor out of the company.  None of this was said to the man himself - and he is still working there, albeit under a lightning-filled cloud.  Mr. Uragi's campaign against me has been mostly out of my own earshot, but Mr. Lookingfor told me that he has overheard the guy talking about me to other people - something I have caught him doing a number of times myself.

After I overheard him talking about me (I'm not sure what was said, but I heard my name) with Ms. Hone, she stopped sending anything to me to rewrite, instead giving everything exclusively to Mr. Nantoka, the guy who speaks high school English and doesn't know how to write - faking most of his work by copy-pasting whole sentences off the Internet sites of our clients instead of translating the articles about them, which is his job (a job he is incapable of doing).

Like I've been saying - it's jungle warfare in that office.  It's a very nasty place to be, but I don't have any other way of paying the bills at moment, so I keep working there as I look for other work.

One more example.  Ms. Gaimen, the Prez's secretary, and I got along fine the first couple of months... but after the first month, most of the other employees made a point of dropping hints, the most common being "Naka ga ii desu ne..." ("You two sure get along well..."), which was said literally on a daily basis, sometimes several times a day - until Ms. Gaimen realized that she had two choices:  Continue being civil to me and end up being ostracized by the group, or be nasty to me and thus gain the group's approval.  This is the type of thing I had in mind when I accused the office of being racist.

The result of people waging war in the office instead of just trying to get their jobs done?  The computer system is going steadily downhill, but more important than having it working properly, it's being run by locals, and not by "gaijin".  Much of the English letters, e-mail, and reports are going out in mutant English, but more important than the English being intelligible, some of it is pure local, and uncontaminated by dirty "gaijin".

So... is society here beginning to focus more on the individual?  In once sense "yes", but in another sense... "no".     [Top of page]

"Aaggghhh!  Those Names!"     [Top of page]

Subject: Re: LL-285
Date: Tue, 09 Jan 2001
From: EKH  [US]

The last five weeks have been (still are) hectic.  I found myself working an average of 50 hours a week.  Maybe this is not much compared to the working hours in Japan, but it's a lot in the US.

Last Saturday (Jan 6), I went to the office specifically to catch up on e-mail that had accumulated for almost a month.  I open my mail daily... deleting junk mail and saving good mail to go over later.  The letters from you are always a welcome sight.  I am often drawn into the stories, which seem to talk to me in the first person.

But... I really don't like the names "Aabbb", Bbccc", etc.  I understand the need to protect the privacy of your contributors, yet I felt the practice detracts from the personalized tone of the letters.  Why not change the names to legitimate (though fictitious) names?

It is almost 8:00 PM - - - I have put in twelve hours at the office.  Time to split.


Actually, in the beginning, I did exactly what EKH is suggesting, but two things made it impossible to continue.  Firstly, I realized with some letters that I didn't know if a person mentioned in a letter was male or female - so how could I give them a name then?!  Also, although I can come up with a few English-based names, when I get a letter from China, France, Germany, etc., I'm not confident at all that I can come up with an even semi-authentic sounding name.  One other factor is that when there are quite a few names mentioned in one story, it's difficult to think of names for everyone.  On the other hand, I've assigned names to almost everyone in the JW office, as that's an ongoing story and I fully agree that the actors in that play should have consistent names.      [Top of page]

"What Was Her Name?"     [Top of page]
(March 28th, 2001  4:20 a.m.  Nishi-Shinjuku)

Yikes!  I haven't gone to bed yet, so I have to keep this short!  I bought "Britannica 2001" on CD-ROM yesterday evening.  Another thing I can't really afford right now, but I have a very hard time resisting buying good (sometimes I'm disappointed...) reference material.  The (full) install of the program took a while (Nearly 2GB!!), but in testing it, I think it's well worth it.  The video clips, etc. I could pretty well do without, but the vast expansion over standard dictionaries of accessible data I'm very happy to have!  I also picked up a photo CD-ROM that has some really good photos of rural Japan.  The program is badly designed, but as the photos are independently accessible with photo viewing software (ACD Systems), it was a good purchase.

"What was her name?" - I had to ask myself when putting together the name of yet another ship jumper (like the Canadian guy, she has left after only one month!) at the company with the face of a woman I only spoke with on one occasion.  During the morning meeting, they casually announced that she was leaving the company, and then - amid a flurry of excuses by Mr. Zangyo, who broke in on Mr. Chikuma (a nice guy from the accounting closet who was making the announcement) - also announced that Mr. Newbie was leaving (he left a couple of weeks back really... but has popped into the office a few times for half-days to wrap up some reports that they asked him to work on).  Here it is again... the management looking embarrassed and the staff looking glum as the news of another foreigner leaving is announced.  What is the reason for this?  Mr. Newbie is a very nice guy, so I'm sure that's part of it, but nobody blinked about the Japanese woman who is also leaving after only a month, and she seemed to be a nice person too.  Strange.....  (When it's my turn to leave, maybe they'll break out champagne and dance on their desks in celebration?)  When the first Canadian guy was in the office and working, everyone wasn't so nice, but now he's gone people have taken to saying what a wonderful person he was......

Sleep!  Talk to you later!

"Books & Partners + Letter from/to Prez Boss"     [Top of page]

Subject: 23/01/01
Date: Tue, 23 Jan 2001  +0100
From: SAJ  [US / Holland]

I will be looking forward to receiving your book.  How will you go about selling it?  And will you be doing this on a yearly bases?

I am not sure if I have told you about Aabbb and his company.  He and his partner stared an electronics company some 15 plus years ago.  Over the years his partner, who was mainly the bookkeeper of sorts, has been doing less and less and Aabbb more and more.  When Aabbb and I first met, he was stressed out all the time from problems caused by his partner - and things have steadily gotten worse.



The book... I have come to the next hurdle.  The first hurdle was getting it printed, as no publishing companies would even talk to me, and now it seems the connection between established publishers and book stores is quite strong, so I'm back in the same position of having to do it entirely on my own it seems.  To those who have seen it, if you have any ideas, I'd be happy to hear them!

Bad partners at work...  My feelings at the moment are along the lines of "Misery loves company" - as I'm happy to know I'm not the only one having personnel troubles at work.  Good luck, and I hope everything works out well in the end!  Speaking of work trouble - Mr. Lookingfor at the company has asked/told me on numerous occasions "You are always fighting with everyone else, when are you going to have a fight with the big guy?"  Mr. Lookingfor, on the other hand, doesn't have many confrontations with the rest of the staff, but he often has arguments with the Prez... (the fact that they are the same age helps I think).  Anyway, I'm about to start fighting with the Prez it seems.  Have a look at this letter I got from the Prez last night:

Subject: FW: Meeting
Date: Tue, 27 Mar 2001 20:46:44 +0900
From: Prez Boss <prezb@prezcon.com>
To: LyleSaxon <lylesaxon@prezcon.com>

Lyle, I need to respond this tomorrow.

Please contact me at least once a day whether I have something to ask your translation for me.  I have so many times asked you to do so in the past.  And this issue will become very critical.

Thank you

Prez Boss
President & CEO
Prez Consulting, Inc.

-----Original Message-----
From: Unhap Custm <unhapcustm@techcompany.com>
Sent: Tuesday, March 27, 2001 2:22 PM
To:   prezb@prezcon.com
Subject: RE: Meeting

Hi Prez-san;

Thank you very much for your email.

Let me just say that it would not be appropriate for me to jump-in on the below as MyBoss is responsible for our PR Relations; and I fully respect and support all of her decisions in this area.

Let me take this opportunity to wish you and your team at Prez Consulting every possible success in your future endeavors.

Thank you very much for your help and support.

Best Regards,

Unhap Custm
Tech-company Technologies, Inc.

"The below" that Mr. Custm refers to is a not-very-well-written letter (written by one of the new guys I guess) from Prez trying to save the doomed account.  Mr. Custm's "Let me take this opportunity..." bit is quite rude- but he didn't seem to like working with Mr. Uragi much more than I do.....

I wrote this in reply (to Prez):

Mr. Boss,

First - about the letter from Unhap Custm.  It's hard to imagine what should be said, but I will make two comments.  First, I have personally witnessed Mr. Custm practically yelling at Shiranu-san, who was very polite in reply.  I also witnessed Mr. Custm talking to Uragi-san in a rather rude way, and Uragi-san trying to be polite in reply, but with a tense electricity in the air.

Quoting from Unhap's letter:

"Let me take this opportunity to wish you and your team at Prez Consulting every possible success in your future endeavors."

This is a standard response to job applicants when they have been turned down after sending in a resume or having an interview.  All things considered, I think the task of retaining this client is very nearly impossible.

Quoting from your letter to me:

"Please contact me at least once a day whether I have something to ask your translation for me.  I have so many times asked you to do so in the past.  And this issue will become very critical."

Actually, I remember you saying that I should make a point of reminding you about letters you have sent me for writing/proofing/rewriting, and that I should make a point of showing my face on the one day a week when I come to the office at two.  I do not remember you telling me to pester you with "Do you have anything for me to do?"  I had received nothing from you yesterday - no e-mail, and no phone calls.  I was very busy yesterday proofing/rewriting things for several different people... and not in a situation where I needed to look for work - work was looking for me!  I don't understand why you are angry without having given me any indication in any shape or form that you had work for me!

Since you seem to be threatening my job security in writing with the comment: "And this issue will become very critical", I must tell you, quite frankly, that you are a rather difficult man to approach.  First of all, you are generally busy talking with someone, and when I do speak with you, generally you seem to be in a bad mood.  Granted, losing a client would put anyone in a bad mood, but using the nearest person to you as a lightning rod makes for unhappy employees.  This month, another two have quit...  You are a very friendly man... sometimes... but very difficult to predict, and not consistent in your demands or moods.

I'm sure it's dangerous for me to be writing to you frankly like this - but when you threaten someone, it's very difficult for them not to respond.


Lyle Saxon

When I went to work, I half expected to get fired over that - but the Prez was calm about it... and soon back into his usual operating mode of being difficult to work with...  I guess he's not too dissatisfied with my cheap labor.....  I hope I find a better paying job in a better company soon!     [Top of page]

"Disappearing Karaoke Bar"     [Top of page]

Subject: Welcome to 2001
Date: Sun, 07 Jan 2001
From: Laf  [US]

It is morning... actually rather late for me.  It is 6:35 a.m.  I am usually at the old keyboard much earlier... like 4:30 a.m. or so.  Today I have been taking the time to clean up the files on the computer.  I suspect it is time to clean house, so to speak.  I am afraid that sometime this year I am going to have to upgrade the old computer.  I think she may have reached the end of her working life.  I have plenty of space on the hard drive just not enough processor power.

Okay... I am supremely depressed!!  I finally found a great place to sing every Friday night, and now they announce that they have canceled the Karaoke because it wasn't profitable enough.  Apparently, there were too many people like me, who do not drink alcohol - so do not run up huge bar bills.  Last night Ccddd (my daughter) and I went out for a couple of hours together.  We had planned to go singing.  Ddeee knew I had looked forward to it all week.  So he convinced me to at least go out for a couple of hours.  We drove all the way over and found there was no more karaoke there.  We tried a couple of other places, but I don't feel comfortable going into real rowdy bar environments without Ddeee.  Although it isn't fair or correct, it seems that people assume that if a couple of women come into a bar without escorts, that they are looking to find someone to buy them drinks and more.  Since that was not the case, Ccddd and I just decided to come home.  So now I have to find another place to sing.  Darn!  I liked that one.  Like I said - it's depressing!!!

Oh, here is a nice piece of news.  Actually it is a step backward while stepping forward.  During Desert Storm and the four years preceding it, I served on the State Committee for the Florida Army National Guard.  It was a civilian volunteer position.  The position was to help create a family readiness plan of action for National Guard families should their spouses or family members become activated during a crisis.  National Guard families have no benefits or active military support throughout the year.  The benefits and support only occur during an activation.  Our committee assisted the families to have a plan of action for the Gulf War.  I resigned from the committee after the end of the fighting when I realized I was going to have more than enough to deal with on the home front.  Well, here is the exciting news.  This week Ddeee and I were asked to serve on the committee again.  This time to serve as a team.  Both of us are really pleased.  There is a lot of work involved but not only does it look really good on a resume (or CV, as I believe it is called in your neck of the woods), it is also very rewarding.  You know you are accomplishing something important.  Also Ddeee has missed his direct contact with the National Guard.  This will put us both right back into the rapids, so to speak.


I went out to see the cherry blossoms both last night and the night before.  I'll write about that in the next letter!

Until then, sore dewa!,

Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon
Images Through Glass
Nishi-Shinjuku, Tokyo
March 31st, 2001
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