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"Letter-Letter 292"
March 29th, 2001
"Cherry Blossoms & The Wind"
"The Pet Store & Jury Duty"  by MMH
"At University - January 25th"  by KCM
"March 2nd, 2001"
"A Hole in the Wall"  by BKH
"Flying"  by GDJ
"What To Do With the Name..."
"First Time Away From Home"  by EWT
"Working the Weekend Shift"  by PBU
"Blackouts & Languages"  by KCM
"Growing Fangs"  by MMH & LHS
"Looking for a Store"  by SAJ
"PC Problem Makers"  by MCG
"One &$%# Computer!"  by Laf
"English Major"  by KCM
"No Time..."  by UGB
"The Economy"  by UMN
"Computer Programer Blues"  by SRV
"Visit to Karachi University"  by PSC

"Cherry Blossoms & The Wind"     [Top of page]

(2001/03/29  Written by hand in a commuter train late at night.)  On the 27th, I went to the area near the Budokan and Imperial Palace to see the cherry blossoms.  There are places all over Tokyo to see them, but in central Tokyo, the area around the Imperial Palace is best I think.  There is also Ueno Park and Shinjuku Gyoen Garden/Park, but they don't carry the history of the Imperial Palace - formerly Edo Castle.  Crossing the street from Ueno Station to get to the cherry blossom trees in Ueno Park is vastly different from crossing a feudal castle moat to get to a semi-island... walking past the Budokan where the Beatles played (I saw Kitaro there myself several years ago), and up the side of a fortification to where you can look down to the ancient moat with cherry blossom trees in full bloom on either side.

Incredibly, I found an area behind the Budokan where no one was... and while standing there on top of a rampart - drinking canned "chuhai" - a wind came up, creating the timeless music of wind blowing through tree branches overhead... I thought "This feeling of being in touch with the wind and the trees - it can happen in Tokyo too!"  Actually, I thought many things up there on the wall... most of which I'll keep to myself this time!

(2001/04/01  Nishi-Shinjuku)  On Friday, I went back to the area near the Budokan (for the third time the same week) to see the cherry blossoms and the crowds - both at their peak.  The flowers were beautiful and I enjoyed the experience quite a bit, but it was really cold!  The flowers looked like spring, but the air was like winter!  The next day, I woke up, looked out the window - and it was snowing!!!  Yow!  I don't think I've ever experienced cherry blossom flowers and snow in the same 24 hour period before!  It would have made for some interesting photos to have been under the flowers with the snow coming down, but I was happy to stay home in my semi-warm apartment (with a coat on, as the apartment isn't heatable beyond about 10 degrees over the temperature outside).

"The Pet Store & Jury Duty"     [Top of page]

Date: Fri, 12 Jan 2001  -0800
From: MMH  [US]

Aabbb was drawn for Jury Duty.  So she was on call for two weeks to do her duty.  She was assigned as a potential juror for a court case.  There is a screening process that potential jurors go through in which lawyers from either side of the case can dismiss 16 potential jurors.  Aabbb was dismissed, and because the process took so long, she is not being reassigned to another court case.  She can go back to work tomorrow.  (I have been drawn for Jury Duty twice.  Both times I was dismissed because I am self-employed, and being on a court case would have affected my livelihood.)

There is a pet store that we shop at called Ccddd.  For years, one of the staff served us so regularly and so nicely we got to know him by name, Bbccc.  Then one day Bbccc no longer worked at Ccddd and we wondered whatever became of him.

Now I know.  This morning when I was walking Ddeee to the corner store to buy a lottery ticket, I stopped and talked with a beer delivery man.  The beer delivery man was another employee who worked at Ccddd and is friends with Bbccc.  He told me the story.  A while ago, Ccddd was bought out by a larger corporation.  The feeling of the company changed, so several employees left.  Bbccc went to work for e-pet, an on-line pet product store.  The fellow telling me the story fell into beer delivery.  E-pet was one of those really great dot.com companies with great commercials, a good idea, but for whatever reason, a victim of bankruptcy.  This meant Bbccc had to hunt for a new job... he is now working for a porta-potty company called Eefff.....

Every now and then, one of the pay for premium movie channels broadcasts its signal for free in an effort to entice potential subscribers to sign on.  There is a great appeal to watching movies without any commercial interruptions.  Also, some of the premium cable channels have award winning shows because they take risks that the more homogenized stations are not willing to broadcast for fear of loosing advertisers.  Anyway, for the next four days Showtime, one of the premium channels, will be free.  Time to schedule my VCR to record some movies.


"At University - January 25th"     [Top of page]

Subject: Re: Gung hay faht choi
Date: Thu, 25 Jan 2001  -0800
From: KCM  [US]

"Gung hay faht choi" literally, means "congratulations good fortune."  To foreigners, it's explained as "happy new year" since it's easier to say, and the meaning isn't exactly wrong, either.

New Year's wasn't all that [bad].  The usual school, and I went to anime club.  The night before, my roommate had a long discussion with her parents about the legitimacy of her major: busi/econ.  Her grandparents claimed, "It's not a skill," not like her cousin, who is in bio and is going to be a doctor, and thus, guaranteed success.  Her parents called, worried, and she kept trying to reassure her mother that she would be just fine and she would be able to support them.  Once she hung up the phone though, her confidence was gone and she started crying, unsure of herself and her abilities.  I really didn't know what to say - although I know what kind of pressures she has to deal with, I don't have to deal with them myself exactly, not being the oldest.  I realized, not for the first time, that I sort of lucked out in not having educated or formerly rich parents.  My parents only want me to get a degree and get a good job, and that's enough for them.

I called home to wish my mother a happy new year.  I also called my first aunt, which resulted in a really funny monologue, in rapid Chinese:  "You're so good, so thoughtful to be calling me.  Happy new year, good luck in school, may your health be good, too... aiyoh, you're thoughtful... did you call your mom yet?  Do well in school... can you understand me?  You can? You're smart, get good grades so you can be successful... next time you come home, come and see me... ok, I'm going to go, bye bye."

I love my aunt.  She's old, almost 90 now, and she can talk forever.  But she's never condescending or rude to me, and she always wants the best for us.

I ditched class today in favor of going to the beach and doing a little shopping.  Going to school was driving me crazy and I just didn't want to deal with it.  I took a few pictures and decided that with my next roll of film, I'm going to take pictures of signs.  There are a lot of beautiful, hand-made ones out here.

KCM      [Top of page]

"March 2nd, 2001"     [Top of page]

Monday... and the company held the monthly general meeting with everyone standing up in the main work area this time (no point in trying to use the conference room, everyone can't possibly fit inside).  Ms. Kakoii and Mr. Howlong were formerly introduced - Mr. Howlong giving a nifty little speech and presenting himself as a "good gaijin" in general.

At lunch I again heard the call of the cherry blossoms!  This time in Yotsuya, where I walked on the top of the rampart of yet another former moat (Edo/Tokyo was a castle town after all), admiring the cherry blossoms... and saying "That looks good..." when I saw pizza being eaten by a trio of woman.  I guess the woman I said that to when she looked up thought it was a mating call, because she stopped me when I was headed back towards the station and offered me a glass of wine and a piece of pizza.  Feeling like being under the cherry blossoms - I accepted.  I spoke with the three of them for a bit... disappointing them as I was in possession of nothing for the situation - no English (to their disappointment, we spoke in Japanese), no money, no time, and no availability...  A couple of times, one of them complained "You're not a foreigner!  You're Japanese!"  Nevertheless, for no special reason, we exchanged phone numbers (the more numbers in the phone's memory, the merrier - it's the 21st century), and I headed back to the JW office.

I got back to the office twenty minutes past when I was supposed to be back... and ran into the boss on his way out - who said he'd want to write an e-mail upon his return.  I spent most of the next two hours proofreading an extremely boring 15 page report (if I had spent a couple of days on it, I could have made it interesting, but they wanted it "proofed" in fifteen minutes...), with, among other interruptions, ten minutes spent trying to help Mr. Lookingfor save a Word document he had been working on when his rock-solid MS software locked up his computer.  Mr. Howlong came nervously over and said "That's what I would have done" and kept up a monologue to show Mr. Lookingfor that he knows as much about computers as I do (questionable)...  That guy irritates me.....

Prez came back at 18:30... and I could see myself being kept in the office easily for another two or three hours, so I slipped into the emergency stairwell and made my way past piles of boxes, etc. all the way down to the first floor (most of the companies in the building are using the stairwell for storage) - discovering at the bottom that the big door that leads outside - ostensibly an escape in the event of a disaster - has a huge pile of bundled company brochures piled up in front of it... which might be ok if they had at least left a narrow space for access to the door handle!  Opposite that blocked exit is a smaller door that leads into the atrium of the second entrance to the building, and from there I escaped the building and hours of overtime.

I received a call from the trio I had met at lunch, and I thought I'd drop by to admire the moonlit cherry blossoms in Yotsuya again and say hello if they were still there, but they were in a pub or something - and I was not in the mood for being inside, so I said "Ja... mata kondo" (Well... next time then) which is a standard put-off, sometimes actually meaning to meet up again, but more often being the final words spoken to someone.  That's one thing that's often convenient in Japan - it's generally very easy to refuse invitations to parties, etc. - on the other hand, if you actually do want to see someone but simply are not able to at the moment, you have to be careful, or you end up finishing something you didn't want to end.  In the situation with the trio though, I don't care one way or the other.  If I'm bored sometime and happen to run into them again, that's ok, and if I never meet them again, that's fine too.

Anyway, I went back to the rampart near Yotsuya Station and walked along it... observing the way different people were taking in the cherry blossoms.  There were a few couples quietly sitting under the trees with their food and ubiquitous beer (the national alcoholic beverage of choice)... several larger company groups with kerosene lanterns... one group with dim little electric lanterns that I liked... just enough of a glow to create a warmer feel to the scene, but not so much light that the atmosphere was ruined.  On the other extreme was one group of fairly old looking men (sixties?) who had a generator at street level buzzing away providing power for a string of blindingly bright lights they had strung up... "Why...." thought I - but it's better not to seek answers for those who have no aesthetic sense, for no good answers will be forthcoming.  What is wrong is wrong...  Why?  Because it's wrong.......  In Ueno, it's a sort of tradition for people to sing karaoke and in general disturb the peace as much as possible, but fortunately there was only one such noisy group on the Yotsuya rampart.  So, aside from the two foolish groups, mostly it was a scene of people enjoying the cherry blossoms in a timely and sensible manner.

When I bought can chuhai for my trip to Kudanshita last week, the man in the shop recommended seeing the cherry blossoms in Yotsuya (one reason I ended up going this week), and walking from Yotsuya to Ichigaya.  I'm ashamed to say that I walked in the wrong direction, not discovering this fact until checking a map as I began writing this paragraph!  Actually, for the area near Yotsuya Station, the direction I went in is best, but going the other way - as I now see from my electronic map (an excellent one, by the way, where you to switch between regular maps and aerial photos of the same area), the area I've known all these years that extends from Iidabashi Station over to Ichigaya Station, doesn't stop there, but extends all the way to Yotsuya.  O...kay..... now I've got to go cherry blossom viewing again......  At the moment, I feel like I've seen enough cherry blossoms for one year, but I'm suddenly curious about a route I've never checked out before.  There's also an interesting looking section near Suidobashi Station... I think I'll start making better use of my electronic map!

Back in Yotsuya - walking down the rampart, I found myself at the Hotel New Otani.  (It always strikes me as strange to enshrine the name "new" in a name - that hotel is getting rather old and frayed... but will carry the name "new" until the day it's so old that they tear it down.)  There's a fairly nice Japanese garden between the two main buildings that comprise the hotel, so I wandered around in it for awhile, feeling like an impostor at first, but quickly growing to feel as though I belonged there as much as anyone.....  There was that odd feeling in the air I've noticed at other western style hotels in Japan with Japanese gardens - there's a feeling of the East being on show for Western visitors... not a bad thing mind you, just... strange... in some way I can't quite put my finger on...  There are several fairly small restaurants in their own small buildings on the other side of the garden from the main hotel buildings - that you get to by walking through the garden.  I looked at the guests through the windows from gaps in the trees as I wandered around - and saw several small groups of Caucasians having dinner with Japanese, clumsily using chop sticks and looking very foreign/half lost - in the middle of their own "Asian Adventure".  The words of the women I had met earlier in the day came back to me "You're not a foreigner!  You're Japanese!".  There seemed to be some truth to those words as I looked at people who were ostensibly the same as myself - but who were looking so very strange and foreign!

From there I wandered around in the Akasaka-Mitsuke entertainment area a little before taking a subway away from my foot travels.  While wandering around in Akasaka-Mitsuke I was again irritated by the prostitutes (both Japanese and East Asian) who stand on the streets giving out flyers for the clubs they work at - and look the other way when a Caucasian walks by, since red devils are not welcome in the clubs they work at.  It irritates me no end!  I am not interested in going to those places in the first place, and the ugly truth be put to screen, consider myself above wasting body, soul and money on prostitutes, so to have them turning the other way as I walk down the street as though I'm a dangerous monster is immensely irritating!!

Just before giving up the area as (unfortunately, but definitely) an extremely unpleasant area even just to walk through, I stopped in a McD's to write a few notes about the day.  As I ate a semi-tasty... something or other (not a hamburger), I listened to two bar hostesses talking next to me, and was struck by the fact that they were both talking in heavily accented Japanese.  One of them was almost certainly Chinese, and the other, while difficult to say, was... maybe... Filipino?  It makes sense that the International language for them is Japanese, but still there's a certain novelty to hearing two foreigners talking in Japanese.  Generally, when you hear Japanese, at least one of the talkers is a native speaker.     [Top of page]

"A Hole in the Wall"     [Top of page]

Subject: Re: LL-285
Date: Sun, 14 Jan 2001 18:18:18
From: BKH  [Barbados / US]

I hope that your new year started off on the right foot, or if not, I hope that it will sort itself out - and pretty soon too.  School started back on the 8th of January, and I thought that all was well... "I only have to pay for my meal plan and I'll be validated!" I thought.  On Monday, I waited in line for three and a half hours, only to be told to come again the next day.  Then, when I went back, I was told that I owe $1490.50.  Now I'm thinking "I'm supposed to call home and hit my parents up for MORE money!?!?!?"  This idea seems REAL appealing to me, as my dad just sent me $2500.  So... practically all of this week has not been a good one... and everyone at school is complaining, "I haven't seen you all week, where have you been?"

Besides school, everything is fine.  I did pretty well last semester, so no complaints there.  I have a heavier course load this semester, so I hope I can keep my head above water.  My roommate and I plan to move in together next semester, as we don't think we can stand anyone else.  My family's OK.  They went back to B'dos......

My cousin and I busted a hole in the wall at my Aunt's house.  No one was too pleased, but it did serve as some amusement.  Everything was calm after it was noted that my cousin and I will pay for the damage.  Three visits it took to repair that one and a half foot hole, and still it has to be painted.  Oh well!!


"Flying"     [Top of page]

Subject: Re: Thursday
Date: Thu, 18 Jan 2001
From: GDJ  [US]

Well, life is going well these days.

I have completed my private pilot license and have a complex high performance rating.  That means I can fly an airplane with more than 200 horsepower and retractable landing gear - with a constant speed prop.  My goal is to get my commercial license and then get my instructors license and teach when I retire.  The bottom line is I love to fly.

Work is work and always will be the place least liked by all who go there.  As for the boss yelling and blaming everyone else for his or her mistakes, that is part of boss training - blame all others first.  Rule number one:  The Boss is always right.  My work is a little different in that I am in charge of my work space - and, as a result, completely and totally responsible for the consequences when things go wrong.  I say to let the bosses wrath roll off your back like water on a duck.


"What To Do With the Name..."     [Top of page]

As you might have read in the news, there have been a number of bank mergers in Japan - most recently the merger between Sakura Bank (involving the Mitsui Corporation) and Sumitomo Bank.  What's interesting here is that both Sumitomo and Mitsui are huge and very proud companies, and so there seems to have been some difficulty in deciding which company would get the honor of having their name mentioned first... the solution?  Give both companies the honor!  How?  In Japanese, the bank is called "Mitsui-Sumitomo Ginko" ("ginko" meaning "bank"), and in English, it's called "SMBC - Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation".  It's a great example of compromise, and good for morale at the two companies I suppose... but not a very good idea for the poor customers!  There is bound to be confusion with English speakers calling the bank "Sumitomo-Mitsui" and Japanese speakers calling it "Mitsui-Sumitomo".  It's a company name!  Why have two for the same company?  But compromise is supreme - not logic!  (Sakura Bank itself was formerly "Taiyo-Kobe-Mitsui Bank", the result of a merger between three banks.)

By the way, if you visit Japan, be sure to pick up some of the free envelopes always by the ATM machines at banks, as they are perfect for computer floppy disks!  They are there for customers to put money in, and on the rare occasion when I actually have some money, I use the envelopes for that very purpose, but they are far more useful as floppy cases!  (There is virtually no interest with savings accounts here, so I figure the bank supplying me with paper floppy cases is fair enough...)

"First Time Away From Home"     [Top of page]

Subject: Chinese New Year
Date: Sat, 20 Jan 2001  -0000
From: EWT  [Hong Kong / UK]

I've been studying all day so I'm getting quite tired and bored.  Coming on the Net and doing nothing in particular does clear (and blank) your mind for a bit.

I'm not doing anything much.  It's actually the first time in my life that I've not been at home or near home and family for the (Chinese) New Year.  I will be going back home for the weekend afterwards though, so it's not as bad as it seems.....

EWT ^-^

"Working the Weekend Shift"     [Top of page]

Subject: Working Late
Date: Sun, 21 Jan 2001  -0000
From: PBU  [Pakistan / UK]

It's the weekend, and I'm working at the hospital - covering the intensive care and labor ward.  Luckily there is nothing happening right now, which is why I'm able to be sitting here in the hospital library writing this letter.  I work one weekend out of three (there are eight doctors, including myself, who take turns working this shift).  After working this weekend, I have Monday off, which is good, as I'll be able to do some window shopping and relax.

The people of Jersey are preparing for the arrival of the British Royal Family this summer.  Jersey is 10x5 miles in size with a population of 75,000.  Tourists, mostly visiting during the summer, increase the population to 100,000 or more.  They bring more life and noise to this small place.  During most of the winter, this small island is quiet and peaceful.  There is a tiny little airport which handles five flights every day and it closes after 9 p.m.!

After living here for nearly five months, I'm getting used to it... I'm okay as long as I'm getting my pay every month, and a little bit of a break from work at times.  Oh yes, my next trip is now organized and I (with my wife and children) will be flying away on 17th February to visit my parents in Pakistan.  Japan is one place I really hope to visit someday, but I don't know when.  I do like traveling, and feel that it increases one's knowledge of the world in general.


"Blackouts & Languages"     [Top of page]

Subject: Re: ElecPwr/Etc
Date: Sun, 21 Jan 2001  -0800
From: KCM  [US]

There are rolling blackouts in California due to the energy crisis.  There's an electricity shortage and something about deregulation being a disastrous event.  On campus, the lights were dimmed... until there were two sexual assaults that took place in the bathrooms.  Every time I walk into a bathroom, I have to face a flyer with a computer generated police profile of the suspect.  There are three pictures floating around - in every single building I walk into.  I hate having to deal with this.

I declared my major, in English/World Lit.  That means that I have to take at least one lit class in a foreign language.  I'm thinking about minoring in Chinese, so I can read and understand all the literature most people in the Western world ignore because no one translates it.  Anyway, it's easier for me to read Chinese characters.


"Growing Fangs"     [Top of page]

Subject: Re: Tuesday
Date: Tue, 23 Jan 2001  -0800
From: MMH  [US]

Maybe the company is just testing to see how much of a team player you are.  I mean, what good is an employee if you can't interrupt his work day?  Don't you feel the love?

When I lived in Japan, the other foreign exchange students from America would get together about once every three months or so.  When we did, we spoke a weird hybrid of English-Japanese.  Most the time the Japanese kids could follow the conversation, as we switched whatever word or sentence pattern we felt like using at the time.  But there were times they said we were all strange because what we said was not making any sense.  The reason for it was that we were all missing sarcasm, at least our home spun variety.  So we were being viciously sarcastic with each other all the time.  And that is what threw the Japanese students.

Before I left for Japan, I was low man on the totem pole in my family.  Everybody had a witty retort and I was always for a lack of words.  When I came back my standing changed considerably.  Everyone, even now, waits for me to make the scathing comment at the dinner table that will bury everyone.  My brother Aabbb said I grew fangs.

I was only in Japan for eleven months and I grew fangs.  I wonder just how long yours must be by now.


What MMH says about "growing fangs" is a good point.  I've noticed the same phenomenon with people from this country who have spent a long time overseas, and also among some African Americans I knew in California.  Basically, when you are a target of exclusion from the main group for whatever reason, the feeling is one of injury - and naturally people don't want to be repeatedly injured, and so they "grow fangs".  How long are mine?  "Quite long " might be an accurate answer.      [Top of page]

"Looking for a Store"     [Top of page]

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

.....................  I feel I have come a long way over the past couple of years.  I still am not speaking Dutch but I can understand some of it now when I hear others talk.  I find myself saying a few words without thinking - words you hear everyday.  And I can figure out some words when I'm trying to read information on something.

The newest thing that is bothering me - is trying to find a store.  I would like to find some second hand shops or junk shops.  It seems no one knows where any are or they think I am just crazy...  I think you can find some good junk in those places which you can restore for next to nothing rather then buying something new which you aren't crazy about to begin with.  Again, maybe this is just the American in me.  I have noticed on the UK channels we receive here that they have the type of shops I am looking for, and so I feel sure there must be something like that in Holland as well.  I am not one to give up, so one of these days I will figure out just what they are called and look them up in the phone book.  ....................


"PC Problem Makers"     [Top of page]

Subject: Re: Tuesday
Date: Thu, 25 Jan 2001
From: MCG  [US]

Computers... it must be part of the law of randomness, as soon as you have your computer running smoothly and everything is organized, someone uses it.  For whatever reason, things get changed and problems occur which are great time consumers.  You get distracted from your work while the person who created the problem skates away, of course claiming they did nothing which could have caused the problem.  I was in the IT business for years and dealt with hundreds of people and their PC's.  Very few people ever admit they have done something that was outside of the norm, such as changing settings, until you have the proof.  They need to be backed against a wall with methodical deduction.  Even when they change system settings they know nothing about - let alone software settings!

It was so frustrating, because if they had just came out and explained what they did, it could have saved 90% of the time spent in discovery.  I learned a lot about people and how they react under stress.  They are, many times, getting in their own way... the problem is, they effect others.

The profile of a PC problem maker:

1. Is typically promoted beyond his/her capacity.
2. Has an inflated ego.
3. Tends to rely on others too much.
4. Seems to be lucky at games such as cards.
5. Feel if something they have done wrong is discovered, you are just out to get them, and they swear some type of vengeance.
6. They have someone higher up protecting them from personal accountability.

What do you think or what would you add?

Good luck,

MCG      [Top of page]

"One &$%# Computer!"     [Top of page]

Subject: Stomachs & Computers
Date: Sat, 27 Jan 2001
From: Laf  [US]

So, how are you?  I certainly hope this finds you well and happy in your corner of the world.  Here, everyone is fairly well.  Aabbb has finally kicked his cold.  He is much happier to live with.  I guess it's true...  When a person really isn't sick very often, they tend to be very irritable when something actually hits them.  Those of us who are not quite so fortunate are less surprised.  We make better patients.  Of course, since Aabbb is so irritated by any illness, he recovers more quickly.  So, I suppose there is a trade-off in there somewhere.

Last year, I had no Y2K problems.  We are a Macintosh based company (as quite a large number of advertising agencies are because of the quality of graphics available for this system).  Anyway, Macs have always been resistant to Y2K problems, and indeed we had no problems last year.  So, when New Year's approached this year, we had no expectations of surprise...  However, in our company we have one PC... one darn IBM clone.  It is located in my division.  It has one stinking function.  It takes all of our raw data from market research and allows us to calculate the numbers, creating the necessary formulas to convert our data and to calculate the percentages.  The week between Christmas and New Years, the server for this little one computer system fried itself.  It took not only twenty some studies with it (each having at least 250 interviews of about 12-15 questions), but the entire software program as well.  The day it happened, I looked at the mess and quietly walked into my office.  I closed the door and silently looked for something to throw.  When I could breathe again, I sat down and analyzed the disaster.  I decided it wasn't too bad.  Yes, the computer was gone.  That could be replaced.  The data was all kept in back-up and hard copy... worst case, we would have to re-enter it.  Not fun, but we could do it.  It seemed in the final analysis, that the only major casualty was that the software program was gone.  I figured we could simply go buy the software again... that way we would have the most updated version.  Pretty easy... right?

Well.....  It seems that the company that made the program we used had quietly closed.  There are no new updated versions of the software.  We can't even get an old copy.  So I call my local computer guru and say... "Here is the challenge, oh guru, I need a program to.... (inserted all the parameters of our system)... the final and most vital portion of your challenge is this... we are all fairly literate on Macs, we are largely illiterate with PC's.  The program you find us has to be simple stupid!"  He went away.  After two weeks, (by now I am no longer smiling or feeling particularly confident) he returns with his answer from the mountain.  We should go out and purchase a program called Microsoft Access.  It will meet all of our needs.  So we bowed three times to the guru and wandered out to buy the new software.  Two weeks later, there were several important things we could tell anyone.

1. Microsoft Access is not simple stupid.  (We could not get it to do anything)

2. Mr. Bill Gates has had his revenge.  He sells programs that come with few workable instructions.  You have to get outside training to learn how to use Access.

3. The outside training costs more than the darn program.  We have already invested over $500.00 in training.  And most importantly...

4. Computer Gurus have sick senses of humor... or really don't care that simple stupid really means just what it says.

Anyway, that is the latest installment of the computer story.  It is still an ongoing saga.  (And I wonder why my digestive tract has joined the other side....)

Well, last night, Aabbb's favorite cousin, Bbccc, arrived for a visit.  We are delighted.  I hope he stays longer than the weekend.  He is a bit of a wanderer so no one knows how long he will stay.

Laf      [Top of page]

"English Major"     [Top of page]

Date: Sat, 27 Jan 2001  -0800
From: KCM  [US]

I shouldn't be writing so much instead of studying or doing something productive.  It's just that I have so many things on my mind right now.  ........

I got on the bus today, not really caring where I ended up.  I've been doing that a lot lately, and it always strikes me how empty the streets are.  There are so many buildings, rows of stores and cars, and almost no one walking down the streets.  No wonder I was feeling alone.

I gave coins to some homeless people.  I refused others, because there were too many people around and I didn't want to get harassed by everyone.  Is it wrong of me to feel threatened, sometimes, by these people?  Often, I don't give money and it always makes me feel guilty, because it's as if I don't see them.

Once, when I was walking with my floor-mates in the area surrounding the school, we passed by a homeless person.  Then they commented on how "sobering it is to see that in this area."  They went on to discuss how you shouldn't give money to them, since they'll just spend it on alcohol and it's better to give them food, etc.  I don't know why, but the way they discussed it just annoyed me.  As if homelessness would be limited to the ghettos, as if every homeless person was just looking for a drink, as if a homeless person would want the same things that we think they want.

My oldest sister has been talking about me again, this time because of the major I picked.  I haven't talked to her at all, except to leave her a "happy new year" message on her answering machine.  It seems as if I have to deal with a scaled-down version of my roommate's problem - that of the validity of what I want to do with my life.  According to the expert sources (I am being sarcastic here), English is a nothing major that doesn't guarantee success or money in life.  It doesn't offer security, like a business or science major would.  I know that even if I tried to explain, she still wouldn't understand that money or security is not my end goal in life.  I don't want success, either, not the way she defines it.  I would much rather be content, if not happy, knowing that I have not wasted my life doing something I hated.

This is not the first time she's brought it up.  For her, the logic is that the more practical the major, the better chance you have of "making it" in the "real world."  A college degree, in the right major = success.  I have my doubts about what constitutes the "real world."  I loathe that phrase, because from what I've seen of this "real world" that people are always talking about, it seems an isolated and insulated world that thrives on its ignorance of the rest of the world.  Or am I just young?

I talk so confidently, but in reality I'm very scared.  I'm no closer than I was at the beginning to knowing exactly what I want to do with my life.  I'm really scared of becoming a teacher, knowing how difficult and unappreciative a life that can be.  I think, though, that I have more options than people think I do.  I am also considering going to grad school, although I want to work for a few years before I do, and if I go to grad school, I want to study graphic design or something in the arts.

There would be no point to life if all the questions were easy, right?

KCM      [Top of page]

"No Time..."     [Top of page]

Subject: Re: LL-286
Date: Sun, 28 Jan 2001
From: UGB  [Barbados / US]

You know something, it's strange that you never understand yourself and your country until you leave it.  That's how I feel right now.  It's kind of ironic.  So today my friends and I were talking about the earthquake in India (some of them are originally from India).  We all said how sad it was... and it got us to thinking about how fragile everything is, especially our lives.  We vowed that we would try to do everything we want to do in life - and then we all said that we had to go because we had to do homework.  Homework, work, everything keeps taking up the time that we have to do what we really want to do in life.  Why is that?  It makes me think that maybe I'll never get enough time.....


"The Economy"     [Top of page]

Subject: Re: LL-286
Date: Sun, 28 Jan 2001  -0600 (CST)
From: UMN  [US]

I'm still recuperating.  I guess it is going to take longer than when I was younger.  I finally had my last assessment on the foster care.  Now it's just the waiting process.  It sounds like there are changes there too.  Our Montgomery Ward stores are all out of business downtown.  They have been around for a long time.  It is like Sears.  There were 40 Sears stores closed and now I heard they are closing 55 J C Penny's stores.  Lots of companies have folded, and lots have laid off people to cut costs.  Who knows what's next and they sure don't give away bottles of wine and get a party.  I guess  anyone who has a job right now is lucky to have it.  The gas and light bills have gone up so high.  $300.00 a month is average.  It is about to the point you either eat or keep warm, but not both.  Those with lower incomes are having money problems.

Hey, I love fish - how do you prepare them there?  It sometimes gets rather ho-hum fixing it the same way.  I don't like raw fish or sea food like shrimp, clams and such - just something different.  The doctor says fish helps control my blood pressure.  Tell everyone hi.


"Computer Programer Blues"     [Top of page]

Subject: Re: LL-286
Date: Sun, 28 Jan 2001
From: SRV  [UK]

I have been reading these letters for some time now wondering whether to join in or not.  Now I am taking the plunge.  I am a freelance Computer Programmer (no, I am sure that it is nowhere near as exciting as you may have heard), and have just finished my latest contract, so I have a little time while trying to find more work.  The market here in the UK has not yet recovered from the slump just before the Millennium, but it is picking up.  We freelancers (or contractors as we are known here) are having a little problem with the Government (What, other countries have stupid governments too?), they told us that to do what we do we had to become Limited Companies, then they turn around and say we are not real companies and are just trying to cheat the taxman!  So we pay our company taxes, then we pay normal employee taxes as well (which we always did - they just want more now), plus we are not allowed to claim certain expenses after working at a client for a period of time (y'know, travel, subsistence, telephone etc.), we also become employees of that client, and to cap it all, they don't know how long that period should be nor how much we should or should not be allowed to keep.  And the government worries about the shortage of IT staff!

We Brits are world renowned for our moaning (or so I am told by my Canadian wife), so here is another moan!  Estate Agents!  (Realtors, property agents - whatever you call them.)  Now they cannot be as stupid as some of them make out(?).  We have finally moved into rented accommodation.  A nice little house in the country - used to be the Game Keeper's cottage for the estate.  Anyway, we contacted various Estate Agents over this wonderful Internet thingy and told them our price range and the type of house we wanted, in a rural area away from the city, (we have two German Shepherds).  Well, how many properties in the first 20 or so that we were sent came anywhere near to what we wanted do you think?  None, zilch, zippo!  "Nice one bedroom Apt, 10 mins from Waterloo station",  "Quiet house near centre of Birmingham", "Country estate only 4,500 pounds per month" (I wish I earned that - let alone earn enough to pay that much rent).  And when we finally contact some that seemed ok, "Well no I haven't actually been to the property but I am sure that it is nice".  When we came to see this property we asked how long it had been empty (about six months) - "Anyone been to see it?"  -  "No."  -  "Ok, when we sell our house, then if it is still available, we'll take it."  -  "Oh you had better give us a deposit or we can't guarantee that it will be still on the market, these type of properties go like hot cakes y'know"  Duh!  Goldfish memory or what?  We took the chance, and what do you know, two months later we were still the only ones to have seen it.

Anyway, I have babbled enough for my first time, next time I shall treat you to the joys of talking about the English weather, if you are very unlucky and nothing exciting happens in the meantime.

SRV      [Top of page]

"Visit to Karachi University"     [Top of page]

Subject: Your writings.
Date: Wed, 31 Jan 2001  +0500
From: PSC  [Pakistan]

I visited Karachi University yesterday.  My first visit since the inception of Pakistan.  I do not hold a university degree - but since the visit was sponsored by the Department of Fisheries of the Government of Sindh, I accepted.  While going round the museum, I had a lot to see and observe.  While talking to the professors about various subjects, I found that they were unable to answer one of my questions- namely, which shells are found in white sand, and which ones in black sand?  I will wait for their reply.

Regarding the Earthquake in India, tremors were also felt in Karachi, Pakistan where I live.  Luckily no damage was done here, except the rattling of doors and windows.


The middle of the night again!  I left the company right at six o'clock today - getting home early enough to get something done at home... but then there was a movie on TV I wanted to see - one of the "Otoko-wa Tsurai Yo" movies.  It's a series that ran for something like twenty years... they kept it going until the actor who played the main part died.  The movie series is worth writing about (I think I've mentioned something about it before), but not now.  I have to write a letter to the Prez asking for more money!  Now that I'm not working much overtime anymore, I'm not making enough money to pay the bills!

Sore dewa!,

Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon
Images Through Glass
Nishi-Shinjuku, Tokyo
April 14th, 2001
[Top of page]