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"Letter-Letter 296"
May 12th, 2001
"My Life Back?"
"Life in Southern California"  by KCM
"School Politics"  by SQP
"Running Short of Candle"  by Laf
"To Toronto & Back"  by CJK
"Italians"  by KTW
"Mechanical Designs"  by HHE
"Following Fools into Oblivion?"
"Unwinding"  by PBU
"Crows & Tires"  by CBB & LHS
"Only 24 Hours"  by CAI & LHS
"Turning Out to be a Nice Day..."  by GDJ
"A Bit More Diplomatic"
"Trip to Portland - Etc."  by MMH
"Refrigerator Car"
"Company Update"

"My Life Back?"     [Top of page]

I'm beginning to realize something about my job - and all the stuff I've been through there in the past year.  I'm not so bold as to make any predictions about what will happen there from this point on, but since I gave up on there being any position of real responsibility (and decent pay) there for me - and at the same time stopped trying to be part of that whacky group, things have felt better.  I use "felt" instead of "been" as it's difficult to say whether my battles there this year have in fact strengthened, or on the contrary, weakened my prospects, but the point is, in the larger sense I am feeling much more comfortable with myself, and am quite happy to get away from the entire office still working at 18:00 (generally by taking the emergency stairwell so people will be less inclined/able to say "Wait a minute..." - out of sight, out of mind...).  Beyond having my paycheck suddenly evaporate, I don't think it would even bother me much if I went there on Monday and the building was boarded up - with a sign saying the company was bankrupt.  So, contrary to feeling like I've lost something, I feel like I've wandered back to the path I strayed from when I gave all my waking hours to the company.  Now... I feel somewhat like I've gotten my life back.  A work in progress, there is nothing more to say right now, but in any case, I feel that firing the cannon while in harbor was entirely the right course of action.  Next step - find a better ship to sail... or build my own!

"Life in Southern California"     [Top of page]

Date: Thu, 08 Mar 2001  -0800
From: KCM  [US]

I went to a karaoke place on Friday night - which turned out to be really fun, and only cost $5 per person, because there's a $3 per hour per person deal for weeknights, or something like that.  It was a Japanese karaoke place, and we were there for about two hours.  Everyone was singing all these j-rock songs I didn't know, and there were no videos for the English songs - not even those cheap shots of people walking around.  The room was pretty big - and the sofas were really comfy.  Everyone drooled over the pretty j-rock boys and we sang along to some songs I don't know.  (Following the words on the screen is pretty easy in Japanese, I think.)  I think my Japanese has improved a bit... in reading at least.  Afterwards we went to dinner across the street in one of the rudest places ever.  The food was good, but the chow mein I ordered took forever to come - by the time my dish came, everyone else was halfway done.

The really messed up part came when the bill arrived.  On the receipt there was a "suggested tip" in addition to what we owed.  We mistakenly thought that the suggested tip had already been added to the rest of the meal, so we didn't leave a separate tip.  As we were getting up to leave, the manager comes out, notices there's no tip and goes to my friend and asks her why there's no tip.  "Was the service bad?" etc., and she says no, and as she realizes there's a misunderstanding, she starts to call the rest of us back, but then the manager gets really mean here and says "No, I don't think you misunderstood.  I remember you from last time, and you left less than a ten percent tip.  We are a business here, and we need the money.  If you are not willing to pay us what we deserve, then I would appreciate it if you would not come here again."  Well, that's approximately what she said.  I was very angry about it, so I left before she finished.  We all left without paying tips because we were so annoyed.  What the heck?  If you are absolutely required to pay a 15% tip, they should factor it in - they shouldn't be demanding a tip.  So if you've got any friends planning to visit the j-strip in L.A., tell them not to go to that restaurant.

Saturday I went for my interview at the Museum of Contemporary Art, and I'm kind of scared that I messed it up.  The bus took forever to get there, even though the website said it would only take an hour.  I was supposed to be there by 12:00, and even though I left at 10:00, I didn't get there until 12:50.  Luckily, the interviewers were all late too!  We were all group interviewed, and it totally screwed me over because I was not prepared for it at all.  I stuttered and stumbled over my words.  I couldn't think of anything good to say... everyone was older than me and seemed much more confident and relaxed.  I couldn't stop fidgeting and my hands were shaking more than usual.  Everyone was really nice though.

Afterwards I checked out the gallery and one of the security people hit on me.  It was this guy, Latino, I think, probably in his thirties - he sort of just came up to me and started talking.  I was getting terrified but I kept smiling anyway.  I didn't want to be mean to him, because he was being nice, but I just wanted to get away.  Finally I told him I was getting on the shuttle to Little Tokyo for the festival, and he said he would see me there.  He told me his name as I left and said he would see me there.  I avoided him the rest of the time I was there, and he thought I was Japanese and didn't speak English.

I wandered around the gallery a bit, looking at the artwork and getting told not to touch anything, which bothered me.  Some things were made for touching, you know?  I wasn't even allowed to touch the glass cases.

I left and got on the shuttle to Little Tokyo, because there was another gallery there.  I went in and looked around... my favorite piece was this one where there was an old suitcase that opened up into what looked like a gutter, and when you looked down, you saw an artificial pond, lit up and filled with flowers and grass... it was really beautiful.

I left and wandered through little Tokyo, trying to find the Mitsuwa Mall.  I found it and bumped into my friends, although I half expected them not to be there.  It was fun, and I bought a calendar and a comic book.  I went off with them and we just went around to the bookstores and little shops.  We were actually there because it was Girls' Day, and we thought there might be a festival, but there was no sign of one.  We stayed and wandered around for awhile anyway.

We split up before dinner, because some of us wanted to go back to the dorms.  I stayed for dinner and we went to this neat little place on the outskirts of the main plaza.  I forget what it's called, but I remember where it is.  Inside, we were the only customers for a while and the waiter was also our cook.  He was kind of cute. ^^   The food was really good - and this time we made sure to pay exact tips because we liked them.  They also had cute T-shirts for sale.  Maybe I'll go there again this weekend when my sister comes.

We got on the subway and then waited forever for the bus to come - and then the bus driver was in a crabby mood, being mean to everyone.

When I got back, my roommate was invited to go over to her friend's apartment.  They had just made up after a long period of silence and it was a gesture of good will, and possibly, he wanted a hookup.  The only reason I went was for the Cantonese movie.  She also got another friend to come along.

By the time we got there, the movie was almost over.  Alcohol arrived (my roommate had requested vodka with cranberry juice to chase it) and we began drinking games.  It was really fun, in a weird sort of way.  Everyone just started bouncing off the walls and talking.  It wasn't anything too outrageous.  Since it was my first time drinking vodka, I made sure to drink it slowly so I wouldn't get too drunk.

And so that was my weekend.

Somehow I feel like I should be feeling guilty for drinking.  I'm just not.  I wasn't pressured into it; there were other things to drink besides alcohol, but I guess I just wanted to try it.  Ah well, it's not as if this happens too often.

I cleaned up the language above.  I think I've been cussing more and more since college began.


PS  I got the position I applied for at MOCA!!  Now, if only I could find a way to get there by bus - before nine without having to get up at six in the morning.     [Top of page]

"School Politics"     [Top of page]

Subject: Re:LL-289
Date: Fri, 9 Mar 2001  -0600
From: SQP

While I can't honestly say that I'm familiar with office politics, I know a lot about high school politics - and yes, they do exist.  It's even worse at a fine arts school like mine, because we have to deal with real politics too.  Right now we're facing probation and a 14.4% budget cut, while normal schools are only getting a 4.1% budget cut.  The governor of Alabama is cutting funding for arts and for primary education.  Now isn't THAT special?  Everybody in the creative writing department, which is what I'm in, is using Friday mornings, which are usually our free period, to write letters to the senator on the finance committee.  My creative writing workshop teacher, who is the head of the department, now thinks I'm the best thing since sliced bread because one of the senators on the finance committee lives down the street from my grandparents, so I volunteered to hand-deliver the letters we write to him and talk to him personally.  The main problem with these budget cuts is that only 15% of our school's budget is set aside for operating the school.  The rest is for paying teachers.  You can't cut 14.4% from 15%, so they'll have to cut teachers.  We're all hoping my English teacher will get fired.  She's stupid.  She has said that a parenthetical statement is a statement set off from a sentence by commas, and also that irony and suspense are the same thing.

Well, enough about high school politics.  I have a lab paper to write for science.  Write back soon, and have a good day!


"Running Short of Candle"     [Top of page]

Subject: Issues of Today
Date: Sun, 11 Mar 2001
From: Laf  [US]

.............  About my week... it has had some pretty low points.  I am being forced to face some realities that I wasn't really ready to face.

I am beginning to accept that my health may not allow me to continue for much longer burning the candle at both ends.  I am running out of candle.  The translation to that rather cryptic couple of sentences is simple.  I may not be able to keep working as many hours as I do currently.  The really troubling reality is that the nature of the position demands just that commitment of time and effort.  Which means that cutting back could cost me the position.  Then I have to ask myself which is more important, the job (which I do enjoy) or my health (which is deteriorating a bit more every day).  I guess I have a little more thinking to do... probably not much though.  I expect another session with the doctor reading me the riot act should just about do it.  She has been telling me for months that I shouldn't work more than three days a week.  I just haven't been paying attention...

I don't suppose I have to tell you that from a health standpoint, this has not been a great week.  The migraines won more than I did.  Let's leave it at that.  I sure hope your week was better.

You know it's funny, but on mornings like this when I am all alone in the house (everyone else went out shooting.  I was supposed to go, but was afraid to take a chance on triggering a replay of yesterday when the head was awful the entire day), that I really recognize the enormous value I place on my Internet friendships.  Sometimes the very distance allows us to talk about things we probably wouldn't with anyone else face to face.  There are different and wonderful facets to a cyber friendship that do not exist in our so called "real worlds".  Do I sound like I have lost my mind?  I hope not.

The flower arranging class is, at this point, one of the few high points in my life.  My house has begun to resemble a garden.  Every week I bring home the live class project.  Then all week I replicate it in silk.  By the time it dies, I have so many lovely copies in silk that the image I worked on will never die.  Aabbb says he loves it - that the flowers make the house warm.  He has suggested that I might want to sell a few of the arrangements.  He, and all of the family and friends feel I could make a lot of money selling them.  I am certain there may be a certain amount of bias there, but maybe I could sell some of them.  I do enjoy making them.  Oh well... time will tell.  That is another decision I am not quite ready to make yet.


Laf      [Top of page]

"Slllluuuurrrrp!"     [Top of page]
(Yotsuya  2001/05/14)

I started my Monday back in the JW Office by dialing in lots of sound on my headphones to drown out the noise of people yakking away just behind me so I could concentrate on my work - and after listening to one CD, took it off to give my ears a respite from the audio onslaught.  I love music, and can listen to it almost endlessly through good speakers, but listening through cheap headphones is fatiguing after a bit.  So... I had a momentary feeling of my head being free from the headphones... until Mr. Ochitsuita, the guy sitting at the next desk to mine, started slurping his coffee... something he always does when drinking (whywhywhyheyheyIdon'tknow!), so the headphones had to go back on until he finished.  You probably think the title "Slllluuuurrrrp!" is an exaggeration, so I have this desire to send an audio file or something.  But the LL-Letter doesn't include attachments, and there's no recording to send anyway, so just accept my invitation to drop by the office at 12:02 p.m. Tokyo time on May 14th, 2001 when you next have access to a time machine so you can hear for yourself!  When you drop by, say hello to the guy in the corner typing this... who will be off in the future by the time you come by - that way, I can see if I suddenly have a new memory about something that didn't happen today until some time later.....

Back to work I had better go - I'm working on a rather sophistic bit of text for the company's website.  Rewriting is generally much more tiring than just writing something from zero... and there is something fatiguing about language anyway.  I think I can easily imagine that complicated language is something fairly new to the human brain - which would explain the difficulty in learning foreign languages combined with the speed that they are forgotten!  ....... no more procrastinating.  Talk to you later!

"To Toronto & Back"     [Top of page]

Subject: Monday night...
Date: Tue, 13 Mar 2001
From: CJK  [Canada]

It has been a while since I have taken a moment to e-mail you with what I am up to these days, but things have been so crazy that I have not had the chance.  I went to Toronto on January 31st and stayed with my older sister for a week to visit, and attend an audition for the National Ballet of Canada's Company Apprenticeship/Post-Secondary Program.  The audition was quite the experience, it was of a way higher magnitude than any others that I have done up until this point.  But it went fairly respectably, all things considered.  I have not been definitely accepted for next year, but they are going to consider me for next year's program when I attend their summer school during July.  It was also a great chance to spend some time in Toronto, and to hang out with my sister who I have not seen much of since she moved there three years back.  I grabbed the chance to take some classes at another studio that my sister hooked me up with, and watched some classes at her school.  As it happened, Risa Steinberg, a noted modern dance instructor and performer from New York, was guest teaching at my sister's studio that week, so I had a chance to see her teach as well.  I also caught a few shows that were running while I was there - this brilliant puppeteer, who does his entire show using marionettes, and also performs all of the characters.  I also saw some other dance shows.  I was able to meet up with a friend from back here in Edmonton, who moved to Toronto last fall to attend the National Ballet school.  So for a couple of afternoons, I hit the town with him and his girlfriend from Connecticut that I hadn't met before then.  They showed me around town a bit, and hit their usual circuit of sushi joints and coffee shops.  My sister's three roommates that she shares a house with in the East York area of Toronto are all really great too.  Anyhow, overall it was a great trip and I had a good time.

I arrived back here on Tuesday the 6th at about 4:30, and had to be whisked back into the city for a 5:30 rehearsal with my ballet company.  I made it on time, alive, but a wee bit tired out.  I then had an in-house audition on Thursday the 8th for my Intermediate Cecchetti Exam.  These exams are a fairly big deal, they have to bring in a qualified examiner from (usually) Britain, or eastern Canada.  What I am trying for this year is the Intermediate exam of the three major grades, Elementary, Intermediate, Advanced.  These levels come after Cecchetti levels one through six, and each one of the major grades tends to take two years to complete.  Anyway, I digress.  The directors of my ballet school have said that they are happy with my work, and have entered me to do the exam for the next session, which should take place in early June.

Then the weekend after that, the dance company put on its annual valentines dinner show and silent auction.  It went really well and was a good time, but I fell extremely ill about two days after that, which caused me to be pretty much bedridden for the remainder of the week with intense nausea and no strength at all.  It was quite unpleasant.  But I managed to survive, and gained most of the strength and lost ground back really quickly.

The remainder of this month has been spent madly doing rehearsals for the ballet schools spring show, which is next Sunday.  I have a number of lead roles in various pieces in that, so there have been some grueling rehearsals.  And just in the past week I performed with my orchestra at the public school board's annual night of music on Wednesday night, and then at a ballet demo at an open house for the school on Thursday.  There was videotaping for a show that the contemporary girls from my studio put on on Friday night, and then I attended another show Saturday night that was a collective performance involving a whole bunch of studios from around the city.  .................

CJK      [Top of page]

"Italians"     [Top of page]

Subject: Italians
Date: Sat, 14 Apr 2001  -0400
From: KTW  [US]

It never occurred to me that as a citizen of the United States I was American because Americans were people who ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on mushy white bread.  I ate pepper and egg or eggplant sandwiches on Italian bread.  For me as most second generation Italian-American children who grew up in the 1940's and 1950's, there was a definite distinction between "us and them".  Everybody else, the Jews, Irish, Polish and Germans were "Med-e-gons".  We were Italians.  There wasn't any hate or prejudice, we were just sure we and our way of life was the best.

My parents bought household goods from a Jewish man who came weekly to collect a dollar.  A German man came with an organ and a monkey who collected coins in a tin cup.  We had our own milk man, a fish man, a vegetable man and a man who sharpened our knives and scissors and repaired our umbrellas.  An Italian man delivered ice daily until he died at ninety, maintaining that his homemade red wine was the secret of his longevity.  My father then bought an electric refrigerator.  My parents knew their distinctive yells and waited for each peddler.  They seldom went to a store like the "Med-e-gons" who shopped at the A&P or Food Fair.

It amazed me that Americans ate turkey usually on Thanksgiving or Christmas.  We Italians did too but after we finished the antipasto, soup, pasta and meatballs.  Sometimes Mom cooked a roast for those who might pop in and didn't like turkey.  And Christmas Eve.... all that fish and macaroni with clam or crab gravy... and after midnight out came all the meats.  Then there was the homemade cookies, pies, pastries and even ice cream.  I learned to eat a seven course meal in five hours.  Sunday I would wake to the smell of garlic and onions frying and then heard the hissing sound of the tomatoes dropping into the hot olive oil.  It was macaroni and gravy day, the "Med-e-gons" called it pasta and sauce day.

Another difference was the gardens, they had flower gardens but we had "gardens".  Huge gardens growing tomatoes, peppers, basil, eggplant and squash.  Some with a fig tree and a grape vine for homemade wine.  Our gardens thrived because we had grandfathers to care for them.  It's not that the Americans didn't have grandfathers, it's just that they didn't tend the gardens with the same loving care.  And my grandmother... telling me in Italian how she passed through Ellis Island, was widowed and raised five children without welfare.

She never learned to speak English and wore mourning black forty years.  She dried homemade macaroni on my uncles bed.  She bought live eels and kept them alive and fresh in the bath tub until she cooked them for my father on New Years Eve.  It was great fun to watch them swim. I remember the holidays when all the relatives would gather at my grandparents house.  Tables full of food and homemade wine with music.  Women in the kitchen and men in the living room... and kids... kids everywhere.  And my grandfather sitting in his chair smoking a cigar and sipping a glass of homemade red wine watching his grandchildren with a twinkle in his eye.  He made stainless steel pipes and attached them to the exhaust of a standup vacuum cleaner.  At twelve midnight on New Years Eve, he turned it on.  The whistle was heard all over the county.

He gave me my first baseball bat that he made on his wood lathe.  As a birthday present he gave me a bicycle he put together from used parts.  My grandparents are gone now.  When they died, relatives drifted apart - family gatherings were fewer and eventually ended.  The last of the good homemade wine has long since been drunk and when winter comes, no one covers the fig tree or the swing in the back yard.  Someone else lives in their house now but I can still see the 1940 black Pontiac parked in the driveway.

My grandparents were Italian-Italians, my parents were Italian-Americans and I am an American, just as my grandparents wanted me to be but I will always be Italian.  I have been blessed to have such wonderful memories of such wonderful grandparents.  It's sad that my son will never get to know them.

KTW      [Top of page]

"Mechanical Designs"     [Top of page]

Subject: Re: Gears
Date: Sat, 17 Mar 2001  -0600
From: HHE  [US]

After reading your thoughts on good mechanical designs, I thought of how I love to see the same thing.  I recently replaced the outside (3) bib faucets at my home with ball valves.  The main reason was for myself and my wife because of ease of operation (arthritis in hands makes it difficult to operate gate valve-type faucets - especially as the valves get older... and the operator, too!).  These ball valves are very common in chemical plants as they are positive shutoff valves, quick to operate and are not as subject to failure (read leak).  A very simple concept and yet so utilitarian - I wonder why they are not used around homes.  Water is a very precious commodity and one that is wasted.  And that leads to a story.

When I was transferred (1960's) from here in the Houston area to corporate headquarters in an eastern suburb of Cleveland, Ohio, the people there were sympathizing that I had to be transferred "from that nice, dry climate to a really humid place like Cleveland".  I laughed and told them they obviously had never experienced a Gulf Coast summer when it can be 95 degrees and 90 percent humidity.  Then I added they had the Houston area confused with west Texas.  Out there, I told them, they don't throw water in your face if you faint, they throw sand as the water is in such short supply.  They rolled their eyes and considered me another "tall Texas tale-teller"


"Following Fools into Oblivion?"     [Top of page]
(Yotsuya  May 16th, 2001  16:16)

An absolutely perfect moment weather and air-wise in Tokyo.  After raining all day, the window is open - the sky is dramatic heavy-cloud-gray with bright white clouds on the horizon dramatically highlighting the high-rises oh so clearly seen all the way over there on the west side of Shinjuku Station.  That bit of elation expressed.....

I received a letter from one of my Chinese-American e-pals who was upset about a US television "miniseries" called "The Lost Empire".  She commented:

"I watched it and couldn't take my eyes off it.  Everything was so offensive.  I suppose the fact that it was written by an Asian American man meant that Hollywood thought, 'Yeah, this is cool!  Look, a lotta Asian people - that's diverse!  And look, an Asian guy wrote it, so there's nothing wrong with it!'"

From the standpoint of someone in the majority, this sort of criticism always seems to be nit-picky, but now that I'm a member of an extreme minority here in Japan, I know exactly how my friend feels in the US.  There is (almost!) nothing more irritating for me than a dim-wit American on TV here in Japan talking of Americans in general as if they know exactly what Americans are, as though it's something simply defined... and most irritating of all - as though they are also speaking for me.

"Good gaijin / bad gaijin".  The "good gaijin" either stay stupid or grovel in the muck, and the "bad gaijin" are either demons with horns and fangs or else devious troublemakers.  Sound familiar?  Same story over here - and since I'm wearing the suit myself, I'm pretty sensitive to the racist junk on TV... some of which is extremely offensive.  (I could go into extensive detail on this topic, but I'd rather not - it would lead to accusations of "bashing".)

My point?  That there are no nations of androids.  Like it or not, every nation is composed of human beings.  At different periods of history, different types of people impose their ideas on the larger group, but no one has it all figured out.  Sooo..... if the fools making that type of television show are to persist in doing so, then people would be doing themselves a favor not to watch that junk.

This is a topic I feel like going on and on and on about, but it's so hard to convey the frustration - the rage of being made a fool of by fools.  Following fools into oblivion is anyone's choice, but no good comes of it......

"Unwinding"     [Top of page]

Subject: Saturday - Sunday - Monday
Date: Sun, 18 Mar 2001  -0000
From: PBU  [Pakistan / UK]

.........  It's nice to have little get-togethers within your department.  It's good for unwinding and also repairs conflicts among the staff.  We do have these occasionally.  To be physically tired is not a problem for me, but mental tension due to working with certain colleagues can be more tiresome.  This past weekend I did my emergency duty at the hospital and I was lucky this time, as there were very few patients, so I was able to relax and take it easy.

In a few days, I'm going to attend a refresher course for resuscitation, which will be in the same hospital where I work.  I'll be attending a similar course in May, and in July I'm visiting my parents in Pakistan again.  Then I have an exam which I have been putting off... I've been telling myself for the last two years that I need to take that exam... and now I really need to get it done this year.  The Jersey weather is gradually improving, with winter gradually fading away, which is nice.


"Crows & Tires"     [Top of page]

Date: Tue, 20 Mar 2001
From: CBB  [Canada]

Well today is the first day of spring and last night was the first time I saw the crows back, so I guess that is a really good sign.  I was glad to hear their cawing in the tree outside - I am sure in a couple of weeks when they start doing that at the break of dawn I will not be as impressed.....

We are a busy household once more with the arrival of my husband for an extended stay at home between job calls.  Nothing like mucking up a perfectly good routine.  Aabbb and me had everything down to a fine art... but the good part is, the truck I drive now has new tires and as of later today, will have a new exhaust system.  He doesn't like the vehicles having anything done in the shop, so he does it himself, but when he isn't home for awhile, things get neglected.  I think next week, with it being spring break for Aabbb, we will start working on the upstairs and giving the bedrooms a bit of a facelift.  I can hardly wait.....  This should be Bbccc's last week at home here with us for awhile - they are finished laying the concrete at the one hog barn and they have to wait for the ground to dry up a bit before they can start working on the other hog barn.  He is not impressed with the break, but I am - the influx of the males into this household has really left the place in an uproar.



Crows are a year-long fixture in Tokyo, so I've gotten used to them being around all year round (living off of the city garbage I guess?).  Robins used to mean spring for me, but I've never seen one here in Japan (not that I remember anyway), certainly not in Tokyo.  What spring means for me is that I stop being perpetually cold in my semi-heatable apartment...  As a Japanese e-pal living in the US told me "Tokyo isn't very cold" - which is true, and is exactly why it was (is... but less so recently) possible to build apartments with no insulation at all ("no" as in zero, zilch, zippo), so come winter, the fact that Tokyo doesn't get really-really cold means that people are not dropping dead from the cold, but this is not the Caribbean, so when you have no insulation in your home, it's much like camping in a cabin in the woods, and so you have to dress warmly all the time - not just when you go outside.  I don't mind wearing extra clothing, but I can't type with gloves on, so my hands are always cold.....  As I'm typing, my hands begin to hurt from the cold - when I can't ignore it any longer, I stop and sit on them for a bit - and then resume typing until they are in pain again... and for this reason, Tokyo is a very cold place for me.  If/when, When/if I move to a dwelling in Tokyo that is actually warm in the winter (such luxury!), then Tokyo will cease to be such a cold city for me and spring will have some other meaning than just that my hands can painlessly dance on the keyboard.      [Top of page]

"Only 24 Hours"     [Top of page]

Subject: TVs, etc. and just general
Date: Sun, 18 Mar 2001  -0600
From: CAI  [US]

.................  Do any of you have a 52 inch television?

I am busy getting ready for Spring... doing the spring house cleaning the next few weekends.  After our long winter and with five animals with in the house, it needs it desperately.  With the long hours that my husband and I both work, sometimes twelve-hour days, we do not have time for much else.  When will the work load lessen?  I can just imagine all of you working your long hours and with hardly any time for the computer or much of anything else.  I sometimes wish that there were more than 24 hours in a day.  But then I suppose there would be that much more to do!


(2001/05/20  Nishi-Shinjuku)  Not enough time - I certainly understand that sentiment!  This year I've cut way back on the overtime, but now I'm not making enough money to pay the bills!  Luckily I had a private student from an old company class I taught before who had a lesson with me after work on Friday, so the money she paid me for the lesson bought some food that'll tide me over until another private student who owes me for a couple of lessons wires me the money on Monday or Tuesday.  And there's still another private student who pays me cash for each lesson, so the sporadic English lessons I still teach are the only reason I'm eating this month!  This is what I meant when I said that I couldn't afford to buy that FM-2 camera body!  No more hardware purchases for awhile!

"Turning Out to be a Nice Day..."     [Top of page]

Subject: Re: LL-292
Date: Sat, 14 Apr 2001  -0500
From: HHE  (USA/Texas)

Correction on the comment in LL-292 that the boss is always the boss.  It should read "The Boss isn't always right, but the Boss is always the Boss."

And a humorous note to SRV in the UK.  When I was traveling to our plants in Europe and other spots in the world, I really enjoyed the visits with my Brit friends.  And, knowing I was a Texan, there was a lot of friendly kidding - especially after hours in the pubs around Bromborough.  On the subject of weather, I would plaintively tell them that I wanted to come visit on "their day of summer" - which always caused a number of ribald comments about "bloody colonialists".  All of this was in good fun and accompanied, usually, by a call for another round.  Knowing I was a fairly good golfer, they coaxed me out on a golf course one Saturday in November in about 1978.  Not sure now, but I think it was the Bromborough Golf Club.  The temperature was in the high 40's, misting rain, a breeze coming in off the Irish Sea and cloudy.  About the 3rd hole, one of them said that he thought it was turning out to be a nice day.  My reply was to the effect that he shouldn't try to BS a Texan because all Texans are BS artists.  They thought that was hilarious.  I had all the clothes on I could wear and still swing a club and was still miserable.  The borrowed shoes didn't fit and I finished the round playing in my stockinged feet on #17 and 18.  The only thing that made it bearable was the company.  A memorable day.


"Nonsense?"     [Top of page]

A while back, someone was asking me about the meaning of the LL Letters, and if I was interested in philosophy or something.  I've misplaced the original file of that letter, but I recently came across part of my answer that I had saved separately for possible inclusion in here.  I'm very tempted to delete it, but while it embarrasses me, I still think it makes at least a little bit of sense, and partially explains why I am producing this.  In reading it again, I think I've ended up thinking in an Eastern way - which looks a little like double-think in English, but makes complete sense over here.  With that prelude, here's the quote from my own letter:

"The meaning of the letters is this- that there is profound in the mundane and mundane in the profound.  In diving into profundity, you drown in something very mundane.  On the other hand, in the most mundane things all around is an incomprehensible profundity.  How to get profound?  Understand the undercurrents to ordinary things....... "

"A Bit More Diplomatic"     [Top of page]

Another company letter - but this one I took pains to write diplomatically, which seems to have been the right course of action as it clarified the problem and doesn't seem to have created any hard feelings - on the contrary, Ms. Honyaku has reverted to her former cheerful self... after being rather unfriendly for a few weeks.  Who knows where these things start, but judiciously sent e-mail (careful use of To:,CC: & BCC:) is a very effective defense/offense against malicious use of malleable spoken words.


Firstly, "Gokuro-sama!", as I know you have a lot of translation work to do, and the projects you have recently sent to me are of the sort that makes any translator tired.  By comparison, I suppose my job looks easier - and sometimes I suppose it is, but oftentimes it's quite tiring as well!  All steps of converting the Japanese language into English (and vice-versa) are tiring ones!  So - I understand you are under a lot of pressure, but we'll need to go over that material together to finalize it (ref. my e-mail dated May 15th).

Also I'm concerned about something that happened today.  Mr. Aruchu came over to my desk and asked me if I had finished the Aabbb-Inc. files that he thought you had sent me the day before yesterday.  I answered that I had not - to which Mr. Aruchu said that you had told him I was informed of their existence already.  I was very surprised to hear this for the following reasons:

1) To the best of my recollection, you didn't say anything to me about those files yesterday, today, or any other day.

2) When I checked, I was able to verify that you had sent the two Aabbb-Inc. files to me late in the afternoon yesterday - the date/time stamps (on the files in the share folder on the company network) indicating 01/05/16 17:05 and 01/05/16 18:10, certainly not the day before yesterday, and late enough in the day yesterday that there wasn't enough time to do them - even if I had actually been informed of their existence, which I was not.  This put me in a tight spot when I found out today that Mr. Aruchu needed them ASAP.

3) Something is wrong here.  Of the three people involved in this; Mr. Aruchu, you, and myself, there is a clear communication breakdown when statements contrary to reality are being made.

I suppose it doesn't matter very much if those statements were honestly or maliciously made (by whoever) - simply the fact that they were made is a professional problem, so I'll ignore the morality angle.  I would just like to say this:

Let's work together a little more here - it's in all of our best interests!      [Top of page]

"Trip to Portland - Etc."     [Top of page]

Subject: Dose of MMH .03/23/01
Date: Fri, 23 Mar 2001  -0800
From: MMH  [US]

I am feeling much better this week.  My flu is still hanging on - manifested in a lingering cough, but gone is the high fever and aching body.  Aabbb is still suffering through a lot of the symptoms - although she appears to be past the worst of it.  Good thing, as today we are going to Portland.

This will be a business trip for Aabbb.  She has a seminar to attend.  I plan on getting a bit of work done myself.  I am overhauling my database and adding a lot of new names.  In the past, this would mean just adding the names in, but I have found that I have a lot of duplicates and old entries that need to be edited.  Already I have tossed some 2000 entries.  (I wonder if talking about databases is as boring as talking about one’s kids or dogs?)

Speaking of which, I have to take Bbccc (our Great Dane of five years) in to the kennel.  This requires pillows in the back of the car, as well as all of his other gear (more pillows, toys, eating bowls, food, medication and horse blanket) into the trunk.  The plan is that I gas the car up at noon, drop off the dog, and head down to Olympia where Aabbb works.  We will then head down to Portland some 2-3 hours away depending on traffic.  Thankfully, I have the laptop that Aabbb gave me for Christmas and I will load it up with work to do.

The season is warming up, and I think in another week I will have to start up the weed-wacker and hack down the winter's growth in the lawn.  Thus will start a weekly mowing schedule that I am not looking forward to at all.

On the plus side of things.  The special pepper for the birdfeed has arrived.  This stuff is great.  You mix it in with the seed.  Squirrels hate the taste and will keep away after a few tastings.  The birds don’t taste the pepper at all, it is just a form of vitamin b for them.  The birds are coming back in droves.  I need to get some more seed and set the birdbath up again.  I dismantled it when the weather was freezing because it just iced up and frustrated the birds.

My Dad called last night.  He was hoping I could stop by over the weekend.  My Aunt is visiting again.  And while my Dad is fond of all his relations, too much of my Aunt makes him want to reach for the meat cleaver.  I told him that I could not run interference for him because I was going to be out of town.  I am sure he is making alternative plans that will keep him from having to make a court appearance later.

MMH      [Top of page]

"Refrigerator Car"     [Top of page]
(May 21st, 2001  Yotsuya)

Nationalities are given characters by those who don't know them well.  Over here in Japan I have often heard that "Americans are friendly" (I know for a fact that while many Americans are indeed friendly, certainly not all of them are!), and when I lived in the US, there was this image of French being romantic and Japanese being "subtle".  Having believed in that image to a certain extent while I patted myself on the back for not believing in stereotypes (the mechanical intellectual decision is the easy part - getting it into your bones takes years), I ended up being surprised/dismayed at many instances of Japanese insensitivity - a definite lack of subtlety for some things... some things... like temperature management!  I was again reminded of this fact as I stood in an overly air-conditioned train car this morning hoping that I would be able to get off before catching pneumonia.  It's got to be getting better, but I still see many of the locals I come in contact with operating thermostats this way:

It's winter - and since it's cold outside, Ms. Donkan turns on the electric heater - but as it's a heat pump, the room doesn't get warmer very soon, so she turns the thermostat up almost all the way to 30 degrees.  Forgetting about it for a while, the room gets warmer and warmer... and (surprise-surprise!) hot, as the temperature gets up around 27-28 degrees.  What course of action does our friend Ms. Donkan take next?  She turns the thermostat all the way down to 16 degrees!  The room gradually cools off - and everything is happy-great with the world until... (surprise-surprise!) it gets cold!  Next step?  Turn the thermostat back up to 30 degrees!  I have tried in vain to explain to several people that setting the thermostat to 30 degrees instead of 25 doesn't get the room warmer any faster, and setting it to 16 degrees likewise doesn't make the room cooler any faster than setting the thermostat to 25.  I have tried to explain the workings of air conditioning units and how the thermostat should be used, but it's always in vain!  I have given up!  The funny thing is, in giving up on logical and scientific operation of heating/cooling systems, the situation doesn't bother me as much... why get bent out of shape about something that can no more be changed than the weather?  (Excuse the sarcasm, but it's awfully close to reality!)

If I were living in Los Angeles without a car, I would find it difficult to get around the city - but some other things that are bothering me on the west side of the Pacific wouldn't enter my conscious thinking at all.  And so it is here - if I need to go somewhere in Tokyo - while I often dread hours of standing on crowded trains - there is never any question about being able to get anywhere, as there is a very extensive and well-run train system that will get you virtually anywhere, generally without much walking time after you exit the train.

What's my point?  Mmmmm...... just that people probably would do themselves a favor to look around at the world and see the advantages/disadvantages offered by certain customs/cultures.  Wait a minute... that's sort of true, but that's not the point.....  I think again of there being "profound in the mundane".  What people do with thermostats really doesn't matter, but the way they use them being an indication of how they think - the simple action becomes a tiny bit of information tied in with a huge wealth of... of... history? Culture? Tradition? ... Something!      [Top of page]

"Company Update"     [Top of page]
(May 22nd, 2001  Yotsuya)

Let's see... what's going on at the Jungle Warfare Office lately.....  There was an event that they asked me to videotape, to which I agreed.  No other information was forthcoming, so I asked the guy in charge of logistics for the event what it was he wanted me to capture on tape:

Me:  "Do you specifically need all of the speech parts with the speakers' faces on the screen?"

Mr. Seiruzu:  "No, just walk around and capture the atmosphere of the event - with a few minutes of close ups of the speakers."

I did just that, and just as I expected, the Prez didn't like it and complained - saying I should have left the camera on the different speakers faces for the entirely of their speeches.  I commented that in that case, the company should have had two cameras - one to sit on a tripod, locked onto the speaker's faces, and another to roam about the convention room.  I mentioned my pre-event conversation with Mr. Seiruzu, and Prez called him into his office, repeating the charges... to which Mr. Seiruzu repeated what I had said about two cameras...  That went back and forth for a bit, and my nearly extinct respect for the Prez dropped a bit lower still.....

I sort of felt bad for bringing trouble to Mr. Seiruzu, whether or not it was my fault not being the point, so I later sent him this e-mail:

Date: Mon, 21 May 2001  +0900
From: Lyle Saxon <lylesaxon@prezcon.com>
To: Mr. Seiruzu <seiruzu@prezcon.com>


I apologize for the thundershower in Mr. Prez's office.  He was basically telling me that I was an idiot for not taking the entire speech, so I ended up saying that I had talked with you beforehand and you had indicated that it wasn't necessary to videotape 100% of the speakers.  I guess I should have just said nothing except "sorry-sorry-sorry".......


I'm beginning to get a handle on why people are so unfriendly at that crazy place - the Prez makes all and sundry feel bad about whatever (their own mistakes as well as the Prez's), so they end up feeling very defensive and ready to attack anyone who is in range... resulting in everyone attacking one another.  It's crazy.  This combined with recent losses of important clients and a lack of new ones... it seems that the ship might in fact sink.  I've got to find another ship before this one goes down.......

(2001/05/23  4:11 a.m.  Nishi-Shinjuku)  I went to lunch with one of the employees today who told me that another two people are quitting the company - one a surprise, as he's one of the top management guys - Mr. Ebaru (who I've earlier reported having trouble with!), and the other guy, Mr. Karaoke, someone I had figured it was just a matter of time before he left - a writer (with a powerful singing voice) who told me out on the company balcony in the afternoon that he was going to work on his novel after quitting.  Good luck to him I say - as he is a likable person, and is one of the few people at the JW Office I never had trouble with.

Speaking of trouble there... I've noticed that the people who do well there are those who are skillful at lying and deceit, so not fitting in with that bunch is a badge of honor.  Supposedly the company's business is one of bridge building - almost providing a service to humankind... but the reality is that it is little more than glorified advertising and trickery.  Oh boy... I think I better jump ship!  I'm in danger of becoming permanently cynical!

Sore dewa!

Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon
Images Through Glass
Nishi-Shinjuku, Tokyo
May 23rd, 2001
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