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"Letter-Letter 297"
May 26th, 2001
"Small Mistakes - Big Headaches"
"Trip to New Zealand"  by SZS
"The Cat & the Crows"
"Free Help Here"  by KCM & LHS
"From Mr. Nice-Guy to Mr. 41-Thorns"
"I Love My Neighbors..."  by MMH
"At Virgin Records In Shinjuku"
"You Can Go... Wait!  No!"  by IVJ
"Ice Cream, Makeup, a New Computer, & a Non-Melting Pot"  by KCM
"New Rooms and a Trailer"  by CBB
"Spring Performance at the Main Theatre" by CJK
"The New Patio Set"  by MMH
"Internet Radio?"
"JW Office Update"

"Small Mistakes - Big Headaches"     [Top of page]

Another work week over.  So, what's happened this week... work was going along fairly uneventfully, and then Thursday happened.  I guess you never know what's going to happen - if I had known what sort of day it would be, I might have called in sick!

It started off fairly normally, I walked through the rain to the station, and took the train that gets me to work at about 10:15 (the company has quasi-flex time, meaning that it's tolerable that I come at 10:15, but they would prefer that I come at 10:00).  I pulled my card from the time card rack, pushed the "In" button, and then put the card in the machine (a semi-automatic deal that grabs the card, pulls it into the machine, stamps the time on it, and then spits it back out), I took the card from the machine after it had been stamped, put it back in the rack and headed for my desk in the corner - saying "Ohayo-gozaimasu" ("Good morning") to the two women who work nearest my desk (Ms. Ahobaka & Ms. Warukunai) who are basically the company's telephone operators, but they are never called that) on the way.

I put my backpack under my desk, and noticing that the window was wide open, I looked nervously at the back of my computer, which is very near to the window... and... it was wet!!!  It wasn't drippy-drippy, looks-like-it-was-dropped-in-a-swimming-pool wet, but there was water on the back of the machine where everything plugs in.  I wiped it off and (stupid of me) powered it up.  It seemed to come on normally, but after getting past the double password protect I have for it, I suddenly noticed there was no pointer on the screen!  I moved the mouse around and banged it for a bit... still no pointer.  I rebooted the computer and found myself back in the same situation with no pointer/mouse, so I went into the emergency stairwell storage area and grabbed an old mouse.  It worked for a few seconds when I first plugged it in, but then the pointer became erratic and finally stopped working altogether.

At this point, it finally sank in that there could be (must be... was!) a connection to the water on the back of the machine and the strange behavior, so I went back to the computer junkyard in the stairwell and pulled out my old Dell GXa which has been there since the company bought a batch of Dimension C's (a model only sold in the Japanese market I think).

The GXa worked fine with a third mouse, so I tried plugging in one of the two mouses that stopped working with the wet Dell G1, and the pointer froze on the screen.  After rebooting the machine with the third mouse, it worked again so I knew that the G1 had become a mouse-destroyer.

At the this point, I felt no small amount of irritation towards the operator women - specifically Ms. Ahobaka, who always opens the window when they come in every morning.  Opening the window is fine, but when it's raining and there is a computer right by the window?  Not a great display of common sense if you ask most people.

I complained to them that they should be careful about opening the window in the rain... that my computer was ruined.  They said nothing as they looked at me blankly, and when I got back to my desk, they were laughing - as they do all day long, every day... incessantly.  I generally consider them to just be a goofily noisy pair, and their perpetual inane laughter doesn't bother me... um... doesn't bother me much anyway.  But their laughter reached my ears at a bad time - immediately after I told them about my computer being fried... due to their carelessness.....  I stood there contemplating my ruined computer - a computer I've spent a lot of time and trouble putting together with parts from different machines, including several parts of my own.  A computer that was finally working very well... and now it was ruined.......  I did a quick juxtaposition of my feelings with the sound of that %$#& laugher, and then Mr. Lookingfor came by and asked me how I was.....

His timing was either perfectly good, or perfectly bad - I'm not sure which, but he asked me that at the very moment I had that awful juxtaposition in mind, so I told him (in English) "Those &%$#%#$ idiots back there left the window open in this rain!  My computer got wet and now it's fried!  And do they apologize?  No!  The bloody dimwits are laughing about it!  Ha-ha-ha!  It's really funny that my computer is ruined!  Ha-ha-ha!!"

The upshot of that is (what else?) the noisiest operator - the one who most tirelessly broadcasts inane laughter all day long - hasn't spoken to me since.  "Great!  Too bad it didn't happen sooner!" I tell myself - and what is scary - seem to really mean!

Back to the moment - standing there with a suddenly unusable computer.  There being that magnitude of a problem, I decided I'd get visual about it, so I pulled the cover off of the G1 and set it up on my desk sideways with the complicated-looked bare circuit boards, wires, etc. facing out so that everyone in the vicinity could see the horrific sight of the dead machine sitting grotesquely on my desk with its insides exposed...  (I've been learning about PR after all.)  The sort of reaction I hoped for was amazingly quick in coming.  As the coffee machine is just behind my desk (to the left - copy machine to the right) one person after another came by for coffee, noticed the computer on display and asked me what was what... "Somebody left the window open, my computer got wet, and now it's fried!" I dramatically said - telling a couple of them that I wouldn't be able to do their proof/rewrite jobs until I got set up with another computer.  The sixth person to come back to the corner was Mr. Aruchu - who is handing some of the IT stuff (not very well) with Mr. Uragi and Mr. Hetakuso.  I gave him my presentation with a fierce face and dramatic gestures - not really having in mind what he proposed... which was that I use the last remaining new computer still sitting unused in front of the Prez's office.

Well then... a new computer.  My mood improved a bit as we walked over to Mr. Uragi's desk and Mr. Aruchu said to him "Lyle's computer was rain damaged.  It's all right if he uses that last new one, don't you think?"  Mr. Uragi cast an evil eye my way, but couldn't say no to Mr. Aruchu, who is of higher rank management-wise, so suddenly I had a new computer at my command.

A new computer - not much faster, but with a 2GB larger HDD (10GB compared to the 8GB drive I was using before), and better audio quality when playing CD's through headphones.  Also, now I could take my own components back home, and put them to work for me there (particularly the 8GB drive,which is now in my old Digital Celebris GL-5133 as a storage drive, teamed up with the main 4GB drive.  I also repatriated one 128MB memory board, which is now in my closet awaiting its next assignment).

It took me almost the entire day to get the new computer set up (with the proper settings to access the company's server computer, e-mail settings, etc.) and all the software I use installed.  Due to losing an entire day of working time, I was behind with work the next day...

Friday - was so complicated that I can't comment beyond saying that it was a day with heavy incoming missiles that I answered with return-fire missiles as best I could.  Friday was a difficult day - with a complex range of issues to deal with, from the repercussions of making Ms. Ahobaka angry (no problem with Ms. Warukunai - who seems to understand perfectly well how I felt - and why), to trouble with Ms. Manuke who is rather disingenuous about her own mistakes... pretending that she's sent me things to check which she hasn't.

Prez: "Why isn't that report done yet?"
Ms. Manuke: "I don't know... I sent it to Lyle..."

Jungle warfare... almost continuously.  I got the new computer up and running just in time.  Less than 24 hours after turning it on for the very first time since it left the factory in Malaysia, and already the e-mail guns were red hot with the heat of outgoing missiles answering incoming.....

One final note - remember my comment about the bozos in charge of IT breaking open one of the new computers to steal its LAN board?  As it turns out, that was the machine I got!  It had an oddball LAN board in it which led to my calling Dell about the device driver... and then I found out that the installed LAN board wasn't one of the ones from Dell at all, but rather one of the Buffalo boards I had installed in one of the junk Compaq computers now sitting in storage.....  Little pieces of foolishness lead to big wastes of time.  If they had not needlessly stolen the LAN board from a new machine in the first place.....      [Top of page]


"Trip to New Zealand"     [Top of page]

Subject: New Zealand Calling
Date: Wed, 21 Mar 2001
From: SZS  [UK]

I finally made it to New Zealand - calling at Singapore on the way down.

The whale watching was fun.  We spotted three.  I used the video camera to tape the whales blowing off, but I wanted a still picture of them diving with their tails up in the air.  I took two still pictures with the video camera (which can also take still images), and one with a 35mm camera.  The results were a bit disappointing though... as there were only young males and their tails were very small - unlike the ones in the brochure for the trip!  Another reason for the poor results with the pictures is that when you first see a whale, it is so exciting, you are all fingers and thumbs.  Then you wonder "Have I got the best position on the boat?"  One minute you have, then the next you haven't - what with the boat drifting and the whale swimming along - you end up taking a photo of somebody's shoulder.  Aabbb was a heroine.  She suffers from sea sickness.  But she still came along!  Part of the trip she sat at the back of the boat.  This made me feel like a jerk for wanting to see the whales, since she felt obliged to come along.

On the glacier walk we took later, I hesitated on one section to talk with the leader, a Canadian girl (who is apparently taking a year off from university to travel the world).  She (Bbccc) said her background was engineering, but she wanted to get back to nature.  This was her last day as guide, and she was then going to Indonesia and Malaysia.  She had four months left for traveling she told me, so I take it she was on her year out as we say in the UK.  To have a breather.  It was obvious she came from a wealthy background - she said she lived on Vancouver Island - but she was very sociable and pleasant.

Back to the glacier walk.  The leaders cut steps into the ice.  It was warm enough that you could see the steps melting as you walked along.  On one part, the steps were cut into the side of a crevice - I thought "No chance am I walking along there - you could be seriously killed".  But then I thought "I am down here to do things I can't do back home", so I clenched my fists and did it.  It is hard to explain how terrifying it was.....  Then we walked up the crevice having climbed down more melting steps.  It was cool to walk up a valley of ice.  Cool and scary at the same time.  We passed holes in the ice fifty feet deep, with a river of melting ice swirling down below... leading you to wonder "Could this be the next melting hole I am standing on?"  Finally we reached the top of the glacier.  Well, sorta.  The glacier is about six miles long.  It tested our fitness.  That is why we went for the half day walk.  The full day walk is for the next time I spot an iceberg.  On our way down, I stopped in the crevice for a look around.  The ice suddenly dropped two feet.  The word &%$#!!! came to mind straight away.  When you are told the glacier is changing shape all the time, it's frightening when you can feel it moving under your own feet!

As we were coming down from the ice, we spotted a family taking photos near the edge of the glacier.  Bbccc said she hates it when people do that - decide they do not need a guide to walk on the ice.  The steps are cut first thing in the morning, then the clever people tag on after the leaders/guides have led the parties up the glacier.  All of us in the guided group had special boots on our feet that weighed a ton - with spikes underneath.  The family we saw, on the other hand, were only wearing ordinary shoes - how they walked on the ice is beyond me.  Bbccc said she especially hates it when they bring their children and pose each other for photos.  We watched the guy stand near the edge so his wife could get a good photo.  I said to Bbccc.  "Look - this is your father before he fell over the edge of Franz Josef Glacier".....  Then, as they began their climb back down the glacier, the child was sliding all over the place while holding the father's hand as he negotiating the ice steps.  There are warning signs not to climb the ice, but some people never learn, or if they do it is usually the hard way.

Pancake rocks was another venture not to be missed.  For that area, we stayed at a friend's beach house, which afforded us the opportunity to visit the rocks on several occasions.  The pancake shape of the rocks is created by erosion.  The sea has created blow holes which are awesome in a storm.  The biggest one I saw I would not like to be near in a full storm.  It must be about thirty feet across, and deep... so you can imagine the force of storms that fill that hole.  This area is reached by crossing a small bridge.  (The sea has also made a bridge of its own.)  Another photo-op during high tide with the sea thrusting its way into the small enclosure under the bridge/overhanging rock face.  Aabbb said that the waves bashing against the waves creates pure oxygen... which I also read later on an information board.  And I really did have a feeling of well being in that area.  Pity the tide was not winter time high.  The Tasman Sea is something I could watch all day long... the giant breakers rolling onto the beach.....

To reach Kaikoura for the whale/dolphin/seal watching/spotting, we passed through Arthurs Pass.  I was told that one time through that pass is enough for anyone.....  We came to the traffic lights, and I could see the traffic in the distance working its way around the pass.  Then it was our turn.  The construction team were making a kind of tunnel for protection against falling rocks.  The mountain was huge, and I must say the area was a place where you felt you were nothing, and at the mercy of nature.  Around the next bend was a rock that had just fallen onto the road.....  Then we crossed the viaduct, which was amazing... the structure is high and to me it looked like the kind of thing that would be here today and gone tomorrow.  The mountain to the left had water gushing out of the base - it was what I would describe as a mountain of rock waiting to move.  Of course (this time) I never told the Kiwi cloud driver that her driving was too fast... I just wanted to get off that thing.  Then there was a sign post that said.  "View of death leap this way" - this led to a ledge were you could view the mountain and viaduct for good photos probably.  All I wanted to see was some flat ground with no overhanging mountains.  I know I am a coward!!  I would sooner buy the postcard (ha).

On our return from Kaikoura, we chanced on another seal colony.  The seals were everywhere - more rolls of film were soon used up.  At one seal colony we visited, the seals actually came to the car park to look in the cars.  Then we had the cheeky kea mountain parrots.  Near the glacier, two parrots were lifting the vent on a caravanette and trying to enter.  This was fun to watch (they were not bothered by anyone watching).

Then we crossed back to the North Island, and while on the top deck, somebody shouted "Look!  A whale!" and there it was blowing away.  This was better than the whale watching, because it was unexpected.  Then a huge number of dolphins appeared - they were all over the sea.  To say a lump came to my throat on a few/many occasions on this trip down under would be an understatement.  How anybody can harm/kill these beautiful creatures is beyond me.


SZS      [Top of page]

"The Cat & the Crows"     [Top of page]
(2001/05/30  7:30 a.m.  Nishi-Tokyo)

There has been a population explosion of crows in Tokyo...  Even when I first came here in 1984, I noticed that the caw of crows was more noticeable in large parks than the sound of other birds.  Speaking of which - when the Crown Prince was married, as I listened to the raucous cawing of crows through my television's speaker, the female announcer sweetly said "Here we are in Shinjuku Gyoen... with the sound of 'kotori' in the background....." - "kotori" meaning small birds, but not small as in not big, rather small as in that type of bird.  (Hard to explain... let's put it this way, "small birds" is two words, "kotori" is one.)  It made me wonder about old written accounts of things - to what extent can they be trusted?  That same bit of reality denial in print would not have come with the sound track to fill me in on the truth of the situation.  Other than that aspect though, it was also an indication of how you can see/hear something in a better way if you tune out that which you don't want to hear.  (On subsequent visits to Shinjuku Gyoen, I've been able to hear smaller, musical sounding birds, but it is awfully hard to ignore the harsh sound of the crows.)

Crows.....  While there were a lot of them in 1984, mostly I only saw them in large parks - now they are everywhere!  They are even around my apartment recently - sitting on the TV antennas (breaking the old one my FM tuner was hooked up to), and rummaging through garbage for food.  There have been several crow stories featured on the (television) news, such as the following stories:  (Keep in mind as you read them that the crows in Tokyo are huge - more like hawks.):

The crow that was putting rocks on the rails of a commuter line!  (They thought it was children until they caught the bird in the act on video.)

The crow that was dropping nuts onto a road - waiting for cars/trucks to run them over, which opened them so they could be eaten.

The crow that attacked, killed, and carried off a young flamingo at a zoo.

Crows swooping down from trees and stealing peoples groceries right out of their hands as they attempt to carry them home from the grocery store!!  (I've heard the stories and seen the warning signs, but not the actual event on video.)

Crows swooping down as though in attack on people passing down a residential city street near a crow's nest (to protect the young).

I personally saw, live, in person, as I walked through Ueno Park - a crow swoop down, attack a large mouse (rat?), shake it around, almost lose it after dropping it, then get a firm hold of it in a second attack, and finally (with a "swoosh-swoosh" of its long wings), it flew with it up into a tree and sat on a branch with the unfortunate mouse in its huge beak.  "Wow...." thought I, with the fascination of actually seeing something interesting/grotesque directly instead of on the magic tube.

And finally... as I walked by the the main entrance (closed at the time) to Shinjuku Gyoen, I saw a cluster of about ten crows around a cat - a small cat, more like a large kitten actually.  A mouse it certainly wasn't, but I remembered the television images of the flamingo being attacked and it looked to me like the cat was in danger.  They were all just to the side of the entrance to a closed and locked parking lot... the cat sharpening its claws on a post to the side and crows looking menacing.  I stopped and watched... remembering the cat I grew up with.  Not feeling entirely safe myself, I walked into the scene to protect the cat... and as I approached, the crows mostly backed off... with a couple staying rather close - eyeing me carefully.

I stood there feeling a number of things I'd not quite experienced before in my life.  The first thing was the cat... it acted as though it were completely unaware of the danger that seemed so obvious to me.  Not a strange thing I suppose - after all, it's generally cats that hunt birds, and not birds that hunt cats - but these birds were huge!  About the same size as the (small) cat!  The other thing that I felt - was an intelligence in the air.  I've often read that ravens/crows are intelligent, and that's certainly the way it felt.  I looked at the cat, thinking "You should get out of here!", but the cat sharpened its claws some more and then casually walked under the locked gate of the parking lot and sat down.  Several of the crows formed a semicircle around the cat, but as there was nothing I could do from the other side of the high fence, I walked on.  I looked back once and the scene was unchanged...  I relaxed a little, thinking the cat seemed to be alright, and as I watched, one bird landed between my line of sight and the bird... so I began worrying again, but deciding that I had done what I could, I continued on to Shinjuku Station, feeling something close to fear of all those huge birds together.  I thought of the old movie "The Birds", and the connection between birds and dinosaurs.....      [Top of page]

"Free Help Here"     [Top of page]

Date: Mon, 26 Mar 2001  -0800
From: KCM  [US]

Today my sister drove me and her friend back up to Oakland.  It was really beautiful today - the hills were all brilliant shades of green, with yellow fields of flowers.  You could tell it was spring.

My finals went ok.  I made a promise to myself not to check grades until after break is over, so I don't ruin my vacation.

Tomorrow I am going to baby-sit my niece.  She had a fever today, and the school won't let her back in unless it goes down.

I am now officially a volunteer at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles.  It's an awesome place, with a weird trippy modernist design that places importance on form over function, but it's really neat.  There are actually three separate galleries, with one located in Little Tokyo.  During training, they served us sandwiches and cookies for lunch from the cafe.

I got up at the crack of dawn just to get on the bus so I could get to the museum on time for training.  As it was, I arrived an hour early.  I HATE LA transportation - it's so messy and I can't get anywhere without extensive planning.  And it takes at least an hour to get anywhere.....

The other volunteers seem really nice.  They're all a lot older than me - at least they appear so much more sophisticated.  There's an interior designer, a freelance photographer, and I don't really remember the others, except they seem to be very professional and artsy.

I think I am a magnet for lost people.  People keep stopping me on the streets to ask me directions - "Where can I buy shampoo?" & Where is the W Hotel?"  At the training, one of the women was Japanese and could not speak English very well, so she kind of used me as an interpreter - I would translate the complicated stuff into simpler terms she could understand.  I don't really mind it and I'm glad to help, but I keep wondering - what is it about me that signals "Free help"?

Another thing that kind of irks me is that people keep asking me how long I've lived here.  I suppose I shouldn't blame them, but if I had a dollar for every time I was asked that, my college tuition would be paid.  Is it the way I dress?  Is it my manner of speaking?  As far as I can tell, I have no accent and I am usually grammatically correct.  Is it my mannerisms?

As you can tell, I'm kind of confused by these things and the kind of relationships people think they have with me.  Am I a sort of safety net?


[Based on a letter I sent to KCM]
About the "Free help here" sign.  I would say it's a good indication that you're a nice person, as people generally do a radar check on people before approaching them to see if they seem unapproachable.  I used to have a lot of people (well, not a lot, but too many!) approach me in Tokyo seemingly to practice their English on, but then I grew thorns, and now people leave me alone.  I'm not nasty to anyone, but I have a feeling, and apparently a look, that says "Stay away", and people generally do.  Not that I recommend acquiring such a look!  Big cities - especially megacities - do require some defensive mechanisms... but lately I'm worrying that I've perhaps done a little too well in acquiring defenses!     [Top of page]

"From Mr. Nice-Guy to Mr. 41-Thorns"     [Top of page]

I've mentioned the ongoing political battles being continually waged at the office I work at... and how I have been fighting the war with e-mail missiles in reply to incoming.  Just when I thought it was becoming routine for me, I ended up sending a particularly large missile to Ms. Manuke last Friday, and something about it has been on my mind since zapping it out.  I still feel that I was in the right overall, but I can't escape the unpleasant feeling that I stepped over the line a little with a stronger offensive line than was really called for in defense.  "The best defense is offense" notwithstanding, it occurs to me that in engaging the enemy in the office battle, I am becoming a little like the enemy myself.

There it is - simply put... but there's another aspect of it that I've been thinking about for years now.  I'm finding that a certain shyness I had before is fast evaporating... a trend I first noticed a few years ago.  It's one of those compound things that are hard to put into words - with components of time, experience, long frustration, slowing metabolism, and cultural clashes all contributing to a cohesive... something... that I can sense, and seem on the verge of grasping, and yet.....  So, with a feeling that I'm chasing it away in trying to define it, still I would like to make some attempt to record this aspect of my life.  A time when instead of unsuccessfully telling myself that I don't care what most of the people around me think, I realize that I (mostly) really don't care!  So much so that, on occasion, it's come full circle and I've told myself "You should care about what other's think"... but mostly I've just been feeling happy not to be worrying about the opinions of people I don't respect.

You read about this sort of thing, and words like "phase in life", "stages", etc. are used, but I think it's more a composite of countless images that form a complicated collage - complicated, yet at times seen with a clarity and focus that brings everything together in feelings and images, but... not in words.

"I Love My Neighbors..."     [Top of page]

Subject: From MMH .04.30.01
Date: Fri, 30 Mar 2001  -0800
From: MMH  [US]

............  My neighbor Aabbb almost killed himself this week.  It would have been by accident, but it was still a close thing.  He was out burning his weeds with a flame thrower (I have to get one of those babies) and a leaf must have caught fire and blown under his house through a vent in the wall.  There must have been some other leaves there as well, because when he came back from torching the walk at the front of his house, he smelled smoke.  He threw a water hose on the spot but realized he would have to go under the house to see if the flame was spreading.

The only access under this section of his house was a window in his basement, as this part of the house was an addition he added a few years ago.  Now Aabbb just had a flood in his basement six months ago and it has taken the insurance company nearly this long to fix everything.  So Aabbb did not want any smoke damage.  He opened the window, crawled under the house and then closed the window behind him.  Immediately the smoke started to get to him.  He could not find any fire, and heard a hissing sound.  At this point he thought the gas line must have gotten punctured and he wanted out of there... but the window that he closed had locked itself behind him.  Thankfully, Bbccc, his next door neighbor, came over to see what was up.  Aabbb's wife told him that Aabbb was in the basement.  Bbccc went down into the basement in time to see Aabbb banging on the window asking to be let back in.

Once he got his breath back, Aabbb called the fire department.  To clear the smoke out, Aabbb set a large fan at the window and started to push fresh air under the house.  He figured the fire was out and wanted to clear any gas if it was leaking.  Had the fire not been out, he most assuredly would have rekindled the fire!  The firemen arrived and found something interesting.  An air-conditioning unit hose filled with Freon Gas had burned through.  Freon does a lot of things - including removing oxygen and providing refrigeration -  and is very toxic.  Aabbb is very lucky.  The Freon that provides cooling in his air conditioning unit, by leaking, put out the fire.  He is doubly lucky that he did not die from smoke or toxic inhalation.


"At Virgin Records In Shinjuku"     [Top of page]

Subject: OneDay,OnTheWayHome...
Date: Mon, 4 Jun 2001
From: Lyle H Saxon / To: "Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon"

I left the office today on time (18:00), and as the Prez was in a meeting I was even bold enough to leave by the front way - taking the elevator instead of the emergency stairs.  I bought a can of orange juice which I sipped as I walked to Shinjuku Station.  Already tuning out the unpleasant commute, I imagined myself home and working on the computer and maybe even getting to bed early.  Alas!  Just past the ticket gates I was greeted with a rerun of the time I was to meet the guy who works for a printing company and the trains were stopped due to three men having been killed on the rails.  Any type of incident like this is referred to as "jinshin jiko", which is generally considered to be someone who has committed suicide, but in the case of the three men before, one had drunkenly fallen off of the platform, and the other two guys had jumped down to help him.  This time?  Who knows?  Some say that the rail lines sometimes will use the term "jinshin jiko" as a way to avoid admitting a technical problem - "Hey!  Don't blame us!  Someone decided to exit via the rails....."

So - what to do?  I initially thought I'd go to Kinokuniya Bookstore and have a look at the English language part of the store, but then I remembered the chairs with headphones in the front corner of Virgin Records (with a view out over the intersection) just a three minute walk back towards Shinjuku Gyoen.

As I walked into the store, a woman gave me a discount coupon for the coffee shop on the third floor.  The corner chairs with headphones are on the third floor as well, so after listening to CD's for a few minutes as I took some pictures, I decided that since it was the same set of CD's I'd already listened to the week before, I might as well go over to the coffee shop... and as I walked across the floor, I remembered the free Internet-connected computers they have and my pace quickened... I could actually do what I wanted to do at home anyway - write!  Never mind (for awhile anyway!) the trains.

So, here I sit in a row of people all connected to either HotMail or YahooMail - all reading and writing e-mail.  I type away while taking in the scene around me and listening to the PA... U2 as I type these words.  I look around and see that most people are using HotMail, with a couple (myself included) using YahooMail.  I generally avoid McSft when I have a choice, which I certainly do now.  (All the computers in the cafe are Apple by the way.)  The blond woman next to me needed my help to get connected to HotMail and now she's typing with one finger while she sips her coffee with the other hand.  Considering that she's imputing her words with one finger (occasionally two), the words are appearing on the screen faster than I would have expected (which isn't very fast compared to real typing, but still - one finger!).

I'm drinking a bottle of Cranberry Juice Cocktail, but it's almost empty... I imagine my enthusiasm for the moment waning somewhat when I run out of something to drink in this smoky room (smokers... I don't like your smoke.....).

I'm glad to have this experience though.  I've often heard from people writing to me from Internet coffee shops, and I thought I had experienced it at T-Zone in Shinjuku, but you have to pay for each 30 minute block there, so there's a time pressure in the air.  Since the use of the computers here at Virgin Records is free as long as you buy something to drink, I see for the first time in my life what true free e-mail is like.  It's interesting listening to the conversation of the two woman sitting to my right as well:

(As they look at a photo of a guy on the computer.)  "He looks like a nice guy..."  "I like his eyes..."  The character size on the screens is too small to read what is being written though, which is good.  I don't want people reading my e-mail and I don't want to be a voyeur!

Say - how long can you stay connected to a WebMail account before it cuts off?  I have this uneasy feeling that all I write can vaporize... so I have been sending this off to myself in pieces as I write (this is section four).

Today was a very Monday Monday.  I had a very difficult time getting myself to work on the rewriting jobs I have to wrap up by Wednesday...  I checked for e-mail, deleted some messages, saved others, read some on-line news, put some (electronic) files in order.  I looked over a printed version of one of the reports I have to fix, and repeatedly sighed at the severity of the report's problems.  As I struggled to get myself geared up to really concentrate on the work at hand, I heard Mr. Nasakenai commenting to Mr. Ochitsuita that he just couldn't get himself into the mood to work...  And then, in a last act of procrastination, I checked for e-mail, and then read a letter from KCM in which she said she was in a creative mood, but not in a mood to study.....

Hmmmmm......  It must be sun spots or something, thought I.......

Oops... I couldn't help myself - I read a few words of the one-finger-typist woman's amazingly long e-mail (amazing that one finger has filled up an entire page that is).  I made out "... I could stay here for a while, or come back..." Not good of me.  I'm a bit ashamed, and I'm busy making excuses that I just sneaked a peek at part of one sentence...  (Not to small to read after all.)  I haven't even tried to make out what the woman on my right is writing, and wouldn't have gazed at the screen to the left if it weren't for the feeling in the air... there's an intensity about the way the woman is inputting her words that made me wonder.  I now have this storyboard half set in mind about Ms. OneFingerType.  She has crossed the ocean both in search of something new and to escape something old.  Isn't that what most foreign travel is about?  (Mundane words here - but the feeling in the air is of melodramatic adventure.)

I'm feeling nervous about relying on a distant computer not to lose what I'm typing here... time to send this section (part five) into the wires.

(20:18)  I'm about to leave the Internet Coffee Shop.  They've been playing a string of songs I don't care for, which is rather fatiguing to listen to at high volume!

Watching the woman on my left struggle with letter number two, I'm tempted to offer my services as a typist!  Once again I pat myself on the back for having learned to type in school!  A little further into the 21st century, and the machines will probably start  handling voice input to get the words on the screen, but in June 2001, there's only the keyboard, and with one finger?  Ouch......      [Top of page]

"You Can Go... Wait!  No!"     [Top of page]

Date: Sat, 31 Mar 2001  +0530
From: IVJ  [India]

Sorry I've taken so long to write, but my exams just finished yesterday.  Now it's a couple of days of rest before I have to start studying again for my entrance exams.  Well - till then I'm going to be really bored.  You know, I'm feeling really bad today.  Our whole class was going out today - for the last time.  I was supposed to go as well, and my father had given me permission.  But then he said "No" just a couple of hours before I was to leave.  He thinks it's bad to be going out like that.  He doesn't like the idea of a group of young "boys" and girls going out together.  Man I hate that!  What's wrong with being with friends?!  Even my best friend didn't go because of me.  Our friends called us again and again from the place we were supposed to meet.  But when my dad says no - no is what it means.  I wonder if he'll ever let me go out with my friends... I just hope he does.


"Ice Cream, Makeup, a New Computer, & a Non-Melting Pot"     [Top of page]

Date: Sat, 31 Mar 2001  -0800
From: KCM  [US]

Yesterday I went miniature golfing with my friends.  We took about an hour to decide what to do.  Originally we had planned on going to play Laser Tag (I'm not sure what it is, but I'm pretty sure you shoot people with lasers - fairly harmless), but since it was in Mountain View, an hour's drive away, and it was already seven, we went to Castro Valley instead.  It was really fun, although I think I was holding the putter incorrectly and so I kept slamming the ground instead of the ball.

Afterwards we went to get ice cream and we stopped at a place in Castro Valley.  It seemed as soon as I walked in, all conversation stopped and everyone stared, openly.  Almost everyone was white, except for one black man.  I think two people behind the counter were Asian.  I wanted to yell, "What the %$#& are you looking at?" because the staring was getting on my nerves.  However, I ignored them and grabbed some menus.  We sat down and ordered ice cream, which was pretty good, but we decided not to ever return, because of the weird atmosphere and the bad service.

Earlier I had gone shopping with my friend, a makeup fiend, and we went around trying out everything.  I don't wear makeup, so I was at a loss at what to do with myself.  I kept pulling out stuff and putting it back.  Finally my friend asked one of the workers to put stuff on me and it was okay, I guess.  I don't like makeup, because it feels like goop and it seems like so much trouble.  And it is very expensive.  On the other hand, there are some times I'd just like to be really girly...


Subject: Re: Disorganized...
Date: Sun, 01 Apr 2001  -0700
From: KCM  [US]


I think the Bay Area would be a good place for you to live if you do move back.  There are more Asian/Caucasian couples around now, so even in mostly white areas you don't get the rude stares I did.  I think it was a one-time thing - we'd ventured too far out of the comfort of our "safe" area.

I think those kinds of experiences I can't complain too much about, because some people don't realize what they're doing.  They don't know or realize it's rude to stare and make comments; it's not an overtly blatant form of racism.  It's ignorance, and they, hopefully, eventually learn to handle those kinds of situations better.  Or not even think of it as a situation at all and realize life is more than just skin color.

I like UCLA fine - we have a pretty diverse mix, but the thing that bugs me both about the Bay and LA is that oftentimes people just stay within their own racial group.  I'm not asking for a melting pot - I wouldn't want one - but I would like more interaction between people, instead of this fixation on their own particular groups.  I do this too however, and I realize there are probably reasons for it... I just don't know how to break that self-imposed barrier.

Am I making sense?  Sometimes I think I make the issues more confusing than they actually are.

KCM      [Top of page]

"New Rooms and a Trailer"     [Top of page]

Date: Mon, 2 Apr 2001 21: -0500
From: CBB  [US]

Things are good here in this house, considering my bedroom has no walls between us and our son, and my living room is full of 2x4's and sheets of Sheetrock... and my husband is swearing because this old house doesn't have any two walls that line up square - but for the most part, things are pretty good here.  As for the walls, this is an old house which had one decent size bedroom and two tiny ones upstairs, so now that we don't need three bedrooms, I thought we could take out the walls and make two decent size bedrooms.  Everyone was in agreement, but now the work needs to be done, the nodding heads are disappearing fast... wait till they find out what I want to do in the basement.....

Went and looked at a camper trailer tonight - would like to get one so when Aabbb is away working, it would beat the heck out of having to stay in a hotel with him.  I like to go wherever he is, but hate staying in hotels.  When the kids were little, we had a small trailer we used when we went with him, but then as they got older and I went to work, we got rid of the trailer.  Now, once more in our life I find myself able to go with him, and so I need a place other than the hotel to stay.  The one we saw looks good, and as long as the guy quoted us the right prices, we may end up buying it.....

Well, all is quiet upstairs, so maybe I should go and make sure they haven't done any harm to each other - Aabbb and Bbccc that is.


"Spring Performance at the Main Theatre"     [Top of page]

Subject: Sunday night...
Date: Mon, 02 Apr 2001 00: -0600
From: CJK  [Canada]

Things have been going quite smoothly for me the past couple of weeks.  That spring performance at the main theatre here - that I was about to do when I e-mailed you last - went really well.  As far as those spring school reviews go, I cannot remember one running as smoothly as it did this year.  There were a couple of close calls with the main curtain though.  At the end of the "Sleeping Beauty Variations" piece that my company danced, one of the girls was almost crushed under the main curtain as it came down after the final bow.  I was the one who ended up having to quietly shout (yeah, that is a bit of an oxymoron, but it is pretty much the only way to explain it!) to this one girl that was just ahead of the rest of us.  She was just far enough under the line that the curtain was falling along, that she could have been seriously injured had the curtain caught her.  (The Curtain weighs approximately 2.5 metric tons or something).  Luckily, she either heard my semi-shouts, or just realized on her own, but just in the nick of time she stepped back far enough to be just barely clear when the curtain was no more than a couple of feet above her head.  Phew...  With disaster averted there, the show went on to finish really quite smoothly.  The day before the show, I had purchased flowers for the two girls that I partnered in a couple of different pieces.  It was still a little bit below freezing the morning of the show, and I had to get them from the house to the car, and then from the car into the auditorium, so I was concerned that they would not last the trip.  Anyway, regardless of my fears, the flowers lasted perfectly fine and thus I had very pleased girls to partner, so I was just fine on the angry feisty brutal ballerina front.  I made it through the day without so much as a scratch (its been known to happen).


"The New Patio Set"     [Top of page]

Subject: From MMH .04.06.01
Date: Fri, 06 Apr 2001  -0800
From: MMH  [US]

Last summer, Aabbb and I saw this wonderful patio set of four chairs and a table that we came to desire.  But, we waited too long to purchase it, and it was out of stock when we finally went to the store.  Last week I saw that the set was in again, so... on Saturday, I asked my next door neighbor Bbccc if he could help me out with an errand.  We took his Camero (a truck-like car) up to the store and loaded in the new patio set.  Later on, it only took Aabbb and me an hour to put fully together - the construction being easy enough that we didn’t even fight.  We are very proud of it.

It rained on and off that weekend.  So I did not get done with all the mowing.  There is a lot to mow as this is the first time I have done it since late fall.  I had to stop using my electric weed wacker, as it was smoking... which isn't a good thing to see!



"Internet Radio?"     [Top of page]
(2001/06/08  20:10  Nishi-Shinjuku)

I was asked if I knew any good Internet sites for listening to AM/FM.  I have no idea, so I promised to ask in here.  Is anyone out there using their computer to listen to the radio?  The only times I've listened to audio tracks over the Internet, I was intrigued by the technology, but not very impressed with the performance... low fidelity and it cut off here and there.  Nevertheless, I would like to listen to overseas radio more I think - particularly with my office computer, as it has a faster Internet connection than my home machine does.  Any information?

"JW Office Update"     [Top of page]

The office...  It's been fairly calm for me, with only a few cautionary e-mails zapped out to head off potential trouble, but no major battles waged.  The Prez seems in a somewhat reflective mood after Mr. Karaoke jumped ship and Mr. Ebaru announced that he'll be leaving himself before long.  Mr. Ebaru leaving is interesting, as he was rumored to be next in line for captaincy of the leaking ship.  When the crew jumps ship, it's one thing, but when the officers start jumping over the side, the captain is bound to get worried!  What's next?  Open mutiny?  Mr. Karaoke's last day was interesting for his witty parting speech to everyone - he even threw in a semi-sarcastic comment about his time there having been "a good experience" - which was a first - most of the ship jumpers so far have given speeches saying how sorry they are to leave and that it's a great bunch of people in the office, BS, BS, BS, BS, BS, etc. etc.

Mr. Lookingfor has been practicing parting speeches on me - each one heavier in sarcasm than the last... he can't wait to get out of there, and keeps telling me "You've got to get out of there you know...".  In his case, he has had run-ins repeatedly with the Prez, while I've been having run-ins with just about everyone else.  In that nuthouse though, trouble with most of the people there is generally just a matter of time.  This week Mr. Lookingfor was fuming about Mr. Uragi, who we've assigned the nickname "Darth", as in the evil character in the movie.

As the ship sinks, people are stepping on each other in an attempt to climb the mast and get away from shark-infested waters......  I see it again and again on the faces and in the eyes of former crew who have come back for a visit - they look happy/free/happy-happy-happy.  Mr. Karaoke came back today... and looked like a new man.  I left at six with him and Ms. Gaimen, and as we walked towards the station, he repeated his earlier assertion to me that that company is really wacky... and Ms. Gaimen sighed and said she hopes she finds a new job soon.  I've become so used to the battle, that I still had my guard up and didn't want to say in front of Ms. Gaimen (who loves to talk actually...) that I was scanning the horizon for other ships at sea my own self.

Well, enough for now!

Sore dewa!


Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon
Images Through Glass
Nishi-Shinjuku, Tokyo
June 12th, 2001
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