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"Letter-Letter 300"
July 4th, 2001

"300 Letters in Four & a Half Years"
"First Day in the New Office"
"At the Lake"  by CBB
"A Memorable Trip"  by BLD
"Incompetent Computer Set-up Team"
"Cold Down South"  by SYH
"Can You...?" - "Sure!, But..."
"Good to Hear the Old Language"  by KCM & LHS
"Radio Shrinks"  by MMH
"Rent Control"  by KCM
"We All Know It's Toxic, So Why....."
"The Iguana"  by CPK
"Alright Already!  We Understand!  Now Shut-up!"
"Cutting Hay"  by CPK
"No Sooner Than..."  by CBB
"Dimension-C Expert?"
"Near the Lighthouse"  by RJR
"No Time to Lose"  by KCM
"New CPU Heat Sink and Fan"
"The Last Two Years"  by CZH
"Fun at the New Office"
"Dear Mr. Zangyo"
"Help!  What is N-Hexane Exactly??"

"300 Letters in Four & a Half Years"     [Top of page]

(Nishi-Shinjuku  2:28 a.m.)  It's been a little over five years since I bought my first in a long chain of used computers, and four and a half years since the first LL letter.  The computer makes this letter possible, but still I am constantly wishing I had more time to spend on writing/editing.  The free exchange is great, but on the other hand I must work all day doing something else to pay the bills, so this is put together with time taken from different parts of my schedule here and there... notably a lot of time I should have been sleeping!  I'm working on breaking the habit, but as often as not I end up falling asleep in front of the machine - sleeping for a few hours - and waking up in the middle of the night and then going to bed.  The trouble lately is that I then lie awake for a couple of hours before falling asleep.....  The obvious thing to do is to just go to bed early and then get up early to work on the computer.  I probably should also take the next step in automation and have a server that automatically handles subscriptions and cancelations - as it is, maintaining the send list manually takes up a bit more time than my schedule easily allows for.  I guess I will have to make a web site... but then that takes a bit of time to maintain as well.....  Time.......

A quick word about LL-300 and recent LL's.  There is far too much from me about the office lately, but I figure that now is an opportunity that may never repeat itself (for me that is) to write in detail about jungle warfare in an office at this spot on the globe.  So thinking, I am presuming that there is some anthropological value to recording things.  More important to me personally though, is that in so doing, when I hear from from people living at different points of the globe who have had similar experiences, I realize that so much of what happens to people really does seem to be based on a common humanity, and this - while fortifying me to continue the fight, also reminds me that the original reason I began the LL letters was, I believe, a sound reason.  There is more that connects us than sets us apart.  We all have something to impart... and to comprehend.

"First Day in the New Office"     [Top of page]

The office staff arrived at the sixth floor of the new building (new to the company that is - not to Tokyo - it's about eight years old apparently) to find that a quarter of the desks had not yet arrived, and the boxes, carefully labeled on Friday, were stacked into one mountain of boxes against one wall with all of the labels - except the front row - invisible.  I didn't have a desk, my four boxes of stuff, or a computer... priorities being priorities, naturally the first thing I did was dive into the large boxes holding the computers in search of my own - which appeared in the condition I had feared.....  When the movers appeared on Friday, they began very carefully and professionally packing the computers... while we looked on that is.  By the time I left, my computer still hadn't been boxed and so, when there was no one watching, my computer had been tossed into the same box with another one - without even a sheet of paper between them.  (It worked when I got it put together and fired it up however, so.....

After that I created an aisle in the mountain of boxes and turned boxes around so they could be seen on one or the other side of the isle.  After that, it was a typical move... with everyone unpacking their boxes after the last desks were finally set up.  One irritating thing is that I was given one of two very dirty (as in Filthy-Stinking-Dirty) desks to use.  It took 90 minutes of hard scrubbing with industrial chemicals to get clean, but it's clean now, so it's one thing that won't bother me again... although... I look to my left at the squeaky clean new desk that has never been used and is not in use still... and wonder why I had to have a filthy dirty old one.  Office politics - dirty office politics - manifested literally in dirty office equipment going to someone out of favor with the politically dirty.

"At the Lake"     [Top of page]

Date: Thu, 24 May 2001  -0500
From: CBB

I was away for the weekend - I went to Sask, my old hometown, to visit my sister.  It's been almost two years since I was home.  Now that my parents are gone, I just never seem to get home... and for my sister, since her children live in Alberta, when she travels she goes that way to visit with them.  (It's a good thing we have the telephone, so we can talk once or twice a week that way.)  It was a nice weekend, except for the rain and cold temperatures there.  The kids were going to camp in their tent, but tossed that thought in a hurry and opted for the use of a neighboring cabin instead.  (My sister lives at the lake in what we call the cabin, and during the off-season she and her husband cabin-sit for the people who go back home for the winter, so they have permission to let the kids use one of the other cabins.)  I also got to meet my nephew's new wife, well... as new as two years of marriage can be.  She is from Bolivia - he met her while he was working there.  They have a six month old son, so I got to play with him also.  So, really other than the lousy weather, it was a nice weekend.

Aabbb finished the job he was on up north and came home last Friday, so while we wait for the next job call, he is right now cleaning his shop/garage and has come to the conclusion that he needs a double garage... which would be better - more room to work... yeah, right, more room to store junk.....  I tried explaining to him (as he was cleaning) that anything he is not going to use in the next six months it would be better to throw out, but no... with his attitude, he may need it in nine months.  Oh well, it is keeping him out of my hair right now.


"A Memorable Trip"     [Top of page]

Subject: Hi...
Date: Thu, 24 May 2001
From: BLD  [Indonesia]

I just returned from Bedugul with friends.  Bedugul is an area located up in the northern side of Denpasar.  It took us about an hour and a half by motorbike to get there.  It was such a lovely trip... we got to see monkeys along the road... there are two lakes in Bedugul - Buyan and Tambling.  There are not many things that you can see in the lake except water and water, but it was the trip to get to Bedugul that made it so memorable for me.

I don't have many things to report on... the office has remained calm for the last two weeks.  We are involved in the coffee business, and coffee prices are volatile - making it kind of difficult for us to sell and buy coffee... as we have to watch the market carefully.

Carpe diem,


"Incompetent Computer Set-up Team"     [Top of page]
(Yotsuya JW Inc.  July 3rd, 2001)

Ms. Piman seems to be having trouble with her computer.  She hasn't been able to do anything with it, and the result is that she, Mr. Uragi, Ms. Iroppoi, and Mr. Hetakuso have been clustered around the machine scratching their heads about how to back up the OS and transfer her files over to Mr. Ebaru's old computer (gone from Jungle Warfare, Inc. and happily working at another company now).  I am feeling a mixture of comedy and irritation at watching them all waste their workday doing things I could help them with (except transferring the address book of Outlook...).  I don't say that with pride especially - it's just that I've spent so many all-night sessions over the past five years setting up computer hard drives in old used machines - time and time again.  I'm fairly certain that I have more experience with the initial set-up and backing up and maintaining files than anyone else in the company, but they don't want me helping them with the computers.  It's as though the racial thing is the key... they can't stand the idea that a red-barbarian knows something they don't?  Maybe I'm imaging things... and maybe I'm not - Japanese are proud after all.

Since writing the above, three hours have passed.  Same thing.  The same people clustering themselves around the same machine while they make one mistake after another with the reinstallation.  I guess the best thing is to just let them muck up the machines - and then when they have completely given up and bought new equipment, I might be able to pick up some ex-company equipment on the cheap.  One worrisome thing is that the OptiPlex GXa I used before seems to have vanished in the move.  That's bad news, because while I erased all my old files and the e-mail settings for Netscape, I just realized today that I may have forgotten to obliterate the company e-mail settings (not connected to this letter in any way) for Outlook Express - I suppose I had better change my password.

///[Later]///  A couple of days after writing the above, I located the GXa when Mr. Hetakuso mentioned that he couldn't get my old rain-damaged OptiPlex G1 to work... which is no great mystery!  Prior to the question of whether it's seriously damaged (now that it's dry) is the matter of the BIOS password protect which is still activated.  Mr. Hetakuso spent a few hours mucking around with it while people came by and scratched their heads with him.  A word to me (the last user of the machine after all) would have cleared up the situation in seconds, but no.....  In any case, he finally came over and said that he had given up on trying to get it to work - so I mentioned the GXa I had used before the G1 - which was set up and ready to go... "... where is it by the way?", I asked.  It appeared from a back closet and I was able to fire it up and delete all the Outlook and Outlook Express settings (Phew!) before it went over to Ms. Ahobaka to be her computer (sitting on its side!... I hope they don't try to use the CD-ROM drive!).  ///[Later]///

(16:59)  I've been looking around the office through my sunglasses (overly bright florescent lighting...) and observing everyone... which is something that couldn't be done at the old place.  In the old office, there was no single spot in the company where you could see everyone.  From my seat in the new place however, I can see virtually every soul in the office (save the two people in the accounting room and whoever happens to be in one of the meeting rooms).  So I've been sitting here observing people... and I think I will be a more effective war correspondent from this seat.  (Mr. Uragi, Ms. Piman and Ms. Iroppoi are still clustered around Ms. Piman's monitor wasting their time.)

Well - it's 5:00 already and I have another report to proof/rewrite.     [Top of page]


"Cold Down South"     [Top of page]

Subject: Re: LL-296
Date: Sun, 27 May 2001  +1000
From: SYH  [Singapore / Australia]

Autumn will be over soon here in Australia, and this year is colder than what we experienced last year.  I think I might buy some warm clothing.  The FY is coming to an end, so sales to get rid of old stocks are going on almost everywhere.  It's the last winter I'll be enjoying here, as I'll be completing my studies at the end of this year, and then flying back to the sunny Island - Singapore.  Exams are around the corner for me, and soon the holidays will be here.  I'm planing to tour the south island of New Zealand in July (during my holidays), and I'm pretty excited at the thought of seeing snow for the first time.  Also, I'll get to see a glacier for the first time, and enjoy a hot spring for the first time!  As I'm sure you can imagine, we don't have those things in Singapore, so it should be pretty exciting for me.  Do you still remember the first time you enjoyed these things?  How was it?


"Can You...?" - "Sure!, But..."     [Top of page]
(2001/07/05  Yotsuya)

Prez has been having trouble with his computer (as I've previously mentioned).  Aside from the hardware failure (Dimension-C...), his OS is not in good shape.  He uses Outlook for e-mail, and the program is quite bloated with several thousand (maybe even tens of thousands of) letters in his In Box - he never deletes anything and has large numbers of letters pouring in every day (a few of them from me!)..., also he has opened several buggy MS-W-97 files.  As it stands, it takes his computer about 30 seconds to open MS-W files now - buggy or not.  I found myself in his office with a friend of his and Mr. Uragi.  The following conversation took place:

Prez:  "Can you fix my computer?"

Me:  "Well... transferring the Outlook files is a little bit cumbersome - I think Mr. Uragi is better at doing that."

Prez's Friend:  "That's very easy..."

Prez:  "Can you do it for me now?"

Prez's Friend:  (Physically backing off to the far side of the room with a horrified look on his face as he worked hard at a convincing laugh) - "I would end up seeing your secrets!  It should be done by someone inside the company!"

Prez:  "You have a point there - ha ha.  Mr. Uragi - can you do it for me?"

Uragi:  "Sure - no problem."

Prez:  "How about tomorrow?  Can you do it then?"

Uragi:  (Semi-skillfully hiding panic - Prez's eyes are bad anyway) - "Not tomorrow!  I have too many other things I have to do!"

Prez:  "Then the day after tomorrow?"

Uragi:  "...... There is no end of things I have to do........"

It was interesting to hear Mr. Uragi say that it's easy- after watching him burn off 80% of an entire work day experimenting with with Ms. Piman's computer - including an (unsuccessful) attempt to transfer Outlook!  (See "Incompetent Computer Set-up Team".)  I remember reading something about the address book of Outlook being exportable into Outlook Express - but only certain versions of Outlook!  All I know is that in the year and a half I've been in that office, no one has been able to do it... including Mr. Uragi... but there he was saying "No problem, that's easy".  Apparently the "It's very easy, but I'm too busy to do it" ploy worked (... is the Prez stupid, discreet, or both?...) and Mr. Uragi made his escape so he could go back to busily flirting with Ms. Hone, the ex-ANA flight attendant who talks through clenched teeth all the time in an all-weather plastic smile.....  Not wanting to be in the Prez's office any longer than absolutely necessary myself, I made a hasty escape just after Mr. Uragi was out the door.     [Top of page]

"Good to Hear the Old Language"     [Top of page]

Subject: hi
Date: Sun, 27 May 2001  -0700
From: KCM  [US]

My younger sister has come up for a visit and my roommate has gone home for the Memorial Day weekend.  My third sister graduated from college yesterday, although technically not completely graduated.  She missed a midterm for one of her classes, so she has to retake it next semester, I think.  She also has not started looking for a job yet; according to my younger sister, she is going to wait six months.  Wait for what, I don't know.  I haven't called her or sent her a card or anything yet.

But anyway, we're going to go check out an art exhibit today.  It's the last day showing for Superflat, by Takashi Murakami and Yoshitomo Nara and others experimenting with the two dimensional world.  I'd been wanting to go, but no one I knew around here had the time or interest that I do.  Maybe I just haven't made the right kind of friends yet.

Yesterday we attended a screening of Liulian Piao Piao, or Durian Durian.  Have you ever tried durian?  It's the "King of Fruits", I'm told.  My mom loves it, but I can't stand the pungent odor.  When you open it up, the smell fills the whole room.  I'm told that when you eat it, it's actually very good and tastes sweet, but I can't bring myself to try it.  The durian was used as a metaphor for Hong Kong in this movie about illegal immigrants.  I didn't like the movie all that much, but we were treated to a Q&A session with the director Fruit Chan.  That's his name in English and in Chinese.  He was pretty funny, and looked like an aging geek boy, with his square glasses and his almost-but-not-quite crew cut.

It felt good to hear Cantonese again.  Do you ever feel that way about English?  It's been so long since someone's ever held a conversation with me completely in Cantonese, and even Cantonese speakers prefer speaking in English.  I guess it's a kind of homesickness, in which I miss the sounds, the tones, and the things said in Cantonese which can't be captured in any sort of interpretations or translations in English.


The native language - as I continually hear a bit of English on TV, etc., the sound of English is just something that I've never really been without for any extended period of time, but speaking smooth effortless English with another native speaker is another matter.  I tend to have conversations with Mr. Lookingfor that we both seem to enjoy largely for that reason alone.  We can just talk.  The trouble with speaking English with the non-native speakers that I know is that I have to drive in first and second gear all the time... and so being able to run through the gears and run at full throttle in top gear does feel great sometimes.     [Top of page]

"Radio Shrinks"     [Top of page]

Subject: Dose of MMH
Date: Fri, 01 Jun 2001  -0800
From: MMH  [US]

Sometimes the radio upsets me.  There is this one woman on the radio who has a Ph.D., but not in medicine.  Still she calls herself Dr. Laura and stresses that her radio advice show is on "Ethics and Morals".  This woman drives me nuts.  Aabbb tells me not to listen to her and so I try to take her advice, but sometimes I can't resist getting mad at this radio personality.  It makes my blood boil to think that anyone is accepting her advice.  I far prefer listening the clinical Physiologist Dr. Joy Browne who comes on in the morning.  I find her reasonable 95% of the time.  Radio shrinks... you have to wonder at the novelty of that and just how far it is from true psychology.  I see these daytime talk shows that have degraded to the lowest novelty denominator and I just want to shove the TV in the closet and give up hope on it as a teaching tool... but I won't just yet.  There is an episode of The Big Guy and Rusty the Boy Robot I haven't seen yet.

Yesterday, I finally received my copy of The Graphic Artists Guilds Pricing and Ethical Guidelines in the mail.  It is twice as thick as previous editions.  This long overdue book is practically the bible of the industry for freelancers like myself.


"Rent Control"     [Top of page]

Subject: hi
Date: Fri, 08 Jun 2001  -0700
From:  KCM  [US]

Things are finally falling into place for me.  It's such a nice feeling.  I found a beautiful apartment, and best of all the girl living there will still live there next year, so the rent control prevents it from shooting up to $2400 and will increase only 3% to $1700.  I'm so relieved.  My roommate and I are still keeping our options open, and so we will be checking out a possibly cheaper place first, but in my mind the place is already mine.  It's huge and clean and nicely decorated.  The manager seems especially uptight though - I'm a little scared of him.

I had three finals yesterday.  Two of them were for English classes.  I wrote until my hand was practically useless.  It was so draining, but I came back and worked on my paper anyway.

Now I have three papers that are due on Monday.  My last Chinese history class ended well.  The professor said he hoped to see me in another of his classes.  It was a really good class, and I really learned a lot, even if I was falling asleep a lot.  But then I was tired.

Now I've just got to write up three papers.  I'm almost done with my Asian American lit one - it's frustrating because I've said all I wanted to say, but the page minimum is eight pages and I have 6.25 pages.  I will probably go back and insert a bunch of BS to compensate.  Next up are my papers on the Cultural Revolution and involution as a different way to approach the Chinese economy.


"We All Know It's Toxic, So Why....."     [Top of page]
(010708  12:57 a.m.  Nishi-Shinjuku)

In answer to my question about the spray glue in LL-299 "Do We Really Want to Poison Ourselves?", apparently the answer is "Yes".....

The reason for the glue is that JW Inc. provides a news clipping service to clients, cutting out actual articles from newspapers and magazines and then gluing them to A4 sheets of paper with an English translation of the headlines.  Nice for the clients, but something that is a headache for me both figuratively and literally.  Figuratively because the brevity of headlines makes them tedious to translate, and often even more tedious to rewrite/retranslate after someone has converted them to mutant English before sending them on to me for "proofing".  My Japanese reading ability is geared towards conversational Japanese, and so I'm not up to handling the task alone, still, there are times when the only way to get some headlines straightened out is to go back to the original Japanese for the pre-skewed meaning.

But never mind that - that's only a (relatively) minor irritant.  What is unforgivable and infuriating, is the way they are using that spray glue inside the office to glue the articles to the A4 paper.  It was sort of tolerable at the old place, since the windows were openable, but at the new place - there is only one small window in the corner meeting room that can be opened... the rest of the office is a sealed space with a recirculating air system - and have they stopped using the toxic spray?  No!  They admit that it's toxic, but are still using it on a daily basis.  They put a couple of cigarette smoke filtering machines in the corner room, and are pretending that the screens designed to cut down on airborne smoke are removing the toxins from the air.  The spray can itself very specifically cautions that the product should not be used in an enclosed space, and I reminded everyone of that fact in a couple of e-mails I sent to the entire office (one in Japanese and one in English) stating the name of the primary toxin in the product (n-hexane) and what it can do to you.  The Prez and the number two guy looked away and nodded that they understood it was not a good substance to be using in the office, but offered no assurance that the use of it would stop.  The number three guy (Mr. Aruchu) said that they had already agreed in principle to eventually discontinue using it.

I mentioned the danger of the spray to one of the two temporary workers who regularly sprays the toxin into the air (Ms. Kakoii), and her comment was "So what's the big deal?  I don't mind dying a little earlier"(!!)  I asked why she didn't use the brush-on type of glue that I'd seen a former employee use before.  "That takes too long" was her reply.

So... when I read a general memo sent to everyone from Mr. Hetakuso stating that since the conference room would be unavailable for use on Monday due to some work they're having done on it, and that the clipping work is to be conducted in the middle of the office... I walked over to his desk and asked "So that means they'll be spraying the toxins right in the middle of this sealed office?!"  He gave me an apologetic look and said "Probably so....." to which I said "Then I think I'll just home on Monday!  What's the point of staying here and poisoning myself when I could be doing the work just as well from home anyway?"

It was nearing the end of the day, so I rushed off the following e-mail to everyone (partly in Japanese - partly in English).

Date: Fri, 06 Jul 2001
From: Lyle Saxon
Organization: Prez Consulting

[In Japanese]  So... this means that we are absolutely determined to continue poisoning ourselves with the spray poison?

[In English]  It very clearly and specifically states on the can that the product is toxic and should not be used in enclosed spaces - which this office very definitely is.  What will it take for reason to prevail?  Does someone have to be hospitalized with an incurable illness directly attributable to the spray poison before we stop poisoning ourselves with it?


Keep in mind that this is something they are using every single day - without exception.  While anyone living in an early 21st century mega-city cannot completely escape exposure to toxic substances, daily exposure to airborne toxins within a sealed office for no better reason than it saves a little time... is insane!  This is an unfortunate example of how spineless and nonthinking people can be.  The idea of breathing that poison incenses me to the point where I have to fight its use, even though it's a battle I'll be fighting alone.     [Top of page]

"The Iguana"     [Top of page]

Subject: Look what the cat dragged in
Date: Mon, 11 Jun 2001  -0500
From: CPK  [US]

Saturday afternoon, June 9th, Aabbb was at work and I was just on my way out the door to take my nephews, Bbccc and Ccddd to a neighbors house to go dirt bike riding.  Eefff was with me too, as the neighbor is a long-time friend of hers.  Just as I was stepping out the door, the phone rang.  It was a neighbor named Ddeee.  I said, "I suppose you want a haircut" almost sarcastically as I had shut down my computer and so didn't have my schedule handy.  He said,"No, it's something else...  Would you like an Iguana?"  I asked him $how much$ they were asking and he said,"He's free, the people aren't taking very good care of him and he needs a good home... he has his own cage....."  I told him I was on my way out, but would leave the salon door open for him and he could just set him in there.  We returned many hours later, dirty and dog-tired, Iguana completely forgotten.  When I finally got to drag myself into the shower, what a surprise!  Sitting in the waiting area was this 5-foot cage and this huge iguana!  He was quickly moved outdoors (a two-man job).  He is the victim of a divorce.  He had obviously been well cared for up until recently, but the owners parted ways and the one left with the iguana no longer took the time to take care of it.  After the shock of seeing this thing in my house, I went into the living-room where Jjkkk and some friends were sitting, watching TV.  I asked her if she had seen the "surprise" in the salon.  She said, "You mean the iguana?"  (She hadn't bothered to go look at it, but had heard it was there.  No real surprise to her as I have owned a couple of small ones in the past.)  "Yeah, Dad's real mad about that."  Aabbb had come home while I was out, so he didn't know what to think other than it is definitely too big for us to keep in our house.  When I explained to him where it came from, he thought putting up for sale on Ebay would be a good idea.  You can easily get at the least $100 for an iguana that size.

Sunday morning, the iguana dined heartily on a meal of scrambled egg, grated sweet-potato, grated carrot, and one whole hibiscus blossom.  This morning he ate a small mouse.  (I had picked up a little feeder mouse at the pet store which Ffggg quickly fell in love with.)  Ffggg was hoping that the iguana wouldn't eat the mouse and that they would be happy roommates.  This morning I'll feed him some grape leaves (from the neighbors grapevines) and some nasturtium blossoms.  Never knew how useful my flowers would become.  The internet is sure handy for finding out what iguanas eat!  He'll be fine outside all summer and if we have really foul weather, we could move him into the shed.  Aabbb is going to build him a larger enclosure sometime.  We will have to find him a new home possibly by winter.  I'm thinking California would be nice, so might ship him out to Gghhh and Hhiii on Iijjj's ranch after they come to visit in August.  What do you think guys - want an iguana?  We don't know his name (not that he would come when you call) but Ffggg wants to call it "Charmeleon" after a Pokemon character.


"Alright Already!  We Understand!  Now Shut-up!"     [Top of page]
(010709  Yotsuya)

I was called into Mr. Zangyo's office this morning and told in slightly politer language than my title for this story that they understood the problem with the toxic chemicals in the spray-glue, and were committed to eventually phasing its usage out... so... would I please stop agitating the workers with my e-mail warnings about the dander to everyone's health?  I mentioned that the use of the spray-glue really was entirely unnecessary, as the same thing could be done with brush-on glue, to which he replied that the result was not as good with the brush-on glue... (purely an aesthetic reason... and not a very good one at that).  We went back and forth on the issue, with him saying one thing and myself another.  One thing he said that really set off the alarm bells for me - is that venting the spray outside was not an answer, as that could cause trouble with the neighborhood(!).  I mentioned the obvious fact that if the substance was so toxic that venting it outside could cause problems in the area - then the effect must be several fold worse within the office - all the more reason to discontinue its use!  We went back and forth on it for a bit, and the result (what else) is that they have every intention to continue using the spray.....  I went ahead and agreed to stop sending warnings about it to everyone in the company, but I didn't promise not to send them to management.....  The only way out of the situation seems to be to... leave the company... Wait a minute!  There's Ms. Kakoii... with a newspaper clipping, backing paper, and... brush-on glue!  Well then!  Mr. Zangyo did hint that clippings which can be copied (without the original being sent to the client), are a candidate for sloppier gluing.  Well then... sounding off might have actually produced some good effect after all.  I heard from Mr. Lookingfor at lunch today that (on Friday, after I left) Ms. Kakoii said she doesn't like using the spray - as it gives her a sore throat.  Interestingly, the part time workers who have been using the spray in the past have tended to come down with very bad sore throats, to the point where they had to take a couple of weeks off from work (one was off for almost a month).  Ms. Hone is said to have complained about my sending that sort of e-mail - saying that she deleted it without reading it (then how does she know what it said!?).

"Cutting Hay"     [Top of page]

Subject: Cutting Hay
Date: Mon, 11 Jun 2001  -0500
From: CPK  [US]

Yesterday, Aabbb went out to cut the hay.  When it was getting late (around 8:00 p.m.) I drove out to see if he needed any help (that is, provisions like beef jerky, bug spray, or a beer)   The sun is setting around 9:30 - 10:00 at night now that it is summer.  He was mowing at a couple of hayfields - one about four miles and the other about two miles from our house.  He uses a haybine which cuts, crimps (smashes) the grass/alfalfa, and puts it down in rows (called windrows).  It's a wonderful machine that does all that.  He used to cut it with a sickle mower, then rake it into windrows - twice the work and time on the tractor.  I sat by the car and watched a long time, amazed at how well he knows all that big machinery, like he was born with the knowledge, because I don't know when/where he would have learned it.  He is a natural with mechanics, but it still amazes me how professional his work seems considering he didn't grow up on a farm.

After sitting and watching awhile, Aabbb motioned for me to come over, and then he asked if I would like to ride along.  Pleased to be of company to him, I scrambled up.  It's a small old Allis Chalmers, so there is no place for a second person.  I had one foot way up on the gas tank and the other down behind his seat.  Kind of like when a ballerina stands on one foot, with the other on the railing, doing a stretch.  Then I leaned my seat back against the... (thing over the great big tire, like a fender but on the inside, not outside.  My lack of tractor terminology is really embarrassing)  There is a lot of starting, stopping, and backing up, so one has to really brace oneself.

He often has to stop, get off the tractor, and manually turn the big rake roller (or whatever it's called) till the backed up grass flies out and the roller spins freely again.  This is probably not recommended by the manufacturer, as it is very easy to get caught and pulled in.  (After I saw a near miss, I decided I would stay until the job was done in case I needed to call 911.)

It was a very nice close moment - being there with Aabbb and no other distractions and kids.  He seemed to really enjoy the company for what probably gets to be a terribly monotonous task.  He explained to me (at the top of his lungs over the loud machinery),  that the grass grows with a direction, or grain, and going against that makes for ideal cutting.  It's when you end up cutting in the same direction with the grain that things get hung up and some of it is laid flat and doesn't get cut.  So as I'm watching, and thinking about this fact, I realized how it is exactly like clipper-cutting someone's hair.  You have to go in the direction exactly against the grain for the hair to feed into the blades consistently.  My, that was a really big haircut!

The sunset in the country is so colorful... and then dark came with so many stars and one low, yellow planet we always figure is Venus.  In the country you see so many stars you cannot see around city lights.  I wish I could take a picture, but seeing it one dimensionally just isn't the same.  We see shooting stars every now and then and that always seems to me like a gift.  We finished about 10:30.  If it doesn't rain, we should be baling on Wednesday.  Rain is in our forecast, but Aabbb is eternally optimistic.

CPK      [Top of page]

"No Sooner Than..."     [Top of page]

Date: Tue, 12 Jun 2001 22:28:13 -0500
From: CBB

Well, we are in the middle of another mess here in the yard again.....  Yesterday the old deck came off the house... it has been there for the last 13 or 14 years and it was time to replace it.  Of course no sooner did the deck come down yesterday, than the rain started today.  Hopefully it won't last the three days they are forecasting.  I have visions of Aabbb getting called away to work on a long-term job, and then I will be all summer without the deck, I can see it happening and it wouldn't be the first time... tear something apart, he gets called away, and it's six months before he gets back to it.  We also have fencing we want to get up so the dogs can roam free in the yard - I hate them being tied up, plus the bigger of the two dogs is strong enough that when she is tired of being tied up, she just pulls her rope holder out of the ground and leaves... she is so bad!

I have also been working on the camper trailer we bought - slowly it is starting to get into shape.  We are having the seat cushions re-upholstered, so that will make a difference... now need to get some new floor covering in there, and when that is done, I will give it a good scrubbing and then we should be ready to take a trip with it.  We probably won't go too far for now, unless Aabbb goes to a job site.  Our first excursion will be to Classic Rock Weekend in August.


"Dimension-C Expert?"     [Top of page]
(Nishi-Shinjuku  2001/07/11  3:20 a.m.)

I have to get up in just three hours, so I shouldn't be awake now, but.....  The chain of events that was set in motion with buying memory for my company computer (See "Fun With Computers..." in LL-299) is still in motion!  The latest news with the Prez's computer is that the day after the machine I sent to Dell for servicing (the Prez's computer with the hard drive from another computer) came back, the Prez's computer (his hard drive in a temporary semi-functioning machine) wouldn't boot up.  He called me into his office and said - with a very unhappy expression - "My computer is broken!".  Understanding the problem better this time, I calmly informed him that his original machine had returned from servicing and I could do an HDD re-swap and have him set up with a properly working machine again in thirty minutes... er... twenty minutes!  That's what I did, and now his computer is working as nicely as can be expected (without a complete software re-install) with new parts from Dell and the 512MB of memory to deal with his bloated Outlook e-mail software.  Incidentally, while helping him write e-mail yesterday evening, I checked and saw that his computer was using 55% of the 512MB memory with just Outlook and one Excel file open... by contrast, the computer I'm writing this with right now is using 37% of 512MB with Netscape Communicator, File Explorer, StarOffice, and one Memo Pad file open.  (If I've written "File Explorer" and "Memo Pad" wrong, it's because I'm using Japanese software, so I'm not sure I remember the correct English terms from reading computer magazines.)

That should have been the end of it really, but now I'm mucking around with two malfunctioning Dimension-C's - one that tech support helped me fix by pulling out and re-inserting the CPU!!  Both of them need to have their software reinstalled, and I'm happy to do it as I look on the experience as practice for when I'll be reinstalling the software on my home computer, which is also a Dimension-C.

Sorry to be going on and on about computers here, but there's one other thing that I found interesting.  Another of the Dimension-C's at work was vibrating and making buzzing noises.  Dell replaced the CPU cooling fan with a different type (blowing up across the CPU from the bottom side of the heat-sink instead of straight down at the CPU from the top of the heat-sink), and now the machine is suddenly almost vibrationless.  No wonder there are problems with the CPU sockets... the entire machine is being vibrated and shaken from the fan attached to the CPU!  I think the "C" model was only made for Japan, so I doubt it, but is anyone else using that model?  (It's since been discontinued, although a very similar model with a different name is still being marketed.)

"Near the Lighthouse"     [Top of page]

Subject: Re: LL-297
Date: Wed, 13 Jun 2001  -0400
From: RJR  [US]

It is so cool to hear the stories from the other side of the world.  I am working on the ocean front in Virginia Beach, Virginia USA.  The spot I am working at is near a lighthouse at the mouth of The Chesapeake Bay.  I guess I take the place I live and work at as commonplace or ordinary.  But when I stop and think about it, I really can see that it's pretty special to live so close to the ocean (Atlantic).  Today we were working on a doctor's house.  We are putting a series of terraces with steps built from stone.  We are building the risers from brick with the top tread or walking area built with stone.  Today it was 91 degrees Fahrenheit with 90% humidity.  The ocean temperature is 71 degrees, so it offers a welcome relief at the end of the day.

Today we saw dolphins playing in the surf with the kids - they will be out of school this week and will be filling all the vacant spots on the beach very soon.  We are really pretty lucky to live here, we see much of the four seasons - not much snow though.  It is hurricane season here now, so every so often we get a storm that blows up the coast.  They can be pretty bad at times, but it has been years since we had one that has damaged property very badly.

Just thought I'd send a thought from the east coast of the US to you on the other side of the world.


"No Time to Lose"     [Top of page]

Date: Wed, 13 Jun 2001  -0700
From: KCM  [US]

I'm still not sure where I'm living next year.  I know where I'm living for the summer, and hopefully that will stay my residence, but it's still up in the air.  I found this beautiful, spacious apartment, with a cranky manager (who attended UCLA and was even dorm hall president!) and a senior girl who seemed really dorky and nice and offered the place to us (rent control).  I brought my roommate to see it and she loved it too, but she was really concerned about pricing.  While we said we would do it, she said that she wanted to check out some cheaper places first.  As I'm leaving in two days, I no longer care about the rent; I just want a definite place to stay!  I don't think we have any time to lose here.....

Still, everything should be sorted out by Friday.  Better be, or else I will blow up at someone... and I hate getting mad at my friends.

Other than that, I'm planning a nice big picnic up in Lake Temescal for my friends and people I haven't seen in forever.


"New CPU Heat Sink and Fan"     [Top of page]
(2001/07/11  12:23 p.m.  Nishi-Shinjuku)

Omron Engineering, the company that handles on-site service calls for Dell (in Tokyo anyway), came by my apartment this morning to change the heat sink and fan in my computer...  It's like a new machine!  No more buzzing and it's not vibrating itself to death anymore.  Happy user Lyle.....

It always amazes me to what degree a malfunctioning computer can upset me, and to what degree a fixed and properly working machine can make me feel that all is right with the world.  Tangible evidence of people's increasing reliance on technology I suppose.  Anyway, time to go to Yotsuya.....

[Later]  The computer is definitely quieter, but still runs hot, so I've pulled the side cover off again to help with cooling.  It looks strange, but seems to help.

"The Last Two Years"     [Top of page]

Subject: Re: LL-297
Date: Sat, 16 Jun 2001
From: CZH  [US]

I haven't written to you in... years!  Just wanted to let you in on the craziness that has occupied the last couple of years.  I got married, had a beautiful little boy, got separated, lost my job through a layoff, moved to Nebraska (temporarily, I think).  It's all been pretty crazy.  I understand about company politics by the way.  I was working at an internet company, and they promoted the most incompetent person to super just because she was there the longest and they wanted to get her out of circulation.  Anyway, this woman drove me nuts.  She treated everyone like children, she sat at her desk all day doing nothing that we could tell... then she would be called on to do things that - since she hadn't done a speck of work the whole while - she hadn't a clue how to do, or was months behind on procedures.  She had initially been doing small things, but after she kept losing them or forgetting about them... or doing them incorrectly, people stopped coming to her for anything.  (The only thing that I ever saw her actually working on was her own personal stuff - church bulletins, posters, etc.)

Anyway, the whole department started quitting, because she was the managers protege and our manager was the dragon-b**** from h***.  It was a very bad situation with morale extremely low... then came the fateful week - I had been a couple minutes late all week (I had a legitimate excuse - I was pregnant, it was hot, and it was very difficult getting to the trains in time) and she was even later (she was supposed to be in at the same time I was - my company enforced it strictly).  Someone must have let her know that I was late (she was certainly not there to witness it), and she took me aside and said something like, "I have noticed that you have been late all week, and you don't seem to be putting forth any effort."  This kind of made me mad, since I was running the department and not getting paid any more.  I kept my tongue though, and said something to the effect that I would try harder.  Then a couple weeks later, I sent out a package to one of our sister companies by company dispatch like I usually do, but the new receptionist didn't know how to handle dispatch - which I had taken the time to explain to him and all he had to do was find the number for them... which was undoubtedly on his desk or in his rolodex anyway.

So the next morning, it was still there on his desk, my super saw it and didn't know what it was, so she checked who it was addressed to, and then called them to ask what it was.  They didn't know because it was being forwarded to someone while another woman was on vacation.  Then she opened it and didn't know what it was, so she came to me and gave a long speech about how I should let people know what was in a package and why was I sending it to so-and-so and all this - and she went on for 15 minutes about this small, inconsequential thing.  I told her that all she had needed to do was ask me about the package and I would have been happy to explain it to her.  Then she kept going... I turned around and started ignoring her.  She said, "Don't ignore me."  I told her that I didn't have time for this and it was not a big deal.  I kept it at that, but it was a bad situation, and all over something that I do on a daily basis, but she wouldn't know of course, because she was a clueless woman who sat at her desk doing nothing.

I transferred out of the department as soon as there was a position open elsewhere.  But then I still got burned.  I had heard through several outlets on the grapevine that she was being demoted because of her shoddy work and the low morale in the department.  I then asked a friend still in the old department whether or not it was true.  Apparently, the "friend" broadcasted that I had been passing around this rumor and that I was the one to shake the morale of the department.  Holly molly... I learned my lesson.  Don't trust anyone and even innocent questions are dangerous.  I even heard about it in my job review.  At any rate, when the company laid off a bunch of people, I was one of them (they based it upon salary - those that were making more got the cut, and I had been there for a long time, so even though I wasn't getting paid enough for my work, I was making more than most in the department).  It was likely the best thing the company ever did for me.  I probably would have rotted there forever, not doing something I was really interested in and definitely not getting paid enough for my work.

So... they did me a favor, but I nearly went crazy because of money worries - about my young son and all that.  I was a bit lost afterward, because I wasn't prepared to deal with not really knowing what I wanted to do.  So I did the job hunt thing... but wasn't very successful.  I attribute it mostly to being clueless about what I wanted to do.  So I came out west to get a chance to think away from my husband, away from making a career decision, and all the stresses that were clouding my mind.  I think I was here for a few days when it hit me what I really wanted to do.  I had always wanted to go to law school, but hadn't because I was distracted with making money right after college.  Bad choice.  Kinda funny - if I had gone to law school, I wouldn't have gotten married or had a child, or ended up being clueless.  Hmm.  I wouldn't trade my son for anything, but I probably would have taken a pass at all the rest. :)

In answer to your question about online radio... Real Player has channels from all over the world.  Sometimes, it is really buggy, but I think it's more due to the stations' feed than anything.  If you just want to listen to music, spinner.com is really good and I hear sonique.com is also good.

CZH      [Top of page]

"Fun at the New Office"     [Top of page]
(Yotsuya  17:15  July 12th, 2001)

I have always tended to get headaches from staying in places like museums and libraries for too long.  The air is warm in the winter and cool in the summer, but the heating/cooling system is overly geared towards energy efficiency and not enough towards providing quality air.  And so it is here at Jungle Warfare, Inc., where - although they have cut back on it - they are still spraying dangerous toxic airborne substances into the air to add to the already low quality of the building air.  As I type this I am wondering if the headache that is creeping into my consciousness will subside without chemical help (aspirin) when I leave at six.

[Later...]  I stepped out into the Tokyo summer for about 20 minutes - which helped, and then when I walked back into the office, I immediately noticed a very distinct chemical smell... similar to paint fumes.  "The spray-glue..." I realized.....

"Dear Mr. Zangyo"     [Top of page]

(This ties in directly with the bit I wrote above.)  Jungle Warfare, Inc.'s continued use of toxic spray-glue is turning into a major battle, with me firing off strongly worded e-mails, supporters not saying a word (with the exception of Mr. Lookingfor), and detractors criticizing me for disturbing the complacency of "the staff".....

July 13th, 2001

Dear Mr. Zangyo,
(cc: Mr. Prez)

In accordance with your earlier request, I am not sending this e-mail to everyone in the company - in spite of the fact the issue very much concerns us all.

I would like to point out the fact that the people who have been most directly exposed to the toxins in the spray glue (which the company stubbornly insists on using in spite of a general agreement that it is dangerous) have tended to become ill.  It might be a coincidence, but Ms. Iropoi became very ill with a sore throat and had to take two or three weeks off.  Mr. Nantoka also became rather ill (which was blamed on the air conditioning at the time).  Now we have Mr. Ochitsuita, who has been coughing for the past four weeks.....

Personally, I got a headache yesterday and had to step outside for fresh air.  When I returned, the office had a smell of paint.....  When I came in this morning, there were no strange smells... but soon after Mr. Ochitsuita resumed spraying the toxin-laden glue, the chemical smell returned.....  Allow me to be blunt here.  When we had our discussion on Monday and you told me to stop sending everyone e-mail about this issue, you pointed to one of the air intakes and said it was an "exhaust fan".  I countered that it was more likely an air intake for the recirculating air system, to which you agreed - saying that it was mixed in with fresh air.....  This appears to be true with this type of system, but the amount of fresh air is a rather low percentage in order to hold energy costs down.  Perhaps we can contact the building management and explain to them that as we are spraying dangerous toxins into the office air, we need a higher percentage of fresh air mixed in.....

Are you personally happy to know that you are breathing toxins into your body on a daily basis?  The company has a no-smoking (within the work area) policy - presumably for health reasons, and yet we are happy to poison ourselves with an even more dangerous substance?!!??

You said to me several times "Isn't it enough?" about my talking about this issue.  I wish it were!  As the man who could put a stop to this madness, it is your responsibility that this entire office full of people is being slowly poisoned on a daily basis.  You say there is no option?  That the brush-on glue takes more time and doesn't look as nice is justification for endangering the health of all of us?  Shame on you!!!


Lyle Saxon

Shortly after I sent the above letter into the wires (with a BCC to Mr. Lookingfor), Mr. Zangyo stopped me on my way to the printer and said "Thank you for your e-mail.  We'll be discussing this issue at the general meeting on Monday".  I nodded my understanding and continued on my way to the printer... and since then I've been thinking about what I will need to say at that Monday meeting.  I have (and continue to) put up with a lot of nonsense in that office, but the steady (if slow) destruction of my health is something I have to resist.  I just wish another sheep or two would find the courage to fight against what is wrong.     [Top of page]

"Help!  What is N-Hexane Exactly??"     [Top of page]
(July 14th, 2001  9:59 a.m.  Nishi-Shinjuku)

Seemingly the most hazardous substance in the spray-glue is "n-hexane".  So far I've found the following information (in Encyclopedia Britannica):

hexane n.
any of five isomeric hydrocarbons having the formula C6H14, of the alkane series, some of which are obtained from petroleum: used as solvents and chemical intermediates and in fuels.

Poisoning with industrial chemicals occurs most often by either percutaneous or inhalation routes.

Organic compounds
Depression of the central nervous system is a common effect of most hydrocarbons. Examples of common hydrocarbons include gasoline, toluene, and heptanes; n-hexane; and benzene. The hydrocarbons are lipid-soluble and dissolve in the membrane of nerve cells in the brain, perturbing their function. Depression, such as drowsiness, occurs as a result. In addition, many of the hydrocarbons sensitize the heart to fibrillation by epinephrine. The hydrocarbon n-hexane also causes damage to peripheral nerves. Benzene is toxic to organs like the bone marrow that form blood cells and can lead to the production of leukemia.

Does anyone have any further information on n-hexane?  I'd greatly appreciate any assistance with this issue.  I need the job at the moment (there's a business proposition from Singapore pending, but...) - need the job, but don't need to have my health destroyed!

So... what is going to happen at the general meeting on Monday?  There is bound to be a verbal battle this time, as this is one issue I can't sit down for.......

Sore ja.....

Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon
Images Through Glass

Nishi-Shinjuku, Tokyo
July 14th, 2001
[Top of page]