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"Letter-Letter 301"
July 15th, 2001

"Words, Culture, & Desire"
"Interpreting Gravy"  by CPK & LHS
"It's Been a Busy Week"  by MMH
"The N-Hexane Battle"
"Letter to Mr. Aruchu: 'In Line With Your Position...'"
"My Son's Travels"  by NBN
"Content Over Medium"  by LHS & CPK
"Looking Through Old Photos"  by KCM
"JW Inc. Toxically Illegal"
"Happy Freelancer"  by MMH
"Day of Reckoning"  by Laf
"B & A Dieting"  by APP
"Making a Living"  by GBA
"Start Bailing..."
"New Apartment"  by KCM
"To the Dentist, Work, etc."  by MMH
"Correction - Re: Cesaria Evora"  by APR
"Studying..."  by KCM
"Save Old Quotations"  by MMH

"Words, Culture, & Desire"     [Top of page]

When I began working at JW Inc. last year, I had a slew of English teaching jobs scattered around Tokyo that I continued to teach in-between going to and from the JW office... until Prez started pressuring me to spend more time at the office and so I started dropping the outside jobs one by one... some that I had been teaching for several years.  The irritating thing about this in hindsight is that the combination of the higher paying (per hour) English teaching jobs and the office jobs provided me with enough cash to pay the bills - which was basically matched when I worked myself ragged by staying at the office for 10-14 hours a day, but then people started complaining that I was getting paid too much(?!!) and so I was ordered not to work overtime!  Great!  But why couldn't it have been that way in the first place?  But I digress!  I only meant to say that I insisted on keeping one very long term job that I've been teaching at a factory for around six years now, so the company - amidst much grumbling - has allowed me to come in at 14:00 every Wednesday to enable me to continue the weekly morning class out at the factory.

But... the factory class has been going on so long, that the head office (of the factory) is asking why the class is so long-running.  Solution(?), the head guy at the branch factory here in Tokyo (one of my students) came up with the bright(?) idea of having me come to the factory early every morning to teach two private 20 minute lessons to an expanded group of students.  In my discussions with him about this, he led me to believe that this would be in addition to rather than instead of the two hour Wednesday arrangement, but I soon learned that the Wednesday deal had been vaporized (first discrepancy) and that it would be done on a trial basis for two months, but now I hear two weeks (second discrepancy)... topped off with a number of salesman's tricks (the guy's job is basically sales after all) that have me feeling rather cynical towards him at the moment.

The final attempted opening of an application that crashed the computer?  The attitude of a couple of the students has brought back 17 years worth of memories of the seedy side of the "English conversation" teaching business in this country.  Thus the following letter which I just sent to all of the students at the factory - including the top guy, who is in the US on business at the moment - with the same title I've used here: "Words, Culture, & Desire".

There is a reason there are a steady stream of "How to Learn English" books published, and many of them sell fairly well.  It's a good topic to write a book about for the author, the publisher, and the bookstore, as since it is quite impossible to become proficient in a radically different language simply from buying a single book, eager students of the language are forever looking for "the secret key" to learning that language, and there is $no$end$of$ books that can be sold on the topic.  The authors, the publishers, and the bookstores all know that it's a scam, but people need to make a living, and - like the illegal drug trade - as long as there are buyers, there will be sellers of what the buyer is willing to shell out for.

Gentlemen, I'm not trying to sell you a book, nor am I trying to scam you.  I have over seventeen years experience teaching students English, and I can tell you with absolute certainty that there is no human being on planet Earth who can walk up to you and magically pour English into your minds.  Very much like learning to play a musical instrument, YOU must do the studying, and the teacher can help you out with things that you don't understand.  However, if you don't study between the lessons, there is nothing in this universe that the teacher can do to make you a proficient speaker of the language.

Platitudes aside, the reason I'm writing this is to say that I think you all should send me something (text) every day.  It doesn't have to be long... in fact it probably should not be long, as I know you have limited time for writing things in English, but even a little bit is helpful if it's regularly done.  Give it a try!

Or... just do what lazy and irresponsible students everywhere do when they don't want to take responsibility for their own failure to study - blame the teacher.  A student of the piano who never practices between lessons doesn't generally say "Well, my teacher was a bad piano teacher!  It's not my fault that I didn't learn to play!"  So... why is it that the colossal failure of most students to learn a foreign language is always blamed on the teacher?  I've taught hundreds of students over the years, and the ones who put some time and effort into learning I was able to assist in their difficult journey down the mysterious English language path....  Those who didn't do anything on their own however, always seemed to think that their failure was purely my fault.  Or... did they in fact know and just make me a convenient scapegoat?

Forgive me my cynicism... I began this journey as an optimist.......

Willing and eager to help.


Lyle Saxon

I would just as soon not be jeopardizing this second job, particularly while I'm fighting the n-hexane battle at Jungle Warfare, Inc., but with the new students I see a pattern I've seen too many times over the years... they aren't expending any effort in learning, but the last thing they intend to do is admit that they hold some of (most I think) the responsibility for not becoming fluent speakers of English in a week or two.......     [Top of page]

"Interpreting Gravy"     [Top of page]

Subject: Radio stations online
Date: Wed, 13 Jun 2001  -0500
From: CPK  [US]

In answer to someone's question about on-line radio - here is one site I know:


I listened briefly to an AM station in Tokyo - JOQR 1134AM.  I'm just amazed that you can understand the language with it flying by so fast.  Every word about sounds the same to me.  It seems there are not as many different sounds as in English and so the differences from one word to another are so subtle I would think it hard for a person to make out the words, especially if their hearing wasn't so good.  I would imagine that a person with the gift of being bilingual like you would have so many opportunities!  I spoke with a woman from the federal government who told me that the people employed as interpreters have such "gravy" jobs - that they are paid very well and treated very VIP.  Have you ever considered working for the US federal government as an interpreter?  Or would you hate all the travel?



I have in fact done some interpreting jobs (business meetings and one factory tour), but (I'm very ashamed to admit), my Japanese vocabulary level is a little too low when it comes to technical terms for me to take on the best paying interpreting jobs.  I have noticed however, in transcribing tapes of business meetings where an interpreter was present, that some of the worst interpreters are considered the best only because they never hesitate and always rattle off... something... immediately after someone speaks.  When you don't know one or the other of the languages, this type of performance does look impressive - how are you to know?  (Tapes!  And so serious companies make a point of having the whole meeting transcribed so they can verify important points.)  On the other side of the scale are excellent/honest interpreters who, in the interest of accuracy, have to pause here and there to think of the best way of conveying a difficult-to-translate concept, and are immediately (and unfairly) seen as inferior interpreters because of that hesitation.

While it's true that some interpreters are on a gravy-train, aside from the very top of the profession, the positions are not so high paying as people generally think... especially when you consider their sporadic nature.  You get a few good jobs in a row and you think you're doing great, but then there's an unpaid lull and suddenly you're having difficulty making ends meet.  It's a little like being a musician... you have to spend an immense amount of unpaid and/or underpaid time to get to the point where you are paid a decent rate for the performance, so overall, it's not the easy ride that it appears to be.  The interpreting jobs I've done haven't paid very well, and there were no red carpets.

Admittedly it can be fun to be in the middle of two groups of people as the only person who can fluently speak both groups' languages - with all cross-culture communications being relayed to and from yourself.....  There was a group I did interpreting for last year - where everything went well, and I enjoyed myself quite a lot over the dinner, explaining Japanese cultural things to the group of visiting Americans.  During the dinner, I felt myself to be of both groups and both cultures - but... - after we walked back to the Imperial Hotel, the Americans went up to their expensive rooms, and as I stood with the two Japanese factory guys near the lobby, two of the Americans walked poker faced past us back into the Tokyo night.  (It would have been fun to have gone with them, but it would have been viewed as going AWOL and I think they wanted to go out on their own anyway.)  Soon thereafter, I and the two factory guys parted and I found myself standing alone in the vastly overlit florescent glare of a late night subway train feeling not of both cultures, but of neither!  And that's the rub - to gain a comprehensive grasp of another culture, you have to get away from your own - but the first half of your life is the first half of your life, so you can't get away, you can't arrive, and you can't go back... metaphorically, I'm out in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.     [Top of page]

"It's Been a Busy Week"     [Top of page]

Subject: Dose of MMH 06/15/01
Date: Fri, 15 Jun 2001  -0800
From: MMH  [US]

It has been a very busy week, with work keeping me on my toes.  On Monday I took the car in to the shop so our mechanic could do a brake job.  We've been using the original brakes since we purchased the car some 96,000 miles ago, and they have done well, but we figured it was time to replace them and our mechanic confirmed our judgment.

I found out that our mechanic's mother-in-law was dying of cancer.  Her third bought with chemotherapy wasn't taking, so they decided to switch to pain management, and it is only a matter of time with her now.  This has not been a good week for little old ladies.  My next door neighbor, Aabbb, his mother had a stroke, but she is doing much better now.  She can move all of her limbs and talk, which is pretty good, considering.

My neighbors down at the end of the block were broken into yesterday.  It was shocking - she was home most of the day and just was gone long enough to see about picking up the kids from school.  When she got back, she found the front door pushed in and the CD player missing.  One of her oldest girls is a teenager just out of the house.  Considering there were better houses around to break into, many in the neighborhood think that it must be some old friend of the teenager that raided the house.  I mean, a CD player?  What type of crime is that?  You might as well shoplift something like that.  You get longer jail time for breaking and entering.

Whoever did it was not very concerned about being caught.  The next-door neighbor was getting a new roof placed on his house... with the roofers less than 20 yards away, but apparently they didn't see anything unusual.

Yesterday I also took the car to a tire shop my mechanic recommended to me.  Two of the tires badly needed replacement.  The remaining two have about a year left on them.  They also balanced the tires for us and that took care of the shimmy the car was experiencing on the highway.  Bbccc has to use the car all next week.  She is taking tests to become certified as a home inspector.  Considering she has been working on revising the building code for the state for the last eight years, I think she has most of the stuff memorized by now.

We also found out that Bbccc's mom found a new apartment to live in.  Mom has been looking for the right place for a long time.  I am sure she will be glad that she can finally unpack all the cardboard boxes she packed up so long ago.  Bbccc's sister is out for the summer and on her next birthday she will be old enough to get herself a job.  I wonder what her first job will be?  My first job was as a clerk for a department store.  Later I became a waiter, and then a gardener, painter and all around handyman.

MMH      [Top of page]

"The N-Hexane Battle"     [Top of page]
(July 17th, 2001  5:44 a.m.  Nishi-Shinjuku)

There was a general meeting yesterday morning in which the n-hexane laden spray glue issue came up... as I was told it would by Mr. Zangyo.  I prepared for the meeting as best as I could - armed with new information sent to me by some of my e-pals, as well as new data downloaded from the Internet.  I knew very well that it would not be a pleasant meeting, but I was very determined to do what I could to strongly oppose the poisoning of everyone in the office with the foolish use of that dangerous product.

The funny thing about the meetings is the way people avoid the central seats... generally the Prez takes the seat at the head of the table, and then a few brave souls sit further down the table, and the rest of the employees cower back in the far corners - with a few (lucky) people even standing outside the door of the meeting room - safely out of sight of the Prez.  The seats immediately to either side of the Prez usually remain empty.  Before entering the room, I figured it would be like that, and as I entered the meeting room I saw that it basically was... with the exception that instead of the Prez, it was Mr. Zangyo, who is incrementally stepping into the role of the top office manager.  Actually, there was only one seat open, but it was just to the right of Mr. Zangyo's seat, next to Mr. Seiruzu, who had pushed his chair way back and so wasn't really sitting at the table anymore...  Normally, I avoid sitting at the table, as it feels like sitting in a spotlight, but as I walked into the room, center stage was exactly what I wanted, so I went directly to the seat, sat down, and purposefully arranged an A4 notebook and several highlighted pages (about n-hexane) on the table in front of me.  How the meeting went is basically covered in the following letter I just sent to Prez and Mr. Zangyo (BCC to Mr. Lookingfor), but what isn't readily apparent from the letter was the tension in the air and the near-shouting match I had with both Mr. Zangyo and Mr. Aruchu.....  I sent the letter under the title "Clean and Positive Workplace".  (Followed by a letter I just wrote and sent to Mr. Aruchu this morning.)  I knew the meeting would not be a friendly one, and so I shocked the room with table thumping, strong words, a loud voice... and most shocking of all, ostentatious page turning and note taking while Mr. Zangyo and Mr. Aruchu were trying to pass off the spray-glue as a basically harmless substance and not anything to be worried about.

Post Meeting Hexane Report
July 16th, 2001

Mr. Aruchu opened the discussion about the use of the spray-glue by saying that management is considering the possibility of fully digitizing the information in the newspaper clipping service we provide, but that budget constraints may delay implementation.  There had been talk of this being done in three months, but now the target is "sometime during this year".

He said that "We'll try, but we won't be able to get away from using the glue for awhile."  Doing the spray-gluing in another part of the company was touted as a possible solution - maybe in Mr. Zangyo's office to make use of the "exhaust fan" he has in there.  A bit later on I mentioned that what Mr. Zangyo in fact has in his office is not an exhaust fan at all, but an air-intake for the air conditioning system that then recirculates the air as it is mixed in with a small amount of outside "fresh" air.  Mr. Zangyo conceded that this is so, but stated that fresh air is mixed in at a rate of 33%.  I asked him where he obtained that figure, and he ignored me, so I said it was too high and said that I could look into it to find an accurate figure.  Mr. Zangyo's response?  "Just do your proofing!"

A few of the things Mr. Aruchu said I must take exception with.  One is his comment about the glue being "Yoku-nai daro".  That the glue is a toxin is not "daro", or maybe.  It's a very definite thing!  Science knows beyond a doubt that hexane is a hazardous substance.  (See data from OSHA at bottom of page.)

Mr. Aruchu also repeated several times "Will you do all the gluing then?  We'll stop using the spray if you'll do all the gluing."  Aside from the fact that who does the gluing is not the issue here, if it would be all right to cease and desist from using the glue in the event it were I who was doing the gluing, then obviously it's not necessary to use it!  If it's necessary (as Mr. Aruchu claims), then what was the brinksmanship question about?

The crux of the issue came up later in reference to the spray-glue being good for when we're in a hurry and when the product needs to look especially nice for the client.  I fully understand that the spray glue is convenient and the glued paper looks nice... but the product is simply too dangerous to use in this office with it's limited amount of fresh air circulation.  Selling our health down the river for an insubstantial (or even a substantial!) amount of saved time just doesn't make sense, and I'm sure the clients would rather that we not damage our health for such trivial reasons.

Mr. Aruchu also stated that there had been no ill health effects at the previous company he worked at which also used spray-glue.  As I pointed out, exposure to the toxin n-hexane doesn't make you immediately fall over dead... but rather the build-up of poison in the body leads to problems over time (as outlined in "Health Hazard Information" below).

The second meeting following the general meeting was a positive and constructive one, with people discussing alternatives, including stick-glue.

May we speedily retire the use of the spray-glue with n-hexane - a toxic and dangerous substance - and get on with improving the working conditions and atmosphere for all the employees working at Jungle Warfare, Inc.!


Lyle Saxon


* Routes of Exposure

Exposure to n-hexane can occur through inhalation, ingestion, and eye or skin contact [Sittig 1991, p. 889].

* Summary of toxicology
[I've deleted this part for the LL-Letter, as it's a bit technical/lengthy.]

* Signs and symptoms of exposure

1. Acute exposure: Acute exposure to n-hexane may cause dizziness, confusion, nausea, headache, and irritation of the eyes, nose, throat, and skin [Hathaway et al. 1991].

2. Chronic exposure: Long-term exposure to n-hexane may cause disturbances in sensation, muscle weakness, and distal symmetric pain in the legs. Clinical changes include muscle atrophy, decreased muscle strength, footdrop, numbness, prickling, and a tingling sensation in the arms and legs. Neurological investigations reveal decreased motor nerve conduction, neurogenic damage and swelling of peripheral nerves with thinning of the myelin sheath. These symptoms may get worse for 2 to 3 months after cessation of exposure. Changes in vision may also be a symptom of chronic exposure to n-hexane [Hathaway et al. 1991].      [Top of page]

"Letter to Mr. Aruchu: 'In Line With Your Position...'"     [Top of page]

July 17th, 2001

Mr. Aruchu,

In the meeting yesterday, you repeatedly said that the company would be happy to stop using n-hexane toxic laden spray glue if I would handle all of the gluing of clippings.  Now... since you admit that it is indeed possible to stop using the spray if I do the gluing, by extension, it must also be possible to stop using the spray if someone else does the gluing.  In fact, if you are so certain it's safe, why don't you take the glue home and spray it in your own home?  (Or do you?  I hope not!!!)

You also state that the same spray glue was used at your previous job and no one was affected.  This demonstrates your gross misunderstanding and noncomprehension of what we're dealing with.  The damages to our health being caused by this toxin are subtle, but very real.  I know it's a troublesome prospect for you to deal with this problem, but it's not simply an issue of whether you care about your own health or not, but rather you are playing with the health of an entire office full of people.  Excuse me for saying so, but "Ikagenni-shite kudasai!!"  Start being responsible in line with your position in the company!

Also... please stop issuing misleading and dishonest statements, and comprehend the fact that n-hexane is a dangerous substance that must not be used in enclosed spaces.  There is information on the Internet, as well as many other sources... n-hexane is a well-known toxin.


Lyle Saxon

"My Son's Travels"     [Top of page]

Subject: Hi! Lyle.
Date: Sat, 16 Jun 2001  +0100 (BST)
From: NBN

My son lost his mobile phone in the river yesterday when he was fishing... he didn't try to fish it out as he said it would have been ruined by the water anyway.  He bought a new one - a more expensive and up-to-date one - and insured this time.  Speaking of Aabbb, he went to Copenhagen again a few weeks ago to visit his girlfriend - it was his third visit there and he stayed for a week this time.  He gave me two photos - one of him standing beside the Little Mermaid statue, and the other a close-up of the statue.  In the background across the water you can see Sweden.  Not far from the statue, there is a road and rail bridge that has not been open for very long that goes over to Sweden (Aabbb has not got round to crossing it yet).  He is going to Copenhagen for two weeks soon and he and Bbccc (his girlfriend) are going to Holland for three days to visit Amsterdam.  They are also going to Paris for three days at the end of July.  At end of August they are going on holiday to Canada.  They were going to visit the US as well, but Bbccc can only take two weeks off work, so they are going to the United States next year instead.  As Aabbb is a private tutor, he can take as much time off as he likes.


"Content Over Medium"     [Top of page]

The following letter from CPK is in reply to one I sent her in which I complained about too many publications using a heavy editing hand and creating a newspaper/magazine with an overly homogenized style in pursuit of consistency and safe predictability.  Also the way words are often used more as a kind of show than to convey true content.....

Subject: Re: ContentOverMedium
Date: Mon, 18 Jun 2001  -0500
From: CPK  [US]

.........................  I too find flowery words like "caviar" so annoying.  The write-ups for shampoo are ridiculous!  I just wish they would be content to put quality in the product and sell it at a fair price.  And the media!  It's gotten so I hardly look at the news.  They give such a distorted view of things, I avoid it so as not to be swayed into misunderstanding.  Especially in politics.  They put out so many words during an election, yet I know we are all still mostly in the dark as to what is really going on.  You can probably better trust voting for someone based on how they wear their hair than what is advertised/written in the news.



"Looking Through Old Photos"     [Top of page]

Date: Fri, 22 Jun 2001
From: KCM  [US]

I came home, only to be greeted by a trail of ants on my desk.  I killed them all and slept in my bed, only to wake up and find the stupid buggers back.  I've been told that the best way to get rid of them is boric acid mixed with honey, but I've yet to find a store that sells boric acid.  I killed the last of them today, and I'm leaving in two days, so it won't be my problem for long.

I am so torn over this apartment issue.  I've agreed to take one for $500 (my payment) only to have another of my friends snap up something in which my part would only be $475.  I've already verbally promised the $500, and I am so tempted to switch, but my conscience is kicking me because I would hate to do this switch so late.  I guess I'll just stick with this one for now.  *sigh*  I hate this.

Upon my return home I've been stuffed with food.  Every time I go home it's some holiday and my mother is preparing *ding*, which is jasmine or sweet rice wrapped in bamboo and steamed.  Legend has it that this hero was once captured by the enemy - he was then killed and thrown into the river.  To prevent his body from being eaten, or to feed his ghost - I forget which - the people made these pastries to throw into the river on the fifth day of the fifth month.

I've been looking through my photo albums and hating every single picture of me, but becoming more and more fascinated with the old photos.  I wonder, who took all these pictures of my dad?  Where was he?  And what studio did my family go to when we were in China?  When did we learn to smile for the camera, instead of looking straight ahead?  I want to do something with these pictures, but I'm not sure what.  Tell stories, maybe.

My niece, now three years old, is growing taller and thinner, shedding her baby fat.  She is adorable and turning into such a *girl* - preferring pink and Barbies - all things her aunts and mother abhor.  There's nothing wrong with this; it's just funny to me.  The more you try to erase something, the more it comes back to haunt you.  She's also such a whiner.  She sounds like my friend's dog, whimpering all the time when she doesn't get her way.  Sometimes I can't stand it and I want to shake her.  I never do; I try to get her to stop, but without much success.

I am tired, and not looking forward to going back to L.A.  It seems like going back to a self-imposed prison.  My sisters are thinking about going to the Grand Canyon sometime in August, though.  If they go, I'll go.  They have to stop by anyway.

I had dinner with my brother-in-law and sister last night, and the conversation consisted of them telling their daughter, "Show them the new stuff you got, honey."  "Show them the new toys."  "Look at how fast this cable connection is."  (Uh, I got cable in college.  This isn't exactly impressive to me.)

My mother picked today to warn us about drugs, when she had never done so before.  Apparently, two dealers ran to the gas station where she works in an attempt to elude the police.  "I didn't know what was happening.  And then there were a lot of police cars.  And an ambulance.  So scary."  She then launches into a full-on lecture about the dangers of drugs, during which I interrupt, "You think I'm that stupid?"  She responds, "How do I know?"

Yeah, how would she know.

Tomorrow I am having a picnic with my friends.  It's been years since I've seen some of them, and it may be an interesting gathering.  I still have a lot of last minute things to do for it.

KCM     [Top of page]

"JW Inc. Toxically Illegal"     [Top of page]
(July 19th, 2001  Afternoon)

The day before yesterday I had a friend try calling the labor board to see what they had to say about JW Inc. using the toxic spray-glue within the office.  They recommended calling the... (not sure what to call it in English)... Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which produced the very interesting information that using a known toxic substance within an office without taking any special safety precautions is against the law here... as it should be!!

So... (yesterday morning) armed with this information, I visited the J-OSHA office with an empty can of the spray and the information I have so far on its toxicity - including a detailed list of the product's precise ingredients that I was able to obtain from the manufacturer via fax.

I was initially met by a friendly man who seemed to be new to the office.  I carefully explained the situation and showed him the can of spray itself.  It was a good sign that he was trying to helpful, but I was dismayed to see him looking up "hexane" in a thick book he had to determine if it was listed as a toxic substance - I would have thought that if anyone knew about hexane, it would be someone working there.....  He found it - and his eyes lit up as he said "Here it is!".  He then reconfirmed what I had heard through my friend about its being against the law to use it without proper safety precautions.

He asked me to wait a minute - disappeared to check something - and then reappeared to talk with a slightly heavyset man (who had been talking with a man obviously from a factory).  The heavyset man had an air and attitude like a cynical police detective in a movie (are real detectives like that?).  We went to a nearby cubicle and I started my presentation again... but as I had just spent ten to fifteen minutes explaining the situation with the first guy, I ended up rushing the repeat performance - which might account for the unfriendly undercurrent that ran through the time I spent discussing the issue with the second guy.  Or was it the spectacle of a white collar worker complaining about spray-glue when there are people working in much more hazardous environments?  The irony here of course is that many factories dealing with more dangerous materials are probably safer to work in that the seemingly squeaky-clean office I'm in that uses toxins with no safeguards at all.

The end result is that (presumably) J-OSHA will be visiting the JW office around the end of the month to check out the situation.  Apparently there are two ways of doing it - one being that they come ostensibly on a routine visit and "discover" the dangerous condition, or they come with the information and say that "someone" complained and they are looking into the allegations.  The "somebody said..." route seemed better as it's faster and... for some reason I felt that it would be better for them to hear that someone had complained to authorities who were in a position to force the company to obey the law of the land.  The company will almost certainly think it was me though... if indeed they are not told.......

There was something about that guy at J-OSHA... he made a few sarcastic comments, like "You took that from your office?!?" as I put the empty can of spray-glue back in my backpack.  In real time I took it to be a joke in the forefront of my mind and said "I needed proof..." as a creeping feeling of unease in the back of my mind grew stronger.  That comment in particular has been bothering me more than it should... I've ended up thinking my way back to the moment and wishing I had stopped, looked at the guy and said:  "What are you saying?  That I'm a thief?  Number one, the can is empty, but even if it weren't, how else could I properly explain to you about the health hazard taking place in that office?  By extension, are you calling me a trouble-making foreigner?  Many of the Japanese workers there are also very unhappy about being poisoned.  Would you be happy to have someone spraying this toxin every day in your office?"........

But no... I'm not generally very quick in verbal exchanges like that... and so I sit in front of the computer and write to you what I wish I had said to him.....  How to bring verbal response time up to battle speed.....  When joking with friends, friendly things come quickly to mind, but when the arrows come flying, I end up asking myself why I can write missiles but not speak them in a sudden attack.

When I went to the office, my bravado suddenly evaporated as I contemplated the very real possibility that I would be getting myself fired at a time when jobs are hard to find - shudder-shudder.  I now have a little more understanding of the rest of the people in the office not standing up to strongly protest that spray toxin.  More understanding, but no more respect.  The people who are using that spray against their better judgment would be on very solid ground to simply refuse to have anything to do with it.  It's toxic and it's illegal.  The company would have to respect the combination of worker resistance conducted in concert with the power of the law and common sense (or not so common sense - unfortunately!).

Now, today - I am feeling a little better, but still worried about what will happen.  A friend advised that I deny any connection with the company's coming under investigation for legal violations, and as things go locally, that's probably the best course.  They'll basically know, but admitting it would likely make things worse.  I find myself wondering how the top three people in the company will react to being investigated for safety violations.....  There's a constant worry in my thinking, but however worried I am, I don't feel that I have done anything wrong.  I did everything I could, and only went for outside help when the company refused to stop endangering my health with hexane.     [Top of page]

"Happy Freelancer"     [Top of page]

Subject: Dose of MMH 06/22/01
Date: Fri, 22 Jun 2001  -0800
From: MMH  [US]

I have been complaining the last two weeks about how busy I am, but for a freelancer that is really just a way of bragging.  I am just catching up on all those months when work was a bit slow.  Still this last week has been a tiring one.  Several deadlines to be met on my part, projects taking too long on the back burner, and my dog is not getting walked often enough.  Aabbb has been busy as well.  She’s been using the car all week to take a cram course for the test she is taking today.  She also has been putting in long hours.  We allowed ourselves two hours of television on Wednesday to watch "Bullworth" on video.  We were really glad we did, because we found the movie a wonderful surprise and laughed like donkeys.

Aabbb is an avid reader, normally polishing off three or four books a week.  But she has only allowed herself to hit the textbooks this week.  There is a package for her on the dinning room table... two books she is dying to read, but she hasn’t even opened it in order to resist the temptation of reading them.

I had a chance last weekend to visit my parents, so on Saturday we sat around their computer and I tried my best to teach them some of the things I have learned on my Macintosh... which was a little difficult in that they have a PC and I hardly ever touch those.


"Day of Reckoning"     [Top of page]

Subject: Day of Reckoning
Date: Sun, 24 Jun 2001
From: Laf  [US]

Aabbb's Birthday
I have to admit that having a party in a public place, in this case the Bar/Saloon/Pub (choose your best title, all could apply), was a totally new experience... we held it on Friday, and it seemed to go well.  We followed it with a Barbecue/Pool Party at our house on Sunday, so anyone who had been unable to come Friday could come on the weekend.  Aabbb officially got engaged that weekend as well.  I certainly hope, in her case, that the third time really is lucky.

The Computer Blues
Just when I thought it was safe to come out and play on the internet again... I actually had computer trouble with the new computer.  It came with the latest operating system.  Nobody told me that it would or could reject entire programs because they were obsolete by the parameters of the new system.  That included the version of Netscape that I use... or I guess I should say used.  The entire system went down.  What a mess!  It took my son almost two weeks to get it back up and running.  We had the added dilemma of having several key documents residing in the old programs.

I have had a poem accepted for publishing in a book coming out this fall.  It is an anthology of new poets or largely unknown poets.  They accepted my poem "Song In The Night".  My nephew has had one of his poems accepted for the same book, which we think is pretty cool.

Also falling under the heading of poetry, My son Bbccc and I have joined the South Florida Poetry Society.  We get together once a month with other members of the group and have a round-robin of poetry reading.  It is such a pleasure reading your poetry with other poets.  My nephew Ccddd is thinking of joining - which would be great.

Also I have been asked to attend the International Poetry Society's convention in Washington DC in mid-August.  There are great opportunities there, not to mention excellent networking opportunities, however, it is awfully expensive.  That is one of those double-edged swords, believe me.  It comes at the worst possible time.....  Oh well, it will either work itself out or not.

Health Issues
Okay...  This is the really big news of the letter, and the most lifestyle altering.  As of this Thursday, June 28, 2001, I will be a lady of dubious leisure.  I have been having almost continuous migraines... the debilitating kind.  The doctors have finally decided categorically that I can no longer work in the pressure cooker I have existed in for the better part of 20 years.  So I have announced my retirement for health reasons.  Of course these last two weeks have been extremely trying.  It figures.  All I wanted was some kind of peace.  I was fully prepared to train my replacement... I was not prepared to handle every emergency that hit the company.  I suppose I should have expected it.  I have always subscribed to the "get it fixed... panic later" theory.

Laf"     [Top of page]

"B & A Dieting"     [Top of page]

Subject: Re: LL-298
Date: Mon, 25 Jun 2001
From: APP  [Australia]

It was interesting to read KFX's letter entitled "Diet Diet Diet".  I too am following the blood type diet.  My blood group is 'B' and my partner's is 'A', so when it came to cooking evening meals, it was quite a nuisance - at first.  I have worked it all out now, and it works quite well.  We have found that we can share quite a lot of food that is highly beneficial for us, and have learned what foods to definitely avoid.  The hardest thing for me was giving up chicken.  It is a real no-no on my list, so I have persevered and not eaten chicken since reading the book - some four months ago.  Do I feel better for it?  Yes, but don't ask me how or why!!   Anyone else tried it?


"Making a Living"     [Top of page]

Subject: Hello
Date: Mon, 25 Jun 2001
From: GBA  [US]

It has been a bad few months - starting back in November, when my husband's job was eliminated after 20 years with the same company.  We were devastated.  We had just bought a larger house and hadn't managed to sell the old one yet.  Two mortgages and 1/3 the income wasn't a pleasant prospect!  However, luckily he found a job within a month - with one of his old company's major competitors.  The bad thing is, he is 180 miles away.  I can't move, because I have elderly parents and I am their only family that is close by.  My dad has advanced Alzheimer's and my mother gets stressed taking care of him.  I can't imagine living 200 miles away and trying to cope.  So, for now I am staying where I am.  That means my husband has to commute on weekends.  He isn't too happy about that - but at least he gets spoiled to death when he does come home.  Big meals and I still do his laundry.  Plus, I am hiring people to do everything around the house - so he doesn't have to be bothered.  We just got the outside of the house painted.  It is three stories, Victorian - so by the time they put four colors on it - it was pretty pricey.  I am also hiring a guy to fix all the little things that need to be fixed on the outside this summer.  I figure if we get it into shape - if we do have to sell - at least it will be in better shape to do so.

I can sympathize with the job situation.  My job is the pits.  I have five board members - none of whom spend any time in this office - however they all know how to do my job better than I do.  Plus, only a couple of them know anything about accounting - trying to explain accounting to non-accounts is extremely hard.  Anyway, I have a job interview tonight.  I would like a job with more respect and less stress.  The 60 hours a week I am working now is getting old.

Take care - hope the new building works out for you.


"Start Bailing..."     [Top of page]
(2001/07/20  11:17 a.m.  Nishi-Shinjuku)

Today's a holiday - "Umi-no-Hi", or "Ocean Day".  I've forgotten why/how this holiday came to be, but it's quite new - from only 1996.  The dictionary definition I have (in Japanese) says it's to appreciate the ocean and to hope for a bright future for the country - or something like that!  This type of thing (and most other things for that matter) can be translated in a myriad of ways.

Now - on to the title "Start Bailing", which I didn't mean to tie in with "Ocean Day", but am happy to see that it does!  (This is a good example of talking too much.  If I just shut up here... but then there's serendipity after all, so.....)  Anyway - Mr. Hetakuso sent everyone an e-mail yesterday saying that the company needs to cut down on overhead, and as the coffee (strong low-grade nasty stuff to my taste) costs several tens of thousands of yen per month, they will be cutting back on it - and providing instant coffee instead.  Fine with me, as I very rarely drink that black soup myself, but the caffeine addicts are none too pleased it seems.

As I pondered this news... wondering if the financial waters the company is sailing are in fact that dangerous, or if it's a PR ploy to sober up the employees, I looked back and saw that Mr. CmptrMan was sitting in the back of the office in front of the server monitor.  (Mr. CmptrMan is a former employee of the company who designed a time-sheet program for them, but as the old server is grossly overworked, the program often won't run on it, so they keep calling him in.....)  I walked back to say hello, and we talked about things for awhile, with me filling him in on the hexane battle and him telling me how the company's server is a disaster waiting to happen.  It's essential to the company's existence, and yet they are not willing to invest any money in it.  Imagine this - a company's server computer that twenty-five people (used to be 30...) are depending on to save most of their files, run three printers, and is the only place where much of the company's database resides - and the computer is a three or four year old Dell with a single(!) 400MHz(?) CPU and 256MB of memory.

Oops... drifting back into computer talk.  It's hard not to think about though - it never ceases to make me shake my head when I look around and see the level of computer misuse/incompetency in that place.  I'm no expert myself, but.....  In any case, I'm beginning to wonder if the place will go bankrupt.

"New Apartment"     [Top of page]

Date: Wed, 27 Jun 2001
From: KCM  [US]

I've moved into my new apartment.  It's huge, and nice and lovely.  The first night I was scared because the other girl didn't open the door when I rang the doorbell.  I had to go downstairs and have her buzz me in.  She's pretty nice, as well as the other girl who lives here.  She's interning for Sony's litigation department, and the other girl is an electrical engineering major.  I feel like a hack, like I'm just coasting on a lazy major or something.

My old roommate is living in a frat house.  She is apparently one of the three girls living there, and they got the third worst room.  It was a pigsty - spiders and bugs were everywhere, there were obscene drawings on the floor and my roommate had to hunt down a mattress to sleep on.

Oh, and I don't have a bed, either.  At least not yet.  So far I've been sleeping on someone else's bed, and then I think I'll sleep on the couch until the end of summer.

My summer class is going nicely, although I haven't been able to get into the reading as much as I should be.  I keep going back to lighter stuff, like magazines.

I need a job.  Preferably a job that pays well.  I sent my resume to the Getty, but I don't know when they'll get back to me.

It's strange to me to have all this time to myself.  I keep wasting it.  I read in Discover magazine about how time is just an illusion, and I'm almost starting to believe it.

The picnic I had with my friends was fun, and it was fun gossiping about everyone. There was nothing mean about it, just catching up mostly.  It still surprises me whenever I hear someone is pregnant or married.  My mind can't wrap around those concepts, especially at my age, when I feel like I'm still such a baby sometimes.

My sisters are planning on going to the Grand Canyon this summer and to Japan next year.  They asked if I wanted to come, although truthfully, I don't know if these plans will actually happen.  I'm sort of considering going to China with a friend, although I haven't yet asked her about it.

So many decisions...

KCM     [Top of page]

"To the Dentist, Work, etc."     [Top of page]

Subject: Dose of MMH 06/28/01
Date: Fri, 29 Jun 2001
From: MMH  [US]

I spent the weekend doing small chores and catching up on my paperwork.  I need to get some accounting work done, and I just can't seem to fit it in during my work hours.  The weather was good enough for part of the weekend, enough that I got the weekly mowing done, and some weeding along the gravel row in front of the new sidewalk that was installed in front of the house last summer by the city.  I love having a sidewalk.  No more mowing the front strip.

On Tuesday, I went to the dentist, and then I went to have the car's emissions tested.  (In the state of Washington you need to have your emissions tested every two years in order to get your car registration renewed.)  From there I got home just in time for a visit from my Aunt Bbccc, who currently lives out in Wyoming.  She does museum work, and has been searching for another job in the same field, finally finding one in in Arkansas where she will be moving in August with her horse and two dogs.

My Aunt brought her dogs with her on this trip, and my dog was very happy to have some other dogs to play with, but one of the visiting dogs seemed displeased with the fact that regardless of how much she barked, my dog would not shrink to a smaller size.

Wednesday the weather was terrible.  I drove to Seattle for a Graphic Artists Guild luncheon with my friend Ddeee who is a designer.  The meeting was smaller than normal due to the bad weather.  We saw several accidents going into Seattle, and traffic was slow in the relentless downpour of rain.  Going home was not much better.  A semi that was hauling half of a house lost control, and the house was twisted over the highway.  We were lucky that we got home in time for me to go out and pick up Aabbb.

Thursday, Aabbb woke with a terrible headache, so she called in sick and went back to bed for the day.  I think she is still tired from the hard week she had last week.  She passed the test by the way, and is now certified as a home building inspector.

School ended last week.  For the dog, that means there are no more children to pet him when I am out walking him.  He is a bit depressed about that.  But the dog visit wore him out and he is still recovering from being so excited by sleeping non-stop.  Good dog.

MMH     [Top of page]

"Correction - Re: Cesaria Evora"     [Top of page]

From: APR  Portugal

Regarding the CD "Cesaria Evora - Cafe Atlantico", and your comment:

"I don't understand Spanish, so I have no idea what they are singing about, but it sounds good."

I would just like to say that Cesaria Evora doesn't sing in Spanish!  The songs you have heard are both in Portuguese and in Creole, which is the local lingua franca of Cape-Verde Islands, an archipelago of 10 islands off the west coast of Africa!


"Studying..."     [Top of page]

Date: Mon, 09 Jul 2001
From: KCM  [US]

...................  Summer is going pretty slowly, leisurely.  But I already have a paper due on Friday and I haven't started yet.  I need a job for the summer and time seems to work against me in that area.

There is going to be an arts event showing the works of Dali.  The opening is this Saturday, but it costs $100.  Fundraising is the claim of the sponsors.  Arrgh.  But it's running throughout the month, and it'll only be $4 after the first night.  I am definitely going to check it out.

I have to read Chaucer in the original Middle English.  It's a bit tricky at first and I have to keep reading the footnotes, but it's very interesting.  I really like the way that Chaucer invests so much into his characters and has them interact with each other.  My prof claims that reading Chaucer in Middle English is easier than reading Shakespeare, because Shakespeare is denser, whereas Chaucer is more seemingly direct.

My oldest sister is pregnant with her second child.  (She didn't want to tell us too early on because she's afraid of a miscarriage - she's 34.)  It seems a little prophetic that my niece - when I was back home - was talking all the time about saving things for her "baby brother" back when no one even thought about having a second child.


"Save Old Quotations"     [Top of page]

Subject: Dose of MMH 07/06/01
Date: Fri, 06 Jul 2001
From: MMH  [US]

Tuesday night Aabbb and I decided to head out and go mattress hunting.  At least a year ago we went looking for a mattress and found a pretty good deal.  We got a written quote at the time and threw it in the glove compartment.  When we went out this time, we looked for the same mattress that we liked before and found it at a store that says it would beat any price by 5%.  Well, their eyes rolled back into their heads a bit when we showed them the price quote (neglecting to tell them that it was over a year old).  The mattress people called last night to tell us that it should be showing up sometime tonight, which will make the evening interesting with all the mattress swapping going on.

Uncle Ccddd called last week and informed us that he rearranged his travel plans a bit and would be visiting us first.  This was all Aabbb needed to take the week off from work.  She did work on Monday, but decided she needed a day or so to get the house in order.  Our anniversary was on the 4th of July.  We have been together now for 14 years.  We were spending the 4th doing laundry and cleaning the house, when we were surprised by the early arrival of Uncle Ccddd.  He was due on Thursday but he said that the trip did not take him as long by car as he thought it would.  ..........................


Sore ja.....

Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon
Images Through Glass

Nishi-Shinjuku, Tokyo
July 22nd, 2001
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