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"Letter-Letter 306"
September 14th/8th, 2001

"World Trade Center........"
"A View of Japan from the Netherlands" by SAJ & LHS
"You're Lucky"  by IRJ
"Junk Mail War"  by MMH
"Pruning, Talking Computers, Pizza & A Clown"  by MMH
"Home For Two Weeks"  by KCM
"Still Alive & Kicking"  by SZS
"On the Road, Etc."  by SAJ & LHS
"Anti-Culture Shock"
"Don't Come to the Meetings Anymore Please"

"World Trade Center........"     [Top of page]

(September 14th, 2001)  New York.....  The news reached me late Tuesday night in Tokyo (Tuesday morning in New York) when I made a late night call to someone across town, and they told me to turn on the TV.  I turned it on and was shocked to see both of the World Trade Center towers heavily damaged with fire and smoke poring from them.  I stared at the image and pondered whether they would be able to repair the buildings after so much damage had been done... but I never thought they would fall!  After they had fallen, I stared at the television screen not wanting to believe what I was seeing.  I watched through most of the night - finally going to bed with the remote in hand so I could turn on the TV from time to time to check the news.  In the morning, I woke up and almost thought it had just been a bad dream... and as the fact that it was not crept into my consciousness, I really wanted it not to be real... I wanted those towers to still be there and all of the people that worked in them to be getting on with their lives up in the sky.  It shouldn't have happened.  Accidents can be dealt with, but this.....

I almost didn't go to work - I've been a little on the edge emotionally already from fatigue, and I wasn't sure I would hold together really well at work, but I did go... and I maintained a normal face somehow, but I couldn't concentrate on anything that day or the next.  I took wrong trains, had trouble remembering what I was supposed to be doing on the computer... and ended up spending about three hours of the workday on Thursday (yesterday) downloading over 500 photos (from the Internet) related to the disaster while reading the captions for them.  And it was the photos, of people the world over also feeling shocked and deeply saddened by the reckless slaughter of innocent people, combined with meeting an Australian pal after work in Ebisu and talking over things while we drank different kinds of beer (bought from an import shop and consumed outside) that finally lifted some of the deep gloom I felt.  Some that is... I went to Ebisu alone this evening and bought a bottle of some kind of raspberry drink from Belgium, and went to a fairly dark part of the balcony/overpass.  As I drank it, the heavy void came back........

Considering all that's going on, the stupid stuff happening at that whacky office I work at doesn't seem worth even thinking about.  There were some more idiotic office politics yesterday and today... and from around 1:00 p.m. or so, I just had no will to work... so much so that I couldn't quite make myself do anything constructive.  In an office where everyone is staring at their own computer screen, you can waste away for a few hours and it's not outwardly evident (as long as someone isn't waiting for you to finish something), so I don't think anyone noticed, but by 3:00 p.m., I realized that I just had to get out of there, so I took a late lunch and didn't come back for almost two hours.  (As I'm paid by the hour, with time out of the office for lunch unpaid, taking a long lunch basically just means I'm going to get paid less.)  Being out for a bit got me back into good enough shape to get some work done, but still there is this difficulty focusing... I keep seeing those 767s flying into the towers and imaging the people on the planes, the people in the towers, particularly on the upper floors... and the people... well.... all of us, but especially the people looking for family and friends who are unaccounted for..........

And so I realize that maybe much less than I'm getting over the shock, I'm becoming used to living with it.  The loss of life is the worst thing, but the targeting of the towers is also profoundly disturbing.  I've lived my life so far basically believing in the advance of technology.  Anything new brings with it unknown problems requiring further progress to solve, but overall, I've watched the advance of technology with anticipation and deep interest.  Buildings... the Empire State Building was the tallest building when I was a child, then the World Trade Center towers, followed by the Sears Tower in Chicago, and currently by the Petronas Twin Towers in Malaysia.  Until now, it's been a matter of good engineering, but what happens to the desire to lead the world in engineering when the best achievements are targets for mindless destruction?  Passenger aircraft have advanced in efficiency, safety, and navigational ability.  Until now, fundamentally it was a matter of steady refinement to more quickly and more efficiently transport people long distances in comfort.  Now they will have to have crews trained in hand to hand combat to do battle in the sky with wackos to prevent the planes from becoming suicide bombs.

The rest of this letter was put together/written before September 11th, and so doesn't seem to be relevant anymore, but I'll send it out anyway.  In rereading the above paragraphs, my photo downloading and long lunch don't make me look good in combination with the JW junk at the end of the letter... what with time being Ms. Eigodekinu's complaint.  The way things are generally done there is that I'm given mutant English translations of newspaper articles, and generally at least a half day to get them back to whoever requests them.  Quick e-mails are done on the spot, but mutant English translations of highly technical content just cannot be done instantaneously, which is what Ms. Eigodekinu expects... thus the battle outlined in "Anti-Culture Shock".     [Top of page]

"A View of Japan from the Netherlands"     [Top of page]

Subject: Big In Japan
Date: Sat, 20 Aug 2001  +0200
From: SAJ  [US / Holland]

I find that if I am listening to music or have a TV program on while I am working around the house, I am able to get more done.  Maybe because I'm moving to the rhythm of whatever I am listening to.  A few weeks ago I had the DIY (Do It Yourself) channel on while I was painting, and this show called "Big In Japan" came on.  I have been watching it whenever I am able to catch it since.  The show consists of a women from the UK that does Japanese flower arrangements.  During the program, she does two floral arrangements, and in-between, she has a segment on Japan.  That is the part I like the best and the reason I watch her show.  For the first time I have seen just what type of surroundings you live in.  I have seen Japan on TV before, but it has been mostly nightlife and not the daily business of the streets, the shops and what the people are really like in current Japan.  Each show depicts a different part of the country.  One day they show gardens and/or temples, and then the next show has something like how the people are not hanging on to old traditions much anymore - how fast modern changes come and how people try to keep up with those new changes.  The other day it showed an aerial view of Tokyo, and seeing that, I was able to understand how one could spend weeks there and not see it all.  It looked like cities within cities as far as the eye could see.  They have shown some of the parks around Tokyo.  They are beautiful and so serene... and don't look very busy.  Overall from what I have seen, I have been very impressed and now have a better understanding of where you live.  A better picture of what you see going to and from work - and why it would take so long to get anywhere.....  Now I understand what you were saying about not often getting out of the city on weekends.  Do you visit these parks, other then when you go to one during a lunch break from time to time?

Also from watching that show, I have a better understanding of how the housing is.....


Since reading this letter, I've taken a more relaxed look at a few parks, and they do seem nice.  This country is famous for making well-arranged parks/gardens after all.  But the number of people in Tokyo!  Thirty-million in the metropolitan area.  I think in absolute numbers, it's not the largest city in the world, but it's close.  The population density and the polluted air combine to really exhaust a resident of this mega-city.  But here I am complaining again... I need a vacation, so it's hard to sound like a tourist brochure at the moment.  Suffice it to say that Tokyo is a fascinating city, but not a very healthy place to live.

"You're Lucky"     [Top of page]

Subject: greetings
Date: 21 Aug 2001
From: IRJ

How are you?  I imagine you must not have been expecting an e-mail from me!

Actually I don't visit Net-cafes these days, and even though we now have free Net access at the college, I don't use it much - in fact, I must say I've not been using the Net at all lately.

I had thought that getting no reply from me, you might stop mailing me... but thankfully this has not happened.  You know, I've been reading most of the messages and writing down new words, expressions, and phrases, which helps me to improve my English.  It's not much of a problem for me when it comes to reading or writing technical English, but it's a bit hard when it comes to non-technical language.

As for other things in life, nothing much has happened lately... I've just been keeping myself busy with studies.....

It's the rainy season here, and while at most times it just drizzles, sometimes there's a heavy downpour.  How's the life there in Japan?  It must be a fine one.  Sometime back I saw a program on Tokyo - the city is just so beautiful, you're lucky to be a part of that life!

I must get going now - talk to you sometime again.


Me?  Lucky to be in Tokyo?  Hmmmm.........  I'm not so sure!  Maybe so, but I need a vacation.......

"Junk Mail War"     [Top of page]

Subject: Dose of MMH 08/17/01
Date: Fri, 17 Aug 2001  -0800
From: MMH  [US]

A long time ago, a good friend and I started a war.  We wanted to see what would happen if we placed the other persons name on junk mail lists.  Thus was born the great junk mail war.  We kept the war going for several years.  Aabbb was quite creative and found the oddest mailing lists to place me on.  I found myself receiving large farm equipment auction notices, repeated requests from a variety of starving children charities, regular packages of free nylons in plastic eggs, and my all time favorite, a mortuary supply catalog.  I, on the other hand, made up for my complete lack of creativity by sheer quantity.  I found several junk mailing lists that dealt with penny stocks and placed Aabbb on all of them.  Aabbb was receiving up to five pounds of mail a day.  His mailbox was crammed and he called me one day to wave the white flag of surrender.



"Pruning, Talking Computers, Pizza & A Clown"     [Top of page]

Subject: Dose of MMH 01/08/31
Date: Fri, 31 Aug 2001  -0800
From: MMH  [US]

This weekend Aabbb and I did a little pruning.  Our property is filled with bushes and trees.  One of the very first purchases we made when we bought this house was a chipper-shredder.  We did not skimp on the price and bought one with plenty of horsepower.  It has done a great job in the nine years we've owned it.  So, there is now this huge pile of branches and leaves next to the shed.  But next weekend, after it dries out a bit, I will run it all through the chipper-shredder within about an hour and have only a small pile of mulch left.

What I do with very long letters is have my computer read them to me.  I don't know if this works on PCs, but you can get any Mac to do it.  All you do is cut and past the text into a simpletext file and then go up to the menu where it says 'voice' and it will read the contents of the file.  Perfect for when you want to clean up the office or give your eyes a break.

I watched a show called the Human Face this last week.  Part of the show told of a Berkley study that measured how people smiled when they were in their early twenties and how they could use that measurement as a tool to predict the outcome of that person's life.  Well, I have always been a bit of a grinning idiot, especially when I was in college.  So, I now have the odds on my side, don't I?

I had lunch with Bbccc twice this week.  The first time he brought a pizza over and we worked together on making color selections for a website we are working on.  The second time was when I invited a bunch of designers to get together for lunch just for the fun of it.  Turned out that everyone got busy at the last minute and it was just me, Bbccc, and a college student.

When I was a little boy, there was a host for the cartoon hours on TV - a clown named J.P. Patches.  I spent years watching J.P. and all his neighbors down at the city dump.  I loved that clown.  Turns out that most of Seattle loved him too because they grew up with him.  He doesn't have a television show, but the demand for him at parades, birthdays, etc. is still high.  When the site below was sent to me, I spent a full hour going through the history section, reliving all the fun I used to have with J.P.  What a hoot.  Patches Pals Rule!



"Home For Two Weeks"     [Top of page]

Date: Sun, 02 Sep 2001
From: KCM  [US]

I'm back home right now.  I'm here for two weeks and one of them is already gone.  Today I'm supposed to be picnicking with my family at some China Camp, a historic site where the Chinese used to live off the land.  According to my sister, "The utensils are just like the ones we used back in China!"

It's going to be another short school year.  My roommates are fun and easygoing, but I think they are a bit too fascinated with "badness" - the whole drinking partying scene.  I think I'm going to try to stay away from it, because it's not really my thing.  Their whole fascination comes out of having been the "good girls" in high school and so they want to abandon that label, I guess.

I went out with my friends to a little Piedmont tea cafe, called L'Amyx around 10 last night.  My dad was upset with me for going out so late and this time he stayed up for me.  I wish he wouldn't do that.  I love being at home but I don't really want to have to adhere to a curfew when I've never really done it anyway.


"Still Alive & Kicking"     [Top of page]

Subject: Greetings
Date: Wed, 05 Sep 2001
From: SZS  [UK]

Just to let you know I am still alive and kicking.  Busy selling the home at the moment.  When I get time, I will write you a long letter about the reason why I have to sell it.  It might make for good reading and I will be interested in any feedback regarding banks being a load of jerks.


"On the Road, Etc."     [Top of page]

Subject: Four Email Addresses?
Date: Thu, 06 Sep 2001  +0200
From: SAJ  [US / Holland]

It seems you look at a box of rubber bands sitting in a drawer for months and finally decide you will never use them so into the trash they go.  The next day you are looking everywhere for a rubber band....  Which is why I have such a hard time trashing anything, including e-mail - it seems that as soon as I get rid of something, I wish I had kept it for a reference to something else.  I usually keep e-mail addresses until I get a return saying that what I sent is undeliverable... and even then, I may keep it for a while longer in hopes it will work again.

About "Countries Within a Country" written by CPK (from LL-305), I enjoyed her letter.  My first husband was a truck driver, and I was close friends with another husband/wife team.  I had the opportunity to go on many runs with both my ex-husband and my girlfriend, when she would take a run without her husband, traveling most of the mid-west and the east coast.  It didn't take long to realize you really can't judge a book by it's cover, so to speak.  It was a wonderful way to see much of the US and meet a whole range of different types of people.  Like CPK said in her letter, the US is like "Countries Within a Country".  Anyone in that situation should take in all that they are able to while they can.  It's a learning experience that you don't really realize you are living until years afterwards.  And take ton's of photos!!!  I have several photo albums full of my adventures on the road.

Junk e-mail...  Delete, Delete, Delete!!!  I must hit my Delete button 10 to 15 times a day with all the junk e-mail that I get saying things like "YOU ARE A WINNER", "LOANS", "FREE", "INVEST", etc., etc.  I don't even open them, and have found it is faster to keep hitting the DELETE button then to add each address to the 'ignore' list.  At first it wasn't so bad, with only one or two a week coming in, but now I'm getting more like 10 to 15 a day!!!  At least when I used to get all of that regular (paper) junk mail, I could use it to start the fire in my fireplace, so it served some use in the end.  Now it is something we just have to endure with e-mail once 'they' have gotten hold of your e-mail address.  Maybe I will set up a fireplace program on my computer and burn the junk mail on it as well this winter.

WWII and history.....  Well Lyle, you were very lucky to have those guest speakers.  I think you were very lucky indeed to have teachers who were able to come up with a way of impressing you with history the way they did.  It is too bad not all teachers/schools did/do the same thing.  Not once did I or either of my children have guest speakers as you did.  As a matter of fact, I was talking to my daughter during my last visit about WWII here in Europe.  I never really questioned her about what she knew or had learned before.  She didn't even know who Ann Frank was!  (Needless to say she will be getting the book for Christmas this year.)  Maybe it is where you went to school?  Different regions teach different things about the war?  Hmmmm...... who knows.  Maybe it is the time period as well.  As our parents may have learned about WWI, less was taught about that war than WWII to my generation.  And then more was taught about Vietnam than WWII to my kids (and it was more of a concern to my generation then WWII when I was in school).  "Was there a war in Korea?" some younger people ask?  I've noticed that with my computer's spell-check, WWI is underlined and it suggests WWII.....  In time will people forget about those wars almost entirely - leaving the memory to old dusty books on a shelf?


When I think about it - I would like to have the opportunity to talk to students in Japan about the cultural aspect of my life here in Japan.  In the time I did spend in some classrooms, the schools always told me to never speak Japanese, and only speak English (I wasn't trusted to teach the class alone, and always had to work with a Japanese teacher).  I didn't strictly obey that, after all, the classes could only understand a rudimentary level of English, so any complicated concept couldn't be conveyed with English.  If I had it over, I'd spend even more time speaking Japanese and less English.  If the kids just need to hear correct pronunciation, they can always listen to CD's or tapes, but to convey another point of view... speaking from the heart is the best way.  In my own education, those classes where people came out to speak to us stand out - I remember very little of the rest of the school year, but what those guest speakers had to say has proven to be very enduring.     [Top of page]

"Anti-Culture Shock"     [Top of page]
(September 9th, 2001  1:29 a.m.  Nishi-Shinjuku)

[Warning:  This is from the front lines about jungle warfare at JW, Inc., and it's rather long, so if you're not in the mood for this sort of thing right now, then you might want to stop reading this one now as the rest of the letter is JW junk.]

Just when I was thinking things might be settled down at least a little at Jungle Warfare, Inc., Ms. Eigodekinu fired off a series of missiles at me, including one in writing.  I'll reproduce it in here so you can share in the fun (sarcasm there!), but first there's a complicated psychological situation with Ms. Eigodekinu that reminds me very much of the strange behavior I had to put up with from Mr. Nantoka before he went on his way - hopefully to never be heard from again.  Well... I shouldn't say that.  In fact, we got along ok in the end - once he knew there was no ladder there for him to climb, no matter how hard he tried to step on someone's head to get another rung up the ladder.

What Mr. Nantoka and Ms. Eigodekinu both have in common is that they both spent a few years of their adolescence living in the US.  They came back to Japan as fluent speakers of English... fluent, but rather shallow.  Good at conversational English, but not able to write business or technical English well to save their lives.  A foreign language is much more difficult to really master than most people realize.  They see someone speaking a language with apparent ease, and automatically assume that they "know" the language - they're fluent after all.....  The interesting/irritating thing about Ms. Eigodekinu for me is that I have to admit that I'm not exempt from that myself.  While I have no problem admitting that there are limits to my fluency in the Japanese language while I'm over here in Japan, once out of the country, the combination of being able to do something fairly well that old friends can't do at all, and really wishing that I was completely fluent... I might not be so forthcoming about those limitations myself.

So, here I am in Japan... the one person in the office who knows just what Ms. Eigodekinu's limitations are with the foreign language English.  (Mr. Lookingfor has quit the company, and while Mr. Howlong is technically a native speaker of English - he spent much of his education over here in Japan, so his English is a little odd.)  She tries very hard to cover though.  If I ask her a question about some mutant English she's written that she can't properly answer, she rattles off a paragraph of simplistic stuff that she knows very well I already know.  It's a clever ploy, but as Mr. Nantoka did the same thing, I'm beginning to see just what it is, and why.  In Mr. Nantoka's case, it was simply irritating, but as I've noticed the non-English speakers in the office (with a rudimentary level that is, everyone has a certain level of comprehension - low though it may be) nodding and commenting on how fluent Ms. Eigodekinu's English is, I've finally figured out that it's a performance - pure and simple.  She rattles off a bunch of junk that I already know, prompting me to nod my head in an English (language) way, meaning "I know - I know..." but what is perceived in a Japanese context by the audience in the office as her teaching me something, and my nodding "I see... I see...".  That's irritating enough, but she is also putting on performances regarding the one thing she can point a finger at - the time it takes to get something "proofed".  She tosses some mutant English at me (when I'm in the middle of doing something else) and then comes back in ten minutes and begins her performance for everyone of "Haven't you finished yet?!!".

Enough explanation about that... that... actor.  Here's her letter, followed by a letter I fired off from home, and then by a rather long letter that goes over Ms. Eigodekinu's letter in detail.

Subject: Proof Requested by 3:00
Date: Wed, 5 Sep 2001 12:55:39 +0900
From: "Eigodekinu" <eigodekinu@prezcon.com>
To: "Saxon Lyle" <saxon@prezcon.com>

Lyle san,

Attached please find newspaper headline and summary translations that needs to be proofed. What I want from this is the grammatical proof.  I have already edited the contents. I included Japanese in the document, but they probably won't make any sense to you.  However, translated headlines should make much sense to you. I would like for you to read the text WITHOUT any research on the web.  A receiver of this clipping should understand what the articles are about from the headlines and summaries.  You don't have to understand the industry fully but would like for you to understand what the headlines are trying to tell you.  If you don't understand them that means the translation is all wrong.  If this is the case please let me know before you start proofing so I will re-work on the translation again.

Since you are in at 2pm and you don't have other urgent proofs (I confirmed with a few people), 1 hour or less would give you plenty of time for this document. I need to send a fax by 3:30.  Just in case you need the original articles, I will leave them on my desk.  Please help yourself to use them as reference.  Please come ask me if you still have hard time understand the translations.

Thank you very much in advance,


September 5th, 2001


Your letter is breathtakingly rude!  For your sake, I will go over in detail why that is, but as time is short at the moment, I will respond to just one item from your letter:

"Since you are in at 2pm and you don't have other urgent proofs (I confirmed with a few people), 1 hour or less would give you plenty of time for this document."

Apparently there are more than "a few" people working for Jungle Warfare, Inc., because I do in fact have a rush proof job that I have to take care of before assisting you with your headline and summary.

Thanking you in advance for your understanding,


September 8th, 2001


This letter is in three sections.  The main section was begun on September 5th at the office, and finished the next evening at home.  The preface was written on September 7th, but I hesitated to send the letter due to some strong wording....  As I feel right now, on Saturday, I'd just as soon forget the incident, but when I reread both your letter and my response, I think that the issues you bring up really do need to be addressed, and so I am sending it after all.



September 7th, 2001


The following letter is rather long... as the many issues you brought up in your e-mail letter dated September 5th required a proper response.  As I think you must realize, the tone of your letter is extremely rude.  If you realize this, then it follows that your behavior is unprofessional.  If you don't realize it, then the company has an even bigger problem, as if you insult our clients as you have me, we could very well lose them.

The letter:

September 5th, 2001


Thank you for apologizing for the tone of your letter when I came to the office today.  I understand how easy e-mail is to send!  Nevertheless, I would like to go over a few points in your letter to lay a sort of framework for future collaboration with you in the translation of news from the Japanese language to English.  So, while I think we came to at least a partial understanding today, here is my detailed response to your letter:

From your letter:

"Attached please find newspaper headline and summary translations that needs to be proofed.  What I want from this is the grammatical proof.  I have already edited the contents."

There is a very good reason that computers are unable to translate well - writing anything is a kind of art form... not only computers are unable to write well, even many native speakers of a language are unable to write properly.  Naturally, when writing in a foreign language, it is that much more difficult still to put difficult concepts into words correctly and effectively.  Translations add many more variables into the equation, and translation styles between different people are so different that some translated books are published more than once, with translations by different authors.

I know you speak English well - but that doesn't mean you are exempt from misunderstanding some of what you read in at least some subtle way(s).  The best situation towards the end of providing a good and accurate translation in the company here, is for both of us to understand the original article as well as possible.  In the case of the headlines and summary that you sent me today, just going by the English alone, it could have been written in many different ways.

About the "What I want from this is the grammatical proof."... I don't want to be rude, but quite frankly, not everything you write qualifies for the term "proof", but in fact has to be rewritten.  With copy at that level, it's then quite natural that the final writer (who can be held accountable for any errors that might arise from a mistranslation) would want to read the original text very carefully first.  Particularly since you and I know full well that if there is a problem, you will be pointing a finger at me, I therefore have a right - indeed it's the very essence of my job - to know what it is that must be conveyed, and then see if the words have been meaningfully composed.  Generally (usually... almost always...) they have not.

From your letter:

"I included Japanese in the document, but they probably won't make any sense to you.  However, translated headlines should make much sense to you."

Thank you for imputing the Japanese text for me.  I greatly appreciate that.  It enables me to quickly check vocabulary with an electronic dictionary.  As I mentioned today though, you don't need to put the hiragana in parenthesis, as I can add furigana automatically with my computer.  (If you are using Office 2000 and have the time, doing it that way would be nice... but as I say, I can handle that from my end.)  Thank you for the extra effort - however - "but they probably won't make any sense to you" is an extremely rude thing to say.  Your English is good enough that I suppose it was a deliberate personal insult.  Please refrain from personal attacks in the office.  Not only is it very unprofessional, but what's the point?  You don't like me and I don't like you.  So what?  This is business - not high school.

Your assertion "However, translated headlines should make much sense to you."... well, that depends on how they are translated!  Your translations, are, to be brutally frank, not very good.  The whole reason I have to check the Japanese and sometimes look into the background of an article is precisely because your translations are not proof-ready, but rather generally need to be re-written.  If we don't care about accuracy - at all - then that's a different story of course....

You are very good at making personal insults, as your letter so amply demonstrates, but making personal attacks and writing technical translations are two very different things.  You know how impolite and immature my spoken Japanese sounds... your English sounds the same way!  Maybe I should refrain from saying this, but both your spoken and written English sound more like a high school student than a professional businesswoman.

From your letter:

"I would like for you to read the text WITHOUT any research on the web."

You sound like a schoolteacher here... "I would like you to write a three page report on the repercussions of racism".  I will be very clear here.  You are not my master, I am not your servant.  Some articles written in mutant English require some background research to convert them into authentic English.  It is not for you to tell me how to do my job.  Remember, you're the one producing mutant English - I'm the one who has to repair it, and I'm the one who is held accountable when there is something wrong.

From your letter:

"A receiver of this clipping should understand what the articles are about from the headlines and summaries."

Yes, the receiver, being in the industry, knows the subject well... precisely why we need to be that much more careful with the translation!!  As an example, I was quite surprised yesterday in our discussion of the article that you didn't comprehend the difference between "higher capacity" and "higher efficiency" when referring to a production line.  This is precisely why I need to double check the Japanese in the original headline... your grasp of technical words/concepts is not what it should be for translating the type of material that you are.

From your letter:

"You don't have to understand the industry fully but would like for you to understand what the headlines are trying to tell you."

Yes, it's true that I don't have to "understand the industry fully" (that was never my intention), but it is strongly advisable, if not absolutely necessary, that I know enough about the subject of a translated article to know the overall picture, as well as some industry keywords.  Again, your English errors are not all grammatical ones, thus I must check the content as well.  Besides... when a sentence is poorly written and must be rewritten, there are invariably any number of directions the rewriting can take.  The destination must be known... it's not good enough to just toss it up in the air and say "Look!  It's flying!".  Where it is going to land is vitally important.

From your letter:

"If you don't understand them that means the translation is all wrong."

Unfortunately, the problem is not so simple as your flippant sentence here asserts.  The English can be grammatically perfect, but end up conveying something entirely different from what you intended.  Also, there is always the possibility, native to the Japanese language though you may be, that you misunderstand an article with a highly technical content.  In the case of production lines, it was quite obvious from speaking with you yesterday that you are not familiar with factory production technology.  This is not meant to be an insult in any way... just stating the obvious fact that no one knows everything.  Personally, I have some experience working with factories, so I have at least a rudimentary grasp of basic production technology, which came in handy with that translation.

From your letter - following the part about the translation being "right" or "wrong":

"If this is the case please let me know before you start proofing so I will re-work on the translation again."

I hope you're joking here....  Are you really saying that I'm to glance at the sentence you've come up with and immediately pronounce it "right" or "wrong"?  This is ludicrous!  Again, to be brutally frank - your English for technical articles simply is not that good.  You give me mutant English that doesn't make much sense, and I'm to toss it back to you immediately and ask you to make it perfect?  That would be nice... but you're incapable of doing so, which is exactly why I have to rewrite (not proof) it.

From your letter:

"Since you are in at 2pm and you don't have other urgent proofs (I confirmed with a few people), 1 hour or less would give you plenty of time for this document. I need to send a fax by 3:30."

This sentence strongly suggests that you are my boss.  While I am indeed working in a supportive role to just about everyone in the office, you certainly are not my "lord and master".  Plainly put, it is not for you to decide how I do my job.  In this particular case, you have already apologized, but your apology was immediate followed with a condescending explanation of how you couldn't possibly have the time to ask everyone in the office.  Yes... precisely!  So why are you dictating to me how/when/why I am to do my job?  You are out of line here.  I hope you realize this.....

From your letter:

"Just in case you need the original articles, I will leave them on my desk.  Please help yourself to use them as reference."

Thank you.  At least one part of your letter is polite.  As I have been saying to everyone at JW, Inc. for the past 18 months, all data is welcome.  It helps to fully understand the article.

From your letter:

"Please come ask me if you still have hard time understand the translations."

This could be taken in different ways - one being that you're just politely offering help.  On the other hand, there's a rather insulting and condescending undertone to the sentence.  It seems to be suggesting both that I am incapable of understanding Japanese and that you have all the answers.  My Japanese reading ability leaves much to be desired, but - excuse me for saying so - so does your English.  As I've said to you before - conversational fluency in a foreign language (English for you, Japanese for me) is one thing... business and highly technical proficiency is another matter altogether.  Sorry to say, your English is not as good as you seem to think it is.  You can fool virtually everyone else in the office, as their English ability is less than yours (with the exception of Piman-san, whose spoken English is considerably more polite than yours), but you can't fool reality - nonsense is just that - nonsense.  If we send the clients nonsense, are they going to want to keep paying for it?

Whew!  I would rather not have to waste my time doing this, but practically every sentence in your letter was begging for synchronization with reality, so I have obliged.

In conclusion, I think the basic situation is that on a personal level, we get along about as well as the proverbial oil and water, but personal is personal.  We don't need to - indeed we shouldn't - get personal in the office.  This is business.  It seems that you are upset about my earlier e-mails pointing out errors in your writing....  I sent those to you with the professional intent of pointing out mistakes you were making.  It is my job, my duty, to inform you of such things.  Please don't take professional criticism personally, and please refrain from personal attacks.

Like it or not, we have to work together sometimes.  Let's keep it strictly professional!



PS  I fixed a few of the misspelled words in your letter (bottom of page).  I highly recommend using spell check for all letters.  We all make mistakes.     [Top of page]

"Don't Come to the Meetings Anymore Please"     [Top of page]
(September 10th, 2001  11:33 a.m.  Yotsuya)

Back when I first began talking with the guys at J-OSHA, they told me that if the company found out that I had contacted them about their violating the safety laws with their careless use of the toxin-laden spray-glue, I would likely be fired... not openly for that reason, but for some other reason that the company would find.  I haven't been fired, but I'm being shut out sort of.....

This morning, as on many other Monday mornings over the past 18 months that I've been working at this place, they called one of their periodic general meetings - but when I walked in, as I have many times before, Mr. Zangyo looked perturbed, and said that the meeting was only for regular employees.

Hmm..... I apologized for trespassing, and left the room.  It was embarrassing to be kicked out of the meeting like that in front of everyone, but it's also great.  When it happens like this, I have an iron-clad reason for not attending meetings now!  I went back to my desk and zapped the following e-mail to Mr. Zangyo (BCC to the Prez):

September 10th, 2001

Mr. Zangyo,

I would just like to verify with you what you said when I attempted to attend the general meeting this morning.  You said it's only for regular employees.  I don't have any problem with this - I just want to verify that I am not to attend any meetings.  Is this so?  The policy regarding meetings seems to have changed.


Lyle Saxon

Well... back to work.  The air is so full of chemicals today, that my eyes are burning.  I've got to - somehow - find another job so I can leave this horrible toxic war-zone.

14:00  Mr. Zangyo called me into his office in response to my e-mail and said that there had been a policy change at a manager's meeting last month.  He's not sure if someone told me and I'm not sure I didn't see a memo floating around.....  Whatever, I'm not to attend meetings unless requested to.  Fine with me for the most part.  The meetings are a huge waste of time.

16:00  Back from lunch and a walk over to Yodobashi Camera to check on prices of air/heating units.  The cheapest one was Y39,800 + Y15,000 for installation & Y10,000 to trash the old one - a new law that is ostensibly to cover the cost of recycling the trashed unit, but I wonder if it's not in fact a tax on buying the new one.  The government has been scrambling to get more tax money recently.....

On my walk back to the toxic waste dump, it suddenly occurred to me that this new thing about not having hourly workers attend the meetings exactly coincides with my calling attention to the toxins in the spray-glue at a general meeting last month.  "Ah... so that's it then..." - dimwitted me suddenly realized as a walk light turned green.  I just zapped the following letter off to Mr. Zangyo (CC to Mr. Hetakuso and BCC to the Prez):

September 10th, 2001

Mr. Zangyo,

Thank you for explaining to me the management decision last month that the meetings be attended only by regular employees and yearly contract workers, and not by hourly workers with no written contracts.  (I didn't know that Kakoii-san was an employee, I thought she was an hourly worker too...).  Just to put form to your spoken words - I understand that I am not to attend any meetings at all, and if there is something I need to know, someone (likely Hetakuso-san) from the "General Affairs" department will let me know.


Lyle Saxon

That "General Affairs" department thing is funny.  Ever since Mr. Uragi started working here, the only thing he's done aside from scare away both existing and prospective clients (really, he has, no joke here), is to 'play company' the way small children might 'play house'.  Create divisions, divide, whisper about one employee to another to poison the atmosphere between them and strengthen the clique system.  It's sad/disgusting how easily people fall into evil hands just by telling them that they are one of the "chosen ones".  The clique closest to Mr. Uragi is the most hyped but least productive group of people in the office.  But I'm drifting off the topic again... how many people are there in this company now?  About 26 or 27 I think......  The "General Affairs" department.  Oh well, the whole operation is mostly smoke and mirrors anyway.

17:12  A typical Monday.  I guess the rainy weather adds to the subdued feeling in the air, not to mention that at the moment - the Prez, Mr. Zangyo, and Mr. Uragi are all out of the office.  I just went for tea in the kitchen and Ms. Eigodekinu was there... the hair seemed to stand up on both of our necks!  No words exchanged thankfully!  As I type this, Ms. Honyaku casts her eyes this way... either taking in the unusual sight (in this office anyway) of the StarOffice screen (that I have set to a black background with light purple colored characters), or trying to spy on me.  Maybe both.  Whatever, I better get back to a waiting file.

Kind of an abrupt end, but the last thing written is at the top after all.

Sore dewa, mata.......

Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon , Images Through Glass

Nishi-Shinjuku, Tokyo - September 17th, 2001
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