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January 4th, 2002 / December 16th, 2001
"Hello 2002" / "Phew!"
"The Job Hunt & Love/Like" by KCM & LHS
"Think Negative" by CPK
"N-Hexane & Learning to Type" by HHE
"The Chicago Trip" by MMH
"Immigration" by CPK & LHS
"Re: The Car Saga" by APP
"Trip to Turkey" by EKH
"A Multitude of Computers"
"Where is All the Time Going?" by KCM
"Employees and Non-Employees" by SAJ
"My Own Cubicle" by KCM
"Trouble with Lunch" by NVR
"The Other Foreigners Here are....." by Yo/Gr
"The Big Twenty" by EWT
"Computer! Read My E-Mail!"
"Hello 2002" / "Phew!" [Top of page]
2002 - if nothing else, I enjoy writing that
number. It looks more balanced than any year I've written so
far. Hopefully the events of the year will be more balanced
than 2001 as well. I definitely would like to move on to much
better times than were had in 2001. Looking for work has been
taking up so much time... rewriting my resume, contacting people,
going to interviews, etc. BTW, if anyone out there can direct
me towards a job as a foreign correspondent ("Lyle - reporting
from Tokyo") I would be eternally grateful!
[The original beginning to this letter.]
December 16th... and I am still - mostly
without success - looking for a new job. What I've heard and
seems to be true, is that with the bad economy, foreigners like
myself living in smaller towns around the country - where the economy
is in even worse shape - are pouring into Tokyo, making the job
market here ever more competitive. I've sent out my resume to
something like 500 companies since the beginning of November, but it
hasn't lead to anything beyond some tentative promises to send me
work on a freelance basis. Mostly though, I get letters like
Date: Thu, 6 Dec 2001 +0900
Dear Lyle Saxon,
Thank you for sending us your CV.
We have thoroughly considered your qualifications, but we are unable to offer you a position at this time.
Thank you again for considering our firm. We offer you our best wishes for your future success.
Very truly yours,
As for the JW Office, my last (and final I
think) e-mail from them was from Mr. Zangyo, as follows:
Subject: RE:Missing money
Date: Thu, 6 Dec 2001 14:41:16 +0900
From: "Gasuki Zangyo" <email@example.com>
To: "Lyle Saxon" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
How are you? I would like talk with you regarding the missing money. I called your mobile several times, but could not get hold of you. Please give me a call back. I will be in the office until 22:00 this evening.
Not to insult Mr. Zangyo, but even the short letter above he very probably had someone else write, as his English level is so low as to be nearly nonfunctional (this in a company that has mainly catered to foreign clients!!). About me not being reachable via phone. That was very much by design, as I ignored their calls (identified on my cell phone as coming from the JW Office) in order to force them to write something down. When you are lied to repeatedly by a group of people, it's best to start getting things in writing!
Anyway, I called Mr. Zangyo at the office around 21:45 (see why I call him "Mr. Overtime"?) and he offered a compromise - saying that while he considered me negligent for not having counted the money immediately upon receiving it, he considered Mr. Onisan even more negligent for not having insisted that I verify it right there in the office... and so he proposed that I be paid Y30,000 out of the missing Y50,000. The missing pay indicates some foul play involved somewhere, but as no one is ever going to admit to it, this type of resolution was a face-saver for everyone concerned, so I went ahead and agreed to it, saying I'd come by on Tuesday afternoon.
I went by on Tuesday afternoon as planned,
and walked into the mostly silent office (since late November, there
are long periods of the day there with no phone calls, no faxes, no
printers churning out paper, and almost no conversation, with a
feeling in the air that the ship might actually sink...).
Everyone stared at their computer screens, either actually not
noticing that I was there, pretending not to, or not caring one way
of the other. As Mr. Zangyo wasn't in his office, I walked over
to Ms. Piman and asked her if he was out - and she said he was in the
Prez's office, where I found him sitting in one of the leather chairs
looking on as Mr. GoodGaijin stood by the Prez's desk talking with
him about something. I leaned my head into the office and said
hello - which prompted a friendly-sounding hello in response from Mr.
Zangyo and cold stares from the Prez and Mr. GoodGaijin.
Precisely what I expected - particularly from the Prez, as it was his
brother who shorted me the Y50,000, and the incident became a public
issue within the company. Incidentally, the day it happened, I
had the following e-mail exchanges with Ms. Gaimen (from my home
computer), beginning with a letter I sent before I realized the pay
was short, and finishing with one I sent back to her after I'd
returned home that evening. Ms. Gaimen, by the way, has been
looking for new work for about a year now. The combination of
her age (fortyish) and the bad economy is probably working against
Date: Fri, 30 Nov 2001 11:54:06 +0900
From: Lyle Saxon <email@example.com>
To: Tokidoki Gaimen <firstname.lastname@example.org>
I will be coming to the office today after all. I couldn't finish cleaning out my desk and getting the computer set up for Ms. NewOne [yesterday evening], so..... I guess it's best to say good-bye to most of the people in the office as well........
Date: Fri, 30 Nov 2001 15:52:06 +0900
From: Lyle Saxon <email@example.com>
To: Tokidoki Gaimen <firstname.lastname@example.org>
For your information, I've been shorted on my pay! You might want to be careful when you get your final pay from them.
Subject: That's a shame!
Date: Fri, 30 Nov 2001 16:53:10 +0900
From: "Tokidoki Gaimen" <email@example.com>
To: "Lyle Saxon" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
I'm sorry to hear that. I've heard somebody was telling me the same thing before: "He sometimes makes mistakes on counting, so you should be careful!" It happened again, huh?
Well, I hope your money will be back!
Date: Sat, 01 Dec 2001 04:08:31 +0900
From: Lyle Saxon <email@example.com>
To: Tokidoki Gaimen <firstname.lastname@example.org>
It's good to hear from you.
No one told me about that before... but I do remember him making a big mistake on an invoice back when I first started working at the company.....
I had thought I would be doing freelance work for the company, but after this..... I'm still thinking about what to do, but probably I will sever all connections with them. Speaking of which - I hope you (me too actually) find better work soon!
As you might remember if you've been following the JW Office story over the past year, I also had some trouble with Ms. Gaimen at times, but mainly it was that environment which created the problem. When I initially sat next to her back in February of 2000, we got along fine... got along fine that is, until people started making snide comments that we were getting along too well (not the case - honest), and then she ended up with the choice of either freezing me out to stay with the group, or being ostracized.
Well... never mind. That job has
ended, and I'm feeling happy and free to be out of that place.
In my final meeting with Mr. Zangyo, he paid me the partial payment
of Y30,000 and we talked fairly amicably... until he called Mr.
Aruchu into his office anyway. Mr. Aruchu came in and we went
through the motions of parting without hard feelings, but I in fact
ended up walking away from the meeting thinking what a profoundly
dishonest and rotten person Mr. Aruchu is. That said, I'm out
of there now, so it's time to fly full speed ahead. Ostensibly,
they will be sending me some work to do on a freelance basis, but
they probably won't, and indeed I'm hoping they won't. I don't
want anything more to do with that company or most of the people
there. [Note from 01/12/27 - they have sent a few jobs... not
enough to pay back the lost Y20,000 yet. I would have liked to
have made a completely clean break, but finances are very tight, so
I'm being practical about it.....] [Top of page]
"The Job Hunt & Love/Like" [Top of page]
Date: Fri, 09 Nov 2001 -0800
From: KCM [US]
Hi. How are you doing? I haven't written for awhile... it was midterms and papers rush this week. It's been so frustrating for me lately because I can't find a job!! It's work-study and I shouldn't have to look this hard. Arrgh...
I shouldn't be venting so much. But anyway this weekend will help me forget a bit. A friend is having a LAN party - which means these computer guys bring their computers over, connect them and then play Quake for something like twelve hours straight. (Slight exaggeration.)
I am reading The Autobiography of Malcolm X right now. It's bringing back so many memories of junior high it's not even funny. I think that we should have read this back then and watched the movie, because it would have made some things so much clearer. It's a good starting place for a debate and the book is so easy to read.....
What is your opinion on the difference between love and like? I think I'm going to try taking an unofficial survey of this.......
Anyway, I hope you have better luck in your job search.
Ah - the job search - I'm writing this on
December 27th, and the job search has turned up a prospective job for
February and some freelance stuff, but financially, things are not
looking very good... three more examples of the type of responses I
have mostly been getting to my resume are as follows:
Subject: Re: Resume
Date: Fri, 14 Dec 2001 02:01:49 +0900
From: Iranai Desuyo, Inc. <email@example.com>
To: Lyle Saxon <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Dear Mr. Saxon,
Thank you for sending your resume in response to our advertisement in the Japan Times. Unfortunately, the number of qualified applications we received far exceeded the number of positions available. Therefore, we are sorry to inform you that we are unable to offer you an interview at this time. We wish you success in your job search. Thank you again for your interest.
Subject: Marketing Coordinator
Date: Fri, 14 Dec 2001 10:33:30 +0900
From: "Aabbb Ccddd" <email@example.com>
We wish to express our appreciation for your response to our advertisement for the position of marketing coordinator. We however, regretfully must advise you that you were not selected for the position. We were surprised at the strong response we received from many very qualified people such as yourself so the selection was difficult.
Again, thank you for your time and for considering employment with us. We wish you success in your search.
Secretary to the President
Nantoka Co., Inc.
Subject: RE: Resume
Date: Tue, 25 Dec 2001 12:03:24 +0900
From: "Ddeee Eefff" <eefff@Ffggg.org>
Dear Mr. Lyle Saxon,
Thank you for your inquiry about employment opportunities at Ffggg. We appreciate your interest in our organization.
We are sorry to inform you that although your background is impressive, there are no openings that match your skills and qualifications.
Again, thank you for your interest. Best wishes for success in your career search.
Back to KCM's question:
"What is your opinion on the difference between love and like? I think I'm going to try taking an unofficial survey of this......."
Ah... "love" and "like".
It could be said that "like" grows into "love" -
and it could also be said that in some cases the sparks just fly
right from the start, bypassing a simple "like" stage.
And... sometimes people fall in love with love and confuse it for the
instant flying sparks thing..... In short, nobody knows!
Love is mystery and mystery is love... if you know, then there's no
mystery and thus no love? In the end, it all defies words
anyway, so what can I (anyone?) say? I will say this though -
try turning off the words altogether and getting in touch with
yourself - the wordless "advice" that you may then "hear"
will probably be the best advice there is.
[Top of page]
[Top of page]
I think it's not actually exactly a quarter
moon - they don't put that information on calendars here - but I went
for a bike ride this evening and I looked up and saw what appeared to
be a quarter moon through drifting clouds..... I haven't been
riding my two-wheeled contraption for a while, particularly at night,
so the experience felt like a novel one. The great thing about
a bicycle is that as you build up speed, you can feel the wind grow
stronger on your face, and the effect of wind, hills, curves, etc. is
something that you are always in touch with. As I rode along, I
thought how the solid construction of cars, buildings, etc. not only
protects people from the elements, it prevents them from connecting
with the better aspects of the natural world. Had I driven a
car on the same roads I rode the bicycle on, I would have likely been
thinking of entirely different things..... The same velocity
that produced a sensation of speed on the bike would have seemed
speed constricting and irritating in fire-breathing machinery... the
steel and glass roof - a marvel of protection from the weather -
would have blocked out the dramatic moon and clouds... the sound of
the engine - something I generally enjoy - would have blasted away
the sound of the wind in the trees..... I may love
high-horsepower motoring, but I was quite happy not to have it
getting in the way of the sky and wind this evening.
"Think Negative" [Top of page]
Subject: Hope for the best but expect the
Date: Mon, 10 Dec 2001 -0600
From: CPK [US]
"Hope for the best, but expect the worst" is my motto. My husband says I'm too negative. (I suppose I'm too cheery a person to be considered a pessimist...). He is so optimistic - I'm surprised he is not discouraged by all the letdowns he sets himself up for by having expectations far above logical odds. Some may think setting your expectations high might somehow increase the odds of a positive outcome. Much as one is said to be able to heal themselves or make themselves ill with the power of their own mind.
I got a speeding ticket right in front of my house. I live in the country, so by the time I was one house away (and seeing no traffic besides one distant oncoming car - a deputy) I was not bothering to be careful about my speed. Who would have thought I would encounter a deputy clear out here? She gave me a ticket for going 75 mph in a 55 zone. I had to call to find out the fine. My father-in-law just paid a $77 fine for going two miles an hour over the speed limit in town. He went to court to fight it, but lost. I figured if a couple of miles over the speed limit (where most people feel confident driving five mph over) cost that much, then surely my 20mph over fine would be around $200. Just what I needed before Christmas, darn-it! I called and was pleasantly surprised that the fine is only $97. See, it pays to expect the worse. Now, instead of feeling indignant towards paying my fine, I'm grateful that it was less than half what I expected.
Hope your day turns out better than expected.......
[Top of page]
(2001/12/26 12:21 a.m. Nishi-Shinjuku)
Or maybe I should title this "Putting Sleeping Computer Parts to Work", as my latest computer purchase (for $25) - of a "Gateway 2000" (according to the front panel), or G5-166 JP (on the rear sticker) - has put to work a number of parts that were sleeping in my closet, specifically:
256MB RAM (128MB x 2)
SCSI CDR/RW drive
SCSI MO drive
So, while it would have cost too much to buy
all that stuff from zero for a 1997 computer (P-I 166MHz),
considering that I already had the missing parts just sleeping in my
closet, $25 enabled me to put together a properly functioning
computer. Speaking of the name of the computer... it also says
"LP Mini-Desktop" on the back, which dumbfounds me, as it's
the largest sized horizontal desktop computer that I've ever seen
(that I can remember anyway). It's wide enough that there is
room for two CD drives in the front panel, and I'm using the top of
it as a physical platform for the SCSI CDR/RW drive, the MO drive, a
USB hard drive, and a printer (sitting on a board which is on the
SCSI CDR/RW drive). There was a mechanical linkage problem with
the power button and the button for the CD-ROM drive, so I'm using it
with the decorative front panel removed - which solves the problem,
but makes the machine look like an ugly piece of industrial
"N-Hexane & Learning to Type" [Top of page]
Date: Fri, 16 Nov 2001 -0600
From: HHE [US]
There is an article in the National Briefs column of today's (11/16/01) Houston Chronicle which I quote in its entirety:
"ATLANTA - Repeated exposure to a chemical found in some car maintenance products can cause nerve problems, including numbness in the hands, feet and forearms, the CDC said Thursday.
In extreme cases, the chemical solvent n-hexane, found in some products used to clean and degrease engines, can lead to loss of motor skills, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.
The warning follows a study by health officials in California who found that three mechanics reported numbness and tingling after using some products with n-hexane, including a brake cleaner that contained up to 60 percent n-hexane."
I think you are fortunate to have left the "Office from Hell". The doctor at the VA advised me this week to start using elastic stockings to aid in maintaining circulation in my feet and legs. I have been experiencing some rather painful numbness. I told my wife and son I would no longer wear walking shorts when using the stockings. I did so laughingly and told them of incidents in junior high after my dad insisted I take typing. I did and was one of two boys in a class of mostly girls. Several fights that semester resulted on the playgrounds and after school following remarks in the vein, "Where's your skirt?". Flunked the class. Still am a poor typist, using index and forefinger, even though I'm an excellent speller. That non-skill and skill do not mix well and that makes me thankful for Spell Check - when I remember to use it. Oh, well, I never expected to live this long - although I've now set a goal of 90 to see my three-year old twin grandsons who, unfortunately, live far away in California. Life isn't fair.
Being a perfectionist in writing reports, I was rather hard on the language and spelling skills used by engineers who reported to me. So, the things you told about translating technical and nontechnical journals amused me greatly. That leads me to quoting to you a short piece I recently saw in Reader's Digest. The heading was "Lost In Translation". From a cautionary label on an adhesive roller made for cleaning lint off clothing and upholstery:
1. Do not use this roller to the floorings that made of wood and plastic.
2. Do not use this to clean the stuffs that dangerous to your hands such as glass and chinaware.
3. Do not use this roller to people's head, it is dangerous that hair could be sticked up to cause unexpected suffering."
I should add that I have been using masking tape for years to do what these rollers do, and the adhesive used is the same.
HHE [Top of page]
"The Chicago Trip" [Top of page]
Subject: Dose of MMH - Bonus Issue
Date: Sat, 17 Nov 2001 -0800
From: MMH [US]
.............. I forgot a few things for my trip to Chicago. One of them was the muffin I planned on eating at the airport for breakfast. So I ate a small pizza there. Guess what they were serving on the flight? Yes, pizza. I asked for the salad instead. Turns out that there was enough cheese on the salad to make a pizza. There was a movie on the flight called "61", but I didn't watch it because I had a bad vantage point to the screen and was also kept busy making last minute finishing touches to my presentation.
I was stuck with a window seat... which got to be fun as we hit the clear skies of the Midwest. The farms below were not cut into perfect squares - the recent harvesting had produced an elaborate zigzag pattern. As we flew lower over Chicago, I saw miles of houses all the same size, all positioned the same on the lot, and all with identical-looking garages. The difference from the sky was how each household treated their yard.
The hotel sent a limo to pick me up, which was cheaper than a cab if you can believe it. I felt kind of lonely riding in the back of the big thing - lonely but very comfortable. The hotel booked me into a room which had a broken thermostat. It was stuck on high and was over 80 degrees. They put me in another room when they found out that they couldn't fix it right away. I ate dinner with two members of the Graphic Artists Guilds National staff and then skipped back to my room to call Aabbb and watch some relaxing television.
I scheduled my arrival a day early so I could spend a day checking out the Chicago Art Institute, which has an art exhibit called "Van Gogh and Gauguin, the Studio in the South". The exhibit focuses on the nine weeks these two artists worked and lived together in a small yellow house in the south of France. I have been a fan of Van Gogh since I was a little kid. I used to paint the famous painting of his called "The Bedroom" from memory. He was a big inspiration to me - so when I checked into my hotel room, I was startled to see a print of this painting on the wall. When I got to the museum later on, I had a chance to spend several minutes standing in front of the real thing.
I got up early that day, and caught the train heading to Chicago just in time. I enjoyed the ride, as it gave me a chance to check out some of the houses I had seen from the air. The Sears Tower was on my way to the Chicago Art Institute, so I paid the $10 to go up to the Sky View level on top. Some years ago I went to the top of the WTC with my cousin. I felt that I owed it to tall buildings everywhere to visit the tallest building in the US. I could have lived without the hideous video they showed to travelers going up the Sky View level though. I was able to easily make out my route to the Art Institute from the high vantage point.
I arrived at the Institute shortly after it opened, and the exhibit kept me captivated for hours. I purchased the tape and listened through it, and also attended a very well produced video summarizing the show. I also bought some small erasers made in the shape of the bed in the bedroom painting. (Just one of a few tacky gifts I picked up for Aabbb.)
I hate eating alone, but my stomach demanded I eat something, so I found myself in a cafeteria looking for a quick bite to tide me over. I ordered a hot dog and a little old lady commented that it looked good and ordered one as well. We decided that we should have lunch together, and ended up having a nice lunch and conversation. I learned all about her family and social life. She was in town for a convention too, but was apparently leaving her companions in the dust, as she was highly mobile. We kept running into each other for the rest of the day and as we found ourselves staring at each other outside the Institute when it closed, decided that we would walk over to Lake Michigan and take in the view. She had someone take our picture together, and promised to send me a copy. She invited me to go to see some improvisation, but I felt like having dinner with some Graphic Artists - also it was the beginning of the return rush hour.
My thought was that if I just followed the crowds, they would lead me right to the train station. I was right, and I quickly found myself on the train heading back to the hotel. It was dark when I got to the station, and the van they sent to pick me up missed me in the dark, so when they sent it the next time, I took off my coat and my bright yellow shirt helped them spot me.
I ate dinner with some of the national staff and the president of the Portland Chapter. Both nights the meals were huge... which is good since I basically only ate the hot dog and was starving.
The details of the convention I won't bore you with. But you should know that artists were busy fighting for their rights both nationally and internationally. I could go into great and elaborate detail on how the rights of the creative individual are on an insidious path toward oblivion. But when so much of the country is just now getting concerned about individual rights, I don't think very many people would even listen long enough to get bored.
I think the convention and the jet lag tired me out. I spent all day Monday sleeping and found myself hard pressed to get any real work done on Tuesday. I have been busy putting out small fires and now find myself tackling some difficult aspects of HTML and flash coding. Not my favorite thing to be doing right now.....
MMH [Top of page]
"Immigration" [Top of page]
Date: Thu, 15 Nov 2001 -0600
From: CPK [US]
Today I took a friend of mine to Minneapolis to see an immigration officer and renew his Visa. This was a process of which I was very unaware, so I thought I would tell you what I learned.
My friend has been here almost 20 years, and has worked with the same company for at least 14 yeas. He's from Guyana in South America. He wants to become a citizen, but as he put it, the "refugees" have the advantage. Citizenship is pretty much handed to them, but he'll have to pay at least $7,000. He's been saving for this and hopes to achieve it someday. He's a completely honest and forthright person, and a role model citizen who makes friends with nearly everyone he meets.
We arrived at the office in Minneapolis at 6:15 a.m. to find an already long line of people waiting. His number (for his turn to be seen) was 150-something! All day long, every day, tons of people wait outside for hours to be processed. When you get in, they frisk you, finger-print you, then go over all your records and look for any criminal records. Then, they drill you with questions to make sure you have the right intentions for being here. This must get pretty old for someone like my friend who has gone through it so many times. It costs over a hundred dollars each time too. He said they treat you bad, too, like they are prejudiced. The waiting line used to be indoors, by the way, but since 9/11, they have to wait outside. This will get really uncomfortable in Minnesota as soon as the cold sets in.
So, I was wondering... what is the situation in Japan?
Immigration - I could go on and on about this one. Among other things, I think the overcrowding of the planet is leading increasingly to "Titanic Syndrome" - where people in lifeboats with room to spare are nervous at the spectacle of there being more people in the sea than can be saved, and thus don't want to save anyone:
"I don't want to drown... if I can save you from afar, I'd like to help, but stay out of my boat!!"
And so governments are doing what they can
to stop immigration without being so obvious about it that it's
politically embarrassing. Another thing about immigration laws
is that they are constantly changing. I've been here in Japan
since 1984, and have witnessed more changes in the immigration laws
than I care to think about. I haven't been to immigration for
awhile, so I'm not sure what the current situation is, but one thing
I know about foreigners who obtain Japanese citizenship, is that they
have to renounce any other citizenship they have. When people
here ask me if I have Japanese nationality, I ask them if they can
look at me and see a Japanese - and 100% of the people I've asked say
"No" in a "Naturally not!" tone, so I raise my
eyebrows at them and pose the question "If not one man, woman,
or child in this country can conceive that I am a citizen of this
land, what would be the point of holding a citizenship on paper
only?" There is no spot on this planet where racism is
completely absent, but in some places it's beyond debate, and
precisely where it's beyond debate, extremes clash. People say
with straight faces - "There is no racism", or "Everyone
is racist" with the extreme blindness of purely polarized
vision. [Top of
"Re: The Car Saga" [Top of page]
Subject: Re: Cars...
Date: Fri, 23 Nov 2001
From: APP [Australia]
The car saga has come to a halt now. My partner took the car back but couldn't return it, but they did make the suspension higher so it is not "sitting" on the ground anymore. There is nothing I can do about it now, so I have dropped the subject all together. Besides, he feels low enough as he still hasn't found work, and it is starting to really get him down. I know it is bad timing, but I am off this morning to fly to Queensland to visit my daughter and grandchildren. Maybe it will do him good to have me out of his hair for two weeks. :-)
[Top of page]
(December 31st, 2001 7:45 a.m. Nishi-Shinjuku)
I met a friend (Aabbb) at a get-together
last week who I hadn't seen for several months, and then yesterday,
while speaking with another friend who had spoken with Aabbb after
the get-together, I was told that Aabbb had commented that my
"kaoiro" was looking much better..... "Kaoiro",
literally translated, is "face-color", as in the color of
your face, your complexion, and whether you are "looking pale".
So a "bad kaoiro" is "looking pale", and a "good
kaoiro" is "looking good/healthy". I was glad to
hear that, as it confirms my own belief that that job I had in
Yotsuya was damaging my health. Also, as I'm starting to worry
about whether I'll be able to earn enough money to pay rent and eat,
it's good to be reminded that I really did need to get out of there.
"Trip to Turkey" [Top of page]
Subject: Trip to Turkey
Date: Sat, 24 Nov 2001
From: EKH [US]
Trip to Turkey October 22nd - November 4th, 2001
My trip to Turkey was extremely enjoyable and educational. I saw, firsthand, what I read about in my early teens, when thoughts of actually visiting and seeing those things and places in person never crossed my mind. Along with so much else, I felt the history of ancient times, the glory and grandeur of what was the Ottoman Empire, the Roman colonization, etc. Before my eyes were the ruins of ancient civilizations, the opened, plundered catacombs of what were the final resting places of the wealthy. Ordinary Turks and slaves of rich merchants and dignitaries were not given the same burials as those from "high society". Nonetheless, I question the sacrileges committed by us, the living, through the archeological digging and restoration of the splendors of the past. In so doing, we desecrate the graves of our forefathers.
But enough of my self-righteous outbursts. Let me just say - it was an eye-opening experience. Visits to museums revealed a highly advanced civilization four millenniums past by any standards, including ours. The birth of modern Turkey through the vision of Mustafa Gamel Ataturk opened before my eyes. In the open-air museums lay soldiers buried side by side who were then opposing combatants from Australia, New Zealand, England, France, Germany, Turkey, and other nations. Propositioned, in 1934, by an open letter to the mothers of those braves soldiers as "sons of Turkey" - for Turkey is now at peace with the world.
Of all the places I visited, Turkey, to me, presents living history with the splendor of modern times. Before the trip, I expected to find a third world country. How wrong I was! In Istanbul, after haggling over the price of goods and services, it was then a pleasant surprise to have the vendor return any overpayment I made. In light of the lower per-capita income in comparison with most Western countries, it was refreshing and re-assuring to find very honest people. Also, the city and the countryside were very well kept and clean. While it seemed as though virtually everyone in Turkey smoked, I saw hardly any cigarette butts on the streets. In fact, I noticed ordinary people picking up litter and depositing it in garbage cans.
Perhaps my best memories are of the impromptu stop we made at a small village during Turkey's "National Day". We stopped and watched the celebrations at a school yard. Schoolchildren and their teachers welcomed our group, which consisted of people from Australia, Canada, England, and the US. It gives me goose bumps recalling the genuine gestures of friendship by the adults and children alike. They all spoke English, and the students wore blue-green blazers with light brown pants for the boys, and Turkish-blue skirts for the girls. They told us that students nationwide wear the the same type of school uniform.
Turkey reminds me of the Japanese people I met while visiting Japan in the mid 60s and mid 70s. From your Letter-Letters, Japan seem to have changed.
EKH [Top of page]
"Akemashite Omedeto-gozaimasu" [Top of page]
That title is the traditional greeting in Japan which means (loosely translated) "Happy New Year!". January 1st, 2002 (20:58 Nishi-Shinjuku)..... I had planned to get this stuffed into the wires before the close of 2001, but the writing of New Year's cards took so much time, I haven't had the time to edit this. My written Japanese is so sloppy it's embarrassing, so I've always only sent New Year's cards ("nengajo") when I absolutely had to, but this year I automated the task and let the computer handle printing them out for me. The printing may have gone speedily well, but the data entry has taken quite a bit of time. What is nice of course, is that now that I've built up a data base, the New Year's card send-out next year will go much more quickly. That said, when I look at the cards I received this morning, I like the hand-written ones much more than the machine print-outs... naturally. It's like comparing regular mail with e-mail. I think most people are happier to receive a real letter - handwritten on real paper - than an e-mail, but simultaneously happier to send an e-mail than a real letter. Personally, I'd like to spend a month or so in the past - maybe the 19th century - so I could asses just how happy I am with the early 21st century way of doing things. I think I like progress, but sometimes I think the long distance communication afforded by technology is mucking up in-person relationships. But I'm not sure, thus the idea of spending some time in the 19th century.
It's something like hiking over a mountain to see what it's like on the other side, in the belief that since you already know what's what where you are, you have only to gain by the experience of moving to the other side - and then realizing with a shock after many years, that precisely in concert with learning the new side, you have lost knowledge of the old side. Be that as it may, I still think there's something more to be gained overall from experiencing the two places rather than only one... but you can never truly have both. And so, like someone walking down the street with a cell phone against an ear - who has gained the communication of someone far away... what is happening with the person walking by their side who is suddenly shut out for the duration of the call?
One other comment regarding
computer-assisted New Year's card writing. I myself bought an
ink-jet color printer in December specifically for printing out New
Year's cards, and while I was comparing printers, I took in all the
other people doing the same - among piles and piles of boxed
machines. And then when I went back to Yodobashi Camera to pick
up some extra ink cartridges, there were hordes of people and long
lines at the cash registers - with more than half of the people I saw
in line holding ink cartridges for printers. From those scenes,
I knew before January first that I'd be getting more computer printed
cards this year than last, and when they came, I was only mildly
surprised at the huge change. Last year, of the cards that I
got, I think maybe 20% of them were computer printed, and this year
that jumped to about 70-80%. But that's the way it goes here...
once the train starts down the tracks, everyone runs and jumps aboard
- never mind where the train the going - the fact that a majority are
boarding creates an "I don't want to be left behind/out"
"A Multitude of Computers" [Top of page]
I wrote most of "Akemashite Omedeto-gozaimasu" on an old Dell laptop that I put together with parts from a few broken Dell machines I acquired a couple of years back from a shop in Akihabara - that sells old junky computers that most people consider only as difficult to dispose of garbage - people working for large corporations (which have money to spend on IT) who generally use fairly new machines that is.
Sometimes I stop and try to think of how
many computers I've written with over the past five and a half
years. It's impossible to say exactly, but including machines
that I've set up for friends and written with a little before handing
them over, I think the figure is something like twenty. Most of
those have been used machines, and some of my current machines are
making use of parts taken from my older junked machines. The
interchangeability of component parts and software is what makes such
advanced technology available at ridiculously cheap prices - such as
my latest computer which I bought for $25. As someone who has
had difficulty finding the cash to join the technology club, I
profoundly appreciate cheap hardware. I'd also like to be
making videos, but I just don't have the financial power to obtain
the hardware. Or if I did get some good equipment, it would not
be easily replaceable. The great thing about computers for
writing, is that - as writing tools - they are easily had, and so I
can write without worrying too much about equipment failure.
"Where is All the Time Going?" [Top of page]
Subject: Re: BlankMsg...
Date: Sat, 24 Nov 2001
From: KCM [US]
I had a good Thanksgiving weekend, overall. It was a messed up experience getting on the plane though. We had to get in line to go through a security checkpoint, but we had to have some sort of itinerary first. But no one told us that, and just told us to get in line, which we did. Once I got up to the security person, she told me to go get an itinerary, which meant another line... and then getting back into the other line. After that I went through the metal detector. A lot of people were getting picked for random checks - although they didn't really look through anything. (My younger sister got checked twice, although I went through without any trouble.) The plane was only halfway full, but maybe that was because I took an early flight.....
I was told that my mom was really scared by the fact that we were flying. She was afraid something was going to happen, even though, statistically, flying is still safer than driving. (I'm not going to bother trying to explain that to her though.)
She looked at me when I got home and said, "You got so skinny! You're not eating at all, are you? You should eat more...", etc. I think what happened, was that I lost the weight I gained in my freshman and sophomore years from dorm food. So it's not all that bad. She just wishes I had more meat on me.
We had a big retirement dinner for my father last night. He was very happy. There were a lot of different dishes, including chicken, shark fin soup, barbecued pork and other good stuff. We had about 20 or so relatives come to celebrate, which could have gotten ugly, but nothing too bad happened. I played with my cousin's kids and my niece, who are all growing up to be adorable brats. I got attacked by three kids at one point trying to tickle me. Good thing I'm still stronger than all of them combined, although I suspect that next year it won't be as easy for me. Man they're growing up fast. Where is all the time going?
"Employees and Non-Employees" [Top of page]
Date: Tue, 27 Nov 2001 +0100
From: SAJ [US / Holland]
............ When you leave a job here (or your contract isn't going to be renewed), you or the company you work for have to give a three month notice. If you just leave without giving a three month notice, it goes on your record and makes it difficult to find another job. If you are asked to leave before the three months are up, they still have to pay you for those three months, along with all your benefits. The only time this doesn't apply is when the employee and employer come up with some kind of an agreement between them. Of course this is all in the contract you sign when you go to work for someone after your trial period is up.
We leave for the States a week from this Saturday for three weeks. I am looking forward to an American Christmas with the overkill of Christmas lights and the crowed malls, the awful traffic and the near impossibility of finding a parking space. My Christmas shopping is just about done, and the rest won't be a problem to finish once we cross the Atlantic.
Actually, the laws here for "regular
employees" are completely different from those for
non-employees, which is the legal category I've fallen under for
every company I've worked for here over 17 years. It's a
convenient category for employers, as it makes it much easier for
them to utilize disposable employees.
"My Own Cubicle" [Top of page]
Subject: Re: LL-310
Date: Wed, 05 Dec 2001 -0800
From: KCM [US]
I am up too early today and I thought I should be working on my paper, but I can't seem to bring myself to do it. I'm in a funky mood I guess... I better snap out of it soon, because my paper's due on Friday and I have finals next week.
I finally got a job! It's basically a secretarial job, but I get my own cubicle, with a window and my own computer. The view looks onto the building next to ours, but if I look to the left I can see the city, which is a beautiful view.
"Trouble with Lunch" [Top of page]
Subject: "Department Displacement"
Date: Wed, 5 Dec 2001 -0500
From: NVR [Guyana / US]
Have you ever felt like people hate you just because you're better at something than they are? That's the way it is at my place at work. Such shoe-lickers too. When they want me to do something extra, they are all suddenly nice. It's like I'm the automatic trainer for everyone, even though they were here eons before me. We got a new secretary about a year ago, and she is such a sneak. I can tell when the boss is out... her phone doesn't get answered. If it's answered on the 1st ring... then the boss is in. Not only that - when the boss is out during lunch, the woman takes lengthy lunches. When the boss is here, if I take even an extra five minutes, she goes whining to the boss. Mostly, I end up being late because - five minutes before lunch, she has to visit someone on another floor... really, really important! Most of my lunches include meetings that run the full lunch hour. I am so often late because of this! I am not too comfortable with being late. I so badly want to leave on time, but with the US economy the way it is, I dare not. This resentment (and acts of what seem like sabotage), started after I got my brokerage license. Either the boss knows and doesn't care, or else is totally oblivious to what's happening.
The computer situation at the JW Office was
definitely along those lines. The inept Mr. Aruchu wanted to be
in change of them, and didn't appreciate it at all that I knew (know)
more about them than he.
"The Other Foreigners Here are....." [Top of page]
Subject: Re: "Zero"
Date: Thu, 6 Dec 2001
From: Yo/Gr [US / Japan]
.......... I haven't written for a while - work is busy. One girl quit after a month - she was 'sick'... but it was more complicated than that. A new guy, well, let's say he's not too bright. I am getting a bad impression of many of the other foreigners here, and I'm wondering if you have run into this? My brother in Korea has been feeling the same way over there, and I'm wondering if we're just unluckily running into the wrong people? Anyway, I'll be going to Kobe for Christmas, and Nagoya (girlfriend lives there) for New Year's.
How about you? Any plans? Is the weather strange in Tokyo?? It is basically warmish here, with a lot of rain and not windy (it is usually very windy and dry+cold).
"The Big Twenty" [Top of page]
Subject: Re: LL-310
Date: Sat, 08 Dec 2001 +0000
From: EWT [HK / UK]
It's been a long time since I've written... I've been fine! Lots of chemistry work to do and no time to even go and socialise. ;)
My birthday was December 3rd... I can't believe how old I am now - the big 20!!! The day was ok, and I was at uni, so there was no going home for me! All of my close friends at uni - who're doing chemistry too - were really busy, the same as me. Anyway, the night was spent studying German and then playing badminton... and then finally there was the ride home in the pouring rain..... It was different!
"Computer! Read My E-Mail!" [Top of page]
A while back, MMH mentioned having his
computer read his e-mail to him, and since reading that, I've been
wanting to try that out myself... apparently it's something
automatically included on new Macs, but it wasn't in my Wintel
machines - not until I found a free download for that a couple of
days ago that is. I've just started using it, so I'm not 100%
sure it's a stable and solid program, but it seems to be working
alright so far. There's both a free version and a purchasable
version. I'm using the free version, so if anyone has used the
full version, could you tell me how it is? The company is
"MoneyTree Software Company", and the site for the read
software is www.readplease.com.
Time to call this one a wrap.
Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon, Images Through
LLLetters@yahoo.com - Nishi-Shinjuku, Tokyo
January 4th, 2002 - (KFMM-12/LL311/HRE040617)
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