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"Letter-Letter 313"
February 10th, 2002

"Working Again"
"I Asked Her and She Said..."  by RWD
"Been Here the Whole Time?"
"Only You Know..."  by MJK
"So Much Work & So Little Time"  by EWT
"Who Needs to Work?  Let's Just have Meetings Forever!"
"Trying to Change my Lifestyle"  by GDJ
"Micron Client Pro VXE & IBM NetVista"
"Up at 6:00 a.m."  by Laf
"Yet Another Computer..."
"Probation Period"  by MLE
"Altered Photos & ADSL"  by SAJ
"Venting Five Years Worth of Frustration(?)"
"Thanks for the Present!"  by CPK
"April 23rd, 2002"
"LL-26 - From April 1997"
"LL-153 - From April 1998"

"Working Again"     [Top of page]

I've been working again... including some overtime at another poorly managed small company!  Fortunately, however, while the company is poorly managed, it's not a war zone like the JW Office was (still is, according to a friend still there who is desperately trying to find other work).  The pay is low and I don't think I'll stay there long, but with the money gone, it's been good just to be working!  And then there is the once-a-week business English class and (as of yesterday), an intensive course of seven and a half hours per day (minus an hour of unpaid lunch time) that runs for the next two and a half weeks.  Beyond that, the interviews, rejection letters, etc., continue.  The small office job may well evaporate next week over the conflict with the intensive English course, but as the owner wasn't entirely forthright regarding my pay, I'm not feeling overly guilty about that.  Besides, he is hedging his bets himself, and hired a man from New Zealand concurrently with hiring me - the idea being that we would work on alternate days... the trouble is, as he's paying both of us a really low salary, we both need other work to pay the bills, and higher paying jobs (naturally) get priority.

"I Asked Her and She Said..."     [Top of page]

Date: Sun, 3 Feb 2002  +0700
From: RWD  [Indonesia]
Re: MicroMuck

..........  I think It's good for you to be working with so many people and using different languages.  A week ago, I attended a workshop on groundwater contaminant, organized by UNESCO.  All the instructors were German.  Although their English was reasonably good, there were times when they couldn't find the appropriate words, at which time they would ask another instructor how to say a word.  From there, they took to drawing pictures.  Ha-ha-ha.

In spite of being rather busy, I'm planning to get married in November this year.  My girlfriend - who was studying in the UK - finally finished her studies and came back home two days ago.  I asked her, and she said yes, although we haven't set the exact date yet as we're very busy at the moment.

Indonesia is suffering terrible floods everywhere now.  Jakarta, Surabaya, Semarang, and other coastal and lowland cities are all flooded.  Thankfully I'm in the mountains.  (I've been worried about my parents who live in Jakarta, but fortunately the flooding hasn't affected them.)

From the Eastern Part of The Globe
~ RWD (Bandung, Indonesia)

"Been Here the Whole Time?"     [Top of page]

(February 17th, 2002)

The intensive class I'm teaching is turning out to be rather interesting... there are five of us - myself and the four students - sitting in the same room day after day from 9:30 a.m. through 5:00 p.m. (with an hour for lunch) looking at each other... in that room with the express purpose of giving the four men a jump start on speaking English so they'll be able to communicate after they jet overseas to their respective locations (Fiji, Sri Lanka, and Micronesia).  From the very beginning, it occurred to me that men in their fifties who decide to spend a year or two overseas have got to have their reasons... and so far it's come out that one man is divorced, another is alone after losing his wife (to illness?), and the other two guys are rather atypical of this land - particularly one guy, who is likable, if irritatingly boastful and not always purely honest in his boasting.

On Saturday, I ended up on the same streetcar (on the last remaining streetcar line in Tokyo) with one of the other teachers, and we conducted a conversation basically as follows:

Other Guy:  "The classes are too long, don't you think?  I mean - teaching people for two or three hours is one thing - but all day?!  The students get tired and bored.  The thing is, we can't really talk about anything interesting.  We try, but their English isn't up to it, so we struggle all day with simple boring stuff and by the end of the day they're practically falling asleep on me.  ...............  I've been doing this for five years now... how about you?

Me:  "Seventeen years."

Other Guy:  "!!!!!  Seventeen years!?!?!  Wow... where?  Not the whole time here?"

Me:  "Here... the whooollllle time... right here in Tokyo.  You?"

Other Guy:  "One year here, three in Korea, and one in Taiwan.  The thing was - until recently, you could get about the same pay working in Korea, but the cost of living is much lower....."

The Other Guy's point about not being able to talk about anything interesting is possibly the most frustrating aspect of being assigned to teach someone "English conversation" (Eikaiwa), as it's called here.  They can't say anything complicated in English and if you say anything complicated yourself, then they can't understand it... nevertheless, if you drop down to a level low enough that it's easily understood, then they are insulted, yet by going up a notch or two, you enter a zone of incomprehension.  For the class I'm teaching, one guy speaks well enough to actually discuss things, but for the other three guys, we have to discuss complicated concepts in Japanese.  All of which is a long way of saying that being forced to sit there looking at each other all day every day, we're ending up discussing all kinds of things.  I don't think I've ever spent quite that much time specifically and only talking to the same people for such long stretches of time.......    [Top of page]

"Only You Know..."     [Top of page]

Subject: Re: LL-312
Date: Sun, 3 Feb 2002
From: MJK  [US]

In response to "Starting Over,"  I hope you do what you want to do.  Why should your former husband tell you where to live or even "just stay a little longer."  It's a free country do what you feel is right for you!  Your former husband does not sound like he wants to continue his relationship with you.  Be patient with yourself, it takes a while to get over a partner who decides to leave.  Fifteen years is a long time to be with someone.  I wish you peace, happiness and strength to do what is right for you.  Only you know what is right for you.


"Juggling....."     [Top of page]
(March 10th, 2002  Nishi-Shinjuku)

After sending out hundreds of resumes over three months or so, when I got three job offers at the same time (four if you count the intensive English course that was set up for February back in December), I didn't say no to any of them, and instead tried to juggle them all as long as possible.  The small office job I was able to continue as I taught the intensive course - but only by going there in the evening and working until near midnight - just enough to hang on to the job and irritate the owner at the same time.  After the intensive course wrapped up, I had to decide between two higher paying copywriting jobs that came up at the same time.  I accepted the one that seemed better (and was offered a couple of days before the other one), and then went in for a second interview with the second place honestly telling them that I had received another offer as well and needed a couple of weeks to make my final decision.  They agreed to wait until the end of last week (March 8th), and so I climbed aboard the first copywriting job on March 1st - leaving a tentative lifeboat (the other copywriting job) for a week.  I began that week with three jobs pending, but I will be entering next week with only one... I hope I made the right choice!  The contract is set up with an easy door out for the company at the end of three months if they are "unsatisfied" with my performance.  So... at least I have employment lined up for the next three months... , and hopefully beyond!

"So Much Work & So Little Time"     [Top of page]

Subject: Re: LL-312
Date: Sun, 03 Feb 2002  +0000
From: EWT  [HK / UK]

...........  The weather here is changing all the time and it's very wet and windy, with lots of storms!

After reading LL-312 about foreign languages, it reminds me!  I'm currently doing a uni language course on German, as I'm hoping to go to Germany at the end of next year.

The classes were not exactly what I expected.  I started off last year doing the Level-2 course (equivalent to the GCSE revision +).  We also have two hour classes every week and the teacher hands out lots of sheets... full of grammar and other bits and bobs, but I haven't really learned much.  Partly due to not putting enough work, time and effort into studying outside of classes.  To cut the long story short, I didn't do well, though I passed the exams for it.

This year, I'm doing the Level 3 (to post-A-Level).  So my big problem - I've not done A-Level before.  The classes have proved to be a lot harder than I had expected, and I can hardly understand what the other students say.  German grammar is very difficult - word orders and different cases confuse me quite a bit.

So I guess I'll just have to put in more work!  I am improving.....

It's nearly Chinese New Year - this year it's on the 12th of February.  It'll be the Year of the Horse (it's the Year of the Snake right now).  I'm off to home this weekend to buy food!  I'll be cooking a big meal to celebrate it!!

Have lots of work at the moment, and I've been very stressed!!!  So much work and so little time.  I've not really had a proper break for ages.  Oh, I did exams at the beginning of the term and did well!! :)  So that's good....

I'm also applying for vacation work here at the moment.  There's so much competition!!  So I've been sending out lots of copies of my CV and phoning and searching... but still no replies beyond some from companies that say they are too small to offer any vacation placements - so I guess I need to target bigger companies.



"Who Needs to Work?  Let's Just have Meetings Forever!"     [Top of page]

(April 5th, 2002)  It's been two months since I began this letter!  I've been wanting to write something all this time, but what with resume publishing, interviews, working several jobs simultaneously, and then running around looking at apartments considering a move, I've not been able to get any writing done at all.  Regarding "Juggling" (above), I decided to stay with the first copywriting job I was offered.  The other place was in a less convenient location, and they said a couple of things that seemed contradictory regarding earlier promises they'd made regarding the pay, so.....  The other job I had been tentatively hanging on to has since fallen by the wayside due to the amount of time I need to be at the copywriting job.

How have things been at the new company?  That can be summed up in one word - "meetings"!  As in lots of them!  Meetings, meetings, meetings, more meetings, meetings, meetings, meetings, and then a few more... ok, let's get to work... no, wait... we need to have more meetings... and more... and more... etc. etc.  Apparently there will be some real work going on next week - I'll believe it when I see it!  There have been some office politics already, but so far the place seems like paradise compared to the JW Office.  Still... from everything I've seen over seventeen years here, offices in this country are extremely inefficient and waste time horribly.  The strength of the country has always been in the smoothly running factories... no thanks to the political battlefields that too many of the offices seem to be!

"Trying to Change my Lifestyle"     [Top of page]

Subject: flying
Date: Wed, 6 Feb 2002
From: GDJ  [US]

................  I will be trying to change my lifestyle completely.  I will be going to school for my commercial pilots license and my flight instructors rating as soon as I push all the right buttons... you know how that is, but I am determined to get there and I will.

I have become engaged to a wonderful woman - we get a long great and have a wonderful time enjoying the same things together.  That makes a difference.  I also have a new copilot and his name is Sampson.  He thinks he is a big dog.  He was a stray someone left at the airport , so I took him home.  He is now very happy and well loved and cared for (we also have four other dogs).


"Micron Client Pro VXE & IBM NetVista"     [Top of page]

(April 5th, 2002)  Ah... computers!  From my very first interview at the new company, I stressed that I needed a decent computer in order to work properly, and that while I didn't care too much about the CPU, I wanted 512MB of memory.  Not having received any response after saying so in person and then bringing the matter up again in e-mails, I was beginning to think that I'd end up getting stuck with a junky computer... but they came through with a new IBM NetVista with a 1.7GHz P-4 CPU, a 40GB HDD, and 512MB of RAM.  The P-4 1.7GHz CPU was a nice bonus I hadn't expected, as was the LCD flat screen monitor.  So - getting off to a good start computer-wise, I didn't really need a second computer at work, but in finding some font incompatibility problems in a few MS-Word files I was given to work on, it occurred to me that if I could pick up a used computer cheaply enough, I could put English software in it and then run it through a KVM switch (to be able to simulate exactly how files will look when opened overseas with English software), so... I went back to the basement shop where I've bought several computer bits and pieces before, and bought a Micron Client Pro VXE with an MMX 200MHz CPU, 4GB HDD, and 64MB of RAM (which I upped to 256MB today with a couple of used memory boards), and now have it installed under my desk and running with English W-95 and English MS-Office 97.  The machine itself is on the larger side - again! - like the Compaq I bought last year, which is why I was able to pick it up for Y10,000 I suppose, actually in running condition this time without putting in any parts.  (I could have skipped putting in more memory, but if I really am going to use it, then 64MB is a bit low.)

Linux.  I was finally able to install Linux successfully on one of my computers at home (the Compaq), but I installed a Japanese version of it, and so far anything I write with it in English turns apostrophes and quotation marks into computer code, so I'm just mucking about with it for now - trying to familiarize myself with Linux at least a little.  At some point I hope to be free of a certain company's unstable software though, so I hope I can figure out Linux soon!

A note about prices... after steadily falling for about a year, I'm noticing computer parts prices going up this year.  128MB of new RAM, which cost Y1,300 in December, now costs about Y4,500.  One way I convinced the company to buy the 512MB of memory for me was I said that I wouldn't mind buying it myself in light of how cheap it is - and I quoted the December prices (honestly not knowing that they had gone up).  The accounting-type guy I spoke with nodded and said he knew that memory was cheap, and so when the computer came, it came with two boxes of 256MB memory... which I saw in a store today selling for Y20,000 each!  Way above the Y2,800 that I paid for some 256MB boards for the JW Office computers last year.  I wouldn't have minded paying about Y6,000 myself for memory (as I did today), but Y40,000?  Hmm.... I'm glad I didn't know!

As for the JW Office... Back in October of 2001 I told them that memory prices couldn't possible stay that low indefinitely.  They should have stuffed all their computers with 512MB back when it was dirt-cheap.  As it was, I managed to get several of their machines up to 256MB by just buying it with my own money and then shaming them into paying me back later.  Why are people so resistant to putting more memory into their computers?  I was pondering that yet again the other day, and a possible answer I came up with is the old "People are terrified of that which they don't understand"... but, put that together with "Nothing ventured, nothing gained", and you have a depressing scenario of stagnation.  I think I can understand how the first inventors of machinery felt when their machines were smashed by those who were (then as now) terrified of change.  Not all change is good, but stagnation is stifling.

"Up at 6:00 a.m."     [Top of page]

Subject: Chilled paradise
Date: Sat, 09 Feb 2002
From: Laf  [US]

I am not here.  I am not awake.  This is a figment of your imagination.  I mean, what kind of idiot goes out singing, gets home at midnight, and is up and at their computer at 6:00 a.m.?  I'll tell you what kind of idiot... one who has this stupid inner clock that says 6am is actually sleeping late, so I really must get up at this hour.  I can tell you that this is not how I had envisioned this morning would be.  I really wanted another hour or so of blissful slumber.  I should have known better.  I have had this blasted inner clock since I was a kid.  Oh well... here I am at the trusty keyboard writing you a letter.  I guess that makes it worthwhile.

I had a difficult week with headaches, but that was because I interrupted my therapy plan with the chiropractor.  By dropping back to only one visit a week for two weeks this early in the therapy, I lost an awful lot of ground.  So I have had to go three times this week just to kind of get back to the point we were at.  I guess I need to remember, it took my blasted back five years to get this messed up, I suspect it will take longer than a month or two to get fixed.  At least I can see (feel actually) progress.  The severity of my headaches has greatly diminished (or at least it had until I interrupted the therapy).  Speaking of therapy, Aabbb has begun physical therapy every week for his shoulder (damaged rotator cup).  We are hoping it helps.  The other alternative is surgery, which we are hoping to avoid.  It's one of those "If all else fails" situations.  Otherwise, we are fine here.  ..................................

The National Guard is having a training workshop this next weekend, and I have been designated as one of the facilitators.  I am teaching a class on the role and responsibilities of being a unit volunteer.  I spent quite a lot of time this week planning and creating the presentation, which I then sent to state headquarters.  They liked my presentation enough that it's going to become part of the training handbook and I will be teaching it at every workshop... I'm rather proud of that.  Now, we have to hope the actual class comes off as good as the presentation... we'll know next weekend.

The Kitchen is coming together.  We have the ceramic tile floor down, the ceiling is supposed to be completed today, and the recessed lighting is already in.  I think am going to love this room.  It is already appealing to me more and more.  It was Aabbb's idea to give me a center work island that can be moved to wherever I need extra work space in the kitchen.  It will have a stainless steel top and has storage space underneath.  Being on wheels, it will really add flexibility for the kind of holiday entertaining we do.  I am so excited about it.  Quite a few of our friends cannot see the value of this type of island.  I guess they will have to see it in action before they can.  Oh well, it makes perfect sense to Aabbb and I... not to mention those of our family who work together for holiday meals.  .................................


"Yet Another Computer..."     [Top of page]

(April 18th, 2002 - Central Tokyo)  Oops... I ended up buying yet another computer.....  How that happened began with the shocking revelation that an Australian friend of mine didn't have a computer!  Incredible!  The 21st Century and living in the city with the Akihabara electronics district... how can someone who already knows how to use computers not have one?  I say that in a half-joking manner, but only half-joking!  It really is quite easy to pick up something for not too much money, so... I took my friend over to the used computer shop where I've bought a lot of computers over the past few years - beginning with several Toshiba Dynabooks and leading up to the most recent purchase... a Fujitsu FMV-Biblo NU13D laptop.  Actually, the evening we went over there (last Friday), we agreed to buy a huge old Digital tower with a 200MHz Pentium Pro, 128MB of RAM and a 2GB hard drive for Y10,000.  But... coming to my senses over the weekend (I had planned to take the huge thing to my office and set it up there!), I called the guy at the store and asked if there might be a laptop available - naturally for a higher price, but.....  He did have one, and I ended up buying it for Y22,000.  Fine, but there are problems.....

The problem of space that led me to cancel the order for the Digital was solved by getting the laptop, but the specs for the laptop are lower.  It has a 133MHz CPU, 1.3GB hard drive (had actually... more on that later), and only 32MB of memory.  As my friend basically just wants to use a computer for word processing, that would have been fine if the OS already in the machine had been in better condition.  As it was, there were so many error messages just booting the machine up that I tried to install English W-98 over the Japanese W-95, but discovered that you can't do that, because the English version can't read half the file names of the Japanese version and thus doesn't know what to do with them.  So.... I formatted the hard drive and immediately came up against a very irritating problem.....

The machine has both a floppy disk drive and a CD drive, but they are removable units that fit into the same space in the computer, making it impossible to hook them both up at the same time.  I had (optimistically) thought that I could just pull out the floppy drive after the initial setup with the floppy, and then get going with the installation via the CD.... but no... the beloved W program insists on reading from the floppy and refusing to proceed when it can't access that disk.  I tried getting around this by copying the contents of the floppy over to the hard drive, but that didn't work either.  In calling the guy at the computer shop, I hear that there's a way to get around the problem and he offered to show me if I bring the computer back to the shop, but I then decided to see if I could install Linux instead.  Time for another problem.....

If you are lazy and fairly stupid about computers, as I am, then you go for the automatic install option when you load Linux 7.2 into a computer.  In doing so, you discover that 1.3GB is not enough space for the installation.  Ok... so you try again and manually deselect several bits of the standard install.  This seems to work, but then the computer only boots up to a command prompt and not to a clickable user interface.  "Ah... I must have gotten rid of some vital piece of programming for that feature" I thought.  So I tried several more times and failed with each and every try.  What to do.....

The thought occurred to me that I might be able to make use of an old 4GB laptop hard drive that I was unable to properly format with DOS's "f-disk".  So I rummaged around in my closet and after finally discovering the 4GB drive, I performed the transplant operation on the laptop and held my breath as I fired it up after the operation.... success!  It's working!  Linux effortlessly removed the mucked up old partitions and formatting - and happily recognized all 4GB of space.  So I did a full install of Linux 7.2... and... and... still it only reboots to a command prompt line with no nice, friendly user interface.

Hmmmmm....... lack of memory?  I can't escape that possibility, so I'm likely going to invest money in acquiring more memory for it, which - whatever the outcome, leads back to the original problem - namely that my Australian friend doesn't have a computer!  He was happy with the idea of buying the laptop off of me the same day I picked it up, but now that I've got my 4GB hard drive installed and have spent all this time on the machine... topped off by the probable investment in new memory, I'm increasingly thinking I'll hang on to it for myself, and get my friend set up with something else.

There's a question beginning to form in my mind... can you be largely ignorant of computers and yet become a "computer nurd" through spending too much time on hardware tinkering and software installations?      [Top of page]

"Probation Period"     [Top of page]

Subject: LL-312
Date: Sat, 9 Feb 2002  +0800
From: MLE  [Malaysia]

..............  I think the economy has been affecting everyone very badly.  When I was looking for a job, it took about six months for me to find a job that I didn't mind doing.  I believe Asia has been badly hit and is still hurting.  I'm glad that I've landed in this new company, even though it's not really what I was aiming for, but I had to just take what was available.

It's only been a month since I joined the company.  People aren't that friendly (yet) and I have a gigantic communication barrier with them.  It seems like they refuse to talk to people younger than they are!  Well, I am the youngest while the rest have been in the company for at least five years or more.  (Some have even worked for the company for more than 30 years.)  The salary I am getting isn't what I wanted, but luckily the management mentioned that they might slightly adjust my pay after the probation period.  If they don't increase it, I'll be underpaid!  It's really frustrating to realize that your friends are getting 50 - 60% higher than you for doing the same kind of work!  What do you think I should do to make sure the company increases my pay after the next five months (aside from working really hard)?  I guess smart is the key word?


How to get a pay raise?  I am looking for the answer to that one myself!  I suppose it's one of those things - it's a great struggle until the money comes in, and when it comes in it is as though rain were naturally falling from the sky?  That would be nice!

"Altered Photos & ADSL"     [Top of page]

Date: Tue, 12 Feb 2002  +0100
From: SAJ  [US / Holland]

................  I have been playing around with photos lately.  "Digital Imaging Art" is what I have seen it called, but I'm not sure if I like that term or if maybe something like "photo manipulation" would a better term for what I do.  At any rate, it is something a bit different and I enjoy the change.

It has taken over a year, but at last we have ADSL.  It is so nice to have something fast to surf the Internet with and to quickly download e-mail attachments.  Before ADSL, when someone sent me a heavy file, I could go downstairs, fix myself something to drink, clean up a bit and still be back in front of my computer before it was done.  Too bad we didn't have this when I was downloading MP3 files!



"Venting Five Years Worth of Frustration(?)"     [Top of page]
April 20th, 2002

Finally... I am actually writing something on a 100% MS-free computer!  This following the happy discovery that my Compaq computer, which is now running Linux 7.2 (Red Hat), can save files in DOS format so my other computers can read the files.  (There are a couple of word processing programs as part of the package - I'm writing this with "AbiWord".)  My other computers are running a lot of non-MS software on top of MS platforms (J-95, E-95, J-NT & J-98SE), so being able to migrate the files over to a new system is vital.  I'll report on how things go, but so far I'm impressed with the number of applications that come with it, and feel quite lucky that the Japanese version I picked up in a book (for only Y2,000) included the option of installing the entire package in English.  So far, the platform has shown itself to be quite stable (MS-NT has been stable too actually), although I have had a couple of applications crash.  What seems to be completely different from programs crashing with MS-95/98, is that having a program crash in Linux doesn't seem to affect the platform, so there is no need for the typical MS reboot.  (One of the first computer terms I learned in Japanese was "saikido", the word for reboot!)

I should hasten to inform you that I'm running the program on an old computer with only a 166MHz CPU, which is less than the minimum of 200MHz recommended.  At least there's 256MB of RAM though.....  Once I figure out how to stuff some of the old applications I depend on into a Linux box, I'll put Linux into my more powerful computers.  I could install it on the same machine as MS, and then boot into either Linux or Windows, but I'm reluctant to mix systems.  If I get time, maybe I'll try doing that on my Micron computer at work.  Right now it only has Linux, but I think I'll try reformatting the hard drive and putting both W-98SE and Linux on together.

I'm not very knowledgeable about Linux, so I'm not really in a good position to be giving advice about it, but I'll say this.  If you're thinking of installing it (version 7.2), be sure to have a hard drive with at least 4GB, at least 128MB of RAM (256MB or more is better) and 200MHz or faster CPU.  I'm writing this on a 166MHz machine, and I get the feeling from the amount of time that some of the programs take to open that this is the minimum amount of processing power that the program will work with.  It's a little hard to explain though... while some things take a long time to open for example, there is little of the heavy hard drive usage that you notice with MS platforms as they create swap files, and within this program I'm working on, my typed words feel snappy (for want of a better word).

Well - enough for now.  Ah!  One comment about the floppy.  There are some extra steps involved in file transfers to and from floppies, which is quite irritating the first couple of times, but now that I've got the process down, it's no big deal.  (I still need to figure out how to access the CD-ROM drive though!  Can anyone help??)

Request - anyone using Linux, please send me opinions, tips, etc., about the operating system.

One more thing - the way I feel psychologically while using Linux is vastly superior to how MS makes you feel with its "illegal operation" error messages, etc.  Even for that reason alone - never mind the stability issue, I want to stop using MS products altogether.  When I buy a computer, the hardware is mine to do with as I please.  When I buy a book, it becomes mine to do with as I please - including selling it to a used bookstore or giving it to a friend when I'm finished.  So, with Microsoft, I deeply resent their licensing that says you have to delete the program if you so much as give the computer away.  Maybe they have a right to write their licensing any way they please - and I have a right to boycott their products, which I have found to be overpriced, restrictive, and with many defects.

Oops... I am spouting fire and smoke here.....  I remember seeing Bill Gates on TV and hearing him say that while his company's competitors were complaining, his customers were happy.  When I saw that, I wanted to leap to where he was, raise my hand and say "Hey!  Talk to me!  I'm a Microsoft customer, and I'm very unhappy with your products!!"

Oops, oops, oops... I apologize to my friends who are MS fans - but the frustration has been long and deep.....     [Top of page]

"Thanks for the Present!"     [Top of page]

Subject:  Hi, from CPK
Date:  Sat, 27 Feb 2002  -0600
From:  CPK  [US]

We have had a lot of bad colds and flus going around here.  Our winter has been the warmest since 1954.  The mild winter makes it easier to do the farm chores, but there are usually other unfortunate "paybacks" like fungus and pestilence problems in the summer, and a much higher rate of sickness.

Yesterday, I got a phone call from my husband's niece, Aabbb.  She told me a funny story that prompted me to sit down and finally write.....

Aabbb is 28 years old.  She is attractive, strong, independent, opinionated, and very down to earth.  Today is her birthday.  A couple of days ago, a package arrived at her house from her estranged mother, Bbccc, who lives in California.  It was a framed print.  Aabbb assumed it was a present for her birthday - well, maybe... that Aabbb is a clever one - anyway, this package arrived that Aabbb was not expecting and she and her father (who divorced her mother and lives here in Minnesota) ripped open this package with reckless disregard using a kitchen knife.  Inside was a print from an artist that Bbccc's current husband likes to collect.  It seems they bought two prints from a gallery in Hawaii and decided it would save about $600 in taxes if they shipped them to Minnesota instead of California.  Then, from Minnesota, they would just have them mailed to California.  They forgot to inform Aabbb that they were sending these two paintings though (one of which has yet to arrive).  They would not have wanted her to open them or disrupt them at all.  Well, Aabbb and her dad hung this picture on the wall, stood back, and smirked.  Aabbb said, "It is a very nice thought and certainly a very expensive present but the picture clashes with the decor in my house."  (By the way, Aabbb would never expect her Mother to send anything for her birthday except maybe a check, a month late, and not nearly for the $3,800 value of the print.)

Aabbb attempted to contact her mother and stepfather to thank them for the generous gift but they are very hard to reach.  Finally, her Mother called her to ask if her prints had arrived, but before she could ask about them, Aabbb got out, "Thanks, Mom - for the Birthday Present"!  Her Mother responded with "What are you talking about?"  When Bbccc realized that her daughter had mistaken the package for her birthday present, and when she learned the manner in which she opened it and that it was already hanging on the wall by where Aabbb likes to stand and smoke cigarettes, she about fainted.

Aabbb often frowns at her Mother's pretentious wealth and with how her Mother is unequally generous to her older sister, Ccddd, living in California.  Aabbb called Ccddd for fun (knowing that Ccddd would have a good idea of the value of the prints) and said, "I really liked the birthday present Mom sent me."  Ccddd asked, "What present?"  Aabbb told her about the print, and Ccddd's response was, "Gee, all I got for my birthday was a plane ticket."

This story is probably funnier to me than it would be to you, because I know the wide gap between Aabbb (who is hard working and frugal), and her Mother, who lives this ostentatiously rich lifestyle - yet is always worried about the possibility of going bankrupt.

CPK     [Top of page]

"April 23rd, 2002"     [Top of page]

As the title states - it's April 23rd... and I'm finally about to send this one out.  If I get it out this evening, it will be via a slightly out-of-date address book, so please excuse any missed updated addresses, etc.

I spent some time walking around the area I live in last night - thinking about the passage of time and what I've done with myself over the past six years.  At one point I stopped and gazed over at an elementary school and pondered that length of time - six years.  The time it took me to get from the first grade through the sixth seemed like an overly long journey - and yet when I asked myself last night "Six years... where has all that time gone?!??!", the only answers that came back were the milestones of getting into computers and finally escaping the verbal English teaching trade here by beginning to work at the PR company.  (I called it a "consulting company" while I was there - whatever - same difference!)

That said, I realized as I was typing the above, that six years is pretty close to the time I've spent on the LL-Letters..... which means a large percentage of my life over that period of time is enshrined in words!  What did I do?  I don't have to remember!  I can read about it!  So saying, I think I'll try checking for this time of year for 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, and 2001.  Let's see......

Wow... the letter from April 22nd, 1997 (LL-26) is really short.  Short enough that I'll just reproduce the entire letter here (minus part of the footer).  It's not edited very well and there are far too many "......"s, but in the interest of historical accuracy, I'll leave it as-is - the way it was sent out five years ago.

"LL-26 - From April 1997"     [Top of page]

Just to indulge in nostalgia... or something, here's one of the LL letters from 1997 - notice how I horribly overused dots... sorry about that!

Letter-Letter XXVI"
April 22nd, 1997

First off, from an e-mail pal in the States:

Anyway, we have been hearing a lot about some new fads in Japan and we wanted to get your perspective on them.  I read an article in the Philadelphia Inquirer about people in Japan wanting to buy old sneakers and paying big money for them, especially Air Jordons.  The other one going around is about these electronic pets.  All we hear is the American media's version, I am most interested in hearing your opinion.

7:15 p.m.  April 22nd, 1997  Inside a Hibiya Line subway train.

Tamagotchi......  That's the name of the computer game being advertised as an electronic pet.  I'm not surprised to see it's appearance, as the popularity of the little hand-held game that came before it had just died out...., a company's got to stay in business...

Fads.  They're very hageshii (intense; severe; furious; vehement) in Japan.  At the height of one, you see everyone (seemingly) dive into it, and then, suddenly, as bad as it was to not be a part of it, you look even worse if you're still on the bandwagon after everyone's jumped off........  The electronic pet bandwagon is going full steam right now, with the little games selling at inflated prices.  Just wait six months or so though, and you won't be able to give them away........  What's next I wonder.........

Here's a question for you.  How do you feel about jumping on the bandwagon...... or staying off.....  With the music playing loud, and people running after it......... Do you feel like joining the crowd?  Or do you stand back and shake your head?  Or does it not affect you one way or the other?  In my case, I'm shaking my head about the "Tamagotchi", as I think it's a monumental waste of both time and money, especially time.  As for just how popular the game is, it depends on how you look at it.  I have seen a lot of young people with the little games, but it's the television, with pictures of people wanting in line to buy the things that presents the image of everyone waiting one.......  But everything's like that here.  Every time something new comes out, there are people who think they've got to get one of whatever in their mitts before anyone else.  People camp out all night at the ticket office to get tickets for a popular baseball game.  High school students camp out all night to be first in line to buy new video game software........

How about in other countries?  Is it the same?  I imagine it's a question of degrees......  Japan is a little on the 'groupism' side of things, I think.......  In all honesty though, I have to admit to falling into it a little myself on occasion, like when I went to Chidorigafuchi to see the cherry blossoms, and there was a little of a "I'm in the right spot" feeling when I entered the crowds there.  I hate to admit it, but part of the feeling was one of "bragging rights", as it were, to having been where the action was.......  "I was at THE SPOT don't you know......."  I tell myself I know better, but still........

And old shoes......  This subject I know something about, because one of my clients is the owner of two used clothing stores, and in teaching him and his employees, we often talk about the business.  It would seem that the business peaked a couple of years back, and sales aren't so good this year.  When it peaked, new people entered the market, so at present, there are buyers from a lot of stores active in the States.....  But now that people in the States are getting used to the idea, the used clothing boom looks to be on the way out here in Japan.......  The news is behind.

But....... some things are worth A LOT of money.  For example, the owner of the store told me that if I could get my hands on a pair of "dead-stock" (brand-new, never used) Levi's from the 1890's or 1920's, he would pay me $20,000.00 in cash!!  For one pair!!.....  Say!  Anyone out there have a pair?  Maybe we can work out a deal.......

Air Jordans huh.  I'll ask about it tomorrow morning when I teach some of the employees from the company.

April 23rd, 1997  16:27

A quick up-date about the Air Jordans.  It seems that there are models of them, from one to thirteen, with the older versions, especially "dead-stock" ones getting the highest prices.  Hmm, it's a strange business to me, but as I listen to the people from that company talk about it, it all seems to make sense, like old cars or something........  The funny thing is though, the owner of the shop showed me a used camera store near his own store one day, and acted really surprised about the cost of old Leica's.  "That much money for an old camera?!!".......  If anyone shouldn't find it strange, I would have thought it would be him.........

Uh oh!  I have to head across town for a company class!  Be back in a bit.

10:36 p.m.
Well, now I'm back from the class.

I got the following letter relating to teaching English in Japan:

Hi Lyle, this was interesting and I agree with you utterly.  I was stationed in Misawa, Japan for three years, and some of my friends taught English to the Japanese, and the locals there (In Misawa) found it better than they were taught in school also.  When they had time off they would always spend that time with us to learn more.  I know the difficulty in teaching a Japanese National the English language but I didn't speak Japanese either, so it was hard but we had fun helping each other.

It's like I always tell people who ask me "How can I learn English?", it's very simple..... If you use it, you remember it.  It's that simple.  Of course, the problem is how do you find chances to use English in Tokyo?......

And another letter:

......  I really want to move to San Francisco after college.  How I'm going to afford a place or get a job doesn't matter.  Just gotta do it.  It won me over in two seconds.  So. I guess that's all for now.

"How I'm going to afford a place, or get a job doesn't matter."  Hmm, that reminds me of how I went to the Bay Area in the first place, and later to Tokyo...  Not the safest way to do things for sure, but it worked out in my case...  Like an old friend of mine used to say all the time (too much actually) "You gotta do what ya gotta do."...

Well, with that.

Sore dewa, ogenki de,

Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon
April 23rd, 1997

Busy with the English teaching I was.  The used clothing store owner... we used to enjoy our talks, so I should remember the good side of the English teaching trade as well.  There were some very bad times, but there were times when I was enjoying spending time with some individuals and marveling at the fact that I was being paid for it.....

Skipping ahead a year......     [Top of page]

"LL-153 - From April 1998"     [Top of page]

"Letter-Letter 153"
April 23rd, 1998
"The Joint Was Rockin'..."   [Deleted from LL-313 for space]
"High Heel Shoes"


I don't know if I told you that I am working overtime, but that is why I haven't written so much lately.  My computer at work won't recognize your new address so I have to log onto AOL to be able to write.  It's been a bit crazy lately, so I haven't taken the time to do that.

I wonder what the deal is with men and heels?  I bought some the other day and wore them to work today.  Between here and the bus stop, four men said "hello" to me.  Normally I am invisible!  Can you tell me why a pair of shoes makes that much difference?  Ccddd says maybe it's not the shoes or dress, but my attitude.  I don't think I feel that much different today, so I think it's more the shoes......

Our weather has been sooooo great the last couple of days!  I think spring is coming!

I'm checking into the cost of a cruise!  Me the one who hasn't gone anywhere!  I'll have to save awhile but I think it will be worth the effort.

Well, not much else happening.

That's funny about the shoes!  I'm interested in this one, as I've often looked at how women dress, and wondered about my own reactions.....  A typical day might find me checking out a fully-dressed-for-success woman, complete with make-up, nice clothes, and weird shoes.  I think "She's beautiful, but she'd look better if she didn't go that all out."......  That's what I think, but then to check my honesty, I look around at other woman, find some who aren't wearing "the works", and then I realize that they are often just as fundamentally good looking as the fully dressed variety, yet my eyes see them not, my heart doesn't skip a beat for them, I don't start in with one of my inane silent lines "How can anything in this world be so incredibly beautiful...... amazing....... fantastic........ wonderful........"  So, lover of practicality that I pretend to be, still I have to face the man in the mirror and admit that his eyes go to what looks good, even be it a facade.  Shameful.  I used to pretend that I, Honest-Lyle, perhaps I alone in this world of wolves..... I alone saw women as people, respected them, and didn't expect them to do all that nonsense.......  Well..... I in fact don't expect woman to do that, but my eyes seem to appreciate it when they do.......

So, I come to this question.  What would I do if I had been born a woman?  The gulf between my world and the mysterious female world was such that I couldn't bring that question into focus at all before, but in the last few years, things have been coming into focus, and I seem to be able to see the other side......  Some people bring you closer to their world, and some people would have you believe it's a mystery too profound to comprehend.....  Maybe my cultural experiences here in Japan changed my fundamental thinking.  I used to run into people in Japan who professed to understand the West, and in the same breath to tell me that I couldn't understand Japan because I wasn't Japanese.  I ran that through the most basic, fundamental, low power section of the CPU, and it just didn't add up......  If people are crossing the bridge in one direction to understand the other side, then not only can they turn around to re-cross the bridge, but people from the other side can come over.....  If you say there's no bridge at all, then maybe you've got an argument, but a one-way bridge?  I don't think so.

About "... my computer at work won't recognize your new address..." (?!!)  Is this possible?  Are some addresses not usable with some machines?  Are you sure it's correct?  Maybe it was entered into the address book incorrectly?......

Anyway!  I want to get this out before I go to Kashiwa, and I have to leave in an hour, so........

Sore dewa,

Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon
April 23rd, 1998

By April 1999, the letters took on the current format - and so are too long to put in here - but here are the titles from LL-244:

"Letter-Letter 244"
April 18th, 1999
"486 33MHz / 16MB"
"Friends" by ONG
"A Friend?" By Tanyle
"More Computer Fun..."
"Cell Phone/Mobile E-Mail & Shoes" AusW & LHS
"College Bound in the US" by KCM
"College Bound in the UK" by EWT
"Native Languages" by LYC
"From Finland" by FTA
"A Low Tech Solution?"
"Steel Cans & Anime/Manga" by AusW & LHS
"For E-Mail?  Just Do This&this&this..."
"Fun in the Kitchen" by BSE
"Back in the Real World" by LTR
"Is This For Real?" by KCM & LHS
"Product Recovery..."

..... from LL-275:

"Letter-Letter 275"
April 17th, 2000
"Still Standing on Two Ships"
"Too Far..."  by WCH
"Three More Years"  by PBU
"Houses..."  by CIV & LHS
"The Book Show"
"Window to the World"  by TLP
"Fate"  by KLR
"The Tallest Towers"  by YSC
"From Indonesia, In Melbourne"  by ILY
"Armenians - April, 1915"
"Spring in England"  by SB/UK
"Linguistics"  by VMB & LHS
"Personal Space"  by GCB & LHS
"Greetings from Maine"  by Rose
"Things to Do, Places to Go"  by SAJ
"Asbestos"  by HHE
"Korean War - 50th Anniversary"  by KTW
"West of Shinjuku"
"Third Birthday"  by IJC
"Cell Phones & Leaf Fires"  by PZN & LHS
"Geeks, Bozos & Bimbos"  by GBA
"Paper Photos Smashed into Electrons!"

... and from 293:

"Letter-Letter 293"
April 12th, 2001
"In The Sun"
"Vacation in Mexico"  by CBB
"Was That Really Me?"
"Calories, Etc."  by CAI & LHS
"A Native Texan"  by HHE & LHS
"University & Earthquakes"  by IVJ
"A Chinese Weekend in London"  by SBK
"Almost Relationships, Etc."  by KCM
"From the Twelfth Floor"
"Flowers & Elevators"  by Laf
"Back - But Reluctant to Study..."  by ELL
"Rain from a Blue Sky?"
"High Prices"  by DSL
"Don't Ask Me - Ask Him!"
"Are You Still There?"  by KFE
"Which Window?"
"In a Philosophical Mood"  by Laf
"Fire!  Zooommmm BaKaaMM!  War!"
"What Are the Ties for Anyway?"  by BRT
"Saturday Night"

One fascinating note from the "Fire!  Zooommmm BaKaaMM!  War!" story is the following thing I wrote:

"I suppose making an enemy of the person who calculates my pay could carry financial penalties - Maybe I better start making copies of my time card!"

Remember how I ended up getting cheated out of Y50,000 of my final pay at that company?  I should have remembered my earlier warning to myself!!!

Hmmm..... now it comes back.  I spent the past six years working too much!  And... writing and editing the LL-Letters!  How could I forget that?

So much for this one... which sets a record for the amount of time it took to get out I think!

Sore dewa!

Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon
, Images Through Glass
- Nishi-Shinjuku, Tokyo
April 24th, 2002 - (KFMM-15/LL313)
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