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"Letter-Letter 314"
June 10th, 2002
"Only a Few Words...?"
"Bottom-Up & Top-Down?"
"Marketable Skills? / Using Linux?"  by KCM & LHS
"Not 'Fine' All the Timeby ORL & LHS
"Drier Grass"  by SZS
"20:45 - On the 6th Floor?"
"Travels, Etc."  by PBU
"Soccer/Football Madness"
"Questions"  by ORL & LHS
"Looking for a Digital Camera"  by KCM & LHS
"Ineffective Ram-Blasting"
"Fun at the Office....."
"Letter to Mr. Gorilla"
"Very Small Font Size"
"More Sorry History"  by LHS & ORL
"Reading"  by KCM
"Leading Separate Lives"
"Walking"  by SZS

"Only a Few Words...?"     [Top of page]

t's a strange thing about writing - the more you write, the more you have to say, but as soon as you don't write anything for awhile, suddenly you find yourself sitting looking at a blank screen and wondering what to write about.  That's more or less how I feel now.  I have some more political office battle e-mail, but after all the nonsense at the JW Office, I should keep that stuff out of here as much as possible this time around - nevertheless, I'm putting one in straightaway - as always - in the interest of anthropology.

The current job got off to a promising start - but the political animals crawled out from under the rocks and made things complicated fairly early on.  One of the happier aspects of the job has been that the main troublemakers are down on the second floor, while I'm up on the sixth... but that's about to change, and I'll be moved down to the third floor - and they up from the second also to the third floor!  Yikes!  The people I'd least like to be working with I'll be stuck in the same space with before long... it could be unpleasant!

The following letter (which I sent to Mr. Hataraki), is self-explanatory:

"Bottom-Up & Top-Down?"     [Top of page]

There has been a lot of confusion surrounding the revitalization of the CarCo magazine - not only on our end, but just as importantly, at genba - CarCo itself.  Factoring in a large number of people and intermediary companies, it's not surprising that the result has been a sorry tale of miscommunication, missed chances, and misdirected energy (3M?).  As I have been (unfairly I believe) cast as a poor writer of English, I think it's only just and right that I put the situation into words - a kind of report.  It might not be an exaggeration to say that 90% of the time everyone has spent for the past three months on this project has been a complete waste of time.  All of us have contributed to this dismal state of affairs, but what seems to have been largely ignored, is the deeply flawed process that has enabled this to happen.  In the spirit of kaizen, I would like to clarify the chain of events in the hope that we can become a more efficient and productive company.  

How can a company [CarCo] that has one of the most efficient production processes in the world be so grossly inefficient and error-ridden on the white-collar side of the business?  Naturally, it's a very complicated situation, but to generalize, it could be said that while "bottom-up" (i.e. listening to the workers on the assembly line, allowing them to stop the line when there's a problem, etc.) works extremely well in a factory, it's a dismal failure in an office situation.

At a factory, there is a very clear process involved, and a tangible product produced.  Defects in the appearance of the product (wrong colors, scratched paint, poor stitching in the seats, etc.) can be easily seen by all, and invisible defects (internal engine parts made of inferior alloys, incorrectly torqued bolts, etc.), while not immediately apparent, manifest themselves in engine failure, which leads to inconvenienced and angry customers who demand answers to their questions.

Contrast this largely transparent world where cause and effect are clearly defined and apparent (even to casual observers) with a typical office.  In an office, you can have four people working on something such as a report, and even if three of them are producing error-ridden output, if one of them can clean up the mess before the final report is sent out, the recipients of the report have no idea that the process which lead to the report is deeply flawed.

In a factory, the quality of work performed at each step of the process is clearly definable.  The people involved in the process realize that the salability of the final product depends on each and every one of them performing their jobs correctly.  Unfortunately, in an office situation, the process is not linear, and not clearly defined.  Dishonest workers have many opportunities to hide their own low ability and/or to sabotage the work of people they don't take a liking to.  

I was going to outline all the events of the past three months, but I think you already know most of the details leading into May.  What seems not to be understood in the company however, is the foul play that ultimately led to having me pulled from the magazine project.

Basically, what happened is this.  I was told to edit the bits and pieces of news which had been sent to CarCo from around the world, as well as correct a badly written translation of a short article originally written in Japanese.  I did so, and then was told that each of the news bits (the least interesting part of the original magazine by the way) had to be the same length.  Protesting that there simply was no material for lengthening some of them, and that cutting back on a couple would damage the balance of a complicated story, I was told not to worry - that it was just a rough draft and would only be used for layout purposes.

So - I pushed ahead, and ended up spending a lot of time looking for additional information on the Internet to lengthen the short articles.  Just as I got all of the articles to around the same length, Mr. Hokano asked me to send them to him.  I protested that they were still in rough form, but he told me (again) not to worry about it, as they were to be used simply for layout purposes and there would be time to edit them into proper form later.

Imagine my shock at discovering that these rough drafts were then shown to foreign staff at CarCo and put into a comparison test against magazines from the US!  Early stage rough drafts going head to head with finished product!  The test asked the readers to pick their favorite three.  Not surprisingly, no one picked what I had written!  I wouldn't have either!  The whole process was grossly unfair, and the fact that I was misled about the use of the rough drafts, combined with the idiotic order to make them all the same length, ensured that the result would not be a good one.

In conclusion?  In the meeting yesterday, Mr. Aizuchi mentioned that I would continue to help Mr. Hokano with catalog work - concluding "Aru teido eigo o kaku".  I hope I'm just not understanding his Japanese well, but it seems that his statement could only mean one of two things - 1) "As CarCo prefers to use a low level of English, don't write well, just write simply for them", or 2) "You obviously can't write well, but maybe you can help a little with simple English for the catalogs".  I hope he meant number one, as number two is not only extremely rude and uncalled for, but indicates that he is ignorant of the facts of the situation - which it is his responsibility to know!

The final responsibility for the failure of the past three months rests with Mr. Aizuchi and Mr. Mukokawa.  The fact that they failed to practice good top-down management in our white-collar world while they blame victims at the bottom of the totem pole is proof that they are bad managers.  Whose decision was it to hire a woman who understands neither cars nor English to edit an English language magazine for an automobile manufacturer?!  Where were Mr. Aizuchi and Mr. Mukokawa when there were disastrous breakdowns in communication?  It's their job, from the top, to oversee the operation.  Failing to do so and then blaming people on the bottom is cowardly.

I can write - but have not been given a chance to do so!

Sincerely yours,

Lyle Saxon
June 4th, 2002     [Top of page]

"Marketable Skills? / Using Linux?"     [Top of page]

Subject: hello!
Date: Mon, 15 Apr 2002 12:55
From: KCM  [US]

Hi!  I'm typing this on Aabbb's laptop, as he is working on his CS project on his desktop.  I finished all the reading I have to do for tomorrow, so I'm kind of aimless right now.  Sometimes speed reading can be a curse.

Anyway, how are you?  I'm actually very happy right now for no particular reason.  I'm perfectly content until I read the news - then that depresses me....  Classes are going well so far.  I have very funny, brilliant professors and a really nice schedule, which leaves me with a lot of free time.  I might end up having more free time, as my work-study is about to end, and I was thinking about doing some volunteer work, but I haven't decided what or where yet.

Do you use Linux?  Aabbb says he's going to install it on my laptop, because Windows ME keeps crashing and doing stupid things like restarting for no particular reason.  He also told me I should take some programming classes at school, so I'll have something to put on my resume.  That might not be a bad idea  (there's a voice in my head going, "you need marketable skills")... but I don't know.  Programming seems so boring, compared to English, which is pretty much an excuse to read books and discuss ideas.

My oldest sister is pregnant with twins.  She's not speaking to any of her sisters, not since her husband blew up at my 3rd sister on Christmas Day. If it weren't for the fact that he had an abusive father himself, I think he would have hit her.  Now, they come over to our house, but they only stay in one part of the house and refuse to talk to us.  I don't even think an apology's going to work, because they're so bitter they can't see straight.  It's hard for my parents, though, because they want us to get along and be a family.  Frankly, my brother-in-law has to take most of the blame.  He hates us so much, and I don't even understand where the hate comes from.  And then this hate rubs off on my oldest sister, who decides she'll support him no matter how stupid or outrageously he acts.  But then, he has always been a hateful person, except towards my sister and his daughter.  Everything else he seems to do out of obligation.

Oooh... I didn't mean to go on this long...


(2002/06/25  4:30 a.m.  Nishi-Shinjuku)  I am edging into Linux, but I think it's going to take me a little time to get things transferred over.  While I can access the Internet, send/receive e-mail, and use a few word processing programs, I'm still mainly dependent on W-98SE for most of my time on the computer.  What is driving me to invest time and effort on a major platform change though is my determination not to have anything to do with W-XP.  I don't want to rent software, I want to buy it.  Free software is great too, but that's not the point.  I don't mind spending a bit of money on a great product - and I've spent a lot of money over the past few years on a lot of (too much actually) software, from several types of dictionary software (AE, BE, JE/EJ/JJ, etc.) to several word processors and a number of map programs.  It seems to me that Microsoft wants to rent their software out, or "sell" it like natural gas or electricity - something that you have to endlessly buy.  Personally, I want nothing to do with any software product that can automatically shut itself down and require that I contact the manufacturer before it can be used again.  A good computer should be able to operate independently.     [Top of page]

"Not 'Fine' All the Time"     [Top of page]

Subject: Small mistake
Date: Mon, 22 Apr 2002  +0400
From: ORL  [Russia]

I am working on some translations (Russian-English).  The problem with Russian literature is that it is short on "happy endings".  So it is somehow contrary to the tradition of modern Atlantic people who should be all right under any circumstances - an attitude which has always seemed unnatural to Russians.  But now I feel it has infiltrated into the national consciousness.  As an example, allow me to tell you about a good friend from the US (we worked together in Moscow for over a decade), then he moved away and has had an outstanding career as a scientist.  I haven't seen him since 1993, when he came to Moscow and dropped in at my place with other friends.  After that, one of our former colleagues must have given him my phone number, as he called in 1999 and we began to talk over the phone regularly since 1999.  Time zones are overlooked - if I hear a call at 5:00 a.m., I know it's Aabbb.  We talk hours on end - sometimes (on his days off) our calls continue for as long as five hours.

So many things have happened since then.  He was the only person I could discuss the fate of my late daughter (he knew her when she was six).  Also we often discuss his family affairs (his wife and daughter are in Moscow and there are so many problems there.  I try to tell him the truth about the state of his daughter (I know it all to  well) and I have always supported him (I'm also good friends with his wife).  He has very few friends because of his difficult character and because of his rather high annual salary.  (I don't envy him - I remember how much he worked here and I had always hoped that he would do well financially).

What I'm leading up to is that this person helped me tremendously when I had to have surgery.  When I said that - for free - I would have to wait in lines for dozens of tests, or else get prompt attention if I paid rather expensive fees, I had the amount necessary for all the expensive express tests the next day.  The only condition was never to mention the fact.  And with oncology, speed is very important.  Happily, the haste proved not to have been necessary, but Aabbb knew that Bbccc (who he knew from our conversations) had passed away.  Knowing me well, he could imagine my grief.  (My problem is that I never relax the way other people sometimes do - by doing something like getting drunk, so I am always on the alert - not on moral grounds, it's just that my body can't tolerate ingesting chemical substances).  So, my old colleague asked me dozens of questions regarding my physical health, gave me advice, and offered more help.  But along with this American positive attitude he never asked me about my moods and corresponding physical feelings.  I haven't been eating and have been feeling despondent.  I have lost bout 20kg since then.  He would have tried to find some kind words to improve my mood....  This non-Russian attitude of having to be "Fine" prevents one from understanding or loving Russian literature.  My letters are always illogical - I start with one point and to shift to quite another one.  But that is not only my style, that is me myself.....


One thing that came to mind after reading ORL's letter is a book I read about the differences between male and female speech - with males being heavy on the "You have a problem? - Here's how to solve it!" approach and woman being heavier on the "I know how you feel - I had a similar thing happen to me..." approach.  That said, when I read the book, I was struck with how similar the differences the author discussed were to many of the cultural/language differences I had noticed between Japan the West.  Words to clarify, words to confuse - I would say that the only true communication is a wordless one - best used between the lines.     [Top of page]

"Crossroads?     [Top of page]

(May 18th, 2002)  Crossroads... crossroads reached in the midst of mediocrity... is a thought that suddenly occurs to me as I listen to a CD of songs I really like during the magic minutes of the evening as the sun sends its energy, nostalgia, and promise of better days over the horizon of twilight and into the hearts of frustrated men/women who would be poets but for... what?  Lack of money?  Too much of it?  Too much technology?  Not enough of it?  Timeless!  I am both in touch with this feeling and in danger of losing it thanks to technology.  But on the other hand...  ///  Stop talking!  There it is... the moment... time to shut up and feel it.  Back in a minute!!!

There's something about crossroads that bring everything suddenly into focus.  One minute you wonder why you're living a life that is not nearly as exciting and fun as you strongly feel it should be, and the next you are at a crossroads and in the midst of a flood of feelings that is anything but boring.  The music... the moment... the evening sky, now almost night - some kind of analogy for life?  There is something so pure, honest, real, powerful, and insistent about certain moments.  On the CD are songs by US, UK and Japanese artists... and the magic is the same.  We are of the same humanity... why that should even have to be said is a travesty.  That is must be said is an automatic recognition and evidence that it's not something universally accepted.

/////////////////////  Change in the night.......  /////////////////////////

Others have arrived and I am no longer alone with the moment.  Thankfully  ///////  .... never mind.....  I was going to say that someone had the sensitivity to close the door between the room I'm writing this in and the suddenly over-lit-room next door (true) but then a not-so-sensitive person intruded and here I am back in high-stress unpleasant... reality?

Back later!

"Drier Grass"     [Top of page]

Subject: Re: LL-313
Date: Tue, 14 May 2002  +0000
From: SZS  [UK]

Sold my place and split the proceeds with the ex.  Left a lot of sweat at that place, so I am not one bit happy about selling.  Why should I be... she was the one that did a runner with a friend?  As they say - "With friends like that, who needs enemies?".  Pair of them deserve each other.  Now that she's realized the grass on the other side of the fence is not as green as she thought it was, she told our son it was very bad - us getting divorced.  I think it's a great pity about the house though - my huge garden with all the long lost plants of yesteryear that I begged, borrowed, and stole here, there, and everywhere.  (For "stole", read "exchanged".)  Even my runner beans are/were a long lost variety.  (Saved a few.)

About altering photos with digital manipulation - people often appreciate the effects and believe them to be real, but watch out!  I know one woman who has not spoken to me for two years - ever since I altered a photo of the Red Arrows flying overhead.  "Yes I heard them go over she cried"  Great... but they were never there!  It was her own fault for opening her mouth and stating she had heard them.  So do be careful with special effects!


"20:45 - On the 6th Floor?     [Top of page]

I'm about to go home, but the strange thing is - now that most of the people in the office are out - and there are no (very) loud voices shouting on the telephone, suddenly, after being here all day, the conditions are right for thinking and getting on with the translation job I'm working on.  Only two other people are in the section of the building I'm in, and they are just doing something on their computers, making no more noise than the clacking of keyboards.  The atmosphere is right for working for sure, but now I'm tired!  Nothing for it but to go home then, but once again I find myself thinking how much work I could get done if I only had a private office!  This section of the sixth floor is one of the nicer spots in the building, but alas!  In only another week and a half, I and several people in my section of the company will have to move, and then...??

"Travels, Etc."     [Top of page]

Subject: LL-313
Date: Sun, 28 Apr 2002  +0000
From: PBU  [Pakistan / UK]

..............  Last month I went out to Canada and the Philippines and it was a nice (although short) holiday.  Since coming back to work, they've been keeping me busy.  Lots of tourists come over to Jersey and the population increases from 75,000 to 80,000 in the summer.  At the same time (not surprisingly) our hospital become more busy, which naturally affects me!  So... with summer rapidly approaching, I'm preparing myself mentally!

Whenever I go for a study tour, my employer pays for it.  My last trip to Singapore was to attend a convention and my employer kindly offered help.  April 2002 I was to attend another one in Italy but I was not able to get the visa!  Therefore my trip was canceled.  I'm looking forward to my next travel plans, which are for Pakistan with my family, where we visit every year in July/August.  The children are always glad to get together with their cousins, and my wife and I are glad to see our parents.

One of my brothers lives in Canada, and I enjoyed visiting him recently, the first time in eight years!  And later this year I'm finally preparing myself for those exams which I've been delaying taking for too long.  Many of my friends have already passed the exams and received their promotions....


"Soccer/Football Madness"     [Top of page]
2002/06/14  (17:50)

Soccer... if there were some kind of meter for the amount of work everyone has done today in Japan, it would definitely be much lower than for an average day!  At the company today, the game between Japan and Tunisia that started around three in the afternoon has been quite a distraction - with some people sneaking off to the break room to watch parts of it and others here and there listening to the game on radios, etc.

I met one of my e-pals yesterday - a man from England who came over to see the English team play in Osaka.  Nothing like meeting someone from the outside to realize how stiff and uptight I've become from riding the sardine trains every day, etc.  When you go to a foreign country, nearly everything is unique and unusual... until a number of years pass and it all starts to seem like the most natural thing in the world.  All ordinary... until you spend some time with a visitor from the outside and see things from their point-of-view.

"Questions"     [Top of page]

Subject: Questions
Date: Mon, 22 Apr 2002  +0400
From: ORL  [Russia]

.............  I once saw a woman I worked with [from another country] fooling about with some walnuts in a helpless sort of way, so I asked her what the problem was.  She told me that she wanted to eat one, but didn't have a nutcracker.  I took the nut, placed it in the doorframe, and then slowly closed the door on the nut.  The only thing remaining to do was to pick up the pieces.  Once I'd demonstrated this unorthodox method of opening nuts she had no difficulty doing the same thing, but I had to wonder why she didn't think of something like that on her own.  I have wondered while observing some other foreigners I've seen why they don't seem to try to get more out of the tools at hand.....

Drivers here quickly remember where speed traps in their area are (usually straight roads with ridiculously slow speed limits), and in other areas, when someone drives past a police car lying in wait for some hapless out-of-town person to bumble by unaware of the hiding police car, they'll flash their bright lights a couple of times to warn oncoming cars of the trap.



A couple of comments here... first about the non-inventive foreigners.  It might be specifically because they are strangers in what is - for them - a strange land.  I know it took me years to get over the feeling that I had to be careful not to offend anyone by doing something odd that isn't done in this new (for me) country.  Since coming here I have met many types, including those whose are quite imaginatively inventive - as well as those who might die in a stuck elevator for want of actively pursuing a way out while they waited for help to arrive.....

The part about the cars seemed pretty familiar to me... I wonder if that's universal in North America, or just something in the western part of the US (where I grew up)?  The part about warning other motorists by flashing the high-beams I'm not too sure about, but the speed thing!  In Japan, it's the same thing.  The safest roads - where it would be quite safe to drive at speed - are the very roads the police most strictly watch in the name of "safety" while they rake in the money.  As a result, people drive around at ridiculously slow speeds in a fog of frustration on safe straight roads out in the boonies... until they come to a tunnel or dangerously curvy road, and then they know that the money vultures are not lying in wait to take their savings and even their driver's license, so they speed up.  Drive slowly on straight, safe roads, and quickly on curvy, dangerous roads!  The whole picture is obviously not about safety at all, but rather about how to make money.  Fines are a necessity no doubt, but I think the money shouldn't go to the police... if the financial incentive to write tickets were removed, maybe there would be more focus on actually ticketing dangerous driving?     [Top of page]

"Looking for a Digital Camera"     [Top of page]

Subject: Re: "Escalator..."
Date: Tue, 23 Apr 2002  +0800
From: KCM  [US]

..............  By the way, I was wondering what kind of camera do you have?  I'm trying to shop around for a cheap digital camera and the cheapest cool ones are from Sony.  That's fine, except for the fact that Sony memory sticks are incompatible with any regular adaptors, thus my dilemma.  I've been looking for something around $300 that is also light and looks good.  I've decided to give up on the "looks good" part, but it's not making it much easier.  Maybe I'll have to give up on the "light" part too.  There are so many pictures I want to take.  Lately I've been obsessed with typography - yesterday I saw someone's shirt with a really cool font and on the way back to the apartment I saw a neat spray-painted stencil of a word.

Aabbb hasn't yet installed Linux on my laptop yet.  I do use his computers sometimes, and they're set up so that it's pretty easy for a non-tech person for me to use.  I think his is Mandrake version 8.2 or something like that.  Anyway, he had his Linux Install Fest on Sunday and... that is way too much geeky testosterone for an English major like me to take.  My sanity was kept by stealing Aabbb's Palm Pilot and playing games on it.

Aabbb wants me to talk to his parents more.  Me being the shyest person in the world, this is not easy for me.  I think I've made progress, but it's not like I want to be friends with his parents (although I do want to be friendly) and their closeness as a family just makes me uncomfortable.  I think it's because my own family is dysfunctional and they can't really communicate with Aabbb as well as I can.


Digital cameras... are a hard thing to recommend for many reasons, not the least of which is that most people seem to underestimate the level of technology incorporated into them.  Even if you do understand, there are so many models, with old models quickly disappearing and new ones coming out all the time, that it's hard to keep track of things.  A typical digital camera is a complicated combination of (among other things) lens, image sensor, monitor, and computer.  The problem with most digital cameras is that they are heavily weighted on the electronic end and not very good optically.  Good electronics are relatively cheap to obtain and easy to sell, while good lenses make a camera heavier, larger, and more expensive, and are harder to use for inexperienced users.  In light of that fact, it's no wonder most digital cameras have poor lenses, but if you're serious about photography, you've got to pull the images in through decent glass.

Oops... I didn't really answer the question!  I'm not sure what to recommend, but I think Olympus has some models out that are a good balance of quality, functionality, and fairly reasonable cost.     [Top of page]

"Ineffective Ram-Blasting"     [Top of page]

(2002/0618)  My e-pal from the UK seemed to thoroughly enjoy his stay in Japan - so much so that he wants to come back in the summer for a vacation.  How time changes things!  What was an exotic and fascinating country for me back in 1984-85, has become the most ordinary of places!  Actually, there are any number of beautiful places out in the countryside to visit... if you only have the time and money!  Amazingly enough, it's generally cheaper to travel overseas (from Japan) than it is within Japan, which should give you some idea of how expensive things are here.

(2002/06/26)  One more comment about the man from the UK... I invited him over to my apartment, but ended up regretting it.  In hindsight, under any other circumstances, I wouldn't have invited the guy over, but it's been so long since I've had a foreign visitor.....  What happened?  Just it wasn't very pleasant.  The guy was nice enough when I met him outside, but once he stepped into my apartment, I couldn't ram-blast a word into the "conversation", and I felt he wasn't a very nice guest.  Why mention it?  Just this: I recommend only meeting e-pals away from your home until you feel that you really know them well enough that you want to invite them into your home, and don't invite someone over because they're a cultural curiosity - chemistry is chemistry - getting along and not getting along with certain people is a universal phenomenon.  Sixth sense... keep it on all the time!

"Fun at the Office....."     [Top of page]

The following letter is one that I sent to a rare soul in the office wars – a man with both backbone and integrity – in a fairly senior managerial role.  We sat next to each other on the sixth floor, but now he's moved up to the seventh floor and I've been moved down to the third floor.

June 25th, 2002

Dear Mr. Hataraki,

I thought I'd fill you in on my first day down on the third floor.

Things are going well enough I suppose, but Mr. Aizuchi seems none too pleased at having to sit so close to me.  The day began with my walking in and saying "Ohayo gozaimasu".  He ignored me and looked irritated.  Soon thereafter, he asked the guy from the first floor (glasses - I've forgotten his name) if the file cabinets behind Mr. Hokano could be moved somewhere else so that my and Mr. Hokano's desks could be moved further away from him.  When he received a negative answer to that request, he asked if the glass partition near the elevators could be removed to open up space that way.  Receiving a negative answer to that as well, he seemed resigned to his fate and came back to his desk.

I mention the above details, because I think I will try to leave the company around 18:30 or so every day and do overtime work, etc. at home.  This will enable Mr. Aizuchi to enjoy some time in his space in the corner without my being there....

Other developments:

Last week, up on the sixth floor, Mr. Aizuchi came over and sat in your chair for a few minutes (while you were out of the office) to tell me the following:

1) Mr. Newsweek is pulling out of the CarCo magazine project.

2) Ms. Kusateiru (Toshokan-obasan) is being removed from the project after the first issue comes out.

3) Ms. Stanford is back in the picture as a possible new "Chief Editor".

4) I may end up back in the project, but Mr. Aizuchi said only for checking English - not for writing it.

And on Monday afternoon:

Mr. Aizuchi spent about 20 minutes talking to Ms. Yokuhata - convincing her to attend the next "Steering Committee" meeting.  (Personal comment here - Mr. Aizuchi is a professional talker... he talks and talks and talks "desu-ne, desu-ne, desu-ne, yosuruni, desu-ne, desu-ne"... but does he DO anything?)

After convincing Ms. Yokuhata to attend the meeting, he told me that as most of it was technical, I didn't need to attend - until Mr. Ojisan and Mr. Gorilla came back to the office(?!).  He followed that by saying that I could attend if I wanted to, so I did, but as his meetings are 95% him droning on and on, I think I may well take advantage of his offer not to attend in the future.  Listening to him drone on is quite a waste of time.  I've been listening to him for hours on end for nearly four months now, and while he talks and talks and talks, he never stands up for anything, but rather just carefully picks the easiest path for his own tired feet.

What do you think?  Should I continue to attend those meetings or opt out?

Best regards,

Lyle Saxon     [Top of page]

"Letter to Mr. Gorilla"     [Top of page]

I wrote the following letter to one of the jungle fighters who stole the project I was hired to do....  I've named the guy Mr. Gorilla as the name fits both his appearance and apparent intellect.  (Oops... I shouldn't have said that I suppose.)  Anyway, I'm putting the letter in here as it highlights a problem I've seen over and over again.

June 27th, 2002

Good morning Mr. Gorilla,

A quick note about the minor changes to the headings we discussed yesterday evening.  For minor changes, it's always tempting to just show someone a printed piece of paper and then make minor adjustments based on a combination of verbal and handwritten suggestions, but actually this can be a dangerous practice for the following reasons:

1. With handwriting, there is always the possibility that it will be misread.

2. Verbal instructions are particularly dangerous, as not only can they be easily mistaken, but there is no evidence to help straighten out any problems that may arise.

3. When a third party is suddenly shown a heading for an article that he/she hasn't seen, there is no way to know if - a) the heading is in proper context to the article, and b) if the words are in fact saying what their author intended them to say.

4. When dealing with publications, any mistakes will be enshrined on the page and impossible to correct once the publication has shipped - thus we must be very careful with the editing process.

So - I would like to request that future requests for "checking" be sent via e-mail as text files (.txt), along with background material for context checking.  I realize this is a bit more troublesome than just walking across the room with a piece of paper, but as the result is to be published, I think we need to be very serious about the process.



"Very Small Font Size"     [Top of page]

I wrote the following bit on my "new" ThinkPad (Y8,000 used machine) during a meeting last week.  The man sitting on my right had an unobstructed and clear view of the screen, but I set the font size to something like 6 - so while it was large enough to monitor formatting, you couldn't read the words.

So much time has been wasted in meetings!!  I the beginning, I was impressed with Mr. Aizuchi, as he does put on a good show, but as the months have drifted by with one nearly meaningless meeting after another, I've gotten to the point where I'm beginning to see Mr. Aizuchi as a very serious obstruction to progress.....

(From July 1st)  I'm now sitting in a meeting - much like any one of the many many meetings I've sat in on over the past several months.  The head guy is a skillful talker, but has no concept of the real overall picture, and worse, no backbone to stand up for what needs to be stood up for - in spite of political turbulence.  In short, he always covers his bases so as to never make any mistakes.  That he doesn't accomplish much is overlooked by his sparkling record of not getting into direct confrontations with those who have the power to make life difficult for him.

Having someone like Mr. Aizuchi is an important function for a Japanese company, as so much is built on connections, but even in Japan you can't live entirely off of connections, but have got to come up with content at some point!

"More Sorry History"     [Top of page]

I am writing this on July 15th, 2002, but the subject letters below (from both myself and ORL) date back to early May.  I wouldn't put them in here if it weren't for the fact that they are ongoing history regarding fun-on-the-job with politicians, racists, and other fun characters.  The saving grace to the current job is the guy on the seventh floor.  He's rather unsentimental, and so it's not a matter of being friendly, but rather of a man who doesn't drop down on the floor and kowtow to dirty politicians.  Unfortunately, this kind of man is only too rare it would seem!  If you've ever wondered at the reason Japan seems generally unable to product quality English text, this sorry tale offers a glimpse into a world of racist pride, ignorant stubbornness, downright foolishness, and a vast sea of dirty politics.  It's a situation understood by nearly all people doing work similar to mine over here, denied vigorously by nearly all the native born residents of the land, and generally not believed by anyone living outside the country.  Given the conditions, the best bet for making a living and getting along with everyone is to ignore (as much as is possible) the nonsense, and not try to explain the situation to anyone.., but then nothing can change, and so there is value in recording things.

The first letter below is a letter I wrote to an e-pal explaining why I haven't been writing, which is followed by ORL's answer.

From: "Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon  [Japan]
To: ORL  [Russia]
Sent: Monday, May 06, 2002

Dear ORL,

Sorry sorry sorry!  I've been (still am actually...) extremely busy with work at the company.  I am officially a "Copywriter", but there is this woman - whose English level is extremely low - that the idiots at the company have chosen to be "Editor" of an English language publication we're working on.  She has been mucking up what I write and I became angry and wrote her a fiery e-mail telling her to stop interfering with my work - especially in light of the fact that she is incapable of comprehending what she is playing with.  Trouble... she is politically connected, and so now I could even lose my job.  When the storm passes, I'll go over the file you sent (which I have saved to disk), but you'll have to wait a little longer, as I really have so much work that I must do to save my career right now.

Sorry to keep you waiting, but I really do have a lot of demands on my time this spring.

Get back to you (hopefully) soon!


Date: Mon, 6 May 2002  +0400
From: ORL  [Russia]
To: "Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon"

Dear Lyle,

Considering the general situation of the job market, my advice is to let the fools act any foolish way they like, and just smile to yourself.  I translated for a magazine where the "editor" doubted every word I used, and tried to make critical remarks.  Every time I had to open a very thick volume of an English/Russian dictionary to demonstrate that what I had used was correct and that what he suggested was sheer rubbish.  Then it occurred to me that I was doing double work for my money - wasting so much time on these "corrections".  So I told the man that he was free to change the text I handed in any way he liked.  That he could rewrite all the material backwards if he liked, but under one condition - that he remove my name from the copy and my name from the list of the editorial board.  That way, if the Western sponsors became interested in the process of compiling text with such usual grammar, the responsibility would be all his.  Everything was OK after that.

Wishing you all the best - I hope you'll talk with the "politically connected" idiot in a way that will allow you to continue to work as long as you please or until you find a better position.

Better safe than sorry.

ORL     [Top of page]

"Reading"     [Top of page]

Date: Fri, 03 May 2002  +0800
From: KCM  [US]


I just finished reading the first half of the literary issue in the Village Voice online.  And then this week's LA Weekly has a literary supplement, too, in which various writers are writing about other writers and how they influenced them.  I guess to the normal person this stuff would be boring, but for a bookworm like me, it's heaven.  I'm so relieved to be reading normal stuff this quarter - except in my romantic literature class.  The professor just rambles on and on and I keep falling asleep.  The literature also leaves a lot to be desired.  I decided I really really hate Percy Shelley and the only good thing he wrote was "Ozymandias."  Right now I hate Byron, too....  Didn't these people ever learn about being succinct?  But my Shakespeare class is awesome and my modern literature class is also very cool.  We're reading The Bell Jar and next week it's The Woman Warrior, a Chinese American's memoir of life in the 50s, I think.  I love that book, mostly because it's one of the few Asian American novels I can stand and because I identify with it so strongly.


"Leading Separate Lives"     [Top of page]

I received a letter from LRE (UK) writing about the connection between what is happening in the adult world in general and how it is being mirrored by children.  I agree with that, but I think that there has always been that connection between whatever age of people are doing and whatever other age of people are doing.  There are shifts of course... but I think the bigger tragedy is that children are sent off to be educated by strangers while their parents work in an entirely different world.  Didn't the radical shift in generations coincide with this separation of daily lifestyles?  I don't know that for a fact, but it seems like that's how it is.  Is there information about this "out there"?

"Walking"     [Top of page]

Subject: The Sandstone Challenge
Date: Mon, 27 May 2002 :42 +0000
From: SZS  [UK]

I'm very busy, as I've just moved and haven't settled in yet.  Here is a bit of a write-up on the walk we do every year (except last year, when the foot and mouth disease stopped it.

The walk was in aid of the firemen's benevolent fund - the fee paid to enter the walk is for firemen injured or killed on duty, going into the national fund.  This year it is also for the Anthony Nolan marrowbone appeal.  Anthony Nolan was a young lad who died of cancer.  He fought a brave fight but that horrible cancer took his young life.

The walk began on Friday with what we call carbo loading - loads of pasta for dinner and supper in the shape of salmon, cheese, and pasta with the best young vegetables.  Then it was two pints of beer to help me relax and drop into the land of nod to wake up every half hour to see if I had overslept.  Five O'clock and it was time for the great day once again.  This is the third time I have entered the challenge.  Without sounding full of myself, it is not a challenge anymore.  I take it as a day out walking.  If more people would put that in their minds, they would enjoy the day more and not burn out halfway around!

Time to look out the window to see if anybody has stolen my van.  Times like this I need my old van.  Not a taxi.

Arriving at the fire station I soon realised I had left it a bit late for parking.  I parked down the lane (having met Aabbb from our walking group and asking her to sign me in).  The coach had arrived and it was now time to panic - visions of being left all alone crept into my mind.

After boarding the coach, I sat with Aabbb and we had a chat about the walk.  I told her not to go doing anything stupid like keeping up with the fast walkers up front.  We lined up for the event and I met the ranger from the Priory and his colleague who I don't go out of my way to talk to.  I have spoken to this woman on numerous occasions and I get the feeling she feels she is lowering herself to talk to me.  On one occasion she actually ignored me when I said Good Morning.  Civility costs nothing as they say.

We started the walk and I chatted to Aabbb.  It turned out she had not been out walking for a month but told me she had done a 25 miler the week before.  This year we walked along the canal bank, having been started in teams of six due to the canal bank being very narrow.  (The hares had probably knocked a few in the canal the year before.)  Then we entered the first of many fields.

I heard a voice shout my name - it was one of the doctors from my surgery.  In fact it was my mother's doctor... I wonder if she had sent him along to keep a eye on me (ha).

Aabbb decided to catch Bbccc, Ccddd and Ddeee who were ahead.  I chatted to my doctor and told him to go on ahead, I would increase my pace after we arrived at Beeston Castle at fifteen miles.  I thought Aabbb was going too fast for the beginning of the walk... she was up ahead with Ccddd Ddeee and Bbccc.  I chatted to other walkers as we walked through the Cheshire countryside - it was a fine day for walking with a nice breeze and - as usual - a good atmosphere.

Checkpoint one came along at six miles - allowing for a quick snack and a drink.  Most of the walkers had a drink and a bite to eat at the checkpoint, but through past experience I carried on walking up the hill to the woods and the start of our first climb.  (I just hate eating/drinking and then climbing a hill, no matter how small.)  I stopped in the woods for a drink where there was shelter from the wind blowing over the Cheshire plains....

I settled in the woods and Eefff and Ffggg walked by.  As usual, Ffggg looked through me but Eefff shouted hello - he said "You have a good spot there" - I told him I have been here before, meaning I know all the good hideaways from the elements.

As the rest of our group came along, I told them to keep going and I would catch them later.  I soon caught up with the group and Aabbb started to complain that her legs were heavy.  Seeing her stop on the first climb to catch her breath, I knew she would be in trouble from that point.  We waited for her on the top of the hill - about a five hundred foot climb.  After she caught her breath, she said she might have to retire and told me to go on ahead.  I am not really into going on ahead and leaving a fellow walker alone - especially somebody I know....  Bbccc was out after a good finishing time for this walk and she soon vanished with Ccddd and Ddeee.

I told Aabbb to take it easy and this she did.  After a while she regained her energy.  Then it was my turn... a nasty pain in the side of the foot just appeared out of the blue.  I asked Aabbb if I could borrow my walking stick which had helped her up the hill and along the route.  We had passed the bad stuff - the trig point was at 600ft, and I waited for Aabbb there while taking in a beautiful view of the Cheshire plains down below now - Beeston was in site....

Fifteen minutes for dinner and one sandwich only, then we started again.  The side of my left foot was feeling terrible... I felt like calling it a day, but I borrowed my stick again and this helped a bit.  I can only think it was because of the very slow pace.  Normally I walk on my own.  This time I was with Aabbb who was walking a lot slower - which I had told her to.  She was going to call it a day at Beeston but changed her mind.

We had covered just over fifteen miles - which is about the distance we cover on a hard Sunday walk now - we had another nineteen to cover.  I had taken isotonic drink this time due to my hands swelling in previous years - I'm not sure if it was because of my hands hanging there or a thing they call Hydroponation (lack of body salts).

I could see in the distance (in fact on the far horizon) the signal beacons.  These we would be passing on the way to Delamere forest.  I thought I would like to see Aabbb get through this walk - she had never walked this distance before.  I would never ask a woman her age for fear of a smack in the mouth but I would say at a guess she was around the sixty mark.

I decided we would be visiting the cafe were muddy boots are welcome.  Aabbb bought the tea and cake.  I had a nice piece of currant loaf which went down a treat.  Food always tastes best after a good walk.  One guy who was having another coffee told us if he dashes home there is only the Eurovision song contest on TV.  That is the correct attitude - it is a fun walk if you call 34 miles fun.

Aabbb finished her currant loaf and scone and then we set off again.  Through the woods and across the busy Chester road, we now walked towards Delamere forest.  Very small these days but long ago it was huge when the Normans and Romans were settled here.

We crossed the old Roman road - not many people know about that, and not many want to, which is sad really.  Aabbb was asking all the time how far now.  I tried to take her mind off things by talking about useless things like "Look!  A Pied Wagtail"  This is a long walk if you have not put the leg hours in.

Finally we reached Delamere, our last checkpoint.  Only nine miles to go.  You then put it into your head that anybody can walk nine miles.  Then later you think only five miles to go.  Aabbb was in pain now, but she would not quit.  Having just walked 29 miles, who would.

We met the guy from the cafe - he was sitting on the grass cursing the walk.  We wished him well as we started again.  I pointed out the new homes I would be buying if they came on the market one day.  One cottage is so beautiful it is unbelievable.  A few months ago it was a wreck.  I was thinking of buying it myself.  It is set back from the road on a high elevation with big gardens that still have to be landscaped.  You can view the mountains of Wales in the distance.  Now we reached Manley Common and another dream home.

The next field was the Elizabethan home transported from Northwich.  The woods to the rear of the old quarry are where the sandstone was excavated that was used to build Chester Cathedral.

Last leg now through the old woods undulating here due to the fact you are crossing an old hill fort.  (Not many people know that.)

Last leg - up the seventy five steps to the top of the cliff.  That is - seventy five steps plus the bakers dozen near the top as somebody wrote on the sign that was erected.  We have comics everywhere.  "How far now?"  Ddeee's voice once again cried.  Then somebody else shouted my name.  It was Eefff from the Priory.  At first I thought he had finished the walk and was walking back to do a bit of bird watching.  He then told me Ffggg had exhausted herself.  "I think we started too fast on the first leg" he said.  Bad mistake, very bad - once your energy has gone, there is no bringing it back.  This is what Aabbb had also done.

We waited for Aabbb, who said she needed another drink.  I told Eefff to go on ahead - I would see him on Monday at the Priory.  They had changed the finish of the route - this was more undulating, but I couldn't tell Aabbb that.  Eventually we hit the tarmac, then it was all downhill.  I was surprised at the age group of the walkers - most were over forty.

Then the fire station came into view.  When we walked into the fire station, I told Aabbb to walk proud - forget the aches and pains - it was a stroll, no effort at all (ha, ha, ha).  You always get a cheer from the firemen, and the fellow walkers makes it all worthwhile.

The gold medal we received was not real gold of course.  "Queens Jubilee 2002" it reads on the front.  I will put it with my other medal - (the millennium one) and the shield from three years ago.  I feel like I am becoming a veteran on this walk.  Could I have done it faster?  Of course I could.  But I do hope that Aabbb is proud of her effort, and she can tell her husband - if he ever gets smart - that she walked 34/35 miles in a day.

Our finishing time was twelve hours - the pace just over three miles an hour over undulating fields and woodland, not forgetting three climbs and a nice stop at the cafe.  Now we head for home and I head for the cold beer in the fridge.  I dropped Aabbb at her home (she only lives a mile away) and she headed for the front doorstep in her stocking feet.  Poor thing.  Boy would I have loved to have been a fly on the wall in that house.  I could well imagine her husband and kids calling her a silly woman and also being proud at the same time.  Not everybody spends a Saturday walking 34/35miles.

Take Care


July 17th, 2002  -  Wednesday... and a not particularly exciting day.  I did go over to a temple I've never been to before, which surprised me.  In my walks here and there about the city over the past eighteen years, I have been most places at least once.  Generally I'll go somewhere and think "Ah... yes... I remember this place.  I was here back in... '86?" or something like that.  Actually the time frame is generally hazy as I experience a flashback to the set of feelings that went with the original occasion in the past.  It's strange how powerful places are that way - one look at something you haven't seen in over a decade and suddenly a flood of memories is there - almost as though it were all brought to you via a time machine.

Sore dewa!

Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon
, Images Through Glass
- Nishi-Shinjuku, Tokyo
July 17th, 2002 - (KFMM-16/LL314/HRE040616)
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