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"Letter-Letter 318"
April 3rd, 2003
"Stop & Smell the Roses"
"I Had Thought We Were Thinkers..."  by HGB & LHS
"If You Know What/When/Where/Why"  by KCM & LHS
"Looking for Work in Nagoya"  by Yo/Gr & LHS
"Time Is Your Life"
"Linux to the Rescue"  by RWD
"Back From French Polynesia"  by PCZ
"Battling Migraines"  by Laf
"Computer Question"
"Always the Same Inside..."
"Fun Teaching English"  by CJP & LHS
"Literally, Not Figuratively..."  by CJP & LHS
"Enjoying Retirement"  by SB/UK
"Quick Row Fox"
"Like a Theme Park"  by BRC
"Golf"  by HHE & LHS
"Closer to Japan in Germany"  by EBR & LHS

"Stop & Smell the Roses"     [Top of page]

(2003/04/04)  I recently received a letter from a friend who suggested I "Stop and smell the roses".  Several years back, I wrote about the expression "Stop and smell the roses" - saying something like (I have that file somewhere)...

(2003/04/10)  I then went on a long and futile search for that text.  The thing about having so many possibilities to choose from whenever working on a computer, is that it is all too easy to get sidetracked.  Anyway, back to the first paragraph and "Stopping to smell the roses", I once said something like:

"The thing about stopping to smell the roses in Tokyo is that if you stop, more often than not, someone bangs into you from behind.  Basically, you can't stop!  Even if you do, there are not exactly roses right and left all over the city.  If you know where to go, there are some quite nice places, but you have to navigate between all the concrete, asphalt, and aluminum to get there."

So - with "Hey - stop and smell the roses" echoing in my mind, I serendipitously stumbled upon a very beautiful spot last week!  The roof of Suntory Hall (the best known concert hall in Tokyo) has a multi-level garden that is off-limits except for two days a year - once in the spring and once in the fall.  I didn't know this beforehand, so finding this time-exclusive spot entirely by accident when it was open for the one spring day was quite lucky.

There are several levels, and when I got to the very top, suddenly I was transported by the smell of earth and flowers back to when I was a child and I would play among the plants in the back yard of my parent's house.  (A back yard... now when I think back on it, it seems like a personal park - the ultimate luxury.)  I walked among the flowers (and the people) and enjoyed the moment - "smelling the roses" as it were.

I walked back to work past a dozen or so demonstrators in front of the US embassy, and when quitting time rolled around (at which time I've actually been able to leave the new company!), I went back to the garden on the roof just as the sun headed for the other side - creating that magic time of twilight.  Up on top again, I ended up talking with one of the people in charge of crowd control, a woman who works as a gardener, and often works up on that garden alone - "Singing on top of Suntory Hall, since I can't sing inside", as she put it.  I said that it almost felt like we were up in the mountains far from Tokyo (excepting the smoggy air) and she looked at the surrounding high-rise buildings and said "... if you can ignore those..." but when I looked around myself, it seemed as though the buildings actually added something to the scene, so I made a V with my hands and said "Just imagine those are rock, and this is a valley...".

We had been talking for awhile and she was working, after all, so she went off soon after that, but there was something electric about our meeting, particularly since we actually met three times, and every time she stood out.  When I first stumbled upon the people climbing to the roof, she was down at a table with two or three other women handing out guide books to the area shops, and she gave me one.  Then, up near the top, after I had drunk a complimentary glass of tea (in a disposable plastic glass), just as I was wondering where to throw the empty glass, she materialized in front of me and said "I'll take that".  And then later that evening, as I stood off to the side to take in the feeling of that mysteriously untrodden rooftop garden, and the perimeter fence of (relatively) tall trees and bushes that looked and felt like something in the mountains, there she was standing in front of me, so I went up and asked her about the place and we had our conversation.  Now I keep wondering if I should have exchanged e-mail addresses with her or something - if she were willing to write, the stories would be interesting ones I'm sure - something like "Gardening in the Metal and Glass Valley"....     [Top of page]

"I Had Thought We Were Thinkers..."     [Top of page]

Date: Sat, 22 Mar 2003
From: HGB  [Malaysia]

..........  It's been a long time since I've heard from you.  Try to get more rest, don't overwork, as it's not good for your health.

Now everyone's talking about the latest issue - war.  I saw some pictures in the newspaper about people in Japan who don't support the war walking on the street day and night.  In my country, we can't do this without permission.., if you don't have it, they will put you in jail.  I think it's the same in other countries, but my country's rules are more strict.  ...........


I'm not sure how extensive protests have been.  The only thing I've personally seen, is the group of people chanting protests across from the US embassy that I mentioned in "Stop & Smell the Roses".  What has been more noticeable for me than the protesters, is the large police force seemingly permanently stationed on all the streets around the US embassy.  I carry a backpack with books, a camera, etc., and I can always feel someone watching me as I walk past - I suppose anyone with any kind of package is being watched, but it feels very strange.  Working in that area, I have skipped going outside for some fresh air a few times already to avoid what feels like walking around in a military zone.  It makes me feel positively nostalgic for the good old days, when pedestrians were not suspected of being carriers of WMD.

Ah... WMD... now there's a phrase I am very sick of hearing.  I've been listening to English news reports, and the low level of intelligent commentary is shocking!  It sounds like copy from an advertising agency.  Instead of talking about anything in depth, there is this repetitive jingo relentlessly repeating the same phrases until they are invading your dreams.  It's quite depressing it is - all aspects of it - from the creators of advertising copy, to the presenters/actors of it, to the technical conveyors of it, and finally to the audience.  One and all end up dancing to the same relentless beat, and I guess that's the idea, but I had thought we were thinkers....

"If You Know What/When/Where/Why"     [Top of page]

Date: Fri, 7 Mar 2003  -0800 (PST)
From: KCM  [US]

.............  Right now I'm kind of panicking about the future.  I think I do this every time something ends and I don't know what to do next.  I should be looking for a job, interviewing, but I'm not, because all the jobs I want to do want to hire NOW and that's impossible for the time being.  I'm building up my resume and I'm also ambivalent about where my relationship is going.  Actually, I do know where it's going, and it kind of freaks me out, but at the same time I feel happy.

.......  I was talking with my roommate about a problem she has with her boyfriend.  She does a lot for him, but I don't really think that he appreciates exactly how much she cares about him.  We were sort of commiserating about that the other day when she was in a fight with him.

I don't know where I want to work.  I've been toying with the idea of going to New York - it's not a well-formed plan, but I've been in love with the idea of New York forever.  My new roommate, an aspiring actress, is from New York, and if she's typical, then I don't think I could match them in stamina.  Most likely I will end up in the Bay Area.

I was looking at this site: gizmodo.net and they had this photography spread of the latest stuff from Akihabara and I am very very jealous of all those cool toys that are so cheap.  Are the prices as low as my friend claims it is?  Like $250 for a digital camcorder?  Just wondering.


Things cheaper here?  Only for old models!  Back when the exchange rate was 360 yen to the dollar(!), any bumbling tourist could and did find fantastic bargains (and fantastic profits for the people overcharging them) when shopping in Japan with dollars.  By the time I came and it was 245 yen to the dollar (now it's something like 125), already you could buy Japanese cameras (made in Japan) more cheaply in New York than in Tokyo!!  Now, generally for new things, the prices are about the same.  What is cool about Akihabara is that you can buy some things that never make it overseas, and also, when new models come out, stores will often sell the old (still new in the box) models for dirt cheap to get them off the shelves.

So - IF you know what stores to go to and IF you know when to go and IF you know what to buy and what to avoid, then yes, it's true.  HOWEVER, I've found that 99.7% of people have a very depressing habit of wanting to go back to their home bases with exotic tales to tell of far-off lands across wide oceans.  So, a statement like "Digital camcorders are selling for $250 in Tokyo!  (Aren't you envious of me now?)  I saw something amazing in a place you've never been too!  (Envious you should be!)  I did and saw something you didn't - HaHaHaHaHa!!!!" is pure nonsense - I hate it when people do that!  I've never seen a digital video camera for even double that price (we are talking about motion pictures here and not still pictures, right?), but I have seen old-technology 8mm video tape cameras very cheap... after all, nobody wants to buy them any more!  The most likely scenario here is that your friend saw a piece-of-junk old model 8mm analog video camera for a slightly higher price than they are actually selling for (spice to an already semi-fictional tale) in a display window and mistakenly thought it was a new digital video camera.  (Don't tell them that though, as it would spoil their fun and make you their enemy in one stroke!)

Lyle     [Top of page]

"Looking for Work in Nagoya"     [Top of page]

Date: Tue, 25 Feb 2003
From: Yo/Gr  [US / Japan]

Sorry I haven't written, I haven t had a computer for a few months.., mine finally died!  I'm using my girlfriend's for now - slow but it does work!  Anyway, I'm looking for work in Nagoya - I don't really know the deal there, but it seems like there are a lot of shady companies.  I saw one job offering to pay as much as Y1,000 an hour!  Hey, at that much an hour I'm sure you need to have qualifications too, really shocking!  Well - as you might imagine, I'm busy reading mail at this point... mostly junk, but that's what takes time.


I think the money paid for English teaching is about as low as it can get.  Any lower and the only people who will be able to do it are spouses and students who live under someone else's roof and don't have to support themselves.  It's pretty hard to find work here in Tokyo, and from what I hear, it's that much more difficult in other cities.

"Time Is Your Life"     [Top of page]

Time  After the years of uncertainty of working as a freelance this and that (English teaching, writing, rewriting, translating), I was happy to have a solid five-day work week at the PR company, and didn't mind the overtime work - I was sitting in front of a computer and could do some bits and pieces of my own work, so there was the illusion that the company wasn't really monopolizing my life.  Two years of that at the PR agency (I called it a consulting company at the time to protect the guilty), and then a year and a month at the printing company... and now - once again I find myself in my old free-lancing role.

Time.  Can I actually get the bills paid?  I don't know!  Am I glad to have a part of my life to actually spend on myself instead of the company?  Yes!!!  The balance of work and play is very seriously damaged in Tokyo, and people are responding to the bad economy in the worst way - "More overtime!" seems to be the national battle cry.  How to save a company in trouble?  Make the employees work overtime every bloody day - that'll fix things!  &%$##$&%$#

I just can never quite figure out how the country with the world's most efficient factories can be so grossly inefficient when it comes to office work!  What in the world is that about?  The scores of offices I visited as a freelancer looked inefficient to me then, and the two I worked full time at were very definitely not run well....  If there is one single thing I would point out as being the culprit, it would have to be the telephone!  Any and everyone is constantly having their work interrupted by answering the ever ringing telephones!  For some strange reason, companies here never seem to embrace the concept of protecting important people from frivolous telephone calls (other than the people at the very top).

Contrast this with a factory - it is unthinkable to have people working on an assembly line answering telephones!  Granted, there are calls that need to be made and calls that need to be received in an office, but you have got to be able to turn that off at times to really concentrate on something.

That's it!  The curse of Japan is the telephone!  If there were no telephones, the offices would have higher productivity for sure!  ......  Or maybe not... because then there would be even more time-wasting meetings!  Never mind!  I'm tired of thinking about it!  I guess the only way for me to lead a semi-happy life is for me to work freelance and somehow - somehow earn enough money to pay the bills.

"Linux to the Rescue"     [Top of page]

Date: Mon, 24 Mar 2003
From: RWD  [Indonesia]

It's nice to hear that there's someone in this group using Linux.  I have to say that I'm not really an expert in Linux, but am also not really a big fan of MS.

I started to use Linux in 1998.  It was RedHat 5.2 (I think) but right now I use the latest Mandrake with a very colorful GUI.  I started using it just for fun, since all my friends (who are computer nerds) used it.

I felt the fun part was not the understanding of the command lines, but the efforts to make Linux applications more similar to Windows.  Then I started to install all the free stuff - Star Office (later to become Open Office), multimedia applications, etc., so I could read with it, write with it, listen to music with it, and watch some VCDs.

Then there was a "tragedy" in early 2001.  My first partition (which ran under Windows) crashed and the Windows OS was damaged.  The resulting impact was that I could not read any of my thesis files (which had been written with Office-97, which I've used until recently for compatibility reasons, since I could not afford to buy Office-XP).  So Linux saved me!  Fortunately I was able to change my active partition to the Linux partitions, then I read all my thesis files with Star Office (which was completely compatible, thankfully), and then I completed my work with Linux until I defended my thesis in front of the science-hungry professors.

Viva Linux!

RWD  (Bandung - Indonesia)

"Back From French Polynesia"     [Top of page]

Date: Sat, 29 Mar 2003
From: PCZ  [Prague, CZ]

I spent the last two weeks in a camp in French Polynesia on Morea Island... via Los Angeles... now I am back in Prague and I'm about to visit the Microsoft Prague Office again for lessons on IT.  It is quite interesting - the last lesson was about W-2003 server, which will launch in the US on the 24th of next month.  I also saw a 64bit HP server there with an Itanium processor.


"Battling Migraines"     [Top of page]

Subject: Island Music
Date: Sun, 30 Mar 2003
From: Laf  [US]

......... Life is creeping along fairly well.., I saw a new doctor for the migraines.  We are trying some new medications to see if they work.  Believe me, I am praying about this.  The new medications are Neurotonin (an anticonvulsant used to treat some forms of epilepsy to control the seizures, but found to be very effective in preventing some forms of migraines.  Apparently, migraines are considered to be a neuro disorder in some cases) and Zomig (simply to treat the migraine after you get it).  So, now I am in a try and see mode for this month.

Friday night I went out to a local club that has Karaoke.  I love to sing and since the theater group I was part of disbanded, I use Karaoke as my outlet.  We didn't stay too late, but some of my friends were there... mostly the people who come to either try out new music for their own shows or just people like me who feel singing is an extension of breathing.  We had a great time.

Yesterday we had a birthday party at the house for my grandsons Bbccc (aged 11) and his brother Ccddd (aged 9).  All of the grandkids were there - I have five; three girls and two boys.  My sister has one grandson.  All of the kids spent most of the day playing in the pool.  It was great watching them... noisy but great.  I figure if I survived the day without a major migraine attack, the new medications just may be working.  I have discovered that the toys that the kids enjoy the most seem to be the noisiest ones.  We kept the party pretty informal, and a lot of the neighborhood kids wandered in to play with the kids.  Believe it or not, most of the day was pretty mellow - loud, but no major periods of anger.  Since kids will be kids and are subject to quick unexpected explosions, I was pretty impressed.

Well, my period of blissful quiet is almost at an end.  People are waking up.  We have to attack the house and put it back in order.  Somehow, the clean-up from these parties always falls to us.  Everyone else goes home and relaxes.  We make the house right again.  So, I will close for this time.  There is probably more I could have written, but... the brain isn't bringing anything else up.


"Computer Question"     [Top of page]

(2003/04/03)  Help!  With W-98SE, I knew how to get rid of the those horrible bits of program that lodge themselves in the task bar (is that the correct term? - I've forgotten) by going to "msconfig", but with W-2000, that doesn't work.  I was able to get rid of most of the junk by going to:

C:\Documents and Settings\Administrator\StartMenu\Program\StartUp

(I think those last three sections are accurate, but I did have to translate them from the Japanese file names used by my computer.)

Now, where can I go to clean up other ones that are not listed within the "StartUp" file?  Any help with this greatly appreciated!

"Always the Same Inside..."     [Top of page]

Generally, decisions about what to put in here and what not are fairly easy to make, but one issue always leaves me sitting back with my arms folded and staring at the computer screen - thinking "Should this be in or not?"  That issue?  Health problems!  It's not that nothing gets in, but I've found myself shying away from many of the more serious health problems that affect people.  Partly I think that topic should be in here as a part of life - not one anyone welcomes, but something that affects virtually everyone at some time or another.  On the other hand, the core focus of this for me is culture - and how it is from one country to another....

Well - it's still up in the air for me, so I'll just quote part of a letter from an e-pal:

".........  I did research on the various options for treating prostate cancer.  This was, of course, from the viewpoint of, what might be considered, advanced age.  It's rather strange stating that as, in my mind, I still do not feel old.  In my body, yes, but not in my mind.  I am still capable of analytic deductions and arriving at hypotheses from those deductions.  I simply can't climb flights of stirs two or three at a time as I used to do. That may sound like a weird juxtaposition, but it is so.  ............"

I'm only 43 right now, but aside from having read that people never do really change inside, no matter how old, I know that the image I see in the mirror these days is looking like an overly tired middle-aged man.  But the core of my thinking - what I am, is not really any different than when I was 18.  The slower metabolism of my body seems to enable calmer thinking and less perception of time passing, but "me"?  Exactly the same, so that doesn't seem strange to me at all.

"Categories"     [Top of page]

(2003/05/05  23:58)  There's a "rule" in photography called something like "the rule of thirds" - that you place the subject you're photographing at a point one third from the edge of the photo.  It makes a certain amount of sense, particularly if it's aimed at people who take photos of people by putting their faces in the very center of the viewfinder and then pushing the button.  A certain amount of sense, but not spot-on sense.  In a way, it's worse than there being no "rule" at all - in fact there are no "rules" for composition in photography (or painting for that matter).  There's a balance to photos, but the perfect spot is not a simplistic 33.33% of the way over from the edge.  The perfect spot varies from photo to photo.

I still remember the first time I read about the "rule of thirds" - I had been happily taking photos with various compositions, and then suddenly I found myself aiming for 33.33%... and mentally shaking my head to get that cursed guideline out of my head so I could go back to looking for true balance in my pictures.  Of all I learned in my studies of photography, that particular incident has come back to mind more times than it has had any right to... unless there's a wider take to that misconception.

How much of what we "know" is only erroneous data rewritten for easy comprehension by non-experts?  The idiocy of simplifying things that have no business being altered at all, is that "simplification" is in fact a kind of infinite complicating of the truth.  Our natural desire to seek the truth is hindered by misinformation.  Finding the truth through simplistic misinformation is much harder than puzzling out something that seems complicated but is accurate in the first place.  Or... don't you think... so?

"Fun Teaching English"     [Top of page]

Date: Tue, 01 Apr 2003
From: CJP  [Canada]

I only have e-mail access about once a week, as I don't have my own system here, and the school only allows me access on certain days.  Local Internet cafes are a little too scuzzy for my tastes.  As mentioned, I'm working at a school, primarily younger kids, ages 6-14, and I rather enjoy working with them.  It's sometimes challenging, sometimes frustrating, but they have an actual desire to learn, it would seem.

However - my sessions with teenagers in China has been ego-shattering, to say the least.  The vast majority of students simply could not give a flying #&%$ about English, refuse to talk to me, and when I get sent to the public schools for large classes, about half the class has brought pillows for a nap, and the other half, homework.  It's glorified baby-sitting and little else, extremely frustrating, and powerfully demoralizing.

It's very difficult to be here, not knowing the language, as I get the feeling everyone is trying to screw me over after a particularly rough first day.  I'm left with lots of boring free time during the week, as the expats I know have teaching jobs when I'm off, and vice versa.  The few Chinese I know have real jobs and families and whatnot, so I'm being very careful not to abuse the relationship when I feel bored and lonely.

The schools are little more than cash cows, and they are run as such. They don't care what I do or how I do it, as long as the children are entertained and don't complain to their parents.

In all honesty, I'll be surprised if I last more than a month.  China is well on its way to accomplishing in that time what my father was never able to do in 25 years; kill my free spirit.  Business school is starting to look pretty sweet.

So, any advice?


It would seem the English language industry in China is pretty much the same as Japan - except the part about pillows!  I've never seen that!  (Did you mean that literally or figuratively?)  I used to teach this class of businessmen who told me openly that they had no interest in studying English, as they already spoke it well enough to conduct business in Asia, and were only in the class because their company forced them to be there.  They often smoked during class, and when I asked one of the men something (there were no women in the classes), typically he would look at me like someone in a detective movie - take a long drag on his cigarette - exhale - and say "I don't know" in a way that suggested "I don't know, I don't care, don't bother me please".

Yeah... the joys of language teaching.

Re:  "China is well on its way to accomplishing in [a month] what my father was never able to do in 25 years; kill my free spirit.  Business school is starting to look pretty sweet."

Well... there are stages.  In the beginning, you accommodate, but in my case, a few years ago - year #15 I think it was, I decided to start fighting what I strongly felt was wrong (I always have basically, but I began doing so more openly), and it's been one long raging battle ever since at work.  In fact, I may well be on several black lists for not being mild and meek... it took me three months and hundreds of resumes to find something this last time around.  In a city of 30,000,000 people, fortunately there are a lot of possibilities, but that's part of the problem - other foreigners pouring into Tokyo from the worse-off countryside.  I never could have stayed all these years in a small town - not employed anyway!

Advice... just to be a mercenary I guess.  People who want to learn from you - you can help.  The ones being babysat?  Babysit them and collect your pay.  If you try to make things right and/or to do the right thing, you'll probably find yourself out of work.  I can give you that advice, but I've been unable to follow it myself, so....

As an indication of how bad the economy is though, there are now "work-wanted" ads in the classified - something I never saw here before.  Here's one of the recent ones (from the Japan Times):


scholar, bankrupt seeking
2.7-million-word Asian his-
torical encyclopedias pub-
lisher, seeks big-hearted,
charitable company or indi-
vidual offering months' real
or part-time. Otherwise must
abandon forty-years' ar-
chives, possessions, fly
USA, and doorways. Fast,
unexcelled veteran copy edi-
tor (imperial and Gaimusho).
Akasaka P.O. Box 12, To-
kyo 345-6789

The key words there are "forty-years" - meaning the guy must be over sixty (assuming he came here as an adult - which the "fly USA" part would suggest).  That's another reason finding work is no picnic for me now - I'm 43 - too old for consideration at most companies....     [Top of page]

"Literally, Not Figuratively..."     [Top of page]

Subject: Re: BetterNotToGetOld...
Date: Thu, 03 Apr 2003
From: CJP  [Canada]

[Re: "Students bringing pillows to class?  Do you mean that figuratively or literally?"]

Yes, quite literally, pillows.  One had a large orange pumpkin-shaped pillow, and the others ranged from bundled-up sweaters to small throw pillows.  It is, reportedly, the ultimate insult a student can give a teacher.  I think it may be more that they just don't care, but what do I know?

I'm not really interested in changing the system, so no worries there.  In fact, my mindset when I landed in China is that I would never make waves in regards to politics or culture.  That way lies madness.  But on the other hand,  I'm really not happy with the idea of flying all this way and spending all this money to babysit kids.  One of the expats I mentioned was pretty frank in that not many teachers make it through the first few months, and that not everyone has the sort of mindset needed for this sort of thing.  Who am I to disagree?  I was ready to get back on the plane inside of the first week.

But even if my bosses weren't constantly trying to nickel and dime me to death, even if more than 1 in 100 people I meet were able to speak coherent English, even if the students appreciated what I was doing and wanted to learn, I have the feeling I'd still be miserable.  There's been not a single day that I haven't been sick from the local diet, and for a city of six million, there isn't much in the way of ethnically diverse food, unless you want Mongolian, Szechuan, or Tibetan dishes.  Moreover, the city and it's people seem a bit more... third world than I had expected.  I know this is technically a third world country, but I thought that applied more to the western interior.  ...................

I really just don't know what to think anymore.  I'm almost bipolar at times,  I can feel upbeat and positive about life when I'm with the people who call me friend (though this is a term far too easily bandied about here to carry much value) or teaching a class that wants to learn English (usually adults or children age 6-12) but when I'm stuck in my apartment with nothing to do, thinking about the coming days, I'm wrapped in this dark shroud of depression and feeling lost.

I'll probably give it another week or two at most.  If I can't get it together by then, I question the value of staying longer.


Wow... I can imagine myself getting into trouble there in a big hurry.  I just wouldn't be able to leave the pillow thing alone.  Let's see... what can you do?

1) Walk up to a snoozing student and say: "Hey!  Cool pillow!  I'd like to get one of those too!  Where did you get it and how much did it cost?  (And don't worry whether they understand you or not - it's got to come out naturally.)

2) Zap snoozers with a squirt-gun.  (I'm not entirely sure I'd really have the guts to do that or not, but I have walked across the desks of a classroom of middle school boys on a whim and in protest of the idiotic teaching methods of the woman I was working with... the students thought it was cool.)

3) Toss wadded up paper at the snoozers.  (Again, I'm not entirely sure I'd have the guts to actually do that, but....)

4) Talk in rapid fire truncated English that is unintelligible to the local teacher you're working with (and you are working with such a person, are you not?), and say something like: "Yeah - I sort of know how you feel.  A non-stimulating class is a non-stimulating class is a non-stimulating class.  But hey!  Let's do something about that!  Let's dance or have a snowball fight or something.  Ah... yeah, no snow, then no snowball fight.  Well, let's make a snowball making machine then, hey!"  The point here being not to make fun of anyone, but have the words flow out naturally and get them wondering what it is you're saying....

Overall, I don't know... I have never, at any time in my whole life, been able to keep my mouth shut when I felt something was wrong.  And if you're about to pack it in anyway, why not have some fun in the classroom?  After all this time, I can tell you that people have got to have a feeling that they're missing out on something they don't want to miss out to start tweaking their ears - the way cats do.

Everyone I've talked to here that visits China seems to like Shanghai.  Any chance of moving there?  I've never been anywhere in China save Hong Kong, but Shanghai is bound to be more cosmopolitan than the smaller towns.

One more thing... I confess that in the middle of feeling sorry for myself, since I'm tired of riding the crush-rush morning, evening, afternoon, anytime trains - your description of conditions [largely cut from the above quote] got me to laughing so hard that tears came to my eyes.  "Hey-hey - someone is having a worse time of it than me!  Ha-Ha-Ha-Ha-Ha!!!"  What a rotten way of thinking!  But there it is.  Misery not only loves company, it finds more miserable people... uplifting! Man - that is really disgusting, isn't it?  But as I had this light moment of laughing away, I guess I have to own up to it.....     [Top of page]

"Enjoying Retirement"     [Top of page]

Date: Mon, 31 Mar 2003
From: SB/UK  [UK]
'Some Things In Life Are Free!'

........  I hope you find something [work] really soon - something you can enjoy that doesn't have too much 'politics'....

When I was reading one of the recent LL's, I came across a bit that was just like me - then I realised it WAS me, I'd written it so long ago, I had forgotten!  Did I feel stupid!

I won't go on too much about retirement as you make it plain that you would like to be free, but can't manage it yet, but when you do it is lovely.

Walking through the town the other day, I saw a notice outside the corn exchange (nowadays just a meeting place for the town people) which said a play was to be performed the following night.  On reading the notice further I realised it was free!  I only had to pick up the tickets from the town council office!  Well if it's free, I might as well try it, so the following night, there we were, taking our seats.  The setting was very simple, with a cast of six - three men and three women who proceeded to take many roles each, and the tale was basically about a village green on which cricket (that English game) was played.  It spanned a time from 1936 till the present day, and was extremely well done.  It showed how times have changed over those nearly 70 years, was poignant and brought back memories, especially to older people, and there was even a free cup of tea or coffee in the interval.  How about that!  Most enjoyable.

One other thing - I am learning to play mah-jong, and really enjoying it.  As it was originally an eastern game, is there anyone out there who plays?


"Quick Row Fox"     [Top of page]

the quick row fox jumps over the lazy dogs

Lost keys... specifically the right Shift key and "b" and "n".  I typed the above sentence with an old keyboard that I pulled out of retirement to give to a friend who is having the same problem with the keyboard that came with his "new" used computer!  The only difference being that more of the keys are bad on his keyboard.  I thought I better check it first, and it's a good thing I did - two in a row and he'd think something is wrong with the computer for sure!  Already he has sent me a semi-accusatory e-mail asking me if I'm quite sure the computer is really ok (I helped him set it up - with a different keyboard).  It's a weird thing though... in seven years of using dozens of computers, I've never experienced this problem of individual keys quitting the game.  Maybe the computer gods are angry at my friend for something and are cursing his keyboards....

I took the n&b-less keyboard apart and discovered it to use a technology I had helped manufacture in 1981 when I was an industrial silk screen printer in Silicon Valley.  A silver ink is printed in a pattern of what looks like interlocking fingers that don't touch - when a conductive material touches the interlocking finger pattern, the circuit is completed and the open switch is closed.  Back in 1981 I thought that was pretty clever, but it looked primitive to me just now... is that how keyboards are still made?  If it's still the same technology, I would imagine the execution of the design has improved.

Quick question - have you ever experienced a problem of individual keys packing it in and going south, never to be heard from again?

I want to switch keyboards again - from the J-keyboard I'm typing with now to an E-keyboard that has a lighter touch.  As I may be loaning (giving?) this keyboard to my friend, I better make one last check:

The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dogs.
Right Shift / Left Shift

Okay!  All the keys work!

Back again - with keyboard number three.  Hmm... I'm not so sure this one is easier to type with or not, but since I'm sitting on a sofa with the keyboard on my lap (plugged into an old Compaq 50MHz 486 laptop... which is on the floor), the attached hand-rest on this one is more comfortable.

I'm now looking out the back window at the trees a few blocks away (not a sight to take for granted in Tokyo!) as I type.  It's hard to not keep looking at the computer screen.  I was taught to not look at the page while typing, and I think that is quite right for maximum speed, but with computers it's very hard not to, especially when you're monitoring spell check options, etc., but what I'm dong now is ideally suited to not looking.  I can look out at the new green leaves and still get some writing done....     [Top of page]

"Like a Theme Park"     [Top of page]

Subject: Fwd: NewOrleans
Date: Thu, 3 Apr 2003  EST
From: BRC  [US]

Re:  "About New Orleans - I've been there, but only once.  I liked it, but also thought the French Quarter felt a bit like a theme park."

You know I never thought of it that way, but you are right!  I have never seen anything like it but I'm really hooked on visiting there.  We stay right on Bourbon Street, which as you know is right in the heart of the French Quarter.  They opened a big casino there a couple of years ago and my wife really enjoys putting my hard earned savings in their slot machines... I guess that I do too!  Love that Cajun food, and always have fresh oysters at least once a day while we are there.


"Absolutely??"     [Top of page]

(2003/05/07  2:23 a.m.)  When I was still at the printing company, I met up with an Australian workmate for a beer on occasion, and on one of those occasions, I found myself answering some of his questions with "Absolutely!" without realizing where it had come from... but I soon realized it had come from him!  Once I started thinking about it, I noticed that he answered a large number of questions with "Absolutely!".  And now, when I watch news clips where they interview people, it seems that nearly everyone is answering too many questions with "Absolutely!".  It's gotten to the point where the term is irritating me more and more due to incorrect usage most of the time

On one hand it doesn't matter how words are used, so long as people are conveying what they need to convey to each other, but when "absolutely" is used instead of "yes", "that's right" or "that's correct", then how do you say the real meaning of "absolutely"?  Now that "absolutely" has been hijacked for frivolous usage, another word has got to stand in for the real meaning of "absolutely".

Let's see... how about... "unmistakably"; "truly" (to resurrect something formerly in use); "totally" (no... but maybe that's where the frivolous use of  "absolutely" came from - people ashamed to use "totally" use "absolutely" instead); "surely" (another old one); "precisely" (still has its proper meaning... let's hope it's not hijacked too); conclusively; decidedly; invariably; immeasurably; indubitably; inevitably; infinitely; necessarily.

Hmmm..... maybe the best thing to do when everyone is walking around in a daze of stupidity after being blasted with thousands of "absolutely!"s is to use an authentic word that's not in common use - just to shock people into realizing there are actually other words out there too.

Interviewer:  "I understand, Mr. Saxon, that you are steamed about the abuse of the word "absolutely" - are the rumors correct?"

Lyle: "Yes, those rumors are indubitably correct!"

I mean... I hate it when people bend over backwards to use oddball vocabulary, but on the other hand, when normal people start acting like commercials, PR spinners, and politicians - bashing people over the head with excessive overuse of limited vocabulary - I feel like something should be done to save our language (English belongs to everyone after all), save culture in general, and save thinking.  It's one thing to be blasted with PR from the cradle to the grave, but that's no excuse for becoming PR machines ourselves.

"Golf"     [Top of page]

Subject: About Golf
Date: Thu, 3 Apr 2003  -0600
From: HHE  [US]

Since golf seems to be tremendously popular in Japan, as well as here in the US, I thought you would appreciate the attached comments [not in this LL] about why it is so popular - other than having to compete against yourself, primarily.  There is a very good golfer from Japan competing on the PGA tour.  I should hasten to add that, in my younger days, I was an above average golfer.  The statistics state that only about 10% of golfers, playing by the rules, ever regularly score in the 90's and an even smaller fraction in the 80's.  For several years, I shot regularly in the 80's and sometimes in the 70's.  My lowest score ever was a 74 on a course I had never played before in the St. Louis area - not a "crip" course, either.  Not so now as I play so seldom.  Since we returned to Texas from Ohio, I have had difficulty adjusting to the high temperatures and high humidity in the summer (95 degrees and 90% humidity is a bit difficult on a golf course).  That is one problem and the other is the cost.  One simply sets priorities.


I've only played gold once so far (other than miniature golf, which I'm sure doesn't count) - back when I was in California.  While I think it would be a nice way to talk with friends while doing something on a nice day, I still don't see the attraction of watching it on TV, but I don't like watching sports on TV in general... I can't escape the feeling that I'm spending a part of my life on the wrong thing.  Doing it is one thing, watching it something else.

"Closer to Japan in Germany"     [Top of page]

Date: Thu, 3 Apr 2003  +0200
From: EBR  [Germany]

........  So you have been working there for over 18 years now?  I am also fascinated by Japan.  I did a lot of traveling when I was in my late teens and twenties, but for some time now, I have only been to Turkey every year.  I have traveled to Asia, India, and Africa - mostly on a shoestring budget, playing my flute and using my bicycle for transportation.  I loved those days of simplicity, sweat and stars in the night over my head.  I read a lot of Hesse during these days.  Now I have a family (wife and two kids).

I discovered some nice music by Klaus Wiese, a German musician who works with the healing sounds of singing bowls and the impact on the psyche - I can strongly recommend his music to you.  Why is it so difficult to find jobs right now in Japan?  Is it hit by a bad economy too?

I would love to teach English for some months there, just to be able to live there for two or three months.., do you think I would have a chance?


You would have a chance, but whether that would be a good chance, or a poor chance is hard to say.  The English teaching "profession" here is geared to people who are a balance of not too young, not to old, with enough experience in the country to be able to get around, but not enough to actually think about anything in an intelligent way, which leads to becoming human and starting to question certain things....  If you're single and with no strings, why not give it a chance.  On the other hand, if you have family, as you do, I would just stay put - it's not worth ruining your life for.  Japan has so radically changed from the culture that you are interested in, that you are just as close to it in Germany as you would be in Tokyo (where most of the jobs are).

Okay!  That's it for 318.  There was something I thought I needed to talk about, but I've forgotten what it was, so I think I'll start stuffing this into the wires.

Sore dewa!

Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon, Images Through Glass
LLLetters@yahoo.com - Nishi-Shinjuku, Tokyo
May 11th, 2003 - (KFMM-18b/LL318/HRE040615)
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