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"Letter-Letter 321"
August 16th, 2003
"Finally Summer..."
"Bright & Shining Frontiers"  by KCM & LHS
"Digital & Film Cameras"
"Mumbling Voices"  by RWD & LHS
"Appeasing the Inheritance Gods"
by CPK
"Unwelcome Effects of the Spam Blizzard"
"Chasing Magic Moments"
"Changing Workplace"  by FTB
"Not Funny This Time..."
"Trouble With PDF Files"  by CJP & LHS
"Not Having Fun in Akasaka"
"Plants, Fish & Pizza"  by CPK & LHS
"Stupid Man"
"Health Issue"  by HHE
"Different Worlds in Time & Place"  by CLM
"Happy to Hear from an Ex" by CJP & LHS
"Job Hunting in Gibraltar & Tokyo"  by TRG & LHS
"Resume Publishing in California & Tokyo"  by KCM & LHS
"Back in the UK from Singapore & Paris"  by LRE
"Parents..."  by KCM
"Working in Gibraltar"  by TRG
"Already Autumn!"

"Finally Summer..."     [Top of page]

(2003/08/23 18:30)  Summer - finally it feels like August.  The past week was one of strangely cold weather for this time of year in Japan - as though the heat had gone to Europe instead of here.  Now that it's hot here, I suppose it's cooler in Europe, or is there no connection?  In any case, it's hot today!

"Bright & Shining Frontiers"     [Top of page]

Date: Thu, 22 May 2003  -0700 (PDT)
From: KCM  [US]

..... speaking of movies, I went and saw "Matrix: Reloaded" the other day.  As a SciFi/fantasy fan and a huge fan of the first movie, I really liked it.  Liked it but not loved it, like I did the first one.  The first one was cool and I had never seen anything like it before.  Depending on a person's tastes, these movies are either taking themselves way too seriously or are brilliantly conceived.  I think it's somewhere in-between.

There's a whole racial allegory in there somewhere.  The directors invited Cornel West (a Princeton professor who writes on race matters) for a cameo in the movie.  That was pretty neat, but it was over in a blink so you'll likely miss him.  Also, I have never seen so many minorities play pivotal roles in a mainstream movie.


I still haven't seen it, but I recently saw the first one on TV (for the second time).  I liked it when I saw it the first time on DVD, but once I knew the story, the second time it seemed dated already.

Speaking of dated... when I first started this group letter project, it seemed new and exciting (to me at least!), and now - suddenly - with the beginning of the spam blizzard in October of 2001 as the boundary - it seems like... like... a different century... which it is!  Yikes!!  The brave new bright and shining frontier is now the sepia-toned fading past!?  Noooooo...... it's too soon!!

"Digital & Film Cameras"     [Top of page]

First, a warning - this is a long one!  It all got started with the photo I sent out that was a combination of six images I put together, including this bit of explanation:

"None of the six images have been color changed or modified out of the camera (considering that cameras automatically adjust for color temperature, this isn't as purist as I'd like, but then neither is our perception!)."

- which prompted this response from Yo/Gr:

Subject: Re: "Between the Old and the New"
Date: Sun, 27 Jul 2003
From: Yo/Gr  [US / Japan]

I will be disconnecting [from the Internet] for a while (till I get set up in Nagoya).

Not sure what you want to say with "This isn't as purist as I'd like, but then neither is our perception".  What do you mean by "pure", and our "perception"?  Don't answer!  I can get the pure part, but the bit about perception, come on, we aren't fish!  The photo of the sky and roof was nice.  You did alter the image, you used a digital camera, beyond that we don't need any explanation do we?  If you want to make art, don't explain, if people don't like it, that's their problem.

Sorry, I've been dealing with too much here - the company not wanting to pay me what's due (%$#%!!).  Anyway, I'm guessing the next e-mail I write will have a brighter tone!


My answer to that was:

Date: Mon, 28 Jul 2003  +0900
From: "Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon
To: Yo/Gr

You're probably right about putting too many details in there.  One comment though - the "purist" bit means that I don't like mucking about with photos after I take them [not too much anyway, although I've begun doing so more since I originally wrote that].  For me, photos should be a piece of reality, and when you muck them up with photo-altering software (the most famous of which now costs - incredibly - nearly $1,000), they become... damaged.  The perception part means that I would like to take all photos with the white balance on one setting, but since our eye-brain combination always makes what we expect to be white - look white, even if the lighting makes it blue, green, orange, whatever - if you actually photograph what is really there, it will look strange, so I meant that in a scientific way, and wasn't philosophically dreaming!

I altered the image by using a digital camera?  There is definitely an aspect about analogue photography that appeals to me, but I hate playing with chemicals, and there is no way in I could possibly have taken the 40,000 pictures that I've taken over the past three years with standard film, unless I had been filthy sticking rotten rich.  No, for me, digital cameras should have been put into my crib.  How much of my life have I wasted waiting for them to appear?  Anyway, if you take existing light photography, you have to buy film with different color balances too, so there's no difference there.

Tired... ZZZZzzzzz... Ah!  Let me know how the Nagoya move goes!


Which was then followed by one more from Yo/Gr:

Subject: Re: Hmm...
Date: Wed, 30 Jul 2003
From: Yo/Gr  [US / Japan]
To: Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon

Good point about the color, but if you want to get the same quality of image as slide film, then you have to buy at least a $2,000 camera.  I hate seeing exhibitions where people display their nasty looking digital enlargements.  I agree about the money and chemicals, but forking out the cash for a non-mechanical camera seems kind of stupid (like computers, you buy that which is out of date so the company can make the latest thing).  Then again, I don't take thousands of pictures, I only spend money on what I think is worth the price of development.  I had a photographer student who showed me his B/W collection.  At least a thousand pictures, not more than 15 worth keeping.  He is rich, so he doesn't care, but I did mind being forced to see crummy pictures!

I would guess you don't personally like more than half the pictures you took, that or you are a genius and always take great pictures.  I personally use my digital camera to take whatever, and my Mamiya for when I see something that moves me.  I would say that if you print the digital pictures, please don't print a nasty grainy picture with no depth....  Do you print with a printer?  Or do you have a super nice display (millions or colors)?  Sorry, for the Internet digital is fine, but for prints....  Hey, just get rich!  As for a certain leading brand of photo altering software, unless you are a consummate expert, I agree, its horrid!  I never had much interest in the whole developing bit myself - as long as you can find someone good, who doesn't muck around with it much... I will say though, that for the most part, with any camera you are creating something, not making a copy.  The problem I have with digital is that it makes bad prints, except for the top of the line cameras.  But in the end, whatever makes you happy.

I'm still dealing with things here, but happy - as the company is going to get screwed here next month.  One teacher is collecting money and splitting, I'm gone, and that leaves a new teacher and one who will be out in a month.  It's a long story of a greedy company and an old man - the %$#&%$#.

Well, I will leave it at that, I'm too tired to write.  Good luck with the camera, don't forget to charge them batteries!  I do have to say, not having to carry film is nice, and the cameras are very light (well, unless you've got a very nice one).  Next time will be happy and joyful - all from Nagoya!


Some comments here - re: "... if you want to get the same quality of image as slide film, then you have to buy at least a $2,000 camera."  Not necessarily true now - as there are a few cameras out there for about $1,000 (still pricey, I know) that are able to produce high quality images... IF you use them right.  With film cameras, the main factors to consider are:


With a digital camera, it's still based on the same science, but the main factors are:

Image sensor

The lens is something that the vast majority of people don't think about beyond the zoom range, but lens technology is not a simple matter!  A cheap lens will get a sloppy picture to the film or image sensor well enough, but if you want a high quality photo, you've got to have a lens of at least a certain level of quality, or there's nothing that can be done downstream.

Once through the lens, you have to save the image in one form or another.  With film-based photography, your options lie in choosing which film to use.  With a digital camera, you can't change the image sensor, but if you have a good one, you can adjust it electronically, or more specifically, adjust the signals it generates.  The signal from modern imagine sensors is quite good, but where people destroy the quality of their photos without even knowing it is in compression.

JPEG - is a great compression format, but it's not a lossless compression, so it dirties up the picture.  Any given picture will generally look fine in a normal size, but when you blow it up, the compression-induced distortions (or "noise") begin to show up.

The solution?  Take pictures in an uncompressed format like TIFF.  The drawback?  They will be very heavy!  A typical photo that is something like 700KB in .jpg will end up being something like 12MB in .tif!  This is where a 512MB, 1GB, or 2GB flash memory card combined with a 120GB HDD (or more) in your computer can save the day!  Also, another thing most people don't realize, is that the compression rate for .jpg can be adjusted - which is what the idiotically named "Quality", "High Quality" choices on some cameras are all about.  That's how you can end up with heavier photos that have the same pixel count.

Enough about photography for now!     [Top of page]

"Mumbling Voices"     [Top of page]

Date: Mon, 26 May 2003
From: RWD  [Indonesia]

I had an IELTS test this weekend.  I wanted to change it to another day, but the penalty fee is just too expensive.  So I took the test, which started at seven a.m. sharp.  Surprisingly, the officer came at that exact time.  So I sat down, showed my ID and waited for the officer to set up the tape.  The first part was listening.  I figured, "This won't be too hard" as the samples I had heard were fairly easy.

Then I heard the voice of a man with a silly mumbling voice giving instruction for the test and the nightmare began.  The first conversation was about two college students who have just arrived at a university and are talking about the accommodation that they are going to share.

That was the topic, but the rest of it was just mumbling voices talking about prices of apartments, the facilities, and so on and so on.

Fortunately, the other three conversations weren't that bad.  I was able to get it done, although it was in the same mumbling voice.  I thought to myself "So this is the language that started the Industrial Revolution long ago. Hehehe".  (No offense...)  The rest of the test was reading, writing, and then came the interview.  The interview part was a different story.  The interviewer was a woman in her early forties.  Her first hello was "Hi, how are you mate".  hahaha.  So typical, like in those films from the land "down under".  (I don't know why they call Aussie the "land down under".)


I know exactly what RWD means about poor quality tapes.  Having seen for myself students of a foreign language desperately struggling to pull meaning out of a bad recording that was further degraded by being copied on a cheap double cassette deck and finally - the final insult, played back on a piece of junk machine with no capability of accurate sound reproduction, even with a good quality tape (which I have never seen used for those types of tests).  Personally, I spent Y30,000 in 1985 to get a quality tape recorder so I could make decent quality tapes with which to study Japanese.  People complain that they have a hard time understanding foreign languages over the phone... well - no surprise there!  No surprise that is IF you think about the poor sound quality and narrow frequency range of phones.  Unfortunately, the thought uppermost in the minds of those who operate language schools is simply "How can I squeeze some more money out of this operation without putting any money in?"

It's about time for that to change though - the quality of language recordings ought to be improving.  Ought to be... but... dare we be optimistic?

"Appeasing the Inheritance Gods"     [Top of page]

Date: Mon, 26 May 2003
From: CPK  [US]

I need to plan a trip to Texas to see my parents.  I call it "appeasing the inheritance gods."  You must think I'm terribly rude to make a crack like that.  I don't mean disrespect.  I love my parents and we visit frequently on the phone, but I don't enjoy spending a week with them.  Funny, they expect me to, yet I don't think they really enjoy me staying at their place either.  I guess I can't speak for them, but every time I visit (which is about once every two years) my mother finds reason to criticize.  Stupid little things like: My husband didn't wipe down the shower when he was done, or once my mother really had to dig deep to find this complaint: "It's rude to stay up later (watching TV) than your host and hostess, and equally rude to sleep in later."

Omigosh!  My parents' house is very big.  The den where the TV is, is about a mile from their bedroom, so it's not a matter of noise.  As far as sleeping in... I'm a morning person, so I tend to naturally get up between six and seven.  My husband, on the other hand, loves to sleep till noon.  My mother gets up at the crack of dawn, and this whole "host/hostess" thing is so absurd to me....  They're my parents for cryin' out loud and this is the house I used to live in when I was in high school.  I think my mother would make a good restaurant inspector... if there's nothing wrong, she'll make something up.

What a contrast to how I feel with my husband's family.  Completely at ease and very accepted.  My husband's family feels comfortable at my place as well.  My mother in law lived with us for several years and if she had her preference, would still be with us (she is taking care of her brother in another state now).  My parents wouldn't spend one night in my house.  It's not a matter of cleanliness - I'm a germ freak, which is why I can't imagine being in the crowds on the trains there in Tokyo.  My house is a little rough to their standards.  The windows do not have custom drapes, we do not have the kind of beds they prefer.  We do not have central air (we do have window air conditioner units which you only need for two months at the most in Minnesota.)

They are wealthy but frugal.  I'm poor, but have more soft, hot, purified water and therapeutic bath products than anyone I know.  My house has some quilts hanging on some of the windows instead of curtains, but there are three nice computers at our fingertips.   Guess we all choose our priorities.  They keep their doors dead bolted every minute, even when they are inside their house.  I don't even bother to lock my doors when I go to town and the keys are always in the car.


"Unwelcome Effects of the Spam Blizzard"     [Top of page]

(2003/08/16)  One of the unwelcome effects of the spam blizzard for me, is that (besides having to deal with tons of junk being sent to me for mysterious reasons) anti-spam "solutions" are increasingly also blocking legitimate mail.  A friend recently told me that mail I'm sending directly to his address (not CC or BCC) is going into his Bulk Mail" folder.  I had previously thought that things sent via BCC would end up there, but now I realize I'm on a list.  That combined with the addresses that bounce with messages saying that the address no longer exists... and yet when I write an individual letter to some of these addresses to verify if the address is really a dead end, oftentimes I get an answer from the person telling me that they're still there.  Similarly, I've been hearing from a few people that mail they sent to me was bounced, even though I have made no changes to my address.

It would seem that the overriding passion of e-mail users now is to stop e-mail, so if the people behind the spam blizzard had originally set out to damage people's ability to communicate with each other via e-mail - they are succeeding spectacularly.  I will continue to write, but it's becoming increasingly difficult to get mail through to my friends....

"Chasing Magic Moments"     [Top of page]

(2003/08/30)  I went out to Omiya today to be one of three native English speakers at a kids "Summer Party", as the English language school called it.  The company has a business selling material and teaching methods to housewives who run English language classes out of their homes.  Once a year a bunch of them from all over Saitama (technically a different piece of the country than Tokyo, but effectively part of Tokyo) have a large group get-together and have the children they teach meet some real, live red barbarians to (hopefully) see that they are human beings too and to also hear naturally spoken English.  There were two groups with a thirty-minute break in-between, and the first group included some three and four year olds who had never met a red barbarian before... they sat as far back in their chairs as possible looking out in horror at the barbarians who came out smiling to say hello to all the kids.  ........  Oh well, I surprise myself in the mirror on occasion - you get used to the faces around you after all.

After it was over I wandered over to the elevated plaza in front of Omiya Station and sat down near to where a guitarist (Aki) and a singer (Miyuki) were performing (with a recorded bass and drum backup).  I looked up at the Shinkansen (super express or bullet trains) going by and thought back to August 1984, when I had sat in the same spot with Katherine - my old Japanese-American girlfriend I had come to Japan with.  We had just come back from Nikko, and she was going off to stay with an old friend... an old male friend at that - and sure enough, we broke up within a month of landing.  I wonder what became of her?

The guitarist had on a tie-dyed shirt that he probably grabbed out of a time-machine visit to 1968 San Francisco - not a criticism mind you, I was happy to see the color - and the female singer was good.  (I bought their CD for Y1,000 - and am listening to it as I write this.  You might be able to hear a tiny piece of the music at http://www.aki-pdt.com/piece.html which has some voice over junk that interferes with the music, but still it's better than nothing.)  The sky was overcast with dramatic clouds that rode a perfect temperature breeze that brought back good memories - an association of perfect summer breezes of fuzzy location... a flash of a beach here, followed by a flash of a breeze blowing through my car window in California, and that feeling I used to have more often that my bright/mysterious/exciting future was the present time - fleetingly now, but soon(?) to be more lasting?  Everyone's dream I suppose.....

After buying the CD, I walked over to the other side of the station and tried to stay under that magic sky, but every step took me into thinner atmosphere and a darker sky....  You never can hold on to magic moments forever, but it's hard not to try to.

"Changing Workplace"     [Top of page]

Date: Sat, 31 May 2003
From: FTB  [US]

..... The bad economy is worldwide.  I am just fortunate to have a job, but due to the consolidation of the post office where I work, I might have to start working at midnight and work weekends when I am re-located to another post office.  If I had a say in the matter, I would continue my old schedule, where I start work at 4:00 p.m. and have Saturday and Sunday off.  It's all about money - my post office is practically closing down (with few, if any, employees left).  Amtrak wants to turn JAF into a train station, as if the current one, Pennsylvania Station (across the street) were not adequate enough for train traffic.  ............


"Not Funny This Time..."     [Top of page]

(2003/09/18)  Here we go again... politics at work.  As the odd-one out (by race), I've never had to work in an office space with so few other people as now.  When the boss (Mr. Hikoki) is out of town (half the time) I'm in a room with three women - the two refrigerator women I wrote about previously (Ms. Reichi and Ms. Meshitsukai) and a third woman (Ms. Megaii)... who has fallen - in true island fashion - into the refrigerator camp to avoid being ostracized by the "group".  I don't mind not being part of a foul group, but it's a worrisome situation.  The main problem is Ms. Meshitsukai - a truly horrible monster whose deviousness is among the worst I've experienced in all the offices I've worked at.  I had to get the boss involved to get her to stop using my computer (she has her own) and then last week a block of text that I had finished working on was mysteriously mixed up, with bits of lines having been copy-pasted into other lines... either a computer problem that I've never experienced before (with only one paragraph of an eight page report?), or sabotage.  At the risk of being called paranoid, I'd say it was sabotage - revenge for getting the boss involved maybe.  (I now try to keep the computer password protected at all times I'm away from it.)

Back at the PR agency, there was a certain comedy in the cast of misfits that came together in that revolving door company, but in the under-populated room I'm working in now, there is no comedy - only worry.  I really wish there were more people in that room.  The fewer people there are in a given situation, the easier it is for the odd one out (me by race) to be set up.  I think, in spite of Mr. Hikoki being one of the best bosses I've had, that I had better start looking for other work.  It feels dangerous there....  I'm highly disappointed in Ms. Megaii - she has proven to be absolutely spineless.  A lack of courage in any of us is the curse of us all, and so I have lost all respect for her as a human being.  Going overboard in my criticism?  Possibly, but to see a perceptive person fall at the feet of a monster like Ms. Meshitsukai is not a pleasant thing to behold!

"Trouble With PDF Files"     [Top of page]

Date: Sun, 29 Jun 2003
From: CJP  [Canada]

Just thought I'd mention that for some reason, Adobe insisted I download seven megs of Japanese text modules for Acrobat before I could view the middle page.  I'm not sure as to why, since there seem to be no Japanese characters, maybe something to do with the OS you encoded the PDF on?  Looks good, in any case, if very typical of what little I saw of Tokyo (or as you more accurately mentioned, Narita) - it could be the same place.


As a matter of fact, the pictures that CJP is referring to were taken quite near to Narita, so it might well look similar, but there are certain aspects to the country that look pretty much the same all over.

Japanese characters in the PDF file I sent that I had thought was only English.  That is courtesy of the local version of Office XP, which makes it nearly impossible to write something in English without local characters (mutated spaces, dashes, apostrophes, etc.) from creeping in.  That particular file caused a lot of people problems and so I apologize for that, and I hereby promise to avoid XP as much as possible from here out.  For the last PDF file I created for a job I worked on, I used English MS-2K and that seemed to work well.  I always write this letter with OpenOffice.  Indeed, I am typing away with OpenOffice 1.1 right now.

OpenOffice - is a cool (and free) office application software package that has a very conservative naming system.  To the best of my recollection, it's gone from 1.0 to 1.01, 1.02, 1.03, 1.1b1, 1.1b2, 1.1rc1, 1.1rc2, 1.1rc3, 1.1rc4, and finally to 1.1 (there was also a 1.1rc5, but that became 1.1 with no changes).  I like writing with OpenOffice anyway, and the cross-platform aspect really helps.  I can save something I'm working on with an MS machine on floppy and then just put the floppy into a Linux machine and continue working on the same file - with no conversions, etc.  In any case, I recommend it.  Remember, it's free - legally free:  http://www.openoffice.org/

"Not Having Fun in Akasaka"     [Top of page]

(2003/10/09)  Things are going badly in Akasaka.  The office is noisy and difficult to concentrate in, and since communication in the office whether I'm there or not is via e-mail, I e-mailed the boss Mr. Hikoki to ask him if I could do some of the work at home.  He evaded the question and said that I need to get that permission from the temporary agency - which is a bald-faced lie.  He knows and I know and he know that I know that how many hours I work and whether he signs for them or not is entirely up to him.  Bloody groupism!  I've always hated it - back in the US I hated it and I hate it at least as much over here - especially since I've had one foot out in the cold for over 19 years now!

For what it's worth, here's the e-mail I sent him this morning, followed by his reply.  Bear in mind that Mr. Hikoki previously approved both in theory and practice to signing off some time I put in for the company at home by adding hours to days that I came into the office, so my bringing that up in my e-mail has a solid precedent.  The other issue is that I was the last one out several times, but suddenly they've gone strange about me being there alone.  Revenge from Ms. Meshitsukai?  Who knows.  As long time readers may remember, one anonymous phone call is enough to get a disposable employee fired.

Subject: SixSharp&WorkingOff-Site...
Date: Thu, 09 Oct 2003 10:07:37 +0900
From: Lyle Saxon <lyle@dokoka.co.jp>
To: Tsumetai Hikoki <hikoki@dokoka.co.jp>


I ended up working until 7:00 last night.  At 6:40, Ms. Megaii said she was about to leave and asked me how long I would be there.  I said "7:00" and she then stayed at her post.  I left at 7:00 and she was still working.  I suppose that I should leave at 6:00 sharp, not a minute later?  Actually, leaving precisely on time is no problem, since I have the same tools at home to work with - computers (several) with W-2000 operating systems and MS-Office 2000 (identical to the setup at the office).  I have a broadband connection to the Internet which enables high speed access, and whether I'm in the office or at home, 98% of communication is via e-mail.  Perhaps most important of all, it is far easier to concentrate when writing in an environment quieter and friendlier than the office.

Indeed, the only sticking point is remuneration for work done off-site.  If that could be worked out, then I could come in once a week for scanning and meetings when you are out of the country and four times when you are here.  That way, the refrigerator women would truly be Queens of the corner room when the King is away....

I have other work I have to do for most of today, but I could put in about three hours on the newsletter if you will authorize me to put that time on the time sheet.  My working hours for the current pay period are as follows so far:

10/1 10-18 (7)
10/3 10-18 (7)
10/6 10-18 (7)
10/7 10-18 (7)
10/8 10-19 (8)

If I put in three hours today, we could put an hour each on the 1st, 3rd & 6th.

Best regards,

Lyle Saxon

PS Either way, if you have a quick English question or two today, I'm happy to help out.

Subject: Re: SixSharp&WorkingOff-Site...
Date: Thu, 09 Oct 2003 14:29:12
From: "Tsumetai Hikoki <hikoki@dokoka.co.jp>
To: lyle@dokoka.co.jp


I don't have much time to spend on this issue now.  But my understanding is that we are not able to authorize counting your work at home without getting permission from your employer, not us.  You have your contract with Aabbb-san and initial agreement on your working condition must be spelled out there.  While I am not in my office, you may not have too much work to do, and for this period you don't have to come to the office four days a week.  In fact the amount of work we are asking you these days do not seem to require as many as four days a week.  You can come for three days a week till the end of October.

Tsumetai     [Top of page]

"Plants, Fish & Pizza"     [Top of page]

Date: Sun, 29 Jun 2003
From: CPK  [US]

.......  Ours are sure two different worlds.  The only subway I have ever ridden on was in Toronto.  In a couple of weeks, we will be driving home to visit my parents in Texas.  It's about 1400 miles, which seems short compared to driving out to California to see my husband's family.  I love the open highway and often thought of getting my class "A" license and driving semi (before I had children).

Do you keep house plants?  Are tropical fish common there?  I picked raspberries early this morning.  My latest adventure was in making Tiramisu (the Italian desert).  First, you make some stuff called Zabaglione.  It's often served as a dessert in itself.

.........  Is pizza popular in Japan?


Re:  "Do you keep house plants?"  I have a few, and my favorite one is a mystery tree that grew from a seed.  As I tried putting different seeds in the pot from fruit that I'd bought, I'm not sure what kind it is, but since I've watched it grow from the very beginning, it's more interesting than ones that were already way up and out of the ground before I got them.

Re:  "Are tropical fish common there?"  Goldfish are common and I know pet shops always have a lot of different types of fish on display, but I don't have any idea what percentage of people keep them.

Re:  "Is pizza popular in Japan?"  Very!  To the point where I'd say it's a national food now, almost as popular as curry & rice.

"Stupid Man"     [Top of page]

(2003/10/18)  By the time you read this, I've probably been fired... and here's the letter I just e-mailed to everyone at the company that probably did it:

Hito wa hito no ue ni hito o tsukurazu, hito no shita ni hito o tsukurazu
["Don't put people above or below other people."]

I'm a stupid man.  When growing up in the US, I believed it when I was taught, "All people are created equal".  I believed it to the extent that I thought it didn't even need to be taught.  Isn't it only natural that a person is judged by their actual abilities and not by caste or hierarchy?  Like I said, I'm a stupid man - I have believed in such things.

When I came to Japan, I continued to be a stupid man.  I read Fukuzawa Yukichi's book and wholeheartedly agreed with his sentiment 'Hito wa hito no ue ni hito o tsukurazu, hito no shita ni hito o tsukurazu.'  In his autobiography, he described testing people's responses to his own behavior while walking on a road.  He alternated between condescendingly demanding to know how much further the next town was (whereupon the person asked would bow and cower while answering as politely as possible), and then - when the next person came along - bowing and politely asking the same question (which prompted a rude and haughty answer from the "superior" traveler).  He alternated back and forth and people either looked up at him or looked down at him, but never across the horrible divide of caste....

And I am so stupid, so amazingly stupid, that I STILL believe that "All people are created equal" and that Fukuzawa Yukichi was absolutely and unshakably correct to say 'Hito wa hito no ue ni hito o tsukurazu, hito no shita ni hito o tsukurazu.'.

Why am I writing this letter now?  I have found myself in an uncomfortable and ugly situation in the corner room in which hierarchy is more important than working together as human beings.  I can ignore the constant and very loud inane banter of Ms. Reichi and her kowtowing servant Ms. Meshitsukai by putting on headphones to block out the awful racket they continually make, but now that Ms. Megaii is behaving like a schoolteacher to me and expecting me to kowtow to her the same way that the servant Ms. Meshitsukai kowtows to Ms. Reichi (when she isn't making nasty comments to me) is too much!  I AM a human being, by God!  Even if those three women don't think so.

Cannot reason somehow prevail?  I was hired to write.  I can do that.  I was not hired to be a master politician, a razzle-dazzle salesperson, or a kowtowing servant.  I understand that I am a temporary (read "disposable") "human resource" but - very stupid man that I am - I STILL think I'm a human being.

There is an answer to all of this - I can work from home.  95% of what I am doing for the newsletter project I could do just as well - nay, better - from home.  I have all the equipment necessary, including the same version of Windows and the same version of MS-Office that I am using at the company.  If I came to the office just one day each week, it would be enough for scanning photos, attending meetings, and anything else that would require my physical presence at the company.

Eternally stupid man that I am, I trust someone will at least entertain the possibility of this work arrangement and possibly even officially endorse it.

Sincerely (exactly that),

Lyle Saxon     [Top of page]

"Health Issue"     [Top of page]

Date: Sun, 29 Jun 2003
From: HHE  [US]

........  I haven't corresponded much this year as I was diagnosed with prostate cancer on Dec. 31, '02 and underwent a one-time implantation of irradiated seeds (Iodine-125) into the prostate on 2/26.  I can now give a discourse on the various treatments for this as I researched it before making my decision.  The short story is (1) surgery, (2) 3-dimensional radiation, (3) shots every four months, (4) brachytherapy (that is what they call my treatment) and (5) just do nothing and hope the cancer is a slow growing one.  Of course, the #5 alternative is only for those who view their demise as not too far distant.

After my treatment, my wife started having heart problems a bit more severe than her previous atrial fibrillation (for which there seems to be no treatment except medications).  It seems she had a mild virus in March, no fever and only aches, which affected the heart.  On March 13, at the Medical Center here in Houston, the cardiologist implanted a cardioverter.  That's a combination pacemaker/defibrillator.  With that device came a number of medications and the attendant problems of adjusting the dosages to limit side effects.  It has been an interesting experience for both of us.


"Different Worlds in Time & Place"     [Top of page]

Date: Tue, 1 Jul 2003
From: CLM  [US]

[Regarding photos from LHS]  Thank you for letting me have a little peek at your world.  To me, it is fantastic.  I am sure I would be totally lost and confused, scared to travel alone in your city... even if I was a native. <grin>  In California, where my siblings are, I find my hands and jaws are tired and sore from clinching them when I ride on the freeways with family....

Here in my flat land of southern New Jersey, I can go for an hour's drive north-south, east-west, and see dense woods, fields of vegetables, grain, nursery stock (young trees & bushes), horses, cows, small rivers, lakes, the Delaware River and bay, the shore... the trees and wild flowers are so pretty... this is going to be a warm but lovely day with birds singing and miles of green.  Nice clean fresh air?  Ah yes, BUT full of pollen, and my gosh how my nose and eyes rebel!  I love to sit out on my porch early in the nice cool morning with my first cup of coffee and newspaper.  I watch the birds, one resident rabbit and a ragged old squirrel.

My section is a tiny village and it is changing, as are many places.  Once upon a time, I never locked my door - the young people were always free to come and visit or spend the night... a "borrowed" watermelon or a handful off strawberries, a tomato warm from the field eaten under a tree - was about the worst thing the kids did.  I no longer go for walks, and now make sure my security system is on and the doors locked when I go out or to bed.  The bad language and sloppy clothes offend me.  The news is full of robberies, shootings and such....  Ahhh, such is life.

Ja mata ne....


"Happy to Hear from an Ex"     [Top of page]

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

As for my personal life, things are going alright.  I'm employed in a computer software customer service department at the moment, and the Chinese English teacher I was hot for in China is still pursuing me to some extent... who knows!

I recently received an e-mail from an ex-fiance from several years back, and she's obviously been through some intensive therapy at some point in the recent past.  Spouting all sorts of horrible proactive jargon about personal growth and such nonsense.  What happened to the era where people could just admit "Hey, it didn't work out, let's never talk to each other again and be done with it"?  Now it's all spiritual healing and positive thinking....

I still want to visit Osaka someday; I'm told it's the best mix of big city structure and small town mentality in Japan.  Mind you, it was reported as such by a certifiably insane person.


[Part of my answer] July 1st, 2003

.......... Osaka - could be interesting.  Actually, Tokyo is great if you just have the money to live here!  There is everything in the way of entertainment, all kinds of food, all kinds of people, and if you just have wads of cash to throw around, you can grab a bullet train out of town on the weekends and stay at a second house by the ocean or up in the mountains.  If you're poor, then the mountains and ocean are nearer to the center of Osaka, so it might actually be good for a normal human being.  I had a job offer there once, but my girlfriend at the time was up in Tokyo, so I came up here.  If I had accepted that job offer in Osaka in 1984, chances are, I'd still be there....


"Job Hunting in Gibraltar & Tokyo"     [Top of page]

Date: Wed, 02 Jul 2003
From: TRG  [Gibraltar]

...... I am still trying to catch up with my mail.  No I haven't found a job yet, I keep coming close but then am unlucky at the last minute.  One of the companies may be offering me a job, but it is in a place where I already know that I wouldn't be happy at all - I have already taken a dislike to one of the bosses.  Things in my current employment went from bad to worse, and I got fed up and resigned on Monday and am now working my notice.  In a way it is a weight off my back as I have now got to do something about it, but I am petrified in case this backfires on me and I end up being unemployed for ages.  In Gibraltar, the job situation is not what you know but who you know.

Life in Gibraltar is starting to become a bit of a rat race, no-one seems to take time to smell the roses anymore.  It is all materialistic and money, but then again I think that is the world all over.  Having said that, it is a lot more laid back than other places in the world; we suffer from 'manana' syndrome here, whereby we do everything tomorrow hehehehehe.  I will try and find some information for you on Gibraltar and get it together.  ......


(2003/10/19)  That's how I feel right now!  Although my letter to the boss was a request to work off-site at home (there's no technical reason why I shouldn't after all, but politics...), the effect will likely be my summary firing.  I'm not looking forward to going to the office tomorrow.  One of the people at the office, a serious, yet reasonable and fair woman working in another room (who accesses her company mail from home) sent me this:

"I was trying to write you a reply but I cannot.  I am too sad to do it.  Also, one of the addresses you used is our general one shared by everyone in our section.

Very sad."

The address she mentions as being used by "everyone"(?!) is what I thought to be the secretary of the big boss who has an e-mail address, but never accesses it, and so I figured the only way to get the words before him was to send it to his secretary.  In any case, I'm not good at back room deals - so "everyone" may as well read it.  Ms. Megaii's public face being more important to save than disposable me however, I better crank up the job-hunting machinery into high gear.

"Resume Publishing in California & Tokyo"     [Top of page]

Date: Thu, 3 Jul 2003
From: KCM  [US]

Hi!  Things are going ok, I guess.  I still don't have a job, but I am applying to everything under the sun and hoping one of them will give me an interview.  Anyway, I am almost completely moved back home and just vegging out this week.

One problem is the fact that I don't have a car.  I can't go anywhere and bus fares are outrageous.  They were 1.50 the last time I came home.  Well, Aabbb has a new car, a rice rocket, but it's a stick and anyway he lives about 40 minutes away from me.  He's planning on teaching me to drive stick, but probably in my sister's old car.  He's not letting me near the wheel of his new car; I'd be too afraid to do it anyway.

My oldest sister will be moving away in August.  Right now her husband is working in Los Angeles while she takes care of her children.  The twins are almost a year old and they're adorable.  They're already walking and babbling nonsense.  The girl loves to be held.  They're both very attached to their mom, and when they see her, it's a contest to see who can fake-cry the most convincingly to get her attention.

Once my sister moves out, my two other sisters will move into her house.  They haven't told my parents yet.  I might move in with them, since I'd only be asked to pay rent and it would be good to get away from my parents.  But it's in San Ramon, which is pretty far inland, so it also kind of depends on where I get work.  I also need to get insurance (health and driving).  Hmm... I kind of think my parents, or my mom at least, doesn't really want me to get a job just yet, because I told her I would move out once I got a job.  They've been trying to convince me it's a better deal - I don't have to cook, clean, etc.  But they don't realize that I don't care about that kind of stuff; it's the independence I crave.  I like not having a curfew and not being told what to do all the time.

I am also spending way too much time on the computer.  I've been working on some web-pages and I'm editing the LL pages a bit more.  One of my friends is hosting, so hopefully he'll get it set up soon.  [The link to that page is at the bottom of this letter.]


Re:  "I still don't have a job, but I am applying to everything under the sun and hoping one of them will give me an interview."

I call it "resume publishing".  As it becomes easier technologically to send people resumes, companies get more and more of them - paying less and less attention to each one - prompting job hunters to send ever more... leading to ever less attention paid to the individual.

Here in Tokyo, as the job market for English language based jobs (writing, rewriting, editing, translating, teaching) is a limited one and since companies are happy to treat workers as disposable robots, the same companies end up advertising over and over.  This leads to people who have been living in Tokyo for a while sending resumes to companies who have already decided not to hire them.  Sometimes I get letters saying "Don't send us your resume", to which I think "Well stop advertising then!".  I mean... I have to look after all, and I can't remember all of the companies who have advertised in years past, so....     [Top of page]

"Back in the UK from Singapore & Paris"     [Top of page]

Date: Mon, 7 Jul 2003
From: LRE  [UK]

I have no employment here yet, I'm just having a holiday after getting back from Singapore.

Here I am, looking back on my most recent (June 2003) Paris trip.  A good all-round holiday includes a little bit of everything, culture, cuisine, history and - of course - shopping.  Bonus points if you get to visit family and friends.

I had not left Singapore with an easy mind.  It was not the best of times to travel.  Across the world, there was much anxiety over Iraq and SARS.

While I was in France, I noticed that American tourists were not their normal boisterous selves.  Perhaps there were fewer of them?  True, it wasn't the busiest part of summer, but I got the impression that the American tourists I did encounter were more polite and were not speaking quite as loudly as they normally seemed to....

Although Asian tourists from certain nations (Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, China) badly affected by SARS were being restricted entry into a few countries - and some had decided that staying home was a more prudent option - those who did venture to Paris joined the queues to get into Louis Vuitton boutiques, as usual.

One particular Asian airline has now gone so far as to offer generous cash compensation should one contract the disease while flying with them.

Perhaps Louis Vuitton should do the same, my Japanese acquaintance and I both hoped.

My culinary experience this time was rather memorable.  Our friends and neighbors, Aabbb and Bbccc, had us over for dinner one night.  To celebrate my visit, and as spring is the season for lamprey eel, I was treated to a very tantalizing meal.  Cooked with bacon bits, leeks, red wine and the very blood of the eel, it was delicious.  Fortunately, I only found out about the blood part at the end of the feast.  Even more fortunately, I only learned what a lamprey eel looked like a few days later when Aabbb cooked another one for some other friends.

On the history front, I managed a brief tour of the Loire Valley. In the 16th Century, royalty and the nobility built amazing castles in this region, castles that often reflected their whims and fantastic eccentricities. One of the most beautiful, I thought, was Chenonceau castle. Surrounded by a forest and facing superbly tended gardens and practically built on the Cher River, the castle looks like it belongs in a fairy tale.

What I really enjoy about traveling is being able to watch and absorb typical daily life.  In this case, it was stressed Parisians hurrying home after work, chewing on a baguette firmly held under one arm the moment they leave the store; shoppers armed with baskets visiting their favorite markets, stalls lined with an unbelievable selection of cheese, meat, fruit and vegetables; sunbathers basking along the River Seine the moment the sun attempts to make an appearance; mothers and nannies pushing prams in beautiful parks; outdoor cafes lining pavements; and church steeples gracing skylines.

Was there anything I should have - or should not have done - on this trip?  Err, perhaps I shouldn’t have eaten so much.  Then again, that happens every time.

Best regards

LRE     [Top of page]

"Parents..."     [Top of page]

Date: Thu, 10 Jul 2003
From: KCM  [US]


Things at home are ok I guess.  My parents keep criticizing me and somehow expecting me to be grateful for it.  Um, no!  I know they mean well, and they are worried for my well-being, but I really wish they would lay off sometimes.  They have funny ideas of how to dress - they complain of me dressing like a slob when all I do is sit at home anyway.  As if I should be dressing like a professional when I have no interviews to go to.  And then they complain whenever I decide to wear a tank top - it's 90 degrees!  Whoever said parents were rational anyway?


"Working in Gibraltar"     [Top of page]

Date: Thu, 17 Jul 2003
From: TRG  [Gibraltar]

Just to let you know I found a job.  I have landed a nice job in one of the bigger companies in Gibraltar.  I finish my current job on July 31st, and am taking a week's break.  I will be starting the new job on August 11th, and I am so looking forward to it.  It is amazing - since I resigned, even though I was stressed because I hadn't found a job yet, my eczema started clearing up and now it is almost gone.

Anyway, better get back to training my successor (who is sitting on chat lines instead of doing any work, but her father is a friend of my nasty boss, so I am not getting involved!).


"Already Autumn!"     [Top of page]

(2003/10/19)  I took a look at the first title ("Finally Summer") and had to shake my head.  I had thought I'd have more time for working on this, but I ended up spending too much time on a freelance article I wrote for a small local publication.

Sigh... what happens tomorrow morning?  My strongest inclination is just to stay home and never go back there.  It's not that I can't deal with the battle, but working in a sub-office to the main office with only two enemies is a terrifying thing!  They can get together and say anything without any witnesses to testify to the contrary.  I think I'll try to minimize computer time and sit outside the room somewhere physically away from that &$#% sub-office... IF they don't just tell me that I've been fired straight off that is....

Sore dewa!

Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon, Images Through Glass
LLLetters@yahoo.com -
Nishi-Shinjuku, Tokyo
October 19th, 2003 - (IHTBBF/LL321/HRE040614)
[Top of page]