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"Letter-Letter 322"
October 26th, 2003
"Any Job Offers Out There?"
"Looking For Work Blues" by KCM & LHS
"On Trains & In Life" by FTB
"A Seven Hour Flight..."  by PBU
"RAM Over CPU"
"Shakuhachi Flute"  by EBR & LHS
"Medical Woes, Etc."  by Laf
"Movies Outside Hollywood"  by RWD & LHS
"Office War Zone Update"
"Interviews, Cars & Anime" by KCM
"Sento (Public Bathhouse)" by CPK & LHS
"Trains/Trucks & 1937/2003 Money"  by HHE & LHS
"Lucky in Kavala"  by SGV & LHS
"Looking Forward to My New Job"  by TRG
"Writing Transparently"  by CJP & LHS
"Better Than Before?"  by TRG & LHS
"Process of Evolution"  by IAC
"Linked LL-Letter Archive"
"Report From the Baltics" by ELL & LHS
"Bondi Books - Kichijoji"

"Any Job Offers Out There?"     [Top of page]

(2003/10/24 - 12:48 p.m.)  Pen and paper in hand, I am now sitting on a slab of stone (an expensive bench, this!) in front of the Kasumigaseki Building, Japan's first high-rise office building, completed around the same time (1968) and looking somewhat like one of the former World Trade Center towers.

Pen & paper - it's fantastic how you can write with the most rudimentary tools, and the result is already "printed"... already printed, but not so easily reproduced!  I'll have to retype all of this before I can stuff it into the wires towards your computer screen.

Two things are on my mind at the moment - not enough color toner in the office color laser printer, and too much smoke from the nicotine junkies puffing away around me.

Ms. Megaii is trying to save money by not changing the color toner cartridge in the printer.  The machine begs for new toner with its eternally flashing display day after day, and the drafts of the company newsletter look really horrible - the color is streaked and shifted - so much so that the printouts are useless for any kind of color checking.  Relying only on the screen, it's hard to visualize how the a layout will look overall when on paper - which is why they have a new and expensive color laser printer in the first place!  Another casualty of the semi-functioning printer is that a map I put together with a good color balance was trashed by Mr. Prez, because he took one look at the defective color generated by the printer and said that the colors had to be changed.  Mr. Prez being Mr. Prez, no one can explain that the color looked bad because Ms. Stupid Megaii is refusing to change the toner cartridges in the printer, and not because the colors are actually that bad or will look that bad in the final print version.

In desperation, I've taken to printing out A4 sheets of solid color to help it run dry, as Ms. Megaii (I should change her nick-name to "Megawarui"... done!)... as Ms. Megawarui is not going to change the toner cartridges until the machines have gone bone dry and not a trace of color is to be discerned.  Unfortunately, the machine keeps on spitting out heavily flawed color, but isn't going bone dry.  There is progress being made in that direction though - as the streaks in the solid color pages (and photos and other artwork of the newsletter) are becoming more and more obvious.

Worrisome (well... it's not my machine, so I shouldn't care) is that the machine is making odd noises sometimes.  Does it damage a printer to run it on empty toner cartridges over an extended period of time?  Maybe Ms. Megawarui would also run a car engine on the same oil until the engine froze up... to save on oil money!

I've basically given up on that job.  I'll do the best I can under the circumstances, but after letting the sorry conditions of that sub-office be known publicly (their line of thinking, not mine), they will probably get rid of me at their earliest convenience.

Time to go back to the war zone now - Mr. GoodGaijin II's inane and inept editing requests await.  On one hand, I should be happy that my writing skills are better than his (which isn't much of a boast - that guy couldn't write his way out of a burning basement if his feet were on fire), but when you put something together, even if you don't really care about it much, you still don't want to see it butchered.

Any job offers out there?  Hello?  Hello?  Help!!     [Top of page]

"Looking For Work Blues"     [Top of page]

Date: Fri, 18 Jul 2003
From: KCM  [US]

Things are very monotonous for me, I guess.  I read a lot.  And I've been sending my resume to many places but I have yet to hear back from most of them.  It's been very discouraging.  The only positive thing is that a recruiting company contacted me and is going to send my resume to the appropriate people.  *Sigh*  I am starting to wonder if maybe, I'm not even qualified for these entry level positions.  My demands are not very high.  I am looking for something that will pay me in the high twenties (which is a pittance in the Bay Area), give me health and dental and require that I do something more than filing.  Is that too much to ask for?

On the other hand, I am competing with many people who are out of work.  The graduating class of 2003 was the second highest unemployed class, I've heard.  So I have a lot of competition.  Many people are going back to school.  A few of my friends are going into nursing, a field which is currently underemployed.  I don't want to do any of those things.  School made me miserable (even if I enjoyed some of it) and I am too squeamish for nursing.  I've been applying to jobs I think I'm qualified for, but it gets so depressing when no one even writes or calls to acknowledge that I exist.

On the other hand, I have a lot of free time, but not much money.  I try to spend it with friends, although I haven't seen as much of them as I'd like to.  I get to spend more time with Aabbb, although I wish it was more.  That can't be helped.  He lives a good 40-60 minute drive away from me.  Once I get a car, we'll have more options.


I know the feeling all too well, but something will (eventually) come up - just keep the radar on and keep looking.  What with the economy the way it is, even when a company would like to hire more people, they tend to hold off on anything that requires spending more money than they already are.

In the 19 years I've been in Japan, I've been watching the employment situation steadily worsen.  The stages (for native English speakers) have been something like this:

1) A company would advertise in the all-English Japan Times, and when you called, they would ask what country you were from to ascertain whether you were a native speaker of English.  If you were, then they asked you to come visit them right away - no other questions asked.

2) Same as above, except companies started asking questions about background and education before asking someone to go to the company for a face-to-face meeting.

3) Companies began putting fax numbers in their ads and saying "Send us a fax, but don't call".

4) E-mail addresses began to be seen more often than fax numbers, but either way, generally you got some kind of a response when you sent a resume, whether positive or negative, at least you knew people were looking at your submissions.

5) Fewer and fewer companies continued to go to the trouble to respond to submitted resumes, and even began saying in their ads things like "Only successful applicants will be contacted"; "Previous applicants need not apply"; and there were more and more ads in Japanese (in an English language newspaper) for J-nationals only, along with ads in English very blatantly and shamelessly saying "Japanese nationals only".

6) There are now fewer total ads in the paper in the first place, and most places (most!) don't even bother to respond to resumes sent them.     [Top of page]

"On Trains & In Life"     [Top of page]

Date: Sat, 19 Jul 2003
From: FTB  [US]

I saw the comments on the photo you took on the train.  You are correct in saying that everyone thinks his/her situation is worse.  I have to ride the subway to work and it often gets crowded, although since I work at night, I can usually get a seat on the way home.  (When I was working regular daytime hours, it was crowded both going to work and coming home.)

My new assignment is aggravating. I have to collect certain types of mail for certain machines, have to get mail onto the elevator at a certain time, and co-workers I didn't see at the previous office I worked at act mean to me.  The current post office is further away from the nearest subway station than the old place, so it takes me longer to get to work and longer to get home.  My assignment is on the second floor but my locker is on the fourth floor.  The floors are larger than in the earlier post office and since my lunch break is only 30 minutes (as before), I don't have much time to eat.  I hope that the old location will re-open and I'll be able to go back to a schedule with Saturdays and Sundays off.


"A Seven Hour Flight..."     [Top of page]

Subject: aLooooo>---
Date: Mon, 21 Jul 2003
From: PBU  [Pakistan / UK / Pakistan]

I'm here in Pakistan now, finally, after my flight was delayed - turning a quick seven-hour flight into a long 18-hour journey.  I arrived home really tired, jumped in bed and went to sleep, and now I'm feeling better - details later.


Date: Tue, 22 Jul 2003
From: PBU  [Pakistan / UK / Pakistan]

Here is the story.  I started my journey from Jersey, took off at 7am, arrived in London at 8am, took a bus from Gatwick Airport to Heathrow Airport (which took over an hour), then waited a few hours at Heathrow until the next flight to Islamabad, which was scheduled to leave at 5pm and arrive in Islamabad after a seven hour flight.  I was glad I took the more expensive direct flight so I would reach home sooner and feeling fresh.  We boarded the jet and took off on time, the food was nice and it was a comfortable flight.  All was well... until ten minutes before we were due to land in Islamabad, the captain very kindly announced that we were being diverted to Lahore instead.  The passengers were a little bit disappointed and annoyed, but there was nothing we could do but to face the longer indirect flight.  We landed at the Lahore airport just before 6am, when we discovered why our flight had been diverted.

There had been a crash landing at the Islamabad airport just before our scheduled landing, which caused some damage to the runway, resulting in temporary closure of the runway and my flight being diverted.  Some other planes which were supposed to land at Islamabad also were diverted to Lahore, and soon there were a number of jetliners on the ground at Lahore airport, my flight being just one of them.  I'm sure you can imagine what happened next - delay after delay.  I thought that it would only be a matter of time before they would announce that the runway at Islamabad airport had been repaired and was ready to receive flights, but then which planes would be allowed to depart first?

After waiting for seven hours at Lahore airport, we were told that Islamabad airport would not be ready for planes to land there that day, and so PIA (Pakistan International Airlines), arranged bus travel for all of us.  And so we were eventually taken to Islamabad, but the whole thing was not very smooth.

What should have been a quick seven-hour journey home became a long 19-hour journey.  Midway, I managed to inform my parents that they didn't have to meet me at the airport and that I was okay.

I eventually arrived home really tired, but after jumping in bed and sleeping for many hours, the next day we all woke up feeling better.  Is it worth complaining about?  Considering how airlines are, there's probably no point in saying anything!

Anyway, I'm safe at home now!

PBU     [Top of page]

"RAM Over CPU"     [Top of page]

I read Mark Twain's book "Life on the Mississippi" in paperback form way back... back... back... in the far distant past that reminds me how old I am and that time relentlessly goes on - for good or ill.  Finding the book at a university's site on line, I was given the choice to either look at it chapter by chapter, or to open the entire thing, which consisted of one 1.1MB html file that linked to 327 image files of illustrations from the book - the whole thing only 23MB.  I initially tried this on a P-IV 2GHz/256MB machine, and the only way I could get it to open was to downsize the browser window (Mozilla 1.4, BTW) to a fifth of the full screen size.  Trying the same thing on a C-III 466/512MB computer, it opened up in a full size window (after taking a little while to load), and worked great, but I was surprised to see that that 23MB file combination was using over 300MB of system RAM!!

I mention the technical details, because while I recommend saving such a treasure onto your hard drive, be sure to have a lot of system memory to work with!  In this case the P-IV 2,000MHz processor of the first machine I tried to open it with offered no advantages over the old Celeron 466MHz machine that I subsequently opened it with.  Memory was the key - 256MB wasn't enough - 512MB was.

"Shakuhachi Flute"     [Top of page]

Subject: Re: "Between the Old and the New"
Date: Sat, 26 Jul 2003  +0200
From: EBR  [Germany]

.....  Does the shakuhachi flute play a big role in modern times?  Do you see people playing it in the streets, like the wandering monks of the past?


The shakuhachi - what one of my dictionaries refers to as "a (five-holed) vertical bamboo flute" and another as "a five-holed bamboo clarinet" - do they play a big role in modern society?  In a word - no.  As a part of Japan's culture, it will live on I think, but the vast majority of people here never listen to it at all.  When I bought a few shakuhachi CDs in the late 80's and made a tape for a friend, both his Japanese friends and mine commented that shakuhachi music reminds them of old samurai movies, most of which left them with dark and gloomy feelings - dark and gloomy feelings which are unwelcome and thus shakuhachi music, by association, is something that makes them feel "dark and gloomy".  It's unfortunate, because the sound of a shakuhachi can be quite nice.

Outsiders such as myself, not having grown up with old black and white samurai movies on TV, are much more likely to appreciate the instrument than locals do.  This situation was comically evident when I went to see a foreign friend's shakuhachi group perform at a recital.  There were several groups performing... and only the people in the foreign group with a foreign teacher(!) were wearing formal Japanese clothing!!  The locals were wearing suits and other western clothing as they played the shakuhachi.  (No problem with that of course - in fact that type of clothing being pretty much used everywhere, it ought not to be called "western" anyway.)  Nevertheless, the fact that only the all-foreign group was wearing traditional Japanese clothing was pretty funny to see!  Funny, but something to think about - as it illustrates an aspect to Japan that people who have never been here don't generally understand; that foreigners are often (generally, usually?) more interested in traditional Japanese things than the locals are!

"Medical Woes, Etc."     [Top of page]

Date: Sat, 26 Jul 2003
From: Laf  [US]

.....  It has been a bit frantic around here.

The big “Aabbb-Laf-Ccddd birthday party was a great success!  This year we had a karaoke party extraordinaire!  Not only did we have all of the family singers, we also had about ten of our friends we sing with - the sensational ones.  The neighbors sure got a treat that day.  [Editor's note: "A treat"?  Seriously or sarcastically?]  All of us were picking out music for each other, and we all had a great time.

Now, on to the rest of the news.  It mainly falls under the heading of “Health”, so I'll present it person by person.

Ddeee and Aabbb were working this past week installing a central air conditioner.  They had to put the main part in an attic ten feet in the air.  They chose to take it up with ropes and pulleys, and Ddeee was on the ladder pulling it up while Aabbb was beneath it.  Just as Ddeee was actually pulling it through the opening, the straps gave.  Yup!  The darn thing fell all ten feet.  Yes, Aabbb was under it.  Ddeee yelled just as he felt it go.  Thankfully Aabbb had time to mostly get out of the way.  It missed his head, but scraped all the way down his left arm.  It almost looks like he was in a battle.  Of course, he refused to go to the doctor when he did it.  Ddeee said it bled like a “stuck pig” (his words, not mine).  I was not impressed, but very very grateful that he was okay.  He went around telling everyone that Ddeee had tried to kill him.  I think it absolutely terrified Ddeee....

Thursday, Eefff had her tonsils and adenoids removed.  They decided to do the surgery after finding black spots on her adenoids.  Actually, the doctor said that the tonsils and adenoids had joined forces with her asthma to start causing what looks like sleep apnea.  Poor kid.  The doctor came out after the surgery and told us that the tonsils and adenoids looked horrible.  They are going to do an overnight test next week, I think, to determine if she really has sleep apnea and if they need to put her on a machine at night.  She went through the surgery fine.  She is such a little “trooper”.  Actually, after surgery, she was giving everyone that “ugly” look of hers.  The one we refer to as “The Look”.  Without words, she lets everyone know she is not pleased.

What a week!  I am having surgery on my right knee Monday.  I have a tear in the cartilage of the knee - part of the meniscus.  The orthopedic surgeon told me that it is one of the most vulnerable pieces of cartilage in the body, that a twist is worse than a direct hit.  Go figure!  Since the trip up north in May I have been going through a nightmare.  This was due in large part to my primary physician (HMO term for general practitioner).  It took her over two months to finally refer me to the surgeon, then she has made it as difficult as possible to actually get the proper care.  The orthopedic surgeon immediately ordered the MRI.  It showed that I have osteoarthritis in that knee (no surprise) and the tear.  He recommended surgery, and Aabbb and I concurred.  Then I had to go through the gauntlet of pre-op testing with the primary.

Anyway, I go to an outpatient facility on Monday morning.  They will be doing orthoscopic surgery on the knee, and I should be home in a couple of hours.  (Fortunately they will be using a general anesthetic - I have no interest in being awake while they do the procedure.)  I will then be on crutches or a walker for about a week.  After that, I will be mobile again.  I start physical therapy (known to those who know and love it as “Physical Torture”) the day after surgery, and the surgeon expects to have me back on my feet in a week.

Laf     [Top of page]

"Movies Outside Hollywood"     [Top of page]

Date: Sat, 26 Jul 2003
From: RWD  [Bandung-Indonesia]

.... What I know of Japanese movies, is The Ring Trilogy.  I know that the movie was made a little while ago, but it only really hit the road just earlier this year.  It seems there are many Asian movies playing in cinemas now.


It would stand to reason that there should be more movies being made outside Hollywood - what with things going digital, it should be easier to put movies together than it used to be, and at lower cost.  That's a great thing I think.  It's not healthy for such a large proportion of movies to be coming from only one place.  At the same time I hope to see more movies made in more places, I also hope that people will watch each other’s movies and not only their own.  Watching movies made in France and Japan while I was in the US showed me another way of thinking, and - even though I couldn't understand French or Japanese at the time, the sound of the languages somehow conveyed something of the feel of the culture where the movies were made.

"Office War Zone Update"     [Top of page]

(2003/11/22  17:30)  The job... is sort of going okay, but since Mr. Hikoki (the manager) is acting coolly towards me, I suspect that they will just say "goodbye" when the current contract runs out at the end of next month.  That might not be a bad thing, but the job market is really tight right now.  In one response to a resume I sent, the letter said that they were "inundated" with resumes and that it would take some time for them to sort through them and get back to me.  "Inundated" - I think that's the first time I've heard that specific term used.  Inundated... hoo, boy....

Any job offers out there?  Hello?  Hello?  Help!!

"Interviews, Cars & Anime"     [Top of page]

Date: Sat, 26 Jul 2003
From: KCM  [US]

.......  It's been kind of an insane week for me, but I have three job interviews lined up for next week!  Which kind of rocks.  Before I didn't think I had any options, now I at least have the possibility of work.

One is for an advertising representative position, another is for a shady marketing firm, and the other is a graphic designer position.  The only drawback is that they are all far away from Oakland.  Two of them are in San Jose.

Currently I am learning to drive stick, so it'll be awhile before I can master the freeways.  I have enough trouble getting into first.  There's a whole drama attached to the car, too.  My sister is selling me the car for $800, which my parents will pay for.  But Aabbb thinks I'm getting ripped off, as the car is old, has about 180,000 miles on it and the air conditioning is broken.  Also, he doesn't understand why my sister, whose husband is an engineer, would want to charge me money for the car.  My sister said it would cost about $1,000 to fix it, but the solution for now is to replace the freon or whatever is in the air conditioning with a cheap substitute that will eventually leak.  I'm not planning on keeping the car more than a year or two, and I don't want this drama.  I just want a car.  So currently I am at a loss as to what to do.

..... [About Miyazaki movies]  I think he's incredible.  So far my favorites are a tie between 'Spirited Away' and 'Nausicaa'.  I think he's one of the few people who has a very distinct vision that doesn't resort to stereotyping or stock plots and characters, which plague most anime.


"Sento (Public Bathhouse)"     [Top of page]

Date: Sat, 26 Jul 2003
From: CPK  [US]

[Regarding the combination photo I sent with the public bathhouse in it.]... I don’t mean to be stupid, but what exactly is the purpose of a public bathhouse?  Is it sort of therapeutic like a spa thing?  I would think being constantly surrounded by people would make one rather bathe alone.


The public bathhouses originally got going when people didn't have baths in their houses, so if you wanted to take a bath, that's where you had to go.  A friend of mine from the US who was living in Yutenji used to complain to me about it.  He and his wife rented an apartment with really cheap rent, in a nice area, but didn't have a bath, and if he got home later than about 9:45 p.m., he was too late to take a bath because the local bathhouse was closed.  Some older people who now have their own bath at home still like to go to the local public bath though - both as a way of meeting friends and for nostalgic reasons.  There are fewer and fewer public baths in Tokyo though - so I think it will get to the point where they are only at hot spring resorts.

"Trains/Trucks & 1937/2003 Money"     [Top of page]

Date: Sun, 27 Jul 2003  -0500
From: HHE  [US]

[About the photo of the crowded Tokyo train]  ......  I've ridden the subways in New York City, but not a train in many years.  Actually, the last train rides I took were in Britain, in the 70's, from Liverpool to London.  Quite enjoyable trips those were.  An interesting sidelight - Europe has an excellent passenger train system, which is far superior to the one in the US.  The reverse is true vis-a-vis freight train transportation.  How are most goods conveyed in Japan?  Is the freight train concept dying or already dead?  Trucks are the main conveyance for companies shipping goods across Europe and England.

Back to the health problem(s) and lack of discussion.  My observation is that most people under 40 don't think much about their health.  They do concern themselves with the health of their children, sometimes obsessively so.  Maybe I was the same, but my memory is I was not.

Most people here seem to have their children engaged in what I consider to be too many activities (observation: parents seem to be mostly unpaid chauffeurs for their children - soccer, baseball, basketball, football) which doesn't allow younger children to be children - exploring the boundaries of their small, expanding universe.  I know that is a function of the time in which we live.

In the Dark Ages, when I was young, we had no television to mesmerize us, few toys (my four-year old twin California grandsons have a PRODIGIOUS number of toys, which was greatly supplemented by their four year birthday party while we were there) and had to invent ways to entertain ourselves.  Our parents, mine anyway, didn't have to worry about us, and explore we did.

Ah, but I digress.  I find myself doing quite a bit of that as I approach octogenarian status.  I had a very good childhood even though we didn't have much in the way of material things.

Another digression - when my dad lost his home and secondary business in the Great Depression, we moved to Gonzales, Texas and rented a large house for $10 per month from a Dr. Dunning.  In about 1937, the doctor raised the rent to $12 (20% my dad said!), so we moved.  All things are relative, are they not?

Oh, well, I'm wandering and I need to move along, so I'll end this.


Freight trains in Japan are still in existence, but there seem to be fewer and fewer of them as nearly everything is shipped by truck these days.  The new Shiodome area with several expensive new office towers was built on land that used to be a freight yard.  They tore up the tracks, sold the land, and now there's not a trace of what the land was used for before.

I grew up with television (black and white - my father didn't want to waste money on a color set), but I also spent a lot of time playing outside in the yard, climbing trees, etc.  Here in Tokyo these days, you don't see many children playing outside.  More often than not, playgrounds are empty and sometimes you wonder at the lonely feeling to what should be active areas.  Japanese women are having fewer and fewer children (there are vast numbers of single working women here in their twenties and thirties who live with their parents and are quite happy to stay single) and the families with children are also getting them involved in this or that activity.  Even when kids might be playing outside, people are more reluctant to let them out when they imagine an empty playground without many other children around.

About the $10 a month rent.  It sounds ridiculously cheap, but then again, the actual value of $10 in 1937 was vastly more than $10 in 2003.  Probably the figure should be multiplied by 50 or so?  If so, then 1937 $10 would be 2003 $500, and 1937 $12 would be 2003 $600.  Someone today facing an extra $100 to pay for rent might well want to move.

Number comparisons - I feel the same way about numbers of people.  There will be an outdoor concert in Tokyo where - say - 10,000 people show up and the TV announcers are making a big deal of it: "Ten-thousand people!  Wow... so many have turned out!"  But what percentage of 30,000,000 is 10,000?  It's a tiny fraction of the total pie.  It would be more meaningful overall to state what percentage of the population of a city is doing something.  It's the same with money - in comparing old prices with new, a value-of-money adjustment has got to be made, because the actual value of the money has completely changed.     [Top of page]

"Lucky in Kavala"     [Top of page]

Date: Mon, 28 Jul 2003  +0300
From: SGV  [Greece]

After seeing the pictures you sent, I think I feel lucky that we don't have trains in Kavala.  We have two ports (the old one inside town and the new one 10km away for cargo), an airport, the Egnatia Motorway, and... I go to work on foot or by car and it's only 5-10 minutes from my house.

We do have a dotto train (www.dottotrains.com/boxnp.html) in town though that takes old people to the old part of the city in the Panagia area, which has very narrow streets.  You need to be in good shape to go up there on foot.

The closest train stations are in Drama (50 kilometers north of here) and in Xanthi (80 kilometers to the east).

That's all for now.  Back to work.


In reading over SGV's letter, I looked up the city names and ended up spending a lot of time looking at the photos and thinking "Now that looks very nice - warm, blue & white, relaxed and not crawling with people....".  There was a funny line on a web-page about Drama:

"Of course, the word Drama has both in Greek and in English a very different meaning. So it is very common to hear people from other places to say something like life in Drama must be drama, i.e. tragedy. Try to avoid saying that; you don't really want to know how 'original' your joke is!"

It reminds me of a joke about a city near Tokyo called "Soka".  In conversational Japanese, "so-ka" means "Is that so?", so people from Soka tend to have the following conversation over and over every time they meet someone new:

New Person: "So, where are you from?"

Soka Resident: "Soka City"

New Person: "Ah... soka!"  (i.e. "Ah... is that so?"

Soka Resident: "I've been listening to people say that lame joke for 20 years now...."

Naturally, the final response of the poor Soka resident depends on who they are talking to!  To their boss, they would laugh like it was the funniest joke they've ever heard while smiling and beaming out "My - aren't you clever to think of that, Mr. Boss?!"  To an outsider like me that is safe to insult, they basically roll their eyes and fire the heavy guns for the maximum level of damage.  And so, the safe targets get more than their fair share of anger....

In any case, here are a couple of sites for two of the cities in Greece that SGV mentions:

Kavala, Greece

Drama, Greece
www.cs.sunysb.edu/~kostas/Drama/     [Top of page]

"Looking Forward to My New Job"     [Top of page]

Date: Mon, 28 Jul 2003  +0100
From: TRG  [Gibraltar]

My In-Box is such a mess!!!!!  Where does all the junk mail come from?  The worst thing is, that nowadays there is e-mail with subject lines that might be real mail!

I have been really lucky I found a job.  You know what I was saying about manana syndrome - well, I applied for a job by post, to an office that I have to walk past every day to get to work.  The letter took twelve days to get there... in a country that is only 3 1/2 miles long!!!!  The company is one of the top local companies here; they had already interviewed everyone and then they received my letter.  They really liked the look of my CV and asked me to an interview that day.

I went there and was interviewed by the personnel manager, who then called in the senior partner.  He had already heard about me from a previous boss I used to have and had been trying to track me down for years when he heard that I no longer worked for that firm!!!!  The next day they called me back and made me an offer - as I had already resigned from my current job, I was open to any money offers, so they offered me 1,000 pounds per annum less than my current job, but the hours are less, so I will actually be earning more on an hourly basis.

I finish my notice period on Thursday, then I am taking a week's break and will be going to Nerja in Spain, which is on the Costa, but not as commercial as the normal Costa del Sol - much more Spanish.  Then I come back and start my new job on the 11th of August.  I am really looking forward to it, as yet another person resigned last week from the service provider's office and now our head office is starting to question if it's really worth keeping the Gibraltar office open as the MD can't seem to keep the staff.

I will totter off now, and see if I can sort through some of my mail.


"Writing Transparently"     [Top of page]

"Date: Mon, 28 Jul 2003
From: CJP  [Canada]

Tell you what, if I manage to finagle that writing grant, I'll make sure I have at least a day stopover at Tokyo/Narita.  I'd actually like to visit Tokyo proper at some point - perhaps if I manage to create a series out of this project (har!).  Not holding my breath, mind you, the whole global village scenario really tends to make people presumptuous and assuming when it comes to other countries.  We'll see.

The main problem I see with this whole idea is that I'm a fairly critical, blunt individual.  When it comes to white males age 18-30 criticizing other cultures... well, there's an overtone there that I can already guess will be applied to any work I do end up producing.  But if I can actually produce thoughtful, intelligent writing, that really shouldn't be an issue, right?  Right.

Regarding that picture you sent out just recently, it seemed very abstract.  Possibly just a result of the resolution of my screen, but I had a difficult time understanding what I was looking at.  Was this a desired result, or..?


(The picture was the combination one with the silhouette of the building on a blurred green background and with four small photos in the corners.)  Abstract and difficult to decipher as a desired effect?  Somewhat - but I had thought that the vital parts were clear enough - perhaps I was wrong?  Sometimes it's better for something not to be overly clear though.  The truth will be revealed through careful observation?

"Better Than Before?"     [Top of page]

Date: Tue, 29 Jul 2003  +0100
From: TRG  [Gibraltar]

See - I told you my mailbox was a mess - I hadn't realized that I had already told you about the new job!!!  [LL-321]

Fingers crossed that you find work you love very soon.  I guess it must be harder for you with you not being Japanese, I don't mean that personally to you, but one would imagine that preference would go to people from there, even though you have been a resident there for so long.

At least you seem a lot happier than when you were in that other place where they kept spraying that glue, I couldn't believe that story!


True enough - just about anywhere would be better than that place, but it's a similar situation in some ways.  There is a fundamental problem in that the racists very firmly believe that I am exempt from being treated like a human being, because... well... I'm not!   I'm a red barbarian, and a cheeky red barbarian that thinks it's a human being no less!  Can you imagine?!  (Extreme sarcasm there, but probably far more descriptive of the actual mind-set than I care to dwell on overly much.)

"Process of Evolution"     [Top of page]

Date: Wed, 30 Jul 2003  +0530
From: IAC  [India]

I know that Japanese are caught between their own old culture and modern technology.  That is but natural.  No one culture is great.  Neither the English, American, Hindu or Islam cultures.  Everything is a process of evolution.  Way back 50 years ago, I saw Akira Kurosawa's Rasho Man - I was so impressed that I saw it four days in succession.  26 years later I became an actor, and have been one for the last 24 years.  That was a landmark film and Toshiro Mifune is still in my memory.


"Linked LL-Letter Archive"     [Top of page]

As you may have noticed at the end of LL-321, there was a link to a site KCM put up that includes some of the back issues of the LL-Letters:

I took another look today and noticed that KCM has put links on many of the place names and terminology, so you can read something about Kashiwa, for example, and click on "Kashiwa" to get information on that city.  Or click on the Joban Line to see where that train line is.  It's a great idea, and enables you to get quick information on things as you read.  The only thing to be careful of is the ever-present danger of getting sidetracked!  I clicked on "Kobe earthquake" in the first paragraph of LL-160, and ended up spending the next 45 minutes looking at a fascinating site that details that event and the damage done to buildings, etc.

All these years... I've been using expensive dial-up time to use the Internet, and only now am finally getting used to really using the Internet for freely getting information - one year after getting ADSL.

"Report From the Baltics"     [Top of page]

Date: Thu, 31 Jul 2003
From: ELL  [Estonia / Latvia / Estonia]

After reading in LL-320 that you currently have about 1,500 people subscribed to your mailing list, I'm pretty sure that receiving a letter from one of the 1,500 who hasn't found the time to contribute in years will hardly ring a bell. :)  Nevertheless, I thought that, as I have to write you anyway to notify you of a change in my e-mail address, I will add in some extra information about what has been going on in these parts of the world.

Personally I have finally managed to graduate with a BS degree in Economics and Business this spring... I say finally because I studied for one year at Tartu University in Estonia, and then changed to a hip business school in Riga, Latvia (without the possibility of utilizing credits already received).  I also had to postpone writing my thesis by a year, so all together I sort of ended up loosing two years in the process.

With the study part of life over (for now at least), it was time to start my professional career.  Actually I started working already at the beginning of 2002 when I was in-between the actual courses and the thesis writing process.  I was fortunate enough to have two internships in one quite nice recruiting and HR consulting company, so they offered me a permanent job there once I was able to take on a full time position.  My position was one of a junior consultant in the area of building salary systems and conducting salary surveys.  The consulting market being rather slow though, and with HR consultancy being held in even lesser regard, the assignments were scarce and the tasks I had to do instead made me hate it quite soon, so I quit by the end of August last year.

For a month or even a little longer I felt I didn't even want to look for another job, then the time came to start writing the bachelor thesis (which I did occasionally), and soon enough I also started applying for vacancies that seemed reasonably interesting.  I actually used to think that the stories of the difficulty of finding a job in Estonia were greatly exaggerated, but now I think there is some truth to them.  I ended up rather intensely looking for one for more than six months.  Managed to get my thesis done and over with in the meantime, graduate, and now finally I'm working for one of the leading supermarket chains in Tallinn as Space Manager, which is a position responsible for drawing up shelf plans regarding if a product will fit on the shelf at all, or how much of it should be displayed in order for it to end up in an optimal position.  Kind of a boring thing actually, especially as space managers have no authority at all at the place I work.

Of course I applied to quite a few positions before I finally got accepted to the above-mentioned one, so after already working here for about a month, I got invited to an interview for another position I had applied to.  I decided that I would at least check it out, because by no means is my current position ideal.  It turned out that I was also the best candidate for this latter position, the salary would be about 20% higher, and I'd get to work on an EU related project, which could come in pretty handy in the future....  So although it's pretty painful to leave a job after just two months - having just settled in somewhat and gotten to know my colleagues etc., I came to the conclusion that in the long run, it's probably best to go for the new job.  I'm going to submit my resignation next week, but meanwhile I get nauseous every time I think about it.

In Estonia, the most debated issue in general at the moment is the public referendum on EU accession, which will take place on the 14th of September.  Estonia has so far been the most skeptical of the candidate countries, and although the proportion of people favoring accession has constantly risen - despite the debates both in favor and against accession - there is still a possibility that the outcome will be negative, so therefore the newest tactics in the fight have been to speculate how devastating a negative decision would be, due to discontinued help and funding from the EU.

I would personally like to vote against accession, but on the other hand, I feel the best outcome would be to have a positive decision towards accession.  My own opinion is based on all the pointless bureaucracy the accession will bring along, and an inevitable loss of national identity.  I think for our nation it might be wiser not to join, but from a more selfish point of view, considering my own future and the future of my children (if I should have some one day), I believe that being part of the EU is the only way to go for Estonia.  The gains from getting easier access to the resources of the EU - be it education or the labor market - will overshadow the negative effects by far.  So, despite being a somewhat socially responsible person and trying to think of more things than just my own personal consideration, I will have to vote in favor rather than against.

That's all for now. I hope my next report about life in the Baltics will reach you sooner rather than later.


It has been awhile, but I certainly remember ELL - who always wrote very interesting letters, and I'm quite happy to get another one!  In fact I've been wondering how you are, ELL....  Sorry for taking so long to get this into the LL.  If I can only find someone to sponsor this project so I can quit the day job and just work on this all the time, then things will speed up considerably....     [Top of page]

"Bondi Books - Kichijoji"     [Top of page]

As I mentioned in a separate e-mail with a combination photo:

"..... the bottom photos are of the world premiere retailing of "The LL-Letters", the book version of LL-250 - LL-258."

- and -

"I recently discovered an English language bookstore in Kichijoji called Bondi Books, which is the first bookstore in the world to carry: 'The LL-Letters' by Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon & Friends (book from of LL-250 - LL258).  www.bondibooks.com"

I suppose I got carried away with the wording "world premiere retailing of..." - especially since I was thinking of bookstore retailing as opposed to via-mail retailing.  There have been a low number of books sold via physical mail (I don't like the term snail-mail - it's too big of an insult to what is actually a great system), but, until now, none of the books have been sitting in a retail shop sitting on a shelf awaiting customers.  That's what I meant by "world premiere".  I apologize for the confusion my wording caused and must now say that the book I refer to isn't the second one, but rather is the one I printed two years ago.

Two years ago, with content from 1999 (I didn't want to put the battle tales from that wacky PR company in there while I was still working there).  1999... before the spam blizzard, before the fall of the WTC towers, etc. etc.  A time when people were reaching out to the world via e-mail.  Contrast that with today - a time when most people are desperately trying to stop the vicious spam attacks on their in-boxes with ever-higher barriers.  I look at the daily attack of junk I get and have to wonder if the purpose of it is to sell something to brain-dead neanderthals, or to hinder the free exchange of information.  I don't want to believe the later, and probably don't really, but there is always a reason for everything - often very bad reasons, but reasons nevertheless.

Oops... sorry to go off on that tangent.  It's just that I have to spend so much time wading through junk myself, combined with what I hear from my friends who are trying to escape the spam attackers, that I find myself wondering at the root causes of things.

Anyway - that's about it for this one.  If you're in Kichijoji, check out Bondi Books!

Until next time.

Sore dewa!

Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon, Images Through Glass
LLLetters@yahoo.com - Nishi-Shinjuku, Tokyo
November 25th, 2003 - (IHTBBF/LL322)
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