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June 3rd - July 12, 2004

"Teaching English Again, Etc."
"City Order"  by APR & LHS
"New Website"
"Trip to Portland"  by KCM & LHS
"Changing & Repeating Times"  by HHE & LHS
"Another Leap"
"Sounds About Right..."  by CBG
"Tanabata 2004"
"New E-Mail, Old Car"  by KCM
"Heads Down!"  by SGV & LHS
"Declining Populations & Dismal Quality Text"  by KCM & LHS
"Web-TV & Staying in Touch"  by AJD & LHS
"Search for The LL-Letter Via Google" by APP & LHS
"Commencement Ceremony & G-Mail" by KCM & LHS
"New Cultures & Large-screen TVs" by CBG & LHS
"Looking for a Car & The Far West" by KCM & LHS
"Weather Details"  by APR & LHS
"Thanks, No Thanks - May 2004"
"A Timeless Tale of Woe"  by SZS & LHS
"What's Going On? - An Answer"
"Having Fun at Work in California"  by KCM
"Anthropology via Contracts"

"Teaching English Again, Etc."     [Top of page]

(2004/06/25)  Teaching English again.  I taught the second lesson of a short course a man is taking prior to being transferred over to Europe for a period of several years.  After the lesson, while he was talking with one of the people from the school, in answer to her question "So how is it going?", he replied that he doesn't feel that he's able to express himself well enough....

Hmm... that's strange.  I've already taught him twice, he should be ready for acting parts in major Hollywood movies by now, or able to give prime-time speeches without notes, etc.  Two lessons!  That's more than enough.  Yes, you do indeed detect extreme sarcasm here!  I stood there looking at the guy yesterday evening and I had a flashback to 1984 when I first began teaching English and got the feeling that students were expecting me to come in, place my hands over their heads, and instantaneously program them into fluent speakers on the spot.  It's a really strange thing - the fact that learning a foreign language is a rather difficult and time-consuming prospect is always ignored and everyone happily makes money by promising what they cannot possibly deliver.

What else is news... an interview for a copywriting position, a trial translation for a translating position, and....  Ah!  Remember the PR agency of toxic stray fame?  I think they might be effectively blacklisting me.  Back when I still worked there, I used to help the owner/operator of that agency with his e-mail, and when people wrote to him about former employees, he would gleefully trash them - so it's not hard to imagine he's still acting as he always has.  Also, while not scientific, I seem to get more responses to resumes sent out stating my work experience but not actually mentioning that specific agency's name.  Work-wise, I suppose I should have taken my dose of toxic air and not tried to get them to obey the law of the land and the law of decent common (uncommon?) sense.  But if your health is destroyed, then what good is money?

By the time you read this, the following will be history, so I'll go ahead and put in a bit of text that is part of the interview process for the ad agency.  I was given a choice of one of the following topics and told to e-mail my text to them in a few days:

 - Communication tools and lifestyles
 - Consumer video cameras in the HDTV age
 - Wireless LAN in business and home environments

I choose the first of those and ended up writing something that will as likely as not disqualify me from the position.  I didn't start writing with that intent, but that's what ended up coming out.  In the interview, they stressed that the job would be a typical Tokyo office job with lots of overtime, so I ended up addressing that issue in a roundabout way:

Communication Tools and Lifestyle

Communication is an ongoing process.  With each progressive step taken, the way we live changes in line with the way we communicate.  With each technological leap forward, we are initially amazed by the new opportunities made available via the technology and then, as we soon grow accustomed to our new tools, devices such as telephones become as normal as the sun rising in the eastern sky....  In one sense, it's a travesty that so many of us take technology as for granted as we do, but it's also a testament to the high quality of modern machines that we are able to do so.

The increased ability to communicate has led, in many cases, to a bit too much incoming information!  Technology has provided some answers - voice messaging and filtering for our e-mail to mention just two examples, but it's an on-going process of creating new technology, experimenting with it, growing used to it, and then fine-tuning its use.

The truly revolutionary aspect to the advances made in communication tools is the freedom of location they provide.  A person can live in one location while doing work for people in another.  Carried to its logical conclusion, this could be an answer to the unpleasant crush-rush train commutes that so many unhappily endure from Monday through Friday for decades of their lives....  Until now, our communication devices have been used nearly exclusively to obtain increased productivity, but the time is approaching when they will also begin to benefit our lifestyles through increased leisure time and reduced work load.

Lyle Saxon

So - what do you think?  Am I stupid?  Brilliant?  Mediocre?  How about Frustrated!  Yes, I am a frustrated man!  For a writing job, why-o-why-o-why won't companies join the 21st century and let poor bipeds escape the awful morning crush-rush trains and work from home?  Why won't they?  Why?

(2004/07/04/ 09:49)  Something I hadn't thought of was pointed out to me after showing that to someone out there on the wires - they asked me how I felt about out-sourcing to whatever country has the lowest wages....  I really should have thought of that, but I was overly focused on the possibility of working from home.  Come to think of it, I even have first hand experience with that.  Back around 1997, one of the companies I was working for used to fax me things to rewrite, write and sometimes translate.  I kept pressuring them to start using e-mail, which they finally did, and once they did, they stopped sending me things.  It turns out that it was cheaper to have someone in the US do it, and the transmission costs being identical, why waste money on yours truly?  Hmmm..... I'm a victim of extreme-distance outsourcing and I didn't even realize it.     [Top of page]

"City Order"     [Top of page]

Subject: Re: Rain
From: APR  [Portugal]
Date: Sun, 30 May 2004  +0100

......  Correct me if I am wrong - in spite of the high population density of Tokyo, life there must be more bearable due to it being well organized.  I mean, in August I will go to Brazil and will visit my friends in Sao Paulo.  This is a city about the size of Tokyo and although I haven't been to Tokyo, I can tell you that life in Sao Paulo (I was there four years ago) is very, very stressful!

It is almost summer here.  Unlike the Japanese climate, we have a Mediterranean-like climate here - which means it usually only rains in winter and almost never in the summer.

Sore dewa!


(2004/07/05 13:14)  I've never been to Sao Paulo, but from pictures I've seen, I'm really not too sure if it's a higher or lower pressure city than Tokyo.  Tokyo is well organized in some ways.  Certainly the city is wired and piped from corner to corner, but construction over the decades hasn't always been done with very careful planning.  Certainly a lot of thought goes into individual buildings, and in fact, if you have a very close look at individual buildings here, there are many interesting styles.  On the other hand, most areas almost look like you took a collection of all types of everything (residential, office, factory), shook it up in a big box, and then dumped it out.  That effect is improving as older things are torn down and more modern structures take their places, but still, it's hard to say what architecture clearly defines Tokyo.

Personally, if I had to name one aspect of the city that defines it for me, it would be the very extensive train and subway system.  Certainly the train system is what holds this city of 30,000,000 together (never mind the lower population figure for Tokyo city (Tokyo-to) only, Kanagawa-ken, Saitama-ken and Chiba-ken are effectively part of the same whole.  There is no physical space between them and the vast majority of people living in the suburbs commute into central Tokyo for work), without the trains, it just wouldn't function well at all.  How is Sao Paulo for public transportation?  I would imagine that no city on the planet has quite as extensive a train system as does Tokyo - and it's doubly amazing when you consider that it runs like clockwork most of the time.     [Top of page]

"New Website"     [Top of page]

(2004/06/03 21:37)  I've spent many hours trying to upload things onto a website today, with a few small successes, but mostly a long string of error messages, especially ones saying "No such file or directory" (I think... I'm writing that from memory).  I've gotten to where I can easily transfer files to and from one site, but the page I tried to set up isn't displaying the photos I put in it.  I'm not sure why.

Not long after that, I finally figured it out and sent out the following message to everyone:

Subject: LL-Website Announcement
From: "Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon"
Date: Thu, 10 Jun 2004 07:32:57 +0900

Hello from early morning Tokyo!

I have some news.  I finally put up a website for the LL-Project and also for some of my photos.  If you could, would you please have a look and then tell me what your impression of the site is?  Here's the site address:


It's not a big deal to have a website I suppose, but personally it feels like a big deal.  I've been wanting to have one for a while now and I just hadn't gotten past the FTP uploading process.  (Typical computer deal - impossible when you don't know how and easy when you do!)

About the site - the appearance of it will vary depending on your screen resolution settings.  Most relatively new computers (those not older than - say... three or four years) should display the main front-page photo and the six links below it, but if your monitor is set to a lower resolution, then you may have to scroll down a little for the links.  Either way, it should work, but with a low-resolution monitor, the balance of size that I designed the site at will be changed.  I made the assumption (correct I hope) that most people now have higher resolution settings in place.

The site address itself is not an easy one to manually enter - especially with that "~" symbol in there (not my choice - the provider stuck me with that), so it would be best to get to the site either by clicking on the link above or copy-pasting it in, and then to bookmark the main page for future reference.  This will be a way to see the LL-Letters if you don't get one for whatever reason - an important consideration now, what with the spam-blizzard-damaged e-mail system that results in full In Boxes, canceled accounts, and sloppy anti-spam attempts by providers that inevitably result in collateral damage (deletion) of legitimate e-mail....

The other point of the site is that it's a way to have photos posted that you can more easily see than having them sent to you within an e-mail.  Increasingly e-mail providers are blocking any kind of attachment anyway, so it's becoming impossible to send pictures to many people.  So, from here out - I'll just send text to you and then include a link to the site when there are new photos posted.  Then nothing heavy goes to your In Box and you can view the site from any Internet computer.

Feedback welcome!

Sore dewa!


LL-Project site:

(2004/06/29 17:31)  Now that I know how to upload things and finally have my own site.  The next step is to become more skillful at creating webpage designs, which could conceivably land me a job, if the advertisements I see for website designers are any indication.     [Top of page]

"Trip to Portland"     [Top of page]

This next one discusses some ideas for somehow making the LL-Project pay for itself.  I'm not at all confident that I should be including it in here, but it's something to ponder - not necessarily in the narrow sense of what I'm personally going to do, but as a way that some writers are making a living in the 21st century.... - LHS

Subject: hi
From: KCM  [US]
Date: Thu, 03 Jun 2004

I should be going to sleep soon, but I just received your LL and skimmed through it quickly.  I'm sorry to hear about your employment troubles - I hope everything works out for you.

One suggestion I do have, is that you set up a Paypal account at http://www.paypal.com and stick a donation link on your website.  I know you're probably the type of person who hates charity, but a number of successful web writers have made a decent amount of money from it.  You could even attach it to the LLs you email to everyone; I wouldn't think of it as charity, but rather as a tip jar for the service you provide by editing the letters.  You did say that you have a lot of passive readers; perhaps a few of them would like to show their appreciation by passing a few dollars your way.  Because if you think about it, no matter how fun it is, it's still quite a bit of work to edit those letters.  Other people also do "pledge weeks" when they want money specifically for something, such as a trip....

Our trip to Portland was fun.  Two of our party dropped out, one from illness, another because he was being an idiot.  My roommate's boyfriend had originally planned to come, but dropped out at the last minute due to work or some other issue.  But when Aabbb asked him what was going on, he said, "Oh, my girlfriend broke up with me", which led to us worrying about her, since she was the one driving the rental mini-van up, and also since we are closer friends with her than him.  We called her several times and when she finally called me back, I found out that they had not in fact broken up, but that he thought that was a funny joke.  It wasn't funny to either me or Aabbb and we were very angry with him the entire weekend.  But at least he wasn't there.  As soon as she walked in the door, though, Aabbb said, "Bbccc, your boyfriend is an #@$%#$&."  She just shrugged it off.

Anyway, we took Route 101 up, passing through some of the redwoods.  They are so huge and beautiful.  And it's so quiet!  At one point we hit the beach and we got off and took pictures of the ocean.  I love the ocean and I could stare at it all day.  There was no one on the beach where we were at, although that could have been because it was late or something.

We arrived at Aabbb's friend Ccddd's place late in the evening.  The guy lives in a loft, with no furniture and no car, and no TV.  Actually, he rented furniture two weeks ago, and planned to keep it for a couple of months, because he was considering moving out.  Keep in mind that he's been in this loft for over a year, and he still didn't have a bed.  I believe he slept on an air mattress.  It's not like he's poor or anything - he works for a huge company.  It turned out to be a good thing that he didn't have furniture though, because we visitors took up a lot of room.  We were sort of jealous of him because he has practically no cost-of-living expenses.  He doesn't own a car, so he doesn't pay insurance, gas, or maintenance fees.  His bus pass is discounted, so it's only $10 a year.  He walks down the street to work.  There's a huge market across the street from him, where he can go for groceries.

We ended up visiting a few landmarks.  Chinatown was just sad.  There were the gates and just about nothing else, except for a "Chinese garden" which looked really small.  We walked around for two minutes and spotted not a single soul, Asian or otherwise.  It's such a huge contrast to the bustling Chinatowns in San Francisco and Oakland.  We left for the Japanese gardens instead and that was nice; everyone took nice pictures with their digital cameras.  It's kind of funny, because there were four of us and three of us would be taking pictures of the same thing, but from a slightly different angle.

While we're on the topic, why are there so many Japanese gardens in the US?  Hmmm...

The Japanese garden also housed an exhibit of local artists, which were, unfortunately, some of the worst drawings I'd ever seen.  In one picture, an attempt was made to paint a Japanese woman in the traditional style with watercolors, except the woman came out cross-eyed.  Adding insult to injury was some calligraphy on the side of the picture that was so ugly you would have thought a child wrote it.  And the artist had the gall to list $200 for the price of the picture!  Ugh.

The next day we went to the science museum and that was a lot of fun.  We got to watch an OMNIMAX (dome-shaped IMAX) film about Lewis and Clark that was pretty interesting.  Watching it, I realized a couple of things.  Lewis and Clark and his team were really insane.  Wow.  They were so lucky they weren't killed by the Native Americans along the way to the Pacific Ocean.  They were also incredibly brave and the mapmaker did such an excellent job that they only took six months to get home even though the trip itself took two years.

We also got to tour a submarine that was used in World War II, I think.  Our tour was more interesting because our tour guide had served before on a different submarine and we appreciated the different perspective.

KCM     [Top of page]

"Changing & Repeating Times"     [Top of page]

Subject: Re: LL-326
From: HHE  [US]
Date: Wed, 02 Jun 2004  -0500

Just had cataract surgery this morning and it was less painful than getting one's teeth cleaned.

I am writing to comment on "Legalese" as it reminded me of what we confront in doctor's offices and hospitals since the passage of the "Privacy Act".  It seems that almost every visit requires signing a paper acknowledging we have received a copy of the cogent parts of that act.  It now invades our lives when we go to the pharmacy, as we must stand back five feet so as not to impose our presence on someone talking to the pharmacy staff.  That reminds me of my high school days when going to the drug store to buy "protection" in the very remote possibility of "scoring".  Mind you, this was 1941.  It took me some time to get up courage to go in and ask and never in a drug store where the druggist might know me.  And never where there was a woman at the counter or in earshot!  Most of my buddies had no such problems as they were much more worldly than me.

Well, that description may be a digression, but it reminds me of olden times when I now go into a pharmacy to turn in or pick up a prescription.

I digress from my discussion of the Privacy Act.  What I really wonder is if the secret proponents of the act happened to be the paper industry and the filing equipment industry, as they seem to be the real beneficiaries.  With all the paperwork I had to sign today, I know without a doubt it was more than required for me to sign my life away, as an under-age volunteer, to go into the military during World War II.  (Side note: Back then, until 1940, Texas had only eleven grades of school.  Agrarian economy.  That year, they added the additional grade to the elementary schools, meaning, if you were past elementary school, you graduated from the 12th grade without going through all of them.  I had skipped a grade, so graduated at fifteen.)  Birth certificates were hand produced back then and ink eradicator enabled one to alter documents fairly easily - not likely today with computerized records and laser printers.

Oh, well, excuse the wandering.


Re: "Oh, well, excuse the wandering."  No - I don't consider that rambling - it's making connections to things in a broad sense, which I think is something that people really should do more of.  How else can you get the whole picture and properly comprehend the world you live in?  I found the above quite interesting - and I'm sure most people on the list will too, so... HHE, please write whatever you would like, your letters are always interesting!     [Top of page]

"Another Leap"     [Top of page]

(2004/06/29 00:03)  I took an evening stroll through Yodobashi Camera in Shinjuku earlier this evening... er... yesterday I suppose I should say now that it's past midnight... let's try this again:

On Monday evening, I took a stroll through Yodobashi Camera and had a look at the computers on display.  There have been a number of new technology waves I've witnessed at Yodobashi Camera - from cell phones, MO-drives (fast headed for extinction now it would seem) to laptop computers and digital cameras, and each time there's the initial appearance of the new devices, producing a gentle swell of interest if you will, followed by a larger selection of models, lower prices, more models, lower prices, and then suddenly, one day you walk into the store and feel the full force of a huge tidal wave of flowing cash pouring from eager buyers towards the new device and a feeling as though the last train were pulling out that very day and you had to jump on with everyone else or be left behind.  What's the newest tidal wave?  Computers that not only can be used as TVs but are taking the place of them and video tape recorders.

NEC ran an ad recently showing a young man with a computer watching TV on it, and a man asks him what he's doing, he replies "Watching TV", to which the man says "Then you don't need this TV then", grabbing it in a way that suggests he's expecting the young man to try and stop him, but the young man says "Go ahead - take it away.  I don't need that anymore".  Advertising is advertising, but a man that I recently urged to buy a DVD player as a good tool for studying English bought a laptop computer with DVD instead.  It seems that videotape and tape machines are on the verge of heading to the landfills (or to a recycling plant one would hope).

I would like to report that I bought an example of this new technology myself, but I don't have any money to spend on technology at the moment, so I nervously watch the new machines come rolling in and wonder how long my old junkyard computers can be utilized within the network of worldwide computing.  I'm already pushing my luck somewhat - running the latest software on a machine that's about five years old, one that isn't not going to be able to keep up with many more computing demands as the software becomes ever more sophisticated, and so I walked out of the store feeling somewhat like a child who can never buy anything they want due to having next to no money, who looks forward to growing up and making enough money to buy things.  Wow... I've basically had that same desire now for four decades.  Maybe I'll actually be able to buy new technology at some point, instead of waiting for the rich folks to discard their old machines so I can buy them cheap from junkyard shops.

"Sounds About Right..."     [Top of page]

From: CBG  [US]
Date: Fri, 04 Jun 2004

I'm on my lunch break right now, so I thought I'd write a little.  I finished reading your response, and it seems about right.  I remember that Aabbb once remarked that his (just married) wife Bbccc, after finding out a lot of things about his life, including many of the hardships he endured and his poverty, said that she started to find her group of friends shallow.  Apparently she also learned the facts of life from him....


"Tanabata 2004"     [Top of page]

[Written by hand and later typed] (2004/07/07/10:30)  Tanabata - (what to call it in English... probably just the "Tanabata Festival", although I've also seen it referred to as the "Star Festival" and "Festival of the Stars"), finds me with another job seeker in a small conference room.  Two of three people being interviewed for the job, we wait while the first of us is off for the interrogation phase of the interview.  (The previous hour was spent with a company man explaining to we three job applicants the product the company manufactures.)  The man out of the room seems like a straightforward and friendly soul, but the man sitting off to my left is what I refer to as a "good gaijin", or in more plain English, a BS-PR man - lots of show, and is there go?  (Ref. From the expression "All show and no go".)

.....  Do I want this job?  I'm not sure.  I've never worked full-time for a J-factory before (too much time in J-offices!), but the brief stints I've done as an outside consultant have shown factory people to be less prone to nonsense and more practical than the jungle warfare experts that swing from the ceilings in offices and spit poison darts at the backs of any perceived rivals.

Conditions being what they are, I don't really have the luxury of even making a decision about whether I want the job or not though - and so I sit here trying to tune into the current I'm in and see where it takes me.  Being quite interested in technical things, the job (translating and interpreting technical documentation) could be good (only because it's at the factory and close to the actual technology).  The main worry at this point is whether the air is toxic or not.  There was an odd smell when I approached the factory and - while I don't perceive a specific smell at the moment - my throat is dry and hurts a little... hopefully only due to interview nervousness and not having anything to drink.

There's a sample... something (I can't tell you what) sitting on the table by the window, so I think I'll have a closer look at it.  ttyl

(2004/07/08/11:32)  After taking a close look at one of the factory's products, I then contemplated the view out the window of an area between buildings on the factory grounds.  The employees seemed to be moving about from building to building in a relaxed sort of way, so I figured that was a good sign... and then I was summoned to the interrogation-style interview which was conducted in true J-style - lone me at a table facing a group of six men, each sternly contemplating my resume.  It got off to a rough start when a man asked me to describe to them my job history... I didn't have my resume in front of me and I wasn't sure which jobs I had included and which I'd left out (I sent my Japanese version resume to them more than a month earlier), so I mentioned the big ones and then said "Actually... I was just intently focusing on the manufacturing of your product, and so I'm not quite in gear for verbally explaining my personal history!"

There was a polite laugh at that, and then they asked me to explain the manufacturing process in English, conveying what I'd just learned in Japanese during the first hour of the three-hour process.  It went okay I guess... no telling what will happen.  As a translator, the first guy called off to be interrogated is the most qualified I think; as a writer and someone who understands something of factory matters in Japan, I am the most qualified (I think); and as a salesman & PR/BS-artist supreme - the other guy.  So - what does the company want?  A good translator who isn't a good writer, a good writer who is a bit slow at translating, or a salesman who can masterfully play with the words from his mouth, but probably can't translate or write well?  I'm part of the forest for this situation, but I would guess it really comes down to either myself of the first guy... assuming they aren't interviewing an army of people - three at a time!     [Top of page]

"New E-Mail, Old Car"     [Top of page]

Subject: hey
From: KCM  [US]
Date: Wed, 9 Jun 2004

So glad to see you got your site up.  Yes, I got a Gmail account (the G stands for Google) and I love it, but I want to test it out some more.  1 Gig of space!  For free!  YAY.  Anyway, I can invite other people to create accounts, but I am holding on to mine, since apparently, some stupid people are willing to pay in the hundreds for that invitation.  (Gmail is still in beta, but will eventually go public.)

..... I am going to have to give up my car because I don't want to deal with the repairs anymore.  My mechanic told me that not only will it need new tires, it failed the smog check (emissions were 100%+ over the legal limit) and that would cost another couple hundred to fix, not to mention the oil change, and brake checks.  Grr.  So now I HAVE to get another car.

On the other hand, my mechanic said that I could sell the car "as is" for a decent amount, since the car retains its twin turbo engine.  :D

I've been driving my sister's Rav4 for now, and I hate it.  I have to get gas every few days, instead of once a week, and while the automatic transmission makes for easy driving, it also has zero power.  Even a slight hill will have me going 10 miles-an-hour slower than I want it to.  I wish Integras weren't so popular, because every time I call to check one out, it's gone already.

Oh well.  This weekend my little sister is graduating.  We are pooling our money together to get her an iBook.  With my sister's discount at her company, she bought one for $1200, including tax and wireless.  I am so jealous.  Aabbb feels bad because he knows I really wanted one (it is a great graphic tool), but he got me a Dell Inspiron instead.  It's ok, though; I love this laptop and use it all the time anyway.  ...........


"Heads Down!"     [Top of page]

Subject: Re: LL-Website Announcement
From: SGV  [Greece]
Date: Thu, 10 Jun 2004  +0300

Hello from sunny and really hot Kavala.  The weather is almost ready to make us go to the beach to have some fun.  The bad thing is that it rains every afternoon so after work it is difficult.

Very nice website!  It was about time I guess!  :)  By the way, with what program did you make those wonderful PDF files?  Is it free?

I'm thinking of making a photo-site of my area.  I've got plenty of wonderful photos I can use.  I'm thinking of finding the sister-towns/cities of Kavala and then writing about them.

Back to work now... heads down!


Most of the PDF files I posted at my site were made with one or another word-processing or web page layout software application and then converted into PDF via Adobe Acrobat.  After receiving SGV's letter though, I tested making a PDF file with OpenOffice 1.1.1, and it worked quite well.  OpenOffice is free (from www.openoffice.org) and has an export to PDF feature that saves things you create in OpenOffice as PDF files.

"Declining Populations & Dismal Quality Text"     [Top of page]

Subject: Re: AbleToUpload!
From: KCM  [US]
Date: Sun, 06 Jun 2004

I finished reading an article at USA Today on the decline of marriages between Japanese men and women and the increasing phenomenon of "hikkomori".  The US has its own version of "hikkomori" - people who play Everquest (a computer video game) for so long that they shut out their family, friends, and lives.  Frankly, the article is horribly written, but it does touch on a problem several countries are experiencing: population shortage.  I think Japan is supposed to have the most drastic problem, though - women are waiting longer and longer to get married, and would rather stay home and get taken care of by their parents.  The men, not really knowing how to deal with the increasing independence (although I don't count it as independence if you're still living with your parents) of the women, withdraw further from society.

My entirely politically incorrect opinion is that's what happens when you have a nation of spoiled only-children.  Of course I'm probably wrong on that. :P My perception is also colored by the effects of the one-child policy that used to be enforced in China.  My cousin, who is the only son of my aunt and uncle, gets pampered ridiculously, and doubly so because he is a guy.  He's 27, I think, and has never taken responsibility for anything, but buys designer clothes, eats out, leaves his room and car a mess, and doesn't make the effort to learn English or pursue citizenship here despite being in America more than five years.  And my parents made a lot of effort to bring him and his family here.  I really could not stand reading about these women who got pampered by their parents and spent all their money on luxury items.  I found the men equally contemptible.  Don't the parents enforce rules, encourage them to mature or grow?  Encourage responsibility and money management?  I could not ever imagine wanting to stay home and be indulged by my parents - it would drive me nuts!

I realize that I'm generalizing a lot here, but I am only talking about the type of people mentioned in the article.  Apparently Italian men and women have similar problems as well.  But I don't remember which article that was.

One last question:  Do Japanese men really propose with the line: Will you make miso soup for me for the rest of my life?  Is that much cuter in Japanese than it is in English?


I think the birth rate in Italy is even lower than Japan and a declining birthrate is something that is affecting all economically developed countries to one degree or another, although from watching the J-media, you would think it was *only* a problem in Japan.  Very sloppy coverage, that!

As for independence - what with drastically smaller families, that will become a higher possibility, if for no other reason than there will be fewer people competing for the same space.

Actually, I always feel exasperated when I see people worriedly saying, "What will we do?  Young people don't want to work in the factories and China is increasingly difficult to compete against with their low-cost labor."  Long-range, we - collectively as human beings - probably want to live on this planet for at least a little bit longer, and so what do these people worrying about a shortage of factory workers propose?  That everyone chip in and start pumping out babies as fast as possible?  A surer road to disaster is hard to imagine!  The population leveling off on crowded earth - particularly in crowded countries like Japan - is a good thing!  The last I heard, the birth rate for India is something like eight (eight!) per couple - now *that's* something to worry about!  Any changes produce problems to be overcome, but overall, the trend of a lower baby production rate is great!  Let's hope all countries lower their output and stop culling through war, disease, etc.

Re: "I really could not stand reading about these women who got pampered by their parents and spent all their money on luxury items.  I found the men equally contemptible.  Don't the parents enforce rules, encourage them to mature or grow?"

Well... this is harder to discuss, because different cultures have different ideals concerning what is the correct level of independence.  One simplistic comparison between Japan and the west is that in the west parents start out being strict with their children, loosing up as they get older - turning over more and more responsibility to them as individuals, while in Japan a lot of parents are very lenient with their young children, and put increasing amounts of pressure on them the older they get.  Thus they step out not into freedom, but into the responsibility of a highly structured society.  In this case, independence is more often a curse than something to be aspired after.  That said, there is a long-term trend towards more independence for individuals.

Re: "I could not ever imagine wanting to stay home and be indulged by my parents - it would drive me nuts!"

Yes, me too, but the total package makes perfect sense.  If you have to choose between the options of frugally living in a tiny apartment in a hand-to-mouth existence or living with your parents and spending your money on clothes, restaurants, and travel, which do you pick?  Imagine visiting an exciting city where you have a relative conveniently living.  Yes, a hotel would offer more freedom than staying at the relative's house, but who cares?  You leave every morning, visit friends, go to expensive restaurants, buy expensive clothes, and take expensive excursions to surrounding vacation areas on the weekends - all of which you wouldn't be able to do if you were spending the bulk of your money on an expensive room that was only over your own head!  Now... if you gave all these people trading some independence for an enjoyable lifestyle a wage two or three times higher than what they earn now, *then* you'd start to see more moves towards independence!

Re: "I realize that I'm generalizing a lot here, but I am only talking about the type of people mentioned in the article."

The article seems to have come from a high-volume publication featuring low quality writing put there to sell newspapers, not to actually impart knowledge.  It would be better not to read most of the garbage written about foreign countries in the mainstream media - they get it wrong by definition.  The truth they will not print - it just isn't exciting enough or easy enough to understand.  So - when you next read that the OOO people (substitute any country for "OOO") think this or that or are doing this or that, stop and ask yourself if you would blithely describe every last man, woman and child in your own country in so simplistic and idiotic a way.  In no country on this planet are all the people thinking or acting in exactly the same way.

Re: "One last question:  Do Japanese men really propose with the line: Will you make miso soup for me for the rest of my life?  Is that much cuter in Japanese than it is in English?"

Whenever an actor announces that they're getting married, the media always make a big deal of asking them how they were proposed to or how they proposed.  Personally, I think it's nobody's business how people do that but their own and shouldn't even be discussed until many years after the event, but there it is - on TV and in the tabloids over the past two decades that I've been here.  The men and women smile for the cameras and dutifully give the media something to assign black ink on the rags they publish and electrons for the zombie-producing junk beamed to TVs.

It's become a sort of unofficial contest to come up with something cute, clever, outlandish, etc., and so I have never heard the miso-soup line.  In fact, a lot of young people don't even like miso-soup, so that could be grounds for divorce - "You're Honor... I begged her not to make that nasty tasting stuff, but she kept forcing me to eat it - day-after-day, week-after-week, month-after-month, year-after-year... I can't take it any more!"  HoHo, sorry about that - I'm getting carried away... see what the media will do to you?  The mere thought of being up on that big stage pushes people to do whatever will get an audience reaction.  So... did the men actually propose by asking if their girlfriends would pump them full of miso-soup until they keeled over from old age or eating too much?  I have no idea!  Probably there is no proposal phrase for any period of our short history on earth that was used by a high percentage of any population.

Ah... but I had better write of my flashback regarding this...

I was sitting in a hair salon in 1985 having my hair cut by a friendly woman, and I noticed the cover of a tabloid-type magazine on the counter in front of me and I managed to read one of the story titles (still early in my Japanese studies I was), which was about a man who proposed to his girlfriend by saying:

"Will you wash my shorts?"

Not having heard anything about requests for lifetime supplies of miso-soup at that point, it didn't seem to make any sense at all, so I said:

"... why?  Does he have dirty shorts?"

She thought that was pretty funny, and she threw head back and laughed - which is not the way it's generally done here!  The other workers in the shop all pointed their concerned-looking faces in our direction "..... bad outside-person trying to pick up innocent local maiden... local maiden in danger....." their faces seemed to say.  After that, she explained that the line "Will you wash my shorts?" was a proposal.  I thought it was pretty wacky at the time, but if it was based on "Will you make me miso soup?", then actually it's pretty funny.

Speaking of concerned fellow workers at hair salons... I think they must be known as places where foreigners try to pick up girls, because I had unpleasant experiences at them on and off, with the "last straw" occurring in 1997.  From mid-1997 until this day (seven years... time sure flies!), I have not let anyone but myself cut my hair.  Not only does it save me money and irritation, but since I know what shape I want, I come closer to it than having someone else do it anyway.  (I wonder if I wrote about that "last straw" episode... I might have, as it occurred after the LL-Letters had already gotten under way.  I'll have to have a look at the 1997 archives.)     [Top of page]

"Web-TV & Staying in Touch"     [Top of page]

Subject: Re: LL-Website Announcement
From: AJD  [US]
Date: Sat, 12 Jun 2004  -0400

I just finished reading your letter and having a look at all the photos at your website.  I get all your mail on my Web-TV and the pictures are outstanding.  I do not know what resolution they are but to me they are fine.  I also have a PC but it seems it is in the repair shop more than my home.  I am always fouling up something, and the last time my anti-virus expired, in two days my PC was bombed with a virus.  With Web-TV you cannot get any viruses or other problems like the ones PC have, since Web-TV's don't have hard drives.

I enjoyed the one picture you sent me of changing Japan.  You don't see too many kimonos anymore....  Back in 1946 when I was in the occupation forces after the surrender of Japan, all you saw the women wearing was kimonos.  Things do change and for the best I guess....


AJD - if you see this, let me know what's happened to your e-mail address.  I've tried to answer your letter personally several times, but it keeps bouncing with an error message saying that your In-Box is full.

Speaking of which - this is one major reason I've put a site up.  E-mail is increasingly unreliable, so with the site, people can continue to read the letters even without e-mail.  I'll still send out the LL's - but if you don't receive one for a really long time, try having a look at the site - as likely as not, when I tried to send the letter to you, one problem or another got in the way and prevented the message from making it all the way through.

"Search for The LL-Letter Via Google"     [Top of page]

Subject: RE: APhoto
From: APP  [Australia]
Date: Thu, 10 Jun 2004

...... I will check out your web site when I get a chance.  I have houseguests at the moment and this Sunday I leave for Queensland to visit the children for three weeks.  I usually have access to a computer whilst I am there.  I am getting a new computer and my partner will hook it all up for me whilst I am away.  He doesn't know a lot about computers (neither do I) so I hope he gets me connected back on the Internet.  .........


To continue the theme of what I was discussing in "Web-TV & Staying in Touch" above, if you want to check out the LL-Letters page, then use the Google search engine and type in "the ll-letters" or perhaps better still "llltrs".  I hate to be advocating one search engine over another, but - so far - my page doesn't come up at all with a Yahoo search.  It will come up with dogpile.com (or it did the last time I checked), but the best results seem to be achieved via Google.

"Commencement Ceremony & G-Mail"     [Top of page]

Subject: Re: hey
From: KCM  [US]
Date: Mon, 14 Jun 2004

..... Sorry I took so long to get back to you.  We went to my little sister's graduation this weekend, which was one of the most moronic commencement ceremonies I've ever had to attend.  I kept thinking, this is the best your brightest can do?  One of the speakers actually made a statement like, "Why do you think that our families and relatives chose to come to this commencement over other commitments?"  I was just kind of stunned that such a dumb question was posed in the middle of a speech about graduation.

I'm still looking for a car.  *sigh*  Car shopping, especially for used cars, is depressing.  Everything cheap enough is gone by the time I call.  Oh well.

Gmail is working very well for me right now.  The only things I don't like: it doesn't work in Opera, doesn't have a calendar function, the address book is only "contacts" (which means it will give you only the name and the email addresses), and doesn't have a "save draft" function so I can go back to it later.

We spent almost $50 at the 98-cent store this weekend.  Unbelievable.  I don't know if you have the Marukai discount chain where you are, but that place is addictive.  I even got a duffel bag for 98 cents.  It'll come in handy when I travel.


About what were (long ago) called "five & dime stores" and then here in Japan "100-yen shops" - they really can be addictive!  Addictive and sometimes expensive when you grab a few too many cheap items!  You do have to pay attention though, as while nearly everything is cheap there, occasionally they have things there selling for Y100 that you can get for less elsewhere.

"New Cultures & Large-screen TVs"     [Top of page]

Subject: Re: Mechanical Feelings
From: CBG  [US]
Date: Wed, 30 Jun 2004

I just spoke with Aabbb yesterday and he says that he's very happy, since he has the two things he's always wanted: a girlfriend (well, I guess she got "upgraded" to wife) and a big screen TV.  It's funny.  From what he's told me of her, she knew nothing of what an intimate relationship actually entailed (and granted, I didn't, really, either, until I had experienced one) and she said that she was really impatient with Japanese boy-girl relationships because they were so agonizing.  It would happen like, "boy likes girl, girl likes boy, but neither one do or say anything about it except to their friends about how they're too shy to approach the other person."  And so they live on in agony like that until they find someone else to like and not tell.  How people even begin to get into relationships like that I'll never know.



An important thing to ponder here... when anyone, male or female, goes to a radically different culture and marries someone of a different race, don't look to them for an evenhanded assessment of the opposite sex in their native country!  In the twenty years I've been here in Japan, I have consistently seen that a large percentage of the male Caucasians living in Japan with local wives detest female Caucasians and female Caucasians repay the favor (or is it vice-versa?).  I tell myself I'm above that, but however even-handed I may be; this is as much an issue of preference as anything.  Actually, it's a great thing that a certain number of people from whatever culture move themselves to another culture.  How else would most of us learn anything about people from other cultures?

To sum it up, perspective must be taken into account when hearing criticism of specific aspects of other cultures.  Nearly all of us in every country are basically stumbling around trying to find our way, and so all of us could be mercilessly criticized by someone with the perspective to see the foolishness... while forgetting their own!

And... a hazard that CBG's friend had better watch out for is that when you transplant yourself into a new culture, different aspects of it hit you in different ways at different times, the result being that your new culture has a tendency to alternately appear better or worse than the one you left.  On July 2nd you're walking down the street in a warm glow congratulating yourself on having moved into a country more suited to yourself, and on July 5th you may well be walking down that same street in a dark funk cursing the country and everyone in it... followed by another warm glow the next week, etc.  For the first several years, it's a roller coaster for most people I think.  With time, the hills even out and things come into clearer perspective.

..... I think I'm making too big a deal out of that.  Okay - think of it this way.  Everyone has their good and bad days with other people anyway - that normal cycle is just much more pronounced when you move into a new culture.     [Top of page]

"Looking for a Car & The Far West"     [Top of page]

Subject: Re: The PR Period...
From: KCM  [US]
Date: Thu, 17 Jun 2004

Out of curiosity, what are Japanese copyright laws like?  Are they as often challenged as they are in the States?  For example, Disney has been extending the copyright on Mickey Mouse forever, keeping it from falling into the "public domain" in an effort to keep the money.

The car search continues.  I have not even seen one car yet, although I might get a chance tomorrow - for a 2000 Honda Civic, DX, I think.  The asking price is $8,700, which is an ok price, I guess.  I'm hoping to not spend more than $7000, so I won't have to borrow so much from my parents.  I'm looking at various Integras - Accords and Civics are my last choice.

I have issues when it comes to money.  I really prefer not to depend on my parents at all, but this seems to be such an unusual attitude among my friends.  Maybe it's just the way I grew up, but I saw them making so many sacrifices for us, that I'm loathe to ask for more than I have to.  Plus, money always comes with obligations.


Subject: Re: AdviceShow....
From: KCM [US]
Date: Fri, 18 Jun 2004

I may check out some used car lots.  My brother-in-law suggested just going to LA to buy a car, since they're cheaper there and people are more willing to bargain.  People up here just flat out lie.  When Aabbb was purchasing his Acura, the salesmen were so blatantly dishonest we nearly laughed in their faces.  They all kept pressuring him to "buy today" - the "rebates for the car are gone" and on and on.  And it's like, do you think we're stupid?  Just thinking of being in a used car lot makes me twitchy.

When I was shopping around earlier last year with my parents, I ended up at the Oakland Automall.  My parents, in their good luck and my misfortune, met up with a Chinese car salesman who happened to speak the same dialect as us.  My mom spent most of the time complaining about how I didn't know how to speak Chinese (which was a lie, since that's the only way I communicate with her) and the salesman just ignored me, for the most part.  When I asked how much one of the cars cost, he wouldn't tell me.  He just asked if I knew how to drive a stick, and when I said, "Not yet," he told me that I should probably look at some other cars.  Grr.  Needless to say, I'm not going there again.


Recent copyright laws in Japan.  I don't know, but I think they're tougher than they used to be, which makes sense.  Developing economies are in a position where it's hard not to copy some things, but once they become developed economies, they dial back the copying and then suddenly find themselves being copied by other developing countries (and/or the countries they used to copy)!

Re: "I have issues when it comes to money.  I really prefer not to depend on my parents at all, but this seems to be such an unusual attitude among my friends."

Me too... but... recently that bright flaming forest fire of passion for my personal independence just seems like something in an old dusty history book.  I hate to say it, but I seem to have a stronger interest in practicality these days.  But not to worry - toss me in a time machine and put me back in... say... high school, and I'd be exactly as I was.  One difference - with 20/20 hindsight I'd start studying Japanese back then, which would have really helped out when I immigrated to the Far West at 24.  (As far as I'm concerned, Japan is the Far West - I traveled west from the West, from California and westwards over the Pacific, not east.)     [Top of page]

"Weather Details"     [Top of page]

Subject: Re: Rain
From: APR  [Portugal]
Date: Sat, 26 Jun 2004 +0100

I just had a look at your site and I can't say much because I can't compare it with others.  However I found your picture gallery very interesting, not only the pictures themselves but also your comments.  I didn't feel like looking at the letters again though.

I don't think I could live in a tropical climate like Tokyo's - or at least not in the summer, because in the winter it snows so it is more like a moderate climate then.  Here we call our climate semi-Mediterranean.  Although Portugal is not located on the Mediterranean, it has moderate winters and dry, hot summers.  But since it is located on the Atlantic it rains more often and sometimes it gets closer to 0C in the winter (but it hardly ever snows).


The weather in Tokyo is more or less like in New York, minus 99% of the snow.  It would snow a fair bit probably, if there were any precipitation, but mainly the entire winter is just windy and dry.  Just going by the temperatures, it doesn't get very cold, but the wind makes it feel quite a bit colder than the numbers would suggest.  As for the weather in Portugal, it sounds rather like California!  Especially that rain in the winter and dry, hot summers!  It's the exact opposite in Tokyo.  The pictures you've probably seen of deep snow in Japan would be from either up north or on the Japan Sea side of the country.  If you take the Shinkansen Super-express train northwest from Tokyo in the winter, generally you leave a dry windy Kanto Plain and - after going through a mountain via a very long tunnel - suddenly pop out in very deep snow on the Niigata side.  The mountains keep all the snow for Niigata, while Tokyo is dry-dry-dry.

"Thanks, No Thanks - May 2004"     [Top of page]

There are fewer than I've included before and I've cut back the extra text (Dear... Sincerely... etc.), so they don't take long to read. - LHS

First of all, thank you for your prompt application for our openings.

After careful screening, though it was regrettable, a result which cannot comply with your application was brought this time.

With an end of this mail, I wish you all the success in your future.

Thank you for your interest in a position with our company.

However, we are declining your application as we indicated in the ad, this position requires a native Japanese speaker, but we will keep your information on file in case another position suited to your skills arises.

We wish you success in your future endeavors and again thank you for contacting us.

We would like to thank you for sending resume. However we don't have any open position which match you. Thank you again,

Thank you very much for entering your application for the position of Dekkai Inc. English narrator.  Following a review of all applications, we are sorry to announce that you have not been selected to proceed in the application process. We wish you success in your search for employment and success in the future.

"A Timeless Tale of Woe"     [Top of page]

Subject: Broken Hearted
From: SZS  [UK]
Date: Sat, 19 Jun 2004

I met the person who has broken my heart on Yahoo Personals.  Why I logged in there I just do not know, but I thought there may be a nice Lady who is looking for a nice Gent and I do get lonely....

It is a long story but we have been dating on and off since last August.  I thought it strange when she would phone very late at night - prompting me to wonder if she was dating others.  In our conversation, all the sad stories came out about the way she has been treated by men in the past and I tried to show her I was a decent man.

Since we were dating, I thought I would see if she had removed her ad.  It had gone and I thought we were going places.  Then later it reappeared.  She told me her friends at work had control over it and did it for a laugh to help her get over the last man who dumped her.  Of course I gave her the benefit of the doubt, but then another appeared... I looked on Yahoo and there was her latest photo.  Once again she said it was her friends at work.

Later on, a friend told me she was not on Yahoo messenger anymore and to log onto AOL.  This I did, and up popped AOL personals - and so in the off chance and out of curiosity I tapped in my profile.  Then I did a search.

She popped up in the personals.  Looking for a tall man it said.  And things that never corresponded with my profile.

She met me when I finished the trail walk.  All that way over 60 miles to greet me in.  I thought then that she really loved me, which she had told me often on the phone at night.  Apparently her mother told her that anybody that can create a flower trough like the one I planted for her must be a nice man and she must meet me, to which she told me she had responded "He is a nice man mother, and I love him to pieces".

My birthday came along and she insisted we go out.  Having a meal I told her we should have parted company after the first meeting and just become friends.  Her face dropped.

"Do you mean you don't want to see me anymore and be my friend?"

How can I be friends with a liar and a deceiver I thought to myself.  It is not in me to do that.

Driving back home she told me her ideal man would have the same as her.  A four-bedroom house!!

I wish she had told me that long time ago!  She did say that on the physical side her ideal man was me.  We never did get completely intimate, but for me you can love and feel for a person without the physical act.  I grew very attached to her.  And the nightly calls would be for two hours at a time.  Every single night since August!  Her charming Lancashire accent would relax me as we chatted about the day's events.

Now today I discover she has changed her phone number and there is also another personal site she is on, which indicated in one column that she was adventurous in an intimate way.

I do feel betrayed.  Why did I not listen to that voice inside me a while back that said "this person is no good for you"?  Although she is a good cook and her Lasagnas are so nice.  I would bring one home with me and share it with my brother - the way to a mans heart is through his stomach as they say.

Since the last person betrayed her we would talk for hours and it would be let's go here, let's go there.  Then it became less frequent.  As if I had helped her through a bad time in her life and was now no longer required.

The lies and deceit that her friends had placed the ad on Yahoo.  Now I find she has three ads on different sites.  How many more I ask myself.

I know doing this looking at personal sites to see how many she is on is soul destroying, and now that our relationship has finished I feel that knowing a woman who I became very very fond of who was so deceitful and a liar hurts me inside like only another who has experienced the same thing could possibly understand.  Why do people use people this way?  Do they not know the harm it inflicts on that person?  Sitting in an empty house having been told lies by one you thought loved you and cared for you.   Then when you find out and are all-alone with nobody to talk to.  You feel so low.

I have sent her a nasty letter and was in two minds to go collect my trough that was made with TLC and LOL....


There is only one thing I'd like to comment on here (although if I met up with SZS at a pub for a pint or two, there would be much more to say), which is this:

People in a position of power - any kind of power - are sorely tempted to use that power, be it economic, military, or the simple power of attraction, which women have in spades over men.  It's like that old saying, "Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely".  The image of men being the victimizers and women being the victims is based on that, not on any intrinsic or inherent goodness or badness.  Since women have historically not been in positions of power (with some notable exceptions) they have ended up being victims.  If you don't have the power to victimize someone, you can end up seeming virtuous by default.  It's the same with the races.  No one race is better or worse than any other one; it's circumstances that push events in one direction or another.

Well... SZS... if we ever meet someplace on the globe, let's go for that pint.  There's a good English pub in Ebisu we could go to if you make it to Tokyo, and if I make it to the UK, maybe you can introduce me to one there.     [Top of page]

"What's Going On? - An Answer"     [Top of page]

One advantage of teaching English is that when you repair reports, speeches, etc., you get to see what people here are thinking about in a more direct way than what you are likely to see in the mainstream media.  I recently helped a Japanese high school student with a speech that she gave at her high school.  She told me that she ended up shortening it a little, but the edited draft that it was based on is as follows.  (This directly ties in with "What's Going On?" in LL-326.  Several residents of the US asked me about the reception of the three Japanese nationals - who were held hostage in Iraq - when they returned to Japan.  Here's what one local thinks!)

I'm sure you know of the tragic affair between Japan & Iraq.  There are lots of opinions in newspapers, on the Internet, television, and so on... I'm going to speak about my opinions regarding this.

Please listen and think world peace.

First, about the group which kidnapped three innocent Japanese.  Most people who know of this tragic affair think they were wrong.  This must have disappointed the three Japanese and caused them to suffer.  One of them is a woman, and one of them is only 18.  They are not blameless, and yet, they highlighted something that is very important for Japanese, which is that we can make a difference if we try.  Have you thought about how they were trying to help... and they were on their own, receiving no wages.  I was so moved by them.  And most Japanese hate volunteer work.  How do you feel about this?  In addition, Singo Katori said, "Japanese around the world are succeeding in one field or another, but individually, not collectively.  I think it's time we stood up more for what we believe is right, and work together with all our energy to realize our hopes and dreams."

Imagine - the group provided us a great opportunity to come together.  Making real change is always difficult, but I think these volunteers have changed the world's perception of Japanese!  It's so amazing!  And the group who abducted them let them go free.

Second, about people living in Iraq - I felt that their support for Ms. Takatoh indicates that we can somehow achieve world peace without any fear of people of different races.  Appreciation and affection between people of all races is wonderful, I feel peace is within our grasp.

Finally, about the three innocent Japanese.  Some people have said they should not go back to Iraq, because they caused trouble for Japan, and that if they are abducted again, it will be their responsibility.

Well, please think.  It is one of the noblest things a person can do to help refugees, especially if they're in danger.  We should be proud of these volunteers.  I ask you, will world peace be realized without any risks taken?  If we really want world peace, shouldn't we accept the fact that some risks must be taken?  It seems to me that the three were kind, courageous, and were not wrong.  I agree with their work.  They were seeking no wages, no advantages, no financial gain, and no fame.  They hope only for world peace.  They just want people around the world to smile.  Just that.  Don't you think they are beautiful?  So, I want to shout... why would someone say they were wrong?

"Imagine all the people living life in peace.  You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one.  I hope someday you'll join us.  And the world will live as one."

Most of you know this song written by John Lennon and Yoko Ono.  Sometimes people working for peace are called ridiculous, but don't give up just because you might be laughed at by someone.  Surely, people like John are few, but it is important to imagine and to hope.  If people lose all hope, the world is doomed.  Let's make new friends, and let's sing songs such as "Give peace a chance!"  Yes, my friends!  Why don't we think about world peace?

-Thanks for your attention.     [Top of page]

"Having Fun at Work in California"     [Top of page]

Subject: hi
From: KCM  [US]
Date: Fri, 25 Jun 2004

I'm just writing since I am being left alone for a bit.  I'm starting to get sucked into office politics and it's driving me nuts.  To make a long story short: People don't know what they're doing and somehow I'm being blamed for some of it.  As a result, we are going to have a meeting, in which I am going to demonstrate exactly what my job duties are so we can clarify everything.

Yes, it's bizarre.

What actually happened was that everyone in my group is trained on a piece of specialized software we use to track and update records.  I do most of the updating.  This other group mostly crunches numbers, and eventually hands me numbers to input.  The only problem is, I wasn't given those numbers until recently, and now there are a bunch of errors, which I think is being blamed on me.  The numbers group also seems to be under the impression that my section is doing more than it actually is, and don't seem to understand that its functions are very limited and specific.

While I can see that I may have made some of those errors, I don't think I can be blamed for everything.  So I'm supposed to demonstrate what it is I do (the majority of which has nothing to do with the numbers) in order to show that I'm not being incompetent.

What a headache.  There's also the fact that my boss is very lazy.  I didn't really pick up on it before, but she's starting to delegate more work to me, some of which I probably shouldn't be doing.  Not that I should talk, since I'm writing this in the middle of my work day, but my coworker confided that she hasn't made the time to be trained in the duties she's supposed to be supervising.  Her excuse is that she's busy, and she's busy a lot of the time.

Oh well.  I still haven't gotten a car yet.  The Civic I saw was ok, but I didn't want to get it, because the paint would have to be replaced, and it had been keyed on the right-hand side, not to mention that the seller wouldn't give me a contact phone number.


"Anthropology via Contracts"     [Top of page]

The spotty English of the following heavy pile of bytes is in the originals.  The names have, naturally, been changed.  It's not interesting stuff in one way, but anthropologically, it contains a lot of insights to the English teaching world of Japan, reflecting the positive and negative aspects of both the English instruction companies and the people working as instructors.  These types of contracts are not unusual, although I dare say the number of them in this case seems to be unusually high!  I'm putting all of them at the bottom of the letter to spare anyone from having to get past them to the regular LL stuff... if you quickly find that you've had your fill of reading this anthropological documentation, just jump to the bottom for the closing comments.

M.N.O. Company Policy

When signing a contract with MNO, instructors also agree to the following terms and conditions:

(1) When entering into a contract, an instructor is required to complete the terms of the contract.  If for some reason an instructor cannot complete his/her contract, the instructor must inform MNO in writing at least 30 days in advance.  The last day the instructor will be able to teach and the reason for termination of the contract must also be included in the written notification.  All materials and roll books remain the property of MNO and must be returned upon completion of termination of contracts.

(2) Instructors must be well-groomed and present themselves in a neat and business-like fashion when teaching.  Jeans and casual cotton pants are unacceptable.  Male instructors must wear a tie, business shirt and dress shoes.  Female instructors must wear what may be equivalent to the clothing for male instructors and generally dress conservatively.  Suits or dress jackets are recommended for both male and female instructors.  No sandals or tennis shoes are permitted.  Excessive jewelry is not acceptable, nor are earrings for male instructors.

(3) New instructors may be required to attend a brief training session so that they can become familiar with the materials, teaching methods and policies of MNO.  The length and content of the training session will vary from instructor to instructor, and will depend on the instructor's background and teaching experience.

(4) Instructors must be punctual and therefore all classes should start and end on time.  It is recommended, however, that instructors be at their teaching location, ready to teach, at lest 10 minutes before the starting time of the class.  In the event that the students do not arrive, the instructor will wait 30 minutes and then call CTX for further instructions.

(5) Instructors shall make his/her best effort to follow the curriculum provided by MNO.  If an instructor feels it necessary to change the teaching materials, s/he must discuss the matter with a MNO staff member.  Instructors shall not change the curriculum or the teaching materials without MNO's approval.

(6) Pay periods begin on the 1st of each month and end on the last day of the same month.  Instructors are paid on the 10th of the following month.

(7) The Transportation Sheet and the Reimbursement Sheet must be submitted to MNO no later than the 2nd of the following month.  The reimbursement will be delayed if they arrive at MNO after the deadline.  A receipt must be retained and submitted along with the Reimbursement Sheet.

(8) Class Reports:

a. Questionnaires: Questionnaires should be completed by the students on the date indicated on the class calendar.  They should be collected by the class leader, placed in the envelope provided and posted to MNO as soon as possible.  The students' comments are to be regarded as confidential and should not be read by the instructor, although a summary of the comments will be made available to the instructor later.

b. Monthly Report: The Monthly Report is to be completed by the instructor every month (one report for each class) and submitted to MNO on later than the 2nd [of] the following month.  As this report is submitted to MNO's client company, the remarks contained in it should be encouraging.

c. Report to MNO: This report is to be completed by the instructor every month (one report for each class) and submitted to MNO no later than the 2nd of the following month.  This report is only for MNO, so the instructor's comments should be frank.

d. Student Reports (Individual Evaluation Reports or Individual Progress Reports):  These reports must be given to the students on the counseling day, which is usually the last class or the one before the last, by the instructor.  One set of copies must be submitted to MNO at least one week prior to the date of the counseling for proofing.  As these reports are given directly to the students by the instructors, they must be free from spelling, grammar and other typographical errors.  Also, the comments should be educationally informative for the students.  Reports that are found to contain errors or uninformative comments must be redone prior to the counseling day.  Student reports should be written with consideration to the students' levels and be easily readable.

- All class reports should be copied before submitted to MNO to avoid the need for the instructor to rewrite a report if it is lost or misplaced.

- All reports should be either mailed or hand delivered to the MNO office.  Faxing them is acceptable only if the Instructor send[s] hard copies to MNO afterwards.  Instructors should make allowances for the postal system if they plan to mail their reports, as delays can often occur.

(9) In the event that an Instructor is assigned Educational Development (E.D.) work, the non-teaching rate of 1,000 yen per hour will be paid to the Instructor.

(10) If an instructor is invited to go out eating or drinking with the members of a class, it is requested that s/he inform MNO of the details.

(11) Regular instructor meetings are held to help facilitate communication among the instructors and between MNO office staff and instructors.  The meetings are compulsory for full time instructors, although part time instructors are encouraged to attend.  All instructors will be paid at the non-teaching rate.

(12) Instructors must approach their teaching assignments in a professional and diligent manner and be mindful of their responsibility to create a favorable impression when visiting client companies.  If an instructor feels that a problem exists with his/her relationship with an individual student or a class as a whole, it is strongly recommended that the matter be discussed with an MNO staff member as soon as possible, as the first step in seeking a resolution of the problem.  In rare cases it may be desirable for MNO to allocate the class to another instructor.

(13) By signing an MNO contract, instructors agree to abide by the conditions included n the MNO Company Policy.  MNO reserves the right to cancel any contract at any time if (a) the instructor fails to abide by the above conditions, or any conditions included in any MNO contract entered into by the instructor, (b) maintains a serious conflict of interest which interferes with his/her work at MNO, or (c) engages in any illegal activity or any activity which results in damaging the reputation of MNO.

The contract is to be read in conjunction with the MNO Employment Contract and any individual Company Contracts the instructor signs in the course of his/her employment with MNO.

I have read and understood this Policy and agree with the conditions.

The Instructor:
Lyle Saxon - June 18th, 2004

MNO Inc.

Name: Prez Boss

Part Time Employment Agreement

THIS AGREEMENT was entered into the 18th day of June 2004 by MNO Inc. (hereinafter called "MNO") and Lyle Saxon (hereinafter called the "Instructor"):

Upon the execution of this Agreement, the Instructor conducts the English language lessons (hereinafter called the "Courses") at a company (hereinafter called the "Company") in accordance with the Employment Agreement for Individual Courses and the MNO Company Policy; and MNO compensates the Instructor for conducting the Courses;

In consideration of the foregoing and the obligations hereunder, the parties hereto agree as follows:

Article 1.  Terms of Contract

1. The effective term of this Agreement shall be one (1) year after the execution hereof.

Article 2.  Remuneration and Reimbursement

1. MNO shall pay the Instructor the remuneration stipulated in the Employment Agreement for Individual Course for conducting the Courses at the Company.

2. MNO shall reimburse the transportation expenses in accordance with the Employment Agreement for Individual Course.

Article 3.  Penalty

1. If the Instructor is late for the Courses without an excusable reason, 1,000 yen per tardiness shall be deducted from his/her salary.  Also, the Instructor shall extend the class on the day s/he is late and call MNO the next morning to report.

2. If the Instructor does not show up for the Courses without notifying MNO in advance, the Instructor shall give a complementary lesson at the end of the Course or the equivalent amount of money shall be deducted from his/her salary.

Article 4.  Entire Agreement

This Agreement constituted the entire agreement between the parties hereto with respect to the subject matter hereof and supersedes all prior communications and agreements with regard to the same.

Article 5.  Governing Law

This Agreement shall be governed by the laws of Japan.

The parties hereto have caused this Agreement to be executed by their duly authorized representatives in duplicate as of the day and year first above written, each party retaining one.

MNO Inc.

Name: Prez Boss
Title: President

The Instructor:
Lyle Saxon - June 18th, 2004

Employment Agreement for Individual Course

THIS AGREEMENT was entered into the 18th day of June 2004 by MNO Inc. (hereinafter called "MNO") and Lyle Saxon (hereinafter called the "Instructor");

Upon the execution of this Agreement, the Instructor conducts the English language lessons (hereinafter called the "Course") at a company (hereinafter called the "Company") in accordance with the MNO Part Time Agreement and MNO Company Policy; and MNO compensates the Instructor for the actual hours of conducting the lessons;

In consideration of the foregoing and the obligations hereunder, the parties hereto agree as follows:

Article 1.  Terms of Conditions of the Course

1. The terms and conditions of the Course shall be as follows;

  (a) Company name: BigCo, Ltd.

  (b) Course Period: June-18-2004 to July-22-2004

  (c) Day: Mon.Tue.Wed.Thu.Fri. [Flex Schedule...]

  (d) Time: 18:30-20:30

  (e) Total Instruction Hours: 14 hours

  (f) Course Type: Regular / Intensive/ English for Overseas Business / Group / Private / Semi-private

  (g) Location (if not at the Company):

2. The above course period can be subject to change due to unforeseeable cancellation of the lessons.

3. This Agreement can be invalid as a result of negative feedback on the Instructor's performance from the company in the sub-article 1 of the article 1 herein.

4. This Agreement can be invalid due to the Instructor's absence from the Course for his/her personal reasons.

5. This Agreement will be valid until the Instructor completes teaching the number of instruction hours specified in the sub-article 1 of the Article 1 herein.

6. In addition to the above scheduled regular lessons, the Instructor shall conduct the lesson(s) on the following date(s) and time:

     ........... Time ...............
     ........... Time ...............

7. If the Instructor cannot complete the Course or has to take days off during the Course period, s/he must inform MNO in writing at least 30 days in advance.

Article 2.  Remuneration and Reimbursement

1. MNO shall pay the Instructor a teaching rate of 3,200 yen per hour.

2. MNO shall reimburse the transportation expenses in accordance with the MNO Company Policy stipulated elsewhere.

3. If the Company cancels the class on the day of the lesson, MNO shall pay the Instructor in full for the lesson.

4. If the Company cancels the class the day before the lesson, MNO shall pay the Instructor half of the teaching rate stipulated herein.

5. If the notification of cancellation fails to reach the Instructor by the lesson time and s/he end up going to the lesson site, MNO shall pay the Instructor half of the teaching rate stipulated herein.

6. If a class is canceled due to circumstances beyond MNO's control, including earthquakes, typhoons, fires, floods and the like, the instructor will not be paid for the class.

7. The Instructor will not be paid if they take a vacation.

Article 3.  Teaching Materials and Roll Books

1. The teaching materials and any other teaching materials indicated on the attached sheet is the property of MNO.

2. The roll book which the Instructor keeps during the contract term is the property of MNO.

3. The Instructor shall return all the teaching materials and the roll book to MNO no later than the due date of the Transportation Sheet of the month which this Agreement term ends.  The Instructor may send them by collect mail.

4. The Instructor shall return any of the teaching materials and/or the roll book in accordance with the rules specified in the Material Check Out Sheet.

5. If the Instructor fails to return any of the teaching materials and/or the roll book, the Instructor shall bear the cost of the unreturned items as stipulated in the Material Check Out Sheet.

Article 4.  Penalty

1. If the Instructor is late for the class without an excusable reason, 1,000 yen each time shall be deducted from his/her salary.  Also, the instructor shall extend the class on the day s/he is late and call MNO the next morning to report.

2. If the Instructor does not show up for the class without notifying MNO in advance, the Instructor shall give a complementary lesson at the end of the Course, or the equivalent amount of money shall be deducted from his/her salary.

Article 5.  Entire Agreement

This Agreement constituted the entire agreement between the parties hereto with respect to the subject matter hereof and supersedes all prior communications and agreements with regard to the same.

Article 6.  Governing Law

This Agreement shall be governed by the laws of Japan.

The parties hereto have caused this Agreement to be executed by their duly authorized representatives in duplicate as of the day and year first above written, each party retaining one.

MNO Inc.

Name: Prez Boss
Title: President

The Instructor: Lyle Saxon - June 18th, 2004

Material Check-Out Form

Company: BigCo, Ltd.
Class: Private

Handmade book #1
Handmade book #2
Handmade book #3

1. The Instructor shall return all the materials checked out of the MNO office.  If MNO does not receive the materials specified above from the Instructor no later than the due date of the Transportation Sheet of the month which the last class date falls on, the total cost shall be deducted from his/her salary.  The Instructor shall be responsible for delivering the materials to the MNO office.

2. The above rule also applies to the materials check out after the commencement of the course.

3. If the Instructor wishes to check out other materials from the MNO office after the commencement of the course, he/she shall fill out the Check Out Form.

4. Should the Instructor terminate the contract in the middle of the term, he/she shall mail or bring personally all the materials and the roll book to the MNO office with two (2) days from the last lesson date.

I read the above and shall return the materials accordingly.

The Instructor - Lyle Saxon - 6/18/2004

Important Things to Remember

MNO Phone 03-1234-5678  Fax 03-1234-5679

1. Submitting Monthly Reports + Report to MNO

These reports are due together on the 2nd of every month.  Faxing them is acceptable only if you send hard copies to MNO afterwards.

2. Submitting Transportation Report + Reimbursement Sheet

This report is due on the 2nd of every month.  The reimbursement will be delayed only if you send hard copies to MNO afterwards.

3. Handing out the Questionnaires to the students

Hand them out to the students on the highlighted dates on the calendar.  Give the 90 yen stamped envelop to the class leader and ask him/her to collect and send in all the students' questionnaires within 5 days.  In the following lesson, please check with the leader if he/she has mailed the forms.  It is absolutely indispensable to get the Final Questionnaires from your students.  Be sure to hand them out on the scheduled date.  It is very hard to reach your students respectively once the course is finished.

4. Submitting Reports

After completing them in accordance with the instructions in "How to write good student reports," make two sets of copies, and send or bring them to MNO by 7 days prior to the counseling day for proofing.

5. Returning Roll book/Materials

Send them back to MNO within 7 says after the completion of the course.  MNO will reimburse the postage.

6. Sick off, tardiness, and taking vacations

Call MNO; do not call or talk to the company or the students directly.  If you are late for the class without excusable reason, 1,000 yen will be deducted for every tardiness from your salary.  If you do not show up for the class without notifying MNO in advance, you shall give a complimentary lesson at the end of the course or the equivalent amount of money will be deducted from your salary.  Also, please do not tell your students about your vacation plans before you notify MNO.

7. Dress Code

Look presentable as an instructor who conducts corporate classes.  Business suits and tie for male instructors and the equivalent for female instructors are required.

Please be sure to make one set of copies for all the paperwork you submit to MNO for yourself and keep them at least one month after each course is over.  MNO is not responsible for any lost mail; if your paperwork gets lost and you do not have your own copies, you will need to redo them.

We appreciate in advance your cooperation to MNO to run our programs efficiently.  If you have any questions about filling out your reports and other paperwork, please ask MNO for advice before you "do them anyway."  Thank you!


MNO administer two kinds of questionnaire to know if your students are happy about your lesson.  The students evaluate instructors based on the following possible criteria:

1. Is your instructor dressed appropriately as a business-person?

2. Does your instructor arrive at the classroom in time?

3. Does your instructor have sufficient skills in teaching?

4. Do you think that your instructor prepare[s] enough for the lesson?

5. Does your instructor clearly present the objective of every lesson?

6. Do you think that your instructor has an idea about how much the students understand?

7. Does your instructor explain clearly enough?

8. Is your instructor's voice loud enough?

9. Does your instructor write when necessary?

10. Does your instructor use materials effectively?

11. Does your instructor talk less than the students do?

12. Does your instructor make efforts to have the students talk?

13. Does your instructor correct your mistakes?

14. Does your instructor appropriately answer questions from the students?

15. Does your instructor pay attention to every student?

16. Does your instructor have effective time management?

17. Does your instructor make efforts to have good class atmosphere?

18. Do you think that your instructor is enthusiastic?

19. Are you happy about having your instructor?

20. Would you like to be taught by the same instructor in the future?

Phew!!  Past that finally!  So... what do you think?  Just the same as what can be expected anywhere for any job, or does any part of that strike as you as unusual?  The main thing that always bothers me about contracts like this is that they bend over backwards to say that the underpaid instructor must give them heaps of advance warning, but - from their end - they reserve the right to summarily fire anyone if they are unhappy with them.  I don't think that's actually legal, but that's the way the business is for the most part.  The bit about having to teach for free if you miss a day... I don't think that's legal either, but in any event, schedules are honored almost like religious documents here, so they must be given due respect....

Well, I think I'll not only stuff this one into the wires today, but also post it at the site.  If you have the time, let me know if you have been watching the site at all... I've put up several more photos since I first announced it to you, as well as all of the LL-Letters for the past three and a half years - going back to the last letter of 2000.  They've all been reformatted, so are probably easier to read than in the form you originally were sent them.  Feedback welcome.

Sore dewa!

Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon   LLLetters@yahoo.com
Nishi-Shinjuku, Tokyo   July 12th, 2004   (EPP/OpOf-LL327b)
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