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October 23rd, 2004 - February 7th, 2005

- Preface -
"Niigata Earthquakes"
"Work, Weather & Weddings"  by KCM
"Folding Bicycle"
"Water Damage"  by FTB & LHS
"Reading Behind the Lines"
"English as a Second Language"  by KCM
"On the Kitchen Floor..."  by LFL
"Job Interviews, Etc."  by KCM
"Camera History"
"E-mail Woes & Dangerous Roads"  by TJE
"Seasons & Cameras"  by SAJ & LHS
"Time Washes By..."  by LFL & LHS
"Cameras & Camera Names"  by SAJ & LHS
"Early Voting & Vaccine Lines"  by HHE
"Link Colors & Working Hours"  by LHS & EKH
"Lifestyles..."  by SAJ & LHS
"Backup History"
"Fire-Breathing Machinery..."  by Yo/Gr & LHS
"Image Management Software"  by SAJ & LHS
"Waking Up from College"  by KCM
"Two Interviews This Week"  by KCM
"Guess Where She Went?!"  by SAJ & LHS
"Men & Boys - the Price of Their Toys..."  by KCM & LHS
"The Job Hunt Goes On..."  by KCM & LHS
"Job Frustrations"  by KCM
"Chai & Ocha"  by TJE & LHS
"Mini Coopers & Computers"  by KCM
"Earthquake & Tsunami"  by LHS & IAC
"Christmas 2004"  by KCM
BizZ Page Start"  by LHS & Rui
"Fun with Jobs"  by KCM
"Accessing the LL-Letters"  by AJD & LHS
"People & Glass Replacements"  by KCM
"Riding the Wings..."  by Yo/Gr & LHS
"New Job in San Francisco"  by KCM & LHS
"Digital? & 'Lost in Translation'"  by RER & LHS
"Manga & Anime"
"SLR Details"

As you no doubt know at this point, I now post the LL-Letters on my website at:

Since I put the site on-line at the beginning of June last year, I've added a few pages and put things here and there, without following whatever is considered the current proper way to design a website.  The result is what I consider to be a more original site than would otherwise be the case, but it's a bit of a labyrinth in its design, so the best way to keep track of what's where, and when it was put there, is to go to the blog-L page [here].

- where I generally put an explanation for each new thing that goes up, along with a direct link to it, so the blog-L page can function somewhat like an index page for details while the front page is the index for broad categories.

LL-330 has over 22,000 words, so if there's a section that seems boring, just scroll past it to the next section.  The "Camera History" and "Backup History" sections come to mind - if you're interested in that sort of thing, they might make for interesting reading, otherwise, just spin the scroll wheel.

Lyle H Saxon, Tokyo
February 7th, 2005

"Niigata Earthquakes"     [Top of page]

(2004/10/23 21:27)  I've experienced a number of earthquakes, but never one after another the way they've happened this evening.  Centered in Niigata, the shock of them was felt over here in Tokyo.  I'm not sure of the exact distance between Niigata and Tokyo, but by train, from Tokyo Station to Niigata Station, is 333.9km.  What was interesting, was I switched on the TV after feeling the third earthquake and as I watched a woman reporting live from a TV studio in Niigata, the studio she was in suddenly started shaking.  As some people in the background dived for cover, she professionally soldered on and calmly said, "There is another earthquake happening right now...".  As I contemplated the cartoonish spectacle of the people in the background looking near panic, and the woman - as she was rocking back and forth - calmly reporting, I starting laughing... and then about 20 seconds later, my apartment started shaking.  It took me a second to put the two together, and then I realized that the earthquake I saw live from Niigata on TV just seconds before had traveled over to Tokyo and was now giving me a (diminished somewhat) version of the same shaking.  I wasn't terrified, but neither was I still laughing!

In Tokyo here, just an exciting evening, but a tragedy for those in Niigata who lost friends and family; a disaster for those who lost their homes; and a very worrisome time for large numbers of people sitting outside in parking lots, worrying about further aftershocks.  I look at the concrete walls of my apartment building and wonder just exactly how strong the building is.  If a magnitude 7 quake makes a direct hit on Tokyo, will the building stand up to it?  I presume it will, but without damage?  And will the inside of my apartment be a complete mess?

"Work, Weather & Weddings"     [Top of page]

From: KCM  [US]
Date: Thu, 26 Aug 2004

It's boring at work today, so I've been using the Gutenberg website to read up on novels I haven't read before.  I should be applying for work and such, but this week I've been in such a bad mood that I can't concentrate.  It's funny - I've been functioning on a multitude of levels - happy about my car, annoyance and boredom at work, angry at politics... getting lost in stories seems to help a lot.



From: KCM  [US]
Date: Wed, 08 Sep 2004

Things are HOT over here; even in San Francisco (where no one has an air conditioner), it's around 90 degrees, which just makes it worse for them.  I've been doing a lot better; I love my car and am thinking of driving it down Route-1 to visit some friends in Los Angeles.

We attended a friend's wedding on Sunday.  It was a Chinese-Jewish wedding, and tastefully incorporated both traditions together (although the food was straight up American, which was a little disappointing).  It took place at a resort outside my city, and it was reported that the weather would be somewhere around 90... for an outside wedding with an outside reception.  So it was hot, and buggy, but beautiful and touching.  Everything went off so perfectly; it's something like what I would want for my own wedding.  Not that I'm getting married anytime soon, but when everyone else around you is obsessed, you start thinking about it, too.  I attended the bride's bachelorette party, and everyone at the party was slightly older than me, and either married or engaged and it freaked me out, a little bit.  It just seemed so grown up, even though all these women looked around my age.

Also, weddings are too expensive, even for guests.  I forgot that I was supposed to get the bride a bachelorette present, and I didn't attend the shower, which would have been another present, and the wedding present itself.  Then there's finding a dress and shoes to wear; I found a dress but had to buy shoes at the last minute.

The bachelorette party consisted of three events - a spa where the girls got their nails done or got a massage or pedicures.  I chose a French manicure because it was one of the least expensive things.  Then afterwards there was dinner at a Middle Eastern restaurant with belly dancers.  After that we went to a club where they had drag queens.  Drag queens are scary and not very convincing women.  I thought that somehow, it would be more glamorous than it was.  It turned out to be the drag queens dancing badly and lip-synching to 80s-ish music.  There were two who actually sang live, and that was good.  But mostly I thought it was pointless.

In case you were wondering what the guys got - they had dinner at a steakhouse (it seems like every bachelor party has to have a steakhouse) and then afterwards they went to one of the groomsmen's homes....


Re: "Also, weddings are too expensive, even for guests."

In Japan, from my own experiences and what I've heard from others, guests are expected to give the couple getting married Y30,000 (about $300) in cash (in an envelope).  In exchange for this, the guests get a dinner and a present, but Y30,000 isn't cheap on my budget, so I've taken to doing this when invited to a wedding:

WC (Wedding Couple): "We're getting married in June."

Me: "Oh!  Well, congratulations!"

WC: "We'd like you to come - it's going to be on June 11th..."

Me: (Taking out my schedule book and holding it so they can't see what is actually on the pages; turning to June and then thoughtfully looking at the blank section for June 11th with furrowed brows...) "Mmmmmm... I'm afraid I've got a business meeting scheduled for that day... but if I can change it somehow, I'll let you know!"

Whether that charade is bought or not, I don't know, but it's more polite to do it that way than to say "For Y30,000?!  No thanks!  I can't afford to attend weddings at that price!"

KCM's letter is dated September... and here it is January!  I've been spending a lot of computer time on some freelance work, which is a good thing, but the amount of time for the amount of what ends up in print is a somewhat disturbing matter - I really wish I could work with a highly skilled editor to sort through some of my own stuff.  Writing is fun, but editing of the sort I've recently been doing is so time-consuming (I'm not referring to this letter of course, but to paying work).     [Top of page]

"Folding Bicycle"     [Top of page]

(2004/10/23)  I went out to get my bicycle earlier today and ride off into the cool October evening, but the rear tire was completely flat... again.  Is it just something that naturally happened, or has it been sabotaged again?  In light of what's happened to my bike(s) since I moved to this apartment, I'm not in a positive frame of mind and suspect the worst.  So... I decided to get a bike that is small enough that I can keep it under lock and key out on my balcony so saboteurs cannot get their bloody mitts on it.

I looked over a few cheap folding bikes at a local discount store and bought one with six gears, but the thing is so undergeared overall that, other than on very steep hills, I quickly found out that I'll be using it in the highest gear all the time and perpetually wishing for another gear.  After the fact, I had another look at a different model and noticed the large difference in the size of the front gear on it and mine.  The price of mine was half that of the other, so I guess that means half-speed too then?  Oh well... I'm very poor and Y14,000 versus Y26,000 is a big enough issue that I guess I can put up with riding around at half speed when on two wheels.  Beats walking in any case.  [2005/02/04 - I've taken to riding that bike the way electric trains are run - I pedal like mad to get up to speed, and then coast, up to speed, coast, up to speed, coast, up to speed... it's a strange way to use a bike, but it seems to work best for maintaining a higher average speed than would be possible if constantly pedaling without a proper high gear.]

Now, what to do with the sabotaged(?) bike....  For now, I'm just going to leave it in the communal bicycle parking space with it's punctured tire, damaged bell and slightly damaged gears.  I suppose I should just add about $100 a month to the budget and just keep buying new bicycles with it - figuring it's an unavoidable cost of living in this apartment complex.  If the bikes last at least two months, I could keep myself supplied with a constant stream of new ones for about $100 a month, but then disposal of the old damaged ones would become an issue.

Perhaps related - when they recently asked all the residents of this complex to tie a colored string on the handlebars of their bikes, those not so labeled were moved over to an area between buildings and left there for someone to claim.  A few were, but about twelve old bikes have been sitting there out in the weather for about six months now.  Could it be that everyone just buys new bikes when something goes wrong with the old one and then leaves their old ones there to be removed at no cost (you have to pay to properly throw away bicycles and other large items now)?

(2005/01/18 - Nearly three months later!)  After a couple of months, I ended up fixing the flat on the regular bike, so I've been using it again (with the folding bike on the balcony standing by).  I've since come to the conclusion that someone periodically damages bikes at random - I've no idea why....  As of a few days ago, mine (getting increasingly banged up) was still road-worthy.

"Water Damage"     [Top of page]

Subject: Re: WaterDamage?
From: FTB  [US]
Date: Mon, 18 Oct 2004

I am sorry I am late in responding - my computer broke down and is now at a far-away repair center, so I'm mainly accessing the Internet at a public library, although I also have an old computer I'm using at home.

Part of my basement ceiling collapsed - caused by water damage from storms.  The insurance company paid for the ceiling to be fixed, so it's back to normal now.



The long string of old used computers I've bought over the years underscores what unreliable and yet essential boxes they are!  They're also not nearly so common in libraries here, so a person who needs a computer pretty much needs to have their own.

"Reading Behind the Lines"     [Top of page]

(2004/11/21)  There's that old expression to "read between the lines" to extract what is not said overtly, but somehow implied by the overall text, but it just occurred to me that we - in this age of highly developed PR tactics - really need to begin to "read behind the lines", or best of all, "read in, between & behind the lines".  My two years at a PR agency taught me only too well that much of what is reported as "news" is put there because someone or some organization wants people to believe/think something.  Realizing that most people automatically discount advertising as a pack of lies, but believe the articles they read, the best form of advertising is that which masquerades as an unbiased article or news story.

Conspiracy theory?  Hardly.  The PR agency I was at specifically hired people who had worked at newspapers and magazines before, for the sole reason that they had contacts inside those companies and were better able to pitch a client's new product directly to the writers (their friends and former colleagues).  At times, personal favors were called to get something into a newspaper that really had no business being there.  From the writers end, when they have a choice of writing about product A or product B, motivations other than the merits of the products rear their ugly heads and will push a writer to feature the second best product that comes with personal fringe benefits.  Or... and this is the case as much as anything - the editor of a publication tells a writer which one to write about and the writer wants to be able to pay the rent and to eat, so they oblige.

So, no, it's not a conspiracy theory, it's a fact of life today that companies and politicians realize the very best advertising is by putting wolf content into sheep packaging, so it really is high time we all start reading both between and behind the lines!

"English as a Second Language"     [Top of page]

From: KCM  [US]
Date: Mon, 13 Sep 2004

.......  Something else I'm angry about is my relatives, who have just recently immigrated here.  My aunt and uncle arrived with their eight-year-old daughter, Aabbb, sometime last year.  Last week was the start of second grade for her.  Aabbb is a smart, sharp, talkative kid, but she's lazy and would rather play than do her homework.  (Like most kids.)  Neither of her parents speak English, so she doesn't either, despite having been here for nearly a year now.  My sisters and I try to read to/with her whenever we see her, because we know that her school is going to fail her.

On the second day of school she came home with homework that she didn't know how to do.  She was almost on the verge of tears, so she called up my sister, Bbccc, so that she could help.  Bbccc says, fine, I'll come over and help.  When she gets there, Aabbb hands her a piece of blank, lined paper.

Of course, Bbccc is wondering, what the heck am I supposed to do with that?  She figured that the teacher had probably assigned them some sort of writing, perhaps what they did over the summer or something like that.  Since Aabbb couldn't tell her what she was supposed to do, and her parents were of no help, Bbccc wrote a note to the teacher explaining the situation.

Did I mention that California got rid of ESL (English as a Second Language) programs?  That means that there are no translators around, and the children, no matter what their background, are expected to "absorb" English by osmosis.  Aabbb had to get one of her classmates to translate for her, which is a pretty tall task for another eight year old.

It's all so frustrating.  Her parents can't help her, and don't seem to be encouraging her or disciplining her so that she does her homework, and the school system in Oakland is going to fail her.  I don't think her parents are very educated, but %$#&$%, my parents weren't educated either, but they knew the value of education and it was not a question whether we were going to go to college.  Because she's young and smart, this is the best age for her to receive lessons in English, but there's no one around qualified to give them to her.  When I read to her, I tried remembering all the rules of English, and then I realized it would be impossible because there are always exceptions to the rules.  How am I going to explain things like "i before e except after c" when there are words like "weird"?


"On the Kitchen Floor..."     [Top of page]

Subject: Re: LL-329
From: LFL  [US]
Date: Tue, 12 Oct 2004

Hi Lyle, wondered where you got off to.  Missed your letters and was wondering if you have heard about all the hurricanes we have had in Florida....  I was very lucky that nothing happened to my house - just the fence in the back yard is leaning in all directions.

The neighbors across the street didn't fare so well, and had their roofs damaged.  Two months later, one can still see the blue tarp covering the roofs.  Insurance companies are really strapped for inspectors.
Two weeks ago, I slipped and fell on the kitchen floor, because (silly me), I went outside with bare feet and got them wet.  I laid on the floor for over 20 minutes, faint with pain, wondering if I should get up and maybe call an ambulance, but the thought left me after remembering that I don't have insurance.  I am still limping, but it only hurts if I have been sitting with my knee bent or when I get out of bed in the morning and stand up.

PS - I liked what you wrote about Enoshima - too bad you can't write for Japanese travel magazines.

Write for Japanese travel magazines... hmmm... I would have to work with a rewriter for sure.  I can write sloppy Japanese, but nothing near a level that is fit for publishing!

"Job Interviews, Etc."     [Top of page]

From: KCM  [US]
Date: Wed, 29 Sep 2004

I just got a job interview on Monday!  I'm so excited.  I've forgotten how to do job interviews.  It's for a position titled "creative assistant" - basically they're looking for an administrative assistant and a graphic designer rolled into one.  I hope that they pay well and have good benefits.

I'm being driven crazy by my job.  My boss took the past two days off and today, left at 3:00 p.m.  I have absolutely nothing to do.  I asked my boss earlier in the day for work to do, but as usual, she completely forgot.  My coworker left after lunch because of "allergies".  I was left alone for the better part of the day, and the boredom just became too much.  I've been writing cover letters during the day, just to do something to keep my sanity in check.  Looks like it's starting to pay off.

My friends Bbccc and Ccddd have broken up, after an off-and-on relationship of seven years.  Ccddd says this time it's for good.  Bbccc is my good friend, but I am baffled by her actions.  She claims to think of Ccddd as her best friend, but after all these years, admits that she's not in love with him.  To everyone else, it's clear that Ccddd loves her to death and worships the ground she walks on.  But even he's got a limit, and he says he boxed up all her stuff, erased her pictures from his computer, and says he's moving on with his life.

Ddeee and I have been getting along well lately.  We've been thinking about the future more, and what we want out of it.  I guess every relationship has to have a "talk" every so often; we are not very good at doing that, but we're doing much better than before.


From: KCM  [US]
Date: Wed, 6 Oct 2004

I had a job interview earlier this week and I think it went well, but we'll see.  I get so nervous these days, but the people who interviewed me seemed rather nice, and I hope I hear from them soon.  I am so tired of this place; it doesn't hold anything for me or offer anything that can match what I can give.  So it's blitzing places big-time with my resumes and cover letters.


"Camera History"     [Top of page]

(2005/01/23)  I was recently given a Pentax Z-1 SLR camera, prompting me to think back over the cameras I've owned.  I was a little surprised - after counting them up - to realize how many there were.  I've always wanted to buy much more camera equipment than finances would allow, so I've always felt as though I didn't have much, but time has put a number of cameras into my hands at one point or another.  The list (missing some forgotten items I suspect) goes like this:

Kodak 124 (1968?) - I got this for a Christmas present when I was eight or nine years old.  It was one of the Instamatic cameras and I remember my parents were shocked at how quickly I finished off the first roll of film (the first day I think) and that they muttered about me being too young to have a camera....  Funny to think of now, as that was only 12 pictures!  Now I sometimes take over 500 in a single day - Banzai Digital Photography!

Praktica LLC (1971) - My first real camera - a proper single-lens-reflex with an f1.8 close focusing lens and shutter speeds from 1 to 1/1000 - bought as a combination birthday and Christmas present for... I think $50 (a dollar was worth more in 1971 than in 2005).  It was with this camera that I leaned the art of photography.  My parents were happy to pay for black & white (Tri-X) developing for awhile - but then one day I got the bright idea of buying a roll of slide film and then ordering prints - which was so expensive, they shut down film development funds and the camera went into a drawer for the next couple of years.  Alas!  But by the time development funds stopped, I had learned the fundamentals of working with the combination of different aperture openings and shutter speeds, so it had mainly served its initial purpose of teaching me the rudiments of photography.
     Later on in high school, after I got my first part-time job at a restaurant, I got back into taking pictures, but ended up selling the camera....

Olympus XA (1979) - I studied photography with a vengeance once I was out of high school, and one result of reading all the photography magazines I could get my hands on from cover to cover, was that camera reviews steered me towards one of my best camera purchases - the XA.  Later versions of the camera (XA-2, etc.) were mundane with zone focusing and a slower lens, but the XA had aperture-preferred AE (with shutter speed indication) and the 35mm f2.8 lens could be properly focused.  I still regret selling this camera to a friend, but I had to raise money for something... hopefully not a car part, but I can't remember exactly why I sold it - only I wish I hadn't!

Minolta (Model?) 1982 - This was a fairly decent camera that I used for most of the pictures I took from 1982-1984 in San Francisco.  The body was an aperture-preferred AE single-lens-reflex, and I exclusively used an 85mm lens (another result of my photography magazine reading) that I ordered from New York.  I had to sell the camera and lenses to raise cash for emigrating to Japan.  Considering all the time I spent using this camera, it's odd that I don't remember the model name, but the camera was always dominated in use and in my thinking by that 85mm lens.  "What happened to the pictures you took during that period?", you ask?  A scoundrel I entrusted my storage space to when I left the US claimed everything was lost due to water-damage, but the way I had those negatives wrapped and boxed in plastic, I don't believe it.  That scoundrel is one person I don't want to meet - no good could come of it.  It pains me to think of all those pictures I painstakingly took - vanished.  I almost hope they were stolen and not trashed....

Nikkormat (Model? / Year?)  A very solid and nearly indestructible camera body that I was given (used) in San Francisco, but didn't use until after coming to Japan and later acquiring a few Nikkormat lenses for.  The soft sealant of the film compartment deteriorated, but Nikon repaired that for Y10,000.

Konica (half-frame) - This was an interesting-looking camera that took pretty lousy pictures - with a sloppy lens and onto only half of the area on a 35mm frame (making a 36-exposure roll of film 72-exposure).  A bad purchase that I still regret.  All those semi-sharp pictures taken that could have been good sharp pictures if I'd been using a proper camera!

Nikon FG (1985) - This camera was pretty much like the Minolta I used in San Francisco - not a bad camera, but not one I was ever really proud about owning either.  Unlike the fate of my San Francisco pictures however, I still have the pictures I took with this camera.  After a few years, the electronic shutter control burned out and it was only functional at 1/90th of a second (the camera's only mechanical shutter speed that would operate even without batteries).

To Video:

Kyocera Hi8 Video (Made by Sony) - My first video camera, purchased for Y170,000 yen.  Too bloody much!  I spent way-way-way too much money on video (four cameras, a Sony Hi-8 editing deck (for Y190,000 + Y50,000 for repairs later!), and S-VHS editing deck), and all only to acquire fragile machinery that broke down repeatedly after only months of use to generate analog tapes that are difficult to edit, and of diminished quality after editing.  On the plus side, the fact that video cameras were that expensive then, probably means that the several hundred hours of video tape I have could be of interest for the time frame in which I took it - provided the tape hasn't disintegrated that is!  Now there's the worry of finding a machine to play the tapes, so they can be converted to digital, since all three of the remaining cameras are broken!

Ricoh Hi8 Video (Made by Sony) - I had such a bad experience with the service department of Ricoh with this camera that - combined with a less-than-ideal experience with a Ricoh word processor I used for several years (all the floppies are unintelligible gibberish as far as modern computers are concerned) - I still have a negative reaction just seeing that word.  At least my experience with the Ricoh half-frame (see below) was positive.
     Interestingly, a man I bumped into while using the Ricoh said he was looking for a video camera and I asked him if he was interested in buying the one I was using.  He was, and I sold it to him for... Y50,000 I think.  I had just gotten it back from a repair that I had to submit to Ricoh three times before they actually fixed it, so presumably it was a good camera for the guy - provided he didn't use it every day for hours at a time the way I did.
     Note about repairs:  The problem I've found is that if you have a machine that is dead-in-the water useless, *then* they'll fix it, but if it's semi-functional, the service departments try to shirk their responsibility of repairing it - such was the case with the Ricoh video camera that I had to fight so had to get repaired.

Sony Hi8 Video #1 - Although I had better luck at the Sony service center with repairing the ever-malfunctioning cameras (I was using two of the same model, and I always had one in the shop and one in daily use)...

Sony Hi8 Video #2 - ...I realized as video cameras number three and four burned themselves out and their one-year warrantee periods expired, that I could no longer afford to continue taking video pictures.

Back to still pictures:

Ricoh half-frame (model number?/year?) - A very interesting camera in that it automatically advances the film and yet has no batteries (you wind up the film advance like a watch when you first load in the film) - but, like the Konica half-frame camera I used, didn't generate very good pictures.  I bought it used for Y500, had it serviced for Y10,000 (finally a good - if expensive - experience with Ricoh!), and now it's packed away somewhere, but I don't know where.  Someday it will resurface I presume!

Nikon FM2 - My earlier experience with the Nikon FG losing shutter speed control probably influenced my purchase of this camera - with fully manual shutter speeds from 1 to 1/4000.  The only function of the battery in the camera is to run the meter, so if you know how to set the exposure without the meter, the camera is fully functional with no batteries!  It's a really good mechanical design, so when this one was stolen (with my 50mm f1.4 lens on it at the time), I spent years wistfully looking at FM2's in camera stores, leading up to the day I saw a poster for the FM3, which warned me that the FM2 was about to be discontinued, so I pulled out my credit card and bought one of the last new ones (more on that below - see second listing of Nikon FM2!).  The "One Evening in Niigata" ("Niigata Evening" on the title page) was taken with my first FM2.

Kodak DC215 Zoom, 1MP (2000) - My first digital camera, and for the first time in my life, I was able to take as many pictures as I liked!  I would go out for pictures in San Francisco and very carefully take picture after picture, feeling like I'd taken a lot of them when I had used up three rolls of 36-exposure (usually 37 in practice) film, but there's a substantial difference between taking 111 pictures in a day and taking six or seven hundred!  I want to be able to take more than 1,000 pictures a day, but every time I get more memory into a camera (generally with a camera upgrade), I also begin taking heavier pictures, so the total number of pictures is still less than I would like.  I would easily be there now if I could afford a 4GB memory card (Compact Flash), but I can't, so I'm now using a 1GB card in the Olympus C5050 (see below).  In the Kodak, I began by using a 4MB card!  (From 4MB to 1,000MB!)  Most of the PDF files on the "Photos with text from 2000 to 2002(+)" page (which is on the "PDF Files" page) were made with photos from this camera.

Casio LV-10 - A Y10,000 mistake.  Although it actually took sort of passable pictures in the beginning and it has a USB interface, you can only upload pictures with the software that came with the camera (unlike most recent cameras that automatically work via plug-and-play).  Early on, the computer I was initially using the camera with got a new hard drive and then I couldn't find that software... until a month ago, but now the camera seems to have moisture(?) damage.  I don't know what it is exactly, but pictures look like they were taken through a fogged over lens.  Externally, the camera looks fine, but something is wrong on the inside.  Actually, for some pictures, it produces an interesting effect, so I'll try to get a picture or two from it onto the LL-website (see LV10View).

Olympus C860L (1.3MP) - A decent backup camera for not very serious photography, but with an extremely irritating shutter release that requires just the right timing and pressure to function.  Many pictures have been missed due to that, but as a camera to toss into a bag or loan out without worrying about it, it's good.

Olympus C4040-Zoom (4.1MP) - 3.3MP seems to be the line between what will provide useable images and what is only good for the computer.  This was my first digital camera capable of generating commercially usable images.  This camera was also quite good for capturing pictures in low light, like the "Sky Sushi" photo in the Photo Gallery at the "LL-Letters" site.
     It was a great camera and always worked great, but after taking a little over 30,000 pictures with it, the shutter started making strange noises, so - figuring it was operating on borrowed time - I bought the Olympus C5050.

Nikon FM2 - I wrote about buying this camera back when I got it several years ago.  To date, I've only taken one roll of film with it - still undeveloped!  For color, that would likely be too long to wait and still get images off of the negatives, but for that first roll, I used black & white Kodak Tri-X (which I bought for old time's sake), so the images on the film are probably still okay.

Olympus C5050-Zoom (5MP) - An updated version of the C4040.  I was initially disappointed in the lower light sensitivity of the 5MP image sensor compared to the 4MP one in the C4040, but other than that, I ended up liking the camera's other improvements, such as much better auto-white balance and (very important), use of Compact Flash *and* Smart Media cards (BTW - that's "cards", not "sticks"! - $&#%&!!) in place of the C4040's reliance on only Smart Media.

Pentax Z-1 - Being a film camera, I don't use it much, but it's a great camera.  I inherited it from a man who (other than one Olympus camera) used exclusively Pentax cameras and lenses (in stark contrast to myself with my bouncing from one manufacturer to another).

Let's see... Kodak, Praktica, Olympus, Minolta, Konica, Nikon, Kyocera, Ricoh, Sony, Casio & Pentax.  Not exactly a picture of brand loyalty!  Different winds have blown me in different directions, but I would say that I - all other factors being equal - prefer Olympus and Nikon cameras.     [Top of page]

"E-mail Woes & Dangerous Roads"     [Top of page]

Subject: Re: LL-329
From: TJE  [US]
Date: Thu, 14 Oct 2004

Most of my family lives in Ft. Worth.  I am a much loved "old broad", so when I accept a trip to visit them, they come and get me, which entails a little over a hundred-mile trip on one of the most dangerous highways around.  I then have a great time with the great-grandchildren, catch up on he latest movies via big time cable, and enjoy old black and white movies.  There is so much activity that they don't want to bring me home, and by the time they do, I am one tired old lady!  I have been up there to "cow-town" three times since June - Ugh!!!

I return to find that my Web-TV box is full of spam, and despite my requesting "No mail till further notice"... there are those articles that I just must read and one more dumb blonde joke to run by me.  In desperation, I decided I would add another account by applying to Yahoo.com.  My daughter jumped the gun and set up an account with yahoo for me.

Well, something went very wrong and after four days of frustration, I was at long last able to access the account.  Guess what?  Going through this ordeal, I find I have a temper!  Surely it has always been there, I just wasn't using it.  Now I am old enough to have been in the mortality "check out" line for ten years... and this kind of aggravation is a real stroke instigator.

Aabbb and I have to be careful of out attitude, since most people seem to think ours are the best - tranquil but fun.  That's us maybe, but give me an opening where politics are to be discussed, and I have a lot to say... and I'm going to say it now, because I am running out of time in which I can talk - hahaha.

Texas had some rain last year [2003] in August and some folks were so shocked they all but turned to stone.  This year [2004], it rained several times in August (which is usually hotter than #$%& and just as dry).  Tonight it will be in the upper 40's and then up to the upper 60's, then back up to the 80's.  We really have something to talk about in the checkout lines at the grocery store.

I've recently noticed that my food larder is beginning to look like I am preparing for a seven-year famine... still, each time I go out I think of things that will be needed.

Checking on my sweaters and thinking I should buy boots.  It has been the mildest summer that I can remember in the past fifty years.

PS - It was so hot in lower Norway this summer, that hot water was coming out of the cold-water faucet... that from an Englishman who has lived there for the past 35 years.

TJE in Texas     [Top of page]

"Seasons & Cameras"     [Top of page]

Subject: Re: Olympus, Nikon, & Honda...
From: SAJ  [US / the Netherlands]
Date: Sat, 16 Oct 2004

For some reason I never thought of the leaves changing color in Japan.  I have no idea why I thought such a thing.  The leaves don't get much color here, they just seem to drop off the trees - like one day they're there, the next they're not.  I find myself longing for a good old New England Autumn as October rolls around each year.
I am thinking about getting an Olympus C-8080.  I want something that will fit into my backpack and give me great photos - action as well as stills.  I would like a manual zoom, but haven't found one that is compact.  A friend bought a Pentax Optio S4i that she just loves.  However, since I have a CF memory card for the camera I now own, I would like to be able to use it on the next camera I buy too, and the Optio doesn't take the CF card.  The Olympus C-8080 seems a little bigger then what I had really wanted, but so far it seems to be the best I have come across.

I am waiting for the day when you can order a camera the way you want it like you can a computer. Built to order, no paying for things you won't ever use or having more modes then you know what to do with.

Re: "For some reason I never thought of the leaves changing color in Japan.  I have no idea why I thought such a thing."

I think that image comes from the WW-II films and the history of fighting that took place on and around islands in the South Seas.  From south to north, Japan ranges from what would be (in the US) the border with Mexico in the south and the border with Canada in the north, so we have all types of weather here actually.  In Tokyo it's more or less like New York, with a fall somewhat like the New England states.

Re: "I am thinking about getting an Olympus C-8080."

The C-8080 looks fairly decent - I often use a C-5050 myself.  The extended zoom range of the C-8080 over the C-5050 comes at a price though - it's a more light hungry camera than the 5050, which is more light sensitive than most cameras (meaning that the 8080 is normal, just less sensitive than the 5050).  If I can somehow scrape together enough cash for a new camera, I might get that one, but I'm hoping to get a single lens reflex model next time (after having a 4040 and a 5050...).  Olympus is selling an 8MP model for about Y100,000 here in Tokyo (about $1,000) that seems like it might be a good camera, but I haven't looked into it in detail yet.     [Top of page]

"Time Washes By..."     [Top of page]

Subject: Re: LL-329
From: LFL  [US]
Date: Sun, 17 Oct 2004

The Weather here has been cold at night - it's time to bring out the winter coats.

I remember when you were paying by the minute to be online, how is it now?  Do you have unlimited service now?  Things certainly have changed since you and I first began writing!  I was just-divorced when we first wrote, and now I have been seeing the ex-hubby for over a year.  I have been flying to Arkansas once a month....

I'm planning another trip early in November, then we are driving back.  He will be staying here for a few months and will be working on my rental house, getting it ready to sell.  I'm not sure if we will get remarried but it would be great to NOT be alone.  Right now, I would sell everything and move in with him.... but... maybe I should think this through?


Thankfully, I no longer have to pay by the minute - thanks to the liberalization of the telecommunications market in Japan, DSL finally came in and I now have unlimited Internet access for a set monthly fee.

Yes... a lot has changed since I began this project - back in 1996.  One more year and it'll be ten years!  Yikes!!  Where has all the time gone?  On one hand, I look back over the things I've written and think that a number of things have happened, but on the other hand, I think... it's been nearly ten years?!  Already?!  And where is all that speed-of-light change I had counted on?  Certainly things are different and have changed, but not in the best direction....

Needing to think things through... the only advice I can give is to attempt to think wordlessly, and not get into a mechanical logic cycle, which can lead in circles and miss the core issue.  That probably sounds like a non-answer, but....

"Cameras & Camera Names"     [Top of page]

Subject: Which camera to buy...sigh
From: SAJ  [US / the Netherlands]
Date: Sun, 24 Oct 2004

I have spent hours reading reviews on cameras plus reading up on the basics of digital photography to help me decide what type of camera to buy.  I was seriously considering the Olympus C-8080, but I went to a camera store yesterday and didn't really like it after I'd had a closer look at it.  Now I am thinking about getting a Konica-Minolta DiMAGE A2 or the Konica-Minolta DiMAGE A200, which isn't out in the stores here yet.

I haven't been happy with my Sony for a very long time, but for what I have been using it for, it has served my purposes.  I understand not everyone is going to be happy with the same camera, but I really hate it when I read so many good reviews about one, and then all of sudden you come across three or four different reviews that just think it is the worst camera around and say everything opposite from what you have just read about it.  It plants seeds in my mind and I become so unsure.  Of course that is what the reviews are there for, to give the bad along with the good from other owners....


Reviews - some of them are good and some of them are really (really-really) bad!  In doing some writing for hire I can imagine how/why the bad stuff gets in there.  Organizations want to sell a publication and they forget that the first thing they should be keeping in mind, is the basic responsibility they have of providing useful information to their readers, and instead latch onto catch phrases and "key words" in writing (nearly) pure garbage that shouldn't be written in the first place, let alone printed!

Cameras - generally speaking, I would try to get a single lens reflex camera if at all possible.  That way, the next time you want to upgrade the camera body, you will only need to buy the body and not another lens.  And while you use the body, you can buy new lenses to suit special purposes - and since you're buying only the lenses, you're not re-buying technology that you already have.

And... speaking of Konica-Minolta's digital cameras, which the company has unwisely named "DiMage", I did some freelance translations work for them once and I wrote the following paragraph to the translation company in the middle that had sent the work to me.  I wrote it to the company, but then decided not to send it!  But in the interest of pointing out the obvious that the people in the PR department of that company seem oblivious to, I'll put the paragraph in here.  I hasten to say that I am not criticizing the company's cameras at all... just that horrible name!  With that, here's the paragraph:

 - Incidentally, every time I see one of the Konika-Minolta "Dimage" cameras, I have to shake my head.  I know the thinking is that "Digital" + "Image" has been combined into the "clever" word "Dimage", but it's a huge mistake!  Many people see and hear those first three letters "dim" and think, well, "dim"! - which is a truly horrible name for a camera!  Dim means many bad things - "dark", "lacking light", "idiotic", etc. etc.  And that's not the worst of it!  If you change that one single letter "i" to an "a", you get "damage"!  So it's a double punch!  Really, truly, a horrible name for a camera!  They should change it to something that doesn't sabotage the company - or is their aim to make themselves go out of business?  (I used to be a fan of Minolta, by the way...)  I'm telling you this in the hope that you might be able to - someday, somehow - help the company come up with a better name.  I hate to see them damage their image with that very bad and idiotic name Dimage!     [Top of page]

"Early Voting & Vaccine Lines"     [Top of page]

Subject: Voting
From: HHE  [US]
Date: Sun, 31 Oct 2004

.........  My wife and I exercised our "over 65" prerogative and voted by mail about a month ago.  My oldest daughter lives here, on the north side of Houston.  She works long hours, can't get away on Tuesday, so she voted early, after work on Friday, and stood in line for 3-1/2 hours.  That's even longer than the flu shot vaccine line my wife endured two weeks ago.  We took chairs and it was 2-1/2 hours - actually 3 hours from when we arrived.  They had only 300 doses and we were numbers 196 and 197.  It appears many people who normally don't get the vaccine are now in almost a panic and feel they must have them this year.  Anything that is in short supply seems to attract attention.


"Link Colors & Working Hours"     [Top of page]

The next letter was in answer to this bit from myself:

From: Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon
Subject: New PDF File at Site
Date: Thu, 11 Nov 2004

Tokyo calling - Lyle here,

I just put a batch of photos with text up at the site.  They're in a PDF file - which can be accessed a couple of ways, one being to go to the "blog-L" page:


- where I have a link to both the main PDF page and also to the "New Files" page.  Click on "Trans" to get the PDF file.  Depending on your browser, it might just automatically open, or else you can save it and open it separately.

Another way is to go directly to the "New Files" PDF page:


- where - again - clicking on "Trans" will take you to the PDF file.

If you get a chance to have a look at the file, which one friend has termed a "Photo Essay", then let me know what you think.


Sore dewa!

Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon

Subject: RE: New PDF File at Site
From: EKH  [US]
Date: Thu, 11 Nov 2004

Good morning - at least it is morning here in Michigan as I write.  Congratulations on your hard work and the wonderful website.

It may be the browser I am using, and I hope I am the only one having difficulty, but the deep blue text of the links against a blue background makes reading the website addresses extremely difficult.

Working between 65 to 70 hours a week has caught up with me.  I asked to be excused from a very demanding project and transferred to a new, relatively slower paced project.  As of this week, I am back to a respectable 44-45 hour workweek.  This new assignment should give me time to recharge my batteries.


About that dark blue background... to get to the link, you can just click on the link and don't need to actually read it, but - yes - you're right, I should change that.  What's happening is that the settings of my HTML editor are based on the assumption that people always use a white (or light-colored) background (I hate... really hate white backgrounds - they are very hard on the eyes when looking at a monitor), so the links automatically become that color.  I need to get into the settings for the HTML editor so that it uses a different default color for "Unvisited links" and also (especially) "Visited links".     [Top of page]

"Lifestyles..."     [Top of page]

Subject: Re: New PDF File at Site
From: SAJ  [US / the Netherlands]
Date: Thu, 11 Nov 2004

Since my last e-mail, my mother has not been well.  It has been a roller coaster ride that I have not enjoyed.  On Tuesday, she was rushed to the hospital where we almost lost her.  She is in ICU, but should be moved into a room today.  She is back to her old self mentally once again and should be going home in another couple of days.  She has taken a few falls over the past couple of weeks and is not recovering very fast from them.
Now about my camera... I have decided on a Minolta A2.  I hope to buy it before the end of the year.  Right now I don't want to spend any extra money, just in case I need to go to the States.

I began reading your new article along with the photos that you sent today.  I find it interesting regarding how people find what they can take good photographs of.  Like you said in the beginning of your article, you are drawn to cities instead of nature for photography.  I can't take good photos of landscapes, but am drawn more to bugs, flowers, and close-ups.  I can usually tell when I have taken a good photo - there's a feeling that just says, "Yeah, that's it", and you get this wonderful rush of sorts.

I have been feeling rather restless lately, wanting to get out and take pictures.  Not just what I usually take, but more photos of life itself on the move.  I am hoping I can get some pictures that will give the feeling of what I really see in a person.  The window washer working his way down the long street of row-houses; people going to work on their bikes; parents walking their kids to school, and owners taking their dogs out for a walk or sitting in a cafe with their dogs beside them.  The old buildings lining the main shopping streets.

The way I live my life here is not like the way others do.  Being a loner I am not outgoing and I only learn what I feel is important to me, so I can't really comment a lot about this country, but only how I personally live here, which is not like the average expat.  I don't just get on the tram/metro/train and go places that I don't know how to get to, to begin with.  I live in my safe zone and am very happy with that.  I am not a city person, yet I live in a city, so I have made my own little country style of living within my little world.  My live is as simple as I can make it.  I am more at home at the garden house then I am in my city house.  I would much rather spend my days digging in the dirt then getting together for coffee to talk about current events, what to fix for dinner or keeping up with the Joneses.  As often as not, I prefer my dog's company to many people I've met.  I don't enjoy getting all dressed up and going out.  I don't enjoy having people over for dinner, nor going to their place for dinner - where you spend time talking just to talk or spend time trying to think of something to say that might interest them.  Not to mention all the worry of what to fix for dinner and how it will turn out, and the aftermath you face after the event.  I hate having my days interrupted at all actually - I hate appointments of any kind as well as any type of schedule.  Even having to water someone's plants while they are away bugs me.  I will do it and won't say anything, but just the thought that I HAVE to do something on a certain day rubs me the wrong way.

I think I'll go with the dog now - the sun is out and the air feels crisp today - it's a good day for a walk.


Re: "I have been feeling rather restless lately, wanting to get out and take pictures.  Not just what I usually take, but more photos of life itself on the move."

Yes!  And this is the invaluable contribution that artists make to society.  It's hard to push on at times when the money-holders don't appreciate good art, but enough people do, and I personally feel enriched every time I see good design, good art, indeed any physical thing that has been done well and looks good.

About lifestyles and socializing - I think one lifestyle is as valid as another.  What you miss by not wasting money on commercialism you more than make up through perception of the overall *feeling* of the areas you live in.  It's interesting - more interesting than the commercial stuff.     [Top of page]

"Backup History"     [Top of page]

Warning:  This is purely about computers, so if you're not into them at all, you'll want to scroll down past this section!

(2004/12/15 23:06)  With my first computer, I began backing up my text files onto a floppy disk.  Yes, that's right, onto "a" floppy disk, just one.  As I wrote more, I needed a second disk, and then suddenly it was four disks, and then I stopped trying to back everything up and just put current projects onto floppy.

Then, one day, the screen burned out on my laptop - which was my one and only fully functional computer at the time.  I was able to get the screen repaired under warrantee, but I was profoundly shocked to realize that I could loose all of my work in an instant, so... I bought a desktop computer and backed up files from one to the other machine via floppies.

But that took way too long as the number of files grew, so I learned how to make use of a cross parallel cable that I hooked up to the printer ports of the two computers and used to transfer large blocks of files from one machine to the other.

However... I was still nervous all the time about the fact that my data was dependant upon active machines, while I wanted the data to be safely stored and not susceptible to the whims of a complicated piece of machinery, so I bought a SuperDisk that would save up to 120MB of data onto a magnetic disk that was the same size as a floppy (and the drive would also read regular floppies).  I was very happy with it for about fifteen minutes, until I realized that it couldn't save my complicated file directory structure due to... I'm not sure what, but I think there was a limit on the total number of files it could put on one disk.

Bitterly disappointed, I was soon full of joy once again when I bought a used MO drive for Y3,000 that used 128MB MO disks.  This time I was able to save complicated file directory structures, etc. - basically anything under 128MB.  Finally - all of my data on a single removable disk!  Naturally, that didn't last long and I soon found myself needing multiple disks to back up my data files again.

Enter CD-R/RW!  I still remember the first disk I made - I looked at the red "WRITING" light on the front of it and marveled at the concept of a machine that allowed me to make my own CD-ROM's.  Having grown up with LP records and then read-only CD's, I was used to the idea that you just don't make your own disks - it can't be done - but there it was, in front of me, and it *was* being done!  Fantastic!  CD-R/RW disks enabled me to save all my important files on one disk (with a second covering files of lesser importance) for quite a long while, but after I bought a digital camera, I quickly found that there were far too many megabytes of data to fit on a reasonable number of CD-R/RW disks.

So I was back to computer-to-computer back-ups of data - with LAN this time instead of a cross-parallel cable - and once again I was feeling nervous about not being able to put the data onto a removable disk.

Enter DVD-R/RW.  From 700MB to 4,700MB, now I'm able to put enough of the photos onto a single disk that it's viable to back up my pictures onto DVD disks.  That's great, but what isn't so great is that there are a ridiculous number of DVD standards and disk types, so compatibility is an issue.  Already I'm having some trouble reading some DVD disks I made on a W-machine with my L-machine.  It reads the folders on the disk, but goes sort of haywire as it opens one new window after another.  It reads the DVD disks it makes itself however.  I hope I don't end up with disks that can only be read by one precise type of machine, as upgrading to a new machine could render all the old data useless....     [Top of page]

"Fire-Breathing Machinery..."     [Top of page]

Subject: Re: New PDF File at Site
From: Yo/Gr  [US / Japan]
Date: Sun, 14 Nov 2004

.....  The car thing; money; taxes... hope all is well.  My brother visited with his wife.  It was an interesting gaijin experience, think I will leave it at that.

Kyoto really does look good this season, I say we ban cars, buses, and trucks though.


One of my on-going "Wouldn't it be nice if..." day-dreams is that my home base mega-city (and all other large cities) would be so much more pleasant if there were no fire-breathing cars, trucks or buses - but instead only electric trains, electric street cars, and a limited number of electric delivery vehicles.  Clear air... every day!  Now - as mega-city dwellers - the only time we are spared having to share the same dirty air with our beloved fire-breathing machinery is right after a powerful storm with strong winds.  On those rare days, I look off into the distance through clear air and think, "Ah... if not for the fire-breathing machinery, every day could be a paradise like today!".  So I think, but put me behind the wheel of an automobile and I fall in love with cars again.  They need to become electric or something though....

"Image Management Software"     [Top of page]

Subject: Re: Thumbnails...
From: SAJ  [US / Holland]
Date: Sun, 21 Nov 2004

I'm going to install Photoshop CS on my upstairs computer today.  I can't wait to start playing with it!  I looked at it a little bit last night on another computer, and it looks like a great tool to have for working with photos.  If you have the time, you may want to take a look at it at their website.

I enjoy doing digital imaging.  Once I get my camera and can take some quality pictures, I think I'll set up a page for them at my site.  I'm expecting to have the camera by Christmas.  It's driving me nuts having to wait.  I notice that Dell sells the A2 and I'm going to have Aabbb see if he can get a better deal with them than what we can get at the local camera shop, since his company does so much business with them.
It's also turned cold here. I swear I saw a few snowflakes yesterday morning.  Too bad I wasn't able to catch them and put them in a jar for proof.

Need to get moving here. We are going out to turn off the water at the garden house today and finish getting the place ready for winter.  I have all my bulbs planted and am already looking forward to spring and seeing them popping up.


This is the first I've heard of CS - I use PhotoShop from time to time, but mainly I use ACD Systems ACD-See software, v4.0.  I have v7.0 also, but - oddly - there are some things that the old version of the software will do that the new version will not.  7.0 does have some useful new features though - particularly the ability to directly create PDF files.  I also use GQView and GIMP on my Linux computer.

"Waking Up from College"     [Top of page]

From: KCM  [US]
Date: Tue, 30 Nov 2004

Today I had a nightmare about being back in college.  It was the first day of school, only I realized that I hadn't picked any classes for the quarter.  Panicking, I ran all over the UCLA campus searching for a library where I could log on to a computer and fix everything.  Then I woke up, relieved, into the reality of my adult life.  No tests, no last-minute cramming, no dorm food.

To tell the truth, I feel like I'm barely on the brink of adulthood; I am not married, nor do I have any children.  I don't own a house, I am in debt for the money I spent on my university education, and I have too many credit cards.  On the other hand, I have a steady nine-to-five job and an opportunity to do freelance work.

I've always wanted to be a writer, but I wasn't usually so good about follow-through.  In the past month, an opportunity fell into my lap and I took the chance.  I've just been given my first assignment, and I'm really excited about what will happen next.

My life right now is one of contentment.  I live in a safe, suburban neighborhood with plenty of trees and grass, am near to my family (if a little too far from my friends), and have a beautiful, low-maintenance car.  I have a wonderful, supportive boyfriend, and an active social life.  I keep busy by writing, drawing, or reading all the books I didn't get a chance to in college.

I am a contemplative person, and it often helps for me to take walks around my neighborhood.  Fall finally came to California late in November, and the leaves are turning brilliant shades of orange and red, transforming my neighborhood from a mediocre suburb to a brilliant color parade.  Walking around, I draw on ideas all around me.

Next week I will be joining my friends for dim sum, an activity that used to be reserved for family functions.  I might even attempt to throw my first wine-and-cheese party.  Will I have arrived finally, as an independent, self-sufficient adult?


"Two Interviews This Week"     [Top of page]

From: KCM  [US]
Date: Wed, 01 Dec 2004

I have some good news!  I am up for two interviews this week.  I am especially excited that one of them will be with an interesting nonprofit organization.  The commute, though, I'm not looking forward to.  It would be nearly an hour long, and I'd have to stew in Bay Bridge traffic.  If I got the job, I'd probably either move in with or move nearer to Aabbb.  The other interview is for a high-tech company as a marketing assistant; it's less than a mile from my house, but poking around on the Internet, there are rumors of high turnover, and that's not a good sign.


From: KCM  [US]
Date: Fri, 03 Dec 2004

I had an interview today at the high-tech company, with four different women, all part of the marketing team.  It seems like it's a friendly space, but I was warned that there would be a lot of pressures.  My role as marketing assistant would be sales and marketing support - I'd be helping out with marketing materials, graphic design, etc, as well as providing administrative support for the sales team.  The women who interviewed me all seemed pretty friendly, and young, except for the marketing director.  The marketing director is one of those people you think of as a "tough broad" - no nonsense, very strong, and with a lot of presence.  She said that she was a big proponent of balance - having a life besides work, and of leaving your work at work, which is good.

Tomorrow there's another interview.  We'll see how it goes.  I hope I will get at least one offer before the end of the year.


"Guess Where She Went?!"     [Top of page]

From: SAJ  [US / Holland]
Date: Sat, 4 Dec 2004

You are not going to believe who I heard from yesterday. Ccddd.  The last time I heard from her, she had just left Canada and was heading down to visit some friends in NY.  You won't believe where she is now.  Ready?  Viet Nam.  That's right, Viet Nam.  She arrived there five days ago.  How she ended up there, I have no idea but can't wait to get the whole story.
Aabbb has a DVD-R/RW as well.  I don't use it and don't know that much about them.  Aabbb takes care of all the backups on the computers, as well as anything else that has to do with them.
The camera I wanted (Minolta A2) has been put on hold once again because of an upcoming trip.  I'm not a happy camper, but I do need to eat while I'm gone. :-(

Well - one good thing about waiting to buy any computer-based machine, is that it is bound to get better with time.  And unless inflation kicks in, it's also bound to get cheaper - so you get more machine for less money.  Keeping that in mind, it's probably not a bad idea to wait!

"Men & Boys - the Price of Their Toys..."     [Top of page]

From: KCM  [US]
Date: Wed, 08 Dec 2004

I am really on edge this week because I am waiting to hear back from my job interviews.  This is so nerve-wracking!  This weekend I will be having a party, Aabbb just bought himself a new TV (he couldn't help himself because the deal was so good), and I am going to try to relax.  I'm forbidding Aabbb from buying any more gadget/electronic things, because %$#&, do his toys burn a hole in his wallet.  He got a Treo 600 this year (it was only $200 after rebate) and his TV is a Sony 42" wide-screen, which cost a little over $2k.  While it's great that he has the money to spend on these things, I worry about him saving up his money for other, more solid things, like a house or something.  *sigh*

Haha.  I am reminded of the time one of his guy friends (whose hobby is photography), and his fiance at the time were saving up for their wedding or to move to a new apartment - I forget which.  But anyway, they were supposed to be saving up for stuff, but one day he came home with several thousand dollars worth of camera equipment without consulting her.  When I heard about it, we laughed, because he isn't typically loose with his money, but that generally applies only to things that don't relate to him.  His fiance wasn't pleased, but I don't know if they fought about it or not.


Spending too much on equipment... I'm guilty of that sort of thing myself.  Especially if I think a tool (which is what cameras and computers are) will help me work more effectively/efficiently, it's really difficult to avoid buying it, whether I can afford it or not.  Some of the purchases I've made in the past were in fact good ones, but many turned out to just be a waste of money!  The equipment I most regret buying is the Hi8 video cameras and editing equipment, all of which is broken now.  For the most part, I don't regret investing in computers though, since they've been central to my earning a living for the past five years or so - the freelance work I'm doing now would be absolutely impossible without them.  That goes for the digital cameras as well.  Speaking of which, I really should be getting a better camera....  there's no end to it!

"The Job Hunt Goes On..."     [Top of page]

Subject: Re: also
From: KCM  [US]
Date: Fri, 10 Dec 2004

The second of the two companies I mentioned before rejected me in favor of someone with administrative experience in a law firm.  Aabbb says that I'm overqualified for the position anyway, and they know it.  So I am not taking it too harshly.  I would have been underpaid with a terrible commute, and expected to work the "geek life" that Aabbb has, which means that I would have been expected to work outside of work - it's not a lifestyle I like or want.

Did I ever tell you that Aabbb's boss is against the idea of marriage?  Why?  Because he believes married people work less.  His boss is anti-social and chronically complains about things....

I had a second interview with the high-tech firm yesterday and met the entire marketing team, as well as one of the sales guys.  I am crossing my fingers - things seemed to go well, and I was there from 9:30 to 11am, interviewing with four different people.  I will be hearing from them next week (crossing my fingers).  I would really like this position - I'd be working for a team of women who all seem very smart, and are mostly a little older than me.  The oldest is the marketing director, and she would be a very good mentor to have around.  The sales guy mentioned that the marketing director wanted me because I was an English major, which I take as a good sign.  I am trying not to get my hopes up too high, because I don't want to be disappointed.  It would be a high pressure job, but I am not afraid of that.  Actually, I think I need something like that.


Subject: bleh
From: KCM  [US]
Date: Fri, 17 Dec 2004

I didn't get the high-tech job, mainly because "Our company decided to reorganize its marketing department and therefore we are no longer hiring for the position".  I wasted five hours in those two interviews and had to make up so much time that it was just, arrgh.  I'm more affected than if they had just hired someone else.  If they had just hired someone else, I would have been down, but I would get over it.  Now I'm upset that they wasted my time.

*sigh*  Still have to make it somehow.  I am just so frustrated with the entire situation - the slowness of my boss in moving to make sure I have benefits and vacation time, the endless job searching, the senseless job interviews, especially the government ones where they ask stupid questions like "What are your short and long term goals" for a position that doesn't have a future!   *arrrgh*

Gah.  I am not in a good mood today.  I didn't win anything from the raffle at the office Xmas party, either.


It's too early to say if an interview was worth it or not I think.  You'd be surprised how much of a time delay there is sometimes between initial contact and a job actually materializing.  If that department gets the green light to hire, you might suddenly get a call saying, "Can you start on Monday?" or something to that effect.  One of the coolest and best paying freelance jobs I had here ($100 an hour to teach an aikido master English) came about over six months after I had sent them my resume.

It was kind of a funny interview actually - occasionally I play roles well without even trying.  The guy's wife was (he's since divorced and remarried) a marketer of beauty products and had written books (sitting on the table in from of me as I waited for the interview in her beauty salon) about positive thinking and how it makes you more beautiful (ho-ho - laughing all the way to the bank she was), so in the interview I just told her, "I'm the one for the job.  I have the experience, I know about the dual culture issues, and I can do exactly what you're looking for."  Which was all true enough actually... I was just surprised that PR junk came flowing out of my mouth so easily - it usually doesn't - it must have been fate or something.  Her and her positive thinking... she hired me on the spot!

About the government job - I think I can imagine somewhat... another friend in the US has a job working for the city, and he's been saying basically the same thing.  Also, the foundation I worked for here was really weird... probably a similar thing... they spend money but don't earn it and have no concept of a relationship between what they do and the gears of the world turning.

Anyway - full speed ahead KCM!  It's a wide-open sky you are flying in, and those were just two small storms.     [Top of page]

"Job Frustrations"     [Top of page]

Subject: Re: Storms, etc.
From: KCM  [US]
Date: Fri, 17 Dec 2004

About the government jobs - what happened is that I needed to take a test in order for my boss to make me permanent at my current position.  Because I passed the test with such a high score, it made me eligible for other county jobs.  So while my boss sat around instead of sending out the bid for my position like she was supposed to, other county employers started calling me up for interviews.  At first I was kind of intimidated, but then I got over it, as these positions were all, essentially, dead-end, and the questions became more and more ludicrous with each succeeding interview.

Typically, in the county interviews, I have two interviewers, who will alternate asking me questions from a sheet of paper.  When I answer, both parties write down my answer before they move on to the next question.  This process just really weirds me out.  One of the more frustrating things about this process is that nobody ever tells me what job duties the position has until I show up for the interview.  The last interview made me swear off all county jobs - I was interviewed by five office managers, who all asked me about three questions each, for a position which was mostly about typing up crime reports or something like that.  Many of the answers they could have just found on my resume or from the scores on the test I took.  Questions like "What is your typing speed? And margin of error?" could have been gleaned from the typing portion of my test.  Questions like "What do you like to do in your spare time?" are just totally irrelevant.

My boss finally did send out the bid.  Yesterday.  I took the test over three months ago, and there is a six-month time limit for my score to be valid.  *sigh*

I have no more tolerance left for stupidity or ignorance.  Yesterday we had our office Christmas party at a Japanese-Chinese buffet restaurant, and this guy at our table was afraid of trying the sushi.  The sushi!  There were only California rolls and cucumber rolls, which are the most basic thing ever.  I filled up my plate with sushi.  Someone else finally ended up eating the lone California roll on his plate.

Then my sister told me about a co-worker at work who got offended at the office Christmas gift exchange when her present turned out to be two comic books - the very popular Dark Knight series by Frank Miller (it's about Batman).  She was offended by the content....  My sister ended up taking the books home.

KCM     [Top of page]

"Chai & Ocha"     [Top of page]

Subject: Re: New PDF File at Site
From: TJE  [US]
Date: Mon, 13 Dec 2004

.......  I would fly over the tennis net when I was thirty-six, however, I fell off a curb when my shoe hit some troweled cement that had been scraped there, and then there was an area outside the hospital where the sidewalk had begun to sink lower than the curb; it was dark when I tripped... I was 40 and for the next 16 years I had nothing but trouble.

In the past four years I have had both artificial hip joints replaced; 16 years ago I had to have a total knee replacement... now the only joint in the knees gets arthritis.  I am not a drinker or a smoker or addicted to caffeine, but fellow, I am driven to "cussin' Texas style".

Thirty years of wear and tear on my ma-made hips... hey you can't get that kind of mileage out of a car without having the shock absorbers replaced, now can you? <g>


Green tea - I go to an oriental grocer and gift shop in Ft. Worth where I can buy Jasmine tea (ah, Jasmine!); in this city, I buy green tea in bulk from the health food store, or I get tea bags from my grocer.

I must tell you about chai... wherever I go, I mention my one and only addiction, one cup a day of chai tea.  The reaction from those who have tried it is always "Hmmmmm, it's delicious".  Regular chai in a tea bag with black tea from India and it's okay... ah, but spicy chai that is finally powdered, has cinnamon, nutmeg and all sorts of things in it including powdered creamer, it's a real comfort drink.

My granddaughter went shopping for me and went where she could buy bulk spice chai, which makes 28 cups per can.  I gave orders for two cans.  (The smaller one - which is usually what international coffees use - only makes seven cups per can.)

I can drink coffee, but I don't unless I am a guest and it's the flavor of the day.  It never tastes as good as it smells, but spice chai and the Indian mixture... I let the empty cup sit on the counter.  I save the bulk cans and take the tops off and use them as room fresheners - oh booooyee.  Well, so much for my only addiction.


TJE in Texas

About chai (tea) - I had never heard of it, so I looked it up on the Internet and came up with this:

"Chai is the word for 'tea' in Hindi and several other Asian languages. The spicy, milky variety known in India as masala chai is called 'chai' in the US."

Well... that's interesting!  In Japanese, "ocha" is the word, with "cha" meaning tea and the "o" a polite prefix, so I wonder if "ocha" came to these islands along with Buddhism from India?  (Actually, I have no idea what I'm talking about here, so if you need to have the facts, you had better look them up!)  In any case, Buddhism originated in India, and its influence in Japan was either from India or from China - probably from China, but people here know that Buddhism originated in India, so did both Buddhism and chai/ocha do a three-step from India to China to Japan?  Hmmmm......     [Top of page]

"Mini Coopers & Computers"     [Top of page]

Subject: Re: Tuesday...
From: KCM  [US]
Date: Tue, 14 Dec 2004

We went to a Mini Cooper dealer on Sunday, but they wouldn't let us test-drive the cars.  Apparently you have to make appointments, because they're so backlogged on orders they don't have to sell their cars to you.  The guy we talked to was a former racer, and somewhat of a sexist.  He barely even acknowledged my existence.  I let it go, though, because the guy's old.  The Mini Coopers, however, are awesome.  I love the designs - if I had the money, I would have gotten one of them.

I have another possible source of money - my co-worker asked me to be her computer tutor, for lack of a better term.  I told her that I wasn't a computer expert, but she replied, "You're much better than me!"  It isn't that she's stupid, but I guess she doesn't know how to operate computers or what kind of habits she should develop to keep her machine clean and functional.


"Earthquake & Tsunami"     [Top of page]

Like everyone else, I'm still watching reports on the news about survivors, their missing or perished loved ones, and the ongoing efforts to sort things out.  I really don't know what to say or think about it... the event overwhelms the boundaries of normal thought.  At least it was an act of nature though - a reminder that not only humankind's destructive technologies can wreak havoc, but nature itself is more powerful than all of us....

I haven't heard from anyone in the area save for IAC in India, whose letter follows - I hope the LL-contributors in the area and their families are okay.  Send us a line if you can! - Lyle

From: IAC  [India]
Date: Sun, 26 Dec 2004

This morning I returned from Marina beach after my morning walk around 6:15 a.m.  As I was in the middle of a five-kilometer drive, I did not feel the tremor.  I found all the members of my family, as well as others living in the same flat, standing out on the road.  As I went up to the house, I found the water in the drinking water tank still sloshing back and forth.  My wife and my daughter told me that the chairs rocked and vessels in the kitchen knocked against each other, making constant ringing noises for nearly 30 seconds.  The TV broadcast flash news that Indonesia recorded an earthquake of 6.6 on the Richter scale.
I had just been to a music concert and 15 minutes ago, I found people running west on the road where I was driving back home.  Now as I am typing this message, people from the eastern part of my city (Chennai), are running westwards as seawater from the Bay of Bengal has entered the eastern part of the city.  I shall keep you informed unless the sea gets in here and washes me away.


A few days after the above letter, I did hear from IAC again, so he's all right.

"Christmas 2004"     [Top of page]

From: KCM  [US]
Date: Mon, 27 Dec 2004

I hope your Christmas went well.  I celebrated it with my family - my nieces and nephew came up to visit and they were swamped with toys.  They are so cute - I will have to put pictures up on Flickr soon.  Every time I see them I get a little sad when I realize how much they've grown.  I received an iPod mini from my sisters and am listening to it right now.  I love it so much - right now I have about 500 songs on it (it holds 4 gigs, and 500 songs is barely 1.5 gigs) and listening to it on "Shuffle" - it's pretty neat.  I haven't even converted all my CDs yet.

Aabbb got me a teapot that I could use at work to brew loose-leaf tea from this company called Mighty Leaf.  It is some of the best tea I've ever had, so I really like it.  He went a little crazy because he doesn't really know much about tea, and tea is weighed by ounces.  So he thought, "Two pounds?  That's nothing."  As a result, I have enough tea to last me for a couple of years.

Aabbb amuses me so much sometimes.  He's so in love with his new TV.  Now he is trying to figure out what to do about the sound system, and he is currently obsessed with doing research on sound systems, trying to figure out what a good price is, deciding whether or not to buy the home-theater-in-a-box thing or just buying a speaker at a time.  I requested that I not be dragged along into this research.  :P  His female friends and his mom have been needling him about getting a new couch - his couches are ratty and old and he's had them since college.  His parents gave him $250 towards getting a new couch for Christmas.  He doesn't seem to think his couches are that bad, since they're still comfortable and usable.  But I guess that's a guy's perspective - as long as it's still usable, it's good.  Now, electronics - that's a whole other story!

I will be soooo happy once he gets a new couch.  But I haven't said much about it to him, since the other women in his life have been doing it for me.  :P

Wow - one of my friends just got a designer gig at MTV!  He's moving to NYC.  Hmm...time to schedule a trip...


"As long as it's still usable, it's good."  Indeed, I do subscribe to that for furniture - it starts to seem like a friend or something after being in use for a few years, so throwing it out seems coldhearted.  Now, tools are a different matter... a tool that is producing faulty or damaged output becomes an enemy to progress - thus new tools must be acquired!     [Top of page]

"BizZ Page Start"     [Top of page]

(2005/02/01)  I recently put a new page up at the site to promote some of the people in the LL-group who are in business for themselves or headed in that direction.  As I say on the website (http://www5d.biglobe.ne.jp/~LLLtrs/):

This page links to a page for each of the... the... items listed below.  This is mainly commercial in that most of the following people and/or organizations are people with something to sell.  I'm putting this information on my site as I strongly believe that artists need (that's need, *n*e*e*d*) to help each other out and create a virtual organization so they can... like, eat, ya know?  I think everything on this page is on the up and up but I haven't detail-investigated anyone (except Lyle), so use your own judgment and realize that I will not, can not, be responsible in any way for anything on this page, but if there's something wrong, let me know and I'll take it off or do whatever I can (within my power, within reason, etc.).

A direct link to the new page is here:

If you have something you think should go on the page, let me know and I'll consider it.

Subject: Re: BizZ Page Info...
From: Rui  [Portugal]
Date: Tue, 25 Jan 2005


During the weekend I remembered a couple of important things about my town that could be interesting to people in Japan:

- FC Porto - the town's soccer team that is at the moment European champion and won the intercontinental cup in Yokohama recently.

- The world famous Port wine, which is produced for worldwide consumption.  The wine is stored in the caves on the south side of the river in a town called Gaia (which is a part of the Porto district).  So, you have Porto on the north coast of the river and Gaia on the south coast.  When the Romans were in Portugal, they named the towns "Porto" and "Calem" (Gaia).  Porto-Calem from which came the name "Portugal".

I couldn't decide what to do about the link, so I made an on-line portfolio during the weekend.  Here is the link:


Rui     [Top of page]

"Fun with Jobs"     [Top of page]

From: KCM  [US]
Date: Wed, 29 Dec 2004

I was just informed by my boss that she can't guarantee my position will turn permanent - which means no health care, no vacation days, no sick days, etc.  After all this time, upset isn't the word to describe my emotions.

More like angry and frustrated and %$#&ing annoyed.  I swear... I will never work for the government ever again.  %$#&$#&!


From: KCM  [US]
Date: Thu, 30 Dec 2004

I recently got offered a position that is essentially the same position I'm doing right now.  Possibly with more pay, and it's in San Francisco.  However, it's temp to perm, and I have been really stressing out about whether to accept it or not.  I am leaning towards accepting it because frankly, it'd be more secure, yada-yada.

Aabbb thinks I've been stressing out about a position in a field I'm not too interested in pursuing anyway, and that I should focus on getting freelance stuff - eventually getting a full-time somewhere where it's a career I want.

I don't know.  I'm just really stressed out and I don't know what to do with it.


From: KCM  [US]
Date: Fri, 31 Dec 2004

Ok, so I've been offered the position.  However, it will be a beginning temporary position, with permanent promised after three months.  The company cannot guarantee me permanent employment in writing.

Should I take it anyway?  They are definitely offering more money.  More than my current position can offer, as well as a chance to work in the city.  I'm leaning towards taking it....


From: KCM  [US]
Date: Sun, 02 Jan 2005

I've decided to take the position, and not rest until I get a permanent position, whether it's with this company or another one.  Frankly, I've had enough of being jerked around by the county and my boss, and my leaving would have an immediate positive impact on my sanity.  Not to mention my paycheck!  Also, I'm going to swear right now to never ever work for the government again.  I thought Kafka was exaggerating, but %$#&, it's all true!

I think I've mentioned being depressed by my coworkers.  Few of them seem to think beyond the security of their current situation - many have been temps (no health benefits, no paid holidays, no sick leave) for years, even though they have family to care for, mortgages to pay for, car payments to make, etc.  Some of the temps are even managers.  What the %$#&?!  They've become so complacent in the system that they don't fight to make a better situation for themselves or to demand more.  One of the friends I made recently moved to another part of the county government, and he said that he wanted to have a career in the county, even though it was boring and made no use of what he could actually offer.  Why?  Because it was secure.

I can sympathize with the desire to be secure, but that kind of security terrifies me.  It's not safety in reality; it's a sort of dissatisfied complacency with the way things are - you don't really like it, but you just do what you're told because that's how it's always been done.  *sigh*

Now I just have to figure out transportation.  BART will take an hour and a half, going by car would probably take about the same time due to the traffic, and moving right now is not an option (yet).  Moving possibilities: Aabbb, my parents, maybe a friend if I can convince her...  We'll see.

I hope your New Year's went over well.  I spent New Year's Eve with Aabbb and we celebrated the incoming new year by watching The Incredibles.  It is one of my current favorite animated movies - amazing attention to detail, great references, and a super-hero story that's mainly about family.  Not overly sentimental or schmaltzy, but not too cynical, either.

Have you heard from anyone in Southeast Asia?  I recall quite a few of the letter writers from Indonesia, India, etc, and I hope nothing happened to them.  I couldn't believe what happened - the enormity of the situation didn't hit me until a few days later - over 100,000 dead...

I will probably be donating part of my next paycheck to UNICEF or Doctors without Borders, and hope for the best.

2004 has been a frustrating and scary year.  I'm more than ready for 2005 to come.

KCM     [Top of page]

"Accessing the LL-Letters"     [Top of page]

Subject: Re: LL-Website Announcement
From: AJD  [US]
Date: Fri, 21 Jan 2005

I just wanted you to know that I am able to see all your pictures by clicking on the links in an earlier e-mail of yours.  I apologize for answering so late... my wife and I left NJ early October to visit her brother in Mesa, Arizona.  Unfortunately my Web-TV went on the fritz and I was unable to get a new box in Phoenix.  After two-and-half months, we headed east to visit our daughter in St. Augustine, Florida, where I was able to purchase a new Web-TV box....  I couldn't believe how different it was from my original Sony box.  The new box was put out by RCA for Microsoft.  I told them I did not like it and they said they would give me another box in exchange for the new one.  I told them, "No thank you!"  It cost me $200 and I knew I would get a reconditioned box... so I guess I will have to get used to the new one.



I'm happy to hear from you, AJD!  I was wondering what happened, as some e-mail I sent to you was returned.  Machines... they never last long, certainly not most computers!  I think that once they stop using electro-mechanical hard disk drives they will become much more reliable though.

About my site - I always make a note of new parts of the website on this page:

E-mail is so unreliable these days, I should mention how to find my site in case you don't hear from me for a long time.  To get to the front page:

- just enter the keywords "LL-Letters" (with the hyphen in there) in Google.com or "Ask Jeeves" ( http://web.ask.com ) and it generally comes up 1st, 2nd or 3rd in the resulting list (although Nintendo has been hogging the top slots recently!).  It doesn't come up very well with other search engines, so be sure to use either Google.com or Ask Jeeves.

"People & Glass Replacements"     [Top of page]

From: KCM  [US]
Date: Wed, 12 Jan 2005

I've been training the new person today.  It is kind of awkward for me - she is a lot older than me - probably in her late fifties, and seems rather nice.  She's been taking lots of notes - of course, my boss conveniently "forgot" about asking me to train her so I haven't really had to deal with her.  I cannot complain about her too much though - she's been really gracious about me leaving and thinks that I'll be successful wherever I go.  She seems sincere about it, so I'll give her that.

Bbccc, my replacement, has had a tragic life, and it looks as if she's trying to rebuild.  Her husband slipped into a sudden coma and passed away; her brother died of AIDS, and she moved back to California from out-of-state to be closer to her son, I think.  She's very friendly, and will probably get along fine with everyone.  The only thing that is really annoying is the fact that she's a smoker.  The smell clings to her, and every time I sit with her more than an hour, I get a headache.

I got a crack in my windshield.  :/  One of my friends says it's because I've been driving too fast - yeah right!  I have barely been doing 60 in the rainy weather; I think it's all those %$#& trucks on 680, and also the fact that the roads are terrible.  I am trying not to get too down about it - I can live with it, and I can find people who can fix it, but I think it's going to cost me a bit, which is depressing.  *sigh*  It seems like I can't ever stop spending money.  I would like to *save* something for once in my life.


"Riding the Wings..."     [Top of page]

From: Yo/Gr  [US / Japan]
Date: Thu, 27 Jan 2005

[In response to my query regarding whether he would be staying in Japan or jumping back across the Pacific Ocean.]:

Well, I need money so I think I will be here working for another year.

It's an interesting question you pose - what would things be like for you if you had never come to Japan.  I have met several people now who have been here so long, that when they tell me they want to go back someday, I figure it's basically just a sort of daydream.  Would things be any better for you?  Who knows.  I'm not very optimistic about "Home" right now, but I see my life moving in that direction.  If nothing else, the work is there.

One of my professors here is married to a German, and his kids seem to like Germany much better.  Could be the mother's influence, or more likely a sense of Home.  Home is an interesting word - for some people it has more power than others.  In any case, if I want to teach Japanese art history, I need to get a degree from the US.  I figure I'll be back for research though.  Back at Home, you would probably feel out in the cold in terms of the mental aspect, but then it could lead to work of sorts.  A friend translates for a major J-corporation in the US and makes very good money.  He says that - for some reason - the money is better there than here.  His wife lives here though, and he lives there for months before coming back.

Will I be visiting Tokyo?  I'd love to, but now I just need work!  I figure once I have a teaching job, then I will be able to move around a bit again!


PS - Are you going to see the Expo here?

The Expo!  Yes, indeed!  I made my original plans to visit there some months ago and I've gotten used to having it in the back of my mind instead of in the forefront, but it's rapidly approaching!  I wonder if I could stay at Yo-Gr's place....  [No, no room in his closet of an apartment unfortunately!  Lest anyone misunderstand and think I'm criticizing Yo/Gr here, I hasten to say that I would give the same response to someone asking me if they could stay over - when you barely have floor space to sleep, inviting outsiders into your home isn't something you generally do!  So - Yo/Gr, sorry for putting you into the position of having to refuse my request!]

"New Job in San Francisco"     [Top of page]

Subject: first week at work
From: KCM  [US]
Date: Sat, 22 Jan 2005

My new job is starting to fall into place, but everyone keeps treating me like a temp, which kind of scares me.  (I mean, I am, but I'm supposed to be temp to perm!  An acknowledgement of that fact would be nice.)  I'll still be looking for work - I have to keep all my options open in this economy, you know.

The BART ride is expensive and long.  But I'm actually starting to enjoy it.  I finished three science fiction novels this week while riding it.  On the days that I forget a book, I stare out the windows or people-watch.  I see a lot of abandoned buildings; I look into people's yards, which are fascinating - one was piled high with junk, while another had a beautifully painted mural on its fence.  BART is fairly empty in the mornings; it gets crowded when I leave in the evenings, but probably not as much as in Japan.

In the mornings I walk from the Montgomery station to work, about a 15-20 minute walk.  Whenever I tell people this, they say, "You know there's a bus, right?"  Yes, I know there's a bus.  I choose to walk, rather than waste 1.25 extra to sit some more.  I need the exercise, too, so I don't mind it.  It's a straightforward walk towards the water, and the only part I dislike is walking under the freeway - there's a lot of construction going on.  I see a lot of scenes that I think would make great photos, but I don't have enough room for my camera.  (I also feel awkward taking pictures like a tourist.)
My office is in a renovated brick building.  We have a large kitchen with lots of modernist furniture.  I wonder how it is that modernism in practice is so different from the magazines - when I am confronted with it in real life, I don't think, "Wow, I never thought about that before", but rather "Wow, that is so inefficient!"  In the magazines I read about modernism, they always advertise modernism's practical qualities.  My cube is wide and open to others, so that I cannot waste much time on the Internet or e-mail.  *sigh*  I expect to eventually be bored silly, and have to find other ways to cope.

How have you been doing?  I noticed you put up an extra page on the site.  Will you start selling your own photos as well?   :)


I get nostalgic reading about KCM walking in San Francisco - from early 1982 until August 1984 (when I emigrated to Japan), I walked all over San Francisco taking pictures (in black & white with an 85mm lens).  San Francisco has a lot of areas that I feel a pretty strong nostalgia for....

Re: "I have to keep all my options open in this economy, you know."

Yeah, it's a good idea pretty much to always do that at just about anytime in your life I think.  Every time I've relaxed in a job, I've ended up regretting it.

Re: "How have you been doing?  I noticed you put up an extra page on the site.  Will you start selling your own photos as well?"

As soon as I read KCM's letter, I put a blurb up for myself in the middle of that.  I hereby do state that in addition to the samples that I post for free viewing (not free use, mind you), I am also open to selling full or partial use rights to images.  Please (anyone) e-mail me if you're interested....

Re: "I also feel awkward taking pictures like a tourist."

Don't worry about that!  A legitimate thing to worry about is taking pictures of something that is forbidden to be photographed, or taking pictures of people who don't want to have their pictures taken, etc., but worrying about someone thinking you look like a tourist is not a very good reason not to take pictures!  Take pictures!  What's the worst thing that could happen?  Imagine this, someone sees you taking pictures, they stop, point at you and yell "Look!  That woman looks like a tourist! " - a small crowd gathers and laughs uproariously at you and your camera.  So?  Big deal!  The joke's on them, not you!  Anyway, that's not going to happen, so relax and do what you want to do!     [Top of page]

"Digital? & 'Lost in Translation'"     [Top of page]

Subject: Re: Pictures, etc.
From: RER  [Portugal]
Date: Sat, 29 Jan 2005

[Regarding "Parts" & "Condensation", the picture(s) of which can be seen by clicking here.]

I like the picture!  It made think of how the world would look like if all the electronic and mechanical devices we use everyday didn't have all those well-designed plastic covers.  It would be strange, I think!

Do you use a digital camera?  I use the Lomo LCA, and I also have a Canon AV1 (but it's too big to carry around).  I don't like digital cameras, because people almost never get to print the pictures they take with them on paper.  I'm always afraid I'll get older and have pictures missing because the hard drive broke (which has already happened) or something like that.  Besides, I love my photo albums!

Did you see the movie "Lost in Translation"?  I saw it the other day on DVD.  I thought it was a very good movie!!  I really loved it.  I wonder what someone living in Japan would think seeing that movie.  Many parts of the movie are spoken in Japanese with no subtitles, so you feel as lost as the American actor.


About digital photography.  I would like to use film more often, but economically, the only way I can take the volume of photos that I like to take is by taking them digitally.  Some details on my thinking regarding photography:

On a typical photo-taking expedition, I will take about 600 pictures in a single day - no big deal with electronic pictures, but something that would require far more resources than I have to develop and store if it were film.

For the best quality pictures, generally film is still better, but what actually ruins most digital pictures these days isn't the fact that they are digital, but rather the cheap optics of too many digital cameras, and damage to the image through the compression of the .jpg file format.  If you work with a single-lens-reflex digital camera with good optics and are careful about file formats, settings, etc., you can get very high-quality pictures.

It is indeed very dangerous to keep your valuable pictures on a single hard drive, but if you keep them on two or three hard drives in different computers or stand-alone storage devices (external hard drives), as well as back them up onto DVD disks, then the chance of losing them due to hardware failure can be reduced to a point where it's not really something to worry about.  Actually, if I had been taking digital photographs of San Francisco when I lived there in 1982-84, I would still have them, since I could have easily brought them with me to Japan on CD-ROM or DVD disks (had they existed then).  As it was, the prints and negatives were too bulky to carry, so I entrusted them to a "friend" I used to work with who then proceeded to either steal them or throw them away - he says he threw them out because of water damage (I don't believe him).

Well, I already wrote about that earlier - suffice it to say that not losing pictures is one reason I *do* use digital cameras!  I also use film, but not often.

"Lost in Translation", the movie.  Yes, I did see that, and found it to be the least irritating western movie about Japan I think I've ever seen.  Since an acquaintance in the US asked me a few times what I thought of it before I had a chance to see it - I watched it twice, pausing it several times the first time to take some notes, which form the basis for the stuff below.  Note that the time code numbers (later half of notes) are what I got with the Japanese release of the movie on DVD, but I'm not certain those will be exactly the same on other versions - hopefully they will!  I should also note here that I warmed up to the movie the further along it went - having the most complaints with a few of the opening scenes.  Incidentally, if you'd like to see the website for Park Hyatt Tokyo (which has several interesting pictures of the interior of the hotel), their site is:

Lyle notes on "Lost in Translation":

The scene where the actor comes into Tokyo by taxi is good (but why does he have a chauffeur-driven car for the return trip and only a taxi coming in?  Strange...).

The scene in the elevator where everyone but the tall actor is the same short height I thought was a little rude and not usually accurate - particularly in Tokyo, which tends to have more tall people than cities out in the countryside do.  (So that was a busload of people from the countryside then?  Ok-ok-ok!).

All of the views from the hotel windows show Tokyo with crystal clear air - not always the case!  In the winter it's pretty clear most of the time, but in the hot months of summer, the air tends not to be quite that clear unless a typhoon has recently blown through.

The woman sent to the room.  I felt quite uncomfortable watching that scene.  I think any thinking person should be able to logic out the situation that a high price practitioner of "the world's oldest profession" in just about any spot on the globe will do strange things, but still... that scene really bothered me.  I don't know how to properly explain how it made me feel, so I'll just leave it at that.

The woman and the actor have culture shock while staying at one of the most exclusive western hotels in Tokyo (rooms are from about $500 a night) after only a few days?!  BS!!!  That part I really don't believe!  Most people who visit Japan under those circumstances have the opposite problem - they tend to think they're in some kind of wonderful fantasyland.  Culture shock is what you get when you go somewhere to live, you don't know how you're going to be able to continue paying the rent for a cheap apartment or rooming house, and you are constantly worried about how to eat for the least amount of cash outlay.  Then you get culture shock - but not at one of the ("the" maybe) most exclusive hotels in the city!

The actor says in his first days here "Gotta get out - as soon as I can".  The only light that this works under would be the professional light of compromise - which does work for the story line.  The guy isn't in Tokyo to make television, billboard, and newspaper advertisements because he wants to, but rather for the money.  That could be depressing, but - hey - the ads are only shown here and this is an exotic country halfway around the planet, right?  Who isn't in for the adventure of it?  "I wanta go home!"?  Come-on!

The room where the actor smokes a cigar (and I mean "actor" as in the part played by Bill Murray - as he plays an actor in the movie) is a room I went to once, and there was even a man (not Bill Murray) smoking a cigar at that time.  It made a horrible stench and ruined my time there.  The cigar does look good on the screen though, and the smoke doesn't leak into your living room as you watch the movie, so the actual air quality isn't an issue.  (Hey, now there's a thought for you!  If smoke had leaked through the screen in every movie down through the decades whenever someone was smoking, maybe there wouldn't be as many people on the planet now lighting fire to dried leaves and ingesting the smoke!)

That room... wait a minute!  I wrote about being up there in the LL-Letters before!  Hold on... I'll dig into the archives....

Got it!  Here it is, from LL-121, dated January 8th, 1998:


I met an old friend yesterday, on her birthday.  It was good to see her, but troubling... she still had the same story about the man she loved when she was twenty - still haunting her memory.  They were in love but her family was one of doctors, and her mother insisted that she marry a doctor (her father, a doctor, died in a car accident when she was a teenager).  She resisted for several years but finally gave in to the pressure, and through an introduction, began seeing a dentist (dentists are called "teeth-doctors" in Japanese, and thus considered doctors here), who she married.  She thought she would come to love him, but she has never been able to forget her true love.  Even after she married, he waited for her... he thought she would eventually come back to him, but then she had children so she met him and told him not to wait any more.  He eventually married, but was happy to meet her again when she called him a few years ago.  Now her son is studying to be a doctor himself, so the doctor tradition has been honored....
     Looking out at the vast sea of lights below us from the top of the Park Hyatt Hotel in Shinjuku (on the fifty-first floor if I remember correctly), I said "It never ceases to amaze me just how big this city is... as far as you can see in any direction is Tokyo...." and she said "It's just a jumbled mess - and makes a mess of people's hearts...."
     Last year her mother died, and as I pictured the people in her life, I wondered if any good at all came of her sacrifice to the family.  Her mother apparently got in the way of her older bother's interests of the heart as well.  In his case, he got divorced and seems to be happy now with his second wife.  At the time, her mother was against the divorce, but seeing her son happy in the second marriage, changed her mind.
     My friend's dilemma continues... as it would look bad for her children to be from divorced parents, she stays married for their sake - for at least another five years she says.  By then she'll be past fifty.
     In case you're wondering how it is that I'm talking about sinking in red ink in one letter and then having a drink in an expensive bar at the top of the Park Hyatt Hotel in the next - I told my friend before I met her yesterday that I could only afford somewhere cheap (intending to split the bill), but she said she wanted to go to the Park Hyatt and that she would pay.  I apologized for having her pay, especially on her birthday....

When the actor gets off of an elevator (at ground level) at one point and there is a group of people from the studio waiting for him - that seemed exactly the way I've seen things to be.  There's some cultural difference in this situation maybe - sending a team of people to welcome someone or take them somewhere, instead of just a single person.

The western bimbo-monster model.  Yeah - there really are some people here like that.  It's not a world I've had much contact with, but I've run into enough of those type of people in Tokyo over the years to have developed an allergy to them.

The geeky photographer husband of the woman - I had a number of problems with this character.  First and foremost - is a company really going to be putting up a photographer at a $500 a night hotel for an extended stay?  If not, is the guy really being flown into Japan at such a high rate of pay that he can afford to pay for the room out-of-pocket?  I'm highly skeptical!  And then this young geeky guy is ignoring his cool and beautiful wife and focusing on a bimbo monster?  Horrors!  There is something very wrong with this character on a thousand fronts!  I suppose a geeky male had to be in there somewhere in order to introduce the geeky bimbo monster, but Tokyo bimbo monsters really hate Tokyo geeky western men.  Hmmm.....  Too much psychosis for a two-hour movie to explore there, so I hereby excuse the director!

The bimbo-monster in a TV interview being a... well... a bimbo monster.  Unfortunately, only too accurate for many westerners who get their faces on J-TV.

The flower arrangement scene where the woman seems initially interested, but after a brief intro by the kimono-clad woman, is left alone and looking lost.  Hmm... I again found myself pondering the setting of that very upscale hotel... and thinking the experience shown would be more likely to happen to a back-packer living in a rundown apartment and on limited funds than to someone staying in that hotel... I think....

The goofy TV show.  Absolutely accurate.  There are some really nutty shows on TV... that are at least slightly less nutty looking if you understand the local language.

The actor mentions whiskey and the woman orders vodka - very cool!

The scene where the group is practicing aerobics in the hotel pool.  Really?  It must be true, or I would think the Park Hyatt Hotel would have taken legal measures to prevent that from being in the movie.  I better (with a red face) admit right here and now that I have never actually stayed at one of the luxury hotels in Tokyo, but have at least visited a number of people in the hotels who were staying there.  (I did stay at a couple of luxury hotels in San Francisco before coming over at least, but that's irrelevant to the movie.)

The woman wanders through a game center.  Yes, there are many such places in Tokyo.  I think people are wasting their lives and money in them, but I guess they're good for reliving stress or whatever.

The geeky photography - flying here and there in Japan for photos.  Again, I'm skeptical.  Are foreign geeky photographers paid so much here?  Then I need to get onto that golden highway!

One of the scenes of the woman sitting in the windowsill and contemplating the world of Tokyo out (and out and out) there below.  At 40:37, the building that is in sort of an "S" shape is one I've stayed at.  I used to teach English there actually - back in 1991.

41:19 - I don't remember what was at this point in the film, but I noted that I met a New York PR guy there, so I think it's referring to the coffee shop / lounge that is right off of the elevators.  Nice enough, but not as exclusive as the cigar room.  I like it better though, as it has a glass ceiling and better views outside - in fact, it was in this room that the "It's just a jumbled mess - and makes a mess of people's hearts...." line was spoken (my "movie" not LIT) - just before moving to the cigar room.

The otherworldly nightlife scenes - yes.  Parts of Tokyo look just as they are portrayed here.

The scene where they run out of a club and someone has a toy gun - an empty bottle is lobbed.  Hmmm....

The karaoke room - seen from outside (and by the way, that is NOT pronounced "Kerry-O-Key", but rather "Ka Ra O Ke" with all short vowel sounds except for the "O") - those are indeed popular places for groups of people to go to, but they don't have interiors that are so clearly visible from outside like that.  People like going to karaoke rooms to let loose, sing badly, dance a little, etc., and don't really want to be on display for everyone outside to see!  Many of the karaoke places do have windows like that, but (and I'm thinking of one in Shinjuku that I often walk by) the lower half of the windows are blacked out, and the upper halves are tinted, so with dim lighting inside, you can sometimes just make out the outlines of people inside, but you can't see any detail, other than some lights on the ceilings of the rooms.  From the inside, with the dim lighting and the well lit outdoors, you can see outside easily enough, but not the other way around.  They probably floodlit the room they show in the movie for that two-second view of it from outside.  The view from inside looking out seems accurate enough though.

52:36 - Logistics.  You would need very good logistics to get that much done in a single night, but then again, so long as you don't leave one general area, it's easy enough (if your pockets are stuffed full of cash that is) to go from place to place.  If you want to really bounce around from place to place, cars are the worst way to do it, until you get past 12:00 midnight, when the entire train system (serving 30,000,000 people) comes to a complete standstill each and every night, except on December 31st (to accommodate people traveling about to visit shrines and see the first sunrise of the year).

52:57 - I'm 90% sure that that "Epson" sign is in Shinjuku - nowhere near the (Rainbow?/Bay?) Bridge shown seconds earlier.

53:23 - Zoned out in a taxi.  Yes!  There is something profoundly fatiguing about Tokyo.  I think it's the edge you get onto when in crowds - and everywhere in Tokyo is crowded all the time, so when you find yourself in a taxi for a midnight ride like that - you do indeed tend to zone out.

57:41 - Golf with Mt. Fuji looming hugely in the background?  Is that for real?  Probably, but I imagine it was taken with a powerful telephone lens to make the mountain in the distance appear larger than it would in person?  But I've never played golf in Japan, so what do I know!  Certainly there are a lot of golf courses here....

1:01 - The doctor only talks to the pair in Japanese, even though they don't speak the language at all?  Not likely.  If you speak at least a little Japanese, then likely enough, but they usually (always?) make a distinction between someone who knows some of the language and is living here, and someone who has recently ridden the wings in and knows nothing of the language.
     Actually I was quite happy in the early nineties when people started using Japanese, because I'd had many experiences where I was speaking in (simple, it's true) Japanese, and the person I was talking to refused to use Japanese at all, but only their English, which was no better than my Japanese - so we would fall into the ludicrous situation of having a conversation with both of us refusing to speak in our native languages!  It felt as though it was a contest - "I speak your language better than you speak mine!".  I'm quite happy to say that sort of thing hasn't happened to me for some time now.

1:03:23 - The woman leaves a message with nothing but the name of the place she can meet the guy?  Hmmm.... maybe.  But remember that metropolitan Tokyo has 30,000,000 people - the city is truly HUGE!!!  As long as there's a phone number, it works I guess!

1:04:40 - Shibuya.  This intersection is one of the most famous ones for foreigners here as an example of the crowded, and rush-crush, crush-rush, rush-rush aspect of Tokyo.  What's considered the ground-zero area of the country's youth culture is a one-minute walk from here.

1:04:44 - Notice where it says "JR-Shibuya Station" in the background.

1:04:50 - Yes, they really do have internally illuminated mobile billboards on trucks like this, but they're not on every corner exactly, you only see them now and again - not all the time.

1:07:19 - Bewildering combinations of spoken and written languages - yes.  I went to a German movie with a German friend once.  I don't understand German at all (it has always puzzled me that German is the language most closely related to English), and my reading ability in Japanese is not the best, so it was a little frustrating sitting next to someone who understood the language perfectly while I was struggling to keep up with the Japanese subtitles.

1:08:44 - "Why do they switch the R's and L's here?" she says.  That comment might be applicable to Chinese speakers somewhat (true?), but in Japanese there are no "L's" at all - only R's.  Thus "right" is "right", but "light" is also "right"!  Ah... well, I guess if you're expecting "light" and you get "right", you could make the comment she did, but the point I'm trying to make is that the real issue is a lack of "L"s in the Japanese language, not an exchange of one for the other.  But we English speakers are in no position to criticize - we don't tend to pronounce French correctly, for example.

1:14:08 - High-school girls wearing mini-skirts in Kyoto.  Two comments - The mini-skirts as school uniforms didn't exist until after around 1990 - I still remember the first time I saw a group of young women wearing them and I blinked, looked back and thought "Are those high school uniforms!?".

The other thing is that Kyoto is a very popular destination for school trips, but you have to wonder if these trips are worth the money they cost the parents.  Although the students themselves usually enjoy the trips, just about everyone I've asked has said that 99% of their memories of their visits to historical areas are of the interaction with friends, staying at the hotel, getting lost, etc., and not actually anything about the culture and history they are supposed to be learning about.

1:14:36 - Traditional wedding group.  I've got a picture of one of these that took place at Meiji Shrine in Tokyo on my website on the Photo Gallery page (click on "Meiji Wedding").

These really do still take place, but they are definitely on the rare side - so rare in fact that they are almost as exotic to the locals as they are to visitors from across oceans!  I got up close to the procession to get my picture, squeezing between other photographers and barely managing to get a picture without the other photographers in the frame - on my side of the event anyway - but you can see people looking like tourists on the other side busy taking pictures.  This type of wedding would be slightly more common in Kyoto, but only slightly.

1:15:13 - The couple - the visiting woman watching them - the music... this is a very cool sequence, and it excellently captures how it feels to be watching a moment of magic in a mystic land in a moment of anonymity from the sidelines.  These moments are not daily experiences for the most part (except when traveling to certain areas at certain times in a certain frame of mind), but they do occur and it is for this sort of thing that we cross oceans in search of "exotic" lands....

1:17:12 - Political truck - accurate except that the ones I've seen have always either been parked in front of train stations with the politicians standing on the roof as a mobile stage, blasting the people coming and going from the station with their over-amplified speeches - or else driving through voting areas with everyone inside waving through the windows (not running alongside the van), as the politician (or an assistant?) says basically "Vote for me please!  Dareka de gozaimasu!  Vote for me please!  Dareka de gozaimasu"  I'm not sure if the law was changed or not, but it used to be illegal for politicians to advertise on TV, so they put extra effort into advertising via the speaker-vans.  (It's a great idea to outlaw political advertising on TV, don't you think?)

1:17:23 - In Shinjuku - one of my main stomping grounds over the past 20 years.

1:18:55 - Talk show wackiness only slightly exaggerated.  The bit where the man is told that the show host is the "Japanese Johnny Carson" and then reality shows it to be something absolutely different... I've experienced that before.  It's not a problem when you speak Japanese, as you get enough extra detail information to more properly asses the real situation and mindset beforehand, but - as the title and theme of the movie "Lost in Translation" suggests - some things (many? most?) are indeed lost in translation!

1:22:27 - I kept thinking, here and in many parts of the movie, "Do you have any idea how expensive that hotel is?!"  (Rooms from about Y50,000 per night....)

1:25:32 - I don't remember what this scene was, but my notes say "An uncomfortable culture clash - for both sides!"

1:28:06 - The casual suggestion that they live in Japan - I thought "Yeah?  Under what visa?"  Being able to work and having somewhere to stay is one thing - having legal permission to live in a foreign country is another!

1:29:02 - Such clear skies!

1:29:05 - There you go!

1:32:22(?) - More memories of that room - I've been there a few times - it's a nice place.  One night with moonlight shining through the glass roof and the island of plants in the middle of the room comes to mind.  That's about 40 stories up in the air by the way.

1:32:21(?) - I walk on this very street in Shinjuku just about every week.  This area is traditionally the best area in Tokyo to shop for cameras.  Look at the addresses of Japanese camera manufacturers and "Shinjuku" is in there for many.  I'll try to check this out, but two that come to mind off the top of my memory are Olympus and Pentax.  All of the cameras I've bought in Japan have come from this area, although a few of them were from the east side of Shinjuku Station (this is the west side in this view).  Both of the FM2 Nikons I bought were bought a one-minute walk from the camera position of this scene - just down a street to the right in the view on your screen (90-degree turn at an intersection of people walking every which way).

1:35:20 - That building to the left of Tokyo Tower (J-version of Eiffel Tower) is where I (from a restaurant at the top of the building) took the "Sky Sushi" photo.

1:35:33 - One of the more striking visual experiences of Tokyo - driving on an expressway that winds between buildings which are right next to the road.  For someone who has grown up riding on US freeways, particularly the ones in the west of the country, this image is very striking (as is actually driving on this expressway).

Sofia Coppola; Executive Producer Francis Ford Coppola... I remember an interview I saw of FF Coppola I saw here several years back.  He was being interviewed on TV, and the interpreter was doing the opposite thing that the bad interpreter does to the actor man in the movie - Coppola would answer a question, and the interpreter, instead of just trying to say what he said, was explaining it in an analytical way.  FF Coppola seemed to notice that she was talking about five times as much as he was, he furrowed his brows a little and began cutting her off - forcing her to shorten her stolen camera time.  Leave it to a top notch director to notice when he's being upstaged!     [Top of page]

"Manga & Anime"     [Top of page]

A US acquaintance just had a couple of articles on J-anime & J-manga published.  ("J-anime & J-manga" is my term, by the way, maybe no one else's!)  The links are:



I think they made their way through the editing process well and the only two things I'd like to comment on are the fact that the word "anime" is *directly* taken from the English word "animation", so to you people out there who think that the word "anime" came from the French language, you are *wrong*.  It came from English - the history of it being this:

1) (E) "animation"
2) (J) "a-ni-me-sho-n"
3) (J) "a-ni-me"
4) (E) "anime" reverse exported to the west as a "new" word

Also, the pronunciation of the word in the article isn't perfect, being listed as "an-ih-may", when in actual fact, the proper pronunciation (in Japanese anyway!) is "ah-nee-may".

Those two minor matters out of the way, I think they're both great articles!  If you're interested in anime & manga (the process tends to be that characters/stories start as manga and then the popular ones are made into anime), then have a look.

"SLR Details"     [Top of page]

Responding to this comment form an e-pal, "I really liked those [recent] photographs you took.  What is it about SLR cameras that makes everything look so good?"

(First, Thank You!)  What is better about single lens reflex (SLR) cameras?  The primary thing isn't even really due to the specific design of having the light reflected up through a prism and through the eyepiece to give you the exact same view as the lens really (which is what the SLR term refers to), but rather design and marketing of cameras.  With SLR cameras, there are very high-quality optics available for them, which brings up something that is tied in with the design - interchangeable lenses.  Since you look through whatever lens you attach to the camera, the absence of rangefinder issues enables the possibility of there being typically dozens of lens options from each manufacturer, which unfortunately only work on each manufacturer's own cameras (some old screw-mount inter-compatibility aside).

While good lenses could also be attached to rangefinder type cameras (at the factory), cameras with non-interchangeable lenses are designed and marketed to be cost competitive against other camera manufacturers, so they emphasize easily marketable features like the CCD (5MB!, 6MP!, 8MP!, etc.), direct connectivity to printers, zoom ranges, size, colors, etc. - all of which are legitimate issues, but the optical quality of the lens is ignored by most people who tend to think of only the zoom range and whether it's wide angle or telephoto.  And that's only the quality aspect of the issue - there's a vital detail of some lenses which makes pictures taken with them look much better than with typical cheap (or mediocre) lenses (on whatever type of camera the lenses are attached to)....

Selective focus.  Our eyes have it, although people generally aren't even aware of it most of the time.  When you are focusing on a book in your hands for example, the background off in the distance is out of focus, but as soon as you look up, your eyes auto-focus so quickly that you aren't even aware of the radical focus shift your eyes have just performed.  (As you get older, this speed drops and you begin to appreciate what high performance eyes you had when you were younger!)  With a good lens and careful use of its aperture settings, you can do the same thing with your photos - focusing on a person from a distance that corresponds to what would look natural to your eyes (not with an overly wide or overly long lens), with only the person's face in focus and all of the background fuzzy.  That's how our eyes see it, so photos with this look have a very natural look and a comfortable feel to them.

This quality comes with a price though.  You need a wider aperture, which requires larger and more complicated lenses (what is considered a single lens for cameras generally consists of something like 8-15 separate pieces of glass inside the lens barrel) and higher cost, not to mention that they are bulkier, heavier, and more difficult to accurately focus.  By making the lens aperture small, manufacturers escape a number of tricky issues - the lenses are smaller and cheaper to make, lighter and easier to focus - just what most people want in "point-and-shoot" cameras.

Actually, it's a simple enough issue, but in trying to explain it I've ended up with all that text above and what seems to be a complicated concept!

Well - that's it for this one!  October 23rd, 2004 - February 7th, 2005... the longest stretch yet (I think).  I want to be much more regular in putting these out, but other time-grabbing activities tend to get in the way.


Sore dewa!

Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon
Nishi-Shinjuku, Tokyo
February 7th, 2005
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