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Journal Journal: So like... did I accidentally the Slashdot? 5

It's been a while since I've darkened the door here. What with all the shifts to a different account, then Multiply, then a few of the "Social Networking" experiments. So I just got a hankering to come back here for a night.

RE Politics: I still hate them. We have a different sort of president this time around and he's making some of the right moves and plenty of wrong ones as well. But I accept that no president will ever satisfy me at all. They're all idiots. At least this idiot won't attack anyone unprovoked. But... that's about all I have to say for that

RE The Economy: We played with fire believing that the economy could be ballooned out infinitely and this is where it got us. However, there is a part of me that wonders what other financial games on the global front were more stealthily responsible for the problems we're seeing. The economy is like the water system in a house. I think someone else on the planet just turned the cold water onto maximum and we're getting scalded in the shower. My money is on China.

RE tonight's Perseid Meteor Shower: Every fucking year on the peak night of the Perseids, we get massive cloud cover. EVERY FUCKING YEAR SINCE 1998 when I first started paying attention.

RE Facebook: Yeah. I'm there. Mostly for personal and professional reasons. It has it's ups and downs. But damn I'm feeling old now. I've been through quite a few "social networks" this place included since 1989. 20 years of social networking and seeing that same stuff repeated over an over and over... Tonight's rerun: the Meyers-Briggs personality assessment seems to be all the rage on Facebook.

RE Operating Systems: Still using Linux. I prefer to actually know how a computer works vs. being completely trapped by a lack of knowledge when a more "friendly" system breaks in a way that can't be tweaked or fixed by a non-coder like me. However, I am pretty impressed with the Windows 7 trial so far.

RE Career: Everything is up in the air now. My organization has experienced massive budget cuts from the state of Ohio. So there is a high likelihood of layoffs this year. We're already foregoing any raises of any kind. But that hasn't been enough to meet the shortfall. So who knows what will happen. I'd love to get out sooner rather than later. Need to bone up on the application and interview processes. I missed out on a rather nice job possibility because I sent my printed resume via snail mail and that organization no longer accepts that format. Had I read the super small fine print at the very bottom of the page with application instructions, I would have found that the online application is NOT optional.

RE Art/Music: I've had zero time to spend on this ever since becoming a parent. By the time I have late night time, I'm too mentally tired to give it a try. But I need to persist. I've had just a few short victories in the past five years. Sadly where I used to be able to spend 6-12 hours on making full songs, I now have just barely enough time to get about a 20-30 second start and then I have to go to sleep. The choice is between being a good dad or a good artist. Right now I choose being a good dad. My kid needs that more than I need an artistic outlet.

So that's my semi-state of the union address. Hope anyone who is still here and reading is doing better than they were a few years ago. And if not, I wish you the best of luck in the coming years. I'll check back again. Someday.

User Journal

Journal Journal: I'm Feeling Grumpy 1

My only comment on Election 2008:

It's not left vs. right, or republicans vs. democrats. It has nothing to do with political parties. Instead the simplest two sides in the most general terms are:

People who don't have much power (financial, political, business, etc...)


People who have all the power (financial, political, business, etc...)

If you can't change something about your life, your town, your state or the country, that would help not only you but everyone around you, then you have little power. How does that dynamic even interact with your current presidential candidate selection? Think deeply. Discuss (Heh. All three of you left on Slashdot). I think you'll find that election 2008 is the most fruitless of all presidential elections in recent memory. (Don't mistake this for class warfare either. There are varying levels of power in each economic class)

User Journal

Journal Journal: ELECTION 2008: What it Takes to be President 3

This is a work in progress. I may come back to it. I may never:

No one has "what it takes" to be president. America has reached the limits of what it can do in the world and is failing. There are no good candidates this election because no human on the face of the planet can meet the challenges of 21st century government.

The problem is caused by many parts, but the two biggest are:

1. The failure of the abilities of human consciousness to be able to make multiple decisions quickly and effectively without being swayed by any kind of personal interests. With the conservatives, those personal interests are profits and business. With the liberals, those personal interests are any number of emotionally driven issues which are used to control them.

2. The inability of most of the western world to accept that unless you adjust your expectations to voluntarily live with massive inconvenience, and discipline yourselves to respond appropriately and holistically to those inconveniences, you will fail in your goal to remain a cohesive civilization.

Your response to every problem that has been thrown your way for these past 50 years has become increasingly inadequate. The majority of the cause for that inadequacy is the cult of individuality that arose from the 1960s and 1970s. The lie that the individual is all important has utterly weakened any firm intellectual foundation that once existed previous to the changes born out of that era. Born of that same family is also the dislike and distrust in any organization with any power over individuals. This prevents people from organizing in any productive way to achieve a goal. The more successful the organization, the more it will not be trusted.

You face the threat of environmental disasters on many fronts of which a decent number of our modern technologies can take the blame for causing. How do you respond? You either waste your time and energy protesting the businesses that are responsible. Or you try and create the modern day equivalent of the indulgences of the catholic church and excuse certain polluters because they're throwing money at the problem. Or you just bury your heads in the sand and say, "there is no problem because we can't even prove it's man made".

You face terrorism from a variety of people and groups with self-serving and negative agendas. Instead of trying to find ways to thwart terrorists that involve real security, what do you do? On the one hand, you launch a poorly planned attack on a country that had little to do with terrorist attacks in the world. That attack turns into the current quagmire in Iraq that you have little choice but to remain engaged in now. On the other hand you waste more time arguing and protesting in the name of peace without ever accepting that humans are not a peaceful animal.

Do you even consider that part of the problem for the massive disagreements in directions to take might be caused by the intellectual "software" of one or more cultures being completely incapable of understanding or relating to other cultures? No. That's massively inconvenient to the liberals because it smacks of nationalism or even racism. To the dimwits on the right, it's not even conceivable. They actually labor under the delusion that everyone "good" thinks the way they do.

There is no human solution for the problems you are having. The population of the planet has gotten too big to be managed by human beings. The pace of change has increased tremendously to the point where no human being is capable of keeping up. You are seeing humanity reach the limits of self-governance on a world-wide scale and you are headed for complete failure.

So all of you people with your candidates picked out for this Fall, the joke is on you. You are all failures if you can't understand my warnings. There is no acceptable candidate, nor will there be. Do not deceive yourselves into believing in any kind of solution that human beings create. Humans are nothing more than arrogant, foolish animals with a tenuous and illusory set of laws and rules as your only distinction from other animals.

User Journal

Journal Journal: RUMBLE: What's this Place Up To? 6

Holy shit. I leave for a couple years and what happens? The place dissolves. My take:

1. A seething cesspool of filthy and lowly minds with nothing to contribute to the online universe. But they're having a grand old time being that way, aren't they?
2. Meh. Only reason to be there is old friends who left here. Yeah. I'm there. But I don't have enough free time at the moment to keep up with things.
3. With the ejection of the excreta that used to be here over onto the Digg pile, it looks like the tone of the discussions has gone up a bit, but the submissions have slowed to a trickle, so there's not much to talk about anymore. Sad indeed.

Why am I back? Because I'm looking for a fight. As usual. I don't know how long I'll be here though.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Wazzup!!!!! 3

Hello. Is this thing on? [tap tap tap]

I've been away on assignment. I'm back now. If only for a while. I see the_mad_poster has disappeared. Anything else going on I should know about?

User Journal

Journal Journal: Feburary 16th, 2005

Feburary 16th, 2005 (13:08)

It's snowing outside. The snow is not as heavy as earlier this morning, but it still continues. A thin layer of snow has already accumulated on the ground, and the rice fields, resting from the previous year's excertion, rests silently beneath the feathery white duvet.

Actually this morning there was a pretty big earthquake too. Probably about a four where I was. It was the first earthquake that woke me up. I opened my eyes from the undulations and the squeaks the wall made under the strain, decided that I didn't want to go climb under a table, and fell back asleep - both a little scared but yet with some comfort, like lying in mother earth's cradle...

It's not without reason that I felt that way. On my way back from the airport I seriously wondered if I would experience another earthquake before I finally returned to the US. I suppose Japan wanted to make sure that I felt fully that I was indeed back here. True, the cradle may be of the reaper rather than a more benevolent being, but somehow I have faith in the latter.

During lunch I looked outside to realize that the familiar world usually present before my eyes have disappeared. It is like a masquerade of all things - trees, houses, roads, fields. Everything puts on another face to tickle your sense of adventure, your sense of curiosity. Few feelings can be compared to being the first to walk on a small winding road covered by snow, and then look back to your footsteps - and it is just as exciting to follow an existing trail between the shrubs and over bridges, to see where it lead, to wonder where the previous traveller had stopped and pondered, to inquire the grass and the birds if the scene he saw was as tranquil as the one you are staring at right now.

I like this feeling, when you look outside expecting to find the usual but is instead greeted by a surprise. The first thing I did was put on my sweater and went for a walk, looking at small snowflakes tangle themselves onto my body and melt into tiny beads of water, glittering.

Standing in the middle of a small road that surround my company, I came to the realization that this feeling is a part of me I do not want to lose. I thought I wanted to live in California or San Diego where the weather is never changing, but suddenly begin to find it incredibly boring. Variety is the spice of life, right. Finally do I appreciate the finer point of having four seasons, and why Japanese are pround of this aspect of their country.

The other thing I thought about recently stems from the two movies I saw. One is "Closer," the other "Million Dollar Baby." Both are rated reasonablly high. The most dramatic contrast between the two movies is that in Closer, while all the characters are constantly expressing love for eachother verbally, I felt no such emotion expressed - yet in Million Dollar Baby, not once was the word used, but the love was so thick it made me cry. I come to wonder how important really is it to say "i love you." If you really love someone, he / she should feel it through your actions and saying it would just be a waste of breath - and if your action does not show what you say in your words then the words are empty anyway... either way, it seems like either a wasted effort or a empty promise - both meaningless. I seem to be the only one who thinks this way, apparently...

User Journal

Journal Journal: Feburary 15th, 2005

Feburary 15th, 2005 (4:33pm)

It seems like fate always somehow catches up with you.

The forgotten speed ticket I have gotten from a million years ago (actually, about 10 monthes prior, to be precise) has finally entered its final stages of development. Kumagaya police contacted me in the past few days about getting me over there to decide on the actual amount of punishment.

With only 6 weeks left of my stay in Japan, this came just at about the worst possible time. If it had just been a tad later, I could have escaped back to the US with more or less unscathed - but 6 weeks is exactly a point where I am really too busy to deal with such a think but long enough that I can't just toss it aside. The worst thing is that they want me to pay up by the end of this month. They have taken their sweet time, but when it's finally up to me they are all suddenly in such a great hurry? Sometimes I simply can not accept some of the stupidity that we are expected to endure.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Feburary 14th, 2005

Feburary 14th, 2005 (9:56am)

Lots of things had happened. Obviously lots of things tend to happen with the welcoming of a new year. Today is my first day back in Japan after a relatively long assignment in the US, which was followed closely by a trip in China for Chinese New Years.

The most interesting of recent happenings was that I got my results from the Japanese Language testing board. I was Goukaku with 300 points out of 400 (actually not such great score at all).

The sad thing is, I did not know how to pronounce Goukaku when I received the notification - I knew what it meant (besides, it had english translation on the side) because of my chinese background, but it is terribly ironic that I have passed an exam which I couldn't even read the "passing" note. Of course, I still think I should have failed, the aforementioned reason being one, and the other that it's a great injustice to people who had studied very hard for the said test.

I should mention that it has come to my attention that in general japan likes to publish a lot of statistical data about all sorts of stuff. It's a obsession somewhat similar to the obsession with trivia in the US. While trivia usually yields amusement, however, statistics yield some insight into useless trivia as well.

The one that was especially enlightening was the separate "domestic test takers" and "international test takers" statistics on average score by category. on the listening comprehension portion, the test takers in japan scored a whole 12 points above those outside - clearly demonstrating that immersion is still the key to learning a foreign language well. I am sure this can be generalized to many other languages, of course. On one hand, I am glad that there are some empirical (scientific, even) evidence that my times spent here is of value, but it makes me wonder just how much is the challenge if I ever want to take on another foreign language without the benefit of living in the said country.

User Journal

Journal Journal: December 26, 2004

December 26th, 2004 (7:47pm)

I'm sitting on a little stool in my kitchenette, waiting for some cold pasta to heat up in the microwave.

When I came back here to SJ, I forked over the miles to get a business upgrade. These days on AA, it seems that beside getting able to borrow the most excellent Bose noise-cancelling headphones, there is always this pack of "SpAA In Flight" thing with socks and eyeshades and some moisturizers etc inside. I didn't take much notice last time but this time I took the time to read the package. It had something like:

Bag, Eyeshades, Socks, Toothbrush, Tissue Pack and Brochure - Made in China
Packaging (Paper Strap, and OPP Pouches) - Made in China
Toothpaste and Earplugs - Made in USA
Mints - Made in Spain
Plastic Toothpick - Made in Taiwan
Lip Moisturizer, Foot Moisturizer, Lotion and Cleanser - Made in United Kingdom.

All that, for a package to be given away to everybody who takes a seat in business class on a flight.

Update Jan 10, 2004 (10:08pm)

Lesson to self: Don't ever leave journal entry half-finished.

User Journal

Journal Journal: December 17, 2004

December 17th, 2004 (9:47am Pacific Time)

I have been in the US for about 10 days now, but it actually feels a lot longer. I think the concept of time for people is generally associated with the amount of different things one experienced rather than the actual amount of time passed. Isn't this why adults always feel that their life slips by their fingers at a tremendous speed compared to childhood? I suppose that for a child, everything is new. I cannot imagie how horribly would a life in a cube-farm do to the chronological perception of even the best of minds.

For that, the last 10 days felt like a month or more. After arriving in CA, I took a weekend and went to NY and went through about what felt like a week of activities in just one day - after that I am in Folsom, CA this week as a precursor to some onsite support project that will begin soon. Prior to coming here, of course, I had my Japanese Language Skills Exam the day before my flight to the US.

I was hoping to jot down some details of the test before the memory thereof totally fade into oblivion.

The way I studied for the test was a little more than unorthodox. I _planned_ to sit down the night before and read some grammar notes (my weak point), in the hope that i would remember at least a few of them the day after, but instead the "oh just one more" mentality set in after popping in the Fullmetal Alchemist DVD and i watched that nonstop for maybe 8 hours - from 10pm Saturday (this would be the 4th of december) to 6am Sunday - i.e. right up to the morning of the test.

The test was scheduled to begin at 9:45am (i think), and it was located in Saitama University in Urawa. The plan was to start scooting over at about 8:00am, get there around 8:30 under the naive assumption that there are not so much sunday morning traffic, and start taking the test without sparing a single minute in the whole "studying" thing. But as fate would have it, the assumption about sunday morning traffic is an incredibly naive one after all.

Skipping the details of anxiously stuck in traffic, I get there around 9:30 but notices that there are still legions of students flooding into the school much like a typical weekday morning. (On that point if everyone was wearing uniforms it would look a lot like Sanyo on a typical morning) I was very surprised by the lack of punctuality of all the students - The thought did pass through my mind that since the majority of the test takers are chinese + koreans, that maybe the test administrators planned to start the test late intentionally.

I got to my classroom with about 2.8 minutes to spare, and the room was at most quarter full. It turns out that due to strong winds, one of the JR trains from utsunomiya (i think) was delayed, and a decision had been made to push back the test start time by an hour.

I suppose part of the problem was that this location handled students from a huge area, encompassing all of northern Saitama and at least extending into Gunma prefecture - unsurprising if it was responsible for the foreigner population in Tochigi prefecture to the east as well. I do not think it went so far as Ota, as there were very few people of Brazillian descent there, but then again, maybe they simply don't bother with taking such tests.

I was not too sure if I should feel that there are many or few foreigners taking the test - while numerically speaking (about 3000) it is an incredible sight as buses come packed to the brim and leave empty one by one, but this is just one test location responsible for a huge area. As I was made to understand, within Tokyo several such test stations must be secured to accomodate the test praticipants in just the city itself. It is no wonder that it seems that in Shinjyuku everywhere I turn I would bump into some foreigners.

The classrooms had many rows of tables, the last 1/3 or so was on a weak incline. there were four columns and each seat two people, added with around 30 rows of tables, the entire classroom, no bigger than two of your typical US elementary school classrooms, have the theoretical capacity fit some 300 plus students. The hallways is way too thin for such a number of people, and we pushed and shoved around to get to our classroom to which we are assigned. Each seat is numbered with a serial number that corresponds with the examinee's number on the little test voucher he received. After you find your seat, you can sit and wait for the test to begin.

A curiosity, or certainly a warning to any test taker, is that the bathroom line, especially the female one, becomes very long during any kind of breaks. In fact, I don't quite believe "very" describes it well because it would conjure up the imagination of a line maybe 20-30 people in length. In reality it's more like a wait for a popular ride in an amusement park, where the line folds back onto itself several times to accomodate the sheer amount of people. Just about everybody in the line has a terribly grumpy face - that of a person longing for immediate gratification but is denied almost indefinitely. The guys' side sometimes got a little line going too, but nothing like the monstrosity for the fairer sex. The best advice is probably to go before you come to the test and drink as little as you can. While mild dehydration may not be beneficial for the test score, I somehow feels that bloated and waiting for a prolonged period of time would do much worse.

The test itself, when started, was kept on schedule. The broadcasts were a played tape insntead of by individual and to ensure nothing goes wrong there were multiple audio tests beforehand. A person per column distributes the answer sheet and the test booklet for each student and collects them similarly. You cannot open your test booklet, but it was so thin that if you flip it over you can read the last few questions. Not that it helps or anything (especially since you have to figure out blurry gana+kanji written backwards.

The test was broken into three parts. The first was Vocabulary, Second is Listening Comprehension, and third Reading and Grammar. At the beginning I thought grammar would be combined with vocabulary; I didn't think the section was too bad, and the Listening comprehension was just a tad easier than I expected (though not as easy as I had hoped), but in any case by lunch I actually got quite a good feeling that I might actually pass this test because I know I don't usually do too terribly in reading.

Just then, I get the last test and over half of it was grammar.

It was so difficult for me that I did not even have time to finish it and penciled in half a dozen questions in a simple mechanical fashion. To be honest I did not know how to properly answer a single one of the 36 questions, with only two that I was somewhat partially sure of. The only thing I could have hoped for was to eliminate as much of each question as possible so the random choice left behind would be higher than 25%. It was a sad state of affairs, and no matter what happens, it would be impossible for my other scores to be high enough to compensate for the terrible mess that is in this last section.

Depressed, I finished the test and with "this exam is now over" message left the room, into the crowded halls outside and flowed in the great river of people, over 50% chatting on cellphones in chinese complaining about the test, out to the open grounds where the sun almost set. A bit sad, actually - the last day in Japan for quite a while was passed by doing something and with so little results. But to be truthful, I don't think it would be fair for those who put in so much effort for their exams if I was lucky enough to pass.

Just one mention - all the announcements during the test were in Japanese, I suppose that for level 1, they sort of expect that you already have the basic ability to understand test directions. Maybe you can even think of it as an unplanned listening test of sorts.

The last great spectical for the day was the ultimate line of students waiting for the bus to go home. Buses simply do not come enough for the huge outflux of students and the line stretched several hundred meters long. I think the most unfortunate are the level 1 test takers - as our test was the longest, we are stuck at the end of the line. I rounded up two of my friends who were also taking the test on the same day, and we went to Red Lobster for a quick bite (the food was sold out completely during lunch, and I did not even have breakfast), and by the time we got back about an hour and half later, there was still the same line left, about two buses worth of students waiting, some shivering in the chilly evening wind.

The results are out Feburary. I guess that's also a kind of "welcome back" thing I should look forward to when I return to Japan.

User Journal

Journal Journal: December 3rd, 2004 1

December 3rd, 2004 (4:35pm)

This is the last day I will work here until middle of Feburary next year. I cleaned up my cubicle and even took the time to wipe tea stains off the table surface, all the while feeling irony dripping from every pore of my body: why is it human nature to clean something when it's _not_ going to be used?

To my own disbelief, I have surprisingly little I really feel like worth saying despite this being like the last day before I go to work my ass off all the way through Christmas and New Years. The good news is that apparently a shiny new IBM T42 is being prepared for me with a humongous 1.5GB RAM - which in a few years will probably become standard, but currently, that's about as much as I ever dreamed of having on a laptop computer. Bye bye swap file.

I should probably also mention that the coming Sunday is the japanese language proficiency test for this year; I am signed up to take Level 1, but I have zero confidence in passing; All the mock tests place me at about 50% for grammar and vocabulary. Passing is 70% and no way my listening comprehension is good enough that I can make up the difference.

It seems that everyone from this entire area is congregating at the Saitama University in Urawa for this test. It's kind of nostalgic: Urawa was the first excursion I made in japan in my search for recycle shops on my first weekend here. I am sure walking down that road will reawaken some interesting memories. It's amazing how much changed in the past two years and half as well, while two years ago I walked down that road with anxiety and trepidation, I expect that I would be right at home this time, and I am even at peace with the unfortunate fact that I will be failing the test this time, as I honestly had no time to formally prepare for it.

I read somewhere that on Eienstein's last visit to Princeton, he was looking around, eyes dashing from place to place, as if to capture and store all that he could for his memory; I find myself inadvertantly doing the same, gazing from the small china tea-pot (kyusu) to the workstation wrapped in bubble wrap to damp some high frequency noise the motherboard generates (seems like an electrolytic capacitor is about to burst but has been teetering). What's this power with familiarity? When did I fall pray to it?

My cousin in London seem to love that city, and to be honest, I really did not find the city particularly charming. I mean, I do appreciate London in my own way - that it is a city where history and culture seeps from every corner and every umbrella and every teacup, but it simply wasn't my cup of tea; I didn't feel that people there were distant and cold, most seemingly hiding behind some veil of politeness and contempt. I attributed the city's attraction to her as that it is a place that she can call home - after all what is a home but a place where you are a part of? Like when you have lived in a neighborhood for so long that you recognize some crack on a wall formed in some trivial storm many a years ago, or notice that the favorite passtime of a neighborhood old uncle's is to sit at the corner on weekday mornings to watch the school children go off to school, these familiarity ties you to a place that becomes home, to a point where you appreciate its beauty and drawback together. I admit I felt that ever tiny bit of contempt - that she had committed herself to London like so; yet it's ironic that this cubicle that I rediculed so much when I first moved here would draw my eyes as it is right now.

Maybe similarly, "love" is just a similar feeling that extends to a person; and that emotions can indeed be cultivated with time. Who knows.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Fuck You 3

Some ass is trying to get my Slashdot password for this account. Screw you mother fucker. Why don't you go get fucked? Maybe eat a dick?

Just a warning to my friends, make sure you use a secure password. However, I don't think that's all that's going on here. I think someone might have found an exploit in the Slashcode that allows them to intercept mail. Maybe...

Whoever the fucktard is, go play in traffic.

I'm still around folks. Maybe some of you have figured out who the "new me" is aleady, maybe you haven't. :) I wouldn't have logged in as T4D if it hadn't been for that ass trying to 0wn my account.

Oh yeah... and FUCK BUSH!

P.S. - The "Ghost of T4D" posts as AC have been me so far. Also, I'm glad to see that Twink of the Mists has deleted his JEs. No one wanted to hear what he had to say anyway. Maybe he took the hint. OK... we can dream can't we?


User Journal

Journal Journal: November 30th, 2004

November 30th, 2004 (4:16pm)

In a few days I will embark on a very long business trip to the US to support one of our larger (erm, largest) customers. I will be there from the beginning of December all the way till the beginning of Feburary, living out of a suitcase and eating things that are probably not the healthiest for me.

In any case, it's always change that brings understanding of what's around. I was made aware of an aspect of Japanese business life that I have never touched upon before, the beauracracy of the whole thing.

An international business trip seems to be a big deal. I mean, with a fairly large company of several thousand people and many overseas offices and customers, international trips would be quite frequent. However, every single one must be reported to the president himself directly, and without his approval, the trip will not take place. This is not just our company, apparently, but pretty much everybody - the only difference is whereby our company only have one president overseeing a few thousand people, companies like SONY would have fleets of presidents for this purpose on a much grander scale.

For this purpose, there is a weekly or sometimes bi-weekly (depending on the number of trips that needs to be approved) meeting of high-level managers including the president that hears about all the planned international business trips and approves or denies them. This makes an interesting schedule for the person doing the trip: For me, I must submit all the documentation (trip purpose, estimated expenses, export control documentation, etc) for approval well in advance so that they can be stamped by seveal levels of managers, and then approved by the regional director (who will attend the high-level manager meeting mentioned above), at least before the last high-level manager's meeting before my scheduled trip takes place. It's a shocking amount of paperwork. Plus, besides all the expense reporting and daily activity reporting, upon return the traveller must submit a detailed trip report along with the expense related reports, etc.

People always kind of wonder why Japanese companies move so slowly - I think this is one of the main reasons. There is a tremendously strong mindset of beauracracy within the company, and the rules are always followed, all the time. Well, I have to say, inasmuch as the beauracracy exists, i cannot deny that they are at least quite efficient about it, unlike some devil-incarnate organizations usually known by letters D, M, and V in most states, especially NY and Illinois, I think.

Another thing.

Recently there was a big commotion about the pension system. The short of it is that the government pension is in trouble, and while the company is trying to cover the slack, it is unable to keep doing so. The company asks everyone for approval to reduce the pension payment, which is a permanent change: the pension received by those retirned now will be reduced, and those currently employed will also look forward to a smaller pension when they retire.

Nonetheless, everybody was eager to agree to the proposal because it helps the company. Even though it does not even affect me, I was asked to vote so that we can pass the resolution. It's one of those times that you can almost reach out and touch that huge culture gap that hangs between Japan and... as far as I can tell pretty much everywhere else. I know for a fact that the US isn't like that, and China has not been like that for a few decades now. The whole world operates on the "dog-eat-dog" principle, and I can understand why people here take solace in their ability to depend on eachother to make sacrifices for the common good. The company depends on the employees to be selfless, and the employees depends on the company to take care of them through the rough times. This even extends to the society as a whole. Of course there are always exceptions to this rule of conduct - after all the lure of greed and power has great abitily to corrupt - however, I do think that it gets quite tiring after a while when you have to watch your back for your whole life. Maybe that's why longevity is renouned on these islands; you are always part of something greater and it takes a great chunk of stress out of one's life.

On a smaller note, I turned 25 a few weeks ago; wondering where are the cheaper insurance rates, cuz I sure don't seem them here.

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Journal Journal: November 4th, 2004

November 4th, 2004 (4:47pm)

Today is my first day at work after coming back from a combination NY / London trip. It took a very long time overall, but the most heartbreaking is the time flying between continents apparently consume. I lost about 4 days from a 12 day vacation to simply "getting there," i.e. 1/3 of my time I should have been spent relaxing is instead spent stressing out on a tiny seat tens of thousands of feet above ground. If anybody could make faster travel at similar prices, or even twice the price to today, I would be the first one to jump on board.

I had some back pain on my flight from Tokyo to NY two weeks ago. As such, I requested to get maybe a better seat to the gate agent, hoping that I get to try one of northwest's new fancy business class seats with there big 10-inch personal TVs. The agent looked at me, and said, well, alright, row 28 is empty and the flight is pretty empty too so why don't you take 28D (isle seat on a four-seat row) and you can lie down.

Well, it's not an upgrade but I have no quarrels about getting to lie down on a four-seat row, from experience the said row fits me perfect. I was a little disappointed, but it was alright.

A few minutes before the flight departed, some woman from the back apparently decided that the row looked awfully tempting, and planted her ass on the other end of the row. We did some evil staring at eachother for a couple hours, and some space hogging the next few, when I went to the bathroom and came back, she took a whole three seats from the row that was supposed to be all mine, sleeping on her side like a swine feeding her little piglets who chew on her mud-stained nipples with their brown, grotesque teeth, yelping whatever discordant sound that muddy swine tends to yelp.

I was quite fed up, so I notified a flight attendant of the situation - after all, she wasn't sitting in a seat where she was ticketed to. The flight attendant woke her up and asked her to move, actually in not-the-friendliest tones. She nodded in shame when asked to confirm that she wasn't ticketed for this seat, and moved to another seat giving me this evil look. To be truthful, I kind of felt bad about it - I didn't really mean for it to turn out that way; the best thing that could have happened was probably that they upgraded one of us, so both of us can live in peace, but oh well.

A bit after dinner, I was doing something on my laptop before going for the awaited long nap. The woman came over and fumbled with one of the seats and left, looking like she was looking for something. I glanced at her and didn't say anything. After that, I stretched out and slept.

A couple hours later, I touched my pants and something the texture of dried mud was flaking off it. I took it off without opening my eyes, but soon my hands landed to another patch. I became curious and sat up. Apparently, the woman took a browny (that was one of the more unappetizing part of the dinner) and placed it on a seat near me, so that when I slept, I would rub myself all over it. It worked pretty well, with all due respect to her espionage skills, I did get it on my pants and my socks - Luckily the browny was kind of dry, so most of it became powdery and I promptly placed them in a vomit bag and tossed them away.

It's incredible how childish some people can be! I didn't really know if I should have been laughing or angry, because it was like a little revenge that a kindergardener would do. I thought that a proper revenge for her would probably be stealing her passport and writing VOID over her visa to the states, or even better something like "suspected terrorist" which would really get her into trouble; but it's really not worth it - especially since she provided me with such entertainment with such a child-like act.

On the way back, it was no less interesting. Inasmuch as I slept almost the whole way on the flight back from NY, it did not prevent me from hearing one of the many annoucements the captain made. It seems that day by day the flight cabin crew gets more loquatious - are they just so lonely up there? Are we some kind of forced audience for them? Anyway, in one of the long annoucements whereby the captain relayed all the information that we could have easily have obtained on the flight-map video screen, in my astonishment he broke into japanese and tried to repeat the 10-minute monologue. I say tried because while there are many foreigners who speaks very good japanese, with all due respect to the said captain, he wasn't one of them. I mean, he kept getting even the the numbers wrong, and let's not talk about the pronounciation. So the guy went something akeen to "welcome to... erm... Northwest, we depart three erm four thirrrrrrty two oh yeah two. [long pause] we arrive, erm, erm, japan, four, erm, forty three erm four okthankyou [click]" The last part was him saying "arigatou" in the fastest possible way and hung up immediately after that. Laughter echoed in the cabin.

The flight attendants, on the other hand, didn't dismiss his attempt as just an attempt, and because either they did not want to upset / embarass the captain, did not make their annoucements as they always do, and just kind of hung out minding their own business. While I really appreciate the fact that upon perusal the information is still available, I can just imagine what kind of state I would be left in if I was just a japanese person who didn't understand the english annoucement beforehand and was looking forward to a proper japanese translation.

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