Saturday, July 29, 2006

Boso Peninsula (Continued)

I found a little time to get another page up on the Boso Peninsula - this time covering Mt. Nokogiri and the largest Buddha statue in Japan (at Nihondera Temple).  Pictures are here:

And what else is new?  Eleven-hour work days, three-and-a-half-hour multi-train rides, and about four or five hours sleep a night.  Ah... the Tokyo life!

Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon

"80-Degree Virtual Assault"

Fun at work. Just when I was thinking things were going fairly well in the tower, I was virtually assaulted by a raging lunatic in the section kitchen (which is the tea and coffee drinkers version of the proverbial water cooler). There's a water heater in the room that heats water to about 95 degrees or so, and there's a five-liver electric pot that heats it a few more degrees to 98 from there. The pot also has settings for 80-degrees and 90-degrees. (Apparently some kinds of green tea are best prepared with 80-degree water, but - hey - most of the people in the office are drinking coffee or western tea anyway, so the rule of "majority rules" calls for standard nearly boiling water. There is this one insane monster though - Mr. 80-degree Lunatic - who is constantly going on about 80-degrees being best....)

People tend to let the pot run nearly empty, so I've gotten into the habit of topping it up when I get hot water for tea myself. The prelude to the virtual assault happened on Thursday last week. I was filling up the plastic jug that is used to ferry water from the wall-mounted water heater to the electric pot, and since Mr. 80-degree Lunatic was rinsing out his little round special 80-degree teapot on the left side of the sink, I positioned the jug as far to the right as possible, just out of range of the water heater overflow pipe (that never seems to emit anything anyway) and began filling it up. He reached over and pulled the jug over by his bloody 80-degree teapot, so I pulled it back over to the right and said that it would be better not to have his splashing getting into the drinking water.

Then, as the jug was nearly full, Mr. 80-degree Lunatic reached over and turned off the tap. I was thinking "Mind your own business you bloody sub-human 80-degree lunatic!" but instead I turned the tap back on, put on a plastic smile and said "It's not full yet" to which Mr. Lunatic started in with a very irritating chant "Achi!-Achi!-Achi!-Achi!-Achi!-Achi!-Achi!-Achi!-Achi!-Achi!-Achi!" (a mutated form of "atsui" - hot) said many more times than I've taken the trouble to write down here. I poured the hot water into the pot to the continuing "achi!-achi!" chant and went back for more, but Mr. Lunatic had the hot water pouring into his bloody little 80-degree teapot, so I waited until it was full... and then looked on as the hot water was just spilling over the completely full teapot... so I held the plastic jug over the lunatics little pot and put in some more water.

Then - as I filled up the five-liter pot - Mr. 80-degree Lunatic started making faces and noises about the pot being too full. I was carefully keeping the water below the full mark, so it was a load of nonsense, but (I later surmised) I think the lunatic likes to pour cold water into the pot to drag the temperature down to his beloved 80-degrees. Being a dishonest and nasty creature though, he would never be straightforward, so instead of saying "Sorry to be an 80-degree pest, but could you leave some space in that? I would like to pour in some cold water to get my beloved 80-degree water", he instead was acting as though I were about to spill a can of gasoline onto an open flame. (Incidentally, from time to time the pot is set to 80-degrees... until one of the vast majority of us who like boiling water for our tea or coffee turns it back to 98.)

I came out of that feeling a little odd, but I had fought off each insult, so I didn't feel bad about the outcome and the incident quickly faded to the back of my mind.

Then came Friday. I was in the section kitchen with the lid open and pouring hot water into the five-liter pot when Mr. 80-degree Lunatic rushed in and said "No!-No!-No!-No!-No!-No!-No!-No!-No!-No!-No!-No!-No!-No!-No!-No!-No!" - again, said many more times than I've taken the trouble to write down here. Stupidly falling into the swamp of that lunatic's world, I said "What do you mean 'No!-No!-No!-No!-No!'?". He then launched into a lecture about how "Water hotter than 80-degrees will hurt the tea leaves!", punctuated with his putting his hot and evil feeling right and left paws on my arms, the way you would with a lover. I had a strong impulse to throw scalding water onto his face when he did that, but I put on a plastic smile and tried to get out of the swamp in some civilized way.

Mr. 80-degree Lunatic seeing that I wasn't convinced of the leaves being hurt (I pointed out that they're going into the trash anyway and that he was inconveniencing the rest of the office with his selfishness - I was fast losing diplomacy), he then said "The whole world knows that 80-degrees is best for tea! Only Russia likes boiling water and that's because they're poor!". I replied that I was poor too, and he - predictably - said "No-no-no-no-no - you're rich!", while putting his filthy stinking paws on me again, once more producing an urge to dump my 98-degree mug of hot water onto his nasty face.

I finally got away from Mr. 80-degree Lunatic feeling like I had been molested and needed to de-tox my arms, but two-minutes later, I went back to the tea-room to check on a hunch. I saw Mr. 8D Lunatic leaving, so I followed him to find out where his desk is (enemy reconnaissance). Making a note of where Mr. 8D Lunatic sat down, I went back to the section kitchen and saw that the pot that had been completely full of 95-degree water two minutes before was now working to get the pot past 80... he had obviously poured out some of the hot water and poured in cold water to get his beloved 80-degrees... the rest of the office be damned (there are about 100 people on the floor that use that same area kitchen). Nasty creature that.

Mind you, I don't actually have a problem with little round teapots and special green tea that likes to be made with 80-degree water, but I believe in majority rule for a communal thing like this and see no reason for everyone to suffer for one bloody lunatic! Besides, we're not talking about a tea room in Kyoto, with kimono-clad damsels being cultural, we're talking about a glass, steel and aluminum office tower full of working coffee drinkers in Tokyo. Anyway - the unwanted physical contact is the most upsetting aspect. If it continues, I'll make a formal complaint.

Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon

"Wordless Thinking"

I believe an individual is capable of finding some way of expressing themselves, no matter what language they were born into, but that language pushes people in one direction or another (since the culture of a country is largely enshrined in its language and encourages certain lines of thinking).  Truly free thinking requires getting behind the language and realizing that the words themselves have no meaning, but rather are representatives of real (wordless) meaning.

So... the meaning is between the lines, not in them.....

Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Formal & Stiff to Loose & Sloppy

How to achieve balance?  Who can say - society I have seen go from uncomfortably stiff and formal to uncomfortably loose and sloppy.  Well, okay - it's more comfortable overall loose and sloppy, but there are times you find yourself wishing for more order and... dare I use the word?  Respect!  Auuuugggghhhhhh!!!!!  I have become old!  I'm actually lamenting the lack of respect in the world!  But I dress sloppily on weekends!  Uuuuuuu......


Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Creative MP3 Player - Banzai!!!

After having trouble with a Cowon MP3 player (broken hardware) and a Sony MP3 player (breathtakingly bad software - to the point where it's nearly useless and I'm tempted to smash it into fine dust with very heavy sledgehammer), I'm quite pleased with my new Creative MP3 player, which seems to have both good sound and sound design (double meaning semi-intended).

Some more details:  The really bad thing about the Sony is that the term "MP3 player" is actually a misnomer for their horribly designed machine - it does not in fact play MP3 files at all, but rather has some very badly designed software that converts them into a native Sony format that sounds muddy and is hard to work with.

Well - enough on that - but if you're in the market for an MP3 player I really do recommend that you avoid Sony and buy Creative instead.  Creative is the same company that's been making sound boards for computers all this time after all - they should know something about making electronic sound parts!

Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon

Monday, July 10, 2006

"Sleeping on your Feet"

Part of life in Tokyo is that it's a crime to sleep more than five or six hours.  A truly good citizen of Tokyo only sleeps four or five.  So... how to stay alive and not keel over from lack of sleep?  Sleep on the trains!  Standing up?  No problem!  If you start to fall, you'll just bump into the person standing next to you (not even that in the morning, when you're firmly wedged between six or seven fellow sardines) - there's no danger of actually hitting the floor.  There's hardly space for your feet down there as it is - a whole body?  No - not unless you've just come from a too-fun night drinking and literally end up on the floor of a train of low enough people density that you can take that much floor space.  (Not common, but I've seen it a few times - most recently about three weeks ago.  The idea of being down there on the floor horrified me, but everyone was being careful to not step on the guy, so I suppose he got home without any boot marks on his back.)

Anyway - the top three photos on this page (at the link below) are of a fellow train sleeper on the Yamanote Line (one of the most difficult lines to sleep on incidentally):

Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon

Thursday, July 06, 2006

"Powerless Camera..."

I pulled out my camera battery and put it into a spare charger I have at work today and then... forgot to put it back in my camera before going home.  %#$%#%$!!!!  I've been in a stormy frame of mine ever since.  Already there are missed pictures and I'm mentally berating myself for being so stupid and careless.

I can't believe I'm in a hurry to get back to work, but that's about how I feel.  "Must... make the camera whole again!  The sooner the better!"  Aauuuuuugggggghhhhhh!!!!!

Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon

Monday, July 03, 2006

"More Card Trouble..."

Just when I thought everything was behind be trouble-wise regarding the company security card (they issued the first one with a woman's photo on it instead of my own), when I tried to use my card with the new IC chip entry system (you hold your card up to a sensor for a second or two instead of swiping it through a slot), I got a low tone beep (instead of the higher tone "Okay - you may enter" beep) and a red light lit up next to "NG" ("No Good") - off to the security office I was sent, where I got in line with several people who had forgotten to bring their new cards.

Feeling a bit miffed after all the trouble I'd already been through with my card, after I finally got a temporary security card for the day, I went immediately to General Affairs (not sure if that's English, but that's the way they generally translate that section from Japanese) and complained with a bit of a head of steam, but at least I was able to force a smile on my face and pretend to be joking about it still.  Once up on my floor, I was happy to discover that all of the contract workers on my island (island of desks that is - two pairs of six desks facing each other for an island of twelve - no partitions) were having the same problem.

But... one by one their cards were fixed and mine still wasn't working (you have to use the new cards constantly now, not just when leaving the building, but when going from floor to floor and even to the break room on the same floor) and I got up a new head of steam when I went by the company store and the money I had prepaid into the card last week had gone missing (according to the cash register computer that is).  I marched back to the General Affairs Department in a new and merry frame of mind (the first impulse was irritation, but then the comedy of errors began to seem funny and I switched into a "the worse the funnier" frame of mind.

Finally, just fifteen minutes before leaving for the day, the card began working.  It took them a good five hours longer to mix mine than every other person on the island though.  Why?  I have no idea, but thinking of that, my merry good laughing frame of mind is conjuring up new dark storm clouds.  Someone in General Affairs having a merry time of causing me trouble?  Probably not, but why I am having so much more trouble with my bloody security card than everyone else?

Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon

Sunday, July 02, 2006

"Outside the Boxes"

Generally being sealed into boxes on wheels when riding modern trains, my camera takes a quick look at the world outside of one speeding box:

Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon