Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The plot thickens...

Today I casually asked a manager in a department close to me about the results of an important meeting with external parties, held just earlier. He replied back to me with a short summary of what was said and unknown to me one of his subordinates in his department must've listening in to our conversation.

I didn't think more about it and he left the office for some other meeting and then his team member approached my desk. I had never really talked to her before and it first seemed like she was just asking for my help in figuring out on how a foreign city should be written in Japanese (katakana alphabet for those who know) to which I gladly helped out. She said "thanks" and made a motion to go back to her desk, hesitated for a few seconds then leaned forward and almost whispered to me: "I heard what he said to you, but we had a meeting earlier and he said something completely different to us..." occasionally glancing over her shoulder. Then following up with a "I don't know if he lied to you or to us..." to which I gave a dumbfounded "oh, thanks, I'll check with his boss what the deal is".

The plot thickens... Who is enemy, who is friend, who can I trust and who is out to hurt me? It feels great to be back in the environment of corporate politics!

By the power of Grayskull...I have the power!

Sometimes I forget what great influence you can wield as a blogger and things that I mention a bit flippantly here can have dire consequences that I did not forsee. As you might recall, I earlier discussed my adventures at Ikea and the following assembly in a humoristic way.

Regardless of what impression you might have gotten from that post the fact is that I greatly appreciate Ikea and find it to be a great place to buy furniture of good quality at a very reasonable price.

However... Just recently Ikea got harshly slapped on their fingers here in Japan due to their lacking instruction manuals. Somehow the government officials must've come across my post somewhere and reacted in what they believed to be to my help and will force Ikea to more detailed manuals for the Japanese market. I feel a bit bad about it although I wouldn't mind slightly more comprehensible manuals, but I did not intend for this to happen at a cost that I am sure is very significant considering the number of manuals, writing and printing.

Oh yeah, I also saw somewhere something about a guy in Chiba injuring his eye on a screw due to using the wrong screwdriver (don't ask me how) when assembling a nice drawer from Ikea but the manual lacking in specifying what type of screwdriver to use. This might also have been a minor contributing factor.

Monday, April 28, 2008

It's that time of year again!

Yep, once again Salarymen all across Japan are rejoicing! It's that time of year again, the "Golden Week" of legend!

A string of public holidays put in quick order making for a short breather in the harsh world of business, the holidays are exceptionally pointless. Ok, "Constitution day" has at least some historical significance, but "Greenery Day" and "Children's Day" score pretty high up there in pointlessness in my book. "Children's day" is about "a day set aside to respect children's personalities and to celebrate their happiness". I can now very clearly say that I will not celebrate neither their personalities nor their happiness.

However, to add insult to injury, this year has the holidays placed in a pretty bad order only giving a measly string of 4 free days in a row.

Holiday you say? So you're thinking fun trips to exciting places? No I say and I'm a salaryman so I know what I'm talking about. Because the whole nation is off at the same time, any place you think is a good idea to go to is already swarming with thousands of salarymen with their families that had the same thought you did. The best strategy is to try and stay out of harms way and don't think about flying anywhere because the airport is swarming with people and the travel companies are consumer friendly enough to pump up ticket prices to almost the double of normal rates.

I have a vague recollection of someone earlier posting a comment on a possible "Golden Shower Week" as a theme for this week and I will personally abstain from that theme this year but to each his own!

Sunday, April 27, 2008

How much for that piece under the back flipper?

Ok, I'm not going to go into the hot potatoe that is whaling but yesterday I was walking around in Shinjuku with the always wonderful Ms. Sunshine when we passed by a restaurant specialized in whale meat and I felt that I needed to take a picture of this.

As it is now, Japan only does whaling for "scientific purposes" but obviously it would be too bad to let the meat go to waste, so it's sold and provided in some restaurants, but this restaurant is obviously highly dependant on the "scientifical research" that current whaling consists of...

What makes this whole thing, in my eyes, pretty interesting is that whale meat is pretty bad. It's not particularly good, I've had it for "scientific purposes" a few occassions and it's not really particularly good at all. Most Japanese people I've met concede the same, especially older people who used to get it often in school for lunches since it was one of the cheapest meats in the time after WWII. Anyway, I'll stick with the tuna, thank you very much.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Listen up!

Ok! Now I have to do one of my "Mr. Salaryman endorses" things again! Because May will be a very interesting month in terms of music since two of the current best bands are releasing new records. First we have the great band Tiamat releasing a new record after 5 long years of silence. I'm old and jaded and there's very few bands that I feel are "cool", but Tiamat is a really cool band! If you haven't heard them earlier you should definately pick up their album "Judas Christ" which is one of the best goth albums ever! Just when I thought goth was finally dead this metal band comes out and just blows the door of the hinges with a very "Vision Thing"-esque album, but even better, complete with the Steinman-like production. You need to have this and don't be scared by the goth thing, it just plainly rocks!

Then we have the greatest synth-pop group currently active, Universal Poplab also realeasing a new album and the singles that has leaked out indicates that it'll be another great album! I just hope that this group can break into the mainstream because the potential is there!

These two groups have the "Mr. Salaryman seal of approval" and you should buy the cds!

...too bad the latest Moby album was such a dissapointment after the masterpiece "Hotel", but he always was a bit unreliable in terms of quality of his albums...

Thursday, April 24, 2008

"There is no spoon"

First of all I should apologize for the draught in posts here recently! I've been pretty preoccupied with trying to get my head around "the project" and get a feeling for what's really going on inside the company nowadays and finding out who is who in the internal politics.

Yesterday we had my official "Welcoming party" which included liberal amounts of drinks all around and some tongues got a bit looser which made me some interesting information and helped in mapping out the current key players in the company and their respective agenda. Given a little more time I will try to lay this out in a post later on so you, my beloved readers, can get an understanding of what I have to go through at the moment.

But I now finally managed to come to terms with "the project", the first thing I had to understand was "there is no project" and after grasping that content I have now found that I begin to understand what the project is, through realizing that there is no project I have found myself able to start being able to control "the project". My perception has changed and there are several different players out there seeking to do "the project" harm, I must remain vigilante and use my powers for the good of the "the project"!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Further down the rabbit hole...

The question is: "What is the project?"

As of to date, I have gotten a varying number of replies which I thought I should share with you:

"It's not really a project, it's a dream"

"It's not really a project, it's a program"

"It's a pretty straightforward project"

"This part is not really a project, but this part is"

Someone needs to pay...

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Down the rabbit hole

I was lured back to my old company with promises of dedication from head office for investments to be done in Japan, which is good news and that I would be one of the key persons to help with managing these high potential projects to grow our business in Japan. So far so good.

So I came in expecting there to be projects set up with clear goals and definitions that I was supposed to make sure met deadlines and were reasonable in scope and manage them to a successful conclusion. However, now that I'm back in the organization it turns out that noone really seems to know much about these projects and what they're supposed to be about.

I'm feeling a bit like Neo in the Matrix movies in the beginning except that instead of confusion and fear I'm more annoyed and irritated. In my efforts now to try and understand the situation this conversation took place between me and Mr. Shachou:
Mr. Salaryman: Ok, so is this product included in the Project X?
Mr. Shachou: I don't know.... (silence) Do you want it to be...?
(At this point I barely managed to quell the urge to angrily say; "I don't want anything at the moment, I just want to fucking understand what the plan is and then I can start changing shit!")

I feel that the question that needs to be answered is; "What is the project?" and at the moment I'm confused and annoyed that noone seems to know. It seems to have taken on almost philosophical proportions...
I almost expect someone to approach me and ask me "Do you want to know what the project is or do you want to continue your life as it is?" offering me a blue or red pill...

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

It's great and I hate it!

Just recently I decided to renew my lair a little bit and as a good Swede I headed over to Ikea to buy great new furniture at a reasonable price. The actual buying process is pretty easy and relatively fun and it's affordable on a salaryman salary as well without tearing a large hole in my finances...

The problems start the moment the furniture arrives in those horrible flat boxes that you happily unpack only to discover a myriad of small parts and wordless manuals with that annoying guy that mocks you as you struggle to make sense of how to assemble the stuff. Thankfully I had help, not only from the always lovely Ms. Sunshine, but also from a friend that in some perverse fashion actually enjoys the assembly. She insists that she really enjoys the whole thing and the stuff that she put together is scaringly stable and secure. Me on the other hand have a tendency of getting annoyed by the whole process, skipping steps and often ending up with a number of parts when I think I should've been done and done it correct. The desk I currently have my computer on looks ok on a first glance but one of the drawers is placed upside down and a large cabinet is pretty unhinged, just like me after a couple of hours of assembly.

The picture captures it pretty well, but I never did call Ikea. I both bless and curse the day that Ikea decided to establish themselves here in Japan just a few years ago...

Thursday, April 10, 2008

We should have a meeting and discuss this!

One of the things that I had almost forgotten about, but is now quickly coming back to me is the amount of long winded and pointless meetings that exists in the more corporate environment. Recently I participated in a meeting together with Mr. Shachou, the sales manager and the marketing manager to discuss an upcoming event.

I'm still so new in the company that I don't really have any prior involvement in this particular event and participate more as an observer at this stage and since I do not want to stir up too much trouble too soon by speaking my mind about some of the more questionable topics and directions.

So, remember, that participating in this particular meeting is the president, marketing manager, sales manager and me, so some of the top layer in the company. The marketing manager explains his plans for the event (pretty long winded with extreme amount of detail, but I can live with that). Then he reaches the stage where he talks about the help he needs from some of the salespeople in the organization and hands out a list with names of about 7 salespeople and the tasks that he has in mind for them.

Then he comes to the person that will operate the computer which is not as difficult as it sounds, it consists of clicking to the next slide when the speaker says "next slide" and nothing more really. A heated discussion breaks out involving both managers and the president whether another salesman would be more suitable for this task or not, this discussion goes on for about 5 minutes until a conclusion has been reached: another salesguy will do that instead.

All the time during this discussion I am just sitting there stunned by the whole thing; that such a minor and insignificant topic requires a discussion involving the top layer of the company. Well, the absurdity of it provided me with some entertainment at least!

Monday, April 7, 2008

First day at work...

I am now safely back home in my den after an exhausting first day at work as a more ordinary non-consultant salaryman. It is actually not a completely unknown company since I'm actually returning back to a company I used to work for a couple of years ago but stepped out to become a high powered management consultant and recently received a very attractive offer I decided to take.
In one way it feels really good since I know most people's faces and who they are and am on good standing with most of them and the people that has joined in after my departure has to show me a proper amount of respect since I come in at a pretty high level and has longer experience in the industry than them, as well as a solid network internally on both a national and international level. On the other hand it feels pretty strange, since so many things are in the same state as when I left, even the coffee vending machine is the same and carries the same brands as whey I worked there earlier.

My new boss, who I will call Mr. Shachou for the purposes of this blog is an interesting person who is not inheretly a bad person, but has a tendency to get in a "I-am-so-great" mode of bragging that can get pretty tiresome.

One of the things that I noticed pretty immediately is that the internal politics inside the company has intensified, before it used to be pretty simple with the old sales department consisting of older men with long experience in the industry against Mr. Shachou, but now with a number of newer managers recently hired the number of factions inside the company seems to have increased considerably. Sitting at my desk for less than 5 hours, several people inside the company that I've known since earlier tried to get my opinion of various people "What do you think of Mr. X?", "Isn't Mr. Y pretty awful?" etc. which can be pretty tiresome trying to dodge since I don't want to give any opinion on people I've talked to for less than a minute and has no idea what they are doing...

The internal politics will be very interesting as I move deeper into the swamp that is my old-new company...

Friday, April 4, 2008

Hey, I have a logo!

I always thought it would be great to have my own logo and now I have! Thanks to my good old friend and professional illustrator Martin at "Informative Illustration" who I can give a little PR here as well, it's based in Sweden but if you want to pimp up your mobile phone they have international services at the Hammerstripe shop as well!
Anyway, nice with a logo and if someone for some reason wants to link me and use a picture, feel free to use this one!

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Cherry blossom of the apocalypse!

As you might already know, the big thing in the Tokyo area now is the blossoming of the Cherry blossom, something that makes the Tokyoites crowd up in parks and other areas where the cherry blossom can be seen, drinking and eating and reflecting over the fleeting beauty of the blossoming that will be gone in a week and not seen for another year. Even me and the wonderful Ms. Sunshine took ourselves to one of Tokyo's nicer parks to watch the blossoms.

Now, I'm not gonna claim that I'm so cynical that I can't appreciate the beauty of it all, it really can be breathtaking to see, but for me, the cherry blossoming also carries with it a more omnious warning... For me, the cherry blossom is just the forerunner of my mortal enemy - the hayfever that usually follows quickly after the cherry blossoming... As you can see in the photo, I'm already a bit pale from the sneezing and runny nose, but the real hell is just about to break loose...
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