Friday, August 29, 2008

You up to the challenge?

Recently I've been filled with a warm fuzzy feeling through seeing something of a community springing up among mine and some related blogs. I think it's a vague undefined feeling of community.

So, I guess this post only concern those people who have been active commenting and blogging on their own, I'm more specifically talking about people like Penguin, Cowgirl, Turningpin and AF (forgive me if I forgot anyone).

How about a real life face-off? However, not only should we make this an event at some sordid bar/Izakaya/Theme Restaurant/Denny's place in Ikebukuro (obviously), Shinjuku or somewhere in central Tokyo, but we should also all blog about the evening and our impressions for posting at a given time the day after or so. That would make it a mini-event.

So, you guys up for the challenge? Leave a comment what you think and also send a mail if you're actively interested and I'll try to cook something up.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

They're everywhere!

As my dear readers might recall, I recently had a quite intensive warfare session with an intruder in my apartment which I finally managed to put to rest.
If that had been the end of my war with the bugs everything would have been fine, but in recent times I have also experienced other visitors. Small black bugs all over the place in hordes, they're so small that they don't trigger the same disgust in me as the horrible roaches, but are an annoyance and not very nice to have flying around the apartment occasionaly landing on places on you you don't want to have them.

Recently I received the help from Ms. Sunshine in an attempt to commit genocide on them, however due to the smallness of the bugs and the much lower disgust level compared to a roach we mainly kept ourselves to conventional warfare techniques and very little chemical warfare. However, how hard we looked, we couldn't identify where they came from and the source of this plague was hard to identify, but after our genocide attempts I was hoping that they would've be gone by the time I came back from Thailand. To my dissapointment they were still here, in at least as many numbers as before. Since I had no garbage inside and a very cleaned kitchen (due to the previous roach...) I could not understand where they were coming from.

So yesterday evening after work, I happily headed towards the kitchen to make myself a nice bowl of powdered mashed potatoes (I know, I live life to the max) and as I poured the powder in the boiling water/milk I noticed some brown dots in it. My first reaction was assuming it was supposed to be there, but looking closer I noticed that quite a few of those brown dots had wings... Suddenly things became very very clear... I have an infestation of flour beetles in my kitchen... Quickly checking out a bag of flour I have, half covered in a plastic bag showed literally hundreds of dead bugs and quite a few living ones in the flour and the plastic bag making me spill half the contents on the floor in disgust.

Now, anything bread and flour like has been disposed off so I hope I have killed this infestation since the constant warfare has made me battle drained. Just one more month and then comes autumn and soon winter and the bugs should go back to hiding!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Back in Business!

Now yours truly has relocated back to his lair in central Tokyo and found no traces of any of those nasty little coackroaches so it seems like my acts of chemical warfare scared them away for the time being, and scared they should be!

The meetings in Bangkok were of the more fruitful variant with interesting content and not the long-winded utterly boring meeting that I have plenty of experience of since earlier. Also always nice to meet and talk "shop" with some of my Asian colleagues.

However, the fun obviously started when Ms. Sunshine arrived to keep me company and together we managed to spend 3 days of vacation there as well in blistering heat and even though I consider myself to be quite an experienced traveller I still managed to get us ripped off on several occasions through those shrewd tuktuk drivers. Since the living standard for the common people in Bangkok are pretty far below that of Japan I generally don't mind tipping generously towards friendly and reasonable people, but I get immensly annoyed by those who try to rip me off.

Also, on at least two occasions Ms. Sunshine managed to be mistaken to be my Thai "holiday girlfriend" and also be taken for a Canadian at one point (?!).

The question "where are you from?" seems simple enough, but can create annoying complexities when we are travelling together. A reply of "We're from Japan" usually generates a stare at me and a blunt "you don't look Japanese". But if I switch tactics and answer "we're from Sweden and Japan" I usually get a "you don't look Swedish, you look like Chinaman". By the end me and Ms. Sunshine decided to say that we're from Canada to further confuse them.

But now I'm back and thankfully Japan managed to cool down a bit in my absence!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Let's make a note of that

Scene from meeting just earlier. The European manager is presenting a new product and has a peon sitting with a notepad in front of him to make notes of issues and items that arise. A colleague from Taiwan raises a question.

Taiwan Colleague: I think we need to strongly consider this and that and that when we do this.
Manager: Yes, that is a very good point, we should definately take a note on that (glances at peon) and get back to you.
Peon: (blankly staring out in the distance)
Taiwan Colleague: That's good because this and that and that will impact the business opportunity.
Manager: I fully understand so we'll take a note (emhasizes the word "note" and glares at peon) of this.
Peon: (still blankly staring out in the distance)
Manager: (To peon) Are you taking a note of this?
Peon: (Sighs and start scribbling something down)

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Adventures of a Foreign Salaryman in Tokyo in Bangkok

The life as a high-powered executive takes me around the world again and this time I have put down camp for a brief time in Bangkok, Thailand. In the coming days I will meet with my fellow salarymen from the Asian region and discuss salarymenish issues and such.

After a minor disturbance at the air-port where the lady at the check-in counter got a bit nervous since travelling to Thailand requires you to have 6 months validity of your passport at the point of entry and yours truly happened to have 6months plus one day left. After spending several minutes counting on her fingers in silence and enlisting the help of a colleague to help her count. After a minor discussion where I had to emphasize that I even if it's just barely, I still met the 6 month requirement, they allowed me to check-in. At least she was suitably embarrased in the end.

Predictably, the immigration officer in Bangkok hardly glanced at my passport before she stamped me in.

So now I'm looking forward to spend a couple of days in a closed room looking at power point presentations, but afterwards Ms. Sunshine will be shipped to this location for a little extra short holiday!

However, I cannot help but shake a nagging feeling of dread, what if the roach I nuked the other day was just the scout and had the time to send for help from his croonies, or even worse, it was a female that laid a bunch of eggs somewhere in the apartment and I will get home to a lair overtaken by roaches...

Monday, August 18, 2008

This means war!

There is one thing that can turn me into a screaming 5 year old girl... Nothing, and I really mean nothing, disgusts me as much as insects in general and cockroaches in specific. My crib has so far been free of these nasty little critters and although I might not always keep the cleanest lair, at least I try to keep rotting food and other nasty garbage to a minimum to not make it too attractive to them.

Yesterday evening, after seeing the wonderful Ms. Sunshine off, getting ready to chill a bit in the sofa in front of the TV I noticed a very very unwelcome guest... A nasty cockroach had found it's way and came flying from nowhere, landing by the bookshelf. In order to as quickly as possible remove this uninvited guest from the premises I took a couple of seconds to gather up the courage to face him, picked up a magazine to deliver a killing blow. Unfortunately i was a split second too slow and he ran off into cover and my sight behind the bookshelf... Knowing that a cockroach is on the loose in my living room effectively means that I cannot be comfortable in there and sitting in the sofa watching tv is completely out of the question...

I quickly ran out to arm myself and came back 5 minutes later with a bag full of traps and chemical warfare agents. I tried to find the little bugger to give him a face full of poison, but he kept himself out of sight and instead I made sure to spray the areas where he had run into. But still no sight of him...

I went to bed, closed the door and put some clothes in the crack between the floor and the door to make sure he wouldn't be able to sneak in on me and ambush me in my sleep. With this taken care of I could relax and sleep all through the night.

This morning, I catiously glimpsed out from my door, spray can in my claw, to try and catch him off guard before he could call his friends. When I approached the kitchen I saw him lying on his back, legs still twitching, but apparently dying. My WMDs had done its work and he was quickly disposed of through the toilet (took me a few minutes to figure out a means to lift the corpse up at a maximum distance from my body).

The lesson in here? If any cockroaches is reading this and is thinking of infiltrating my lair, they should know that I will use whatever means that are at my disposal, chemical warfare, poison traps and WMDs. I really do hate the roaches...

Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Gateway to My Dreams? Pt. 2 - The Reckoning

Proudly presenting the first videoblog of Mr. Salaryman! Exclusive for this site, no stupid youtube or stuff, only here can you watch the harvest from the dream machine! If you haven't read the previous post leading up to this, do it here!

Friday, August 15, 2008

“It’s hot today” “Yeah, it’s really hot”

Tokyo is hot now. Forget my earlier post on this, it's become even hotter and more miserable and this time I have no contingency plan in place...

Obviously this is the main topic of conversation inside the company and neighbor blogger John Turningpin wrote a post on this and I can only concur with in his description of the obvious conversations about heat in the office environment.

However, I do not agree with his distain for the subject of heat, quite the contrary, I embrace it. In fact, I can carry on a conversation about the heat for a pretty long time and I frequently do. Please observe how I skillfully talk about the heat in the example below, the scenario is me and Mr. A in a meeting room, waiting for Ms. B and Mr. C to join us. Again, please feel free to act this conversation out with a friend, collegaue or long lost lover.

Mr. Salaryman: It's hot today
Mr. A: Yeah, it's really hot…
Mr. Salaryman: I don't like the heat
Mr. A: No, it's too hot now
Mr. Salaryman: It was hot yesterday too
Mr. A: Yeah, yesterday was really hot
Mr. Salaryman: I think they said on the news that it'll be even hotter tomorrow
Mr. A: Seriously? It's so hot
Mr. Salaryman: Yeah, it's really hot
Mr. A: Way too hot
Mr. Salaryman: Last summer was hot too
Mr. A: Yeah, but it wasn't this hot
Mr. Salaryman: Swedish summer is nice
Mr. A: Oh, is it cold?
Mr. Salaryman: It's not so hot
Mr. A: Do you have high humidity in summer
Mr. Salaryman: No, it's dry and nice
Mr. A: That sounds pleasant
Mr. Salaryman: Yeah, I don’t like the Japanese summer, it's too hot
Mr. A: Yeah, it's too hot here in Japan
Mr. Salaryman: Hokkaido is nice in summer though, not so hot
(Ms. B and Mr. C enters the room)
Ms. B and Mr. C in unison: It's so hot…

I can carry on a conversation about cold for almost the same duration, but since I hate the heat more I can't really put my heart behind it in the same way. It's also a very convenient way of avoiding any form of serious conversations with colleagues you might not have anything in common with except the work, so I have decided to not fight it and just embrace it.

It is really hot by the way...

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Gateway to my Dreams?

I've lived in Japan now for close to 10 years and I've now gotten completely used to vending machines. It's just part of life and a very convenient thing as well. I think I've seen most of what Japan has to offer in terms of vending machines; rice machines in the country side, flower vending machines in hospitals, porn vending machines in a deserted location in the country side and many many more types I can't recall at the moment. So, like I said, it's just part of life and nothing I really react to anymore, when I travel abroad on the other hand I usually miss the convenience of the vending machines.

However, just last week on my merry way home to my lair I happened to pass by a new vending machine, just a few meters away from my apartment building, that I hadn't noticed before. I stopped, hesitated and then gazed upon its glory. It was like nothing I've ever seen before and it promised me riches beyond my wildest imagination. The picture is what met my eyes.

It didn't have any selection buttons like most normal vending machines and on the front was pictures of the most coveted treasures; brand goods, gaming devices, digital cameras and all kinds of amazing things. I could not believe my eyes, but then I saw the price of one try: 1000 yen... Then I started to think of the risks, what if I couldn't get what I really wanted? What if it was all a big scam? I hesitated, backed off and ran back to the safety of my lair.

But still, now a week has passed and this vending machine has been gnawing in the back of my head. Maybe it's worth just ONE try? Maybe I can become the owner of one of this magic machines treasures?

I still haven't made up my mind, sure, I'm perfectly aware that spending a thousand yen note as toilet paper is probably as meaningful as trying my luck in this machine, but still, the more I think about it the more curious I get. I've never seen one of these types of machines before. I know of such vending machines for kids with toys and stuff, but this one is squarely aimed at the grown-up market. Rest assured that if I try my luck, you will be the first to know!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

In support of Operation Diddily Squat!

Ok, I've gone through my views on blogging and such in a few previous boring posts so I won't do it again, but the fact is that I'm not a very hardcore blog reader. I have a few blogs I do like and I do check in pretty regularly on the blogs linked here on my site, but I can be away for one week without feeling like I'm missing stuff.

Personally it's also most pleasant when I find someone linking my blog without me knowing of it (usually start seeing visitors from that site dropping in) and they don't link every blog out there, meaning that they actually liked my blog and that they are a bit selective in what the read. Well, this is recently what happened, I found out that Tokyo Cowgirl started linking me and checked out the site.

Now, she has something really interesting going on here which I follow with a lot of interest. In Tokyo there are a bunch of free English language magazines with events and such, I'm mainly thinking of Metropolis and Tokyo Confidential. If you've ever visited Japan for any longer time I'm sure you have encountered these magazines and they can be pretty informative and useful, but apart from information about events and such they also have personals. Believe me when I say that these personals can be seriously freaky (Cowgirl did a post on that which I recommend) and I'm sure most foreigners living in Japan have at some point amused themselves with the hilarity of those ads. "Who writes these things and what are they thinking?" is a thought that I'm probably not the only one to have had... Well, now we're all about to find out thanks to Operation Diddly Squat (ODS).

With Cowgirl's two constructed persona; "Chloe" and "Ayumi" she will be digging into the depravity of these guys and the entertainment is already pretty high and I believe that it will just get crazier and crazier since this new "Ayumi" personality is very very promising. It's interactive as well since she seems to appreciate suggestions and ideas! Don't miss this, I check in daily in hopes of more hilarity and you should to!

Friday, August 8, 2008

Congratulations to... fatherhood?

Recently my old friend from back in the day in Sweden became a father to a little baby boy. Now, we're not just talking "old" friends here, we're seriously talking way back. We started to hang out when we were six years old and the time we've wasted sitting in his basement playing Archon, Bruce Lee, Commando and hundreds of C64 games after school I don't even dare to think about.

But of course our friendship evolved from that, it's not like the only thing we did was to sit in a basement playing the C64 with his "The Boss" joysticks, as we grew older and more mature we moved to "Worms" and my basement and then even later on back to his basement and the Playstation, "Tekken 3" especially.

Obviously the first feeling I got when I heard he became a father was happiness on his behalf that his wife gave birth to a healthy baby but that feeling was quickly changed to distress when he happily sent me the picture you see above... The likeness to E.T. is pretty creepy and makes me wonder if his marriage with the wife is as good as he says, but you don't right out tell a friend that you suspect that E.T. had an affair with his wife and that he might not be the father. So I made up my mind and put it to rest, as long as they're happy and the boy is healthy it's none of my business.

And hey, if you gotta be the substitute father of a half-alien baby, at least it was E.T. and not ALF!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

The Eternal Optimist

The director for the new division that joined the company a little while ago is a really nice guy and knows the market inside out and are chummy with most of the important doctors which is a huge advantage and make things a lot easier. I mentioned a bit about him earlier. He's also one of the most optimistic people I have ever met, all news are good news or are spun in his head to become good news. For a pessimist like me, this can be a bit annoying, but since he's a nice guy I just try to keep cool.

However, coming from a local Japanese company, he's not yet completely adjusted to working in a large global company with a lot more people in different countries involved, which is fine since it's one of my jobs to help him navigate this maze. Recently he came up with an idea that theoretically could expand the potential market for one of our products quite considerably, but not realizing that it's hard to diverse too much from the rest of the company in terms of indications and such for liability reasons.

He managed to fire up Mr. Shachou considerably to this idea and the whole company was celebrating this new great idea while I had to sit there and be the negative guy telling them to calm down and that we need to check with head office that this idea is workable before we celebrate too much. They all agreed that we should check, but continued in their celebratory mood for the rest of the day.

So, I call up and discuss the issue with the relevant people in the head office, and no surprise, the idea proved to be extremely difficult to do and would result in delays that wouldn't be acceptable according to our plan.

I go to tell him the bad news (I must admit that I felt some satisfaction in that I was right all along) and when he gets the news, he staggered for a few seconds like he had gotten punched in the face but then quickly rebounding with optimism; "Ok, we can work around this and maybe we can do it like this instead?". "Ok, I'll look into it I say" and quickly check and get confirmed that neither that is possible. So I go back, tell him the bad news and again, he staggers for a few seconds and then rebounds with optimist "Ok, then we'll do it according to the original plan, that'll work fine!".

Part of me is getting pretty curious on testing where the limit of his optimism lies and see how much it would take before he gets a bit beaten down, but I'm pretty sure that he could rebound from almost any bad news I could possibly throw at him.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

In corporate vacation season no one can hear you cry...

Working for a European company in Japan has its pros and cons. Since I'm a local employee and not on any corporate expat program, the conditions under which I have joined are the same as for any of my Japanese colleagues. Since I'm not here on a temporary or time specific basis that's completely fair enough.

However, there is a specific time when I really wished that I was here on the same conditions as my European colleagues, namely the summer vacation season... From my current perspective, with a very small number of vacation days during one year it's almost obscene with the vacation that most people in the head office take. The standard Japanese vacation is that most salarymen taken one week of vacation during August and call that "summer vacation" and that is it. On occasion I can get an automated reply on a mail sent to a European colleague stating "thanks for your e-mail, I will reply when I get back to the office from my vacation in 5 weeks"...

Recently something urgent came up, so I tried to get in touch with someone in marketing in the head office. After a number of futile phone calls met with automated messages I resorted to call the operator of the company to see if I could get hold of anyone. It went basically something like this:

Mr. Salaryman: Hi, this is me calling from Japan, do you know if Mr. X is in now?
Operator: Hi, let me check... ... ...(few seconds of silence) No, he's on vacation.
Mr. Salaryman: I see, well, is Ms. Y in then maybe?
Operator: (immediately) No, she's on summer vacation.
Mr. Salaryman: Well, is there anyone in marketing there now?
Operator: (few seconds silence) No, they're all on vacation....
Mr. Salaryman: Ok, do you know if Mr. Z is in then?
Operator: I haven't seen him in weeks, but he's not listed being on vacation, let me connect you

I couldn't get through to Mr. Z, so I left a message in the hope that he wasn't on vacation but just not available when I tried to call. A few hours later I get a SMS stating "I'll get back to you in 2 weeks when I'm back from vacation"...

It's at times like this I'm wondering what the hell I'm doing here in Japan during the swelting summer heat...

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