Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Hey IT Helpdesk, why don't you solve this for me?

Recently our IT helpdesk people (mentioned here earlier) performed a survey on satisifaction with their support and the general computer infrastructure and software available on our computers and a summary of the replies was sent out and among all kinda reasonable or semi-reasonable comments like "I can't access XYZ from ABC", "I would like to see Excel upgraded to version X", "it's too difficult to get the approval for a new software" etc. there was one stand-out that I really liked.

The complaint was: "It has happened a few times that my computer has frozen, I don't like it so can please make sure it doesn't happen more".

Maybe I should have wished for world peace while we were working on futile wishes? The IT guys have something to work with there, but if they come up with a solution for that they should get the Nobel peace prize or something!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Buying a house in Japan Part 4 - The Layout and the Tatami-room

Ok, I do admit that I'm not keeping this series as regularly updated as maybe I should, but I can't really be bothered with doing a recap every time I update so if you're wondering where we are in this exciting sequence of events click the "buying a house in Japan" label and read up.

Me and Mrs. Sunshine-Salaryman were basically in agreement in what type of floor plan and space we wanted for our new little house; basically a large living room with kitchen, three bedrooms and one guestroom downstairs. The only place where we ran into some discussion were as to whether it was necessary that the downstairs guestroom would be a Japanese style room with tatami room or a regular western style room. Since I felt no particular need for a room to drink green tea in, sitting in a kimono contemplating my next move in the game of Go, I initially put up some minor resistance against the idea of a tatami room. The rationale for my resistance was based on the minimalistic approach of Japanese rooms and the difficulties in setting up matching bookshelves, drawers and other furniture.

My resistance proved quite futile, not due to overwhelming opposition, but mainly due to the fact that it proved quite impossible to find a house with the layout we wanted without a Japanese room and that we had already abandoned the idea of having a house built according to our specs...

In the end, I'm quite ok with the Tatami-room, we have no lack of storage space and it actually does smell pretty nice and also serves as a easy-access non-cluttered storage facility for Baby Sunshine.

Coming up next: The Sales Reps...

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Yep, it's true, we've given up on this stretch

This is an interesting sign (see the picture) I encountered during an excursion earlier in the week placed along a pretty desolate stretch of road. The signs says "When returning home at night, please walk with someone and not alone" and signed by the local police department of the area.

Ok, I guess it's good that they did put up a warning that there might be leg-breakers and other suspect individuals around, but wouldn't it be better if they actually did something to make it safer than to just put up a sign exclaiming the dangers? Also, the sign looked liked it had a considerable number of years to it so I wonder when and if they update it...

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Ready to go out into the world!

Baby Sunshine is now equipped to go out and explore the world in the start of the Japanese summer heat!

Ok, as an excuse, it should be mentioned that we are beginners but it is hot, sunny and she's not that big yet so she needs a little support for her neck.

Other achievements for the day has been:
  • Being every slow and incompetent department store clerks nightmare - the annoyed foreigner who can speak Japanese
  • Playing with Baby Sunshine - Playing at this stage means waving some crappy plastic toy in front of her and amaze at her actually being amused by it
  • Ruining the household and feeding the Amazon beast by buying tons of expensive and unnecessary toys for Baby S

All in all, not too bad of a day so far!

Friday, June 25, 2010

The good characters!

In this series of post, dissecting the (ab)use of image characters here in Japan, I have focused on some of the worst that this country has to offer. But to give a fair and balanced view to this, I thought I should also highlight some characters that I actually think work reasonable well in context.

The role model of uniquely developed image characters here should be the Japanese Railways company JR, they are divided up into sections according to region but have adopted regional systems for paperless electronical tickets (touch and go pre-loaded cards) and have adopted use of image characters to promote these and illustrate the use of the tickets in advertisements and commercials. East JR with the SUICA card utilizes a penguin, West JR with the similar ICOCA card uses a platypus and Central JR with the TOICA card uses a happy little chicken.

In addition, they seem to have had some sense and reason in coordinating these characters to match and work together (although in the Tokyo region we basically just see the Penguin). But I should raise a red flag here; there are other railway companies that utilizes a similar and compatible system as JR but who have much, much worse taste in picking their mascots and that is perhaps the target of an in-depth investigation at a later stage...

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Break a leg!

It's very true that Japan has a low crime rate and is a very safe country but sometimes there's stuff coming up here in the news that is just plain weird and the latest one I find particularly amusing/disturbing since it involves babies...

Apparently a woman in her late twenties stalked a baby goods shop out in the countryside in Ibaragi prefecture and asked a woman with a 2 months old baby to let her hold the baby since it was so cute. But she didn't only hold the baby, when the mother looked away she quickly twisted the baby's legs so badly that the hip joints broke and when the baby (obviously) started crying and was handed back to the mother (who later on went to a hospital and discovered the injuries), the woman then hung around a bit longer and 20 minutes later repeated the process with another mother and her baby, but was discovered and taken in by the police.

Apparently the "reason" was some form of unhappy marriage or something and jealousy of how happy the mothers looked with their babies that she apparently found some relief in breaking babies legs... If you can read Japanese take a look here (tv news from youtube here). It also some that there's some indications that she might have made a full time hobby out of this with several more broken baby legs out there.

I think this is up there with the crazy dude who threw a kid down a 10 story building or so because he "wanted to know what it felt like". Believe me when I say that Mrs. Salaryman-Sunshine will not hand over baby Sunshine to anyone asking her to in the near future...

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Is there a doctor in the house?

During this week I participated in a seminar geared towards our customers, mainly surgeons, but also some internal medicine doctors. As I was waiting outside the seminar, coming a little early while the previous session was still going on inside with probably a couple of hundred people in the audience. So I hung around outside the main doors waiting for the session to end as to not disturb the people listening, being relatively at peace with myself, standing around in my fancy necktie trying to look professional.

Then, all of a sudden there is commotion coming from the meeting room, I hear some people shouting "get the defilibrator, get it now!" some guy bursts out the doors and runs to get the defilibrator device and inside I see some commotion and people looking around, confused, to see what happened. Then, just by the time the dude comes running back with the defilibrator and the room seem to have settled a bit, I hear someone calling out from the inside in a pretty loud voice "Is there a doctor in the room?", the obvious reaction to this is some general scattered laughter since probably at least 80% of the people in were certified medical doctors.
But I never did figure out if there was some joker trying to be funny on the expense of someone perhaps on the brink of death or someone who really didn't understand that basically it would be harder to find someone who is not a medical doctor in that room at that time...

Oh, and yeah, the guy who caused the commotion was ok, it was just a case of fainting due to exhaustion.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Commuter Terrorists - The Battering Ram

The trains I ride to and from work are crowded, there's no way around that. If you work regular hours and have to take a train to your office, you will encounter crowded trains here in Tokyo. Usually they're more crowded in the morning since the starting time of work is more regular than the time that people leave the office; the evening rush hour is somewhere from five thirty to eight PM.

But there can be degrees of crowding, some lines are infamous for the harsh battles that go on, especially in the morning. I can deal with crowded trains and in most cases, as long as you got a decent spot inside the train (see my diagram here) it is usually bearable when you have gotten used to it. Also, in most cases, the train kinda reaches an equilibrium where all the passengers adapt to the space and just zone out.

This is where one of the most feared commuter terrorists come in; "The Battering Ram Man". This person is always a man and usually of slightly larger than average body size, and this guy, he wants IN, he doesn't contend with standing in the place that is available to him, no, this guy is going to get inwards, any way he can, through force, pushing and shoving his way. The effect that the Battering Ram Man can have on a packed train is something akin to having a glass filled to the brim with water, and then putting an electric mixer in it full power. Water will fly everywhere and the equilibrium is completely disturbed. Similarly in the train, his pushing and shoving will send ripples all across the train car through a dominoe effect.

I have yet to devise any real protection against these type of terrorists, I do try to stand my ground, but oftentimes the impact is indirect since you get pushed and shoved by a person that in turn has been pushed and shoved by the Battering Ram Man... I would guess that this person is responsible for most cases of violent train rage and the effect of having two Battering Ram Men simultaneously doing their work and meeting up can be explosive...

Thursday, June 17, 2010

No flavor is the new flavor!

Anyone who has visited or lived in Japan the last few years is sure to be aware of the recent trend of snack manufacturers to release "limited editions" of their snacks with new, quite interesting and unique combination of flavors. Sometimes it's done locally featuring local speciality, and sometimes it's done nationwide.

Generally, this is nothing that I really have any strong opinion on one way or the other, I can just chose to buy the regular Kit Kat instead of the green tea/lime/whatever special edition and sometimes they can actually be quite tasty, but no point in any case to get too attached to them since they will soon be off the market in any case.

Pringles are of course also on the bandwagon for this trend and I think I remember seeing flavors such as "Turkish shish kebab", "Smoky Salami" and "Cream Cheese". But the latest one I find pretty great; it's potato chips with FRENCH FRIES flavor, so in essence, it's deep fried potato with the flavor of deep fried potato. I think this is usually called "plain" but Pringles seem to be challenging this, good for them!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

You're not really selling this into us you know?

Earlier in the week, during a meeting where we discussed some new processes to better manage logistics, the logistic manager proposed a different way of doing things which he had put to use in his previous company.

His pitch to us went something like this:

"(eager to pitch his idea) Well, it's not completely easy and in my previous company it was really hard to get everything right, but the second year things were running pretty good with this system. And by the third year... (face turns thoughtful) wait, oh, the third year the company went out of business so we couldn't really follow through completely... (looks momentarily sad)"

People sat silent for a few seconds before someone moved to the next point of the agenda without commenting on this little pitch... Selling ideas is hard business...

Monday, June 14, 2010

Victory with a happy dude - V(^^)V

There is one area where Japan is lightyears ahead of the competition in terms of progress and innovation; the invention and use of smileys and images in e-mails. I've touched a bit upon this earlier in a post that seem to attract almost daily spam posts (here). Personally I have since long ago decided to not try fight the tide here and just go along with it, embracing this custom.

Of course it's easy to use characters such as a frog singing in the rain (click the picture, it's one of my favorite ones, it can be used to illustrate anything), crying pigs, blinking christmas trees and whatever it is you fancy on modern mobile phones that has all of these images pre-equipped. But the true level of innovation shines through in how Japanese people manage to put together smileys illustrating a wide range of emotions through simple characters.

But not only this, last week as mailed a question to Cpt. Awkward about a small thing that had been bugging me a bit (for some reason I didn't completely trust that he had taken care of it) and I got a reply back stating that things were in order and he had taken care of it, and at the end he put in the following characters:

I'm not completely sure, but I think that this combination of characters are supposed to convey a happy dude doing the victory marks with his/hers fingers. Considering that Cpt. Awkward is a balding gray-looking middle management Salaryman close to retirement (don't get me wrong, he's a nice guy in that kind of Christian Bale vs. camera crew guy relationship way) I found it both amusing and kinda creepy at the same time that even he uses these type of smileys...

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Annoying kids, sometimes it's the little things

As I today went to the hairdresser to have my hair cut (phrenologic analysis I got last time). I sat down at their small waiting table waiting for my turn and in front of me sat a kid girl around 7-8 years old or so, waiting for her mom to get her hair cut, holding up a pink Nintendo DS in front of her face (no doubt playing some game about painting the world pink populated with cute pink animals; Baby Sunshine I will try to steer towards Grand Theft Auto, Killzone and God of War when she can get her hands around a controller).

In front of the girl was a package of Jagariko potato sticks which she kept eating as she was playing her pink game. I do admit to having some minor munchies and my eyes probably looked at the Jagariko package for about half of a second (hey, they're pretty good actually). Then I notice her beady little eyes glaring at me over her pink DS and without letting up on the stare, she demonstratively moved the snack package as close to her on the table and kept up the challenging glare for another few seconds before she went back to her game (commenting loudly on what she was doing to her mother, who 1. wasn't listening 2. surely didn't care in any case).

I did briefly consider going across the street to the convenience store to buy myself ten packages of Jagariko and line them up on my side of the table and give her an even more challenging glare while I did so, but before I could start making more concrete plans my turn was up. Sometimes it's the little things.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Hey, let's work in a matrix organization

Previously my little company's head office organization had been working under a relatively firm pyramid type of organization but under a pretty active benevolent dictator who could intervene in case of any problems with someone not working in the company's best interest and the system was working relatively well, at least from my local Japan perspective.

But recently the company was reorganized into a more "dynamic type of matrix organization" with organization charts having "dotted reporting lines" all over the place. Now, this dynamic organization has resulted that no one really knows what they're doing, who's should be doing what and who has the authority to actually make any decisions. This has now created a vacuum where a quite large number of very active smaller kingdoms has popped up and managers taking the chance to actively foil each others plans to make sure that they can get their hands on the most power and sort out old grievances.

Before, getting an approval for some activity to go ahead now usually means being shuffled around in the organization trying to get approval from a number of small popes that all want to make sure that it is perfectly clear that it's them having the authority to make a decision...

"Dotted line" reporting and "matrix organizations" must be one of the more imminent signs of the apocalypse...

(On the train home today I had my iPod on shuffle and got hit with first The House of Love with "Destroy the heart" followed by Skinny Puppy with "Far too Frail" and rounding off with "Pearl" by Chapterhouse, oddly comforting in a nostalgic type of way and the baby is of course cute and waiting for me at home - she reports straight to me and Mrs. Sunshine but we might add a dotted line to her Japanese grandparents, we'll see)

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Basics of baby fluid consumption and fluid excretion

Ok, I know that there's been a recent string of baby related posts here but please bear with me considering that this now takes up a quite large part of my life in general and nights in particular.

I have now empirically learnt quite a lot about babies and the fluid intake even though I am not the primary source of food for her. But the basic principles in babies and fluid intake goes something like this:

  1. Fluid is inserted into the main upper body cavity in moderate amounts

  2. Fluid is then secreted through the two main lower body half cavities

  3. In addition, fluid also is secreted back through the main upper body cavity with some additional output from the nostrils (depending on how you count, one or two cavities I would say

The really fascinating thing here is that I'm quite certain that the output in terms of sheer volume by far surpasses the input of fluid which leads me to the conclusion that babies actually produces some milk like substance in their own bodies just to keep the flow up.

She's a little vomiting angel by day, but I have photographic evidence that she turns into a monster during the night (see the picture, taken sometime around 3AM).

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Supporting your woman during the delivery and labour process!

As a man, I think it's hard to really completely understand the hardship that giving birth is to a woman. But I of course wanted to support Mrs. Sunshine as much as I possibly could during this long and painful process and I think that all men out there should do their utmost to support their woman during the delivery.

During one of the "training session" (believe me, I will elaborate on that in more detail later on) all men received a small note where we were supposed to write a message to the mom-to-be to support her and give her strength. Instead of writing, I put my artistic skills to the best use and drew this picture for her.Needless to say, this picture with message "がんばってください, ganbatte kudasai" (one of those things a bit difficult to properly translate to English, but means something like "Keep it up", "good luck" or something similar, look it up if you're not happy with these translation attempts) gave Mrs. Sunshine strength to go through a long and painful labour process.

I do my best to support!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Toto Motors or Star Trek? Star Trek or Toto Motors?

This is what the symbol of the Toto Motors Group looks like (different color depending on business division, but same symbol)
This is what the simplified symbol of Star Trek looks like (ok, I know it's a simplified logo of the "Starfleet" or something, but let's face it, it's become the Star Trek logo by now).

I'll leave you to ponder the deeper meaning of this, for now...

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Prime Minister Hatoyama Resigns! (and no one really cares)

Ok, the proud tradition of changing prime minister as long as anything doesn't really go completely according to plan seem to continue with the DPJ Prime Minister Hatoyama handing in his resignation yesterday. I won't go into the details of that sordid mess but I'm sure my political advisor and hordes of other newsmedia and bloggers will milk this for all it's worth, and I am quite sure that the Penguin has saved up considerable wit for a comment here on this occasion as well.

But what strikes me is the complete indifference of the Japanese people and media, sure it's the main news story in all the regular news shows and people sigh about it. But yesterday on all the regular channels, none of the regular programming was interruped or replaced by special news coverage of this, which in most other countries would be a very significant event. I guess it's just become part of the political routine by now and I'm sure that everyone fully expects that the next clown that the DPJ mafia (that's a bunch of scary looking old men) push to the front will fold within six months, probably for something trivial like a cornflakes shortage in some major convenience stores only to be replaced by a new clown, even clownier than the one before him.

Considering the current state of the Japanese economy this really isn't a joking matter, but it's hard to be surprised anymore and I think this picture drawn by old buddy Martin (hey, check out his business here, it's all in Swedish but I'm sure he'll draw you as Fonzie the bear if you pay him enough and yeah, his main business isn't cartoons if you wonder) perfectly illustrates my feelings on the subject!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Your behaviour indicates that you’re type A, but sometimes you display characteristics of a type B personality

I think most people who read this blog are aware on the obsession that some Japanese people have with blood types and how they decide the personality of people, a bit like how some people view the Zodiac in the west.

I'm no expert on the subject of blood types and personality traits, but I'm sure that there are plenty of people writing about it online so I won't even try to launch into an explanation here. But the basic thought is that the blood type influences the personality of people (note that by no means do all Japanese people believe this, the ones who strongly believe in this are probably a pretty small but loud percentage of the population). But I think it's no understatement to say that basically all Japanese people know their own blood type without having to think about it.

Quite often I have been involved in conversations like this
Ms./Mr. A: Salaryman, which blood type are you?
Salaryman: Actually, I don't know
Ms./Mr. A: (shocked, in disbelief) But what will they do if you are in an accident and you need a blood transfusion?!
Salaryman: (jaded) You know, I think they will check in any case and not just take anyone's word for it so I'm not too worried about that...
Ms./Mr. A: (Confidently) Well, in any case, I'm sure you’re an A/B/O/AB!
Salaryman: (Amused) What makes you say that?
Ms./Mr. A: (Still confident) Because you have the personality of a A/B/O/AB

I never really figured out which types are the good ones and bad ones so I might not act properly offended when someone labels me as one with bad personality traits...

Related Posts with Thumbnails