E-mailed memo to self

Sender: Justin Yoshida
Subject: razor blades
bring them to work.
It’s not what you think, whatever that is. I want to use them to improvise cutting blades for a Thompson cutting machine.
In other news, I am off for eight days starting in approximately one hour. Do you have any idea how long the next 60 minutes will seem?
In case I forget about the internet for a while, Happy New Year to you all!

Salaryman’s year-end maxim

I always plan to tie up loose ends and complete x amount of work by the end of the year; by the time Christmas rolls around my productivity dwindles to slightly above absolute zero and I’ve unconsciously convinced myself that all but the most critical issues can be postponed until work resumes.
This is my fourth or fifth salaryman Christmas, but the most annoying thing about the winter season in Japan, even more than work, continues to be Wham’s “Last Christmas” resounding throughout shopping malls, train stations, and other public gathering places near you.

Think Global, Act Retarded

You would think that the Lipovitan crystals I smoked before yesterday’s rant would have worn off by now. You would be wrong.
Today’s unwilling recipient of my hate is our company’s uniform. Specifically, the branding on it. I have actually grown quite fond of wearing a uniform to work, because it’s a hell of a lot easier than choosing barney-ass cubicle clothes every day (and hence cheaper as well, since I’m a gentle fucking giant in Japanese sizes and must import all my Dilbert-wear). However, a few years ago, my company changed vendors for our “Confederate Grays,” and said company named this line of poly-blend uniform, “EARTHINK.” Now, all of our uniform sleeves bear a white 1″ x 3″ label with “EARTHINK – RECYCLE” and a bunch of other environmental crap in Japanese printed on it. We are like walking billboards for ISO 14001, which just might be the idea, I guess, but still…. EARTHINK? What the hell is that? It nags at my conscience every few days, seriously:
Just what is EARTHINK?
Every Asshole Rikes To Hollering In North Korea?
So I asked my manager about it, and he replied most sagaciously, “get to work, you fucking bum.” Thus reprimanded, I cowered back to my desk. But he dropped by later, and admitted that he didn’t know what the hell it meant besides the hilariously interpretable Japanese pronunciation which is, “assinku.” I like assinku better than anything else, I guess.
I finally got around to Googling the shit today, and in its first reference to Japanese corporate uniforms, I found the following:
And now that I have found the true meaning of EARTHINK, I can die in peace.

Japanese Rantfest 2004

(Be warned, I just stubbed my toe REALLY HARD on an old printer someone left in the hallway for pickup tomorrow. The following passage was brought to you by the school of ?Ignore the Pain and It Will Go Away,? and the Foundation for People Who Woke Up on the Wrong Side of Humanity This Morning.)
Note to self: Write future rant about the simplicity and nuance of the Japanese language being too often cloaked in stiff politeness. Wait. On second thought, I guess there?s not much to expand on there? Don?t think anyone would disagree with that. More precisely, anyone who would disagree probably has a pathetic social life, and I would feel really bad about pointing that out – even if we got in a heated debate that resulted in insults in the comments, hate mail, prank calls, false credit card charges, escalation in the form of physical stalking and placement of beheaded pet maguro in rival?s bed while he?s sleeping, and someone?s eventual deportation.
Besides, I kind of covered this in the post last week about the proper Japanese business e-mail format. So I won?t delve into the linguistic equivalent of why if you buy a box of chocolate chip cookies at a Japanese 7-11, you often must take the box out of the grocery bag and figure out how the box itself is opened, after which you must also open the sealed tray or pouch that?s inside the box, and, finally, remove each individually packaged cookie from its foil wrapper before eating it; there always seems to be an unnecessary layer or two.
No, I definitely should not get into that one today; it would cramp my freestyle impersonation of a mudslide, and besides, it?s so fucking wroooong to make sweeping generalizations about anything these days it seems. That said? The different levels of politeness in Japanese are daunting and complex, but I?ll leave the boring stuff to linguists and others who most likely did not take Wood Shop as an elective in high school, and write instead about how they can provide amusement. (Note: I may use this opportunity to insult random, stupid types of people who irritate me in some way or another as well, so be prepared if you know me and suspect I intensely dislike you.)
Sometimes it?s fun being unnecessarily polite in Japanese, verbally skating the line between being respectfully polite and sarcastically polite. Of course, if you are a gaijin, a lot of people won?t believe you capable of intentionally doing such a thing, but hey, fuck them. People like that are often ignorant in a sickeningly innocent kind of way; even if they are pleasant enough, they are the type who, for instance, might find your proficiency with chopsticks comment-worthy. However, many of us give the natives good cause to doubt our conversation skills on a daily basis.
For instance, one of the most irritating things I see on a regular basis is foreigners who get carried away with the politeness thing, specifically when expressing apology or thanks. You know, the kind of person who, after unintentionally causing relatively minor trouble for someone (like bumping into a stranger who ends up spilling his coffee on the sidewalk, or being helped by a passerby while fixing a flat tire) repeats the word sumimasen, gomennasai, and some form of arigato so many times in succession that the person he’s talking to starts getting really uncomfortable and eventually has to convey, forcefully, “IT’S OK ? REALLY.” It?s especially unnerving when bowing is included in this performance because many gaijin obviously learned how to bow from kung-fu movies, kowtowing in a deep nodding motion with hands held in front and pressed/clasped together like a coolie begging for master to at least spare the children, if you know what I mean.
To be fair, going overboard with the thanks/apologies is perfectly normal in some situations, so it shouldn?t bother me that foreigners try to emulate it, except for the fact that I find it annoying when Japanese people do this as well. All the time. In fact, apologizing too profusely is an effective tactic for pissing people off as well? I realize that at this point, you may very well be asking yourself, ?what the fuck is homeboy trying to say??, and I have no reasonable answer. This is ranting for the sake of ranting, and fairly incomprehensible ranting at that? Imagine a nihonbunka (JP culture) major that comes over from [insert country] on an exchange program, and, who, by poring over ancient manuscripts in the university library day in and day out, gradually becomes one of the world’s leading authorities on the taxation system in Japan?s feudal era. Having determined the three distinct grades of rice at the time: Daimyo’s White (husked and hulled), Merchant’s Brown (partially husked), and Peasant’s Millet Blend (with New Tiny Pebbles!), he can decipher more kanji than a Beijing newspaper editor, and can in fact read completely through a Japanese auto insurance explanation booklet, yet still hasn’t figured out how to, say, order a meal at a noisy noodle shop counter without sounding like a complete FAG (“futsu no tonkotsu wo hitotsu kudasai”). Everybody knows a guy like this, right? Just wanted to point out I really hate guys like that, even if they do us all a favor by marrying the ugly chicks ?from Tokyo? (97% of ugly chicks claiming to be ?from Tokyo? are actually from Gunma or areas outlying. Blame this phenomenon on Narita Airport, which people in places other than Kanto loosely ? and incorrectly – refer to as ?Tokyo Airport?. Uh-uh.).
There?s also the fact that most gaijin probably begin learning polite forms of Japanese that they fall back on like a security blanket when they are uncomfortable, as if politeness were a substitute for comprehension??
(At this point, my toe is feeling much better, and I need a nap.)

Earthsea: “Not-so-uppity” version

From a young age, I always found solace in science fiction and fantasy writing. I read The Hobbit for the first time in 4th grade, and never looked back. So it’s very disappointing to hear the disappointment created when the Sci-Fi channel decided to do a TV adaptation of Ursula K. Le Guin’s Earthsea books:
A Whitewashed Earthsea
The punchline in that article, in my opinion, was their choice of Danny Glover. I guess it just as easily could have been Morgan Freeman or Denzel, but still… My fervent hope is that the Narnia movies, at least, treat the original books with a bit more respect.
Ursula K. Le Guin. I give her props for voicing her displeasure in such a way, and damn, isn’t that the coolest-sounding name ever (I still think so twenty years after seeing it for the first time.)?

Business E-mail Format in Japanese

I was just issued this “staff support book” which outlines employee duties, good work practices, and various other goodies which are causing me great joy, because they are the best example of Japanese corporate stupidity and herdthink. The page below is entitled, “E-mail Manners.” The previous page is “Fax Manners,” and the next page is “The Proper Way to Give and Receive Instructions.”
Now, in all fairness, the tips on this particular page aren’t all bad but the sample e-mail they show is just the worst example I can possibly imagine. For instance, everything from the line of slashes on down is a signature. Also, I find the lack of an “ijo” (END) on the bottom inauthentic since every other needless piece of fluff is included (what Nam refers to as “flower language.” I mean, for crying out loud, the meaningful content of the message itself is: “I’d like to see you next week regarding the calendar we discussed the other day. It should only take an hour or so, could you please let me know a convenient time?” Do you really need twenty lines of text for that?
This is an actual case of ?manners? getting in the way of work; I do receive a lot of e-mails formatted like this and I can tell you that when reading a long thread of messages in a reply, it really gets tiresome.

Should I stay or should I go?

Two words: WORK. BUSY.
Oh, hell, one more can’t hurt: FUCK!
But this is not a Work post. This is about whether I will be overhauling this site during winter vacation or not.
You see, I’m thinking about ditching Movable Type for another blogging platform. It is a great shame that MT’s great success is quickly becoming its downfall due to comment spam, but it is a fact. Spammers target MT blogs in particular because of the broad user base – spamming is all about volume, I guess. Spam pisses me off, and I tend to take attacks on my weblog rather seriously.
So. I have thought of upgrading to Movable Type 3 and MT Blacklist 2, but I’ve heard more than a few words of caution and it doesn’t seem that this upgrade improves the spam situation very much at all. As far as MT3’s TypeKey system goes, I’d rather not have comments at all than make my readers jump though registration/authorization hoops like that. Geek that I am, I wanted to upgrade since MT3 first came out, but I followed an old rule of thumb and waited for the action reports to start streaming in from the early adopters. If I stay with MT, I will of course upgrade at some point, but I need to decide whether to “stay or go” first.
I am thinking about other blogging platforms, but am far from deciding. Other people who have switched from MT know the best, and I am reading about their experiences across a wide range of blogging software/services (Some people, in desperation, have even ditched dedicated MT installations for Blogger/Blogspot accounts. I am not that desperate. Yet.). To be honest, if it were not for the gnarlific spam problems that are only getting more and more heinoucerous, I would not be thinking about other platforms at all, because at this point, I don’t see any as well-developed and rich in features as Movable Type.
So maybe I will upgrade after all.
As a stopgap, before upgrading to MT3 I could use a Captcha system, which is a short code set against a disruptive background that the commenter has to read and type in (thus defeating automated spam bots). I may lose some of my blind readers with this system, but that is a risk I may be forced to take…
This entire diarrheastic stream of ranty incomprehension has led me to conclude: Spammers should be rounded up and shot, or at least poked with red hot swords in the eyeballs until they repent.


Reading this article about a study that found early English education in Japan to be useless (link found on Nippon Goro Goro) reminded me of the story of a Japanese kid named Ringo. “Ringo” is Japanese for “apple,” so right away you know that A. this kid’s parents were some really sadistic fuckers (Ringo was his real given name, and in Japan there are no middle names to fall back on) and B. this kid’s probably gonna end up on the news someday for disembowling schoolyard bullies and scrawling “I’m a BAAAD APPLE” in blood on the walls.
Anyhow, Ringo’s parents hired an English teaching acquaintance of mine to teach him English twice a week, 90 minutes per session, which seems all well and good and perfectly normal in a Japanese cram school-mentality sort of way until you hear that Ringo-kun was exactly ONE (1) FUCKING YEAR OLD! Obviously, his parents were on really good drugs or something, because they paid 50 bucks per session for this early education. It apparently is not easy teaching an infant English for a full hour and a half. The teacher said that at first, he made googling noises at the baby but that got boring real fast, so he switched to reading it stories, and later, at the mother’s insistence (she sat in on the classes to change diapers and offer tit, I guess) singing and dancing to please it (I guess you could say that he was Ringo-kun’s little bitch, but that sounds rather unflattering.). I think this points to a certain phenomenon called “smothering with love,” and there were other seriously disturbing signs of this as well.
Ringo-kun was dressed in different clothes every session, with one recurring theme: Ringo. Every piece of clothing had prints or photos of apples on it, and the baby even had a little red apple costume that he was wrapped in before leaving class. Ringo’s mother videotaped every single session, and took an average of one photo every twelve seconds. My favorite story is the time when Ringo’s parents were called in for a parent-teacher meeting and the mother kept pestering the director of the school about her son’s progress (“he can now properly pronounce, ‘WAAAAAAAAAA,’ in English). Apparently, the director managed to keep a straight face the entire time, and even tried to offer “advanced classes” for the baby.
As for the teacher, the last time I saw this guy I asked if he was still teaching Ringo-kun, but apparently his parents had started courses at another school. He didn’t seem too disappointed.

Notice: My readers can kick your ass

Some of you who follow the comments closely here know that I’ve been subjected to various death threats, etc., over the past year, but I want you all to know it’s truly been a learning experience. I really love the commenters because they’re a true source of knowledge. This blog seems to draw readers from all walks of life. I find that extremely cool. For instance, what other blogger can claim to have readers that smoke crack? (Danielle, I’m not saying that in a bad way. Really. And maybe you just work in a clinic or something, which would be even cooler.)
Can’t you all see?
This is the true beauty of this “Internet” thing that Al Gore invented for us.