Wednesday, September 30, 2009
As I was sitting peacefully at my desk earlier today I received a phonecall from a sales rep (non-Japanese I should add for the sake of it) who worked for the Japanese branch of a software firm who license a certain software that I use in very moderate amounts. The software is useful but I was given the software license by people in head office since I could use it to support some of my colleagues in Germany with things that I could do much easier from Japan so it's nothing that I particularly care much about one way or the other. Unfortunately, during a sales call to another colleague of mine, this rep had gotten word that I was using the software in question and that I did not have a license from the Japanese subsidiary.
The call went something like this:
Rep: (Cheery in a telemarketing sales reppy way) So, I heard that you are using this software, but unfortunately you need the license from our local office, but no worries, we can set this up quickly and easy for you!
Mr. Salaryman: (puzzled) Oh? Well, I had no idea and it's not really a software that I use much, I just have it to support some colleagues at our site in Germany...
Rep: (Still cheery in a telemarketing sales reppy way) Well, we can make it much more useful for you at a very reasonable price and open up many more possibilities.
Mr. Salaryman: (bored) Fine, send me a quote for what I use now and I'll send that to my colleagues and they can take a look at it, I'm not gonna pay for it out of my budget
Rep: (Still cheery...) Sure sure sure, I'll send it out immediately and will call you back in a little bit to see what you think
Almost immediately I get a mail with a pretty substiantial quote and some "value adding" functions as suggestions that I couldn't really care less about. I contacted my colleague in Germany and told him of this call and he laughed and said that the contract is not regional so he's not gonna do anything and that I should continue using the soft and refer the rep to the German branch of his company if he had any problems with it.
Soon after the rep calls again:
Rep: (Cheery in a telemarketing sales reppy way) Well, hello again Mr. Salaryman, did you have a chance to take a look at the offer I sent you with the very large discounts since I fully understand your situation (it should be noted that the quote he had given me was four times the size of that they paid in Europe for one license)
Mr. Salaryman: (Mildly amused) Yes, I spoke to my colleage in head office and he said that the license is not regional and that he will not remove my license, I don't really care one way or another personally
Rep: (getting kinda "concerned cheery" in a telemarketing sales reppy way) Oh, then they must've misunderstood the license agreement because it's regional you see
Mr. Salaryman: (slightly assholish) Yeah, well, you see, I don't really care, I haven't seen the contract they have in head office but they're telling me I'm covered in it
Rep: (more concern and less cheeriness) Well, they're wrong, so as a next step you will contact my company in Germany and confirm that you are not included in the license?
Mr. Salaryman: (gleefully assholish) No I won't, if you want to, you can contact your local German branch and discuss with my colleagues there, I don't care either way, I won't pay for the license in any case because I don't need it for my work
Rep: (considerably off balance) Oh... Ok (regaining composure quickly) so I might do that and I will get back to you later on so we can discuss further when this is sorted out
Mr. Salaryman: (bored) How about that you don't contact me? I'm not gonna pay for this, the license can be removed, but I'm not gonna pay for the license so you need to talk to my colleagues in German
Rep: (mildly cheery again) Ok, will do, let's keep in touch!
Mr. Salaryman: (friendly) Yeah... no need to keep in touch, I'll contact you if I need to but don't think so, have a good day
Ok, sales is a hard job and this guy was obviously young and trying to hit an impending September end budget but telemarketing reps just rub me the wrong way...
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
I only understand what I chose to understand, but that doesn’t guarantee full comprehension, if you understand what I mean
After such a conversation/presentation/discussion with senior management, usually things are pretty calm and I sometimes stupidly believe that it is an indication that the issue has been understood and that things are moving forward in an orderly way.
Then it happens; I get an e-mail forwarded from to me from some colleague in head office who wants to “follow up” with me some of the items discussed earlier and by scanning back in the mail communication I can see how the information the colleague has been given is an borderline obscene misunderstanding of the situation which then results in a few bouts of confused discussions where I have to try and set the colleague straight and fix the misunderstandings… Then silence follow again for a while until I have another discussion with said senior management member and the process is rinsed and repeated. I do hate interacting with the global management...
Sunday, September 27, 2009
The black guy is already infected and the green guy seem to be begging for his life as the black guy is doing his utmost to infect him as well. Perhaps the green guy is a recent father or is the provider for a bedridden mother and cannot affort to get infected, something which the black guy couldn't care less about. Observe how bacteria is flowing from his mouth and how his hands are glowing unsanitary red.
I really liked this illustration but it didn't really give me any more information than to stay away from the infected, but I guess that's a start and I'll be on the lookout for red hands...
Saturday, September 26, 2009
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
Well, this character just makes me uncomfortable... You would think that it's hard to use a panda and not get the "cute" right, but this Panda is anything but cute, I'm not sure but I think it's the mouth that gives it a slightly creepy look. The Panda is the official character of the Keisei Railways credit cards and to it's credit it has to be said that it's thankfully not very well known among the general public and I have a feeling it never well. Let's just not mention the weird backstory about how he came to earth from the rich and bountiful "Panda Planet", sent by his father to save the earth...
Number 2 - Kuutan, the Narita Airport Character
This one just feel so off the mark in so many ways... In a bid to improve the image of the Narita airport this character was created a few years ago. You would think that a better way to increase the image of the airport would be to make it more accessible and customer friendly instead of paying some stupid agency tons of money to come up with this lame design... To it's credit, the backstory is hardly there at all and Kuutan keeps a very low profile these days...
Number 1 - Sentokun, the Nara Prefecture Character
The worst of the worst, the image character of the ancient capital of Japan and home of the free roaming deers and beautiful buddist temples; Nara. I've been to Nara quite a few times and it's really an amazing place that I would recommend people to visit even if in Japan with limited time. It's less hectic than Kyoto but contains many impressive temples in a calm and nice environment. But then... this character? I believe that a mix of buddism and deers was the general concept for this one, but what they came up with was just plain... .... disturbing... His favorite foods are stated to be "tasty things from Nara", that is just a pretty obvious sign of "character creating block"... Sentokun is the well deserved winner of the "worst character of Japan 2009"!
(I'm sure that there are plenty of other bad seeds out there, so if you have any other really bad characters in your mind, please drop a line in the comments and I might follow this one up with a full top 10, I'm sure the material is out there...)
Saturday, September 19, 2009
The following things went through my head as I was making my way through the crowded district:
1. Wow, Akihabara really must have the largest ration of complete dork per sqm ratio in the world
2. Why do they have all these maid coffee shops when the girls dressed up as maids aren't even remotely hot, what could possibly be the allure then?
3. Japanese dorks really know how to dress the part...
4.. I really hope I don't run into anyone from work here, it could be awkward...
5. Why does that obese dork with the trousers fastened just below the chin and huge rucksack have to stand with his face 1 centimeter away from the tv screen showing some "no-one-cares-about-but-the-Akihabara-geeks-Japanese-13-something-girl-idol-music-group-who-can't-sing-or-dance-anyway" music video?
Friday, September 18, 2009
In the last few weeks these scandals have been calmly puttering along with no bigger amazing developments, the investigation going on while the players were kept in jail and interrogated as the details were hammered out.
However, since the crimes in questions are considered to be relatively minor and with little risk pending the formal trial, both the lovely Sakai couple and adorable actor slash singer Manabu Oshio (for whom I wouldn’t want to be the manager since it would be so annoying to get phone calls in the middle of the night asking me what to do about naked hostesses OD;ing on drugs and subsequently dying, perhaps because he called me instead of the ambulance immediately, but I digress…) were pretty recently released out of jail. Now, this is not a discreet happening as you might think, this is a big public circus in front of the police station with media all over the place, people shouting, fans and haters abound.
In Japan , the concept of apologizing is very very important, showing proper regret is something that will get you the public sympathy and can let you in the warmth again later on if you are lucky. I got a great deal of entertainment watching on tv how these three people, on individual occasions, stepped out of the police station with their lawyer next to them, faced with hundreds of cameras and people shouting and asking for comments. Noripi handled this with the most style (getting professional makeup and hair styling before facing the crowds), but as should probably be expected since she is a veteran actress after all, but her husbands expression of “what the hell is this” followed by a lame look at his lawyer (who nodded at him) before bowing to the crowd and apologizing for all the trouble he has caused (again look at the lawyer to see if it was enough, getting the nod and then being whisked away in the car to freedom).
I find this highly entertaining. But I never really understood why they always need to apologize for all "the trouble they caused" to the general public since all I’ve gotten out of it has been entertainment. When it comes to Oshio, you would think that an apology to the family of the deceased hostess would be more suitable, but no, the apology goes out to the general public.
I guess I have wait now for the trials since there’s bound to be more hilarity and half-assed apologies coming out of those! But yeah, no need to apologize to me!
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
But you will need to spend some money, this cannot be avoided. The actual ceremony you can probably get away with relatively cheap even if you splurge on having a Caucasian English teacher playing the role of priest, at a fee of roughly $1,000 for 10 minutes of actual work (we didn’t). But after that, it is normal to have a wedding reception where food and drinks are served.
Since I am a respectable Salaryman with a stable income, and Ms. Sunshine comes from a respectable family, it was more or less required that we have a reasonably nice reception with a full course menu and a decent selection of drinks so our guests could at least get a little wasted to compensate for their time. But treating a relatively large number of guests to a full course dinner menu with drinks at a nice location with professional staff, not to mention the required gifts to the guests (that’s a separate entry) will cost you, there’s no escaping that fact. Add to that the green napkins and other stuff that I brought up in the last entry and you might face a quite intimidating sum at the end of the day…
But do not despair! You see, in Japan , the guests do not bring those annoying gifts you neither need nor want, instead they come with cold hard cash. Not only is it cold and hard, it’s also required to be newly printed bills without a wrinkle in a fancy envelope. The rules are also there: if you are a friend, it is expected that you bring 30,000 yen (~$300) as a gift (less than that and you have cheap friends who need to learn some manners!) and family members usually give more if they are senior (uncle, aunt etc.). Keeping track of this can be pretty difficult, but the sum from the families is usually governed by what has been given earlier; Say for instance that uncle B’s son got married a few years back and Ms. Sunshine’s parents brought X amount of money as a gift, then they are expected to give the same amount back at their daughters wedding.
The money is basically circulated inside the system, don't get too attached to it since when that uncle B's son has grown up and is getting married you have to give it back to him, but no worries, as long as you have a child who then gets married you'll get it back. So the money you can expect from the family members can be predicted if related cousins or such has been married before. Yes, it is complicated.
I basically did a business case before the wedding and knowing roughly how much we would get from friends and family, we managed to keep our private losses at a minimum while having a pretty pleasant reception without going on the cheap. Hell, with some level of innovation, I'm sure that this could be turned into a systematic money machine!
Sunday, September 13, 2009
Friday, September 11, 2009
Taking a train during the day or weekends is usually no big deal, it’s pretty easy and not too crowded and for longer trips you usually can sit down as well. The problem is during the rush hours where the trains are crowded, smelly, humid and hot. However, as this is the only reasonable way and humans are quick to adapt this pretty quickly becomes routine and something you accept as a part of daily life, but not necessarily like.
But… there are some types of people that makes the commute a lot more unpleasant than it has to be and I thought I should start a brief series about these people that disturb my otherwise peaceful commute. This first time I thought I should mention “The Blocker” (note that “the public porno reader” who so annoys many female commuters will not be included in this series since I find them pretty entertaining, they usually look… a little less than savvy…)
The Blocker is usually a middle aged woman, looking like she is not commuting to work, probably is taking the train on another errand and is not used to commuting in rush hours (us Salarymen have evolved into some form of hivemind most of the time and automatically fall in line into proper commuting manners). The problem comes up when I enter the train and, like all veteran commuters, I try to get into the “corridor” of the train in front of the seats. This has a few purposes; 1. it frees up space for people coming in after me 2. It allows me to put my bag up on the shelf or at least be lined up for it if I end up behind someone, and finally 3. It puts me in a pole position to sit down later on if the person sitting in front of me gets off before me.
The Blocker is usually standing at the “entrance” to the corridor blocking the path into it and forcing me to stand in the vicinity of the doors, which is commuting hell since you have to move at every station to let people out and in. The Blocker usually has lots of space behind her in the corridor but is not receptive to the thought that people might want to get past her into the peaceful corridor of the train. You could think that this is a strategy from her since she’s getting off at a station close by and does not want to move back and forth from the depths of the “corridor” too much, but this is not always the case. On many cases have I’ve seen a blocker ride over 10 stations…
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
The coach is actually not a bad guy, he does have a certain annoying Donald Trump mannerism to him and a certain air of self-importance that I have a bit difficult standing for prolonged times. But yeah, around once every week he comes in to the office to sit down with Mr. Shachou to listen to what is going on and generally coach him. The annoying thing is that sometimes I get called in to these sessions to give an update on some project that is ongoing and sometimes I kinda find myself stuck without any good opening to excuse myself and go back to my regular work.
There are two dynamics at work, from the coach and Mr. Shachou that triggers my general annoyance; the first is that Mr. Shachou for some reason I have yet to figure out, is desperate to seek the approval of the coach (I wonder if it's some father figure issue at work or something) so he doesn't bring up the difficult issues and just mentions all the great things he's done and how good he's following the recommendations from his coach from last week.
The second annoyance is how the coach is the master of being vague, throwing business cliches around him and make a face like he said something really really important when it's a very general obvious statements in terms of "having a well trained sales force is very important" or "the service of the logistic chain must be focused on the customer needs" (Mr. Shachou laps it all up though!) and since he has no knowledge of the industry and overall situation to speak of he never speaks of anything specific, but when he does it is usually something wrong, showing a basic misunderstanding of either the market or our situation, to which I quite aggressively correct him making Mr. Shachou stressed and worried that the coach has lost his balance and quickly changes the subject to bring him back up again.
But hey, can't blame the guy, it's good business for him!
(oh yeah, is it only me or isn't this picture creepy in a homo-erotic way?)
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
Monday, September 7, 2009
Basically, it’s pretty tough being on the service/product provider side in Japan , but it’s very nice to be the customer since you can expect the same level of service as you're forced to give if you happen to be the seller (ok, there’s always exceptions, but I’m talking generally here)...
However, things can get confusing when things get turned upside down. A former long time customer of ours recently started his own business and came to us to see if we were interested in distributing a product he had gotten the rights to. However, both the product and the business concept that he wanted to sell in to us was pretty crappy and for some reason he didn’t seem to understand that the rules of the game had changed, that he was no longer the customer and that it was now us who had become the potential customer. He was the one who wanted to sell something to us. Of course there was no rudeness involved, but the person seemed a bit shocked that our interest was limited and that concerns over his concept and product was raised and kinda left the office looking kinda sad as he slithered away, his tail between his legs. He had been the customer so long and lived his life on top of the business food chain that he never really realized that selling is a completely different ball game...
I felt that someone should have given the guy the speech that Carlito (Al Pacino) gives Kleinfeld (Sean Penn) when he crossed the line from being a lawyer to becoming a gangster, that it’s a new different game now…
Sunday, September 6, 2009
I feel that this commercial really shows how my life looks like most of the time, it's probably the most accurate show of how the life of the salaryman looks like and done in 30 seconds as well. Ok, to be honest, I've never really been that much into the JINRO, but just replace that with a Kyushu made potato based Shouchuu and we're right on target!
Friday, September 4, 2009
But what I have found entertaining now after the election is how a number of tv shows have focused on these poor LDP politicians who now ended up out of office, found themselves unemployed and have to find some real work for themselves, at least until the next election, if the party possibly can recover until then… I like how the shows usually take the angle on how sad and difficult this is for them and how they get comments such as “Well, I don’t know what I will do next… I have to do something to keep food on the table for my family” and then filming them looking sad and nostalgic and also maybe adding “I am so sorry I disappointed all of those who believed in me” when the issue here was that people stopped believing in him/her and voted for the other guy/girl instead because they were fed up.
When the global financial downturn started, the large industries suddenly let most of their temporary staff go to immediately cut cost. Letting go large numbers of workers in the factories and suppliers to the larger industries, those were people already living on a shoestring and with little chances of finding something else to do as all industries were cutting costs. Those guys and girls I feel for, but politicians that get thrown out of office because the population was tired of the mismanagement of Japan ?
Instead of pity, I watch it with glee, now they have to actually get real jobs for a change, good luck with that!
Thursday, September 3, 2009
Ok, I should warn most of readers here again since this is once again one of those posts that won't interest anyone except possibly one or two readers that never comment anyway, but since I don't write for any audience other than myself really I say screw it and post stuff like this anyway. So those of you interested in Japanese adventures or work insanity better look away now at once.
As I have been pretty open about, I have a dark and sordid past as an electrohead and goth. Granted, being a salaryman I have left the whole subculture business long behind and broadened my horizons in terms of music as well, but Electronic Body Music and Gothic Goth holds a place dear to my heart. As I was randomly searching for information about some band the other day, I happened to come across quite a few interesting pages.
There seem to be this community, mostly based in South America that are dedicated to putting up a lot of music in form of whole albums available for direct online. Granted, most of the albums they are putting up are out of print since long long ago and with no risk of getting an additional printing, but some sites also put up quite new albums, I'm not really sure that you are allowed to do that... But I'm not complaining, through sites such as "The Sound of Muzak", "Gothic Rock" and this site I've found tons of nostalgic music, including albums that I read a review of in a magazine over 15 years ago and always wanted to have but couldn't afford.
But yeah, maybe it's only me who always wondered how "Eyes of the Nighmare Jungle" and "Revenge of the Nephythys" sounded, but thanks to these sites, now I know (hint: yeah, they sucked...)!
Tuesday, September 1, 2009
I mentioned her very briefly in the previous post, but after talking to some Japanese friends and reading up a bit on her I think I need to share with you all some of the greatness that Makiko Tanaka has achieved in her political life. I’m not going to write a bio or anything like that, for those details you can just read up on wikipedia. It seems like she has support for being “outspoken” and “frank” and not as stuck up as most politicians. However, her frankness has oftentimes bordered on the bizarre and definitely amusing side.
After that incident she got barred from the ruling LDP party and got thrown out in the cold but now, in a move that to me seemed very opportunistic, she latched on to Hatoyama and joined the DPJ (I’m sure there were negotiations there for her to get a nice minister position in exchange for bringing in her fans from the LDP voting herd). So now she’s made a glorious comeback into Japanese national politics, joining the previous adversary, and we’re bound to see a lot more of her, something that actually might be quite entertaining.
Let me share with you a very funny true anecdote from 2001 when she was supposed to support a local LDP candidate in Gunma prefecture at a public rally. A Japanese friend told me this entertaining story and you can also read about it on the Japanese wikipedia page. Basically, she arrived one hour earlier at the location and could not be bothered to wait for the candidate she came to support and started her speech where she launched into a tirade about how she didn’t want to be in Gunma (can't really blame her, Gunma is a pretty sad place) doing this speech because she had other much more important business elsewhere and how she didn’t know anything about this candidate she was supposed to endorse, not knowing even whether it was a man or a woman until a few minutes before the meeting when she was given a pamphlet from a staff member.
On Wikipedia there is also a quite amusing collection of quotes from her, but I will just treat you to my favorite here:
“That person looks like he’s had a lot of curry and then had diarrohea and that’s why his face got so thin” (said about a political opponent)
Oh yeah, then she also proclaimed that the reason for former prime minister Abe not having any children was because he was “shooting blanks”, it is unlikely that she had access to reliable information about his actual sperm count though...
Well, at least Japanese politics doesn’t look like they’ll get boring this year…