Tuesday, January 13, 2009

MacP*ssed and more

Posts will continue to be very few (if any) for the next few weeks due to several unexpected and less than enjoyable events---including being MacScrewed by my brand new "It just works (occasionally)" Mac which cannot stay connected to the Internet. My MacFan MacBuddies have all become unavailable since I bought the fine piece of MacCrap and began to fight with it in what little free time I have had in the last week. After a very perceptive "It shouldn't be doing that," I get a quick wave goodbye and a departing "take it to the Apple store and let them deal with it." Carry a desktop to Ginza? Guess I'll have to carry my whole LAN setup too. Hope they know more than all the folks in a similar mess who are posting on the Apple Support Forums.

But before I return to the usual nasty, nasty workweek tomorrow, a quick (?) post.

First, from the New York Times:

...a group of former prostitutes in South Korea have accused some of their country’s former leaders of a different kind of abuse: encouraging them to have sex with the American soldiers who protected South Korea from North Korea. They also accuse past South Korean governments, and the United States military, of taking a direct hand in the sex trade from the 1960s through the 1980s, working together to build a testing and treatment system to ensure that prostitutes were disease-free for American troops...

That story rings very true. I was a military policeman---the USAF version, Security Police---in South Korea. I don't remember any "raids" to check the VD status of the so-called"hostesses" (I was not on "town patrol"), but I do know that they had to have a number to check so that they could be identified should they transmit an STD. They were supposed to have it on their bra. This was a well-known fact, and if I recall correctly, everyone was informed of it their first week in country during in-processing. The US military was very aware of all this, and it is impossible to believe that the ROK government was not actively involved in the whole process. South Korea was not even close to being a democracy at the time.

Next, on the blog, Observing Japan, Noah Smith has been guest blogging for Tobias Harris. Yesterday, Mr. Smith posted his views on productivity versus working hours in Japan.

We know about the long hours most full-time employees work in Japan, but that does not necessarily mean that everyone is actually working all those hours. In the early 90s, I lived in Toyama City and worked for a small factory that produced heavy machinery for cutting marble. I can't really say what my job was exactly other than being the token Caucasian, except that I was supposed to handle the rare English language telephone inquiry as well as proofread and rewrite various documents and pamphlets.

When I first started, I would get an assignment first thing in the morning that would take about two hours to complete. As soon as I was done and wanted something else to do, there was much confusion and the sound of air being sucked through teeth. That two or three hours of work was supposed to take me all day.

I soon learned the game, and began to make sure that I took all day to complete my assigned 2-3 hours of work. In the rare case that something else came up, I was able to finish quickly (after properly pretending that I was under pressure to do so) and go to the new task.

I was lucky enough to be able to help the guys on the shop floor too, especially when they went to another factory to repair machines there---something they often did, even though they may not have made the machines. When there was work to do, people got very serious and and didn't play around. However, when faced with 4 hours of work and 8 hours of time, they were exceptionally skilled actors. By that I mean that they could not fool anyone into believing they they were actually working hard, but they could act like they were working.

I remember once when I was working with them, we ran out of work to do about an hour or so before official quitting time. We had 4-5 guys and about 50 small screw heads to paint on one of the machines that we were building, so we all got small paintbrushes and some paint and proceeded to take the next hour to do what one man could have done by himself in half that time. I went home afterward, being the guy who was not really an employee, but just someone working there to "have good memories," while most of the others stayed. I have no idea how they faked working for the rest of the evening.

I think I could write a book about similar things that I have seen, or heard of, or been involved in since I returned to Japan nearly 10 years ago. I have a fairly well-paying part-time job from spring through fall that I got after watching a guy take one full week of 8 hour days to paint the stairs and walkways of a 3 story apartment building, even though it should have taken no more than 2 days. Some people do work very hard at real work for idiotically long hours. Others pretend to do so.

Japan's productivity has been behind that of the US in most areas in most years except for perhaps a short period during the bubble years. I am personally so used to working at what would have been considered a snail's pace at any job I had in the US, that it would be a huge adjustment to work at a US company again. That is not meant to imply that everyone is a hard or productive worker in the US.

I hope to be able to post a few more times over the next few weeks, but as mentioned there will be very few.

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