Surrender!? I bought a car!

I have tried to live in an eco-friendly way, but finally, my ego won.  I bought a car!

It was a tough decision.  Money is, of course, the biggest issue.  And I seriously thought of environmental impact; no matter how fuel efficient it is, it inevitably has a negative environmental impact.  But, the life style here finally convinced me to surrender.

On the way to the car dealer, I was so anxious.  “Is this really a good decision?  Can I really afford it?”  But when the cheerful sales representative, who I had frequently talked with in last week, enthusiastically explained the paper work and the features of the vehicle and gave me the key, I was simply happy.  “I am the owner!”

But owning a car should be like driving a car; I should always retain a beginner’s mind. By the way, my first drive from the car dealer to home via Canadian Tire was in the snow.

November 28, 2012Permalink

Encouraging people encourages…

Patch Adams is one of my most favorite movies.  When Adams is a psychiatric patient, he finds that healing people heals himself.  After being discharged from the psychiatric hospital, he becomes a medical student and heals patients with humor.  This movie is based on a real story.

It is always good to see a thing from different perspectives.  As I often mention, I am half designer, half engineer.  I can see a product from different perspectives.  As I wrote in a previous post, I like teaching, but I was a bad student when I was in Japan.  I can see students from a teacher’s perspective and from a bad student’s perspective.  But the most difficult thing to see from different perspectives is myself.

As I often write, it is so easy to get discouraged in my current situation.  When I see my friend who is discouraged, for whatever reason, I project myself into her/him.  This is the moment when I see myself from a different perspective.  I tell my friend what I want to be told, and find that encouraging my friends encourages myself.

November 27, 2012Permalink

Efficiency defined

Many of my friends know I love coffee, and many of them know that I use a manual coffee grinder.  They know its quality.  It is also enjoyable; I like the feeling, the sound, and of course, the aroma.  Many people have been impressed, and no one has complained about it, until today.

Today someone told me to use an electric coffee “grinder” because it is “efficient”.  But she missed two important points.  First of all, what she calls is electric coffee “grinder” is actually coffee chopper.  Grinding and chopping are physically different.  Second of all, she does not understand the meaning of “efficiency”.  What she means by “efficient” only means quick, and she dose not care about quality.  While efficiency can be defined as the quality of the outcome divided  the time and/or effort to produce the outcome, she only cares about the speed.  The quality of outcome by an electric coffee chopper is poor, and using it is not enjoyable at all.  I was so surprised to see a person who does not understand it.

Although she is an extreme example, many other people misunderstand the meaning of efficiency; they do not distinguish the difference between efficiency and speed.  Pursuing speed without considering efficiency is like designing a mechanical component without tolerance.  It is like people; life without having tolerance is miserable.

November 25, 2012Permalink

Culture and language

One day I hung out with my Canadian friends and had rich cheesecake.  One of them asked me “what is ‘rich’ in Japanese?”  What I came across was something you hear in Iron Chef judge’s comment, but people do not speak like that in casual conversation. Then I thought how I would explain traditional Japanese food that has a rich taste, but I could not find any example.  Conclusion: no traditional Japanese food has a rich taste, thus Japanese do not have a casual expression that describes rich taste.  Since a language develops in a culture, this is quite natural.

Now I work between Japanese engineers and Canadian workers.  I have known that translation between two languages is, ultimately, impossible, and found that it is quite difficult to explain it to people who have not been exposed to foreign cultures.  Merely staying or even living in a foreign country dose not count unless they talk with locals in “their language” whether it is their native language or not.

As I wrote in a previous post, I like teaching and have experiences in teaching in different settings.  It is relatively easy to teach to people if they are willing to learn.  If not, the first step before teaching is to make them understand that they need to learn. Now, I work with Japanese engineers who do not need to learn Canadian culture or English-speaking culture and in fact are not interested in it.  My struggle continues.

November 23, 2012Permalink

Morning ritual

Having coffee and reading a book before going to the office had been my morning ritual when I worked in Japan.  One of the reasons is to leave a safety margin.  Another reason is that a day starting with work and ending with work sucks; I want to start a day with something meaningful event though it is only a little more than a few minutes.  Now I have worked for one week in Canada, and this is my morning ritual again.

Now I read Innovation and Entrepreneurship by Peter Drucker, dreaming that I will make it happen in the future.  The current job is not creative at all, and it is quite difficult to avoid getting discouraged without dreaming.

November 22, 2012Permalink

The Tower of Babel

Now I work between Japanese engineers and Canadian engineers, technicians and others.  A language barrier is one issue.  An even more difficult barrier is the cultural difference.  Japanese people always hide important things between the lines, and when they listen to other people, they read between the lines.  It’s like coding and decoding.

In Japan, people generally think that saying “I cannot” or “I don’t know” is shame, impolite, and worse than being dishonest.  When they ask something that they think is difficult and people say “yes, I can do it”, they assume the answer is in fact “no, I cannot do it but will do my best to do it”.  When Canadians say “yes” meaning “yes”, Japanese ask the same question in different ways to find what is hidden between the lines though nothing is hidden.

Working between Japanese and Canadians is often even more difficult than working between engineers and people.

November 21, 2012Permalink


I found I have skipped this blog for four busy days.  Fri. 16th was the first day of the work (and then went drinking with my housemate).  On Sat. 17th, I visited my Canadian coworker’s place with my Japanese coworker who came to Canada a few days ago. Now I work with engineers, and in both days we talked about technical issues (of course) and I understood what they said (of course).  But there was a difference; what I thought in my mind was usually “aha” rather than “yes”.  When I work in “my” field, what I typically say in a meeting or conversation with fellows is “yes, and…” or “no, but…”.  This is where expertise works.

I have neither experience nor insight in the current engineering field.  This is why my response is reactive.  I was hired because I am bilingual and have a general understanding of engineering.  If I do whatever they expect me to do for 4.5 months, it is just sufficient and I make money reasonably.  But what will I get by doing that besides money?  Working experience in Canada counts, but it should not be all about it.  There will be two steps; step one will be to see what I can learn here, and step two will be to learn it whether it is expertise in this field or knowledge that will support my expertise in the field that I want to pursue in the future.

November 18, 2012Permalink

Corporate Culture, another case

One of today’s top news is Toyota’s recall.  While the focus in Canada is its scale and impact, Japanese internet news tell the inside.  Toyota, like many other car companies today, uses common parts among different types of vehicles.  This is a double-edged sword; it reduces development cost and time, and if the part is ill-designed, it affects all types of vehicles that use the parts, 2.77 millions in this case.

Let me talk about this from a different perspective; how do they manage car development in that way?  Generally speaking, engineers do not communicate.  When I worked for a famous Japanese company to develop endoscopic systems, the parts commonly used among different products are limited to very basic, off-the-shelf parts such as switches.  The system to save digital endoscopic images was a good example. A team developed an image processing unit; it converts analog images to digital images to process it, and then converts it to analog images to output.  Another team developed an image saving unit; it receives analog images from an image processing unit and converts it to digital images to save.  If those development teams communicated, it wouldn’t have had to convert images three times which lowers the quality of image.  If I understand correctly, in Toyota and other car companies, development teams communicate, or they have a system to share information among development teams. It may sound easy, but from my experiences in engineering jobs, I can tell that it is not as easy as it sounds for big organizations.

Now I imagine how they have established the system.  Did anyone take initiative to communicate among development teams?  Or did anyone establish a system to share information among different teams whether or not they are willing to communicate?  In either case, I imagine, it was a paradigm shift.  I want to assume they have a constructive corporate culture.

November 14, 2012Permalink

What characterizes a city?

A few years ago in Japan, talking about unique characteristics of a prefecture was a fad. Although some arguments were suspicious, each prefecture definitely has different characteristics.  For example, people in the Northern part of Japan are generally humble; when they need help, they don’t say so, even when the earthquake and tsunami hit the Northern part of Japan 20 months ago.  They are very different from some of the Sandy survivors.

Today is only a day 2 of my new life in Orillia and it is still too early to talk about characteristics of this city, but I have a feeling that people here are different from those in Hamilton.  But, first of all, what characterizes a city?  History?  Main industry? Weather?

Some days ago, I wrote about corporate culture, and there may be similarities; new people are influenced by other people who have been there since a long time ago, whether it is positive or negative.  One of the differences is probably that corporate culture can be changed positively by a strong leader.  Unlike local communities, people who work for a corporation chose to work there, more or less, for a common goal.  A strong leader can, literally, lead people to the goal.

November 13, 2012Permalink

Unpacking (to be continued)

Today I moved in a new place in Orillia.  I brought a lot of stuff, but I am a little too tired to unpack everything.  Tomorrow will be an unpacking day.  The room is not as big as the previous one, but big enough to do exercise.  This is very important for me.

My impression of Orillia is good so far.  I have a couple of days to explore.  Many people have told me that Orillia is beautiful in summer, but I will miss it because the contract job is until the end of March.

This is it for now.  Time to bed… zzzzzz

November 12, 2012Permalink