Eavesdropping – nusumigiki – 盗み聞き

Can’t believe almost a year passed since my last post!

I keep overhearing phone conversations at work about juicy topics, but sometimes my eavesdropping is thwarted by limited knowledge of nouns/verbs (my grammar seems to be OK).  I am going to start looking them up and posting the words, maybe relating them to the juicy topics…

Shimatta しまった – I messed up

I was on the Shinkansen a few weeks ago coming back from Tokyo Haneda airport and in my boredom I was leafing through the free shopping magazine they have in the back of all the seats.  I was quite amused to find this picture of a man who has pee-d his pants.  It seems the advert is for some extra thick pants that will absorb any extra dribbles that you didn’t manage to shake off.  Or thinking about it more, perhaps it is aimed at older gentlemen who have lost the level of control they once enjoyed.


I particularly like the guys remark: “Ah! Shimatta”.  I guess it would be best translated as “oh dear” or “oh! crap!” rather than the more literal “I messed up”.  Basically you would say Shimatta to express that you made some kind of mistake or something regrettable happened.  It is often added to the end of  sentence after a verb in ‘te’ form like this:

Pantsu ni shiko shiteshimatta – Oh dear I did a pee in my pants.

Kagi wo nakushiteshimatta – I unfortunately lost my key.

Myself I have a  light grey suit and I have to say I encountered this problem once or twice, not so much by random dribbles but from splashbacks around the ankles.  Needless to say I avoid wearing that suit now and will never buy another light coloured suit!  Nappy-pants are not the answer.

Na な – yeah

Last night there was a funny TV show on about this young couple who had 10 kids.

They were both divorcees and brought several sprogs with them from previous marriages and then also made about 3 or 4 of their own. Their lived in this mad house in Osaka, toys and crap everywhere. Unbelievably they also had about 10 cats and a few dogs, including one huge vicious looking one. All the kids were between newborn and 6 years old. It was insane.

Anyway, one little bit of Japanese I picked up from it was the use of ‘Na’. The Dad kept ending every sentence with ‘Na’ as he was scolding the kids. You can use ‘Na’ in a very strict way to tell someone not to do something (in this case “Na” is a bit like “don’t”), however he was using it more like you would use “Ne”. So I looked into it and it seems that “Na” is like the masculine version of “Ne”. Most foreigners use “Ne”, not “Na” which perhaps shows how much time foreigners spend around Japanese women compared to Japanese men.

So “Na” is just a useless redundant thing you add to the end of a sentence, much like ‘yeah?’ or ‘right?’ or ‘OK?’ in English.

Konran 混乱 – mix-up

I have never seen the same delivery guy twice in the 3 years I have been here, however by some bizarre co-incidence the same delivery guy came back again last night so I got to explain to him that the wrong address was my mums fault.

混乱に対して謝罪しました – I apologised for the mix-up.

Okurimono 贈り物 – a gift

Last night I had an encounter with the delivery guy.

He was dropping off something from Amazon and after I signed for it he asked me if I spoke Japanese and then proceeded to give me a bit of a lecture about my address. The adress on the parcel was very inaccurate and he had spent an hour of his sunday evening trying to find me, and was a bit p–ed off about it.  He was telling me to make sure I input my address again properly in Amazon.  This was a surpise to me because I order form Amazon all the time without any trouble, which I told him but he wouldn’t accept it.  In the end I just said ‘OK I’ll go and reinput my address’ to get rid of him.

A few minutes later I realised that the parcel was from my mum and that was why teh address was so woefully inaccruate.  Unfortunately it was too late to catch the deliver guy and tell him that it was just a gift.

贈り物 not to be confused with おみやげ。

Jyouchou 冗長 – Redundancy

We have a small army of full time cleaners at the company.

The times I see them they tend to be just cleaning bizarre things over and over again. For example, they clean the underneath of the roof over the main entrance.  Excuse me but how can dust gather on the underside of something, does not that defy gravity?  If maybe 1 or 2 molecules gather there, surely it does not warrant cleaning that EVERY DAY right?  And anyway, how many people are really going to be looking up at the ceiling as they enter a building?

I am sure these cleaners cause more damage than anything else, due to over polishing the surfaces and wearing them out.  It is totally redundant activity.

They also like to clean the toilets.   I’d say about 1/3 times I go to the toilet it is closed due to cleaning.  I then have to walk to the next one which is in another building a fair walk away.  I probably spend about 20 minutes a week walking to/from the toilet due to this.  The toilets are all marble though and its nice when you look down at the urinal and there are no wet stains there. But I’d prefer them clean it only once a day, preferably when no-one is around.  Cant they come in before/after work hours like normal cleaners?

But the annoying part is what they DON’T clean. That is, the entire of our office space!  I am in a huge 50m x 20m room, and the cleaners never enter it.  As a result, we have to clean it ourselves!  Yes, that is right, even though we have an army of cleaners and they spend the day pointlessly scrubbing immaculate surfaces, I have to come in at 7am twice a week every 6 weeks to vacuum the floors and dust the tables!!!  It’s madness.  I thought it was a security thing, they don’t trust the cleaners inside the office, but when I asked someone (casually and innocently at an enkai) I was told that is not the case at all.  That person (a senior manager) didnt know the reason why we did it.  So I think it is another one of these activities we do for team building/immasculating purposes.

So clearly I think the work they are doing is redundant, and with the way the global economy is going, it makes me wonder how long it will be before some of the cleaner army are culled into redundancy.  An announcement was made today about how we should try to cut costs by asking other departments if they have spare pencils before ordering new ones, and by recycling envelopes etc.  This kind of activity will save maybe $100 a year maximum, whereas I really wonder how much they are paying in wages for people to clean that-which-is-already-clean.

冗長 (jyouchou) means ‘unneccesary, tedious, verbose, redundant’ and should not be confused with 解雇 (kaiko) which means ‘discharged’ or ‘dismissed’

Kanjou 感情 – emotion

Yesterday I came across a really amazing art/conceptual website called We Feel Fine that automatically collects emotions expressed on the web in blog posts and presents them in a really nice Flash-like interface.

wefeelfine-japanThe site is actually a few years old but it is one of the most impressive I have seen in a while.

As you can see above it shows many ‘feelings’ (posts from blogs, twitter etc) like animated stars in the universe.  If you click on one it reveals the full feeling sentence and the author information.  The example above shows feelings from Japan – it is possible to drill down by City, Age, Location, Weather, Male/Female etc.


There is an interview with the authors of the site on .net magazine.

From their ‘mission’ statement:

Since August 2005, We Feel Fine has been harvesting human feelings from a large number of weblogs. Every few minutes, the system searches the world’s newly posted blog entries for occurrences of the phrases “I feel” and “I am feeling”. When it finds such a phrase, it records the full sentence, up to the period, and identifies the “feeling” expressed in that sentence (e.g. sad, happy, depressed, etc.). Because blogs are structured in largely standard ways, the age, gender, and geographical location of the author can often be extracted and saved along with the sentence, as can the local weather conditions at the time the sentence was written. All of this information is saved.

The result is a database of several million human feelings, increasing by 15,000 – 20,000 new feelings per day. Using a series of playful interfaces, the feelings can be searched and sorted across a number of demographic slices, offering responses to specific questions like: do Europeans feel sad more often than Americans? Do women feel fat more often than men? Does rainy weather affect how we feel? What are the most representative feelings of female New Yorkers in their 20s? What do people feel right now in Baghdad? What were people feeling on Valentine’s Day? Which are the happiest cities in the world? The saddest? And so on.

The interface to this data is a self-organizing particle system, where each particle represents a single feeling posted by a single individual. The particles’ properties – color, size, shape, opacity – indicate the nature of the feeling inside, and any particle can be clicked to reveal the full sentence or photograph it contains. The particles careen wildly around the screen until asked to self-organize along any number of axes, expressing various pictures of human emotion. We Feel Fine paints these pictures in six formal movements titled: Madness, Murmurs, Montage, Mobs, Metrics, and Mounds.

I was preparing to create a new feature for my company’s intranet that looks up a products unique ID codes based on the specification information you input.  For example, you input the model name and size, and it gives you a list of possible matches.   I decided I would use AJAX to do this and was studying some AJAX libraries to use such as YUI, jQuery, Dojo and Prototype.  While studying these, I randomly clicked on the profile of one of the developers, and then followed through this which was one of the developers web projects. Nice bit of serendipity.

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