Category Archives: Adaptation

Feeling the Traffic

A long-time Japanese expatriate friend of mine once told me, when I first moved to Taiwan “the traffic culture is not like in Japan. You have to stay aware of your surroundings, otherwise you might get hit. But, after you get used to it, it’s kind of fun.”

I understand now. I started commuting by bicycle a few months ago. I live a 20-minute bike ride away from the office, and I have made my bike commutes more frequent.

When I first got to Taiwan, it seemed to me very dangerous. I saw people almost getting hit, and almost got hit myself.

I can attribute to both parties almost involved not paying attention, and the latter to my lack of understanding of the driving culture in Taiwan. But now, when I bike to work, I am both paying attention and also have a grasp of driving culture.

Gradually getting used to the environment and what to pay attention to, I no longer had any issues.

When riding in a taxi with a visitor from the States, he said to me “it’s scary how the scooters weave in and out of traffic suddenly.” I knew then than I was adapting, because it no longer seemed to me that they were so sudden. I could anticipate what they were trying to to, and their movements no longer seemed sudden, but seemed to flow.

Now, I flow. I know that the motorcyclists can’t hear me on my bicycle, so I yell if they get too close. I know that cars do not expect me to be riding so fast, so I am cautious when cars are about to turn in. Before I change my line, I look to see if there is someone approaching from behind, and often this action is enough to signal my intent, and the traffic opens for me. I use hand signals to point where I want to go, and traffic opens for me. I can accelerate out of a light faster than the motorcycles for a couple dozen meters, so that by the time the motorcyclists try to pass me, we are already going 20kph.

I avoid stupid stuff like competing for the inside line against a car that is about to make a right turn, or trying to take a curbside line against a bus that is ahead of me about to make a stop, though I often see motorcyclists taking these risks. In dense traffic, I can move faster than cars. In gridlocked traffic, I can slip into spaced that the motorcycles can’t. In Japan, they would call this 車の間を縫って行く, which is “sewing a line through traffic”

The road is so crowded, but there is plenty of space to move, just like fabric is solid, but there is plenty of room for the needle to pass through.

And sometimes, if I haven’t ridden my bike to the office, I’ll rent one of the bright yellow-orange uBikes that are maintained by the city, and take a leisurely ride home. The traffic expects be to be slow, so they give me wide berth when passing. I used to hate the traffic, but I’ve discovered a certain set of rules that make sense.

Road rage is so rare – I’ve only seen a man get out of his car once, and it was to say something, and he got back in. Somehow, people are generally interacting with each other as people even on the road, and generally driving with awareness.

I saw a man cross the street today, and a car slowed to make a right turn where he was crossing. Pedestrians don’t necessarily have right of way in this case. If the two had continued, they would have collided. The pedestrian stepped back. The car stopped. The pedestrian bent a little to look into the car, made eye contact with the driver, nodded thanks, and crossed the street.

Today, I was going against the traffic on a one-way road. A cyclist unlocked his bike, and was about to turn into traffic. I slowed in case he didn’t see me. Before turning into traffic, through, he did look my way and see me. He yielded. “Thanks!” I said. “But careful – your kickstand is down.” He looked. “Oh, thanks!” he said.

But, accidents are frequent. I saw a burned-out taxi at the intersection of Tunhua and Keelung not two months ago, and a week ago I saw a motorcyclist sitting on the curbside at the exit of a parking lot in Sikkho Technology Park with an ambulance close by. There is an ambiguous traffic light arrangement there, and I have seen a couple near-misses there. Traffic lights are for reference. They might be ignored or misinterpreted. One still has to be careful.

In Japan, the intersection would have been designed better, or someone would have reported the danger to the city, and it may have been fixed. But there are limits to making things safe. It is possible to make things too safe, such that people lose awareness of their surroundings and become more prone to certain accidents. For example, the sidewalks in Taiwan are uneven, but people adapt to walking on them. The sidewalks in Japan are very even, but people adapt to them, too. The wife of a friend (who is in her mid-eighties) was walking recently where she could not see well, there was an unevenness of pavement that in Taiwan people wouldn’t even notice. She mis-stepped and sprained her ankle.

The author 内田樹 in 修業論 describes the necessity for cleanliness in the dojo as a means for increasing one’s awareness of thing. There being reduced of stimulus in the environment, one can attuned more to fine variations in the stimulus that is present during practice. One can increase ones sensitivity. But, in a way, sensitivity is also fragility. By reducing variation in the environment, the people living in that environment become more prone to injury when there is a change in the environment. Whereas Taiwan, because of high variability, trains people to take uneven pavement into stride, both figuratively and actually so.

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尊敬

昨日の合気道の稽古の後、後輩と一緒にかき氷を食べに行き、やっぱり甘いので、喉の渇きが治まらない。それで後輩が店主に水のかかったき氷をひと碗頼んで、それを分かち合った。

「先輩は飲みますか」と聞いた。

「はい、いただきます。」と一口飲んだら、お碗を返した。

後輩が碗を両手で取り、軽く会釈した。その時に、私がお碗をとったときに同じ動作をしたと初めて気が付いた。後輩がそれをまねしただけだ。こういうお碗での飲み物の取り方は一度モンゴルの草原でテントで泊まったときに夕方にウォッカの碗を回して泊めてくれた家族と分かち合ったことで学んだかもしれない。なんだか、されたらすごくうれしい。

 


自分が好きということは正当化する必要がないだろうな。

高校、親が外語の教科書をよく買ってくれたが、ある時に「積分学の成績がそんなに良くないので、あんなに漢字を勉強せず、数学を習ったほうがいいだろう。」といった。

俺が怒って「いや、そんなことないよ。」といった。

でも、一番の親孝行そして自己尊敬で大切なのは自分の幸せに自分で責任を取ること。平静で「これで私が幸せになるから。」といえること。

Facial Tone

I must be succeeding at maintaining facial tone, as yesterday, stepping out of an elevator together, my colleague A told me “You must be having fun.”

“What?” I asked.

“You must be having fun, because everytime I see you, you’re smiling.”

“It’s something I work at.” I smiled.


Colleague K asked me “Do you have any accounts in Asia Pacific that are designing with our PCIe switches?”

I think. “Yes. In New Zealand, we have a customer working on a compute server.”

“New Zealand.” He pauses.

“Does this call for a business trip?” I asked.

For office humor, this is funny, and there are laughs around the conference table.


Customer meeting with an ODM today, who said. “The customer is asking for a Windows utility for what I think you would agree is very basic functionality. Don’t you think it’s a big problem if your company were unable to provide this basic functionality?” He let his words sink in. There is an awkward pause.

I smiled. “It ain’t like we don’t provide this functionality. We provide the source code! Only that it’s optimized for Linux, and the customer wants a Windows port.”

For customer humor, this is funny, and there are laughs around the conference table.

試練

暫く会社を辞めるとも考えていた。台湾での生活が好きだけど、客に無責任のが多い。仕様書読まなかったり、規格書を読まなかったり、無理なスケジュールを組んだり、問題の定義が曖昧だったりする。日本でも要求が高いけど、少なくてもこれらの基本を守っている。台湾の客だったら、この基本を守らないことによるプレッシャーをそのままこっちに投げてくる。疲れた。

それで先週の水曜日、会社を辞めるより、無責任の要求の対応を辞めればよいだろうと思った。客が仕様書を読まなかったら仕様書をよめるようにといったり、無理なスケジュールを組まれたらそのスケジュールは無理で失敗したら責任を取れませんといったり、問題定義が分からなかったら単純に意味不明だからこちらで問題を再現できるように説明してくださいといったり、集中しないと行けないときに携帯の鳴りを切って集中すると決心した。数時間回答ほどの大至急さが日々にあるのが阿呆。無責任の問い合わせに対して、責任を返す。先ずは基本を守られせる。

と決心したら、翌日に試された。

そう決心するのは理に適うと思われるが、以前の上司はお客さんに押し返したりするのが行けないと言う考えかただ。お客様が神様で、応用技師は客のすべての要求を無理でも対応しなければ行けない。その同じ上司が50代で若いけれども、階段を上るときに息切れもするほど、長年無理に仕事をして心肺機関を荒らした。その仕事のやり方を私にも求めていた。という背景である。

その試練とは、ある客の回路配線をレビューするときになった。配線レビューは集中が途切れたら難しいので、携帯の鳴りを切って冷静で楽に集中する空間を作った。そして、新入社員に研修をするときになった、一緒にラボに入って指導をした。六時になって着信を確認んすると11過ぎに元の上司から引き継いだばかりの客がメールをして、返事をもらえなかったら、私に電話をして、私が出なかったら、元上司に電話して、営業に電話をして、元上司が私にメールで督促を入れて、返事がなかったので、そのメールに今の上司と営業を加えて「今の状況を理解してもらう為に」と書いて、送った。

嫌だ。

質問の内容を読むと、客が仕様書も規格書を読んでいないのが分かる。しかもこの質問はスケジュールに影響があり、大至急に答えをくださいと求めている。

私には質問の答えは分かったが、すぐに答えるより「弊社の製品にそういう使い方をサポートしていますが、詳しくまとめるには少し時間をください。尚、回答時間にご理解ください。こちらのすべてのお客様も至急な問題があります」と返した。

元上司の送ったメールに「昨日に決めた仕事で忙しかった。中に回路配線の稟議を含む。それも大至急だった。そういう仕事に集中しなければ行けない。いまからこの件を見ます」と全員返信した。

気が済んだ。

営業的に、そういう仕様書も読まない無責任の客を落としてもいい。よりいいお客さんに時間を投資できるようになるだけではなく競合相手がその客を拾ったら、今度は競争相手の効率が落ちる。却っていい。

心理的に、お客さんに仕様書も読めないという無理なスケジュールを組まないように教育するには、すぐに返事をしないのが客にいい薬だ。

健康的に、専念時間が必要としている仕事に割り込みが入るとストレスになり、効率が落ちたり、仕事する時間が長くなる。そういうのを全部受けた私の上司の心肺期間が荒れている。それを代理店に押し付けて、ある代理店の応用技師は今も薬を飲んでいる。

無責任の人に責任を取らせるには、その責任を受けなくていいから。

まだ元上司に話す機会がないが、現役の上司にこの事件に付いて聞いた。

「やり方は賛成している。君が奴隷ではない。すぐに答えお客さんに返せないときがある。そして答えがないときにこの前みたいに『これから答えはおまとめします』と返して、待たせてもいいと思う。けどこの前は力が入りすぎていない?自分の行為を長く正当かするより、さっぱりと『ラボにいたので返事が遅れました』と説明すればいい済む。それに、あの後の全員返信も要らなかった。何が起きているのが俺に見えるからさ。元の上司が攻撃しようとしているけど、俺はその仕事のやり方に賛成している」との言葉をくれた。

簡単な事だけど、これでうちの部署に仕事の仕方の革命が起きる。

決心に報われて、この関は通っている。

 

これは私の怒りじゃない

長年、東京バイリンガルトーストマスターズクラブにお世話になった。これは人前で話すことを練習するクラブで、例会の構成で英語と日本語の部で各部でスピーチ2つ、論評2つ、即興スピーチ3つができる。

クラブで、成田空港のある航空会社のグラウンドスタッフの女性が会員だった。ある例会でこう話した。仕事でチェックインの手続きを済ませようとする人が怒って叱ってきた。やっぱりしかられたことの不公平を感じ、攻撃されたと感じ、気持ちも上がってきたが、ふと思ったら、自分の中で「これは私の怒りじゃない」という声が聞こえた。

そこで、平静に対応することができた。焦らずに対応できたら、その人が去って、列に並んだ次の人が来た。

気づいたのは、相手の怒りは所有しなければ良い。そのいからを受けなくて流せば良い。

これを思い出したのはこの頃、カフェで友達がその姉貴の結婚した旦那がいかなる悪いやつだと語っていた。なるほど悪い奴、けれども実はその旦那がもう亡くなっている。「もう良いだろう」と私が言った。「相手はもう死んでいるし。ちょっと残念な人だと思えばいい。」
友達が笑った。「私は機嫌がいい人だと思うけど、機嫌如何にいいとしても、どうしても許せないことでびっくりして怒ってしまうね。」そしてその怒りも去って、次の話題に移った。

昨日の夜に歩いたら、自転車で歩道に乗って速度を出していた女が速度を落とさずに向かって来た。歩道が狭くなるところだったから、そこで自転車が通るのを待った。あの乗り方のままでは事故が起こらない方が不思議。けどめ、ここでは事故が起こらなかった。いつか事故が起こったら、事故で教わるが、今は私に教える責任がないと断言して、怒らなかった。

Clarity

With a co-worker, he was explaining theory. I wanted to know about application. I had been trying to ask a question, initiating with body language and verbal grunts. “Does that mean…” “um…” “hey…” “well…” with increased frustration, until I said to him firmly. “I have a question – do you want to hear it?” And he said “No.”

“You don’t want to hear my question.” I said, stating it more than asking it.
“No.” He shook his head.
And this was a bit of a relief. He had helped me understand the theory, which I had not done on my own, but he was not interested in understanding its application. I’ll take what I can get, I reasoned, and find the rest somewhere else.

I recalled Jean-Paul Sartre’s “Huit Clos” in which the characters involved make each other miserable because of their personalities. Compromise is not possible because they cannot set their self-image aside. I recalled James Nalepka’s “Capsized,” where three crew a boat that capsizes in a storm, and they drift, surviving on fishing, gathering rain, and food stores until they hit land again. Their personalities bump against each other because there is no way off of the boat, but they are united by their common goal.

The latter is how I like to think of my company – united by a common goal.

The boat has been weathering a storm recently, but letting go of the urge to protect myself has enabled me to see more clearly.

Two weeks ago we were in a meeting. My boss called in. We hit a rough spot. My boss panicked, jumped in, and took control of the meeting. A few days later, my boss told me that I was being taken off the customer. I was upset, but agreed. We made plans to transfer the customer to my boss, and I offered to remain as backup help, internally working with our engineers to get answers. I viewed it as nothing personal – just a judgement of my ability to culturally handle this customer. The next day I was reinstated to the account. I now have a co-worker (not my boss) playing the role of cultural intermediary. He’s a top gun, switching in and out of dialect and talking the exact style with the exact phrasing that the customer wants to hear. We can say exactly the same thing in terms of content and get two very different reactions from the customer. They love him, which is fine. All I have to do is get him what he needs to answer questions.

I have been working overtime to get those answers from our engineers. They have been working overtime, too. Everyone is under pressure due to the product launch, but I handle it by being unattached to the outcome at this customer. Maybe we win, maybe we lose – I’ll give it my best shot.

That’s what Japanese warriors would tell themselves. They would train for life and death encounters, try to avoid conflict if at all possible, until for reasons beyond their control – shifts in balance of power of the land that led to war – they had to face off with an opponent who had also trained similarly. They would train to face this with equanimity. Maybe he’d lose, maybe he’d live, but he’d give it his best shot.

Giving it one’s best shot is all that matters. Accepting where you are. For example, not being ashamed of your current capabilities. I have a friend getting married in Japan to an accomplished martial artist. She practices, too, but has not yet attained a high level of training. To celebrate the occasion, their teachers will be present. With teachers and students all counted, there will be some seven black-belt Aikido practitioners, four of which are 4th-degree black belt or higher, and there will be a martial arts demonstration as part of the festivities. We were talking about this, and finding this really funny – “It will be less a reception than… ‘Sensei presents – team Aikido!'” My friend has asked me to be the “uke” – the “follow” – so to speak for her fiancé as he performs. Why not you? I asked. She’s afraid that she’s not good enough – and wants someone more skilled and better matched to her fiancé’s level. I told her that that was the wrong reason – that we are the sum of our training, and that for the amount she has trained, she has nothing to be ashamed of. I would do it to help her celebrate, but not because I have trained more. This leads me to another thought – why we do something does not have to be for the same reason that someone believes we should do it. The action is the same, but the narrative that we assign to it can be different. Maybe I’ll write more on this later.

Accepting where you are includes being in the present moment. Fear or striving both bring us out of the present moment. Anything that takes us out of the now leads to poorer results. Dancing makes this very clear. If I am dancing, and trying to play it safe, it’s boring. If I am trying to impress, I’m forcing it, which leads to loss of harmony.

The ego is the source of the should-bes and might-have-beens that cloud our judgement and separate us from the reality at hand. Strength is not in the rocks that can stand against the river. It is the river itself – water that flows, finding the easiest way moment by moment, and in time, wearing down the rock. This is a prayer that we might be less like the rock, and more like the river. At moments of conflict, or more frequently, let us let go of the ego which projects us where we think we should be. Let us see ourselves and others where we are. Only then, relaxed and with power, can we give it our best shot.

Kreativverlust der Identität

Ich lese noch einmal wieder die Jason Bourne Spionageromane, von Robert Ludlum, in denen ein Mann sein Gedächtnis verloren hat, der trotzdem hat alle die Geschicklichkeite eines Geheimagents. Ein zentrales Thema ist die Natur seiner Identität. Es gibt eine Identität als Attentäter, die er geschaffen hat, und auch als Geheimagent, die er war, der Schöpfer der Identität des Attentäters. Die zwei Identitäten entstehen sich allmälich, während er seine Vergangenheit untersucht, und überleben versucht, angesichts derer die ihn tod wollen. Bei der Amnesia und seelische Belastung gibt es kaum eine Linie zwischen den ursprünglichen und erstellten Egos. Um zu überleben, mußte er die Identität, die er geschaffen hatte, übernehmen, und sonst noch neue Rolle spielen.

Ich weiß schon daß es Bereiche gibt, in deren ich kämpfe, weil meine Gewohnheiten und Reaktionen sind im Gegensatz zu der Kultur der Taiwan. Diese Bereiche umfassen Strategien, die ich in meinem vorherigen Leben in Japan und den Vereinigten Staaten gerlernt habe. Viele Strategien laufen aber nicht hier. In Taiwan unterscheiden sich die Arbeitsweise. Zum Beispiel denkt man nicht besser, weniger, sicherer, klassischer, sondern billiger, mehr, schneller, neuer. Was früher für mich um etwas zu erreichen genug war, ist hier nicht mehr genug. Was früher jedoch notwendig war, ist hier nicht mehr notwendig. Hier zählt man Aufmerksamkeit auf andere Dinge. Ich muß nicht nur einfach eine neue Arbeitsweise lernen, sondern eine ganz neue Reihe von emotionalen Reaktionen verinnerlichen, neue Instinkte entwickeln. Ich muß eine neue Indentität übernehmen.

Deshalb habe ich wohl von unterbewußte Wissen vorige Woche die Bourne Spionageromane wieder aufgenommen. Beim Kreativverlust und Lernen wird die Linie zwischen dem Selbst und dem erstellten Ego verwischen, sogar verschwinden. Es wird eine Zeit kommen, wenn der Selbst ist weg, aber der neue
Ego noch nicht klar. Darauf habe ich angst. Darüber hat Jason Bourne auch abgemüht.

Ich muß ein Chamäleon sein: er wird alles und ist immer noch selbst.