Hero Material and I've been watching The Closer recently, and who would've thought it would manifest in my subconscious?

A couple of nights ago, I had this weird dream that Kuro committed some kind of crime. I don't even know what he did, but that's not the point of my dream. The poor hamster was arrested, complete with teeny handcuffs. Shiro, with her litter, came to the police station to defend him. I was playing the Brenda Leigh Johnson character (the investigator, if you're not familiar with the series), so of course I asked her lots of difficult questions. The poor hamster squeaked in distress, hopping around on the table, but I didn't believe that she was telling me the truth. Meanwhile the infant hamsters were writhing on the table, blind, deaf and hairless. It was just really surreal. Kuro told Shiro he loved her, and the dream more or less ended.

On the non-weird-dream / hamster front, the weather's been odd. The temperature plunged suddenly, and it's freezing here. The big news here is the "massive" layoffs of maybe 2,000 workers or so by several local corporations. In Japan, there are two tiers of employment: seishain (full-time regular company workers) and contract / temporary workers. The latter category is broken down into two categories: shokutaku shain and hakken shain. Shokutaku shain is someone employed directly by the company on a short-term contractual basis, usually for a year. Hakken shain is what most Americans consider temp workers, meaning the company got them through temp agencies. When companies decide to cut costs, they usually let go of their contract / temp workers first. Currently Japan still clings to lifetime employment, and companies have certain obligations to their seishain. That includes not firing them first, paying for their health and pension insurance premiums, giving perks, bonuses, etc. (Contract / temp workers do not receive any bonuses or pay raises, etc.) Due to all this inequity in employment, a lot of non-seishain have been protesting the recent layoffs, etc. Furthermore, IBM Japan laid off its seishain (gasp!), which created even more drama. Oi.

BTW -- The Big Three bailout is a huge conversation topic in Japan. After all, it does affect Japanese firms. Auto suppliers hope for the bailout since many of them have contracts with the Big Three. I enjoy reading financial analyses, etc. but if I read another person write that Japanese firms have a huge cost advantage because they get free health insurance and pension, I'm going to scream. I've been in two countries with nationalized health care. It is not free. Everyone must pay. People pay about $400 or so per month, and if they're seishain, companies pay a big chunk of it. Companies also pay for their pensions. If that's not bad enough, Japanese companies must ensure that their workers aren't overweight or overly rotund around the middle or pay an enormous fine to the Health Ministry for overburdening the national health insurance system. Furthermore, the government had a huge screwup with its pension funds, and since Japan has too many retirees and not enough young workers, it's planning to double the sales tax. So please, stop with all this "free" stuff.