Category Archives: Uncategorized

May You Live With Interesting Birthdays

She Who Must Be Obeyed’s birthday started with police and ended with pizza.

Our Central Asian neighbors have been moving/breaking up for two days now. I’m not sure how many of them live there, but it seems to be an awful lot. A couple days ago at least one of them started to move out and that involved a small truck and shockingly slow loading. Then loud voices ensued last night and right after midnight, as SWMBO’s birthday was starting, there were police involved. Things got quiet after that.

The morning was normal. I made breakfast and our youngest washed dishes and then I worked on the project I talked about yesterday.

Our oldest went to a university open house, hopefully to find a cheap school she can attend that doesn’t require her to study now.

After that, I offered to buy supper, but our original plan was almost literally drowned by torrential rain that was hard enough it sounded like hail.

Eventually, pizza and other things were acquired and our oldest arrived safely despite massive train delays all over the system and a happy birthday was had.

 

Pen People Are Not Like Knife People

I’m pretty sure today’s post will be less coherent than usual because there are a few mysteries of life I’ve been trying to solve for quite long time and I’m not sure if I’ve worked them all out:

1) Why do Japanese cellphone providers suck so bad at providing decent texting services?

2) Why do all great and popular pen makers make such crappy converters?

3) Why do pen people get along so well when knife people don’t?

The first two are mysteries that will never be solved (it will be easier to prove God’s existence than to explain number two), so instead I’ll focus on the last. One of the things I’ve noticed about the pen community is how friendly it is. At its worst, it’s nowhere close to the anger that can build in the knife community.

The pen community has some disagreements, but there are no angry rants or personal attacks from people who like handmade notebooks against people who say they like trendy notebooks (and vice versa). People who don’t like Nakaya fountain pens will get stern looks (if in person) and some discussion from Nakaya fans (if in a forum), but neither side will start hurling invective or ad hominem attacks. People who like Montblancs will get stern looks (if in person) and some discussion from every other pen addict (if in a forum), but even people not interested in buying a Montblanc can appreciate how well made they are and how attractive some of them can be.

By contrast, there seem to be gangs supporting every brand of knife produced. If you criticize a Bark River Gunny Hunter (which is a terrific knife) you will be attacked by dozens of BR fanboys who will call you lots of interesting names, provide you with a detailed list of your personal failings, and suggest you perform extremely difficult sexual acts. If you fail to show proper reverence to a Hinderer XM-18, you quickly learn that you are unworthy because you are not an operator so shut up.  In one case, a popular knife and gear podcaster who gave a popular knife a terrible review was directly challenged on his podcast by the owner of the knife company.

For example, if I say I’m not interested in The Well-Appointed Desk and Skylab LetterpressCol-o-Ring Ink Testing Books I’ll be met with a couple lists of their benefits rather than something like this:

Pen Community: Your and idiot.
Me: No, they look awesome, it’s just that I live in Japan and can find many similar things.
Pen Community: WTF does Japan no about stationery? Your and idiot.
Me: No, it’s just that the shipping would be too expensive.
Pen Community: You don’t make notebooks do you? BOOM mic drop.
Me: In my free time, yes.
Pen Community: Well you must suck at it.
Me: Well, yes I do, that’s why I don’t sell them. They’re just for personal use.
Pen Community: Your and Nazi.

I’m not sure why this is, but I think some of it stems from the fact that knives, in their various forms, are seen as a primal tool whereas pens are not. Yes there are cave drawings here and there, but to my knowledge we’ve never found a pen in an ancient archaeological dig (note: my office/variety room does not count as a dig even though digging is often involved to find things) but early knives are found all the time. A fountain pen can help earn you some money, but it’s not a survival tool and no one recommends you include one in all your survival kits. (Even though you totally could.)

Because of this, there’s a level of machismo and posing in the knife community that doesn’t exist in the pen community. There are no backyard pen users, but there do seem to be an awful lot of backyard commandos.

In the knife community you’ll quickly learn what knife is carried by Special Forces soldiers or DEVGRU and if you are not at least a member of the Army Compartmented Element (if it exists) then your opinion is garbage if you don’t like the knives. You are not an operator and therefore cannot disagree so shut up. You may only like the knives or GTFO.

You also learn, quite quickly, that you are not a knife maker if you criticize knives from popular makers. If you are a knife maker then, clearly, you suck at it to hold such an opinion so no one will ever buy your knives which have never been carried in combat anyway so they must suck. A similar happening in the pen community might be:

Me: Wow, why do Sailor, Pilot, and Platinum make great pens but crappy converters?
Pen Community: Your and idiot. Do you make converters?
Me: No.
Pen Community: Than your and Nazi so shutup.

In the pen community, perhaps because it is smaller, the disagreements are friendlier. If a popular YouTuber seems underwhelmed by Nakayas for being little more than a cartridge/converter pen (and remember, all converters are crap), Nakaya fans will at least hear them out before killing them with knives, er, sorry, wrong forum, offering a defense of Nakayas. (Verbally, not violently.)

I know people who don’t understand why cheap Bic pens or slightly more expensive gel ink pens are not enough for anyone (heck, even the Pen Addict himself used to express that opinion) but they are not as vitriolic as people who don’t understand why someone would pay $300 for a handmade knife when they could get a Victorinox Swiss Army knife (complete with toothpick, corkscrew and knobby hook thing) for around $30.

(Note: My solution is to get both.)

The closest we’ve seen to this level of vitriol in the pen community is some issues between an economist and a fountain pen forum moderator over Montblanc related news and exposes of questionable products (such as this and this) from other sources.

There are a couple smaller knife fora that are a real treat because they have moderators who crack down on personal attacks. They are more like the pen community, so I frequent those.

 

Enjoying Whatever Day it is

It’s early in the holiday and I’m already not sure what day it is.

This is something that usually happens toward the end of the holiday when I’ve run out of things to do or we’ve just come back from visiting the in-laws.

This time, though, I think that because I’ve already established a routine of babysitting, work and time wasting the days are already starting to seem the same.

(Note: the “time wasting” is actually the “work” I’m forced to do even though no one actually seems to check it).

To break this up, I’ve planned a few outings with out youngest. The problem is, she also has a few activities planned that are related to school. (Note Deux: As I’ve written before, the Japanese educational system does not understand the concept of “vacation”.)

This means that the extra planning serves to break up the usual routine. It’s not very helpful, I suppose, but it is something different.

Late and Out

Can’t be bothered today, even though this is post 1195.

I had noisy students who wanted to study a different class and even when I offered them a choice “finish this then you can study anything” they chose to play and talk. Some of them didn’t even study the other class

Some of them finished the work and then to study. Some didn’t work at all. . Others ran out of time whilst they waited for their friends to finish.

Eventually I finished and came home.

 

 

Images of the Fall

I had intended to review a notebook today, but then something happened and I can’t decide if it means I’m psychic or clumsy.

For the past couple months I’ve noticed a lot of people trip as they walked down the sidewalk. This gave me images of me tripping and falling, which is something that used to happen at least once every year–it’s also a tradition that I scuff new shoes on some structural oddity on the road–but I realized, as I watched the suffering of others, that for the past few years I hadn’t fallen down or even had an embarrassing trip. However, the image of it happening has been stuck in my head.

Today it became more than an image. Of course, six bottles of collectible ink were involved.

After doing my “work” for the day, I headed down to Tokyo to go to Takashimaya department store in Nihonbashi to acquire some ink for some customers. I proceeded, with no trouble at all, to the fifth floor and actually found a clerk quite easily. (Note: I should have realized this was an omen so one strike against psychic.) I can tell that the staff are now used to dealing with ink hoarders as the clerk didn’t blink when I requested a couple bottles of flavors and she instantly told me which ones were sold out. (Note: I take credit for all this. Long story.)

I stuffed the ink into my book bag, much to the chagrin of the checkout clerk who wanted to give me a carry bag. She seemed especially concerned when I was forced to shove the package down with some force to get it past some of the crap I carry.

After completing the transaction, I headed back downstairs and out Takashimaya’s impressive front entrance. However, as I turned in the direction of the crosswalk, I discovered that Takashimaya’s entrance is not level with the sidewalk when I rolled my ankle on the raised step.

What happened next was an odd hop, a loss of balance, a flop to my hands one elbow and knees, a loud slap, and a surprising amount of pain. After I recovered I shifted to a seated position on the sidewalk to reset my nerves. I told the concerned on-lookers I was okay. (Note: as everyone who’s rolled an ankle knows, you don’t feel the real pain until later.)

After that, I went to one of the best liquor stores in the world where for a couple hundred yen I was able to sample a couple expensive bottles of bourbon. (Note: I count this a trip to a medical clinic.)

Luckily, the ink was intact. My instincts caused me to fall in a way that protected the bag, hence the inexplicably injured elbow. This instinct came from my father who used to say as he was carrying his cameras across slippery sidewalks:  “If I fall, grab the camera, not me”.

Of course, if I’d listened to the checkout clerk and placed the ink in a Takashimaya carry bag, I’d now have a broken glass collection and six highly decorated small boxes, so that’s one strike against clumsy. (Although I suspect my instincts would have changed my landing style in that case.)

My ankle is okay, albeit a little sore. I do have those odd scuffs on my elbow and knee where the fall drew blood without damaging my clothes. (What evil is this?)

Now, though, I’m afraid to carry the ink to the post office.

 

Fun Up Stairs and Surprises Down

I didn’t get way up stairs today, so I don’t know if there was a third pen show, but the two I visited were pretty good, mostly thanks to a surprise.

Today I visited the 8th Annual World Fountain Pen Exhibition at Maruzen Books down in Tokyo. Because it was a Friday, I wasn’t expecting much. As always, the things I most wanted to see were all huddled into a tiny space next to the exit at one end of the ground floor.

I was especially pleased to see Euro-Box on hand as it was fun to look over the large selection of vintage pens. A Nakaya staffer was there tuning and fixing pens as were staff from Ohashido and Eboya.

Eizo Fujii from Euro-Box (left) watches over four displays full of vintage pens. The pen maker from Ohashido consults with a client at the back, near the exit.

The pen master from Ohashido works on a client’s pen.

The pen mistress from Nakaya (I forgot her name and she usually keeps it secret anyway by hiding her name tag) checks the smoothness of a nib at the Nakaya tables. (Note: She doesn’t like pictures, so I’m only running this because you can’t see her face clearly.)

I drooled over a couple pens but managed to walk away with my finances intact. Mostly.

Some of the Ohasahido pens. That orange and black pen second from the left is calling me. My wallet is sending a different message. (I also like the three to the right.)

Although it wasn’t that busy, there was still a lot of energy on the ground floor. However, because there wasn’t much to see other than temptation and temporary joy followed by fits of remorse, I headed downstairs into the mausoleum where it was dark and silent.

However, as soon as I arrived in the mausoleum, I saw a large collection of store exclusive inks. I quickly bought one of each. This was a big surprise as 1) I expected any ink they had to have sold out the first day and 2) they were older versions in the old style bottles. I quickly bought one of each, gambling I’d be able to sell them.

Because of that find, I was in a much better mood in the mausoleum. I looked around at a few of the displays and talked to the LAMY rep about the cap on my LAMY 2000. (He says it’s fine; I says it’s barely fine.) I saw the anniversary edition LAMY 2000 black amber, which is neither black nor amber, but is cooler looking than I expected it be.

I also found my scribblings from last  year in a sample notebook in the darkest corner of the mausoleum. Something about that struck me as funny and I left in a good mood.

I was in such a good mood that I completely forgot to check out what events were happening on the third floor.

I still think it would be cool if they squeezed a nibmeister in next to the Nakaya or Ohashido tables. It would also be nice if they allowed pictures in the mausoleum.

But I left in a good mood, so none of that bothered me much this year.

 

 

Field Notes Snowblind–End of Book Review

One of the joys of a Field Notes subscription is you get a variety of notebook styles as the designers unleash their madness and their visions on the notebooks.

One of the horrors of a Field Notes subscription is you get a variety of notebook styles as the designers unleash their madness and their visions on the notebooks.

In the case of the Snowblind, you have a cover gimmick in desperate need of better paper. It’s more of a toy than a notebook, but even as a toy it has its advantages.

The paper in the Snowblind is 60#T paper that looks great with its light gray grid. However, it bleeds almost every ink that touches it. This doesn’t bother me as much as it probably bothers other fountain pen users, but it is noticeable. The paper feels excellent with ballpoint pens and gel pens, though.

The main gimmick of the Snowblind is the cover. It is a white cover treated with photocromatic blue ink. Once the notebook is exposed to sunlight it quickly turns blue. After you step back indoors, it quickly turns white again.

The Snowblind inside.

The Snowblind in sunlight. You can see some scuff marks near the spine.

It’s even possible to make patterns by putting items on the cover and removing them in sunlight. The effect, for a few seconds, is like one of Man Ray’s photograms.

Part of the annoyance of the Snowblind, though, is the effects of the change fade too quickly. It’s like pointing a flashlight at your little sister’s eyes to see her pupils get really small. (Oh, like you didn’t.) The effect lasts only as long as the flashlight is pointed at her eyes.

The gimmick is cool, or at least serves as a conversation starter, because nothing attracts people more than forcing them to stand in the sun whilst you hold your fingers over your notebook and say “Look now! Look now, quick!”.

That said, even in its white form, the cover looks good. I especially like the white staples holding it together. Also, the cover is durable.

It’s a good looking edition that I think people would be a good introduction to the Field Notes world for those who’ve yet to discover it. This is especially true if they like ballpoint pens.

In fact, the Snowblind is the kind of Field Notes edition you hand out as gifts as you probably never intend to finish them. It looks great and is kind of a fun toy, a few seconds at a time.

This may have been part of the diabolical plan: create a limited edition that subscribers will be in a hurry to give away.

Matters of Geez and Gosh and Justice

Warning: This post contains a great deal of profane language.

Watching Fixer Upper, where everyone’s reaction to their newly renovated home is “Oh my gosh” has me thinking about Boy Scout camp and matters of justice.

When I was at a Boy Scout camp about a thousand years ago–I think it was the now defunct O. A. Greager Scout Ranch in Western Colorado–there were a lot of rules involving earning feathers that would help your patrol, and eventually your troop, earn rewards, albeit usually in the form of more feathers.

One of the rules I had a hard time accepting was that “gosh” was acceptable as an expression of surprise/disgust, but “geez” was not. Uttering “gosh” would elicit no reaction, but uttering “geez” was treated as if the speaker had said “shit” or “fuck”.

The logic, as I understood it, was that “gosh” was far enough away from “God” that it did not count as a swear word. (Saying “God” in reaction to something earned demerits.) “Geez”, however, was considered too close to “Jesus” and therefore counted as taking the Lord’s name in vain and earned demerits.

My reaction to this logic was “That’s bullshit.”

Even if they assumed “Geez” was spelled “Jeez” it was still farther away from “Jesus” than “Gosh” was to “God” as the latter required fewer letter substitutions. However, the Scout Master at the time insisted that it was different because “Gosh” didn’t lead to “God” whereas “Geez” could easity lead to “Geezus H. Christ”.

My argument was that “Geez” was not “Jesus”. Only “Geezus” was “Jesus”. (These are the kinds of things that seem important to you right after you’ve earned demerits for saying “Geez”.)

Eventually we all got used to the arbitrary rules. I mean, geez, they were still bullshit, but we got used to the fuckers and no more demerits were earned, at least not by me, and at least not for swearing.

Write Notepads & Co. Pocket Notebook: End of Book Review

Like most of my purchases over the past couple years, I don’t remember where I heard about the Write Notepads Pocket Notebooks. I vaguely remember making the order, but that’s about it.

That said, however it happened, I’m glad I learned about them.

The Pocket Notebooks are 3-3/4” x 5-1/2” and are perfect bound with 100-pound cover stock. Inside are 64 pages of 70-pound paper stock. (I know, I know; you were told there would be no math.) I chose the Variety Pack which came with one lined, one blank and one graph paper notebook. The three notebooks came in a box made from a single piece of folded card stock. They are made in Baltimore, Maryland.

The complete package, including fancy box and the card with the school code.

The complete package, including fancy box and the card with the school code.

Note: As an incentive, for each notebook you buy, a notebook is donated to a Baltimore City public school to help an aspiring writer. Inside the package you receive is a code that helps you identify which school received the donation.

I started with the graph paper version and used it as my food and exercise journal as this allows me to use it quickly with a lot of different pens. Although it is perfect bound, I managed to fit it in my Old Church Works Quad cover.

The paper had a bit of tooth to it, but every pen I used on it, including fountain pens, gel inks pens and ballpoint pens, worked with little trouble. There was very little feathering. A couple of my wetter inks showed through and a couple bled through to the back side of the page, but I usually had to try to break the paper to get it to bleed.

One of the few inks that bled through.

One of the few inks that bled through.

Places where ink didn't bleed through.

Places where ink didn’t bleed through, but you can still see it. This is more normal.

Although I appreciate how good the Pocket Notebooks look, I’m not sure the perfect binding is necessary. The notebook doesn’t lay flat unless you force it to, and it makes it slightly harder to fit into a cover. That said, the perfect binding is what sets it apart and keeps it from being just another Field Notes notebook clone.

Also, although the box is a nice touch, and is well made, I’m not sure it’s necessary. It stores three notebooks well, but it doesn’t seem as if it would be useful for long term storage. With my system it would merely end up as a box in a box.

With or without the box, the Pocket Notebooks are on my list of notebooks to restock once my current supply is gone. (That may take a long time, though.)

Crazy Japan Times Facebook Invasion: Summer Olympics 2016 Day Four

Another day, another dollar: A

Another day, another free post: C-

Yellow card system in Judo: A

Judo referee waving hand over head to overturn previous ruling: A

Cross Country Equestrian: A

Using “equestrian” instead of “horseback riding”: C

Calling it “Cross Country Horseback Riding”: A

Dressage: B

Changing name to “horse kata” instead of “dressage”: A+

Unnecessary French: C-

Equestrian terms that sound dirty but probably aren’t:  impulsion (schwung).

German terms that sound dirty but probably aren’t: A-

Most painfully British name perfect for horseback riding: William Fox-Pitt

William Fox-Pit overcoming brain damage and double vision last December: A

Double vision: C-

Double Vision: B+

Feeling down’n’dirty, feeling kinda mean: D

Having a chorus that sounds as if it’s from a different style song: C

Looking up old song to see it the former’s true: A-

Foreigner: B

Being a foreigner: Most days: A- THOSE days: F-

THOSE days in general: F

Calling ping pong “table tennis”: C

Best sword fighting (fencing) term: Duck Stop

Ibtihaj Muhammad: A

Replay reviews in sword fighting: B-

Adding blood squibs to sword fighting uniform to denote hits: A

Beheading loser: B-

Game of Thrones: A-

Watching the Olympics with US television commercials for the first time in years: F

Japan winning men’s all-around in gymnastics: A

Gymnastics: A

Men’s floor routine: A for no music.

Women’s floor routine: C- for requiring music.

Forcing women to dance while men do sports: C