Category Archives: Japan

Not Caring Enough to Care

My plan for my worst class was something along the lines of: assign textbook page and hand out worksheet. As long as no one started a fire or hurt anyone else, I wouldn’t care what anyone was doing.

I was not alone in this attitude.

This is the time of year where we stop caring as much as we used to care. Mind you, we probably didn’t care that much before, but now caring is right out. Worksheets are less fancy and concern for discipline is less of a concern.

This is partly because we’ve just come out of a period of holidays and special events and that has the students in a strange mood. Also, as we approach the last week before a longish holiday, students have either given up or decided they’re already safe.

Also, we are more focused on getting through all the material whilst simultaneously writing final exams. Teachers with third year high school students (12th graders) are also facing exams early to allow for early make up exams. (Third years are essentially done after this term except for some baby-sitting next term.)

We’ve also reached the end of most of the material. Next week will be review and/or final projects, which means the students are doing most of the work.

Next week I’ll talk about the final exams with the students. We’ll see how many of them actually care.

 

The Advantages of Confusion and Panic

Recently Sailor Ink has been doing some strange things and it’s actually helping me out.

For reasons no one can understand (well, money actually) Sailor has been changing the sizes of its ink bottles. The new bottles are smaller (20 ml), look like little jelly/jam sample jars, and “only” cost 1000 yen (1080 with tax). This means that 50 ml of ink, the old standard size, now cost 2500 yen, or 2700 with tax. The fear is that this means the price of the old new bottles is going up.

Adding to the fear and confusion, Sailor is offering popular ink flavors in the new bottles which makes pen addicts fear these are destined to become the new normal size.

I’ve not tried the new new bottles yet, but given how badly the old new bottles–which look like squat flying saucers–sucked, I’m not expecting the new new bottles will work well with larger pens.

Granted, they may be useful as samples for people not willing to spend 2160 yen on a full bottle, but the pen community panics easily and Sailor has a habit of making odd decisions about bottles and ink flavors.

As a result, I’ve had good luck clearing out a large portion of my over-bought inventory of ink. That makes it hard for me to complain about the new bottles.

My Sinclair Seven (Plus One)–Latest Iteration

The thing that shocks me about this update is how little there is to update, but there have been a few physical changes along with a few changes in attitude since my last update.

The biggest change in this Sinclair Seven (Plus One) is the absence of my Edison Glenmont 2014 LE. As much as I still like this pen, it faced relegation. In fact, at times it’s been relegated beyond the Lookout to other pen cases. However, every time I use it, I remember why I like to keep it around and it’s now back in the Lookout. (Note: I switched back to the M nib.)

As for the rest of the pens:

The most recent Sinclair Seve (Plus One).

Bottom Row, From the Left:

Pilot Custom 823 (Amber Barrel)
Still a workhorse pen, but lately it’s been having some issues. The plunger mechanism has been sticky and not filling as well as I’d like. I suspect it needs a little maintenance, which I’m not qualified/willing to perform, so I’m planning to make an appointment with the Pilot pen guy (a technical job description) at the Mitsukoshi Fountain Pen Festival next March and have it overhauled. It’s currently filled with Maruzen Athena Renga.

Nakaya Cigar Portable Kurotamenuri
Recently fixed and tuned after a small adventure involving mistaken pens, and it’s suddenly pen I expected it to be. I reach for it a lot and it’s quickly replacing the TWSBI as my go-to workhorse pen. It’s still filled with Aurora Black ink which pairs well with it.

Shawn Newton Moody
Still not the workhorse it could be, but I still use it a lot. The ebonite is aging well. It’s currently filled with Kingdom Note Omurasaki (Purple Butterfly) which suits it well.

 

Second Row, From the Left:

TWSBI Diamond 580 Rose Gold
Still reaching for it less and less but I still like the ink capacity. It’s still filled with Fountain Pen Hospital‘s exclusive Noodler’s Old Manhattan “Bulletproof” Black ink.

Platinum 3776 Chartres Blue (Rhodium Coating)
Can’t quit this pen.  It’s currently filled with Shosaikan Seiran ink.

Pilot Custom Heritage 92
Lately I find myself looking for excuses to use this pen. I like the nib and like the piston filler because Pilot’s converters are especially dreadful even given that all converters suck. It’s currently filled with Robert Oster Bondi Blue.

OMAS Arte Italiana London Smoke Milord
The new comer. It is a large pen, but very light and it is slowly becoming a workhorse pen that I reach for as often as I can. It has a wet M nib in OMAS’ Hi-Tech finish. It is a cartridge/converter pen, which means I have to deal with converters. That said, at least it’s easy to clean and change inks. It’s currently filled with Kingdom Note Tiger Prawn (aka Shrimp). As I bought it used, it probably needs a little nib work and I’m pondering sending it to someone for some tuning.

Top Center–The Plus One:

Lamy 2000
Still filled with Kingdom Note Kabutomushi (Rhinoceros Beetle) ink, and still a pen I enjoy using.

At this point, the TWSBI is at the greatest risk of relegation.although I’m still tempted to make this a Sinclair Seven (Plus Two) even though I realize that defeats the purpose of using the Sinclair.

Never So Uncertain as When Facing Certainty

He seemed confident. Then he didn’t. He probably blames me. I blame my students.

As a follow up to my last post , the assistant home teacher–a fellow English teacher–for my worst JHS 1 class approached me to express student complaints.

I take such complaints seriously as such complaints in the past have resulted in my wearing suits and writing apology letters.

It seems that the students in the worst class were complaining that 1) the didn’t know they had homework; 2) they didn’t understand the homework they didn’t know they had; 3) they didn’t know what the homework was; and 4) didn’t understand why the hell they suddenly had even more homework.

I explained, with my voice slowly getting more and more angry as I spoke, that I’d not only written the homework on the board before the break, I’d also reminded them about it on Monday monring and had gone to their classroom during lunch time to watch them write the homework.

During that time, several of the complaining students had ignored me, gone to play baseball, or tried to play “let’s sneak past Mr. Lively without him seeing us” games. Each day after that, I’d posted “Doom Notes” that announced which students had to meet me at lunch time.

The assistant home room teacher seemed to get more and more glum and uncertain as he realized this was a student issue and not a crazy foreigner issue. (Note: with me, the two things are not necessarily exclusive.) I also pointed out that a handful of students had actually done the work which meant I must have explained it at least once at some point.

On Monday I’ll discover the aftermath of all this when the students either do or don’t pass in their homework. I’m hoping it’s a time to be nice and that we can play a quick warm up game and have a relaxed time.

I’m also prepared to not be nice, though, if necessary.

What Wednesday Wrought

Wednesdays, even the good ones, aren’t very good this year.

Although I have a late start, I open with an average class, then move to a decent class with a few bad students who have perfected the “Who? Me? What? Really? Why?” look in response to any disciplinary actions from me.

I then get to spend the next three hours planning and dreading the arrival of my worst class: a last period JHS 2 class that is made up of a large number of the students from worst JHS 1 class from last year.

Today, though, things got complicated.

First, I have a large number of students from this year’s worst JHS 1 who are supposed to turn in homework assigned over a long series of breaks. Chasing this homework down has required a bit of typing, some stair climbing, and a lot of waiting. The students seem to think that I will eventually give up on this when, in fact, I will merely assign more homework. (Note: All I do is make sure it’s been completed; I don’t actually read it.)

A few students turned in work, but a great many others are about to get a special homework: Spell all the Numbers from 1-100.

Second, I hadn’t seen my worst class for three weeks. This class’s attitude is slowly growing hostile but right now is in the “Not this crap again” phase. When the bell rings I almost literally have to drag some of them to their chairs and others I have to wake up. Eventually, they get into the book work and realize that they didn’t actually bother to get their books from their lockers. Time is wasted as they get their books. (Note: I now count “Damn, teach, I totally forgot my book” time toward the minute they are allowed to get settled before they get extra work and/or extra time after class.)

Today, they had the typical slow start, but more or less did the print I gave them. Then, when it was time to open the books, well, you can guess the rest.

I did surprise them by bringing them up one at a time to answer questions which got many of them to actually work in the book.

Next week they’ll have a long writing assignment. That will probably be funny to watch.

PLUS Ca.Crea A4/3 Premium Cloth Notebook–End of Book Review

The Ca.Crea A4/3 from PLUS Corporation is an odd notebook that I like; however, I can’t quite figure out if I ever want to use another one.

Let me start with the negatives:

First, the name is terrible. The first part of the name (Ca.Crea) is pronounced “Kah Kree-uh) and the second part (A4/3) is unpronounceable, although it is often written as A4 x 1/3.

It’s almost as if someone responsible for naming got confused and handed in their daughter’s algebra class notes instead of the slip of paper containing their name recommendations.

Detail of the name on the front cover. If you figure out how to pronounce this, please contact me.

Second, the size is odd. It is 215 mm X 105 mm which makes it one-third the size of a piece of A4 paper and 5 mm longer and 5 mm narrower than a standard refill for a Travelers Notebook. In fact, it fits a Traveler’s cover quite nicely (albeit after some careful page counting.)

However, because I’m not a big fan of the Travelers system, this is not a huge plus for me.

The Ca.Crea A4/3 in a Traveler’s Cover.

The Ca.Crea A4/3 (bottom) in a Travelers Cover.

On the other hand, the 56 pages of cream paper and 5mm dot grid are excellent to write on. They are very fountain pen friendly and they allow for bottled inks to show off their shading without any feathering. Also, the ink writes over the dot grid meaning the dot grid doesn’t break up the ink lines. (This aspect of gridded notebooks is a pet peeve of mine, even though I have to look closely to be annoyed by it.)

The paper is a bit slick and tends to dry much more slowly than I’d like, but it handles almost every ink well. Even Wancher Matcha, the heart breaker (it breaks hearts) didn’t soak through except where I scratched the paper.

I did find the paper to be very unforgiving to italic and stub nibs when I got even slightly off the sweet spot.

Wancher Matcha on one side with the “drying” times.

The back side of the sample. The yellow marks are “it dries eventually” Noodler’s Apache Sunset from the facing page.

The other advantage of the Ca.Crea A4/3 is that the perfect bound and stitched pages will open flat. It’s also possible to fold the “premium cloth” cover and used pages around to make everything easier to hold when you don’t have access to a desk or a friendly shoulder. It will then close naturally without the covers being sprung.

This may be my favorite aspect of the notebook. Although it won’t fit easily in a pocket, it is easy to hold and use.

It comes in several colors with different color inner covers and facing pages. (The insides of mine were light pink.)

Although I like the notebook, and would probably use it regularly if I liked the Travelers system, I’m not sure if I’ll get another one. I do think it’s worth checking out though.

 

What is Important For Thee is Not For Me

A couple of weeks ago the Tokyo area got hit by Typhoon 21. (It had a name, but Japan doesn’t care.) As a result of the storm, a few people died and our local government has been heavily criticized.

They responded by giving people what they wanted, albeit  a bit too late.

Although we live near a flood control reservoir, it is clear that just down the hill form us is a bad place to be in a flood. Although we’ve talked about buying a house, I’ve insisted that it be up hill and not down near the “bank” or flood control reservoir.

Part of the flood. If you look at the back center, you can see the flood control reservoir bank.

After Typhoon 21, the areas near the schools (which are, ironically, evacuation centers) were under a couple feet of water. Near our youngest’s elementary school, people were being rescued by boats.

Just outside the parking lot of our apartment complex.

Just a hundred meters or so from our apartment.

Almost immediately, the local government came under fire for not issuing an evacuation order. Although the closest evacuation centers were under water, there are several others on higher ground.

The local government’s defense was “We were busy counting votes. You know, democracy and crap like that.” (Something like that.)

The storm, rather rudely, chose to strike during the official voting day of a national election. Even She Who Must Be Obeyed braved the weather to vote.

Because of this, the local government felt that counting votes was more important to the electorate than actually saving their lives and were too busy to issue an evacuation order.

Since then, there has been a lot of bowing and apologizing and at least two meetings with the public to explain “but votes!”.

Then, last Sunday, Typhoon 22 hit the Tokyo area. Almost before the rain had started, the local big voice speakers started wailing and our smartphones started beeping that we should get the hell out if we didn’t want to f@#king die. “Here’s your f@#king evacuation warning right here, just like you wanted it, good and hard.”

In the end we didn’t get any flooding–in fact the storm bypassed us–but no one could complain we didn’t get any warning we were about to die. Even if the warning scared people to death.

 

Preparing For the Next Culling

Spent part of the day cleaning pens and making a new list of things that I want to get rid of.

The goal is not just to try to sell stuff, but also to toss out a couple pens that have been more trouble than they’re worth. (They were cheap, which means they weren’t worth that much to being with.)

I’m still stuck with a bunch of ink, but hopefully I can start whittling that down now that some of it is not longer available except through me.

There are also a couple projects I have to decide what to do with, but more on that in a future post.

There’s a lot of crap that needs cleaning, and now’s a good time to clean it.

Suspiciously Non-Standard Speeches

Today I had to bring in the assistance of a homeroom teacher, which is not something I like to do.

I have a student who hasn’t had his speech paper on his person since school started. In fact, until today, I hadn’t seen a single word he’d written, although I’d seen a lot of attitude. He kept insisting he’d left his paper at home and that, because he’d already written a speech, he was exempt from doing anything at all. For three consecutive classes.

I suspect, base on his actions in the past, that he was planning on improvising as much as he could. What he couldn’t do, he planned to turn into a comedy routine.

However, for the speech contest, that’s unacceptable. Therefore, today, I wrote up a “Doom Note” (long story) and rather than delivering it to the student’s  classroom, I delivered it to his homeroom teacher.

At lunch, the student showed up with a speech scribbled on a random piece of notebook paper. This means he either didn’t actually do the summer homework or hadn’t bothered to bring it from his house.

This meant my “lunch date” lasted only a few minutes. But it was worth it.

 

Sometimes They Run Away

Today’s classes were bad, albeit in a kind of ordinary way.

First, my lowest level 7th graders were supposed to have performed their speech contest speeches in class today. However, one hadn’t finished and will get a lunch date tomorrow if he doesn’t finish. Others had not brought their papers and decided that exempted them from having to do anything.

They were shocked when I made them go up the front and do their speeches.

Since it was a self-introduction I felt they should have been able to do it without their scripts. However, when two started with “My name is…uh…uh…” they got sat down and got zeroes. In fact, one third of the class ended up getting zeroes and will have to go again on Monday.

In my 9th grade class students were only supposed to do dress rehearsal. However, one student has been avoiding me because he has yet to finish a speech script. Today he ran off to the nurse’s office. He’ll be in at lunch tomorrow as well, even if I have to annoy his homeroom teacher.

I suspect that he thinks that if he delays long enough he won’t have to do it. Staying after school every day next week will probably cure him of that. As I’ve said before: he doesn’t realize I do this for sport.

The rest of the class was pretty good, though. I have to give them that.