Category Archives: Japan

Not Another Apocalypse

I knew that what I was doing was probably a bad idea, but I did it anyway.

We got snow last night but it didn’t do much more than get things wet. I went out to meet a fellow pen addict and minutes before I left, as I was preparing to leave, it started raining. Even though there was a chance of snow, I wore sneakers and a lighter coat.

A few hours later it started to snow. It didn’t cause any train delays and I was able to get home with no problems. The walk from the station was more annoying than wet. The streets were still clear, although snow had begun to build up on lots and cars.

Near our apartment, there is a 30 yard long strip of sidewalk that apparently gets no sunlight this time of year and it still has snow from last week’s snowpocalypse. It also had a thin layer of freshly fallen snow that made the trip down the hill “interesting” at times.

In front of our apartment, a layer of snow reached several feet into the parking lot and the ended abruptly in a clear line as it reached the part of the lot that actually got sunlight.

Today it wasn’t that bad, which is good as I had to do some running. Now I’m hoping for no snow until after Valentine’s Day. (More on that in a future post.)

Once More With Caution

The guy I wanted was there, but he’d just finished another guy so I ended up with a woman.

This actually ended okay.

A couple weeks ago I got a haircut at my usual place and a woman who’d cut my hair before was in a mood to ignore almost every instruction I gave. The result was a decent hair cut that was much longer than I wanted. This wouldn’t have bothered me that much except they guy who’d cut my hair before had done a great job and she hadn’t.

Today, just over two weeks later, my hair was already starting to look shaggy and since I was in the area I decided to stop by and see if the guy was there. If he wasn’t, I was going to walk past and try again another day.

Luckily he was there and appeared to be finishing with a client. I walked in and was immediately redirected to a woman who walked out of the back room.

This woman had cut my hair a while ago and, as is the tendency of the women in the shop, she’d left it kind of long.

However, this time she seemed to understand what I wanted and did a surprisingly good job.

I kind of wish the other woman had been there, though, so I could show her what to do next time.

Jet Blast in the Classroom

Forgive me if I’m shouting but for three hours today I felt as if I were in a crappy night club that confused noise for music.

This means, of course, that I taught first year junior high school students after a long break and right before another one.

Of my three JHS 1 classes the usual proportion of noise to silence is one quiet, one noisy, one LOUD. Today all three were loud.

This is because they’ve just finished an entrance exam break and have another long break coming up this weekend. Long breaks cause them to forget English, class rules, and the vindictiveness of their teacher.

However, because I also benefit from entrance exams, I was in a more laid back mood. They did all their work, they just did it at the level of a jet engine blasting at full force right before it explodes.

Luckily, the classes didn’t get quieter as the day went on. If they had I’d have started fearing I’d gone deaf.


Better Belated than Never

Today I finally decided to do my New Year’s cleaning. That left me with a bit of a mess.

However, a bit of a mess is much less of a mess than was there before.

Today was the purge of the “No, really, some day I will; no really I will” projects and artifacts. I did this to clear things off the floor and get them on to shelves. This is always my goal when cleaning.

This meant I had to throw out a lot random scraps of lumber (long story), some of which had frozen to snow outside (even longer story), and shed the last of the handmade notebooks. This involved actually pulling them apart so that the paper can be recycled. The disassembly process is complicated enough that, for a few minutes, it made me reconsider getting rid of them.

The next step is to purge more things from the shelves, especially the random bits of things that have begun to gather on the top.

The final step will be to convince our oldest and She Who Must Be Obeyed to do the same thing to the other side of the variety room.

I don’t have my hopes up.

Piled Higher and Deeper

Every couple of years we need a snow shovel. This is why we don’t actually own a show shovel. This gives us a lot in common with our town government.

This past Monday the Japanese government finally flipped the winter switch (no, really, they have one, look it up) and we got 10.6 inches (27 cm) of snow.

In order to get work, I was volunteered to warm up and clean snow off the car. This meant I would have to shovel snow for the first time in a millennium. In fact, if I remember correctly, the last time I had to shovel snow was during the George H. W. Bush administration. (That was in the last millennium, which was a thousand years ago. Do the math.)

I had to shovel this time, though, with a folded cardboard box.

The first thing that impressed me was that the snow was terrific. It was a perfect skiing powder. Not too fluffy and not too sticky. It’s the kind of snow that rarely falls on Japanese ski slopes and it made we want to take my bad knees skiing. This also made the snow easy to clear, although my neighbors seemed to struggle.

One kid, who had an actual shovel, was clearing snow as if he didn’t want to do it or didn’t know what to do. He was chipping away and bits of ice, but was avoiding the worst patches of snow. I almost offered to take the shovel away from him as I was faster with the folded cardboard.

I cleared the snow off our car and from in front of our car; then I cleared the spaces in front of a couple neighbors’ cars. After that, I just sort of walked around enjoying the cool air and the snow.

Luckily, whilst I was clearing snow to go to work, I got the notice that work had been cancelled.

Of course, because we only get a snowpocalypse every couple of years, our town government doesn’t have any snow removal equipment. This makes our car clearer than the roads it will be driving on.

Phase Two is About to Begin

I showed my young apprentice, er, my colleague, my collection of ink swatches, figured out her preferences, and then realized she’s ready to move to the next phase.

I’ve mentioned before how my frequent display of my abundance of fountain pens has led my colleague to experiment with fountain pens. She started with cheap Chinese pens, including a LAMY knock off endorsed by the Well-Appointed Desk. Today I tried to figure out what kind of ink she likes. This led to an hour or so long discussion about the properties of the various inks. I’m especially pleased that she’s not distracted by pretty swatches full of sheen but instead focuses on how the ink actually looks when it’s put on the page by a fountain pen.

At one point, she tried to find one of her cheap pens that seems to have vanished, but she couldn’t find it.

Her main problem, at this phase, is that she doesn’t have a proper pen case which has led to her pens being scattered hither and thither.

This means she’s ready to enter the next phase: penphenalia, which includes pen cases and snot suckers used for cleaning.

First I’ll introduce her to Nock. Co., but I suspect Japan has enough goods on hand to store her pens.

After that, we’ll see how far down the rabbit hole she goes…

Moving Beyond the Filler

My worst class was the Guinea Pig for a lesson. Thanks to them I’m going to have to change a few things.

The first week of class is usually filled with welcome back activities and reviews. This lets us get our teaching legs back under us and gets the students back in learning mode, in so far as that exists at the school where I work.

However, because of a quirk of the schedule (six days of entrance exams) my worst class only meets four times–possibly five; long story–and I won’t see them again until February. This means I had to teach an actual lesson.

This also meant that they’d be getting the first taste of the lesson, well before I’d worked out the bugs. Normally, in a regular week, they get the lesson last, after I’d had two other classes to fix mistakes and timing. Also, because they are a bad class, they are often a bad test case.

Today they got through the material so quickly that I had to fall back on a back up plan and actually get them to work in the textbook. This means that once I get to the better classes, especially the higher level one, I’ll have to have lots of extra material.

I doubt they’ll be that good again, especially after not having my class for three weeks, but it was a pleasant surprise.

Reconsidering the Play Room Again

Note: Another one that’s out of order because LAZY

Last week I gave the chance to be responsible for their own actions and seating. This week I’m rethinking that decision.

Because this is the final term of the school year, I give first year junior high school classes a chance to choose their own seats in the hope that they will be better classes. (Normally they have to sit in alphabetical order.) Two of my classes, including my worst JHS 1 class, chose to change seats.

The theory is that the class will be more manageable because the birds of bad feathers will sit together and this will calm the class. (Something like that.) If it doesn’t, I will sit them in a different order.

In my worst class, the worst students did flock together, but not completely. For reasons I don’t understand, the student who has literally not finished a single assignment in class all year, chose to sit near better students. This has resulted in bad students talking across the room to each other.

Next class, if the situation doesn’t improve (and it probably won’t) I’ll have a new seating chart with a “play room” where the worst students congregate and do nothing and a “study room” where students who aren’t quite as bad occasionally do work.

Luckily, there aren’t that many classes left, so to quote Miss Hoover in the Simpsons:  I have nothing left to say to any of you. So if nobody minds let’s just quietly run out the clock.


Not My Problem But My Problem

This week one of my colleagues has the flu and is banned from working for at least five days. As a result, the head of the English department at the school where I work is making demands of the rest of us. At one point she outlined a long list of steps the most senior of us was supposed to follow. I ended the list by adding “And make sure you send a bill to Random Other Dispatch Company.” (Note: not the company’s real name.)

This earned me funny looks.

A former colleague of mine used to mock my habit of saying “Not my company” when I was asked to cover for an absent colleague who worked for a company that wasn’t the company for which I work. (Long story.) He did this until a person who worked for the company for which I work started being absent regularly and he was asked to help. Suddenly his refrain was “Not my company.”

I understood his attitude.

Part of the problem is that although none of us actually work for the school where we work, the school likes to treat us as if we do. The other problem is that being a team player earns no tangible rewards therefore there’s no incentive, other than being seen as helpful, to help out. The next time there’s a problem no one will cut us any slack for having helped out the company for which we don’t work.

That said, I did help out the substitutes, both of whom I’ve met before, and was on my best behavior.

Hopefully, things will settle down next week.

The Ghosts of Resolutions Past

For today’s post, I thought I’d revisit last year’s pen and stationery resolutions to see how well/badly I’ve done with them.

One–Refine the collection. Focus more on quality rather than rapid and random acquisition. Get rid of what doesn’t set your soul on fire.

Two–To help accomplish One, stay the hell away from the nightly Kingdom Note pen sales. 

Three–Actually use your so-called “work horse” pens at work.

Four–Sell the pens that have been in storage for a long time.


One and Four: A mixed bag here. I did quite well by shedding a substantial chunk of my collection and only acquiring a couple new ones.

Two: Another mixed bag. I acquired two pens via the Kingdom Note nightly sales. One was an OMAS and the second an orange  Faber-Castell Ondoro (acquired in no small part thanks to a substantial amount of built up points).

Three: Done. Also close to finishing a second bottle of my workhorse ink: Noodler’s Old Manhattan.  Would have finished it all, but rotated with a couple other workhorse pens.


One–Sell the large stockpile of Kingdom Note inks once the weather warms, and/or find pen addicts who live in the tropics.

Two–Limit the ink rotation. Use up the inks you like, sell off the rest. Match pens with ink and make a system out of them.

Three–No more new inks (after you’ve acquired a couple you have your eye on.)

Four–Formalize the ink business or run away.


One: Sold a large portion now working on getting rid of the last bit after the thaw.

Two: A jolly good start, then a spectacular failure.

Three: Actually did quite well at this. Only acquired three new bottles of ink. (And a few samples…)

Four: Still running away, slowly, after outreach to an ink manufacturer went nowhere, but a have a few ideas for acquiring inks that require actually visiting stores. (Without me actually having to visit the store…)


One–Stop collecting scraps to bundle into notebooks.  Remember that you can’t spell “scrap” without “crap”. (“It’s crap” said quickly and repeatedly eventually sounds like “Scrap”. I think “scrap” actually derives from the Elizabethan English pronunciation “S’crap.” Look it up, forsooth.)

Two–Do one push up on the floor in the store for each 100 yen of price before buying a new notebook you suddenly can’t live without. (Don’t forget to wash hands after doing this.) Also, consider doing this for pen and ink purchases: Cheapest Montblanc Hemingway = 1,763 push ups (followed by spending the pen money on hospital bills and physical therapy.)

Three–Scan, scan, and scan old notebooks and then retire the moldering hard copies.

Four–Retire the last of the handmade writing tablets. Keep only the ones currently in use at work.

Five–Use up as many notebooks as you can before you get better at push-ups.


One: Accomplished. Have only saved Rhodia paper and some Tomoe River Paper.

Two: Never stood a chance of doing this. Did do push ups, though, just not related to purchases.

Three: Did some of this, then scanner/printer died. Bought new all-in-one and stopped scanning.

Four: Done except for a few that I’m still using up.

Five: Been doing a good job of this. Have also given away extra Field Notes, including a few Colors editions.


One–Take pictures of stuff.

Two–Review stuff.

Three–Just say “NO” to Massdrop and Kickstarter.

Four–Listen to the Pen Addict podcast, but do not check out the show notes. If you do check out the show notes, do NOT click on any interesting links.


One: Did well, but need to organize office better to establish a better studio space.

Two: Partially accomplished, but have a lot more to review.

Three: Mostly accomplished. Avoided Massdrop, for many reasons, but gave into a few Kickstarters.

Four: Mostly accomplished. Except I do now own a pen with Bomb Pops on it.


The Future:
In the next post, I’ll figure out my 2018 Stationery Resolutions. (Note: one has already been accomplished, so that my count as cheating.)