Monthly Archives: April 2016

The Pain That Lessened the Pain

I had my first ink order cancellation today and that meant I had to refund some money. This was disappointing but it probably saved me a lot of pain.

The order started out larger, then got smaller. I’d even agreed to sell a bottle of hard to find ink I’ve been hoarding (note to self: don’t get “high” on own supply). I’ll probably still sell the bottle, but maybe in a different way than I’d planned.

Then, today after part of the order arrived from the store, I packed the box and made ready to go to the post office. However, sometime during the packing process, as I was moving around the house, I engaged in my periodic tradition of smacking the crap out of the Little Piggy Who Went Whee Whee Whee All The Way Home on the corner of a rolling set of desk drawers. This left me with a cut and an impressive bruise (although a couple ice packs helped remove most of the swelling).

Rather than head to the post office, I decided to have lunch (chili, which is the same thing I had for breakfast; long story) and walk to the post office later.

Unfortunately, and luckily, while I was putting off making the painful walk to the post office, I got an email from my customer requesting a refund because an acquaintance of the client’s will be in Japan soon.. As I hadn’t yet mailed the box, I was able to give the refund and make myself look gracious and save myself some pain in the process.

After that I had to brain storm ideas about the best way to get rid of the growing inventory in order to get some extra cash to rebuild the inventory (oddly, that makes sense to me) and add a couple features/bugs to the business. I also want to move a bunch of it before EMS rates go up at the beginning of June.

However, the important part of that brainstorming was that none of the ideas involve putting on shoes and walking anywhere.

(Tell Me Why) I Won’t Like Mondays

I made a kid stand up today which is not something I usually do during a first class. In my defense, kids usually don’t sleep during the first class.

This was the first Monday I had to teach this school year and the early readings tell me it’s probably going to be my most annoying day. It starts early with a first, second, third period schedule that includes two low level junior high classes and then jumps with only a few minutes’ rest to high school second year. That’s followed by a three hour break and then a sixth period class.

Although this gives me time for lunch and planning, it didn’t star will today.

My first class gave off the “abandon hope all ye who teacheth here” vibe almost as soon as I stepped in the room. Bad classes seem amused by your presence and I had one kid take his time getting sat down. I made a show of watching the time on my watch, which hurried him up a bit but I’m taking bets there is homework in his future (more on that in a future post). After that the class seemed split between those who did the work because it amused them and the “we are not amused” group.

One kid went to sleep about half way through his assignment and after I woke him up he put his head down and tried to go to sleep while I was talking to him. As a result I made him stand up and took his chair. When he sat down during a writing assignment I reminded him to stand up. The hope is that he will remember this little lesson after two or three times of suffering through it. (He won’t, but at this stage in the school year I still have hope.)

The rest of the classes went well although I’d much rather have four classes in a row than have to work three, sit three, work one, especially when my first class is probably going to be bad.



Pardon the Random Horror Interruptions

I had several things on the to do list today, some of which involved actual time wasting, but somehow a horror movie got involved. Well, part of it anyway.

Things actually started out well. I followed my morning routine and even deferred the time wasting until a later time while I worked on a different project. I researched information about import/export rules and how to start a company in Japan whilst still having enough money to actually operate the company. I also managed, at some point, to sell some ink.

I also managed to send out a couple emails and do a little reading but, at some point, and for the life of me I don’t remember why, a topic came up (and I don’t even remember the topic) that started one of those stream-of-consciousness random connections fits and that topic, whatever it was, led to Miniskirt Police, the Miniskirt Police website, a quick search to remember the name of Luna Nagai, who at one point was a member of the Miniskirt Police, and then a search for her, which led to the name of a horror movie that I managed to find online, in Japanese, with Spanish subtitles.

The movie is called Tomie: Another Face and is a made-for-tv adaption of a manga about a high school girl whose hobby is getting herself murdered so that she can resurrect and haunt and taunt her killer (or killers). Because I had a lot to do, I only watched bits of the movie to get the general gist. The movie is actually three episodes about Tomie tricking people into killing her. The second segment, when she enters the life of a creepy photographer, is the best and shows off Nagai’s ability to go from innocent, to sexy to creepy, to creepy cute all in a few seconds. (Also keep in mind that Nagai was only 17 when she made that movie making it all a bit more creepy.)

However, that gave way to the official time-wasting of the day and then a longer project to make swatches of different inks to aid in their sales. That took an hour and, hopefully, will payoff some day.

It wasn’t a normal day, but, in its own way, it was a normal Sunday.


The Unintentional Mandatory Sabbath

I unplugged for a little while today, although that wasn’t my plan.

I’ve always maintained that the biggest weakness with all portable electronic devices is their batteries. Turns out the problems with mine might be me.

The first problem was discovered in the evening yesterday when I reached for my phone so that I could check the temperature and enter it in my daily log. When it wasn’t where I expected it to be a long search ended with the realization that it was probably still on my desk at the school where I work. Or traveling on  train some where. (The latter was possible but unlikely.)

After using my tablet as my alarm clock (epic fail as it turns out stone doesn’t have a built in alarm app; something like that) I decided I’d better head to the office, especially as my regular alarm was set for 5:00 a.m.

Of course, before that, I played a couple hours of World of Tanks with an old friend.

After tanks and a small lunch I finally mustered the energy to head to the school where I work. Despite my occasional aversion to the voices in my ears, I brought along my iPod touch to provide a sound track for my walk/daydreams.

About 100 meters from my house the battery  in my iPod touch ran out of juice as I hadn’t bothered to charge it for a few days. I walked the rest of the way to the station enjoying the sounds of nature and the city, which normally would be interesting but today was boring because I’d been in the mood for some music. (It’s kind of like having your taste buds ready for pizza but getting sandwiches instead; even the best sandwich won’t taste right when you’re ready for pizza.)

At the station I pulled out my Kobo eReader to continue Ava Jae‘s novel Beyond the Red (which has a fast paced opening that’s grabbed me quicker than most Sci Fi novels) but as soon as I pulled the eReader out of my bag, its screen instructed me to charge it. The battery was dead and I wouldn’t be able to read anything other than that instruction until I could get home and charge it.

This meant I was officially unplugged. In the past I’ve thought about implementing an “electronic Sabbath” where I turn off all my electronics and do things like “read” and “spend time with family” and/or “expand ink reselling business”.  However, having it imposed on me by my own inattention to my electronic devises wasn’t what I had in mind, especially as I was i the mood for music and a sci fi novel.

Instead of reading or listening to music, I spent the fifteen minutes on the train staring at the people across from me and wondering why they seemed uncomfortable. (They must be kind of weird in the head, I suspect.)

After I rescued the phone, I came home and started charging everything. I still am considering an electronics Sabbath, but I think I’d rather plan it in advance.

The Smiley Face of Doom

I normally don’t get mad at students during a first class, but one student was already pushing buttons. All he did was smile.

If today was a proper indication of what is to come then it appears that Friday is going to be the day that finally causes me to snap. The only good thing is that it’s now three classes spread out over five hours rather than four in a row broken up only by lunch.

The problem is it’s all junior high school. The first class went well even though it’s got a lot of students from my worst class. The Second also went well, even though it’s JHS 1st year. The main advantage I have with that class is that there homeroom teacher is right across the hall and can see in to my room through several large windows. At one point he watched my students give speeches even though there was no way he could hear what was being said.

My last class though, partly because it’s sixth period on Friday may prove to be my undoing. As I was explaining my seating chart and reminding them to remember their seats. a couple kids went “OKAY!” after every thing I said. Another kid was just smiling and nodding in a way that indicated he was, in fact listening, but wasn’t actually happy and didn’t actually care about what I was saying.

Those students are usually the most annoying as they are typically comedian’s in training and think they must do something funny every five minutes or they die. They also only listen to recognize you are talking so they can make a face. Five minutes later they ask their friends what is going on.

The main advantage I have is that the class is the last period on a Friday. This means I have all the time in the world to wipe smiles off of faces. (So to speak.)



Long Thursdays with Different Levels

My Thursdays at work will be best described as beginners, beginning to change and become too cool for school.

I started off with junior high school first year students today and this was kind of fun because I suspect I am teaching their first junior high school class. My job, at this point, is to both comfort and horrify. I speak slowly and as clearly as possible whilst maintaining a semblance of natural intonation and rhythm and then horrify with six simple words “I only speak English in class.”

Later I taught junior high school second year students. Most of them are in the transition form boys to young men. They are still tiny, but their voices are cracking and their attitudes are beginning to bleed through. At this age the standard response to anything difficult is laughter and a game with friends. Failing that, sleep is also considered an option.

During summer, most of them will hit their initial growth spurts and return unrecognizable.

The main goal at this point is to show them that both actions an inactions trigger reactions and homework. I also let them know that I’m willing to punish an entire class to get them to turn on one guy. Luckily this class is before the lunch break. This means I have all the time I need to make them rethink their actions.

After lunch I teach high school second year. No longer being the lowest students in the school, they feel mature enough to act childish. Oddly, the school where I work puts the lower class men on the uppermost floor and the upper class men on the lowermost floor. The junior high is the opposite meaning students rise and fall as they progress in school (something like that).

The class today was noisy but manageable and it has students I’ve had trouble with before. They all think they are too cool for my class, which means I may have to hand out some homework, which isn’t cool.

Fifteen Minutes and Out

I don’t know how I looked, so I’ll assume I looked marvelous. I don’t know how I sounded, so I’ll assume I sounded awesome.

On Monday I ventured to Asakusa to meet some old friends and their shockingly cute children. While I was waiting near Kaminarimon, the main gate of Senso-ji, I was approached by a camera crew and a guy from St. Louis who asked me if I’d like to do them a favor and be on television.

I was hesitant at first because, as I’ve written before, my one experience on television seemed to go well but I ended up looking awful. (I now appreciate how celebrities prefer to be seen only from certain angles and/or from their “good” sides.) Since that interview, and the public viewing of it that ended in snickers and a couple snide comments from the people I was working with, I’ve done my best to avoid television crews, video cameras and security cameras (although the latter is for different reasons than you might think).

The Nippon TV camera crew and the guy from St. Louis asked me if I’d vote on which of the four possible Tokyo Olympics logos I liked best. This involved placing a sticker under my favorite design (Design B, the ring: Before you die, er, win gold, you see the ring) and explaining myself whilst the guy from St. Louis translated.

Unfortunately, when I said that I liked the Paralympic logo a lot and that the ring reminded me of a kamon (note, so did Design A but Design A is ugly and seems to move by itself if you stare at it too long) the reporter began to ask me if Americans would wear anything like that and I said, yeah, maybe, sure, as a lapel pen. He then asked what kind of family would wear such a pin and I said a rich and powerful one and he asked if that mean Japan was rich and powerful and I said of course.

That was the general outline, at least, but there was a lot more than that and at some point I used some Japanese to show my ranking (B, D, C, A). In fact, the interview went on long enough that I’m sure I eventually did and said something foolish.

When it was all over I was told when it would air (the next day) and what time the show started.

When that time rolled around I made a token effort to see if I made the cut. I decided I’d check a couple times and if the segment was on I’d watch it but I wasn’t going to sit and wait for it. I also “forgot” to record it (isn’t that convenient?) as I’d much rather imagine I did better than my first television experience than actually witness what happened.

When I got to the school where I work, the first teacher I saw mentioned he’d seen me on television. A few others did the same. When I got to class a few students had seen me.

They haven’t made any jokes/memes out of me yet, so that means I probably did pretty well. At least that’s what I’ll keep thinking.

Remember How to do the Work Thing

I only made two mistakes today, which is pretty good, even though both either did or will force changes.

Today was my first day in front of live students (as opposed to the imaginary evil ones that always seem to make my life hell even though they only exist in my anticipation/pessimism). Before class I did some kindergarten level art work with scissors, paste, a roll card and a student list.

The process begins with choosing the color of roll cards for each grade. There used to be inflexible rules controlling this but now the only rule seems to be “get all the good colors before everyone else uses them up”. I chose pink for my first year junior high school students, lavender for my second years, green for my third years, and blue for my second year high school.

That is followed by cutting out the name lists and pasting them on the cards.

For my first mistake I started using lavender for third years. I didn’t realize that until I made my second mistake. (More on that in a minute.)

The first class went well. The third year boys were loud but not defiant (at least not yet) and my brief television appearance on the news this morning  made me a minor celebrity among the few students who had seen it. (More on that in a future post.) That got me more street cred than I would normally have on the first day.

After work, I took my cards home with intent to finish making the cards. I pasted the remaining third year name lists onto blue cards and then set about finishing the rest. That’s when it hit me that I’d changed colors again. The official colors of third year junior high are now lavender and blue. Second year high school is lavender and second year junior high is green. I am resisting the urge to change the one lavender card to blue, but that’s only because I’m at home with no extra blue cards.

I did manage to type all the name lists into my score spreadsheet and probably fixed all the minor errors. However, after all the mistakes I made today, I’m sure I missed something major.


Warnings and Cautions and Predestinating

Today I was relieved that bad things were done to Julia and not to me. I realize this does not make me good person, but it did leave me more positive about the coming term than I expected to be.

One of our traditions at the school where I work, once we get our class rosters, is to read off the names of our most troublesome students from the year before so that we my both horrify the teachers who have them and mollify them with a few tricks we learned. We are a bit torn by this as it both prejudices us against the students and creates stress well before stress is required.

Last year at this time one of my colleagues looked at my class roster and started laughing a knowing laugh that revealed a surprising amount of pain and relief. I had been given, based on some past karmic deed apparently, all of his bad students from the year before. Even worse, they were all in one class. He was remembering the suffering and happy that the someone else would be suffering. That said, he was also horrified that all those students had been placed in one class.

Despite any fears of undue prejudice, that class quickly became my worst class. I figured I’d be getting most of them again as I figured the karmic debt was still due thus creating stress before any stress had actually been created (something like that).

Oddly, this year, although I have a few of the students from the bad class, I have none of the worst students. They’ve been split up between two teachers, but there are enough in each class to make each class a problem. The colleague who’d laughed the knowing laugh got all my worst students as karmic punishment for some past deed.

I, of course, felt relief that the students had been spread around to people who weren’t me.

This does not mean that things will be good, it just means that I can be positive until I actually get in front of students.

Taking Over the Winding Down

Being a substitute teacher is bad enough, being a permanent one is even worse.

On random Sundays I’m sometimes hired to serve as a substitute for teachers enjoying things like “days off” and/or “medical leave”. I find myself stuck in front of a room full of strangers who are suddenly faced with a strange face they don’t know and a voice they don’t understand.

Simon Rich, a former Saturday Night Live writer once pointed out that part of the reason new casts of the old show often seem terrible compared to the previous cast is that the audience doesn’t recognize their faces. This means they don’t understand how to react to their performances or their characters. However, once the audience gets used to them, the new members become old favorites until a new set of faces moves in. That new set of faces will always suck, until they are old faces.

The same thing happens with substitute teachers.

Part of teaching is the early dance with students as they test limits and you drag them back inside the limits. They are getting used to you and you to them. Eventually everyone knows the rules and, in the case of some classes, they ignore them completely, but in a way that’s predictable and controllable, or they follow them as necessary.

With substitutes, that dance happens in the middle of the term and because the relationship (so to speak) is temporary, no one invests much energy into it. Make the substitutes mad, go ahead, they’ll be gone soon enough. Smart substitutes recognize that, too. This too shall pass, and pretty damned quickly, too.

In my case, I took over not one, but two classes at the end of the year. I came in to substitute for one teacher and then a second left. This meant the two intermediate classes were combined and I got all the students. The second group were especially annoyed as they lost a much better, and much more handsome teacher and had to face a group of new student faces. The first day they were combined I had to force them to partner together as the Japanese group instinct took over.

I had substituted for both classes before, but not enough for them to get used to my face or me to theirs. They were good students, but we never quite finished the dance in the couple weeks we had. And now the music has stopped and it’s on to the next set of faces.