Monthly Archives: May 2016

In With the Old In With the New

Some of it was salvageable, but a lot of it was crap. Some of it was only potential.

Because I am, most of the time, what is known as a “discovery writer” I tend to approach writing projects with no plan. (r.e. this blog). I start with a premise and maybe a character or two and then start writing. This is an exciting process but it also has a couple drawbacks.

First, I tend to underwrite. Because I’m outlining and writing at the same time, I tend to write scenes that I need to write rather than writing the scenes.

Second, I end up with different versions of the same scene.

Third, I end up forgetting what has gone before and changing both character and premise. (I’ve had to throw out several thousand words because I forgot the job of a main character’s father.)

Fourth, endings are real pain. This is because they come after a lot of energy has been spent and I’m in a hurry to move on to the next step. I end up with well written, detailed openings and “then they all got hit by a truck (note: check kind of truck) and lived happily ever after” endings.

The next step is where the previous steps meet and where my problems were today. After I finish a project, I tend to set it aside for months and then read it as if I’m a new reader (albeit one who keeps a pen in hand to mark up the book).

Today I went after a project that I’ve been avoiding for several months. (More on that in another post.) I’ve been through it once and it’s already on computer, but I had to reread it and put it in something resembling an order. That meant trying to remember previous decisions and trying to remember how to use the software I’d entered it in.

I can see where it’s underdeveloped and where it’s crap. This all hopefully leads to finding beta readers who will send reasonably specific feedback. (This has been a problem; more on that in a future post.)

There’s a lot of work to do but it turns out that actually starting the work makes me want to do the work. Not always, but often.

A Little Less Conversation a Little More Drama

As a rule, on this blog, if I’m writing about school or the day’s events, it’s because I’m too lazy to write about something else. However, today is the exception to the rule.

As I’ve written before, at the school where I work we are in the middle of school trips and random science field trips. Unfortunately, because of the trip schedule, i had one class today and my students were not in the mood for class. At least they weren’t at first.

When I arrived at the classroom, a student insisted that the doors were closed. I think he meant locked because when I opened the door, there was a particularly rowdy student laying on the floor. He had, as near as I can tell, been holding the door closed. (Note: another student must have been holding the second door.)

The student, whilst sitting on the floor and blocking my path, said hello and I had to tell him to move three times. Right as I was planning a “step over with the left; accidentally kick/graze him with the right move, he scooted out of the way.

This was  a hint of the way the class was going to go.

My mistake was bringing the wrong visual aids, but after I retrieved the correct ones, I told my students to fetch their poster (they’d started the “design your dream neighborhood” project last week) and write and memorize their required ten sentences. They had 20 minutes.

I had to repeat myself a few times and by the third repetition, the students had yet to leave their chairs and were, instead, mocking me by parroting what I’d said.

At that point, rage and orneriness took over.

I picked up the bundle of dream neighborhoods and, after repeating that they should find their poster, I hurled the bundle across the room, in the general direction of the student who’d been blocking the door. I repeated they needed to find their posters and start memorizing.

At that point they moved “expeditiously” and found their posters.

At that point they began violating the “memorize it” requirement, but it was fun to see them panic…

Lots of Motion With Little Movement

In a very rare occurrence, I actually left the house at a time when I didn’t actually need to.

The plan was to meet up with some friends and have lunch but as I approached the end of my journey, I discovered that plans had been cancelled because of some misinformation.

(Important safety tip, kids: Verify plans BEFORE you travel, not as you’re travelling.)

I therefore changed plans on the fly. My new plans involved looking for ink (and at pens) and then going to a foreign food store to stock up on pasta and booze because, well, yeah. After that I had a lunch at a place I hadn’t been to in a very long time and the lunch reminded me of why I hadn’t been there in a long time. (More on that, and Japanese fast food in another post.)

After that, because our oldest was home sick, i decided to get back early before she woke up from her long nap. Her being a teenager, the odds were ever in my favor except that a train derailed on my main train line. Luckily no one was injured, but I had two switch to a different line which only partially solved my problem. It took me underground past the accident but then dumped me on the same train line.

Eventually, I managed to get home where all I did was scribble out one or two things that made me go sure, fine, whatever, and then I distracted myself with games and television. (Three different season finales all in one day. Aka, the day productivity died.)

As I watched the finales, I managed to scribble a few more things which finally put me over my daily quota, but it was a day where there seemed to be a lot of movement and a lot of spent energy, but in which very little was accomplished.

I could actually use a couple more days like this before June.

Sometimes Better Than Expected is Unexpected

It should have been bad but it wasn’t. Well, not completely.

I’m not sure if I’ve just become too cynical for my own good and am therefore not giving my students or myself enough credit.

Today was the day our junior high school students at the school where I work begin their annual “camp”. As I understand it, this is a time for bonding/getting out of regular classes and clubs that will be the last trip they take for a couple years. (Note: at the school where I work students take extended trips ever couple of years; between those years they suffer.)

For reasons I don’t fully understand, the school cancels afternoon classes for jhs 1s but leaves the morning classes in place. This doesn’t bother me that much as I also get a break, but it also usually means the morning classes are terrible as, in their minds, the students are already at camp.

However, both classes today were pretty good. Students actually did work and, for the most part, participated in activities.

However, they were rowdier than usual and there was a clear cut off in both classes–at around the 40 minute mark–when students in both classes all seemed to decide they were finished. At that point they became more rowdy and most of them stopped listening to any words I said.

However, because I knew what was happening, I mostly let them get away with “retiring” early. I couldn’t give them homework and there was no way to keep them after school. If I withheld the punishment until the next class, the reason for the punishment would be lost somewhere in the past. (It would be, if I’ve done the math correctly, the equivalent of punishing me for something I did over four weeks ago which is something that only happens in marriage, not in the real world. Something like that.)

Next week I’ll be dealing with the aftermath of three different school trips. That, however, is a problem for another post.


Cool Days With Small Crises and Lots of Ink

Today was one of those days that almost started with disaster but then was pretty cool.

This week at the school where I work, all the classes have some sort of school trip or special outing. As a result, some classes are cancelled, but not every class is cancelled every day. Some are held in the morning but others are cancelled in the afternoon. Some are cancelled on days I don’t teach them but not on days I do.

As a result, it can get confusing.

Today, towards the start of classes, someone pointed out that one of the teachers hadn’t arrived yet. I texted him and went to check the schedule to see if I had arrived on time to teach classes that didn’t exist. As near as I could tell, we had class, but I was never actually sure. My colleague arrived as quickly as possible. He’d thought that today was tomorrow.

The classes I taught were pretty good for lower level classes but I don’t expect much during next week’s speeches. Then there was an early lunch and I got to come home and relax.

The weather was unseasonably cool, but still humid. After I got home, I then had to pack a box with floor flavors of ink and ready it all to ship. I then had the dilemma of deciding if I wanted to walk to the post office, even on a cool day, or get a ride, or just do it tomorrow when I’m out anyway. I opted for the responsible thing and want to the post office as tomorrow will most likely be a rainy day.

Today means I’ve shipped 74 bottles of ink, a fountain pen converter and a few notebooks. Now need to make some decisions.

Those can wait until tomorrow, though. I can do those at home, even if it rains.

Once More Into the Beerch

I didn’t start flirting until the guy they were with tried to dismiss us. That’s when beer fueled orneriness kicked in.

Today was my second visit to the Keyaki Beer Festival. This time I met up with a former colleague and a current colleague.

I got there early to get some food before I started drinking, but as it turned out, I ended up getting a beer from one of our Temporary Friends Forever who helped us get a seat the last time we went. As always, the crowd was great. When I was eating, a guy started talking to me in English and we had a nice chat.

Eventually the former colleague arrived and we began sampling various beers. I also became a kind of pusher for one of the places you could buy food: (“choriso”, hamburger steak and sliced Iberico pork steak.) The thick slice of bacon steak was also pretty good.

We tried something called “Pepper Porter” which turned out to be awesome and earned us the attention of a young couple who praised out choice. We found out he’s a cook at at wine bar and she’s a cook at a French restaurant. They eventually moved on, but that’s part of the reason even an introvert such as me likes the beer festival.

Another colleague arrived later, but by that time he had a lot of catching up to do. We would get beer, block the place from other people, and then move on to a different place. Unfortunately, because this was the last day of the festival, many of the best beers were running out along with some of the best food. The two of us who arrived early had a beer but by the time the second colleague arrived, the beer had run out.

Instead we got a different flavor and commandeered an empty section of table to use as a beer stand. That’s when me met a guy sitting with two women. We commented on all the samples he had in front of him and how few were in front of the ladies he was with.

At some point, as we chatted with the ladies, he more or less thanked us for playing and then dismissed us. That’s when beer kicked in and I started flirting with his two companions.

There was no where for it to go–as all three of us our married–but it did annoy the man who dismissed us. That made it kind of fun.


The Day Before The Day Before

Last week, in both of my high school classes at the school where I work, the students and I disagreed on Saturday and Sunday.

The statement was “Saturday is more relaxing than Sunday” and the students, to a young man, all disagreed with that. They said Sunday was more relaxing.

This is because, for reasons only understood by the powers what are at the school where I work, the school implemented a six day week (five and a half, actually) on the same day that the rest of Japan switched to a five day week. This means the students have class most Saturdays and that’s why they don’t see it as a relaxing day.

However, I have both Saturday and Sunday off and get to enjoy, perhaps too much, Saturday.

What makes Saturday better than Sunday in my reckoning is that, in my schedule, Saturday is followed by a day off and Sunday is followed by a work day. To me it’s easier to relax knowing that the next day I’ll still be relaxing. However, when the next day is a work day, it’s a lot harder to relax.

The main problem with that schedule, for me at least, is that because I know I have another day of rest, I tend to put off until Sunday doing things I could be doing on Saturday.

This is all partly because I’ve always resisted scripting my Saturdays. I’ve tried scheduling things but more often than not those things get done on Sunday. I’ve even done this after taking out the things I planned to work on, only to shove them aside in favor of a distraction and the promise to do them on Sunday.

Of course, once Sunday rolls around, those projects can be put off again because, well, I have to save my energy because the next day is a work day.

Beer Hordes and Brew Masters

Some guy grabbed my arm and offered seats to She Who Must Be Obeyed and me. It turned out they only wanted to know what we were drinking so they could mock it.

Today was the Spring Keyaki Beer Festival near Saitama Super Arena. Over 71 brewers and restaurants set up in stalls and hordes of beer lovers descended on the place to drink and eat. Since today was sunny and dry, it turned out to be the perfect day to go to a beer festival.

She Who Must Be Obeyed managed to get there on time and, as fate would have it, the first brewer we stumbled across happened to hail from her home prefecture and we decided that was as good a reason as any to try it. We ordered the four beer sampler (for 1,000 yen/$9.16) and then set about trying to find a place to sit without spilling beer.

The festival has two large tent areas that looked full but as we walked by a guy grabbed us and offered us seats. They asked what we were drinking and we told them it was Swan Lake (link in Japanese) and they looked at us as if they were doctors about to deliver bad news.

Our personal beer experts. They helped us find good seats and good beer.

Our personal beer experts. They helped us find good seats and good beer.

They were underwhelmed by our choice (and especially by our reason for choosing it and they started recommending several other places we should try. (Note: I like the beer. Two were very good the others only average but they were great for a warm spring day.)

After a while, we figured out that the two worked for a brewer named Harvest Moon. (link in Japanese) Oddly, that was the only brewer they didn’t recommend although they did give us a free sample later.

The staff at Shigakogen Brewery, one of the better ones in Japan.

The beer taps and brewery staff at Shigakogen Brewery. It one of the better breweries in Japan.

A great crowd is one of the things that makes the Keyaki a lot of fun. For being a large group of drunk people, everyone is friendly and you easily make those temporary friends forever. People watched our stuff and saved our seats when we sought provisions and more beer and we watched theirs. One group we barely spoke to was gone so long they brought us French fries as compensation.

The crowd at night.

The crowd at night.

More crowd at night. That's Shiga Kogen brewery at the back right.

More crowd at night. That’s Shiga Kogen brewery in the back center under the red and white flag.

The amount of beer available is overwhelming and all I learned was that most IPAs are overrated. (It seems to me IPAs are becoming one of those things you’re supposed to like because everyone thinks they are popular.) Having a couple guides was useful and left me with places to try when I go back on Sunday (long story).

Eventually, a couple young women moved in next to us and, as is wont to happen with this crowd, they immediately asked if the four of us already there were friends. I used the opportunity to promote Harvest Moon and encouraged the two gentlemen to get the two ladies some beer from their brewery.

I’m looking forward to going back on Sunday. I hope it’s still a good crowd.


Planning for the Escape and the Drinks

Parents I haven’t met yet, and who I may not actually meet, are already messing up my plans.

Tomorrow is a clash of two things: Parents’ Day at the school where I work and the spring Keyaki Beer Festival in a nearby city. The former involves lots of well dressed men and women (and embarrassed students) and the latter involves hundreds of craft beers from all over Japan.

I convinced She Who Must Be Obeyed to go to the beer festival (My sales pitch amounted to saying “hundreds of craft beers from all over Japan” and she wen’t “okay” and as I tried to add that there was also food and that our oldest could watch our youngest while we went out she was like “you had me at hundreds of craft beers”.)

The problem is I plan to look respectable for the parents. Because I’m teaching a JHS 1 class in the afternoon the odds are I will have a large crowd and it makes both the school and me look good if I bother to wear a tie and wear clean slacks. The trouble with that is “tie” and “clean slacks” do not necessarily go with “hundreds of craft beers” especially on a warm spring day.

This leaves a couple options: 1) come home and change and then go out again, but that will steal precious beer enjoyment time. 2) Carry a change of clothes, but that will require a place to change. Also, it’s heavy.

I’ll probably change at school and then rush past the parents whilst hoping they don’t recognize me and carry the tie and formerly clean slacks in my book bag.

She Who Must Be Obeyed, though, will be attending parents’ day at our oldest’s school, which means she might need to carry a change of clothes too.

Beer is supposed to be a simple drink. This is getting complicated. But it does put me in the mood for a beer.


Watching What is Probably Coming

They don’t understand me yet, and that could end badly for all of us.

One of the things you watch for as a teacher is which class is going to be “that class”. This is the class that makes your hair more gray and makes you consider actually having a secret bottle of hooch in your desk rather than just joking about it.

The students in “that class” will try to challenge you and won’t give up until they get a reaction.

For example, in my high school second year class “that student” called my name and, when he had my attention, said “sex”. (I asked him how much money he had which led to a discussion of me being prostitute which stepped all over whatever joke he was about to make/had made.)

Despite that, however, the early contender for “that class” appears to be a junior high school first year class.

They are the first JHS 1 class I’ve ever had where students are consistently tardy. One student has been late four of six class meetings. He also likes to take 10 minute toilet breaks after five minutes of speaking Japanese and me either telling him to sit down or just ignoring him until he finally asks me in English. His English doesn’t appear to be that good so he’s not just a bored returnee who grew up in the USA or the UK. Also, students don’t look at him for translations of what I’m saying.

Other students are just loud, including a couple who’s English skills appear weak enough that they’ll end up being sent to the lower lever part of the class. (More on that in another post.)

One kid apparently never bought the book.

Another student justified not working by saying the Japanese word for “penis” several times until I started to escort him to the vice principal.

In their defense, they did manage to cobble together a conversation and memorize it in time to actually earn some marks. Eventually they will push harder and discover that I’m more than willing to keep them busy at lunch or after school. In fact, I do this for sport, especially early in the year when it establishes a necessary precedent.