Monthly Archives: June 2016

Anshan Green Apple Stationery Sample–End of Book Review

It’s probably not fair to review this as you probably can’t get one. In fact, I probably can’t get another one either but it may be possible I’m already using one and don’t realize it. Of course, I can get a lot more for $20,000 but I probably won’t.

I got the notebook as a free sample when I visited the Anshan Green Apple Stationery booth during last year’s International Stationery & Office Products Fair Tokyo. Last month I finally decided to put it to use.

It’s a 64 page A5 sized notebook with a PU (polyurethane) cover that has been printed with a textured pattern. The company generally makes OEM notebooks and can print any pattern you want. (Minimum order 2,000 notebooks/$20,000.)

Close up of the cover.

Close up of the cover.

The cover is surprisingly good. It’s durable (although I didn’t put it through much abuse) and is remarkably flexible.

Rolling up the cover to show off its flexibility.

Rolling up the cover to show off its flexibility.

I was also impressed with the paper which held up well even to wet ink and juicy nibs. There was a slight bit of feathering in places where ink blobbed, but not much. There was also very little show through or bleed through. For true pen/notebook addicts I’d say the paper is about as good as the paper in a Field Notes America the Beautiful edition.

Random pen and ink scrawl.

Random pen and ink scrawl. You can see how it feathers in the blobby bits.

The other side of the random pen and ink scrawl.

The other side of the random pen and ink scrawl.

The notebook was good enough that I hope Anashan will be attending next week’s ISOT and that I can get another one. Or, maybe I can get a list of companies selling a version.




Wait? What? Really? Why? Since When?

They never believe me until it’s too late. Then they act as if it’s the first time they’ve ever heard it.

Part of the problem of not having a regular textbook for the second grade high school classes at the school where I work is that the students tend to not take the worksheets they get seriously. Although we emphasize that these sheets are, in fact, their textbook and that the final exam will consist of grammar and vocabulary from those sheets, many students act as if there is no exam and that there are no consequences for their not keeping the worksheets.

That changes this week.

Today I had several students react with surprise that they were supposed to have kept the worksheets. I pointed out the rules–which, oddly, they had kept–and they continued to act surprised. They then asked me for another copy of the worksheet and I pointed out the line in the rules that says they only get one copy.

Every now and then one of them gets angry and 1) acts as if this all this is my fault–which, technically, as their teacher it is; and 2) acts as if I care–which I don’t.

I do offer some advice: make a copy of a worksheet filled in by one of your classmates. Just make sure you pick a classmate who’s smarter than you.

Cold With a Dash of Humidity

It’s probably our fault and I’m happy to take the blame. I could have done without the rain though.

One of our annual challenges in our apartment is seeing how long we can put off using the air conditioner. We leave the windows open and run fans but we try to avoid using the air conditioner.

However, this year we’ve had weather that’s decided to bounce around between pleasant, humid, hot, and Really, Mother Nature? Really?

The humidity prompted us to clean one air conditioner (this involves a spray to clean the innards and me with towels and some alcohol cleaning the outside.

However, as soon as we cleaned the living room air conditioner, the weather cooled a bit. (Note: Japan is not keen on central air and we therefore have small air conditioners in two rooms.)

However, the humidity kicked up and we cleaned the second air conditioner. That was Sunday night.

Today, however, the weather dropped from 29 degrees Celsius (84.4 Fahrenheit) to 20 degrees Celsius (68 Fahrenheit) prompting many people to break out jackets and eliminating the need for the air conditioner. In fact, we may have been lucky that we’ve been too lazy to put away our lighter blankets.

I’m convinced that if we hadn’t cleaned our air conditioners, the sky would be on fire right now. (So to speak.)

Eventually, of course, summer will arrive with humidity but not mercy. Until then, we’ll enjoy the cool weather and I’m happy to take the blame for it.

Attracting Unwanted Attention on Camera

A bunch of people not in my class watched a student strip while I pointed a camera at him. Then I had to make him do it again. I also got to see student get on his hands and knees and bark like a dog.

Today I think we all finished the commercials in our high school second year classes which means we now have to watch all the videos again and assign marks. This year some of my students put some extra effort into the project and I got to see a fight and listen to a song.

In the latter, they students did an infomercial–complete with a theme song–for a necklace that lets you speak to animals. As a demonstration one student pretended to be a dog.

They are going to get a good score.

In another class their invention was telepathy glasses that let you read minds. You not only can win at rock paper scissors but you can “see” what a person is wearing between her, er, his clothes. (Because that’s totally a thing you want telepathy for.)

As a demonstration, one student guessed what another student was wearing and the student took off his shirt to prove he was, in fact, wearing that. He then took off that shirt to show he had an orange t-shirt on.

Unfortunately for them they had to go again (because they used their script the first time). The second time, the guy only removed one shirt because I think he realized people were watching him the first time.

Won’t he be surprised, then, when that video makes an appearance on open campus day…



That Last Minute is Oh So Long

More than once in my career as a K-12 student, I witnessed the warping of time as the minute before the end-of-school bell stretched to an hour.

There are scientific reasons for this involving near-light speed, Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity, the gravity of large objects warping space time, physics and, yeah, well, look it up.

In my professional career this warping of space and time manifests as a lengthening of the month of June. This is partly because the Japanese government has seen fit to 1) have classes in June when God intended there to be no classes and 2) have no national holidays in June. This year the government even trolled us by creating a new national holiday–F@#king Mountain Day–in August.

The last week June, and therefore the term, seems especially long as there are complicating factors involving making exams, recording listening sections, editing listening sections, burning CDs, burning them again correctly, and proofreading exams. We are also dealing with stragglers hurrying to finish final projects.

Oddly, June has actually seemed to go pretty quickly this year. This means the coming week is going to last forever.

Limited Edition Pen Addict Notebook–End of Book Review

I helped an Englishman, a woman from Kansas City and guy from Atlanta go to a pen show in Atlanta. In exchange, they gave me a notebook.

Turns out this was pretty fair exchange.

The notebook is the Limited Edition Pen Addict notebook produced by Nock Co. It was one of the rewards from their suddenly annual Atlanta Pen Show related Kickstarter campaign.

It’s a striking notebook. It has a vibrant orange cover, with an orange peel texture, and is embossed with the Pen Addict logo.

The cover of the Pen Addict limited edition notebook.

The cover of the Pen Addict limited edition notebook.

The notebook is an easily pocketable 3.5 inches by 5.5 inches (the same size as the popular Field Notes notebooks). It contains 48 pages of fountain pen friendly 60# paper with an orange dot grid pattern. The paper is smooth and handled every pen and nib I tried on it. The only time it bled through was when I tried to make it bleed with a flex nib pen.

A close up of the paper.

A close up of the paper.

The other side of the page.

The other side of the page.

The only thing I don’t really like about this notebook is the look of the paper. The bright orange dot grid surprised a couple people I showed it to (and they both like orange things). Their reaction was “Ooooh” when they saw the cover and then “Oh?” when they saw the pages.

Mind you, I’m not a big fan of graph paper anyway, but I especially didn’t like the way the orange lines tended to show through the ink or deflect the ink entirely leaving a visible line. Also, the pattern was vibrant enough to dominate most inks I put on it.

I’d like to get a version of this notebook with blank pages or, at the very least, a paler dot grid. I’ll use a few more books and also give away a few to help spread the addiction, er, the hobby.


I Care Less Than You

As a rule, about a week before the end of the term at the school where I work, I give my students the details of the final exam. This often ends badly.

One of the quirky things we do for junior high school students is tell them what the long writing/essay will be and give them a chance to practice. This means we are giving them, for free, twenty to thirty percent of the exam.

Also as a rule, if students aren’t listening–i.e. several are speaking when I’m attempting to explain the exam–I stop explaining and wish them the best. This has resulted in students suddenly discovering the concept of “professionalism” and accusing me of not having it. I wished them luck again and erased the information on the board.

The problem is, as I’ve explained before, we (the foreign staff) teach a class that’s an elective that everyone has to take. Because it’s an elective, it has different rules than regular classes. For the past few years our classes have been a percentage of the regular English class mark, but that’s been a mixed blessing. This is a huge improvement over the old system, where we had a grade system where the lowest grade possible was a “C”.

On the one hand the new system makes us more legit than we used to be because we are part of their official English mark; on the other hand, we are still a class that, to the students, is not real English because we don’t give grades. On the third hand (no, really, count them) students, whatever they do or don’t do, are not going to fail. The worst that can happen is they don’t get automatic acceptance into the high school.

Some students worry though, and they’re the ones being punished by me wishing them good luck instead of explaining the exam.


The Mystery of the Sharpie Pens

I bought some pens a while ago and I don’t remember why I wanted them. I can’t even say “It seemed  to be a good idea at the time” because I don’t remember what the idea was.

The pens are Sharpie pens of different shapes and colors. There are the retractable ones and the three pack of many, well three, colors.

These pens are terrific, but why I own them is a mystery.

These pens are terrific, but why I own them is a mystery.

I like the pens. They are fat for cheap pens and the fine tip seems to be sturdy enough that I suspect I won’t mash them into broad tips before the I use up the ink. I like the way they write and they’ve already proven to be useful at the school where I work, but I still don’t understand what I was thinking when I ordered them.

I especially like the nock mechanism on the retractable pens.

I remember having a good reason for ordering them when I ordered them, but that’s all I remember. I do remember, though, getting the notice that they were on the way and then not being able to remember what my grand plan was supposed to be.

I also remember being sober when I ordered them.

I’ve tried searching pen blogs that I frequent for reviews that might trigger memories of what the purchasing trigger was. Unfortunately that hasn’t worked. I’ve even searched the notebooks I was carrying at the time to see if I’d made any notes about them. That hasn’t helped either.

Mind you, this isn’t just changing my mind about them. I’ve ordered products, especially via Kickstarter, that took so long to receive that I wasn’t interested in them anymore when I finally got them. This is different. I don’t remember why I was interested in them.

Maybe it will come back to me some day. And then I’ll order some more and probably forget why.



Practice Makes Things Too Perfect

The good news was they were much improved; the bad news is they have to do it all again because it was even shorter than the first time.

It is a general rule of public speaking that, if you are given a minimum time to meet, you should make your speech at least 30 seconds longer than necessary, or perhaps even a minute longer. A speech that must be at least two minutes long should actually be at least two minutes and thirty seconds long, but preferably three minutes. I remember at least one occasion in school when I’d practiced a speech that came up too short. I tried to explain how it had been perfect at home and the teacher was like “Yeah, how about that? Too bad you’re not at home.” (Something like that.)

The problem is that, even if you’ve practiced at home and have the speech measured to the exact second, when you get in front of people adrenaline takes over and you speak a lot faster. Your two minute speech becomes barely a minute and a half and your teacher is glaring and you whilst removing several points from your final score.

In the case of today’s students, their first attempt at a TV commercial (long story) came in at one minute and twenty seconds and I sent them back for a rewrite.

Then, today, when they attempted their second chance they made the second mistake: they made the script longer but then practiced it so much they were much smoother but spoke too fast. Their new speech came in at barely seventy seconds. I suggested a couple ways to make it longer and sent them on their way.

Unfortunately for them, the record is four do-overs. In two of those, the presentation got shorter and shorter. This means I may be seeing these guys a lot in the next few days.

Distrust and Lies and Cornering the Market on the Rare

I don’t know if she was lying to me or not. The only way to find out is to go back.

Because of a request to my low-margin, low-volume side business, I headed downtown to my favorite local  pen shop/ink source to pick up some bottles of ink for customer in New Zealand. When was there I discovered a hard to find ink flavor and quickly pulled it off the shelf.

I asked the clerk if she had more–what makes this my favorite pen shop is they don’t limit the amount you can buy to one bottle of each flavor per person–and the clerk searched the secret drawer to see if they had more. (Note to self: Next time, create a distraction and search the drawer yourself.)

After an oddly long search, the clerk informed me they had no more bottles of that ink available.

I’m not sure if I believe her.

When I showed a couple pen addicts/visitors around Tokyo not so long ago, one of the guests bought the “The last bottle (of OMAS ink) in Japan, if not the world””. However, when I visited the same shop again a couple weeks later, a different clerk produced a bottle of the same color which I quickly bought before the other clerk showed up and started lying (allegedly) again.

That’s why I was suspicious of the clerk today. I suspected the other clerk was lying because of a pause she gave after she moved a couple boxes in the drawer. Today’s clerk seemed spend too much time looking. Granted, I may have gotten too cynical (a by product of being a member of the so-called Generation X) but since I’ve been lied to once already (allegedly), I don’t consider the distrust to be cynical.

I’ll go back again another day and see if a bottle is available.

If they have it I’ll buy it because I know I can sell it quickly. The bottle I got today has already been sold.