Monthly Archives: July 2016

Early in the Phase

Because school only recently let out and I have to work tomorrow (er, today at the time of this writing) I’m still not sure what day it is.

For all I know, I may have missed the meeting.

Part of the problem is that, except for Sundays, tomorrow, and the coming House Arrest phase of the summer, there isn’t much for me to do. The other part of the problem is it’s really easy to establish a bad habit where nothing much gets done.

I’ve been trying to use the time to finish some unfinished projects but, of course, I came up with an idea for another one which I started working on which, of course, defeats one of my goals for the summer (finishing unfinished projects).

The other goal is to get out ahead of this blog by readying a few reviews in anticipation of a trip to the in-laws.

Unfortunately, there have been complications in the form of us babysitting for a neighbor which throws off a plan to exercise in the afternoon and then take a short nap before continuing work on the unfinished project.

Still, I’ve got better habits established. Just barely, though. I’ll see if I can ruin them completely by the end of the week.

High Tech Low Tech No Tech Go Tech

My daughters used to shoot my face, so I’m not too surprised by the Pokemon Go phenomenon. I’m also only a little surprised it hasn’t been released in Japan yet.

As a rule, whenever you read a writer going on about “the Japanese special relationship to technology” or about how Japan is 20 minutes in the future when it comes to technology you can be assured of a couple things:

1) The writer is full of crap.
2) The writer never left Tokyo.
3) the writer never took a local train, only bullet trains or the Tokyo metro and had local help to do it.
4) the writer didn’t try to use WiFi outside the hotel or had a pocket WiFi system.
5) the writer went to a game center.
6) the writer is merely recycling cliches because everyone knows about the special relationship and the writer can’t think of anything else to write about.
7) See number one.

In fact, except for a brief spurt of being out in front with cellphone technology in the pre-iPhone days, Japan usually lags behind in technology use. Government offices still use fax machines and forms have to filled out by hand in triplicate; the school where I work still uses OCR cards for final marks; and until very recently, the train system still required multiple paper tickets for travel, even on the bullet trains. (Actually, it still does, but the system is getting more streamlined.)

The only place the Japanese get out in front of the West is with game technology. A few years ago, our daughters’ Nintendo 3DS systems could take my picture and put it into a game that let the girls chase multiple versions of my face around our apartment and shoot my faces out of the sky and off the bookshelves. My face had monster expressions, including open mouthed roars when the “boss” version of my face showed up.

(Note: as much fun as this “shoot daddy” game was, it was kind of creepy in retrospect.)

However, Pokemon Go will only hit Japan tomorrow (as of this writing) and from what I’ve heard they are expecting a huge, internet breaking response. (Keep in mind, Japan has broken Twitter before, and is a good place to test servers.) (Also, invest in McDonald’s Japan because they are the first sponsor.)

Because no one swarms on to a fad like the Japanese, I don’t fully understand why they didn’t test the system here first. Perhaps Nintendo didn’t think it would catch on here and wanted to attract some attention overseas, counting on the Japanese tendency to want to copy the West’s fads to build interest here.

Either way, McDonald’s restaurants could get crazy soon. I also expect to hear stories of people falling on train tracks.

Stationery of The Year: ISOT 27

The only thing that interested me was the stapler. The rest made me think I should be a member of the committee.

Every year at the International Stationery & Office Products Fair Tokyo (note: link now getting ready for next year) a select group of five people choose new products for the “Grand Prix” or top products of the year. The two main categories are “Functionality” and “Design”. Last year’s winners included Suito Cleaning Paper and an expensive tape measure.

This year’s nominees, and winners, were, for the most part, unimpressive.

The Lihit Lab standing pen case had potential but suffered from being silicon, which made it slippery. It also requires two hands to use. To open you had to unzip it, then you pushed it on the desk and a center tube  pushed the pens and pencils up.  When you went to close the case, you had to pull the tube down. I told them it would be really cool if I could squeeze it to open it and then squeeze back after standing it up.

The paper products weren’t that interesting. The “Design” Grand Prix winner featured Japanese manuscript paper printed with color unique enough that people apparently use it for wrapping paper. It’s not that useful, though, unless you write manuscripts in Japanese or wrap presents.

The Knoxbrain LUFT is a more traditional sized Traveler’s notebook (no surprise as Knoxbrain is owned by DESIGNPHIL which owns Traveler’s) It uses ring clips which makes it a thin Filofax. It was nice looking but was nothing special.

I liked the white board brush, but it’s more of a specialty item than something useful to the general public.

The lighted hanko/chop is interesting, and I like that all you have to do is touch the bottom section with your finger to turn on the light,but it’s more for people worried about getting things perfect than for the general public.

The ruler pen thing was well made, and reasonably priced, but not something I’d ever need.

I liked the bookends. The colors were great and they had a brushed texture that was cool. I’ll look for them in the future.

My favorite thing was the stapler. It’s made by Max, who also make an impressive small stapler capable of binding 40 pages with no problems. Th award nominee is the size of a thick USB thumb drive and designed to be carried loose in a pencil case. It handles 10-15 pages with only two fingers. I liked it enough I ordered one after I got home.

My only complaint about the small stapler was the name. Never call your product “gimmick” (says the man who calls his blog Mere Blather).


You Don’t Have to Stay and I Can Sent You Away

Six hours is a long time and I only had to get mad once. Well, I only had to get mad openly once. I was actually angry for quite a while.

Today I taught a six hour workshop for students interested in going to universities in the USA. Although I teach at the same school almost every Sunday, today’s students, for various complicated reasons, were not my regular students. Today’s class I only see once a month.

Because of that, I couldn’t remember all their names, they couldn’t remember mine, and they felt the need to test me. One guy, especially, liked to quietly speak Japanese (which is forbidden on the floor where we teach). Another student is low level and is attending for reasons I don’t know. She made me mad by not doing anything except copy the instructions to an activity as if that was her writing.

Eventually, towards the end of the class, I chose to get angry. (Note: sometimes getting angry is a choice; sometimes it’s just blind rage.)

I told them if they wanted to talk and snicker when I was talking they could leave. If they didn’t want to be there, they didn’t have to stay. I also told them that if they didn’t stop talking and snickering when I was talking I’d make them leave.

After that, things got better and they did a lot of work. Well, all but that one. But she’s only my problem once a month.

Getting Through the Last Day

I felt relaxed and calm and was thinking about playing a game. That’s when I started panicking.

The school where I work scheduled final marks for today. This involves turning in Optical Character Recognition forms written in pencil and waiting until the marks are printed and then checking them for mistakes. However, since we finished classes yesterday, all members of the foreign staff turned their marks in yesterday. This meant we didn’t have to arrive at work until around 4:00.

Of course, this let me get relaxed and distracted which meant I had period fits of “holy crap, don’t forget to go to work. Am I missing work right now?”

Soon after I arrived at the school, the printouts arrived and the head of the department confirmed yesterday’s mistake. I checked everything and went down to the computer room to correct my mistake, which involved writing a “T” one space too far to the left. (No. Really. That was the mistake.) The funny part is, it wasn’t even my class. It was the class I’d accepted a bribe to mark.

After that, I had to fill in the “class switcher” form which transferred students from my JHS 1 class to a different class. This should have been painless, but the form is, how should I say “unintuitive “. As I filled out the form, I did resist the urge to send my bad student down, even though he had a fairly decent score.

I’ll probably regret that next autumn.

A Tale of Fires and Buses

I put out a fire after being thrown under a bus. Then things got weird.

The last day of classes is strange.

I arrived at the school where I work to discover a battery charger for a video camera on my desk. Its presence was apparently my fault. A colleague with a knee-jerk tendency to blame his fellow foreign staff for problems suggested that I look in my desk for something I never touched. (As if I were stupid enough to not realize that something might be in my desk or not. I suspect he used to work for a computer company’s customer service center, but that’s a future post.)

Even after I pointed out that different brands of cameras were involved, he still acted as is I didn’t know my Canon cameras from my Sony cameras.

In his defense, I took some time to recreate various situations as if I were Benedict Cumberbatch retreating to a mind palace and worked out that the problem was not my problem. I returned the battery charger to the place from whence it came–with a story that explained everything– and will wait further blame.

After that, I realized that a colleague had made mistakes on her final marks forms. (She has bribed me with rare cheesecake Oreo cookies to check her final marks.) It took a few minutes to fix the mistake, but I suspect I made a mistake myself. Luckily, I’ll be around tomorrow to fix the mistakes.

Hopefully, I won’t have to deal with a battery charger. Unfortunately, the Oreo cookies are already gone.


Too Much and Everything

Despite yesterday’s predictions, I did manage to get stuff done. Most of it, though, involved consumption.

I was hoping for bad weather as I often let that make my go/no go decisions for me, but the weather people, to a person, described the weather with their arms out to their sides, puzzled looks and “yes, really, probably, your guess is as good as mine”. The only thing they agreed on was that it would be hot and humid. (In their defense, it was.)

I shortened my planned trip, although I did have to go to a couple banks because “pay day” and then did some shopping. I also ate too much at lunch. (More on that in a future review.) Then I did shopping for healthier snacks. (I’ll write more about that this in a couple weeks but the preview is I’ve recently begun slipping on snacks. My weight hasn’t gone up, but I can feel the physical difference with the sudden rush of sugar.)

After getting home, I turned on the air conditioner and sat down and did very little. She who Must Be Obeyed came home and pointed out it was raining and that it was my fault. (Actually, not noticing it, because the windows were closed because the AC was on was my fault, according to her, anyway.) Then, to remind me of life in Kansas, the weather decided to cycle through different seasons: it was sunny, rainy, sunny again, then dark and ominous.

While it was dark and ominous, SWMBO drove me to the post office to mail ink.

After we got, back, it changed to dark and scary, but when the rain came, it wasn’t that hard. In fact, we were very lucky most of the bad weather missed us.

Tokyo, however,  was apparently hit by at least three of the Biblical plagues, with “nasty rain” being the main one. Yes, that’s a Biblical plague. Look it up.

Preparing for Tomorrow Never Comes

I spent part of the day preparing for tomorrow. Unfortunately, I’ve heard that never comes.

After a lazy morning playing tanks with a friend via the magic of the internet, I actually got down to work doing some writing and preparing for my time off/house arrest. (I’ve written about that before, but more on that in another post. Bad language guaranteed.)

I worked out what days will be “house arrest” and which will actually be vacation and outlined what I’ll be doing during my “house arrest” and, for that matter, what I’ll be doing when I’m free to do whatever I want (spoilers: pro-level time wasting).

I also planned tomorrow. It will involve trips to the bank, shopping, eating too much, more shopping, walking, writing reviews and a trip to the post office.

The latter is the most important as I’ll be delivering boxes of ink. This has two results: earn a little money and clear up some space. Right now, clearing up space is the most important part.

Of course, the way my planning goes, I’ll probably end up doing something else. There’s always tanks and if that doesn’t inspire me, there are other games.


Standing Around Working

I started out standing. I ended up sitting. In the end I did more than the students.

Today I had five pass-back classes which isn’t that big of a deal except there isn’t much for me to do.

I tease the high, low and average marks. I take roll. I write out the full high, low and average marks. I pass out the answer sheets. I pass out the exams. I answer questions. I pass out the speech contest papers. I quell panic. I explain the assignment. I answer questions. I turn the students loose.

Unfortunately, all that takes only 20 minutes or so and I’m left with 30 minutes to fill. In my younger days, I took care to include extra activities until I realized I was wasting my time. (Long story.)

Today, the students were supposed to work on their speech contest speeches. A few actually did, but most did not. Instead they kept the papers out and chatted but didn’t actually write anything. Or they just did homework from other classes.

I spent part of the class standing whilst I worked on a few personal things. Then I got tired of standing, brushed off the teacher’s chair and sat down whilst I worked on personal things.

Oddly, I managed to stay awake, even after sitting down.

Now I have a couple days off to I’m already figuring out ways to waste them.

It Could Go Wrong and it Did

It is often said that past success does not guarantee future success. No one mentioned it could lead to current hassles.

I’ve mentioned before that a small software glitch caused me to teach our oldest and youngest a few new “expressive” words (and more than a few snarls, growls and “are you shitting mes?”). What was especially frustrating was that the glitches were occurring in a spreadsheet I’d been using for over a decade with no trouble.

Granted, this year I decided to make changes, but the basic formulas remained the same. However, yesterday the spreadsheet decided to accept the data and not recognize the formulas. They were still there, but they weren’t working. I eventually got them working (after much “expressiveness” and then took the file to the school where I work and entered the data in the official spreadsheet.

The trouble is, the formulas weren’t working on the official spreadsheet either. They’ve also been in use for over a decade and the problems we have with them are usually user error.

I used my trick to get them working and it forced the formulas to work but didn’t fix the problem. New data led to the need for new “fixes”.

Granted, there’s probably a simple fix to all this, although finding it on a Japanese version of the software isn’t always that easy. We also run the risk of marks being wrong which, this time of year, is more of an annoyance than a problem, but it can lead to complaints from students and parents.

I’ll try to figure it all out tomorrow. In the process my Japanese colleagues may learn a few new “expressive” phrases.