Monthly Archives: August 2016

The Creeping End of Summer

Today was my last day to fully relax before the start of the school year, although I didn’t actually plan it that way.

I’d planned to do some running, but then the sky fell and kept falling so I decided to stay home and enjoy it. It’s not so much that I was afraid of getting wet, it was that I was afraid of being able to get somewhere but not being able to get back.

Tomorrow I go back to teaching my Sunday class and then Tuesday and Thursday I start an evening class. Then next Saturday I’m covering a class for a few weeks.

Although I’ll still have lots of days off, I’ll always have something the next day which is different than having the day off.

That said, I did get some stuff done today, although my summer projects have been spotty. (Correction: the projects have been fine; my effort has been spotty.)

All this will save me some of the end of summer doldrums, even though they aren’t that bad here in Japan because the summer holiday isn’t as long as it should be.

Eventually I’ll go back to the official day job. Soon enough, unfortunately.

Crazy Japan Times Mere Blather Invasion: Summer Olympics 2016 Another Day Another Delay

Your humble editor has recovered from his time off and noticed a few things about the current Olympics because, thankfully, some of the athletes have decided to contribute to the column.

Focusing on mistakes and controversy rather than success and accomplishment: C

Success and accomplishment: A

10 K open water swim ending in controversy: A

The controversy being the only excitement in the broadcast: C-

Open water swimming in a large toilet: F

Watching open water swimming in a large toilet: F

Bicycle racing: A

Alien looking helmets: B-

Alien: A+

Aliens: A+ (for different reasons)

Every Alien movie after that: C-

Nuking the place from orbit to be sure: A

Making that joke right after the anniversaries of Hiroshima and Nagasaki: push

Your humble editor’s better half’s opinion of such jokes: <expletives deleted>

Bicycle elimination race: A

Laura Trott: A+

Shaunae Miller diving across finish line to win 400 meter race: A+

Spring board diving: B

Ten meter platform diving: Why is this necessary?

Ryan Lochte: A or F depending on details.

Lying to police: F

Lying about police: F

Lying about fake police: F

Odds police are lying to salvage national pride: push

Helen Maroulis: A+

Saori Yoshida: A

Japan women’s wrestling: A+

Risako Kuwai: A

Risako Kuwai body slamming her coach. Twice: A

Getting elbowed in 4X100 meter relay: F

Running against empty track to qualify: push

Allyson Felix: A

Taekwondo: A

Watching Olympic Taekwondo: B (everyone’s too good for it to be fun to watch except in slow motion.)

Kim Rhode: A+

Being first Olympian ever to medal in six straight Olympics: A


Resident Sleep Walkers

I wasn’t the only zombie, but I was the one who had to cook.

The first day back after a long time away is not the time for serious decisions and/or work. I managed to avoid the former (and the latter, for that matter) but She Who Must Be Obeyed went to work. When she got home, I could tell she was zombified and should have stayed home.

Our oldest went to her school club and came back as a zombie. (Note: as she is a teenager, she is technically already a zombie; however, after returning from club, her zombiness was showing more than usual.)

Our youngest enjoyed being eleven by doing very little of note.

I began the slow process of unpacking and settling back in. I watched some Olympics and took a few notes and am hoping the Ryan Lochte gunpoint burglary story becomes something epic that’s worthy of a line or two and a couple grades.

I managed to cook lunch but did very little else.

The trouble is, I can only get away with that for one day. I’ll eventually have to do something useful. Eventually.


The Pause After the Storm

We experienced every kind of weather except snow today. We did check off quite a few other boxes, though.

Today we returned home from a week at the in-laws. It was a slower time at the in-laws than usual which left me with lots of down time. This was good for the first couple days but after that I began to question my existence and/or presence. (Note: questions remain unanswered at this point.)

Luckily the local basic cable allowed me to watch a lot of Olympic competitions which gave me something to write about.

We returned through wind and rain and fog but managed to avoid most traffic delays. We also avoided Typhoon 7, which could have stopped us from travelling home.

Now we’re settling back in and gearing up for the rest of the summer. I’ll still be watching the Olympics and writing about it, but I’ve lost the awesome cable package and will be left to my own devices. I’ve already got a few notes, including another name change, but the special reports will be slowing down some.

Hopefully the Closing Ceremony will provide enough interesting fodder for a strong finish.

Story Supply Co. Pocket Staple Notebook—End of Book Review

I probably should stop trying to break stuff.

There is a trend in the knife community where some reviewers take a perfectly good liner-lock and frame-lock knife and smack the back of the blade against something hard. If the lock fails, they treat this as proof the knife is terrible. The problem is, the odds of a blade being subjected to that kind of stress is very long indeed.

The same thing probably applies to notebooks. When I get a new notebook, my first act is to write on the back page with various pens and inks and try to break the paper. The problem is, that’s pretty easy to do but it doesn’t stop me from posting about the quality of the paper and the notebook.

In the case of the Pocket Staple Notebook (PSN from now on, because I’m lazy) from Story Supply Co., I was probably too hasty.

After extensive use, I’ve been really impressed with the PSN.

The cover of the Pocket Staple Notebook from Story Supply Co.

The cover of the Pocket Staple Notebook from Story Supply Co.

The PSN is 5.5” x 3.5” (the same size as the popular Field Notes notebook). The cover is 100# French paper with a blue coating and the 48 pages inside are 70# Cougar Natural. It’s all held together with three copper staples. The version I chose has blank pages.

Under normal writing, the paper holds up well to most inks. A few inks, especially when they’re in wet nibs, will show through and, on occasion bleed through, but not enough to make the other side unusual.

The backside of a page. The top two-thirds are normal writing; the bottom is where I tried to break it.

The backside of a page. The top two-thirds are normal writing; the bottom third is where I tried to break the notebook.

The paper handled pens better than the Field Notes Workshop Companion, but a few had trouble on the smooth paper. That, however, may be a testament to my inability to keep a consistent angle more than a fault of the paper.

The cover and the binding held up well, but since I carried them in an Old Church Works leather cover, it’s hard to judge the actual durability.

That said, I have a few more of these on hand and I’m already looking forward to the next one coming up in the rotation.

Note: for every pack of notebooks you buy, Story Supply Co. donates one of their Supply Kits to a young writer or artist.

Crazy Japan Times Mere Blather Invasion: Summer Olympics 2016 Day Something or Other

The malaise near the midpoint: F

Finals: A

Heats: D

It’s not the heat it’s the humidity: B-

Heat: C

Humidity: F

Some sweat when the heat is on: B-

Feeling the heat and deciding you can’t go on: C-

Some Like it Hot (movie): A+

Some Like it Hot (song): D

The Power Station: D

Super groups in general: D

Would You Like to Buy a Vowel? Name Award: Polish 800 meter runner Adam Kszczot.

Trying to remember how to spell Kszczot: D

Convincing you that’s not a typo: C

Opposition to vowels: push

Best name that should be a Graham Green novel: English Gardner

Best name: Chinese Trampolinist Dong Dong

Inability to resist temptation to make dong jokes: F

Getting in touch with inner child: A

Releasing inner junior high school boy: D+

Ultimately resisting temptation: B (for boring)

Ability to run a marathon: A

Japan insisting on showing entire marathon from start to finish: C-
Granted, a marathon is shorter than a baseball game and at least the player are in constant motion.

Rio not finishing the marathon inside the main stadium: push

Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce: A

Excessive use of hyphens: push

Andy Murray’s gold medal: A

Kei Nishikori’s bronze medal: A-

Getting your country’s first medal in tennis in 96 years: push

The Rock’n’Roll Techno Super Bowl style tunnel entrance for 100 meter final: D

Usain Bolt: A

Sport Your Humble Editor admires because he can’t do it at all: High Jump.

Jumping over something that’s taller than you: A

The “hammer” in Hammer Throw being a ball and chain not a hammer: D

Thor: B-

Vincent D’Onofrio as Thor: B

Chris Hemsworth as Thor: A

Chris Hemsworth: A

Loki: A

Triple jump: A

Your humble editor’s triple jump performance in junior high school: F

Shawn Newton Moody Custom Fountain Pen–Long Term Review

Note: Shawn Newton sponsors a terrific scholarship program that comes with postcards and a chance to win a free pen.

Part of the problem of reviewing things you own is that you have to look back and remember prices. This can dredge up any buyer’s remorse that has long been suppressed. This is especially true when you’re reviewing a custom pen and begin second-guessing your choices.

Luckily the Moody I purchased from pen maker Shawn Newton has been worth every penny, including the cost of shipping.

I ordered the Moody right after Newton became a full time pen maker. I like ordering things from new makers and then ordering something new a few years later to see how the maker has improved and/or changed.

The ordering process involved searching the photographs on his website and selecting the basic design, materials and nib material. After that we worked out details like actual size, width, and nib grind.

I chose a largish version of Newton’s Moody design which is a cigar shape with a long section. I chose red and blue swirl ebonite (more on that in a minute) and a gold nib (which contributed substantially to the price). Although Newton offers custom grinds, I chose a basic M nib with basic tuning.

The pen arrived in a handmade pen “kimono” tucked inside what was, at the time, Newton’s new “pen coffin”: a thermal cup with the Newton logo stenciled on the side. This was a nice touch as pen coffins/boxes often end up as trash or as useless drawer filler. Mine is now in use at the school where I work. It’s the pen kimono that I don’t use.

The Moody and everything that arrived with it.

The Moody and everything that arrived with it. (Note: Newton has changed his logo since this picture was taken.)

I was a bit surprised at the pen’s color. Based on photos of the material I had chosen, I’d expected something more blue with swirls of red, but ended up with something more pink with swirls of blue. The blue, however, made terrific blue patterns on both ends that are better than a maker’s logo. Over time the ebonite (hard rubber) has begun to darken to a more coral red/pink.

Capped the pen is 5 11/16” (14.45 cm) long. Uncapped it is 5 1/4” (13.35 cm). It is 11mm at it’s narrowest point and the shape of the section makes it comfortable to use. It has a large drop off where the cap meets the body, but the long section pushes that back away from your hands. Although it’s a very large pen, it’s light and fits my hands well.

The Newton next to a JinHao 159, which is roughly the same size as a Montblanc 149.

The Newton Moody next to a JinHao 159, which is roughly the same size as a Montblanc 149.

Both pens uncapped. The Moody has a better section and is much more comfortable to use.

Both pens uncapped. The Moody has a better section and is much more comfortable to use. You can see how the pen has darkened by noticing the places on the section where it hasn’t.

The main fit and finish issues are mostly my fault. Because I chose a version with a clip, Newton had to do some extra work on the end and the only real flaw in his work is some uneven grinding around the end cap that houses the clip. It’s not bad, and Newton does an excellent job of matching the pattern, but there’s an obvious seam and I can feel where it wasn’t ground evenly on one side. I wish I had gotten a clipless version or had chosen a silver clip.

The clip and the seam. If you look closely, you can see it's uneven.

The clip and the seam. If you look closely, you can see it’s uneven.

Also, because I requested that I be able to use the pen as an eyedropper rather than with just a cartridge or converter, the threads connecting the ink chamber and the section take quite a lot of twisting to open.

However, these are minor complaints and mostly the consequences of my decisions and subsequent changes in taste. Every fellow pen addict who’s handled it has commented on how much they like the color and how comfortable it feels in the hand. One even based his own custom design on mine.

The gold M nib is extremely well tuned and the pen quickly became part of my daily rotation. Although it’s the most expensive pen I own, I’m not afraid to carry it around in my pocket. This is partly because the ebonite gets better the more it is used.

Now I’m thinking about what my next Newton pen will look like. Luckily, it will have to wait a while so I have lots of time to think about it.


Crazy Japan Times Mere Blather Invasion: Summer Olympics 2016 Day Eight

The endless “challenges” in various sports: F

One of the joys of the Olympics is bitching and moaning for four years over bad calls. The challenge system ruins that.

Teddy Riner: A

Hisayoshi Harasawa: A

Riner + Harasawa: F

Arguably the worst gold medal match your humble editor has ever seen. Everything that’s wrong with judo in one bout. No judo, just lots of hand holding, uniform grabbing and slap festing. The boos were deserved. Even your humble editor’s better half was like “what the HELL was that?”

Winning only because you sucked less not because you scored the most points: F

A no gold, silver and bronze only system for gold medal matches the suck: A

The actual practicality of such a system: F

Teddy bears: A

Calling a 140 kilogram (308 lbs) 203 cm (6’8″) man “teddy bear”: push

Joseph Schooling: A

Joseph Schooling “schooling” Michael Phelps: A

Horrible puns: F

Three-way tie for second: A

Having the third fastest time and getting sent home with nothing: D

Singapore’s first gold medal: A

Katie Ledecky: A

Jazz Martin: A

Jazz: C-

Great Britain’s warm up jackets: A

Swimming 800 meters: C-

Taking a boat instead: A

Kei Nishikori versus Andy Murray: A

3000 meter steeplechase: A

Running 3000 meters: F

Running 3000 meters if your life is in danger: push

Crazy Japan Times Mere Blather Invasion: Summer Olympics 2016 Day Seven

Olympic Golf: C-

Golf on TV: C

Golf highlights: A

Your Humble Editor’s one attempt at golf: F

A tie for first place in swimming: A

The tie turns out to be an Olympic Record: A+

Finishing with the second fastest time but only getting a bronze medal: C-

Simone Manuel: A

Hagino Kosuke’s silver medal in swimming: A

Hagino’s final 50 meters: A+

Michael Phelps: A

Michael Phelps now owning enough gold to start own gold-backed currency: A

Gold-backed currency: A

The fact the gold medals have a silver core with gold plating: B

Kaneto Rie’s gold medal in 200 meter breast stroke: A

Kaneto’s name meaning Gold Wisteria: A

Resisting temptation to invoke Duran Duran because of Olympic host city: B

Blame it on Rio: C

Michelle Johnson: Acting: F Everything else: No comment.

Michael Caine: A

Michael Caine pronouncing his name “My Cocaine”: A

Cocaine: A+

Cocaine (white powder version): DNI for Did Not Inhale

A Taste of Rugby!: New name for Rugby Sevens (ATOR! From now on.)

Fiji’s Gold Medal in ATOR!: A

Penalty boxes in ATOR!: C

Fiji’s ATOR! Jerseys: Pattern A

Rugby shirts that look like T-shirts not rugby shirts: C

Japan playing Fiji closer than Great Britain did: A

Japan getting crushed by South Africa: D

Japan’s rugby performance in general: B+

Jun Mizutani earning Japan’s first individual medal in Ping Pong (table tennis): A

Convincing your in-laws that watching TV counts as work: C-

Work: D-

Crazy Japan Times Mere Blather Invasion: Summer Olympics 2016 Day Six

Setting a personal record for Olympic consistency: A

Odds of remaining consistent: even

Replay review in volleyball: B-

Replay review in general: C

Japan women’s volleyball team: A

Brazil women’s volleyball team: A

Sheilla Castro: A

Fidel Castro: F

People who wear t-shirts with mass-murdering communists on them: F

Mass-murdering communists: F

Mass-murdering anything: F

Kohei Uchimura’s gold medal: A

Oleg Verniaiev’s performance on parallel bars: A+
It may be the best gymnastics performance your humble editor has ever seen.

Losing by .099 points: F

Losing because of one hop: F

Losing in general: F

Loser: B

Beck: B-

Worst everyday Olympic uniform: Ukraine’s confetti vomit “Diamond Ukraine” pattern shirts.
Cut a strip out of one and that’s exactly what your humble editor’s migraine aura looks like.

Migraines: F

Oliver Sacks’ book Migraine: A

Misunderstanding canoe (single blade oar) versus kayak (double blade oar): F

Doing research: A

Not bothering to check: D-

Getting an attitude before you get a clue: F

Popole Misenga: A

Refugee Olympic Team: B

Refugee Olympic Team acronym ROT: C-

The Fugees: B

Having your sister correct your pronunciation of “Fugees”: D

Baker Mashu: A

Tachimoto Haruka: A

Men’s ping pong (table tennis) at the top level: A
Those rallies where they are several feet back from the table firing away are fun to watch.

Olympic Boxing: B

Olympic boxing removing the head gear for men: push

Removing the gloves too: A-