Monthly Archives: February 2017

Long Week Short Post

I met people I’d met before. I met a person who claimed we’d met before but who I didn’t remember. I met a couple people who seemed pretty cool but who I’ll probably never meet again. I met students I hadn’t seen in a month and told them I’d see them next month.

It was that kind of week.

With two teachers away for family reasons we had a rush of substitutes and the possibility that we’d have to substitute classes ourselves. This meant that two of us found ourselves in the position of helping out a company that’s technically a rival company.

Along the way I made a very rare appeal to the vice principal for help and missed the apology from the student who drew swastikas (actually, he drew the Japanese symbol for temple: 卍 which is backward from the symbol he thought he was drawing.

I’ll get the apology next week, though.

I also managed to finish an exam, but no one had time to look at it because they were busy finishing their own.

Hopefully next week will be easier.


Lost in the Gathering Detritus

At the end of the school year, both my desks typically look like something even a hardcore hoarder would consider excessive and in need of an intervention.

On my desk at school I’ve got student assignments I plan to keep as future examples for future students; student assignments I need to give back to current students; and student assignments that need to be shredded and burned.

I’ve also got stacks of leftover worksheets and folders full of final exam rough drafts.

On my desk at home, I’ve got stacks of notebooks that are currently in use; stacks of notebooks that have been used but need to be photographed and reviewed; and stacks of notebooks, some of which arrived only today, that need to be used to that they can be added to the stack of used notebooks that need to be photographed and reviewed.

Somewhere in the piles are pens that need to be reviewed, pens that need to be sold and bottles of ink that need a new home. There are also random bits of electronics, old batteries, and a cup full of pens.

Eventually, once the school year is over, all this will be cleaned and organized. Well, most of it anyway.

The last stack is a mobile procrastination stack of various forms of work that, in theory, is intended to shame me into finishing the projects. However, they stack too easily and that makes them too easy to move out of the way.

Short Bursts of Denial and Laziness

I have a test to make, but all the events at the school where I work still have me kind of depressed and have me putting off until next week what could have have been done six days ago.

Mind you, even when I’m not feeling down I’m not always prompt about getting my exams ready for public viewing. The work itself isn’t that hard, especially as the test will be comprehensive (more on the panic and heartbreak that announcement caused in a future post) but I suddenly can’t be bothered to put everything together.

It doesn’t help that Wednesday features two of my worst classes, including one with students who like to draw swastikas and say phrases that sound like “fuck you” and the other with a student who like to lay down on the floor and pretend he’s dead. (More on all that in a future post, too.) Dealing with exceptionally bad classes saps a lot of energy.

That said, some of it is end of year energy. Neither I nor the students can be bothered to care much anymore and we’re already to be done. Until then, though, I have a chance to hand out some extra homework.

The exam will be finished eventually.

Neither There Nor Here

He’s leaving which means he’s not going which means he’s not doing anything.

At the school where I work we have two kinds of third year junior high school students this time of year. Those that are moving on to the high school have already semi-retired and, other than reviewing for an exam, it’s difficult to motivate them to do anything.

Those who are not moving on to the high school pose different problems. Because they are not beholden to the school where I work (they are taking entrance exams and don’t need much of anything from the school) they have zero motivation to do anything.

For example, in today’s third year junior high school class I have a student who was bad last week and was supposed to hand in homework this week. However, his homeroom teacher informed me yesterday that the student is leaving the school and 1) didn’t have time to do the homework because he was off taking entrance exams and 2) that meant that if I wanted his homework I could go to Helen Hunt for it. So to speak.

My only recourse is to sacrifice some of my time by bringing the student in at lunch. He may be someone else’s problem next school year, but for the next week he’s mine.

Winning and Blacking Out

I was watching a game streamer stream this evening and was lucky enough to win a prize in his first giveaway. Then, as I was claiming the prize, and before I had a chance to say thank you, the power in our apartment went out.

It seems that a combination of air conditioner and hair dryer caused the circuit breaker to throw a small fit.

After power was restored, I then had to log back in to everything and confirm that I’d received the prize on my account and then thank the streamer who’d given it to me.

Start up, of course, seemed to take a long time and by the time I got back to the site, the streamer was trying to give the prize away again and they were accusing me of being a giveaway sniper who gets what he wants and then runs away. This meant that, on top of everything else, I had to restore my honor (I’m not a giveaway sniper, I’m a shameless giveaway whore) and then I had to break a fellow viewer’s heart.

Luckily, everything got resolved and I was as gracious and apologetic as Japan has taught me to be.

Soon after that, though, the streamer’s stream died as he experienced technical difficulties. I had nothing to do with that, though. At least I’m pretty sure I didn’t.

Don’t Use It or Lose It

There’s a point you reach with consumable items, especially those that can’t be replaced, when you suddenly realize you’ve used more than half and are approaching the end of the item’s days. At that point you face a dilemma: Do you use it up and then tell “things were so much better in those days” stories or do you hoard the last few bits, essentially rendering them useless but retaining the option to someday use them?

I’ve reached that point with one of my favorite fountain pen inks: Tomiya-Bungu’s Bakke (Fukinotou), which translates to something like “Butterbur Sprout”. Bakke (pronunced Bah-Kay) is a Sailor-made custom ink that was sold in the older-style “curvy” bottle, rather than the current “who sat on my bottle?” squat version.

The box, the bottle and a writing sample.

It’s a brown ink with some green mixed in. It’s more green as it goes on the paper, but dries to a nice brown. It was the first brown ink I tried and still one of the best looking.

Unfortunately, although Tomiya-Bungu still lists it on its site, it hasn’t been available for a couple years. Since the store no longer carries Sailor products, it’s unlikely it will ever be released again. This also makes me wish I’d purchased a bottle of each of the four flavors when they were available.

Today, as I inked up a pen with Bakke, I realized it was approaching the halfway point and thought about this dilemma. I was always the kid who thought stretching Halloween candy past more than a few days constituted a form of waste. (Quick Side Note: It’s best to eat the candy fast because if you spread it out over a few days you’ll develop a candy-eating habit rather than a quick upset stomach that makes you not want to eat candy again for year. Therefore eating the candy all at once counts as a weight loss program.)

This is starting to look dangerously low…

I have enough ink flavors on hand to stretch my last bit of Bakke out for quite a long time. I’ve also found a suitable replacement (more on that in a future post) so there isn’t as much need to use it.

If I don’t use it, though, I run the risk of watching it go bad. I also realize that not using it and using it up both end with the ink not being used. In the end I think I’d rather waste it by using it up than waste it by letting it sit.


The Best Laid Plans Are Sent Awry

As it is my signature Japanese dish, sort of, I had planned to make gumbo today. There were, however, some complications.

Recently, I discovered that an online store had a version of andouille sausage and that got me thinking about gumbo. I ordered the sausage and mentioned to She Who Must Be Obeyed that I was not only in the mood for gumbo but in the mood to cook it. Then, today, when I planned to cook it, She Who Must Be Obeyed sat down at her computer and started looking up recipes. I kept assuring her that I already had a recipe but she kept researching researching and telling me things I already knew.

Because of this, the gumbo never got made.

As I pondered and pouted, it occurred to me that I didn’t actually know SWMBO when I first made gumbo with my adult class. She didn’t join until after that and I don’t remember her being at the festival where I made it for the town. As a result, she may have never actually had gumbo.

Now it’s a moral imperative that I make it If she likes it, she’ll start making it herself. If the doesn’t like, well, at least I’ll get to eat it.

Happy ‘Cause Skies Are Gray

I woke up early, as if I had to go to work early, but then got to relax when it was clear the marathon hadn’t been cancelled. Granted, this is kind of complicated.

Despite Thursday being the only snowy day since last November, nothing stuck and nothing froze so my students got to enjoy a nice run in sunshine, whilst I got to enjoy hunting in Tokyo.

Unfortunately, on the school website, this is indicated by an announcement that nothing has changed. It doesn’t announce the marathon is a go, it just says that whatever the schedule is, nothing has changed. As a result, we, the foreign staff, exchange a lot of direct messages to confirm what is and is not going on.

I went down to Kingdom Note to pick up a bottle of ink for a customer and, oddly, not buy anything for myself. I did, however, look around a bit before running away as swiftly as possible.

That short adventure was followed by shoe hunting. (Note: I could have ordered the ink, and paid shipping, but since I needed shoes, I decided to make it Daddy’s Day (few hours) Out.

Because shoes my size are both rare and expensive here in Japan–my weight loss allows me to buy clothes, not shoes—there are only a few ways to for me to buy shoes: import, at a price, or trek down to Tokyo and hunt at a shoe store in Gotanda that specializes in non-Japanese sized shoes. At a price.

Of course, they didn’t have exactly what I was looking for, but I did find something and it cost less than a small car.


Which Weather Would be Nice?

A couple weeks ago I was kind of hoping for snow. Now I’m hoping for a beautiful, sunlit day.

Every year around this time the school where I work conducts the annual marathon event. This involves high school students running a 10K course and junior high school students running a 5K course.

For the event, regular classes are cancelled, but if the weather turns bad, the marathon is cancelled and we have regular classes. This leads to an odd situation where students desperately want to have regular classes and teachers (specifically ME) are hoping for good weather.

This year, though, because two of my third year junior high school classes meet only three times this term whilst the other meets six times, I was kind of hoping that we’d have regular classes.

However, recent events have led to two teachers being absent for a short time. This means that if we have class tomorrow, I’ll have a five hour schedule and lose most of my planning time as I help substitute for the absent teachers.

I don’t mind this, even though the teachers work for a different company, but taking over another teacher’s classes creates complications that I don’t need when I’m supposed to be finalizing a final exam.

Therefore, I’ve changed my position on the weather. Here’s hoping for sunshine, or at least a marked lack of precipitation.

That Bad Disco With All That Noise

My first two classes today reminded me a lot of being stuck in a night club that plays crappy music at a volume capable of drowning out jet engines. You can’t leave because your drunk friend thinks he has a chance with the cute blonde and all you can do is watch and go deaf whilst he gyrates in spasms that he thinks counts as dancing.

At the end of the evening you’re speaking loudly and can barely hear him as he complains about how much the cute blonde is missing out on.

My first class was especially loud as I hadn’t seen them, because of entrance exams, since the middle of last month. They’d forgotten a lot of rules. Three students hadn’t even bothered to bring their textbooks.

This means they had to be reminded of how petty and mean I can be, especially as we approach the end of the school year.

One of my worst students was trying to get me angry by parroting anything I said. He spoke in  a mumbly voice that got laughs from the class. I countered him by always asking him to repeat what he’d just said. He likes the attention and laughter of the class but doesn’t like my attention because it often comes with homework.

Tomorrow, if the same three don’t have their textbooks, I’ll put them at the back in what I call the playroom. They get zeros for the day, as does anyone who talks to them. Talk to them twice and you get homework.