Monthly Archives: May 2017

Late and Out

Can’t be bothered today, even though this is post 1195.

I had noisy students who wanted to study a different class and even when I offered them a choice “finish this then you can study anything” they chose to play and talk. Some of them didn’t even study the other class

Some of them finished the work and then to study. Some didn’t work at all. . Others ran out of time whilst they waited for their friends to finish.

Eventually I finished and came home.



Once More, With Drift and Noise

This week at the school where I work we find ourselves in another one of those drifty, gray areas between a weekend and a major event.

The major event is mid-term exams and because our particular classes don’t have mid-terms (we test at the end of the term and via frequent in-class projects) the students will not take our classes seriously this week.

This is especially true of my junior high first year students. They are approaching their first exam and that has them excited and nervous. As such, they are making a lot more noise than usual and spending a great deal of time merely chatting rather than working.

In one class, which got homework last week for being noisy and noisier, many students spent the day doing the homework they were supposed to have done. Others, who felt that forgetting their notebook somehow granted them free time, talked or worked on a worksheet, but will get a chance to finish next Monday at lunch time.

It’s funny how many of them thought this was a joke.

Working on Days Off

I ended up doing some work today in order to get ready for work tomorrow.

This is not something I normally do as I have lots of free time on Fridays and try to do most of my planning then, but there was an odd confluence of events on Friday. First there was the encounter with the bad student and all the subsequent meetings. Then we recorded a listening, but didn’t have time to edit it.

This wouldn’t be a problem, except that I have three classes in a row starting first period tomorrow. This means I have to either be ready or be willing to throw any crap together and call it a lesson.

Normally, the latter would be enough, but as the co-person in charge of high school second year, it’s my responsibility to make sure everyone has the materials they need to do their jobs.

Therefore, instead of bailing out and playing tanks or something, I edited the listening and then did a worksheet to accompany it.

I then felt justified in being lazy, which isn’t the best way to do things, I suppose, but it was a Sunday.

Girls at the Bar

We met our oldest at a bar. Our youngest was already with us. There were a lot of children around us already.

We celebrated our 17th wedding anniversary tonight (even though it was actually yesterday) by taking our girls to yakitori (chicken kebab) restaurant that is actually a bar, but is popular enough that families like to go.

The tell that it’s supposed to be a bar is that it has short stools rather than comfortable chairs (or even uncomfortable chairs with backs). In fact, as a bar it’s pretty bad too, as you can’t get comfortable with a few beers. It seems like a place you’re supposed to grab a snack and a drink on your way home from a different bar.

We went early, with our youngest, but our oldest was at club practice and she joined us after we’d already stuffed our faces full of chicken, pork, and fried potatoes.

This did not stop us from eating more when our oldest arrived.

It also did not stop us from eating cheese and drinking wine after we got home.

The restaurant/bar was pretty good, but it’s pricier than the alternatives. This means that next year we’ll take the girls to a different bar.

The Worst of the Best

Today was one of those days where I was right about being wrong.

As the week drew to a close I had problems in all my first year junior high school classes. Yesterday’s was bad enough that they got homework. One student, who took one minute to move 15 feet to his desk, got double homework as a “delay of class” penalty.

This morning, though, was special.

My worst student, who was actually fairly good last class, has a bad case of wakarimasen dekimasen. If he doesn’t understand something, he feels he is entitled to free time. He didn’t understand the listening activity and put his head down on his desk, which I don’t allow. He even used his textbook as a pillow. When I tried to get him to sit up, he went full stubborn and kept his head down, which resulted in me puling his chair out from under him as I’d done in class before. He wrestled back spilling his desk.

He then stood up and gave me the finger. I laughed and he sat back down.

Eventually, his head went back down and I started bumping his desk to get him to sit up. He jumped up, picked up his desk and shoved it at me. At that point I threw him out of class.

Keep in mind, this is not technically legal, so I merely escorted him right outside the door and showed him where to stand, which was a place where he could still hear the lesson. He raged a bit, kicked the door a few times, sat down out of sight, and then stormed away (to the restroom it turned out).

At the end of class I went to see if he’d left anything behind and found his textbook torn up and scattered across the hallway.

A meeting with the homeroom teacher, the student, and a translator ensued. He’d mentioned the first part of the story, but left out 1) flipping the bird, 2) hitting me with a desk, and 3) me telling him where to stand when I put him in the hall.

(Note: the translator was there to protect me by 1) guaranteeing my point got across and 2) keeping secret how much Japanese I can actually understand. Long story.)

The meeting was interesting as he made a statement which the homeroom teacher wrote down. I made my statement via the translator (a fellow English teacher) and that was read to the student, who suddenly remembered parts of the story he’d forgot to mention.

By the end he’d claimed he didn’t understand what “flipping the bird” meant, although he couldn’t explain whey he’d done it. He claimed that even though his head was down he wasn’t sleeping so that made it okay. (I said it didn’t.) He also complained about my English Immersion style. I praised the times he was good and pointed out that he always rejected help, in Japanese no less, from fellow students. I also said that I wouldn’t punish him for today if he came back to class and started working.

Also by the end of the meeting, when he started getting good advice from the homeroom teacher, he went into pouty dramatic mode. He put his face in hands and leaned forward and whined. I pointed out to the translator that the student behaved exactly the same way in class when I tried to help him.

Eventually, I suspect, he’ll be moved down to the lower level class and become someone else’s problem.

Until then, I also need to take some positive news to the homeroom teacher. I may also have to take some sweets. And buy the translator a beer.

ensso Piuma Super Minimal Aluminum Fountain Pen–Initial Impressions

The ensso Piuma is a great pen for three years ago. In 2017, though, I’m not sure how it fits into the market.

The Piuma came in padded black cardboard box with the ensso name stamped on the top. The pen was packed tight enough that I had a hard time getting it out of the foam. (Not a good initial impression, but the pen was definitely secure in the box.)

The ensso logo a decent look at the pan’s finish.

The Piuma is a good looking pen. I chose the black aluminum version with a black steel nib and every one who’s seen it likes the black on black look. In keeping with the “Super Minimal” concept It is a basic cigar shape with no clip. It is 140 mm (5.51 inches) long when capped and 128 mm (5.03 inches) long when uncapped. Because the pen is designed not to post, it is right at the edge of too small to be comfortable for my taste, but my budding pen addict colleague liked how it felt and wrote.

The ensso Piuma.

The Bock #6 nib is smooth and well tuned and although the pen’s black finish is quite slippery, which my colleague also noted, I like the lip at the end of the section. The shaped section puts it ahead of my Namisu Nova Minimal fountain pen which had a fairly fat and slippery section.

Detail of the Bock nib and the lip at the end of the section. The discoloration is the remains of leaked LAMY Petrol.

It is also a very light pen for its size: 1.12 ounces (32 grams) capped and .83 ounces (23 grams) uncapped. I imagine that once the slippery finish breaks in a bit it will be a good pen for longer writing sessions.

The only issue I’ve had, besides getting it out of the packaging, is that in the jostling of my morning commute it leaked ink all over section giving me LAMY Petrol fingers when I started to write with it. I checked the tightness of the feed and nib unit and the problem wasn’t repeated on the commute home.

My other problem at this point is where to put this pen in the market. It is of a style of machined pen that was a big deal a few years ago, but now seems almost retro. Even dubbing it as “minimal” reminds me of pens I already own including one that is nearly identical to the Piuma.

A pen configured the same as mine sells for $79 retail on the ensso website. This seems to me to put it in an odd spot in the market. It is too expensive to be a starter fountain pen and there are cheaper options–TWSBI 580s for example–with more ink capacity for people interested in taking the next step down the fountain pen rabbit hole.

I got mine via a Kickstarter campaign for US $45 (not including shipping) and that seems to be a better price point for a pen of this kind. It looks cool and is comfortable to write with and it does turn heads, but it may be out of date.

That said, these are just initial impressions and the Piuma is now part of my pen testing rotation. I’ll give it a proper review in six months or so once we’ve had the time to get to know each other better.



Less Than Expected But Louder

My classes today were worse than my classes the last two days, but it was mostly a matter of noise.

My schedule is fairly light on Wednesdays with only three classes, but two of them are low level and the other contains two obnoxious students.

The low level classes started out noisy and distracted but once I got them herded like cats and chickens into an assignment, they all did the assignment. They were even quiet during the listening exercises. However, as they finished the various assignments at different times, the ones who finished early took the opportunity to make more noise. I then had to herd them again.

I was most worried about my sixth period class. They are low level and second grade (US 8th grade) which means they’ve figured out the scam (Hey! He can’t actually fail us!) and that makes them more difficult than other classes. (Note: they are not my worst, although the class has a few of my worst students from last year.)

Fortunately, the students who had me before know that although I cannot fail them, I can and will make their lives rather unpleasant–this is especially true because their class is last period–and they warn the others to straighten up for at least a little while.

I’d like to think the worst is over, but I’m usually wrong about that.


Oddly Another Good Day

One of the biggest shocks this week is that my classes have been good. This is not the way things are supposed to be.

Because last week was school trips this week should have been full of lethargy and badness (and that’s just from me).

High school second year (11th grade) students have just come back from a week of travel and find such mundane things as “school work” and “listening” to be well beneath their station as world travelers.

Junior high school first year (7th grade) students have just come from some sort of mysterious camp (to this day I don’t know where they go and what happens when they get there) and they have long forgot my name and what is supposed to happen in class.

Junior high school second year (8th grade) students are naturally bad and had a couple days off last week.

Junior high school third year (9th grade) students have also come back from some sort of trip.

All this means that this week is usually bad. However, although my HS 2 students have been quiet, they’ve done their work. The JHS 1s have been noisy, but are also doing work. Even my bad student did something resembling classwork yesterday.

The big shock was that my JHS 2 students not only remembered their role play papers, but actually practiced them rather than wasting time until I called on them. Some even attempted it memorized to get bonus points.

This means with half my classes for this week complete, I’ve actually been having a pretty good week. However, tomorrow I have my first JHS 3 classes, which means there’s still a chance for things to turn back to normal.

Field Notes Utility–End of Book Review

I let my colleague from England handle one of my Field Notes Utility notebooks and he was so impressed by the paper that I gave him one of my copies.

The paper is what I like best about the notebook although there are a few issues with the notebooks themselves.

The Field Notes Utility edition has an attention getting Safety Yellow and black cover that has the interesting touch of showing you what flavor of paper is inside. The Utility comes in two rulings: Ledger and Engineer Grid.

(Note to Field Notes: How about a special set of notebooks served in three bundles of two: Two grid, two lined, and two blank? Or how about just a very special edition with blank pages? You could call it the “Shut-up Lively” Edition.)

The cover of the Field Notes Utility edition with the ledger sample at the bottom.

I started with the ledger version because I figure it’s the version I’ll like the best. It’s the closest to lines and I’m not a huge fan of engineer grid pages. The ledger style also seems like a natural fit for a bullet journal, To-do lists, or 10 Ideas lists.

The paper itself is an impressive 70# “Pure White” Mohawk Via Vellum ruled in something called “Get-It-Done Gray,” (That should be “Git-R-Done” gray as that is what I always call it by accident. I understand that there may be trademark issues involved with that.) The paper makes it one of my favorite Field Notes notebooks as it handles fountain pens and fountain pen inks well. It even handled Wancher Matcha admirably.

It does have a lot of tooth to it, which means the only thing that didn’t feel right, and I found this very odd, were fine tipped gel pens. Also, my Pilot Prera stub nib didn’t work very well, but that may have been because of the Kyo-iro Stone Road of Gion ink which I find to be a rather dry ink, albeit with a terrific color.

Several inks in my horrible handwriting. You also get a good look at the ledger ruling.

The back side of the same page. For Wancher Matcha, that is an excellent result.

Where most people have had problems is with Utility’s covers. First, because the notebook has heavy paper it is thicker than most Field Notes editions. This led to some people opening fresh packs to discover spines split from the first staple to the end. I didn’t have that trouble but it is something to be worried about when buying a pack.

This is the worst damage done to the spine. Note the black staple.

The other issue people have had is the fact the cover comes with a built in fold-out ruler with both inches and centimeters. To accommodate this the back cover doesn’t completely cover the paper as if the cover had been poorly cut during the production process. I haven’t found this to be a problem, although it does feel funny when you flip through pages.

I like having the combined inches/centimeter ruler and plan to cut it off to use a bookmark for future editions.

The underside of the fold-out ruler.

Although the Utility is one of my favorite editions, at least in ledger form, it’s a difficult notebook to recommend for first time Field Notes notebook users. Although the color is great, the cover is odd. I’ve also not tried the engineer grid yet. As I suspect I won’t like it as much, it may be too soon to offer a proper review.

Field Notes Black Ice–End of Book Review

I like everything about the Field Notes Black Ice limited edition except the cover, and even that doesn’t bother me very much.

With the entire cover foil stamped and with orange binding tape on the PUR bound spine, the Black Ice seems designed to attract attention in ways that other Field Notes limited editions aren’t. The America the Beautiful edition is gorgeous and nostalgic, but it won’t flash sunlight in someone’s eyes all the way across the room. You can’t signal a rescue helicopter with it, either.

The foil stamped cover is reflective, but you can’t see your face clearly in it and it doesn’t show finger prints unless you look closely at them.

Finally got Black Ice from @fieldnotesbrand #fieldnotes #selfie #notebooks #penaddict

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The PUR binding is also interesting because it makes the Black Ice the first Field Notes limited edition of this size to be made without staples. (The Byline was a different format.) There isn’t anything particular special about this, except to give the notebook a different look. It does take a little effort to make it open flat though. You have to force the binding flat in a way that would crack the spine of a paperback book but doesn’t damage the Black Ice’s spine. This gets the user an extra bit of space (5 mm)on each page.

What wins my heart, though, is the paper. The 70# “Bright White” Finch Fine Smooth held up well to every ink I used on it. The only exception was Wancher Matcha, of course. It’s a heart breaker. It breaks hearts.

I prefer blank notebooks (are you listening Field Notes people?) but the gray lines are subdued enough they don’t dominate the page. The orange accent lines at the top are nice to look at, but I personally could live without them.

Wancher Matcha breaking hearts. For Matcha, though, this isn’t that bad.

My only complaint about the design is that, over time, the orange inner cover tends to rub color on the first and last pages. Also, because the cover stock is slick, it’s difficult to write on.

I’ve been really pleased with the Black Ice and it’s made its way into my top five Field Notes notebooks–which I will someday post–although this is mostly for the paper and the PUR binding not the foil stamped cover.

The Black Ice is also one of the few special editions that I’ve passed out to colleagues. The one who got Black Ice seems to like it a lot.