Monthly Archives: June 2017

The Blank Harbingers of Doom

It is final project time at the school where I work, at least among the high school second year students, and several blank papers may spell doom for several of my students.

I’ve talked about the final project before, but what makes it hard for the students is they generally aren’t keen on anything involving imagination and they have too much time and too many people working on the project. This creates a lot of down time for all but the most dedicated students and gives them a false sense that there’s plenty of time. I also suspect they think I won’t fail them.

Whatever their logic, this is the third day they’ve worked on the project and they should all have something resembling a script so that they can start the artwork/visual aid part of the project.

However, a third of the groups had nothing written at all and they reacted to my warnings in different ways. One was writing in Japanese whilst one student sketched something and the third pretended to be doing research on his phone. In another group two students stared at pieces of paper whilst the third had a chat with a different group. I surprised them all by saying I was glad to see they were finished and it was time to do the final performance.

Note: my rule is that if you are talking to someone who is not in your group you are announcing you are finished and ready to do the final project. 

They now have one more day of prep and practice before the final filming next Monday. I feel a great many of them are doomed and that a lot of low scores are about to be earned.


Necessary But Not as Planned

Today’s plans were much different than what happened, but what happened was necessary.

The plan was to sort the posts from this bit of blather into something resembling a book and then to work on the final exam for high school second year students.

Instead, because, well, because, I ended up organizing and reorganizing emergency kits and even managed to assemble a get-home bag to take to the school where I work. This started because I’ve been wanting to do this for some time and because I had a bag tucked away in a drawer and I suddenly decided to dig it out of its storage place. That’s when plans changed.

Once the bag was out of the drawer it started a cascade of cleaning and organizing. The bag had stuff in it, but a lot of it was old and needed to be updated. This is the good news, as it means that six years after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami it hasn’t been needed.

Of course, a lot of it was crap, too. A shocking amount of it fell under the “at the time seemed like a good idea” concept. Also, the bag had originally been organized as a “get home from Tokyo during a disaster” bag and that meant it had a lot of fire-making and cooking related items that I most likely won’t need to walk home the seven miles from work.

Instead, I decided to turn it into a large first aid kit with a few emergency items, including flashlights, water, and multi-tools.

This required lots more extra work than I thought it would and led to me reassembling first aid kits for other bags. It also led to a couple trips to the internet to order replacements for things.

Somewhere in there I sharpened a couple knives and figured out in which order I’m going to eat the outdated emergency food.


Mostly Prep for Another Day

This was one of those days where I did parts of several projects but didn’t actually finish anything. This means I have a head start on lots of stuff.

I took pictures of a notebook, then cut up that notebook and passed the remainder to our youngest. However, I couldn’t be bothered to write the review.

I also tossed out brochures from last year’s ISOT. They formed the bottom layer of a pile that got slowly chipped away and eliminated today. I still have the pens and random souvenirs, but the next ISOT is in three weeks and I need room for the next batch of stuff I won’t look at more than once.

Tomorrow’s project is to write a couple reviews and try to organize the 1210+ bits of blather on this site into something resembling a book.

I also have to post ink that’s for sale and decide what to do with an old bag that’s suppose to be a second bug out bag.

In the end I’ll probably just end up playing tanks. Or watching other people play.


Kingdom Note’s Japanese “Biological” Inks–All the Swatches (Plus Two)

Note: My apologies for this unfortunately long post. I’ve attempted to align smaller versions of the pictures side by side but have failed miserably and feel it’s best not to teach my daughters any more bad words than they’ve already learned up to this point. Also, please forgive the few misspellings and the constant bad handwriting.

Note Too: The photos appear as close to the physical swatches as I can get them on my home monitor. Your version of the pictures may vary substantially from the way I see them.


For reasons I’ve mentioned before I consider myself the official international distributor of Kingdom Note‘s Japanese “Biological” series of inks. They feature colors taken from flora and fauna that live in and near Japan.

Although I don’t own all the inks, I did take samples as they passed through the variety room and, based on those, bought several for myself.

In general, I find the KN inks to be less saturated than many other specialty Sailor inks, Bungubox for example, but they are gentle on your pens.


The Birds

In this series my favorite is Kiji (Green Pheasant). It has more shade and sheen than seen in the photo below. It also tends to go down dark but dry with a paler look.

Oshidori (Mandarin Duck) has a nice terracotta look and is almost always in one of my pens.

I also like Rurikakeshi (Lidth’s Jay) but there are other blues I like better. Lidth’s Jay is a bit more pale than as shown in the photo.

Hayabusa (Peregrine Falcon)

Toki (Crested Ibis)

Rurikakeshi (Lidth’s Jay)

Kiji (Green Pheasant)

Oshidori (Mandarin Duck)

The Crustaceans

In this series I’m particularly fond of Yashigani (Coconut Crab). I like the mahogany/chocolate look and like that it works in different nib sizes. I also like Kurumaebi, but mostly in medium and broad nibs.

Shiomaneki (Fiddler Crab) is another favorite, although I understand why people don’t like it. I think it works best in wet medium and broad nibs.

I like Takaashigani (Spider Crab) but only in certain pens.

Kurumaebi (Japanese Tiger Prawn aka Shrimp)

Shiomaneki (Fiddler Crab)

Takaashigani (Spider Crab)

Yashigani (Coconut Crab)

Nihonzarigani (Blue Crayfish)

The Fungi

I’m not as fond of this series as the others. In fact, the only one I own is Kawaratake (aka Blue Fungus). It is one of my favorite blue inks (I can’t decide if it counts as a blue-black or not). I also like the look of Moegitake (aka Green Mushroom) but haven’t used it.

Benitengutake (Fly Agaric) reminds me of Pilot Iroshizuku Fuyu-Gaki. I don’t currently own a bottle, but it’s on the well, yeah, maybe some day list.

Sorairotake (aka Sky Blue Mushroom)

Sakuratake (aka Pink Mushroom)

Moegitake (aka Green Mushroom)

Kawaratake (aka Blue Fungus)

Benitengutake (Fly Agaric)

The Bugs

My mother always says the only good bug is a dead bug, which means she would probably smash these bottles once she saw the pictures of bugs on them, but this is probably my favorite series. The only one I don’t own is Okuwagata (Stag Beetle). It has a nice green sheen to it, but there are other black inks I like better.

Omurasaki (Japanese Emperor Butterfly) is usually in at least one of my pens. Note that it may be slightly more lavender than the picture below but I got is as close as possible.

Higurashi (Green Cicada) is a new favorite. Ruriboshikamikiri (Blue Beetle) is a nice blue.

My favorite, though, is Kabutomushi (Rhinoceros beetle) Yes, I know it’s misspelled on the swatch. I especially like it in my LAMY 2000. It seems to match perfectly to that pen’s F nib.

Higurashi (Green Cicada)

Omurasaki (Japanese Emperor Butterfly)

Ruriboshikamikiri (Rosalia Bates, aka Blue Beetle)

Kabutomushi (Rhinoceros Beetle)

Okuwagata (Stag Beetle).

The Jellyfish

I don’t own and have not used this series. I like the Murasakikurage (aka Purple Jellyfish) and may get a bottle in the future. I’m torn on Yanagikurage (Sea Nettle). It reminds me of Noodler’s Apache Sunset, but has the advantage of drying in this lifetime.

Owankurage (aka Mint Jellyfish)

Murasakikurage (aka Purple Jellyfish)

Ginkodurage (aka Blue Jellyfish)

Yanagikurage (Sea Nettle)

Tacokurage (aka Pink Jellyfish)

Bonus Inks: The Tale of Genji Series

This is part of a new series of inks (with accompanying pens) recently released by Kingdom Note. Four inks have been released, but I’ve only been able to get my hands on two.

I like Tachibana but am not a fan of Asahanada’s Fabric (misidentified as Asao’s Fabric on the swatch).

Tale of Genji Series Asahanada’s Fabric

Tale of Genji Series Tachibana


At a Loss for Explanations

I’ve had bad classes but I don’t think I’ve ever had a class that made me go: “What just happened?”

My fifth period class today was a lower level third year junior high school class. I gave them an assignment to 1) fill out a questionnaire about the school trip they took a few weeks ago and 2) copy the answers of that questionnaire into something resembling an essay.

What should have made this assignment easy was that they had done something similar for their regular English class. In fact, students in my other low level third year class had copied parts of their writing assignment with my blessing.

Today, however, they just sort of stopped. At least some of them did. They seemed to have decided that if nobody did the assignment than the assignment wouldn’t count.

Although I kept chasing after them and helping them, many only did the questionnaire but never turned the paper over to work on the essay. Several approached me claiming they were finished, but when I flipped the page they kind of frowned, went back to their desks, and did nothing.

At the end of the class I collected the worksheets, which surprised a lot of the students, even though I’d reminded them several times that I would.

Next week there may or may not be a class and the week after that will be the last class before the exam. This means my dilemma is to give them homework via their homeroom teacher or to drop the issue and score them badly.

I’ll probably do the latter as it’s June.

June is Always June

It’s been unseasonably cool the past couple days in a June that’s been surprisingly merciful thus far. However, despite this taste of mercy, the students at the school where I work are in June mode and that means mercy is not being shown.

Because they are in the sweet spot between midterms and final exams, and because the class I teach didn’t have a midterm, the students have begun causing more trouble. They haven’t had an exam and don’t take our classes that seriously. This creates a period of what might best be described as “rediscovery” where they’ve begun to retest limits and discover what the consequences will be.

With classes that are held in the students’ homeroom, you see the phenomenon where it takes students a couple minutes after the bell to 1) realize I’m in the class even though I’m telling them to hurry; 2) remember why I’m there; and 3) get their books and stuff and get to their assigned seats. It’s no exaggeration to say that students from the same homeroom can get to a class in a different building and get sat down faster than students in the homeroom can get sat down.

Usually at two minutes there are consequences. Today, though, a student took four minutes to get sat down whilst maintaining a “Whadda ya gonna doaboudit?” look on his face as other students enjoyed the show.

What I did about it was extend class five minutes and give everyone homework as a present from him. (Note: I realize that collective punishment is technically a violation of the Geneva Conventions; however, in my defense, those rules were written by people who’ve never taught eighth grade boys.)

Because the class was sixth period I had a lot of time. As promised, class ran long and then I tried to get them stood up and quiet for the official goodbye. I had to chase students from another group out and the student who’d caused all the trouble escaped.

Doubling down on my Geneva Conventions violations, I told the rest of the class they’d stay until he came back and then we’d start the extra time. Luckily, their homeroom teacher is an English teacher and he was very patient. He also got a good look at them cutting up and trying to make a joke out of it. Also, once they saw he wasn’t coming in the room, they realized the joke was on them and got quiet.

Eventually the prodigal student returned and class was finally able to end. About ten minutes after the bell.

Failure to Connect

They don’t get it.

For the past half decade or so, at the school where I work, I’ve more or less been in charge of the curriculum for second grade high school. I make the lessons and write the final exam, with input from my colleagues. Although the curriculum has the same basic outline, I’ve tried to tweak it to make things easier for both the students and my colleagues.

This doesn’t always work out.

The course is called English Expression and the emphasis is supposed to be on getting the students speaking by any means necessary. Since I’ve been in charge I’ve tried to emphasize creative learning by having the students invent both new products and new superheroes. The entire curriculum of this term culminates in the students making a TV commercial for a product they’ve invented.

To make this easier, I modified the curriculum to give them a chance to write the bulk of their final project during the next to last project. If they “invented” an original product for their Inventions presentation all they have to do is use the same product and make the script a little longer.

However, most of them have not connected the last project with this one. As a result, I spent today watching groups of students stare blankly at pieces of paper as they tried to come up with ideas.

Eventually, I forced them to find their Inventions print and convinced them that they could and should use the same invention. All they had to do was make a visual aid or two, a slogan and a logo and then add a few more lines and some acting.

I think some of them got it. But others, even the group that had the best invention, insist on creating new items.

They could be in for a long couple weeks.

Finally Seeing the Light

Rumor has it that even the Japanese teachers are having issues with this year’s first year junior high school students.

With a few exceptions, I’ve not found them particularly bad, although they seem to already have an attitude that isn’t usually developed until they are second graders. The attitude manifests as 1) not getting seated quickly after the bell rings; 2) talking when I’m talking, getting quiet, and then talking about how they don’t understand me as soon as I start talking again; 3) listening quietly and nodding and smiling as I speak in a way that’s supposed to mock me because they don’t understand and that makes me stupid (remember, they are almost teenagers); and 4) quickly turning every class into play time.

Today all four things happened in one class, the latter three as I tried to explain an assignment that would take a couple days to do. The result was that the option to memorize became mandatory and several students have already failed because they were playing and not working.

Every time students are talking or playing with people who are not in their group, I assume they are finished and bring them up to the front to their final performance. Because they are not ready, and it is not memorized, they have already failed but have to go again.

One student would start a wrestling match every time my back was turned and one time I caught him kicking his favorite target. I explained to his partner that both of them had just earned zeroes for the day. This led to a discussion where I explained that both partners get the same score and that the better student either needs to choose a better partner or get control of the partner he has. Eventually I saw it click in his eyes and they worked more quietly after that.

Next class will be the final performance day. My rule is that “if you are noisy, you are next”, even if you’ve already finished your performance.

The record is one performance plus three do-overs. I suspect we’ll break that next time.

The Law of Diminishing Electronic Returns

No matter how you look at it, despite a lot of energy spent on my part, today was a wasted day.

I set about trying to figure out how to upgrade an old Android tablet and get a writing program working on Linux. The results were mixed.

The Linux project actually went well, eventually, and then it didn’t. I finally figure out how to install WINE, which in classic Linux tradition stands for the tautological “WINE Is Not an Emulator” (This makes more sense when you realize that Linux is actually GNU/Linux and that GNU stands for “GNU is not Unix.)

WINE lets me run Windows programs on Linux. After some tinkering I got the writing program running. The problem is that although I could open a new project, I couldn’t open the old one. After much fiddling and restarting, I finally gave up and checked to see if things were working as they should on Windows.

They were, with no trouble at all, and that means I have to decide if I want to spend more energy on making things work or if I should just give up and try a different program.

This is representative of my only problem with Linux: although it’s free, it represents a new hobby. You have to decide you want to understand it and have to want to work with it. Even the easy to use distributions such as Ubuntu and Linux Mint are great right up until something goes wrong and you have to learn how to learn how to fix it. For example, I started using it at work back in 2006 and liked it a lot. Then the school where I work got a new printer that wasn’t compatible with Linux. I never did manage to make things work and gave up on Linux for a while.

As for the tablet, once She Who Must Be Obeyed and I remembered the PIN (long story almost resulting in divorce, sort of) I was able to get things working. The trouble is, the plan to root it and install new software hit the snag that 1) the tablet is made by an obscure Indonesian manufacturer which means 2) most information about it is in Indonesian which means 3) I’m not sure what’s compatible with it.

At this point, I’m trying to decide if trashing it might not be more worthwhile than playing with it. I already have enough hobbies, Linux, for example.

On the other hand, if I’m just going to throw it out, I might as well see how badly I can ruin it before I do. That might be kind of fun.

Playing with Old Stuff

After last week’s adventure with an old computer, I thought that today I’d play with more old stuff.

Electronics tend to gather the way old, unread books do. They represent the triumph of hope over schedule. I intend to read the books, someday, and I tend to use/modify the old electronics but there are other things in the way, usually other books and other electronics. And other hobbies.

First I messed with the old computer for a while, and managed to avoid swearing at anything. Tomorrow, though, I’ll try to make some software work on it and I suspect our girls will learn some new words.

I also decided to play with an old tablet computer that I bought for She Who Must Be Obeyed a few years ago. My plan was to win her over the same way I won her over to digital cameras: introduce a cheap but useful one into her life and let her see the benefits. It turned out, though, to be a bad choice. The tablet was cheap and proved to be hard to use and she didn’t use it more than a couple days before abandoning it.

I kept it with plans to jailbreak it as a way to practice jailbreaking such things. Instead, it’s waited in a drawer for a long time. I’ll play with it tomorrow and see if it’s worth playing with more. If I can remember the pass code.

There’s also another tablet that I might get to play with, too. After the initial failure I bought a better one but it was barely taken out of the box. In fact, I think our oldest used it the most after we took her tablet away.

I’ll need to learn the pass code to that one, too.  I’ll have to ask our oldest about that.