Monthly Archives: November 2017

Doing What They Wilt

As we approach the final days of classes for this term at the school where I work, we’ve entered a period that involves passing out review sheets, answering occasional questions, and doing our best to stay awake.

In my case, I become much more tolerant of bad behavior than normal. I don’t tolerate sleeping in class, especially students who can’t seem to wake up when the bell rings; however, once the review sheets are passed out, I stand back and watch what unfolds.

In every junior high school class, regardless of level, one third of students will work, with one or two actually completing the assignment. They, in theory, earn free study time that some of them mishear as “Free time! Let’s PARTY!”

The next third will keep the review sheet out and, perhaps, write one or two things, but for the most part they do very little. Many of them adhere to the “I don’t understand the first question therefore I am exempt from all questions” school of studying.

The final third ignore the review sheet completely in favor of chatting with their friends. Many turn their back on the review sheet and never bother getting their pencil cases from their lockers.

Because review time is their time (and exam time is my time) I do not care if they actually study. The only thing I will do for those who’ve written nothing is encourage them to do the same on the final exam. It’s easier for all of us if they write nothing and I have nothing to mark.

Spreading the Joy/Addiction

I think I’ve got my colleague hooked now, and all it took was some colorful pretty dyes.

As I’ve used my nearly endless supply of fountain pens, my colleague grew intrigued by the also nearly endless supply of different ink flavors I used. She liked the teals and blue-greens and the orange inks. Eventually, she bought a selection of gateway drugs: a Pilot Cocoon in orange;   a Platinum Preppy; and a couple other cheap, small fountain pens.

She started out using cartridges, but would swap ink colors without cleaning the pen. This led to a few interesting colors getting ruined by leftovers.

Recently, and without any direct prodding from me, she’s decided to try bottled inks and converters. She bought a few cheap Chinese pens to play with. (Note: I will eventually give her a converter for her Pilot so that she may fully witness the horror that is Pilot converters.) She also bought an impressive first bottled ink.

I showed her how to fill the first converter full, getting ink on my fingers as is appropriate. I also brought a couple flavors from home for her to try (Kingdom Note Kabutomushi and Bungu Box Hamanako Mandarin) in her other pens.

Since then she’s refilled on her own, getting ink on her fingers as is appropriate, and had discovered which kind of nib she likes. She’s also discovered the joys of nib creep and getting ink on your fingers without even trying.

Next, it will be time for her to realize that spending over $50 dollars on a pen isn’t that crazy. Once that happens, the escalation will begin and she’ll be fully addicted.

Then my work will be done.


One Day in Four

Today was a work day which was kind of annoying as it interrupted a bunch of days off. All of us at the school where I work responded by running out the clock for this week.

Yesterday was Labor Thanksgiving Day in Japan which was a very nice day off. However, because it fell on Thursday this year, we found ourselves back at work today. This wouldn’t be so bad if tomorrow were also a school day. However, although it’s a school day for our students and many of our Japanese colleagues, it is not a school day for us.

This creates the unusual situation where the students are fairly active and we just don’t care. As far as we’re concerned, we’ve just been called in during a four day holiday to fill in for someone.

This means that a lot of what we did today was filler. My students got a dodgy spelling “quiz” that involved more time than they needed to write words under pictures and a “Scout’s Honor” answer check where they were supposed to look up the answers and score their own “quiz”. I made a show of recording their results, but most of what I did was only for show.

Next week is the final week and that means it’s review time. This is pretty easy. We don’t do much. We just pass out assignments and run out the clock.

Not Caring Enough to Care

My plan for my worst class was something along the lines of: assign textbook page and hand out worksheet. As long as no one started a fire or hurt anyone else, I wouldn’t care what anyone was doing.

I was not alone in this attitude.

This is the time of year where we stop caring as much as we used to care. Mind you, we probably didn’t care that much before, but now caring is right out. Worksheets are less fancy and concern for discipline is less of a concern.

This is partly because we’ve just come out of a period of holidays and special events and that has the students in a strange mood. Also, as we approach the last week before a longish holiday, students have either given up or decided they’re already safe.

Also, we are more focused on getting through all the material whilst simultaneously writing final exams. Teachers with third year high school students (12th graders) are also facing exams early to allow for early make up exams. (Third years are essentially done after this term except for some baby-sitting next term.)

We’ve also reached the end of most of the material. Next week will be review and/or final projects, which means the students are doing most of the work.

Next week I’ll talk about the final exams with the students. We’ll see how many of them actually care.


More than Enough is Plenty Enough

As is typical of the way I do things, I’m once again buried in empty notebooks.

I’ve been making good progress getting through them, but they still abound whilst more get delivered to my door. It’s fair to say I’ve reached the state of STABLE (Stash Acquisition Beyond Life Expectancy).

Because of this, I’ve decided not to renew my Field Notes subscription after I receive my last installment. I’ve enjoyed being a subscriber and getting the occasional surprise bonuses that subscribers get, but I’ve reached the point where a subscription is not worth the money and the lack of storage. (I suspect, that now that I’m not renewing my subscription, Field Notes will now produce its greatest editions ever and give the best freebies ever.)

I used to give away the craft versions that accompanied the first installment of every subscription, but lately I’ve been giving away the “Colors” or limited editions because I know I’ll never use them all.

Anything I like I can usually buy here in Japan. (In fact, I’ve got a monopoly on America the Beautiful editions thanks to my favorite source.) Or, if I’m in a hurry, I can order them directly from Field Notes while supplies last.

Letting the subscription die also frees up a bit of cash to try out a copy or two of other brands.

Granted, that defeats the purpose of winnowing the stash, but I find it harder to acquire new notebooks if I have to pay as I go, rather than paying all at once. Also, because I live in Japan, there’s always a cool notebook with better paper that has to be tried.

This time next year I’ll probably still have too many notebooks, but at least I’ll have pretended to try to do something about them.

Another Year Mercifully Gone By

Well, that was another one I’m glad is now days gone by.

I’ve mentioned before, although I can’t find the post to like to it, that the one year of my life I wouldn’t want to repeat was when I was twenty. I was in a bad mood that alternated between cranky and dazed and then all of a sudden one day I was 21 and the spell seemed to break.

Now I have to add age fifty to the years I don’t want to repeat.

Lots of stuff happened this year that caused lots of extra stress. There were deaths and illnesses and lots of extra crap from work.

There were also pressures from extended family, mostly as a result of illness and injury and that has muddled things up on this side of the island as such things stress out She Who Must Be Obeyed.

As for writing, except for this bit of blather, I’ve been in a bad mood that alternates between dazed and lazy. I’ve asked friends to read things, sent them manuscripts, and then gotten no response at all (I’m zero for three now). That has me feeling down and has Kimberly laughing and saying she told me so. Unfinished projects seem to abound and I’m stuck about what to work on first.

There are a lot of decisions that keep getting put off.

That said, I got through October better off than normal. I haven’t been productive, but I’m finally getting ink inventory out of the house which has picked up my mood some.

Now we’ll see what fifty-one is like.


The Advantages of Confusion and Panic

Recently Sailor Ink has been doing some strange things and it’s actually helping me out.

For reasons no one can understand (well, money actually) Sailor has been changing the sizes of its ink bottles. The new bottles are smaller (20 ml), look like little jelly/jam sample jars, and “only” cost 1000 yen (1080 with tax). This means that 50 ml of ink, the old standard size, now cost 2500 yen, or 2700 with tax. The fear is that this means the price of the old new bottles is going up.

Adding to the fear and confusion, Sailor is offering popular ink flavors in the new bottles which makes pen addicts fear these are destined to become the new normal size.

I’ve not tried the new new bottles yet, but given how badly the old new bottles–which look like squat flying saucers–sucked, I’m not expecting the new new bottles will work well with larger pens.

Granted, they may be useful as samples for people not willing to spend 2160 yen on a full bottle, but the pen community panics easily and Sailor has a habit of making odd decisions about bottles and ink flavors.

As a result, I’ve had good luck clearing out a large portion of my over-bought inventory of ink. That makes it hard for me to complain about the new bottles.

My Sinclair Seven (Plus One)–Latest Iteration

The thing that shocks me about this update is how little there is to update, but there have been a few physical changes along with a few changes in attitude since my last update.

The biggest change in this Sinclair Seven (Plus One) is the absence of my Edison Glenmont 2014 LE. As much as I still like this pen, it faced relegation. In fact, at times it’s been relegated beyond the Lookout to other pen cases. However, every time I use it, I remember why I like to keep it around and it’s now back in the Lookout. (Note: I switched back to the M nib.)

As for the rest of the pens:

The most recent Sinclair Seve (Plus One).

Bottom Row, From the Left:

Pilot Custom 823 (Amber Barrel)
Still a workhorse pen, but lately it’s been having some issues. The plunger mechanism has been sticky and not filling as well as I’d like. I suspect it needs a little maintenance, which I’m not qualified/willing to perform, so I’m planning to make an appointment with the Pilot pen guy (a technical job description) at the Mitsukoshi Fountain Pen Festival next March and have it overhauled. It’s currently filled with Maruzen Athena Renga.

Nakaya Cigar Portable Kurotamenuri
Recently fixed and tuned after a small adventure involving mistaken pens, and it’s suddenly pen I expected it to be. I reach for it a lot and it’s quickly replacing the TWSBI as my go-to workhorse pen. It’s still filled with Aurora Black ink which pairs well with it.

Shawn Newton Moody
Still not the workhorse it could be, but I still use it a lot. The ebonite is aging well. It’s currently filled with Kingdom Note Omurasaki (Purple Butterfly) which suits it well.


Second Row, From the Left:

TWSBI Diamond 580 Rose Gold
Still reaching for it less and less but I still like the ink capacity. It’s still filled with Fountain Pen Hospital‘s exclusive Noodler’s Old Manhattan “Bulletproof” Black ink.

Platinum 3776 Chartres Blue (Rhodium Coating)
Can’t quit this pen.  It’s currently filled with Shosaikan Seiran ink.

Pilot Custom Heritage 92
Lately I find myself looking for excuses to use this pen. I like the nib and like the piston filler because Pilot’s converters are especially dreadful even given that all converters suck. It’s currently filled with Robert Oster Bondi Blue.

OMAS Arte Italiana London Smoke Milord
The new comer. It is a large pen, but very light and it is slowly becoming a workhorse pen that I reach for as often as I can. It has a wet M nib in OMAS’ Hi-Tech finish. It is a cartridge/converter pen, which means I have to deal with converters. That said, at least it’s easy to clean and change inks. It’s currently filled with Kingdom Note Tiger Prawn (aka Shrimp). As I bought it used, it probably needs a little nib work and I’m pondering sending it to someone for some tuning.

Top Center–The Plus One:

Lamy 2000
Still filled with Kingdom Note Kabutomushi (Rhinoceros Beetle) ink, and still a pen I enjoy using.

At this point, the TWSBI is at the greatest risk of relegation.although I’m still tempted to make this a Sinclair Seven (Plus Two) even though I realize that defeats the purpose of using the Sinclair.

Never So Uncertain as When Facing Certainty

He seemed confident. Then he didn’t. He probably blames me. I blame my students.

As a follow up to my last post , the assistant home teacher–a fellow English teacher–for my worst JHS 1 class approached me to express student complaints.

I take such complaints seriously as such complaints in the past have resulted in my wearing suits and writing apology letters.

It seems that the students in the worst class were complaining that 1) the didn’t know they had homework; 2) they didn’t understand the homework they didn’t know they had; 3) they didn’t know what the homework was; and 4) didn’t understand why the hell they suddenly had even more homework.

I explained, with my voice slowly getting more and more angry as I spoke, that I’d not only written the homework on the board before the break, I’d also reminded them about it on Monday monring and had gone to their classroom during lunch time to watch them write the homework.

During that time, several of the complaining students had ignored me, gone to play baseball, or tried to play “let’s sneak past Mr. Lively without him seeing us” games. Each day after that, I’d posted “Doom Notes” that announced which students had to meet me at lunch time.

The assistant home room teacher seemed to get more and more glum and uncertain as he realized this was a student issue and not a crazy foreigner issue. (Note: with me, the two things are not necessarily exclusive.) I also pointed out that a handful of students had actually done the work which meant I must have explained it at least once at some point.

On Monday I’ll discover the aftermath of all this when the students either do or don’t pass in their homework. I’m hoping it’s a time to be nice and that we can play a quick warm up game and have a relaxed time.

I’m also prepared to not be nice, though, if necessary.

What Wednesday Wrought

Wednesdays, even the good ones, aren’t very good this year.

Although I have a late start, I open with an average class, then move to a decent class with a few bad students who have perfected the “Who? Me? What? Really? Why?” look in response to any disciplinary actions from me.

I then get to spend the next three hours planning and dreading the arrival of my worst class: a last period JHS 2 class that is made up of a large number of the students from worst JHS 1 class from last year.

Today, though, things got complicated.

First, I have a large number of students from this year’s worst JHS 1 who are supposed to turn in homework assigned over a long series of breaks. Chasing this homework down has required a bit of typing, some stair climbing, and a lot of waiting. The students seem to think that I will eventually give up on this when, in fact, I will merely assign more homework. (Note: All I do is make sure it’s been completed; I don’t actually read it.)

A few students turned in work, but a great many others are about to get a special homework: Spell all the Numbers from 1-100.

Second, I hadn’t seen my worst class for three weeks. This class’s attitude is slowly growing hostile but right now is in the “Not this crap again” phase. When the bell rings I almost literally have to drag some of them to their chairs and others I have to wake up. Eventually, they get into the book work and realize that they didn’t actually bother to get their books from their lockers. Time is wasted as they get their books. (Note: I now count “Damn, teach, I totally forgot my book” time toward the minute they are allowed to get settled before they get extra work and/or extra time after class.)

Today, they had the typical slow start, but more or less did the print I gave them. Then, when it was time to open the books, well, you can guess the rest.

I did surprise them by bringing them up one at a time to answer questions which got many of them to actually work in the book.

Next week they’ll have a long writing assignment. That will probably be funny to watch.