Monthly Archives: January 2018

Once More With Caution

The guy I wanted was there, but he’d just finished another guy so I ended up with a woman.

This actually ended okay.

A couple weeks ago I got a haircut at my usual place and a woman who’d cut my hair before was in a mood to ignore almost every instruction I gave. The result was a decent hair cut that was much longer than I wanted. This wouldn’t have bothered me that much except they guy who’d cut my hair before had done a great job and she hadn’t.

Today, just over two weeks later, my hair was already starting to look shaggy and since I was in the area I decided to stop by and see if the guy was there. If he wasn’t, I was going to walk past and try again another day.

Luckily he was there and appeared to be finishing with a client. I walked in and was immediately redirected to a woman who walked out of the back room.

This woman had cut my hair a while ago and, as is the tendency of the women in the shop, she’d left it kind of long.

However, this time she seemed to understand what I wanted and did a surprisingly good job.

I kind of wish the other woman had been there, though, so I could show her what to do next time.

Jet Blast in the Classroom

Forgive me if I’m shouting but for three hours today I felt as if I were in a crappy night club that confused noise for music.

This means, of course, that I taught first year junior high school students after a long break and right before another one.

Of my three JHS 1 classes the usual proportion of noise to silence is one quiet, one noisy, one LOUD. Today all three were loud.

This is because they’ve just finished an entrance exam break and have another long break coming up this weekend. Long breaks cause them to forget English, class rules, and the vindictiveness of their teacher.

However, because I also benefit from entrance exams, I was in a more laid back mood. They did all their work, they just did it at the level of a jet engine blasting at full force right before it explodes.

Luckily, the classes didn’t get quieter as the day went on. If they had I’d have started fearing I’d gone deaf.


Better Belated than Never

Today I finally decided to do my New Year’s cleaning. That left me with a bit of a mess.

However, a bit of a mess is much less of a mess than was there before.

Today was the purge of the “No, really, some day I will; no really I will” projects and artifacts. I did this to clear things off the floor and get them on to shelves. This is always my goal when cleaning.

This meant I had to throw out a lot random scraps of lumber (long story), some of which had frozen to snow outside (even longer story), and shed the last of the handmade notebooks. This involved actually pulling them apart so that the paper can be recycled. The disassembly process is complicated enough that, for a few minutes, it made me reconsider getting rid of them.

The next step is to purge more things from the shelves, especially the random bits of things that have begun to gather on the top.

The final step will be to convince our oldest and She Who Must Be Obeyed to do the same thing to the other side of the variety room.

I don’t have my hopes up.

Piled Higher and Deeper

Every couple of years we need a snow shovel. This is why we don’t actually own a show shovel. This gives us a lot in common with our town government.

This past Monday the Japanese government finally flipped the winter switch (no, really, they have one, look it up) and we got 10.6 inches (27 cm) of snow.

In order to get work, I was volunteered to warm up and clean snow off the car. This meant I would have to shovel snow for the first time in a millennium. In fact, if I remember correctly, the last time I had to shovel snow was during the George H. W. Bush administration. (That was in the last millennium, which was a thousand years ago. Do the math.)

I had to shovel this time, though, with a folded cardboard box.

The first thing that impressed me was that the snow was terrific. It was a perfect skiing powder. Not too fluffy and not too sticky. It’s the kind of snow that rarely falls on Japanese ski slopes and it made we want to take my bad knees skiing. This also made the snow easy to clear, although my neighbors seemed to struggle.

One kid, who had an actual shovel, was clearing snow as if he didn’t want to do it or didn’t know what to do. He was chipping away and bits of ice, but was avoiding the worst patches of snow. I almost offered to take the shovel away from him as I was faster with the folded cardboard.

I cleared the snow off our car and from in front of our car; then I cleared the spaces in front of a couple neighbors’ cars. After that, I just sort of walked around enjoying the cool air and the snow.

Luckily, whilst I was clearing snow to go to work, I got the notice that work had been cancelled.

Of course, because we only get a snowpocalypse every couple of years, our town government doesn’t have any snow removal equipment. This makes our car clearer than the roads it will be driving on.

Let it Snow and Snow and Snow

Although I’m a teacher, there’s nothing I enjoy more than a good snow day. I blame Colorado for this.

I grew up on the Western slope of Colorado in the town of Hayden (a bit West of Steamboat Springs). Although we got lots of snow and could even cross country ski in the deep snow on the athletics fields, we never got a snow day. In nine years. Not once. In a place that gets snow measured in multiple feet. None. In nine years.

This meant I had to walk to school and home in the snow (up hill, both ways) and actually do homework.

We did, if I remember, get one day cancelled because of the flu, but that doesn’t count.

Because of that, I’ve maintained a certain amount of resentment about snow days. Two years ago, around this time, we got one, and if we get another one then tomorrow (Tuesday) is the best day for me personally as I have four classes in a row.

Also, our youngest’s class has been sent home for a few days to enjoy flu days. (Note: our youngest does not have the flu, just free time.)

Here’s the situation now:

Snowpocalypse Now in Saitama.

A post shared by DL (@d.e.lively) on

Thus far, school has already been pushed back an hour and morning chapel has been cancelled. Now, I’m hoping for a bit more snow by morning. And at least one closed train line…


Phase Two is About to Begin

I showed my young apprentice, er, my colleague, my collection of ink swatches, figured out her preferences, and then realized she’s ready to move to the next phase.

I’ve mentioned before how my frequent display of my abundance of fountain pens has led my colleague to experiment with fountain pens. She started with cheap Chinese pens, including a LAMY knock off endorsed by the Well-Appointed Desk. Today I tried to figure out what kind of ink she likes. This led to an hour or so long discussion about the properties of the various inks. I’m especially pleased that she’s not distracted by pretty swatches full of sheen but instead focuses on how the ink actually looks when it’s put on the page by a fountain pen.

At one point, she tried to find one of her cheap pens that seems to have vanished, but she couldn’t find it.

Her main problem, at this phase, is that she doesn’t have a proper pen case which has led to her pens being scattered hither and thither.

This means she’s ready to enter the next phase: penphenalia, which includes pen cases and snot suckers used for cleaning.

First I’ll introduce her to Nock. Co., but I suspect Japan has enough goods on hand to store her pens.

After that, we’ll see how far down the rabbit hole she goes…

Moving Beyond the Filler

My worst class was the Guinea Pig for a lesson. Thanks to them I’m going to have to change a few things.

The first week of class is usually filled with welcome back activities and reviews. This lets us get our teaching legs back under us and gets the students back in learning mode, in so far as that exists at the school where I work.

However, because of a quirk of the schedule (six days of entrance exams) my worst class only meets four times–possibly five; long story–and I won’t see them again until February. This means I had to teach an actual lesson.

This also meant that they’d be getting the first taste of the lesson, well before I’d worked out the bugs. Normally, in a regular week, they get the lesson last, after I’d had two other classes to fix mistakes and timing. Also, because they are a bad class, they are often a bad test case.

Today they got through the material so quickly that I had to fall back on a back up plan and actually get them to work in the textbook. This means that once I get to the better classes, especially the higher level one, I’ll have to have lots of extra material.

I doubt they’ll be that good again, especially after not having my class for three weeks, but it was a pleasant surprise.

Reconsidering the Play Room Again

Note: Another one that’s out of order because LAZY

Last week I gave the chance to be responsible for their own actions and seating. This week I’m rethinking that decision.

Because this is the final term of the school year, I give first year junior high school classes a chance to choose their own seats in the hope that they will be better classes. (Normally they have to sit in alphabetical order.) Two of my classes, including my worst JHS 1 class, chose to change seats.

The theory is that the class will be more manageable because the birds of bad feathers will sit together and this will calm the class. (Something like that.) If it doesn’t, I will sit them in a different order.

In my worst class, the worst students did flock together, but not completely. For reasons I don’t understand, the student who has literally not finished a single assignment in class all year, chose to sit near better students. This has resulted in bad students talking across the room to each other.

Next class, if the situation doesn’t improve (and it probably won’t) I’ll have a new seating chart with a “play room” where the worst students congregate and do nothing and a “study room” where students who aren’t quite as bad occasionally do work.

Luckily, there aren’t that many classes left, so to quote Miss Hoover in the Simpsons:  I have nothing left to say to any of you. So if nobody minds let’s just quietly run out the clock.


Not My Problem But My Problem

This week one of my colleagues has the flu and is banned from working for at least five days. As a result, the head of the English department at the school where I work is making demands of the rest of us. At one point she outlined a long list of steps the most senior of us was supposed to follow. I ended the list by adding “And make sure you send a bill to Random Other Dispatch Company.” (Note: not the company’s real name.)

This earned me funny looks.

A former colleague of mine used to mock my habit of saying “Not my company” when I was asked to cover for an absent colleague who worked for a company that wasn’t the company for which I work. (Long story.) He did this until a person who worked for the company for which I work started being absent regularly and he was asked to help. Suddenly his refrain was “Not my company.”

I understood his attitude.

Part of the problem is that although none of us actually work for the school where we work, the school likes to treat us as if we do. The other problem is that being a team player earns no tangible rewards therefore there’s no incentive, other than being seen as helpful, to help out. The next time there’s a problem no one will cut us any slack for having helped out the company for which we don’t work.

That said, I did help out the substitutes, both of whom I’ve met before, and was on my best behavior.

Hopefully, things will settle down next week.

2018 Pen and Stationery Resolutions

They are a little late, but here are my 2018 resolutions. The theme for this year’s resolutions is “Less is used more.” This is even true of the resolutions.

One–End the year with fewer pens than I started with. (Note: I’m counting the pen I ordered last year but haven’t received yet as part of the current total.) (Second Note: Already cancelled a Kickstarter I was considering supporting.)

Two–Continue to stay the hell away from the nightly Kingdom Note pen sales.



One–-End the year with fewer inks.

Two–Change “FOMO” (Fear Of Missing Out) to NOMO (No fear Of Missing Out).



One–No new notebooks this year. (Unless five get used up.)

Two–Scan the old stuff before it molds and moulders.

One–Take pictures of stuff.

Two–Review stuff.