Monthly Archives: October 2015

Once More into the Vortex of Suck

I hadn’t intended to write about this topic again, but my students made me do it.

In the same class where students got extra homework earlier this week, two of the same boys decided that sleep was more important than 1) listening to what I was saying and 2) doing the assignment I gave them. It’s as if my giving them homework and them completing it earlier this week somehow gave them a pass for any bad actions they did the rest of the week.

The funny part, and more proof of the Vortex of Suck, is that they put their heads down at the same time. After I woke them up, they had a glazed, zombie look in their eyes until I started to explain the assignment. At that point, they put their heads down and went to sleep. I stopped explaining the assignment, woke them up and gave them a choice: do the work or leave the room and go off and sleep together. (Something like that.) I also told them they should save their textbooks because they would most likely need them again next year.

They opted to “not sleep” which is different than “be awake”. They didn’t work and I had to warn their partners in Suck that they shouldn’t talk to them lest they face consequences again.

What surprised me was the attitude the pair expressed. They acted as if they were somehow smarter than I was and that somehow I wouldn’t chase them down and make them do work as I had just done earlier in the week. Perhaps because there is a short break coming up they were thinking that I might forget about them over the break. (Actual answer: teenagers.)

Next Friday I’ll see them again and we’ll find out if the attitude is still there. I’m pretty sure it will be which means my attitude will go to 9 or 10 (for the record: it goes to 11) and they’ll get extra work. They’ll also get new seats up by me.

Déjà Vu in the Same Spot on a Different Floor

It’s clear that there is a “vortex of suck” running through the school where I work. Luckily it only seems to exist in two rooms.

My four bad students all turned in their homework this morning, more or less on time, but they were replaced this afternoon by four different students who now have to do the same homework for the same reasons. I blame the place they sit for this. And maybe the time.

I was teaching the same part of the unit at the same time of day (last period) to a different set of students, but once again, four students were talking and not doing the work. What surprised me, and I pointed it out to them, was they were sitting in the same place as the other four students–the back four chairs of rows 3 and 4–one floor down.

I checked their books and noticed they hadn’t done anything. One wasn’t even on the correct pages. I told them they had three minutes to finish everything or they’d get home work. One student went “okay okay okay okay” in a way that meant “fuck that and fuck you” and got him a lot of laughs from other students. I said he should talk to the four boys who’d just turned in homework if he thought there wouldn’t be consequences and then dared him to say “okay” again. He didn’t.

However, although they made a very manly try, none of the four actually finished the work, even after I told everyone to check the answers at the back of the book. (At that point they could have just copied the answers.)

Instead they got the assignment to copy a page in the textbook and then translate it into Japanese. To a young man they played dumb, and I had to explain the difference between “finish everything now” and “I’m finished because that’s everything I feel like doing right now.”

I’m now wary of those seats in that place. I’l probably have to move the students and, since it’s a religious school, call in an exorcist. (For the room not the students.)


I Teach for Money but This I Do For Sport

They thought I’d forget, and I’m sure they’d already forgotten. When they saw their names in big red letters, though, they started to remember.

Last week, as we were gearing up for the school festival, I mentioned how the students tended to be brain dead because school suddenly didn’t seem that important. One week ago, my last class of the day was in an especially brain dead mood and four guys at the back insisted, through constant chattering in Japanese, that they were no longer interested in my class

I called on them a few times and, after managing to finally get their attention, they couldn’t do the activity because they hadn’t actually done the activity.

At the end of class, I pulled them aside and explained their homework (copy every English word on the page into a notebook and then translate it all into Japanese). Two guys left as I spoke, one ignored me, and the one with the best English just smiled and nodded in a way that said “yeah, I get it, fuck that and fuck you.” I warned him that I’d bring them in at lunch and  after school every day until they finished if they didn’t do the homework. That got me another, as Stephen King might say, shit eating grin.

Because I had that class today, I created an announcement that featured their names in bold red letters at the top and described the homework at the bottom. (Note: I stole this “doom note” idea from a colleague). The last line was “If you forget…” and that was all. I posted the “doom note” on the blackboard in their homeroom during lunch and then went and did some other work.

When class time rolled around three of the four had the Japanese translation. Because I’ve been in a disturbingly good mood the last couple days (which still has me worried) I gave them until 8:15 a.m. tomorrow to complete the rest of the homework or I’ll start bringing them in at lunch to work on it. If they ask around, even in their own class, they’ll discover how many times I’ve done something like that.

If they don’t ask around and don’t do the work, well, at least I know what I’ll be doing for lunch.

This Too Shall Pass

Today was actually a pretty good day, which is odd for a Tuesday.

Today was the first full day back after the School Festival and that usually means the students are either brain dead, distracted or both. I therefore was expecting the worst.

Then, my first period class actually did the work I assigned them and did it quietly. Granted, my worst student wasn’t there as he has apparently taken my “You don’t have to be here” speech to heart and has decided not to attend class any more. I hope that’s not the case as I know he can do the work, he just chooses not to.

Surprised by that, I got ready for my worst class. As expected, they were pretty bad and the guy who had to stand up last week did nothing but project attitude and got to stand up again when he decided to sleep. However, in the end, everyone did the assignment. Granted, there was lots of cheating going on but in the end everyone come up front and did a speech. They even memorized their speeches and got bonus points. Mr. Attitude actually came up and did his speech.

At that point I was thoroughly freaked out and convinced that something bad was bound to happen. It had to. If my worst class was good, they had to be offset by someone else being bad. If not, the universe would spin off out of balance.

Luckily I had classes after lunch when the exhaustion and stress of being back would set in along with a rush of after lunch energy followed low blood sugar and that would trigger the bad things and help me be less freaked out.

Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. My fifth period class was noisy but good. Only a couple students tried to annoy me, but they didn’t try very hard.

Sixth period I did have some noisy students, but was able to get them to do work and, all in all, it was a good first day back.

I therefore headed home with a certain amount of dread. If the train didn’t crash it would mean that tomorrow would be terrible especially as I’ll have some bad students to deal with.

The train didn’t crash.

All You Can Eat But Can’t

I’m beginning to suspect that She Who Must Be Obeyed is trying to kill me. Or she’s testing my resolve with this lifestyle change I’ve been attempting.

Our youngest is also trying.

I had part of the day off today, as did our youngest and She Who Must Be Obeyed so we trekked down to LaLaPort Fujimi, a large new mall to do some shopping. It turned out that, thanks to a miscommunication from my part time job I couldn’t shop for much (that’s another post) but we could afford to eat.

Unfortunately She Who Must Be Obeyed had her eyes and stomach set on an organic all-you-can-eat restaurant called SaiNoKuni. This posed a couple problems

1) Our youngest wanted to go to a place called Sweets Paradise which is an all you can eat dessert restaurant. She was not happy when she discovered we were going organic and savory.

2) I’m skeptical of the “organic” label in general and in Japan I’m pretty sure it means either “expensive food” or “grandpa didn’t piss on it” (which is why there’s a local field we’ll never buy carrots from).

3) It’s all you can eat.

Normally a buffet restaurant wouldn’t phase me and the owners would be more afraid of me than I was of them, but this time was different. They tend to be pasta and bread heavy and that meant I needed a better plan than “more more more”.

I skipped all the pasta and all of the bread and tracked down as much meat as I could and then went back for vegetables. Luckily they had an excellent salad bar with three different kinds of spinach and a special on Iberico pork.

I didn’t resist the vanilla ice cream and added a couple slivers of brownie (barely enough to fill two tablespoons) and an equally small sliver of cheesecake.

At the end of the hour, I realized I’d eaten more at one sitting than I’d eaten since we’d been to the in-laws in August. I felt it for a while and then haven’t felt hungry since.


Back to the Past Here in the Future

For the past few weeks, just looking at college football scores and seeing Kansas State blown out by Oklahoma and then losing to Texas, I’m pretty sure I’ve time-slipped back to the 80’s.

During the time I was at Kansas State, both as an undergraduate and a graduate student, Kansas State had (if I did the math correctly) 16 wins, 60 losses, and 1 tie (more on that in a minute). The only winning season was my final year when Bill Snyder finally pulled off a 7-4 record in his third season.

Along the way, during a 2-9 season, there was a “riot” in Aggieville after Kansas State defeated the Hated Kansas University Jayhawks. (The week before the Cats had been blown out by Oklahoma 56-10.)

Somehow, during the 1987 season (the year after the “riot”), my fraternity got the responsibility of providing ushers at the football stadium during games. This meant a great many of us were “volunteered” for service. That’s how I ended up wearing a sun visor around my neck whilst I stood around a cold stadium checking tickets. (Note: I wore the sun visor around my neck because that seemed less stupid than the hat-head I’d get to wear all day if actually wore the sun visor during the game.)

I did get to see the games for free, but that wasn’t that great of a perk that season as Kansas State lost to such powerhouses as Austin Peay State and Army. I ended up in the stadium for the game versus the Hated Kansas University Jayhawks and I remember the anticipation being high. The Cats had defeated them the year before and had just suffered a three week run that included losses to Oklahoma, Nebraska and Oklahoma State for a combined score of 171-20.)

The Hated Kansas University Jayhawks were 1-7 and the Cats were 0-8. Aggieville had been converted into a series of barricades and bunkers and extra police had been called in from around the state. Aggieville became known as, if I remember correctly “Aggietraz”. The game itself had been dubbed “The Toilet Bowl” because both teams were shitty.

The joke, of course, was on us as the game ended in a 17-17 draw after Kansas State blocked a field goal in the closing seconds. There was no riot after the match. In fact, I don’t think anyone went to Aggietraz at all.

The only people who ended up being happy were the police because they got lots of overtime and no riot.


Music With Lots of Gratuitous Wrestling

It’s been a musical weekend thus far. Our oldest performed yesterday, our youngest performed today. I had four jobs, 1) stay out of fights; 2) take video of the proceedings, 3) escape as soon as I could, 4) avoid crushing children even if they deserved it.

The event is the annual music festival and open house at our youngest’s elementary school. Parents arrive in the morning, many of them apparently jumping the fence to get the best seats. They then compete for the best video angles. The most dangerous are the parents and grandparents of the first year students. This is their first event and it’s still exciting to them and they have a level of ruthlessness that is truly astonishing. If you get a good camera angle, you will be jostled, deliberately bumped and someone will set up in front of you.

Luckily, I’m tall, so I can usually get a good camera angle despite the best efforts of the others. Because of that, I tend to find a chair until it’s time to go to work.

Complicating matters, is that, because it’s new to the first years, they bring more people than necessary: grandparents, aunts and uncles, random small children off the street. They also feel the need to stay for the entire proceeding. They also chatter a lot and school staff members wave giant placards that say “Shut up, please.” during the inevitable speeches. (Unfortunately they point them at the crowd not the speech makers.)

In my case, the novelty of all this wore off a long time ago. “That’s my daughter up there! That one right there!” becomes, over the years, “Do we really have to do this shit again?” I’m not saying this is a good thing, but it happens. I do enjoy seeing our daughters play, especially when they rock the piano as our youngest did today, but I also beat a quick exit whilst She Who Must Be Obeyed attends the open class. (Note, she was on the PTA so it’s more of an obligation for her than it is for me. Also, the school encourages only one parent to attend the class.)

The other complication today was other people’s children. They were standing on chairs, staring at me and saying “LOOK FOREIGN GUY!” I usually respond to this by looking around and going “Where? Where is the foreign guy?” This I can forgive, but the two kids wrestling in the middle of the floor during our youngest’s performance had me trying to figure out maximum sentences for zapping children with a stun gun. Luckily for them, I was working. However, I learned later that She Who Must Be Obeyed was looking for a stun gun.

Next year, we’ll do this again. I’ll have the same jobs and part of me will be proud of our girls. The other part will get out as soon as it can.

Cheeseburger Hold the Temptation

Since I’ve been doing the diet/lifestyle change, I’ve managed to avoid most major temptations. Well, there was that pizza that time, and there was that time at the in-laws where beer became as much a staple as rice, but other than that I’ve been a good boy.

Then, today, She Who Must Be Obeyed wanted to go to a burger place for lunch.

We were in Kawagoe because our oldest had a chorus concert that featured only her school. They had it at a new Kawagoe city office branch that also features a large concert hall because “other people’s money” and “we have the firearms and you don’t”. Having built it, though, the city is encouraging local schools to find excuses to use it rather than hold the concert down the street at the school.

I skipped the morning show (long story) and met She Who Must Be Obeyed, who had gone early, for lunch. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much to eat around the concert hall except Baskin-Robbins and burgers. (In my past life, that was pretty much a between meal snack.) We opted to eat at MOS Burger, the second largest “fast” food chain in Japan (after McDonalds).

This led to a number of dilemmas: 1) MOS Burger has good fries and always includes a couple onion rings with their fries. 2) apparently, according to the menu, large numbers of their burgers are actually made from soy beans. 3) They have good fries and onion rings. 4) the burgers come with carbs attached.

I ordered a burger with real beef and a chili dog with real, well it was a chili dog so who cares what was real. She Who Must Be Obeyed was so surprised I didn’t order fries that she kept asking me if I wanted them.

I enjoyed the burgers (haven’t had them for 75 days) but felt the craving for the fries. This lifestyle change stuff can be hard.

Note: Our oldest’s class finished second in the contest. (They were robbed. oya baka.)

Eighty Pages Volume 7 Long Term Review: Awesomely Improved

When I first got my hands on the Eighty Pages Volume 7 notebook the first thing I did was rub my hands across the paper. I was immediately impressed.

The manufacturer had responded to requests by fountain pen users by switching to a smoother paper called, according to their website, “Plain Medium Super Smooth” paper. The deep blue cover and red binding stitching looked great. I also noticed, as I compared it to other notebooks, that it had shrunk a bit. Volume 2 had been about the size of a Field Notes notebook, but Volume 7 was passport sized. This meant it fit perfectly in my passport sized Midori Traveler’s Notebook.

The Eighty Pages notebook next to a Midori notebook in my Traveler's cover.

The Eighty Pages notebook next to an MD paper insert in my Traveler’s passport sized cover.

The passport sized Traveler's cover from the top with the Eighty Pages Volume three.

The passport sized Traveler’s cover from the top with the Eighty Pages Volume 7 fitting quite well.

Volume 7 on top of volume 2.

V7 on top of V2. The cover on V2 has cracked despite only being on my desk. V7 has been in my pocket for two months.

My biggest concern, of course, was how the “Plain Medium Super Smooth” paper would handle fountain pens. I broke out my pens with the wettest nibs and runniest inks and put it to the test.

Once again, I was impressed. I started using it as my food diary, which let me test it with every pen I own.

In general, it handled all the inks extremely well. There was a mild bit of feathering, especially with the wettest inks, but there was almost no bleed through or ghosting. The only bleed through came when I had to cross something out or when I tried to make it bleed. For example, Noodler’s Apache Sunset when put down by a flex nib in full flex both feathered and soaked through.

The front side showing the feathering when I applied a lot of flex.

The front side showing the feathering when I applied a lot of flex.

The back side of the same page showing bleed through only where I tried to make it bleed.

The back side of the same page showing bleed through only where I tried to make it bleed.

The Eighty Pages Volume 7 is now one of my favorite notebooks.  The size is perfect as is the number of pages. I hope they put out more notebooks with the same kind of paper.

If they don’t, I face the dilemma of how to properly use the two I have left. (And yes, I really do worry about such things.)

The Festival Approacheth With Big Hot Dogs

Last year, around this time, a student tried to entice me into his room by telling me about his hot dog.

This weekend is the annual school festival at the school where I work. The students gussy up the school, tune their musical instruments, practice their performance skills and warm up their singing voices and then invite hordes of people to visit the school. This is also the only time of year when the mostly non-religious religious school finds religion as all the boys start praying for sunny weather and that the hordes of people be mostly high school girls.

Oh Lord above, wise and fair and mighty, we beseech thee in thy mercy to send thy great and holy light that is the sun and the teeming masses of girls in mini-skirts that we may beseech of them their Line IDs and phone numbers and that we may know them but, of course, not in that way. Totally not. No really, not in that way. Really. Amen.

Something like that.

Rainy days bring small crowds and great depression and great expense. Sunny days are much more interesting, especially because the various clubs can show off their sporting and musical skills outside.

The great expense comes because each classroom prepares and sells some kind of snack and drink. If they don’t sell what they prepared, they lose money. The most outgoing guys from each class go out in the hall and act as barkers to draw crowds to their rooms. They even, for a few minutes, pretend to like the teachers.

Last year one former student saw me and said “Mr. Library, (sic) I have hot dog.” and I was like well, I hope so since it is a boys’ school.

He persisted: “I have big hot dog” and I was like “Don’t tell me, tell the girls in mini-skirts, and, well, no, don’t tell them that.” I tried to run away, but some other teachers were interested in the big hot dog which turned out to be a trap because it was sweet cream cheese in a hot dog bun. (The students are not allowed to serve things like beef or pork that might actually go bad and make visitors sick.)

The teachers were disappointed and I was like “well, that’s what you get for trusting a guy who talks about his big hot dog.” You need to make him show you the merchandise first.  So to speak.