Monthly Archives: January 2017

Field Notes Lunacy–End of Book Review

For some reason, this song seems appropriate:

The Fall 2016 Field Notes Limited Edition looked really cool, then I started using it and things changed slightly. I liked the paper, but the gimmick is annoying, at least on the one I used.

The Lunacy, released about the time of the harvest moon, is a moon themed edition. The unique feature is covers cut in ways to reveal different phases of the moon. The three-packs available to the public contain the full moon, last quarter, and crescent moon. Subscribers received a fourth, uncut version representing the “new moon”.

Bad, so to speak, moons rising? #fieldnotes #notebooks #penaddict @fieldnotesbrand

A photo posted by DL (@d.e.lively) on

The covers look great, and have an interesting texture, but I found that with the full moon, as I flipped through the pages, my finger slipped through where I usually press. Or, it would flip at first but then the cover would bend and it would slap closed. It’s not a big deal, but it disrupts what should be simple process. I also don’t like the glossy end pages, even though they are necessary to pull off the gimmick and provide lots of interesting information. I’d rather have more pages I can use.

Detail of the cover showing the nice texture and the hole for the moon. (Also a Pen Addict Edition Retro 51 Rollerball.)

Some of the information. I would be 14.85 kg (32.73 lbs) on the moon and would rather have extra page.

I  like the embossed dark side of the moon on the back and would rather have seen the full, half and crescent moon done that way on the front.

I used it as my mini-planner for a couple months. The 60# paper was excellent and handled every pen well and almost every ink. (Wancher Matcha is the heart breaker. It breaks hearts.) I liked the gray reticle dot pattern, even though I generally prefer blank pages. The paper has a gray wash to it that I was worried about at first, but it didn’t cause any problems except to my eyes when they tried to adjust to what they were seeing.

I wouldn’t mind getting more copies, but I’d probably give away the full moon version and since my favorite, the new moon, isn’t available, I’m not sure getting only two notebooks for the price would be worth it.

More or Less Formal

About the only form of writing I hate doing is formal letters as they are the written equivalent of trying to do complicated business over the phone (something I also hate). The language is stilted and artificial and I always feel uncomfortable writing it.

This is especially true if the formal letters are recommendation letters for students.

I don’t like that my students’ futures possibly lie somewhere beyond my typo-ridden fingers. For example, I was almost done with the first letter today when I realized I was misspelling the name of the school.

I hate starting letters with “To Whom It May Concern” as this is horribly impersonal and makes me appear to have done no research whatsoever on who to apply to. Granted, I had done no research whatsoever, but it would have been nice if my students had, just to make me look better.

Since certain details are the same for different students, I have to be careful about any material I recycle from one letter to the next. He becomes she becomes her becomes his.

(Random But Slightly Related Aside: since it is trendy to adopt a gender/sex neutral method of being addressed, I will no longer be Mister Lively or Sir. Instead, please refer to me as “You Sexy Thing Lively” or just “You Sexy Thing”.) 

Complicating matters today was that I wrote a letter for a student who didn’t actually deserve a recommendation because he had a habit of plagiarizing on assignments. Instead I wrote a tonally neutral missive describing the course and how he enjoyed doing internet research as part of his writing process.

Now they’ve been sent off to someone who will probably, if it’s even possible, make them better.


Gathering Dust and Growing Cobwebs

We all stayed home today, which was kind of fun, but we were all lazy. Well, technically I worked, but I didn’t move much.

With our oldest down with the flu but every now and then she wakes up to eat a little food and huff a bunch of Relenza from a device that looks like it should be holding mints.

Luckily, this evening I had to tell her three times to go to bed and all of those were met with a grunted “uhyah” which is her way of simultaneously acknowledging and rejecting the instruction and calling the instructor an idiot. That said, she went to bed pretty quickly, which means she’s not 100% yet.

I spent the day finishing final marks and putting off writing recommendations. (I don’t enjoy writing formal letters, especially when other people’s futures rely on it. More on that in a future post.) I was busy, but didn’t have to move very far.

Our youngest didn’t do much. She Who Must Be Obeyed did some running and got mad at our youngest for not doing much.

Tomorrow I have a little work to do (or to put off) and then I’ll be done with my university classes. If we’re all home together again, it could be interesting.

Remember, Remember the 26th to 27th of January(er)

Any careful consideration of the facts will indicate that I am mostly likely cursed in 2017.

Not doomed, mind you. Cursed. Or maybe I’m just getting the cursiness out of my system early.

In the past 24 hours I’ve lost a job along with a couple thousand dollars and our oldest has been diagnosed with the flu.

Then, this morning, my long suffering Epson printer died (it has been promising this death for a few weeks but today it was really REALLY serious about dying). (Note: the printer is older than our youngest.) My computer has been acting up and our car has both been acting up and been recalled. (Well, actually parts of it were recalled a long time ago, but, well, She Who Must Be Obeyed.)

I then had to sit down and finish one last assignment for my fourth job, but discovered that my memory stick had been corrupted and that the only thing that had been corrupted was the folder I needed to work on. Luckily I didn’t need the past grades and was able to download the students’ paragraphs again. (My procrastination actually worked in my favor as I hadn’t actually done any marking yet which meant I didn’t have to mark anything twice.)

Oh, then I got a migraine. Now it’s bedtime. Luckily we sleep on a futon on the tatami floor so I can’t fall out of bed.

Lots of stuff to step on and trip over, though.



The End of All That

The end of a term is bittersweet, especially when you know you won’t be back next term.

Tonight was the last class of the evening class I’ve been teaching. Because I am, for all intents and purposes, a kind of ronin who doesn’t work for the company, I accept what I’m offered but always expect to be unoffered, so to speak, the next term. In fact, teaching two terms in a row is rather unusual so I’m grateful for the extra cash.

That said, my four jobs are about to become one (two are ending and won’t be renewed and one is, well, long story). I’m not sure if I’m relieved or not, but I’m kind of glad as I’ve been feeling the wear and tear of all this lately.

However, this means that the time I waste will be my own.

Filling up time with work is a nice way to avoid doing other things. Not having work means I’ll have to find another way to avoid doing other things. I call this “being creative” and I’m pretty good at it.

Don’t Put Off Until Tomorrow, What was Plagiarized Last Year

Saving them until later was part of the plan, but now it’s caused a problem I didn’t anticipate.

I saved marking some book reviews from my night class until the last minute so that I can get a sense of how my students’ writing has improved over the course.. The results have been mixed. Some students have improved, some have not, and one’s writing is awesome because he just decided to plagiarize.

The student in question, who’s already been caught plagiarizing, decided to copy his book reviews from different websites rather than write them himself. This means he has also copied his way out of a recommendation from me. That said, I’ll chat with my Night Boss before making that decision (I could phrase it as “nice guy but has some problems following instruction”.) (Note: that pretty much explains my life.)

One other student plagiarized a paragraph, but everyone else seems to have gotten better.

Tomorrow, I’ll pass everything back, which means I’ll be breaking some bad news. There will also be some good news. There will also be a few things I’ll keep to myself, but that’s fodder for another post.


Shut Up Before You Say Something Useless

I have a student in one of my classes who, inevitably, asks something stupid and useless, usually when I’m angry. It has become a tradition that my only answer is to tell him to shut up.

Last week, I let him and his fellow students choose their seats rather than remaining in the ones I assigned for them. I don’t usually do this, but this class needed a shake up and the new seating plan lasts only if it produces good behavior. If it doesn’t, they get up to three strikes before they go back to the old seating chart or to a new one that I assign.

(Note: the record for return to old seats is fifteen minutes, not counting the time I cancelled the change during the seating process because the students wouldn’t follow the rules.)

Today’s class got two strikes in rapid succession. Students to my right had formed a small conversation circle and students to my left followed suit. All were talking when I was trying to explain the assignment.

When I broke up the second circle I announced the class had two strikes and that one more would lead to a new seating chart they wouldn’t like.

As I spoke, the student I mentioned before started shouting “teacher, teacher, teacher” forgetting that I don’t respond to common nouns, only proper ones. Finally, even though I was still speaking, he figured out he had to call me by my name. I told him to be quiet because 1) I was talking and 2) I knew that nothing he would say would be useful.

He kept up the name chant until finally just asking his question: “Who got the first strike?” I told him I’d just told him. “Who got the first strike?” This conversation repeated a few more times until I told him to shut up, which he did.

Keep in mind, I do not think any of this makes me either a great person or a great teacher. It just means I’ll have to think up a new seating chart for next week.

First they Doubt You, Then They Panic

I  try not to prejudge classes, but as the school year comes to an end I’ve already got them figured out so I can’t help it. That said, what happened may have been my fault.

Today was the first day of speech contest speeches for my high school second year (11th grade) students. The speech order was chosen by lottery, but as an experiment I let students have their scripts available whereas in the past they’ve had to memorize it completely. I did add the rules that 1) they had to memorize the first half of their speeches and 2) if they needed help after that, they couldn’t read.

This turned out to be a mistake.

The first student looked up for one line then started reading his script. The next four students didn’t even bother to look up. They just started reading. Having the script available gave them the chance to be lazy and they took the chance.

As they did so, the percentage for memorization rose from 20% to 40% of the final score and their scores suffered. After the fourth student read, I pointed out that no one who had spoken had received higher than 40%. There then ensued a brief panic, especially when I pointed out that even if everyone got a low score, I’d still send at least one student to the speech contest at the end of the term.

A couple students did better after that, but I can tell they think I’m joking about sending someone, not matter what.

In my afternoon class, things went much better. Students referred to their scripts but didn’t read. However, the real problem came because a couple students were absent. This meant a student who hadn’t finished his speech was called on to perform his speech.

He then made huge mistake. Because he’s used to bullshitting his way out of things, he claimed his speech was too long for the time left in class. Since I’d seen him play with his smartphone for two classes under the guise of “using the dictionary” whilst not actually writing anything, I muttered something along the lines of “bullshit” (in fact, I may have actually said “bullshit”) and assured him that since it was the last class of the day, he had plenty of time to finish.

He admitted he had no speech, which means he failed the speech.

The next student did okay, but I may be seeing a lot of students at the make up exam at the end of this term.

Boys Will be Boys and so am I

I didn’t mean to be snippy but I was. I don’t think they meant to be rude but they were.

The young men in the class I teach on Sundays play well together which means they like to play a lot. Eventually, however good they are at the beginning of the day, after lunch they start to get excess distracted energy and look for ways to burn it.

The first guy who, by colossal coincidence, was almost thrown out last week, has a habit of trying to make jokes out of questions. When I asked him, as the assignment required, how much he typically paid for a haircut, he responded with “one dollar”. I then asked him where he got his hair cut and he repeated “one dollar”. He tried to escalate the joke from there but I cut it off. I promised him I’d never call on him again, which, of course, means he won’t get any participation points.

The second guy went into parrot mode which meant every time I spoke he thought it was funny and repeated what I said. This is a default mode for male high school students in Japan, but it won’t serve him well at a US university.

Finally, when I said the word “cheaper” (we were studying comparative adjectives) he started repeating “cheaper, cheaper, cheaper” and laughed as he did it.

He may have been trying to impress a young woman, but it was my time to make an impression. I stopped class and got his attention and asked him if there was something wrong with my pronunciation. The conversation went something like:

Me–Is there something wrong with my pronunciation?
Me–After I said “cheaper” you started repeating it and laughing. Did I say it wrong?
Him–(after a long pause/translation help from the young woman he was trying to impress) I’m sorry.

The funny part is, after all these years in Japan, my pronunciation probably was pretty bad. I kind of wish he’d helped me out.

Hobonichi Techo–Making the Book My Own

It’s not bad; in fact I’m liking it a lot more than I thought I would. It just needed some extra lines. And then a couple more. Then a couple fewer.

To understand how finicky I am about calendars and planners you have to understand that every year I make my own monthly wall calendars and that for a couple years I was making my own Bible-sized inserts for my Filofax binder. (More on that in a future post.)

This year meets next year. #hobonichi #planner #planneraddict #hobonichitecho #penaddict

A photo posted by DL (@d.e.lively) on

After I decided to carry around the Hobonichi Techo as my planner, I immediately started modifying it. First, I decided to use a version of Mike Rhode’s Daily Planner Bar system, and that meant I had to add a couple lines to each page. I also added a line on the right which created space for comments and extra notes on what I had done (or not done). I used Fountain Pen Hospital’s exclusive Noodler’s Old Manhattan Bulletproof black ink to create lines that, in theory, wouldn’t smear (except during the creation process. Long story.)

The two months per page section became my general work overview and the month on two pages section become my blog outline (Sort of. Needs work. Long story.)

By the eighth day, though, I’d added a bar across the top to create a space for a short alert/to do list.

The lines and the pen they are added with. It contains Noodler’s Old Manhattan Bulletproof ink.

An example of how I was using it.

I add the lines every Saturday when I sit down in the evening to do my weekly review. After scribbling out everything I need to do on a notebook, I draw the lines with a ruler and my TWSBI Diamond 580 and then set about filling in the non-flexible part of the schedule. I then follow that with the elective part of the schedule.

However, as of today, I’ve modified it again. The extra lines at the top have been eliminated to give me more alert/to do list room.

The new look. It will last until the next look.

I like the size and portability of the TECHO which is why I opted to not get a cover for it. (Note: they sell at local stores as part of a TECHO plus cover set.) I supplement it with a calendar app that syncs across all my devices. Although I like having access to all my plans via the magic of the interwebs, I prefer writing details in the TECHO mostly because I find entering data in the online calendars to be annoying.

I also like the current system, at least this week. The current system will last until I decide to do something else. This will probably happen fairly soon because my system leaves a lot of unused space at the bottom of the page.