Monthly Archives: February 2017

On the Nothing New

A short one today because it’s the time of year when pretty much every day is the same. The only thing that changes is the level of whining involved with what is going on.

This is especially true when you realize that nearly every student did badly on the long writing section of the exam you wrote. When they weren’t off topic or using random topics, they only covered half the topic. This is especially disheartening when you thought you were giving them an easy topic. (More on that in a future post. You have been warned.)

The only interesting things involved ink and pens and they weren’t that interesting. I sent out some ink (and a pen) and got a pen in the mail. The pen I got was not mine, though, and I now have to ready it for shipment. I’m pleased it arrived though, as this was my first adventures with Yahoo Auctions here in Japan.

I now have an actual rating, which means this may not be last adventure with Yahoo Auctions.

Not sure if that’s good or bad.


Step By Slow Slow Step

Somewhere between enjoying Goldfinger and mocking You Only Live Twice, which proves all you need to have to pass as Japanese is fake eyelids, badly trimmed hair and stooped shoulders and if you have all that no one notices you are too tall or speak Japanese with a Scottish accent, I managed to get some work done.

(Note: the most unbelievable thing in You Only Live Twice is the notion that someone could build a giant underground fortress on a tiny populated Japanese island without everyone on the island knowing about it. Well that and the tiny spacesuit fitting the tall Bond, James Bond.)

(Note Two: I currently possess two of the three requirement to pass as Japanese.)

But I digress, which pretty much explains today.

Part of the problem of keeping movies and other noise on in the background as you mark is that you’re always walking a balance between “just interesting enough” and “much too interesting”. For example, I realized I hadn’t seen Thunderball and ended paying too much attention to that film, at least until they wasted time with endless underwater shaky-cam fights that I fast-forwarded through.

As for Goldfinger, well, Honor Blackman and, well, yeah, that’s pretty much it. That’s the distraction. (Do you expect me to mark? No, Mr. Lively, I expect you to DROOL.)

I have a similar problem (distraction, not drooling) if I have music on in the background or have reached the point where I need headphones to drown out any family distraction. The music has to be entertaining but can’t be too catchy or too nostalgic. Random radio channels on iTunes usually work best but they can’t be too shrieky or too bland.

Eventually, all the background noise goes away and I just push through. Eventually.



Marking Not Marking

I spent a good portion of the day marking exams, which is another way of saying I’m currently in the middle of a James Bond marathon. My goal is to watch the entire series from Doctor No to Daniel Craig.

I’ve already watched Doctor No and From Russia With Love and will watch Goldfinger and Thunderball tomorrow. On occasion, I have marked some exams and will, on occasion, mark some tomorrow, too.

Part of the problem is that I’m not only still teaching other classes but i’ve also got a long time to mark the exams. Because of this, the work expands, or slows, to fill the time.

However, after this long, stretched out time, I’ll have four day to finish the next batch of exams.

I’ll probably rewatch the Alien movies then.


Other People’s Hands

Any problems with today’s test were not my fault, but I did have to put in an appearance.

Today was the final exam for third year junior high school students (9th grade) at the school where I work and my only responsibility was be on hand in case of problems.

However, after yesterday’s incident, I did have to pace up and down past the rooms a few times during the listening section to “prove my concern” and “show responsibility”.

Luckily for the people in charge, things went off with almost no problems.

We did have a couple oddly phrased questions that allowed students to get away with a few tricks on the long writing and allowed them to answer without writing an entire sentence.

Then I had to wait a few hours to teach a class. This had me fairly irritable and although all I had to do was briefly explain the final exam, I stopped explaining things when the class got noisy and instead passed out the practice sheet for their long writing. (Yes, we give them a chance to practice 20%+ of the final.)

Usually I don’t mind if they don’t do any work, but one student “didn’t work” in the noisiest way possible and I moved him to a different chair.

I’ll have that class again next week and that student will, I guess, have another chance to not work.

May You Live in Interesting Tests

One of the things that drives you insane is doing the same thing over and over and getting the same results. At least that’s true when listening tests are involved.

Today was the high school second year exams at the school where I work and, as always, since that day, I approached it with a certain amount of trepidation. That was made worse when the guy who’d worried me before showed up.

As happened before, he pointed me toward the console as if it were my job to run it and, as before, I said “No way in hell.” However, because he was early, I expected he would perform a level check.

He didn’t and when the listening started it was obviously too low. He adjusted the volume a bit, but the levels were still too low. Finally, the last listening was low enough that he was forced to take extreme measures. At that point, one of my colleagues and the head of the English Department came rushing in with reports of complaints in a couple rooms.

I explained how there’d been no level check and was asked why none of the other teachers had, as they were supposed to, been in the hall making sure the listening was loud enough. I said that in 17 years at the school no one had told me we were supposed to do that.

I also pointed out that the technician had not done a volume check and while my colleague showed me how to intervene to adjust the volume, the department head told me that teachers weren’t actually supposed to touch the system, that was for the technicians.

They told me to stay put whilst they rushed around putting out fires. In the end we replayed the first two parts of the listening test and everything seemed okay.

And I’m sure it will be, until it’s time for the next listening test.

Closing in on Crazy Time

Tomorrow things start getting crazy. Well, thanks to events beyond our control, crazy time started at the school where I work last week.

Tomorrow, though, exams start for high school, and that will be followed, on Friday, by the junior high school third year exams. This wouldn’t be a problem except the junior high school first and second year students all have another four days’ worth of classes.

Keeping track of when to mark and when to go to class gets crazy, especially when one of your classes is doing their best to make you angry. After they succeed, they then try to convince you why they need to leave for snack time rather than stay in class most of their long break. (Guess what I did today…)

There will be a couple clean days where I’ll do nothing but mark (probably) and then we’ll finally have the last two exams. The trouble is those will arrive the same day as I’m passing back my high school exams.

Hopefully, I’ll remember to go to all my classes.

Other People’s Notes and Your Own

Two of my colleagues have been overseas for personal reasons this past week and they returned to find their desks and teaching plans in shambles. Or maybe everything was okay but the notes the substitutes left were vague despite being reasonably legible.

Part of the problem is we all have our own versions of shorthand that make sense to us, most of the time, but are incoherent to someone else. This is true even when we type things and print them out. Of course, because of this, my colleagues’ problems started when my colleagues left notes for their substitutes who were then forced to interpret the notes and then leave other notes that my colleagues had to interpret creating a written version the of the Rumor Game. Student A says “The train came out of the tunnel into Snow Country.” and after going down the line the last student says “Kill the chicken.”

Unfortunately, this isn’t always the result of group effort.

As my colleagues struggled to figure out what to do, whilst cursing those who’d left the notes, I found myself trying to interpret my own notes so that I could figure out what to do.

There was also a lot of cursing involved.

The main issue is that, depending on the amount of time I have, and my level of concern for the class, my note taking system varies wildly. On some pages they are detailed and coherent, but on others they are little more than random scratches that resemble letters but not entire words.

I finally figured out what to do, but I’m sure I won’t be able to read my notes next week and figure out what it was.


Passing On Three

It just dawned on me that this bit of blather started three years ago today. Unfortunately I have nothing profound to say about that.

Starting it at the end of the school year puts me in an odd time for recollection and reflection. When I started there was a lot of energy and that pushed me through the end of term stress. Now, it’s just another thing I need to do when there are other things I should be doing.

Soon after I started I developed a fairly stringent set of rules about length and the amount of time I could spend writing. Over time those rules have changed to allow shorter posts and shorter writing times which has led to lazy posts.

As always, when I’m writing about work, unless it’s particularly funny or lengthy, you can be confident that I’m being lazy.

Now that I’m not working evenings or Sundays, I have a lot more time to put things off, but have been doing rough drafts of various reviews. I’ve been mostly lazy about the the photography and processing the photos.

Going forward to the plan is to put together some kind of collection of expanded versions of posts I liked and organize them around pens. That has also been stealing a lot of time, which makes me default to “Today at work, things really sucked” posts.

I’ll write more about that in another post, though. Probably. Someday.



How to Experiment on Your Family

At long last, tonight was gumbo night. This meant I spent a good portion of the day fretting about what was going to happen.

I was also worried because cooking gumbo also meant I was experimenting on my family.

The first catch in the plan, though, was that She Who Must Be Obeyed decided to make chocolate candy right before I’d planned to start cooking. This pushed the entire process back and hour, but did leave us with chocolate for dessert.

After that I started the long process of cutting, chopping, and doing my best to keep all my fingers. (I have a couple odd skin cuts on my right index finger I don’t know how I got so apparently this was a near fail.) I was mostly worried because 1) I was using a kind of sausage we’d never tried before; 2) no one in the house except me had actually tried my gumbo before; and 3) managing the spice level was important or our oldest and youngest wouldn’t eat it.

The andouille style sausage turned out to be pretty good and the gumbo ended up being reasonably tasty. It wasn’t too spicy, but it passed the Gumbo Sweat Test, which means that by the end of the first bowl the spice hadn’t destroyed our taste buds but had sent us looking for handkerchiefs.

Everyone went for seconds, which is unusual, and we are looking forward to finishing it tomorrow after it’s had a chance to age.

The only problem is, I’ll probably have to do this again. I’m not sure if that means this was a failed experiment or not.



Running Away From Temptation

The best was out of my league. The second best had already sold. The third chased me away.

Today was the Tokyo Folding Knife Show which meant I made a short pilgrimage down to Tokyo to check it out. It had been moved to a new space close to Tokyo Station. This made it more convenient than the old place, but also meant it lacked any real character. It was a white box full of tables and knives.

My Canadian friend was helping take care of his newborn and that meant I made only a short visit.

The selection was pretty good, and there were a couple makers I hadn’t seen before.

The first knife I picked up was one thousand dollars. The knife maker actually thanked me for picking it up and then gushed that it had been made by his son. His son had done an excellent job. The color was great and the flipping action was perfect. However, the blade was not something I’d be able to use and there was the “thousand dollars” thing.

The Dew Hara “NOAH”. Looks great, but out of my league and not practical. I do like the YinYan pivot, though.

The only knife I’d have bought without hesitation if it had been available was by Taiwanese knife maker Chen Wei Chun. He’s had a table at the last few knife shows and is a rising star who seems to be popular among the usual crowd at the shows. His Shih Lin folding knife was a work of art with a Damascus steel blade and engraved scales. At just under $300 it was a steal. Fortunately, or unfortunately, his few offerings had sold out soon after the show opened.

The Shih LIn folding knife from Chen Wei Chun.

The knife that chased me away,  though, was by Ryo Ito. He’s a maker I hadn’t seen at the shows before and his offerings were an entire table of temptation, mostly because they fell in my “Yeah, I could totally justify that” price range.

My favorite was a nice spear point flipper with a carbon fiber scale on the presentation side and titanium on the clip side. I might have been able to talk him down, but instead I finished a couple circuits of the room before coming back to his table, running a circuit of rationalizations, and then running away.

There are a couple flaws here, but it’s still a nice knife that flips open extremely well.

Unfortunately, or fortunately, he lives just down the tracks from here.