Monthly Archives: December 2017

Travelling By Snow

For complicated reasons we decided to drive to the in-laws. The trip is normally not that difficult, however, it is winter and we were heading to snow country.

We acquired snow tires from She Who Must Be Obeyed’s family (it used to be their car before they stopped driving) and had them put on at a local place.

The trip itself wasn’t that bad even though SWMBO had never driven a mountain pass in snow. (Note: I think I’ve done it once. Maybe twice.) I did prepare a winter car kit in case we got stuck because of heavy snow and accidents not involving us. Also, our car is four-wheel drive and our snow tires are new.

We started in perfect clear weather and then as we climbed and passed through tunnels we slowly passed through autumn and early winter before entering sky fall. Once we passed through the tunnel into snow country, we were in blizzard conditions that lasted until we hit windy conditions.

Along the way we had to take odd detours where traffic officials blocked the road and forced us into parking lots where traffic officials assessed our tires. If any car had tires that didn’t pass muster, they were forced to attach chains to their tires, even if it meant buying them on site.

There were a couple interesting moments involving other cars and merging traffic, but we arrived safely.

Now we are putting our lives at risk by eating too much, but that’s another post.

Cleaning Up Before Cleaning

I should have been cleaning, but instead I was straightening and organizing, which is sort of like cleaning but not really.

It’s the season of cleaning here in Japan and we are getting ready to head off to my in-laws. This means we spent more time organizing the house for our return than we did actually cleaning.

The suitcase we won’t need was stored away, but that involved moving and then replacing/reorganizing the pile the protects/blocks the storage closet.

I was organizing the things I plan to drag along as if I will actually work on the things I drag along. Bringing them, though, makes me feel as if I have the potential to be responsible so they do, in fact, serve a purpose.

I will probably not review the notebooks I’ll be finishing on the trip, but I will be able to take some pictures.

Christmas Cheerishness

Today, our oldest had club practice. She Who Must Be Obeyed had work. I had nothing to do. A few presents were opened, but most had already been purchased and delivered.

Tonight, as is our family tradition, we had chicken, lots of bread and cheese, and way too much cake. (Wine, beer, and Japanese whisky might have been involved in a couple cases as well.)

Tomorrow the Christmas lights around Japan will be gone as if Christmas never happened and the focus will be on the New Year’s holiday, which is the real winter event in Japan.

Now, we have a few days to prepare for a trip to visit my in-laws. This means we’ll do nothing for a couple days and then madly pack at the last minute.

That’s part of the fun.

ps: Merry Christmas, everyone. All the best.

Done Days and Then Some

The end of the term is ambiguous.

Our youngest is done today. I’ve been done. I’m not sure about our oldest, but she has at least one more day. Then she might be done.

Our youngest showed off her report card today. The card doesn’t have marks, instead it has assessments. The assessments are “Very Good”, “Can Do It”, and “Well, Yeah, Present”. (Something like that.) Our youngest was mostly “Very Good” with only three “Can Do It” marks.

As for our oldest: well, I’m not sure. She has a concert on Sunday. After that I don’t know. School may be finished, but practice may be not. Band practice never seems to end.

Eventually, we will visit the in-laws. We’re still not sure how we’re going to get there. Or when we’ll get there.

That’s what things are like this time of year. More when I know it.

Star Wars at Forty

Note: I’ll not give any solid spoilers, but I will comment on a few things. I also can’t promise this will be coherent.

I can’t help it, even though I know it’s coming. That sequence of “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…”, the pause, and then the punch and scroll brings chills every time it happens and I always feel ten years old even though that first happened, well, a long time ago in a country far, far away.

Prior to seeing this episode of Star Wars I not only avoided reviews and any hint of spoilers, which was difficult as I couldn’t watch it on opening night, I also didn’t watch the Japanese trailers as they are notorious for giving away key details. My goal was to go in as unbiased and unprepared as possible.

All in all I liked the movie, although I’m glad I saw it at a discount. The popcorn was also good.

If you can take seriously the notion that the members of the misnamed resistance (they are actually the badly managed vestiges of the old order in a long running civil war) are supposed to take seriously the orders of a magenta-haired admiral in an evening gown who wears no obvious signs of rank, then all the rest of the movie falls into place. (A–How do I know she’s an admiral? B–Because I say so and because she looks fabulous.) Something like that.

Well, that and you have to accept the notion of space bombers flying in close formation. You have to accept that, too. (See “badly managed” above).

Oh, and you have to accept the notion of space bombers.

The main problem is there are too many characters doing too many things that ultimately contribute nothing to the final. There is some sort of message about sacrificing yourself or not and letting the past go or not but that gets lost in all the subplots.

Kelly Marie Tran  and John Boyega steal the movie in their extended, yet meaningless sequence. They have great chemistry and Tran actually looks like someone who works in maintenance and gets her hands dirty for a living.

Adam Driver is excellent and his personality dominates the movie enough that you wonder why anyone would take Daisy Ridley’s Rey seriously.

The rest of the movie is mostly fun, although it does drag at times. It is also highly manipulative in the way it puts main characters in harm’s way and then quickly rescues them.

There are also odd sequences involving the source of blue milk that are there to either show off a special effect, answer a question no one ever asked, or both. Also, the movie ends too many times.

That said, I’ll look forward to episode nine when it comes out in a couple years. I’ve stuck with it for forty years, I might as well give it couple more.


If Not Purging Then Modding

I have a bunch of things I’ve planned to work on over the winter break, including purging a bunch of crap, some via a giveaway, and that means I spent a good portion of yesterday and today modifying pens.

Specifically I have a bunch of gel ink pens that I’ve acquired by various means and although I have no plan to use them because I don’t like the design, I like the refills in some of them and I want to see if I can salvage something by making them fit in my Tactile Turn Mover pen (which takes Pilot G2 sized refills).

The modding process involved a lot of cutting and crumbling of aluminum foil and a bit of swearing. Eventually I found an old Pilot G2 refill and pulled the black plug out of the end of the refill. After a careful bit of shaving, trial and error, and more swearing I made it fit the Sarasa refill and it seems to work in the Tactile Turn.

This means I now have five refills I can swap in and out as necessary. (The rest of the pens, most of which came from various ISOTs will be given away someway, somehow.)

Of course, I didn’t think to record the modding process so there are no pictures. More on that, and  few pictures I hope, in a future post.


One Last Gasp Before the Last Gasp

I’m more or less finished, except that I’m not. Sort of.

Today was my last day of test pass backs, which means I’m more or less finished except for checking final marks and the speech contest. (More on that in a minute. Sort of.)

The first class (a high school second year/11th grade class) had a bit of drama when three groups had to present their final projects or fail. The first bit of drama was that I’d forgot the third group was supposed to present and was surprised when the came to the front to do their presentation.

Then, 35 minutes into the 50 minute class, I called one of the groups only to discover they’d apparently forgot/didn’t finish one of their pictures.

(Note: the final project involved the students making a kamishibai out of “original” superheroes and super villains they’d created.)

There then ensued a strange conversation where I asked if they needed paper and they just sort of stared blankly. In the end they created a fresh picture on the back of one of their returned exams thus violating the rule that all work should be done on clean paper.

The second class was unexciting and boring and I was actually hoping for a bit of drama.

Next week is fairly painless, except for the speech contest, which could lead to some interesting issues depending on what mood I’m in. (More on that in a future post.)

One Little Piece at a Time

I was worried our youngest might learn some new words, but in the end, things turned our much simpler than I thought they would.

I mentioned before how my headphones and video card all died on the same day. Via the magic of the internet, and a part of a day spent not marking, I managed to find a part that seemed to fit my ancient, in computer/dog years, PC and didn’t cost more than a replacement computer. I also found easy to follow instructions for installing it.

This means, of course, that I was expecting problems.

The part arrived and I warned our youngest not to listen to anything I was about to say, especially if I sounded angry. However, I was able to get things up and running surprisingly quickly and without any swearing.

I was also informed that I’d be getting a replacement set of headphones. Eventually.

This means all technical difficulties are more or less solved (except for a couple other parts that need replacing).

Then there’s the problem of the dead fly in the cheese. More on that in a future post.

Closing Out With Little to Do

Note: This one is out of sequence as Monday is supposed to be stationery, etc. day. However, work has dominated so today is actually a random Wednesday. Sort of.

If I’d had something for them to do they would have wanted to do what I expected them to do today but because I expected them to do it, they didn’t want to do it and expected me to have something to do.

That pretty much sums up test pass backs.

For reasons that are too complicated for me to understand (i.e. I asked once but have forgot the explanation), we are forced to keep our students a full 50 minutes during test pass backs even though there is actually only 10-20 minutes of actual schoolwork for them to do. (Note: There is apparently a way to get shorter classes, but I’ve yet to figure it out after 17 years at this school. i.e. I asked once but have forgot the explanation.)

Normally, students bring their winter homework to do during the December pass backs. If I try to get them to work on anything else, they slowly drift to homework. Today, though, my classes just stared at me as if to say “Here we are now; entertain us.”

Instead, I told them they were on their own and many of them invented violent games involving rock-scissors-paper and slaps to the head and/or back of a hand. (This actually kept me entertained.)

Oddly, even the homeroom classes didn’t bother digging out work even though they had easy access to it.

Tomorrow I’ll have something for my classes to do. I doubt they’ll do it, but at least I’ll be ready.

When the Time Cometh It Pours

If i could summarize today with one word it would be:


Actually, the real word would involve a lot more profanity but that scream/thunderclap will have to do.

First, my headphones died. Well, actually the left earbud died, which wouldn’t bother me except they were less than three months old. This means the game of “replace them, damn you” email tag with the manufacturer and seller has begun.

Oh, and I also have final exams to mark which means I don’t have much time to play tag.

That would be annoying enough, except the graphics card in my desktop PC also decided it was time to die today. This puts me in that annoying state where I have to decide to upgrade parts or buy an entirely new computer. That leads to the decision of whether to pay up for a domestic computer, after a painful hunt to find an English langauge system, or import a computer from the USA.

I’ll decide tomorrow after I do some parts hunting at nearby electronics stores. I suspect there will be more swearing involved at some point.