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Crazy Japan Times Mere Blather Invasion: Winter Olympics 2022 Reports

These reports from the NOW least wanted Olympics ever are brought to you by the words “Cheap” and “Products” and the letters S L A V E R and Y as well as the letters G E N O C I D and E.

These reports are also brought to you by the word “Salty”.

First, some initial grades:

Olympic Mascots:
Bing Dwen Dwen and Shuey Rhon Rhon
This is a pass/fail category with the only requirement being “Is it better than Izzy the Atlanta 1996 Mascot?”
Verdict: Pass+

Bing Dwen Dwen looking like a sleepy, drunk panda: B-

Panda’s generally looking sleepy and drunk: B
Being sleepy and drunk: A, for time to write an Olympics post.
Panda’s being forced to have sex and make babies: D, for let them die.

The names Bing Dwen Dwen and Shuey Rhon Rhon: A
The main mascot being named after Your Humble Editor: A
Delusions of grandeur: D-
Seeing your name misspelled: C-
Seeing your name misspelled for most of your life: D
Having people suddenly able to spell your name: A
Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson: A for charisma; C- for acting.
The name Dwayne: B-

Opening Ceremony Notes:
Opening Ceremony: F– This category is an automatic F, as all such ceremonies are glorified Super Bowl halftime shows. This one, however, earns a minus for unnecessary length and bonus minus for playing the song “Imagine”. As your Humble Editor wrote in 2018:

Anyone Singing “Imagine”: F for Kill it With Fire. (Imagine there’s no singer/ who sings that song again. / You may say I’m a dreamer / but it would be way awesome. / I hope some day it will be stopped / and the world will be awesome)

Children (who are not your own) Singing: D.

The odds that the singing children are only there because they’re cuter than the children actually singing: B for Beijing 2008.

Your own children actually singing: P for prayer plus C for cringe.
This applying to EVERY performance by your children: push

Torch: A. Your Humble Editor likes the twisted ribbon design.

Olympic Flame: A teeny tiny torch in a giant snowflake. F for WTF? This is a new level of suck.

The Parade of Athletes:
The theme of this parade of athletes was “warm, practical, and boring” with many teams dressing for the weather rather than for style.

Dressing for the weather rather than style: B for practical.
This style enabling witty comments: F
The ability to produce witty comments: Yet to be seen.

Greece: C- for boring.

Eritrea: B for cool mufflers.

Jamaica: C- for dayglo trousers under army green parkas.

Japan: D, for Gray and Red. Really?

Taiwan: B for the bright white and actual shape.

Hong Kong: F for RIP

Bringing politics to the Olympics: D
The notion that the Olympics are apolitical: F for laughable.
Salt: A

Ukraine: B at a distance, WTF up close.

Pakistan: B, for their green and white.

Israel: B- for the blue gradient style

Belarus A- for white jackets and teal. Also the mufflers and hats were cool.

India: Hats, A; uniform, C.

Nigeria: B, for style, but cabbage hats? Really?

Cabbage: A
Eating more cabbage since you’ve been in Japan than in the previous three decades combined: push

Canada: F-, for accidentally deploying avalanche air bags in stadium. This may be a new standard of bad. In the future we may ask “Is it worse than Canada?”

Kyrgystan: B for hats, splash of orange, and cool flag.

Spain: Boring, really boring.

Iran: D for accents celebrating 1970’s sofa upholstery chic.

1970’s upholstery: D.
1970’s curtains: D
The 1970’s: B+

Hungary: B- for short, white jackets and green caps.

Iceland: C- for their boring version of Hungary’s uniform

Finland. D. Light gray over gray. As they moved they looked like an avalanche of dirty snow, which may explain Canada’s uniform.

Croatia: C- boring, shapeless black with checkerboard hats.

Saudi Arabia: B+ for a winter adaptation of their traditional outfits.

Albania: As always: Uniform B-, Scarf A. But, no hats: B+

Argentina: C- for boring.

Great Britain: A-. The “hand knit” jumper, er, sweater look was cool. Your Humble Editor also appreciated the thinner coats and multiple colors.

Totally Not Russia: C- for their “gray”dient style, but in their defense, the uniform looked better from a distance.

France: B- for their “flying wedge” athlete deployment, but the actual tricolor uniform is a D.

Poland: C for basic white.

Puerto Rico: Mufflers, B; actual uniforms F.

Bolivia: C- for the all-black winter ninja look.

Ninjas: A (but never actually wore black)
Knowing an actual Ninja: C
Knowing she could kill you with a playing card: B
The odds she actually wanted to kill you: push
The odds she actually remembers you: C

Kazakhstan: Flag bearers, A; the rest get B-
Raising their Kazakhstan mufflers: B

The USA: C for the random mish-mash of styles
White uniform: B-
Blue and red uniform: C

American Samoa: A, Flag bearer only, for wearing just body oil and skirt in winter.
Japanese announcer reaction to this look: A for “I can’t believe it!”

the Netherlands: A for orange (short jackets only)

Georgia: A, men; women, A-

Colombia: ponchos/trashbag chic: B-; hats A

Ireland: Dayglo green. Really? But it was cooler than Canada’s uniform.

Haiti: C- for busy.

Czech Republic: B- for busy but with style.

Portugal: A-, the red on black was sharp.

Korea: C for the splattered ink look.
Splattering ink: C
Ink staining your fingers for several hours: B
When you’re at work: C
Owning dozens of bottles of ink: push

Austria: C- for the lobster bib look.

Switzerland: C- for the red avalanche look.

Mongolia: A, flagbearers; actual uniform, A-

New Zealand: B-, for the short jackets. Really, the all-black look has become cliche, but it is cooler than Canada (CTC).

Serbia: B- for bland but with some shape.

Mexico: A+ for freakin’ skulls. Freakin’ skulls! A++ for the skull on the hats.

Germany: B- for boring. Yellow Sand Trooper flap: D. What has the world come to when Germany looks better than Canada?

Monaco: A+ for the Godfather look complete with trench coats and fedoras.

The Godfather: A
Leave the gun, take the cannoli: B
Taking both the gun AND the cannoli: A
Cannolis: A

Australia: B- for the soldier camo look.
Note: She Who Must Be Obeyed (SWMBO) thinks it’s a crocodile look.
Camo look: B
Crocodiles: A, from a distance. In the water with you: F, for F@#K I’m dead!
SWMBO: A/C Depends on the day.
Your Humble Editor: C/F Depends on the day.

Italy: D for the tricolor poncho, garbage bag chic look borrowed from France.

China: D for the all red uniforms. C for the beige and red.

That’s all for now. Your Humble Editor will be busy, but hopes to catch some sports. More if he can be bothered.

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…


May You Live With Interesting Birthdays

She Who Must Be Obeyed’s birthday started with police and ended with pizza.

Our Central Asian neighbors have been moving/breaking up for two days now. I’m not sure how many of them live there, but it seems to be an awful lot. A couple days ago at least one of them started to move out and that involved a small truck and shockingly slow loading. Then loud voices ensued last night and right after midnight, as SWMBO’s birthday was starting, there were police involved. Things got quiet after that.

The morning was normal. I made breakfast and our youngest washed dishes and then I worked on the project I talked about yesterday.

Our oldest went to a university open house, hopefully to find a cheap school she can attend that doesn’t require her to study now.

After that, I offered to buy supper, but our original plan was almost literally drowned by torrential rain that was hard enough it sounded like hail.

Eventually, pizza and other things were acquired and our oldest arrived safely despite massive train delays all over the system and a happy birthday was had.


Pen People Are Not Like Knife People

I’m pretty sure today’s post will be less coherent than usual because there are a few mysteries of life I’ve been trying to solve for quite long time and I’m not sure if I’ve worked them all out:

1) Why do Japanese cellphone providers suck so bad at providing decent texting services?

2) Why do all great and popular pen makers make such crappy converters?

3) Why do pen people get along so well when knife people don’t?

The first two are mysteries that will never be solved (it will be easier to prove God’s existence than to explain number two), so instead I’ll focus on the last. One of the things I’ve noticed about the pen community is how friendly it is. At its worst, it’s nowhere close to the anger that can build in the knife community.

The pen community has some disagreements, but there are no angry rants or personal attacks from people who like handmade notebooks against people who say they like trendy notebooks (and vice versa). People who don’t like Nakaya fountain pens will get stern looks (if in person) and some discussion from Nakaya fans (if in a forum), but neither side will start hurling invective or ad hominem attacks. People who like Montblancs will get stern looks (if in person) and some discussion from every other pen addict (if in a forum), but even people not interested in buying a Montblanc can appreciate how well made they are and how attractive some of them can be.

By contrast, there seem to be gangs supporting every brand of knife produced. If you criticize a Bark River Gunny Hunter (which is a terrific knife) you will be attacked by dozens of BR fanboys who will call you lots of interesting names, provide you with a detailed list of your personal failings, and suggest you perform extremely difficult sexual acts. If you fail to show proper reverence to a Hinderer XM-18, you quickly learn that you are unworthy because you are not an operator so shut up.  In one case, a popular knife and gear podcaster who gave a popular knife a terrible review was directly challenged on his podcast by the owner of the knife company.

For example, if I say I’m not interested in The Well-Appointed Desk and Skylab LetterpressCol-o-Ring Ink Testing Books I’ll be met with a couple lists of their benefits rather than something like this:

Pen Community: Your and idiot.
Me: No, they look awesome, it’s just that I live in Japan and can find many similar things.
Pen Community: WTF does Japan no about stationery? Your and idiot.
Me: No, it’s just that the shipping would be too expensive.
Pen Community: You don’t make notebooks do you? BOOM mic drop.
Me: In my free time, yes.
Pen Community: Well you must suck at it.
Me: Well, yes I do, that’s why I don’t sell them. They’re just for personal use.
Pen Community: Your and Nazi.

I’m not sure why this is, but I think some of it stems from the fact that knives, in their various forms, are seen as a primal tool whereas pens are not. Yes there are cave drawings here and there, but to my knowledge we’ve never found a pen in an ancient archaeological dig (note: my office/variety room does not count as a dig even though digging is often involved to find things) but early knives are found all the time. A fountain pen can help earn you some money, but it’s not a survival tool and no one recommends you include one in all your survival kits. (Even though you totally could.)

Because of this, there’s a level of machismo and posing in the knife community that doesn’t exist in the pen community. There are no backyard pen users, but there do seem to be an awful lot of backyard commandos.

In the knife community you’ll quickly learn what knife is carried by Special Forces soldiers or DEVGRU and if you are not at least a member of the Army Compartmented Element (if it exists) then your opinion is garbage if you don’t like the knives. You are not an operator and therefore cannot disagree so shut up. You may only like the knives or GTFO.

You also learn, quite quickly, that you are not a knife maker if you criticize knives from popular makers. If you are a knife maker then, clearly, you suck at it to hold such an opinion so no one will ever buy your knives which have never been carried in combat anyway so they must suck. A similar happening in the pen community might be:

Me: Wow, why do Sailor, Pilot, and Platinum make great pens but crappy converters?
Pen Community: Your and idiot. Do you make converters?
Me: No.
Pen Community: Than your and Nazi so shutup.

In the pen community, perhaps because it is smaller, the disagreements are friendlier. If a popular YouTuber seems underwhelmed by Nakayas for being little more than a cartridge/converter pen (and remember, all converters are crap), Nakaya fans will at least hear them out before killing them with knives, er, sorry, wrong forum, offering a defense of Nakayas. (Verbally, not violently.)

I know people who don’t understand why cheap Bic pens or slightly more expensive gel ink pens are not enough for anyone (heck, even the Pen Addict himself used to express that opinion) but they are not as vitriolic as people who don’t understand why someone would pay $300 for a handmade knife when they could get a Victorinox Swiss Army knife (complete with toothpick, corkscrew and knobby hook thing) for around $30.

(Note: My solution is to get both.)

The closest we’ve seen to this level of vitriol in the pen community is some issues between an economist and a fountain pen forum moderator over Montblanc related news and exposes of questionable products (such as this and this) from other sources.

There are a couple smaller knife fora that are a real treat because they have moderators who crack down on personal attacks. They are more like the pen community, so I frequent those.


Enjoying Whatever Day it is

It’s early in the holiday and I’m already not sure what day it is.

This is something that usually happens toward the end of the holiday when I’ve run out of things to do or we’ve just come back from visiting the in-laws.

This time, though, I think that because I’ve already established a routine of babysitting, work and time wasting the days are already starting to seem the same.

(Note: the “time wasting” is actually the “work” I’m forced to do even though no one actually seems to check it).

To break this up, I’ve planned a few outings with out youngest. The problem is, she also has a few activities planned that are related to school. (Note Deux: As I’ve written before, the Japanese educational system does not understand the concept of “vacation”.)

This means that the extra planning serves to break up the usual routine. It’s not very helpful, I suppose, but it is something different.

Late and Out

Can’t be bothered today, even though this is post 1195.

I had noisy students who wanted to study a different class and even when I offered them a choice “finish this then you can study anything” they chose to play and talk. Some of them didn’t even study the other class

Some of them finished the work and then to study. Some didn’t work at all. . Others ran out of time whilst they waited for their friends to finish.

Eventually I finished and came home.



Images of the Fall

I had intended to review a notebook today, but then something happened and I can’t decide if it means I’m psychic or clumsy.

For the past couple months I’ve noticed a lot of people trip as they walked down the sidewalk. This gave me images of me tripping and falling, which is something that used to happen at least once every year–it’s also a tradition that I scuff new shoes on some structural oddity on the road–but I realized, as I watched the suffering of others, that for the past few years I hadn’t fallen down or even had an embarrassing trip. However, the image of it happening has been stuck in my head.

Today it became more than an image. Of course, six bottles of collectible ink were involved.

After doing my “work” for the day, I headed down to Tokyo to go to Takashimaya department store in Nihonbashi to acquire some ink for some customers. I proceeded, with no trouble at all, to the fifth floor and actually found a clerk quite easily. (Note: I should have realized this was an omen so one strike against psychic.) I can tell that the staff are now used to dealing with ink hoarders as the clerk didn’t blink when I requested a couple bottles of flavors and she instantly told me which ones were sold out. (Note: I take credit for all this. Long story.)

I stuffed the ink into my book bag, much to the chagrin of the checkout clerk who wanted to give me a carry bag. She seemed especially concerned when I was forced to shove the package down with some force to get it past some of the crap I carry.

After completing the transaction, I headed back downstairs and out Takashimaya’s impressive front entrance. However, as I turned in the direction of the crosswalk, I discovered that Takashimaya’s entrance is not level with the sidewalk when I rolled my ankle on the raised step.

What happened next was an odd hop, a loss of balance, a flop to my hands one elbow and knees, a loud slap, and a surprising amount of pain. After I recovered I shifted to a seated position on the sidewalk to reset my nerves. I told the concerned on-lookers I was okay. (Note: as everyone who’s rolled an ankle knows, you don’t feel the real pain until later.)

After that, I went to one of the best liquor stores in the world where for a couple hundred yen I was able to sample a couple expensive bottles of bourbon. (Note: I count this a trip to a medical clinic.)

Luckily, the ink was intact. My instincts caused me to fall in a way that protected the bag, hence the inexplicably injured elbow. This instinct came from my father who used to say as he was carrying his cameras across slippery sidewalks:  “If I fall, grab the camera, not me”.

Of course, if I’d listened to the checkout clerk and placed the ink in a Takashimaya carry bag, I’d now have a broken glass collection and six highly decorated small boxes, so that’s one strike against clumsy. (Although I suspect my instincts would have changed my landing style in that case.)

My ankle is okay, albeit a little sore. I do have those odd scuffs on my elbow and knee where the fall drew blood without damaging my clothes. (What evil is this?)

Now, though, I’m afraid to carry the ink to the post office.


Fun Up Stairs and Surprises Down

I didn’t get way up stairs today, so I don’t know if there was a third pen show, but the two I visited were pretty good, mostly thanks to a surprise.

Today I visited the 8th Annual World Fountain Pen Exhibition at Maruzen Books down in Tokyo. Because it was a Friday, I wasn’t expecting much. As always, the things I most wanted to see were all huddled into a tiny space next to the exit at one end of the ground floor.

I was especially pleased to see Euro-Box on hand as it was fun to look over the large selection of vintage pens. A Nakaya staffer was there tuning and fixing pens as were staff from Ohashido and Eboya.

Eizo Fujii from Euro-Box (left) watches over four displays full of vintage pens. The pen maker from Ohashido consults with a client at the back, near the exit.

The pen master from Ohashido works on a client’s pen.

The pen mistress from Nakaya (I forgot her name and she usually keeps it secret anyway by hiding her name tag) checks the smoothness of a nib at the Nakaya tables. (Note: She doesn’t like pictures, so I’m only running this because you can’t see her face clearly.)

I drooled over a couple pens but managed to walk away with my finances intact. Mostly.

Some of the Ohasahido pens. That orange and black pen second from the left is calling me. My wallet is sending a different message. (I also like the three to the right.)

Although it wasn’t that busy, there was still a lot of energy on the ground floor. However, because there wasn’t much to see other than temptation and temporary joy followed by fits of remorse, I headed downstairs into the mausoleum where it was dark and silent.

However, as soon as I arrived in the mausoleum, I saw a large collection of store exclusive inks. I quickly bought one of each. This was a big surprise as 1) I expected any ink they had to have sold out the first day and 2) they were older versions in the old style bottles. I quickly bought one of each, gambling I’d be able to sell them.

Because of that find, I was in a much better mood in the mausoleum. I looked around at a few of the displays and talked to the LAMY rep about the cap on my LAMY 2000. (He says it’s fine; I says it’s barely fine.) I saw the anniversary edition LAMY 2000 black amber, which is neither black nor amber, but is cooler looking than I expected it be.

I also found my scribblings from last  year in a sample notebook in the darkest corner of the mausoleum. Something about that struck me as funny and I left in a good mood.

I was in such a good mood that I completely forgot to check out what events were happening on the third floor.

I still think it would be cool if they squeezed a nibmeister in next to the Nakaya or Ohashido tables. It would also be nice if they allowed pictures in the mausoleum.

But I left in a good mood, so none of that bothered me much this year.



Field Notes Snowblind–End of Book Review

One of the joys of a Field Notes subscription is you get a variety of notebook styles as the designers unleash their madness and their visions on the notebooks.

One of the horrors of a Field Notes subscription is you get a variety of notebook styles as the designers unleash their madness and their visions on the notebooks.

In the case of the Snowblind, you have a cover gimmick in desperate need of better paper. It’s more of a toy than a notebook, but even as a toy it has its advantages.

The paper in the Snowblind is 60#T paper that looks great with its light gray grid. However, it bleeds almost every ink that touches it. This doesn’t bother me as much as it probably bothers other fountain pen users, but it is noticeable. The paper feels excellent with ballpoint pens and gel pens, though.

The main gimmick of the Snowblind is the cover. It is a white cover treated with photocromatic blue ink. Once the notebook is exposed to sunlight it quickly turns blue. After you step back indoors, it quickly turns white again.

The Snowblind inside.

The Snowblind in sunlight. You can see some scuff marks near the spine.

It’s even possible to make patterns by putting items on the cover and removing them in sunlight. The effect, for a few seconds, is like one of Man Ray’s photograms.

Part of the annoyance of the Snowblind, though, is the effects of the change fade too quickly. It’s like pointing a flashlight at your little sister’s eyes to see her pupils get really small. (Oh, like you didn’t.) The effect lasts only as long as the flashlight is pointed at her eyes.

The gimmick is cool, or at least serves as a conversation starter, because nothing attracts people more than forcing them to stand in the sun whilst you hold your fingers over your notebook and say “Look now! Look now, quick!”.

That said, even in its white form, the cover looks good. I especially like the white staples holding it together. Also, the cover is durable.

It’s a good looking edition that I think people would be a good introduction to the Field Notes world for those who’ve yet to discover it. This is especially true if they like ballpoint pens.

In fact, the Snowblind is the kind of Field Notes edition you hand out as gifts as you probably never intend to finish them. It looks great and is kind of a fun toy, a few seconds at a time.

This may have been part of the diabolical plan: create a limited edition that subscribers will be in a hurry to give away.

Matters of Geez and Gosh and Justice

Warning: This post contains a great deal of profane language.

Watching Fixer Upper, where everyone’s reaction to their newly renovated home is “Oh my gosh” has me thinking about Boy Scout camp and matters of justice.

When I was at a Boy Scout camp about a thousand years ago–I think it was the now defunct O. A. Greager Scout Ranch in Western Colorado–there were a lot of rules involving earning feathers that would help your patrol, and eventually your troop, earn rewards, albeit usually in the form of more feathers.

One of the rules I had a hard time accepting was that “gosh” was acceptable as an expression of surprise/disgust, but “geez” was not. Uttering “gosh” would elicit no reaction, but uttering “geez” was treated as if the speaker had said “shit” or “fuck”.

The logic, as I understood it, was that “gosh” was far enough away from “God” that it did not count as a swear word. (Saying “God” in reaction to something earned demerits.) “Geez”, however, was considered too close to “Jesus” and therefore counted as taking the Lord’s name in vain and earned demerits.

My reaction to this logic was “That’s bullshit.”

Even if they assumed “Geez” was spelled “Jeez” it was still farther away from “Jesus” than “Gosh” was to “God” as the latter required fewer letter substitutions. However, the Scout Master at the time insisted that it was different because “Gosh” didn’t lead to “God” whereas “Geez” could easity lead to “Geezus H. Christ”.

My argument was that “Geez” was not “Jesus”. Only “Geezus” was “Jesus”. (These are the kinds of things that seem important to you right after you’ve earned demerits for saying “Geez”.)

Eventually we all got used to the arbitrary rules. I mean, geez, they were still bullshit, but we got used to the fuckers and no more demerits were earned, at least not by me, and at least not for swearing.