Earthquake Day 21

The buds are plumping here in Tokyo ready to burst forth in their frothy cascade of pink and white effervescence, evanescent impermanence, tantalizing with their bouquet. The days warming, the nights still a little chill, but one of 3 bedcovers are folded up.

OK, OK, too poetic. But you get the idea. Spring has sprung. Or is about to.

The winds are now favoring us, but as the counts of sieverts (a German scientist) and bequerels (a French scientist) make me wonder how the Europeans measured, the Americans built and used, then spread the nuclear tool to countries like Japan. A worldwide concern, but in our back yard. We have the radio on most of the day, but pay little attention any more. It is easier for me, with the announcements in Japanese.

I scoff at the Goldman Sachs employees, so well paid, ready to flee, having to be ordered to stay here in town. No loyalty, only raw Darwinian economics, self-interest at the core. Did you know Adam Smith wrote a companion volume to his economic masterpiece, The Wealth of Nations? In a prequel, designed to lay the groundwork for Wealth, he set the stage with The Theory of Moral Sentiments. They should be read as a pair. The Goldman people, indeed many economic schools after Keynes have ignored the moral element of economics.

But enough of abstracts. Three weeks after the earthquakes, organizations like the 3,000 strong JALT (Japan Association for Language Teaching) has been able to find about three fourths of its 250 members in the quake affected area. Many groups are mounting donation drives, aware that as the media attention subsides, so does the money. This is slated to be the most costly disaster on record, in economic terms. The loss of life is only now hitting home here.

The biggest news for those of us in education is the change in schedules. My daughter goes to 6th-ranked Hosei University, and will have her spring vacation extended until after Golden Week, the break we take the first week of May. Many other schools are doing the same. Not mine, though. We start tomorrow. Some part-time teachers without as much anchor here have left, so there is a scramble to fill empty slots at the absolute last minute. I expect to have my class load increased. I don’t mind, but will have to watch that this not become an excuse for adding permanent responsibilities. Already there is talk of using the disaster to increase consumption taxes from 5% to 10%.

Fear and uncertainty are making everyone jumpy. I don’t look forward to the first day back.

Earthquake Day 17

Blackout coming in about an hour, got to get this off, and eat dinner a little early, another dark evening with the Kindle and flashlight. A little warmer makes it nicer.

Magnitude 3 Stupidity
Dread yesterday, followed by wonder this morning. The newspaper reported radiation ten million times the normal in the water off the nuclear power plant. Fear lead to a kind of social shock here. Then today, the power company TEPCO announces they made a mistake in the measurement, off by 3 orders of magnitude (1,000x). The wonder this morning is how they can screw this up so badly, and still be able to fix the problem.
The rolling blackouts are having a pronounced effect on business. Especially entertainment or non-essentials, like restaurants. In the area most frequented by foreigners (Roppongi), it is starting to look like a ghost town.
The only good news is that Anri is having a great time. I am going to copy an email she sent to me because it sounds like a typical teen. Remember that English is not her native language. I am guessing she will probably kill me for this…
hi i just wanted to let you know what we’re up to in portland OR. I rode the air plane by my self for the first time, and it was way easier than I thought! The signs were really clear so i ever got lost and I just chilled in Mcdonalds till the plane got ready. The frontier plane was super new (4-5days old) and shiny. there WERE TV screens but they weren’t installed or whatever so we couldn’t watch them which was a bummer… but i met a family who were sitting next to my seat and we had a nice talk on the plane. i met Chrissy and Jeff right after I left the gate and we went to the Saturday market to look around town. We tryed going to a Theater to watch the Black Swan but they we’re all 21 or over so we just ended up having Taco Bell (first time for me!) and going home, and watched Shaun of the dead. This morning we woke up early and headed up to Seattle (3hrs). I met Chrissy’s friend Bruice, who is an hippy artist. He was a really interesting guy. We met up with Sasha and her Boyfriend Dan for Lunch and went to The Pike place market. I got a lot of pictures so check facebook out and i’ll e-mail you soon again. Chrissy nor Jeff dosn’t have skype but I’ll try to find a way to call mom,but if not, ill just e-mail you everyday.

Earthquake Day 15

Really windy today, cool too, so that means the wind is blowing in the wrong direction. People have asked how we manage not to stress out here with all the doomsday scenarios. With typhoons, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, floods, mudslides (rivers with steepest vertical drops), tsunami, forest fires, sandstorms (yes, we do have a place for that), blizzards, ice storms, and suffocating summer humidity, Japan is one of the most disaster-prone countries in the world.
We deal with it in two ways. Prepare and lower expectations. When I arrived here, I thought the maniacal attention to detail, obsession with insurance in every aspect of life, from double bagging groceries that are already wrapped in cellophane to my triple coverage on my job loss due to incapacitation, was unwarranted. But when you see redundant systems popping up all over, and those being tested by nature and man-made disasters like nuclear leaks and poison gas terrorists, you start to see why working a little harder, and taking more precautions than you think necessary is a prudent investment in your future.
The lower expectations is demonstrated in the popular phrase “shou-ga-nai” which means “it can’t be helped”. Some rail against this as a form of laziness in Japan, but I see it as healthy. People are not as insistent on heroic measures for the infirm elderly, preferring a quiet dignified passing with the knowledge that the end would come soon anyway, and there is nothing to extend a quality life. This “letting go” allows people to focus on things they can prepare for.
So we have a country that follows the AA motto without even thinking. (Serenity to accept the things I can’t change, strength to change things I can, wisdom to know the difference).
This has all gotten mixed up with the book I am reading, David Brooks’ The Social Animal. It’s main thesis is that the rational conscious mind is build on top of the unconscious affective mind, and that we need to learn more about the foundations, which requires new tools to understand. He is persuasive in his arguments that the rational French Enlightenment is inferior to the British Enlightenment which makes room for emotion. He goes through a lot of scientific literature on the brain and neurology to make his point. He wraps it in a story of a couple that grow up in different situations, meet, fall in love, and become happy leaders.
Japan has always paid a lot of attention to feelings, unconscious, and has been trying to balance that with the rational. Every culture seeks a balance. I see a lot of psychological capital wasted in the US with frustration, expectation, fear and loathing. I see that here too, but focusing on our relationships is not something, it is the only thing.
Sadly, Japan’s remarkable economic rise has lead to a decay in this priority, and while we are all comfortable, many are adrift, lost in technology, materialism, or simply ignorance of the social aspect of living. Some see these disasters as a time to rectify those priorities. We will see a hit on economic health, but the fraying of the social fabric will cease as we knit together the country again. Japan is girding itself as we speak to repair the destruction and in the process learn to live better.
Sorry to get all preachy there, but these are things that have been running around my brain. Back to the day-to-day.
Our department decided to do a small graduation ceremony in a small hall on campus tomorrow, but without a party. Not as much pomp and circumstance, but more intimate. I am looking forward to it.
We were scheduled for 2 blackouts today, but the 5 groups were subdivided, and our smaller group (5D) is exempt unless there is an emergency. People have been voluntarily reducing usage (we haven’t used our living room since the earthquake) so that these emergencies are not realized.
Excerpt from US Embassy letter to expats in Japan:
Availability of Potassium Iodide Tablets: As a precautionary measure, the U.S. Embassy is continuing to make potassium iodide (KI) tablets available to private U.S. citizens who have not been able to obtain it from their physician, employer, or other sources.   We do not a recommend that anyone should take KI at this time.
Safety of Tap Water: …the water in Tokyo is safe for drinking.
Julia is off to work today and tomorrow. Watching American Idol we realized an interesting progression in birthdays: Stephen Tyler March 24, Dexter the cat March 26, Julia March 28 and Anri March 30. Stevie Wonder sang for Stephen Tyler, Dexter gets a double portion of cat food. We will take Julia to an Outback after shopping tomorrow (Starbucks and Kindle for me). Anri will be in Portland for her birthday, with Chrissy and Jeff, who know how to have a good time.
Julia will be a teen for only 3 more days, then will become an adult. She went to a ceremony at city hall for all those turning 20 this calendar year. But now she went to get her picture taken by a pro, and here are a couple of shots of the results. Last night she went out with friends to a drinking place. Precocious as always.
Can you tell I am avoiding preparations for the new school year which starts next week?

Earthquake Day 14

Short one today, only 9 minutes left before midnight. The specter of radiation escaping in the water has everyone worried. More than before. Bottled water is scarce again, and the government is pleading for people to remain calm. I underestimated the number of foreigners leaving. It is 8 times the normal rate of 20,000 a month for last year. I don’t know anyone that has left Japan because of this, but all my friends really consider this home, as they have been here at least 20 years (26 for me, and 33 for our longest-termer). We are starting up the new school year on Friday (the Fool’s day). We have hired 3 new part-timers. Wonder if they will show up.

Chihiro Graduates from TokyoKevin on Vimeo

Today we had a greatly curtailed graduation ceremony, with the 200 from our department only, and in a venue for 600 instead of 3,000. The ceremony was mercifully short, only 45 minutes instead of the bladder-busting marathon of 150 minutes (2.5 hours).

Oddly, I found it much more intimate, relaxed and fun. The students were enjoying seeing each other and they didn’t have megaphoned cattle herders yelling at them for pictures and the like. We broke down into seminar classes, which are small, and said our goodbyes. I only had one student this year, a real firecracker, and she said, “Let’s hang out when I come down to Tokyo.” She lives about 100 km (60 miles) away from the Reactor, and lost her job because of the earthquake. She landed on her feet, though, and snagged one that paid better and had less hours, with more chance for advancement in the long run. Nimble pays.

The other negative feeling is the energy situation. There simply isn’t enough electricity to go around. All of the non-essential escalators have been turned off. Lots of ad signs are being darkened, and the rolling blackouts are having a big effect on business. The scheduling of the blackouts is getting better, but people know things will change soon, but not for the better. The electric bill we now pay had a hike in the rate (I think it is 15%), and they are looking at using daylight savings time. Did you know there is a whole line of wind generators right next to the Fukushima nuclear site? They swayed in the earthquake, slowed, and automatically stopped. They a few minutes later automatically started up again (except for the one nearest the plant). That is not being advertised a lot here. Geothermal is another resource.
Nuclear, though, is, overall, a very safe source of energy. Much safer than coal per btu. Kind of like airplanes and cars. But the focus in the near future will be on conservation. I teach all my classes in a computer lab. I wonder if I’ll have to start sharpening up the chalk and banging erasers [shudder].
The steak at Outback’s defeated Julia, but she finished her dessert. Last day of being a teen. She is ready to move on. Making the application to Leeds is proving to be more difficult than expected. The university makes her do all the forms, then confirms with Leeds that she was accepted and then pays the tuition. So she has to read something very carefully, and with big consequences. That increases comprehension tremendously. She has chosen a very light schedule, which I think is wise. Best place to learn is outside class. She saw a video of a prof there, and could not understand a word of his accent. She is wondering what she got herself into…
My sister Ginger took my daughter Anri to the airport in Denver, and put her on a plane to her cousins in Portland. Haven’t heard from them, so it looks like she made it.

Earthquake Day 13

For now, some bits and babs.

Woke up this morning and almost got shook out of bed by another earthquake. Late afternoon, another small shake. Learning to live with this daily wobble is difficult. The shake this morning put the kitchen door out of whack, so it won’t close. Have to get the sander out and shave down the door. Maybe that is what got Maki stuck in the bathroom while I was gone.
Good news is that the radiation level in the water has dropped so babies can drink from the faucet (but only if they can reach it). We were supposed to have 3 hours blackout this afternoon, but that was cancelled (yeah!). But it is looking like these blackouts will continue for at least a year. Summer is going to be really sticky…will have to plan to be at school. The grid is being refined now for the blackout groups, with the number rising from 5 to 25 so they can manage to keep energy use up to capacity. So I guess we will be having, along with the daily weather forecast and radiation/pollen count, a blackout map.
The slightly derogatory term for a foreigner here in Japan is “gaijin”. A little more formal, and a little more neutral, “gaikokujin” (outside-country-person). New term in the foreign community is for residents that left the country and are now coming back: flyjin. Your language lesson for the day.
Had a good laugh when somebody told me my picture during the blackout made me look like Qaddafi. Green hat and scarf matched, and I am working on the putty face. Just wish I had somebody to dictate to (hmmm, students?…I’m getting some ideas here….).
Our graduation was rescheduled, and now cancelled. I feel sorry for the students. Lines for gasoline and other products have disappeared. Only milk is hard to find. And bottled water. I bought in haste 12 days ago, and we served sparkling water to the cat by mistake. He wouldn’t drink it. The rest of the bottle we mixed with crystal light to make a weird soda-pop.

Earthquake Day 12

I return from two exhausting yet productive days of meetings to prepare a conference for this summer. My travels took me to Kyushu, where it was surprisingly cold and rainy. This winter has been the coldest on record for average temperatures, and number of days below freezing. And no, I won’t make any jokes about global warming.

I was glad to be rid of the pollen-infested air of Tokyo, and didn’t have to use sprays or eye drops. The sake (or as they call it here, “nihon-shu” or Japan liquor) was excellent with the dinner last night. We went on to another place over beer and shots and solved most of the world’s problems. Our group is devoted to bringing technology to language teaching here in Japan, and we are moving in a couple of directions, with teacher training and consulting, the conference, and I will edit a new book called TILT Recipes (Tech In Language Teaching). The Recipes is a continuation of a series of books I edited about 10 years ago.

So I start heading back and bought souvenirs (usually food from the area you visit). I got spicy fish roe, the local ramen flavor, and some green tea. In the lobby of the airport I watch news about a water treatment plant next to where I used to live before I was married. Seems like the levels of cesium are too high for use with infants. People were warned to use bottled water for formula. We will also be sure to use some of our bottled water for little Dexter, our cat.
I arrive home just in time to set up dinner, and Maki goes to visit her sister. It seems Maki’s sister lives between electric grid areas, so she does not have any blackouts. As I sit down the lights go out. The trusty Kindle with the silly headband lamp get me through the next three hours and the house slowly cools. And cool it does. Maki arrives back about 3 minutes after the lights, and I wonder how she does that. There are no blackouts in western Japan, where I just came from.
Julia calls as she is leaving from work, as usual. Maki mentions that it is raining. I can hear Julia’s eyes batting as she asks me to pick her up in the car because she is sans umbrella. That was a good call, because the rain turns to snow, and covers the windshield and roof of the car. We make jokes about radioactive snow. But we pause to think that it may not be so funny.
Still no milk, so we may switch to soy. Maki has baked soem bread. But as we sit down to recount the time I was away, I get the best story of the year. Yesterday, Maki is here with Julia and her sister. Maki goes to the bathroom. She gets trapped. The handle doesn’t work, so Yuki and Julia spend a half hour trying to get the door off the hinges. No go (well, Maki’s already went, but…). Julia calls 119 (our version of 911). The operator says, “Is it a fire or is it urgent?” Julia picks the latter. About 3 minutes later an ambulance arrives at the house, siren blaring. Followed by not one, but two, fire trucks. They spend the better part of an hour getting the door off. The firemen say this is pretty common. They don’t seem angry. The police then arrive, and Maki explains the situation, and they leave. She apologizes to the old next door neighbors for all the racket, and they give her a bag of cubed carrots (they got a new Popeil food processor). The new next door neighbors, she finds out, are used to that kind of racket. The father is retired from the head office of the national police agency (kind of like the FBI). She talks more with the neighbors than ever before. Nothing like a fire truck to bring together a neighborhood.

Earthquake Update Day 9

Not much happened yesterday, so there was no Update Day 8.

This morning we awoke to reports that Reactors 5&6 were under control. They are still working on 2 & 3, trying to get electricity to the pumps or water to the reactors. Work is proceeding slowly but surely.
Weather has moderated, yesterday it got up to 70 degrees. Today should get to 65 degrees. It may rain, though. Because of the mild weather, electric usage is down and there have not been any power outages yesterday or today.
Radiation levels look safe for now, except for some milk and spinach harvested just after the leak. Most Chernobyl victims got their radiation through eating tainted foods. Good to see people monitoring the radiation.
Aftershocks continue, but at a much reduced frequency. See this map and wait for all 611 aftershocks (and counting) in the last week. Relief efforts are being organized, finally there is gasoline up in the north, and the roads are being repaired to allow access to the devastated areas. Even the Yakuza (Japanese mafia) is sending up trucks of supplies.
The biggest news here in Japan is the backlash against the over-dramatization of the situation by the western media, Fox news in particular, along with the HuffPost. People have been seeing reports of panic, fleeing and the like, and not seeing that here on the ground. The US Government advises evacuation for people living 50 miles from the nuclear reactors, and has gone on to set up flights out of the country, and trains from Sendai to Tokyo, for US citizens. They advise us to leave the country, the only foreign government that is suggesting this. My friend’s daughter returned from Minneapolis yesterday on a flight only 1/3 occupied. She stretched out across the 5 middle seats. Other friends are returning from a teaching conference in New Orleans, and report similar occupancies.
Meanwhile the cherry is about to blossom. Dad will remember that from 2 years ago. An utterly beautiful time of year here in Japan. I may get an early glimpse of that because I have a meeting for conference planning in Kyushu, the southernmost island tomorrow through Wednesday. Julia has work today, she takes information for insurance claims, and said yesterday was boring, not many accidents, as people were staying in. The train schedules are returning to normal, and there is bread and instant ramen back on the shelves, the only thing missing now is milk.

Earthquake Day 7: Questions Answered

People have been writing back to our family, mostly with support, but also with some questions. I hope this will help.
How far are you from the nuclear plants?
We live west and south of Tokyo. Kawasaki is like Oak Brook to Chicago, or Englewood to Denver. Kawasaki is wedged in between Tokyo and Yokohama, splitting the two with the narrow point at Tokyo Bay, where all the factories are, and the wider part up the river, mostly residential where we live. The nuclear plants are in Fukushima, north and east, just south of Sendai, about 300 km (180 miles) from Tokyo. So we are about 200 miles away from the coast of Fukushima (good map).
Is the Japanese government trustworthy?
When it comes to nuclear accidents, the track record is not very good. Facts were stretched, and important information not disclosed. But that was when Japan had a one-party system (Liberal Democrats..who are very conservative). A second party (Social Democrats…who are not too popular because they have gone back on some promises to support families with kids) is now in power, and has taken a new view toward information. The Assistant Prime Minister Edano has been unfailing in keeping the country up to date so far. I think the Japanese public understand that this is an unprecedented situation, but they do have trust in the government.
Are people leaving Japan in droves?
Although the airports are full, this is normal for this time of year. The school year just finished, and spring vacation means a great exodus anyway. Those fleeing the zones of destruction tend to visit relatives or friends in other parts of Japan. Foreigners are leaving in greater than usual numbers. The UK and Australia are advising movement away from the areas of destruction, but only within Japan. The US is the only one sponsoring flights out of the country for government workers and citizens (to Taiwan, on an Army transport plane, and you have to pay them back at commercial rates). Flights out are from Narita, Tokyo’s international airport (3 hours by train toward the destruction for us), or Nagoya (2 hours away).

When you have electricity, can you point your fans to blow the radiation north and west to cover North Korea?
Good idea.

Do your ATMs take coins?
They certainly do. I went into the bank proper and talked to a real person, a nice young lady (half of our graduates used to become bank clerks), and they took care of my coins. The one bank had their computers down (maybe we should call Jeff Brazel at TierTwo), but all the other banking, finance, stock markets, retail stores and services are trying to get back to normal, with the only thing holding them back are the 3-hour blackouts. So they make announcements “Ladies and Gentlemen, please proceed to the exit, we will be closing in 10 minutes because of blackout.” People are cooperative here. Note that there are 2 main electric grids in Japan. Western Japan (Osaka and west) run on 110v and 60 cycles like the US. Eastern Japan (Tokyo and north) run on 110v and 50 cycles. (US made clocks run slow here in Tokyo.) So the blackouts are mostly in the Tokyo area.

Do you think you might leave if it gets worse?
All three of us are on break between school years. We’ve talked about hopping down to Guam, but just want to wait and see for now. We feel that the probability of any radiation of significant strength making it all the way to Tokyo is close to zero. Up north, that is another story. My friends living just west of Fukushima city moved away for now, just in case. There is one family I know who I can’t get a hold of. Our university has a small retreat facility about 50 miles away from the nuclear facility. They were thinking about selling it last year…too late now.

Was there mismanagement at the nuclear facilities?
The facilities were built up over the years, with the first one being installed by GE, and others by other companies like Toshiba. Tokyo Electric has followed all the government regulations. The 50 guys staying on are seen as heroes right now, and are a result of the Prime Minister putting pressure on Tokyo Electric. The plants may have been constructed too close together. There is a saying here in Japan, “Fix the problem before you fix the blame.” We are still in the first stage on that one.

Is it deserted there?
Even though all the businesses are up and running in Tokyo, the blackouts and uncertainty have caused a great reduction of normal living activity. I liken it to New Year’s here. You wake up on the morning of Jan. 1, eat a very nice (but cold) breakfast and drink some rice wine, and then hang out for 3 days, sitting under the short heated table with a blanket and watch really boring foot races, and contemplate the past year and the year ahead. You eat a lot of tangerines (in season and delicious), and more of the cold food (so the women don’t have to cook). You might venture out to the local hot bath place in the afternoon, but stay at home otherwise. It is kind of like that here. The constant Earthquake coverage on TV is now yielding back to the silly contest shows and melodramatic series. Trains are back up and running at about half the frequency of normal. People will be going out soon.

Are you getting on each other’s nerves?

Maki had us tape up all the windows, then after a shower opens the bathroom to get the steam out. There was a booming sound the other day with the wind, so I had to go buy a fricking ladder and climb up on the roof to see if there might be something loose. I have discovered I don’t really like heights any more. I fall off, try to find an ambulance? Ha. Julia continues to drop her coat on the floor, mistaking it for a hangar. Julia and Maki insist on getting Dexter the cat a harness and leash, and torturing him to try it out in case he needs to go out if there is an earthquake. Me: He’s not a dog. There won’t be enough time to get that on if there is an earthquake. He’s not a toy. Sheesh. Julia: Yeah, but at least we should have some fun preparing for a nuclear explosion.

And complaints from everybody at home. Not out in public, mind you, but at home. Just have to remember we have it really good compared to the people up north. We feel lucky.

How can we help?

There are a lot of organizations out there that are lending support to Japan right now. There are also a lot of fake places accepting money. Stick to the ones you know. Doctors without Borders has been mentioned. While most of the local information is in Japanese, there is ourteacher’s organization that is organizing support on many levels.

Do you see any light at the end of the tunnel?

We are all hoping for a resolution to the nuclear problem soon, and it looks like the reactors are cooling, finally. But the overall effects will be felt for weeks, months and even years. But they are not insurmountable.

Well, better get this off. It is getting dark, and the power will be cut 6-9 tonight. Reading by flashlight under the covers in order. Makes me feel like a kid again. Tomorrow will be in the 70’s. Maybe time try out the new Weber.


Earthquake update Day 6

Six days since the earthquake, and things are looking very uncertain. Last night Julia and I stayed up until about 2 AM watching TV, and then some House and Glee we got off the web.

Julia as Tigger keeping warm
Julia as Tigger keeping warm

We had a much cooler day today, dipping to about 35 degrees (F) at 6 AM when we had our power cut for the first time. Maki had made coffee by then so we had a little warmth as I got up at 7, and as the day progressed. Power on at about 10 AM. We watched in the morning news with the baptism of the reactors by helicopter. It looked very ineffective. It was also just in time for Julia to get up. Maki cleaned and then I took her to the closest shopping center. Shopping here in Tokyo is usually more vertical than horizontal. You get free parking for 2 hours if you spend at least $20 in the stores. The roads were eerily quiet, and for the first time ever, I got a parking place on the bottom of the 8 floors. The bank was having problems with their computers, so I could only deposit the $2,400 in coins (they have a $6 coin in Japan, and Maki has been collecting them for 5 years) to spend on the trip in Hawaii. Have to look forward.

Kevin in reading gear
Kevin in reading gear

I bought cheese from Europe, and we got a wonderful nice warm baguette, as bread has reappeared for the first time since the earthquake. We got back home to turn on the TV to get the announcement that because of the cold weather, people were using too much electricity, and a second black-out was due at 2. I finished off the book “Reality is Broken” by Jane McGonigal, while bundled up and at the window with the most daylight. I reminded Maki that we had lived just like this in China 20 years ago, when volunteer teaching in Nanjing. After the lights came back on at 5 we sat down with a nice bottle of wine, some soup, and the cheese and bread for dinner, and hung around in the kitchen, with the gas heating, to avoid using electricity.

The temblors continued throughout the day, a little wiggle right now, but with 3 significan shakes in the afternoon, all of which were mercifully short, not enough time to get to the door. The electric company guy said that we are still using too much electricity, and they may have to shut off all the power across the area later tonight. Let’s hope people go to sleep early,as Maki has done.

Maki Day 6 with Dexter
Maki Day 6 with Dexter

Now starting the new book by David Brooks about brain, physiology, emotions, and society, called “The Social Animal”. Will curl up under the covers and get up early tomorrow to get stuff done before our blackout from dinner time to 9PM tomorrow. We get blacked out at different times each day. I may ride the bike into my office, which doesn’t have any blackouts (the capital is exempt) to get some work done there.

More worries, but still distant

We got our electricity back in the middle of the night last night. I went to work today. When I returned, I finally was able to see the devastation.

A new worry comes today, but it is still at a significant distance, about 300 miles away.

Radiation in Japan
One of the six power plants next to each other in Fukushima exploded at 4 PM this afternoon. The authorities are still “measuring”, but have expanded the area of evacuation from 10 km to 20 km radius.

Currently the radiation emitting is about 1,000 microseiverts, or 1 seivert, per HOUR. Normally there is about 1 seivert per YEAR. Each Seivert is equal to 100 rems. That is about 10,000 xrays. (1 chest xray = 10 mrem, or .01 rem)

There is a long history of the authorities massaging the data and outright lying to the public in cases like this. We are all watching carefully.

They may have to cut our electricity about 3 hours each day because they have closed most power plants. Nuclear accounts for about a third of electric power in Japan. Gas and water are also rumored to be under discussion for rationing, but those are only rumors.

Everybody OK here in Tokyo

It is just past midnight, about 10 hours after the earthquake. We just got our electricity back, so are able to make phone calls and send emails. It is still wobbling every once in a while.

This was the scariest earthquake of my 26 years here in Tokyo. I had just finished skyping with Anri. It started off like any other earthquake (we get about one a month), but then didn’t stop. It started building and the lamps in the front hall started swinging from the rafters. Whoops…another wobble…maybe things aren’t done yet. We have had at least a dozen smaller aftershocks.

But no real damage. We had a mirror and a couple of pictures fall off the walls, the computer walk toward the edge of the desk (and later back in the other direction), and lots of stuff knocked from tables onto the floor. The electricity went out, but I had daylight enough to get things in order.

Julia was in Nagoya visiting her grandmother. No problems there. Anri is safe in Loveland. Maki was in the basement of a 40-storey building downtown Tokyo. The quake swayed the whole building and made her seasick. Whoops…another wobble…. She took the bus to the nearest big station, and the aftershock make all the cars tilt and whirl. The trains were all stopped, and tens of thousands of people were waiting for a half dozen busses. Maki and her friend walked about 4 miles to the river border between Tokyo and Kawasaki.

I finally found her phone number on a telephone bill. I went to the local store to call on the pay phone. I rendezvoused with her in the car, and took her friend home. Huge traffic jam, took us 2 hours to go about 8 miles. We returned to a cold dark house, lit some candles and read books (well, kindle for me). Maki was tired but not sleepy, and nodded off about 10. The electricity came back on at 11:45.

What did I learn? I will go out and get a cell phone tomorrow. Update the backpack with the survival stuff in it. Check for cracks in the new old house.