Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Japan Nuclear Crisis...Part 2, coming soon to a reactor near you!

This NY Times headline says what most of us in Japan already know -- that the corruption and lack of regulation of nuclear power stations such as the Fukushima Dai Ichi plant (map) is probably to blame for this current radiation leak and near complete disaster. And more will probably follow.

Be sure to check out the quake map video at the bottom!

Japanese Officials Ignored or Concealed Dangers.

The title of this article says it all. It was in the NY Times online May 17, 2011. It talks about a pattern of ignored warnings or defeated lawsuits attempting to shut down dangerous reactors by the power companies and the Japanese government.

This article comes as no surprise to anyone in Japan. Nobody trusts "officials" or the big corporations. How can we after repeated scandals where a company will typically deny some obvious wrongdoing, like tainted milk for example, until a few people die and it's proven beyond a doubt that the company was responsible. Then a few CEOs cry and publicly apologize. Then I guess they draw straws and the unlucky one or two invariably commit suicide to show how really really very sorry they are. And life goes on with the big guys screwing the little guys as SOP in Japan.

In this case, however, this lack of regulation has resulted in a nuclear disaster as bad as Chernobyl. They're still dumping radiation into the ocean at Fukushima...and most people think we're lucky that this is all that happened. In a country that is constantly getting large earthquakes, this scares the shit out of me. Best guesses say that there is a 70% chance of a city-flattening earthquake in the Tokyo area within the next 30 years...and I live just outside of Tokyo. Time to start thinking of an exit strategy, I think.

Oh, and a bit of cool bling.
Check this out. It's the Japan Quake Map site. It maps the Japan earthquake (the one that caused the recent tsunami) from the morning when a few small quakes happened, and through for a few weeks after. It's like watching popcorn popping. The size of the rings are the magnitude, and the color is the depth (the more shallow the quake the more destructive). Just for fun I put a red dot on the pic below so you can see where I am in relation to the main quake.

And for some extra fun, try increasing the playback speed on the top right (looks like DVD controls, but very tiny). Enjoy!

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Manila, 2011. Part 1

I spent a few weeks in Manila over the spring. I took surprisingly few photos so I don't have much to share, but here are a few things that I thought worthy of capturing.

First, my flat. I was staying on Makati Avenue in the A.Venue complexes. Great view...

But from the day I got there, there was construction going on, which is definitely going to kill the view from that apartment. The guys working there would stop and wave if I stepped out on the balcony, which was pretty funny.

And talk about noisy!! What's worse, the noise wasn't just by day...they worked 24 hours a day. Check out the volume at 5am!

But living with non-stop noise is just one thing you need to get used to in Manila. I used to complain about the idiot "recycle" guys going through my area in Japan every day with loudspeaker trucks...I don't even notice them now thanks to my Manila training. Be sure to pack your ear plugs!

This and that...
Being primarily a nation of practicing Catholics, there are churches everywhere. This is one at the Mall of Asia...

If churches aren't your thing, then how about an ocean view. I caught a few sunsets from here over beers.

I also went to Cebu to meet a friend for a few quick beers. There were a few food stands near the resort and people never failed to smile or say hello. And no, I didn't ever eat at this place, but I thought it was cool to see a taste of home.

I did, however, have this juice made from sugar cane. A good start to the day in Cebu.

And I got at least a few cold beers by the beach on Mactan Island.

More to follow about places to drink in Manila in Part 2. Stay tuned!

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Japan Earthquake 2011

On March 11, 2011, there was a massive earthquake and tsunami about 200KM north of where I live in Chiba. People always ask how bad the damage was in my area. Although there was a huge problem with liquefaction, my apartment wasn't bad at all as you can see below.

I was so lucky not to be in Japan when the quake hit. Instead I was watching from a condo in Manila. The quake and especially the tsunami footage being shown on NHK International was just unbelievable. There were tsunami warnings in the Philippines, although as far as I know there was no damage. Still, I stayed up on the 20th floor watching on TV until it passed.

Not long after the news about the earthquake in Japan, I found a video from a geeky-sounding guy who is in my prefecture. As I'd heard, the quake started off slow and then suddenly increased in intensity. And it was long. Based on the shaking in this video, I was fearing for the worst about the condition of my place.

As it turns out, this guy is closer to Narita, so he was inside the most severe shake place was on the other side of the shaking fence, so to speak, so I didn't see any damage, and there was only a bit of mess.

First a quick glance into my back storage room when I got in. I had the bookshelf attached to the wall (standard earthquake-prep in Japan). But I guess it didn't work as it looks like an angry poltergeist went to town on my books.

Not that the messy books mean that much. Here's a shot from my other bookshelf...and as far as I can tell, it's exactly as I left it. I'm a slob, what can I say.

Part of the problem was the polarity of the shaking -- things in a kind of West-East orientation, such as the bookshelf in the top photo or my kitchen drawers below, felt the most force. My fridge was also thrown out about a foot from the wall -- which was surprising because I have a big-ass fridge. Anyway, damage to the kitchen was minimal...just my old frying pan now with a huge dent in it. So far so good...

In fact, the only thing that broke in my place was a wine glass....that fell out of the cupboard when I got home and stupidly opened it to see if anything was broken. So after a long day of travel, I christened my apartment with about a billion tiny shards of broken glass that flew all over the floor when it smashed. DUH!

The place I live -- in fact all of the Tokyo Bay coast in Chiba -- is on "reclaimed land." This entire area used to be under water. So when a big earthquake hits, the water just reappears up through the ground in a process called "liquefaction." That caused more damage than anything else in this part of Chiba. Here's a video from my area on the day of the earthquake.

All that mud that starts to pour out as the flow gets stronger is the foundation of the parks, parking lots and other areas around Kaihin Makuhari, some of which sunk as much as 1 meter. Certain areas of that convention center are like walking on a roller coaster with all the troughs created when the ground leaked out from under the pavement.

Here's a few pics of the rollercoaster.

And an interesting point about language...I doubt there's a child in the English speaking world who would know the meaning of "liquefaction." Yet when I was out in the park, I saw a kid of about 5 years old talking to his dad about "ekitai gensho." So it seems that our linguistic skills really are a product of our environment!

Although I was truly lucky to have been away for the quake, the tsunami and the radiation, 20,000 or so people were not so lucky. I've asked a friend who was involved in the relief effort to send me some links to reputable relief agencies. I'll update this post when I get the links.

Anyway, in spite of the tragic events, it was a nice day and time of the year to arrive home. Here's a shot of the cherry blossoms from my place, taken shortly after cleaning up the broken wine glass...