Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Curiosity best left to cats

It seems I only post about natural disasters this year.

The current typhoon which has closed all schools in Nagoya today has once again seen incidences of people being washed away by swollen rivers. The most tragic example happened yesterday when an 8 year old boy on his way home from school was lost to river flooding in Tajimi, north of Nagoya.

My wife commented during the Typhoon a couple of weeks ago, "Why is it that people always get washed away during typhoons?" The sad fact is that of those who have been lost over the last two days, the majority have been men in their 50's to 80's. It is not only sad because of the loss of life, but also because they perhaps should have known better.

In one exemplary incident, a retired man announced that he was 'just off to have a look at the condition of the river', and wasn't heard from again. This sparked a conversation at work today, and the fact that it is on the whole only old men getting washed away lead one senior teacher to the conclusion that nobody else is daft enough to go and stand by a raging river in a typhoon.

Commiserations to the families of those lost to the typhoon, and words of warning to the over 50's in Japan, for this will not be the last typhoon Japan sees. Just remember that thousands of tons of muck laden raging river can be dangerous, and that curiosity is sometimes best left to the cat.

Monday, March 21, 2011

The last week and a bit

To begin with:
Red Cross Japan Tsunami Appeal

I have spent the long weekend in turn drunk, crabby, fatherly and cleaning. Nothing to do with priorities. Friends from Tokyo staying with another friend provided the first, the next was unavoidable and the last two are default settings.

I have spent the last week and a bit in shock, sadness, fear, shaking, working, being a father and husband and wondering whether I should be leaving Japan.

It's not such an easy decision as I imagined when I was younger. Radiation? Quakes? Family? Leave now, and never come back!

Bought a flat last year though. Got a full time job and my wife is starting a new one next week. Been in Japan for 11 years, worked fairly hard in some ways to be in the situation I am in now and who is going to walk away from that without checking a few things first?

Earthquakes. We have always lived with the knowledge that it could happen right now. It did. Not in my area. We discussed what we could do. We cried when we saw the rescue team from the UK arrive on the scene (again, nothing to do with priorities). We sent money to the Japanese red cross. I did a little disaster prevention in the home. I mailed friends in Tokyo to come and stay. I watched as Damon did the opposite and went to the disaster zones to take photographs for a client. Our house wasn't shaking anymore. I bought my daughter a protective hat. There were only 2 quakes that I felt here (one more while asleep, I heard).

I got an i-phone the week before the first quake hit. I was at work when it did. The school moved like it had been plonked on top of a cross channel ferry. I downloaded the BBC news app. In the constant search for information to make sense of the situation, my fingers left the screen when they had to (if I have one complaint about the iphone it is that with all other mobiles they can be charged by emergency hand powered generators... but not the i-phone).

Facebook was taken over by links, comments and expressions of shock. One friend in Tokyo gave almost minute by minute accounts of the shakes. It put me on edge, and I was glad when she came to Nagoya to get away. It seemed like nothing had happened here. People out shopping, my work going on as usual. Food in the shops. Gas in the heater. It didn't balance out.

The Japanese news was now even more difficult to understand. NHK kept up their translated news service. Staunch work. The tsunami images were unbelievable. Images of the Indonesia tsunami overlayed upon small Japanese coastal towns.

Then the Fukushima problem. Now the chance that, as well as the appalling loss of life, the effects on the Japanese economy, the expected tax rises and the heightened worry that we could be next, we may have another .... another what? 3 Mile Island? Chernobyl? Who knew?

The reaction to the Japanese earthquake and Fukushima plant problem by many people and by some news services was hysterical to say the least. I was in a panic. My wife told me to spend more time with her and our daughter than with our computer. In my mind I was only trying to find out more about the dangers we faced. I posted on a newspaper site that I thought we needed 'level headed reporting'. I just wanted to know what was going on.

One foreign resident, Daniel Kahl, uploaded a 'plea' for non-sensational reporting to You Tube. It seemed like a nice idea, but I couldn't help thinking that beyond that we need to have a little more self control. 自己管理 (jiko kanri) in Japanese. Self management. Spaces like facebook and Twitter were never set up for disasters, but they have been used for so much more in recent weeks. Opinions can reach many people in the blink of an eye and there is no controlling voice of reason to say 'hang on a minute'. Nor should there be.

Like I say, I panicked. I looked for information where I could find it. Many people did the same. Below are the links I posted to Facebook over the past week or so in chronological order. Some are news, mostly the BBC who I found to be un-sensational and informative (though I have no idea what their reporting was like at home). Others are sites that friends posted. The light relief were just that.

March 21st Randall Munroe ("...if you are basing radiation safety procedures on an internet PNG image and things go wrong, you have no-one to blame but yourself") "Radiation Dose Chart".

March 21st Light Relief "Melody Gardot - Who will comfort me".

March 21st One of sources of Fleep's charts for Tokyo "Environmental Radiation Measurement Result".

March 18th BBC article "Choppers bring no nuclear relief - but current might".

March 17th NBC (via friend) "U.S. to help Americans leave Japan".

March 17th N.Y Times (date saw article)

March 17th The Guardian "Japan nuclear crisis escalates".

March 17th (date I remembered I was UK citizen) UK Embassy "Travel advice".

March 16th (date I first saw site) "Graphing Earthquake and Radiation Data in Japan". (constantly updated)

March 16th BBC article " 'Radiation' text message is fake".

March 16th BBC article "Japan nuclear alert at Fukushima - Q&A".

March 15th BBC article "Reactor breach worsens prospects".

March 15th light relief "Damn you auto correct".

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Thursday, January 21, 2010

A Fine Art

They work with a dark pencil to create the impression of light and shadow.

Sunday, January 17, 2010