Earthquake Update

March 16th, 2011

I’ve been requested to give an earthquake update, which seems reasonable. Unfortunately, there’s not much to say, and I’ve already informed some folks of this info by email. But, just in case:

1) The main damage at the Bugbread household that the initial earthquake caused was that a roll of paper towels fell over, as did an empty coffee tumbler. However, the Earthquake Recovery Team (me) quickly rectified these issues by putting the paper towels back on the shelf, and uprighting the tumbler.

2) The nuclear situation is scary, but thanks to the Internet, I have access to Geiger counter readings from private individuals, and can see that there has, so far, been absolutely no danger in the Tokyo area.

3) Apparently, the US media is a fucking joke, reporting 10 hour old news as news. (There should be a word for “news which is no longer new”. Perhaps “olds”. And then after a while, “olds” becomes “history”) It’s frankly ridiculous. I mean, I’m managing to stay on top of the Japanese news, AND dress/bathe/take the kids to school, AND do my regular day job, but ABC can’t, despite the fact that staying on top of the news IS their job? Luckily, being in Japan, I have access to better news on NHK.

4) Stores are sold out of almost EVERYTHING. It’s amazing and amusing. Also, they’re turning off lots of lights to conserve electricity. It makes everywhere seem like my old mental images of the USSR.

5) The fact that the stores are empty means, I guess, that people are panicking. In the past, “Japanese panicking” has not gone well. This time, though – man, if this is how Japanese panic, all out Japanese panic is better than even American “low-level worry”. People seem as happy as usual, still polite, still calm. Nobody seems panicked at all, but the shelves are empty.

6) TV programming has gone back to normal, more or less. Regular commercials have resumed, there are comedies back on the air, news reports are back to dramatic vignettes of sadness and hope with swelling background music and dramatic narration. In other words, non-news aimed less at informing and more at getting people to watch, in order to get advertising dollars (yen).

So, I think that about does it for updates. Rolling power outages have been scheduled, but they call off individual areas if power consumption is less than demand, and where I live hasn’t been hit yet, meaning I’m working every day like normal. Alex’s school got called off on Monday due to worries that the teachers wouldn’t be able to get home if the trains stopped due to power outages, but yesterday was school as normal. Now I gotta eat breakfast and get to work on my translation.

Oh, and coincidentally, the translation I’m working on now is a safety standard for factories. Lots of fun translating sentences like “Pipes and joints must be capable of withstanding earthquakes and other natural disasters, as must their support fixtures.”

3 Responses to “Earthquake Update”

  1. Joe Brucia Says:

    Hi nephew. Nice to hear you are hanging in and things in Toyko are not as bad as the distored US media would want us to believe. Just received an email from your dad, who is trying to keep your mom from utter panic. I guess moms will be moms.
    I thought you would find this somewhat amuzing. I was reading a web site where some people on the west coast of the US are buying up Iodine. As I told Sherry, by the time any radiation reaches the US , it would be so diluted and dispursed, smelling the smog in LA would be 100 times more harmful. In any event, people in the States are concerned and do care what happens in Japan. I guess people do have hearts and care about others. At least that is one good thing about folks in the US. Well take care and say hi to your wife and kids for me Sherry , Kristi, and Quincy ( who is now almost 4)

  2. Leigh Says:

    Glad to hear everything is Ok there–and minimal damage. Yes, the US media can inflate everything. But why ABC news?? I didn’t even know they did more than local news, to be honest. Truthfully, I don’t watch news really. My news sources are generally NYtimes, NPR or BBC, but I can’t tell how out of date or inaccurate those are.

    I will say, I’m pretty addicted to the news sites and the damage in the north is staggering.

    And as Joe has said, west coasters are buying up Iodide tablets—I think they are afraid what has happened in Japan will happen in California.

    Anyways, stay well.

  3. Erik Says:

    Thanks, Mike. I appreciate the update, and I’m glad y’all were not affected, other than shortages at the stores. I agree with Leigh. The photos and video are shocking. My Chinese friends are panicking too about radiation. They keep bringing up how much video from the north that they see looks like the movie ‘2012’.

    As for the news, having worked in local news for 4 years, I can tell you that it’s more concerned with getting your attention than reporting what’s happening now. Ever notice that most “live” shots happen 10 hours after everyone on the scene left and went home? Only occasionally is “breaking news” to be considered something actually new or even current. All other news is generally not current, but old news. Most news comes from Reuters or AP, and is then bought by everyone else. 2nd hand. But then, producers watch other news channels and read other newspapers as much as they watch the scanners. So some stories are third-hand. Be wary of the “developing story” as it means “we think this is a real story, but nothing’s happened yet, but we still feel the need to report to you.”

    As for the nuclear “meltdown”, I would be concerned. Out here, we have to dig through the news sifting through the sensationalism. But working at a company that helps build nuclear plants (i don not work in that part of the business), i know the building and engineering standards are many times stronger or thicker than the rest of the engineered and constructed world. when those “fail safes” actually fail, it’s good reason for concern. all nuclear plants are earthquake rated, but i can’t imagine anyone could rate it for an earthquake that big as i don’t think anyone can test with any certainty a structure to hold. you can model and scale tests. hydrogen pressure buildup is a different story. As far as you and your family are concerned, keep on top of the wind info and radiation levels. I can’t imagine the panic if Tokyo were plagued by dangerous levels of radiation. Stay cautious and stay ahead of the curve. I know it’s civil out there, but empty shelves ought to be telling you that all is not well in the minds of folks out there. People are worried. Please keep in the back of your mind whether it’s a good time to bring the family for a visit to Houston. Take care, and thanks for the updates.

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