A New One-Story Building in the Neighborhood

April 18th, 2011

(Actually, there’s reason to this madness: The bar used to be on the second floor of another building, but they were forced to relocate as the building was going to be torn down, and they took their signage with them when they relocated)

Update – 4/14

April 14th, 2011

Well, no news is good news, and there’s no news to report here, hence my lack of updatey blog entries.

Life in Tokyo appears back to normal. Last time I went to a supermarket, they were short on yogurt and natto (fermented soybeans). The other day on TV they explained that this was because making yogurt required uninterrupted power, and Tokyo was having scheduled power outages, so yogurt facilities were shut down. The temperature outside has warmed up, though, so people are using their heaters less, and they’ve eliminated the scheduled power outages, so I’m assuming stores are back in stock with yogurt. I don’t know why there were (are?) natto shortages, but as I dislike the stuff, I’m not too concerned.

Lots of places have every other light turned off to conserve power, so the town is kinda dim, but other than that, everything seems normal. People are acting normal, stores carry goods, kids run around, scuzzy looking touts annoy the modern-day equivalent of valley girls in Shibuya.

Cherry blossoms are in season, meaning the river two blocks away from our house is looking awesome. I’m taking today off from work to go to a big park for cherry blossom viewing.

Oh, and I went to Shibuya two weeks ago. The place was busy (hopping, as the young folks say?) as usual, but as we approached the station at night to get the train home, I noticed that the ambiance around the station was somehow…better. Better than pre-earthquake. I couldn’t figure out why, until I realized that all the massive outdoor video screens were turned off to save electricity, so all you could hear were other people talking and trains running, and no blaring advertisements. The lack of electricity during the summer will mean less air conditioning, which will kill me, but it would be awesome if, forever, the amount of electricity could be limited to “enough to power A/C across the city, but not enough to power A/C and outdoor advertising”.

There have been reports here and in the foreign media of “earthquake sickness”, which isn’t really “sickness”, but like a really mild form of sea sickness or car sickness. Not enough to make one nauseous, but enough to make one think that the ground is moving even when it isn’t. Before we went to Okinawa, I had a bit of that, but not since. I have (finally) installed one of those programs on my computer that tells you when an earthquake is coming, so if I do feel shaking, but I haven’t got an alert, I can realize that it’s the room shaking because the kids are running around upstairs, or a big truck has driven by, or I have the bass turned up too loud on my stereo.

Speaking of early-alert systems, neither my wife’s phone, nor mine, have been getting early earthquake alerts. I looked into it, and apparently it’s because our phones are just plain too old. They are coming on 5 years old now (!), and we have been getting letters from our phone carrier saying “We’re changing phone infrastructures, and that won’t affect most people, only those with ancient phones, and, hey, guess what? We’re talking about phones as old as yours! Switch to a new phone now, and we’ll give you a discount. We even have some models we can give you for free! Just, for christ’s sake, switch phones, because come next year, your phone will no longer function!” So I guess it’s time to get a new phone. Hopefully they’ll come out with an impact resistant and waterproof smart phone soon.

So, yeah, that’s an update. A whole lot of words, but very little of importance.

“Domestic Suspense”

April 5th, 2011

I found this wonderful (and thick! 598 pages!) comic book compendium at one of the places we stayed at in Okinawa. Here is a rough translation of most of the cover:


Domestic Suspense   –   Complaints!!

Various blurbs:

Don’t talk casually with customers!

Store clerks who don’t apologize!

She tutted me when I asked a question!

Stupid reception desk employees!

No More Putting Up with It! Fight Back Against Stuck Up Employees!!

And, in addition to the main theme, these other blurbs:

She Forced Him Into Marriage by Getting Pregnant on Purpose

The Abuse: Sexual Abuse versus Neglect

The Dignity of a Part Time Worker

Update – 04/01

April 1st, 2011

One of the initial reasons we left Kawasaki is that the situation was getting worse every day, and we thought it would be prudent to get out before the situation got bad enough that everyone tried to leave at the same time. Our plan was to stay out until the situation started to get better – specifically, until they switched back to a stable water cycling pump cooling approach (as opposed to external water injection).

Unfortunately, recent word has been that that will probably take months at minimum, and our projected return timescale was not “months”. And, fortunately, while when we left every day was worse than the last, now the situation seems to have plateaued, with no good news, yet no bad news.

So we decided to come back to Kawasaki. We arrived midday yesterday, and while it was strange to see so many stores with their lights half-off to conserve energy, it was great to go to the supermarket and see that lines were normal, and the shelves were again abundant with products.

Update – 03/24

March 24th, 2011

Howdy from sunny Okinawa!

(Note: above sentence is not true for all definitions of “sunny” – it has been chilly and rainy for the last three days)

So, as the first sentence can probably clue you in, we are not in Tokyo right now. We didn’t leave Tokyo because we believed the situation there was dangerous, but because we believed that if the situation became dangerous, everyone would try to leave, making it impossible to leave, so we decided to beat the crowd.

As far as “why Okinawa”, again, it wasn’t because we believed that we needed to get this far away from Tokyo, but, unlike many of our friends who know folks in other parts of Japan they can crash with, the only folks I know are in Kyushu, and don’t have places big enough to fit our whole family. So if we were going to leave Tokyo and stay in a hotel (more on that in a second), we might as well go somewhere that we would have wanted to go anyway.

So we’re in Okinawa, staying in a Youth Hostel (Note: Japanese youth hostels have no age restriction, so they’re really just “people hostels”). Today, we’re going to rent a car and travel up to northern Okinawa to see the sights, and we’ll be coming back to southern Okinawa on Monday. The Youth Hostel lodging is pretty cheap (6,000 yen or so, which is around$75 at current rates, for the whole family). The place we’re going up north is even cheaper, at $50 a night. Plus, unlike the hostel, the place up north has a shared kitchen we can use, so we can eat cheap as well.

Anyway, I’ll give a proper trip report after I get back.

On to the news, I just wanted to share some links for folks (especially my mom. Hi, mom!)

Yes, the news about the water in Tokyo is scary scary. 200 bq/l. If that number keeps rising, I will be quite worried. Also, if they find significant amounts of isotopes other than iodine, I will be worried (I131 has a half-life of 8 days, so if there were no more I131 added, the radiation level would reach acceptable levels (100bq/l) in 8 days). That said:


Radiation dose chart:


So I vacillate between getting really worried, and then finding information that points out that my worries are, though perhaps not unfounded, at the least premature.

So there’s my update.


March 18th, 2011

TV programming here in Japan is slowly returning to normal, but not commercials. It seems few companies want to be seen as “insensitive jerks hawking their wares during a crisis”. This is a shame, because the alternative is driving us adults crazy (though the kids love it). The alternative I speak of is the constant broadcasting of maybe 4 or 5 Public Service Announcements (PSAs), urging people to recycle, or to be nice to old folks, or to say “Good Morning” and “Thank You”. I can’t find the specific ones on TV now on YouTube, but here are some very similar ones.

AC Commercial example 1

AC Commercial example 2

The particular PSAs on-air now are generally of the first variety, being 15 seconds long, with a few 30 second PSAs thrown in. And, as I say, there are only 4 or 5 total. This means that when you watch the news, and then they go to commercial, you get to hear the “AC” jingle every 15 seconds, and see the same PSA repeated every 45 seconds or so. You might see that junior high school kid help the old man up the stairs three times before the news resumes, or hear the mom and daughter talk about breast cancer screening four times.

So, yeah, driving us adults nuts. I know they need to cut to commercial breaks so that newscasters can have a sip of water, or they can get ready for the next segment, or the like, and there’s little enough breaking news that I don’t begrudge them taking commercial breaks. But, please, how about just showing a picture of ducks, or video of a waterfall, or something? You could overdub it with Beethoven, or the Orb, or the sound of crickets. Just anything other than these damn AC PSAs!!

Now, I did mention that its driving us adults mad, but the kids love it. Every time they sing “AC!” on TV, Alex chimes in with “AC!”, followed by Tony. Yumi, talking to other moms, has found out that every kid in school is doing the “AC!” singalong. So I guess it’s working out OK for them.

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.”

We’re fine – Estamos bien

March 12th, 2011

Just to let anyone know, we’re totally fine, as is the house. 8.8 at epicenter, perhaps, but the epicenter is a long, long way from here. Tony didn’t even wake up from his nap.

Todos estamos bien, y la casa tambien. El temblor fue enorme, pero nada se rompio. El pequeñito ni siqueiera se despertó de su siesta.

On Request

March 1st, 2011

I am currently almost speechless (almost). I got an email from someone who said that they used to have one of the tracks I made long ago when I was playing with FruityLoops, and that they actually played it. More than once. At actual parties attended by actual people. Wow.

The site it used to be hosted on, however, changed to a new format, so the track is no longer available, and the person who emailed me had a hard disk crash, so they tracked me down and emailed me to request it. So, here it is.

Bugbread – Best Friend

Some trivia: my girlfriend at the time (now my wife) was singing a song called “Best Friend”, by SMAP (think Japanese New Kids on the Block), and wasn’t aware that you could record audio by plugging headphones into a mic jack, so I tricked her into recording her voice, which is how the track starts. The song ends with the same section from the actual SMAP song.


Four Year Olds Say the Sweetest Things

February 28th, 2011

“Daddy, when a butt poops or does a fart, it’s like it’s throwing up.”

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