Tuesday, March 29, 2011
Automation is Salvation.
Choosing is Refusing.
Money is the root of all evil.
That's fun - copy and paste it into Google Translate if you need to see the readings - it's more fun in Kanji.
Sunday, March 27, 2011
This is by no means indicative of everyone in society by any means - but it is clearly a money-making sentiment in this district.
Saturday, March 26, 2011
Thursday, March 24, 2011
I subscribe to EuroTechnology Japan's newsletter. They have posted three really fantastic updates regarding the situation in Japan with the nuclear power plant. I invite everyone to read it and soak in the knowledge like your skin soaks in... ok it's too soon for that kind of stuff.
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
I can still smell the oily filth on my hair and clothes. And you don't need to know what the aftermath is going to look like. It's going to be epic.
Tuesday, March 22, 2011
But I have these questions:
1. How did they calculate their "time to learn" values?
The tiny text says that the US Department of State compiles this information based on the amount of time it takes a native speaker to achieve proficiency. But - how did they calculate that?
2. What is "proficiency" as far as they are concerned?
3. Who was tested?
Infographic for Languages
Sunday, March 20, 2011
Each student overcomes these challenges in their own way and at their own pace.
To the people who haven't started learning these writing systems, often the questions of "how hard is it?" and "how long does it take?" bubble to the surface of one's mind.
I would like to present the simple facts:
1. There are 46 kana that we use in both the hiragana and katakana sets. That's 92 kana total.
2. The Joyo kanji set comprises over 1900 kanji (it's like 1965 or so but I'm writing this without access to the Internet right now so I cannot look it up)
Just to start reading, Japanese learners(stupid iPhone spelling mistake now corrected) are facing a set of at least 46 characters, but to underhand modern Japanese with borrowed English words, 92 characters are required.
That's not quite four times the letters we have in English, but it's quite a bit of memorizing (trust me).
Then you encounter stuff like this. I'm glad Western stories have entered Japan, but I can only imagine the challenge it poses for Japanese children to have to flip-flop between English and Japanese.
花見 translates literally "flower watching" but is typically reserves for that special time of year when the cherry blossoms bloom. Typically we use this term when we are going to have a picnic in the park where the blossoms are thick and the beer flows freely.
This picture was taken indoors, so the tree is obviously fake, but you get the idea. Now imagine a whole forest just like this!
Saturday, March 19, 2011
Yes - they need to cool that fuel down. Radiation isn't (and never was really) the biggest disaster to come out of the tsunami.
The big disaster are the lingering micro-economic ripples that come from all of the following:
1. Fear of living near Fukushima. Business, agriculture, and any tangential industries will all take a many-decade hit.
2. Prejudice against those from towns near Fukushima. The Japanese are famously prejudiced against a variety of backgrounds for an even wider variety of reasons. The inhabitants of the area will be labeled and their future prospects severely limited within Japan. My wife was first to point this out as I previously wrote.
3. Tourism. Even the one week is a hit, but what's going to happen will last longer than one week. The reluctance and uncertainty will outlast the immediate dangers of radiation exposure. Business people will probably come back quick, but I think large amounts of tourists will take longer to return.
4. Food. Japan imports nearly 52 billion in food annually, and exports less than 4 billion, so the problem is not one of being unable to feed the population, but one of commerce for these smaller areas. Each area of Japan is "famous" for some particular type of food or drink, and the affected areas will lose this revenue for some time.
All of that is dwarfed by this part:
5. The Japanese government is going to get stuck with the bill for cleanup.
I already commented about this earlier, but the point cannot be made plain enough. Far worse than radiation is the bill to fix this mess. Those consequences, passed on as debt to the domestic and foreign publics (taxes and bonds), is going to really hurt Japan for many years to come. What was already a stagnant economy may have just been delivered a death blow for 10+ years from now.
So sad. Gut wrenching.
Sent from my iPhone 4
Friday, March 18, 2011
Of course, in such a situation, the network absolutely must choose the guy or gal with the saddest, meekest possible voice to read said letter from said victim.
The letter that choked me up in the passive aggressive sense said, in closing, 頑張りも限界です。
If you have been a student of Japanese for any amount of time, you know that 頑張ります！ is to a Japanese person all of "keep going!" "you can do it!" "don't give up!" "fight!" and other encouraging phrases all rolled into one.
A Japanese person saying 頑張りも限界です。is like an English-speaking person basically giving up on life.
I have lived in and visited Japan for many years now, and I have never heard anyone say 頑張りも限界です。
These people are hurting in the worst possible way.
Sent from my iPhone 4
I went to a super sentou tonight (スーパー銭湯) alone because my mother-in-law had a free ticket that expired today and no one else wanted to go.
It is pretty near the Fukuoka airport actually. It's called 万葉の湯 (まんようのゆ) in case anyone wants to check it out.
Anyway, the sign is on the inside of the locker you are assigned and tagged with (they gave me a bracelet with a bar code - that's being tagged) when you enter. You have to hand over the key to the locker where you put away your shoes as well - probably so you can't run away.
Though the bullet points list multiple offenders, that lovely word 入れ墨 tops the list. いれずみ means "tattoo" and literally translates "ink in".
I like how they put 入れ墨シール in brackets just so there is no mistaking they mean get the hell out.
Naturally, I did not get out.
Three tattoos all in very visible places make me an easy target. I've been kicked out of various bath houses on multiple occasions, but since I got my daughter's footprint done, I've escaped eviction. Luck?
The other unwanted customers are drunkards, people with gang affiliations, and people with pets.
Damn animal lovers.
Second - what kind of student carries a massive sword and is associated with wizardry? A badass one? Definitely.
Third - people still have PS2s? And use them?
Thursday, March 17, 2011
This article actually makes me feel better. I know that they are only using data that has been released, and that is still the primary worry - that the data the public is getting has been manipulated in some way - but their analysis of the data is comforting. Because they are all much smarter than I am.
Check out information on radiation.
From about 7:30, they brought in water canons (trucks) and dropped nearly 30 tons of sea water from the air using Chinooks (thank you Boeing).
Reactor #3 is still steaming - so it ain't cooled down yet.
I also think the twitter stream relative to "原発" (nuclear reactor / nuclear power plant) is quite interesting. Many of the people on twitter are saying the same thing that I have been - get out.
If you want an interesting exercise in reading plain Japanese - no textbooks, no formalities, just people talking - search "原発" on Twitter right now.
The BBC tells the truth as they see it - with no frills and no excuses. It's part of being British I guess to have a very stoic way of observing life as it happens. A blessing in the media. Terrible if you're trying to have a laugh and you have to endure British humour at it's most sour.
Today I read an article in the BBC about the Nuclear disaster efforts, and I was especially keen on the following passage:
The US state department has urged Americans living within 80km of Fukushima Daiichi to leave the area - a much wider exclusion zone than the 20km advised by the Japanese government.
Mr Edano described the US approach as "conservative".
Britain has advised its nationals currently in Tokyo and to the north of the capital to consider leaving the area.
France has urged its citizens in Tokyo to leave the country or move south. Two Air France planes are due to begin evacuating French nationals later on Thursday.
That's quite the reaction all around I must say. France has always been particularly good about protecting their own, and wasting all of their peoples' money in the process, but for the British to actually say people in Tokyo should "consider leaving the area" - well that's tantamount to drag-Queen sensationalism if you're British. Amazing.
And the Japanese government continues to say very little on the subject of "are we actually in meltdown?"
Like I said - I totally understand that the government cannot simply hold a press conference and say, "well, look, this is really shitty news, but basically since last Friday radiation has been escaping, and, well, with the explosions and fires and what-not, the reactor cores have been compromised. Radiation is now leaking out, and there really isn't anything for it but to run away."
A statement like that would cause mass hysteria. And the damage from the ensuing chaos would probably be worse than radiation exposure (depending on the dose of course).
If you're in Japan and reading my blog (there isn't a single person in Japan reading my blog), I would say get as far from Tokyo as you can as I've been saying for days. If you're not in Japan and reading my blog (all the rest of you), call your friends living in Japan who are say "the media says things are not dangerous - it's no big deal" and hit them over the head with a large chunk of you're-an-idiot-the-government-doesn't-care-about-you until they come to their senses and take a trip West. The wind is blowing West to East after all (Zephyr anyone?), so we should escape into the wind.
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
一風堂 (いっぷうどう) is one of the best Hakata-ramen restaurants in the world in my opinion.
一風堂 can be translated "one style hall" where the kanji for "hall" is a hang-over from an older age before we had borrowed English like レストラン.
The 一風堂 style actually comes in two flavors (a bit of irony with lunch tastes good). They serve their 赤丸 style with their sweeter white style (I always order 赤丸 so I realized as I was writing this that I have no idea what the white kind is called in Japanese!).
一風堂 has set up shop in a number of cities around Japan, with one in 町田 close to where I practice yoga having opened rather recently.
Highly recommended if you're looking for great ramen.
Quite the disparity no?
We're like 1000+ Km away, so my family is personally safe, and for the situation that allowed me to make such a decision early on I am very grateful. I hope these people have somewhere to go. Keep in mind it was 5 Km at one point. Now we're at 80 Km from the US. France and Germany told their nationals to get out of Japan entirely.
I wonder how close we are to the peak of this.
Sent from my iPhone 4
So - what changed?
The chemical reactions didn't just stop or run out of energy. They haven't paused to catch their breath.
The tactics to fight rising temperatures haven't suddenly become more effective (although the overall temperature in the region has dropped dramatically - but not enough to counter nuclear fission).
This is the calm before the storm I would say. Perhaps it's a bit on the negative side - I could be much more optimistic and say "wow they got it under control! Great!"
Is there anyone that would believe that? Anyone foolish enough to accept that our leaders are somehow more capable than we are? It's really unnerving to have so much media attention, chain-explosions, radiation spikes and drops - and then...
Nothing at all.
Look for the red arrows.
It says "したにひく" or "Pull Down"
In English we might say "gulp" or "glug glug glug" depending on which part of which country you grew up in. I'm sure there are other words we use for this as well.
And you may even see it in a cartoon or hear it on tv.
The Japanese go and name a best-selling beer using such a word. They love them some onomatopoeia!
And yes, it felt good going down my throat (door is wide open folks - get it? WIDE open?)
I mean - why wouldn't the NYT just call a spade a spade?
Tuesday, March 15, 2011
The activities of aftershocks of "The 2011 off the Pacific coast of Tohoku Earthquake" has been very active. As of 12:00 JST, 15 March, the aftershocks larger than magnitude 7.0 occurred 3 times, and those larger than 6.0 occurred 45 times. The aftershocks have occurred in the large area off the coast of Iwate, Miyagi, Fukushima, and Ibaraki Prefectures. When compared to past cases, the activity of aftershocks is very high.
I think that says it all - this is different than anything before it. People are freezing, people are hungry, the earthquakes keep happening... So sad :(
We're far far away now - so I can only watch and hope people are ok.
Radiation "increased sharply" Wednesday at 10 am JST - GET OUT!
I'm learning all kinds of interesting stuff about chemistry and physics (with respect to the wind and movements of particles):
131I decays with a half-life of 8.02 days with beta and gamma emissions. This nuclide of iodine atom has 78 neutrons in nucleus, the stable nuclide 127I has 74 neutrons. On decaying, 131I transforms into 131Xe:
The primary emissions of 131I decay are 364 keV gamma rays (81% abundance) and beta particles with a maximal energy of 606 keV (89% abundance).
The beta particles, due to their high mean energy (190 keV; 606 kev is the maximum, but a typical beta-decay spectrum is present) have a tissue penetration of 0.6 to 2 mm.
131I is a fission product with a yield of 2.878% from uranium-235, and can be released in nuclear weapons tests and nuclear accidents. However, the short half-life means it is not present in significant quantities in cooled spent nuclear fuel, unlike iodine-129 whose halflife is nearly a billion times that of I-131.
This thing is out of control - it's been out of control - it was never under control. It's a Nuclear chemical reaction! There's a reason we bury these things under tons of concrete.
Great - she just announced there is a huge earthquake warning coming. Fukushima is getting knocked the hell out these days.
"Please get under something and avoid falling objects..."
It seems to me that this situation is not under control. Image credit goes to NHK and clicking the image will take you to the English live stream online.
Domestic English-speakers can actually choose English language from the sub-audio options on NHK channels (it's a button on your remote - check it out)
You can get 512 Kbps from there - a nice size picture if you have the bandwidth to handle it.
The dead and missing now exceed 11,000 - someone state-side was musing that this could end up in the 30,000 range...
Possible? I hope not. That's staggering.
Kobe took 6000, the Twin Towers took 3000 - will Fukushima end up taking 30,000?
And will this be the Tohoku Earthquake dead, the "Big Tsunami" 大津波 dead, or the Fukushima dead?
And do any of the above questions matter that much?
It's time to protect lives. Get away from there - get 10 times further away than the government advises.
In Tokyo, the metropolitan government said radiation reached around 20 times normal levels in the capital on Tuesday morning but said governor Shintaro Ishihara said the levels would "not immediately cause health problems". (full article)
What does "not immediately" mean? Why isn't anyone demanding an answer to what kind of health risks exists in the "not immediate" future?
3 months? 6 months? What if my life is actually getting shorter from the far end slowly, and I'll only find out when I hit 55 and die from some special complication connected with radiation?
Damn politicians and their double speak. Of course "not immediately" is true - you can't argue with a fact! But you can see beyond the lie and question the integrity of their position.
I saw a quote (an old quote - but one that I had forgotten) today that reminded me why the Japanese government is so effective. Almost from birth - it teaches people not to use their brains.
To find yourself, think for yourself. --Socrates
命てんでんこ means 自分の命を自分で守る
It's powerful stuff. I'm sure she has a really deep explanation for how she came up with this song (did I mention there is a song?) but I had to leave the room where the tv was before I got to watch the whole program.
Sent from my iPhone 4
Monday, March 14, 2011
When the government says "30" I hear "300". Their job is to maintain order in the face of chaos. Their only function is to keep the general population believing that things are under control.
They are all individual human beings with all the same short-comings and frailties as any of the rest of us. They have no great insight, no super powers, and no advantage of the individual brains of the citizens at large.
And people simply refuse to think for themselves.
At this point - it's almost appalling. People we know in Yokohama are saying "what's the problem? It's still perfectly safe here - we're far away!"
Citizens of history will know that the fallout from Chernobyl scared people living as far away as France.
So - meltdown is underway it seems. One of the reactor cores has cracked.
Humans !> Nuclear Power
While I think Nuclear Power is actually a good thing - nothing comes without risks. We need to simply understand what we're dealing with better and build a better mouse trap. The world cannot continue on oil and coal - and we don't have green alternatives ready to scale in mass - so for now, we need to take this as a lesson.
So many people are going to cry out against Nuclear Power - but this isn't someone's "fault" - you build a facility to withstand the most dangerous models you can predict using the most data you can collect - but this was beyond "reasonable" in terms of sheer power and force. Nature is pissed the hell off.
I hope hope hope hope hope they don't, but it seems like everything I'm thinking in my head comes true an hour later.
I should stop thinking. This is a time I want to be wrong wrong wrong.
The world simply cannot imagine the ripple effect this is going to have in all walks of life. Japanese production is so intimately tied to all the electronics that we consume and love in other countries (most especially in the USA) - and the effects of this are going to come a month or many months later. That's just one economic aspect. It's going to hit hard in industrial production, research, politics, etc.
They are restoring train service in Tokyo - but the possibility of another 7.0+ still looms large. I'm sure the city will handle quake after quake - it's built exactly to withstand such events - but the mental toll of continued quakes, or another Tsunami - at some point the psyche is going to turn ugly and in the absolute worse case scenario, people start doing crazy things.
This society is far more hardened against mass panic than other countries - another mystery that attracts me to Japan - but there is only so much a human can take before things start going bad.
Things are very, very bad for the Fukushima reactor. Radiation levels are 8 times what can safely be absorbed by a human body in a year near the plant. People are being told to stay indoors - not open the windows - and not use ventilation.
To me - that sounds like being trapped. These people closest to the reactor are in big trouble, and the fear is that wind and rain will quickly carry this stuff to Tokyo.
Even if it's a weak form, even if it doesn't cause any sickness or side effects, can you take that chance with your children? There are no stakes I would put on her life. None at all. All these people should go away just in case.
They evacuated the plant operators and they think there is the possibility that the reactor core cracked.
It feels like it's just a matter of time before it goes full meltdown. It won't be as bad as Chernobyl, but its getting worse and worse.
A full scale meltdown? Maybe not yet, but we are pointing toward that eventuality.
Sent from my iPhone 4
We will ride out the next few days far away from any possibility of radiation exposure - and then see what happens.
Worst case scenario - we leave Japan via Fukuoka.
Best case scenario - the Safety Agency gets a grip on the Fukushima plant and averts a larger environmental and health hazard.
Over 10,000 have already died - this country has suffered quite enough.
Radiation = 放射線 （ほうしゃせん）
These are words I never thought I would teach on my blog - words that I never thought I would have to use at all...
Sunday, March 13, 2011
This is definitely not what I thought was in store when we came to Japan in January.
It's almost time to get the hell out of here and run away to Fukuoka. I told my friends I wouldn't go down to an Earthquake, but I'm not so positive on my chances against Plutonium.
You're starting to see some stories of families being reunited or people being found in extraordinary circumstances (like the guy who was washed out to sea and found two days later - luckiest dude in the whole city).
That stuff does little to balance against the horror, but its better than nothing.
Sent from my iPhone 4
My sister said "I bit my tongue and then pulled it into my mouth scrapping my teeth along the way.
Why would you not open your mouth first before retracting your one and only tongue.
Tongue, as most know, is 舌 (した) but we also say ベロベロ (which has a rather explicit double meaning).
Wow. I've been in a few earthquakes, but a 9.0 is at the top for sure.
The dead and missing toll jumped from 1700 to over 3000 while I took a nap this afternoon. Legs feel like whipped wet noodles after walking 27 Km. I'm too old for this crap...
But they discovered two people alive trapped someplace (didn't hear where from the news caster). Thats good news.
Saturday, March 12, 2011
It may not be three mile island (yet) and lets hope it doesn't get there, but last night the guy came on tv and said "the reactor hasn't been damaged, radiation is contained."
And we all sat around the tv saying "bullshit".
We are still feeling the effects of the quake here. I'm waiting to get a haircut and felt a good size tremor just now.
I think it is honorable for a country to publicly acknowledge the loss of it's citizens. These people were just as important as any other member of society.
I like to translate the above as "this big f$&(er" but I'm sure that's not how teachers would translate it :)
The government agency responsible for safety is saying "it's difficult to tell if there is any significant damage to the power plant"
This kind of statement is a complete lie. They are judging based on the radiation detected in the air. The operators have started venting to release some of the heat to cool down the core. Detecting radiation, I'm sure, is a fool-proof science that couldn't possibly be inaccurate (/sarcasm)
These guys are covering up ahead of a meltdown. I hope it doesn't come to that, but the Fukushima nuclear plant is FUBAR at the moment.
Friday, March 11, 2011
I walked from Iidabashi to Tsurumi last night dragging an empty suitcase for 27 Km. It was a mass exodus of humans trying to get back to their homes. No buses, no trains, cars back-to-back for 27 Km. No one was moving anywhere for any reason. Crazy times.
Most of these people probably slept close to where they are sitting. The staggering power of mother nature.
One of the kanji you see on tv a lot after something like this happens is:
行方不明 (ゆくえふめい) - whereabouts unknown or simply "missing"
The count last time they updated was 628. There are a lot of scared families out there right now worrying about the people they love. Pretty sad circumstances.
It wasn't the earthquake that did much, just shook us up and gave us a ride. It was the resulting tsunami that has laid waste to Miyagi-ken. The time between the earthquake and the first wave was probably less than 15 minutes. Not long enough to get to safety.
Basically, the moment that quake hit, a few hundred people were going to die. And the saddest part is that they probably had time to realize their fate. A wave that big and strong takes time to reach land, and you can see it far out in the ocean.
We will never know what those who died thought or felt minutes before the end, but it makes me sad to imagine the fear they must have felt.
Everyone eventually dies, but I wish that no one had to die with fear in their heart.
Thursday, March 10, 2011
Monday, March 07, 2011
Saturday, March 05, 2011
希少 (きしょう) - rare. Very very rare. And I found this one parked next to a Circle K of all places.