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Thursday, March 31, 2011

Space Truckin'

This story is about a Japanese spaceship burning garbage in the Earth's atmosphere.
I know... you're looking at the opening line and going - "Huh?"
It's okay. I did, too. Why are they burning garbage?
Okay... that part about having a spaceship was pretty cool, though.
But geez, leave it to the Japanese to create a space garbage truck!
On March 29, the unmanned space scow, Kounotori 2 (こうのとり = stork or white heron) burned up in re-entry to the Earth's atmosphere--all according to plan.
The H-2 Transfer Vehicle, a robotic spacecraft was purposely destroyed to rid itself and its cargo of space trash following a very successful two-month mission at the International Space Station (ISS).
The Kounotori 2 spacecraft launched in January and arrived at the station on January 27, 2011.Along with all of the trash from the space station--which we figure included a lot of spent condoms what with being eff all to do up there--an on board sensor monitored the spacecraft’s plunge to destruction into the South Pacific Ocean, relaying data via satellite to researchers for later analysis.
Okay... I may have misspoke/mis-wrote about the condom, thing, but the destroyed ship did carry with it three pieces of origami (folded paper) in the shape of a crane. Folded by the International Space Station's three-person crew, it was a solemn symbol of prayer and hope for the victims of the massive Japanese earthquake (9.0 Magnitude) and tsunami (10 metres high) that struck the northeastern part of Japan on March 11.
Along with hauling trash, the sensor (also known as the REBR - Re-Entry Breakup Recorder)  aboard the spaceship recorded the temperature, acceleration, rotational rate and other pertinent information during the ship's trash and burn.
“REBR collected data during the breakup of the Kounotori 2 vehicle and successfully 'phoned home' that data prior to final impact,” says William Ailor, director of the Center for Orbital and Reentry Debris Studies at The Aerospace Corporation in El Segundo, California. “In fact, it is still transmitting while floating in the ocean.”
Recovery of the device is not planned. Does it make you wonder why more spaceships aren't made of the same material as this REBR? It didn't burn up upon re-entry into the Earth's atmosphere - and it's floating on the ocean???
REBR was made possible by using tiny sensors and miniature cell phone technology, built as basically a satellite phone with a heat shield, the Aerospace Corporation designed REBR to collect data during atmospheric reentries of space hardware in order to help understand breakup and increase the safety of such reentries. (Ed. Note: Come in slower and at a less sharp angle - and remember to have working heat shields... if you want to survive. )
It's expected that it will take about six to eight weeks to analyze the data, at which time THIS BLOG suspects they will learn that spaceships and trash to indeed burn up upon re-entry into the Earth's atmosphere and that fire can be hot.
The H-2 Transfer Vehicle spacecraft are about 33 feet (10 meters) long including maneuvering thrusters at one end and 14 feet (4.4 m) wide. It has a total mass of 10.5 tonnes, with a 6,000 kilograms (13,000 lb) payload. It can carry cargo inside a pressurized compartment – which astronauts can retrieve after docking – as well as haul spare station parts on an unpressurized pallet to be retrieved by the Canada-built robotic arm, Canadarm2. Since the spacecraft lacks a complex docking and approach system, it must be flown close enough to the station to allow capture by the Canadarm2, which pulls it to a berthing port on the ISS Harmony module.
The REBR project was supported by the U.S. Air Force, NASA, and the Boeing Company. The first flight test of the small, autonomous device was coordinated by Japan's Department of Defense’s Space Test Program. A second test will be REBR’s reentry aboard the European Autonomous Transfer Vehicle 2, called Johannes Kepler, in early June.
Kounotori 2 was the second disposable H-2 Transfer Vehicle built by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) to ferry tons of cargo to the International Space Station (ISS). The first HTV spacecraft, HTV-1, visited the station in 2009.
"The HTV-2 carried various important cargo, including spare units of the external ISS system and potable water for the crew, which has been mostly transported by the space shuttle up to now," says JAXA president Keiji Tachikawa Keiji  (surname first). "I believe that this success proves that the HTVs are reliable transportation vehicles essential for maintaining the ISS, and that Japan, as an international partner of the ISS, is eligible to play an important role for ISS operations."
The next HTV spacecraft is expected to fly in January 2012.

Somewhere lost in space with the rest of the garbage,
Andrew Joseph
Today's blog title is by Deep Purple: THEFINALFRONTIER.

Back In The U.S.S.R.

It's Thursday, May 30, 1991 - I'm in Kobe-shi (City of Kobe) for a renewer's conference for returning assistant English teachers on the JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme. I'm having girlfriend problems (Ashley), compounded by the fact that I have some feelings for another young woman - Kristine South - and the two of them have met and are apparently chummy. At least it feels that way after each ditched me sometime last night.
It's a really boring day of long-winded speeches. I don't see Ashley at all, but during the lectures/speeches, I sit beside Kristine and wish we weren't separated by some 500 kilometres during our everyday stay in Japan. She in Shiga-ken, me in Tochigi-ken. But... she's ten inches away from me right now. What a pity I don't have 10 inches to help me bridge the gap.
Kristine and I write notes to each other so as not to interrupt the lectures. It's so high school. At least it would have reminded me of high school if I could have a beautiful woman/girl sit beside me and write notes back and forth. Hell, no one ever sent me notes. Well, does detention count?
I tell Kristine - again this is me being stupid - all about my problems with Ashley. Why would I do that? Granted I shouldn't tell her how happy I am (I'm not), but why bring up my girlfriend at all? Could it be I value her input? 
Kristine more or less tells me (actually she pretty much just up and told me) that Ashley and I should break up.
I'm deathly afraid to lose the first woman who ever slept with me so instead I bargain with Kristine that maybe Ashley and I should take a break - to refresh our energies - because that would be better than an all out break-up. Also, it's obvious to me20 years later that I did not value her input on this particular topic. I'm an idiot, folks.
With the lecture over, I agree to hook up with Kristine (no not that type of hook up! And why not, Kristine!?) at 8:15PM.
Matthew, Ashley her Japanese local friend Mayuko and I go to dinner. It must have been non-descript, because my journal entry mentions nothing else about it.
But... I'm pretty sure I ditch those three to go back to the hotel to meet Kristine.
She's there with a whole gaggle of her Kinki Block (that's the area - it's called 'Kinki') friends (fellow JET assistant English teachers). They're all pretty nice and most of them are people I met that first night in Tokyo when I initially met Kristine. You can read about that wonderful adventure HERE.
I spy the gorgeous Andrea (no last name remembered now... or then, apparently) with the long blond hair and the even longer legs. She is being harassed by some guy who talks too much, and it appears as though this distressed damsel is in need of some rescuing. So I do.
I call her over like she's an old friend I haven't seen in a while - which is true. She smiles, gives me a hug and says she owes me a beer.
Myself and the Kinki kids go out for a night on the town. I'm the only person in this group not from this area.. I'm from 500 kilometres away... and I'm sure I'm intruding, but because I'm with Kristine, it's all cool. Or, maybe they didn't care where I was from and just enjoyed me being around. Or maybe it was so I would occupy Kristine to stop her from bossing everyone else around. Kidding, Kristine!

We head to the Pardise Garage for, in no particular order: dancing, drinking and sweating. Plenty of each. I get that beer from Andrea, but not much else. On the plus side, I think everyone there knew I was really interested in Kristine - except perhaps Kristine.
Regardless... we all had a good time even though the sexually-charged evening did not end up in sex... maybe it did, but I wasn't involved... and in this blog, that's what matters.

I'm back at my hotel at 2AM.  I see Ashley wandering around the lobby with Matthew and wait until they separate. I ignore her - why not, I'm not getting a kiss - and then catch-up to Matthew and head for the room we are sharing with Doug Maitland. These two still have the single beds... and me, the one of us three who probably should have scored with at least three women tonight, get's the fold-out bed. Revenge shall be mine again, I'm sure.
For some reason, I call up my friend John K. back in Toronto and get the shock of my life when he tells me he's going to come to Japan. Whoa. Soon. Double whoa.
That was unexpected.
Still, I drift quickly to sleep and think of Kristine, Ashley and Andrea and wonder why I'm sleeping with two guys - again. 

Somewhere snoring like a jet plane with asthma,
Andrew (Revenge) Joseph
Today's blog title is by the Beatles: BACKINTHEUSSR. Why? Because Georgia is always on my mi-mi-mi-mi-mi-mi-mind.
PS: Ashley is from Augusta, Georgia, back in the U.S. of A.   
PPS: Tune in about 8 hours when I post a piece on Japan's current space programme. It has nothing to do with Kristine, Ashley or myself... but it's a cool story. 
PPPS: A big happy birthday to my friend Rob Jones! YAY!!!! Thanks for being my friend!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Four Nuclear Reactors To Be Scrapped

Radiation leaking into seawater from Japan's tsunami-damaged Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear complex has reached its highest levels to date, which has caused nuclear officials to state that the four most damaged reactors will be demolished.
Nishiyama Hidehiko (surname first), the deputy director general of the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, says that seawater tested near the facility was found to contain Iodine-131 at 3,355 times the accepted safety standard.
"We have no choice," Tsunehisa Katsumata, chair of Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), notes, explaining that Dai-Ichi's reactors No.1, No.2, No.3 and No.4 will be scrapped.
For the lay person - like you and I, what it all means is that TEPCO is going to continue its efforts to cool down the nuclear reactor, and when it's at appropriately cool enough temperature, worker swill remove the fuel rods and store it elsewhere. Once this is done, they'll be able to tear down the reactors.
It's probably a $10-billion clean-up and demolition job and it's going to take a lot of years.
Then there's the problem of needing to create additional electrical power. Japan is experiencing a power shortage now... it needs more power, not less. How will it cope?
It's not like it has a lot of oil or gas (zero, I believe) in natural resources. Most of Japan is paved over in asphalt and concrete, so there's little wood. No peat or coal to burn. Hydro-electric... I think you needs some sort of waterfall... there are plenty, but they are very beautiful and aren't set up to be practical. Solar? It always seemed cloudy when I lived there. Wind? Not as much since I left the country. Nuclear seems like a viable option... oh wait... never mind. Hmm, what about geothermal? Using the earth's own heat to heat the country. What could go wrong? Wait... don't answer that.
I've heard of some new technology of using waves (normal waves with the tide) to general power... that would seem to be a neat option considering the whole country is surrounded by waves and water. Read about it HERE.
I'd love to hear your thoughts on possible options for more power.

Andrew Joseph 

Fukushima Nuclear Facility: What Happened

Here's some data on what happened at each of the six nuclear reactors at Fukushima Dai-ichi (Big One) plant, and at four of the reactors at Fukushima Dai-ni (Big Two) plant.
After the pumping of seawater to cool the nuclear rods (active and spent), check out THIS blog entry posted earlier today.
For more data on the inner mechanisms of a nuclear plant, read THIS entry.

Fukushima No. 1 plant
  • Reactor No. 1
    1. Power operation suspended after earthquake;
    2. Cooling failure due to lack of electricity to power cooling generators;
    3. Partial meltdown of nuclear core;
    4. Radioactive vapour vented;
    5. Building containing the reactor is damaged by hydrogen explosion;
    6. Seawater is pumped in to cool reactor cores to avoid explosion/meltdown.
  • Reactor No. 2
    1. Power operation suspended after earthquake; 
    2. Cooling failure due to lack of electricity to power cooling generators;
    3. Seawater pumped in to try and cool already exposed nuclear fuel rods;
    4. Partial meltdown of fuels rods and thus core;
    5. Radioactive vapour vented; 
    6. Building containing the reactor damaged by an blast at Reactor No. 3;
    7. Damage to containment vessel surrounding nuclear reactor core feared;
    8. Potential meltdown feared;
    9. Containment vessel may have a crack leaking out radioactive water and other contaminants.
  • Reactor No. 3 
    1. Power operation suspended after earthquake
    2. Cooling failure due to lack of electricity to power cooling generators;
    3. Radioactive vapour vented;
    4. Seawater pumped in to try and cool already exposed nuclear fuel rods;
    5. Building containing the reactor damaged by hydrogen explosion;
    6. High-levels of radiation measured nearby
    7. Smoke arising from reactor  - perhaps from spent-fuel storage pool;
    8. Severe damage to containment vessel seems unlikely
    9. Seawater dumped over pool by helicopter and water sprayed from ground.
  • Reactor No. 4
    1. Under maintenance when earthquake struck;
    2. Fire within facility may have been caused by hydrogen explosion at a pool holding spent fuel rods;
    3. Very high temperatures rise in spent-fuel storage pool;
    4. Fire within the the building housing the reactor;
    5. Cooling pool water level may be receding;
    6. Renewed nuclear chain reaction feared.
  • Reactors No. 5 & 6
    1. Under maintenance when earthquake struck;
    2. Cooling water temperatures in spent-fuel storage pools increased to about 64 C; 
  •   Spent-fuel storage pools at all reactors
    1. Cooling functions lost;
    2. Cooling water temperatures or levels unobservable at reactors No. 1 to 4.

Fukushima No. 2 plant
  • Reactors No. 1, 2, & 4
    1. Power operation suspended after earthquake;
    2. Cooling generator failure within reactors;
    3. Cold shutdown initiated.
  • Reactor No. 3
    1. Operation suspended after quake;
    2. Cold shutdown initiated.
Andrew Joseph

Nuclear Reactor Problem: What's Going On

Here's an update on the nuclear problem at the Fukushima Dai-ichi facility. As you may be aware, electrical has been hooked up to four of the facilities after the earthquake (9.0 magnitude) and tsunami (10 metre high wave) damaged it back on March 11, 2011.
However, while attempting to keep the nuclear reactors cool due to the lack of electricity, workers had to pump sea water into the  plant.
So, even after hoking up the electricity, workers had to pump out the sea water, or else there might be something called an electrical short... but a big one, which would shut cooling generators off, and thus allow the reactor core to heat up, melt down and thus explode. You can read about the science of the problem: HERE.
What is holding up the job of pumping out the water is the fact that workers of Tokyo Electric Company (TEPCO) have found water in places where there shouldn't be water - and not just sea water, but radioactive water.
The implication is clear, and Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano explains that the radioactive water found in reactor building No. 2 must have come into contact with nuclear fuel rods that were melting at one point. This implies a partial meltdown. Close to the big Ka-boom, folks. Very close.
The good news is that the melting process has stopped and pressures within the reactor have eased somewhat.
The bad news is that Edano says no one is sure how the radioactive water escaped from the reactor.
This means delays in getting the reactor(s) back online. Workers need to know if there is a containment unit leak around the core(s), need to continue the clean-up in the facility, and need to ensure all of the equipment is in excellent working order before turning it all back on to provide some relief to country facing power shortages.
But that's the least of their concerns. The reactor facility is still emitting radiation in to the air, and into the water supply and into the food supply.
And, the really bad news is that the longer radiation is still being emitted into the air, the greater the chance of both short-term and long-term health damage (and death) to human beings.
And the really, really bad news is... with the power off in the nuclear reactors... the cooling generators aren't up, and the core(s) could still suffer a meltdown. A major nuclear disaster that just might make the tsunami look like an outdoor kiddie pool in winter (frozen with no movement).
Have I scared you yet? Good. This is still a major concern for the Japanese people even if our newspapers aren't covering it as much as they should.
But let's not panic over something that hasn't happened yet. Okay. Just be concerned.

Meanwhile, let's look at more realities:
  • On March 26, water samples take from Dai-chi unit No. 2 were 100,000 times the normal level, according to readings taken by TEPCO. 
  • Keep in mind that the radiation levels in the point above are the adjusted levels - earlier that day, TEPCO had recorded some radiation levels that were even high and promoted an immediate evacuation of the facility... those readings were later found to be in error. The readings were for 10,000,000 times the radiation than the accepted norm. 
  • High levels of radiated water were found in underground tunnels near the turbine buildings of some reactors. Radiation measuring 1,000 millisieverts were taken from an underground shaft near the No. 2 turbine building; much lower levels were found in a shaft near the No. 1 turbine building. But, the radiated water shouldn't be there at all. How did it get there? 
  • Radioactive material was also found on March 26 in seawater samples taken 30 meters (98 feet) north of the plant, showing Iodine-131 at 1,150 times above the safe limit.
  • And lastly - this event occurred before everything above; on March 25, Japan urged (not forced) residents living within a radius of up to 30 kilometres (18.6 miles) from the power plant to leave, expanding its previously 20-km exclusion zone, though it said the measure was precautionary. 
For a look at the evacuation zone - see the image above, and note that the U.S. has recommended a zone of 80-kilometres, perhaps urging on the side of caution, but what's wrong with that?

Andrew Joseph   

Good Day Sunshine

It's Wednesday, May 29, 1991 - I'm in Kobe-shi (City of Kobe) for a renewer's conference for returning assistant English teachers on the JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme. I'm unsure what we're supposed to learn, but it was a great excuse to drink heavily and party... two things I do so very infrequently in my home town of Ohtawara-shi (City of Ohtawara), Tochigi-ken (Tochigi Prefecture) in Japan.
That was sarcasm, folks. I'm 26 years old, I have a girlfriend named Ashley from Augusta, Georgia (I know, I'm in Japan - why not someone Japanese?) and a great friend in Matthew Hall (from New York state).

When I wake up in the hotel room I shared with Doug Maitland and Matthew (they each had a soft bed and I had a fold-out cot), a very tired Matthew informs me that he got up two times to smack me to make me stop snoring.
Revenge is mine! Oh, and thanks for the fold-out bed! Not that it mattered. I still would have snored.
We're up at 9AM. Since I have no idea where Ashley is (she wouldn't tell me her room number, which ticked me off and should have been a clue to me), Matthew and I leave our hotel to revisit the night spot areas of yesterday to look for some action (whatever that means). However, since it's the morning, the places are dead. Still, we look around, have a couple of beers each (It's like what - 10AM?!) and go back to the hotel to listen to the opening address of the renewer's conference.
As I walk back into the hotel, a woman yells out to me. I recognize that voice, but I pretend to ignore her, and make her come up running behind me. It's Kristine South.
Truth be told, I have always found Kristine to be the hottest thing on two legs. She befriended me on my second day in Japan in Tokyo and even saved my life when I crossed the street, as I had forgotten that they drive on the opposite side of the road than what we North Americans do. Hmmm... I still have (20 years later) a life debt to repay.
I give the short, gorgeous Kristine a big hug - because I miss her (though we talk to each other about once a week on the telephone) but mostly because I want to feel her boobs pressed up against me. Come to think of it... I should have turned around and watched her run up to me! Dammit!!!) Yes, I hope she reads this, knowing that she reads this - though she is recently married (Dammit!).
Kristine and I chat briefly - and in a way not to impress a woman you want to sleep with, I tell her that I'm going to sit next to my girlfriend Ashley and then stupidly point her out standing next to Matthew.
I walk back over to Ashley and tell her I've met my friend Kristine.
I walk back over to Kristine and put my arm around her and wave to Ashley.
I kiss Kristine warmly on the side of her face (I know where I wanted to kiss her - but I'm a chicken), and then walk away.
Kristine screams after me: "Wait! Come back! That's the most physical contact I've had in months!"
The whole hotel turns to look at her - and you know every single guy is staring at this big-boobed, cutie who's half-Japanese, half-American and thinking exactly what I'm thinking.
Funny girl, that Kristine. Aside from her obvious physical charms, her warm brown eyes and sharp wit balanced out an intelligence that deep down I knew far outstripped my own. I could never be Mr. Right. But could I be Mr. Right Now?
Just before the conference begins, I sit beside Ashley in the hotel lobby - and we talk. Loudly. I yell at her initially for being stupid and not wanting to give me her room number. She says I didn't give her my room number, either. I retort that she never asked. At least I asked.
Afterward, we do go to her room. She phones her Japanese local friend Mayuko and then accompanies me to my room. See... we can share!
Later on that evening, I see Ashley at the big enkai (party) for us JET renewers. I smile at her but continue to walk around looking for my special K.
I see people I recognize - and people who recognize me... but I'm lousy with names unless I'm sleeping with them or wanting to sleep with them... and by sleeping with them, I mean f-... well, you know what I mean.
Minutes go by and I can't find Kristine, so I head back to Ashley. Ashley is talking with Kristine. Great. This is either going to be a wild fantasy come true, or it's going to be my biggest nightmare. My current girlfriend (with whom I am having problems with) talking with a woman I lust over and adore.
I walk over and begin talking to Kristine. I'm not ignoring Ashley... it's just that I haven't had any great one-on-one chats with Kristine since July of 1990.
Ashley buggers off when my back is turned. Then Kristine makes some excuse and buggers off too. I'm standing there by myself in a crowded party with plenty of people who know me and who I know.
Luckily Matthew comes over with Jeff Seaman (from Yuba, California) and we blow this popsicle stand to go drinking.
It beats me how these boys know just what I need.
We go to some bar called The Attic and a few other bars, and I put away five beers and three whiskeys before we head back to the hotel at midnight.
Confused about women (plural) and drunk, Matthew and I watch an episode of WKRP in Cincinnati on the television in our room. It's funny, but I'm...

Somewhere wondering where the heck Kristine went,
Andrew Joseph
Today's blog title is by: The Beatles. The song doesn't fit the blog, does it? That's because I'm being SARCASTIC.
PS: Like all of my diary entries, it's 100 per cent true. I was a knob 20 years ago... and probably one right now. But seriously, Kristine... I was trying to put the moves on you when you took off. Also... just what the heck were you talking to Ashley about?
PPS: Was Kristine listening to Ashley drone on about nothing in particular? Was she talking about me? Was Kristine trying to convince Ashley to dump me? And if not, why not? Was it all just girly-girl talk? Ugh! I hope not. Will there be answers tomorrow? Let's find out, after all, I'm with my girlfriend and the girl who is my friend whom I wish was my girlfriend. What could possibly go wrong? Come back tomorrow and see.        

Tuesday, March 29, 2011


Ashley & Mayuko - two women who did not sleep with me in Kobe.
I'm in a good mood today. I'm up at 7:45AM, it's Tuesday, May 28, 1991. I'm still in my first year of the JET (Japan Exchange &  Teaching) Programme, living in Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken, Japan. I have a girlfriend named Ashley - from Augusta, Georgia... and while I am infatuated with her, our relationship is all over the place - sometimes fantastic, sometimes not, and for the life of me, I have no idea why. I'm constantly in a state of flux with her emotionally - and sometimes it doesn't allow me the opportunity to enjoy myself.
Think about it.... I'm in a new country meeting new people having totally wild and exciting times, and I still don't fully enjoy myself because I'm hung up on a girl from the U.S. while I live in Japan.
A 20-year retrospective makes realize just how much of a knob I was. But... as much of a knob I was, you readers know that after some 350 adventures here in this blog - I still managed to have a good time.
So... I am in a good mood today... I'm going to Kobe-shi (City of Kobe) for the JET renewer's conference - meaning I've decided to stay another year - and more importantly, the OBOE (Ohtawara Board of Education) wants to have me around for another year. Remember... it takes two to Tango. Three to form a Conga line, but only one to do the Twist. Dance analogy or one for life?
I ride my bicycle over to Ashley's smallish apartment in Nishisnasuno-machi (Town of Nishinasuno), and together we ride and park our bikes at an apartment building close to the Nishinasuno-eki (Nishinasuno train station) - which saves us a few coins from having to pay at a locked bike parking lot.
We ride the local JR (Japan Rail) train up north a couple of stops to Nasushiobara-eki (Nasushiobara train station) where we can then catch a Shinkansen (bullet train) south to Tokyo and then grab another bullet train west to Kobe-shi.
I'm goofy. I'm having a good time filming the Shinkansen's and the people in them. To be perfectly honest, I no longer recall where I borrowed the camera from nor what I did with the damn film. Sorry.
I try to amuse Ashley on the train, but as is usual with her, she quickly becomes bored and says I'm annoying her.
Fine... I decide not to talk to her in case I annoy her - childish I know, but what would you have me do?
Half-way through the ride - as we head west to Kobe-shi, we begin to talk to each other. We play jan-ken-pon (Rock = Guu; scissors = Choki; paper = Paa) to see who gets to 10 first - but with each win, the other gets a kiss. By the time we get to 10 - I think she won (though I'm sure I did too), we make it to Shin Kobe-eki in good spirits.
Her friend Mayuko is there to meet us. She's cute, maybe 22 and speaks English flawlessly. She takes us (via her car) to the JET hotel.
I'm rooming with two others: Matthew (lucky me) and Doug Maitland (also from our prefecture)! Lucky us - we all get along together!
But, only Matthew joins Ashley and Mayuko and I as we go to a local Mexican restaurant for dinner.
Matthew and I, of course, had already grabbed a few beers apiece before dinner and grab a few more after it.
After a pleasant meal, we head out to a little jazz bar. Although all we all want is a beer, we are served appetizers as we sit down and are expected to pay for them... that's weird, but I guess that's instead of a cover charge. The music is good, though.
Afterward, the four of us head back to our hotel (walking). I do not receive a kiss from Ashley, and she wouldn't even tell me her room number - which pisses me off again. How am I supposed to do anything with my girlfriend if she won't even tell me her room number?
Back at the hotel room, Matthew and Doug each get a real bed with a mattress. I'm the lucky bugger who gets the fold-out bed.

Somewhere looking for revenge,
Andrew Joseph
Today's blog title is sung by:The Chords: LIFECOULDBEADREAM
PS: Revenge on whom? The jazz bar that made us pay for appetizers? Ashley for no good night kiss et al? Mayuko for not falling for me right away? Matthew and Doug for giving me the fold-out bed? And where is Kristine South? Tune in tomorrow and find out.
PPS: Did you know: Just below the cockpit of the Enola Gay (the US plane that dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima) the words Sh-Boom were written? I did - back when I was maybe 10 and built a plastic model of the aircraft. I wasn't implying anything negative by the title - except that life COULD be a dream. Or maybe subconsciously I'm anticipating an atomic bomb to drop on my head.  

Monday, March 28, 2011

More Earthquakes Hit Japan

Just so everyone remembers... Japan is part of the so-called ring of fire, a very active part of the globe where volcanoes and earthquakes are reasonably commonplace.
However, on Monday, March 28, a total of 15 earthquakes hit off the east coast of Japan between 12:178 AM and 11:45 PM, ranging in magnitude from a low of 4.5 to a nice shaker at 6.5.
The 6.5 magnitude tremlor occured at depth of 10 kilometres and was situated just off the coast of Senadi (again) being felt as far to the north in Sapporo, Hokkaido and in Shizuoka, about 100 kilomtres south west of Tokyo.
It was a big enough quake that a tsunami warning was issued for local towns, though truth be told, folks need not be overly concerned about this one.
And, just so you know, on March 11, 2011 - the day of the big 9.0 magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunami, there were 78 recorded earthquakes off the east cost of Japan. Before the big one, there was a 5.2 at 1:45 AM, a 4.7 at 6:49 AM, a 4.9 at 7:44 AM... and then nothing until the 9.0  at 2:46 PM. For the remaining nine hours, 74 other earthquakes hit in and around the same area with magnitudes of a low of 4.9 up to a 7.9.
There were also 148 earthquakes on Saturday, March 12 - from 4.7 to 6.8 magnitude. There were 117 on Sunday, March 13.  
Japan didn't stop shaking for days.
In fact... there was a minimum of 13 earthquakes every day from March 14 through March 28. So, it's still shaking.
You have to remember, after such a large plate techtonic shift, there's still movement and settling... I'm pretty sure we don't need to worry that Japan will become the next Atlantis.
Now... should you yourself wish to check out the location and depth and size and time of earthquakes in Japan, visit this place:
Somewhere wondering why such a website has to exist,
Andrew Joseph

Two Non-Japanese Stories Written In Japan

Presented here are two tales I wrote in response to a 12-page letter I had received in the mail from my taxi-driver friend, Doug, back in Toronto. It really has nothing to do with Japan - just that they were written there. I think the stories (short, too) are highly amusing, and I hope you don't mind me sharing it with you here today. Both stories were written by Andrew Joseph (me) back on May 27, 1991. To see what else happened that day, you can read my blog entry HERE.
Meanwhile, enjoy the stories.

by andrew joseph 

Have you ever visited the stars? Have you ever truly been out there on the perimeter where brave men fear to tread? Gods, but I envy you. I suppose I've been there, too, but not in this form. Nor the one before it. I feel like I was one of the original sentinels of the spaceways. An easy rider on the cosmic wave. Y'see... I know things. I know how it all began. 
A long time ago when the world was young, Earth was visited by 'aliens'. They were obviously more intelligent than the creatures that inhabited the sphere, for they were like Gods to them. Let us make man in our own image. So they took the monkeys and did genetic alterations to them to side-step several time-consuming eons. That the monkeys would eventually grow to be like the visitors without their aid is not likely... for they were happy in their ignorance of higher evolutionary animals. Still, the visitors gave the simians a kick to allow for faster evolutionary growth. Missing link? Ha! There is no missing link - save perhaps for the alien physicians. 
So, how did life evolve on Earth? Well, I'm told that the ancients of those visitors came to this orb when it was but a watery bauble. Landing their spaceship to make repairs after it was struck from a chunk of the almost-planet between Mars and Jupiter (the so-called asteroid belt), some of the astronauts decided to look around. The air was breathable for them - much heavier in ozone content than when it was the most plentiful element in what constituted our atmosphere. The first breathe they expelled after removing their helmets was the beginning of life. As humans would eventually have, these visitors had plant cells inside of their bodies. Flora and other bacteria would grow. 
But what of the carbon units? 
Well, kilometres from their ship, a scout party had a corlan break (lunch). After eating, Nature called and they had to take a dump. The mess that would eventually evolve from their lunch would become animal life forming: mollusks, fish reptiles, amphibians and finally mammals who would grow to be monkeys who would later be genetically altered to skip a form to eventually become Australopithecine (I couldn't spell it to save the universe... ah, but that's another story.) and eventually the Neanderthals and the Cro-magnons. 
These two sapient-like individuals would shape our destiny. There must have been two experiments! The Neanderthals lost. Thanks perhaps to a lightning storm setting fire to a teak tree in a neighbourhood the Cro-magnons happened to control that week. The rest was history, as the strong rule by fire... much like today, where he who possesses fire from Prometheus' Pit by splitting an atom (worlds scream asunder) often controls our destiny. I am the god of hell-fire. 
And that was the origin of Man. 
We are an endangered feces. 

AND - here's that second story I wrote back to Doug.

by andrew joseph 

Once upon an eon, I was a dog-face in an intergalactic exploration unit. Our mission was to try and convert as many of the indigenous lifeforms we found to our way of thinking or to show them the error of their ways by sending them on their way to meet our creator.
You can imagine my surprise when I died a few years later and found out that our creator was not the being we thought, but rather a strange metallic square with the ubiquitous (I can't remember the meaning, but I was told it was the word to use) name of Eyebem-Rom-Forebit. One of the lesser pixels who had arrived scant google-eons prior to my demise told me the 'entity' was rumoured to have come from the future. "The future what?" I asked, but to no avail. He knew not the answer. Nor did any of the transmogrified specks of silicon.
Deciding to make it my new after-life's goal to find out, I simply asked the entity. It said (or thought or wrote) I had to best him at a game first.
"What type of game?" I asked.
"A spelling bee," it answered.
God has a sense of humour.
To find out where the entity was from, I was told I had to beat THE god in a contest. If I lost, I would be responsible for the extermination of my universe. God was into some really wicked stakes. That's what you get when you dare to challenge a deity, I suppose. It would not be that difficult as all the words would be from my planet.
The Creator graciously allowed me to go first. My first word to him was to spell nothing. After a billion years, IT finally deduced it wasn't a trick question and spelt the word correctly. My chore was to spell "Australopithecine".
"What's that?"
"It's an evolutionary by-product of your planet."
"Oh? So why haven't I heard of it?"
"Because it hasn't come into being yet, and it won't be known as that for five million years after."
Well, I had to admit it had me there. I was impaled on a future word. I had lost. The worst part is that the word is non-existent on what was once my own planet. But since GOD knows we accidently started life on a shit-hole called Earth during an exploration mission (God considered Earth a summer home), the Universe is dead.
It's not my fault really - chili con carne just upsets my stomach.

Hope you enjoyed the stories folks. In some sort of weird way, I like to think the origin of life in our planet did start the way I suggest in the first story... and it's also the way our planet will end in the second story - not with a bang, but a whimpering spelling mistake.

Somewhere looking up words in a dictionary,
Andrew Joseph 
PS: Did you notice that 'god' was only a 4-bit computer... but that even in 1991 I had used the term 'google'. You know the number 'google is a 1 followed by 100 zeroes, right? It is. 

Sunday, March 27, 2011

One Day

Hi... Japan - It's A Wonderful Rife has had an amazing month of March so far - easily topping over 2200 page hits. Thank you. I'm sure a lot of it has to do with the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear radiation concerns - but I've found that more people are actually reading the funny stuff..
So... I'm going to do that again - with the odd bit of current news from Japan when it happens - or at least when I find out about it.
I'm going to take you back to a very exciting time in my life. Okay, it's one of the many, many exciting times in my life, and it begins on Monday, May 27, 1991... according to whatever calculations I made, this is my 312 journal entry of life in Japan. It's also my 352nd blog today. Yay! Happy birthday or whatever. It's not my birthday.

It's an office day. I am still in my first year here as an assistant English teacher (AET) on the JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme - teaching at seven junior high schools in the city of Ohtawara (Ohtawara-shi) in the Prefecture of Tochigi (Tochigi-ken).
At the OBOE (Ohtawara Board of Education who pay my salary), I talk to my boss Hanazaki-san (Mister Hanazaki) about me wanting to kill all of the spiders around my apartment. At first he is concerend because all spiders are special to the Japanese.
Apparently - according fact or myth - the Buddha will return reincarnated in the form of a spider. Not wanting to tick off a country by accidentally killing the Buddha, I come to my senses and tell Hanazaki-san that there is no way the Buddha would be reincarnated in the home of a non-believer like me. So, until the real Buddha does show up elsewhere, I'd like to kill all of the imposters, I mean false prophets, for the Japanese people (and myself).
Hanazaki-san is no idiot. He knows I'm a joker and he knows he (and Kanemaru-san) are responsible for my well-being here in Japan. He knows I'm playing him, but gladly accepts my argument for killing spiders. He asks a junior office worker to order some spider spray for me.
Then I tell him that I would like to buy a telescope. Back in Toronto, the city lights at night are too bright and you can only see maybe 20 stars up in the sky... but in Ohtawara-shi after 9PM when the city rolls up its sidewalks - well... there are millions and billions of stars in the sky. Despite getting excellent marks in Astronomy classes in university, and having read every book I could ever get my hands on about astronomy and space since I was six-years-old, I had never actually looked through a telescope.
For some reason, Hanazaki-san has a book handy that shows me differing types of telescopes and their prices. Cool, but weird that he happened to have that book! I know people know everything about me here - but this is ridiculous!
Okay... things are going well... so I tell them I would like a small air-conditioner in my apartment because my goldfish are sweating. Hanazaki-san smiles and says he understands. Nothing else is said.
Apparently, on the JET Programme, host offices responsible for the AET get a fairly large annual budget - I believe it's Y300,000 ($3,000) to spend ( at their discretion) on the AET to make him or her more comfortable.
Who knew?
I did, of course... which was why I was acting the greedy little bastard.
I began studying some Kanji (the Japanese alphabet that looks like symbols and is based on the Chinese pictograph system) ... there are 1,942 Kanji one needs to learn by the end of high school in order to be considered fluent. Anyhow, along with learning how to write the Kanji, I also memorize all of the definitions and words you can use them with when you combine multiple Kanji symbols. Truly humbling.
At home, I receive a letter from my taxi driver friend Doug back in Toronto, who has sent me a 12-page document - hand-written. I write him back describing my theory on the origin of man and life on Earth, and then I create a story about the origin of God and why our universe will die. I think it's funny, and I'll present it to you (both stories) over the next two days before I go back to exciting time.
Anyhow, after I pen my tale, I eat dinner (I didn't write down what it was, but chances are it was take-out... as I didn't have alot of groceries in my fridge as I was going away the next day.
After my meal I ride my bicycle over to my extra-curricular night school gig and teach by myself for 40 minutes to about 20 adults from the city who are interested in learning conversational English but probably enjoy just talking to me more.
I head home at 9PM and iron clothes until 12:30AM.

Somewhere putting an electric fan in my aquarium,
Andrew Joseph
Today's blog title is by Matisyahu: NOMOREWAR
PS: I need to buy new goldfish.



Saturday, March 26, 2011

Yakuza Help Out

From one of the most feared organized 'legitimate businessman groups' The Yakuza, comes a tale of humanity in the face of trouble. Realizing that it's better to give than to receive, the Yakuza has donated resources to victims of the Sendai earthquake, tsunami and radiation problem.

Click HERE to read about it.

Andrew Joseph
PS: Having had friendly dealings with the Yakuza while on the JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme while living in Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken, Japan, I can honestly say, I knew they would. I'm sure they were doing it from the start, but just didn't want to draw too much attention to their work - as usual.
PPS: Those friendly dealings were simply... well, you can read about that in THISBLOG.


Today's blog is a bit of a ramble. I'm sorry, but it's how I feel today after yet another scintillating discussion with my wife this morning, coupled by scads of work, and thoughts of Japan and its suffering people.

Okay... I don't know how governments do this - or if the data is culled (gathered) from a gaggle of insurance companies - but how the heck do the determine the cost of repairing the damages caused by a disaster.

On March 24, 2011, it was reported that Japan estimates the earthquake and tsunami may have caused over US$300-billion. I use the American dollar figure as our Canadian buck is worth more than the U.S., and thus would not be as round a figure for me when presenting this data.

Anyhow... while the costs of repairs covers: roads, homes, factories, water and sewage, it fails to take into account the Fukushima Dai-ichi facility.

Yes, there is some radiation in the surrounding areas... yes, the government will have to shell out money to farmers et al, loss of trade revenue, tourism... yes, there will be higher medical costs - all are things which are not covered in this mega-billion dollar total.  

But what about the actual cost to replace the nuclear reactors. Remember... salt water was sprayed and dumped all over the reactors... salt water that was needed to cool to core... but has a long term concern of corrosion. The reactors will need to be replaced.

Now, it will be up top the government of Japan to determine what they are going to replace these reactors with, but replaced they will have to be.

For example, back in 2008 it was estimated that the costs for two new AP1000 reactors in Florida, US of A built within 18 months of each other would - depending on the kilowatt power generated per hour (one at $5,144 per kilowatt, and the other at $3,376 per kilowatt) would be $98.4-billion. Now, when you add in other factors like the purchase of lands, plant equipment, cooling towers, financing costs, licenses, regulatory fees, fuel, owner's costs, insurance and taxes, plus the inevitable escalation costs and contingencies fees, the total would rise to about US$14-billion.

And that's just for two reactors - based on 2008 costs. 

Japan is going to need at least four - maybe as many as six. Plus, factor in that clean-up for the Fukushima facility is going to be pretty darn high - thanks to the radiation et al, and you have a pretty good idea that costs are not always what they seem, as even without my gruesome calculations, the disasters in Japan have already dwarfed those from the 1995 Kobe, Japan earthquake and America's Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Where will the money come from?

Like most things in life, money is a made-up concept (like time... if man did not need to utilize it, it wouldn't actually exist - if you seriously think about it.) How is a piece of paper with the words $1 actually worth $1? Because the government says it is, and because people have some faith in the government.

Is money worth the money it is printed on?  No.

In the U.S. to print any bill from $1 up to $1000, it costs $0.08 each. A $1 coin like we have in Canada - it costs $0.038 to produce. Paper money costs less but the shelf life is 18 months for a paper bill versus 30 years for a coin. Of course, I have some coins that date back to the 3rd century BC, so the shelf life of coins is higher - unless your country happens to go out of existence.

My point? Money is a concept. You and I can not actually fathom $1-billion dollars. Heck... imagine this... try counting one  - adding another one every second, and see how long it would take you to get to one million. The answer is around one week. Now try that to get to a billion. That's a thousand weeks. Now multiply that by 300 (as in the initial damage estimate).. that's 300,000 weeks... or 2.1 million days.... or a little over 5,750 years.

That's a lot of time and a lot of money. Who has that kind of money, and who has it available for loan? No one. Just print more money, feed it into the system, devalue the currency - uh... in Japan's case... a Y1000 or Y5000 or Y10,000 or Y100000 paper bill should only cost about 4 yen ($0.04 US/Cdn). It sounds like the government has been saving money for just such an emergency.

It's like owning a Mint is a license to print money.

Having rambled on about how I believe that time and money are man-made concepts... it's still going to take Japan years, if not decades to extract itself from this financial and social mess brought on by a non-man-made disaster.

In the mean time, people still need food, shelter, electricity, jobs, school... these are just the financial costs... what about the emotional damage. Hell, I know how upset I was when I lost a few of my Japanese items in a fire a few years back.

The costs are high, my friends... and it's going to get higher.

I would be curious to hear from any of you dear readers about disasters in YOUR country, and how it affected you in your daily life. Even if you want to remain anonymous, just tell me and I'll present it that way.

Stay safe.

Somewhere with common cents,
Andrew Joseph
Today's rambling blog is by Aldo Nova: LEOPARDSUIT

PS: And you know what, I'd still go to Japan today if the opportunity arose. My son wants me to take him there one day -p and I promised him I would. All I need to do is start saving a penny a day... no, that won't do it... maybe $400 per year... hmm... that's not going to happen seeing as how I lose money every month... that's true, by the way... hmm... And, in 10 years time when he's 15 - the costs will be higher... maybe I shouldn't have made that promise. Yeesh.  

Friday, March 25, 2011

March 25 News From Japan

On Friday, Japanese officials revealed there may be a breach at the core of one of six nuclear reactors at the Fukushima Dai-ichi facility.

Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan says: "The situation today at the Fukushima Dai-ichi power plant is still very grave and serious. We must remain vigilant. We are not in a position where we can be optimistic. We must treat every development with the utmost care."

A breach to a reactor containment vessel implies there could be a much greater release of radiation than has happened so far, as the plant has been been leaking low levels of radiation for two weeks now.

If the reactor vessel was breached, it will be that much harder to contain radioactive contaminants, as the radioactive steam inside the pressure vessel could leak into the air. If the reactor suffers a partial meltdown, liquefied nuclear fuel could also escape.

The Prime Minister also took time to apologize to farmers and business owners for the damages to their livlihood noting how more than a few countries have halted some food imports from areas near the plant after milk and produce were found to contain elevated levels of radiation.

The Prime Minister also thanked utility workers, firefighters and military personnel for "risking their lives" to cool the overheated facility.

Also on Friday, Hidehiko Nishiyama, Deputy Director-General of the Japan Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, noted that three workers entered the turbine building at the Fukushima Dai-ichi No. 3 reactor and accidentally stepped in water that was highly radioactive. Despite being covered in radiation suits with the edges tapes down, water seeped in. The workers suffered burns and were hospitalized. The Japanese newspaper, the Asahi Shinbun said that water was 10,000 times more radioactive than it would normally be.

According to officials from Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPC, who own and operate the nuclear facility)and the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, the water had 3.9 million becquerels of radioactive substances per cubic centimeter. So far the highest level of contamination in seawater near the plant was 3.21 becquerels per cubic centimeter. A becquerel (Bq) is a unit of radioactivity that measures the number of decay events per second.

Radioactive elements like Cobalt-60, Iodine-131, Cesium-137 and other substances which do not normally exist in cooling water, were also found. Because Cesium was found in the water--as it is not usually present in the reactor cooling water--it suggests there was a leak in the reactor vessel, though it might have come from the spent fuel rods that are stored in the reactor buildings.

Fukushima Dai-ichi Reactor No. 3 uses a mixed oxide (MOX) fuel, consisting of uranium oxide and plutonium oxide, and is much more radioactive and toxic than traditional uranium oxide fuel. It is the only reactor at this six-reactor plant facility to use that particular blend of fuel. The water may have been contaminated by the fuel rods, but some experts think that may not be the case, because the water near the reactor vessel is in a different building from the turbines.

The No. 3 reactor was damaged by a Hydrogen explosion on March 14, 2011 after the cooling system failed. The cooling system at all six reactors was put out of action when a tsunami hit the power plant and flooded the room containing the generators that power the water pumps.

In an attempt to cool the reactors, TEPCO workers filled the cooling system with seawater. Seawater is corrosive, and may have contributed to leaks in the cooling system. There are several places where contaminated water could come from, officials said, and it is not clear where the water the workers were exposed to came from.

Japanese Baseball - 2nd Inning

Hello all!

I've added a bit more to my baseball blog written yesterday - a bit more data, if you will... you might find it interesting: DOUBLEPLAY.

Andrew Joseph

Don't Let It Bring You Down

Telephone card of Sendai Castle and statue of Date Masamune.
I have always had this thing for castles. Most boys do when growing up, as they dream of defeating the sissy, goody-two-shoes knight who comes to take away the gold you have stolen from the peasant-folk - gold, by the way, which enables you to have the best-looking women in the shire throw themselves at you.

Hey - you dream your dreams, I'll dream mine!

Anyhow, growing up in London, England and Toronto, Canada, I only had images of the standard European castle. I had no idea that there was such a thing as a castle constructed anywhere else.

And, believe it or not, that naivety stayed with me through the first few months of Japan, when I traveled alone for the first time.

Back in 1990 through 1993, I was an assistant English teacher (AET) on the JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme, working out of the OBOE (Ohtawara Board of Education) and teaching at seven local junior high schools in the city - one school, four days a week. I know - it was tough. I sometimes actually had to do work for about four hours a day! I'm getting tired just recalling that fact.

Don't let anyone tell you differently, working as an AET on the JET Programme wasn't that difficult. What was difficult was the constant bombardment of people wanting a piece of your time - anxious to find out more about you and your country - to speak your language - to buy you drinks. Okay... it's not a problem either - especially to an ego maniac like myself.

Still, for some people who value privacy, the lack of it caused them to construct walls and baileys and install a moat to keep people out - only lowering the drawbridge whenever they were horny. I could be talking about many of my girlfriends, but truthfully, I could be talking about a lot of my male friends, too.

Anyhow, that paragraph above was a crappy description of a castle. When I first traveled to Osaka-shi (Osaka City) in the fall of 1990, I only then learned that besides it being an easy city for a stupid gaijin (foreigner) who gets lost in, one could get laid quite easily. As well, they had a cool looking castle. That was my first exposure to one - Osaka-jo (Osaka Castle), and like sex and girlfriends, I wanted more. I also got lost more frequently.

In November, my then girlfriend Ashley and I, traveled to Sendai--yes, near where earthquake and subsequent tsunami hit a couple of weeks ago on March 11, 2011.

Sendai-jo (Sendai Castle 仙台城 or Aoba-jo/ Aoba Castle 青葉城) was constructed by Date Masamune (surname first, pronounced 'da-tay') atop Mount Aoba (pronounced 'ow-bah' where as far as castle defenses go, was quite impressive, over-looking the small fishing village of Sendai. When the castle was completed at around 1600 AD, Sendai was now a city (Sendai-shi) .... a city that by 2010 had over 1,000,000 people.

This castle - Sendai-jo - was a major player in the Boshin War (1868-69) a  civil war in Japan between the forces of the Tokugawa shogunate (military government of the past 250 odd years) and those wanting a return of the Imperial Court as the real political power. The Sendai folks backed the Shogun - and lost.   

As a result, Sendai-jo was partially dismantled in the 1870s. Unfortunately, a lot of the remaining building were bombed by the Allies in WWII when the Imperial Court utilized a military-like rule for a couple of decades.   

While sections did survive - hence Ashley and I visiting it - a lot of the stone walls and structures were rebuilt.

And you know what I remember most of that trip--besides not getting any--was that it rained, got colder, and then snowed.

Along with getting lost, I always seemed to have issues with dressing properly when traveling in Japan. This is especially true when traveling hundreds of kilometres by Shinkansen (bullet train) - the weather is quite different from wherever your starting point is. After three years, I never figured it out.

I mean, I did know it was going to be different, but you have to remember that the Internet wasn't a big deal then (though I had been surfing a make-shift Tron-like world since 1978), there was no 24-hour weather station  - and even if there was, it would have been in Japanese, so I had no way of knowing what the weather was like in other cities.. I suppose I could have asked my bosses at the OBOE for advice, but I didn't want to look any more incompetent than I was.

Somewhere slaying the White Knight,
Andrew Joseph
Today's title is by Canada's Neil Young: OLDMAN

Thursday, March 24, 2011

New Video of Nuclear Reactor After Earthquake But Before Tsunami

Hello all... here's a newly released video taken from a helicopter about 40 minutes after the 9.0 earthquake hit. The main images show the damage to the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear reactor facility. It's before the tsunami hits.


Andrew Joseph
Publish Post

Japan Delays Baseball Opening Day

I have to admit, this one surprised me a bit - though I do understand why.

Japan's baseball leagues (the JBL) - the Pacific League and Central League - have delayed their opening days until April 12, 2011 due to the March 11 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear reactor problems - three strikes.

The Central League had originally agreed to a government request to delay its opener until March 29, but recently agreed to the April 12 start. The Pacific League had already set the April date as its opening day, as it has teams from the afflicted area. The Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles are now homeless, their ballpark in Sendai a shambles with flooding, collapsed ceilings and cracked walkways. As well, the Chiba Lotte’s QVC Marines Field was also hit hard.

Yusei Kikuchi, the Seibu Lions pitcher who grew up in neighbouring Iwate prefecture, told reporters: “Honestly, I cannot think about encouraging people by playing baseball now. The field I used to practice at, the beach I visited with my family, everything is gone now.”

Nippon Ham Fighters star pitcher Yu Darvish expressed similar dismay: “I am a baseball player and a human being as well. I cannot think about baseball alone as I normally do.”

Also, Japanese baseball officials have said it would try and alter the starting time of its night games to day games in an effort to preserve electricity - a tip of the cap to the efforts of the country to conserve power in wake of the current crisis at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear reactors that were damaged during the disaster two weeks ago.  

Both leagues have stated that for now, there will be no extra innings for any night games that require them, meaning a lot more games may end up being tied.

Here in North America, where the season opens April 1, MLB (Major League Baseball) has likewise come to Japan’s assistance, with the New York Yankees donating $100,000, and the Oakland Athletics and San Diego Padres both pledging to raise funds at upcoming Japanese Heritage Days.

A few other professional sports are pitching in too. The unfortunately named San Jose Earthquakes, of Major League Soccer has donated $1 for every fan who attended their recent home opener (an unfortunate 10,525 people showed up - Toronto FC usually gets around 20,000 for a regular season game).

Now... in my opening statement I mentioned I was surprised - why? Well, baseball seems to have a unifying or even a rallying effect on people. I thought it might be a good way for people to stop dwelling (not forgetting!) on the disaster - to attempt to begin rebuilding some normalacy. But that's just my opinion. Especially after Sumo has had such big (no pun intended) problems with gambling allegations.

Somewhere arguing a called third strike,
Andrew Joseph

More On The Fukushima 50: Rock 'n' Roll Hero

 As mentioned... the Fukushima 50 are more than just 50 men. There are 180 of them who go in 50 at a time (for an hour or so) to try and get the nuclear reactors a the Fukushima Dai-ichi facility up and ready after the recent earthquake and subsequent tsunami (tidal wave). These men are the low-ranking and middle ranking technicians, operators, soldiers and firefighters who are heroes.

While their identities are still shrouded in mystery, one needs to remember that these men volunteered to go into the facility - knowing that they would be risking their life, but content in knowing that should they succeed, they would be saving not only the lives of their family and friends but thousands and thousands of others in the vicinity from a potential nuclear disaster.  

"Please continue to live well. I cannot be home for a while." These words were sent by e-mail to the wife of one of the Fukushima 50.

The daughter of one of the men wrote to a Japanese television station: "They are running out of food... we think conditions are really tough. He says he's accepted his fate... much like a death sentence."

The Fukushima 180 (though some think it might be as high as 200) are mostly volunteers. At least 70,000 people have been evacuated from the area, with another 140,000 told to remain indoors so as not to be affected by the high levels of radiationb that permeate the air. 
Many workers at Fukushima, however, have to ignore any warnings to leave. It was the earthquake that first compromised the plant's reactors last Friday. While the workers tried to stabilize them, they knew a a tsunami was approaching was approaching a scant 30 minutes later. 
In the ensuing two weeks, 31 people have died during numerous explosions at the Fukushima plant. This is why I think there were over 200 people doing the dirty work at the plant, but with 31 dead, there no only 180 left - or there about. 
"My dad went to the nuclear plant. I never heard my mother cry so hard. People at the plant are struggling, sacrificing themselves to protect you. Please dad come back alive," noted a Twitter user @nekkonekonyaa.

She's right. It's a dangerous job. These men are crawling through the dark facility armed with flashlights and wearing oxygen tanks and full body radiation suits that are doing very little to stop the high levels of radiation from seeping into their bodies. 

A single hour of exposure to radiation at the Fukushima facility has been measure at at least 3 times what a typical nuclear facility worker might be exposed to over an entire career. 

And... just so you know, consequences range from the quick acting radiation sickness to such long-term affects of thyroid cancer or worse.

And, nearly two weeks later, these brave men are still doing their duty... not their job... but their duty to their family and country. 
Heroes all. And, I fear, heroes with little chance of coming out unscathed.

Somewhere wishing I had their bravery,
Andrew Joseph
Today's blog title (partial), is by Meat Loaf. I'm guessing Mr. Loaf won't allow any videos of this song, or he simply never did one. ONEHITWONDER.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Surf Rider

I don't wish to make light of the tsunami that killed so many people and destroyed so many lives, but I wanted to pass along this video I found that was released by the Japanese Coast Guard (海上保安庁 Kaijō Hoan-chō) a few days ago, that shows one of their boats, the 970-tonne Matsushima, riding the tsunami waves in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of northern Japan. The tsunami waves were generated by a 9.0 magnitude earthquake 30 minutes earlier on March 11, 2011.

The footage is kind of cool, and you can get an idea of how large the tsunami (tidal wave) is as the boat goes over the top of the wave - remember, this is not a small boat.

There are a few different ways to tackle a tsunami when in a boat. The only way to survive is to do what the Japanese Coast Guard boat did... turn the bow into the wave to cut through it... to give the wave less to grab onto as it passes by. 

The film is thought to be the first such footage of the actual 10-metres high wave and a second smaller wave, and as it passed the Matsushima, the Coast Guard sent along warnings of the tsunami to the coastal areas of Japan.

The ship is lifted up tens of feet in the air and splashes down safely on the other side. A second smaller wave hits the ship minutes later.


Somewhere not having sea legs,
Andrew Joseph
Usually for the serious blogs I don't do the rock and roll theme blog titles... but I am for this one. The Lively Ones created this surf song back in 1961, I think: LISTEN. It was later used in the movie PULP FICTION.

Joy To The World

This is the fifth and last installment of The Beer Bottle Blues. It's my view of Japan from inside a beer. Now please don't think I actually gave up drinking... no... I just gave up this concept.

While writing one's views can be enlightening, I have often found that it's better to write when I'm straight... afterall, my reality is way more screwed than your (or most people's) fantasy.

Enjoy the drink:

Hi. How's it going, eh? Molson, please... huh?... oh yeah. I forgot. Kirin, onegaishimasu (please). 

It's getting easier to forget I'm in a foreign country. Of course, continuing to believe that I am back in Toronto will eventually get me killed here when I look left and then right at the intersections. Why do they drive on the wrong side of the road? 

I once made the comment that the Japanese all seem to speak better English after swimming in a few glasses of sake. I wonder if we have anything like it in the West?

Asahi Super Dry, please... and no, I do not consider this mixing drinks!

What I don't know in Japanese, they seem to know in English. We're both learning. It's good to know my time here hasn't been a complete waste. Now, if I can only do something about my students.

Kirin Black, please.

I'm still having problems with those damn dogs around my apartment. My place is on one corner of an intersection and dogs live on the other three corners. I think they live by themselves because if there really was an owner, I would hope they would have some concerns for their neighbours when their dogs start barking at 5:30 AM. they always seem to stop at 8:00 when I leave for work. I'm going to kill those S.O.B.'s one day. I need a plan first...

Guinness, and can you put some beer in it with the foam... thanks.

I asked my buddy what problems he has with the neighbours: babies crying. Spoiled brats screaming for their mother at the top of their lungs. Newlyweds?... Oh. Besides the dogs, I don't know who my neighbours are. I guess that's not a problem, though. There is a guy in the house across the street from me who always seems to be burning garbage when I hang my laundry out to dry. Hey, do you think I want to smell "woody"? That's why I drink... to forget... that I smell "woody". Hey, I'm kidding. Stop sniffing me. I don't really smell "woody". 

Geez. Corona, with the lime. If it didn't have the lime, the stupid thing wouldn't have any taste. Y'know what I mean?

Somewhere looking for taste,
Andrew Joseph
Today's blog title was inspired by Three Dog Night, for obvious reasons if you actually read that paragraph above. WOOF

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Good, The Bad & The Ugly Stories From Japan

Let's start off with some
Good News:

When the tsunami hit a house in Ishinomaki-shi (City of Ishinomaki) in Miyagi-ken, Japan on March 11, it swept it up and moved it 100 metres away. At the time, 16-year-old Abe Jin (surname first) and his 80-year-old oba-san (grandmother) Abe Sumi were in the house and were trapped within until March 20.

Jin was finally able to crawl through the wreckage and found a nearby police patrol.

"I'm so relieved to be rescued," says Jin to Japanese television station NHK from his hospital bed.

The two were stuck under fallen bits of their two-level home in the kitchen, and were close enough to the refrigerator to eat snacks and drink water until.

The Bad News:

After the earthquake shut down the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear reactors and the tsunami caused further problems, the reactors released some radioactivity in the air.

As reported HERE back on March 15, radiation levels in Tochigi-ken's capital city of Utsonomiya-shi - some 100-plus kilometres away - were some 33 times higher than normal.

As well, with the ejection of radioactivity, there are concerns that a lot of local water and food supplies may be tainted.

Right now Japanese Chief Cabinet spokesperson Edano Yukio (again, surname first) says: "Please do not overreact, and act calmly. Even if you eat contaminated vegetables several times, it will not harm your health at all."

Yeesh. Let's see... I've eat vegetables twice a day... and the word "several" implies "three"... so what is Japan saying? The Japanese eat rice with darn near every meal... what about any health risks there?

Right now, Japan has noted that radioactive Iodine has been the biggest contaminant found... but it does break down after a week. 

On March 21, Japan's Health Ministry told the town of Iiate-mura (Village of Iiate) in Fukushima-ken to not drink the tap water as there are three times the normal level of Iodine. Iiate is about 30 kilometres northwest of the nuclear reactors. But, before everyone goes crazy, it's said that this level of Iodine in one litre of water is equivalent to 1/26th of a single chest x-ray. So this is bad, just not ugly. 

However, traces of Cesium has also been detected in the atmosphere, which was generated and released when the nuclear reactor's fuel rods melted last week--well, this stuff is known to cause cancer, and it lasts for decades.

China, after reports that Iodine tablets were being given out to people close to the nuclear reactor as a means to prevent early radiation sickness (this was about 10 days ago), well, the general populace went crazy purchasing up all of the Iodized Salt it could get its hands on to protect themselves. That doesn't help, and created a salt shortage in China.

However, with concerns that some Japanese foods coming into China (China is Japan's biggest trade partner), may be contaminated, China is ordering the testing of all imports... hey, that's probably a very good thing to do.  

Chief Cabinet spokesperson Edano notes that the nuclear power plant owner and operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co., would compensate farmers affected by bans on the sale of raw milk, spinach and canola.

The Ugly News:

Just when you thought Japan's Tokyo Electric Power Company had made some headway into getting the Fukushima Dai-ichi reactors back under control comes news that on March 21, thick grey smoke poured from two reactor units (No. 3 and No. 2).  

Of course, the smoke halted the effort to reconnect the power lines to the reactor and thus bring the cooling generators back on-line - an important step in halting a nuclear melt-down. What caused the smoke to billow first from Unit 3 at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant and later from Unit 2 is under investigation, nuclear safety agency officials said.

“Our crisis is still going on. Our crisis is with the nuclear plants. We are doing everything we can to bring this to an end,”  states Fukushima-ken's governor Sato Yuhei (surname first!) “Don't give up. We know you are suffering.”

Despite the set-back, progress had been made at the facility, as workers have finished connecting three of the plant's six units... with hopes that the remainder will be completed within the next day.

But despite the hook-up, it's not going to be an instantaneous clearing of the problem. All of the equipment is going to have to be checked - thoroughly, as a lot of sea water was dumped into the facility to keep the fuel rods cool. Also, the reactors are going to have to vented of dangerous gas build-ups.

According to Nishiyama Hidehiko (surname... you got it, right?) with the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA), a pump used to push water into Unit No. 2's reactor and spent fuel storage area needs to be replaced.

Did you know that a few days before the earthquake and tsunami, NISA reprimanded the Tokyo Electric Power Company for not inspecting some of the crucial cooling equipment at the Fukushima facility. Now, no one is saying that that is the reason for this disaster, but to this writer, it does seem a tad suspicious.

More Ugly News:
Reports from Japan estimate 18,400 dead, with 15,000 alone coming from Miyagi-ken where the tsunami hit at maximum strength. As well, nearly 500,000 people have been displaced, and are living in shelters.

Somewhere alee,
Andrew Joseph
There.. now you are all caught up.

(S)he Blinded Me With Science

I don't know how many of you readers out there are nuclear technicians - but for the rest of you who are like me and aren't you might be wondering what is really going on inside the nuclear reactor facility in Fukushima-ken, Japan.

What I have noticed, because I'm a science geek, is that the information coming from Japan (and our local and not-so local media) is spotty at best.

To rectify that problem, over the past few days, I've looked for as much information as possible and culled it into a more factual story. As such, I've done my best to provide you with photo images given out by Tokyo Electric Company in Japan, and have tried to explain what is going on at the reactor facility. We know there were explosions and we know that radiation has been released - but why?

So, in that vein, let's discuss what went wrong at the nuclear reactor site in Fukushima.

The Fukushima Dai-ichi reactors were damaged by the tsunami and the earthquake. It's problems started with the 9.0 earthquake - as the buildings are only rated to withstand earthquakes of 7.9 on the Richter Scale. Still... all things considered, it held up pretty well. It's problems are due to electrical... which is ironic, as electricity is what the nuclear reactors generate. The reactors were flooded partially by the tsunami - making clean-up doubly difficult.

The earthquake actually triggered a shut-down of the Fukushima I (Dai-ichi) power plant's six nuclear reactors. It also shut down Fukushima II (Dai-ni) power station's four reactor units.

Then, when the tsunami hit (to the north in Miyagi-ken, it was a 10-metre (33-foot) high tidal wave... I'm assuming it was a little bit less at the Fukushima facility), it took out the Dai-ichi (Fukushima I) back-up diesel generators. By the way... Dai-ichi means Big One. Dai-ni means Big Two. 

So... when the power was knocked out at four of the six Fukushima I Dai-ichi reactors, we saw two different things happen. I'll look at them one by one and provide you with some science... which is interesting (to me) in itself considering I have degrees in Political Science and Journalism. My science, regardless of what my degree is in, is correct as I have always been interested in atomic and nuclear energy and I've done my research for us all.

Here's what happened:

1) The reactors began to heat up.

In the nuclear reactor, where steam is created (for power to be used by customers), the lack of functioning generators caused the water coolant levels to drop... this is very bad, as it leaves the nuclear fuel rods exposed, allowing them to heat up.

As the rods heat up, they crack and release Hydrogen into the air. To avoid an explosion (Hydrogen and a spark is not a good thing - recall what happened to the Hindenberg airship back in 1938?), workers at the reactor vented this gas before it exploded - unfortunately, they didn't do enough, as some of the Hydrogen exploded (in Unit No. 1) and destroyed the nuclear reactor roofs. This is what caused the release of some radioactive gases into the air.

To stop the nuclear rods from overheating (if it overheats past a certain level, you have a melt-down, and subsequent nuclear explosion), workers began shooting and airlifting saltwater from the nearby Pacific Ocean. The good: this will keep the reactor core cool and prevent an explosion. The bad: this will permanently ruin the reactor. For Japan, there wasn't even a question of financial concerns versus life.

Oh... and just so you know... the nuclear reactor has something called a containment shell around it. The reactor core is surrounded by steel vessels. The steel vessels have a concrete wall beside it and a ceiling to stop anything from leaking to the outside world. So... at least there's a shield here - something that Reactor No. 4 at Chernobyl did not have.

However... there is another problem at Fukushima Dai-ichi... 

2) The spent fuel starts to heat up.

Spent fuel... hey... nothing last forever, right? Even nuclear fuel rods need to be replaced every once in a while so that your computer set works allowing you to read this blog.

What are spent fuel rods doing in a nuclear reactor? Well, can you think of a safer place to store them? You see, even though a fuel rod is 'spent', it still must be continually cooled by water for many years (no idea how long that is).

Here's the funny thing - in a wry ironic way - at the Fukushima Dai-ichi facility, the spent fuel, also known as nuclear waste, is kept on the upper level of the nuclear reactor, still immersed in water so that it doesn't heat up. The waste is kept at the top of the reactor to (are you ready?) protect it from weather damage and tsunami's.

Now... since the generators controlling the cooling system were without power, or were damaged in the earthquake, the spent fuel rods didn't have enough water around them, and began to bubble and heat up. When the cooling system failed, radiation was released into the atmosphere.

Part of the problem with the cooling system failing around the spent fuel rods, is that the only shielding surrounding the radioactive nuclear waste and the cool fresh air we breathe, is the concrete of the reactor building. The waste system was not built to have a coolant failure of this proportion.

This is what is going on in No. 4 nuclear reactor.  Very recently (I can't determine an exact date), spent fuel rods were removed from Reactor No. 3 and placed within No. 4 for storage. Because these are newly removed/spent fuel rods, they are hotter than older ones stored elsewhere on site. With more heat, also comes more radioactivity. 

And that's what's going on inside the Fukushima nuclear facility. Let's hope they get power back to the cooling generators quickly.

Somewhere feeling like the blog world's Homer Simpson,
Andrew Joseph
Today's blog title is by Thomas Dolby: SCIENCE!
PS: The image above - that's me as a Simpson's character as drawn by Mike Worley, a comic book illustrator of fine upstanding character after I saved his life when he was having a diabetic crash at a comic book convention in Chicago. I told you I was a geek. Anyhow... visit Mike's site and tell him who sent you:
PPS: If you'll recall... Homer Simpson is a nuclear technician at a nuclear plant in Springfield, USA. No... not that Springfield.

Strange Brew

Here is the fourth installment of five of my view from inside a beer bottle - a bar... the 4C in Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken, Japan. I wrote this back in March of 1992. In February my grandfather died. My cat died, And a friend of mine died in a car crash back in Toronto. Of course, no one in Japan knew what I was going through, though some people did realize I was a little out of sorts - sad, that is.

While I was pretty much depressed and drunk for that month (since I never get hangovers from drinking (still don't), I was a fully functional alcoholic for a month), the month of March was pretty damn prolific for me writing-wise as I would write three or four short stories a day - even while working as an Assistant English Teacher on the JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching Programme) for an eight-hour day.

You can do what you want, as long as you make time for yourself to do it. You don't even need to be drunk or stoned to do it. And, while I am having a Rum & Coke as I write this, I'm sober. It was just a bad month in my life, and we all have those every once in a while. (Oh, don't even get me started about 2010 or 2011!!) What you need to remember is that it doesn't need to remain a bad time in your life if you don't let it.And I'm positive about that!

Hey barkeep... a round of drinks for all my friends! Let's speak English and have a good time!


Beer, please. 

Yeah, today I went to a coffee shop with some Japanese friends. 

Why is it that when I order in Japanese, the waitress always turns to my friend and says "Eh, nani?" (Huh, what?). My friend says it the exact same way I do and it's understood. Eh, nani??!! 

Biryu, onegaishimasu (Beer, please) - and I don't want a building! What? Geez. A beer please. Isn't that what I said?! 

Don't get me wrong... there are a ton of great people out there. Too many of them want to do things that renders menial labour obsolete for me. They'd do anything for me if I asked them. Of course, I'm not stupid to assume it shouldn't be reciprocated. One lady even made me a housecoat. Maybe I'll buy her a beer. 

Cheers to all my friends here. 

Why do some farmers speak better English than some English teachers? 

Still thinking about women. But, another piece of ass won't change my mind set. 

I've grown old here in Japan. Optimists say I've matured. Pessimists say I've become boring. Oh well, I've gotta be me. 

Hey, why won't the labels peel off? What do ya mean they're painted on? 

I'll have another beer and call it a night. I'm not looking forward to tomorrow morning. Starting at 8 AM, trucks promoting yet another political race will commence. That's election. Not erection! 

God, I need a beer.

Somewhere finding women appealing,
Andrew Joseph
Today's blog title is smooth and done by The Cream: ONTAP.