Friday, April 15, 2011

Tokyo: The new Abnormal part II...

Good Evening Everyone,
This post has been edited because I wasn't that happy with it after posting. I have now reached "happy enough". I hope that the "happy enough" feeling is contagious.
The New Abnormal:
  • Every time I hear high pitched chimes, I automatically assume that there is an earthquake en route, since those chimes are what the radio uses to notify you that the early warning system has gone off.
  • My daughter has a solid understanding of what earthquake means, and how to hide under the table, but is not really clear on what "scary" means. "Earthquakes are scary," she says, smiling. Very different than monster muppets, where she hides her face and goes quickly for a hug.
  • When I saw a facebook post from a buddy that he had walked the entire Yamanote line loop (about 40 km), my assumption was not "This is some Oxfam charity thing", but instead "Oh, wonder how long it was shut down."
One severely undercovered story on the Tokyo effects of the quake was just how well Tokyo building codes and engineering held up to the shaking. When I look out my window each morning, my daughter and I play "count the cranes on the skyline", starting with the ones closet to us...not only did none of the ones we could see fall down, I have heard of more cranes falling in Houston than in Tokyo in the past three or four years.

Not all was good in the world of construction, though. In the suburbs and exurbs around Tokyo, there was substantial liquefaction damage (If you went to church, you know that the foolish man built his house upon the sand, but they didn't mention that it turned to water during an earthquake).  The stats for the damage are at the daily yomiuri, or for a picture of what a manhole looks like when soil turns to water, you can click through.

Finally, I had an interview with AOL-Huffpost about TEPCO condolence money that I really didn't think was controversial...but then again, I'm rational, or at least I tell myself that at night before bed. The text of my e-mail (later covered in actual phone conversation) follows:
OK, I haven't followed the details[on compensation by Tepco to affected communities], but it is imperative to separate radiation poisoning (ie what is going on at the plant, presumably, and could kill you in hours or days if you aren't wearing a spacesuit) from higher levels of radiation exposure, which increases your risk of cancer. 

Assuming that the payments are for the latter, this seems similar to what tobacco companies in the US did in the following suit:

Now, that [tobacco] was a court case and so absolved them of further liability, and the Tepco payments do not as they are "mimaikin", but it is unclear to me how this is different in principle or in practice, or is even particularly Japanese--excepting, perhaps, the willingness to pre-emptively take some sort of liability without a court of law requiring it.
Some of the one-liners in the phone conversation are more interesting "...It's not that TEPCO is a big evil empire that's going to come and lay waste to their farms. ...", but the content is roughly the same as the e-mail.
As always, I welcome comments, feedback, questions and other random acts. Spambots and those computers lacking personality not welcome.

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