Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Tokyo: The new Abnormal

Good Evening Everyone,

Well, it's been three weeks since we went back to work post-earthquake. Japan has largely been off the front page of the news, with the exception of the planned Tepco nuclear fix utilizing edible kindergarten paste and paper machie, and for those of us in Tokyo, life goes on. Bread is back on the shelves, no more shortages of eggs or milk, or at least not in my neighborhood, and the earthquake relief efforts go on. We have a lot of water, which is unnecessary scientifically, but helpful emotionally.

Radiation and Science and Other stuff
On the radiation front, there has been some good and/or interesting news, such as "Hong Kong Radiation Exceeds that of Tokyo", which despite being published on April 1, looks true to me. The NY Times, after a somewhat shrill start, has really done some good reporting on radiation dangers and not, along with a not quite brand new career in atomic forensics, leading to the new Jerry Bruckheimer show, "CSI: Fukushima". (OK, I made the last bit up). Finally, for the ubergeek, we have the Radiation Dose chart.

Things that have changed for me:
Ignoring the fact that the first thing I did each morning for two weeks was check a Tokyo Geiger counter web site, I have found that I no longer trust my inner ear. Going up stairs, or otherwise consistently shifting my weight leads to a "hmm, is that an earthquake or am I just off-balance/not as young as I used to be". If you haven't seen the Japan Quake map (and the 900+ quakes we've had since March 11), well, you aren't the quake geek that I am.

I sure know that we know a lot about radiation except when we don't. Or, put another way, neither government will announce the additional cancer risk that is being provided within a given "exclusion zone" or "evacuation radius" or whatever. It makes it tough to make a rational decision, so I usually just revert to first principles (and online Geiger counters).

I am pretty sure that the risk of distributing KI (Potassium Iodide) tablets outweighs the risk of substantial exposure in Tokyo (people who are allergic to shellfish in particular are at increased risk from KI, at least if the words "anaphylactic shock" qualify as increased risk).

This summer will be bad news for the greater Tokyo area, and (probably) the Japanese economy as a whole. While I am a long term Japan bull, losing a quarter of your power during the height of air conditioner season is going to be painful, and unless we are lucky (think "Global Cooling"), domestic production is going to get hammered this year, and there are going to be substantial knock-on effects throughout the economy.

Business continuity planning for a number of our customers has gone through the roof, and so we look to be quite busy getting ahead of this summer's blackouts.

Otherwise, though, things are basically normal.

Things I'm grateful for:

  • My family is safe, warm and reasonably happy.
  • A large outpouring of concern from family and friends, some of whom I haven't heard from in years.
  • Tokyo remains a great place to live, work and eat...and with the lower levels of foreigners, it was easier to get a table at popular restaurants for the last two-three weeks.
  • The US government assigned a smart, turned-on FoO (Friend of Obama) as ambassador here. He has been on youtube regularly, and has been up to visit several of the shelters in the north.

1 comment:

  1. Great post. Thank you. Found the radiation dose graph really useful.

    Good to know you and the family are safe. Stay optimistic and stay safe.