Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Jim "Paul Bunyan" Thome

I ran across this the other day. It must be shared.

Once again, Minnesota Twins commercials at their best. I suppose they're funny because it's mostly inside jokes and puns on different player characteristics, but they're always really good, every single year.

For those not as familiar with the Twins and who Jim Thome is, well, he is a beast. Currently Thome is in 8th overall for most career home runs with 591, which means he's in line to hit 600 this year. Now 40 years old, his long career in the majors, mostly in the AL Central, also has him holding the record for most home runs against a number of teams, including the Twins and the Royals I believe.

Basically, this guy is quite the power hitter, fitting for a comparison between Paul Bunyan (which is also part of the Minnesota joke). Also note at the end of the commercial he points his bat toward the clubhouse saying, "Right down there." This is the exact pose he takes every time he gets to the plate. Yea, once again a Twins commercial managed to have me rolling.

By the way, here's two of my favorite Thome moments since he joined the Twins last year.

Thome hitting triples.

Unfortunately they won't let me embed these (I'm working on it). But look at him go! Whooosh!

Also, hooray for baseball season!!! :D

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

A Whole Year Already?!

On April 12th, after several months of training, familiarizing myself with my company's systems and inner workings, I boarded a plane bound for Japan. Half a day later, I arrived on the 13th, and practically hit the ground running. Upon calling my coworker to let them know I arrived, I was told we had some issues with our firewall, and they asked if I could come take a look at it. Well I guess there was good reason for me to be here after all.

Now one year later, we've got almost twice as much machinery and computers, I have a new boss, and we have 10 more employees than when I started, making me far from the new guy (although I'm still the youngest). Work is really turning into a lively place.

One of my coworkers also closed the restaurant he was running down the street to work full time for us. Certainly necessary (when was he finding time to sleep???), but it was sad to see that place close. I did grab a few plates and glasses as memoirs though, and I got a cabinet out of the deal too. Still, I'm going to miss Kyu-Style!

Originally when I got here too, my girlfriend lived 3+ hours away in Tochigi, but her department was miraculously moved from out there in the boonies to HQ in Tokyo. Which means she also moved closer, to the same prefecture in fact. Now we're only an hour or so away. Boy does that make a big difference (much cheaper too!). This is also much much much much nicer than the 15 hour time difference. No more conversations limited to only good morning and good night.

I've also moved out from one horror story of an apartment into a much newer, larger and awesome place (which I've still been meaning to take pictures of). I'm closer to work now, within biking distance, and really settled in. I've still got a few more things on my todo list, like get a bed, couch, bike, and finally build a new computer, but I'll get there.

This officially makes it my longest stay in Japan. Previously when I studied abroad I was only here for 11 months, so I've now exceeded that with a full year now. And what happens from here on? I don't know. I don't have any plans to go home any time soon, yet the idea of living here for good feels strange. I'm not against it, but I guess it's still kinda weird to call a foreign country home, as in permanent home. Then again, throughout college I was moving at the pace of about once a year, so I guess the idea of just settling down period is strange. How do you plan that far ahead...?

Well, so far things are going well, and I like it here. It's certainly more exciting, and my existence here as a foreigner is more special than in the US, so that makes the whole experience fun. So for now, until I figure out what to do next, I'm just going to keep going with that.

Sneak peak! On the 10th, the weekend before last, I did some hanami with some friends. I'll post more of it later, but man the sakura (cherry trees) were gorgeous!

Also, this picture of my girlfriend and I is apparently becoming somewhat famous on facebook. :D

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Level Up! But Just a Revision

If you haven't heard, Japan as recently raised the level of this nuclear disaster to level 7. However, this does not mean that the situation is escalating out of control, it's more like they've revised the ranking of this disaster based on further data. Still, that technically puts it on the same scale as Chernobyl, which I'm sure sensationalist news stations will have a heyday with if they haven't already.

For those who haven't been paying to close of attention though, Fukushima is definitely not Chernobyl. Tremendous amounts of radiation emerged from Chernobyl over a short period, directly from the exposed reactor, whereas Fukushima's 4 reactors have been slowly leaking over the last month. Furthermore, there are no reported health dangers from the current levels of radiation, much less deaths, but given the total overall amount released over the 1 month period, this supposedly qualifies for a level 7.

How does this affect me? I'm approximately 300 km (186 mi) from Fukushima, and although I'm sure limited amounts of radiation have reached this way, it's still well beneath anything that would even become potentially dangerous. There have been scares over the water and food, as well as radioactivity beyond the legal limit (which is probably extremely low anyways) found in some fish off the coast of Ibaragi, just south of Fukushima. None of this poses a threat to my immediate health, and I don't have any plans for leaving any time soon either.

That said, I'd be lying if I said I didn't check the packaging to find out where things I'm buying are coming from. That still hasn't really prevented me from buying anything though, as I'm assuming a certain level of testing is being performed on to ensure the safety of products. They did put at least a temporary ban on I believe it was spinach and milk and a few other products from Ibaragi and Fukushima awhile back. I feel so bad for the people in Fukushima and the surrounding area, as this has practically enacted an economic freeze on the area where no one wants to go there or wants anything from the area either. At the same time I understand consumers' concerns, as I'm one of them, so I have a strange conflicting opinion on the whole thing.

For instance water is an interesting story. Awhile ago there was a scare after it had rained and they found radiation in the tap water for Tokyo. The government announced it was safe to drink, but recommended that infants not drink the water, as they are much more susceptible to radiation effects. Naturally this lead to all stores completely selling out on water, and just recently they've started to regain most of their stock. I believe what they're saying about the tap water, and that its completely safe, but for some reason I can't quite bring myself to drink from it. It's kind of embarrassing, but it reminds me of the time a huge gnarly looking centipede crawled across the ceiling in front of me when I used to sleep on a top bunk. For the next week I couldn't even set foot in my room, and I never slept on the top bunk again. So even at a time like this, Psychology is working at its best (or worst I guess). Also there's the fact that purchasing 2 liter bottles of water/tea/sports drink for $1-2 dollars isn't exactly going to throw me into any financial troubles (at least nothing compared to my student loans!), so I'm not really forced to drink the tap if I don't want to, even if there wasn't an ongoing nuclear crisis 300 km away.

Anyways, we've still been facing more and more aftershocks. We had a lot yesterday, and a few this morning, but none yet this evening (knocks on wood). Thanks to the recent slight increase in quakes, or at least quakes nearer by, my Jishin Yoi (earthquake sickness) is back, and I'm starting to second guess if it's actually shaking or just my imagination. At the same time, these quakes have become a sort of strange part of everyday life. Although they naturally worry me a bit, they're certainly not impeding on my everyday routine anymore. I'm also getting better at predicting the level of intensity too, hah.

And finally, a little bit of good news! Supposedly they're making progress, albeit little, but progress none the same! Also, Sendai Airport has partially resumed domestic flights to the area! Little by little things are getting back on track.

Monday, April 11, 2011

One Month Later, One More Quake

Today marks exactly one month since the magnitude 9.0 earthquake rocked the eastern coast of Japan, literally shifting the geography of Japan and the ocean floor. In fact, the earthquake a month ago was so massive, it wielded such a tremendous energy yield which actually caused the axis of the earth to tilt by 6.5 inches, shortening our days by 1.26 microseconds. And what better way to celebrate with another M7 aftershock! (sarcasm)

We just experienced an M7.1 earthquake that hit on land right between Ibaragi and Fukushima around 5:20 pm (3:20 am CST). Naturally, Ibaragi and Fukushima appear to have gotten the worst of it, with weak intensity 6. Out here in Kanagawa we only felt around an intensity 3 or 4, which is still a pretty good rocking though. This also appears to be producing tsunami in the Ibaragi area up to 1 meter.

Including the M7.4 that hit us last week Thursday, this makes the 5th M7 aftershock to hit since the main quake, totaling to well over 400 quakes in a one month period.

Update: One interesting thing about the quake yesterday, is that we at work pretty much just carried on with business as usual, straight through the quake. Even though it was shaking for a good 30 seconds, everyone continued to type away on their computers, and make phone calls to customers. I guess after almost 500 aftershocks you tend to adjust to the situation.

Hey it's shaking. Are we in danger? Nope. Ok, back to work.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Unbelievable Scale

Apparently the seabed off the cost of northeast Japan rose 5 meters and shifted 24 meters by the massive earthquake. This would certainly explain tsunami of epic proportions that ensued, which supposedly reached up to 38 meters in height. That's 125 feet, or more than 10 stories tall! Here's another article on how they estimated the height.

This would also explain how this happened:

Actually while looking for these pictures I ran across this article. It includes quite a collection of unbelievable sights from this disaster, as well as a couple videos at the end of some footage of the tsunami itself I hadn't seen yet.

By the way, the other day on the news they were talking about how many aftershocks we've had over the last week. We've exceeded 400 in total over M5, in the period of a month. Including last Thursday's huge aftershock, there are now 4 M7's, almost 60 M6s', and over 480 M5's. Supposedly the previous record for frequent earthquakes following a huge disaster is about 100. Yes, we've exceeded the worst record of earthquakes by four times.

The good news is that we've not had an M8 aftershock yet, but the bad news is we could still experience M7's and even an M8, and not just sometime in the next month but for a couple years. I think I'll spend the next month earthquake proofing my apartment as much as possible

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Tohoku Quake - Day 27

Big Aftershock. M7.4. Everything's fine in my area which only felt intensity 3.

1:00 am JST (11:00 am CST)

They just lifted all the tsunami alerts. It's been over an hour since that huge M7.4 aftershock, and there haven't been any large quakes since. So I think it's about time I get some sleep. So much for finally getting over my earthquake sickness.

12:10 am JST (10:10 am CST)

They've been showing a graphic on TV about what tsunami are incoming. A couple cities may anticipate a 1m tsunami any minute now, and some others could see 50cm tsunami in 10 or 20 min.

12:00 am JST (10:00 am CST)

The scariest part about this aftershock, it was exactly like the main M9 almost a month ago. It started out slowly, and grew stronger and stronger. Then half way through it suddenly jumped in intensity, and kept shaking and shaking. Fortunately this one was only 2 min long, not 4 like the one last month. Still a little on edge here though. Yeesh.

Oh and the strongest part of this earthquake hit the Miyagi and Fukushima area, yes where the nuclear plant is too. So far they're saying it shook pretty hard, but they've confirmed that nothing seems to be out of the ordinary there for the moment. Aside from the nuclear crisis they've been working hard to control for the past month of course.

11:40 pm JST (9:40 am CST)

Big Aftershock.

M7.4, as strong as intensity 6 on land. It was about an intensity 3 here and lasted a good 2 minutes. Definitely the strongest aftershock we've had in a couple weeks. There are tsunami warnings on the east coast again, but they've only mentioned as high as 2 meters. I've heard mention they may only be 0.5 m and may not reach land after all. Still, this was a huge aftershock, as large as the few we had right after the M9 on the 11th.

I finally got through to my gf, and it seems like everything's ok at her place as well. Being on the 7th floor though, she mentioned her TV was close to tipping over. That must have been scary. :(

...whew. Guess I won't be going to bed any time soon.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Tohoku Quake - Day 25

Ok, it's been awhile since my last update here. I guess that's a sign things are getting back to normal? Haha... hah...

Anyways, not really a whole lot of change over the last week. The situation in Fukushima hasn't appeared to necessarily get better or worse, and since there hasn't been an catastrophe of epic proportions yet, I'm assuming the situation will be under control, although they're saying it may take a long time for the crisis to be completely under control.

The latest I've heard is that they've (unsuccessfully) been trying to plug a crack in a maintenance pit that's spilling radioactive water into the ocean. I believe they're also purposely dumping some other radioactive water into the ocean to make room for more dangerous radioactive water in holding tanks as part of the process to get the situation under control. Despite the levels at the source being above the legal limit, given the scale of the water they're dumping to the amount of ocean water, it becomes dispersed very quickly and will (supposedly) not become a health issue to the area or fish taken from the area. Still, I can't imagine that will help the price of fish at all in the area even if it is safe.

Also, perhaps you've heard about a dog that was rescued at sea from a rooftop 3 weeks after the quake. Someone even made an interesting comic out of titled Three Weeks at Sea. This story also had a happy ending as the dog was reunited with it's owner.

Some more good news - we didn't have any outages last week, and aren't likely to have any this week either, more than likely because of the warmer weather we've been having. It's in the 50s and 60s, yea!! We'll have to enjoy it while we can though, because when summer rolls around everyone's AC units are going to make the power demand skyrocket. For now, while we have consistent power, we're doing what we can to prepare for future outages.

Other than that, we're still having aftershocks daily, more often in the evenings (I wonder if that's related to the tides). Fortunately, I can hardly feel them in Kanagawa anymore, and my Jishin Yoi (or Earthquake Sickness) seems to have finally warn off. It doesn't feel like it's randomly shaking as much anymore.

Oh! Also the Sakura (Cherry Blossoms) are finally blooming! I'll have to do some Hanami this weekend. These pictures I snapped this morning from behind my apartment next to my bike.