Tuesday, March 15, 2011

I'm OK, thanks for askin.

I was asleep when the earthquake hit. I didnt check the internet or TV before work so when I saw I had three missed calls on my cell after work I panicked. No one ever calls me, especially from overseas. It was my grandma seeing if I was OK. She called again and filled me in on what happened. Then slowly as my east coast friends started to wake up (noon their time) and my family in Texas heard what happened (FOX news must have picked up the story) more and more tweets and Facebook messages came in. I'm not trying to call out other members of my family about the fact that only my grandma in Boston picked up the phone and paid long distance fees to check that I was alive. *ahem*

Anyway, I let everyone know I was fine, and even posted the previous blog post before I found out how bad the earthquake and subsiquent tsunamis had been.

Then the western 24 hour news media really sunk it's teeth into the story. A man was found 9 miles out to sea, a nuclear power plant had an explosion, the cast of Twilight had to evacuate Vancouver.

I could hardly go online without seeing some misinformed person on the other side of the world saying, "Cancel your travel plans to Japan, it's not safe over there!" Jon is coming to visit me next month and someone wrote to him that Narita airport is a mess and he should rethink his vacation.

Other people worry about nuclear fallout traveling to California. Someone on Facebook said that Japan refused to accept help from the US (FALSE). #PEARLHARBOR started trending on Twitter.

My dad is not convinced I'm safe as he sees the press cover the devistation more and more.

Ok, folks. Japan is big. Some plant workers have gotten radiation poisoning. That's really terrible. I think it was 10 to 100 workers. The nuclear power plant was designed to withstand earthquakes and has systems in place to deal with a meltdown. Even if the thing blew up I'd be fine in Yamaguchi. You'd be fine in your home across the ocean. The poor people of Fukushima would have to deal with some shit, though.

A lot of people are missing. They dont even know how many thousands died. It's devastating to the country and will take a long time to bounce back from.

No one should cancel travel plans to Japan. The last thing this country needs is to lose tourism dollars right before cherry blossom season.

EDIT: As I wrote this a 6.0 earthquake hit Shizukoa, south-west of Tokyo. The news anchors have put their helmets back on.


aml said...

Thanks for the lesson in Japanese Geography. Japan probably seems smaller to most people in the US compared to its actual size due to: 1) its far away. 2) the skew on many map's projections make things smaller than it does on a globe. 3) visually, it looks small compared to some of its very large neighbors (Russia, China, and although it is a little further India) Its like an optical illusion. (which is larger? This picture of Florida or Japan? Trick question, they're about the same!) 4) of course, general xenophobia and isolationism.

On the other hand, if there was a major nuclear issue happening in Virginia right now, I'd be concerned where I am. Not panicky, but concerned.

I'm sorry that the US cable news' focus on Japan's earthquake has everyone here confused, but its understandable. They had just about ran out of things to say about Charlie Sheen and this was the next story that happened come up.

Yes, the tone and timbre of the US news climate seems unnaturally shrill, arbitrarily timed and targeted (where nearly the same action can be either moral outrage or glossed over for no apparent reason.) and provides no sense of context. On the other hand, Japan's media has different strengths and flaws. (eg the Press Club system that essentially makes the reporter beholden to their politician.) Neither one has an interest in telling you the truth, only to tell you what is in their best interest.

David said...

The panic and fear mongering on the US news media has been insane.

Here's some information you might find useful

Current situation in Narita:

In a month it will be fine don't you think?

As far as travel the US State department says:
"The Department of State requests all non-emergency official U.S. government personnel defer travel to Japan and urges U.S. citizens to avoid tourism and non-essential travel to Japan at this time."

But, I say anywhere from Kansai to Okinawa is ok. Even more so where you are. My pal's mom and cousin are coming in a week and they haven't changed their plans.

geewits said...

Thanks for this post. I'm glad to know you're not in the thick of things. But keep a check on the radiation levels.

LSL said...

I adore the first paragraph of this blog entry. I do believe that's what the kids nowadays call snark.

red-handed said...

I am worried. I worry. I am worried about you. How about a vacation? South Korea might be nice. America might be better. Go visit Jon in Montreal. I'll drive over to see you.

Jeannette said...

@ani it's funny today my mom said she thought Japan was the size of Rhode Island because of pictures she saw on the news. She didnt believe me that I could bee 700 miles from Fukushima.

@David Thanks for the links. I heard Japan doesnt want Americans to panic and leave and everyone [not directly effected] needs to take a chill pill.

@geewits I wrote this post cause you seemed concerned. Will keep my radiation monitor in pocket at all times.

@LSL Do kids really use the word snark? I had to push to not be too negative in this blogpost. People are dead and I'm pissed off because idiots are invading my Twitter stream.

@red-handed Did you even read the blog post!? And the map? And the part where Jon is on his way here. He's in Vietnam now anyway. I read your blog post and you're pushing this thing like it's the apocalypse. It is as much as the oil spill was. How'd you have a kid when you knew the world was bound to end? Seriously, though. Cause my childbearing years are running out.

Do people read follow up comments? I dont.

red-handed said...

I *did* read the post (and people do read follow-up comments ... sort of, sometimes). But it is getting worse. And there seems to be some doubts as to how truthful the Japanese government is being. I mean, I know they can apologize like nobody's business, but I don't know how effective groveling is against radiation. Anyway, I'm just worried about you.

aml said...

I read follow up comments for posts I'm interested in. For blog systems that have the feature, I'll add an entries blog comments into my RSS feed.

There was one part of your original post that I was trying to decide whether to comment on. (and since you said no one reads comments, there is no harm at this point.):

You said "has a system in place to deal with meltdown". That isn't quite true. Mostly they have systems in place to prevent meltdown. Meltdown is the thing that you really, really don't want to happen. The last I've heard, the Japanese government is describing the problem as a 4 on the INES scale of 1-7 (where each level is exponentially larger than the previous.) Many experts in the rest of the world are saying that their estimation is low.

You are probably lucky for the direction and strength of the wind.

geewits said...

I do. And thanks.

Jeannette said...

@red-handed I dont know if the US coming in to check radiation levels themselves means the Japanese government is lying about anything. But that's a nice spin the press can put on it. If the same thing were happening in Canada I bet the Japanese government would check the radiation levels themselves when sending relief in and making sure their citizens are OK.

@aml What I've heard is there are containment structures if there is an explosion. Plus they're pumping water through 3 of the 4 reactors to keep them cool. As far as "preventing meltdown," I just dont think it will be like the oil spill with nuclear water entering the ocean and going to California or anything. I could be totally wrong, but I'm clutching the the more optimistic stories than the fear driven "WHAT IF!?" ones. I have enough dread in my day to day life without adding hypothetical nuclear meltdowns. But I know the situation is bad and if I were anywhere near Fukushima I'd get the fuck out of there and never look back. Luckily I'm just far enough away to not have to do that.

The newspaper had a scale of what radiation levels are safe and what is akin to getting an x-ray, taking an 8 hour flight, working at a power plant, etc, and outside of about 30km around the plant the levels are low. I live about 1,100km away.

And if the whole island of Japan, as far west as where I live is going to die of terrible radiation poisoning I dont think I have any special right to escape it. Going down with the ship, I guess.