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Calling all Japan-based noders...

I am looking at my plane ticket to Tokyo right now. I will be spending fifteen (!!!) hours crammed into a seat euphemistically referred to as "economy" (why does "economy" mean "freaking huge" for everything except plane seats?) to give a fifteen (!!!) minute presentation at a workshop on Augmented Reality.

According to this ticket, I arrive at Narita International Airport at 1355... um 2 in the afternoon, local time, on Sunday, October 5th. The workshop is on Tuesday, and I depart for the states at 4:20 P.M. on Thursday.

I've been to Japan before, for 7 months, actually, but only spent about 48 hours within Tokyo. Again, I find myself visiting that gigantic metropolitan area without suitable time to explore it. My traveling companion has never been.

This is where you come in.

My overwhelmingly positive experience with the bay-area noders during this past summer makes me want to spin the wheel of chance again, and seek the kindness of strangers. I'd like to get some Tokyo-area noders and their friends to help myself and my fellow graduate student see the best of Tokyo.

If you can help out a poor vagabond noder out, please /msg me.

Speaking of Japan...

2003 Hokkaido Earthquake - Log 1 of 2 >>

After living in Hokkaido for over three years, I finally got my first major earthquake. At 5:55 am today, I was jolted awake as tremors from a Richter Scale magnitude 8.0 quake 80km off Cape Erimo travelled 220 km to Furano, somehow found my house in the midst of the onion farm, and came up to visit my room in the shoddily-built second floor of my girlfriend's parents' house.

The whole second floor is basically two tiny square rooms bolted onto the top of the house. Ordinarily, the room will shake in a 30-40 km/h wind. The effect of the JMA 5.2 tremors was not really much worse than a major windstorm, but the sudden intensity of it was shocking.

My mom always tells me that I was in a major California earthquake when I was one year old. I guess that might be one reason why I'm so sensitive. I immediately sprang awake and attempted to rouse my girlfriend, who was sound asleep on the futon next to the bed. (The bed is too small for two people to sleep in, so we normally janken for it.) The conversation went something like this:

Me: There's an earthquake!
She: zzznngngghhh...
Me: (shaking her shoulder) Hey, wake up! There's an earthquake!!
She: znngf.. Hm? Really? zzz...
Me: (shaking harder) Should we get in the doorway or something?
She: (very sleepy but annoyed) I heard that the safest place to be in an earthquake is in bed... (rolls over)

The tremors lasted about a minute. Eventually, most of the noise subsided. I heard no sirens or other signs of alarm, aside from a slow, regular, clank-clank-clank sound. Flipping on the TV, I decided to get up and investigate.

Disturbed by my turning on the TV, my girlfriend got up and went to the bathroom. After checking the room, I realized that the clanking noise was coming from the microscopic hallway outside. In the dimness, my eyes located the culprit -- an 80 L kerosene tank used to fuel the heater in our room.

Putting my hand on the lid, I felt something banging as if to get out. In my sleep-addled state, I thought that some sort of animal had gotten in between the cover and the top of the tank. Taking off the cover, I realized what was causing the clanking noise -- about 75 L of kerosene still moving to the beat of the wave motion it had absorbed from the tremors, causing the lid to rattle rhythmically.

I reached for my cell phone to e-mail home and let them know I was OK. I was greeted by the "shibaraku omachi kudasai" message -- all of the network connections were full. From what seemed to be such a minor earthquake?

Hokkaido is about the least densely populated area imaginable in Japan. If this had happened a month later, when everyone sets their heaters to turn on at 5:00 am, and been a little stronger... I tried to calculate the amount of chemical energy stored in that kerosene tank, and quickly realized how Japanese earthquakes can quickly become catastrophic. I returned to find that my hard-won bed had been appropriated by a sleepy girlfriend.

The south coast was much harder hit, with seismic activity in the low sixes.

  • A fire broke out at an oil refinery in Tomakomai City, and was quickly extinguished.
  • The Geothermal Power Station in Atsuma automatically shut down because of the tremors.
  • 41,000 people in the town of Erimo and other coastal areas were evacuated due to tidal wave activity reaching 1.6 metres in some areas.
  • 24,300 homes in Kushiro City and six surrounding towns were without power for several hours as a major power exchange went down.
  • A JR early-morning express train derailed in Onbetsu with no serious injuries.
  • The ceiling at the Air Traffic Control Tower at Kushiro Airport collapsed, shutting down the airport.

At the time of this writing, NHK reports 243 confirmed injured, two seriously, and one death related to the earthquake. A lot of the injuries were caused by people getting cut on broken glass long after the earthquake, and the death was also related to broken glass. An elderly garbage collector was struck and killed by a car while trying to clear broken glass from the road surface shortly after the quake.

The news overseas was much more alarming -- headlines like Giant Quake Rocks Japan (guess where that one came from) and vague statements about the Tomari Nuclear Power Station, which was about the furthest point on Hokkaido from the epicenter and was completely undamaged, led to a lot of fear among overseas family members of Hokkaido residents.

Update: Looks like the news works within Japan as well. "8.0" was all over the morning papers. I work at a tourist office and we've been taking continuous calls from anxious Honshuu tourists wondering if the place is a flaming shambles. I guess they hear 8.0 and they picture apocalypse, understandably.

First things first

You love me! You really love me and my crazy, foolish, portuguese book-buying antics! (And you also seem to like my laments about how lame I am).

Today's Feature

Reading this I was struck by how well-intentioned, but ultimately clueless people who feel first, then think later can actually damage their cause with their complaints.

In this case Whywait? has made me aware of two fantastic household products that I am only prevented from buying by my non-residence in North America. Apparently he/she/it is hugely angered by these products not being labelled as not havng been tested on animals. Sadly, all I actually know is where I could get this stuff, without having been told, preferably before revealing the identity of this satan-spawn, why this is such an outrageous wrong, without telling me why I should not buy this, or else my children will be next.

The moral

Eat all the bleeding-heart, pony-riding lefties that stand in the way of your subjugation of nature.

The Caped Crusaders It’s a bird! It’s a plane! No it’s a University of Memphis student! The latest fad to be sweeping the campus among art and theatre majors is capes. This unique ornament isn’t saved for a special occasion but worn with everyday clothes as a common accessory, whether the temperature outside is 30 or 60 degrees.

So why capes?

Theatre major, 23-year-old Margaret, explains her love for capes. “I feel special, with my cape, almost royal. It is may way of standing out, I feel as though I am beating the system.”

What she calls “the system” is the way that society pressures women to be a certain way and dress identical to everyone else. Margaret said that her need to be different from the crowd is what motivates her to wear her cape.

“When I wear my cape in public it is like I am standing up and saying, ‘I’m here, I’m extraordinary, and I am unlike this conformist flock of sheep surrounding me!’” says Margaret as she spins around and points to the herd of students exiting campus.

Margaret says she is proud of her cape and will wear it anywhere in any weather. “This cape is like my trademark. When people see me, they know they are going to see the cape too.”

For some people, capes aren’t about being different or making a statement. For 22-year-old art history major Alice, wearing a cape is more personal for her.

“When I was 14 my grandmothermade me this cape by hand,” said Burcham as she stroked her embroidered initials on the cape. “She died a few years ago and I wear this cape in remembrance of her.”

Alice says that even though people stare at her in confusionof her tribute, it doesn’t bother her. “I know why I wear it and I don’t feel the need to explain that to anyone else. This makes me feel closer to my grandmother, I don’t care what anyone else thinks about it.”

Other students wear the capes as a group effort to show unity in their group of friends.

Morgan, a U of M theatre major, wears her cape along with six other girls in their own secret society. Their goal is to change the world one cape at a time.

“It’s a form of expression for us, to tell the world that they can be different from the masses, ” says Morgan. “I feel that what we are doing is important and one day we are going to make a change.”

Morgan explained that her group is made up of girls that she has known for years and they are divided up into “chapters” at three different colleges, and all of their capes are identical. “We are a peaceful group and we are trying to promote diversity in the mainstream world.”

Whether or not these capes are worn in tribute or as a diverse fashion statement, the wearers seem to be fond of their garb and happy with the attention they get from wearing their cape.

Are capes going to be the next U of M fad? “I really don’t think so,” says marketing major, Candice. “I just don’t understand the point in them and I think they look kind of silly on adults.”

Nathan, a U of M engineering student says, “Don’t you have to be a drama major to wear one of those? I think I’ll leave that fashion statement to them. I think it is there way of trying to prove to us that they are more cultured than we are or something.”

Fashion trends come and go around here at my university. What's "in" one week is "out" the next week. A few weeks ago the trend was for females to wear their pants so low that if they were any lower, they'd be making a very different kind of fashion statement (if you know what I mean). It would seem that breasts were "in" this week. All week long I've seen an inordinate number of girls walking around wearing thin tank-tops, t-shirts, & other flimsy torso garments, and none of them were making use of the appropriate undergarments. I don't know what force starts these fashion trends, but I do know what stops them: weather.

Yes, the campus was reaching critical mass on the "I can see her nipples" scale this week until a surprise rainstorm sprang up overhead on Thursday afternoon. The rainy season is over here, so hardly anyone had an umbrella... meaning that, all of a sudden, all of these fashionable girls with their fashionable breasts were dressed in fashionable wet t-shirts.

As I walked though campus today I saw that all the fashionable girls were now well covered in the breasticological region. Funny how a little water changes everything.

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