Earthquake post

A few people have e-mailed and/or commented to ask if I'm okay after the earthquakes in Japan on Friday. I am! Thank you for asking. I and my family were all extremely lucky.

My experience of the evening itself wasn't dramatic or interesting. I just spent a long time walking home, with only a short bus ride between two of the stations on my route to break the march up. It was fairly crowded, so that I was never more than a few yards from another long-distance pedestrian, but there was no pushing, no jostling, no panic. The power was completely out for most of my walk: no traffic lights, no streetlights, just headlights. Even when a train station was lit up and thrown open to would-be travelers who needed someplace to spend the night — and they all were — the surrounding area was completely dark. Very eerie in Japan, the land of the vending machine. Even eerier when I got back to my home town, where the lights were on and I saw people relaxing in bars and family restaurants as they would on any other day.

The whole "keep calm and carry on" thing has held up admirably over the weekend here in the Kantō region, despite a malfunctioning nuclear power plant a few prefectures north, shortages of bread and milk, and — in weeks to come — planned blackouts and severely reduced train schedules. I'm going to do my part by contributing to the power-saving effort rather than polishing this post any more.

If you have the resources and inclination, please consider donating to help those further north and less fortunate than me. And if you have a good connection for snow and fireflies, please let me know in comments.

Popularity factor: 12

Paul D.:

Any idea where those of us in Japan can go to make donations in cash?

Leonardo Boiko:

Glad you’re alright.

If using a computer makes you feel guilty because of electricity, try switching to a notebook or netbook. Average consumption of some 15〜35 watts (against, dunno, 200〜300W for an average desktop computer—YMMV a lot depending on what you have). But keep in mind most households consume way more than that in lighting, heating etc. Optimize the heaviest consumers first.


Red cross is a good way to donate (which is what I did). I'm pretty sure they have a text donation by cell, but I just went through the website.


I've been glued to the computer, watching this tragedy. My heart breaks every time I see a video of the tsunami. Each video is more dramatic, more destructive, more violent than the last. It is overwhelming.
I've been through earthquakes (strong but nothing like that) and felt the immediate shock, the loss of faith in the one thing we most rely on: the stable, solid ground under our feet. In such a strong quake, as the seas overflowed and the earth tore itself asunder, they must have felt the world was trying to swallow them up. And it was. So my prayers go also to the shocked survivors, not just the dead.

Sgt. Tanuki:

Glad you're okay, Matt. I was thinking about you.

Thanks for the description of the walk home. Oddly enough, that's about the most comforting thing I've read since this whole thing started. "Keep calm and carry on," indeed.


Glad you are OK. I have been a bit reticent about blogging recently because of work, and have mostly been posting updates on Facebook to reassure friends, but I intend to blog updates on the situation in the interests of getting some hopefully rational information out. There is a general exodus toward Osaka by the foreign community at the moment--ten friends today, due to the government's rather pessimistic press conferences earlier--which I think (I hope) exaggerates the gravity of the situation. I continue to be slightly sceptical of the information Tepco and the government provide, but I am staying put.


Good to hear you're alright!

The connection I have between fireflies and snow is twofold:

First, the obvious connection of minimal light "reflecting" off of the two. (I say reflecting because I can't quite call to mind a word that would accurately describe this quality of light and yet would be something a firefly could actively do - perhaps "radiating" would be better?)

Second, I think it calls to mind the transient nature of study. Studying by the light of the moon on the snow or fireflies collected in jars seems to indicate that one is trying to grasp on to something that is not actually there, something that if you blink it could be gone. We can study our whole lives but at any given point we can die - sort of like the morning coming and ruining the peaceful nature of nocturnal studying.

Leonardo Boiko:

I think Matt meant “connection” in sense 13 here


Indeed, I need someone to hook me up. Although I do like the analysis there.

Paul -- I've started to see boxes in convenience stores. I suppose that as time goes by they will get more official-looking. You can also donate through the post office.

aragoto -- To be honest, I'm not that skeptical of the info that TEPCO and the gov't are putting out, but I strongly doubt that it tells the whole story (the idea, for example, that they aren't monitoring figures in more locations and more often is just nonsensical). And if what they're telling us is the most positive spin on events, well, things must be pretty bad. The remaining uncertainty is simply how the badness level changes with difference and time. That said, I am staying put too, at least for now, but I am refreshing a lot of measurement station websites over the course of each day.

I really feel for people in Japan right now who can't speak Japanese very well, because that means they are getting crappy, heavily redacted news through an additional filter of rushed translation by folks who, however skilled as general-purpose news translators, in most cases are not nuclear energy subject matter experts.


Glad you're OK, I've been thinking of you and your family. The situation we're seeing here in England is too many English teachers, not enough Japanese people or translation, much less nuclear energy experts. I swear the BBC has interviewed every English teacher they can find...


The nuclear reactor situation does not seem to be improving. Hope it will soon. They are now teaching kids in Japan about the situation through this cartoon


Living in Hokkaido, I did what I could do to make a simple list of quake related info links in my blog (elbowin.wordpress.com). Although it's far from perfect, I just hope someone who needs non-Jpn info can at least get a grasp of what's going on in Japan...

Comment season is closed.