Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Fighting the overwhelm

For as long as I can remember, I've had the feeling that the only state I know well is being overwhelmed. Perhaps it's related to not being in control of events. Like the abuse that filled my childhood, the pain and multiple operations for endometriosis/adenomyosis (next one will likely be next year), and the unexpected and uncontrollable natural disasters that have personally affected me in the last few years.

Of course, there are many more 'controllable' aspects that increase the overwhelm. Especially the seemingly unavoidable feedback loop of earning to pay for medical treatment, and the work (or work situation) negatively affecting health. But also the drive to keep studying, taking on too large a work/study/life load, being strongly affected by other people's problems (especially family), having so many interests and hobbies, and wanting to help everyone with everything, even when unhappy and unwell. I seem to have always aimed at being an over-achiever, but almost never achieving what I set out to do.

More than one professional has suggested that many people may take on too much because of their fear of failure, even though this seems counter-intuitive. By overloading, problems will inevitably arise, which the person can then blame for not achieving the goal. Some suggest it's because of a fear of uncertainty (or risk). By overloading, it is almost certain that at least one thing will fail.

I've put myself in such a situation again. I have started the third of a three-course intensive language program, am trying to keep up with the Stanford database course (my computer science knowledge is extremely rusty), running my first ever English conversation course (lesson planning and formal grammar learning devours so much time), started to write on HubPages, enrolled in a couple of writing courses, agreed to review some books, and have agreed to take on more English classes soon. I'm often chafing that I can't pursue my other hobbies - they are the first things that get put aside for work, then study and then writing commitments. Of course, this is in a place unfamiliar to me, without my normal support network, after a series of events in the last few years that were truly overwhelming for me.

So my current focus is finding strategies to fight the overwhelm, pruning back to things that are important, and working towards somewhat better health, before the next operation knocks me over again.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Ways to help Japan

Two weeks after the quake and tsunami, the death toll has topped 10,000. Hundreds of thousands are displaced, living in evacuation shelters around the country.

Much damage has been done to fundraising efforts by the misinformation being spread by international news services (and many foreign embassies), specifically about the Fukushima power plant. The 10,000 dead and even more still missing, the towns that have been wiped out, all along the north-eastern coast of Japan have absolutely nothing to do with the plant. Trivialising the earthquake and tsunami by focusing on the Fukushima plants shows a staggering lack of intelligent, rational, factual, scientific and correct reporting. The media seems to want only to spread fear and panic.

This earthquake and tsunami was the biggest combined disaster to ever hit Japan -- I hope the foreign media focus will return to this, encouraging more people to help, instead of (wrongly) fearing for their lives.


News services from Japan in English

Often the English versions of Japanese news services run behind the Japanese news, sometimes by several days.
Note: the NHK World uStream will be stopped tonight (25th), but you can still watch on the NHK World site, and on Livestation.

Also, the portal from Japan Meteorological Agency is good for weather forecasts for affected regions, and updates about aftershocks.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Fukushima radioactivity update (21 March)

For the results of various monitoring sites, please see this older post.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Fukushima update - March 19

NISA-TEPCO conference - Fukushima 1 nuclear power plant - summary
Reactor 6: 2nd generator providing power, now used for cooling
Reactor 5: coolant pump now working with power connected
Reactor 4: no update
Reactor 3: water dousing continuing - fire trucks chained together, allowing 7 hours of unmanned water cannoning.
Reactor 2: power planned to be restored by the end of today.
Reactor 1: no update

Note: Much of the equipment for power supply is soaked in sea water from the tsunami, so there may be delays as equipment is fixed.

Radiation at the plant: 18 March 8:10am at the west gate of Fukushima 1: 830.8 μSv/h at 8:10am; high; lowering to 364.5 μSv at 9pm. NISA is evaluating new current data.
Note: World Health Organisation reported: No radiation risk outside evacuation zone

Weather is changeable at the moment, rain to arrive tomorrow. One of the sites I follow shows wind directions and forecasts for different altitudes: WeatherForecast.com for Fukushima. '
(NHK) 19th March: wind is blowing from south to north, changing to blowing east to west in the evening. 20th March: rain, with a wind blowing from the south-east to the north-west.

Fukushima prefecture government is now regularly updating their advice bulletins covering utilities, transport and radiation monitoring (PDFs). Bulletins in English, Japanese, Chinese
  • Radiation monitoring: 10am March 19 (English: 89th air report, 85th air report, water report)
    • Water readings of iodine-131 continue to decrease (well under safe levels).
    • Air readings are stable: Iitate 20 microseiverts / hr; Fukushima city 10; Koriyama, Shirakawa and Minami soma around 2.2; Tokiwa, Funehiki, Iwaki and Fukushima airport about 1; Aizu Wakamatsu 0.5; Minami Aizu 0.09

      Stomach xray: 600 microseiverts / hr

      Fukushima prefectural advice - stay inside as much as possible. All readings are well under safe levels.
  • Bus information, Shinjuku/Koriyama bus info
  • Airport information

  • An ex-JET from Fukushima is also keeping track of and disseminating information in Fukushima prefecture.
  • I'm using the following radiation monitoring sites:
    Official press releases from nuclear agencies around the world:
    Earthquakes: the aftershocks are slowing -- quakes older than 7 days are dropping off the USGS map (seemed to peak at about 550).
    People I follow on twitter: @makiwi has been fantastic - live translating press conferences, @iaeaorg, @norishikata, @kenmogi, @mutantfroginc
    TEPCO also has a twitter account now: Japanese, English via Google Translate.
    Twitter lists followed by various media outlets: TheTokyoPost, Wall Street Journal.

    Thursday, March 17, 2011

    Radiation monitoring in Fukushima prefecture

    A useful aggregation of monitoring data, converted into μSv/h for consistency: http://fleep.com/earthquake/

    Latest update 19 March 10:30am JST
    Information releases from the Fukushima prefectural government, including results of water measurements. In Japanese, and translated to English.

    Finally I found a site that details radiation measurements in the areas around the nuclear plants in Fukushima prefecture, to discover that many of the monitors are currently offline. But here is the information anyway.

    Environmental Radioactivity Monitoring Center of Fukushima: Japanese, English via Google Translate

    Of particular interest:

    Fukushima 1 reactor update

    There has been no recent official/confirmed Fukushima reactor updates, which is encouraging. Because they tend to jump fast to report when there are bad changes.

    So... focusing on the measurements and official announcements - as this is the most objective and least panicked measure of the current situation.

    @makiwi has also published a list of radiation monitors that she is watching, mostly the same as below.

    Iwaki, Fukushima saw 3.84 microsievert high, has since come down. Probably a blip due to the smoke cloud passing.

    At Ibaraki Tokai 2 monitor, the high reading has also been decreasing after the explosion blip. http://www.japc.co.jp/pis/tokai/trend2.htm
    Ibaraki prefectural announcements, including radiation measurements: Japanese, English by Google Translate

    At 8.30am, 8217 micro sieverts were measured by the main gate at Fukushima Nuclear Plant 1 (NHK)
    The radiation level at the plant gate 9am was 11,930 micro sieverts, but dropped to 496.4 by 3pm. (Mr Edano's press conference a few hours ago, and TEPCOs measurement chard - PDF http://www.tepco.co.jp/cc/press/betu11_j/images/110315e.pdf)

    RT @makiwi An amateur geiger counter in Hino, Tokyo shows a spike to about 90 CPM (about .9 microsievert) around 12:30PM on the 15th, now it's back down
    Readings online: http://park18.wakwak.com/~weather/geiger_index.html
    Note: the computer was restarted at 9:50am 17 March JST.

    Gunma monitoring point spiked, but has since decreased again: http://www.pref.gunma.jp/05/e0900020.html

    Yokohama monitor station: http://www.city.yokohama.lg.jp/kankyo/saigai

    MEXT readings on the 16 March

    Information releases from the Fukushima prefectural government, including results of water measurements. In Japanese, and translated to English.

    Unofficial google map of unofficial and official monitoring stations and alerts

    IAEA updates on the reactors: http://www.iaea.org/newscenter/news/tsunamiupdate01.html

    TEPCOs press releases are notoriously slow and lacking in information: http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/press/corp-com/release/index-e.html and in Japanese: http://www.tepco.co.jp/tepconews/index-j.html

    The most recent TEPCO measurement car update for the Fukushima 1 plant was at 1pm local time (JST), 16 March: (PDF in Japanese, Fukushima 1 measuring car update 1:10pm 16 March (in English from Google Translate): Google Translation of the PDF document)
    TEPCOs March 16th press release on the status of Fukushima 1 and 2.

    Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Safety press releases: http://www.nisa.meti.go.jp/english/index.html

    Japan Atomic Industrial Forum reports: http://www.jaif.or.jp/english

    An update


    I wrote a post for a BBC news blog last night while listening to the NHK World stream, watching the radiation monitors, twitter and news.

    The photo I provided with the article was of a building that had collapsed on its 2m high car park. I hope no-one was under there at the time of collapse.

    Monday, March 14, 2011

    The stupidity of the working culture in Japan


    The Board of Education insisted we attend work today (JET), and do absolutely nothing. We stacked the books that had fallen on the floor in the office, and were thanked for our help. And then told to sit there and do nothing more.

    We left the office this afternoon, sick of playing cards, when we needed to get in line for water/food. And the Board of Education insisted on docking vacation leave for half a day.

    It would be fine if we were helping with relief efforts at the evacuation centers, but we were told we must travel to the office, stay in the office for a normal work day, get lunch and water ourselves (from where?!?), and do absolutely nothing. And they did not care one bit about the rain/snow later (which may or may not be mildly radioactive -- unconfirmed sources), and despite the government officially issuing warnings to stay inside and covered (no concrete area specified once again), for the Fukushima area.

    Of course, the only information we get is through one JET here that can speak / understand enough Japanese, because we are not getting any information in English from the higher ups, or much from any of the JET support agencies.

    Can you tell I am absolutely livid!?! My employer is insane, flagrantly ignoring safety, not to mention toying with psychological health, purely for the sake of social face. Why else would they put us in a less safe, less healthy environment, told to do nothing, rather than let us stay safe, warm (under bedclothes), and out of the way, when they so obviously don't want us to help them in any way?

    I am grateful for being alive and reasonably safe, albeit with chronic illnesses flaring and causing massive amounts of pain. I feel terrible about the human cost of this compound disaster. And of course, there's a large amount of a typical 'survivors' response -- the combined guilt and relief that it could have been much worse, and guilt for 'taking care of self' while others are suffering.

    This is the 3rd natural disaster I have been through - I am shaking all the time, compounding the aftershocks, and it's made much worse by constant sirens and uncertainty about the reactors.

    Sunday, March 13, 2011

    Mega earthquake and nuclear accident in Fukushima


    Still getting large continuous aftershocks (many 6+). Count is heading towards 300.
    Watching the tenki.jp quake list which updates faster and more thoroughly than USGS. Although the 10 degree area USGS map and list is quite spectacular, as is their prettier Shock and aftershock map. (Wikipedia page)

    Information is woefully and disgracefully slowly being released and updated, especially in English. Media is as usual sensationalising. I have received so many requests for phone interviews with various media outlets around the world (no phone interviews thank you). For news, I'm mostly relying on live translation-tweeting by @makiwi of various press conferences (especially of those who contain engineers, and not politicians/lawyers).

    Nearby Fukushima nuclear plant problems (level 4 on the INES scale)

    Fukushima 1 plant (Daiichi) has 6 reactors: reactor 1 and 3 have ongoing cooling problems. Reactor 2 has low coolant level but is stable. Reactors 1-3 have been vented to release pressure. Reactors 4-6 are cooling and stable at last press release.
    The outer wall of the turbine was lost when a buildup of hydrogen reacted with oxygen and exploded.
    20km evacuation area.
    4 workers have been injured, and 4 exposed while working inside the reactor building.
    Suspected cases of exposure to public are mostly likely to be due to being outside nearby at time of reactor 1 venting.
    Daiichi press release 13 March 2am

    Fukushima 2 plant (Daini) has 4 reactors: all 4 have been vented to reduce pressure. Reactor 1 seems to have some cooling issues.
    10km evacuation area.
    Workers have been injured due to physical accidents on site.
    Daini press release 12 March 11pm