Tuesday, April 26, 2011


Do you think I'm abusing my tomatoes? I don't mean to, I'm a nice guy most of the time, pretty much of the alternative school when it comes to plant discipline; there's just something in the way they seem to look at you with those flowery eyes, but sometimes you have to put your green thumb down...

A couple of evenings ago I put my tomato seedlings outside on the deck to acclimate them to the kind of weather they’re going to grow up in, and its been so cold these evenings - even in late April - that before going off to the big city, when I went outside into a morning just short of frost to water them they were hunched over like skinny green orphans, clutching a few raggedy leaves about their stemmy frames, straight out of Dickens, Olivers hoping for another portion, a brighter sun, a warmer day, a nicer venue... Is this plant abuse? If I don't bring them in tonight... but once they begin living with me, where will it all end? Can you evict succulents? Orphan tomatoes? Are there homeless vegetables?

And my goya plants too, which are most at home in sunny and toasty Okinawa and have only recently become available here in seedling form-- I got two of those in pots the other day and perhaps there's nothing more pathetic in the plant world than a couple of goya seedlings huddling together and shivering in the cold of a northerly mountain spring morning; even the tomatoes aren't as bad, hunched out there now out on the deck as they are, together with the quivering cukes, all hunkered together in the merciless chill wind; will it make them stronger or will it make them compost?

I believe that plants should be allowed to live their own lives as they see fit, within the gardening parameters. We get along; some of my best friends are spinach. But at some point, unless you want wimpy cucumbers you have to assert yourself, no more mister nice guy, say Stop your whining and buck up, stand tall, stick those stems out, spread those leaves, let's see some green pride! But then you can get too militaristic about it, that old drill regimen clicks its heels once more in a new guise, like it has so often in history, catching whole generations of humans by surprise and it can do so again, starting right here with tomatoes and who knows where it will end.

So I finally gave in and brought the tomatoes and their fellow malcontents inside, where I can’t help but feel they're smirking over there in that warm corner. I just hope I'll be running things this year, gardenwise. Today the garden, tomorrow you just never know.

Sunday, April 24, 2011


The biggest difference between getting into an expensive SUV with expensive tires, expensive fuel and costly insurance (to say nothing of loan interest and depreciation) to spend an hour or so driving there and back through a smog of hazardous traffic salted with road rage to find a parking space in the vast lot of the megamall with the airplane-hangar supermarket where with money I earn at a job in an office I commute to daily I can purchase some expensive, inorganic, agribusiness-grown, Monsanto Roundup®ped and irradiated lettuce picked 4 or more days ago by a city block of a machine on the other side of the continent and shipped 3 or more days ago in refrigerated containers filled with antiripening gases and antifungal whatevers via expensive train and expensive truck also using expensive fuel and operated 24/7 by sleepless guys day and night across the nation to get the lettuce near where I can buy it and so support the vast vegetable infrastructure by having some salad for lunch, and just going right now, on my own two legs, out into the sunny afternoon of my organic garden that I have nurtured with my own two hands and getting some lettuce whenever I want it, is, apart from the sheer simplicity, untampered flavor, freshness, beauty and natural satisfaction of it all (to say nothing of the non-toxicity), is the refreshing absence of the madness so deeply ingrained in the former approach.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


So K+Kids have gone back north, having been assured by Tepco, the government and others (excepting E and I) that it is safe as far as radiation goes, and the coming year of aftershocks as well. She does not like being there though, despite assurances, especially with the daily/nightly earth tremors. Turns out also, amidst all this truthy talk, that K and the girls were there for the "Chernobyl" days, during which clueless Tepco and the gagagovernment assured the public that everything was ok and would soon be under control, much as they're doing now... pay no attention to that dark cloud rising and drifting your way, nothing to see here; you people over there better evacuate, the rest of you can stay where you are...
More on this as it unfolds and discretion allows...

Japanese Government Faction Wants To Bankrupt TEPCO, Break It Up, And Take Away Its Executives Pay and give it to earthquake victims
Sounds like a good idea, but I bet they'll tax it somehow. Windfall perhaps. The execs likely won't know it's missing for years... "No problem. Everything's perfectly ok. According to my expert measurements I have at least 100,000 trillion yen in my account..."

Radioactivity rises in sea off Japan nuclear plant

New Photos of Damaged Reactors

Nuclear crisis could last 2 to 3 more months, expert says


Kamaboko maker delivering free kamaboko to all the shelters... how grateful the people are, to have some homely food... how they enjoy the warm kamaboko, smiling their thanks as they eat... how happy he is to help, driving his truck among the mountains of debris to the next shelter...


Meteorological Agency underestimated height of tsunami

Japan's food crisis goes beyond recent panic buying

"To Work at Fukushima, You Have to Be Ready to Die"

What does 'safe' mean in a nuclear disaster?

“There are indications that Fukushima has more than 20 times the amount of nuclear fuel than Chernobyl had. Does this mean that the potential threat from Fukushima could exceed that of Chernobyl?
Absolutely there is much more radioactive material in play here. There are some important differences. There was a huge fire at Chernobyl and it was hard to disperse the radioactivity, and there has not been that kind of fire so far at Fukushima. But there's an enormous amount of radioactive material there, which is not under control at this point and which could enter the environment and potentially travel large distances.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Got a Quake Update coming up 
but too many things requiring my immediate attention at the moment
for me to cobble it all together in reasonable form--
several aspects to deal with,
some diplomatically - 
will try to post it - or at least some of it - 
later today...
 (Runs off into thick forest of words and deeds)

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Been having a strange anti-Pavlovian feeling recently, like the absence of a severe headache; I'm not figuratively screaming on a bridge in Norway as I do at this time of year. Couldn't figure out what was causing this ongoing lack of pain in the nethers, until it struck me that I had not received my always-right-on-time Nixon Phonebook this year... Wonder what's up over there; taxes are usually the last thing titular authorities surrender. Is there no one still smirking in those halls of authority?

Friday, April 15, 2011


The Crow Association of the World (Shiga Chapter) kicked off the Big Spring Crow Conclave of 2011 at first light this morning, in the forest not far from my sleeping head. This major event on the corvine calendar began with a few simultaneous keynote squawks (one at a time? forget it; every crow is the most important crow that ever existed) of basic invective amidst a lot of sharp, dark complaints about the damned long winter.

Initially, there seemed to be a few focused attempts to address specific issues in the manner of a tolerably organized species, which lasted for about 20 seconds, until the individual calls of the beaked mob crescendoed into the usual mass of croaks like where's the food, what the hell you talkin' about, who's got the eats, anybody seen my husband and scattered campaign promises, it was difficult to follow a thread for any length of time. The crows have a long, loud list of ancient queries and complaints they have compressed into the wedge that is their language, which loses none of its sharpness even when grumbled to the air atop a telephone pole or other solo podium.

There was scattered mention of unemployment, natural taxes, scarcity of decent carrion, procedures in the event of earthquake, the long-term effect of radiation on exquisite ebony plumage etc., though I could be wrong about some of the specifics, there were so many sharp bits flying about, and my Crow is not all that it could be, I admit. I was surprised to learn that many of the participants were empty-nesters (a term humans like to use); they were cawing among themselves about how they never hear from the kids, health, careers, pensions, grandchildren etc. - all living elsewhere now, I gather, big topics from what I could glean.

I was also able to catch bits of rambly diatribes here and there on favorite crow subjects-- all dark though, not a witty remark in a cawload, but what can you expect when you convene a major mass of not-really-flockable birds? Like every other corvine activity, they just couldn't keep it orderly, couldn't take turns talking, couldn't arrange a hierarchy, the way most other species around here do, and before long it sounded like all the attendees were complaining at the same time, which ranks high among the noxious noises of the world.

The massive thread of negativity held few bright spots that I could make out, but what's new when it comes to crows-- coherence never really has a chance. They never get anything done, I don't why they even bother trying to discuss the concept. Usually not far from my bedroom. At least it lets off major crow steam, which can build up during a winter world of unadulterated whiteness.

This years' Conclave was a dark experience that made the rest of my morning so much brighter (crows are good at that), for soon a sun like pink amber lit from within was rising away the night above a silver ribbon of clouds along the mountains across the Lake, a sight so beautiful that even the crows shut up eventuallier than usual, ended the Conclave and went about their solitary grumbly business, now and then a loud Bah! sounding here and there in the tops of the forest.

I could sympathize.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


From the time Echo told me on Sunday morning that Kasumi and family had already left to head back up north, I started having this strange feeling, a feeling I've never had before. It was in the realm of the plunging heart, but it wasn't sadness or disappointment, nor was it depression, frustration or any of those emotional shadows that one can overcome by simply standing fast.

When your aims are sufficiently in your charge, you have the emotional buttress of being in control; but when, inevitably, time and the vectors of events slip around you, edge you to the side, advice is all you can give, and fear lays its arm across your shoulders.

"Here was my boat and here was the wave," he says, holding one hand low and the other stretched high above his head. "I climbed the wave like a mountain. When I thought I had got to the top, the wave got even bigger."

Monday, April 11, 2011


One month since the quake-tsunami-reactor failure, and looks like they’re gonna Chernobyl the whole tangled, steaming, leaking, glowing mess, bury it under concrete, let it melt down if it wants to, isolate the whole area for whatever half-life has the most public appeal, because they haven’t got it under control, likely never will. Also they’re running out of technicians at minimum wage. Folks up there seem to think it’s safe though, as the govt keeps reassuring everybody. To add weight to their conviction, they've doubled the minimum acceptable radiation dosages and are expanding the forced evacuation zone to 30 km. Personally I’ve always found government reassurances to be a rich source of healthful inner laughter.

Tatsuya came down by train on Saturday evening for a big two-family confab, at which the majority felt that it really was safe up there: there was water, electricity, gas etc. all restored; Tatsuya swore it was all back to normal and anyway he had to work there, he missed his family, the girls were missing school there, which was back in session, so they all left Sunday morning and headed back up into only time will tell; I hope my own misgivings are wrong... Will feedback here any news from the intrepid quintet...

Another aftershock up there last night, powerful winds from the north all day...

Kasumi called from her apartment up north just now (Mon PM) at 5:15 and at 5:16 while on the phone she all at once stopped talking to Echo and yelled in panic to the trio: "Earthquake! Earthquake! Outside! Get outside! Fast! Hurry! Open the door and go outside! Out! Get out!" and the phone went dead. We turned on the tv at once and heard it was a 6+ magnitude, with tsunami warning announcements “...tsunami are expected in the following areas... waves up to two meters high, everyone near the coast must move to higher ground...” recycling over and over even now, for the first time in English, Chinese, Korean and Portuguese. Kasumi called back a few minutes later, is still on the phone. Will update later.

Later: There have been tremors happening ever since they arrived back up there. Looks pretty severe on the webcams. Also they can’t buy bottled water anywhere around there and K doesn't want to drink the tap water until she is fully satisfied it's safe. We’ll send some from our stored stock to tide them over.


“A week before becoming ground zero for the world’s biggest nuclear crisis since 1986, the Fukushima Dai-Ichi plant offered $11 an hour for full-time maintenance work in an area of Japan that was lagging even before last month’s earthquake and tsunami struck.”

Saturday, April 09, 2011


From one of the upstairs bedrooms these early mornings I hear the voices of little girls singing songs they have made up. The songs are good, from what I can hear and understand-- fun-themed, cutely melodic, harmoniously performed with a native expertise, and all sui generis.  A delightful augmentation of the country silence.

All those biggity surprises grandchildren bring... Back in late winter when we were building the new deck I noticed that numerous bits and scraps, odds and ends of the fine hard wood were piled up next to the stone wall in the garden where the carpenters kept their warming fire; I later learned that they were planning to burn those scraps! I requested that they save it all for me to use in various ways around the garden and in the house, and instead use some old firewood.

I had no idea what I actually might do with all those oddly shaped pieces, but when you live in the country, it's frugal city: you never throw anything away. You have to at least think about it for a few years. No casually tossing bits of wire, lengths of pipe and such-- and especially not oddly shaped scraps of wood, which given enough time will one day fit perfectly into that one-of-a-kind needspace that has arisen spontaneously (and if you have a woodstove, every bit of new wood has a bottom-line importance anyway).

Yes, to me -- he says as he begins to wax poetic right in the middle of this ongoing thought, wandering away from the apparent point as fancy takes him, as though this were a Japanese essay or something --  who over the years has frequently searched for just the odd shape of wood to fit here or there, something strong and long lasting, something with the integrity for the task, here were bushels of the very stuff! Except for the ruinated pieces, it was just too good for burning. So over the next weeks of days I now and then spent a few moments stacking the wood up in a place out  of the weather in anticipation of finding a big strong box in which to store it all until each perfect need came down time's highway.

But my handyman foresight did not include the Trio of Brio, who on their first day in the garden spotted my rough mounds of wood and began gathering it in their arms and in boxes, in baskets and buckets, bringing it all into the house where they spent all that day, all that evening and well into a few tomorrows building houses into cities with streets and railroads (Bob can I have a pencil - What for - I want to draw railroad tracks), homes with lots of rooms and all kinds of furniture for their little dolls. When I bent way down to look inside the rooms I saw for example on the face of one block a small window with flames inside-- a woodstove, with a stovepipe of wood leading upward to the playsky!

The Trio were natural living-space designers! They were, in fact, what they really are: little women!

Thursday, April 07, 2011

QUAKE UPDATE Day 27 ++++

Domestically, things get ratcheted up and most interesting when you suddenly go from being a couple to a family of 6, the little ones enjoying no school and the big ones debating how best to react to the new national reality... Setting up plans B and C as we speak... Red pill or Blue pill... Green pill might be good...

Heard from Tatsuya up north, outside the evaluation zone, that things appear to be getting closer to normal in his vicinity, he has both water and electricity now, still no trains running though, tells of the weird thing he saw when walking back home along the coast for 7 hours through the tsunami area in the dark of that first night after the quake, no houselights no street lights suddenly saw, as best he could tell, out there in the dark dozens of clusters of people in white carrying other people in white out from a big building and setting them on the ground-- he was puzzled at first but as he walked by and heard the talk he realized it was a hospital being evacuated in the dark... the staff was moving all the patients who could be moved outside to safety from the aftershocks... those who could not be moved or needed electricity for various equipment had to be left to their fate...

Another tale I saw on the news was of an elderly energetic man who all his life had been a maker of kokeshi dolls, until his house, shop and supplies had been destroyed; he had decided to give up, he was over 80 and all was gone and that was it, but then because he was apparently well known for his dolls he started getting requests from people who wanted dolls from him for various festive occasions in their own lives, who urged him to keep on making the dolls and not be defeated, the requests kept coming so he took up doll making again, became one of the many icons of recovery that are emerging here and there...


And now for your modern living convenience, here’s a Handy Radiation Dose Chart - Good to know the relative values of what we’re dealing with here in this radiant reality... Keep it on your fridge, but don't stand too close for too long!


Truthiness is good for business

“Visiting General Electric Co. CEO Jeffrey Immelt said Monday that the nuclear power plants it sells worldwide are safe despite the crisis the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant [using a Mark 1] GE built more than 40 years ago is going through.”


“Thirty-five years ago, Dale G. Bridenbaugh and two of his colleagues at General Electric resigned from their jobs after becoming increasingly convinced that the nuclear reactor design they were reviewing -- the Mark 1 -- was so flawed it could lead to a devastating accident.


Fukushima GE-Made Reactor's Safety Doubted Since 70s

“The warnings were stark and issued repeatedly as far back as 1972:
If the cooling systems ever failed at a Mark 1 nuclear reactor — developed in the 1960s by General Electric — the primary containment vessel surrounding the reactor would probably burst as the fuel rods inside overheated. Dangerous radiation would spew into the environment.

But the type of containment vessel and pressure suppression system used in the failing reactors at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi plant — and in 23 American reactors at 16 plants — is physically less robust...”


Tepco is still wearing those short boots...

"On March 31, in the third week of the crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, owner TEPCO submitted a plan to add a seventh and eighth reactor at the stricken site to Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. TEPCO is required to submit yearly reports, which include future development plans.
The company claims that due to the confusion brought about by earthquake and tsunami, they did not have an opportunity to revise the plan and, faced with a strict deadline, simply chose to submit it."

The Japanese people are getting angry, the decisions of career bureaucrats hanging over their heads...


Communities Struggle to Rebuild Shattered Lives on Japan’s Coast


Aftershock shakes Japan's ruined northeast coast 


"High dwellings are the peace and harmony of our descendants...
Remember the calamity of the great tsunamis.
Do not build any homes below this point."
"Always be prepared for unexpected tsunamis.
Choose life over your possessions and valuables."
"It takes about three generations for people to forget..."


"Aftershocks will continue for a year or so..."

Monday, April 04, 2011


So there I was, up at the house on Saturday afternoon, out in the garden digging a second potato trench (I’m experimenting with a new potato method) with a friend from the big city when suddenly out from the kitchen door into the garden burst a rainbow of shouts and laughter made up of 8-year-old twins and their 10-year old sister, the Trio of Brio, come from way up north - by way of a spell in their other grandparents’ house across the Lake - to stay with us for a while.

My friend and I and our shovels were soon caught up in a whirlwind of whatareyoudoings? and Iwannadoits! We took on the new crew and soon enough finished the trench for tomorrow’s planting, after which our small mob gathered some firewood for evening, then the trio took turns watering all the here-and-there shiitake, which are now doing their Spring task of swelling into deliciousness. After the tools were put away the trio got to work gathering mitsuba (Cryptotaenia japonica) Japan’s wild parsley, just now springing up. No one gathers mitsuba with the intensity of a trio of little girls, once they’ve learned what mitsuba is, and that our southern corner is full of it this time of year.

They have been out of school for a couple of weeks now, and no knowing when they’ll be going back, as the news from up north seems to get more and more truthful, so it’s time to learn more about homeschooling, which we'll do at least for a while, and which is even better than all day classrooms in my opinion, even moreso out here in the unwalled countryside where learning is fun even when it’s work. The Trio is more than eager to join the labor force when it involves raking, digging, planting, harvesting, firewooding, herb gathering, all kinds of real fun to fill a day, real information in a few sprinkled seeds, the secrets of acorns, fragrance of cherry wood, tiny green words coming up from the ground...

Saturday, April 02, 2011


Modelisation de la dispersion des rejets radioactifs dans l’atmosphere a l’echelle globale...


Japan's Nuclear Rescuers: 'Inevitable Some of Them May Die Within Weeks'

Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency says that workers were only eating two basic meals of crackers and dried rice a day, and sleeping in conference rooms and hallways in the building.

According to Kaieda, not all of the workers had apparently been provided with lead sheeting to shield themselves from potentially radiation-contaminated floors while sleeping.

“My son has been sleeping on a desk because he is afraid to lie on the floor. But they say high radioactivity is everywhere and I think this will not save him,” said the mother of the worker...


Rescue trucks inch
along narrow winding roads
footing steep canyons
(Follow link in short article for further details)

Friday, April 01, 2011


No news from Tatsuya, at work trying to get his quake-wrecked office back in shape... Our son Keech is busy and safe in Seattle, haven't been able to get in touch with him yet by phone, will try again this weekend...

Cherries are starting to blossom down on the flatlands; it'll be a week or so before they bloom up here, but the traditional celebratory mood just didn't arise this year... there won't be much of the usual happy cherry blossom revelries in the fragrant evenings while the blooms last, acknowledging the brevity of life with sake and music, dancing on straw mats beneath a sky of blossoms-- no one can fully celebrate the turning of this year into seeding time, growing time, greening, warming, golden time, because no one has a whole heart. How can they be joyous beneath all that beauty without thinking of places not far away, where there is no joy and beauty has fled?

Cherry Blossoms Bloom Alone as Japanese Mourn Tsunami Victims

One good at least comes from all this, and that is the growing awareness - throughout this country and the world - of the importance of power conservation, which should have been promoted in schools and societies every minute of every day for the past 50 years. Having every service at your fingertips is spiritually and physically debilitating. Where's the #$%@#$%*# remote?! Not to say there should be no power, but that it should be the essential part, judiciously meted and gratefully valued. No man is free who has an invisible, ubiquitous, all-powerful, instant slave.

Tokyo tower is not lit (I've never seen that) and daily electricity demand in Tokyo (the e-hungriest city in the world) has fallen by as much as 28 percent since the earthquake, compared with year-earlier levels. Well done.

Sarkozy is visiting Japan for a bit of radioactive PR. Last time Kan tried that and went to see the radiating reactors to get some macho press wearing the unsullied worker’s uniform politicians here put on in times of disaster, his vast entourage arrived just as the reactor guys were about to conduct a critical procedure that would release radiation, which isn't even healthy for elected officials, let alone Prime Ministers, so they had to postpone the procedure until the PM had helicoptered off, leaving things worse than when he came... Gives me a thought though... perhaps a radiation shield comprising layer upon layer of responsible politicians might be of some satisfaction...

As to the stark reality of it all...


"Measurement networks showing how radiation plumes move globally, along with commercial satellite imagery and Internet communication, mean the public has more information than ever before [who let that happen?] about the consequences of nuclear breakdowns. Policy makers will have to adapt..."

Guess this means that the International Atomic Energy Agency is gonna have to tell the public something more fundamental about what is going on. They meet next week at a "10 day closed-door event." We are not invited.