Looking toward Japan and feeling like I’m On the Beach…

March 15, 2011

I guess I was ten years old when I watched the movie “On the Beach”.

And I don’t want to be alarmist or anything, but I cannot help but almost have something similar to that On the Beach feeling, what with waiting for the possibility of an invisible cloud of radiation to come wafting over the Pacific towards my home on the West Coast of America.

The news at this moment is that the official line out of Washington or approved by Washington from the experts in the field is that no danger from nuclear fallout is expected here in the United States, even as Japanese nuclear power plant workers scramble to deal with several explosions and imminent (not necessarily inevitable) core meltdowns that could disperse highly toxic levels of radiation (there have been some high readings and there have been evacuations at and near the Japanese plants). The reports seem to suggest that things are or almost are out of control.

Of course there are those, perhaps some being opportunists, who may want to instill a kind of concern or panic and push you to purchase pills or iodine supplements, for good or commerce. I did see one official-looking but suspicious website that quoted a “doctor” as saying people might have to quit eating produce from the western United States. Now that would hurt. Much of my living is made off of that product as a long-haul truck driver out here — let‘s don‘t get too carried away just yet.

Oh, and for those of you too young to remember, On the Beach was a 1950s Cold War era movie adapted from a 1950s novel by the author Neville Shute about the aftermath of a nuclear war between the old USSR and the U.S. begun by accident and the remaining survivors who were awaiting the cloud of radiation to hit them.

Thankfully it does not seem that such is the likely scenario here and now, but then again this disaster, as the result of the most powerful earthquake to ever hit Japan and the resulting tsunami, late last week, has not played out yet and the news changes by the minute.

But life is always minute by minute.

U.S. should indeed send all it can to Japan in its hour of need; Reactor meltdown threats give pause to the idea we should expand nuclear energy here…

March 13, 2011

I’m glad to see that the United States is putting all of its available resources together to help Japan in the wake of its worst earthquake ever — now upgraded to 9 from the previous 8 on the Richter Scale — and the accompanying tsunami (the water doing the most damage).

Hopefully we will do a better job than when we tried to help ourselves during Katrina.

And I think that every available resource needs to be sent, even if it means pulling ones out of the Middle East. I’d rather see us saving people than killing people for geo political advantage.

Worrisome is the ongoing nuclear reactor crisis in Japan. Reports are unclear at the time I am writing this, but it seems that possibly three plants are involved. At any rate, there is a fear of a partial or complete meltdown at more than one plant. I don’t understand the science, but I know that the danger is that deadly radiation will be — already has been to an extent? — spread into the atmosphere.

In my mind this gives pause to the notion that we should move ahead with expanding nuclear energy in this country — how safe is it really?

And the scientists among you tell me this: has it ever been figured out what to do with the wastes?

There was some damage from the tsunami on the U.S. West Coast, but minor, compared to Japan. We even had some deaths — some people actually were killed after purposely going down to the beaches to watch for the tsunami (what were they thinking?).

It looks as if the deaths in Japan will reach into the several thousands (million?   ADD 1: 10,000 seems now to be the current estimate).

I understand that Japan was extremely prepared in earthquake-resistant construction but could not protect itself from the waves. I wonder how well we would do in the same situation. Infrastructure does not seem to be a big concern here and no one wants to spend money on safety — just fun.

Japan will recover. The people are strong.

Best wishes to them and hopes we can be of help.

Some evangelicals almost gleeful over tragedy in Japan…

March 12, 2011

When you’re driving down the highway and depending on a vehicle AM/FM radio (and you don’t have satellite) you’re at the mercy of whatever stations you can pull in.

That was the position I was in Friday while I was trying to get updated info on the Japan earthquake and tsunami. I had seen a brief television report in the morning and heard some reports later, especially speculation about what had or might happen in Hawaii and on the U.S. West Coast. I knew it was billed as the worst earthquake ever recorded in Japan and I knew that hundreds and maybe thousands of people had perished in Japan, primarily from the tsunami.

So while driving along a remote stretch of I-5 in Northern California I pulled in a station where the speakers seemed to be discussing the disaster. As I heard them I began to realize that I had tuned into some type of Christian fundamentalist station (I didn’t catch the call letters or even the dial number).

So what they were saying was this: the disaster in Japan is a wake-up call from God because not nearly enough Japanese have become Christian and as a society they have become too materialistic (well the U.S. is certainly screwed then).

Was it Pat Robertson and maybe the late Jerry Falwell who were always crowing that when natural disasters hit it was God punishing the victims? I think it was Robertson who blamed Katrina in New Orleans on the sins of its inhabitants. The same for Haiti (any coincidence that we are talking about black people, more than not, in the afore-mentioned tragedies and Robertson is a pinky shade of white? And of course in the Japan one we are talking about Asians).

The main speaker on this radio station was explaining about how Christian evangelical missionaries had been trying to convert Japanese for years with little success. He seemed to be smug about what had happened and kind of encouraged that this might finally make more of them come over to the side of the Christian evangelicals.

We call these things “acts of God”, but none of us really know why such tragedies happen. Sorry, but I am not ready to blame it all on non-believing or not believing correctly or sin. And somehow being smug about it all does not seem right to me.

If that is the way evangelicals show compassion, I want no part of it.

And the next time I see any presidential candidate pander to a religious group or religion in general, I’ll know who not to vote for.

ADD 1:

I refreshed my memory — Robertson blamed the relatively recent Haiti quake on a pact the Haitian people supposedly made with the Devil to gain their freedom from the French (you know voo doo and all?). And that guy was actually taken seriously as a candidate for president once upon a time? There are some dangers in allowing anyone to run or actually become president and in allowing even the ignorant to vote.

Help for Haiti might be a better investment than war on terror…

January 20, 2010

Just read that a 5.9 aftershock has hit the capital of Haiti, where there are already thousands  dead and thousands (hundreds of thousands?) homeless, sending people fleeing into the streets, with many more buildings and other parts of what’s left if its infrastructure crumbling.

For the sake of the people of Haiti I hope that the political story — Democrats suffering defeat in Massachusetts in what is seen as a referendum on President Obama — does not bump their tragic story off the news cycle.

While I have little use for the United Nations, it would seem to me that if ever there were a job for that body, this is it. But I also think the reality is that the United States will be saddled with the bulk of the responsibility, and maybe that is as it should be.

In general, charity begins at home, but the United States, as the world’s superpower and standard bearer for freedom, has a special responsibility. I’d rather see billions for Haiti than billions for Afghanistan or Iraq, much of which will likely be ultimately used right back against us (yes awkward English, but this is a blog). 

I have to think that the war on terror is money (not to mention lives)  poorly spent. We must protect ourselves against terror the best way we can, but waging a war against a concept is turning out to be difficult, to say the least.

Let’s redeploy our troops to Haiti for a humanitarian mission…

January 15, 2010

With as many as 70,000 dead, thousands still trapped  under the  earthquake rubble and thousands without homes to live in and the lack of food and water, help, although trickling into Haiti now, can’t come fast enough — reports are that people are losing patience and anarchy could prevail.

Now here’s an idea: why not redeploy the U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan  to do humanitarian aid in Haiti? Wouldn’t that be better than killing people and risking getting killed? Of course hungry and desperate mobs could turn on the rescuers. It could still be dangerous work.

But seriously, coming to the rescue of folks right here in our own hemisphere is the kind of power I would not mind seeing the USA project.

Ethnic supermarket shopping joy; the plight of Haiti and U.S. responsibility

January 14, 2010
Just delivered a load of bottled water to a grocery store in a Latino neighborhood in Southern California and afterwards parked my truck and went into the store and bought some breakfast/lunch at their deli. While walking through the store I got the impression that most of the clientele enjoyed their shopping experience — and don’t I sound like a supermarket public relations guy? 
I have noticed the same thing, even more so, when I delivered years ago to a Korean supermarket in the Seattle area. Getting your groceries seemed like a social event.

At the Latino place today, lots of folks were placing their orders at the meat counter, the old-fashioned kind where you give your order to the butcher.

At that Korean market the fish counter was the big meeting place.

I wouldn’t generalize and say that just because you’re ethnic you enjoy life — we know that is not the case. But I would note that in your every-day white-American generic supermarket the atmosphere seems a tad more tense, with many a glum face — in fact with the prices (they tell me grocery prices have gone down — doesn’t seem like it) and the fact so many people are out of work or do not have enough work, no wonder.

But maybe being generic American has its draw backs. There’s a lack of identity and self-pride, except for the nonsense like bumper stickers that say “support the troops”, as if anyone wanted to take their food and ammo away or as if war is nothing more that a sports game where you support the home team.

Now that I think of it though, there is a country market not far from where I live that has a kind of down-home all-American atmosphere, with a barbecue out front and good old-fashioned service inside the store.

LET’S move on shall we?

The news just gets worse from Haiti after the earthquake and aftershocks with the word that the dead may be in the tens or hundreds of thousands — and I think 3 million people affected by the 7.0 quake that hit Tuesday.

I know private enterprise makes money — big money — on wars, so why not on charitable donations for earthquake relief? Read in the Huffington Post that banks make a killing in transaction fees from charitable donations in emergencies such as the Haiti earthquake. Seldom have they waived the fees for charitable donations, although it has been done and there may be some pressure for them to do it this time.

I also heard a comment by a radio person that at least one cell phone company is allowing people to text donations (don’t know how that is done) and will put it on their bill. I imagine that increases the texting revenue.

I’m not sure there is anything wrong with either one of these things — have to think on that.

I do hope the United States is able to provide sufficient relief and provide it rapidly for those poor Haitians in what is said to be the poorest nation in our hemisphere.

But it seems to me something should have been done a long time ago. Puerto Rico, although not a state (have to add that clarification for Sarah Palin), is a territory of the United States.

Maybe there is a good reason for larger more prosperous nations to take care of the affairs of smaller ones.

I’m not saying the U.S. should absorb Haiti, but if we are going to have to take care of them, maybe we should make that hapless nation a protectorate.

I recall that wave of Haitian boat people years ago, a food shortage more recently, one in which bags of American rice and other products rotted on the wharfs, and the fact that each level of bureaucracy takes its cut and the fact that the country’s leadership is either corrupt or inept or both.

I’m not for going around the world to nation build, but this nation has a long history with Haiti and it is right on our doorstep.

Earthquake musings turn more serious — in Haiti

January 13, 2010

UPDATE: With thousands feared dead, a hospital collapsed, the national palace in shambles, and the poor huts much of the population lives in demolished, Tuesday’s earthquake in Haiti is a stark reminder to people like me who have been fortunate only to feel the distant rumbles of earthquakes that they are serious business.


I knew it was serious for the folks on the coast who were affected by the earthquake over the weekend, I could be lighthearted about it, to some extent, because, well, it was not devastating (except perhaps for some) and there were no serious injuries reported, and they were there and I was here (a hundred miles or so away) and only feeling the vibrations, but who knew that a couple of days later a much more serious — and what an understatement — one would hit the tiny island nation of Haiti?

I just saw the first headline on one of my dispatchers’ computer (I’m a truck driver) as I left for a run Tuesday night. Did not get much news on my truck radio because I can’t get AM news and NPR was playing pre-recorded news and discussion programs, but I got a little news from my wife via cell phone and checked my laptop when I got to my destination.

A 7.0 quake, it is reported, hit Haiti, with much devastation and untold casualties and desperation everywhere.

While I am not a particularly religious person, prayer would not hurt, I suppose. I understand that the U.S. has already offered assistance.

I hope the U.S. can help out, and I would hope it could do a much better job than is sometimes the case here — Katrina?

But I also wish that the powers that be would see the suffering in their own backyards and act with as much dispatch as they seem to in the aid of  others throughout the world.

But for now, we turn our attention to Haiti, the most poverty-stricken nation in the hemisphere, I think it is said.

And is this blasphemous? If there is a God, what does he have against those beleaguered people?

Earthquake followup…

January 10, 2010

Guess in this instant news internet era I was a little impatient for the news on yesterday’s northwest California earthquake when I blogged that local newspapers in the area failed to report it — it was only about 45 minutes after the 4.27 p.m. (PST) 6.5 temblor that I blogged the original post. This morning when I checked the Eureka Times Standard website it had a story on it.

As far as I can tell at this point no serious injuries have been reported, but there was widespread damage, such as in stores, and even reports of chunks of ceilings falling on customers and there were reports of gas and water leaks all over the area, as well as a widespread power outages. And one reason the newspaper site may have been slowed up is that the newspaper’s power was out — staffers used headlamps or flashlights to work on their laptop computers in the parking lot.

The jolt was said to be felt as far north as central Oregon and as far south as at least near the San Francisco Bay area and as far east as Reno, Nv. and who knows out in the ocean to the west, where the epicenter was, about 33 miles southwest of Eureka. The little town of Ferndale was said to be the closest point of civilization to the epicenter.

But like I asked in my original post, what do you do when you feel an earthquake or what are you supposed to do? Awhile back my hometown newspaper, always looking for a special section to publish to sell advertising, put out one on earthquake preparedness — I’m not sure I even read it.

Like I said, I just stood there dumbfounded for a few seconds and then looked outside. We felt it here in Redding, Ca., a few hundred miles away or so. It shook our apartment pretty good for several seconds that as I earlier noted seemed like several minutes.

To my memory this is the fourth earthquake I have felt. I recall one several years back on Thanksgiving Day. At the time I was recuperating from surgery and was not feeling terribly strong or prepared for disaster. It hit as everyone was at the table for the annual feast. We all wondered what to do, I think, and I was a little nervous, feeling vulnerable because of my physical condition. But wouldn’t you know it? My mom, in her late 80s, I think, at the time (she’s 99 now), blurted out: “gee this is exciting!”

I was concerned because we lived near the Sacramento River and not far below the giant Shasta Dam. I turned on the radio and heard one of those emergency broadcast reports and it said the epicenter was near the dam or at least in that general area. I could just see the flood coming. The original report from the emergency system overstated the magnitude of the quake and that made me doubly nervous. But all’s well that ends well. Nothing happened.

And that report about the newspaper staffers using battery-powered lighting to work on their laptops reminded me of  similar reports of staffers at the San Francisco newspaper filing stories during the Loma Prieta (I think that is what it was called) earthquake back in the 90s.Laptops were relatively new at the time and I could not conceive of how they did that. I had worked as a newspaper staffer and had used the more cumbersome , what do they call them? front end systems, run off of large banks of computers (a relic now, I guess), and we had just recently come off of typewriters.

And as you can tell if you bothered to read this far, sometimes I just blog to be blogging.

Yes, dear, the earth did move…

January 10, 2010


(Blogger’s note: Nevermind the WordPress dateline, this is actually being written on Jan. 9, and it is about 5:15 p.m. PST.)

About 45 minutes ago our apartment in Redding, Ca. shook for several seconds, and it seemed more like minutes — no damage as far as I know. But what do you do when you have an earthquake? At first I just stood there. Then I went to the front door and looked out — saw nothing, not even other residents outside looking around.

I turned the TV on to see if there would be any news — none. Went to the computer and found brief mention on our local newspaper’s website, which told me nothing much more than I already knew.

My wife talked to my brother in-law on the phone and he said he felt it and then later called back to say he heard some reports on it on Fox News. Well that galls me. As much as I despise that so-called news organization, I have to admit they did their job on this one — I guess an earthquake is not political (thought maybe they might blame it on Bill Clinton or Al Gore).

Anyway, all I know now is that it was reported to have been a 6.5 quake with the epicenter somewhere near Ferndale, California, a rural and somewhat isolated area on the north-west coast of California. I don’t know whether we felt an after shock or the original quake, from the reports I read, but one would think if we felt it here , hundreds of miles away, it was the main quake — or maybe we felt both.

I tried madly to get more info on local websites of the area, but in this day and age when commercialism has taken over newspapers, all I got was happy talk touristy stuff — nothing of the real news.

So I have posted here not much. Just some reaction to an earth-shaking matter.