Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Prediction: The Ice Wall Won't Work.

Today several years after announcing the wonderful concept of freezing the soil around the core-breached reactors at Fukushima, "officials" announce they are going to actually start freezing soil today.  The point to which is - it turns out the natural groundwater in the area flows (underground) through serious contamination, and then both comes up into the broken cellars of the nuclear plant, and oh, incidentally, flows right out into the sea.  (They know that, but the "official" announcement that contamination has been leaking into the sea constantly is probably 2 years away.)

Here is link and text; and my detailed prediction below it:

http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20160330_18/

"TEPCO to start freezing wall at Fukushima plant

"The operator of the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant has gained approval from the regulator to start freezing soil around its reactors. Tokyo Electric Power Company, or TEPCO plans to create an ice wall that will reduce the amount of groundwater flowing into the 4 reactor buildings and thereby limit the buildup of radioactive water.

"The utility got the go-ahead on Wednesday from the Nuclear Regulation Authority, or NRA, to begin the underground freezing. It is expected to start the work as early as Thursday. The volume of contaminated water at the plant is increasing due to inflowing groundwater.

"Once the freezing process is complete, together with other measures, the daily accumulation of underground water is expected to fall from 400 tons to about 50 tons. The wall is expected to start restricting the inflow of groundwater about 45 days after the freezing starts.

"TEPCO finished building the underground freezing systems last month, after 2 years of work.

"But the regulator did not immediately give the greenlight to its freezing plans. It was concerned the wall could lower the groundwater level too much and cause radioactive water pooled in the reactor buildings to leak out.

"TEPCO submitted a revised plan to do the freezing work in stages. Under the new plan, it will first freeze soil at the downstream side of the buildings to prevent water leaking there.

"NRA Chairman Shunichi Tanaka said the operation will be a major challenge. He said it is important to carefully monitor the freezing process with adequate data."

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My prediction; based not on rancor or ill wishes but on Physics, Chemistry, and Hydrology: the ice wall will not work.  Will never work, can not ever be made to work, and is quite likely to cause new and possibly worse problems with contaminated water at the site.

"Why" it won't work requires long discussion, which perhaps we will do after it is announced that it isn't working; my guess will that announcement will happen within the next two months.  Hard to cover up 200 tons of new water every day.

So why did they build it, if common science says it can't work?  Several reasons, none good- A) they don't know how to do anything that might be effective, B) They have to appear to be doing something, and C) There is a huge amount of money to be made, from public funds, building something so wacky.  When it fails, they'll just wring their hands and walk away- the executives with fat bank accounts, and the public reputation of saints struggling with evil.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Recommended book: At The Mercy Of Nature

Tools are what we need, to survive what is coming.  Humans are tool users, tool makers - an aspect of our species that is largely responsible for climate change, the population explosion, and pretty much everything else we can point fingers at "that's the problem, right there!"  Our tools (I'm including things like antibiotics) gave humans the power to expand; so we did; and here we are.

My fingers are trying to trick me into writing a whole long essay on "tools"; but that will have to wait...

What tools do you, do we, need going into this unknown future?  We really don't know; that's a big part of our worries.  An ever-increasing number of charlatans are willing to sell you magic survival tools; be very wary.  

When we “don’t know” something- how do we, human tool users, tackle that? In this era, "Science" is our standard answer; wave the Magic Wand Of Science, and Answers will appear.

Not going into that right now, either.  What I have to offer you here is something unique, so far as I know- a fully competent practitioner of Science has waved his highly trained Wand - appropriately - and come up not with all the Answers; but with clear vision, the necessary precursor to finding our way.

I’m going to invoke a couple of Holy Names here: who says you should read this book, besides me?  E. O. Wilson.  Bill McKibben.  Both put their stamp of approval on the back cover, very official.

Ecologist Carl McDaniel has done something beautifully Scientific in his book At The Mercy Of Nature: Shackleton’s Survival Saga Gives Promise For Our Future.  

He set out to methodically search for the right question, then see what he could pull out of History that might refine the question further.  Many great scientists have stated some version of "First find the right question."  McDaniel's methods here are in the best scientific tradition.

"Do we have historical examples of humans in groups surviving against unknown challenges, and extreme trials?" - is my own phrasing of how this investigation was launched.  Because that is what ecologists know our species is facing - extreme conditions and unknown problems.

Ernest Shackleton's expedition's survival of Antarctic shipwreck in 1914 is an astonishing story which was copiously documented by photographs and daily journals.  The basics- their ship, a 3 masted sailing vessel with an early coal fueled engine, became locked in ice far from land, and the crew of 28 picked men found themselves trapped, their ship crushed and sunk.  In the era before radio, let alone GPS.  No one knew where they were, no rescuers would come.  Their story has been made into many books and multiple movies, and the storytellers are not done with it yet, I'm sure.  I won't be spoiling anything by telling you - all 28 men survived- and they finally managed their own rescue in 1917 - after years utterly alone in the Antarctic.

McDaniel re-tells the story as part of his analysis, it's mind-boggling.  You only have to get a few months into the events after the Endurance became caught in the ice to realize- people in this expedition should have started dying immediately.  Catastrophe after deadly catastrophe caught them- in my own reading, it's amazing any of them survived more than 6 months.  But they all survived.

Unlike the many re-tellings that are purely hero-worship (quite deserved); McDaniel asks "How?  Why"  and "What/"  and manages to pull multiple answers no one else has ever extracted from the story.  And convinces, with evidence.

You need to have the list of factors that allowed Shackleton's crew to survive - in your back pocket.  Look at it often.  Use it.  They survived, when they should not have.

Of course- you have to read the book, to get the list.  If you don't have McDaniel's accompanying commentary, the list will mean nothing to you.


Read it.  Pass it on.  It's a tool; one you'll need.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

For example-

I'm going to paste in the entire text of a post on the Japanese news feed I've mentioned before.  It's a perfect example of the excellent studies they continue to publish - which will rapidly disappear.

There's a good chance this will never appear in international news sources; and I'd predict with near certainty that it will not reappear in Japanese internal news; past today.  The controllers can't pretend it never was published; but they can enforce "oh, it's trivial; drop it."

Summary; 3,400 people who survived the tsunami and nuclear meltdown - are now dead; from "prolonged upheaval."  They're just reporting the facts.  Lots of facts here; but you have to put them together yourself.  The link is likely to stop working today- but it works right now.

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3,400 survivors of 2011 disaster have since died

The Japanese government says more than 3,400 survivors of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami have subsequently died due to health problems caused by prolonged upheaval.

The Reconstruction Agency compiles data every 6 months on deaths related to the disaster and the ensuing nuclear accident in northeastern Japan.

Agency officials say that by the end of last September, 4-and-a-half years after the disaster, they had documented 3,407 deaths.

The largest number was in Fukushima Prefecture, where the damaged nuclear plant is based -- 1,979 residents, representing 58 percent of the total.

The officials say 1,876 people or 55 percent died within 3 months of the disaster.

Since March 2014, 156 people have died, most of them in Fukushima Prefecture.

The officials say that as of February 12th, as many as 174,471 people are still in temporary housing or living in relatives' homes. The figure is down 50,706 from last March.

156,234 people are living in prefabricated housing or apartments rented by central and local governments. 18,237 people live with their relatives and acquaintances, down 316 from last year.

43,139 people originally from Fukushima Prefecture are living different prefectures.

Local governments have completed only half the planned public housing for people affected by the disaster, and just 30 percent of residential developments on land lots in higher locations.

Some communities continue to suffer from declining populations.

In Miyagi, Iwate and Fukushima prefectures, 12 communities have reported population declines of more than 10 percent. More than half said their numbers are down by 20 percent or greater.

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End quote.  Disasters cause long, slow declines - in civilization itself, now.  The entire story of the Fukushima disaster is incredibly complex; but included the immediate descent of sophisticated vultures anxious to steal public disaster relief funds.  And they have.

This is not fun to watch; but is incredibly educational; and could save your family's life someday.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Keep your eyes on Japan

Hi folks- I'm still here, and still very much want this blog to keep going.  I appreciate your sticking with me.

As I've mentioned in the past couple years, it has become a problem for me to find a topic I can write about without being depressing- when I don't think either you or I need that.

But now that it's no longer a question of "is climate change happening", nor "are world politics getting entirely out of hand" - I find it's actually a little easier to focus on what to say.

I want - if possible - to be one of those who survive.  As a lifelong student of evolution, opting out of survival is how you certainly "lose the game."  If there's a game.  If you can win or lose.

And I hope to bring family and community through, too.  Now the question is "how?"  Because there are no roadmaps; our species and planet are moving into completely unknown territory; we truly do not know what happens next.

One thing I know for certain today (I know something for certain!  How cool is that!) is that most of the world events generating headlines do not come from "new" phenomena, though they are virtually always spun that way by the sophomores in charge of the press.  Income disparity?  Has existed in all societies, in all eras back to Babylon and Sumer - literally.  And has always caused injustice, pain, and slaughter.  Slavery?  Same.  Corrupt officials/police?  Same.  Schools not teaching what students need?  You can find that complaint on clay tablets in cuneiform - really.  Unwelcome, unstoppable, migrants?  Ever heard of Romans?  Hittites/ Mongols/ Europeans? War/ Genocide?  It goes on.  Even climate change and sea level rise; take a look at Doggerland, called "Britain's Atlantis" in the popular press.  That happened so far back we remember as myth- although Australian Aborigines have re-told the story for 10,000 years without losing accuracy.

The point.  The point is that history, available to us all, contains myriad examples we should be learning from.  Mostly, of course humans refuse to learn from history.  I have 2 favorite quotes on that point, the first from Aldous Huxley, "That men do not learn very much from the lessons of history is the most important of all the lessons that history has to teach."  Stolen from many sources, usually less wordy, into antiquity.  And a currently popular version, cheerfully sent to me via Facebook, from Spice: "Some of us can learn from other people's mistakes; but most of us just have to piss on the electric fence."  That was stolen from Will Rogers, the earliest wise man with electric fence available for metaphors.

All of history, now that "the google" is here, is at your fingertips.  It's fascinating, highly educational, and tremendously entertaining.  Particularly all the mutually incompossible versions.  I recommend it.

Which finally brings us to Japan.

Japan is unique among "developed" nations, in many ways; but most importantly: A) It is an island- which I pointed out years back would be the first places to be forced to change.  B) It was the top economy on the planet- 20 years ago, and is in decline now.  C) Achieved the highest "standard of living" for the largest percentage of population ever.  D) Is losing population, around 1 million in the past 5 years.  And E) Emerged so recently and directly from feudalism that the people still actively remember most of their pre-industrial culture.  Oh, and lived through "The Atomic Age" - and are now struggling to leave it behind.

Japan is 10-30 years ahead of the curve for the rest of the industrialized countries, in politics and economics and every other aspect of our species I can identify.  They've been there, done that, got the t-shirt, and have worn the t-shirt into rags.

The populace is still stunningly wealthy by world standards; but the future is frightening, downhill tracks are everywhere.  Old and young are worried and depressed to the point of suicide and craziness.

We can see all those problems and tendencies in our own backyards.  But Japan is out in front.  If you want some hint of what is likely coming to the communities near you - watch Japan.

Remember it is what is written between the lines that is most important.  Always.

And keep the incredible variety of wildly enthusiastic Japanese festivals in mind.  They don't know what the future holds - so -



I do like the metaphors available in that photo.  It's dark, and it's cold.  But there are lights, with some warmth.  And people - tending them.  And these lights are facing in all different directions.



Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Yes, the World is getting ickier.


Hi, folks. Not feeling like ranting about anything at the moment; it's pretty much all been ranted before.  I'm more interested in trying to share insights that might, just maybe, be useful in the years ahead.

I think the "world", in any and all of the senses of that word, has never been so unstable as it is right now.

Politically, socially, economically, and environmentally, we are at the edge of the cliff; and not moving away from the drop.  Rather we seem to be heading off the edge; faster and faster.

What to do- is a vast and variable conversation.  But one thing seems clear to me- you need to see what is going on with open eyes; and a mind well acquainted with History.  Politically, socially - we have been here before.

I'll give just one example that hit me today.  Japan has announced it will "form new bodies" to deal with "terrorism".  Below is their statement; and then my "in actuality" translation.

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"Japan's government has launched bodies to counter international terrorism in the wake of last month's Paris attacks.

"A ceremony was held at the prime minister's office on Tuesday to open an intelligence unit in the Foreign Ministry and an inter-ministerial liaison body in the Cabinet secretariat.

"Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said strengthening intelligence gathering capabilities is urgent. He encouraged staff whom he called professionals in international terrorism-related intelligence to do their best to obtain vital information.

"The Foreign Ministry unit consists of 4 senior officials, each monitoring one of 4 regions -- Southeast Asia, South Asia, the Middle East and North and West Africa. They are to work with staff at overseas diplomatic establishments and exchange information with foreign intelligence services.

"The liaison body, headed by Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Kazuhiro Sugita, consists of senior officials from the Foreign Ministry, the Defense Ministry, the National Police Agency and the Public Security Intelligence Agency.

"It is to consider anti-terror measures under the leadership of the prime minister's office."

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So.  The message for public consumption is "We are working hard to make your life safer; because you should be afraid of the world now."

The reality of what is going on could be put this way: "Wow, guys, we've got a blank check to set up all the Secret Police we ever dreamed of; with no oversight by anyone, ever!  So; here is where we start! Our political opponents are so totally toast!"

Japan is not the only place this is happening right this second.  Historically; this kind of police action has resulted only in abuse, the destruction of political opponents and personal enemies, and long bouts of hell on earth.  Increased security for the common people - simply never happens this way.

What can we do?  Personally.

Should we vote?  Yes, because it CAN get much worse, much faster, if you don't.  Engage.  Get others engaged, too.  Although voting procedures are often corrupt around the world; we have multiple proofs that voting can still sometimes result in surprises - e.g. Greece and Myanmar most recently.  It's a mystery how the people sometimes prevail - but - sometimes we do.

It's worth a shot.  Because just staying out of it - historically - means losing for sure, every time.

Hang in there.  And if you've been thinking about making changes in your life- do it.  Now.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The Upside Is Really Great Surf.

Polka Dot Gallows today, from the LA Times, forsooth.

So.  El NiƱo is here- and on track to be the most intense on record, actually.  Which means?

Floods, mudslides, drought and crop failure in Africa and other places;

11 million children in immediate need of food.

But hey!  Really great surf in California!

Oh, and beach communities battered into oblivion.

Always look on the bright side!

And in that vein; isn't it great how our ability to focus on the utterly trivial is being honed into perfection by our need to ignore reality - at any cost?

Progress!

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Once in a while.

I had one of those very rare successes in parenting today.  Not that it looks like it's permanent.

Smidgen - who is now 10... (your eyes can't be bugging out more than mine)... is, of course, a child of these times.

Plugged in, far too often.  Her school allows kids to count books as "read" - if they are not read, but  merely listened to, via the omnipresent omnipotent earphones.

I struggle against it- particularly as these are the years when she is really able to see and remember the world around her.  She's had plenty of great experiences so far- but I find that the really wonderful time we had together when she was 5 - she cannot recall.

So this morning - a gorgeous bright October day, brisk in all the best traditions, maples right at peak color, sky pellucid blue - she announced that ho-hum she was going to lounge her butt upstairs and see if maybe she could find something to do.

I did not actually throw her outside and off the porch, though the impulse was hard to resist.  But we did have a substantial father-daughter conversation about inside, outside, days which can never be recovered, lost opportunities, October, and all that stuff.

She can be enticed into things.  So I baited her into going outside- and making noise, something she is appallingly fond of.  "Go strangle your duck outside, down into the valley."

Go strangle your duck is our current code for practicing her newly adopted oboe; particularly when it is operated in its weaponized mode.  She's decided not to be offended, but rather to cheerfully accept the language.  "Can't, my duck is in the car, not here."

"Fine.  Then get one of your old recorders, and go play that."

"Okay!  ...  Which one, the blue or the red?"

Getting very close to the just actually throwing her, at this point, which I was able to convey.

She went.  Out.  Until she came back in after 5 minutes; "Daddy!!  You have to come, QUICK!"

Really?  And why is that?  Any hints?  Is something bleeding rapidly?  Have we discussed clarity in communication previously?

"DADDY.  THERE'S A BARRED OWL."

And there is.  And the owl came - because of the weird trilling and clucking she was producing from the recorder.  Really.  Flew right up.


Young and foolish, almost certainly, and calm enough that I was able to go back in the house for the camera, which does not have a telephoto lens but is a camera I know well - and get this, which is greatly enlarged from - this -


Really, the owl is there.  And Smidgen is a complete owl freak; she collects any that can be collected, drinks out of an owl mug I brought back from a trip... etc.  And it is a Barred Owl.

I did not fail to point out that I had been correct about the advantages of being outside.

She graciously deigned to agree.

But it wore off, after lunch.

I'll take what I can get.  :-)