Doug Lerner reports from Tokyo and St. Louis, and points beyond…

Archive for July, 2011

This magnitude 6.4 quake woke me up before

Looks centered off Fukushima.


Restaurant sign – American beef only amid radiation scare

This sign at a restaurant in my neighborhood says that only American beef which has passed strict inspections is used there. doug


No Fukushima beef at local supermarket

The sign in my local supermarket reassures shoppers (who don’t seem to be crowding the meat counter) that since July 15 the store is not selling any beef from Fukushima prefecture. As of today, beef from Miyagi Prefecture is also banned. doug


Miyagi beef cattle shipments barred – Iwate may face similar ban amid radiation spread

The government ordered a complete ban Thursday on all shipments of beef cattle from Miyagi Prefecture after detecting radioactive cesium above the government limit in some local cattle.

Cattle are tended to Thursday in Kurihara, Miyagi Prefecture, the same day all Miyagi beef shipments were banned. KYODO PHOTO

The government is also considering placing a similar ban on beef cattle from Iwate Prefecture, where five cattle from Ichinoseki and Fujisawa have already been found contaminated with radioactive cesium exceeding the limit of 500 becquerels per kilogram.

That decision is expected to come next week, sources said.

The discovery of beef cattle from various prefectures in northeastern Japan with elevated levels of radioactive cesium has caused widespread concern.

The cattle were fed straw contaminated by fallout from the crippled and leaking Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.

Miyagi is the second prefecture after Fukushima to be given orders to suspend shipments of beef but likely won’t be the last.

“We feel regret for those in the stock-breeding industry but we will firmly continue to collect information and examine the situation from the viewpoint of safety,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said Thursday afternoon.

“And naturally, we will take measures if necessary.”

Four of the six Miyagi Prefecture cattle are from Kurihara, and one each from Kakuda and Zao.

The farmers who shipped the six contaminated cattle and others who fed their cattle contaminated straw will be obliged to hold blanket tests on all of their slaughtered beef.

Other farmers will be required to test one cow on each ranch. About 30,000 beef cattle are shipped annually from Miyagi Prefecture.

The ban will be partially lifted at the request of the prefecture if steps to improve safety are implemented, the government said.

Edano added that the government would try to provide “appropriate compensation” to the farmers for the damages.

Many prefectural governments have decided to conduct blanket tests on their beef cattle, most recently Tochigi and Ibaraki.

Ibaraki will begin the testing Aug. 1 while Tochigi is expected to decide on the details next week.

The Miyagi, Gunma and Iwate prefectural governments have also already announced their intention to conduct tests for radiation contamination on all of their beef.

Miyagi Gov. Yoshihiro Murai told a press conference his government will screen meat from all cattle brought to the prefecture’s two slaughterhouses from Monday.

About 90 head of cattle go through the two slaughterhouses every day, and the prefecture will ship those that test safe with a safety certificate.

Earlier reports said most of the contaminated beef came from cattle fed rice straw that was kept outside in Fukushima Prefecture during the reactor meltdowns. Some of the feed was shipped to other areas.

Information from Kyodo added

The Windmills of Your Mind… kind of day

Round like a circle in a spiral
Like a wheel within a wheel
Never ending on beginning
On an ever-spinning reel
Like a snowball down a mountain
Or a carnival balloon
Like a carousel that’s turning
Running rings around the moon
Like a clock whose hands are sweeping
Past the minutes on its face
And the world is like an apple
Whirling silently in space
Like the circles that you find
In the windmills of your mind

Like a tunnel that you follow
To a tunnel of its own
Down a hollow to a cavern
Where the sun has never shone
Like a door that keeps revolving
In a half-forgotten dream
Or the ripples from a pebble
Someone tosses in a stream
Like a clock whose hands are sweeping
Past the minutes on its face
And the world is like an apple
Whirling silently in space
Like the circles that you find
In the windmills of your mind

Keys that jingle in your pocket
Words that jangle in your head
Why did summer go so quickly?
Was it something that I said?
Lovers walk along a shore
And leave their footprints in the sand
Was the sound of distant drumming
Just the fingers of your hand?
Pictures hanging in a hallway
Or the fragment of a song
Half-remembered names and faces
But to whom do they belong?
When you knew that it was over
Were you suddenly aware
That the autumn leaves were turning
To the color of her hair?

Like a circle in a spiral
Like a wheel within a wheel
Never ending or beginning
On an ever-spinning reel
As the images unwind
Like the circles that you find
In the windmills of your mind

Door-to-door salespeople of the week

I’ve had all sorts of odd salespeople come to my door. In addition to the usual insurance, newspaper subscriptions, vegetables and various churches, I have had salesmen ring my doorbell and try to sell me automobiles and copiers. Even funeral plots. Door-to-door car sales sounded especially strange to me.

Today a pair of salesman came to my door wanting to buy platinum and gold jewelry from me. They were offering fine prices they said.



Radiation levels around my house

I was finally able to get ahold of a geiger counter this week. I had to return it today because the GPS wasn’t working (I promised to take readings in my area) but with the geiger counter itself I was able to take a few spot readings.

I live in Katsushika – a ward of Tokyo on the far east side, almost in Chiba, near Shinkoiwa station.

The pre-Fukushima natural background radiation of Tokyo was very low by world standards – only about 0.1 µS/hr. By comparison, the natural background radiation of Boston is about 0.34 µS/hr. So you have to consider the changes in the context of world average levels.

Around my house, the new levels are about 0.25 µS/hr ~ 0.4 µS/hr. So since the Fukushima meltdowns, the background radiation level in my neighborhood – more than 4 months after the accident – is about 2.5x ~ 4x what it was before the accident.

While that is disturbing, you have to take into account that the current radiation readings are comparable with Boston. So if you are comfortable walking around Boston there is no reason you shouldn’t be comfortable walking around here.

These readings were taken at heights of 1 to 1.5 meters from the ground, which is a standard height these measurements are taken.

The problem though is that unlike Boston, the radiation levels at pavement level – particularly on concrete surfaces goes up. Apparently, the fallout bonds very tightly with concrete and is almost impossible to get out (until it eventually decays away of course). For example, at the little grocer’s around the corner, above their concrete entryway, the levels were about 0.5 µS/hr. The highest reading I found in my spot-checking was near the bottom of a neighbor’s water drain spout, under a carport with a concrete surface. After about 5 minutes of sampling, the reading settled in near 1.0 µS/hr, which is getting pretty high. Like you wouldn’t want your newborn toddler (which they have) crawling around on the concrete there.

Inside the readings were very low – like 0.1 µS/hr. So obviously it’s very difficult to track in the radioactive particles which are bound in the concrete.

When I get the counter back, I’ll take more comprehensive readings.


This magnitude 6.2 quake definitely woke me up at 3:50 am


The debt ceiling is ridiculous

The debt ceiling is ridiculous. It makes no sense – and is unconstitutional.

If the Congress doesn’t want debt it shouldn’t authorize spending. If it authorizes spending it has to live with the debt or raise enough revenues from taxes and fees to cover the spending they authorized.

Obama should just invoke the 14th Amendment, ignore the debt ceiling and get on with business.


Some hanami photos April from my better-than-iPhone camera

%d bloggers like this: