Tokyo, one month after

April 11th, 2011

I just arrived this morning in Tokyo. I’m here this week for business, and for the Digital Garage New Context Conference. I’m also participating in the project to help deploy a network of connected radiation sensors around Japan.

It’s been almost exactly one month since the devastating Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. The flight here was almost deserted, as many countries still have travel warnings about going to Tokyo (apparently, Singaporeans are actually disallowed travel to Tokyo at the moment). However, as I see it, the amount of radiation I get on the flight to Tokyo is about as much as I’ll get staying here for the week. The flight from Tokyo to Singapore (8 hours length) exposes you to ~33 uSv radiation (taking the measurement of LA-Tokyo as a proxy, which is also 8 hours length). Currently, the level of radiation in Tokyo is around 0.2 uSv/hr. Thus, I would have to spend over 300 hours in Tokyo (over 10 days) to get the same amount of radiation as I would get just getting there and back from Singapore.

We forget that ultimately, we are all nuclear powered. There is this massive, uncontrolled thermonuclear explosion going on right over our heads — we call it the Sun. Going closer to it and clearing earth’s protective atmospheric shield is 100x riskier than going within a hundred miles of the distressed Fukushima reactors. Personally, I’m more concerned about the X-ray machine at the airport — I find myself staring into the guts of the baggage X-ray machine with the red light on more often than I’d like, usually due to some bag stuck on the belt holding up the protective lead flaps that are supposed to shield me from that radiation. I get exposed to that about four or five times per trip.

Of course, the atmospheric readings don’t tell the whole story, there are long-lived isotopes that find their way into the water and food that are hazardous to health. Few people remember this, but Chernobyl covered the EU with Caesium-137, which with a half-life of 30 years, is still very much there; yet I don’t hesitate to go to the regions in the EU that have been covered with the very hazardous, and very much still in existence, isotope.

So all things tallied together, probably the biggest risk I have to my health here is second hand smoke and aftershocks. At the moment, it’s actually safer from the second hand smoke perspective, because there is an epic shortage of cigarettes in Tokyo. Who would have thought that the Fukushima disaster might have in net, a positive impact on the cancer risk of the average Tokyo citizen?

On the other hand, the earthquakes are a very real danger. As a former California resident for a decade, one would think I’ve felt my shakes. However, within a minute of deplaning in Narita, a 6.2 earthquake rocks Japan. That was the most earth-shaking Yokoso I’ve ever received! It definitely woke me up after my red-eye flight — the quake lasted about ten seconds or so, alarms going off, window panels rattling and my legs wobbling beneath me as they negotiate the shaking travellator. The quake triggered an automatic shutdown of the Shinkansen, so I had to take a bus to Shinjuku.

First thing I did when arriving in Shinjuku was buy some bottled water — imported from another country, since in my assessment there is a real risk of tapwater contamination. The shelves at the Family Mart were about half-bare at around 10AM. Certainly, goods are making their way in, but I can tell demand is high and the supply chain is drawn thin. Still, Tokyo people are scrappy and resilient, it’s business as usual here, and everyone is getting along with life.

Name that Ware March 2011

April 3rd, 2011

The ware for March 2011 is shown below. Click on the image for a much larger version.

Despite the cropping and sanitizing of this image, I suspect this will still be guessed very quickly…

Winner, Name That Ware February 2011

April 3rd, 2011

The Ware for February 2011 is an Aaronia AG HF-60105 handheld spectrum analyzer. I didn’t think that so many people would recognize the analyzer solely from its blue housing; I should have been a little more selective about cropping the photo. I also noticed the chip with the scraped off top-markings near the RF shielded area, which is curious indeed. To the left of that chip is, I believe, the 0.5ppm TCXO timebase option, based upon the flux residue that would evidence removal of a standard crystal oscillator and the installation of the TCXO device next to it.

Picking a winner was very tough this month, as lots of people almost guessed the model number and type but nobody got it exactly right. I think I will go with Jonathan as the winner, since in addition to being very quick, he had shared a bit of analysis and insight as to his thought process. Congrats, email me to claim your prize!

Tiger Blood Intern…from China

March 28th, 2011

I don’t follow much pop culture, but I just got wind of a curious situation from a good friend of mine in China. My friend has an intern who is applying for his next internship…the “Tiger Blood Intern”. The intern applicant, Chris Jones, has made it to round 3 (a field narrowed to 250 out of 80,000 applicants). Round 3 tests the candidate’s ability to use social media to run a campaign.

Given that Chris currently lives behind the Great Firewall of China, where Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, etc. are blocked, he’s got the double-black diamond version of the challenge. With a little tech-savvy and persistence, though, all things are possible. He’s got a YouTube video up and he’s running his campaign. Give his campaign a little boost by watching his video!


March 15th, 2011

Katamari! <– play!

Na, na na na na na na na, na na katamari damashii~ <– listen!

Kudos to for a daft hack. Now to figure out how to get that song out of my head…