Saturday, March 12, 2011

In the blink of an eye...

So I was settling down to delve the depths of smug commentary on my home away from home - had the pith helmet and lantern ready to go, when the entire north-eastern coast of Japan decided it would be far more comfortable about 8 feet to the left and rashly decided to get that move over with in three minutes instead of a geologically prudent 7 skazillion years.

This is why we don't do things in a hurry people - ok?

On the other hand, this has been a great endorsement of teamwork, common sense, and Boy Scout motto-thieving.

The death-toll, at this time, is looking like it will pass 1,000 - a horrific number, but mercifully small given the strength of the quake, and the fact that the tsunamis, like an indecisive American patron at a diner, just decided to 'order the menu' by striking 58 of the 47 prefectures in Japan. (side note: In every disaster I can remember being brought to me by CNN over the past 20 years, it always seemed like there were the five or six video clips that got looped again and again - however on this occasion, I have watched about 3 hours of coverage and have yet to see the same footage more than twice - this thing was everywhere). The Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake was over 5,000 dead for a quake that was only 1/250th the strength. Plus this one struck in a location that was (to paraphrase Hitchhikers' Guide) not entirely in, but not entirely away from Tokyo. In other words, this occurred in the 99.9999% of Earth that is in the "not Tokyo" sphere of our Venn diagram, but closer to Tokyo than about 99.996% of other locations in that group. Close enough - and yet, the actual destruction from the shaking was rather minimal. So score one for investing in Earthquake retro-fitting and strict controls on building construction. Furthermore, a nice tsunami warning system told the residents near the ocean to (as politely as possible) get the fuck out of there as fast as their small and efficient cars would take them. So lets just say that that was some tax money well spent. (edit: It was pointed out to me that our Tsuanmi early-warning system is one of the items on the budget chopping block of the new Congress. So good luck with that dipshits)

As for common sense - we were all spared a single utterance by some crack-pot self-proclaimed man of God blaming this on the gays and liberals and universal health care, all while mopping his profusely sweating brow and wondering why images of well-oiled Brad Pitt clones doing naked gymnastics kept flooding through his mind. (Though even Japan isn't safe from RAPDJS - Repetitive and pointing disaster journalist syndrome, typified by some journalist wandering through a a devastated area, emphatically pointing at something that would be improbable outside a disaster zone like a car half-buried in silt, although entirely unsurprising in a location recently tsunamied, all while rattling on like a broken record - "John, John, I just want to point this out...John, can we get this? John, we see a car here, can you get this? This is a car buried by the disaster, are we getting this? this is a car buried in silt. As you can see, the whole car is in silt, which is not how you normally see cars....)

And finally - there is "Be prepared" - this is no joke - People regularly drill for earthquakes as well as tsunamis - children know what to do and where to go. There will be no 'Superdome' type incidents of 10,000 displaced people arriving at some landmark because there was nowhere else to go. There are plenty of emergency shelters (usually just some previously-designated public building, but the 'previously-designated' part of that is immeasurably key) spread around and plenty of signs pointing the way. There were plans for dealing with it. People knew the plans.
People knew where to go and as a result, tens of thousands were likely able to escape. And we didn't have to listen to some bat-shit crazy 'citizen' ramble on about how all this planning was part of some slippery-slope plan by big brother to march us all off to labor camps and weaken our independence and freedoms.

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