Sunday, March 20, 2011

U.S. Lags in School Lunch Makeovers

U.S. Lags in School Lunch Makeovers
The photos in this article show typical school lunches in the U.S. compared with those in other countries. It's difficult finding the vegetables in most of the U.S. school lunches. Also, is the chocolate milk served in order to get the kids to drink milk? I wonder how much sugar it contains.

The worst of it is that children will grow up thinking this is “food.” One of the most important areas where people are lacking in education is nutrition. What a perfect opportunity a well-balanced nutritious school lunch could provide, with the added benefit of less obesity. Go, Michelle!

Friday, March 18, 2011

The New York Philharmonic Honors the People of Japan

A moving message from the New York Philharmonic to the people of Japan.  On the evening of this recording, the orchestra played Requiem for Strings by Japanese composer Toru Takemitsu (1930-1996),  both to honor the departed and as a tribute to Japan's optimism and positive spirit.

The following is a beautiful rendition of the Requiem for Strings showing the ceramic artwork of Carlo Zauli (1926-2002), a native of Faenza, Italy, who was heavily influenced by both traditional and modern Japanese ceramic art.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Al Jazeera English: Live Stream

One of the most comprehensive, reliable sources for news, devoid of the sensationalism one finds in certain other international networks.

Al Jazeera English: Live Stream - Watch Now - Al Jazeera English

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Google Person Finder & Emergency Information

The Google Crisis Site includes information in English on emergency information, transportation, shelters, and places to donate.  There are boards for posting about missing people.

Monday, March 14, 2011

A Simple Visual of Nuclear Reactors

For those who need a simple explanation of nuclear reactors, this short video shows very clearly how they work.  This is one educators might find of use.

The “Shindo” Scale Used for Earthquakes in Japan

I cannot attest as to the validity of the following information, but it explains fairly clearly the difference between the “Shindo” scale used in Japan and the Richter scale.  This was useful for me because I've never been able to understand why an earthquake reported on Japanese TV as a “2” felt more like a “3” or “4” to me.

Japan experiences about 1,000 earthquakes each year of a magnitude sufficient to be felt. While the rest of the world uses the Richter scale to measure earthquakes, the Japan Meteorological Agency uses a seismic intensity scale - used also in Taiwan - known as the shindo (literally 'tremor') scale. Whereas the Richter scale measures a quake at its epicenter, the 'shindo scale' measures it at a specific location where the quake is felt. Therefore the effects of a single earthquake have a variable 'shindo scale' reading depending how far the affected area is from the epicenter.

A Shindo Scale 1 quake is the lightest, while a 7 is the most severe.
In detail, the points on the scale are defined as follows:

  • 0: Goes unnoticed by humans. Speed of shock waves on the ground is less than 0.008 m/s².

  • 1: Barely noticable, but only if inside. Ground speed of 0.008–0.025 m/s².

  • 2: Noticable if inside, and sufficient to wake some sleepers. Ground speed of 0.025–0.08 m/s².

  • 3: Felt by most people if inside. Sufficient to inspire fear in some people. Ground speed of 0.08–0.25 m/s².

  • 4: Sufficient to inspire fear in many people, wake most sleepers, and prompt some people to seek escape. Ground speed of 0.25–0.80 m/s².

  • 5−: Prompts most people to seek escape, but strong enough to prevent some people from moving. Ground speed of 0.80–1.40 m/s².

  • 5+: Strong enough to cause the collapse of a few unreinforced concrete-block walls and gravestones. Driving difficult or impossible. Ground speed of 1.40–2.50 m/s².

  • 6−: Will cause collapse of wall tiles and windowpanes in some buildings. Ground speed of 2.50–3.15 m/s².

  • 6+: In many buildings, wall tiles and windowpanes are damaged and fall. Strong enough to cause the collapse of some unreinforced concrete-block walls and gravestones. Ground speed of 3.15–4.00 m/s².

  • 7: Wall tiles and windowpanes are damaged and fall in most buildings. Even reinforced concrete-block walls may collapse. Ground speed of over 4 m/s².

  • Note that you can click on the title of this block to go to the link, but it also has information that might be offensive to some (e.g., love hotels).

    Japanese News Earthquake Vocabulary

    A resident of Japan has posted this useful list on his blog.  This is especially useful for friends who are working as translators or trying to understand the information in Japanese.  He has a number of other useful links about everyday life in Japan.  Thanks, Harvey!

    木造住宅もくぞうじゅうたくhomes built of wood
    中層建物ちゅうそうたてものa mid-sized high rise building
    港周辺みなとしゅうへんthe area around the port
    倒壊した家とうかいしたいえcollapsed houses
    倒壊家屋とうかいかおくcollapsed houses
    建物の屋根たてもののやねthe roofs of buildings
    瓦礫がれきtiles and pebbles, debris

    計画停電けいかくていでんplanned power outage
    核燃料かくねんりょうnuclear fuelLink
    核分裂かくぶんれつatomic fissionLink
    電力不足でんりょくぶそくlack of power
    停電ていでんpower outage
    発電所はつでんしょpower plant
    原発げんはつnuclear power plant
    東京電力福島第1原子力発電所1号機とうきょうでんりょくふくしまだいいちげんしりょくはつでんしょいちごうきTEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power Company) Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant No. 1 reactor
    燃料棒ねんりょうぼうfuel rod (for a nuclear power plant)
    揚水発電所ようすいはつでんしょhydraulic power plant
    電力会社でんりょくがいしゃpower company
    節電せつでんenergy conservation, to conserve energy
    供給不足きょうきゅうぶそくinsufficient supply
    原子炉を冷やす機能げんしろをひやすきのうthe function to cool a nuclear reactor
    格納容器かくのうようきstorage container (refers to the steel container housing the reactor)
    容器を海水で冷やすようきをかいすいでひやすcool the container with seawater
    放射線ほうしゃせんradiation (radioactive rays)
    放射生物質ほうしゃせいぶっしつradioactive materials
    発電施設はつでんしせつpower plant facilities
    Rescue and damage
    孤立こりつto be isolatedLink
    安否確認あんぴかくにんconfirmation of safetyLink
    安否不明あんぴふめいunknown whether (they are) safe or not
    安否確認が進まずあんぴかくにんがすすまずmaking no progress in regards to confirming the safety of…
    炉心溶融ろしんようゆうcore meltdownLink
    爆発音ばくはつおんsound of an explosion
    水素爆発すいそばくはつhydrogen explosion
    壊滅的な被害かいめつてきなひがいdevastating damage
    救助ヘリコプターきゅうじょヘリコプターrescue helicopter
    救助を待っているきゅうじょをまっているwaiting to be rescued
    不明ふめいunclear (missing people) 死者・不明1400人超 (more than 1,400 dead or missing)
    行方不明者ゆくえふめいしゃmissing persons
    軽傷者けいしょうしゃpeople with light injuries
    遺体いたいdead bodies / corpses
    被曝ひばくto be exposed to radiation
    避難範囲ひなんはんいevacuation area
    避難住民ひなんじゅうみんevacuated residents
    救出活動きゅうしゅつかつどうrescue operations
    震度しんどThe strength of an earthquake (shindo, Japanese scale 0 to 7)
    震度6弱しんどろくじゃくAbout shindo 6
    大震災だいしんさいGreat earthquake
    震源しんげんThe hypocenter (of an earthquake)
    揺れゆれto shake
    白煙はくえんwhite smoke
    黒煙こくえんblack smoke
    海面かいめんsea surface
    沿岸部えんがんぶcoastal area
    水没しているすいぼつしているto be submerged in water
    水没した車すいぼつしたくるまsubmerged carsLink
    Transportation and vehicles
    乗用車じょうようしゃpassenger cars (regular cars, as opposed to fire trucks, ambulances, etc.)
    消防車しょうぼうしゃfire truck
    船舶が座礁しているせんぱくがざしょうしているships have run aground
    Government and organizations
    気象庁きしょうちょうMeteorological agency
    自衛隊じえいたいJapan Self Defense Force
    国際原子力事象評価尺度こくさいげんしりょくじしょうひょうかしゃくどInternational Nuclear Event Scale (INES)
    Place Names
    宮城県みやぎけんMiyagi prefecture
    南三陸町みなみさんりくまちminamisanrikumachi (In Miyagi prefecture. Devastate by the tsunami.)
    岩手県いわてけんIwate prefecture
    〜が相次いでいるあいついでいるblah blah is occurring over and over again
    恐れがあるおそれがあるmay occur (something negative) e.g., 停電が続く恐れがある the power outage may continue.
    半径3キロはんけいさんキロa radius of 3 kilometers
    命を落とすいのちをおとすto die (to lose life)
    待機たいきto wait
    状況の把握が難航しておりじょうきょうのはあくがなんこうしておりdifficult to understand the (actual) situationLink
    市街地しがいちurban areas
    拡大する見通しかくだいするみとおしexpected to increase/expand

    Japan Earthquake Information on Facebook

    Several people have mentioned “the” earthquake and “the” tsunami.  It needs to be made clear that these are both in the plural.  The aftershocks continue, and an earthquake is never *over* in several senses.  Of course, there are the rescue and clean up operations that many of you have viewed on TV.  Even more, there's the emotional trauma to deal with (see my earlier blog on PTSD).  Most of all, there could easily be another sizable earthquake.  Japan experiences over 1,000 earthquakes a year that can be felt!  Most of them are not large enough to cause serious damage.  However, there is concern about more earthquakes occurring in the near future on top of what people have already experienced on Friday.

    I'm particularly grateful for Facebook right now because a large number of friends have been checking my page there.  This has enormously helpful because it's been impossible for me to respond to all the messages and inquiries that I've received.  I apologize for being abrupt with those who have used chat to contact me, but there simply hasn't been much time to talk one-on-one.

    I was surprised this morning to find that Facebook is sending out special messages to its members in Japan [see below].  This has been an invaluable service because, now that electricity is being “rationed,” it's essential to get out information about blackouts to those who are not fluent in Japanese.  Of course, the irony is that, if one is in an area where there is a power outage, they won't be able to access Facebook anyway - except possibly through cell phones, iPads, and the like.

    In Sapporo, we're fortunate that we have electricity (we'd freeze without it!) as well as enough food and other essentials.  It seems strange to have life going on as normal, knowing what others in the country are experiencing.

    Japan Earthquake Information - Updated Mar 14, 8:05AM (Japan time)

    Scheduled Blackout
    There will be a scheduled blackout (power outage) starting the morning of 3/14 in Tokyo, Tochigi, Ibaraki, Gunma, Chiba, Kanagawa, Saitama, Yamanashi, and Shizuoka.
    Areas will be divided into 5 groups and each group will experience about 3 hours of power outage.

    Please refer to the TEPCO Homepage (as of now, the list is only provided in Japanese) to find out which group you are in and what time the power outage will occur in your group.

    Train companies have announced that there will be irregular operation, including out of service hours. Summary here.

    JR | Tokyo Metro | Toei Subway/Bus | Tokyu | Odakyu | Keio | Tobu | Keikyu |Keisei

    Major out of services are: Tokaido Line (all day), Yokosuka Line (all day), Yokohama Line (all day), Odakyu will only operate between Kyodo to Shinjyuku (all day), Keio will only operate between Chofu and Shinjyuku (during morning and evening rush hours).

    The Facebook website will not be affected by this blackout.

    About this box: Facebook uses this box to provide information to foreigners and visitors in Japan for the duration of the current crisis.

    Sunday, March 13, 2011

    Diagnosing and Coping with PTSD

    A friend posted this summary on his Facebook page about post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).  The source for the information is:

    The following three groups of symptom criteria are required to assign the diagnosis of PTSD:

    Recurrent re-experiencing of the trauma (for example, troublesome memories, flashbacks that are usually caused by reminders of the traumatic events, recurring nightmares about the trauma and/or dissociative reliving of the trauma)

    Avoidance to the point of having a phobia of places, people, and experiences that remind the sufferer of the trauma or a general numbing of emotional responsiveness

    Chronic physical signs of hyperarousal, including sleep problems, trouble concentrating, irritability, anger, poor concentration, blackouts or difficulty remembering things, increased tendency and reaction to being startled, and hypervigilance (excessive watchfulness) to threat.

    How can people cope with PTSD?

    Some ways that are often suggested for PTSD patients to cope with this illness include:

    learning more about the disorder as well as

    talking to friends, family, professionals, and PTSD survivors for support. Joining a support group may be helpful.

    Other tips include

    reducing stress by using relaxation techniques (for example, breathing exercises, positive imagery), actively participating in treatment as recommended by professionals, increasing positive lifestyle practices (for example,

    exercise, healthy eating, distracting oneself through keeping a healthy work schedule if employed, volunteering whether employed or not), and

    minimizing negative lifestyle practices like substance abuse, social isolation, working to excess, and self-destructive or suicidal behaviors.

    [Thanks, Steven!]

    Tuesday, March 01, 2011

    Kill the Bill!

    • I appreciated the detailed explanation of the different clauses included in Wisconsin Governor Walker's “budget repair” bill given by one of my friends, Patrick Flynn, Vice President of Franchise Development (Midwest Region).  For those in Wisconsin who are focused on only certain bits and pieces that you may agree or disagree with, it's important to know the whole bill would impact your life and the lives of your children and grandchildren. 

      1. ELIMINATING MEDICAID: The Budget Repair Bill includes a little-known provision that would put complete control of the state’s Medicaid program, known as BadgerCare, in the hands of the state’s ultra-conservative Health and Human Services Secretary Dennis Smith. Smith would have the authority to “to override state Medicaid laws as [he] sees fit and institute sweeping changes” including reducing benefits and limiting eligibility. Ironically, during the 1990s it was Republicans, especially former Gov. and Bush HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson, who helped develop BadgerCare into one of the country’s most innovative and generous Medicaid programs. A decade later, a new generation of radical Republicans is hoping to destroy one of Wisconsin’s “success stories.”

      2. POWER PLANT PRIVATIZATION AND ENVIRONMENTAL NEGLECT: The same budget bill calls for a rapid no-bid “firesale” of all state-owned power plants. One progressive blogger called the proposal “a highlight reel of all of the tomahawk dunks of neo-Gilded Age corporatism: privatization, no-bid contracts, deregulation, and naked cronyism” and suggested that the provision will open the way for large, politically connected corporations, like Koch Industries, to buy up the state’s power plants on the cheap. While it’s unclear whether corporations would be interested in buying the plants, a similar proposal was vetoed six years a go by Gov. Jim Doyle (D), who called the plan fiscally and environmentally irresponsible. Many of Wisconsin’s power plants are in violation of federal clean air regulations and desperately need to be upgraded and cleaned up — not dumped into the private sector.

      3. DANGEROUS DRINKING WATER: Republican lawmakers have introduced bills in both the Senate and the House which would repeal a rule requiring municipal governments to disinfect their water. Conservatives have said that the clean water rule — which went into effect in December — is simply too expensive. Yet the rule only affects 12 percent of municipalities and the price may be worth it. In 1993, 104 people died and 400,000 fell sick when the Milwaukee water supply became infected. Even two decades later, the Environmental Protection Agency Advisory Board notes that 13 percent of acute gastro-intestinal illnesses in municipalities that don’t disinfect their water supplies are the result of dirty water. Municipalities can keep their water clean for as low as $10,000 per well — but apparently for the Wisconsin GOP that is too high a price to pay to keep citizens safe from deadly microorganisms.

      4. DESTROYING WETLANDS: In January, Walker’s proposed regulatory reform bill exempted a parcel of wetland owned by a Republican donor from water quality standards. But the exemption was more than just an embarrassing giveaway to a GOP ally: environmental groups believe the bill’s special provision would actually affect the entire county, eliminating public hearings on proposed wetland development, short-circuiting approval of development projects, and disrupting the region’s water system.

      5. FISCAL IRRESPONSIBILITY: Walker signed a bill this week requiring a 2/3 supermajority in the legislature to pass any tax increase. Republican lawmakers are now reportedly considering a constitutional amendment that would make the rule permanent. A similar constitutional amendment in California has been called the “source of misery” of that state’s crippling budget crisis and has forced lawmakers to “gut public education, slash social services and health care programs, close prisons, and lay off record numbers of public employees.” While claiming to “make a commitment to the future instead of [choosing] dire consequences for our children” Walker and GOP lawmakers are instead putting generations of Wisconsinites in a “fiscal strait-jacket.”

      6. DISENFRANCHISING VOTERS: This week, Republican lawmakers moved forward on a bill that would require voters to present a photo ID from the DMV at the polls, making it significantly more difficult for the elderly, the disabled, college students, and rural residents to participate in elections. While Republican lawmakers insist the bill is necessary to prevent voter fraud, there have been almost no documented cases of fraudulent voting in the state. Instead, the Wisconsin State Journal writes, the GOP bill is going “overboard in limiting ballot access in a state proud of its long history of high participation in elections.”

      7. CUTTING JOBS, LOSING THE FUTURE: Last fall, Walker killed an $810 billion federally funded high-speed rail project, forcing the Transportation Department to pull its funding. Walker’s decision killed 130,000 expected jobs and forced the Spanish company Talgo to close its Milwaukee factory and layoff its 40 person staff. A spokeswoman for the company told The Daily Reporter that “the state’s decision to back away from the high-speed rail project sends a terrible message to businesses considering locating in the state.”

      8. STIFLING INNOVATION: In late January, Walker introduced a bill that would ban wind-powered energy from Wisconsin and exacerbate the state’s dependence on out-of-state coal. If passed, it’s estimated that the law would immediately eliminate $1.8 billion in new wind power investments and jeopardize eleven currently proposed wind projects. After a public outcry earlier this month, Walker’s bill is (for now) dead.

      9. “NAKED POWER GRAB”: Earlier this month in a party-line vote, the legislature ceded “extraordinary control” of the state’s rule-making oversight process to the governor. Walker now has complete power to draft agency rules which the legislature must then either approve or reject. The law gives Walker the power to write rules for formerly independent state agencies like the state Departments of Justice and Education — and most ominously the Government Accountability Board, the state’s ethics watchdog.

      10. POLITICIZING STATE AGENCIES: A provision in Walker’s budget repair bill would convert thirty-seven state employees from civil servants to political appointees — consolidating his power over state government and expanding his power to “hire, fire and move key employees to carry out his agenda.”

    • • Allows the state to take out an additional 200 million in loans, putting the state further in debt. (Page 30, Section 63)

      • Cuts off all state aid to municipalities. (Page 135 – 136 Section 9211, Page 58, Section 148)

      • Cuts off all state aid to public K-12 schools. “About 900 million dollars total” (Page 135 – 136 Section 9211, page 58 Section 148)

      • Cuts off all state aid to University Wisconsin Schools. “This will cause the tuition at UW schools to go up 26% over the next two years.” (Page 135 – 136 Section 9211)

      • The state will lose 46 million in federal grants to public transit. “The federal government requires that public transit workers have collective bargaining.” (Page 63 – 109 Sections 163- 314)

      • Allows the state to take 28 million from Employee Trust Fund. “This is the State Employees' Pension Fund; they will use the money to pay the State's portion of State Employee's Medical and Pension contributions until 2013.” (Page 125, Section 9115)

      • In 2013 the State will no longer pay anything toward state employees' Medical and Pension Fund. State employees will be required to pay the entire cost of their Medical and Pension Fund. “Roughly about $1500 per month for each state employee.” (Page 58, Section 62.623)

      • Limits the right to collectively bargain for all employees who are not public safety employees (general employees) to the subject of base wages. (Pages 63 – 109, Sections 163- 314)