April 2011 Archives

Circus Style Hoop Drills - the chimes

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Lots of people have checked out the Circus Style Hoop Drills videos; thank you all. I plan to make more of these this summer with some new moves and multiple hoops, too.

Once you've done the drills a few times and gotten the sequences down, you really don't need the video except to know when to change from one position to the next. and honestly, watching a video while hooping isn't always ideal.

So to make it easier to do the drills with any music player, I've created a few audio files. There is no music, simply a chime or gong to give you a cue. This allows you to set your own pace or create your own drill variations. You can even play the chiming track on top of whatever music you like.

30-60 Chimes: Starts with a single chime, followed in 30 seconds with a different chime, then at the 60 second mark the single chime again. Repeat for 15 minutes. You can use this to time either 30 second or 60 second drills. If you're only going to download one, this is the one you want. 30-60 Chimes.mp3 13.8MB

30 Second Gong: A rich, meditative, reverberating gong every 30 seconds reminds you to switch to the next drill. This file gives you ten and a half minutes of drill time. 30 Second Gong.mp3  9.7MB

1 Minute Gong: the same deep gong as above, but spaced 60 seconds apart. Duration is about 15 minutes. This might be helpful in your yoga practice, too. 1 Minute Gong 1.mp3  14.2 MB

Everything in between

I keep trying to write about the aftermath of the disasters but I have little new to say. Things in Tokyo are fine; disruptions are either settling into routine or are fading away. At the same time, everything up north is not fine.

What is striking all of us now, even in the safety of Tokyo, is how much personal upheaval we are experiencing. Shaken to our core beliefs each one of us is reacting, consciously or not, by reprioritising our lives. I believe that no one is going to come out of this time without some major life changes.

One of the changes I am experiencing is a renewed sense of community and love for Japan. Before the quake, I was feeling fed up with living here. Such a restrictive society combined with my frustrating lack of language skills, put me in a mood to leave as soon as possible.  Tod was feeling it, too, for different reasons. When we returned from our February trip to Australia, we envisioned emigrating to sunnier shores as soon as practical.

And then the earth moved and Japan's restrictive culture showed its good side. I've lived here so long I thought I had the rules figured out, but I was wrong. Now I finally get it. The shackles that restrain everyone in good times are useful training for managing in the bad times. No other people I know of would be so collectively strong in a disaster like this. Nobody is looking out for themselves first. Grief is pushed aside for the common good. People are patient and considerate no matter what the circumstances.

I want to be part of this well-ordered society right now. Maybe not forever, but the desire to leave Japan has faded.

But who knows what the future holds? When we returned from Oz, some doors opened that could have us exiting Japan before too long. Or not. We could live in Japan another decade. Or we could be off to Australia in a month. There's no way to know at the moment, so I am trying to go with the flow and be ready for anything. (Yes, those are completely conflicting actions.)

While we wait and see, I will do everything I can to help the Tohoku recovery efforts. I will find a way in the next few weeks to get up north and muck sludge or deliver supplies or cook meals or lead hoop jams for stress relief. There are a few possible avenues to explore here. I will keep you posted.

One thing I will certainly be doing is decluttering the house and selling off things we don't need. Any money collected will go to fund one of the relief projects. (Thanks to Chris for leading the way on this idea!) Stay tuned for the online garage sale....

Spring Hoop Mania

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skirt hooping
Today's weather was gorgeous and no amount of disaster-anything was going to keep me inside. I put on a gorgeous long twirly skirt given to me by my hooping friend, Sarah, walked up to my local park where the stone paving is always warm, slipped off my shoes, turned up my iPod and completely ignored everyone else in the park. I leaped, I twirled, I smiled. It was wonderful. I just fell into the flow and got all sorts of gifts as a result.  New moves, new thoughts, no thoughts. It was so needed and greedily/gratefully accepted.

The bliss was broken by a band of small boys on bicycles who shouted to me in Japanese if I could do anything more cool. I replied in English and told them no, this was all I could do, go away and no, they couldn't use my hoops. They did go away after a while and I got back to my hooping groove, but it wasn't long before I noticed that my feet hurt. I'd danced so hard that I'd brought out blisters. I took a break and sketched a scene of the park before a song started playing that I just had to hoop to. Bad idea. I hobbled home on blood blisters. Ouch.

Tomorrow is going to be gorgeous, too, and blisters be damned. I'm going to Yoyogi Park to hoop, muck about with choreography for an upcoming performance and think about on the workshops I'll be teaching for Guru-guru Camp at the end of the month. Kana is coming to the park, too, so we'll have a hanami hoop together. Join us if you are in the mood. I ought to bring some Tohoku sake to ease the pain of my feet.

Our main hanami hoop was "Cherry Cherry Boom Boom" on Sunday. Organised by Deanne and Leila, it drew a jumbo crowd of revelers and raised 16,000 yen for Second Harvest Japan's relief efforts. I hooped all day, drawing unexpected applause twice.

Applause makes me uncomfortable. The first time at the hanami, I was hooping for an acquaintance who was shooting a video. I didn't think I was doing anything exceptional, just getting into the spin, but there was a lot of noise and it seemed to be for me. The second time, I was sort of showing off, but nobody was supposed to see! Some drunk guys came up to our party to hoop and wanted to know if I could spin a bunch of hoops at once. So I grabbed five, got them going on my waist, then split two up. And then I lost the stack and let them drop. It was sloppy and stupid but everyone was clapping afterward. Embarrassing.

Guru-guru Camp is just 15 days away. I'm so excited to be organising this week of camping and hooping on Niijima. I'm leading hoop drills every morning and a hoop workshop every day. Other friends are going to offer workshops and activities, too, like juggling and DJs.  And we're offering it all for free. Get yourself there with yoru gear and food, then relax and enjoy the fun.

One of the highlights of Guru-guru Camp for me will be finishing up the filming for the Japan Tricks Showcase, a charity video featuring Japan hoopers and their original hoop moves. There's a workshop on "creating an original trick" that will be lots of fun and then we'll be filming them for the rest of the week. I've gotten the first three tricks done and I know there are lots more coming. I hope this video will encourage the global hooping community to donate to Tohoku relief efforts.

Level 7

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This morning NISA, Japan's nuclear regulatory agency, held a news conference to provisionally place the Fukushima nuclear incident at INES level 7: Major Accident - Major release of radio­active ­material with widespread health and environmental effects r­equiring implementation of planned and extended ­countermeasures.

There's only been one other level 7 incident and you all know it, Chernobyl. The media have been screaming Chernobyl since the beginning. Are they justified now? I don't know. The situation at Fukushima is a major accident but it is not quite like Chernobyl. But like Chernobyl, we won't really know its true impact for decades. Have you looked at the research and reports on the Russian accident? They are all over the place in their conclusions. I imagine Fukushima will be the same as time goes on.

The reason NISA decided to change the rating to Level 7 is that "more than tens of thousands of terabecquerels of radioactive iodine 131" have been released and in a few towns in Fukushima the level of radiation in the past month has exceeded the annual accumulation limits. The overall amount of radiation released at Fukushima is currently unknown, ongoing, and coming under control, but the experts here expect it will be less than the overall amount released at Chernobyl, which was somewhere around  250,000 terabecquerels depending on which report you read.

The Fukushima accident has crept along losing (and sometimes gaining) ground day-to-day. While this slow progress towards a conclusion has caused high stress to many people immediately and indirectly affected, the slow pace of the disaster has also allowed time to evacuate citizens, make decisions, and monitor radiation levels in the populace and food supply. It's no less dangerous in the long run, but it isn't as immediately catastrophic. 22 people died of acute radiation sickness at Chernobyl in the first month after the accident. As far as we know, nobody has died of radiation sickness at Fukushima. And despite all the images of nuclear evacuees getting wanded with Geiger counters in shelters, I haven't read reports of people being turned away for excessive pinging or glowing.

And excepting those towns in Fukushima, radiation levels have been gradually decreasing. There are currently no issues with I-131 in the water; general environmental levels are back into normal ranges; and some bans have been lifted on agricultural products. So even though the Fukushima accident is now a level 7, outside the exclusion zone daily life is returning to its usual levels of radioactivity according to the multiple independent sources who are measuring.

Power saving ideas

Over on Facebook, my previous post generated a lot of ideas and suggestions. Thanks to everyone who chimed in; I was so pleased. I'd like to list them here, along with some expansion and additions I've been thinking of, too.

One of the awesome posters from the Setsuden Poster collection

Replace old HVAC units
Roman said that his in-laws replaced their decade-old aircon units and saw big savings on their electric bills. This ecological efficiency also applies to any major appliance, like refrigerators (which are said to use about 20% of the household's electricity in the US), washing machines, or electric water heaters.

Adopt Daylight Savings Time
Soness told a funny story about trying to explain DST to a woman on the train. "How will wives at home know what time their husband is coming home?" Getting this change through to people and lawmakers might be a difficult task. It's failed many times before. Greg senses this crisis be its best chance.

Reduce or eliminate climate control
This idea came up over and over. Luke says he hasn't used aircon at home in 7 years.  Jo wrote, " At home, use the aircon to de-humidify the air and chill the place right down, then switch it off and use fans for the rest of the evening." There are lots of ways to be comfortable without icy-cold air conditioning.

Once a Week Natural Air
In the spirit of the "once a week vegetarian" or "no car day" campaigns, encourage people to go without climate control one day a week. Create a huge support campaign to offer alternatives to using the air conditioning, show the benefits to aircon-less days and so on. Make it fun, healthy, economical.

Promote new office fashions
"Let's short pants!" For the past few summers CoolBiz has allowed salarimen to ditch the long sleeves and jackets as office cooling was reduced a few degrees, but what if we made "neat and casual" the new patriotic business norm? Linen trousers, "business shorts", seersucker suits, canvas shoes, short sleeves. With the right marketing, big sales at stores, and fashion features in magazines, this could be good for the energy crisis and for the economy as people update their wardrobes.

Establish shorter workdays
Some shops and malls are opening late and closing early to same energy. Why can't offices do the same? Tod's company spends 200,000 yen/day on climate controlling their 5 or 6 floors. If they shortened the workday that would reduce costs and electricity use in aircon, lights, computer power, and coffee machines.

Go outside
Jo suggested, "Spend and entire day and night outside, and I swear you wont feel the heat so badly afterwards; your internal body temperature will adjust to the weather." She's an arechologist in Australia and knows about living in the heat. And when you are outside, you're not using very much power.

Enjoy al fresco life
A less extreme version of spending the night outdoors would be encouraging folks to use their balconies, sit on stoops, play in the streets, walk outside after dinner. Not only does this help reduce power use, but it is healthy, builds community and stimulates the economy with purchases of new patio furniture.

Gather for communal activities
Getting people together for a meal is more efficient and more fun than everyone cooking alone. Home parties need to be on everyone's calendar. Maybe even big cooking sessions where everyone pitches in and then takes home a few meals' worth of food for the coming week. Another communal tradition, the public sento,  would save tons of hot water.

Rotate restaurants
Tokyo has the highest per capita of restaurants in the world and lots of them are struggling right now. Diners are spoiled for choice  and as we are discovering about so many aspects of our lush urban life, really it is too much. What if restaurants got together (by neighborhood, maybe, or by class of restaurant) and organised a rota so each is open 4 days a week, instead of six or seven. They'd save energy, minimize overhead, and waste less food by concentrating their customers into a few good days rather than limping along with just a few tables a night.  At the same time, citizen will be encouraged to eat out if they are not dining communally.

Minimise public sector days
Right now most museums are closed on Mondays. What if they opened only on weekends and Mondays, closing the other four days a week? This would create similar benefits as the revolving restaurant schedule and people would still have sufficient opportunity to view the exhibits. A similar closure schedule could be applied to certain government offices, too. Imagine if marriage offices closed on inauspicious days.

Power facts

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The blackouts have been canceled for the last week thanks to businesses and individuals doing such a stellar job of conserving energy.  But even with conservation continuing, extra generators coming online, and small amounts of power shifted from Western Japan to us in the east,  TEPCO is expecting an 8.5 gigawatt shortfall this summer. Yesterday reports on NHK said they want to try to avoid blackouts this summer, but expect as much as a 10 gigawatt shortfall on peak days. They are asking us to use 15% less power than last summer, partly by setting air conditioners to 28C or higher (that's 82F) and for businesses to conserve 20-25% over last summer's power use.


The Yomiuri Shimbun published an interesting chart last week comparing average daily electric use in various industries in TEPCO's customer base and household equivalents (based on a world average of 9.7 Kw/h per day per 10,000 households)

  • Car/Machinery Products: 4617 Kw/h = 4,670,000 households' worth
  • Chemical Products: 2470 Kw/h = 2,550,000
  • Steel/Metal Products: 1753 Kw/h = 1,810,000
  • Railroad Services: 1726 Kw/h = 1,780,000
  • Food Product: 1530 Kw/h = 1,580,000
  • Pachinko: 415 Kw/h = 430,000
  • Beverage Vending Machines: 400 Kw/h = 410,000
  • Tokyo Disney Resort: 57 Kw/h = 59,000
  • Tokyo Dome (one game): 4 Kw/h = 4,100
Industry needs its power because it fuels the economy. So how can we conserve more power as households? One clever idea, put forth by Benedict Marshall is easy to understand and not too hard to implement:

"...if the 8.5 GW capacity requirement is divided into 61 Million population of East Japan, then the required shortfall is approximately 139 W for each person.

If each person in East Japan purchased 3 LED lights to replace 3 incandescent bulbs of 60 W, then the reduced energy use (assuming that LED lights use approximately 10-20% the energy of an incandescent bulb), would cover such a shortfall."

I don't know how many people still use incandescent bulbs. (And if they do, aren't they keeping them off most of the time already?) Maybe switching bulbs will make a difference, but possibly not the full 8.5 gigawatts needed. Still, it's a smart idea.

What other good conserving ideas are out there?

Intermediate mood

I'm feeling sort of stuck right now. Maybe it's just me. Probably so.

All my personal plans from before the quake are on hold - things that were dreams, goals, and wishes, projects, major life changes. They all became less important than the pressing need to help relief efforts.

But the relief efforts are growing more diffuse and harder to keep track of. Where can I help? What should I contribute toward? Fundraising events and campaigns of all sorts are taking off, including a few that I am helping to coordinate in the hooping community. Lots of independent relief projects have sprung up now, at least in the foreign community, involving delivery of goods. They are critical because they are agile enough to take food and supplies off the beaten track to the people who are sheltering at home without resources of the evacuation centers. Plus there are still 160,000 people in centers and their needs range from basics like water, electricity and food to more modern necessities like phone chargers. Not to mention the start of cleaning up everything. Several friends have made their way north or are about to go help in various ways from mucking mud to cooking to entertaining kids at the clinics. I want to go, too, but something is holding me back.

The feeling of being held back is strong. It's stopping me from doing anything productive today. Part of me wants to create something, part of me wants to shake or stretch or spin. And then this little bit of me puts the kibosh on all those impulses. Every time I make a start, a little voice discourages me. Not a paranoid voice or warning, just something sort of small and depressed. "Don't do that; it's too hard." It's saying the same thing about the taxes and the housework and going outside. So I read a novel and napped today, mostly. There's been no forward progress on anything.

I know that in a day or two this block will break free and I will be full of energy and activity again. I'm just finding it hard and frustrating today. So I think I will force myself to finish the taxes before I make dinner. (Shut up little voice; I know it is hard.) Maybe after dinner I will put pen to paper in a sketchbook to get my mind moving. (Shut up little voice; I'm not making a masterwork, just a doodle.) Tomorrow I will make progress on one of my fundraising/relief activities.

Eventually, my previous plans will be back on track. Until then, I've got to do what I can to help the people needing assistance, including my friends. What can I do for you?

45 rpm?


Here I am. Happy birthday, me.

There has been a rip in the fabric of space-time, because today I turned the age I think of my mother as being. I don't know how that works but I do not really feel my age.

My Day: I started by getting up early to bake a cake for breakfast, enjoy coffee and open the gifts my mother sent. Then I walked to Ueno to have lunch at Juraku before heading to the zoo. Today the new panda exhibit opened and there was a huge crowd, but since I have an annual zoo passport, I got to rockstar to the front of the 600 person long line to enter the zoo grounds. I skipped the pandas and said hello to the elephants and then strolled directly to the lower exit. I practiced juggling in the playground (oh, so close - even occasional moments of getting it, but not sustaining long enough to count). Then I enjoyed a bus ride home. I hooped in the living room for a few minutes, then put on the sleepy music (Beethoven's Pastorale) to take a nap before going out to the Charity Art Auction at the Pink Cow. My pieces both sold, for a combined total of 4500 yen. Somehow I managed to go the whole day without a birthday portrait, so I snapped the one above in the bathroom just now. Time to put on some PJs and crawl into bed!

State of Tokyo: Restaurants and shops are coming back to life, though it is going to be hard for them to make up the losses from the last few weeks. There were lines outside popular eateries at lunch today, and that's a heartening thing to see. The zoo was busting with kids and panda-lovers. The bus and subways were packed with people moving around and the streets were lively. Shibuya, while still dimmed to conserve power, was full of shoppers between 5:30 and 6:30 when I was there. H&M and Forever 21 were doing brisk trade in their sales. So even though there is disaster and doom to deal with daily, life goes on. That's good to see and feel.

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