What does an earthquake feel like?

Living in Japan, I have to expect to feel an earthquake every once in a while.  There was one a couple weeks ago that was close by, but still was just a minor quake.  But today, there was a big one.  Not the big one, like last year.  But this one was in the same area, and it was magnitude 7.3.  Being a few hundred kilometres away from the epicentre, I’m pretty safe.  There was a lot of movement, but nothing earth shattering.

So, what does an earthquake really feel like?  If you’ve never experienced one, it’s hard to imagine the ground moving, and you moving along with it.  It’s a very unusual sensation that isn’t easy to describe.  Some earthquakes give a very sharp jolting shaking, while others are a milder rocking movement.

Today’s earthquake was a long, but soft rocking movement.  There was no sudden shaking.  It started off slowly with a side to side movement, and over time, built up momentum.  It got stronger.  At its peak, I could see anything hanging from the ceiling swinging back and forth vigourously, but I didn’t feel it as strongly.  Imagine standing on a raised platform that’s supported by massive springs and a movement damper.  Without the damper, the movements would be too strong to approximate the feeling of this earthquake.  Now, the side to side movement isn’t a rhythmic movement.  It’s quite random.  You can’t predict how the ground moves during an earthquake.  It’s also not like being on a boat (however, it can be like that in a tall building).  I was on the ground floor of my apartment building when it hit, so I felt the direct movement of the ground.  While the ground is moving, your body feels the movement, yet your brain gets conflicting information from your eyes.  You don’t see the movement, but you feel it.  This causes some people to get motion sickness.  Thankfully, I don’t experience that.  As the earthquake wanes, the movement becomes slower and slower until you can’t perceptibly notice the movement unless you lean against a wall to steady your body. However, toward the end of the earthquake, I could still hear the building creaking.

This description shouldn’t be applied to every earthquake.  I’ve been through some that had much stronger movements, particularly the one on March 11, 2011.  Earthquakes that are nearby have much more intense shaking, while this one didn’t shake, it rocked slowly.  Earthquakes that shake are loud.  This one wasn’t loud, but I could still hear it.

If you haven’t felt an earthquake, can you imagine the feeling now?

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What are you doing December 21st?

Friday, December 21st, 2012.  Winter solstice.  I have the day off.  What am I doing?  I’m not sure yet, but I’ll definitely be continuing to live in this continuing world of ours.  This is the only time I’ll say this: No, the world isn’t ending.  The Mayans did not predict the end of the world.

Now, winter is approaching.  It already feels like winter here.  The Japan Meteorology Association has predicted that this winter will be colder than last winter.  Last winter was the coldest in several years.  But this winter will be colder?  I’m not looking forward to that.  It’s no secret that I dislike winter.  I may be from Canada, but I don’t like the cold.  The Tokyo area has a mild winter, but with the lack of central heating and decent insulation, it’s always cold inside.

I have some things to look forward to, though.  New Year’s Day will be interesting.  I’ll be spending it at my wife’s family’s home, where we’ll have an amazing meal, delicious sake, and most likely go bowling.  My daughter’s first birthday is next month, too.  It’ll be an exciting time to see her change from a baby to a toddler.  With the week off that I have around New Year’s, I also plan to do a lot of work on this blog, as well as write as much as I can.

So, what are you planning to do after the non-end of the world?

Book Review – Guards! Guards!

guardsguardsTerry Pratchett’s Guards! Guards! is the eighth book in the Discworld series. Pratchett is a master at satirical humour in a fantasy setting, and his books are always great light reading.  Guards! Guards! is one of the better ones.

This book centres around the Night Watch of the City Watch in the city of Ankh-Morpork, the greatest city on the disc.  Carrot is a new recruit from the dwarf mines, while his colleagues are Captain Vimes, Sergeant Colon, and Corporal Nobbs.  Carrot is a young, eager man, ready to please anyone.  He is quite naive, but has great knowledge of the law.  Captain Vimes is the often drunk leader of the group. Sergeant Colon doesn’t like to see much action, and is usually in the office.  Nobby is one strange guy who seems to never play things by the book.  All four of these main characters are delightfully developed, and they go through quite a bit during the course of this book.  Vimes develops into a wonderful character, and has some hilarious drunken thoughts.  Carrot shows amazing initiative in a law enforcement group that basically has no power.  The Librarian, an orangutan at the Unseen University, joins the group.  He is one of my favourite Discworld characters.  Nice to see him here.  Lady Ramkin is another colourful character who breeds swamp dragons.  She is quite funny, and a great addition.  Lord Vetinari also plays a part in this book.  And you can’t forget the dragon.  The ensemble cast was very entertaining.

The story was Pratchett’s usual witty plot, poking fun at various subjects, such as police novels and “hero defeats the dragon and turns out to be the last king’s heir” kind of story.  Unexpected incidents is what I expect with Discworld novels, and this one did a very good job at that.  I expected Keystone Cops kind of buffoonery, but got an actual good story, albeit a silly one.  But it worked remarkably well.  I find that Pratchett has a good comic sense most of the time, though sometimes it isn’t as funny as I’d hoped.  However, Guards! Guards! was very funny.  There was more than one occasion when I laughed (thankfully, no one looked at me on the train when I did that).

Most of Pratchett’s books involve more than one setting location, but Guards! Guards! took place about 99% of the time in Ankh-Morpork.  I got to know the city better through this book, and sometimes revisited locations I’d seen in previous novels.  It’s a very interesting city in many ways, but I wouldn’t want to live there.  It’s a city that works with Guilds for thieves and assassins, who legally do their illegal work.  The city has a lot of unusual characters, shady neighbourhoods, and a dangerous, yet popular bar.

I think you should visit Ankh-Morpork through Guards! Guards! and take a tour with the Night Watch.  It’ll be worth your time.  So far, this may be the best Discworld novel I’ve read.  Highly recommended!

So, I will give this a full 5 stars.

Beer, wine, and sake and how they affect me

I’m not a big drinker.  I occasionally like a drink, but I never feel like I need a drink.  However, I have developed my own preferences for different kinds of alcoholic beverages.  So, I started thinking about how three different drinks affect me.  They all have alcohol in them, but I react differently to each one.

Beer

This is the staple alcoholic drink of many countries, including my home country of Canada and my adopted country of Japan.  When people go out drinking, most will drink beer.  Beer in Japan is very similar to beer in Canada.  I would describe it mainly as a lager type beer.  With an average alcohol content of 5 to 5.5%, this beverage has the lowest level of alcohol of these three.

I like beer, but I find that the last bit in the glass is so bitter that it makes me shudder a bit.  I don’t do well with strong bitterness.  But the more I drink, the easier it gets.  It takes a lot of beer to really affect me.  A glass does very little.  I start to feel it after 2 glasses, but after 4 or 5, I have trouble walking completely straight.  The alcohol in beer sneaks up on me.  It slowly affects me, and it slowly goes away.  It leaves me with an unpleasant aftertaste.  But I still like beer.

Wine

I’m not a big wine drinker.  In fact, I can count the number of times I’ve had wine on one hand.  My first experience with wine wasn’t very positive.  I just didn’t like the taste.  I had wine tonight.  It was decent.  It was like dry, alcoholic grape juice.  It wasn’t so fruity, but it was quite dry.  What I drank was a red Cabernet Sauvignon from Argentina with a 13.5% alcohol content.  I only drank 2 glasses, and when I was finished, I still didn’t feel the alcohol.

So, how does wine’s alcohol affect me?  It takes a while for it to show itself.  About 50 minutes after starting to drink it, I could finally feel it a bit.  Since I had only 2 glasses, it wasn’t really much.  I felt a little lightheaded, and the feeling kept growing for about half an hour.  It seems like wine’s alcohol has a delayed reaction for me.  Within an hour, I felt nothing from the alcohol.

Sake

Japanese rice wine, or sake/nihonshu, is my biggest alcoholic love.  I absolutely love this stuff!  Hakkaizan from Niigata prefecture is my favourite at the moment.  With an alcohol content of 15%, this has the highest level of alcohol of the three drinks.  It also tastes the best, in my opinion.  While beer’s bitterness makes it a bit unpleasant for me, and tonight’s experience with wine was similar, sake goes down so smooth.

It is very easy to drink, yet it is the strongest.  Even if I drink it slowly, the alcohol goes to my head very quickly.  Even the dry sake is easy to drink.  I don’t feel that it’s bitter, which is a bonus.  The alcohol affects me quickly, but I recover very quickly, and I don’t feel the alcohol within a couple of hours.  Although it has a higher alcohol content than beer, its effect is much shorter for me.  And I don’t have any kind of bad aftertaste.  It seems that sake is the perfect alcoholic drink for me.

Conclusion

While beer is the cheapest, and I drink it the most, it isn’t my favourite.  I think my level of satisfaction with the flavour is on par with wine.  Sake wins in all aspects other than price.  It is the best tasting, the easiest to recover from, and the most satisfying experience.

Of course, alcohol affects different people differently.  I’ve noticed that many Japanese people can’t handle alcohol very well, and this has a good explanation.  Most Asian people have an enzyme that prevents the efficient metabolisation of alcohol in their bodies, so it makes them drunk faster.  I have 3 or 4 drinks with little effect on me, while many Japanese people turn red-faced with only one drink.  This is known as Asian flush reaction.  It’s amazing how most people in Japan can’t handle alcohol well, yet it’s very common to go drinking with colleagues and bosses every week. But some people have such low alcohol tolerance that they can’t drink alcohol at all.  It makes them feel sick with just a little bit to drink.

As I said before, I don’t have much experience with wine, but I am interested in trying different kinds.  What’s your favourite kind of alcohol?

Presenting Dramatically Mundane

I’d like to present to you a writing exercise I will be doing regularly to hone my narrative abilities.  I’m calling it “Dramatically Mundane.”  What I’ll be doing is taking a regular, everyday action or activity and describe it in more detail than is necessary.  Sitting down will become exciting.  Washing hands will become sensual.  Crossing the street will become amusing.  I aim to make boring activities entertaining and interesting.  I’ll be starting it this week, most likely.

I haven’t forgotten about the other writing activity I’ve planned.  I’m interested in getting that going, too.  So, please stay tuned!

Book review list update

I’d like to remind my readers about the review list I keep on this blog.  I love lists, so my reviews are categorised in a few different ways.  In addition to the full list by author, I have recently added a list of reviews by title.

In the future, I’ll be adding a couple more lists.  One is a list by date of publication, and the other is a list by the author’s country of origin.  I may also list books by genre, though it’s sometimes difficult to categorise books by genre.

As always, you can access the lists via the menu at the top of the page.

Are there any other ways you’d like to see the books listed?  Leave a comment!

My dream writing studio

For a long time, I’ve wanted my own room dedicated to books and writing.  Call it a writing studio, a library, an office, whatever you like to call it.  Some guys have a man cave.  I want my writing cave.

Well, it’s not a cave, it’s a standard room, has a door and a window, as well as 4 walls, a carpeted floor, and a ceiling.  I’m not much of a decorator, but I have my wishes for how I want it to look.  And maybe my dream writing studio is pretty standard looking.

I’d like two of the walls to be lined by big bookshelves.  They should be nearly to the ceiling, with some space at the top for various things I may collect.  I’d like them to be a rich reddish colour, maybe mahogany, cherry, or walnut.  They will hold my library, all of the books that I own.  I’ll arrange them by genre and author, allowing me to easily locate a book.

The walls will be painted a darker colour.  Bright colours are nice.  I like bright colours, but I want my cave to have a warm feeling, and a rich, dark colour would be ideal.  Like a red wine colour.  That would warm me up.

Furniture would be pretty standard.  A desk for my computer, of course.  I’d likely have a couple of laptops, a bigger desktop replacement, as well as a smaller netbook sized PC for writing away from home.  While the above description sounds traditional, I want a modern desk with a sleek design.  I wouldn’t just be using the computer for writing, but I do like other things, such as games, Youtube, Internet, and I can’t forget blogging.

I have a love for maps, so one of my walls will have several maps.  They’ll include a world map, a map of Canada, and a map of Japan.  Additional maps may include those of the worlds I’m creating in my writing.

I’d also like a nice, comfortable sofa to lounge on while I read.  Not a leather or vinyl sofa, but a simple cloth sofa that I won’t stick to on a hot summer day or leap in the air from shock on a cold winter day.

Some other various items may include astronomy related pictures or globes, plastic models of planes or ships (I’m interested in making these), and family photos.

What’s your idea of your own personal dream room?

The official blog of Jay Dee Archer. Exploring new worlds, real and fictional.