My Father Lives In Japan

And part of my back-brain wonders if he glows in the dark now.

The damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in Okuma, Japan, on Monday.
The damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in Okuma, Japan, on Monday.
My father lives in Japan. He has for a decade now. So when I say I’m a little distracted about the whole earthquake/tsunami/radiation leak, most people nod and understand. What you don’t get is that, for my entire life, Dad’s worked with nukes.

My father expresses his own Reflections after The Great Japan Earthquake – If you’re interested to know the whys of behavior from the Japanese government, he explains it and criticizes it.

What he does, in his own words:

His risk career started at the Management Analysis Company in 1983, where he created RiTSE, a 5th generation software which simulated reactor trips at nuclear power plants. He has been with PLG/EQE/ABSC since 1986, when he was on the team for the PSA of the NASA space shuttle (SST) after the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster.

In the 1980s, I went with him on a lot of his conferences and I used to wander freely around, checking out the computers, asking people questions, and basically being a weird kid. I distinctly remember when we went to New Orleans, there was a guy there with a ‘video game’ that let you walk through a power plant. He was delighted to have a child using his software, to show how easy it was. I suspect he was less delighted when I asked ‘But how does this make it safer if you can’t interact with the plant? Why not just do it all remotely?’ His point was you could walk through the plant and see how dangerous it was, I suppose, but at the time I was trying to understand how it lowered the risks before a critical event happened.

Oh yeah, I was that kid. I grew up on this stuff, and always thought risk assessment was something you were supposed to do all the time. I didn’t know it was risk assessment. I thought it was common sense! So now, when I write about our Failure of Imagination with regards to testing software, I learned about my sources (Herb Hecht) from my father. My approach to open-source coding comes directly from his approach to Open-PSA (probabilistic safety assessment).

When the news hit about Japan, I was up, out of bed, and calling Dad on Skype. Was he okay? Where was he? Did he need anything? When the news about the reactors hit, I emailed him. Is it as bad as they say? Did it already meltdown?

My point of view for both the reactor meltdown and how Japan is handling it is colored by, as my father might say, my lack of Western Glasses. I went to Japan in 2008, and now I know that all the places I saw just don’t look like that anymore. I also know that the people I met have all been affected by this. It astounds me that Shikoku (where Henro is) was mostly unaffected.

I’m left remembering the Heart Sutra, which you’re supposed to recite when you go to temples in Shikoku.

When Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara was practicing the profound Prajna Paramita, he illuminated the Five Skandhas and saw that they are all empty, and he crossed beyond all suffering and difficulty.

Shariputra, form does not differ from emptiness; emptiness does not differ from form. Form itself is emptiness; emptiness itself is form. So too are feeling, cognition, formation, and consciousness.

Shariputra, all Dharmas are empty of characteristics. They are not produced, not destroyed, not defiled, not pure; and they neither increase nor diminish. Therefore, in emptiness there is no form, feeling, cognition, formation, or consciousness; no eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, or mind; no sights, sounds, smells, tastes, objects of touch, or Dharmas; no field of the eyes up to and including no field of mind consciousness; and no ignorance or ending of ignorance, up to and including no old age and death or ending of old age and death. There is no suffering, no accumulating, no extinction, and no Way, and no understanding and no attaining.

Because nothing is attained, the Bodhisattva through reliance on Prajna Paramita is unimpeded in his mind. Because there is no impediment, he is not afraid, and he leaves distorted dream-thinking far behind. Ultimately Nirvana! All Buddhas of the three periods of time attain Anuttara-samyak-sambodhi through reliance on Prajna Paramita. Therefore know that Prajna Paramita is a Great Spiritual Mantra, a Great Bright Mantra, a Supreme Mantra, an Unequalled Mantra. It can remove all suffering; it is genuine and not false. That is why the Mantra of Prajna Paramita was spoken. Recite it like this:

Gaté Gaté Paragaté Parasamgaté

Bodhi Svaha!

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