Wed Aug 30 01:25:31 2000
To: dad, suzanne a, Miguel
From: "Peter M. Rivard"
Subject: Microclimates

Hello, 8/29/2000

      Dad and Miguel, I know you like weird bits of information, and Suzanne, maybe you can show this to Joe for me. I have a weather question: how big does a mountain range have to be for weather to be completely different on opposite sides? I've noticed that when I cross through a 1.5 km tunnel toward the coast (through the last big mountain between Takefu and the sea), the temperature usually drops about 5 degrees (celsius)--there are digital temperature signs on both ends of the tunnel. Today, heading another direction, I left Takefu under slightly overcast but bright and dry conditions, and I emerged into the next town into darkness and pounding rain--just 1.1 km through the mountain, and I don't think the mountain was more than 500 m tall, maybe 400m over the level of the road--and maybe a lot less. Is this normal, or does it take special conditions to achieve this? These folks are big on tunnels (I think the tunnel to Hokkaido is something like 125 km long--what's that, maybe 75 miles long, all under the ocean [later correction--actual distance is 54 km, with maybe about 30 km under the sea]), so there must be a lot of opportunity to study this sort of thing, or at least to demonstrate it to the lay foreigner.
      Miguel, I've just read about a tourist attraction you would like--a two to four hour tour (depending on train schedules) of the Hokkaido train tunnel infrastructure, a couple of hundred meters under the ocean (yes, they have train stations for changing trains hundreds of meters under the ocean; no, I don't know why this is necessary or even why it's a good idea), going through access tunnels, including one where you can stand about a meter from the bullet train as it blasts by at 180 mph (apparently, it tends to knock you backward a few feet--I half wonder if this doesn't end up on one of those sadistic trick TV shows popular here). Speaking of bad TV, I saw a show last night showing three-year old kids being left alone in an American-style haunted house. The kids were terrified and alone, their faces twisted with screaming, while the host and audience watched through hidden TV cameras and laughed uproariously. It was the most horrifying human behavior I've ever seen. And then it was repeated for another pair of three year olds. This went on for half an hour (I was in a restaurant; I couldn't turn it off). This is a seriously weird country.

Greetings from Mars,

Peter

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