Something for everybody

This is a bit of a smorgasbord, starting with a brief review of 2 books I’ve reread in the past month, which are amazingly similar in many respects. I wonder whether anyone else has remarked on the resemblances between Venture to the Interior by Laurens van der Post and The Snow Leopard by Peter Matthiessen. Venture was first published in 1952 whereas The Snow Leopard only appeared in 1979, so it is entirely possible that van der Post’s book was read by Matthiessen. A Google search failed to reveal any previous revelations – so you read it first here.

Snow Leopard

Photo credit: Photo by Dennis Conner. Courtesy of Snow Leopard Trust.

Both authors had founded, in association with others, literary magazines in their youth: Voorslag by v/d Post and The Paris Review by Peter Mattiessen. Both books are accounts of journeys into remote mountains, both interweave elements of the authors’ “other lives” into the account, both take the form of logs of the journeys interspersed with spiritual longings and transcendental experiences, both are heavily influenced by the Eastern religions (and by Jung in the case of v/d Post) and both recount fairly extreme hardships and dangers encountered in wild and forbidding places.

Most importantly, both v/d Post and Mattiessen are masters of profoundly poetic description and transport the reader out of the predictable world most of us inhabit, into the unfamiliar and exotic. Of the two, Mattiessen’s is the more demanding and the more profound and authentic. Laurens van der Post’s reputation took a severe pounding, some of it unjustified, by his biographer, JDF Jones, which has tinged one’s response with a residue of scepticism difficult to shake off entirely. But, both books regularly appear in lists of the best travel books and deserve to be read by lovers of the genre. For some pictures of the most elusive (and longtailed?) cat in the world, the snow leopard, see here.

I am a big fan of nuclear power (see I said it) and was intrigued by this piece on Micro Nukes.

While the industry was in deep freeze, they were pressing ahead with one of the most promising emerging technologies in energy: micro-size nuclear reactors, fully functional power plants a good deal closer to the size of the test reactor I’m standing near. It is a far cry from the standard nuclear plant—the size of a small town, cranking out enough electricity to power a major city—not to mention the even bigger plants going up in China and France.

…miniaturized nuclear plants are small enough to mass-produce, driving down costs, and they can be shipped just about anywhere by truck or boat, even to locations that are off the grid. Also, micro nukes can be designed to run a long time without maintenance or refueling. They could be sealed like a big battery and buried underground for as long as three decades, so terrorists could not get into them and nuclear waste could not get out. A spent micro nuke could simply be plucked out of the ground and shipped whole to a waste-processing or recycling facility anywhere in the world; the old one could be swapped out for a new one, cartridge-style.”

NuScale claims it will be able to produce power at about seven to nine cents per kilowatt-hour—roughly the same as big nuclear plants, only a few cents more than the cheapest modern natural gas–fired or coal-fired plants, and one-third the cost of a typical diesel generator. Michael Corradini, who heads the nuclear engineering program at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, notes that while the economics of micro nukes make sense, the biggest advantage to the approach may be that there is so little to go wrong with it. “The NuScale design has a lot of inherent safety, and that makes it very appealing,” he says.

It’s worth reading the full article (see link above) bearing in mind the 24 000 American deaths annually from fossil fuel pollution: I wonder how that translates to SA?

For those interested in the origins, interrelationships and migrations of mankind Gene Expression has an interesting and diverse blog.

Next post is back to Spain. But in the meantime, I have plenty to do.

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About Mike Berger

I have followed an exciting and demanding career as a medical doctor and scientist with an equally challenging and varied retirement. I love both writing and photography in all their interactive and diverse manifestations. I have a couple of blogs, Aperture and Solar Plexus, which reflect my interests and commitments. They both lubricate and motivate the creative process and facilitate communication. Through the process of exchange we join a wider family of fully engaged fellow travellers on the journey of life.
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