Is smaller nuclear greener nuclear?

Europe Revisits Nuclear Power as Climate Deadlines Loom

In theory, electricity is the greenest way to apply energy to our daily tasks of moving stuff around, powering devices, etc. And in theory nuclear power is a green way to grab that energy. But the waste storage problem hasn’t been solved, and the accidents are dramatically horrendous. Having moved to a country where 75% of the electicity is already nuclear, and where the President is bullish on the future of nuclear, including the next generation of mini-plants (mini in the sense of being about 1/6th the size of current plants, but they still can service a million people), I have to give the matter some thought.

I want to believe that there’s more to the question than simply whether one would prefer to die by radiation poisoning over being baked to death by global warming. I do know from a personal anecdote that, considered as an engineering problem, creating a small and relatively safe nuclear reactor is a solved question.

I had a best friend in college who went from being a fellow hippie to being the nuclear powerplant officer on a US Navy submarine. He told me that the American approach was to make the shielding and safety measures on the submarine so strict that a seaman would have less exposure to radiation on a two-year tour of duty than he or she would have living in a brick basement in the Midwest. The Soviet approach at the time was to limit a sailor to one tour of duty, because at the end of that time they would have received a lifetime maximum dosage.

Six Years On

Every year my one year long-term visitor visa to France expires in December. After five repetitions of this procedure I pretty much know what to expect. This year, however, when I visited the website to get the latest list of required documents, they had a page for a ten-year residence visa and I don’t see any reason why I cannot get that (the Préfecture may of course produce such reasons). So this year I’m trying for that, have all the documents except I want to include my transcript of the French courses I took at IEFE to support my “intégration républicaine” — there’s no language requirement for people 65 and over, but I figure it can’t hurt. I’ll go pick the transcript up tomorrow.

I only had four semesters of Intensive French for Foreigners, but it looms larger in my mind. I had been in Pau for a year, just starting to get my bearings, and wanted to kick up my French a notch. I’ve studied French off and on since high school, but living it and daily conversation are something you only get when you move to a Francophone country. I loved being at Uni, from the first day’s interview with the woman who would be my first semester’s Group teacher. Beyond brushing up on grammar and spending the bulk of four days a week in an environment of all-French conversation, the experience brought me into contact with students from all over the world including the US of A. What I ended up valuing the most was exposure to the French system of higher education, which suited my style to a T. I learned (at an advanced age) that, sometimes, I could be the best student in a class and no one would think less of me for that.

It did put music on hold for a couple of years, there was no way I could keep up with class while trying to make any progress on musical projects. But it was certainly worth that price.

I dropped out during my fourth semester, the Fall of 2017. Not because I had lost interest, but because my mind had caught fire from the #MeToo movement, which is when I got a WordPress account and started a blog. I had a very over-determined reaction to the movement which led to re-examination of my childhood experiences. As is my tendency, I quickly developed an obsession over it, and decided I would take down the Patriarchy on my own, by righteous blogging. 🙂

When I found myself in class furiously writing notes with both hands, one for the course and the other for the blog, I knew something had to give. I had already made sufficient progress in French to get by adequately and had no interest in finishing a degree, so my choice was easy.

I got started with the project, the first four entries in this blog date from that stage. Then the steam ran out. Turned out that my personal concerns related to relationships and all that stuff were, once closely examined, beside the point. All I really wanted to do was play music, which is what I’ve been doing ever since. With one exception.

COVID and the First Confinement knocked me for a loop, like it did everyone, for sure. Stranded alone in my apartment, I decided to take up the blog again and see what I could do with it. It seemed obvious — turn it into a meta-humorous-philosophical art project with the theme of inside typographical jokes, the dilemmas of learning French, and side discussions of programming, writing, editing, proofreading, and, of course, the Kate Bush fan site section. Blogs 5 through 9 are all that I have left posted from this phase, though I have tons of stuff moved to the not-published drafts area.

It started out well I thought, then became distinctly self-referential, which was in keeping with the spirit of the thing. One topic of interest was the different AZERTY keyboard I was using sometimes. I thought it would be amusing to try to type on it and then the QWERTY US one while thinking in terms of the other one. While making jokes about typographical errors, and errors in general. And making jokes about the editor I was typing in. And the programming behind that editor — I am or was a programmer, right? At one point I was trying to take screen shots on my smartphone of previous screen shots and began thinking seriously about infinite loops and whether or not I could create one in my mind, which seemed to be the direction I was headed in any case.

I do not recommend attempting to create an infinite loop in your mind. 🙂 I am certain that if I had presented myself to a psychiatric institution during the three subsequent days they would have admitted me without hesitation. I completely lost language, which is a big deal. I tried to invent a system of symbols I could count on to try to get language back. I have a lot of cryptic journal entries from those days. Eventually I recovered the mental level of my cats (they were rather concerned about me) and realized that the apartment wasn’t really cat-proof, so we did that.

Then I had a phase where the only reason I didn’t believe V. Putin was out to get me personally was that I wasn’t worth the effort. I read all sorts of subliminal messages into what I saw online, and came to the conclusion that I would have to eliminate all connections with technology. I threw away a writable notepaper tablet I had just bought, disconnected the cable, demolished my smartphone (they’re hard to break, you have to hammer the screen with genuine malice, and when you remove the battery you have to unwind it, and it heats up when you do that, which, if you’re being paranoid, is unsettling), even (for reasons still unknown) decided I should remove all the batteries from everything that had them, and throw away the battery covers, and then (for reasons even less known) cut the straps off my musical instrument gig bags (this project was left incomplete, which is considered good 🙂 )

It took a while, but eventually I mustered the courage to start going outside again (one thing I never lost was the awareness that I had become a subject of concern to family and friends, with good reason, and I didn’t want that) and gradually reconnect with reality/society. Bought my tablet and reconnected the cable. Re-learned language skills. Resumed music. Made new friends. Eventually rediscovered this blog. Which is fun, I love everything related to words and this is a much better place to play with them than Facebook was.

WordPress has a handy “time to blog” alert which I have set to Sundays, a good day to take off from practicing Bach (my shoulders, right elbow, and fingers are all at their practical limits and need a rest now and then) and reflect. And play with words, which I love.

Random Walks

One fallout from my recent decision to ditch the at-home internet (since rescinded, see this Facebook Post I never promised the Internet that I’d stay connected 24/7) was that I re-committed myself to getting outside every day. Yesterday, after taking the recycling to the collection point, I wandered around town and had the following experiences:

1. Passed by Eglise St Martin, went in and lit a candle, meditated a few minutes and thought good thoughts about my son and everyone else I know in the US. Gave alms to a mendicant at the door on my way out.

2. Chatted with Patricia at Pau’s Café about when they expect to re-open (mid-December). They do have internet.

3. Passed by L’Escampette the independent bookstore. Bought a little book of Emily Dickinson and a tiny pamphlet about early cinema (I think) which I found attractive because it was small and you have to cut the tops of the pages, like in olden times, you know, with a penknife.

4. Said Hi to the friendly man at the Catholic Bookstore.

5. Returned via rue Serviez, where there was a Nouveaux Beaujolais Festival in swing in front of the Nikolas Liquor Store. A mixed Béarnais beret-wearing choir singing lusty regional folk songs with accordion accompaniment.

6. Then I noticed the seven geese in the street. Three ganders and four geese. Being herded by five border collies and two shepards in fleece vests. Four donkeys up the street a ways. Must be Christmas in Pau time!

Clearly, getting out every day, even without any reason, is a profitable activity.

Today I went out again, a bit rainy, Sunday, not much open, I would have settled for any warm place to sit down and have a beer. But I did see some brass fish wall hanging art that a friend brought back to his gallery from a recent trip to Italy. About twenty of them in his shop window. One of them may migrate to my apartment next week, so long as I don’t have to take out a loan to buy it.

Walked up to The Red Lion pub (large, British-themed, friendly) to see if they were open. No, and they’re closed for renovations it seems but had a sign with their Facebook Page on it so I’ll keep an eye out.

Heard a commotion from the direction of the Verdun Parking Lot and saw that the County Fair was back for another weekend. I love strolling through that sort of thing, the expressions on people’s faces as they pay to be terrorized, the wide-eyed children, the bored Carnies running the sucker games, the blinking noisy Las Vegas ambiance.

The not very subtle undercurrent of sex and rebellion. Reminds me of the Knox County Fairs I went to as a boy. Once, when I was nine or ten, a carnie cruised me, giving me free rides then chatting about how he wanted to go get a six-pack and retire to his room, said that he imagined that that “sounds pretty good to you, right?” Well, not really. From the shallow depths of my knowledge about people and sex I replied as if I had gathered that he was looking for children and that I would find them for him. Which kind of freaked him out I guess because that conversation ended and there were no more free rides.

Mid-Sixties it was another County Fair where I first did, in fact, have the sex. My fellow hippie and friend who owned The Calico Cat head shop in Galesburg Illinois had a tent at the Fair where I hung out. Got to know some of the Fair People, including the guy who was The Bearded Lady. Interesting how they do that, with mirrors and stuff. It was funny that the barker would invite only women from the audience to touch his leg to prove he was real, and, as a bearded lady, it would not have been proper for a man to do so. He was funny too, introduced me to his ragtag friends, bought me vodka from the package liquor store just outside the town limits.

The sex part I found underwhelming, but that’s just me. We wrote letters for a while, one of my connections to the World outside the Midwest. And this random walk has ended up loosely connecting to the earliest posts of this blog (my over-determined response to the #MeToo movement then in progress).

The Peril of Miniaturization

Well, I am exhausted and it’s only 9am. First something woke me up at 3am, can’t remember what (oh, right, it was the sound of a cat vomiting, Henri, dry food, edge of rug, not too bad), and then I couldn’t get back to sleep so I had a cup of coffee and practiced Bach for a couple of hours, then went to sleep on the couch.

Re-awoke at 8am, decided to make my Capital One card payment, they have an option for Biometric Security, and ever since my Bitcoin Wallet ZenGo insisted I turn that on, no options, I’ve been liking the fingerprint thingie a lot (the facial recognition creeps me out) so I said, sure, why not. But then they had to send me a double-protection code on my US phone and my T-Mobile SIM is temporarily in storage awaiting the switchover of my French number from Orange to Free tomorrow.

OK, no problem, I’ll just pop the T-Mobile SIM back in, which I did, got the code, made the payment. Of course, at this point the Orange SIM is in the slot labeled “T-Mobile” because that’s what will be there and now the T-Mobile SIM is in the one labeled “Free.” Still, not confusing. Then I decide to just leave the phone alone until tomorrow, I might need T-Mobile again, who knows. So I want to store the Free nano-SIM safely. And while trying to insert it, in its nano-to-micro adaper in its own micro-to-standard adapter, into my adapter storage thingie, unbelievable as it may seem, the nano-SIM jumped out and scurried under the couch.

So now we are faced with the recurring problem of “Find the ridiculously tiny yet infinitely valuable speck of plastic under the couch among a year’s worth of cat hair balls, pulled-out couch stuffing, and, as it turns out, a dark dead dessicated spider, her legs neatly folded as if in prayer.” (Are those spider adjectives in the right order?) OK, not yet panic time, I can do this, I search with the flashlight, nope. I use the hand broom to make a preliminary sweep. Nope. Meanwhile Luna has spilled my glass of water on the floor so I might as well bite the bullet and pull the couch out and do it right.

Removed the quilt and Knoxville Illinois commemorative comforter, the pillows, the cushions and back-supporting “husband,” slid the coffee table out and the two little tables, pushed back the wires and lamp, got the Dyson down, and commenced. Still nope. Now I’m a little concerned. Could I have swept it up in the first go? It’s certainly small enough to hide in a furball. I am just at the point of going to get my kitchen gloves so I can dig through the trash, sitting on the couch to re-combobulate, when I glance down and the little white SIM is at my feet. I swear it wasn’t there when I sat down.

It’s all for the best I suppose, gives me a start on picking the place up for the The Best Book Club meeting in December chez moi. I’ve only ever had two parties since I moved here, one a little apartment warming and the other the time I had the British Ladies’ Tea. So it’s time. I may even make the bed.

Safe at last. Miniaturization can be carried too far. No wonder people believe Bill Gates is putting microchips into vaccines.