Hello, atomic energy answer seekers!

Hi to everyone who is stumbling over my little blog here googling for nuclear power plants

Search terms leading to happyasclams last week

As you will see, this blog is not about forms of energy, or anti-nuclear activism. It’s about us living life a little differently, embracing the teachings of Henry David Thoreau (voluntary simplicity and minimalism), and trying to bring this sustainability philosophy a little more into the center of society.

So I apologize if there isn’t any anti-nuclear energy polemics to be found here, just my humble opinion about the recent developments in Japan and elsewhere in two or three posts. But before you move on on your search for answers, I would like to thank you. I’m glad you went out there and used the internet to inform yourself. A lack of willingness to get informed is the most dangerous thing that can happen to societies: it means that they stand still. The same thing accounts for not choosing your information but instead let them be pre-filtered by someone else (like on TV). Choosing and finding information is the single best aspect of the internet in my opinion.

In this particular case, not caring to be informed about something that is happening in Japan (on the other side of the world) comes from a false idea that the world is really big. In fact, the opposite is true. It’s a tiny blue ball in the middle of a whole lot of nothing (well astrophysicists might disagree), and I can board a plane now and with a stop in Singapore or Hawaii I’ll be on the other side of that ball in a matter of hours. So you really don’t need to qualify as “hippie” or “liberal” to be interested in these things, and to whatever opinion you might come to the end I would like to express to you my heartfelt appreciation that you tried, and I wish you good luck on your journey.

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Photo of the week

People using the Mangoro river in South-Eastern Madagascar to transport goods.

Mangoro river in Madagascar - Copyrighted material, please obtain permission before use.

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The allegory of the cave

Disclaimer: Most of my information about this story comes from what I anecdotally knew before, spiced up with info from the web – I haven’t read the original “Republic” myself yet.

In the cave allegory by Plato (he lets his teacher Socrates narrate the story), there is a society of prisoners chained inside a cave who are facing the cave walls and are being entertained by shadow plays that are cast to the cave walls by free people walking by a fire in the back of the cave. The cave men see their own shadows as well, thinking that they themselves are shadows, and spend their time forecasting the other shadows. One prisoner then is being released, and discovers the reality outside the cave.

In pop culture of course the cave allegory has been replaced by the more cool “matrix” concept.

Plato’s bottom line is as ever so often, that reality is only what we perceive as reality, which might not be the real reality after all (because we can only see our own reality). Discussions about the nature of reality were all the rage with philosophers of the greek antique. Once in a while, someone might have a new idea which would equal breaking free from the cave and discover that there can also be another reality, expanding humanity’s horizons.

In fact, I’m just reading Jakob Lund Fisker’s book “Early retirement extreme” that deals with just that: breaking free from the norms and realizing that the common way of living life prevented the author from reaching his set goal (which is early retirement). Although personally there isn’t much novelty in the book for me, it’s still an inspiring and well-written read on how to be different in order to achieve what you want. Fisker summons the cave allegory in the introduction to his book, reading which I slapped my head and said “of course”!

Old Plato, always good for enlightenment, tsk… and thanks J.L. Fisker  to bringing him up to me again!

The actual scary part of the allegory for me is that Mr. caveman apparently was a more content person while he was chained up in his cave, busy making it up the social ranks among his shadow-mates, foretelling shadow plays that were broadcast at his cave’s walls (talking to his virtual friends on facebook while watching TV, anyone??). When he is released and sees the sun, at first it hurts his eyes and he wishes back to his pitiable but happy former existence. If he could he’d run right back to that cave and take the “forget” pill. Unfortunately Plato hadn’t invented the “forget” pill yet…But after acclimating to the new conditions, he cannot even return to his former home, friends and the shadow games they play because he can’t see well in the darkness.We don’t really learn whether he’s happy in the end or not but I suspect rather not.

In the end he got enlightened, but that made him an outcast. The one who walks the path less traveled is always the one walking with less people by their side. Funny enough, it only takes a certain number of people to make that path more traveled, and the majority is going to follow. Until then, you’ll have better chances to be happy in the process, if you are someone who likes walking alone.

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Choice conflict

I’m just reading a book about behavioural economics (Why smart people make big money mistakes — And how to correct them by Belsky & Gilovich), and a passage about “choice conflict” stuck with me.

They write about decision-making of customers when presented with more versus fewer choices. Interestingly, customers tended to buy fewer jam when presented with a larger variety of jams to taste beforehand (Which reminded me of the first time going into an American supermarket and almost getting a nervous breakdown over having to pick a box of breakfast cereal out of a whole aisle full of them). Fewer choices lead to faster decision-making.

Belsky and Gilovich write:

The more choice, in other words, the harder the choice. Such findings may seem like common sense, but their ramifications throughout society reverberate wide and deep. Indeed, we suspect that choice conflict is one of the reasons “progress” — defined in late twentieth-century America as the freedom to choose from an ever expanding selection of products, services, and opportunities — seems to engender as much angst as it does excitement. We may think we want nearly unlimited selections of televisions, or vacations, or jobs. But in some immeasurable way, this exploding freedom of choice raises its own discomfort and difficulties, particularly when choices are good and getting better. But enough contemplation on the impact of consumerism on  the meaning of life…”

In other words, choice conflict could provide an explanation for the stress experienced when our modern-day life is full of stuff and hectic activities..and explain the relief felt by many once they simplify. Leading a simpler life apparently matches our default settings, and can better the ability to make decisions.

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How to be beautiful

Only eat crackers with diet cheese every day, until your body doesn’t look a day older than twelve.
Use lots of make up and spray-tan, and botox from the age of 29.
Read lots of advice books on how to conduct yourself on a date.
Never wear the same outfit twice.
Look like everyone else in your social target group.

– The media and public opinion

Well, I’d rather listen to this lady here:

For attractive lips, speak words of kindness.
For lovely eyes, seek out the good in people.
For a slim figure, share your food with the hungry.
For beautiful hair, let a child run their fingers through it once a day.
For poise, walk with the knowledge that you never walk alone.
People, more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed. Remember, if you ever need a helping hand, you will find one at the end of each of your arms.
As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands, one for helping yourself and the other for helping others.”

– Audrey Hepburn

It’s not as if she didn’t know what she was talking about..

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Photo of the week

Small things can look intimidating when you come closer. Look at the jaws (mandibles) of these leaf-cutter ants in Panama!

Leafcutter ants in Panama. Copyrighted material - please ask permission before use.

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smashed, defeated

Mountain 2: clams 0!! Last week’s hiking was wonderful – the sun was out the whole day, we picked a really nice hidden private reservation that we had overlooked so far with rolling hills and cedar and oak forests, including a spectacular view… except that there was a little detail that didn’t fit in quite right with my early spring mood… 25F temperatures and extremely icy winds!!


I guess you all know that.. as soon as the sun comes out in spring, everyone forgets about the actual temperatures, peeling out of their oniony wintery layers of clothing and then.. the flu strikes. So I’m stuck in bed with fever, cough and a head that wants to explode since three days straight which also is the reason for not posting anything for so long. I guess there isn’t much I could have done to prevent that from happening – we were wearing hats, fleece, jackets..al the appropriate stuff – except for maybe not opening my jacket a bit when I started sweating once in a while. But the cold wind was really cruel, my legs got so cold that I had strained muscle pain all over for two days. And tonight, it snowed again with more snow to come in next week – what kind of spring is this?? Oh well.. I’ll get back to productivity as soon as I resume the vertical position.

Lunch break - delicious avocado-chicken breast sandwich made by Mr. Handsome

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