Bare Bones Biology 334 – Cold


Speaking of facts, as we were last week, it’s a fact that it gets cold up here at 7000 feet altitude with one foot on each side of the continental divide. A fact that I need to deal with – I who am made sick by toxic air and combustion fumes.



Which is worse? Spending one’s evenings barfing in the bathroom from toxic fumes of burning gas, oil, coal or the like? Or freezing in the clear cold air of the unheated canyon? Electrical energy was useful in the good old days before they started using toxic paints on the space heaters.


Those are the unfortunate facts. Too many people, too much garbage in the air, water and soil, and all of those things recycle in our Biosystem – over and over and over again, changing form over time, more or less forever. And so the climate changes.


But that’s not what this blog is about. This time we are thinking about our personal survival as real people with physiological needs and limitations.


And I just glanced out the window as I was writing this, on September 24, to the first snow of the season, huge flakes flopping down on yellowing leaves and bending over the tall grasses before melting into the thin ice of our first hard freeze.   Last year I had more than four feet of snow on the roof. Someone said six inches a bit higher up.


160908-nance-asc_6172rlssFacts definitely are facts, and as I mentioned last week, we have basically three choices (minimum) with regard to any fact. First, pretend it isn’t so. This can be lethal. Suicidal I think was the word I used last week. Second, try to change the fact, but of course this cannot work if it is a real fact because facts – the word means the things we cannot change, and there is no way I can change what the weather chooses to do on any given day. Third is to change how we behave – to organize our behaviors to accommodate the facts, and today I want to tell you about the neat little house that one woman made for herself, by herself, of course with a little help from her friends and the community.


It begins with tried and true lessons learned in a community that knows how to live in a hard land. Note the steep angle of the roof that encourages the snow to leave, and the deep overhang to the north that piles the snow in a way that protects the house.


On the south side the house incorporates some more modern technology, a Trombe wall is what particularly interests me today.

“A Trombe wall is a passive solar building design where a wall is built on the winter sun side of a building with a glass external layer and a high heat capacity internal layer separated by a layer of air. Light (energy that is) close to UV in the electromagnetic spectrum passes through the glass almost unhindered, then is absorbed by the wall.”


The wall is made of any substance that absorbs a lot of heat and releases it slowly. So the UV light energy is changed to heat energy when it hits the rock or concrete or whatever the wall is made of. The heat energy cannot escape through the glass as easily as it came in, and so it heats up the wall and then, on the inside of the wall, it heats the house.

Yes, that does sound a lot like the cause of global warming. The physics is the same fact in both cases. Reminding us again that we can’t change the facts — it is how we use the known facts that makes all the difference to our survival.

The small roof overhanging the Trombe wall is designed so that the sun in winter hits the heat absorbing south wall of the house, but the wall is shaded from the summer sun to prevent overheating.


160908-nance-asc_6190rlssAdditionally of course, the modern tech touch includes a solar panel that provides electricity all year round. Solar is not very useful for heating or for cooking, because the gadgets used for those things need to plug in to a high energy source, so the wood stove makes up any unmet energy needs.


Some pictures are on the blog post. We only have about 600 words here, so if you have specific questions, you can leave them here.


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Bare Bones Biology 332 – Facts

I have finally conquered lecture one of Physics. It took about six weeks, but now I can spontaneously tell you that speed equals distance divided by time. For example, miles per hour. And velocity is displacement divided by time, which is not what I thought it was and explains some of my confusion about the facts that are described by the science of physics. Displacement is how far away you are from where you started – not how many miles you went to get there. Words, words, words, but their definitions are critically important if we want to understand the facts they describe.


Personally, I don’t much care, but I now have these mathematical definitions in my mind so I can go on to number two of the 60 lectures in the course. Probably take the rest of my life, but I want to know how the language of the math works, because our modern generations seem to understand that mathematical facts are facts – but not to understand ALL facts are facts.


Two plus two = four. Surely it does, and always it does, regardless how we name the numbers. Four, quatro160917-mountainmusic-asc_6264rss-copy, whatever the word, the fact remains a fact.


There was a time in human history when we did not have numbers to help us understand the facts of our universe. Understanding the numbers, the facts, gave us power. Power to align ourselves with the reality, or to fight against it, but not to change the facts — because facts do not change for us. By definition.   The word applies to things/realities/forces that humans cannot change. Regardless of how some authors mis-use the word to sell books.


Somehow in the past 50 years or so, the majority of people (voters/citizens) seem to have come to the idea that science changes facts. Science does not change facts. Neither does technology. Basic science seeks to understand the facts, and technology seeks to use the facts. What we use them for is basically up to the people, and that is where religion should come in, but instead we seem to have ditched it, or perhaps sidelined would be a better description; put our religions into separate little boxes that don’t directly relate to the realities of Life, and science off in some other separate box.

But the fact is that facts are facts – the same facts, if they are real, both in science and religion. Just as the word “two” means two, also the word “fact” means something that we cannot change, so once we know what the facts are, it makes no sense to try to fight against them. Cooperate, yes; align ourselves with reality, yes; fight against something that we cannot change? Stupid, really. Suicidal.


Where I sit now, in a cabin at 7000 plus feet altitude, a few steps from the US continental divide, I look out the window as the sun is rising, behind a thousand feet of cliff in my back yard, and skinny clouds form and slither and creep through the canyon with the fluid ease of misty, slowly swirling Gods, or maybe omnipotent, hungry dragons that swallow me up slicker than a snake swallows a rat, it’s easy enough to believe in facts. Maybe it’s not so easy, where you live, to believe in the omnipotence of reality, but the root facts are the same everywhere.


2 + 2 = 4.

Surely it does, and if we would rather believe that 2+2 = 5, then we are wrong, and when we get the facts wrong we get our answers wrong. Like Hitleresque bullies stumbling around in a continental divide midnight thunderstorm, trying to prove that we are bigger than the clouds – bigger even than the cliff.



We could tear it down with our machines, but that would not change the Facts of Life.


We can’t change gravity, how it works to bring the boulders crashing down the hill during a midnight thunderstorm. We can’t change systems, how they speak to each other in the language of information energy. We can’t change time or space and neither can our Einsteins.


Better to figure out how the facts work and how to use them properly — for the common good, for all sentient beings, for the glory of God and The Creation.   For the welfare of human kind.


Why else are we here?


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Bare Bones Biology 331 – September Song

This is my September Song, written in on 9-1-1, 2007. Entitled Voldemort.


To me this date every year is a reminder of the kindness of Takahashi-sensei

On that morning when I woke to shocking images on television

Of an unbelievable call to realty

And arrived on his doorstep an hour early

For my Japanese lesson.



And very soon after that, George Bush and Osama bin Laden began their macho

Pax de deux.



On this date – today, in 2007 – the television greeted me with

A message even more shocking to me, if that were possible::



         “It doesn’t matter what we have done

It matters what we have become.”



What have we become?


We have become a people who no longer CARE what we have done.


And what has been done

In my name

by my country

curdles my insides.


Whatever we have become can never change what we have done


It matters:


It matters to the orphans; it matters to God’s Creation; and it matters to me.


We have broken our own laws;

We are terrorists, pretending to be heroes.

We have emasculated our constitution;

And desecrated our flag.

We have chosen to abuse the whole world,

Rather than nurture the Creation.


Pretending to be heroes.


“And what does your God require of you but to

love kindness

do justice

and walk humbly with him?”


And I’ll repeat this ending to the folk story told by Joseph Campbell and Bill Moyers on their exceptional DVDs that can be obtained at


“And the man killed the bird

And with the bird he killed the song

And with the song – himself.”


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Bare Bones Biology 329 – Ignorance


 “. . . ignorance by itself is a potent cause of suffering, knitting the net in which man is caught – the net of false hopes, of unrealistic and harmful desires, of delusive ideologies, and of perverted values and aims.”   Nyonaponika Thera,    1993.


Short of death and taxes we have a fair number of lesser disasters to face in life, most of which result from ignorance of the reality of a situation or from forgetting what we already knew. Or just wishing.

My most recent was aided and abetted by a couple of people who claim they wanted to be “colleagues” but were abusively opposed to finding out what it is that I am trying to do that we might be collegial about.


Colleague is a professional, city kind of word. During the decades that I was a professional city kind of person I only had one colleague who – well never mind, she used to write toxic letters, but she never actually tried to physically trash another persons work, so far as I know.


160711-sargents-asc_4806rls-copySo, now I’m back in the canyon, where the aspens are already beginning to turn and air we breath is incomparable to any city kind of professional air, anywhere, and I am healthier living here than I have been in a decade or two, but — nobody got what they wanted most.


Yesterday, Bitsy and I popped in to the Winter Palace to do laundry and a few chores and right back out to the wilderness. It’s a good way to live, but it wastes a lot of gas, not to mention contributing to the prevailing pollution, so I try to not do it very often. I washed the bedding that smelled of the cabin, relocated what I think is our last house-rat. He looked pretty bad, thin and undernourished, I put him out near some horses so maybe he can find food; there isn’t any here, just the smells, and I plugged up his entryway, but of course they know the entrances and exits better than I do and the cabin is a vermin-sieve, but Bitsy and I together are pushing them back out into the real world. After a hot afternoon of vermin chasing, she goes up in the loft, stretches out on the carpet, leans her head over the edge and watches from above as I work .


It could have been worse. One disaster out of ten or twelve biggish cooperative efforts is probably a good record – very good if we consider that win/win/win is not a goal to which most people now aspire, and if I look back and count up, this one was only half a disaster, because there is no such thing as a glass half full, and it’s the bot


tom half from which we learn. People who live from the top never do learn much, and the odd thing is they boast about it even though they know it’s only half a life.


And that reminds me of another meme we invented to avoid thinking, some time back in my life, that said: “everyone has a right to (her) own (beliefs-behaviors).” I disagree; I was raised in the Hitler era, and I refuse to empower abusive behaviors in myself or others, for any reason other than physical self-defense, which fortunately has not been an issue — yet.

And anyhow, whatever I can do to explain biological reality to the corposystem will not prevent the impending collapse, because it’s just us few micro-components against the full emergent might of the corposystem, and we will lose. I knew that when I started. Yes, it is a tragedy, but it is happening, with or without my consent.


“And the man killed the bird,

And with the bird he killed the song,

And with the song – he killed himself.“


So be it. I made my choices. What’s the point of saving the world of man if men   can’t behave decently in it.


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