Eye Trouble

This site is on temporary hiatus because I am having problems with my eyes. I will be back as soon as possible.


We Are One In Song

I want to quote architect and sustainability guru Tom Bender –  http://www.tombender.org/ (I’ve changed a couple of words so that song refers to instrumentals as well as vocal songs, which he was originally talking about):

“Song is the voice of the soul. Song is a mingling of our hearts, a sharing, a giving, an affirmation. It is giving release and place to our emotions. It is as essential to community life as to our personal lives. Without song as an integral part of our lives there is no shared celebration of harmony, no balance to the small separating things of life that accumulate and can tear us and our society asunder. Song is part of work, part of celebrating, of joy, of pleasure. It is the expression and purging of grief, the vibrations healing our inner spirits. We are one in song.”

Oliver Sacks gathers evidence that music is an important part of being human in his book Musicophiliahttp://musicophilia.com/ As far as we know, music has been part of every human society .

I do know of two groups that tried to severely limit access to music – Hitler’s Germany and Islamic extremists, especially the Taliban. Both are far right-wing, authoritarian, hierarchical, women-denigrating cultures. Why does this kind of group fear music?

One clue, I think, is found in an interesting fact I learned from Oliver Sacks’s book. Unlike doctors, lawyers, or members of other professions, the brain of a musician can be recognized during an autopsy, especially if he began music at a young age. This is because his brain will have grown an unusual number of connections between the two halves (women’s brains also tend to have more connections between the halves than men’s).

It is theorized that these extra connections forge a more direct link between thinking and feeling – a necessary skill for interpreting music. But strong and direct connections between thinking and feeling naturally tend to lead a person to be more empathetic.

Also, making music is necessarily a cooperative endeavor. There is room for leadership, but of a shifting kind, and based strictly on practicality and competence. Music must be true to itself, not produced within a structure of arbitrary authority – such can be done, but it is invariably bad music, and every musician knows it.

So despots have two reasons to view musicians as a threat: 1) empathic and creative people are not likely to buy into a “party line” of arbitrary authority; and 2) it is dangerous for the despot to allow groups of people to learn that they can produce something good and valuable outside the rigid system, and do it cooperatively.

So sing! Take up an instrument! Support music education! Enjoy!

[check out      http://www.hungryformusic.org


Thermal comfort for us humans falls within a narrow range of temperatures (extended one way or the other a bit by humidity, air movement, activity, clothes, age, health, etc.). Therefore, when the weather doesn’t cooperate, one of the main tasks of our shelters is to produce a thermal comfort zone for us.

Heat is actually a portion of the spectrum of electromagnetic radiation. It moves (from warmer to cooler) three ways:

  • Conduction is the movement of heat through solid objects, for example walls, ceilings and floors. The way to slow this movement is by using insulation. This works in both cold weather when you want to keep heat in, and hot weather when you want to keep heat out.
  • Convection is the flow of heat through liquids or gasses, like air. Uncontrolled we call it drafts, controlled we call it ventilation. “Draft-proofing” means installing weather-stripping and caulk to seal holes and cracks in the building.
  • Radiation is the way the sun’s heat travels to us through space. Radiation heats the bodies it reaches without heating the air first. Thus it is the most direct, and therefore the most efficient method of heating. It is also perceived as the most comfortable.

Our most common household heating is forced air (convection) which is inefficient. It heats air and blows it through ducts (usually uninsulated) where much of the heat is lost. Entering our rooms, it rises toward the ceiling instead of staying near the floor with us. Unless a humidifier is added it also lowers humidity to unacceptable levels, causing damage to furnishings and sinuses. Its’ chief virtues are that it is easier to tend, more comfortable, and more efficient than the woodstoves and fireplaces it replaced.

It is possible to raise the efficiency of woodstoves by providing two changes:

  • Combustion air must be provided to the airtight firebox from outside the house. Using warm air from inside the house will result in a net loss of heat energy.
  • The stove must be provided with enough mass. Then a small amount of wood burned in a quick, hot fire will heat the mass which will then re-radiate the heat to the room slowly over a period of several hours. These “masonry stoves” have been used in Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Germany and Russia since the “Little Ice Age” of 1500 – 1800.

We can also use the sun’s heat directly, but again only by capturing the heat from the sunlight entering our homes in enough mass to allow effective re-radiation — otherwise we would be limited to overheating during the day followed by fast cooling when the sun goes down.