Photo of propane tanks (uploaded to Wikimedia Commons by J.Smith)


“I read the news today—oh, boy   About a selfish species which failed the grade…

BigCarbon WANTS you to believe that propane is utterly safe and friendly — that it’s not a “greenhouse gas” — that it’s good for the planet.  BUNK !   We’re choking ourselves to death by burning and leaking hydrocarbons — methane, propane, butane, insane.  I was in my backyard up north when I heard a huge explosion 20 miles away which killed seven people and leveled a four-story building, demolishing a four block area in downtown Buffalo NY, 37 seconds after the firemen arrived (and died). Yep, an employee tried to move a propane tank with a forklift, dropped it, cracked it.  Soon — BOOM.  Propane explosions are not rare, as can be readily noticed by searching.

So I was not happy when a supplier exchanged an empty tank for full, of propane for our home.  What they delivered was so badly rusted that it leaked away in less than a week.  In spite of the evidence, they said I had a leaky gas line, blaming me.  And they refused to replace the lost propane, abandoning the tank (which I still have).  They sent me a bomb, which didn’t detonate.  Well, I cancelled my account and bought my own tank, and began traveling to a local depot where it could be refilled.  But I also began to research a plan to heat hot water with the sun.  It’s crazy not to do this when you consider that we live in a hot zone that never freezes.  The lowest temperature I’ve ever experienced in Merida was in the lower 50º’s F (10ºC).   Yet few people in this zone (which includes much of Florida, Texas and the Gulf Coast) ever experience a hard freeze. So we get free solar energy year-round!  But why do we still heat water with such a risky source?  It’s time for change.  A solar thermosiphon can do the job.  And you can make your own.

Yeah, there are turnkey systems which are, in my view, often over-engineered.  I’ve learned much about water over the years on the farm, and in business.  Minerals complicate plumbing, and this certainly applies here in Yucatan, where pumps and plumbing systems often fail due to mineralization — so I didn’t want a system that relies on a pump. I wanted a passive system, using convection, as there is less to go wrong.  I enjoy plumbing (supply-side only) and have maintained four wells, and plumbed a large-format commercial photo lab.  (But I’m still a rookie, always eager to learn.)

Below is a photo of a 3/4″ plastic fitting, the flow of which has been reduced by ~50% due to “hardening of the arteries”, discovered when I modified our propane water heater for this project, which device had failed after only two years of low use — adapting it to its new role as a storage tank for my DIY solar collector.  (The tube had accumulated minerals over a longer period.)

Replacing tanks and pumps and pipes can’t be avoided, but it can be reduced.  And harvesting energy for free directly from the sun makes it more fun.  Note: I spent about $6000 pesos ($300 usd) on parts and materials to build my device.  It would have cost almost that much to replace the water heater, foregoing the cost of fuel, which I expect now to harvest for free.   “Here comes the sun, deedle-doo-dah — here it comes.”

Before I show you my low-tech design, I will share a bad design that failed, at a place we rented in 2013.  The unit had burst because of poor design, and poor maintenance.  The glass tubes appear to be vulnerable to hail and hurricane damage, since they are exposed.  And they lose heat to the breeze.

Apparently the storage tank required frequent “blow-down” to reduce minerals, which had not been done, resulting in a failure-to-open, of the pressure-relief valve. So the tank burst along a seam, below. Oooops.  Bad investment.  (Maybe designs have improved since then.)

My design uses (strong) blue, inch-and-a-half cpvc tubing, as a collector, and is then covered with clear .125-inch polycarbonate as a “concentrator”, which also shields the collector tubing from airborne trash during windstorms, and prevents heat loss by housing the tubing inside an insulated “sandwich”.  Polycarb’ is a clear plastic used in banks as “bulletproof”, but thicker.  (I would have used wider diameter blue tubing, if I could have found it, but inch-and-a-half was the max available here.)

If you venture forth to build your own, be sure to use tubing that is rated for hot water!  If you can’t find blue, you could use “yellow”/beige/normal cpvc tubing, painting it black; but the blue probably absorbs more heat due to its darker color throughout.  (Paint might flake off.)  Don’t use hydraulic pvc, as it transmits light which will grow algae.  And don’t use thin “sanitary” drainpipe, as it will melt and collapse.  Be sure to use cpvc cement on all fittings, first “cleaning them” with cpvc solvent before applying cement, to soften the plastic before bonding, installing parts with a twist to make a good adhesive seal.  This should prevent leaks at joints, which are frustrating, especially when there are so many bonds in such a manifold.  Don’t build a “sprinkler system”!  And be sure that there is always water above the manifold (the collector tubes) in the supply tank.  If your tank is drawn down below the manifold, you will collect no energy, as convection will cease to recirculate the water, due to lack of “head pressure”.  (Adjusting the fill-level of a rooftop tank is easily done simply by sliding out the cord of the float valve, shortening it to maximize the fill level.)  I’ve adjusted mine never to fall below the shoulder of the tinaco, our 1100-liter rooftop tank.  Also, avoid dead-ends when designing your manifold.  Convection moves in one direction only, with help from gravity; it doesn’t have a “reverse”.  Circulation wants to be circular.  Think like water.  Also, dry-fit your manifold before gluing, to study this flow.  Avoid sharp turns by using 45º (codetes) fittings instead of right-angle 90º turns (codos), as this enhances flow.  Chamfer the interior of all tubing edges, removing burrs that could slow the flow.

One thing I wish I had done, would have been to orient the system slightly toward the north.  My photo-voltaic panels are tilted south for maximum collection of solar electricity, returning it to the grid.  So I copied that tilt for the hotwater system, too, without thinking.  But January is the coldest month here, and the sun is furthest north then, so maximum gain for hot water arguably should be in January — meaning a northern tilt.  For much of the year the water stored in the rooftop tank / tinaco flows by gravity into the home at about 82ºF (28ºC).   Without any heating system that’s tolerable for a refreshing rinse on hot days, or even for a cold shower — but if much colder, as in January, when hot showers are preferred, it would not be pleasant.  This system will not deliver scalding-hot showers. However, reasonably hot showers can be had without burning hydrocarbons, getting by with a little help from our friend, The Sun. . .  Here it comes.

CONCLUSION:  heating water year-round with propane is wasteful, dangerous, stooopid.  Tempering it with sunshine, is smart, practical, affordable.  Be a good Scout – let’s try to leave the campsite better than we found it.  It’s been said that people in hell want ice water.  Hot showers from flaming devices are surely contributing to bringing hell on Earth.  Please consider a solar hotwater approach.  (Note:  At our house we still use propane as a cooking fuel on the stovetop, which lasts and lasts; but we close the tank valve at night.)

One of the principles of successful living, established by the Stanford Marshmallow Test, is “delayed gratification”.  Those who “gotta have it now” are more likely to have a failed experience in life: unhappiness.  Do you really want a hot shower right now, at any price, even if it means humankind will soon choke itself out of existence ?  (May your grandchildren survive to wonder why we’ve been  so careless.)

NOTE :  My design, as configured, does not promise a hot shower, but rather a lukewarm shower, very suitable for the subtropics.  (In part, this is due to a long copper line inside a concrete wall, which I can’t insulate, dissipating heat.)  I will be collecting data and observations gleaned from operating it over the next several months, which I will share here.  I may modify the orientation after January, re-tilting it northwards to capture more energy from the northern track of the sun, if it isn’t enough  during January.  Presently the system boosts the hot side of the shower stream by ~10º, from 80 to 90ºF  by 10:30 a.m. — adequate for our needs.

Friend Jim Conrad over at BackyardNature cooks eggs with a passive solar cooker which he designed.  He starts ’em in the morning, and they’re ready by dinner. (He is also developing a solar sourdough bread.)  I admire his example.  For a guy with a size 14 shoe, he has the smallest carbon footprint of anyone I’ve ever met. But my wife and I like to cook, so we’ll continue to use some gas.

BELOW is a slide-show of my project to help you imagine your own.  (Ask a friend to help each other if you don’t have the handyman skills to do this.  Two heads can git’er’done !

Red roof above our 2nd floor bathroom is the chosen location.


Constructing piers and frame. Diagonal corners should be the highest point of delivery, and the lowest of supply. The concrete blocks are filled to add weight, preventing liftoff during high winds.  I’ve also tethered the frame to the home.


A solar manifold baffles the slow moving water during convection, collecting heat radiated by the sun onto more than 50 feet of tubing. I added one length of blonde 2-inch cpvc (which I plan to paint black) for delivery to the old heater, to increase volume.


Chamfer all interior edges, removing burrs to improve flow.  (Note: in reusing the old hotwater appliance as a storage device, I decided to fill the fire chamber with sand and gravel, displacing air which would have invited cooling, to store heat in thermal mass for quicker recovery.)

The installed system prior to painting 2-inch download tubing. (Fat tube is a roof drain.)

Also, be sure to add a breather tube extending above the elevation of the tinaco, for proper drainage, preventing glug-glug-glug when the home calls for water.  I’ve also added two beer-maker thermometers to monitor the system across high-low points ($15 each/Amazon), for learning purposes.  My design has increased the volume of available hot water from 40-liters to maybe 60.  (I’ve included a drain valve, and several threaded unions / tuercas uniónes, so I can disconnect the system if I want to modify or service it.)  Plastic valves often fail in intense sun.  Bronze ball valves are better.

Plumbing is a language about parts and relationships.  If we want our relationship with Mother Nature to remain friendly, we need to respect her.  Farting carbon pollution into her living space is not nice.  Think globally. Act locally.  Do it yourself!  (Don’t wait for politicians to solve this – they’re too busy getting re-elected.) Act before it’s too late. Form a solar-collector club, even. Help each other to save this precious planet. We can do this.

NOTE: for those living in freeze zones, turnkey solar hotwater systems exist which use antifreeze and a heat exchanger (like your car’s radiator).  In this era of Russian gas turmoil such a system might be wise and economic.  “Pay now, or pay more later.”

ROBOTICS.  Do you remember that scene from Sorcerer’s Apprentice where Mickey teaches the broom to carry water, but fails to teach when to stop?   Well, that just happened here.  There was so much mineral on the float valve that it changed the balance, and overflowed the tinaco.  It’s only water, and flowed into the downspout, like rain.  But glad we were home to halt the waste.

Minerals changed the flotation balance and caused overflow of the tinaco.


Polluting the commons is disgusting and deadly.  Having recently weaned myself off propane for heating water, I’m bummed to learn that the gas industry is daily dumping massive amounts of methane into the atmosphere.  Intentionally!  This is beyond rude. The stench of death will soon be overwhelming.

https://mexiconewsdaily.com/news/space-agency-detects-methane-pemex/ :
Click READ MORE, and then NOTICE the leak map which includes Texas and Louisiana!
AND consider this excerpt from an NPR report:

Over the course of two years, during 2019 and 2020, the researchers counted more than 1,800 large bursts of methane, often releasing several tons of methane per hour. Lauvaux and his colleagues published their findings this week in the journal Science.

The researchers consulted with gas companies, trying to understand the source of these “ultra-emitting events.” They found that some releases resulted from accidents. More often, though, they were deliberate. Gas companies simply vented gas from pipelines or other equipment before carrying out repairs or maintenance operations.

source:  https://www.npr.org/2022/02/03/1077392791/a-satellite-finds-massive-methane-leaks-from-gas-pipelines















CLIMATE CHAOS : : Book Review

Climate has crushed ancient civilizations. Often, climate-change denialists dismissively argue that “climate is always changing”.  Well, it’s not mere change which is troubling, but the current trend. Like BigTobacco, BigCarbon wants us to remain addicted to their commodity, urging us to “pay no attention…”  Their propaganda is using “tribal” loyalty to brainwash a portion of the human family into believing that our present energy-tech is no big deal.  But the public is now increasingly feeling the problem behind that curtain of lies, in their own regions.  [more, below]

DROUGHT. Photo by Bob Nichols, Wikimedia Commons, public domain. 2013

WILDFIRES.  Photo by Stuart Palley/EPA

FLOODS.  (Houston) Weather nation tv dot com (fair use)

MELTING.  Greenland.  Foto: Caspar Haarløv/A P  (fair use)

VOLCANICISM.  (fair use)

FAMINE. Photo from Buzz Nigeria dot com, Fair Use.

The authors of this excellent book, CLIMATE CHAOS: Lessons on Survival from Our Ancestors, are deeply acquainted with the tools of climate study, and are experts in the history of significant climatic events which have caused major suffering in the past — suffering we have mostly forgotten.  Humanity has survived some profound challenges, but often forgotten the lessons.  Two hundred years ago New England, Europe and Asia had several years of deep cold, with 1816 called the year without a summer, when it snowed in July and August.  Did your gran-pappy tell you of this? (Neither did mine.)  Our authors share detailed observations of how coal soot, studied in Alpine ice cores, may have contributed to the severity of this event.  And the tools and findings they reference are intriguing and impressive. 

They take us on a guided tour of numerous successful civilizations which collapsed, due to changing climate issues. (In their sequel, will one of them be ours?)  You can travel back in time with them to Egypt, Rome, the Maya, Cambodia, Peru.  It sure beats staying home to watch the sNEWs, which ignores history at our peril. (Although it’s less detailed about the fascinating tools and methods, this longish article by a paleo-climatologist also covers much of the undeniable climate change the planet has already endured.)

Remember what the old-time farmers knew:  a drought will scare you to death; but a flood will starve you to death.

As Jorge Santayana said, those who cannot remember the past are destined to repeat it.




J6   : :    “ WHAT IS TRUTH ? ”

Fair use. Photo from CNN

“What is truth?”sneered Pontius Pilate, into the face of the man Jesus, who famously said we should know the truth if we want to be free. (see John 18:38)

J6 (January 6, 2020) is muddied in lies.  FIVE persistent lies are being repeated “bigly” by Donald J Trump and his followers. ¿Do you love truth? —  Those who love truth will want to be clear about their facts before repeating these lies, no?  

CNN has done a fine job of debunking these five persistent lies, here. I’ve put them into a table for you so they can be readily, quickly, compared.

BIG LIES :                                         FACTS :

Rioters unarmed 75+  dangerous/deadly weapons-charges,  including several handguns
“Merely protesting” : 1st Amend’t 140 cops assaulted by rioters
“Invited in” by police Hours-long  hand-to-hand combat
“Political prisoners” Dangerous, and/or flight-risk
“False flag” DJT: “fight like hell”

Of course, the biggest lie is that the election was stolen.  No evidence has sustained judicial scrutiny, not even in front of judges appointed by Mr Trump !


See these 24 photos at CNN.  Then ask yourself if any of the lies in column-1 above have the ring of truth. Or these photos from NPR.

Fair use. Photo from CNN

Don’t repeat lies !   All that is necessary for evil to succeed is for a good person to do nothing.






Pyramid of Kulkukan, Mayapán, Yucatán, afternoon of winter solstice. 2014. Dome’d astro observatory in background.

This linked article in Spanish reports that there is a tiny pyramid in Campeche state that apparently was a proof-of-concept for the construction of the big ones at Chichen Itza and Mayapan — preceding those major projects by several hundred years.  

Geometry!  It proved that the Maya could establish the equality of length-of-day/night, for purposes of understanding the agricultural growing cycle — when to plant, and what to worship (respect) — sustenance!  Mother Earth feeds us, if we respect and understand her!  (Worshipping a Creator-Principle-God, without respecting creation, is folly.). And remember, these pyramids were all done without clocks or telescopes, but plenty of ingenuity and sweat.  Where did that come from?  ¡Gracias Mamá!

The aforementioned maquette is also a cute little pyramid, at least in the photo, although I’ve not been there.   Note:  while the “feathered serpent” doesn’t actually slither down the staircase in real time, it appears to do so in our imaginations.  (I suppose it could be more vivid if done with timelapse video — and sure enough, somebody has posted it to youtube:  from Chichen Itza, about 30 seconds.)

Conclusion :  prototypes can confirm our hunches, so we can then render them successfully.

Poem : ONE FAMILY. (A Parenthesis for Now)

Una abuelita y su familia, Andalucia, España, ~1969.   Foto by MeridaGOround


ONE FAMILY.  (A Parenthesis for Now.)
The Lord loves conservatives and liberals alike. 

(We have a Patient Teacher.)

The Lord loves school children and gun owners equally.
(We have a Compassionate Parent.)

The Lord loves citizens and politicians as one.
(We have a Just Governor.)


The Lord, Father-Mother, loves Her entire family.
(All the children, black and white, red and yellow ;  even green.)


The Lord loves us, believes in us, has faith in us, cares deeply.
 We live there, and are home, safe, right now.

(Do you feel it?  Will you?)

¿ Are we ok for the next five minutes ?
(And the next ?)


Breathe it in . . .

(. . . and give it back, in the Spirit with which it is shared.)


~ MeridaGOround.com


from Wikimedia Commons, photo © Tomascastelazo.com

Many Americans apparently have an unbalanced zeal for guns — loving them more than our own children.  While there is great passion asserted by some against “murder of unborn children” via abortion, there is little regard for reasonable constraint of gun ownership by many of these same folks.  This is a minority position, but many elected leaders are cowards before them, when it comes to defending the right to life of students — instead, favoring the “liberty” of gun owners — to the point of not even requiring safe storage, in some states. 

This begs the question “What is liberty?”  Should a 15-year old be given a handgun?  Should they be allowed to have a gun or drive the family car, without insurance, licensing and testing? 

Ask your elected leaders why they are defending their own jobs, but not defending America!  These politicians are afraid to attempt the slightest regulation of guns because the NRA worries that any sort of additional gun control is a slippery slope — even tho’ the 2nd Amendment to the US Constitution calls for a “well regulated militia” of gun ownership.  FREEDOM ENTAILS OBEDIENCE TO MORAL LAW.  STOP THESE ELECTED COWARDS!  Here are their names, bleeding red.

And what can be said about the moral idiocy and poor taste of this elected official, who posed his family with his armory, four days after a school was shot up, killing four students?   Obviously his view is “not my family; not my district.”  Shameless!  (Have you let his type push your “freedom buttons” at the poles?)


Hacienda Hotel Santo Domingo, @ cruz de  c.18  y  c.33,  Izamal, Yucatan

We wanted to travel a bit, safely, so we headed to what I think of as the Indigenous capital of Yucatan, Izamal – (we live in the Hispanic and political capital, Mérida).  Izamal is about 72 kilometers (45 miles) to the east of Mérida, and north of the Cancún highway on Route 11.  It took us about 100 minutes from centro to centro to get there, driving leisurely.  The express bus is probably faster (scroll to From Mérida to Izamal).

We had a delightful stay at Hacienda Hotel Santo Domingo, which is run by Harald, an affable man from Austria, and his lovely Mexican wife, Sonia. Harald studied tourism as a lad, and his design-sense is excellent. They have twelve rooms in an elegant facility, depicted at their website.

Dining room where we enjoyed a fine candle-lit dinner.

Poolside breakfast

The hotel is nestled quietly on the outskirts of the city, a short ten-minute walk to centro, straight down c.33.

Handsome cabs (calesas) are lined up, while a tour group listens to a guide.

After a relaxing visit in a gentle setting, it’s back to the city of the conquistadores.

Mérida :   the remate, Paseo Montejo @ c.47



Photo by Trougnouf, via Wikimedia Commons: Doel, Belgium

Carbon pollution is so much riskier than radioactive pollution.  The Three Mile Island nuclear accident (1979) rocked me, but on further reflection (and documented carbon pollution trends) I’ve come around to recognizing that the world needs nuclear energy if we are not to smother ourselves in carbon toxins, which are much more deadly than risks of nuclear accidents.  

I’ve recently finished reading a book about carbon titled Symphony in C, (where c=carbon) by Professor Robert Hazen, of the Deep Carbon Observatory.  And today I’ve pondered an interview with nuclear advocate Michael Shellenberger, about our need for nuclear generation.  (Note:  Schellenberger is dismissive of much environmental activism, so I suggest skipping forward to his central thesis in the linked interview, beginning with the subhead Nuclear Existential Anxiety where he effectively deconstructs our nuclear dread.

On a positive note is this very upbeat essay by Rebecca Solnit  on ten ways to confront the environmental crisis without losing hope. (It’s a bit long, but very worthwhile.)

Wolfsburg, Germany. Photo by Felipe Tureba/EPA.

> > > UPDATE :  Friend Jim Conrad at BackyardNature.net shared an important counter argument, from a retired nuclear engineer, on the many problems of fusion energy, detailed at the BULLETIN OF ATOMIC SCIENTISTS


¿¿ Spooky holiday, or Precious Observance ??

Photo by Toby Ord, Wikimedai Commons


My photo, 2012, Santiago Plaza, Merida


History, especially religious history, morphs over time.  The results can be dark, confusing.  I recently wrote to our Mayan gardener, Victor, who has a college degree and a teaching certificate, asking about his understanding of the local holiday, Hanal Pixan:

YUCATECO MAYA :  HANAL PIXAN  (meal of souls)

SPANISH :  DÍA DE LOS MUERTOS  (day of the dead)


My query to Don Victor :

I’m wondering about the name of this holiday, as I have doubts (or discomfort) about the English rendering: “day of the dead”.  I would prefer to call it day of the ancestors, or day of remembrance (memorial day is too vague, [and /or already dedicated to fallen warriors].  Any thoughts?

He wrote back in Spanish, so I will summarize his points:

En la cultura maya se celebra el “Hanal Pixan”, que literalmente significa comida de las almas. Tiene un sentido estrictamente espiritual, recordando a los fallecidos, de quienes se cree que aún están presentes entre nosotros de manera espiritual, y por eso se hace un altar para compartir con ellos: flores, alimentos y bebidas que fueron sus favoritos, para que tomen el espíritu o esencia de lo ofrecido.

“El Día de Muertos” es de la cultura celta, y se sincronizó con otras culturas que poco a poco perdieron su originalidad, también influenciadas por la Iglesia Católica. El del camino de las almas y la pintura del rostro como se hace ahora en Mérida es un teatro sencillo para atraer más turismo, está lejos de la tradición maya de los antepasados.

In their culture, it is a spiritual holiday celebrating and sharing a meal of remembrance with departed souls, mainly family ancestors.  (It seems to me, from my reading of his words, to be less about the saints of the church, which may have been more prominent in earlier Euro versions.) Surviving family members today believe the offerings and the altar invite the essential visitation of the departed, and the meal of souls is thus shared solemnly, and apparently with gratitude.

He continues, that it seems the original sense of the holiday has been largely lost in the Euro (Celtic/Catholic) version, with the current influence becoming largely to invite tourism. [I’ve heard that Mexico City didn’t even celebrate this holiday until recent times, when the attraction of tourists was noticed, as a potential.]

My sense is that it originally was never about goblins, monsters, death, or the occult.  I see it rather as about thanksgiving, and appreciation of those who have enabled our survival.  So, if you want to scare yourself, just say



or better yet, say