You are where you live
I have a lot of old engineering books. They’re all weathered and worn and the pages come apart in my hands if I’m not careful. They smell like they’ve traveled all over the world. I could sit here for hours and just look at them. I often wonder who held these books before they found their way to me? How many people believed every word in every one of these old books, and how did that belief affect the way they saw their world? I wonder about this a lot.
One of the books on my shelves has a wonderful title: On the History and Art of Warming and Ventilating Rooms and Buildings. It has two volumes and Walter Bernan, Civil Engineer, had it published in1845, which, as far as hydronics is concerned, was a long, long time ago.
In these volumes, Walter Bernan speculates on a number of things and flat-out insists that some of them are the gospel truth. Some of his statements are pretty provocative. Here, for instance, is what he had to report about the possible effect of climate on the formation of various languages:
"Air, in his (Abuthnot’s) opinion, not only fashioned body and mind, but had a great effect in forming language. He thought the serrated, close way of speaking among the northern nations, was owing to their reluctance to open their mouths wide in cold air, which made their speech abound in consonants. From a contrary cause, the inhabitants of warmer climates formed a softer language, and one abounding in vowels. The Greeks, inhaling air of the happy medium, were celebrated for speaking with the wide opened mouth, and for sweet, toned, sonorous elocution."
Bet you never gave that much consideration, eh? Think about the difference between the way someone from Germany speaks, compared to someone from Alabama. Maybe there’s something to that theory. I’m from New York. It gets pretty cold here, especially during the winter! Maybe that’s why we talk so fast. Hmmmm.
And the air temperature where we live not only affects our speech, according to these Dead Men, it probably also has a lot to do with the way we look. Here, listen:
"The effects of climate are more marked on the body than on the mind. What a miserable and deformed creature is man in polar countries! Stunted, squat, large-headed, fish-featured, short-limbed, and stiff-jointed."
Fish-featured! You think that's bad? He goes on to say that these folks look like walruses, for Pete's sake! Hey, better get yourself a decent heating system, Walrus Face.
Need even more circa-1845 proof that climate affects the type of body you have? Coming right up!
"The tall, lank, and otherwise remarkable figures of the gaunt-looking Virginians and Carolinians, are strikingly different from those of the short, plump, round-faced farmers of the midland counties of England, as well as from the Anglo-Creoles scattered over the Caribbean Sea. Yet they all spring from the same stock."
Apparently, the colder it is, the plumper you get. Makes sense to me. Make sense to you? Oh, and consider the effect that climate has on human aggression:
"The rugged temper and savage disposition of the barbarous hordes who overran Europe, were speedily mellowed and humanized by the mild atmosphere of the countries they devastated and conquered."
This is the Jimmy Buffett Effect. Ivan the Terrible wasn’t really such a bad guy. He was just a bit chilly and looking to get to a warmer climate. Ever been to a New York City airport in January when the locals are trying to get to Florida and the flights are backed up? It’s sure to make you a believer in climate’s effect on human aggression.
Now listen to what he had to say about the Irish back in 1845 (and this one struck close to home, me being a Holohan and all).
"When near a turf moor, their miserable dwelling are warmed in the winter, almost to suffocation, and are full of smoke; but it is in the still, warm, moist air of a summer’s day when they feel most revolting to the senses of a stranger. At that season the indoor atmosphere is indescribable. A hut, described as a fair specimen of a large class, was thirteen feet long, eleven feet wide, and six feet and a half high. Its earth floor was in little hillocks, and had water standing in pools in many of the valleys, through which the ducks and pigs splashed in and out at pleasure."
Sort of reminds me of my old Aunt Mary’s place. And how about this one?
"Many races inhabiting regions with the mean heat of climate as low as 74 degrees, make no use of clothes during the day. The heat emitted from body by radiation, conduction, and evaporation, may be about equal to that generated in the same time by the organic action, and they feel a pleasurable sensation in moving about naked."
This can also be said of folks who have hydronic radiant heating systems in their homes, I suppose. What a campaign that would make. Where the heck are the advertising guys when we need ‘em?
But wait, don’t leave just yet, it gets even better! Here’s a historical proven method of heating. No bull!
"In Normandy, where the cold is severe, and the firing expensive, the lace-makers, to keep themselves warm and save fuel, agree with some farmer who has cows in winter quarters, to be allowed to carry on their operations in the society of the milky mothers. The cows are tethered in a row, on one side of the apartment, and the lace-makers sit cross-legged on the ground on the other side, with their feet buried in the straw. The cattle being out a-field by day, the women worked all night; and numbers of young men of their own rank resort to these cowhouses, and sit or lie down on the straw beside their sweethearts, and sing, tell stories, and say soft things to cheer them in their labors."
Oh, give me a home where the buffalo roam!
I once worked for a company where they had those Dilbert-like cubicles in the Accounting Department. They heated the place with perimeter baseboard convectors, but no one was ever comfortable. This is because of the rule that states, "In any office environment, occupied by more than one person, the climate will always be wrong for at least half the people present."
Faced with constant complaints from the cubicle dwellers, we solved the problem once and for all by coming in on a Saturday and nailing a Honeywell T-87 thermostat to the inside wall of each cubicle. We didn’t wire the thermostats to anything, mind you, but it made everyone happy because everyone likes to be in control. Just ask Ivan the Terrible.
But now I learn from my old books that we could have saved all that time and money by simply letting the cows mingle with the bean counters. Oh well.