Contemplating a Winter Ritual on New Year’s Eve


“Qarrtsiluni means something like sitting together in the dark, waiting for something to happen. Inuit word.

I stumbled on the above somewhere on the internet and copied it down. Today, I did a search on the quote so I could give proper attribution. Well, wherever I stole it, I wasn’t alone. Lots of sources used the same wording without attribution.

Perhaps it emerged spontaneously from the darkness in multiple locations.

It resonated in a particular way. What is that about? It sounded like something I’d like to try. Particularly during the deep dark of winter…solstice, new years, somewhen around then. (Interested in trying it?)

Every year in late fall, when things start to get cold, I’m suddenly hungry all the time and simultaneously lethargic. It’s a Norwegian thing, I think. Conserve calories! Plump up! You’re about to spend the next 4 or 5 months holed up in a long house and want to survive the winter. The skinny are doomed!

I think it’s like that. I had a mental image of 8000 generations of ancestors looking up through the trees at cold solstice skies and, over time, assembling rituals and earthworks inspired by the seasons. By doing something similar, I could tap into a tradition stretching back to the beginning of our species. Climate, terrain, cultures, and polities have come and gone, but the night sky has presided over it all. And we must always have looked up in awe.

Stonehenge at sunset by Mastiello, Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License


However, being the type of nerd I am, my first question is this: if I’m experiencing some sort of midwinter preset vibe, can I plumb the resonating depth?

My starting point is pretty much always a long view of us as embodied members of a species with an evolutionary history. Our emotions, perceptions, and cognition are not wholly idiosyncratic but of a kind.

We’ve spent most of our quarter of a million years as homo sapiens near the equator. Now that I think of it, a dark, cold solstice mojo would have to have started building when the ice retreated enough to let us move on north into dark, cold winter nights. So it’s really a function of 1) how far north in latitude it’s dark much of a 24-hour cycle, 2) long wave climate cycles, and 3) human migration out of Africa.

First, long nights

Here’s the table.

Latitude (Degrees)Night Length at
Solstice (Hours)
4017.33San Franciso = 38d, NYC = 40d
4518.00Lascaux Cave, France. Cities in N. America:
5018.67Stonehedge, Warsaw
6020.00Oslo, southern most border of
Nunavut, Canada’s Inuit Province
8523.33Northern reach of Nunavut
Northern Latitude, Hours of Darkness, Notes – table by me

The 17.33 hours of darkness here in San Francisco seems plenty long enough, but my relatively recent ancestors lived in even longer darkness.

Second, climate

We are in the Quaternary Glaciation starting 2.5M years ago, in a period commonly called the Ice Age (formally the Last Glacial Period) starting 155k years ago, and having a recent maxima called the Last Glacial Maximum starting 26k years ago and continued until 13k years ago. Ice sheets extended to about the 45th parallel north with ice 2-2.5 miles thick. Miles!.

For reference, homo sapiens, i.e., us, are 250k years old. Ice, we’ve seen it come, and we’ve seen it go.

Fun fact: the weight of all that ice is still felt. Every year some land in coastal Alaska rises over an inch, springing back from being compressed for so long under so much ice. It’s called isostatic rebound.

Third, out of Africa

While it does appear that members of our species migrated out of Africa prior to the Last Glacial Maximum, they didn’t persist. Genetic analysis, particularly of our mitochondria, shows that current human populations all result from the most recent migration out of Africa 70k years ago, perhaps following the retreating ice. This was the wave that survived, mingling with Neadrathals on the way out. We show up in Southern Europe 40k years ago, Denmark 30k years ago, and entered the Americas from the north 20k years ago. All these numbers are estimates and under constant revision as our analytic tools become better and better.

Fun fact. A number of species, including probably a homo species, including possibly homo sapiens, lived through the Last Glacial Maximum in sheltered areas termed Refugia, plural Refugum. I like the word. We may need it again soon. It’s possible that this happened in North America, as well. Give research another 30 years, and we’ll have a much better picture. Lidar and improved methods of genetic analysis are in the process of totally rearranging our view of what’s happened over the last 100,000 years.


But bummer. I was hoping for resonance a couple of hundred thousand years deep. It appears I have to settle for only fifty thousand or so! No imagining a great^8000th grandmother looking with awe at the winter night sky through conifers just as I have.

Still, that’s a lot of dark, cold, Solstice nights.

If a generation is 20-30 years in length, then my great^2000th grandparents might have started the process after generations of migration: wondering when it’s going to stop being dark for so long, and, btw, why is it so cold up here?…surviving long winter nights, perhaps popping out from a smoky shelter for a look at the winter sky alight with the aurora borealis, perhaps marking the seasons with wood and stone and starting to use earthworks to chronicle the cycles written in the sky.

Image creative commons from the Store Norske Leksikon

Qarrtsiluni redux

While trying to find the source of my opening quotation, I found the below. It’s the definition of quarrtsiluni I like best. The author doesn’t seem to have any particular qualifications, doesn’t cite any sources, and she could just be making this up. That’s good enough for me.

Qarrtsiluni. Inuit, Iñupiaq / v. / kʌːrʒ.sɪ.luːnɪ / kartz-sih-loo-nih –  Sitting together in the darkness, perhaps expectantly (e.g., waiting for something to happen or to ‘burst forth’); the strange quiet before a momentous event.

The Inuits initially used this to describe their ritual of finding new songs to honor a whale each year. The hunters would go to a special house where no lamps were lit, and would sit there in silence as a group, thinking of beautiful things, anticipating the inspiration which was about to stream into their collective consciousness. And then they made their songs.

Thanks for reading.

Spring 2023 Newsletter

Hi all,

It’s been a while.

Short version: wife Wendy took an abrupt fall (the result of an unrecognized Lisfranc injury), and, between acting as a home health aide and dodging storms then making repairs, I spent 3 months with no time to write. Even with much healing and the end to a series of atmospheric rivers, time was tight. Now Wendy is highly mobile again, and it’s a glorious spring. Time to get active.

Uprooted trees in Point Reyes National Seashore after numerous storms during winter 2022/23
Pt Reyes Natl Seashore: after months of rain, even deeply rooted trees started blowing over

But hold on a minute.

The interruption gave me yet another opportunity to try and decide what I want to be when I grow up. I’m nearing the end of a series I call Emotional Truth / Political Lies written in order to think things through. (More of that below.) I used Medium as a platform because it makes writing look good and held out the promise of helping find readers/kibitzers.

Blooming wild irises at Pt Reyes National Seashore

Here’s the problem.

First, it has become clear to me that folks that get read a lot on Medium, write a lot on Medium. Like every week. Some daily! I’m not capable of that. I’m using writing to think; that’s a slow process. I can get something out every month or two if I’m pushing it. So no big rush of new readers.

Second, the wtf demon that’s had me since 2016 is releasing its grip.

I’m finishing up the analysis phase of the Truth/Lies series. There will be a summary of thoughts so far, and I do need to write something about the political capture of the Southern Baptist Church. But I’m nearing a natural transition point.

So here’s what I’m going to do.

A piece on Medium by Cory Doctorow pointed to a way to solve my ‘slow but unsteady’ approach to writing:
“…interesting stuff that crosses my path gets turned into a blog post
where it rubs up against other interesting stuff and crystallizes into
longer, more considered pieces”
I’m going to try that. Pieces here will be short, tentative, and likely awkward. Things will appear on Medium as they mature or in the unlikely event that I end up writing something quick and fun (could happen, right?).

If you want to see the long stuff, you could Subscribe on Medium.

The latest piece and the first in 6 months is Drake’s Equation and You. If you think you’ve Subscribed but didn’t see it, then either it went to spam, or you Followed me rather than Subscribed.

(If you want to see all work by a writer on Medium remember: Follow bad; Subscribe good. Their system is confusing.)

Photo of Fermi
Fermi’s question = If there are so many stars where are the aliens? Drake took it from there.

I’ll add a teaser to the current work in progress below. See it here as sections get roughed out.

Thanks for reading,


We Need a Smaller Them

Emotional Truth, Political Lies — Our Plot So Far

There is no doubt that something has gone terribly wrong with the world. A very small percentage of its population do control the fates of almost everyone else, and they are doing it in an increasingly disastrous fashion.
Graeber and Wengrow, The Dawn of Everything (2021)

The neoliberal project was focused on designing institutions — not to liberate markets but to encase them, to inoculate capitalism against the threat of democracy.
-Quinn Slobodian, Globalists (2018)

I have elsewhere presented the case that, to survive, we need a bigger Us. This presents the corollary: we need a smaller, more focused Them.


On November 6th, 2016, I was jolted out of my assumptions about our political landscape. Now hijacked, my attention has been focused on the contradictions of our weird political culture ever since. I’ve been reading and thinking, hoping to internalize the contradictions and write my way out. I’m part way there. This is my interim report.

Decentered Identity 

Something odd is going on. Folks on the lower end of the economic spectrum have been consistently acting against their own interests — or so it seems to me. Clearly, they don’t see it that way.

In my six-year journey to try and understand the dynamics of US politics, I have come to believe that it’s, in fact, “identity politics” at the core — but not in the way the term is commonly used. 

…to be continued…

Fall 2022 Newsletter

Hello all,

Here are free links to things I’ve written over the last quarter. I always appreciate your thoughts and getting a critique of mine…best if you leave them on Medium but whatever works.

I’ve sorted them by topic. They are, alas, weighted towards political coverage. That was not my plan when I started writing on Medium but the topics won’t let me go. Things are just two effing weird. Someday we’ll get back to quantum theory, evolutionary biology, Carl Jung, sex, drugs, and rock & roll. Lighter stuff, you know.

Thanks for reading,

PS, Medium is weird. You can Follow me and it does pretty much nothing. Subscribe to get a note when I publish. That’ll be about once a month averaged out. Also, the Medium Clap button is not like Like. If you Clap, please hold it down and turn it up to 11!

PSS, I add a few folks from my address book whenever I’m about to send a Newsletter out. You might be one of those folks. If you don’t want to receive these, note the Unsubscribe at the bottom or just reply and I’ll remove you.

Main Current

Coming Together

Cultivating Joy and Connection (In Search of the Lost Word)

With a shout out to my Scandahoovian brothers and sisters.

(Should you want a fuller explanation of why I think the above is necessary, here’s  an older piece: We Need a Bigger Boat (Add a Bigger Us to the Long Now and a Wider Here.))

Falling Apart

image from Naven 2nd Edition

Schismogenesis (MAGA for a day — or here’s how you can really own the Libs)

Gregory Bateson’s defining ethnography looks at a fractured society and how they managed the schism.

Just for fun / short features

Taxes Are Hate (Unless they’re taxes on you)
3 min read

Two words: Elon Musk.

Wordle-Ku (Group fun with Wordle)
3 min read

A haiku modification based on the daily Wordle always adds sparkle to my day.

Tables of Contents

For everything.
For only the  slow-rolling political research (2016 to present).

S22-PS: low hanging Medium fog

Hi all,

I’ve had a bunch of folks tell me they’ve signed up to see what I write.

But they haven’t.

Medium’s options are confusing.

Subscribe 🙂

Follow 🙁

  • Follow is like Following someone on Facebook.
  • You’ll see their content if you go to Medium. Maybe. Sometimes.
  • You’ll see their content if you sign up for a daily digest. Maybe. Sometimes.
  • Most folks tell me they have Subscribed but they have, instead, Followed.

Sorry to break my ‘only once every 3 months’ Newsletter rule but the 10th confused friendly reader was the one that took me over the edge.


PS – last two stories:
We Feared My Mother-in-Law Was in a Cult – then we figured out she was running one
Oxytocin — the Love Drug’s Double Nature: Hans Gets Thrown Under the Bus

Spring 2022 Newletter

Or if you can’t spam your friends, who can you spam?

I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear.
– Joan Didion, Why I Write

When asked in college to visualize what I wanted to do after graduation, I had a clear image.

I wanted to sit, read, stare into space, think, make little notes…perhaps write things up now and then…all on a sunny hillside at tree line overlooking a wild meadow of tall grass.

The image was clear.

How that would allow me to keep body and soul together, not so much.

Forty-plus years later, retired and off the leash, I’m able to make it a full-time gig. I’ve now noticed a few things:

Discovery #1 – writing is not one component among many but central to it all, as Didion points out. It forces one to articulate musings and then presents them back to allow a critical look. Ideas that feel well-dressed turn out to be threadbare.

(I do need to add reading and research as key components of the discovery process, but it’s writing that puts it all together.)

Discovery #2 – writing is hard work.

Not for some, maybe, but for me, it’s a slow painful extrusion of text. A big challenge: even when one of those musings can be pinned to the mat, they then have to be linearized. There’s no way to write in bubbles from the center out. I’ve tried it.

Discovery #3 – having done all the work of writing, I like to get read.

Part of that is ego, of course. But more than that, it’s about joining what might be called the community of ideas. It’s about comments, discussions, and dialog (both online and face-to-face.) As an inveterate reader, I want to join the flow.

So here we are.

To get read I need to come to people’s attention and you all, my natural community, are the most likely source of comments, dialog, and discussion. You’re who I have in my mind’s eye when I try to get something clearly expressed.

There should likely be a Discovery #4.

I end up writing long shaggy pieces that work through some composite of interrelated ideas. These are not quick reads but they are central to the process.

What I’m going to be doing is using longer pieces as an anchor and breaking out key components into short stand-alone reads. That should make it more workable.

On to spam. I’m using both Medium and MailChimp

  • Both will send articles. MailChimp does this by integrating with WordPress.
  • MailChimp/Wordpress is what I’ve been using. I’m going to switch and use that for a Quarterly Newsletter instead, eg this.
  • The articles will go out directly from Medium
  • An advantage of MailChimp and Medium is that they have an easy unsubscribe. You can tell me to pipe down without it getting personal.
  • On the other hand, if you read something you like, please share it.
  • The challenge on Medium is working the paywall. I get a ‘Friends Link’ that ducks it and will try to use that wherever possible. Second, I think I’ve got it set up so you’ll see full articles in email and won’t have to go there at all.
  • But if you do, a secondary goal is to surface things on Medium for that community. Medium is weird. Don’t just Clap once if you like something: hold the Clap button down.
  • Also, if you are not a Medium member and start finding stuff of interest there, join using my link. I get money every month. It will go in the beer and burrito fund. We’ll share it! Maybe after a hike.

Where’s this all heading? The intent is to determine the most effective points to alter the situation.

Thanks for reading,

Newsletter December 2021

Hi all,

Rather than sending out stories in full like in the past, I’m going instead to send out a quarterly newsletter with a link to things I’ve written.

I’ll be providing the free links so you can duck the Medium paywall.

As a replacement, Medium will now send stories directly when I publish. I’m planning on adding you (yes, you) to that list. Yell now if you don’t want that to happen!!

My assumption is that since you’re on this list, you’re okay with being on that list. It’s only for my writing.

Here’s recent work:

Emotional Truths, Political Lies #01 — political lies are expensive but can be a profit center.


Shootout at the OK Corral — An American Ecstasy: Emotional Truth, Political Lies #02 — violence and cosplay revolution.


Overcoming Political Polarization -Emotional Truth; Political Lies #03 
— “How could they be so stupid?” A response.
…and a companion article: Am I Part of a Secret White Guy Death Cult?


Note, that I love comments, collaborators, and kibitzers. Could that be you?

Last, in a weird twist, should you sign up with a membership using this link, I get some of the money! Any money raised will be used to buy beer or appropriate beverages for a meetup at some future date.

Thanks much for reading!





Trying Something Different

Hi All,

In the past, I’ve posted articles on my blog here and had them echo out to the mailing list. I’m trying something different this time.

Since I’m writing predominantly on Medium, this will provide links to the most recent stories there, not the full content in an email.

(You may hit a snag clicking the links if you don’t have a Medium account. I’ll add free links at the bottom for those that run into this problem.)

Science Fiction

1) That’s Right, the Women Are Smarter: Who Rules Science Fiction?

Continue reading Trying Something Different

Welcome and Hello – August 2020

Hi all,

Some of you have recently signed up to receive email after reading a post on Medium.

Some of you expressed interest in reading stuff I write and I’ve added you to the email subscribers list.

Some of you have been on the list for years.

Regardless, welcome.

Here’s the haps:

  1. I cross-post on both my WordPress Darwinian Interlude blog and on Medium. Even if Medium seems likely to stick around, I’ve seen platforms come and go. I’m unwilling to trust my work to a platform I can’t control.
  2. Posts on Darwinian Interlude then go out to the email list. That’s why you got this.
  3. If you read on Medium, please lean on the Clap button. It helps me surface what I write to a wider community.
  4. I, also, love dialog via comments there or emailing me directly!

Hope you are staying safe and sane.
Thanks for reading!


PS, The easiest way to subscribe to the mailing list is via the subscribe widget either at or

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