Sunday, September 30, 2007

Birthday bonfire fun.

Our friend Karen Renzaglia (here with Kate) hosted around a hundred people for an equinox / combined birthday party (mine's Monday). She had a jazz band and tons of food. We had a blast. Kate played freeze tag with the kids (she's one of the blurs above); and people took turns heaving oak pallets into the huge fire (including some guest from Colombia who had a fine time). During some crazy daring with a couple of youngsters I ate a cicada shell (yuk). And we resurrected one of my favorite jokes, the interrupting cow knock-knock, perhaps the best kid joke in history.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Wal-mart kills local store. LRRD doing fine.

Geomorphology later, I promise.

Jesse and Dayna continued to make our little business get ready for greatness with more construction and lots of complicated financial, carpet laying, and refrigerator decisions.

New hires please avert your eyes until the next paragraph. OK, you didn't avert, so I can't talk about how great you are. You spoiled it, I knew I couldn't trust you.

We brewed our first pot of company coffee, and our internets are all working.

Our Carbondale Kroger West, next to Kate's old pharmacy, is closing this weekend. Stories on why vary, but surely it's connected to the Wal-mart supercenter being built 2 miles to the west, in the middle of nowhere. Kate and I spent literally hundreds of hours (I think like a consultant here) fighting this thing. I built and maintain this site, inactive now for obvious reasons. Lots of pictures of our fight there. This Wal-mart defines sprawl--I can hardly stand to drive by the site, it's a damn tragedy.

We gave this thing our all, and embarrassed Wal-mart and Murphysboro and Carbondale officials who--from active deceit to sitting on hands--let this terrible thing happen. Kate and I have never liked this company, but after seeing its underbelly, and how it bullies small towns, I can tell you it's the worst. Please don't shop there, the low prices come out of your pocket in other ways and hurt your community.

But LRRD is doing fine, we had a great day. I hope Kroger's workers (union workers with decent pay and benefits) do well. We'll miss them very much.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Verizon evil, Westell 6100 modem even eviler

Go somewhere else for geomorphology today. There were rivers to save and inventions to think up, but I spent over six hours trying to get a couple of network components to work together and failed. I've installed several wireless networks. Usually takes an hour or so.

Verizon and Westell should be ashamed of their behavior. When I said to the long suffering tech support guy "who designed this menu," he said "you should have seen the last one." His soul is not yet crushed.

Funny to think about branding and how I was forced through the same Verizon installation procedure probably 20 times today. Can showing an aggravated person your logo a couple of hundred times be good? They should put pictures of Newt Gingrich or an invasive plant on these installation wizards. I'm sure hell is wallpapered with Microsoft logos.

Dayna talked with Carbondale Neighborhood Services so we can do something about the guys who drink near the building all day and night and have been hassling us, what a drag. What sad people--they were sitting on a concrete pad in a light rain with their forties when I left tonight. Jesse continued work on his state of the art dust collection system, and you can see the elegant materials rack in the background.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Blue goes to green, whatever.

Dayna and Jesse and Angie got a bunch of things done, and I sorted out the phone lines and ran a new one to our offices and, after figuring out the creative color-code-switching somebody else did, got the phones to work.

We're sitting on the floors, etc. (I don't want to post pictures of that), but Dayna found some very 1980's bank manager chairs at Goodwill for, well, I won't say. We need furniture, and are agonizing over that.

Kate and I had a great lunch at the Long Branch and I took this picture of my tea as the freight train roared by.

And I Fedexed the DVD. These days just fly by and it's a huge but welcome change for me (after 17 years with a home office) to be around all these great people and be, minute by minute, answerable to them.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

The (fluvial geomorphology) DVD is DONE!

I finished the DVD today and want to celebrate that here with the remaining five working tendons in my mouse hand.

It's been years in the making. We'll go through one more minor revision, so it's not available yet. There are 59 clips, with video shot from the air, underwater, of the Emriver model and other venues I'm too tired to remember. There's nothing like it on the planet, not even close, and we can see so much more of this that can and needs to be done.

When we shot the latest Emriver video, I could see that a larger model (4m long we're calculating) would expand the possibilities for things like subtle floodplain processes.

Thanks to those at the Missouri Department of Conservation who understand that the best way to save and conserve rivers is through education, especially preventing the bad things before they happen. That's a lot of what this DVD is about.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Awesome people and lots of paint.

The phones work, sort of. And Angie, Ann, and Jerry showed up to paint the vast expanses of wall that needed it. The picture of the day is Barrett studying the band saw fence instructions. He's a talented guy.

I decided to make a bold statement (and avoid video editing) by painting the front doors, but my choice of a yellow (here photoshopped with the logo we will eventually add) was dumb. Not easy to spiff up a huge building the color of a Hershey Bar.

The more we work here the more I appreciate what a great space this is for us, and also the awesome people who're joining me there.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Fixing up the place (and underwater video).

Jesse and Barrett worked on a materials rack today. I enjoyed watching them study a pile of books and plan and execute this--they're real artisans. We want the big room to be a cool, elegant space.

The City of Carbondale inspected and approved.

Dayna and Angie painted the grimy walls, and I took a break from video editing, located the old overhead projector, and traced and painted a drippy logo on the wall.

Almost every day somebody congratulates me on having Dayna as a colleague, including today.

Almost done with the DVD. I've put off editing the underwater fish clips because so much work went into them--years of trial and error. Tiny mistakes (like a switch bumped while putting the cam into the housing) ruin a day of underwater work. I've looked at hours of slightly out of focus or overexposed video that would otherwise be awesome. Good for learning to accept things you can't change.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Mad scientist lab on a lowboy trailer

Yesterday Collin and Barrett from TREA joined us to move equipment from my converted garage to 514 East Main. The trailer held the world's only production moveable bed river model, including all our video modifications; a constant head tank and dye injectors, etc; along with all our woodworking machines, and of course a surplus microwave dish to hold things down. The trip through Carbondale attracted some attention--the dye and water moving around in the acrylic tanks especially. Lots of meth lab jokes were made.

Here's Jesse (covered in drywall dust) and me enjoying the new digs this morning (with the official LRRD errand bike in the background).

Thanks everybody. I spent most of today editing video--closing in on finishing the new DVD.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Pallet jacks and duskystripe shiners

Editing video today, including some sweet underwater fish things from last summer. Here we see some kind of sucker or minnow, hell if I know, in amongst duskystripe shiners in the Jacks Fork in Missouri. I built a housing with short rods on the bottom that I can jam into the gravel for steady shots in strong current. If you aim the cam just a bit up, and the water depth is just rigth, you get this beautiful shimmering reflection of the gravel on the water's surface, and the bit of sky mixed in gives it a gold tint.

I spent lot of time yesterday with logistics--where do we buy a pallet jack, big industrial cabinets, and the like? How and where do we store all our sheet goods and acrylic tubing and rod? Very hard to be creative with all this stuff going on.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Happy birthday Katherine

Kate turned 41 today. Here she is drawing, back in June. I couldn't have dreamed up a more wonderful wife, and still can't believe she married me. Happy birthday, Kate.

And here's a recent cinematic appearance featuring scooters and complex character development.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Day one at 514 East Main, Carbondale.

I picked up the keys this morning.

We spent the day cleaning and getting to know the place. I had two big concerns about the building--traffic noise and lack of green space. But the noise wasn't bad and I discovered the beautiful historic graveyard just across the street--three acres or so of neat tombstones and magnificent old trees.

It's huge and well-suited for us. You're seeing only about a third of it here, looking south through the front windows, which are covered with metal artwork (installed by Peter Gregory) depicting a river, believe it or not. This is where we'll put all our machines. That's me on the right, Jesse at left.

I'm very fortunate to have this place, and Jesse, Dayna, and Cara to work with me there.

To top off a perfect day, on the way home I heard a Fresh Air rebroadcast of a 1989 Elvis Costello interview.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Who needs authority?

Kate turns 41 this weekend, and I'll be 49 in October. Time passes so much faster as we age. But surprises like this come around to make up for it--this week I heard from an old flame. We had a bitter separation 20 years ago and haven't talked since the Psychedelic Furs were at their peak.

Here is Kathy Hodge in 1984, in Columbia, Missouri, when she was a critical care nurse, and as a firefighter (at left) in Washington State in a 2004 photo. What a cool surprise to see what she's become, and I'm glad she looked me up.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Steve's stereo aerial video screwup

So we've been waiting a couple of months for this awful hazy weather to break to fly some stereo video. Today we have some clear air and our pilot (who'll remain anonymous for now) calls and is ready to fly.

It's been a long day, but I want to do this, so we get the gear ready and I drive to the airport.

I mount the cams using some nice brackets Jesse fabricated, and zoom them to max to aim them (important for stereo) and check and recheck.

But I forget to zoom them to wide before takeoff, and the footage is no good. There is a reason you see more than one person on a film crew, but this was my mistake. I hope our pilot forgives me. Again.

Piece of cake (we sign the loan papers)

After lunch at the Long Branch, where we met a guy named King who knows somebody named Bergschneider, and where we saw the most beautiful cake ever, we visited First Southern Bank and signed the loan papers for 514 East Main.

And of course the cake can't hold a candle to Kate, can it? Speaking of, she turns 41 this Saturday.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Vantenna and mystery of the holey gas tank

Interesting day. I spent most of it in post-production, editing video clips for the DVD. Here we see a channel remeandering after being straightened. As you might guess, the houses are doomed, despite that big gravel berm between them and the channel.

We had a new gas tank put in the Vanagon, and solved a mystery--Vanagons tend to get rust-through in the tanks, and we had all those symptoms, but it turned out some doofus had run over something and put a 3-inch gash in it. The Bondo he put on it had failed. So all the debris in gas tank and related problems are now explained.

On the way home I stopped by Southern Recycling, owned by the renowned Tasis Karayiannis, a family friend, and we picked up some crazy microwave antennas that the local National Guard unit had dropped off for recycling. They're beautiful all-aluminum things and I just couldn't pass them up. Kate and JaJa are very happy that we're keeping the van, but not so enthusiastic about its new accessory.

Monday, September 10, 2007

River disaster in mini-stereo

The work-related highlight of my day was a call from Paul Morin, who we hope to work with on producing educational videos in 3D for the GeoWall system.

Here we have an Emriver flood scene being shot for proof-of-concept work. Seeing the video in 3D is a lot of fun, and we shot River Dozer of Doom in 3D, but you'll have to wait a while for YouTube to provide stereo!

We're cranking up production of Emriver parts; and doing lots of planning for conferences and the new building.

The lowlight of my day was a request from another consultant to review his design for a Rosgen-inspired string of "vortex weirs." We could do so much good with the money being spent on this junk. If you need to lock a channel into place in an urban area, as I've done, fine. But to build a meandering river that can no long meander in a wildland setting is just vandalism.

And then there's this sort of important work, a good example of where the natural channel design gravy train is going.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Local agriculture

I bought a big box of sauce tomatoes from Patrick at our wonderful farmers' market. We're combining those with a bunch of peppers from other local growers to make a huge batch of salsa.

We smoked the peppers and onions with oak from the woodpile. It's so much work, but I was determined to do this once this summer, despite my ridiculous schedule.

The China Creek Report is done.

The China Creek Report, final version, is done. This very interesting (and ongoing) project is a study of geomorphology and restoration potential of a little creek running through the Lewis & Clark Community College campus in Godfrey, Illinois (just north of Alton). We're working on this with Rip Sparks, one of my favorite river scientists.

The aerials at left (click to enlarge) show how the area has changed since the 1930's. It was in pretty bad shape from overgrazing then, but the creek now suffers from extreme incision and urbanization very common in the highly-erodable loess-covered landscapes around St. Louis.

During the project the College gave gave the creek a name--a wry reference to the ubiquitous broken bits of china in its bed (left over from years of trash dumping) and to its rapid incision towards, well, you can guess.

Link to a PDF version of the report (22mb) here.

More video using the 2D flume.

We spent yesterday (Friday) shooting the 2D flume; producing some nice clips on bedload/low water bridge interaction. We also shot some classic clear water hydraulics things with the nice 16X manual lens on our new (replacement for broken) Xl2.

It was great to have Jesse's help with this--I'd often done it alone in the past, and there are so many things to take care of on these shoots.

This finalizes our shooting for the gravel mining DVD (and I mean it this time) and I'll do a lot of editing this weekend.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

And more video

I wish we were in the field. Instead we set the 2D flume and will shoot it for a few hours tomorrow. I hope this will wrap up our shooting for the Missouri DOC/DNR/USEPA work due at the end of September.

Today we also worked on insurance issues for the new building, and did admin work for several consulting jobs. We have some good work lined up for this fall/winter.

Here the Canon XL2 sits in the flooded Current River shooting a time lapse of beautiful post-storm clouds in 2006.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

We're buying the building

Kate and put in the final loan application today, and all the ducks appear lined up for us to buy the building at 514 East Main in Carbondale. It's a 5 minute walk to the Long Branch; <10 minutes' walk to the Student Health Center at SIUC (where Kate works), and we are very much in downtown Carbondale. We'll have 4,400 square feet for video production, model prototyping and building, offices, and materials storage. It even has a loading area with a big garage door to move the big models in and out--we'll be able to palletize them and fork them right into trucks.

The interior has no load bearing walls so it's a big blank slate with lots of open space. It's got high ceilings for shooting large models, waterproof concrete floors--all the odd things we needed. Thanks to Peter Gregory for selling us the building at a good price to help us get started. That's all his woodworking stuff you see in the photos.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Video, video, video

You can't imagine how tedious and it is to produce our river model clips (some older Quicktimes here). It's summer, and a brownout dims the lights. Thirty-minute sequence ruined. You start over. Our pumps get tired of ingesting the angular plastic media, so we put in elaborate filter systems, but filtering is tricky and they clog at the wrong time and everything stops. So we fix the filters and start the sequence again, but then I slip on a puddle and bump the camera. We start over. A 30-minute sequence, which we then time-lapse to perhaps 2 minutes, takes all day. If you're out there thinking of doing what we're doing for money, forget it.

But we did good this week and finished all the shooting for our current gravel mining project. Happy days.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Jesse Riechman joins LRRD

Just about a kilometer south of my house, a neighbor recently turned a little stream into this. Here Jesse Riechman, our new prototyper, talks on his cell as we anxiously await a big t-storm that may expose the faults in this channel design. We hoped to do a time lapse video of the unraveling, but the big cell we saw on radar moved north of Carbondale. There will be another one, and we'll be there (if the sun is up, a little constraint on our field video).

Fun with our river modeling and video

We had some fun last week with our river model video production. Don't mess with us, we know pyrotechnics.

We split a lot of wood.

We split firewood over the weekend--Kate loves this, can you tell? Using a rented splitter we split, hauled and stacked about six truckloads of red oak and other woods from trees that died natural deaths around Carbondale. We're set for the winter, with happy semi-smashed fingers and lacerations and sore muscles.

Kate, and me as she sees us.

My first post to this blog--a drawing of Kate (my wife) and me. I love her style--she's got some dog ears and you can see inside her, and she really is this beautiful (except she made me way more attactive than I actually am.)