Wednesday, December 31, 2008

US next to last in evolution literacy.

Working on our NSF proposal, I visited the Earth Science Literacy Project and was shocked to see this:

A deep schism is opening up within our country: at the same time that tremendous scientific advances are being made, increasing percentages of Americans are refusing to believe them. For example, paleontologists have recently made tremendous headway in resolving the evolutionary history of vertebrates. However, a recent study by Miller et al. [2006] found that the number of Americans who actually believe that evolution occurs has dropped down to 40% (compared to about 80% for many Scandinavian countries). In fact, out of 32 modern countries, only one country, Turkey, had a smaller percentage of its citizens believing in the occurrence of evolution.
Good grief.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Dayna's last day with us.

We had a nice potluck and traded some stories today to see Dayna off. She's going to dedicate her time to, besides raising some fine kids, to a new nonprofit she's founded. Called Foodworks, it will support local, sustainable food production, among other things.

Stephanie, who's very near her first official day with us, has been training, and is holding up very well under the insanity of Dayna leaving, our switch to doing our own payroll, and Cara and I being horribly busy and stressed over our NSF proposal deadline.

Ever try to contact a professor between finals and January? It's a terrible time to collaborate. Jim Garvey at SIUC said it best in an email: "OK, I'll come out of my cocoon."

Monday, December 29, 2008

Bad economic times.

This NY Times video piece on how three small businesses in that region are weathering the economic downturn really spoke to me. You can see a certain pain of responsibility and worry in the owner's faces.

I knew running LRRD wouldn't be easy, but this downturn was a nasty surprise. A startup in good economic times is hectic, stressful, and difficult. Kate reminds me that this will really test us and teach us, and she's right (a woman in the video sums that up nicely).

The bicycle builder's story was particularly interesting for me. High gas prices made bike sales skyrocket last year; and now he's suffering because some of his main buyers are the big automakers, who "aren't buying anything now."

I'm not happy our world is going through this, and hope we'll avoid another one with lessons learned. We can't led unfettered greed run our economic system. From one of my favorite political blogs I learned that the WaMu failure occured after horrible abuses of the lending system. This article will shock you.

When I was buying our building in 2007, a bank officer in Carbondale, after hearing I didn't like the appraisal, said, with no hesitation, "Call her and tell her to change it."

That was the mood and ethic that led us to this.

(Photo from Worksman Bicycles)

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Museums, grant writing, record rainfall in St. Louis.

We're super busy these days--Cara and I are mostly working on resubmitting an NSF grant due in early January. We have collaborators at SIUC and a few other universities. This photo is typical--it's such hard work, and has consumed many of my Sundays.

The NY Times ran this article about hands-on museum exhibits today. We're confident one of our Em4s will soon find a place in a museum, and one of Stephanie's jobs is to work on that.

I'm no expert, but it seems that the massive tornado warnings throughout Missouri and Illinois were unprecedented for late December. We saw a 30 degree drop in temperature last night as the squall line, which was not that violent here, came through. Many rivers in northern Missouri and Illinois are flooding, and at least one gage in St. Louis recorded 1.5 inches in an hour yesterday afternoon. As I noted back in October, St. Louis was then near its annual record rainfall. As of today, the Lambert Airport gage has recorded 57.96 inches for 2008, which appears to be a record (I can't find the official record, see link), and is three inches more than St. Louis saw in 1993.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

A half-baked geomorphology of the Conway, AR area.

My Mom and brother Greg and his family live in Conway, Arkasas, (where I am now) and every time I visit I'm perplexed by the geomorphology I see. Conway has boomed in the last couple of decades--it's a bedroom/white flight community; lots of people who live here work in Little Rock, which lies 20 minutes down I-40 to the south. My visits are short, and through the windshield I see lots of flat surfaces and low-gradiet urban channels (many small, rectangular, and lined with concrete). But also steep, linear scarps and ridges along with some rolling landscapes. Nothing seems to fit together.

Here's an excerpt from the USGS 1:100K topo and the Arkansas Geological Survey map of the state's geology (link to an article with high-res originals and other things here.) The image of this entire map shows the strong break between the relatively flat Mississippi Delta/Embayment and Gulf Coastal Plain in the eastern and southeastern parts of the state and the mountainous northwest formed with parts of the Ozarks, Boston Mountains, and Ouachitas (see the article for a better description.)

I finally took the time (Kate's napping and Mom's cooking) to examine this, (be warned I'm not in my element here and could be way off.) Conway sits in a severely folded and faulted geologic setting, and it appears the valleys between fold ridges have been filled with alluvium/colluvium. The drainage in Conway is generaly low slope and poorly developed; and Tucker Creek running southwest from town, like many of the smaller channels in town, has been straightened.

Conway lies at about 300 ft. NGVD; a broad terrace in the Arkansas River floodplain 25 feet lower at 275, and a narrow active floodplain at 250 ft. The valley floor at Conway is not mapped as Quaternary alluvium (yellow on the map here) as is the material in the Arkansas River floodplain. There is no obvious break between the flat surface on which Conway lies (is there another name for this, perhaps?) and the Arkansas River terrace at 275 ft.

South of Conway, these eroded strata form aptly named Round Mountain, with an annular drainage pattern I've seen only in textbooks before--you can just see this on the 1:100K excerpt.

Conway's economy doesn't fit with its surrounding very well either--unlike most of the rest of the US, it's booming (resulting in an urban sprawl disaster), largely because of development of the Fayetteville Shale for gas production.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Stephanie Rhodes joins LRRD.

Another eventful week at LRRD--we're bringing our resident Emriver Em4 into being, adding some media yesterday and running water through it for the first time. We don't yet have the articulated base; it's being built in St. Louis.

But most importantly, Stephanie Rhodes began working for us today. She's got the business and marketing experience we've been looking for and came very highly recommended from old coworkers and southern Illinois friends. She grew up on a farm south of Carbondale, left for the big time, learned things like international marketing, and as she says, "boomeranged" back.

We're all very excited about her energy and expertise.

Cara and I are very busy working with collaborators at SIUC and elsewhere on an NSF proposal.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Great news from our Emriver Em2 user survey.

We've been incredibly busy since our expansion in the fall of 2007. One of the things we've neglected is routine followup of Emriver users. Our Emriver Em2's are built like military hardware, and our documentation is very good. So we get less than one support question a month, and nearly zero problems. So unless we make the effort, we don't get much feedback.

In preparation for an NSF grant proposal we're working on, we contacted all our academic Emriver users, and the response has been wonderful. The models are being heavily used, and in just the ways we hoped--to teach engineering and the geosciences, and for outreach to all sorts of groups. And often a single model is used for both.

As an example, here's a photo from the SUNY "ESF Science Corps Summer Camps Investigating Ecology in Neighborhood and City Environments." The program offers urban kids a chance to learn environmental science, and if you want to see some cute, happy, junior high school kids, visit the site and see the "2008 photos" links.

Dr. Ted Endreny (shown in the photo) is also using his Emriver Em2 model for other NSF-funded teaching and research. Thanks to Dr. Endreny for the photos.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Our in house Em4 moves forward.

Jesse put the finishing touches on a new pumpcart for our in-house Emriver Em4. He's done a great job on this one. It features remote control dye injectors, and we've spent a lot of time on making it very quiet, which it is. Most pumps are noisy.

We'll fill this one with media soon. That'll be a big day.

Here's a picture of Cara and Dayna (with a bored JaJa the dog). Dayna's leaving us at the end of the year and we're all bummed about that.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

A beautiful alluvial fan from space.

I subscribe to Nasa's Earth Observatory "Image of the Day," something I highly recommend. Last week their set included this satellite photo of an alluvial fan in the Zagros Mountains of southern Iraq.

The story it tells is mysterious, rich, and beautiful.

Clearly there are discrete zones where agriculture is possible, and imposed on that are radiating agricultural property lines (the long, thin rectangles) reminiscent of 18th century French survey lines you still see in around St. Louis today.

I really can't figure out the topography. Clearly there's a strong break at the base of the fan, but even upstream of that the channel is braided, indicating a low slope.

Nasa's description tells some of the story - the area is very arid, so a braided channel might be found on a steep slope that has infrequent floods.

Surely that strong NW-SE line at the base of the fan has some recent tectonic origin, or perhaps the valley, like California's Owen's valley, is formed in a graben.

I don't know, does anybody? (Looks like I'm right about the tectonics, I may yet learn some geology.)

I see this excellent blog beat me to this image.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

New interest in low head hydropower.

Today I caught an AP story about increased interest in hydropower. Low head hydropower --at river locks and from 'hydrokinetic' sources -- may be something we'll see more of as energy costs rise an it becomes economically attractive.

And we'll see the inevitable conflicts over its impacts on our already strained river ecosystems.

The drawing here, from this site, is pretty typical of what I've seen. I'm no expert on hydropower, but I do know river geomorphology and some fluid mechanics, and this setup is what I'd call "geomorphically incorrect." Just the conveniently placed four foot drop in that little creekbed is unrealistic, and this setup wouldn't last a minute in any kind of flood. Maybe it's just a schematic, but probably illustrative of unrealistic expectations for this kind of power in the face of geomorphic reality.

On a much larger scale, here's Free Flow Power's website and a drawing of a system they're prototyping. The board and technical team are very impressive --clearly they're putting some serious investment into it.

All I can see are 20 foot long cottonwood snags spearing those carbon fiber turbines at 2 meters per second. But again, maybe I'm missing something.

This company is looking at installing turbines of some sort on the middle and lower Mississippi. There is a hell of a lot of energy in those rivers, but not enough, apparently, to keep them deep enough for navigation, so we burn diesel fuel on dredges to fix that. What happens to the energy these turbines extract? Maybe it could be used to charge the batteries on hybrid electric dredges.

From the AP article:

Massachusetts-based Free Flow Power Corp. is studying the prospects of planting thousands of small electric turbines in the river bed at 55 sites from St. Louis to the Gulf of Mexico, figuring together they could generate enough power to supply 1.5 million homes. The private startup says the cumulative output of 1,600 megawatts would be the equivalent of three small coal-fired power plants or one or two nuclear ones.

Some Wikipedia links on hydropower.

Also very cool link on building a pump-back demonstration model for teaching.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Key Obama manager has fluvial geomorph degree.

I've just found out that Jon Carson, Obama's National Field Manager, a Wisconsin native, has an MS in fluvial geomrphology from UCLA. Here's a TPM interview from right before the election.

From this article:
Carson eventually finished his master’s degree in fluvial geomorphology -- he studied sedimentation in a section of the Mississippi River off Goose Island -- and he and his wife, Rebecca, whom he met on the Gore campaign, left for Honduras, where Carson built water systems and taught surveying as a Peace Corps volunteer.
Carson also worked for Tammy Duckworth in Illinois. He's never studied political science and says that his science background really helped with important number crunching. Sounds like a cool guy.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Carbondale post-burn holiday fun.

Kate and I had a wonderful Thanksgiving day. She talked me into riding our bikes to seeing the results from last week's historic first prescribed burn inside Carbondale's city limits. She's on the board of Green Earth, a land trust that manages the property and organized the burn. Kate's posted pictures here.

Here's my photo of a singed rattlesnake-master seed head.

The weather was beautiful and we extended our ride and got hungry. We ended up at the Huck's south of campus. An ungly place from the outside, but not a bad stop at all on a day when everything else's closed and you haven't had a donut in six months.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Intuition and fluid mechanics.

Our Emriver models originated with the problem of teaching laypeople (mostly landowners along streams in Missouri) about river processes that are horribly counter intuitive. For example, that removing gravel from an Ozark stream can have upstream effects.

Here's a great example of fluid behavior you'd never predict without some serious technical training. I'll try to get this right: in laminar flow, particles and layers slip past one another without mixing. So the process these unknown voices and hands are demonstrating is reversible because the layers of colored fluid slipped past one another but did not move laterally or become turbulent.

Very cool demonstration videotaped at the University of New Mexico Physics Department, where it takes three people to count to five (six?) and back, with some committee-like behavior (I'm guessing the professor is turning the crank with grad students, reluctant to correct his counting, holding the device down).

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Upgraded to a status of cancelled.

I needed to use the LRRD dry erase board for something important yesterday, and so wiped off my collection of funny things I didn't want to forget.

Now they'll reside forever on the internets.

Eelvation. What 17 of our river cross section charts in a recent report said before Jesse caught it, right before publication. This eel is at 869.2 ft NGVD.

Inconsistently frequent. A descriptor Cara applied to wetland features in the same report. I stay up at night wondering if this phrase makes sense or not. Really. She thinks I'm making fun, but I'm not. Does chaos theory address things that happen frequently, but not consistently?

Ungraded to a status of canceled. The board is slightly wrong. What a machine written email said to me after a part became unavailable. "Your order has been upgraded to a status of canceled." I love this one, so many possible uses.

Erroneous propellers. Well, here's the perfect name for your garage band. Phrase used in an email to me after we were sent the wrong size propellers for a pumping system we're prototyping. "I apologize for the erroneous propellers." We eventually got the correct propellers. Not as catchy, is it?

100% Stunt'n. Written with strips of peeling black electrical tape on the back of a 1976 Chevy Monte Carlo I saw last week. My hat is off the salt-of-the-automotive-earth owner of this car.

And here's a notice I got with the Bemis XCITE!(tm) replacement toilet seat I installed yesterday. It's a pretty good seat. With a website.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

We host, build, ship, and design.

We have a lot going on now, and it's all good. How about some pictures?

Greg Wilkerson from SIUC brought a couple of his grad students by this week for a visit.

Shipping an Emriver to Minnesota with our friends from Rodeway.

A couple of very young researchers stopped by. They found our heating system inadequate but soldiered on at their cartoons calculations anyway.

We moved an Em4 box into the lab (still waiting on the articulated base) where Jesse and Cara posed with a pair of little pink cowboy boots.

Jesse made big standpipe design/production progress; he's done a phenomenal job on this hardest of problems; moving a cylinder through a seal in a very wet, abrasive (modeling media) environment. And making the thing reasonably priced, easily buildable, foolproof, indestructible, pretty, safe, etc.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The LRRD boat on stormy seas.

I subscribe to an email list/blog by illustrator Leif Peng. He came by a large file of illustrations (most pre-1960 I think) and publishes these, along with stories of the artists, on his blog. He just finished an incredible series by an artist who was a WWII prisoner of war.

This one is by David Shaw (click on the image for a high-res version).

We're riding the financial market waves at LRRD now (the Dow crashed again today), and struggling with hiring and marketing expansion decisions. When I saw this illustration on Leif's blog, my first thought was "I feel like that guy at the tiller." I hope we get some flat water soon.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Emriver laser surprise.


Today was a big day for business things. We solved a huge Emriver Em2 marketing puzzle thanks to a kind visit from Greg Wilkerson--he revealed to us the nature of civil engineering instruction and thus why our sales to engineering schools are not what we'd hoped. Thanks Greg.

Inspired by a paper Greg showed us and needing a break, I tried bouncing a sheet laser off our resident Em2. Here are results. I was hoping to fool around with topographic representation but got much more. Turbulence in the flow and resulting water surface shape produces some amazing reflected images--some of the most beautiful waveforms I've seen. I'm sure we'll do more of this, but for the record here are the first.

The little movie was shot with my Canon Pro1 still camera.

NY Times article on US state budget woes.

Today's Times article includes a multimedia graphic showing the condition of individual states. This is important to us because we hope to sell to public entities in all those states.

A quote:

“Frankly, I thought 2001 was really awful,” said Scott D. Pattison, the executive director of the National Association of State Budget Officers, referring to the last big economic downturn. “It is even worse now.”
He added, “This fiscal year will be really bad, and what is unfortunate is that I can’t see how 2010 won’t be bad too.”
In keeping with recent economic trends, the states with the worst problems are those where housing booms morphed into a large-scale mortgage crisis over the last two years.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Money, it's a crime.

Yesterday had the great pleasure of visiting my old boss Bill Turner in his new office as Chief of Fisheries Division for the Missouri Department of Conservation. I was in Jefferson City interviewing with MDC for river design contracts. Bill was one of three great mentors I had, and I owe the start of my river conservation career to him.

His conference table was covered with spreadsheet printouts. He was busy cutting budgets.

We're finding that grants people have used to buy our Emriver models are going dry. Some of this is Bush administration de-funding of EPA and other environmental programs and education, but now we have tax revenues and charitable giving going down. Not good.

We're still in growth mode, and, needing to do some analysis and planning, I got my courage together and looked at our investments. Good grief, it's bad. Like the Dow, our mutual funds are at about half what they were a year ago. My brilliant wife reminds me that the money we took out for LRRD last year is much more likely to gain value that what we left in!

This entrepreneur stuff is not for the faint of heart.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

A storm hydrograph captured on video.

Two years ago, after a couple of attempts, I managed to catch an entire rainstorm and the resulting hydrograph in a small urban channel in Carbondale. I'm guessing nobody else has ever done this. What better way to introduce students to this concept? Here's the YouTube link, I posted a higher resolution version here (you'll need QuickTime).

I compressed the resulting two hours of tape down to two minutes. A tree chipper and a stoplight in the corners of the frame are interesting to watch and give clues to the passing of time. During the flood a checkdam in the center of the frame is overwhelmed. At its peak, the storm is very impressive. Without sound (which you can't use in time lapse) this is harder to appreciate, but the intensity of the rain is apparent.

I added a hydrograph and other graphics. It was a hell of a lot of work, not counting actually getting the event on tape. Even though I have a very heavy tripod, the wind nearly ruined the video--you can see the frame slowly tilt to one side as the tripod settles into the mud. A million things could've gone wrong, especially with a $5,000 camera enduring an hour of driving rain under a thin nylon cape. Had the wind been blowing any other direction except straight from the back of the camera, it wouldn't have worked.

I wasn't paid anything for this, but sure would like to find funding more of the same.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Universities face the financial meltdown.

From today's NY Times (full article):

With endowment values shrinking, variable-rate debt costs rising and states cutting their financing, colleges face challenges on multiple fronts, said Molly Corbett Broad, president of the American Council on Education.
So at LRRD we're facing not only an overall economic slowdown, but budget cuts at the institutions that buy our products. This is on top of years of declining funding in science education.

We're lucky that our consulting is going well, and is relatively unaffected by the economy--we stay away from working for developers (who are really suffering now), and rivers are going to keep flooding and tearing up infrastrucure no matter what Wall Street does.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Welcome, President Obama.

I'm proud of Kate--she's barely had a day off for two weeks, but drove over to Cape Girardeau to get out the Missouri vote for Obama today. Here's a photo (she's in the middle). It was a beautiful day. And here's a photo she took of a mailbox there.

I was born in Hope, Arkansas in 1958, and as a young boy remember the awful things I heard white grownups say about black people during the civil rights struggles in the 1960's. In a freshly desegregated first grade, I made friends with a African American kid named Levinski Smith. I took him to a Boy Scout meeting and caused a major scandal. Last I heard of Vince, he had a seat on the Arkansas Supreme Court.

I clearly remember "Colored" and "White" water fountains--our hospital still had these faded signs in the early 70's in southern Arkansas.

Kate and my friends have wondered why I'm so reluctant to accept Obama's apparent win today. It's because, like probably a lot of people who've grown up in the south, I can hardly believe it's true.

So it's with much emotion I welcome Barack Obama as our next President.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Call for change on climate change.

I guess I missed the point where the right wing radio bloviators and such started accepting climate change as reality--it seems not long ago this was still debated, at least by politicians and the ill (Fox News) informed. We still have the debate as to cause, of course, and a hell of lot of people are still confused, because confusion means no change in Washington.

Now we have consortia of scientific groups calling for action from our soon to be new (thank heavens) President.

I spotted this in EOS, but this is from the horse's mouth.

Weather and Climate Leaders Call on Washington to Better Protect the Nation from Climate Change and Severe Weather

August 20, 2008

BOULDER—Eight leading professional organizations in the field of weather and climate today called on the next administration and Congress to better protect the United States from severe weather and climate change. They issued five recommendations to reverse declining budgets and provide needed tools, information, and leadership to decision makers. The recommendations and supporting information have been provided to the presidential campaigns of John McCain and Barack Obama.

The United States sustains billions of dollars in losses every year from disasters related to weather and climate, such as hurricanes, tornadoes, forest fires, floods, droughts, and snow storms, the transition document states. This year alone, the country has experienced a record-setting pace of tornadoes, as well as many severe floods and wildfires.

"With more than a quarter of the U.S. gross national product (over $2 trillion) sensitive to weather and climate, these events substantially impact our national health, safety, economy, environment, transportation systems, and military readiness," the document states. "All 50 states are impacted by these events, and many of these events will be exacerbated by climate change."
Full release here.

Photo credit: This tornado was one of several that struck near Hebron, Nebraska, on May 22, 2004. Tornadoes are forming at a record-setting pace this year, with nearly 1,000 twisters confirmed by NOAA's Storm Prediction Center for the period January through May 2008.
[ENLARGE] (Photo by Bob Henson, ©UCAR.) News media terms of use*

Sunday, November 2, 2008

If a turtlechuck could chuck wood.

I have to tell this story. Kate and I spent most of Saturday using a hydraulic splitter to take apart a huge red oak tree. As we worked on an especially knotty log I asked her to give it some more gas. She looked at what you see here a second, moved the throttle lever towards the turtle, and the struggling engine died.

"But didn't the tortoise beat the hare in the end?" She said.

I've looked at those symbols (in use since when, the 1970's?) hundreds of times and never seen that angle. A nod to Aesop? Why not a snail and a racehorse?

We were dog tired and pretty beat up by that time, and amongst a big pile of split wood, we made like the hare and took a break.

The water pig squeals; my work published, sort of.

Taking a break from my incessant administrative and computer - based tasks, I worked on an old design for a small flume this week. I originally built a prototype last year that was, with some cruelty towards me, nicknamed the "water pig." With a little change (a ducted propeller, no lipstick jokes please) in the design, it worked just fine this time.

My copy of a brand-new book co-written by my friend Mary Hocks arrived from the publisher. Mary and her colleague Laura Gurak have put together a very nice technical writing handbook (on Amazon here). They used parts of a geomorphological report I wrote as examples, along with some things from our Emriver manuals. I am hoping that we can
use it to improve our writing. (Mary's also a great singer-songwriter.)

We all worked on Emriver media color issues and finally worked out a system with our supplier. We have spent countless hours on this, but have gained a lot of expertise.

Jesse's done a great job of redesigning the Emriver Em2 standpipe--this little part has always been a challenge, but it looks like we may have a design that is robust, easy to use and manufacture, but not too expensive.

Friday, October 31, 2008

The journal Nature endorses Obama.

A first, apparently. Full text here.

This journal does not have a vote, and does not claim any particular standing from which to instruct those who do. But if it did, it would cast its vote for Barack Obama.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

St. Louis flood forum Nov. 11.

St. Louis University is hosting a flood forum on November 11. A scientific meeting will run most of the day, followed by a public forum that night. Two of my favorite river scientists, Rip Sparks and Nicholas Pinter, will be presenting. This is a critical issue for the St. Louis, Missouri area and it's good to see it pushed into the public eye as the memory of last summer's floods dims.

Link to scientific meeting, and public form schedule.

Panel participants are to be announced. I don't yet see any Army Corps people, and imagine the organizers are working to get them involved.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Schlieren photography and fluid mechanics.

Today's New York Times has an article and slideshow featuring this visualization method. I'm fascinated by images showing fluid mechanics, and those using this technique are beautiful, even haunting. I'm not sure if this method can be used in water (all these images are in air), but I'd like to try.

Essentially, the Schlieren photography shows variations in air density and thus turbulence, shock waves and other fluid phenomenon.

The method is complicated, and I don't fully understand it. Here's a good link (from which the diagram was taken).

Record annual rainfall in St. Louis.

Here's a blog I've just discovered: Mother Nature Watch, written by, as far as I can tell, faculty at the Center for Environmental Science at St. Louis University.

And an interesting post from October 7; link, quote:

Today’s rainfall is bringing the St. Louis area close to an all-time record rainfall year. The year’s total rainfall is currently (before today) 50.32 inches, which is 20.37 inches over the average amount. With nearly 3 months to go in 2008 it is like [sic] that we will break the record set in 1982, of 54.97 inches. In the Great Flood of 1993, St Louis had a rainfall total of 54.76 inches.

The blog is hosted by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch media conglomerate, and encourages comments. Reading these is a great way to see what Rush Limbaugh et al. are saying about climate change without actually listening/reading, e.g. greenhouse gases make up only 1/2 of 1% of the atmosphere, so of course they can't be the cause of climate change.

October bonfire.

Karen Renzaglia hosted another great harvest party with a visible-from-outer-space bonfire (last year's).Here she is. Kate and I designed and launched a nice little fire raft onto the pond. We all had fun paddling out in the dark to replenish it.
The African band Siwade, another awesome Carbondale/SIUC-based group, played for a couple of hours at the bonfire.

Our weather has been beautiful--very dry with beautiful skies. Here's a picture of our mutts enjoying it.

The fire raft was popular, here's the easy recipe. ~10" white pine logs for the pontoons, deck-screwed to an old pallet covered with a scrap of barn tin. Anchor it with some rope and half a cinder block so it doesn't blow into the bank and set the woods on fire.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Media research with a microscope.

Once again we're doing R&D on plastic media, this time analyzing color for the Emriver Em2 models. This one is tricky because the stuff is post-industrial recycled. We have to keep the cost down, and can't pick the colors exactly, but must deal with mixes.

We put together batches of various chroma (chromi?, brightness is what it means) and found that perception of color does not match reality. What do you think the percentage of white is in this sample (against a dark background)? It's nearly 90% white, though the nonwhite particles catch your eye. The colored particles carry a much higher weight in visual perception.

We got a very cool little digital microscope for this work, and have had a blast looking at bugs and fingerprints and such.