Thursday, January 31, 2008

LRRD's first SIUC class.

Matt Whiles' stream ecology class came to LRRD for a lab today.

This is the first time in my 20+ years of using these models that the class came to the Emriver and I didn't have to lug it to them. Murphy's law was in full effect, though, and a few minutes into the demo our power failed (crazy weather here) and our wetlab was very dark.

We got flashlights and rolled to model up to the front windows, and, after putting the Emriver on 12-volt power, we were working again in natural light. Thirty seconds after the pump started, our lights came back on. We all had a big laugh.

And that's why these photos show us in the shop near the windows and not back in the wetlab.

Some nice photos of our space. Thanks, Jesse. Matt's class was full of very interesting students, I'm sure the photos show that.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Happy wife weekend (and snake eating story).

We'll see if Kate ever reads my blog.

Today was beautiful in Carbondale--in the high 40's, sunny. We took the dogs for a long walk this afternoon. When we got back Kate wrapped herself in blankets on the futon with dog, cat, and bread fresh from the oven made and delivered by yours truly. We enjoyed a beautiful sunset. A hawk came through the yard as a silhouette just as it got dark.

I'm getting some GI tests this week and am reminded of a story I haven't told for a long time, probably because Kate, who is scared of snakes (genetic thing) does not like it much.

All true: When I was at the US Coast Guard Academy (1978) some jerky drunk upperclassmen fresh off the rugby field thought they'd scare a few of us underclassmen (we were militarily subject to them) with a pitiful little snake they'd found and killed. Most of these guys were from New England, and considered themselves brave to have touched a dead snake. But in my southern Arkansas childhood they were common. I took the snake and bit off and swallowed the head and gave back the bloody body. This caused a big ruckus and we all got into trouble, but it was well worth it.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Prototyping. Reading a vernier scale. Video.

We're working on a larger version of the Emriver, and I can't say much more about that now except that it involves things like studying gear drives and whether or not you can seal an aluminum box with rivets v. welding. Here's a severely censored photo of a model.

I'll send a beautiful LRRD hat to the first person who emails the correct reading on the vernier above.

Dayna continues to maintain the business end--insurance, the endless job of getting our internet service straightened out, insurance, taxes, accounting, banking and on and on. And Cara's worked on grants, Emriver inquiries and marketing, and of course many other things.

I've updated the website, and we're finalizing the DVD project--nearly 60 clips of geomorphic process and other things--underwater shots of fish, of our Emriver model, gravel mining in the Ozarks. See the teaching guide here.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

The state of river restoration.

Elizabeth Suddith has the links--two Science pieces out last week that challenge the pseudoscience behind a lot of today's commodified, commercial river restoration scene.

These are good, but way late. The train left a long time ago, and millions of dollars are being misdirected. This illustration resembles a couple of river restoration projects I've visited lately, notably this one.

Seventeen years ago I sat in the office of a prominent academic fluvial geomorphologist who I was considering as a PhD advisor, and proposed a program focused on merging disciplines with a view towards river restoration, and warned the guy that this Rosgen thing was coming. His response was "You need to decide whether you want to be a fluvial geomorphologist or engineer or biologist.."

It's worse now than I imagined then. The same outfit getting mitigation money to "restore" a stream is filling a wetland to build a Wal-Mart over in the next watershed. I can't speak for all of them, but I suspect environmental ethics and sustainability are rarely discussed around the water cooler. Rosgen's methods have greased this mitigation money machine, and I'm not hopeful that we can turn that around soon.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Emriver Internationale and prototyping.

Our Emriver national ads are debuting, notably in Fisheries, this week, and emails are coming in. A very nice one from Quebec today, last week one from Australia. Anybody know how to ship a couple of pallets to the other side of the globe?

Dayna and Cara worked the oars and got a lot done on this chilly gray day. Jesse did some fine prototyping, shown here. Very cool stuff, more later.

And restoringrivers has tons of interesting news, some of it chronicling the continued Rosgen-enabled hijacking of stream restoration science through mitigation funding.

Monday, January 14, 2008

On design. And we breathe deeply again.

After the past few weeks night and day work on our Gigantic Grant Proposal, we're are getting back to normal. It's good for all of us.

I was finally able to detach from my computer and desk and prototype some ideas I've bottled up for months. We are working on some bigger river models--the Emriver is a wonderful tool, but it's optimized for portability and cost. Here's Jessie in the shop today (some things pixelated.)

Jessie and I made great progress today. I love design. The formal stuff is pretty goofy to me. I've read books on design. Seems politics, economics, and especially aesthetics (and, worst of all, the politics of aesthetics) poison what I've seen of formal design.

Our 1986 Vanagon is a good example. The overall shape is good (boxy, you can put a ton of stuff in there) and the camper part is brilliant and still copied today. But the Beetle boxer engine should never have been wedged into that thing. I think my hundreds of hours of working on and modifying our Vanagon have taught me something.

The process goes from problem to lots of thinking and sketching (I have hundreds of pages on the Emriver). And research on the materials and parts available. Then much iteration, drawing and thinking and sleeping in between. Then dumb ideas. You hope not too many of these get prototyped, but in the case of the Emriver's notch gage, about 20 did. Cost and durability and buildability have to be on your mind.

What's interesting to me now is that we build the prototypes and test them, and you slap your head and go "what a dumb idea" or rejoice that the thing works like you thought (lots of that today). But then you move away from the physical model and immediately other ideas come to mind. The models tie you to reality but perhaps too much. They are not easy to build, maybe that's it. Too many hot glue burns. Too much adjusting the tablesaw fence, looking for 1/4" wingnuts. God forbid you have to make a hardware store run. The wrong reality creeps in and messes with your design.

For me, looking at the photos of our prototype models brings a flood of ideas that I never would've had standing there at the workbench. Maybe a Kodachrome effect--the thing looks much different in a photo, you're not distracted by smells and sound and running the tablesaw, and new ideas emerge. Most of them will be entombed in the notebooks, but now and then one makes sense.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Proposal done, time for some fluvial whiskeyology.

It's hard to describe how much work this proposal has been. Somewhere around 270 hours of LRRD time. Night and day, day after day, since early December. And yesterday and today Matt Whiles and Harvey Henson (shown here with Cara and Dayna in back) were our heroes, pulling a heavy load. But we're done, it's submitted. Toby the Lucky Rubber Chicken pecked the button, and here's Cara's V sign.

The grant opportunity is exciting, but the nicest thing about all of this was how we worked well together and got along under intense stress. Today, especially, we all just cranked. We passed a grueling test and did it with a rubber chicken. I'm tired as hell but very happy about that.

And now I am going to do a geomorphological reconnaissance of this river. I have a whole day, maybe two, off.

Thanks, Kate (night and day work on the proposal).

We're working night and day on this grant proposal. Kate's been so supportive--here's a lovely little dish she made for me while I worked.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

A break from work in smoke-free Carbondale.

More grant writing today, but I took a break with Kate at the Long Branch. Carbondale's new smoking ban makes this place much nicer for us. Here's Kate with Elaine, the manager, and paying the tab. I don't have permission to name the young woman in the picture, but have to say we're always happy to see her.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Hard work writing, and some good news.

We cranked on our proposal, which now involves five principal investigators at SIUC, something like seven programs there, four high schools, and three other universities from UC-Berkeley east to the U of I Champaign-Urbana.

At least Jessie got to have some fun (I would have gladly traded places), researching and building scale models for something (secret, sorry) we're working on. He's got his little Apple laptop, coffee, and tools.

And in the midst of all this we've had some exciting inquiries about Emriver models and other things we're working on; yesterday was a big day for this. We're correlating it with the rubber chicken arrival.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

The rubber chickens and moon suits arrive.

It was in the single digits last night and Kate and I got the wood stove too warm and I slept hardly at all and dreamed material for a couple of David Lynch movies when I was asleep.

We're working way too hard, but it has to be done. Poor Cara was up half the night with a sick child, and so pretty tired today, too.

So we were in the mood for non-work when my big order from this place showed up--a little holiday gift to myself.

We buy electronics and such from them for prototyping. They have tons of cool things like these surplus biohazard suits for $6 each. And rubber chickens. That's me and Cara, ready for the microbial apocalypse with aforementioned chicken, no bird flu jokes, please.

The last picture is more indicative of our work lives for the last few weeks. The brain-hurting task of writing a major grant proposal. That's Harvey Henson, a geologist and educator from SUIC, and Cara, as we worked this afternoon.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Happy New Year; botony, grants, and video.

I worked on the LRRD website over the last two days, and added some new videos. Also more work on our grant proposal.

Kate and I did a new year's hike with Karen Renzaglia and learned a lot about ferns and lichens. Here she tells us about the "walking fern." She's great, and she's going for two years with the National Science Foundation in DC this summer.

It's cold in Carbondale (here's a photo of ice on a little pool,) and will be very cold tonight.