Saturday, March 29, 2008

Pleistocene Carbondale.

Kate's on the board of a local land trust (Green Earth). We worked with other volunteers on trail maintenance at one of GE's sites south of Carbondale. It's here:

View Larger Map

I don't think anybody's studied or described it, but on this border of the last glacial advance, and under strong influence from grade in the Mississippi River, now and in the late Pleistocene, we have a lot of what may be naturally incising channels. The gullies on the GE site are impressive. Very active headcuts.

These channels have some bedrock (shale and sandstone) control and I see what I call "Grover gravel," a mid or early-Pleistocene (I forget) formation with small, very well rounded quartz particles. I've collected a lot of these in St. Louis.

One photo (with Kate at right) shows a gully with a huge boulder; the bed appears to be clay residuum.

At the lower end of the GE site, a culvert at Kennedy Road controls hydraulics, and here's a photo of Kate (with JaJa the wonderdog in foreground) showing channel evolution; a bench on both sides of the channel.

Friday, March 28, 2008

An amazing Friday.

In the last six months of running LRRD I've learned to endure dark days. Like yesterday, a day of researching pumps. Yes, pump research. How many amps? How many liters/hour in a gallon/minute? I spent four hours correcting, and then explaining to other people, a mistake I made in the Em4 CAD drawing.

But the sun rose today and Ben Griffiths, a teacher at the New City School in St. Louis, arrived to pick up an Emriver model to be used by the River Kids, a river conservation group formed by 4-6 graders there. We gave him and his two sons a demonstration, talked a bunch about rivers and education and had the pleasure of tying the model onto his roof rack. Much better than forklifting it onto a truck.

This model will be featured at a benefit for the New City School at the City Museum next month. We're very excited about this (somebody needs to book rooms, Cara). And about a VW Beetle Riverkids located in the Mississippi River. That might become an Emriver-Bug hybrid, we'll see.

Late in the day we met with educators and civic leaders from Carbondale to collaborate on another NSF grant, including Harvey Henson (far left) and Scott Ishman (upper right), from SIUC Geology, and Cache River managers Tracy and Jim, great people. Cara, Jesse, and I talked about our modified Emriver and Em4 plans. A nice change for me, from pump research.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Floodestate, and a sign for LRRD.

Flooding in the Midwest has been serious. This is just down the road from my house, here shown in this afternoon's pouring rain.

Imagine being in the subprime meltdown and underwater.

Lots of news at LRRD.

We're hard at work on Em4 design and production.

We're also thinking about sign for the empty yoke at 514 East Main. This stretch of busy highway 13 is pretty ugly.

A friend gave us an old, no longer seaworthy Grumman canoe last month, and Jessie suggested we could create a Carbondale landmark with it.

Our friends and talented metal artists at Sauer Machine in St. Louis have offered to make a sign for us. Maybe this great old canoe can be part of it. I've Photoshopped it in here, with Jesse and a level rod for scale. I'm thinking of a few hundred 3/8" holes to reduce its wind profile, and something like this. A little tilt for the canoe, the logo and our initials. Neon, maybe?

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Grandma trumps the flood.

I ran around southern Illinois being a laser leveling Boy Scout helping my neighbors by tying the Big Muddy River gage readings from the USGS and NOAA to flood elevations at their homes and on low spots in our roads. If the Big Muddy had risen as predicted, Kate and I would've been stranded for a few hours. I had a vague idea we were on some Pleistocene terrace/floodplain border, but now I have a better idea.

My Grandma, Virginia Caston, turned 100 today down in Hope Arkansas. Thinking I'd just mention my Grandma, I pulled out some old photos. Seeing them with 49 year old eyes, I remembered her as she was when I was little, and realize now how much I've inherited from her.

The Spanish flu killed her mother when she was only 12, and at 16 she married my Grandpa. They were always poor. She bore eight children through the worst of the Depression, (my Mom in 1933) and later worked in a coat factory to make ends meet. A hardshell Southern Baptist, who knew the Clintons from church, she didn't let her kids drink, smoke, play cards, or dance. Hard on my Mom, who graduated high school in 1955.

Here are a couple of photos of her and Grandpa, both taken in the late 1960's when she was nearly 60.

Can you see the spark?

All my memories of Grandma are good. She taught my Mom her amazing cooking, and we grew up on fried chicken and cornbread, sweet potatoes and blackeyed peas. And on my birthday she made me lemon icebox pie, always. She made brown corduroy winter coats for all 24 grandkids when we were in grade school, one a year for all of us. I have no memory of her being impatient, ever.

She was never doting, never the Rockwell grandma, how could she be?

She was upset at how Bill Clinton was treated over the Lewinsky scandal. But, early in Clinton's term, when I asked her about him, she said "His mom was a floozy!" For the last 40 years, at least, she's eaten a crazy processed food high saturated fat diet.

Happy 100, Grandma Caston.

Some images, from the gage I've been watching, the swing set stage gage I installed, and flooded neighbors.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Flooding close to home, and Em4 happiness.

We have serious flooding in the Midwest--many rivers will peak at records over the weekend. Go here for St. Louis media reports.

As I drove home under a beautiful blue sky and warmish weather I passed a neighbor's house threatened by the Big Muddy here, and had to help. We're not too far vertically or horizontally from the Mississippi River. This landscape is still adjusting to the late Pleistocene.

Forgoing the Friday beer I was craving, I stopped and talked and then fetched my laser level and an old level rod and we set up a stage monitoring system for a couple of houses. We duct-taped a level rod to a swingset. The NOAA prediction adds about 3 feet to the elevation I surveyed, so they should be OK if their pumps hold out.

It felt good, and I'm kind of proud of the drawing I left with them. The last photo shows Wood Road very near my house.

Cara and I talked with our wonderful Em4 collaborators today. Very exciting stuff.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

What floods around goes around.

Looks like the Meramec River will hit the flood of record in St. Louis tomorrow.

These guys, who build our Emriver boxes, sit on the fringe of the Meramec's floodplain there.

Consider the irony of our great friends and suppliers of river model parts going underwater. We're now helping them figure out whether to jack equipment off the floor.

Last month we worked on Fishpot Creek, a tributary to the Meramec just upstream, and I did analysis of the Valley Park gage. All the maps and such were still out on the table.

Meramec River USGS gage at Valley Park.

NOAA flood prediction site
for Valley Park.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Water (and Emriver orders) flood Carbondale.

Flooding all over. From west Texas to New York. Lots of trouble in southern Illinois. Pumps and levees failed in Harrisburg, IL. If you're into hydrology, check out the stage plots and rainfall on my favorite Missouri Ozark river.

Jesse took this photo as he and a bunch of first responders (mostly the Makanda volunteers, with help from the Carbondale FD) rescued a couple of guys who drove past barriers to find their big Silverado pickup unable to defy the realities of fluid mechanics. Thanks to a lot of brave work from Jesse and his compatriots, they narrowly escaped hypothermia and drowning.

We had a great day at LRRD, with yet another Emriver order, from St. Louis. An Emriver will be appearing at the City Museum on April 25, and we'll be there, too.

And here Jesse and Cara laugh at this video on YouTube (sorry, folks who can't link from work). From a Finnish musician who's overdubbed his own intentionally bad playing over classic stage performances from Led Zeppelin, Eric Clapton, et al. Funny in a very deep and original way, and without a victim.

And a wonderful illustration of the fine line between cool and ridiculous.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Emriver world domination, local flooding.

We just shipped two Emriver models to Minnesota, and are prepping two for Anchorage, and will likely ship a third to New York State next week. The challenges of shipping to Alaska make us wonder about satisfying our international inquiries.

Carbondale is underwater. Highway 13 at Wall Street (photo here, just east of our building) was closed around rush hour, in both directions. It's come down at about 0.2 inches an hour here since last night--I have nearly 6 inches in my gage at home.

The USGS reports over 10 inches in the Current River basin in the last 24 hours.

This little creek to the south of my house is out of its banks, something I've never seen. It was trashed by its owner last fall, and I blogged that as Jesse Reichman was joining LRRD. Here's a photo then and today at about 5pm.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Navier-Stokes video fun, Emriver shipping, Em4.

We had a busy Friday at LRRD.

We're hard at work on the Em4, and got an exciting and very expensive shipment of exotic materials for it.

Jesse and Cara worked on shipping alternatives for the Emriver. We're being asked to ship them to far places.

At the end of the day Jesse, Cara, and I had fun testing the new plastic media we're developing. It's size-coded by color melamine plastic--we're putting it in a 90mm diameter acrylic tube and pushing water through it.

We shot the first video at 514 (with the big expensive cams and lights, anyway). A milestone.

Here is "Cow Fossils" on YouTube. The little plastic cows were from an Emriver demonstration.

And a more serious treatment on YouTube with some jazzy music:

And a more academic video showing settling properties of the media and how we filmed it (35mb download).

If you need it, a reference on Navier-Stokes.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Our frustrating and fun work at LRRD.

Two Emriver models arrived via Fedex frieght 48 hours after shipping, clients surprised. Good work, LRRD.

We worked on a device codenamed "Geo-bong," and added a couple of destroyed pumps to the pump graveyard.

More Emriver design modification, shown here. More work on the Em4, and man, am I sick of AutoCad.

We've reworked the Emriver support design a dozen times, improving it a bit each time, explaining why to a fabricator. For cost, safety, easy production, weight, appearance, reliability.

Jesse's spent a lot of time with fabricators on the Em4 and finding sources of stainless steel pipe and plate, which, like gasoline, is very expensive now.

And plastic media. Coloring by size. A real pain. And it kills pumps if you're not informed on filtration. Which we are, but I'm starting to think Jesse likes that pitiful sandy sound the mag drive pumps make when they are dying.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

A page out of the bible, law, worms, and a BMW.

I'm convinced that river management and restoration challenges caused by climate change are going to dominate our profession.

Or drastically change public interest and investment in rivers when we have a midwestern Katrina-like disaster and vast parts of St. Louis City and County go underwater .

I was pleasantly surprised to see the Southern Baptist Convention (I was raised in this church) express not only acceptance, but concern about, climate change this week. The "page out of a bible" quote is in the linked article--there's a lot of reporting on it today.

Good for them.

Now that the SBC has joined the ranks of us "environmental wackos," it seems the United States might be ready do something about, or at least plan for, climate change.

Jesse's Dad Tom (red jacket) managed to win this beautiful early 1980's BMW as a door prize last week, and brought it by LRRD. Jesse has a vintage BMW bike of his own, and used to work for BMW. Maybe he can put a link or two in the comments below.

Mike Miles, a local lawyer and friend, gave all of us an extended lesson on product liability and the law. This is vitally important for us, and his wisdom helped us immensely, and put my mind at ease. I can't say more because anything I say could be used against me. Thanks very much Mike.

And as I was trying do do some actual LRRD income-generating work, 514 East Main's roof trusses shook with glee (I thought maybe somebody proposed or something, I was on the phone) as a box of red wiggler worms arrived via Fedex to be put in a compost bin and eat our food waste.

Though these worms will produce zero billable hours, I expect to soon see a line item for red wiggler liability insurance and worm workman's comp. And the asexual reproduction harassment exposure is scary.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Emriver models on a northbound truck.

Today we had a beautiful sunny day in Carbondale, and shipped two Emriver models to a Minnesota university.

Our packing and shipping system needed fixing, so we did that. We've worked to make the Emriver as simple as it can be and do its job, but still there are a lot of parts. Here Jesse and Cara work on streamlining the system (and on how many hose clamps go in this bag?)

Cara and Jesse have also been working on reducing shipping costs, which have escalated with fuel prices. Both have spent hours on the phone figuring out densities and classes and discounts and how barges get to Alaska, and how fast.

The freight system is happiest with large volume shippers, which we aren't. The costs of packing and shipping are very high for small scale production like ours.

But we make the only high quality small (portable, etc.) moveable bed river model in the world, so we'll put up with that, and hope our clients understand why the Emriver costs what it does.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Stratigraphy, black bean soup, and hawks.

Drawing on my hundreds of hours of undergrad student labor analyzing soil samples using the Bouyoucos method (here's a study in good science and bad graphics on that topic,) I put our experimental color-coded plastic media into a 2.25 inch cylinder and inverted it, tried pumping in air (not good, bubbles stick to the particles), and other things, with interesting results. The color coding has problems, not all the material dyes properly.

I don't think I've ever seen a good demonstration of this. It's very interesting to watch in a small acrylic cylinder. There's a lot of turbulence as particles moving down displace water, and the largest don't end up at the bottom.

Neat thing is the final result looks a lot like what I see in streambanks, and we're onto something. The black bean soup Kate and I made last night (big pressure cooker batch) was full of angular particles chopped on a cutting board. Maybe we can use larger particles and different materials for this demonstration. How would carrot disks settle in a cylinder compared to sleek black beans? Seriously, we could do a lot of great visualizations with this.

Because it's a weekend: Kate and I are happy to report a pair of Cooper's hawks are nesting near our house again. We spotted them renovating their nest today. It's in a huge hickory tree 50 m or so from the house, a perfect spot, and this is the fifth year, I think, they've been back. We wake nearly every morning to their calls, it's part of our lives. Here's a little movie (7mb QuickTime) I made last year of delivery and feeding of a frog from the nearby pond. Not Animal Planet.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Little plastic particles, big rivers.

The plastic media we use for the Emriver model comes from post-industrial recyclers. It's used as an abrasive to do things like take paint off airplanes.

Getting it in certain colors, or color-coded by size, was a joke to them. Like asking for only the Budweiser cans from an aluminum recycler.

We have their attention now, though, and are moving towards the holy grail of media color coded by size. And density. And a few other things, like shape and surface texture.

We take those little sand and gravel particles in rivers for granted. Try making hundreds of millions of them in specific shapes and colors. On a budget. There are 10,000 of those Bud cans in a handful of material.

These little plastic particles, used by the Corps of Engineers to model big rivers, are in the news. Lots more in the coming weeks, but for now, Nicholas Pinter, a friend of ours at SIUC in Carbondale, is making news.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Emriver boxes and skilled builders arrive.

Warren and the talented welder Nick brought us a truckload of Emriver boxes today. These guys don't need publicity, so I'm omitting web-searchable names.

Here you see Cara, Jesse, Nick, and Warren. Warren has a big, amazing metals shop in St. Louis that does serious industrial work but also helps less profitable causes (at least by my estimation), including some of our great southern Illinois metals artists, like this guy.

Here's a closeup of an Emriver box corner weld from todays batch. To quote Jesse, "it's textbook."

Warren and Nick are talented people--our Emriver boxes are laser cut, even the gunwales, and welded with amazing skill by Nick. I strongly suspect LRRD is given special treatment by Warren because we, like the artists, are doing good work.

We're also working with Warren and Nick on the Em4 model, and had a great time talking with them about it.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Bragging on my peeps. (And a making fun.)

Two Emriver models are going out to a Minnesota university next week. We like these clients a lot. It's been a sort of christening for Cara and Jesse, and I'm really proud of them.

It's like that feeling you get when something makes you really, really, proud.

Anyway, Jesse has been ably working with a southern Illinois machine shop on parts for our Em4 model, hints in the photo. He goes off to meetings and comes back having been smart and capable, and with good news for LRRD. He and Cara have also been working on shipping--a serious problem for our bulky Emriver models (and perhaps why all the other models are too small to be useful).

Dayna is doing great things for LRRD, and for sustainable agriculture, and her family (and we've just heard she's going to be a grandma this year).

And we worked on getting a booth at the 2008 GSA national meeting in Houston. Cara was great on the phone, calling I don't know how many people to see how we'd get a pool table filled with water into a convention center. The Emriver is nothing to get from your pickup into a classroom, but hauling it into a giant convention center (sorry, you can't use a dolly) and getting the 27 gallons of water for the reservoir can be tricky.

Our sunrise east of Carbondale was beautiful this morning. Some ice with a crazy wind-blown snow plaster. Here's a photo.

And I worked on the geomorphology of sampling Manhattan Project-related radioactive contaminants in streams.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

38,000 feet of urban stream.

I was tasked with summarizing all the work I've done in Maryland Heights, Missouri today. I worked there furiously from about 1995 until 2001. It was very important for me, and led to my move to St. Louis and meeting Kate, among other things.

I had to search a bunch of old digital files and paper reports. But one of the good things about getting old is looking back on work you're proud of, even if you're forced to do it.

I surveyed over 38,000 feet of urban channel in this city (lots of stories, probably my favorite is the folks who were shocked to hear the stream say "hey!" as they threw their trash over the bank and onto my head). I expected to, but never found a dead body, not human, anyway.

Here's a map of all the work I did there, and an excerpt from an annotated long profile survey from 1999.

I count eight data lines. FEMA flood study elevations, the Pleistocene terrace (from ice damming on the Mississippi) elevation, high water marks I observed, our detailed long profile survey points, local slope lines. The nearly straight lines are least-squares lines. The vertical lines are spaced at 100 feet, so this is around 1,700 of 38,000. A lot of analysis with colored pens.

I wonder how much Rosgen workshop training credit I could get for all this.

This work helped a lot of urban streams and people, that's good.