Thursday, May 29, 2008

More Em4.

We did our first full flow testing of the Em4 today. No problems. Though this is the first assembly of this model, we've tested and built prototypes of most of its systems, and spent many hours refining them during video shoots, so I wasn't surprised it worked so well. But I was surprised there were no hitches, not even minor.

Jesse's had a lot to do with this, and the fabricators he and I worked with to build the machined parts.

Very tired. We're working hard these days. We had a very interesting request from the St. Louis region today, and we're flush with consulting.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

We add more Em4 parts. It works.

We introduced the Em4's box to most of its parts today. Here's a nice photo of the EDU, an acrylic energy dissipater we finished today. The Em4 is a mechanical beauty, wonderful to see in the flesh (aluminum, mostly) after after many months of design work.

Jesse and I worked hard on last minute details, including renting a truck to haul the Em4, along with four Emriver models, to Minnesota.

We have to be careful. If we crash this truck with an Em4 and four Emriver models, it'll be the world's worst movable bed river model disaster, no doubt. Like if the Hindenburg had been carrying the Wright Brothers. Except without so much hydrogen.

Anyways, it's exciting, amidst the ceaseless work and detail (we've ordered various exotic parts from here nearly every day for the last month) to see the Em4 come together.

We shipped another Emriver today, here Jesse finishes a ton of work (much of it his) dealing with Roadway to get this done.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Sound and the Fury at LRRD.

This day is as good as any for a "Sound and the Fury" post.

We're working with our fabricator and our Minnesota client to get the Em4 finished and delivered, even as we plan the next one. We're on the technological edge on several fronts. Everything's working, but attending to all the details is nerve wracking.

We got 3.5 inches of rain over the weekend. Kate and I loaded the video gear and cruised around yesterday. Everything was up, but not like I expected, so no video. Many folks here spent hours in the basement Sunday night. A tornado was reported near Carbondale.

None of this was predicted, and I kept thinking of all the Memorial Day campers. It poured most of the night. I can't imagine how the farmers are doing. A lot were planting or plowing as I drove back from St. Louis with the Em4 on Friday, and some of those farms later saw six inches of rain.

Fishpot Creek in St. Louis County flooded again, its third near-bankfull in the last 90 days.

Here's a photo of the Em4 in Chester as I drove back, by the very high Mississippi River.

Kate found a little snail in our garden. The Cooper's hawk chicks near our house are tall, about 10", fat, and sitting on the edge of the nest, anxious to get out. Kate worried the hail (it wasn't much, but we got a few walnut sized stones) would hurt them, but they're fine. You wonder what it's like to be sixty feet up in a tree in storm. We had a great weekend together.

I got threatening letters from the IRS and Illinois over the weekend, their mistake. Always relaxing. Think twice before starting a business. Please.

We're officially sold out, and now have an eight week lead time for Emriver models, we plenty of the very hard to get parts, but we were swamped with orders, and between consulting and the Em4, we had priorities. Our economy is weird now, strongly coupled with the world market, especially China. A supplier of one key part told us today "there are none in the US now." I checked and he was being truthful. It's the only part we use made there, and we can't find an alternative. Our weather, economy, and politics are in turmoil.

China's disaster is heartbreaking. The landslide induced floods could be terrible.

I hardly had a chance to talk to Dayna today about anything personal, we were so busy, and that's not good. Cara's on vacation, with Devin the kids somewhere on the beaches of North Carolina, and we all hope she's having a good time.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Em4 box is home.

I drove to St. Louis today and brought back the Em4 box. Our friends at Sauer Machine (here Nick the amazing welder, Warren, the owner, and Ben Bruce the engineer) built a beautiful thing.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Em4 nearly done, karmic policemen.

An especially eventful day today. Cara and Jesse are going on vacation--she to our eastern seaboard all next week, where her children will see the sea for the first time. Jesse's going on a motorcycle tour in the Smokies for three days with friends. So the day was spiced with anticipation of being away from work for a while.

Meanwhile we worked our asses off. Dayna dealt with slow payers and the never-ending detail of finances and management, and things I don't know about, but appreciate much.

The Emriver's very popular. Jesse's worried we'll be able to build them fast enough, and he readied another for shipping today.

Cara's got the Emriver marketing and selling process in hand. None of us at LRRD are profit-motivated salespeople, but buyers need to be aware of our models, talk with us about them and decide to buy. We have to ship them out and get money back. Cara knows the science, is a wonderful communicator, and can deal with the logistics of purchase orders, sole-source documents, and Roadway Freight.

Jessie and I are working with a southern Illinois machine shop to redesign the Emriver horses and constantly struggling with details on the hundreds of parts the Emriver and the Em4 require.

Tomorrow I'm headed to St. Louis to pick up most of the parts for our first Em4. As Jesse and I worked in the shop, a young man ran past the open garage door (Photoshopped rendition) followed by a cop.

They both crossed heavy traffic on Main. We watched as the policeman sort of reached for his sidearm, and as the young man threw his arms up and the arrest was nonviolent. This was, we think, the culmination of several weeks of undercover cops, sometime using our parking lot, to set up a sting in the neighborhood.

As this took place in our lot and across the street, we continued our work. A crack dealer from behind our building was chased through our lot, nearly got shot, and we have more interesting things to take care of! We did.

Yesterday a policeman accosted me near the Long Branch because I let my dog off leash for about 10 seconds. It was ugly, he was crude and disrespectful. I kept my mouth shut, and tried to understand the stresses of his job. I won't forgive this guy for his behavior, but it was cathartic to witness this dramatic bust and be reminded of what cops and their prey go through.

Monday, May 19, 2008

We make history. I'm not kidding.

We made geomorphic history today. I'm not kidding.

After years of thinking about it and months of research, testing, and working with suppliers, we mixed and ran water through our first color-coded batch of ground melamine plastic media. There are three sizes in this batch; the dark brown is finest, white in the middle, and yellow/orange the coarsest.

Peter Wilcock et al. built a flume with a "bed of many colors" using painted rocks. Paper here. Their work was very successful, but this was a flume study, essentially modeling two dimensions. As far as I know, no researcher has ever used plastic media to model a freely meandering channel as we did today.

Of course we were pretty excited to see the material's behavior, and we weren't disappointed. You could clearly see patterns of sediment erosion, transport, and deposition. Perhaps most striking was the immediate armoring by the yellow material whenever flow energy energy was increased.

The possibilities for research and visualizations are many. Within the next few weeks we'll put 500 pounds of this material in our new Em4, which is 4m long by 1.5m wide. That'll be an even bigger day.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

95 mpg in Carbondale.

Kate and I love living in Carbondale. So many good things in such a small town.

We took our scooters to the farmer's market Saturday morning. I've got a Stella, an Indian-made copy of an early 1970's Vespa, with an updated engine. Kate has a Honda Metropolitan. They both get around 95 mpg, though of course we're only getting half that when we take two into town, about the same (50 mpg) a Prius or VW tdi would! Aside from that spoiler, they're great fun for shopping trips into town, and they do beat cars (as bicycles do) handily in not needing all that damn pavement for driving and parking.

Both scoots needed a fill up. The eight dollars plus for two gallons of premium was a shock! We're used to laughing at what it costs to fill them. I can't imagine what people driving guzzlers are going through.

Back to cool Carbondale: We enjoyed a beautiful Greek wedding. The family's close to Kate's. The father of the bride owns Southern Recycling and has been a great friend to LRRD. I'll not print names because I don't want searches for these popular people to end here.

Here's a photo of a quartet at the wedding. They were fabulous musicians and great fun. Kate hummed and sang many of the Greek hymns, something I'd never heard before. The day was a marvelous late spring day, one of the few sunny ones we've had this year, though it rained later.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

A bank slumps. We behave otherwise.

One of these days I'll figure out how to align photos and words to make captions in Blogger, but until then, please forgive me and connect them yourself.

What a week! Emriver inquiries are steady, and in one day we had two separate planetary geosciences departments, separated by a few thousand miles, ask about using the models for space geomorphology.

(At first I thought I got that wrong. Doesn't "geo" mean "Earth?" Apparently you can be a "planetary geoscientist.")

And in the what the heck department, Cara and I spent two days in the field in St. Louis County. The photo shows, at right, her working on high right bank on May 1, and, left, that same bank as we arrived on May 12. Gulp. It appears that she was working upstream of the slump, and I think evidence of the huge pit she dug remained as a hollow in the bank (white arrow). We're working as part of a team doing emergency design to save both a road (at the big slump) and some houses.

Difficult fieldwork like this is a true test, and Cara exceeded my wildest expectations. We're lucky to have her. And here's a photo of me in the field, as we wedged in some work on the tail end of a flood.

Speaking of great colleagues (and the Em4), Jesse's done beautiful work on the pumping and control system. Today he tested the groundwater feed system. We're going for more than just function. Here's a photo of the main control box, with neon lights and a see-through front. Nice, huh?

Sunday, May 11, 2008

More urban hydrology, climate change and agriculture.

While I slept last night only about 0.7" of additional rain in St. Louis (see graph) sent Fishpot Creek up to around 2,000 cfs for the second time in 4 days! This creek only drains 9.6 square miles.

There are 10 years of record for this gage (with a big gap in the middle), and these flows are near or larger than all but three of the annual maximum values. An interesting lesson in the use of annual peaks for return interval analysis.

Our weather is truly bizarre this spring. We've had strong winds here all day, with non-storm winds routinely taking down trees (gusts near 50 mph). Several people are dead (again) in Oklahoma and SW Missouri from tornadoes, and my Mom down in central Arkansas reports that people are starting to wonder what this climate change business is all about.

We've had so much wet weather that it seems odd to have a day without rain. We're having an extraordinarily wet and cool spring, no doubt. We'll see a low of 42F here tonight, only about 6 degrees above the record. Just last year a late frost completely wiped out the peach crop here, an unprecedented (in local memory) event that nearly happened again this year, with a light frost nearly two weeks past the "last frost" date.

The row crop folks are having a hard time this year. From Friday's AP wires:

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Prices are rising, but the rain's been falling and that's dragged Midwest corn planting to its slowest rate in more than a decade. Analysts say it all adds up to even higher food prices. An Agriculture Department report out today says corn production could be down as much as seven percent this year. Last year saw record breaking harvests, but an ethanol boom and increasing exports continued to push demand and corn prices. The department estimates that about a third of the expected 12 billion bushels to be harvested this year will be directed toward ethanol production. Meanwhile, the wet weather has kept farmers from getting their crops in the ground. As of May 4th, only 27% of the nation's corn crop had been planted. One trader says "we're staring at" a big problem.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Em4 electrons, aesthetics.

Working with our electron-enabled engineering colleagues (here's one), we nearly finished building the Em4's electronics and power supply systems today. The schematics were worked out a while back, here we're working on ergonomics and aesthetics. Like see-through control boxes.

We had another Emriver order today. That's five this week.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

A hard lesson in urban hydrology.

After readying both video and surveying gear last night for an early morning sprint to St. Louis to catch Fishpot Creek in flood, I slept a few hours before waking at 5am to check the radar. Not much happening in St. Louis. The predicted storm seemed to have fizzled.

Disappointed, I went back to bed. I had high hopes of catching this creek in flood. The site we're working on is very unusual, and flood observations would help with our analysis.

I spent a busy day mostly working with Jesse on the Em4's power supply and controls. Around four I took a break to check the weather and the real-time gage, and was astounded to see the creek had hit 2,000 cfs during the day, at least a bankful flood. One of our colleagues in St. Louis made it out to catch some photos and take notes, at least.

As you can see from the rainfall chart, the storm had fizzled. Not much rain fell today, but that 0.6" on top of the previous day's 1.5" to 2" was enough to send many of the St. Louis creeks to a second very high flow. Catching these floods is hard. It's especially frustrating when they peak at night. This one happened in broad daylight, while all my gear sat ready to go.

I've spent many hours waiting and hoping, and lots of driving to creeks that never rose, so I'm reluctant to go unless the odds are good, and they didn't look that way at 5am this morning.

At least we'll have nice fresh high water marks to survey when we head over there next week.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Media research, flood chasing in St. Louis.

Cara continued her work on our new color-sorted Em4 media, and we have a mix we like. We noticed it has the same hues as the spotty banana on the bench--yellow, light brown, dark brown. It looks nice, and we can't wait to mix up a couple of hundred pounds to try in a model.

Jesse did more great work on the Em4's electrical system, it's looking good, and I think we have all the parts and have figured out where they go, which is a major milestone.

I'm planning to get up very early tomorrow and drive to St. Louis. The creek we're working on there hit 700cfs today, and good sub-bankful flood, and NOAA's predicting over two inches of rain there by tomorrow morning, and more after that. All the field gear and video camera are loaded and ready to go.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

You want how many Emriver models?

On this beautiful May day, to get away from serious work on St. Louis geomorphology, Em4 construction, Quicken 2008, and AutoCad, all of LRRD migrated to the Long Branch Coffeehouse for lunch.

There we ran into my wife Kate and our great friend and collaborator Karen Renzaglia. Just yesterday Karen learned she was to become an Associate Dean in the College of Science at SIUC. We love Karen and are very happy for her. Here's a photo (below) of Kate and Karen.

Kate took a few photos of Jesse, Cara, me, and Dayna, and ordered us to assume various moods, including surprise.

A couple of hours later, in the midst of our super busy day, one of our favorite client/collaborators called to order, out of the blue, four Emriver models for his university lab.


Monday, May 5, 2008

Cool machines, the Em4 gets closer to done.

We're crazy busy; doing some emergency assessment on the St. Louis creek where a few houses are threatened, building and shipping Emriver models, and of course working on our Em4.

We got nearly 2,000 pounds of ground melamine last Friday. It's sorted by color and size, and as far as I know is the only batch of its kind on the planet. We can't wait to get some into a model, but that'll have to wait for now.

Jesse's been hard at work on the Em4's pumping and electrical systems. Today he pressure tested it for the first time, and it worked beautifully.

Kate's been commuting to work on her bike and loving it, and getting strangely positive responses from people, even those in cars. Gas prices and the warm weather must be making people think it's so easy to do this in Carbondale. Are they talking about this on TV, maybe?

A very cool video of kids getting hauled around in a neat bike.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

St. Louis fieldwork.

On this May One Cara spent her first day in the field with LRRD. She exceeded my high expectations by figuring out the crazy complex origin of the bank materials at this St. Louis County site.

We shot 2,100 feet of long profile on this complex suburban site, including high water marks that show some very interesting hydraulics/sediment transport relationships.

Jesse sent us a text message: The Em4 standpipe is sweet. Good news.