Monday, September 29, 2008

LRRD in Texas and Michigan.

Last week's a blur for me--I spent most of it cranking on a proposal to do research on a beautiful watershed in Michigan's UP. Keep your fingers crossed for us. This is the sort of real-world research and management consulting that compliments and strengthens our educational products. This project would involved collaboration with SIUC and some serious science, including climate change analysis. There is concern now that channel instability there could be related to precipitation regime change.

Jesse continued work on the Geobong, which still needs a socially acceptable name. This device has turned out to be even more interesting than I'd hoped, and I'm almost worried it'll outshine the Emriver model. It's beautiful to watch, and it's teaching capabilites huge. We're excited about GSA next week.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

1000 miles.

All done, 1,000 miles in 90 days since my artrial fibrilation event.

Just 11.1 miles per day, not that big a deal.

Now all I have to do is lose 20 pounds.

Thanks to Kate for the photo.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Frog sounds are happy sounds.

After years of woeful ignorance about those sounds coming from trees at night I ordered this little book/CD.

I challenge you to get one for yourself, listen to the CD, and not forget about the sorry state of our politics, economy, etc. What great sounds. Some take me right back to the southern Arkansas swamps of my childhood.

If your bank's still solvent, it's only eighteen bucks at Amazon. I like this one, too, because the human narration between frog sounds is well done and unobtrusive and the recording quality is very good.

NWF has a listing of other frog sound CDs here.

Which reminds me--this little guy came in on a big planter Kate moved into the house, and hung in our living room for a couple of months. He'd climb onto a nearby lamp and get the bugs small enough to get through the window screens. We decided he was getting skinny on that diet and put him outside.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

USGS Ike damage assessments.

The USGS has posted before and after photos, here of the Bolivar Peninsula just east of Galveston.

Maybe I should explain my posts on this--I believe that climate change and society's reaction to it are among our most important environmental issues. And of course sustainable development is important to us all, particularly when scarce public resources are diverted to clean up predictable, preventable messes like this one. The issues surrounding floodplain development are similar to those surrounding coastal development.

I'm not an expert on coast geomorphology, but I suspect these photos show unsustainable development.

Hurricane Ike aftermath in Texas.

The national media seems to have moved on quickly, but the Houston Chronicle has extensive coverage. The photos are hard to believe.

Many in Illinois are still without power, and nearly every house in Carbondale has a big pile of limbs on the curb.

It's inconceivable to me that we would have so much coastal infrastructure at such risk. Are we going to have a Katrina every couple of years? What role is climate change playing in frequency and intensity of this storm?

Midwestern rivers are flooding in response to Ike's rainfall.

AP photo of debris on Galveston seawall.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Geobong V is a success.

OK, the first thing we need is a socially acceptable name for this device, because the joke name that stuck to it is not going to work.

Aside from that, today's first run for this prototype was beautiful. It contains media in four sizes/colors, and does a bunch of things well. Here you can see, with the pump off, the settled layers, and also a beautiful separation with water flowing upward through the column, with particles sorted from large to small.

Movement of the particles is mesmerizing, and an injection of air at the bottom forms complex vortices. We'll be developing this further, it has a lot of applications.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Ike cost might be $27 billion.

Jeff Masters is reporting that the cost for Ike could be $27 billion. As its remnants passed through the Midwest today, parts of Missouri got seven inches of rain, and many gages are above flood stage.

The USGS has a neat Google Maps based summary of flooding along the Gulf Coast.

In Carbondale we only got around a half inch, but vicious winds knocked out power and took trees and limbs down all over town. This one fell in the old graveyard just across from LRRD. I went in to finish some fabrication, but got only a few minutes of power. Jesse might be happy to learn that the brooms worked fine without electricity.

The NY Times, as usual, has good hurricane coverage. Some salient editorials over there as well. I'm hoping our woeful lack of readiness for disasters like this, along with the possible climate change implications, might actually move our political discussions off such important things as who called who a pig. But probably not.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

A day spent making pretty junk.

I joke now and then that I've owned a very nice shop for a while now, and have spent almost no time using it for fun. I can't say I had fun today, but I did do something less like work than usual, which was work on a nice acrylic device we're prototyping. When finished, it will hold an upward-moving column of water and a half kg or so of brightly colored plastic media, showing how particle size influences fall velocity. The prototypes so far have been very interesting, here's a YouTube clip.

I've built a lot of stuff like this over the last few years, and one thing is nearly certain: This will end up gathering dust in the prototype morgue. The thing I labored carefully over for most of a Saturday will end up as junk. And maybe even as soon as next week. As I finished this one, I could see a few things I'd do differently to make it better, and certainly a lot of changes to get to a production item. So working on these gets a bit weird as they near completion, and it becomes obvious what their fate will be. Perhaps like a musician writing a song he knows won't see much play. It's a good exercise, but maybe not worth it to polish that final verse.

But you're never quite sure until it's done, and in this case, hooked up to a pump and filled with water and media. The last two versions had sub-minute careers, I hope this one will work a bit better.

Ike crosses Houston

It looks as though the tide/storm surge combination fell short of the 20+ feet worst-case NOAA predicted. I hope so. The power of these storms amazes me. I cannot imagine the energy required to move water, as rain and ocean surge, in such quantities.

I'm hoping the Galveston hold outs are all alive.

Update: The NY Times has posted an interactive map with wind speeds and surge elevations.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

LRRD in photos

Kate handed off a nasty SIU Student Health virus and I've been sick for nearly a week. You'd think I'd feel like posting, but I didn't. All good now.

Briefly, Jesse and Cara pose with our beautiful new graphics for the GSA conference next month; Jesse at work on Emriver parts and a prototype, a line of parts during machining; Cara at today's Cache River conference, where we set up an Emriver model and showed floodplain wetland processes. And, finally, Cara and Emriver in the back of the truck.

Lots of interest in the Emriver this week, and we made some encouraging progress on resubmitting our NSF grant.

Monday, September 1, 2008

775 miles by bike.

In the nearly 70 days since my June 23 heart arrhythmia, I've ridden 775 miles. I'm shooting for 1,000 at day 90, when I have the cardiologist's permission to again have a drink.

I just plain wore out a set of tires last week. Here's a photo of me today, and here I am similarly attired a week before I landed in the cardiac ward. You can tell my face is quite a bit thinner.

But as for the midsection I have battled since I was 19: It's smaller, but overall I've lost only about 7 pounds. So much for the beer belly theory. I've transferred a lot of mass from fat to leg muscle, no doubt. I've burned somewhere around 45,000 kcalories in over 50 hours on the bike in the last 70 days, nearly 650 per day (that's a cheeseburger and fries at Mickey D's* every day for the last two months), and it's pretty frustrating to not be a little thinner.

But I feel great, and very strong--I did 20 miles in 1:12 on Friday, not really trying. I'll take that over thin and not healthy.

(*McDonald's nutrition information here, on a bizarre official webpage--be sure to turn your sound on and drag items into the "bag" to hear the creepy sound effect, like something a tiny microphone in a clogged artery might pick up.)

Weekend review, GSA, and pumps.

I've not been keeping the blog up to date, though a lot's going on here.

My last post was about New Orleans, written before Gustav had formed. As I write this Monday morning it's weakening and it looks at though New Orleans will be spared what could've been another Katrina.

Jesse and I worked on a groundwater injection/extraction system for the Emriver to improve on our first prototype. We did a lot of research on pumps and materials, and I'm very happy with the result. Jesse did a great job on both design and building. Here's a photo of him at work, and a bonus shot of Stimpy of Ren & Stimpy. Stimpy's workbench looks a lot neater.

Also a shot of one of our gruesome pump autopsies. Here's an online animation of how that pump works. We're finding that pumping and filtration are endlessly complex. I don't envy the people running the big ones in New Orleans, which must be humming right now.

We're spending a lot of time getting ready for the October Geological Society of America (GSA) meeting in Houston. We're in booth 912 at bottom center on this map. Lots of general arrangements that Cara and Dayna are handling, and planning for who's there when, what we'll take. We're spending a lot of money on this and it'll be crucial to our Emriver marketing.

We met with Nicholas Pinter and Harvey Hansen of SIUC to decide where to go with our NSF grant. That was very productive, and I felt better aftewards. The application was a huge effort and expense for us. It looks as though we can resubmit and eventually prevail.