Soil and Water Don’t Mix (Most of the Time)

Dirt matters. A lot.

In comments about my post about the Harris County problem, Luke pointed out that I’d not really looked at the soil profile under Houston and its neighbors and upstream watershed. That’s in part because I wanted to compress a lot of data into a small post, and because I’m just not familiar with all the details of the soils in that part of the state. Sand or clay, loam, caleche, all respond differently based on the physics and chemistry of the soil and its component parts. I’m not a soils expert, and I’m not a construction engineer. So this is a sort of Dirt and Water 101: The quick and dirty version. Continue reading

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Overheard in the Halls: Autumn 2017 Edition

Irked Student: How did this happen? [waves piece of paper] I’m not in either of the study-halls I wanted.

Fr. Pax [headmaster, chief of the schedule software]: That’s because Sr. Perpetua and Mrs. Scales have both asked that you not be in a study-hall with [Overeager] or [Senior Prankster].

I.S.: But we don’t talk. Much.

Fr. Pax: [silent look over glasses]

Mr. Dvorak [passing behind Fr. Pax]: [snort of disagreement]

I.S.: Much.

****************** Continue reading

How Floods Work: Harris County Edition

Welcome, Instapundit readers! Thanks for stopping by, and please be sure to read the comments. There are some excellent updates and additional information and observations from readers.

A lot of hand-wringing and second-guessing now and for the foreseeable future focuses on how a city as big as Houston (and the surrounding areas) could “be allowed” to flood. Setting aside the little problem of humans’ inability to steer storms and rain to or from desired locations, what we’re seeing is a combination of hydrology, urban development, and “excess” precipitation. And it is rather predictable that when you have certain combinations of the above, you get “flooding.” Flooding in this case means water in places where it is not desired, in sufficient quantities to cause damage and to endanger human and animal life. You see, Texas drains into Houston and Brownsville. Continue reading

Monday Excerpt

The first draft chapter of something a little different. No title yet.

“…You should be grateful that your grandmother has lived so long, girl! Very few households are blessed with four generations under one roof.” Priest Narlom glowered out from under his heavy eyebrows. “This is too small a gift of thanks. You shame your family and insult the gods.”

Leesan fought back tears and bent lower as she knelt. “Forgive me, honored sir. This is not in honor of father’s mother, but thanks for the fish catch this month. The feast for father’s mother has been postponed on the advice of the seeress.” She kept her eyes on the grass mat covering the floor of the village temple, trying to hide the hurt. “The birds and clouds told the seeress that we must wait a moon in order to do proper, unhurried honor to father’s mother.” That it moved the celebration to after rice harvest instead of during the harvest was pure fortunate chance.

“Oh. Even so, greater generosity to the gods would be prudent, given the blessings bestowed on your father’s household.” He sniffed. “A golden-side, for example.”

“Should the river spirit be so gracious as to send one into the net, it will be returned as thanks,” Leesan murmured, as she was supposed to do. But she did not promise.

“Then continue.”

Leesan kept her eyes down, listening to the little bells on Narlom’s sash and the fading slap of his steps as he left the women’s side of the great temple hall. He had no right to stop her offering ceremony, Leesam knew, but she dared not complain. He’d already warned her brother that another inappropriate offering might turn the gods completely away from Leesan and the rest of her family, since they lived as sojourners and on sufferance of the headman. That they’d been there for forty wet seasons, they paid their taxes and temple fees, and served the village did not matter. Once Narlom had truly left, Leesan glanced around. No one else had come in. Continue reading

The Playa Strikes Back

The playa that I drive past to and from the school now has water in it. So does every low spot, ditch, gutter, and grass-stem, as best I can tell. We’re bordering on 20 days in a row with rain or very heavy fog/drizzle. The good news is that it feels more like mid-September than late August. The not so good news is it also feels like July in Houston when you poke your nose out the door or open the window. And with moisture comes . . . mosquitoes. Continue reading

Political Vampires

There’s a joke that the word politics comes from the Greek ‘Poly” meaning many and “ticks” meaning blood-sucking insect. I’m not inclined to argue etymology—or entomology—but after watching part of a documentary about the Voyager program, I realized that political activists have sucked the joy out of a whole lot of places, including science, and planetary exploration. Instead of rejoicing over new discoveries and amazing accomplishments, the only thing on the news is division, accusation, and the infamous Shirt-storm. What in the name of little green apples happened? Continue reading

Friday Fiction: Of Merchant and Magic, part 10

Over the River, Up a Hill. . .

The injured great-hauler did not die. The wound healed clean, and Tycho congratulated himself that he’d saved a few jars of the honey and sweet-leaf salve back for his own use. And he decided to buy more if it he could. Great-haulers got scratched up on a daily basis. As did their handlers. After much consideration he decided not to purchase another beast to replace the deceased bird. He still had two spare, and the others were healthy and rested. Still, just in case, he made a small donation to Yoorst’s temple before the caravan left.

The bridge at Moahnebrig fascinated him. As he walked beside his lead wagon, alert for any sign that the great-haulers might be about to bolt, he admired the stone work. The masons had alternated colors, grey, pale cream, and tan, making column-like stripes in the walls with a solid grey roadbed. The bridge was wider than some roads he’d travelled, wide enough for two wagons to pass without crowding, and still leave room for people on either side. He’d actually gone down to the water’s edge, near the washing flat, to look at the bridge from water level. Eight arches crossed the Moahne. Stains on the grey and brown stones showed how high the water could reach, and he decided that ice smashing into bridges was not a problem here like it was elsewhere. Who had built it?  And how much had it cost? More than the council of Rhonari wanted to spend on anything, that much he could guarantee. Stone walls on either side of the roadway rose as high as his shoulders. Even a great-hauler would have trouble escaping and plunging over the side, although he’d learned long ago never to underestimate the amount of chaos the birds could generate if they were determined to. Little holes at the base of the wall every few strides allowed water out, or so he guessed. Turning the city’s main source of income into a giant water trough was not good for business or for the safety of the bridge. Continue reading