Let’s Just Move the River!

How hard could it be to pump water from the Mississippi River to the Llano Estacado? It’s only a few hundred miles, all uphill, across two or three states. The water in the Red River was already allocated, but the Mississippi had no in-stream requirements or water rights filed, and everyone was always complaining about flooding, so why not? Especially if Dallas or Fort Worth could be persuaded to buy some water to help pay for the pipeline, pumps, and power plants. Continue reading


Crossing that River

The physics and engineering behind bridges are fascinating things. I’d forgotten how elegant a good bridge can be, until I was watching some Teaching Company videos the other night. I wanted to read, but my eyes were acting up, so I went with “educational but not Day Job related.”

You got a gap, I got a bridge.

I like bridges. But not floppy suspension bridges. I first met those in Thermopolis, Wyoming when I was eight or nine. Mom laughed at me, but I was not going out on something that flopped, wagged, wiggled and moved in the wind. No, no, not going. Heights of that kind do not bother me, but uncertainty underfoot bugs me to no end. Continue reading

Like Grass Afire

One of the legends that developed in the United States, almost as early as the first Romantics began writing about American Indians and the landscape, was that of the noble Indian living in peace and harmony with the land and with other Indians, never killing more than he could use, using every bit of all animals, and having a special knowledge of the place. By the 1960s and ‘70s, this became “Native Peoples left no footprints on Mother Earth,” meaning that they didn’t cause environmental degradation or change, and that prior to the coming of Europeans, all of North America was pristine wilderness.

To which some brave souls said, “Pick one. Was it home to Native Americans, or untouched land?” Because a few environmental historians had gone back to looking at Indians as people, people who managed their landscape and who occasionally fouled up the landscape. The earliest records about the North American landscape described fires gone wild, foul stenches that covered miles because so many bison had been run over a cliff that at best twenty percent of them could be used at all, and so the remaining hundred rotted, polluting the water and land under them.

Not a Romantic mental picture, is it? Continue reading

Head Up, Eyes Forward

…is not how I walked, at least not from around age thirteen or so. I tried, but it was much easier to look down, to let my head hang a little. By the time I passed thirty, looking up when I walked took effort, constant conscious effort. I knew I needed to be head up, back straight. Prey walks with head down, eyes down, shoulders hunched, and two-footed predators looked for exactly that sort of behavior. But I could not keep my head up.

There was a reason why. Continue reading

Three-D Thinking

Way back when, my highschool still offered shop classes. I took drafting and metal working. Of the two drafting did me more long-term good, but wreaked havoc on my grades. It is said that women have more difficulty visualizing things in three dimensions – spatial imaging. This sample of one certainly fits the pattern. I can draw things from life, measure carefully, get the scale correct, and so on. But present me with two views and have me draw the third? I was very proud of that C+.

And then came instrument flying… Continue reading