X-Tra Rant Taking Myself Way Too Seriously Since 1999


[Politics, Weather] The Rise & (Potential) Fall of the Old River Control Structure

I'm going to attempt, at least every other day, to pick an item I've shared via my Google Reader account and post about it here. Get me back in the habit and maybe not make me solely reliant on annoying baby posts.

Today's link: America's Achilles' heel: the Mississippi River's Old River Control Structure by Dr. Jeff Masters at WeatherUnderground.

America has an Achilles' heel. It lies on a quiet, unpopulated stretch of the Mississippi River in Louisiana, a few miles east of the tiny town of Simmesport. Rising up from the flat, wooded west flood plain of the Mississippi River tower four massive concrete and steel structures that would make a Pharaoh envious--the Army Corps' of Engineers greatest work, the billion-dollar Old River Control Structure. This marvel of modern civil engineering has, for fifty years, done what many thought impossible--impose man's will on the Mississippi River

It's an absolutely fascinating read about one of the greatest civil engineering feats in the modern world. Over thousands of years, the Mississippi River has changed it's final course to the Gulf of Mexico multiple times. To the native peoples of North America, this wasn't an issue - but once the Europeans arrived and started setting up ports and cities and businesses where Big Muddy meets the Gulf, the location of the end of the largest river system in North America became very, very important.

From an essay by John McPhee, The Control Of Nature, excerpted by Dr. Masters

The Mississippi's main channel of three thousand years ago is now the quiet water of Bayou Teche, which mimics the shape of the Mississippi. Along Bayou Teche, on the high ground of ancient natural levees, are Jeanerette, Breaux Bridge, Broussard, Olivier--arcuate strings of Cajun towns. Eight hundred years before the birth of Christ, the channel was captured from the east. It shifted abruptly and flowed in that direction for about a thousand years. In the second century a.d., it was captured again, and taken south, by the now unprepossessing Bayou Lafourche, which, by the year 1000, was losing its hegemony to the river's present course, through the region that would be known as Plaquemines. By the nineteen-fifties, the Mississippi River had advanced so far past New Orleans and out into the Gulf that it was about to shift again, and its offspring Atchafalaya was ready to receive it.

In the late 1950's the Army Corps of Engineers stepped in and built what was to become the Old River Control Structure. This series of dams and levees and control gates was to ensure that the Mississippi River would go where WE want it to go - right through New Orleans and the ports that are so valuable to our economy. South Louisiana is the busiest port in the United States, and currently sits 12th busiest in the world. Now... move the Mississippi away from the ports... How do we get all those goods coming in and out of the United States through that port to where they need to be?

Dr. Masters' post has fascinating information about how this structure came to be, the great threat it faced from a flood in 1973 and the possibly greater threat it faces today with the record flooding along the Mississippi Basin.  It's definitely worth a read.

In my mind, where this intersects with politics is the greater problem we have as a country with our infrastructure. Our country is built on grand projects - grand OLD projects. Our power system, our highway and interstate system, our flood prevention system and the control if the Mississippi River and continued existence of its ports. All projects that are decades old. With a culture in this country that the government spending money at all (except on the military) is 'wasteful' at best or 'socialism' at worst nothing has been done to keep our infrastructure sound, let alone replace and modernize it with new technologies.

The Great Recession of 2007 -2009 was a prime opportunity to not only put much needed work and money into our infrastructure but to boost our economy at the same time. We had a chance to do a major stimulus package not built around even more tax cuts and a few projects here and there, but a package built around rebuilding the bones of the nation. A stimulus that would have been fully directed towards fixing roads, bridges, dams, power transmission systems, power generation plants and the like would have put tens or hundreds of thousands of Americans to work, and that work would have had a long lived impact on our nation's economy. In addition to rebuilding was is old or out of date, we also could have focused on building a new infrastructure for the 21st century - a national broadband backbone to not only get internet quality and speeds higher where it already exists, but to get broadband internet into communities ignored by the likes of AT&T, Verizon, Comcast and the like.

Instead we get whines about socialism, Randian utopia fantasies and a lukewarm response that only softened the landing of a recession without giving us a long term boost from the money spent.

Next time a bridge collapses, a levee breaks or  some other infrastructure disaster strikes... think about the opportunity we had and wasted because some people are so afraid of taxes that they will mortgage their future so as not to pay them.




Thanks to Matt for the photo. I did the edit. This is released on a CC license, redistribute, by attribution, free to remix, non-commercial


El Niño is Spanish for ….. The Niño!

El Niño is Spanish for .... The Niño!
El Niño is coming!

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Al Gore Movie, Art vs. Art, Pravada, Richard Edwards


Originally uploaded by xtrarant.

So last night was fun. First off, went to see An Inconvenient Truth. VERY good movie. Really depressing at times, but also really fired me up to help kick some ass this year. Particularly I want to find out what it will take to get the Indy City/County COuncil to pass something in support of the Kyoto Treaty like other cities have done.

After that it was down to Fountain Square for Art vs. Art and then a show at Radio Radio next door.

Art. Vs. Art RULES. Basically, there are 16 finalist paintings out of a whole bunch that were made by artists witht he same materials in a set amount of time. The 16 finalists were sort of 'bracketed' heads up. The winner would move on, the loser would be bid on by the crowd. If no one bids it gets destroyed in the method determined by a the wheel of death. Awesome.

Then it was over to Radio Radio, where the band Pravada rocked my small and insignificant world. Some of the band is from Indy local sensations Margot and The Nuclear So & So's, and another member of Margot was playing with Pravada as well. Seriously, they put on a GREAT set. I was blown away and it wasn't just the alky-hall thinking that.

After Pravada, RIchard Edwards (Margot's frontman) played a set along with Emily Watkins from Margot as well. Excellent set, playing some songs from the larger band on an acoustic with Emily's excellent backing vocals.

Those two sets added up to one of the better live shows I've been to. I'm definitely going to start going to more local live shows. Depending on how well the blogger poker tournament goes tomorrow I might be goign to the Melody Inn. A guy I used to work with at Borders back in '01 is in a band that's playing there tomorrow.

Thanks again to R & M who invited me to the show. They know so many local musicians too, I ended up getting introduced to a few members of the band which was cool.


4 Stages of Global Warming Denial

Treehugger: The 4 Stages of Global Warming Denial.



Well, last night's Indians home opener was certainly an adventure. Was there with CJ, Nate, Cheryl and others. So we got to the game in time for the opening pitch around 7, but it was delated due to some rain. They get the game started around 7:30 and everything was great. Decent game. Good times.

Then, 9:30pm.

About this time they stop the game. There had been a pretty good lightning show going on for about half an hour by this point. THey tell everyone not under the awning to get under it. Not too long later they tell everyone under the awning to get into the concourse. APparently, there's a tornado to the west of us and we're under a warning. My first tornado warning spent outside.

By now the lights are off on the field and everyone is crowded up by the concourse wall. The funniest thing was there was a guy near us who had obviously been drinking a bit. He gets it in his mind to start The Wave. See, the crowd was solid all around the perimiter of the con course from first base (the side we were on, near the end) to third base. Anyway, we all help him to try and start the wave. 6 tries or so, we got it down to the bend at home plate and a little bit past. That promped a "third base sucks!" chant and a "we've got spirit, how 'bout you?!" chant. QUite fun.

WIsh I had brought my camera to get some pictures, but then it was probably for the best given what happened next. When they finally let us leave, we walked from Victory FIeld (West & Maryland) all the way across downtown to the BW3. And got rained on very hard. Of course smart Jason didn't bring an umbrella, so I got soaked to the bone. But it was a warm rain so it was fun. Had some wings and beer for awhile and finally walked back to CJ's.

Didn't get to see the end of the game, but it was a fun time etiher way. Definitely the most memorable fo the opening days I have been to.


Crazy Storms

TheIndyChannel.com: Here are some pictures of the Indiana Square damage as seen from the Chase building. These images were provided by Charlie Meyer.
(TheIndyChannel.com: by Charlie Meyer)

Update: It wasn't a tornado downtown. Just straight line winds of at least 80 MPH.

Update 2: Dina's photos of the building on Flickr are better than any of the news outlets' that I've seen.
Some crazy storms hit Indy last night. There's a "photo gallery' on the star's site (only 5 pictures? Oh come on now!) and another from TheIndyChannel.com.

The wildest pictures are 1 and 2 from the Star's gallery .and 3 through 5 of the TIC.com gallery. Apparently high winds, maybe even a tornado, damaged the Indiana Square/Regions Bank building downtown. Blew out some windows and did damage inside the building and rained debris down on the street. Thankfully no one was hurt.

Up by me (NE corner of the 465 loop) things weren't nearly as eventful. Some of the hardest rain and strongest wind I've ever heard or seen an an impressive lightning show but that was about it.
News coverage of the storms:


TheIndyChannel.com (WRTV)