09 October 2015

Friday party!

I made these short videos this week, on a break from the Water Innovation Lab near Comrie Croft, Perthshire, Scotland

Normal speed

Go slow (oh wow)

Bonus: Drone view of volcanic lava?

08 October 2015

Grades, self worth and the selfie generation

After reading this post on today's students being "fragile" about low grades. I've been thinking about this issue for several years and have the following thoughts for students:
  1. Many people have a BIG problem with quantification of value, i.e., "you did A work" or "your salary is 35.000 EUR" because many people collapse their entire knowledge or value into those numbers. This is a HUGE mistake, but it's hard for people who have lived with grades all their lives (I got my first one much later than usual... at 12 years old) without the opportunity to establish a separate means of evaluating themselves. (Few people, luckily, try to quantify "I love you.")
  2. This has always been a problem but it's gotten worse for two reasons:
    • Many bureaucrats are too lazy to understand you as an individual, so they use numbers. Students are rated by GPA. Professors are rated by publications (cf. Impact Factor). These are flawed measures, but those with power use them, and we all must therefore focus on THOSE measures over other, relevant measures.
    • The "Selfie" generation has a distorted view of themselves based on curated Facebook profiles, likes, etc. Nobody is the same as their profile, and VERY FEW are as awesome as their profile, but our monkey-brains are not so clever at seeing past the image control. Marketing people know this.
  3. Different professors indeed have different ideas of success or failure, let alone different ways of thinking about the same ideas. That makes it hard for students to deliver "reliable" performance. Some schools try to reduce this problem by curving grades (so that every class has the same % of As, Bs, etc.) but that doesn't fix the issue of style. The only way to address that is to have a good idea of what your professor is asking. (It's quite sad to me that so few students have come to my office over the years, to talk over their work and mistakes. It's important to understand expectations as well as learn from mistakes.)
  4. That said, professors use grades for a reason. They want you to pay attention to where they are trying to take you. Most students, by definition, do not know the theories they need to master or how problems work. The grades help everyone agree on progress, failure or success.
  5. "I am not my grade" is perhaps the most important thing you can write on your mirror. That's because your goal -- in school or life -- should be enjoyment and fulfillment. A shit grade on an assignment that you really liked and learned from is better than a "A" on something you copy/pasted from a spreadsheet. In the end, you need to hold onto your dreams when confronting problems mentioned in (2) above...
  6. Don't forget that few people wish, on their deathbed, that they had received higher grades rather than spend more time with family and friends. #perspective.
Bottom Line: Grades are not as important as pushing yourself to succeed at what you care about.

07 October 2015

Water conflict? Who's right?

The October WaterSmarts Calendar activity is about water conflict, specifically who's right or wrong (in your opinion).

It's inspired by Chapter 9 of Living with Water Scarcity, which is still free to download (40,000 people can't be wrong!)

Go here to fill in the short (5 minute) survey!

06 October 2015

WaterSmarts: Where's your water from?

The July WaterSmarts Calendar activity asked people to find where their community's water came from. These answers reveal a range of sources and uses.

Find the largest source of water (river, lake, groundwater, etc.) for your utility. Where are you? What's the source's name?
  1. South Lake Tahoe: Lake Tahoe
  2. Los Angeles: Los Angeles Aqueduct, State Water Project and Colorado River Aqueduct
  3. Glendale, CA: Colorado and Salt Rivers
  4. Lloydminster, Alberta: North Saskatchewan River
  5. Eugene, OR: McKenzie River
  6. Chicago: Lake Michigan
  7. Colombia: Chingaza Dam
  8. New York: A lake in the Catskills
What other users (cities, farms, ecosystems) extract from / discharge into your source?
  1. This water district is the only one around Lake Tahoe which draws water from groundwater. All the other water districts draw drinking water directly from Lake Tahoe.
  2. It seems after brief research that only Los Angeles can use LA Aqueduct water by city charter (isn't that a big part of the plot of Chinatown?). A ton of users use the SWP which brings water from the Sacramento - San Joaquin River Delta including Central Valley farmers and other counties north of LA. I don't even want to get into who uses the Colorado River before Los Angeles. (Short answer: Parts of Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, New Mexico, most of Arizona, the Inland Empire and the Imperial Valley.)
  3. "The Colorado provides water to 40 million people in 7 states, also irrigates almost 5.5 million acres of farmland. The Salt provides a significant portion of the water supply for 4 million people and about 150,000 acres of irrigated ag"
  4. Probably the biggest users would be farms in Alberta followed by Edmonton.
  5. Agriculture, cities
  6. In order of quantity: thermoelectric power, public supply (water withdrawn by communities for commercial, industrial and domestic use), irrigation, and industrial use ("self-supplied" use by industry). And the Chicago Diversion, which accounts for 2.1 billion gallons per day!
  7. Hydroelectricity; farms
  8. Upstate NY farms, ecosystems, cities
Notes, comments or questions?
  1. South Tahoe PUD is mandated to ship ALL of the treated waste water out of the Tahoe Basin. They have an arrangement with Alpine County to ship the water into a holding basin and lake that is then used for agriculture irrigation. This costs rate payers millions of dollars a year. They could just as easily, and possibly for less money, treat the water to extremely clean conditions and recharge our own aquifiers, but no one has bothered to challenge this state mandated ruling.
  2. LADWP's website says that 60% of the city's water comes from the LA Aqueduct system. After doing some more cursory research, there's an article that says that Los Angeles is no longer getting water from the LA Aqueduct/ Owens River Valley/ Mono Lake area. It's unclear what source is meant to fill this gap.
Bottom Line: Water has a local character that requires different, appropriate management techniques to manage different uses. Those who forget this "identity" risk destroying water's value to its numerous dependents.

05 October 2015

03 October 2015

SoS: 28 Sep -- 4 Oct 2014

These posts are still useful one year (or more) later. Please comment on the original if you have updates on progress or deterioration...

From my students last year:
Looking WAY back to 2008: