Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Boy Scout Camp: Part 2

Sorry to leave you hanging on the edge of your seat. The last think I said about our trip to Colorado was that I took six boys to the ER on Sunday night.

I will avoid going into detail about how one boy threw up in a plastic bag, and how the sound of it made another follow suit, or about how his bag was about to burst and we had to put his used bag into another larger bag - while the van was moving - and how I had to hold his used bag between my legs because the winding road had no shoulder and we couldn't pull over...

I went from room to room checking on the boys. One was so dehydrated they couldn't get an IV into his veins; they kept collapsing. Most of them soiled their clothes at some point during the night, and a few had to use the showers. They all ran low grade fevers.

I slept in a chair in the lobby the last hour before dawn, when two fresh leaders arrived from the campsite to give us a rest. When the boys were finally released they all walked slowly out to the van dressed hospital scrubs, gowns, or pajamas scrounged up by the nurses. They carried red plastic bags with "biohazard" markings with their dirty clothes inside. It was actually kinda cute and pathetic at the same time.

They were sent home with a prescription for an antibiotic, under the assumption that it was a bacterial infection resulting from contaminated food. This turned out to be wrong, but we didn't find out for two more days...

Meanwhile, the boys who didn't get sick went on about their scouting business. David, who has been growing his hair long and curly over the summer, continued to feel fine.

Thursday we were going to let the boys do some repelling on the rocks, and Friday morning there was going to be the "Blue Mountain Hike" up this mountain before dawn. But neither of those things happened, because Wednesday the results of the culture came back from the hospital: the diagnosis was Norovirus, a highly contagious, food-borne viral infection. This is the one that infects cruise ships from time to time.

Wednesday morning also saw the virus spreading to other parts of camp: some of the staff, boys from other troops, and one of our own adults. Then the Colorado Health Department shut down the camp and sent everybody home! I couldn't believe it!

I don't disagree that it was warranted; I just find it hard to believe that I was actually there at with "patient zero". Two days of driving, followed by three days of camping, followed by two days of driving. Oh well.

I'm going to eat dinner at a salad bar and then go read "The Andromeda Strain". Goodnight my blogospheric friends.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Beautiful Colorado

Isn't this a nice photograph of the Colorado state flag? The sun is shining through it and the mountains are in the background. The other flag is the World Scouting Emblem, the international symbol of scouting of all kinds.

Here the boys are unloading the trailer and getting their tents ready for the week. Everyone uses a large plastic tub for their personal things. They are waterproof, somewhat bugproof, and they stack nicely in the trailer. You can see that our camp site was at the top of a little hill. The trailer could not be easily brought to the top, and neither could my carcass.

Each troop has a flag with their troop number and hometown. They looked great all lined up at the common area. But three hours after our arrival, on the way to line up for dinner, the first of our boys started feeling sick and threw up.

One hour later, we had half a dozen feeling ill, throwing up, and/or having diarrhea. They were not showing signs of feeling better, and several were throwing up repeatedly (over a dozen times) without any relief. The medical center on the camp was overwhelmed and had no ability to administer an IV or give anti-nausea drugs, so one of the other leaders, Gerry, and I, decided to take them to a nearby hospital before they got too dehydrated. By this time several of them were starting to have chills and they wrapped up in blankets for the 30 minute trip.

The road was a bumpy dirt road (not Honduras bumpy, just dirt road in the US bumpy) and the boys moaned as we attempted to find the best compromise between speed and smoothness. The two nurses and one doctor at Pike's Peak Regional were scrabling to get enough beds for them all, and I went from room to room helping as Gerry checked them in. Soon most of them were getting an anti-nausea medicine in their IV which made them sleepy. By midnight, all but one was asleep. But that wasn't the end of the story...

The Road to Colorado

Last week, twenty boy scouts and ten adult leaders packed into two 15-passenger vans and a couple other vehicles to make the two-day journey from Waco, Texas to Lake George, Colorado. The destination was a fantastic summer camp owned by BSA known as Camp Alexander. Unfortunately, things did not go as planned, but that's a long story...
I think we stopped at least every two hours for sugary drinks, candy, and/or urination breaks. I brought a new package of ear plugs, not only to help me sleep, but to calm my nerves in the van. It's a good thing, too, because I somehow selected the "noisy" van - it was the one with the younger guys.
In the Texas panhandle, wind farm developers have capitalized on the abundant wind resource there, and are building lots of wind power plants. Perhaps not surprisingly, I was the person most interested in these out of all 30 of us. I snapped these pictures out of the van window.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Blue Light Cafe, Ruston Louisiana

I have now experienced soul food to a new, and unquestionably authentic, level. I discovered this restaurant on my trip to Ruston, Louisiana, with the help of some engineers at Louisiana Tech. I loved it.

An old house in an old neighborhood has been converted into this fine dinning establishment by removing most of the interior walls to make a dining room with 15 booths, two window unit air conditioners, and the friendliest service you could ask for.

I think the wood paneling on the walls may be original. Notice the exposed conduit and electrical panel. The floor sloped noticeably to the left as you enter and approach the cash register. Everyone writes their order on a little slip of paper and hands it to the help. On the menu are fried pork chops, fried chicken, cream corn, mustard greens, yams, mashed potatoes, cornbread, lima beans, and chocolate cake, among other delights.

The M and the boys loved it, as did I. The cultural experience alone was worth the money, but the food and service were stellar. And so ends my first restaurant review on Orangehouse.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Jack's Place

Our lodging for this year's trip to Honduras was really nice. Twenty minutes' drive east of La Ceiba is a hotel named Villa Helen's Hotel & Restaurant. Jack the manager is French Canadian and the brother-in-law to Helen's husband (or some such relation). He also has the best English, so when we were there he was our main interface person. In our mind, it's Jack's Place.

It's right on the beach, yet reasonably priced. After a long day working in the villages, we would frequently return to our rooms and change into our suits for a swim in the Caribbean as the sun went down. It was a great way to cool off and relax before dinner and our evening meetings and tasks.

Diana, Lisa, Eduardo, myself, and Matt couldn't resist getting our feet wet when we first arrived. And as we stood there in the water, this is the view that we saw (below). Jack's Place had a iron fence with a gate; beyond the covered area is the hotel itself. Beyond the hotel is the highway, and beyond that are the mountains. Beyond that, eventually, is South America, but we couldn't really see it from the beach.

Under the red roof in the picture above were tables and hammocks! Oh man, the hammocks were nice. The sounds of the waves breaking would lull you to sleep.

Teresa is lounging and enjoying the view. She was one of my returning students. After Honduras she went to Houston for an internship in the natural gas industry.

Now this last photo is not one of the best in terms of quality, but I include it so you don't think we had it too easy! We did a lot of work as evidenced by the books and calculators on the table. Hammocks and fluid mechanics, baby. Engineering on the beach. Hands on the calculator, feet in the sand.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

The M, OlyMpian?

I just want to brag on my wife a bit. She has had the desire to be a runner for years. She started walking on the treadmill at the YMCA about six months ago. Then her walking turned into jogging a little bit. Then it was a mile, then two. Three to five times a week she is out there working out.

Tonight she passed a new landmark. She ran for FIVE miles on the treadmill without stopping. The boys and I are very impressed. In fact, during the last three weeks since her 40th birthday, she has run over 42 miles! Amazing.

Go baby, go!

Danta Uno System Repairs

As you may recall, our team designed and built a functioning "pico hydro" system in the rural village of Danta Uno, Honduras, during the summer of 2008. It served 23 homes with a modest amount of electricity and was the basis of a small electric company to generate wages for several families. But this is a harsh environment.

Around October, 2008, lightning hit the village and damaged some of our electronics. We ordered some replacement parts, but before we could get them paid for and in the luggage of a friend on the way to Honduras, a large flood hit the river and tore out our canal system of PVC pipes. In retrospect, the pipes were not sufficiently secured, and the lightning protection was inadequate. But we are learning.

The lightning damage was repaired by Sergio, who can do anything and everything, but the flood damage could not be repaired until May 2009, when a new team returned. This post is a brief chronicle of the repairs to, and redesign of, our intake and canal system.

The above photo shows Matt, Ryan, and Blaine surveying the damage. Behind them you can see a low concrete wall that used to be used for drinking water collection, but has long since been out of commission. The concrete walls are about five feet tall, and the pool upstream of the dam is full of silt and rocks (where they stand). The hole in the dam near Ryan is where our 12 inch diameter PVC pipes used to take water to the generator. You can see the rusty generator box off to the left. This photo shows David cleaning out the rusty generator box, nicknamed the swirlificationator because one of its functions is to cause the water to swirl before encountering the blades of the hydro generator (the propeller).

This photo shows the upstream protection we installed to protect the dam and the generator from large debris (like trees and boulders) floating downstream in floods. In English, they are called gibbons, and in Spanish, "gabiones". They are wire cages a little bigger than a four-drawer filing cabinet, and filled with rocks. After they are full, we wired them closed. They make a very inexpensive, very heavy wall. They guys that worked on them the most (Matt, David, Brian, and Ryan) we nicknamed the Gabiones Brothers. Our estimate is that they moved and caged about 20,000 pounds of river rocks!

The intake system with the new PVC pipe was redesigned using about five times as much concrete as last time. One of the wooden forms, unfortunately, is still in place in this photo, so the intake of the pipe is mostly blocked from view.

This is a bird's eye view of the freshly painted swirlificationator. The generator sits in the hole in the middle. As the water goes down the hole, it turns the propeller and poof! electricity comes out.
On our last day in the village, our team posed on the newly constructed wooden walkway installed above the canal pipe. You can see the bubbles and turbulence at the base of the pipe as the water flows.

Water + Gravity + Electromagnetism = Usable Energy = Improved Lives = God's Love Tangibly Expressed

That's what we (try to) do.

Friday, July 10, 2009

DeMint Makes Strong Point, Bad Spanish

Senator Jim DeMint not only reviews the facts, but asks the hard questions of Obama/Clinton. This is a long speech (16+ minutes) but it explains, quite clearly I think, that the complex activities that recently occurred in Honduras were within the bounds of Honduran law.

Melvin's Protest

A few weeks ago I told you about a deaf Honduran subsistence farmer and his family of four daughters named Melvin. Strictly speaking, it was the man whose name is Melvin, not his daughters. Actually, they each have their own name, and even though I can't remember what their names are, I think I would remember if they too, were named Melvin. I mean, yes, they are poor, but they can afford a name for everybody. Hand-me-down names from Dad are OK as a last name, but not at the beginning. Well, in Latin America, it's really the next-to-last name that comes from Dad; the last name comes from Mom. But you understand.

As I sit here and type as if my stream of consciousness had a direct link to my fingers (and yet you read on?), I realize that Melvin has never heard the sound of his daughters' names. What other-worldliness he must live in. In fact, to him, their names are something else entirely: a hand sign, a lip movement, or perhaps, a scent. I am reminded of the Biblical account of Jacob tricking his father Issac into giving him the blessing of his older brother Esau. Some Old Testament scholars, in fact, think that Issac actually had a third son, not mentioned in the Bible, whose name was also Melvin. But I digress...

The purpose of this post was not to wax philosophically like, say, the deep-thinking salon attendant that did my back that one time, but instead to celebrate the arrival of a new computer to post new photos from Honduras! One of my students compiled several hundred shots from every one's cameras, so now I have many good images to share with you. We will start with Melvin.

This is Brian and Melvin after a hard day's work on the hydrogenerator canal. It was sorta like the Panama canal, only smaller and made of PVC pipe. Despite it's smaller size, our canal was a lot of hard work to construct. Brian and Melvin were two of our strongest workers, as you can see below.
I include this photo to show that Brian was, in truth, a strong young man. He was able to lift large styrofoam blocks like this one for hours at a time. My point, while covered in layers of absurdity, is this: that Brian said Melvin was the strongest and hardest-working person he had ever worked alongside. And Brian picks up boulders, so he must be strong himself.

It looks like Melvin is cooling off in the river, but actually, he is protesting the way the United States is interfering with democracy in Honduras. He told me, through hand signals, that he plans to sit in the river as a silent protest until Hilary Clinton brings him a hearing aide paid for by socialized medicine. Or at least I think that's what he said.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Important Video on US Role with Honduras

Wow! This senator has it right! Please take a look at this, then call your congressman/congresswoman, senators and Ms. Clinton and tell her you agree!

State Department Comment Line: 202-647-6575