My work is, a lot of the time, focused on reducing the negative environmental impacts of engineering projects, usually highways. Generally, we focus on the stormwater impacts, as they are something that is directly generated by the project, and are treatable. Up until about 30 years ago, the point of stormwater management was to get it away from the road and into the stream as quickly as possible. Water on the road was bad for cars and bad for the pavement. That’s all well and good, but what that did was to take a lot of water that would go slowly into the streams and dump it all in at once. It also made a lot of area that used to let rainwater infiltrate into the groundwater supply so that it couldn’t do that (the definition of impervious area). All that water that would seep into the ground, and eventually make its way downhill to the stream, slowly, providing a baseflow between storms, was suddenly channeled quickly to the stream, leading to an increased peak discharge and a reduced baseflow. The net effect on streams in urban and suburban areas has been close to devastating. The entire stream response to a rainfall event changed. Now, with much higher peak flows, much more frequently, the stream banks are eroded much faster, leading to severe channel incision. Streams became disconnected from their floodplains, further increasing the rate of erosion as higher flows stay within the banks. And with the lower baseflows, the stream level goes up and down and up and down and up and down, making it much less hospitable to wildlife. Further, the sun beats down on that pavement all day, then it rains, and the water picks up a LOT of additional heat, and discharges directly into the stream, creating bad thermal impacts.

As a result of the damage being done, stormwater management controls were enacted into law, at first requiring the management of peak discharges. This meant that the 2-year storm peak after the project was built couldn’t exceed the peak before the project from that area. Or the 10-year storm. This worked somewhat, but was only applicable to new projects, and did little to repair damage from previous development. Additionally, this peak management kept the maximum flow down, but held the flow at that maximum for longer periods of time. At the same time, water quality controls were enacted, to reduce the amounts of pollutants that were released into the streams: nutrients, metals, suspended solids. This was frequently done with a pond or an infiltration area.

As it was recognized that this was still allowing, even contributing, to the degradation of streams, tougher regulations were brought online. Maryland’s Department of the Environment published new ways of providing stormwater management. Peak control was brought down to more frequent storms, as it was determined that the more frequent the storm, the more overall damage it does to the receiving stream. New water quality measures were recommended, using Bioretention filters, sand filters, even some wet ponds. Water Quality and Quantity treatment computation was separated. And other factors started to be looked at, like temperature impacts, and cumulative effects. And these were applied in such a way that new projects had to make up some for the lack of treatment in the past. All new impervious area must be treated, and portions of existing untreated impervious area have to be treated. Credit is given for impervious area removed permanently.

And the main thing it comes down to is that there will still be problems with the degradation of streams, because there’s just been so much already done that we can’t make up for. We’ll slowly improve them, through redevelopment and through stream restoration, but we need to reduce more impervious areas. And one way I think to do that is to seriously consider *removing* sidewalks, and not putting more in. Look how much use a normal roadway lane gets. Then look over on your typical suburban or urban sidewalk. In residential areas, you’ll sometimes see people on them, but along arterials? Hah. Why not return that area to at least grass, and save that impervious area? Why build new roadways with 8 or 10 foot wide ‘hiker-biker trails’? That’s almost a whole lane of impervious area that gets little use. Or worse, have the trail outside the road and then make the roadway ‘bicycle compatible’ with a 14 or 15 foot wide lane.

I applaud people who try to bike in urban and suburban areas. It’s rough, I wouldn’t want to do it, and I’ve tried it. But think about this: there is not enough traffic on that pavement to justify the environmental damage they do just by existing. And if we can save money, and save our environment, by not putting them in, why should we, for the extraordinarly few pedestrians that are along these roads?

Wow, almost a whole week with no posts. Time flies when you’re working hard on stuff. Had some interesting stuff this week. Been working on getting a project finished, and got that submitted today for review (on time! Yay!) , a nice little project to provide some water quality treatment for runoff to a sensitive stream. Also been playing WoW, and our raid group had a really good week. It was the first time we had 3 nights in a Karazhan timer, and we made the most of it, beating through Maiden of Virtue day one, beating the Big Bad Wolf event day two -our first time for the Opera event – and beating Curator day three! It was a great effort by everyone, even those not in our group. Thanks to everyone for all the effort and advice!

There are some good discussions over on the World of Warcraft Guild Relations forum. Sometimes I participate in them, especially the ones about raiding.  There are a lot of people who have their heads on straight, and it’s a great place for dialogue.  The rest of the forums are pretty much a wasteland about how awful the game is, but Guild Relations has people who are genuinely interested in sharing ways to help other people, and ways to deal with the multitude of issues that come up in large and small guilds.

One of the subjects here is going to be World of Warcraft.  I play this game almost every day, hours at a time.

A brief overview: WoW is classified as a Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game (MMORPG or MMO).  It’s a persistent online world where you interact with player characters (PCs) and non player characters (NPCs).  Most of the game centers around killing things, and acquiring items that help you kill things better.  The game has things to do solo or in groups from 2 to 40 people.

My ‘main’ character is a dwarf priest, although I’ve played every race, and almost every class.  But I tend to identify with the healing classes.  And something that’s been evident since the release of the Burning Crusade expansion pack in January is that the developers of the game feel that healing in the game is too powerful.  This is evident by the following things I consider facts:

  • Healing spells did not scale with either health or damage done in the game.  Health values have increased by, in some cases such as rogues, 100% over their pre-BC health values.  Most have had an increase of about 50% to 80%.  But priest healing spells have increased by perhaps 30% for our largest heals.  The result is that we rarely use anything but our largest heal spell anymore.  Flash Heals, group heals, shields, the things that show the diversity of healing methods that make the priest class different from the other healing classes, we can’t use these hardly at all, because they just don’t heal enough on our tanks or even our other party members to be worth their cast time or mana cost.
  • Healers continue to be nerfed in patches since BC release.  Prayer of Mending received a cooldown.  Illumination for Paladins is being cut in half in effectiveness.   This combines with…
  • Priests have not received any significant buffs since BC release.  There were some good buffs with WoW 2.0, and with the newer spells, but these haven’t helped the priests very much at all.  We’ve gotten one good spell (Prayer of Mending), one hardly used spell (Binding Heal), and terrible talents, especially Circle of Healing.  There definitely is a lack with priest  talent trees, as there’s no reason to get Circle of Healing.  I got a 41 point talent on my druid (Mangle) and it’s AMAZING.  People who have Circle of Healing never use it.

There’s definitely a lack of healing in the game.  There always has been, and a lot of that derives from the mechanics of healing.  You have to pay more attention, all of the time, and are constantly doing something, otherwise your group fails.  When other people slack off, your task gets harder.  So it’s a tough road for Blizzard.  Make healers more powerful, and you trivialize content.  Make the content harder to match, and you limit the amount of people who can actually compete with it.  Keep healers down, and you preserve the content, but you get dissatisfaction from the healers who see everyone else’s characters increase in power while they do not, and while they have their spells removed from effectiveness one by one.

Hopefully they can find a way to make priests and other healers more interesting to play while preserving their content.

I like nearly all kinds of racing.  I can usually skip drag racing, but nearly everything else is fair game, from Formula One to Team Demolition Derby.  Included is NASCAR, specifically the NNCS and the NBS.

If you follow the Cup series, you know they’re currently rolling out (hehe) the Car of Tomorrow, or CoT.  This is a chassis that’s been in development for many years, and was primarily developed to enhance driver safety, with a larger cockpit area, a different driver location, stronger frame, and more crushable structure.  But it also has some other advantages.  It standardizes cars from all manufacturers, removing the complaints that ‘they have more downforce’ or ‘their car handles better’.  It has front and rear bumpers that match up, even under braking.  This means no more lifting the guy in front off the ground to spin him out.

So far, the CoT has raced at 3 places: Bristol, Martinsville, and Phoenix.  Two short tracks, and one mile track.  They’re going to be racing it at more locations, including the second Talledega plate race this year.  It’s not planned to be used at ALL races until 2009, tho.  And that’s one question: why keep switching back and forth?  Already, in the three shorter track races, the racing has been good.  And that’s what the only question really was with the car: Would it be entertaining to watch it race?

The answer is yes.  Sure, some teams seem to be farther along on development, but that’s true with the old cars.  But it does noone any good to keep switching back and forth for the next two seasons.  They should just switch to the CoT, and go with it.  If not for the rest of this year, at least for the start of next year and all races next year.

I want to mention a couple of things. The first is that I blog using the pseudonym Highway. I’m not going to extraordinary lengths to hide my identity, I just feel more comfortable using this name.

The next thing is that I will try to keep things non-specific. I’m not going to talk about specific projects at work. I’m not going to talk about people, or even agencies that my company works for or with, unless these are published policies of the agencies that I can link to separately, like I was anyone in the world. I love my work, and I love my workplace, and I like and respect the people I work for and with. I don’t want to do anything to jeopardize the company’s relationships with others in our field.

I plan to blog about WoW, and some of that will inevitably include my guild. I’ll try to keep guild politics out of this. I’ll never mention names of my guildmates, unless I secure permission from them first. Most of the WoW discussions will probably be about game mechanics and setups. This is stuff I wanted a place to talk about, that doesn’t really fit on forums.

I love discussion in comments. I doubt I’ll get many comments, but hopefully the WordPress setup will limit the spam (something that drove my desire to blog away before).

Hi everyone. Thought I’d just put up a post for practice. Like the title says, I’ve got a ton of ideas about subjects I want to write in, but nothing’s really formed as yet. A couple of thanks, tho, before I go any further.

Thanks to WordPress.com for providing this service. I’ve run a blog on a private host, and it was a hassle. This has been so much easier to set up.

Thanks to Dean Esmay for giving me the idea about WordPress, and also for having a great blog with thought provoking subjects.

Thanks to the guys on dualboot for encouraging me, even you, Phelan.

And finally, thanks to you for coming to read this. I hope you’ll come back, and I hope there will be more to read.

The first of many posts… I hope.