Rest Stop Education: The Mighty Mississip-pee

We were road-trippin’ down I-80 through Iowa looking for fast relief at the rest stop. We got the promised “rest” PLUS we got an unexpected history lesson about the mighty Mississip-pee in what the information sheet called “this new generation of Iowa rest area.”

You see, this rest stop has a historical theme, one which was designed to “mimic the character of the Mississippi riverfront.” Good idea! Why expend a massive effort to attract visitors to your museums when you have a fully-captive audience pulling in off the interstate?

Little did I know that this location played a unique role in the history of the 2552-mile long river. It is here, in the middle of Iowa, that the river flows decidedly from east to west.

Looking for the ladies room? Just follow the steel “trestles” right into the building.

Public artwork is integrated throughout the site that highlights the importance of Mississippi River transportation in Iowa–tows, barges, and the lock and dam system. Look up and you’ll see a wall mural depicting a vehicle-rail bridge.

Look down and you’ll see a floor mural that depicts the Army Corp of Engineer’s boundary marker, the river’s locks and dams, all connecting to a floor map of the “Quad Cities.”

What’s that on the walls? They’re terra cotta blocks and tiles that are designed to help visitors imagine “locking” through a Mississippi River dam. They “rise and fall” like the water levels and depict tows, barges and their valuable cargo…”coal going upstream and grain going down.”

And then… the promised payoff! (Not sure what those numbers represent; maybe there’s a height restriction for this loo, somewhat like roller coasters!) And just in time, because as fascinated as I am learning all these river facts, I came here to go! When it comes to rest stop public art, I think I prefer function before form!

According to the onsite plaque, credit goes to artist David B. Dahlquist working with French Reneker Associates (Engineers) and Yaggy Colby Associates (Architecture and Landscaping).

It’s Shit You Drink: Back-Alley Indian Water Bottlers

We’re generally trusting souls over here in our U.S. ivory tower but elsewhere in the world, trust not when it comes to  your drinking water supply.

In the memorably titled story “It’s Shit You Drink in Bottled Water,” The Times of India Amedabad reports on widespread scamming there in the packaged water business with nauseating details that have us squirming here in suburbia. (This is nothing new in India.)

Laws governing packaged water from the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) are stringent and include requirements that every bottle cap be wrapped with a coloured plastic seal with batch number and date of manufacture. But law does not equal compliance and dozens of back-alley bottlers fake the ISI marks and seals on dirty bottles filled under filthy conditions.

(Hmmm. That Plywood Water seems a little less amusing.)

If that seems bad, you could have a look at something badder, like this photo by Engineers without Borders from Uganda, contrasting bottled water against a sample of the local drinking supply.

Before we get carried away bellyaching about the evils of bottled water, it’s helpful to have a look at this bagged drinking water from Ghana. I suppose this is slightly more enviro-friendly than bottles! But I highly doubt that those in Uganda lucky enough to have access to it are congratulating themselves on how green they are.

We Ivory Tower dwellers have much to be grateful for as we “celebrate” Drinking Water Week. Maybe now would be a good time for us count our blessings and cut a check to our favorite water charity.)

I’m Getting You a Gift for Drinking Water Week!

In Suburbia we’re trained to mark every “occasion,” no matter how small or obscure, with a thoughtful little gift. Or at the very least, a quality card from the Hallmark Store. So, I’ve pondered long and hard about what to get you for Drinking Water Week, and then I saw this…perfect!

These awesome water glasses from feature an authentic nutrition label…0 calories, 0% of your daily recommended vitamins and minerals, and just a few carbs! But wait… Omygosh, they are out of stock right now! I am so embarrassed and sorry, I know you must be so disappointed!

But no matter, I have another idea. I’m going to get you these clever “half empty, half full” water glasses… one for optimists and another for pessimists, like you! The artist Alex Ostrowski says his design includes “a glass for optimists, which is permanently half-full with clear caster resin, and one for pessimists, permanently half-empty with a chamber of air.”

Oh no! So, here I am, looking for the “order now” link, and find that this is a design concept, I can’t actually buy them! And it would have been perfect for you, my apologies, that’s strike two!

Never mind, I know just the thing for your Drinking Water Week gift. I’ll bet you don’t have a Faucet Light! Look at this freaky thing from, don’t you love it? And the colors change from blue to red as the water gets hotter! Wait, what’s this? Installation? Oh, no, I KNOW you’re a total klutz with a wrench. There’s no way I can get you a gift you have to install yourself, just think of the stress I’d cause you!

Now I’m really out of ideas. I’m so relieved that “it’s the thought that counts,” because although you don’t have a gift in hand, as you can see I’ve thought about your gift quite a bit.

Happy Drinking Water Week–your card should be arriving any day now!

UPDATE: Success! Wouldn’t you know that Aquadoc over at WaterWired would know JUST what to do… so I’ve thoughtfully made a donation in your name! (You’ll still get the card, don’t worry!)

Bottled Water + Solar Power = Scare in the Air

Nervous flyer? Then here’s another thing to worry about when you’re airborne: Is dangerous bottled water perched up in the cockpit, ready to ignite?

“Doomsday Jim,” this blog’s eyes and ears in OZ, tips us to this story. From the Courier Mail Queensland,

A bottle of water caused a fire in the cockpit of a Airbus A320 passenger aircraft as it was about to land at a Queensland airport.

According to an Australian Transport Safety Bureau report, the pilots were lining up on the runway when they smelled smoke last month.

It was coming from the cover of a log carried in the cockpit to record inflight defects in mechanical, navigation, electrical, hydraulic and radio equipment.

The incident was reported to the bureau, which investigated and concluded a water bottle was to blame.

“The sun was shining through a water bottle at the side of the cockpit,” the ATSB report said.

“The bottle was focusing the sunlight like a magnifying glass on the cover of the cabinet defect log, which began burning.”

One reason I love Australian news media is their mastery of the subtle-but-clever news story punch line. And in this story, it’s a winner!

The bureau did not say whether the water in the bottle was used to douse the fire.

h2o mp3: That Water Tower Sound: Other Animals

No lyrics since this is an instrumental rock track, but it would be an outstanding soundtrack for the film Bat Girl Conquers the Tower if one’s ever released! The band is from Crystal Lake, IL (Yea! Suburbs of Chicago!) and their website notes, “We donned the moniker Other Animals and spent the last two years writing music using an excavation office in the suburbs of Chicago during nights and weekends as our rehearsal space.”

Play the track


Download That Water Tower Sound – Other Animals

This is a full-quality 6MB mp3 file.
WOW! this band graciously offers the entire album as a free download on their website:

If you enjoy it, please be sure to leave a message and let the band know!