Monday, March 22, 2010

Books About Ancient Water and Disaster (Libri di Acqua Antichi e Disastri)

I've just finished reading a book called Pompeii by Robert Harris. Not *just* now, it's not like the book is still in my hand as I'm setting it down while typing this.The book was an imaginative story set in ancient Italy in the days immediately before the eruption of Vesuvius. It was extraordinarily well researched, and even though I caught two historical mistakes, the presentation of the story was very novel. Whoa is that why they call those things 'novels'?

It followed an hour by hour timeline interwoven with documented historical events from the era, which as you can imagine for me was a good read.I won't give away plot points, but there is a strong chance in this book that the volcano erupts at the end.

The main character of the story was a maintenance engineer assigned to work on the various aqueducts around the bay of Naples. I know a few things about the aqueducts, having spent some time around Pont du Gard just north of Nimes, France.

Here are some photos I took of the famous above ground part of the aqueduct. Most all of the aqueducts were below ground, except for these grand bridgey parts. The whole area around there is great, you can kayak on the river (great fun, I highly recommend Kayak Vert for both this place and Fontaine de Vaucluse) and the natural marble outcroppings are fantastic to look at.
Notice the huge shadow the 160 foot tall aqueduct casts on the river?

You can see the flow chanel for the water here, look at all the sediment buildup on the floor. I wonder in ancient Romans had 'Evian'(tm) as an alternative?

As a quick digression about the area around Pont du Gard, did you know that the town of Nimes is the namesake of the mythological 'Nemesis'? A Greek goddess who personified vengeful fate against mortals who were excessively arrogant or tried to achieve too much. Hubris / blind ambition was apparently not appreciated back then, especially by the Roman generals who retired here and patronized the Nemesis temple. Maybe their patronage was motivated by a desire to keep people below them in line?

Thursday, March 11, 2010

When Gravity and Marble Don't Mix (Quando la Gravità e Marmi Fatto Problemi)

Last week, I had a delivery firm move my tile from the freight terminal to my residence, what some insiders of the industry refer to as 'Residential' delivery.

The truck operator had some trouble understanding the driving directions I gave over the phone, and that should have served as warning that this wasn't a top notch crack team of delivery specialists. The driver's obnoxious nervous hyena laugh and constant grabbing his lower back and muttering should have been the second and third indicators, respectively. I deduced that if he was not in the delivery business, he'd be a parking lot attendant's assistant or maybe a dog thief.

After the truck pulled up and the driver lowered the hydraulic lift on the back of the truck, we went aboard so I could count the boxes. The shipment was high quality Crema Marfil tile from Spain on four crates. All the boxes were accounted for and on a random sampling, it appeared to be very high quality unflawed material. Perfect.

Well, then the driver said 'Ok, let's get this tile off the truck' and that was precisely when the fun started. He couldn't get a manual forklift underneath the crates to move them to the liftgate, so he had to push slats of wood underneath the barely propped up crate, readjust the manual forklift, then finally get the crate on the lift. The first crate was successfully lowered to the ground and I happily began transfering the tile to a wheeled dolly and rolling it up to where it was to be stored. I think I was even whistling a jaunty tune, jauntily.

But then the second crate was placed on the manual forklift, the son of a goat kissing driver rolled that f'er right off the end of the liftgate onto the street. I was immediately and emphatically somewhat disappointed.

Perhaps I might have yelled out some expletives? I went inside to check with my lawyer and the guy who sold me the stone about what the hell to do when residential delivery gets personal like it just did. They advised noting on the bill of lading that the freight company dropped the tile, so I did that in ALL CAPS, so years from now, they could have a chuckle about how steamed I was.

The driver, understandably, felt bad. He called his dispatcher who indicated that we needed to go through each and every tile box to determine the damage. *more yelling*

But it actually wasn't as bad as it all looked. Only about 120 sqft of tile was destroyed, but there were however two more crates on the truck. The driver offered to offload them right then, but given his somewhat tarnished 50% success rate, I decided to wait and mull over the situation. Plus, I had to go to the Mavericks / Kings basketball game in an hour and it was starting to get dark, so I just told him to bring it back the following week.