Stan’s Obligatory Blog

Happy Halloween

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It was a nice clear day

Filed under: — stan @ 6:42 pm

This afternoon, I got an email that there was going to be a launch of a Delta IV rocket from Vandenburg at 13:10:30 PST. I got this about five minutes before the fact, so I had just enough time to go across the street and up on the roof of the Seismo Lab. I wasn’t sure if it was going to be visible from Pasadena, since it’s quite far away, but it was. I could see the trail from the first stage very clearly. The first stage is powered by liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen, so I guess the trail was just a very large vapor trail. It was impressive that it was visible this far away.


Holidays at the Seismo Lab

Filed under: — stan @ 7:58 pm

Today was the day for decorating the tree at the Seismo Lab. They brought out the box of ornaments. And I noticed that they were wrapped up in old paper seismograms. I’d always wondered what became of all the old paper records after we went digital.


Limits of Artificial Intelligence

Filed under: — stan @ 10:01 pm

This is funny. I subscribe to a discussion mailing list that includes a lot of topics. Gmail has programs that look at the text of the messages to decide what ads to display on the page when I’m reading my mail.

So here’s the FAIL. You’d think that if they’re keying on ‘goldline‘ to trigger displaying the goldline ad, they might consider not displaying it if the next word is ‘scam‘.



My 15 minutes of geek fame

Filed under: — stan @ 4:58 am

My Pet Project got mentioned in xkcd today. As always, you have to read the mouse-over text on the cartoon to get the full effect:

xkcd cartoon

Ordinarily, I’d be extremely excited by this. But right now I’m up at 4:54AM fixing the my Pet Project’s database. The M7.2 earthquake yesterday caused so much activity on the system that the database got swollen and filled up the disk on some of the servers. So I’m up rolfing it back into shape.


Heh – More artificial intelligence fun

Filed under: — stan @ 7:16 am

funny google ads
Today I noticed that Google was putting some funny ads on my page here. Apparently they use some sort of algorithm that picks up keywords in the text to decide which ads to put on the page. And so here we have some ads for stair lift machines:

Stairs getting harder? Find out how Low Cost Stair Lifts can help you.

Why yes, when I got up to the top of the Stratosphere Tower core, I’d climbed up about 720 vertical feet of stairs, and yes, the stairs were getting harder. I’m sure that a Low Cost Stair Lift would have improved my time tremendously.


Nerd Battles

Filed under: — stan @ 6:18 pm

Today was the 2010 ME72 Engineering Contest at Caltech. I like to go see this whenever I get the chance. The last time I saw it, the teams built catapult-like machines to hurl a small projectile across the athletic field. In 2007, the machines had to carry a small piece of chain up a mesh slope. This year was a partially aerial contest. Teams had to build at least two machines, and most built three. One was to pick up and transport ping pong balls across the gym, and the other had to fly through a hoop 15 feet in the air above the gym floor. And since the rules explicitly allow for machines to interfere with each other, most teams also built a small wedge-like vehicle to drive around the floor and harass their opponent’s ball-transport machine. Also, the aerial machines had some slow-paced dogfights with one machine trying to prevent the other from being able to fly through the hoop.

As always, this was a lot of fun to watch. It was interesting to see the different designs that each team came up with, both in how they resembled each other, and also how they took different approaches at times. Good geek fun.


It’s almost spring…

Filed under: — stan @ 6:35 am

And that’s when a young man’s fancy turns to the ME72 Engineering Contest at Caltech. I’ve gone to see this several times over the years, and it’s always great fun. The 2008 contest featured machines hurling a ball across a field. In 2007 they had to place a small piece of chain high up on a net. And the rules explicitly allow machines to interfere with their opponents’ machines, which makes the whole thing much more entertaining to watch.

So next Tuesday, I’m going to walk over to the gym and see this. It should be fun.


xkcd rocks

Filed under: — stan @ 6:45 am

File this under, “why didn’t I think of that?”

xkcd comic


Nerdcore Rising

Filed under: — stan @ 6:43 pm

movie posterLast night, Leslie and I watched “Nerdcore Rising.” This was easily the funniest music documentary I’ve seen since “We Sold Our Souls for Rock ‘n’ Roll.” It follows MC Frontalot on his first tour. The tour starts off slow, with small groups in little bars in the south, but it ends in a big way, with a big show at a video game convention. Along the way, they interview fans and others about Nerdcore rap.

Now it’s time for a little braggadocio
while I swing my arms like Ralph Macchio.

This is an obscure little movie, but Netflix has it, and it’s definitely worth watching. And besides, the beginning of the DVD version announces:

This film has been modified from its original version. It has been made more awesome for this screen.

And what could be better than that?


More on my Pet Project

Filed under: — stan @ 7:12 pm

earthquake map
There have been a lot of earthquakes this afternoon. In particular, there have been these three big ones:

M7.3 2009/10/07 23:13:49 -13.145 166.297 33.3 VANUATU
M7.7 2009/10/07 22:18:26 -12.554 166.320 35.0 SANTA CRUZ ISLANDS
M7.8 2009/10/07 22:03:15 -13.052 166.187 35.0 VANUATU

In the Earthquake Notification Service, also known as My Pet Project, subscribers can pick their own location and magnitude criteria for notification, but the general rule is that the larger the earthquake, the more people want to know about it. And anything over M7 will generate a lot of mail. So I went and poked through the logs to see just how many messages it’s sent in the last few hours.

It’s currently not quite 7:00PM here in Los Angeles. I looked at logs back to 2:00PM, which is about when these big events started coming through the system. And the notification system has sent 642,590 messages in that time. That averages out to about 36 messages a second for five hours. No wonder some ISPs with automatic filters have blocked our mail servers as suspected spam sources.

Just for perspective, the system has sent about 775,000 messages in the past 24 hours. And this is not a record. The 24-hour record for the system is 943,833 messages in 24 hours, and that was set last Saturday.

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