Stan’s Obligatory Blog

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Another milestone for my Pet Project

Filed under: — stan @ 6:56 am

Last summer, I was very pleased to see when the Earthquake Notification Service passed 150,000 subscribers. On average about 30-50 people sign up for it every day, and more after each large earthquake. And this week’s M7.2 Baja California earthquake pushed it over the top to more than 200,000 subscribers.

The earthquake also set a new record for the amount of mail sent in one day. The previous record of 2,326,000 messages was set after the M8.8 Chile earthquake in February. But this earthquake blew right past that record with 4,508,522 messages sent. And it would have been more if the database problems hadn’t slowed the system to a crawl. At the end of the first day, there were over 600,000 messages waiting to be sent, and over 500 earthquakes waiting to be processed.

Fortunately, I’ve found a workaround to keep the system from getting slow while processing large numbers of earthquakes, and I’m working on a re-architecture of the database to be able to handle heavier loads in the future.


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.


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.


Artificial intelligence strikes again

Filed under: — stan @ 12:55 pm

Automated systems can be pretty stupid sometimes. There is some earthquake activity going on in the Gulf of California right now, and it’s generating a fair number of messages through the Earthquake Notification Service (aka, “My Pet Project“). In the messages, it gives the location of the earthquake relative to some local landmarks and cities in the area. And now I’m getting back nasty messages from various mail systems like this:

This email has violated the RACIAL DISCRIMINATION.
and Quarantine entire message has been taken on 8/4/2009 2:33:29 PM.
Message details:
Recipient: redacted
Subject: 2009-08-03 18:40:50 REVISED: (Mw 6.2) GULF OF CALIFORNIA
29.4 -113.7

Or this:

A message sent from “” to “redacted” with a subject of “2009-08-03 18:40:50 REVISED: (Mw 6.2) GULF OF CALIFORNIA 29.4 -113.7″ has been blocked as it contains profane language.

All this because the earthquake happened to be near the town of Guerrero Negro.

I haven’t seen anything like this since the last time we had a big earthquake near the Virgin Islands.


My Pet Project

Filed under: — stan @ 6:16 am

150,000 subscribers
I checked this morning, and the subscriber list for the USGS Earthquake Notification Service passed 150,000 at about 07:34 GMT on Monday morning. This is a momentous occasion. I never imagined that something I invented could be so popular, useful, or entertaining. It’s come a long way from its beginnings as my Pet Project.


Closing in on the goal

Filed under: — stan @ 7:22 am

The earthquake last Sunday evening brought in about 1,500 new subscribers for the Earthquake Notification Service (aka: My Pet Project). The subscriber list now stands at just over 148,000. I’m still planning on having a party when it reaches 150,000, which will likely be sometime around mid to late June.


Something exciting

Filed under: — stan @ 9:13 pm

I just found out that the paper about My Pet Project has been published in Seisomological Research Letters:

The USGS Earthquake Notification Service (ENS): Customizable Notifications of Earthquakes around the Globe

I’ve had co-authorship on papers before, but this is the first time a whole paper has been published about something that I invented. Yay.


Tuna and No Tuna

Filed under: — stan @ 7:58 pm

Today’s ride was a combination of the regular La Tuna Canyon ride, coupled with Gene’s “No Tuna for Me” return route. It was a bit chilly in the morning, but warmed up nicely once we got going.

We went out by the regular route up through La Cañada and Montrose. That was where we saw The Cone. Ever since going to the “Cone Migration” art show, I look at every cone to see if it’s part of the project. And today, it was. It was Cone number 6. The label said that it was released into the wild on September 8th. And now it’s sitting in front of the Montrose Village Newsstand at 2329 Honolulu Ave. I took some pictures to document the location and condition of the cone, and I logged the sighting on Lana Shuttleworth’s web site.

We regrouped at the top of La Tuna Canyon. By then, it was quite warm, so nobody was cold on the four-mile downhill into Sun Valley. Then we rode up past the dump and took the back streets back to Sunland Blvd.

We rode a short distance on Sunland Blvd before turning off to take Apperson, which is a nice, quiet street that parallels it. Along the way, I saw a truck parked in front of a house. It looked like another family was getting leopard-print carpet like ours.

Our snack stop was listed on the route slip as being at Oven Fresh in Montrose. But we like Berolina better, so we went there. It’s just down the block. I got a big fresh-squeezed orange juice, which is a nice treat.

From there, we headed back the way we went out. Back up Hospital Hill and then down past Descanso Gardens and back into Pasadena.

It was a fun ride.

45 miles.


A new use for my pet project

Filed under: — stan @ 12:47 pm

I just noticed today that someone is using the email generated by my pet project to feed a blog:

Now this person is just taking the default mail profile. This is for earthquakes M5.5 and larger worldwide, and M4.5 and larger within the United States. The system allows for users to set up custom mail rules. Maybe I should figure out how to post here by email. Then I can set up a rule to have it display all earthquakes in the Los Angeles area.


More on my pet project

Filed under: — stan @ 8:11 pm

I just noticed this link on the USGS Earthquake Hazards Program site today:

New USGS Website and Earthquake Notification Service Simplify Ways to Get Information You Need

“The new Earthquake Notification Service will replace the old system. Now with a user-friendly interface, users will be able to define their own multiple regions of interest, enter various notification addresses, set magnitude thresholds for day and night, and opt for “Aftershock Exclusion,” among many other options. The system can be found on the “Earthquake Center” section of the site.”

So it’s official now. It’s been public for a little over a week. About 1,000 people have signed up for accounts on it so far. We moved about 5,000 more over from the old ‘Bigquake’ mailing list. So far it’s been working like a champ. And today I found and squashed one little bug that’s been bothering me for months. So I’m pretty happy with it, even as I’ve been so obsessed with it that I’ve actually had dreams about PHP and Perl this week.

So check it out.

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