Stan’s Obligatory Blog

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My pet project

Filed under: — stan @ 10:51 pm

ens screenshot
I don’t usually write much about work here, but today was a momentous day. It was the most excitement I’ve had since the last M6 earthquake.

My project is the Earthquake Notification System. This is a system for automatic email notification of worldwide earthquakes. We’ve had public mailing lists for earthquake notification since about 2000, but they were ‘one size fits all’ in that people could choose only to get either M4 or M3 events, and they had a choice of Southern California, Northern California, or the whole world. This new system is the first time subscribers can pick their own custom geographic boundaries and notification thresholds.

This all started a bit over two years ago as my pet project. People have been asking for something like this for years, but it’s only recently that I figured out how to do it. So for the past two years, it’s been my little office pet. Every so often, I would trot it out and show it to people. They would suggest some more features they’d like to see, and then I’d put it away.

But about a year ago, the people at the National Earthquake Information Center took an interest in it. And it went from being a pet project to being a real project. They even got some web designers to help it look pretty. And today it went public. Yikes. There’s even a link to it off the front page of the Earthquake Hazards Program web site.

It’s kind of fun seeing something I invented being used by lots of people. At the same time, it’s kind of scary, since if it fails, I’m the one who will look stupid.

Have I mentioned recently that I really like my job?


More adventures of the accidental bachelor

Filed under: — stan @ 12:47 pm

Years ago when I was a bike racer and dinosaurs roamed the earth I had a big wardrobe of bike clothes. Wild prints with bright colors, Egyptian temples, airplanes and all manner of things. They were all homemade by my mother, who liked to sew as a hobby. Now, nearly 30 years later, I only have a few of the old things left. Most wore out over the years.

So I decided to try a project for this week while the family is gone. I was going to learn to sew. Bike clothes are expensive. Also, I’d hate to be yet another bike rider wearing some team’s jersey that I have no connection with. Also, I want something that’s unique. So it’s time for a new adventure.

I’m not a total stranger to sewing. Back in 1991 when we first got Cosmo, I made a couple of dog beds for her. I made them myself because the one we bought at Petsmart didn’t fit right in the box I’d made, so I made two pillows and covers to fit exactly.

I have one homemade jersey from 1978 that’s still in good condition and fits correctly, so started there. I went to Jo-Ann Fabric and picked out a bright knit print. It has little planets and arrows that say “Planet Fun” on it. I got a big sheet of paper and laid it out on the floor to make a pattern to copy the basic design. I cut out a pattern and then cut the four main pieces.

I sewed the front and back pieces together and tried it on. It was too small. Crap. Fortunately, I’d anticipated some false starts. So I adjusted the pattern and re-cut the pieces. This time it fit properly. I sewed the sleeves on and then I put the collar and sleeve cuffs on. I made a mental note to sew the sleeve cuffs on first next time, since it was hard to do with the sleeve already attached. I put the zipper in the collar, which turned out to be much harder than it seemed like it should have been. I made another mental note to not sew the sides of the body together first next time. Then I made the pockets for the back. I put some elastic in and attached them to the back of the jersey. At this point I realized again that assembling the front and back parts first was a mistake. But in the end, I had a functional and comfortable, if not perfectly aesthetic, bike jersey. I wore it for the ride to Carbon Canyon last Saturday as my ‘proof of concept’.

So yesterday I set out to make another. I used the same fabric, since I really like the print. I made so many mistakes the first time, I wanted to make one with that fabric that is better-looking. So now my Mark II is almost finished. It came out much nicer than the first one. So I’ll probably be visiting more fabric stores in the future, especially when fall comes and it gets colder.

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