Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Italian earthquake scientists indicted for failing to predict quake

Excert from an email I received from the Seismological Society of America (SSA):

Two weeks ago the L’Aquila Prosecutor’s office indicted of manslaughter the members of the National High Risk Committee that met in L'Aquila one week before the Mw6.3 earthquake. The charges are for failing to provide a short term alarm to the population before the earthquake struck, killing more than 300  people.
The president of INGV (National Institute of Geophysics and Vulcanology), Enzo Boschi (member of the High Risk Committee), and the director of the National Earthquake Center, Giulio  Selvaggi (just accompanying Boschi to the meeting as technical  specialist), are among the scientists in seismology and earthquake  engineering now under investigation together with some civil protection officials.
 This is insane. Earthquake prediction is notoriously difficult and there is no current accepted method for predicting an event. The best scientists can do now is to develop seismic hazard maps and risk assessment in order to help guide better building codes, train response teams, and help prepare the community as much as possible. The SSA has drafted an open-letter addressed to the President of the  Italian Republic, and asks anyone working in seismology or the Earth sciences in general to sign the letter and show your support for these scientists. 

The letter can be found here: open-letter in support of Italian scientists

M5.7 Quake shakes up my folks

Ahh... nothing like waking up in the morning and finding a Facebook post from your dad mentioning they just got rocked by a M5.7 earthquake. At least I know they are alright if they can post a status update about it. That's a pretty decent sized quake, and they said they felt the rolling for about 10 - 15 seconds. Luckily they are far enough away from the epicenter, near Mexicali, CA, that most of the higher frequency energy was already absorbed and they just felt the lower energy stuff.

Here's a link to the USGS webpage for the quake: USGS event map. If you live near the area and felt the quake, be sure to go to the USGS link provided and fill out their shaking intensity form. Scientists use this data to determine the shaking intensity of the event and it helps provide data in areas that may not be covered by instrumentation.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Track Oil Spill Response Vessels in Real-Time

Want to see what all the response vessels are doing in the Gulf of Mexico?

Go to the government's Environmental Response Management Application (ERMA) website. This site leads you to a Web-based interactive GIS platform where you can turn on various layers such as "Response Vessels Snapshot" and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) fisheries closures. There is currently a typo in the Response Vessels Snapshot layer, where it says the snapshot is from June 10. Don't let this throw you off, these snapshots are real-time, with the exception of an approx. 10-minute delay while data is uploaded to the server, processed, and loaded into Erma.

Green triangles represent research vessels, including NOAA ships, and blue represent other response vessels. You can click on the information icon (the "i"), and then click on individual vessels for more information.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

A Blogger Worth Following

While Googling how to set a certain preference in Emacs, I came across Sacha Chua's website. Sacha is an Enterprise consultant for IBM and she helps people learn how to use wikis, blogs, etc and be more productive as a result. She blogs about her work, geeky-like things such as Org-mode and Emacs, and life in general. I really dig her site and what she is about in general, and I recommend that folks check her out.

I wonder if Blogger has a way for me to organize my posts in clickable category links... I have the labels widget to the side that uses keywords to organize your posts, but it would be nice to have major categories as their own clickable links like Sacha does, where then each category has its own set of labels.

Time Machine not Working after Logic Board Replacement

I just got my Macbook back from Apple this morning with a new logic board and new screen. Hooray!

I connected my Time Machine drive and immediately noticed a problem. Time Machine could not see any of my previous backups. When I browse the drive using Finder, I see them, but not with Time Machine. Turns out that Time Machine is closely coupled with your MAC address in 10.5.8 (not so in 10.6 Apple told me, so you 10.6-ers will not face this issue). Anyway, new logic board = new MAC address = unhappy Time Machine.

There is supposedly a fix that involves resetting the attributes of a plist file and renaming a hidden file in Time Machine. This method is detailed on the MAC OS X Hints website. The Apple tech told me that Apple engineers say this fix should work, but he has never had success personally. One little typo and it won't work.

I followed the directions to a "t," and it did not work for me. I was very careful about the spaces in my Time Machine backup disk name, but something still went wrong. Anyway, the old backups are still there, I just still cannot see them with Time Machine. Although now when I follow the Mac OS X Hints tips for finding the mac address associated with Time Machine, it shows the correct one.

Apple's suggestion, assuming you are not missing any major files on your system: Abandon your old backups and start fresh with Time Machine. Either that or update to 10.6 (which for me would involve purchasing a new version of Matlab, so no thank you).

Looks like I'll be starting over with Time Machine tonight, *sigh*.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Another reason to use a version control system

I have posted about usefulness of Subversion version control system (svn) a couple of times already, but this morning has prompted me to do another one. Subversion allows you to backup all your valuable data, saving each commit as a separate version. You can see the differences between any two versions, checkout earlier versions, have multiple working copies, etc. If you are a coder, a version control system like svn is essential.

Anyway, this morning made me love svn even more. My main computer is being shipped off for repairs, and I am currently using the boyfriend's old Mac PowerBook G4. I needed to get it setup with all my files so I can continue to do my work. Instead of having to transfer files over one-at-a-time from one computer to the other, I simply did an svn "checkout" of what I needed.

A simple "svn co https:\\my repository path\trunk\Code" and "svn co https:\\my repository path\trunk\References" at the terminal prompt (from within the directory I want to download them to) and I am good to go. All my latest scripts, and my complete reference directory (all the pdfs of all the journal articles I use as references) are now on this computer, within seconds. If I make any changes to these files while on the boyfriend's computer I can simply "commit" them to my svn repository and when I get my computer back, do an "update" and I am all set!

JabRef has also proven to me, once again, its awesomeness this morning. I simply open up my main library.bib bibtex file (just checked out from svn) within JabRef, and there are all my journals, instantly organized and searchable. The PDF links work automatically, simply click on the icon, and the journal articles pops open before me in Acrobat Reader. To see why JabRef is such an awesome reference database software, check my initial blogpost on it here, and the follow-up (showing how, in conjunction with Zotero, it can make organizing and collecting references a breeze) here.

Friday, June 4, 2010

The Topsy Turvy Experiment

One Topsy Turvy, One Tomato Plant, One Summer....

I am not sure what it is about the Topsy Turvy that has me so fascinated, but for some reason I could not resist buying one when I saw them on the shelf in Rite Aide. Perhaps it is the pleasure of being able to grow fresh tomatoes without having to deal with all the slugs our garden attracted last year, or the idea that this plant may escape the blight that claimed the lives of so many of our brave, young tomatoes last year. Whatever it is, I gave in to temptation. I also decided that this would make a fun topic for a photo log. Throughout the summer I'll occasionally post about the progress of this little tomato plant in the Topsy Turvy. If you've thought of buying one yourself, you may want to stay tuned...

(Topsy Turvy and Purple Cherokee Heirloom Tomato plant)

(Topsy Turvey hanging off our side porch)

Thursday, June 3, 2010

ERMA tracks the oil spill through web-based GIS

Some of my fellow CCOM-ers have been helping out with the oil spill mediation attemps, and now that some of it has been made public, I can finally share!

ERMA, which stands for Environmental Response Management Application, is now up and running in a web-based GIS portal that allows users to turn on and off different layers. You can view where the spill is now, predicted trajectories, current weather conditions, etc. While not everything in ERMA is viewable yet by the public, what is available is pretty cool and starts to gives you an idea of all the things that going into an emergency disaster response such as this one.