Sunday, December 27, 2015

Advent of Code 2015

Over the past month, I've been slowly working on the Advent of Code programming puzzles. I was alerted to this by a colleague at work and decided to give them a try. You get one puzzle each day, with two parts, and solving them gives you a star to light up the Christmas tree (since this was in December and holiday-themed). I decided to use Python to solve these as it's one of the programming languages I know best, but any language would have worked.

Below, I describe a few of my favorite puzzles, the hardest ones I found, and things I learned from this.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Favorite Books of 2015

As I like to do every year, I'd like to briefly point out the best books I've read this year. This is not necessarily books that have been published this year, but rather books that I had the opportunity to read this year.

Unfortunately, this year has been very busy and I haven't been able to read much for the past few months. Over the full year, I've only read 14 books, one of them a novella. According to Goodreads, this was around 4800 pages, just over half of what I had read in 2014 (8000 pages over 20 books). A top 5 would be too much, so instead I present a top 3, though 2 are from the same author.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Novella Review: Perfect State by Brandon Sanderson

I've been busy of late, but still have wanted to read something in my morning commute to work. As such, I decided to peak a short, light read. Unfortunately, it ended up being so interesting that I finished it super fast! Here you'll find a brief review of the novella Perfect State by Brandon Sanderson. As a novella, I just write on my overall impression instead of going through the detailed subsections I usually do. But first, here is the Goodreads blurb to tell you what it's about:

God-Emperor Kairominas is lord of all he surveys. He has defeated all foes, has united the entire world beneath his rule, and has mastered the arcane arts. He spends his time sparring with his nemesis, who keeps trying to invade Kai's world.

Except for today. Today, Kai has to go on a date.

Forces have conspired to require him to meet with his equal—a woman from another world who has achieved just as much as he has. What happens when the most important man in the world is forced to have dinner with the most important woman in the world?

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Moving to New York City

This past October I moved to New York City to start my new job. It has been a bit of a hectic experience, but now I'm finally settling down so it's time to update my blog. I'm working at the American Museum of Natural History, specifically with the BDNYC group helping with a variety of tasks related to their science (brown dwarfs) and their students (of which there are quite a few).
In this post I'll describe my move and some of what I've been up to.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Book Review: Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie

Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie is the third and final book in the Imperial Radch series. It brings the saga of the ancillary of Justice of Toren to an end, but, as the novel says, there are no real endings. We'll have to wait and see if more books will be written in this universe to touch on some of the things left open.

Because this book is the third in the trilogy, my review includes some spoilers for the prior two books, but I avoid spoilers directly for this one. Read on for my full review.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Book Review: Shadows of Self by Brandon Sanderson

Around the time when Brandon Sanderson finished publishing his Mistborn trilogy, he revealed that his goal was to make a set of trilogies set in the same world and spanning a long period of time. In the meantime (and among many other projects), he decided to fill in the gaps between the first and second trilogies with stories of a band of characters in a sort of Old-West Mistborn time period. The first of these was The Alloy of Law, published in 2011. Now we get to see the next of these: Shadows of Self, which is actually the start of a brand new trilogy beyond the original plan with the second book coming out in January (so The Allow of Law is a bit of an interlude between the trilogies).

Read on for my spoiler-free review.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Leaving Chile: The Next Adventure

This is a short post to let you know the latest in my adventures. Over the past few weeks, I've been packing up and getting ready to move out of Chile. My current fellowship has ended and after these four years I'll be returning to the United States. Specifically, I'll be moving to New York to work at the American Museum of Natural History. This next job is a bit of a hybrid job with a variety of tasks to do. I'll be helping out with some of the science carried out by the BDNYC group, mentoring students, producing visualizations, helping manage their brown dwarf database, etc, etc. It's a job that will train me in a variety of ways and can serve as a stepping stone in my future career.

My experience in Chile has been good. There's been ups and downs as with any place. I've had lots of trips to explore the country and others in South America and tried lots of tasty food. Scientifically, I had plenty of telescope observing runs. The amount of data I got was overwhelming and while I could focus on keeping track of it and organizing it, I couldn't always work on reducing or analyzing it. Socially, I met many interesting people and made some good friends. The nature of an astronomer's career, though, is that one has to frequently move and these connections can be lost. Fortunately, today's internet connectivity allows us to stay in touch.

I look forward to this new change and being back in the US. My blog will continue detailing my adventures and, of course, providing reviews for the books I read.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Book Review: The Dark Forest by Cixin Liu

The Dark Forest (黑暗森林), by Cixin Liu, is the second book in the Remembrance of Earth’s Past series and is translated from Chinese by Joel Martinsen. This is the sequel to the 2015 Hugo-award winning novel, The Three Body Problem, which received an enormous amount of well-deserved praise. The Dark Forest is no different; it is an absolutely excellent sci-fi story that I recommend checking out.

Note that this post has significant spoilers for the first book in the series (The Three Body Problem). If you haven't read that yet, stop here. Otherwise I try to avoid spoilers from book two in this review.