Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Favorite Books of 2016

As I try to do every year, this post will list and briefly describe the best books I read in 2016. As usual, I'd like to point out that some of these were published before 2016 but I only got around to reading them now. Similar to last year, I didn't read that many books- only 12 plus two graphic novels, or about 5600 pages, according to Goodreads. I feel this year's reads were a mix of extremes, some disappointing ones and some extraordinary ones. Below, I list the 3 books I enjoyed the most in 2016.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Book Review: The Blinding Knife by Brent Weeks

This is the second book in the Lightbringer series by Brent Weeks. I read the first book, The Black Prism, a long time ago at the recommendation of a friend. It was very good and I made a mental note to keep track of the series. I then lost that note. The fourth (of five) book in the series was just published about a month ago and I realized I had fallen well behind. So, without further ado here is me continuing to read the Lightbringer series.

Read on for my review, but be aware that The Blinding Knife is the second book in the series.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Book Review: The Man in the High Castle by Phillip K Dick

Some time ago, I remember seeing the controversy about subway ads depicting Nazi symbols in New York. This was for the upcoming Amazon series The Man in the High Castle, based on the book by Phillip K Dick. This came around the same time as a video game release with similar World War II themes (Hearts of Iron IV, which I bought). I was interested in the TV series premise, an alternate history where the Axis won, and eventually got a chance to watch it and bought the book.

See below for my full review, with some comments on how the book differs from the series.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Book Review: Death's End by Liu Cixin

Death's End, by Liu Cixin and translated by Ken Liu, is the third and final installment of the Remembrance of Earth's Past series. It chronicles the events following The Dark Forest and focuses on humanity's place in the universe. There is a lot of interesting science/science fiction concepts presented in this hard sci-fi novel, which keep you thinking on it for days on end.

Read on for my review, but bear in mind that as the third in the series there may be spoilers for The Three-Body Problem and The Dark Forest.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Book Review: Tau Ceti by Kevin J. Anderson and Steven Savile

Tau Ceti is part of a series of books where a senior author and a junior one are paired together to write a story. In Tau Ceti, we have Kevin J. Anderson and Steven Savile teaming up to tell a "hard" sci-fi story of a generation ship and its journey to the planet around the star Tau Ceti. I don't remember why I bought this, it may even have been free or bundled with something else. It was pretty low on my to-read list since I wasn't particularly interested in it, but my recent analysis of Goodreads reviews indicated I might enjoy it so I decided to give it a try.

See below for my full review.

Data Science: What Should I Read Next?

As I wrote about last week, I’ve spent a bit of time looking over my reviews on Goodreads to explore trends in what authors I read, how fast I read, and how I review books. In today’s post, we’ll tackle something a little more ambitious: given the data I can readily access from the Goodreads API, can I predict how I will rate books I haven’t yet read?

Let’s dive right in.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Data Science: My Goodreads Reviews

Followers of my blog will know that I read and review quite a few of books throughout the year. I track the books I read and those I want to read on Goodreads and recently came across their API. I decided to figure out how to access it and see what sort of information I could glean from my Goodreads reading history. This particular post explores trends in my reading and reviewing habits, as well as looking at what authors I've read. Next week’s post will discuss my attempt to create a model to predict the reviews I give a particular book. With that model in hand, I can decide what books to read based on my own interests.

Let’s jump right in.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Book Review: The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin

The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin is the 2016 Hugo Award winning novel. I've read many of Jemisin's work and have enjoyed them greatly, but between life and travels had missed this one. I saw her promoting its sequel, The Obelisk Gate, on twitter; though, so when The Fifth Season won the Hugo, I knew I had to check it out. And I was not disappointed: this is certainly one of the best books I've read this year and certainly one of Jemisin's best.

Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall; 
Death is the fifth, and master of all.

See below for my full review. As always, I aim to be mostly spoiler-free.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Book Review: His Majesty's Dragon by Naomi Novik

I've had His Majesty's Dragon, the first of the Temeraire series, by Naomi Novik on my to-read list for quite some time. Having dragons in the Napoleonic wars sounded like an excellent plot point: fantasy combined with history. After being reminded about the series by a colleague at work, I decided to go ahead and read it and find out what it was all about.

Read on for my full review.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Book Review: Hyperion by Dan Simmons

Hyperion by Dan Simmons is a Hugo Award-winning novel that has been on my radar for quite some time. It was described to me as Geoffery Chaucer's Cantenbury Tales in Space and it certainly has similar elements to it. The story revolves around a band of 7 pilgrims as they travel on the world of Hyperion in the brink of war. Each has their own personal motives and one of them is a traitor, but all were selected for this special pilgrimage. They resort to telling their stories to each other to figure out why they are here and what makes them, and Hyperion, special.

Read on for my full review.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Data Science: Republican & Democratic Conventions

In the past few weeks, the two major political parties in the United States of America held their national conventions. While I couldn't listen to all the speeches, I followed the news and paid attention to the overall scene. After they were done, I decided to grab the speeches of the major speakers and see if I could find any obvious trends in their word choices, similar to what I did with my Twitter project. In this blog post, I'll discuss what I can see in the data. You can find my data and all my scripts at this GitHub repo.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Data Science: The Divided States of America

In the prior two posts, I have described how I gathered twitter data from @HillaryClinton and @realDonaldTrump, how I ran a sentiment analysis on the individual tweets, and how I performed a principal component analysis on the most commonly used words. Today, I’ll tie everything together and describe how I created a model to predict whether a given tweet belongs to either of the two candidates.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Data Science: Principal Component Analysis of Twitter Data

As described on my last blog post on this topic, I've been tracking tweets from the US presidential candidates, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. I've looked at the top words they used and the sentiments expressed in their tweets given their word choice. However, some words are used with others almost all the time, a notable example being a slogan like Make America Great Again. As such, it may be beneficial to look at groups of words rather than individual words. For that, I took an approach applying a Principal Component Analysis. Below I describe what this is, how I used it, and what it reveals. Do note, however, that I'm applying things I learned in astronomy to this problem rather than taking courses specific to text mining. It may be that there are better tools out there than what I've used.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Data Science: Presidential Candidates on Twitter

Over the past few months, I've been working on a little hobby data science project to explore twitter data with regards to the upcoming presidential election in the United States. The project has evolved quite a bit and detailing it in full is beyond the scope of a single blog post. As such, I've decided to split it into (at least) 3 posts. This post is the first of the series and will go over the basics of gathering data from Twitter and doing some simple text mining. The second and third posts will discuss more details of the project and show some neat visualizations I've created. I'll release all my code after the third post for any curious coders. For now, let's get started seeing what Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump's Twitter accounts are talking about.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Book Review: A Natural History of Dragons by Marie Brennan

A Natural History of Dragons, by Marie Brennan, is the first of a series of fantasy memoirs of the Lady Trent as she explores the world and learns about dragons, among other things. I heard good things about it a few years ago and have been intrigued by it and its cover. A friend of mine at work lent me a copy (an actual physical book after so long!), so I got a chance to read it.

Read on for my full review.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Book Review: The Children of the Sky by Vernor Vinge

Vernor Vinge has written a few main novels set in the Zones of Thought universe. The main one, A Fire Upon the Deep, is highly regarded in the science fiction community. There is a prequel, A Deepness in the Sky, which I haven't read. The other main one, The Children of the Sky, is the one I just finished reading.

As a direct sequel to A Fire Upon the Deep, this book requires that you finish the prior one. This review will naturally contain spoilers for A Fire Upon the Deep, though I avoid ones for The Children of the Sky.

Read on for my full review.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Coding: A Python Notifier for the NYC Subway

New York City Subway 6 train. Photo by Robert McConnell (Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons.)

For fun, I created a small application in Python that checks the status of the New York City subway system and sends me an email in the morning and afternoon if there are delays in the specific lines I tend to use to get to/from work. Now, sure, something like this already exists and is offered by MTA, but I wanted to go ahead and write this myself.

Below, I describe how it works in case you want to create something similar. The code is available at GitHub, should you care to grab it.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Book Review: The Bands of Mourning by Brandon Sanderson

The Bands of Mourning is the third book in the Wax and Wayne series of books in Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn universe. It continues to explore the characters while introducing new things to the world. There is a fascinating mix of allomantic magic and technology presented, which sets the stage for future stories in this world.

Keep reading for my spoiler-free review.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Data Science: Essentials of Data Science Bootcamp

About a month or so ago, I undertook a bootcamp called "Essentials of Data Science" and run by a handful of people with support from NYCAscent. I've been meaning to write up a blog post about this, but only just now had the time. While I already had some knowledge of programming in R, I still learned a lot and feel far more confident about entering the data science job market now. Below, you'll find my general thoughts on the experience and a brief overview of what my project was about.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Data Science: Creating my First Web Application

Over the past month or so, I've dedicated a bit of time each week to work on developing an web application for the Brown Dwarfs in New York City research team (BDNYC). This week, I was able to finally release it to the public as AstrodbWeb. I'm very proud of what I've made, simple though it is. It's inspired me to continue developing applications and exploring this route a bit more. For this blog post, I want to detail some of what I went through for others that may be thinking of similar projects. I'll provide links to resources that I found useful when developing this.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Book Review: Calamity by Brandon Sanderson

Calamity, by Brandon Sanderson, is the final book in the Reckoners series, preceded by Firefight and Steelheart. I've been enjoying that series immensely as it's fun, action-packed, and light-hearted. I should probably read Mitosis at some point, as it's a novella taken place between Steelheart and Firefight. Sanderson is planning a new young-adult trilogy set "in a world parallel to that of the Reckoners." Now that I've read Calamity, I understand exactly what that means and I'm excited for it.

Below you can find my review. I aim to avoid spoilers, but you may encounter some if you haven't read the prior books in the trilogy.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Book Review: The Crippled God by Steven Erikson

The Crippled God is the 10th and final book of the Malazan Book of the Fallen series by Steven Erikson. There are additional books in that universe, by both Erikson and Esslemont; however, the main series are these 10 books that I've spent the last few years reading. This particular one took a while do to my recent job/city/country change, but I managed to find the time and it was rewarding to finish. Below, you will find my review of this book. In the future, I hope to write a post comparing this series to other long epic fantasies, notably The Wheel of Time.

As always, I aim to avoid direct spoilers, but given that this is the last book of the series, events prior to this book are considered fair game.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Blog Update: February 2016

I realized the other day I haven't posted anything on my blog since last year! To be fair, that's only a month and a half, but I usually post at least a book post in a months time. So I figure I'd give a little status report on how things are going in New York and why the book I'm reading has taken a long time to finish. If that interests you, read on!