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!

New York Living

I arrived to New York in mid October and spent a lot of time dealing with finding an apartment. After that, it was Thanksgiving holiday and Winter break so I felt that I hadn't fully connected with the research team nor did I really know NYC. Now that I've returned and things are going back to normal, I'm starting getting the hang of things. Unfortunately, the weather, work, and my own personal projects have kept me quite busy of late.

A few weeks ago we had a massive snow storm (see top photo). It was amazing. I had seen snow, but never been in a blizzard or seen how big of a change can happen in a days time. I spent the following day exploring the nearby park and playing with the snow. It was cold, but it was so cool (pun intended).

During this time was also the new year, both Western and Chinese versions. For the Western one I was visiting Puerto Rico, but for the Chinese new year I went to Chinatown in lower Manhattan to see their parade. It was jam packed with people, not all of them chinese, and had lots of colorful creatures and confetti cannons. It was very cold (10 F, -12 C) so people were really bundled up. The celebrations weren't held on new years eve or day, though. They were held the weekend afterwards since I guess such big celebrations are always held on Sundays to avoid traffic problems in big cities like New York.

Work at the Museum

My work at the museum has ramped up. I've started helping out a lot with the students and will be the lead mentor for one of them as she works on a semester-long project of my choosing. I've also been updating the team's public blog and assisting in some coding work for an upcoming paper on their database. My time is also now partially dedicated to developing new catalogs for use in the planetarium software that they run here. This has been quite fun as it's exciting to see the dataset you worked on in such a fancy display.

Data Science Training

I've started more actively pursuing training in data science by taking some online courses and attending a weekly bootcamp. This bootcamp has had me brushing up on my skills in R programming as well as learning new things. I've actually had to pause the online courses in order to have the time to do everything I need to do. Still, I've learned how to do quite a few things with R and sometimes it's so simple I wonder why I do anything at all in Python these days! ;)

Speaking of Python, I'm also participating in the astroHackNY series of coding days/seminars at Columbia. I'm actually one of the organizers, but since it's my first time I took a bit of a back role for the first meeting. This next one, however, I'll be leading it with a topic I'm interested in. I'm hoping it will go well and I may end up posting it here, as well as some of the projects I'm working on.

The Crippled God

This is the book I've been reading lately. It's the final book in the Malazan Book of the Fallen Series by Steven Erikson. Like all the Malazan books I've read, it starts of slow and heavy but picks up the pace as it goes along. I'm about 70% done and cool things are happening. Unfortunately, most days I only spend about half an hour or less reading so it's taken me much longer than usual to read the book. I really want to finish it since I'm interested in two of Brandon Sanderson's recent books (Bands of Mourning and Calamity). I'm disappointed that the translation of Death's End by Cixin Liu got pushed back to August, but at least that doesn't compete for time with everything else I have going on.

I also need to diversify my reading. I got some recommendations from co-workers, but it may be good to join a book club here in NYC. I haven't actually searched, since I worry I will have no time, but it's something I may keep in the back of my mind. If you have any book recommendations, or recommendations on where to go find book clubs, feel free to leave a comment below.

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