12/2018

Monday, December 03, 2018

Coding Day

I've decided to participate in the annual Advent of Code competition this year as a way to flex the programming skills that have lain dormant since 2017. Advent of Code is a global competition where people compete to solve daily two-part logic puzzles (like this one) as fast as possible using any programming language they want (Some masochists have done it in BASIC, Oracle functions, and even Excel!). Novetta is one of the corporate sponsors.

Rather than investing in personal growth by using this opportunity to learn a new language, I'll play it safe and go back to my Eclipse/Java/JUnit roots. I have no hope of getting on the global leaderboards (the fastest global solve time for both parts of the Day 1 puzzle was a ridiculous 1 minute 48 seconds) but I'm putting forth a reasonably good showing on my company's private leaderboard so far (out of about 65 participants). Here are my results so far:

  • Rank 1 Fastest: Fastest solve time on the Novetta Leaderboard
  • +/-: Difference between my time and the fastest time.
  • Daily Rank: My placement for a single daily puzzle.
  • Overall Raw Rank: My leaderboard position at the end of this day.
  • Overall Adjusted Rank: My leaderboard position at the end of this day, adjusted based on median solve times. (Because many employees beat every puzzle, ties are broken by the median fastest solve time over all 25 days).

I also coded up a static page that shows Novetta's Top 10 Solve Times, updated daily. I'll post my full results at the end of the month. Join in yourself if you like to code!

tagged as programming | permalink | 2 comments

Wednesday, December 05, 2018

Stuff in My Drawers Day

I drew this picture in kindergarten, for Christmas 1984. My narration was transcribed by one of the teachers, Ms. Lovo.

Clearly, I was an unreliable narrator. My dad and I never went out and chopped down a Christmas tree even once, and definitely not one with a star already on it. We got live trees with all the roots from a local lot and then planted them in the backyard after Christmas, where they died within months.

Also, I'm pretty sure that bird is an airplane.

tagged as media | permalink | 1 comment

Friday, December 07, 2018

Maia Month #17 Battle Report

Maia is now one year and five months old, weighing 21 pounds and walking up a storm. After months of getting a feel for how long it will take her to crawl down the hall after you, she can now startle you like a nascent ninja by coming into the room right behind you. She has 3 teeth on the bottom and about 8 on top. Maia reads on her own less than before, but still sucks in knowledge like a sponge. She can identify things by color, continues to refine her animal sounds, and learns a million new things at the library every day.

She has two stuffed animals, creatively named Bear and Bunny (one is a bear and one is a bunny, and they both identify as such), that she takes wherever she goes. She sometimes cries if she can't find or have one, although she's surprisingly okay with the fact that we have two copies of the bunny (for laundry purposes) that don't quite look the same.

We put up our Christmas tree a few weeks ago and tentatively left it unprotected by gates. Maia's been great with it so far, choosing to play with the ornaments on the lower branches rather than tipping it over. She likes Christmas trees, lights, deer, and all the accoutrements of the season.

Life is going well!

tagged as offspring, day-to-day | permalink | 0 comments

Monday, December 10, 2018

Review Day

There are no major spoilers in these reviews.

Shadow of the Tomb Raider:
I should have known better than to get this game after getting bored with the second one but several reviews promised that the parts I hated had been improved and I was in need of a birthday game to purchase and waste time on. I only made it 7 hours in before quitting in regret. The only redeeming feature is that the graphics are beautiful. The game still beats you over the head with a pointless story and forces you to pay attention to cutscenes when you just want to raid some tombs. This philosophy is encapsulated in the fifteen minute opening sequence where you're forced to walk (run is disabled) through a crowded market admiring the work of the art team while the story happens around you.

The overall package is actually worse than the previous game because of new bugs and a weird floatiness to jumps that used to be tightly controlled -- if the actual tomb-raiding part can't be done right, there's no reason at all to play. Finally, the difficult levels are poorly implemented -- instead of making the game more and less difficult, they just make the game more and less tedious.

Final Grade: D

Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild: I first reviewed this game back in January and gave it a solid C- because of its flaws. Over the end of the summer and throughout the fall, I finally beat the game after about 80 hours of play (50 of which was probably waiting for loading screens). Instead of directly following the storyline, I chose instead to visit all 120 required-yet-optional Shrines first so I could max out my stats and not fall down cliffs due to lack of stamina all of the time. Extra stamina did help me enjoy traveling more but my final grade doesn't change -- it is still difficult to feel like you're making progress in any sitting. I would bump this game up to a solid B with the following changes: merge the 120 shrines into 30, each of which gives you a full heart or a stamina vessel, reduce loading screen time by 50% or more (or allow me to teleport out of a shrine to a destination of my choice), and reduce the size of the world by about 15% to make it feel less empty and more worthwhile to explore.

Final Grade: C-

Nintendo Switch:
I'm pretty ambivalent on the Switch after having played 5 or 6 games on it so far. I play mostly in docked TV mode with the Joycons in the awkward controller-like holder shown on the box. The double shoulder buttons are sized weirdly (it seems like the larger button should be on top, since my fingers naturally rest on the bottom button which is often some kind of "cancel" action). The ability to go portable is a nice gimmick, but the control schemes rarely carry over well between one and the other (especially games that require touchscreen or motion support). Games that look great on the TV can get too chaotic on the little screen as well.

My biggest concern is simply the lack of NEW first-party games. Browsing the Switch wall at Gamestop requires me to wade through endless shovelware, ports from other consoles, and reworked Wii U games. Give me some solid single-player games designed exclusively for the Switch -- I can play Stardew Valley on literally every single other device I own (including my toaster oven).

Final Grade: C+

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Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Chad Darnell's 12 of 12

12 pictures of your day on the 12th of every month

1:30 AM: Wrapping up Advent of Code Day Twelve.
5:28 AM: Showered and ready for work.
6:06 AM: Breakfast in the office.
10:45 AM: Arriving home to find Maia reading about bunnies.
10:49 AM: A bit more work from home.
12:07 PM: Classic lunch.
2:42 PM: Rebecca and Amber nap between baby duty and work duty.
4:45 PM: Stretching out the last few minutes of Maia's long nap with Fallout 4.
5:03 PM: Those who wake the baby must deign to kiss the bunny.
6:32 PM: Dinner time!
7:21 PM: Helping to load the groceries at Wegmans.
11:50 PM: Waiting for the next Advent of Code puzzle to unlock.

tagged as 12 of 12 | permalink | 1 comment

Friday, December 14, 2018

Twelve 12 of 12s

a recap of 12 of 12 posts from 2018

January: Maia gets the royal treatment from Anna's kids. Sydney is ignored.
February: Couch lunges.
March: First dinner at home after our trip to LA.
April: Cat hunter.
May: Helping with lawn care.
June: Just voted in the primary.
July: Messier than Dad would prefer.
August: Starting a band.
September: Learning about angular momentum.
October: Bunny lover.
November: Encroaching wildlife and sad pinwheel.
December: Disrupted sleep cycles for Advent of Code.

tagged as 12 of 12 | permalink | 1 comment

Monday, December 17, 2018

Amazon Prime Math Day

With Christmas approaching, here is a useful guide for estimating when your Amazon packages will arrive, based on Amazon's new interpretation of "Free Two-Day Shipping" and their amazingly efficient Amazon Logistics (AMZL) delivery contractors.

tagged as data | permalink | 0 comments

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Memory Day: Snapshots

This was the family Christmas picture 27 years ago in 1991.

I was in 8th grade and had not yet started wearing glasses. The outfit I'm wearing is pretty standard, from the British Knights to giant digital watch, although I sometimes swapped in a gaudy sweatshirt with Perth animals from our family friends in Australia.

We generally took the Christmas picture on or around Christmas. My Dad would then write the family Christmas letter and send to everyone on Christmas afternoon, long after the rest of the world had sent out their cards and letters. Meanwhile, my sister and I would be playing with our new gear, and eating neck meat and pie crust from the dinner that Mom was preparing.

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Friday, December 21, 2018

Top Reviews of 2018

Here are my recommendations from this past year -- as my free time diminishes, so does my patience for mediocre content, so I must have really enjoyed these!

Movies

  • The Big Sick (A) (Amazon)
  • Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (A-)

Television Shows

  • Big Little Lies, Season One (A)
  • Bodyguard, Season One (A) (Netflix)
  • American Vandal, Season Two (A) (Netflix)
  • Fargo, Season Three (A-)
  • Better Call Saul, Season Three (A-) (Netflix)
  • Humans, Season Two (A-) (Amazon)
  • Killing Eve, Season One (B+)
  • The Good Place, Season Two (B+) (Netflix)
  • The 100, Season Five (B+) (Netflix)
  • Safe, Season One (B+) (Netflix)
  • 3%, Season Two (B+) (Netflix)

Music

  • Sinfonia Pop by Mika (A)

Games

  • Forbidden Island (A) (Board Game)
  • Dead Cells (B+) (PC)
  • Beat Saber (B) (Oculus Rift)

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Monday, December 24, 2018

Christmas Day

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Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Advent of Code Wrap-up

Advent of Code wrapped up yesterday (although the Novetta internal competition will continue through December 31 to allow people to catch up at their leisure). I did much better than expected, managing to be one of the first 10 people to finish each puzzle every night. It took me about 38 hours to finish every puzzle.

In addition to earning all 50 stars for 2018, I went back and completed all 50 stars for 2017 (which was very helpful for discovering reused concepts and algorithms between years, shaving some time off of my 2018 attempts). I also wrote a blog post for the official company blog detailing my experiences with a healthy dose of company rah-rah incorporated.

It was fun to participate in a shared experience like this, and actually making it to the end while doing it at midnight every night was the coder's version of running a marathon. It whet my appetite for more tech side projects in 2019. Now I can sleep normally again!

tagged as programming | permalink | 2 comments

Friday, December 28, 2018

2018 Timeline

A smattering of events from 2018

January: B-
  • Spent New Years with Sara, Car, and Ben.
  • Visited lots of friends with Maia in between gentle bouts of snow.
February: C+
  • Got sick with a brutal sinus cold via baby germs.
  • Introduced Maia to the Winter Olympics.
  • Purchased a new oven that had less of a chance to burn down the house.
March: B
  • Flew to LA for Mike and Annie's wedding.
  • Alice visited us for a weekend.
April: C-
  • Got sick again from Maia (twice this month).
  • Visited my sister in Rhode Island.
  • Baby-proofed the heavy junk in the house.
May: B
  • Got sick again.
  • Had a barbeque between rain storms.
  • Finally stopped playing Overwatch cold turkey.
June: B+
  • Set up a VR room in the basement.
  • Spent a lot of time outside between rainstorms and heat waves.
  • Got all of the AWS certifications.
July: B
  • Got Maia a kiddie pool.
  • Had our annual 4th in Taylorstown.
  • Started taking family dinner dates with an agreeable Maia.
  • Joined the Business Development division at work.
August: B
  • Stayed inside through the intense heat.
  • Amber lost a tooth.
  • Sara stayed in our basement for a brief visit.
  • Rented a cabin with Zoe and Tammy.
September: B+
  • Had the Ahlbins over for a birthday visit (turned 39!).
  • Had another barbeque and then got sick again.
  • Went to the Claude Moore Fall Festival.
  • Got to see Michelle and Stu in Reston.
October: B
  • Celebrated 9 years of marriage.
  • Spent a lot of time at Lake Anne.
  • Switched work schedules and went up to 30 hours per week.
November: B
  • Went back to Deer Haven with Car and Ben.
  • Took our 4th trip to Fredericksburg this year to see the Ahlbins and Hickses.
  • Had Thanksgiving in Taylorstown.
  • Resurrected my treadmill and bought the quietest fridge in the world.
December: B
  • Did Advent of Code.
  • Celebrated Christmas in Fredericksburg.
  • Saw the Rhode Island cousins in Alexandria.

How was 2018 for you?

tagged as day-to-day | permalink | 0 comments

Monday, December 31, 2018

End-of-the-Month Highlights Day

New photos have been added to the Life, 2018 album. Google Photos sucks.

  • Events
    • Watched Maia while Rebecca taught Advanced Yoga Teachers about anatomy on S 12/1. Had Siam Spice for dinner.

    • Put up our outdoor Christmas lights and had dinner at Chuy's on S 12/2.

    • Finally got around to taking our Christmas card picture on H 12/6.

    • Had a family dinner at Mellow Mushroom on F 12/7.

    • Went to Ghazaley and Michael's Christmas party at their new home a mile down the road in Herndon on S 12/8 (everyone cool is moving to be near us these days).

    • Rebecca and Maia had a playdate with Carolyn and Fiona on T 12/11.

    • Rebecca and Maia went to Pauli's farewell dinner at Maggianno's while I had a solo dinner at Miller's on F 12/14.

    • Rebecca and Hannah went to Car and Ben's annual Scotch Tasting Night while Brian did babysitting duty on S 12/15.

    • Rebecca met up with Annie for brunch in Alexandria while Maia spent the morning with grandma on S 12/16.

    • Family date at the indoor Ridgetop playground followed by dinner at Cafesano on M 12/17.

    • Brian and Rebecca visited the Uri grandparents in the rain on H 12/20.

    • Had a family dinner at Burger 21 on F 12/21 then looked at Christmas lights on Juniper Avenue.

    • Rebecca went to Margalit's going away lunch then joined Brian and Maia at the Wilmers on S 12/22.

    • Had Christmas Lunch with Rebecca's parents and Marc on M 12/24.

    • Went to Fredicksburg to visit the Hickses and Ahlbins on T 12/25.

    • Had Christmas with my parents and sister's family on H 12/27.

    • Fell victim to an awful multi-day migraine, H 12/27 - F 12/28.

    • Rebecca and Marc went to yoga in the morning. Had dinner at Tammy and Zoe's on S 12/29.

    • Had early eve beers at Crooked Run South in S 12/31, then Rebecca rang in the new year with Car and Ben.

  • Projects
    • Participated in Advent of Code all month long.

    • Finished adding Book 8 of 11 to the Paravia Wiki on S 12/2.

    • Fixed some squeaks in the floorboards, discovered when sneaking around the house at midnight for Advent of Code.

    • Migrated my coding projects from my personal Subversion server to GitHub.

    • Applied 3 years of much-needed upgrades to the MediaWiki / PHP stack under the Paravia Wiki on M 12/31.

  • Consumerism
    • Occasionally playing Fallout 4 when playing anything at all.

    • Enjoying Designated Survivor, Season One and Patriot, Season Two this month.

    • No notable new music.

December's Final Grade: B, Sleep-deprived, but very fun.

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