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- Monday, December 28, 2020:
Advent of Code Day
Another 2nd place finish ($200) for me this year! I was actually in 3rd place on the night before the final puzzle and only inched into 2nd through luck and competitor exhaustion.
The competition for Advent of Code this year was ridiculous, partially due to COVID-19 keeping everyone at home with nothing better to do. In fact while Novetta usually gets a huge number of people in the Global Top 100 throughout the month, I had the only global record this year, and it was only because I was persistent with hitting F5 during the first day's server outage (due to the competition's unexpected popularity). Here is a reenactment of the insane technical skill I needed to get this record.
- Wednesday, December 02, 2020:
Advent of Code Day
Advent of Code , the annual midnight coding competition has started! You can follow my daily progress on my company's Fastest Solve Times page. It's kind of nice that, ever since I moved my office down to the basement, I have a guest bed to crash in before and after. I no longer have to worry about waking up the light sleepers of the household.
- Monday, August 17, 2020:
Introducing the new and improved Official Website of Janny Wurts !
Janny is the creator of the Wars of Light and Shadow series as well as the co-author of the Empire Trilogy with Raymond E. Feist. Her website had lingered in the aughts, as previous website administrators naturally moved on to other things in life. Having corresponded with her over the past 13 years as I built the Wiki for her main book series and in search of another quarantine project, I volunteered to help her modernize the site.
The key requirements upfront: simplify navigation (sites that have been around for over 20 years, like my own, tend to build up a lot of content warrens), make it work on phones...
- Friday, December 27, 2019:
Advent of Code Wrap-up
After 25 nights of stowing a sleeping bag near the computer so I could wake up at midnight, Advent of Code has come to a close. I did much better in my second year, taking about 30 hours to finish every puzzle (vs. 38 last year).
Although the company competition goes until the end of the year to allow people to catch up, it's looking like I'll snag 2nd place and a $200 prize (vs. 4th place and $0 last year). This works out to about $6.67 per hour, which is more than I earned in my first internship at PEPCO in 1996. I was definitely helped by the vagaries of real life -- one top competitor had a new infant halfway through the month while another spent a week at the AWS re:Invent conference in Vegas with shoddy ...
- Monday, December 02, 2019:
Advent of Code Day
The annual Advent of Code competition started yesterday morning at midnight. After some dithering about whether to participate in real-time this year, I decided to do it for as long as I can maintain enough sleep to deal with a two-year-old during the day. The hard part isn't waking up in the middle of the night to solve a puzzle -- it's trying to get back to sleep afterwards when your brain is buzzing with speed-coding adrenaline.
It has now been about two and a half years since I last coded for a living. I was worried that my skills would have become permanently crippled (not unlike my trumpet embouchure). Thankfully, the mechanics of coding seem to be ingrained now -- I was able to reflexively write worki...
- Wednesday, June 26, 2019:
Cloud Cert Day
My 7th cloud certification came with a free sandwich and small drink.
- Wednesday, December 26, 2018:
Advent of Code Wrap-up
Advent of Code wrapped up yesterday (although the comapny's 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.
- Monday, December 03, 2018:
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!). My company 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 bot...
- Monday, August 06, 2018:
Data Day: The Technology Timeline For My Career
- Tuesday, April 26, 2016:
It's now been almost two months since I released Sparkour , the open-source collection of programming recipes for Apache Spark. Unlike DDMSence, which remained a niche oddity for its whole six year lifespan, Sparkour began to get traffic from Google almost immediately. Publishing DDMSence was like cornering the market on ergonomic attachments for a pasta maker -- only 10 people actually own a pasta maker in the world, and only 2 of them care enough about repetitive pasta injuries to buy your product.
There have been 442 unique visits to Sparkour since it was released, from a mix of countries, not all of which you would expect to have a thriving data science scene:
More interesting th...
- Wednesday, March 02, 2016:
My latest side project is Sparkour , an open-source collection of programming recipes for Apache Spark. Designed as an efficient way to navigate the intricacies of the Spark ecosystem, Sparkour aims to be an approachable, understandable, and actionable cookbook for distributed data processing.
Spark is the latest buzzword around BIG DATA, providing a way for developers to analyze and transform vast quantities of data very quickly. If you aren't in the programming world, Apache Spark probably means nothing to you. As a translation,
I devoted 80 hours of my own time and $60 worth of books and hostnames over the past two weeks to learning about something new, writing about it, and publishing it to be torn...
- Friday, March 13, 2015:
I passed the Amazon Web Services Certified Developer - Associate exam on Tuesday morning, which gives me the right to use this logo image in any non-obscene contexts, and the right to end any and all conversations by asking, "Well why don't you put it in the cloud?". I got an 81%, and although the actually passing grade seems to be a close-held secret based on fuzzy math and fuzzier peaches, the general consensus seems to be that it's somewhere around 65%.
Altogether, it took about a month of regular after-work study to train for the exam, and the questions were surprisingly applicable to real world knowledge (not just variations on memorizing arbitrary numbers or trick questions). Of course, I can't reveal the ac...
- Wednesday, July 23, 2014:
Zone Updates Complete
All of the pages listing my musical compositions are now database-driven. I should have done this a long time ago, since I'm no longer composing anything new, and spent a good 4 hours every new release trying to edit the 80 static HTML pages that made up the Music section.
I also modified the directory structure of News Post images from /yymm/dd.jpg&nbs...
- Friday, January 03, 2014:
Today, I have released v0.1.0 of Auricle , a free, open-source resource for mastering music fundamentals and ear training skills. Weighing in at 86 hours of development effort, the initial release is pretty bare bones: you can login, and practice with a single fundamentals topic (Basic Notation). However, laying out the frameworks and infrastructure is the hardest part, so I should be able to make faster progress on future exercises.
The first exercise is a "see" exercise, which is essentially a multiple-choice quiz. Future exercises will also include "hear" exercises, for pitch and interval recognition, and "play" exercises, for keyboard input.
You can give it a try with thes...
- Tuesday, October 29, 2013:
I'm about 60 hours into Auricle now, and still in the stage where I'm writing infrastructure rather than anything actually musical. I have the progression mechanism set up, so students can earn medals and travel the map, with their progress automatically spit out to an activity feed that will motivate other students to do better.
Next up, I'll be writing the code that does the actual quizzing -- randomly generating a set of questions and responses, recording the amount of time it takes to answer a question, and saving discrete metrics like the types of question a student seems to get wrong most often. The initial batch of exercises will be traditional question/answer exercises, with the aural and keybo...
- Friday, October 04, 2013:
I didn't get quite as far as I had planned this week, having been distracted by Tomb Raider and Breaking Bad, but I did manage to finish the "world map" logic so it can quickly be templated for future worlds.
- Tuesday, October 01, 2013:
To date, I've put in about 44 hours planning out Auricle , and have a pretty decent vision of where I want to go with it. It's easy to come up with course topics -- the difficult part is how they are presented, right?
I've decided to split exercises into three types:
See : Standard online quiz format with visual questions and visual answers, such as "Select the P5 out of the 4 displayed chords", completely divorced from any piano keyboard visualization.
Hear : Classic aural skills questions with audio questions and visual answers, such as "Identify this interval", again without keyboard.
Play : A mix of hear/see questions, but...
- Tuesday, September 03, 2013:
With no travel plans for the extended weekend, our time was mostly dedicated to low-key activities, like a lunch at Jackson's with Rebecca's parents on Saturday, and the third birthday party of Rebecca's cousin in Bethesda on Sunday.
I also started a new character in Skyrim, with my appetite whet from open worlding in Far Cry 3, and played it for longer than 5 levels, thanks to a new mod that let's you skip over the tedious four-hour tutorial-on-rails section.
On Monday, I officially demoted Bugler into my "unfinished projects" folder, to be replaced by Auricle , an aural skills application. I originally dabbled with this project back in 2003 but never got very far on it. ...
- Tuesday, June 25, 2013:
List Day: 5 Lessons Learned from Bugler 0.4.0
There are way too many frameworks in software development now. My page shows that I already have over 20 dependencies on existing software libraries and I'm nowhere near done. While it's nice to rely on other peoples' proven works to save time, some of that time is lost by virtue of the fact that you have to learn and integrate all of these frameworks upfront before you even get to the work you want to do. For non-programmers, suppose you want to write a short story in English. You know the rules of English grammar and what makes a compelling story, so it should be straightforward. However, you then learn that there's a special pencil that will ensure that your sentence structure is correct and will beep on e...
- Friday, November 16, 2012:
Training Day: Hadoop for Laymen
I've spent this past week in a company-provided training course, which has had a few decent nuggets of information (and free lunches) to balance out the otherwise slow pace of the course and the need to drive to Tysons Corner during rush hour. There are also people in the class from some of our "sister companies" that remind me of the CS majors from my undergrad: eager to showcase their knowledge, catch the instructor in a fallacy, or drive the discussion off a tangential cliff of irrelevant details. I learn best on my own, so I would usually read ahead in the slides, do the exercises, and then tune out the rest of the day on Reddit or doing my day job.
The material that we learned is based on the concept of MapReduce, ...