# Home

• ## Solving Loop Puzzles

A quick puzzle from Daily Programmer:

∞ Loop is a mobile game that consists of n*m tiles, placed in a n*m grid. There are 16 different tiles: ┃, ━, ┏, ┓, ┛, ┗, ┣, ┳, ┫, ┻, ╋, ╹, ╺, ╻, ╸, ' '. The objective is to create a closed loop: every pipe must have another tile facing it in the adjacent tile — for example if some tile has a pipe going right, its adjacent tile to the right must have a pipe going left.

The most straightforward solution is a hybrid combination of constraints and backtracking, similar to what I did when solving Takuzu and tile puzzles.

• ## Williams Park

Went for the Splash Pad, stayed for the flowers and trails. A lovely day.

• ## The Fifth Season

The Fifth Season (by N.K. Jemisin) takes place in what could easily by (may intentionally be?) a far future Earth where volcanoes, earthquakes, and various other seismic disasters have an annoying tendency to kill off large portions of humanity every few centuries. Combine that with a few powerful individuals (orogenes) who have magical abilities associated with said earthquakes that they cannot always control... And you have quite the world.

It took me a while to realize that the various different sections of the book were following the story of a single character. She went by different names at different times and didn't always have the same powers, so it wasn't always easy to tell who you were dealing with. On top of that, there are jumps in the timeline from chapter to chapter, covering years (if not decades). Once you finally figure out who and when you're reading about, it's fascinating to see how everything fits together. Before that... it's confusing and a bit frustrating.

Overall, there are a few different plot threads, mostly following a core character and those she associates with in the different timelines. There are a few different disasters (both natural and manmade) to deal with and a kidnapping. For the most part though, the story doesn't really feel like it goes anywhere, instead opting to explore the world that Jemisin has created. It's a fascinating world and I do love enjoying it, but when we got to the end of the story there felt like there were any number of threads left hanging and questions left unanswered. I assume we'll pick up some of those at least in the upcoming sequel? It still left me with an unsatisfied feeling upon completing it.

Overall, excellent world building, interesting characters, engaging writing... and a plot / ending that could use a little more closure. Worth the read though. I always enjoy new and different feeling fantasy, which this certainly qualifies as.

Up next, the works of H.P. Lovecraft. For how much I know about the mythos and how much I see its influence in other works, it's somewhat surprising that I have yet to read anything by Lovecraft. It's about time I fixed that.

• ## Mirror iTunes playlists to Spotify

At the moment, I have an Apple Music subscription. It's great to be able to listen to more or less whatever music I want to. I switched from Spotify because they were missing a few artists that I actually did want to listen to. Unfortunately, there are a few things that Apple Music doesn't do that I would like to have--chief among them the ability to play on a Roku.

One nice thing that Spotify does have though is a fairly powerful API: Spotify Web API. Inspired by a post on Spotify and billboard.py which automatically creates Spotify playlists from the Billboard music ranking charts, I decided to write up a script that can sync my playlists from iTunes to Spotify.

The Imperial Radch trilogy (Ancillary Justice, Ancillary Sword, and Ancillary Mercy) does a good job at what sci fi does best: takes an idea and explores it.

There are roughly three such related ideas in the Imperial Radch that are interesting:

• Ancillaries - Basically, ships and space stations have their own AI cores. In order to do what they need done, they would have dozens--if not hundreds--of former human bodies that had been essentially slaved to the AI core. This leads to a sort of distributed intelligence, where the ancillaries are the same as the ship, although they can also function independently if the need arises. It's a fascinating concept--especially one to give to a point of view character.
• Anaander Mianaai - The Lord of the Radch. Essentially an immortal leader of human space, ruling from a Dyson Sphere (that we never actually see), using the same technology as the ancillaries to have a distributed consciousness of her own among thousands of clone bodies throughout known space. It's interesting enough to have AIs doing this, but to have a former human (it's arguable if Mianaai remains human, is akin to the AI cores, or is something else entirely) take on the same mantle? It's enough to drive one mad... which of course is exactly what happens. And then you have (at least) two supreme rulers with rather different ideas on how the universe should be run.
• Gender roles - The Radchaai don't really see gender. This is mentioned frequently in the first book, where the main character cannot always tell what gender pronouns to use for non-Radchaai. The book uses she/her for all of the Radchaai characters, although the implication is that it's a translation from Radchaai where the more accurate term would be neither specifically masculine nor feminine. It's an interesting concept, although I feel it's over emphasized at first. By Ancillary Mercy, it's faded to something of a background detail, which is honestly even more interesting.

On top of that, you have a relatively straight forward plot, following the conflict between a former ancillary and the Lord of the Radch (who has unfortunately gone to war with themself). My main complaint is how the focus shifts from a huge feeling, space and time spanning first novel to a relatively restrained second and third. I wish the sequels had maintained the same scope. They're good books on their own merits, I just feel they didn't measure up to the first. So it goes.

It's a fascinating world and the books are well written. The first is particularly worth a read and the sequels are at least worth a try.

I just hope you like tea.