2012 Review

I set out some aims earlier in the year and I thought it would be interesting to look back on them and see how I did with them, and set out some more aims for 2013. So, in no particular order…

Astronomy degree
I started the first 2 modules of the course in October (Introduction to Astronomy and Introduction to Cosmology). I’m spending a good 8 to 10 hours a week studying and I’ve surprised myself with how well I’m sticking with it. In the astronomy module, I’ve learned about locating stars on the celestial sphere, calculating the magnitudes, flux, luminosity, radius, temperature and distances of stars, spectroscopy and radiation. The cosmology module is more focussed on things like redshift, particle physics, relativity, distance scales, universe expansion and the evolution of the universe. The maths is tolerable so far, although I know some of the other students are struggling with the equations. As I type, I’ve just completed the first assignment question sheet for the astronomy module. I think I’ve done fairly well, but won’t know the results until after Christmas. Fingers crossed…

Astronomy in general
We haven’t been blessed with many clear nights since I got my telescope, but I have been able to set it up a few times this year. I’ve observed the moon, Jupiter and the 4 Gallilean moons and can now get my bearings quite easily from certain key stars and constellations. I don’t have a decent camera in order to capture what I can see through the scope, but did manage to snap a shot of Jupiter through the eyepiece via my iPhone. The quality isn’t great, but you can see 3 moons on it here.

Reading
I’ve bought quite a few books recently and the Kindle is definitely getting some use. As a result I am reading an awful lot this year. As we speak I must have at least 10 books on the go from learning Python and learning Arduino, to the maths behind relativity. I’ve never been one for fiction and I really love to self-learn by reading. You can see a list of a few books on my suggested reading page.

Programming
I am making good use of the Blueprint PHP Framework in a variety of applications now. It has matured quite well and I find it very easy to use and extend as applications grow. I have read a lot about Python and C++ this year but not put a great deal of it to practice yet. I took part in a course in Algorithms back in the summer by Coursera which has given me a good grounding in Java as well as the code behind the functions we take for granted in array sorting etc. I plan on using what I have learned this year, next year on a few projects I have up my sleeve.

Hardware
Arduino is pretty magnificent but I have had to learn a lot about electrical systems as well as C++ in order to feel confident in building anything with it. I have an Arduino board and have made a few simple programs for blinking leds and tone generation but I’d like to make a binary clock early on next year as I think this is a suitable first project that will stretch me. I also have a Raspberry Pi but I haven’t even booted it yet. This is definitely something I need to spend time on…

Music
This isn’t something I really mentioned in my 2012 catchup post but I’ve been slowly setting up my perfect rig at home. I bought an Alesis io26 last month to replace my mixer and 2 track audio interface, with great results so far. I can now plug in all my gear and record it all simultaneously which I wasn’t able to do before. I really want to record something decent before the year is out, so keep an eye on my soundcloud account. As for new music I’ve been listening to; I really like the new Bat for Lashes album, Purity Ring, the new You slut album is good and Crystal Castles. I am tempted to create a ‘suggested music’ page. I’ve been listening to a lot of old bands I used to listen to as a teenager too like Jimmy Eat World and The Get Up Kids recently.

Married life
Sarah and I have been married for almost 6 months now and it still feels a little weird being referred to as ‘Husband’ but I’m starting to get used to it. We’ve definitely been closer as a couple since we got married, and she is in a happy place now that she’s working for herself and started Yum Crumbs (which I urge you all to buy a cake from….delicious!)

2013 and onwards
So, what does the future hold? I don’t have any definite plans really. I will be continuing with my course and I want to find some practical applications for the things I have learned this year too. Sarah and I want to see the northern lights early next year as the sun is at solar maximum, so if we time it right, we should get some spectacular views from the top of Scotland. I’d like to get a decent camera so I can do some astro-imaging, so that is something I’ll need to save up for. I want to write more music too and perhaps even perform one of these days – maybe leave that for another year :)

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