Why aprilush?

Apriluş is the romanian name for April Fool’s Day – the 1st of April.

I remember reading about this “holiday” when I was a kid, in my grandfather’s Pif magazines – very very old french ones -, and loving it from the moment I realized all the potential fun it held. Since then I wished my birthday was the 1st of April, but I guess the fact that it’s in April will have to do 🙂

That is all, no hippie stuff like “April Lush” or any other combinations 🙂

Mom’s recipe: cremă de zahăr ars

We had a nice and busy multicultural festival in DERI this week. We’re over 130 people from about 30 countries, so there was a lot of interesting things to find out and a lot of yummy (and interesting) food to try.

Our stand (Romania) was very busy and my contribution was quite modest – this desert and mamaliga (polenta).

The literal translation of the name of the desert is “cream of burned sugar”. It is something like creme caramel or creme brulee, but not exactly the same. This is my mom’s recipe, which I absolutely love, and it’s also easy enough to make (the proof of that is the fact I was able to make it successfully 🙂 ).

Ingredients:

  • 3-5 eggs depending on how many people you want to feed. I made it from 5 eggs and managed to split it in more than 20 tiny tiny taster portions.
  • about 10 table spoons of sugar, depending on the number of eggs and the size of the pot.
  • 600ml to 1l milk, also depending on the number of eggs used
  • max 1 table spoon of flour
  • vanilla (either essence, stick or sugar)

Preparation:

  1. Melt 4 table spoons of sugar in a pot (about 10cm deep) and cover the inside of the pot with the “burned sugar”. Leave to cool down.
  2. Separate the yolks from the whites
  3. Mix the yolks with 1 table spoon of sugar per egg (3 eggs -> 3 spoons of sugar, 4 eggs -> 4 spoons of sugar, …). Mix until the eggs become white-ish.
    Add vanilla (essence, stick, sugar.. whatever you prefer).
    Add 1 teaspoon / half table spoon of flour.
    Add warm milk (just warm, if it’s too hot the mix becomes scrambled eggs!) Use 200ml of milk per egg.
    Mix them well and set aside.
  4. Beat the egg whites into a firm foam.
  5. Mix in the result of step 3.
    Mix well enough to break any big clumps of egg white foam (they rise up and get burned too much otherwise).
  6. Pour the mix in the pot covered with sugar and put in the oven for 30 – 35 minutes.
  7. Serve cold (if you have the patience to let it cool down).

Privacy vs Security

Try googling “privacy vs security”. The first page of results are all somehow related to 9/11 and how it’s either / or with those two: you can either be secure but give up privacy, or have your privacy but not be secure. There are so many issues with that logic, that I don’t even know where to start. So I won’t start.

The reason I googled that in the first place, was because I’m preparing for a presentation and wanted to use the correct terms when I talk about security of all the personal information on a Semantic Desktop. Should I say privacy concerns or security concerns? My question was which term is better in the context of my presentation, having a Venn diagram like image in my mind that security and privacy overlap somewhere, or maybe privacy is completely included in security, being just a single issue in a longer list.

I guess my search terms were not ideal.. Uldis would know better how to tame Google into giving me the answers i want. Anyway, it surprised me to get these results, and made me think at the difference between what I hear when security is mentioned and what most of the world hears. I suppose for privacy the meanings overlap (more).

Gift for grandparents (shhh..)

Last year my first grandparent turned 80, and other than a visit, I brought no present.. and felt bad about it.

In the beginning of this year, two more grandparents celebrate their 80th birthdays and I was thinking long and hard about nice presents for them, so that my visit is not the only thing they’ll have to remember. They seem not to need anything, as far as they let everyone know, and although I can think of many nice things I could get them in a shop (like one of those circulation boosters or a shiatsu massager, or just nice grandpa and grandma sweaters), I would like to make it special and personalized.

So, last night, while unsuccessfully trying to fall asleep (because I drank way too much tea) a great idea (I think) popped into my mind:

LITTLE STATUES OF ALL THEIR GRANDCHILDREN!!! Tada! photos on steroids 🙂
A few factors contributed to this idea:

I discovered that printed photos are very much appreciated by grandparents when I had to print some photos and exchange them back for some of my moo mini cards – they already knew my contact detail, and were interested in the photo anyway!
Photos also make much better Christmas cards, as proven by this year’s successful, though late, experiment.
Many chats with Jodi about what goes on in various hacker spaces and communities – including but not restricted to 3D printing.
A tweet by Cory Doctorow showing off his 3D printed porcelain bust.
The goal is to get some statues, 10cm or so in height, with a hollow vertical axis so that they can be put on a support and rotated. I’m not sure yet what they should be made of, I’d like wood, or porcelain, but anything would work I guess.. I’d make the support the same way.

Now, I am looking for help from the internets 🙂 on two fronts:

do you know of a 3D printer available in Galway, or somewhere in Ireland, or even in Romania, preferably not too expensive, and
can you point me to some good tutorials (I googled it too but without much success yet, I’ll keep at it) on what is needed as input for a 3D printer – I assume some CAD files, and how to generate the model from photos? (or video?)
Any help is appreciated! And any opinions too 🙂

Travels

Got my paper on SemNotes accepted at I-SEMANTICS so I’ll be going to Graz to present it. Whoohoo! can’t wait! .. although I’m scared like hell about the idea of presenting it in front of people who can spot any bullshit 1.6km away 🙂
It will be my first time in Austria.. too bad it’s not skiing season yet .. next time!

But that is in September .. before that ..
Desktop Summit 2011 Berlin

I’ll be a volunteer at the Desktop Summit this year. It was an easy way of forcing myself to be more sociable and interact with people .. rather than following Sebastian and Julie everywhere[*]
I’ll get a nice cool red t-shirt in the process as well.

While in Berlin, I’ll also attend the Berlin Semantic Web Meetup. It looks quite interesting and I’ll get to meet old Nepomuk friends there 🙂 I really hope the meetup will be in English :-s

[*] I am however very happy they will be there, and other familiar faces as well 🙂

“As We May Think” by Vannevar Bush (1945)

Just some quotes, in order of appearance. I might as well end up pasting the entire article in here, as it is all extremely interesting.

Science has provided the swiftest communication between individuals; it has provided a record of ideas and has enabled man to manipulate and to make extracts from that record so that knowledge evolves and endures throughout the life of a race rather than that of an individual.

There is a growing mountain of research. But there is increased evidence that we are being bogged down today as specialization extends. The investigator is staggered by the findings and conclusions of thousands of other workers—conclusions which he cannot find time to grasp, much less to remember, as they appear.

Professionally our methods of transmitting and reviewing the results of research are generations old and by now are totally inadequate for their purpose.

Mendel’s concept of the laws of genetics was lost to the world for a generation because his publication did not reach the few who were capable of grasping and extending it; and this sort of catastrophe is undoubtedly being repeated all about us, as truly significant attainments become lost in the mass of the inconsequential.

There will always be plenty of things to compute in the detailed affairs of millions of people doing complicated things.

The human mind does not work that way. It operates by association. With one item in its grasp, it snaps instantly to the next that is suggested by the association of thoughts, in accordance with some intricate web of trails carried by the cells of the brain. It has other characteristics, of course; trails that are not frequently followed are prone to fade, items are not fully permanent, memory is transitory. Yet the speed of action, the intricacy of trails, the detail of mental pictures, is awe-inspiring beyond all else in nature.

Man cannot hope fully to duplicate this mental process artificially, but he certainly ought to be able to learn from it.

A memex is a device in which an individual stores all his books, records, and communications, and which is mechanized so that it may be consulted with exceeding speed and flexibility. It is an enlarged intimate supplement to his memory.

This is the essential feature of the memex. The process of tying two items together is the important thing.

Presumably man’s spirit should be elevated if he can better review his shady past and analyze more completely and objectively his present problems.

Organic veggies and lettuce soup recipe

For the past weeks we’ve been receiving organic veggies and fruit from a local farm and we love it! Most interesting is getting strange veggies that we would not normally buy if left on our own, like chicory .. or leek and rhubarb. Also, the carrots taste yummy and the tomatoes are very good and taste like tomatoes. Something else that makes me happy is that they actually go bad in a few days if not eaten. This is double win for us: 1. it makes us eat them fresh and 2. it means no preservatives. I always find it freaky when vegetables look like just bought even after 2 or more weeks .. We also get recipes in the box, to match the contents – one salad in particular was a big success and we had it twice already! (with improvements by the head chef)

We also get loads of lettuce, which is best cooked as soup (my opinion, not shared by everybody). So, I made soup – a big pot of it. It was a bigger success in the office than it was at home, and because it was requested, here is the recipe I used:

Ingredients (for about 6 big portions):

  • 2 medium lettuce heads (any kind is good, I usually like iceberg lettuce)
  • 4 medium cloves of garlic (about half a head of garlic)
  • 1l milk
  • 1l water
  • 3-4 tablespoons of oil (sunflower or vegetable)
  • 1 tablespoon of plain white flour
  • salt and pepper
  • sour cream and yogurt for serving

Before you start:
Wash well the lettuce and cut the leaves in small pieces (aprox. 2cm x 2cm) I normally tear them by hand and not worry too much about being equal, or pretty.
Peel the garlic, and crush it.

Preparation:
Put the oil in a pot – enough to cover the base but not more. Add the crushed garlic and fry for a few minutes. Take care not to burn the garlic. Add the flour and mix continuously for a few more minutes so it doesn’t stick to the pot. Continue to stir and add milk bit by bit so it becomes a white sauce, without clumps. Add all the milk and bring it to boil. Mix often so it doesn’t stick. Add the water and chopped lettuce. Add salt and ground pepper to taste – the lettuce can be quite sweet sometimes, so make sure you add enough salt. Let it boil for about 30 minutes (or until all the lettuce is soft) on low heat, covered with a lid. Make sure to stir occasionally so that it doesn’t stick and burn. Warning: because it contains a lot of milk, it might swell when boiling, so keep an eye on it at all times.

When serving:
Mix 1 spoon of sour cream and 1 spoon of yogurt in a bowl before pouring the hot soup in it. You can use less or more of this, as you like. I eat it with lots of bread, but it is also good without.

Variations:
This is the way my grandmother makes this soup, and the way I like it, but there are several variations to it, like adding smoked meat, or lard, or sausages to it. I suppose they are added somewhere around adding flour to the garlic, but I’m not sure. The meat is usually chopped in small pieces. The soup will have to boil for longer so the meat is cooked through. There are people who add the yogurt directly to the pot of soup, but it might make the milk in the soup go sour, and I don’t like that. Some people also put lemon juice or vinegar in the bowl when eating the soup, to make it a bit more sour.

If you try it, let me know how it was 🙂 Enjoy!

Options, choices, preferences, settings

I’ve recently re-read an old post by Joel. It’s more of a book really .. a book on UI design. Chapter 3 is about choices, and especially how the user doesn’t care much about making choices.. he cares about doing his task.

So I got thinking about SemNotes, and the choices I ask my users to make. Some are easy choices, like how often, if at all, the notes should be saved automatically. This one I think is good to have, but if you think otherwise let me know…

There is however another part of SemNotes’ settings dialog. It asks the user to decide what kind of resources to link the notes to. This will make sense to the very few people that have a clue about resources and linking but it is highly unlikely that the average user will know what goes on there, and what am I asking of him to decide on.

I knew from the very moment when I built the damn thing that it was a bad idea, but I really had more important things on my mind then – like how to make the query run faster, how to stop it from getting all people when I typed “person”, and so on .. And like all things that are meant to be temporary, it became permanent.. I’m afraid I was actually getting used to having it there..but I know it has to go..

Currently the situation stands like this:

  • The dialog has 2 tabs: the “General” tab and the “Linked resources” tab. – Now, it’s quite clear what general means, but not exactly so for the “linked resources”. So the first thing i have to do is find a more human name for it… See .. I assumed just there that the tab will still be in place.
  • The “Linked resources” tab contains in turn 2 more tabs .. Crazy, I know 🙂 The tabs are called “Types” and “Ontologies”. This again is quite wrong, because the users should not care or would not know of types or ontologies.
  • The “Ontologies” tab has a selectable list of ontologies available in the system. Only the classes defined in the selected ontologies will be available in the “Types” tab. I thought this complication is needed because of the huge number of classes available in the system, and having them grouped by ontology sort of made sense 🙂 It might not make that much sense for the average user.semnotes-settings1
  • In the “Types” tab, the user can choose which types of existing resources should be linked from the notes. Here another problem becomes apparent: there is a Person type, but also a PersonContact type. I can bet nobody cares about the distinction, other than the developers (and not even them sometimes). So what should be here is probably a list of generic terms like People, Projects and Events. When the user selects one of these categories, the application should know which actual types should be used.semnotes-settings2

What I imagine would make more sense for the users of SemNotes is something like this:semnotes-settings_mockup

or even something nicer, like this:

semnotes-settings_mockup_nicer

What do you think?

Einstein

As so many geeky types mentioned on twitter, today is π day (for those who find writing the date “MM dd” natural, as opposed to “dd MM”).

However, today is also Einstein’s birthday, and being reminded of it by twitter as well, I decided to finally put up a poster I bought more than 2 years ago.

Albert Einstein (14 March 1879 – 18 April 1955)

Albert Einstein (14 March 1879 – 18 April 1955)

World Book Night 2011

This year I was a giver in World Book Night, an event for UK and Ireland, where 1 million books were given away. Participants could choose from 20 titles, all great books, hand picked by a committee. I chose to give Life of Pi, by Yann Martel. However, I will try to get my hands on the rest of the books in the list, at one time or another, because they all seem like interesting reads.

My decision was based on a vague recollection that my brother read it many years ago and loved it, but I never actually got to read it. The same string of events led me to read Dune – my brother read it, loved it, told me about it, then a few years after I decided to give it a try .. and boy did I love it! I remember reading all the Dune books in a summer and not wanting them to end .. I have the new set of Dune books for months, but didn’t dare starting them yet – we’ll see how that goes when I build up the courage.

I don’t remember me having any kind of influence on what he reads .. which is odd seeing that i’m the older one 🙂

All the books are gone now, I gave them to colleagues from DERI. Well.. I still have 4 on my desk, but they will be picked up by their new owners soon. I was happy to see that the busy folks in DERI have time (or try to make time) to read other things than research papers – I struggle with this a lot, evidence is my ever-growing “to read” list and stack of books. Some people who’d read the book before, said it was really good, so I’m quite happy with my choice.

This being the first edition of the WBN, there were some glitches in the organization – it was a huge event to coordinate, so I guess it was to be expected. Nothing too bad went wrong in my case. The most important part was actually getting the books, and I received the 48 copies with plenty of time to spare, so I could bring them to work one backpack at a time .. with a max of 24 books fitting in it – heavy! I had to register them on BookCrossing and each book got it’s own unique ID. With this ID it’s path can be tracked – this was done because the books were meant to be shared, so the persons who received them were encouraged to share them with others once they were done reading. It is not mandatory, of course, so if you received a book and liked it so much that you’d want to read it over and over again, or at least browse it now and again, you can keep it, it’s totally yours.

I liked the experience, so I will probably do it next year too, if there will be a World Book Night 2012.

P.S. I didn’t officially keep a copy for myself, although I was allowed, but instead I kept one for my dad, which I’ll give to him next time I go to Romania. I hope I’ll have time to read it by then 😉