Tweet #100

The last two and half months I have not only started blogging, but have also been sending out tweets. Today, with the announcement of my new blog post on focaccia I was at tweet number 99, a good moment to tweet something special for the next one.

Wordle

What I did is I collected all the 99 tweets and cleaned up the data by removing name-tags (if it was me) and common words that come with twitter. After that cleaning I ran the text document through Wordle in order to create a word cloud diagram. I thought that if it was going to be right this Wordle cloud would say something about me and my interests (like the subtitle of my blog already says: bits and bobs on a wide interest). You can see the result below.

A wordle from the 99 tweets that I did August 15 - October 30

And yes, this Wordle definitely tells something about me and my interests. Maps, mapping, GIS, and Infographics stand out in the diagram. Reading, coffee, culture, and food (pizza) are certainly a second subcategory. Words like blog, post, via, hashtag, and rt clearly come from the social media. You see a number of people that I mentioned, or re-tweeted in my tweets too (for those that do not recognize it, they start with an @).

All in all, Wordle gives a great insight in texts, and by this diagram also in my interests.

And my 100th tweet? That tweet will be announcing this new blog post.

Bread, salt, and olives

Since the  pizza oven is going to heat up slowly and it is still early in the day, I decided to bake some focaccia.  It’s an excellent snack for the late afternoon, or like we did for lunch. Although it is not really needed, but since it is so delicious, I have made some olive tapenade with it. Both of these recipes have some things in common, but the thing I want to talk about here is the salt.

Salt, when and how

In the book “How to Cook” there is a separate part on the use of salt in the bread making process. Bread needs salt, firstly for the taste, but secondly, and also important is for the reaction of the yeast. Here we find an unstable equilibrium, too much salt will kill the activity of the yeast, and we end up with a flat bread that has not risen. On the other hand if we only add the yeast (and the sugar, which acts as the catalyst of the process)  it will act very rapidly, but will also die out quickly. So we need to find a way to start the process slowly, and keep it going as long as possible. For this reason it is good to experiment a little with the quantities. Of course the water temperature and the outside temperature matter. All in all it’s a precision job.

The second thing is something I have read once, remembered and never found back. So maybe you as my readers can help me out. I remember that when you want to keep the sparkling green color of the basil in your recipe you should first mix the garlic and the salt in your mortar and get it very fine, then mix the other ingredients. The salt will prevent the basil to oxidate to quickly (as will the lemon juice). A second trick is to cook and cool it quickly before using (some seconds in boiling water, then cool in ice water). In any case you should not get the basil too warm, and remember the friction from the mortar will get it warm too, as well as (of course) adding warm pasta.

The focaccia

In order to make the focaccia I make the dough with
  • 500 gr flour
  • 10 gr salt
  • 10 gr sugar
  • 10 gr dry yeast
  • 300 cc hand-warm water (37 degrees Celsius, I use a bath thermometer for this)
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • Fresh rosemary needles
  • Olive oil

Mix the yeast and the water

Mix the flour and the sugar on a clean counter, make a little volcano with a crater

Put the salt to the side of the flour

Pour the water into the middle of the flour and quickly mix it, preferably with one hand.

Keep kneading, the longer the better.

Let the mix rise for 30 minutes at room temperature.

This time I always use to make the garlic oil, and the olive paste

For the garlic oil, crush the garlic, add it to the oil, together with the rosemary needles. Let it rest.

After 30 min knead the dough again and form it quickly into the form you want. It should be about 3 cm thick. Make some holes in it with your fingertips and spread the oil (with garlic and herbs) over it. Put away to rise for another 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius, and bake the loaf for 15 to 18 minutes. In the pizza oven I just do not put any new wood on for a while, and close the door to keep the temperature.

The olive paste

  • 150 gr black olives
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 30 gr capers
  • 30 gr pine nuts (roasted, and cooled down)
  • 1 basil leave
  • Lemon juice, salt and pepper to the taste

Crush the garlic and the salt, then add the other ingredients and mix till you get a nice paste.

Looking forward to the comments on the bright green basil… You will probably have some ideas on that.

A quiet week

Due to the holidays in Holland it is a quiet week, and when I look around on my desk I see some remains of the busier weeks before. A pile of books that I would like to read, some professional magazines. A number of things that I tore out of magazines and newspapers, among which some recipes that I had planned to make, just mainly to try them. My head full of ideas on what to write, what to blog about.

And in the end…

Tomorrow will be Friday, and I got nothing done from that list in my head, and I do not mind. I had a wonderful week.

Some of the bookmarks I collected this week I will list here:

So there is a lot to do still…

The Weather Forecast: Pizza

Already at the start of this week it was mentioned in the newspaper, “Do not get your outdoor furniture in yet, the weekend will be warmer”. It was cold and windy this week. But I longed for the weekend, and I knew what I was going to do! Fire up the oven for one of the last times this season, and bake pizza!

The Fornino Oven

A few years ago I bought a pizza oven. It comes as a construction kit, and needed some work with insulation material, wire netting, bricks and mortar, and patience. The last thing especially was troublesome. Once the oven has been built you want to fire it as quickly as possible to try it, but you have to wait. It should dry properly, and you have to dry heat it in several stages.

From a colleague that also has an oven, I got the book by Peter Reinhart, “The Perfect Pie”. This is very nice reading, starting off with a lot of background material before he actually gets to the recipes for the dough and the toppings. Although you can find a lot of nice recipes on the Internet, browsing through the cookbooks always has something special. So in the weeks waiting I finished Reinhart, and read the chapter on the search for the perfect pizza by Heston Blumenthal in his book “the search for perfection” (the episode is available on-line). And I must admit that although I liked the Blumenthal approach, I have chosen the Reinhart way of making pizza for the convenience.

So this Sunday afternoon I started to fire the oven, slowly to get the autumn cold out,  using some trunks from a tree that we fell last year. And in the meantime preparing the tomato sauce for the children and a special topping.

Caramelized onion

The Caramelized Onion topping is one of the wonderful recipes from the book of Reinhart. Although I have seen many recipes for this, I keep coming back to this recipe for a pizza with onions and some Gorgonzola cheese. It has so many wonderful flavors, and the mix is just delicious! One of the best moments is when you make a little hole in the middle of the onion sugar mix, and blend the balsamic vinegar in: the different flavors that moment…

So as the afternoon progressed, it smelled more and more of smoke from the wood fire in the oven, and sweet and sour on the gas stove. At the same moment balls of dough were being kneaded and set to rise. It is not summer anymore so it was dark already when I started with my first pizza. The high temperatures and the air circulation under the dome of the oven make it hard working for some minutes.

Spreading the dough, quickly turning and moving with my hands, trying to get it as round as possible without pressing to much of the air out of the dough. Spreading the topping over the pizza. Then, in a little more than a minute, the pizza is baked. It tasted so good.

I already look forward to the weather forecast for next weekend!

Infographics, GIS, and Mapping, the story continues (or part 2)

In my earlier blog post on the use of maps and mapping within infographics I focused mainly on the use of GIS applications that can create maps as one of their outputs. Here I mentioned among others ESRI ArcGIS and QGIS as examples of proprietary and open source software. The main use of these GIS software packages is – and I realize this may sound odd – not mapping. Although I do not want to get into the almost endless discussion of what GIS is, the presentation possibilities of GIS are only a part of the software. Besides the GIS applications there is a group of mapping software where the main purpose of the software is the visualization of geo data and its geographical features. Also at this point I want to stress that the world is not as black-and-white as I present it here. TileMill and Tableau are examples of tools from this second group.

The free tools list

For some time now Sharon Machlis has maintained a very useful table of free tools for data visualization and analysis at the ComputerWorld website. One of the categories in this list is GIS and Mapping. In this list there is no ESRI because it’s not free, but QGIS is mentioned as being open source GIS software. I have, from the start on, found this list a great resource even though it is not complete and always up-to-date. Two free tools that definitely should be mentioned are TileMill and Tableau Public.

TileMill from Mapbox is as they say themselves “a desktop application for creating beautiful web maps”, it has therefore very limited to no functionality to manipulate the data. It just takes the data from one of the many geo data formats and presents this data as a map. One of the main strengths of TileMill is its style language called CartoCSS that indeed looks very much like the CSS we know from web design. And for the Geo readers, compare it to the OpenLayers stylemap. TileMill is also powerful because they have separated content, data, and style. (I would nearly, like with XML write Semantic, Structure, and Style here).

Another tool that gets mentioned more and more often recently is Tableau Software. The free available Tableau Public has a simple feature to display data that has  a geo location added. Like with TileMill it is presentation software, and actually comes close to the dashboard I mentioned in my earlier blog post. The lack of a style language makes it look a little less flexible, and if it comes to the data (for example the postal codes) it is much focused on the big countries. Also the available database connections in the free version are limited. But to use it for basic maps that present the highlights from a dataset without needing the fine grain? It is excellent.

My favorite setup

What I like with both tools mentioned is that they can read the geo data that has been prepared with GIS software like ESRI ArcGIS en QGIS. By shapefiles (both), by direct read from the PostGIS database (QGIS-TileMill), or by linking to the local WMS-server (Tableau). That immediately describes my favorite setup for the mapping part of my infographics. Doing the questioning and preparation of my dataset in the GIS software, creating the right and balanced tables. Then present it with TileMill or Tableau.

The only hurdle is that Sharon Machlis indicates all GIS software in her table mentioned above with a skill level 4: “specialized knowledge in a field”.

Coffee and biscotti

While in Italy I used to have my breakfast in the mornings at the little bar nearby. Sometimes with colleagues that had already woken up, often alone. Starting with a cappuccino and a pastry, often filled with nice thick cream.When I am in France, Portugal, or Spain, same ritual. But nowhere like in that small bar in Florence. After three mornings in a row you get recognized, after a week you do not even have to order anymore. Rituals!

Rituals

After that first cappuccino always one or two quick espresso, some days in the same bar, some days on my way down to the town. Although at home I try to keep rituals like that, coffee never tastes like that quick, money on the counter, adding sugar, drink, and wave espresso in whatever Mediterranean bar.

But me and obsession for good coffee? The ones that follow me on twitter know that if there is a good infographics on coffee I will tweet. And yes, my windowsill is full with different caffettiere. And calling me before my first coffee?

Biscotti

In the chapter on coffee, in the Australian book I referred to in my earlier post, is a great recipe on biscotti. Due to the liquor not really suitable for the morning coffee, but so delicious! And last Sunday I was in the mood for cookie baking, but the greengrocer was closed. So today I went to get some wonderful citrus fruits to make my grated zest. Since there were no organic oranges, and I prefer unsprayed fruit for the zest, I used mandarins.

A second adaptation I made to the published recipe is that I use less sugar, I stick to 400 gram, instead of the mentioned 600 grams caster sugar. The dough always comes out very sticky, but after refrigerating for a while you can make nice logs. Watch out that the logs rise when in the oven, keep some space between the logs. Also experiment some with the baking time, I prefer some thicker slices, like in cantucini, but they take some longer to harden. But do not get them too hard.

I started this blog with the morning coffee ritual. Tonight, after dinner it will be espresso with biscotti. Unless I will find the cookie jar empty…

Yes, I am new… Some light reading

Yes I am new! Not so new though on Internet, but fairly new on Social Media. I never made time for it, and yes, now I do.

In the last month and a half I have started on twitter and blogging. I had done some attempts before, but it really never came through. It is not that I do not see the main advantages of social media or the Internet. No, the contrary! I was raised by the Internet. As an educator having taught courses on many Internet related things like for example web design and informatics for newbies. I have been involved in this world since the 1990’s. But sharing my thoughts in about 500 words, or even shorter 140 characters…? Nah…

But then my website needed a refreshing turn – I wrote about this in an earlier blog – and I started reading about the new (and fun) things that one can do. And I got hooked I dare to confess now. So why this blog post? Well…

Lists

Over the last weeks I have gone through many short lists that people make on almost everything: the best tools, writing techniques for blogs, the “do’s and don’ts”. I have read, reviewed, collected and learned. And no, I will not give you my list, at least not yet. It is hard to learn about the netiquette when you do not get corrected. What are the best teachers online, what blogs are the must-reads’ when it comes to building up your audience? How do you establish your own brand online?

Last week I stumbled into a blog by Susanna Gebauer on inbound and outbound content marketing. And yes, I recognized myself in the way how she described herself. Oh yes, also I can do cold calling and I am quite able to do some good sales pitch. But if I have the choice I prefer to sell by providing content. This article was a feast of recognition.

There is so much to learn as a fresh starter in the Social Media universe. All new terminology: RT, DM, and FF. And I guess that all of my readers and audience know exactly what all these abbreviations mean. I found out what happened when you start your tweet with someones tweetname. And so on…

My quest continues

But I also have so many more questions. What are the best tools? Especially when you see that everyone is referring to the bigger and well established names. What is the best time to tweet about the new blog that you wrote, and is it accepted to tell that few followers that you start off with the fact that you blogged over and over? In web design I remember there was a weekly list of “light reading” by Max Design, and I always looked forward to the new list to appear. And yes, Max Design is still sending out this list by their website, and it still has great hints, tricks, and references on it!

So here my list of light reading for this weekend, based on things I read, found, and tweeted last week:

Enjoy, have a great weekend, and keep coming back for more!

Infographics, GIS, and Mapping

In order to present complex information in a quick and efficient way we see a growing use of infographics. Not only in sciences but also in journalism we see that more and more often infographics are used. A recent announcement of an on-line course by Alberto Cairo, the author of the book “The Functional Art”,  has already set its counter to over 1700 subscriptions within a few days. The rapid growth of the number of submissions on websites like visual.ly and easel.ly show that more and more people find their way into this field too.

Dashboards with infographics, or more

Maps and mapping are an important group within the infographics. But when we look at the many manuals that appear on websites on how to create infographics there is actually not a real list of tools available for this type of presentation. I look at the infographics from my field of geo-information where we are often confronted with questions on how to present large amounts of complex data, for example with customers that want to have a quick and clear insight in the current state of their assets.

What many companies would like to have is Business Intelligence-like dashboards, but with the ability to ask questions in a GIS way, and then to present the results in a infographics manner. Is that too much to ask? It should not be, and in the last years I have seen many very nice examples on presenting location data in a way that comes close.

GIS Software

ESRI, the giant in Geographical Information Systems (GIS), offers us many ways to present location linked data. With some basic knowledge and the great geo data collection that comes with the software you can quickly produce some basic maps. You can even do the statistics behind the maps within the software. But let me stress that I did on purpose use the word “basic” twice in previous line! GIS and dealing with geo data is a complex discipline. Besides the software is rather expensive for when you want to use it every now and then. Apart from ESRI there are other alternatives that offer ways to store, analyze, and present your geo data. Examples of other software are Mapinfo, Bentley Map, and GeoMedia.

An open source alternative is QGIS, an aggregation of Quantum and GIS. QGIS is a very good tool when it comes to the creation of maps every now and then. Contrary to ESRI ArcGIS it is more difficult to install, although much has improved recently. A page you should definitely see when it comes to learning how to do the basic GIS operations is “how to perform basic GIS operations in QGIS in the most straightforward way“. It has a some neat tricks. When it comes to the data there are also many open source inventories.

And after you have worked (or struggled) with the tools for a while you will probably find out that we are still far from the dashboard that I mentioned above.

Mapmaking

One thing that I want to mention is that map making is a profession too. Mapping is more than just plotting your data on a map that you have found on the Internet, or in a template that comes with your office suite. But do not get me wrong, first rule is that you pick the base layer that suits the job. Over the years I have been to many great conferences that primarily focused on how to present geo data, to know that you can make big mistakes there too. Unfortunately that is what I see happening in more and more infographics. Although the learning curve is steep, GIS can be of great use here.

Let me conclude to tell you: there is a long way to go, but there is definitely a great link between GIS and infographics. More on both, and especially on how to map your data, is to come.

Continued in part 2

Melts on your tongue

Saturday morning when making the shopping list for the weekend my daughter said she wanted to eat that dish that melted on your tongue. Since I have two dishes that could really measure up to that description I decided to make both for dinner tonight. The combination is excellent, and my daughter is right: It melts on your tongue.

Fried potato, peppers and eggplant

The first dish, “fried potato, peppers and eggplant”, comes from a wonderful cookbook that was published after a successful Australian series. Almost two years ago SBS broad-casted the Italian Food Safari. A wonderful series about the food traditions of Italian emigrants in Australia who have kept their traditions and food for over a generation. The accompanying website has all the episodes and recipes. But I also ordered the book, a true must on your bookshelves I believe!

Steak slice with lemon and thyme

The second dish comes from another must have book. “Steak slice with lemon and thyme” comes from Nigella Express. The book has recipes that are simpler, and do not need as much time as many other recipes. Nevertheless they are not less delicious. Also here there is a fantastic website that has many of the recipes. The good thing about this website is the “switch to imperial” button that makes it possible to easily switch between measurement systems. Although… a recent and beautiful infographics from Shannon Lattin is a perfect help for doing all sorts of conversions!

So I went out to the local butcher and greengrocer. Some great Corno di Torro, another vegetable that has some beef in its name: a coeur de boeuf or cuor di bue. And a delicious Sicilian eggplant. He also had some new harvest lemon from the Amalfi coast. Only the ingredients alone…

vegetables

When it comes to the planning in the kitchen, the both dishes fit well together too. Cutting the vegetables and while the potatoes are baking the meat can be prepared, plus of course the dressing the meat should marinate in afterwards. A thing that I added to Nigellas’ recipe is that I heat the oven on low temperature. While marinating the meat I keep it in the oven to keep it on temperature.

Fried potato peppers and eggplant

At the last moment you add the garlic and make it fry in the pan briefly before removing it. A variety on using garlic oil. Then the tomatoes and the basil leaves. Prepare the plates, and yes, my daughter was right: it melts on your tongue…

on the plate

The photographs are made while cooking with the camera of my phone, apologies for the quality.

Location everywhere

Already for some time I have wanted to write about indoor positioning. Since Indoor positioning is going to be a future direction for a number of fields, including GIS. I had collected articles and did my research. And then yesterday by following another post (on big data, food, and visualization) I end up at a (Dutch) post from Numrush: “Indoor navigation system Wifarer announces first customer” [My translations, EK]. Author Johan Voets states in his post exactly what I wanted to tell you in my blog: “Indoor navigation. It sounds a bit unnatural, but it is definitely a fast growing market.”

In my earlier blogs on the fast developing GIS market I already indicated that mobile devices, such as smart phones, offer great possibilities. On a post from envisioningtech the location awareness is mentioned in the context of new sensors. The article uses the term “planned spontaneity”, as where – based on earlier experiences – your system takes decisions, based on a certain context. And yes this context does include location too.

The four elements

In another recent study Latitude mentions the 4 I’s: “four elements—the ‘4 I’s’—that will continue to play a significant role in our experiences with narrative-based media”. Immersion, interactivity, integration, and impact. To cite their report even further: “Immersion and interactivity primarily help an audience to go deeper into a story, while integration and impact are about bringing a story of out of the screen, into our actual lives.”

Location based services can play a major role in experiencing the 4 I’s. What if we can offer extra experience based on the current location? From my background as an art historian and travel guide I think I can say something about this story telling effect here too. People want to go around through a town or a museum and as a guide you need to be pointing out the particularities of a certain object or view. Applications that do so already exist in “open air” situations. And also many musea offer you the possibilities for an online guided tour. I have seen over the last years many of these wonderful initiatives.

But in musea we still see people typing in coded numbers on devices in order to receive the stories and the context. The Indoor Geo Database will include many Points Of Interest. And our smart algorithm will select the right combination of these POI for the current context. Many stories to tell, and based on your interest I can show you the same museum in a number of different ways.

“will people even indoors use the smartphone to navigate?”

Voets ends his post with “The question is: will people even indoors use the smart phone to navigate?”. My answer is clear, Yes they will. And Indoor Positioning is not only to be used in a museum or cultural context. What if I could go through a department store where my smart phone shows me the latest gadgets and offers, based on my recent online searches? Or maybe the system could combine earlier experiences and show me something real life that I was looking for a month ago.

Does this sound scary, or do you see the new possibilities? Like I said before I see new, and serious applications of this technology, in many different fields.