In March 2016, while helping to organize TEDxWarsaw, I had a great pleasure of working with James Briscione on his amazing talk “Secret Patterns of flavour”. This fulfilled my Bucketlist item #4.
James is a head of Institute of Culinary Education in New York and together with IBM created “Cognitive Cooking with Chef Watson” book and app. He explores the science of flavour and how different chemicals come together to create a symphony of taste we all enjoy and crave. Since I call myself a Cognitive Engineer and am a foodie, Cognitive Cooking seemed like something extremely interesting and I jumped at first opportunity to help.
Finally, we have a recording to show James’s amazing work:
For me personally, it was an amazing journey and a great privilege. James lives on the bleeding edge of cuisine innovation and it was inspiring to meet him and see the final talk and learn a lot!
[ #182 in Bucketlist ] While choosing my bike, I wanted something good for a trip. I was asking myself
Is this something I could cycle through loire valley on?
This was few years ago and I had no concrete plan to really go and cycle in France. Only a certainty that I would get around to doing that.
And so it happened:
The amazing company I work for, Automattic in its infinite benevolence was sending me to a conference (React Europe) in Paris. Without much thought, I started looking into putting a bike on a plane.
How do you put bike on a plane?
This actually turned out to be much easier then I expected. I decided to fly with Wizzair and with them, you can fly your bike for 130 PLN ( ~32 USD ). The conditions are:
Bike has to be in a special bike bag
You have to let air out of tires
Handlebars and pedals have to be folded
Of course I used this occasion to put a bunch of my stuff with the bike. As long as you are under 32 KG, you should be fine. (I was close on the way back because of all Foie Gras I was bringing back).
People were looking at me pretty funny while I was putting my bike back together at the airport.
Places I visited
Chateau de Chambord started as a humble hunting lodge, but as projects often do, spiraled out of control and ended up as a huge Renaissance castle with 440 fireplaces and 84 staircases. Pretty tricked-out for a hunting lodge.
Chateau de Cheverny is considered the “best proportioned” castle of the whole Loire valley (whatever that means). It was inspiration for the castle in the adventures of TinTin, but honestly it does not meet my standards for a castle, which require a military function.
Chaumont sur Loire
Well, THAT is a proper castle! Pointy towers, positioned on the cliff overlooking the Loire and hard to attack! Whats interesting is that now it serves as an art gallery and pretty interesting one. I found it very charming!
Amboise & Clos-Luce
Clos-Luce is the last residence of Leonardo da Vinci. It was gifted to him by king Francis I, who had a special relationship with the Maestro. Leonardo was buried in the courtyard of castle and his remains were later transferred to the crypt.
His grave is unusually humble and not-crowded, contrary to Mona Lisa in Louvre, which is hard to see between legions of tourists and their tablets.
In the last 3 years of Leonardo’s life, Francis paid him a steady salary just for the opportunity of listening to his conversations and having a chats with da Vinci. I would gladly pay everything I have for the same privilege.
Now, THAT’s a castle! Properly situated across the river, it looks straight out of Tarrantino movie and has a history to match! (Hear me Quentin? You can have this idea pretty cheap):
It’s called “The castle of 7 ladies”, because 7 prominent dames where in charge of its construction during the years
It was THE place for the parties and balls. The galleries that stretch across the river were huge ballrooms
During I World War it served as a military hospital funded by a chocolate magnate (Such a Willy-Wonkanesque story!)
During II World War the river was a a demarcation zone and castle served as a Nazi art gallery. The gallery currator was helping the Jews escape from Nazi-occupied side to france.
I highly recommend strolling on the other side, where you can get for free by using the bridge nearby.
Fortress of Chinon is another proper castle. Important for me because of my obsession with Knights Templar, was the place where the last Templar grand master, Jacob the Mollay was imprisoned with his advisors. You can see a graffiti they made in the stones of the tower.
You may have heard of this one. It’s ridiculously beautiful and crowded.
Alongside the whole bank of Loire river, there is a bike route, “Loire a Velo”.
LearnMinder is a SmartPhone app that blocks internet access until a homework / coding challenge is solved.
It is intended to be installed on a child’s smartphone. Parent can set up a topic that the child needs to practice. Every time the child wants to play or browse the Internet, she/he has to first solve a challenge custom tailored to current skill level. When the challenge is solved – child can use the Internet again.
The whole challenge is presented in a narrative that “the Internet is broken” and child needs to fix a bug in the software to use it. In the process, it learns, that all services it enjoys using are created by someone, maintained constantly and it is not magical black box.
Day by day, challenge by challenge the child gets more comfortable in thinking how the websites / services / games are designed and that sometimes it’s actually more fun to create these products than to use them.
Future integrations include
Duolingo – foreign language lessons
Fintess tracker – training workouts
This application will be integrated with code.org and released under Open Source license.
I decided to re-write it in React Native to iron out some kinks.
How this app came to be – EUhackathon
In 2015 I had a pleasure to participate in EUhackathon. It was a splendid 2-day hackathon held in Brussels with a theme
Tools to help teach kids digital skills
During this event I created “Interfixer“, which I’m now rebranding as “LearnMinder”
During presentations, along with a fully functioning demo, I presented:
And I won!
This was a huge surprise for me, but the Jury decided that my application was best, and as a single participants, I won the 2015 edition of EU Hackathon 🙂 (You can read more here)
I met some AMAZING people (this was such a whirlwind!)
In June issue of Qualitative Sociology Review (Issue here) you can find mine and Krzysztof Stachura’s paper about using Evernote platform in the course of academic research. Please, keep in mind that paper is in Polish.
The paper is a presentation of potential ways to use Evernote as a simple and cheap alternative to professional CAQDA (Computer-Assisted Qualitative Data Analysis) software packages, along with pointing specific limitations of the tool.
The main functions useful in research and for analytic purposes are depicted, as well as techniques that enable the application of grounded theory methodology using Evernote are. Moreover, similarities and differences between Evernote and NVivo 10 are presented, and the analytical perspectives for the near future concerning the evolution of Evernote are drawn.
I revisited Norway in 2018. I have to say, places are a little bit more crowded now and paths to Trolletunga / Preikestolen / Kjeragbolten are much more organized.
Also, if you are taking a car – parking under Trolletunga is 500 NOK, under Preikestolem – 200 NOK and under Kjeragbolten 200 NOK as well. I credit this post here with making it all so popular.
Version of the post from 2012:
If you have not heard about neither Preikestolen nor Kjeragbolten, then you are living poor lives indeed. These places are frequently covered in “10 places you have to visit in your lifetime”, “20 places where you can find a lot of Poles”, and so on. It’s VERY beautiful!
But since you’re reading this post, I will assume you knaw the place I’m talking about :). Your focus is rather on “How to?” then on “What”. So I will share my experiences.