Sunday, February 27, 2011

AI-MAS Winter Olympics

On last Sunday I went to the second day of AI-MAS Winter Olympics conference that took place at the Polytechnic University of Bucharest. The main event on this day was a presentation of the machine learning algorithm that it used for implementing Priority Inbox feature in GMail. They basically use a neural network standard algorithm, but the challenge is keeping a separate model (which might have additional user specific features which are instantiated dynamically from some templates) for each particular user and training it as you also manually sort your email. The other issue is of course scalability and processing in real time of data (for example the algorithm takes into account even the time spent reading a particular message to determine if the user really read it, or just opened it to be marked as read). Apart from the presentations there were on display projects done by students. The one I liked most was the Swim Green project done by a team from Babes-Bolyai University. It was a boat-robot which could navigate based on visual input and also pick-up plastic pieces floating on the water. The goal was to propose an automatic clean-up mechanism that could be used on lakes for example. Overall it was a very nice experience and of course I'm glad these kind of things start happening in Romanian universities.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Constantin Brâncuşi

During my years in the DC suburbs at University of Maryland I went one day with another Romanian fellow to the National Galery of Art. We knew they have some pieces of Brâncuşi there, but after a tour of the galery we didn't see them, so we went to the information desk and asked where to find the sculptures of Brâncuşi. The guy was puzzled, he told us he never heard about this sculptor. Now it was our turn to be puzzled. Wasn't Brâncuşi a famous sculptor in the whole world, or were we brain-washed by yet another Romanian propaganda story? We took the catalog, went to the index of artists, found Brancusi and pointed it to the guy behind the desk. He exclaimed "oh, \bran-ˈkü-sē\", sure we have his sculptures, go to that room. We got our pride back, the guy was confused because we asked about [brɨnˈkuʃʲ], the Romanian pronunciation with "â" and "ş".

Since that time I also went to Philadelphia Museum of Art which has one of the largest collections of Brâncuşi sculptures and also to the reconstruction of the artist's studio in Paris, which is part of the Pompidou Centre.

Today I opened Firefox and I saw a nice logo on Google, celebrating 135 years from the birth of Brâncuşi. I rest my case :)

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Viata domnului Cartarescu

Ultima carte a lui Mircea Cartarescu, "Frumoasele Straine (sau cum am fost un autor de duzina)" e un colaj de povestiri din viata de scriitor roman a domnului Cartarescu. Nu are formatul unui jurnal, ci mai degraba a rememorarii unor evenimente (calatorii in special) cu largi divagatii pe cele mai traznite teme. Ceva a la Creanga, dar centrat pe aventurile scriitorului care este pus fata in fata cu cititorii si pe relatiile lui cu alti scriitori, cu mult umor, dar si usor oniric. Desi nu e "scris adanc" stilul e fermecator si "face diferenta" (na, ca tot barbarisme am ajuns sa folosesc; si doar am zis sa scriu in romana tocmai ca sa cinstesc un mare scriitor roman) ca sa zic asa :)

Desi e doar a treia carte de Cartarescu pe care o citesc (alaturi de "Enciclopedia zmeilor" si "De ce iubim femeile"), iar celebrele orbitoare sunt inca pe lista de asteptare, e altceva ce m-a legat recent de acest scriitor: un editorial publicat acum cateva luni in Evenimentul Zilei, un text in care am simtit ca ma regasesc, nu ca scriitor :), ci ca fiinta curioasa fata de toate aspectele functionarii acestei lumi. Nu stiu pentru ce imi trag seva (eventual pentru ceva scrieri de duzina in Java), dar si pe mine ma intereseaza si topologia, si teoriile fizicii, si economia, si filosofia, si biologia, si toate celelalte.

Deunazi mi-a povestit mama cum la o sedinta cu parintii din clasa a unspea a intrebat-o profesoara de biologie daca am intentia sa dau la medicina. I se parea ei ca sunt foarte interesat la orele de anatomie, pun intrebari si invat. Nu am avut niciodata nici cel mai mic gand de a ma face medic, ma intreb cum m-as descurca la un laborator de anatomie cand eu ma oripilez si cand trebuie sa tai o bucata de piept de pui crud (de altfel un coleg de facultate m-a intrebat prin anul trei daca nu vreau sa merg cu el la un laborator de anatomie, aranjase el sa intre pe sestache la o grupa de medicina din anul intai, dar l-am trimis urgent la plimbare; apoi mi-a si povestit ce misto a fost sa scoata ficatul dintr-un cadavru, ce consistenta avea si altele asemenea), dar asta nu ma impiedica sa ma intereseze din ce este facut corpul uman si cum circula sangele.

P.S. Retractez: as considera o cariera in medicina doar daca s-ar face practica la anatomie pe goolge body si m-as specializa in imagistica :)