4 Nisan 2017 Salı

Learning Esperanto

Saluton geamikoj!

(Esperanto traduko jam ne estas fina. Mi estas komencxento, bonvolu helpu min korekti miajn erarojn)

As of today I have been learning Esperanto for little less than 4 weeks, and so far it has been an experience worth sharing.

Hoidaux, mi lernas Esperanton ekde iomete malpli 4 semajnoj, kaj gxis nun estis sperto valoro por afisxi.

For those of you who haven't heard of Esperanto yet, it is a constructed (read made-up if you like) language that has been around for more than a century with 100.000 to 10.000.000 speakers wordwide according to different sources and was thought to be an international language that is easy to learn and fair to native speakers of various languages. There are lots of material and critism on the internet if you want to know more about Esperanto, but this post will only be about my initial personal experience and thoughts on this.

Por cu tiu, kiu ne konas Esperanton :) gxi estas planligvo, (elpensigi, se vi volas) kiu eksistas por pli ol unu jarcento, kun 100.000 gxis 10.000.000 parolantoj sur la tuta mondo laux diferencaj fontoj. Gxi pensigxis esti lingvo internacia kiu facile lernablas kaj justas por naskigxparolantaj de diversaj lingvoj. Estas multaj materialoj kaj kritikioj sur la reto pri Esperanto, sed cxi tiu skribajo estos nur pri mia unua propra valoro kaj pensoj pri tiu.

Why bother learning a made up language?

The first question I (and probably many other Esperanto speakers or Esperantist·oj in Esperanto) recieve is why you should spend your time learning a "useless" language. Well, firstly, it is not that much time and secondly there are reasons.

La unua demando al mi (versxajne al multaj aliaj Esperantistoj) estas kial oni devus pasigi sian tempon lernate "senutilan" lingvon. Unue, ne estas multa da tempo; due, kialoj existas.

My first motivation was just to learn a new language, because I think learning a language has benefits irrelevant to direct use of it.

Mia baza motivo estas lerni novan lingvon, cxar mi pensas lerni lingvon havas gajnojn malrilatajn je direkte uzi de la lingvo.

Every language represents a way of thinking. In Turkish we have a saying "One language, one person; two languages, two persons". I like to interpret this not only as you are able to contact more people when you speak more languages, but also as you become kind of multiple persons. There are actually studies that show multilinguals actually have different personalities when they speak different languages. Amazing, right? (Sory for not linking any, but a quick web search should bring you a lot). In my personal opinion which language you are speaking can even change your mood psychologicaly, and the time your learn the language/ first contact with people in the language has a major impact on it. More on how it was for me while learning Esperanto later.

Cxia lingvo reprezentas pensirejo. En la turkan oni devas "Unu lingvo, unu homo, du lingvoj, du

What makes Esperanto really interesting in that sense is its extreme logical structure and having borrowed different aspects from different languages. I feel learning Esperanto is giving me a way of thinking that I could not get by learning another language. Since I am still a beginner, this is yet to stand the test of time, but I am very convinced.

Another aspect of learning the language is learning about the cultures that are bound with the language. In case of Esperanto the amount of cultural material is less in comparision to most other languages, but there is still interesting meta. Being a constructed language that has proved to be functional, Esperanto allows one to compare the "random" evolution of a human language with a language that was planned at a time when we knew much more about what a language is supposed to be capable of. I think it is philosophically interesting.

Finally, I really enjoy the idea of having a common language for all. Even the name of the language, which was the pseudonym under which Zamenhof published the first version) means the one who hopes.

Does anybody speak it at all?

Oh yes. I was really surprised to sit on a table full of people speaking fluent (apart from me :) ) Esperanto couple of days ago. There is a pretty active commnunity around the language. Vikipedio is the 32nd largest wiki at the moment, (larger than Simple English and Greek) and there is a fair amount of original and translated literature, music etc.

You can even couchsurf in Esperanto!

Even tough one could argue that it is more useful to learn a language that is actually spoken in a country other than few micro-countries, I think it is rather an advantage that Esperanto speakers are everywhere on the world. By learning a single language you get to speak to a diverse community of speakers. (Since I am yet to meet many, I will not analyse the diversity of Esperantists at this point) Arguably English provides you with the same, and most Esperantists speak a bunch of other languages, but I really like the idea of having a language that was foreign to almost all. Interestingly, I do not even have that strange feeling when I am talking to Germans in Esperanto, even though the "default" language would be German for me in most cases.

Other than that, all the speakers I have met so far war genuinely nice and interesting people. After all they are all people who learned a made up language, how bad can they be?

Is it easy to learn?

Yes! The grammatic is 16 rules, words are constructed in very logical ways and the few remaning roots to learn are pretty easy if you already speak a European language. After my second week I went to the local club in Munich to see whether I can understand anything at all. Of couse you can not expect to be fluent in any language in 2 weeks, but I was already on a level which allowed me to have basic conversations and communicate on a basic level, often asking for words or asking my conversation partners to repeat slowly. I think this is critical because once you achieve this level, you can improve by watching videos on youtube, reading and chatting to others.

If you are interested, there are many ways to start learning, the most common ones being lernu.net and the course on Duolingo. Give it a shot, before you can decide whether you like it, you will already be speaking a bit!

26 Ocak 2017 Perşembe

Philosophy of Everyday Things: Why I decided to simplify my life

Apart from truly deep philosophical questions, there is a lot of simple stuff think about, that can  lead to actual changes in our lives, thus be tested. This is the first post on such, hopefully followed by others, including reports of practical experiments.

It is more about how we see "things", rather than "things"


    Imagine you are looking at a piece of art. Is there a message that you can formulate as a sentence. Assuming the artist really wanted to get this kind of a message across, why would not he just say it the way you are supposed to get it?
    An explanation could be that we enjoy this process of "packing" and "unpacking" the message, as cartoonist Erdil Yaşaroğlu puts in this awesome ted talk about humor. (Note for friends who do not speak Turkish, the subtitles seem to cut some of the awesome). 
    But is there always a conscious message? Do we unpack it the same way it is packed? In fact, everyone has a different way of interpreting  art and the conclusions differ. We could say there are some people who get it right and others are wrong. In a more open way, we can also say art is a collaboration between the artist and the observer. Inspecting an art-piece is an active process, and the subjective final outcome is rather a discussion between the artist and the observer.
    Same applies to everyday things and their observations. You can even say life is a work of art by the god or universe. The effects of every day events on our psyche are collaborations of the events and our interpretations.

There is joy in many things.


     As a special case of this idea, we could try looking for joy in daily things. I do not mean that we should be fooling ourselves into interpreting everything as absolute good, this could end up badly in long term. But we should learn to find joys we oversee.
   As a personal example: I did not like popular music (stuff you hear on the radio). The interpretation that I have chosen was that it is mostly not creative or qualitative. One option would be tricking myself to a superiority feeling.  ("I am better than people who listen to this"). The other option would be trying to feel the kind of joy that people have who like it. The second one is more mental work, and we are lazy creatures; but being able to enjoy more in life is a skill worth training.
   Of course, there is more than pop music. Why not learn to enjoy the daily commute? Or cooking? Or eating? Or even breathing?  Even the acts that we supposedly enjoy can often turn dull because we are not in the moment, so why not practice to fix that? 

Simplify!


   Being aware and in the moment all the time can be difficult, especially when there is too much going on. I feel overwhelmed by the endless stream of everyday things and events. There is more in my life than I have the mental space to really appreciate. My solution is, to get rid of things I do not need, as most of the objects I own or things I do, do not add any real value to my life.
In the following posts, I will try to look at things from that perspective in critical way, one at a time. 

10 Ağustos 2016 Çarşamba

My thoughts after going veggie for 40 days

This is a personal journal of how I feel about eating meat now, by no means some kind of scientific argumentation about whether you should go vegan. Just the way I see it now.

My little 'experiment' began in the wonderful Festival of Creativity. I had a fatty fast food hamburger in Vienna before heading to Czech mountains to enjoy a last piece of meat before trying to survive with vegan food for an whole week. Little did I know it was going to be my last for longer.

Two things happened there. Firstly, we had amazing cooks and amazing food. I did not expect to enjoy my week of 'survival' that much. Secondly, I had some very inspiring conversations with my new friends who had their interesting opinions on the matter. So I decided to keep going for a while.

Since I am back, I have not eaten any meat other than fish, almost no eggs, and I have mostly replaced milk with soy.

What I have realized

First things first: to be honest, I really like meat and there is no substitute for a good steak. I can imagine living on without eating meat at all, but it is real joy.

On the other hand, vegetarian (or even vegan) food can be very delicious and easy to cook. I feel quite energetic and well too. It also cheaper, but this is not really a big factor for me as my Turkish roots do not let me cut on eating as long as I do not have to :).

Finally, it actually is not that easy to eat out. Mostly I do find something delicious and it is not much harder than avoiding pork in Germany, but still, the choices are mostly limited.

Why?

I do not think it is a bad thing to eat meat. I will list some points soon, but none of them are directly related to eating meat itself, but more like its side effects. I have the feeling I have had enough of my experiments, so as long as I am sure there is no problem with my following concerns, I guess I will return to eating meat, but probably less than before, and somehow differently.

Love of mother nature, or animals in particular

Animals who get to eat meat, do so. I do not feel like being an exception to it. I see no reason to love a "victim" more than the hunter, this is just the natural course of the nature. Death is a part of life, and becoming food for another live being is a good kind, I think.

BUT, we humans do not do it quite the natural way. I highly recommend Sapiens by Harari if you are interested in how the human diets has changed and changed the nature in the course of evolution. 

The first difference is that, no other animal farms one other. Farming means we have impact not only on the death of the animals but on their daily lives as well. With great power comes great responsibility, we are responsible, that they have a good, natural life before they are slaughtered. This is the reason I refuse to eat industrial meat after now as long as I do not have to. I am fine with good, natural farms on this matter.

Spiritual

Another great difference is how we see animals. In Sapiens, Harari explains how humans used to see animals as a part of the whole we belonged to (religious impacts of the farming revolution are also very interesting) . I like it very much how people in Pagan cultures mostly used to "apologize" or thank their preys. It is very important that we do not forget the love and respect to the nature, including our preys. As long as we have this in mind, I do not think eating meat hurts our spiritual development.

Another religious practice that I really like is the Muslim "Sacrifice Feast", where people who can afford it together sacrifice an animal and share its meat with the poor and the needy. The related part is that you are supposed to be there during the slaughter, or even do it yourself if you are capable of accomplishing the task without giving the animal more any pain than necessary. I think it helps us realize the real cost of eating meat. After this I never wasted any meat. Knowing the cost, it is a decision to eat meat, but ignorance of this is no excuse for eating meat.

Ecological Impact

The other problem with humans is that, there are too many of us, and those who can afford it get much more than our share of ecological resources. Meat production has a huge impact on the environment, whereas vegetarian/vegan food production is generally more environment friendly. However, going full vegan is not the best solution, as this article suggests. The main cause of this problem is in my opinion the human overpopulation, which also causes many more problems. Sadly, that's not an easy problem to solve. When it comes to eating meat and other animal products, the way to go is to reduce consumption and increase efficiency. I personally do not think complete absence is necessary.

Social

When I invite friends over, I mostly cook veggie, and most people are fine with that. When I am invited, I do not ask them to cook separately for me. If they make the offer, I take it thankfully. Otherwise my plan is to eat beforehand and sit with them eating what I can find. I try that the only difference I create is that I expect them to respect that when I do not want to eat meat, it should be OK :) . If there is something that contains small bits of animal productions, I am also find with that. There is no need to be extremely picky. It is not a good thing to make others lives harder.

What  is next?

For the reasons above, I think I will keep eating meat from good sources, but not too much of it. (For friends in Germany: kaufnekuh looks interesting) I am also fine with hunting of animals whose species are not endangered. Let's see how it is going to turn out.

16 Aralık 2014 Salı

A few first words about film photography

It all started when I found my grandmas old camera. A Voigtländer Vitoret. It had clearly seen better days, but the old guy was still very handsome.
Voigtländer Vitoret
Sadly the lightmeter did not work at all, and the shutter sometimes decided to wait a few extra seconds before closing. In my first roll, all but 3-4 images were completely useless.
But it was still fun to shoot film, so I decided to look for a second hand (cheap) film body. Because I am a Nikon guy and not a rich Nikon guy who can afford some extra lenses for a new camera, I found a Nikon body that would work with my non-DX lenses.

Since yesterday, I am a proud owner of a F401 (N4004 in the US). I love it so far. (so much that I am probably going to write a review, so no details here).

Anyway, here are my first impressions of film photography.

Firstly, shooting film is fun. Knowing that I am saving the image on a physical object is a nice feeling. I also get to have an archive, which is pretty nice. I also like to wait to finish the roll and develop before I see the photographs. I think of the shots which can turn out well during the time, wonder if they really do and in the meantime I think about how I am going to process them (Since I do not have any equipment [yet] I can not process them the old-school way, but I play with the scans a little). I would also like to develop and print myself.

Secondly, film is not that expensive. Fine, if you are starting out, it is. But once you quit photographing your feet and every single cat you see, you barely manage a roll in two weeks in normal times. Of course you shoot more when traveling or on special occasions, but keeping a digital compact camera, or better yet a cell phone, for soccer mom facilities, the number of shots (with artistic intention) made is very little.

Thirdly, shooting film helps I think a lot more about each shot. I started to do the same with digital too, and I guess better photographers do it way more, film does motivate me to do so, neat. Just like prime vs. zoom. When shooting zoom, you should walk around a bit and check other angles, shooting with a prime, you almost have to.

Finally, film grain looks way better than digital noise.

Here are some photos from my first roll. For more, or these scanned better (soon) check out my tumblr.



20 Mayıs 2014 Salı

Lego EV3 Cannon

Cannons are awesome. Robots are awesome. Lego is awesome.  So, why not combine them all?

Here is a short video of the awesome Lego cannon:



The robot is build using the pieces that are available in both EV3 kits and is programmed (sadly) in Java on LeJos.

This file contains building instructions of this model and this is the model itself created using the Lego Digital Designer. For those who don't want to read a step by step guide, here is also a brief description:
You need to place the motor that creates the horizontal movement in the bottom, because else a) it also makes a vertical movement depending on the angle of the other motor b) it won't be stable enough. In order to increase stability, you need to construct a table, on which the other motor (connected to the first one and carrying the last one) can glide, because this one carries some weight and is likely not going to stay parallel to the ground without. Lastly, you place the Medium Regulated Motor onto the last one with the shooter. I have used the system from the EV3RSTORM model of LEGO with some minor modifications on connection to the rest of the system.

The source code for the robot is on my github. To get it running, create a Lejos project, add this file to src directory, compile and upload to the robot.

You can control the robot using the arrow keys on the intelligent brick, shoot using ENTER button and end program using the ESCAPE button.

Now go start shooting dummies or your innocent house-mates while I am working on the computer interface to control the cannon via Bluetooth, which I will probably post here if it even gets complete. Feel free to modify the design and/or the code and share them here!


29 Mart 2014 Cumartesi

How to use Gtk+3 Popovers with Python

Popovers are great. If you do not know what they are yet, have a look here, or here. They are like right click menus, but way more functional.

However, there is yet so little documentation, and only an example in C by gtk3-demo, so I have needed some time to get it working on Python, and this is why I am posting about this.

 
from gi.repository import Gtk

def on_click(button):
    #Toggl
    if popover.get_visible():
        popover.hide()
    else:
        popover.show_all()

#Creating the window
window = Gtk.Window(title="Hello Popover")
window.connect("destroy", lambda w: Gtk.main_quit())

#Creating and placing a button.
box = Gtk.Box(spacing = 60)
button = Gtk.Button("Toggle popover")
button.connect("clicked", on_click)
box.add(button)
window.add(box)

#Creating a popover
popover = Gtk.Popover.new(button)
popover.set_size_request(50,100)
label = Gtk.Label("Hi!")
popover.add(label)


window.set_size_request(200,200)
window.show_all()

Gtk.main()

So, here is what I have been missing.
Firstly, popover = Gtk.Popover(); popover.set_parent(button) does not work.
Secondly, popover does not show up, if there is not enough space in window (it actually does, but is not visible). This is why the button is wrapped in a box in this example.
Lastly, if the content is smaller than the arrow, so will the popover be, which looks ugly, so you may want to set a size request if there is only one label in the popover. However, I can not think of any practical reason to create a popover with a single label in it.

Happy hacking!

15 Aralık 2013 Pazar

Cinnamon Cocoa Vanilla Coffee

This doesn't taste much like coffee, but it is a very nice winter drink.


It serves for one person. Start by preparing two shots of espresso. I use my Caffisimo at home, but you can make a strong coffee instead, if you do not have an espresso machine. Then add less than half a tea spoon (see last picture for my tea spoon, I think they vary in size in different countries) of cinnamon. It really has a strong taste, even stronger than espresso.


Then add two dessert spoons of vanilla syrup (again, see the last picture). If you do not have any, you can try using vanilla extract. Add enough milk to fill the cup. If you aren't using warm milk, you may want to add cocoa powder and mix first.


Add a dessert spoon of cocoa powder.


Now take your chair, look out of the window and preferably watch it raining or snowing while enjoying your coffee.