offset \ˈȯf-ˌset\ noun

a force or influence that makes an opposing force ineffective or less effective

Open Science

We still have cases of infections and deaths, but people seem like they decided that the pandemic is over. The COVID-19 pandemic is not over. 2020 wasn't that long ago, when we didn't have any protection in terms of vaccines and the world was panic buying. One only needs to look at our world in data to see that the hospitalizations and spikes are still happening.

Today, most of the discourse revolves around Russia-Ukraine conflict instead of the danger in everyone's house. It's difficult for me to see how the world can be united. It's always in-group, out-group thinking that permeates the society.

Climate change and biodiversity loss haven't gone away either. The great bleaching of the coral keeps happening. The world is not in a good place. It's in a bad one.

Most of my last year was focused on automating things. It continues into this year as well. Just recently I got the standing desk (Ikea Idasen) automated (with ESP32) so it forces me to stand up because I made it switch the sitting/standing modes at certain times of the day. It turns out that before that I was really lazy to push a button, either the one on the controller or in the smartphone app and stand up. This way it just happens and I must adjust. Does wonders for my posture :)

I also installed sensors for windows and the entrance so I can turn off my heating usage if I'm airing the place. Other things, too, like security.

Days are getting longer. DST still wasn't abandoned though. We finally got to walk outside and have a coffee in the nearby park. The sun really ups our mood and the weight of the winter clothes are once again disappearing.

We got triple vaxxed and would go for the next one if needed in the future. There is an effort to find ways to expand vaccine usage quickly enough where normal distribution chains may prove lacking. This was argued with RaDVaC vaccine and it shows an interesting application of it; nasal instead of the regular injection. Also, the push towards opening the research is active with Open COVID Pledge spearheading some of the efforts. Body hacking can be cool.

Opening the science got some traction years ago with now defunct Science Commons. However, people still use Creative Commons licenses to get the research out to the interested parties. It's a noble goal and the civilization can only move forward with it. Scientists take to Twitter and other social media to get enough people to do peer review for them in unpublished pieces before they submit the work to a scientific journal. They need to get their work reviewed sooner rather than later. We really need a new form of peer review process.

There's a whole topic on Open Science about how we don't really have the access to the whole body of knowledge the civilization possesses. More often than not it's hidden behind paywall webs of scientific journals that, while doing a good job in peer review and quality control of the submissions, also get in the way of science proliferation itself.

According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 27, Alexandra Elbakyan argues that

Everyone has the right freely ... to share in scientific advancement and its benefits

which is the reason she founded the Sci-Hub.


It is a place where people can pirate scientific articles and see what's inside. When I was doing papers back in the university, I myself could've definitely used the opportunity to easily check something online without potentially paying for content that might turn out not relevant for what I was doing. I can deeply relate to the annoyance of the situation when resources are not readily available, and understand the reasoning to go about it the Sci-Hub way. In my time, there was no other option but to do some legwork and hit the libraries in hope that they had things one needed.

The problem from years ago, and I don't think it has changed, was that the majority of courses were based around the resources known to be previously available to students, rather than being on the bleeding edge of science. It's not that hard to imagine that we should be moving faster than we are.

Prepare In Advance

We've had a lot of time on our hands to get better at planing meals. Food rarely gets boring and humans usually eat several times every day so there's intrinsic motivation to become better at it. It's handy to have some pre-made ingredients at the ready when you're out of ideas or short on time. At some point we were buying, I think, some ready-made dough that came with a small jar of tomato sauce. We kept the jars so now we use them to store things like seeds and nuts, almond flakes, pine nuts. Roasted or raw, they are a great addition to all kinds of meal bowls. For some reason, Vesna gets really excited about storage containers, but if you have a variety of them, you can store all kinds of goodies beforehand:

  • icecubes with botanicals (for gin or some such)
  • the same tray can be used to freeze fresh herbs in olive oil to have a quick ready boost for meals that require those two. For instance, fresh basil in olive oil for tomato based sauces
  • bigger silicone trays or pots can house ready made frozen soups that you can thaw out
  • small jars look cute and can store flavoring oils like chili oil and black garlic oil
  • we've also made nut butters; Vitamix has a program to make those. Aside from pure butters (that we did), you can also make mixed (which we didn't try yet), as well as home made chocolate spread
  • jams, but you should do the ones that you usually cannot buy otherwise. For instance, we made carrot cake jam
  • pickling is also an option, we have a steady supply of ginger (gari), but we also pickled purple onion which looks quite decorative as well
  • jackfruit cashu picked up from Wil Yeung. It's very textured and involves draining the canned pieces, marinating them in a spicy mix and baking in the oven
  • vegan cheeses. Vesna usually makes them and I tag along. She uses cashews as a base with lactic acid and kappa carrageenan, which are easily available to order online
  • herbal teas. Of course, if you have a garden with things like mint, chamomile, rose hip, even better
  • mayonnaise with aquafaba. Don't throw away the water from the chickpea can. It can be used for various things like mayonnaise or vegan cheese
  • cold brew tea. Easily made by soaking green tea teabag per cup of cold water overnight and using it in quick drinks or as is
  • cold brew coffee, not much to say, I wrote about the ease of making it before
  • chili and curry pastes. These can store for some time and can be used when making, well, chili or curry

Here are two quick Vitamix recipes you can try:

Vegan white chocolate spread

Vegan white chocolate spread

Essentially this is a nut butter with white chocolate added in.

  • 250 grams vegan white chocolate
  • 400 grams Roasted hazelnuts
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 splash vanilla extract

Melt the chocolate in a microwave. Put hazelnuts, a splash of vanilla and a pinch of salt in a blender. Put it to a nut butter program and blend. When it's done, add melted chocolate and pulse a few times. Store in a jar.

Grated vegan parmesan-like cheese

Vegan parmesan

You can put it on pasta or wherever the real parmesan would go.

  • 0.5 cup cashews
  • 2 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 0.5 tsp salt
  • 0.25 tsp garlic powder

Put all of it in a blender. Pulse on high a couple of times until it's powdery. Use the smallest Vitamix attachment since it's useful to make small amounts quickly.

2021 Recap

2021 came and went. I was thinking that it was going to hinder our plans, but it didn't. We managed to see our folks. Life was good in 2021. I got all twelve articles out which was a modest success for me. There's still a ton of stuff that will get carried over to 2022, but that's OK.

The new year started OK as well. It's January, but we already got the third shot of the vaccine (with the accompanying fever as expected). I even applied for the citizenship just recently. The process will take some time.


Considering there's an ongoing pandemic, travel was limited, but in the small window of opportunity in the summer we visited our folks back in Croatia. Going there we also visited:

  • Italy, Venice, Dolomites, a slight detour via our old acquaintance, Trieste. All great looking and not as touristy at this time
  • Croatia, Pula, Brijuni National Park, Rijeka, Krk (actual place on the island of the same name), Zagreb and our respective homeplaces in Slavonia

I have to mention that we had six long six weeks to do this trip because we were able to work remotely, as well as take a lot of unspent days off. Venice is beautiful, so is Pula and Brijuni (that need much love).

Domestic travel suffered so we didn't travel much within Ireland, but we went to Dalkey again, this time with friends.

No events except one that we booked back in early 2020 before the pandemic hit so it was postponed several times:

I worked a lot on automating the household and bought some stuff to help me. Here's the big list:

ZigBee motor for the curtains
I decided to install another one for the angle change of the stripe curtains and it doesn't look too bad hidden in a corner
ZigBee inline switches
right now on the bathroom fan, but more to be installed for the lights. The problem is that the drywall is thin so there's difficulty installing it within the existing switch
Reolink cameras
monitoring the entryways for the peace of mind
ZigBee signal repeater
for the future projects with the extended ZigBee mesh
Disney+ is horribly buggy on PS4 so we are using this as a workaround, as well as to cast things from the local storage
Google Nest speaker
can't figure out my accent. It confuses "on" and "off" and thinks "close" is to query online for something close instead of closing the curtains, "screaming" instead of "streaming" and not to mention that once I tried to clean the bedroom with the RoboVac and it snarkily told me to do it myself :D
Lights under the bed
work with the morning alarm at the moment, but will attach the motion sensor so we can find our way to the bathroom at night
Universal Remote from Broadlink
to replace the remotes in the house and automate their functions at the same time, works with three devices at the moment

We also fell into the trap of pandemic shopping and bought a bunch of stuff unrelated to the automation. Some more necessary than others:

with a dynamo powered LED for checking when the water is warm enough (Vesna loves this one, she no longer dips a toe unless she sees the red light)
motorized standing one for me and a regular for Vesna (she prefers to do her exercise away from the desk). I'll automate mine eventually to rise every day instead of doing it manually
gave mine to Vesna because it's the same model as the one from her job and she likes it, and I bought another one that I loved sitting on back in Croatia
Trolley for wine
well, wine mostly, for now. We had to shuffle our furniture a bit for this one to fit in
Water pump for the plants
we don't want to bother our friends to water our plants every time we're away so this should cover for us instead
laminate everything! Well, some of the things in the apartment. So far underutilized
Mechanical keyboard
so I can get NKRO finally because the existing one was giving me a headache. This one glows as well
Book reader
eInk and all so Vesna can read more comfortably, also no dead trees
Smartphone for Vesna
so it's fast and takes cool photos
Bluetooth headphones for Vesna
mostly for audiobooks on her book reader, but she uses it for other things, too
Portable drone
for traveling and taking aerial photos
Electric scooters
right now we're buzzing around the park because we're too scared to go anywhere else
GoPro telescopic grip
the 360 camera was bought the year before, but the old grip broke ages ago so I had to take another one
Webcamera arm
for increased mobility during video calls
Caster wheels
hacking the IKEA coffee table so we can move it around
Magnetic photo frames
fridge is a shrine to our travels
Fingered shoes
to simulate barefoot walking

In 2021 we also:

  • changed the ISP and switched to fiber. A better deal than the previous coaxial one
  • more or less I was working on the automation scripts and visuals for the dashboard in the Home Assistant
  • I also started to host some services on the local Raspberry PI for the quick access
  • when visiting Croatia, I had to get a new ID card with biometric functionality so I had to go through the hoops of making it work with the chip reader on the PC
  • Vesna DMs D&D like a pro
  • our jobs didn't change
  • we paid off the apartment (and obviously started to finally implement the decor)
  • Trefle died so I had to unlock the API and am currently working with a drop-in replacement on Shamrock, but more on that later this year
  • we got vaccinated twice (and third time this year)
  • no courses and no conventions happened
  • still didn't draw and I am rectifying that this year, no excuses anymore. Krita 5 was released
  • no projects were finished, but were started so I expect to test and publish a big one this year. I also had to buy several items for it

All in all, not a bad year and I can only expect that this one turns out better. I am feeling pretty optimistic.

Cocktails For The New Year

I had a gap in publishing this year, but with this month, I'm catching up. Winter holidays are like a small hibernation. The temperature drops and we crank up the heating every now and then, when we feel cold. I like it because things slow down and get quiet. This is exacerbated with the ongoing pandemic. Still, we go outside to take a walk even though the weather is not as nice and plan out new trips that might happen. Nobody knows.

After the mandatory Covid-19 scare (because the nearby store was packed before holidays) and a home test after a few days, we came up negative so it's OK. The plans for the New Year's eve are ongoing. We'll be playing pen and paper RPG with friends on a video call. In the meantime, we decided to prepare by having some snacks around and home made cocktails. Mind you, we have no fancy glasses so they're not really super-presentable. Here's the list:

Cranberry Mimosa

Cranberry Mimosa

This one is quick to assemble and I've been assured is a holiday cocktail. For it, you need to prepare a simple syrup beforehand and you augment it with sparkling wine. Here's the version we tried. Nothing fancy.

  • 1 cup cane sugar
  • 1 cup cranberries (halved)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 bottle prosecco wine
  • several sprigs rosemary (optional)
  • several pieces fresh cranberries (optional)

Combine water, sugar and cranberries in a saucepan and bring to a boil constantly stirring. Remove from heat and cover. Refrigerate. If you make it in the morning, you can make cocktails in the evening. To assemble, strain the syrup and put 1 shot in a glass. Add 2 shots of sparkling wine (we used prosecco). Garnish with rosemary sprig and some fresh cranberries on a stick. You can also go wild and put the sugar on the glass rim.

Spicy Hot Toddy

Spicy Hot Toddy

This reminds me of mulled wine. Essentially it's a hot whiskey that can warm you up. It's commonly served in pubs around here. Here's a version with a spiced tea that serves two.

  • 2 cups water
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 piece star anise
  • 3 pieces allspice
  • 1 piece clove
  • 4 pods cardamom
  • 1 thumbsize piece cinnamon stick
  • 2 bags black tea
  • 2 shots whiskey
  • 1/2 piece orange (juiced, optional)

Put water and spices and sugar in a sauce pan. Have it boil for five minutes, then remove from the heat. Add in the black tea bags and simmer for another four minutes. Remove and discard the spices and the teabags with a slotted spoon and add two shots of whiskey, maple syrup and a juice of half an orange. Whisk and put in mugs. Serve hot.

Homemade Cream Liquor

Homemade Cream Liquor

Of course, a vegan version. For this one you'll need a blender. We have a Vitamix, which is high powered and can make quick work of cashews and can turn the whole thing very smooth. This should give you about half a liter.

  • 1/2 cup whiskey
  • 1 carton plant based cooking cream (250ml)
  • 1/3 cup cashews (soaked overnight, or raw if using Vitamix)
  • 3 Tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup oat milk
  • 1 pinch nutmeg

Put all the ingredients in a blender and blend away for a minute. Probably longer in a weaker blender. Serve chilled.

As this year wraps up, this is the first time we've had so many days off in a row and not used them to travel somewhere. It takes a bit of effort to fight the restlessness and take it easy. Planning out things for the next twelve months helps with that. Into the new year we go.

Some More Home Automation

Our place just got smarter ;) First thing to sort was a fiber optic connection. Getting the router to behave was a pain. One ISP had an abysmally bad router and I am very tired of dealing with the technical support that knows less than me and should know more. I could avoid this, scratch that, I should avoid this by always going with a provider that would either allow a personal router or have theirs act as a bridge so I don't have to destroy my local network every time. We canceled the existing contract with the ISP providing coax network and switched to fiber optics with another ISP. This second ISP was, as said, bad, so we had to cancel them as well within two weeks and switch to the third one using the same infrastructure. The speeds are still not as promised, but are at least a bit more stable, with a router that has miles more options than than I expected. I hooked up one external drive so it behaves like a simple NAS now, as well as streamlining the devices connected to the internal network. For the ones who want to know more, it's a Fritz!Box model.

Moving on from there, I've set up CCTV with Reolink cameras using ONVIF Home Assistant integration. I was able to hook into streams on that side with Picture Glance card showing it. The motion sensor had to be interfaced through the local REST endpoint because it wasn't available out of the box with the integration. Fortunately, configuring it was not complicated. It looks something like this:

  - platform: rest
  resource: http://camera.local.ip.address/api.cgi?cmd=GetMdState&user=username&password=password
  name: My Camera Motion
  scan_interval: 2
  value_template: "{{ value_json[0].value.state }}"
  device_class: motion

It can later be added in the Home Assistant for display and automations. I'd need to tweak movement detection so I can record and send notifications properly when away from home.

In other news, we also got some additional Tradfri lighting under the bed (but alas no sensor yet), a shortcut button to switch scenes (even though the same can be achieved with a phone and Home Assistant scripts, which we did, but we don't always have our phones on us), a signal repeater for ZigBee so I can extend the range of our mesh (for future projects), and this cool showerhead that is powered by dynamo so it shows the temperature of water both numerically and in LED color (I know, we've got nothing better to do).

We also got a Chromecast to skip overloading our Raspberry with things. It proved to be OK and it works. Disney's application on PS4 constantly crashes on us after 10 minutes and this is a workaround so we can watch the shows over there. It also works with the NAS because we can stream videos on it through BubbleCast app on Android.

There are things in the pipeline that I'm to do in the coming months regarding home automation. I am aware that I need to wait to get all the equipment that comes to mind, but it only means that I'll have more things to write about. With another COVID-19 variant out there and the increasing number of people we know getting sick, we're staying put this year. Who knows. We might end up watching Home Alone. Not just live it :D