Trip Report: 1st U.S. Semantic Technologies Symposium (#US2TS)

I attended the 1st U.S. Semantic Technologies Symposium (#US2TS), hosted by Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio on March 1-2, 2018. The goal of this meeting was to bring together the U.S. community interested in Semantic Technologies. I was extremely happy to see 120 people get together in Dayton, Ohio to discuss semantics for 2 days. I’m glad to see such a vibrant community in the U.S. … and not just academics. Actually, I would say that academics were the minorities. I saw a lot of familiar faces and met a lot of people from different areas.

The program was organized around the following topics: Cross Cutting Technologies, Publishing and Retrieving, Space and Time and Life Sciences. Each topic had a set of panelists. Each panelist gave a 10 minute talk. There was plenty of time for discussion and a break out session. It was a very lively. The program can be found here:

I gave a 10 min version of my talk “Integrating Relational Databases with the Semantic Web: a journey between two cities“. The takeaway message: in order to use semantic technologies to address the data challenges of business intelligence and data integrate, we need to fulfill the role of the Knowledge Engineer and empowered them with new tools and methodologies. Looks like I did a good job at it and it was well received 😃

Two main topics: Ontologies and Tools

Complexity and Usability of ontologies was a topic throughout the two days. Hallway talk is that light semantics is enough (happily surprised to hear this). However, Life Science and Spatial domain need heavyweight semantics (more below). CIDOC-CRM is the ontology used in the museum domain. Apparently very complicated. A lot of people don’t like it but they have to use it.

Linked Open USABLE Data (LOUD): We need to find a balance between usable and complexity.

I was part of a breakout session on ontologies and reuse. I really appreciated Peter Fox’s comment on ontologies (paraphrasing): there are three sides that we need to take into account 1) expressivity, 2) maintainability and 3) evolvability

I shared our pay-as-you-go methodology to create ontologies and mappings in a poster and in hallway discussions. It was well received.

Tools Tools TOOLS: we need better tools. That was another theme of the meeting. There seemed to be an agreement with my claim that the existing tools are made for the semantic city.

JSON-LD came up a lot. People love it.

Application Areas of Semantics

As expected, Life science was present at this meeting. Melissa Haendel from Oregon Health & Science University showed some really cool results that were possible thanks to semantics. Chris Mungall from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory gave an overview of the Gene Ontology.

Really interesting to learn that data in the geography domain (spatial data) is complex and requires heavyweight semantics, just like in life science.

Interesting observations about humanities data. I see the need for semantics

I need to check out “A gazetteer of period definitions for linking and visualizing data“. One of the project leads is a fellow longhorn, Prof. Adam Rabinowitz. I want to meet him!

Meeting people

Great chatting with Varish Mulwad from GE Research and learning about all the semantic work that is going on at GE Research. Need to check out Semtk (Semantics Toolkit ) and these papers: .

SemTK: An Ontology-first, Open Source Semantic Toolkit for Managing and Querying Knowledge Graphs

Integrated access to big data polystores through a knowledge-driven framework

I enjoy meeting Alessandro Oltramari and learning about the semantic work going on at Bosch.

Great to finally meet Vinh Nguyen. Her PhD was on Contextualized Knowledge Graphs (I should take a look at her PhD dissertation) and she is now organizing an ISWC 2018 workshop on this topic.

Happy Birthday Craig Knoblock!! He gave a fantastic keynote on his birthday!

Glad to have bumped into Ora Lassila. It’s been a long time!!

Future research directions

Take aways from the Meeting

This is an event that was missing in the U.S. I’m glad that it was organized (Fantastic job Pascal and Krzysztof!). Looking forward to this event next year!

My Most Memorable Event of 2017

I travelled a lot in 2017. The most I have ever traveled before. I flew 163,195 miles which is equivalent to 6.6x around Earth. I was on 114 flights. I spent almost 400 hours (~16 days) on a plane. I visited 17 countries: Austria, Argentina, Canada, Chile, Colombia, France, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, India, Mexico, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland, UK, Uruguay. I was in Austin for 164 days (my home), 61 days in Europe, 28 days in Colombia and 16 days in India. I slept 30 nights at a Marriott, 27 nights at an Airbnb and 13 nights on a plane.

Given all this travel, I asked myself: what was my most memorable event of 2017?

The answer was simple: dinner at the Royal Society of London with Bob Kowalski and Keith Clark.

In July, I gave a lecture at the 2017 Reasoning Web Summer School and attended the RuleML+RR 2017 Conference. The conference dinner was at the Royal Society of London. Bob Kowalski gave the dinner speech titled “Logic and AI – The Last 50 Years”. It was the 50th anniversary of when he started his PhD, which gave the rise to logic programming. Additionally, by pure coincidence I sat next to Keith Clark. The combination of sitting next to Keith Clark and listening to Bob Kowalski’s is what made this my most memorable event of 2017


Early during my PhD, my advisor, Dan Miranker, encouraged me to read about the 5th Generation Japanese Project (if you don’t know what this is, go look it up NOW!) During my research, in order to trace back the relationship between Logic and Data, I encountered the landmark 1977 Workshop of Logic and Data Bases organized by Herve Gallaire, Jack Minker and Jean-Marie Nicolas. That workshop is where Ray Reiter presented his paper on Closed World Assumption, Bob Kowalski presented his paper on Logic for Data Description and Keith Clark presented his paper on Negation as Failure. I even have a copy of the proceedings:


Every time I give a talk on this topic, I reference that 1977 workshop to provide historical context of where we are today. See slide 4:

Bob concluded with two open questions:

1) What is the relationship between declarative and imperative representation of knowledge?
2) What is the relationship between different types of rules?

As you can imagine, sitting next to Keith Clark, listening Bob Kowalski’s talk and having the opportunity to chat with them is what made this a truly amazing evening.

With Bob Kowalski
With Keith Clark

What an evening! An evening I will never forget! Thank you Bob and Keith!

Oh, I even saw Alan Turing’s Certificate of a Candidate for Election into the Royal Society.


Mind blown!

A Weekend in Antigua, Guatemala

In May 2017, Escape ATX shared a deal for Austin to Guatemala for $300! I immediately jumped on it. Last weekend I visited Guatemala, specifically Antigua. This small town used to be the capital of the Kingdom of Guatemala (which included most of Central America) in the 1700s and is now UNESCO World Heritage Site. After the peace was signed in the mid 90s, Antigua started to boom with a lot of tourist but continued to maintain it’s small town appeal.

For me, the best way to summarize Antigua is the following: imagine a typical pueblo in Latin America (in Colombia think Villa de Leyva o Salento) mixed with the cosmopolitan vibe of Austin. Cobble stone roads, colonial style housing, park in the middle of the town with the cathedral in front, with high end luxury restaurants, bars with pub food, local craft beer, hole in the wall bars.

I observed three types of foreigners:
1) tourists
2) short term: foreigners coming for volunteering or “figuring what I want to do with life” who come for months and may end up staying for a year or two
3) resident immigrants: foreigners who have been living in Antigua for many years and are owners of a bar or restaurant

Antigua is a bubble within Guatemala. It is not cheap (same prices as in Austin). But it has a charm, a “no sé que” that wants me to come back. I can see myself going back and working from Antigua for a week or two (who would be interested?)

These are some of the places that I visited which I recommend:

Chermol: Argentinean restaurant. Wide variety of local craft beers

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The Snug: Small irish pub with live music

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Panza Verde: high end restaurant, romantic ambiance. All the food was delicious.

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Cafe No Se: The famous Cafe No Se. It’s been featured in NY Time’s “What to do in 36 hours in Antigua Guatemala”. It’s a hole in the wall, mostly full of foreigners. In the back they have the a mescal bar where they only serve Illegal mescal and beer. Music is blues/soul which reminds me of Thursday night at Barberella in Austin

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Caoba Farms: an organic farm where they have a farmers market every Saturday with local cusine. During my visit they had an Oktoberfest

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Cantina Royal: cool bar

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Saberico: Eat in a beautiful garden. Breakfast was delicious.

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Whiskey Den: Whisky, why not? There are a bunch of other bars next to this one.

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Angie Angie: awesome pizza! Live music. Outside patio is relaxing. On Sunday Pizza is 2×1.

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