Thursday, November 24, 2016

I'm a Winner

For six weeks I have participated in a program for launching new startups organized by ProblemSolvers. This was a 6-week program where I and 13 other participants generated and evaluated business ideas using Lean methodologies. Working full time we were learning by doing, hopefully "doing the right thing" and getting used to discard ideas easily before investing too much in them.

Me and my colleagues Tito, Mats and Martin.
In the end teams were formed that should pitch one of their ideas for a panel from the Oslo startup scene. Our project was a solution for employing fractional financing techniques in the electrical power market. This market in Norway will soon be exposed to automatic metering that may lead to prices for electricity varying from hour to hour, or even oftener. The price for electricity will reflect the demand at any point in time, so that consumers loose predictability of their electricity bill.

Anyway, we ended up winning the pitching competition. The judges in the panel found our presentation to be the most promising in terms of succeeding. So the plan is to toil on, initially in offices sponsored by Tøyen Startup Village.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

From joy to despair on 28 March 1954

Can you see the plane in the picture? It is a Royal Norwegian Air Force Catalina about to drop mail for Hopen Radio meteorological station on Sunday 28 March 1954. My father took this picture. As far as I can remember from reading his diary they had been waiting for this mail drop for a long time. Bad weather had delayed the flight, and it would never return. The fact is that the plane crashed later on its round to Norwegian outposts in the Arctic. You can read more about the disaster in Wikipedia´s article called 1954 Bjørnøya Consolidated PBY Catalina crash. Eight people died and one survived.   

I found the picture in a photo album back in 2006 or so when I gave a presentation at my kids´ school. Parents were challenged to come to tell about the world outside school. My angle was weather forecasting, and I based my presentation around my father´s photos. If you are versed in Norwegian or just want to see more pictures from 1953-1954, then you can find my presentation here.    

It is hard to imagine how the joy of the arrival of mail was replaced with despair once the plane went missing. 

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Poor man's smart mirror

By covering a computer display with a mirror foil or a two way mirror you can make a smart mirror - a mirror where you can both look at yourself and get an update from the attached computer. This is typically used to give updates on weather, news, calendar and so on. I have wanted to have one for some time, but the obvious location in the main bathroom has a mirror that is glued to the wall.

Since I am not about to remodel the bathroom or move to a new one, I thought I should look into other ways of achieving a similar effect, while leaving the mirror unharmed. My solution was to combine a unused 4:3 Dell display and a Raspberry Pi single-board computer, and place this so that I could see the computer display's mirror image when I stood in front of the regular mirror.

The application I tried was Michael Teeuw's Magic Mirror. It turned out that my myopia meant that I needed big letters to be able to read easily via the mirror, so some playing around with the configuration was needed. And of course I needed to force the computer to render a mirrored image on the display. The Raspberry Pi can do that, although not as easily as one could hope!

The result is shown in the image on the right. Due partly to WAF the installation did not become permanent. But I am intrigued by the prospect of adding some software for facial recognition and make the display switch dynamically between the mirrored and the normal display, depending on which way the viewer is looking. But since the Rapberry Pi needs a reboot to switch display configuration, I will need computer that implements the RandR protocol to do this.

Actually, there are a number of features that can be designed around such a platform, and an important angle is so called welfare technology - technology that is aimed at helping for example elderly stay at home instead of being taken into care. When I get older I expect that such solutions can help me take my medication, monitor my physical fitness, remind me about appointments and so on.   

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Christmas innovation

In my previous post I showed my attempt to create Cowberry Leather. Although my wife and kids had limited enthusiasm to share, I at least liked it myself! As Christmas approached I thought I should try to make an alternative to the chocolates with cowberry filling that I made before.

So I lined moulds with strips of cowberry leather and filled the centers with chocolate. The result can be seen in the picture on the right. So instead of a hard surface with soft cowberry filling I got a hard core with a thin semisoft outside.

I feared that they were less agreeable than their predecessors, but that didn't turn out to be a problem. So what to do next year? Will I make both alternatives? These new ones were less complicated and less impressive. Does that matter, or...?

Monday, November 9, 2015

Cowberry leather - not suitable for shoes

Some time back I stumbled across this article (in Norwegian) about dried fruit in a leather like appearance, so called fruit leather.This was something I had never heard about before. Since I have more than enough cowberries in the freezer I decided to give it a try.

So I produced the sheet shown in this picture. My family did their minimal tasting, but there was little enthusiasm. So I guess this is (yet) another thing that I can enjoy alone!

Cowberries are not very sweet, and I did not add anything - just cowberries. So the taste can be a bit overwhelming. Maybe a future batch will have some sweetener added, for example some of my stevia.

But I am looking for an application. Christmas is approaching and once again I am expected to make my own sweets. Maybe I can make containers of cowberry leather and fill them with chocolate. Almost like turning my previous cowberry chocolates inside out. We'll see!

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Trout sleeping in small stream

Last week was fall break for the local schools. So we were invited to a cabin in the mountains east of Gol, a small hour's walk from the nearest road. Our hosts bought the property about a year ago - two small lakes for trout fishing, a small stream connecting the two, and a primitive cabin between. Charming, candle lights could easily be the main source of light - definitely off-grid.

Before turning in the first night I went out to brush my teeth in the stream. Since it was dark I wore a headlamp, and lo and behold - a small trout was sleeping (do they sleep?). If not, then it thought it was safe since it had managed to hide its head!

Earlier, before it got dark, we had witnessed fish swimming back and forth, possibly because we scared them. Alternatively, it was part of the mating. Actually, the Norwegian Wikipedia's entry on ørret says that the name indicates that they swim quickly back and forth over the bed of streams in the mating season.

I produced my mobile and took the picture on the right. The tail of the fish starts near the middle of the picture, with the head under the stone on the top right. Back in the cabin I showed it to the others, and my hosts had never seen this before. So out they went to see for them selves. They even saw that trout have eyes that light up when illuminated by LED-light. It wouldn't be fair to pick them in their sleep. So instead my wife managed to catch two the next day - 470 and 360 grams. Enough for a taste for all of us. We had brought a small smoker as a gift to our hosts, and nothing tastes like smoked trout out in the great outdoors!

Monday, June 22, 2015

I have flowers, nuts next

Back in 2011 I bought two walnut trees. I planted one in my garden and one at my cabin in the forest. So every spring since I have been looking for flowers, hoping to get nuts. Earlier this spring I decided that I was disappointed once again - no flowers in sight.

But last Friday, I just accidentally passed by the tree in the garden. Hey - what is that?
As you can see I have flowers. And under each there is a small hairy ball, I think those are the nuts I have been waiting for.

Exciting, isn't it? I guess there are less than 10 in total. Will they all develop? Are there any competitors out there that understand what they are?

And what about the tree at the cabin? I haven't been there for a while. I had to move the tree last year because it didn't like its neighborhood. It is smaller than the garden variety. Does it have flowers as well? Stay tuned and learn more about Captain Cowberry's Walnut plantations!