Friday, December 30, 2011

For improved spreadability ...

Maybe you heard about the shortage of butter in Norway before Christmas. Well, it certainly isn't over, although occasional appearances of the product has been reported. When I went shopping for groceries about a week ago I found that my store had both a small supply from our national cartel and some Irish butter. The latter one was more expensive, so what do you think I did?

Well, I bought the product from our friends in the Atlantic to voice my desire to do away with the trade barriers that Norwegian consumers are subject to.

We actually have traces of competition in the dairy market in Norway, but foreign material is treated as a national threat. The big "cartel" has been handling regulation of the butter market while being the single significant supplier. That is not good!

But I like to think that competition is good, although I am not seeking eradication of the farming sector in Norway.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Einstein in Geneva

I went to Geneva last week, and I found Einstein looking out of a window in the gable wall of a house.

When I looked closer I realized that the wall was solid and made from prefabricated elements. So Einstein was just a painting on the wall.

There is more on the wall, so if you are ever in Geneva I suggest you go to Chemin Edouard-Sarasin and taker a look at the gable wall.

Whoever paid for this really appreciates their neigborhood.

FLL competition @ Kjeller

Last Saturday the local final in the First Lego League was arranged at Akershus University College. My youngest was part of the Team Kebabgeeks that got the fifth place out of ten competing groups. And they were nominated for the prize for best presentation.

The picture shows a panorama of one of the robot challenges, with my team in red. As the competition developed they got really excited, and contrary to my expectation they expressed the desire to participate next year as well. Whether they do or not, I think they have got an experience they will remember the rest of their lives, and maybe influence the path they take later in life.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

OSL - a disgusting airport

On Monday I travelled to Germany via Oslo Airport Gardermoen (OSL). Early in the morning I had some time to waste before my flight, so I walked around window shopping. One of the shops there is an electronics shop, and just outside the shop someone had been sick and vomitted on the floor. The weird thing was that nothing was done about the vomit on the floor except putting up a barely readable note to warn people passing by (the footstool came later).

From the angle I approached the store I nearly didn't see the notice, and I saw at least one other person loosing their footing on the wet floor. As far as I could see the person managed to stay on her feet, but ruining her clothes and possible physical injury was close. So why wasn't any attempt done to dry up the vomit from the floor.

I approached some staff at another shop nearby, and they told me they had offered the staff at the electronics shop to call the cleaning department. But this offer was rejected. When I expressed my concern to them, they made the call anyway. But nothing happend. From the first time I consulted my clock the first time to the last time I was within range of the vomit, more than 20 minutes passed without anything happening.

I like to think that if I were working in the electronics shop I would have started drying up myself - wouldn't any responsible person do that? I would claim that both the guys at the electronics shop and the resources responsible for keeping the airport clean have demonstrated that they should find something else to do.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Rise of the East

I have just attended Norwegian Institute of International Affairs' seminar on "The Rise of the East". My prime reason was to see Hans Rosling, the father of entertaining statistics, sharing his insight.
Of course, the overall topic of how Norway and rising populations in Asia can interact was interesting as well.

My work with traceability brought me to south east Asia in 2007-2008, but the later financial downturn made TraceTracker pull out from that market. Now there are signs that things are picking up again.

Part of the topic for today's seminar was the population growth, where, according to Hans Rosling's analysis, the "old world" will be left with 1.5 of the projected 10 billion people. In such a context, the need for traceability on food products may become a neccessity - we can no longer throw away food to be on the safe side when food scares occur. Instead we must use traceability to know exactly what is affected, so that surgical recalls can be performed.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Sarajevo this evening

Look at this picture. It shows one of the many cemeteries after the siege of Sarajevo. Seeing how the cemeteries have replaced parks and sports facilities in the urban landscape is a testament to the suffering of Sarajevo.
But we humans don't change. We may think we are civilized and that law and order rules. We are so wrong! The idea that a group of people can claim land where others live still lives on. The German ideas of lebensraum and übermensch have been inherited by disgusting regimes in Asia Minor, the Holy Land, former Yugoslavia, and so on. A common factor seems to be that some old story justifies sionists', serbs and others claim to land that is inhabited by others. If they were in their right, then native americans could claim the Americas, the sami people could claim Scandinavia, and Scandinavians could claim the Hunnic empire. But that wouldn't make the world a better place, would it. So why does the international community allow this mentality to live on?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Applications of EPICS in food supply chain management

I'm presenting at the workshop Applications of EPICS in food supply chain management in Oslo 16. November. This workshop is based around the work done by SINTEF Fisheries and Aquaculture, Matis and TraceTracker (where I work) in the eTrace project. I hope to see you there if you are interested in the use of EPCIS for applications like traceability, sustainability, logistics optimization and supply chain management!

Monday, October 17, 2011

TraceTracker Data Uploader and the 5 step model

Earlier this week I had a customer in central Europe wanting a canned version of a product demonstration I just gave them. Well, the raw material proved too large to be distributed in email, so I ran it through Windows Movie Maker before uploading it to my YouTube account. I guess I should have used the TraceTracker account, but I forgot. Anyway, according to rumors it was a great success.
If you need a manual way to upload traceability information to the Global Traceability Network you can take a look yourself here.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Even smaller

Did you read about the juvenile lizard? Well, during this year's autumn break we found an even smaller one, see picture.
We were four dads and six boys in the mountains west of Eggedal. We rented a nice cabin with all modern facilities, including a sauna. During the days we went walking in the mountains and the nearby Trillemarka nature reserve. On one of our tripe we found the small lizard in the photo. I have not seen such a small specimen before. Although we had nice weather, it was cold. I would have thought such a creature should have entered hibernation much earlier. But no, some of the boys used their young eyes and discovered it. How lucky we were!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Salami and tomato on lego

This year's topic for First Lego League is "food factor". This means that the participants shall study food quality issues, find ways to improve it, build lego robots to solve tasks etc. And my youngest kid has drafted me to help his team!

The different tasks in the challenge have not been distributed among the participants yet, but it feels like an adventure. At home we started by locating his brother's Lego Mindstorm set, so that we can practice at home. I even took some parts and build myself a salami and tomato on lego. What a treat!

Part of the challenge is to find some candidate food products for further study. I had hoped to find some fish products that carry information about the catch, the vessel and so on, but that proved more difficult than expected. I found one processed product from Domstein, but it contained too many ingredients compared to the limit in the challenge.

It remains to be seen where the project develops, but I hope for a memorable learning experience for the kids.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

My favorite meeting facilities

Occasionally I experience things that I really like. This time I have discovered my favorite facility for meetings. A bit impractical as it lies in Germany while my work is based out of Norway. However, I am willing to travel when invited!

The building pictured on the right lies in Ludwigshafen in Germany. It is referred to as Gesellschaftshaus, which means something like "party house", but these days it is also used to house business meetings. Not only are the meeting rooms agreeable and well furnished. There is also a restaurant there where one can have both lunch and dinner served. And the food is very good.

Last week I enjoyed a meeting there for the second time. Travelling down on the 24. August was a bit difficult, as a storm closed down Frankfurt airport before I was scheduled to land and my train to Mannheim was delayed.
But the meeting, lunch and dinner the next day at the Gesellschaftshaus was a pleasure!

Earlier visits to Ludwigshafen have been alluded to here and here. At least!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Agro based clusters and traceability

With the recent ecoli incidents in Europe I suspect it may get even worse for farmers in developing countries to sell their products. German authorities are now certain that it was locally grown products that were to blame, but the average consumer may have become more conscious that it matters where foodstuff comes from.

So what should growers of fruit and vegetables in developing countries do to secure market access?

Last weekend I read a FAO report on Agro based clusters in developing countries. I have become involved in the design of such a cluster, with focus on using electronic traceability for creating product documentation. This solution is intended to support the cluster in creating market advantages through the use of modern export and sales support technologies. But can this also be used to make the end consumer trust the products?

A pilot in the eTrace project had success with using traceability information in the dialog with consumers at the point of sale. According to the fish monger “Instead of selling just a few kilos a day, I sold more than 150 kilos over 4 days. This is a very significant increase for us.”

Can similar effects be expected if flowers, fruit and vegetables from developing countries are equipped with traceability information? And how should it be done, by printing the information on the packaging or by providing links to online solutions like this (in Norwegian)?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

A small friend

A couple of days ago I moved this young leaf warbler out of the way. It sat on the ground and our cat was in the immediate vicinity! I think he knew about the target, but he stayed at some distance to keep us humans from discovering what was going on.
Well, I moved this little friend over to my neighbours berberis bushes, where it happily jumped into safety.

Those bushes are the stronghold of the birds in the area - there is always activity and a lot of sound. So again the cat was deprived of having fun.

Saturday, June 4, 2011


Den norske turistforening opened a new cabin not far from where I live last Sunday. So three dads and six boys went on tour from Thursday to Friday.

The terrain turned out to be tougher than we expected. But we should have known, because that part of the forest is known for its hills and unevenness.

But we made it to Bøvelstad where we had a wonderful evening and a very good sleep, before we headed back home.

This picture shows the group (minus me) as we are about to get back to the cars. We were worn out, but everybody agreed it had been a nice excursion.

I am the walnuts, goo goo g'joob

I have bought two walnut trees. I didn't think they were available in cold Norway, but I stumbled across an enthusiast that had some to spare. So I planted one at home and one in the forest at my cabin.

The one in this picture is the one in my garden. There I already have hazelnuts, so if the trees start producing walnuts I can dream of supplying the household with varieties of nuts.

Last winter we had long periods as low as -20 celsius. The producer of these trees claim that his trees can stand this type of temperature, and colder. He lives not far from where my cabin is, and the climate there is colder than at my house. So I hope that the one in the forest will thrive. I planted it near a small pond that will keep it with water.

I will have to wait some years before they start carrying fruit, but to be on the safe side I will contribute to global warming in the meantime to help the trees' survival!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Want orders? Then bake cake!

Yesterday, 17. May, was Norway's National Day. Where I was we were blessed with nice weather, and then it is not uncommon to have some cake. This time I tried an alternative to the traditional sponge cake.

Based on a almond sponge, coffee cream, vanilla cream, berries and some other good stuff I "mashed up" this special 17. May cake.

The overall idea was to make something to remind us of our flag. Red raspberries, white cream and blueberries covering the almond sponge with coffee cream ++.

But then there are the risks. Someone might like it so well that they want their own. So also this time - I got an order. Maybe not so surprising really - it was a returning customer.

But it makes me feel like I am pretty good at making cakes when my mother-in-law places yet another order.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Vipukirves, the magic axe

For my birthday I got a Vipukirves axe, which is specially designed for chopping firewood. In my role as gentleman farmer I try to keep my household with firewood. Sometimes chopping is required, and an axe is an obvious tool.

However, the Vipukirves changes the process of chopping wood entirely, especially for wide segments of logs.

Consider the first picture - it shows the unique profile of this axe, and a promising firewod candidate. Also shown is a "belt" around the candidate. I used the inner tube from a bicycle tire, but I suspect that a car tire would have been better. At least, that is what is often used in instructional films on Youtube.
Anyway, the purpose of the "belt" is to keep pieces from escaping and keep the workpiece on the base during chopping. Even with a regular axe, the chopping process has a tendency to eject the log pieces in different directions so that they fall off the base. With the Vipukirves the smaller piece can be thrown away quite violently. Therefore the belt, so that the workpiece remains on the base and you do not have to traverse the entire yard to gather the chopped firewood.

So what about the result? Well, this next picture shows the same log segment after being chopped. As you can see the pieces are more rectangular than the usual circle segments an ordinary axe would produce. The belt has kept the pieces in place so that they can easily be moved to a stack for drying.

This was my first experience with the Vipukirves, and I am not fully trained yet. I still had to use my hydraulic splitter for log segments with many branches. But the new axe is definitely a useful tool. I must be on the lookout for a used car tire though. The "belt" I used did not work as well as a wider tire would.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Google selects Arduino for Android Open Accessory

Stop press! Google's initiative for using the Android platform for controlling your environment, Android Open Accessory, has selected Arduino as its platform.

Think of the possibilities - the Arduino is so simple to play with that we can expect "everybody" to play with this. I even have one myself.
My Arduino Duemilanove
With this I can play with simple instrumentation projects and easily interface the real world with applications written in Processing. And now I can also start controlling Arduinos and whatever is connected from my Android devices. Hurray!

But will I find the time? Back in the early eighties I did instrumentation projects with Z80 and similar processors. It was such fun! If my employer practiced the Google concept for employees time to own projects, then I definitely know what I would be doing!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

BASF rattleback pen

Do you know what a rattleback is?
Well, once I bought a piece of plastic made to have that type of behaviour. Nowadays I can't find it, but yesterday I discovered a everyday device that has the same behaviour.
I happen to have a ballpoint pen made by Schneider in Germany for BASF. And this pen has the behaviour of a rattleback. That means that if it is spun in the "wrong" direction, it will stop and reverse its spin to the preferred direction.
Just look at my short footage of the phenomenon:

I will not try to explaing what happens, but the Internet is full of material if you look for it. On the other hand some questions appear, like;
  • Is Schneider aware of this ?
  • Was this behaviour specified by BASF?
  • Or am I the first to observe this?

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Present in the pixels

The eTrace project is over. Just before Easter the project had its final meeting in Gothenburg. The plan was that I should be there presenting How can EPCIS provide faster and more efficient traceability operations and increase the ability to perform precise and reliable recalls in case of food scares. But alas, I had to attend a meeting in the US instead.

But to my surprise I was present in the pixels, as one of the presentations included a picture from a meal we had during that particular pilot in Simrishamn in May last year. And it is me in the picture, using my phone. And the meal was excellent!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Firewood secured!

Last winter was cold, and our consumption of firewood was greater than usual. So we made repeated trips to our forest to get more firewood. Collecting firewood is a kind of slave work for a office worker like myself. It is nice for a change, but I am happy I don't have to do it all year round. On the other hand, if I did it on a more reguar basis I probably wouldn't be so totally exhausted afterwards.

Anyway, last Saturday I was off again to convert logs to suitable sized firewood. To contain the firewood while it dries I made a cylinder from a mesh for concrete reinforcement - "armeringsnett" as it is called in Norwegian. I fear that this is not enough to keep us through the next winter. Luckily, we haven't exhausted our older supplies yet, and we have large resources of live trees.

To split the wood I wanted to get me a new block ("huggestabbe" as it is called in Norwegian), and a big pine that was felled just before Christmas had already been split into suitable pieces.

So when I went down to get it I found this timberman. The antennas were at least 7cm long! Being where a pine was lying on the ground it probably was busy seeking out the females!

To add to my hard labour I had to move the hoggestabbe back to our cabin. The wheelbarrow proved to be too unstable with me at the handles. So I had to roll the thing around 100 meters uphill. For the first time I have a hoggestabbe that matches my height - lucky me!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

See you later, calculator

The abacus and the slide rule have both been replaced by new technology. When I went to school electronic calculators with scientific notation were becomming available. These days, in Norway, kids are at some point expected to have graphing calculator, but isn't this an anachronism?

With desktop and laptop computers have we have access to tools like Matlab, Mathematica, Macsyma and Gnu Octave. And schools are beginning to use tablet computers. Isn't the natural consequence that calculators go away, and that tablet computers take over the role of both the standard computer and the calculator. Maybe the concept of the Dynabook is eventually becomming a reality?

Currently, the rules in the Norwegian educational system rules out tablets, but there is time for a change, don't you think?

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Xoom in

It is raining outside, and I am alone with my Xoom.

So I am entering the era of tablets. I have considered replacing my aging Magic with a mobile with a bigger screen. But now that I have the Xoom, do I really need a bulky phone in my pocket?

Can I not just get a smaller mobile for the phoning, and use it as a tethering device to provide the tablet with internet access when I need it!? I guess I will look into this before I commit to a bigger phone in my pocket.

Of course I went for the WiFi only version. The price was however a bit stiff, but then it would be even worse if I had bought it at home. Then again, according to rumors, the Xoom will not be sold there.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Air, space and museeums

Washington has it all - lots of skies and air, spacious surroundings and loads of museums. They even have a museum for the combination, namely the Air and space museum. I visited the part near Dulles airport today, after seeing my colleague off on his flight.

Anyway, while I was there I discovered that the new fighter plane that Norway has committed to buying is already in the museum, as can be seen in the picture on the right.

Before Norway decided to buy this vaporware there was fierce competition between the JAS, the Eurofighter and the JSF. While the first two are available and in operation, the JSF is still "in the works". But to my knowledge, the two european alternatives have not ended up in museums yet. They are even busy over North Africa these days!

So are the Norwegian authorities aware that they have wasted my tax money on a museum exhibit, or don't they care?

The site I visited is called the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center. It opened in 2003. I remember visiting the original museum in downtown D.C. in 1984, but maybe I should go there again to refresh my memory. I guess they have a lot more exhibits that will be great to see.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

If this is a man

Over the years I have had a fascination for books about Germany's atrocities during the second world war, expressed by authors like Primo Levi and Victor Klemperer, and most recently the book "Who Will Write Our History?" by Samuel Kassow.

But a trip to Vilnius last week allowed me to see the darkest cruelty of man from another perspective.

I visited the so called KGB museum in that city, where they document how any totalitarian ideology is capable of industrializing the killing of people with the wrong sentiments. No wonder Lithuania has sought to the west after being freed from Russian reigns. Names of some of the victims are carved into the foundation of the building, hopefully so that generations after us can stay clear of similar regimes.

If you ever go to Vilnius, then please visit the museum. For this is not something that should be forgotten, whether it happened in the past by Germans or Russians, or it takes place today in totalitarian regimes supplying our lifestyle with oil, the last dictatorship in Europe, or any other regime that does not admit its population basic human rights.

And the most scaring part of it all - regular people like myself (and maybe you) can become like the devils in the dungeons under the wrong circumstances. History tells us so...

Saturday, March 12, 2011

There may be hope for math education

This guy is awsome. My oldest son and I attended Scott Flansburg's show at Smuget in Oslo this evening. I do not know if my son was comming voluntarily, but after the show he was enthusiastic about trying it all out.
But what would the teachers say? His fear was that they would not appreciate the alternative techniques. I think that is part of the challenge with the Norwegian schooling system - teachers are trained to be able to teach everything without being specialized in anything. So they have one approach (hopefully) to how things should be done, and anything else should be corrected.

Scott told the audience that he had had discussions with the Norwegian Ministry of Education and Research. Schooling may be a key agenda point in future elections, and I wish more people than me were willing to look for other political forces to put right the sorry state of our education system. And if we ended up with celebrating good theoretical achievements in addition to those of athletes, then we may be better prepared.

In the picture of the flyer you can see that the ministry is one of the sponsors of the event (lower right corner). But I stumbled across it by accident, so I suspect that the ministry actually does not want this kind of attention.

By the way, here is Google translated coverage of OECD's advice on how the Norwegian schooling system should be improved.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Paper tape programming tool

We all know how programming is done these days. But it has not always been so. I was first exposed to programming (BASIC) on a Tandberg desktop computer in 1979 (I think), but even then the screen and keyboard combination was a fact.

Was there anything before that? Well certainly - there were paper tape and punched cards. I have never used such technology myself, but I have the device in the picture in my posession. It consists of some pieces of aluminium that have been machined to work as a primitive programming/repair tool for paper tape. The actual holes were made with a broken off screwdriver in the lower right.
This device was a write-only tool on its own. But I guess anyone using it would also have a suitable reader as well.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Lunch in the land of additives

This was my lunch yesterday.

Yet again I was consulting in Ludwigshafen. With its main industry there I guess it may be referred to as the land of additives, although the range of chemicals produced covers much more than just additives to food and feed.

Looking at the food on my tray I have the feeling that additives were not playing a big role. In fact, I think I should be able to copy the dishes myself from natural sources and spices. The meal was very tasty, and it refuelled us so that we could continue our work efficiently.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Kefir, orange and tomato

I am a great fan of Kefir, on its own or mixed with orange juice. This last combination became drinkable for my kids when I started referring to it as "sjørøvermelk", that is "pirate milk". I mix it half and half, and these days other kids from the neigborhood may be observed in our house enjoying this refreshing drink.

Well, earlier this month I had the pleasure of visiting one of the Portoguese processors of tomato. Their product may be a key ingredient in the ketchup you use, and it may also result in tomato juice. Anyway, I was told that mixing tomato and orange juice also was a nice drink. So I had to try.

The picture shows these two drinks. Many people may not like the thought of these combinations, but I am willing to experiment from time to time. And sure, mixing tomato and orange juice is definitely an alternative when you want to surprise friends at a summer breakfast.

And of course, freshly pressed juice is far better than cartooned. But that is something to look forward to when I am really in for a treat!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

The color of PI

Last Saturday I had the fortune to visit the new home of the Department of Informatics @ University of Oslo, as my oldest son was attending a programming course organized by Forskerfabrikken.

Forskerfabrikken is a private initiative to remedy the deficiencies in science education in the public schooling system in Norway. Both my kids have benefited from this initiative, and eventually my oldest accepted to attend a programming course together with a classmate. He considers both myself and his mother to be nerds as we are trained in programming, but with the course he is at least getting a taste of this tool that has the potential of changing the way kids think, if only they get the chance.

So what about this picture. Well, it's me in the foreground and a piece of art by Beret Aksnes in the background. This decorative element shows PI with each digit represented by one of ten colors.

A very successful combination of art and science in my mind.

And I got to see the inside of this new building. It is scheduled to be handed over to the university after the summer, 13 years after I left my job as associate professor there. When we moved into the then new, neighboring building in 1988 it quickly turned out to be crowded. Apparently it takes close to forever to build public building in Norway. But now it is there - I have had a sneak preview - and I am happy on the department's behalf.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

This evening I went to see Baby Universe - a puppet odyssey at Chateau Neuf.

The show is part of the celebration of the 200th anniversary of the University of Oslo. As a past employee I jumped on the offer for free tickets, and brought my family there for this extraordinary experience.

Seeing the life sized dolls being operated by people trying to blend into the background was fascinating. And the way they managed the changing scale of the baby universe relative to the other celestial bodies - very well done.

The performance was introduced by Stepen Hawking dressed as a puppet (or was it the other way around?), and the puppet moon looked like Rowan Atkinson to me.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Above ground air-raid shelter

Have you ever thought? In these modern times, when it is more or less accepted that an air-raid shelter is a likely target and likely death trap, you can still come accross German air-raid shelters built on the surface.
I took the picture in Ludwigshafen last week, as the car I was riding in passed this so called Winkelturm. Read more about this in Wikipedia.

I think this particular one may be somebody's home, and if you look closely you can see that it has its own Christmas tree.


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