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!

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Can a nekton drive?

Can you swim?
Are you insulted if I call you a "nekton"?
Well, I hope the answer is "yes" to the first question. And if you read on, then maybe the answer is "no" to the second.

Nekton refers to all the swimming organisms in a the ocean. These are able to move independently of currents of water, as opposed to plankton that just float along. So I hope that you and I both belong to that first category - I for sure can swim.

But what has this to do with driving? Well drive can be many things. In this context it refers to the apparatus that modulate electrical current to run ship propellers via electrical engines, so called variable frequency drives. A few years back I became aware that actually a large number of modern vessels use electricity to drive their propellers. This creates flexibility compared to running the propellers on the shafts of (e.g.) diesel engines, and more recently it interfaces nicely with rapidly developing energy storage technologies (like batteries).

Last week the company I work for launched a new low voltage variable speed drive for marine applications, like supply ships in the oil industry. And this new product is called "NektonDrive" (press release in Norwegian). This is a change from the typical names they operate with, like 800xA, ACS6000, PMS, and so on.

So why this sudden use of a name that can be pronounced? Well, as the product's project manager told me (my translation):

"It is a fantastic connection with what we are doing,
and many wonder how we found that name"

And what has this got to do with me, you may ask? Well, the name is the result of a naming competition. And who won? Well I did!

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Urban development of my local community

My local municipality is struggling with getting the population to accept that the future needs to be planned. Population growth in general, and our closeness to Oslo in particular bears promise that we will be a popular place to live - if we succeed at combining the demands of urban living with good services like public transport and schools.

Years ago I came across a map from 1914 over the area, called "Fet - rektangel 15C" in mappese. The image on the right shows the place where I live, with surroundings. Already a hundred years ago the area was industrialized, but now the major employer is a shopping center. An up-to-date birds view is available in Google Maps, while the Norwegian Mapping Authority has a 1883 version of "Fet - rektangel 15C" here.
The black lines in the map are railroad tracks, and the local industry even produced railroad cars and locomotives. So rail is deeply rooted in the local culture, but should that keep us from getting better solutions?

So what will this area look like in the future - will the development be linear or exponential? One question I find interesting is whether the railway will continue to be the backbone of local transport or whether Bus Rapid Transit will take over. In my opinion rail is OK for people living along the line, but once you live some distance away the hassle of getting to and from the train benefits the use of cars. And that may not be future proof. As I understand, the local transport authority is replacing a system of direct bus lines with using buses to feed passengers to the trains. And it doesn't work too good. Maybe it would be better to use the area set aside for tracks for a BRT system. If this works for growing economies in the New World, then it could work for us as well.

Whether buses or trains make the needs for transport scale into the future remains to be seen. But the future also requires homes for the growing population. That is a more sensitive topic for the community. A significant number of people live in their own houses, with a garage and a garden. This needs a lot of space and makes it difficult for everybody to be close to transportation services. So the politicians want to build high rise buildings for more efficient housing. But the people don't like the prospect of having their view polluted by human constructs. So suddenly the politicians turned around, maybe because we are having a local election later this year!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Internet of Things on the High Seas

In the beginning of March I travelled to Gibraltar to board a LNG tanker. My task was installation of temperature sensors in the engine room so that key parameters could be monitored remotely, via satellite link wherever the ship is sailing.

A LNG tanker is a tanker for Liquid Natural Gas, the fossil fuel of the future. Not only is LNG a key ingredient in industrial processes and an important energy source - new regulations are also helping LNG becoming an important fuel for ships in order to reduce the pollution profile of international shipping.

On a LNG tanker the cargo is also used as fuel for propulsion. Although the cargo is kept liquid at the boiling point of the gas (-161 degrees Celsius), there is always some liquid that turns into gas, and this gas is used for energy production. The alternative could be to have separate fuel and use energy to convert the gas back to liquid, but that is both more complicated and more expensive.

Anyway, the development of LNG based propulsion in general and LNG tankers in particular is eager to understand how the energy in the gas is converted to useful work or wasted as heat. Traditional installation of temperature sensors rely on electrical wring. This can be both costly and time consuming. Therefore wireless technology can be very interesting, but a wireless sensor network can meet significant technical challenges deep inside a metal ship.

But the installation was successful - everything worked (and works) fine. In addition to making the temperatures available remotely, the information is also available in the vessel’s control room. This way it will no longer be needed for a member of the crew to walk around to take readings at each sensor.

The "Internet of Things" (IoT) is a popular technology topic nowadays. Many hobbyists are experimenting with instrumenting their homes, semiconductor companies are developing new and better components, and traditional industry are joining the IoT bandwagon. Compared to the popular image of IoT the size of the sensor and the transmitter in the picture may seem bulky. But this equipment is meant for an industrialized environment with high temperatures and vibration, so good packaging certainly seems to be a good idea!

Monday, April 13, 2015

The Drywood picture

Last year we changed the color of our house. Originally it was painted red with yellow frames around windows etc. But last year we concluded that we were ready for a change.

Part of the story has been covered already, but there is more! Because the Norwegian representative for the Dutch Drywood paint arranged a photo competition. They asked their customers to submit pictures of their use of Drywood paint, and the winner would receive a stay at a spa resort for two.

I felt that we deserved to win so I submitted the picture on the right. It shows my wife standing on stacks of empty paint cans while pretending to paint. Compared with the other entries I saw I felt pretty confident, but in a show of strength I added a Limerick:
Byggfruen vil gjerne på spa
Hun sier til utførende da
Du får stable opp spann
Så jeg male litt kan
Slik at jeg æren kan ta

Google Translate fails at making a good translation. Norwegian words like "byggfruen" and "utførende" combined with rhyme is not trivial.

Of course we won, and she invited her sister along. This was during the schools' autumn break, so I won quality time with the kids.