The happiest two weeks of my life

Here is the result of about two weeks’ worth of work.

The year is 1982 in the autumn and all the kids will spend two weeks working somewhere – school is out, it’s called “arbeidsuke”. We are supposed to gain experience from working somewhere. I have discussed working at the local COOP in Tromsø in the audio/video department. This is where they sell the Technics rack that I crave.

Then at the last moment there is a change. Maybe it was the Italian guy called Alessandro who had joined my class, and who had found a place at the Nordlysobservatoriet. He reeked of garlic most of the time, and I think he had curly hair, and he certainly struggled with Norwegian. Suddenly I found myself at the Nordlysobservatoriet in the electronics lab. 3 or 4 guys worked there, and electronics was my great passion, see Til minne om Stein Torp.

As I recall, already on day one I was allowed to play with creating a digital circuit on a Vero board (the one you see above). The integrated circuit was a four-bit counter, and I made it reset itself when it reached a certain value – 10, for instance. With a carry to a second counter it was beginning to look like a clock. Now it would count to 59, and when it hit 60 it would reset itself. This is achieved by using a few AND-gates to detect the number 60 and use the output to reset the counter. So, the value 60 is present at the outputs for a very short time. Not the most elegant solution, but it works.

What I remember, though, is the excitement of going to work every morning with the anticipation of working on my circuit. Piece by piece I added more counters to make a 24-hour clock. I then added a LED-driver integrated circuit which decodes BCD to a standard LED display, and wired it all together. The white ICs on the left contain 7 resistors used to drive the LED. Now I needed a clock pulse, and this comes from a crystal and a counter or two – the result is a 1 HZ signal. It took trial and error to stabilize the crystal, and if I remember correctly a small capacitor in parallel did the trick, probably shorting a higher harmonic to force the crystal to oscillate at its main frequency, the one stamped on the outside. I used a digital analyzer to inspect all the waveforms. Probably Hewlett Packard.

The final steps where a voltage regulator, a transformer, a bridge rectifier, a smoothing capacitor… the regulator IC was a quite expensive one.
The people in the mechanics lab helped me make a metal chassis, and the whole setup was finished before my two weeks were up. I added two push-to-make switches for setting the time.

One day I could not work on the circuit – we drove to the telescope station deep inside Troms, at Skibotn (see this link). That was quite interesting, but I don’ remember much!

The clock still runs all this years later, but I don’t use it anymore.

Good steaks don’t come along that often

My late sister once said – “think about the number of really good steaks you eat during your lifetime. They can probably be counted on two hands”.

“So when you’ve eaten a steak you can ask yourself: was this a really really good steak?”

“Yes, it was. Unfortunately”

Seeing Zionism at last

From “A land with a people”, Monthly Review Press, 2021.

Tzvia Thier

“I was born in Romania during the Second World War. When I was six. in the wake of the Holocaust, my family immigrated to Israel. There, I grew up in Tel Aviv, spent years in a kibbutz, and was part of a “socialist Zionist” youth movement called HaShomer HaTzair. While serving in the army, I volunteered to teach in the Negev, mainly immigrants from North Africa. I continued as a teacher and a principal until I moved to the United States, where I taught at a Jewish day school and created curricula for Jewish and Zionist organisations. In 1995, I moved back to Israel and lived in Jerusalem. I was a liberal Zionist and felt strongly connected to Israel. I believed that Israel should withdraw from the Occupied Territories and blamed the settlements and the settlers for the occupation. I was against wars, racism and discrimination, and felt that I had good values. I did not know that I lived behind an invisible wall. I did not know how much I did not know.”


(as a child) We had bible studies three to five hours a week in the second through twelfth grades. The Bible was used as a historical document that gave us, the Jewish people, the right to live in the promised land. In other words, a secular society was using a great collection of ancient writings, putting God in the position of real estate agent.

We learned how the Holocaust survivors came to rebuild their lives in Israel. The fact that the Europeans had commited these horrible crimes, yet the indigenous in Palestine were the ones paying for them, did not cross my mind. Arabs were described as primitive cowards who took off their shoes and ran away. Or they were described as cruel people, hosting you nicely, but when you turn to leave, stabbing you in the back. We were told only the Zionist narrative, as expressed in Israeli literature, poetry, songs history and ceremonies. That is, only the Askhenazi Israeli narrative. The expulsion of some 750.000 Palestinians, and over four hundred villages that were razed to the ground and replaced by Jewish towns, villages and kibbutzim, or by JNF forests and parks, were not part of the story. I learned that, in the struggle over Palestine, my enemies were Arabs and the British, I belonged to a particular society, and I knew who I was. It was my identity.

Through most of my life, I did not have any contact with Palestinians, not one friend, acquaintance, or neighbor. The Palestinians were on the dark side of the moon. I never went to Arab towns, definitely not to the West Bank or Gaza (before the blockade). Sometimes, while driving to the north, I would stop at one of the Arab restaurants located along the roads to eat some good Arabic food. I lived in Jerusale, the “united Jerusalem”, where 40 percent are Palestinians (residents, not citizens). I never went to Occupied East Jerusalem. I saw Palestinians cleaning the streets, planting flowers to beautify my city, working on building construction, carrying products in the supermarkets, and washing dishes in the restaurants, but I really did not see them.


(Sheikh Jarrah, 2009): And.. I was afraid. My daugther, Daphna, insisted on going there. I joined her. I had to protect her. Together, we found Sheikh Jarrah. This was the first time in my life – at the age of 65, after living in Israel for 59 years – that I had a conversation with Palestinians! I realized that it was not my daughter who needed protection, but the Palestinians. My journey had begun. Sheikh Jarrah was my doorway to end the fear. I joined the weekly protests on Friday afternoons, where I met Palestinians and Jewish-Israeli activists. It was then that I started my inquiry. I wanted to see, I wanted to know. My first tour was with the left advocacy group Ir Amim, to East Jerusalem. I was shocked. It is a third-world city. In this “united Jerusalem”, the Palestinian neigborhoods don´t look like the Jerusalem in which I lived. We were driving on narrow, bumpy, unpaved roads with no sidewalks. The schools we saw were very poor and inadequately staffed and resourced. There were no playgrounds, and the piled-up garbage was rarely collected.

(the author also joins Machsom Watch, a group that monitors soldiers and police at checkpoints – “the Palestinians are .. processed like a herd of animals” – and visits Hebron: “I felt anger, shame, sadness and pain”.)

It has been hard work to examine my own mind. Many questions leave me wondering how I could have not thought about them before. My solid identity was shaken and then broken. I have been an eyewitness to the systematic oppression, humiliation, racism, cruelty, and hatred by “my people” toward the “others”. And what you finally see, you can no longer unsee.”

Paris revisited 2021

Photos by Asus Zenfone 8.

It was lovely to be there. As so often before. The particular smell of the Metro was filtered out by the face masks, and I missed it. Echoes of Covid 19, together with the need to book museums up front. Though in fact it wasn’t an absolute requirement.

We stayed in an airBnB – actually LivinParis, would’ve been cheaper – in Rue de l’Echiquier, close to Porte St Denis and the Bonne Nouvelle Metro. Up a crumbling staircase with wires hanging out, and inside it was brand new and very comfy for 9 people. The rest of the house inhabitated by ordinary residents.

And the weather was magnifique, and the people of Paris were friendly! Maybe tourist fatigue hadn’t set in yet. I talked to a cop, shopkeepers, security guards, taxi-drivers, waiters, Metro-staff and museum staff in my decent French, and everyone was friendly, patient and forthcoming.

We did the sights, and they delivered. I missed Notre Dame. Sitting in that cathedral it’s easy to feel humble. We will be back.

@Louvre the Victory from Samotrace always talks to me.

Mona Lisa is more of a study in sociology than a study in art; how do humans behave in front of a famous piece of art? The description of the painting, how it came about, that it´ s unfinished, was more interesting! And so was reading about the impressionists at Musée d´Orsay and seeing the contrast with what was then comme il faut – huge paintings of past heroics. Did the impressionists use the camera?

I hadn’t noticed “Camille sur son lit de mort” by Claude Monet before. Look it up on the 5th floor at the M’O. Haunting.

Sacre Coeur. I sat there a rainy December evening many years ago with a Parisian girl who was mourning the recent loss of her grandmother. The aisles were sparsely filled with people past their first youth voicelessly mouthing their prayers. Very different to rushing in and out with the tourist crowds on a sunny October day.

Catacombs. La tour Eiffel. Walking along the Seine, and the hop-on-hop-off bus. Awful coffee. Lovely pain au chocolat and more awful coffee. Great falafel in Le Marais. Mediocre Boeuf Bourgignon in Le Marais – but great wine, again from Burgundy (“Bourgignon”).

I did a short pilgrimage to Parc des Buttes-Chaumont. Talked to a French couple in their early 70-ies and strolled around the small, unusual park. Visitez-le!

The monuments, the avenues, or should I say Boulevards. The stolen art. This is the capital of an Empire, built by Napoleon III and Eugène Haussmann. Napoleon also oversaw a major colonial expansion – Vietnam, Cambodia, and islands in the pacific. How much of Paris´ splendour was financed by this?

Around the corner from our flat, Rue du Faubourg Saint Denis. Streetside cafés, cigarette smoke, beer and beggars. The one who accosts me hardly speaks any French, but great English. He’s from India. The next day in a neat, clean well-stocked small supermarket the lady at the counter hardly speaks any French, but some English. She’s from Colombo, Sri Lanka. “Paris no belle ville”. She longs for Colombo.

I suppose that’s how it’s supposed to be. The ugly and the beautiful side by side. But you got to hand it to the French – when it comes to taking care of the patrimoine culturel, they are up there with the best.

“Paris vaut bien une messe” still rings true.

Ambrogio robotic lawn mower

Some notes on our project to get Ambrogio 15L up and running. We got great assistance from our vendor at Notodden. He always answers your messages. Without him, we would have chosen another maker, like Gardena.

Why Ambrogio? It´s small and can operate in tiny spaces, it´s well built and should be durable. It´s not the cheapest brand around, but it´s used by professional users also. Which should vouch for quality.

If your garden is a rectangle of grass, then count yourself lucky. Otherwise, you will have to modify your garden for the robotic mower to be a success.

cobblestones are about 11×11 cm

Can it tackle a cobbled path or a stone path? Yes. Can it tackle several separate spaces? Yes, but there can only be one perimeter wire, so the spaces must be connected by a single loop of wire. Does it leave a wide margin? No, about 10 cms. Can it handle uneven terrain? Yes, but not so much surfaces that are loose, like bark. Here it can get stuck and dig a hole for itself.

Margin – about 10cms

How does it work?

The perimeter wire probably runs rectified AC, possibly straight DC. DC current runs in one direction meaning the magnetic field has a determined direction, and so Ambrogio knows the difference between clockwise and counterclockwise when it encounters the wire, and can steer accordingly – especially to return home along the wire.

Setting it up

We didn´t buy the garage, but built one out of wood. The model 15 (and probably 20) are a bit tricky to dock properly, and guides of wood on the side are needed to force Ambrogio to dock correctly. Initially it would not always charge. Tried some contact spray and adjusting the guides and now it connects every time.

Home-made garage

Laying down the wire was quite easy, but I would use a tool for burying it if I were to do it again. As it is, it´s held down by plastic pegs every 50cm or so.

Setting up the two separate areas required some talking to the vendor, and it boils down to a 20 cm wide corridor doing the job. Ambrogio can follow (straddle) the wire on one side down this corridor to get from one area to another. In theory, when it´s doing its normal criss-cross cutting it will never hit the 20cm gap and stray from one area to another. In practice this does happen now and then. Making a small bend in the wire at the entrance to the corridor, to make it narrower still at the entrance, might cure this problem.

The corridor: the guide wire is squeezed down, 2 cobblestones apart – invisible here

The knife is 15cm in diameter which sounds and looks tiny, but it works. I have changed the knife after one season, and maybe I´ll manage to sharpen the old one, there is lots of metal left! To change it is very easy.

The robotic mower doesn´t cut the grass by brute force, and hates twigs, wood, rocks and the like: it´s more like a razor than anything else. The lawn must be “perfect”. This also means it´s not fond of tall grass. It´s designed to cut 1-2 cm of incremental growth since last time it passed. Tall grass bends under it and is only partially intercepted by the knife. So if you are away for two weeks and Ambrogio has been stuck under a bush for 13 days, you can´t really set him to work again until you have, er, mowed the lawn!

You also need a tool for cutting the margins of the lawn.

Finally, there is the app. It´s not hyper-intuitive, nor is it bad, and it´s reliable. One thing that I miss is the ability to toggle auto-mode on and off. That has to be done by a physical button.

This leads to the following situation: you program the schedule in the app. You wait for the time to come up. Ambrogio doesn´t budge. After a while you realise you have to push the Auto-button on its top, and then it goes to work…

Nice result

Ambrogio manages this passage the following way: every day when he starts working, he follows the wire a set distance, which ends at the end of this section. Then he starts to work and zig-zags his way back out.

About 60cms wide

Finally, if you have a bush or something, you lay the wire around it and thus Ambrogio avoids it.

Carbonology Boost surfski

Just a brief note following up on Surfski for the newbie: Epic V10L and Carbonology Boost.

About me: 74kgs, 180, with a medium wide behind (). I am cool in a 60cm Citius, fine in a 55cm, alert in a 51cm and will sooner or later go swimming in a 48. Started paddling age 53…

I have had the Boost now for about 6 months, and here are some impressions. I have the 12kg hybrid LV (low volume). This is very easy to handle, thanks to the handles (!), but so light the wind can easily lift it. So do get this version, but don´t leave it in a windy place.

Build quality is good but not “wonderful”, reflecting the price, but everything works well, from footrests to pedals and rudder and bailer.

The cockpit is wide, despite this being LV, and comfortable. I find it easy to get a good working position and get a good leg drive, better than in my V10L. Having said that, I find it hard to get a very upright sitting angle. In a kayak like a Citius, the seat encourages you to sit “ahead” of the somethings in your behind (os ischii, tuber ischiadicum).

The ski measures 50.5 cm, but this feels more like 500 cm. It´s very stable. I have been in the open sea, and no problems, really. Never gone swimming!

Speed: as is well known, no-one is fast if they are not stable (and comfortable). On the flat, the Carbo is almost boring since it´s so stable. With my power and technique I cruise at about 10.5 km/h. In the Epic, it might be 11, that´s how small the difference is. This is on flat water.

In choppy waves, the speed in the Epic V10L will sometimes drop to zero, whereas I can still gun it in the Carbo.

So, it´s a great all-rounder for someone with medium to mediocre ability. If you´re a hero, by all means get a narrower ski.

I have caught a wave or two in it so far, but big time surfing is not where I´m at. It surfs, that much I can say!

I briefly tried a Nelo Viper 46 Ski; that was fun, had lots and lots of secondary stability/final stability (saved my bacon once) and had a narrower cockpit. It´s a playful thing- try it! The price is 50% higher which may be hard to justify.

Agile or just lazy?

When I first came across Agile it was 2007 and I was given a set of reasonably well-defined requirements and a team of developers and a mandate to create an app to solve a problem. Prior to this I was familiar with iterative methods like DSDM that date back to the 1990s, and I had responded to a few large requirements specifications in my role as Key Account. And now I was in new territory, one which I initially interpreted as “more power to the team” (sw developers) and less to the “bureaucrats”. I haven´t really changed my mind.

Agile can be seen as a reaction to the old paradigm of requirements, waterfall, and final testing, with all its cost-overruns and “failed” projects. Agile gives more power to the team, and what we have now is explicitly a running negotiation between the customer and the supplier. This may be a good thing. The realities of software development are what they are – we might as well face them square on, rather than pretend that all will be well if we apply sufficient amounts of old-school professional project management.

So what seems to be the problem? Software is a the same time malleable and rigid. If you apply a little pressure, it yields, and you can often see small changes. But if you apply large pressure to effect large changes, you find that this takes a lot of time and effort. Basic design assumptions permeate the system. A key element, often given little attention, is the information model. Often when we change a “system”, we are actually changing the information model. Moving an attribute up or down in a hierarchy can be extremely costly, because so much logic may depend on it.

The waterfall model was ditched because it is so hard to get the requirements right up front, and because they may change, and because there was too little focus on user involvement during the construction phase. But did we go to the other extreme, and get lazy? The danger in laziness is obvious: construction starts without sufficient probing of the difficult topics; as the project progresses you have to face them, and realize that you started to build the system on foundations or assumptions that turn out to be plain wrong. You have travelled far in the wrong direction.

So when the developer teams says “we don´t know what this will look like in the end so we will start here and refine it as we go along”, my response will be “why don´t you know? How hard have you looked? What effort would it take to improve your understanding before you start designing?”.

As for “agile business” , that looks to me like “retrofitting” or induction from agile as a software development approach. We are told that companies like Adobe and Apple are agile (!)(gimme a break), and Spotify (same app year after year). I find this a sterile discussion, where inevitably “agile” ends up being applied as a label on anything that you want to applaud or promote. Agile ends up a victim of its own success – the other day agile was touted as the means to achieve security in software development (!!). I rest my case.

So by all means, let´s work in 3-week periods and get feedback regularly and learn from each other. But let´s not get lazy. Many problems yield to a bit of determined analysis.

Access control in a medical VNA

Updated January 2022.

How do you make sure only the right personnel can see the medical media content stored in a VNA (Vendor Neutral Archive) – being sure that the access policies are adhered to, without devoting enormous resources to the task?

The answer is simple, but likely to prove unpopular.

Consider first the EPR (EPJ). There are two checkpoints to clear before a document is displayed to any employee with legitimate access to the EPR:
1) Does the employee have a current care relation with the patient (that the document describes)?
2) if yes, does the employee’s access profile include the category of the document in question?
The 2nd step is also crucial. As an example, a physiotherapist can read documents related to the work they carry out, but not the psychiatrist’s assessment, nor other clinical documents. Now, assume an image is added to the VNA relating to an aspect of the patient that’s outside of the legitimate needs of the physiotherapist How do we make sure the image is hidden from the physio? A modern teaching hospital has about 40 different professions, and maybe 100 document categories linked to the professions by access profiles.

To give you an idea of an access rule:
READ access to SOMATIC and PSYCHIATRIC documents created by NURSES
WRITE access to somatic NURSE DOCUMENTS .

There are many more documents the NURSE can read, and even more the NURSE cannot create or edit.

So far so good within the EPR.

We will now add the VNA to the mix. An image is added to the VNA in the patient’s folder. It is created within a clinical context (and encounter) with a purpose; generally the equipment that is used to capture the image receives some data from the EPR (metadata), and the metadata are stored with the image in the VNA (analogous to RIS/PACS workflow). As an example, an image shows “a bruise related to a fracture” caused by violence. The image is described in a journal record in the EPR which also includes remarks about a radiology report. We have a photo, an x-ray, and a document.

The question now arises: who should be able to see this image? First of all, the care relationship must be present. There is only one system that can determine if it is indeed present, and that is the EPR: so, we need to ask the EPR: does employee X have a current care relationship with patient Y? If the answer is yes, the patient folder in the VNA can be displayed. But will the VNA reveal all images about the patient to our employee X? No, it cannot, for the same reason as we have discussed above: access if filtered by profession.

The figure below shows how this may be solved – the employee has a professional role attached to an access profile. The access profile includes document category 2, and so our Employee can see document Y, which is in this category. The document describes / is linked to an image, and thus the image must also be available to our employee.

Access control via EPR

In the figure below, the acces control is independent of the EPR once the document category has been assigned to the image: the image belongs to a category which it should inherit from the EPR. We can now establish access control outside the VNA, and the VNA must store the category that the image belongs to. The Access control function maintains a table of roles and access profiles, and thus is able to determine if a given employee should see a given image once it knows the category the image belongs to.

Standalone access control in VNA

How is the category linked to the image? Potentially through the work process. When a clinician describes an image and creates a record in the EPR, the record and the image are linked and metadata exchanged.

The conclusion is that the when the VNA is used to store clinical objects, such as images, ECG, video, and so on, it effectively becomes an extension of the EPR, and must use the same logical mechanism as the EPR to control access to content.
This is analogous to the way RIS-PACS interact with each other.

RAV4 4wd Hybrid 2016 second hand

Some quick notes on the ownership experience.

We bought the car 2016-model when it was 3 years old and had 90.000 km on the clock. It´s an Active S, meaning leather, powered driver´s seat, rear camera, driver assistance systems.

It´s a Toyota, so 2 years in and about 30.000 km we have not had any unexpected expenses. The drivetrain is bullet-proof. First set of front discs just wore out at 125.000.

The car is 4WD on demand, with an electric motor living all alone at the rear driving the rear wheels. This motor is also a generator and participates in energy recuperation. The front wheels are driven by the 150HP petrol engine and a separate electric motor – or two, actually: Quiet, linear acceleration.

Aspects to consider:

  • Space is good. 5 adults can ride in the back, 4 very comfortably. Lots of leg room
  • Decent 500 litre boot with strange hump in floor due to battery intruding
  • Excruciatingly slow powered tailgate
  • Very very comfortable and very silent running. Love the soft suspension, avoids the sea-sickness of old Volvo XC70s
  • Rolls a bit in corners
  • Good acceleration but you have to really ask for it
  • Conti W7 (nordic) studless / friction tyres fantastic
  • Dunlop Sport Maxx RT2 for the summer. Much less noisy than standard tyres, very very comfortable (235/55 R18). Highly recommended
  • Four wheel drive excellent in middle to quite hard conditions: car feels planted and goes hard, needn´t worry when parking in snow and rough ice
  • Four wheel drive 100% useless when you really need it: ice and slight uphill from standstill, computer sends zero power to rear wheels, no selective braking of spinning front wheel. Nada. As ineffective as a FWD Yaris. Really disappointing. Seriously, Toyota! A few lines of code and you could get the car moving.
  • The whole instrumentation etc smacks of 2001. The various systems are clearly not talking when the parking sensors start to complain at 100km/h because they are covered in slush. When you change wheel-set (winter/summer) you have to reset the tyre pressure sensor via a dedicated button hidden on the steering column. C´mon, c´mon, Toyota! I call Toyota twice a year to have them tell me how to do this, the instruction booklet has in inaccurate description. The EV button has no impact on anything. The manual selection of “gears” is there, but no-one ever uses it. So – if you´re hooked on the future, this is not for you. This is the past in terms of systems architecture
  • Connecting phones via Bluetooth is reliable but infuriating. Well hidden, and max 4 phones at a time… what on earth?
  • Fuel economy: computer says about 6.5/100 in summer, 7.5-8.0 in winter. The combustion engine runs a lot in winter just to keep occupants warm. Takes a while to heat the cabin – efficient engine gives off less heat. I always leave it in ECO- mode. Switch off ECO for more throttle response and more thirst. Switch to SPORT for …nothing!. Switch back to ECO.
  • Towing capacity ot 1650 kg nice to have
  • If you want a spacious, affordable, comfortable, reliable, 4WD that´s cheap to run and own and keeps its value, runs on petrol, and you rarely venture onto hills covered in ice, this it the car for you.
  • When you get stuck, slap on snowchains in 3 minutes, and off you go

Surfski for the newbie: Epic V10L and Carbonology Boost

And so it came to pass that I was given a secondhand V10L for my birthday, and I have spent a fair bit of time in it, and also some time out of it… this is my first full season in a kayak, and the 44 cms of support for your clumsiness that the V10L provides is sometimes not enough, and I have been in the water many a time. But I am improving, I am…

Our hero surrounded by obsolete technology

I have used it on the flat, on the somewhat choppy, and on the ocean. The ocean was a bit too much, the rest I can just about manage, though there are many heart-in-mouth-moments.

When I first got into the V10L all went well; and so I bought it.

The next trip I fell in immediately and couldn´t get back in. This was 15 metres from the quayside, and my kids were witness to my failed attempts.

One or two Youtube videos later – “surfski remount” – and all was well. I can get back in. Once in, I lean back in the seat until things quieten down, and then I set off. The added adrenalin gives the drive to move the boat; it´s far more stable on the move.

I bought an NRS 0.5mm wetsuit of the long-John type with no arms. On top of this I sometimes wear a thin wool underwear thingy. This works well, but I will probably get an NRS vest next season for colder days.

I bought a secondhand Bracia paddle, adjustable & all. I kept it screwed together for a month in and out of salt water, and now it´s impossible to budge.

The desire to challenge myself and the elements is always there – but in order to challenge the ocean outside Tvedestrand, I have ordered a Carbonology Sports Boost LV. I have been on the open ocean in “interesting” conditions once, that was in an Epic V7. The V7 felt very stable, and I only fell in three times (!).

Surfski and Kayak has opened up a new chapter alongside rowing, and I am working on technique and strength – thanks again to Youtube!