Why all American drivers are telepathic

Arriving in California this summer we noticed the strangest of phenomena: The four way all stop crossing. 

We watched in bewilderment as cars approached the crossings, stopped and then decided on who was to go first based on some type of mind reading. We were unable to detect any clear pattern on which car was to go first.

In Norway this is simple: You give way to the car from the right, unless there are traffic lights or a roundabout. Europeans love roundabouts.

Not so in America. The Avis guy told us that Americans also had to give way to cars from the right. He was at loss at explaining what do to if four cars arrived simultaneously — which happens all the time if the traffic is dense.

In the end we found that the system works because Americans drivers actually learn this kind of Jedi mind trick when getting their driving licenses. We also found that my wife and dedicated driver Susanne is a natural. Or maybe the Americans were just polite, helping her along. 

Originally published on August 24 2011

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The Icelanders are conquering Norway

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Nothing is real until you have described it with hard numbers and statistics. Anyone discussing immigration and “multiculturalism” knows this.

It turns out however, that the real threat for Norway does not come from Muslims, but from Iceland.

Sigve Indregard presents numbers documenting a growth of 60 percent in the number of Icelanders from 2009 to 2011 (from 3749 to 6022). Given that there are only 5 million people living in Norway, you may think that this does not amount to much.

Indregard, however, has made a prognosis for the next 90 years based on this rate, and proves that there will be as many as 60,000 Icelanders in 2021, 72 million in 2041 and 6000 billion in 2100!

By then, of course, Norwegian culture will be dead, replaced by Svartadaudir and Snorre.

I knew it, the recent introduction of Skyr (a kind of Icelandic yoghurt) in the Norwegian market, was just the first step in a hostile colonisation of Norway.

Originally posted on August 5 2011

The Samsonite five year warranty is worth nothing

My wife and I travel a lot, and we have learned that buying cheap suitcases can cost you. On one trip to Britain we needed to buy a badly damaged suitcase, and was forced to buy a cheap one. It lasted one trip ony and is now use to store clothes in the attic.

So we have normally bought Samsonite suitcases, as they are known to be sturdy. That being said, we have twice been forced to go back to the store because of damage, and every time we have faced the same strange Catch 22 situation:

“Yes, sir/ma’am, there is indeed a five year guarantee, but that is for production errors. This suitcase was damaged during transport.”

“So you are saying the warranty is void because we have used the Samsonite suitcase for travelling?”

“Yes, the warranty is only for manfacturing defects.”

“Ah, but we have used this suitcase only once, from London. Isn’t a Samsonite meant to be able to handle the hardship of one flight?”

“I don’t know about that, sir, but Samsonite won’t reimburse us for a new suitcase if the old one was damaged during transport.”

“Hm, but the reason we bought Samsonite is because they promote their strength and their warranty. Isn’t this close to fraud?”

“The warranty clearly states it covers only manufacturing defects and does not cover any damage caused by misuse, neglect, accidents, abrasion, exposure to extreme temperatures, solvents, acids, water, normal wear and tear or transport damage — by airlines for example.”

“I see, but you do understand that manufacturing defects are already covered by Norwegian consumer laws. You will have to replace such a suitcase for no cost, anyway, so what is the bl&%/(y point in having a Samsonite warranty?”

“That’s the way it is, sir”

Originally posted on June 12 2011

New web home for NIFU/STEP projects: GoodNIP, PUBLIN and more

When I worked at the STEP institute, later to be known as NIFU STEP, I
was part in setting up web sites for various research projects on
research and innovation.

NIFU STEP has now been renamed NIFU, The Nordic Institute for Studies
in Innovation, Research and Education.

During this change, the old projects have gotten new URLs:

Here are the ones I took part in:

FOTON
Foreign takeovers - competence gain or competence drain (FOTON, for
Foreign Takeovers in the Nordic countries), a project under the Nordic
Innovation Centre’s Forum for Innovation Policies.

GOODNIP
The main objective of Good Practices in Nordic Innovation Policies was
to develop a survey and an analysis of Nordic innovation policy
instruments that directly or indirectly are targeting small and medium
sized enterprises.

PUBLIN
The EU project Publin aimed to study policy learning and technical and
administrative innovation in the public sector, and to get a better
understanding of behavioural changes, learning processes and the
implementation of new or improved technologies in public
organisations.

Originally posted on April 20 2011

Testing trunk.ly - your personal search engine

Originally posted April 19 2011

I am currently in a kind of test socia tools modus. No, this is not about Facebook (which I, frankly, find of little use), but rather the use of tools used to find, save and share posts, articles and sites on the Web.

I am currently using two tools for this: our weekly Pandia Search Engine News Wrap-up over at pandia.com and twitter. For all practical puposes I am building a large collection of links to interesting and useful resources, but I have no way of searching this content.

Enter trunk.ly, a new kind of bookmarking site that wants to take over if delicious is abandoned by Yahoo.

If you sign up, you may connect it to your twitter, Facebook and RSS reader accounts and let it sync all the links you have included in tweets and posts. It will then index your links and the pages they are pointing to and generate your own personal database of online resources. You may even import (but not sync) your delicious bookmarks.

Given that this is a social site, you may also follow other trunk.ly users and get access to more relevant information. It looks promising. My trunk.ly links are found over at trunk.ly/perkoch.

Update December 2011: Trunk.ly has now been bought by Delicious, and will be closed down in January. Delicious has still not implemented the trunk.ly technology. Too bad.

Getting a keyboard for the iPad

Originally published on April 13 2011

I love the iPad. It is fun, innovative and has an extremely high wow factor. However, when someone asked if I would recommend one, I normally asked that it is the kind of gizmo that is nice to have, but which you can do without.

I use it to read comics, magazines, read news, follow my web feeds and.. well.. one of our cats love the cat game for the iPad (seriously!).

It was not until a few weeks ago that I realized that I could actually use it for something “useful”, as I brought my room documents as PDF files on the iPad to an OECD meeting. I can now leave that heavy folder behind.

Still, I am still not comfotable with the virtual keyboard. It is not tactile. I need to watch the screen all the time. So yesterday my wife and I went to the local Apple dealer and asked for an iPad dock with a keyboard.

“You do not need one,” the salesman said. “If you a have an iPad case with a stand, it is better to buy a regular Apple wireless keyboard.”

He was right. I connected the wireless keyboard via Bleuetooth in less than a minute, and here I am, writing a blog post in the same speed as I would on our regular Mac. Now the iPad has become a serious replacement for the MacBook when travelling!

On policy learning and innovation in STI governance

Originally posted on April 12 2011.

Innovation policy is normally about innovation in industry. Lately the policy field has expanded to include the public and civil sectors. But what about the innovation policy makers themselves? Do they innovate.

In this Powerpoint presentation, which was originally prepared for the science polcy Gordon Conference in 2010, I look at how policy learning must be seen as part of a larger arena consisting of policy makers, researchers, stakeholders and politicians.

Much of this thinking is based on research done in STEP/NIFU STEP and the EU 5th Framework Programme Project PUBLIN, as well as on my own experience as a civil servant and research and innovation policy maker.