Skills and arrogance

Could you explain what ‘Knot Theories in N-dimensional space’ is?“, I asked while we walked down the stairs to the ground floor and down the long corridor to the soda vending machine. The Chemistry Department at Oslo University was the venue for the weekly meeting in the role-playing association. It wasn’t much fun to have John Rognes as one of the players in my role-playing world. He was far above anyone I’ve known when it came to problem solving and getting the player characters out of a tight spot. It seemed to passify the other players. But that night I at least got to pick his brains about the passion that brought him mathematical fame. At age 18, he had won prizes in several European countries for his theories that only a handful of people would understand. He was a mathematical genius at the age of three and excelled in math and natural sciences since.

Sure“, he said, “It’s easy“. He then went on to explain his theories in less than 10 minutes with a simplicity that even my grandmother could follow. I was stunned. I still am. And on top of his obvious genius, he was a fun and social guy. And bereft of arrogance.

I sometimes wonder why Brendan doesn’t display any arrogance. He has a remarkable background with amazing stories from Northern Ireland, plays golf like a pro, can easily make a living as a street entertainer with juggling and magic, competed in the World Championships in Foosball, beats the crap out of me at the pool or snooker table, is the most excellent instructor I’ve met, runs half marathons… etc. Everything the guy touches becomes a product. And he is a social and fun guy to be around.

Maybe the lack of arrogance is because Brendan doesn’t need to prove anything. Just like John. And so many other guys with great skills who are just confident at what they do. Not looking confident and having to prove it, but just being confident.

An early inspiration for my interest in mathematics

Tonight I was showing Anette a wide variety of music that has inspired me. From Clannad, Isao Tomita, Vangelis, Klaus Nomi and Andreas Wollenweider. I stumbled across a work by one of Norway’s truly great composer, the late Arne Nordheim. I remember fondly how I discovered Nordheim at the age of 13. I used to sit at the main library in downtown Oslo working my way through number theory and calculus while I was listening to this:

Feel free to ask


When the traffic gets high, when posts get more than 500 or even a 1000 comments, I am bound to miss questions from my readers.

I want to answer your questions, and to ensure you are not left without an answer, I propose you ask any questions you may have to me as comments to this blog post.

Just add your question as a comment here and I will get back to you with an answer. Ask anything – from my views on life, IT, Scientology, my favorite HP calculator, music, art, preferences in any part of life or whatever else you may have on your mind. Do not hold back. I am not shy.

This post is not an arena for long discussions – or I may again miss some questions buried in long threads. Interesting topics may instead earn separate blog posts.

Bill & David’s garage rules

Most readers of my blog knows about my passion for HP calculators. But you may not know the reasons why. First of all it’s about exploring new mathematics. Secondly, the old programmable calculators offer the most easily accessible environment for programming – the calculators are small and with a push of a button, you can start programming away. Thirdly, it’s the sturdy design and craftsmanship and the constant innovation that used to be the hallmark of HP. The very essence of Old Hewlett Packard is captured in the rules that Bill Hewlett and David Packard put up on the wall in the their first office space – a garage:

  • Believe you can change the world.
  • Work quickly, keep the tools unlocked, work whenever.
  • Know when to work alone and when to work together.
  • Share tools, ideas. Trust your colleagues.
  • No Politics. No bureaucracy. (These are ridiculous in a garage.)
  • The customer defines a job well done.
  • Radical ideas are not bad ideas.
  • Invent different ways of working.
  • Make a contribution every day. If it doesn’t contribute, it doesn’t leave the garage.
  • Believe that together we can do anything.
  • Invent.

That mindset formed the foundation of what came to be one of the most successful technology companies.

These days, we find tech businesses more focused on focus than innovation. More focused on regulating people than encouraging them. And more driven by profit than their heart.

One day I will implement this mind set in an modern technology company. I will keep you posted.


5000 reads on Scribd

I swung by and found that my articles now have a total of more than 5000 reads. That would account for around half the number of total reads of those articles (the rest being read on and elsewhere). If you haven’t yet looked at the articles, now is the time to nudge you to swing by the same place 😉

Writing articles: Collaboration

Writing articles in collaboration with great people

HyperList: Everything. Concise and precise.

HyperList is a methodology to describe anything in plain text.

HyperList can be used to describe any state or transition – anything from simple shopping and todo lists to large project plans, process design, the human history, the human DNA or the whole universe.

With HyperList, descriptions become simple, easily readable, concise and precise.

After a couple of months of work, and with a total overhaul, WOIM has been transformed into HyperList! I would like to extend my thanks to Marilyn Abrahamian for her invaluable help in proof reading and for suggesting some new, very useful features.

You will find the HyperList document on my newly redrawn home page ( or by clicking this direct link to the HyperList document. It is also available on

I admit freely to being proud of this; I consider HyperList to be one of my most useful contributions so far.

For the users of the excellent text editor VIM, there is a plugin that makes it very easy to create and manage HyperLists in VIM. The plugin includes a large range of features such as:

  • Complete highlighting of HyperList elements
  • Collapsing and expanding of up to 15 levels in a list
  • Linking/referencing between elements (items) in a list
  • Easy navigation in lists, including jumping to references
  • “Presentation modes” where you can view only parts of lists and line-by-line
  • Creating and checking of checkboxes in a list, with or without date stamps
  • Encryption (and decryption) of whole lists or parts of lists
  • Auto-encryption of lists – making a list into an excellent password safe
  • HTML and LaTeX export of lists
  • … and many more features.

Enjoy 🙂