This evening I stumbled upon a Kickstarter from a Swedish company called Cribble. It was posted in a Facebook group for furniture carpentry, and as soon as I saw it I thought that this is a very cool product. The easiest way I can describe it is LEGO meet IKEA.

Here is how it is described on Kickstarter:

Cribble is a kit of building pieces to create your own mini house. A blank canvas for your craftyness. Plan and build the foundation, wallpaper the walls, place the floors and put together some furniture according to plan, or your very own way. This is an inclusive project and it’s meant to integrate with other toys, crafts and stuff you find around the house.

The two founders, Josefin and Anna, realized that most toys for girls miss the construction and engineering aspects that toys aimed at boys usually have. So they set out to create a modular construction set to allow children to build a house, using the similar construction techniques as in real life.

So we think that if we increase the opportunity for girls to delve into building and technology they won’t just have a much more fun playtime but also even out one of the biggest mediators for the wage gap between men and women.
Cribble is dipping into the traditional girl play area and giving opportunity for all genders to play around with technology, room and space without overwhelming them with signals that this are meant for boys.

Now they are looking for help to get this product going. Take a look at the video and read more on Kickstarter. I think this is an amazing toy! And I think it is priced very nicely, when you think about what you get.


Celebrating 20 years in the US

Many of my friends have a tradition of around New Years write a review of the year that just ended, either on their blogs or (more frequently these days) on Facebook. I have been doing that in the past as well. But this year is different for me.

Yesterday it was exactly 20 years ago I was standing at Arlanda Airport outside Stockholm, with a one-way ticket to the United States. My dad and sister were there with me, to say goodbye. I had spent the last few weeks packing anything important that I wanted to bring with me, and had sent it off with a shipping company a few days earlier.
I had also been working extra to make some additional money. I had to furnish a new place outside Boston, where I got a job as a Notes and Domino developer waiting for me at International Data Group.

But my flight would not take me to Boston. Instead I travelled to Spokane, WA. My then-wife Angie, who I had married just 3.5 months earlier, had returned to Idaho where she lived when we met. After I landed we spent a night at a hotel before we packed up her car with her belongings, including her cat Nicky. We then spent the next 4 days driving along I-90 across the northern USA, until we arrived in Boston, for a new chapter of my life.

Much have happened since that cold January morning when I left Sweden. I had a son in 2000, and a few months later my dad passed away back in Sweden. In 2002 we moved from Boston to Dallas, where Angie was from and where most of her family lived. A little over a year later Angie left me. Eventually I met my new wife Chrissy, and I cannot be more happy. My life is really good, I have a job I love, and a wonderful wife. I wonder what the next 20 years will bring me.

Finally, to all my family and friends, a Very Happy New Year!


How fascinating! On to new ventures!

This last Tuesday was my last day as Sr Application Developer at Deep South, my workplace for the last 14 years. My position was somewhat — but not totally — unexpectedly eliminated.

I want to thank my manager John St Andria for the opportunity to work with him all these years. I had a great time, and I think we worked really well together. This was not his decision, it was a directive from higher up. I consider him a good friend. This was probably as hard for him as it was for me.

I have taken a few days to consider different options. My current plan is to spend some time learning a couple of new technologies and improving others. Finally I have the time to spend on learning new technologies, either on my own or by taking some classes. During the last year I already started this, by taking some college classes in C# and Now I will keep building on that foundation.

I think the best way forward for me is to diversify and learn additional technologies and platforms, and me being terminated might be the kick-in-the-butt I needed to get out of my comfort zone and venture into something new.

While I branch out I will obviously be looking for Domino related development jobs, either using the Notes client or Domino web applications. Feel free to pass my name, contact info and resume around.



WWII – 75 years since Denmark and Norway were occupied

In the morning of April 9, 1940 Germany invaded Denmark and Norway in a surprise attack. Denmark had virtually no chance at all and was quickly overrun by the well-trained and experienced Wehrmacht. After six hours Denmark had no choice but to surrender. The quick surrender is thought to have resulted in a more lenient treatment of the country, and also delayed deportation of jews until late in the war, when most had already been able to escape.

Norway fought longer, and managed to sink the heavy cruiser Blücher just outside Oslo during the initial phase of the invasion. The southern part of the country fell fairly quickly, but it took 62 days before Germany had full control of the country, making Norway the nation that withstood a German invasion for the second longest period of time, after the Soviet Union.

Growing up in neighboring Sweden the events of April 9 were well-known to me, and since I have always been very interested in history (and especially conflict history like WWII) I did read a lot about this. I remember reading stories about Norwegian bus drivers who had their busses confiscated and loaded with German soldiers and then promptly driving themselves off the steep mountain roads, taking dozens of enemy soldiers with them in death. They were as brave as the soldiers fighting the invading forces on the different battle fields.

Sweden was never invaded or directly attacked during WWII, and that was probably very good. Despite starting to rebuild the (by then almost non-existing) military in the late 30’s when the threat from Hitler could no longer be ignored it would have taken until around 1950 until Sweden had a military force that could stop an invasion. It takes time to build up a military force, aquire equipment and teach the soldiers to use it, train officers in sufficient numbers and give them enough experience to lead troops.

Soviet Whiskey class submarine U137 on ground outside Karlskrona, Sweden.
Soviet Whiskey class submarine U137 on ground outside Karlskrona, Sweden.

The time when I grew up was at the tail end of the Cold War (even if we did not know it then). I remember the Soviet submarine U137 (actual designation S-363) running aground in southern Sweden in 1981, causing a tense stand-off between Swedish and Soviet military forces. Swedish fighter pilots had young eastern european men visiting them at home, posing as Polish students wanting to sell paintings or books in order to finance their studies. But strangely enough they only visited pilots, not their neighbors… They were most probably mapping out where the pilots were living, for Soviet special operations units to be able to assassinate them right before an attack on Sweden and thereby cripple the Swedish air defenses.

We also had the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, as well as numerous other conflicts all over the world. Not to mention the threat/fear of nuclear war. So in short, it was an interesting and somewhat scary period to grow up, especially living so close to the “Russian Bear”. Sweden have a long history of war with Russia.

This was of course reflected in some of the music at that time:

Me in 1990 during a training exercise in Sweden.
Me in 1990 during a training exercise in Sweden.


In 1984 I joined the Swedish Home Guard at age 15. At that age I needed my parents to sign a consent form, but they did. They realized that it would be good for me. The training took place about every third weekend during the school year, with a break during the summers. It was fun and I did learn a lot of things, everything from first aid, survival skills, shooting, using map and compass with great precision, operating radio systems and of course to get along with and work side by side with people/kids from other backgrounds than my own.

At one point I even considered a career in the military, but I quickly decided that computers and programming was more interesting and fun. But I continued as a member of the Home Guard for 13 years, until I moved to the United States. By that time the Cold War was over and the politicians had started to dismantle the military as they did not expect any threats or invasions anymore. That was of course the same way as most of Europe had dismantled their military after World War I, also known as “the war to end all wars”. We now in retrospect know what a bad idea that was.

Sweden is today in the same situation, with a almost non-existant military. The politicians finally realized late last year that perhaps Putin was not such a nice and peaceful guy and decided to increase the military spending, but with very small amounts and over many years. And just like in the 30’s and 40′ it still takes a long time to build up an efficient military force. You don’t hire a major or colonel from your local temp agency… Hopefully there will not be a large scale war in Europe but there is a war going on in Ukraine right now and Putin have been eying the Baltic states lately. If you haven’t read Command Authority, the last book Tom Clancy wrote before he passed away in 2013, I suggest that you do. It is scaringly accurate, and it was written before Russia invaded Ukraine.

So time after time history have shown that the old saying is true: “Every country has an army, either their own or somebody else’s”.


I am a victim of identity theft

This weekend I found out that I am a victim of identity theft. It is very unsettling, and feels like a total violation of my privacy.

My girlfriend Chrissy and I were discussing the potential of me getting a new car in the next few months. I am having some repairs coming up on my current car, like the air conditioning leaking refrigerant, fixing a small oil leak and a few other little but annoying things that will add up. It would be nice to avoid those repairs and getting a new car where I don’t have to worry about service for a few years.

We looked around online for cars that could be interesting and I found some good deals. I started working on a budget to figure out what I could afford and Chrissy asked me what my credit score was. I had to admit to her that I had no idea. After my divorce in 2003 I took some bad hits to my credit, as I was not able to keep up with all the bills for the house by myself plus my car payment, utilities and other expenses in addition to paying child support all of the sudden. So I had been scared of even looking at my credit score.

Chrissy had used Credit Karma before for herself so Sunday I started setting up a new account there. I entered my social security number, address and some other information to setup the account.  I selected a password and submitted the form. To my surprise the reply from the site said that I already had an account, but using another email address. It did not show the address in clear, it was masked so I could only see the domain (, but I have never had any address in that domain. I sat there shocked for a while and tried to think of what could be going on.  Chrissy and I talked about it and worried that it might be identity theft.  So we called a lawyer who is a relative of hers who also works in this field.  We found out quickly that the act of someone accessing my credit report without my permission is a felony at the state and federal level. If they tried to take out credit or did take out credit in my name it is another felony.  Doing these things over the computer is yet another charge.

So to figure out the truth I had to make copies of my id and fill out a form that we sent through the mail to Credit Karma, to prove my identity and get access to “my” account. This will probably take a little while though.  🙁

But I am furious that someone managed to find out enough about me to be able to setup an account to monitor my credit. The person must have my social security number, my date of birth and probably also my address. A lot of people have this information, actually. This article mention some ways people can get unauthorized access to someones credit report, for example a rogue employee in HR or a company or law firm otherwise allowed to pull a credit report.  It could just be someone who have your social security number, address and knows a little bit about you.

Just a few years ago, both Chrissy and our friend Mark were victims of identity theft. Someone broke into the mailboxes in their neighborhood and stole pre-approved credit cards and other personal information, and were able to take out credit cards in their names.  Before moving here, I know there were a couple of mailbox break-ins at my old place. The persons who stole their identity were caught using the stolen credit and arranged a plea deal that resulted in 40 years in federal prison.  Thought they will likely serve only half of that, 20 years is a long time.

I recently went through surgery, and I was in contact with different medical providers, both in person and on the phone. I had to give out my full social security number and address several times. Seems like there have been a number of cases where nurses or other medical staff have been stealing personal information from patients. I am not saying this is what happened in my case because I don’t know yet, but very few other people should have my social security number so I am looking very carefully at that.

I went to another site and ran my credit report there, and I did not see any unknown accounts taken out in my name. So I put a fraud alert on my credit report, so it should be harder/impossible to setup any accounts in my name without me knowing/being alerted.

So what else do I need to do? I have been doing some research, and one of the first things I had to do is to file a police report. If I didn’t do that, and someone takes out a credit card in my name, I may be responsible for the charges or seen as being part of the crime.

As we were told by the lawyer, it is a federal crime just to access someones credit report:

Under the Federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), any person or organization who knowingly and willfully obtains a credit report under false pretenses (such as getting a credit report on an individual without a permissible purpose as outlined below), is subject to a fine of up to $5,000 or imprisonment of up to 1 year, or both.

So even if no credit cards were taken out in my name, just the act of accessing my credit report is a felony.  And I am still not completely sure that there are no accounts taken out fraudulently.

I live in Texas, and the state laws regarding identity theft is actually stricter than the federal laws. So the person that did this will face a felony charge in one of the two jurisdictions.

We also requested Credit Karma to provide me with the email address was used to sign up for “my” account, as well as what IP address it was done from, as well as the date/time and all the times it was accessed.  The police can then contact the Internet provider that owns that IP address and request to know what customer used it at that specific time. So it should not be too hard for the police to find out who it was.

I am furious. I feel violated and like I am looking over my shoulder all the time. Did my doctor or nurse do this? Did someone break into my mail? Could someone have hacked my computer? It is almost as bad as when my house was broken into back in 2004 and I lost a lot of personal items. I hope this will not affect my credit rating, or cause me not to be able to get the car I want. I am worried about that but it seems like with a police report and cooperating with authorities I can get things cleared up.

From years of tracking down spammers back in 1999-2002, I know how you can find out a lot from electronic tracks left behind. As soon as they have the information from Credit Karma about the account the authorities will have no problem to find out who it was. And then I get to file charges and prosecute to the fullest extent of the law. I will enjoy that!


Update 2014-08-28: I have found out who did it, and the issue have been dealt with. There was no major financial loss, just some time and money spent driving to several different police departments trying to file in the correct jurisdiction. Thanks everyone who supported me!


The joy of programming

I have been programming since the beginning of 1983. I started over 30 years ago with Basic, then went to Pascal after about 3 years. I then in fairly quick succession went to C, Visual Basic, VBA and then a few years later (in 1996) to Lotusscript. Along the way I also picked up Javascript, as well as web design with HTML and CSS (even if it may be questionable to call the latter two “programming languages”).

During June and most of July this year, I did not do much/any programming, due to me recovering from surgery. At work I also do more administration work and research, leaving less time for actual programming and even less time to pick up new skills like XPages.  Coming back and starting writing code again made me realize how much I enjoy programming.

I miss writing code and solving problems by writing a program that help our users (or me) accomplish something faster and better than before. I enjoy posting code here on my blog, as well as on Stack Overflow and in the developerWorks forums. If I can help someone, like so many have been helping me in the past, at the same time as I get to write code and have fun, that is a double whammy.

But even writing code for myself, just for fun and to learn new things is enjoyable to me even after all these years. In a way it is me against the computer. I get to make the machine do what I want by taking a problem or process and breaking it down in smaller and smaller pieces until I have a working solution. Every time I come up with a smarter or more clever way to do something, I get excited and happy.

I love learning new things, and in the field of programming (as in the rest of IT), learning never ends. Hopefully I soon will have time to sit down and view some courses at as well as watch some of David Leedy’s excellent Notes-in-9 tutorials, to improve my skills and add more/new tools to my toolbox. And to have fun.

Happy coding!


I am back.

On June 11 I had some major surgery at Medical City in Dallas. It was a planned surgery to remove part of my intestines to prevent future outbreaks of diverticulitis. I been having about 2-3 outbreaks a year for the last 12 years or so. Normally they perform surgery after just 2 severe cases. I was not looking forward to the surgery and recovery, knowing that I would not be able to work for at least 3-4 weeks, and after that just half days for a little while. But the benefits of the surgery outweighted the negative sides.

Scar 10 days after surgery. YOu can also wee where the drainage tubes were located.
My scar 10 days after surgery. You can also see where the drainage tubes were located.

I was a bit nervous before surgery, but everything went well. Í am now the owner of a scar about 14 inches long across my abdomen, and lacking about a foot of my colon as well as a tennis ball sized clump of scar tissue from years of infections. If anyone is interested, the procedure is called sigmoid colon resection.

I had to stay at the hospital for a week (I was released in the evening on June 17) and then stayed 3 days at a local hotel to avoid having to go up the stairs at home. On June 20 I was finally home. I started working half-time last week, but after two days at the office, I was in severe pain/discomfort and had to rest for a day before I started working from home instead. Thankfully I have a great boss who let me do that.

For the first 5 days after surgery I was not allowed any solid food, then I went to a low fiber diet.  Two weeks after surgery all dietary restrictions were lifted and I could eat anything I wanted.

For obvious reasons I have not been blogging during this time, I have mainly been resting. But now I hope to be able to do some blogging again. I have already returned to the developerWorks forums and StackOverflow.

If you, or anyone you know, is suffering from diverticulitus, look into this surgery. I have already been able to eat things I had to exclude from my diet for years, like sesame seeds, chopped garlic and raspberries. Despite still not being fully back to normal, and having some pain every day from the healing process, I would highly recommend this surgery.

If you live in the DFW area, I can highly recommend Medical City. Great facility with wonderful staff. I also want to recommend dr Robert Cloud, my surgeon. He was great at explaining the procedure in detail and answered all my questions. His office was also very quick to respond to email.



Things we don’t want to think about

Two separate incidents are leading me to write this blog entry. First, the way too early passing of Tim Tripcony just a few days ago, as well as as the loss of Rob Wunderlich, Jens Augustiny and Kenneth Kjærbye in just a little over a year. All of those members of the Lotus Community left us way too early. The second one is a more personal one, as I am going in for surgery in a few weeks. All surgeries carry a small risk of complications (this particular one supposedly has less than 2% mortality rate).

But what this leads me is to the subject of this blog entry. Life insurance.

Most of us who are employed have some kind of life insurance through our work, and perhaps like me also have an additional life insurance policy. I am sure that most of self-employed also have purchased some life insurance themselves. So we all know we need life insurance, to provide for our children and/or spouses.

wpid-20130615_145921.jpgBut what should happen with the money, in case the worst happens? In my case, I am divorced, and have a 13 year old son. Should a 13 year old inherit half a million dollar or more just like that? Or even if the child has to wait until age 18 to get the money, and it is managed by the other parent for some years, what would that lead to? I have heard stories about young adults that inherited a large sum of money after the death of a parent, bought a fast motor cycle or sports car and killed themselves within a year. Or who started using drugs/alcohol and either wasted the money on those things, or were killed by the substance abuse. I also know about women who lost their husbands, and within a few years used up all the life insurance money on houses, new cars, cosmetic surgery, all while not working.

wpid-2830.jpgSo how do you make a real impact on the life of your loved ones left behind? In my case, I am in the process of setting up a trust that will handle the investment of the money, as well as spend it in a way consistent with my wishes.
The trust will handle the payouts of the child support until my son turns 18, and it will cover his college education (tuition, books, living expenses) for up to 5 years, etc. It also have all kinds of other provisions, like a cash payment to help with his wedding (only one, and after the age of 27!), matching payments to him for what he puts into a Roth IRA  every year, financial help to buy a car and a house, etc. Even little things like extra money for birthday and christmas gifts are listed there. In addition, the trustee will have some personal discretion to help out when needed, and of course any medical and educational expenses will be covered as needed.

There are so many little details that one has to think about. Until my girlfriend Chrissy brought this up a while ago, I had not really been reflecting much on all those things. So I recommend that everyone sit down and think through how you want your life insurance to be handled if the worst happens. Just having life insurance isn’t enough to ensure they’ll be ok.

Too much of a windfall could be a problem for someone who is not ready to handle it.  Knowing an inheritance is coming could even discourage a child from going to college because they may think they won’t need the education. Most parents do not consider the negative impact it could have on a young person to receive a large amount of money at one time, but we should.

Erik PortraitWhile we may not always be able to be there for our kids if the worst does happen to any of us before they are grown this is a way to make our wishes known about their choices.  This trust is important to me because I can continue to parent him at the same time as I provide financially for him. Setting up a trust lets my son know in writing what my wishes for his life would have been if I had been here.  A college degree, saving for retirement, marriage if he wants it but not until he’s mature enough to handle it, buy a house and I’ll match your down payment and even limiting access if he ever gets into legal or substance abuse trouble. These would be things I will do as long as I am here physically for him too.

As I plan for this surgery it allows me to feel like I’d get a say in raising him through the stipulations of a trust, even if I wasn’t here anymore.  That knowledge calms me enough to face surgery without worry about my son.  Not just in financial terms but also in respect to all the other things a parent provides.

Tough to think about, but so very important.



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