Garden Update – Winter 2021

<- Fall 2020

There hasn’t been a lot of garden activity this winter – not only has it been cold, wet and dark outside – this pandemic thing is just draining will and initiative away. Still, the basics got done: The apples were pruned and the chilis sown on one, active day in February. Later than usual for the apples, quite early for the chilis. Both will probable be fine (previous sowing dates  here).

This year I missed buying new chili seeds. My usual supplier is UK based and I haven’t been up to considering the implications of brexit on seed trade. Fortunately I still had the essentials stocked from last year: Cayenne Long Slim, Lemon Drop and Habanero. However, those seeds only filled half my sowing tray, so I went through my seeds box and picked up a bunch of seed bags that friends and colleagues have given to me over the years and sowed those in the spare slots. 

Key events in the garden

  • Feb 21: Pruned the apples and sowed the chilis:
        • Cayenne Long Slim
        • Habanero
        • Lemon Drop
        • Hungarian Black (2018 seeds)
        • Numex Twillight (2015)
        • Satan’s Kiss (2011?)
        • Orozco (2014)
        • Red Cherry Large (2012)
        • Cayenne Purple (2014?)

Featured Image

An early morning shot of the garden the snowfall. We kept our Christmas lights up long to lighten the mood : )

Related Posts

Garden Update Fall 2020

Garden Update – Summer 2020

Garden Update – Spring 2020

Top 5: Jean-Michel Jarre

Back in the early days of this blog I started drafting a post how I missed new artistic output of artists who might have reached such an age that they might in fact have opted for a well-deserved early retirement. I was in particular thinking about Jean-Michel Jarre and Mike Oldfield: two artists who I have enjoyed from an early age, and who, at the time, had not released new material for 6-7 years.

The post did not progress much beyond a few headlines. Partly because I just felt more like writing other stuff at the time, but also partly because I was conscious of the fandom trap of pretending that idols somehow owe me the fan anything. I don’t believe they do. The closest to an obligation that I can think of is that I will only buy-on-release-date-without-reading-reviews as long as I can expect a product of reasonable quality (so if they don’t, then I will be less likely to buy their next material uncritically etc.).

I am so happy I never wrote that post. It would not have aged well, since after that time Oldfield has released 2 albums and Jarre at least 4. Pretty cool.

Background

Jean-Michel Jarre is a French musician and a pioneer in electronic music. He is also famous for spectacular concerts. His first album was released in 1973 and he has released 23 albums as of Dec 31, 2020.

I got introduced to Jarre in the mid-eighties through my older brother who was a fan at the time and that music just clicked with me and my early interest in computers etc. Through the nineties I discovered other genres, but kept coming back to Jarre regularly and watching him play live in 1997 was a great moment. I somehow missed Jarre’s releases in the early 2000s and while I remember listening to some of those albums when they first became available on streaming platforms 2008ish, they just didn’t fit my mood at the time.

It was only in 2014-15 or so that I really rediscovered Jarre at a time when I was exploring trance and ambient music (and probably started drafting the above mentioned post); and then was happy to and was happy to discover Electronica 1 when it came out in October 2015. Since then, I have listed to both old and new stuff, but I kept missing the middle part of the discography, so when I got the idea of writing top 5 posts it felt like a great opportunity to remedy this. Here goes.

Discography

The list of studio albums is retrieved from Wikipedia -> here (the main biography article contains a slightly longer list with more limited release albums, but since I have no access to these, I stick to this list)

To determine my top 5 of the albums I will focus on how well the tracks combine into a whole start to end experience and how interesting and memorable I find the compositions. In the walkthrough I will first divide albums into a top, middle, and bottom group, where those in the top are truly great and always worth listening to, those in the middle which are generally and I will play occasionally when I am in the mood, and those in the bottom that I would usually avoid.

Sky Palace (1973)

I know of it, but unfortunately have never had the opportunity to listen to it. I will keep looking though.

Les Granges Brûlées (1973)

A soundtrack, which recently became available for streaming. It is interesting as an early work of Jarre’s and early electronic music, but like many soundtracks it does not stand well on its own. Most of the tracks are variations of a common theme, but track #6 “Le Juge” sounds like an early version of Chronology Part 8 and is worth checking out. As an album I put this one in the bottom of the pile.

Oxygène (1976)

This is the first classic electronic Jarre album and it sets the stage for most of what has come later. It is an enjoyable musical journey, like a first exploration into unknown (musical) territory. Great music in my opinion and it has aged very well. Top tier material.

Équinoxe (1978)

The next album continues and refines the style from Oxygène, but is less somber and more playful, so if Oxygène is an early exploration, then this is a fun tourist roundtrip. For many years it was my favorite- the first 3 pieces in particular – I still put it at the top.

Magnetic Fields (1981)

The album first continues and refines the style from the previous two albums, with a long and coherent first half, but the second half is works less well for me. I put it in the middle.

Music for Super Markets (1983)

This album was only released in a single pressing which was auctioned off and the master recording destroyed. It was played once in the radio and what I have listened to are recordings from the transmission. The sound quality isn’t great (kindly put) and it makes it hard to appreciate the music, and I place it in the lower tier.

Zoolook (1984)

A more experimental work than the previous main albums, which makes heavy use of samples and vocals. The first track Ethnicolor is great, but the rest doesn’t follow-though and eventually you almost wait for the album to finish. Lower third to me.

Rendez-Vouz (1986)

A pretty good one, the first half in particular. When the album came out part 4 was a popular hit, but listening to the album today it is like this track breaks the album in the middle, similar to the way part 2 of Magnetic Fields change the mood of that album).

This may be because the album was first released on an LP and split into A- and B-sides, where the B-side might be planned to contain some radio-friendly single tracks. That may have worked well in the 80s, but today the end-to-end experience suffers from it.

To me Rendez-Vouz is somewhere in the middle.

Revolutions (1988)

This was the first Jarre album I bought without having listened to it before and the first time I was disappointed. I have tried and tried for 30+ years but while the first half is good, the second still does not work for me. Bottom third.

Waiting for Cousteau (1990)

An underrated album – at least by me when it first came out. The first three tracks bring a lot of new energy and styles to Jarre’s music and are followed by an ambient underwater piece (probably groundbreaking at the time), where nothing happens, or, then again, when you really listen to it, there is just enough happening to keep attention and stay relaxed. Today I rate this highly.

Chronologie (1993)

Seems like the distilled perfection of the early albums. It does everything right, maybe too right to me, but does not quite work for me. While I am happy to recommend it, it is middle tier for me.

Oxygéne 7-13 (1997)

Named as a sequel to Oxygéne this album perfects the style from the classical albums released since 1976. Both varied, coherent and with memorable tunes, this is one of my favorite Jarre albums. In the top.

Metamorphoses (2000)

I missed this for many years, and it was only for this review that I listened to it in earnest. It is a shame I did not listen to it earlier, because there are many entertaining and memorable songs here. Stylistically it is a refreshing break from previous albums. I can imagine that put off fans at the time (I missed the album entirely, probably because I lived in the US at the time, where the album was not released until 2004), but listening through Jarre’s discography chronologically, such change is exactly what I needed after the great Oxygène 7-13. I place Metamorphoses in the top tier.

Interior Music (2001)

This album was only a limited release and does not seem to be intended for general listening. It is on Youtube, though. Not that exciting as an album and I put in the bottom third.

Sessions 2000 (2002)

I have done my best listening to this one several times, but it does not stick. Bottom.

Geometry of Love (2003)

Another Jarre album that wasn’t widely released at first. Apparently a soundtrack for a nightclub, I think this is a fine album to listen to, but with no memorable tunes. Not bad, not great, I put this in the middle.

Téo & Téa (2007)

While some Jarre albums have been re-released recently, this one seems to have disappeared from streaming services. It can still be heard on Youtube. It is sort of OK, but not great and I ´can imagine why the artist himself considers it a mistake. Bottom.

Oxygène: New Master Recording (2007)

OK – I understand why this was made, and while the sound may be improved and more surround-soundish, it remains Oxygéne, but does not add anything radically new. To me it goes in the middle, and then I go back to listening to the original.

Electronica 1: The Time Machine (2015)

Something new! Collaborations with other musicians and new ideas and some great some tunes and some I don’t really care about, but all in the album works and I put it at the top of my list.

Electronica 2: The Heart of Noise (2016)

More collaboration stuff similar to Electronica 1, and it would be in the top of my list if #1 wasn’t there already. Highly recommended from here, although I put it in the middle of the list.

Oxygène 3 (2016)

After the collaborations and varied styles on the Electronica albums, this is a return to the classical style, just as the name implies. Not bad, but I miss memorable tunes and thus the album goes somewhere in the lower middle for me.

Equinox Infinity (2018)

A follow-up to one of my all-time favorite albums ever (Jarre and otherwise), I knew this album had a hard task, and I do not believe it succeeds. In fact, just like it is the case with Oxygéne 3, I still struggle to remember any song from it. So, just like the predecessor, this also goes somewhere in the lower middle.

Honorable mentions

In addition to the studio albums Jarre has also released plenty of live albums and remixes. Many of the live albums contains new material that does not show up on any studio albums so are worth listening to for that reason alone, but Jarre also keeps refreshing the studio tracks. For example, the 1981 Concerts in China would be a great album on its own.

Top 5

That was the chronological list, and I marked Oxygène, Équinoxe, Waiting for Cousteau, Oxygène 7-13, Metamorphoses and Electronica 1 as my favorites.

That is six entries, so while Oxygène 7-13 may be the perfect example of a classical Jarre album, it is also a refinement of what came before and that puts it just a little below the rest in this top group. To me the top contest is between Oxygène and Équinoxe, and while I have tried hard to put my old fondness of Équinoxe aside, that album just brings so much happy energy, so it keeps the position. The remaining three top albums are all characterized by their refreshing style and are great in each their way. Still, thinking about the coherence of the albums, I rank Waiting for Cousteau third, Electronica 1 as fourth and finally Metamorphoses is fifth:

  1. Équinoxe
  2. Oxygène
  3. Waiting for Cousteau
  4. Electronica 1: The Time Machine
  5. Metamorphoses

Featured image

Portrait of a sheep. I visited the garden/activity park Birkegårdens Haver in September and used the opportunity to make portraits of several animals in the petting zoo. It was interesting and fun to try some new models.

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Top 5s

PC Update 2020 – for Lightroom and occasional gaming

The list of bad things that happened in 2020 is pretty much endless, so every spark of light must be cherished. To me one of those points is that 2020 looks like a great year to finally update my PC. and indeed a great year for everyone else thinking along those lines.

Why? Well, AMD, that’s why. Imagine that the company was on Ars Technica‘s Death Watch list in 2014 and still got dishonorable mention in 2016, having become insignificant while Intel ruled the desktop CPU market. AMD’s new CPU line is aptly named Ryzen.

The first generation in 2017 definitely got my attention, and the 2 and 3rd generations even more so. I’ve been holding out while my i5-2500K PC went from venerable to obsolete. Now the time is nigh.

My Requirements – What do I need?

A PC revamp is a solid investment and I don’t want to invest in bragging rights alone. I will get the stuff I need, which is a PC to work with photos and movie editing on a hobby basis. “movie editing” is a magic word in this context – I don’t think a PC can be too powerful for that application, which mean that it is all down to cost/benefit analysis. How often am I going to render a movie and how often will cutting the waiting half in time make a difference? If I was a media creation professional getting paid by the hour, the business case would allow to by some very high performing stuff. Being a hobbyist, I think I’ll live with that occasional couple of minutes extra waiting time and give my kids an extra hug. Photo editing is also a key word, although this is more about single thread performance, while movie editing involves coding on many frames, which can be packaged out to processing by several cores, a single image being loaded for editing is a single image. Therefore, single thread performance remains a key interest of mine. However, while browsing though a list of images means I will certainly feel a 50% performance gain, I highly doubt that would feel a performance gain less than 5%. I.e., being fast is great, but being fastest is not worth it.

My gamin habits do little to change that conclusion. At my level, having a decent CPU is important, but the video card is the most important. Looking at my current list of games to play, the most demaing is Witch r 3 from 2915, so I am not worried.

PC Design 2020

What is the best CPU?

Looking at the mid-end CPU options in 2020 the main options are

  • AMD: Ryzen 5 and Ryzen 7
  • Intel: i5 and i7

where Ryzen 5 has 6 cores and twice as many threads, Ryzen 7 has 8 cores/16 threads; the latest i5 has 6 cores/6 threads and i7 has 6 cores/12 threads

The table below shows a collection of options, including some that are mostly of historical interest to me, with benchmarks from the PassMark Software PerformanceTest V10:

CPUBenchmarkBenchmark (ST)Year#cores#threadsNotes
Ryzen 7 5800X2794933832020816
Ryzen 5 5600X2234133322020612
i7-10700K1968230862020816
i5-10600K1460629262020612
i7-9700K146262914201888
i7-8700K1390327912017612
i5-9600K108702790201866
i7-7700K97212769201648
Ryzen 7 3700X2281826892019816
Ryzen 3 3300X127852689202048
Ryzen 5 3600X1832826782019612
i5-8600K102652643201766
i5-7600K68772571201744
Ryzen 3 3100117782443202048
Ryzen 7 2700X1758524382018816
Ryzen 5 2600X1409824132018612
Ryzen 5 1600X1308321942017612
Ryzen 7 1800X1623321782017816
i5-2500K40831696201044My 2011 build
Core 2 Duo E840011651250200822My 2009 build

Motherboard

Having chosen a latest generation AMD CPU the selection is narrowed down considerably. To me it becomes a choice between a general purpose b550 chipset and the higher performing x570 chipset, which requires active cooling. My PC is in my living room, so fewer fans outweighs being proofed for a hypothetical future (at which point updating the motherboard may be a welcome opportunity anyway). Note that most current AM4 socket motherboards will need a BIOS upgrade before they can support a Ryzen 5000 series CPU, i.e., an older CPU must be installed first).

RAM

DDR4 blocks with 288 pins is the thing these days, with 3200 MHz being the pragmatic choice. In most cases 16GB is fine, but since I will be editing RAW files and rendering movies, I’ll go one step up to 32GB.

GPU

Something mid-range will do, Radeon 5600XT or Nvidia RTX 2060 sounds fine.

Storage etc.

I am happy to note that the cost of M.2 SSDs is now comparable to SATA SSDs. That is particular good if you are bad at sorting photos and culling the bad ones. Also, the NVME drives are cab le less, greatly reducing clutter in the case and improving air flow.

Another piece of good “news” (I totally missed when this became a feature) is modular power supplies. How great you can remove all those cables that you’ll never need.

Finally a point to watch out for: When buying a new case make sure it has room for the components you need, First of all a front loading bay like a DVD drive or internal card reader. This is no longer a given (I believe I once had a case with room for 7 units).

Featured Image

A leaf in fall colors.

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PC Update 2018 – for Lightroom and occasional gaming

Playing Roles – My Brief History #5

IBM Compatible Gaming – My Brief History #3

 

Garden Update – Fall 2020

<- Summer 2020

It took a while to get started with garden work this fall. Being very busy at work was surely part of it, but we also made it hard for ourselves but keeping ‘build a playhouse’ on the todo list – a big project that would have to be done early if at all. Last change to do it was the fall break in mid-October, but as we ended up working all days, it just never happened. Coming out on the other side probably allowed us to us realign expectations to something we can get done.

We also gave up growing magnolia trees in our front garden – they just wither away – now we are trying plumes instead (time will tell if they truly replace the splendor of the old tree).

Key events in the garden

  • Oct 17: We admin defeat and remove the dead(ish) magnolias in the front garden. Not sure why, but this plant just doesn’t work for us
  • Oct 18: Went shopping at plant nursery. Trees, lilac, perennials, lavender
  • Oct 25: Planted the two plumes (Kirkes and Victoria) and a Lilac (‘Charles Joly’). In the afternoon, as it begang to rain, I drove away the rest of the tiles from the old garden path.

    Planting a plume tree
  • Oct 27-28: I try drying chilis in the oven. It kinda works, but it is an iffy business when the oven has a broken temperature regulator. 200°C for even a few minutes is too much.

    Drying chilies in the oven

Featured Image

I went for a walk today and brought the camera to photograph trees in fall colors. Here are some of them.

Related Posts

Garden Update – Summer 2020

Garden Update – Spring 2020

Garden Update – Winter 2020

Top 5s

A recent thread on Twitter ask for people to share a top 5 list without giving the category.

A fun read, with some expected lists coming up, often with little twists, such as the Five Beatles. My contribution to the thread was:

  1. Moana
  2. Rapunzel
  3. Kida
  4. Eilonwy
  5. Vanelope

…having just written my princessology post. Of course, there being no category made me think again, especially how I would but such different personalities into a common, sensible frame of reference. I settled on to five Disney princesses I would like to take out for a Hamburger and thinking about the possible burgers and places to eat them i realized that the list must be revised.

Top 5 Disney princesses to take out for hamburgers:

  1. Moana: A standard burger, probably made with fish.
  2. Kida: Standard burger, high-end place
  3. Tiana: Something New Orleansy, but I’ll trust her expertise. Might be at Tiana’s, if she’d serve that in her own place.
  4. Eilonwy: A veggie burger at an independent cafe
  5. Rapunzel/Vanelope: One of them needs to go, because I wouldn’t miss the chance to eat with Tiana. It may be a choice between a Whopper and a Happy Meal though, and today I am more in a mood for Whopper.

Thinking more about the concept I though about other lists I could have made, mostly nerdy and showcasing some knowledge I have picked up over the years – preferably something generally useless. for example:

  1. Photon
  2. Graviton
  3. Gluon
  4. Z
  5. W

(the particles that carry the fundamental forces – once a physicist, …)

Doing a top 5 is not just a matter of creating nicely googleable content, demonstrating some chunk of knowledge and study pros and cons, inviting a nerdfight about which Star Wars movie should be the fifth on the list; it is an opportunity to dive deeper into a subject and think it over.

I have several Top 5 lists that I look forward to share here.

Featured Image

Another summer vacation shot: A fishing boat landing on the beach in Nr. Vorupør, Thy (Denmark).