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Berry Month 2020

Once more I write the yearly post about on the harvest in my garden. Usually the harvest takes place during a couple of days in mid-July, inconveniently sandwiched between summer vacation trips, and thus these posts are generally called ‘berry week‘. This year, although one vacation trip was canceled to avoid infection risk in the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, we had to pick the gooseberries just before leaving for a week in Jutland, but nothing else was ripe at the time. When we returned home I had just one day before going back to work and that took my focus away (bad weather didn’t help either). But this weekend the sunny summer returned and I went out to pick what remained after the birds have had their chance.

(Actually, we started harvesting the garden even earlier than that: The flowers on our elderberry bush were ready on Jun 13 and a basket-full was made to syrup).

The gooseberry yield was low, especially compared to the 9+ kilos green (Invicta) berries last year, but I expected that after the pruning I gave the bush in spring. All was frozen and will be made to syrup later (worked great last year). The red Hinnonmaki have also been pruned and had so few berries that I didn’t bother picking them.

The currants were finally picked on Aug 1 and had good yield, except the redcurrant, where the birds had already taken their share. The red- and whitecurrant were immediately cooked to syrup (like this – but I’ll go easier on the vanilla next time) and the blackcurrant was cooked to marmalade.

In numbers:

  • Gooseberry (green): 3848 g
  • Redcurrant: 606 g
  • Whitecurrant: 1274 g
  • Blackcurrant 1524 g

Featured image

Whitecurrant waiting to be picked.

Related posts

Berry Week, 2019 Edition

Bæruge 2018

Bæruge! (2017)

Berry Week! (2015)

Princessology: Erata, Enchanted Etc.

Spoliers ahead

Erata

In my previous Princessology post I did thorough work to determine the scope of the study. Must of the usual suspects makes the cut and then there are several honorable mentions who didn’t make it to my list, for example because they aren’t animated or because they are not princesses at all.

One young lady I summarily excluded from the study was Giselle, the protagonist of Enchanted, on the grounds that the movie wasn’t animated. I realize that I should have been more precise: I obviously meant “fully animated”…

That said, further study into the character reveals that while Giselle not only wears a dress and has an animal sidekick, but also has most of the characteristics of the classical distressed damsels like Snow White and Cinderella, she lacks a defining trait: She is not a princess and neither does she become one during the movie. Therefor she is stricken from the list in any case and get to hang out with Mulan instead. I can imagine worse company. However, there is another character in the movie who might pass that criterion depending on the scheduling of wedding and coronation, but as already pointed out the movie must be fully animated.

Good to have that cleared up now.

Enchanted

I enjoyed casually watching Enchanted. It was interesting to see Amy Adams in one of her earlier roles before her career really took off. Also, watching and not just listening to Idina Menzell (the voice of Elsa) was interesting. It is fair to wonder what the ambition of the movie is – is it a retelling/mashup of the classical Disney fairy tales, or is it a satire of these movies, showing how absurd they are when watched through modern eyes? It may be age or movie watching experience, but I believe the latter, and as such the movie is fine – just think about the cleanup/singing scene – brilliant. I’ll rate it 3/5.

Etc.

Probationary Princess

Upon further consideration, Megara has been moved to probationary status. While hooking up with the Son of Zeus, King of Gods certainly count towards princess status, the fact that Hercules gave up his god-hood to be together with her counts against him being a prince, and her princesshood as a consequence. More research is required.

Likewise, Jane Porter needs to be reviewed, since she is romantically involved with Tarzan, who is often referred to as the King of the Jungle. This might make Jane a queen (but skipping the princess stage entirely). However, if Disney’s movie doesn’t make clear reference to Tarzan being king, the Esmeralda rule will be applied, since only the movie version count.

Rewatching Frozen II

When I published my previous Princessology Update Frozen II had just premiered on home video and as expected I have watched if several times since. A few times with the kids, several times by myself. I like the movie very much.

I guess there may have been many possible plot-lines to choose between, including the most obvious one with some new antagonist arriving and the sisters teaming up to win the day for Arendelle. Instead the relationship between sisters is explored and resolved. Maybe the creators took input from the senior Pixar people who receives thanks in the end credits. Especially if watching the movie through a neurodiversity lens, it tells story of the challenges sisters that are different may experience as they grow up. In that sense, Frozen II is not just a kids’ movie, but a movie for everyone with an interest in how siblings grow up and it is well worth watching. I’ll rate it 4/5.

Featured image

A landscape photo from Thy, where I just had vacation with the family. The landscape is something special, the light in midsummer is something special and the weather was cold and rainy, which was bad for beach trips, but great for photographing landscapes with interesting clouds.

Related posts

Princessology Update

The Anne Karenina Principle and the Case for Project Management

All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.

– Leo Tolstoy in Anna Karenina (1877)

Thus begins Tolstoy‘s novel Anne Karenina. I learned about it when I was introduced to the Anna Karenina principle in Jared Diamond‘s book “Guns, Germs and Steel“. The book explores why in the history of humanity some societies have come to dominate others and one the factors involved is the access to domesticated animals. Ever wondered why you can’t ride a zebra like a horse? When you count it becomes clear that very few of the planet’s large animals can be domesticated, a fact that it explained by considering the factors that must all be fulfilled for an animal to be domesticated successfully. If just one of these factors is missing, then domestication is not feasible. In other words, while domesticated animals are all essentially alike, each is undomesticated animal is undomesticated in its own way.

Project managers talk a lot about unhappy projects and often seem quite unhappy about it. However, I believe that the unhappy nature of projects is not necessarily a bad thing and that a certain unhappiness is part of being a good project manager.

First, what is a happy project? If a project is a “…temporary organization that is created for the purpose of delivering one or more business products according to an agreed Business Case” [cf. PRINCE2.wiki], then a happy one must be one that has no problems delivering its products at the expected cost, value and time, and where all other status indicators are good and green. I suppose these projects exists. At least I will not say on record that they don’t – maybe like black swans they live and roam free in a country far away and in zoos, where they are executed perfectly and run smoothly, always delivering on time, budget and quality.

However, in my experience, all projects are unhappy, and they are each unhappy in their own way. And yes, I just admitted that the projects I manage are rarely in an all green status, and when that happens, then it is time to review the project and look for risks and issues that might have been overlooked. Or, keeping the project management triangle in mind, if project is in the middle for an extended period, then either the budget is higher than it needs to be, the scope unambitious or not innovative, or the timeline too lax. It reminds me of the anecdote about Henry Ford that he would have workmen check Ford cars in junkyards to see which parts could be manufactured cheaper. Seriously, though, part of good project management is to deliver what is agreed at the right time and in the agreed quality and at no more than the agreed cost, and to do this work the project manager should always look for opportunities for optimizing delivery. This principle is weaved into common Agile frameworks as part of retrospectives and continuous improvement and in PRINCE2 as part of the Managing a Stage Boundary process.

In other words. to deliver the most value, the project manager should not be afraid of challenging herself, the delivery organization, or the client. Having said that, there are also projects that are severely challenged and possibly beyond redemption (or may not have actual delivery as the main purpose). Transparency and upright communication go a long way for this.

Doing this not only provide the client the best bang for the buck, but it is also good for the project managers, even though they expose themselves to unhappiness. Consider the alternative – a project where everything is green always and the project manager tasks is reduced blindly approving stuff. First the project manager might follow the example of Homer Simpson in “King-Size Homer” who got someone to cover for him, but eventually the project manager would be replaced by someone more junior (or a dipping bird). No Challenge -> No Job.

Someone to cover for King-Size Homer (or an under-challenged project manager). (from The Simpsons, episode S07E07 – thanks Frinkiac.com)

Therefore, project management is about working perpetually unhappy projects and whenever one source of unhappiness is removed move on to the next. It is a Sisyphean, almost depressing task, always focusing on the things that are missing, the things that are going wrong and being suspicions of ever there is an all green status report. All glasses are half-empty or out to get you.

Just thinking of a recent experience: At one point all looked green and I really considered calling a meeting to brainstorm risks and determine what we might be missing. We found out soon enough though and could go back to work. External interfaces, uncertain backlog and uncertain funding kept times interesting thereafter.

Another project I was involved was hardly a project at all – missing both a clear goal and timeline (no budget either : ), but it was a tricky (and very innovative) job and someone had to do it. That sort of thing calls for project manager skills, so it was called a project anyway.

All said, I can happily return to work and keep pushing, pulling, nudging, and kicking my projects forward. Not only are all projects unhappy, but they are also unhappy in each their own way, providing a never-ending source of challenges and opportunities for the experienced project manager to learn, excel and add value.

Garden Update – Summer 2020

<- Spring 2020

As mentioned in my spring update, this is the year of the COVID-19 pandemic and for better or worse, a time to appreciate the garden if you have one.

I am thankful that I do, especially after I was provided with some extra motivation for seeking out new career opportunities and plenty of extra time to do, well, something… That something has resulted in an ambitious to-do list for garden work. Early casualties was the willow tree back in May, which had a fungus infection and looked to be slowly dying (in the post-mortem it looked OK though) and one of the espaliered apple trees which had very low yield (plan is to replace with some pear trees), but the list also contains garden path cleanup, repairs and replacements, flower bed renovations; even a play house for the kids is planned. I am not going to share the list though – as any plan, it is unlikely to survive contact with the enemy reality).

Key events in the garden

  • Jun 13: Picked elderberry flowers for first batch of syrup (-> this recipe (Danish))
  • Jun 23: Finished cleaning the garden paths.
    Before
    Backyard garden path before cleaning

    After
    Backyard garden path after cleaning


  • Jun 24: Finally reined in the raspberries. This task has been on its way for many years, but I didn’t find the brain space to construct a proper scaffold. Now I finally did it, with five poles and 3 meters of coated metal wire. While the planning phase may have lasted 8 years, the execution took 10 minutes 🙂
    Simple scaffolding for raspberry bushes
  • Jun 30?: First cucumbers harvested in the green house.
  • Jul 10: Gooseberry picking day. Just 3848 g after cleaning. Much less than the 9130 g harvested last year, but that was expected after a thorough pruning.
  • Jul 25: First home-grown tomatoes picked and eaten. The tomato harvest still has some promise, whereas chilies aren’t doing well this year,

Featured image

A cleaned-up garden path. I build those myself about ten years ago and the looked great when they were brand new. Then, every spring they look at little more worn down, as time inevitably passes, but it is always great how a few hours of work can make them look almost new.

Related post

Garden Update – Spring 2020

Garden Update – Winter 2020

Princessology Update

Beware, spoilers ahead

As I write this (mid-May 2020) the time of waiting is coming to an end. Specifically, the wait for the home video release of Frozen II, which, given the demography of my household, will probably run almost non-stop on the TV for the foreseeable future. This is a great time to make an update to my princessological study of Disney princesses.

Princessology being the study of princesses, just like geology is the study of the earth and climatology the study of the climate (the abominable misuse of the term “methodology” in situations where “method” will do just fine shall be ignored – it will get its own post some day). The subject is not generally taught in schools where I live, but it is part of the curriculum at Ever After High and that is good enough for me).

This began as a speech to a niece at her confirmation some years ago about princesses as role models. I started out with real life examples like the daughters of  English Henry VIII and Valdemar IV of Denmark, after which I turned attention to Disney royalty. First as a as a chronological walk-through so that I could demonstrate how the characterizations of princesses changed over time, but with 22(!) princesses on my list that didn’t work in practice and did not do justice to the better written characters. Below is what I did instead and at the end of the post some additional thoughts and personal observations.

I know there a plenty of post like this one out there, often either discussing how horribly old-fashioned some of the female characters are portrayed, or celebrating the modern portrayal of other (newer) characters. I find it worthwhile to look at them all – to confirm both the new and the old views, and find something interesting in-between.

Definitions and Scope

What is a Disney Princess anyway? The short reply is “depends :)” and Disney has at least two answers themselves: According to Maui (Shapeshifter, Demigod of The Wind and Sea, Hero of Men) you are a princess if you wear a dress and have an animal sidekick; and then there is the official Princess Squad (numbering 12 as of May 22, 2002). I am not going to argue with a flashy demigod, but I also have issues with the princess squad list as being both too inclusive and too exclusive. Specifically: Mulan, for all her personal qualities and potential as a strong, female role model, just is not a princess nor does she become one. Likewise, there are several perfectly fine princesses-by-birth who could be added to the list if Disney should choose so, for example Vanellope von Schweetz and Kida.

Examples of alternate princess squads from the Internet: The Disney Princes ‘B’ Club and The Disney Princes B-squad

To arrive at a more accurate list of princesses I consider only female characters in Disney theatrical animated features who are of royal either or noble descent, or become royal or noble by marriage. As mentioned above, the nobility requirement this eliminates Mulan from the list, but I do include chieftains’ daughters like Moana and Pocahontas.

Next, limiting the study to a specific list of Disney movies also scratch several candidates from the list, starting with Merida who is great, but a Pixar character. If she was added to the list, then we might arguably add characters from Blue Sky Studios movies, since that studio became part of Disney as part of the Fox Deal (it actually looks like Blue Sky has managed to avoid princesses in their movies so far, although I am not going to watch all Ice Age movies to confirm it). This also removes Sally Nightmare  from the list (stop motion is technologically closer to the vintage animation of the movies from CGI was introduced, than today’s CGI productions).

Then, by considering only theatrical features we not only remove the (also) excellent Elena of Avalor from the list, but also Sofia the First and all the other pupils from Royal School of Enchancia school (as well as Princess Ivy and, if one considers the Amulet of Avalor a princess summoning device: Olaf the Snowman). It also leaves out direct to video sequels and the new remakes.

Finally the study stick to “animated”, which leaves out not only Giselle, but also any other Princess showing up in a theatrical Disney production. 

A good test is the Leia Criterion: Don’t include a character in the list, if including that character would allow include Princess Leia. 

Through this the list of princesses has been reduced considerably. I do not, however, see any reason to limit the study to human characters: I think Vanellope and Nala are both very fine princesses.

Furthermore, the study is limited to female characters. Disney Princes may warrant their own study post in the future, just think about the story that could unfold if Frozen III picks up the story about commoner Christoph being married to royal Anna (in Denmark media have been ripe with stories about the trials of a prince consort; or watch The Crown on Netflix for a British perspective).

Finally, the study only consider the characters’ story within the context of the movie, so while Esmeralda marries Captain Phoebus in the Disney adaptation of The Hunchback of Notre Dame and he is a noble in the book, I will not cheery-pick that single nice fact and ignore Victor Hugo’s vastly different character story arcs.

All said, the list of princesses making the cut follows below. There are less than 22 because I leave out the three Pixar princesses Merida, Atta and Dot.

NameMovieYearPrincess byNotes
Snow WhiteSnowwhite1937Birth
FalineBambi1942Marriage
CinderellaCinderella1950Marriage
TigerlilyPeter Pan1953Birth
AuroraSleeping Beauty1959Birth
Lady MarionRobin Hood1973Birth
EilonwyThe Black Cauldron1985Birth
ArielThe Little Mermaid1989Birth
BelleBeauty and the Beast1991Marriage
JasmineAladdin1992Birth
NalaThe Lion King1994Marriage
PocahontasPocahontas1995Birth
MegaraHercules1997Marriage
Kida (Kidagakash Nedakh)Atlantis: The Lost Empire2001Birth
TianaThe Princess and the Frog2009Marriage
RapunzelTangled2010Birth
Vanellope von SchweetzWreck-it Ralph, Ralph Breaks the Internet2012, 2018BirthPrincess by initialization
AnnaFrozen, Frozen II2013, 2019Birth
ElsaFrozen, Frozen II2013, 2019Birth
MoanaMoana2016BirthAlso called Vaiana in some regions.

A mentioned the study started out as a rumination of the feminist development of the Disney princess over time, and while that is an important point, I eventually divided the princesses into four different categories:

    • The Damsels 
    • The Driven
    • The Responsible
    • The Rebellious

The first group is the usually reviled group of pretty girls waiting for Prince Charming, but the other categories are a reminder that there are sgreat characters out there with more interesting stories to tell.

The Damsels

This is the home of the first,classical Disney princesses: Snow White, Cinderella and Aurora (Sleeping Beauty). Beautiful, loving girls who can mange a household while waiting for Prince Charming to show up. Lady Marion is saved and Faline is conquered, saved and get to bear the next generation.

All characters don’t do much in their story except wait to be saved and then presumable become good wives and queens and live happily ever after.

The surprise member of this group is Belle from Beauty and the Beast’, because although she is introduced as an intelligent and bookish girl who wants more from life than what her village has to offer, she succeeds through goodness and love. The pivotal character saving the day is the boy Chip, who has the technical savvy to make farther Maurice’ contraption work. Of course the title of the movie and name of the character gives this away, but it still seems like a wasted opportunity to me.

The Driven

The next group is less likely to live happily after after, but if they do, then it is because they made it so. They are driven and ambitious and their royalty is a secondary trait. Consider self-made business woman Tiana, whose prince gets to entertain in her restaurant; or Vanellope von Schweetz who will rather drive racing cars than rule her kingdom.

Who knows if that ends well?

The Responsible

I expect it to end well for the responsible princesses, who experience a crises and use their wit and charm to succeed against the odds. Anna, who journeys through ice and snow to bring summer and her sister back to of Arendelle belongs in this group, along with Nala who asks Simba to drop ‘hakuna matata’ and become a proper Lion King. Kida from Atlantis gets to rebuild her society from almost nothing. I also put The Princess Eilonwy and Tigerlily in here, although their story arcs aren’t great (for Eilonwy’s complete story read The Chronicles of Prydain).

Final member in this group is Moana (or Vaiana, depending where you live), whose journey both across the sea and personal discovery is driven by a desire to save her island (of course she is a Chosen one, but while she is attracted to the unknown, she does return to (and for) her people).

I am confident that these women will do well.

The Rebellious

Exciting stories are those of the rebellious princesses. Like Jasmine, who meets Aladdin after running away from tradition and arranged marriage. Instead, when she gets marries it is to a commoner. Megara, on the other hand, confronts the bad decisions of her past.

Some princesses rebels against there parents. Rapunzel, who pursues her Dream (well-) armed with a frying pan, the little mermaid Ariel and chieftain’s daughter Pocahontas, who follows their love heart instead of duty.

Finally I now confidently place Elsa in this group. In the original (non-posted) version of the study I was reluctant about placing Elsa in this group. She does leave behind her place as queen of Arendelle to go on a journey of self-discovery and -realization. But then she is back home again, creating skating fields.What happened to the girl who ‘Let it go’? Of course she had a rough time in the movie, but ending her story there never felt credible to me. I was optimistic when the sequel was announced, and after watching the movie also delighted that Elsa’s story arc is concludes in a satisfactory way.

Final Thoughts

The study may be whimsical, but at the core it is about thinking critically about the entertainment that we allow our children to watch and emerge themselves into. Who should be their heroines and heroes? Which stories catches their attention and when do they need guidance and when should their ideas and understanding be challenged? The study could be written about any piece of entertainment featuring a diverse cast of characters. Who is the favorite pub of Paw Patrol (Everest, if you ask me, no competition even close), The greatest superhero? (Batman, of course, but what if we play Marvel only?) And so it goes, on and on, but as long as they take it seriously, I as parent will do the same.

The number of universes created and pushed upon children is enormous, but I find it worthwhile to at least follow which ones my children watch and enjoy. It is something to share with them and I hope that if we can share the funny things now, then they will also share the less funny stuff when that day comes.

Featured Image

Closeup of crabapple flowers.