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Garden Update – Winter 2020

<- Previous (2019)Spring 2020 ->

I am trying out a new format for the garden updates. Trying out a new format this year, to make it more interesting to write, and hopefully also more entertaining to read.

This is a strange winter. To anyone concerned about climate change (and anyone should be) it must look like confirmation that something is horribly wrong. And confirmation it may be, but I will leave it for meteorologists to make the conclusions. At least it looks like we are finally getting over the rain deficit from summer 2018. I am sorry for everyone who is suddenly threatened by flooding, but also personally happy that my house is on the top of a hill and has no basement (so while I have no extra storage space for stuff I don’t want to look at but might someday need, i not only do not have a lot of old crap lying around – I also avoid a flooded house).

In the garden I am behind with the key tasks of pruning the apple trees – mostly due to a sprained ankle which has troubled me since early January and bad weather. The ankle is better now though, so hopefully the weather will be OK in the coming weekends.

So far I have pulled my self together and ordered fresh seeds from Simpson’s Seeds and this year the experimental focus will be on cucumbers. I also intend to put squash in the elevated bed.

Key events in the garden (2020)

  • Feb 8: Started pruning the apples (a sprained ankle and bad weather is slowing me down)
  • Feb 11: Ordered new seeds for the greenhouse

Featured image

I asked for some extra top soil and for my sins they gave me, well, a small hill. Actually the local water works is servicing pipes in the area and digging up here and there. For a moment I hoped they would dig up the entire foot-walk which really needs renovation, but looks like its is just 3-4 meters. Oh, well.

Related posts

Garden Update – Spring 2020

Garden Update Summer 2020

2019 Goals Retrospective

It is the season for retrospectives – both for 2019 and for the 2010s. And since this I actually did draw up a list of goals for 2019 it feels good and worthwhile to write about it and share it for inspiration.

My list was inspired by the 18-for-2018 list by Gretchen Rubin from the Happiness Podcasts, but see here for variations: Fuck New Year’s Resolutions and Goal Setting. What was important to me was to have list of tangible achievements for the year which would make me happy and satisfied, and, in various ways, a better person for having achieved them.

Below are some of the items from my 2019 list and how it went.

2019 and how it went

Watch 19 movies

I barely made this one in time. In the past I have had a ‘to-watch’ list of interesting movies which I filled from reading reviews, blogs etc., but in 2019 years I lost touch. Part of the reason surely is that I switched to digital newspapers only (another 2019 goal successfully met), which meant that I didn’t keep up with new releases as well as I used to do. Also, my goal of playing at least two computer games naturally disrupted my movie watching.

What helped me reach the goal none-the-less was two things: First, I wanted to see all the Marvel MCU movies before Avengers: Endgame and there is just so many of those that it got me half way to 19. Second I have been buying up animation movies for the kids (yeah, sure – for the kids : ), so there was also some easy options there.

As a result I got my superhero appetite sated for a long time (some of those movies are quite good, actually, but 5 in a week gets a bit much, especially because they are not that different). I also watched Cars 3 and was positively surprised (I didn’t care about Cars the Fist and disliked Cars 2, so that bar was low), Ralph Breaks the Internet (less satisfied, and I suspect it well age less well then its predecessor with all those culture references to the Internet of 2018). To finish the goal I watched the refreshing Spiderman: Into the Spider-verse and Lego Movie 2, the latter mostly buried beneath two happy kids, so I will surely have a similar goal for 2020

Watch a TV series

These past years TV series have been all the rage with people raving (more or less) about how great it is to see a series universe be established over time and the characters’ long term development etc. I have been holding back a bit for the same reason: It is a lot of time to invest i a series to see the universe get established over time and watch the characters develop. But I pulled myself together and downloaded the first 2-4 episodes of various series to my tablet before going on summer vacation and ended up watching Lucifer. I am also going to watch The Witcher, but that premiered so late in the year that I didn’t sett more than half of the first episode. And watching a series takes more than that. Right now I am working with the criterion that I need to watch one entire season of a series and then one episode from the next season before it counts as a series watched. Single-season mini series are of course exempt from the second rule.

Play 2 new video games

I put this item on the list because I had rather enjoyed playing through Fallout 4, and wanted to make sure that I had a couple of equally enjoyable experience. I then went on to play through F4 twice more, which was fun but didn’t help me goal-wise. In the third play through I pulled myself together and skipped the final quests and started Dragon Age instead. I have tried that game several times but never completed it. This time I did and enjoyed that very much. Next up I gave Crusader Kings II a go – I even bought a bunch of expansions which I’d been told was necessary to really enjoy it. But after a couple of weeks I must conclude that it just isn’t kind of game. Still, that’s two out of two.

Buy a new jacket.

Checked and done. Levi’s has served me well once more.

Cancel blogs

I made 2 out of of 3 (because here we are : ) That said, I did get close down a couple of activities that I wasn’t only not enjoying anymore, but also paying yearly to keep running. Also, I reconsidered about this blog and realized again, that I do like writing it and I like the point of mastering my own domain and owning my own content on the net. Facebook, Twitter and the lot will have their time and eventually fade away, taking your content with them. This blog is mine and will stay up as long as I want it so. And I own whatever I publish here, not subject to any nefarious terms and conditions. Finally, as I inevitably have a public, digital presence, it just makes sense to have a vCard that I control myself.

19 water changes in the fish tank

Best practice is to change 25% or more of the water in a fish tank weekly. For many years I got away with doing it every second week (most of the time, obviously, or I wouldn’t have this goal), but getting a smaller tank with more and bigger fish made that unsustainable. Blooming algae have spoken the clear, green/brown language. Good news is that I can confirm that adjusting water change schedule really helps deal with those black beard algae.

Stop printed newspaper subscriptions

For many years we subscribed to a printed news paper at home, but didn’t read it as much as we felt we should, preferring online news-sources instead. Still, we liked the traditional idea of having our children grow up in a house where news papers. After a particularly bad streak of unread newspaper I began considering the counter-argument: Don’t have our children grow up in a house where natural resources are wasted just for show and adherence to tradition. The latter argument makes better sense in many ways. Less environmental footprint, less cost, readable on the same device as my other news sources. Also, whereas the elder generation may prefer the traditional way, we will eventually be judged by the younger. It still leaves it to us parents to teach our children good (internet) news reading habits, but keeping a printed news paper is an awful excuse for not doing that.

Read two books of fiction

After a couple of attempts I finally got started, gripped and completed Robert A. Heinlein‘s ‘The Moon is a hard Mistress‘, which is excellent and holding up remarkably well, especially considering that it was published in 1966, before Man set foot on the Moon! I am qualified to say that there is no such thing as a free lunch.

I also read ‘The Consuming Fire‘, second book in John Scalzi‘s Interdependency series. Very enjoyable too.

I also had the goals of reading one management book and one self-help book and eventually (December) went for Sun Tzu’s The Art of War (done – a fair target if you stick to the main text) and ‘Getting things done‘ (which I ironically didn’t quite 🙂

2020 goals

In the new year I plan, among other things, to:

  • Watch more movies – some with my wife, some with my kids, some for myself (the latter category so far including Captain Marvel, Tully and Toy Story 2, in case you misunderstood : )
  • Read the (weekly) digital news paper at least 20 times
  • Build a play house for the children
  • Read more books
  • Go to some concerts
  • Prepare some candlelight dinners at home.

and so on and so forth. It is going to be a productive year, hopefully with some great achievements. I can already see that I am going to fail on some of my goals too. So be it – until now I am failing for good and well-considered reasons. More about that in my 2020 goals follow-up, coming to a blog near you.

Featured Image

A frozen flower of the Pink Fairy rose.

What about Consoles? – My Brief History #4

When I started writing this series of posts about my life as gamer I didn’t expect to do a post on console gaming. Why not? Because so far it has been a significant part of my gamer experience. I expected to give it honorable mention in a wrap comment, along with mobile gaming. Yet here we are and I am writing this. What happened? The short answer is that I got myself an Xbox One for Christmas, so one way of the other, a console will be part of my life for a while coming, and before that happens it makes sense to take a status on my console experience so far.

The longer answer to the ‘why get a console now?’ involves retrogaming, media centers and surveillance cameras and the Raspberry Pi. Here is how: As mentioned in a previous post I am the generally happy owner of 3 Pis. Two are media centers, the third is used for various experiments.

Now, we have a spot in the house that we want to be able to check occasionally when we are away from the house. A quick solution for the budget aware person is to grab a Raspberry Pi, connect a camera and DIY. That’s what I am gonna do and that’s gonna set me back one Pi.

Then, regarding media centers: I have two Rasperry Pis running Kodi (one per TV) and that is a fine solution, except that one of the pies is not performing well and I want at the very least to have a backup. That could be another Pi, but trying out heavier hardware could be interesting.

Finally, as my first post in this series indicates, my heart still beats for old arcade and early computer games. Fortunately emulators are available that provide the opportunity to reply these games, either on a PC or *something* else. Again, the quick solution for the budget aware person involves a Raspberry Pi and, for example, an installation of RetroPie – a Linux package specifically build to run RetroArch on a Raspberry Pi. A great idea in principle, but I never was happy with the result, with the main gripe being controller setup. I just can’t get a stable setup with a wireless BlueTooth controller. So next step for me is to try building on hardware with native wireless controller support. I was already starting to look into options for building a NUC-based solution for this, when it occurred to me to check current costs of a gaming console. Turns out that both the PS4 and the Xbox One are now reasonably priced. Then, while I am not a fan of the Black Friday concept, I still checked if an Xbox could be bought at a reasonable price. Turns out it could. Directly from Microsoft even. No doubt to lock people into their games eco system before they get a Stadia or switch to Play Station 5 instead of getting the Xbox Series X when it arrives in 2020. And apparently also to keep people from buying more Raspberry Pis. In any case, soon I will unwrap my new Xbox and grow much wiser in the way of consoles. Time will tell if I succeed with my projects and whether gaming catches on – at least for the kids.

My brief history of gaming #4 – The Consoles in my Life

I am pretty sure that my earliest gaming experience was on a neighbor’s Atari 2600, some sort of tennis game and since then console gaming has always on the edge of my gaming universe, with a few trips inside. We shall see what my Xbox will do about that, but That may be a out to change, but I’ll start at the beginning.now I start at the beginning.

After the Atari next experience was the small handhelds with LCD screen. Nintendo’sGame & Watch: Octopus and Trojan Horse and Towering Rescue from Gakken. Very simple games by today’s standard, but quite exciting for a kid in the early 1980s and more than enough to make you want more.

I then took the Commodore path of 64 and the Amiga path and didn’t pay much attention to the console alternatives. I suspect that many consoles weren’t marketed very well in Denmark either – probably the market is too small.

What finally brought me to consoles was SSX Tricky and Dancing Stage Megamix, (played on floor pads) on the PlayStation 2. To me the biggest thing on PS2 was Final Fantasy X, my first experience with a JRPG and that way of telling stories, I also tried out Final Fantasy X-2 and Final Fantasy XII. However, I only went fully into FFX, possibly because of an unfavorable relation between the sofa-tv distance and the screen size, or perhaps the risk of tripping over the controller cable or the noisiness of the console. in any case, my PS2 experience topped with FFX and I haven’t played console game since. So on the eve of unpacking my Xbox One, this is the time to make status.

Memorable Games (that I played)

  • Half-Life – this is the only time I have played this classic game. Something missing in my education, I know.
  • SSX Tricky
  • Dancing Stage Megamix
  • Final Fantasy X

Memorable Games (that I would have liked to play but didn’t for various reasons that won’t fit in this headline)

Looking back, it would have been great to play some Mario games and meet Sonic the Hedgehog.

Also, I might have played more of the Final Fantasy games as they came out. I have tried the ports of Final Fantasy VI and VII (not the upcoming 2020 remake)

Little Big Planet also looks fun – maybe next time.

I also missed the Nintendo Wii – it looked fun as a party game, but I was never convinced how it worked in other situations – perhaps I should take a look at the Switch. but first things first, I’ll go unpack my Xbox One.

Featured Image

The featured image shows the fruit bodies of a annosus root rot fungus colony I found during recent walk in a nearby forest. It was a great trip and I really enjoyed the fall forest with my kids. They helped my find lots of different fungi – the best of which are shared in my Instagram feed.

Related posts

Thoughts of Games – My Brief History #1

Becoming a Gamer – My Brief History #2

IBM Compatible Gaming – My Brief History #3

Garden wrap-up 2019 (final)

<- Last year (2018) — Next year (2020) ->

Update Dec 23: Now that it is all over for this year and the cycle ready to repeat it self. Final notes are:

  • Nov 13: Final mowing of the lawn
  • Oct 16: Picked the last chilies and wrapped the garden up for winter

Update Sep 15: I emptied the greenhouse today, except for the Chocolate Habanero, which isn’t ripe yet and may as well get some extra time to see if it ripens.

After a good long working day in the garden I see in the green house that fall is approaching, with several plans being cut down already now, either because there is no fruit left to ripen or because of beginning gray mold infection. Such is the cycle of the year, and so it is time to start capturing what went well, what can be done better and what we might not do at all next year.

Greenhouse

All in all chilies have worked well, herbs were more than great (next year do more chive and parsley, less basil). Tomatoes a bit disappointing. I know I didn’t care as well for the plants this year as I usually do, but also I didn’t have the best varieties this year. The plants I bought from Gartneri Toftegaard did well as always.

  • Toftegaards Sweet Crunch was a fine red cherry – too bad I accidentally broke the top and stopped growth.
  • Toftegaards Gule cherry – one of the best performers this year
  • Tomato Cavendish: Ripens too late (same as last year)
  • Green grape: Bad growth, low yield (same as last year)
  • Cucamelon: fun, but that’s it
  • Cucumber – One plant is enough, since I get all the fruits at one time which is too many, but after that there is none.
  • Rocoto chili: Probably placed badly, just one half-rotten fruit
  • Chili Lemon Drop: Fine yield
  • Chili Habanero: Fine yield too
  • Chili Cayenne Long Slim: Not a good year, probably the plant suffered from being squeezed between other, larger plants. Lesson noted.
  • Chili Jalapeno: Fine yield
  • Chili Lombardo: OK yield, but at the end of day we are terrible at using these mild chilies.
  • Chili Habanero Chocolate: Finally picked on Oct 16. OK ripe, but I didn’t get to use them before they went bad.

Related posts

Havejournal 2018

Tilbageblik på haveåret 2017

 

IBM Compatible Gaming – My Brief History #3

This post links to quite a few computer game store pages where the game in question is sold. Please be aware that I am in no way affiliated with the stores, the publishers or the developers, and I receive no commission from any sales. Should anyone reading this post go on to buy any of these classic, old games, then I am just happy that the people who enjoyable gaming moments back then get extra recognition.

On my list of must-play-games I recently made it to The Witcher 3, which I found very enjoyable after playing the tutorial a couple of times (I tested out playing via Steam Link, but didn’t quite like the experience, so my PC after a couple of attempts). In fact I enjoyed it enough to consider playing the first two games in the series first – also in order to understand who is who. And read the books. I’ll probably watch the Netflix series too : )

My brief history of gaming #3 – Playing the PC

I got my first PC in the summer of 1993. Like most of the PCs at the time it was a beige box and built around a 386 CPU, and it was intended for schoolwork as I had just finished high-school and would enroll in university soon after.

It was not a fancy machine in any way. At the time the only thing that distinguished PCs were the CPUs, which at the time ranged from i386 running up to 40MHz, and i486 at 25, 50 and 66MHz. I know I started at the less ambitious end of the scale, but I generally believe that if you don’t know why you need the more expensive model, you shouldn’t get it (I know that to some people just having the most expensive is reason enough, but I am not like that).

I soon found good reason to buy more powerful equipment though. Not just games, but also more serious stuff like exploring the world of fractals  during my early mathematics studies and then programming too, including simulation of chaotic driven/damped double-pendulums. I picked up an i387 mathematical co-processor quite early, which did wonders for my fractals, but other than that upgrades were mostly about increasing raw CPU power. The videocard rush had not taken off yet and to confirm that state of PC gaming it should be noted that sound card were not yet standard equipment yet (this was long before sound cards became integrated on motherboards).

While I might have shot too low in my initial purchase I got plenty of opportunity to upgrade and I had these:

I had that box until 2002. In the same period RAM went from 4 MB to 256 MB and disk storage from 160 MB to 12 GB. My primary OS was from Microsoft (DOS, Windows 3.1, Windows 95 and 98), but I also tried out OS/2 Warp and started running dual-boot setups with Linux. By 2002 though, much of the box had become obsolete and I moved on to a full replacement.

Gaming-wise, I was happily surprised. The first game I played on that machine was Prince of Persia (the original one). I was soon introduced to Wolfenstein 3D and X-Wing had launched in spring 1993 and I realized I might have aimed too low on the specs. Other early games from the period were Warlords 2 and The Lost Vikings. Then Doom came out in December 1993 and changed everything, but I also got to play Star Control 2 early on – a game with such unique dialogue and humor, which still gets headlines in the gaming news.

Memorable Games

In my early PC years I got to play a bunch of games that are still considered classics and which all demonstrated how the more powerful hardware allowed a wider range of games and ideas. Also, over the 9 years I build on that box, the games industry moved very far.

Many of these games from the time have become available again on GOG and Steam at very reasonable prices and packaged with DOSBox so that they can run on modern OS and hardware. No need to dig out the old installation discs.

I also played Diablo which is considered a classic with its own franchise, but even though I have completed it twice, I somehow never felt compelled to explore the franchise further. Maybe I should : )

Featured image

This image is a detail from the Mandelbrot set, generated on my first PC in 1993 using Fractint.

Related posts

Thoughts of Games – My Brief History #1

Becoming a Gamer – My Brief History #2