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Garden Update – Spring 2020

<- Winter 2020Summer 2020 ->

This year, 2020, has become the year of the corona virus pandemic. It is bad already and no one knows yet how much worse it is going to get. To so many people it has meant spending time confined at home, so if ever there was a time to appreciate one’s garden, this would be it and I certainly am. 

However, staying at home hasn’t meant spending more time in the garden than usual. Taking care of work and children at the same time takes plenty of energy and with the pandemic hovering in the background, working the garden doesn’t get much attention. Still, the basic work that must be done is getting done.

Among the yearly spring activities is the pruning of trees. Especially our apple espalier and willow are important milestones every year because they must be done in winter or early spring, and are therefore very dependent on the weather being at least reasonable. Then we have fruit trees and bushes, and especially the fruit trees – apple, quince and crabapple – have been challenges. Not because they are intrinsically difficult – I don’t believe they are – but because I have been uncertain about how to prune them, and doing something year after year without really feeling confident about what you do, doesn’t yield satisfactory results (aesthetically, that is: fruit yield from the trees is not bad, actually, except for last year 2019 when frost in May ruined the fruit production across the entire country). And even the aesthetics I am not so sure of – it may just be that my vision of what the trees should look like didn’t match up with the reality in my garden.

My pruned crabapples

But what do I actually know about the shape of young apple trees? Not much, so Youtube to the rescue. Because, of course there are videos showing apple trees, showing apple trees before pruning and after pruning and showing apple trees in the process of being pruned. Some videos also have people talking about pruning without trees. Fascinating stuff and very instructive. I was relieved to discover that pruning is not an exact science that I just don’t or can’t understand. There are general rules: get rid of water sprouts and growth follows the nearest bud; but apart from that, I see that people approach this in very different ways, so I came away with the beginnings of confidence and an idea of how to approach the task with my own trees. “Slow, but Fearless” turned out to work for me: Slow, because taking one branch at a time allows me to evaluate the result of each cut, so I stretched the pruning out over 3-4 days, shaping each tree along the way. Fearless, because some major branches had to go away before the trees were aesthetically pleasing. For example, on one crabapple tree I actually removed the central stem above a certain height. The tree is one of a pair and one tree was always bigger than the other. That, is, not any more and it looks so good. Now I look forward to see the trees row this season and doing adjustment pruning next year.

My blooming apple tree, after pruning.

Also part of the yearly cycle is preparing plants for the greenhouse. This year we once more bought seeds from Simpson’s Seeds, and the seeds were sown on Mar 6 (chilies) and Apr 7 (tomatoes and cucumbers)

This is pretty much the same as our 2018 dates. An overview of past sowing dates:

YearChiliesTomatoesNotes
2021Feb 21
2020Mar 6Apr 7
2019Mar 10Apr 13
2018Feb 24Apr 7
2017Mar 20Apr 9
2016Feb 22Mar 27
2015Feb 19
2014Mar 2Mar 2
2013Didn't sow (kid)
2012Mar 17Apr 1
2011Didn't sow (vacation)
2010Feb 28Mar 21

Key events in the garden

  • Mar 6: Chilies sown:
        • Goat Horn
        • Habanero
        • Lemon Drop
        • Cayenne Long Slim
        • Hungarian Black (2018 seeds)
        • Jamaican Hot (seeds from a jar of dried chilies from 2018)
  • Mar 8: Pruned the willow tree
  • Mar 21: Pruned roses
  • Mar 28: First mowing of the lawn
  • Apr 7: Sowed tomatoes – cultivars as follows:
    • Sungold
    • Stupice
    • Bloody Butcher
    • Indigo Cherry Drops
    • Black Russian
    • Bottondoro
  • Apr 9: Repotted the chilies, keeping 3 of each (5 different ones – the Jamaican Hot didn’t sprout); also sowed cucumber
  • Apr 27: Repotted tomatoes, keeping 3-5 of each
    The tomatoes are ready to be repotted.
  • May 23: Prepared greenhouse
  • May 24: Planted greenhouse
  • May 27: Willow tree was felled, along with the oldest espaliered apple

Featured image

Garden trash is piling up during the closure of recycling stations.

Related posts

Garden Update – Winter 2020

Garden Update Summer 2020

Garden Update Fall 2020

Playing Roles – My Brief History #5

The years from 2003 to 2012 are a distinct period where I focused mostly on Role Play Games. As far as interests go it is a natural development from my earlier interests, it is only because of new hardware that I see it as a different period in my gamer career. The end, on the other hand, is definitely marked by the birth of my first child. Playing computer games too k a backseat for a long time after that.

I have always loved playing computer Role Play Games (=cRPG or just RPGs). I wonder why – probably a mix of the pacing (slow, player controlled), the scope (10s of hours per play through), the storytelling and the degree of complexity (not  simple and not overly complex, just right). fairly high, but not the purpose). I was hooked on Wasteland and never really stopped since, although 1993 – 1998 were dry, until Baldur’s Gate and Fallout revitalized the genre.

(By the way, I also love playing pen & paper RPGs, but that’s for another post)

My brief history of gaming #5 – Playing in the 2000s

Writing about my hardware in the 2000s it strikes me that whereas upgrades in the 1990s were primarily driven by adding CPU power, in the next decade it was more about additional features like USB connectivity and affordable portability (i.e., laptops).

My first PC (from 1993) lasted until 2002. Then it couldn’t escape obsolescence any longer. hit it. There were no more compatible upgrades available. Motherboards no longer came with the AT/Din5 keyboard connector that my PC case required and after 9 years the cabinet was worn and scratched. It was also too small for multiple hard disks and optical drives and had no easily available  place for USB connections (eventually provided by a PCI card on the back of the case – a must-do if I wanted a mouse, since PS/2 connectors were not possible either)

PC gray was out of fashion now and I went for black instead. I do not remember all specs well but it was based on an AMD Athlon XP 2000+ CPU and I remember adding 2x 80 GB harddisks for the multi-boot setup – initially it ran Windows 98, Windows 2000 and Linux (probably CentOS) – but it wasn’t long before the older Windows were replaced by Windows XP. Initially it had a modem for dual up networking. It wasn’t intended for gaming, and the most exciting feature apart from the two USB ports on the font was the monitor I bought with it – a 14” flat-screen, which was just becoming affordable at the time (that would be at 4000 DKK at the time (about 540€) – it is strange to think back what a huge difference it made to get rid of the big CRT monitor and swtich to flat screen, also at a a time when 1024×768 resolution was still OK.

The 2002 PC didn’t get a lot of upgrades (a faster CPU and new graphics card is all I remember), but then I also started working on laptops more and more. The older PC sometimes acting as a terminal for remote desktop connected laptops, so it wasn’t until 2009 that it was replaced with new hardware – a system bade on a Core 2 Duo. Not a bad rig (it is still running after upgrade with SSD and Windows 10), but while I had it, it had some stability issues (both in Win XP and In 7, but gone in Win 10) and it didn’t support SATA3 and USB 3, so in 2011-12 it was gradually replaced by the 2500K system that I am still running (which has done well with some good upgrades, but is showing its age now).

Memorable games

This is a funny list – very focused on Bioware and Bethesda products, with appearances from Obsidian and Troika (which are all related now). Just proves the point made in the beginning of this post.

  • Battlefield 1942 – yes, I did play a non-RPG during this period!
  • Sid Meyer’s Pirates: An enjoyable remake of the C64 games I used to play
  • Icewind Dale 2: The last of the infinity engine games and fun to play, even if the game style was getting old. I am glad I played it then. There is little chance of seeing a Beamdog ‘Enhanced Edition’ remake since the source code is lost, but there should be mods available to make it run on modern systems and resolutions.
  • Morrowind: My first experience with a Bethesda Elder Scrolls game and one of the better ones, even if interface and game-play is a bit heavy-handed by modern standards. Also, playing the leveling system optimally is tedious and much bookkeeping. Still, the sense of exploring a vast world at my own pace is what I remember the most.
  • Knights of the Old Republic (KotOR): This game brought me back to PC gaming after some hiatus. I liked it a lot and played it through at least 4 times (including one game on Android phone)
  • Knights of the Old Republic 2: More playing jedi and generally enjoyable. I recognize the quality issues that plagued the game, but the game was fine and the ambition paid off.
  • Planescape Torment: When I finally played this in 2005 it was 5+ years old but still a great experience and a classic that I, as RPG enthusiast, would not want to be without
  • Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines: Another RPG that is well.known for quality issues. I played a patched version and had fun.
  • Jade Empire: A new universe from Bioware, but the game felt a lot like KotOR in a new, eastern setting.
  • Fallout 3: The first Fallout game after Bethesda acquired the IP from Interplay. As expected and feared by some, it felt much like a post-nuclear Elder Scrolls game and that works fine for me. 
  • Oblivion: The fourth Elder Scrolls game, following Morrowind. I think I played almost the complete game, except finishing the Shivering Isles DLC. Generally enjoyable, but while it kept the bookkeeping gameplay of its predecessor, it felt less like an open world, due to its focus on the Oblivion threat from early on.
  • Mass Effect: Another new IP from Bioware, this time set in a SciFi universe. Another fine game which I played twice and enjoyed both times. I should still play at least the first sequel (I tried once at it felt to fast paced though)
  • Dragon Age: Origins: I finally finished this game last year, but I played it first in 2011 but never finished.Thinking back I blame the dwarven part of the game and one more boss-fight than needed.
  • Skyrim: Great, immersive and beautiful. Didn’t feel quite as open-worldy as I remember Morrowind being, but Bethesda got rid of the old leveling system.
  • Neverwinter Nights 2: Another game that I tried completing several times, but never did. The last attempt was just before my daughter was born and all that remained was the last boss fight. Thinking back I should just have changed the difficulty settings and completed the game that way, but it is too late to do anything about that now. I may give it another go at some point, either playing from install DVD or pick up a fully digital version from GOG.

It was also during this period that I played Eve Online. A whole lot of it, actually. I will write on that in the next post in this series.

Feature image

Evening sky with just after sunset – with something rare these days: Contrails. It is strange how you don’t see those at the moment – a symbol of a new age.

Related posts

Thoughts of Games – My Brief History #1

Becoming a Gamer – My Brief History #2

IBM Compatible Gaming – My Brief History #3

What about Consoles? – My Brief History #4

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