Simmering cleaning soap

My wife has been working on simmering on her Siedekessel (“boiler”) homepage for many years now. Since then we only use homemade soaps. Now that she also touches on shampoo, toothpaste and butt-spray (instead of wet toilet paper), she has spent the last few years trying to make cleaning products herself.

Last year, “Grüner Putzen” (“green cleaning”), her second book has been published by Freya. There she describes, for example, how to easily create citrus vinegar cleanser. This year we have completed the book “Putzen mit selbst hergesteller Naturseife” (“cleaning with self-made natural soap”). The recipes consist of both “normal” soaps with sodium hydroxide and greases with potassium hydroxide.

I especially enjoyed designing the layout. For this we have photographed some antique towels for the background. Putting the scenes of the cleaning soaps was also very exciting.

The book is available only in german language and can be ordered here for 14 Euro. Enjoy boiling and testing the soaps.

Photos from nature on iNaturalist

A few weeks ago, my stepson Paul recommended the website iNaturalist to me. While hiking, I always pick my camera and I really like to take photos of animals and plants. So he knew that this website was a perfect match for me. I immediately set up a profile and today I uploaded my hundredth observation.
It’s great fun to look for interesting animals and plants and then upload them to find out their name and family. But that’s not the only useful thing. The data collected on iNaturalist can be used for all sorts of evaluations to find out which species of animals or plants occurs in which places of the world. Sometimes, there are interesting discoveries of newly immigrated species.
You can also identify the observations of other people, if you are familiar with certain species of animals or plants.
For nature lovers, biologists and photo-hobbyists iNaturalist is a must-visit website!

My observations can be found here via this link.

Cosmetics for babies and children

Finally! The book “Baby- und Kinderpflege – natürlich selbstgemacht” (Baby and Child Care – natural homemade), written by my wife, was published by Freya. The book includes many basics, numerous recipes, all vegetarian, many of them even vegan, for self-stirring. In composing your own cosmetics, they are without artificial sweeteners, preservatives and allergenic perfume oils. The basic ingredients are vegetable oils and floral waters.

After we had published two ring binder books called “Naturseifen einfach selbstgemacht” (Soaps easily homemade) Baby- und Kinderpflegeand “Hausgemachte Naturkosmetik” (Homemade natural cosmetics) in our own publishing house (Waldfaun), but sell it only on the website, we are now proud that the new book is also sold in bookstores.

My wife teaches adults how to make soap and how to mix cosmetics in adult education courses. Parallel to these courses she wrote the former mentioned two recipe collections. Last year, Inés deepened into mixing of cosmetics especially for children and babies, as she had numerous requests how to do that. Children have more sensitive skin than adults.

Together we draped the mixed ointments, creams and lotions, as well as the ingredients, thus many of the photos in the book were contributed by us.

The book is also available on Amazon:

Enjoy reading and mixing, all you mothers and fathers, and also all you grandparents, aunts and uncles.


While hiking in the “Kemptener Wald” (Cambodunum Forest) in May 2015, we came upon a strange riddle. There was a tombstone with engravings on all four sides, written in gothic letters. There was a word looking like “Dekonomensgattin” and another one that seemed to say “Dekonomsgattin”. As you later see, this can’t be translated, but I’ll try it nevertheless: “wife of deconomist”. Strange word, we thought. Neither my wife nor I had heard of this word, so at home we started searching for it in the world wide web. We had some hits on the search machines. All of them led us to old books and to chronicles of died persons. But we did not find, what the heck this meant. Finally the enlightenment came over us: While we examined the fotos and some of the links more closely, we identified the upper case D to be an upper case O instead. The strongly decorated upper case letters of the gothic font had deluded us. They even had deluded the OCR (optical character recognition) software of the search engines.

oekonom-nicht-dekonomNow look at your own: Would you have identified this without any references? In one of the scanned books we found with the search engine, we had managed to find words with upper case Ds and Os, so we were able to compare and differentiate them.


So, finally our word “Dekonom” became the word “Oekonom” (economist) – and that’s a word we all know…

Lessons learnt? Only because you get some hits when searching the web for something doesn’t mean the information is not faulty.

More lessons learnt? Typography can be difficult. As a designer you should always be aware that using wrong typefaces or fonts can result in generating text that can hardly be read – not only for human beings.

IpfmessApp in stores

IpfMESSAppOne of my first projects in my new job was building an app for the iPhone. The app has been done for Bopfingen city, for their folk festival called Ipfmess’.

First idea was a simple counter app where people can easily observe the remaining time until the big event and browse the program of the folk festival on the phone.

But soon there were other ideas like including an instagram stream (hashtag #ipfmess) or adding an info tab with information on up-to-date news about the “Ipfmess” and events related to Bopfingen and the festival.

The project grew, the layout was updated several times and so it took longer than expected until the iPhone app reached the AppStore. An online survey revealed that people wanted the Android-App to be released before the iPhone version. The last one was then unfortunately released about one week later than planned because we waited for the app to be approved by AppleStore. So the app’s release for iPhone was nearly two weeks after the Android version. But finally the app now can be installed!

And of course it is free of charge, it was a fun project for Veroo Consulting (and for me), a project we didn’t do for profit but for the fun to do it – and that’s what it was! I hope you will also enjoy it. And who knows, maybe we’ll meet at the Ipfmess. 🙂

There will probably be some updates, soon, as we have even more ideas – so check out the news on the official homepage.

Here are some links related to the app:

XML Tools Plugin for Notepad++

For a class lecture on XML I searched for a free text editing tool supporting syntax highlighting for XML, check if XML is well-formed an perform validation (e.g. with DTD). After some research I found out that a plugin for Notepad++ called XMLTools. I was very lucky because I already use Notepad++ for years. The installation of the plugin was no problem and had all the functions I needed for the class. In the first lecture everything worked fine. We checked for well-formed XML, developed some CSS for viewing in the browser and finally started writing a first DTD for a XML file.
Suddenly the students had files which couldn’t be found by the plugin, when they tried to validate their XML. A popup appeared telling us that it was “Unable to load the DTD xyz.dtd”. I examined the files but couln’t find any errors. I searched the net, but although I found some (elder) questions on that error, I didn’t find an answer.
So I took the files home and did some further research (trial and error). First thought was that the coding of the files was wrong, but that didn’t make any change – same error message.
Finally, it was more than one source of error. This told me once again, that error messages often don’t describe what really was the error (and that there should be different error messages for different errors!).

  1. Every syntax error in the DTD causes the “Unable to load” error. This means, if only one bracket is missing, a wrong character or similar small errors is contained in the DTD, the popup is displayed and no validation is possible.
  2. The second source of error actually was the coding: UTF-8 coded DTD-files can’t be loaded by the plugin. We were only able to validate XML files with ANSI coded DTDs (without error!)

Thank you, Jack Vance

A long, long time ago, in a galaxy far away … no – not quite so long, and not quite so far away, a young man, whose many names I would not be able to write down here (ok, here is one: Taumel), gave into my hands a book. Well, now this is no curious thing, you think, that’s right, but let me tell you more. There were white letters on the black cover, which did not make sense to me: Alastor.
Grinning from one ear to the other, my friend whispered to me, that THIS was ‘truely a Vance’! And – hush – in bright blue letters, not quite as huge as the white characters, there was the name Jack Vance printed on the book.
Why, this book contained more pages than I first thought and I was not really fast in reading then. But on the advise of my good friend I began to read. I noticed that the book contained three separate novels taking place in the same universe, but the stories were not reffering to each other.

The fascinating exotic worlds catched my interest. Soon I reached the last book: Wyst: Alastor 1716
The protagonist in this book is a person I was easily able to identify myself with, for his wish to be an artist in drawing and painting is very familiar to me.
With more enthusiasm than ever I read the adventures of Jantiff Ravensroke from Frayness on a planet called Zeck, who wants to study the Colors under the light of the white star Dwan on the planet Wyst and who has to establish, that this ‘utopia’ doesn’t really have such an egalitary system as it is said of. Things are being stolen as ‘needed’ and suddenly Jantiff is pushed into a very strange adventure-like story …
I do not want to retell the whole story here (I even do not have good enough english), but this book was my personal introduction to the fantastic worlds of Jack Vance. In the years after I devoured all books I was able to get from this fabulous author. Thank you, Jack Vance! Thanks for all the hours I was allowed to engross into your worlds.

Much more information about Jack Vance, who unfortunately died in May 2013, you can find on the official Jack Vance Website. May his books feed the fantasy of hundreds of thousands of readers on this and other worlds.

PS: Another great tip for reading are the adventures of Cugel the Clever (Amazon E-Book).

fei (swabian)

The Swabian language continues to surprise me again and again. Recently my wife and I repeatedly encountered the term “fei” (spelled something like “fy”). Fei is included in Swabian sentences to give them emphasis: “Des isch fei was wert. Do ka’sch fei was drauf geaba.” or similar. In the region called Allgäu where I come from they also had this term. But as a child I misunderstood it as being “frei”. I thought it came from the german word “freilich” which means “certainly”. Nowadays it is very easy to research such things. The richness of knowledge in the World Wide Web made it easy for us to find out. The term comes from the german word “feien” (see Duden online). Originally it was spelled “veien” (in Middle High German) and meant “protect something with fairy magic”.
So, if we strengthen our sentences with the word “fei”, our statements will be immune to any inconvenience. Well, that’s “fei” even more fun to pursue this local custom.

PS: This term is not only used in Swabian language. There are other dialects that also use it. E.g. Sandy acknowledged it for the Erz Mountains.


Disparity (binocular) and the thumb experiment

Isn’t it surprisingly, how easy it can be to experiment with human perception without any tools? Here is a very simple one for binocular disparity.

Because of the space between our two eyes we perceives two distinct images. The difference of the images on our retinas can be easily recognized with the thumb experiment: You only have to put forth your hand, thumbs up. Now, if you first close the right eye and then the left one, the thumb seems to be at different places in comparison to the background (see Figure).

The very popular stereograms were formerly used for experiments on disparity. You stare at two distinctive images that have a relatively small distance from your eyes and try to look through them. When you have finally reached a rigid view, you get a 3D effect. You thereby switch off the convergence of the eyes.

Pilgrim’s Hat (Way of St. James)

Some years ago we and some of our friends decided to hike along the Way of St. James in stages. It was not our goal to go on a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, we simply like hiking. Now, such a thing as “the” Way of St. James doesn’t actually exist. If someone wanted to see the grave of St. James in the Middle Ages, he began his journey at the door of his home and ended near Santiago de Compostela. Today, a european nomenclature denotes only the last section (Puente la Reina to Santiago) in the north of Spain as Way of St. James, all others are now called “Ways of the pilgrims of St. James”. That said we took one “way of the pingrims of St. James” – even only a short part of it, between Christgarten and Neresheim. A really lovely church (St. Sola Church) can be found in Kösingen. The priest even showed us the rooms behind the altar, the sacristy, which at that time was not accessible for the public. On 08/21/2013 they had an article in the local press called SchwäPo. Unfortunately the article is only available for subscribers.

ScallopWhen hiking in europe, you can often find a stylized scallop by the side of the road. The icon (often in conjunction with a yellow arrow showing the direction) blazes the right trail. But why the scallop? Each pilgrim finishing his pilgrimage, was handed out such a sea shell. He pinned it onto his pilgrim’s hat, his pilgrim’s bag or his pilgrim’s pole. It acted as identification tag, so pilgrims and non-pilgrims knew, who took the cumbersome way to the grave of St. James.
Numerous statues and paintings of the Middle Ages [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] show St. James and pilgrims with wide-brimmed hats with these shells pinned onto. These hats were typically felted like nearly every medieval hat. The material (water, stale urine and sheeps’ wool) was cheap, there were no other resources needed for the production (contrary to other handcrafts) and even better the result was water proof and nearly fire proof.

In 2005, when my wife discovered felting, the most interesting felting objects were hats of the Middle Ages. It wasn’t a long time coming until she felted her first pilgrim’s hat. In the meantime she has created several handfelted pilgrim’s hats. I am really looking forward to see the film “Die Pilgerin” (The Female Pilgrim), where some of her hats will be seen. The film is currently in production. Here are some selected photos of her hats. Anyone who wants to go on a pilgrimage himself/herself and needs a pilgrim’s equipment, may find a handfelted hat to buy on her felting homepage Zauberreigen (magic round dance).