Gardening diary – week 10-2015 – March 2015

Spring has arrived with 15°C+ and blue skies. This weekend was dedicated to heavy pruning of the Abelia, roses (maybe a bit late), Lavenders and every other shrub close to the terrace.

Sunday the shredder was active during 2 hours and shredding stuff into 6 containers – mulched.

I wanted to install the rain-water-gathering container. I noticed that the inside-layer of the 1-meter-long-split-repair, done two year ago using epoxy-resin, has detached. This split is still kept-together with the external epoxy-layer but it won’t sustain the pressure of 500l water. I will need to renew the inner layer. Talking to a neighbor gave me the idea of roughening the surface so that the epoxy will better stick.

In addition to that the overflow-pipe has to be repaired. This was the initial work I wanted to do, but now I the split became priority. Luckily I have the second 500l container (which doesn’t have a overflow-protection) which I installed, once full, it will be disconnected again.

The crocuses are at their best right now. Close to the magnolia are two new crocuses I haven’t seen before, quite big compared to what I’m used to: a 10cm high flower stem.

I observed bird-activity on one of the nesting boxes. Nothing to get excited. They were only visiting.

In one of the vegetable bed we sowed green manure in form of pea. To be dug under in 6-8 weeks. Hope the seeds are still working.

Python – my personal FAQ with StackOverflow

I’m not ashamed, no, not all … really! ;-): I wrote my first, worth-mentioning Python-script only in November 2014. I’m not new to script-languages, but so far I haven’t had the need nor really the opportunity to write a Python-based one myself from scratch.

The task was to write a small text-processor (others might call it a parser) for a proprietary and simple, linear (no branching), variable-argument-count, command-based language – to debug scripts written in this language.

When advancing, and thus learning how to write Python, I extensively used for finding answers to my questions. In retrospective, I figured out that in fact all the answers I needed were from SO. Reading my profile became a quite an interesting collection of Qs and As – so I thought, why not making a post about it, not the least for my own reference. My script is written in Python 3 (so print is now a function).

Python – language in general

Sometimes, while coding, I sometimes don’t want to fill an ifelse-block. How about ’empty if statement’ in pythonpass is an empy block, like {} is in C

When writing the grammer for my parser I needed to Determine the type of an object?, or in reality the type of a variable. type() does that.

Referencing to function/method-arguments in the callee as a list or dict is answered here: What does ** (double star) and * (star) do for Python parameters? This allows variable number of arguments for callers.

What does `if __name__ == “__main__”:` do? – good question, seems to be the main-function in Python. The answer is good.

Ever wondered why regex-strings are prefixed with rWhat exactly do “u” and “r” string flags do in Python, and what are raw string literals?

That all values are passed by reference is explained here: How do I pass a variable by reference?

I haven’t understood all quirks for Unicode yet, but having set LANG to a UTF-8 based language is important. I had to passthru UTF-8-files to my output and my system was LANG=C I had UnicodeDecodeError: ‘ascii’ codec can’t decode byte 0xef in position 1.

Why do people write #!/usr/bin/env python on the first line of a Python script? The shebang-line in a Python-script should use env.

Argparse optional positional arguments? Positional arguments are args without a switch.

How to calculate a mod b in python? Like in Perl and C: with %.

When sourcing files which are located next to your script, it is nice to know how to get the path of script.

Tokens, Strings

When parsing you need to tokenize. Search engines gave me this answer to ‘tokenizer python’: Pythonic way to implement a tokenizer: re.Scanner – an undocumented class, utterly useful for this task.

How to check whether a string is emtpy in Python: Most elegant way to check if the string is empty in Python?: An empty string is False.

Display number with leading zeroszfill will fill up (from the left) with zeros.

How to print in Python without newline or space? Printing without a line-break in Python3 is done with arguments to print.

Dicts and lists

What is the preferred syntax for initializing a dict: curly brace literals {} or the dict() function?

How to Add to a dictionary in Python? Dead simple. Delete an element from a dictionary intuitive.

Use len() to find out How to get the size of a list. And how to iterate over dictionary sorted by key?

Almost everything is copied or passed by reference in Python when you assign or return a variable. Modifying a list while iterating over it, requires to know How to clone or copy a list in Python? Copying lists while keeping the references to its elements is done with slicing.

Map/combine two lists into a dictionary in Python where one list is the keys and one the values is done with zipHow can I merge two Python dictionaries in a single expression? for merging two dicts. Updating a dict with a dict Python append dictionary to dictionary replaces elements in target dict if elements with the same key exists.

ASICS Gel Kayano running shoe series – not what they used to be?

Early 2007 I bought my first real running shoes. My choice fell on ASICS Gel Kayano 12 (Code: TN600) which was a current model of the Gel Kayano series at that time. Since then, I ran roughly between 3000 – 4000 kilometers with these shoes.

When they started falling apart in 2013 I decided to renew them, though still keeping the old ones, for garden jobs. For several reasons I chose to stay with the same series from the same maker. Of course the model has changed: they were now at 19 (Code: T300N) and counting (I think 20 was already existing). I ran about 1000 kilometers since then.

Some time ago I noticed that the tissue of the back-inner-part, where the Achilles tendon is sitting, started ripping apart, on both shoes. It wasn’t until today that I realized the importance of this part of the shoe: it scratched open the skin of the my Achilles during my run. I think the shoes have become unusable.

Even though in 2014 I ran more than in the years before, I knew that with the Kayano 12 I had run a lot more and never remember this issue. See for yourself the difference of the tissue in question:

Yes, the left one is the Kayano 12, 7 years old, and the right one is his younger brother. I’m not an tissue expert, but I clearly see that the tissue used on the Kayano 12 is much more robust than the one of the 19.

I don’t want to speculate about the reasons for this degradation regarding this product – although I could rant for hours. Instead I will look for solutions asking a question on

Tarte au citron – my version

This is my version of the Tarte au citron-recipe my French colleagues suggested. The original is from Marmiton – a popular recipes-site in France – here is the link. It’s in French. I will do the translation, supported with pictures and highlighted with my modifications.

The photos are dating from the version I made for Christmas 2014.

The Meringue – preparation

I need

  • 2 egg whites
  • 70g icing sugar (originally 100g)
  • 1/2 tea spoon of baking powder (not nooded)
  • pinch of salt (not in the original recipe)

First, beat the egg whites and the pinch of salt in a bowl using an egg whisk, ideally motorized. Do this until the egg white has become fixed and stable. You need to be able to turn the bowl upside down (careful!) while the whisked egg white stays inside. Make sure there is no more liquid on the bottom of the bowl.

Continue with mixing in the icing sugar, two-three table spoons at a time, still using the egg whisk at low speed or manually. When done but the mixture in the fridge. Putting this mix (actually the meringue) into the cold place helps to keep the structure.

The sablée dough for the base

The dough is a so-called pate sablée, literally sandy dough. Before adding the liquid to the dough, touching it feels like beach-sand.

I need

  • 250g white flour (T55)
  • 125g butter (cold, but not fridge cold)
  • 50g brown sugar (originally 70g)
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 50 ml water
  • 1 pinch salt

Start with whisking the egg yolks and the sugar with an electric egg-whisk until the mixture has become whitened. Add the water to help the mixture dissolve if it has gotten too gluey.

Cut the butter in small pieces, take off all the rings you might carry and mix by hand the flour and the butter. Using hands is important because the temperature is ideal to soften the butter. You’re done when the dough has become sandy and the butter has been completely absorbed by the flour. You can form small clumps which are easily scrunchable as a sign of completeness.

Now add the liquid egg-water-sugar and loosely stir it in without forming clumps. The original recipe advises to use a knife, I used a spoon. Now, again, with your hands, form a ball and knead 1 or 2 times to get a uniformed block.

Take a backing pan of around 25 cm (or a tarte pan) in diameter and flatten out the dough inside. Create a border of around 3 cm height. I do this by hand, otherwise I get uneven dissipation of dough.

For cooking you can either use baking bean if you have. If you don’t use a fork and softly pierce all the area of the dough. Both will avoid the dough to “come up” while backing. You want it to stay flat.

Now cook it for 20-25 minutes at 180 °C in a preheated oven. In the original recipe they tell you to leave on the oven afterwards at 120-150 °C, because they scorch the meringue in it. As I’m using a blow-torch, I turn off the oven.

The crème de citron

Even though it is called crème there is actually no cream at all. The word cream here is used to described the texture not the ingredients.

I need

  • 5 middle-sized lemons
  • 90 g white sugar (originally it is 150g)
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 table spoon of Maizena (corn starch magic)

Clean the lemons and rub off the zest (the skin of the lemon) of 2 or maximum 3 lemons, the more you use of the skin the more the lemon taste you get – if you take too much it gets bitter and you might need more sugar. Careful not to harm the juicy inner part.

Squeeze out the juice of all lemons and put them in a small casserole. I used my immersion blender to make sure the zests are finely ground. Add the sugar and the Maizena. Now put the casserole on a stove and starting heating it with low temperature (level: 4/9).

In the meantime batter the eggs (yolk and white) in a bowl. Do it as long as you can using the motorized egg-whisk. The more air you add to it the better. I do it until it almost is as fix as battered egg-whites.

Add the eggs to the lemon-sugar-maizena-mix in the casserole and add more heat (level: 7/9). While the mix is heating up never cease to mix it with a manual egg whisk. This avoids clumps. Once the mixture has reached a consistency of battered cream or like light dough and the foam of the eggs has complete gone (don’t panic, it will happen at some point in time), take it off the stove (and turn the stove off). Whisk it from time to time until is has cooled down a little bit. In my experience there is no need to wait long before the next and final step (except for the meringue).


The hard part is done. Finalizing the tarte is relatively easy.

  1. Wait for the baked sablée-base to cool down to room-temperature.
  2. Add and spread evenly using a knife
  3. Get the meringue from the fridge and spread evenly as well.
  4. To get an uneven, more interesting top, you can use a spoon, slightly dip it in and pull it up.
  5. Use a blow torch (the one which can also be used to make créme brulée) to carefully burn the top. This gives you the brown pattern.

Nesting box #1 – 2013: a nuthatch family

The nesting box hasn’t changed places in its second year. However I improved the roof by adding a larger plank to it because I suspected the roof to be not rain-tight.

Around Easter I noticed activity but wasn’t able to determine which kind of bird it was, but I saw that these weren’t blue tits.

It wasn’t until Pentecost (May 19) that the feeding activity allowed me a closer look. With the help of my father-in-law we found that it was a Nuthatch family. To be more specific, the Eurasian nuthatch. Here is a video and some pictures I took which show the parents in action.


Review: Jo Nesbø – Police

– 75% of the people who are basing their argumentation on statistics have just made it up. –

I just finished Police (in reality it was the German version of it is called Koma), the latest and 10th episode of the Harry-Hole-books series by Jo Nesbø. When reading a new episode of a series like this I try not to read the back-cover summary. It happened that this short text spoiled big parts of the main story of a book or gave clues which destroyed whole threads of the entire story.

So I did here – I avoided the blurb and Nesbø was able to fool me for quite some pages. Great!

The story is as good as previous Hole-books and full of surprises. His way of describing the environment, the behavior and the actions of the characters creating great images. It binds you to the book – it’s gripping. IMHO with every new book Nesbø is getting better and better in doing this.

But the most important for me: The intensive and staccato-like concatenation of paragraphs and chapters starring the main (and most desired) characters is something I rarely get in books I’m reading. This is where Nesbø is doing an outstanding job – not only in this work: He does not fear overloading the reader with sequencing all actions done by one single character in back-to-back stacked sections. I even have the feeling that sometimes the spaces he puts between them are just there to have the reader get some breath, sleep and to not have him missing the station where he has to get off of the train.

The characters and the dialogs and actions are appropriate and consequent compared to previous books. Having said that, I was unable to find any average person in the book. Everyone seems to have at least one extreme behavior-problem. Which is, of course, always (ab)used by someone to do her bad. Like these kind of problems are written on one’s forehead.

I would not recommend this book to someone who hasn’t read Phantom. Well, maybe one should even read The Leopard before, too. If you read this book first and you like it, it will spoil important plots of previous stories and it would a pity. The joy of the Hole-stories will be partially gone.

So, Mr. Nesbø, now it’s time: I’d like to see Harry Hole moving on a screen! Sadly, I only know the Hole created in my mind. I would like to get to know another one’s creation; one way to meet such a new interpretation of a fictional person is to have someone make a movie or theatre-piece of it. Go for it.

A Japy réveil pendulette restoration – decisions

Over Christmas 2013 I discussed the restoration with my father and we took, first, apart the clock and, second, some decisions:

The pieces.

The Japy Reveil taken apart for restoration.


  1. We won’t restore the paintings. They have some scratches and probably due to sun exposition on the back and one side the color is partially gone. We decided that this is likable.
  2. The whole in the clock face will be restored very simply. It can later be easily removed if we decide to have it done properly.
  3. The brass will be polished.
  4. The clockwork has to be cleaned and overhauled.
  5. The wooden case will we waxed.
  6. The too much widened nail and screw-holes will be stuffed again, so that the nails and screws will stay where they are.
  7. Some of the brass nails and screws have to replaced.
  8. The metal bottom-plate which was added to stabilize the case won’t be needed anymore.
  9. The broken handle will be fixed by inserting a small copper rod and a little bit of soldering.
  10. The broken foot will be fixed again by soldering (like all the other foots are fixed)

Here are some more images taken when my father had already started do some of the things mentioned above.

Before and after stuffing the whole in the clock face:

Some brass elements:

Blogger: no revisions when drafting a post – lost an article

EDIT 2014-12-15: In the meantime I moved to WordPress on a dedicated site with all articles. I keep this one as a warning.

I was just about to finish an article (not this one) when I lost everything I wrote. Here is what I did:

I’m using Chrome to post and edit blog-articles.

  1. I switch to HTML-view to add an image – because the “insert image”-button didn’t work.
  2. I forgot to close the quotation mark for the value of the src-attribute.
  3. I saw that only when switching back to the Compose-view.
  4. I switched back to HTML-view and saw that now all HTML-tags where escaped and the characters were transformed to entities.
  5. I clicked undo until I reached a version which was OK. I clicked again undo by error. The textarea become blank.
  6. I clicked redo, still blank.
  7. I closed the TAB before autosave happens
  8. It had happened.
Result: text is lost. Luckily I started the text in an offline editor – so I still have an early draft.
Conclusion: WebApps, Cloud and things like this are still a risky way of doing things as long as the interface is a generic application like the browser. Even in 2014. Even with Chrome. Happy new year.

Nesting box #1 – 2012: a blue tit family

In January 2012 I used some old wooden planks to create a nesting box following these instructions (Danke an den NABU).

I was reading that you need to be patient to have an inhabited nesting box – especially in the first year. The birds are starting to look for the right home sooner than one might think. So, the idea was to put the box up as soon as possible. Normally you should do it in the autumn the year before, but, as usual, I was a bit late for that. My hope were quite low…

It was on the Easter weekend 2012 when I first saw activity around the box. Not being able to observe it 24/7 I was probably missing most of the visits. I now think at this time they either breeding or building up the nest.

It was only when the chicks arrived the activity raised noticeably. At that time you needed little patience to observe the parents arriving with food in their beak. However, they are very sensitive regarding the distance you respect to the nest. Being too close will make one of the parents (I think the male) cry out with warning signals.

This is even making the other one (so probably the female) not entering the box. Unless the chicks cry, they will stay outside. Any noise of the chicks seems to lower their threshold of danger – especially for the female.

The blue tits are very good pilots compared to other birds I observed. They fly, start and land very fast. But I was able to capture some of theirs visits. Here is one example:

When everything was done (mid-June) my curiosity was making me open the box to inspect the nest. Of course, before that, I made sure that there was really no more activity. The nest was really soft and super-light and to my surprise I found that there were still some eggs. This fact made me ask a question gardening.stackexchange. I think, that the box (especially the roof) was not water-proof enough and we had some heavy rain during that period. Maybe the eggs have gotten too cold and thus died.

I put the nest back into the box. I later learned that this might not be a good idea, because it might prevent a new breeding the following year. Well, this was not the case, the following year a European Nuthatch family chose to breed in that box.

A Japy réveil pendulette restoration – Will it be possible?

My father likes to understand and can repair clockworks and loves the restoration of things made of wood – as a hobby. These talents are exactly what you need when you want to work on old, non-functional clocks that are most often inside wooden cases in not very good condition.

When being on Brocantes or Vide greniers I’m trying, from to time, to get some objects for him to work on. Or I’m looking for things which he explicitly asks for.

DSC_8058This time he asked me to look for a clockwork for a french regulator and I found one with the help of This lead me to a very kind gentlemen (Merci, Patrice) who, in addition to the movement, sold me several other things related to clocks. We had I nice chat and when I was about to leave, he offered me a portable mechanic alarm clock from the late 19th century – a Japy-made.

He told me that he got it from a not-so-kind person which was selling it as in good condition while in fact it was not. For identification reasons, he gave me a link to another blog: Réveils pendulettes XIX avec réglage de l’heure de réveil sur le cadran).

When seeing this site, I was enchanted by the photos of the finely repaired, cleaned and restored clocks.

I was immediately attached and was thinking, how far can I could go to restore the one I got and make it a nice decoration object for myself?

Here are some more images of the current situation:

I, probably, won’t be able to do anything myself. I will soon discuss with my father to see what needs to be done, what is missing and what is possible from his point of view. Apart from all the mechanic-, metal- and woodwork to be done, I dream of having done a proper restoration of the painting.

Let’s see what going to happen – I intend to write more articles while the restoration (attempt) progresses.