Gentium cross platform issues

Okay, maybe Gentium won’t work well as a weblog font after all. I couldn’t tell the difference when I made the change on my home Macintosh, but on my XP machine at work the font is much much too small.

Which adds insult to injury, because you can’t resize it. I now have a greater appreciation for Georgia’s design than I did before; it looked almost the same on both machines.

I will be rolling back the stylesheet change, but thinking now more seriously about making the fonts user-resizable.

Free multilingual Unicode font, anyone

Courtesy, a pointer to Victor Gaultney’s Gentium project. Purpose: to build a free multilingual font to bring better typography to thousands of languages around the globe. I can think of no higher calling.

I’ve revised my stylesheets so that Gentium is the preferred font for my article text. If you don’t have the font, the site still renders in Georgia (or Times), but this is my small way of showing support for Gaultney’s project.

Eating one’s own dogfood—with the customer

Dave continues to explore the joys of getting Userland’s flagship workgroup blogging solution, Manila, up and functional at Harvard. Today’s story captures him learning about a potential conflict between Frontier’s built-in web server and Microsoft IIS, if both are running on the same box.

This is exactly the sort of thing that more software developers, and CEOs, should do—get out into the wild, outside the company IT environment, on the other coast or in another part of the world, and try to install and operate your product. Does it work like you expected? Uh oh, it doesn’t! Have you documented the problem? Is it a bug or a compatibility issue? Has anyone else had the same problem? Is your website any help? Kudos to Dave for using his new job as a way to improve Userland’s products and support.

The true reason for weblogs

On Friday I pointed to the Flash animation of Strong Bad from Home Star Runner creating Trogdor the Burninator, an appallingly bad and funny cartoon and musical number.

Today I had a ton of traffic to my site. Apparently I’m now the number one link on Google for Trogdor the Burninator. And people are looking for him. (Note: this is a good opportunity to set up a Trogdor fan page and get Slashdotted.)

Google wouldn’t have found Trogdor without me and other bloggers, since the words “Trogdor the Burninator” don’t appear anywhere within the page, and Google can’t index Flash. Yet.

Learning to enjoy the aches and pains

We spent yesterday in driving snow at Stevens Pass, learning that my early successes in skiing at Snoqualmie and Whistler don’t necessarily guarantee continued upright skiing when it comes to tackling blue runs. Best wipeout: coming down a slick steep run, my skis lock momentarily and I go sprawling. Not just a fall, I cartwheel head over heels, my skis going out at right angles to my body, until I land spread-eagled on my back. Needless to say, this happened fairly close to the chairlift, from which I could hear applause and cries of “I love you!” (male voice) and “I want you!” (female voice).

What could I do? I raised one pole in salute. (They were too far away from me to see my finger.)

The Critiquees for Music

The first annual Critiquees awards for Music have been announced over at BlogCritics. Cool differences between the Critiquees and the Grammys? In-line links to interviews with the artists and honest reviews of the albums, for starters, plus a best albums list that includes Wilco, Beck, and Sonic Youth, but also Norah Jones, Interpol, Bruce Springsteen, and Sigur Ros. Plus, for some reason, a Buffy soundtrack compilation. Neko Case’s Blacklisted got a nod as one of the top five Country-Americana album of the year.

What’s interesting is how when you poll a bunch of wildly opinionated bloggers you get something that looks like the Pazz and Jop listings in the Village Voice. Resolution: must be more obscure next year in my nominations.

For the weekend’s listening: Bascom Lamar Lunsford

Finding Bascom Lamar Lunsford’s Ballads, Banjo Tunes, and Sacred Songs of Western North Carolina was an unexpected stroke of luck. With all due respect to the artists on “O Brother, Where Art Thou?”, this is the real thing. Old English ballads (“Death of Queen Jane”), historical songs (”Swannanoa Tunnel”), famous songs (“I Wish I Was a Mole in the Ground,” brilliantly anthologized on Harry Smith’s Anthology of American Folk Music), even a whiskey drinking song (“Old Mountain Dew”):

The conductor said with a nod of his head
“My wife she never knew
That I take my fun when I’m out on my run
So bring me a quart or two”

Of good old mountain dew
For those who refuse it are few
But his wife said to me, “You can bring me three
By the time his train is due.”

But the best part is that it’s a connection back into the county where my father was born and where his family was from, for as long as anyone can remember. Bascom is distant kin, and getting to hear him speak on this introducing the tunes as he recorded them for the Library of Congress in the late 1940s is spine-chilling.

The out sound from way in

Does anyone else remember that funny moment in the early 90s when the hot sound of the decade was the Hammond B3 organ?

Yeah, I thought not. But it was for real. It was the Charlatans, from Manchester, later renamed the Charlatans UK (my suitemate said puzzled “why is it the “Charlatans Suk?’”) to avoid copyright confusion in the US, who brought the noble Hammond back from its lingering slow death on thousands of late sixties Verve recordings into its proper place. As, um, a rhythm instrument.

So I’m listening tonight to their first album, Some Friendly. And it is an album. As in, vinyl. As I had to explain to Lisa tonight, WTJU was having a fundraiser. And the pledge prize was an LP. I got to rifle through boxes of LPs outside the studio, in the basement of Peabody Hall. The irony was, I had to find someone in the dorm with a record player to make a copy on tape, because I couldn’t listen to it otherwise.

So the sound. It stands up kind of well, in a nostalgic kind of way.

Sharing the love

It almost escaped my attention this morning; as much as I love reading Moxie’s work, I don’t usually read her writing about reality TV. (Disclaimer: I am lying through my teeth. Others are addicted to the shows; I’m addicted to Mox’s write-ups.) However, I did read her note about the season finale of The Bachelorette this morning, only to find that she asked her readers to, quote, “go give some good lovin’ to Jarrett House North” endquote.

I don’t feel worthy of all that good lovin.’ For one thing, my blog already gets plenty of lovin’; for another, so do I. So I would direct any good lovin’ that you want to give this blog to some of the fine sites in the left hand side, who are collectively and individually a lot more worthy than I.

Nevertheless, thanks to Moxie for making my morning.

Rubbing elbows over rustic Italian food

Lisa and I went to an event last night at the Dahlia Lounge in celebration of Micol Negrin’s new cookbook, Rustico Cooking. The seating was billed as “festival,” which usually means you get seated with either an alarming assortment of loners or a party intent on making a good time by ignoring you. Not last night: our table-mates included the proprietor of a lavender farm in eastern Washington, the wife of a wine maker from Chateau Ste Michelle and her charming mother, and a salesman and collector of cookbooks (“I’m up to over a thousand now. I need to buy some more bookshelves. But on the plus side, I don’t have to buy other new furniture, I just sit on the books”). A fabulous night, and a fabulous meal composed of recipes from the book.

Appetizers: Sicilian olives marinated in olive oil, lemon, parsley, and garlic; fresh fried sardines with slow cooked onions and sultana raisins; a seafood salad with scallops, scampi, potato, cauliflower, and egg covered in a salsa verde. First course: three-meat agnolotti (rabbit, lamb, and veal). Second course: rabbit with pancetta stuffed fennel over kale. Sweets: chestnut fritters with honey and mascarpone. Cheeses: taleggio, a truffle cheese, and gorgonzola. Each course had Italian wines selected by the proprietor of the Pike and Western Wine Shop (whose mailing list alerted us to the event).

Perks: getting to meet Tom Douglas. Getting reintroduced to Micol, whom we had met previously at a similar event in Washington DC sponsored by La Cucina Italiana, her previous employer. Meeting our tablemates. Tasting the Col Solare that one of our table mates brought from her husband. Convincing Micol that, despite her not having had any food, she had to try a glass with some of the taleggio. A good night all in all.

Digging through Virginia

Esta breaks what was for me a five-year-old cone of silence and gives a peek inside her year as a professional contract archaeologist. Her job had her contracting to the state of Virginia, digging (per state law) at sites where the state planned to construct new public works to make sure that nothing of historical significance would be disturbed. A really cool job, right?

The constant traveling wore thin quickly, but the honeymoon would have lasted longer if not for the minimum wage, lack of decent benefits, creepy bosses and that thing about telling people their houses were going to be bulldozed.

Still, it taught her to swing a shovel. And gave her fantastic grist for the writing mill:

Rolling out of bed at 5 a.m. to get to the site on time and make the most of the sunlight. Living in longjohns, ripped jeans, flannel shirts, wool socks and beat-up boots. Staying covered in a poison ivy rash for nine months straight. Scraping deer ticks from my jeans with a trowel. The infamous black widow bite that didn’t kill me but made me wish it would. Eating lunch wherever we could, with preference given to rural gas stations that serve fried frogs legs and potato wedges, all-you-can-eat Mexican buffets that didn’t mind mud on their carpets, and diners with good pie.