Adventures in design

While I was once an avid amateur typographer (I would never dare call myself a graphic artist), these days I touch my design program about once a year. Yes, it’s holiday card time again…

This card started with a photo—my snow photo—and built outward from there. That wasn’t the problem; it was the type. Specifically, Mac OS X’s built in Font Book. Which would be an industrial strength font management tool, were it not for its propensity to drop my 1GHz PowerBook G4 to its knees when adding (or enabling, or disabling) more than one font at a time. You know this Apple training web page where it says, “or drag an entire folder full of fonts into Font Book to add them”? It is to laugh. Har-de-har-har. Only if you want to see the spinning beachball of death for up to five minutes at a time.

On the plus side, once I had my fonts in Font Book, it was a snap to preview them until I found the right script font for the cover, drop caps, and tag line of my card. on the minus side, I spent most of my four-hour waiting room sojourn at the Volkswagen dealership getting my font collection straightened out.

Then I found a printer. Since I didn’t want to repeat last year’s card printing disaster (Kinkos color copies—cost more than my universal remote), I started calling printing companies. And amazingly found one that was not only reasonably priced, but allowed me to print the file directly to them over the Internet. Very cool, and it turned out great.

Hops? or water?

New York Times: With Great Beer, It’s All in the Rocks (and That Doesn’t Mean Ice). Interesting article on the science of beer formulas. The argument is that geology influenced the development of beer, in the form of the mineral content of the local water, and that (among other conclusions) Irish stouts evolved to the depth of color and flavor that they did because of the local water. To get good “mashing” of the grain—to release enough phosphates from the grain to increase the acidity of the beer to make it suitable for mass production without spoilage—when blended with the local alkaline water, the brewers had to roast the malt until it was almost black.

Interestingly, the article also puts the lie to the claim that the high hop content in India Pale Ales is what allowed them to be shipped from England to India without spoiling. According to Dr. Alex Maltman, professor of earth sciences at the University of Wales, the trick was the water at Burton-on-Trent, which was not only the right pH for mashing the barley but was also rich in sulfides, which acted as a preservative.

What the water doesn’t explain is why the IPA style is hopped so heavily. That, I think, is more art than science. A brilliant brewer must have discovered that the additional hops balanced the extra sugar released by the more thorough mashing of the grain, resulting in a more balanced beer. But hops also contain various resins that help to preserve the beer by inhibiting bacterial growth and polyphenols that act as antioxidants, a point which the NYT article doesn’t address..

When it’s my moment in the sun

This site has gotten a bunch of traffic over the last 18 hours or so from DayPop, which thinks the site suddenly jumped up into the Top 10. The cause: apparently a hiccup at Weblogger, my hosting company, which spread the home page of, including the crawl list of recently updated sites, across some 160 registered subdomains.

(Aside: I wonder if the hiccup was related to a Manila upgrade?) I like having better comment moderation; thanks, Erin, for doing the upgrade.)

This isn’t how I pictured getting into the DayPop Top 40, needless to say. However… as long as all you folks are coming here, anyone know a software company in Boston that needs a product manager?