All posts by todd

Type Smart With the Dvorak Keyboard

The QWERTY keyboard is a given. Everyone uses it, no one questions it… and it would be difficult to find a more inefficient way to type.

QWERTY was developed by Christopher Sholes in the early 1870s with one thing in mind: preventing typewriter jams. After one keystroke raised a typebar, pressing a nearby key too soon would result in a collision that locked the bars together.

So Sholes engineered his keyboard to maximize the Continue reading Type Smart With the Dvorak Keyboard

Signs: Short Film

Watched and really enjoyed Yes Man last night. Here’s a short video in the same vein.

It’s entertaining, but I debate whether to post it. The last thing I want to do is endorse the idea that you should live with your head down and… well, I’ll let you watch the video.

As for Yes Man, I’m sure a lot of people take away the obvious message, but I was reminded that you should be creating your own fun. Don’t go to the party… be the party. Recommended!

IMDB: Yes Man

Neil Halstead – “Oh! Mighty Engine”

I’ve started hitting the recent reviews page on Pitchfork every few days and downloading everything so I can listen to new stuff while I work.

Can’t remember what about the 5.9-rated review of Neil Halstead’s latest record, Oh! Mighty Engine, made me want to check it out, but I’m pretty glad I did.

Neil Halstead

[wpaudio url=”http://www.fontwhore.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/01/01-neil_halstead-oh_mighty_engine.mp3″ text=”Neil Halstead – Oh! Mighty Engine” dl=”http://sendshack.com/download/1zstxju”]

It’s an effortless, butter-smooth, quiet folk track with some steel guitar and a pleasant British accent. Bonus points for pronouncing “colons” co-lawns.

More than just a great song, it’s a reminder to check out everything and decide for myself. A 5.9 rating sounds pretty unappealing, but this album yielded my favorite song so far this year.

Dvorak Keyboard Proved Better With Evolutionary Algorithm

The Dvorak keyboard recently came under some (relatively) high-profile fire from a 1996 Reason print feature that resurfaced on social news sites.

In 1932, Dr. August Dvorak patented a keyboard layout designed to reduce typist fatigue by placing keys to maximize hand alternation and minimize finger travel. It shouldn’t be too hard to improve on a 140-year-old keyboard that marketing people changed at the last minute so “typewriter” could be typed from one row. I’m sure you’re familiar with QWERTY.

Stan Liebowitz and Stephen E. Margolis argue that the studies Continue reading Dvorak Keyboard Proved Better With Evolutionary Algorithm

How To Remove the Search Box From A YouTube Embed

Are your YouTube embeds showing up with an ugly search box above the video? I had to approve a comment this morning and noticed this monstrosity in one of my posts.

Why would YouTube do this? Well, Google’s been scrambling to introduce new revenue streams since their earnings started getting leaner.

Google stock price YTD

The idea is no doubt that they can use embedded videos to drive more search traffic to YouTube. More traffic, especially search traffic means more ad revenue.

Anyway, how do you disable this feature so you don’t lose visitors to your embedded videos? It’s very simple.

If your embed code looks like this:

<object width="425" height="355">
<param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/u1zgFlCw8Aw&rel=1&color1=0x2b405b&color2=0x6b8ab6&border=1&fs=1"></param>
<param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param>
<embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/u1zgFlCw8Aw&rel=1&color1=0x2b405b&color2=0x6b8ab6&border=1&fs=1"type="application/x-shockwave-flash"width="425" height="355" allowfullscreen="true"></embed>
</object>

Add this to both the “param” and “embed” sections:

&showsearch=0

So it looks like this:

<object width="425" height="355">
<param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/u1zgFlCw8Aw&rel=1&color1=0x2b405b&color2=0x6b8ab6&border=1&fs=1&showsearch=0"></param>
<param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param>
<embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/u1zgFlCw8Aw&rel=1&color1=0x2b405b&color2=0x6b8ab6&border=1&fs=1&showsearch=0"type="application/x-shockwave-flash"width="425" height="355" allowfullscreen="true"></embed>
</object>

You can find all the YouTube embeddable player parameters here.

Wish they’d disable it by default.

Seeing Lots of Squirrel Roadkill?

Squirrel roadkill

This fall, there have been more dead squirrels on the road than ever in Austin. I’ve noticed they’re unusually active this year and wondered why.

It may be because oaks are producing NO acorns this year.

Well, I haven’t seen any info on the acorn crop in Texas, but across North America naturalists are reporting that the production isn’t just low, it’s nonexistent. The Washington Post mentions Virginia, New York, Maryland, Kansas, and even Nova Scotia. Apparently, other nuts are scarce too.

“Once I started paying attention, I couldn’t find any acorns anywhere. Not from white oaks, red oaks or black oaks, and this was supposed to be their big year,” said Greg Zell, a naturalist at Long Branch Nature Center in Arlington. “We’re talking zero. Not a single acorn. It’s really bizarre.”

As temperatures continue to drop in Texas (and elsewhere), I expect to see more squirrels as they get more desperate for food.

Washington Post: Acorn Watchers Wonder What Happened to Crop

My Moon My Man (Boys Noize Remix)

I’d have thought Jesus Christ would’ve risen by now to declare this track winner.

[wpaudio url=”http://www.fontwhore.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/10/14-feist-my_moon_my_man_boys_noize_remix.mp3″ text=”Feist – My Moon My Man (Boys Noize Remix)”]

Boys Noize is a mystery to me — this is the one that grabbed me off his album Oi Oi Oi, and there’s not much to read about him online. I was hoping he’d make his way to Austin sometime for a show, but no luck yet.

Feist’s “My Moon My Man” is a pretty good track, but this is heads and shoulders above the original. Any fans of hers whose tastes meander toward the electronic will agree.

The computerized vocals give it a nice techno vibe from the beginning. Her voice is given space to shine through, and enough original instrumentation is used that you respect this as a carefully crafted remix rather than the latest from The Hood Internet (though I love ’em). Perfectly executed rises and falls too.

It’s a shame the fluff that populated the remix album based on her major label debut, Let It Die, wasn’t of this caliber.

You can find the original on Feist’s The Reminder.

Download: Feist – My Moon My Man (Boys Noize Remix)

Gotham: Not Just the Obama Font

A significant portion of my visitors come from searches for Obama’s font, so I might as well give the people what they want. Obama uses a very strong typeface for most of his signage, most notably promoting “change we can believe in.” Pity about the dangling preposition.

It’s called Gotham.

Gotham’s designer, Tobias Frere-Jones, has long collected typography specimens from around New York City. The bold, majestic faces leftover from over half a century of announcing places and things have a nostalgic charm that hadn’t been dusted off until Gotham made its debut in 2000.

Back when graphic designers were less common (the whole profession probably sounded pretty wishy-washy in the ’40s), the architects and engineers who constructed a building often ended up designing its signage.

As a result Gotham is a geometric font, but Frere-Jones allowed it to “escape the grid wherever necessary, giving the design an affability usually missing from ‘geometric’ faces,” according to the H&FJ website. Frere-Jones often cites the lettering above the Port Authority Bus Terminal as inspiration.

Gotham is wider than average text, lending it gravity and solidity. It says, “What I’m saying is special enough to warrant the extra room I require.” Increased legibility comes from this and the large x-height (the height of the lower part of the letter, usually compared to the ascender).

You might be surprised to hear it arose from a commission for GQ Magazine. It’s been used by pretty much everyone before the Obama campaign got their hands on it.

A few days ago I saw a foreign model surprised that Barack Obama uses the same font that advertises an underwear brand back home. I even used the ultra caps for the logo of my file-delivery service, Sendshack.

You can also see it on the cornerstone of the Freedom Tower being built where the World Trade Center once stood. Quite the honor for a typeface designed to reflect the spirit of New York City.

H&FJ also point out that McCain’s using a font most would recognize from the supermarket cosmetic aisle.

Where have you noticed Gotham?

Why there’s no Gore-Tex Paclite in Japan

The rain in Tokyo was making my lack of waterproof pants uncomfortable.

I find your lack of waterproof pants disturbing

Just down the alley from Vegan Healing Cafe, there’s a huge MontBell filled with all sorts of outdoor gear. You don’t hear much about them stateside unless you read Mark Verber’s excellent rundown on outdoor clothing and footwear, but in Japan they’re the most popular outfitter.

One evening the skies opened up during dinner, so I Continue reading Why there’s no Gore-Tex Paclite in Japan

Running With the Bulls

We traveled almost 900 kilometers to participate in a world-famous festival that dates back 800 years. And the policewoman was kicking me out.

It was my shoes. At each stage the police glance over the runners to make sure they’re properly equipped, trying to prevent idiots from increasing the fatality count. My Five Fingers hadn’t failed me over five months and eleven countries, but I wasn’t running on this lady’s watch.

All this for nothing? I feverishly tried to explain in my rough Spanish that these were running shoes… people run marathons in these! I’ve run marathons in these! They’re specially made for running?

She grabbed another policeman and together they forced me out through the double fences bordering the path the bulls would take.

I sprinted to another entry point and tried to get in, but another cop pushed me out violently and told me I was too late. I ran to find another but couldn’t. How could I tell people I’d been to Pamplona but hadn’t run?

Then it occurred to me — I could just run the next day.

That morning I picked up some $30 running shoes and met two Lithuanian running partners at the internet cafe. Only one was going to run, but it didn’t take us long to convince the other to sack up.

Ty gave me some invaluable tips. He’d stuck to the right and was pushed up against the wall as the bulls passed, safely insulated by a few layers of people but disappointingly out of reach.

We arrived a little earlier in case something went wrong so we’d have plenty of time to move to another stage. Running on a Saturday meant tons more people — it was starting to get packed, and when the rockets signaling the bulls’ release were fired the crowd started to sway back and forth.

The police set us free to start running. The crowd was thick and moving slowly, but we still reached the next stage before the bulls and became part of an even larger crowd as we waited.

At this rate I’d never get close to a bull. I looked behind me and saw some Spanish guys stretching. They looked like they knew what they were doing.

I walked back to them and watched them warm up, expecting the bulls to round the corner any second. After a minute or so, the cheering started. People packing the balconies above us were looking back expectantly.

Then everyone started to run.

You’re much more likely to trip over a person than a bull is to trip over you, but by then most of the people were way ahead of us.

The bulls largely stick to the left side, so if you stay right you’re less likely to get stuck or trampled. Though touching the bulls is officially discouraged, it’s what everyone’s trying to do, me included, so I stayed just right of center.

It wasn’t scary when the first group appeared behind me to my left. Everyone had told me how huge they were (almost as tall as me — six feet) and I’d seen them fly by the day before. The field was open enough that I could have dodged out of the way if necessary, and the bulls seemed to be pretty set on their path.

As the second one passed me I leaned left and touched his flank. We’d come up on a slight turn that would put the next group on the right side, so I veered left and put out my hands to keep from tripping over the people in front of me.

The next group passed and I reached out again to touch another along his back. They were running twice as fast as I was.

Probably because I wasn’t on the receiving end of any horns, they didn’t seem particularly violent or malicious. Just your average group of bulls trying to get from point A to point B, though they did trample a dude or two while I followed them.

Only 30 seconds after we’d started running, we ran through the gates and into the arena, another group of bulls seconds behind us. If we’d entered before any of the bulls, the crowd would have booed us as cowards.

We waited along the sides as the rest of the bulls and steers ran through the arena and into the holding cell. Usually you wait a few minutes for a young bull with blunted horns to be released to play with the runners.

As they went to close the gates, I slipped out at the last second and stepped into the streets. I had an 8:45 bus to catch to Barcelona.

I ran with the bulls. I even touched two of the 1600-pound monsters, just a slip away from injury by horn or hoof. No falls, no cuts, no bruises.

Too bad, really… I’d love to be able to show off a scar on my forearm and tell how I got it running with the bulls in Pamplona on a trip around the world.