Archive for October, 2006

Zombie walk

[photopress:MB_zombie1.jpg,thumb,floatleft] [photopress:MB_zombie2.jpg,thumb,floatright] Twice, Moira and I have stumbled coincidentally on a Zombie Walk. First we met zombies in the South Side, and two weeks later we met zombies in New York’s Union Square (see photos). I love the idea of it. It’s like a flash mob but with Zombies; a safe, fun way to violate social norms and make the world (or at least certain urban centers) more interesting. It’s too bad I missed the record-setting zombie walk at the Monroeville Mall, site of George Romero’s classic zombie film, “Dawn of the Dead“. The Post-Gazette has a great slide presentation on it, with a tastefully ironic light jazz soundtrack.

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Font Mania

For convoluted bureaucratic reasons, I had to make a resume to apply for a job for which I’ve already been hired. But since I really will be applying for jobs soonish, I figure I may as well make it a good one now. Reviewing my current 3-years-outdated CV, I thought, “I want to make a really nice resume, one with impeccable layout, whitespace, nice fonts, that sort of thing.” I want a design that says “modern and unique”, and “innovative but serious”.

I started looking at fonts. I wasn’t satisfied with any of the fonts with came with my distribution. While Blue Highway has served me well in many slide presentations, I wanted something fresh. I was thinking: sans serif, a little avant garde, not goofy. Delving headlong into the online world of fonts, I discovered a few things:

  • It’s hard to find serious free fonts. The majority of them seem to be wacky or themed.
  • Most free fonts reside on hard-to-navigate sites where they are organized alphabetically by name, which is, of course, totally unhelpful.
  • Real fonts are expensive. But their average quality is way higher than of free fonts and the organization of commercial font websites is way better.

However, buyfonts.com seems to be a sort of compromise with fonts for $2 each of intermediate quality. I considered shelling out for one. For a few seconds, I even considered paying ~$40 for a nice Bitstream font. “It’ll become my signature font”, I thought. And then I found dafont.com. It was a revelation. There were rays of light and choir ahhs. Loads of high quality free fonts, organized by category, group-able by designer, and sortable by popularity in a decent interface. As I browsed the site, my roommates had to suffer through my squeals of delight when coming across a particularly good one. I made them look at a few I thought demanded sharing. I started wondering if my system would be noticeably slower with 40 more fonts.

Which ones to use? I made a sample sheet to compare some of my favorites. For a heading font, I considered Zillah Modern.
Zillah Modern sample
And I took a certain liking to SF New Republic, thinking it has an emphatic modernism and flair. But let’s be honest,
SF New Republic sample
On the body text side, I had an inexplicable attraction to the svelte Geo Sans Light:
Geosans Light sample
Then grammarnerd gave me the smack down when she looked at my sample sheet and said she didn’t like any of them, except, maybe, Pigiarniq. “They draw too much attention to the font.” Still, I held fast to N.O. Movement, which was my initial favorite when I was downloading, for a heading font. I felt it was
N.O. Movement sample
I came to agree about Pigiarniq. It is
Pigiarniq sample

Very good. Then there was creating the actual text, and tons of layout tweaking. I finally got a page I was reasonably satisfied with. This first disappointment is that Pigiarniq is badly hinted in Acrobat. The lowercase e’s and dashes look blurry. It might be back to the drawing board for future submissions, but right not it doesn’t really matter because, you know, I already have the job.

I go to the CMU online job application system. I fill in the fields. I try to attach the resume. They don’t accept PDF resumes. They only accept resumes in Microsoft Word or html format. They accept resumes in H-T-M-fucking-L, but not in Portable Document Format. Neither of those formats, I might add, allows me to retain my fonts. Not that it really matters now. But re-implementing the whole thing in either format is a pain, since everything is a separate text box in my layout program.1 I opt for html, of course, because then I’ll have a web version, at least. I won’t go into the pain of getting it decent and then trying it in IE to find it all messed up.

Really, I should have just used the resume template in my word processor. But there is no going back now. I think I’ve caught the font bug or something. I find myself noticing the fonts on signs and ad copy 2 I find myself looking at the document properties in pdf’s to see which fonts are embedded.

  1. Scribus, an open-source desktop publishing program, functioning something like Adobe Indesign. []
  2. Not that I’m able to identify them; I’m not familiar with many commercial fonts. []

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Urbanism revival in Lawrenceville

The kind of thing I like to see: a happy Post-Gazette article on the success of urbanism in a city neighborhood. It profiles the work of Artists and Cities, Inc., a two-woman development firm that has created three multi-unit buildings in Lawrenceville “where artists can afford to live and/or work.” As a super-bonus, their newest building is a LEED-certified green building (I love the intersection of urbanism and green design).

When I was looking to buy a house two years ago, my real estate agent described Lawrenceville as an “up-and-coming neighborhood”. Foundations and neighborhood organizations have worked very hard to seed a revival by supporting an artistic community there and it has worked pretty well.
It also looks like the neighborhood is moving to the gentrification stage. The first two of Artists and Cities’ buildings filled mostly with artist, but the latest, still under construction, is filling with “mostly young professionals, and a few empty-nesters.” It sounds like a blow for folks in the arts community who might see their rents go up, but the “Cheap Slum -> Bohemification -> Gentrification” seems like the best model of urban redevelopment we have so far.

Now when the rate of renovation and construction in the cities outpaces that of the suburbs, we’ll really have something to get excited about.

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Zion

[photopress:Cave_on_the_river.jpg,thumb,alignleft][photopress:Mountains__clouds__and_flowers.jpg,thumb,alignleft][photopress:Josh_wading.jpg,thumb,alignleft]

It’s amazing how lazy I can be about publishing digital photos, given how easy is it now compared to the pain of getting down to the photo shop, paying a lot of money, and subsequently picking up prints. Anyway, a few weeks ago I took a delightful 4-day trip to Zion National Park in Utah. My good friend Nick came out from California and met me for some camping and hiking.

It’s really a stunningly beautiful place, perhaps my favorite of the national parks. Sheer cliffs of deep red sandstone rise dramatically from the floor of the river canyon. The variation in altitude and distribution of water make for a wide array of ecosystems, from forest to desert. The signature hike in the place goes upriver through the narrow part of the canyon (“The Narrows”) and involves a lot of trudging through the river where the river takes up the entire canyon floor. Almost every time we came around a bend we would get an exotic new scene of primordial beauty.

It’s a small park and remarkably well-managed. Transportation through the canyon is by shuttle bus during most of the year. Signage and trail maintenance are pristine. Foreign and domestic visitors kept all the major trails well-populated during our visit, even on a weekday in late September. It had the feel of a theme park at times, because it was so well-managed and crowded. I would like to try some back-country backpacking if I go back, but we didn’t have the gear or the time to try it this trip.

You can find a few more photos in the full set .

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