Minor cosmetics

The last few days have been somewhat taxing so instead of sleeping early this evening I indulged myself in a little cosmetic work on the site. After implementing Google web fonts on several sites already, I'm convinced that it is the best combination of convenience/reliability to use alternative fonts quickly on the Web. My preferred method is to use free fonts and convert them to web formats and manually embed them, but only when time permits. For tonight, Google wins.

I chose EB Garamond for text and Open Sans for display for one particular reason, though I think the fonts do relatively well on screen: they are the only two Google web fonts that support the Unicode Vietnamese character set. Apparently, Vietnamese presents a special challenge due to the stacked nature of accent marks, which may be the reason why Google offers Vietnamese as its own character set filter while searching for fonts. Either way, I chose these fonts for now and so far it looks comfortable. I'm still smiling at using 300 weight on the headings instead of bold, it looks so clean :)

Perhaps that the most obvious change is that I increased the font size from 10.5pt to a whopping 16! Based on a couple of articles on the value of using the browser default font size and re-creating the printer's "paragraph" on the screen, I am experimenting with 16px to see how it works. I think my body width is out of proportion now, but that's a structural change that will have to wait until another day. And finally, I'm taking advantage of Blogger's built-in mobile framework with a stock template, so when the time comes for more major changes, I'm sure I'll switch to the custom mobile template and tweak it to my liking.

There it is, blogging instead of sleeping. Now I may drift in and out of consciousness at work tomorrow, but a little design dabble before bed is quite relaxing for me, and I needed it. Plus there's the feeling of accomplishment and refreshment, even after such small changes as these. For all who are keeping track, this minor cosmetic revision is version 4.1, with no foreseeable major release in the near- and semi-near future. Someday I will, though, mark my word. The crumpled-bag side bar must go.


Infographics and data visualization - two blogs of note

Happened upon these two blogs the other day in my newsfeed: flowingdata.com is created and curated by a Ph.D candidate in statistics and is filled with lots of data visualization fun, and ericson.net is the home of the graphics director at the New York Times. Just thought I'd share.


Be like Jesus

Listening to this children's hymn the other day, I realized the import of the lilting words intended for children but applicable to all:

Love one another as Jesus loves you. Try to show kindness in all that you do. Be gentle and loving in deed and in thought, For these are the things Jesus taught.
How great the implications - and responsibility! - of such a simple message. I hope I can live up to these sweet words.


Web 2.0 Summit Map and Wooden Laptops

Here are two awesome things I found today. First, the Web 2.0 Summit Map, which is absolutely ingenious and engaging. Click the image to navigate through the data layers of today's internet leaders.

And the second thing was a wooden laptop/chalkboard. I'm so getting one for church.

Two very random and inspiring things today - it's nice to see creativity at work, on both the digital canvas and natural medium.


Please pass the focus

Whoa, blogger updated its interface. Definitely more simple. Definitely more Google.

It's fitting because I am focusing on focus now. As I speak type, I am printing "Focus: A simplicity manifesto in the Age of Distraction". I'm going to read this and see where it takes me. I'm starting here because, well, because the book is free and I just discovered it in my newsfeed. I already know what I need to do, I just need to get the momentum to do it.


He died that we might live... today

Arise and sing to his great name,
Who died that we might live.
I’ve heard this phrase so many times that I don’t listen anymore, like hearing wind through the trees. I don’t know if it’s because I’ve been astonished by the growth of my little boy and how “lively” he is becoming or because I read a sobering article today about a man’s last blog post before succumbing to cancer, but these words literally stopped my breath today while I listened to Rejoice! A Glorious Sound Is Heard in my drab little cubicle at work. It is not just referring to salvation from death and sin. It is talking about living, that thing that we’re doing everyday. Like right now. His death was part of a larger plan that certainly did not end at his death – but that was fulfilled because of his death. He died that we might live today, as well as in a future place beyond this mortal existence. He died that we be not dead to others, dead to ourselves, dead to the needs and wants of the neighborhood and community and world. That we might be infused with life through the Spirit, with vibrancy through the Light of the Son, with intellect and conscience and compassion instead of solely instinct and appetites and chemistry. That we might feel the sun on our skin and the taste the sweet fruit of the trees and see the rich colors of fall and hear the stream gurgling by. That we might love unconditionally and hate occasionally and experience the breadth and depth of emotions between. “That we might live” is not referring to the future but to this very moment, that we might experience the sensations of spirit and body in one coalescent being, from the bumps and grooves of the keys under our fingers to the enormity of thunderstorms and tsunamis and bad relationships. To live is to experience, defined as such in conversation and scripture, and this whole experience of living would never have been afforded to us without the willingness of One to plan it, create it, experience it, overcome it and eventually throw it all in the flames and raise it up again in a purified and perfect state. The beauty of the plan is that we don’t have to wait until that day of burning and rebirth to feel the power of life in our veins; He died that we might live today. That is the promise and blessing of the Gospel - that this life is the time to live and that heaven is already here. Being caught up in chariots of fire headed towards the sky will just be another day in the process of true living, if we but recognize and embrace the life in us today and the Source from whence it came.


We are losing our focus on Focus

 I just read an article in good ol' Mashable today about how multitasking is actually detrimental to our productivity - it's an illusion that we can do more than one thing simultaneously (in most cases).  According to the article, multitasking is only possible when two conditions are met:

First, one of the tasks has to be so ingrained that no focus is necessary, and secondly, they involve different types of brain processing... We live in a culture that trumpets the value of doing many things at once — that multitasking is an asset or strength. As noted above, it only leads to decreased productivity.
The author centered her comments around our hyper-connected world of mobile devices, but I think that it's applicable to many other aspects of our life. It reminds me of a Harvard Business Review article I read a few years ago about managing our energy, not our time:
To recharge themselves, individuals need to recognize the costs of energy-depleting behaviors and then take responsibility for changing them, regardless of the circumstances they’re facing.
Multitasking falls into "energy-depleting behavior" if you ask my honest opinion.  So I'm going to quit.  I'm going to see multitasking for what it really is and just focus on one thing at a time.  Needless to say, I'm feeling a little spent these days.  I need to rediscover recharge exercises and re-energizing routines.  And I need to be there and make the present my priority.  But first I need a nap.


Wisdom and order

 I have always been a fan of Mosiah 4:27:

And see that all these things are done in wisdom and order; for it is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength. And again, it is expedient that he should be diligent, that thereby he might win the prize; therefore, all things must be done in order.
Maybe it's because I am was a runner, but the imagery is very clear to me.  I hear this quoted all the time, as well: "don't run faster than you have strength" which surely stems from this verse.  This has been on my mind a lot lately, as I feel my strength depleting, and the question as to whether I am running faster than I have strength is constantly at the forefront of my thoughts.  Over the weekend, something hit me that made me rethink my interpretation of this scripture.  All this time, I've understood this scripture to effectively say "slow down, you're movin' too fast..." but it actually doesn't say that at all.  The directive here is not about running, but about seeing that things are done in wisdom and order.  See that things are done, as in completed or finished, in the proper order and with prudence, so that over the long haul - hence the mention of diligence - we can win the prize.  Running illustrates the concept perfectly; the things required of us in this life will be long and drawn-out, not a quick sprint and we're finished.  We shouldn't run faster than we have strength, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't run fast, or even very fast.  The verse ends with a reiteration of the concept all things must be done in order, allowing no leeway for complacence - aside from the well-understood in order, let us not miss the operative phrase here, that all things must be done. Period.

So this scripture, which once brought me comfort when I felt weak and slow, now motivates me to try even harder to work smart as well as hard.  Wisdom and order trump speed, and diligence leads to the prize.  My efforts though feeble now must move forward with more structure and discipline to accomplish all that is required of me - all things must be done - rather than claim I am running too fast and excuse myself to sit on the side awhile.  I know that God will support me as I try, and I can take comfort in the thought that when I used to run, I was always last place at the beginning of the race, but somehow caught up in the end.


The geospatial revolution, or why I'm getting a degree in geography

When I disclose to someone that I am working on my MA thesis in "Geography", I often get the lifted eyebrow and the "Oh." response, like when you excitedly ask about your friend's pet dog only to find out that it was hit by a car the night before. "Oh." Some venture a "Why?" but usually we fumble for a more comfortable topic.

This is not exclusively an outsider problem, either. I was sitting in a graduate seminar last semester and someone dropped the "relevance" question. Is geography still a relevant discipline? Is it a discipline at all, or just a quaint combination of many fields? If it's not relevant, how can we make it so? One student said with zeal, "We just need to make ourselves known so that more people know what geographers do!!" A seasoned classmate calmly replied, "But what do geographers do?" Beat. "Oh." We all quickly turned back to the original discussion subject and let the elephant take its seat in the corner.

I came across a set of video presentations that demonstrate geography's position of relevance in today's world. For all those who ventured the "Why?" question, here's your answer. This is why I'm getting a degree in geography:

Here are the other episodes:



A thought hit me the other day: what if I completely unplugged myself from society and lived on 100 wooded acres in Alaska, and just lived off the land and the work of my own two hands?  And I mean truly disconnect from the world, to the point of recycling all the water on the property (I have a plan drawn up for a toilet-to-tap water distillation system) and plating the house with solar cells - nothing would connect me to society and I could live free from the weight of corrupt governments and extractive, exploitative economies. Oh, the dream... the Mrs isn't too fond of the toilet-to-tap idea, though.

In fact, the whole thing is a ludicrous idea. Not because it's impossible or the costs outweigh the benefits, but because when the end of the world actually DOES come, me and a handful of other weirdos would be left drinking our own water and fueling our own stoves. The rest of the world would be clamoring for help because the infrastructure on which they have come to rely would be demolished and they would be left to feed themselves, not knowing that wheat comes from seeds and beef comes from cows.  It would be so sad, but I wouldn't be in a position to help because I would be hundreds of miles away and wouldn't have a car. I probably wouldn't even know the end of the world came because I wouldn't have Facebook.

We all have our callings, and mine is to serve. I can't move away from that, though when times get rough I sometimes want to. As joyful as it would be for me to uninstall myself from the machine, God wants me to be on the ground serving his children and he will cleanse me from this generation if I am faithful. He's not calling Noahs right now (Jonahs still beware), but he is calling Almas to stay where they are and lift where they stand. So that's that. No unplugging for me. Though I do think I'm going to install toilet-to-tap when my wife's not looking.

ps, I unplugged my blog from Facebook today. Let's see if I blog more regularly now.

travel log
  • 02.13.08 - to the temple with Luan and his mom, good to be back
  • 02.14.08 - Mẫu's alive! and staying for the weekend
  • 02.15.08 - floor hockey and Thái food makes for some strange dreams
  • 02.17.08 - frisbee and swamp monster at the park: fun but I'm pooped!
  • 02.19.08 - just read Triết's response to my last post - game on!
  • 02.20.08 - raining and expected to continue through Sunday - thank goodness!
  • 02.21.08 - 3-hour nap is a bad idea right before bed
  • 02.23.08 - to the beach to watch kites, a baptism @ 5pm, and homemade bulgogi - what a day!
  • 02.25.08 - just gave myself a haircut - woo, cold head!
  • 02.26.08 - 75° and spring cleaning - couldn't feel better
  • 02.27.08 - fed the elders bún đậu tonight - think it's their first time
  • 03.01.08 - working on new background...
  • 03.02.08 - finalized javascript to change background without muffing up my other scripts
  • 03.03.08 - fhe: "In his strength I can do all things" (Alma 26:12)
  • 03.07.08 - some decisions are harder than others, but some are downright excruciating
  • 03.08.08 - there is life after work... i almost forgot
  • 03.11.08 - the distance between good and bad is much shorter than between better and best
  • 03.12.08 - conversion is sometimes a gradual process, so much so that we don't even notice
  • 03.14.08 - for some reason everything was a little harder today, looking forward for bed!
  • 03.15.08 - last night after blog reading, I missed OnlyBlue, today I find she's back
  • 03.16.08 - best day of my life!
  • 03.19.08 - "Pray for the answer that they've been looking for"
release notes v1.0 - FINALLY DONE!
  • 12.07 - first thought of starting a new blog
  • 01.08 - busy with election stuff but blog design still on back burner
  • 01.13.08 - first idea to imitate jk rowling with the "desk" theme
  • 01.28.08 - start sketching current design, breaking down development into phases
  • 02.02.08 - election only days away but still drafting final plans
  • 02.04.08 - v0.6 LAUNCH
    • main components (blog body, sidebar, header, etc) designed and implemented
    • styling for font, links, drop caps, etc. finished
  • 02.07.08 - v0.8 LAUNCH
    • image style to imitate polariod
    • moveability - post-it notes and static clings can be repositioned by drag and drop
    • release notes styled and written
  • 02.16.08 - travel log (beta) added in hopes of catching the mundane
  • 02.22.08 - lightbox 2.03 reinstalled and working fine (hopefully - let me know otherwise)
  • 02.26.08 - v0.9 LAUNCH
    • travel log seems to be working, so I'll keep it
    • lightbox also seems to have passed the test, so it's a keeper
    • some credits/info added to bottom (will expand)
    • keeping old Viet terms in archive for future viewing
  • 03.18.08 - v1.0 LAUNCH
    • installation and testing of time-sensitive background completed (for now)