Rants & Ramblings

random commentary about culture, media, politics, technology and whatnot.


Photo of the Day: Hooray, Spring

Hooray for spring.

I don’t know what kind of flower / tree this is but it’s beautiful. Hooray for spring.


Anne Tyler's Baltimore


Last week, NPR’s Morning Edition ran an interview with author Anne Tyler. To accompany the story, colleagues Becky Lettenberger, Tracy Wahl and I worked on a photo-map of her Baltimore neighborhood, where many of her books take place. Tyler’s Baltimore is very different from The Wire. Photographer Chris Hartlove (also a neighbor of Tyler’s) shot some beautifully moody-yet-vibrant photos of the neighborhood.

Stamen Design made a splash the week before with some beautifully rendered watercolor map tiles, which they made available for free via a Creative Commons license. We thought that the style paired well with Hartlove’s photography. I ran out of time to make this a truly interactive / zoomable map, and instead took a screenshot of the map at a single zoom level and layered all my pins on top of that. More about those map tiles: How Stamen Generated the Tiles | Watercolor Textures

The type on the map is set with H&FJ’s Sentinel. We usually set our maps in various weights of Helvetica Neue Condensed, but Sentinel seemed better suited to this application.

Explore The Project »


You’re Listening To A Music Instrument Made Of Jell-O | Co.Design

Mark Wilson writes, “Noisy Jelly is a project by Raphaël Pluvinage and Marianne Cauvard, two students at L’Ensci Les Ateliers. They experiment with agar agar jellies, placed upon sensors that convert their vibrations into music with the help of arduino processing.” I love this, and I want my own kit.


In Japan, 'Sliced-Up Actors' Are A Dying Breed | NPR

Anthony Kuhn reports, “[Seizo Fukumoto] has been killed on screen more than 50,000 times — more than once in some films.”


Dot-dash-diss: The gentleman hacker's 1903 lulz | New Scientist

Paul Marks writes, “A century ago, one of the world’s first hackers used Morse code insults to disrupt a public demo of Marconi’s wireless telegraph.”

Why Typesetting Is the Career of the Future

This circa-1947 vocational video about careers in printing is fascinating. (Via Garance)


The First Google Maps War | Opinionator | NYTimes.com

Frank Jacobs on “how a simple online map almost caused a violent conflict in Central America.” (Via Alberto Cairo)


As the harbor is welcome to the sailor, so is the last line to the scribe.

— Marginalia by monks working on illuminated manuscripts (source)


Birthday Stationary


Last month I spent a rare Friday afternoon in the Pyramid Atlantic letterpress studio, printing two sets of stationary as a birthday gift for my mom, along with a set of thank you cards for myself. (I’d originally intended the thank you cards to be holiday cards … and then time got away from me.)

Some shots from the printing:

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I Was a Cookbook Ghostwriter | NYTimes.com

By Julia Moskin. “Tales from the ink-stained (and grease-covered) wretches who actually produce most of the words attributed to chefs in cookbooks.”

MREs get a new kick with caffeinated jerky and Zapplesauce | The Washington Post

Christian Davenport writes, “After a decade of war, military food scientists have been hard at work at a little-known research facility outside Boston transforming the field ration — known as the Meal, Ready to Eat, and perhaps the most complained about food in the world — into something not just good-tasting but full of energy-enhancing ingredients.”

Photo of the Day: In Bloom

I love this time of year.

The cherry blossoms (and tulip trees, and all the other trees that bloom this time of year) have popped a bit earlier than expected this year, perhaps due to our unseasonably warm weather. Even though the blossoms’ appearance also signals the start of tourist season, this is still my favorite time of year here in D.C.

This photo was taken at Arlington’s Long Bridge Park, on the north side of Crystal City.


The Science of Cherry Blossoms, Illustrated

I love this video of the Washington Post’s Patterson Clark speed-sketching the phases of cherry blossom blooming.

(If you can’t see the video above, it’s available on washingtonpost.com.)