riding along the wall

This apartment building stands across from the ice cream shop on a tree-lined street that points toward the heart of the city.

I frequently ride by this building on my bicycle en route to the center for a few hours of working in a cafe or for drinks in the evening. There is a diminutive garden patch in the corner of the grassy lot where carnations and several stalks of corn grow.

During the afternoon the sounds of women beating rugs descends from the balconies and in the late evening all is silent except for the bustling of midnight bakers in the grocery down the road.

Often there is a gypsy girl, maybe nine years of age – sometimes younger, standing by the wall that traces the sidewalk in the midday sun. She watches me as I pass by, smiles, and calls me a whore or a motherfucker.

My Fontbook Font Viewer

During these last few months I created and published an online font viewer that lets you browse through your catalog of installed fonts using only your web browser. The tool is called My Fontbook, and though it is primarily of use to designers, it is probably pretty handy for anyone trying to find an alternative to Times New Roman or Arial when drafting documents.

A brief anecdotal background…

I often do a fair bit of web design and layout as part of my duties as a freelance web developer. The aesthetic aspects of my work are a joy, but I feel like they can drag on for hours – days even – with no end in sight. The seemingly endless adjustments of a pixel here and a rounded edge there do not possess the finite nature of software programming. With software, it is complete when it works. Visual art does not have such a clear boundary.

Typography

At some point in the design process, usually early on, I go through the steps of settling on a combination of fonts to use. Usually this requires a heading font and then another typeface for the body content, and possibly a third or fourth font for sub-headings or navigational elements. I have a short list of my favorite fonts, but that does not stop me from opening Vector Designer, creating several text examples and then engaging in the meticulous process of applying nearly every font in my catalog to the example text.

After thirty minutes of this, I am typically left with a dozen or so typefaces from which to experiment with further. In January, I set out to find some font viewer software which would display my entire font catalog with samples and save me some time in the design cycle. There are many font management tools available on the market (some quite good), but I had to both pay a licensing fee and then install yet another program on my computer. If you have not heard before, the more crap that you install on your computer, the crappier it runs.

Font Viewer

I tried to find a font viewer online, that works from the “cloud” (in my browser), but there were not any suitable options. So in a effort to save myself fifity bucks, I spent considerable time making My Fontbook, and now you can use it for free.

If you use it, and you like it, leave me a comment on this blog.

link: My Fontbook font viewer

Castle Quest

After some weeks of being sequestered indoors in front of my laptop, and Marcela at the UN, we rented a Škoda Fabia and drove along the highways of western Bohemia toward Plzen.

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It was very cold and snowed all weekend.

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The roads that connect sleepy Czech villages were empty.

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Except for this red car.

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But that was it.

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Be very very quiet: the village is sleeping.

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After an hour of driving, we came upon this castle: Křivoklát.

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No one was home, except maybe some ghosts.

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And a feline tour guide.

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Friend to all animals

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And snowmen

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But not swans; this swan was mean. He hissed at me. I hide behind a fence and defended myself with snow. Which in retrospect seems cruel, but I was under attack by a magical creature and I have little recourse against such magic.

The swan was clearly enraged.

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Possibly because we ate his friend, the duck. Which was delicious.
And I ate two pheasants. Which might have also have been friends to the angry swan; I’m not sure.

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And then there was Točník on the hill, nearby the ruins at Žebrák.

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How do we get up there?

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This road looks pretty, but trust me: it sucks.

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Hmmm, maybe I should have turned right at the fork.

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I’m getting nervous.

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Marcela: Unfazed.

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This is a road? Perhaps we should turn back before the ogre finishes his lunch of Yankee stew and returns to guarding his hunting grounds.

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This is better.

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Hey look! The monastery at Kladruby.

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We stopped in Horšovský Týn to buy some pastel house paint…

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…and see the castle…

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…which was closed for the Winter.

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Plzeň, the birthplace of lager-style beer, home to Pilsner Urquell.

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I feel so…civilized.

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And insignificant.

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Some time later we arrived at Švihov, a castle on a pond

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Wait? What? Locked?! This can’t be…Let me in! You bozos! I’ll eat yer guts!

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You know what, though? That’s fine. We don’t need your pond castle.

There are a hundred castles within fifty miles of here.

And we just found…

a really big lake!

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That somebody put next to this super majestic castle at Orlik.

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And…the castle is closed for the Winter.

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You know I’m tired all of a sudden and I just realized that it’s cold out here.

Czech castles may be shut and locked for the Winter, but once you get inside they lose their charm. That is probably how it has always felt for outsiders.

From the gates, a castle is captivating and evokes the adventures of knights. Inside the walls, a castle feels like a opulent cocoon that protects thieves from the oppressed.

Take, for example, this relic that we discovered at Křivoklát.

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This is where our weekend adventure ends. It is time to make the drive back home to Prague. Thanks for coming along. We’ll leave you today at this lone dilapidated shack at the forest’s edge. You should be able to take refuge from the weather there with the bats and mice until you can make some travel arrangements.

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Bacon and Cheese Pizza Burger

I just threw up a little bit in my mouth right now…ask me why.

It turns out that the internet contains many treasures, and a few disasters: Goatse, two girls one cup, and the bacon cheese pizza burger.

I found the following horror while looking at some pixelicious Space Invader cookies. (I know I spend too much time online, but it is snowing outside and I’m allergic to things falling from the sky)

Here it is, two frozen pizzas and several pounds of undercooked hamburger. Maybe during next year’s Super Bowl party they’ll tuck a dozen chicken wings in there. And a pack of cigarettes.

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To the best of my knowledge, this does not happen in Europe.

Yeah, I haven’t posted since December and this is all I got.

link

na-na-na-na na na BATMAN!

Headline: Ca-RAZY Mofos defy death for kicks.

wingsuit base jumping from doubleA on Vimeo.

Recipe – How to Make Tortillas

I have been living here in Central Europe for over a year now, and after a broad search, I can say with confidence that Mexican Food is an undiscovered commodity. When considering the handful of restaurants that offer anything with a tortilla, consider this: two of them also serve pizza, and the third charges ten bucks for a burrito.

If you’ve harbored aspirations of fame and fortune, consider opening a chain of late night taco stands in Prague (start near the dance clubs off of Wenceslaus Square), and become a taco baron. Though if you fancy a future as the Taco Baron of Bohemia, you’ll face a few challenges.

For example, the grocers in Prague do not carry cilantro. No cilantro here nor there, no cilantro anywhere. I met a short bespectacled man from Guatemala this week; he has lived in Prague for three years. Upon shaking hand, the first thing I asked him: “So Humberto, where’s the cilantro?”

“No hay nada”

So unless you have a small plot of arable land or lots of free space left in your marijuana growing closet, you are shitoutofluck.

Next problem: Tortillas

Larger markets will have tortillas in the exotic food section, next to the asian noodles, Skippy peanut butter, and Orville Redenbacher. Unfortunately these rubbery mats are better suited from handling hot pans than actually putting in your mouth and chewing.

So I have taken matters into my own hands. Drastic times call for drastic measures, and I have begun fabricating my own tortillas here at home. It turns out to be incredibly simple to make tortillas and after a bit of practice, they can be more fluffy and delicious than you even dreamed. Dream small, my friend.

Tortillas are basically flour, water, and fat. So you likely have everything you need to make them in your cupboard already. You will also need a rolling pin, which also comes in handy for making pies or chasing cartoon mice out of your kitchen.

Keep in mind that making tortillas (cooking) is not an exact science, play with the amounts until you figure out what works for you. The following ingredient makes about four (4) medium-sized (10″) tortillas.

1 cup of flour

1/8 cup of vegetable shortening (40 g) *
2/5 cup of warm water (more or less)

1/2 teaspoon of baking power
1/2 teaspoon of salt

* you can substitute any kind of fat
* butter, margarine, lard

Mix dry ingredients in a bowl, cut in fat until pea-sized chunks, slowly mix in warm water. Do not add too much water, the dough should look pretty dry until you knead it together.

Knead the dough until in becomes smooth.

Separate dough into four balls, cover with plastic or a wet paper towel and let sit for about 30 minutes. The dough will become easier to roll out after it sits.

Lightly flour a surface for rolling. I use the kitchen counter. Use a rolling pin and roll out your tortillas until about 1/8″ thick.

Heat a dry skillet at medium-high heat until hot.

Cook each tortilla less than a minute on each side or until you get a puffy tortilla with a few brown spots in the shape of Jesus. Enjoy.

Some helpful notes:

Working with dough takes practice. If you have not made dough before you might want to watch some YouTube videos on how to make bread, pie crust or puff pastry to learn practices for manipulating dough.

Use a pastry or basting brush to brush off extra rolling flour before cooking.

If the tortilla is flat after cooking, try using more heat.

If tortilla sticks when rolling, you likely added too much water when make your dough.

Dan Rather on Corporate Press

“The Heartland”

A Night on the Town

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The streets of Vienna were awash with footsteps and cosmopolitan echos. We entered a wine store – make that a wine bar. Hoighty-Toighty. Blazers and ascots. Connoisseurs in their realm.

Blair handed me a bottle of red for five euro off the shelf. I approached the counter.

“Can you open this?” I handed the bottle to the clerk.

“Yes. Will you be drinking it here?”

Hmmm. That sounds more expensive.

“No, we will drink it outside.”

“At the tables in front?”

“Um, no…At the park.”

“Very well, sir.”

Obviously we are out of our element here. Look just open the fucking wine, okay? After all, this IS Europe. We are civilized, not European, but entirely Europesque.

The Demagogue

Three days ago, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin made the following remarks in reference to her attacks on Obama’s charity work with William Ayers.

“We just want to make sure that in this campaign, that we uphold the standards of tolerance and truth-telling,” Sarah Palin said. “There have been things said, of course, that have allowed those standards to be violated on both sides, on both tickets. We want to uphold those standards, and again it’s not mean-spirited, it’s not negative campaigning, when we call someone out on their record.”

via The Huffington Post

Yesterday, the governor made the following comments to reporters about the Alaska trooper probe which concluded that “Her conduct violated AS 39.52.110(a) of the Ethics Act”.

Ms. Palin:

“Well, I’m very very pleased to be cleared of any legal wrongdoing,” Palin said, “any hint of any kind of unethical activity there. Very pleased to be cleared of any of that.”

You’ll have to excuse me, I just threw up a little bit in my mouth.