The question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice?

“Letter from Birmingham Jail,” Martin Luther King.

We live in a world corroded with envy.
Quentin Crisp. An Evening with Quentin Crisp. YouTube.

Charisma was the ability to influence without the use of logic.
Quentin Crisp. An Evening with Quentin Crisp. YouTube.

Politics is the art of making the inevitable appear to be a matter of wise human choice.

Quentin Crisp. An Evening with Quentin Crisp. YouTube.

If art is how we decorate space, music is how we decorate time.

“Prologue” from Proverbs in Porcelain

Assume that we are friends. Assume
A common taste for old costume, —
    Old pictures, — books. Then dream us sitting —
Us two — in some soft-lighted room.

Outside, the wind; — the “ways are mire.”
We, with our faces toward the fire,
    Finished the feast not full but fitting,
Watch the light-leaping flames aspire.

Silent at first, in time we glow;
Discuss “eclectics,” high and low;
    Inspect engravings, ‘twixt us passing
The fancies of Detroy, Moreau;

“Reveils” and “Couchers,” “Balls” and “Fêtes;”
Anon we glide to “crocks” and plates,
    Grow eloquent on glaze and classing,
And half-pathetic over “states.”

Then I produce my Prize, in truth; —
Six groups in Sèvres, fresh as Youth,
    And rare as Love. You pause, you wonder,
(Pretend to doubt the marks, forsooth!)

And so we fall to why and how
The fragile figures smile and bow;
    Divine, at length, the fable under…
Thus grew the “Scenes” that follow now.

Dobson, Austin. “Prologue.” Proverbs in Porcelain and Other Poems. Portland, Maine: Thomas B. Mosher, 1909.

When the Gods wish to punish us, they answer our prayers.
Oscar Wilde. An Ideal Husband. Paraphrased in Out of Africa by the female lead, Baroness Karen von Blixen.

Wisdom and knowledge shall be the stability of thy times.
Paraphrased at the entrance of Rockefeller Plaza. Taken from Isaiah 33:6.

Charles II

Charles ii
Charles II by John Michael Wright, c. 1670s. Purchased by Queen Victoria from Henry Graves & Co., 1889. Royal Collection.

Sacred Objects

To make living itself an art, that is the goal.

Henry Miller. Nitch.

One should alway be curious. Not a passive curiosity dependent upon information received, but an aggressive curiosity that compels one to seek things out and ascertain them for oneself.

Issey Miyake. Unknown source.

Being perfectly well-dressed gives one a tranquility that no religion can bestow.

Ralph Waldo Emerson. Unknown source.

Silent Flowers

Silent flowers 1 2x
Silent flowers
Speak also
To that obedient ear within.

— Onitsura

My mother has been flooding my messages with photographs of the blooming plants in her garden: tulips, hydrangeas, peonies, daffodils, crocuses, hyacinths, dogwood, ornamental pear, and the other usual suspects that peep up in the spring.

It wasn’t too long ago that I tried my hand at forcing tulip bulbs to recreate some semblance of a garden while sequestered in the city. I planted my “painted” or broken tulip bulbs — so named for the parti-colored stripes that are etched on the petals — in November within an 1840s Wedgwood cachepot.

Off the bulbs went into my vegetable crisper in the refrigerator to lay dormant from November until March. Early on while misting the pot, the topsoil became covered in mold. I wiped it off and avoided any extra moisture while they rested. Then around February, they prematurely began to show shoots through the soil. These tulip bulbs were being uncooperative with me.

I took them out and let them bloom. The pale shoots turned into grassy green once the sun soaked their surface. Up and up the buds went until some force inside them said it was time to bloom. Their size was diminutive and the blooms small. Perhaps the mold and premature sprouting left them stunted. They did not compare to the tulips in my mother’s garden; soaked in Michigan rain and buried deep in former tilling soil, those tulips dazzled the eye.

Spring rain:
Everything just grows
More beautiful.

— Chiyo-ni

Silent flowers 2 2x

Did my tulips smell? They were all looks with no scent.

Is a flower without scent “silent?” In perfumery, there is group of florals known as “silent flowers.” A silent flower is one in which traditional extraction methods cannot isolate the fragrance. A silent flower does of course produce a smell naturally — lilac, violet, wisteria, lily of the valley, carnation, and gardenia to name a few — but their scent is out of reach to the perfumer and they cannot lend their “notes” to the music of fragrance.

And yet, one can buy violet perfume. The perfumer is clever here: by taking known smells of other materials, he mixes a semblance of what one might think is violet but is indeed other florals, musks, and such. The perfumer can give a voice back to these flowers.

To pluck it is a pity,
To leave it is a pity,
Ah, this violet.

— Naojo

Only recently have sophisticated chemical processes unlocked certain silent flowers. Entire corporations have positioned themselves as the only source of a silent floral extract. Profit is a relentless innovator.

I wonder what we lose when we gain? Should everything be extracted and bottled and enjoyed to fill our soaps, oils, and perfumes? Or should we relish the curiosity of this earth and its inconsistencies and barriers? There is something to be said to force ourselves to kneel to the ground and put our nose upon a blossom so that we may “hear” what it has to say.

Silent flowers 3 2x

I would never stoop so low as to be fashionable. That’s the easiest thing in the world to do.

The Scent of Agarwood

20211219 EROL 0038

I have been less in the habit of sharing online through social media, and while I do not miss social media, I do miss sharing my little vignettes.

And so, I will get into the habit of sharing with close friends infrequent but hopefully satisfying tidings. I have sat down to write today on repair and incense. There is a cup of tea next to me resting on my iPhone. These devices work as wonderful coasters (perhaps their only practical use). They are water resistant and always at hand.

I was talking with a friend, who has been refurbishing homes in the English countryside, about his pleasure in fixing them up. It reminded me to take more seriously the mound of broken ceramics I own that need repair. I sent a coffee pot to a professional to be restored, but my own pieces that sorely need kintsugi sit in a dusty pile on my dining table. I can see the appeal of restoration: to fix something in a world filled with increasingly unfixable things. It is one of the few refuges where we can leave things better than how they were found. I do not think we ever own anything: we are custodians for them until they pass onto new hands.

Agarwood maintains a softness that suffuses the home and sits like a layer of plush sweetness in the air.
Tea being poured and a stand filled with apples and oranges.

I was burning sticks of agarwood incense earlier today. I had no expectations about how they would smell. Agarwood is one of those words you see circulating in old texts and always in luxurious settings. The tree that carries the name agarwood is infected by a mold (or fungus in artificial versions) and produces a resin in response to the infection. This is highly prized. It reminded me that “broken” tulips and noble rot in wine were also places where infection produced a superior item of unusual quality.

FBA608 B9 C4 D4 450 F 9652 D402220 DA2 CF
Agarwood incense burning.

Agarwood has a fragrance unlike any other. It is soft and creamy with hints of vanilla and cherry. It is impossible to pin its fragrance against another, even as I try to grasp to memories of other scents. It balances the power of earthy musk and resin against the volatile and free scent of flowers and fruit. Even though true oud oil is derived from agarwood, perfumers fail to capture agarwood’s scent in perfume. Incense may be the best mechanism to experience it. When burning, agarwood maintains a softness that suffuses the home and sits like a layer of plush sweetness in the air. When I burn it, I am inclined to cover my eyes and ears to amplify the scent as much as possible.

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things can not be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.

Twain, Mark. The Innocents Abroad; or the New Pilgrim’s Progress. Hartford: American Publishing Company, 1869. 650.

[A] masterpiece required neither explanation nor cultural context to communicate its message: its importance lay in its aesthetic integrity, not in the evidence it might incidentally provide about religious, social, political, or economic issues.

The thoughts of the authors Thomas Lawton and Linda Merrill on describing the collecting beliefs of Freer.


What we like determines what we are, and is the sign of what we are; and to teach taste is inevitably to form character.
John Ruskin, “Traffic.” The second of the three lectures that form The Crown of Wild Olive.

IMG 7378 Cropped

Turkish homes are busy places: unannounced guests popping in, multiple generations running about, and the constant clang and clamor of cooking and chatter. Yet today, Stepmber 23, 2011, it was just my step grandmother, Suheyla Teyze, and me in her country home.

My grandfather had recently passed away, so the home was a bit quieter these days. The kids I grew up with in Uzuntarla had also moved to the city, and now most days were spent in bucolic solitude.

Süheyla Teyze seemed most at ease when hosting. It would not matter when, who, or where, she could conjure up a table of food instantly and the sparkling conversation to go along with it. There always seemed to be a few “leftovers” lingering in the house even though those leftovers were complete courses of Georgian and Turkish cuisine. Picnics, as you can imagine, were sprawling affairs with thermoses full of astringent Turkish tea, ayran, cookies, cakes, sandwiches, and salads. When I last saw her in person, she had managed to bring a small selection of fresh fruit from Turkey aboard the plane and all the way to Chicago. On the ride back from the airport, she somehow managed to feed everyone in the car, including the driver — hospitality in full.

That taxi ride was in 2019. Back in Uzuntarla in 2011, we were both bored. And she simply could not stand by and let me go un-hosted. After one of her delicious, full breakfasts — the kind that create their own gravitational pull in your stomach — we sat down to find a way out of this predicament. Without much thought or planning, we wended our way to İzmit’s bus station and headed to Bursa.

We arrived in Bursa under opaque clouds. Bursa was the city, where as a child, I bought my first cassette: a recording of a Beethoven symphony. I was terribly shy asking for it, but I obsessed over owning it. Now, nearly twenty years later, we were back in the same city in the home of my great grandfather, and we began laying out the groundwork for our limited time. First, food. Then, sightseeing. Finally, shopping. Süheyla Teyze was busy gathering snacks and chatting away. She was finally in her element.

IMG 7515

Rain began spotting our clothes the moment we headed outside. “Green” bursa was now grey Bursa, and we found refuge in the mausoleum of a great (and long dead) sultan. We tried to make the best of our unravelling time with laughs and gossip as people and cars became slower and more cumbersome in the drizzle.

IMG 7466

We slipped into night imperceptibly as the grey clouds blocked out the setting sun. It was suddenly time to return to Uzuntarla. Our shoes, smeared in mud and rain, carried us into a crowded city bus. Our shopping bags eked their way between the legs of strangers.

We barely made it onto the bus and collapsed into our seats. We looked at each other and laughed. What an outlandish gesture this trip had become all in the name of banishing boredom. Ever the host, Süheyla Teyze worked tirelessly to keep things moving in good spirits.

Little did she know, and little did I realize at the time, that it was exactly her home, her countryside, and most importantly her company that I cherished more than anything. I could listen to the rain hit the leaves of the walnut tree outside her windows all day. I could enjoy her rice pudding snacks made using the milk picked up in the morning from the neighbor’s cow. And I could gossip over cup after cup of tea: our keyif çayı.

For years after, each time I returned to Turkey — and at the same table we hatched our plans so long ago — her and I would laugh and reminisce about what a foolish trip it was. It was a memory only the two of us shared and that made it all the more special.

It has been a year since she passed away suddenly in September 2020. The table is a bit quieter now, and the home lacks the laughter and treats it once carried in abundance. With what I have lost, I try to smile and lean on the memories still in vivid relief.

Süheyla Ural (1952–2020).

You’ve only one thing to offer the world which nobody else can give and that’s yourself.

Quentin Crisp on an interview with John Letterman. YouTube.

It was a pleasant thing to see a carpet again, for if there is any thing drearier than the tomb-like, stone-paved parlors and bed-rooms of Europe and Asia, I do not know what it is. They make one think of the grave all the time.

Twain, Mark. The Innocents Abroad; or the New Pilgrim’s Progress. Hartford: American Publishing Company, 1869. 459.

Health consists in having the same diseases as your neighbors.

Crisp distinguished between manners and etiquette. Contemporary manners, he argued, improved social inclusiveness, while etiquette was merely an extension of classism and social exclusion.


Where to Buy Good Crystal and Glassware

Fine glassware provides an immeasurable pleasure when held in the hand and brought to the lips. It often transforms any liquid into a fine elixir.

  1. Richard Brendon

  2. Wine Monger

  3. Riedel

  4. William Yeoward

  5. Orrefors

  6. Luigi Bormioli

  7. Schott Zwiesel

  8. Lobmeyr

  9. Holmegaard

  10. Kimura

Where one can purchase good type is often a subjective choice. However, establishments that tend to have high quality product are listed below.

Collectives or Large Foundries

  1. FontFont
  2. FontShop
  3. MyFonts
  4. Font Bureau
  5. Commercial Type

All these sites offer work from multiple foundries and sometimes their own. Commercial Type and Font Bureau represent the more exclusive and storied typefaces from many famous contemporaries in the field of type design today. While the others have such variety from the big guys and the little ones, that you'll find a great font. Sites like MyFonts are really good at comparing classic typefaces like Helvetica, Futura, or Garamond to help narrow down the cut that works for you.

Smaller or Individual Foundries

  1. Darden
  2. Okay Type
  3. House Industries
  4. Sudtipos

    Darden, Okay, House, and Sudtipos are great places to find display and specility typefaces that are very extensive and well crafted. Don't miss the cursive scripts from each of them. The ligatures and extended features are very exciting.

  5. Emigre

    Their Mrs. Eaves font has held up through fad and fashion very well.

  6. Storm Type

    This Czech foundry is a little under the radar, but their recuts of Baskerville and Walbaum are exquisite. They’ve done a fantastic job modernizing classic types like those and others. They also have a few in-house fonts they’ve designed based on Czech morphologies.

  7. The Foundry

    Foundry's serif fonts are some of the best, and would be very well suited in editorial or print work.

  8. Frere-Jones

    After the messy split with Hoefler, Tobias launched his own foundry and offers one font currently. You'll also find some of his pre-Hoefler work on Font Bureau.

  9. Playtype

    Based out of Copenhagen, these guys have fun and quirky type great for branding. I've used them on a few projects.

  10. Grilli Type
  11. Nouvelle Noire

    These Swiss foundries have very clean and sophisticated fonts with flair and whimsy built at a very subtle (or not so subtle) level. I haven't used any of their work yet, but I can see the potential.

  12. Milieu Groteseque

    I think these guys are underrated compared to Klim. I've found their type to be very well suited to pratical (even UI) as well as branding use.

  13. Hoefler & Co.

    The fonts here are expertly crafted and you can almost never go wrong using them. Their attention to detail and the craft of creating type is very evident. They're a powerhouse for good fonts, as they cover every major category well.

  14. Klim

    The typefaces here are great. They're boutique but very popular, like your favorite Indie brand.


First published on Designer News in 2016.

On Libraries

A library represents both hubris and humility. The rows and rows of books display the owner’s knowledge, breadth of interests, and depth of detail. But conversely, the larger the library, the more the library acknowledges that one lifetime is not enough to understand its contents. This idea should humble the owner of the books.

There is repetition everywhere, and nothing is found only once in the world.

Observed 013

  1. The story of İznik tiles
  2. What is Cosmopsychism?
  3. Bridging the gap in flavors for a universal theory on what tastes good.
  4. How What Colors We See Is Fabricated Based on Culture and Context
  5. On Paul Rand
  6. The web is a customer service medium

Soren solkaer

The sumi-e apparitions of starling bird flocks or “murmurations” shot by Søren Solkær.


What happened on a national level happened locally as well, with police budgets eclipsing funding for social services in city after city. ‘As resources committed to benefits decline,’ Tainter wrote in 1988, ‘resources committed to control must increase.’
Ben Ehrenreich, The New York Times.

Sample 2

The Wedgwood Society of Washington DC hosted a talk on black basalts recently.

I was always curious why some old black basalts are very polished and shiny, and others dull and flat.

I haven’t found much in the literature about polishing other than lathe polishing. However, the polish I was curious about is not structural: it is added after firing and mechanical polishing because it washes off.

The speaker, Brian Gallagher, said that there are only a couple of references written by Josiah about polishing like this kind. He also said it’s a contentious topic amongst collectors. One method includes using leather in the bisque state before firing. That kind of polishing is structural and wouldn’t be affected by washing. It also would most likely be impossible to do on uneven services like vase handles or sculptural items like figures, which are often highly polished. The other method mentioned by Wedgwood is unspecified, Brian said.

Twentieth century methods recommended shoe polish, he said. I thought I’d try some polishes out on an old piece of black basalt.

The first is mink oil, a common shoe polish.

This produced a good gloss with good depth. Fingerprints weren’t very obvious.

The second was a softened beeswax with lanolin, mostly used to waterproof shoes. Lanolin is derived from sheep, colloquially known as “wool fat.”

This produced a similar effect but with a less iridescent quality seen in the mink oil.

The third was a propriety polish from Filson, and I’m not sure what’s in it.

It produced a matte polish. This is not the effect I was hoping to emulate.

Finally, I tried pure beeswax.

This was difficult to apply in solid form, and required polishing with a chamois.

It produced a polish most similar to old black basalt with good depth and glow.

However, it dulls quickly and “scratches” easily.

It also required a lot of force to apply, so I imagine it is impractical and even dangerous to polish anything with a complex surface because of the pressure needed.

Overall, I think the mink oil polish or beeswax-mixed polishes provide the best effect, though more research is needed.

Works of John Dugdale

Dugdale, Figs and Pomegranates
Dugdale, Clandestine Mind

The debt-laden buyouts privatize gains when they work, and socialize losses when they don’t…
Mehrsa Baradaran, The New York Times Opinion.

A Summary of Swift’s The Benefit of Farting Explain’d

Treason Satirical Comic

Jonathan Swift is prompted to publish this piece, “The Benefit of Farting Explain’d,” in 1722 because he has found that ever since women have begun drinking tea and coffee they have been suffering from a “Train of Distempers, scarce known to our Forefathers” and “as universal among us as the Small Pox.” He thinks it is dangerous to the health of women to drink coffee and tea. But he does agree that coffee in the mornings at home “promotes free Circulation of Intelligence” in women since they are forbidden from expressing that intelligence in the public coffee houses. Coffee houses were first established in England in Oxford, by a Jewish entrepreneur named Jacob in 1652 (Wikipedia).

This is a work of satire, but it does take the usual form of a “wise” man talking down to everyone else while simultaneously making themselves sound like they are merely motivated to help instead of criticize. The work is predominately sexist to our modern eyes. At the time, Swift was criticizing the taboo of farting that was cropping up in polite society. The taboo still exists.

But on another level, this also represents the rapid adoption of tea, coffee, and chocolate into European diets and people’s reactions for or against it. Just a cursory look at books from this period tells one of the drama around these new imports:

  1. Wholesome Advice Against the Abuse of Hot Liquors, Particularly of Coffee, Chocolate, Tea, Brandy, and Strong-Waters.
  2. The Virtues of Coffee, Chocolette, and Thee or Tea.
  3. The Women’s Petition Against Coffee. Representing to Publick Consideration the Grand Inconveniencies Accruing to Their Sex from the Excessive Use of that Drying, Enfeebling Liquor.
  4. The Mens Answer to the Womens Petition Against Coffee, Vindicating Their own Performances, and the Vertues of that Liquor, from the Undeserved Aspersion Lately Cast upon Them by Their Scandalous Pamphlet.
  5. The Indian Nectar, or a Discourse Concerning Chocolata.
  6. The Virtue and Use of Coffee, with Regard to the Plague.
The Benefit of Farting Title Page
The Virtues of Coffee, Chocolette, and Thee or Tea Book Page
Wholesome Advice against the Abuse of Hot Liquors Title Page

Thus, since the drinking of coffee and tea also causes ingestion of air, the author argues that more and more farts are being produced inside the bodies of women. One “reasonable FART” might prevent all the diseases that women force upon themselves by holding their farts in. Yes, indeed, the idea that women do not poop or fart has persisted since at least 300 years ago.

If one does not fart, it is the “first cause of Quakerism, and Enthusiasm.”

Jonathan Swift then designs to go about the topic thusly: first, to explain the substance of a fart; secondly, to “shew the ill Consequences of suppressing it;” thirdly, to prove it’s lawfulness; and fourth, the benefit of farting.

First, the author brings up a debate amongst scholars. Is a fart substance or “spirit?” The physicists insist it is purely a “spirit.” It must be a spirit, because a fart, which hardly weighs a “thousandth part of a Grain” will “in one Minute, expand itself so far, as to occupy the whole Atmosphere of a large Drawing Room.” That is certainly true.

The chemists claim it is a substance since it’s sulphuric smell can be both ignited and detected by the nose. A certain Cartesius claims to have cooked it up into a sort of saltpeter according “to the French Taste” and used it for gunpowder but unfortunately “blew up” his beliefs.

The mathematicians argue a middle ground: a fart is a quantity (as the chemists claim) but it is indivisible (as the physicists claim).

Jonathan Swift thus defines a fart as “A Nitro-aerial Vapour, exhal’d from an adjacent Pond of Stagnant Water of a Saline Nature, and rarified and sublimed into the Nose of a Microcosmical Alembic, by the gentle Heat of a Stercorarious Balneum, with a strong Empyreuma, and forc’d through the Posteriours by the Compressive Power of the expulsive Faculty.”

My thoughts exactly.

Secondly, Jonathan Swift then claims that the suppression of farts by women “vents itself intirely in Talkativeness; hence we have a Reason why Women are more Talkative than Men.” This is why, he claims, we have the idiom “Tell a Tale, or let a Fart.” The frequent fits of laughing and crying called “vapours” or hysterics is caused by the suppression of farts. When the air travels internally, it first tries exiting as a laugh. If it reaches the top of the head, though, it can turn into tears.

This is ridiculous to read.

Thirdly, Jonathan Swift sets down that farting is not forbidden by any law, and “where there is no Law, there can be no Transgression.” Both the Law of Nature and Cannon Law are for it, but Civil Law is against it until King James I wrote “HERE ALL FARTS ARE FREE” above his castle gate after a man died in his presence from holding in his fart.

If some “Toast of the Town” were to make farting fashionable, then everyone would adopt it. He then goes on to claim the high esteem farting holds in Holland and France.

Finally, the benefit of farting would make women both happier and help them save money on medicines used to cure the symptoms of holding in their farts. Farting can also make others laugh from the occasion. “The Celebrated Author of a Book, called, Laugh and Be Fat, proves Laughing to be a very wholesome Exercise.” The author then goes on to claim that farting was why music has harmony: musicians noted that when two people farted next to each other, they produced different pitches. Listening to a performance of farts at the tea table is much preferable to idle gossip.

Scatological humor, which is what we call poop jokes in academia, was as common in the past as it is today. Mozart, Jonathan Swift, and Benjamin Franklin were all found of writing these jokes in their letters and pamphlets. When we are shocked to find that such learned men indulged in such petty humor, we should remind ourselves that nearly every one loves a good poop joke.

And yet, even today there are legitimate health articles on the Internet that need to reassure people that farting is indeed beneficial and okay. Let us state once-and-for-all that bowel movements are healthy, humorous, and necessary.

Further Reading and References

  1. From the Sumerians to Shakespeare to Twain: Why fart jokes never get old
  2. A Georgian Farting Club and Its Odoriferous Humor
  3. When Chocolate was Medicine: Colmenero, Wadsworth, and Dufour
  4. Foreign Names and Flatulence: Dodging Censorship in the Book Trade
  5. English coffeehouses in the 17th and 18th centuries
  6. Houghton Library, Harvard
  7. A 17th-Century Argument for the Many Virtues of Coffee, Chocolate, and Tea
  8. Chocolate: A Divine Fruit for London
  9. Henry Stubbe: The Chocolate Guru
“Treason!!!” A satirical print published in 1798. Library of Congress

Erol, Cluster of Persimmons
Erol, Two Persimmons
Erol, A Pair of Persimmons

The seller at the farmer’s market was astonished that I was picking the fruits with the most leaves and branches on them. “You know you’ll have to pay the weight for the branches, too.” He didn’t understand. He didn’t see the beauty in the leaves.

Self taken. October 24, 2018.

Vain were my hopes: few ſcreens attain the praiſe
Of their great colors, and moſt their colors diſgrace.
But within its ſcreen eternal fire burns,
And all deſigners its poſseſsion so yearn:
And lo, with ſpeed we plough the uncertain way,
To wait once more at the helm of Apple’s bay.
On the Apple Monitor, Self-written.

A world beyond capitalism would abandon this definition so as to organize social interdependence around the value of spending our time on chosen activities.

Further, “But no one, and certainly not the wretched of the earth, can simply opt out of a system that defines value in terms of wage labor and is oriented toward maximizing not each individual’s free time to spend as she pleases but rather to accumulating ever more capital … Not that labor would ever end or that democracies could never impose labor on their citizens. But work would become mostly a matter of choice, and society would require unchosen work only for the sake of maximizing free time.”

Samuel Moyn, Jacobin Magazine.

Wedgwood in the Wild

Wheatley, The Saithwaite Family

In the corner of this painting is an unmistakable Wedgwood & Bentley black basalt vase with upturned handles. I have not located the exact form, but there are similar ones listed below. The painting dates from 1785.

However, the Metropolitan Museum states that “[a]t first glance, the vase on the mantelpiece seems to be a piece of “Black Basalt” (also called “Egyptian black” or “Etruscan ware”), a refined stoneware colored with cobalt and manganese oxides, invented by Josiah Wedgwood (1730–1795) in 1768; however, the painting’s vase seems to have no exact match among ceramics of the period and may, instead, be made of wood, a less expensive alternative to stoneware but one that would nevertheless have served to indicate the owners’ sophisticated, classicizing taste.”

Recently as of 2020, I have located a Wedgwood vase so strikingly similar to the one in the painting that it must be a form produced at the time. What is interesting about material culture is that the facts and knowledge constantly shift as we uncover more and more objects lurking all over the world.

Wedgwood bentley vase
  1. Wedgwood Black Basalt Vase with Upturned Handles
  2. Wedgwood & Bentley Black Basalt Vase with Upturned Handles
  3. Wedgwood & Bentley Black Basalt Vase and Cover
  4. Wedgwood & Bentley Porphyry Vase and Cover
  5. Various Wedgwood Vases with Upturned Handles
  6. Vase in Black Basalt, Wedgwood & Bentley, circa 1773
  7. Vase in Black Basalt, Wedgwood & Bentley, circa 1773
  8. Wedgwood & Bentley Black Basalt Urn
  9. Wedgwood & Bentley Black Basalt Vase with a Cover
  10. Wedgwood & Bentley Black Basalt Vase and Cover

Picking a Qur’an Translation

The Qur’an translation I read from start to finish was the one made by a 1900s British convert to Islam, Marmaduke Pickthall. It’s good, if not a little dry, and has good footnotes about the non-chronological order of the Surahs (each chapter, which there are about 114 or so). Each surah usually opens with a description by Pickthall that contextualizes it and sometimes relates it to the Bible.

It is not a very literary translation, so it reads slow and repetitive in a lot of parts (but it maintains good accuracy). Some of the translations from places like Penguin Publishers can be more lyrical to the point of removing the verse numbers (a verse is called an ayah), which is fine, but if someone references a verse then you will not be able to find it. Pickthall also has an index, so you can look up topics rather easily.

  1. Pickthall (Everyman’s Library)
  2. Oxford
  3. Tarif Khalidi (Penguin)
  4. N. J. Dawood (Penguin)
  5. Reformist Edition

If you want something more edgy, you can go for a reformist Turkish translation. This is interesting for two reasons: it treats the Qur’an as the sole legitimate source of Islamic scripture (ignoring other texts and subsequent theology), and it was directed by the Turkish Ministry of Religion as an effort to produce a modern, contextualized translation, so it ruffled some feathers.

A brief history: the Qur’an is the holy book of Islam. However, there are the hadiths or sayings of the Prophet, which equal the Qur’an in importance. These are things the prophet (purportedly) said outside of his Qur’anic revelations, like advice he might have given to an invidual in response to a particular question, general thoughts he vocalized, or remarks he might have made during a Friday sermon. In other words, they are not in the Qur’an and are not technically divine revelation; they are the mundane thoughts of the Prophet. Yet, the hadiths carry the same legitimacy as the Qur’an. This is problematic because anyone can say, “Well, the Prophet once said…” and you could not really look it up anywhere with certainty. Likewise, these hadith are very contextual: it was advice the prophet gave to people in seventh century Arabia. Since the start of Islam, the hadith have been used to fill gaps in the rather vague Qur’an and provide everyday guidance.

Were these hadith every verified? Yes, Muslims since the time of the prophet’s own life realized the issue of authenticity. To address it, they compiled hadiths and wrote down their advice, lineage, and provenance. In the most “legitimate” kinds of hadith, the Prophet is always the first person to speak a hadith. Then, the lineage lays out each person that passed on that information. Authors would then write notes by each person. For example, this person was sometimes a liar, so don’t believe what he transmitted; or, this other person was usually honest, so her advice is generally correct; or, another person was the Prophet’s close family relative and lived with the Prophet, so his tranmissions are always trustworthy.

Now, over the centuries the Qur’an and hadith were mixed interchangeably to create the general belief systems of Moslems, religious schools of thought, and the legal courts of Islamic states.

Fast-forward to Post-Modernism and our era of contextualization and you can see where reformists Moslems might be a little hesitant about hadith: they are not “official,” the authorship is nearly impossible to verify, and they are highly contextual to the time spoken. These are all red flags for a Post-Modern scholarly world.

The solution for the Turkish reformist edition listed above of the Qur’an was to completely ignore the hadith and not let it inflect how they translated the text. Indeed, there is a modern attempt in Turkey (who is trying to figure out how to re-introduce religion into the secular state) to ignore hadith or place them clearly below the Qur’an. It is a lot easier for someone to fabricate hadith than it is to fabricate Qur’anic verses. Fabricated hadith have been an issue fiercely debated by Islamic theologians for centuries.

An example of a much-argued hadith is the restriction that women cannot travel alone outside their locale. In Arabia in the seventh century, the Moslems were waging war: their enemies could kidnap women from the roads and turn them into slaves (so could Moslems). This was a common problem. It was dangerous, and the Prophet, who spoke that advice, was sincerely concerned about the safety of women. However, this hadith has stayed today and is used to often keep women from leaving their homes. In a reformist approach, all the hadith, including ones verified as true like this one would be ignored.


Amazon. Links provided are affiliate links.

Designing Marketing Emails

Getting a work email is the equivalent of seeing a bill int he mail: you just know it’s a bill without even having to open it because the design communicates that. Close your eyes and imagine a bill in the mail: the thinness of the envelope, the weak security paper, the simple and plain colors and fonts, the glassine address window. Bills can be identified by touch and sight alone without even having to open them.

And the experience of a bill? Bad.

Work emails are similar: the from address, the styling of the message, the time of day you receive it, the way it’s written, the apologetic workplace tone that is both friendly and distant. We all know how work emails read and what they look like.

And the experience of a work email? Well, work. And that’s not fun.

And now marketing companies and experience and design experts are telling us that these emails convert better when your outbound emails look “normal.” Their reasoning is simple: because these emails look like everyday, personal emails, we’re more likely to open them and trust them because they match the style of real emails from friends and colleagues.

There are a few issues there:

  1. It’s even more misleading: you’re co-opting an authentic design (a hand-written email from a real person) and using the same visual cues for an automated, impersonal message. You’re blurring the user’s expectations. It’s an anti-pattern, and the opposite of authentic.
  2. It’s a design issue: if marketing emails give everyone hives, we need to understand why. Somewhere in this phase of discovery, we lost track of what makes marketing good and that is precisely good design and writing. Design that excites, motivates, cajoles, and smiles. We need to fix design patterns, not discard them completely.
  3. It’s less work: non-technical and non-design marketing teams convinced themselves that simpler emails are always better because they are somehow more authentic. This was a convenient truth because these teams often don’t have the expertise to create strong marketing emails.

A good marketing email is beautiful and convincing. It has clear visual cues in it and clear calls to action. Just like you wouldn’t design a web page or magazine ad with just plain text (in most cases), so too, should your emails embody the experience of your brand and use the full world of visual design. That takes work. But your users will enjoy your emails with actual pleasure and won’t think to themselves, “great, more work.” Don’t send users bills, send them love letters.

There were about eleven of us: a table full of kids, family members, a mother, and a father. I translated back and forth between gulps of water and mouthfuls of food.

Once upon a time in Cappadocia, Nancy and I rented a scooter, took a cheap map, and explored the area nearly a decade ago. I recollect on that trip with a short piece I wrote for Nomad and Jules. I’m itching to go back.

Dried Lotus Pods

Lotus Pods Curved
Lotus Pod Single
Family of Lotus Pods

When I first saw a lotus pod, I didn’t believe it was a real plant. I wanted to capture that strangeness in the photos. As a first encounter, the lotus pods are left bare as if they were photographs meant for clinical study. Their strangeness becomes more pronounced in isolation.

Self taken. 2016.

Observed 012

  1. The erasure of Islam from the mystic writings of Rumi
  2. Mental thoughts at the Symphony
  3. Tokyo “compression” photographic series
  4. The cracks in Silicon Valley’s culture
  5. The origami revolution
  6. $15,000 Apple sneakers
  7. Technology downgrade: a refreshing look at choosing slow living
  8. A tool that writes music based on your name
  9. The double-standard of Charlie Hebdo
  10. The color-tinted photocrom prints of a bygone time.

Cynicism takes hold when empathy becomes a chore — the only real antidote is activism.
Bragg, Billy. “Stand Down Margaret.” Jacobin, New York (Winter 2017).

Terms of Use and Beyond

In corporate culture, the terms of service or use have been rapidly developing into manifestos. They blend moral and ethical beliefs that go much beyond their original purpose of legal protection between company and user.

Corporations have certainly taken on moral issues (Apple and privacy, Target and gender, Chik-fil-A and marriage, &c.) in part because of lax court rulings on their personhood and in part because of the strong political pull of the CEOs at those companies.

It only seems sensible that these rules become enshrined in the terms of service and other cultural artefacts (see for example The Aesthetics of Organization). They’ve grown and so too has our appetite for moral guidance from for-profit entities. Airbnb and other companies have made anti-discrimination and gender policies not only an internal HR practice, but fully-public — and possibly legally-binding — rules that govern not only their own employees but now (and here’s what is so interesting) the behavior of their end users.

People and regular users are regulated now by yet another set rules that govern their behavior on private platforms (mostly for better, maybe for worse), which adds another institutional layer of ethics to human behavior.

My Work at Twice

Like many of my projects, I created the majority of messaging and writing as well as design. In my mind, the two are quite inseparable. Graphic design, after all, only develops in symbiosis with industrialism, consumerism, and modern marketing. Before then, no such profession exists. The closest we get to “graphic design&dquo; as a profession is in bookmaking. The closet we get to branding is in publishing once again and heralds and the use of emblems by the nobility.

Graphic design is part of the democratization of consumption engendered by the industrial revolution. At the core of it, it is the communication of availability to a market. Communication: spoken, written, heard, touched, or smelled is the core of good design. Without centralized bureaucracies of the nation-state, without mass-literacy, without consistent transportation networks, graphic design is not useful.

In Twice’s rebranding, my main goal was to embody the idea that “secondhand never looked so good.” Gone were the stigmas of used clothing and musty retail stores. In it’s place: I championed a clean style of bright colors, comfortable simplicity, and smiles. The strong operational backbone of Twice made this brand experience carry over literally into the fast shipping, easy checkout, and product-heavy focus of the application. Surrounded by some of the most talented people in the Bay Area, we created an experience that elevated and made accessible the secondhand marketplace to everyone.

As Creative Director, I worked alongside product, engineering, customer support, and marketing teams intimately. My colleagues consisted of designers eagerly improved themselves through continuing education and work. A strong mind produces a strong hand. Design education aided us when solutions weren’t obvious.

We faced many challenges: a lack of creative direction before, a large and fine-tuned product already in use, and a small team. But then again, most startups face very similar issues. I at first worked closely with leadership to develop a crisp plan to have every property re-branded and launched within six months. We did it in four.

Web and product were the primary concern, but my greatest pleasure at Twice was working on photography. We developed a completely in-house photography team: stylists, photographers, and creative were all handled by the very same people who worked at Twice. Our drive to present a new face to secondhand clothing blossomed in the photographic work.

Essentialism versus Minimalism

Essentialism is not minimalism, though you can be both. I would say the work of Marie Kondo is mis-labeled as minimalist, when in fact it is “essentialist.” An essentialist is somebody who only holds onto those things and experiences that are most important to her or his identity and purpose. A person can indeed very easily cherish or value a great number of things. I often wonder if someone who has a cluttered home or does a great many number of things … are they living simply or minimally? Perhaps not in those terms, but they can certainly be living essentially.

One must choose between God and Man, and all ‘radicals’ and ‘progressives,’ from the mildest Liberal to the most extreme Anarchist, have in effect chosen Man.

“But it is not necessary here to argue whether the other-worldly or the humanistic ideal is ‘higher.’ The point is that they are incompatible.” George Orwell reflects on Ghandi, showing his political side along the way: “The essence of being human is that one does not seek perfection, that one is sometimes willing to commit sins for the sake of loyalty, that one does not push asceticism to the point where it makes friendly intercourse impossible, and that one is prepared in the end to be defeated and broken up by life, which is the inevitable price of fastening one's love upon other human individuals.”

He suggests being a saint is not an ideal to work towards and that the unevenness in life is valuable. The thoughts on Ghandi in 1949 are interesting because Orwell can look at Ghandi in a post world war world and also examine Ghandi’s beliefs that are often glossed over by popular accounts — beliefs Ghandi professed himself.

Orwell, George. “Reflections on Gandhi.” Partisan Review, London (January 1949). Accessed April 19, 2017.

Music Review 001

Ave Maria

Search for Ave Maria, and you’ll encounter a sea of interpretations, but I keep coming back to Marian Anderson’s simple, piercing, and powerful rendition. The instrumentation is kept simple, allowing her impressive voice to ring clearly. The recording is old, but I haven’t found anyone yet that can top this sound.

Apple Music and Spotify

Die Ruinen von Athen, Op. 113

Heifetz at his most romantic — quixotic cantabile, effortless transversing, and whimsy to the brim. A delightful rendition of a stout Beethoven march.


Bach Partitas for Piano, BWV 825–830

I’ve been listening to many pre-Gould Bach recordings from the masters of piano playing, and I’ve really begun to appreciate what a profound effect he has had on the performance and understanding of Bach’s music. These older performers treated baroque music differently, but Gould did something with Bach that liberated it from anything before. And it hasn’t been the same since.

Apple Music and Spotify

Mozart Piano Concerto, No. 24

This is one of Mozart’s darkest piano concertos: mysterious and unctuous. The cadenzas are all over the map from pianist to pianist, and I couldn’t really find one that felt very Mozartian — Murray Perahia, Paul Badura-Skoda, Glenn Gould, Daniel Barenboim, Malcom Bilson, and Robert Casadesus perform fine cadenzas.

Apple Music and Spotify

Beethoven Piano Pieces on Fortepiano

You really forget how some famous classical music pieces sounded like until you hear them on period instruments the composer actually used. The sound decay is so rapid on this fortepiano that the texture of notes in the Beethoven sonata is much clearer than renditions played on modern pianos. For example, the bass line comes off as much more pulsating and urgent rather than thundering and washy in modern-piano recordings.

Apple Music and Spotify

Leopold Godowsky Cadenzas for Mozart

The Godowsky cadenzas are marvelous interruptions of these Mozart piano concertos. While stylistically they’re too dissimilar to feel integrated into the music, they are nonetheless beautiful and can be listened to over and over again to find new surprises and counterpoint. You can see why even great pianists find Godowsky’s music to be almost unplayable in its sumptuous complexity.

Apple Music and Spotify

Fancy Clubs in San Francisco

The proclaimed Death of Cash is thus an episode in the broader drama that is the Death of Privacy, the death of breathing room, and the death of informal, non-measured, unaccounted-for behaviour.

Marketing works to make us — “[u]nlike a battle fought using violence” — see change “as inevitable, unassailable and normal” when in fact it is being manufactured by those in power. There is nothing inevitable or natural about this kind of change.

Brett Scott The Long and Short and Nesta.

Observed 011

A Frisconaire is a millionaire made rich by the tech boom.

Yet while the capitalist class is doing very well, capitalism is doing rather badly. Profit rates have recovered but reinvestment rates are appallingly low, so a lot of money is not circulating back into production and is flowing into land-grabs and asset-procurement instead.

Further, “Here’s a proposition to think over. What if every dominant mode of production, with its particular political configuration, creates a mode of opposition as a mirror image to itself?”

David Harvey, Jacobin Magazine.

Countries I’ve Visited

  1. Austria
  2. Cuba
  3. Mexico
  4. Germany
  5. Georgia
  6. Hungary
  7. Czech Republic
  8. Switzerland
  9. Turkey
  10. Denmark
  11. France
  12. Thailand
  13. Japan
  14. Poland
  15. Italy
  16. Netherlands
  17. Liechtenstein
  18. Costa Rica
  19. Canada
  20. Greece (Rhodes)
  21. Singapore
  22. United Kingdom (England)
  23. Portugal (Azores)
  24. Argentina
  25. Norway
  26. Colombia

One response may be that the subject [math] … is so aloof from political and social reality that its discoveries give rulers no causes for concern. If mathematics had the power to move minds toward controversial terrain, it would be viewed as a threat by wary states.

A look at math from both the good and the bad sides.

Dana Goldstein Slate.

Improvisation in Mozart

More and more research is pointing to the varied and improvisatory performance style of classical music — especially that of Mozart. It helps to dismantle the urtext aura of the official, printed music. Robert Levin provides exemplary research on the playing style of Mozart. Mozart played freely, in part enabled by his tremendous genius, in part because of performance practices of the time. For example, at the time, singers were expected to improvise passages of music in a single breadth. Likewise, Mozart would improvise throughout his pieces in short quick passages. He was a lover of singers and took inspiration from them.

Closing LinkedIn

Today I closed my LinkedIn account after having it open since March 31, 2009. I already closed Twitter, 500px, Klout,, Flickr, and other minor ones. In closing my account, I wrote this to LinkedIn:

“It’s been a good run, but the product is not high quality. LinkedIn has an experience you’d expect three engineers and a designer to slap together over a weekend and a case of red bulls. Except LinkedIn is over a decade old and employs thousands of very talented people. Which begs the question: where is this human capital being directed? Bottom line: does not spark joy.”

N.b. In 2019, I had to re-open LinkedIn as a requirement for my work.

Americans of all political persuasions are coming to the sad realization that our First Lady [Hillary Clinton] — a woman of undoubted talents who was a role model for many in her generation — is a congenital liar.

Let us not forget The New York Time was not always a fan of Hillary Clinton.

Safire, William. “Blizzard of Lies.” The New York Times, January 8, 1996. Accessed June 27, 2016.

Observed 010

Poppies on a Linen Cloth

I’ve started to worry that I haven’t asked enough questions, that there will never again be enough time, and that my parents are bound to take a part of me with them when they go.

Sobering thoughts this Father’s day to remember to spend time with your parents. They are jewels.

Dried Poppy Pods
Self taken.

Observed 009

Kluczynski Federal Building, Chicago
Kluczynski Federal Building, Chicago. Self taken.

By liking everything, I turned Facebook into a place where there was nothing I liked. To be honest, I really didn’t like it. I didn’t like what I had done.

Finding Good Fonts

Some of my favorite places to find good fonts are listed below. I have listed a few popular and storied foundries with a wide selection first, then listed more specific independent foundries second.

  1. FontFont, FontShop, MyFonts, Font Bureau, and Commercial Type

    These larger foundries offer fonts ranging from the classics to new work from many famous contemporaries in the field of type design today.

  2. Darden, Okay Type, House Industries, and Sudtipos

    Darden, Okay, House, and Sudtipos are great places to find display and specialty typefaces that are very extensive and well crafted. Don’t miss the cursive scripts from each of them. The ligatures and extended features are very exciting.

  3. Emigre

    Their Mrs. Eaves font has held up through fad and fashion very well.

  4. Storm Type

    This Czech foundry is a little under the radar, but their recuts of Baskerville and Walbaum are exquisite. They've done a fantastic job modernizing classic types like those and others. They also have a few in-house fonts they've designed based on Czech morphologies that I'm dying to use on a future project.

  5. The Foundry

    Foundry’s serif fonts are some of the best, and would be very well suited in editorial or print work.

  6. Frere-Jones

    After the messy split with Hoefler, Tobias launched his own foundry and offers one font currently. You’ll also find some of his pre-Hoefler work on Font Bureau.

  7. Playtype

    Based out of Copenhagen, these guys have fun and quirky type great for branding. I’ve used them on a few projects.

  8. Grilli Type and Nouvelle Noire

    These Swiss foundries have very clean and sophisticated fonts with flair and whimsy built at a very subtle (or not so subtle) level. I haven’t used any of their work yet, but I can see the potential.

  9. Milieu Groteseque

    A bit underrated compared to other small shops, I’ve found their type to be very well suited from practical UI needs to distinct branding uses.

  10. Hoefler & Co.

    The fonts here are expertly crafted and you can almost never go wrong using them. Their attention to detail and the craft of creating type is very evident. They're a powerhouse for good fonts, as they cover every major category well.

  11. Klim

    The typefaces here are great. They’re boutique but very popular and also do commissioned type work quite frequently.

Courti, Maestro

Observed 008

In this case, though, pups born to mice on American-type diets — no fiber, lots of sugar — failed to acquire the full endowment of their mothers’ microbes.

There has been a rise in studies discussing the importance of the microbes that live in our gut and their primary food source: fiber. The “Burkina Faso microbiota produced about twice as much of these fermentation by-products, called short-chain fatty acids, as the Florentine [citizens]. That gave a strong indication that fiber, the raw material solely fermented by microbes, was somehow boosting microbial diversity in the Africans.”

This biodiversity of microbes in our gut can wax and wane depending on what we eat so that “[e]ven after weeks on this junk food-like diet, an animal’s microbial diversity would mostly recover if it began consuming fiber again.” That said, as quoted above, if a child does not eat the right diet at birth, she is at risk of never recovering the full biodiversity of her mother’s gut. Over generations, you have disparities in gut health from region to region across the globe that may not be recoverable.

N.b: In May 2016 there has been additional reporting on the gut by FiveThirtyEight.

Velazquez-Manoff, Moises. “How the Western Diet Has Derailed Our Evolution.” Nautilus, no. 30 (November 2015). November 12, 2015. Accessed December 3, 2015.

Ottoman Iznik Blue and White Pottery Dish
İznik blue and white dish (c. 1480–1500) sold by Christie’s to the Detroit Institue of Arts.

Sculpture in the Winter Sun

Thorvaldsens Museum Greek Sculpture Eagle
Thorvaldsens Museum Greek Sculpture Woman
Thorvaldsens Museum Greek Sculpture Back
Thorvaldsens Museum Greek Sculpture Bacchus
Thorvaldsens Museum Greek Sculpture Couple

Sculpture caught in the setting sun at the Thorvaldsens Museum. Copenhagen, Denmark.


Self taken.


[The] hipster onslaught has now … been over-run by Ivy League business school marketing grads, violently jogging ex-cheerleaders from the Midwest, Bonobos-sporting former frat bros, and Baby Bjorned global arrivistes …

The San Francisco hipster is dead, y’all :/

This Halloween in San Francisco has been by far the tamest and least quirky of all my years here, and after you read the piece above, you know the end is near for the wild days of yesteryear.

Cannon Building Ceiling
Self taken. Cannon Building, Washington, D.C.

There is repetition everywhere, and nothing is found only once in the world.
Johann Wolfgang von Göthe.

Sapper Industrial Sewing Machine
Industrial Sewing Machine (1964) prototype by Richard Sapper (1932–).

Observed 007


Jade Freer Sackler
Jade freer sackler 6015 10
Jade freer sackler 7630
Jade freer sackler 7678
Jade freer sackler 6015 06
Jade freer sackler 6016
Jade freer sackler 6015
Jade freer sackler 7623
Jade freer sackler 8239
Jade freer sackler 7622

A collection of sublime jade objects from the Freer & Sackler Galleries of the Smithsonian. Jade — for all its popularity as a green stone — is strikingly colorful. Jade covers nearly every hue, and we would do well as artists to take advantage of these characteristics. Jade isn’t just green after all.

… art isn’t a phenomenon to be explained. Not by neuroscience, and not by philosophy. Art is itself a research practice, a way of investigating the world and ourselves.
Alva Noë, What Art Unveils, New York Times, October 5, 2015, accessed October 5, 2015.

Palais Garnier
Transverse section at the auditorium and pavilions of the Paris Opera’s Palais Garnier. 1880. Wikipedia.

Er ist ein Prinz … Mehr! Er ist ein Mensch.
Mozart, Die Zauberflöte (Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Mozart 111 “O Isis und Osiris,” vol. 2, conducted by Karl Böhm, performed by Franz Crass and others, Berliner Philharmoniker, DDD GB55, CD, 2012.). Full Libreto. Also of superb quality is the 1964 recording under the baton of Karl Böhm and the Berlin Philharmonic.

Observed 006

Karl Blossfeldt Ferns
Adiantum pedatum, Maiden-hair fern (n.d., likely 1931) by Karl Blossfeldt (1865–1932).


  1. Cap
  2. Baseball cap
  3. Straw hat
  4. Mortar board
  5. Top hat
  6. Sailor hat
  7. Bowler
  8. Cowboy hat
  9. Party hat
  10. Bearskin hat
  11. Dunce cap
  12. Fez
  13. Sombrero
  14. Makarapa
  15. Fedora
  16. Cloche hat
  17. Beanie Hat
  18. Chef’s hat
  19. Sun Hat
  20. Bonnet
  21. Phrygian cap
  22. Santa hat
  23. Tricornered hat
  24. Glengarry
  25. Rain hat
  26. Fur hat
  27. Aviation hat
  28. Knit hat
  29. Pillbox hat
  30. Propeller beanie
  31. Jester’s hat
  32. Tyrolean hat
  33. Fishing hat
  34. Riding hat
  35. Deerstalker hat
  36. Trappers hat
  37. Gaucho hat
  38. Bucket hat
  39. Henin
  40. Golf hat
  41. Amigasa
  42. Porkpie hat
  43. Witch’s hat
  44. Toque
  45. Alpaca hat
  46. African hat
  47. Bush hat
  48. Newsboy cap
  49. Tam O’Shanter
  50. Homburg Hat
  51. Dress hat
  52. Balmoral Cap
  53. Slouch hat
  54. Greek fisherman’s hat
  55. Tuque
  56. Ear flaps
  57. Brim
  58. Masonic fez
  59. Cheesehead hat

Mozart and the Heroic Lens

… because we often read Mozart’s music with lenses adjusted to Beethoven’s “heroic-style” … we sometimes overlook that Mozart’s slow movements are conceived as the gravity center [and] are indeed “central” in the most fundamental sense.
Maynard Soloman, Mozart: a Life (New York: HarperCollins, 1995), 206.

Observed 005

There is no excellent beauty, that hath not some strangeness in the proportion.
Sir Francis Bacon. “Of Beauty” from The Essays or Counsels, Civil and Moral, of Francis Ld. Verulam Viscount St. Albans.

Reading MTF Charts

MTF Chart

MTF charts help to objectively explain the quality and performance attributes of a lens. The charts plot the ability of the lens to distinguish between evenly spaced black lines in a one millimeter space. This resolving power is referred to as line pairs per millimeter (lp/mm).

10 line pairs per millimeter and 30 line pairs per millimeter are most commonly used. Some charts will show 40 lp/mm. The camera manufacturers will display these lines on the graph in various colors and thicknesses, so check the key to decipher their system.

Even so, you can read these charts fairly quickly from left to right and up to down. These charts are very helpful to see how your lens might perform and compare it against qualitative reviews from photographers. For example, the Canon 85mm prime lens performs exceptionally well at the widest aperture: it preserves high resolution from the absolute center of the lens all the way to the outer edge of the glass with excellent defocusing. You can see that in the MTF chart above in the top blue line. There is very little deviation of line resolution from center to outside. Both the latitudinal (lines parallel to the radius of the lens, shown as solid lines on the graph) and longitudinal (lines perpendicular to the radius of the lens, shown as dotted lines on the graph) lines on the graph match for the largest aperture opening. This lens is well known for it’s beautiful blur (bokeh) and extreme sharpness at wide apertures. However, the graph also reveals that the lens performs quite poorly when shot at an aperture of f/8. Even at the center of the lens, the resolving power for 30 lines per millimeter drops from around 82% to 48%, and continues losing resolution the farther from the center. What this means is that the lens is more a specialty piece than general purpose, and that you should not expect good performance from this lens at smaller apertures.

When looking at these charts quickly, keep these points in mind:

  1. MTF charts are useful when comparing lenses of the same focal length, for example, a 50mm Canon versus a 50mm Sigma.
  2. The higher any line is on the graph the better.
  3. Graphs with a lot of variability do not always mean a bad lens. In the case of the 85mm from Canon, it means that it excels within certain parameters.
  4. The straighter the line (i.e., it doesn’t drop down or wiggle up and down) the better and more consistently it performs from the center of the lens outward.
  5. The smaller the distance between the various lines are to each other, the more consistently the lens performs over a wide set of apertures.
  6. The pair of solid and dotted lines shows resolution between perpendicular (longitudinal) and parallel (latitudinal) lines to the radius of the lens. The closer these line pairs overlap, the better the defocusing will be.
α Lenses. San Diego, California: Sony Electronics Digital Imaging Division, 2012.

Chris Tonnesen Kettle

Flint Striker
A flint striker in the form of a bird. Free & Sackler Galleries.

Observed 004

A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they will never sit in.
Greek proverb.

Matcha and Cowhide

Self taken.

Cicianne and Nasut Dede

I was about 14 years old at the time, and I was coming along with my mother on our weekly visits to see Cicianne and Nasut Dede. I was excited for two reasons. The first one was that Cicianne would make her hallmark ice cream: huge mounds of chocolate ice cream covered in all sorts of wonderful toppings — almonds, cookies, bananas, cherries, raspberries form the garden, self-made jams and preserves. It was a treat every weak.

But secondly, I was eager to show Nasut Dede a painting I made. I bashfully opened up the watercolor book and showed him the still life of an eggplant. “Good,’ he said. Now being a teacher of gentle patience, Nasut Dede was also very economical with his words: “but your lines for the table are crooked. Draw a line for me.’

I drew a line for him across the page. It wasn’t straight, and I thought I could just use a ruler.

“You don’t need a ruler,’ he said. “When you draw a straight line, you always look to where the line is going to be. Not where your line currently is.’

So I took the pencil again and this time stared ahead of the line and let my hand lead itself in the right direction. The line was now straight.

There are a few people in my life that I will never forget and never wish to see leave this world. I miss both Nasut Dede and Cicianne dearly and am reminded of them nearly every day. Their impressions live on in my memories, as clear as when I was with them, and I have been forever grateful to have know them.

Zeyn Nasut Uzman (1927–2015).

Japanese Lacquer

Observed 003

Avedon, Marian Anderson
Marian Anderson (1955) by Richard Avedon (1923–2004). Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Skilled Labor as a Service

There is a deluge of “creative” free time most college-educated people have. If Uber and Postmates (and countless others) successfully captured the low-end extra work potential of unskilled labor, then there is still a huge potential to capture the high-end extra work potential of skilled labor. Enter in the need for services that let people get “on-demand” services or products from skilled people.

We are seeing it in services like EyeEm and Snapwire, aimed at photographers. And we will be seeing more of it in other skilled professions.

Machine Learning

If you haven’t heard, a cooking robot and IBM’s Watson can now cook better than you.

This is interesting because we have to load machines with a basic set of assumptions, and because of the accuracy of machinery and their long-term memory, they essentially will never forget these assumptions.

For example, if you were teaching a robot how to write, you would teach it the difference between your and your’re. This is a pretty standard grammar rule that I very often forget or ignore, leaving my writing pot-marked with errors.

Though that example is banal, if we look at localization, evolution, and culture: most “innovations” or differences arise either from error, accident, or deliberate changes to a set of assumptions.

The problem is, do we risk freezing culture at a point in time when we load our assumptions into the robot’s machine learning? Or are the scientist clever enough to introduce randomization and evolution into the machine learning? The problem is, how do you teach a robot to be both accurate but also open to doing things “wrong?” — the hallmark of creativity and innovation.

When the prince and the pauper switch places, the reason why everyone is fooled is because the two are more similar than we think.

Spicy Thai Chicken Noodle Soup

Spicy Thai Chicken Noodle Soup

The thing about being sick and single is that you have no one to make chicken soup for you.

I had a Blue Apron recipe ready to make, fortunately. They portion and package all the ingredients I needed to make this soup. I still had to chop the vegetables, but it turned out wonderfully. In the future, I might find it hard to find Canton noodles or have chicken demi-glace (demi-glace au poulet) on hand. And they also forgot to include the red curry paste. Considering my throat was burning, I didn’t need extra spice anyways. Once finished, this soup really hit the spot and helped me feel much better.


8 ouncesChopped chicken thighs
3½ ouncesCanton noodles
4 ouncesWhite mushrooms
3 clovesGarlic
1Green bell pepper
1Bunch cilantro
3 tablespoonsChicken demi-glace
2 tablespoonsRed curry paste
2 teaspoonsWorcestershire sauce
1 inchPiece of Ginger

Wash and dry the vegetables. Slice or quarter the mushrooms. Peel and mince the garlic and ginger. Thinly slice the scallions, keeping the white and green parts separated. Slice the green bell pepper into long strips and discard the inside seeds and stem. Zest the lime to produce about 2 teaspoons of lime zest. Be careful not to get the bitter ring underneath the green flesh. Quarter the lime and save for garnish later. Pick the cilantro leaves off the stems.

Pat the chicken dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. In a medium pot, heat about 2 teaspoons of oil on medium-high until hot. The oil will be less viscous and shimmer when it is warm enough. Add the seasoned chicken and cook, stirring occasionally, 4 to 6 minutes, or until browned on all sides. Transfer to a plate, leaving any browned bits (or fond) in the pot.

In the same pot, add 2 teaspoons of oil to the reserved fond. Briefly heat on medium-high heat until hot. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, 2 to 4 minutes, or until browned. Add the bell pepper. Season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, 1 to 2 minutes, or until the bell pepper has softened slightly, but isn’t completely cooked. Add the garlic, ginger, white bottoms of the scallions, and lime zest. Cook, stirring frequently, 30 seconds to 1 minute, or until fragrant. Be careful not to burn the garlic during this process.

To the pot of vegetables, add as much of the curry paste as you’d like. Cook, stirring frequently, 30 seconds to 1 minute, or until toasted and fragrant. Add the chicken demi-glace, Worcestershire sauce, and 5 cups of water. Stir in the browned chicken (along with any juices from the plate). Heat to boiling on high. Once boiling, reduce the heat to medium and simmer, stirring occasionally, 5 to 7 minutes, or until slightly reduced in volume.

Add the noodles to the pot of soup. Cook, stirring occasionally, 2 to 3 minutes, or until the noodles are tender. Turn off the heat and stir in the juice of 2 lime wedges. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

When finished cooking, serve and garnish with the green scalliong tops, cilantro, and lime wedges. If you hate cilantro, like I do, then just skip that part.


Roy Lichtenstein, iPhone

An art historian would find plenty to work off of on this image: the penultimate visual form of today, the GIF file, co-opting the style of pop art and mass media of Lichtenstein, and a reference to the iPhone (and Tinder’s iconic swipe-to-like feature of dating) just to keep things interesting.

Roy Lichtenstein iPhone

Who Is a Cultural Engineer?

An engineer is a problem solver. A cultural engineer uses culture (philosophical, material, social, political, artistic) to solve problems. In that sense most humanities or “soft” fields of study can all be considered cultural engineers as they use do not use purely scientific or mathematic solutions to solving problems. They work inside other bodies of theory.

These “solutions” take their cues from anthropology, sociology, philosophy, and aesthetics for the most part. Here are some rough examples:

  1. Aesthetic designers who use “good” design as a means of increasing product longevity (and slowing done consumerism) to help either benefit underprivileged communities or help the environment. The theory embraced here is that concerns of beauty, usefulness, and design create better solutions than merely solving for mechanical issues.
  2. Anthropological how airlines design status systems to increase customer spend taking cues from generally accepted ideas around status and gift giving. But human behavior or “cognitive biases" can also be used to promote better health and more just societies. Problem solving in this vein owes its theory from twentieth-century anthropologists.
  3. Sociological this is perhaps the easiest to pull from because essentially most policy makers, lobbyists, and governments use sociology — with its cherry-picking of mathematics and psychology — as the most “scientific” of the humanities to cull from. It is also a very popular field of study for liberal arts graduates, so many can relate to its vocabulary later on in life.
  4. Philosophical the work of Marx or Kant may be considered a systematic approach (like an engineer’s approach) to solving issues of the the present and future. Philosophy offers the most formalized system for the humanities, as it attempts to define semantics and the structure (of language) itself used by the discipline; concerns that also occupy many a computer engineer when dealing with computer languages.

These are merely top-of-the-head categories, which are useful insomuch as I jotted them down in this post. The more important point is that these fields of study borrow from mathematics and science but ultimately don’t need to obey their rules. They don’t need, for example:

  1. Empirical evidence
  2. Repeatability of findings
  3. Experiments
  4. Testable hypotheses
  5. Strong arguments
  6. Proofs necessary for validity

In fact, the idea of proving anything is debatable. Indeed, and especially, for aesthetics, proof is nearly a non-issue. Personal agency and force are more legitimate.

In anthropology and sociology, a single incident or case, or study, can pave way for validity and general acceptance, even without repeatability. By the very nature of the communities studied in anthropology, often repeatability of findings is impossible.

And in philosophy — a field I know little about — I will venture forward and say that many things have been argued quite elegantly in the course of time: from forgotten scrawls to major systems of thought like religion. These can range from highly systematic and “scientific” to requiring Kierkegaardian “leaps of faith” when some things are left unexplained. But all of which have seemed to find someplace in the philosophical canon as “legitimate” or “true.”

But rather than make this seem like I am pointing my finger at these broad fields of study to exclaim, “Look! Look at their fallacies, imprecisions, and false idols. Can they be trusted?” What I really mean to say is that their approach to problem solving is different from science and math (the original bastions of an engineer’s thought process), but not at all necessarily weaker or less valid.

And I cannot emphasize enough, these are certainly not a replacement or usurper to math or science.

In fact, that is why a cultural engineer is a particularly relevant position: they are poised to transform technology from a scientific and mathematic phenomena of problem solving into an uncharted world of culture and social significance only because they draw on the rules of those fields — and not math and science — as further areas of understanding for the engineer: as their points of departure, and as their tools to solving greater engineering problems than previously encountered.

And it is my hope, that by pulling from cultural systems of understanding that technology can be transformed in unforeseen ways but hopefully in ways that better humankind. I feel like the well of science has run dry in helping to guide technology to make us better, and perhaps we should feel free to take cues from elsewhere when solving issues of the engineer.


I despise plastic.

And yet, plastic is the true technologist material. Like a stem cell, you feed instructions to the plastic: this is what you shall be and it is so. Plastic can be soft, hard, woven, carved, flexible, rigid, biodegradable, permanent. We will find “higher quality” materials like metal and glass increasingly anachronistic for the purposes of technology, especially advanced technology. And as technology will drive the fortunes of other disciplines, they will have to follow its march. Well, now is the time to begin to appreciate plastic aesthetically.

London’s taxi driver test enshrines knowledge as — to use the au courant term — an artisanal commodity, a thing that’s local and homespun, thriving ideally in the individual hippocampus, not the digital hivemind.
New York Times Magazine on London’s legendary Taxi-driver test.

Design versus Engineering

Consider this scenario: a engineer is working on a project and finds another engineer has worked on something similar but has a better solution. This other engineer shared his solution on his blog. The code is open-sourced. The engineer grabs that code, and uses it. This is a fairly common, and not really falling under any scrutiny, as far as I am aware.

Now, a designer is working on a project and finds another designer has worked on something similar but has a better solution. This other designer shared his solution on his blog. The designer grabs the design and uses it.

Whereas for the engineer, this is common practice, for the designer it is not as reputable. If the designer were to share his work and let it be known that it is from someone else, his talent would diminish. My question is: do engineers ever feel similarly about this? I for one feel less authentic and less skilled if I use a template file. Even if I remake that template from scratch following the same steps I feel more satisfied: much like a musician playing Mozart or a chef using an established recipe: even when the steps are copied, variation and innovation seem to occur. When something is copied wholesale — even with tacit encouragement from the creator — the mutation of creativity does not seem to occur.

Observed 002

Blincoe, Citrus


Schedel, Constantinople
A view of Constantinople. Woodblock from the Nuremberg Chronicle by Hartmann Schedel (1493). Paul Swaen Galleries.

Observed 001

Fontana, Concetto Spaziale, Attesa

In artwork, symbolism maps meaning to unrelated things. In paintings of the Annunciation, white lilies are used to represent Mary’s virginity and purity. What can be so frustrating when viewing modern art, especially, is that the mappings are completely lost to me as a viewer. This is partly due to no set meanings for abstract forms: does a line signify separation, renewal, connectedness? Well of course, it can be all of those and more: symbolism is much less fixed (if at all). Almost in every instance, the symbolism must be explained by the artist or the museum, leaving the viewing of modern art to be both challenging and intellectually rewarding.

Concetto spaziale, attesa (c. 1964) by Lucio Fontana (1899–1968).

Ricketts Indigo

Indigo is the best dye in use. The color varietals are dizzying and the applications are endless. It is a blue that captures nuances in nature that are hard to come by in dyes. For this reason, Indigo has had a long history of use. Its most popular form today is in blue jeans, which themselves are nearly universally appreciated the world over. Pictured above is a black and indigo textile used as a Japanese room divider, or noren, produced by Ricketts Indigo.

Ricketts Indigo.

Buffalo Plaid Scarf

Black and red are both colors I dislike. Yet, I find the coloring on this Buffalo Plaid scarf from Rag & Bone quite pleasing.


Shared Profits from Data Sharing

If I were to make a site that earns money based on my users’ data (like Facebook or Google), I would just be upfront about it and pay my users a percentage of the profits. If you’re gonna sell their data, you might as well give them some of the money.

The world in general disapproves of creativity, and to be creative in public is particularly bad. Even to speculate in public is rather worrisome. The individuals must, therefore, have the feeling that the others won’t object.

Isaac Asimov discusses his opinions on creativity in a newly printed piece of his writings.

The Patina of Images

Sassoferrato, The Virgin in Prayer

Online images seem to acquire a “patina” of sorts as they pass through the hands of many websites — each time being saved and re-compressed as a new image that is in fact very old. Indeed, JPEG compression is one of the few ways to tell that an image is old and circulated, without actually knowing the creation date of the image. JPEG compression enforces aging, since this compression is applied everytime an image is saved in that format.

We can appreciate the patina of modern materials like plastic, which now form a large part of the material culture in which we live. Now personally, I still find plastic and especially aged or old plastic to be nothing worth appreciating; however, as these materials are increasingly common in our visual landscape we have to create a visual language and appreciation of them in order to increase their beauty, longevity, and usefulness to us. In a way, we are using aesthetics to improve consumption. Though I would naturally be inclined to argue that there is no inherit beauty to old plastic, I can’t be sure if that is actually true or just true today, since there isn’t “connoisseurship” around aged plastic like there is around aged wood or metal. A large part of aesthetic appreciation is taught to us by various authorities and the marketplace that exists for things. Nothing new there.

So then, can we appreciate age in a digital world? And does an aesthetics of age even have a place in the digital landscape? In a digital world, age is almost non-existent: the physical objects that store data do age, but it does not manifest itself on the data. If we apply aesthetic rules for “old” things on the internet, we may or may not find anything useful there. Computers stamp a creation date, but I'm speaking more to age as interpreted through aesthetics and the visual field. For example, a more heavily compressed image would have a greater “patina” and thus be considered more precious. There is some silliness in this as to how easy it is to compress images instantly as opposed to actual age taking place through long periods of time.

Automatic JPEG compression is a happy accident, in my mind, that mimics the real world: a technical manifestation that things will age regardless of what we want or do. Based on an algorithm, certain data within the image is simply discarded forever and saved nowhere much like old materials that lose varnish or paint. JPEG images, each time they are saved, will “age” regardless of what we do: it’s built into its algorithm.

Then I wonder, is an older JPEG more beautiful than a new one? Is their something their to appreciate?

Graphic source: unknown. Source of original painting, Madonna orante (The Virgin in Prayer) by Giovanni Battista Salvi da Sassoferrato (c. 1645), The National Gallery, London.

Correcting bad capitalization in CSS

Let’s say you are being sent data from all over the world. But what if you get data in all sorts of odd capitalization? For example:

  2. SOmething that has common capitalization Mistakes
  3. something that channels e.e. cummings

Use CSS like that below to correct these common capitalization discrepancies.

p {
 text-transform: lowercase;
p:first-letter {
 text-transform: uppercase;

This takes the whole string inside the element and down-cases it for a uniform letterset, then it capitalizes the first letter using the pseudo-class first-letter.


<p>TExt that wAs wriTTEn rather poorly.</p>
<p>A normal sentence would be treated just fine.</p>

The CSS:

p {
 text-transform: lowercase;
p:first-letter {
 text-transform: uppercase;

The Result:

Text that is set in all capitals.

Text that was written rather poorly.

A normal sentence would be treated just fine.

View the JS Fiddle.

Heian Brushes
Heian brushes, Craig Mod.

Nora Luther Deconstructed Air Recipes

The ex Unit in CSS

We are very familiar with the em unit in CSS (which counter to traditional print typography measures the font’s point size or height not width), but have you ever used the ex unit? It is defined as the x-height of a font, which is the height of its lowercase letters.

Ex unit expression can especially be useful for content-heavy sites, in which case, you can preserve alignment and font-rhythm much more consistently without relying on cumbersome line-height calculations, which can also allow better control with mixed font designs.

For example, 1.8 is usually considered a good measure for line-height. If you have the ex height, you can simply set the line height as 1.8 × ex.

Saint Laurent Yellow Purse (Sac du Jour)

A stunning Saint Laurent Sac de Jour (everyday bag) in brilliant yellow.


Green Forest

Other venues include the Mozartkirche in Biberbach, where the eight-year-old took part in one of those organ-playing competitions children seemed to be forced into in the 18th century…

The Whimsical Brands of Anthropologie

On my bucket list is reading the entire list of Anthropologie and Urban Outfitter sub-brands. Here is merely a sample of their curious world of capricious brands.

  1. Allihop by Anthropologie
  2. Angel of the North by Anthropologie
  3. Anna Sui by Anthropologie
  4. Ballerina by Anthropologie
  5. Bica Cheia by Anthropologie
  6. Birds on a Wire by Anthropologie
  7. Blue Bird by Anthropologie
  8. Bordeaux by Anthropologie
  9. C. Keer by Anthropologie
  10. Cartonnier by Anthropologie
  11. Charlie and Robin by Anthropologie
  12. Coquille by Anthropologie
  13. Cordelia by Anthropologie
  14. Cross Stitch Heart by Anthropologie
  15. Daughters of the Liberation by Anthropologie
  16. Deletta by Anthropologie
  17. Edme & Esyllte by Anthropologie
  18. Elevenses by Anthropologie
  19. Eloise by Anthropologie
  20. ETT taia by Anthropologie
  21. Fei by Anthropologie
  22. Field Flower by Wendi Reed by Anthropologie
  23. Floreat by Anthropologie
  24. Freesia by Anthropologie
  25. Girls From Savoy by Anthropologie
  26. Guinevere by Anthropologie
  27. Hei Hei by Anthropologie
  28. Holding Horses by Anthropologie
  29. HWR by Anthropologie
  30. Idra by Anthropologie
  31. IPSA by Anthropologie
  32. Iris & Navy by Anthropologie
  33. Knitted and Knotted by Anthropologie
  34. Koto Bolofo by Anthropologie
  35. LeifNotes by Anthropologie
  36. Leifsdottir by Anthropologie
  37. Lil by Anthropologie
  38. Lilka by Anthropologie
  39. Lithe by Anthropologie
  40. Little Yellow Button by Anthropologie
  41. Maeve by Anthropologie
  42. Maple by Anthropologie
  43. Marimekko by Anthropologie
  44. Me and You… by Anthropologie
  45. Meadow Rue by Anthropologie
  46. Mermaid by Anthropologie
  47. Mint by Anthropologie
  48. Moth by Anthropologie
  49. Moulinette Soeurs by Anthropologie
  50. Nathalie Lete Paris by Anthropologie
  51. Odille by Anthropologie
  52. One Girl Who by Anthropologie
  53. one.september by Anthropologie
  54. Pilcro by Anthropologie
  55. Pinkerton by Anthropologie
  56. Porridge by Anthropologie
  57. Postmark by Anthropologie
  58. Ric Rac by Anthropologie
  59. Sitwell by Anthropologie
  60. Sleeping on Snow by Anthropologie
  61. Sparrow by Anthropologie
  62. Sunday/Saturday by Anthropologie
  63. Tabitha by Anthropologie
  64. Taikonhu by Anthropologie
  65. Tikirani by Anthropologie
  66. Vanessa Virginia by Anthropologie
  67. Viola by Anthropologie
  68. What Comes Around Goes Around by Anthropologie
  69. Yellow Bird by Anthropologie

There is no question that, in a blind test, luxury goods are overpriced. That’s the definition of luxury goods. They are not better in terms of measurable engineering specs. They are better because they are scarce.

Godin misses the point here — he’s rehashing an Econ 101 text on what a luxury item is. Any kitchen-table conversation can get that far. What he’s missing is that the luxury isn’t meant for the consumer — the luxury is meant for the business: the business has the ultimate luxury in that it can assign any price to the item, and people will pay for it. Make your price as high as you need to support every other endeavor in the business. You then have complete license to create the best. There are no concessions or compromises.

And that is magical. It is a model we want to preserve, because there are no other businesses or industries where cost is not an issue. It does not matter who these luxury brands are: Chanel can close its doors tomorrow. It matters that artists and craftsman have an option to create the best without the typical constraints of a business. That is luxury.


A Simpler Menu

Amazon Menu

When designing for megamenus or writing web copy in general, don’t put filler or nonessential words first: this prime location should be reserved for the most information-bearing verbiage and nothing else.

Update: further discussion on this topic at Designer News

Update (August 2022): Amazon did eventually remove the repetitive "your."

Referencing Parent Selectors in SCSS

Referencing parent selectors in SCSS

I was going over the SCSS documentation after finding some curious SCSS I was unfamiliar with. Did you know you can generate a CSS rule based on the existence of a parent class without having to nest that CSS within the actual parent?

In CSS, you can only scope an element or class based on its parent if that CSS is embedded within that parent like:

.parent .child {
 background: red;

With SCSS, you can re-create this scope without the nesting:

.child {
 .parent & {
 background: red;

This can be useful for browser-specific scraping, responsive design elements, or when you find the organization clearer by keeping the child’s style variations centralized rather than scattered ’cross your stylesheets.

Using the Data Attribute with CCC Content

Did you know (I didn’t) that CSS can read the text out of a data-attribute in HTML? If this is your html, <div data-today="Currently reading">Vanity Fair</td>, you can populate the data attribute into your CSS through content:

div[data-today]:before {
 content: attr(data-today)": ";

It is surely nothing less than martyrdom to a man of cosmopolitan sympathies, to absorb in silent resignation the news of a country town?
Franklin Blake. The Moonstone. Everyman’s Library, p. 369.

Signature Cues

Lippicott says good brands have signature cues that concentrate a brand into something tangible and can fundamentally be considered as a sign or signifier of the whole business. What is signified can vary dramatically. Examples form Lippincott include:

  1. Scent: the wood-infused interior of a Rolls Royce
  2. Sound: sonic signature of Intel
  3. Visual: the silhouette of iPod advertising
  4. Touch: the touch of Lycra
  5. Shape: classic Coca-cola bottle
  6. Voice: “Thank you for jetting with us” from JetBlue
  7. The behavior of people: the well-trained baristas of Starbucks
  8. Service: 24/7 customer service from Zappos
  9. Product uniqueness: the left-handed ignition of a Porsche
  10. Ritual: insisting on a lime wedge when drinking a Corona
  11. Color: the distinctive blue box from Tiffany

Feedback is what our customers are telling us. Product is what we are telling our customers.

Etching of Süleymaniye Mosque

One common example of skeuomorphic design mentioned by designers is the simulation of paper texture on the screen (Apple being the most common user of this aesthetic). What you may not realize is that the simulation can go even farther in our visual past. Above is just one example.

This is an etching printed on paper, but the etching simulates curled paper on the top left corner. Simulating paper on paper itself? You might as well simulate pixels on a computer screen.

The etching is a view of the Süleymaniye Mosque built in the Ottoman Empire in the sixteenth century.

Local Production

Arguments that local or American made craft traditions are somehow implicitly superior to foreign production will be viewed with the same disdain we view Victorian ideas around nationalism and race. These are inherently nationalist (and even racist) statements that have swept the world of consumer goods. A globalized world must admit that every person is on equal footing with another and that country of origin should hardly be imbued with such mystique and pride as it is now. Do people who produce goods in other counties deserve less respect? Are they less capable of being called craftsman?

Faux Bois Toothbrush Holder

Originally designed for resting a knife or spoon, and found at any elegant table, this silver-plated rest with charming faux bois detail makes a very suitable rest for your toothbrush. The elevation prevents the toothbrush from touching anything nasty; the direction of the head allows water to dry more effectively with the help of gravity; and I find the low form-factor a welcome change from the top-heavy toothbrush cups that always seem to collect some unidentifiable gunk inside of them. And yes, there is room for more toothbrushes.

Digital Decay Revisited

Digital decay does not refer to how information is lost. Instead, it describes a deliberate process or belief by which content (information) is actively destroyed or neglected, as to prevent a glut of content.

One assumption of this is that there is a such thing as the trivial or unimportant, and its very existence is a burden — regardless of the cost or availability of space and resource.

The historian or curator now relies on a computer to first sort information before even approaching it because of the vastness of data. But can the initial sorting by the machine be flawed? In another case, the user of a piece of software can be overwhelmed by his own data-creation. Should the software have built in ways to eliminate data?

If you love somebody, let them go, for if they return, they were always yours. And if they don’t, they never were.
Khalil Gibran.

Digital Decay

Digital decay does not refer to how information is lost. Instead, it describes a deliberate process by which content (information) is actively destroyed, as to prevent a glut of content. How will a historian understand this time if the amount of content produced can only be processed initially by non-human means?