Visualgui 2021 Iteration 5: Captura Now

In less than a month, I switched up the design of this blog again. I still keep the typefaces: Loretta, designed by Abel Martins and Joana Correia and Captura Now, designed by Anita Jürgeleit. I got rid of the random Unsplash photos. They made the website fun, but I got tired of them quickly. They overpowered my words.

For the fifth iteration, I refocused on the typography.I increased the font size and made the layout wider. Nothing is groundbreaking, but lots of whitespace to breath with an imageless design. I hope this is the last iteration until 2022. With that being said, I always make changes this blog. It’s my personal playground where I get to experiment quite a bit. I am glad someone noticed:

I like how @visualgui handles this: he updates the fonts on his blog frequently … like once a month, I think?

I hope you like this new layout.

Scalia Law’s Events Calendar

After more than a decade of using an outdated calendar system for the law school, we have finally switched to a modern calendar system using WordPress. When it comes to calendar, WordPress has tons of choices to choose from. After some researching and experimenting, I selected The Events Calendar plugin.

The Events Calendar has a simple interface that is integrated with WordPress’s UI. It also has a decent layout that adapts well with our existing theme. It took me a few hours to set up and moved the events over. The nice thing about being powered by WordPress is that we can invite law school members to post their own events instead of sending them to us.

My supervisor is happy with the new calendar. We can finally sunset the expensive and outdated system. I am not sure why we waited this long. I should have take the lead and just do it. Take a look.

Designed the Monument for My Mother

After seven months, my mother’s monument had finally arrived and had been installed at her gravesite last Tuesday. I was anxious and nervous. I prayed that it would turn out the way I had expected. We had worked so hard on the design and I wanted to make sure that every detail was correct. On Sunday, I took my family to visit her grave and I was relieved that her monument turned out perfect. The black granite headstone shipped from India looked gorgeous. The smooth, curvy shapes added a nice touch to the headstone. The heart-shaped jade was firmly recessed into the stone with epoxy. Finally, the typesetting was excellent.

When I shopped around for my mother’s monument, I needed someone not only I could trust but also someone with patience and understanding. Even though we had to paid a bit more, I went with Heritage Monuments, which is a division of Charles F. Snyder Funeral Home that provided exceptional funeral service for my mother. I worked closely with Kathy Snyder Guidos who was very patience and understanding, especially when it came to typesetting.

At first, I did not understand the process; therefore, I wanted to set the text with Queens, designed by Sebastian Losch, to match the tribute website I had created for my mother. It turned out that I couldn’t use any typeface I wanted. I had to choose one of the typefaces from the catalog. I went with Garamond, but it didn’t work either because I wanted to set the text in a block. The only typeface that could accommodate the block was Modified Roman, which is a modified version of Time New Roman. Ms. Guidos and I went back and forth countless of iterations to make sure the alignment, the words, and the Vietnamese diacritics were correct. I didn’t want to be an annoying client, but Ms. Guidos had reassured me that they won’t start the project until I was completely satisfied with the design. I was grateful for her accommodation.

In addition to the text, I wanted to include a heart-shaped jade (my mother used to wear) on the headstone. Ngọc (Jade) was her middle name and my cousin, Karen Huỳnh, had shared an important detail about Jade. She wrote:

[W]hen our grandfather (her Dad) gave her the middle name, 玉 (Yù) in Chinese, translated to Ngọc in Vietnamese, he had in effect shaped her person, inscribed, etched, and carved her personality, character, and temperament. This beautiful name 玉 (Yù) or Ngọc means Jade in Chinese. In Chinese tradition and culture, 玉 (Yù) represents “fair, pure, and graceful (as in a woman).” Your Mom is the embodiment of these wonderful qualities… Looking back at your Mom’s life, I believe that her life experiences undeniably reflect the qualities of jade described above. What a special precious gem your Mom was! As a person, as a daughter, as a mother, as a grandmother, as an aunt, she truly lived a life befitting the name, 玉 (Yù).

I cried with tears of joy that her monument turned out well. It was the last thing I could do for her. I love her and miss her everyday.

Scalia Law Reflects on September 11

I launched a webpage to provide a space for the law school community to reflect on September 11, 2001. Some heartfelt recollections have been posted. Amy Sarina writes:

As a country, we vowed to never forget but America has forgotten. I remember a sense of unity and togetherness after 9/11. That’s not the America I feel today and the insurrection on January 6th reinforced my feeling of despair for this country. “We will never forget” – I feel so alone in those words. America has forgotten. Cognitively as a country, we remember for history’s sake. But it isn’t in our bones and in isn’t in our spirit anymore.

I have similar sentiment.

Visualgui 2021 Iteration 4: Loretta

Last Friday, a new version of Loretta, designed by Abel Martins and Joana Correia, landed in my inbox. When I found out that the latest release supports Vietnamese, I was ecstatic. I have invested in a handful of typefaces from FutureFonts, but Loretta is the first completed family with Vietnamese diacritics.

Of course, I wanted to put Loretta to use and this blog is the perfect place for it. To complement Loretta, I immediately thought of Captura Now, designed by Anita Jürgeleit. Captura Now is also one of my recent acquisitions. When I combined them, they looked great together.

For this new design, I wanted to simplify the layout to just one narrow column with generous white space. But then I decided to bring in photography for a change. I played around with Unsplash Source to load random images that are related to typography. This direction brings back the good old days of web design, especially for blogs.

I hope you enjoy this new design and continue to read my rants.

Migrated to the Cloud

After hitting the CPU limit on the shared server at HostPapa, I knew I needed to make the move for the long run. I am so glad that Thủy Nguyễn, a long-time reader of this blog, recommended DigitalOcean. I hesitated at first because DigitalOcean is a cloud-hosting service and I do not have much experience with cloud servers. Fortunately DigitalOcean has tons of tutorials to help me make the move. From setting up the LAMP stack to virtual hosts to SSH keys to Let’s Encrypt, I was able to follow along. I had to destroy several deployments and started over. I hadn’t worked with the command line in a while and it was like rediscovering an old love.

I created two Droplets: one exclusively for this blog and one for my static sites including Vietnamese Typography and Donnytruong.com. I don’t know for sure, but I suspect Vietnamese Typography is the cause for the CPU shortage. The site hosts tons of web-font files. I was thinking of limiting the number of fonts being served on the site, but it would ruin the purpose of the book. I wanted to showcase as many Vietnamese typefaces as possible. Now that the web book is on the cloud, I hope the traffic won’t blow up my budget.

Migrating this blog was a huge challenge. Transferring the database over was time consuming. I tried SQL dump, but it didn’t work too well. I finally just use the export and import tools provided by WordPress. I can’t believe it worked great. I still have a handful of things to take care, but I need to get some sleep. I hope to get back to regular blogging schedule soon.

My Law School Portal

I was assigned to design the landing page for My Law School Portal. The portal is powered by Blackboard. I was given a JSP file to work with. The only way to see how the page work is to upload the JSP file and refresh the page. The page has ton of JavaScript and CSS callings in the backend. I don’t know what are being used for. For the purpose of what I was in charged to do, I just added some custom CSS elements to create the page. It’s like killing an ant with a sledgehammer, but whatever works.

Vietnamese Typography Supports Dark Mode

I spent my Sunday night realigning Vietnamese Typography. I stripped the site down to just black text on white background. I am heading toward a much more minimalist approach with the focus on readability. I find colors a bit distracting, but I still use red for the hover state.

I also decided to give the site a dark-mode experience for those who prefer reading white text on dark background. To accomplish dark mode, I had to re-export all the SVG files and embed them directly into the pages instead of linking to them using the img tag. The process was a bit tedious, but it was worth doing since Adobe Illustrator improved its SVG export with responsive support and cleaner codes.

I still love this site very much even though it was published six years ago. My original intention was to treat it like a book: publish it and forget it. The site has moved beyond the book format as I continue to add new type recommendations for Vietnamese. The traffic continues to go up and I get more requests for reviewing Vietnamese diacritics. Vietnamese Typography remains one of my favorite projects and I am very proud of it.

Tục ca của Phạm Duy

Tuần trước đọc một bài văn của Trần Hữu Thực viết về ca từ của Phạm Duy làm tôi nhớ đến 10 bài tục ca của ông. Đã lâu rồi không nghe. Giờ nghe lại vẫn cảm thấy tục tĩu và vui nhộn.

Những bài tục ca của ông không có ca sĩ nào dám hát nên ông đành tự hát lấy. Nếu như tôi là ca sĩ, tôi sẽ thu âm một album nhạc tục của ông. Thôi thì dùng kỹ năng của mình để thiết kế một trang web gồm những ca từ của ông.

Về phần chữ thì tôi dùng Viaoda Libre của Nguyễn Giang Trà và Xanh Mono của Bảo Lâm và Đào Duy. Đồng thời tôi cũng mượn một tranh vẽ thoả thân của bác Đinh Cường để phụ hoạ cho tập tục ca.

Từ ca từ đến phông chữ đến tranh vẽ, tôi đều sử dụng những sản phẩm của người Việt. Vì thế tôi rất hãnh diện với dự án nhỏ này.

Sám báo hiếu

Hôm thứ Tư, Mẹ vợ cùng vợ chồng con cái cùng nhau đến chùa Di Đà để cúng 100 ngày cho Mẹ. Nghe sư ông Pháp Quang và sư cô Hạnh Hiếu tụng bài kinh về Mẹ rất ý nghĩa. Tôi chỉ nhớ mang máng:

Nhớ nghĩa thân sinh
Con đến trưởng thành
Mẹ dày gian khổ
Ba năm nhũ bộ
Chín tháng cưu mang.
Không ngớt lo toan
Quên ăn bỏ ngủ
Ấm no đầy đủ

Về nhà tìm trên mạng mới biết đây là bài “Sám Vu Lan.” Đồng thời tôi cũng tìm được 10 bài “Sám báo hiếu” nên quyết định làm một trang web để dành đọc. Trong 10 bài “Sám báo hiếu” tôi tìm được, bài số 6 (“Kệ nhớ ơn cha mẹ”) và bài số 7 (“Sám hiếu từ”) giống với nhau. Chỉ khác tựa đề nên tôi đã đổi bài số 6 với “Sám Vu Lan.”

Về phần chữ, tôi dùng Texturina do Guillermo Torres thiết kế. Texturina có những đặc điểm của Blackletter và Blackletter loại chữ được dùng để in kinh mấy trăm năm về trước. Khâm phục nhà thiết kế Guillermo Torres đã tạo ra bộ phông sắc sảo nhưng rất dễ đọc và có luôn cả dấu Việt.

Mời các bạn đọc bộ kinh “Sám báo hiếu.”