Visualgui 2022: Forma DJR

Welcome to the 2022 rendition of Visualgui. If you’re reading this from your favorite RSS reader, you might want to hop over to your favorite browser to see the new change. As a tradition, I try to do a major redesign of this blog for each year then I would follow up with several iterations throughout the year.

For 2022, the major change is typography. In the past few years, I had always drawn to a serif text face for reading content, but I am switching it up for this redesign. Forma DJR, designed by David Jonathan Ross, is not a new typeface, but it was recently updated with Vietnamese support. I am proud to have played a small part in it. When David sent me the test fonts to review, he was not sure if the straight horns (ư and ơ) were too unconventional for reading. I assured him that they weren’t getting in the way and I alway appreciated when designers like David pushed the tradition. I have no trouble reading Vietnamese texts set in Forma DJR.

In addition to language support, David turned the Forma DJR family into variable fonts, which offered so much flexibility for a typographic system. I love the ability to play with font weights and optical sizes with just a few lines of CSS and see the immediate results in a browser. I can set large headlines, body copy, and small text from just one variable font. Variable font is not only convenient, but also a huge time saver. If I have the option between static and variable, I would go for the latter every time.

For the layout, I wanted to bring back the sidebar. A blog isn’t a blog without its sidebar companion. For large screens, I wanted to fill up as much space as possible; therefore, I brought back not one but two sidebars. CSS Grid makes responsive grid-based layouts fast and easy and this redesign gave me the opportunity to implement it. Even though the grid system was drawn from print, CSS Grid is native to the web. I could change from one to two to three columns depending on the screen size.

Finally, I got tired of gray text on white background for light mode and white text on black background for dark mode. I wanted to bring in a different color. I don’t even know the name of the color I am using for this new design. I pulled it from a text file that contained a list of my favorite colors in hex values I had found and saved in the early 90s. Back then websites were much more colorful than now.

I hope you like the new design.

No One Cares

With this blog, I have carved out a space for me to write about things that no one cares about except for me. Case in point, I do not know who reads this blog. For almost two decades of daily writing, I am failing to sell ads. With 7.62k unique visitors a month, I received financial support from three generous readers. I am not complaining at all. I understand my writing is not good and my topics aren’t interesting to anyone else other than me. I have a passion for writing and I only write for myself. If I make money off my words and I write for others, my love for writing would die like my love for design.

When I first started designing, I designed for myself and I loved it. As soon as I became a professional designer and made money off design, I killed my own passion. I no longer design for myself, but for the people who paid me. Many times, I did what they wanted to get the work done and over with instead of what can contribute to the project. Each time that happened, my love and passion died a little. Now design is no longer personal unless I work on my own projects. At my workplace, I no longer fight for design. I just delivered what they wanted.

I don’t want that to happen to writing. I have worked so hard to free myself. I went from being ashamed of my writing to just writing my life away. The emancipation of writing whatever the fuck I want is priceless. My blog is an open book of my life. It is an ongoing memoir as well as documentations of my memory. For example, I had referred back to the maintenance category countless times to remind myself what I had fixed and how much I had spent.

I don’t know if my grammar and my prose have improved over the years, but I can tell that writing has become much easier for me. What I can’t articulate in speech or conversation, I can do with ease in written communication. When I started writing music reviews, I was not interested in the techniques behind the music. I wanted to communicate what I heard and how I felt. I approached music from an outsider perspective; therefore, I was not caught up in the technical details. That’s the job of the musicians. I was free to write without having to be afraid I would upset anyone. These days, my interests have shifted to other activities such as ice skating and rollerblading. I don’t know what the next few years of my boring life will bring, but you are more than welcome to follow along my journey.

Tiếng trống từ nhịp tim

Lúc nhỏ tôi rất mê múa lân. Mỗi dịp Tết, tôi mê được lì xì và nghe tiếng pháo nổ nhưng say đắm nhất là được xem múa lân. Mẹ nhận ra được sự đam mê của tôi nên mẹ đã mua cho tôi một cái trống múa lân nho nhỏ và nó đã trở thành món quà tôi nhớ nhất trong đời. Từ lúc sáu hoặc bảy tuổi tôi đã đánh lại những gì mình đã nghe được và những nhịp điệu đã in đậm trong tim tôi mấy mươi năm qua.

Lúc học trung học, tôi đánh thử và được mời tham gia đoàn lân trong câu lạc bộ người Á Châu. Không ngờ những gì học được lúc nhỏ lại được sử dụng nên trong lòng cũng có được chút hãnh diện. Tôi đã cùng đội lân đi múa khắp nơi từ những trường học đến những lễ hội trong cộng đồng Việt vào những dịp Tết để kiếm tiền cho những chuyến đi du lịch của câu lạc bộ. Sau khi ra trường trung học, tôi cũng giải nghệ luôn.

Không ngờ giờ đây lại phải tái xuất giang hồ để đánh cho đoàn lân Hùng Vương. Lúc đầu tôi từ chối nhưng đoàn lân thiếu tay trống nên trưởng đoàn kêu gọi tôi giúp để tụi trẻ tiếp tục được sinh hoạt. Hôm thứ sáu vừa rồi tôi đánh thử và tay trống cũ nói cách đánh của tôi xưa rồi và cháu đã gửi tôi cách đánh hiện đại hơn của Sư Phụ Siow. Tôi xem thì cũng giống giống cách đánh của mình nhưng đơn giản và gọn gàng hơn nên tôi cố gắng tập. Phải thay đổi các đánh đã thuộc lòng mấy mươi năm qua cũng hơi khó nhưng tôi muốn bước vào một thử thách mới. Tôi thấy cách đánh của ông cũng hay nên tôi muốn giữ cả cách đánh của mình và mở rộng thêm cách nhịp điệu của ông.

Faced My Fear Again

Back in June, I attempted to drop in from the highest ramp at the Wakefield skatepark. I fell backward and hit my head on the ground. The impact cracked my helmet and had me blacked out for a few minutes. After that incident, I would never go near that ramp again.

Last month, I switched from the Zetrablade (by Rollerblade) to the Flying Eagle Enkidu aggressive skates and I felt more confidence dropping in since the Flying Eagle is much more stable. This afternoon, I revisited the ramp and faced my fear again. From the top looking down, the height and the curve were still intimidating. What would happen if I fell? Since I won’t have ice skating class next Thursday, I would still have two weeks to recover. I didn’t have much to lose.

As soon as I stepped my left foot on the coping, I knew I could not back out. With a bit less hesitation and a bit more confidence, I went for it. Thanks goodness, I made it through without breaking my bones or blacking out again. Having the right skates helped tremendously. I had a much better control with the Flying Eagle Enkidu aggressive skates.

I felt rejuvenated after making this small accomplishment. It proved that I can still keep myself challenged. When I first started out, I never thought I could do this one day. I still believe determination and practice paid off. I am old now and I have to take this aggressive sport much more careful than the youngsters. My second son, Đán, is so natural at aggressive skating. He can drop in with ease, but I am glad that he is also being cautious. He wouldn’t do it unless I would’t go first. If I could do it, he knew he could do it. I knew all along he could do it, but he wanted me to go first. Of course after I did, he dropped in successfully. As a father, I have to pave the way. Why not? I rather put myself at risk first than putting him at risk first. Then again, if he went first and succeeded, I might just chicken out.

James Edmondson: Some Tips on Drawing Type from A to Z

Last Thursday my copy of James Edmondson’s Some Tips on Drawing Type from A to Z arrived in the mail and I read it immediately. The book is thin and beautifully typeset. James provides invaluable tips for anyone who is new at type design. As I reached page 8, which covered letters A and B, the book skipped to the letter F. I didn’t realize that the pages were also out of order; therefore, I continued to read from the letter F to letter J. Then the pages went back to the letter F. I thought my mind was playing tricks on me. I had to flip back to make sure the pages were duplicated. The pages continued from F to T, but then went back to Q again. I contacted James immediately to notify the issues. I had not heard back from him. I am sure my copy wasn’t the only one misprinted.

Sinh nhật em

Chúc em một ngày sinh nhật thật vui và hạnh phúc bên mẹ, anh chị, con cái, và chồng. Chúng ta không xem trọng ngày sinh nhật vì tuổi tác chỉ là con số. Vẫn còn trẻ hay đã già đi chỉ là cảm nhận của chính mình. Em rất thực tế trong cuộc sống của mình. Em đối diện với chuyện gì đến. Chuyện xa vời vợi em không quan tâm. Anh kính nể bản chất đó của em.

Mười mấy năm cùng nhau xây dựng mái ấm gia đình, anh được chứng kiến sự trưởng thành của em. Trong gia đình em trở thành một người mẹ đảm đang chăm lo cho đàn con. Ngày nào cũng xem xét sự học hành của con, nhất là thằng Đạo. Phận làm con, em lo lắng chu đáo cho mẹ già. Mẹ vui vì có em và các cháu bên cạnh. Em giờ đây đã vững vàng trong công việc. Tương lai của anh thì không biết nhưng em thì đã ổn định.

Còn chuyện vợ chồng mình thì nói sau cho hết. Cám ơn sự nhẫn nại của em. Cám ơn sự dung hòa của em. Cám ơn những tình cảm em vẫn còn cho anh. Cám ơn em vẫn luôn sát cánh bên anh. I love you!

Kanye and My Kids

Whenever we rode in the car, like heading to a skatepark, Đạo, Đán, Xuân, and I liked to jam to Kanye’s music. His beats drew them in even though his lyrics were inappropriate for their age. One of the albums we often tuned into was My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.

They enjoyed the orchestration for the interlude of “All of the Lights.” The keyboard-playing and the cello-bowing relaxed us. The production for the song was pretty dope and ​​Rihanna’s vocal on the hook was just soulful until Kanye kicked off his first verse with these bars: “I slapped my girl, she called the feds / I did that time and spent that bread.” Like the title of the next song, “Monster” was such a monster of a track. Jay-Z and Nicki Minaj dropped their signature verse on it. I was shocked when Đán asked me, “What is a sarcophagus?” I didn’t know what it was then he told me what it was. They also like the opening of “Runaway,” in which a single piano key was pounded for 40 seconds.

The productions on Yeezus were solid from the beginning to end and the lyrics were filthy from the start to finish. Đạo’s favorite track was “Black Skinhead.” Although I warned him about the lyrics, he assured me that he had heard all the cuss words in school from high school students. I took his words for it. Đán’s favorite track is “New Slaves,” which had a killer production from Swizz Beatz. He asked me the meaning behind “New Slaves” and I explained to him based on what I observed from Kanye’s lyrics. He opened the track with:

My mama was raised in the era when
Clean water was only served to the fairer skin
Doin’ clothes, you woulda thought I had help
But they wasn’t satisfied unless I picked the cotton myself

Old slaves were the ones that picked the cottons to make clothes, whereas new slaves were “spending everything on Alexander Wang.” When he asked me about the refrain, “But I’d rather be a dick than a swallower,” I didn’t know how to explain to him the word “swallower.” He also reassured me that he blocked out the lyrics and only focused on the beats. I doubted it.

The only Kanye album that we could enjoy together without having to worry about explicit content was his 808s & Heartbreak, which was his breakthrough-singing album. When the album was released in 2008, I thought Kanye was just riding the Auto-Tune train, but I am surprised it still holds up today. Đạo’s favorite track was “Heartless” and Đán’s favorite was “Amazing” simply for the “uh” sound at the end of each bar. Xuân’s and my favorite track was none other than “Coldest Winter,” which was a touching tribute to Kanye’s mother. When Xuân sang along with Kanye, “On lonely nights, I start to fade / Her love’s a thousand miles away,” he made me miss my mom so much. Next month will be her first death anniversary. Time had flown by so fast and not a single moment I hadn’t thought about her.

Thăm hỏi

Trưa nay trời nắng ấm, tôi tranh thủ ăn miếng gà nướng Peruvian rồi lái xe đến skatepark cách chỗ làm năm phút. Trưa nay công viên vắng vẻ nên tha hồ tập luyện rollerblade. Rơi vào cái tô (bowl) thì dễ. Ra khỏi miệng tô cần phải nhún như bay nên tôi vẫn chưa tập được. Nhún lên rồi nhún xuống chỉ nửa tiếng mà mồ hôi tuôn nhễ nhại còn đôi chân rã rời. Thế mới biết mình đã già.

Khi trở lại bãi đậu xe thay giày thì có một chiếc Mercedes ngừng lại. Cô lái xe kéo cửa kính vẫy tay chào. Tôi đáp lại chữ “hi” và chờ cô ta nói tiếp. Tôi nghĩ chắc cô ta có điều gì muốn hỏi nhưng cô chỉ buông lời, “I just want to say hi” rồi tiếp tục lái xe đi. Tôi chỉ kịp thời đáp lời, “Oh OK, nice car.”

Còn tưởng đâu hôm nay là ngày may mắn của mình. Nhưng dù sao đi nữa cũng thấy vui vui. Thời buổi này mà vẫn còn có người chào hỏi qua lại. Hay chắc tôi không bày tỏ sự thân thiện của mình đến với người khác nên ít ai muốn trò chuyện với tôi. Tôi chỉ nghĩ đơn giản là sợ làm phiền đến người khác nên ít khi mở miệng. Vấn đề không phải người khác mà là ở chính mình. Tôi không biết cách giao thiệp vì không biết phải nói về đề tài gì.

Michael Che: Shame the Devil

In his previous Netflix Special, which was filmed five years ago, Che was all over the place. This time, Che is sharped and focused. His materials are on point. As a Black comedian, he goes to dark places and offers his views as a Black American. On race, he compares the national anthem to an R. Kelly song. On gender, he uses the pronounce “This Nigger” or “That Nigger.” On vaccination, he punched down the unvaccinated. Che is provocative but brilliant. Definitely a must-watch special.

Vietnamese Names

Thảo Võ, writing for Salon:

The Vietnamese language is written with marks — diacritics — that represent different tones. To me, the diacritics represent childhood. They represent confusion. They represent something I cannot reach. It’s a change in the pitch of my voice that I have not perfected. It’s my entire family history. And so the saying of my name and the writing of it becomes complicated. I’m not here to teach my colleagues Vietnamese. I can’t. I can barely pronounce the language correctly myself. It’s a gift to be given or earned. My heart warms when I hear Vietnamese spoken with a southern accent. It’s something for me to work toward.

It’s a beautiful personal essay that reassures me that it’s OK to give my kids Vietnamese names. Xuân and Vương are difficult for Americans to pronounce, but I love to see them try.