Day One of An Event Apart in DC

Yesterday I was given the opportunity to attend day one of An Event Apart in DC because the lovely people who organized the event allowed me to make up the second day of last year I couldn’t attend. I picked day one for this year’s event because I wanted to hear Jonathan Hoefler’s presentation on web typography.

Hoefler made the case that he didn’t like the phrase “Fonts on the web.” He prefers, “Fonts for the web.” The main different is that web font is a new creation rather than taking existing fonts and put them on the web. Hoefler went on to explain and demo how he and his designers reworked their fonts to solve problems specifically for the web. They focused on making types clear on screen and extending their family and features for multipurpose usage. Hoefler also showed off the tool they built in house to allow their designers to see how the fonts render natively in the browser. After seeing the works that go into their web fonts, I wish I could have a subscription to its cloud typography.

While Hoefler’s talk was eye-opening, Whitney Hess’ was inspiring. I could definitely related to the struggle of being presence: Get distracted easily, find themselves easily irritated and feel imbalance in their work life, health and family. As I am listening to her presentation, I kept thinking to myself that I need to be better at being presence. I need to turn off all electric devices after work and being presence when I am with the kids. I made the change immediately yesterday.

Another engaging presentation was from UX expert Jared Spool. He was such a smart speaker. I wish I could go to his new school and learn just a bit of his skills on UX strategy, but I don’t have $60,000 and two-year commitment. On top of that, I have a family to feed.

Jeffrey Zeldman, Luke Wroblewski and Josh Clark were all great. I was glad that I sat right on the first row, kept my laptop closed and my eyes and ears opened.

Dao’s Major Dental Work

Two weeks ago, I took Dao to a pediatric dentist for checkup and she insisted to do some major works including baby root canal and crowning to almost all of his teeth. Because of his uncooperative effort, she recommended sadation. The estimated cost for this work is almost 5 grants. We took him for a second opinion and also asked our cousin who is a dentist and they gave the same advice.

My reluctant isn’t about the money, but I feel horrible for him to have anesthesia. Then again, we couldn’t get him to let the dentist clean or even look at his teeth at the office. Dan, on the other hand, was so cooperative. He even went first to show Dao that it was no pain. So far Dan has no cavity, but we will proceed with the major work for Dao in September.

To cover this cost, I am trying to pick up some small freelance work. Let me know if you know anyone who would need web sites design and development.

My Library

Even though e-books are on the rise, I still enjoy having a paper book on my hands, especially when I want to be completely disconnected from the digital world. Since I have become obsessed with reading and collecting books, I wanted to put together a library section of all the books I currently own. These books, ranging from typography to design & development to music to grammar and fiction, are my favorite. Most books I have read first from the library before buying them; therefore, these are the ones that I will be revisiting in the future. There are a few books that I still have yet to buy (the ones with the word “acquiring”). These books are still on my Amazon’s Wish List. So if you would like to buy me a book or two (for whatever reason I don’t know), I definitely appreciate it.

Test of Spacing

Daniel Burkely Updike, In the Day’s Work, writes:

A good test of spacing is to hold a printed page upside down, when, the sense of the words not being caught, the eye more readily perceives whether the spacing of the page is even or not.

Typographers on Type

Ruari McLean’s collection of essays in Typographers on Type read like chefs sharing their favorite recipes and cooking process. From William Morris’s “Aims in Founding the Kelmscott Press” (1895) to Matthew Carter’s “Now We Have Mutable Type” (1990), McLean has done an excellent job of assembling the pieces in chronological order, supplying short introduction for each essay, and providing useful information and development of typography in the 20th century. The book is set in FF Quadraatt, which is beautiful and easy to to read.

From Bạch Yến

Dear Donny,
I am Bạch Yến. Today, I stumbled onto your blog at and read with great interest your comments on my new CD “Bạch Yến hát Tình Ca Lam Phương.” Your writings show that you have very profound appreciation for the music of Việt Nam, and in particular, great affinity for the music of Lam Phương. I am touched by your very flattering remarks about my new CD, and would like to express my sincere thanks.
With best regards,
Bạch Yến

Thank you, Cô.

Bạch Yến Hát Tình Ca Lam Phương

At 72, Bạch Yến shows no sign of deterioration in her vocals. Her breathtaking rendition of “Cho Em Quên Tuổi Ngọc,” a classic ballad Lam Phương penned about her, is a proof. She soars on the high register with deep emotion and effortlessness. The track, accompanied by elegant piano and string orchestration, is a perfect opening for Bạch Yến’s newest album, which is a superb recording of Lam Phương’s compositions.

Although Lam Phương’s music have been covered to death, Bạch Yến breathes fresh air into his ballads with her own interpretation. One of the outstanding reworks is turning the over-sentimental “Phút Cuối” into a swing number. Unlike all of the singers (including Bằng Kiều) who added more and more emphatics to the tune, she strips it down to the core. In her phrasing, she ends each bar right on the last word without any extra vocal stressing. By just giving the melody some space, like on “Duyên Kiếp,” she proves that you don’t have to be over dramatic to express sad lyrics. I am looking at you again, Bằng Kiều.

While “Chờ Anh” gets a savory Latin flavor, “Một Mình,” gets an introspective approach rather than reflective to close out the album. The man who has contributed priceless treasures to Vietnamese music deserves an album like this.

New WordPress Theme for Mason Law

In the effort to rebrand Mason’s online presence, I designed a new WordPress theme for various School of Law’ network site based on Twenty Twelve. Why did I create a child theme and not a brand new theme? Even though Twenty Twelve is not perfect, it has all the built-in functions that meet many requirements from faculty, staff and students.

To get the design that I want, I stripped away the ornamental styles, fixed the spacing, and created a clean, simple theme. Chrome’s Developer Tools and SASS are my savior. I incorporated the new logo, typefaces (Minion Pro and Myriad Pro) and brand colors from Mason’s style guide.

I am using the Web Services Blog as a demo to show various stakeholders how the new design look and will help them to implement it.

Complying With the Mason’s Brand

Last week George Mason University launched its first comprehensive brand profile. After reading through its 96-page documentation, we revised the Mason Law site to comply with the Mason’s Brand. I crafted the new word according to the brand’s guideline. I changed the typography to Minion Pro and Myriad Pro to comply with Mason’s primary typefaces. The fonts are served via Typekit.

Dropping Support for Legacy Browsers

As of today Visualgui is no longer supporting legacy browsers, particularly Internet Explore 8 and below. The markups have been revised and to take advantage of the new HTML elements. Without providing support for older browsers the markups are much more simplified, but the main reason for the switching is to improve accessibility with ARIA roles.

After listening to Bruce Lawson talking about ARIA roles baked in HTML5 default elements on “The Web Ahead” (episode #74) with Jen Simmons, I was inspired to do my research on it. Even though I have already used ARIA roles a few years already, I have learned that I didn’t use them quite correctly. After some Googling, I found the documentation on “Using WAI-ARIA in HTML” from W3C to be very helpful, especially the recommendations table.

As much as I want to support legacy browsers, I ought to move forward. After all this is my personal site. It is a place that allowing me to experiment. So if you are using legacy browsers, I apologize that Visualgui might not render correctly. If you can, please consider upgrading your browser.

Another significant change is that the text on Visualgui is now powered by Typekit.