Third Anniversary at Mason Law

If LinkedIn didn’t congratulated me on my third anniversary at George Mason Law, I would have forgotten. I had to track down this blog to remind me the exact date I started. It was October 17, 2011.

Wow three years already. In retrospect, what had I accomplished? Other than the day-to-day tasks, like adding new functions, features or designs, I relaunched the main site twice, brought more faculty, staff and students to use WordPress CMS, and maintained and secured the two dedicated servers.

In addition to my job, I also enjoy being around such a group of diverse and talented individuals. I couldn’t ask for greater colleagues.

Beside my main role as a web services developer, I also get the opportunity to pursue a graduate degree as part of the tuition benefit. I have three more courses to finish after this semester. Furthermore, I was given a chance to teach what I am passionate about and what I do everyday.

I am grateful for the position I am in at this point of my career. Couldn’t be more satisfied.

Twentieth-Century Type

A historical overview of typography in the twentieth century. Blackwell’s accessible writing, clear organization, each chapter covers a decade of the development of type, and rich visual illustrations make the complex revolution of type and typography approachable. While the new, revised edition is completely redesigned with updated information, the original version is much easier to read. The first edition is set in large Gill Sans with just one column. The revised version set in tiny Helvetica with two columns. If you can still find a copy of the original release, I highly recommend it.


Relief Printing for Graphic Design History

The second workshop for my class on Graphic Design History focused on using traditional relief printing techniques. Our assignment was simply creating an illustration with a word included.

For the materials, I used a Speedball Lino Cutter, a Speedy-Carve block, and a Speedy-Cut block. Because the printing process took place in class and we only had two times to complete the project, we didn’t have the time to test out our prints. The first attempt, I did Bird, which is a reinterpretation of Charlie Parker with Strings album cover. The final result didn’t have enough details; therefore, I tried something different.

For the second round, I chose Miles Davis’s iconic pose and placed type behind him. For the background I added lines to give the design more details. Because I couldn’t test out the print so I went on create another piece just incase the Miles piece didn’t workout.

For the third time, I used an existing illustration of a lady in ao dai (Vietnamese traditional dress). To make it different from the original, I did a reverse printout. The unintentional effect is the ink leaving white dots on the canvas, which look like stars.

I ended up submitting Miles Davis as my final piece because the details turned out well as I had expected. It was a fun workshop.

Hồ Trung Dũng – Một Đời Yêu

In his latest double-album, Một Đời Yêu, Hồ Trung Dũng attempts to revive Trịnh Công Sơn’s and Phạm Duy’s classic ballads. Making old music sounds new is definitely encouraged, but tremendous skills and experiences are needed to succeed. Five years into his singing career, Hồ Trung Dũng is still lacking both to take on such big challenges. As a result, he exposes all of his weaknesses on both records.

In most tracks, he sings a bit higher than his range. Unlike Tuấn Ngọc who could achieve this technique with ease, Hồ Trung Dũng struggles to hit the high register. He loses control of his breath and his flow is stilted. In the swing flavor of “Tình Hờ,” he has no clue how to scat. He confuses wordless singing with vocal exercising. In “Hẹn Hò,” he suffers with Đặng Thế Luân’s shaking syndrome. He’s shivering in his phrasing rather than using vibrato.

While keeping the arrangement to the minimal—with just a simple picking electric guitar—is a the ideal approach to Trinh’s tunes, it also reveals the flaws in his vocals. In “Phôi Pha,” he can’t hide the fact that he tries real hard not to break a sweat. In “Đời Gọi Em Biết Bao Lần,” he comes off groaning and whining like an over-sentimental, campy singer.

For what it’s worth, here’s my advice for the youngster: It’s OK to be yourself and it’s absolutely fine to be in your comfort range. Before breaking the rules, you have to learn the rules.

Typography, Referenced

A typographic reference that focuses on breath rather than depth. It’s a comprehensive guide you can flip through to find quick answers, practices and inspirations on typography for your projects. Keeping it on your shelf is not a bad idea.


Developing Mobile Websites with HTML5

David Karlins’s book should have titled Developing Mobile Websites with jQuery. The book is essentially about making a mobile website using jQuery and jQuery Mobile. I am still not convinced that developing a mobile site with jQuery is better than a responsive site. Right out of the box, you have to include a jQuery mobile CSS, a jQuery library and a jQuery Mobile library. If you want your own design, you have to add another custom CSS. On the other hand, if you design a responsive site from scratch, you can just have one CSS with only the styles you need and one JavaScript file with only the functions you need.

As far as a book on learning jQuery Mobile, this one is a bit too long. jQuery Mobile isn’t that hard to learn and Kris Hadlock’s jQuery Mobile: Develop and Design is much more concise in getting the job done. It’s a bit older, but the concepts still applied.


Learning Responsive Web Design

Perhaps Clarissa Peterson’s Learning Responsive Web Design comes a bit too late into the responsive movement. If you’re still new to the game, however, you might want to scoop this comprehensive guide for beginners. The chapters on responsive content and performance are highly recommended.


Reading List

  • 20th-Century Type by Lewis Blackwell
  • Designing for User Engagement on the Web: 10 Basic Principles edited by Cheryl Geisler
  • Developing Mobile Websites with HTML5 by David Karlins
  • Fine Print On Type: The Best of Fine Print Magazine on Type and Typography edited by Charles Bigelow, Paul Hayden Duensing, Linnea Gentry
  • Learning Responsive Web Design: A Beginner’s Guide by Clarissa Peterson
  • Lettering: A Reference Manual of Techniques by Andrew Haslam
  • Typography, Referenced: A Comprehensive Visual Guide to the Language, History, and Practice of Typography by Allan Haley … [et al.]
  • UI is Communication: How to Design Intuitive, User Centered Interfaces by Focusing on Effective Communication by Everett N McKay
  • Visual Communication on the Web by xtine burrough and Paul Martin Lester

Fighting Traffic Tickets

Several months ago, the cop pulled me over for doing 50 in the 35-mile zone. I had enough of these crap; therefore, I decided to fight back. Since I will be on the road for many years to come, I need to deal with this because it is inevitable. When I was in my late teens and early twenties, I had my share of tickets and I always paid up immediately because I just wanted to get them out of the way and moved on. I was young and stupid. I was lacking of confidence and scared. I am now a grown man and I know how the system works. The judges and the cops aren’t as intimidating as I thought. Besides, I was not breaking any law until the judge decide.

So when I got pulled over, I remained calmed and talked nicely to the officer. Once he handed me the ticket, I even thanked him and wished him a good day. The next day, I went back to the scene to see if I could make my case. The road was under construction so I pulled out my iPhone and took a few photos of the scene. Because of the construction, the road was bumpy; therefore, I couldn’t drive fast. I had my reason one. Then there is a park near the scene that held a farmer market every Thursday in the summer. People parked their cars nearby and took their kids to the market. As a father of two toddlers, I have always been extremely careful whenever kids around; therefore, I couldn’t be speeding. I had my reason two. There was a speed limit sign, but it was obscured by the bus stop sign and the electric pole. I took a picture of that too and had my reason three.

In the ticket, the officer clocked me in at 50 miles. I questioned the accuracy of his speed gun. Why I wasn’t doing 48, 48 or 15, but perfectly on 50? I had my reason four. For reason five, I was not sure if I wanted to bring up in court—the officer marked me as “W” for ethnicity—but I brought it up anyway.

For my court schedule, I dragged it out further by requesting a continuance. I wanted to buy more time so that the officer could forget about me or in case he wouldn’t show up. He did showed up after the reschedule. In court there about 120 people. The ones with the lawyer got done the quickest. Most people pleaded guilty and the judged reduced their fine to $50 or $100 with no points. The ones that pleaded not guilty had to wait to the end. The good thing was I brought the book along. I was in the court from 9:30 am to noon.

Lucky for me, the judge was very nice and he was on the people side. He was interested in what we have to say and not just the cops. In addition to all the reasons I listed above, I also pointed out to him that I haven’t have an accident for twenty years and I have four plus points in my driving record. Virginia rewards you a point each year for no violation and you can earn up to five points. After looking at my photos, the error on the ticket and the calibration date on the officer’s speed gun. He found me not guilty.

What have I learned from all this is that you always have to go to court. Don’t just paid up. Stay calm and be nice to the officer. Rather your evidences and ready to make your case. If you’re not fluent in English, request an interpreter. Most important of all, be confidence.

From Coffee to Coconut Water

I haven’t have a drop of coffee in the past two months. I just stopped because I thought I was depending on coffee way too much. I thought it would be hard, but I was able to get off the hook easily. Instead of drinking coffee in the morning, I switched to coconut water with chia seed. They make a great combo for detox.

As for drinking I still do a bit of cocktail every now and then, especially when I get stressed out. Somehow the buzz of liquor has been making me happier when dealing with the kids. Dan gave me some hell yesterday when he didn’t take a nap time. When he finally was down for a nap, he woke up an hour later because he was coughing. He brought more hell when he woke up. I left the room and let his mom calmed him down.

When it was time for dinner, I made myself a drink. After that I was in such a good mood to give the kids a bath and brushed their teeth. The night ended well with a bit of margarita.