New Year But … er, a New Look

Yeah, yeah, happy arbitrary new year. What was wrong with having the new year begin on the first day of spring anyway? It makes a lot more sense than having it only a week after we celebrated the winter solstice by shoving presents under an evergreen tree (that, sigh, will soon be brown because we cut it down). Curmudgeonly impulses aside, I just wanted to note that the site is going to look a little different for a few days. It was time to update the PHP scripts that make the site go and it seemed best to use the latest offering from the WordPress folks themselves and then slowly hack the CSS back to something more of what the Logbook has looked like for the past year.

It’s not going completely back. I think the right sidebar is going to stick around, and so is my new friend L’hydre. I came across him on a crest having some connection to the town of Laudun, France, and I decided I kinda like the little guy. Hydras are apparently fairly rare in heraldry, and they represent the defeat of a significant enemy. For me, I like how friendly he looks. He’s an animal that would like to be able to fly (wings), clearly can make his way through the water (webbed feet), and has thoughts that go in too many directions (heads). Yup, I’m keeping him.

**UPDATE**: Okay, a new look. It was inevitable I suppose. I was looking for something that a more responsive design, in the sense that it would work well across a number of devices. I decided to give [Codium Extend][] a try. I’m fairly happy with it, except the “responsive” part of it makes for some pretty dense, and lengthy CSS. And I can’t quite get the gap between the posts and the sidebar to open up a bit more. That space feels too tight to me.

[Codium Extend]:

I would like it if the tweets that TwitTool is grabbing from Twitter account and placing into the logbook would be formatted more like asides. Since TwitTool can apply the tag of “tweet” to a post, there appears to be a way to get [tag-based formatting of posts][tag]. Thank you WordPress community.


Better Blogging

Every once in a while the blogosphere likes to [talk to itself about blogging][1]. To my mind, it really comes down to this: **write what you want to read** and **don’t assume your reader, which isn’t you, knows what you are talking about**.


Logbook Revision

No doubt some readers have noticed that the design of the Logbook has changed periodically over the past year. Up until the release of WordPress 3 and its new post format functionality, I had been fairly content with the previous design for several years. Since switching to WP3 in winter of last year, I have struggled to find a design that suited my own sense of how I wanted the Logbook to function. I have finally decided that there is nothing for it but to come up with my own design, which I will be developing over the coming month, as a side project over the holidays. For now, I am using a modified version of the new default theme. It works. It has more code in it than I would like, in part to allow for customizability, but that customization comes in the form of child themes, which, to my mind, only means more code, and more CPU cycles unnecessarily consumed. *We live in an age of abundance*, some might say. My reply is that that abundance is better served finding cures for diseases, creating new kinds of wealth which can be more widely shared, and finding a way for us to get off this rock. If that sounds like a whole lot of idealism stuffed into a rather trivial project, well, that, I think, is my new attitude. Or, rather, it is the idealism of my youth which started me on this project, on this career, on this path, and which I set aside for fear of whatever it is that we fear as adults and that binds us so tightly that we become the walking dead.

Now that I have soared to such a rhetorical height I must also confess that my current plan for the design of this site is to make it look like something out of the forties or fifties, when paper, leather, wood, and steel were the stuff of offices. I have always been fond of mechanical typewriters, fountain pens — especially those made of cellulose, leather folios, wooden office furniture, and a life of thoughtful reading and writing. (Not of constant updates on Facebook or Twitter or whatever.) What I want to create is a space in which both the speed of electronic devices and the slowness of paper and wood can find a way to work together to produce a space, both imagined and real, within which I can do the kind of work that I want to do.

Towards the re-design, I am making note of two websites which walk you through the task of creating a WordPress [theme][1] from [scratch][2].


A Slight Change in Style

A slight change in style to the website over the weekend: I not only changed type faces, but I am now having them served using Google’s WebFont API:

@import url(;
@import url(;

I had been serving Yanone Kaffeesatz and Gentium Book from my own setup, but not only does Google save me bandwidth, but it also gives me more choices. (And switching type faces is as easy as changing one of the above lines and then changing the font names elsewhere in the style sheet. (For the body font, this is easy since it appears only once.)

And, finally, for good measure I also changed the active color of the site to the official RGB for loden green:

color: #6D7356;

A new header is coming. I just haven’t finalized the design yet. It is going to be a play on logbook:

A Handwritten Ship's Logbook

CSS Typography

A number of people have asked about the type faces I am using in the new layout. If everything goes well, then you are viewing this site using two open source, free-to-use type faces. One is Gentium, and the other is Yanone Kaffeesatz. Gentium is the serif face, Kaffeesatz the sans-serif. Both faces are available under the SIL Open Font License. SIL’s goals are noble, but they are also quite critical for building a knowledge distribution system that is beholden to no one entity. (I don’t have a horse in the current H.264 vs. WebM race, but the MPEG-LA would make everyone’s life a lot easier if they simply made that standard open and free.)

But how do you load these type faces? How do you get them to appear on your website? Well, it does take some work in CSS, and, in the case of my site running on WordPress, the creation of a directory within the WP theme that contains the fonts — note the use of a relative URL below:

@font-face {
font-family: "Gentium Basic";
src: local("Gentium Basic"), url("font/gentium.ttf");
@font-face {
font-family: "Gentium Basic";
font-style: italic;
src: local("Gentium Basic Italic"), url("./font/gentium-italic.ttf");
@font-face {
font-family: "Gentium Basic";
font-weight: bold;
src: local("Gentium Basic Bold"), url("./font/gentium-bold.ttf");
@font-face {
font-family: "Gentium Basic";
font-style: italic;
font-weight: bold;
src: local("Gentium Basic Bold Italic"), url("./font/gentium-bold-italic.ttf");

@font-face {
font-family: "YanoneKaffeesatz";
font-weight: normal;
src: local("YanoneKaffeesatz"), url("font/YanoneKaffeesatz-Regular.ttf");
@font-face {
font-family: "YanoneKaffeesatz";
font-style: thin;
src: local("YanoneKaffeesatz Thin"), url("./font/YanoneKaffeesatz-Thin.ttf");
@font-face {
font-family: "YanoneKaffeesatz";
font-weight: bold;
src: local("YanoneKaffeesatz Bold"), url("./font/YanoneKaffeesatz-Bold.ttf");
@font-face {
font-family: "YanoneKaffeesatz";
font-style: light;
font-weight: light;
src: local("YanoneKaffeesatz Light"), url("./font/YanoneKaffeesatz-Light.ttf");

As you can see from looking at the source (src) for each file, my server is currently carrying the load of delivering both the type face — unless a reader already has the type face installed on their computer. (And you do have at least Gentium installed, don’t you? Come on, it’s a beautiful type face and it’s open source.) This affects two things: my bandwidth usage with my hosting service and the speed with which readers view pages. I can fix this in a couple of ways:

  • I can make Gentium the first type face in the CSS for body contents and make Georgia the fall-over type face. What will happen is that fore viewers who don’t have Gentium installed, their browser won’t download it from my server but simply move onto Georgia. (I might just make my life easier and make Georgia the preferred face: that way I can make sure that I am seeing what everyone else is seeing.)
  • I can also shift the burden of delivering the Kaffeesatz type face from my own server to Google’s servers, because Kaffeesatz is one of the web fonts they have chosen to support. The code for that would look like this:

<link href='' rel='stylesheet' type='text/css'>

Place that in the head of your HTML or PHP files and you are good to go. All you need to do is insert the font name in your CSS like so:

h1 { font-family: 'Yanone Kaffeesatz', arial, serif; }

It’s typographical magic without the bandwidth costs.

**UPDATE**: Sorry about the ugly formatting of the blocks of code. That was my fault: I put the wrong tags in. Also, Google offers a *lot* more options in web fonts: [check it out](

Stop the (Design) Madness

I know, I know. As a few readers have wondered: when are the changes in appearance going to stop? Ever since I began the site overhaul I have been at a loss to determine how the site should look and function. The older design was meant to emphasize the “day book” nature of the site, something I want to keep, but I also want to make reading longer pieces easier, and the old design was a little cramped. The old design also didn’t use any of the newer WordPress functionality — heck, it didn’t use a lot of the old WordPress functionality.

In order to make the older site use as few computing resources as possible, I had stripped out much of the dynamic code, but that also meant I lost things like widgets, which make it easy to drop in such functionality as a Recent Posts block. I have also been looking forward to the new post format functionality coming out in WP 3.1. I’m running the beta right now, but I haven’t decided how I want to format visually the different kinds of posts — a visual tag with some changes in what is displayed is the usual way to do it, and that is probably how I will do it, but it also means I need to take my CSS skills up one level (at least).

Here is what I have been looking for in a theme:

  • Support of the new-ish loop.php functionality which makes coding various kind of “sub” pages easier
  • Support of post format
  • A smaller CSS — and one not requiring includes, which a lot of the grid-based styles depend upon
  • White space

This is the new design, by the way. It’s called Jotter and it’s based on Ghostwriter by Bruno Calvacante. Calvacante’s design was lovely, but I wanted something a bit more modern looking. Much of the CSS, for now, is his, but I have slowly been making changes under the hood. But, let me say, cheers to him for embracing the new HTML elements available in HTML5.

Website Update

All the pages that were to be converted to posts have been converted. (My apologies to those with RSS subscriptions if that slammed your reader.) I will be cleaning up the new CSS over the next week or so.

Tweaking the New CSS

Regular readers have probably noticed that over the holidays I tried out quite a few themes. There were a few that I really liked, especially Satorii by [Felipe Levin](, but I decided not to use for one reason or another. In Satorii’s case the CSS was rather involved and depended upon a grid system with which I was not familiar. While I still may return to the original custom theme I made for this site, Jello, I am interested in exploring what other themes have to offer not only in terms of looks but also in terms of functionality. I am particularly interested in finding a theme that will make it fairly easy to implement post formats when they are finally rolled into the official version of WordPress. (They are slated for WP 3.1, as I understand it.)

### Changing Up Fonts

There is the simple version of `@font-face`:

@font-face {
font-family: yourFontName ;
src: url( /location/of/font/FontFileName.ttf ) format(“truetype”);

/* Then use it like you would any other font */
.yourFontName { font-family: yourFontName , verdana, helvetica, sans-serif;

A more comprehensive version includes using [Microsoft’s embedded font widget]( — or [this one]( — and then coding for IE’s inadequacies.

@font-face {
font-family: ” your FontName “;
src: url( /location/of/font/FontFileName.eot ); /* IE */
src: local(” real FontName “), url( /location/of/font/FontFileName.ttf ) format(“truetype”); /* non-IE */

/* THEN use like you would any other font */
.yourFontName { font-family:” your FontName “, verdana, helvetica, sans-serif;

There’s more on cross-browser fonts [here](

Site Update

Regular readers and/or subscribers may want to ignore and/or turn off their feed from until the new year in a few days. With the new site design emerging, I am also taking advantage of some wet weather to stay home and port both a number of pages into the post database as well as a collection of notes and stray documents.

I am converting the pages into posts because I have decided, for the sake of simplicity, to keep as much as possible a post and to use a limited number of pages to index, or point to, lists of posts. As some of you will know, WordPress treats posts and pages differently. Pages are not categorized nor are they taggable. They were, and might still be, not searched using the default search scripts.

In user space, me, I just wasn’t using the pages very much. If I want to find anything, I typically either search for it or I click on a tag.

For those who had links to pages, I apologize. Most of the incoming links point to posts, and I hope to make the transition as smooth as possible.

Post Formats Now in WordPress

Now that I have had a chance to work with the [Tumblog Plugin][tp], my overall sense of it is that it is a kludge. (If I could get its companion software, [Express App][exp], to work on my phone, I might be more forgiving, but I haven’t, so I am not.) The plugin’s UI is extraordinarily involved, and I don’t particularly admire how the exact workings of the plugin are hard to follow.

I need not fuss with it too much longer, however: *post formats* are designated to arrive in [WordPress 3.1][wp31]. *Hooray!* From the [Codex][]:

> Formats are meta information that can be used by themes to customize presentation of a post. The basic idea is to provide a specific method for specifying the display “format” of a post. This replaces the need to use categories to accomplish the same thing, and even more importantly, is portable between themes that support those formats!


Site Changes

No doubt regular readers have already noticed that the look of the site is different. In an effort both to streamline some aspects of the site’s infrastructure and to make it more like the notebook it is always, in the end, intended to be, I have made a number of changes:

  1. The most obvious change is to the theming of the site, which is a modification of the default Twenty Ten theme that comes with every WordPress installation. The modification I am using is in fact built on the Tumble Ten offered by WPSwitch. Because I like things visually simple, I have gutted out the header graphic and the horizontal menu.
  2. Getting rid of the horizontal menu, which is essentially used to navigate pages is easy because I have decided to get rid of pages. Everything is a post. Some of the basic pages that were regularly used will become backdated posts, and I will find a way to honor the old URLs. A lot of pages were largely hidden from view and acted as a kind of notebook for me, but as the pages got older they got less use and so it was time to fold them into the main WordPress approach, which is always oriented toward posts anyway. I’ll backdate where I can, and some of the notes — the ones which I don’t use and have no incoming links — will probably simply go away.
  3. Finally, I am trying my hand at folding tumble-blog functionality into my main blog. If readers feel like they are getting too much, it’s possible I’ll find a way to move some things off the main page. Who knows, maybe the expansion of scope toward a more integrated life will be compelling to others as well. (More on this in a later post on teaching, too.)

Tumblr is down.

Tumblr has been down for twenty-four hours now. No big deal in the grand scheme of things, but it came right as I wanted to post the video from last night’s Belsnickeling, where Lily was held entranced by the powerful combination of Saint Nicholas, Santa Claus, and Black Peter. I will have a write-up momentarily, but Tumblr’s failing at this particular moment drives home for me that I prefer having more control over my infrastructure. I have done some research on setting up a tumblog using WordPress, and I will probably take advantage of the Christmas break to get that up and running.

Not too much time because I have an essay to revise for Journal of Folklore Research and there’s that book that is wanting some attention. I have two weeks while my daughter is still in school to cram in some overdue interviews with various folks, most of whom have been waiting for me to call them since September. (I am very lucky in my research in this way.)

Autumnal Apology

Every fall things slow down here at JLO. Fall is the season of the new school year, grant applications, the annual meeting of the American Folklore Society, and, these days, wondering what higher education will still exist in Louisiana in the following year. For those loyal readers who still check this URL on occasion, there is some material in the pipeline. (I will probably begin sharing pieces of the boat book as it continues to develop.)

Reading Ruskin

During one of my business trips to London in the late nineties I picked up two books by Ruskin. Bother were published by George Allen of 156 Charing Cross Road. I gave one of the books to Henry Glassie as a thank you for being my dissertation director. I kept the other book, which is entitled “The Two Paths.” I have picked it up now and again and read here and there, but as I focus more seriously on getting “The Makers of Things” written I thought what better way to start the enterprise than to read Ruskin?

“The Two Paths” is particularly interesting, I think, because it is subtitled: “Being Lectures on Art and Its Application to Decoration and Manufacture.” Close to my topic, and here was Ruskin thinking, and talking about it, in lectures delivered in 1858-1859.

I’m happily reading along when I came across this happy character:


I liked him so much I have decided to make him my mascot for the time being. (I am fairly certain he must be in the public domain by now.)

Ruskin rules!