This web­site is set in Filosofia, a font designed in 1996 by Zuzana Licko and pub­lished by Emigre. I’m a huge fan of Licko’s designs; they feel to me like avatars of an age. I also love the fact that Emigre funded its iconic magazine with the sale of dig­i­tal fonts: one of the all-time great cross-subsidies.

Early in my design explo­rations for this site, I hopped over to inspect a few Emigre fonts I’d bookmarked — but none of them were Filosofia. In the past, fonts of this style struck me as stuffy and old-fashioned; depart­ment store fonts. But tastes change, and ambi­tions do, too. It’s easy and pre­dictable to set a site like this in a sleek sans serif; I wanted to try some­thing new. So, when my tour of the Emi­gre col­lec­tion landed me on Filosofia, I saw it with fresh eyes.

Then, when I opened the PDF specimen, those eyes widened.

Go ahead: look for yourself.

Could I, at that point, have cho­sen any other font? No way.

The site’s big head­lines are set in Job Claren­don, a ter­rific new font from David Jonathan Ross and Bethany Heck. I received it as a mem­ber of David’s Font of the Month Club, and his accom­pa­ny­ing writeup is char­ac­ter­is­ti­cally fascinating. I totally vibed with this expla­na­tion from Bethany of the font’s name:

Job Clarendon is an homage to “job printing” — display-heavy designs made for posters and fly­ers in the hey­day of let­ter­press printing. This style of Claren­dons was wildly pop­u­lar in this genre of work, and I’ve always been inter­ested in how adapt­able they were. The style was fattened, squished, and stretched to accom­mo­date lines of text both short and long, and type foundries across the globe each found their own unique fea­tures to con­tribute to the Claren­don stew.

The site also uses Trade Gothic Next, Akira Kobayashi’s 2008 revi­sion of Jack­son Burke’s 1947 design. I love fonts of this style, called “grotesque”. It was years ago that I learned the Star Wars open­ing crawl is set in, of all things, News Gothic, and that cracked it open for me.

The site’s back­ground is cosmic latte, the aver­age color of the universe.


This web­site is man­aged using Middleman, a sta­tic site gen­er­a­tor that’s sim­ple and flex­i­ble and, most importantly, writ­ten in the Ruby pro­gram­ming language, which is the one I know best.

A few scraps of sup­port code run as Google Cloud Functions, all of them writ­ten in Ruby and Google’s Functions Framework, which is a real plea­sure to use.

I send emails using Mailchimp. Its inter­face is in no way designed for a newslet­ter-er like me, so I operate it mainly through its API, chore­o­graph­ing mes­sages with a Ruby script that I run on my laptop.

You might have picked up on the fact that I like Ruby; in fact, it is the great love of my pro­gram­ming life. Its creator, Yuk­i­hiro Matsumoto, once expressed Ruby’s phi­los­o­phy like this:

For me, the pur­pose of life is, at least partly, to have joy. Pro­gram­mers often feel joy when they can con­cen­trate on the cre­ative side of pro­gram­ming, so Ruby is designed to make programmers happy.

This site doesn’t col­lect any infor­ma­tion about you or your reading. I do track the open rates of the email noti­fi­ca­tions I send through Mailchimp; that’s both to mon­i­tor for tech­ni­cal prob­lems and remove sub­scribers who haven’t opened my mes­sages in many years. I’m ambiva­lent about even this level of instrumentation, but/and, for me, it’s bal­anced against the publisher’s imper­a­tive not to spam the world with mate­r­ial, phys­i­cal or dig­i­tal, that is unwanted and unread.

Style guide

I’m not­ing a few sitewide pref­er­ences here, mostly for myself:

Assumed audiences

Here and there, I use the term “assumed audi­ence”, cribbed from Chris Krycho. For example, look at these two posts of his — one, two—with lit­tle plac­ards up top mak­ing it clear they are aimed at dif­fer­ent groups of read­ers. Those groups might overlap! They might also: not.

I liked Chris’s plac­ards as soon as I saw them; I appreciate the way they push back against the “context collapse” of the internet, in which every pub­lic post is, by default, addressed to everyone.

Many web­sites pro­vide this bul­wark themselves; an arti­cle posted on Work Truck is auto­mat­i­cally pretty well situated. But that’s not the case for mate­r­ial on a per­sonal site with many cross-cutting interests, and read­ers who arrived for many dif­fer­ent reasons. I can only report that I’ve often felt a ten­sion between

I think both impulses are good, actually, but they’re not always totally compatible. The ten­sion is ongoing; it’s close to the core of what writ­ing is. Maybe being explicit about my assumed audi­ence for cer­tain newslet­ters will be helpful; maybe it will just be extra cruft. We’ll see!

Finally, I hope it goes with­out saying: just because you’re not part of a newslet­ter’s assumed audi­ence doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give it a look 😇

November 2021, Oakland