Monthly Archives: August 2016

4 posts

Calluna font

Calluna fontAs a professor and a coordinator for an academic unit in a state university, I often have to produce documents that must exist in different formats. For example, my class syllabus in available online in PDF format but I also need to print it out and pass to students in the first class. Other examples include student handbook, program information sheets, and many other documents. They all need to look good on-screen as PDF files and in print.

As someone who cares a lot about typography, I am in constant search of good text fonts. Because the documents I produced tend to be very text heavy, I want a good-looking text font that can perform well in small font size. For my purpose, I need the font to meet the following criteria:

  1. The font must look formal and authoritative. Because the documents I produce are official university documents, I need them to look official and authoritative. Therefore, anything that looks fun and funny are out.
  2. I want a font that does not look boring. If the first criterion is the only criterion, I can just use pre-installed Windows PC fonts such as Times New Roman, Arial, or Cambria. Many people have done that and I have no objection on their choice. From my point of view, however, all those pre-installed fonts are overused and boring. I want a font that has some flare and more details but not outrageous. For example, even though I like Berkeley Oldstyle a lot, it to me has too much flare and decorations for a text font.
  3. I want a font that is not too expensive. I have a limited budget, so free would be my preference. If I have to buy the font, I want something that is not too expensive.

I have tried many different fonts and eventually I settled with two fonts: Adobe Minion and Calluna.

Minion fontAdobe Minion is a good-looking font and it looks very format and authoritative. The only problem is that it does not look very unique. It is true that in a quick glance most people would probably mistaken Adobe Minion for Times New Roman. However, I find Minion better looking than Times New Roman. The good thing about Minion is that its size is almost identical to Times New Roman, so you can replace Times New Roman with minimum changes to the overall layout.

Calluna is my new favorite text font. Its regular font is free to download. Calluna has a larger x-height thus make it easier to read in small font size compared to other popular text fonts such as Garamond. However, Calluna’s x-height is not too large as fonts aimed for screen reading. Many screen-reading-friendly fonts tend to look awkward in print because the x-height is too large. Calluna hits a very nice balance between screen reading friendly and looking good on paper. Calluna also has more details and flares that makes it look more distinguishable than fonts such as Minion and Times New Roman.

If you are looking for a text font and you have never tried Calluna, you should definitely give it a try.


My Coffee Journey

caffè latte

I don’t usually drink coffee, but when I do, I drink caffè latte.

My coffee journey started 5 months ago. I was not a coffee drinker but I was surrounded by coffee addicts–My mom had been a heavy coffee drinker before she had cancer, my best friend in college often posts his latte arts on his Facebook page, and one of my colleagues brews at least 3-4 cups of coffee everyday.

In a typical day in December 2015, I was chatting with my college best friend on Facebook and I asked him about his latte arts and espresso machine. He complained to me about the cost of imported espresso machine in Taiwan. He said he had contemplated about asking me to buy an espresso machine in the U.S. and ship it back to Taiwan for him. Even with international shipping, it would still be cheaper than buying it in Taiwan, he claimed.

During our conversation, my wife was on my side and she saw everything. Without any drama, she said very casually that it would be great it we can have latte or cappuccino at home. My wife doesn’t drink coffee often, but once in a while she would buy a Starbucks’ caramel macchiato. Hearing my wife, and given my general interest in anything mechanical, of course I had to investigate the possibility of buying an espresso machine.

Breville BES920XLI did pretty intensive research online on espresso machines and I found them cost from less than $100 to several thousand dollars. Moreover, to brew good espresso drink, you also need a good coffee grinder, which can cost more than the espresso machine. So, how much should I spend on my first espresso machine? The general consensus online seems to suggest at least $400 or above. My friend recommended Rancilio Silvia Espresso Machine and he uses a Breville BES920XL Dual Boiler Espresso Machine. The Rancilio Silvia costs about $700 and Breville BES920XL is more than $1,200. There is no way my wife would allow me to spend that kind of money on an espresso machine, at least not the first one.

To be honest, I hate wasting money on cheap machines or tools that cannot get the job done. If having a choice between quality and cost, I would usually pick quality. However, in this case, I really can’t justify spending more than a few hundred dollars on a espresso machine given that my wife is an occasional coffee drinker and I don’t even drink coffee. I end up buying a De’Longhi ECP3420 15″ Bar Pump Espresso and Cappuccino Machine, Black from Bestbuy with a 20% off coupon. The final cost including tax was about $130. For the grinder, I bought a hand grinder Hario Ceramic Coffee Mill Skerton instead of the acclaimed Rancilio Rocky Coffee Grinder. I also bought a few accessories such as a Bodum Pavina 2.5-Ounce Double Wall Glass (I love these cups, very good quality), Essential Values Stainless Steel Coffee Tamper (very heavy, the quality is good but nothing impressive), Ipow Durable 18/8 Gauge Stainless Steel Steaming Frothing Pitcher 20oz (high quality, very happy with the cup), and CDN IRB220-F ProAccurate Insta-Read NSF Beverage and Frothing Thermometer (seems to work very well and nothing to complain about).

Combs CoffeeSince we bought the espresso machine last December, we have been drinking espresso about once to twice per week. Because it takes about 30-40 minutes to prepare an espresso drink and clean up, I can’t do it during weekday morning when everybody is rushing for school and work.  For coffee beans, we bought it from a local roaster Combs Coffee and we have been very satisfied with the quality of the beans. If you live in Denton and its surrounding area, the owner of the Combs Coffee, James, will deliver your coffee to your door.

After using De’Longhi ECP3420 for the last 8 months, I have to say that I am a little disappointed. Yes, if your budget is limited to about $100 for espresso machine, De’Longhi ECP3420 is probably as good as any other machines you can find in this price range. However, all espresso machines in this price range suffer the problem of unstable pressure. De’Longhi ECP3420 can provide adequate pressure at the beginning of the brewing process. However, once the brewing starts, De’Longhi ECP3420 will quickly lose its pressure which leads to inconsistent espresso. Yes, it is drinkable, but I would like to do better.

By the way, we also bought a Hario VDM-02HSV V60 02 Metal Coffee Dripper to make coffee for weekday morning. Now, my wife and I drink coffee almost everyday and I am learning more and more about coffee.


Perzina Piano整個尋琴記系列的文章可以在這裡找到:<尋琴記系列>

我本來對於我們家新來的Perzina GP-175有很高的期望,但是沒有想到琴才來沒有幾個小時我就發現了問題。



Perzina Piano Pedals接下來的一兩個禮拜鋼琴接連的出現一些小問題。首先是有一個琴鍵的制音器(damper)卡住而沒有辦法自己回到它原來的位置。這個問題造成的影響是這個琴鍵一旦按下去之後那個音就會不斷的迴響而不會停止。唯一的解決方法是不斷的踩延音踏板直到制音器彈回到它原來的位置。第二個問題是延音踏板的某個地方似乎卡卡的,因此每次踩延音踏板的時候就會發出很奇怪的聲音。第三個問題是有幾個琴鍵彈下去的時候會出現某種奇怪的聲音。我不知道該怎麼描述那種聲音,但是總之不是琴弦發出的正常聲音。我把這些問題回報給鋼琴店的老闆,結果他還是照樣不理我。

之前的Weber W-150雖然琴鍵比較重而且動態範圍不是很好,但是我跟它相處了一個多月都沒有出什麼問題。動態不好大約是因為琴太小的關係,而琴鍵比較重應該是擊弦機制本身設計就是這樣。Weber是Young Chang旗下的鋼琴品牌,而Young Chang好歹也是有30-40年歷史的韓國品牌。雖然Young Chang不是什麼高級的鋼琴品牌,但是他們製造的鋼琴的品質和耐用度在市場上有一定的口碑。相對而言,雖然Perzina GP-175的聲音很不錯,價位也比同樣大小的Weber高上一節,但是Perzina的耐用度其實還有待考驗。畢竟Perzina是一個比較新的品牌(我不會笨到把那個曾經很有名,但是跟現在的Perzina公司完全沒有關係的德國Perzina鋼琴拿來比較)。還有一點讓我覺得很奇怪的是Perzina的直立式鋼琴在專業團體中的評價非常高,但是真正彈過Perzina平台式鋼琴的人卻很少。在Larry Fine的鋼琴評鑑中,Perzina的直立式鋼琴比平台式鋼琴高了一個等級。我一直很納悶為什麼會這樣。

Perzina GP-175等了一個禮拜鋼琴店老闆終於給我回E-mail了。他說我前面一段提到的那三個問題都是小問題,等到下一次調音師來的時候可以一併處理。至於鋼琴外表損壞的問題他會再看看。我不知道再看看是什麼意思,但是我想說就再等一陣子吧!其實我也想過是不是就算了,反正那三個外傷都是小傷,不仔細看也看不出來。但是想想又覺得心裡很不是滋味,我花了這麼多錢買的一台新鋼琴竟然外表有多處受損。想想,如果能夠修還是修吧。又過了一個多禮拜,鋼琴店的店員打電話給我說他們請了一個專門修鋼琴外表的師傅來幫我修理。於是,我約了這位師傅到我家裡來。


可想而知,鋼琴店老闆照樣不回我的E-mail,所以我隔天又重寄了一次。至此,我對他已經失去耐心了。但是我還是決定再給他幾天的時間。如果超過了一個禮拜他還是不回我的E-mail,我就決定去跟Better Business Bureau (BBB)申訴。同時,我還會請求當地報社和電視台的協助,並且把我的經驗分享在各大評論網站上。如果他還是不理我,我就準備把他告到德州法務部的消費者保護部門。



尋琴記5:Perzina GP-175

Kimball piano整個尋琴記系列的文章可以在這裡找到:<尋琴記系列>

我們的Weber W-150在2016年6月7日送達我們家。我們對於新的鋼琴來到都非常的興奮,其中最興奮的是我。我小學的時候學了五年的鋼琴,但是當時是被爸爸媽媽逼著學的。到我小學畢業的時候我跟我爸媽說我不想再學鋼琴了,我爸媽也沒有逼我。我們家當時的鋼琴是一台很便宜的二手直立式美國琴,後來我跟我弟都不學鋼琴之後我媽媽就把它賣了。最近我問我爸媽那台鋼琴是什麼牌子,結果沒有一個人想得起來。我記憶中似乎是一台 Kimball,長的有點像左邊照片中的那台,但是我不能完全的確定。


練了一個月,我慢慢開始對這台Weber W-150有一些小小的抱怨。首先,我們家這台Weber W-150的琴鍵非常的重。當初是我老婆想要買琴鍵重的琴,所以買的時候我們並不覺得這台琴有什麼問題。但是,彈久了之後就發現它的琴鍵不只是重,而且它的動態(dynamics)表現不是非常的好。舉例來說,當我要彈很小聲的時候,有時候琴鍵輕輕的按下卻沒有聲音。要大聲的時候有時候又覺得它的power不夠。當然,我想power不夠可能是因為它本來就是一台小台的平台式鋼琴,自然不能要求太多。但是,動態不好可能就是鋼琴擊弦機制的問題了。

Weber W-150 in my room第二,我本來以為我的書房只能放下最大5呎2吋的琴,這是為什麼當初我想要買Weber W-157的原因,因為它剛好是5’2″。但是把Weber W-150放進去之後才發現其實我的書房還有很大的空間。如果真的要的話,一台7呎的平台鋼琴應該也可以放的進去。Larry Fine在他的書中提到5’5″以下的平台式鋼琴因為太小而有先天上的限制。他的建議,同時也是網路上大部分其他專家的建議都是買預算和空間可以接受的範圍內最大的琴。因此,我有考慮是不是要換上更大一號的Weber W-175 (5’9″)或是最大的Weber W-185 (6’1″)。他們雖然比Weber W-157貴上一點,但是其實價錢沒有差很多。同時,一些原本我們因為空間因素而不考慮的二手鋼琴現在也可以考慮了。

七月初的時候DFW Piano Gallery通知我們說Weber W-157已經來了。那一陣子因為我老婆跟我都很忙,因此一直沒有機會去看琴。我有一天下午趁著去Dallas辦事順便到店裡停留了一下。那時店裡除了有Weber W-150和Weber W-157還有Weber W-175、Fridolin W-175、和Fridolin W-185。之前我有說過Weber和Fridolin理論上來說應該是一樣的琴,只是Fridolin用的某些零件比較高級。但是不知道為什麼我一直覺得Fridolin的觸感跟聲音都比不上Weber。

Fridolin Piano那天在店裡我彈了一下各個不同型號的Weber和Fridolin平台式鋼琴。我發現店裡的Weber W-150跟我們家的彈起來是一樣的感覺:琴鍵很重、動態不是很好、小聲的地方很難做的出來。令我意外(或者應該說不意外)的地方是Weber W-157跟Weber W-150不管在聲音或是觸感上都非常的類似。Weber W-157的觸鍵比Weber W-150稍微輕一點,但是低音部的表現基本上是一樣的。看來多個兩吋並沒有讓聲音好到哪裡去。我開始懷疑是不是真的值得多花美金$1,700把我的W-150換成W-157。

真的讓我比較有興趣的是Weber W-175。他的觸鍵比起W-150和W-157平順很多。動態方面因為店裡的空間太大,所以感覺不是很明顯。它的SMP只比W-157多了一千美金,如果殺個價應該可以用不錯的價錢買到。另外我也試了Fridolin W-185。彈起來和聽起來的感覺都跟Weber W-175沒有差很多。雖然Fridolin的琴定價都比同一個型號的Weber貴一些,我真的很懷疑Fridolin到底是比Weber高級在什麼地方。

又過了兩個禮拜,總算找到一天請朋友幫我們照顧小孩,我和我老婆單獨到Dallas去看鋼琴。我本來想去Collora Piano和Piano Gallery兩家店,但是我老婆說他不想跑那麼多地方,所以我們只去了Piano Gallery。這次因為沒有帶小孩,所以我們花了很多時間一一的試彈店裡的琴。這次我們把注意力集中在5’5″以上的琴,也就是說我們已經出了Baby Grand進入Studio Grand的範圍了。幾台讓我們特別有興趣的琴包括:

  • 一台1970年代的Yamaha C2: C2是Yamaha的中高階鋼琴,評價非常好。我很喜歡Yamaha這家公司,但是我不是很喜歡他們的鋼琴的音色。這台40幾年的C2聲音非常的明亮。Yamaha的鋼琴本來就是以聲音清脆明亮著稱,上了年紀之後的琴自然是更加清亮。觸鍵很輕,很好彈。開價是$11,000。如果純粹看品牌,我會買這台琴,但是我不喜歡他的聲音,所以跳過。
  • 一台新的Baldwin BP-178: Baldwin是傳統美國鋼琴品牌。他們以前的鋼琴評價很不錯,但是過去這十年Baldwin的經營權轉手之後他們的鋼琴評價不一。我說實在話非常的喜歡店裡的這台Baldwin BP-178。他的聲音園潤飽滿,觸鍵靈敏又不會太輕。唯一的問題是他的SMP要美金$23,390,超出我的預算太多。
  • 一台新的Weber W-175:這是我上次試過的琴。他的價位很合理,SMP美金$13,980。Weber的琴有一種獨特的聲音,它比Baldwin還要更mellow一點。我個人還蠻喜歡Weber的音色,但是它的致命傷是他的觸鍵。在彈過Yamaha和Baldwin之後再彈Weber就覺得Weber的觸鍵實在很不靈敏又有滯澀感。雖然如此,如果你要我在這台新的Weber W-175跟將近50歲的Yamaha C2之間做一個選擇,我可能還是會選Weber。

Steinway & Sons Piano之後我們又試彈了幾台其他的琴包括G. Steinberg, Samick, Fridolin, 和一台二手的Steinway & Sons。


再來是G. Steinberg,我覺得Piano Gallery店裡最漂亮的琴就是G. Steinberg。它的聲音類似Yamaha,也屬於清亮派,但是它比Yamaha在低音的部分更多了一點厚重。G. Steinberg的觸鍵也比Yamaha稍微重一些,但是沒有滯澀的感覺。我對於G. Steinberg唯一的批評是它的低音部有明顯的擊鎚撞弦的聲音,我不知道這是不是可以調整掉,但是我不喜歡擊鎚撞弦的聲音。說實在話,如果我喜歡聲音清脆明亮的鋼琴,我會很慎重的考慮G. Steinberg。

之後我們又試了上次試過的 Perzina GP-175。上次來試琴的時候我老婆很喜歡Perzina的聲音—它既不會太明亮又不會太沈重。但是因為Perzina超出我們的價位太多,因次我們上次完全沒有考慮。這次彈了Perzina之後還是很喜歡它的聲音。更讓我們驚訝的是老闆開給我們的價錢比我們想像的還要低。最後在討價還價之後,我們補了Weber W-150和Perzina GP-175之間的差價,然後以總價美金$15,000買了這台5’10″的平台式鋼琴。

三天之後鋼琴送到了我們家。這台鋼琴跟Weber W-150比起來聲音真的好聽很多。我對這台Perzina GP-175的第一印象非常的好。但是,不久之後我就發現琴有問題,而且是我們惡夢的開始。詳情請見下一集尋琴記