Is your font racist? Or is it shagging a dog?

Two interesting typeface stories have pricked up my ears this week:

Is your font racist?

Alongside the image was the legend STIR FRY KITS, in a cliche fake-brushstroke “oriental” typeface that reflexively causes many Asians to cringe. For good measure, FreshDirect also offered side dishes of DUMPLINGS, printed in a different variation of the same font.

A tall claim, but nowhere near the revelation in the troll bait titled story in which Martha Gill overlooks filial responsibility to remind us all that her relative and the creator of Gill Sans fell fast from grace in the 80s.

How Comic Sans got useful

he invented the typeface Gill Sans. It’s a sans-serif font and a British font – indeed, it would be hard to find a more British font. Its clean lines permeate the railways, the BBC, Penguin Books and the Church of England, and it has meshed itself with the establishment so deeply that it was a surprise to everyone to discover, in the late ’80s, that its inventor once shagged his dog.

Drawing a veil over that unpleasantness, now would be a good time to tell you about my favourite glyph from Gill Sans, which is the lower case t.


Isn’t it beautiful?

I particularly like the sneaky right angled triangle that is the upper left of the letter, and I always look out for it when I see Gill Sans in the wild.

Do, please, use the comments to post your favourite glyphs and why!


Style guides

In my ill-advised post about off-colour jokes in the staffroom (which bizarrely came up almost the following day as an interview question – the theme in general, not that I had blogged it) I found myself on the thorny issue of capitalisation – Leaning Tower of Pisa or leaning tower?

I had tried the Guardian Style Guide online but not found anything substantive to help me out. Given the Guardian’s love of lower case letters for almost everything (pope, prime minister, parliamentary select committee, french windows, yorkshire pudding) I suspected they would plump for the lower case version of leaning tower of Pisa.

(Just checking their guide for capitalisations, at least three things made me laugh: “The difference between narrowboat and barge is important, particularly if you don’t want to get stuck in a narrow lock somewhere outside Birmingham”, the long section on Caesar, and “call girl: like “vice girl”, an old-fashioned term encountered only in the tabloids, where it is always the 1950s”)

A few days later, joy of joys, I discovered they had a twitter account. And not only that, they take requests and give answers! Despite me not having any standing to ask for help, they happily provide.

Which just leaves the question – is this the sort of issue on which I want to be guided by the Guardian?

Losing and gaining weight

In 2010, I successfully lost a bit of weight with Diet Chef – so much so that when I bought a tailored suit for getting married in, I confidently told the tailor I would lose more weight. At my thinnest, I was 94kg. I stopped with the diet with a months worth of food left uneaten, as poor motivation took over. The suit didn’t fit great at the wedding.

By the start of 2012, I was over 100kg. The suit was a struggle to do up.

Somehow, during teaching practice, fourteen weeks from January to May this year, not counting the school holidays, I got down to 92kg, the lowest I have been in some considerable time. (My target weight is 75kg, the weight I was in 1999, which felt fat at the time.) My prompt for getting back on the scales was putting the suit back on for an interview and discovering the waistband was ridiculously loose. Ten kilos off translated to 8cm off my belly.

I lost weight on TP in the following ways, I think: leaving the house so early in the morning I was not ready for breakfast; sometimes being too nervous to eat for most of the day; and once, having to stop the car to be sick on the way to work. More positively, eating packed lunches every day and mostly making them very healthy: a graze box, 2 or three pieces of fruit and a sandwich made from 2 pieces of bread.

That last bit sounds vaguely healthy – but it also led to being ravenously hungry by 4 or 5pm and many nights stopping for desperately unhealthy fast food on the way home. So quite how that all added up to ten kilos of weight loss is a bit of a mystery.

I reweighed this evening and the weight is coming back on. The current phase of teacher training is less nerve racking than actually teaching every day, and there are too many opportunities for biscuits and cake in the staffroom. The same packed lunch that was too much food on TP is now not really seeing me through till morning break.

Dietchef had positives and negatives. On the bad side: it was expensive. I didn’t really like the food. What came in what they had the cheek to call a “hamper” was not all you eat as it needed supplementing with salad and other fruit and veg. The meals were odd. Essentially it was porridge or cereal for breakfast, soup for lunch and something sloppy like a casserole or pasta and sauce for tea. There were various fake chocolate, fake biscuit and fake other things for additional snacks and milkshakes as well.

Tomorrow's misery pouches

I got into the habit of calling them misery pouches. Although a few were quite nice, it was a real struggle to eat them and not find almost anything else to eat instead.

I think what it gave me most of all was a better understanding of calorie counting. Because you had to eat both the pouches and regular food, you had to count quite carefully. So I do now know for certain that if I can stick to 1500 calories a day for a few weeks I do lose weight.

Some of the surprises with counting was pasta, potatoes and bread. You really do not need much to get up to staggering quantities of calories. My standard day used to be two pieces of toast with butter and jam, and two pieces of bread at lunchtime as a sandwich. But if each piece of bread is the best part of 100 calories, 4 of them is almost a third of your daily allowance. Best cut one lot out.

It does seem though that if you eat a sensible amount of porridge for breakfast, with no syrup or cream, and base your lunch around soup – any soup – and fruit you will be eating healthily and constraining your calories without trying too much. There’s no need for them to be expensive special diet porridge or diet soup as almost all porridge and soup is low calorie.

This understanding is still very much theoretical, of course, I haven’t actually put the knowledge to use consciously to lose weight.

Another weird and annoying part of the Dietchef régime was that it was set up for women who have a lower calorie requirement – so the basic Dietchef day was a 1200 calorie diet. Men and those who have more weight to lose – and I was in both categories – get more. So they suggest you have a 200 calorie milkshake and then 200 more calories to find yourself. I have to say that the milkshake just seemed to me to be a complete waste of calories. Milkshakes do not normally play any part in my diet, least of all manky UHT box horrid bleirgh milkshakes. If I have to get 200 calories from a drink, what’s wrong with beer?

At the time, living off ready meals was a hardship. Perhaps I ought to reconsider using that approach next term when I might again be too busy to cook properly?