This year, we’ve gotten way too much screen time. So I concede it’s a little perverse to recommend another computer. But if an iPhone 12 is the double bacon cheeseburger of screen time—ugh, that thing holds no interest—then the Raspberry Pi 400 is a kale protein smoothie. This is a charming and surprisingly powerful Linux-based computer packaged into a keyboard for about $100. It plugs into any HDMI display, including your TV.
If you fear Linux systems, don’t panic—the Raspberry Pi isn’t designed to intimidate. It’s designed for learning and fun. Making things with the Raspberry Pi isn’t always easy. But it’s always satisfying and wholesome in a way that, say, waiting for the newest Office 365 update to finish installing is not.
What can you build with the Raspberry Pi? Some ideas here. For now, I’m using mine to run Pi Hole, an amazing internet ad blocker that keeps invasive trackers off your entire home network. I’d recommend getting a Raspberry Pi for the nerdiest 12-year-old you know, but whatever. Let them have TikTok. Keep the Pi for yourself.
Please don’t call them “rulers”. At about $25 each, these are the most magnificently overengineered measuring devices you will ever own: fantastically precise, easy to read, feather light, yet also ridiculously tough. I’ve had my current set for about 20 years and use them several times a week. Even the Schaedler company’s untouched-since-1995 website is perfect in its utter refusal to give more than zero fu...dges.
If you’ve visited me in California, you’ve probably received a box of this as a gift, which I consider the single greatest confection in LA county. No, wait—like you, I was a toffee hater too. Hard, sticky, achingly sweet. But then I had this toffee and realized: I was just a toffee snob. The texture is smooth and mild, but the secret to Littlejohn’s is the finely crushed nuts on the surface, which perfectly offset the interior. Someday, my wife & I hope to make a one-pound box ($30) last more than 24 hours.
The only coffee I drink. Because I like good coffee. But I hate making it. As the label implies, this is delicious Italian espresso that’s been dehydrated. All you do is add water. I usually have mine iced—it dissolves nicely in any temperature—but hot is excellent too. The small jars (about $5 each) are also easy to travel with (in case that ever happens again). Also a great gift for new parents, long-haul truckers, and for deflating coffee nerds who insist on telling you about grinding kopi luwak beans for their pour-over dripper, blah blah.*
* Yes, I recognize this is how many feel when I talk about typography
My fourth annual review of the progress of variable fonts, a series which may be reaching its natural end, as the forward momentum of variable fonts seems to be petering out.
Finally, if you do any programming, the 2020 edition of Advent of Code has started. AOC offers a series of daily programming puzzle that get progressively more difficult through the month. I feel a sense of fraternity with the author, Eric Wastl, because like me, he writes and publishes the whole thing himself. It is fun, clever, and exceedingly well designed. I don’t always finish, but I do publish my solutions in Racket.
(I even licensed one of Eric’s 2015 puzzles for a tutorial in Beautiful Racket.)
Confidential to Jack Firth: I’m morally opposed to “dark mode” in GUIs because it’s premised on the idea that you can just flip the color palette and everything else will work the same. But for type, that’s not true: it’s sensitive to its context, because our eyeballs are likewise sensitive. To remain equally legible, a dark-mode theme for a website can’t just flip the palette; it also needs to adjust the type—maybe size, weight, width, color. To be fair, I’m just as finicky about light mode: in Practical Typography, I actually serve slightly heavier fonts to Windows users because the Windows rasterizer doesn’t produce the beefy bitmaps that Mac OS does. That, in turn, is only possible because of how I designed my fonts. But since I’m still getting hate mail about the whole no-ligatures thing, I don’t need to make a stand on this particular hill.