Last year I decided to start making my own pasta. Seems a natural extension of my bread making. But it took several months before I could get started, what with personal issues and, of course, the holiday season interfering. This week I finally took the step.
As usual with me, I did a lot of online research and reading before I took the first step. I looked at many reviews of pasta makers, as well as read techniques and recipes from hundreds of sites and several of my cookbooks.
I wanted a manual pasta maker, although I know that you can make your own pasta without a machine, just a dough cutter and a rolling pin. That requires a lot of rolling, folding and cutting, and I simply don’t have the patience or the skill. The result is never consistent, either. I chose manual in part because the price of a motorized/electric machine is rather too high to justify for something I expect to use at most once a week, and usually for just the two of us.
There are a lot of pasta makers on the market, and a lot of accessories for food processors. Despite the number of brands, most look and operate essentially the same. For manual machines, the options are in the available width settings and the types of pasta you can create (through interchangeable cutting heads).
Some types of pasta can be made manually after rolling, using the flat sheets of dough and cutting it into shapes.
Basically a pasta machine does two things: it rolls/flattens the dough, and then it cuts it into strips or shapes. It’s pretty simple, and one person can do it alone.
Four hundred years after he wrote them, we still use in everyday speech the many words and phrases Shakespeare coined. He gave us so many, it would be difficult, if not impossible, to list them all here.
But two words he wrote have stopped us dead: prenzie and scamels. What do they mean?
Were they more of his 1,700-plus famous neologisms like accommodation, castigate, frugal, inauspicious, premeditated and sanctimonious?* If so, no one today knows for sure what prenzie and scamels refer to.
Or were they transcription errors? The typesetter or copyist reading from a crabbed, handwritten manuscript and spelling out for the folio something he couldn’t quite understand?
Scamels are something – possibly a sea creature or shore bird – collected for food. It’s a hapax legomenon – a word that only appears once in the entire canon of Shakespeare’s works. In The Tempest, Act II, Sc. II, Caliban says to Trinculo:
I prithee let me bring thee where crabs grow;
And I with my long nails will dig thee pig-nuts,
Show thee a jay’s nest, and instruct thee how
To snare the nimble marmoset. I’ll bring thee
To clust’ring filberts, and sometimes I’ll get thee
Young scamels from the rock.
Could someone have written but smudged ‘seagull’ and the typesetter not been able to make out the letters correctly? Or written scams – an archaic nickname for limpets? Neither sound very appealling for a meal.
I’m not a graphic designer. I was not formally educated in that art. However, over the years, my jobs in editing and writing for books, newspapers, magazines and publishers have required me to learn the rudiments of layout, typography and design.
I am the first to admit my design talent is merely adequate. Despite that, I did absorb enough to be able to recognize egregiously bad design.
And this week, I found what may be the best example of the most egregiously bad design and layout I’ve ever encountered: the Town of Collingwood’s advertising section on pages D6-D8 of the Enterprise Bulletin, April 24, 2015.
Whoever assembled these ads has – incredibly, it seems – even less talent than I have in layout and design.
First, the size: the ads sprawl across two-and-three quarters pages when they could easily have fit in a page-and-a-half. Since we taxpayers pay for those ads, this wasteful layout is costing us money. There is no excuse for this.
Second, the type: about 99 percent of the text is set in the same sans-serif typeface – Arial or Helvetica – body and headlines, making it incredibly boring and dull to look at. Couldn’t someone had clicked the font menu and selected a serif typeface just once?
Serif fonts improve ease of reading; they have been used since Roman times. The serifs help guide the eye along the line – and the longer the line, the more they prove useful. But even if you use sans-serif for the body, it is good design to use a different typeface for the headlines. This wasn’t done: instead the pages have a monolithic sameness.
Perhaps the single most important part of graphic and web design is typography. Like color, texture, and shapes, the fonts you use tell readers you’re a serious online news magazine, a playful food blog or a vintage tea tins shop. Words are important, but the style of the words is equally essential.
So what do the fonts of the town’s ad pages tell readers? Boring, dull, unimaginative, stiff, stodgy, amateurish? All of these?
The type size, too, is unnecessarily large for body type – 12 or perhaps even 14 point. At the most, it should be 10-11 point and probably could be smaller. This oversized text is the major cause of the sprawl, too.
But the headline size has not been scaled to match the large body size, so the headlines look grotesquely small. And to compound it, the small headlines are all centred, looking orphaned amidst all that extra space.
And why are some headlines in black, some in blue, and others a mix of blue and black?
All of the body copy is justified – again adding to the boring similarity of every ad. Fully justified text like this has been proven harder to read in large blocks than ragged right text. And the full justification creates awkward gaps between words in the longer lines.
Then there’s the excess leading (the space between lines) and the embarrassingly wide distance between paragraphs (did someone hit return twice? That’s a bad habit from the typewriter era). Thick horizontal lines of whitespace mar the appearance and force the reader’s eyes to drift too far to find the next paragraph.
I won’t even begin with the issue of kerning in the headlines, except to note that there doesn’t seem to have been any effort made in that department.
In a recent opinion piece in the Enterprise Bulletin titled “Swayze overused by council?” EB reporter/editor Paul Brian comments,
I think the overuse of Swayze is outlandish and it is not congruent with the tough financial situation of the town.*
Like much of the EB’s increasingly vague reporting since former editor Ian Adams left, the paper’s current editorial staff doesn’t seem to understand municipal politics. The reporting on many local matters raised at the council table show a naïve ignorance of both the issues and the processes at stake. The EB’s budget reporting this year was so flawed it should have been posted as satire, not news.
The EB just doesn’t get it.
That “tough financial situation” Brian mentions allowed council to approve a $40,000 increase in Councillor Jeffrey’s expenses so she could pursue personal political goals outside of town. The EB was ominously silent on such abuses of power, and has been equally silent about council’s apparent failure to actually read the budget documents they were voting on.
And now this… the EB continues to dazedly tread deep water. Its writers struggle vainly to regain what little relevance the paper once had to the community, by pretending to know what’s going on. Well, they don’t.
One suspects this myopic editorial approach is bolstered by the ideological need to support the few council ‘friends’ of some of its writers.
Brian apparently doesn’t understand why an Integrity Commissioner was hired. It’s not for council’s use – although councillors can file complaints like anyone else – it is for the public. It is to provide a mechanism for any member of the public to question or challenge the behaviour of their elected representatives.
Is Brian suggesting the public is ‘overusing’ the IC by filing legitimate complaints? That would smack of arrogance and autocracy. The public has every right to file any number of complaints. The IC is there for them. The public perception of council is at stake.
And what price do you pay for accountability? Brian suggests there should be some sort of cap on it. What, stop investigating public complaints once the budget is used up? That’s hardly accountability. But perhaps Brian thinks that’s what council wants, since the results are embarrassing to them.
I don’t pay as much attention to American politics as I suppose I should, in part because despite the entertaining craziness of some of their politicians, the internal politics seldom affect Canadians, and also in part because the craziness not only baffles me – it scares me. But this week I paid attention when I read year-old statements made by former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, who is quoted on Rawstory as saying,
“I think we got off the track when we allowed our government to become a secular government. When we stopped realizing that God created this nation, that he wrote the Constitution, that it’s based on biblical principles.”
Whoa. Christian revisionism and theological ideologies packed into a single statement. And so wrong, I hardly know where to start.
The country I come from
Is called the Midwest
I’s taught and brought up there
The laws to abide
And that the land that I live in
Has God on its side Bob Dylan: With God on Our Side
The US government was formed as a secular government from its birth. Separation of church and state and all that (First Amendment) was put into the Constitution quite early (1791). That amendment, Wikipedia tells us,
…prohibits the making of any law respecting an establishment of religion, impeding the free exercise of religion, abridging the freedom of speech, infringing on the freedom of the press, interfering with the right to peaceably assemble or prohibiting the petitioning for a governmental redress of grievances.
The nation itself was created by a loose group of soldiers and politicians, many of whom were either secular or even atheist, after a bitter and bloody war with Britain (and later, other nations). The Constitution was written by a smaller group of similarly motivated men. And it’s very definitely NOT based on biblical principles (principles which include stoning people for minor offences, killing your children, taking slaves, not eating pork and having animals maul children to death…).
Not to mention that the nation we know of as America wasn’t actually born overnight with the stroke of a pen, but is the result of more than a century of expansion, war, politics and exploitation. At least that’s the history as I understand it.
I’m pretty sure the millions of indigenous people who were killed, disenfranchised, hunted, humiliated, raped and brutally reduced to second class citizens don’t think it was the work of any benevolent god. You see the digits of a deity anywhere in that? DeLay obviously does; which speaks volumes about his personal vision of a god. A nasty, xenophobic, mean-spirited, vindictive god.
At Collingwood Council meetings, you will always hear someone say “Moved by myself…” when presenting a motion at the table.*
Argh! Where did these people go to school? Clearly our education system has failed us if people were raised to say that. And this is in the public record, too.
To me it’s like nails on a blackboard. It’s like saying “I seen…” and “yous.”
The grammatically correct way to present a motion is, of course, to say, “Moved by me…”
So why the mistake we so frequently hear at the table – and in fact in many other councils across the province?
Common misunderstanding and discomfort, it appears are the cause, at least according to the grammar sites I read.
People often (and incorrectly) think “me” is incorrect or even coarse (well, it is when you say something like “Me and my friends are going dancing” or “I got me a pickup truck…”). But this is misplaced.
That unnecessary caution is why some people will say things like “It is I” or “It’s for my wife and I” when they really should say “It is me” and “It’s for my wife and me.” And say “between you and I…” when they mean (or should say) “between you and me…”