Friday, February 22 2008
At some point today Gretchen and I watched Helvetica, the documentary of the sans-serif font that constitutes the linguistic conduit of modernity. As with many documentaries, it was a little slow-moving, but it was full of great observations made by various graphic designers. The most interesting scene in the movie was the one where the pre-Helvetica advertising world of musty wedding-literature-paradigm design was contrasted with the sleek, modern post-Helvetica advertising world. Even Coca Cola was affected; they supplemented their cursive logo with a Helvetica one that is now equally familiar. Unfortunately, as Gretchen pointed out, the movie offered no critique of serif fonts, though they continue to play an enormous role in the world of print, particularly in books. (Though most text on web pages is some form of Helvetica, most of the text editing I do — and I do a lot — is in the monospace seriffed font known as Courier.)
Meanwhile my reverse-electroplating project has been bubbling away in the laboratory. Periodically I'd swap the axles receiving the treatment, and then I'd sand the one sticking up in the air, the one not receiving a slow electro-chemical sanding. Today I went on something of a sanding jihad using a coarse rotary pad attached to an electric drill. After considerable effort, I was finally able to attach the new wheels to my firewood cart. I'm not sure whether the reverse-electroplating saved me much work or not, although it is telling that lengths of the axles shrank by a noticeable amount (they'd been eroded nearly to their cotterpin holes) though I hadn't sanded the ends at all. Perhaps reverse-electroplating is an effective method of uniformly reducing the bulk of metal objects.
One of the byproducts of the reverse electroplating was a bucket of acrid water containing various salts and iron ions in mysterious states of oxidation. I took a powerful rare-earth magnet (the kind salvaged from an old hard drive) and held it against the side of the bucket and watched the water swirling crazily as iron particles suspended in the water tried to align themselves with the field. Such behavior may have even extended to the dissolved iron ions, though I don't know enough chemistry to say. If dissolved iron can be affected by magnets, it seems to open up a whole interesting field of experimentation.
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