Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
Monday, December 22, 2021


Yesterday was the first night of Hanukkah, and I missed it.

To make amends for that oversight, I offer up the above image of a disco-mirrored dreidel ball, as only Matisyahu could conceive it. It was hangin’ and dazzlin’ last night, during the Hasidic hipster’s show at Webster Hall.

I wonder if Matisyahu indulged in a backbeat-charged version of the Dreidel Song? It’d have been most appropos.

I also wonder if the artist formerly labeled as “Hasidic reggae” is okay with being described as “kosher-pop” these days. Seems a bit cheesy to me. But I suppose his fusion of musical styles defies neat pigeonholing. In which case, L’achaim.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 12/22/2008 08:12pm
Category: Creative, New Yorkin', Pop Culture, Society
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News that the U.S. Foreign Service is, thanks to a new incoming Presidential administration and need for amplified diplomatic efforts in hotspots, on a new-applicant hiring spree, hits me in an especially nostalgic way.

Applying for a job with the State Department involves written and oral examinations. Those who pass the oral exam become conditional officers and receive a ranking score based on oral-exam performance and language skills. The higher the rank, the sooner they will be assigned.

Of the 12,000 to 15,000 people who register annually for the written exam, about 450 officers are hired, said Frank J. Coulter, management officer with the Foreign Service and a member of the State Department’s board of examiners.

The first time he took the written exam, [newly-hired Foreign Service junior officer Felix] Salazar failed, after running out of time during the essay portion. He was so determined to pass that he spent the next year writing an essay in 30 minutes every day. “When I took it the second time and got my results, it actually sent chills down my spine,” he said.

A daily writing regimen? Sounds like blogging — at least, the structured type that I cannot help but produce. Maybe I should take a shot at this?

Actually, the nostalgia for me is that I did, indeed, take the Foreign Service exam shortly after I graduated from college, in the mid-’90s. As a poli-sci major concentrating in international and comparative political systems, I pretty much decided on a career path in the FS. I aced the written test, and made it to the final stage of the oral interviews (had to make a special trip from Florida to San Francisco for it). But I crashed and burned during the simulated situational scenarios, because I had no real-world negotiating experience at that time. Considering that the rest of my interview-candidate group was a couple of lawyers, a businessman, and a newspaper columnist — all well-seasoned professionals — I considered it an achievement to have made it that far.

I subsequently got on with a real-world career in media. I did retake the written test a few years later, but I must have been out of practice, because I didn’t make the cut. Just as well, because by that point, I really wasn’t sure I was ready to abandon my new professional pathways for a life on Uncle Sam’s international-emissary tour.

But I could see revisiting this field in the future. Right now, the personal end of it wouldn’t prevent me from a life on the road. If I start a family in the interim, then it becomes trickier.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 12/22/2008 06:13pm
Category: Business, Politics
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Since the long-awaited “paperless office” is still nowhere in sight, Netherlands-based marketing company Spranq has cooked up a free, ink-saving typeface called Ecofont.

Coming up with the pin-pricked look involved some visual-technique trial and error:

Spranq… struck on a Swiss-cheese design after failures with earlier experiments using thin letters and partial letters — like the stripes of a zebra.

“It turns out that it’s necessary to preserve the size and outline of letters to keep them readable,” company co-founder Gerjon Zomer says.

He concedes the font isn’t beautiful, but says it could be adequate for personal use or for internal use at a company.

In other words, Ecofont is ideal for printing out all those useless email hard copies that so many offices insist upon preserving. But maybe it’ll catch on as a widespread, utilitarian font among designers.

This also shows how tricky it can be to hit upon a feasible alphabet set. Shooting for a minimalist design in fontwork is a good back-to-basics exercise, but if it doesn’t convey the instant mental recognition necessary for seamless reading, then it’s useless. That’s why it was crucial for Ecofont to “preserve the size and outline” in order to achieve its purpose.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 12/22/2008 05:32pm
Category: Creative, Tech
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