how many holes does it take to fill the albert hall?

Four thousand, right? That’s the obvious answer for any Beatles fan.

That number comes from this verse of A Day in the Life:

I read the news today, oh boy,
4000 holes in Blackburn, Lancashire,
and though the holes were rather small
they had to count them all.
Now they know how many holes it takes to fill the Albert Hall.

A Day in the Life lyrics John Lennon #fantasticdrivel

Lennon’s lyrics

But I’m not so easily convinced that four thousand is the answer.

Reading the lyrics strictly, we only can be sure of two things: (1) they have counted four thousand small holes in Blackburn, Lancashire and (2) they now know how many holes are required to fill the Albert Hall. The song does not explicitly state the number of holes it would take to fill the Albert Hall, it just tells us that they now know that number. The number would be 4,000 only if there is some direct equivalency between Blackburn, Lancashire and the Albert Hall.

Not knowing much about the Albert Hall, or Blackburn (or Lancashire, for that matter), I decided to do a little research. The results of my investigation might surprise you.

(click more to find out!)

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Impressive work by a 14-year-old kid. You should read the article, but Suvir Mirchandani did the research and the math and determined that US governments (Federal and State governments combined) could save $400 million dollars per year by switching from Times New Roman to Garamond. That $400 million is just for the cost of ink (compared to Garamond, Times New Roman requires more ink to print the same text).

Here’s an example of Times New Roman:

Times New Roman

Times New Roman

Now the same text, same point size, in Garamond:



Clearly, Garamond uses less ink (and less space). The article didn’t mention it, but switching to a professional OpenType font with optical kerning and standard ligatures would help a lot, too. At least in terms of saving space. And being super-classy.

Same text, same point size, using Garamond Premier Pro with optical kerning and standard ligatures:

Garamond Premier Pro with standard ligatures

Garamond Premier Pro with optical kerning and standard ligatures

Despite Mirchandani’s findings, I wouldn’t expect the government to be making the switch any time soon. The cultural and societal implications of a move from Times New Roman to Garamond are enormous. Don’t get me wrong; I use Garamond as my go-to serif, and would only use TNR if I was forced to. But Microsoft made TNR the standard “default” font for computer typesetting, and its ubiquitous use has made an indelible impression on the cultural subconscious. TNR represents stability, tradition, conformity, even normalcy. If you open up a legal document, Times New Roman just FEELS right. Garamond, on the other hand, feels more erudite, delicate, and refined. A legal document set in Garamond doesn’t have the same feeling of authority and authenticity.

To put it another way, asking the US Government to switch from TNR to Garamond is tantamount to asking Americans to use British spellings (e.g. colour, centre, organisation). It’s still English, of course, but it doesn’t FEEL right to an American eye.

The other difficulty, of course, is that any document created today needs to be legible both on the screen and on the page. Garamond reads just as easily as TNR on the printed page, maybe even slightly better. But TNR is easier to read on the screen. From that perspective, a switch to Garamond doesn’t make sense.

Personally, I cast my lot in with Calibri. Microsoft commissioned Luc(as) de Groot to design Calibri with the screen AND the page in mind. First released in 2004, Calibri has now become the default font for all things Microsoft. It’s a humanist font that bridges the gap between man and machine. It’s not as hip as Helvetica, which works to its advantage, I think—it feels serious enough to be used in business without feeling trendy.

Calibri doesn’t save any ink, but it’s more practical for screen-reading. And the biggest savings will come when we don’t have to print it out at all.


I have quite a backlog to blog. I thought I’d at least post it all to give me a list to chip away at.

I pin photos of my Wednesday culinary creations to my Pinterest board, Another Wednesday Dinner. All of the following meals are on Pinterest; they may (or may not) make it onto in the future.

ketchup dinners
date   event dinner
Nov 26 1842 University of Notre Dame is founded Notre Dame Tailgate Chili, Irish Soda Bread, Orange Bowls
Dec 3 1854 Eureka Rebellion pomegranate pavlova and vegemite toast, served “stockade style” after the Eureka Stockade
Dec 10 Alfred Nobel Day dynamite Swedish pancakes
Dec 17 1903 First flight made by Wright brothers popcorn pork, deviled eggs
1938 Otto Hahn discovers nuclear fission deviled eggs, edamame
Dec 25   Pomegranate Mint Christmas Pavlova
Dec 31 Hogmanay (New Year’s Eve in Scotland) Ashet Pie (steak pie)
Jan 8 some Korean guy’s birthday Korean Saewoo Bokkeumbap (shrimp fried rice)
Jan 15 1919 The Great Boston Molasses Tragedy Chipotle Mustard Molasses BBQ Chicken
Jan 21 New England-Style Clam Chowder Day Denver-Style Clam Chowder (it’s orange!)
Jan 29 1845 Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven” first published Edgar Allan Po’ Boy sandwiches, Black Ravens for dessert
Feb 5 1985 “Official” end of the Third Punic War Punic Porridge, Pomegranates (aka Carthaginian Apples)
Feb 12 1809 Charles Darwin (Darwin Day) Potato Rissoles, based on Mrs. Charles Darwin’s recipe for “Potatoe Ripoles”
Feb 19 1473 Copernicus, Polish Astronomer Kielbasa and Cabbage
Mint Chocolate Day dark chocolate brownie with mint, toasted hazelnuts, and copernicus glaze (blackstrap, hazelnut, and mint)
Feb 26 1932 Johnny Cash, the Man in Black Johnny Cash Chili
Mar 05 Shrove Tuesday (Pancake Day), Observed Pancakes
Mar 12 1889 Vaslav Nijinsky, Russian Ballet Dancer and Choreographer Apple Cranberry Gingersnap Blini
Mar 18 1915 Gallipoli Memorial Day (Turkey; the Ottoman Naval Victory in WWI) Yurmurtali Ispanak
Mar 26 1931 Leonard Nimoy, Mr. Spock Vulcan Plomeek Soup
1812 political cartoon in the Boston Gazette coins the term “gerrymander” Boston Brown Bread

GRAMMYs and gettysburg

Nov 19 A Hat Cake Like Lincoln's for Gettysburg Address #fantasticdrivelNov 19 Grammy's Infamous Homecooked Supper feat. Milli Vanilli #fantasticdrivel

Wednesday Tuesday is my night to cook dinner. But it is also a weekly opportunity for me to share some fantastic drivel—things you didn’t care you didn’t know—with you, dear reader.

November 19 gives us two reasons to celebrate. Firstly, and less importantly, it is the anniversary of Milli Vanilli’s de-GRAMMYfication. That’s right: they lost their GRAMMY award because it was discovered that they were not the singers on their album. Secondly, and more importantly, it is the anniversary of the Gettysburg Address—one of the most powerful pieces in the history of the United States and one of the greatest works in the history of the English language.

Click more to find out what I made, and to see these graphics in detail!

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exploding whale day

Nov 12 Architeuthis Chowder for exploding whale day #fantasticdrivel

Wednesday Tuesday is my night to cook dinner. But it is also a weekly opportunity for me to share some fantastic drivel—things you didn’t care you didn’t know—with you, dear reader.

November 12 is “Exploding Whale Day,” commemorating a bizarre story involving a rotting sperm whale carcass, the Oregon Highway Division, and a half-ton of dynamite.

I wanted to celebrate Exploding Whale Day, but I wasn’t about to serve up sperm whale for dinner. I decided instead to prepare something using the sperm whale’s favorite food: the giant squid (genus: Architeuthis). I adapted this recipe for Seafood Chowder, using mostly calamari instead of the other seafood the recipe calls for. The result was delicious, albeit slightly rubbery, as squid usually is. It’s a bit of a stretch to call it “Architeuthis” chowder, since I don’t think there was any giant squid in the calamari I bought at the store, but let’s not quibble over cephalopod taxonomy.

The really interesting stuff is the story of the exploding whale. (click more to find out!)

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