Security, Privacy, and Resetting the Net

Accusations of online surveillance by government entities are rampant. By now, you have all seen or heard of at least one clandestine government program, like PRISM, designed to spy on citizens by circumventing what was once considered to be fundamental security.

The validity of these accusations and programs are in question, as would be expected. Is there really a threat? If so, is it really as bad as described? Are those spreading the accusations seeking only to undermine the stability of their governments? Are those defending their governments simply working for their governments or living in fear of them? I doubt we’ll ever know the truth, but why should we let that stop us from protecting ourselves regardless?

Today, over 12 thousand people joined together to reach over 12 million followers to Reset the Net by promoting security and privacy. Companies like are already promising better security by the end of the year, and you can protect yourself now by adopting the use of many security-focused apps and privacy-focused alternatives to popular web services, like using DuckDuckGo instead of Google. By making ourselves more secure users, we promote a more secure and private internet. Whether online surveillance by government entities truly exists or not, how could you say that a more secure and private internet is a bad thing?

Now, get out there and promote a more secure and private internet! Don’t underestimate the power of your voice online. Be the change you want to see in the world.

Custom Fonts Without Plugins for WordPress Themes

After moving back, I realized that I missed my custom fonts. They didn’t add anything functional of course, it’s just an aesthetic thing. Adding custom fonts was super-simple on, and if you want to add custom fonts to your self-hosted WordPress blog, there are plenty of plugins like Easy Google Fonts and Typekit Fonts for WordPress, but I don’t like to use plugins if I don’t have to. I kind of missed out on the technical aspect of the web font revitalization during my three years away, and was glad to find out that adding custom fonts without plugins was a lot simpler than I had thought.

First, you’ll need to decide if you’re just going to use Jetpack’s Custom CSS module or make a child theme. If you’re unfamiliar with child themes, I recommend just using Jetpack, though a bonus step at the end of this will require the use of a child theme. It is import that you use one of these two methods, because if you modify the parent theme files, you will lose your changes whenever the theme is updated.

Once you’re all set, you’ll need to select the fonts that you want via Google Fonts (because it’s simpler than the other web font directories) by finding them and choosing “Add to Collection.” Once you’re done, hit the “Use” button, and if you know what font styles and character sets you need, choose them, otherwise leave it as-is. Now, choose the “@import” tab under the “Add this code to your website” section, copy the code there, and paste it into your Jetpack Custom CSS Module or child theme’s style.css file. This blog uses Ubuntu and Open Sans, so my import line looks like this:

@import url(|Open+Sans);

Simple, right? Now for the slightly more time-consuming part. You’ll need to open your parent theme’s style.css file, find every font-family declaration you want to change, add the selectors to your Jetpack Custom CSS Module or child theme’s style.css file, and add your new font as the font-family. It’s really not as difficult as it sounds. For example, I’m using Open Sans for the body-like text and Ubuntu for the heading-like text here, and it looks like this:

body, button, input, select, textarea, .site-description, #cancel-comment-reply-link {
font-family: "Open Sans", Helvetica, Arial, sans-serif;

h1, h2, h3, h4, h5, h6, blockquote, .comment-author {
font-family: "Ubuntu", Georgia, Times, serif;

That’s all you need to do, just use either your Jetpack Custom CSS Module or child theme’s style.css file to import the custom fonts and replace them. You don’t really need an extra plugin for that.

As a bonus step, if your theme imports its own custom fonts via its functions.php file, you can dequeue them so that they no longer load (since you aren’t using them). To do that, create a functions.php file for your child theme (you will need a child theme to do this), and add a new function to remove the fonts. It varies depending on the theme, but this guide should help, and here’s what I did for Sorbet:

function sorbetchild_replace_scripts() {
wp_dequeue_style( 'sorbet-source-sans-pro' );
wp_dequeue_style( 'sorbet-pt-serif' );
add_action( 'wp_enqueue_scripts', 'sorbetchild_replace_scripts', 20 );

So, that’s all you need to do. Like I mentioned, it’s quite simple and the bonus step to remove existing web fonts isn’t entirely necessary. With that said, I’d like to give a big thanks to Kathryn Presner for pointing me in the right direction on this. Now, get out there and give your site some personality with a few new fonts!

Reading Rainbow: Going Twice as High

readingrainbowReading Rainbow is an award-winning educational show which ran for 23 years on PBS. The show was designed to educate children on the magic of reading, rather than just the technical aspects of it. By that I mean the ability to build your own world via a great work of fiction, rather than simply reading and comprehending the words. That aspect of reading was sorely missing in public education when I grew up, it’s still missing today, but presenting that on television to an era which became more and more addicted to television was a stroke of genius.

The series was canceled in 2006 with reruns airing until 2009. Though the series could no longer be seen on television, classrooms continued to show video tapes when they could, and many public libraries had episodes available. In 2012, the rights to the show were purchased by host LeVar Burton and his business partner, Mark Wolfe. The classic episodes were then released on iTunes and Amazon Instant Video followed by an interactive reading app for iPad and Kindle Fire.

Today, 1 in 4 children in the US cannot read at grade-level by 4th grade, increasing the likelihood that they will fall behind or simply drop out. In response, Burton and Wolfe have launched a Kickstarter Campaign to bring Reading Rainbow to every child they can by expanding the app to more platforms (game consoles, more mobile devices, streaming TV boxes, etc) and providing it all for free to as many schools as possible. The 35-day campaign set a new record by exceeding its goal in just 11 hours, but further donations continue to flow in, and they are forming even grander plans than they started out with.

I vividly remember watching Reading Rainbow on television and checking out the videos from our public library. It’s safe to say that it changed the way I think about books for the better. Books are amazing, because you can create your own world, cast your own actors, write your own music, and more. A book is just words on paper, but you are the one who makes that world a reality. That’s what Reading Rainbow taught us, and I hope it continues to teach more children just the same.

Please donate to Reading Rainbow’s Kickstarter campaign to bring it and its message of reading enjoyment and reading proficiency to children around the world!

Update: Some links in this article have been changed and removed following the effects of a recent legal action, but the text content remains unchanged.