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I installed the Bitstream Vera fonts, and the Microsoft Web Core Fonts. I made a page to compare them on.
The Conclusion: Vera is too big, its size 14px matches the other fonts' 14px size. Vera doesn't have an italic version for the serif font; my fontserver is not obliquing it, and I hear it looks weird anyhow.
Notice how, in the graphic below, the "14px" after the "Bitstream Vera Serif is not italicized. It should be: