Geoffrey Long
Tip of the Quill: Archives

April 2003 Archives


There is a problem with both wanting to be a writer and wanting to be somebody who Does Things. The first is someone who makes up worlds for others to play in, and with a little luck is rewarded somewhat decently and helps others make new versions of those worlds in other media. The latter is also someone who makes up a world, but chooses to enact his stories in the real world – like a businessman, or a lawyer, or something of that sort. I would like to do both, but I'm discovering that by trying to do both I'm not able to do either very well. Rats.


Happy birthday, Heather!

A quick note to wish the one, the only, the fabulous queen of Mirrorville, Heather Champ a very wonderful birthday. You blaze trails with elegance, integrity and style. Cheers.


The joys of classic literature in the country.

After having bounced around the Midwest for the better part of a week, I spent today doing nothing. Well, I actually did a great deal, for all the more I'd intended to do nothing. But that's sort of how it goes on most nothing days, I've found.

For the vast majority of the day, I had the house to myself. This was a Good Thing. For those of you who either don't know me personally or whom I've met in the apres-Shreve part of my life (i.e., the last seven years), I grew up in an old farmhouse just outside of Shreve, Ohio. It's a great old house, very roomy and located on a couple of acres of land with a garden, a barn, a milkhouse, some woods with a creek, and a pony. It's the kind of house which is kind of creepy-fun to stay in alone, because it creaks at all the right times to make you wonder. You know you've locked all the doors, you know it, but you still wonder. And then there are the squirrels and other sundry woodland creatures that often take up residence in the attic in the winter, that scuttle and scurry around in the ceilings over your bedroom late at night, which, while it would be conceivably quite unsettling to the uninitiated, is oddly comforting to me. (As opposed to the occasional harmless mouse that hides somewhere in the walls in your room and nibbles on things at strange hours of the night, which results in your flinging balled-up socks into targeted corners, in hopes that the impact might startle the little bastard into fleeing, or sound just enough like a cat to have the desired effect. Which it inevitably doesn't.)

Anyway, so I spent the day in the house. Which was great. I really miss living in the country – there are almost no sirens, the neighbors aren't right there when you look out the window, and for the most part it's really, really quiet. The best bit, though, is when you come home after dark (preferably bearing a piping-hot Coccia House pizza for dinner) and it's a clear night, and you look up and it's all just stars, everywhere you look. I never understood the evils of light pollution until I lived in the city for a couple of years, and now I don't think there's anything anywhere as beautiful as a clear night sky full of stars. It's depressing to think that I probably won't get the chance to live in the country again until after grad school, whenever that's going to be. It's such an integral part of my soul, and it feels so good every time I'm back.

And there's nothing like a lazy afternoon in a country house, kicked back with a good book. I spent the better part of the afternoon reading Jules Verne's Journey to the Center of the Earth, which I haven't read in years. This was hot on the heels of King Solomon's Mines, which I read for the first time last week. These are great books, and are reminding me why I started writing in the first place. It bums me out that I allowed the lit set at Kenyon to have such an impact on me that I still feel guilty and like a "lesser" writer every time I contemplate writing – or even reading – just some fun, escapist fiction. I still have a hard time reading Mercedes Lackey or Piers Anthony or even large amounts of Terry Pratchett, but when you get back to the classics, like A Study in Scarlet or The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, it reaffirms my faith in works that transcend genre, or even the notion of escapism, to become literature. (All you naysayers who sniff at the idea that Sherlock Holmes is literature can go stuff an entire unabridged copy of War and Peace where the sun don't shine.) I'm reading these classic works and wondering which contemporary pieces will similarly stand the test of time. I think the main litmus test is whether or not a popular work brings some largely unexamined element into the public eye. King Solomon's Mines, for example, popularized the African adventure, paving the way for Lord Greystoke to let loose his Tarzan stories, and the Sherlock Holmes books, of course, sparked the public taste for deductive-reasoning detective stories. The question then becomes, which contemporary works are really serving as eye-openers? So far, the best recent example I can think of is Jurassic Park. If you look a little further back, you get Star Wars and The Godfather.

Take old stories, old genres, or elements of the world, and make them new. Make them exciting. Make them accessible. Make them thrilling. Make them engaging. That's the trick. The hard part is finding the right raw material. And, of course, finding a nice, quiet house in the country.

How 20th century.

Dang it. I had this great vision of sitting on the floor of the living room here in my parents' house tomorrow, watching TV and hammering on web projects. Then I remembered that this house has neither AirPort, TiVo or a DVD player. Rats.

Hmm. I wonder where I can find fifty feet of phone cable in this house...

One more thing.

If things get screwy around here tomorrow (Saturday), don't panic. I'm planning on trying something.

Mwa ha ha.

Moveable Type goes boom.

Wow. I go away for a week and suddenly the "weblogging industry" gets all hyper: Ben and Mena not only hired Anil, but they made a bunch of other announcements too. Their new product, TypePad, might just be a Blogger-killer. A hosted, turnkey Movable Type installation? Cool.

Oh, please, please, please...

According to this SpyMac story, Apple is working on an accounting application. This is the best news I've heard all day. C'mon, baby, sync with my bank account! Publish client invoice histories and billing statements to extranet sites! Tell Intuit just where it can stick its horrible, lousy, mindbendingly bad products!

Mmmm. iWork. Mmmm.

Yet another iWish.

I know it probably won't show up in it, but aside from the other things I've wished the iPod could feature (Bluetooth, FM tuner, Rendezvous, 802.11g, phone, etc.), it would be really nice if the iPod could record. Imagine, a little line in audio port, the input converts to MP3 on the fly... It's be great.

Oh, where have I been for the last couple of days? Chicago. Business meeting. Went well. I'm now in Ohio and officially beat, but stoked about new directions. Also: my cousin Phil rocks. He's gone from being an impressive athlete to an impressive visual artist. I'm so proud of him.


Ever forward.

So my new personal site has been public for less than a week and I'm already casting a skeptical eye at its homepage. I need a place where I can post news, or little "recently added to the portfolio" blurbs, or "current projects include" bits.

The advantages of publishing a weblog on that site's homepage are becoming very rapidly apparent.

Looking for a stand-in.

So for a small myriad of reasons, it looks like I will not be able to attend next week's Emergent Technology Conference after all. Bugger. If anyone in the San Francisco area would care to cover it in my absence, please let me know.


If only.

So Apple's probably going to release the G5s this summer. Well, I sure as heck hope they do – we Mac guys are starting to get seriously smoked in the bandwidth race. (And you can yabber on all you want to about how a 1GHz Mac is faster than a 3GHz Dell because of this, that and the other thing. Whatever. I want to be able to smile and taunt 'em GHz for GHz.)

Anyway, so I'm also hoping they come out with a new form factor for the G5s. Even something like this fantasy mockup would be cool, but I want to see something completely out of left field. Yes, the G4 cases are cool, but come on – we've had those same basic cases since the blue-and-white G3s, and that was what, five years ago? Sure, it's gotten a little slicker since then, but can we see some real industrial design breakthroughs again, please?



Wow! Have you folks seen the 2005 Ford Mustang concept car? That sucker screams James Bond. Okay, maybe more Xander Cage, but still – grunt, grunt, grunt...


So I finished my taxes on time, sent 'em off, and then yesterday I decided to work on Me Stuff – something I hadn't done in weeks. I had all that inspiration built up from earlier in the week, you know, so I had to do something. So I did.

I didn't finish the Spring Inkblots, as I'd hoped. See, on Tuesday night I went to see I.M. Pei lecture at the National Building Museum. It was fantastic – another inspiring element – but while I was there, I bumped into a girl that I'd studied with at The University of Exeter way back in 1998-1999. It was great seeing her again, and when we parted I told her to swing by my web site and drop me an email. Which one? I suddenly thought to myself, and found I was reluctant to confess that I have three or four different URLs I could give her. So I gave her my personal site, And then I remembered that said site was not only abysmally out of date, but also pretty embarassing.

So yesterday I hammered on And this morning, I finished it. (Kind of. I have a ton of portfolio pieces that still have to be added.) And then, this afternoon, the new went live.

What do you think?


Mixed blessing.

I'm not sure if it's a good thing or not that food can be used to belay panic attacks. Like tonight, for instance. I'm trying to do my taxes, juggle several client projects, answer over 115 emails and turn around a couple of personal thunderballs to boot. Up comes the wave of overattempting, down goes the overattempter. Thrashing and desperately flailing for a lifeline, our hero orders pizza. 45 minutes later (and $18 poorer), our hero feels better. Completely unmoved to do anything but lie on the couch in a grease-induced food coma, but better nevertheless.

Sigh. So much for the diet.


Any Movable Type gurus out there that would like to help with the integration of MT into Inkblots, any assistance would be greatly appreciated.

New things in the world.

Wow, all kinds of good new stuff are showing up today. First, hot on the heels of the Mac OS X 10.2.5 update we saw last week comes the public release of the new Safari beta, which introduces tabbed browsing. I'm not sold on this whole thing yet. I'm the kind of guy who browses with multiple windows all the time, and I appreciate how tabbed browsing will clean up my desktop, but I'm still not 100% convinced that this is as earth-shattering as people are making it out to be.

What's much cooler, in my opinion, is yesterday's unveiling of Metafilter Music. There's some beautiful music on there, all by Metafilter members and programmed for nice and easy streaming through iTunes. So far I love Adrober's 'Praxis' and Jazon's work as Cannery Row. Go to, go to.

Feel that? Feel that stirring? That creative rumbling? I love that feeling.


There are inspiring events that have happened lately. There are inspiring web sites that I have discovered lately. There are inspiring technical advances that have been installed lately.

Maybe if I can get my taxes done and some work out of the way and the errands run that got postponed from last week, Inkblots will make a triumphant Springtime return this week. That'd be cool, yes?


Return of the Jish.

Look, look -- Jish Mukerji has returned!

Auto love.

So my longtime chariot, the "manly teal" Taurus, is on its last legs and I'm keeping my eyes open for an alternative. So far I've seen a couple really cool options, which include:

  • Mini Cooper S. This has been a fantasy of mine for a while. It's utterly impractical for someone who may be moving in the next 6 months, but it tops out my list for style and perceived fun to drive, two elements that are huge after driving the Taurus. Big plus: it's nowhere near as expensive as I'd expected for such a nifty set of wheels. Tricked-out cost: $23,800.

  • Volkswagen Jetta. Also a longtime favorite option, my friend David has one of these and it's a nice car. Upsides: practical, sporty and fun. Downsides: kind of small, fairly ubiquitous. If I'm going to concede to buying a small car, I might want to just get the Mini and do it in style. Tricked-out cost: unsure, due to a busted-ass website.

  • Honda Civic Hybrid. My roommate just got one of these, and it's impressive. Upsides: affordable, a smooth ride, it's dead silent when it comes to a stop, and hybrid = good vibes and damn good gas mileage. Downsides: again, no chick magnet. Approximate cost: around $22,000.

  • Saturn Vue. I saw one of these on the highway the other day and was really impressed. I don't normally dig SUVs, but this one seemed like it might be fun. It's also extremely affordable for an SUV. Upsides: neat styling, practical, good for hauling stuff but also seems fun. Downsides: sort of yawnworthy. Probably not a chick magnet. Tricked-out cost: $23,656.

  • Volkswagen Tourareg. I spent some time poking around this morning, checking out the Tourareg. Wow. Nice car. It's not available yet, and it's probably way too posh for what I want my car for, but it's a pretty impressive-looking ride. Downsides: not available yet, way too expensive. Estimated cost when it hits the streets: $45,000 - $55,000.

In other words, except for the one outlier, I'm basically looking at around $20,000 - $25,000 and debating between style and practicality. Right now style is winning – I'm 25 and am looking to have some fun. What do you guys think I should do?


2013 nothin'.

So in the April issue of Wired, they've posted a wish list for 2013. On it is a wrist-based iPod that sounds a lot like what I've been clamoring for on this weblog for the last little while now.

Writing style by Gaiman and Carroll, hair by Fiennes.

So I got into this long conversation tonight with my friend Laurie (yes, the same Laurie I mentioned earlier). Somehow we got onto the topic of hairstyles, and I mentioned that my long-running preference for kinda-long hair was founded a loooong time ago. And, believe it or not, I think I can actually pin a date on it.

In 1994, Ralph Fiennes was just damn cool.

Since then I've done all kinds of crazy stuff with my hair -- ponytail, buzzcut -- but this is the style I keep coming back to. Unless I'm feeling really lazy. On those days I'm just Beatleesque.

There have to be more important things to write weblog entries about than this.


Of course.

All web geeks will know exactly which browser I'm referring to if I mention "the bane of CSS". That's right, Netscape 4.7. So, which browser do you think my main contact on this job is using? You get one guess.

Of course.

Closer still.

Narrowing the gap between me and my vision of a portable communications network are the following cool new toys:

These are all still just steps in the right direction -- I still haven't seen a unified solution. Here's hoping it shows up from Apple in their next revisions of the iPods.

Exhausted but happy.

So last night I went out with my friend Laurie, and after driving around town for a while just talking, we wound up going to see The Core at the Wooster Movies 10. It was actually a better movie than I expected, but that may have had more to do with the way we saw it instead of the movie itself. To properly amplify the fun quotient of any movie, go see a flick that was panned but has still been around for a couple of weeks, and then go see the 10 o'clock showing on a Tuesday night. You'll be yawning the next day, but you will most likely also be the only people in the theater, so you can sit on the floor in the middle aisle and heckle the movie the whole way through. It was great.

Sometimes life is easier, simpler and better in Ohio.


A fictional interview.

The first thing I noticed about him were the tattoos.

It wasn't something I'd expected, really, not at all in keeping with the way I'd originally imagined him. Sure, he was still tall, and broad, and had a way of looking at you from over his silver-rimmed glasses that seemed like a strange cross between a professorial lecture and a "did you get the joke yet" look. Those parts were all in place. But I hadn't expected him to be quite so muscular. He was supposed to be bookish, for crying out loud, a mixture of Caleb Carr and the Cranberries' Fergal Lawlor. I hadn't expected his black T-shirt to be so tight, or the long, winding snakes that wound up his arms between scatterings of strange symbols.

I also hadn't expected his voice to be so smooth. When he spoke it was deep, not a rumble but an old sound, full of rum and butter. "You see, that's the way it goes sometimes," he said, leaning back in his chair and drumming his knuckles on the table. "You get this expectation, this two-dimensional role that you want someone to play, and then they show up and refuse to play by the rules."

I nodded. It was true.

He reached a huge hand behind his head and fiddled with his ponytail. His hair was long and black – I'd gotten that part right too – and he had it tied back with a tight gold band. In a weird sort of way, he looked like a young Steven Seagal, but without all the zen-master bullshit. "So what do you want to talk about?"

"Um. Right. Okay." I fiddled with my notebook for a second, then gave up and set my pen down, clicking on my microcassette recorder instead. "All right. Tell me about where you grew up."

"Ah. That." He leaned forward and picked up his coffee. He stared into it for a second, then did that thing, looking over his glasses at me. "My folks died in a plane crash. You knew that much. And I grew up with my aunt, a nun in New York. You knew that too. What you didn't know was that I wasn't sent off to boarding school because my aunt didn't know what to do with kids. I was sent off because I kept terrorizing her. By the time she sent me off to the Academy, she was convinced I was a devil worshipper." He grinned and pointed to his arms. "And I was."

I blinked. "You were a Satanist?"

He chuckled. "Sure. I studied all the black magic books I could get my hands on. Aleister Crowley, John Dee, and a whole bunch of guys I guarantee you've never heard of. They were the interesting ones. They were the ones who got it right." His eyes sparkled. "I'll bet you didn't know that one night in August, back in 1989, my friends and I got a dead crow to stand up and dance in circles. Missed that in your notes, didn't you? It was the creepiest fucking thing I'd ever seen – rigor mortis had already set in, and you know how crows just kind of hop anyway, so this thing was doing this really herky-jerky half-walk around the fire. It looked like a spaz trying to work a marionette. It was incredible. It only made it about fifteen seconds or so before it keeled over again, and nothing we did could get it back up again, but it was intense."

"Oh, come on. Are you sure it wasn't just some nerves spasming or something? You know, like how chickens can still run around after their heads have been chopped off?"

"Positive. We found it dead on the side of the road, half-eaten by something. I was amazed enough of the tendons were left for it to move at all."


"Tell me about it."

"So where'd you find the spell?"

"What do you mean, were'd we find the spell? In a book, of course."

"Some moldy old thing, stashed away in a trunk or something?"

"Hardly. We found it in the New York Public Library. Fuckin' great occult section in there. The best stuff is in the books that look like utter horse shit. All those 'moldy old things,' as you so poetically put it, are only good for doorstops. You've got to look for the not obvious things if you want the good stuff."

"So... Ever do anything nasty to anyone?"

"Me? No. I was tempted, though. You know the story about how my advisor at Harvard was screwing my girlfriend. When I found out about that, I spent an entire afternoon surfing the Net looking for human immolation spells. I wanted to set them both on fire, from the inside out. I didn't find anything, though, and after a while I realized how foolish it all was. So I transferred instead."

"But wasn't that just as foolish? You know, just as overdramatic?"

"Nah. I hated it there anyway. I didn't have any friends, the place was full of preening bastards all getting ready for sparkling careers in inheriting. I needed someplace a little more low-profile. That's why I came to Beckett."

I nodded. "Good choice for that."

"Yeah." He grinned. "That, and all the ghost stories this place has goin' on. Ohio's got so many doors to hell, it's not even funny."

I laughed. "I had a professor back at Kenyon that you would have loved. He would give these great ghost tours every Halloween, and his delivery was always perfect. Dude was amazing."

Michael leaned back in his chair. "See, that's what I'm talking about. I want to get a degree in folklore or something and do that kind of shit for a living. Write down all these great stories that are just getting lost, you know?"

"Yeah. Or make some up."

"Hell, yeah. All the great old stories have to come from somewhere, right?"

Channeling Josh Davis.

So I'm back in Ohio, remaking a website I built five years ago. It's mildly horrifying opening up pages built in GoLive CyberStudio 3 -- it's all table-based, utterly unexpandable stuff. It's vindicating too, though, being able to fix all these things using CSS and, in so doing, both make the site accessible and improve its load time a thousandfold.

However, as I'm doing this there's also this weird feeling that I'm dismantling something that was done in my own style and putting something up in its place that is somehow oddly reminiscent of Josh Davis. Not his angled funky Flash work, but his simple, elegant Arial-based designs. This is not a bad thing – the resulting site is a much better fit for an "electronics for industry" company – but it is a little weird. I guess my 20-year-old self had a decidedly different sensibility than my quarter-century self.

That, and he didn't know jack about hand-coding HTML. Jeezus.


This weblog has been mediated for my protection.

See you later.


Designer, design thyself.

So why is it that I can create websites for anybody other than me? Clients, no problem. Friends, no problem. My own company and personal site, problem. There's a reason, and even Inkblots here haven't been updated in a while.

I think I'm going to throw over this whole Interweb thing and join a band. Or write my novel. Or something. Whoof.


Allergic to bad UIs.

In William Gibson's new book, Pattern Recognition, his main character works as a consultant for whether or not a new brand will work. The basis for her skill in this strange designomancy is a form of allergy, where she has strong panic attacks when she encounters an overblown brand such as the Michelin man.

I'm beginning to think I have the same allergy to bad software. Like QuickBooks. Which I'm discovering is infinitely more evil than I'd suspected, in part because I started poking around and in part because I found their main competitor, MYOB AccountEdge. MYOB offers Vcard support -- which means that you can drag and drop your contact list from Entourage straight into MYOB and have it prepopulate your contacts there -- and allows exporting of invoices either to HTML or as emails to said clients, which is huge. However, all my attempts to get my invoices ready on either program ran into huge bugs. For starters, QuickBooks' claim to support "easily customizable" invoices is bullshit -- you can only import a logo as a PICT file, which is so antiquated it's not even funny and isn't even really the proper format for such a thing anyway. (Ever heard of an EPS, or even an Illustrator file, you jerks?) Further, while they claim you can change the fonts, you can only change the fonts of the data in the boxes, not the labels for the boxes themselves. This is utterly moronic. Oh, and MYOB? All my attempts this morning to export PDFs resulted in blank files. I don't get it.

Bonus suckage: I mentioned meandering around There, and only there, did I discover the services they're marketing to Windows QuickBooks users. Online billing! Merchant accounts! There they are! But, oh, wait, what's this? You have to pay extra for them? And you can't tie an external pre-existing merchant account into QuickBooks, you have to use theirs? Why, I do believe that's the sweet perfume of utter horse crap I smell emanating from this product...

I'm beginning to think my next "Fixing" essay is going to outline what all a small business really needs in its accounting and tracking software. There's definitely a market out there for a QuickBooks killer, believe you me. And it wouldn't take much.

On Netmusique.

Courtesy of k10k comes my new favorite webradio station, Netmusique. Good 21st-century jazz. Goodfunky, definitely goodfunky.


I hate Bill Coughlan.

CulpritI just want to say that my friend Bill Coughlan is an evil, cruel bastard. I spent all damn afternoon walking around feeling really stoked, really inspired to get moving on my novel again, to dive back into all my attempts to get my old projects off the drawing boards and make 'em real. All because of today's post to his weblog (to which I'd direct link, but said link is apparently hosed). And all, I should add, because after this morning's post I completely and utterly forgot what day it was.

I hate this man. And by God, I will get him back for this. And you know what? My vengeance will not be limited to April Fool's Day. Oh, no. Revenge of this caliber can (and will) strike at any time, when he will least expect it. It will be mine. Oh, yes, it will be mine.

No April Fool's.

So, what with the war and the crappy economy and everything else, I really wasn't feeling up to doing anything festive for April Fool's. That's not to say that some people aren't up to their usual tricks.

What I have been doing is a lot of cleaning and a lot of bookkeeping. I'm still occasionally barking out loud curses at QuickBooks -- like when attempting to import my logo into their templates for invoices and the like crashed the app -- and am still heavily considering their money-back policy. We'll see. I like its basic premise, but I am utterly unconvinced as to their implementation.

I also have friends here -- the lovely Laura Thomas and her boyfriend Benjamin are staying with us for a couple of days. Lots of anime watching. Miyazaki is a genius. Also lots of trying to stay warm. Snow in almost-April is evil. Maybe that's the big April Fool's joke this year. Or maybe it's Saddam and Osama bin Laden on their supersecret moon base wielding those pesky weather weapons again. Cursed terrorists!