Geoffrey Long
Tip of the Quill: Archives

July 2004 Archives

This ought to be interesting.

So according to a story in today's New York Times, Bush Opens New Campaign Phase With Dash Through Midwest, President Bush is claiming that we've "turned the corner on our problems". Oh, really? For all the ranting and raving that the Republicans have been doing about Kerry's "flip-flop" behavior, I'd like to see one of them try to explain away this ridiculous 180 from Bush's previous fearmongering to this apparent "Shiny Happy People" BS.

It bothers me that Bush is a self-serving idiot that's essentially a puppet for a cabal of fearmongering Uncle Moneybags. What bothers me even more is that he's so damned shameless about it.



If John Kerry can save a drowning hamster, he can save this country! Kerry in 2004! Yeah!


The new normal.

Wow, this weblog has gone to suck lately. The problem is, right now I'm not in much of a position to do much about that. I look around here and think, Dang, I need to do another Inkblots, need to incorporate some niftiness using Flickr or something, need to update my personal site and consulting site, and this and that and the other thing. Wow, I'm a slacker.

The problem is, I'm really not. Life's just been weird lately.

As you know, O faithful readers, the last two weeks were taken up with the whole ordeal dealing with my grandmother back in Ohio. To be fair, my mom was the one that handled most of it – and with an astounding amount of grace under fire, I might add – and my role was primarily moral support. Which, y'know, I'd like to think that I provided at least some of. Mostly I spent the two weeks helping out with things that needed to happen around the old family farm. See, I grew up in an old farmhouse built before the Civil War, complete with a pony named Misty that's essentially a four-legged lawnmower and a big old barn filled with my Dad's antique car collection. Lately, Mom's been dealing with Grandma's slow deterioration, and Dad's been continually trying to retire from the company where he was CFO for twenty-odd years, and I've been bopping back and forth between Ohio, Washington DC and Chicago. As a result, stuff around the house that used to be a concerted family effort had been piling up, like using Dad's backhoe to haul his dump truck up from the pasture (since its brakes had failed) so he could fix said dump truck in order to start building this lake he's been talking about, or turning our old dining room, which we almost never, y'know, actually dined in, into a sort of garden library/studio for Mom, which, y'know, I expect she'll use pretty much all the time. So while I was home I drove a backhoe, helped Dad a little with some of his other projects, and helped Mom install shelves into this eight-foot tall bookcase and move a bunch of her garden books into it, and swore that the next time I was there, if she'd gotten ready for it, I'd help move Dad's old desk up there as well as this little leather couch thing for reading. It'll be really pretty when it's done. My mom has a knack for things like that. Between Mom's interior decorating and my other Grandma being an art teacher, it's no surprise that I have some natural aesthetic skills with almost no formal training.

Apologies for the meandering entry here. This is not my finest mental hour. On top of all of this, the past couple of days have been spent polishing up this new site that just launched,, which is the newest brainchild from this woman for whom I've been doing freelance design work for the last, jeez, four years. It's a nifty site, an employment site kinda like Monster, only dedicated purely to medical professionals, and the interface I designed for it is so simple and beautiful it's almost Googlesque. (Yes, this is the one I posted about a few weeks ago where I said that I really hoped the client would go for it. She did.) There have, of course, been the requisite long list of gotchas involved in a new launch, especially since the backend was created by a third-party contractor, who did an amazing job, but necessarily added one more level of communication to the entire project. All things considered, though, the whole thing came out pretty darn well. I'm proud of it.

The point of that little tangent: That project was what I was mainly working on while I was home. There are now two coffee shops in downtown Wooster, Seattle's and The Muddy Waters Cafe (neither of which have websites, something which I wish I'd researched a little while I was in town; I probably could have whipped something up and saved myself a bundle in complimentary lattes). These two coffee joints are literally right around the corner from each other. As a result, I would wind up in Muddy Waters first to check my e-mail (Muddy Waters being a Wi-Fi hotspot), then pop over to Seattle's to spread out my mobile studio on a table in the corner, where I'd hammer for a few hours and then trundle back to Muddy Waters again to check my mail again before heading home.

Some people say "Work to live, live to work." In this case, it was more "Work to eat, eat to work" – or, more specifically, "Work to drink, drink to work." When the only 'Net connection you can find is a coffeehouse, you wind up drinking a lot of coffee or chai or whatever in one day. Whoof. I think I gained five pounds and jacked up my blood pressure five points from all the caffeine – which probably didn't help when Dad was teaching me how to drive his old Harley Sprint, this kind-of mini-Harley motorcycle that was built during this dark phase in Harley-Davidson's history when the company was owned by Italians that thought they needed a smaller, more entry-level bike. It may be smaller, but that thing was still a Harley. After doing a bunch of laps on wet grass in Misty's pasture, almost going over the handlebars once, and getting pretty much thrown another time, I think I finally started getting the hang of it. Someday I'll get a motorcycle of my own to go tooling around on. I doubt it'll be when I'm living in the city, though – that seems way more suicidal than it's worth.

It's funny. I miss Ohio. Not as much as I did when I was in DC – Chicago's Midwestern mentality is much more soothing to that than DC's cutthroat East Coast style – but there's this weird thing about going back to Wooster these days. With very few exceptions, almost everyone my age there is married with kids. My friend Mike Mariola has a wife, a 1-year old munchkin and his own restaraunt, for crying out loud. (Good on ya, Mike!) I'm happy for these people, don't get me wrong. But for me, right now, my path lies elsewhere. And hanging out in Wooster without my usual current set of peers, the unmarried late-twenties artist-professional folks, was a little odd, and a lot lonely. I may go back and settle somewhere around there someday, but probably not until I have a family of my own. Wooster's beautiful and homey and charming, but it's also stiflingly conservative and dead-set in its ways. It's grown a little since I left back in '96, but for the most part it's the same old Wooster. I'm not entirely sure how I feel about that.

Hanging out at home was great, though. If I'm uncertain about how I feel about Wooster, one thing I definitely miss is the beauty of Ohio skies at night, out in the country without any light pollution. The stars in Ohio are the most beautiful things you'll ever see, a vast, endless sea of constellations and comets. I miss that, and I miss the sounds of the country. Our neighborhood here in Chicago is relatively pretty and laid-back, but it's very mixed in its demographics, and we often get the late-night guys with ghetto blaster stereos blasting their way through, or the occasional early-morning screaming matches with death threats idly (I hope) lobbed back and forth. Mostly it's families and everyday folks, but those kinds of folks weren't something you dealt with a whole lot out in Ohio farm country. I like being close to as many amazing things as we are here in Chicago, but I miss the quiet nights, curled up with a book, reading or writing or just listening to the crickets and the occasional train as it rumbles by off in the distance.

I like Chicago, but the country is my home. In the words of the Great Gonzo, "I'm going to go back there someday."

Again, apologies for the discombobulated nature of this post. These are the thoughts that are going through my mind right now, these weird reflections on what it's like to be 26-almost-27, wondering about these different lifestyles, still trying to find a place for myself and, like my late grandfather used to say, "Doing the best we can with what we've got." After Grandma had the stroke, one of the first things she said when she could talk again was that she'd seen Grandpa. He'd been there in the hospital room as she was floating in and out. Now that Grandma's been discharged and moved to a nursing home, I'd imagined she's kind of spooked. She's kind of confused, and I'm not sure she's completely certain where she is even when she's having her most lucid moments. It helps to think that Grandpa's there, watching over her and just being there when my Mom and Dad and I can't. We love Grandma, and it's frustrating to not be able to help her any more than we can, but we can't keep our lives in limbo because of this forever.

There's a phrase that's been going through my head a lot these last couple of weeks: This is the new normal. It's been my mantra for dealing with Grandma's condition after the stroke, but it applies pretty much to everything. My scattered relationships with my friends and the people I care the most about, my consulting and writing careers, the way my friends are growing up and having kids, all this weirdness and fascinating, strange mixture of conflicting emotions about what it means to be a still-but-not-as-young adult.

This is the new normal. For better or for worse. This is the new normal, and we do the best we can with what we've got.

Beautiful website, spot-on opinion.

Seattle-based art director/designer/consultant Mike Davidson weighs in with All Hail the iPhone, a piece on why Apple is/should be developing a Treo-killer. Good points all around, and the guy's website is drop-dead gorgeous. Go check it out.


Video of the party?

Hey, does anybody know where I can find QuickTime video of the Gore and Clinton (and the upcoming speeches from Kerry and Edwards) online?


A million things.

Spent the day doing a bunch of catch-up somethings, like bug fixes for my life. Got my hair cut, cleaned out the car and checked its fluid levels, added some furniture to the apartment (thanks, Dad!), updated the Arbor Place website to version 2.1, tweaked the new MedHire website just a smidge, updated my Flash MX 2004 to version 7.2 (anything that makes Flash run lighter will be a big improvement), daydreamed some more about new toys, got a tech trial of the future syndication up and running, went out to dinner with Talon and Sara... All in all, it's been a very very busy and productive day, but boy howdy, for some reason it still feels like I haven't done that much today. Maybe it's because there's still (always) so much left to do...

Now there's an idea.

Ho. Lee. Cats.

Nicked from the always-illuminating k10k, there is apparently this little thing out there called a video magazine, and its name is smilefaucet. Weird name, but fantastic idea.

I wonder. I wonder.

Back on the air, updates pending.

Have returned to Chicago. Am exhausted, for many reasons. Updates to follow.


One thing ends, another begins.

All my love to Heather and Derek. Good on ya, guys.


Radio silence from Ohio.

Hey, guys. A week ago today my grandma had a massive stroke, and I've been here in Ohio ever since. As the modem is apparently broken in my PowerBook, the only place where I can get online is a wifi hotspot in Wooster, which is apparently having some major issues with outgoing ports or something along those lines, because I can't connect to make any updates here. At the moment I'm in an Apple Store in Cleveland, ogling one of the new 23" displays and hanging out with my mom, taking a break from all the medical stuff.

Anyway, long story short, I'm going to be offline for a little while longer. I'm not sure when I'm heading back to Chicago yet, since things with Grandma are still up in the air. She's recovering, but she's still really weak, and she's really unhappy in the nursing home where they sent her after the hospital. Yeesh, what a week.

Thanks for all the support you've been sending me so far, folks. I appreciate it. I'll catch you later.


I'm so going to hell for this.

There's a story in the New York Times today that Al Qaeda may be planning an attack to "disrupt our democratic process". In related news, Ralph Nader has announced the receipt of a huge anonymous campaign donation...

(Yeah, I should leave the standup to Ken and Kori.)


I can't believe I'm scooping Ken on this:
David Hyde Pierce, Tim Curry and Hank Azaria are bringing Monty Python's Spamalot musical to Chicago!
It's swinging by here on its way to Broadway. (Thanks, Kori and David!)

A little beautiful in the morning.

I may have to retract my previous complaint about k10k if they keep posting nifty things like this: The Sad Song. According to k10k, "According to Fredo, 'it was shot entirely out of sync with a little coolpix775 camera on its side, using the 15 seconds of 15fps video capture capabilities'."

(I was trying to figure out how to slip another 'According to' in there to make it that much more meta, but I haven't had my coffee yet.)


Sick of the urban.

I am getting so bloody sick and tired of the same crap popping up on all these design portals, like k10k, newstoday, heavy backpack and so on. It's the same tired, exhausted hipper-than-thou attitude that so pervades just about everything from Gap and Urban Outfitters these days. I'm just sick of it. Sick of the stripes, sick of the tongue-in-cheek cutesy slogans, sick of the 70s/80s retro hipster baloney. Can we please do something new? We've seen all this crap before. Next!


Revisiting Magellan.

I've held off on commenting on all the neat things that Apple announced last week, in part because I wanted to actually sit and watch the QuickTime stream of Steve Jobs' keynote address myself, and in part because I've been insanely busy all week. Now that I've finally had an hour to sit and watch, I feel like I can provide some honest commentary.

Magellan 2004
First off, on the displays I'd so anxiously awaited... Wowsers. Even though I'd heard rumors of the 30-inch display for months, when Steve actually unveiled it, the result was breathtaking. I have great difficulty justifying the nearly-$4000 price tag on one of these babies – I only paid $2000 for my car, for crying out loud – but that doesn't mean I'm not sizing up my incoming-work list to try and figure out how to budget for one. After having been confined to a 14.1" PowerBook screen for as long as I can remember, that much screen real estate is droolworthy. Completely thrilling.

Second, I was initially underwhelmed by the advances that were trumpeted in Tiger, but I'm much more excited about them after having watched the keynote address. Safari RSS? OK, cool. iChat AV with multiple users? OK, cool. Automator? OK, cool. These things are nifty, but pretty much just OK, cool. What really makes my ears perk up, though, are Searchlight and Dashboard. Searchlight thrills me because it means I can change the way I deal with my email – instead of diligently filing everything that wends its way into my inbox, I can simply read new mail and rely on Searchlight to index and store those emails for me. That could be a huge timesaver. And Dashboard? Ah, Dashboard.

Is Dashboard a Konfabulator-killer? Yep. Is Dashboard a Konfabulator ripoff? Nope. Konfabulator is a Desk Accessory ripoff, whose only main innovation was permitting people to write apps in JavaScript, which was a great democratizing step. Write apps without needing to learn C++ or even Carbon or Cocoa? Cool. Where Dashboard really shines is by taking that one step further – Dashboard apps are basically web pages. The idea that I could use Dashboard to write the – gasp! – personal dashboard application I've been designing for the last fistful of years is thrilling. Now, sure, I imagine getting some of the data I want could be difficult. For example, I would like a Dashboard app that could query my bank accounts and my PayPal account, a la Quicken. Yet I don't imagine the banks are going to be that open with that particular data, which I sort of support but also sort of mourn. We'll see. Regardless, it'll be interesting to see what all Dashboard apps can tie into. I'd love to see a Dashboard app that could tie into the to-do list in iCal, providing a better interface. And if .Mac sync could be linked to, say, a Treo 610, then my blueprints for Magellan, my personal life-management system, could finally start becoming a reality.

In short, the future's so bright, I've gotta wear shades. Now I just need to start saving those pennies. Back to work!


Along Lake Shore Drive.

OK, one photo before I go to bed.

Lake Shore Drive

Weblog design notes.

Oh, and I guess I should comment on the slight design tweaks I made here a couple of days ago. Nothing too major, but I moved my headshot down to the bottom of the page beside my bio, updated said bio, removed the calendar from the sidebar to save space, and have resolved to do some more tweaks eventually. The problem with keeping this weblog as the editorial of an otherwise static webzine is the pressure to redesign everything if I just want to redesign the weblog. I guess I could strip the weblog out of here and bounce it over to, but enh.

One thing I am tempted to do is start posting more pictures, a la Derek's That man is constantly taking jaw-dropping pictures with the exact same camera that I use, and it's making me jealous. I do have a couple neat ones I took this weekend when my friend Laura was in town that I might post here soon, but I'd ideally like to go into the photography section of my portfolio and rebuild it to incorporate photos... Or come up with some way to dynamically update the whole friggin' system and just have my most recent portfolio addition appear in a thumbnail to the left of this here weblog...


Epiphany anticipated.

So the inimitable (or not) Jason Kottke just redesigned his website. In his announcement post, he makes the following remark:

I mentioned false starts above. Late last year, I had an entire design that I'd been working on for almost 9 months (on and off) done in Photoshop, ready to be cut up and coded. It was boxy, had a tiled background, diagonal stripes, drop shadows, and lots of ornamental finishes. It was pretty, clean, lots of personality, a nice design all the way around. And if there's a dominant visual style (trend? fad?) right now, that's it (some fine examples here, here, here, and Lance beat it over the head here). I just didn't want to go there. So I went in a different direction, partially to avoid the crowd and partially to challenge myself. Do you know how hard it is to design text-heavy Web layouts that don't use boxes? Boxes are the lazy Web designer's best friend. ;) I felt bad enough relying on all the horizontal rules.

Great minds, I guess. The weird thing is that I missed this had happened until five minutes ago, which means that this weblog that I read fairly frequently anticipated tonight's little design epiphany by three days and I'm just now catching up. Wow, I feel like a slacker.

(Please do read that last sentence with all appropriate irony; what a sad commentary on the pride I take on being up-to-speed on large-scale adult geek clique gossip.)