Geoffrey Long
Tip of the Quill: Archives

August 2004 Archives

Lock and load and rock and roll.

This is my favorite feeling in the world. I just had a client unchain me – not fire me, but say "Look, go to town on this. Knock yourself out. Do what you would if this were one of your personal projects."

Mwa. Ha. Ha.


This is amazing.

Cribbed from Warren Ellis, apparently the bodies of three WWI soldiers have been found preserved inside of a glacier.

I'm not sure what's more creatively intriguing, that image or this passage that occurs late in the article:

Among the relics left in Italy by World War One Austrian troops was a series of tunnels buried deep within the Marmolada glacier known as the "City of Ice" that largely disappeared during a heatwave last year.
I mean, come on. That's narrative gold right there.



There's a scene in Zach Braff's Garden State where Natalie Portman looks at Zach and says, "You're in it right now, aren't you? That's what my mom always says when she looks at me and sees I'm trying to work something out in my head. You're in it."

I've been in it all morning.

This happens to me sometimes, but with increasing regularity lately. I'll have a massive to-do list, but I can't focus enough to actually dig into any of it. My friend Sara pointed out this morning that my hands are actually shaking, although I've only had one cup of coffee this morning. Granted, it was a Panera Bread house latte, which has a bunch of sugar in it too, so that probably has something to do with it, but still. It's like the thoughts inside of my head are rocketing around like one of those super-hyper-bouncy-bouncy balls.

I'm sure a large part of this is simply my needing to do a better job of regulating my diet, but also there's a sense of needing to mediate thinking up here and doing down here. To conceptualize for a while and then realize for a while. To split my time between living on Mars and living on Earth.

I came back to the apartment to get away from the noise at Borders and Panera Bread, where I like to do my work sometimes, and the quiet is helping me refocus, so maybe I'll be able to plow through a good chunk of that to-do list this afternoon after all. I certainly hope so – but I should do a better job of noting what I'm thinking about when my mind is going 110. So far this morning, I've been thinking about designs of cars, studios made out of converted barns, thinktanks, personal content management systems, essays, interactive versus transmedia storytelling, ColdFusion, PHP, coffee, animation, clothing, comment systems, blogging, movies, plant grafting, music, and that's just the start of it. Maybe I need a sideblog to start making personal notes of that thought stream. I wonder.

Say it with me now! Bang bang hammer hammer!

Ah, the neverending refrain of my life: bang bang hammer hammer. If my life had a soundtrack, it would be an infinite symphony of metaphorical power drills and electric saws.

A quick note: Adam Greenfield has once again made my linked-list with a very insightful piece on the psychology of a redesign and the state-of-the-art for content sites. It's been almost a year since Inkblots went on another accidental sabbatical. I'm mortified that I can't cobble these things together on schedule, but I've done a lot in the last twelve months. Hell, the last six months have been pretty chaotic. Nevertheless, the itch is coming back with increasing force. The trouble is that this time around, I want to do something different. You know, something really different. I want to do something that launches Inkblots back up to the forefront of what content sites are doing, and then pushes that envelope even further. I have some ideas as to how I want to do that, and I have some very solid concepts that I've been scribbling down in notebooks for the last couple of years that I just might finally have the chops to finally accomplish. The trick is, as always, finding the resources: that tight double-helix of time and money, joined with the third issue of content from amazing people.

I'm also trying to figure out what the best way is to start renumbering these things. I should probably concede that naming issues after the seasons is a farce; I should therefore probably swipe a page from McSweeney's and start simply numbering them again. That's what we used to do, way back in the day. It may be time to do that again.

But. Before I do that, I need to make a new online presence for a film company I'm involved with, finish up a couple of client sites, and, ideally, finish my novel. I'd also like to attempt NaNoWriMo again this year, but I still wince when I remember the crashing, catastrophic failure that was for me the last two times I tried it.

Bang, bang, hammer, hammer. Oh, well. At least I'm single.


New high score!

OK, well, "high score" might be a weird term for it, but I just finished typing in almost all of the stuff I've been writing lately. My current page count as of this moment is 129, with a word count of just over 33,000. In the last two weeks I've written almost 7,000 words and very nearly 30 pages. This afternoon I faltered; I got right up into the middle of the Act Two climax and took a wrong turn. I didn't get far into the wrong turn before I realized it was a wrong turn, but still, I blew about an hour or so trundling down that particular path before I realized, no, sir, I don't like it.

(Extra points to those of you in the crowd who caught the reference.)

Still, at 33,000 words I feel like we're on a good path to the end of the book, if I can get through this next part in one piece. The novel will be as long as it needs to be, but now that I feel like I can see the end without a telescope I'm wondering exactly how long that actually is. I don't think breaking 50,000 words is going to be a problem (so it'll still be a novel according to the NaNoWriMo definition), but I don't want to make it drag on for sheer virtue of making it longer. That seems silly. I wonder what the average length of a novel is these days, anyway?

What's absurd about this right now: one thing that's definitely spurred on this most recent creative streak is my decision to keep it small. To keep it tight. At one point I'd decided that the entire story was going to pack up and fly to Washington, DC for Act Two. I got about fifteen pages into that wrong turn before I realized that I already had too many characters without wanting to resort to introducing the cast of the Washington, DC division. So the whole story is going to take place in the same town – which, bizarrely enough, I'm discovering was probably what I had in mind since Day One. No joke, here I am writing new scenes literally years after I wrote their predecessors, and I'm finding myself saying, "Oh, yeah – that's why that abandoned car was in the woods!"

My mind is a strange and freaky place to hang out, believe you me.

Well, isn't this weird.

A brief observation here. It's no secret that my favorite writers on the planet are Neil Gaiman and Jonathan Carroll. I wear my influences proudly not just on my sleeve, but tattooed across my forehead. I also like Stephen King, Nick Bantock and Dave McKean. (And, here, I want to throw a quick Bad Dave, no cookie out to Mr. McKean, who does not have an official site of his own; is owned and operated by Allen Spiegel Fine Arts, who are a wonderful peddler of his fine wares but does not offer the kind of wonderful stuff as, which is, alas, woefully out of date and doesn't feature the one thing which would make the ultimate McKean website perfect: a weblog by the artist himself. Oh, well. Maybe after Mirrormask wraps we'll find ourselves gifted with just such a thing, as part of the promotional materials.)

Um. Right. Where was I? Oh, yes.

The point of this rambling tirade is that last night my friend Ruth and I were sitting in a Mexican restaurant, and somehow I got lured into the "So what's your novel about?" ramble. (I should warn everyone out there who is ever likely to talk to me in person that the "So what's your novel about?" ramble is a long, self-deprecating, drawn-out affair that tends to start out general and then get way too specific way too fast. If you really want to know, ask. If you're just being polite, don't – I'll talk both your ears off, and most likely your nose and both eyes as well.) After that conversation (and several more) had concluded and we were settling up the tab, I started thinking about what I've been writing here this week about influences and art, and then thinking about my novel.

While writing it, I've been overly conscious of two things: one, that the basic plot point got swiped by an episode of The Simpsons several seasons back, which pissed me off because I still haven't seen the episode in question (nor do I think I want to, at least not until after this project is done) and two, that given the depths in which I wallow in the work of my influences, I'm terrified that I'll come across as the "poor man's Gaiman".

Last night, after my ramble, I realized something. My book is almost nothing like anything any of these guys have produced. It's barely Gaimanesque. It's barely anything. What it is is several hundred pages of pure me. One part philosophy, one part mythology, one part technology, one part action, one part romance, and one part setsunai, which is an absolutely wonderful Japanese word introduced to me lately by the great Adam Greenfield in this post, wherein he writes:

There's no good single word for this feeling in English; I generally think of it as setsunai, which is a close-to-untranslatable Japanese word I can best render as "that beauty which is also melancholy or painful." Setsunai, to me, is a feeling of glances and gestures made in pictures, when through what is in the photographic frame you are offered some tiny understanding of what is outside it and must remain outside it.
Yeah, it's like that.

Bones of the Angel is rife with the same feeling of sweet sadness that weaves its way through almost all of my stuff, especially Small States and Auld Lang Syne, except with the occasional shootout or car crash. There are probably echoes of Gaiman and Carroll and McKean in this piece, insofar as they, too, have a certain feeling of setsunai as well. But it's also its own thing, which I'm growing prouder of as it meanders on towards completion. It feels very much like a first novel, even though it's not; I've written several other things like this that will never see the light of day, but I needed to get those out of my system. But it feels like a first novel because I feel like it has touches of just about everything I'm always going to write about. It's most likely the longest thing I've ever written, and is much more philosophical than any long piece I've ever done. It's coming into focus, which is a wonderful and terrific feeling. It's gaining cohesion. It's coming together. And it, most wonderfully of all, is its own thing.

Rereading this post, I realize how utterly self-congratulatory this sounds. Please don't think I'm being arrogant here – this is the voice of a man who finds that a weed that's been plaguing his garden for half a decade is finally starting to bloom, and it turns out to be really beautiful and cool. Once this particular writing jag fades and the writer's block comes back, or once I start going back over this and finding that it doesn't read nearly as well the second or tenth time, the buzz will probably fade, but right now someone could ask me, "Yeah, but do you believe in it?" And right now, right now, I could smile with a gleam in my eye and say, "Yeah. Yeah, I really do."

I can't wait to show this to you guys. I might be the only person ever who enjoys it this much, but I think it's really cool, and I'm hoping you will too. As always, stay tuned.

Holy cow, progress.

Wow. I guess I should have posted that quasi-obituary months ago. In the last couple of weeks, I've plowed through almost the entirety of Act Two for Bones of the Angel and laid almost all the groundwork for Act Three. I'm writing as fast as I can, filling several of those little Moleskine journals with page after page of First Draft stuff, which for me is both the most exhilirating and often the hardest part. It's wonderful, like a massive block has been removed from my head. Whether or not this stuff is any good remains to be seen, but I'll start polishing as soon as I start typing it into the Master Draft on my PowerBook.

I should note, though, that I think pretty soon I'm going to pull down the Work In Progress section. As the book nears completion, I'm going to have to start casting a wary eye towards actually landing an agent and getting it published. That said, the mighty mighty Cory Doctorow has done a wonderful job of paving the way by giving his books away for free and still making a damn good name for himself in the process. That, coupled with the Virtual Book Tour that the cool-yet-humble Kevin Smokler founded and I've been helping with, could yield an interesting misadventure: a novel released as a free PDF into the blogosphere and then discussed on a tour. I think I might like to go one step further, though, and maybe involve some of the people I've worked with through Inkblots, maybe even asking some of them to contribute extra creative material for what would eventually become a sort of "Special Edition" DVD or website of the book.

These are the things I think about. Possibilities. Potential. Of course, I need to finish the damn thing first, but that's coming along nicely at the moment, so I feel justified in being not a little jazzed. :)

Nothing makes a writer happier than writing.


A good way to start a Friday.

I found a trailer this morning for a new movie called I Heart Huckabees, which is billed as "An Existential Comedy" and looks like it could easily become my favorite movie since The Royal Tenenbaums. In select cities October 1; I am hereby sincerely, deeply hoping Chicago is a Select City.

Also! I am looking to catch a screening of Zach Braff's Garden State as soon as possible. I am, if nothing else, a sucker for this kind of cinema, these little moments.

I am also now planning to reinstall two scenes into my novel which I'd previously cut because they felt too luxurious, because after watching Miyazaki's Spirited Away again last night and realizing that my favorite scene is the one with the train slowly whipping over the ocean, I recognize that those are the moments I really love. Like the moments I've been shooting for in my short stories "Auld Lang Syne" and "Small States".

I should warn all comers that the novel, Bones of the Angel, is going to be one weird-ass mishmash of the supernatural, the philosophical, the technological and the very, very human. It's a story about loss and the ways we try to heal, or try not to. It's part Neil Gaiman and it's part Wes Anderson and it's a whole bunch of other stuff as well. Just like in my last post, it's a bunch of the stuff that I like, all wrapped into one. It's the kind of book I'd love to read if I could ever find it at Borders, but I couldn't, so I wrote it myself. And, after all, isn't that basically what should fuel this kind of thing?



This will probably come back to haunt me someday, when my musical tastes have evolved a bit more, but right now, as I write this, I can't stand Björk's music. She does, however, have fantastic taste in artwork, as evidenced by the kick-ass aesthetics that accompany her new album, MEDULLA. Of special note is the amazing free screensaver available for download, which is full of beautiful pictures of jellyfish and other aquatics.

It's funny, actually, how I can appreciate so much of an artist's life except for a few things that make me shake my head and go, ick. I don't care a great deal for Dave McKean's type of music, if you've ever heard it – a strange, dissonant form of atonal jazz. I also don't share Neil Gaiman's taste for sushi, or his penchant for punk rock. I'm also not a big fan of Sigur Ros, although People That Know Such Things assure me that they are, indeed, quite cool. I just don't get it.

This doesn't bug me that much, it just means that every artist has different things influencing what they create. I also suspect that two different artists with the exact same tastes would create two entirely different things. I'm just infinitely amused by the endless variety that things like this provide.

Which reminds me, I should go pick up the new Tori Amos DVD. Scuttlebutt has it that there's a CD in there of previously unreleased songs, and somehow the early fall is always perfect Tori season to me.

Novel ideas.

I should have done this a long time ago. By starting work in earnest on a new project and getting myself neck-deep in client work, I've managed to unblock myself on Bones of the Angel. Since I was in Ohio two weeks ago, I've written fifty pages' worth of new material and plowed almost three quarters' worth of the way into Act Two, not to mention pencilled in the outlines of Act Three and introduced the last of the characters I'm going to need to get me through the end of this baby. I know what the climax of Act Two is going to be, and I know how to get to the climax of Act Three, which is a visual that I've been carrying around in my head since 1999. If I can keep going like this, I might have the novel finished by Halloween. Rock on!

Baiting Mr. Butterfield and Ms. Fake.

So you'll notice that I've been playing with Flickr lately. So far this seems like a great tool, and I'm interested to see how I could combine Flickr with Moveable Type to create an automation system for my portfolio. This does, of course, raise the question of whether or not entries into the Flickr system need to be photos. I've just added an illustration to the mix, and I'll probably be adding some more. Let's see if Caterina and Stewart take the bait and comment, shall we?

My contrarian nature.

Somehow it seems like I can never get anything done unless there's something else I'm supposed to be doing. Like tonight. I've got a pile of freelance work that I need to be plowing through, and what did I do? Wrote another chapter on my novel. Sheesh.

(I wrote another chapter of my novel! Woo-hoo!)


The Station Agent.
A character from a new story I'm working on.
Where the lines converge.

If you look at my personal site, you'll get a pretty good idea where my interests lie: storytelling, visuals, interactivity, motion and music. What I'm trying to do is find the spot where those lines converge, and then find out how to make enough money doing that to afford a bunch of land in the middle of nowhere, a bunch of equipment and the ability to travel. It's hard enough making it in any one of those areas, but noooo, I've got to try to make it with a combination of all five. No wonder I'm so stressed out all the time.


Missing people.

Today Matt Haughey posted a picture to his Ten Years of My Life photoblog that hit me like a punch square in the stomach.

To you-know-who, I don't know where you are right now, but I hope you're doing well, and that you're happy.


And, of course...

No sooner do I post that little quasi-obituary for my writing then things start shifting up in the neurological attic again. As always, dear reader, stay tuned.


Writing on hold.

At the moment, the writing projects are on hold while I focus on the design and the computer stuff (you know, what pays the bills). I have a couple things brewing which could be fantastic though – stay tuned.

New art online.

It's worth noting that late last night I added eight new illustrations to my Illustration portfolio. One of them is the office that I uploaded earlier this week, another is the Bitchin' Camaro (now retitled "Who's Driving?"), three of them are from Bones of the Angel and two are from my days at the old dayjob. The one called "Staff Meeting" was from when we had a particularly offensive guest speaker show up. I forget who it was, but this guy was the oiliest, slimiest fellow I've ever had the displeasure of meeting. Yuck.

It's also worth noting that there are three pictures of Michael Coldman, the main character from my novel, up there. One's a headshot, one's a full-body shot, and one's an action shot. The discrepancies between these three images are huge, and one of the main reasons why I'm reluctant to actually try my hand at the graphic novel I want to do. In short, I have a hard time drawing the same character exactly the same way twice. Oh, well – I was hoping to do something in time for this year's Small Press Expo back in Bethesda, but I don't see that happening on my current timeframe. Maybe next year.

I also have a huge pile of critters that I could upload from my "monsters" collection, the bad guys from my nebulous video game idea, but I'm not sure the best way to do that. I'm beginning to think that what I really want to do is scan hundreds of these bad boys and then just make one big movie with 'em all, one enormous QuickTime MTV-cut slideshow as a presentation. I think that would be almost the ultimate portfolio. Maybe this weekend?



Oh, man – now I really want to see Brian Dykstra: Cornered & Alone, this off-Broadway show in NYC right now that apparently features the anti-Dennis Miller. Man, I love a good rant, especially when it includes observations like this:

The Partnership for a Drug-Free America (the people who gave us "This is your brain on drugs")... supported by pharmaceutical companies, wants to keep marijuana outlawed, he says, "because who'd need Prozac, Valium, Zoloft or Paxil if weed was legal?"
Oh, man, are we in need of a really good rant artist right now. C'mon, Dykstra, step up to the plate!

From the "ya think?" department...

Man, check this out: according to The New York Times article "Report Finds Tax Cuts Heavily Favor the Wealthy"...

Fully one-third of President Bush's tax cuts in the last three years have gone to people with the top 1 percent of income, who have earned an average of $1.2 million annually, according to a report by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office to be published Friday.

The report calculated that households with incomes in that top 1 percent were receiving an average tax cut of $78,460 this year, while households in the middle 20 percent of earnings - averaging about $57,000 a year - were getting an average cut of only $1,090.

The article goes on to note that this 1% pays a disproportionate amount of taxes, but I've gotta side with Warren Buffett on this one – that top 1% doesn't need the money half as bad as, say, those of us in the lower 99%.

Heh. That ought to throw a little gasoline on the pyre.

While I'm being political, has anybody else noticed that Bush and Cheney's recent behavior towards Kerry has been remarkably like schoolyard idiot bullies clapping their hands over their ears and yelling "Lalalalalalalalaaaaaa" when the smart kid starts showing them up in front of everybody? Maybe we do learn all we need to know in kindergarten. Pffft.

Bitchin' Camaro! Bitchin' Camaro!

OK, so I know this is probably against some basic designer's rule of ethics, but I'm working on a concept for a client tonight and I had to share this one, just because it's such a radical departure from my usual style, and I'm jazzed about it. Check out my bitchin' Camaro!

Somehow I doubt the client's going to go for it, but one way or the other, this baby's going in my portfolio. Those guys at Urban Outfitters are hacks!

Quick bit of pride.

One more quick thing before I go tumbling back into the professional abyss. Long-time readers will be familiar with my plans to build a system called Magellan, which is designed to be a massive overarching personal management system. Finances, long-term projects, to-do lists, all of this stuff was to be included in the system. I've been working on this in my spare time for the last year-and-some-change.

Well, one thing that's been a real hurdle is the hardware: to do this properly, I need three monitors. I sat down and ran the math, and buying the ubersystem I wanted new from Apple was going to run somewhere between seven and ten thousand dollars. In the words of Saint Wayne Campbell, "Scheyeah, right." Still, I've been trying to save my pennies and put something together.

Remember what I said in that earlier post about every geek worth his salt in my generation having a box or two of outdated hardware lying around? I finally decided to dive back into those boxes and see what I could find. And, lo and behold, I managed to assemble more or less exactly what I needed out of my current PowerBook (as the main CPU), my original Apple Studio Display (a dinky 800x600 display, sure, but it has TV-in, which is a perk they don't offer anymore), my old PowerBook (which won't charge a battery anymore, but still runs decently well when plugged into a wall), a copy of Abyssoft's Teleport and a small pile of adapters. The resulting rig is pretty darn sweet – the display is jacked into the main 'Book, and the older 'Book sits to the right and is controlled by the main 'Book's keyboard and mouse -- which basically turns it into a third monitor, but with a built-in processor. This isn't a lot of use for main business stuff, since I can't drag windows back and forth, but what it does do insanely well is work as a jukebox and an always-on browser.

I can hear you scoffing at using this thing as a glorified iTunes jukebox. To you critics, I ask: have you tried streaming music over to an AirPort Express yet? Big, huge, honking processor hit. I don't know what's going on there, but attempts to run Flash, Photoshop and stream a little 10,000 Maniacs at the same time result in a machine wheezing harder than a geriatric marathon.

Anyway, the point of this is to say that I accomplished pretty much what I wanted to do at a cost of something like twenty bucks. (Which is what a DVI-to-VGA adapter goes for these days.) Somewhere out there, my garage-sale addict mother is beaming with pride, I just know it.

The joys of small business.

There is a unique pleasure *cough* to spending two hours on a Thursday morning tring to get your Excel spreadsheet, your copy of Quicken, and your bank statements to all line up and march in step. It's a good thing I'm the son of a CFO and some of this stuff is genetically genuinely interesting.

Right. Books more or less balanced. Back to work-work.

Oh, and more finishing season stuff will be posted as soon as I can chisel some elbow room out of this to-do list. For now, be satisfied knowing that the kick-ass project I mentioned before is now up and live over at Big fancy "FINISHING SEASON" graphic and commentary to follow.


Three things to be learned at a Dunkin Donuts at 11PM on a Wednesday.

  1. Despite the fact that they are the same shape as a cream stick, the same size as a cream stick, and the same color as a cream stick, the vanilla long johns are not, in fact, cream sticks. They are, indeed, cream sticks without the cream, thus losing the best part and, in one's humble opinion, utterly defeating the purpose.

  2. When the lone woman running the restaurant has an Indian accent so thick it needs subtitles, it would seem that the best course of action is to nod, smile and hope for the best. Despite the fact that Dunkin Donuts has been known to miraculously and inexplicably concoct one of the tastiest mochas ever, when the Indian woman gets a confused look on her face and then holds up the chocolate syrup bottle and say, "Coffee? And this? Kuhreemahnshoogah?", resist the temptation to be polite and at least ask to see if she knows what espresso is. Otherwise, no matter how hard you may try to drink the result, it will still taste like the inbred cousin of the coffee drink that gets spit out of those vending machines in Interstate rest stops. Only infinitely worse.

  3. A poorly executed donut is still a donut. Poorly executed coffee is water for the roadside bushes.


I am so not a programmer. MySQL can bite my butt.

Crazy, crazy day.

Wow. I just want to go on record as saying that yesterday was insane. I got a whole bunch done that I wanted to, a ton that I needed to, and set the gears a-grinding to do some other nifty projects. A workaholic's work is never done, thank God. This morning I woke up feeling like a mogul. Cool feeling.

That said, I also still suffer from the artist's dissatisfaction – looking at what you've done and thinking to yourself, "Yeah, but it could be so much cooler..."

Ah, but what's a heaven for?


I'd like to go back there someday.

I would greatly like to go back to the world from Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere. I'm sitting here watching the DVDs, listening to Mr. Gaiman's commentary, enjoying his little comments and whatnot, and wondering what else he has in store for those characters.

In the meantime, I'm still finishing. Another project and another link will be posted tomorrow. Stay tuned!

Finishing Season, 2.1: PinDrop Audiobook Theatre!

PinDrop Audiobook Theatre Company
I haven't done this in a while, and a whole frickin' bunch of projects are now wrapping up, so I thought I'd make a couple more Finishing Season posts this week.

First up is The PinDrop Audiobook Theatre Company, a new group here in Chicago that's aiming to bring a new level of drama to audiobooks, sort of like old radio plays. This is cool. At the moment, the only samples up there are for children's works, but there are some new pieces in the making which could be insanely great, coin a phrase. More on that as it develops.

Anyway, the site that I built for PinDrop is, like its logo, razor-thin and super-elegant. My initial plan was to do something that played off of the idea of theatre, and do something with imagery of an actual 1920s theatre, but after meeting with the client we selected a much more refined feel, so I went back to the drawing boards. What emerged is a very streamlined design, very cool, very minimalist. I'm digging it.

More announcements soon!


Land. Speed. Record.

So yesterday my friend Matt shot me an email with a problem. He's starting up a small company and he needs a website, el pronto. Usually this wouldn't be a challenge, but I'm on my way out of town this weekend for a reunion with some old Kenyon compadres and he needs it done by Monday. Whoa.

Well, we did it. A complete small site with all original art – and more work-intensive artwork than I've done for almost any project in recent memory, I should add, since it involved nine hand-drawn and then photocollaged images – done in just over twelve hardcore hours. Oy, my hands. Oy, my eyes – this also involved me getting four hours of sleep last night. Should I mention that these guys are also in England? God bless the Interweb.

I can't link to the finished project yet, but Matt should have an announcement here very soon. They're putting their finishing touches on stuff, and I'm out the door. For now, though, a teaser of my entry in this site:

Geoffrey's dream office

How cool would that be? Go check out Matt's site to see the one I did for him, too. :)


Why it's good to leave Ohio.

In my hometown, someone opened up a porn-and-love-toy shop downtown. Almost instantly the place was being picketed. It's still being picketed, and the sucker's been around for a couple of years now. What's gutwrenchingly sickening is the way the community stubbornly refuses to connect the dots between the disintegration of its city and their refusal to pass operating or improvement levies for their schools or to execute their plans for a new library.

It's tragic, because I don't believe these people openly recognize how self-defeating their behavior actually is – I think they simply feel overtaxed at a point where the local economy is still completely depressed. A ton of jobs have been lost in Wooster lately, and there's no great improvements looming on the horizon. Small-town Ohioans are typically Republicans for this very reason – a dislike of higher taxes and big government. I can understand that when it comes to controversial elements like the National Endowment for the Arts and NPR, which are usually identified with the "citified New England yuppies", but when it's so clearly in your own backyard, I find that utterly unconscionable.

In the words of H.L. Mencken, "Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want and deserve to get it good and hard."

Expressing ourselves.

AirPort Express
So this week I've been having insane problems with a whole bunch of things, and yesterday when my AirPort base station decided to crap out on me, it was the last straw. The thing had been problematic for a while, and so I decided to slap down some plastic and fix this problem. Talon and I marched up to the Apple Store in Old Orchard, where I was intent on purchasing a new Airport Extreme base station and an Airport Express for the stereo.

Imagine my utter shock when they had the AirPort Expresses in stock, but no base stations. I suppose that perhaps the new toys were driving base station sales. I was all bummed out, and we were disgruntled that we'd have to drive all the way down to the Michigan Avenue store (which is a beautiful temple to All Things Mac, but parking is a real bizznatch). We were about to leave when the girl behind the counter said, "Are you sure you don't want to go ahead and buy the AirPort Express now? This stack here is all we have." Apparently they got a ton of the suckers in yesterday and were unable to keep 'em on the shelves. Go Apple.

So I shrugged and said, "Sure." The transaction goes down, Talon and I trudge back out to the car and get ready to head South to Michigan Avenue, and I'm cracking open the box.

God bless Apple. They make beautiful stuff, and they have the whole user experience thing down. They also charge you an arm and a leg and don't put anything in that box that they don't have to. Like, say, cables. Which turned out to be just fine – Apple must know that everyone in my generation has a big box of wires and cables somewhere. (I have two enormous steamer trunks full of 'em.) The only things in that box were the little white box, the manual, the warranty info, and a CD with the AirPort 4.0 software and a new version of iTunes.

Anyway, so I'm sitting in Talon's sweet ride and we're pulling out of the parking lot, and I say, "Waaaaait a second... Why couldn't we do this with a second Airport Express instead of a base station?" We look at each other, engage in a five-minute debate, and then turn the car around.

Long story short, now we have one AirPort Express station in the office, wired up to the speakers there, the cable modem and the printer, and a second one in the living room hooked up to the stereo. It's awesome.

One bit of advice, though: if you do this, set them up one at a time. When I wired them both up and then installed the software, two Expresses showed up with these long unintelligible serial numbers as their main distinguishing feature. There's an "Identify" option, which is a nice feature that blinks the light on the Express orange and green to show you which one it is, but for some reason it didn't work.

The AirPort-Express-without-Base-Station solution probably isn't for everyone. For instance, Expresses are limited to 10 users, they have a more limited range (about 100 feet vs. 250) and I'm not 100% certain you could use a crossover Ethernet cable to simply jack a computer without an 802.11b or 802.11g card into it. But, all things considered, these little babies are beautiful, they simplify the clutter on your desk, they remove a good chunk of what one usually plugs in and removes from one's laptop, and so far they're working like a charm.

[Update: my friend Andy has just informed me that a crossover cable to an unwired Mac wouldn't work because it wouldn't get a DHCP address from the router.]


Clash of the Anchormen.

Slate has an interesting piece up on what happened when Ted Koppel and Jon Stewart faced off on the convention floor. I'm sorry I missed that clip – that would have been interesting.


Quick recommendations.

Just realized I haven't done this in a while, so if you're at work this fine Monday morning and are looking for some good tunes to listen to while you're hammering away, check these out. Almost all of them (if not all of them) should be available at the iTunes store.

Also, on the iTunes store there's a video of Norah Jones playing "Don't Miss You at All" from Sessions@AOL. Must-see. It's a heartbreaking performance, and she's sitting there with her hair kind of mussy, wearing a CBGB t-shirt and jeans and looking like someone you'd love to just hang out with. It's that beautiful lack of glamour that makes guys like me love her even more.