Geoffrey Long
Tip of the Quill: Archives

October 2004 Archives

Happy Halloween!

A quick note here to wish you all a very Happy Halloween. Be happy, be spooky, and be safe.


Geoff 1, Deer 0.

I grew up in the middle of the woods and cornfields. I went to college in the middle of woods and cornfields. Last night I hit my first deer – in the suburbs of Columbus, Ohio.

Ah, justice.

The final score: I walked away unscathed, except for getting a bunch of airbag dust in my eyes, nose and sinuses. The car's windshield is being replaced this morning, and my Dad's already cruising eBay for new airbags (which, if the dealer installs them, is a four-digit procedure). The hood's a little crumpled and there's a mean dent in the front right fender where the sucker's antlers punched a hole in it (we think), the front turn signals are broken, and the cruise control and the tape deck no longer work (the cruise control, I believe, due to their sharing the same area of the steering wheel where the airbag deployed, but the tape deck's breaking is beyond me).

BUT, the car still works, I don't have a single bruise, and I can now say that I've bagged my first deer. Jeez. It could have been worse – much, much worse. Case in point: Nick's recent misadventures. I'm thanking God and my lucky stars things worked out as well as they did.

Oh, and you know you're a designer when you go out first thing the next morning to snap pictures of the nifty spiderweb patterns made in the shattered windshield. With luck, I can use them in a client design somewhere to pay for the repairs.

Welcome to Geoff's lemonade stand! What can I get you today?


Long Way Round: this show rocks!

Oh my gosh, folks, you have to watch this show. Ewan MacGregor and Charley Boorman's Long Way Round on Bravo. This show is incredible – I totally want to do this!

Intimidation tactics to keep Democrats away from the polls in Florida.

Jesus, people, how anyone can support the current administration on Tuesday is beyond me, especially when the proof of administration tampering with the electoral process is everywhere. Even the Brits are finding evidence: "New Florida vote scandal feared", from the BBC. (Thanks, Bill.)

Amen, brother Tim!

Awesome. Ohio Democratic Congressman Tim Ryan tells it like it is.

Oh, in case anyone was wondering, this weblog officially endorses John Kerry. Duh.


Wow. Anybody that wants to see something truly beautiful should wake up early some morning and take a trip down Lakeshore Drive here in Chicago, watching the sunrise over the lake. It's something to see.

This morning I woke up at 4:45 AM. I'm not sure why exactly; I went to bed last night sometime between 11:30 and midnight, which is early by my standards. My normal bedtime is between 2 and 3 AM, which was one of the major driving factors behind my leaving my old dayjob and going full-time freelance. They were very flexible and accommodating, allowing me to shift my schedule forward to I could arrive late and stay late, but the real kicker was that I can't stand alarm clocks. As long as I can remember, I've been sleeping for about six hours or so every night, which I can and will do naturally, but if something wakes me up in the morning I get sick as a dog.

Anyway, so I woke up today before 5AM, did a little drawing, got cleaned up, and then decided to head south to pick up a client check first thing this morning. I'm now sitting in a Peet's Coffee more or less downtown, waiting for the rest of the world to wake up. There's a beauty to the world first thing in the morning. It's a little sliver of the peace and quiet that I so desperately miss from living out in the country. I love Chicago, but I miss that tranquility every single day. I feel like Gonzo, sitting beside the campfire and wistfully singing, "I'm going to get back there someday." Someday. I'm laying the groundwork now to get there -- I just need to remember that when I'm working fiercely against the clock and cursing the immortal souls of my noisy neighbors.

Either that, or I need to start getting up at 5AM more often. Something to consider.


It's like real-life The West Wing.

I think this photo helps sum up where the joy of West Wing used to be, and where the real world should be after next week. Wow. Next week. Hard to believe that all of this hooplah will be over in a week, save for the lawsuits, recounts, secessions, and civil war. Buy your bottled water now.

Seriously, there's something a little weird about having The West Wing jump the shark as the real world maybe – maybe – moves to takes its inspirational place.

And another two down...

Today saw two more voiceover sites go live: Eileen Kugman and Chad V. Holtkamp. The way things are going, I'm going to have produced over 50 websites in 2004. That, my friends, is a somewhat dubious distinction.

Go Sox!

...And somewhere out there, Ryan Ruopp is doing the Dance of Joy.


Two down (sorta)!

It's almost complete – he still has to do the MT install for his weblog, and I may need to do a little Flash tweakage – but I've finished a brand-new site for my trombone-tootin' amigo Andy Rozsa. Check it out!

Finally comprehending the allure of suburbia.

I have always insisted that I would never live in the suburbs. I want land, dammit, not a backyard the size of a postage stamp. But living in my new place in Chicago has taught me the virtue of suburbia: no shared walls. My idiot asshole upstairs neighbors like to come home and blast inane repetitive music over and over and over again, and apparently their stereo is located directly above my workbench/desk. Tonight when they came home and fired it up, I snapped and actually screamed, "Shut up!" It didn't do any good, of course. I was this close to going upstairs, pounding on their door and throttling the living daylights out of that idiot. I swear to God, why is it so bloody hard to find an hour of peace and quiet anywhere?

I'm also this close to using technology to return fire. I am contemplating obtaining an array of cheap, yet very very loud, speakers and mounting them to the ceiling, aimed straight up. I will then wire these speakers to GarageBand, concoct a completely dissonant rhythm, set it on infinite loop, start it playing and then head off for a weekend in Wisconsin.

Miserable bastards.

Remind me why I should care?

So Apple released the new iPod Photo, a 40GB or 60GB iPod with a color screen and video-out for displaying photos. Now, if it had been video it displayed (and I'm not 100% certain why it doesn't, unless of course it's a limitation of the video chip they can squeeze into a 6-ounce chunk of hardware), this might be cool. You could give the finger to the MPAA and rip your DVDs, dump 'em in your pocket and plug it into your friend's AV system for easy watching. That'd be pretty spectacular, and it's where we're going – but we're definitely not there yet, and for $600 I don't think I'm interested in this interim step.

For $600 I'd rather buy a Treo 650, then throw in some extra cash for a Bluetooth headset and a couple of gigabyte SD cards to carry around my favorite songs. It's weird, but I seriously suspect that Palm is currently in much better standing as the keystone element in the Personal Area Network than Apple. If Apple releases a new Newton, or adds Bluetooth to the iPod, or adds a phone to the iPod, or even just frickin' buys Palm, they've got a shot at the next generation of gadgetry, but if they're going to be so conservative with their iPod capabilities, that sky-high stock price is going to come crashing back down to earth real fast.

All right, back to work...

One down!

One voiceover site finished, and a towering pile yet to go: Jim Robesky. Consider this Finishing Season Lite.

Call me future boy!

Wow, big news this week for guys like me. First off, the Treo 650 was finally announced by PalmOne. It's supposed to be available from Sprint in November for a whole ton of cash. Second, Macromedia gave a demo of the next generation Flash player at a conference in Tokyo, and the inimitable Colin Moock has links to the videos. There's stuff in here that's absolutely stunning, and renews my belief that the convergence of these technologies is going to be astonishing. Next!


Lock and load and rock and roll.

One personal site relaunch. One personal corporate site. Two personal sites for friends. One personal corporate site for a friend. Twelve voiceover sites. Two major corporate sites.

How the hell did my to-do list get this out of control? My personal challenge to myself – get as much of this done as possible by midnight on Thursday. Let's get ready to rock.


Bruce Mau's incomplete manifesto.

I may have already noted this here – I know I've come across this before, and it's definitely the kind of thing I'd want to share with you, or remember myself: Bruce Mau's Incomplete Manifesto for Growth.

Lately I've been listening to Mr. Mau quite a bit. He gave a lecture this morning as a part of Pop!Tech 2004 on his new project, Massive Change. I'd previously eyed this with a somewhat cynical eye, but the more I read about it, the more I like it, and the more it seems in line with what I've been thinking lately.

My thought processes lately have been... I'm not sure, exactly. I started out working on different programming books, then took a step back to try and wrap my head around the real nature of the issue at hand. That led me to read more theoretical books, like Marshall McLuhan's Understanding Media, Howard Rheingold's Smart Mobs and David Weinberger's Small Pieces, Loosely Joined. I've also been flipping through my copies of The Rise of the Creative Class by Richard Florida, Urban Tribes by Ethan Watters and a stack of other books as well. My nightstand is groaning and tottering.

In addition to this, my media intake has also been flooded with politics, both from the real-life election and from quasi-regular doses of vintage The West Wing reruns on Bravo, which I like to watch while I'm working out or hammering on the laptop. There's something sort of nebulous in all of this that I can't quite grasp yet, but it feels a little like a Unified Theory of Everything. Sort of.

I'm thinking about Social Software, like Friendster and Flickr and even Movable Type and Blogger. I'm wrestling with the concepts of honor and strength and unity and leadership in politics and our daily lives. I'm thinking about design and philosophy and directions on a macro scale, about how when we screw ourselves down into the daily grind, it's all too easy to look up and say, "How the hell did I get here? Where did these kids come from? This is not my beautiful house!" (Thank you, Mr. Byrne.) I'm thinking about Big Picture stuff, both at the world level and at the personal level, and trying to figure out how to bring those things together. Worst of all, I'm not sure if this is detracting from my plans to apply to grad school, or the best possible thing I can be doing. Like I said, it's nebulous.

But it feels to me like the takeaway from The West Wing is that we should live every day knowing and accepting that we are fallible, yet striving with the very core of our being to rise above those limitations. That we should not buckle to the excuse of being "only human", and permit ourselves the willful myopia of ignoring the Big Picture and justifying it with the insistence that we need to set our own houses in order first. That while trying to wrap your mind around the enormity of it all hurts, that's a similar sensation to the pain following a workout: it tells you that you're outside of your comfort zone, and that you're growing.

Still working on this, but that's the gist at the moment.


How cool would that be?

The good Matt Huaghey proposes a fascinating, if unlikely, scenario if Kerry+Edwards takes the White House: Attorney General Lawrence Lessig. Seriously, imagine that for a minute: someone in the cabinet that really gets it. The mind boggles.


Something's starting to click.

Late last night, I was lying in bed and thinking about all the things I've been studying and reading lately, and there was this odd sensation in the back of my head, like a coffeepot starting to percolate. I feel like there's something that's just about to happen, and I'm not talking about the elections. I'm talking about technology and culture and, in no small part, my own personal development. I don't know what it is, exactly, but the sensation is there nevertheless.


Wait a second – what?

I wasn't going to weigh in on the debate tonight, because it's pretty clear where I stand on things, but in Bush's closing comments he said something staggering: "Over the next four years we'll continue to rally the armies of compassion to help heal the hurt that exists in some of our conuntry's neighborhoods." The armies of compassion? All right, I'll grant the existence of the Salvation Army, but that one totally hit me as weird. That was just odd.

Bits and pieces.

This morning's brief note aside, it's been awhile since I've done any serious, in-depth blogging around here. Again, this is in part because I've started mentally shifting all my weblogging energy over to the new weblog, which isn't yet available for public consumption. This is not to say that when I do whip the sheet off of the new site, it will be overflowing with new and insightful content; in fact, almost the opposite is true. All I'm saying is that every time something worthwhile pops up, and I think, "Wow, I should make a note of that," I almost immediately think, "Yes, but if TOTQ is going away, I should blog about it over at instead," which is then followed by "But isn't yet operational," which is followed by a mental sigh and a throwing-up of hands.

This is not a good state of affairs. October is almost halfway over, and, as always, I'm feeling horribly behind. There are simply never enough hours in the day.

So, given that, I'm going to post some of those notes right here, right now.

And the proto-Zeldmen shall inherit the earth

First up, a massive 'congratulations!' to the good Jeffrey Zeldman and his wife Carrie on the birth of their daughter. Kids rock, and this kid in particular will be one to watch. Mazeltov, guys.

Welcome back, Jay

Second, another massive 'congratulations!' to the good Jay Allen on his joining Six Apart, the company behind Movable Type. Wow. What with all the amazing people going to work there, SA could be the next Apple. Good on ya, Ben and Mena! Quick trivia tidbit: did you know that Six Apart was named that because its founders, Ben and Mena Trott, were born only six days apart? I didn't until this morning, when I read this article on the happy couple in the Wall Street Journal. Hot damn, between this, their being named to the MIT Technology Review Innovation 100, and the piles of venture capital pouring in, 2004 is the Year of the Trott.

Plazes: like a wi-fi scavenger hunt... sorta

No, not like Geocaching, but more like a scavenger hunt for wi-fi hotspots. I mentioned Plazes before, and the more I use it the more I like it. I keep hoping that Plazes reaches critical mass relatively soon, as so far I still haven't bumped into one single person ever on the same hotspot where I am, which is part of the draw for me. Also, the only other person on the system that I know at this point is the illustrious Tom Bridge. C'mon, all of you who are in the laptop brigade: sign on and join in the fun! At this point, I'm about this close to hopping in the car and going wardriving to try and gain more discoverer points (which are awarded when you sign on at a hotspot that no one's 'claimed' yet). I'm at a measly five at the moment, and one of those is my own apartment. I'm a trifle annoyed that someone already grabbed the Panera Bread in Evanston – and that someone is in Germany. How the heck he pulled that off is beyond me. My guess is he has a lot of frequent flier miles.

It's worth mentioning that Plazes also has an open API, which I suspect will lead to the devlopment of a Movable Type plug-in sooner or later, so that it would automagically populate the "Written at" field with my location pulled from Plazes. Can't wait for that – that's going to be snazzy.

Growing annoyed at the slowdown of Internet Time

Speaking of high-tech tomfoolery, I'm almost finished with the aforementioned Smart Mobs by Howard Rheingold. I'm sort of torn on my opinion here. For starters, I'm a little dismayed that so much of the book isn't new to me – past the initial discussion of the mobile tech set, Rheingold delves into reputation systems (a la eBay), wireless networks (a la Airport) and while-you-were-sleeping use of your machine as a node in a supercomputer network (a la SETI@home and folding@home). I haven't gotten to the final chapter yet, which I'm hoping he will use in grand Snoopy fashion to pull it all together, but at the moment I'm feeling half duped and half cocky. One of three things is happening: first, that Howard could have been so bang-on in his observations when he finished the book back in 2001/2002 that all of his predictions have come true; second, that this book really isn't half as revolutionary as I was hoping it would be; or third, that I actually am way better suited to join the folks tinkering away in the shadowy halls of MIT than I thought, because very little of this stuff is really revolutionary to me. I'm leaning towards #1 – and if I'd actually managed to find the time to read it all the way through when it first came out, it would've blown my socks off. Maybe.

But what really gets my goat here is that I still can't actually do half the stuff that he's talking about. I know it's possible, and I can see how it would be insanely cool, but the slow-ass hardware vendors are dragging their feet. It makes me wish I'd paid more attention in shop class, so I'd know now how to solder a Bluetooth chip onto an existing Treo 300 instead of waiting for the frelling Treo 650, which has been popping up everywhere except on the actual store shelves. I don't know what the holdup is, Pa1mOne (and what's with the stupid new name?) but I'm right there with the ranks of Gizmodo and Engadget readers that are howling for its release. I'm also wondering how to justify the purchase of multiple 1GB SD cards for the Treo 650 and a little wallet to carry them around in, so I can quit carrying my iPod around. Convergence can't come fast enough for me – especially since there's almost zero reason why this stuff shouldn't be commercially available already. I swear, I'm going to find some good innovators to gang up with and knock some big fat white corporate heads together in order to get America innovating again. Jeez! Did you know that Bluetooth chips only cost $15 three years ago? This is ridiculous.

The coming tide of micromedia...

I probably have enough material mentally percolating for another concept essay here, but I wanted to make quick note of this before I forget it. Have all of you heard of podcasting yet? Basically it's the creation of a small MP3 file which can be uploaded to your iPod (or Treo or whatever). This is really nothing too revolutionary; webloggers like my dear Min Jung Kim have been doing audioblog entries for a long time now, as my brother-in-arms Kevin Smokler points out. However, what I do suspect is coming down the pike is a similar approach using small movie files, downloaded to your phone or the inevitable iPod with color screen and multimedia capabilities. It won't be long before people are watching downloaded – or live – clips from CNN on their iPods on the subway every morning.

Further, I also fiercely believe that the future of television isn't necessarily in the video-on-demand services through the cable companies, but through similar media delivered via the regular Internet. As broadband connections become ever more popular, and the convergence expands with things like the already-available networkable TiVo and the Windows Media Center PCs, there will be more and more shows like What the Muffins created by independent companies and delivered over this here Interweb. If the cable companies are smart, they'll realize that these indie studios (*cough*Tohubohu*cough*) will be producing pieces of comparable quality to the big guys at a fraction of the cost, and they'll start signing up the best of the best for delivery on regular cable channels, and then subsidize the creation of season-length DVDs for sale online. All the pieces are already in place; a half hour of Homestar Runner would fit perfectly into Adult Swim (which is already some of the best programming on television), and as we've seen with the big-screen resuscitation of Firefly from Joss Whedon, fans will happily pony up for cult-hit entertainment in DVD box sets.

To recap, here's my formula: small indie firms create content and release it on the Internet; big media companies invest in promising new content; big companies and small companies profit from the release of said content in old-media formats (TV and DVD). Some of you will be scoffing and saying, "Why should the small companies share their winnings with the big companies at all?" Because 99% of the viewing public aren't "in the know" like you are, O cultural maven. They rely on the big, existing media companies to act as culturefinders. Also, said 99% is lazy.

All of this stuff is hot to converge, and it's really only steps away. If I had any idea how to actually do this stuff, I'd be right there in it, making it happen. Anybody out there want to teach me how to actually market myself as a coolfinder?

...And improved video on the web...

One more component that you hear clicking into place there is the way video is gaining in popularity on the web thanks to Macromedia's Flash MX. Jason Zada points out a couple excellent new examples.

There is one thing, though, which I've found myself doing when it comes to online video: drumming my fingers. Not waiting for it to download, waiting for it to finish playing. With the exception of some kickass movie trailers, a good deal of online video content is just boring, especially when it comes to streaming newscasts.

What I think we need is a better chaptering system in online video, kind of like the way they do now on DVDs. Tired of the current segment? Chapter skip to the next one. Run a little 'highlights' thing on the side of it to show what in the last chapter you might really need to know in order to understand this one. It's sick, but since we can read a lot faster than people can talk, there are times when I just want whatever's on to get to the point so I can gulp the data I need and get on with whatever I'm doing. This is huge when it comes to the news, but lately I've even found myself doing it with – heresy! – reruns of Farscape and The West Wing, heading into the new season. Can't you guys deliver something better?

...Also leads to new developments in traditional text narratives

Said chaptering with notations, incidentally, is something I'm planning to experiment with in an upcoming personal project, but I'm not 100% certain just how yet. What I'm thinking of here is a system by which I publish my novel online in chapters with a sort of "character's journal" as an extra, so if a reader gets bored with some of the more artistic or philosophical stuff that's going on, they can jump to the next chapter and simply skim the character's journal to see what else happened in the rest of that chapter that they need to know in order to understand the new one. It's sort of like a built-in Cliff's Notes, and since what I want to do is create a story with both action and philosophical elements in it, I might have two journals: one for a more action-oriented type, and one for the more reflective. There's a question of "shouldn't the story be condensed into one or the other, so it plays best to one particular market?" to which I reply, "Malarkey," and point those naysayers to movies like Hero, which mix chop-sockey kung fu with art house cinematography. Now, whether or not that type of fusion can exist in literature is a good question; books that have attempted to do so, like Umberto Eco's Foucault's Pendulum and The Name of the Rose tend to read a little awkwardly, but my own writing style is nowhere near as ornamented as his, so mine might play a little easier. We'll see. Regardless, this is one area where I do believe that an 'e-Book' could be useful.

In conclusion

Wow. There's a lot more there than I'd expected, and a great deal of this needs even more unpacking before I'm really satisfied with the output. Like I mentioned earlier, there's definitely material here for a few concept essays. Stay tuned, as always – with luck, the new stuff will turn up on the new site soon.

Coming soon: A Very Long Engagement.

Just a quick note here to invite you to check out the trailer for Jeunet's next film, A Very Long Engagement. I love this man's work – I loved the films he did with Carot, Delicatessen and The City of Lost Children, and I truly adored Amelie. I can't wait to catch this next one.

Meanwhile, where am I? Where have I gone? I'm still hammering on my new site, and taking some time reading things that don't appear on computer screens. At the moment I've been poring over both Howard Rheingold's Smart Mobs, a book which has been sitting on my shelf for ages but never got the real in-depth examining it deserved, and Marshall McLuhan's Understanding Media. I'm trying to build a system into the new weblog to accommodate book reviews. We'll see if it works.


E-mail up!

My e-mail is back, so any and all missives you'd intended to send winging my way will now reach me (assuming my killer attack spam filter doesn't wrestle it to the ground first). I'm writing this from the couch of my friend David, in his very cool new pad in Erie, Pennsylvania. This is after having crashed with Bill for two or three nights and then Nick for a night. (So many of my friends have websites now. I'm so proud.)

Anyway, yes -- the second film from Tohubohu came together this weekend with an astonishingly small amount of fuss and catastrophe. Further, the finished film, Screening Process: A Loser's Guide to Love, is actually a really, really cool little piece, genuinely heartwarming and truly funny in all the right places. I daresay we're getting the hang of this. I'll post a note when our new site goes live with info on Screening Process, which will probably be next week.

Right. Bed calls. Lots of driving these last couple of days... If my future involves this much travel for films and client projects and grad school visits and whatnot, I think once I get my G5 fully paid off, I'm definitely going to invest in a new car.


E-mail down!

Due to Network Solutions being a bizz-natch (and their excruciating process of getting a domain transferred anywhere else), my e-mail's been down for a while, possibly as long as I've been out of town. At first I was kind of pissed, but then it dawned on me: no big backlog of emails to slog through once it's back up and I'm back online. Always look on the bright side of life...