Geoffrey Long
Tip of the Quill: Archives

November 2004 Archives

Nifty things: the Ambient Dashboard.

How cool is this? The Ambient Executive Dashboard is an analog device that receives a wireless signal to display the current status of three different elements, such as the value of your stock portfolio. It's not as cool as it could be, because their business model doesn't include just the hardware, but a monthly charge for the wireless signal. This seems silly to me; it'd be infinitely better if it could simply be configured to read data off a local server and your local 802.11x network. Still, a cool little device.


I'm dreaming of a white Thanksgiving.

I'm writing this on my parents' bondi blue iMac, sitting in my Dad's office, and watching flurries tumbling past the window. The trees and the ground both have a light white dusting, and baby, it's cold outside. Winter has officially descended upon Ohio; I imagine Chicago won't be far behind.

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody. I'm grateful for all you turkeys. :)


Waking up tired.

So this weekend I did a small amount of work, finally experienced Akira Kurosawa's The Seven Samurai (I'd seen Rashomon before, so I wasn't a complete Kurosawa virgin), read China Mieville's excellent debut novel King Rat, did a prodigious amount of hammering on the new site for Tohubohu, and spent a few hours in the Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art, where I conducted a dry run of the media experiment I posted about last week. It's no wonder, then, that I should be waking up tired – but I am, boy, am I tired. And, as always, miles to go before I sleep. (Not that sleep is actually doing much good lately. Yeesh.)


It's the end of Adult Swim.

As a responsible member of the blogosphere, I'm here to tell you that the new show, Tom Goes to the Mayor, from Tim and Eric, is really, really bad. As in jump-the-shark bad. As in totally, utterly horrifically bad. If there are any Cartoon Network execs Googling "Tom Goes to the Mayor" at the moment to see how well it did tonight – it bombed. Yank it.


The nifty fifty.

A quick post for a small touch of bragging: Screening Process, the short film I made with Tohubohu back in October, has been included in the Top 50 films entered into this year's National Film Challenge. Woo-hoo! Finalists will be announced December 1; I have a new website for the company currently coming together as we speak. With luck, we'll have some big announcements to make when it goes live. :)


I have an idea.

This was a great weekend, highly needed and coming at just the right time. I went to a party on Friday night thrown by a girl who went to Kenyon but who was in a slightly different circle than my own. As a result, I met up with a bunch of alums that I only knew a little back at Kenyon, but seeing them now was really terrific. I found myself oddly self-aware for a lot of it, but I had a great time – and, in a moment of true surrealism, I ran into someone I knew from elementary school, who didn't go to Kenyon but apparently knew the host through some different channels. Further, one of the girls from Kenyon had at one point been best friends with a girl I dated back in high school. It is the smallest of small worlds.

On Saturday, I went with Talon and his fellow DePaul DePeople to go see a children's theater show based on a modernized African folk tale, which was beautiful and wonderful and a whole lot of fun. After we came back, I took a look around the apartment and started taking notes. The place needed a good cleaning; T and I had done a big cleanup a week or two earlier, but there was just clutter piling up, mostly my stuff. So I rolled up my sleeves and went to work. It wound up taking the rest of Saturday and a huge chunk of Sunday, but the place looks great, and I feel a lot better about things. Which probably then directly tied into my working on Sunday evening, building two new designs for projects which had been bugging me for a while. The new designs are beautiful and elegant and straightforward, just the way I like 'em. I'm hoping the clients go for them. I'll post something here when things move forward.

I also had a new idea for a media project this weekend, one which might – might – be able to be done quickly, exhibit the kind of thinking I want to demonstrate for my grad school applications, and might demonstrate new applications of technology to do some really nifty things, but be built with existing materials and off-the-shelf hardware. I'm hoping I can go out and do a proof-of-concept for this project this week, but we'll see how my time works out. I'm hoping this will happen, but like I said, I need to see how things shake out. If so, I'll provide a link and a little demonstration here. Stay tuned.


This sounds familiar.

Tod Lippy is the one-man magazine force behind Esopus, as described in this NYT article. A kindred spirit, if ever there was one.

I've been getting questions about the next issue of Inkblots, and the answer is a resounding yes, there's another one pending. Submissions are now being accepted!


My precious!

Wow. I just did a bad, bad thing. The local comic shop where I spend most of my Wednesday afternoons was having a big inventory blowout sale, and I popped by, fully resigned to spend a little money. Not a lot of money, mind you, but a little bit.

I prowled the aisles. I gathered up an armful of things that were all cool and highly likely purchases, things that I thought were interesting but I wouldn't have bought otherwise. Then I stumbled onto a pile of things that I'd been meaning to buy, and were all half off. So I put the likelies back and replaced them with these new treasures, and I was ecstatic. Nothing warms the heart of a bibliophile faster than finding treasures on the cheap.

And then, the apocalypse.

Ever since I was small, I've been reading Jeff Smith's Bone, an epic series of graphic novels that fall somewhere between Disney and Tolkien. There are 10 books in total, and for a while, I'd been picking them up in hardcover as each one was released. Well, that's not true – I'd been buying the individual issues as they were released, and then picking up the hardcovers when they came out. Only I stopped at around book six. Why? Money, mostly – I've been so busy building up my business that most of my money has been going to Apple, not to the bookstores.

Only... Only this summer the series ended. It was sad to see it end, but it was also that sweet sadness, to see our heroes ride off into the sunset and know that they'd be okay. And I nodded as I closed the last issue, and made a note to myself to pick up the last four books when I had a chance. And, a few weeks ago, I swung by the publisher's site to figure out how much that would set me back.

That was when I found out about the Collector's Edition. One enormous single edition, a massive, War and Peace-sized tome of all 10 books. I was flabbergasted, but the genius of it struck home. It always sort of sucks to have to plow through all 10 books if you want to reread the story, and if you pick up book 5 to enjoy a particular scene again, you almost inevitably wind up digging back through books 1 through 4 to figure out a key element that you'd somehow forgotten. I quickly decided that, instead of buying books 7-10, I'd buy the collected edition and be happy with that.

And then I found out about the limited-edition hardcover collected edition. Only one print run, ever, would be released, and that run would be signed and numbered, and limited to 2000 copies. Further, by the time I found out about it, every single copy had been spoken for. They'd all been preordered, or committed to vendors, and word on the street was that those vendors had radically underestimated the demand for it, and people were wailing and rending their clothes because they couldn't get copies.

The store I go to ordered two copies. They were allocated one. And, of course, it was sitting there behind the register when I went to check out.

I am now significantly poorer than I'd expected to be when I left the house this morning. Luckily I received an unexpected order from a new client this morning for a project that will cover the cost of this little splurge nicely, but still, this was something I couldn't really afford. But it's mine. It's mine, my precious. And I was laughing like a maniac all the way home.

Bibliophilia can be a horrible disease. But, damn, can it also be fun!

I'm feeling those good migrations.

So, I did it. I downloaded the archive of Tip of the Quill and cleaned out the spam comments. I probably didn't get all of them, but nearly all of the 25,000+ spam comments are now gone, which shrank a 23MB file to a 1.4MB file. Now all I have to do is recreate the TOTQ templates using the new MT3 features and I'll be all set. This will probably happen sometime this weekend (if I can finish up a couple other high-priority projects first) or sometime next week.

Until then, any comments made will be living on borrowed time; they probably won't show up in the new edition, unless I do a little fancy tap-dancing with a secondary import (which I suppose I could do, if there are a ton of new comments). Regardless, that's a huge amount of progress, and I can't wait until this is all cleaned up and rolling again!

Oh, and just a reminder for my regular readers and commenters: you're going to need a TypeKey account to comment here in the future. It's free, it's easy, and it'll prevent me from ever spending 12 hours deleting spam comments again. I really hope the extra step won't prevent you from joining me in the next generation of this weblog -- I love hearing what you have to say, which is why I'm taking the time to rework the way comments function here, instead of turning them off permanently. Stay tuned.

Update. Hah! Between the holidays, client projects and a bunch of other hijinks, it was February 2005 before the migration was finished, but now the new version's up and running at last. Progress!


Life with Gaiman.
Neil Gaiman


On hero worship.

In a few minutes, I'm going to head down to the DePaul campus to see my hero, Neil Gaiman, interview Gene Wolfe and then read New Stuff. I'm every kind of excited. I've just watched the clips from his Thirteen Nights of Fright horror-movie hosting bit from Fox Movies, which, alas, I do not get here at our apartment, and I'm bundling up a couple of my favorite Neil books to take and have signed. I have other signed Neil things, but I think tonight I'll take Angels and Visitations and The Comical Tragedy or Tragical Comedy of Mr. Punch, two rare Neil pieces that are also sort of my favorites. I'm not one of those people who has an author sign something and then chuck it up on eBay -- I'm one of those people who will have him sign it to me, and then hoard it and smile over that scribble whenever I pull it down from the shelf.

I spend a decent amount of time worrying and fussing over who I am and what I'm doing and whether or not I'm on the right path. Whenever I cross paths with Mr. Gaiman, I smile and think, "Yes, that's a good way to go -- write, and make movies, and make stuff, and tell stories, and do all of that." What I'm doing now is partially so I can get to the point where I can do this part-time and write with the rest; at the moment it feels like I'm working all the bloody time, but the length of these journal entries often proves that if I wanted to, I could be writing every day as well. I should do that, I really should. Perhaps this little infusion of hero worship tonight will help me get off my arse and get back on path there. One hopes. Of course, I also have to take the GREs, finish my application, work on my programming chops with the inestimable Mr. Jadud... The list goes on and on. I'm on the right path, I just need to do a better job of resource management.

Oh, and the most recent movie from Tohubohu had its official premiere last night, and we apparently did very, very well indeed. Here's hoping we make the next round of competition!


Finishing season: the music of Jim Frazier.

Another little project just went live: my friend Jim Frazier is a kick-ass musician, and he needed a little music site to accompany the audio engineering site I built for him earlier. Small, subtle, and functional: Jim Frazier Music.


Canada 2.0.

Huh. So that's where I live: "Miniwillinois." Or is that "Mini Willinois"?

Canada 2.0

(Courtesy of the lovely and brilliant Mena Trott.)

America is purple.

All right, you guys have to see this.

Robert J. Vanderbei at Princeton has very effectively put what I was saying into graphic form. Check it out:

Purple America

What Dr. Vanderbei did was color the Republican counties red, the Democrat counties blue, and the 50/50 counties purple. It's pretty obvious that the majority of America is pretty evenly split. If everyone were as violently frothing at the mouth as the pundits would have us believe, then people would have been rioting in the streets with torches, pitchforks and spades on Tuesday night. We weren't. Instead, this means that America is a pretty moderate country right now -- granted, 51% is leaning more right than left, but all told we're still pretty middle-of-the-road.

There's hope.

Kottke's right: we're all stupid.

Jason Kottke has published an excellent commentary, How George Bush Won the Election, over at As always, well-written and interesting. Check it out.


Finishing Season: Dreamsbay deliverable packages.

This is something I've been meaning to do for a long, long time and finally had occasion to actually finish it: the Dreamsbay deliverable packaging. This is built using the Jewelboxing system, which is extremely slick, and I recommend it to everyone for ease of use and elegance of the finished product. The pictures here aren't the best, but I'll have to wait for the next opportunity to take some more good shots; I mailed off the finished version to a client this afternoon, and the prototype I built before that was, ah, pretty rough. (That's why we build prototypes, eh?)

Each of these will be customized for the specific client and project, hand-assembled and signed, with several business cards included on the inside tucked into a couple of white photocorners. I'm tickled with the way this came out, and it makes me smile to think of these babies sitting on my clients' bookshelves somewhere for future reference. Eventually, when I finish creating a Dreamsbay demo reel (maybe over Christmas), I intend to include a Dreamsbay promo DVD on each one as well, but that's way more time than I've got on hand right now.


Archive Front



I'm going to regret this, but what with these new projects and that megaessay I posted yesterday, I'm going to reactivate the comments. If the comment spam starts going berserk again, I'll switch 'em back off, but let's give it a shot. I miss coming back here to see what y'all have to say about, ah, what I have to say.


Thinking about America.

Like many Americans, and undoubtedly a huge number of politically-minded individuals around the world, I was up late last night watching the election coverage. At the moment, it looks like Bush has won the race – but the margins in almost every state are astoundingly narrow.

If you go to the New York Times Presidential Election page, you'll see that the margin of victory in the battleground state of Ohio is currently 2.5%. Two point five percent. As for headcount, that's a difference of 136,221 voters, which sounds like a lot until you add up the numbers. In Ohio, 2,794,346 people voted for Bush – two million, seven hundred thousand, three hundred and forty-six – and 2,658,125 for Kerry – two million, six hundred thousand, one hundred and twenty-five. Grand total of people voting in Ohio? 5,452,471 – five million, four hundred and fifty-two thousand, four hundred and seventy-one.

I was not among them. Although I was born and raised in Ohio, and my recent nomad status could probably have allowed me to vote there without setting off too many alarm bells, I didn't want to engage in any form of voter fraud. No, I voted here in Illinois, which also had some interesting numbers. In Illinois, which is always assumed to be a strong fortress of Democratic voters, 2,225,320 people voted for Bush and 2,753,525 people voted for Kerry, a grand total of 4,978,845 voters – but what's interesting are the percentages there. Those 2,225,320 Bush votes in this Democratic fortress represent 44.4% of the citizens of Illinois. Yes, Kerry won with 55.5%, but for a state which was supposed to be solidly in the blue, that's surprisingly narrow.

The same can certainly be said for Bush. He won Arizona with 55.1% vs. 44.3%, Arkansas with 54.1% vs. 44.8%, Colorado with 52.9% vs. 45.9%, and even Florida was insanely close again, with 52.2% vs. 47%. The list goes on – out of the 27 states that Bush has won to date, according to the New York Times list, sixteen gave him those with a percentage in the fifties, another ten with percentages in the sixties, and only one state out of the whole fifty gave Bush a victory in the 70 percent marker. Want to guess which one? You might be surprised – it wasn't Texas, it was Utah. Bush took his home state with only 61.2% of the vote.

Kerry's victories certainly aren't much better. Of the eighteen states and the District of Columbia which went to Kerry, seventeen gave it to him in the fifties, one gave it to him in the sixties and the District gave it to him in the most staggering statistic of the race, a whopping 89.5%. (A more cynical man than me would say that meant that the natives are screaming for the Bush administration to go home, but I digress.) Another interesting comparison: Massachusetts, Kerry's home state, didn't do much better supporting their native son than Texas did with theirs: Kerry took Massachusetts with 62.1% of the vote.

What these numbers say is open to interpretation. Some pundits will inevitably crow that this proves how America is just as sharply divided, if not more so, than we were four years ago. Others will cry havoc and sing the heralds of a coming civil war, where the liberal Northeast and the West Coast secede from the conservative expanse stretching across the middle of the country. Yet it's not that expanse that was attacked by the terrorists – New York City, which obviously suffered the highest death toll of the 9/11 attacks, went to Kerry with a 57.8% count of the votes. Yes, the Big Apple is also known as a Democratic stronghold, but even there Kerry didn't win in a landslide – and if the terrorists ever smuggle in a dirty bomb and set it off, the probability is low that they'll opt to detonate it anywhere in Colorado, Wyoming, Georgia, Missouri, Texas, or even Florida. They're much more likely to strike New York, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, Seattle or even Chicago – all found in the blue states.

What does all this mean? Here are some disconnected theories I'm kicking around.

  • The warhawks are found in the states least likely to be struck by any kind of assault.

  • Those states are also the ones who usually contribute the most young people to the ranks of our military.

  • If you think back to what countries who oppose America usually decry, it's usually the big corporations and the seedy Hollywood output, which are usually associated with those Democratic cities: New York, Washington D.C., and Los Angeles.

  • When you see those commercials declaring how wonderful America is, you usually see an eagle flying over mountains, countryside and farmland, not those big Democratic cities.

  • When you think of that heartland, you don't think of diversity or multiculturalism. You think of vaguely Germanic, Christian white people riding tractors and taking their children to church on Sundays.

  • That same Middle America is moving towards an amendment to the Constitution preventing gay marriage. This may be because the gay population in those states is so low, these people have never met gay people that are just people, not the stereotypes which make them uncomfortable. Further, the stereotypes presented on TV on shows such as Will and Grace and Queer Eye for the Straight Guy only further perpetuate those assumptions, and reinforce the role models for gay people in those states to emulate, further deepening the divide. I'm a straight Methodist registered Republican from small-town Ohio with gay friends of all backgrounds – many of whom aren't in the least that stereotypical. Acceptance and equality is possible, but only through firsthand experience and lessened xenophobia, which aren't going to come through Hollywood stereotypes.

  • While I feel abortion should remain legal and is a right for women, I agree that it can destroy lives – not just for the fetuses, but for the mothers, their families, their significant others... The women I've met who have had abortions are never the same. They have to live with their decisions, and part of their misery comes from the fear of excommunication from that same Middle America. Yet in a society where women are encouraged to take on the boardroom and follow their dreams and careers, the physical needs of the human body is also a real issue. Women are human too – their hormones and urges are just as strong, if not stronger, than those of men, and the pressure that is placed on women from both sides creates an insane amount of internal tension. Many of them believe they can't get married and raise families without abandoning either their careers or their young to day-care centers, and heaven help the young mother who also wants to go to grad school and have a career. Our society screams that women have a right to top positions in corporate America, but they should also stay home with their children, and stay-at-home Dads are almost as bad as being gay! There's a knot here which needs to come undone, perhaps through the church and the community providing better alternatives, and perhaps making younger marriages and matching career paths more attractive, and Hollywood doing less "Mr. Perfect is out there, dump the schmuck and keep looking" coaching and more "How to build long-lasting supportive relationships". Maybe.

  • Middle America has a lot going for it. Family values and traditionalism are warm and strong and supportive ideas. Yet often Middle America is also cold and exclusive – Middle America should be as much of a melting pot as the Democratic cities – all men are created equal means that we should also see ads with eagles flying over Indian men driving tractors and tending fields, next to blue-eyed Germanic women and gay conservative Mexican men. The principles of Middle America are supposed to be inclusive, not exclusive. Hate and xenophobia aren't family values, nor are they Christian. How, then, do we merge these two?

  • Is it possible that the 50/50 split doesn't represent two camps of extremes, but two camps often defined by their extremes but which aren't that different at all, and the majority of Americans are, like me, firm middle-of-the-road moderates yearning for better candidates and fewer special interest groups?

  • Bush committed sins in office – the deplorable Halliburton contracts, leading the American people to war against Iraq under what turned out to be incorrect pretenses and then not owning up to his mistakes, ignoring the economy for the sake of finishing his father's crusade, eroding the separation of church and state, and using fear and hatemongering to get the American people to fall in line behind him. Yet Clinton also made huge mistakes in office, setting the stage for the dotcom collapse, stumbling on international policy in the middle East which set the stage for 9/11, caving into human instincts against what should have been his better judgement and receiving sexual favors from an intern in the Oval Office and then lying about it, etc. etc. If Kerry had been elected, I'm sure that he would have also committed sins in office, and I may have become equally irritated with him. Perhaps these sins are inherent to the office, and should be taken as a given, instead of capitalized upon by controversy-addicted couch potatoes and partisan-funded attack dogs.

  • America in the 21st century needs to be a place of acceptance, of world leadership not by cowboy attacks gone off half-cocked, but through well-reasoned and diplomatic acts of bravery. Bush is right in that sometimes the right thing to do isn't popular on the world stage, but well-reasoned and communicated courses of action are infinitely preferable to "might makes right" and "because God told me so".

  • Education is the solution to almost every single one of our country's problems, yet Americans somehow do not respect the educated as being better leaders than the 'folksy' and proudly ignorant. Bush is a good old boy, a frat boy, a partier, a rich man's son, the kind of guy who got into the best schools on his father's name and pocketbook and then blew his opportunity there, electing to party and schmooze instead. I'm sure Kerry, like Gore before him, lost in part because of his above-average stature. Why do Americans believe that they should be led by the average? Further, why do we punish the above-average? Why do we fear giving our children the best we can, helping them to become the best they can, and following those who succeed, instead of allowing the leadership of the free world to be a popularity contest determined in part by how well the candidate plays on TV?

All of these things are bouncing around in my mind this morning. Lately I've noticed I've been becoming admittedly more open to the idea of Middle America. I've been thinking about God and religion a lot more seriously, I've been longing for the house and family of my own, I've been missing Ohio and enjoying being back in the Midwest here in Chicago. Yet the Middle America that I dream of also has the best parts of the blue states as well – great schools, a better multicultural mix, a higher standard of living and a higher regard for education.

Over the course of the last year or so, the writing I've been doing on this weblog has also often come off half-cocked and ill-reasoned. I've allowed my distaste for Bush's poor speaking skills and often offensive personality to affect my messages here, resulting in infantile fits and bursts of hysteria. Part of that was due to my assumption that Bush had simply stolen the election and was misrepresenting the American people. What this election has shown me is that instead of focusing on how bitterly divided we are, we should realize that we're most likely largely the same, and are all seeking a better America. There are lessons to be learned from both sides – instead of tacking back and forth from extreme to extreme, perhaps what we should be focusing on is figuring out what that new 21st Century America should really be like, and how to incorporate conservative ideas into the blue states and more liberal ones into the red ones.

In the future, I'm going to try and come up with more ideas along those lines, and post them here. I've always said that we should focus more on coming up with new solutions instead of on the negatives. If this election had been a landslide one way or the other, I'd probably just discontinue my political thinking here altogether, but its having been so close suggests to me that what we need now is new leadership, more moderate leadership, more unifying leadership. If Benjamin Franklin were alive today, I'd like to think that he'd be trying to imagine this new 21st Century America as well, trying to bring us together instead of brazenly tearing us apart. I'm going to try and follow that ghost, and see where that leads me.

With a little luck, Bush will read those same numbers and realize that he needs to be doing more uniting as well. The next four years could be terrifying if he treats them as a blank check. Here's hoping the future of America sees us coming together instead of being driven further apart.



I did it, I'm glad I did it, and I'd do it again! Well, next time, anyway. I popped down to the local polling booth, did my duty as an American citizen, and I'm proud to have done so.

Jeb Bush is at it again!

Would somebody please pass a law keeping family members from holding multiple positions in government? All right, that might not be legal, but how about preventing multiple Bush family members from that? Because when 58,000 absentee ballots from a county where 67% voted for Gore in 2000 go missing, I cry shenanigans. Very long, very loud, very accurate, shenanigans.

NON-POLITICAL: I love my friends.

In this day of utter craziness, a break in the political tsunami: Halloween in the Castro 2004 - The year of Lotsa Leias! Nice touch, D.

Well, now, that there's an interestin' graphic.

If you enlarge the states to represent their electoral votes, you get something like this:



Dear Lord, I hope so.

Courtesy of William Gibson:

This just in:

"Will the cell phone voting bloc wind up becoming the November surprise? Zogby has just released a path-breaking presidential poll conducted exclusively on mobile phones. And the winner is John Kerry by a landslide margin of 55 to 40 percent. Jimmy Breslin and others have been complaining that traditional telephone polls just aren't capturing the new voter realities, because so many young people are only reachable by their Nokias. If the Zogby poll, which was conducted in partnership with Rock the Vote, is a reliable indicator, Tuesday night might not be such a drawn-out, nail-biter after all."

Speaking as a man who's only reachable via e-mail and his Sanyo SCP-6200 (and, sooner or later, his Treo 650), I can only say, Oh, please, oh, please, let this be true.