Geoffrey Long
Tip of the Quill: Archives

February 2006 Archives

Reading days.

Like Alec, today was a massive reading day for me. When I woke up today, I pledged to work on my many various web design projects (I swear, I think I have eight right now that are all snapping at my heels for attention, down you little buggers, down, dammit) but then decided that it would be more responsible of me if I did my homework first.


'Homework' in high school and even college was one thing. 'Homework' in grad school at MIT is a beast of a different color. So far this weekend I've read finished:

  • The Wizard of Oz
  • 125 pages of Chris Crawford on Game Design
  • Tom Wolfe, "These Radical Chic Evenings" (18 pages)
  • Hunter S. Thompson, "Fear and Loathing at the Superbowl" (32 pages)
  • James Gee, "Cultural Models: Do You Want to be the Blue Sonic or the Dark Sonic?" (28 pages)
  • David Buckingham, "Will Media Education Ever Escape the Effects Debate?" (5 pages)
  • Ian Shahanan, "Bow, Nigger" (8 pages)
  • 72 pages of Bob Bates, "Game Design"
  • Ellen Kushner, Thomas the Rhymer (258 pages; excellent book)
  • Renee Hobbs, "The Seven Great Debates in Media Literacy" (5 pages)
  • online COUHES training

Still to go:

  • Bill Cope, "A Pedagogy of Multiliteracies" (30 pages)
  • A video game proposal
  • A work of interactive fiction

...And also on the docket...

  • website for CMS
  • finish up a website for C3
  • website for the MIT literature department
  • edits for online otolaryngology encyclopedia in DC
  • edits for a healthcare practice in Boston
  • website for another healthcare practice in Philadelphia
  • website for a venture capital fund in DC
  • website for Ken
  • miscellaneous consulting-related overhead stuff
  • TA stuff for Henry
  • taxes

Insert quote from Wash here: "Oh God, oh God, we're all gonna die." Jesus. Help.

Update. I'm updating this page as the weekend goes on and I manage to knock things off the list. If nothing else, this entry should stand the test of time as a testament to my being anything but lazy!



Sorry I've been so cranky on this blog lately. Life is still (for the most part) excellent – I'm teaching a class on Gaiman tomorrow, how bad can life be? – it's just that I've been dealing with a lot of crap lately that makes me feel like I'm spinning my wheels instead of getting any traction. I want to be learning ways to tell stories, and I want to be actually making more entertainment projects, but instead I'm doing websites and white paper designs and whatnot because they're what I can do – but they're eating up all my damn time. It just has me nervous and anxious and frustrated, that's all. Add onto that the near-total obliviousness of the people asking me to do these projects to their impact on my actual schoolwork and it boggles the mind. This weekend I'm going to pull up a little bit and rework some plans, I think...


My annoyance du jour: the failed promise of PNGs. They seem like they should be the holy grail for so many designer problems, no? But alas, no – support for them is still iffy on almost all browsers, as evidenced this morning by my continued attempts to get a simple JavaScript rollover working with PNGs. No dice. Arrrrrg.

I started out loving web design, but I grew to hate it because of the ridiculousness of the politics involved, the pettiness of the web browsers and the companies who build them, the constant running-to-stand-still nature of the beast (Ruby on what?), the "but my neighbor's kid will do it for $20" of it, and I hate hate hate that I went to grad school to get away from this crap and yet here I am, still building websites.

What the hell, people.


The truth comes out.

So there's been another group of miners trapped underground, this time in Mexico:

SAN JUAN DE SABINAS, Mexico, Feb. 20 — Rescue workers dug through about 500 yards of fallen rock in efforts to rescue 65 workers who were trapped early Sunday when a gas explosion collapsed the shaft of the coal mine here.

Officials held out hope that some of the miners were still alive in air pockets, although no contact has been made with the trapped men. Thirteen were rescued shortly after the explosion early Sunday morning.

There is still "some hope" that the men found safe places in the mine, said Humberto Moreira Valdés, the governor of the state of Coahuila, where the mine is located. He said the effects of the blast are hampering rescue efforts, which are conducted by teams of 44 men working largely with picks and shovels.

"There is a blockage that came from the explosion that is impeding passage into the mine," Mr. Moreiro Valdés said. "We do not know how far we have to go to eliminate the blockage."

Gas explosion nothing. This is too soon after the last horrible mining accident for it to be, well, an accident. I personally think the mole people are scared we're getting too close and are trying to put an end to our subterranean expeditions.

Just you wait and see if I'm wrong. Mole people.

Wish me luck.

I have finally kicked the Plague of Much Deathness (TM), but now the catching-up is kicking my ass. Hopefully I don't get sick again from all the stress of trying to catch up from the first round. I've been up since 6:45 this morning and everywhere I look there's something else that has to happen.

Friends, send me your prayers. :P


This can be over any time now.

At first it was an aggravation. Then it became an annoyance. Now it's becoming a little disturbing.

I'm on day four of 100+ temperatures. I woke up this morning feeling pretty good, but suddenly and abruptly convinced that my room was tilting backwards. When I got up, I started to stumble around and had a hard time staying upright for more than five minutes. Whatever this stupid virus is, it had moved into my inner ears. I groaned and missed another day of classes. To defeat this new problem, I took some Benadryl this afternoon and, in the words of Timothy Leary, "tuned in, turned on, and dropped out".

Now, I'm a little bit of a control freak. I don't use drugs or get rip-roaringly drunk because I hate the feeling of losing control. For much of the same reasons, I hate Benadryl. I took one Benadryl capsule this afternoon at 1 and then slept for four and a half hours, the whole time being plagued with anxiety dreams and nightmares. Worse, Benadryl affects me so badly that I couldn't wake up. The stuff is horrible.

I'm trying to use this time to catch up on my reading, during the periods when I'm not unconscious (which is most of the time), but I take back my previous comment. I am a repentant speeder. Can this clear up now, please?


Every setback is an opportunity disguised.

Illness is God's way of handing you a speeding ticket. Every time I've tried to do too much too fast, wham! Instant virus. Never fails. Thus, I shouldn't be surprised that I'm now sick for what I think is the third time this school year. I don't believe I got this sick before; I imagine it's the one-two punch of the MIT student pool cocktail of viruses and the demands of MIT that are doing it. Of course, I have no one to blame but myself. Check this out.

At MIT, most classes are worth 12 credits. On the big sign-up web page at the beginning of the term, such classes are listed as 12 credits: 3-0-9 or 12 credits: 3-3-6. The digits are a breakdown of class time, lab time and reading time – so 3-3-6 means three hours in class, three hours of lab, and six hours spent on your ass at home with your nose shoved in a book. In actuality, this is a farce; MIT students chuckle knowingly at how silly this little estimate can be (some classes go way way over, and others come in a little under), but it helps in a general estimate of how to budget your time.

In the fall semester, I took four classes plus the CMS Colloquium, which is technically an overload. Colloquium (a weekly gathering of CMS people to listen to some visiting lecturer; this week's is Cory Doctorow, for instance) is only three credits since it only runs about 3 hours on one night a week. However, the remaining four classes were each 12-unit classes – so that's 4x12=48+3=51 hours expected to spend on classes per week. Add onto that another 15-20 expected for my RAships with the literature department and C3, and you're looking at between 66 and 71 hours of dedicated school time every week. Divide that by 7 (because once you're in grad school you can kiss your weekends good-bye, boyo) and you get 10.14 hours a day. That's not great, but it's doable.


The trouble with a 2-year Master's degree is that it's only two years – and that actually translates into only three semesters' worth of available classes. Given that you're going to be spending your second semester your second year completely on your thesis, that means you only have one spring semester ever to take classes. So, what does a bright young idiot like me do? Yeeeees. You guys know me too well.

Let's just say that when you're looking at between eighty-seven and ninety-two dedicated school hours every week, it's no wonder I've been kneecapped by the plague. But I won't let that stop me. I've been spending most of my time recuperating in bed with my laptop doing schoolwork.

You hear that, God? I am an unrepetant speeder. :-)


Blizzard? What blizzard?

It's 3AM here in Boston and I don't see a single snowflake out my window. If Jack Frost is listening, BRING IT!

Blizzard. Pfft.

And yes, I'm taunting the snow gods on purpose for one last winter fling before Spring starts in earnest. I was warned that Boston winters were horrible, dangit, and this winter's been really lame. BRING THE PAIN, FROSTY!



Gaiman on Long Tail filmmaking.

Last week Neil Gaiman made a post to his blog that dealt with "stuff. you know, things." And one of those things was the making of MirrorMask:

After reading all your journal entries lately about the Beowulf and Stardust movies you're working on, something is puzzling me. I admit I know nothing about the politics of movies, so please pardon my ignorance. But I don't understand how Mirrormask got so little attention, with it's small budget, no advertising, and one theater in each of the states that had it, despite the huge amount of work that went into it. Yet with Beowulf you're throwing out names like Angelina Jolie and Anthony Hopkins, who I imagine can't be too easy or cheap to get ahold of. And with all your Stardust auditions, you sound like you have some real power in the movie industry. So what happened with Mirrormask that it didn't even make it outside your fanbase? I find it hard to believe that a movie with both Jolie and Hopkins will go unadvertised and unknown, so something must have changed?

It's apples and oranges. MirrorMask was a VERY low-budget film (we made it for 2 million UK pounds) that the small division of Sony that funded it never planned to release widely cinematically. It has no star actors, and we knew that we were making it for an audience of people who would have to discover it... (The joy of making a film at that level of budget is that you're not making a film that everyone's meant to like.) If it hadn't been accepted for Sundance and raved about in the early reviews, the cinematic release it got would probably have been even smaller. Sony did some prints of it, but dozens, not thousands. It had an ad and promotion budget, but not a very big one. It's meant to make its money back for Sony on DVD sales, and I'm sure it will. (Lisa Henson told me that Sony are a bit puzzled that it's already one of the most bootlegged and downloaded films they have. I pointed out that, in all probability, a lot of the people downloading it are going to want to own a crisp, watchable version, and to enjoy all the extras...)

(Which reminds me -- here are some reviews of the MirrorMask DVD, which also list the various extras: and

Beowulf and Stardust are what they used to call "Major Motion Pictures", with Hollywood A-list talents, budgeted at twenty to thirty times what Mirrormask had. That doesn't have anything to do with my influence in Hollywood (which is miniscule) and has everything to do with them being big, commercial films with big budgets. They will be in a cinema near you; you will open your paper or turn on the TV and see adverts for them. Anthony Hopkins and Angelina Jolie and co. aren't in Beowulf because of me (except insofar as they liked the script), they're in it for Robert Zemeckis and because it's something new. On Stardust I'm certainly helping Matthew Vaughn wherever I can, but it's his film and he's directing it. (I didn't write the script.)


David Edery on Gamasutra!

A quick post here to congratulate my friend David Edery on the publication of his first game design article, "Designing an MMORPG Feedback Rating System", on Gamasutra. Attaboy, DJ -- well done!