Geoffrey Long
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Attack deflected.

Anybody wondering where this weblog's been for the last couple of days has a couple of anonymous jerks to thank for the server's slowing to an absolute crawl. Apparently someone decided that our server was an excellent target for an attack. Luckily Nick seems to have solved the problem, and I'm in the middle of transitioning everything over to a new server on Dreamhost anyway, so things should be settled down relatively soon.

By the by, I'm probably going to migrate this weblog over to when the changeover goes through. It's something I've been thinking about doing for a long time and it seems to make sense, given how the rest of Inkblots is in deep hibernation. (Well, except for Ken's weblog, and we're probably going to move that to a site of his own too fairly shortly.) More to the point, it makes sense from a "building Brand Me" POV. Alas, to do so would take a small pile of time I don't have right now, but it's definitely on the list.

Last week I was offered a possible part-time gig working for the CMS department over the summer. If my hoped-for internship of choice falls through, maybe I'll do that and use the summer to catch up on the ten thousand things I've been putting off for so long. I could definitely use a couple weeks of solid maintenance, that's for sure.

Things on this end are really pretty excellent, though. I may be teaching a class early this week on violence in superhero comics, so that's going to be interesting, and I'm slated to meet with a high executive from Midway this week as well, so that should be very interesting. I might also be making a flying trip home this weekend on a train, which has me all excited. I love train rides, especially long train rides where I can sit and think and work. Much preferable to planes, which just stress me out something fierce. It'd be good to see Mom and Dad and Nick and my extended family again, not to mention raid a couple of different hometown resources (like the bargain book shop in Columbus for some references on Mayan artwork for Goldworld and Coccia House for pizza). I'm not 100% certain I can justify the loss of time that trip would represent... On the other hand, the train ride sounds like the perfect opportunity to catch up on my reading. Hmmm.

The life of a grad student is a crazy and busy one, my friends, full of opportunity and sleepless nights. Speaking of which, as it is now 3AM, I must bid you adieu for now.

Oh, and check out the first batch of photos from my Japan trip, now up on Flickr!


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!



New feature list!

A big thanks to all of you who have stopped by today to watch the development go down here in real time. In the last day-and-a-half I've added sIFR titles to each post (these pages now only use two graphics plus the Flickr photoblog, no kidding), moved the sidebars around, brought back the archives, polished the permalink/comments pages, added relative dating to the posts, added author-sensitive styling to the comments (mine now show up in blue), and added Gravatar support (I think; both my Gravatar and Bill's are still pending approval).

It's still not quite done yet – the archive main page still needs reworking and I'd still like to get this AJAX thing working there to the side of the homepage – but for the most part it's been a pretty productive period here. With luck I can extend these changes over to Ken's and the new weblogs this weekend... Maybe. :)


Slow Sunday.

I have a million things to do right now. I have more than enough client work to fill out the week, I need to finish up my taxes, I need to do stuff to get ready for school, I have work to do on the new Inkblots, but right now it's 77 degrees in Chicago, beautiful, sunny, and I just want to lay in the sun. Yay Springtime!

Oh, and FWIW – Andy and I spent the majority of yesterday trying to get a fresh install of MT 3.15 up and running on our server and it didn't take. We think Nick needs to throw a switch on the backend. So it's coming, but it's going a lot slower than I'd expected.


New Rule.

If you call me, leave a voicemail. Especially if you don't have caller ID. And especially if I happen to be sleeping at the time. Jesus.


Things are looking up.

I've whacked that last post because it was just whiny, and because things are looking up since then. The business partner that was headed out on vacation called me back and laid the groundwork for me to keep hammering while she's gone, which is awesome, I got an email from a new potential client which could be excellent, and now I'm sitting in a coffeehouse in Evanston relaxing a little.

The biggest thing, though, is that I bit the bullet and went out and bought that Treo 650 I've been eyeing for months. It's sitting here next to me now, and I'm scouring the web for all the additional stuff I'm going to need. The first thing I've discovered is that the call quality on this sucker is marginal, but there's a ROM update I need to install which should help with that -- plus, I have every intention of using the Bluetooth headset I just ordered instead of holding a bloody great PDA to my jaw every time I have to answer a call. I am Geoffrey of Borg. Pleased to meet ya.

I'm also a little mortified by the sheer wiredness of my setup right now. I have my iPod jacked into my PowerBook, recharging, and the headphones jacked into the 'Book as well. I also have the smartphone plugged into the wall, as is the 'Book. This is really damn geeky. I'm going to have to figure out a better system for all this stuff, I can tell.

I've actually been thinking a lot about this lately -- what it means to be a geek in the 21st century, and how such an existence can be tempered, improved. I'm always going to be wired, but how does one live the wired life without being, well, a geek? I mean, there are aspects of being a geek which are good – intelligence, independent thought – but there are also aspects which make me as a designer shudder. A stereotypical geek lacks social skills, fashion sense and personal hygiene. Paris Hilton packs a fair degree of hardware, but no one thinks of her as a geek per se, because she does just fine in these three arenas (and she fails miserably in the 'intelligence' and 'independent thought' arenas, but I digress).

Hmmm. I wonder if I could pen a 'designer eye for the geek guy' article for Inkblots. There are certainly things that a geek can do to improve one's image which could bridge both worlds, right?



And, not ten minutes later...

So I posted that little "Not dead yet!" note, then refreshed the page, and felt guilty at how small and lonely it looked sitting there on the page. You, my friends, deserve a more detailed update on my own personal la vida loca. Therefore, I will now take a brief break and procrastinate some more to fill you in on what's been going on.

First up, the Big News: I have been accepted into the Grad Program of My Dreams, the Comparative Media Studies program at MIT. I'm not kidding when I say it's the program of my dreams – my bestest friends will recall that I first discovered this program somewhere around 2000, and I've been checking up on their website every year ever since. Every year I was also deterred from applying by my own fears of inadequacy, largely dealing with the half of my brain that deals with math and science. I used to believe wholeheartedly that I was an arteest, and if it didn't have to do with the humanities, forget it. Well, sometime in the last five years my brain somehow got reformatted into someplace right smack dab in the middle of the two lobes – I've been spending a huge chunk of the last decade learning how to make art and science play well together. I'm not just talking about those guys who make prints of fractal patterns and hang them on gallery walls (although that can be cool too – look at Tom Stoppard's Arcadia for a brilliant example of the use of chaos theory in modern theater) but also "how do we use the computer to do digital storytelling?" And, more recently, "How do we use the computer to optimize our lives?"

Once upon a time, my motto was, "If it works." This was subsequently amended with "break it," but the root principle was, "Find a solution, no matter how screwy it sounds." This has grown over the years, until recently my mantra (if not exactly my motto) has been, "All of life is a system, and all systems can be optimized." For some reason my twenties have been dedicated to building the tools and the resources I need to do What's Next, whatever that happens to be.

As of last week, What's Next is grad school. Suddenly having a concrete date for starting What's Next has caused me to kick the aforementioned life optimization system into high gear. I'm working like a fiend to pay off my credit card, get my taxes settled, pick up the last of the tools that I'd had my eye on for the last year, and draft a budget for the next two years so that I have some idea of how much cash I need to stockpile while I can still spend 80 hours a week working. Yesterday I went up to the AAA in Skokie (a suburb north of Chicago and slightly west of Evanston) and picked up a big map of Boston, which I now have set up on my desktop easel next to my monitor. Between that and, I'm starting to get a better idea of what's where in the Boston area. 24 hours ago I couldn't have told you where Somerville was in relation to Cambridge or Back Bay, but now it's all starting to click. That's the goal of this current exercise – making it all click as much as possible. I'm also entering six months' worth of bank statements into Quicken and making sure my master Excel spreadsheet is up to date, so I can fend off the panic and that "What have I done?" feeling and get back to the euphoria that I enjoyed for the parts of last week that didn't have to deal with my grandmother's passing.

I should mention that too, I suppose, although I don't like to delve too deeply into family matters here. It was nice to hang out with my family for a while, and Grandma's passing somehow seemed to mend some fences with my great-uncle, who had been exceptionally cranky ever since his wife passed away last year, but I think coming together like this helped remind him that he's not as alone as he thought. I hope so, anyway. Grandma's calling hours went quickly awry, in a way – when Grandpa died over a decade ago, or when my great-aunts and uncle passed away over the last five years, the calling hours were all solemn and somber. This time, since Grandma had suffered a massive stroke last fall and had never recovered, there was a greater sense of release and relief, the "She's in a better place" sensation. Further, word had gotten out (partly from me, partly from mom) that I'd been accepted into MIT, so there was joy there as well, and finally just getting to see people whom I hadn't seen in too long also lightened the mood considerably. On our way to the funeral home I'd joked (ah, gallows humor) that we should have thrown Grandma a "surprise wake", and much to my surprise that's sort of what happened. I want to thank my friends Rob Carter and Laurie Bower for coming out, and Kris Berkey for showing up with her kid. Man, that's weird having your old friends breed. The munchkin was really cute, though, all big eyes and constantly astonished, and he was a real trooper, barely fussing at all. The 'big trooper' award also goes out to my cousins Phoebe and Chloe, who had never met my Grandma but came out anyway, and I remember being dragged to some stranger's funeral when I was a kid and feeling all awkward and uncomfortable. Those two just earned major brownie points in my book.

So, yes – now I'm back in Chicago and, as I mentioned above, working like a mad fiend. I just launched the first version of a new site for a local art rock band, Thadeus Project, which is a very cool blend of HTML and Flash that promises to get even better here in the next 30 days as we keep adding in media. I'm also about to launch a site for a local law firm, I just landed a gig to create a site for a company that organizes field trips for students, a couple of the old regulars are once again in full swing, and I've got a couple of photographers lined up to start using some neat new techniques I've been working on. I'm also hitting the exercise bike hard again – I haven't lost as much weight as I would like lately, but now that there's at least the promise of warmer weather outside that should help – and my efforts to learn to cook are really starting to work. Earlier this week I made burritos using brown rice, fresh-chopped red peppers, grilled chicken and a blend of four cheeses. Chipotle, eat your heart out. I'm also the proud new owner of a KitchenAid stand mixer, which is going to help me in my resolution to not eat any cookies that I don't bake. I'm not sure exactly how well these 'learn to cook' and 'lose weight' resolutions play with each other, but the way I see it, if I can cook her fabulous meals, any woman should be slightly more forgiving of my lack of six-pack.

So, to quote old Uncle Cronkite, "That's the way it is." There's been a ton of new stuff popping up on the media scene lately that warrants comment, but right now I need to get on top of this whole MIT thing. Once I feel like I've got things more or less sussed, I'll be right back here fielding ideas about inventions and harping about new movies and whatnot. As always, dear readers, stay tuned!


Heading home.

I'm going to be offline for a couple of days. Many of you know that my grandmother had a massive stroke last fall, and had been in a nursing home since then. Last week she came down with a fever, which then grew into full-blown pneumonia, and yesterday she passed away. I'm heading back to Ohio for the funeral and calling hours, and so I probably won't be posting much of anything for the next couple of days while we get family things straightened out. Be good, and I'll be back soon.



Bitten by the health bug, and then stung in the face by the cold bug. Sunday's mental and physical conditions were all over the map, including two or three heavy-duty naps, one point where I totally zoned out while sitting in my parked car for a good fifteen minutes, and now I'm sitting here at the keyboard sniffling and blinking blearily before attempting to go to bed. Probably a good thing I didn't make Texas, then.

Ugh. Another thing worth noting: one should not, under any circumstances, attempt to read O'Reilly books while flirting with disease. My goal for the weekend was to read 400 pages' worth of ActionScript for Flash MX: The Definitive Guide, and I actually achieved a grand total of about 50. It went something like this: read chapter, nap. Read chapter, nap.

Sneeze index: high. Productivity index: low. Fark.


Current conditions in Chicago: sunny and co-o-o-o-old.

So as I mentioned in my last post, I've once again been bitten by the health bug. The wheels on the bike go round and round, and the gray metal dumbbells go up and down. I've also been investing some money in various pieces of equipment. Last fall I bought some Nike ACG equipment, including a shirt, pants and a great set of running trail shoes, and now I'm looking for some warm stuff to go with 'em, so I can go get out of this house a little in the near future. The trouble is, right now it's nineteen frickin' degrees, and while I'm all about pretending that I'm braving the Arctic conditions and hauling my ass up Everest... Um, no.

C'mon, springtime!