Tuesday, June 10, 2003

Yet More Stupidity In Education

The local headline says it all, really: Rules treat school art as fire hazard; Code also affects teacher postings. Seems the state Board of Fire Prevention Regulations decided that no more than 20% of any classroom walls may be covered with flammable materials, and subsequently "ordered schools to sharply reduce the amount of decorations and other materials they proudly hang up in classrooms and corridors." (Incidentally, the same rule has been in effect in our dormitories for years, due to the overzealous local fire marshall -- a man, we tell students, with the power to condemn our dorm and make us sleep in the gym, which to an adolescent boy is indeed a fate worse than death.)

Predicatably, teachers are calling the order a death knell for student pride in accomplishment, and for visual learning and reinforcement.

They're right, of course, but there's a bigger issue here: schools are significantly less likely to go up at all, and when they do, the consequences are most often less serious than other places. They have fire extinguishers and exits everywhere, and fire alarms conveniently placed. They are legally required to have good sprinkler systems, and, even more importantly, schools are spaces with extraordinarily low potential for sparks or matches. And what other kind of institution or building conducts regular fire drills with all its community members?

Here at NMH we have 3700 acres of forest, 1100 students, almost a hundred buildings. Yet there has been but one major fire in our five years here -- the barn, full of hay in the heat of summer, or a discarded illegal cigarette. In the dorms, kids can't smoke (that's why they do it in the barn); they're not allowed to have matches: one can get put on disciplinary probation for an open flame. We have fire drills three times a year in the middle of the night, but we never have a fire.

Posters in the chem lab may not always be the best idea -- all you really need is a decent elemental table. But let's chill out on the walls, guys. Let the kids have their art, their cursive letters, their dangling kitten posters. Hang in there, kid!

posted by boyhowdy | 7:36 PM | 0 comments

Advice Is A Form Of Love

Stay out of the sun. Stay as cool as possible. Relax. Try not to scratch.

Oh, and take these inch-long pills three times a day, even though they probably won't make a difference.

Try that clear green stuff we used to use when you were a baby. If you need narcotic painkillers, feel free to call the doctor; he said you should.

Speaking of babies, don't get too close to Willow; keep yourself covered around her, and certainly don't hold her against your ribcage where the rash is. Sleep alone. Miss her.

Hooray, summer. Having shingles sucks.

Thanks, though, to Darcie who made the perfect sandwiches for us this afternoon's lawn picnic, to Willow who greets me with my name (daddy) and a grin and outstretched arms when I come home, to mom and dad, who keep calling to empathize with me and offer informed secondhand suggestions from the best doctors they know personally. It's nice to be taken care of, and cared for.

posted by boyhowdy | 2:37 PM | 0 comments

Monday, June 09, 2003

So Much For Summer

Yes, that's right...shingles

Almost a week ago I thought I had a couple of itchy spider bites on my chest under my right nipple.

A couple of days ago the area around those spots started to go numb.

Yesterday I started getting shooting pains in my rib. I thought maybe it was broken or strained, so I called the doctor, who called back a few minutes later and said something you never want to hear a doctor say to you: Come in to the office. Now.

Those little itchy bumps on my chest turn out to be shingles. I seem to be the youngest person ever to get it or something. Hooray.

And, according to the doctor, it just gets worse from here. I'm in for about a month of excruciating pain and itchiness, a set of symptoms which the website aftershingles.com, In trying to get caregivers to empathize with their patients and loved ones, describes by asking caregivers to think of the worst pain you ever had, and multiply it many times over...With pain that bad, it is hard to find a comfortable position, whether sitting, lying down, or walking around.

Oh, God.

And guess what? Shingles is really a kind of herpes outbreak, except the virus in question is the chicken pox virus you have left over in you from your own childhood (you learn so much at the doctor's office, don't you?). Yes, that's right -- shingles comes from chicken pox; if you've never had chicken pox, you can't get shingles. People who have never had chicken pox can GET chicken pox from shingles outbreaks, and, at almost eleven months, Willow's never had it. We were going to schedule her for her chicken pox vaccine while I went to see the doctor, but it looks like we won't need the shots, thanks, because this afternoon, the baby broke out in itchy bumps.

I hate myself right now, and I can't imagine the pain of struggling to help her understand why she's itching. Heck, she can't even understand the word "no" yet.

I'm so sorry, baby.

posted by boyhowdy | 11:48 PM | 1 comments

Monday Mosh

Today's mosh accomplished from a movable chair, baby bouncing on my knee. I think I bruised a rib lifting televisions over the weekend.

What song did you mosh to?
Thing Called Love -- Bonnie Raitt.

What did you step on/bump into? (bonus points for breakage)
Rolled the chair wheel over my own foot; bumped the back of the baby's head against my own forehead. Better, I think, not to break anything else -- my rib hurts enough.

Why did you stop?
Pain: nature's way of saying "cut that out."

And remember, kiddies: moshing is good for your spiritual health -- everyone needs a good dance-around on a Monday! Don't forget to post your own mosh in the comments below!

posted by boyhowdy | 12:30 PM | 0 comments

Sunday, June 08, 2003

Not Much Here

Reunion is over, and the campus is suddenly, postapocalyptically quiet. The baby's got a yeast infection itch; I carried her naked-bottomed down to the farm with Darcie and Virginia this afternoon after a sleeplate start to see the recently sheared sheep, feed clover to cows, and chase and catch a pair of identical chickens escaped from their chickenwire cage. The poppies were out in full gaudiness along the lavender patch, orange and purple in the late afternoon summerhaze.

With dining halls closed for months we took Virginia to the Peoples' Pint for pulled pork burritos, homemade sausage quesadillas, and a chocolate souffle a la mode to die for. A parade had just finished in Greenfield, lending a festive air: white-vested morris dancers at the next table over jingled in time to the faint bar radio music as we ate, and a woman dressed up as a bellydancing djinn swished and tinkled in and out the door.

Few tasks remain before the summer mind takes back its worked-over body. There will be a few conference calls, a bit of light curriculum writing, some steelwoolgathering for the Bangladesh trip -- also a visa application to prepare and send, a trip to the doctor for serious shots. But the now-voluminious maple leaves beckon me with shade in the warm days, and a pair of newly google-found folk festivals pique my interest -- Great Waters, surprisingly close by in Wolfeboro, NH, and a zydeco/jamband festival called Great Blue Heron; brownie points will be granted anyone who can comment on either. The camper is cool, and the air sings with birds in the morning. Hoorah, once again, for summer; let the good times, as it were, roll.

posted by boyhowdy | 11:40 PM | 1 comments

Saturday, June 07, 2003

Kudos To Reuters

For the best newspaper lead ever:
Cuba's first ephemeral art festival lasted barely an hour and a half, until the butter paintings and ice sculptures began to melt, the children ate the cupcakes hung from a tree and the grand piano went up in flames.

Kudos to piano arsonists, too: Top festival honors for the best exhibit of transitory art went to Jeanette Chavez, a 22-year-old art student who poured gasoline on a wooden piano structure and set fire to it while minimalist piano music blared from speakers. She won a night out at Havana's famed Tropicana cabaret, which doesn't seem worth the cost of the piano, but I guess that's not the point.

Although some exhibits were less ephemeral than others, the festival requires no clean-up, as "the works will stay here until they disappear," according to event organizer and director of Havana's Experimental Centre for the Visual Arts Mayrelis Peraza. The smell of rotting butter should dissipate eventually.

posted by boyhowdy | 10:36 PM | 0 comments

I Once Was Spent But Now I'm Found

Last week I was pretty much spent; regular readers may remember some long lags between blogentries, some serious incoherence as I tried to wind up the school year with a kindling-spark of sanity (new visitors -- welcome, new visitors! -- feel free to scroll down to catch up on recent trials and tributaries). But I've never felt lighter, now it's practically summer. Here's how it got that way.

Spent the weekend setting up and troubleshooting overheads, clip-on mics, data projectors, and slide projectors all over the two campuses for this year's NMH Alumni reunion, including a slew of convention-like workshops on topics from ADHD and urban sprawl to alternative energy and scrapbook making. I missed the Dogfish Head Brewery tasting (the owner's an alum), and wasted an hour singlehandedly lugging a TV from one campus to the other and precariously into the bowels of a dorm only to find that someone had, after all, brought in their own TV. But I can't complain: only two bulbs blew all weekend, the alums are all happy to be back and all want to hear me talk about me, the food's been great, and there's beer everywhere.

Except for a few moments of late-afternoon family time in the pop-up camper, now set up in the driveway under the Maple tree, spent the afternoon in a borrowed shirt in the rain. Back and forth, back and forth. Sometimes when it's foggy and drizzly on one campus it pours on the other; today it was just torrential everywhere.

Spent the last hour in the zone with my daughter, in and around the crib while Darcie read in bed and smiled. Willow kept sneaking up on her mother to say "hi." When mama responded, the baby would jump up and down and squeal with delight.

Spent the past few minutes glowing and grinning like only a daddy can, spooned against the baby's back as she nursed herself to sleep.

Ahhh...Summer. Wet, warm, relaxing hot-bath summer. It's about time.

posted by boyhowdy | 9:23 PM | 0 comments

Friday, June 06, 2003

Irony Alert

Education Department pulls web-based summer reading list, compiled from elementary and middle school specialists from Atlanta, Georgia, public schools, due to misspellings, misidentifications, an absence of books "reflective of a diverse population" in the canon, and a lack of books from the past decade.

More than 40,000 students in the Atlanta school district are participating in the department's "No Child Left Behind" reading program this summer.

Apparently, children born in the past ten years need not apply.

posted by boyhowdy | 1:42 AM | 0 comments

Re: Hi!

I did not name this site after a Tolkien poem from LOTR. It is cool that you think the movie is cool, and thanks for the email, but I'm the kind of person who reserves his obsessions for family and time well spent, not fictional universes. Myself, I think the sentiment of "Not All Who Wander Are Lost" is deeper and more relevant outside of that context. For me, the phrase originated with a bumper sticker, and it rings true: wandering, a la Dirk Gently's Zen method of navigating, works for me; it is my mode d'etre.

While we're on the subject, I didn't name my daughter after a Buffy The Vampire character, either. I might admit to having a tiny crush on the girl who plays Willow in Buffy the vampire slayer, but that's just because I have a thing for elfin girls with reddish hair. We like tree names; already have Rowan and Juniper on reserve for subsequent kids.

Truth is, in both cases, it was only after it was too late that I found out about these pop culture connections -- I didn't know "the band camp girl from American Pie" was even on the show until after Willow was born; I learned about the LOTR origin of that favorite bumper sticker from an email much like the one I received today, the one entitled "hi!" that began, all too specifically, "I love LotR and I think it's totally cool that you are using a line from the Riddle of Aragorn."

In both cases, it was the comments of others which led me to realize that these connections even existed. I realized much too late the high geek quotient of either association. Can one be a geek only in one's Freudian subconscious?

posted by boyhowdy | 12:47 AM | 0 comments

Thursday, June 05, 2003

Reaping What You Sow:
File Under Plagiarism

Remember that high school student whose mother never taught her to share? You know, the one with the immune deficiency who successfully sued her school for the right to be recognized as sole valedictorian -- despite already being one of three valedictorians? The one who gained her high GPA points by not having to take courses required for non-disabled students, such as gym?

Well, now that she's been caught plagiarising, admitting that she did not properly attribute information in three articles and two essays she wrote for the Courier-Post of Cherry Hill, here comes Newsday.com with the dubious news that "nearly 1400 people," some who ominously "say they are associated with the university," have already signed a petition asking Harvard to rescind their offer of enrollment for next year. Seems they were afraid that she'd sue for the right to be the only student there. Geoff Mulvihill, "Associated Press Writer," reports:
Blair L. Hornstine, 18, explained her actions in a column published in the newspaper Tuesday, but she did not apologize. "I am not a professional journalist. I was a 17-year-old with no experience in writing newspaper articles," she wrote. "Upon reflection, I am now cognizant that proper citation allows scholars of the future to constantly re-evaluate and re-examine academic works."
This is an interesting definition of why we cite. It's innovative, I suppose. But it's also very wrong. Notably, Hornstine's definition is consistent with the egoism which led to her suit in the first place -- in avoiding the issue of tying one's work into the web of ideas by referring specifically to those ideas, instead focusing on what citation does for a single text; it is an approach purely consistent with her self-centered history in the press. One cannot help but wonder at an eighteen year old who can write better than, say, Geoff Mulvihill, but does not know what proper citation is for, and cannot understand that it is at least as much for the present as it is for the future.

Bonus: The story which contains the above quote ("...but did not apologize") has as its headline "Valedictorian apologizes for failing to attribute in columns. Oops.

Bonus, Too: The piece is generally slipshod. Grammar errors abound, and that headline/quote mismatch is just embarassing. Reporting that "some" people who signed a petition say they are associated with the university isn't concrete enough to be news. How did this article get by the Newsday editorial crew? Mulvihill should be ashamed; where does he think he is, Fox News?

posted by boyhowdy | 11:27 PM | 0 comments

Thursday Three: For The Unmotivated Blogger

Who was the last person to give you a present?
Graduation leads to grateful students. Yesterday's mail included two of this year's senior t-shirts for Darcie and me, given by class parents and real-parents-to-be Jim and Marianne "with thanks for all your help with this year's senior class", and a small box with a whistle that, when filled, blows bubbles, and a marbled Carnegie Mellon mug, both from Chantelle, who's off to CM partially because of the stellar letter of recommendation I wrote her.

Who was the last person you gave a present to?
Um...last week I gave all four of my returning advisees copies of next year's NMH book in common, Ella Minnow Pea. If you haven't read it, you should, especially if you're a linguaphile; it's a nice light summer read with a wry and intelligent humor.

What is your favourite present that you received?
At the moment, the pop-up camper; we're dropping the car off today to have a hitch installed. Unless Willow counts as a present. Are children presents? How about spouses?

posted by boyhowdy | 10:45 AM | 0 comments

Well, Which Is it?

Grad Student publishes paper on plagiarism, paper plagiarised from published paper on plagiarism. Plagiariser claims the plagiarism was unintentional and blames the problem on deadline pressure.

Most of the second-to-last sentence came from here; thanks to Fark.com for passing this one on.

posted by boyhowdy | 12:21 AM | 0 comments

Wednesday, June 04, 2003

Counterpoint Fragments: The Machine In The Ghost

Of course, maybe we don't talk about the ghost in the machine anymore because the machines are in us -- not yet literally, but psychologically so, at least. If so, are we ghosts? Are they? Do we merely inhabit our body-machines, or do they merely inhibit us?

Damn Alex for making me muse cyberpunkish. What *wouldn't* you transplant? Are you worried this might be a Turing test?

posted by boyhowdy | 10:52 PM | 0 comments

The Ghost In The Machine

A true science of life must let infinity in, and never lose sight of it...throughout the ages, the great innovators in the history of science had always been aware of the transparency of phenomena towards a different order of reality, of the ubiquitous presence of the ghost in the machine -- even such a simple machine as a magnetic compass or a Leyden jar.
-- Arthur Koestler

De doo doo doo, de da da da.
-- The Police

My daughter Willow, at age 10 months, has become a person overnight. She totters deliberately on the tips of our fingers from the kitchen to the ottoman and back again, slowly lowering herself into a sitting position to pick up a fallen magnetic poetry letter or Cheerio. Her speech has become proactive; she says e-i-e-i-o before she turns to go look for the Old MacDonald book where once she said dog only when we pointed at the dog and said What's that? What's that? over her head like giant parrots. From this until-now reactive ball of bawling diaper rashes and adorable-ness, humanity springs.

By profession, I evoke. My job is to make apparent the technological bias of the tool and the psychological/cultural default habits of the tool-weilder, and in doing so to lay a foundation of and for deliberation and thoughtfulness where once there was a vague and hazy understanding of how meaning springs from the combination of thought and assisted, communicative action. Essentially, I teach others to recognize the ghost in the machine, with a focus not on leyden jars and petri dishes but with the tools with which we describe, and in doing so define, our cultural discourse. But to be deliberate in this way is to know the ghost within ourselves, and thus, my job is also, in some ways, to be that ghost, to be something between a real-world Microsoft Word paperclip icon and a personal awareness guru of a peculiarly proactive Zen variety, always urging others to find the spark within them.

Seeing Willow grow fills me like a spring river, but it also makes me sad -- soon, too soon, she will walk across the room without my fingertips to hold her, and soon again she will learn to walk out of these rooms we share. I am reminded of the limitations of my job, my life, my being, something which I have known for all my life but only recently come to accept: others may help us learn to see our ghost-selves, our selves-to-become, for what they are, but what we choose to do with our spark -- how we reflect it outwards, to whom, and with what purpose -- becomes and is forever our own.

But there is a list I keep of what one day we can do together: baseball games and river tubing and walking from one town to another -- all the really important things. One day we will accomplish it all, and together, we will find her spark. And then, one day, she will become herself, and fly away.

posted by boyhowdy | 9:45 PM | 0 comments


Bleah. I hate grading papers with a passion otherwise reserved for the common senseless and the knee-jerk politically correct. If there's one thing wonderful about my new job , it's that I never have to grade another paper; now all I have to do is pare the job title down enough for it to fit on a business card, and it'll be perfect.

Okay, enough procrastination; I've got an early morning call coming in from Bangladesh tomorrow to finalize the outline for the academic technology training I'm doing over there this August. For more things-to-come, see the new (well, slightly modified) sidebar links -- don't you think the archives look much better?

posted by boyhowdy | 12:04 AM | 0 comments

Monday, June 02, 2003

Hey, Rube!

Monday Mosh!

Thanks to Mandarindesign for the cheesy effect.

posted by boyhowdy | 11:04 PM | 0 comments

And Then, Today, We Bought A Pop Up Camping Trailer

The Rockwood 1640LTD

Just walked right in and bought one. The deposit made it ours; a trip to the Insurance folks and then the DMV for plates made it real. Now all we need is a hitch and we can drive it away. We're thinking Friday, maybe.

The Rockwood 1640LTD folds up to 8' long and 3' feet high for easy travel, but spread out it runs 17 feet, roomy, curtained and fun, with a propane stove, propane furnace and and a propane 'fridge; we paid a couple hundred extra for a screenporch addition, but everything else was part of the asking price. The technology is ingenious: The dinette turns down into a third bed with ease, the canvas frame is surprisingly sturdy yet terribly light. Putting it together is like playing Transformers all over again, except on a grown-up scale and with a single easy-to-crank mechanism to save the back a bit. Pix to follow next week when we get it home.

Thanks to Mom and Dad for the early Anniversary present which made this purchase possible. Can't wait for Falcon Ridge Folk Festival.

[UPDATE 6/4/03 10:58 p.m.: Found pix of a Rockwood 1640ltd from 1999; it looks essentially the same as this year's model.]

posted by boyhowdy | 9:36 PM | 1 comments

Pomp And Circumstance

Oh yeah -- Graduation was Sunday, and it went off without a hitch -- if by "without a hitch" one means "a long vague day punctuated by moments of chaos and panic." Mostly the morning was memorable. Some highlights:

9:20 a.m. After breaking an hour into eight-minute sleepsegments with the snooze alarm, wake up with faint memory of Darcie leaving with the baby to go usher at commencement.

9:30 a.m.-- 9:50 a.m. Put on shirt; take off shirt; put on deodorant; put on shirt. Iron tie. Put tie on poorly. Iron tie again. Put tie on. Take tie off; iron shirtcollar. Put on shirt, tie, suit, graduation gown, the mortarboard with the mickey mouse ears. Put hood on incorrectly.

10:00 a.m. Go downstairs to look for Sam, a wheelchair-bound advisee who cannot get on or off the bus so needs a ride. Find no Sam. Assume, nervously but ultimately correctly, that Sam must be going over with his mother after spending the night at his Boston-area home 2 hours away.

10:05 a.m. Get into car. Get out of car. Realize that keys are in the front seat of Darcie's car, which is now six miles away and phoneless in the auditorium on the other campus. Rummage through four days worth of pants pockets just to be sure, just to be doing something.

10:15 a.m. Hitch ride with graduating senior from Turkey. Thank God.

10:15 a.m. - 10:25 a.m. Endure Beatles music as we wait in traffic to get dropped off at the auditorium. Reconsider thanks to God.

10:30 a.m. - 1:00 p.m. Graduation.
  • Rain-dampened faculty line-up in cramped green room.

  • Faculty march-in and up the stairs to settle into painful wood 100-year-old pews.

  • Class Orator Rob, the first postgraduate chosen for the honor in quite a while, delivers unmemorable speech -- something about the difference between the rough streets where he used to be and the higher-on-Maslow's-pyramid choices he could make here at NMH.

  • Colin '03 passes the spade -- representing the work program and the commitment to community service. Diana '04 accepts on behalf of the Junior Class

  • Speaker Francis Moore Lappe delivers a speech about choosing hope, not fear. Speech verges on rousing, but never quite climaxes.

  • 400 seniors and postgraduates march slowly across the stage as their names are read. Sam's wheelchair cannot get onto the stage, so everything stops at L while the Headmaster walks majestically off stage and to the floor, where he hands Sam his diploma. Crowd of thousands surges to their feet. Reportedly, Sam is crying, although the stage's edge blocks my view.

  • School Song Jerusalem sung. Seniors cry. Everyone yells the line "bring me my arrows of desire" gleefully, even the normally disapproving faculty.

1:30 p.m. -- 3:30 p.m. Hide in apartment. Out the window kids pack, hug each other while their parents stand around awkwardly, drive off one by one.

3:30 p.m. -- 5:00 p.m. After the last stuffed SUV drives off college-bound into the sunset, walk through the hollow-sounding trash-littered war zones of the dormitory. Fold, pack, and put away for Goodwill several huge boxes of designer clothes, shoes, sporting goods, books and random objects of the accumulated one-year life of a few kids, mostly foreign, who have the cash to burn during the weekly mall trips all year but cannot bring everything back to their country. Find and keep a microfiber winter coat, a brand new Banna Republic raincoat, a few books, a pair of binoculars, a 40 pound weight set for Ginny.

5:30 p.m. Drive away from an empty campus.

6:30 p.m. -- about 8:00 p.m. Too many Pied PIPAs, a grilled steak burrito and a farmer's sausage quesadilla at the People's Pint in Greenfield.

? Haze, blurriness. Television. No noises in the hall at all.

Ahhhhhhhh...Summer. Drunken, drunken summer. The hangover was worth it.

[UPDATE 6/3/03 12:56 a.m.: Seems students leaving great stuff behind is a common phenomenon: Today's Boston Globe marvels at the discarded items at Colby College:
258 pairs of women's pants, 199 T-shirts, 40 winter hats...discarded clothes, food and furniture...scales, clocks, mirrors, lamps, ice skates, bicycle helmets, piggy banks, paperback novels, computer printers, stereo systems, and even a few George Foreman Grills were found in the trash.]

posted by boyhowdy | 8:08 PM | 0 comments

Monday Mosh

Today's Monday Mosh comes to you from an otherwise quiet dorm. The kids are gone for the summer -- it's time to rock this place!

What song did you mosh to?
Paper Thin -- Buddy and Julie Miller (off the brand-new and mostly-excellent It'll Come To You: The Songs of John Hiatt)

What did you step on / bump into (bonus points for breakage)
Bumped into my wife a bit, but isn't that the whole point of moshing?

Why did you stop?
Late for the final faculty meeting of the year on the other campus, to be followed by the annual farewell luncheon: steamers, steak and beer to toast retirees with, an especially large crop of fine old folks this year.

Don't forget to post your own Monday Mosh! Dance around like a maniac, blog your chosen song and experience, and then leave a link to your post in the comments below...or paste 'em right in if you're blogless or just want to share! (See Shaw's moshnotes in the comments for the previous entry if you want a hint on how to get started.)

posted by boyhowdy | 10:36 AM | 0 comments

Saturday, May 31, 2003

Getting Better All The Time

It's no secret I'm tired; I've been saying so for days and days and hardly blogged at all. But today was mostly running around, then sitting in the middle of a surrounded stage for three hours in my suit waiting to hand out a single prize for the Senior Class day assembly, and helping people find their way into and through the Commencement Eve Dinner Dance, an event moved indoors -- like all other graduation weekend events -- due to hurricane-severe winds and rain coming in from the stormy midwest.

I've been on the go since 10:30, and it's 9 again now. On Saturday. And to tell the truth, it felt like a day in the park.

Some people think that teachers have got it easy. Maybe it's just been awhile since they themselves were in school; maybe they're members of that scarily large percentage of the population that just doesn't get it in general. Maybe they see their kids get home while the sun is still high, long before their own tired arrival, and assume that their teachers' days end with their kids'. Maybe they've just watched too much Boston Public, where the seats around the table in the teachers lounges are always full, and, although the teachers complain about being tired and overworked, they have plenty of time to sit in bars afterhours and relax.

Probably, though, they just don't realize what the job entails.

I work a twelve-hour day six days a week from September to June: classes in the mornings, media center coordination and minor courses in the afternoons, dorm duty at night, working with teachers to tinker with their pedagogy in amongst it all. On my occasional day off I tend to spend an hour or two chasing email, helping with homework, unlocking doors for the kids in the hall. To-be-graded papers stack up on my desk; I average five hours of sleep a night. And when you live with your students and coworkers, you're never truly away from work. Leaving the house means donning the invisible mantle of authority figure and community elder; any contact with teachers is an opportunity for them to ask a question on teaching and technology; just getting the mail or eating in the dining hall means stepping into the role-model-role.

To top it all off, we do work we love so that our charges might leave us with that love. Our communities grow only to dry up, peel, and drift away in the wind every summer. It's a shock to the system, a tear at the heart.

Today, the seniors and their teachers and parents stood as a family and cried together while the valedictorian told us of her own family, trapped by Sars in a Hong Kong province, ten thousand miles away. Tomorrow they will blow away like so much fine sand in the hurricanne.

I saw a mug once in one of those cheesy knick-knack mallstores that said the three best things about teaching are June, July, and August.

And, while it is true that the best things in life are time, and the timelessness of the family moments to come, Darcie and the baby and me on the small rug dragged out to the lawn, while the cat climbs the maple tree and the dog licks herself in the grass, in a true vocation -- and good teachers can't afford for it to be any other way -- the time we spend nurturing our charges is the best of all, for it is time planted for a richer harvest, a better universe of kids who make a difference. And that's not easy. Not at all.

posted by boyhowdy | 9:06 PM | 0 comments

Friday, May 30, 2003

Backyard Poem II

I'm almost back to blogging mode;
the kids are almost gone.
But while I wait for my brain to gel
I wrote this little...um...song.

6 legs designed to stick
on surfaces we see as smooth:
on ceiling corners, walls and windows
gravity-less, insects move.

But from a petal's underside
this tiny bee-like bug has fallen.
Even petals fall, like rain,
when insects slip collecting pollen.

It doesn't hurt the bug at all
despite his petal ceiling's fall.

The original Backyard Poem is here.
I wrote it several years ago,
the first lines scavenged from a piece
now lost, written in high school.

Okay, so it doesn't rhyme.
The important thing is, I wrote it.

posted by boyhowdy | 10:56 PM | 0 comments

Wednesday, May 28, 2003


I was a zonked out mess during dorm duty tonight, fullsteam o' head and a bit crisp at the edges. For three hours I tried to keep the dorm under control while a parade of students-in-need waited in line by my elbow for proofreading, last minute web publishing, and quick-bounce brainstorm check-ins; for the final hour I played the worst games of ping pong in my life and managed to win anyway, because when you live with the table for five years, you get good enough to win most of the time, and there's something eminently satisfying about beating adolescents, sick though the urge to do so may be. Maybe it's because I can't really beat them, even when they're having baby powder fights in the hallway.

I keep thinking about that perfect double rainbow this evening. I wish I had something more interesting to say about it than I keep thinking about the perfect double rainbow this evening, but see below. I really need more sleep, but a Magic Hat Fat Angel beckons from the fridge. The beer, a paler shade of ale, is sweet and light, but it's the pithy saying under the cap I really need. Tonight's capnote: Don't Zap your only Map. And speaking of short little ideas...

It's a good thing Newsweek doesn't come more often. Who has time to read the news every day anymore?

A monkey on the back is worth an infinity at the typewriter. After all, who needs another Hamlet?

If bits and bytes were tics and mites we'd something something something. Feel free to finish that one.

What if the light at the end of the tunnel is just a giant magnifying glass?

You know what's weird? Everything. Once you realize that, life becomes much easier.

posted by boyhowdy | 11:43 PM | 0 comments

Tuesday, May 27, 2003

Mr. Osborne, may I be excused? My brain is full...

I've got way too many tasks piling up; the back of my hand is so full of impending-ink "to do" notes that I'm about to run out of skin surface. Grading's overdue, I have no plans at all for my penultimate Media Literacy class tomorrow, the web project I was assisting with dropped a virus on the school website, and I've got conference calls scheduled for early morning tomorrow and Thursday to plan for this summer's academic technology training trip to Bangladesh. The baby's stuffed up with a cold that keeps her from sleeping well; I've hardly seen her for days, and I miss her. Students kiss shirtless outside my office window on the first sunny day in what seems like a month, thumbing their nose at my pain and pressure by their very lighthearted existence.

Every year at his time I teeter on the edge of a full-blown nervous breakdown, and every year it seems like this year's the one I'm gonna blow. I've always prided myself on working well under pressure; just gotta keep reminding myself to expect miracles -- it's always worked so far. But if it wasn't for the looming light at the end of the tunnel that is the final stretch to graduation on Sunday, I'd be in the pit of despair already.

I hate to sound like those whiny adolescent bloggers -- you know the type, the ones who make the rest of us seem like A-listers -- but it seems impossible from here and now. So read Shaw's blog (it lives in my comments), and browse the archives (ever wondered what I was doing on your birthday?), but expect little newblogging for the remainder of the week. I'll try to post a little something each day, but it may not be much, and, given how little time I have for browsing and collecting of the world wide waste, it will likely be egocentric. We will return to our regularly scheduled daily outpouring of verbosity and poesy starting Monday. I promise. Gotta run...

Oh, and sorry for the rant length. As Twain said, I would have written something shorter, but I didn't have the time.

posted by boyhowdy | 11:15 PM | 0 comments

Obligatory Matrix Post

With Morgan Freeman as Himself.

The thrill is gone: In a major shift of pop theology, Matrix sequel comes in a distant second to new Jim Carrey vehicle "Bruce Almighty" only one week after release.

Ha. Told you so. And I haven't even seen The Matrix Reloaded yet. (And it seems I'm not alone.)

posted by boyhowdy | 1:31 AM | 0 comments

Monday, May 26, 2003

Still, On The Radio

I'd like to say that each show leaves us like dew in the morning sun by preference. That the deliberate esoteric impermanence of each show is medium-appropriate, air being inherently unarchivable. Sound, after all, must determine its own pace, its own place and space in the world. Stopping sound to take a closer look only creates silence.

Mostly, though, we've just been too lazy to record our shows. And then here we are at the end of the year with the long drought upon us: the school year is over before next Monday; no shows for months ahead. A real shame, that. After all, it's all my favorite music, a moving mood, up and down and up again over an hour or two every week. It rearranges me 'till I'm sane, you might say; time to put me back in my head.

We could, I suppose, come in each summer week and broadcast to an empty campus.

Anyway. Here's tonight's playlist, retroactively blogged [UPDATE 12:28 p.m. 5/27/03] to create the illusion that we knew what we were still to play 21 minutes before the show actually ended. Listen in your head, if you can.

Beck -- Devil's Haircut
Trout Fishing In America -- Happy That You're Here
Bob Dorough -- Too Much Coffee Man
Spacehog -- Senses Working Overtime
Skavoovie and the Epitones -- Aquaman
Cake -- Manah Manah
They Might Be Giants -- Nightgown of the Sullen Moon
Keller Williams -- Anyhow Anyway
Ben Harper -- Steal My Kisses
Ani Difranco -- Angry Anymore
Trey Anastasio -- Cayman Review
Peter Gabriel -- Blood of Eden
Be Good Tanyas -- House of the Rising Sun
Alison Brown -- Banjo Mambo
Something by The Poets of Rhythm
Patty Larkin -- Different World
Mo' Horizons -- Hit The Road Jack
The Story -- Perfect Crime
John Gorka -- Oh Abraham
Aimee Mann and Michael Penn -- Two of Us
Deb Talan -- Forgiven
Sarah McLachlan -- Rainbow Connection
David Wilcox -- Burgundy Heart-Shaped Medallion
Marc Cohn -- She's Becoming Gold
Nikki Boyer -- Brain Damage
Maura O'Connell -- Long Ride Home
Mark Erelli -- Take My Ashes to the River
Emmylou Harris -- Red Dirt Girl
Sarah Harmer -- Open Window

posted by boyhowdy | 11:39 PM | 0 comments

Radio BLOG

After an entire year of coming home every week tired at midnight and staying up until the wee hours of the morning transcribing our radio show playlist into the blog, it turns out that this ancient Konqueror-enabled computer in the radio station is web-enabled after all.

It'd be too annoying to blog while we go for a number of reasons, including the distraction factor and the fact that blogger prompts me for a password after a waiting while. But, geez, it would have been nice to know.

And what do you mean you haven't done your Monday Mosh yet?

posted by boyhowdy | 9:51 PM | 0 comments

Monday Mosh

Today's Monday Mosh accomplished early morning after falling alseep with the baby at 6:30 p.m. Sunday and sleeping until 9:00 Monday morning. It's about time...

What song did you mosh to?
The theme song to the Muppet Show

What did you step on / bump into? (bonus points for breakage)
Stepped on some already-chewed pretzel pieces, which smushed rather than break, so I don't think that counts. Also bumped into the TV/stereo cabinet; the lamp atop it shuddered but luckily didn't fall, as I was carrying the baby and wouldn't have been able to catch it -- now that would have netted some major bonus points.

Why did you stop?
Honey, the baby really needs a nap....

The meme continues: after you've done your own Monday Mosh, either blog it and leave a link in the comments below, or go ahead and put your mosh stats in the comments directly. Have fun, kids!

posted by boyhowdy | 9:49 AM | 0 comments

Saturday, May 24, 2003

Hang Out, Hang On, Hangover

Big dinner and DJ party at Clay's uber-rural farmstead last night for Virginia's birthday. Arrived just before 8 to find a close-knit group of Virigina's coffeeshop coworkers making vegetarian lasagna and baked brie with pears in the main house's tiny kitchen; as the pickups and Volvos began to arrive over the subsequent hour we moved to the post-and-beam renovated sugarhouse, now the best raw-wood two room apartment in the history of the universe, to dance to the DJ and, when it got too loud, huddle under the entranceway suntent in the beginnings of a weekend drizzle. Managed to drink enough Wolaver's India Pale Ale before 9 to have a wonderful drunk old time chatting with old college friends and make a few new ones and still sober up to drive home in the rain at 1 a.m.

Am now watching an ever-more-cranky baby until at least noon while Darcie does prom set-up. Willow would like to say something:

f bimj i fvft hhtv v v i jnm .

Back as soon as things calm down. May be late tonight.

posted by boyhowdy | 9:17 AM | 0 comments

Friday, May 23, 2003

People With Too Much "Law and Order" On Their Hands

Found at TVtattle.com: L.A. Times mediawatcher Brian Lowry says that popu-drama Law & Order is tailor-made for the modern TV viewer:
At a time when research shows that people miss episodes of even their favorite series because of hectic lives, the program allows them to watch whenever, paying no price for missing a week. Its rhythms and tight format have been so well established that viewers can join in while the show is in progress without too much confusion.

TVtattle.com also passes along this namedropping gem about an art exhibit that pays homage to "Law & Order:"
This weekend, 30-40 artists from around the country will gather in Santa Cruz to show off their "Law & Order"-inspired work. After all 'Law & Order' has done for us, I feel it's the least I can do for 'Law & Order,' says Brandon Bird, a "conceptual art activist/entrepreneur" who developed the idea after watching five straight hours of "L&O."
The show celebrated its 300th episode tonight.

posted by boyhowdy | 12:50 AM | 0 comments

Thursday, May 22, 2003

More Calm, More Storm

The double-deck magic ice cream bus!

On the schoolyear's penultimate Thursday, Hoggerfair closes the dining halls and turns the lawn outside Crossley, the largest coed prep school dormitory in the country, into a tented wonderland of grillsmoke and finger food, of ballons and inflatable obstacle courses. It's fun, and Darcie's mom and I did do a runaround for a halfhour or so with the baby while Darcie dealt with an emergent but resolvable crisis of prom-night proportions (if it rains, should we move everything into the dining hall?) but we didn't stay long: Darcie's never liked crowds; neither does her mother; I grew up in mall culture, and they grew up in cow country, but after years living the rural existence the human mass isn't as comfortable as it once was, nor as real anymore. Could discomfort in crowds be contagious? Or have I just learned to appreciate intimacy?

Still, it was worth going. Can you believe I never had kettle corn until a few years ago? Man, that's good stuff. Herrell's burnt sugar and butter ice cream, too, served out the wondow of the double-decker magic bus you see above. Willow ummmed some raspberry sorbet. I won a half-sized plastic gumball machine.

Back home mostly full, found Darcie eager to avoid the same lines, so we waved goodbye to grandma and wandered out to The People's Pint. Invited school farmer spouse Sarah and her yearling son Jack to join us when we spotted them; Sarah used to work with Darcie at uber-rural Newfane Elementary School up north in Vermont, so the connection's comfortable. The kids shared an organic turkey burger and some pub bread and seemed happy, if a bit shy each in their own way. Darcie doesn't drink anything with bubbles, so it was nice to tap beer glasses with someone for a change.

Back home, Darcie gave me some time of my own after the baby's bath, so back out to Greenfield I went, this time to Cafe Koko for a cozy armchair latte and a startlingly good literary magazine someone left behind. Lost a good 45 minutes or so halfwatching the counter girl wrap up the dayold pastries and organic salads in the counter case; drove home.

It's easy to blame the baby for a total lack of time on my own this year, but the truth is, I'm still afraid to wander off lest I start snagging cigarettes once out from the watchful family eye. It was really hard not to cap the day off with a smoke and a second latte out there on the Cafe Koko streetside tables. You know what I miss most about smoking? Tamping the cigarette pack against the fat of the palm. The scratch-hiss of the match, the sweet blurry butane hiss of the lighter. Catching a flipped lit cigarette between my lips without burning my beard. That moment in the dark in the rearview mirror when the cigarette strikes the pavement, explodes into fire. Everything.

posted by boyhowdy | 9:31 PM | 0 comments

I Want This

Bonus: It functions as a public disclaimer (thanks, Alex) .

posted by boyhowdy | 12:36 AM | 0 comments

American Who?

Some guy. I think he sings or something

According to the news, some guy won some contest on TV (sorry, Ms. Bumptious) tonight. Over 20 million people watched. I don't know any of them, though.

I know it's the end of the school year and I just got off another 14 hour day, but, man, I really gotta get out less. I'm missing out on so much fine culture.

posted by boyhowdy | 12:10 AM | 0 comments

Wednesday, May 21, 2003


It's called Gemini, this yearbook for a twin campus school, this behemoth I proofread over the long winter nights on duty. The lavender-and-black book has a turning-of-the-seasons theme prompted by the senior class song this year, the utterly impossible-to-sing-right "Turn, Turn, Turn," and is 312 pages large, the size a necessary evil for the biggest coed prep school in the country. And it's not bad, and it has four pictures of me and two of my tiny daughter: it's good to be married to the yearbook queen.

Although due to Darcie's advisorship we've had one at home since Thursday last, the school yearbook came out officially this week. After a spate of private validation finding the self in the black-and-white crowd, the campus is thick with kids everywhere on the warm grass, in small groups and singly, bowing their heads over the heavy texts, signing and looking for typos. My favorite so far:
The Information Technology department supports the technology needs of our school. These faculty members who help sever our community are:...
Sorry, guys. It's neither deliberate nor a subconscious subterfuge, I swear.

posted by boyhowdy | 11:55 PM | 0 comments

Spam Vs. Media Literacy: Machiavelli's Choice

Dropped into our school student discussion folder this afternoon:
Please tell ten friends to tell ten today! The Animal Rescue Site is having trouble getting enough people to click on it daily to meet their quota of getting free food donated every day to abused animals neglected animals....This doesn't cost you a thing. Their corporate sponsors/advertisers use the number of daily visits to donate food to abandoned/neglected animals in exchange for advertising.

My response:

In other words, it DOES cost you something to visit the site -- you're paying with your time, your attention, your subconscious recognition of products and corporate signals, and your willingness to be exposed to advertising. Some might even say your "cost" here is a little tiny bit of your soul. Or your independence in a mass media culture. Or your integrity.

Then, by telling ten people to tell ten people, you're also doing the work OF those advertisers -- shilling for them, bringing your friends in to see their ads knowingly. Do the ends (animal rights orgs get little tiny donations) justify the means (advertisers get you, and you give them your friends)?

I'm not suggesting people shouldn't go to these sites. I am suggesting, however, that when you go, you know the stakes of going. It is important to remember that advertisers don't give money away out of the goodness of their hearts, and that it is in advertisers' best interests to get you to think that anything with no MONETARY cost has no COST/VALUE, which isn't at all true.

Personally, I feel more secure about myself (and feel more sure that I was not being suckered in by advertisers) when I make an actual cash donation to the organizations in question. At least then I'm not selling off my integrity, piecemeal -- I'm actually choosing to support an organization I trust with my own time and money rather than perpetuating the overwhelming blanket of signals and cues of a corporate culture. I like myself better this way -- and isn't that what counts?

posted by boyhowdy | 3:40 PM | 0 comments

Tuesday, May 20, 2003

Its (sic) official, you no longer work for JNI Traffic Control and u (sic) have forfided (sic) any arrangements made

Employee sues over text message firing. The message was sent to him via mobile phone. To be fair, the company claims that traffic controller John Eid resigned angrily the day before, and that the message was merely a confirmation, and I think the message's syntax -- albeit grammatically garbled -- bears out their explanation much better than his case that this was an inappropriate way to find out one had been canned. What sucks for them is that there's no evidence of his (claimed) verbal tirade, so it remains hearsay, less legit in court than the preserved text message itself.

1. Memo to self: When writing is necessary to my professional life, always give the other party the first move.

2. It's like I was saying over at webraw today: you don't need to set up a Vending Machine Blog to track workplace candy/soda problems. What could have been so urgent about reminding this guy that his employment had been terminated that they couldn't call him into an office somewhere to say it out loud, or write a formal note? If something was that imminent, they could have just had security tell him, right? I think an Andy Rooney quote I picked up for a while as an email signature file says it best: computers make it easier to do a lot of things, but most of the things they make it easier to do don't need to be done.

posted by boyhowdy | 10:41 PM | 0 comments

More Memes:

This-or-that Tuesday!

1. Large or small family?
Small -- most of my relatives-to-be died in the holocaust. My mother has one sister, now estranged; my father is an only child.

2. Potato chips or pretzels?
Usually chips.

3. House or apartment?
I'd prefer a house, but at least this end-of-dorm apartment has a yard, a driveway, a private entrance.

4. Zebras or giraffes?
Giraffes, of course. Unless we're talking about riding one.

5. Candles or potpourri?
Ew. Candles.

6. Flowers or trees?
Flowers are hard to sit under. I live in rural new England. I named my daughter Willow. What do you think?

7. Right or left-handed?
I wish I were left-handed.

8. Model trains or dolls/stuffed animals?
Silly Putty.

9. Comedy or drama?
Ohh...ER or South Park? I can't decide...

10. Thought-provoking question of the week: The city of Boston has recently banned smoking in all restaurants and bars. Would you want to see such a law passed in your city/town/country, or not?
Damn, no. I don't think it's necessary in these rural-type parts. Plus, I like light secondhand smoke, it reminds me of smoking.

posted by boyhowdy | 12:57 AM | 0 comments

On Air

This afternoon Virginia and I brought Willow for a walk. The sun was hot and strong like good coffee. We stopped at the school Chapel, a New England granite edifice looming over the football field, its stone carried and set by the hands of the school's first students over a hundred years ago. The cavernous space was still and cool in the late afternoon; it enveloped us.

Willow startled at the stained glass window, a gold jewel in the late afternoon sun. She played with the echo, calling it, the look in her eyes like wonder personified. She played the piano, first with her hands, then, more satisfyingly, with her be-socked heels, and walked on the tips of my fingers down the burgundy aisle between the oldwood pews.

It is these moments in the midst of madness that make everything worthwhile. That, and the light at the end of the schoolyear tunnel.

Twelve more days 'till graduation, and the seniors are counting down the hours; tomorrow is their annual now-school-sanctioned-and-thus-commodified skip day, and the kids in my class today were beyond distracted. After attending the ritzy off-campus Senior Reception tonight to tech the senior video showing, the least we could do was play as many songs as we could about once-forbidden-fruit things the seniors will suddenly, finally be free to do at the end of next week. That, and a jamband set for those needing a study break. Here, as always, tonight's Tributary, your ten to midnight Monday night show here on WNMH:

Bob Dorough -- Too Much Coffee Man
Habib Koité -- Cigarette Abana
The Biscuit Boys -- Coming Into L.A.
Ween -- Bananas and Blow
The Dixie Chicks -- Landslide
Matchbox 20 -- Crutch
Eddie From Ohio -- Stupid American
Acoustic Syndicate -- Crazy Town
The Waifs -- Lighthouse
Alison Brown -- Leaving Cottondale
Kasey Chambers -- Little Bit Lonesome
Dolly Parton -- I Get A Kick Out Of You
Jorma Kaukanen -- Big River Blues
The Be Good Tanyas -- Rain And Snow
Donna The Buffalo -- Seems To Want To Hurt This Time
Galactic -- Tiger Roll
Tony Furtado Band -- Fat Fry On The Hog Farm
String Cheese Incident -- Lost
Alison Krauss -- Forget About It
Brooks Williams -- Yellow Hummingbird
Clif Eberhardt -- Back Of My Mind
Nenes -- No Woman No Cry
Hot Rise -- Shady Grove
Patty Larkin -- Have A Little Faith In Me
Nickel Creek -- Out Of The Woods

posted by boyhowdy | 12:48 AM | 0 comments

Monday, May 19, 2003

The Monday Mosh

Today's Monday Mosh done during babycare -- we moshed together!

What song did you mosh to?
Batoumambe -- Habib Koité.

What did you step on / bump into? (bonus points for breakage)
Stepped on a couple of baby-dropped Toastie-Os (health-brand Cheerios) and smushed 'em into the carpet, so bonus points for breakage do technically count. Also bumped into the ottoman a couple of times, like last week. We really need to get a bigger place.

Why did you stop?
Baby was getting heavy and cranky, so we decided to watch the half an episode of the Muppet Show instead.

Remember: we're trying to start a meme, here, so, just like with other day-specific memes, after you've done your own Monday Mosh either blog it and leave a link in the comments below, or, like Shaw did last night, go ahead and put your mosh stats in the comments directly.

posted by boyhowdy | 10:24 AM | 0 comments

Sunday, May 18, 2003

My Life In A Dozen Ears

1. When I was little we had to wear pink molded earplugs smeared with vaseline in our ears when we took a bath. Much later it was discovered that getting water in your ears doesn't cause earaches like that.

2. Turns out, we just have small eustacian tubes or something. My brother even had to have his ear reconstructed after it got infected.

3. Remember that song My Mother Said Don't You Put Beans In Your Ears? Trust me, don't.

4. The first time I pierced my left ear it was in Faneuil Hall in Boston on a summer camp field trip. I called my parents from a payphone and waited until I had ten seconds left and then said I'm running out of time so I have to go oh I pierced my ear love you bye. My parents were sure my ear would get infected hiking in Colorado for a month later that summer, but it didn't. Back then, local phone calls cost a dime.

5. I can't remember where and when I got my left ear pierced for the second and third time.

6. The first time I pierced my right ear was on stage at the Colonial Theatre in Boston for my graduation from City Year because it was really boring on stage. I did it with a rolled metal ring which would have looked like a silver joint if it were stretched out. The ring belonged to some girl names Rachel who I was dating but not seriously.

7. Another thing that runs in my father's side of the family is tiny pinholes at the top of the ear, where the ear meets the skull behind the temple. These aren't dimples, but real holes, useless and occasionally leaking something clear and odd. You can stick a stud earring all the way in and gross people out pretending you pierced your skull.

8. I figure I lost about 15% of my hearing being the lightning guy at the Boston Museum of Science for three years. It was worth it.

9. When my daughter was born, I looked to see if she had little tiny holes at the place where the top of her ear meets her skull just behind the temple, like my sister, my brother, and my father before us. She didn't.

10. When the light hits my ears just right the baby likes to pull at the tiny silver dots I wear in the three holes in my left ear.

11. When the baby sleeps we watch TV with the captions turned on. Sometimes the people who write the captions mess up, especially when it's live and they're trying to keep up. Sometimes commercials aren't captioned but run behind the last residual textphrase of the previous program, or are captioned poorly and spew character-heavy gibberish. It's funny but we can't laugh or we'll wake the baby.

12. My right ear is blocked up again, all the way down towards my sinuses. It has been for days. I think it's my my eustacian tubes.

posted by boyhowdy | 10:36 PM | 0 comments

Recommended Blogreading

Darcie's been on duty all weekend, so I've spent most of the time I usually devote to this space with a tiny person clinging to my fingers; apologies if the blogging's been consequently a bit thin, but I was afraid to start anything substantive while looking after baby. If you want proof I've been alive, see Alex Halavais' blog, where I've been commenting heavily on a few threads about blogging as a phenomenon of social development, along with Alex' School of Informatics colleague Barbara, a blogger herself. While I was at it I also dropped an overnight comment on meme-fulfillment at one girl's life. Check out the barbie skin; it's my favorite.

Oh, and speaking of memes, while you're browsing tonight, don't forget to plan for your Monday Mosh -- leave a comment below if you decide to go for it!

posted by boyhowdy | 8:47 PM | 0 comments

Saturday, May 17, 2003

Pleas and Thank You

Colin and Bram have started a message board to explore web-based asynchronous communication; visits and participation from some of the wise and verbose visitors who frequent THIS space would be appreciated, as time for this project is relatively short.

In the same vein, thanks to those who have already visited Blogistics, especially Alex, whose professional expertise lends credence both to the assignment under which Blogistics is being produced and to the very fabric of the idea of blog-as-learning-space.

And while we're on the subject, thanks and kudos go out to Alex as well for giving away his hard-earned blogshares because "if the web is a gift economy, then a potlatch seemed in order" -- thus setting a high standard for bloggers to give each other more than just links and winks and, more generally, gently nudging the web evermore towards the communal.

posted by boyhowdy | 8:44 PM | 0 comments

The New Gender Gap: Second Thoughts About The Second Sex?

I grew up a child of the eighties, back when the muticulti/diversity/sensitivity curriculae had not yet been commodified by our Huxleyan PC culture. But I've always had trouble believing the party line that girls were given the short shrift in educational settings, a concern that comes up even today in tech conference post-lecture debates. My own primary subject -- Media Literacy -- is one often considered "soft" by math and technology teachers who claim a dearth of female voices in their classrooms, so the generally equal gender ratio I attract is no strong defense of gender equality, but both my intro and advanced web design classes tend to be more female than male, despite the common citation of coding as one of those things adults want to see as "not seen by girls as for girls, and why not, dammit?"

That's why I found this article in Business Week to be so refreshing. It makes a powerful case that boys are actually much less well served by our modern educational institutions than girls, which takes guts in the minefield of the politically correct culture:
...From kindergarten to graduate school, boys are fast becoming the second sex. "Girls are on a tear through the educational system," says Thomas G. Mortenson, a senior scholar at the Pell Institute for the Study of Opportunity in Higher Education in Washington. "In the past 30 years, nearly every inch of educational progress has gone to them."
...At one exclusive private day school in the Midwest, administrators have even gone so far as to mandate that all awards and student-government positions be divvied equally between the sexes. "It's not just that boys are falling behind girls," says William S. Pollock, author of Real Boys: Rescuing Our Sons from the Myths of Boyhood and a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. "It's that boys themselves are falling behind their own functioning and doing worse than they did before."

At the risk of sounding unlike the feminist I claim to be, after over twenty years of increasingly sacred and ultimately inequality-perpetuating assumptions about the way social and learning differences between boys and girls play out, it's great to see some solid and wide-ranging evidence say out loud what I have to believe that many of us -- more, I daresay, than will ever be willing to speak up -- have long suspected.

posted by boyhowdy | 1:01 AM | 0 comments

Friday, May 16, 2003

Geeks With Too Much Time On Their Hands

Whose face would you put on the 18 cent piece?

Remember Science News, the Reader's Digest of...um...science news? This week's web-issue includes the totally useless conclusions of one Jeffrey Shallit, Computer Scientist, who has concluded that what the U.S. needs is an 18-cent piece. Also a 32 cent piece.

That is, if we assume that having less coins change hands per transaction is desirable, and as long as we assume that every amount of change between 0 and 99 cents is equally likely to come up in a given transaction. And surely we should assume that, because if there's anything I can't stand, it's change.

Oh, wait, I'm sorry. I didn't mean change. What I meant to say was, if there's anything I can't stand, it's smug people who think they know what the U.S. needs. Especially more different denominations of coins, because there certainly aren't enough random pieces of metal in the average American's pocket most days.

Bonus #1: Shallit's conclusions were first published in the Mathematical Intelligencer. What the heck is an intelligencer?

Bonus #2: The Science News website sells pangaea mugs.

posted by boyhowdy | 11:30 PM | 0 comments

Instructions From Darcie For What To Do If The Baby Wakes Up While She Is Gone Running Tonight's Student Activities Programs

If the baby wakes up, she might go back to sleep. Let her.

If she keeps making noise and starts moving around, take this toy flashlight kaleidescope and wave it over her face. She will stop crying and say "ohhhhh."

Then page me, and I will come home to nurse her back to sleep.

posted by boyhowdy | 8:46 PM | 0 comments

Fry-day Five

I'm being lazy this, next, and the subsequent week until school ends and my brain returns to normal. Hence, this week's Friday Five:

1. What drinking water do you prefer -- tap, bottle, purifier, etc.?
The well water that comes out of the tap at my in-law's house. Welcome to rural living.

2. What are your favourite flavor of chips?
Um...potato flavor? I like Cheddar and Sour Cream ripples, but only with french onion dip.

3. Of all the things you can cook, what dish do you like the most?
Toast. That's about all I can cook, and I like it.

4. How do you have your eggs?
Three over easy, corned beef hash, hash browns, white toast, double latte.

5. Who was the last person who cooked you a meal? How did it turn out?
Do restaurant meals count? 'cause they tend to turn out swell, and we had excellent Chinese food yesterday for lunch...if not, the dining hall food two nights ago here at school wasn't bad at all -- breaded pork chops and applesauce, prepared with love by workjob students and their professional adult supervisors.

posted by boyhowdy | 1:18 PM | 0 comments

Thursday, May 15, 2003

Poem Of The Month-And-A-Half

Haven't written anything 'cept blog itself in a long, long time. But I did use this old binary double pantoum in media literacy today to discuss digital/hypertextual forms of creative work, as a companion and comparison to the formal academic hypertexts my students are working on. For what it's worth, the second half is actually the same as the first half, except upside-down.



There's so much of everything:
I am talking about media again.
The baby says "da da da"
to his father in the telephone.

I am talking about media again
on the low couch in the living room
to his father on the telephone.
I say "hasn't he arrived?"

On the low couch in the living room
he is there, traveling inward.
I say "hasn't he arrived"
when he is theoretically still:

He is there, traveling inward
toward the unreachable center
when he is theoretically still.
Ripples travel outward as fast as

toward the unreachable center
there's so much of everything;
ripples travel outward as fast as
the baby says "da da da."


The baby says "da da da."
Ripples travel outward, as fast as
there's so much of everything,
toward the unreachable center;

ripples travel outward as fast as
when he is theoretically still.
Toward the unreachable center
he is there, traveling inward:

when he is theoretically still
I say: "hasn't he arrived?"
He is there, traveling inward
on the low couch in the living room.

I say "hasn't he arrived?"
to his father on the telephone
on the low couch in the living room.
I am talking about media again

to his father on the telephone.
The baby says "da da da:
I am talking about media again;
there's so much of everything."

posted by boyhowdy | 11:47 PM | 0 comments

It's Only Natural

It was one of those perfect almost-cloudy spring days today.

After class Darcie and I skipped the faculty meeting and took my advisees out for chinese and sushi; the school gives us ten bucks per kid each trimester, and my boys had decided to save up for a major feast. Dustin, finally off disciplinary probation but under the stress of not knowing whether his grandparents will pay for him to come back next year, cooed at the baby and laughed at everything and had a grand old time and kept saying so; his roommate, Jerry, a Hong Kong native, helped us order. Sam had never seen wasabi in real life; we managed to convince him to eat ate a whole cube of the stuff a laJackass: The Movie, and then he and Alex M. dared each other to eat the octopus, deciding ultimately to split it, but Sam had no success convincing either Alex M. or Alex F. to take him up on a similar challenge to eat the giant hot red peppers in the General Tso's. The leftovers will be gone tomorrow, but the memories will sustain us all summer.

Bellies still mostlyfull, instead of supper we went out to the newly-rebuilt Creamie for chocolate malteds and bright rasberry sorbet for the baby which turned her lips and tongue a flaming, glowing lipstick red. There and back the deepening breeze scattered pink and purple treepetals over the car like a blizzard of bright birthday tissue paper. The baby said moo to the cows we passed on the way back, and played quietly with me in bed for almost an hour after her bath before finally rubbing her eyes, a signal for lights and daddy out. There are no words for the way she is becoming deliberate about her movements, her attention, her choices -- a real person.

And now in the yard just behind the tennis courts I can hear the mother killdeer screaming her shrill cries at the darkening baseball game as it encroaches upon her inopportunely chosen nest up against the court fence at the top of the ballfield spectator hill. Last year she laid her eggs on the sandy lawn outside the administration building; this year's four tiny beige-and-speckled-grey eggs stand out no better in the dark gravel than they did in the sand. Kids threaten her with carelessness and ungentle curiosity. Yet she persists, because she, too, holds spring's hope.

Bonus points, as always, to anyone who can correctly identify the song used for today's blogtitle.

posted by boyhowdy | 8:40 PM | 0 comments

Digital Student, CyberClassroom:
Writing What You Are, How You Are, And Why You Are

The penultimate assignent in my Media Literacy class is simply presented: create, I tell them, a hypertext on identity in a digital age...In pairs, develop a natively non-linear document, both structurally and content-wise consistent with knowledge-sharing and knowledge-creation values of the new digital age -- among them communality, democratization, delinearity, collaboration, and fragmentation -- which addresses as subject some aspect of modern individual identity...Speak subjectively and objectively, thus embracing fluidity between yourselves and your readers; promise engagement and interaction, and deliver.

In the past, the assignment has resulted in all sorts of wild and wonderful things: wire-and-paper mobiles on the emerging sexual self of the adolescent; board games and choose your own adventures exploring the new ways we make and evaluate choices in our daily lives; webtexts and almost-papers on everything from the leisure hobbyist self to the self as community member, once geographically grounded, now fragmented and multiple and phase-shifted. Primary sources, including the environments and sometimes even the humans under discussion, link by blue-and-underline or umbillical tape-and-string to the body of work. In their final form these projects take their places around the classroom, and the vast school body is invited in to visit and explore our Museum of Hypertext, where visitor comments can be addedon to the permanently open and unfinished body of work that we have made.

This term, as in the Fall, a pair of students are writing a blog on blogging, and in their early stages they are asking for comments and ideas; please visit them, and leave your kindness and critique. Interestingly, as with the first blogproject, I find that the blog begins with a short testing...are-you-there blogentry, followed quite shortly by a complaint that blogger keeps "eating" their entries; perhaps this commonality is unsurprising given the narrow course-specific approach coupled with the common newness of the blog itself in each case.

Other projects this term include:
- an exploration of video games and the phenomenon of avatar self-identification,
- a look at the new possibilities and norms of various forms of online dating, as compared to "traditional" dating,
- an analysis of the spectrum web-based identity opportunities, including static (web pages), mostly one-way (blogs) and interactive (web boards) examples, and
- a close dissection of AIM as an identity-sharing space, with attention to the ways in which identity is both self-determined and peer-determined.

Of course, the best part of the project is asking students to rethink the idea of "project" or "document" at the end of the process -- for, ultimately, the finished museum can be seen as a single hypertext, much as Bolter suggests that one might envision the entire Internet as a single hypertext. That, and the way in which we show how the digital age destroys the subjective/objective dichotomy, once so stilted and formal in the written wor(l)d, by thinking about whose experience the museum ultimately was as an afterthought.

Man, I'm going to miss teaching this class.

posted by boyhowdy | 12:06 AM | 0 comments

Tuesday, May 13, 2003

More Memes!

This-or-that Tuesday: yet another meme for people who want to blog but have nothing to say. Why do I always pick these on the lame weeks?

1. Packrat or minimalist?
Packrat to the extreme. Minimalist thinker, though.

2. Computer: desktop or laptop?
Laptops at home; desktops at work: what do you think?

3. Seashore or mountains?
Seashores are easier to climb, but can't I have both?

4. Carpeting or bare floors?
Hardwood, except in the bedroom.

5. Drinking water: bottled or tap?

6. Shopping websites: eBay or Amazon?
Amazon. New stuff is more trustworthy.

7. Cute little kitties or big scary tigers?
Cute little kitties that turn on you when you least expect it.

8. Front door or back door?
Well, since the front door leads into a high school dorm...

9. Lots of jewelry, or little/none?
My hair is all the jewelry I need.

10. Thought-provoking question of the week: At the last minute, you obtain tickets to an event you're dying to attend. However, you have to work that day! Do you ask the boss for the time off, or just call in sick?
That's not very thought-provoking -- all the events I'd ever be dying to attend happen in the summer, when teachers are all on hiatus. Do what you love and the events will follow, baby! Yeah!

posted by boyhowdy | 11:30 PM | 0 comments

Belated Monday Mosh

Geoffrey wrote to remind me about the Monday Mosh. Happily, although I forgot about my own meme, I moshed last night at the radio station anyway. I just forgot to blog it.

1. What song did you mosh to?
Como Ves -- Ozomatle. Recorded live, and funky like a mardi gras party.

2. What did you step on or bump into? (bonus points will be awarded for breakage)
I did roll my chair over the sleeve of my leather jacket as I got up to dance, but I don't think that counts.

3. Why did you stop?
Ginny was looking at me funny, and I had to pick a poem to read at the station break.

posted by boyhowdy | 11:10 PM | 0 comments

The New Twenty: Now With 50% More Ugly!

Well, that's gonna take some getting used to. Luckily, the other side isn't as bad.

posted by boyhowdy | 10:11 PM | 0 comments

Second Spring

Second spring brings a change-in-the-seasons smaller than a C-change but larger than life. It's not a moment -- it's more of a short period of time, when the newness fades, and suddenly you look up and realize that spring has become a way of life again. Most people notice spring; the point of second spring is that you have to squint and turn your head just right to see it. And it's here now:

The green world renewed is spring. Coming home to a freshly mowed prep school lawn is second spring.

If robins are a sign of spring, sweat gnats are a sign of second spring. Or ladybugs.

Babies without hats -- definitely second spring.

And forgetting to close the windows at night.

And trees falling in a heavy rain. Deer in the evenings on the fields. Tiny fresh asparagus.

And dandelions, everywhere.

How do you know it's second spring?

posted by boyhowdy | 9:55 PM | 0 comments

I'm Feeling Lucky!

Wondering why I got a hit today direct from the google home page? Because typing Not All Who Wander Are Lost into the search engine and hitting "I Feel Lucky!" takes you here. Go on, try it.

posted by boyhowdy | 1:30 AM | 0 comments

Trains In The Air

Virginia and my weekly radio show Tributary tonight started with Nora stopping by to announce I'm not wearing my pants! (she was wearing pants, but from a fellow student by way of the dorm free box). It ended with a whole tree across the end of the road, blocking the long way home, mandating an even longer k-turn on the edges of the close, soft woods and an even longer detour back again. In between, bedtime stories on the hour and the half hour -- tonight, poems from some anthology -- and the following musical madness. Note the world music set from 10:30 - 11, and the long train set (pun intended) at the end of the evening. Playlist follows:

Bob Dorough -- Too Much Coffee Man
The Biscuit Boys -- Ramblin' Fever
Bonnie Raitt -- Love Me Like A Man
Cake -- Manah Manah
Bjork -- It's Oh So Quiet
The Strokes -- Is This It
Erin McKeown -- Blackbirds
The Rembrants -- Making Plans For Nigel
Manu Chao -- Me Gustas Tu
Habib Koite -- Batoumambe
Zap Mama -- Telephone
Cesaria Evora -- Sangre De Berona
Ozomatle -- Como Ves
Chris Ardoin -- Your Love Keeps Lifting Me
String Cheese Incident -- Joyful Noise
Patty Griffin -- Sweet Lorraine
Emmylou Harris -- One Big Love
Salamander Crossing -- Passion Train
Mark Erelli -- Midnight Train
Kasey Chambers -- Not Pretty Enough
Jourma Kaukonen -- Waiting For A Train
Indigo Girls -- This Train Revised
(aborted due to scratch)
Los Lobos -- That Train Don't Stop Here Anymore
Nancy Griffith -- Last Train Home
Susan Werner -- Time Between Trains
Bare Naked Ladies -- Am I The Only One

posted by boyhowdy | 1:24 AM | 0 comments

Monday, May 12, 2003

Our Politically Correct Schools

Down the road a piece in Springfield, a teacher was suspended this week for asking students to write a list of words they were not to say in class as part of a follow-up discussion after the school Principal announced that abusive and inappropriate language directed towards others would not be tolerated. The students quoted are all 13 -- the same age as our freshmen here at NMH -- so trust me when I tell you, as an experienced teacher of this age group, that the teacher did nothing wrong and everything right.

Most kids this age have never heard the word "kike." All hear the words ass and bitch on network television all the time. That doesn't mean these words aren't hurtful to those who have heard it before, but because standards for classroom language are almost always more conservative than standards for cultural language, and because language standards and language itself change all the time, how else are students supposed to know what words are taboo or hurtful to others in a specific context if they can't discuss them? The teacher did nothing wrong; it's the inherent impossibility of Political Correctness -- that you can't talk about some topics, which leaves holes in the cultural sensitivity of a rising generation -- which is at fault here. Most adults can't see it; they already know which words are taboo, and have conveniently forgotten how they learned the list.

Note, too, the bias in the article: the first line states that the teacher "forced" the students to write these lists. Last I checked, pretty much everything that happens in a classroom is expected of everyone; that doesn't make it okay to use bias-heavy words to describe it. For forgetting the difference between reporting and editorializing, and for kowtowing to the PC culture in which we live, Mary Ellen O'Shea, staff writer for (no surprise here) The Republican, deserves jeers here; the teacher-in-question does not. Why not tell her so yourself?

posted by boyhowdy | 8:35 PM | 0 comments

Sunday, May 11, 2003

The Foot Sand Crab Bladder Wild Hugged Gang

Feelin' stupid; thought I had come up with a killer app, but apparently I was not the first to think of a random band name generator. Meet GORBY, Generator Of Random Bandnames (and Y? Because we like you, apparently). Sorry, Molly; I'm sure something else will come up. But check out the cool bandname it spit out for me.

[UPDATE 10:28 p.m. If nothing else, GORBY's a good dadist poetry generator. How about:

Technological Bumblebees
A Scum Aerodynamic
The Mocha The Orangutan Fetched
The Dairy Farm The Union Ran
Bob Marley's Extreme Gat
Los Porcelain Concubines
Sleek and Shriveled ]

posted by boyhowdy | 9:47 PM | 0 comments

All I Want Is Loving You And Music, Music, Music

The days blur in the heat and the constant acceleration towards graduation day. Threads stand out more than chronology: mother's day, trustee weekend, a low note of coffee. Throughout, a soundtrack, a musical motif. We'll start there; it's as good a way as any to get at things past.

Found two CDs my parents had given us last time we went to Newton: something sweet and encompassing Alison Brown: Best Of The Lighthouse Years and the Waifs' Up All Night. Both turn out to be excellent. Cleaned the house to them this morning while Darcie and Willow napped. Lighthouse -- track 4 on the Waifs' disk -- is worth it all. My parents have such good taste in music; I'm glad it's genetic.

Found it hard to focus on cleaning, though. I really depend on weekend sleep -- that magical banked time on Saturday or Sunday morning can make up for a whole week of down at 2, up at 7 -- but this weekend was actually less restful than, say, an average Tuesday/Wednesday workweek shift. Breakfast with the trustees and other faculty governance chairs, in suits on a Saturday morning, after a late but quiet Friday night of dorm duty sifting through the songs on the school radio station's auto-playlist...which led to Saturday morning's farmer's market, a stop-by on Darcie's grandmother with Willow and flowers, and a full afternoon mostly-hopelessly shopping for Mother's Day gifts with Ginny.

Then, after an even later duty last night (dorms close at 11:30, and hour later than usual, on Saturdays), up at 6 this morning to watch Willow while her mother, on her first Mother's Day ever, got to sleep late. Between their naps I gave Darcie the light world-funk Habib Koite CD she had asked for with a bunch of cards "from" me and Willow. After Brown and the Waifs I turned the Koite on, the house almost clean, to re-don charcoal slacks and blue silk blazer for Sacred Concert, sure I would fall asleep in the warmth of the auditorium but willing to give it the old prepschool try.

Sacred Concert started a hundred years ago when D. L. Moody, NMH school founder and evangelist, decided to have his students serenade his own mother. Today, it is a required, special-dress event -- suits and ties or dresses and heels -- for all students, with mothers encouraged to attend, although many instead just get frustrated that their students aren't supposed to be able to come home for, say, a traditional family dinner at a fancy restaurant. Today I went solo as Darcie went off with her parents and sister for a nice Mother's Day supper, sat with the dorm and had my own supper of bacon-wrapped scallops and honeystung chicken afterwards at the dining hall with librarian Pam and her late teenage local son. The school chorus and orchestra sound like professionals, not high school students, and the music itself, from hymns to Handel, was exquisite. Bummer I had to go alone. Didn't sleep though.

Tonight from 6-8 Acoustic Cafe, a nationally syndicated you-probably-get-it acoustic folk, rock, and country featured a set of five Patty Griffin covers by the likes of Emmylou Harris, Melissa Ferrick, Maura OConnell, and the Dixie Chicks. Ginny and I, out on an excursion after soapmaking with Darcie and her Mom in the student center kitchen, found it just as the coverset started. We drove the long ride home to listen. [a hypertextually semiotic pun!] O, heaven is a set of diverse interpretations of the work of my favorite songwriter, a friend and sister-in-law, being married to a mother -- so much, really, is right with the world; even in the midst of exhaustion, it's wonderful to hear the ozone rain on the flat roof.

posted by boyhowdy | 9:02 PM | 0 comments
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