Saturday, March 13, 2004

Gone Fishing

Once we drop the dog off at the in-laws' house up in Brattleboro, we're off to Boston until Tuesday. Plans include visits to the Children's Museum, lunches with each parent in turn, a trip to the annual flower show at the Boston World Trade Center and maybe even a stop in backstage at the Boston Museum of Science, where I once worked. Expect a post, or a postcard.

[UPDATE Tuesday, March 16, 2004, 7:29 p.m. We made it back at almost 3:00 this afternoon, the drive mesmerizing and, in the end, a bit slippery in what one hopes to be the last snowstorm of this year's winter come fluffering down from the sky. Four inches so far and the promise of as much as a foot to come by midday tomorrow. Man, it's good to be home.

But the slipandslide snow of the last few miles was more an omen of hardship than we might have expected. Darcie started the big end stage of her prolonged miscarriage soon after and stopped being able to function beyond moaning in the bathtub, so I've been too baby-busy to blog until just now, when the baby actually conked out on my arm in the dark after just three songs -- and this from a child who has only fallen asleep with me-and-only-me once in her life, and that at about nine months. Supper and, hopefully, a prolonged catch-up blog to follow in the next twelve to 24; stay tuned for everything from family and feasts to the Massachusetts flower exposition and the Children's Museum. It should be worth the wait. ]

posted by boyhowdy | 8:23 AM | 0 comments

Friday, March 12, 2004

If I Only Had A Brain a content-limited one trick pony well worth the laugh anyway. Calling all zombies!

posted by boyhowdy | 10:56 PM | 0 comments

Great Wall Not So Great After All

Prompted by a bit of myth-dispelling from China's first cosmonaut, who spilled the beans upon his return from a day in space last year, China announced this week that they're finally going to excise the age-old myth from the nation's textbooks, admitting to little kids who don't know any better that they've been lying to them all along, and no, the infamous Great Wall is not, after all, visible from space. Given that the wall is both the same color as its surroundings and only a few yards wide, whereas the average Beijing skyscraper is shiny, twice as large, and lit up like a christmas tree at night, one has to wonder if kids might have been able to figure this out on their own. Still, in an age of intelligent design curricula, it's nice to hear about a case of the scientific method trumping propaganda.

Chinese textbooks are expected to continue propogating other cultural myths, however, including the myth that the United States is an unholy sinkhole of moral decay populated solely by drive-by rap artists, imperialistic dogs, and prostitutes. Well, you can't change a totalitarian, mind-controlling regime in a day. (Oh, wait -- that's not a myth...)

Interestingly, in citing the Web site for the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration as confirmation, CNN points out that many other manmade objects can be seen from space without magnification. Bet you can't name just one.

posted by boyhowdy | 10:43 PM | 0 comments

Better Than An Aggreggator, More Powerful Than Popdex...

Who needs remaindered links lists or an updated home-computer-based favorites list when you've got personal aggregator delicious? As an added bonus, delicious' main page is an easily skimmable list of all postings happening in the past few hours, with increasingly darker grey highlighting over those most popular...and community-wide lists-by-subject on the right hand side. Neat stuff. Thanks to ex-student Alex for the tip.

posted by boyhowdy | 7:45 PM | 0 comments

The Slow Rebirth

Snow today in fat light lamb-white flakes that spun sideways in the faintest wind. Looking out the window causes a slight dizziness, like watching too-fast clouds on a green hill in summer. It's a bit like being inside a spun snow globe.

It's been an under construction Spring, more gradual than I can remember. The weather goes from fifty to twenty and back again overnight; the bare bud-impending trees along the meadow ridge strip, dress ghostlike in snow, and strip again by nightfall like a bevy of little girls in a dress-up house. I stay up late but not until three; I sleep late, but not after eleven. Instead of awaking to silence, as in years past, I rise to a treasure hunt each day, to find the morning's new daughter at play.

Out of practice after six years of dining hall provisioning we shop almost every day, and struggle to develop the dishwashing habit. We ponder outings but, other than the trip down to the Mt. Holyoke Carousel and adjacent children's museum last weekend, back when grading still weighed heavy on the brain, we mostly stay in and around, watching the world alternate from snow to sun and back again. We plan for Boston tomorrow through Tuesday, but playfully, knowing that overplanning makes it work, preferring play and spur of the moment-ness, a lack of direction.

Not sure if the way we shuttered ourselves into the rush week of finals to weather the miscarriage has affected the subjective nature of time, if the egoshift from waiting to waiting-no-more has been a c-change, however temporary, provoking a new substance, a different foundation for this year's zen-like vacation state. It might just be Willow's personhood rearing itself, making this, for the first true time, a vacation of three of us, not just two and "the baby." Behind me as I write I can hear her in the bed as she fades towards her nap, singing made-up songs about her new Wiggles balloon, now calling for daddy to change her diaper. Be right back.

posted by boyhowdy | 12:25 PM | 0 comments

Thursday, March 11, 2004

Before The Ax Falls

And because, having driftshifted nocturnal as vacation stretches out before me, I've got some time on my hands after the baby and her mother go to bed at eight, I've been working on my resume.

So have these guys, but it's just not my style to lie so "convincingly." If you're going to put in all that work, why not do something resume-worthy in the first place?

posted by boyhowdy | 10:58 PM | 0 comments


The dog smells mice in the walls and the meadow. The late snows obscure the moon all weekend. It is warm today, and sunny. It will snow again tonight.

Tenses fail in the timelessness of a spring break malaise of days.

All day we thought it was Wednesday. Darcie's mother came while the baby was sleeping. We edited yearbook proofs in the office until suppertime. There's nothing new on television, or it's all new and I don't understand it.

Yesterday I took pictures of Willow dancing around the living room, swinging her softfooted pajamas like a partner, skip to my lou my darling. This morning we kneeled in the warm sun by the window and wiggled our shadows at each other, peeled fallen birdseed and ate the tiny sweetmeats inside. She rides around the house on my shoulders sitting stiff like a totem.

Ah, happy tranquility. And maybe Boston on Saturday, whenever that is.

posted by boyhowdy | 9:54 PM | 0 comments

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Memes Again

Because Wednesday is memeday!

1. Wednesday Whatevers

What is the most useless thing ever invented?
Decaf coffee.

Press CTRL+V and we'll see what interesting thing comes up.
Progress report leftovers:
Despite a strong academic skill-set and a deep interest in the work of the course, strong emotions sometimes get away from her, which, at worst, results in an unfortunate tendency to get so interested in a personal response to the topic that she forgets to analyze questions from the theoretical perspective asked for in the paper assignment.

What do you think society will achieve before your death?
I wish it was flying cars, but the cynic in me says we're more likely on the soylent green track (and, hey, speak of the devil). I am looking forward to the googlehouse, though. (Hey, house, what's mom's cell phone number? Where's my keys?)

2. What's On the back seat of your car Right Now?
  • A cardboard box filled with random work-related papers, unopened mail, a video tape of Straight Plan For The Gay Man, and -- I think -- a half a bag of Baby Ruth bars

  • The larger of two dollies

  • Board books by the dozens

  • Pretzel crumbs and sunflower seeds

  • One magenta mitten

  • The baby seat

3. Newcomer meme HomeWork asks:

Do you use environmentally-friendly cleaning products, or are you a "Bleach the Earth; bleach it white!" kind of cleaner? Somewhere in between?

I'm more a "what the hell is cleaning?" kind of person...but when it comes time to do it, I don't use the organic stuff, as I find it hardly ever actually causes cleanliness. I use the least caustic thing we can get that works, and don't scour or bleach unless I really have to, because hey, there's a baby in the house, and I've got a low tolerance for chemicals.

But I do prefer more natural stuff for my body. Burt's Bees, anyone?

4. And they're playing with "if you could" this week over at the slightly-less-new Wednesday Mind Hump:

1. If you could live your life as a cartoon character, which one would it be & why?
Still thinking about this one. It would be nice to fly, but then, I always wanted to be the Flash.

2. If you could be invisible for 24 hours how would you spend those hours?
Ah, who am I kidding -- I'd probably spend the whole day watching television through my butt.

3. If you could call a much younger you on the phone, what would you tell you?
Trust me, it won't really make your palms hairy.

4. If you were one of the Seven Dwarves what would your name be? (excluding the original names of Sleepy, Sneezy, Dopey, Happy, Bashful, Grumpy and Doc)
Dorky? Or maybe Squishy.

5. If you came with a warning label that was clearly displayed at all times, what would it say?
Warning: Keep away from children.

posted by boyhowdy | 10:13 PM | 0 comments

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

Doggerel Days

I'm writing you this blog to say
I won't be blogging here today

because I waited far too long
to mark my student papers wrong

and then forgot when they were due
so stayed up grading long past two

and woke up with my back in knots
at six, and washed the coffee pot,

and dove right back into their pages
and read and wrote and read for ages

and finished grading right on time
(just five hours past the noon deadline)

which means -- hoorah! Spring Break is here!
Now where'd I put that case of beer?

posted by boyhowdy | 8:15 PM | 0 comments

How News Travels On The Internet

Blogcentric*, but broad, deep, and chock full of socsci geeky goodness nonetheless. Heck, the subsequent trackback comments are deep reading.

Metabonus: now that Fark has picked this one up, the blog entry in question becomes, reflexively and/or recursively, "news," and its explanation of how information travels becomes a test of its own explanation of how information travels. Since bloggers love more than anything to talk about bloggers and blogging, the model should run at an accelerated rate. God, I love this stuff.

*Relegating all non-blog grapevining of "news" -- including email and IM -- to the status of "dark matter" is a bit extreme. Hey, bloggers, most humans still pass along email to spread the word. And what's with the lack of a direct news link between email and journalists? Don't news stories get broken both ways?

posted by boyhowdy | 12:36 AM | 0 comments

Monday, March 08, 2004

Monday Mosh No More

The Monday Mosh meme has been cancelled due to lack of participation. Kudos and thanks go out to Shaw, Barbara, Molly, Gregory, Sarah, Guitar Angel, and all others who ever moshed. Also thanks to pariah, Morgaine leFaye, and the folks at Globe of Blogs for sending so many prospective moshers our way, even if few ever stayed to mosh.

Though the blogmeme is gone, we here at Not All Who Wander Are Lost continue to advocate for moshes, thrashes, sing-at-the-top-of-your-lungs-in-the-car trances, and other private moments of (re)focus and reclamation in the midst of the daily throng. Especially on Mondays.

Those of you in need of a meme-for-monday might try Otto's Monday Madness.

Those who are in need of dancing are encouraged to look deep within themselves and find their own mosh, whatever form it may take.

posted by boyhowdy | 10:41 AM | 0 comments

Sunday, March 07, 2004

It's A Meta, Meta, Meta, Meta World
Now with new redundancy!

The UK-based Awards Awards, recognizing excellence in award-giving. Award categories include organizer of the year, personality of the year, supplier of the year, sponsor of the year and faux pas of the year.

No, seriously.

posted by boyhowdy | 4:27 PM | 0 comments

Saturday, March 06, 2004

Kiss Me, Son Of God

Once again, The Onion's Jesus looks exactly like me.

posted by boyhowdy | 8:29 PM | 0 comments

Sugar Season

For weeks the trees around this campus have sported their tin buckets. The farm program directors dream of frostcrisp nights and warm days, the best conditions for sweet and prolific sugaring season, even as the nights hover sweet and light in the high thirties. But low-yield year or not, the sap must be harvested, the fires banked, the sugars burned light and reduced.

It takes sixty gallons of sap to make a single gallon of high-grade maple syrup, and our yearly yield can go over a thousand gallons in the best of times: sixty thousand gallons harvested pint by pint from trees across a thousand acres or more, and two weeks to do it in. And the timing works out, as if the school calendar had been written by the earth itself.

This week and the next, with the school closed up for holiday, a dozen or more students choose the outdoors instead of the television in trade for a term off from weekly workjob. They live the lives of maple harvesters under the teachings of the farm director, his assistant, and the alumni veterinarian who calls us now and then. They slog the woods repetitively, crashing in a long-since downsized dorm, trading faculty-made pan suppers for a promise of a gallon later, when the work's been done. Without their manpower, there'd be less syrup, and less syrup means a smaller farm budget in the year ahead. Everybody wins.

On rainy days like this one, though, the water floods the buckets, making sap-collecting both muddy and moot. Down at the barn around noon they arrive and pour out of the farm pickups in fours, dripping and hungry from a wet morning's work. One of them brings in the calf, nervous and in raindrenched coat, and we cling to each other, my daughter and I, and watch as her nose ring, the one that keeps her weaned, is removed for her comfort.

One day, I think every year, I too will learn this trade, as I learned cidering beside the students two Octobers ago; I will learn the meditative love of earth again, and take part in its bounty, for myself and my child.

For now, too young in our respective roles, Willow and her daddy huddle in the barn waiting for a break in the rain, and watch the mother-longing calf in her stall, and scratch her ears, and giggle at her plaintive tenor cry for mama cow, and offer soothing noises in the afternoon, the rain on our heads drumming at the barn roof. And as the students gather and regroup and make plans to disburse for surely thick warm soup, we brave the rain, sprinting for the car, our winter coats and caps soaking through in moments: we come home to her mother, my wife, now finally cramping and abed as her own spring cycle begins anew.

God bless the earth, and the warm air and the rain; bless the cow, and the students in their wet boots and happy work. God bless the chance to begin again, and the blood that must come before we can try. Let the cleansing begin; it's spring again.

posted by boyhowdy | 1:31 PM | 0 comments

Friday, March 05, 2004

The Friday Five
Creativity is for the rich.

What was...

1. ...your first grade teacher's name?

Who remembers? The earliest I can recall is Mrs. Carter in third. If you finished your test early you could weave baskets. I finished early.

2. ...your favorite Saturday morning cartoon?
Smurfs. Or maybe Superfriends, later on.

3. ...the name of your very first best friend?
I hated most of the available friend-possibles through my childhood. But Timmy and I were supposedly very close. I remember something about a closet...

4. ...your favorite breakfast cereal?

5. ...your favorite thing to do after school?
Mmmm...Honeycombs. Or maybe Superfriends, later on.

posted by boyhowdy | 9:46 PM | 0 comments

Why It's Time To Start Writing Poetry Again

Because the windows can be open.
Because the moon rises thick in the fog again
and the deer run in sixes in the meadow.
Because dogs jump their fences
and track mud around the house
after three flights up and a cookie:

It's time. It's the time when
coyotes howl this side of the meadow,
when the springtime moon grows full.
In the still dark evenings with flashlights
we grow and shrink upon the walls
and crackle like paper, alive, entwined,
in shadows like papercut sillhouettes,
in the howl of the coyotes in the meadow.

posted by boyhowdy | 9:29 PM | 0 comments

Dear Diary

Tonight we sat in the dark and played with flashlights and shadows in the great room. Afterwards we turned all the lights on and ate ice cream sundaes squinting in the brightness and left the cherry can out.

Imagine how powerful it must feel to be a twenty month old flashlight-wielder. Imagine the first moment the potential of existence ever truly hit you, that moment in the dark when the lights suddenly blazed, and you realized: with the right tool for the job, you can control the situational existences of the entire solipsistic universe.

Maybe it's time to think about writing poetry again.

posted by boyhowdy | 7:10 PM | 0 comments

Thursday, March 04, 2004

Blog, In A Nutshell
A blog-based presentation on blogging

In the forthcoming Routledge Encyclopedia of Narrative Theory, Jill defines weblog, or blog, as a frequently updated website consisting of dated entries arranged in reverse chronological order so the most recent post appears first. Alternately, Ev, the guy who started the Blogger service you're soaking in right now, suggests that the blog concept is about three things: Frequency, Brevity and Personality.

Sounds simple, right? Like a short-and-sweet diary, except online, public, and in reverse. But no single sentence does the broad and increasingly widespread phenomenon justice, nor does it really help us see why this blog thing should mean anything to us. I think the encyclopedia would help us out, so here's most of the rest of what Jill has to say in her definition; for the purposes of fast discussion, I've edited out a few sentences which seemed less-than-urgent for us to consider today:
Typically, weblogs are published by individuals and their style is personal and informal. Weblogs first appeared in the mid-1990s, becoming popular as simple and free publishing tools became available towards the turn of the century. Since anybody with a net connection can publish their own weblog, there is great variety in the quality, content, and ambition of weblogs, and a weblog may have anywhere from a handful to tens of thousands of daily readers...

Examples of the genre exist on a continuum from confessional, online diaries to logs tracking specific topics or activities through links and commentary. Though weblogs are primarily textual, experimentation with sound, images, and videos has resulted in related genres such as photoblogs, videoblogs, and audioblogs

Most weblogs use links generously, allowing readers to follow conversations between weblogs by following links between entries on related topics. Readers may start at any point of a weblog, seeing the most recent entry first, or arriving at an older post via a search engine or a link from another site, often another weblog. Once at a weblog, readers can read on in various orders: chronologically, thematically, by following links between entries or by searching for keywords. Weblogs also generally include a blogroll, which is a list of links to other weblogs the author recommends. Many weblogs allow readers to enter their own comments to individual posts.

The world of blogging is still in flux, but the definition points to several areas of relevance for us. These include, but are by no means limited to:

1. Casual community-member use: Many members of the NMH community have blogs. One blog-maintaining service in particular, livejournal, is used by many of our students to share thoughts on a regular basis; a good number of them are currently keeping a group blog about NMH, in fact.

At stake here, however, is the unfortunate truth that students tend to forget that the mass includes the local; twice in the past two years, I have found it necessary to core team students whose blogs mentioned illicit and potentially dangerous behavior. As I said in a previous entry on this point,
Intellectually, it seems intuitively obvious that if a random stranger can access and read your blog or livejournal, so can the next-door neighbor or friend or ex-girlfriend or even parent, assuming that they are online, or have a friend who might accidentally come across your brainspew and pass the word along. Psychologically, though, it is not obvious, but disquieting.

2. Academic use: The use of blogs as a tool in educational environments is on the rise. In addition to providing a digital generation with a comfortable tool for journaling (itself a common tool for the integration of writing across the NMH curriculum), the web-based nature of the blog offers several new and potentially beneficial twists to the traditional journal, including the everywhere-at-once aspect of webbed materials (you'll never have to collect the journals, and they can still write in them while you're looking at them!), the ability to easily add links and images, and the comments function, which engenders a space for teacher or peer feedback that, unlike the traditional journal, doesn't mar or corrupt the original text, but exists outside of it, preserving its sanctity. Some algebra/physics classes here at NMH are already using blogging successfully (for example, this or this).

There are more issues here than we have time for -- for example, I've recently spent some time asking around the bloggiverse about citation and blogging, and can now state with some cultural authority that blogs are low-stakes by nature, as were journals before them, so the link is considered appropriate citation...but this in turn raises a new set of issues, both wild and wooley and somehow familiar, around how we can help teachers be clearer about their expectations for student work.

Though there is as yet little consensus about the "right" way to use blogs academically, these conversations "out there" have already started. Here is a blog from the Educational Bloggers Network , and a fairly comprehensive lists of blogs and resources about blogging in education, many of which refer to ongoing conferences on the subject. I'll be attending one such conference at Harvard in April, if others want to join me; I found out about it from one of my favorite library/media blogs, which I'll mention again later.

3. Blogs as reference materials: Blogs, almost by definition, offer opinion better than fact, though it is standard practice to link to original sources when responding to it. This "layering" phenomenon in the body of information available to our constituents is not new, but I'd propose it's made both more complex and more interlinked with the introduction of blogs into the mix. Of course, the opinion-based nature of blogs raise the stakes for information and media literacy here, too (hint: a site's bias can often be determined merely by skimming the list of other sites which that blogger recommends, a list known in blogparlance as a blogroll.)

That said, blogs can add value to research in powerful ways. Students looking for fairly immediate opinions on and reactions to a very current issue, or a set of opinions on a specific topic over time, will find blogs a strong tool for the toolbox. A student with time and his/her own blog can even solicit such opinion, or add his or her questions to the growing body of opinion in a blog's comments to see if others respond.

And some awfully famous people have blogs; a student struggling with the work of, say, former head of the American Sociological Association Amitai Etzioni might well find his blog a useful way to understand how his mind works, and a survey of how he categorizes his blog entries and which sources he responds to would additionally lend a new layer of understanding to those reading his work for a class project. Alternately, a student studying ex-presidents might find a visit to Jimmy Carter's blog illuminating. And Dave Barry is read across our senior English curriculum.

(Incidentally, Google purchased blogger, one of the more popular blog services, last year. Do you think this might affect how people blog? How people see blogging as legitimate? How blogs present as resources in google searches?)

4. Blogs as library resources: There are a number of library blogs out there; most interlink, so a few links here can get you on your way to finding those you might want. Some librarians and bibliophiles keep blogs about new developments and thinking in the field, or about library issues in general. Some libraries (like this one) keep blogs for their community, too, as a way of reaching out and staying up to the minute. Here's an article on why you might want to keep a blog for your own library.

Additionally, many blogs mention and critique books and other potential collections acquisitions as a matter of course, and some bloggers even keep track of what they're reading at the moment purely for the edification of their readership; finding a small group of blogs you trust may lead to a whole new layer of collections development.

Of course, blogs are also periodic literature, in their own tiny solipsistic way. In the vastness of the bloggiverse there's some good reading, of a structure all its own. As any good librarian or media specialist should be able to do, I'd be happy to recommend a few good reads upon request.

Any questions? Feel like I missed something? Click on the comments link below to share your thoughts!

posted by boyhowdy | 8:03 PM | 0 comments

Save Ferris

Shaw is ill. Please send sympathy.

More later -- it's the last day of class in our trimester-based block calendar here, and we've been flat-out here for a while.

posted by boyhowdy | 7:29 AM | 0 comments

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Mohammedian Fiat

In a desperate attempt to defy the laws of geography, local ski resort town votes to secede from Vermont, move 25 miles east to New Hampshire to avoid statewide school tax redistribution laws. Good luck moving the mountain, folks.

posted by boyhowdy | 10:30 PM | 0 comments

My Baby She Loves Me

She kisses me full on the lips goodnight, and from the dark asks Daddy for milk please in the bottle and change 'a diaper before bed. She rides around my shoulders in the library waving hi people while her mother submits the final yearbook proofs three buildings away. She talks about the kitten still stuck in the tree all through supper. She sings God bless the moon and god bless me to the moon in the dining hall parking lot, and then stares, amazed, as we come into to the driveway and there it is, the big bright three-quarter moon hung above her own bedroom window, illuminating small white dog, its nose pressed against the window. Moon come to Willow's house! she says, and come wi' me and we're up the stairs.

I've grown relaxed in her presence. The time we spend together is time spent, together. But she still fascinates me from afar, like tonight, singing softly to herself, two walls between us, deep in the dark, with her mama, my other love, in the family bed.

My Willow, become more golden, more precious, more rare than ever since Darcie became un-pregnant this week. But then, it seems everything, from days to dreams, has that effect on how I feel for her.

posted by boyhowdy | 7:43 PM | 0 comments

Sunday, February 29, 2004

Monday Mosh: The Day The Music Died Edition

Nobody's moshing anymore ('cept for me and my monkey) so as of this week the Monday Mosh is calling it quits. It's not just me -- a survey of other memesites suggests that the meme's going the way of the dodo, so I guess we're getting out just in time. Still, just to end on a high note, here's one final weekly memetheme.

Mosh to your swansong.

How To Monday Mosh:

Dance around just 'cause it's Monday, and answer three questions in your blog or in the comments below, leaving us a link so we know you were here:

1. What song did you mosh to?
2. What did you step on / bump into? (Bonus points for breakage)
3. Why did you stop?

posted by boyhowdy | 10:45 PM | 0 comments

More Signs Of Cultural Decline

An ongoing list which could also be titled More Signs Of The Apocalypse, as, given the move towards the global village which the Internet and other technological/social convergence seem to indicate, cultural decline is starting to present as a universal phenomenon.
  • Peanut butter cookies (may contain nuts).

  • Scallops may contain shellfish.

  • Contents may be hot.

  • Professional driver on closed course.

  • Now a major motion picture...

  • As seen on TV.

  • Remove quality seal before use. Do not use if seal is broken.

  • Thomas thought you should know that our English Muffins have always been low in fat / no trans fat / a cholesterol free food.

God save us.

posted by boyhowdy | 12:19 PM | 0 comments

It's Going Around...

Due to extreme dizziness-fever-and-spewflu illness, Not All Who Wander Are Lost was unable to open this weekend.

We apologize for any inconvenience.

posted by boyhowdy | 10:27 AM | 0 comments

Friday, February 27, 2004

Jeez, I Remember This

After this journal of a teacher in the South Bronx public schools.

Emotionally thinking, I hit adolescence late: I was still a total nervous wreck -- a disaster, a seethe of hormonal bipolarism -- at 20, twelve years ago, when I dropped out of college.

I didn't identify as an adult, either. I still wrote poetry like an adolescent, and in those first few months of my Sophomore year was still just discovering many things that, it turns out later, were part and parcel of other people's teen years -- like pet snakes, sun tea, group massage, and Primus.

I had, I suppose, played some adult-like roles, but this was solely playacting; I had (for example) done no small amount of babysitting in my time, but did so mostly to potter around the homes of other people while their babies slept, rather than out of some love for the wee and the educable. I don't think I had really begun to think of kids as categorically distinct from what I was, let alone teachable.

After a month or two slamming my rage and anxious diffidence around my parent's house, by mutual consent I moved into a matress on the floor of a scummy studio-share with two Belgian exchange students, and joined City Year. Which meant, among other things, being a classroom teacher's aide and running after school program in one of the most "urban" (now there's a euphemism for you) schools in Boston: Dorchester's Patrick O'Hearn School.

The neighborhood was unsafe; we had to leave early enough to make it to the T station before dark. The bodega across the street from the school sold pop and cigarettes and quite probably drugs to the kids. During recess, the kids played on the asphalt courtyard. Most of the kids were already rotting inside.

I remember there was this kid, too, ten years old, who ate paste in great fingerscoops because he was hungry and wore all the right basketball clothes. At first, it seemed nothing we did would get through to him; he was resigned, already, to the neighborhood malaise, and would never get out. Until our afterschool program called for a day of jazz and tap dancing, and his eyes lit up.

Poor kid. Even at ten -- heck, especially at ten -- he knew how futile and limiting such a love would be. And we'd be moving on in a week. No one else around there was going to teach him to dance.

I bet he never got out. I wish I could remember his name.

Incidentally, City Year sucked. But then so does the forge, from the iron's point of view. I tell students that it's painful, but it's a good pain -- the pain of finding out who you really are, and doing something about it, dammit. I imagine it's a lot like the "good" endorphine-laden pain of the true athlete.

Oh -- and City Year brought me to the Museum of Science, Boston, where the director of the museum asked me to stay on once or twice a week. I slowly weaned myself from a night delivery job at a D'angelo sub shop, ended up with a three year fill-time education fellowship, and learned how to teach...and what I wanted to teach.

And now you know the rest of the story.

posted by boyhowdy | 7:17 PM | 0 comments

Thursday, February 26, 2004

I Would Not, Could Not In A Blog

Happy Birthday To You!

Cranky child-hating master kiddie wordsmith Dr. Seuss would have been 100 this week. Ah, Ted, we hardly knew ye.

Relevant article also includes substance by Philip Nel, a Kansas State English professor and author of the new book "Dr. Seuss: American Icon," who says Seuss' heroes are "rebels and underdogs," and, in showing us Seuss' genius, reminds us there's such a thing as too much deconstruction:
"'Ham and eggs' is just ordinary, but if you turn it around so that it's 'eggs and ham,' that's interesting. And then if you make it green, there's real genius," Nel said.

posted by boyhowdy | 3:21 PM | 0 comments

As Seen On TV History

Today is the 20th birthday of the informercial. Just think: if it hadn't been for Herbalife, television might still be broadcasting test patterns at 3 a.m., and Suzanne Somers would have dropped off the cultural radar with the demise of Three's Company.

Interestingly, the article cites "informercial historian" Steve Dworman as a primary source, which is good for him, because I'm guessing he doesn't have much else to do with his time.

Bonus points if you can correctly identify which sign of the apocalypse this is.

posted by boyhowdy | 1:31 PM | 0 comments

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Speaking Of Fortunes...

Like everybody else, I carry a greatest hits collection of fortune cookie fortunes in my wallet, right up against the license. I'm considering an impending vetting, but until I do, here's what's been worth keeping, with bonus editor's-cut commentary:

> Never trouble troubles till trouble troubles you.
Okay, what? I had to read this one several times to make sure it made sense. I'm still not sure. Additionally, note that this is technically not a fortune, but advice.

> You are almost there.
Almost where? This one also comes with just enough lucky numbers to make me wonder if I'm supposed to be almost at the store buying lottery tickets.

> Your future is as boundless as the lofty heaven.
Not sure why this one is here. Must have been having a pretty good day to feel validated by something so fluffy.

> Your happiness is intertwined with your outlook on life.
Don't think about this one too long -- you're not supposed to notice it's obvious, circular, and meaningless. Sure sounds good, in a Zen kind of way, though, doesn't it?

> You may attend a party where strange customs prevail.
Good. Sounds like my kind of party, unless by "strange customs" you mean goat sacrifice or Twister or something.

> A handful of patience is worth a bushel of brains.
As someone with a bushel and a peck of brainmatter and a self-inflicted sufferer of damnfool rash foot-in-mouth on a daily basis, I can assure you this is both true and difficult to accept. I keep this fortune right over my license picture so I'll see it often, and pray that one day I might osmose it through my butt, amoebalike.

> It is a nice day.
Recieved this evening. Simplicity itself; incidentally incorrect.

For the curious, also in my brownleather wallet right now: the driver's license itself; assorted receipts and ATM spew-outs; credit and debit cards, HMO card, and Red Cross donor card; a half-full buy-ten-get-one-free punch card from Magical Child toy store; a ticket stub from the second annual North Atlantic Folk Festival four summers ago; pictures of wife and child playing in the snow; a neon green index card with family, friend, and emergency phone numbers; emergency painkillers; an unfilled perscription for Neosynephrine; handwritten tiny-font blogentries-to-be from the Florida trip two months ago; three Bangladeshi bills in almost mint condition; business cards from the Malaysian Ambassador to Bangladesh, and from friend and summer-in-Bangladesh co-instructor Azra Naseem, of Pakistan. No cash.

posted by boyhowdy | 10:49 PM | 0 comments


If you ever have a really bad week (and it's only Wednesday), find a small child who has never been in a toy store, and take her to one.

I'm not talking about just any toy store, either. A sterile, compartmentalized superstore may be your reluctant source for the large-scale purchase or the sale, but it offers no intimate experience. The "learning" store has an important place in your child's education, but a wandering child in a toddler's garden of eden needs the simple and the soft as much as she needs flexibility and challenge; no child was ever truly happy curling up with a Leapfrog, and only the rarest of odd chicklings feeds her dollguests astronaut ice cream at imaginary tea.

No, go for the place with a mirror in the doorway. Any store smart enough to anticipate your need -- for, it turns out, the look on her face as she peers in the opening doorway, itself a hundred times more soothing than a month of begrudged and stolen kisses -- is a place you want to be most of the time.

posted by boyhowdy | 7:51 PM | 0 comments

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Some Days You Are The Bug

There's so many things I want to blog about, but I just don't have the strength to be witty and pedantic.

So may links to pass along, but little time to collect them.

The term rushes headlong to a close; minutes count, but I don't even know what day it is most of the time.

In the days of whines and poses and the long nights of sleepless anxiety for backlogged work that follow, it's the radio that keeps me sane. If only I hadn't been feverish there in the overheated basement, a solo act with no callers to confirm my existence: silence and sanity only coincide when you've voices in your own head, not when you're a voice in others'. For what it's worth -- a day late and ten can't-go-on minutes short -- here's this week's playlist.

Tributary 2/23/04

Bob Dorough -- Too Much Coffee Man
Manu Chao -- Me Gustas Tu
Habib Koite -- Cigarette Abana / Batoumambe
Michael Franti and Spearhead -- Do You Love Someone
Rhonda Vincent -- You're In My Heart
Guster -- Fa Fa Fa Fa
Kasey Chambers -- You Got The Car
Skavoovie and the Epitones -- Bli-Blip
Oysterhead -- Oz Is Ever Floating
Nickel Creek -- Smoothie Song
Norah Jones -- Sunrise
Acoustic Syndicate -- Crazy Town
Bela Fleck and the Flecktones -- Communication
Be Good Tanyas -- Rain And Snow
Not Earthshaking -- One False Move
Guster -- Two At A Time
The Waifs -- London Still
Barenaked Ladies -- Wrap Your Arms Around Me
Norah Jones -- Creepin' In

posted by boyhowdy | 11:21 PM | 0 comments

Sunday, February 22, 2004

Monday Mosh: The All Better Edition

Three baths, two bedsheet changes, one more nap than usual and a half a glass of water doled out tablespoon by tablespoon later; she hasn't thrown up since 4:30, so I guess we're on the road to recovery from baby's first flu. Thanks to both grandmas for calling with support after reading all about it in the previous blogentry (and within hours of posting!). It's nice to know we're doing it right even in the worst of times. Today's post-illness memetheme:

Mosh to something that makes you feel better.

How To Monday Mosh:

Dance around just 'cause it's Monday, and answer three questions in your blog or in the comments below, leaving us a link so we know you were here:

1. What song did you mosh to?
2. What did you step on / bump into? (Bonus points for breakage)
3. Why did you stop?

posted by boyhowdy | 11:02 PM | 0 comments

Baby's First Flu

Greyblue lips and pasty skin that blotches when she cries. A belly once distended falls to rolls of flab over the tautness of the diapertop as she leans forward in bed. We've had two baths, and three changes of clothes. She doesn't cry much, but she coughs and complains. My brave little soldier girl is pretty sick.

We rack our brains: what are the things our parents did to help us through this? We soothe her brow, and sing to her at off-schedule naptimes; lie in bed all day, and allow extra television. Like her mother before her she won't drink bubbles, so ginger ale's out, but there's some Jello firming in the fridge, for a later half-better time we hope will come to the sick house soon. Mostly, though, we just repeat the litany of illness: it's okay, we know, it's okay, we love you.

It's hard to know if the words do any good; what's hardest to watch is that she clearly does not understand how she's lost control of her body. She doesn't know how to read the signs of impending spew, though she's learning fast, the hard way: just now in the middle of a tea-and-toast lunch she turned to Darcie and said, questioningly, mommy? just a moment before four times what had gone in came out violently, spurting past the chair to the tablecloth and floor. She can't yet imagine, and doesn't have the words or concepts for her own insides rebelling against her.

Sometimes what hurts most about parenting is this kind of helplessness: knowing it will be okay, but knowing, too, that we cannot truly help her know that: she will need to suffer through until she can accept this strange new feeling as something which must be suffered through, and which will pass soon enough.

posted by boyhowdy | 12:09 PM | 0 comments

Outside And Inside

Late last night, walking the dog in the cloudy rural dark, a pair of headlights out in the meadow pointing away from us as we came over the rise in the road: a car off the road, out of place on the cross country skiing trail, surely sinking the in mushy groomed snow. Other lights at closer houses and a passing red security vehicle suggested it was already someone else's problem, but this morning it's still there, and we're no longer so sure. Surely someone knows about it, though -- how do you lose your car into the snow, and with the lights on, yet?

A student disappeared at local mountain Berkshire East after Friday's ski trip. He was discovered missing when the busses loaded just after dark and wasn't found until four the next morning, unconscious and cold at the base of a slope. As of last night he was in hospital but still not conscious; his parents were being flown in from Japan and should arrive today.

Here in the house the sun warms the bed, where Willow sleeps on her mother's lap after managing to vomit in every single carpeted room in the house since waking up at six. Poor thing. In the absence of my own awakened child -- to hold tight and wonder about her own adolescence on her own snowcovered mountains -- it looks like I'm getting to that pile of papergrading after all.

posted by boyhowdy | 10:44 AM | 0 comments

Saturday, February 21, 2004

Fun With Googlism

It's nothing new, but if you haven't tried it, do so: abstract pastiche poetry generator Googlism scours the web for phrase fragments based on simple search terms, and the results can be quite surprising. Though most people use it for searches on proper nouns, I find that a poetic diversity of potential answers best springs from simple queries, like this or this.

Used oracularly for a special treat, googlism produces a diversity of grand truths and confucian pronouncements sure to cause subjective deepthought and hilarity, as with this recent googlism of the acronym for our beloved currently-in-flux school:

nmh is now frozen
nmh is not a single comprehensive program
nmh is ongoing
nmh is a miscommunication between the brain and the heart that can cause lightheadedness
nmh is all about spring term
nmh is also known for its tertiary and subspecialty care for adults
nmh is not the same as the common momentary dizzines that many well people get when they arise from a chair or a bed too quickly
nmh is consultant led
nmh is somewhat broken
nmh is often warm and embracing even in the midst of its grim
nmh is a potentially treatable disorder
nmh is expensive
nmh is now being actively maintained again
nmh is christian by heritage
nmh is still under active development
nmh is difficult
nmh is present

In other search engine news, a Google search for "search engine" gets surprising results -- I'd attribute this discovery properly but seem to have forgotten whose blog first mentions it. Does anyone still use Altavista? Vivisimo rocks, but until its interface becomes as user friendly as Google, I'm sticking with the old standard.

posted by boyhowdy | 12:09 PM | 0 comments

Friday, February 20, 2004

This stuff is great!

Jon Friedman's Confessions Of A New Coffee Drinker! Yes! Coffee! At McSweeney's!

posted by boyhowdy | 10:19 PM | 0 comments

Blair Who?

Just when you thought it was safe to come out of the insanity, legal reform org CommonGood cites plagiarist valedictorian wannabe Hornstine's suit against her school district as one of the Top 5 Ridiculous Lawsuits of 2003. Um, yay?

posted by boyhowdy | 8:50 PM | 0 comments

Concert Review: Guster @ The Calvin Theater

Like this, but bigger and in color.

When you've been to as many concerts as I have (see this backdated still-incomplete list of concerts I've attended for my street creds) you know it's the subtle things that make the difference. So you leave your coat in the car, the cold line outside the venue easily worth the traded-off stress of having to keep track of your coat in the cruching crowd. You wear confortable shoes, and practice stepping backwards into the social vacuum of the crowd when someone sqeezes through behind you, else the crush of the crowd pin you to the stage. You arrive early, to examine the front doors for a tipoff on crowd entering dynamics, and position yourself accordingly. And if, like me, your body getting older, you take Aleve for preventative purposes before leaving school with Molly for last night's show.

Prepared, then, and willing to wait until someone else starts the line outside, we arrived in 'Hamp with plenty of time for a nice bellywarming vegetarian stirfry supper at local sushi/chinese hotspot Teapot to warm our bellies as we stood outside sans coats for an hour outside one of my favorite local venues and watched the line grow behind us. The CVS-bought soupcans -- worth a free poster each once inside the door -- weighed heavy in my shivering arms. When the door opened we went for posters quick quick quick before flying down the aisle to a position quite near the stage, and sat down ofn the floor -- both to save the calves and to keep some space around us before the lights went down and the crowd pressed in.

Our placement wasn't perfect -- I spent much of the show watching a mole on the back of a tall man's neck. But two rows back from the stage a slight rock in either direction keeps first drums and bass, then lead guitar and keyboards in alternating view. We were close enough to see the lead singer's fillings, and to snag the pre-licked pick the cute lead guitarist of poppy-but-decent opening act Graham Colton, though the Guster set lists were fought over too voraciously for our tastes.

Guster was...Guster, though much closer than I'd seen them before. I hadn't seen them since a school-chaperone gig down to Hartford four years ago; in the interim they've gone a bit more sparse, and picked up a master keyboardist and second guitarist who added a wonderful layer to the geekrock sound the band-once-named-Gus has always been famous for. Leadsinger Ryan seemed a bit rusty on their first day back on the road after after a few-week band hiatus; he started a few songs with the wrong verse, and missed some licks. But the new album's work sounds great, and the wash of sound a nice change from what was once -- when I first saw them, a struggling Tufts college band just a year or two older than I am, on the post-edge of acoustic folk, with the funky lanky drummer banging away on a drum kit with his bare hands, albeit wrapped in white bandages to quell the blood and bruising.

Woke up this morning sluggish, almost drugged; my back aches, and my knees have been shaky all day. But it was worth it just to see Molly swoon when the Guster guys walked up to the edge of the stage for an acoustic and unmiked encore less than four feet from our unbelieving eyes. I'd do it again in a heartbeat.

posted by boyhowdy | 1:27 PM | 0 comments

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

Woah...Is It Really Wednesday?

Then it must be time for another thoughtstarter from my second-favorite meme, which today asks: What's on your computer desk right now?

Only problem is, technically speaking, I have no computer desk. I have a desk -- covered, mostly, in piles of books and cheesy bangladeshi snacks -- but because the only place the cable could come in was all the way at the other end of the house, I blog on a laptop at the dining room table. Still, here's what's on the table:
  • Yet another set of yearbook proofs.

  • Today's mail: my contract, Darcie's favorite clothing store catalog, and some diaper coupons from Huggies. Also an opened phone bill and a reminder notice from the hearing clinic, both recieved yesterday.

  • A half-full box of organic cashews, an empty bottle Starbucks Mocha Frappucino lowfat coffee drink, and an empty dish of source-unknown crumbs.

  • Four thin rose-colored taper candles that Darcie's mother gave us for Valentine's Day.

  • Three half-melted sampler-sized Yankee Candle candles of assorted scents.

  • A much-reused video tape labeled "West Wing / ER / Monk" which actually contains two episodes of Ex-treme Dating.

  • A small bottle of Baby Bee Apricot Baby Oil.

  • A mostly-full bottle of patchouli Kiss My Face lotion wrapped in a plastic supermarket bag.

  • A take-out bag of leftover mu shu beef, sesame chicken, and rice.

  • Two dead flashlights.

  • A small rectangle of purple sponge.

There's a story behind every item. I'm just too tired to tell it. Plus, now I have to clean the table.

posted by boyhowdy | 8:41 PM | 0 comments

Consider The Source

I still have my reservations about Michael Moore, though he came across relatively well in The Populist, Larissa MacFarquhar's recent sympathetic New Yorker piece. But today's Moore-mail, a forward-from-my-father-first blathering on about the admittedly stupid Bush camp military service revelations, was more interesting for the chain of liberals that brought it home than its easy and obvious content. According to the aggregate annotations gathered as it moved through cyberspace, the mail got to my father from family friend and restauranteur Jim Miller, a co-founder of fave pizza chain Bertucci's and co-owner of "improvisational grill" FiRE and iCE, a fun spot all about variety, improvisation, and imagination, a set of values about as liberal as it gets.

And where did Jim get Moore's missive? Direct from leftdarling Howard Zinn, master of cognitive dissonance, who sent the message to him (and three people named Zinn) with the following notation in brackets:
Michael Moore wraps it up neatly, as usual. I would just add one thought: if someone shirks his military duty because he is opposed to the war being fought, he is following his conscience; if he believes in the war being fought and shirks his military duty, he is a hypocrite.
Too bad I'm neither left nor liberal. I've certainly got the creds, if I wanted them.

Incidentally, leftliberal readers might also be interested in the new City Lights newsletter, also sent along by Dad, who writes:
Hello Joshua - I am concerned that you may not have nearly enough radical left reading material and so am rushing this to you.
Thanks, Dad. My cup runneth over.

posted by boyhowdy | 7:05 PM | 0 comments

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Here And There And This And That

...but not with Rusty.

Things are pretty tense around here these days, and getting worse daily. Teachers are getting cutthroat as they begin to internalize the hard reality that current performance will be the primary criteria for staying on after this. Contracts come out tomorrow, and no one's really sure who's getting one. This isn't helping. This isn't a good sign either.

Next year's cuts will be four times worse. I don't think the community can sustain this level of tension, rumor, suspicion and allaround ugliness for that long, though. If the current trend continues, I predict nervous breakdowns and picketing at graduation, and would peg the impending total collapse of social order once concrete decisions start being made about how to move forward.

But life goes on, I suppose. Mom and Dad came again today to hang with Willow, but for the second week in a row I was running a fever; though I ultimately made it to chair the faculty professional development committee this evening post-supper, I no-showed at the Information Commons for most of the afternoon, joining an also-sick Darcie for a nap while Gamma Suzin and Bapa Stee helped out with the baby.

Looking forward to this here on Thursday with Molly. Realized, in thinking about it, that I haven't been to a good show since this. Guess that's what having kids does to your time. Used to head down to Northampton for this and that almost every month; now I expend the creative juices on work and my daughter, and hardly notice who's touring.

Oh, damn -- just realized I forgot to tape this for my mass media and culture class tomorrow.

Also, today I learned this: an iced-over banana peel is still slippery, though no more slipdangerous than the sidewalk next to it.

[UPDATE 2/18/04 3:59 pm: For those who were worried, yes, there was a contract in my mailbox today. Now I just need to start the procedures for a paternity leave in the fall, and I can rest uneasy until next February...]

posted by boyhowdy | 10:05 PM | 0 comments

Yeah, I'd See It

Simpsons movie slated for 2006. Just in time, too -- those reruns seem shorter every day.

posted by boyhowdy | 1:07 AM | 0 comments

Fresh Air

No moon for days: the pinprick stars shine bright through a third clear night's dark sheet as I return from yet another edition of Tributary, your ten to midnight Monday night show here on WNMH 91.5 fm, serving Northfield, Gill, Keene, Brattleboro and you with a little bit of this, a little bit of that, from funk to folk and blues to bluegrass, from jazz to jambands and all the rock and pop we can squeeze in the corners.

The silent roads home pass out of existance some forty feet ahead as I define an inhabited universe in the otherwise dark with a headlamp glare that wanes like the moon when the hill turns steep ahead of me over the bridge. A grey something, too small to be a squirrel, flashes left at the fork in the road. I go right, towards the dark past-lights-out dormitories and snowed-over tennis courts and past them to home.

Tonight's playlist follows; it was cold in the studio, so most of the set's pretty upbeat.

Tributary 10/16/04

Bob Dorough -- Too Much Coffee Man
Michael Franti and Spearhead -- Everyone Deserves Music
Otis Rush -- Homework
Girlyman -- Postcards From Mexico
Phish -- Back On The Train
Biscuit Boys -- Ramblin' Fever
String Cheese Incident -- Search
St. Germaine -- Rose Rouge
Eddie From Ohio -- Let's get Mesolithic
Los Lobos -- Kiko And The Lavender Moon
Lisa Loeb -- I Do
Guster -- Scars And Stitches
Peter Gabriel -- Love To Be Loved
Bela Fleck and the Flecktones -- Sunset Road
Grateful Dead -- Deep Elem Blues
They Might Be Giants -- The Edison Museum
Pink Floyd -- Brain Damage
Richard Thompson -- Kiss
Shawn Colvin -- Say A Little Prayer
Chris Smither -- Real Fine Love
Brooks Williams -- She Loves Me (When I Try)
Deb Talan -- Two Points
The Be Good Tanyas -- Waiting Around To Die
The Wayfaring Strangers -- Man Of Constant Sorrow
Natalie Merchant -- Which Side Are You On

posted by boyhowdy | 12:51 AM | 0 comments

Monday, February 16, 2004

Monday Mosh: The Stupid Edition

I do dumb things. Like poking myself in the eye, or knocking a full beer over before I've even had anything to drink. Or smashing my wrist against the wall as I turn a cinderblock hallway corner, hard enough to make me need yet another new watch. Or like tonight, when I managed to end up scheduled for duty in the media center and in the dorm simultaneously. Both have been on the right calendars for months; I just never noticed the inherent conflict. Ever got a call at work to tell you that you were supposed to be at work? Now that's stupid.

So let's get it on and out in the open, shall we? Today's memetheme:

Mosh to something really stupid.

How To Monday Mosh:

Dance around just 'cause it's Monday, and answer three questions in your blog or in the comments below, leaving us a link so we know you were here:

1. What song did you mosh to?
2. What did you step on / bump into? (Bonus points for breakage)
3. Why did you stop?

posted by boyhowdy | 12:35 AM | 0 comments
coming soon
now listening