Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Woah Nellie 

Nellie McKay, nineteen and rising fast

Now that I can confirm with the prehistory listings on Nellie's dotnet un-corporate website, it turns out that I did see still-teen Nellie McKay in her early awkward year, opening for someone (Susan Werner? Erin McKeown?) last June at the Iron Horse. I thought she sounded and looked familiar. Good thing I remembered, because now that she's going to be opening for Sting and Lou Reed, odds are she's not going to be playing any more small gigs for a while. Some great live stuff on that dotnet site, by the way.

I seem to be having a Nellie McKay day. And the Onion A/V Club is right there with me, posting a prime interview with Ms. McKay as this week's feature. Will someone remind me to send Dad a copy of the album? Thanks.

posted by boyhowdy | 9:43 PM | 0 comments

Don't Squeeze The Juicebox: 12 Better Rules For First-Time Fathers 

A surely ongoing compendium of wisdom learned on my own, and why doesn't anyone teach this stuff in those silly father training classes they offer at the hospital? It's great to know that you're not likely to be fully loved until after the weaning process ends, but I sure wish there was someone to impart such gems as the stuff I've collected, like ants on a dropped summer jawbreaker, learning the hard way as we approach almost-two.

1. Never get just one diaper.
2. Giving is not sharing.
3. Bath time: it's about the play, not the soap.
4. Naked time is only a good idea if you enjoy cleaning poop off a beige carpet.
5. Straws are free toys. So are tall stalks of grass, empty cardboard boxes, knobby sticks, shoes, anything in grandma's pocketbook, rocks with broken glass hiding in them, and anthill dirt. Nevertheless,
6. A visit to the toy store makes everyone happy. (also, rule 5 1/2: every toy is equally likely to break or get lost. Buy the two dollar fireman's hat.)
7. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, but only to a point.
8. There is no such thing as "childproof."
9. Children are always listening.
10. Accept that your house will never be clean again, and move on.
11. No one wants to hear anything cute your daughter said. They're just being polite.
12. It's not the hours, it's the moments.

posted by boyhowdy | 1:58 PM | 0 comments

Monday, June 14, 2004

Vindicating Valedictory 

How ego-serving: this year's NMH Valedictorian will be attending my alma mater in the Fall (also Shaw's).

Her valedictory address is wonderfully poetic and unusually crisp. Expect Erin to go far.

posted by boyhowdy | 11:26 PM | 0 comments

Water Music 

The folk festival season is finally swollen upon us, ripe like a watermelon. Yesterday we put up the popup camper on the next door neighbor's lawn and had a little barbecue, just the three of us, in anticipation of Clearwater this coming weekend; we'll be gone from Friday morn to Monday next, I suspect, but with me working the graveyard shift and the performer roster looking fatter each day, there'll surely be much to blog about upon our return. A few weeks later, the eclectic River-sponsored Green River and the newly discovered funk and blues extravaganza Rynfest, all on one weekend and both with Dad and maybe Mom up from Boston; the week following, we'll be gone for 8 days straight, living off the mulefield at folkfave Falcon Ridge.

If all goes well, performers we'll be seeing this summer will include the following. Performers I'll be seeing for the first time (i.e. new additions to the master concert list) are starred.

Ani Difranco
Cambell Brothers*
Catie Curtis*
Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown*
Dan Zanes*
Dar Williams
Deep Banana Blackout*
Derek Trucks Band*
disappear fear
Donna The Buffalo
Drunk Stuntmen*
Eddie From Ohio
Eliza Gilkyson*
Erin McKeown
Gillian Welch*
Greg Brown
Guy Davis
Holly Near*
Hot Tuna*
Jeffrey Foucault*
John Gorka
Kris Delmhurst
Levon Helm and the Barnburners*
Lori McKenna*
Lucy Kaplansky
Luther "Guitar Jr." Johnson*
Mark Erelli
Old Crow Medicine Show*
Patty Larkin
Pete Seeger
Planet Zydeco*
Rani Arbo and daisy mayhem
Richard Shindell
Richie Havens*
Snake Oil Medicine Show*
Steve Forbert*
Terrence Martin*
Toshi Reagon*
Tracy Grammer
The Nields
We're About 9

God bless good music. Oh, and on a related note, I bought the Nellie McKay album today. W Magazine called it a cross between Doris Day and Eminem; the NYT lauds this "whiz-kid teenage songwriter [who] plays piano and riffles through styles from Tin Pan Alley to hip-hop. Sweet stuff heard first on The River; even sweeter acoustic McKay live in-studio performances are available from her recent NPR appearance. Bonus: check out this animated ecard of McKay's "The Dog Song." Woof!

posted by boyhowdy | 2:34 PM | 0 comments

Sunday, June 13, 2004


It is a coming together, literally speaking, a recreation of previous union, and for these twelve hundred, it is a kind of homecoming. Though they are of different classes – the fours and the nines, this year, as NMH reunions serve the somethingfifth and somethingtenth graduation years – they all have some great association of this place, a year of their life at least, and as much as four for some, spent on its tradition-steeped brick and landscaped lawns. This was the “grand year” of ’54, and they got all the attention, but this was also the first year that students I had taught and known and lived with came back, and it was damn good to see them.

I work reunion because it’s fun to talk to people who care so much about this place, by which I mean the alums, of course, but also the more-recently graduated kids who come to work minimum-wage jobs driving the older generations around on golf carts, and the suit-and-tie folks at Alumni Development who hire us all. Also because it’s freelance work: they pay me 18 an hour to sit in an auditorium Saturday morning, riding herd on the wireless mic while the Head of School appeals to head, heart, hand, and wallet. But mostly because it’s fun to be part of it all.

Last year when we lived in the dorm members of the class of ‘48 would kidnap me every time I left my apartment to check on them, plying me with mostlygin and hardlytonics and then, once I was loosened up, grilling me about changes afoot and “what the school is now,” by which they surely meant does the place still instill moral values, hold students to high standards, teach students to live and learn and like it?

The year before, some kids who had been kicked out of the class of ’87 and never graduated held an anti-reunion clam-and-lobster bake just down the block, at the house of a coworker and friend whose son was one of the ungraduates, and we were invited; after we got blitzed on the lawn, a bunch of them crashed the official party back in a dorm on campus, stealing car keys and starting fistfights, and the cops had to be called.

Friday I spend all morning attending upon the technological whims and demands of workshop leaders in “Alumni College,” an often frantic circus of sparse audiences listening to self-selected alumni speechifiers and lecturers talk about themselves, their work, and their passions: Reiki, Rockclimbing, Astronomy, Architecture. I was, happily, able to spare fifteen minutes of a beer tasting hosted by my favorite microbrew, Dogfish Head Brewery, which was still local-only when we discovered it down in off-season Rehoboth, Delaware a few years ago. New favorite beer of all time: Dogfish Head’s Au Currant, sadly a seasonal just past its season.

Last night I crashed the five-year’s party…beer on the grass and the best five hours I’ve had in a very, very long time. Some highlights, w/ names confirmed by the ‘99 Yearbook early this morning, despite head-throbbing hangover.

Mark – filmmaker working for the production company that makes Angels in America, kept introducing me to people as “the guy who first showed me the breadth of possibility in moviemaking.” I remember Mark as a film noir kind of guy with a creative edge and a goofball demeanor, the kid who spliced a 45 second girl-on-girl Penthouse video shower scene into his Music Video assignment (Van Halen’s Hot for Teacher), a surprise compounded by the fact that my teaching was being observed by a dean that day. He remembers me as a mentor and spark, an iconoclast who challenged his assumptions about life, the universe, and everything. Funny how that all works out.

Sam, the muscular California surfer whose mother insisted on sleeping in his room the night before graduation, turned out to be a pilot, and looks like a movie star version of…a hotshot pilot, almost a Val Kilmer cool but with an even more defined jaw and tan. If I was gay, I’d be in love – this kid is HOT, a chiseled ken doll. We found ourselves similar-minded; must have talked for an hour about everything from independent learning models and zen lifestar navigation to drinking games and teengirl fashion.

Spent some time, too, jawing under the trees outside with Chip, a kid who’s been back more recently, as his brother only graduated a year or two ago. Tall and awkward, never fully recovered from a mugging on a school term abroad, almost kicked out of school in the middle of winter break for lying his way back into the closed dormitory, where he was later found making fake IDs with his computer, a color printer, and a laminator. Poor Chip: his mother’s class of ’64, and he’s class of 99…so he’s doomed to forever be at reunion with his parents. Luckily, it didn’t keep him from the beer. Or from the non-alum friend of cute, blond, tanned, and now Hollywood/ San Fran Blair, who incidentally I think may have been following me around.

And Biff, Joshua, and Justin, three of our five student leaders in my dorm that year. Back then, they couldn’t have been more different, and each has matured into some slightly more responsible version of what he was in the first place: Joshua, once the quiet supportive one, now consults for the health care industry; Justin seems to be floating but has been back to teach; Biff, the uberjock who kicked in a trash can…looks like an ex-football player; I didn’t catch what he’s doing these days, but I bet it’s going to be car sales or real estate. As with all of their class last evening, we spent most of our time together recounting the worst of their adolescent stupidity, and the far-stupider escapades of their stupid adolescent friends and classmates sadly not attending. Turns out they and the others under their care were crazier than I would ever have thought, smoking pot on piled snowbanks outside their dorm windows throughout the winter, slamming their drinks down fast and hard so as to minimize the chances of getting caught mid-sip, deserting friends under the influence of their first mushroom trip. Glad they made it through.

Others, too, of course: Damen, David, Laura, Michael, Blair and her friend; Geeks, Jocks, fly girls, cuties; a dozen half-known and twice as many just faces from a long-ago crowd. Five years out, and though young men and women, adults all, fresh out of college and on their way to conquer the world – though friends, where once they were charges – somehow nonetheless unchanged.

It was one of the great parties of my life. When I left, they were still going strong, playing “cups” on the ping-pong table.

And now, it’s summer.

posted by boyhowdy | 10:37 PM | 0 comments

Friday, June 11, 2004


I wrote an awesome blogentry just now, one of the best and most deliberate in a long, long while of almost blogger's block, about a party for a Dean we loved very much who is being retired unwillingly while on sabbatical and about crying all through Reagan's "Sunset Service" (but especially Ronnie's speech, because wow, that was one of the all-time greatest) and Willow saying "I love you too much," confusing "very much" and "too," and tying the whole thing in with closure of the school year for the summer and the impending tip-of-the-tongue of what to do about the year afterwards, whether we should leave or not, and then I tried to italicize one word and the whole samn thing got lost.

The post was going to be called "farewell."

Farewell, blog entry. Stupid, stupid boy.

posted by boyhowdy | 11:25 PM | 7 comments

Thursday, June 10, 2004

Why I Did It 

Or, at least, what I've been telling people. Which answer I give depends on who's asking, how I'm feeling, and whether I'm in a hurry. Not sure which is true. Anyway, for what it's worth, here's some reasons why.

Because now I get to look like Matt Damon, or that guy John from IT, depending on how frizzy it is.

Because the grey's been creeping in, and it's just not the same when you're hair goes grey. I kept looking at older, grey-haired men with ponytails, and thinking how sixties it looked.

Because I was tired of looking old.

Because it makes me look more conservative.

Because it makes me look more like a conservative.

Because it was time.

Because I didn't need it any more.

Because it was getting hot and swampy in there again.

Because it's the most successful weight loss program ever invented. Lose pounds in minutes!

Because it was time to let my personality stand on its own.

Because, in fact, my brash personality may turn out to have merely been my attempt to compete with / compensate for / defend / minimize the impact of that big bushy first impression.

Because I just don't have two hours to wash and dry my hair anymore.

Because, now, I can go swimming, I can go horseback riding...

posted by boyhowdy | 11:13 PM | 0 comments

Wednesday, June 09, 2004


Work, and more work: grades and progress reports, and a last-minute from-scratch development of an Ed Tech webpresence (commentary welcome), due to be presented in a combined library/ed tech department meeting some eight hours from now.

In the midst of it all, a wonderful supper at the Del Ray, a mixed pate and chutney plate, a glass of pinot grigio, a tangerine-encrusted duck done rare and a half-molten chocolate mudcake under grainy espresso ice cream, all in celebration of my mother's first day of professorship at Smith, and my father's birthday over the weekend. Willow sang happy birthday at the top of her lungs and ran like a rubber ovoid in every direction at once. We got Dad a genuine Fender shirt dense with bright guitars. He seemed pleased.

The librarians decided today that my hair makes me look like Matt Damon. I've been speaking Southie in my head all evening.

Reunion set-up begins in earnest first thing Thursday. On the horizon, graveyard shifts in the Clearwater communications tent, leaving me free to enjoy Willow, Darcie, Dar, Ani, Entrain and others.

I've never looked forward to a Monday more.

posted by boyhowdy | 1:34 AM | 0 comments

Monday, June 07, 2004

Before, During, After 

Last Winter

Just Before The Haircut

During The Haircut


Stay tuned for some sort of blogentry on why I cut my hair. Once I figure that out myself, that is. For more pending blogentries, keep scrolling.

posted by boyhowdy | 8:56 PM | 0 comments

Friday, June 04, 2004

Blogentries Pending 

Last day of the school year. Graduation Sunday. Also Ginny's graduation and my father's birthday. Minor possibles include the senior prize assembly tomorrow, farewell parties for coworkers, hallway goodbyes to once-taught students, and the way the neighborhood grows summerquiet.

Oh, and this afternoon, after 15 years of ponytail, I cut my hair off.

Overloaded, with no RAM left to blog with. Expect plenty, though, in the next day or so, despite an all-day babywatch shift tomorrow while Darcie hangs decor for the commencement eve dinner dance, and a ticket-taking shift at the event itself. Items to watch for include a fatherblog, a review of this year's graduation speeches, hair musings and before-and-after photos.

posted by boyhowdy | 10:31 PM | 17 comments

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Boys Will Be Boys 

Circled my office on the yearbook's inside flap a dozen times or more tonight ("I'm watching you!") while the almost-men of Hayden Hall alternately crammed for finals and trucked boxes down the stairs for summer storage. Grew closer to kids I hardly knew all year, and thought about the way in which, every year, my community dissapates, leaving we few resident faculty hiding behind our blinds, exhausted, in front of glowing screens and vacation maps. Brought a book but never opened it.

Two nights in a row of dorm duty in the last home stretch of the term seem to have driven me to nostalgia, as is my wont this time of year. In two four hour shifts, these proud boys have reminded me how much I loved living in the dorm the five years previous, and how much I missed it this year.

But hints around the edges, too, continue to justify leaving them behind. Khan, a four year senior who has grown from a shy ESL kid to a mature and scarily intense Student Leader, left a box of wooden practice swords in the goodwill pile, as they'd be too much trouble to drag home to Korea; I had to stay late tonight to break up a gang of his peers and charges who, having discovered them, were hacking and slashing their unpracticed way down the corridor, terrifying the Sophomores and pissing off those still deep in study.

Too, there was some big news in the rumor mill tonight: a recently discovered website, enumerating an unprovable sexual predatorship by a teacher who moved on just long enough ago for these kids to know him as 9th graders, passes through student email accounts by forward, and student ears by whisper and shush. The issue was too sensitive to seize as teachable moment, I fear, but the damage done made me ashamed nonetheless -- it will cast suspicion on us all by proxy, and surely flavor the way these student's future minds will prize and curse our mentorship.

To complete the trifecta, I had to lock up the kitchen before I left. Someone left the stovetop on high and just walked away. Good thing I noticed it -- it would seriously suck to have the house burn down two days before graduation, plane tickets, passports, term papers and all.

Deapite and because of it all, I continue to toy with applying for the open House Director position next year. Sigh...is there anything in life less certain than the holism of living where one works?

posted by boyhowdy | 11:43 PM | 0 comments

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

Hypothetical Universe: A Supermeme 

If the superhero universe were real...

1. Which of your friends would you most strongly suspect of being a superhero? Why? What's his/her power? His/her kryptonite?

2. Which of your enemies would you be least surprised to discover is secretly a supervillain? What powers do they have?

You know the rules, folks: leave your answers in the comments, or in your own blog, if you've got one... and don't forget to pass the meme along!

posted by boyhowdy | 7:24 AM | 0 comments

Monday, May 31, 2004

Radio, At Last 

Kind of a strange show tonight. A guest in the studio, a fellow teacher interested in learning the ropes for next year. A Phish tribute in honor of their recently announced impending and final break-up. A dead CD deck, with resultant fumbling transitional awkwardnes and false starts. The final show of the year after a show missed for illness last week.

Ah, but rain, and the faint sweet smell of ozone in the air like Spring incarnate. Sound, meditative, in the basement, bittersweet and loud. A gateway, in the end, to a summer of festivals and fields, sky and speakers, guitars and bare feet. This year's final playlist, a light in the darkness imperfectly played, corrupted yet blessed, follows.

Tributary 5/31/04

Bob Dorough -- Too Much Coffee Man
Sarah Harmer -- Almost
Spacehog -- Senses Working Overtime
Eddie From Ohio -- Let's Get Mesolithic
Ween -- Bananas and Blow
Wild Cherry -- Play That Funky Music White Boy
Phish -- Back On The Train
Dizzy Gillespie -- Manteca
Yo Yo Ma / Bobby McFerrin -- Flight of the Bumblebee
Jackson Jills -- Groove Is In The Heart
Erin McKeown -- Slung-lo
Jazz is Dead -- Scarlet Begonias
Phish w/ Alison Krauss -- If I Could
Phish -- Fee
Phish -- Cavern
Gone Phishin' -- Silent In The Morning
Patty Griffin -- Top Of The World
Girlyman -- The Shape I Found You In
Eva Cassidy -- American Tune
Lucy Kaplansky -- Cowboy Singer
Dixie Chicks -- Fly
Gillian Welch -- I Want To Sing That Rock And Roll

You've been listening to Tributary, your ten to midnight Monday night show here on WNMH. We'll be back next year, post-summer festivals, with a rack of new tunes and, god willing, a tan to match. Until then, enjoy our carefully selected, computer-driven, pre-programmed, always-on, 24/7 radio feed...and don't forget to come back next Fall. We'll leave the light on for you.

posted by boyhowdy | 10:08 PM | 0 comments

Right On 

Willow and I at Hoggerfair.  With thanks to Amelia, who took the picture when we weren't looking.

posted by boyhowdy | 12:36 PM | 0 comments

Joke of the Week 

"Ask me if I'm a horse."

"Okay. Are you a horse?"


Thanks to Sean for this hilarity, told to me in the midst of a disucssion about jokes at the Prom; it works on so many levels.

posted by boyhowdy | 9:23 AM | 0 comments

Sunday, May 30, 2004

No Blog Today 

I have left our only home computer at my office overnight in the hopes that the brownies that live in the wallwires will, once all is still and dark, emerge from their hiding places and magically cure the damned thing of all ills and viruses. There will thus be no blogentry this evening.

As an added bonus, I'm thinking I might be able to escape the lure of the other screen long enough to actually read something. Remember words?

I'll let y'all know if it worked first thing tomorrow morning; I'm covering for Paraprofessional Patty as of 8 a.m.

posted by boyhowdy | 6:48 PM | 0 comments

Saturday, May 29, 2004

WillowBlog, Take 1 

Her mother's gone all day, frantically preparing the tent and dining areas for tonight's Prom, and Willow's got a terrible cold. All she wants to do is cuddle on my lap and stare, leaking and glazed, at the television, poor thing. After a full round of Wiggles and Stanley, though, it seemed like time to move on. Hence:
Willow, what should daddy write on the computer?




Should I write...Willow is sick?


C'mere, honey. Do you need a tissue?


What should I write?

Willow get down?

Okay, honey.

(Willow runs away, snuffling)

Hey, where are you going?
More later, I hope, but with sick kids one can never assume. Darcie's working all day, and then we're off at 7 to a nice supper with some friends before making our own appearance at the Prom...and then I've got a midnight to 2:30 shift in the dorm, checking kids in as the prom winds down. It's going to be a long day.

posted by boyhowdy | 9:42 AM | 19 comments

Thursday, May 27, 2004

Assignment: Epiphany 

Tonight's Advanced Web Design class assignment, a response to Seven Tricks That Web Users Don't Know: identify a semantic gap between designer's expectations and actual use patterns, and come to our last class day on Tuesday ready to present a simple but original (or seriously underutilized) idea which would have a major impact on user comfort and narrative ownership.

Yeah, I know -- at face value, this looks a bit like requiring kindergardeners to come up with patentable ideas overnight, when most people never invent a damn thing (unless you count making a bong out of an apple in college "inventing"). Call it an assignment in intuitive applied literacy; it may be an impossible task, but if there's one thing I've learned in teaching it's that you never know what will come out of the mouth of the proverbial babe. If nothing else, they'll sure have fun doing it. I even let the class go early, so they'd have some free time to wander and wait for the lightbulb to appear over their heads.

I guess I figured after weeks of hour-long student presentations on a variety of technical topics -- Photoshop, Flash, forms and feedback, DHTML and CSS -- it was better to wind down with one of those assignments which requires stew-time more than gruntwork. As an added bonus, it addresses what I see as the real issues of advanced design work: usability, possibility, ability, and all those other -ilities.

You can't imagine how good it feels to watch your students leave with their gears turning. It probably didn't hurt to promise them ice cream if they manage to impress me.

posted by boyhowdy | 10:22 PM | 0 comments

Accepting The Inevitable (A Meta-Technote) 

Had to teach myself CSS today to make the new and improved del.icio.us-driven tinyblog work with Alan Levine's javascript RSS code generator. Joined the del.icio.us listserv on the way, and found that Feedroll* has been banned from del.icio.us until they shape up.

Feeling extra geeky. Liking it.

*Bad Feedroll. No link for you.

posted by boyhowdy | 12:10 AM | 0 comments

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Cataloging [The] Librarians 

"However, my tattoo will be Dewey, and will include a scannable barcode."

From a neat thread over at Metafilter, where newly minted MLS librarians are talking up an emergent rite of sororityship: human spine labels, a.k.a. tattooing yourself with your call numbers.

Pretty sure I'd be somewhere around 682.4C64 (for "Library Personnel: Computer Specialists") in the Library of Congress system; next time you're in the library, why not look me up and check me out!

posted by boyhowdy | 11:52 PM | 0 comments

Lost Opportunities Lost 

A maudlin thought tonight brought me to the edge of writing a morbid list of those roads given but stupidly refused or just never followed up on. Items would include hawking computers at trade shows for mucho dinero for a summer, writing a six-column series on Media Literacy for Knowledge Quest (the print arm of the American Library Association), responding to emails from a variety of potential peers and mentors, following up on offers to help advise graduated students on their coursework and career paths, and finishing this list.

ADHD and local job overwork excuses notwithstanding, I do generally suffer from a lack of follow-through, I suppose, and have always envied those who are organized by nature. But it's the price one pays for wandering. Most days, it's still worth it.

posted by boyhowdy | 9:24 PM | 0 comments

Towards A Fully-Integrated Info Commons 

Nifty idea over at The Blackboard Jungle in the midst of a rant about an ill-designed library: why aren't there book display racks by the computers? It gives readers something close at hand for web hang-times, showcases the collection, and re-establishes the library as a place for books -- and books and computers together as vital, mutually respectful parts of a growing infomedia spectrum, rich and diverse. Here's what I'd include:
  • Short featured poetry collections for those in need of a quick brain break or a creative prompt.

  • Quick-reference texts for station-specific software and common design and rhetoric questions.

  • Quirky "best of the web" collections.

  • The Little, Brown style and citation handbook

I can almost see pairing a small set or single book with each station, thereby turning a bank of computers into a series of tiny but open-ended almost-kiosks. And while we're at it, let's add a display of books, just when you walk into the Commons itself, covering a wide but relevant spectrum of technology, culture, learning, information literacy, and anything else directly related to the Information Commons and its raison d'etre, shall we?

I'd been thinking about a laminated page on each of the higher-end workstations listing available software and support possibilities. Thanks to Lectrice for helping me think bigger.

posted by boyhowdy | 8:17 PM | 0 comments

File Under Memes: Tuesday Twosome 

Because sick days are bad days for thinking, but just great for inane dichotomy:
End of May:

1. Name two things you will miss this summer:
Free food from the dining hall; Bonnaroo (again).

2. Name two things that you won't miss this summer:
Getting up early; being too busy to spend time with my daughter.

3. Vacation: "Planning on one" or "Don't have the time and/or money to take one":
The three best things about teaching: June, July, and August.

4. Warmer weather: "Finally" or "Crap! I want cooler weather":
More like "hooray for summer...oh, wait, I forgot about all these bugs..."

5. Memorial Day (USA): "A much needed day off" or "I have to work":
Work...and I had to check the calendar to see when it was to prove it. Ah, the wonderful world of the boarding prep school, where it's actually more work to deal with the kids if you don't have class, so we do.

posted by boyhowdy | 6:45 PM | 0 comments

Codeswitching: A Delicious Mess 

With apologies aforethought to the less-than-geeky, a mini-technorant: for some reason, the del.icio.us RSS feed has begun to identify itself in Chinese to Feedroll's RSS viewer; you can see the results to the right under tinyblog. The timing sucks -- I've been working on my department webpage from home, desperate to make an end-of-term deadline, and I was hoping to set up a similar structure with these two tools in tandem to enrich the home page.

Rather than figure out how to mediate the aggregator-to-feed with some as-yet-only-imagined babelfish filter, I'm thinking it's time to learn to write xml -- and stop depending on start-up third-party service providers for spot code and "extras." Any recs for a good teach-yerself-xml resource?

posted by boyhowdy | 6:23 PM | 0 comments

Monday, May 24, 2004


Radio show cancelled due to high fever after a tornado-watch day, though the driving rain and too-close lightning let up enough midafternoon and pre-fever for the school's yearly Hoggerfair, an over-supper of inflated jumparound castles, dunking booths, parlour games and a half-decent neo-ska band. The line at the Herrel's double decker bus was too long for even the best burnt sugar ice cream this side of nowhere, so we opted for a carnival tidbit supper provided by competing vendors eager to prove their wares palatable to the adolescent taste, the dining hall turned into a madhouse land grab. Happily, we found a bag of kettle corn on the roof of our car afterwards, a sign from the teenage horde we were happy to accept and thus avoid.

The man making balloon animals wouldn't make me one at first, since there was some concern about the wee one, but once I assured him that I was nowhere near idotic enough to hand an almost-two a taut ready-to-pop lest she squeeze enough to scare her off balloons for life, he came through maginificently, braiding and twisting eight multicolored obscenities into a happy mantle piece.

Now achy and fuzzy-brained, and in awe of the stupidity of the final episode of The Swan; we watched the whole thing, but then we also watch train wrecks, don't we? The multiballoon rainbow with the clinging pale blue carebear rests atop the television set, out of reach of sweet and cotton candy sticky hands; sausage and fried dough churn the stomach in their mostly-bile state. The storm watch continues, a drumming rustle, leaves and roofs. And off to bed with the alarm clock unset.

posted by boyhowdy | 10:24 PM | 0 comments

Sunday, May 23, 2004

U.S. Government's "Mind Expander" Kills 7 Year Old Girl, Details at Eleven 

Girl dies on amusement park ride at Playland Amusement Park in NY -- they think she may have been kneeling in her seat. Scary. It's the second amusement park death within our driving circle (the previous one was at the local Six Flags), but what's interesting to me about this story is that historic landmark Playland is "the nation's only government-owned and -operated amusement park." And the government ride the girl died on is called the Mind Expander.

Did you know the government owned a funpark? Man, if I was conspiracy-minded, I'd be having conniptions right now. In context, the "Mind Expander" at "Playland" is so 1984.

Kinda makes you wonder what the other rides are called, doesn't it? I'd offer some suggestions here, but I'm feeling a bit tired from all those radio signals the Pentagon beams into my brain.

posted by boyhowdy | 11:59 PM | 0 comments

It's All Been Done 

Seems to me we had a day just like today this time last year. The Mall with Darcie and Willow: dress clothes for upcoming all-school special dress events; four silk ficuses and some posterboard for Darcie's prom set-up; dreams of rescuing kittens from the tiny mall pet store. The Holyoke Merry-Go-Round on the way home, where, despite months of development and begging since the last visit, Willow continues to be a bit reticent about getting on, and eager to get off after just two half-happy rides. The underclass prize assembly, watching once again the same kids get three or four prizes while the kids I know and love, the losers and geeks, get mostly no recognition at all, and resent being there.

Funny how the rituals of end of year lend themselves to almost identical blogentries. The once-again hardly bears repeating; even last night's first-of-the-year trip to the drive-in went much like last year's opening weekend, from the mediocre movie (Shreck 2) half-seen due to child-whining distraction to the short but gleeful trip to the playground before darkness fell. We change but are the same, the world cycles back and forth like a pendulum beneath our static lives. Is there truly anything new under the sun?

posted by boyhowdy | 8:51 PM | 0 comments

Saturday, May 22, 2004

Location, Location, Location 

A grey day in Brattleboro, though the house is the kind of disaster only two working mess-prone parents and one almost-toddler can produce. The farmer's market, in the almost rain, and then under umbrellas: egg rolls and thai chicken sticks, coffee and pastries, some old college friends playing down-home music, guitar and stand up bass, maracas and fiddle. Later, kidsPLAYce, on a whim, where the baby gleefully chased the older boys from fire truck climbing structure to ball pit to slide before settling down for some quiet play at the sand table. Now, a nap for the girls, some quiet time for daddy, and the soft patter of rain on the green leaves of a new world almost summer just outside the windows.

Two weeks to graduation. Soon, every day could be like today.

posted by boyhowdy | 2:20 PM | 34 comments

Thursday, May 20, 2004

Gmail For Sale 

Everybody wants a Gmail account; ownership during the beta phase is apparently "the in thing" for the chic geek a-lister wannabe. Partially, that's because the interface is as clean as google, and you get a gig of hard drive space. Mostly, though, it's because Gmail is new and mysterious, and not everybody can get in on the ground floor -- you have to be invited, and, among the digirati, it seems invitations are few and far between.

Demand is so high that folks on eBay are bidding over the $41 dollar mark. And have look at the cool stuff people have bartered for their Gmail invites over at gmail swap, where, if you have an unused invite, you too could find a swapper and make a deal! (Having someone deny themself "self-pleasure" for 40 days and nights is already taken -- sorry, folks -- but as of blog press time you could still swap a Gmail invite for the entire Sports Night series on CD-R, a phone call with a pure-bred Englishman, $40 paypal, and a pic of rockergirl bending over in thong.)

I'm not going to be left out in the cold on this one, though -- for once, blogger came through, giving long-time users of this Gmail sister company (Google owns both) a one-time-only free account. I figured I'd scoop mine up while the getting was good, so feel free to help me christen my new gmail by sending me a congratulatory note. Alternately, feel free to write and tell me how stupid I was for not trading it in for

- an inflatable penguin,
- my name in a cinema's in-house movie trailer,
- DNA encoded with my name,
- a custom made bondage Barbie/Ken,
- 20 love letters from "Rachel" and a gamecube game,
- $15,000 in student debt and a DVD-R of mp3s,
- an insider's pass to the Calgary Stampede,
- an extraordinary, divinely blessed papier-mache penis, with a recording of the gods' benediction,

or any of the other most recent niftiest swaps.

posted by boyhowdy | 9:09 PM | 0 comments

Serendipity Explains It All For You 

I am sick and tired of coming home sick and tired, ready to crash; sick of halfcrying in the car on my way home; of wanting so much to leave the office all the time, except when I'm in a class.

But then Donna, a fellow teacher who attended a Learning Differences conference at Harvard Grad School of Education back in November, posted a conference session summary on the school wide information system we affectionately call swis as in "I'll swis you when I get home" or "can I swis it to her?" The summary was so stellar, I'll let Donna tell the tale; there was more in the original about how students are affected by the process described, but it was the relevance to teachers' own minds and bodies that bears repeating, and is presented here:
One session, in particular, is worth discussion: “Time deprivation disorder and stress: Impact on parent, child, and teacher resiliency, ” led by Arnold Kerzner, a physician and child psychologist who co-authored several books on child-rearing with Berry Brazelton. In his overview, Kerzner described our schools as fast-paced, where we set high expectations for teachers and students, while providing little in the way of support. In such an environment, our ability to manage stress is destroyed. Learning is impaired, and our physical and mental health are jeopardized. Kerzner used the phrase “cultural post-traumatic stress disorder syndrome” to capture the devastating effects on all aspects of our well-being.

Especially sobering was Kerzner’s observation that boarding school administrators, teachers, and students are particularly vulnerable to this disorder. It is not enough merely to use technology, he said, we are also seeking to emulate it through “multi-tasking.” Our concentration is diluted; we lose the sense of accomplishment because we never quite finish anything. Administrators, students, and teachers, moreover, are expected to excel in a number of areas, without appropriate institutional support. By taking on too much, by multi-tasking our way through the day, leaving too much undone at the end of it, we develop what Kerzner called “time deprivation disorder.”

As a physician, he mapped the effects of “the Sisyphus syndrome.” The Greek gods understood human nature when they doled out their punishments. Sisyphus, you will recall, is forever doomed to push a boulder to the top of a hill, only to have it roll down again before he completes the task. The Sisyphus syndrome describes how one feels waking up in the morning, tired, stiff, with weight on one’s shoulders. The fatigue lasts all day, as if one can’t get a second wind. One has headaches, digestive upsets. We know that stress increases cortisol, and the effect creates a particular kind of anxiety: the belief that despite our best efforts, something will go wrong. One lives with a constant sense of “consternation,” hyper-vigilance; as he put it, “waiting for the other shoe to drop.” Too busy, we begin to feel isolated—does anyone understand? We develop cognitive rigidity—we see things in black and white—“Give it to me straight, what’s the bottom line?” and make administrative decisions that reflect this.

And suddenly, it all made sense. My whole life, and everything in it. I told Donna so, and she agreed: there's a terrible logic to that, isn't there?

posted by boyhowdy | 8:31 PM | 0 comments

More Technotes
today's special: geeknotes 

1. Still not thrilled with the new Blogger, for all the same reasons. Its interface is clunkier; it shows less of what you want to see all at once on any given page; it requires more clicking. It's just not growing on me, but it's not just me: this is deliberately poor ergonomic design, designed to slow down and spread out the content, making the already easy tool easier to use...but at the cost of density and richness. Boo, Blogger, for kowtowing to the n00b.

2. Especially disappointed with the atom.xml feed Blogger provides, as it syndicates funny: in some odd way no way of reading the feed is able to distinguish blogtitle from blogentry, meaning the title of this entry on kinja (and, presumably, on your favorite newsreader/aggregator) will be "More Technotes 1. Still not thrilled with the new Blogg..." Trying to resyndicate it through the Blogger-recommended Feedburner doesn't help (though Feedburner itself, a sort of configuration gui for your xml, seems like a nifty tool). Anyone know how to fix this?

[Update, ten minutes later: Never mind, fixed it myself by reverting to the auto-titling function. I do prefer to handcode my titles, for flexibility's sake -- without it, using smallfont subtitles is a pain -- but I can understand how xml code needs to "see" a title separate from a post. Having to autofunction it out only seems like yet another example of Blogger being bad.]

3. Back home, my school-provided laptop (a Compaq e500 running Win98, for those who care) continues to flip out; right now, it imagines someone's holding down the shift and function keys every 5 to fifty seconds, and I have to hit it myself to get back to the interface. If I haven't been blogging much from home, it's predominantly because trying to blog on this stupid thing is a Zen exercise in self-inflicted frustration. I'd have a school technician totally wipe it but I don't have the install disks for some of the software, and also, of course, I'm a lazy bastard; packing it up to bring into work seems like so much damn trouble, we might as well have a desktop.

posted by boyhowdy | 7:49 PM | 0 comments

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Syndicate Me!
A post for the tech-minded

Blogger's partnership with Atom may be in competition with the RSS standard (sorry, Dave), but at least the interface is easy.

If your newsreader reads atom feeds, until I get around to adding one of those ubiquitous orange xml buttons the sidebar, those interested should right click and copy shortcut to use this url to add my site to your aggregator/digest/newsreader/what-have-you.

If, on the other hand, the preceeding blogcontent made little or no sense to you, dion't worry about it -- yet. You've still got a year or two before this stuff trickles down from the digirati to mass culture.

posted by boyhowdy | 1:35 PM | 0 comments

Is There A Technology Gender Gap?
And if so, is that a problem?

Technology's Too Small Sisterhood, one of the articles in an ongoing Business Week series on women in technology, infers a causal relationship between a) the steep decline of women earning technology degrees, and b) the worsening gender gap in technology jobs. (Via new kinja library digest fave Librarian in Black, who asks women for their opinion on this issue but doesn't seem to care for mine -- perhaps demonstrating a gender bias in librarianship, or against male feminists.)

And yet my own personal experience (and my own personal bias) as a teacher, father, long-haired (albeit conservative libertarian) feminist, and male standard-bearer in a predominantly female-heavy fieldset (librarianship and teaching) is much more reflective of a recent New York Post article showing that the gender gap is closing fast for gamers -- 41% of whom are now women.

This is, of course, a complex issue (and I'm blogging at work again, so let's keep it short). But for me, the big deal here is partially the distinction between girls growing up equitably as users, and growing up equitably as developers -- the former of which seems like a big fat cultural deal, and the latter of which seems like it may be grounded in genuine bio-natural, not nurture/culture, gender differences and preferences towards certain kinds of skillsets, learning styles, and work.

Tech work is individual and sterile where women are generally accepted as communal and emotive, on the whole. Less men run flower shops, or are social workers or nurses; auto mechanics is a technology, too, but I've never seen any big feminist push to get women equal representation in that field, either. Equal access, yes: we've come a long way (baby) from the world of my grandmother, who never learned to drive herself to the beauty parlor. But haven't we as feminists moved beyond those calls for sociocultural change which ignore the fact that men and women are genuinely different sorts of folk?

posted by boyhowdy | 9:40 AM | 0 comments

Monday, May 17, 2004


Read dark-moss love sonnets from the hundred Neruda wrote for his wife on her birthday at the station breaks. Talked with Molly, now home from a 'term abroad' class trip across the country. Sweated through my shirt and into the chair, in basement radio station air heavy with impending rain.

Thought about rainbow sprinkle ice cream in the sun with Willow, white plastic chairs in the half-shade of the Creamie, her first up close motorcycle shining like in the sun as we circled around it -- another moment borrowed from another hectic life -- while her mother spoke with the owners of the local floral shop, 'cause she's good like that and they want her to do event planning for them.

Thank you god, today, for the meditative radio, and the blog; the time together, and the time to etch it into my heart indellible.

As always, tonight's playlist follows. You've been listening to Tributary, your ten to midnight Monday night show here on WNMH 91.5 FM, serving Northfield, Gill, Keene, Brattleboro, old friends and new.

Tributary 5/17/04

Bob Dorough -- Too Much Coffee Man
Cake -- Manah Manah
Beck -- Devil's Haircut
A Tribe Called Quest -- Can I Kick It?
Juliana Hatfield -- Live On Tomorrow
They Might Be Giants -- We Want A Rock
Barenaked Ladies -- Straw Hat And Old Dirty Hank

Spin Doctors -- Two Princes
Ween -- Bananas & Blow
Yo La Tengo -- Magnet
Rusted Root -- Send Me On My Way
The Biscuit Boys -- Me & My Uncle
The Black Crowes -- Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds

Tom Landa & the Paperboys -- All Along The Watchtower
The Be Good Tanyas -- Waiting Around To Die
Guster -- Two At A Time
Dar Williams -- Iowa (Traveling III)
Norah Jones -- Sunrise

Phish -- Fast Enough For You
Tori Amos -- The Wrong Band
Moxy Fruvous -- Horseshoes
Lyle Lovett -- Church
David Wilcox -- It's The Same Old Song
Sheryl Crow -- We Do What We Can

posted by boyhowdy | 10:09 PM | 0 comments

History In The Making: Mass Marriage Monday

Today is not yet the first day in US history that any citizen has been unquestionably and legally able to marry any adult they damn well choose, regardless of sex or gender identification. Not yet, anyway.

But congratulations nonetheless to all Massachusetts residents whose unions today and (god willing) forevermore will be legal marriages, protected by law. I practically cried this morning listening to live coverage of the festive courthouse atmosphere down in Northampton on our local liberal radio station (see also morning DJ Bill's Big Breakfast Blog), where a whole mess of local schoolchildren seem to have skipped school to attend this historic event, god bless 'em and their parents.

Massachusetts has once again set the pace for the nation, making me proud to be a resident. Now, if we could only convince the world to forget that Dukakis debacle, maybe they'd take this one seriously...

[UPDATE 10:34 a.m.: By far the most comprehensive coverage of this issue, in all its opinionated variety and implications, is the special gay marriage feature in today's Boston Globe. Especially interesting: opposing viewpoint blogs pro and con, long-time hosted by the Globe itself in anticipation of the big day.]

posted by boyhowdy | 7:59 AM | 0 comments

Sunday, May 16, 2004

Watching Willow

Cut grass and cool shade at the school's first annual pig roast. My daughter in the short distance bravely dips her hand, then her arm, in the long trough of icewater. She brushes against a floating soda can, watches it bob down and back up to the surface, like her duck in the bath. Her shimmering eyes reflect everything I feel when I want to figure out how something works, and I think so this is what it looks like on the outside, this feeling of wanting to know, to explain, to understand.

Then the moment passes, and the world speeds back up to normal again.

It's funny how the shortest moments make the strongest memories; we were only at the sparsely-attended Sunday fleshfest for ten minutes or so. But later, we walked in the twilight woods, weary girl held to my ribcage; dripped orange juice popsicle on the couch, imitating Beeker's mimimimi in high pitched voices, giggling; had a second wind, a prolonged bedtime, back and forth between mommy watching houses on tv in the bedroom, daddy watching bugs on tv in the den. And later, these will be what has faded.

It's been a long Sunday, but it will be a longer week without her. Three weeks and counting to graduation.

posted by boyhowdy | 8:54 PM | 0 comments
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