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 tinyblog work with Alan Levine's javascript RSS code generator. Joined the listserv on the way, and found that Feedroll* has been banned from 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 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

Saturday, May 15, 2004


Words & phrases coined in the last 24 hours out of necessity:

Anticipaintion: the half-second of intellectual awareness of impending and as-yet-unmeasurable discomfort that elapses between the moment you stub your toe and the moment your pain centers recieve, acknowledge, and quantify the resultant explosion of pain. See also Painticipate.

Kiddie Change: pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters found scattered across the carpet, in the bedcovers, and in one's shoes, especially in the weeks after a visit from grandma.

Commentsation: Any personal discourse exchange, occuring in the comments of a blogentry, which has nothing to do with the original blogpost. Somewhat related to argcomment, a blog phenomenon often seen on large sites like Fark and slashdot, in which disagreement about a fundamental position in a blogentry causes the comments of that entry to spill over with the resultant debate.

Bedhopping: Moving from one location to another in the middle of a night's sleep. Most often caused by waking up on the living room couch at 2 a.m. after a week's cumulative end-of-school-year stress causes you to pass out postprandially during the six o'clock news and realizing you'd be much more comfortable in bed. Related to Sleepwhere: the confused but temporary state of trying to figure out one's location experienced upon awaking on the living room couch at 2 a.m.

Potty Train: Any mad dash of two or more related people down the hallway to the bathroom after a naked half-toilet-trained toddler utters the phrase "Willow poop?" Synonyms include toilet troop, poop parade, and rapid bowel movement.

More, surely, to come.

posted by boyhowdy | 8:30 AM | 21 comments

Friday, May 14, 2004

Creepy Crawlies (Got Bugs?)

Warm weather brings greenery and heat, but it also brings ants, tics, black flies, newts and other smallscale fauna to the forefront of my life. Here's a quick midday compendium of some recent forways into the life of the tiny and slimy.
  • I'm not sure if it's alergies or just her tender baby skin, but Willow's turned out oversensitive to black fly bites; at the moment, though the spot on her temple has finally begun to fade, her belly sports several inch-in-diameter welts, as if a bug or two had gotten caught up in her clothes. The air is thick with these tiny darklings in many of our favorite haunts, from the swingset outside the dining hall to the otherwise-cool woods and stream just over the ridge from here; they even swarmed the hood of the car yesterday when I went out to try to unscrew the rusted bolts on the dead car's battery. Happily, the marks the black flies leave don't seem to be itchy, but boy, are those spots ugly against that precious skin: as a preventative, we've taken to carrying baby-safe bug spray with us at all times, which makes us smell of baby powder and sweet sharp synthetics.

  • At least one of those bites comes from a short post-supper trip down to the campus pond on Tuesday, bathing suited and bare footed, to stand sociably in the marshy sand at water's edge with other young parents while the kids netted newts and frogs and small schools of sunfish nibbled at our toes. 'Twas well worth it, though: Willow seemed absolutely ecstatic to be surrounded by so many kids, all splashing and sandthrowing, and though the water was cold, it was all in all a refreshing evening activity on both physical and spiritual planes. As late as last night's bedtime she was till talking about the newt she caught, purely by accident, when swooping a borrowed net through the muddy water's edge.

  • Closer to our own backyard the meadow grows long behind our house; we've taken tics off dog and cat several times already, and I fear for my long hair. Today I met a as-yet-unfastened tic wandering my shirt cuff before I had even left the house, an oddity on a freshly ironed article -- I can only assume, ominously, that it came from Willow's changing table, which doubles as an ironing board, and remind myself to check her smallparts dilligently as we move forward into summer.

  • Back home the ants go marching through our kitchen at all hours. and scatter desperately from the sink drain when we turn on the water for dishwashing. I've crushed an infinite number under coffee filter boxes and peanut butter jars, until the counters are paisleyed with curious black smears and tiny legs, but with the baby in the house we're reluctant to put out traps or liquid to stop them comprehensively. For now, we fight our rearguard mano a mano battle against the invading army through morning coffeemaking and evening television munchie prep ... but I notice Darcie's already purchased some traps, so stay tuned for further development on this one.

  • After a long hibernation, life has also returned to the attic room at the end of our long third floor hallway. Mr. and Mrs. Bat trill and swoop among the rafters at dusk and beyond; a presumed-dead wasps nest has come up humming, merely dormant; a single yellowjacketed flying thing buzzes around the bare bulb at all hours, a harbinger of stings to come. I've taken to leaving a tennis racquet by the door, just in case.

posted by boyhowdy | 11:34 AM | 0 comments

Thursday, May 13, 2004

File Under Stupid Novelist Tricks

Nice piece in the Telegraph today about the first novel written entirely without verbs; without the possibility of action, the book seems predominantly filled with "florid adjectives in a series of vitriolic portraits of dislikeable passengers on a train."

Unsurprisingly, critics have "commented unfavourably on the lack of action in ... The Train from Nowhere." A review in one respected magazine "describes his book as "disagreeable" and said its scathing descriptions of women travellers displayed "a rare misogyny"."

The article refers several times to pseudonymic author Michel Thaler as "eccentric," which may be the understatement of the year; Thaler, a doctor of literature, says his new work is "to literature what the great Dada and Surrealist movements were to art," and claims that it was liberating to write without verbs, which he describes as "invaders, dictators, and usurpers of our literature."

Today's alternate blogtitle: When Novelists Sniff Glue

posted by boyhowdy | 11:32 PM | 0 comments

Collaborative Blogging
sushiesque rocks the bloggiverse

Newly crowned librarian Sushiesque has had a wonderful idea: a make your own Sushiesque post mad lib exercise. Here's what I had her do today:
Christine dreamed that she was forced to join a librarian polo league. She awoke to find that her hair was surprisingly humid but looked okay anyhow. She threw on some black corduroys and a Mel Torme t-shirt that she'd found discarded in a dorm laundry room at Texas Institute of Technology and headed out.

At the library, Christine "relocated" a number of bound periodicals (which had formerly been shelved by title) into call number order. She took a break to get a bottle of firewater and read Not All Who Wander Are Lost. Christine got lunch at the Liliputian-food truck on Avenue Louis Pasteur, and then went back to the basement to squirt all elenteen volumes of the Vaticanian Journal of Pickled Egg Studies. She found a shelf whose underside was adorned with two five six separate, differently-colored wads of chewing gum. By 1 p.m., she was begrudgingly covered in dust and ready to go home.

Christine spent the evening putting every poison ivy she owns into boxes. She decided to skip the end-of-semester party even though it'd been moved to the roof of the gymnateria. She ate the last of the fried bologna omelet left in the freezer while watching the Daily Show.

Think you can do better? Why not try it yourself? Don't forget to let Christine know if she did anything "exciting."

(By the way, what I like about Texas Institute of Technology is how the sweatshirt acronym reads. Oh, and two five six is my daughter's word for a whole lot.)

posted by boyhowdy | 9:40 PM | 0 comments


1. Not pleased with Blogger's new look. Oversimplified and over-tabbed in design and interface, with too strong an initial emphasis on sign-ups where it once spread content accessibly across the front page, this week's Blogger is much more oriented twards the as-yet-unafilliated newbie than the millions of us already hooked on phonics; I'll especially miss the "entry on top, post on bottom" interface that preceeded the overhaul.

If I didn't know better, I'd say the fine folks at Blogger assume the post-initiated will use the popup Blog This interface (now playing at a Google toolbar near you!). but what about those of us who see our blogging as a creative act, and might prefer to do so in an immersive writing environment? Blogger's either misread the majority of its audience, or I'm not in it.

2. Made this Kinja digest of library blogs today as a follow-up to yesterday's library/edtech department meeting demo of the potential of and for RSS aggregation in schools and libraries; let me know if you know of any good library blogs that aren't on the list. Thanks to Shifted Librarian Jenny for pushing the exemplary work of Moraine Valley Community College; it made a great starting point for my presentation.

Other new aggregation tools I'm liking right now: FeedSweep, feedroll, and of course, which aggregates individual bookmarks and, when used as a collective tool, becomes a bloggish and wiki-like linklist library of and for an entire community, neatly categorized by subject area. I sold the school webmaster on this stuff in a meeting yesterday (what if you could let people click off a box next to each sport that they wanted to follow, and every subsequent time they showed up at the school webpage the right sidebar would show them the most recent of their favorite teams' news and game results?), and the librarians seemed excited, too: already, one's caught the meme and started her own blog. Huh -- looks like blog aggregation and the rest of the social networking toolbox set really is the next big thing.

posted by boyhowdy | 9:05 PM | 0 comments

Tuesday, May 11, 2004


Today I taught two Media Literacy overviews for 9th grade Health classes, one final day on the too-long History class I've been instructing for their web class, my Advanced Web design class, served a full two-hour shift in the Information Commons, and was on dorm duty all night.

I saw Darcie and Willow for 10 minutes at lunchtime, and thirty minutes at supper.

Tomorrow I've got two instructional sessions for basic precalculus class powerpoint and research projects, a meeting to introduce the school webmaster to the wonders of RSS, a presentation on the same subject at a Library/Media staff meeting, and another four hours in the Information Commons.

There will likely be no blogging on other topics this week, as my brain is crammed full of class prep on the fly and little else. Hope the mundania doesn't bore anyone. At this rate, I might have something interesting and non-work-related to talk about by, say, Thurday night sometime -- if I'm lucky.

Until then, why not check out the tinyblog, or my current blogreads.

posted by boyhowdy | 11:12 PM | 0 comments

Monday, May 10, 2004

Fog Blog

Dew shimmies on the grass in the windy mornings. Fog covers our cars in the mornings, burns off the roads as we hit the streets, fringes the mountains long after it has risen from our fields and footpaths.

The air gathers up the rain and the river. It swells like a tic on the dog, creeps like the red roadside poison ivy in the sun.

Under its scrunchie my thick red hair grows heavy, a sponge. Its moisture presses, a sauna at the hidden nape of my neck and along my ponytail-smothered spine. I am stale and sour with sweat by noon.

Resistance is futile. Showers are useless. Some days it rains. It's never enough.

Thank god for music in cool basement studios. As always, here's tonight's playlist.

Tributary 5/10/04

Bob Dorough -- Too Much Coffee Man
Phish -- Cavern
Skavoovie and the Epitones -- Old Man Of The Mountain
Billy Bragg w/ Wilco -- My Flying Saucer
Manu Chao -- Me Gustas Tu
Negativland -- Yellow, Black and Rectangular
Ben Harper -- Steal My Kisses

-- storybreak: Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

Keller Williams -- Best Feeling
Sarah Harmer -- Almost
Tony Furtado Band -- Miles Alone
Tish Hinojosa -- Hey Little Love
The Jayhawks -- Save It For A Rainy Day
They Might Be Giants -- Particle Man

-- storybreak: Where The Wild Things Are

Acoustic Syndicate -- Pumpkin And Daisy
Lucy Kaplansky -- Hole In My Head
Mark Erelli -- Little Sister
Alison Krauss -- 9 to 5
Indigo Girls -- Galileo
Norah Jones w/ Dolly Parton -- Creepin' In
Jorma Kaukonen -- Waiting For A Train

-- storybreak: The Giving Tree

Patty Griffin -- Mad Mission
Jonatha Brooke -- War
Timbuk 3 -- Born To Be Wild
Girlyman -- The Shape I Found You In
Juliana Hatfield -- Slow Motion
Deb Talan -- Forgiven

You've been listening to Tributary, your ten to midnight Monday night show here on WNMH 91.5 FM -- the station that blows Deerfield out of the water.

posted by boyhowdy | 10:16 PM | 0 comments

Sunday, May 09, 2004

Blog Tired

The last month of any school year is a awash in a swamp of pomp and circumstance, surely. At the elite prep school, however, the sheer force of a proud hundred years of history and tradition makes for a nonstop morass of suit and tie evening ceremonies and weekend required events. At some point, the only possible way to make it all fit together is to bull forward, head down, overcaffeinatied and snappish, saving sleep for the impending summer.

It's funny how sudden it comes on. One week you're looking forward to the weekend, and the next you're looking in the mirror for signs of comprehensive system failure under stress on Saturday night -- brought on by Friday night 7-11 dorm duty (and 7-12 tonight), an early Saturday morning buying Prom and Commencement Eve Dinner Dance supplies at Home Depot with event-designer Darcie and the baby, tonight's tech set-up and event stand-by for a trustee slideshow at the high-donor's sea-bass-and-champagne supper, and tomorrow's breakdown of same.

Even the sidetrack to Shelburne Falls for a sweet-scented family walk along the Bridge of Flowers now gloriously in bloom, a gentle lunch in a cafe, a trip the watch the glassblowers and a peek at the Salmon Falls Glacial Potholes fades into the blur of days already.

Tomorrow the girls are taking my in-laws out for Mothers Day while I spend the long afternoon suit-and-tied, chaperoning this year's Sacred Concert. I've got extra classes to teach in the week ahead, and an advisee group yearly hot tubs and sushi outing the following Sunday; Darcie's got to design and implement the decorative concepts for two big events coming up, and a few more AP exams to proctor.

It helps to know that it's almost over, that we've lived through the same final quarter dash five times before. But I hope with all my heart there will be enough time for our little girl in the days and weeks ahead. Summer, and almost three months of full-time homestaying, just the three of us, cannot come too soon.

posted by boyhowdy | 12:49 AM | 0 comments

Friday, May 07, 2004

And That's No Lie

Alex found a good one: a Cornell study that explores tendencies towards falsehood across various media, ultimately determining that students lie less in email than they do in person, and ... lie most on the phone. Neat stuff, social science.

I wonder if the extent to which organic use engenders basic cross-media literacies over time is itself measurable? If the factors are truly isolatable? Knowing how much experience -- and how much of what other factors, too -- equals just how much literacy would allow an exponential formalization of media literacy curricular integration strategies, tied to age and development, and other socio-cultural factors.

In entirely related news, tomorrow afternoon I once again begin a rash of post-midterm 2 day media literacy units in the 9th grade Health classes here at NMH. They've managed to squeeze me in between sexuality and drugs & alcohol, and I think I've got just the segue...

posted by boyhowdy | 12:08 AM | 0 comments

Thursday, May 06, 2004

Feminist Parenting 101

Took Willow to see the ducks at the local community college today after a sushi supper we could ill afford. The cement pond was filled with mostly mallards, too scared to come over, and the kid quickly lost interest; the mated pair of geese under the lone fence-enclosed tree hissed and held her attention for a moment, but not long enough, so we played with spectator's dogs at a nearby junior soccer league scrimmage for a while.

Afterwards in the parking lot, we came across some hulking construction vehicles left deserted and parallel parked in the waning sun, and she perked right up. So Willow and I explored their outer limits, talking trucks and giant wheel treads, while Darcie chatted with sis-in-law Ginny, newly arrived for her late Anatomy class.

I must have done something right, 'cause when we completed the circut and the sisters came into view, Willow proudly announced "Women drive these trucks!" And I get bonus points, too: no one was looking our way, so I treated us both to the sight of her surreptitious and proud behind the steamroller's wheel. Gotta remember to bring the camera next time; one day, when my child is a true free spirit, self-defining sexuality and gender as far as she wants to, that pic of her cranking the black wheel of a bright orange ton-or-so will make her the envy of all her friends.

posted by boyhowdy | 9:45 PM | 0 comments

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

Michael Moore* Is (Still) A Big Fat Idiot

I've said it before and I'll say it again: Michael Moore plays too fast and loose with his facts to be my kind of guy. This time around, he's whining that Disney has shut him down for political reasons. But there's a much easier explanation for why Disney has pulled their backing for the Bush Bashing, and it's the title of today's blogentry.

In trying to see why Moore is both stupid and, ultimately, dangerously so, we need only look at this current silliness more closely. Here's some cut-and-paste from the end of the CNN article:

Moore said he believed the protection of tax cuts was the reason for the media conglomerate's position.

"I would have hoped by now that I would be able to put my work out to the public without having to experience the profound censorship obstacles I often seem to encounter," Moore said in a statement Wednesday.
Moore's response to Disney is telling: in typical Moorean fashion, he throws the word "censorship" as them, making it seem as if he is entitled not just to be heard, but to be promoted. Moore seems to have confused the concept of the right to free speech with some sort of right to be published, promoted, and paid. Automatically, as if a company that stands by and for the whole family should somehow be obliged to support the work of any idiot with a camera and a budget -- where in the constitution does it guarantee Michael Moore's right to get cash from the Mouse? In trying to twist the tables on Disney, he only demonstrates why Disney could never ally themselves with his work.

Note, of course, that the news is primarily focusing on Moore's complaint, not Disney's reponse. The bloggosphere cannot help but groan with those decrying Disney. It helps that big business is so tempting a target; it's easy to imagine Eisner and Bush sitting in those huge photo-op armchairs, plotting the downtrodding of the "little guy."

And people listen to the Moore/Disney meme as it passes by. It joins the growing pile of what-can-we-do at the foot of the stairs, making it just that much harder to get over it and out into the world each day.

Eventually, self-righteousness over accuracy becomes the rallying cry of a doomsday generation. Problems are presented as both solvable and never solved, engendering a generation of, and in, despair and disempowerment.

I'm not going to go so far as to suggest that Michael Moore is the most dangerous man alive. Sowing distrust doesn't hold a candle to those who prey open that distrust, or take advantage of its dark alleyways and vigilante justice. But he frames this world, he and a hundred hundred like him on every side of the political spectrum, blowhards all, from FoxNews to Howard Stern. The real world as it really is -- beautiful and complex and demands caution and trust as a mere premise for survival itself -- fades in the face of the distrust and impotence which are the inevitable result of his manipulation.

In my own private wished-for utopia of media literati and savvy, intuitively best-practice consumers, everyone would see through Moore. Instead of the crown jewel of the sorrowful ranting farleft, he'd be some unheard of blowhard. But as long as he continues to tap into the emotions of the scared, impotent, and insignificant-feeling man on the street, I'm afraid, people will listen -- for who else have they got? Don't worry, though: I'll keep the light on for you.

* Moore has content on his own site about this issue, but here at NAWWAL it is against our link policy to provide easy access to the home pages of crazy, stupid, and/or dangerous people. If you wish to pursue Moore's side more closely, you'll have to find it yourself.

posted by boyhowdy | 3:47 PM | 0 comments

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

Interesting, Good, Funny, Dumb: More Randomalia

Interesting discovery: though both The Onion and her AV sister purport to publish on Wednesdays, the latter actually puts up new content by midday Tuesday. (Yeah, I know -- I'm a satire addict. But Savage Love always rocks, and check out the Lou Barlow and Jon Wurster interviews this week!)

Good news: Darcie fielded a phone call today notifying me that I've won two tickets for this summer's Green River Festival. I had totally forgotten about the seven-for-five raffle tickets purchased at the Rani Arbo and daisy mayhem show a few weekends ago, though now that I think of it, I do remember buying them primarily because no one else had bought any, and I felt sorry for the guy selling them. Now I get to see them again, plus Donna the Buffalo, Gillian Welch, Hot Tuna and more, for the cost of gas and maybe a spot of ice cream from the Herrell's magic bus. Yay me!

Funniest thing I've read in weeks: Beloit College Mindset List: 1918, Adam Underhill's historical parody (via McSweeney's) of those yearly email memes which remind us that kids entering college today don't know what wax lips are, and that they don't know what a Smurf is, and they don't know that Paul McCartney was ever in another band besides the Beatles, and that (supposedly) this is all really, really, sad and funny, because, you know, we're old and they're not.

Also, I am dumb. What, you've got a better word to describe a guy who walks the fifteen minutes home from the dining hall after chairing a Professional Development Committee meeting, walks in the door hoping for a quick little girl kiss before dorm duty, and only then realizes that the car's still in the dining hall lot -- which he should have realized sooner, because he's been jiggling his car keys in his pocket the whole way home? I was late for duty, and, as I didn't have time to grab laundry in my mad dash through the house, will have to go to work naked again tomorrow. Gee, the students should really love that.

posted by boyhowdy | 7:49 PM | 0 comments

Happy Birthday To You

It's my mother's birthday today; I'd post an embarassing picture here, but I can't seem to find any. Please join me in wishing her a happy one, and many more besides. Love you, Mom!

posted by boyhowdy | 12:46 AM | 0 comments

Monday, May 03, 2004

They Call It Stormy Monday
...but Tuesday's twice as bad

Rain and more rain, all day and half of yesterday. Soft and misty, or clicking against the windows in counterpoint to my rapidfire keyboard hunt-and-peck. The humid air infiltrates my clothes and hair, dampening spirits through the skin. The sheets are wet before we get in them. Here and now, in the basement control room, the speakers crackle and throb moistly, and the lights of the board fade in a waterlogged haze.

Thank god for the lightness of radio in the midst of downpour and darkness. As always, here's the music.

Tributary 5/3/04

Bob Dorough -- Too Much Coffee Man
Trout Fishing In America -- Happy To Be Here
De La Soul -- The Magic Number
Michael Franti and Spearhead -- Everyone Deserves Music
J Mascis -- I Want You Bad
Sarah Harmer -- Almost
String Cheese Incident -- Search

-- poembreak: night villanelle --

Jethro Tull -- Stormy Monday Blues
Stevie Ray Vaughan -- The Sky Is Crying
Patty Griffin -- Rain
The Be Good Tanyas -- Rain And Snow
The Biscuit Boys -- Smokin' In The Rain

-- poembreak: bologna sonnet --

Peter Gabriel -- Washing Of The Water
Sarah McLachlan -- Ice Cream
Lucy Kaplansky -- I Had Something
Dan Hicks w/ Brian Setzer and Elvis Costello -- Meet Me On The Corner
Barry White -- Can't Get Enough Of Your Love, Babe
Trey Anastasio -- Alive Again

-- poembreak: in A after midnight --

The Beatles -- I'm Only Sleeping
The Waifs -- London Still
Mark Erelli w/ Kelly Willis -- Compass & Companion
Alison Krauss -- 9 to 5
Dar Williams -- Bought and Sold
Gillian Welch -- I Want To Sing That Rock And Roll
Dave Carter & Tracy Grammer -- Merlin's Lament
Bobby McFerrin & Yo Yo Ma -- J.S. Bach: Air from Orchestral Suite No. 3

You've been listening to Tributary, your ten-to-midnight Monday night show here on WNMH 91.5 F.M., serving Northfield, Gill, Keene and Brattleboro. Radio rules.

posted by boyhowdy | 10:48 PM | 0 comments

Sunday, May 02, 2004

Our Spirits, Ourselves

Up North 91 for church this morning at West Village Meeting House in Brattleboro for the second time in the last few months. Sat next to old college friend Hailey and her new tiny one Madison, just three weeks old; left for a while after the sermon started to get Willow to childcare; came back to find Darcie holding Madison, looking wistful. Later, she lit a candle in front of the congregation and cried a little. As for me, I found it easier to stay away from the baby. I wanted to hold her far too much to be willing to let myself, if that makes any sense.

[Note for Not All Who Wander Are Lost newbies: though I've never really written about it explicitly, mostly because it is but one chapter of our long epic trying-to-have-several-children-but-plagued-by-problems saga, we miscarried several months ago, and have been gradually working with some damn good doctors and nurse midwives to finish off the miscarriage and figure out how to try again. Anyway, that's not what I'm blogging about today.]

Physically, the West Village Meeting House manages to come across as both imposing and organic, stately and grounded all at once. The packed dirt road up to it is twisty, rutted, and impossibly steep, creating a sense of transition appropriate to all its dualities, managing to suggest both higher place and an unfinished and nature-esque sanctuary. Its exterior woodslat and glass forms a tall U, the large function and gathering room on the right, the smaller sanctuary in the middle by the entryway, the nursery and sunday schools on the left. If you came up to visit and we showed you around, you'd enter the building via covered walkway along the inner right, but before you do, you'd be confronted with two signs, instead of the usual one. Because the West Village Meeting House, it turns out, is the longtime home of two Brattleboro area congregations: Shir He-harim, a non-denomination Jewish community with a Reconstructionist bent, and All Souls Church, a Unitarian Universalist community.

Darcie's family attended UU meetings regularly throughout her childhood and adolescence; she has fond memories, and over our lives together has expressed and explained much of her understanding of the world of spirit through its rituals and liturgies. Years later, in college just up the hill, I sat in its balconies on the Jewish high holy days, more comfortable by far in its folding chairs and underdressed families than I had been in years of velvet childhood pews in the suburbs.

We were married there, of course. We made sandwiches with the rabbi in the tiny kitchen that morning before the ceremony, stood under the chupah there where the piano is now, signed our ketubah in the adjacent sitting room, danced in the tiny courtyard with our friends and family after it was over. Where our daughter now picks flowers and fights with the other young congregants' kids in the childcare room while we here sing, share, and light candles with a community we are just now starting to rejoin.

And because our intermarriage of almost-Reconstructionist Jew and Universalist Unitarian is exactly that of this meeting house, of course, our daughter's spiritual heritage is that, just that, which steeps these rawwood walls.

The history and the holiness of this place runs particularily deep in us, then. But as well, the shaky progress of both congregations as we have lived them seems to have paralleled our own inner journeys. Both congregations have, over time, seen the ebb and flow of membership, as we ourselves have come in and out of periods of spiritual practice in our lives, dipping our toes in the waters of time and intensity. Both undergo a constant self-exploration as political and spiritual entities, and lean heavily on that tension as fodder for sermon choice and collective discourse, in a manner reflecting both their respective spiritual value systems and the rural hodgepodge of organic back-to-the-landers and politically active small towners which characterise the local neo-bohemian class -- and us.

And in all cases, our own and our distant congregations, the way we share and express our shared heritage leaves our temples empty more often than not -- which is to say, we are all weekend spiritualists, temporally more secular than not. And this seems okay, given the religions and people we're talking about here. After all, Darcie and I have found more commonalities than distinctions in the Reconstructionist and the UU perspectives, as if each were mutually, respectfully easily inclusive of the other. And much of that commonality is in the predominance of this-community-as-context for both liturgy and organization which we find in each.

I want to explore myself again, and us again, and especially the spiritual potential of this Jewnitarian daughter, and the spiritual ramifications of this failed try at another, I think. In fact, I realized today, like a wild goose startlet out of somewhere inside me, I've been ready for quite some time.

So I already want to go back, and said so at breakfast afterwards. Though I'm still learning the politics and rites of the Sunday worship, coming home to All Souls feels good, a recentering, a rebalancing, a recreation long overdue. It's wonderful to have found this building that houses our collective faith, and to have cemented it into our intertwined spirits; to have lived so near so long to a place where both of us, Reconstructionist Jew and Universalist Unitarian, can light our candles, and share joys and sadnesses, regardless of congregation or text, irrelevant of bimah or riser. Heck, it even feels good to add to the collection plate.

And maybe next time I'll light my own candle. I've certainly got enough joy and sadness in me to share.

posted by boyhowdy | 1:50 PM | 0 comments
coming soon
now listening