Tuesday, June 22, 2004

A Clearwater Photojournal: Part 1 


Arrived on site by 2. Stepping out of four hours worth of air conditioning the world was hot and hazy, the kind of weather that kills your spirit, but we made it through.

After checking in at volunteer reception, set up camper, including -- bonus of bonuses -- electricity and water hookup, only to find that we'd put ourselves right across from the Night Owl Camping sign. No time to move, though; Darcie's shift in the Communications tent ran from 4 to 8. Willow and I explored the playground, had a beer back at the tentsite with a new friend and neighbor Chelley, and met Mommy for a chicken-and-bean supper at the volunteer food tent.

Later, Chelley and I toured the grounds, stealing leftover chicken from the walk-in before heading back up the already grueling hill in the darkness just before my own midnight to four a.m. shift. I brought books, but never opened them; though not one person called or radioed in all night, discursive and deep chitchat with covolunteer Paul and the other folks, and constant visits by the coffee goddesses Chelsea and Margot, kept me busy until the wee hours.

Walking home I startled two deer on my way up the hill -- the first silhouetted against the predawn sky on the dunes, the other jumping right out in front of me before diappearing into the darker underbrush -- and resolved to bring my camera with me on the morrow.


On our way down the hill from campsite to festival site the next morning. Darcie had to work at noon, so we had some time to meander together. I was pretty groggy, having slept from 5 to 9, but I remembered to bring the camera.

The wagon was a bitch to pull, but easily worth it.

Alex, a friend and an ex-student long since graduated, now a shift manager for the best festival whole-foods veggie burrito stand around. We bumped into her while stopping in on Darren at festival fave Java Hut for a much-needed latte. Willow took a shine to her immediately. She's cool like that.

I went to put a blanket out by the main music stage before the crowds came in -- one of the perks of volunteering is that you're there first -- and when I returned, Willow and Darcie had found the playground again.

Willow was ecstatic to find a play structure where she could navigate every step. She later described "going round and round on the slide" as one of the highlights of the festival.

After a couple of trips up and down, we managed to pull Willow away, and wandered around a bit more, checking out the festival. The heavy rains the year before had cost the festival serious cash: that, and a concern that the focus on environment and alternative energy was being lost in the mud and music had caused a total redesign of stage areas and setting. It was nice to see the lay of the land, but the design wasn't a total success, I think, as we never made it back to the juggling area or the beachfront after that morning -- once the festival started, the whole area just seemed too far off the beaten path.

Before we left the juggling and beachfront, though, Willow found another playground.

While we played, Pete Seeger walked by, seemingly in the midst of an interview, and likely on his way to his sloop Clearwater, recently named America's Environmental Flagship. Pete's 85, but he doesn't look a day over seventy, does he?

Crossing back over the main stage and into the bulk of the festival grounds proper, some mellow bluegrass and a quiet crowd drew us down to the water for a spell.

The first few hours of a music festival, before the bulk of bodies has begun to crowd the air, are always the most mellow; Willow was happy to sit quietly and rock to the music. Little did we know this was the only time she'd be so willing throughout the festival.

Jabberwocky, the mellow bluegrass band. They all look so young, but I think I'm just getting old.

The crafts area next. Small, and filled with the usual stuff -- t-shirts, shea butter, ceramics and beaded jewelry, mostly.

Darcie tried on a dress, but the purple lines accented her bust funny, so I promised I'd dump the pictures. Sorry, honey -- couldn't resist.

Finally, Darcie went to work, and Willow and I were on our own for a while. I had high hoped for some blankets near stages, listening to music, but the set was too loud. We tried twice, but even with newly-retrieved earplugs the second time around, Willow could only lie on the ground and moan.

I did manage to sneak off and catch a few minutes of Kris Delmhorst, with special guest Mark Erelli, before her set was done. Thanks to Darcie for watching Willow while she worked.

The less said about the next three hours, though, the better. My feet were beginning to blister over, and Willow took some time getting used to the heat. The roasted corn we bought for lunch was too hot, and the crowds were growing fast. My apologies to Darcie for continuously asking her to watch Willow for a few minutes while I regained my sanity. It was really, really necessary.

Luckily, a substantive children's activity area had begun to sprout up around the main playground; Willow spent almost an hour playing happily with other kids in a table filled with birdseed and sand toys, and I got to catch a bit of the Zucchini Brothers at the kid's stage out of the corner of my ear.

Animals also helped fill the time. One of the exhibitors in the activists area had brought some rehabilitated birds, including the above barn own, to show kids and families how fragile our ecosystem was.

Willow and I also got a big kick out of the fishtanks in the Hudson River discovery area. They even let us touch a flounder-like beastie from the river. It was squishy.

Near the end of her mother's shift, desperate and cranky and sore from pulling the wagon, I brought Willow to the dance stage. She seemed happy dancing (well, running in circles) to Sonando on her own out in the nearby field, so I took some pix.

When Darcie's shift finally ended, I walked them up to the camper for a nap, and headed back out on my own.

Got back to the main stage for the last few minutes of the Nields, but I've seen them so many times before, so no great loss here. The big act, Dar herself, was yet to come.

Before Dar, though, the chair of the Clearwater Organization came on stage to state the obvious to an uncaring crowd. Duh-level infobytes from Bill included a) the festival was reorganized (duh), because b) the festival lost money last year when it rained so much the state park police made them cancel half their acts (double duh), but c) they decided to have a festival anyway (um...how else could we be here listening to you, Bill?).

Dar rocked. It was her first show in six months, but if the energy and vocal consistency of this show are any indication, the maternity leave did her a world of good.

Dar with two-and-a-half Nields; Katrina's daughter helping mommy fix her microphone.

On the way to meet Darcie and Willow at dinner just after Dar ended, I caught a few minutes of the Earthtones, an a capella group who roam the grounds throughout the two day event, surely blowing out their voices for weeks to come in the heat and amp-less setting. Note the heavy Dar crowds in the background.

Dinner was decent, though the same chicken from the day before popped up in the rice, and would later hit the grits and chick-pea mash the subsequent evening. Free food always rocks, but this stuff was way better than the overly vegan, overly recycled "gazpacho again?" falcon ridge food.

Went over to the main stage to see the Lee Boys after supper, sitting way in the back so as not to overwhelm the ear-sensitive kid and spouse.

Willow danced a little more, but got distracted trying to befriend some older girls who clearly weren't interested, so we packed up for the evening.

On the way out, we spotted Chelley, who'd managed to swing stage-gopher as a volunteer gig and had been running around on stage with famous people all day, kicking up her heels by stageside. I don't think she saw us, though.

On the way back Darcie wanted to check out the Chocolate cart, so Willow and I headed back to the dance stage. The crowd was dense and dancing to Entrain, but something about the funk and the drums got to her, and before we knew it she was up on my sunburned shoulders, laughing and scrambling my hair, waving her hands in the air, gleeful as can be by all reports. We danced 'til my neck couldn't take it any more, and then danced some more while a newly returned Darcie tried to take pictures.

Darcie danced a little, too.

Finally, it was time for Willow to hit the sack. I was up for a while with Alex and her friend Mary at the volunteer-only dance -- Entrain again. Hurt my feet up pretty bad dancing up a storm in bare feet, but it was way worth it. The moon was a sliver, clear and crisp over the solar cells in the field as I climbed the hill for bed earlier than usual, ready to try and cram in a few hours sleep before rising at 3:20 a.m. for my second graveyard shift with Paul and company.

And now it's getting late here, too. We spent all day at the mall and then out for supper with Mom in Northampton, a now-weekly event; got a wedding to plan for this weekend, and Darcie's working all day Thursday and Friday. Better get some rest, and finish this up tomorrow while I can.

posted by boyhowdy | 10:35 PM | 0 comments

Thursday, June 17, 2004

Gone Folkin' 

Back Monday. In the meantime, check out last year's subjective Clearwater report. Alternately, feel free to select your very own dumb away message.

posted by boyhowdy | 10:22 PM | 33 comments

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Noun Countdown To Clearwater 

With apologies for the humdrum; it's been a fast few days, our early Friday morning first-festival leavetaking equally fast approaches. Darcie made a comprehensive hour-by-hour for tomorrow because she just thinks like that, and because it's necessary -- she's working all morning, and I'll have my hands full enough with Willow. Here's what we've still gotta do.

Things to Clean Up and Put Away: dishes, junk in car, stuff in trunk, laptop. Camper, too, but here "away" means "hitched to the back of the car."

Things to Get: batteries, strawberries, cash, directions, laundry. Milk and beer, but we'll wait until we get there. Diapers, and we won't.

Things to Pack: sunglasses, sunscreen, alarm clock, flashlight, graveyard communications tent shift reading material. Toiletries and the baby's toilet, because why not start potty-training when you're all living in an eight foot metal box? Clothes, of course: warm and cool, rain and sun, mosquitoes, night. Towels, blankets, low-backed chairs. Also see above.

The most important thing to remember: this is a test, and only a test. But if we can get it right this time, look out, Falcon Ridge.

posted by boyhowdy | 8:45 PM | 0 comments

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
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