Tuesday, November 30, 2004

What You Want (Baby I Got It) 

I have far too much to do at work and home, so of course I'm thinking about the blog overhaul I've tentatively scheduled as a Christmas present to myself.

I'm still looking at a mostly linear layout, but I'm pretty excited about the design possibilities, and am whetting my rusty-but-1337 photoshop skills as we speak. Also plotting some "favorite entries" stuff, an updated set of daily reads and commonly used tools, and of course a long-overdue blogroll update. Perhaps some sidebar access to the most recent comments --a function I enjoy very much on other blogs, as it pulls one into discussions, and thus deeper into the chronology of the blog itself.

Most significantly, I'm also considering a second sidebar just for ME stuff. Because it turns out, that's what most people want.

Let's be clear: the redesign is for me. I'm long overdue for a better carrier for my thoughts. But though I've maintained for a long while that my blog is about the writing (and have obscured/deleted the usual "about me" stuff accordingly), after reading many informative testimonials from blogexplosion surfers about how they spend their 30 seconds, I'm thinking it's possible to balance more first-screen access to the usual "about me" stuff (photo, resume, a pithy description, reading/listening) with my preference for the literary by heavily featuring actual entries about me (for example: 30 things, 100 demons, $10,000,000).

But why guess? Since I'm plotting my redesign to serve your better enjoyment, tell me what you want to know about me. What do you want to have access to on my (or any) blog? What of me do you wish to see? Tell me, and I'll seriously consider making it happen -- let the wild comments rumpus begin!

posted by boyhowdy | 1:38 PM | 9 comments

Dear Santa 

The following is the actual letter two-year-old Willow "wrote" to Santa this afternoon, as transcribed by Mommy. (For contextual purposes, the other side of the paper is covered with several somewhat ragged quarter-sized circles, labeled, respectively, kitty, flamingo, train, and bear.)
Dear Santa,

I would like a train. I like kittens. I like flamingos. Please bring toys to Grandma Patty's house because I don't like you to come here. I'm scared of you. Please bring other people some toys, too.


Darcie swears the entire letter was unprompted; given our previous discussion, I believe her entirely. Not sure where the flamingos come in, though. Does Santa live in Miami?

posted by boyhowdy | 1:09 AM | 1 comments

Monday, November 29, 2004

Back On The Train 

The cars drove in and out all day -- slow at first, then, as it got dark, a blizzard of bright lights, a legally questionable cacophony of student drivers enjoying their last minutes of freedom. I stopped by the dorm on the way to the station for tonight's radio show to change an advisee's schedule (Spanish 4 for Chinese 1 -- don't ask) and found a horde of kids signing in for the evening, their spirits high.

It's the end of break, and the campus is full again. Classes start tomorrow for the Winter term, and though another break lies but three short weeks ahead, you just know it's going to be a long haul.

And so I say goodbye to days spent with family and friends, take up the burden of the ol' day-in, day-out 16 hour day workplace. No more snuggly afternoons on the carpet with the inquisitive two-year-old. No more sleeping late. No more late night comfortable silences, my wife in her flannel nightgown on the couch, me with a long paperback, tipped back in the faded easy chair.

Thank God for the radio, my weekly meditation.

As always, here's tonight's playlist.

Tributary 11/29/04

::energy block::
Skavoovie and the Epitones -- Fat Soul
Phish -- Back On The Train
A Tribe Called Quest -- I Left My Wallet In El Segundo
Michael Franti and Spearhead -- Everyone Deserves Music
Dave Matthews -- Ants Marching
Cake -- Manah Manah

::just for kids block::
They Might Be Giants -- Fibber Island
Dan Zanes -- Wonderwheel
Keb' Mo' -- Love Train
Trout Fishing In America -- It's Better Than That
Sinead O'Connor -- Someday My Prince Will Come
Guster -- I've Got To Be Clean
Los Lobos -- I Wanna Be Like You (The Monkey Song)
Glen Phillips -- Have A Little Fun With Me
You Are My Sunshine

::distinctive voices block::
Richard Shindell -- So Says The Whipporwill
Girlyman -- My Sweet Lord
Jack Johnson -- Rodeo Clowns
Mary Gauthier -- Good-Bye
Chris Smither -- Thanks To You
Suzzy and Maggie Roche -- Clothesline Saga
Johnny Cash -- Personal Jesus

::quiet psychedelic block::
St. Germaine -- Latin Note
Alison Brown -- The Dalai Camel
Jazz Is Dead -- Scarlet Begonias
Phish -- All Things Reconsidered
String Cheese Incident -- Take Five
Sting -- I Miss You Kate

You've been listening to Tributary, your ten to midnight Monday night show on WNMH 91.5 fm, serving the worlds most rural tri-state area.

posted by boyhowdy | 11:59 PM | 0 comments

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Poll Closed 

After much angst and an overwhelming amount of support from the bloggiverse, I have submitted the caption "He'll take your order -- my pen's out of ink" to this year's New Yorker-sponsored cartoon captioning contest. Thanks to all who took the poll.

If you wish to submit any of the losing entries under your own name, I'm willing to consider it, but please contact me first to discuss fair and equitable credit-sharing.

posted by boyhowdy | 11:43 PM | 1 comments

If I Had $10,000,000 

Genuine says: 'post it on your site so I can find you!'Been saving Genuine's meme-slash-gift for a rainy day and a bit more forethought. Now the rain drums on the library roof and -- unless you want to hear Willow's Christmas list -- I've got nothin' much to blog about. So here's what I'd do with my ten million tax-free bucks:

1. Pay off mounting credit card debt. Amount remaining: $9,985,000.

2. Buy primary residence. Must be New England rural but less than 30 minutes to major shopping and restaurants; should abut state park or land trust farmland, sit back from the road, and include both open acreage and plenty of wooded areas with paths and swimmable river-runs-through-it. Spacious inside, hardwood and post-and-beam, with an open floor plan and an especially large living/dining/kitchen area. Bathrooms for everybody. Off the grid and/or private well a plus. Amount remaining: $8,250,000.

3. Outfit primary residence. Hi-tech, fully integrated wireless would include large HDTV with Tivo and DVD, surround sound in every room, and several laptops, plus one mega-computer to control it all and run multimedia development software. We'll throw in the iPod here for consistency's sake. Oh, and comfy chairs and a glass-topped coffee table, I suppose. And a Japanese-themed gazebo with Jacuzzi and massage tables. Amount remaining: $7,750,000

4. Buy vacation home. A cozy beachfront spot along the northern Nova Scotia coast with rocky ledge for summer splashing. Includes small sleep-in sailboat and sailing lessons. Amount remaining: 7,000,000.

5. Cars for everybody! A sporty BMW convertible for me, whatever the spouse desires, one of those new Porsche SUVs for the family, and a pair of Vespas for short jaunts down the lane and back again. We'll need a new garage, of course, so we might as well put a rec room in it. Amount remaining: $6,500,000.

6. Establish travel "trust fund." Figure a million in the bank will allow us to travel lightly but with relative impunity off the interest alone for the rest of our life. In the first year, this would include a month-long tour in the less obvious cities of Holland, Belgium, France and Italy; subsequent years would attempt something similar in other continents and regions until we'd hit everything. Also yearly trips to the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival (April/May), Vancouver in the early autumn, and Sanibel Island, Florida in February. Amount remaining: $5,500,000.

7. Establish general lifestyle "trust fund." Because you can't anticipate what you might want. Here, too, we're talking untouchable capital, but spendable interest -- at least until retirement or health emergencies. Amount remaning: $5,000,000.

8. Establish education-plus trust fund for children. This one's tricky; we'll have two kids by the end of the year, but 1.5 million in a fund now will accrue a heck of a lot of interest by the time they're ready to go anywhere. This would allow them each to go to prep school, college, grad school, etcetera...and then, after they'd all been "schooled out," would allow them to spend out the interest only as a supplement to their income for the rest of their lives. Not enough to become idly rich, or even middle-class, mind you. Just enough to make it realistic for each one to pursue a vocation, not a job. Amount remaining: $3,500,000.

9. Build Mom and Dad their dream retirement home. 'Cause they deserve it, and I owe them. Amount remaining: 2,000,000.

10: Give Darcie's parents...um...something. Not sure, here. A new boat for Neil, w/ docking fees? A trip around the world for Patty? Refinish their house? Anyway, they deserve it, too. And I owe them a bunch. Amount remaining: $1,500,000.

11. Give siblings, wife's siblings new cars/cash. One luxury vehicle for each of 5 adults, or the cash equivalent (about 50k per person). And an additional 30k for the holidays, just for the heck of it. That's two years for my brother to pursue art full-time, and cash for my sis to put away to start her own vet clinic when she gets out of school. Amount remaining: $1,150,000.

12. Buy something nice for everyone I've ever loved. Many, many nice things. For many, many people. Amount remaining: $1,000,000.

13. Tithe, part one. Spider Robinson has the right idea, here: Call local law school, and ask them for the name of someone who was eminently qualified but fell through the scholarship cracks. Call one, and offer to pay outright for their education in return for free legal services for the rest of your life. Do the same thing for the local medical school, massage school, and business/accountancy school. Amount remaining: $350,000 (massage school is pretty cheap).

14. Tithe, part two. Call every local artist in your area and commission a relatively major work. Call the bank and offer to pay one month's rent or mortgage of every teacher in town as long as you can remain anonymous. Hit the paypal button on every blog you ever visit.

Amount remaining: zero.

Thanks, Genuine, for the gift...and for the opportunity to realize that the personal lifestyle of my wildest dreams costs no more than 5 million. Now, if I only bought lottery tickets...

posted by boyhowdy | 8:30 PM | 2 comments

You Have Reached The End Of The Internet 

You know you've been blogsurfing far too long when...
You have visted all the active sites in rotation.

Sometimes there will be short periods of time where the BlogExplosion traffic delivery system will need to adjust the current sites available for rotation. This is normal and to be expected during peak activity periods. The BlogExplosion system recognizes this is happening and is now adjusting the inventory in the system to balance traffic delivery shortly.

Please come back in a couple of hours if you want to surf more sites as it usually takes a minimum of 2 hours for the system to replenish itself. Thanks.
[Update: Wrote blogtitle before finding this similar post, I swear. But it does have shades of this old chestnut.]

[Update #2: This version is even better. This one really is the end. Do not, however, hit this button.]

posted by boyhowdy | 2:14 AM | 1 comments

Saturday, November 27, 2004

You Better Watch Out 

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas. Spent the evening with the family rearranging living room furniture and installing the kiddie tree. After plugging it in and decorating it with her own ornaments, Willow, a bright prodigy at two, piped up:

I have enough toys, Mommy. Santa can bring toys to some other girl instead, okay?

It's tempting to end the blogentry here, all cuteness and light. But the resulting impression of selflessness would be unfair to all of us. For behind Willow's otherwise cute outburst this evening is something much more sinister than her words would imply.

She's terrified of the jolly old elf himself.

I'm not sure where this came from, or when it started. I was first confronted with Willow's fear of Santa a few months ago at the Yankee Candle flagship store, a commercial monstrosity just down the road which celebrates Christmas year-round. Though we left for the candy shop the moment she began screaming, five months later, she won't enter the building for fear of a confrontation.

Though she's curious about the iconography -- chattering up the image on coke cans and store window holiday cards, singing the songs under her breath as she fades from consciousness in her darkened bedroom -- just the thought of meeting the "real" Santa terrifies her into her Mommy's arms. And nothing in her life is as scary. Nothing but actual pain brings on anything approaching the decibel levels.

Those unfortunates sans kiddies may not have experienced the phenom, but it turns out to be fairly common for kids to be afraid of the half-imaginary. Child development naturally involves a long process of separating the fake from the non-fictional, the real from the fairy tale; masked or costumed characters and seasonal icons confront the child with imagery in tension with this developing awareness of real/not real, which in turn brings on everything from short-term stutters to night terrors.

Disneyphiles and halloweenies beware: merely taking off the mask is no substitute. Psychologists say that until the age of six, the fear tends to overwhelm even the most cautious and deliberate attempts to reveal the reality behind the scenes.

Luckily, however, Willow sees nothing wrong with the idea of Santa leaving toys at Grandma's house for a later pick-up. We'll not be leaving milk and cookies out for another couple of years yet, but perhaps it's all for the best when your kid's a Jewnitarian -- I, for one, can certainly accept keeping the magic of Christmas mythos at an arm's length for a while.

posted by boyhowdy | 10:12 PM | 26 comments

Friday, November 26, 2004

Help Me Get My Name In The New Yorker 

We've narrowed it down to three, but the New Yorker-sponsored cartoon captioning contest only allows one submission per person. So:

All prospective captions copyright 2004. Submission of the above captions as your own may result in hairy palms, blindness, ulcers, and/or bad karma.

posted by boyhowdy | 11:03 PM | 11 comments

But Either Way, It Makes You Think 

Why you, too, should read more Harpers:
What they say: I hear what you say.
What is understood: He accepts my point of view.
What they mean: I disagree and do not want to discuss it any further.

p. 28. One of several excerpts from a guide "intended to help foreigners understand the idiosynchrasies of British English, found by a journalist for The Economist earlier this year on an office wall in the European Court of Justice."

I'd add that, in English business and theraputic environments, overuse of this phrase can result in a firm but mistaken belief in the speaker's mind that what he/she really means is "I personally disagree but respect your position as objectively valid." Such self-delusion makes the phrase exceedingly dangerous; those who are subjected to it by managers are encouraged to take deep breaths and keep their resumes updated.

Why you should read it with a grain of salt:

Minimum number of bullets that the US Military purchased for use this year: 1,500,000,000
Avergae number of bullets per Iraqi this represents: 58

p. 13. Immediately subsequent entries found in Harper's Index obviously intended to create a false impression that military spending is out of proportion with need.

Comparison of global orders with one single conflict is in no way conducive to accurate understanding of this issue. Less misleading juxtaposition would require consideration of numbers of bullets needed in conflict and in practice, and take into account issues such as stockpiling and actual bullet-per-hit combat ratios.

Both readings found in the December 2004 issue of Harpers Magazine which, in keeping with their commitment to the literate reader, does not print (much) content online, but does present each month's cover art and table of contents , a drool-worthy teaser. Your local library has a copy if you don't want to buy your own.

posted by boyhowdy | 9:48 PM | 0 comments

Life Story 

My grandfather can’t sleep.

He’s on the couch in the guesthouse lounge, staring into space when we return from a movie.

He tells us his life story – buying the farm in 1927, moving away from home in 1940 at age 14, working at the Venetian blinds place until it moved out of town, and then buying that first panel truck, taking orders, and making a business for himself buying eggs from his old neighbor farms, and selling them door to door to the folks who used to come for a week at a time, 70 at a time, to his parent’s farm.

In the winter, it was just a farm. They tapped tress and boiled maple syrup on the woodstove which was always burning, his mother always too hot, with a towel around her neck. They had 67 acres: cows, chickens, two horses. He fed them, milked the cows, mostly. He drove the Model T as soon as his legs could reach the pedals; left school at 14 against the principal’s urging because he was needed on the farm.

But the farm was just for sustenance. In the summer, the summerfolk came for a week at a time, 70 at once, to sit around all day and play cards, or just lie in the sun. They paid 25 bucks, maybe 30 for the week. His father sang tenor on the porch, and the guests said it was just like the radio. In the fall, his father, though not a religious man in his heart, was the cantor for the local synagogue at the high holy days.

His father died because he wasn’t thinking. There was an overflow pipe, a release valve, for when the water boiler got too full, and one summer day the dishwasher told him the “pipe was leaking.” In a hurry to get into town in the car, he told the guy to plug up the pipe. Later, the boiler blew up in his face from the pressure.

He met Florence there at the farm. She came up with some friends, and they fell in love. She used to play handball – be active, he says. But though my father listens carefully for the tiniest new memories each time he tells it, that’s really the only place she’s always had in his story.

And now on the guesthouse couch in his full clothes and slippers because he couldn’t sleep in the bed – the blankets were too heavy, something -- Hy struggles to fit her death into his life story. He tells of the coffin being lowered, and the guests coming from the retirement village, a surprise, unexpected; how she walked in to the hospital on Monday, and then, on Sunday, she was gone. It’s not anecdotal yet, and you can see it’ll bother him until it is.

They were married for 64 years. At home, he says, he keeps looking over at the couch to see if the TV is too loud for her.

I’d do anything to help him sleep.

posted by boyhowdy | 1:29 AM | 2 comments

Thursday, November 25, 2004

A Thanksgiving Prayer, Redux 

[insert cheesy, overused thankgiving graphic here.]

I was going to write something mundane and sappy this year, but Michelle got there first, and with Grandma Florence's passing only 4 days ago, this family prayer I wrote two years ago seemed more appropriate.

I am no less thankful for all of you, my extended blogging "family." May your turkey be moist, and your gravy sweet.

posted by boyhowdy | 1:44 AM | 1 comments

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Randomalia: A Life In Media 

At the risk of obscuring the wheat among the chaff, here's an everything-in-one final entry for the day. 30 second surfers are encouraged to skim quickly to hit subsequent entries before the clock runs out. (In a real hurry? Skip right to the joke of the week!)

1. Everything I don't like about blogexplosion is a direct result of surfing in the BE frame. Most notably, I keep losing good sites to the ether because I follow subjectively attractive external links before blogmarking -- which, I would point out, is how the web is supposed to work, and why we have back buttons and history buttons for "normal" surfing.

Also, it's difficult to revisit blogmarked blogs. This is mostly my fault -- the list is getting too long to spend real time with, and collecting RSS feeds for a new digest would be a heckofa job. But blogexplosion doesn't make this easy, either. Opening a new blogexplosion window while surfing for credit kills the login on the other window (for obvious reasons), and I tend to want to surf for credit if I'm going to be logged in...

2. Plenty of possibility in this year's New Yorker-sponsored cartoon captioning contest. So far, I've avoided the obvious, and narrowed it down to my four best:

  • He'll take your order -- my pen's out of ink.
  • Of course he recommends the shark maki. He always recommends the shark maki.
  • Tonight's special? Krill. Why?
  • No, it's not a hat. Those are his sexual organs.

Contest entries are due Dec. 20 and, for some reason, can be as long as 1000 characters, though we all know the New Yorker editors prefer a good one-liner. You're only allowed one entry, so help me narrow these down (without stealing them), will you?

3. The newgrass album I really want for Christmas isn't available on amazon, so go to The Biscuit Boys homepage to order me a copy of The Biscuit Boys: Live in Nashville, and, since you really like this song off their previous album, get one for yourself while you're there. Oh Biscuit Boys, when will you tour New England? Sigh...

4. Anna Quindlen does it again, this time making a case with aplomb and focus that I've been trying to just plain articulate for months. Yes, public debate on the abortion issue has advanced little in the past fifteen year. Yes, abortion has set the template for the vast schism in social policy discourse which plagued our recent blue/red election woes. Yes, pro-choice liberals need to be willing to recognize that it is possible to believe in abortion and yet also value life, to respect women's rights and yet also acknowledge the emotional pull of the fetus.

I, too, believe deeply in abortion as a fundamental right. But I also believe that if polarization brings us anywhere, it is to dark corners where we are faced with dichotomous arguments so black-and-white that when it comes to an all-or-nothing vote we -- gasp -- lose to a moderate majority uncomfortable with either extreme (hint: see recent election). If cultural consensus on this issue is to be reached in anyone's lifetime, it's time we all allowed for the fact that every abortion is different, and involves factors which, while not always determinant, remain difficult for all involved. It's time we turned our discussion away from the whether-or-not absolute, and back to how we make those decisions, and why, and who can get hurt...and drop the illogical assumption that, if we acknowledge the complexities of the issue, we're somehow "going over to the other side."

Hint: society is never going to get less polarized if people keep buying those damn, dumb "If you don't like abortion, don't have one" bumper stickers. On the other hand, I bet I could make a fortune selling "If you don't like murder, don't commit one" stickers to those willing to use satire and irony to stand up for thoughtful discourse. Wasn't it these same liberals who were defending Kerry as someone who recognized that tough decisions required nuanced arguments and discourse? Time to look inward, folks.

5. Favorite Christmas movie: Scrooged. Murray rocks (even) in overacting mode, but Carol Kane's brilliant bitpart as a viciously insane fairy/ghost steals the show. Added bonus: Bill Murray's brother plays Bill Murray's brother.

Okay, it's not much of a classic, but then I never claimed to be anything more than a popcult gourmand. What's your favorite Christmas movie?

posted by boyhowdy | 9:19 PM | 6 comments

Joke Of The Week 

Girl walked into a bar and asked the bartender for a double entendre.

So he gave it to her.

From my brother, who notes that it only works in past tense.

posted by boyhowdy | 1:45 PM | 1 comments

Every Baby Was Kung Fu Fighting 

As-yet-unnamed foot, 18 weeks

Quote of the day from big-sister-to-be Willow: Why is the baby in mommy's tummy coming out in the computer?

posted by boyhowdy | 1:37 PM | 2 comments

Going Public? (A Call For Anecdotes) 

In response to recent events, I am considering dropping the pseudonym and adding more about the man-behind-the-boyhowdy when I go for the total and long-overdue redesign over Christmas break.

Whether you've done it yourself or just seen it done, comments on this one would be immensely helpful. I am especially curious about how going "real" might affect the tonality of blog and blogger.

posted by boyhowdy | 1:52 AM | 8 comments

Subversive Science 

Printable disclaimer stickers for science textbooks from Swarthmore EvSci prof Colin Purrin (via Patrick) run the gamut from ominous to just plain hilarious:
This book promotes the theory of continental drift, the gradual movement of the major land masses. Because nobody observed this process, this material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully, and critically considered.
This book was anonymously donated to your school library to discreetly promote religious alternatives to the theory of evolution. When you are finished with it, please refile the book in the fiction section.
Lest you think this is merely for fun, a recent gallup poll reports that forty-five percent of Americans also believe that God created human beings pretty much in their present form about 10,000 years ago. Scared yet? Use the stickers.

posted by boyhowdy | 12:04 AM | 2 comments

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Parenting Tip Learned The Hard Way 

Please buy me this for the holidays...

Check the kid's pockets for crayons twice before throwing them in the wash with all your favorite dress pants.

From the plethora of batik-like stains on my new brown and khaki cords, we seem to have missed a grey one, a half a yellow one, and as many as three reds. Crayola recommends some complicated procedure involving WD40 and dishwashing detergent -- useful, I suppose, if you're dealing with a single spot, have your own washing machine and a full day on your hands, but not when you've none of the above.

Here's hoping this is one of those parenting lessons you only get wrong once.

posted by boyhowdy | 10:55 PM | 4 comments

The Pros and Cons Of Turkey Tech Support 

Newsweek reports on a new Digigen phenom: this week, millions of young adults will spend Thanksgiving doing tech support for their parents while the bird's in the oven. A subsequent Slashdot discussion on the topic gives voice to those young techies, making for a neat net-based call-and-response across the generational lines while providing a solid compendium of those patches and tricks most likely to be needed while fixing mom's ancient PC.

If you want to avoid screensaving in favor of family, the easy solution here, of course, is to host Thanksgiving. Or, better, do what my family used to do: head to some quaint New England seaside country inn for the big meal. You lose the leftovers, but it's a fair tradeoff for the lack of screen-time.

That said, though these days we'd rather have time with the folks than time with their AOL account, if you're young and tech-savvy, don't begrudge or dismiss this opportunity offhand. The accrued lifestyle legitimacy opportunity is pretty solid here -- it's hard for parents to decry your lack of vocational direction when you've just saved them hundreds of bucks in tech support. And strutting your stuff might be better than sitting through Uncle Harv's war stories for the 23rd time.

posted by boyhowdy | 11:01 AM | 1 comments

Cash Money 

I'm worth $2,096,947.82! How validating. Wonder how much I could get for a kidney. Are mortgages available?

Thanks to Rob, who's worth slightly less, for the link. How much are you worth?

posted by boyhowdy | 10:03 AM | 1 comments

A Kind Of Rebirth 

So much to say. Since Friday
  • my grandmother's unexpected death in Florida

  • a whirlwind visit to brother and Brooklyn

  • the beginnings of Thanksgiving prep for 20

  • student progress reports and grades due noon tomorrow
But this is neither time nor place. We'll get there eventually.

For now, though I'm not sure what it means just yet, I'm blogging again.

And why not? The show must go on. What does not kill you only makes you stronger. Rage, rage, into the dying of the night, and all that.

The cliches may be a bit thick on the ground, like the fog that lies heavy throughout the hallowed, darkened streets of this our beloved institution -- a phrase I may never again be able to write without some modicum of self-awareness, even irony. But I'm the kind of person who does the radio show even when the students are away on holiday. The kind of guy who wanders, though society says stay. An iconoclast, if you will. And I'll be damned if I'm going to sell my soul to the company store.

So here's to beginning again -- two years to the day from the very first post here at Not All Who Wander Are Lost. And, in honor of this particular rebirth, here's tonight's tributary playlist, an otherwise unheard, somewhat shaky songset befitting a return to blogging neither triumphant nor slinkback, but as yet undefined, cautious and creative. One day at a time, eh?

Tributary 11/22/04

Skavoovie & The Epitones -- Fat Soul

::livemusic block::
Galactic -- Tiger Roll
Los Lonely Boys w/ Willie Nelson -- Cisco Kid
Santana -- Se A Cabo
Ben Harper -- Mama's Got A Girlfriend
Barenaked Ladies -- The Old Apartment
Jack Johnson -- Rodeo Clowns

::beatlescovers block::
Lonnie Mack -- From Me To You
Bela Fleck and the Flecktones -- Oh Darling
The Posies -- I'm Looking Through You
The Bobs -- Helter Skelter
Eddie Vedder -- You've Got To Hide Your Love Away
Alison Krauss -- I Will
Aimee Mann and Michael Penn -- Two Of Us

::altfolk block::
Girlyman -- My Sweet Lord
Eddie From Ohio -- Candido & America
Erin McKeown -- Slung-lo
Rani Arbo & daisy mayhem -- Turtle Dove
Mindy Smith -- It's Amazing
The Waifs -- London Still
Indigo Girls -- Least Complicated

::ain't sleeping yet block::
Cake -- Wheels
Suzanne Vega -- 99.9 F
David Byrne -- Like Humans Do
Lyle Lovett -- I've Been To Memphis
Johnny Cash -- Folsome Prison Blues
Nick Drake -- Pink Moon
Gillian Welch -- Make Me A Pallet On Your Floor

You've been listening to Tributary, your ten to midnight monday night show on WNMH 91.5 fm.

More importantly, you're reading my blog, damnit. And I'm not giving this wandering up for anyone.

posted by boyhowdy | 1:02 AM | 6 comments

Friday, November 19, 2004

All I Want Is A Couple Days Off 

I am happy to announce that the administration is, for the moment at least, "satisfied that I did everything I could do," and that "this should be the end of the matter for now."

But note the qualifiers.

There is no way of knowing what impact, if any, this will have on my continued employment.

If, when the anticipated and unavoidable cuts come down the pike next month, I am asked to leave this wonderful place, I will forever suspect that this was the tipping point, and hate myself for it.

And to think just a week ago I was worried that such a blow would come from a lack of supervisory understanding about what I actually do 'round here.

We'll be in NYC for the weekend visiting my brother. Back Monday. Not sure how it will feel to blog after this, but I guess it's better to regroup for a while, take the few days off to think and wander.

Here's hoping we can return to the joyous and cynical mediacult randomalia that you've all come to know and love here at Not All Who Wander Are Lost.

Thanks to all for the support. I love you all.

posted by boyhowdy | 1:50 PM | 27 comments

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Is This The End Of Boyhowdy? 

Two years.

1000 posts.

300,000 words.

Just once, I let myself get mad at a Troll. I even used -- horror -- the F word in a comment.

And because that Troll was a student -- an anonymous student, at that -- even though I apologized immediately, deleted the offensive comments (mine and his) within an hour of posting them, made my case again to show how he had severly misinterpreted my original words...I've been reported, and am about to answer to the authorities.

I can't sleep. I can't eat. I want to hit a tree, scream out loud.

My life is in this blog. But in the interests of still being able to teach somewhere when this is all over, there will be no new posts until this is resolved. There is a real possibility, in fact, that there will be no more posts, period.

I blog for my daughter. I blog for my sanity. I blog for the discourse, and the advanced thought it brings.

I have no idea what I'd do if I had to end it all.

Here's hoping it comes quickly.

posted by boyhowdy | 10:46 PM | 10 comments

Another Great Idea That Doesn't Fit Me 

Amidst the chaff, randomalia, and knitting blogs of today's blogexplosion surf the Mix CD Exchange stands out like a beacon. "A community for people who love putting music together in just the right order to create that perfect transition, that sweet irony, or just that amazing compilation of songs" -- how perfect! How quaint! How...inaccessible!

I aim each week to provide perfect, smooth, surprising transitions through my radio show, of course. I take pride in the perfect subject-set there. But though I continue to wish (as do some of you, happily) that I could make these sets available as digi-files for all, our show doesn't stream, and there's no burner in the radio station. It's just not gonna cut it to send cassettes in to the CD Exchange.

In the end, though I teach the subject and think about it often, I'm not really that digital a creature of habit. I listen to CDs, not an iPod; in the car, I prefer radio or (gasp) actual mix cassette tapes; I still own a rack of vinyl, and chose an LP player over a CD burner when buying the stereo. I envy those folks who can surf from bed, or walk wireless through a seamless datastream household wherein all media are essentially one, but I'm not about to become one. This is primarily because:
  1. I have an addictive personality, and thus a tendency to overattend to the Interweb when I should be spending precious hours with my wife and daughter or, say, sleeping.

  2. I'm a social science and media geek -- Ed Tech, not IT, and certainly not hardware-oriented. Sure, I like plugs and wires, gadgets and giggles -- the ADHD helps -- and the satisfaction of a job well done. But I'm not the kind of guy who's likely to home-wire the stereo into the rest of the computer. Trying to set up wireless in the house was so frustrating, we put the gadget away, which was, while humiliating, a pretty big triumph.

  3. We're broke, and have no money to pay for 'net access.

So though the laptop itself is work-provided, we're off the grid at home. When I blog, I blog from work. When someone sends me email on the weekend, I don't get it until Monday. Yes, folks, though it helps to have "work" less than 500 yards away, I may be the only media and technology teacher "out there" who is proud to leave the technology at work each day, reserving the home for family and play.

But there are days, and there are sites, that make me wish it were otherwise. Curse you, Mix CD Exchange, for making me wish I could "send" you my radio-or-otherwise thematic "mixes," download those of others, and listen to them while blogging, in the dead of the night while my daughter sleeps.

posted by boyhowdy | 1:20 PM | 0 comments

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Gobble Gobble Gobble 

Since we've got 20 folks coming to dinner in the school guesthouse six miles away, but can't get permission to use the oven there without hiring a school chef, Darcie sent out a message on our school bulletin board this morning:
Thanksgiving Bird Seeks Nrthfld Oven

Do you have an empty oven for Thanksgiving??

We are hosting Thanksgiving in Moore for our extended families. I have found a near-by oven to heat potluck offerings, but I would like to find a place to cook our turkey on Northfield so we don't have to keep driving "over the river and through the woods" to Hermon and our apartment...

Result: three "reply sender" offers of oven use...and the following terse reply, publically posted for all the school to see:

"The last thing a bird would be looking for is an oven in which to be cooked."

Sigh. Can't we all just get along?

posted by boyhowdy | 1:14 AM | 2 comments

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

MetaBlog: See Previous Post 

Why does the below entry have no comments? Well, from a purely technical standpoint, I'd rather have deleted the ones we had, and started over. But blogger doesn't allow you to delete selected comments. I felt it was better to just get rid of them altogether.

But why delete any of them? People were accusing me of serious evilness -- evilness which the following blogentry specifically pre-empts, but apparently it wasn't enough. Things got out of hand, and we started calling each other names.

Okay, I started calling people names.

For THAT I am sincerely sorry.

I apologize for swearing. It was dumb and childish. But I was mad -- I was being accused of believing all sorts of things I didn't and wouldn't ever say, and all sorts of things I am not and never have been. Even the most mature of us have trouble being falsely accused, especially when being accused of such heartless evil things. I'd rather you all learn and understand that teachers are human, folks -- learning from robots is pretty silly.

For the content of the blog entry, though, I am not at all sorry. I stand by my position, and my fully appropriate tone, and the respect and care given to address not NMH or its programs, or any individual charitable organization, but a relentless issue of institutional ingrained-ness.

So please read this entire entry TWICE before emailing me with your comments. Please note, as well:

1. If it looked like I "belittled the presentation" look again. This was not about the quality of the presentation, and I said nothing about its quality.

2. If it looked like I was suggesting that I wasn't going to give to charity this year, look again. United Way is A charity, not the only charity. It's not the point, but I give plenty, and wish everyone gave more than they do now.

3. If it looked like I have problems with United Way, look again. This wasn't about a particular charity. It was about exclusivity -- so the case would have been the same for any charity or organization presented to me as "this is the one WE support, an you're one of us."

(3a. Okay, I do have some concerns with United Way and other similar blanket organizations. I'd rather advocate for direct donation to the programs that United Way supports than trust some larger organization to make the decisions about distributing those funds the way I think they should be. I'd rather give money directly to the food bank or the red cross than pay for the overhead administrative costs of United Way, too. But that's not the point, and I digress.)

4. If it looked like I was dissing the NMH Outreach Program, look again. Outreach is not United Way. Outreach is involved with more programs than just United Way, too, and I love that. I would have loved a presentation on giving through outreach, honestly.

5. If you're hurt, then let's talk. But I have read this to myself over and over again, and I find I can take no responsibility for hurting you. All hurts I have seen are based on MISreadings of the following text, and misreading is on you, the reader, not on me, the author. My complaint is with a tendency in organizations in general -- unless you are "organizations in general," then I have not suggested that anything you do or say here is problematic, wrong, or bad in any way.

If there's anything I can't stand, it's ignorance. Eradicating ignorance is why I teach. It's why I write. And it starts with close reading. So if the above italicized stuff didn't make sense to you, do us both a favor: go down to the next entry and read it. If you've already read it, read it over again. And if you have any comments about it, leave 'em here.

But try to be civil about it. And please, try not to accuse me of being stingy, uncharitable, anti-United Way, anti-Outreach, anti-NMH, or anything else that just plain isn't true and/or is specifically refuted by the contents of my actual blog post.

Thanks, friend.

posted by boyhowdy | 10:59 PM | 2 comments

'Tis The Season For Mindless Giving 

United Way? Yeah, it's okay...
All comments have been removed from today's blogentry due to things getting unreasonably out of hand. Please read with an open mind...and please feel free to send email if you have something to say. For more, continue reading.

We're a United Way school. Faculty meeting agendas prioritize pleas for United Way donation but bump curricular updates in the interest of time. At yesterday's all-school meeting, the United Way plea clashed with the tone of a serious and substantive discussion about closing one campus next year, and -- since the whole thing went long -- also cut into the vital subsequent discussion period with our advisees.

It's United Way fundraising time here at our beloved school, and I'm pissed off.

Don't get me wrong -- I think United Way is a pretty decent organization, as charities go. But I also think there are better organizations out there. And, most importantly, I believe charity is an issue of individual choice. My charitable giving is up to me, and should not be at the mercy of peer, professional, or other social pressures.

The fiercely entrenched hegemony of The Favored Charity exists in many institutions in American culture. The classic example, collecting pennies in those bright orange trick-or-treat UNICEF boxes, is so deeply entrenched that it's hard to imagine going door to door with, say, a Hadassah tzedakah box instead without getting strange looks and, more importantly, less pennies. Your own workplace probably has some favored institutions as well.

And, problematically, the origin of a given institutions favored-status is generally arbitrary. In many cases, one well-meaning individual -- usually one of those folks who believe that their causes should be your causes, too -- starts the process, guilt-tripping others into donating to her favorite charity. Or perhaps an administrator picks one, because it's a name brand charity -- one which will bring strong recognition to the institution, good press, and good credibility.

Once entrenched, institutionalized propaganda, especially in service of a broad ideal that we all agree upon, is especially insidious. Speaking out against the lack of choice involved in such charitable enterprises is so easily misunderstood as anti-charity or anti-giving, one runs the real risk of looking like Scrooge just bringing it up.

But it's time someone said something out loud. The rubric we're describing doesn't create a logical foundation for giving. It is, instead, entirely arbitrary. And that means it most often results in the institutional and cultural entrenchment of charities chosen for all the wrong reasons. And charities chosen for the wrong reasons are likely to send your money to places you're less likely to want them to.

There is real value in personalizing rather than abstracting the communal drive towards charitable acts as normative, especially in an educational institution such as ours. More importantly, though, a plea for help from one charitable organization isn't the same as a diverse set of offered choices, or, better, case for assistance in general.

Because all charities have biases. Each, from UNICEF and the United Way to NOW or Operation Rescue, has a limited amount of money to spend, and must therefore make choices about how to spend it. Such choices must involve favoritism, bias, and preference if they are not to be entirely arbitrary.

And here's the crux of the matter, then: a truly informed donation is one which is based on one's own biases. That's what makes people give - because they believe in the cause, and in the value of helping in that particular way that given charitable organization or direct in-need recipient.

And "good" charity is not given grudgingly, because of fear or professional reprisal, or unpopularity. This is even true if one thinks one is not giving grudgingly, but is nonetheless giving for someone else's reasons, to someone else's cause. With students, this is especially dangerous, as it can turn students from owning their own giving -- which, in turn, can cause them to see giving itself as an unpleasant activity. In the end, this can only result in a generation less likely to give.

So give -- because it's Christmas, because you have plenty, because you believe in it, because your religion or ethical code demands it of you. But don't give blindly. Don't give in to the relentlessness of the oft-ingrained and knee-jerk preferences of others. Drop that penny, dime, or dollar where you think it can do the best work.

So like many of my coworkers, I'm planning on crumpling up that ubiquitous envelope when it shows up in my mailbox. I'm picking my own damn charity this holiday season. And it's none of your business where I'm sending that cash, either. Find your own damn charity. That's the point, after all.

posted by boyhowdy | 1:28 PM |

Monday, November 15, 2004

The End Is Near 

Last radio show of the term, so I won't bog y'all down with the final-exam-stress details of our solipsistic prep school universe, or why the sky is clear as glass and twice as meteor-laden. If you want purple prose with your music, check out the Tributary archives there on the right. For now...

Let's get right into the music, shall we?

Tributary 11/15/04

:: world music block ::
Skavoovie and the Epitones -- Fat Soul (
Tributary theme song)
Ozomatli -- Pensando En Mi Vida
Habib Koite & Bamada -- Batoumambe
Angelique Kidjo -- Voodoo Child (Slight Return)
Chris Ardoin and Double Clutchin' -- Your Love Keeps Lifting Me Higher
Manu Chao -- Hey Mr. Bobby
Tau Moe Family -- Mai Kai No Kauai

:: cover songs block ::
Rice, Rice, Hillman & Pedersen -- Friend Of The Devil
Keb' Mo- -- Love Train
Laura Love -- Come As You Are
Los Lobos -- I Wan'na Be Like You (The Monkey Song)
The Bobs -- Particle Man
Johnny Cash -- Hurt
Timbuk 3 -- Born To Be Wild
Sarah McLachlan -- The Rainbow Connection

:: neoamericana block ::
Natalie Merchant -- Which Side Are You On
Crooked Still -- Last Fair Deal Gone Down
Nickel Creek -- Spit On A Stranger
Gillian Welch -- I Want To Sing That Rock And Roll
Mark Erelli -- What's Goin' On
Erin McKeown -- Queen Of Quiet

:: ambient mellow latenight randomalia block ::
Patty Griffin -- Love Throw A Line
Jeffrey Foucault -- Mayfly
Norah Jones -- Don't Know Why
Tom Waits -- The Heart Of Saturday Night
Nick Drake -- Pink Moon
Gone Phishin' -- Fast Enough For You
Phish -- Dog Faced Boy
Warren Zevon -- Don't Let Us Get Sick

You've been listening to Tributary, your Monday night ten-to-midnight show here on WNMH 91.5, serving Keene, New Hampshire, Brattleboro, Vermont, Greenfield, Massachusetts, and you -- wherever you are.

posted by boyhowdy | 9:52 PM | 3 comments

Winter Comes To Shadow Lake 

Thanks in advance for any commentary -- this is a first draft! Does it work? Where? How?

That winter when it didn't snow
the lake froze clear like glass
and we walked out unnoticed by
cold fish below the radiant ice
hidden in drowned grass.

Like thought balloons in cold cartoons
the bubbles trapped beneath our feet
we shattered all the brittle tops
dropped pennies in the piggybanks
that rose for us beneath.

And now another winter finds
the laketop growing thin
good odds that it will pebble soon
but with our child we'll walk again
and not fear falling in.

posted by boyhowdy | 1:43 PM | 7 comments

All She Wants For Christmas 

Keene today, the least of our three equidistant exurban centers. Why? Too damn cold for outdoor activities, mostly. Broke but restless, we figured a trip to the boutique Colony Mill Marketplace a far more manageable indoor adventure than, say, the pre-Christmas chaos of the Yankee Candle flagship. Anyway, Willow's scared of YC's too-eager Santa, and we invariably leave disgusted with ourselves for reveling in such crass commercialism. So Keene it was.

Officially, of course, the excuse was "window shopping for Willow's Christmas list." Happily, the kid got the concept -- no buying, just pointing. After three hours hiding from the totally unanticipated A Taste of Keene crowds, and after filtering out the cheesy and cheap, we ended up with a fairly decent list of what catches the eye and heart of the above-average two year old.

All items subject to change, of course. Two year olds are inherently fickle. But I think we're ready to talk to the Grandmas, at least.

The list includes everything from books to dollhouses to an entire pet store worth of critters. I'd post it here, but better to try the experiment yourself, I think -- what's good for our kid may not be good for yours.

Alternately, if you have no two year old of your own but need to shop for one this holiday season, feel free to take ours on another excursion. Please. We'll be here, feet up in front of the telly, recovering from this one.

posted by boyhowdy | 1:39 AM | 0 comments

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Isn't It Ironic 

I finally decide to take one of those stupid quizzes, and look what happens:

You're A People's History of the United States!

by Howard Zinn

After years of listening to other peoples' lies, you decided you've had enough. Now you're out to tell it like it is, with all the gory details and nothing left out. Instead of respecting leaders, you want to know what the common people have to offer. But this revolution still has a long way to go, and you're not against making a little profit while you wait. Honesty is your best policy.

I'll take the description, I suppose. But me, a Zinn book? How humiliating.

See Cognative Dissonance and the American Left, a review of Zinn's speech here at NMH in February 2003 (review subsequently published in the now-on-hiatus American Feed) for my actual view of Howard Zinn.

posted by boyhowdy | 9:59 PM | 0 comments

The End(s) Of Media Literacy 

Excerpted from an ongoing open letter to the NMH administration -- one I wish I had the guts to send.

To develop and deliver a media literacy curriculum is to engender all use of media as thoughtful and deliberate, where, otherwise, student use of media, tools, and technologies is increasingly habitual, accidental, and dangerous.

And here I mean all media – from the visual literacies of Powerpoint to the critical eye of the otherwise-passive mass media participant; from the presenter able to play to or against the biases and needs of her audience to the student who finds herself suddenly better able to write complex papers because she understands what a paper is supposed to do, and how it is supposed to work, as a type of medium.

The student who complains that she cannot watch TV anymore without thinking gets it. But when all forms of communication are understood as media, and when both creating and absorbing media are addressed in the curriculum, media literacy is much more than this.


My work with teachers and students has but one purpose: to promote and instill media literacy into the NMH program.

There is no question in my mind that media literacy in this larger sense is a fundamentally vital aspect of development, one which must be guided and taught across the curriculum. House Directors and Deans continue to be concerned about the dangers of chat and the internet. Students celebrate the questionable value system of their mass media culture; struggle with the development of excellent product but own only the ability to make do. Teachers still struggle with developing appropriate rubrics which recognize the specific rhetorics and skill learning curves of projects developed in new media – we grade PowerPoint projects differently from papers, but still work on how differently, and why.

Through my own guidance, we have begun to incorporate the curriculum in Health and Humanities classes, Peer Ed training and research project development in classes from ESL to Math. And from there, students and teacfhers learn to seek me out for individualized instruction and guidance.

But we have only just begun. And in most cases, I myself am still asked to deliver this content. In fact, though the ideal would be for teachers in these courses to own this subject themselves, and bring it to their classes, few if any are truly “there” yet. One could arguable say that the direct delivery of this curriculum, then – individually via the Information Commons, curricularly via the odd elective minor, instructionally through class visits and teacher partnerships – is my best and brightest function here at NMH.


I came here to teach because I have a passion, a vocation, an itch.

When I was offered the chance two years ago to address this work on a school-wide level, I jumped at the chance, though it meant dropping the fully-enrolled major course in Media Literacy in order to be able to staff the delivery of that school-wide mission. It was clear two years ago that the incidental development of this literacy in our students and our faculty was not working, and I was eager to work throughout the curriculum, a change agent, to help teachers bring this more concretely into their curriculum, and to address these issues directly with students.

I took the chance because there is no other aspect of the program here at NMH which addresses these issues except incidentally. Though there are several of us setting up equipment, and teaching the skills and uses of technology, there is no other individual who more than anything teaches how to use one’s mind with these technologies – no one else who does the instruction, provides this exact class and project and faculty support, is available as a resource on this subject. I am not redundant; my curriculum is not duplicated anywhere that I can see. In fact, it has been clear to me for years that this work is far larger than I can really handle, especially when there is so much to teach, so many changes in technology every year with which to keep up, so many individual media to teach discretely.

The difference between teaching skills and teaching literacies is subtle, and the ultimate learning accomplished most often a combination of both. But though my job description is clear, I’m not seeing anyone be deliberate about the literacy involved here. And teaching skills without literacy – providing just-in-time support, and teaching vocational skills, rather than thinking and learning – is increasingly the focus of the departmental discussions in which I am involved, and how I am asked to spend my time.

Technology skill is a lot easier to teach. There are plenty of us who can and do teach technology skills. There are some who do it better.


Staffing cuts will be announced in December.

I wish I was more confident that they see what I see.

posted by boyhowdy | 11:34 AM | 1 comments

Saturday, November 13, 2004

It's The Little Things 

  • "Monkey george" stories in the library

  • Baby cows

  • Fruit snacks

  • Bath night with Daddy

  • Goodnight kisses on a newly trimmed moustache

  • Potato chip air and the last few pages of Wonder Boys

Not a bad Saturday afternoon, if I do say so myself. How was yours?

posted by boyhowdy | 10:46 PM | 11 comments

Congratulations! It's A Blogexplosion! 

Don't mind the overlinkage -- I'm having a blogexplosion moment.

I won 100 credits on blogexplosion today...and within a few seconds was back out there, surfing the blogexplosion wave. I'm such an addict.

(And a piss-poor geek -- I was so deep into blogexplosion mode, I forgot to take a screen capture of the "congratulations" message. Doubting Thomas blogexplosion members can go here until 9:00 tomorrow night for proof if they so desire.)

Anyway, if blogexplosion directed you here, welcome. How's it feel to be 1/100th of my mystery prize?

This post brought to you by yet another satisfied blogexplosion member. Isn't it time you tried blogexplosion?

posted by boyhowdy | 9:12 PM | 4 comments

Friday, November 12, 2004

Friday Randomalia 

On second thought, if you're not interested in having PETA send you information about how soy is "just like" meat, don't apologize to a cow. "Magical" plant, indeed.

Green is so overrated. This campus looks so much nicer when it's snowing. Trees, too.

When your boss forgets to invite you to the big meeting about "the management of the information commons," it's pretty clear that s/he doesn't see you as a potential candidate, isn't it? Especially humbling when you think you're the most logical choice. And it doesn't help to be asked in afterwards, in the name of "bringing everyone to the table." Table my ass.

Speaking of the workplace, pictures of our new Library Information Commons are up on the web. Neat stuff, huh? Gotta love that 42 inch screen collaborative workstation.

I'm so overdue for a facial trim, my students are starting to look at me funny. If only there was an appropriate way to say "the stray hairs on my chest are not pubes."

Would an iPod drown out the songs that echo in my head? Would I still want one if it did?

Back to blogexplosion -- ratings don't scare me! Though keeping the hitcounter up is such hard work...

posted by boyhowdy | 3:11 PM | 5 comments

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Baby Cows And Other Fragile Lives 

Have you apologized to a cow yet?

At 28 months, Willow is a towheaded master of the universe. Today again she came to visit in the last few moment of a long hard workday, and while her mother checked email in my now-forsaken sanctuary pulled me defiantly out of the office, towards the swinging halfdoors of the circulation area and "the baby animal books, Daddy." So, "tell me the story, Willow. What's happening here? What is the bunny doing? Look, who's that there?" -- call and response, and a gleeful, snuggly kid at the end of the day. So wonderful to read to one's daughter in public, and proudly model to those few straggling end of day students and faculty what good parenting feels like, and hopefully looks like as well.

On the way home we stopped at the farm to watch the three small calves just weaned low softly in their tenor voices, and chase each other around their small corrall and then suddenly stop again, a bovine game of statues. Willow ducks her head under the coarse wooden slatted fence and calls them -- "here, cow! Cow! Come here!" -- until, shaking on their still-new legs, they creep up to lick her fingers. She's proud to have patted them; wants to know what that chicken is doing on the sloped wood against the roosting house, why we can't eat the cider apples off the truck, organized by color, and probably by type, why the barn has giant double doors, where the cat is that lives in the hayloft, why we can't climb up to look for it -- does it miss its mommy, too?

Though she still needs help to pee, especially in the dining hall, where those terrifying autoflush toilets are prone to missread the gutsqueezing of her tiny body as a signal that it's time to suck water hard enough to make her jump. With one hand on the light sensor, then, and the other sturdy on her naked knee, we find ourselves one of those fathers whose calming, cheerful voices float from behind the stalls of public restrooms, explaining urinals in oversimplified language to those who will never need to use them -- something no one ever wanted to be, surely, but something worth celebrating nonetheless.

posted by boyhowdy | 7:59 PM | 1 comments

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Jeff Jarvis on The Future of Digital Media:
Jarvis' First Law of Media: Give the people control of media, they will use it. The corollary: Don't give the people control of media, and you will lose.

Whenever citizens can exercise control, they will. Today they are challenging and changing media -- where bloggers now fact-check Dan Rather's ass -- but tomorrow they will challenge and change politics, government, marketing, and education as well. This isn't just a media revolution, though that's where we are seeing the impact first. This is a chain-reaction of revolutions. It has just begun.
Extreme, and premature, perhaps. Utopian, even. But potent all the same.

The article, first in a two-month series, is set up like a blog. The comments are A-list-dominated, the prospect of adding to the fray as indimidating as those trite, tight prose pieces on the New York Times Letters page. Does social awareness of Shirky's Law dampen realization of Jarvis' First Law? Is A-list status self-perpetuating, an attentive oligarchy? Do I dare to eat a peach?

I sat next to Jeff Jarvis at Jay Rosen's session on Blogs and Journalism at last year's Bloggercon. Couldn't justify the long trip to Bloggercon III: Destination California this year, though. Bummer, dude.

posted by boyhowdy | 11:16 PM | 0 comments

Virtual People, Real Friendships 

Coming up on my second bloggiversary next week, and it's got me thinking. Well, that, and the after-realization that yesterday I asked you all to buy me something for Christmas, and it felt perfectly natural, and why is that?

I've met some incredibly wonderful folks over my past two years as a blogger.

We're merely recipro-readers and occasional commenters, and the balance of interaction and attention between us is surely uneven in every case. But I admire their -- your -- intelligence, and your struggles to keep me honest.

The way your blogs flay your lives bare to me and, in turn, the way you sit by me asynchronously through my own blogdailyness and share in mine, creates a kind of intimacy.

Though all of you are half-imagined, mere projections of my fevered brain, in many ways you are also closer to me than many of the flesh-and-bloods I spend time with on a semi-daily basis.

I have grown to depend on you by my side. I appreciate you. I appreciate that you listen to me. I care about you.

And, as the holiday season approaches, I want to acknowledge you somehow.

Yes, I want to buy you something for Christmas.

But I don't want it to be trivial, or etherial. I want it to be as real as your places in my heart.

And what I don't want is to have to exchange real addresses, or otherwise spoil the virtuality of our relationship-as-is. I see the potential for this to get O'Henry-esque, and refuse to go there. Let's not spoil the half-imagined otherness we share.

So don't send me your snail mail address; keep your pseudonym, please. But do set up your amazon wishlist, and fill it with trinkets -- the kind of slight objects that a secret santa might buy. 'cause I'm looking to get you something small.

Maybe it's just me. But if it isn't -- if you, too, find yourself starting to wonder how to send fruitcake to the bloggers you love? Then -- psst! -- pass it on. Tell your friends. Because the spirit of giving is almost upon us, and don't we spend our days here together in ways worth acknowledging?

Help me light up the bloggiverse this year. Get ready to prove to the naysayers and luddites that the virtual world is filled with real hearts and minds. Let's start up a meme of giving, a standard of potlatch. Because we're ready. Though our pockets may be mostly broke, if we're at all rich in spirit it is because of the sustinence we give to each other, here as in the meatworld.

posted by boyhowdy | 6:39 PM | 4 comments

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

All I Want For Christmas... 

Just like Mom used to make!

King of kitsch Jones Soda announces today its limited edition holiday pack of five new seasonal flavors, and I've never wanted anything more.

Flavors include:
  • Green Bean Casserole Soda
  • Mashed Potato & Butter Soda
  • Fruitcake Soda
  • Cranberry Soda
  • Turkey & Gravy Soda

According to Peter van Stolk, Jones Soda president and popcult product genuis, the special holiday package "takes the work, worries and cost out of preparing a turkey dinner, so our consumers can spend more time with their loved ones." It also takes all the calories out of a holiday dinner without missing a flavor.

Shades of Wonka's Three-Course Meal gum? You betcha. But this is better, because it's real. The box even includes entirely unecessary utensils -- a straw and a toothpick.

This extremely limited edition retails at $15.95, goes on sale via the web at 8:00 a.m. sharp on November 11th on a first come, first served basis, and is sure to sell out in minutes. A portion of the proceeds will go to Toys for Tots.

But if you buy me one I'll be yours forever.

posted by boyhowdy | 3:24 PM | 2 comments

Radiator Radio 

Another Monday, another ten to midnight shift in the basement of Stone Hall, cranking out the tunes on the country's most powerful high school radio station. Few students have radios anymore, but it doesn't matter; the waves echo off these New England hills, into three states worth of townships: Keene, NH, Brattleboro, VT, and Greenfield MA. No one calls, but somewhere out there, surely, someone listens, perhaps while they brush a lover's hair by the cold light of a sliver moon, reflected off this afternoon's first almost-snow, pebbled on the car hoods and brown meadows like frost.

And so winter comes, and with it the silence of these hills. The leaves are gone, almost, or too heavy anyway with those grains of sticky white to blow in and out the doors and windows with the heavy winds. Students meander the campus shivering and coatless, cool in the sharp air, trailing clouds.

But music warms the soul. The radio is a virtual hearth, a dashboard heater, a radiant sun in darkened rooms. So come inside, won't you. Listen, and be whole.

Tonight's playlist follows, punctuated -- as always -- by soft story readings on the hour and the half hour.

Tributary 11/8/04

Skavoovie and the Epitones -- Fat Soul
Michael Franti & Spearhead -- Everyone Deserves Music
Rusted Root -- Rising Sun
J Mascis -- I Want You Bad
Timbuk 3 -- The Future's So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades
Ween -- Bananas & Blow
Cake -- Manah Manah

Bob Dorough -- Fish For Supper
Trey Anastasio -- Alive Again
Ani Difranco -- Angry Anymore
Lizzie West -- Sometime
Barenaked Ladies -- Jane
Indigo Girls -- Galileo

Cassandra Wilson -- Only A Dream In Rio
Mark Erelli -- Take My Ashes To The River
The Be Good Tanyas -- Waiting Around To Die
Shawn Colvin -- This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody)
Gillian Welch -- Look At Miss Ohio
Rani Arbo & Daisy Mayhem -- Let's Pretend There's A Moon

Kasey Chambers -- I Still Pray
Jeffrey Foucault -- Mayfly
John Hiatt -- Crossing Muddy Waters
Patty Griffin w/ The Chieftans -- Whole Heap Of Pretty Horses
Shawn Colvin -- Seal Lullaby
Greg Brown's Daughters -- Ella May
Sheryl Crow -- We Do What We Can

You've been listening to Tributary, your ten to midnight Monday night show here on WNMH 91.5. We'll be back next week with our usual mix -- from Funk to Folk, from Jazz to Jambands, from Blues to Bluegrass, and everything in between. Until then, bundle up -- it's chilly out there.

posted by boyhowdy | 12:01 PM | 0 comments

Monday, November 08, 2004

Lies, Damn Lies, And Just Plain Being Mean 

Nothing bothers me more than people wielding statistics like a sword.

No, wait. It bothers me much more when people utterly misread and misrepresent statistics in their zeal to make us all feel dumb. Vindicating, but bothersome all the same.

Case in point: this utter bosh supposedly correlating IQ and political leanings by state is all over the net these days; it came up on our school bulletin board, too, where several sore-loser students were eager to make fun of the southern red-staters from high on their New England prep school perch.

I noted there, and will repeat here, a few problems I have with the mass acceptance, even glee, with which this ultimately false correlative data table has been disseminated. That is, even if it were true (also here):
  1. The IQ data is based on SAT/ACT scores. That itself is a problem -- it has long been accepted that ACT/SAT scores are not a measure of IQ, but merely of the ability to take those tests, and such "abilities" can be heavily skewed by such things as prep school SAT-training (more prep schools in New England than in the Red states), local economy (hungry kids don't test as well), and race (a correlation between race and this chart would be interesting, I bet).

  2. But the standardized test source of these numbers is also a problem because high school aptitide cannot be taken as a measure of voter intelligence because high school Juniors (the ones who take SATs) aren't a representative sample of the state voting public. Many young people move from one state to another in the years after taking those tests, for example; as we all know by now, many young people don't vote until later in life, long after they've moved on. And where do they go? More kids move to urban than to rural areas after school if they can, I bet -- see below.

  3. States don't vote like states. It is no secret, from looking at county-by-county voting maps that have emerged post-election, that "blue" values seem to be clustered around urban areas, while "red" values seem to be more rural. States that are more populous (relatively speaking) in rural areas tend to be, and vote, red, in other words. I'd suggest, here, that "book smarts" are more of an asset in urban areas than rural areas -- that's where the white collar indistry is, so that's where people go to work, live, and vote. And schooling in rural areas is entirely different from schooling in urban areas, again for all sorts of reasons which we could get into here, but we won't.

Of course, we'll be nice, and not mention at all the fact that the people spreading this around are supposed to be the smart ones, according to their own table. Kind of makes you wonder where the country is headed overall when the supposed "smart ones" could have been so dumb as to think the data meant what they said it meant -- even when they thought it was true.

(To be fair, it turns out there is a tiny, statistically insignificant correlation between IQ and voting. But the best and only conclusions we can reach from the corrected numbers is merely a reminder that income and IQ are correlative -- which, surprisingly, seems to imply that more of the affluent voted for Kerry than Bush. Odd, that, since it challenges the way liberals usually dismiss Bush -- and not too useful as a liberal democratic truth-sword, either.)

What bothers me most about this sort of table, though, is that folks who claim to be smart thought it was appropriate to do anything with the data at all.

The USA isn't an intell-ocracy, and it shouldn't be; IQ doesn't necessarily determine whether someone is more or less able to determine what candidate would be best for them.

People who have lower SAT scores have every right to vote for what they see as important, and every equal ability to decide accurately, for themselves, what is important.

Look, I know some of you are deeply hurt by this election. But the folks who use this table, and other tools of protest whining like it, need to understand that you're not helping your cause by suggesting that the vast majority of voters are a) dumber than you, and b) that you think this means they are inherently unable to elect an appropriate president. Talk about dividing the society. What happened to the liberal drive to heal, help, and make whole?

posted by boyhowdy | 9:04 PM | 8 comments

Through A Sick Day, Darkly 

Got one of those cottonhead brainfog colds over the weekend.

Managed to drag myself to the school dance recital yesterday. It was an excellent display, complete with modern subtleties and a wonderfully cheesy homage to the hairspray prom scene of my own late eighties lifestyle. Willow loved the performances, stayed focused, whispered when appropriate -- a new stage of development for her; I'm proud of her spectatorship. I couldn't really appreciate it much. The molasses world of the blackbox stage seemed distant and thick.

And now I pay the price of sitting in a folding-chair public. The swelling of this cold, once restricted to the brain and throat, has shifted to my back. After days of successful steroid-driven progress, the pain of the herniated disk has returned, shooting down my leg, worse when I move, impossibly intolerant when I manage to stay precariously still.

I'd take drugs, but it feels like I'm already on them.

posted by boyhowdy | 9:16 AM | 0 comments

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Surfing, Browsing, Blogging...Reading? 

This surprisingly old panel by Cincinnati Enquirer cartoonist Jim Borgman is making the blogrounds:

But it seems to me blogexplosion regulars know the real news about blogs is better expressed in this cartoon, from Lee Lorenz in this week's New Yorker:

Which brings up an interesting point: people don't really read on screen that much.

Not deeply. Not broadly. Not well.

You already knew that intuitively. Like the students I work with, if you really need to absorb some text off the online universe, you print it. And if you take an afternoon off to do some serious reading, you spend that time with good old paper and ink.

But most people still don't get it. Like the students I work with, you probably don't print out your drafts of writing to edit them. And in most cases, since you're not writing a research paper, you don't print digital documents to read them. But you somehow believe that your reading and writing remain "just fine."

And despite there being real value in the conception that folks who grow up in a digital-print universe do indeed habitually think better in type than in handwriting -- that, in other words, your "native medium" for reading and writing is more likely than not to be screen-based -- it is an error of logic to go that next step, and assume that, therefore, this is the best kind of reading or writing you could do.

In fact, we all make that mistake of mind. But it's still a pretty stupid thing to believe.

Seriously. We already know that reading off a screen results in roughly 25% less overall comprehension -- why else have we begun to tailor our digital writing to these shortform paragraphs, the better to catch the skimmer's eye?

And our linguisitics show we know this going in. You're a surfer, not a diver; uninterested in immersion, you skim the waves. And you're reading this text, right now, on a browser, yes? Or perhaps, if you're geeky enough, on a news reader, since we all know "reading" news isn't anywhere near as deep as reading literature or, say, autobiographical non-fiction.

This is why I believe that the NaNoWriMo concept, in which most folks put their text up on the screen, and which is primarily driven by blogging and other on-line meme-passing, is inherently flawed for all but a very few.

It is why we cannot realistically expect that blogexplosion, which shrinks our screens that much more, adds a new layer of 30-second clockwatching immediacy to our blogreading and, by definition, rewards us for moving on, actually leads to habitual long-term reading for pretty much anyone.

It is why I'm ending this entry prematurely, to settle in screenless with the books I bought today -- Michael Chabon's Wonder Boys and Kim Stanely Robinson's 1994 Hugo Award winner Green Mars -- and why I bought such high-falutin' books in the first place.

'cause I been surfin' way too much, and these short waves are killing me.

posted by boyhowdy | 9:22 PM | 56 comments

Friday, November 05, 2004

Let Them Eat Willowisms 

Darcie and Willow came to visit me at the end of my library shift this afternoon. Though the kid's pretty cranky from the aftershocks of last week's MMR (Measles/Mumps/Rubella) vaccine, she did manage to perk up enough to wander the staff office a bit, where she rediscovered the water cooler, demanded and subsequently spilled a cup of water, and had the following exchange with her mother:
Willow, please don't play with the forks.

But I have to take one just in case there's some cake!
Ah, the hopeful innocence of the young. On the other hand, better take a fork -- what if there is some cake?

posted by boyhowdy | 10:42 PM | 2 comments

Turkey Fry At The Motel 6 

Mmmmm...hot oil and poultry...

The boys in the dorm are hosting an open house tonight, and since Hayden looks especially Motel 6-ish alongside the typical stately columns and turn-of-the-century New England brick of the other campus houses, they're using the opportunity to embrace what has traditionally been a denigration, offering cheesy movies, a beatbox competition, crass music, an open-door coed visiting arrangement, and an actual deep-fried turkey.

I'm so proud of my boys.

But I'm also especially glad I'm chaperoning. I've never had a deep fried turkey, and every time I ask anyone "in the know" about it, they get this glazed look of remembered bliss on their face, and then they all say the same thing: you'll love it...but don't eat too much. Any food which prompts this particular advice and involves a trash can filled with several gallons of grease promises to be my kind of gourmand feast. Wish me luck!

[UPDATE 10:39 pm: In the aftermath of what turned out to be a very successful and well-attended open house event, I have only two things to say.

1. I have never been so full in all my life.
2. I have now decided to deep fry everything I eat. Mmm...juicy.]

posted by boyhowdy | 4:12 PM | 2 comments

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Long Time TV-B-Gone 

Universal Remote or universe control?

Been busybusybusy working on the blog for work, but behind the scenes, the mind's still humming.

Though the rest of the bloggiverse has chewed it to bits, I've been especially interested in the social ramifications of the TV-B-Gone, a new keychain device that enables people to turn off TVs just about anywhere with a click of a button. The product, which hit both geek and mass awareness several weeks ago, has taken the consumer world by storm, selling so many of the tiny black boxes that distributor Cornfield Electronics now features an apology on their affectionately retro-redesigned website, for not being able to keep up with orders.

To inventor Mitch Altman, the TV-B-Gone is a power for good, "all about freeing people from the attention-sapping hold of omnipresent television programming." The early Wired article cites folks whose tube-watching was stymied by the device as generally blase, even tickled, by the whole thing.

But behind the one-button simplicity of the TV-B-Gone, there's something sinister about its basic premise that I just can't come to terms with.

Sure, most folks accept television-in-public (though not public-television-in-public, interestingly enough) as a natural part of the modern environment, one which fades in and out of the consciousness like so many billboards or park pigeons. But even if no one is watching, that's my social environment, bub. Who are you to decide that we didn't need that TV just then?

Why the heck are we all so happy about a tool that, fundamentally, gives every individual in our culture a right of total veto over the social environments of the group? Can't we see the problems inherent in the "I can turn you off" model of the world? Every movie, every book about invisibility tells us the power to manipulate the world unseen comes at a dangerous price. I recognize the basic human desire to be all-powerful -- I, too, dream of superpowers. But a world of superheroes is inherently a world of chaos (see any comic book for proof here). There's a reason why we work so hard to develop checks and balances over those with power in our societies -- keeping you out of my stuff is, ultimately, what keeps us a society.

(Not to mention the hacker potential for such a tool. Want to stymie the Principal's Monday Night Foodball? Just hide in the outside bushes with a TV-B-Gone, and let your detention-week frustration melt away! Don't like that loud TV on the other side of the apartment wall? Zap! What ever happened to talking out our problems -- why must we celebrate right-stealing as a solution to social infractions?)

I'm not the only one worried about this celebration of rampant anarchy. The week it came out the folks at gizmodo.com were assaulting Altman for creating "...a device with the sole purpose of imposing his viewpoint on others." TV-B-Gone package designer Nina Paley offers the typical-flippant response (Funny, I thought television did that). But Paley and the rest of her ilk got this wrong twice.

First, two wrongs don't made a right.

And second, even if they did, this isn't about television. The owner of a public establishment has -- and should have -- an overwhelmingly powerful right to decide what constitues that environment for the patrons, especially as compared to the right of a single patron who just happened to walk in for a drink. And in collective spaces, commons spaces, even collaborative spaces within the private, this is always true. Even the collective passivity of the people in that bar should have more sway in determining that environment's parameters than any single patron.

So get TV-B-Gone if you want. It's a free country -- though, given the popularity, you'll have to wait a few weeks if you want one of your very own. But if you get one, stay the hell out of my public space, or there's going to be trouble. After all, it's my free country, too.

Alternately, I've got this neat device for you to use next time you're in a bar and you don't like hearing the TV.

It's called a doorknob. And it won't cost you a cent.

posted by boyhowdy | 10:08 PM | 4 comments

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

On The 'Pad 

Yeah, that pad.

No, not this blog. This one.

Categorical posting, easy design on multiple levels, better photoformatting, a quick toggle from design element mucking-around to code, comments that actually work -- much of the functionality we were looking for in our new NMH Library Reading Room blog just wasn't happening in the tools I'm used to.

So I spent the day making a mock-up. And I got so into it, I didn't even make it to blogexplosion today (true addicts will understand).

Thanks to everyone, especially Anne and EricJ, for so patiently trying to get me to see the light through the long struggle with blogger. I'm amazed by what I was able to accomplish in about four hours with this and a little bit of PhotoShop, and eager to play more. Now: how the hell do I hop over without causing utter disaster?

posted by boyhowdy | 10:57 PM | 5 comments

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Every Vote Counts (In Large Amounts) 

[pic removed for clarity -- click here to see the numbers!]

Election results for Gill, Massachusetts.

Kudos to CNN for bringing the local vote home.

posted by boyhowdy | 11:29 PM | 0 comments

I Voted -- Did You? 

I promised myself (and Shaw) I wasn't going to blog political. Like Jon Stewart, I'm more interested in the flawed process than the game being played. But since I voted after lunch -- no backsies allowed -- I thought it would be fair, at least, to share my ballot, and my reasoning:

Presidential election: Republican.

All other local and state elections: Independent or Democrat.

Reasoning: Primarily, that I prefer the traditional Republican position that social issues should be handled on the local and state level, not on the federal level. I see no reason why Washington itself, or a popular vote where Californians have more power than my entire state, should decide how my family can be configured, or what drugs we can use and how. When it comes to local issues, though, I tend to lean liberal-libertarian, so I vote for politicians with similar leanings.

To be fair, it doesn't matter much how I voted for President, because I live in Massachusetts. That's why I can claim party voting, rather than personality voting, as my primary reasoning -- I'm sending a numbers mandate, not an electoral one. But I think I would still have voted for Bush if I lived in, say, Ohio. Though Bush has a foreign policy I have trouble with, at least he has one -- Kerry has no real foreign policy, and on a federal level, this election needs to be about foreign policy. What good is local control if the US of A ceases to exist?

A non-binding referendum to impose automatic fifty-fifty child custody in all but the most extreme cases was on our local ballot, too. I voted against it -- though I recognize the noble attempt to change the traditional anti-dad bias of the courts, I think any policy change which replaces a case-by-case considerate standard with an automatic "same policy for all possibilities" standard harms more than it helps. Education, not policy change, is the answer here.

posted by boyhowdy | 1:47 PM | 7 comments

Monday, November 01, 2004


Another basement, another show: feeling funky tonight after exquisite conversation and the perfect finefood trifecta (Pinot Grigio, a pate plate, and an espresso-and-molten-chocolate-cake confection to die for) with my father down at the o-so-ritzy Del Ray, so this week's radio set's a bit more upbeat and drum-heavy than last week (or indeed, any week previous).

Dayenu -- it would have been enough. But it's not just the joy of an almost-perfect father-son evening that fuels my fire. Other good news bringing me up: the herniated disk seems to be responding well to the oral prednisone, which should mean no spinal shots in my near future. Finally getting that bonus hour back from last Spring. The rural universe, beautiful and bright, clearmoon and leafblanketed. My job. My daughter. My wife. Life: it's just beautiful, sometimes.

Tonight's election-eve special featured bedtime story readings from Daily Show faux-textbook America (The Book): A Citizen's Guide To Democracy Inaction, represented below by those blank spaces in the playlist. So I got that going for me.

Playlist follows, as always.

Tributary 11/1/04

Skavoovie and the Epitones -- Fat Soul
Angelique Kidjo -- Voodoo Child (Slight Return)
Kool & The Gang -- Funky Stuff
De La Soul -- Me Myself And I
Joss Stone -- Fell In Love With A Boy
Manu Chao -- Me Gustas Tu

Bob Dorough -- Too Much Coffee Man
Patty Griffin -- One Big Love
The Rembrandts -- Making Plans For Nigel
The Gourds -- El Paso
Jim White -- Borrowed Wings
The Biscuit Boys -- You Ain't Going Nowhere

Crooked Still -- Shady Grove
They Might Be Giants -- Fibber Island
Nellie McKay -- David
Richard Thompson -- Kiss
Trey Anastasio -- Cayman Review
Richard Shindell -- There Goes Mavis

Keller Williams -- Anyhow, Anyway
Eddie From Ohio -- Monotony
Lucy Kaplansky -- For Once In Your Life
Dar Williams -- Bought And Sold
Eva Cassidy -- American Tune
Livingston Taylor -- Isn't She Lovely

You've been listening to Tributary, your ten-to-midnight Monday night show here on WNMH 91.5 fm, serving Northfield, Gill, Keene, Greenfield, Brattleboro, and a bunch of people spinning dials out there on Route 91, wondering "what the hell is this?" Y'all come back next week, y'hear?

posted by boyhowdy | 10:08 PM | 0 comments
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