Tuesday, January 18, 2005

More Things Not To Do (the CNN edition) 

Fun with CNN today, since I was already there helping a student learn about the recent Mississippi librarians vs. Jon Stewart fiasco (ban one day, reversal the next) for her project on American bookbanning. Thus: things NOT to do, as learned from today's top news stories:

1. Try a handstand on a 2nd floor balcony railing. "Watch to see what I can still do," indeed.

2. Ridicule cows. Hey, if 1500 cows can make enough methane to power 330 Vermont households, who am I to laugh?

3. Laugh out loud in the library. But really, given the headline "Rice grilled at hearing," wouldn't you laugh, too? Mmmmmm...grilled rice.

4. Reveal your mildly dirty mind when working with students. NASA's mission on Mars is both serious and legitimate, but there's a pair of library patrons who will never hear the word "probe" again without giggling.

5. Read the education news more than once a week. Schools dropping PE instead of fixing the accountability issues which plague the subject? Isolating (and thus ostracizing?) post-addiction students in "recovery dorms"? The continued fight over evolution and creationism, this time over whether it's okay to have sticker disclaimers on textbooks? Switching from biodegradable (and nostalgic) milk cartons to plastic milk bottles merely because students prefer them after years spent drinking sugarwater from the same type of containers at home? My blood pressure has enough pushing it these days, thanks.

I mean, really. I go to CNN for news, not silliness and stress. If I wanted irony and Darwinian failures, I'd stick to Fark.

posted by boyhowdy | 1:45 PM | 0 comments

Everything iPod 

Seeing iPods everywhere? Maybe it's not just you. Check out this phenomenal, satirical short film iPod World (from Ethan, via new obsession blogclicker).

It's BBC-hosted, of course. We iMericans would never obsess about a gadget like that.

posted by boyhowdy | 1:39 AM | 0 comments


Another Monday, another night deep in the bowels of Stone Hall, spinning the iPod hard drive out the antenna and up into the infinite and everlong sky. Ever wonder if there's an alien race out there jamming to our top 40 hits long after they've hit the seconds bins earthside? No? Maybe it's just me.

Anyway. It's two degrees out there, the snow a universal low-temp lubricant, squeaky on the ground. Underneath, the ice is slick and treacherous. Perfect halfmoon burns through wisps of cloud, UFO headlights illuminating the dry, cold air above. Stars rise. Mercury shrinks.

So bundle up by the virtual hearth. Download the goodies below -- they're mostly cover songs this week -- and listen while you dream of universes yet unseen. Mp3s are only up for a week, so don't miss 'em!

Playlist follows, as always. Next time, I won't forget cash for a pre-show coffeestop.

Tributary 1/17/04

:: funk it up ::
Skavoovie and the Epitones -- Fat Soul
Joe Bataan -- Subway Joe mp3!
Digable Planets -- Rebirth Of Slick
Stevie Wonder vs. Destiny's Child -- Bootystition
Rufus and Chaka Khan -- Tell Me Something Good
Ben Harper -- Steal My Kisses
Bela Fleck and the Flecktones -- Sex In A Pan
Jack Johnson -- The 3 R's

:: smooth it down ::
Jackie & Roy -- Samba Triste
Steve Earle w/ Emmylou Harris -- I Remember You
Lazlo Bane -- I'm No Superman
Zooey Deschanel and Leon Redbone -- Baby It's Cold Outside
Mojo Nixon -- Girlfriend In A Coma
Maroon 5 -- Pure Imagination
Bill Withers -- Ain't No Sunshine

:: spin it around:: (coversongs)
John Mayer -- Message In A Bottle mp3!
Tim O'Brien -- Subterranean Homesick Blues
Mose Alison -- Top Forty
The Be Good Tanyas -- House Of The Rising Sun
Claudine Longet -- Let's Spend The Night Together mp3!
Turtle Island String Quartet -- Crossroads mp3!

:: mellow it out ::
Jem -- Maybe I'm Amazed
Paul Simon -- Senorita With A Necklace Of Tears
Nirvana -- Polly
Aimee Mann -- Ghostworld (unplugged)
Phish -- Dinner And A Movie
Wilco -- The Late Greats
Hayseed Dixie -- Highway To Hell
Dusty Springfield -- Son Of A Preacherman

You've been listening to Tributary, your ten to midnight show here on WNMH 91.5 fm, serving Northfield (MA), Keene (NH), Brattleboro (VT), and the surrounding aliens. I mean area. Sheesh.

posted by boyhowdy | 1:04 AM | 2 comments

Monday, January 17, 2005

A Short Post 

Just realized I haven't written any short posts lately, so here's one.

For visual pacing and reader brainbalance, mostly. Why?

posted by boyhowdy | 10:39 PM | 0 comments

Trick Bag 

The kids are still talking about last night's brown bag amnesty, an annual unannounced tradition designed, primarily, to give kids a chance to anonymously give up their contraband before someone gets hurt -- or caught. The free speech red herring often found in the aftermath of school-slash-student privacy invasions has faded quickly (this is a private school, and kids and parents are told coming in that their contract with us allows such things); mostly, this morning's concerns spring from those aspects of the process which are necessary to make it work at all.

In other words, in case my bias isn't clear: we do it, and I'd do it again. But that doesn't mean we have to like it.

The mechanics of the "brown bag" are surprisingly complex, mostly because of the legal ramifications involved in doing it right, coupled with the need to do it well. But it's easy to explain in premise. Basically, all residents of a dorm are gathered in the lounge, and then sent, one roommate at a time, to anonymously "brown bag" their precious and well-hidden booze and drugs under student leader supervision (while the adults watch the doors and indows from outside). From there -- within five minutes tops -- they return to the lounge to await their fate.

But that isn't the half of it. If everything ended there -- if the brown bags were confiscated, and kids sent immediately back to their homework -- no kid worth his brain would bother giving anything up. Instead, to give the brown bag teeth, it must at least occasionally be followed by room searches. And as the first school-wide brown bag search in the history of the school, last night was one such evening.

And a true all-school room search takes some serious time. With so many small things to hide, and so many pockets and panels in 'em, even the most half-hearted, perfunctory room searching takes two faculty members ten minutes or more per room. The lounge-sequestering went on for hours.

Then we had to sit with each kid caught with something, anything, from tobacco or pot residue on the bottom of their desk drawer to lighters and well-hidden flasks, while they wrote their statement -- a testimonial chance to come clean, to be used as part of their follow-up, regardless of the outcome.

This morning, the kids are pissed, tired, and quite probably not much more drug-free than they were before. Some -- the stupid or careless ones -- are looking at some sort of discipline-to-be-determined, or referral to Core Team, our non-disciplinary, counseling-heavy solution for kids who have heretofore managed to stay clean, or at least under the disciplinary radar. All spent as much as three unannounced and textbook-less hours crammed in dorm lounges on a school night.

And the teachers? Totally unprepared for class. After all, the brown bag was a surprise to us, too; none of us planned for a late night rummaging through our charges' underwear drawers.

But the brown bag does what it's supposed to. By the end of last night's exercise, we had two full bottles of Jaegermeister (ew), several more of Tequila, water bottles full of Vodka, pot bags both empty and half-full, a couple of hollowed pens with white powder residue on 'em, and the names of five kids who were spotted trying to hide bottles and bags in the brush outside the dorm during the amnesty period. A few more are likely to be core teamed based on residue or oversights found during the search. The school will be cleaner for it, and maybe -- just maybe -- we'll save ourselves a trip to the hospital...or the morgue.

Before the comments begin, two pre-emptive measures:

1. Yes, the substances mentioned above are typical of prep school adolescent use. Those who think they can make a case that their own schools (or their own kids) are any more drug-free are either talking about schools which offer no privacy whatsoever as a daily foundation for life, or are deluding themselves.

2. More importantly, since the topic of roomsearching often brings strong constitutional arguments, let me reiterate what I said above: constitutional protection from search and siezure does not apply to minors living in a consensually-contract-driven comunity. Nor should it, when lives are at stake.

Those interested in stronger legal protection for their children or themselves should plan on sticking with public schools, where they will surely spend most of their time preparing for standardized tests rather than actually learning to be productive, creative, and useful members of society. Or there's always homeschooling.

posted by boyhowdy | 9:36 AM | 6 comments

Sunday, January 16, 2005

News From Home 

Stumbled across a tidbit of interesting ridiculousness at Michael's place tonight. Thought I'd share. (Isn't that what blogging's about?)

Anyway. Seems the Newton, Massachusetts schools which I attended as a boy, once regionally recognized for scholastic excellence, have slipped significantly in their MCAS math scores ever since "the district superintendent 'redesigned' the math curriculum," replacing a traditional algebra-based curriculum with something called 'anti-racist multicultural math' -- a type of "math" that apparently prioritizes self-analysis, peer-bias-watching, experience-sharing, and the pre-capitalized Respect for Human Differences, none of which leaves room for actual math.

So that's one more school system I won't be applying to for work next year. My sympathies to Jo, who has to live near and with the fruits of this pedagogical travesty.

posted by boyhowdy | 1:40 AM | 1 comments

What's Brown And Sticky 

Haven't done the memething for a while, but Jo of Counting Sheep and my old meatworld hometown sent me this stick (stick being, I surmise, the blog equivalent of a chain letter) and I couldn't resist.

1. What is the total amount of music files on your computer?
Technically none -- my computer habit is exclusively fed through school library computers accessed in the wee hours of the night, students a-slumber in their nearby dorms. I've got 14 gigs for the iPod on this workstation alone, though.

2. The cd you last bought is:

Damn, it's been a while, what with mp3blogs, the new iPod, birthday/holiday gifts and the local public library (you should try it). Technically, the last CD I bought would be One Moment More, Mindy Smith 's "big news" 2004 release, which continues to rock after months of home rotation. But the newest disks on my turntable are the new Mose Alison anthology and the pop-stars-sing-kids-songs amazon wishlist item I got today from the sis-in-law.

3. What is the song you last listened to before reading this message?
Shivaree's I Close My Eyes, one of five great trax from the newly-designed and always tasteful Womenfolk. Hypnotic alterna-pop, highly recommended.

4. Write down 5 songs you often listen to or that mean a lot to you:
We find meaning everywhere. Music, too. This week's list, in no particular order:

  • The Ocean - Peter Mulvey (great Dar Williams cover includes Boston subway noise)

  • Daughters -- John Mayer (up for three Grammys for a reason)

  • I Will Survive -- Cake (if I had an anthem...)

  • Sweet Baby James -- James Taylor (we sing this to Willow)

  • The Water Is Wide -- John Gorka (this one, too)

  • (bonus) American Tune -- Eva Cassidy (story of my life, man)
5. Who are you going to pass this stick to? (3 persons) and why?
  • Sushiesque, because she is a goddess who appreciates good neopunk and might actually do this.

  • Shaw because he'll respond with some weird-ass music no one's ever heard of.

  • Sal because he's a bright boy, too, and because I needed someone else whose screenname began with S.

Fetch, boy! Fetch the stick!

posted by boyhowdy | 1:21 AM | 1 comments

Saturday, January 15, 2005

A Very Boyhowdy Birthday Weekend 

In which iTalk about how I celebrated this year.

Too much on my plate to take my birthday off this year, despite previous resolutions to the contrary. But when my favorite 9th grade Health teacher called me to request an instant two-day Media Literacy module teaching her students to deconstruct mass media messages of fitness and nutrition, I couldn't resist the challenge. Heck, I didn't mind coming in. I would rather be teaching than almost anything.

Spent the remaining workday polishing the resume, gathering references, and otherwise prepping for an ultimately fruitless end-of-day meeting with a visiting rep from prep school placement-slash-recruitment agency Carney Sandoe. Hadn't been expecting much, to be honest, but "our clients really only send us positions from the usual teaching disciplines; we can't really do much for a utility guy like you" was a pretty inauspicious way to begin the job search. Especially from a guy who looked maybe 22, and quite probably had to have help tying his tie. Nice to have the paperwork in place, I guess.

Sped off from there to a pre-arranged meetup with Darcie, the ever-sweet Willow, and a few of our closer friends and co-parents at the newly reopened Lady Killigrew Cafe, yet another middle-of-nowhere pub of no small local charm and intimacy. Set practically inside the Montague Bookmill (motto: books you don't need in a place you can't find), this new find was a wonder to which we'll surely return. The roaring post-rain waterfall just under the windowsills compliments the hardwood tables, each an old footpedal sewing machine; the menu is quirky and organic; the cellars select and crisp. If you go -- and you should go -- look along the windowsill nearest the door for a polaroid of Willow and I proudly showing off the thick dregs of my cowboy coffee.

And it was just perfect for a birthday evening with friends. Fellow rightsizer and all-around close buddy Michelle brought Zinnia, the wee one Darcie and Willow had been watching two mornings a week for the first half of the school year. Fellow ex-suburban Jew Lynn came, too, though without her own frail child, preferring instead to relax and chat jobsearching while I jiggled Zinnia and dreamt of our impending second. We drank fine pinot grigio and cask-aged microwbrews, and shared vanilla ice cream over Port, toasted nutella-and-peanut-butter sandwiches fresh from the panini grill, and roughbread summer sausage munchies until the kids began to droop. You know you're old when everyone gets up to go home at 9:00 and no one says anything about how the night is young.

The festivities continued today with a nice sleep-in -- a true rarity once kids are in the picture, at least until the youngest is finally ready for summer camp season -- followed by a trip down to Northampton for a mocha almond buttercream cake and coffee with the in-law clan at Northampton Coffee, where Darcie's sis and professional barista Virginia expects to make manager within the year. Yet another too-short haircut with miracleman Patrick at Panacea afterwards (though I think we're getting closer to the ideal), a delicious breakfast-for-supper at tiny downhome CK's Cafe on the way home, and a lie-about making up stories for Willow in the dark, and I was off to brave the suddenly dry and bittercold winter air for another evening blogging and mp3-loading in the library.

And, finally, thanks to Michelle for the Remy Martin, to Matt and Alicia for new anti-kids CD Mary Had A Little Amp, to Willow for the card (and Grandma Patty for helping)...to all who left comments or cards yesterday...to my brother for calling...and especially to Darcie's parents for the Griffin iTalk, which adds voice recording and tin-speaker audio output functionality to the already-superb toolset that is iPod. Someday when I'm in the car driving home from my new job, shuffling my way through 20 gigs of randomness, Willow's sweet rendition of Happy Birthday will burst through the the car radio, and I'll remember this weekend with pleasure.

Oh, and a very special thanks go out to my parents for my very existence. It may be bumpy at times, and a bit unpredictable, but so far, I'm enjoying it thoroughly.

posted by boyhowdy | 9:43 PM | 40 comments

Friday, January 14, 2005

Happy Birthday To Me 

Just noticed it's technically the 14th already. Woo Hoo!

I was born exactly 32 years ago, a half hour before the Super Bowl kickoff, after a long labor in a hospital just outside Atlanta, Georgia.

I don't remember a damn thing about it, but according to the anecdotes, the doctor was pretty happy with my timing.

For my birthday, I wish that every visitor to my blog would leave a comment...

[Update 11:05 am: Wow, this is actually working! Thanks for all the comments -- keep 'em coming, folks! And if you're feeling really generous, how about checking in on some other bloggers born today?]

posted by boyhowdy | 1:41 AM | 24 comments

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Why I Hate Jerry Seinfeld 

Look, I'm a smart guy. For example, I use words like furthermore in actual conversation.

Furthermore, not knowing stuff bothers me. I'm one of those people who takes apart radios to see how they work. Never said I could put 'em back together afterwards, mind you. I just need to know. I insist on a world that makes sense.

And the stuff I most want to understand is culture. Institutional dynamics, behavioral phenomena, screen-to-mind connections -- the more complicated the better. I'd take brains apart like radios if it wasn't so messy and permanent. That's why I'm a professional synthesist -- someone who knows a bunch about everything, and helps others make connections between those disparate things.

And that's why I hate Jerry Seinfeld.

See, Seinfeldian humor depends on not knowing how the world works. The reason it's funny to say "Ever wondered why..." is because the behavior under discussion looks stupid on the surface. But unless you're making light of fictional phenomena, like Wonder Woman's invisible jet, surface appearances are funny if and only if you don't have a deep sense of how and why things tend to work.

Fair enough: surfaces often look stupid. But making fun of the surface of things isn't funny when your world naturally has depth. It's just annoying.

So when I get one of those stupid one-liner humor emails, a little voice in my head dissects it, like this:
1. Ever wonder about those people who spend $2.00 apiece on those little bottles of Evian water? Try spelling Evian backwards: NAIVE
Ever wonder about those people who spend 3 bucks on a box of mashed, dried wheat paste that costs a nickel to make? How about spending hundreds of dollars a year on sugar syrup, color, and more water. Unless you're an organic vegan, go back to your Crispix and Coke.

2. Isn't making a smoking section in a restaurant like making a peeing section in a swimming pool?
Only if the pool has a separate water and filter system for the peeing section.

3. OK.... so if the Jacksonville Jaguars are known as the "Jags" and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are known as the "Bucs," what does that make the Tennessee Titans?
The Tights. Nicknames are based on sound, not spelling. Can't you hear?

4. If 4 out of 5 people SUFFER from diarrhea...does that mean that one enjoys it?
Well, he could be a Buddhist. Or he could just not have it.


6. If people from Poland are called Poles, why aren't people from Holland called Holes?
See above. They'd be called Hols, pronounced "hall." Unless you pronounce that first one "Paul-land."


9. Why do croutons come in airtight packages? Aren't they just stale bread to begin with?
Nope. They're toasted bread, and crunchiness wanes -- humid air makes 'em soggy.

10. Why is a person who plays the piano called a pianist but a person who drives a racecar is not called a racist?
Because, by your own damn rules, he should only be called a carist (a pro who plays cars). No one calls them "racecars."

11. Why isn't the number 11 pronounced onety one?
Really, because names for numbers and other culturally-invented phenomenon mostly evolve to make for the most clarity, and the least potential confusion. But I'll tell you what: if you can tell me why onety one isn't followed by twoty two and threety three, I'll let you have this one.

12. If lawyers are disbarred and clergymen defrocked, doesn't it follow that electricians can be delighted, musicians denoted,cowboys deranged, models deposed, tree surgeons debarked, and dry cleaners depressed?
Argggh! I...Ahg. Envision your own three-page rant here: _______.

13. If Fed Ex and UPS were to merge, would they call it Fed UP?
Federal United Parcel? I significantly doubt it. (To be fair, I giggled at this one.) What about if Digital and IBM merged -- would they call it Cyberpoo (Digital BM)?

14. Do Lipton Tea employees take coffee breaks?
I didn't realize Lipton was the anti-coffee. Do tobacco farmers ever quit smoking?

15. What hair color do they put on the driver's licenses of bald men?


17. I thought about how mothers feed their babies with tiny little spoons and forks, so I wondered what do Chinese mothers use? toothpicks?
Yeah, which is why most Chinese babies have perforated lips. What are you, an idiot? I've never seen a tiny fork; the tiny spoons help you scrape the extra food off the chin and control portions.

18. Why do they put pictures of criminals up in the Post Office? What are we supposed to do, write to them? Why don't they just put their pictures on the postage stamps so the mailmen can look for them while they deliver the mail?
The Post Office is the only municipal building that most people enter (other than the DMV) on an even semi-regular basis. Obviously, the point of the pictures isn't for you to memorize the faces and go on a manhunt, but to say "hey, I know that guy!" If only mailmen were looking, there'd be much fewer people assisting in the search...plus mail delivery would suffer.

19. If it's true that we are here to help others, then what exactly are the others here for?
To help others, too. Oh, I'm sorry, were you planning to help everybody in the world all by yourself? Good luck with that.


21. Ever wonder what the speed of lightning would be if it didn't zigzag?
It would be slower, actually...or we'd all be dead. Think about it: lighting takes the path of least resistance, which is only straight in a vacuum.

22. If a cow laughed, would milk come out of her nose?
Hmm. When you laugh, does bile come out of yours? No? Then no.

23. Whatever happened to Preparations A through G?
They're for people suffering from Acne to Gout. H stands for Hemorrhoids, guys.

posted by boyhowdy | 10:42 PM | 2 comments

Long Time Gone 

Sorry about the unusually large timegap since the last post -- the rural New England universe has been hit by almost 48 hours of ice and snow, and we've been snug at home, netless, for the duration. Was nice to have some family time, though; managed to get Willow to bed sans spouse last night, so at least the New Years Resolutions seem to be moving apace.

At the mo I'm between meetings, on my way to the last of four career reorientation workshops (today we're scheduled to discuss interview strategies). I'll have some blogtime tonight during my library study hall shift, though. Almost finished with an odd half-post about Seinfeldian humor, and currently gnawing on a stick tossed by Jo of Counting Sheep, so expect this and perhaps other sundries later this evening.

posted by boyhowdy | 1:49 PM | 0 comments

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

More Fun With How You Got Here 

According to today's referrer stats, Not All Who Wander Are Lost is the tenth search result for both livejournal lost job website and make your drum corp not suck. Surely this means something...

Oh, and sorry about the drum corp suckage, dude. Wish I could help, but I'm looking for work full-time these days.

posted by boyhowdy | 1:45 AM | 0 comments

Monday Mashup: now with downloadable mp3s! 

I hear this year's AP psych professor is still talking up our towheaded genius, based on observations made by last Winter's class. And why not? Voraciously linguistic, sweetly empathic, our little problem-solver today asked Daddy, you have a little pimp hiding on your chin? It took forever to explain why I was laughing.

An especially eclectic radio show tonight, even for me. Read two of my own poems (Smoking Poetry, Winter Comes To Shadow Lake) on-air, and a gorgeous obscure old piece by Adam Sol called Seizure which would blow your mind, too, if only google could find it. Musically, we were all over the map -- a week's worth of mashups seem to have gone to my head, making any segue seem possible.

But then, anything is possible.

I felt the baby kicking for the first time last night.

And on Saturday, I cleaned the attic.

Anyway. As always, playlist follows. Enjoy the downloads!

Tributary 1/10/05

Skavoovie and the Epitones -- Fat Soul
Juliana Hatfield -- Live On Tomorrow
Thievery Corporation -- Lebanese Blonde
Beatles vs. Batman Theme -- To The Taxmobile!
They Might Be Giants -- Nightgown Of The Sullen Moon
Suzanne Vega -- Fat Man & Dancing Girl
Trey Anastasio -- Cayman Review

Timbuk 3 -- Born To Be Wild
XTC -- Making Plans For Nigel (mp3)
Toots & the Maytals w/ Willie Nelson -- Still Is Still Moving To Me
Crowded House vs. Snoop Dogg -- Return of the Weather Episode
Professor Longhair -- Big Chief
Wilco -- The Late Greats (mp3)
Mark Erelli -- Hollow Man

The Waifs -- London Still
Josh Ritter -- Kathleen
Peter Mulvey -- Oliver's Army
Richard Shindell -- Waist Deep In The Big Muddy
Los Lobos -- Peace
Kathryn Williams -- Spit On A Stranger (mp3)
John Mayer -- My Stupid Mouth

Sting -- Moon Over Bourbon Street (live!) (mp3)
Emmylou Harris w/ Dave Matthews -- My Antonia
Lizzie West -- Sometimes
Yo La Tengo -- Magnet
Crowded House -- Weather With You
Brooks Williams -- Yellow Hummingbird
Bela Fleck and the Flecktones -- Sunset Road

You've been listening to Tributary, your ten to midnight Monday night show here on WNMH 91.5 FM, serving Greenfield (MA), Brattleboro (VT), Keene (NH)...and you, wherever you are.

posted by boyhowdy | 1:01 AM | 0 comments

Monday, January 10, 2005

This one time? At band camp? On crack? 

It's Freedom from Chemical Dependency week again here at the ol' prep, and once again The School in its infinite wisdom has invited a bunch of ex-addicts in to regale students with a week's worth of anecdotes. If previous curricula are any indicator, at week's end most students will be left with at least one of the following impressions:
  • drug use is cool
  • drug use is a cultural rite of passage
  • drug use does no permanent damage
  • anyone can successfully overcome addiction
  • doing drugs for a significant portion of your life can lead to getting paid to spend your life telling stories to kids

Like all such acronymic assemby-fodder (DARE, anyone?), the FCD program is predicated on the premise that kids will see the dangers of addiction in both the stories and the storytellers, and extrapolate consequences for their own potential behavior. But the program runs without faculty input, and most kids don't see moral lessons in stories voluntarily. I suppose there is some good in having the finally-sober display the extent of their brain damage to kids on the edge -- a properly-coached adolescent may be able to observe such symptoms-to-watch-for as shallow thought, short attention spans, and other typical results of long-term chemical dependency -- I just think most kids are too captivated by the stories to see the residual permanence of these effects.

Incidentally, to those who have written in to acknowledge a recent shift in tone when discussing The School: no, I have not become more cynical now that my job will be ending in June. Like all institutions, this place has always been susceptible to stifled reasoning and PC stupidity. It's just that now I have nothing to lose in being honest about it.

posted by boyhowdy | 2:15 PM | 1 comments

Musical Notes 

1. Weekly radio show this evening from ten to midnight EST. Live stream not yet online. As always, however, new downloads will be included in the playlist, so stay tuned! (Any requests?)

2. In order to protect my legal ass and save server space, last week's downloads will go permanently offline later this evening. If you want 'em, get 'em quick!

3. Speaking of downloads, there are also some excellent mash-ups in paragraph 3 of yesterday's post on...um...mash-ups.

4. I still love my iPod. 3200 songs and counting! The ubiquity of white earbuds in the library has become a teaching and sharing opportunity; I've started showing students how to use theirs for data portage and network folder back-up. Musically speaking, I'm most enamored of the way the "shuffle" option spits out an appropriate (if odd) playlist no matter your mood. Is your iPod psychic, too?

posted by boyhowdy | 10:49 AM | 0 comments

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Digital Generation On Its Own, Say Schools 

According to CNN (Schools still trying to catch up with technology), this year's Department of Education report on technology in education, to be released Friday, will report that while student-level computer literacy continues to grow organically, teachers and students nationwide agree that teacher awareness and preparedness to utilize that technology in service to their pedagogy and curriculum continues to lag.

Computer literacy, of course, is skill-based. While basic computer literacy (how to use) is indeed an important foundation for 21st Century information literacy (how to access, evaluate, develop and design), the latter is not generally picked up outside of formal education and guidance infrastructures. It is teachers who turn computer skill into true literacy -- but they can only do so if they are literate themselves, and supported in teaching others to be literate.

Reading between DoE report lines and extrapolating ahead temporally, then, reveals a potential near-future universe in which most folks have plenty of skill, but little sense of judgement and/or appropriate application of that skill.

In other words: it should go without saying that schools which are not puting as much energy into Academic Technology (supporting teachers and students in making better and more enduring connections between tools and learning) as they are into Information Technology (making sure it works) will be the folks to blame if/when future technological development continues to be corporate-driven, poorly designed, and ergonomically silly.

It should also go without saying that most schools fall into this category, whether they realize it or not. Last I checked, the DoE was recommending that a minimum of 30% of school technology funds be spent on teacher training and professional development. On average, schools seem to be spending less than 10% on this, with most if not all of those dollars going to skill-training for administrative tasks such as email and database-based grading.

Of course, here at NMH, the only two full-time employees trained and paid to help students and teachers transform tech skills into true cyberliteracies have been fired "rightsized" effective June '05. I know, cause I'm one of 'em. Good luck with the learnin', kiddies.

posted by boyhowdy | 5:06 PM | 0 comments

And Speaking Of Mash-Ups... 

If you're like me -- and who isn't, really -- you occasionally hear one song's lyrics in the chord progressions of another. I've found myself singing "Back in the USSR" under my breath to the Nirvana in my headphones, for example. Once, on stage at the Boston Hard Rock Cafe with old-and-long-defunct Not Earthshaking, I brought a Monkees riff into the end of our hit, just to tickle the stagestruck bandmates a bit. This tendency towards internal mix-master playfulness seems to date back to the moment I realized that "Baa Baa Black Sheep," "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star," and "The Alphabet Song" have the same exact tune.

For years, I figured this love of mangled music was a rare and subjective phenomenon, though perhaps more common to those (like me) who spent their Jewish suburbanite adolescence attending weekend retreats wherein Jewish standard Adon Olam is sung to the latest pop tune. But in the new world of digital ownership and increasingly loose, individualized approaches to intellectual property, it should come as no surprise that the premise-in-question has emerged as an officially-titled new genre, the mash-up, complete with an aboveground-legitimizing feature in this week's New Yorker.

All seem to agree that the groundbreaking work of DJ Danger Mouse's Gray Album, while prototypical, wasn't much musically-speaking. But the genre's getting good as it builds. Current personal faves include Freelance Hellraiser's current gold-standard Strokes vs. Christina Aguilera mashup A Stroke of Genius, Go Home Productions' smooth Crowded House vs. Snoop mix, and two vastly different Destiny's Child mashups: the obviously-titled Smells Like Bootylicious and the equally obviously-titled Bootystition. Those interested in more will find download sites referenced in The New Yorker article a good place to begin; I'm also finding Mashmix a useful site for classics and newer releases alike.

In summary: given the way it serves the biases and headvoices of the post-millenium generation, expect the mashup to go far.

posted by boyhowdy | 2:15 PM | 0 comments

When It Snows, It Pours 

The second major snowstorm in a week kept us home yesterday. After a long unseasonably warm New England December, it seems like Winter is finally here to stay.

The cross-country trails were filled with laughing students, and the little white dog got lost up to her ears in the deep powder. Everytime the plow came through, she barked at the window like the devil was coming. But I hardly noticed. Instead, while Darcie and her two-year-old helped Willow sifted clothes into donate and keep piles, I spent the entire snowed-in Saturday in the attic listening to downloaded mash-ups with the headphones on, reorganizing years of accumulated stuff in anticipation of our impending move.

Yes, move.

After seven years in tiny apartments -- five in the dorm and then, just a year ago, in the once-attic of the old infirmary -- with only five months employment remaining here at NMH, we've finally managed to get our own little free-standing house all to ourselves. Ah, irony. Thy name is NMH.

Happily, the school will pay to move us, since we're claiming medical necessity. What with my herniated disk and Darcie's impending pregnancy, drygood groceries are starting to stack up in the car; the planned C-section in April would have put us in an untenable position, unable to carry our own children up our own stairs.

The neighborhood we're moving to is filled with children and a disproportionate number of other faculty recently "rightsized." There's a swingset just outside the wondow, and a wraparound porch for Spring. The dorms nearest the house are already closed up as part of of the three-year move towards a single campus. The house itself is small, but cozy, and will easily serve for the time we need.

The folks from the moving company are scheduled for the 31st, so expect more as we get closer. Added to the part-time paternity leave from March to June, I think this will be a healthy way to ease out of the institution with a minimum of fuss and bother. Darcie's bringing over some toilet paper this afternoon to make it all official.

posted by boyhowdy | 1:25 PM | 0 comments

Friday, January 07, 2005

Would You Hire This Man? 

The following post addresses my impending involuntary change of employment; newcomers unfamiliar with the relevant history might find some background reading (plus this, and, previously, this) interesting as well.

As part of their commitment to support the "future placement" of the 13 victims of this year's "rightsizing," The School has enrolled us in a four day, consultant-led curriculum in "career transition management."

It's hard to explain what this is like. It's kind of like being in school again, except with more crying and higher stakes. On the other hand, it's also kind of like a desperate group pity party without alcohol. During school hours. In the school guesthouse, which is about as far removed from the visible prep school community as one can be without actually being in a cave in the woods.

The experience thus far has been pretty much exactly what one would expect, in other words. Except somehow, so far it's been much more useful -- and fun -- than expected.

For example: our homework for today's workshop was to write a "30 Second Commercial" to use as an opening statement for interviews and networking opportunities both formal and casual. It was a pain in the ass to write, and turned out to be too long for a true commercial (but, at 80 seconds, just right for a cover letter). But it sure felt good to look down and see the final result:

I've been an educator for over twelve years, in a variety of settings from schools to museums. In this time, I have taught broadly across the curriculum, in subjects from History, Theater and English to Communications, Media and Technology, and built a reputation as a valuable partner and guide for teachers and students engaged in integrating technology and media literacies and skills into their teaching and learning.

In my seven years at NMH I helped the institution move beyond a skill-based technology education model, making it a nationally recognized, award-winning site for inclusion of technology into pedagogy and curriculum, transforming the old A/V department into a more mature, integrated locus for educational technology and media instruction, project development, innovation, and design. Two years ago, my expertise in offering engaging cutting-edge professional and in-house lectures and workshops led to my selection as lead teacher for a ten-day professional development workshop in Dhaka, Bangladesh; more recently, I was instrumental in the development of the infrastructure, service model, and schoolwide curricular integration of two new Library Information Commons.

Now that NMH is consolidating their resources, program, and enrollment in order to be more competitive with more traditional prep schools, I am taking this opportunity to find a teaching position in a forward-looking institution, one which will welcome my vocational commitment to media literacies as a cornerstone of modern education, and my strengths as a change agent, mentor, and teaching partner.

Would you hire this man? Heck, I would. Hard to believe that's me under all the bureaucraspeak, but it's the swear-to-G-d truth. And you should have seen what I had to cut out to make it fit!

As an added bonus, in order to better know how what strengths we have to sell, we've also taken the Meyers-Briggs personality test. Turns out I'm an ENTP, which -- though there are some other proximal types which are also appropriate (Make connections between events and information very quickly, and confidently proceed? Assuredly!) -- pretty much explains everything right there:
Quick, ingenious, stimulating, alert, and outspoken. Resourceful in solving new and challenging problems. Adept at generalizing conceptual possibilities and the analyzing them strategically. Good at reading other people. Bored by routine, will seldom do the same thing the same way, apt to turn to one new interest after another.

References available upon request.

posted by boyhowdy | 10:52 PM | 19 comments

Why You're Here 

From referrer statistics over at re-invigorate. Big Brother is watching you...

In addition, oodles of thanks go out to blogauthors who have sent traffic via their own blogroll. In the name of reciprocity, you really should go visit the Tao-literate Seeking Clarity, old hometown mp3blogger Counting Sheep, awardwinning (we hope) "lefty Jewish blogger" Rachel of Velveteen Rabbi, and of course the ubiquitous and everscintillating Anne over at Muddyblog. That thud you hear is the breastbeating of a man who hasn't updated his own blogroll in over a year; one hopes these meager backlinks will suffice for the short term.

posted by boyhowdy | 10:08 AM | 3 comments

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Snow Daze 

Woke up to the first real snowfall of the year: classes cancelled and a "non-essential staff only" ruling down from above. For a while there, it looked like a day with the snow angel herself, new pink boots and old fashioned runner sled.

Alas, 'twas not to be.

Back when we lived in the dorm, a snow day meant semi-passive supervision; when we left the dorm for peripheral campus housing, I was led to expect that out of sight meant out of touch.

Since then, however, a change in administration has brought an unanticipated change in expectations. Apparently, as the only library staff in on-campus housing, a snow day for students means a long, boring keep-the-place-humming day for me. Meanwhile, the remainder of my otherwise-working peers -- teachers and librarians alike -- stay home snug in their beds.

Now, six inches of powder later, the snow has turned to ice, and the roads grow slick. It'll be a long, dark walk home when my twelve hour shift has ended. It's a gloomy proposition, but it looks as if, from now on, I'll work longer on snow days than otherwise.

Is adulthood, then, to be defined as a time in one's life when a snow day is more bother than boon? When weather brings hardship, not adventure? Pbbbt. How disappointing. I demand equal sledding time, damnit.

posted by boyhowdy | 1:37 PM | 2 comments

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Unplanned Parenthood? 

Hangin' with Mr. Condom.

Consumer Reports: free condoms given out by Planned Parenthood have the worst performance rating...when inflated with air. ("You end up with a balloon 3 feet tall and a foot wide. They can really stretch an amazing amount.")

I'd write something funny in response, but how to choose? The potential for hilarity seems endless. Especially in an article which includes both the quote above and the phrase "did not burst despite vigorous testing."

Bonus: while PP makes several kinds of condoms -- all of which performed poorly when tested -- the ones in question are melon colored. Hence the product name: Planned Parenthood Honeydew. Honey? Dew? Leave your own humorous responses in the comments below.

posted by boyhowdy | 10:41 AM | 1 comments

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

The Unproven Beliefs Of People Much Smarter Than You 

Q. What do you get when you ask 120 of the brightest, most creative scientific thinkers and futurists in the universe "What do you believe is true even though you cannot prove it?"

A. 60,000 of the most fascinating words ever written.

Kudos to "literary agent and online provocateur John Brockman" of The World Question Center for keeping us all on our toes since 1998. Don't miss the archives!

posted by boyhowdy | 9:51 PM | 1 comments

Media Milestone: Eisner Dead At 87 

Sad news today: comic legend Will Eisner died last night due to complications from heart surgery. He was 87, and had been publishing comics since 1936. Moment of silence follows:

Through sharp shadows of pen and ink and a vast array of finely etched characters, Eisner, whose revolutionary 1978 A Contract With God and Other Tenement Stories is generally acknowledged as the first true modern graphic novel, was a seminal player in bringing the realization of comics as a serious medium to the world of publishers and readers alike. And Eisner was still working; his final graphic novel, The Plot, is due to be released later this year.

posted by boyhowdy | 3:42 PM | 1 comments

What A Difference An "E" Makes 

Surely there's nothing funny about the growing Asian post-tsunami crisis. Happily, though our international population was home on break during the past few weeks, all students under our collective care are healthy and accounted for. Unhappily, their privilege and safety only underscores a growing death toll that is estimated to exceed 150,000.

Nonetheless, the pop culture mind can't help but snigger when the Boston Globe's top headline reads Ex-presidents to lead aid effort. Am I the only one picturing X-President Bush, Sr. swooping down from the skies to deliver bad puns and sandwiches to all? Doesn't anyone at the Globe watch Saturday Night Live? Damn one of us, anyway, for inadvertently trivializing the worst natural disaster in a lifetime. If nothing else, it's a good reminder that cultural context always counts.

[Update 2:23 pm: X-presidents pic removed out of respect. Those interested in seeing the possibly-Smigel-authorized comic cover image will find it here.]

posted by boyhowdy | 1:51 PM | 0 comments

Monday, January 03, 2005

Virtual Radio Show...Almost 

Rain in the middle of January, almost too slick for the busses fat with returning students, their new christmas sweaters held close to their soggy bodies as they sprinted the pathways to their homes away from home. On the bright side, that meant plenty of listeners for the first radio show of the year, and happily, I was ready.

Or so I thought.

Digital technology came to Tributary with a vengance since holiday break:

1. Weekly posted playlists will now include no less than two downloadable songs, in mp3 format wherever possible, and in m4a format when otherwise unavailable.
[The usual disclaimer applies, of course: music made available herein will remain up for one week or less, and is intended for preview purposes only. Buy music so that artists may simply live!]

2. I played the whole show off the iPod, which was so much more convenient than those dual CD decks.

3. Theoretically, the show was being simulcast live here. I even advertised, both blog-wise (see now-made-irrelevant blogpost immediately below) and on the school bulletin board. In reality, however, this was a total false alarm -- all that was broadcast was the autofeed from the school computer, which plays when no one is in the studio. Sorry for the premature notification, folks -- I'm told we have to have an all-DJ playlist discussion before going live with the stream, but hope to prod the student board of directors to get the thing up and running by next week or so.

But three new technologies, one glitch isn't such a bad ratio, really. Here's hoping we'll get a three-fer next week. Until then, it was just great to have the studio back to myself again, student callers streaming in like rain.

As always, playlist follows. Right click and save redlined links for iPod-flava files.

Tributary 1/3/05

Skavoovie and the Epitones -- Fat Soul
Cake -- Wheels
Guster -- I Spy
Badly Drawn Boy -- Once Around the Block
Sesame Street Monsters -- Ma Nah Ma Nah
Donna The Buffalo -- Front Porch
Los Lobos -- That Train Don't Stop Here Anymore
G. Love and Special Sauce w/ Jack Johnson -- Rodeo Clowns
Oysterhead -- Oz Is Ever Floating

Moxy Fruvous -- King Of Spain
Keller Williams -- Breathe
John Mayer -- No Such Thing
Peter Mulvey -- The Ocean
Nellie McKay -- David
Piero Umiliani -- Mah Na Mah Na

Phish -- Glide
Barenaked Ladies -- Jane
Ryan Adams -- Wonderwall
Shawn Colvin -- Every Little Thing He Does Is Magic
Rhonda Vincent -- Bananaphone
Eddie From Ohio -- If I Had A Boat (live)
Mark Erelli -- Troubadour Blues

Cake -- Mah Na Mah Na
Wilco -- Hummingbird
The Waifs -- London Still
Da Vinci's Notebook -- Traffic Jam
Tim O'Brien -- Man Gave Names To All The Animals
Juliana Hatfield -- Live On Tomorrow
Hayseed Dixie -- Highway To Hell
Nick Drake -- Pink Moon

Ah....what a difference a year makes. You've been listening to Tributary, your ten to midnight Monday night show here on WNMH 91.5 fm, serving three states, two campuses, and one school. Enjoy the downloads, folks. We'll try the stream again next week.

posted by boyhowdy | 9:54 PM | 6 comments

Quick! Ack! 

[Update 12:04 a.m. 1/4/05: My apologies if anyone tried to listen. Turns out we're not yet cleared for takeoff. The link below can (and should) be used to access the school auto-stream, but there remains some concern about student DJs and appropriate behavior which a quick group discussion (in re: expectations) should fix. Next week, perhaps...]


Turns out they're now streaming the radio station. My show is on Mondays from ten to midnight, so let's get the lead out, folks!

Playlist will, as always, be posted around midnight. In addition to live-streaming, I will also be posting an mp3 or two from each show, starting tonight. Enjoy the audioblogging!

posted by boyhowdy | 8:41 PM | 1 comments

Daddy Day 

Some days are just electrifying.

The spouse had some design work to do for the previously ranted-about Dwight Night semi-formal today, and the in-laws cancelled their trip north due to impending freezing rain, so we didn't need to dog-sit. Who better to spend the last day of vacation with than the two-year wonder?

Which is how, after a long discussion on why it wasn't okay to go out dressed only in one of my old tee-shirts, the two year old and I headed out for the nearby indoor butterfly gardens, a year-round oasis of warm humid foliage in the midst of an as-yet almost snowless winter...and our traditional father-daughter adventure spot. Highlights of the day included a momentary yellow butterfly clinging to the bright red apple on her sweatshirt front, huge burgers and softserve cones in the snack shop, and plenty of snuggles.

Best for both of us, though, was the fat six-inch walking stick, brown skin and tiny green spines, left clinging to my hands while the "flight attendant" wandered off, leaving me to play docent to a shimmering crowd of the short and small, each braver than the last.

Funny how you can go to bed one night sure that your career is on the right path, and find yourself up too late the next night, wondering why you ever left that Fellowship at the Museum of Science in Boston.

Funny how much I miss being the center of attention, the lab-coated expert, the autograph-signing "lightning guy" with all the cool toys -- yes, that's me in the cage, circa 1995 -- prized for my verbosity and eagerness instead of reviled for it as I have been much of the time here.

And wasn't it nice to have a place to go every day where you could, say, decide to spend the morning walk around with a Madagascan Hissing Cockroach on my lapel all day and show it off, and that was the point? Or putting vaseline-coated skewers through balloons without popping them just so people would demand an explanation? Or smashing frozen tennis balls with a sledgehammer in front of a hundred scouts?

I know I promised no real resolutions, but maybe it would be worth keeping museum education on the possibility plate when reentering the world of the workplace over the next few months. Sure would beat the drudgery I'm looking at for the week ahead, that's for sure.

posted by boyhowdy | 1:39 AM | 3 comments

Saturday, January 01, 2005

Resolved...Sort Of 

Let's face it: it's going to be a big, big year for me, what with the impending kid, forced job loss, and subsequent need for relocation. Given that, I'm setting the bar low for resolutions this year. Here's some realistic, realizable self-commitments for the coming months.
  1. I will smoke slightly less, make several halfhearted attempts to quit, and feel guilty about it.

  2. I will try to put Willow to bed one night a week, as requested. However, I will put her in charge of reminding me.

  3. I will return library books on time, or at least take that crucial first step of putting them in the car when they are due.

  4. I will eat at least one marginally healthy food item per day.

  5. I will not get addicted to more than 5 new technologies. On second thought, better call it ten, just in case.

  6. I will blog a minimum of seven times a week, though it may mean overblogging on Fridays to catch up.

  7. Similarly, I will not update my blog so many times a day that the better entries remain predominantly unread, unless I am really, really bored.

  8. When the new baby is born in April, I will remain in hospital with my wife for at least half of every day.

  9. I will arrive on time for work for at least the first month of my new job, when I get one.

  10. I will make shorter lists wherever possible.

There. I don't see what the big deal is about these -- never have. Incidentally, if you, too, want to feel pressured to make real resolutions this year, start with the 100+ list of other blogger resolutions up at technorati. (Thanks to daddyblogger The Zero Boss for the link!)

posted by boyhowdy | 10:12 PM | 39 comments

More Willowisms 

Me: Anybody seen my shoes?
Her: No thanks, Daddy. I don't want to see your shoes.

posted by boyhowdy | 9:29 PM | 0 comments

Parents, Bookmark This! 

Now playing...

In implementing 2005 project Kiddie Records Weekly, the folks at Basic Hip Digital Oddio will digitize-for-download one classic children’s record every week this year, with the entire project taken from "…the golden age of children’s records," defined here as "a period which ran from the mid 1940s into the early 1950s."

Thanks to Mp3blogger cb of the of mirror eye for the reportage, plus a reminder that only the dedicated will have eventual access to the full set of 52 mp3s:

You’ll be able to access a low quality audio stream throughout the whole process, but you’ll only be able to d/l a high quality mp3 during the week that the record is featured. Awesome!

Indeed. Those (like myself) who tend to keep a kiddie playlist on the iPod would be well advised to bookmark Basic Hip project Kiddie Records Weekly, and add upcoming downloads to their calendars. Similarly, those (like myself) enamored of kiddie kitsch from years past would be well advised to do the same. To help in your planning, the site lists three months worth of future weekly features.

posted by boyhowdy | 8:30 PM | 0 comments

2005, So Far 

Our second child will be born this year. Soon afterwards, I'll find a new job, a new home, a new community for my newly embiggened family. And maybe, finally, this will be the year I'll be able to afford a haircut, and a shave, on a regular basis.

God willing, of course.

Much on my mind last night, celebrating the passage of time writ large up in Newfane for the third time in four years. Good company and surroundings in which to ponder, too: old friends and new warm by the fire, shrimp and other high-class munchies, an open bar and a keg of Long Trail, a sugarhouse bed to crash in when the long day was finally done. The night (and wee hours) in review, and in order:
  • First Drink of 2005: Champagne. The good stuff.

  • First TV Program of 2005: South Park marathon on Comedy Central.

  • First Sandwich of 2005: Black Forest ham, sandwich pickle, brie on white.

  • Second Drink of 2005: Beer.

  • First house pool champion of 2005: Me.

  • Best New Years post-midnight one-liner of 2005: "Hey, lets get out our checks and start practicing!"

  • First late-night, just-before-bed dog walk of 2005: 2:48 a.m.

  • Best moment of the first wee-hours of 2005: That bright, solitary shooting star shimmering through the fog just before bed.

Also, what morning would be complete without the first hangover of 2005, nipped in the bud by eggs, sausage patties, thick-sliced bacon, coffee and mimosas? I'm cautious, but tempted, to take this all as a positive sign.

posted by boyhowdy | 7:34 PM | 0 comments

Thursday, December 30, 2004

Miscellanous Thursday 

Been pocketblogging all day on walletscraps, mostly old ATM receipts. Here's the good stuff.

Ultrasound again today -- no concerns, just another look at doctor's request. Now we know, and we're not telling. 13 weeks to go as of tomorrow; if the baby's continued pelvis-kicking under the ultrasound is any indication, it can't wait to join the family.

Spent an hour before supper with big-sis-to-be Willow teaching stuffed bear Wose to play a toy piano, another quietly frustrating hour afterwards stomping on bubble wrap. How wonderfully the ravages of ADD hyperfocus match the fickle hours of toddler-task dedication.

In more bloggish news, the blog redesign continues. Most notably, in the next few days the now barely-beta about boyhowdy section is destined to become a major work, almost a companion reference to the blog itself. Main page may include paragraphs on schooling, vocation, work, personal philosophies and beliefs, a personal chronology a la kottke, and a cast of characters cheatsheet; sidebar will likely include currently reading/watching/listening to, links to past blogentries which explore selfhood, and a clean way back to the blog. Pix may be included where relevant. Come see about me!

Other blogtweaks include plans ahead for some regular features.
  • As a payback for the gifts and gab of the growing universe of Mp3blogs, have tentatively decided to begin posting an otherwise unavailable mp3 each week as part of the Monday night Tributary radio show post. Tune in Monday at midnight for the first of these. Requests gladly considered from past playlists.

  • Also considering a separate Monday Mosh blog -- seems a shame to waste the jammin' Willow masthead.

Still on holiday 'till Tuesday. Expect blogging to continue in the parenting-and-blogdesign vein until the boarding students return on Monday night, just in time for the all-new, partially downloadable Tributary.

posted by boyhowdy | 6:33 PM | 1 comments

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Little Wanderer 

The kid likes to wander, too. With impunity, with purpose, so far mostly by our sides. She's been chased bareassed into stagefront crowds, lost boots in snowbanks. Sometimes, she's hard to catch, slippery, like any toddler. Makes me proud.

She walks plenty, of course. But her little girl legs are short and tire easily; she still accepts the indignity of the walkabout stroller for mallwalks and sidewalk window-wanders. In warmer, longer days my mother comes on Tuesdays to push Willow past the Easter Egg tree to the little beachfront along the pond. Frogs serenade her there. Tiny fish nibble her toes.

The stroller was no match for our yearly round of folk festivals; camped in pathless fields all summer, the wagon was our saving grace. But not just any wagon -- a hayride for one and a friend, fat tires beneath, red wooden slats three high all around. On Halloween we stuffed it full of hay and pumpkins, dog and orange-suited child, made the rounds as a pumpkin patch.

Now, winter brings in the old fashioned sled bought secondhand, wood runners on thin rusty trailing rods. Last year it was the only way to Christmas Vespers in the snowstorm; this year the snow has been light, burns off in after-midnight fog. But there was enough left in the meadow today for a pull and slide, the dog dashing alongside, all of us, laughing all the way.

Too soon, I know, everything will change: new job, new community, new home. In days, the outplacement workshops begin, a new lame-duck worklife punctuated by resumes and hail mary curricular handoffs. For now, as the year turns around again, I am blessed by the present, our long holiday together unbroken by commitments outside the home. And in the long run, it's good to know she'll be there, a happy wanderer, by my side.

posted by boyhowdy | 9:20 PM | 0 comments

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Beta Testing 

Yep. Seems okay.

Welcome to the newly redesigned Not All Who Wander Are Lost. What do you think?

Late lunch down at semi-fancy Chandlers this afternoon, since Mom was buying -- she's usually up Tuesday afternoons for toddlercare, and we figured it would be nice to have a few hours to ourselves after a full week solo-kidding it in Florida and, subsequently, through the holidays themselves.

Mom even brought sister Sarah, on the eve of her return to dog dissection -- she's a Vet student; next term they get to dissect a horse. The two of us wandered the Yankee Candle flaship store together, marveling at kitsch and on-sale Christmas while the others waited for the table.

Back home postprandial, Mom and Sarah watched the cutiepie while the wife and I went off to our respective offices. Reportedly, Darcie got caught up with email.

And I published this, the beta version of the redesign. And, since then, I've republished it at least a dozen times more. Damn fidgety ADD.

I'd write more, but my brain hurts from two straight days of blog overhaul, and the wine at lunch didn't help. Back to my usual scintillating self soon, surely. Until then, enjoy critiquing the eye-candy. There's better stuff below, I promise.

posted by boyhowdy | 11:59 PM | 4 comments

Blogging Service 

Yet another nifty idea out of BloggerCon3, this one a clear demonstration of how blogging has taken in the cyberthink potlatch mentality originally attributed to the communards of the WELL way back when the web was new. And so simple, it speaks for itself:
Bloggercorps is a blog. No office. No admin. No fund-raising. No funds. No staff. No meetings. It will evolve organically based on the needs of the people who wind up using it:

- The authors (a wide-ranging group comprised mainly of bloggers, activists, and tech organizations who work with non-profits) will post announcements on behalf of organizations who need help starting blogs or building blogging communities.

- The posts will be categorized according to the organization's geographical location, and in some cases its main focus issue.

- Bloggers interested in helping that particular organization can express their interest in the comments section attached to that post.

- The organization will then decide which of the volunteers it wants to follow up with.

- All arrangements will be made directly between organizations and bloggers. Bloggercorps will not mediate.

Back in 1993, I was saved from being just another college dropout sullenly inhabiting my parents' basement by City Year, the pre-Americorps "Urban Peace Corps" out of Boston. Since then, I've taught, tutored, and invested in community service -- first via local elementary schools, later through my advisees, dorm, and assigned house here at the prep school.

For me, the comradeship and peer learning of these situations has always been an essential aspect of their success -- and, more, of my ability as service-giver to commit to their success. Yeah, I know it's not all about me; what I mean is, I'm a people person. My talent is in teaching. My own recent two day hairtearing redesign session tells me I'm not the best person to make blogs for other people.

On the plus side, I love the idea. I love, especially, that Bloggercorps is nonpartisan -- which provides the opportunity for people to commit to service for their own resons, and to look for a good match of ideals between volunteer and org-in-need.

And maybe it's time I started volunteering again.

So I'm bookmarking Bloggercorps. I may not the best or brightest, but I'm willing to look regularly, keep an eye out for someone I can really help. Why not join me? I mean, heck: it's the blogger way.

posted by boyhowdy | 11:09 PM | 0 comments

Monday, December 27, 2004


Spent the day OCD-ing in Photoshop. Result: new blogdesign. Comments welcome.

To be fair, the navigation bar featuring a jamming Willow was much cooler, albeit not as thematic. Pity.

posted by boyhowdy | 10:49 PM | 5 comments

Sunday, December 26, 2004

No "L" 

Remember how at the end of A Christmas Story, the family has to go out for Chinese -- because the neighbor's dogs stole the turkey, a hilarious slapstick montage -- and the waiters all sing around the table: fa wa wra wra wra, wra wra wra wra?

My daughter sounds like that at Christmas. She's so merry and bright, it's hard not to giggle everytime she opened a present and cried "WOOK, daddy!"

She got some neat and WOOKworthy stuff, to be sure. As the sole member of her generation, Willow was pampered in style for (knock wood) her final Christmas: dolls with full wardrobes and a trunk to keep 'em in; books galore; a fluffy flamingo marionette which, once used, becomes impossible to untangle; the dolly crib Papa Neil gave Aunt Ginny when she was little.

Also cool, right off my own amazon.com wishlist, Songs From The Street, a 3-disk set of great musical moments throughout Sesame Street History which really is "the ultimate Sesame Street music collection" -- one surely appearing on an iPod near me sometime soon.

Other good gots this year:
Matt (the wife's sister's husband, for those keeping track) got an mp3 player from Patty and Neil (wife's parents) -- nominally for law school lecture-taping, but the prevalence of iPods was too tempting, so we ended up in a mad music-pirating three-way with Darcie's brother, Josh for most of the afternoon.

Except I'm an idiot and forgot to bump the 2 gigs of stored data from iPod to home hard drive before adding them to the library and updating the iPod, so I just spent the last hour deleting, adding, retagging, and updating to avoid having 2 gigs worth of redundancy on this just-half-full audiopill.

I was going to write more -- breakfast this morning with Alicia, Matt, in-laws and co. at the good diner in Brattleboro, backblogs (and photos!) from Florida, progress on the impending Not All Who Wander Are Lost design overhaul coming this New Years to a blog near you. But it's snowing perfect packed powder out there, and I want to be able to get the car through it; better to leave the warm deserted library lab now, and avoid having to crash in the stacks for the night.

In honor of the snow, here's a link to Womenfolk, where today you can download a free mp3 of Fiona Apple singing Frosty the Snowman. Really. Enjoy, folks. Happy Howidays.

posted by boyhowdy | 8:37 PM | 1 comments

Saturday, December 25, 2004

Merry Christmas, Bloggiverse! 

Not All Who Wander Are Lost is closed for Christmas with the family-in-law. Hope your holiday weekend is equally merry. Tune in tomorrow for this year's giftlist-slash-report.

Drive safe if you're driving, party hard if you're not, but above all, bundle up -- it's a cold one this year!

Comprehensive blog redesign ETA: 6 days and counting...

posted by boyhowdy | 11:21 PM | 23 comments

Friday, December 24, 2004

The iPod Meme 

I've put the last of the CDs on, added those digital files I've been dragging around on various network harddrives, hit the best of the mp3blogs. (Also bought one song off the iTunes online Music Store 'cause it was stuck in my head -- damn you, John Mayer!) Total storage is up to 8.99 gigs, which works out to around 2389 songs, give or take a few long-play readalouds and a couple of hour long episodes of etown.

So I guess we're ready to meme.

The challenge: hit shuffle, and report the first ten songs that pop up. No cheating, by which I assume we mean hiding songs that mark you as audiolame. Here's the results:
  1. Theme from the Black Hole -- George Clinton (funk)

  2. Sweetest Song -- Salamander Crossing (bluegrass)

  3. River Road -- Mark Erelli (folk)

  4. Mother Nature's Son -- Jason Falkner (children's music / alternative)

  5. One Little Song -- Gillian Welch (neo-americana)

  6. Cassidy -- Grateful Dead (jam)

  7. More Love -- Dixie Chicks (country)

  8. Sally Ann -- Natalie Merchant (neo-americana)

  9. Horses -- The Be Good Tanyas (canadian folk)

  10. Last Fair Deal Gone Down -- Crooked Still (bluegrass / neo-americana)

  11. Hey Rose -- Girlyman (queerfolk)
Immediately followed by Dave Carter, Barenaked Ladies, Phish, Chris Smither, Sarah Harmer, Guster, and Los Lobos, in that order.

Not bad, if I do say so myself, though I guess I expected more alternapop in the mix -- maybe a little less bluegrass, more De La Soul, TMBG, Ani Difranco, that kind of stuff. And it's just dumb luck that Willow's car-ride kiddie albums didn't crop up.

And speaking of the not-for-shuffle genres: does the holiday playlist stay or go post-Christmas?

posted by boyhowdy | 11:46 PM | 3 comments

Happy Happy, Joy Joy 

A long day of present-wrapping in anticipation of tomorrow's umpteenth annual tree-side congegation at the in-laws. Though the population in attendance has grown over the years, the occasion will likely remain the same. Expect reports of a silly present-passing game, two hours of ceremonious presentation and all-eyes-upon-me gift-opening, copious brown supermarket bags of folded wrapping paper, some sort of ham, waffles.

Tonight, though, a nice supper: candles, wine glasses, red tablecloth and all. Christmas carols played softly, from iPod to radio, as we said the shabbat blessings; the wine was really grape juice, more palatable for the pregnant and the toddler both.

But the true meaning of Christmas Eve, for us, is personal, not religious.

Nine years ago tonight, sans reservation, I went out with this girl I'd been living with since long before we dropped out of college together. After a cold half hour in a half-broken car we stumbled into Keene, and a now-defunct dark-lit fancy restaurant. It was the only place we could find on Christmas Eve.

We shared a plate of warm gingerbread and a glass of red wine; I asked for her hand in marriage.

She said yes.

Back home, her parents reception was lukewarm, obligatory, tired, intent as they were on finishing their present-wrapping and getting the heck to bed. We kissed goodnight, snuggled for a while by the soapstone stove, eventually

Eventually, she went up to her bedroom, where I wasn't allowed. As I had in the past, I played solitaire 'til two and crashed in the sewing room on the pull-out bed.

Next morning, while pancakes burned and Darcie's siblings waited under the tree, I soiled the sheets, sick from the gingerbread. My first Christmas, and hardly an auspicious beginning.

Since then, a whirlwind of years have passed. I've gone from being the newbie to the old pro, as we welcomed first Josh's partner Clay, oft joined at table and hearth by Father Fred and Brother Justin, and then Matt, now in his first year as Husband to ex-Winter Carnival Queen Alicia. In the past two years we've taken on new roles, moving from daughter to Mommy, from Patty to Grandma, as Willow stretches the comfort zone, making tighter relations of us all.

As the family grows, we grow together. The tree still towers over the widening girth of the family giving circle, but the ornaments have grown familiar, the faces comfortable. I'm a Jew at his family Christmas, and I love it.

But no gingerbread for me, thanks.

posted by boyhowdy | 9:45 PM | 0 comments

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Poor Sick Baby 

She's been a healthy kid, almost superhumanly so; when the doctor asks if she's been sick much, we laugh heartily, though it makes us feel guilty somehow -- how did we get so lucky? More, she recovers quickly from trauma, proudly showing off her catscratches to supermarket strangers, admiring her bruises under the bathbubbles.

So I'm unprepared to come home from the LAN to find her happily ogling a slightly over-religious holiday concert special -- the type they'd only show at 2 a.m., but then again, it is 2 a.m. She's thrown up several times, each slightly more expected than the last. She seems otherwise her usual, robust highness, but lies awake waiting to be sick again

It's tempting to find cause in the taxation of a perfectly gleeful evening. Pickles and chocolate-covered pretzels and a man she made out of cheese for supper; a long bath in a cold bathroom that smells strongly of catbox; snow angels in the dry, frigid moonlight wearing nothing but footed pajamas under snowsuit and linerless boots.

Her mother lies by her side, exhausted as only the pregnant can be. The room smells like vomit. Their sleep schedules will be off for days.

I'd do it again in a heartbeat.

She'll toughen. You can never have enough glee.

posted by boyhowdy | 11:33 PM | 1 comments

Wednesday, December 22, 2004


We're back...

Florida was cold and mostly rainy. The remnants of four hurricanes have left the place a blue tarp covered shambles; busted signage made visual ghettos of even the most tony neighborhoods. A commuter train seems to have moved into what, last year, was a quietly reconstructed 1920s cubanesque suburban neighborhood.

But we're not beach people (though we did go -- once just me and the kid, laughing into the waves as they lapped up our knees, and then all three of us the following morning). We're used to sleeping through coyote howls, mournful in the moonlight. We go to Florida for the attractions and the family, both of which were still standing -- happily, they seem to have rounded up the escaped zoo animals, or at least gotten replacements.

We did manage to make it in short sleeves most days. But, really, it could have snowed there and I'd still have been blessed. A movie in an actual theater? Five days without thinking about the impending job search? Heaven, worth even a day's indirect flight with a toddler.

Plenty of photos and scrawls await transcription for future viewing pleasure. For now, it's enough to have been there.

posted by boyhowdy | 8:24 PM | 1 comments
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