Monday, February 07, 2005

It's The Magic Number 

Another week, another live-from-the-basement broadcast of tributary, your ten to midnight Monday night show here on WNMH 91.5 fm. Yeah, most of you can't hear it, though we hope to change that pretty soon -- but that's why I've started posting 3 or more mp3s every week, hot off the playlist.

And speaking of three, to get ready: I got such a great response last week starting the show with a theme (3 calls in the first three songs!) that I decided to run another theme for the first half hour tonight. See if you can guess what it is.

Oh, I know this isn't my usual poetic playlist lead-in. Apologies for those who might miss the prose, but I've been jobshopping almost full-time all week, in addition to my usual more-than-fulltime frenetic vocational activity, and I'm feeling a bit disinclined towards the creative. So...

Playlist follows. Enjoy the free music!


Tributary 2/7/05

De La Soul -- Magic Number mp3!
Jack Johnson -- The 3 R's
The Waifs -- Three Down
John Mayer -- 3x5
Indigo Girls -- Three Hits
The Selector -- Three Minute Hero
Bela Fleck -- Three Part Invention No. 15

Los Lonely Boys -- Heaven
Johnny Cash -- Won't Back Down
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers -- Billy The Kid
Ray LaMontagne -- Trouble mp3!
Billy Bragg & Wilco -- Stetson Kennedy mp3!
Ryan Adams -- Desire

Kid Lightning and Nina Gordon -- One More Night
Phish -- Dinner and a Movie
Negativland -- Yellow Black and Rectangular
*The Grascals w/ Dolly Parton -- Viva Las Vegas mp3!
Patty Griffin -- You Never Get What You Want
Willie Nelson -- Time After Time
**Shivaree -- Goodnight Moon mp3!

The Residents -- This Is A Man's World mp3!
Mindy Smith -- It's Amazing
Jeffrey Foucault -- Mayfly
Peter Mulvey -- Shirt
Randy Newman -- Short People
Marc Cohn -- Mama's In The Moon
James Taylor -- You Can Close Your Eyes

You've been listening to tributary, a weekly live radio show serving the Brattleboro (VT), Keene (NH), and Greenfield (MA) region. Mp3s are provided solely for preview and promotional purposes, and as such will be removed next week -- so get 'em while they're hot!


And now, some guilt-assuaging credit where credit is due:

*Thanks to Craig of mp3 blog extraordinaire songs:illinois for turning me on to The Grascals...and for making the mp3 available in the first place. Get yer butt over to Craig's place for one more Grascals tune, and stick around for a holy host of wonderfully eclectic music, with new songs posted often enough to burst a 20 gig iPod.


**Similarly, thanks to Womenfolk, the song blog dedicated to Women in music, for introducing me to Shivaree and passing Goodnight Moon along long before I started hearing it on that other local radio station. Womenfolk posts weekly, but every one's a gem and a half. For example, today's post offers up four new and varied coversongs, and you know how much I like covers...

Sadly, though I'm trying to become a more organized guy these days -- and you better believe trying to successfully jobsearch helps the process -- several other mp3s above, and posted in past weeks, were taken from mp3 blogs now misplaced. If you believe you deserve credit and trackbacks, please let me know!

posted by boyhowdy | 9:24 PM | 2 comments

Sunday, February 06, 2005

One Day Left... 

To download this week's plethora of mp3s! Stay tuned for another playlist-with-downloads of Tributary, your ten to midnight Monday radio show here on WNMH 91.5 fm, to be posted tomorrow night at midnight. From funk to folk, from jazz to jambands, from blues to bluegrass, and everything in between...

posted by boyhowdy | 4:46 PM | 0 comments


Revisiting Students and Free Speech (Again, As Pulled From Comments) 

Is there a term for "a piece written in or as a comment to a blog entry which is then formalized and posted top-tier, as a new blog-entry revisiting the original topic?" Well, there should be. Until then, today's title will have to do.

Matt responds to my own thoughts on BoingBoing's response to an AP story addressing recent data on the changing perception of First Amendment issues among high school students. Says Matt:

And yet 83% of kids polled think people should be able to express unpopular views, as opposed to nearly a hundred percent of their teachers and principals. This is really horrifying to me. What the hell is going on with my generation?

As a conservative, I have an answer to this, but it's not one people like to hear. Especially teachers.

What I believe is changing is that schools, and the culture at large, are actually educating kids to believe that there are indeed some kinds of views which are not at all acceptable to express -- regardless of whether students happen to hold those views or not. I think we're not making a clear distinction between school-based acceptability and generall, legally-protected allowance of expression for these ideas. Further, I believe that most, if not all, of this change springs from the way we handle the diversity/multicultural curriculum, whether we're talking about an explicit curriculum or merely just the standards for acceptability held by the culture and passed along to the rising generation through its primary socializing tools a) the mass media, and b) schools.

For example, students in most schools I know of are being told through curriculum and socialization activities that it is no longer acceptable to believe that homosexuality is "wrong," or that there are some genuine differences in how people of different cultures and races are, or that words from "queer" to "nigger" to "chick" can occasionally be used deliberately within group contexts in powerful and positive ways. I am reasonably confident that at least some of the 17% of students who seem to be saying that it is not acceptable to hold unpopular views may be thinking of such "unpolitically correct" views, and the fact that many of their own schools even go so far as to discipline or censure students for expression of such views, when answering the question.

And we're the ones who taught them that such views were not okay to hold in general, because we told them that they themselves could not hold those views merely by showing them that those views were, according to the school and the culture, "wrong" -- and then acting to change the way they thought via a kind of forced moral education.

What we're looking at in these statistics, then, is the sad result of the commodification and institutionalization of the new liberal agenda. The fact that academia is generally liberal in their beliefs about how the world should work -- by definition, most academics believe in freedom of ideas -- is ironic here, as the very commodification of even the most liberal agenda is still, ultimately, a move towards conservation of those ideas (i.e. it is conservative).

Unfortunately, as the statistics show, teachers and principals are entirely unaware that their diversity curriculum has shifted to an underlying position that it is not at all allowable or "legal" to believe in, let alone express, some unpopular ideas. Not surprising, I suppose: most liberals are not actually ACLU "fight to the death for your right to express it" liberals, but position-liberals, in my own experience. Even though many of them claim to be both.

That's the true trade-off of trying to teach in a world which supports both diversity and true freedom of speech and thought, it turns out. Tolerance never had these problems -- it is perfectly consistent to believe one thing immoral but also believe that it is socially inacceptable (i.e. not tolerated) to push an agenda which makes such subjective "immorality" wrong to practice in social and/or private spaces. But one cannot transcend tolerance, supplanting it with mandatory celebration, without pushing an agenda which contains a clear implication that it is not acceptable to believe in, and thus absolutely vital to hide personal belief of, the traditional tenets of the neoconservative.

At heart, I think, we can see the recent split in the country at large as related to this particular issue. All schools have moved beyond tolerance, and dangerously so...but different local school systems and cultures use different lists of what is inacceptable, making it impossible to have true dialogue between factions in the US.

posted by boyhowdy | 3:58 PM | 2 comments


Oh Dear God, No... 

Just found a typo in an already-sent letter of interest. Any suggestions? Is there anything I can do about it other than cringe, moan, and curse my outcast state?

In other news, after a wonderful father-daughter adventure while Mommy set up for the big semi-formal -- our usual trip to the butterfly museum, followed by our equally-usual trip to the toy store for tidbits and trinkets -- I got to spend some time tonight dealing with a 2 year old who had actually vomited herself awake in the middle of the night.

posted by boyhowdy | 1:58 AM | 0 comments

Friday, February 04, 2005

Was It Something I Said? 

Starting to get a weird vibe from some teachers and administrators at the school. Nothing overt, and surely not deliberate snubbing. But now that the rightsizing is old news -- now that the time for kind regrets and ego-boosting has come and gone -- it just doesn't seem like the same people want to sit with me in the cafeteria.

And they certainly aren't comfortable asking me to do my job. Ironically, this has left me plenty of badly needed jobsearch hours during the workday; I've beguns sending out letters of intent, putting my best effort forward, and it feels wonderful. But it remains indescribably weird to sit in the middle of the library all morning and toy with my cover letters while coworkers pass, avoiding eyecontact.

At first I thought it was mututal discomfort, some survivor's guilt coupled with a growing apart. But today on our "rightsizer's support group" (a newly created listserv for those of us who've been asked to clean out our classrooms come June) a soon-to-be ex-peer hit the nail on the head:
I think the sorting out of people who are leaving and those who are staying has created two different group identities. We are communicating about how we feel and what we're doing while they are talking about housing and scheduling. We are worried about financial survival while they are assured of a salary for at least one more year. I think I have pulled away from the people who are still employed and some of them have pulled back slightly as well.

I have decided not to participate in any activities which involve planning for or discussion of the future of the School. I am also being self-protective in choosing what events I will attend. I feel disconnected from the School. It's as if one person has declared the end of a relationship, but both are compelled to live together in the same house for an extended period of time. My response is that I'm staying out of the house as much as possible and, when I am in it, I am focused on what is nourishing - in this case, my classes.
Yup.

That said, recognition of the problem isn't a solution for me. Unlike my astute peer quoted above, much of my job is teacher partnerships, macro and micro, in classroom and out. Most of my impact on students happens in other people's classrooms. If I'm going to still do anything at all around here other than twiddle my thumbs and hang out hoping -- in order for me to "teach my classes" -- people must be able to swallow their pride and approach me when they need me.

I'm human, but I'm also a teacher. I can't stop being one now just because someone made a bad call about what program the kids will need next year. Sure, like the author of the above, I've begun to drop my planning committee memberships, but I'll be damned if I'm going to creep out of here. This is still a school, and I can't help but assume the kids are suffering for our pop-pscych bifurcation.

For their sake, if no one else's, I'm hanging on to my draft notes for an open letter to the faculty. Just in case things get worse.

If I'm going down, I'm going down as me.

posted by boyhowdy | 10:52 PM | 18 comments


(Birth)Day of the Dead 


Funny...he doesn't look zombish...


Horrormaster George Romero turns 65 today. Play a cheesy dirge in his honor if you get a chance.

Once upon a time we could have inserted a joke about retirement here, but with the widening gap between the start of AARP benefits (50) and the actual average retirement age, maybe we better let dead dogs lie.

Bonus points:
  1. Romero played an uncredited FBI agent in Silence of the Lambs.

  2. Romero has made commercials for US Steel, Rockwell, Heinz and Calgon. I toyed with "George Romero, take me away!" as a title for this entry, but it seemed too obscure.

posted by boyhowdy | 10:26 PM | 0 comments

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Credit Where Credit Is Due 

Even though it's only one item in The Onion's satirical list of projects Google is working on for 2005, I hereby declare that the GoogleHouse was in fact the 2003 brainchild of University of Buffalo School Of Informatics prof Barbara M.

Okay, technically, The Onion's talking about a Google apartment, not a house. But Barbara, who is unfortunately blogless and thus unlinkable at the moment, even used the same examples ("...will let users search for shoes, wallet, and keys") when first explaining the idea to me.

Admittedly, this in no way disrupts the on-target hilarity of such other faux future Googleplans as "Build world-class headquartoogles" and "finally getting around to making backup disks of everything." I just wanted to make sure the three people who read this blog know who to thank for "teh funnay". Barbara, if you're out there, know that I've got your back.

In other Onion news this week, the AV Club has gone all green and fugly. Wassup with that? Kudos on the new AV content, including a game reviews section and, in an inaugural vein, geeknifty interviews with early gaming pioneers Wright and Warshaw, but it shouldn't hurt so much to enjoy it.

posted by boyhowdy | 1:10 AM | 1 comments

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Randomalia, Part Eleventeen 

Not much news on the vocational front since yesterday, but after a day tasking out the organizational nuts and bolts of the search process -- transcript retrieval, school website research, and other listmaking, mostly -- I'm feeling pretty positive for a guy who's had just one phone call. Call it false optimism if you like, just don't say so to my face; I'm in happy denial land right now.

Speaking of the search: Molly, if you're out there, call Hebron for me and put in a good word, will you? They've already got my resume.

Two days after the move and the place is starting to look like someone's house, if not yet a home. Our life slowly re-emerges from cardboard; our house overfloweth with stuff. Any minute now the cat will finally figure out how to sneak outside and we'll get to meet the neighbors firsthand.

Item: my daughter can "read" you an entire story after one telling. She even picks up on trope and idiom. Be prompt about turning the pages, or else.

I don't remember 30 weeks pregnant being so big -- maybe it's different the second time around? Sure, the baby kicks back when sung to, but it's getting harder to hug the human incubator I call "honey."

Two fortunes in the restaurant cookie tonight, both poignantly true:
  1. You are a bundle of energy, always on the go.
  2. You find beauty in ordinary things. Do not lose this ability.
I've decided that the single trait that brings blogger success is the ability to write in a terse and oracular vernacular. Okay, maybe that's not true; maybe I just aspire to be an oracular, terse blogger, verbosity be damned. But it sounds good, doesn't it?

posted by boyhowdy | 10:34 PM | 0 comments

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Vocational Update 

Fielded my first phone call from a prospective employer today. Seemed promising: very small class size, committed faculty, decent benefits, and the possibility of out-of-dorm housing upon arrival, not to mention the obvious benefit of being back in the classroom again, making a direct difference, communications potential-wise, in some bright young minds.

You'll have to take my word for it, as in order to protect confidentiality -- some of these positions are not posted publically, and only go through the agencies -- I'm not going to be posting links.

I think I might have even managed to keep my foot out of my mouth for the duration of the conversation. I hope. Is it a bad sign when you only realize you were talking to the headmaster after you hang up the phone? Anyway, am looking forward to a visit to Buffalo, so I'm hoping they call back.

posted by boyhowdy | 11:38 PM | 1 comments


Big Bother: Is A Lack Of Civics Education Undermining The Digital Revolution? 

From BoingBoing's Directory of Wonderful Things today comes this redirect to an AP article called "Freedom of What?, which summarizes a study that reveals that far too many US high school students don't seem to understand the meaning of free speech, aren't taught about the First Amendment, or simply don't care:
...When told of the exact text of the First Amendment, more than one in three high school students said it goes "too far" in the rights it guarantees. Only half of the students said newspapers should be allowed to publish freely without government approval of stories...

Three in four students said flag burning is illegal...

About half the students said the government can restrict any indecent material on the Internet.

As an educator, I 'm fascinated by several aspects of this issue.
  1. This dovetails with and confirms my own recent concerns that civics is, problematically, a dead issue in modern curricula.


  2. This seems to be consistent with more general observed truths about student mis-perception of government, most significantly that teens tend to set the government up as a straw man, an easy-to-dismiss but hard-to-solve Big Brother, to a much greater extent than is true, and even in places where it isn't. The results suggest, for example, that even while they flaunt current intellectual property laws, students may see the government (and not intellectual property developers and owners) as actively censoring the universe, and as the "them" to our "us".


  3. But note how many students believe that the 1st amendment goes too far. What's going on here?


Trying to reconcile this over-ascription of speech-stifling power to Big Government with the belief that the government should protect speech less may not be as contradictory as it first appears.

For example, we might posit that the rising generation of students is, on average, ultimately accepting of the false powers they simultanously ascribe to the government.

In other words, [some] US students may publically rail against the false powers they ascribe to government, but long-term internalization of such a projection may result in acceptance of those false powers, which would churn out a generation of impotent conservatives (who, due to their total lack of civics understanding, may be more conservative in the end than they claim to be when asked about their politics).

One situational definition of "culture" -- that which is known but is not taught -- may come into play here. It is a truism of Media Literacy, for example, that developing minds internalize messages without considering their stakes when such messages are delivered, exclusively, on a subtextual level. Certainly, if civics has become an intuitive process, the results shown herein are realistic, albeit unfortunate.

posted by boyhowdy | 1:00 PM | 2 comments

Monday, January 31, 2005

"House" Music  

Now with mp3 downloads!

Well, we made it. As of today, though our address hasn't changed (it's still c/o the prep school), we now officially live in Northfield, MA, just a mile from the VT and NH borders.

Though the residents are coworkers, the neighborhood seems promising so far. Lots of young parents and young kids in this cluster of small white faculty houses. Just after three, the school bus stops just outside our window, letting a stream of the small and snowsuited out into their parent's arms. Acquaintances walking their children home wave and yell hello, welcome, it's good to have you here with us.

Just before dark, Willow watched Pierre, the three-year-old next door, play hockey on the hose-made rink between our houses; when she wasn't looking, Pierre watched her. He's been waiting, prepped for her arrival: earlier he asked about Willow's age (2 and a half, but she thinks she's three), held up a hand to show me his own. I didn't have the heart to tell him I couldn't see through his mitten.

In other words: it all bodes well. Our lives are in boxes still, but thanks to teaching peer Seth and his wife Lynn who brought pot roast and a deliciously sinful chocolate pecan pie, we're full and ready for a new life ahead.

In honor of the move, tonight's edition of tributary, your ten to midnight Monday night show here on WNMH 91.5 fm featured songs about houses and homes, and moving, and a host of similarly relocative-themed ditties, each the result of a marginally creative use of iTunes search keywords.

(Okay, a silly idea, to be sure. But in my own preemptive defense, I have a cold, have been pushing boxes since 8 am, and am running on three hours of sleep and a Harp at supper. So the above may be a bit garbled -- more than usual, I mean. But I think this week's set came out well. Anyway...)

Playlist follows, in half-hour increments separated, in studio, by some off-the-cuff anecdotes about houses I've lived in. Enjoy the downloads!


Tributary 1/31/05: House Edition

Skavoovie and the Epitones -- Fat Soul (theme song)
Cake -- Palm Of Your Hand ("When the house was standing...")
Barenaked Ladies -- The Old Apartment
Shawn Colvin -- Get Out Of This House
They Might Be Giants -- Birdhouse In Your Soul
Toots and the Maytals -- Take Me Home Country Road mp3!
Los Lobos -- Reva's House
The Be Good Tanyas -- House Of The Rising Sun

Sarah Harmer -- Basement Apartment
John Gorka -- Around The House
Phish -- Farmhouse
The Soggy Bottom Boys -- In The Jailhouse Now
The Waifs -- Lighthouse
Jason Mraz -- Halfway Home mp3!

Patty Griffin -- Poor Man's House
Dixie Chicks -- A Home
The Gourds -- Layin Around The House
Talking Heads -- Burning Down The House (live) mp3!
Tony Furtado Band -- I Ain't Got No Home

Richard Shindell -- Hazel's House
Donna The Buffalo -- Movin' On
Paul Simon -- She Moves On
Slaid Cleaves -- I Feel The Blues Moving In
Lucy Kaplansky -- This Is Home (live) mp3!
The Beatles -- She's Leaving Home mp3!
Skavoovie and the Epitones -- Walking Home

You've been listening to Tributary, broadcasting live Mondays from ten to midnight at the intersection of three states, two campuses, and you. Be it ever so humble...

posted by boyhowdy | 11:59 PM | 0 comments

Sunday, January 30, 2005

No Blog Today 

We're in the frantic midst of packing years worth of accumulated junk into a neverending series of boxes. Man, those last few piddly, delicate things take forever to organize.

Moving day tomorrow. More later.


Update 8:46 pm:

The packing is essentially done. While the wife puts the kid to bed in the old apartment for the very last time, I'm on the "new" campus, testing the new house's washer and dryer, catching up on cyberlife in that lag time between laundry loads.

The movers show tomorrow at eight. Darcie and I will direct cardboard-laden human traffic while kid and dog head up to the grandparents house with the promise of homemade rice pudding for one, woods-romping for the other.

Then the unpacking begins. Happy Happy, Joy Joy.

Hey, did I mention I applied for a job in Halifax? And that the prep school placement agency sent my resume off for almost two dozen hybrid English/History positions? Keep your fingers crossed for little ol' "rightsized" me!

posted by boyhowdy | 3:25 PM | 0 comments

Friday, January 28, 2005

Handle With Care 

Fittingly, Monday is not only moving day for us, it's also Bubble Wrap® Appreciation Day. Stock up here. (Thanks, boingboing!)

Bubble Wrap is a trademark of Sealed Air Corporation; the generic term for the stuff seems to be air cellular cushioning. Betcha didn't know that.

posted by boyhowdy | 10:48 AM | 28 comments


Onion Skin 



The technophile's junk drawer


Great sidebar on this week's Onion proclaims Technophile Has Coolest Junk Drawer Ever. I can relate, as my own recently packed junkdrawer contained the same dead palm pilot, several high-end digital cameras, cables galore, and an extraneous photo printer.

Geektest: can you identify 5 or more of the technojunk items depicted above?

posted by boyhowdy | 10:30 AM | 0 comments

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Now Is The Winter Of Our Discontent... 



Performance centerpiece the World Tree


Tonight the prep school hosted Paul Winter's...um...thing The World Tree, which is described on Paul's site as a totally new participatory music and dance celebration, in a unique performance environment in which the musicians encircle the audience. The 12 movements of 'The World Tree' follow the wheel of the year, from January to December, celebrating the creatures and cultures of the whole Earth, and is otherwise indescribable.

Clearly, one purpose of the event is to shift the traditional spectator/spectacle dynamic, embedding the audience physically (and, presumably, actively) inside the performance far more organically and totally than the more common fourth wall breach could ever hope to accomplish. With a more mature audience, this might work smashingly, but alas (and duh), in typical prep school "it don't leak when it ain't raining" form, no one ever bothers to teach these kids how to spectate.

The results were predictable in hindsight. Though a few were into it -- some sincerely, and some in the spirit of pure camp -- most students didn't get it. Those who didn't sneak off from this required event chatted loudly through the whole thing instead, lending a dull roar to the proceedings, and seriously screwing up the spirituality. Oh, and a few managed to have sex behind the bleachers, apparently, which must have been pretty odd given the soundtrack.

The event, which took three days to construct, completely filled our usually ginormous gymnasium; expect some half-swallowed arts vs. athletics fingerpointing if the basketball team loses to Andover tomorrow.

That said: the performance itself was mystical, kind of like being caught up inside a new age mix tape; the performers were engaging; the program was bold and fluid at two hours on the dot. Willow spent the evening dancing wildly on the gymnasium floor, enjoying every minute of it.

And I? I stayed for a while, watching the community I love misuse and abuse a great opportunity, and thought about how, wherever next year's job search may take me, I will never again be privy to so much of the highest of high culture. I avoided administrators, and cut short far too many conversations with faculty peers and parents in which I was offered sympathy for my impending jobloss and assured that "a man of my talents will surely find great things to do out there." I got lost in the music. I watched the two year old dance gleefully with her facbrat peers and felt painful, heartwrenching guilt that I would soon take her from this wonderful place.

Finally, lost in the mournful tones of live surroundsound tenor sax and cello, I crept unnoticed in a darkened corner and let the tears come unabated.

If you ever get a chance to see Paul Winter's World Tree, do so.

But not in a place that doesn't love you back.

posted by boyhowdy | 9:53 PM | 0 comments

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Moving On (And On, And On...) 

For a while, it was chaos. 30 years of accumulated junk, including an attic grown wild after two years living in the air, spread its way across the house like an oldgrowth forest, a creep measured in days instead of eons.

But as moving day grows closer I navigate my way through empty boxes in the mornings as I leave for work, come home to find them full and labeled. Each day for a week I've come home to an apartment more sparsely decorated than it was the previous day. Reportedly, while I'm gone, Willow hides in boxes while her mother furiously keeps-or-discards.

After all this time, a scant five months before we must leave the community for parts -- and a job -- unknown, the prep school has finally found us a house all our own.

I'm still not totally sure this was a good idea. Sure, we can't get by on the third floor much longer: what with my herniated disk and Darcie's impending C-section, no washing machine and a 30 pound toddler to carry, the laundry and groceries have been stacking up in the car. On our worst days we already felt trapped three stories up, afraid to leave lest we end up sleeping in the car, unable to climb back home again.

Yes, I know. It seems a bit odd to be moving before the job search is over. We could have lived with it, suffered somehow. But we've waited so long, and in a life so trying. In the end, I guess, it was too tempting not to go.

Regardless, moving in the middle of the term seems a herculean task. I'm going full-tilt at work these days, working off a week's worth of lethargy and damning resume-sifting, trying to get the in-box down to a manageable size even as the tasks come in fast and furious from a community suddenly fearful for the impending loss of my expertise. I've got entire rooms scheduled for cleaning on Sunday. It's going to be a close race to the finish line.

Still, we're committed. The school has found us appliances, filled the oil tank, painted over the mold in the upstairs bathroom ceiling. We've booked the movers for Monday. We've told the neighbors, and the toddler herself.

And so this old apartment grows empty, bereft of everything but the infinity of boxes which line the walls like so many cardboard remnants of a packrat existence. The attic floor slowly comes clean, returns to dust. Bare walls show the marks of now-stacked posters; mirrors show our ankles as we walk by their temporary waiting places. Nostalgia turns to the strangeness of a home unsettled, un-lived-in, unliveable.

We'll justify the short-term move by living the monastic life, leaving most of our lives in cardboard, safe in the raised-floor basement of a home that might have been. But as the sign says, we're going out of business here. Everything must go.

posted by boyhowdy | 10:21 AM | 2 comments

Monday, January 24, 2005

Cover Me 

Because it takes three layers just to go outside.

Because the barren ground lies invisible two feet under, the world above hidden in darkness.

Because swollen flakes cling and smother, fat and white like Frost's spiders, before melting into your pantslegs and mittens.

What can I say -- I'm a sucker for a good tongue-in-cheek session. Spun an all-covers extravaganza on tonight's edition of Tributary, and man, I'm still grinning.

Playlist follows, with a smattering of downloads for your downloading pleasure (and, this week only, I'll make others available via email, one per customer, to anyone who asks nicely). Enjoy!


Tributary 1/24/05: The Covers Edition

For a bout of self-driven fun, why not test yourself? Identify at least 24 of the original artists or performers and you, too, can consider yourself an overeducated audiophile.

Skavoovie and the Epitones -- Subway Joe
Weezer -- Uptown Girl
Mary Lou Lord w/ Semisonic -- Sugar, Sugar
Hayseed Dixie -- Highway To Hell
Les Claypool & The Frog Brigade -- Locomotive Breath
Moxy Fruvous -- Spiderman
Tegan And Sarah -- When You Were Mine (mp3!)
Richard Cheese -- You Gotta Fight For Your Right
The Bobs -- Helter Skelter

Nickel Creek -- Spit On A Stranger
Howie Day -- Slide (mp3!)
Travis -- Baby One More Time
Tim O'Brien -- Forever Young
Timbuk 3 -- Born To Be Wild
Ryan Adams -- Wonderwall
Laura Love -- Come As You Are
Negativland -- Over The Hiccups

Johnny Cash -- One (mp3!)
Keb' Mo' -- Love Train
Presidents -- Video Killed The Radio Star
Shawn Colvin -- Every Little Thing He Does Is Magic
John Mayer -- Message In A Bottle
The Chieftans w/ Lyle Lovett -- Don't Let Your Deal Go Down
Norah Jones -- Lonesome Tonight (mp3!)

Israel Kamakawiwo`ole -- Over The Rainbow / What A Wonderful World (mp3!)
The Be Good Tanyas -- House Of The Rising Sun
Rice, Rice, Hillman and Pedersen -- Friend Of The Devil
Crooked Still -- Orphan Girl
Peter Mulvey -- Oliver's Army
Nikki Boyer -- Brain Damage
The Biscuit Boys -- You Don't Have To Do That
Nenes -- No Woman, No Cry

You've been listening to our annual all-covers extravaganza here on Tributary your ten to midnight Monday night show only on WNMH 91.5 fm, serving Northfield, Gill, Keene, Brattleboro, and all the rest of you coat-covered, snow-smothered underground masses.

posted by boyhowdy | 11:59 PM | 3 comments


Well, That Explains It 

This week's Onion reports
A Columbia University study released Tuesday suggests that viewing fewer than four hours of television a day severely inhibits a person's ability to ridicule popular culture.
Which explains why I'm starting to feel a bit out of touch -- a dangerous drift for a proud popcult pedagogue.

On the other hand, my ability to ridicule net culture remains in fine shape.

Bonus: in classic on-target Onion style, the accompanying graphic of "A few of the many celebrities underinformed television viewers were unable to mock" features eminently mockable celebs Ashley Simpson, Paris and Nicole, Brigitte Nielson w/ new beau Flava Flav, and the entire cast of the OC.

posted by boyhowdy | 1:05 PM | 0 comments

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Snow Day! 

All night the plows scraped by, loud in an otherwise silent whiteout. Their headlights lit the blizzard like a snowglobe. Their blades growled at the storm as it raged around us. In turn, the dog growled back, faint under the covers by our feet.

We ran the dryer for extra heat, crept out of bed long past midnight for one last flashlight look at the sparkling snow accumulating under the fire escape, and slept sporadically in that whitest of recurrent noises.

In the end, the storm dumped over a foot of the lightest and fluffiest upon us, the last flakes sifting out of the sky long before my noon awakening. The wife and child were already a bit stir-crazy by then; while Darcie packed a bit, preparing for next Monday's too-soon move to new and better housing, Willow watched some library DVDs and danced around the increasingly bare living room under my just-caffeinated supervision for that first waking hour.

But the windowlure of the sparkling powder proved too much. By one, my daughter and I were stiff and snowsuited, layered and laughing, flying faster every run as the packed path grew stable under our borrowed toboggan sled. Assistant Farm Director Alex and his three-year son Jack came by soon after, and we took a few more turns back and forth, each curled around his own child, before lost mittens drove us all inside, for the hot chocolate that was our rightful reward.

Went out again with an increasingly surefooted Willow just an hour later for another few father-daughter runs. Nominally we had come to clean off the car; in actuallity, her tendency to replace snow under the finally-freed car tires cut short what one day darn well better be a truly productive daddy-kid activity, given my now-aggrivated herniated disk. Today, though, snow angels were much more fun, though we had to be careful: lying back put our faces below the surface level; the whistling wind, if not watched for, tended to throw snow up our noses as we lay there together.

I headed down solo after a second round of warm drinks and regeneration, shoveling hard, the snow light atop the downstairs neighbor's ergonomic shovel, whispery against the broom. Managed to clear the cars in record time, and tackle much of our long parking strip to boot -- a job well done, satisfying despite the lack of earbud-sprung tuneage.

Later, still in our socks, we ate supper in the living room, what with the dining room overloaded with half-empty boxes and packing paper. And afterwards, a short game of hide and seek ("I'll hide in the closet, daddy, and you come find me!"), a story, a kiss and hug: a perfect end to a perfect snow day, the aftermath of the worst storm in years.

Sure, it was a Sunday. And I'm writing from work -- a dorm duty shift taken in trade after Tuesday's illness kept me home. But any day which involves a sleep-in, the wee one's first real sledding expedition, an all-out back-bending car-clearing, hot chocolate and chapped faces until after dark can't be all bad.

posted by boyhowdy | 7:34 PM | 0 comments


DiePod 

Woke up yesterday morning to an iPod left on overnight -- still playing, but drained entirely of its battery. Had it plugged into my usual iTunes workstation during yesterday's pre-storm blog check-in, but instead of the usual charging symbol, I got this:

and then, suddenly, nothing at all.

How terrible to be snowed in overnight with a dead iPod once whole-lifestyle acclimatization has set in. No optimist I, I spent the evening stressing over the possibility of another hundred hours merely restoring the songs I've downloaded, the CDs I've imported thus far. Joni was right -- you don't know what you've got 'till it's gone.

The tiny paper "getting started" booklet offered some suggestions, but not enough. Hoping for the best, I left it plugged in overnight, and grabbed it on my way to dorm duty this evening, where I was able to get some great advice and hack it back to life. Thank goodness for a clear, coherent, well-organized and ultimately effective online support infrastructure from Apple. Like we'd expect anything other than proactive perfection from the mouse that roars.

posted by boyhowdy | 7:18 PM | 1 comments

Saturday, January 22, 2005

The Blizzard Is Coming! The Blizzard Is Coming! 



That's me in the corner! Map constantly updated
via weather.com.



Looks like I won't be able to get to the blogstation for a while; though our mid-New England valley lies on the storm's Northern edge, we've been told to expect anywhere from 12-20 inches of snow in the next 24 hours. Looking forward to post-sledding hot chocolate with the wee one, that wonderful silence that accompanies overnight blizzards, and a sorely-needed extra foot of roof insulation, eskimo-style.

Stuck inside with network access? Blogsurfing from warmer climes? Check out sidebar-featured archives, and don't forget this week's warm, tasty, and mostly legal downloads!

posted by boyhowdy | 1:53 PM | 25 comments

Friday, January 21, 2005

That Warm, Grateful Feeling 

It's good to be loved for who you are. Some days, though, it's even better to be acknowledged for what you do.



Sincere thanks to the sweet, thoughtful, and anonymous student who left this message in my mailbox.

Now I know.

posted by boyhowdy | 2:39 PM | 0 comments


Cold Air, Hot Irony 

It's been bitter cold for almost two weeks now. The mercury drops to zero nightly; days soar high at 10 farenheit. And for those weeks, all oldwindow eaves and uninsulated shingle, our top-floor apartment has run a cool 45 degrees.

The hardwood floors numb at the barest touch. Bedheets chill where they should comfort. Windows ice over thickly, humidifier-driven, until the white snow meadow warps into the trees beyond, an impressionist painting, a stark mosaic of refracted whites and browns.

We have no knob of our own, are subject to the thermostatic whim of downstairs neighbors more prone to use their fireplaces than the heating elements. Heat rises, it's true, but in turn of the century once-attic spaces such as ours, it does not linger.

Until yesterday, when slippered-and-pregnant domestic goddess Darcie in her infinite wisdom discovered the sweltering rooms below, and convinced our neighbors to crack their doors, letting the heat flow from their rooms into halls and stairwells.

Irony abounds. Medblogger Kevin, M.D. reports that cancer has overtaken heart disease as the top killer of Americans under 85 primarily because there are fewer smokers. After two years of too-hot summers and too-cold winters, with only two weeks left before a health-driven move to less rarified quarters across campus, we solve our perennial struggle with the elements. We are warmer with the door open. We welcome the heartless, heatless winter.

posted by boyhowdy | 10:25 AM | 0 comments

Thursday, January 20, 2005

No Post Today 

Today's conference on Student Learning and Technology rocked -- lots of funky statistics and anecdote made this sociology-of-learning-technologies boy very happy. How validating to learn that the only possible answer to the question "does this technology have a positive effect on student achievement and learning" must always be "we cannot know for sure, but here are some ideas and observations." Frustrating, too, of course. But validating, and reassuring.

Nice to see some familiar faces in the crowd, too. Though a desire to stay connected to classroom learning and student discussion has me just barely beginning to lean towards prep school teaching (or PhD programs in learning technologies and/or sociology of technology and informatics) next year over some sort of college-level instructional support vocationally-speaking, it's good to know that if it comes to that, I'll have the networking part sewn up before I even begin.

Unfortunately, sitting in those evil conference chairs for 6 hours, plus a total of three more driving the sunken-seat Grand Marquis through stress-inducing windshield spatter and saltspray, has caused severe tire damage to my herniated disk. I can barely see through all the pain and Aleve, and will return home to ice my back immediately following the end of this sentence.

posted by boyhowdy | 8:00 PM | 0 comments

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Sickbed 

Left work early Tuesday to drive home half-delirious, thinking about the devil's own flu that's been making the rounds. Crashed almost immediately, slept for five hours, watched TV for another five, slept for five, woke for five, slept for three, puttered around a bit in the verycold house, and am now thinking I might actually make it to tomorrow's NERCOMP Impact of Technology on Students special interest group workshop down in Southbridge.

Despite deep headache, chills and a godwaful mess of fluid loss, without the five full days of fever and jointache that's going around, it seems it was just "a bug" -- which means I'm still eligible for the flu, more's the pity.

On the bright side, I did get to miss an entire morning session learning about why my vocational testing showed I should be a teacher or a lawyer. I mean, this is news?

Some nifty stuff stacked up in the campus email while I was offline, most notably a student's gorgeous exposure of last night's waxing gibbous moon in the crystal-clear, five-below air, and a link to the NYT article on ETS's new and dubiously opportunist Information Literacy test. On the latter: I agree with much of the suspicion surrounding both ETS and, more generally, the tension between testing skills and the current inability/disinterest to/in being proactive and concrete about the way we teach them in any school I've ever seen (see new comments on this recent post for more on the testing mandate), but the way the test defines Information Literacy (incuding the full range of skills and approaches from research and preparation to production and evaluation), and the way it uses applied testing strategies for Information Literacy rather than the same-old number 2 pencil bubble-fill, confirms my occupation better than some old multiple-choice vocational test ever could.

By the way, don't forget to download this week's radio show remnants: four full-length mp3s of diverse genres (genra?) for your sonic enjoyment!

posted by boyhowdy | 10:39 PM | 0 comments

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


iSpin 

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?
None.

.......

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
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