Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Half-Baked Pedagogical Thought Of The Day 

If our whole American way of life is a great war of ideas, and librarians are the arms dealers selling weapons to both sides (James W. Quinn), it is frustrating -- for school librarians, at least -- that the National Education Association spends membership dues on non-educational political causes at all...and especially sad that it does not do so impartially.

Did you know 97% of the National Education Association's politically spent dollars go to liberal and Democratic causes, from the Democratic National Committee to special interest groups such as the National Organization for Women (NOW), People for the American Way, Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, the Human Rights Campaign Fund, and many others? (Source)

How can we claim to help students make their own conclusions about what they believe if we continue to allow moral standpoints and radical beliefs to proliferate throughout our pedagogy? As an educator, if it weren't for the moral issues clouding their own mandate (which themselves seem ironically contradictory to the rest of their materials), I'd join the Conservative Educator's Caucus today just for their strong belief that the National Education Association
...not support or politically align with organizations whose mission is not primarily education related or organizations that do not represent the compensation interests of teachers...

Instead, though I'm not going to go so far as avid libertarian realist John Perry Barlow did in switching his political affiliation from Republican to Democrat merely to pick the lesser of two mandated moral agendas despite increased commodification of such agendas within the neo-liberal Democratic universe, I guess I'll just continue to vote party, not politician, and then carp from afar at the corrupt political game.

Why must moral issues be part of political positioning, anyway? Unless it hurts you directly, leave me my rights, and get out of my bedroom, damnit. And don't spend my public school teachers' dues on the erosion of those rights, either. Not when there's so many cash-poor educational and teacher-support initiatives out there.

posted by boyhowdy | 9:38 PM | 0 comments

Walking On Air 

Fat flakes at dusk on the way to the People's Pint for halfpints with the half pint. Icy conditions as I sped back home to get the CDs from the other car's trunk when the radio station computer wouldn't work right. Rain, now, on top of the ice: a spatter at the window beind the studio autofeed.

Though by the end of the show the local kids had begun to swamp me with last-minute Valentine's shout-outs to their honeys (and, in a few cases, to fellow Varsity Hockey team players, with sniggering homophobic undertones), despite weather and technology working against me, once I acclimatized to alternating between songs direct from iPod and, in turn, the CD player, the much-anticipated inaugural internet simulcast of Tributary went off fairly smoothly, all things considered.

Heck, who am I kidding. IM with Shaw and Molly while they listened to my show from the opposite ends of New England was the biggest thrill I've had in weeks. Getting over a dozen calls -- an unheard-of number for our tiny rural school station -- was a thrill and a half, too.

But I've got my first "informal information session" at a prospective employer's school tomorrow morning, and my back is killing me. The short drive home, uphill through the rain and slush, isn't going to help, either. Hope no one minds if I cut tonight's post-show blog a bit shorter than usual.

So, for what it's worth: Playlist follows, in half hour blocks as always, separated (in the show itself) by soft readings of Pablo Neruda love sonnets, a tip of the hat to Valentine's Day. Mp3s will be posted tomorrow. Until then:

Tributary 1/14/05

Skavoovie and the Epitones -- Fat Soul
Dar Williams -- Are You Out There
Toots and the Maytals -- Sweet And Dandy
Stevie Wonder -- Love's In Need Of Love Today
Sarah Harmer -- Almost

Juliana Hatfield -- Live On Tomorrow
Chris Ardoin and Double Clutchin' -- Your Love Keeps Lifting Me (Higher and Higher)
Donna The Buffalo -- Positive Friction
Bob Dorough -- Too Much Coffee Man
Bree Sharp -- The Boys Of Summer
Keb' Mo' -- Love Train

Wilco -- Theologians
Alison Brown -- The Inspector
Bill Cosby -- Uppers and Downers [today's 70s PSA -- ed.]
Girlyman -- Hey Rose
Barry White -- Can't Get Enough Of Your Love, Babe
Crooked Still -- Orphan Girl

Gilberto Gil -- Three Little Birds
Rani Arbo and daisy mayhem -- Comes Love
John Mayer -- Daughters
Brooks Williams -- She Loves Me
Thievery Corporation -- Samba Tranquille
David Wilcox -- Missing You
Ware River Club -- I Love Her, She Loves Me
Nenes -- No Woman, No Cry

Hope all who "clicked in" enjoyed the show. Tune in next week, when Boyhowdy says...You've been listening to Tributary, your ten to midnight Monday night show here on WNMH...serving Northfield, Gill, Keene, Brattleboro...and, finally, the world.

posted by boyhowdy | 12:11 AM | 0 comments

Monday, February 14, 2005

Beating A Dead Radio Show 

I can't tell you how excited I am that my radio show on WNMH is about to go live via the Internet. Oh, wait. Apparently, I can. So:

Remember to set yourself a popup reminder for the first ever worldwide stream of Tributary, your Monday night ten to midnight (EST) show here on WNMH 91.5 fm, now serving Northfield, Gill, Keene, Brattleboro, and the world.

Tributary features music from funk to folk, from jazz to jambands, from blues to bluegrass and everything in between -- this week we're sure to play some love songs (and maybe some anti-love songs) in honor of Valentine's Day. We read bedtime stories on the hour and the half hour. And you get to hear my voice!

Tributary: it'll make you glad your radio computer works.

posted by boyhowdy | 10:26 AM | 2 comments

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Finally, Camouflage That Actually Works 

...but only if your tent is in a cowfield.

Yeah, I'm one of those people who thinks camouflage is hilarious. Like we really can't see you there, smoking a butt against that brick well, just because you're wearing that olive green pants you bought from the army navy store.

Parisian-award-winning silkscreened tent alert via BoingBoing, which somewhat redeems them from preferring The Onion's somewhat typical fare Faux Love Coupons to the hilarity of Project Manager Leaves Suicide PowerPoint Presentation. Oh, you mean everyone else isn't a mass media geek?

posted by boyhowdy | 11:50 PM | 0 comments

Just A Reminder... 

If you haven't done so already, now is the time to bookmark this link...so you can tune in from ten to midnight EST Monday night and listen to my radio show.

Not sure it's worth it? Take a peek at some free downloads and a full playlist from last week's show -- as good an example as any.

Also: I take requests! Got any?

posted by boyhowdy | 3:44 PM | 1 comments

Saturday, February 12, 2005


Almost slept three hours last night, I was so worried I'd oversleep and miss the Massachusetts Driver Retraining Program Attidudinal Dyamics of Driving Course for the second time in as many weekends.

Almost posted my first audioblog today -- eight pre-sunrise minutes from the hour drive down to Springfield, where the daylong course is held, noting such things as the pinkstreak skycolor and the irony of driving to a class on how to drive. Seems, however, that the wind, while selectively filtered live ear-to-brain, is nonetheless disastrous to the 8-bit clarity of the iPod voice recorder. Windscreen hack, anyone?

Almost lost my license there for a minute, but the class wasn't so bad. An energetic, self-absorbed shopaholic latina teacher and some pretty unique and commiserative fellow students made up for the boring stupidity of subject. Bonus: 40 cops doing a retraining in classrooms adjacent to our gang of petty criminals and court-ordered attendees. We all ate lunch together, gleefully aware of the irony of cops and robbers on an otherwise deserted American International College campus.

Almost managed to skip the temptation of an email check for an afternoon nap on the way back, since I knew the kid and spouse would be up at the in-laws for a while yet. Instead, let my tired ass get dragged into an hour long defense of how the school was handling the theft of a student's iPod. I can see he'd be frustrated with "keep your door locked means even when you go to the shower," even after the third theft in a year from the same kid, but what part of "I refuse to accept the police state it would take to catch even most thievery on campus" seems unclear to you?

Back home, almost managed a flawless all-daddy bedtime, the first by kid request rather than by default in mommy's absence. From the moment she walked in the door she was mine to de-coat; we moved seamlessly from supper to bath, through bottle and story, toothbrushing and the last of the amoxicillin. (I'm especially proud of how I handled the pee in our shared bath.) Almost, that is, until the second windowsill bump-on-the-ear hit before the tears had stopped from the first one. Daddy may be good for bedtimes, but any two-year-old in pain needs only mommy.

And, finally, almost lost 3800 iPod tunes this evening before I figured out how to use the 'pod itself as a recursive library source -- a move made necessary by an IT crackdown on the type of rogue school accounts I tend to use for things like late-night in-office blogging and backup.

Oh, and almost didn't post this tonight...but we're off to sweep out the last of the old deserted apartment, followed by Sunday dining hall brunch and the school dance concert tomorrow. I figured I'd better get this down before I lost it. Heck, I almost did anyway.

posted by boyhowdy | 10:24 PM | 34 comments

Friday, February 11, 2005

Blogger Finally Gets It...Mostly 

The no-brainer you've all been waiting for.

Three cheers to Blogger (wow, never thought I'd say that) for a long-overdue overhaul of their comments infrastructure. Newly competitive options include a pop-up post option, the allowance of basic html tags, and a much cleaner display in the default setting. In addition, where until last week Blogger was uberproprietary, causing some folks to go so far as to create blogger accounts solely to comment without anonymity, cross-platform compliance now appears to be truly supported.

Those who turned to HaloScan out of frustration or sheer necessity are welcome to return to the fold, or not, as desired. Either way, this is not your older brother's blogger.

posted by boyhowdy | 2:43 PM | 1 comments

The Universe Speaks Through Children 

Mysterious messages from the subconscious? No, I'm not talking about blogmeme My Little Golden Book About ZOGG. Rather, after a night and day of surely stress-induced backpain, the tiny calendar sticker that Willow planted on my coatsleeve this morning as I walked out the door shows a headless, armless, naked back with white spine visible. The caption? Chiropractor.

Couldn't have been deliberate on her part -- sure she's abnormally bright, but no two year old could have made that connection. No, out of a hundred mostly holiday-oriented labels, that particular sticker just...came up, ominously. Maybe the universe is trying to tell me something.

UPDATE 3:35 pm: Calendar As Culture

Home for lunch to discover the wee one had stickered her indoor universe with the rest of the calendar stickers. Interestingly, upon further examination, it becomes clear that the rest of the stickers were not merely holiday oriented, but comprehensive to a fault.

The hidden messages are more ominous than before. Taken as a set, a dubious lifestyle emerges:
  • There are 8 "hair/nails appointment" stickers, but only four say "flowers."

  • 4 stickers for "pet care," but only one "Vet."

  • As many auto service stickers as Doctor's visits and prescription pick-ups combined.

  • 4 stickers for "special worship" show hands clasped in clearly Christian prayer.

  • 2 plumber/electrician stickers, and 2 "furnace/AC maintenance" stickers.

They're all over the house. The kitchen stool says "hunting season." A jail-like school, door laden with huge padlock, proudly proclaims "no school" from atop my slippers; 7 more sprinkle the nearby stairs.

Overall, then, in the universe of the calendar sticker, self trumps service, style trumps substance, and comfort trumps obligation. Catholicism reigns, as does the accessorization of the greenlawned suburban homeowner. Though there are four stickers for "volunteering," the world of middle-class commercial culture overwhelms; mass media messages fill a home once known for its lack of network and television access.

Whose life this is I think I know, but it sure as heck ain't ours.

Next time, the free calendar stays at the florists.

posted by boyhowdy | 10:14 AM | 17 comments

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Radio, Radio!  

Amazing news, indeed: after 6 years of local radio broadcast, this coming Monday will mark the first live internet broadcast of Tributary, your ten to midnight (EST) Monday night show here on WNMH!

Use this link to listen to Tributary!

Tune in this and every Monday night from 10:00 to Midnight for a little bit of this, a little bit of that, and everything in between.

Musical styles run from funk to folk, jazz to jambands, blues to bluegrass and everything in between. Check out last week's show for some ear-whetting mp3s and a decent sense of our genre-bashing playlist format.

In addition to the music, regular features include bedtime stories on the hour and the half, the "anecdotal weather" at 10:45, and a weekly phone-in contest! (Long-distance callers welcome!)

Thanks to Wes and all the rest of the staff at WNMH for finally making my dreams of worldwide aural domination a real possibility. Ooooh, I'm so excited I could sing!

Got a musical request for our inaugural stream? A favorite bedtime story for me to read? Just drop me a comment below!

posted by boyhowdy | 8:01 PM | 0 comments

Vague References And Frustration 

Protecting the privacy of prospective employers is turning out to be a constant source of tension for the uberblogger.

For one thing, as we enter the employment turnaround phase of prep school life on a universal scale, so much of my daily activity and thought these days is devoted to the jobsearch that keeping it off the screen means a significant drop in blogfodder -- and, since I'm not interested in posting mere trivia, a consquent drop in blogentries.

Too, subjectively speaking, since one key purpose of the blog is to record for future self and posterity, holding back the ups and downs means accepting a loss in rememberance. Years from now, will I look back on these months of uncertainty and find them hazy and unrecoverable by comparison?

It's a shame, really. I'm bursting with news.

But there's only so much to say about one's vague hopes and projected fears without allowing specificity. And though there's really nothing holding me back but my own commitment to balance truth and respect, the delicacy of the process itself -- coupled with those few but famous incidences of A-lister jobloss -- seems a clear indicator towards caution.

Those close and interested might send along an email, wherein I could be convinced to send choice tidbits both wonderful and terrifying, pessimistic what-ifs and gleeful dreams.

The rest of you will just have to accept the public me, and be grateful for the brainwaves. The rights of others in this world will not be trampled. Especially not those who might hire little ol' me.

posted by boyhowdy | 7:16 PM | 0 comments

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

A Fair Shake For The Fair Sex? 

It's National Girls and Women in Sports Day, an annual celebration chartered by the U.S. Congress in 1986 to honor female athletic achievement and recognize the importance of sports and fitness participation for all girls and women.

Unfortunately, most folks could care less. Women's participation in interscholastic sports has made major strides since Title IX was signed into law thirty years ago, but alums still complain about losing Football funding to "girl games." We're still a long way from the equality that Title IX proclaims as both ideal and necessity.

For example: it is a no-brainer that where attendance goes, true support follows. And game attendance -- the biggest and most obvious indicator of community support -- remains comprehensively imbalanced in all but the most progressive communities. And though nominally most schools are giving equal dollars to boys and girls sports programs, as mandated by Title IX law, finances are a slippery slope which don't always indicate genuine support. Do the girls get the best court or rink times? Do they get the same promotion in pep rallies and newspaper promotion? Not here. Probably not there, either.

Even those who should be at the forefront of the race to create and nurture true equal opportunity in sports aren't doing their job. For example, see your local school system: male athletic directors across the world today should be stepping forward, but instead, in far too many cases, they've charged their female assistant coaches with doing the dirty work of promotion. (If your local school system is getting this right, by the way, make sure you offer your vocal and voluminious support.)

In honor of this very important but sadly still underappreciated aspect of culture, later tonight I hope to post a thought piece submitted by Shane, a coworker and Girl's Hockey Coach. Stay tuned!

[Update 11:12 p.m.

Shane writes:

February 7th thru 13th is National Women in Sports week and to celebrate this the NMH GVIH put on possibly their best showing yet, taking on the larger and more skilled Kingswood Oxford team today in McCollum arena. A hard fought game saw the NMH squad fall by the score of 3:0 but that in no way measured the effort and hard work put in by every member of our team.
Sadly, this contest and the performance of our female athletes went almost totally un-noticed by the NMH community in general. Aside from a few parents and the loyal Boy’s Varsity Ice Hockey team (IMHO the classiest group of athletes I’ve seen around this campus) there was no one there to witness the truly honorable effort. Perhaps the students and faculty were at the BB courts and Swimming Pools cheering on our other female athletes. Do those venues actually hold 750 plus bodies? My personal thanks go out to all those who did witness the GVIH teams effort today, cheered when thay made the plays, booed the officials when they made a bad call (or two), high fived the girls as they left the ice between periods and simply made todays game special for every one involved. For those who were not there, you missed a good game, and a good opportunity to support both your school and Women in Sports. Take heart though – check this week in sports [ed: an on-campus schedule system for athletics]. NMH has more contests Friday and Saturday for you to cheer. ]

posted by boyhowdy | 1:38 PM | 2 comments

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.

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


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


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


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
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