Saturday, March 19, 2005

Lawn Boy 

A day at home alone: late sleep, coffee and cigarettes on the porch, the short stories of Arthur C. Clarke, an exceptionally large book with the heft of Spring.

Before me, the snow has pulled back from the concrete walkway like the red sea before Moses, revealing last year's lawn stained yellow green with the weight of a hundred Winter days.

Over the warm week I have taken great pride in raking the heavier snowpiles, spreading them onto adjacent sunlit damp spots. The glistening ice-jewels I scatter take but minutes to melt away, feeding the earth as they become meltwater.

I have pulled the leaves from the mulched strip along the porch base, exposing the tiniest bulb shoots -- perhaps too early, as they seem to be coming up more Big Bird than Oscar.

It is the first lawn in the neighborhood, and the first we have ever been able to call our own.

It will be ours for this single spring, and then we must move on.

Victims of boarding school rightsizing are thrown out of house and vocation simultaneous.

This life is more uncertain than most, these days. Contracts are beginning to come in at our peer schools across the country, and open positions filled; the peculiar job cycle of the prep school moves to a close.

And after dozens of letters of interest, one forum meat market, two full-day interview/visits, I am bereft of offers. The active search has stalled. New openings come slower, if at all; where once my inbox held a daily triplicate of possibility, it has remained empty of all but spam for days.

And in that context, each tiny yellowgreen tongue points skyward heavy with the dark secrets of the unknown, the mysterious promise of these tiny shoots and mudpockets more precious than a thousand thousand epiphanies.

Who knows if we will ever have a lawn of our own again?

We will celebrate it tenderly, while we can.

We will tend it as if it was the only thing in our headlong days we can control, because some days, it is.

We will leave it better than we found it, as in all things, despite our uncertainties, because we are who we are, and can be no less.

posted by boyhowdy | 12:12 PM | 12 comments

Friday, March 18, 2005

Have Vocation, Will Travel 

Note: this post will stay atop the blog for a while: I got a family to support, and I ain't too proud to beg. If you work at or send your kids to a private or progressive public school in the New England area, please consider donating five minutes of your time to check your local job board for me. Thanks!

Look, I'm a great teacher.

I like integrated 9th grade Humanities, working closely with Seniors on college essays, and long walks in the woods.

Beloved by teaching peers and students alike, my biggest influences as an educator include Dewey, Socrates, Papert, Montessori, and the Hearkness method. I have a Masters of Arts in Teaching, and vast experience in almost every teaching subject.

A professional Renaissance Man and culture vulture, my primary goal in the classroom is always to help students take ownership of their own place in the world of communication and culture. I teach to the students, not the material, but I'm always looking for that perfect combination of traditional and modern resources for the perfect class.

I can do it all. Better than most. And I love doing it.

Hire me.

posted by boyhowdy | 11:58 PM | 5 comments


Old friend and once-student Molly wants to take me to a concert, but like so many of my protegees, she's adrift a bit these days, and as yet licenseless. So she's getting her boyfriend -- another ex-student -- to drive, if he can pass his own test tomorrow. Please join me in wishing Ramon an easy test, both because he's a good guy, because driving is freedom, and because Molly and I really want to see a concert sometime soon.

I remember the first time I tried to get my driver's license. I was an eager lad, ready too early; like any adolescent, I wanted it bad, overmuch, enough to make me nervous and tense. I had taken the class, breezed through the written exam. Finally, there I was, about to drive off into the sunset in an unfamiliar neighborhood just because it was the only place with a testing spot the first day I was eligible.

The test itself was a breeze -- park here, three-point there, signal left, look right. Until the last block, the dipped branch-covered stop sign unseen, the total cliche of the beach ball bouncing into the road, immediately followed by a reckless suburban child surely no more than 8.

What can I say: I panicked. You would have, too. Driving up on the curb cost me six licenseless months at a time when I most needed to fly.

Hey, I can truly say I still haven't hit a kid. After four totalled cars, two years as a parent, and twelve years of teaching, that's still a record to be proud of.


Speaking of driving-as-freedom: Another ex-student writes that she's dropped out of school, checked in and out of a retreat, and hit the road with a girl she met at a lesbian bar for one of the best kinds of road trips, the kind with no direction and no time pressure. Good luck, C. Hunter S. Thompson would be proud.

That resonates, too. Those early college drop-out days when I threw myself out of my parent's house I, too, slept in the car by the high school and called it a grand adventure. Ah, to be young and aimless on the road. Even the bad days were free days.


Sometimes you want something so badly you really can taste it. Funny: like everything else, desire tastes like chicken. Less funny: that aftertaste is fear, and it never, ever goes away.

And sometimes it goes wrong.

But it always gets better.

Like myself, so many of my students remain aimless, though in the good way of the true wanderer. But I don't think that means I've failed as a role model -- quite the contrary, in fact. Rough patches and all, I still maintain the best way to look yourself in the mirror at the end of the day is to go where the universe sends you, and embrace every step of the way; to love hard and move on when it's time; to never linger or loiter, but live and be.

Going isn't going if someone else is at the wheel. Driving is flying, for most of us. It's just not a hitchiker's world any more, if indeed it ever was.

So bide your time, kids, and be prepared to wait a while before the wheel is yours. But be prepared to fly, too -- you can practice now, with feet and wheels. Swallow hard, and lean into the fear. Wherever we're destined to be, you'll get there. And what a glorious journey it is, isn't it?

posted by boyhowdy | 11:04 PM | 0 comments


The old boyPod is one gig shy of full and getting fuller by the day. Without a dedicated computer to store songs -- working at a prep school for seven years has meant unlimited access to school technology, so I don't own my own -- and looking at loss of access to my current computer in a scant twelve weeks, I'm tempted to start burning CD archives, which, though certainly more condensed than the original collection, seems a bit anachronistic. Other solutions welcome.

posted by boyhowdy | 12:00 AM | 2 comments

Thursday, March 17, 2005

The Girls 

One wrote me the sweetest love note ever, couched as a recommendation letter, when I was down about the job search. Left it taped to the door when I came home, addressed to Whom It May Concern, but I know she meant me.

The other stomps around the living room with me before bed. To Guster, of all things. At a deafening volume. With a bongo drum and big grin on her face.

One genuinely likes homemaking, enough to refuse my offer to make supper for a change, and to make the result that much more worth it just because I offered.

The other spends an hour oh-so-carefully slipping earrings in and out of my ears. She wants to hear the story of each piercing. Twice. She wants to get her ears pierced someday, just like Daddy.

When it's time to rake the porchside clear of snow and last year's leaves, they let me do it. One makes lunch, while the other cheers me on, wondering at the tiny green shoots, and asking to touch them ever so gently.

One swells, heavy with child, while the other tries to imagine what big sisterhood will mean.

Some days, like today, the sun shines, and Spring turns the earth to gold between our toes. Some days, like today, the jobsearch stalls, and I despair of my vocation.

But no matter how the days flow, both tell me they love me, over and over -- at all the right times, and plenty more for good measure. And I believe them, and consider myself the luckiest man in this whole screwed-up world.

My wife and my daughter, my daughter and my wife. They are my center, my base, my life. They make the world grand. Though we may be jobless and homeless by June, we'll always have each other. And that's enough to keep me sane in the storm, and fill my heart -- and then some.

posted by boyhowdy | 11:17 PM | 1 comments

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Tinyblog Update (Technote) 

Now that I've begun adding 4-lines-or-less worth of pop-up commentary to each entry on the tinyblog (currently "down there" on the right sidebar), would it be worth bringing it up near the top of the sidebar, so you could see the tip of it as you arrive at an 800x600?

'cause otherwise, it seems like a lot of work for nothing.

posted by boyhowdy | 10:29 PM | 0 comments

Bleached Blanket Blogosphere 

Bloggers being bloggers, there's far too many of us talking about how, why, and what we can do about the fast that white men are the dominant colonists of the blogosphere. And, bloggers being bloggers, most of us are missing the bigger picture.

There are far too many obvious reasons why this absolutely was going to happen. Especially at the A-list level. But they all boil down to this: the blogosphere is a technology.

We made it. We peopled it.

And what most people don't realize is, individual technologies always come from their culture much more than they shape it.

It's as if somehow, most people thought blogging had grown up in a cultural vacuum, populated exclusively by Skinner box babies.

As the WELL stayed subcultural while the Web became the culture, so will blogs inevitably take on the qualities of their larger culture.

After all, the technorati alone cannot create the A-list anymore -- as long as hits still determine popularity to any extent, a mass population will continue to vote with their eyes. Such numbers require much more mass appeal and mass redirection to perpetuate.

As such, I am no more in favor of the sort of affirmative action proposed by some bloggers (see end of Levy's Newsweek article, for example) than I am in favor of the same trivial (and ultimately racist and dismissive) tactics used by, say, the folks who make sure to overrepresent people of color in glossy admissions literature. It doesn't work there, either, but more importantly, it cheapens us all to do it. Misrepresentation is misrepresentation; commodifying groups as if they needed your promotion only perpetuates the very same us/them media dynamic which brought forth a white male blogosphere in the first place.

Hey, here's an idea. You want better representation of minorities in technological spaces where confidence is a key trait to A-list success? Then work to transform minority communities and schools, and raise a generation with the skills and attitudes necessary to truly change the world. Don't insult them by overlinking to the underrepresented.

Bah. People who think any social networking technology and its early user group is just going to up and transform our culture's fundamental value system get into my skull and make it itch. History is clear: over and over again, social networking networks the society we already have, and changes it very little in doing so. (Major technological packages which totally change the way we think of communication of ALL types do make such change, though -- the transformation from print to digital communication, of which blogging is one tiny mote, does/will act/has acted on that scale. But I digress.)

Mere connectivity is no sure way to C-change in that societal infrastructure, ideologically speaking. Sure, technologies frame new ways of thinking, but to change culture, we have to deliberately change the way people think on a much more fundamental level.

Maybe it's the navel-gazing, a sure sign of the core subculture -- the originators -- of any social net. Maybe we spent so much time talking about how blogs could change and reframe the world, we forgot to make the world change and reframe blogs in ways which would, instead, minimize the potential for true change in the average user while reinforcing our habitual assumptions about ourselves and our world -- those bits and bytes of who we are.

posted by boyhowdy | 9:43 PM | 7 comments

Monday, March 14, 2005

Second Spring 

Warm, then, for a few wonderful days. In like a lion - ha! - and we all wore sweaters and thought ourselves terribly brave.

Until a week of blizzards weighed down our boots.

Now the snowman tilts precariously towards the emerging garden, as if coaxing those already-crushed first flowerheads back to life. The cat minces gingerly through meltwater mud, drawn by the lure of sunwarmed sidewalks. The thermometer hits 50; we dance on the porch in socks and shirtsleeves, banging drums after dinner, reawakening the earth.

In the distance, coyotes howl at the fingernail moon. Clouds move in to cover us all.

Tonight's playlist follows, as always. Heavy emphasis on male voices tonight, from all over the musical map; unplanned, but once I saw it happening, I kept it going for the first hour. Starred entries in the 'list below are from tonight's featured album, Avalon Blues: A Tribute to the Music of Mississippi John Hurt. Anyone able to get the streamcast to work?

Tributary 3/14/05

Skavoovie and the Epitones -- Fat Soul
The Who -- Squeeze Box
Keller Williams -- Freaker By The Speaker
Moxy Fruvous -- Spiderman
Eels -- Novacaine For The Soul
Phish -- Split Open And Melt
Four Tet -- Iron Man
*Steve Earle -- Candy Man

springpoem: Chansons Innocentes: I (ee cummings)

Guster -- Happier
Booker T & The MGs -- You Can't Do That
Acoustic Syndicate -- Pumpkin And Daisy
*Mark Selby -- Make Me A Pallet On Your Floor
Wilco -- I'm The Man Who Loves You
Peter Mulvey -- Shirt

springpoem: Mending Wall (Frost)

Ray LaMontagne -- Jolene
Jorma Kaukonen -- Big River Blues
Alana Davis -- 32 Flavors
Shivaree -- I Close My Eyes
Kris Delmhorst -- Little Wings
Eva Cassidy -- It Don't Mean A Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing)
*Lucinda Williams -- Angels Laid Him Away

springpoem: Spring is like a perhaps hand (ee cummings)

Jim White -- Borrowed Wings
*Taj Mahal -- My Creole Belle
David Gray -- Kangaroo
Fiona Apple -- Frosty The Snowman
Sarah Harmer -- Uniform Grey
John Hiatt -- Gone
Elizabeth Mitchell & Daniel Littleton -- You Are My Sunshine
Bobby McFerrin -- Sweet In The Morning

You've been listening to Tributary, your ten to midnight Monday night show here on WNMH. The kids may be gone, but with only a dozen of these left before my career ends here at the prep school, I'm not planning on missing a trick.

Got the best compliment ever tonight, by the way. Local guy called, and when I asked him for a request, he said, and I quote:
No thanks. You always play better music than I could ever think of.
You can't see me, but I'm grinning still.

posted by boyhowdy | 11:59 PM | 2 comments

White Noise 

Yet another slightly forced blogtitle trifecta! Woo!

  1. Don't forget to tune in to WNMH tonight and every Monday night from 10:00 to midnight (EST) for your favorite weekly radio program tributary. From funk to folk, from jazz to jambands, from blues to bluegrass, and everything in between; I've been gathering in the jams and licks for years, so you won't be disappointed. Bedtime stories on the hour and the half hour, too.

    Stream here, last week's show here. Requests gladly considered.

  2. With the bright sun turned up to 50 degrees, the kid and I spend a glorious morning in the weekend's heavy snow building a snowman -- her first, and the Winter's last. Over the next few hours, while we read books and snuggled barefoot and footstomping on the porch, his 6 foot frame slowly sagged leeward in the warm air. Even heard inside, the drip drip of another melting winter made for a bittersweet note in an otherwise brightwhite morning. Though I tried to prep her, and think the lesson of impermanence a valuable one, I know we'll both be a bit heartbroken at the leftover lump tomorrow.

    I'll post a kid-and-snowman pic sometime soon, once I get off my ass and empty out the camera disk.

  3. Third, I miss having television reception. Even if it makes me more productive, laundry-wise, there's nothing like a late night session of Adult Swim and Ben & Jerry's Pecan Pie ice cream.

    Mmmmm. Ice cream.

posted by boyhowdy | 2:41 PM | 0 comments

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Airbrushing History 

Hell is other people removing your cigarette. France's National Library has airbrushed Jean-Paul Sartre's trademark cigarette out of a poster of the chain-smoking philosopher to avoid prosecution under an anti-tobacco law.

Other anti-smoking media revisionism happens here and elsewhere; recent victims include Courtney Love, the Beatles, Robert Johnson, Jackson Pollock, James Dean, and Paul Simon.

It should go without saying that changing our images of the past to reflect the present is a sinister and slippery slope. At its worst, the strategy can support the kind of revisionist "evidence" that currently flames Holocaust denial -- if there's no pictoral evidence in the popular mind's eye, it's that much easier to believe it never happened, and dismiss those who would say otherwise.

Imagine "whiting out" slaves from the earliest sepia-toned historical photographs of the American South, and you get the idea in spades.

(From Hutch and Russ Kick via Boingboing.)

For more of the best medialit, infocult, popcult, and otherlit bits hitting the web, check out boyhowdy's tinyblog.

posted by boyhowdy | 11:24 PM | 5 comments


There, but moreso.

Thought I had something stuck between my teeth all through supper; turns out I chipped a corner off an lower central incisor. No idea what I did to it, but it must have been severe: in addition to a crooked hole in the center of my perfect bite, an dark and ominous fault line runs the length of the tooth down into the gums. I've worried my tongue to bleeding shreds against its ragged edge. In the long term, I'm worried about losing the tooth.

How sad to develop yet another mark of entropic erosion, a new piece of imperfection smack-dab in the middle of what has always been one of my better qualities: a goofy, disarming Dennis Quaid smile. At least we've still got dental coverage 'till June.

Bonus: Today's photo taken from a page on the dangers of tongue piercing. Yikes!

posted by boyhowdy | 9:04 PM | 0 comments

In Like A Lion, Out Like A Swamp 

Spring has sprung, the grass is riz:
I wonder where the birdies is?

Elsewhere, surely. But not here.

Almost six full weeks since the groundhog made his yearly prognostication, yesterday brought us a full day of fluffy almost-blizzard here in rural New England. Ten inches of heavy snow later, a midmorning melt has just been arrested by heavy grey cloudcover and yet another sprinkling just begun outside my window.

Of course, this close to the Vermont border, there's an extra season between Winter and Spring. It's called Mud, and it lasts as long as another six weeks. Though the cold nights and warm days will make for some great sugaring, if the temperature stays just above freezing, we can expect a long bog to follow once the trees tap out. So much for an eager end to yet another surprisingly mild, generally ice-shy Winter...

PS: Ears feeling empty? Don't forget to set your clocks for another webcast of Tributary, your Monday night ten to midnight (EST) show here on WNMH!

posted by boyhowdy | 2:04 PM | 0 comments

Friday, March 11, 2005

Oh, Magic 8-Ball... 

In a two-barber town, you go to the barber with the bad haircut. In blogging, I guess, one solicits comments. Even oracles don't look to themselves for the answers.

And so I prostrate myself before you in my quest! Slake my thirst for knowledge! Speak, O Bloggiverse!
  1. Why does it take a two year old fifteen minutes to clean up one can of magenta play-doh?

  2. Where did I put those know, the newer Norah Jones, and the other Deb Talan album...probably some others with 'em, too...

  3. Is it better to see my family at lunch every day and by 4 each evening but come home to a cramped rent-free prep school dormitory...or make slightly more, leave work at work each evening, rush home -- an hour commute -- to a tiny, mortgaged suburban cottage, and see my daughter for a single hour before her bedtime?

  4. When did I decide to stop looking at schools too far from our parents?

  5. How far is too far?

  6. Why is it that all the students I most loved over the years are falling apart and dropping out -- just like I did when I was their age?

  7. When did I become a man whose happiness depends exclusively on getting the kiddie cart at the supermarket. You know, the one with the red plastic truck built into the front. Yeah, the one your daughter keeps falling from. Into the path of oncoming old ladies whose noses are stuck in their shopping lists.

  8. Why can't I cook fish?

  9. When you pour an entire saucepan of chunky fish grease down the kitchen sink, where does it go?

  10. What does the quadratic equation do again?

  11. What am I doing wrong?

  12. Is it Spring yet?

  13. Why?

posted by boyhowdy | 10:14 PM | 32 comments

Uncyclopedia: The Anti-Wiki 

A satirical parody of Wikipedia, this free encyclopedia of politically incorrect non-information is equally wikified.

But satire is not as clear or as culturally agreed-upon a standard as the practical truths of the reference book. Interestingly, then, I note that, where Wikipedia "works" by gradually diverging on some sort of universal, shared truth-of-the-times, there is no such single pinnacle of order waiting for its sinister cousin the Uncyclopedia. The wildly divergent mandate -- a form of "must be funny" chaos, not order -- with which the cyberbastions are charged in the Uncyclopedia does not lend itself to consistency or stability, not in time, and not in space.

The ramifications are fascinating. What could/will a humor wiki end up being, even/especially one with parodic premise? Will the answer relate to the ways in which the community which finds humor on the web is by now broad and often fragmented into subsections, and/or the fact that the wiki concept is beginning to be open to all such groups, from highbrow to low, and even the mildly technovirginal? Will it tell us, finally, what humor is, and how it works for us, and why?

Indeed, though stillwaters notes that the site currently "has a ridiculously American college-liberal slant," there is no reason to expect the site will always slant in that way. Instead, I imagine one of an almost infinite set of possibilities, including:

  • This resource makes the cultural rounds, appearing gradually through various sites and spam. As new groups find out about Uncyclopedia, they come in en masse with new fervor, redefine the site in their own brand of humor, then move on.

  • A single community or typography colonizes the site, and manages to become entrenched enough that no one else ever bothers to visit long enough to make a difference in the community. In this scenario, the site might not retain exactly its current slant, but it would become commidified, and might or might not garner mass appeal.

  • Some version of the above will happen, but since some groups are more interested in some topics than others, various nodes of humor types may form. In this culture-with-subcultures model, for example, British subject matter may take on a decidedly British form of humorous delivery; similarly, Star Trek pages and Firefly pages will be equally geeky in their hilarity, but not in the exact same flavor.

  • None of the above -- the vandalism inherent in being silly/funny, coupled with the fact that the site has no practical purpose (as Wikipedia does) and thus need not be protected, will result in a site which is utterly destroyed most of the time.

  • Something entirely different but, in hindsight, equally obvious happens.

The more I think about it, the more I want to write this thesis. What would/could we learn from a host of other similar collaborative cybercontentbuilding exercises on a global scale, cyberanthropology experiments all, from hazy-subjected collabora-blogs (What is love?) to wiki newspapers for local communities (what happened?)? What can an anarchic wiki-premise tell us, and about whom? Anyone looking for a PhD candidate?

(via stillwaters)

[Update 9:31. For now, with the blush still on the rose and but a few entries up, Uncyclopedia is totally addictive. Feel free to check out one of my own pitiful entries, though by the time you get there, it may not look like that anymore, if you know what I mean. ]

posted by boyhowdy | 8:05 PM | 12 comments

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Peeking Toms Sent Back To Safety Schools 

While I was out looking for work, the Wall Street Journal reports that

officials from the Harvard Business School said they will reject 119
applicants who used a hacker's instructions to try to find out whether
they had been accepted by the school.

An interesting dilemma, on the surface: does the natural urge towards curiosity, coupled with the illicit capabilities of a renegade hacker, deserve such sanction?

Most young people would certainly argue that the response is way too harsh for this minor transgression -- after all, the students involved aren't the hacker, just the peekers.

But at the risk of setting up a straw man, I think Harvard not only well within their rights to decide that all prospective peekers are prospective no more, but more, that their response is absolutely appropriate in scale and scope.

First, it is sad that it takes the political and academic cache of a Harvard (or, I guess, THE Harvard) to make it clear to a generation of students that just because peeking is technologically easy, it is no less egregious than, say, real world peeking. But it is no less true for Harvard's having said it. In this case, the scenario is absolutely comparable to, upon hearing that someone had jimmied the locks at the Harvard admissions office, rushing into the physical admissions office to spy on one's own files. This is called accessory after the fact in our legal system, I believe (lawyers, anyone?).

Second, I think Harvard had to do that in order to preserve its precarious self-image as the most selective university in the universe. After all, Harvard has far too many equally and highly qualified applicants; realistically, if something like this doesn't tip kids off the scales, then neither should any other of the myriad niggling factors which currently knock applicants off the 10% short list.

But these are mere legalities. Most importantly, I support Harvard's decision exactly because the decision is perceived as over-the-top by most young people. This is a wonderfully valuable thing that Harvard has done -- because it reveals, for a generation of students, just how over-the-top our worship of places like Harvard has become, and how out of touch Harvard is with the moral realities (my own opinion and the law's opinion notwithstanding) of the actual culture of the modern adolescent.

I've said it again and again: Harvard isn't for everybody, or even for most. Its name aside, like any other school, Harvard best matches (and best serves) those students whose minds and hearts best match the way Harvard teaches. Period. It is only the "best" school for those who would most benefit from its particular style of undergrad education. A name is no substitute for a mind.

And yet in my seven years teaching prep school I have known many students who have been raised to expect Harvard, and apply knowing nothing about it, or themselves. Luckily, most of these kids get rejected. Unhappily, however, plenty get accepted and go, thus dooming themselves to someone else's best education.

At Harvard, like at so many other, lesser-known private educational institutions (trust me on this one), brand has taken over, to the point that it interferes with good education or even quality of care. (I'm not speaking out my butt here; I've been to lectures by Harvard professors on exactly this subject, including a notable session at BloggerCon2 last year.)

So hurrah for Harvard for laying bare their acceptance of such superficiality by treating the students who peeked as criminals, not as students in need of care and guidance. Anything that helps students see that the name brand is quite often not worth the educational stakes, while making it clear that Harvard students are selected based on that group's ability to perpetuate name brand cache more than anything else, is a great day in the Ivies, in my book.

posted by boyhowdy | 9:44 PM | 0 comments

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

On The Road Again 

I'm off looking for work in suburban New York for a day or two. Back Friday with news, good or bad; until then, as always, enjoy recently updated archives, and stay cool -- Spring is coming!

Incidentally, sorry for the light blogging this week. Yesterday's snowstorm only added pressure to an already overwhelming mound of jobsearch paperwork and finally finished end-of-term grading.

posted by boyhowdy | 2:35 PM | 1 comments

Monday, March 07, 2005

Spring Break, With Radio 

Earlier, coming out of the library, final progress reports in hand, I swatted a bamboozled fly into a muddy snowbank, stepped over a stillcold bee huddled on the drying concrete. Outside the house the maple trees drip their sweet thin tap tap tapped lifeblood steadily into tincovered buckets. Inside, my daughter coils by a cracked-open window, breathing in the breeze.

Tonight I dodge meltwater puddles up the dim lamplit campus walk, key into the deserted classroom building, fumble for lightswitches in a dark staircase. The basement radio booth is pristine, freshly cleaned by kids working off a future term's workjob by full-timing it for break.

In the morning, or maybe after lunch, more kids will come to the trees by our door, empty buckets into buckets. It will rain. The dog will jump up on the windowsill, and growl at them through the open window.

Signs of impending Spring ooze everywhere on this quiet campus, and the silence is no exception. It's Spring Break, after all. The prep school dorms are deserted, and most teachers, having finished their own grading, are off for sunnier climes.

But not me. The kids are gone, but the music goes on.

Some longer songs in there tonight -- I usually go for short and diverse, but with the kids gone I can be reasonably sure that the average listener has a longer attention span. Included the iPod shuffle posted earlier today, though not in the same order, because I wanted to hear 'em all again, and share with the universe. Decided, too, to read poems by Gerard Manley Hopkins, a poet picked out of the air for a 30 minute English teaching demo this coming Thursday -- a choice based entirely on a half-remembered love affair with the God-enamored brit in a college lit course fifteen years ago -- and now I need all the practice I can get.

Anyway. As always, playlist follows. Hope weblisteners enjoyed the show -- those who missed it should bookmark this link and remember to come back next Monday from ten to midnight EST for another stellar edition of...

Tributary 3/7/05

Skavoovie and the Epitones -- Fat Soul
Trish Murphy -- These Boots Are Made For Walking
Crowded House -- Chocolate Cake
Maroon 5 -- This Love (Kanye West Remix)
Guster -- Barrel Of A Gun
Dan Hicks and his Hot Licks -- My Cello
Phish -- Back On The Train

Poem: God's Grandeur

Los Lobos -- Bertha
Patty Griffin -- Love Throws A Line
The Afghan Whigs -- Can't Get Enough Of Your Love (Baby)
Kathleen Edwards -- One More Song The Radio Won't Like
Barenaked Ladies -- The King Of Bedside Manner
Sheryl Crow w/ Stevie Nicks -- Strong Enough

Poem: The Starlight Night

John Mayer -- Message In A Bottle
Juliana Hatfield -- Spin The Bottle
Evan Dando -- The Ballad Of El Goodo
Peter Mulvey -- Oliver's Army
Dan Zanes and Friends -- Wonderwheel
Paul Simon -- She Moves On
California Guitar Trio -- The Marsh

Poem: Thou Art Indeed Just, Lord

Alison Brown Quartet -- Mambo Banjo
Stevie Wonder -- Too High
Gillian Welch -- Make Me A Pallet On Your Floor
John Gorka -- Branching Out
Bruce Cockburn -- Going To The Country
Phish -- All Things Reconsidered
Nick Drake -- Pink Moon
Rufus Wainwright -- My Funny Valentine

You've been listening to Tributary, your ten to midnight Monday night show here on WNMH. Music, madness, and the best of Spring sent from the Connecticut River Valley foothills of the Green Mountains through the datastream -- and, finally, crammed in your ears -- every week without fail.

posted by boyhowdy | 9:17 PM | 2 comments

Tune In To Tributary 

Though the kids are gone, the music goes on!

Tonight's special Spring Break edition of Tributary, your ten to midnight Monday night show here on WNMH, features the usual genre-mashing spectrum of familiar, new and new-to-you tunes from funk to folk, jazz to jambands, blues to bluegrass and everything in addition to bedtime stories on the hour and the half hour, a weekly contest and just the right amount of inane airwave-chatter.

Tributary streams live tonight from ten to midnight EST. Set your clocks and c'mon in -- the music's fine!

posted by boyhowdy | 11:26 AM | 1 comments

Good Noise 

More proof that my iPod can read mood and mind: In the vein of that still-ubiquitous but almost-passe meme wherein folks hit shuffle and then log the first ten things that come up, the following "best iPod shuffle experience ever" sprung unbidden from what has become a pretty even mix of 4100 (!) mp3 blog downloads and personal CD tracks.

Trish Murphy -- These Boots Are Made For Walking
California Guitar Trio -- The Marsh
Los Lobos -- Bertha
Crowded House -- Chocolate Cake
Paul Simon -- She Moves On
Gillian Welch -- Make Me A Pallet On Your Floor
Stevie Wonder -- Too High
Dan Hicks -- Cello
Kathleen Edwards -- One More Song The Radio Won't Like
The Afghan Whigs -- Can't Get Enough Of Your Love, Baby

Ah, music. Four cover songs out of ten, a wide swath of genre-busting tuneage, and all is right with the world again.

Want to hear the playlist? To keep the RIAA off my back, let's say tracks are available by email request only.

Mega-phat bonus points to anyone who can identify the source of today's blogtitle.

posted by boyhowdy | 11:02 AM | 0 comments

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Philadelphia, Belatedly 

Well, I'm back, and about to forget the trip, so I better get this down in cyberspace before I lose it completely.

Tried posting a few times from Philly, but the hotel wireless kept eating my posts, and once I got into the swing of things at the prep school placement agency faculty recruitment forum I didn't want to process too much, lest I lose my interview momentum. Too tired Saturday night to blog, and too happy to spend time with my family after too long an absence yesterday to get to it any earlier.

What follows, then, is a backtrack two-fer, as short as I can without missing the blogworthy. Enjoy!

Hit the road just before dawn for the long multi-stage trek down to Philadelphia, illicitly hardwired into the iPod (the iTrip is still dead) and smoking like a fiend. Parked at Hartford airport by 8:00, made 9:30 flight with time to spare. Got half the plane to myself -- guess there's not much demand for a midweek Hartford to Philadelphia.

Stopped at the airport info desk on a whim upon arrival, and decided to take the train in to downtown and walk from there, thus saving much cab fare throughout the week as well as avoiding that international sweat and leather cab stink. Train went nowhere near the hotel where I was staying, but came within two blocks of the hotel hosting the prep school faculty recruitment forum, so I decided to stop off there first

Good thing, too. Arriving at 11:50 after a decent walk through the financial district I discovered that, despite notification that I wasn't going to be in until 1:00, one of the schools I was interested in, a unique combo of public and boarding prep school in the midst of Maine, could only see me at noon. Off went the coat, and there I was in the hotseat.

Like all four following, the interview went well, and that's all I'm saying for now -- as previously mentioned herein, I'm trying to preserve the semi-private nature of the jobsearch process. Except to mention some harsh generalities: First, that there seem to be an awful lot of boarding schools out there that don't have housing for families, and second, that if I coached varsity basketball, I bet I could have any teaching job I wanted.

Other than a quick between-interview check-in at the four-star hotel Dad took care of, spent the rest of the day wandering aimlessly through a 12 block radius, enjoying the city. Pork buns from Chinatown for lunch, a spicy andouille sausage sandwhich and belgian fries for supper from the great pub across the street, and more history than you can shake a musket at. Even found a sign marking the site of the first photo ever taken in America -- in 1830, of a school that no longer exists. Fell asleep happy at 10:30, stuffed with television.

More of the same until noon the next day -- two early interviews, a quick lunch with another NMH jobseeker, and a final 30 min chat with yet another Upper School Head, this time from mid-Pennsylvania. A philly cheesesteak (yum!) from a street vendor and a quick zip through the Franklin Institute museum's giant walk-through heart exhibit, where I bought Willow a real stethescope, and I was back on the commuter rail, still in my tie and coat, beginning my six hour plane, train, and automobile back home -- this time surrounded by the beginnings of spring break Harford (woo!).

For those interested: in all, the interviews were more like those cheesy table-hopping speed dating events than anything else, though broken up by hours of down-time. The competition was younger, mostly, and single -- which unfortunately means cheaper and easier to house in-dorm, though I'd argue that when you hire a 32 year old with a new second child you get a commitment to stick around for a while. Now it's days of follow-up letters and -- I hope -- a few calls for school visits as we enter the home stretch, so keep your fingers crossed for me, will you?

posted by boyhowdy | 10:07 PM | 0 comments

Saturday, March 05, 2005

The Bibliograpy as Medium 

Because I already wrote it, and need sleep -- the Philadelphia Report can wait until tomorrow.

Ongoing discussion over the past few weeks between Library, History and English faculty here at the prep school about teaching citation. Started in response to increasing teacher and student frustration about how to handle an ever-more-vast spectrum of media types, we've subsequently wandered into a wider discussion covering everything from the usual "MLA or Chicago" standardization concerns to more minutia-level issues concerning, for example, the infoglut that currently exists to handle missing data:

...what [says the History department Chair] if a key piece is missing (author's name, for example)? Either no single reference seems to cover every exception, or, the case or example you want is difficult to dig out of the welter of other material.

Tricky stuff. In this case, coworker and Instructional Librarian Susan weighs in on this ongoing discussion as follows:

I usually tell them to somehow indicate that the author is unknown...which at least lets the reader (of their paper) know that they "tried" to credit the author. Is this the right thing to tell them, or do you have other suggestions?

Which, naturally, allows me the prompt I need to address, holistically, The Bibliography As Medium. My response:

I was taught in college that one alphabetizes "works cited" pages by the first item, regardless of whether an author exists or not. A random selection of history books pulled from the library book sale are all consistent with that rule -- instead of Susan's take.

But that doesn't mean that Susan is wrong, and it doesn't mean that the books are wrong, either. What I think we want to remember is that Susan's comment holds the key to citation rules. They are, as I understand it, SUPPOSED to be fluid to some extent -- because different fields, different teachers, different students -- different CONTEXTS -- create different balances between the differing reasons we cite in the first place.

Let's look at what happens when we can't find the author, for example. This example currently under discussion, to take one criteria for a works cited at the high school level, balances a need for clean-looking and easy-to-follow works cited pages against the need to be able to know, as Susan says, that students have done "due diligence" in looking for an author. There are at least two possibilities, each with its own faults and benefits:

1. Susan's suggestion, which creates a context in which students work hard to find an author when it is not clear at first, and then -- under the standard flag of "academic honesty" -- leave some textual marker ("author unknown") to show that they have made their best effort to look for that information, but that to the best of their abilities and knowledge, the "author" information does not exist.

2. My own suggestion, which is consistent with the books we have in our library now, as best as I can tell. Using TITLE first when no author info is available avoids lumping one or more entries at the top of the works cited page (under "A" for "author unknown") -- a problem because I recognize a DIFFERENT and contradictory function of the works cited page as ALSO important for students and readers alike -- that function being the ability of the reader to follow up on cited works, and access them easily.

I have, in fact, been taught that the bibliography lists in information in the order it does BECAUSE that order goes from "most likely to find that info" to "least likely to be helpful in finding that info." If a student has listed a resource as being BY "author unknown," then it is harder to skim a works cited page and then go find that work that has been cited -- because, in the world of information, that information is best accessed by TITLE (because there is NO author known).

Note that neither of these is "better." But they cannot be used together.

This, then, is an example of why we get conflicting and contradictory info in different sources.

Given that: I think we may be looking for a red herring if we want outside resources to be consistent with each other. These are STYLE manuals, not rulebooks.

My opinion on this issue, then:

I think we best serve students by asking them to think about WHY we ask for works cited pages, and let them -- as a class or as individuals, depending on teacher preference -- decide how to be consistent and clear when faced with the world of exceptions.

I believe that THIS is the best way to prepare students to use works in college and beyond -- and, more importantly, to be prepared to use and understand the particular resource or style handbook of their college (and, later, their chosen field). It makes them adaptable to the real world of information in all its forms, where HOW you are writing often determines which form you use (APA or Chicago or MLA), because it helps them see WHY a field might choose to use one standard or another. In my experience, that understanding of WHY helps them "get it" faster.

More importantly, I think it also would help them figure out how best to use and cite media which as yet do not exist. Because, yes, new media - with new citation needs -- are coming at us all the time.

That said: If we want to have a schoolwide discussion about whether we want our own consistent rules, then I think we should go for it! As has happened with standards for writing itself in the Writing Across the Curriculum group, however, we may find that different departments and different teachers prefer different styles -- making a schoolwide consistent resource either moot...or only possible by fiat.

Thanks for reading all this, folks, and for indulging me the length needed to make this point.

posted by boyhowdy | 11:02 PM | 26 comments

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Leave A Message At The Beep... 

I'll be in Philly today and tomorrow looking for work and generally just puttering around. Unless net access is free at the hotel (hah!), no blogentry for you!

When I return, an exciting post about Bibliographies as Media (really), and of course our usual Monday night radio show. Until then, recent posts and archives remain scintillating as always.

And pre-emptively, for those about to keep, I'm not depressed. I'm just ready for a vacation.

posted by boyhowdy | 12:01 PM | 1 comments

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Stupid Universe 

Yeah, one of those days.

My new haircut foofed up from slick to "totally unmanageable" by noon. I spent ten bucks we didn't have on resume paper only to find an unopened pack of it on my desk when I got back from the school bookstore. I spilled coffee on my favorite casual friday pants on my way in to work, slipped on the ice and slashed the lower lid of my eye on the open car door just after lunch -- I'll be the only guy at the recruitment forum with a black eye, but at least they'll remember me.

It was a terrible, horrible, no good very bad day.

And it doesn't look like it's going to be getting much better for a while.

Had to cancel the car reservation for the meat market recruitment forum in Philadelphia in order to be able to pay for the hotel room Dad reserved and thought he paid for, but didn't, and can't from Israel.

I'm spending hundreds of borrowed dollars on a trip to the city of brotherly love, for just three half-hour interviews spread over two days. And I can't afford to do anything the rest of the time -- bars and museums are just too far outside the budget.

I'll be going into the interviews wearing pants held together by a thread and a prayer.

I killed another tie trying to iron it.

I hate being broke. I hate being a total "low limbic awareness" spaz who can't keep a watch face more than a month without breaking it. I hate ADHD. I hate not knowing if I'll have a job in June. I hate that the most significant emotional response I have when I think about the baby coming in April is that there will be one more mouth I cannot feed, when I should be feeling blessed. I hate that my last full day at NMH was full of pain and frustration, when I wanted to leave this place with my head held high.

I hate that school is on break for the next two weeks. I like my work. The wife and kid go to bed at 8:30, and there's no TV at home.

I hate that I have to stay up until 12:01 to get my boarding pass online, but I have to be up by 5 to make the flight.

I'd move to Australia, but I can't even afford the guidebooks.

posted by boyhowdy | 11:10 PM | 1 comments

Anyone Record The Osbournes? 

Also in this episode: Ozzy tries Google, but gives up after he can't use a mouse.

Thanks to awardwinning audioblog Stereogum for making me wish we had cable at the new house after all. And just when I was getting used to life off the infogrid.

True story, incidentally: in 1997, I had to teach my Sociology prof how to use a computer in order to show him the hypertextual portion of my "plan" (Marlboro College's version of an undergrad thesis). Poor guy had never seen a computer -- when I backed up all the way to "this is a mouse, it moves the pointer on the screen," he picked the mouse up and waved it in the general direction of the screen: "Like this?"

Then again, this was the same guy who resisted getting a phone in his office, too...and, when the school finally talked him into it, pulled it out of the wall a week later and returned it because "the little red light won't stop blinking."

Yeah, I know. I'm old. But at least I know what that blinking red light is for. Even if I can't remember my voice mail code to make it go away.

posted by boyhowdy | 12:44 AM | 1 comments

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

The First Last 

Hayden House, known affectionately by the boys as Motel H

Last dorm duty tonight.

The kids and the house faculty, God bless 'em, threw a cake and ice cream party at check in, listened to my almost-teary speech, gave me a book full of photos and personal messages -- my own personal yearbook -- a balloon and a book of inspirational quotes. I managed to keep from tearing up until I got 'em all in their rooms and headed out to the car, but it was close.

Seven years doing once-a-week 7-11 service for a dorm full of adolescent boys. One weekend a month, too, both Friday and Saturday night. The hallways I've stalked and walked, the kids I've caught in wrestling matches and late-night illicit booze sessions and academic despair, the adult peers and confidants I've seen come and go, the ping pong table, the solarium: I've been there longer than any of the folks at the party tonight, spent the first five of those seven in that second floor apartment right there.

No more.

Tomorrow is my last full day here at NMH. When we come back from break, I'll be on afternoon-only paternity leave until graduation.

My pitch gets wobbly when I sing the school song at assemblies.

A few Fridays ago a friend who used to teach Religion here, and is now 9th grade Dean at Cambridge School of Weston, stopped by for a visit. When I asked him how his new life was he said fine. And then an afterthought: but NMH will always haunt me.

Tonight, standing out in the stillfalling snow, crying until the dorm turned blurry, I began to know what he meant.

Even if I weren't still jobless. Even if we weren't expecting our second child in April. Even if I wasn't spending down my political capital in a vain attempt to leave this Godforsaken place better than I found it, for the children's sake.

It's going to be a long, long couple of months.

There's so many lasts to come.

posted by boyhowdy | 11:43 PM | 0 comments

Monday, February 28, 2005

Anywhere But "Ear" 

Snowing again. Little flakes spin pinlike, creep through windows left open to air out the cigarette smoke. They're talking about as much as a foot, though with final exams in the air we're looking at some sort of creative delay, not a fullblown cancellation. And of course, that assumes a heck of a lot more to come overnight than the thin frozen mist that falls past the window of this basement studio as I type.

A night of non-local music tonight on Tributary, your ten to midnight Monday night radio show. In honor of our web listeners, because Dad just handed me some duplicates of a few great old Oxford American Southern Music Samplers, and because I never realized how rich the local scene is until I tried counting the locals on the playlists for the past few weeks.

Tonight, and tonight only, we did not play any They Might Be Giants, Guster, Dar Williams, Mark Erelli, Juliana Hatfield, Evan Dando, Rani Arbo or Salamander Crossing, Phish, or other music from within a hundred mile radius of the good old basement soundboard. Nope. Nothing local at all. No Boston, no Northampton.

With one exception. Can you spot it? None of my listeners could. Shame, really -- they could have won a week's worth of free drinks for the call.

Playlist follows, as always. In addition to a holy host of great and diverse southern fried genre-busting, look, especially, for short sets of music from down under and from the frozen north, and a few hidden gems from other parts, too.

Tributary 2/28/05: Anywhere But Here

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers -- Billy The Kid
Badly Drawn Boy -- Once Around The Block
Barenaked Ladies -- Life, In A Nutshell
Ani Difranco -- Recoil
Ben Folds Five -- Tom & Mary
The Late Greats -- Wilco

Poem: Drum, by Philip Levine

Eels -- Blinking Lights (for me)
Ramblin' Jack Elliot -- Don't Think Twice, It's Alright
Olu Dara -- Your Lips
Fiona Apple -- Extraordinary Machine
Crowded House -- It's Only Natural
The Bats -- Trouble In This Town
The Waifs -- London Still

Poem: Gospel, by Philip Levine

The Mavericks -- Dance The Night Away
The Del McCoury Band -- 1952 Vincent Black Lightning
The Gourds -- El Paso
Sonic Youth -- Unmade Bed
Gilberto Gil -- Waiting In Vain

Poem: On 52nd Street, by Philip Levine

Keller Williams -- Freaker By The Sepaker
String Cheese Incident -- Drifting
Ryan Adams -- You Will Always Be The Same
Sarah McLachlan -- Ice Cream
The Be Good Tanyas -- Rain And Snow
The Duhks -- Giuliano's Tune, Something, Eleanor Day's #2
Will Kimbrough -- Goodnight Moon

You've been listening to Tributary, your ten to midnight Monday night show here on WNMH, where the music never stops.

What never?

Well, hardly ever.

posted by boyhowdy | 9:41 PM | 4 comments

Listen, You! 

Just 90 short minutes until this week's edition of Tributary, your ten to midnight Monday night show on WNMH 91.5, serving the wild intersection of Vermont, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts...and YOU. From funk to folk, from jazz to jambands, from blues to bluegrass, and everything in between. Bedtime stories on the hour and the half hour are a weekly treat not to be missed.

Webbers welcome! Click here for the live stream!

Tributary usually features a bunch of folks from 'round our own parts -- we're big fans of the rich local music scene here (if by "here" we mean "including Northampton and Boston"). Locals and once-locals from Dar Williams and Peter Mulvey to Rani Arbo and Mark Erelli hit the playlists almost every week; most weeks, we're known to slip in some Juliana Hatfield and Evan Dando, too.

But tonight, for a change, we'll feature artists from "anywhere but here" -- regional music from everywhere in America and around the world. This will include, but by no means be limited to, a featured set of music from the American South, courtesy of the now-defunct Oxford American yearly sampler series, via my father -- and we're not just talkin' county, nosiree bob!

So listen to the buzz: drop everything and tune in!

posted by boyhowdy | 8:13 PM | 0 comments

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Not A Poem Yet 

Something a bit unusual, even for me, since the library is having this poetry contest (theme: change), and I don't know if I want to write something new or submit something already filed and finished.

So: The following isn't even a draft yet, just some garbled poemnotes, the product of less than five minutes tinkering and a half an epiphany outside while smoking the day's penultimate cigarette. It probably needs a third image, and a form; maybe a big idea, more clear than clarity, anyway.

But in the absence of a writer's group, I'm looking for some critique and commentary, anything from "this might work" to "I like this line especially" to "this isn't a poem, but maybe you could find a place for this image in a poem about something else."

I'll give public props to the authors of any usable commentary. Heck, if you're a poet, I'll link to your work, too. Fair enough? Okay, then. Here's the stuff:

Things used to be so much clearer.
Like the moon which was once the thing that rose
bigger on the horizon than it was over the trees.
The thing that followed me home.

Until the psych professor made it malleable
by pointing out how it got smaller again
when you stood out on a cold night
and looked at it upsidedown, so the horizon
became the sky, and no one knew why.

Or stealing. It used to be
that if you said "you stole my heart" you meant
you have it, and I want it back,
but maybe with you around it.

Now we don't steal hearts so much
as download them illegally. The pictures I take
of the moon with my new digital camera
come out blurry. Neither you nor the moon
fit in my window, my heart, my pocket.

posted by boyhowdy | 11:27 PM | 1 comments

Tan, Rested, And Ready To Go 

Well, not tan. And my back is killing me from the drive to-and-from Boston over the last fortyeight.

But hoorah for my parents, who last night put the wife and I up in a luxury hotel suite overnight and took care of the two year old for us. Just so we could have a night to ourselves, the first in over two years, before the new baby comes and the crying suddenly comes in stereo.

And they did all this on the eve of their own trip to Israel, no less.

So, for the quiet night with chocolate mousse in front of the tube, the solo dip in the hotel pool, some other stuff which would be inappropriate to mention here (yes, you can do that in the 8th month, thank you very much), the latesleep and the hotel breakfast buffet: Thanks, Mom and Dad. It was just what we needed.

And despite our first-time parent anxiety, Willow took it all like a trouper. Slept like a baby, and gleefully so, by all reports. We called from the hotel this morning and asked her if she wanted to come by for a dip in the pool, and were told that's okay, you can stay there for another four or five days. We came home anyway, validated, knowing we could do it again -- which is a good thing, since she'll need to stay with others in April when her sibling arrives.

In other news: the prep school placement agency called -- seems "a number of schools" have expressed interest in me, so it looks like yours truly is off to the "meet market" in Philly on Thursday and Friday. Hooray!

Of course, one is a number, too...and I'm sure to have some down time. Suggestions for reading material which will be engaging and signal prospective employers that I'm just the guy they're looking for would be greatly appreciated.

posted by boyhowdy | 10:23 PM | 0 comments

Friday, February 25, 2005

Say No To Buffalo 

Emailed the school in Buffalo today and passed along my regrets that we'll be withdrawing our candidacy, though the offer sure was sweet. I think I would have missed lecturing and presentation, the heart and soul of my pedagogy, in the five-kid-per-classroom dyslexic environment, no matter how rewarding the intimacy would be. That, and after finally looking at a map to figure out where the hell Buffalo is, we've decided it's just too far away from family.

Felt weird to turn down the only serious lead I've got right now. Harder, too, knowing that they were willing to pay more than most, and put us in a house upon arrival. But we're not just looking for any job, after all. The more I move on, the clearer the vision gets. I've got my list of criteria, and I'm not going to settle for anything under 80%.

In other moving-on news, some friends stopped by to take a look at our house this afternoon. "I wish you weren't leaving," they said. Me, too," I said. I danced with their kid and ours, moderating play while the grown ups toured the nooks and crannies.

Priorities, man. I'll take teaching the two year olds to share over a kick in the heart any day. It's easier, though, if you don't think about the fact that some administrator is making you take your kid away from all her friends in June.

Coming soon: Two weeks vacation starts next Thursday, followed by a last term before leaving, spent half-time and full-pay, thanks to paternity leave. Oh, and God willing, the new baby arrives April 18th.

posted by boyhowdy | 11:46 PM | 20 comments

Seizing The Virtual Teachable Moment 

Having had quite enough of watching poor literacy and adolescent mindsets make a total hash of their online discussion folder while no other teacher in the school seizes the teaching opportunity, after years of tidbit-here, one-line there niggling at the edges of guiding the conversation in General Student Discussion, our school's intranet free-for-all space, I finally decided to step up as de facto teacher for the virtual space as classroom today.

Below, the cut-and-paste that marks my formal acceptance of the virtual gauntlet, including the exchange that, for me, was the ultimate last straw.

Student A on Thursday, February 24, 2005 at 6:20 PM -0500 wrote:
What if, say, political discussion was banned in GSD... forever. What would you all do with your time instead?

To which Student B writes:
Ok you complain about how you don't like political discussions, so don't read them. This isn't complicated, no one is forcing you to read. If you don't like it don't read it, or start a new thread. But don't complain about how you don't like it, its more annoying than the discussions that you complain about.
My response:
Interesting. I hope A and B don't mind being a teaching example for a moment.

What you see above is a prime example of how things get so out of hand so often on SWIS. One person says something, without explaining his context or reasons for saying so...and then another, "hearing" that text played out in his own head, ascribes context and tone TO that something BASED ON HIS OWN UNDERSTANDING of why or how HE would have said that something....and then goes on to confront the original author for a tone, context, or reason for writing which may be entirely imagined by that respondent.

Of course, then we all make the same mistake, and jump in quick with the same silliness. This makes us all defensive, and confused.

In this case, I myself am making assumptions about Student B's reasons for writing -- although I believe his tone makes those assumptions pretty obvious. However, I am writing because I want to point out that Student A did not in any way suggest what Student B is saying he did. Student A didn't say "Political discussion should be banned," or even "political discussion in GSD is annoying," or "it is annoying that GSD often devolves so quickly when we're discussing politics..." (In this case, in fact, I can see someone writing exactly what Student A did merely in response to how much TIME people seem to be spending on political discussion when they should by rights have far too much homework to do.)

B instead used A as a straw man. He took away Student A's ability to let his question speak for himself, and made it imposible for someone not to write in and say "hyy, wait a minute," as I am doing now.

And we all do it.

I'm doing it now.

So don't think I'm singling out Student B, here.

One of the things that has always fascinated me about virtual and digital communication is the way in which we accept e-speech as equivalent to actual speech, though one in which tonality is replaced by textography...despite the fact that text is not the same kind of carrier of tone as normal speech is. In other words, it is endemic to the medium that we develop habits like the ones which Student B both decries AND exemplifies...and which Student A may or may not have been thinking of when he wrote his perfectly innocent, theoretical question.

Unless, of course, we teach ourselves new habits.

Which is what I am advocating for by writing this.

I mentioned a day or two ago that it was long past time to begin spending my political capital now that I'm due to leave at the end of the year.

Welcome to the new me, kids. If you learn anything at all, I win. Here's hoping that another teacher will be willing to pick up the glove when I'm gone.

posted by boyhowdy | 11:52 AM | 4 comments

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

They Call It Mellow Cello 

But this is something else entirely.

They say the cello is the musical instrument that most closely parallels the sound of the male human voice, which explains why I like a capella music and cello music equally and verymuch. [The oboe is supposedly the female equivalent, but that's neither here nor there, and anyway, how many people are big fans of oboe music?] One needs only listen to the classical cuts of Yo Yo Ma & Bobby McFerrin: Hush to know the aural power I describe herein.

So I was already a fan of cellist extraordinaire Rushad Eggleston from his work with neo-bluegrass-slash-folk group Crooked Still after seeing them at Falcon Ridge Folk Festivalthis summer, and later at local folk underground The Iron Horse.

But then I rediscovered him while mp3blogging tonight, and my celloworld blew apart.

First off, in addition to his work with Crooked Still, Rushad turns out to be an under-25 prodigy, nominated for a grammy for his work with American stringband supergroup Fiddlers 4 while still at Berklee. This, alone, would have been pretty damn cool.

What totally distracted me from an otherwise promising session of mp3blogging, though, was tonight's discovery of the indescribably odd Wild Band of Snee, a Rushad vehicle which...well, geez. Maybe you'd better take a listen to a few tracks before we go any farther. Without any further ado, I bring you Rushad's Wild Band of Snee:
Go ahead and download. It's okay. I'll wait here.

Got it? What IS that? At times kiddie-pop-esque but somehow improvisationally weird? Makes They Might Be Giants look mainstream? Dr. Seuss for the ears?

Well, what the heck would you call it? Rushad's site is as silly as the music, and no help at all to the would-be blogpromotion; after a long equally-odd description of a storybook land, the clearest description offered tells us:
The Wild Band of Snee does a mixture of sneaky melodic instrumental and vocal music, as well as some fast rhythmical poetry and other weirdnesses. They are fun. YOU should see them!

Indeed. We should. So if anyone out there is planning on being in Boston for Club Passim's Dr. Seuss Birthday Celebration at the Boston Children's Museum, let me know. My new favorite oddband performing at my favorite kidmuseum, at an event sponsored by my favorite childhood folk club in honor of my favorite sillystoryguy... music to my ears, man. Hey, anyone else thinking road trip?

posted by boyhowdy | 11:55 PM | 0 comments

Turns Out It Was Just Me 

Thanks to those who expressed their empathy after yesterday's post. After a supper with Dad down at the Del Ray in Northampton tonight, I think it was just the blues.

Well, that, and Hunter S. Thompson and Sandra Dee, too many hours and not enough appreciation, worries about the jobsearch, frustration at being left out of the 17% raise finally given to the teachers after I've been made moot, frustration about being left out of the subsequent discussion between faculty and staff wondering if this will end up being a diversion and divisiveness tactic in the midst of important change, the kid is sick, my back is killing me after two days in her bed while she lies clogged in mine... oh, and they forgot to take our trash today -- I had to put it back in the basement.

Okay, I'm under some pressure these days.

But no worries. I've started flipping off the school as I pass by in the dark. Impotent, I know, but it makes me feel much better.

And thanks for the suggestion, Anne, but no, I'm not going to switch fields. I'm a damn good teacher, and I'd hate myself forever if I wasted that. I can make a goddamn difference with what I know, and no one else understands it enough yet for me to leave it to them.

I'm here for the kids and teachers. So help me, no matter what happens in the next months, I've got capital to spend, and I'm going to leave this place better than I found it, by God, because that's what I can do, that's what I should do, and -- institutional politics notwithstanding -- that's no less than what this world deserves.

posted by boyhowdy | 9:24 PM | 0 comments

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Despair In The Air 

Too much of my work today forced me to confront the fact that this school has no idea what I do here.

Two instructional sessions with classes -- one on how to present, and the other on how to present with powerpoint -- with each teacher wondering why the heck I won't be here next year, since no one ever asked them to teach HOW to teach to students.

Mandate work on the Professional development Committee, which is exploring literacies that faculty need to develop, and includes Technology literacy on the list -- despite the fact that I'm the only one here who teaches and directs that curriculum, or even knows what the heck that means.

Library postings renewing our vision, which includes those selfsame literacies.

Work on the webpage for Ed Tech, which won't exist next year, but for some reason we'll keep all that stuff on the web talking about our program and commitment.

The kids online can't understand that Creationsim isn't a theory like Evolution is a theory, and are discussing how to make sure that students are given "options" for "belief" in one or the other.

Someone said today that the reason I was cut was that no other prep school in our "league" has someone who does what I do. Bodes well for finding work with them, eh?

Some days, I just want to knock on the door to the head of school, and ask him whether he really cares about kids at all. The world is getting more silly around me as I grow in it, isn't it. Talk about Sysyphus.

posted by boyhowdy | 8:39 PM | 1 comments

Monday, February 21, 2005

Lend Me Your Ears 

Light fluffy snow four inches deep and still falling when we emerged this morning for work. Took the family car, a dark blue Camry, because it fits in the garage -- my usual beast, a 1995 powder-blue Grand Marquis grandparentmobile, is a doublewide. Good thing, too -- the roads were tense, plowscraped shiny and treacherous; it was certainly safer to have the anti-lock brakes at my booted feet.

At the library, spent an hour prepping for an instructional session with an Environmental Science class just starting the development phase of a 30 minute research presentation -- it was to have been my job to teach them how to teach, since I'm the meta-teacher extraordinaire. But alas, two minutes before classtime, the word spread through the halls like an avalance: classes had been cancelled for the rest of the day, and I shuffled off home for a snug afternoon with the terrible two and her overly pregnant mommy.

Funny how stress stacks up like that. It took me all day to wind down. Took the snow all day, too.

On a more mundane note, the call-ins seem to have increased a dozenfold since my weekly Monday-night-ten-to-midnight radioshow Tributary hit the web via live stream. I'm not complaining, though it takes a bit of the meditative fun out of the show to have to scramble so much between phone, mic, sound board and iTunes-driven computer. Tonight's win-a-week's-worth-of-free-snack-bar-coffee contest netted six callers in less than a minute, despite a pretty tough question (I played "Viva Las Vegas" and asked listeners to guess who the song was dedicated to).

Anyway. As usual, playlist follows. I'll try to post a few mp3s later, but figure there's less urgency now that folks can listen from the web. Thanks for listening, if you did -- and if you didn't, don't forget to tune in next Monday from 10 to Midnight for your weekly dose of...

Tributary 2/21/05

Skavoovie and the Epitones -- Fat Soul
Phish -- Wolfman's Brother
Michael Franti & Spearhead -- Everyone Deserves Music
Toots & The Maytals w/ Willie Nelson -- Still Is Still Moving To Me
Manu Chao -- J'ai Besoin de la Lune
They Might Be Giants -- Ana Ng
Guster -- Airport Song

Shivaree -- Goodnight Moon
Ryan Adams -- Chin Up, Cheer Up
Tish Hinojosa -- Hey Little Love
Josh Ritter -- Me & Jiggs
Dar Williams -- Teenagers, Kick Our Butts
Mark Erelli -- Troubador Blues
Raffi -- Baby Beluga

Ladysmith Black Mambazo w/ Des'ree -- Ain't No Sunshine
Rusted Root -- Send Me On My Way
Ben Harper -- Steal My Kisses
The Grascals w/ Dolly Parton -- Viva Las Vegas
The Biscuit Boys -- Agent Vegas
Elton John -- Ego

Mose Allison -- Monsters of the Id
Tim O'Brien -- Subterranean Homesick Blues
Woody Allen -- The Moose
Joni Mitchell -- Help Me
Yo La Tengo -- Magnet
Sarah McLachlan -- Blackbird
Patty Griffin -- Let Him Fly
Nick Drake -- Pink Moon

You've been listening to Tributary, your ten to midnight show here on WNMH. We may serve the world, but we're local at heart.

posted by boyhowdy | 9:46 PM | 0 comments

Turn On Your Radio...Right Now! 

Just in case you're in the habit of stopping by every ten seconds...In just a few minutes I'm beginning tonight's broadcast of Tributary, your ten to midnight Monday night show right here.

Feel free to phone in a request any time until midnight (EST) -- the station number is (413) 498-3915.

posted by boyhowdy | 9:39 PM | 0 comments

Sunday, February 20, 2005

A Bad Day For Creationists 

Now that BoingBoing has picked up the story, expect webwide kudos today for the New York Times, who most ingeniously "shreds" the fallacy of intelligent design by showing how "incompetent and foolish" most biological design turns out to be:
In mammals, for instance, the recurrent laryngeal nerve does not go directly from the cranium to the larynx, the way any competent engineer would have arranged it. Instead, it extends down the neck to the chest, loops around a lung ligament and then runs back up the neck to the larynx. In a giraffe, that means a 20-foot length of nerve where 1 foot would have done. If this is evidence of design, it would seem to be of the unintelligent variety.

Such disregard for economy can be found throughout the natural order. Perhaps 99 percent of the species that have existed have died out. Darwinism has no problem with this, because random variation will inevitably produce both fit and unfit individuals. But what sort of designer would have fashioned creatures so out of sync with their environments that they were doomed to extinction?

The gravest imperfections in nature, though, are moral ones. Consider how humans and other animals are intermittently tortured by pain throughout their lives, especially near the end. Our pain mechanism may have been designed to serve as a warning signal to protect our bodies from damage, but in the majority of diseases -- cancer, for instance, or coronary thrombosis -- the signal comes too late to do much good, and the horrible suffering that ensues is completely useless.
Gotta love the resultant belief dichotomy: either God is the world's dumbest, cruelest engineer, or maybe that Darwin guy really had something...

posted by boyhowdy | 11:30 PM | 2 comments
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