Thursday, March 31, 2005

What The... 

Plus, whatever happened to fortune cookies, anyway?  I mean, this isn't a fortune, it's a trite truism.
Actual fortune found in cookie at lunch today.

Every time I think I get it, my brain explodes.

posted by boyhowdy | 8:11 PM | 5 comments

Wonderful Things, Indeed 

A stellar trifecta of my kind of stuff today from boingboing:

posted by boyhowdy | 4:15 PM | 2 comments

Wednesday, March 30, 2005


Because calling these little personal updates "randomalia" was getting a little too formal.

Work seems to have picked up since the beginning of the term, so much so that I'm now trying to cram the usual eight hours of work into a four hour shift every day. I leave the library most afternoons drained and worried that I missed something important. So much for a light paternity leave.

Speaking of paternity: Darcie's getting freakin' huge, so we've finally begun pulling out diapers and setting up cosleepers in anticipation of the big day. We're heading out early for our penultimate OB-GYN visit tomorrow morning, followed by a tour of the birthing facilities with the two year old. Only 14 days to the birth!

In other news, got another possible job coming at me fast, this time a department leadership position in the field I'm actually trained in (instructional technology). Three hours of phone interviews today, and I'll be in the Princeton, NJ region a week from tomorrow for the usual high-stress teach-ins and interviews; it's another day school, so advice about the area would be greatly appreciated.

Also, at the eleventh hour, finally selected this very old poem for submission to the school poetry contest today. Wish me luck!

posted by boyhowdy | 11:36 PM | 0 comments

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Who's Better? 

The students are playing a madcap game of "who's better" on our in-school bulletin board. So far, Batman beats Superman, George Clooney beats 50 Cent, Connery beats the other Bond boys hands down, and -- in a surprise upset -- xylophone virtuoso Sir Patrick Moore beats Mandy Moore, Roger Moore, Sir Thomas More, and Mary Tyler Moore.

No response yet on Katherine vs. Audrey Hepburn, but it's early yet. Anyone interested in weighing in on Ed Wood vs. Mr. Ed?

posted by boyhowdy | 11:24 PM | 2 comments


1. Blogger was an unpublishable mess last night. Will post a backdated radioshow playlist ASAP, I promise -- scroll down to see if it's there yet.

2. Class visit days are upon us -- prospective students will soon be everywhere. Since I cannot in good conscience tell visitors things which I do not believe to be true, and yet find that the official suggestions for "talking points" fall into that catergory, is it inappropriate to ask my supervisors that I be released from public duties out in the information commons during class visit days? If not, what can I do to be true to myself and yet not inadvertently sabotage the positive impression the school is trying to make -- merely by trying to look inconspicuous and unapproachable, or avoiding certain topics, when the whole POINT of the space where I work is to be approachable, friendly, and full of answers?

posted by boyhowdy | 1:01 PM | 0 comments

No Soap, Radio 

None of the usual prose atop this week's playlist -- last night was a bit hectic, and I find posting the tunes a day late doesn't make for a nice fresh sense of atmospheric tonality.

Here's what I played. If you were listening, feedback is always appreciated.

Tributary 3/28/05

Skavoovie and the Epitones -- Fat Soul
Toots and the Maytals -- Pressure Drop
Beck -- Hell Yeah
Jill Sobule -- When My Ship Comes In
moe. -- Bring You Down
Bree Sharp -- The Boys Of Summer
Big Fuzz -- Fuzzy Logic

Acoustic Syndicate -- Why Not
Mindy Smith -- Hard To Know
Doves -- Blackbird
Aberfeldy -- Love Is An Arrow
The Afghan Whigs -- Can't Get Enough Of Your Love
Tony Furtado Band -- Waiting For Guiteau/President Garfield's Hornpipe
Taking Back Sunday -- Just Like Heaven

The Waifs -- London Still
Donna the Buffalo -- Movin' On
Barenaked Ladies -- Break Your Heart
Alison Brown -- Everyday I Write The Book
Digable Planets -- Rebirth of Slick
Duran Duran -- The Needle And The Damage Done

Thievery Corporation -- Samba Triste
Peter Mulvey -- Shirt
Kris Delmhorst -- Little Wings
Jeffrey Foucault -- 4 & 20 Blues
Redbird -- Ships
Gilberto Gil -- Waiting In Vain
Salamander Crossing -- Down In The Milltown

You've been listening to tributary, your ten to midnight Monday night show here on WNMH. See you next week, folks!

posted by boyhowdy | 12:00 AM | 0 comments

Monday, March 28, 2005

Spam A Lot 

Not the broadway show, though after sterling reports from periodicals as widespread as the New Yorker and Newsweek, I've never wanted to attend a Broadway show more than this. And certainly not the Hawai'ian delicacy, though as a lover of all things popcult kitsch, I certainly approve of the idea of the potted meat sensation.

No, in this case, I'm actually talking about spam the junk email.

And I ain't complaining, neither.

Like most of us, even with the spamfilter on I get a few odd and oft-inappropriate missives a day. But since I'm no techhead, but rather a semiotic popcult watcher of unparalleled oddness, I actually read the stuff. And that bit of it which sneaks through even the best spamfilter tickles my sense of the wonder of randomalia.

Months ago Infocult featured a quick paean to the randomly generated, oddly poetic wordlists so often found at the base of spam-missives. Since then, I note, I am more likely to find obscure fortune-cookie-esque pseudoquotes in the missives, from "How can what an Englishman believes be hearsay? It is a contradiction in terms" to "He is not great who is not greatly good."

Or, perhaps even better, here's the entirety of a message recieved this afternoon:
Special offer!
To wear one's heart on one's sleeve; a wolf in a sheep's clothing; to fly into a temper; to stick to one's word; bosom friend; small talk; to cast pearls before swine; to beat about the bush; to add fuel to the fire; to fall ill; to fall in love; to sail under false colours; to be at sea.

All these words, with -proof for the second component, stand be-tween compounds and derived words in their characteristics. On the one hand, the second component seems to bear all the features of a stem and preserves certain semantic associations with the free form proof. On the other hand, the meaning of -proof in all the numerous words built on this pattern has become so generalised that it is cer-tainly approaching that of a suffix. The high productivity of the pat-tern is proved, once more, by the possibility of coining nonce-words after this pattern: look-proof and Knidproof, the second produced from the non-existent stem Knid.

That alone would be pretty nifty. To garble an oft-quoted truism, if a thousand computers sent mail to a thousand monkeys for a thousand days, it would seem the product would rival the best that the Dadaists had to offer.

In my case, though, what blows my mind about my daily spam allotment is the fakenames which appear to have sent 'em. Especially since, with just 17 days to the birth of our second child, we've got names on the brain.

Why, just today I recieved an exhortation to peruse "Shy Jenny McCarthy hacekd pothos" nominally from Livestock P. Peoria, and an invite to ogle an "Ineconnt Dirtbag Teen" from Disobediently V. Trout. Yesterday it was Commemorative R. Cowing and Slued C. Staphylococcus with deliberately misspelled opportunities even I wouldn't copy and paste; last week I was propositioned by the likes of Infanticide A. Hunching, Leavenworth R. Propitiatory, Privatizes J. Intuitions, and Azimuth H. Landmasses.

We all know not to hit the links in unsolicited email, of course. But the spam itself contains so many layers of hilarity; how could any true fan of the popcultural not love this stuff?

Today's "Irony Alert" Bonus: Several weeks ago, in an odd condensation of the usually discrete meanings of the term spam -- a term notably voted by a British translation company in June 2004 as one of the ten English words that are hardest to translate -- the list of e-mail addresses subscribed to the lists for the Broadway show 'Spamalot' was nabbed by spammers, resulting in the slashdot discussion thread headline 'Spamalot' Subscribers to Get Spam ... a Lot.

posted by boyhowdy | 8:14 PM | 9 comments

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Totally Stuck In My Head 

Just when you thought it was impossible to write another simple song about love, another great indiepop band comes along and proves you wrong -- in just over two minutes.
Hoorah for sxsw for bringing scottish wonders Aberfeldy to the American masses. I'd give more credit where credit is due, but have already forgotten which mp3 blogger first passed this along.

I'll be playing Love is an Arrow and plenty of other modern gems tomorrow night from ten to midnight (EST) on my weekly radio show Tributary. Join us, won't you?

posted by boyhowdy | 9:44 PM | 0 comments

The World, Receding 

Though obscure opportunities still come around corners once in a while, the jobsearch fades fast from my forebrain as we come into the final fortnight stretch before the birth.

Work is there, as it always has been, but my too-fragile heart is instead enveloped in amniotic fluid, waiting to be born.

And it's not just me. As her mother's lap disappears, Willow has taken to crankiness with a vengeance. Despite a wonderful daddy-daughter morning by the Charles River feeding the waterfowl by the kayak and canoe launches, she runs away yelling "nobody" when asked about names for her impending sibling.

Then, driving home from Boston today, my hand on Darcie's swollen belly in the passenger seat, we heard the following soliloquy from the back seat:

Mommy and Daddy aren't 'llowed to say anyfing anymore. Not talk to me, not nod their heads like that, not say anyfing at all. They be quiet -- not their turn now!

Moments later, she was fast asleep.

Poor little firstborn child. It's going to be a heck of a ride, but I promise we won't forget you.

posted by boyhowdy | 8:03 PM | 2 comments

Saturday, March 26, 2005

A Day At The Spa 

Drove into Boston midmorning for a last gasp out of the house as a family of three before baby makes four. Nice drive, actually: geese for a hundred miles; misshapen lumps of snow on otherwise bare lawns the fading evidence of the Winter's final snowmen.

By noon, we had arrived at my parent's house -- just in time to leave again for a full-family date with scissors; after three hours in the salon all five of us had haircuts courtesy of Jim, who has been cutting our family's hair since I was seven. In addition, Darcie donated her usual pre-birth ten inches to Locks of Love, and got her eyebrows waxed (she looks ten years younger, I swear). One of us got a color treatment, too, but it's not my place to out anyone on that.

I am proud to report that Willow's first haircut, a pageboy, looks smashing. Though I couldn't pass up the hour-long massage and thus missed the event itself, I am told that despite much pre-cut jitters and too much photographic documentation, she was more starled by the shampoo than the cut itself, and ultimately enjoyed the experience. Mom's pix should come out in a week or so; I'll post 'em if they seem worth it.

Shopping for lox and other breakfast-to-be sundries afterwards -- only in Newton does the Whole Foods market have its own streetside traffic officer -- followed by international childhood vacation reminiscences and a whole mess of three generation smalltalk over Lobster ravioli and a decent Pinot Grigio at Pararazzi.

After a run-around-slash-dance session with a naked post-bath Willow, the parents accepted Willow's invitation to put her to bed, and the wife and I gratefully hit the town for dusky cappucino and tony pastries at Athans European Bakery (I highly recommend the dark chocolate infusion of Jamaica and the bittersweet dust of the Tiramisu). A short hand-in-hand walk with the love of my life under the gorgeous haze of a full moon in the city, and here I am, relaxed and full of fancified vittles, solo on the newly accelerated net connection in my parents house while the household falls asleep without me.

Sure was nice to be pampered for an evening. What with the job search running dry, the bank balance fading fast, and the baby due by C-section two weeks from Thursday, we're not expecting to be out again for a very, very long time. Thanks very, very much to Mom and Dad for helping us go out in style.

posted by boyhowdy | 10:37 PM | 25 comments

Thursday, March 24, 2005


The library here at school is having a poetry contest. I wasn't going to submit anything, but even a token cash prize tips the scales these days. Well, and then there's that ego thing.

Poems must address the theme of change, and must not be more than 30 lines long. You can only select one, though, so I've spent hours today sifting through blog archives, looking for lost poetry, hoping that something will stand out as thematic and stellar all-at-once.

No luck so far, but at least I'm thinking about myself as a poet again. So I got that going for me.

If I find any likely candidates, I'll put 'em up for a quick non-binding referendum.

[Update 9:39 pm:

April is National Poetry Month. No wonder I've been thinking poetry.

The librarians put up a magnetic poetry set out in the hall. I've been fiddling with it all night.

It's a start.]

[Update #2 9:42 pm:

Charles Bernstein believes National Poetry Month is bad for poetry.]

[Update #3 3/25 1:20 pm:

Shaw believes Florence Henderson and the Marvelettes handing out cash for amateur poetic achievement in the Most Magical Place on Earthare bad for poetry. No argument here!]

[Update #4 3/25 1:34 pm:

My favorite magnetic poem so far, written by an anonymous student:

who can hear you
write about
what hurts

school loves
more than

Yay, students. May they never change. ]

posted by boyhowdy | 7:13 PM | 2 comments

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

20 Questions 

1. Why is it snowing? What happened to Spring?

2. If we cover the garden with a thin layer of old leaves, will the tulip and daffodil shoots survive the snowfall? Why? Don't the leaves get just as cold as the air around them?

3. Is reconsidering the agreed-upon names for our child-to-be three weeks before the birth a sign of something? If so, a sign of what?

4. Is it okay to be in Long Island four days before the birth? What if she goes into labor and I can't get back in time? Does it make a difference if the reason I'd be going to long island is to attend the unveiling of my grandfather's gravestone?

5. If I send twelve letters to schools and get no reply from any of them for two weeks, is it time to start calling them?

6. If I haven't gotten any leads for work in a whole week, does it mean it's time to give up and apply to Subway?

7. Is "I guess we can live on unemployment" a legitimate back-up plan?

8. How long can a family of four live on one tax return check?

9. Why am I still hanging out at mp3 blogs if the iPod is totally full?

10. Why is it twenty questions? Why not ten, or seven?

11. If your job is about to end in two months, and you're not being asked to do anything when you show up, it is still necessary to iron your shirt before work? If not, then why the heck have I been bothering?

12. Do people actually read this blog anymore? Ever since my hitcounter service went under, I've been a bit unsure.

13. Do other people get nosebleeds in their sleep, too, or is it just me?

14. Why don't we put pet-type animals in zoos? Don't wild guinea pigs deserve exhibit space, too?

15. Are there twenty of these things yet? No? Oh, okay...let's see...

16. How do normal people find time for house maintenance (dishes, laundry, etc.), work, and childplay and still remain sane? We got rid of television and home network access and I can still only barely keep up.

17. If you didn't have to sleep, what would you do with all that extra time? Personally, I think I go to bed because run out of things to do every night around 2 a.m., which kind of makes me wonder -- if we lived in a city that never sleeps, when would I go to bed?

18. Anyone want to see Jeffrey Foucault, Peter Mulvey, and Kris Delmhorst in Shelburne Falls with me the first week of April?

19. Should I go to graduation this year? Even if I'm totally unable to make it about the graduates, and fully expect to cry and seethe throughout the entire thing?

20. Are we there yet?

posted by boyhowdy | 11:46 PM | 6 comments


Day 2 of the infamous paternity leave, wherein I will be spending four hours a day sitting impotently in the library while my skills as a teacher and a mentor gradually fade. So far, I've held court with a few of the more iconoclastic students on a wide range of topics ordinarily considered taboo by even the least conservative faculty here, fiddled around with jobsearch and advising email, had my picture taken for the blog, and helped a student figure out why her mailbox suddenly decided to show only outgoing messages.

If it were up to me, I'd have chosen morning hours, which would have allowed me to continue my partnerships with teachers integrating new ideas and technologies into their curricula. Unfortunately, I am left with clear evidence for how the heck I ended up being cut.

Clearly, someone "up there" (institutionally speaking) thinks my time is better spend waiting for Godot. Heck, if this sort of useless "coverage" is the best they could defend, the most valuable service they think I am most suited and best expended on, I would have cut my position, too.

I used to think I'd be able to stand anything for 45 days.

Now I am sure: I'd rather be making sandwiches. At least that way, I'd not have to be confronted, minute by minute, with the high tension between what I could do here, and what -- by fiat and finagle, schedule and set-up -- I cannot.

posted by boyhowdy | 2:59 PM | 0 comments

Monday, March 21, 2005

All My Children 

The hospital called today. Seems they "forgot" that the date they originally scheduled us for our planned C-section was a hospital holiday, so we've changed the birth date from April 18th to the 14th. Can't have the baby with a skeleton staff, after all.

Is it wrong that my first reaction to all this was relief that I wouldn't have to miss a week of my radio show?

Second reaction, of course, was the realization that April 14th is also my sister's birthday. Our first child was born on my wife's brother's birthday. This brings up some interesting questions: First, does this mean we have to plan subsequent births -- if we have any -- on the birthdays of other siblings? And second, in the interest of fairness, does this mean we have to have three more children, so every sibling can have a chance?

Brings a whole new meaning to "family planning," doesn't it?

And speaking of the radio show: tonight's show was a blessed relief after 5 hours in chairs for the usual kick-off-the-term professional day here at the ol' prep school. There's a ritual I'm not going to miss. Paternity leave begins tomorrow, with half-days for the rest of the year.

Playlist follows, as always. It may be my last term ever here at NMH, but damn, it's good to be back among the young.

Tributary 3/21/05

Skavoovie and the Epitones -- Fat Soul
Trey Anastasio -- Night Speaks To A Woman
String Cheese Incident -- Search
Biscuit Boys -- Ramblin' Fever
Cake -- Never There
REM -- There She Goes Again
Eddie From Ohio -- One Thousand Sarahs
Wilco -- Kamera

smallpoem: Spring and All (William Carlos Williams)

Erin McKeown -- Slung-Lo
Ryan Adams -- Wonderwall
Jamiroquai -- Virtual Insanity
Mose Alison -- Molecular Structure
Dar Williams -- Are You Out There
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers -- Billy The Kid
Boulevard of Broken Songs -- Oasis vs. Green Day

smallpoem: Landscape With The Fall Of Icarus (William Carlos Williams)

Aimee Mann -- Ghostworld
Django Reinhardt -- Limehouse Blues
Nellie McKay -- David
Kim Richie -- I Know
Ray LaMontagne -- Jolene
Eliza Gilkyson -- Prodigal Son
Kathryn Williams -- Spit On A Stranger

smallpoem: To A Poor Old Woman (William Carlos Williams)

Jeffrey Foucault -- Doubletree
Simon and Garfunkel -- The Only Living Boy In New York
Eva Cassidy -- American Tune
Patty Griffin -- Forgiveness
Buddy Miller -- With God On Our Side

You've been listening to Tributary, your Monday night ten to midnight show here on WNMH, serving the tri-state area (VT, NH, and MA) on 91.5 fm...and the world via the wonders of streaming audio. Congrats to Shaw for googling up the answer to tonight's trivia question, thanks to Dad for joining the ranks of dedicated listeners despite a brand new set of back troubles, and a thousand blessings to the rest of you for just stopping by.

posted by boyhowdy | 11:59 PM | 0 comments

Absolutely NOT Mullet Music 

Don't forget to tune in to WNMH tonight and every Monday night from 10:00 to midnight (EST) for tributary, your favorite weekly radio program.

What is Tributary? Well, it's about as far as you can get from this:

In fact, those especially disgusted or disturbed by the above image, found front and center on the MSN portal homepage tonight, might find Tributary an especially effective antidote.

From funk to folk, from jazz to jambands, from blues to bluegrass, and everything in between: That's Tributary. 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.

Ew. It's going to take the full two hours to get that out of my head.

posted by boyhowdy | 9:11 PM | 2 comments

Sunday, March 20, 2005

I Want To Write A Poem 

Looking back at the boxes of loose papers, it becomes clear that my poetry has always been about the wonder of small things, and utilizing them as vehicles to clarify and distill the bigger truths of the soul and self.

I want to write. I do. But the world I live in these days is clouded by the biggest questions. I dwell in looming matters, and have no peace with which to explore the world in a grain of sand. The darkest truths, the skyscrapers of our existence, push at my consciousness, drowning out the details. They nibble at my peripheral vision until the images blur.

If only the world would get smaller again for a while. Then I could see the trees. Then I could get at the universe of the mind. Then I could be a poet, once more.

posted by boyhowdy | 8:34 PM | 0 comments

Lazy Sunday: Tidbits 

Since I was the one who ruined the dried-out play-doh (hint: no matter what anyone tells you, adding water does NOT reconstitute the doh), we had an impromptu Daddy Day today. The toy store didn't open until noon, but Cafe Koko had some comfy chairs and cookies ready for us, and the kid and I had a decent time wandering and window-shopping down the increasingly balmy streets of downtown Greenfield, MA. Chinese food afterwards, since lunch is cheaper there than the yellow arches. Car wash, too, since the kid loves the car wash.

Since our two o'clock return to a much-rested, too-pregnant love of our lives, I've been at the library, enjoying the last few moments of silence before the students swarm back from break, their enviable tans exposed under goosepimpled shorts. I had plenty of work to do, so of course I'm playing the ever-so-addictive Slide Out. (It's by Nabisco. Ping!)

Not much happening in the digiverse to report, though. All my favorite Mp3 bloggers (and many of my favorite techbloggers, and a bunch of random film critics I know little about) are away at SXSW. I'm seriously jealous, but out of work Daddies don't get to go to Texas for a week's worth of fun. Lucky for me, there's the real world.

posted by boyhowdy | 4:09 PM | 1 comments

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 | 10 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 | 14 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 | 29 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
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