Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Fun And Games In The School Library 

Students play games of all types here (note: I'm writing from work, in the information commons), and we've never really frowned upon it. Sure, I guess we'd say something if the multimedia stations were being overused for major multiplayer networked gaming, but the library primarily gets kids playing tetris, fling-the-cat, spank the monkey, and other cute low-fi timewasters from the endless glut of the gamewide web. You know, the stuff you can access quickly, and play for minutes or hours with little to no mental commitment.

No worries, right? Such microgaming is harmless or better: the blipscreens take up little bandwidth, give the brain a much needed breather, and keep the hand-eye coordination up up up. Heck, some of them ever tax the brain, pushing creativity, logic and problem-solving, and even three-dimensional geometric envisioning while the wrist goes numb.

Not enough for some people, apparently. Someone today proposed -- department-wide -- that we should help the students use their game time "well" by giving them quote-educational-endquote games. Not sure here if the logic is that a library which carries both People magazine and cheap paperback sci fi is somehow expected to have higher standards (and a higher cut-off threshold for the collection) when it comes to gaming...or merely that, just as Seventeen and Vibe are (obviously) a gateway to reading Dickens and Homer, a few hours of The Sims 2 or 3D Ping Pong leaves students secretly longing for something which claims to be educational but actually has no more skill or thinking involved than the stuff which is available free.

And, as if it weren't going to be hard enough to compete with the no-download-necessary ease of the Addicting Games mentality, the proposal is to lend these educational games out from behind the check-out desk, since otherwise we'd end up engendering -- horrors! -- more game play, especially during the game-taboo hours of study hall. (Not that students ever play free games during study hall now, of course.)

To be fair, I belive my proposing and enterprising counterpart when she says that her daughter loved getting her own copy of Zoombinis. My case here, though is that getting your own copy isn't the same as getting it from the library staff when you want to use it...and, also, that Zoombinis (and other nominally educational games) are no more or less educational than the games which students already play on their own. The fact that this particular student is unusually prescient and thoughtful in comparison to her peers is noteworthy, but not relevant to my argument.

I know my thoughts here are a bit oversimplified, and that it's easy to rant here in the blog, outside the work community, when work takes a turn for the silly. I was going to write something pithy and oracular in response to it all, but then I realized I don't care so much. If people want to make a difficult path to a slightly more "educational" gaming opportunity than the current organic, perfectly acceptable, often fully developmentally-appropriate and highly educational practice, who am I to say it's not worth the bother? Time will prove me right, adolescents will go on being adolescents, free online games will continue to be at least as educational as anything we could actually provide for students upon request, and those "other" games will gather dust behind the circulation desk, mark my words. And wherever I am, I'll be laughing myself silly, trying to hit 20k on Slide Out.

posted by boyhowdy | 2:21 PM | 0 comments

Monday, April 25, 2005

Cocoon Music 

At the butterfly museum today for baby's first true outing. Older sister Willow, an old hat unfazed by high-ceilinged air aflutter with a hundred multicolored wings, chased button quail around the concrete floor to the underfoliage, stuck her nose into resting orangewings to feel the tickle. I chased her, in turn scolding and celebrating her allatonce. Mommy rested on benches. Baby in the bjorn leaned against her chest, asleep through it all.

Lunch afterwards -- foccacia sandwiches and fresh turkey clubs -- and a trip to the candle store: teacandles in Sage and Citrus, Primrose, and Tulip for the naming ceremony two weekends hence. Supper at the door when we returned, thanks to a wonderful meal exchange for new parents here on campus. Flawless bedtime with Willow apres ziti under a smooth goatcheese-and-fresh-tomato cream sauce.

How nice to forget the looming jobless, homeless horizon for an afternoon.

But the kids are back tonight, classes tomorrow. And the radio show is for me as much as for them a weekly meditation. So I key into the dark classroom building, stumble downstairs to the basement, settle myself into the deepred swivel chairs, ready to play my heart out for this community on the cusp of leaving so many of us behind.

Playlist, as always, follows. Every last drop.

Tributary 4/25/05

Skavoovie and the Epitones -- Fat Soul
Phish -- Down With Disease
Steve Earle -- A Girl Like That
Guster -- Barrel of a Gun
Rusted Root -- You Can't Always Get What You Want
Suzanne Vega -- Fat Man and Dancing Girl
Ben Folds Five -- Tom & Mary
De La Soul -- The Magic Number

poembreak: Bounden Duty by James Tate

Dan Zanes -- Wonderwheel
Kathleen Edwards -- In State
Jason Faulkner -- Both Sides Now
Wilco -- Kamera
Tori Amos -- Cornflake Girl
Sebadoh -- Cold As Ice
The Gourds -- El Paso

poembreak: Ignis Fatuus by Yusef Komunyakaa

Bob Dorough -- Too Much Coffee Man
Iron & Wine -- Woman King
Bill Withers -- Ain't No Sunshine
Lucy Kaplansky -- It Ain't Me Babe
Ray Lamontagne -- Jolene
Sam Phillips -- All Night

poembreak: Trying To Make Music by David Wagoner

Kasey Chambers -- Runaway Train
Shivaree -- I Close My Eyes
Richard Shindell -- There Goes Mavis
The Chieftans w/ Lyle Lovett -- Don't Let Your Deal Go Down
St. Germain -- Montego Bay Spleen
Donna The Buffalo -- Seems To Want To Hurt This Time

You've been listening to Tributary, your ten to midnight Monday night show on WNMH, serving the tri-state area (no, the other tri-state area) and the world every week with a little bit of this, a little bit of that, and everything in between. Have a good one, folks.

posted by boyhowdy | 9:30 PM | 4 comments

Sunday, April 24, 2005

7 Moon Haiku 

Over the garage
moon rises low on the ridge.
Sweet dreams, proud sister.

Out in the driveway
the glow of a cigarette,
a portable moon.

Her side of the house
floods with reflected moonlight.
Our side is shadowed.

Flush against the porch --
inherited, surprising --
new daffodils glow.

After the movie
listen to the moon-baby breathe.
Step outside again.

Penultimate moon
cloudcovered before midnight.
Newborn in my arms.

This moon spills through glass,
illimunates all of us
skating on this moon.

posted by boyhowdy | 11:59 PM | 4 comments

What If He Is Right, Too? 

For decades, we've worked under the assumption that mass culture follows a path declining steadily toward lowest-common-denominator standards, presumably because the ''masses'' want dumb, simple pleasures and big media companies try to give the masses what they want. But...the exact opposite is happening: the culture is getting more cognitively demanding, not less. To make sense of an episode of (for example) ''24,'' you have to integrate far more information than you would have a few decades ago watching a comparable show. Beneath the violence and the ethnic stereotypes, another trend appears: to keep up with entertainment like ''24,'' you have to pay attention, make inferences, track shifting social relationships. This is what I call the Sleeper Curve: the most debased forms of mass diversion -- video games and violent television dramas and juvenile sitcoms -- turn out to be nutritional after all.

From Steven Johnson's new book of essays Everything Bad Is Good For You. Originally in today's New York Times Magazine and subsequently picked up by BoingBoing, with a redirect to additional mediacult rantage on Johnson's blog, including a seminal piece imagining the sociocritical response to the book had video games arrived first (and subsequent discussion/criticism via comments):
But perhaps the most dangerous property of these books is the fact that they follow a fixed linear path. You can't control their narratives in any fashion—you simply sit back and have the story dictated to you. For those of us raised on interactive narratives, this property may seem astonishing. Why would anyone want to embark on an adventure utterly choreographed by another person? But today’s generation embarks on such adventures millions of times a day. This risks instilling a general passivity in our children, making them feel as though they’re powerless to change their circumstances. Reading is not an active, participatory process; it’s a submissive one. The book readers of the younger generation are learning to 'follow the plot' instead of learning to lead."

The excerpts alone simultaneously challenge and speak to the work of the greats from Postman to Paglia, and, as such, dovetail with and justify my own work (including that course analyzing Beavis and Butthead, The Simpsons, and South Park). Either, taken alone, is perhaps the most tantalizing riff I've ever read. Note to self: finally, a must-read.

Metathought: Okay, maybe the Postman/Paglia thing is a bit obscure; for those who actually want to follow-up, this Wired article is probably a decent enough summary, albeit in Paglia's own words. And speaking of academic field-specificity, total mega-bonus points to anyone who recognized the reference to a four decade old Tom Wolfe essay about Marshall McLuhan in the blogtitle.

posted by boyhowdy | 11:53 PM | 11 comments

New Yorker Caption Contest Now Weekly 

Had so much fun with the last one, I'm thrilled at the thought of a weekly brainprompt. Here's this week's cartoon, with my own stab at the caption.

Nothing yet...but the gorillas were terrified.

Think you can do better? Act now, but hurry: contest ends this evening at midnight!

[UPDATE 4/26: New Yorker Cartoon Editor Robert Mankoff discusses the contest, it's cartoons, and "the nature of collaborative cartooning." Also, next week's contest cartoon is up!]

posted by boyhowdy | 1:41 PM | 0 comments

Friday, April 22, 2005

7 Sightings 

A baker's half dozen of today's moving targets, from the virtual to the local.

1. A link from there to here and a virtual high five, both for submitting one of the 20 questions Captain Platypus chose to address for post-series Ask The Captain. Answer (and my question about woodchucks) here.

2. Nifty male-parenting resource Fatherville, courtesy of fellow culture vulture (and Mother-in-law) Patty. She's helping with the wee ones this afternoon while I work, so extra thanks, Mama.

3. Blood everywhere this afternoon on my way to work, perhaps as much as a cup trickling from my nostrils before I could pinch the clot into forming. Damn allergies. Lucky I had all those leftover McDonald's bags in the car, or I'd never have had enough napkins to handle the flow.

4. Parents in droves cover our beloved campuses today for this term's Parent's Visting weekend. Since I'm not teaching classes while on paternity leave, I've got but one meeting (with an advisee parent), and have been otherwise hiding out behind the service desk in the library. Long weekend ahead!

5. Potentially pro-masturbation (and anti-feminist) message intended to "merely" promote Vagina Monologes proves my ongoing point about the semiotic limitations, vast vague openness, and ultimate danger to one's cause of bumper-sticker messages. Say what you will, but this principal is absolutely in the right to ban "I (Heart) My Vagina" buttons, as they can indeed suggest/reinforce the unfortunate idea that women should be (or want to be) valued for their body rather than mind and heart.

6. Today's McSweeney's Short Imagined Monologue: MICROSOFT OFFICE ASSISTANT: THE PAPER CLIP:
Let me help you with that. Oh, come on. I don't want anything. I just want to lend a helping hand. Look at me, I have eyebrows! I need attention. But that is all I need. Feed me attention and I will solve all your problems. It looks like you're writing a letter. I love writing letters. I love reading letters. I just finished reading The Collected Letters of Van Gogh in three volumes....

7. And, finally...

Yet another wonderful thematic Google icon

Even Google knows it's Earth Day. Now get outside and hug a tree or something.

posted by boyhowdy | 1:19 PM | 25 comments

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Failed Experiments In Silence 

Last week, in a planning meeting, Student Congress asked the librarians if we could add another silent study room for use during study hall. Since the library has turned into somewhat of a party zone over the past few terms -- a phenomenon easily exacerbated by the usual deadly combination of Senior Spring and the effect that warm weather always has on adolescent hormones -- we were happy to oblige.

Tonight, for the first time, we closed off the fiction room with a sign that said "silent study only." As each student came into the library, they invariably took a quick look and decided to camp elsewhere. Soon, the rest of the library became overcrowded...and loud enough to make silent study anywhere in the building totally moot.

Then someone stole the sign.

posted by boyhowdy | 9:04 PM | 0 comments

Stress and Sleeplessness 

After milking the oversized brains of four candidates for what should have been major consulting fees but amounted to a free trip to the Princeton area, they gave the department chair job down in Princeton as an interim position to someone in-house.

Annoying, that, but not illegal.

So we're not going to be moving to Princeton, which is good.

But then, it's starting to look like we're not going to have anywhere to go, which is not.

I'm not at the end of the line just yet -- applied for a full-year job at a nearby prep school, and sent out a letter of intent to a tiny boarding school in the hopes that they'll want a Renaissance Guy like me to teach English. But every day gets a bit closer to total loserhood. And family homelessness. I'm almost afraid to count the weeks.

The reimbursement check from Princeton came today, and I've been eyeing my retirement account with a sort of shameful lust. It'd be pretty depressing to trade the family's future for a hand-to-mouth present, but it may come to that, in the end.

In other news, I've had a debilitating migraine for over 24 hours, my shoulder blade develops a sharp shooting pain after just three minutes of babyholding, and my herniated disk is back with a vegnance.

This is day two of sitting in an information commons for four hours with not a soul to assist with anything. Meanwhile, Darcie's home resting up after a too-soon-after-C-section full family trip to the grocery store and Friendly's. This is stupid; I should be home with my children, bonding. Desperately.

It's hard not to think that every minute I spend here at work doing nothing is time wasted laying a foundation for us to brave the unknown and scary future together.

It's hard not to think about how busy, fulfilling, and useful my mornings used to be, what with teachers and students clamoring for my time between and during their class periods.

It's hard not to resent the people who decided that sitting here blogging in public while every kid in the school hangs out playing frisbee outside all afternoon is the best way my time could be spent.

It could be worse, I know. We could be out of paychecks already; we could have no parents ready and willing to help; the two year old with Downs Syndrome at the next table over could have been ours.

But I hate people who say that. It can always be worse. That doesn't mean it's good. Or that it's going to be good anytime soon.

How long can one function on three hours of dead-to-the-world a night? How depressed can one get sitting twiddling one's thumbs when the world needs teachers, the children need parents, the teachers need support, and the timing's all wrong?

Maybe it's just the migraine talking. But, man, I wish someone, anyone, would give me a chance to make a difference in all these lives. I'm damn good at it. The world needs it. How impotent it feels most days to know that I'm not doing anyone any good. Especially when pretty much everyone who has ever seen me teach or parent agrees that what I do -- at home, at work, and at play -- is both amazing, and amazingly transformative, in exactly those ways that people actually need.

posted by boyhowdy | 4:25 PM | 2 comments

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

More Fun With Boingboing 

Responding to the severe shortage of old people who require fulltime assistance, a Japanese company has manufactured a synthetic senior citizen as a stopgap measure [for Nurse's Aid training].

Okay, now read it again.

How do you get a shortage of old people? If there's not enough old people to practice on, then why do they need to train nurses to work on old people? Where did all the old people go, and where is this sudden flood of septuagenarian invalids supposed to come from?

So many questions, so little old people.

posted by boyhowdy | 4:16 PM | 1 comments

My Kind Of Funny 

Jokes with realistic endings thread over at Something Awful goes on for 8 pages. Some sweet samples:

  1. Have you seen Stevie Wonder's new house?


    Well, it's really nice.

  2. What do you get when you're gay?

    Made fun of.

  3. What do you get when you cross a chicken with a centipede?

    A media circus about the debate over the morals and ethics of genetic engineering.

Endless fun for the secret/not-so-secret PC-hater in all of us. Even my students liked it. Link via Boingboing.

posted by boyhowdy | 2:34 PM | 0 comments

Notes On Second Fatherhood (Day 6) 

Cassia Jade remains a wonderment. Up at all hours of the night, her dark eyes darting everywhere during feedings, constant diapering; our little C.J. cries little, and watches much. The back of her head fits in the palm of my hand; tiny reddish blond hairs against that new baby skin softer than peachfuzz, anything imaginable. Now that she's guzzling milk like a pro her very pores ooze that sweet, wondrous babybreath smell. It lingers on my clothes even now.

At seven, her sister Willow comes alive between us in the family bed. Come downstairs with me, Daddy; time to get up, Daddy; I love you, Daddy; want to watch the Muppets? This morning I took her to library storyhour and almost fell asleep to the soothing sounds of the substitute librarian reading picture books about flowers to a room full of mothers and children but otherwise empty of fathers. Like every first child must, she has been regressing in her own way as her family shifts to make room for the newcomer; in Willow's case, this means a full-blown case of the go-limp tantrums at the drop of a hat, and more cuddles than there used to be at our father-daughter bedtime.

The mother of my children -- oh, how I love that phrase -- remains a superwoman. She's off even the Motrin, and fully functional; you'd never know she was 6 days past major abdominal surgery if you hadn't been there, cutting the cord, on her bleeding belly. Running on naps and nurturing, she spends most of her days curled around the new one, milking, rocking, drowsing in the unseasonable heat wave. Folks stop by to find her cheerful and welcoming on her living room rocker, eager to chat, perhaps even off sitting under a shaded tree in the yard with the baby blanketed on her lap.

Me? I'm back at work as of today, afternoons only for the rest of the term. Somewhat delirious, having slept little since the birth. I spend my time at home following the girls around at a distance, entering rooms once they have moved on to clean and gather, tidy and wash. My herniated disk is acting up; my shoulder blades ache constantly.

I've held Cassia for a total of about an hour and a half since she was born.

Yeah, I'm happy. She's a miracle, indeed.

But she's not my miracle.

With eight weeks to go before we lose both job and home all-at-once, no job offers in sight, and the school hiring season winding down, it's hard to stay focused on the beautiful newness of things. Too much time on my hands, too many questions about this or that unrealistic opportunity at some totally unrealistic school -- too much time dwelling on the fact that time is running out, and the bank balance empty as can be -- and caring for the family becomes a quick and constant confrontation with the fact that, just two months from now, I will have no way to feed, clothe, or shelter this wondrous clan.

And so I wash the dishes switch over the laundry diaper the baby feed the toddler check in on the mother fold the clothes restock the diapers over and over and over again, keeping the mind busy, the hands on soft things, the family first.

I drown myself in my family.

So I do not drown, myself.

posted by boyhowdy | 1:39 PM | 0 comments

Monday, April 18, 2005

Too Tired Tributary 

Baby and more baby...the jobsearch and all the rest of my life has been on hold for days, and good thing, too.

Diapers. Headholding. The right way to wrap the body, and the too-loose way. How much it hurts the back to rest the baby's butt on the belly while she's in your arms. How to be a daddy. It's amazing what comes back, and how quickly.

It's amazing, too, what one forgets. How the world shifts. How the entirety of life refocuses in an eyeblink, as if we emerged from the hospital into bizarro world. I mean, last week the one year old next door was tiny, and now she's this giant person...

Anyway. Cassia is a little peanut. At four days old, she's lifting her head and cruching her stomach muscles, trying to sit up on her own. Her blueblack infant eyes open wide, scan the room for mommy and daddy constantly. Except during the day, when she sleeps like...a baby, I guess. Though she looks like a turtle with her eyes closed.

Of course, that means we're up all day with the two year old, and changing diapers and cooing all night with the baby. I've slept about 6 hours total since Wednesday.

So here's the result of all that exhaustedness: Tonight's slightly garbled, oddly inconsistent, eclectic, hectic edition of tributary, your ten to midnight Monday night show on WNMH. More reports anon. For now, playlist follows.

Tributary 4/18/05

Skavoovie and the Epitones -- Fat Soul
Cake -- Sheep Go To Heaven
Peter Gabriel -- Steam
Calexico -- Alone Again Or
dmb -- the best of what's around
beck -- Hell Yeah

Gilberto Gil -- Three Little Birds
Timbuk 3 -- Born To Be Wild
Weezer -- Undone
They Might Be Giants -- They'll Need A Crane
Aberfeldy -- Love Is An Arrow
Patty Griffin -- Love Throw A Line
Alison Brown -- Everyday I Write The Book

Jim White w/ Aimee Mann -- Static on the Radio
Jack Johnson -- Losing Hope
Nickel Creek -- Spit on a Stranger
Wild Band of Snee -- The Clover Show
Tom Landa & the Paperboys -- All Along The Watchtower
Hird -- Burn

Jeff Buckley -- Woke Up In A Strange Room
Barenaked Ladies -- Light Up My Room
Monty Python -- I Like Traffic Lights
Keller Williams -- Anyhow, Anyway
Jem -- Maybe I'm Amazed
Shawn Colvin -- Say A Little Prayer

Yeah, that. I'll be back.

posted by boyhowdy | 10:03 PM | 0 comments

Friday, April 15, 2005

Welcome Cassia Jade! 

Generally, this blog is about words, first and foremost. In this case, however, a picture really is worth a thousand words (and a little extra download time).

Cutting the cord

Just born
Cassia Jade
8 pounds, 2 ounces
Born April 14, 2005 at 9:06 am

Daddy and big sister Willow


Mother and Child

Back with more words in a few days.

In the meantime, I've never been so overjoyed to be speechless.

posted by boyhowdy | 4:10 PM | 26 comments

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Hooray For Today (And It's All Your Fault) 

Today is Thank Your School Librarian Day. You can thank me here, or thank all of my coworkers here.

It's also St. Ursus of Aosta's Day and, my favorite, Blame Somebody Else Day.

Most importantly, however, today is the last day I will ever be the parent of an only child. God willing, of course.

If you happen to be thinking about us, say a prayer at about 8:30 tomorrow morning EST; if all goes well we'll be out of surgery with a new little one by nine o'clock. Blogging for the next few may be understandably sporadic, but expect baby pix by Saturday.

posted by boyhowdy | 3:41 PM | 2 comments

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

I Won The School Poetry Contest 

Read all about it on the NMH Library blog. The photo shows me on the left; scroll down to read my prizewinning entry Poetry is an Exercise in Futility.

What did I win? Mostly, the chance to read the work aloud to a few students and librarians this past Sunday over cookies and tea. I was also presented with a hardcover edition of Poems To Read: A New Favorite Poem Project Anthology, a gift card for the school bookstore, and a signed certificate suitable for framing but destined for a drawer.

posted by boyhowdy | 4:44 PM | 0 comments

My Kind Of Course 

Brought to you by the letters I, V, and Y.

Today's Boston Globe reports on "Informal Learning For Children," a new course-based partnership between Harvard (see previous rant) and Sesame Street (see previous rant).

Despite my ongoing concerns about both institutions, and despite an overuse of the usual technology-in-education straw men (media-driven kiddie violence, tech-savvy students who "know more" than teachers) in the interview that follows the article, it's hard not to like class lecturer Joseph Blatt's response to the question "what results are you hoping to achieve?"
The immediate results we hope of this first venture together would be a large number of students who are trained both in learning theory and other sorts of human development that we teach here, and in how to reach children effectively through media. So we imagine that we're going to be graduating a number of students who will be skilled and prepared to be the curriculum developers, researchers, evaluators, possibly writers, maybe even the producers of new educational media for kids.
Kudos to Blatt, as well, for recognizing that the partnership between formal and informal learning has strong merit...and for mentioning museum education as another example of the informal. It's nothing new: I was working on the same issues in partnership with Harvard way back in 1994 during my tenure at the Museum of Science. But I suppose Big Bird has more news cache.

Bonus: In other Sesame Street news, Cookie Monster is curbing his cookie intake in response to public concerns about promoting healthy eating habits among kids. Sheesh! Thanks to Captain Platypus for the find.

posted by boyhowdy | 2:37 PM | 0 comments

Monday, April 11, 2005

Another Fine Mess 

Been riding the adrenaline rush all day, floating from task to task on a madman's giddy grin and enough coffee to kill an ox. Students think I'm insane, but the faculty know this glow, ask about the obvious impending joy, listen happily to me babble in my glee.

Tonight, too: through one last hoorah dinner at the People's Pint with Darcie while the Dean of Students and her partner marveled at our two year old's ability to keep up with their six year old, and shopping beforehand for soft animals and other sundry babystuff. And the moon, which even now shines low and orangebright like a cat's grin.

Just over 48 hours to the baby's arrival, and it's damn good to be alive.

Even another week of dead technology at the radio station couldn't kill the self-inflicted groove. I spun this week's show the old fashioned way, trading disks in and out of the oft-unreliable doubledecks, until deck two crashed just after 11, and I had to switch over to an iPod charged with wishes and not much else.

This is my life now -- on a shoestring, strung out like a junkie on a wing and a prayer, high on the fumes of hope.

Play, music. Play.

Tributary 4/11/05

Fat Footin' -- Skavoovie and the Epitones
Making Plans for Nigel -- The Rembrandts
Outsider -- Juliana Hatfield
Welcome To This World -- Primus
Back on the Train -- Phish
Fell In Love With a Boy -- Joss Stone
Me Gustas Tu -- Manu Chao

storytime: if you give a mouse a cookie (numeroff)

Slung-lo -- Erin McKeown
That Train Don't Stop Here -- Los Lobos
As Is -- Ani Difranco
Nightgown of the Sullen Moon -- They Might Be Giants
You Never Get What You Want -- Patty Griffin
Why Not -- Acoustic Syndicate
One -- Aimee Mann

storytime: the owl and the pussycat (lear)

I Need Love -- Sam Phillips
I'm Looking Through You -- The Wallflowers
Meet Me At The Corner -- Dan Hicks & Elvis Costello
I Love Her, She Loves Me -- Ware River Club
Every Little Thing (He) Does Is Magic -- Shawn Colvin
It's Amazing -- Mindy Smith
Arms of a Woman -- Amos Lee

storytime: goodnight moon (brown)

One Of These Things First -- Nick Drake
Sweet In The Morning -- Bobby McFerrin
My Baby Needs A Shepherd -- Emmylou Harris
I Wish My Baby Was Born -- The Be Good Tanyas
When You Dream -- Barenaked Ladies
You Are My Sunshine -- Elizabeth Mitchell

You've been listening to Tributary, your ten to midnight Monday night show here on WNMH. Tune in next week, when I'll be tired enough to play anything.

posted by boyhowdy | 11:59 PM | 2 comments

Just In Time For Tributary! 

This week's edition of tributary, your ten to midnight (EST) Monday night show on WNMH, starts in 41 minutes.

I probably missed you, but if you just got here, hit this link now to listen in!

From funk to folk, from jazz to jambands, from blues to bluegrass, and everything in between...bedtime stories on the half hour and the hour...a coffee giveaway contest at 11:15 or so...and all requests seriously considered at 413-498-3915.

Trust me. You'll love it. Heck, I'll even throw in a money back guarantee.

Hey, leave a comment if you listen in, will you? Thanks!

posted by boyhowdy | 9:19 PM | 0 comments

Sunday, April 10, 2005


I'm back.

Princeton was better than I expected. Suprisingly New Englandesque, and the housing market is a bit terrifying, but it was nice to finally find two jobs that excite me in all the right ways. Two very, very different jobs, at two very, very different schools. But both felt like they could be home.

More, though, I feel like this was the trip where I hit my stride. Not sure how, but I left both places feeling like I showed the best of me, in the best possible light, without faltering or faking it. I was honest, and in doing so proved to myself that this really is what I'm supposed to be doing with my life, and amazingly so. I'm reasonably sure I impressed them; I know I impressed me.

Now, if they decide to go with someone else, it'll be because they decided they want someone else, not because I was weak. If they do pick a different candidate, it'll have to be for one of two reasons: they can be better at being me, or because the someone else that they are was a better fit for the job.

Either way, I think I can live with that.

I even think I can embrace it.

But it hardly matters anymore. Three days, two schools, and a whirlwind tour of the Princeton area later, I'm ready to put the jobsearch on hold for a while.

Because once I figured out that getting a job won't be a miracle but a triumph, I was finally able to come to terms with the true miracle in my life: little nameless, the baby-to-be.

Not to mention the family that spins around me, the storm to my eye, as the date grows ever closer.

We're coming into the home stretch with but three full days to go before our early Thursday morning C-section appointment. Since coming home the exhilliration of the jobsearch has been slowly supplanted by anticipation. Just this evening, I felt the first stirrings of crest-of-the-roller-coaster excitement deep in my gut.

Incidentally, for those keeping track of the blog over time, no, I didn't stay in Princeton for longer than intended. I've been back since late Friday night. But somehow, after coming home, family seemed so much more important than blogging. So no, I didn't write last night. Fell asleep putting the kid to bed instead. And no, I didn't write when we were at the library today for my poetry reading -- not when there was a neighborhood kiddie pool party waiting back home.

Heck, the only reason I'm here now is that Darcie wanted one last shot at putting Willow to bed before the infant took over her life completely, and before the C-section kept her from bedsharing with the older one at bedtime.

I know blogging is important for local reasons -- for my sanity, and in no small part because I want to leave the blog as a record for my children. But blogging for family will never beat being with family. I know how easily experience can be supplanted by the recording of experience; I've seen folks forget to put the lens down, and miss the life they're trying to record. I'd rather have no photos, no blog, no words, and a mess of true memories any day.

Expect little for the next few days, too. With only four nights left as a family of three, I'm sticking to my priorities, thanks.

posted by boyhowdy | 8:20 PM | 3 comments

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Going, Going... 

Today the first crocus bloomed in the middle of our lawn. Tiny, streaked with violet, and totally unexpected.

Willow picked it when our backs were turned.

We've been watching the shoots come in for weeks, talking about the life cycle, preparing for the best signs of Spring together.

I yelled.

Turns out she just wanted to give it to Mommy.

I leave before dawn tomorrow for the airport, and will be in New Jersey on the job hunt until late Friday night. Not sure if I'll have a chance to blog from the road, but come back Saturday for a full (albeit anonymous) report.

Stay safe and sane, folks. The baby arrives a week from Thursday.

posted by boyhowdy | 11:23 PM | 8 comments

Monday, April 04, 2005

Cover Me, Redux 

A bit frazzled this week as I make plans for the big lastgasp jobsearch jaunt and, subsequently, the birth of our second child. So no prose this week either. Anyway, music is supposed to speak for itself.

Big plans for this year's all-covers extravaganza tonight on tributary, your ten to midnight Monday night show on WNMH. Pity the in-studio technology wasn't working again. Apologies to streamshow listeners, if there were any, for the flailing first half hour; it's been a long time since I had to run the show from the CD collection, and it made it no easier that I had to run home and get the CDs while the music was playing.

I did manage to stay on-format, however, mostly because as a covers afficionado I have a good couple hundred covers lying around, some of which are actually good songs, some of which are even better than the original. Playlist follows; I swear, the first few songs are good, but I certainly wouldn't have played them if I had known that I needed to bring the hardcopy collection into the studio.

Tributary 4/4/05: Coversongs

Skavoovie and the Epitones -- Drunk
Rufus Wainright -- Across the Universe (Beatles)
Salamander Crossing -- Down in the Milltown (Gorka)
Salamander Crossing -- Wade in the Water (trad.)
Death Cab For Cutie -- Love Song (Cure)
Keb' Mo' -- Love Train (Spinners?)

coverstory: Moxy Fruvous -- Green Eggs and Ham

Chris Ardoin -- Your Love Keeps Liftin' Me (Wilson)
Steve Earle -- A Girl Like THat (NRBQ)
Nirvana -- Jesus Don't Want Me For a Sunbeam (Vaselines)
Herbie Hancock -- All Apologies (Nirvana)
Richard Thompson -- Kiss (Prince)

coverstory: politically correct version of the 3 little pigs

The Posies -- Looking Through You (Beatles)
Cake -- I Will Survive (Gaynor?)
Hayseed Dixie -- Highway to Hell (AD/DC)
Tori Amos -- Enjoy the Silence (Depeche Mode)
Tim O'Brien -- Father of Night (Dylan)
Evan Dando -- How Will I Know (Houston)

coverstory: politically correct version of the frog prince

Maroon 5 -- Pure Imagination (Wonka)
Crooked Still -- Orphan Girl (Welch)
Turtle Island String Quartet -- Crossroads (trad.)
Girlyman -- My Sweet Lord (Harrison)
Be Good Tanyas -- Waitin' Around to Die (Van Zandt)
Gone Phishin' -- Rift (Phish)

Phew. Come back next week for the last fully coherent edition of tributary -- I'll keep running 'em after that through the summer, but on much less sleep, once the baby comes.

posted by boyhowdy | 10:29 PM | 0 comments

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Plus Or Minus 

Willow's interested in numbers; at four months shy of three years old she can already count to ten in her sleep, wants to know the exact age of everyone and their brother, and understands clearly the relationship between the act of counting and the number of fingers she's holding up.

Tonight daylight savings time threw us all off a bit sleepschedule-wise, so when the usual clocktime bedtime had come and gone, I introduced the concept of counting sheep. No problem there. I thought I'd try a little subtraction, just to see if she could do it.

I am proud to report that not only can the little genius easily visualize the numbers one through four well enough to figure out, without ever having encountered the idea of subtraction in any form, all the positive integer permutations of subtraction from four through two, she even pushed me past my own expectations near the end of the exercise:

Okay, Willow, let's say I have four sheep, and you eat -

I want to eat four of them!

Uh...okay, if you have four sheep, and you take away one two three four sheep, then how many do you have left?

Not! No! Not any sheep, Daddy! An' if there's one more again, I have one, and then if I have two sheep, I can only have two sheep...

And voila, the genius anticipates, and subsequently invents, the idea of zero without even having a word for it. Let's hope the second one is an artistic genius or something -- it's going to hard to compete with the logical skills of the older sibling.

In other subtractive news, the countdown to baby birth day continues. The planned C-section is just ten days from today. I'll be in New Jersey for at least three of those days pursuing the jobsearch, and will work every other workday between now and then, right up to (and including) the day before the birth itself. Total remaining number of days to be home, quietly, and enjoy our remaining life as a family of three: two.

posted by boyhowdy | 9:38 PM | 0 comments

Saturday, April 02, 2005

When It Rains... 

Though it is, admittedly, a pain in the butt to be trying to find work and having a baby almost simultaneously, much of what's so frustrating about the jobsearch is that I'm new at it. I'm 32 years old, and until now I've been lucky -- every time I needed a job, one just sort of came along and offered itself to me.

Heck, even my current 7 year stint was a lucky one-shot. We saw the ad in the paper, answered it on a whim, and had an offer within a week.

I'm certainly not complaining -- I know that this unusual history makes me the envy of many who have suffered the stress of what is turning out to be an intensive, full-time process. But notably, my lack of experience leaves me with very little practice in the ups and downs of the interview process.

Every scenario I encounter is comprehensively new and unfamiliar. Where others my age have been toughened to the obstacle course that we call "looking for work," I cannot compete. With no experience in the simultaneous pursuit of multiple opportunities, I have no instinct for managing the unexpected.

Which brings us to today's dilemma.

I have been invited down to New Jersey for a full day job interview at School A plus half-day tour with a real estate agent, with all costs -- flight, car rental, and housing -- paid by the prospective employer.

I serendipitously recieved a call today from a second school in the same area, and had a lovely hour-long interview with the associate head of School B, who (hopefully) will contact me by email this weekend to discuss the possibility of a visit. While I'm already down in the area. On the other school's dime.

The question, then: what are my obligations -- financial, informational, or otherwise -- to each school in this scenario? For example, if School B does not generally pay travel costs for visiting prospective faculty, should I call School B, explain the situation, and offer to split the costs with them? If School B does pay travel costs, should I figure out a way to charge each school with one leg of the trip -- for example, ask one to pay transport one way, and the other to pay transport back home?

Yeah, I know: after weeks of little to no job prospects, I'm lucky to have such problems.

Nonetheless. Please advise.

posted by boyhowdy | 9:35 PM | 19 comments

Friday, April 01, 2005

Dog Scare 

Outside on the lawn today, Willow in her new spring bee boots stomping through the muddy snow under the neighborhood swingset, Zellie the the Jack Russel Terrier zigzagging collarless and unfettered as usual. Across the lawn we spotted baby Zinnia and her daddy, musician Peter Siegel, with their own dog Lucy, a big grey Lab mix.

Peter and I are both on the jobhunt these days, so though we knew Lucy has a thing about small dogs, after a few call-and-response across the wide ever-more-green expanse, we found ourselves grouped, comparing notes about the interview process.

Until, with no warning whatsoever, Lucy pulled out of Peter's grasp and lunged for Zellie, pinning her to the ground like a tiger on its prey.

It's funny how the panic instinct kicks in in moments like these. I have a vague memory of a single, tiny yip, Peter and I together struggling to pull this suddenly huge dog off little Zellie, a suddely grounded Zinnia screaming in the background. I remember it took perhaps a minute, maybe a few seconds more, to extricate Lucy's teeth from Zellie's neck; I remember I was screaming something, maybe Lucy's name, and Peter was, too.

Funny, too, how polite and casual one can be in the aftershock of a scare like this. It took another minute, maybe, to part as cordially as possible, reassuring Peter all the while that the dog was surely fine, that we knew this was going to happen and shouldn't have been talking, that we'd better get inside.

But under the politeness, I think I already knew Zellie was hurt. Though there was no limp in Zellie's walk, there was blood on her neck and shoulder. And she wasn't making a sound -- which, if you know anything about Jack Rusell Terriers, is a sign of serious injury indeed.

Back home, imagining the worst, we called Darcie, who was at the library, and told her to come home. Willow was a little confused, but I think she still doesn't really understand what happened, or why -- a truth of immaturity for which I will always be grateful, as I imagine this could have been a major trauma for her as well in other, more mature circumstances. Me, I was terrified, listening for a bark or whine that never came, trying to imagine the perils of letting a dog with no warning system, no voice box, run free.

Minutes later, we were in the car, on the way to the vet, Zellie wrapped in a towel. Willow spent the drive trying to figure out what happened -- Mommy, is Lucy going to be okay? Why is Zellie in the car? -- and trying not to panic. In other circumstances, her worst outburst (No, Daddy, you can't asnwer that question! It's mine!) would even be funny.

Me, I just prayed.

After a long wait for the vet -- she was removing some dog's teeth when we arrived -- over the course of a nervous hour, we began to hear the whine of a dog's bruised voicebox coming back to life. No surgery was necessary; though the vet discovered serious bruising over half of her body, and the shaved patches have revealed some pretty deep and gory puncture wounds, we are assured that Zellie will recover fully.

Thank the lord for small miracles, I suppose. But God, if you're listening:

Things are a bit fragile these days; we're still jobless as of June, about to be homeless, expecting a second baby in 13 days, now. I'm overworked, falling behind trying to cover work responsibilities and the jobsearch at once, skimping on kid and wifetime already, wondering where I'll be able to find the extra time and energy for a new baby and a post-C-section spouse. Not sure how much more of this I can take.

Please, stop testing me.

posted by boyhowdy | 10:18 PM | 0 comments

Vatican, Global Media Oligarchy Collaborate, Fool Billions 

What if the impending death of Pope John Paul II was the world's most inappropriate April Fools hoax? Talk about the end of Catholicism. Man, what a massive misjudgement of the world's funny bone that would be.

In other news, Ross Perot prototype Frank Perdue, notable for being one of the first CEOs to bring the unpolished "down home billionaire" type forward as the public face of a major corporate empire, died today. Oddly, Perdue lookalike Pope John Paul II was unavailable for comment. Wonder why you never saw them both in the same room together...

posted by boyhowdy | 4:47 PM | 0 comments

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 | 8 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
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