Thursday, June 30, 2005

The Journey Continues 

California Road Trip with Dad: Day 4

Checked out of our post West Holloywood digs today after a late sleep-in, and hit the road for a long haul up the coast -- 240 miles from LA to the midcoast via a holy host of smalltowns, oceanfront views, and small black cattle grazing on the dry brown hills, all to an alternating soundtrack of short stories on CD and the Jamband channel on the well-equippped rental car's satellite radio service.

Hunger hit around Santa Barbara, so we headed downtown for a shared tamale lunch at a funky mexican spot and a short walkabout among the pseudo-south-of-the-border shops before getting back on the road. Left on fumes without realizing it; gassed up in tiny Buellton (home of split pea soup, according to the billboards) after an endless nail-biting miles of state parkland; flew through Santa Monica's artificial suburbia-sans-city, and hit the tiny tourist town of Cambria in time for a suite check-in, a quick clothing change, and a gourmet halibut-and-mushroom-marsalla supper at local Zagat fave Robin's.

The Cali coast is an alien place if you're used to the Eastern seaboard's coastal density. Where New England's shores show the strain of three hundered years of goods shipped by ship, here, miles upon miles of sparsely populated beachfront property reflects a history of post-industrialism settlement, electric cross-country transport and the large-scale land grabs of rich miners and cattle barons.

Today's most striking moments, though, were weather-related. Clouds lined the distant seascape horizon all day like a second sea; the bright clear sun alternated with low and chilly cloudcover for the last hundred miles up the coast as if there were two entirely different kinds of California, off and on, minute by minute. Most stunning: driving into some random sunlit valley as the low linear clouds poured over the nearby rocky hills like fogfingers on Mars, a wave of doom blotting over the sun as we came closer. Never wished more for the ability to photograph panoramas by vehicle, or the ability to describe landscape like a painter.

Heast Castle at 10:30 tomorrow -- no possibility of second chances if we miss our long-scheduled tourtime, so we're off to bed early. If Monterrey has 'net access, too, I'll report in again tomorrow.

posted by boyhowdy | 11:58 PM | 0 comments

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

La La Land 

California Road Trip With Dad: Day 3

Universal Studios today. No rides, of course -- two bad backs do not a thrillseeking couple make -- but the studio tour was pretty cool, the on-site shows entertaining, and the cycle of brand reinforcement throughout the park even tighter than the Disney experience. The crowds were relatively light, given the midweek timeframe, and we managed to see everything we wanted to just in time to hit rush hour traffic on our way back to our West Hollywood digs.

I'm continually interested by the lack of walls between "the industry" and the rest of the universe out here. LA bursts at the seams with street names and townships intimately familiar to even the most casual member of mass culture; everyone's neighbor works in the industry in one way or another.

Today's studio tour, for example, crept several times past a day's filming of Crossing Jordan, hit houses recognizable from sitcoms and film, and ended with a drive through the disaster set for the Cruise/Robbins vehicle War of the Worlds which was released today (which means I've seen part of that movie before you, even if you hit it on opening day).

Those of us not used to the phenom laugh when we hear about Hollywood wannabes passing screenplays through actor's hairdesser's cousins, but the truth is, I guess, that the rich and famous are just everyday people here, likely to pop up anywhere -- they really do have hairdressers who chat with them, and so I suppose passing your life's work to them that way is just another normality here. Just like in the movies.

Tonight over huge (and hugely expensive) dinner steaks at the Palm Dad pointed out that most of the people around us were famous, but I couldn't really identify anyone obvious, and I think we both knew it wasn't enough of a big deal to rubberneck. We've come a long way from our first-day jokes about shopping at the supermarket of the stars. Guess we've been in LA just long enough. Tomorrow we head North towards Hearst Castle and the great beaches of the Pacific coast, with redwood hugging to follow.

Disclaimer for friends of my father who are following our exploits via this blog: all blogfodder and subsequent blogging here are the product of my own impressions and, as such, any extrapolation of my father's impressions, activities, or other behavior during this road trip should be taken with a fairly substantive block of sodium chloride. But you knew that already, eh? Oh, and by the way, though we found this phenomenon of temporary second-tier observership -- call it companion-blogging, or second-hand companion observation -- a bit creepy at first, overall, it's pretty neat from a social networking geek perspective.

posted by boyhowdy | 11:23 PM | 0 comments

I Love LA 

California Road Trip with Dad: Day 2

A visit to the tourist traps of Hollywood turned into an accidental brush with fame today when Dad and I crashed the BET Awards rehearsal. If I had any clue about modern mass culture I'd probably have some great names to drop. As it is, all I can say is that the rapper on stage five feet away from us was decent, the screaming hordes outside the barriers were hilarious and teeny-bopperish, and the red carpet at the Kodak Theater is as lush and vivid as it looks on television.

Wouldn't have happened, of course, if we had been one of the young 'uns trying desperately to catch a glimpse of the black and famous. Instead, there we were, lost in the mall, merely looking for a way down to the streetside stars on Hollywood Boulevard, stymied at every turn by blockades and security checkpoints, when a security guard with a twinkle in his eye -- correctly tagging us as the whitest of white tourists -- decided that, rather than giving us directions, he'd have a little fun.

"You see that red carpet down there? Just cut under this rope and head down the red carpet. You can't miss the street. Hey, you can even tell your friends you walked down the red carpet."

And there we were, as if invisible, walking with the press and publicists past security guards and silent shutdown storefronts on the main drag, until we passed a final clipboard-holding man who never gave us a second glance and ended up among a dozen or so members of some random entourage, staring at the stage while the hordes pushed at the barriers from either side and a dozen other black and famous ignored us from just a few inches away.

We gawked for a minute, amazed at the wonder of it all; turned, decided not to press our luck by promenading down the carpeted street past the barriers and screaming teenagers, found instead a gap in the gates behind the stage, headed out towards the street.

Grummans Chinese Theater was good, too -- costumed characters, century-old handprints, the infamous lions by the entrance. But somehow, after our brush with the real Hollywood, Whoopie Goldberg's dread-print in the concrete didn't seem as impressive as we expected it to.

posted by boyhowdy | 12:32 AM | 1 comments

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

In The City Of Angels 

California Road Trip with Dad: Day 1

First morning in LA, yet another part of the world both like and totally unlike everything this wanderer has experienced. Just back from a full breakfast by the pool and Stevie Wonder's son; had a few minutes to blog before heading out to Ventura via the Chinese Theater to see a whole side of my father's family I've never met.

We're a long way from yesterday. Leaving Vermont at sunup to beat Boston rush hour I got stopped twice on my way out by cows crossing the road, but voyage to the airport solo -- and then with Dad -- was otherwise uneventful. Had no idea it took 6 hours to fly across the country. Thank god for nicotine gum.

LAX by midafternoon, picked up the rental car, headed out past glitterati cars and Rodeo Drive to West Hollywood and Le Montrose Hotel, a wood-paneled hotspot currently under renovation but still famous as a popular meet-and-greet for musicians and their agents. Fireplace in the suite and a hot tub on the rooftop; a grand vista of palm trees, smog, and cliffside ranch mansions just like in the movies.

Drove down to Santa Monica Pier for my first look at the Pacific waves and to ogle the boardwalk in the setting sun. Vagrants mix with the Hilton-esque blonde and tan under the psychedelic ferris wheel; the smell of fried food rises over the traffic and saltspray. Fine Italian dining on the patio at Il Fornaio, a Zagat-rated spot just off-pier, and back to the airport to trade the car in for another that didn't hurt Dad's back as much.

What with the early morning start and the time change, by the time we got back off the rental lot I had been up for 20 hours, was getting pretty loopy. Crashed back at the hotel by eleven. Up refreshed at 7:30. Maybe I'll be a morning person here.

Two more nights here in the city of angels and we're on our way up the coast. Thanks to those who have already written in with SF suggestions -- keep 'em coming, folks!

posted by boyhowdy | 12:53 PM | 0 comments

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Just A Note Before I Go 

In town at Dad-in-law's office checking email and blog for one last time before tomorrow's early morning lift-off to California. Nice to be in the air-conditioning on another ninetynine degree day, even if the ethernet connection here is a bit slower than I'm used to. Rumor has it LA is hot but San Fran is not, so it's back to the house quick to pack sweaters and sundries, spend a lazy afternoon with the wife and kids I'll miss so much.

Very excited, by the way, about this road trip with Dad. We both need it, and each other; Dad is wonderful, serious, hilarious and intellectual company, with similar musical tastes (reminder to self: get yet another iTrip). Biggest problem I foresee is that we both prefer to drive, not ride. Guess we'll have to learn to share -- they say it's never too late.

I'll be blogging on the fly when and where I can over the next couple of weeks. Those with advice for a newbie spending three days in the San Fran area, please speak up; I'll surely have time to check in before that final leg of the trip.

posted by boyhowdy | 10:16 AM | 4 comments

Saturday, June 25, 2005

And So My Wandering Began 

Back today to sweep, scavenge, and scrape the last vestiges of our existence from school and home. The empty wood floors echo my footsteps; the house no longer seems like ours to leave behind. So be it, I guess. A couple more hours work and I'll lock the keys inside, walk away easy and light.

The office is easier: even if I get a job -- and there are still a few veryexciting prospects in the works -- I'll not need the bulk of current deskclutter. Two boxes, a quick dump into the already overflowing storage unit, a pocket full of data disks, and voila, seven years of heart-and-soul world-changing becomes just another piece of my history. (It's okay, though. A generation of students and teachers left with the most important product of all those change-agency years long ago, bless 'em.)

And the present? Looks like Brattleboro will serve me well, for the time being. The fam goes to bed by 9:30, leaving this night-owl to wander the downtown streets, prowl bars full of acquaintences and old college chums. As with any sort of homecoming, surely, the wandering garners thoughful perspective of the road not taken: last night's funk band bass player, once a couch-crashing friend, still lives in a borrowed trailer less than ten miles from the college.

But family will come first, for a while -- all we have right now is each other, after all. The winding, rural road we have chosen has dial-up, and the road itself offers little for the cyberagent ill-equipped for public wireless. So sporadic blogaccess

See you in the fast lane, folks. Here's hoping we'll come down safely, however long the adventure lasts. Check in from time to time, will you?

posted by boyhowdy | 1:14 PM | 7 comments

Thursday, June 23, 2005

A Life In Storage 

Everything we own -- minus the important stuff, of course: too many clothes, two cars and a camper, the family itself -- now resides indefinitely in a 10 x 20 storage unit. And it only took two grueling days of packing and cleaning and heavy lifting; three trips in the U-Haul; hard sleep in the camper last night and again tonight: it's a miracle my back works at all.

We'll be bringing the short-term stuff with us, mostly. It's hard to wander light when you're living the life nomadic with two small children.

But we'll have to pack the remaining bring-along fast, for the last day has come and gone. Tomorrow brings official homelessness as our little band of four becomes true wanderers. We start our journey at the in-laws. They have dial-up.

Driving through the campus tonight on my usual late-night trip to the info commons, it occurs to me that this is my last night here after seven years on-campus. Funny how it feels like home. Goodbye, NMH. I'll miss your carefully manicured rolling hills. See pretty much every blogentry from January on for more moving and poignant farewell fodder; after 48 hours of muscle movement, I just don't have the pith in me tonight.

Sorry, by the way, for what appears to be a straight week of self-centered three-paragraphers. What else can I say but moving is tiring, moving from somewhere to nowhere kills the soul, spending day after day preparing to move leaves little room for the usual web and culture surfing that produces infoglut gem passalongs and medialit culture rants. Dial-up or no, I hope to be back on my blogfeet pretty soon.

posted by boyhowdy | 11:24 PM | 3 comments

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

A Different Season 

Two interviews in two days after two months of total drought. A double-sized paycheck -- I knew I worked reunion for a reason. A boxed-up life, almost.

In bed last night Willow had an epiphany: If you build a house with NO chimney, then the wolf can't blow it down. He can't come in! Meanwhile, 9-weeker Cassia teeters on the cusp of self-awareness, has learned to suck her thumb but keeps startling herself: Hey, this tastes great...wait a minute, I can FEEL that!

Maybe it's the full moon, a huge blood-orange lantern in tonight's otherwise-clear sky. Maybe it's just officially Summer. Whatever it is, it feels organic and good. Bring it on, universe.

posted by boyhowdy | 10:34 PM | 0 comments

Monday, June 20, 2005

Time Keeps On Slipping: An Era Ends 

So it's about ten forty five and I'm sitting on the porch with the headphones on, smoking a cigarette at the full bright moon, taking a break from the laundry-and-pack, humming along to some random live cover of Video Killed the Radio Star by Ben Folds when all of a sudden the homunculus wakes up.

Radio show.

I forgot to do the radio show.

Damn summer mode.

Kinda fitting, though, to run a seat-of-the-pants pirate show for the final curtain. No one's listening, the house is a mess, and I forgot to bring that awsome mix CD Rachel made me, but hey, I'm here, playing my angsty, anxious heart out, and the feed's up on eleven.

Playlist for the last ever tributary, the longest running show in the 25-year history of WNMH, follows. No prose or poetry, just a last gasp of illicit tuneage in the dark. Keep an eye open for slightly sappy situational relevance (esp. in the lyrics) but don't expect cohesion. Now we just have to clean the office and pick up the U-Haul, and we're outta here, folks.

Last Ever Tributary 6/20/05

Skavoovie and the Epitones -- Fat Soul
Biscuit Boys -- Ramblin' Fever
Beck -- Hell Yeah
Cake -- I Will Survive
Digable Planets -- Rebirth Of Slick
Galactic -- Coolin' Off
Kris Delmhorst -- Little Wings
Aimee Mann -- Ghost World
Indigo Girls -- Galileo
Evan Dando -- Pancho and Lefty
Lucy Kaplansky -- It Ain't Me Babe
Richard Shindell -- So Says The Whipporwill
Tony Furtado Band -- I Ain't Got No Home
Ani DiFranco -- Angry Anymore
Wilco -- Hummingbird
Keller Williams -- Anyhow, Anyway
Patty Griffin -- Take It Down
Nick Drake -- Pink Moon
Biscuit Boys -- Ramblin' Fever (reprise)

From Funk to Folk, from Jazz to Jambands, from Blues to Bluegrass and everything in between: Long live Tributary. As long as there are archives, a hundred Monday evenings are forever accessible. As long as there is memory, may each playlist, each song, each show ricochet around my brain. You are...a radio star...

posted by boyhowdy | 10:46 PM | 1 comments

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Down To The Wire 

My back's bad again, which puts a serious crimp in packing plans. And I've got a cold coming in from Willow via preschool. Total deja vu.

But our stuff spread pretty far in our five-month house. I've got an interview in Boston Tuesday, the U-Haul cometh Wednesday, Friday brings homelessness. So other than a wonderful breakfast-as-supper and a morning jaunt up to the in-laws, I spent much of father's day hauling boxes and cranking out the laundry in spite of the pain, or to spite it. Because you can't put your life in storage unless you box it up first -- it's the law or something.

Between backbreaking bend-and-press, though, I sat on the porch and read about West Coast eateries, redwood forests, and how to get tickets for major network television tapings. California, here we come! Ten-day itinerary for the road trip with Dad has us travelling up the coast from LA to a decent bit beyond San Fran; if you've been, feel free to pass along suggestions.

posted by boyhowdy | 11:50 PM | 0 comments

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Details, Details 

Boiled my resume down to two pages at the suggestion of the ex-husband of one of my father's dance partners (a "long-time prep school administrator"). New, lean fighting machine resume 2.0 blows old, flabby four-pager out of the water. Now, if I only had somewhere to send it.

In other nuts-and-bolts news, I've added the entirety of our future-as-we-know-it to the sidebar ("coming soon"). Two things, here:
  1. The nomadic lifestyle we embark upon includes but tenuous access to the blog, even in the best of times. They're still laying cable down the dirt road to the in-laws; California might not provide daily hotelnet access: new entries may become a scarce commodity as of this Friday and continuing indefinitely. Living on batteries in a field for Falcon Ridge week will, as always (2003, 2004), create blogsilence.

  2. Note that even the most basic of plans (geographical location, job) fizzle out there in the middle of August. I suppose if we were really out of hope we'd have made clearer contingency plans. Instead, here I am, pulling an all-nighter with my personal statement; God willing, some school will hire me, and we'll have a new neighborhood to settle into come September.

posted by boyhowdy | 9:59 PM | 16 comments

Friday, June 17, 2005


...because the unbloggable life continues.

Proof that Uncyclopedia Is Good For Something: the world's most comprehensive listing of "you have two cows" jokes. (See also Uncyclopedia: The Anti-Wiki).

Proof That Wikipedia Is Good For Something: An MD in the Canary Islands announces he will use Wikipedia's entry on Avian Flu as the central clearinghouse for breaking information on the virus, collecting and publishing info on pandemic prevention, mitigation and recovery. (See also: boyhowdy's wikiwatch)

Thus we see how the transformational fluidity of the wiki makes for not just up-to-date, but creates a mediaspace which truly is the best possible place for emergent, vital facts about an everchanging world in a global data-economy. Or cow jokes. Or something.

posted by boyhowdy | 9:42 PM | 0 comments

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Best Spam Copy Ever 

Good evening all We are made for larger ends than Earth can encompass. Oh, let us be true to our exalted destiny.,

Great men are always of a nature originally melancholy.,

If we would build on a sure foundation in friendship we must love friends for their sake rather than our own.,

All great ideas are controversial, or have been at one time.,

Other things may change us
Spam: the internet's fortune cookie. Thanks, "Alessandro".

posted by boyhowdy | 10:57 PM | 3 comments

So Much Change, So Few Words 

Days, now, since my life has become subsumed by the unbloggable: jobsearch minutia, other people's secrets, overfamiliar tasks. Faced with penning mere, potentially vague, allusory blogentries, I stay home where it's netless, search the wantads, talk to family, watch the baby, report little.

Heat broke at 94 degrees two days ago at sunset. Now it rains all night, hovering in the fifties. Pollen washed from the air makes my feet itch like crazy. My back stiffened up in the chill; packing up the house knocked it out.

Willow built a house out of cardboard boxes in the hallway and said "aren't I being so cute, Daddy?" She started school on Tuesday, and has already stopped reporting on her days. No word on how she got the shiner under her eye, but we're guessing it's the girl next door. How weird to feel a part of her slip away overnight: my daughter has a secret life, and now she always will.

Yesterday, on the advice of several Superintendents, I formally applied to the DOE for a teaching certificate. Maybe I'll get a job for Father's Day.

posted by boyhowdy | 9:56 PM | 0 comments

Quick, Cheap, and Used 

Last Minute Auction provides a new way to hunt for great bargains on eBay by searching for auctions which meet the strict and simple criteria: 1. The auction ends in 1 hour. 2. The price is 1 dollar or less.

Weird stuff, though unless you're a fan of sewing patterns, much of it is hardly worth the shipping. (There are a few long shots, like a 99-cent guitar just waiting for a more realistic first bid, which I suppose might go for a token.) This vintage walgreens dental floss is cool, though:

File under Science-Medical

Via Random Good Stuff.

[UPDATE 6/17 1:49 am: Bought a pack of glowsticks in bulk for the cost of shipping; bid for two more. Willow will love 'em, and I can sell most of 'em for beer money during the festivals. Score!]

posted by boyhowdy | 11:46 AM | 4 comments

Monday, June 13, 2005

If You Can't Stand The Heat 

Day four of swampy, unseasonable heat and humidity up here in the Connecticut Valley, and no end in sight. Days become listless, sleep a restless impossibility. Shirts cling, soaked and spotted. The day burns like Nawlins in July.

Tomorrow's weather report calls for a high of 93, 99% humidity, and a nightime low of 78.

On the bright side, the baby loves being naked.

On the other hand, her older sister seems to share my contact allergy to pollen and grass under such weather conditions.

Coming into the studio tonight after a long day picking at unattractive job propects was like descending into a sauna. Pushing through the fog to get here was like driving underwater. The very night air smells of mildew.

Funky playlist follows in the usual half-hour increments. Sorry to those who tried to call in the first hour. Turns out the phone works better if it's hung up properly. Hey, at least I finally figured out what that beeping noise was.

Tributary 6/13/05

Skavoovie and the Epitones -- Fat Soul
Cake -- Wheels
Oysterhead -- Rubberneck Lions
Keller Williams -- Vacate
Jason Faulkner -- Both Sides Now
Calexico -- Alone Again Or

Michael Franti and Spearhead -- Everyone Deserves Music
Chris Ardoin & Double Clutchin' -- Your Love Keeps Liftin' Me (Higher and Higher)
Sam Phillips -- All Night
Guster -- Barrel of a Gun
Donna the Buffalo -- Rhythm of the Universe
The Shins -- New Slang
Toots and the Maytals w/ Trey Anastasio -- Sweet and Dandy
Jack Johnson -- The 3 Rs

moe. -- She Sends Me
Patty Griffin -- Change
They Might Be Giants -- Nightgown of the Sullen Moon
David Grey -- Caroline
Destiny's Child vs. Stevie Wonder -- Bootystition
Aberfeldy -- Love Is an Arrow
Marianne Faithful -- Love & Money
Los Lobos -- Never Take The Place Of You

Yo La Tengo -- Magnet
Acoustic Syndicate -- Rainbow Rollercoaster
Maroon 5 -- Pure Imagination
Grateful Dead -- Eyes of the World
Sarah Harmer -- Uniform Grey
Salamander Crossing -- Down in the Milltown

You've been listening to tributary, your ten to midnight monday night show here on WNMH. Don't forget to come back next week -- two weeks, and the music will fade forever.

posted by boyhowdy | 11:59 PM | 1 comments

Sunday, June 12, 2005

All Summer In A Day (Or Two) 

Coming off the best kind of three-day bender this evening -- a little rewarding yet mellow work, a little beer on the balcony with old friends, a little more work and a too-late evening swatting mosquitoes in the midst of a raging party, trading partners throughout, feeling like the eye of a storm and loving it.

A constant buzz and an unseasonable humidity made this year's Reunion weekend a smash kick-off to a summer mode traditionally only fully realized during our week volunteering at Falcon Ridge Folk Festival. A precarious wrong-turn road trip up Putney Mountain in the weekend's borrowed van followed by a marina-side supper afterwards with great friend Michelle and her equally-great one-year Zinnia only promised to sustain the blossom of summerhood.

In any other year, such an early onset would be welcomed. But there is so much unknown this year: no job, no home, no savings; no severance beyond August, no plans beyond July. Job-but-not-vocation employment possibilities flash by in the paper, arrive in the mail, grow stale on my desk. I hear from the grapevine that my cover letters have been too long, too wordy, too intimidating.

Gone fishin? Or fish or cut bait? Regenerate, or attack? Halfhearted, or broken-hearted?

Willow couldn't sleep tonight because the neighborhood kids were being too loud chasing fireflies in the community gardens behind the house. Says Willow:

My old friend Max poured my bubbles in his truck and I was sad. Sometimes when a kid does something I don't like I have to hit them -- I have to! I don't like my old friends. I want to find my new friends and not play with my old friends anymore.

And so we lay there for a while side by side in the drowned-out darkness, listening to the life we love screaming in the yard outside, ever receding. She tried to sing along to Kenny Loggins for a while, I tried to stop crying. Neither of us were successful.

Eventually, she slept.

Daddy will find us another neighborhood, kid. Promise. I just need a little time, that's all. And you can be my luck, okay?

posted by boyhowdy | 10:05 PM | 0 comments


Having a blast this weekend working and hanging out with this year's reunion folks -- from the class of 2000 (my second year here) and the 1995 grads who have crashed their parties all weekend to the raucous zeal only a class of recently retired 50th reunion grads could maintain.

So much fun, in fact, I'm not really ready to stare at a screen for a while.

Does the fact that I'm writing this at 1:30 in the morning suggest anything? Cover me, guys. I'm going back in.

posted by boyhowdy | 1:28 AM | 1 comments

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Why I Hate Macs 

Sure, I've used Apple products. There was that Apple II GS -- the last "real" Apple -- that blew up on me in college, leaving me with no choice but to pull an all-nighter just to hand-copy a 26 page paper off the screen. The old Classic that kept showing me bombs. The in-house machines over the past few years that couldn't decide which version of the operating system they were running, and weren't reliable in either; the G4 that's been sent back to the company five times in a year and still dump their storage when students try to export their movies.

Despite early and ongoing difficulties, though, I've always figured it's just me. I respect macs conceptually: their hardware and software design are, in the end, better for graphic and multimedia work, and their semiotics are more up my alley ("return" is so much more gentle a terminology than "enter"). That many geeks can't be wrong. And I've always been really impressed by those

And I really, really love my iPod.

But today was the last straw.

The three highest-stakes set-ups for reunion weekend involved what should have been a perfectly simple process: connect mac a to projector b, smile smugly, hang out eating crackers during the event while nothing whatsoever goes wrong with the powerpoint presentation / video / iPhoto slideshow / live auction updates via the web.

Instead, each of three mac laptops had an entirely different but equally unfamiliar output socket for projector connectivity.

And by unfamiliar, I mean not only did we not have compatible cables, our entire IT department had never seen nor heard of anything resembling any of the three. I know, because I did grave-rubbings of each of them (geekalert: a handy way to make sure that you're getting the right cable at Radio Shack, incidentally) and showed 'em around.

Front left to right: Power plug, modem, Ethernet, firewire, USB, USB, mini-DVI, audio input, audio output, and security lock.Look, geeks, we're not talking about older machines, either. Check out the side view of this $1700 Powerbook -- this was one of the machines we had trouble with today. Yes, that tiny double-wide, double-strip DVI output. What the heck IS that? Why is it twice as tall as the iMac output? Why is it half as wide as the one on its predecessor?

After three hours of amazement and shoptalk (woah, aren't macs supposed to be the universal compatibility machines?), I finally realized I've never "got" macs, I'm never going to "get" macs...but most importantly, I now have a foolproof reason for hating them.

There's certainly some feedback occuring here. A PC environment primarily buys data projectors that work with its PCs. And habit counts for something fierce; work with Windows versions of everything for seven years and the brain just plumb thinks PC after a while.

In other words, I'm not saying you should hate macs.

But when your job is making minds work -- any mind, off the street, in a matter of moments -- you use what most people are familiar with, and celebrate that which has the shallowest learning curve (and let me tell you, an operating system and an office environment tied to each other in ways which piss off power users has the shallowest learning curve).

And when your job includes making the fastest, most successful connection between any potential piece of equipment and any other potential piece of equipment, it's hard not to love the universal fifteen-prong input standard of the PC.

And easy to curse the company that ends up having to include model-specific adaptors for everything it releases -- which then sends the average user out into the world without them. I mean, so much for human-centric computing. It doesn't take a genius to figure out that most people don't know what those cables are for, so they leave them in the box.

I mean, come on. Three different, non-standard, never-before-seen sole projector outputs on three different model and generation Macs? In one afternoon? I spent five hours today working on alternate solutions for things that "worked just fine back home," and now I look stupid. Thanks, Mac.

posted by boyhowdy | 10:26 PM | 25 comments

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Party Time 

Pulled pork and music last night in my honor under the leftover party tent on campus. Fellow librarian Pam brought her old-timey band, complete with washboard and washtub bass; I played flute a bit, but spent most of the evening teetering on the edge of fall-down drunk, chatting with aquaintances on the verge of diaspora.

Tonight in our yard a slightly more kid-friendly venue, a well-attended block party and neighborhood farewell. Almost all of us are leaving, by choice or by fiat. We've been there five months, but it was still ours, the best neighborhood ever.

I thought it would feel more desperate, but it's all been quite grown-up and natural. People show up; talk turns to summers and my uncertain future. Casual adults fill the lawns, beer in hand. In the side yard kids run to and fro through the sprinklers. Their parents stand on the lawn between our houses and recite litanies, name those who will take over our houses. I point to the camper, talk about taking a minimum wage job for the insurance. We light sparklers in the dusk.

In the distance, another storm comes out of the valley. Lightning rises over the hill.

posted by boyhowdy | 11:34 PM | 2 comments

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

What Price Pride? 

Signed away my self-respect today for a summer's piddling severance and three months of family health insurance.

In return, I basically agreed never to mention this place again, and offered carte blanc for any of the remaining 350 employees here at the school to spin me into my grave to prospective employers, should any ever decide they are even interested enough to call in the first place.*

What else was I supposed to do? The HR folks made fun of me when I asked questions about the wording on the 8-page agreement. Finally, after everyone else in the group sessions had signed and left, I realized that they weren't going to change a single jot, decided that I just can't make my family go hungry because of my stubborn sense of fairness, held my nose, and John Hancocked myself out of there.

Yeah, I know. Call me a coward, or a sell-out. All I know is, pride isn't always salvagable. It would have been equally demeaning to have to bum gas money off the in-laws over the summer. Or watch some half-trained clinic worker pull my daughter's teeth instead of filling them.

Damn. Turns out ideals are for those who can afford them, after all.

Plan for the rest of the day: get really, really drunk, eat barbecue, jam under a big ol' tent, try not to think too much, and tell a hundred people or so that, no, I still have neither job nor job prospects, and isn't it nice that the sun came out for my farewell party?

*Disclaimer: the description of severance terms above is hyperbolic, and should not be taken as a critique of the school or its policies, or revelation of confidential or proprietary information contained in the agreement or indeed any school document. I like this place SO much. Really. I mean it.

Now give me my damn money, and leave me the hell alone with my broken spirit.

posted by boyhowdy | 11:13 AM | 3 comments

Monday, June 06, 2005

Radio Minus One 

After the final faculty meeting, too many steamers and too much Steel Rail Pale Ale at the faculty picnic, a half-assed failed attempt at grading,

I race the storm up the hill, walking backwards. The sky grows pitch, the wind picks up, the heat lifts in the breeze. Willow cries. The dog cowers under the porch and will not come out.

Lightning comes. Crackboom thunder, and one of those torrential downpours that just keeps getting heavier every time you say "damn, that's the heaviest rain I've seen in a dog's age." Fifteen minutes, tops, to flood the yard and driveway, make rivulets into rivers.

What with the dog and the kid, I never did get to follow the urge to run out into the rain, strip down to my boxers, raise my hands to the sky.

But you don't need to run to feel. It was enough to recognize the urge for what it was, to feel it in my breast and be glad of it.

First of several studentless post-season radio shows tonight, a soundtrack for those fellow faculty members grading papers in their offices and dorm apartment kitchenettes. Maybe no one's listening, now that the students are gone. But let the rains come. Let the music wash me clean. I'm here, O lord.

Playlist follows.

Tributary 6/6/05

Skavoovie and the Epitones -- Fat Soul
Steve Earle -- Shadowland
Ween -- Bananas And Blow
Michael Franti -- Yes I Will
Dar Williams -- Are You Out There
Juliana Hatfield -- My Darling
Eddie From Ohio -- One Thousand Sarahs
The Biscuit Boys -- Coming Into LA

poembreak: A child said, What is the grass? (Walt Whitman)

Stevie Ray Vaughan -- Wham
Toots and the Maytals w/ Willie Nelson -- Still Is Still Moving To Me
Glen Phillips -- Have A Little Fun With Me
The Wallflowers -- I'm Looking Through You
Keller Williams -- Freeker By The Speaker
Tish Hinojosa -- Hey Little Love
Mark Erelli -- Thought I Heard You Knocking
Kathleen Edwards -- In State

poembreak: Fern Hill (Dylan Thomas)

Los Lobos -- Dream In Blue
Shivaree -- Goodnight Moon
Erin McKeown -- Slung-lo
Mark Cohn & Jackson Browne -- Crazy Love
Gilberto Gil -- Three Little Birds
Dan Zanes & Friends -- Wonderwheel
Kathryn Williams -- Spit On A Stranger

poembreak: Birches (Robert Frost)

Ani DiFranco -- Recoil
Crooked Still -- Lonesome Road
Daniel Lanois -- Shine
Dolly Parton -- Shine
Jack Johnson -- Losing Hope
Patty Griffin -- Moses

You've been listening to Tributary in post-season. Tonight's epigraph comes from Frost's Birches, but I mean it just the same.
I'd like to get away from earth awhile
And then come back to it and begin over.
May no fate willfully misunderstand me
And half grant what I wish and snatch me away
Not to return. Earth's the right place for love:
I don't know where it's likely to go better.
I'd like to go by climbing a birch tree,
And climb black branches up a snow-white trunk
Toward heaven, till the tree could bear no more,
But dipped its top and set me down again.
That would be good both going and coming back.
One could do worse than be a swinger of birches.
One could do worse than be a swinger of birches. Here's to new beginnings, wherever we may find them.

posted by boyhowdy | 9:57 PM | 5 comments

Irony Alert 

George Orwell Plaza is watching you.

via a long chain of pass-alongs that nominally began here and found its way through the usual players. But conspiracy theorists take note: the image is stored at Not Bored. Whether that signifies context or hoax is for the infoweb to decide.

posted by boyhowdy | 12:13 AM | 0 comments

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Free At Last 

Wore my Mickey Mouse-eared mortarboard, a tiny "for sale" tag dangling from the tassel. Ate ice cream as we processed in, past grinning parents and pointing, laughing alums. Counted 77 cliches during the outgoing president's speech to the graduates.

As we recessed across the senior's field of vision I flashed the graduates my "i deserve a beer" shirt, recieved thunderous applause.

Had recieved the traditional glare from the Dean of Students before the march. But I wore that hat two years ago for graduation, and the year before that (and a construction hat last year). I guess now that I've got little to lose, there's no need to temper the irreverance.

And I do believe that pomp and circumstance are only reinforced by a little frivolity, else what's a liminal period for? People sure seemed to appreciate it, anyway; I got dozens of compliments, and each with a smile. And it made three hours in the 85 degree sun more tolerable for a whole bunch of us. I love the attention, but such lightness in the midst of any occasion which takes itself too seriously is a public service, too.

Back off the field, I meandered as the kids dwindled down to the final few. Hugged familiar shoulders, tapped knuckes with a hundred more at dorm and dining hall until the student body sunk below double digits and

A few casual words of wisdom to a few beloved seniors from the dorm and we were off to the lake, where after two years of spit, gum and polish, Darcie's father finally got the boat in the water.

Sure, there's still meetings to come, still student-taught course grades to cut-and-paste into databases. I've got two offices to purge, and a hundred parties to get to. The weeks ahead will fill with house packing; moving stuff into storage and my family into my in-law's house.

But there was a moment today just before I jumped off the side of the boat in my boxer shorts, when Darcie looked over at me grinning into the wind, my arms around Willow, sharing the glee, and said "you look like summer."

I have become summer. I have become free.

Bring it on, world.

posted by boyhowdy | 11:18 PM | 2 comments

Friday, June 03, 2005

Last Night 

That's me in the corner. Supervising. Seriously.

Hullabaloo in the Library last night: since it was a homework-less final night, we opted for anti-study hall conditions. Brought my flute and played a bit with the old-timey folks, but spent most of the short evening laughing hysterically while nominally supervising a shriek-and-run session in darkened basement stack, a samba lesson, a round of marco polo. Northfield to the core. Great kids, all of them. A wonderful farewell for my sometimes-home after 6 years with my office down the hall.

Of course, all this after being feted by a host of Asian students in thanks for guidance throughout the college essay process, and a long and boring final assembly in which I didn't win the student choice award for the seventh and final time, but it's okay, 'cause the right kids love me. Ducked out of the assembly early to rearrange the giant kiddie-block promotion atop the student center, thereby turning an innocent PARTY to an ominous TRAP. Next stop: block some of the letters in Tracy Student Center to make the Racy Stud Center.

And then, today, some of the coolest, brightest kids in the world drove off in their parent's cars without really saying goodbye. How odd to think I'll never see most of them again. How frustrating to realize that this year's crop is bound to forget me; after all, every one of them has a year or more to experience this place boyhowdy-less. But oh, how satisfying to realize that, over seven years, I've loved so many of them.

posted by boyhowdy | 10:33 PM | 13 comments

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Oh, right...I have a gmail account... 

My sincere apologies to anyone who has tried to contact me via gmail in the past four months. Especially the Buffalo folks, who are making me seriously regret deciding -- way back when there was hope -- that Buffalo was too far from our extended family.

As of June 24th, the only possible way to contact me will be via gmail. This time, I promise I'll read it.

posted by boyhowdy | 1:38 PM | 1 comments

Dangerous Thinking 

For the second time in a month, I recieved notice today that the job I had applied for by the direct recommendation of folks who really could have gotten me in the door was handed to someone else less than 24 hours before my letter was recieved.

Each time I apply for a job, I tell my wife, I write a cover letter than reflects an affection for the school deliberately cultivated through careful research and perusal of their web materials and guidebook listings. What that really means: each time I apply for a job, I have already given them some small portion of my heart.

I have now applied for over 40 teaching jobs for next year.

Some never bothered contacting me. But most did. 4 school visits, three phone interviews, at least one back-and-forth about certfication (nope) and how to apply for state acceptance of mere eligibility (nope, too expensive, not fast enough to matter).

The ones that contacted me were, in the end, a thousandfold more painful. More heart. More time. Higher stakes. Farther to fall.

But they all took my heart. And the heart isn't infinite, after all.

Each time I hear another "no," my heart breaks. It takes me days to recover enough to try again, days in which I turn inward, losing my family, staring into space, responding to the most innocent queries and basic kidneeds with snappishness and short temper.

I cannot lose them if they are my only future. I cannot trade them for the constant rollercoaster that runs over my heart day after day after day. After four months of this -- four months -- I have no heart left.

And here I had been hoping to save some to say goodbye. The last students that may ever love me, the last coworkers that ever cared about me; they're going, going, gone in 48 hours or less.

We have to begin packing immediately, though we know not where we're going. I'm supposed to be cleaning out my office right now, in fact.

Syllogistically, then. I think I may have decided today that I just can't apply for any more jobs. Not if I want to be sane. Not if I want to have the heart to love a place again someday.

Where the hell does that leave me?

Such a nice day outside, after weeks of rain and cloud. Think I'll get the hell out of this deserted information commons and just lie in the grass, soaking up the universe. My heart close to the earth. Maybe the world, like a huge battery. Maybe the sun, like a chastising presence.

Maybe not. But what the hell are they going to do, fire me?

If nothing else, putting that last brick in the wall around your heart leaves you invulnerable.

I remember. It's how she found me in the first place. Back when the walls were transparent. Back when the process of loving someone after years of drought was a way to pull down the walls.

I love my wife. But I also know her, now. I know this love, this life, this family.

It is not enough, I think. Not the same. Not new, not empty.

And if it is not enough...then maybe nothing will be.

posted by boyhowdy | 1:13 PM | 10 comments

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Weeding 1, Boyhowdy 0 

Booksale this morning in the library, the inevitable if somewhat sad result of consolidating two libraries into one next Fall. The fates conspire against me: I'd have missed all the good stuff, but I had to come in early to cover an empty media center for a funeral-bound paraprofessional. The sale books move literally and tantalizingly under my nose as they get stamped out of the system, reminding me that I've been reading two books a night, and just ran out of new reading material.

The temptation was just too much to bear. Ended up first in the door, bought eight books at a quarter apiece -- O'Toole, Vonnegut, Wolfe and Clarke among them. Plan is to read 'em by Sunday, dump 'em before we pack.

I figure if I can spend the day and still resist the geeklure of all those random electronic components, headphones, remotes, slides and wiring in the media center trashpile after last night's closet clean-out, I break even.

posted by boyhowdy | 9:03 AM | 0 comments

Some Answers 

In response to a student query on our school intranet Q&A folder. I don't think he was serious, but any kid asking "What is the meaning of life?" deserves a real answer.

Be generous -- with your language, with your assumptions, with all that you have.

Be joyful. Don't be afraid to dance. Worry not about what other people think.

Be grateful. Give thanks. Appreciate and acknowledge that which you are given.

Be righteous, but not self-righteous. Never forget that you may be wrong; never forget that dialogue cannot be won. Start all conversation prepared to change your mind, or you will never be able to trust your own mind.

Be uncomfortable. Only those who are unafraid to embrace pain can truly change. Only those who are truly unafraid to feel can make change. Only those who are open to pain can feel true joy.

Be free. Learn to recognize the constraints you put on yourself so that you may work to eradicate them. Wander for the sake of wandering -- the best learning comes from the unexpected path.

Be honest. To a fault. No matter what anyone says.

Be effective. Be realistic. Don't tilt at windmills. Change begins with yourself.

Be wise. Trust that all answers to this question are true.

Incidentally, the only other serious response offered to "What is the meaning of life" was "to find the meaning of life." But that cannot be; it's a logical impossibility. Let me know if you want the proof.

posted by boyhowdy | 7:51 AM | 4 comments
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