Tuesday, August 09, 2005

The Podded Classroom 

Just heard on local radio-fave The River that MAT alma mater Marlboro will begin podcasting all courses this fall. New offerings this year include a full-credit on best-practice online discourse management, a subject which I explored personally for my own undergraduate and thesis work and could teach with my hands behind my back. Still, wonder if they’ll let me audit something else?

posted by boyhowdy | 11:33 PM | 0 comments


Now that we're even somewhat settled, and before it fades completely, a quickflash compendium of moments and motifs from our homeless summer.

All-time concert count is up to 204 after a suprisingly low-key Falcon Ridge Folk Fest. Saw much less music than usual, in part because of kid demands, and in part because the bill was overflowing with humor acts. Some ex-student-now-friends camped alongside us, which broadened the living room out a bit, too. Nothing new thrilled me, but Crooked Still, Ani and Dar were good as always. Eddie from Ohio, listing themselves as "from Ohio" due to the family-emergency loss of drummer Eddie, turn out to be much more fun with a drummer.

Of course, we go to folkfests to work as much as to frolic, but check-in isn't a hard crew. A couple of hours each day I sat under a huge tent in the thick of entryflow, checked in, chatted up, and braceleted many coolfolks, from Chris Smither to John Pousette-Dart to Julie of Eddie from Ohio. Best fest workmoments this year revolved around famous people's families: Julie's kids were hilarious, Alistair Mook's parents seemed happily befuddled, and did you know Lowen (of "and Navarro" fame) and his new wife have five eleven-year-olds between them?

Was weird to move from field to million-dollar tourist towns and quirky, spacious rental housing. But other than a heck of a lot of late afternoons rockhunting at beaches, I've already blogged the day to day stuff about our two-week on Cape Cod.

Incidentally, best fine dining on the Cape: Dennisport poshteraunt Ocean House. The duck tacos in avacado dressing and hoisin BBQ sauce are to die for, as is the unsullied waterview at dusk.

  • Best low-tide walking beaches are on the bayside near Dennis; best ocean-side beaches are west of Orleans, though Marconi still rocks.

  • Provincetown, Oak Bluff, and other name-brand townships have been overrun by mostly successful brandgrabbers. Head to authentic towns like Welfleet and Sandwich. Unless you like crowds and cloneshops.

  • Do boil your own lobsters. Buy pie from roadside stands, and corn when it's in season.

  • Check for ticks and poison ivy.

Of course, if you've gotta be homeless for a summer, doin' it in style helps compensate for the lack of a center. Six weeks since we lost house-and-vocation and hit the road, and we're neither exhausted nor lost. It hasn't even rained on us since that quick hilarious hour holding up the camper awning while all around us fellow campers chased their rolling tents fulltilt downhill like so many tumbleweeds.

I could go on forever, but all else is truly mundania: the dead car battery, the health insurance limbo unique to the seasonal worker between gigs, tag on the lawn at dusk with the wife and three year old, small white dog nipping at our heels. Suffice it to say, life is good. Here's hoping this warm consistent wind that wafts us gently towards the morestable future is sustainable.

posted by boyhowdy | 10:49 PM | 3 comments

Missed Media Moments 

Life may have touched down temporarily in familiar territory, but our distance from the usual world of mass culture remains vast. The in-law's dial-up speed precludes all but the most cursory boingboing and CNN updates; similarly (and with similar cause), the absence of televisionary reception here keeps us in the fog regarding the popculturally immediate. So yes, the shuttle touched down; the brits have caught a terorist or three; Paris and Nicole continue to spar in the everpresent public. But who wants to hear commentary on old news? Alas, the diaristic bent of the blog may dominate unabated for a while.

Even the world of hardcopy leaves me in the dust. Our Newsweeks and New Yorkers bounce from state to state before we get 'em, catch up to us too late for newsworthiness. Several dozen Harry Potter sightings in the middle of mulefield folk festivals, but until this morning I hadn't touched a copy. Sure, there was plenty of anticipatory press, but did I miss the media buzz post-distribution, or is the penultimate Potter so dense and awful that no one is willing to take a swing? And could it be as bad as the long-forgotten fifth installment? In the interests of science, I'll read Darcie's birthday copy tonight when the family sleeps.

In the meantime, Darcie's cake needs frosting; the baby needs bouncing; the kid calls for company in the sandbox outside. How easily family fills the media vacuum, and how happily.

posted by boyhowdy | 3:22 PM | 1 comments

Monday, August 08, 2005

A Sort Of Homecoming 

The car's still packed from today's wild ride off-Cape via a quick and fruitless househunt in Wilbraham and Belchertown. The dial-up is slow enough to keep any near-term netfodder to a minimum. Life remains a George Carlin routine.

Yet after infinite days of dissipation, how easily we fall into the evening routine: finding our mail, offering each other drinks at the dinner table, resuming the clean routine of bedtime for the one-by-one children. It's not home, of course. But it has been, over time. And it's been there forever, steady and ever-more welcoming since the day I brought my wife home to her parents, a pair of drop-outs dropping the bomb in this still-unfinished living room.

And how comfortably our stuff condenses: two cars between us for the first time in a month; our very own pillows in beds already half-sunken to our shapes. More importantly, both cat and dog rejoin us in these beds -- even now our family slumbers, complete again in ways the truly nomadic existence hardly sustains.

This will forever be the summer we drifted, a family of gypsies living everywhere and nowhere. But moving from the tourist trap mentality of summertown beachfronts to the in-laws ever-open arms, and the space they have given us as our own in the once-taboo living quarters, feels like a step towards something familiar, even cozy. When we look back at the whirlwind – a summer of uncenteredness I hope against hope will remain noteworthy for its historical singularity – we will surely think of this place as its heart.

Perhaps the turning point has passed, the yo-yo fulfilled its apex. Perhaps, with work three weeks away and an average of eight weeks from discovery to houseclose, this is but the eye of the storm. Regardless: in the midst of the whirlwind, it's nice to have a place that can be almost-home.

Nice, too, to finally catch up on the snailmail. If you'll excuse me, I have to pick my side dishes for the new faculty orientation luncheon.

posted by boyhowdy | 10:21 PM | 2 comments

Friday, August 05, 2005

Cape Cod, Continued 

Still here, and still here, blogging in haste while Darcie checks online home listings from the realtor. The kids hang back at the 1700s house with Mom, brother Jesse, his girl Jasmine, fingerpainting (naked, in Willow's case) and plotting daylong beachdates, an antidote to yesterday's touristy shopping streets of Provincetown, Monday on Martha's Vineyard, Wednesday at the Cape Cod Museum of Natural History.

The balance of touristy "things to do" and moments of relaxation is a noble struggle made no easier for the broad age range and the influx of new bodies into the family unit. For every trip to Circus Smirkus, an afternoon with Mom and Willow stalking playmates at the freshwater beach and its brackish tidepools. For every gently-held moonsnail and hermit crab in the volunteer-guided touchtank at the museum, a late afternoon scrabble and grab at the real thing bayside as the tide comes in. For every hour with old college friend Dan -- now wheelchair bound, and ravaged by MS, but no less his wry ironic self after these bygone years -- in his Vineyard Haven home, another spin on the Flying Horses carousel in Oak Bluffs.

Date night with Darcie last night, a wonderful wander through the oceanside towns along the midcoast, culminating in duck tacos and lobster ravioli at candlelit nightfall, Dennisport waves crashing mere inches from our windowglass. Bought a beautiful hat for her birthday on our wanders yesterday; we'll have cake Sunday for sure.

And now the last busy days of our Cape Cod stay loom heavy before us. Cousin Jessica from Brooklyn expected to join us later today by bus; we'll grill fishmarket favorites for supper, avoid the weekend crowds. There's no "home" for us to go home to, but we'll stop off in Wilbraham for a bit more househunting on our way back to the Brattleboro in-laws on Monday.

After that? Not sure, really. Gotta find a permanent place to rest our heads soon: after all, new job begins in four weeks. Till then, we remain gypsy wanderers, hidden among the brightprint tourists. Wave if you pass, will you?

posted by boyhowdy | 11:30 AM | 7 comments

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Whispers From Wanderers 

Week two on the Cape. We've moved from Wellfleet to Brewster, from a high-ceilinged glasswall to a rental property right out of the 1700s complete with butter churn, darkwood doorways at steep slanted angles, low, post-and-beam construction. Farther from the water, but it's a quick drive, and the library here has no wait for terminals. Are you out there, can you hear this?

It's been over a month since I woke up in my own bed, almost two since we had a bedroom to call our own. Both freeing and wholly disorienting to realize, late last night in front of the first cable feed we've seen in half a year, that long moments go by where I can fully accept, even embrace the truth that we live on the wind.

We're with Mom this time around. Willow and Cassia grow fat on roadfood and the affection of a series of single-shot relatives who join our band like charged ions and disappate when we move on. Cass, at three months plus, won't crawl but walks right-left-right-left easily when held up and tilted forward; can't stomach the windy beaches, but cackles like a madwoman when the dog rolls over.

At one of a thousand ubiquitous highend surf-and-finery restaurants the other day Mom noticed a batch of her favorite flower just outside the window, asked Willow Do you know why Black-eyed Susans are Grandma Susan's favorite flower? Willow looked up from her bruschetta beatless, replied Because you're black?

The future holds a Monday daytrip to the Vineyard, brother Jesse and his girl Jasmine midweek. Somewhere in the backbrain random thoughts of housepurchasing-to-come flutter up at odd moments like the tiny butterflies that flutter through the dunes sometimes when the wind dies down. Mostly, though, we live for the hour -- as wanderers must, else they become mere travelers.

posted by boyhowdy | 12:22 PM | 10 comments

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Still Wandering... 

Due to high traffic at the Wellfleet public library net terminals, I have but ten minutes here to write, so no update, just a reminder that we're still living the transitory life of the nomadic family.

Falcon Ridge was great, so more on that later. Loved living in the field and knowing there was no other home to come home to. Willow spent the first day or so whining that she wanted to go home, but since we have no such place, we squashed that in a hurry -- and then the heat broke, so all was good again.

Now the Cape is having a heat wave, too. The bay is warm as the air, which feels gross for swimming, but the house we're in this week is amazing in viewpoint and isolation, with plenty of high-ceilinged white rooms and sand surrounding the bay below. Drive-in last night with Darcie: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Fantastic 4. The baby slept through it. Nice to have a date.

For a moment there, we actually lived in the car somewhere between Falcon Ridge and Cape Cod. Darcie says we're gypsies. People keep calling asking where to send mail and we don't know what to tell them. Blogging will remain sporadic until we settle, but never fear: we're not lost. As long as the family is together, home is where we are.

posted by boyhowdy | 4:02 PM | 0 comments

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Gone Festin' 

I'm the guy in the hat.  See me waving?

We're here, and there ain't no Internet. Back a week from Monday!

posted by boyhowdy | 12:07 AM | 2 comments

Saturday, July 16, 2005

And They're Off... 

Just got back from the Green River Festival, and boy are my arms tired. Also my back, my shoulders, and especially my knees.

From last night's Donna the Buffalo blowout to the long stretch of cross-genre music today -- including Redbird, The Mammals, Redbird again, Buddy Miller, Steve Earle, and Canadian trad fiddle-and-banjopunks the Duhks -- this year's fest was better than ever. My shirt, soaked and dried and sweatsoaked once again, reeks like pit; my feet ache and itch from pounding, dancing, jumping. Dad was great company, too.

But today's sticky almost-solo sunfest is but our yearly prelude to the main event. After a frantic first-thing pack-and-play, we leave tomorrow morning for our sixth consecutive year volunteering, camping, and otherwise living at the best damn folk festival in the world. Eight days of community building in the most literal sense, from bare mulefield to 15k community to muddy mulefield once again; our home away from home; our Falcon Ridge. This time, with two wee ones.

Back in a week with stories to tell...

posted by boyhowdy | 10:53 PM | 6 comments

A Dubious Achievement, Redux 

A Poem about My Day Written Especially for Asinine Poetry, But Feel Free to Reject It If You Like, Because, Hey, It Was Nothing, Really is featured this week over at Asinine Poetry. Regular readers might remember Bologna Sonnet, my first asinine publication.

Think you've got what it takes to write asinine poetry? Give this season's contest a try. All you need is three asinine sonnets and a buck; winners get a cash prize and they let you write your own bio.

Hey, writers write, but no one said it all had to be good. Even Dickens got paid by the page.

posted by boyhowdy | 12:18 AM | 1 comments

Friday, July 15, 2005

Weekend Preview Edition 

Firstborn Willow turns three tomorrow (okay, technically today). Her birthday wishes are easily granted: a visit to the local petting farm, a raspberry cake. I'm giving her two new kites, small and large, and her very own folding festival chair. There'd be more, but nomads aren't supposed to accumulate too much.

Green River Festival starts tomorrow evening, will continue Saturday with Dad after lunch with the girls. New additions to the ongoing concert list should include Redbird, Buddy Miller, and Steve Earle; final set Sat. brings The Duhks and The Mammals together on stage as -- what else -- Platypus.

Then, Sunday, we leave for eight days in the crowded mule fields up Hillsdale way. Decent line-up this year, but we go for the friends and atmosphere more than anything. Alas, as long as mule-bound wi-fi remains a thing of the future, our annual Falcon Ridge Folk Festival pilgrimage will mean a week of blogsilence.

posted by boyhowdy | 1:24 AM | 0 comments

Writers Read 

Today's trifecta: authorial incidence.

Item: Great single-paragraph daily bookblurbs in big-splash blogging newcomer (and fellow newparent) Christina's Read Every Day blogcategory. Finally, someone else who reads, as I do, seven times more voraciously than those silly 52 books in 52 weeks adherents.

Item: Donations must still be rolling in over at The Spriggan Experiment, the first book ever to be paid for -- chapter by chapter -- by the audience in advance. Great fun to come back every few weeks and find a few more bits of Wyatt Evans's fun-if-frothy series.

Item: Harry Potter, of course, unless you've been living under a rock. In honor of the "someone dies" routine, britpaper The Guardian challenges readership to write the death of Dumbledore in the style of some writer other than J. K. Rowling in 300 words or less. Blogosphere cut-and-pastes vary according to taste. Personally, I'm a William Carlos Williams fan:
This Is Just To Say

I have killed
the wizard
who was in
your novels

and whose death
you were probably
for book seven

Forgive me
he had it coming
so beardy
and so old
Related Item: Making Light, poets use spam as fodder in their valiant attempts not to win recognition from faux-ganization International Library of Poetry.

Bonus: Writers write, too, and it's nice to be recognized; thanks to fellow wordsmiths Christina and Anne for their generous comments on the literary quality of the preceeding entry. Most bloggers go for content, but after years of teaching comparative media literacies, I guess I see context, text and subtext as equally important in writing clearly and with cohesion.

Another way of saying it took two hours to make that one come out even close to right, and that some subjects demand, nay, deserve being written well. After all, I've been thinking about this for a long, long time.

Bonus, too: Writers also fact-check, lest they wander into Newsweek territory. From this week's Corrections:
Our June 27 "Periscope" item "Third Rock From Gliese" reported that the distance between the dwarf star Gliese 876 and one of its orbiting planets is 8,640,797,039,500,000 miles. It is actually about 2 million miles away.
First their source backs out of his report of Koran-torture, now this. It's enough to turn a body to Time.

posted by boyhowdy | 12:40 AM | 1 comments

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Video From Before The Fall 

Mommy and the baby are napping, the in-laws are out at Home Depot, and Willow and I are all tuckered out from an afternoon of kite flying. We can't find Willow's kidvids, but underneath my wife's high school play recordings I am drawn to a single, older tape labeled "Joshua and Darcie's Wedding." This will be fun, I think: the two of us sharing a secret peek into the history that brought her here.

Bad call. Once we resolve -- however temporarily -- the idea that there was a universe before her birth, one in which Mommy and Daddy met each other, and in which a bunch of people who now live only in my stories were real enough to be in our home movies, Willow the empath begins to get distraught, distracted by her growing sense of mortality. Let's go to the videotape:

You weren't there, honey. Yes, that's Grandpa Jerry; he died. We saw Dan at the festival last year, remember? You don't remember Grandma Florence? That's our friend PJ; you'd like him, I bet. I know you wanted to meet Grandma Martha, honey. I wanted you to meet her, too, but she died the week before you were born.

How confusing for the three-year-old mind to see Martha, still vibrant in red, leading a gaunt but stable Jerry around an otherwise unpopulated dance floor. How hard for us both to watch Grandpa Hy, beaming as he watches the photographer, his arm protectively around Florence; Uncle Bob eating quietly with a pre-Alzheimers Aunt Ruth; Mom and Dad, young, vibrant, grinning, proud together, chatting back to back with her sister and his brother-in-law, who we haven't seen in years.

So many of the people she points to are no longer with us, by fate or by choice. Some are sick. Many are dead. Others are alienated. No one is as whole as they look from the balcony, the wide shot shaky in the hands of a boy now college-bound.

No wonder she wants to know where she is during the video, I think. The only people she recognizes are the people who she belongs with now: our parents and remaining grandparents, our siblings, our selves. Those ghosts without wrinkles, sans gray; those thin, beautiful, unravaged people in their prime.

It is peripherally telling, at least, that Willow recognizes no others. Our small crowd contains family and friends, but our intimate friendships, too, have fared worse, subjectively speaking -- we see a few of those present once a year, most never.

Some have moved on, leaving no forwarding address; they live underground lives where even google can't find them. Last we heard of our Ketubah witnesses, one was still struggling to make a living as a musician, and the other was still strugging to be taken seriously as a musician.

Later, while the kids and in-laws asleep, Darcie and I watch the rest of the raw footage. Not sure what she was thinking, but all I saw was my family tree, glowing with the wholeness that only a wedding can bring, before the dry rot of age and emnity took root.

We look so young, all of us; So alive, so loved, and loving, nine years ago, in our rented hall and homemade clothes. Before my grandparents generation started dying, and tension and adulthood divided my family a hundred ways. Before we had our own children, rebuilding within our walls the eternal empires now crumbled outside them. Back when we could laugh at our younger selves, instead of crying for them.

posted by boyhowdy | 12:26 AM | 4 comments

Wednesday, July 13, 2005


Spent the morning excavating, tidying, and otherwise recreating the foundation of my virtual life, beginning with a dial-up hour stripping the gmailbox. Profuse apologies, again, to Barbara for not realizing she was sending me mail all this time; I owe you a dinner next time we're in Buffalo.

Got a flickr account for future use; just lost access to the old school serverspace, so many archivepix may be dead. No flickrshots yet, but Calipix, babypix, and upcoming festpix will end up there eventually, and blogentry picposting to resume soon. Neatest flickr feature: rollovers for mapped parts of pix. Still, if anyone knows how to use gmail as a gigserver cheatspace, please pass instructional link along -- can't hurt to have a secondspace.

Speaking of rollovers, tinyblog updates continue semi-regularly. See navbar for more; hover for tinyblogentries, or skip the RSS and head to the del.icio.us original. Primary tinysource continues to be metablog boingboing, but only because weeklyreads The Onion and McSweeneys don't generally lend themselves to what has become an ongoing compendium of primarily pseudoprofessional resources.

Rejoined Marlboro College alumni online community today. Updated orkut stats, too, after a year of radio silence, though the once vibrant, still-beta community seems pretty deserted. Still, every connection counts: meatspace community will be weaker now that we're out of the residential prep school realm.

Also starting to browse conferences for next year, since the new job seems to be supportive of the ongoing vocational keep-it-up. Suggestions welcome, especially in the areas of Info Commons, info literacy, one-computer classrooms, and relevance to public and/or middle school environments.

posted by boyhowdy | 1:29 PM | 0 comments

Tuesday, July 12, 2005


Today, for the sixth time in my life, I sent in a little card that disqualifies me for jury duty. As in every case past, the county found me too late, and we've already moved on. 32 years old and I've never even been eligible when asked; I feel like some sort of civic virgin.

I wish it were otherwise. Jury duty has always seemed like my kind of thing. Sit quietly and listen to arguments, try to separate out fact from innuendo, spelunk oppositional words for evidence, truth, assumption. Make your case to eleven of your peers, and convince them of what you've seen if you can. Dispense justice, at best.

More, like many bloggers I suppose, I believe in my civic duty. I long to serve, and regret the missed opportunity for service.

Most folks I talk to hate jury duty, because it isn't really jury duty. Three times out of ten, it seems, a call for jury service is ultimately a call for sitting in a room all morning only to be denied a chance to serve. The rest of the time, you make plans for job coverage and child care only to call the night before and discover that you needn't even show up that day.

I reject this dismissal. If even potential availability supports the possibility of giving all defendents the best shot at a decent jury of her peers, then I'll make myself available. Though I'd much prefer to be in the courtroom for the duration, I have no qualms about being the one rejected that someone more appropriate for that particular trial may sit. The point of service begins with pool membership.

Sure, there's fun stories about folks in low-turnout areas being recruited off the street -- last year, for example, I heard from some young folks who had been corralled into service on the spot from their parking lot hangout in downtown Brattleboro. But generally, people called are not people sequestered. And generally, people loitering are not called.

And I really, really want my shot as sitting in chairs, one of twelve along the line of fate. Look forward, in fact, to the day we're settled in enough to make service a reality.

Alas, until then, the universe has chosen otherwise. For better or worse -- and sometimes both at once -- the wandering life turns out to be pretty far under the civic radar. Sorry, Franklin County. Once again, you missed your chance at seating someone who actually wanted to be there.

posted by boyhowdy | 3:40 PM | 2 comments

Slow Life, Zen Life 

I've read two back issues of Newsweek, caught up on boingboing for the day. Tried to make Cassia laugh with some success; discovered that infants aren't really ticklish yet. Willow and I tried kiteflying for a few minutes earlier, but the breeze died out in the heat pretty quick, so we headed back inside, where the fans and shade keep it cool.

Now it's three fifteen, and they're all at the supermarket. Before supper we might take a quick dip in the neighbor's pool, while we admire the paint in three shades of rose they've been slowly applying to their dirtcorner home. Then again, we might not.

Pace of life here at the in-law's has always been a slow one. That's not a bad thing, really, though it took years for this suburban, gotta-have-a-plan boy to adjust to: I have fond memories of a week spent here, long before I married their daughter, where the restlessness set in by ten each morning and I took long uphill rockhound walks just to have something more to do than read on the couch.

Fitting, somehow, that they have dial-up only. Even though dad-in-law Neil is a techmaster by trade. Something about the cable company not yet ready to string cable up the dirtroad, though we've seen their trucks creep slowly towards us all summer, unravelling hope by the spool.

Which is by way of saying that after a whirlwind weekend with Mom in Boston -- fine dining, a great show (Frogz, a not-quite-mime kid-oriented costumery and movement showpiece by the Portland-based Imago Theater Company), and plenty of family hotel adventures -- there's not much to blog anymore. Or I'm less inclined to keep track of the moments. Maybe both.

Which is why, though yesterday Darcie and I left the elder child home with grandma (what did you do all day, kid? Oh, Daddy, we made cookies!) and headed two hours down 91 for a full day househunting and, in my case, meeting with the Superintendent to discuss the new, exciting and proactive systemic technology integration infrastructure under which I will both be well empowered and solidly supported, today the plan is to have no plan.

I'm not complaining. Every moment of patience teaches yet again of the joys of letting go, of riding the universe in these gentleswell moments. Even the most nomadic wanderer needs a good couple of days of quiet contemplation.

posted by boyhowdy | 3:34 PM | 0 comments

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Blogging In 

Alex, who is also on the market, points to Bloggers Need Not Apply, an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education that suggests blogging is inherently problematic to prospective employers in academic, both in tone (potentially) and in fact (always).

I'm not terribly worried about my first meeting with my new Superintendent Monday morning. Anonymity helps, of course. But even if I had not already gone the way of the pseudonymous, like Alex, I tend to believe that I wouldn't want to work for folks who couldn't accept that the great benefits blogging brings me professionally outweigh the potential drawbacks. As the article notes, many of us have learned to blog appropriately, and our records -- and archives -- show that.

Mostly, though, I feel safe because, as a high school instructional technologist, I am usually the only one in the room who can perform and/or understand such a backstory search. As such, I enjoy a kind of protection that Higher Ed folks generally do not: if they could find me here, they wouldn't have needed me there. Thus, though I'm okay if they find me, I assume otherwise: when your job is to bring blogging to the program, potential for discovery and trackability are low.

posted by boyhowdy | 12:57 AM | 0 comments
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