Monday, January 30, 2006

Small Miracles 

A day that starts with a half-awake child pleading for you to stay home, daddy, please don't go to work, I don't want you to go away is both heartbreaking and completely, utterly fulfilling.

The bond had only deepened by lunch with family at the Friendly's flagship, where the fries and burgers are more real, more delicious, more perfectly adjacent to the company store and corporate offices. The sweet old couple at the next table over stared at our snuggly quartet throughout the meal, but in a good way, not a creepy way; they gave us a coupon for two bucks off a kids meal when they left, which made us all feel good.

I'd snuck out to meet the fam after yet another test-run of a local pre-school, this one just down the street from work. It fronts on a strip mall, but Darcie said it was otherwise, finally, a desirable placement for kidWillow: well-run, anti-commercial, grounded and environmentally centered, available two half days a week. Better: there's plenty of spots open. Best: no need to call it until Darcie checks out one last possibility next week.

On my "light schedule" at school I explained programming by hypothesizing, in turn, an electronic toaster, a monkey trained to dance, and a machine which turns fruit into other fruit (but not a machine that turns fruit into the same fruit, because that's a refrigerator, and I already have one of those).

In and around I spent an hour doing the best kind of holistic instruction and guidance with one teacher, another hour solving with creative intuition and handsoff talkthrough five difficult "just-in-time" peer user issues. Lent visible value to several parent/ kid/ teacher meetings. Planned three weeks of lab partnerships, juggled not enough technology to serve far too many wonderful, creative teachers eager to learn from me, and thus make me seem irreplacable. All in plain view, and each one a home run. I hardly minded leaving at 3:45.

Home; the girls happy to see me, the older focused so well for once that we were able to sustain a gentle balloon toss for much of her post-shower hour. Infant Cassia suddently sprouted baby signs, adds vocabulary every day, makes careful choices and communicates her preferences even as they change. She's learned to full-body hug. And her hair is getting redder, instead of fading out to blonde as mine did at her age.

Twenty days and counting since that last puff. Today I went entire minutes without thinking about cigarettes. Realized that saving that new cashmere peacoat until this week means it will never smell of that telltale smoke.

Thank you, oh Lord. For your bounty, and for your strength.

posted by boyhowdy | 8:50 PM | 1 comments

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Book 4 of 52: Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close 

What about little microphones? What if everyone swallowed them, and they played the sounds of our hearts through little speakers, which could be in the pouches of our overalls? When you skateboarded down the street at night you could hear everyone’s heartbeat, and they could hear yours, sort of like sonar. One weird thing is, I wonder if everyone’s hearts would start to beat at the same time, like how women who live together have their menstrual periods at the same time, which I know about, but don’t really want to know about. That would be so weird, except that the place in the hospital where babies are born would sound like a crystal chandelier in a houseboat, because the babies wouldn’t have had time to match up their heartbeats yet. And at the finish line at the end of the New York City Marathon it would sound like war

In order to keep from stressing over my new commitment to literary bar-raising, I'm letting the 52 Books in 52 Weeks come naturally. Other than a penchant to avoid field-specific nonfiction the blase approach seems to be working. Four weeks in, and I just finished book four without even realizing it was on the list.

I did promise myself to blog more about the books themselves, rather than letting them fade into the mass consciousness. But Jonathan Safran Foer's second novel is so gorgeous it leaves me speechless.

If you haven't read this tight multigenerational, temporally untrustworthy tale of language, loss, family and fears, read the first chapter online, and then call your library right this minute to reserve the rest of it. You won't be sorry, and you might even cry.

posted by boyhowdy | 1:59 AM | 1 comments

Saturday, January 28, 2006

My Fellow Americans... 

Over at the evergrowing groupblog, Shaw asks: If you were to give a State of the Union speech, what would you say?

Far be it for me to pass up a chance to rant off the tip of my typers.

My State of the Union address.

posted by boyhowdy | 11:11 PM | 0 comments

Friday, January 27, 2006

Paging Mr. Nosmo King 

Will the meeting run long? Can I leave campus on my lunchbreak without being late for my noon class? How many smokestops on a drive to Boston is too many, and are there more opportunities to pull off if we take the turnpike?

For the entirety of my adult life, I've avoided movies longer than ninety minutes for fear that the ushers wouldn't let me back in. Ask any smoker. The smoking life is holistic and comprehensive: every goddamn moment, bar none, is on one very real level of consciousness but a single step in an eternal dance to balance intake.

As such, the suddenly ex-smoker finds himself faced with an effectively infinite pattern of confrontation, a tightrope of constant reminders that Here Was Smoking. I settle in behind the wheel and open the window unthinkingly. I get up from the dinner table and make it halfway to the door. From the second of first consciousness each morning to the bedtime housecheck, a life once built around a mere twenty tiny pocketpuffs becomes a life unsteady, unmoored, and oh, so suddenly, fully unsure.

As long as the unrelentless nag remains, this new smokeless life is no easier. I still want one every damn minute of the day. As of this moment, at least, the prospect of finally sitting through an entire movie in one sitting is little consolation.

What I miss:

Five minute breaks throughout the ever-zany life. Leaving work every midday for a fifteen minute automotive moment, and coming back rejuvenated, recentered, and practically post-meditative. Being outside through seasons both dark and day. The silence of the outer world just before bed. That first drag. That last drag. The postcoital. The postprandial. Coffee and chainsmoking. Cigarettes and beer. The act. The flavor. The shared spark among smokers. The ritual of it all.

I didn't pick the quitdate, and -- though I know it will be an impossibility -- I still secretly harbor dreams of becoming one of those take-it-or-leave it smokers, the ones who never bother buying cigarettes, and smoke socially. I'm not the one to make promises to the self beyond the now; I find the secret self ornery enough to break such rules just because they are there.

No smoker ever really quit because of the intellect -- we know, damn you all, whatever it is you can tell us about the dangers and damage. I've known those lost to the diseases; known the annual verge of penumonia; smoked through both. Three years I worked just down the hall from the diseased smoker's lung exhibit at the Boston Museum of Science; I didn't quit then, and I care not a whit about your stupid research.

I have no idea why I quit this time around, come to think of it. Maybe it's better not to dwell here, lest I discover my anathema, my bane, and in doing so become smitten with the everfalse evertempting idea of self-sufficiency through countermeasure.

Still, for what it's worth and whatever reason, I seem to have quit. And though they are neither reason nor truly reward, it is true that for every loss there is a small balance. The tiny cracks in my cocoon show hints of glimmerglory. The oddly unconsidered benefits poke through like spring shoots.

What I've found:

Continuity with the kids. Longevity of focus in my daily routine. Tastes delicate and bold, subtle and sardonic. The pride of determination. The adultness of follow-through. The shared stories of the exsmoker community. The support of friends old and suddenly supportive. The smell of laundry, and my daughters' hair. No more ashtray mouth. Peace instead of panic.

Seventeen days, 10 hours, and fifteen minutes since my last cigarette. I think I can, I think I can...

posted by boyhowdy | 8:44 PM | 2 comments

Thursday, January 26, 2006

The Ladybug Who Had No Spots
A children's story 

Author's note: I've been working on this orally with my daughter for a few years, and tonight it seemed like it was finally all coming together. It's a bedtime story, told in the dark in whispered tones, and as such is on its very first draft textually-speaking -- please offer comments and criticism below if you can. License and distribution information follow the story.

The Ladybug Who Had No Spots

Once there was a ladybug who had no spots
And that is a terrible thing to be

Or so she thought
Though her friends said otherwise

But the ladybug was unhappy
And one morning, she spread her wings, and flew

Over mountains and oceans
Over deserts and plains

Until she came to a jungle

And there in the jungle
she met a leopard.

Oh Leopard, said the ladybug

I am a ladybug who has no spots
And that is a terrible thing to be
But you have such beautiful spots
Could you spare some spots for me?

Oh, no, said the Leopard.
I need my spots.

They help me hide in the shadows
When I am hunting my food
So I cannot be seen.

If I gave you my spots,
I would stand out against the trees.

I would be hungry.

So, no, said the Leopard.
I will keep my spots.
I am sorry, Ladybug.

Thank you anyway, said the ladybug
And she spread her wings and flew

Over beaches and shipyards
Over bridges and bays

Until she came to the city.

And there on a busy sidewalk
She met a Dalmation.

Oh, Dalmation, said the ladybug

I am a ladybug with no spots
And that is a terrible thing to be
But you have such beautiful black spots
Could you spare some spots for me?

Oh, no, said the Dalmation
I need my spots.

They help me stand out against the snow and fog
So the fire engine can follow me to the fire
And put it out.

If I gave you my spots I would fade into the city
And the firemen would not know where to go.

Fires would not get put out.

So, no, said the Dalmation
I will keep my spots.

I am so sorry, ladybug.

Thanks anyway, said the ladybug
And she spread her wings and flew

Over houses and churches
Over playgrounds and schools

Until she came to a garden

And there at the entrance to the garden was a rock
All covered with small black spots

But when the ladybug spoke up
Each spot spread its wings
And a hundred flies flew into the air.

Sadly, the ladybug went into the garden
Looking for a place to rest.

And there in the last garden rows
She saw some tomato plants

Each ripe red tomato
Was covered in tiny black spots
Just right for a ladybug’s back.

Oh, tomatoes, said the ladybug
I am a ladybug who has no spots
And that is a terrible thing to be.
But you have such beautiful, black, tiny spots
Could you spare some spots for me?

Well, said the tomatoes,

Our spots tell people that we are not good to eat

But tomatoes are for eating
And we wish to make people happy
With our juices and our ripeness.

So yes, said the tomatoes
Please, take our spots

Thank you, said the ladybug.

And she gathered all the spots she could carry on her back
And flew away

Over countries and continents
Over cities and jungles
Over the world

Until she arrived home

And found all her friends so happy to see her
And so happy that she was happy

That they threw her a spot party.

They played pin the spot on the leopard
And pretended they were fire trucks and dalmations
And spread their wings and flew thick as flies
To a picnic lunch of sweet red tomatoes.

And when the party was over
The ladybug went back to her home

And put every last spot away carefully

And smiled at herself in the mirror

And fell asleep.

I am seriously hoping to shop this around if it continues to come together. If you know any children's book illustrators looking for a project, have contacts at a publishing house, or are a parent or teacher looking for a new story to read with your kid, feel free to use and distribute The Ladybug Who Had No Spots under the following smallprint terms:

Creative Commons LicenseThe above text is copyright 2006 by Joshua Farber, and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 License.

In human terms, the above license allows all users to copy, distribute, display and perform the work under the following conditions:
  • You may not use this work for commercial purposes.

  • You must attribute this work in all uses except in the case of home or classroom-based performances where all audience members are under the age of 8.

  • You may not alter, transform, or build upon this work, especially by adding illustrations to accompany the text, except in the case of home or classroom-based illustration and text layout where all illustrators are under the age of 8.

  • For any reuse or distribution, you must make clear to others the license terms of this work.

  • Any of these conditions can be waived with permission from the copyright holder.

posted by boyhowdy | 10:42 PM | 10 comments

Dear Virtual Friend 

Just wrote this poem, which was kind of about writing emails to you (and to my father), and tried to post it on my blog. But I couldn't, because blogger is down. Something about planned maintenance.

So I went to the other blogger blog I belong to, and tried to post about how annoying it all was.

No luck. Seems blogger is down for planned maintenance. Why don't they warn us about these things?

Anyway. Here's the poem.

Because I Know How To Talk To Everyone

Because I know how to talk to everyone
When I write you letters

I feel guilty
For witholding my words from everybody but you
Like roses taken from a public park,

For not broadcasting all the time,
Because I know how to talk the game.

And then I feel guilty that I prefer the anonymity
Of crowd to the realness of you
So I pretend you are imaginary
And I forget about everything else but
The part of me that I pretend is you
And I craft my words for hours.

This is why my letters are so beautiful,
And why I have stopped writing poetry.

posted by boyhowdy | 12:01 AM | 1 comments

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Randomalia: The Learning Edition
Now available in bite-sized nuggets!

Cramming (stolen shamelessly from -Ant-, via Flickr) New term at work = All new students = Back to curricular square one. Two days of "is an iPod a computer?" complete with props, iPod, and enough cool walk-in music to set a term's worth of tone; rinse by Friday; repeat. Like starting over, but better prepared.

Can't tell if Cassia's trying to whistle or just say bird; either way, she's a quick study. Drinking out out of screw-top water bottles solo at nine months with little spill (and a happyproud "wet!" if she does) = pricelessly precocious. Also new today: hey, the toy car goes!

In just two hour-long sessions since Sunday, and with no previous experience touching "daddy's computer", Willow mastered mousepad, leftclicking, flashgame premises, even easter eggs (I'm looking everywhere, Daddy!). Today she found, figured out and played several Winnie The Pooh games all by herself! Hoorah for PBS Kids and a surprisingly deep and healthy Disney preschool presence. Imagine what she'll do when she can read.

You, too, can learn about the latest weird products. From the folks who brought you Junk Food Blog and Cool Website Ideas, an ongoing compendium of oddblogs et al.

Knowing the right way to peel a banana is much more interesting if you eat bananas.

In prep for the workblog: Without a Net: web whacking, local caching, and other ways to save your butt by moving class content. 'cause the noveau-suburban middle school ISP has been down since last Wednesday. Alternate title: From Net to Network (Or Else)! Note to self: no Internet in school = no rush to post this week.

Two weeks since my last cigarette. People always said the craving never goes away, but it gets better than this, right? On the bright side, my throat doesn't hurt after a day of lecturing, 2% milk tastes creamy and delicious, and my daughters smell like sweetgrass and babysweat.

posted by boyhowdy | 9:25 PM | 2 comments

Monday, January 23, 2006

Earworms In The Blogosphere 

Now with mp3 and streaming audio links! Enjoy!

The music waned from my life slowly. Having children of my own led to less and finally no more paid-for concert chaperonage. After six and a half years behind the mic, I spun my last weekly radio show. The loss of a true commute to work left me bereft of even the daily radio pop randomalia, the last best resort for the occasionally new and otherwise unheard.

But there was always the record, the earbud, the totally-wired audio environment. Sure, the CDs were expensive, but they stacked up in the thousands; yes, the speaker volume dropped lower each year as the faily grew and the spaces we inhabited shruk to fit. But from my first adolescent armored walkman to the finally substantive wallsystem of my 30th birthday, the music was still everywhere I needed it to be.

And then, one day, it wasn't.

The CD player in the car died just before we hit the road in June, kicked out of work and home for the unknown, our little band of four in close quarters, living in the car. We had nowhere to put the stereo; it lived in storage in Greenfield, an hour away from wherever we were.

I had the iPod, for a while -- full of the better CDs, a year's worth of more recent downloads -- a lifeline of music, enough to get me anywhere. No way to add music from the road, but a static collection was better than none.

Then it got stolen, of course. Finally, I got a new one, and the computer died reloading it. More stasis, and those 3000 sounds were starting to go stale. I thought my audiofix would never come in. But the laptop seems stable, and the 'pod's hardly scratched.

After four months of audio famine the feast has arrived.

Which is to say: I've been downloading music, and the world is spring again. Here's what's stuck in my head, and where to get it stuck in yours:

1. Cat Power, including originals and a haunting cover of Satisfaction. Link source *sixeyes also has a whole mess of Sufjan tracks.

2. Michael Foucault's cover of Entella Hotel from the forthcoming Peter Case tribute at songs:illinois. Also Peter Ely doing "Put Down Your Gun".

3. Streams of Brandi Carlile at her website, and on acoustic cafe last week. I liked her when we saw her opening for Ray LaMontagne, and I'm liking her more now.

posted by boyhowdy | 12:22 AM | 2 comments

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Under Pressure 

It's easy to procrastinate here. There's wood to stack, kids to play with, trails to meander behind the house. At night, when the kids go to bed, there's IM, the blogosphere, the newly-instated iPod to pimp.

Never made it to the Worcester Ecotarium yesterday -- Willow was a bit too stuffy, too cranky for public consumption -- but we had the in-laws in all this morning, for hangout and a scrummy brunch at the only real restaurant in town.

Managed to finish this year's Best American Short Stories collection, which I'm counting as book 3 in my 52 Books series, in and around the rest of it. And the wife and I stayed up to watch a couple of West Wing episodes and Richard Pryor's Live from the Sunset Strip, a seminal work which comes off as unfortunately dated, just like my father said it would.

Even showed her the right way to peel a banana, a discovery which is absolutely stunning, and leads to far too much time trying to figure out how humans managed to acculturate to the "stupid" way while monkeys sat and laughed at us. (My guess: the stem looks like a handle, so we overthink it. But now that the secret's out, will the meme move far and wee enough, retrain us all in "this genius monkey technique"?)

Yet despite my self-destructive best, I nonetheless managed to finish 90% of my end-of-term grading in just two 2-hour bursts of hyperfocus.

It is an immense relief to realize that grading at the middle school level is going to be a good 50% easier than high school ever was. I'd set aside tomorrow evening on emergency reserve, but it looks like I'll be able to get a good night's sleep for once instead. Now all I have to do is ascribe 150 discrete conduct and effort grades, and submit the gradebooks from within the school network. Piece of cake.

posted by boyhowdy | 7:35 PM | 0 comments

Friday, January 20, 2006

Ways To Procrastinate 

It's the end of the term, I said. I have all these papers to grade, a backlog produced over two weeks with a sub, and only just now handled. So much multimedia to revisit, PowerPoints to peruse. A low hundred grades to calculate.

I might be a little late from school just gathering it all in, I said.

She was on line 1 in the office at day's end. It's such a nice day outside, she said. Let's go to Northampton.

I had spent a day saying farewell to this term's students, techtip teaching as needed as students wrote letters to next term's students, an exercise which I find makes painless the self-assessment so valuable to the grading process.

I sat in on a special ed student's yearly Independent Education Plan review. I filled planning periods and lunch delivering a redundant series of one-on-one last-gasp just-in-time training sessions on grading software for my teaching peers.

I stayed an extra hour with the school technician, in on his off day and after school to finally grant me local admin-level access to my own laptop.

And so I threw my grading fodder in the car, and we headed up to meet Ginny for sushi. And the original Herrell's ice cream, where in a fit of menu pressure I accidentally invented the world's best milkshake: premium Cocolate Hostess Cupcake ice cream, chocolate syrup, milk, and half a banana.

And now I sit, planning yet another desperate weekend's dance routine, the old soft shoe shuffle around the teacher's bane.

So much to do.

Tonight on my newly mutable, finally trustable computer, I've reinstated the iTunes/iPod synch, enabled the flash and shockwave plugin base so necessary for everything from online kidplay to truly multimedia cybersurfing. I'm drinking the first beer since my birthday bronchitis.

Tomorrow we're going to the Worcester Science Museum. They've got free museum passes at the library in town, natch, so a bookbrowse first.

Monday brings mandatory attendance at an all-day writing-across-the-curriculum workshop, another full day of just-in-time solo support for peer teachers' grading software submission, and another professional development day workshop, this one on curricular integration models for streaming video, in my lab, and under my tech support. All simultaneously.

Three years ago, in a particularily generative, hyperfocused moment of grading period procrastination, I started this blog.

80 hours 'til deadline, I've already invented the perfect milkshake and reinstated my beloved digital media cocoon.

Stand back, world. Stress creates diamonds from coal.

posted by boyhowdy | 11:11 PM | 0 comments

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Blogging A Mystery
Thoughts On The Unbloggable 

My name is boyhowdy, and I have a transparent pseudonym.

Yeah, I posted my true wikiname in the previous entry. No, I won't go back. Why change the past when it is yours to embrace? Let the archival cache of the internet, the worlds largest unforgetting elephant, recouple first and second self.

A little research and a bit of close attention to context cues wil bring you to the meat-me, now short of hair but a bit longer of breath since last week's bout with asthmatic bronchitis and the doctor's subsequent mandate for sudden smoking cessation. Yes, me in all my glory: rediscovered by old friends using only the most obvious of keywords no less than thrice a week, on average.

There have been times -- o, many times indeed -- when I would not scream what I would write, would not stand by my words in a crowd. To realize that, as time moves ever onwards, I find myself trustworthy enough to allow myself to be found is without price.

The only problem is that some secrets are not ours to share. In a connected life, some risks cannot be isolated unto the self. Ironically, in a lifetime of wandering, more public means more taboos, content-wise.

And more taboos means a bit less life on the blogblock.

Blog about work? Only if you're willing to stand by your opinion in the potential face of willful parental misinterpretation, and risk family hearth to do so. Blog about the known personal problems of family and friends, however pseudonymic? Only if you accept that their arrival herein could reopen thinskin wounds, regardless of intent.

My parents drop in and watch my brain tick. My wife reads the blog and corrects my embellishments. My pre-literate daughters, in some ways the most important, most intentional of my once-and-future readership, should not have to see my heart and head in anger anywhere, even here.

Symptomatically speaking, for those of us that blog eclectically -- specificially, allowing the personal to intermingle with the professional and vocational -- it's a disconnected life that remains fully public. Unless you're heartless, I suppose. Or have guts I neither want nor afford.

In some ways, it's wonderful to realize that I've placed so much of my life off-limits and off-line. It means (I think) that I'm truly blogging for those close as well as half-imagined, that I blog with love for those I know, and that they visit to recieve it.

And so I take it as a sign of my growing closeness to family and friends that I not only have chosen to protect more of them, but have more of them to protect in the first place, as time goes along.

Sometimes it means more silence. But a little introspection never harmed the psyche in the long run.

And the world remains as rich as ever, ripe for wandering, sweet with wonder. As long as there is you and I, there will always be a blog. Though it may not contain as much of my heart as it once did, there is heart here aplenty, and it is good.

And the rest of the heart? Let's just say it's where it belongs. Another wonder. Another literacy. Another piece of the infinite self.

Let us remember not to treat the blog as the self, for there is always more than words to offer. And silence is, in truth, oft golden.

For my family and friends -- you know who you are.

posted by boyhowdy | 8:03 PM | 4 comments

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Listening In On The WikiWorld 

Scavenged, snipped, and reworked from an email to my father. Because it was blogready, blogrelevant, and plenty linkified...and because it's good Coulton karma.

...The song "Ikea" is downloadable at Jonathan Coulton's website, which I also recommend for the oddest cover of Sir Mix-a-Lot's "Baby Got Back" ever.

I'd generally include direct links to the songs themselves, but Coulton prefers that you visit his page, not just pass along the link. That's partially because he makes these songs available by a Creative Commons licence which allows them to be freely downloaded and traded...but he does ask that, if you like the songs and have some cash, you consider donation in response. And you can't send a donation to an mp3.

Incidentally, Coulton specifically encourages his listeners to consider word-spreading, especially via blog, as donation. Thus, by passing this song to both you and Christina in the past week, I've actually paid him back for his music. It's an interesting post-digital economic model which semi-surprisingly realizes cash profit long-term; Cory Doctorow uses a similar premise, though in his case he doesn't want donations; he's happy to let folks buy books if they want, and seems to be solvent as a result.

It's a pay-what-you-wish potlatch world, I guess. Proof that the anti-mp3-trading folks have got their economics wrong, if nothing else.

More about Jonathan, who is the official Contributing Troubadour of Popular Science magazine, at Wikipedia. Who knew Popular Science had (or indeed needed) an official troubadour?

And the offer for company if you descide to wander out to the new Stoughton Ikea store still stands. It's my kind of place, actually -- all-consuming "nation-as-packaging-frame" commercialism at its most proto-phenomenological. And I'm curious to see exactly how identical the new Stoughton store is to the New Haven store -- supposedly, the storespecs are identical down to the last rivet, as if each Ikea store was a macroversion of the shelving and furniture they've made cheap and famous. Wonder if they deliver the stores in impossibly-heavy flat boxes of component parts, just like our coffee table, couch, and shelving?

...In other and very-much related news, the Eliza Gilkyson song we heard on the radio last night -- the one I was trying to think of this evening on the phone --is, according to, "a surprise cover of World Party's 1993 hit "Is It Like Today." (See, I knew the word "world" was in there somewhere.)

The original song got some minor radioplay when it first came out; both Darcie and I recognized it, and she's not much of a pop-musicphile, so it must have been popular enough to stick in our ears all these years. Also possible the song crept into our audio-favor at one of Gilkyson's Falcon Ridge appearances, of course, but I recognized it as a cover song immediately, so the original must be somewhere in the grey matter.

You know I'm a cover nut, so I'm hoping to burn a copy of Gilkyson's Paradise Hotel when we next come in...but if you're feeling like a challenge tech-wise, I'd not object to you digitizing a copy of the song and sending it along as an email attachment...with the caveat that, if you copy it in iTunes, it will end up in a format that I cannot hear without iTunes, which I still cannot install on my laptop because it remains locked administratively, which in turn is merely because I have yet to be in school on the same day as the right technician, and won't be, at least until February.

That is, iTunes will "rip" the CD songs to iStuff-only format UNLESS you specify that you want to make a copy in .mp3 format. Tricky to push iTunes to do that, though. Fastest would be to use your PC-provided MusicMatch software to mp3-format the song.

Okay, that sounded technical even to me. Never mind, I guess. I can wait a couple weeks.

...Interestingly, while the subjectively-obscure Coulton has a full wikipedia article, wikipedia's entry on Eliza Gilkyson consists of ONLY a discography (given the user-created nature of Wikipedia and the general interest of those users, it makes sense that Coulton would get wikified first due to his net-slash-techgeek cache).

Wikipedia refers to Gilkyson's sort of entry as a "stub", meaning it is neither complete nor truly connected to other entries which might mention it. The Wikipedia entry on stub says:
Stubs are articles which have not yet received substantial attention from editors of the Wikipedia, and as such do not yet contain enough information to be truthfully considered articles. The community believes that stubs are far from worthless; they are, rather, the first step articles take on their course to becoming complete.

If you ever want to feel like you've made your mark on the web, adding value to Wikipedia is very satisfying. Or at least I've found it so. If you're there, check for the user "jfarber" (or just cheat by clicking here) to see three of the more recent additions I've made to what is increasingly recognized as a real and valid resource of some significant value, despite the esoteric and (in my opinion) media-overblown "danger" of the wiki-as-resource phenomenon we've discussed before.

Possible trivia tidbit which would help connect Eliza Gilkyson's entry to the rest of Wikipedia, incidentally, is that her brother, Tony Gilkyson, is/has been guitarist for the L.A. punk band "X". Even odder: Tony got his spot as a replacement for Dave Alvin. Amazing how much smaller the world grows each time I go online.

posted by boyhowdy | 9:25 PM | 0 comments

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Too Many Captions 

Sometimes you got nothing; sometimes you just need some help winnowing it all down. This week's cartoon caption contest possibilities:

  1. You wouldn't believe what they're doing with stem cells right now.

  2. The moral is, read the prenup.

  3. I'm a sucker for a good maternity leave policy.

  4. We're considering home birth.

  5. Adoption, probably. It's not really a good time right now.

  6. "Shower" sounds so feminine. Just think of it as an excuse to hit the Gap.

  7. We're doubling up for the child credit this year.

  8. I dunno. Where do you think "want to feel the baby kick" falls under our sexual harassment policy?

Vote below if you dare.

Think you can do better? Voting closes the 23rd over at The New Yorker...

posted by boyhowdy | 12:18 AM | 1 comments

Sunday, January 15, 2006

I've Grown Accustomed To Your Taste 

In the first place, the idea of gum that tasted like -- what, nothing? cigarette filters? what? -- was just a bit too weird. I'd started with the mint, and stuck with it through the introduction of a surely nasty Orange flavor; it seemed safe to assume that gumflavored gum was best.

Then one day all they had was Original Flavor Nicorette.

I've been chewing nicotene gum for a while now, ever since I first tried to quit in earnest. Since then, multiple failed quit-dates have come and gone, but the gum stays regardless, ready to serve as barely acceptable nicfit substitute for long flights, long drives, and the occasional long meeting.

For most of that time, chronologically, I've been an occasional minteater.

But then I started teaching again, and the schedule doesn't allow cigarette breaks. I started taking a piece of gum before lunch, and couple more through my last classes.

And what we had was that Original flavor stuff, which -- honestly -- was bitter and tingly in weird places. Chewing it felt like chewing cardboard.

But somewhere along the line, I began to look forward to that odd taste. I relished the first burst of flavor, began to detect subtleties of foretaste and aftertaste. Nicotene gum got good to me. Like a friend.

And then, this week, I actually figured out how to quit.

Since Tuesday, I've chewed up half a box of that jaw-stiffening tingly treatment -- an hour or so of oral delivery at 4 mg and just about 70 cents a pop. But we ran out in Boston over the weekend, and all they had at the WalGreens was that mint stuff.

Each piece of which is too soft, too strong, too sweet, and two sizes too small.

I miss the full rich original flavor of nicotene gum. Oh, that hint of wax. Worth rooting through old coat pockets for.

Acquired tastes are funny. Beer once tasted bitter; moldy cheese was for playground jokes and cheese plates for company, not midnight pate-and-bagel snacks. I've just started eating fish in the past few years, after an oversensitive lifetime of strong icthyo-gag reflex. Caviar's not good to me yet, but it will be.

If experience matures what nurture and environment create, my daughters' tastes will not be mine. Already at 3 and a half to the dot, Willow talks southern barbecue, exotic vegetables, sushi; kani was one of her first words and her favorite finger food. Baby Cassia at 9 months prefers flute to drum, abstract concepts to concrete nouns, veggie puffs to anything. To wonder where they will wander from here is to envision a great and centering path before each.

Not everything can be acquired, of course. Nor is it all worth acquiring. Quite the contrary. We cultivate such simple singled-out pleasures not to consume, but to specialize, to reinvent ourselves in careful pleasures, to savor.

But you have to start somewhere. Choosing your path may be a constant affirmation, but it's knowing thyself that makes it all worthwhile.

And, once you've found them, a good country pate, some Eliza Gylkyson, a good idea, a keyboard, and thou make for a pretty damn rewarding oasis. Pass the gum.

posted by boyhowdy | 9:34 PM | 2 comments

Saturday, January 14, 2006

It's My Birthday Too, Yeah 

Birthday, Marc Chagall

33 years ago today your host boyhowdy popped into the world just an hour before Superbowl VII kickoff time, and boy, was the doctor relieved. (Factoid: in beating the '73 Redskins, the Miami Dolphins became the first NFL team to go undefeated in a season. But I think the Doctor was just happy to get to see the game.)

Authors born on this day, according to A Book of Days for the Literary Year: Hugh Lofting, creator of the Dr. Dolittle series; John Dos Passos; Tokyo novelist, playwright, and son of samurai Yukio Mishima (Kimitake Hiraoka). Also, according to Wikipedia: pro crankyman Andy Rooney, musician's musician T-Bone Burnett, alt-director Steven Soderburgh, and LL Cool J. Also Paul Anka's son-in-law, Jason Bateman.

Probability tells us that as the number of people in the room hits fifty, the odds that two people in it share the same birthday anniversary approaches 1 pretty darn fast. I get over fifty hits a day.

So. Jan 14th. Anyone else?

posted by boyhowdy | 1:10 AM | 13 comments

Friday, January 13, 2006

Nothing But 'Net 

An interesting consideration of online friends as "imaginary" courtesy of my blogexplosion battle opponent FyreGoddess. I've actually pointed out as much to my students, have encounted plenty of phenomenological ramifications, and concur with much of the good Goddess' assessment, however subjective the experiences that led us to this.

(In my case, one such experience involves my own joy and surprise at receiving a CD from a previously-online friend over the summer when I needed it most. Imaginary friends can't burn CDs, can they?)

The question of what is real, especially outside the self, has always been a fun one for phiosophers to toss around. Also true: the concept of "real" gets slippery in a half-virtual world. Rather than drag out the old college textbooks, it's worth pointing out that full participation in the world of textuality without tonality -- i.e. the half-there persona we see through the glowing screen -- requires clothing others with the imagination.

Everything from Trolling to the rapidity with which online folks tend to open their minds and hearts to each other comes back, ultimately, to the fact that we must clothe that username, that language, that origin, that other in some sort of self-generated humanity in order to make use of it. Even the tendency to forget that the global includes the local -- a fact that has caused much hot water for an unforgettable few of my blogging students over the years -- is merely risk and ramification of this absolutely vital approach to being, truly, digital.

On the other hand, the associated truth -- that those who are both most imaginative and most able to remember that it is their own imagination that clothes these online denizens are those who will ultimately be most successful in the online world -- makes me happy, too.

Other half-productive wandering today included a first-glance at Webster's new open-source space -- a nice healthy way of keeping language real and fluid from an otherwise traditionally high-culture source -- and a few turns tightening up entries on everything from old employers to fave cheesy fantasy author Lawrence Watt-Evans over at Wikipedia. An interesting pair, that. Gotta do something with all that time on my hands -- might as well add value to the universe.

posted by boyhowdy | 8:04 PM | 2 comments

The Howdy Household Health Report 

Doctor's check-up for the three-year old today; I didn't go, but Willow's favorite plaything is her own doctor's kit, so -- no surprise -- she loved every minute of it. Save one: Daddy, next time I go to the doctor, I'd like to pee in the toilet, not in a cup, okay? Thought for a while this might prove a good learning opportunity, but on second thought, maybe it's better not to dwell on the idea of pee as worthy of study. There's a reason toy doctor's kits don't include urine-testing equipment.

According to Howdyspouse Darcie, the new pediatrician suggests we start giving the kid choices for behavior, but backs off quick when informed that we've stopped doing so, as this kid responds to choice-sets with no, Daddy, that's not the choices; I'LL tell you the choices right now.

In other news of the precious, at just under nine months, baby has begin her own path towards self-sufficiency. Tonight at supper she looked down at three neat piles of chopped broccoli, chicken and rice, immediately swept 'em to the floor, looked me right in the eyes, and said Play!. She ultimately accepted a juice box and some healthy veggie puffs as a temporary substitute, though we spotted her trying to stuff the last bit of broccoli into her pacifier when she thought we weren't looking.

Me? Still sick and a bit delirious from the sudden nonsmoking, but hoping I get my strength back pretty soon. It takes a pretty strong will to stay on top in this homestead.

posted by boyhowdy | 6:20 PM | 0 comments

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Ten Unnecessary Lists 

10. Stuff that gets smaller

9. The top four movies starring that guy who's only in, like, four movies

8. Things you found in the glove box of a rental car once

7. Potato chips: 1987

6. Everything under a dollar!

5. 50 more ways to leave your lover

4. A lifetime of brunch!

3. Dress shirts wanted to buy later but didn't

2. Where I've seen ducks

posted by boyhowdy | 8:57 PM | 1 comments


1. Nine kind visitors have exposed themselves in honor of National De-Lurking Week. Won't you join them by leaving a comment? I promise not to point and laugh.

2. Though BoingBoing editors chose not to post my comparative stylistic analysis of Mark and Cory's posts on the same subject -- in all probability because it was both a) a bit too meta and b) not so much news as it is pseudointellectual fiddle-around -- Cory was kind enough to stop by to acknowledge and clarify.
[UPDATE 1/13 1:24 am: Mark stopped in, too -- and declared himself tickled by the whole idea!]
Other than to mention what an honor it was to interact with a much-admired writer two much-admired writers we'll save any subsequent consideration of the effect of the Internet on fandom for another day.

3. Still sick. Still delirious. Still not smoking. Still listening. Still not reading; good thing I read ahead.

In other news: there are so many things wrong with paying teachers based on student performance, I don't know where to begin. So I won't.

posted by boyhowdy | 6:20 PM | 1 comments

BoingBoing Doublepost: Mark vs. Cory 

An interesting coincidence of simulposting over at BoingBoing this evening provides a nifty opportunity to explore the difference in posting styles of fellow BBhosts and all-around amazing gentlemen Mark Frauenfelder and Cory Doctorow. Analysis follows, but first, just in case it goes away, a look at the doublepost in question:

Subtle differences abound. Some of the more obvious:
  • The blogentry titles are significantly different. Cory’s post title celebrates the cookbook itself; Mark’s refers to a "scanned copy OF" the cookbook. Meanwhile, Mark uses and capitalizes the actual name of the cookbook, and the longform of the year (1950s) while Cory shortens both, making for a shorter title overall

  • Note the different choice of pic. Given the same source info, Mark went for the oddest inside-the-book pic, thus reinforcing Cypher’s language (and a WHOLE SECTION just for…) while Cory goes for the equally weird but much more colorful cover. Shape and layout come into play here, too -- wide vs. tall pics frame the text differently; I wonder if either choice was made with visual impact of the overall entry in the larger context of the page itself in mind?

  • Given the same information, Cory provides a backlink w/thanks to the poster and also a link to the material posted, though they are arguably/ultimately from the same sourcehuman. Mark, on the other hand, provides no such double-link to Cypher, though his site is not the same as the ground meat cookbook site.

  • Mark eliminates the redundant wordage (ground meat, from the 50s) from the content, since it’s in the title. Cory allows the redundancy, thus preserving (we assume) Cypher's original quote.

  • Cory capitalizes the sender’s name, and uses the ubercool “sez” to introduce Cypher’s original language. Mark uses actual English words but does not capitalize "cypher".

Also worth including, if anyone decided to take this up as a thesis topic, would be the context, both before and after. Has this happened before? Is there some protocol for Mark and Cory to follow from here? Once the incident has come to the attention of the four bloggers over at BoingBoing, will the two posts be mashed-up into one single post, or will one ultimately be dropped by someone -- and, if the latter, by whom: the original poster, the "other guy," or perhaps a third party, such as Xeni?

With or without such aftermath-watching, a more detailed, thesis-level analysis would necessarily note that much of the difference in style is consistent with the obvious difference in perspective that both Mark and Cory bring to the table. There are few surprises, in fact -- stylistically, these differences could have been predicted by us regular BoingBoing readers with some accuracy.

In closing, then: the opportunity to close-read this massively popular web compendium is priceless; glad we could be there to see it.

And a caveat: No disrespect or even critique of either Cory or Mark is intended herein. Each is enjoyable -- incredible, I daresay, and inspirational to boot -- in his own way, both on BoingBoing and in other ventures, digital and non-. It wouldn't be BoingBoing without them. I'm just glad they're each unique.

UPDATE: 2:56 am:

If my read of posting times is accurate, Cory -- who was online anyway, posting other material -- seems to have withdrawn his post. Happily, the screenshot above is going nowhere. Now: will the folks at BoingBoing think this worthy of passing along to their readers?

posted by boyhowdy | 2:23 AM | 5 comments

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

A Meme Too Tempting: National De-Lurking Week 

Expose yourself, darn it!

Blogexplosion claims to bring in 40 hits a day, but I get few-to-no comments on the inanity herein. Why not change your tune, just this once, and leave a comment in honor of National De-Lurking Week? Anything accepted, from friendly shout-outs to evil trollishness; pick a post below or hit me up with some randomness herein, just leave your footprint before wandering off, eh?

Look, I hate to beg, but this is a national holiday, for blog's sake. In return, I promise to actually clicky-clicky and recipro-visit your blog. Maybe we'll both learn something.

Hint for Blogexplosion surfers: commenting on bloggerblogs doesn't seem to work in frames; open comment boxes in a NEW window in order to correctly enter the secret prove-you're-not-a-bot code. The secret bonus in this workaround: you can comment here while moving on for credits there simultaneously.

posted by boyhowdy | 8:24 PM | 11 comments

Daily Delirium 

Being home sick -- alone, for much of the day, since Wednesday is library storytime and preschool playgroup day -- has left me to my own devices, and despite the lure of more high-culture textuality on the shelf before me, I'm finding the attention span just isn't there for more serious literature than a daily double-dose of well-thumbed Heinlein.

I'd love to drop down for more floor-based babytime, but the mere thought of doubling over brings up the nasty raspy, even with a new steam vaporizer happily albeit ineffectively bubbling away at my feet.

Instead, all this time on my fingers has led to more screen time in 48 hours than I tend to average in a week. And I teach computers.

So far, my addled state plus an effectively endless amount of time at the computer has me posting drivel to both the group blog of total inanity and the workblog just to keep from wasting the brainbuzz. Especially proud of my post on the workblog, incidentally -- most edublog topics for the lowtech middle school level have been done to death, but I suspect edu-folks have not yet thought much about trying to harness the ubiquitous student iPod for curricular good.

But there's only so much one can write without the ability to think logically. Thus, a day of mostly-surfing has also brought me everything from this low-tech NaNoWriMo lite to Cory Doctorow's totally engrossing comparison of personal experiences with misrepresentation in both Wikipedia and in the "real" press, in which he presents evidence subjectively but clearly, and ultimately concludes that
it's clear that if you're going to have your name dragged through the mud, it's a better deal if it comes at the hand of an anonymous Wikipedia troll than from a paid journalist in a mainstream news-source.
Glad you quit your day job, Cory. Looking forward to that next longform essay.

posted by boyhowdy | 6:50 PM | 0 comments

Calling Mr. Shoemaker... 

Daily telemarketer experiences indicate that a certain Mr. Robert Shoemaker had this phone number before we picked it up in October.

A serious spate of those annoying calls where you run to get the phone and no one is there suggests that reaching Robert is high on someone's priority list.

Although it is tempting to try beating the telemarketers at their own game, I'd rather do so on my own behalf. As such, if anyone knows Mr. Shoemaker, do please let him know that we'd be happy to order more vinyl siding for him, but cannot do so unless we know how much more he needs. Thanks!

posted by boyhowdy | 2:10 PM | 0 comments

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Return of Randomalia
Now with illness-induced rambling! 

Teaching remotely -- via one-page instructions to a class substitute you've never met, in this case -- is getting a bit odd. Instruction via full network potential is one thing -- I've done the blog/chat/forum/courseware thing myself, as teacher and student, and I hope next time to post instructions for labs and webquests on a blog, then send in the address -- but curriculum without pedagogy isn't really my thing. For all my classroom discourse about King Content, I never really meant to shave style from substance.

On the other hand, quitting smoking on the fly turned out to be a breeze. 8 cigs since Sunday was all I had been able to gag down anyway, and most of that wasted. Hard to tell if the illness, the meds, or just the sheer mental weirdity that immediately follows the quitmoment is to blame (yes, I've done this before) but man, am I flying.

Been hard hanging with the kids much, though. Cassia asks me to hold her all the time, but I don't have the stamina to dance; Willow was a peach in the doctors office -- lots of curious questions, though I was little help explaining the stirrups -- but I miss being able to lie down with her at the end of the day and make up yet another story of Simon and his magic chalk, sing quietly of the things she is not (trees, birds, ceilings, floors, bed, pillow, ad infinitum) until her own breathing becomes heavy and I slowly, carefully, slip my arm out from under her neck and sneak away.

Heck, I miss being able to lie down. Stupid lungfluid.

Once bonus of being upright so long with little work to do and no alarm clock to follow is the time catching up on the virtual world. Mock The Stupid and Overheard in New York are guilty pleasures delivered in big gulp size. Elsewhere, the AV Club interviews a surprisingly sedate, thoughtful Fred Armisen, and sequel week over at McSweeneys brings us a hilarious account of The 4 Year Old On A Blind Date, which sounds much less funny than it turns out, trust me. It's not all funny, either -- I even managed to learn some stuff, though don't ask how I ended up there...or what, exactly, one learns from discovering a multiply-feminist critique of copyright laws.

Once you have children, listening to music with headphones becomes a much more fulfilling experience. Especially good music. And I ain't talkin' no iBuds, either. Gillian Welch into Steve Earle, warm and fuzzy on my ears? Maybe it's the 10th hour of nonsmoking talkin', but it just doesn't get better than that.

Though Byrne's playlist is enough to make me regret skipping that Laura Cantrell show that night in San Francisco with Dad all these months ago. Hey, Dad, there's some great downloadables over on her website; I especially like this toned-down cover of Letters, and this Bragg and Wilco cover. Oh, and where the heck did Doug Sahm come from? This rocks, man.

posted by boyhowdy | 11:02 PM | 0 comments

And I've Got The Note To Prove It 

Spent the day at a series of medical errands, from doctor's office to pharmacy to nearby hospital for X-rays (to rule out pneumonia; results tomorrow).

Diagnosis so far: a severely contagious and long-lasting acute asthmatic bronchitis.

Now I'm sequestered home until next Tuesday on doctor's orders, with five different kinds of meds for all sorts of primary and secondary symptoms -- from the bronchial wheeze to the starburst headaches and gushing nosebleeds I get from coughing too hard.

As an added bonus, according to the nurse practitioner, I have now officially quit smoking whether I like it or not. I think her actual words were "Unless you want to spend the rest of your life on oxygen and steroids, you just smoked your last cigarette."

Let's see...a pack and a half a day times 18 years...carry the one...yeah, that sounds about right. 197,100 cigarettes and I'll be stopping just like that. No problem, hun.

Congratulations accepted in the comments below. What with the usual symptoms of cold turkey quitting, the uppers and downers in the meds, and my 33rd birthday on Sunday, it's going to be a pretty odd week from here.

posted by boyhowdy | 6:51 PM | 4 comments

Monday, January 09, 2006

The Death Of The Second Self?
Not All Who Wander Are Lost: Now In Its Second Week Of Illegality! 

Via BoingBoing:
Last Thursday, President Bush signed into law a prohibition on posting annoying Web messages or sending annoying e-mail messages without disclosing your true identity...
Of course, the statute doesn't define annoyance. And, as Declan McCullagh reminds us in the above-quoted article, there are plenty of legitimate reasons to lean on anonymity, from blogging about a boss' sexual harassment to sending an anonymous "Letters to the Editor" via email...not to mention the developmental benefits of identityplay.

But "Preventing Cyberstalking," an innocuously titled easter egg squirreled away in the otherwise unrelated Violence Against Women and Department of Justice Reauthorization Act, is no joke: Criminal penalties include stiff fines and up to 2 years in prison.

See you in jail, folks.

Counterpoint: More Anonymity Is Good, Wired Editor-At-Large Kevin Kelly's suddenly much-more-dangerous idea. Also via BoingBoing.

Oddly Disappointing Update, 3:45 pm:
According to the resulting BoingBoing thread, the new act does not do what we think it does, and the word "annoy" dates back to my thesis subject: the Communications Act of 1934.

Fat Lady Hasn't Sung Yet Second-Tier Update, 5:37 pm: After hearing these critiques, McCullagh continues to maintain that the law has indeed changed as he described it. Question mark added to entry title in response.

posted by boyhowdy | 2:30 PM | 0 comments

Reading Ahead 

File under 52 Books in 52 Weeks

Home sick, which explains both the unusually avid blogging (see features on David Byrne's Radio Mix and The World Question Center below) and the completion of a second book in my 52 Books series: The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2005.

I've enjoyed the Best American series for years -- my parents tend to buy me the Best Essays and Best Fiction collections for Hanukkah, and I find the collections thorough, well-selected, and ultimately prized. The addition of Dave Eggers to the mix in 2002 brought a new perspective but no less scintillating a selection criteria: this year, Eggers and his crew of intelligent, iconoclast adolescents have once again found the best of short writing from all over the Dewey Decimal map, fiction and non- alike. I'd single out a few short pieces for special note, but they're all that good. Really.

Never posted a review of McCourt's Teacher Man, the first book of my 52, finished over the weekend, but that's okay -- just read it, for the wry voice and the storytelling. Even if the teacher stories don't resonate, it's a quick read of hidden depth, easily and skillfully mixing tales of McCourt's development as a teacher over 30 years with his personal history outside and before his life in the classroom.

Next on the list: McKibben's The Age of Missing Information.

For those keeping track, updated booklists will live on the sidebar, over that way ------>

posted by boyhowdy | 11:15 AM | 0 comments

Radio David Byrne 

BoingBoing -- who loves Jim White as much as I do -- points to this month's playlist over at Radio a wonderous and well-selected assortment of neo-country, clocking in at four hours plus, featuring the unquestionable best of Lucinda Williams, Wilco & Billy Bragg, Emmylou Harris, Jim White, Waylon Jennings, Lyle Lovett, Shelby Lynne, Laura Cantrell, et. al.

Byrne's monthly radiostream comes complete with genre-defining liner notes of the highest quality; past month playlists from this metamusician have included classic country, old-school club music, psychadelic artists new and not-so, italian classical, and single-artist features from Missy Elliot to Bob Zimmerman.

Posted with my father in mind, but recommended for pretty much anyone with ears. And acceptable bandwidth, of course.

posted by boyhowdy | 10:56 AM | 0 comments

Dangerous Ideas, Dangerous Minds 

What if The Bell Jar wasn't wrong after all? Is the world fundamentally inexplicable? Will parenting require licensure in just two generations? Is school inherently bad for kids? Are there some ideas so dangerous that the world's best and brightest should not (and do not) mention them, let alone discuss them?

Each year, The World Question Center asks over a hundred of the brightest minds in science and technology to consider one question. This year:
What is your dangerous idea? An idea you think about (not necessarily one you originated) that is dangerous not because it is assumed to be false, but because it might be true?

Answers range from religion to race to reality in evry shape and size; from the complexity of "The simulation and the real have become permanently and inacceptably interchangable" to the irresistable simplicity of "This is all there is." Each is mystifying and thought-provoking -- even those few which merely respond that some ideas are SO dangerous they should not be spoken.

Plan on hours to read terrifying "what-if" results from the likes of George and Freeman Dyson, Sherry Turkle, Clay Shirky, Stewart Brand, Richard Dawkins, Howard Gardner, Diane Halpern, Michael Nesmith (!), Stephen Pinker, and a holy host of fellow futurists, psychologists, historians, builders, makers, shakers, and science-types. You'll never look at the world the same way.

I blogged about this last year, too!

posted by boyhowdy | 9:49 AM | 0 comments

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Ill Winds 

You sound really sick today, Daddy. You should take some pills or something.

Yesterday it was a cold, the full-blown worst of the season: sneezy, achy, chilly, brain-fog-to-the-point-of-hallucination, compounded by the irritation of dust and dander kicked up by a flurry of pre-guest cleaning until the lungs felt like fire, the head felt like cotton wool.

It drove me from the in-laws house to a surprisingly head-clearing trip to downtown Brattleboro, where I finished the last few pages of McCourt's Teacher Man over a latte, and ogled a man in a tree playing guitar to the aging hippies walking by, the usual crowds of halfgrown Saturday smokers loitering there, cool, backs against the bricks in the midtown lot.

But respite was short-lived. Last night it was something else again: stuffed and tired to the point of delirium, a hazy nose-bleeding two hours down south and home again, all funereal dinners quickly forgotten in the rush to return.

This morning it's full-blown bronchitis, a familiar and feared annual visitor. I can barely breathe; my limbs and head ache alternately icecold and feverfuzzy; the headache teeters on the edge each time I cough my penultimate rasp, desperately drawing breath. Hot showers, horseradish, even forced glasses of juice and water have little effect.

Five classroom days per section to the end of the semester and a wholesale changeover of students at work -- after two days funeral leave, it's tempting to go in tomorrow just to make sure their last days are cohesive, since my hybrid position rates no substitute willing to actually carry on curriculum. But alas, I know this weakness; know that tomorrow and perhaps the next day too I will be neither sensible nor clear for my students or myself. Pity, that -- there was so much left to do.

posted by boyhowdy | 3:33 PM | 0 comments

Thursday, January 05, 2006

As If Reading Made It So 

Woke up to a leg cramp: the world's best alarm clock, gets you on your feet in a hurry.

Outside among the stillwhite trees some sort of precipitate fills the air like a shimmery scrim. We're off North to help with the arrangements for Darcie's Grandmother, so I head down to check for forecasted driving conditions online.

To my surprise, according to the map on, though the surrounding states run from light snow to rain, we're dead center in a totally dry spell.

Just then, the air clears outside.

Two days of funeral leave off from work; we'll be back in Brattleboro by noon. Taking Teacher Man with me; if all goes well, I'll post my first report from my 52 Books project when I return, or sooner.

posted by boyhowdy | 8:40 AM | 0 comments

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Baby's First Adjective 

After years teaching kids and adults to be aware of gender issues in media and technology application, I consider myself a media-sensitive feminist.

My wife and I have made a conscious decision to try to raise our children without the traditional trappings of dick-and-jane societal gender preconcepts. For years we have spoken of heterosexual marriage, for example, as but one of many possible options for our daughters -- both in our own conversations and in talking to them about their own eventual choice-making.

All the more ironic, then, that after hi, dadi, kitty, doggy, tree, light, and a holy host of proper nouns, the 8 month old suddenly smiles today and begins naming parts of the universe pretty.

Maybe she learned it from the three-year-old. Sigh. And they both treasure dolls more than anything. Guess there's some serious nature involved in gender identification after all.

posted by boyhowdy | 9:09 PM | 5 comments

All Wet 

Note to self: buy conditioner...

Cory calls it: though the Erasable Shower Note Tablet could come in handy, getting great ideas from shower to organizer (or, in my case, to brain) remains a problem.

Still, a neat present for the man who has everything, including a constant stream of good ideas. Waterproof crayons could come in handy elsewhere, too.

Now, if only someone would create an archivable/tranferrable solution for ideas logged in the car, I'd be all set.

posted by boyhowdy | 10:41 AM | 3 comments

Monday, January 02, 2006

RIP Edith Jones 

She was old when I knew her -- the family matriarch, widowed decades earlier, long a solo presence in the life of my in-law family. Though a vague persona down the road apiece when I first met Darcie's family, by the time we married ten years ago she was in the house next door to Darcie's parents, and we visited her often, cleaning her garden, raking leaves in the fall, chatting on the porch, washing the windows in the spring.

She was opinionated, and -- truthfully -- often oddly so. Her closest relatives found themselves on "the bad list" for the most minor transgressions, often without even realizing how they got there. Early in our acquaintance I got myself in hot water at a holiday dinner by defending the recently-learned concept of situational ethics; it was months before she was willing to forgive, and there's no knowing if she truly ever forgot.

She was religious, a commited churchgoer and knitter for church sales until her very last driving days. Rumor has it that when she first learned I was Jewish, she asked if I was "one of those Jews for Jesus, at least" -- figuring, with little knowledge of the true JfJ credo, that belief in Jesus would be a saving grace for a grandson-in-law.

Edith was always given the head of the table at any gathering, where she could hold court with reminiscence: of growing up one of seven siblings on the farm, life with husband Harry home and off in the military, her years in the classroom. It became a kind of family tradition for those of us in the grandchild generation to run new prospective mates through the tiral by fire -- I did it for years; Josh's girlfriend Clay reminds me that I made it a point of handing the responsibility to her the first time we met; most recently, Alicia's husband Matt has held the honor -- and his own -- with aplomb.

Her family -- three daughters, six grandchildren -- loved her very much, and with good reason. She loved my children, and was gentle and firm with them in turn. And, in case it isn't obvious, I liked her a lot, which is more than most of us can say for our grandmother-in-laws, isn't it?

Edith never wanted to grow infirm in her old age. She was a trouper for so long this last year, watching her TV and filling every surface in the house with jigsaw puzzles in various stages of completion as always, even as the memory started to go, the body started to betray. It surely saddened her to have to move towards assisted living these last few weeks, initially prompted by a stay in the hospital.

She seemed healthier Friday, coming off a half hour of physical therapy for a short chat and plenty of close contact with four generations of her family. But last night Edith ended up in the hospital again, and today Darcie's father called to let us know that Edith did not make it.

It's what she wanted, but whether Edith was right about the world and its afterlife is not the point. The point is, though it took a little longer than she intended, she went out the way she lived -- on her own terms, flying solo, and sure of herself. I'm proud to have known her, and know that she is happier where she is now. Goodbye, old gal. We'll miss you terribly.

posted by boyhowdy | 9:02 PM | 1 comments

Read Any Good Books Lately? 

Got a fave highculture author? Know a new theory-of-everything, or a memorable memoir? Act now: help me regain the literary mind!

Been surfing the "year's best" lists on the way to compiling a draftlist for my 52 Books in 52 Weeks quest, but it's going pretty slow. On the list so far:

  • Teacher Man, Frank McCourt
  • The Age Of Missing Information, Bill McKibben
  • The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century, Thomas L. Friedman*
  • Assassination Vacation, Sarah Vowell
  • Pretty much any book recommended at BoingBoing.

    To assist me in my quest, merely recommend a book in the comments below. If it looks like a good candidate, it'll join Assassination Vacation on my newly-created 52 Books amazon wishlist.** Serious fiction and non- only, please.

    *Thanks to Dad, who gave me the book, I did technically start TWiF in 2005 -- but I left the book at work, and have no time to read there. I'll begin again, recapture the flow, and plow through the bookmark like nobody's business.

    **My birthday is in 13 days. Hint, hint.

    posted by boyhowdy | 12:29 AM | 6 comments

    Sunday, January 01, 2006

    One Is Silver And The Other Gold 

    A day-and-night at the in-laws: errands, supper, rural R&R; ice everywhere, the smell of stallcows permeating the crip air. Next morning, a trip across the river to Keene for a stop-in with Darcie's grandmother in her new living facility digs, a movie with Darcie while the in-laws watched the kids.

    New Years Eve ever farther North, with Darcie's brother, his long-time live-in, and the annual oldfriend crowd for the fourth consecutive. Too much to drink too late into the evening; awoke at 7 -- in a shared bed, to the baby, in a borrowed room -- for sitzbath and our usual gig: making breakfast for the hungover hordes, real maple syrup and heavy on the butter and pork.

    Stopped by invitation at the old school on the way home, my first time back since they threw us out into the temporary unknown. Hugs and recent backstories with old friends, first at a hanukkah party where Willow played rowdy with a band of half-familiar faces, then spur-of-the-moment across the street, where Willow and once-wee Zinnia played suspiciously well out of sight while close couple Peter and Michelle helped us coo over the baby.

    Pensive on the way home. We have no new friends (yet). Willow socializes seldom, not enough to make attachments like the ones she revisited with ease this evening. We do not wander as we should; we do not travel far enough when we do.

    It's a wonderful thing to find my fears so high up Maszlow's pyramid. But for all that life has regained its center in the past year, a wandering life is never completed. There is always room for improvement.

    Resolved, then: In 2006...
    • I will put family first -- and more often.

    • I will work to ensure that my children have the gift -- and the benefits -- of socialization, peer play and friendship.

    • I will not be afraid to look backwards, even in the dark, as long as I have the family I love.

    • I will make new friends, and keep the old.

    All that, and 52 books. Fifty three if I actually manage to write one. Fasten your seatbelts, folks. It promises to be a hell of a year.

    posted by boyhowdy | 9:52 PM | 1 comments
  • coming soon
    now listening