Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Soundtrack For A Potential Absence 

We'll be in the Boston area until Friday; not sure if I'll have easy access from there or not.

In the meanwhile, check out this post I put up at Audiography (includes 4 bluegrass covers in mp3 format!). This week's theme is Strings, and the downloadables are getting thick on the ground already.

Or there's always the archives over there on the sidebar.

posted by boyhowdy | 10:29 AM | 0 comments

Monday, February 20, 2006

First Steps 

Plenty to be proud of in the Howdy household this long weekend, and for once, it's not all about yours truly.

First, while her mother and tinysister headed homeward in the other car, the elderkid (age 3 and a half) bravely and successfully accomplished her first ever solo bathroom experience in the Thorne's Marketplace women's room. Because I have neither parental shame nor parental instinct, I took her to the candy shop to celebrate. Net gain: one candy necklace, one package watermelon pop rocks, a small bag of candy legos...and one cheerful child mature enough to pay for her own candy, say please and thank you unprompted to the cashier, and save both poprocks and candyblocks for another day.

Then, tonight, after a day of tentative single-steps from parent to sister and back again, our second showoff (age ten months) decided to take her first (five!) solo steps in the aisle of our local Friendly's restaurant. Something about the sheer mass of cooing spectators, I suspect; like their father before, the kids perform better for a crowd.

To top it all off, the four of us beat entropy today, cleaning house from top to bottom just long enough for a ten minute video walk-through of the new home. No small accomplishment, with two tiny ones and an adult genetic tendency towards floortossing running through both sides of the family. Bonus find: a short series of sledding shots from last year at this time, with then-pregnant wife Darcie holding the camera and narrating, still in the camera.

Today's video will be taken in hand by Darcie and baby across the bay to Martha's Vineyard later this week, where old college pal Dan Aronie lies bedridden by late-stage MS at age 33; later, we'll bring the same video to my similarly age-incapacitated grandfather on our next long school vacation in April.

In the meantime, assuming the cat doesn't destroy the place while we're gone, three days in absentia visiting my parents in Boston will keep the house clean for our return. Here's hoping the kids don't revert to terrible type under grandparent gaze. Either way, first stops upon our return: childproof cabinetry, and a kidproof locking mechanism on the bathroom door.

posted by boyhowdy | 8:17 PM | 0 comments

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Roundup: Updated Sundays 

1. Post Secret. This week's anonymous postcard confessions. Check in throughout the week for emailed reader responses to the sinister, the surreal, and the surprisingly universal.

2. New Yorker Cartoon Caption contest. Your first look at this week's new uncaptioned cartoon, so you can spend all week trying out possible funnylines in your head. Also: vote on the best of three captions from two weeks ago, and see who won the vote for the caption-round last month.

3. "Collaborative music blog" Audiography. Weekly theme gets posted Sunday; visit the mp3-posting livejournal community throughout the week to hit (and download from) the resultant audiomecca.

4. Lots of webcomix and at least one weekly horoscope, apparently.

Know of any other weekly funstuff regularly updated on Sundays? Share the wealth by commenting below!

posted by boyhowdy | 5:56 PM | 2 comments

Heat Interlude 

Turn up the heat, she says over the phone, we can fill the tank after all. Superspouse has run our taxes twice, and is proud to report we'll be getting everything back this year. I knew the kids were deductible, and we always max out the teacher deductions, but who knew you could deduct a household move?

Good thing, too. February, and we're running low on pellets for the stove just as the weather finally turns frigid after a hundred days of spring-like winter weather. The wood furnace rocks, but we've determined that the woodpile is just too far from the bulkhead for practical use, which helps us plan for next year but leaves us facing that long trek across the lawn for the remainder of the cold season.

In the meanwhile, the house hovers at 62, and my hands grow numb typing. It's my own fault, really -- I let the heat die down last night, as the kids were with their mom at the Vermont-in-laws overnight, and I thought the sun would warm the house up once it rose. Not much it can do from behind trees waving in a 15 degree wind, though.

More later, including a full review of the veryhot Joe Val Bluegrass Festival I attended yesterday with Dad. For now, I'm off to the hot tubs with superspouse and her entire family in celebration of sis-in-law Alicia's birthday. Viva la steam in winter!

posted by boyhowdy | 9:39 AM | 0 comments

Friday, February 17, 2006

Well, that explains everything... 

Thanks to The Cruel Offender, I finally figured out why no one's reading my blog.

Turns out I'm just not a naked chick with something to say. So reassuring that it's not the overly mediageeky posts after all.

posted by boyhowdy | 9:59 PM | 3 comments

Thursday, February 16, 2006

E-texts: Future Perfect, or Inherently Marginal? 

E-textbooks aren't selling, says CNN, which posits both an eventual acceleration in sales and cites surprise that the digital generation isn't as digital as folks thought they were.

But I wonder if those who expect "comfort" to grow are underestimating the subconsciously developing instincts of the digital generation. I mean, I'm only half digital, but I found the e-version of Cory Doctorow's Eastern Standard Tribe so inacessible that I made it to the library within the first ten pages to continue the job.

Quoted anecdotals in CNN's most recent foray into this broad issue cite the limitations of ownership in digital texts, such as the current inability to easily highlight, which will eventually shift as our mindtools evolve, though it may never be as comfortable or permanent as the true joy of bookhacking with pencil and pagefold.

But the paperesque strategies of ownership are not all there is to ownership; the truths of screenreading are not the truths of paperreading.

The conceit of e-speech as short-and-sweet, is constantly reinforced, and seems anathema to the idealized use of textbooks. And we know that from a primarily holistic perspective (as opposed to a practice-and-habit perspective), which would include everything from sensory psychology to workplace ergonomics, the screenread results in less and slower absorption, which means screen-writing mandates shorter paragraphs. And shorter paragraphs seem anathema to the very premise of textbook, by which I mean they are not likely to be typically best-serving of the typographic needs of the field-specific textbook, which aches to be written, read, and treated as deep and detailed.

Profs can try to assign these texts all they want, I suspect; bookstore managers are free to stock what they will, and suggest to CNN that it is a matter of time before students move towards the e-book (though they should have by now, if they were going to). But students who really grok digital may continue to resist. The medium is the message, after all: after years growing digital, our habits of mind and our sensory truths may out the digital textbook as a fluke for the few, a type for the practitioner, rather than a true medium for the learned whether cybercitizen or luddite.

McLuhanists would posit, of course, that the digital scholar would not only write to, but eventually study, that which best befits the cybertext. But Neil Postman always knew we could only reach our full potential in the best sort of literate, wordsmithed scholarship through the word-as-it-is, not the word-of-the-screen. Paper may yet be vital to our study of the universe.

It may not, of course. McLuhan and Postman have been ever-right before, but I suppose the true nature of the C-Change is that it contains all possibility, can only be proven in hindsight. In the meantime, while we wait for time to tell, let us end here, lest the screenwrite -- like our paragraphs herein -- run too long for our topic at hand.

posted by boyhowdy | 7:51 PM | 3 comments

Tuesday, February 14, 2006


MetaMp3Blogging: So You Don't Have To

Best musicblog aggregator, period: The Hype Machine. My mp3 bloglist overfloweth; at this rate, the iPod will hit the full 60 gigs by March.

Best musicblog concept: writer's week @ Moistworks (now in its second week). Jonathan Lethem's doublepost regarding fowlsongs makes me want to cry.

Best Valentine's mix: Trees Lounge. A dozen or more close seconds over at Hype, though -- taken altogether, they provide a comprehensive spectrum of love (and antilove) in all its guises.

posted by boyhowdy | 10:31 PM | 0 comments

Beneath Our Valentine Moon 

Cette fois que tu m'embrasse, au bout de notre rue
Les lampes de gaz nous allumiere... (Valentine Moon)

The moon is rising, she said, and we bundled the kids up in blankets and scarves, loaded them together on to the runner sled for a haul up to the meadow.

Six months since we settled, and our first under our backyard trees postdusk. The path was unfamiliar, almostdark. Under cover of pinebranch the pristine snow obscured still-unfamiliar roots. Our boots slipped and filled with snow. The sled tipped twice. The infant first faced with snow faced it face first.

And though the slog was strenuous, our feet were light. For there, in the middle of it all, just a hundred yards and a million miles from our own warm stoves and couches, the world opened up all-of-a-wow.

The meadow was a revelation, startlingly open to the night sky. And there on the horizon, bracketed by cloud, rose the moon.

What's that? asked Cassia. Moon, we told her. Pretty moon, she replied, and we agreed.

At my feet Willow laughed, pushed glowsticks into the snow, making doubleyous.

Across a pure sheet of reed-broken white, the meadow glowed in streaks from the treebroken moonlight.

We smiled at each other in the halflight, just long enough to make forever.

And then we disappeared into the dark, separate but together, warm in our hearts, children in our arms.

You can have your flowers, your chocolate, your cards. For Valentine's Day this year my wife brought me the bright moon, the stars, the crisp clear night air; bakyard adventure and the family to share it with.

I love her for it.

I love her for everything.

World willing, she'll be mine forever.

posted by boyhowdy | 10:29 AM | 2 comments

Monday, February 13, 2006

Flamewars Explained 

Slashdot reports on recent research which determines that I've only a 50-50 chance of ascertaining the tone of any e-mail message. The study also shows that people think they've correctly interpreted the tone of e-mails they receive 90 percent of the time.

(In true Slashdot fashion, the toneless thread then beats it to death, pre-empting most expansion herein.)

No clarity on whether the emoticon counts for much, plus or minus, in the original study. But the coinflip odds for interpretation suggest that tonality is truly absent from purely textual, one-shot e-speech, though surely context and design/typographic cues can make some difference in more real-world cases, especially when we're talking about ongoing dialog or more mediarich examples of textographic communication.

That said, we'll still file this under a phenom common to all human behavior -- that of thinking that we're better at most interpretive tasks than we actually are. Interesting to see hard numbers, though.

posted by boyhowdy | 11:14 AM | 0 comments

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Lowered Expectations 

Had so much fun polishing the children's story I'm thinking of writing another one this summer instead of, say, a novel. Or maybe I'll just shop this one around for a while.

Serious consideration given tonight to dropping the formality of my commitment to literary bibliography (but not the commitment itself) a la Some Books in Some Weeks. It's not that I'm not reading the good stuff; it's that the Sunday night stress is getting to me.

Two and a half feet of snow, twenty miles to commute, and I'm just worried about getting out of the driveway tomorrow. At least the garage keeps the cars cleared.

posted by boyhowdy | 7:21 PM | 0 comments

The Boyhowdy Olympics: Indoor Sheepwalking 

Finally got the video, though the camera battery died seven seconds in. We'll have it in the shop this week to get the battery case open; in the meantime, enjoy a short clip of this year's indoor olympics courtesy of YouTube.

Other Olympic events today included "walking in two feet of snowpowder with Willow" and "one-and-a-half man long-distance driveway sledding". Who needs TV when there's snow?

posted by boyhowdy | 11:21 AM | 0 comments

Lazy Sunday; Missed Moments; Winter Again 

Snow overnight: 7 inches since the first dusting long after midnight and it's still falling, white and fluffy as a snowglobe.

Up with the baby at dawn to see: an hour on the floor, while her sister and Mama slept late, set the tone for a snuggly day-to-come of hot chocolate and household laziness.

At ten months she's come alive anew. I tried to catch some video of her "walking", tiny hands clutching the small stuffed sheep on wheels as she pushes herself along, but the battery case of our camera is stuck shut; I gave up before the day could sour.

If you could see it, there'd be chickadees and nuthatches, a few solo junkoes flutter from laden tree to seedfeeder and back again, their light bodies causing avalanches on each branch as they land anew.

In the big picture windows the wind blows sporadic, sending squalls across the window. Each gust blurs out the universe, making our cozy indoor haven more real by comparison.

Here in the home the family slowly comes to morning. As I write, Willow struggles with a fresh pair of feet pajamas; infant Cassia heads up for a nap with Mama, tired after a morning's play and wonder with Daddy. The senses fill beyond the camera capturable: light jazz on the Sunday radio; warm fire in the pellet stove; the sweet sounds of rustling cereal boxes, a household full of tiny female wakewhispers.

Somewhere under these heavy white blankets green shoots are dying. One day, these memories will be all we have.

[Update 9:59 am: Not enough battery for video, but I did manage to squeeze a few pix off before the camera went dead. Click on pix below for larger images and access to the whole underutilized album, courtesy of flickr.

Cassia Jade at ten months
Cassia Jade: ten months old and already a morning person.

How to handle an older sister
How to handle an older sister.

An older shot of the older kid mugging
And an older shot of the older kid.

posted by boyhowdy | 8:54 AM | 0 comments

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Now Watching: You Tube 

How people without TV watch TV.

After a year sans television reception I've discovered You Tube, and it is good addictive. From Family Guy clips to the oddest of homevideos, pre-filtered, commercial-free, and tiny for your viewing enjoyment!

I'd write more, but I'm catching up on a lifetime of Saturday Night Live skits at the moment...

posted by boyhowdy | 9:42 PM | 1 comments

Doctor Teeth 

First dental appointment for the 3 year old today, and what a wonderful pace-setting experience it was: big cheery rooms, a preschool-toned Dental aide who helped Willow handle and explore everything from chair to spitsink before use, just the right toys and games during the breaks, and a thousand compliments on her perfect dentition went a long way towards making us all feel right at home. Even the heavy Barney and Barbie themes in the aftervisit stickers and take-home book -- often a turn-off for us -- were overwhelmed by the genuine heartfelt tone.

If you live near or around the Springfield/Chicopee area and are looking for a kids-only dentist, I highly recommend the family practice of Drs. Quinn and Quinn; not sure which one we saw, but the whole place was just so kidfriendly it hardly matters. Hoorah for a health plan that includes preventative dental for kids under twelve, especially when it's accepted by such a thoughtful practice.

The infant, too, becomes toothier by the day; though she was a bit cranky today after yesterday's polio shot, any day populated by so many two-top, two-bottom wideyed grins is a good one in my book. Just don't stick your fingers in that tiny mouth -- her bite is exclusively reactive right now, but it remains a hundred times worse than her bark.

posted by boyhowdy | 8:02 PM | 0 comments

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Entire Institutions Unclear On The Concept 

Usually I try to respect brands wherever possible, but two egregious examples today seem entirely deserving of public ridicule.

1. Yet another proud "dear community" email from the ex-employer, this time asking me to acknowledge and celebrate a changing of the guard on the same trustees chairship which made the call to consolidate -- and cost me my job. Slightly better than the email which invited me to pay for the priviledge of celebrating that selfsame consolidation just after it happened, but still far beyond the bounds of good taste and good judgment.

Hint to those who would survive in the cutthroat world of the prep school: if you fire rightsize someone, it's generally considered polite to leave them the hell alone, not add their names to your alumni mailings. Keep asking them to celebrate the company that treated them so poorly, on the other hand, and you're liable to end up facing bad blood, bad sportsmanship, and a bad reputation.

2. If I Had 1,000,000 on the instore speakers at the Ocean State Job Lot tonight, a sorry coincidence of parodic commercialist dream and pre-dented reality which lent just the right tough of despair to a meander through the pasteboard dregs of the offbrand world. Still unclear myself on how two otherwise entirely familiar three-letter words combine to mean "cheap stuff other stores couldn't sell."

posted by boyhowdy | 7:26 PM | 0 comments

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

52 Books, No Words 

Updated sidebar this evening: new poemlinks for poems new and naive; recalibrated "coming soon" and "year ago" sections heavy on the personal, the anti-PC. Wander at your leisure; maybe you'll learn something.

Also: a comprehensive removal of the albatross that was the 52 Books in 52 Weeks section. I'm still reading -- am halfway through Doctorow's Eastern Standard Time as we speak -- it's just that blogging about books turned out to be someone else's cuppa. Different parts of the brain or something.

posted by boyhowdy | 9:56 PM | 1 comments

I Know All These People 

Have you tried turning it off and back on again?

Totally formulaic. Terribly unbalanced. Seriously 2 dimensional. The cast is too small for more than caricature; each of the three-plus-one non-extras ends up trying to contain too many stereotypes.

The IT Crowd is the best damn thing on television. And we don't even have one.

Luckily, it's not on American television: it's on Brit telly Channel 4, it's being released via UK-only protected format as it gets shown, and it's already been ripped for international consumption in a variety of formats. Yay, internet.

I'm in too deep to know for sure how much of the hilarity springs from my own geekitude. But from here, two guys, a noob manager, and their upstairs boss manage to pin down the spectrum of corporate IT with slapstick perfection to rival Red Dwarf. The dumb only makes it smarter. Or something like that.

posted by boyhowdy | 9:17 PM | 0 comments

Crash Into Me 

Busy week, at home and at work, so of course I'll be blogging about it instead of working. Insert rueful-yet-smiley emoticon here.

Fairly, I earned some "me time" yesterday. Breezed through my first of two yearly school principal teaching obervations thanks to some great kids and a fun curricular unit (googlemastery, with superbowl trivia as searchsubject), but prep for the day was still serious work.

Now procrastinating: prep for this afternoon, where the yearbook crowd's penultimate meeting before deadline promises to be totally unproductive despite being 22 pages away from readiness. Note to self: If you take on yearbook advisor next year, organize the whole thing differently.

On the home front, three kinds of company to clean for and a tendency to fall asleep in my daughter's bed at the end of our bedtime ritual have exacerbated my lack of preparedness on the above. Waking up late for work, miles from the alarm clock, has become a constant concern.

Also in the way, though worth it: taking cars into the shop this week for brakes and inspection to avoid a much more serious meaning to today's blogtitle. Turns out the recent sluggish performance of the Mercury was due to mice in the engine block, which led to chewholes and flammability all over the wiring.

Long-term solution, if this ever happens to you, is to tape mothballs under the hood, and in the fenders. Not sure how to stop envisioning mice running on little wheels -- a new sort of hybrid -- when I drive, though.

posted by boyhowdy | 8:01 AM | 1 comments

Monday, February 06, 2006

Warm Winter 

Warm winter, fog and early dark:
February, and the ski traffic never showed.
We worry about the plow guy – pricey,
But like all neighbors due his pay.

The wood grows mold under tight blue shroud.
Last year’s grass lies brown and flat like dirt.

Confused shoots push ever-
Hopeful through dry woodchips
In the plow-mangled garden.

Infinite robins spread across the lawn
In packs like Canada geese,
Like Spring, a hundredfold.

posted by boyhowdy | 9:18 PM | 0 comments

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Famous Dead People 

Now including two feminists, one vampire.

Too much symbolic passage in the universe this week, from protofeminists Betty Friedan and Wendy Wasserman to Al Lewis, the ubergroovy politician wannabe who played the vampiric Grandpa on The Munsters. There's more -- Mrs King, the dancer from The Red Shoes, the video artist who coined the term "Electronic Super Highway" and singlehandedly invented video art, for example -- but that pretty much defines the spectrum right there.

Interestingly, the CNN obit on Friedan ref'd above is gorgeously and appropriately detailed, putting Wikipedia's entry to shame; if anyone feels like taking a crack at the entry, a generation of thirdwave feminists would appreciate the crackage. CNN loses points, however, for how quickly her obit fell off the CNN front page, especially as the Lewislink stuck around until this evening.

posted by boyhowdy | 9:36 PM | 0 comments

Blue Danube 

Bussed it into Boston yesterday for a trip to the new Ikea bluebox with Dad, which beat the New Haven store for sheer synchronized commercialistic experience to an overwhelming degree. Careful behavioral management kept us teetering but still in the zone for a good four hours, though. Hints for those who plan to go nordic include zen-centering snackstops both upon arrival and between floors, and competing with fellow travelers to find the goofiest product name -- potential winners this trip included a blue vase named fragil, another vase of clear cubed glass named rektangel, groggy the hipflask, and a kitchen handheld of dubious usevalue called, simply, produkt.

Arrived home in a borrowed Lexus to discover the Crayola stain removal site floating unattended on the laptop and the water rushing upstairs; climbed up to find a startlingly cerulean-streaked three year old splashing proudly after an evening romp dipping marker in the sink and then smearing the startlingly deep and potent result over every inch of her body. We managed to scrub her face down just enough to turn her into a fourteen year old goth, light on yesterday's eyeshadow and pale as a ghost. The blue hairstreak and the arms thick with blueveiny lines complete the look; it's a good thing she's only three feet tall, else strangers would mistake her for a true teen.

Lent Lexus, by the way, will allow us to rotate our own cars through a much needed shopvisit: brakes, overdue inspections, and oil changes for both are on the table. The Grand Marquis, a powder blue couch-on-wheels oldguymobile which once belonged to my Floridian grandparents, will go in tomorrow, with the darker blue familycar to follow in turn. Thanks to Mom for letting us live in luxury for a while.

I was going to post Joni Mitchell's Blue and a cover of I'm Blue by some random german faux-1930s cabaret megaphone guy to transcend the usual topical trifecta, but I seem to have been shut out of any and all past-possible webstorage spaces. The resultant 3 out of four explains the cryptic reference to time signature in today's blogtitle. Quelle horrible. Blue indeed.

posted by boyhowdy | 9:04 PM | 2 comments

Friday, February 03, 2006

Cover Me 

I'm a version freak in a sharing mood.

1. Best coversong blogs: Under The Covers, Copy, Right, Saturdays at Everybody Cares..., and Thursdays over at I Guess I'm Floating.

2. If you love versions in general and a particular original both, mashups provide major music mileage. Best mashup, hands down: Green Day vs. Oasis over at Party Ben. His Fugazi vs. Destiny's Child is pretty solid, too. Still looking for Snoop Dogg vs. Crowded House, if anyone's got it.

3. Over at new find berkeleyplace, Ekko is ponying up a free CD to folks willing to propose a) a coversong for The Exit, and b) the ultimate fantasy cover. My submission: Hole's "Doll Parts" or Ryan Adams "La Cienega Just Smiles" for The Exit, and wouldn't it be totally sweet if Evan Dando and Juliana Hatfield slowed down "Don't Let's Start" by They Might Be Giants? Steal my sunshine, if you dare.

4. Various coverfan one-shots, aka Cover Zen. Only at BoingBoing.

5. Afterthought shoutout to those who listened to my coversongs mini-cast on the Blogexplosion chat this evening: The Kidzbop cover of Green Day's Boulevard of Broken Dreams, three covers of Wonderwall (Cat Powers, Ryan Adams, and Paul Anka), the mashup of the two from #2 above, and a Hindu Rodeo skacover of "I'm Only Sleeping". Could it be I've got a radio audience again? Tune in tomorrow night, and we'll see...

posted by boyhowdy | 11:30 PM | 0 comments

Randomalia: Elseblog 

Google says: Did you mean arseblog?

I've been getting 403 errors over at the groupblog, though as a blogadmin I don't see anything obviously wrong. Pity, as things were getting interesting over there. Assuming the link works eventually, feel free to check out my recent paean to driveway ice chipping, blogged to the tune of If I Had A Hammer.

Increasingly proud of my work over at the Teaching with Technology blog I write for my middle school teachers, though last week's entry was made moot by a full-scale Internet outage. This week's topic: Teaching Without a Net, a McLuhanesque, somewhat anti-webquest treatise on remixing materials for the particular needs of your students rather than merely leaning on the vast wide web.

For those who need it: Blogger's helpful advice on What to Do When Your Mom Discovers Your Blog, via search for "blogspot problems." Hi, Mom!

On a more lengthy-yet-topical medialit note: in a matter of months, Blogexplosion's diversified their service far beyond the old traffic exchange model, adding everything from open-voting blogbattles-for-traffic to a multitude of games and lottery-esque point-gathering activities.

The results seem mixed -- for example, while the phenom of renting tiny screenshot-as-link boxes on other blogs seems popular, most net few linkbacks; similarly, replacing the front-page chatbox with a full audio-visual solospace makes for some hilarious late-night sessions watching drunken swedish bloggers sing showtunes, but seems to have reduced active chat participation to a static and miniscule crowd.

But it may be neither the once-removed nature of the newchat, nor the more intimate and in-crowd a/v group therein, to blame. How else to interpret the phrase some members simply hate surfing for credits in the midst of today's email describing two more new products?

Has the day of the traffic exchange passed? Or is this merely another example of deserting a good, basic business model for transparent bells and whistles? Sadly, though causality is not often so obvious, it's beginning to look like the end of blogexplosion either way.

posted by boyhowdy | 8:43 PM | 0 comments

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Wednesday One-Liners Are AKA Randomalia 

Best comfort food: either Stella D'oro sesame breadsticks or country pate and irish cheese on a sesame bagel, & milk in both cases.

Jonathan Safran Foer's second novel was so awesome, I'm reading the first one.

I stole the Wednesday One-Liners thing from Overheard In New York.

I refuse to consider ads in this blog, because I believe that making money off misclicking is evil, and the potential userlink/corporatelink blur is antithetical to Attention Trust member principles.

The world of mp3 blogs is easiest digested via a good aggregator.

If it weren't for ironing, I'd love everything about clothes.

I ate a whole package of breadsticks during the writing of this entry.

posted by boyhowdy | 10:08 PM | 0 comments

Interlude: Between Sleep And Well 

There was a part of me that seems to have genuinely believed that I would never get sick again.

But here I am, just three weeks after quitting smoking, intellect alternately fighting and ignoring what seems to be a relatively functional but seriously affective cold.

Same swollen back keeping me up all night. Same swollen glands pushing at the swallow. The tickle at the back of the throat. The dry cough. And oh, the tired.

I crashed at nine last night, tossed and turned in pain, felt zombified when I awoke this morning in the dark. Made it through the day but lost control of every single one of my classes, a high risk and almost irreversable loss this early in the term. Couchnapped when I got home; up for a speechless supper with head on the table; fell asleep with Willow throughout our bedtime routine of three stories, a soft massage, a hundred counted sheep.

It's like I've got five good hours in me now, instead of the usual fourteen, and I need all eight for school.

I miss having my full self for my family.

I miss trusting my full mind at my disposal.

I miss cigarettes, damnit.

But not so much as yesterday.

And I suppose the sick symptoms were worse when exacerbated by periodic trips to the cold outerworld. And the athsmatic lung ache. And the rawness of the smokefilled maw.

So I got that going for me.

posted by boyhowdy | 8:33 PM | 0 comments

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 | 9 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
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