Saturday, March 04, 2006

Monkey Business
proactive parenting in a mediated world 

Monkey see, monkey wonder.

Note: yes, it's a long one today. As incentive, readers who make it to the end will find links to three Jack Johnson mp3s from the Curious George movie.

Yet another first for the elderkid today: her first cinematic experience, popcorn and all. Like her recent foray into the world of solo peestops in public bathrooms, I think we're calling this one a success.

We'd certainly prepared her well enough. Teaching and studying media literacy for so long gets under your skin; though there are times when I wish we could use the TV as a brainsitter, it's not in me to be the kind of parent who just flips the switch and leaves the room.

Though concerns about ads and, more generally, incompatibilities between our values and the subversive subtext of mass media have led to a total absence of television reception in our home, we watch videos with her, sit with her while she plays her fave computer games over at PBS Kids. And, in all cases, she feels ownership, can already locate, play, question and put away.

Our deliberate campaign of cautious media filtering and smallscreen co-parenting has already made of three-year-old Willow an increasingly deliberate, discriminating, and active participant in everything from online games to videos from the local libraries and our vast collection of old Muppet Shows. She understands that narrative tension is inevitably resolved.

So it was no surprise to find her arms around my neck at the first hint of cinematic anxiety today. It'll be okay soon, Daddy, she whispered. And she was right. It was wonderful, like a date with my daughter, and her hand felt cool and sweet on my neck.

But there wasn't much anxiety. The change in scale from small screen to large was hardly as significant or overwhelming as I had feared. The perspective, the expectations, and the literacies already burgeoning inside my headstrong eldest seem to work; she seems sure of self in the screenworld as elsewhere, ready to wander like her family before her.

But I can't take all the credit. Much of today's success came from the choice of movie.

Curious George hasn't gotten the best ratings from adults, but as a parent, I found it ideal for a first-time cinematic outing. The plot is tight, albeit sketched in sparsely, just enough to cover all the bases and -- more wonderfully -- address with a minimum of fuss all possible ethical questionables which haunt so much of mass market kid programming. George makes a perfect viewer-projected little kid (better than Elmo, anyway) without losing his simian charm.

The focus is on the developing relationships among the characters as George's presence brings confidence and social connection to the world of the Man of the Yellow Hat. And the characters are almost wholly real, thanks to the tonality and voice of the likes of Wil Ferrell, Eugene Levy, Dick van Dyke, and harmless protoloser David Cross (as the misunderstood pseudo-nemesis).

Jack Johnson's soundtrack was wonderful, the perfect compliment and tonesetting guide to the antics of the ever-expressive George and his shy, earnest yellow-hatted companion. His laid-back rhythmic style set a tone for George which kept the audience relaxed and cheery -- no mean feat, with so many of our fellow moviegoers similarly wee and new to the movieplex.

On the way out Willow and I took a chance to get right up against the projected surface, touch and throw our shadows on the screen itself, break the magic just enough to plant that seed of self-keeping, building the layers of mindfulness necessary for healthy mediaplay, so her future moviewatching can remain both magical and evercritical.

Three other father/daughter pairs followed suit. For just a moment it was intimate up there by the bright yellow screen , just three daddys smiling awkwardly at each other over their daughters' heads as the credits rolled over us all like vertical waves. Nice to share daddyhood, there in the dark; it's so seldom done.

The moment we picked up mama and the baby up near the mall entrance Willow ran away, dodging our outstretched hands; we ended up in a game of catch-and-release, red-faced and spectacular, while Willow screamed No! No! I'm having a really good time! I'm having a really good time!" Eventually we calmed her down, lured her in the car with the promise of chinese food and another movie in the near future, and headed off towards home.

Listened to movie titlesong Upside Down all the way home, and now you can, too. Buy Sing-A-Longs and Lullabyes for the film Curious George from Amazon, or click here for this and two other soundtrack tracks, courtesy of Jefito.

posted by boyhowdy | 7:48 PM | 4 comments

Breakfast of Upper Middle Class Champions 

Welcome to McStarbucks, would you like
a side of lightly herbed gently sauteed
fingerling potatoes with that?

First our local McDonalds started serving real'n'regional coffee. Now Starbucks has started serving breakfast, which is all right with me as long as it doesn't slow up barista production. Because everybody needs a $7 Black-Forest-ham-egg-and-gourmet-cheese-on-an-english-muffin with their $5 venti vanilla latte, but no one wants to wait.

Find the nearest Starbucks using Google Local. Ours is four towns away. I miss my high octane.

In other food news, I read somewhere* today that Coca-Cola is retaliating against health-conscious schools who want the company to remove soda machines from schools by...threatening to remove soda machines from the schools unless the schools own up to the health benefits of Coke products. That'll show 'em.

*somewhere: a link lost to the blogosphere.

posted by boyhowdy | 12:18 PM | 0 comments

Friday, March 03, 2006

Elsewhere and Anon. 

Finished this week's post on Google Local as a teaching tool over at the Teaching with Technology workblog.

Hoping to finally polish-and-publish that semi-academic blogtreatise on current netthreats -- including the SmartFilter fiasco currently keeping tame-and-informative sites like BoingBoing from schools, businesses, and several entire countries, & the threat of pay-for-fast-lane Internet and email access "splitting the net into first class and steerage" -- this weekend.

Took advantage of a great sleety Friday brainprompt over at the groupblog (What completely innocuous and perfectly allowable phrase drives you up the wall?) to finally come clean about my hatred of therapyspeak.

That said, blogging (and blogtopics) herein may remain sporadic for a short while while I continue to ponder the infoglut that is my increasingly unbloggable life.

In the meanwhile, I've started a second blog purely for that-which-I-dare-not-mention-here, and you can't find it, so nyahh.

That said, after three years, two children, two jobs, and a multitude of homes and crises, I'm closing in fast on my 1500th post here at the recursively-linked Not All Who Wander Are Lost. Suggestions of how (and whether?) to celebrate would be welcome. Other than "quit while you're ahead", which I may be fast approaching on my own.

posted by boyhowdy | 7:53 PM | 0 comments

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Hey Mr F...
Tales Of Homeroom 

In middle school, some mornings are more intelligent than others. From today:
  1. Kyle: Hey, does R come before P?

  2. Anthony: Hey Mr. F. if I take my little man out...
    Me: I'm sorry, but I'm not answering any question that begins with that phrase.

  3. Katy: Mr. F, can you play us some music? But only if it's good music, okay?

  4. Dylan: Mr. F, where should I put my RSS server?
    Me: I dunno, a closet?
    Dylan: Dude, that's not nice.

  5. Anthony: Hey Mr. F, check this out. I printed out 8 pages on this Himmler guy for Mr. C's class. That guy was totally crazy -- he took, like, a cyanide pill!

  6. Homeroom in a computer lab includes turning on the computers; many students then add their own background or mess around with the screensaver settings. Out of 21 working computers, this morning's scrollingtext goodness includes the following:
    - Beware of Safety
    - Anthony was here first
    - 8th graders such

    And my new all-time favorite student screensaver text:

    - hi my name is satin and when you die youll be coming to see me

posted by boyhowdy | 8:07 AM | 2 comments

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Rapid Randomalia 

Accidentally left the laptop powercord on my workdesk, so we're going quick-and-random tonight. Apologies in advance for any lack of coherence -- 68 minutes left and counting ain't much, netwise.

Spent much of the day pondering curricular use of Google Local (whole-earth satellite images integrated with detailed maps and whitepages crossreferencing) for this week's entry-to-be on the workblog. Curricular: country and geography study, zoomfunction-as-scale, visual ecostystem surveys, fieldtrip planning (find: museums near Stony Hill Road). Uncurricular but cool: map every Starbucks in a 92 mile radius, zoom in on satellite images to see your rooftop close up.

Thanks to BlogExplosion chatpal Wis"cow"sonite Bozette for cutting me a break on a week's tenancy over at her photoblog. Boz is pretty cool, so it's more than just reciprocity to posthost her right back. Wrap up before you visit, though -- her blogphotos feature frozen breath and snow this time of year.

Now that I'm a renter and a homeowner, maybe I really do need this all-in-one Tonkatruck. My wife thinks so, anyway -- she sent me the eBay link while I was at work, and seems serious about the prospect of us owning a little tiny tractor, cab and all. Check out the stats on the Cub Cadet Lawn and Garden Tractor rebuilt and tricked out for snowblowing, plowing, leafblowing, lawn moving: a twin cylinder 18 horsepower engine, a comfy cab... Sure to tear up the lawn during mudseason, but if the thing can make it up our driveway, it might be worth it regardless.

Followup: Thanks to all who expressed concern, regardless of medium, after yesterday's kid incident. Willow's finger remains hidden from view, but she woke early and in her usual high spirits, so I'm going to assume it's both akay and manageable. Thanks, too, to mom and dad, who in separate calls reminded me that when I was Willow's age, my own pinkie tip was essentially sheared off by a doorslam.

posted by boyhowdy | 9:10 PM | 0 comments

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

A Self Inflicted Life
Inheriting the Curious Gene

Tonight out of the din that is two kids and company one of those present-tense parenting moments: a sudden screaming around the corner and I'm sprinting around the kitchen island like slow motion and into the bathroom and there in the shower my little girl is standing shaking shrieking all alone behind the frosted glass and honey what's the matter O my god she's (Darcie!) bleeding really badly o my god o baby (Darcie! Come quick!) oh baby it's going to be okay and Daddy I was stuck in the DRAIN...

Some kids get their head stuck in the banister. I did.

Tonight my daughter stuck her littlest finger in the shower drain, and shredded the skin off the circumference from base to knuckle trying to pull it out.

The result: one utterly terrified little girl; a series of coldpinkwater rinses; a struggle to see the finger, bend the finger, examine the finger. Hours of relived panic; eventually, an exhausted gauzewrap at doctor's recommendation. No signs of permanent damage so far, but the kind of painful skin injury that restricts full play, nags at the soul, takes forever to heal.

She'll be scared of the shower forever. She'll feel ashamed, and reminded of her shame until long after the scar shows. I know. I remember.

Gonna be a long month.

The drain, Darcie says, after the kids have gone to sleep. Who does that?

I would, I think. But I don't say anything.

posted by boyhowdy | 8:21 PM | 1 comments

Monday, February 27, 2006


In the past 24 hours I've almostfinished two horrendously long blogposts -- one too personal to post, the other too deliberate, too political, too professionally sensitive, too academically unwieldy to pull together after a long first day back at work.

It was my daughter's first day at school today. She threw up this morning before breakfast, she was so nervous.

At the end of the day, her teacher remarked that she was great. And so smart.

The kid reports that she has a new friend named Katherine. Or Christine. And that they played all morning, and sang songs, and got into a fight, and ate snack, and made a project.

I only know because I was told.

Almostfour summers ago, the night she was born, I stayed up all night by her tiny hospital bed-on-wheels, watching her sleep in the light from the bathroom door.

I used to sneak into her room sometimes to watch her sleep, hair unruly, mouth pushed forward in sleep.

I never watch them sleep anymore.

My students, my parents, even my coworkers once and current have found my alter ego. I self-censor to protect myself, and them, and the mask I wear with each of them. The list of things-I-dare-not-blog has reached a tipping point, leaving little but the tidbit available as fodder even on the best of days.

It's not the same as it once was, doesn't serve the purpose of the true innerlife. I struggle too hard to balance the safe with the sound, end my days unfulfilled.

It bothers me to have lost my comfort zone. I miss the wholeness that I used to have in this palace, miss the holistic worldwatching that brought me here. I hate pushing the muse away when she brings me the unbloggable.

I hate not finishing things.

I'm tired.

Maybe it's time for a separate piece - a new pseudonym, a begin-again.

Maybe it's just time to move on.

Wanders do, you know. Eventually. When we become lost, and need to find our selves again.

posted by boyhowdy | 10:43 PM | 4 comments

Sunday, February 26, 2006

RIP Don Knotts 

Are you there, God? It's me, Barney...

He laid the groundwork for a hundred comedic second fiddles, and his movies made more fun than money, but from Limpet to Chicken to VW Bug sidekick Don Knotts defined the small bumbling man with the heart of gold for more than one media generation. Heck, he even got the girl on occasion.

Comprehensive CNN obit here. Shrine and performance archives here. Legacy everywhere.

Goodnight, Mr. Furley. We'll miss you.

[Update 2/26 7:34 pm: Seems this weekend's Trifecta of Passage includes actor Darren McGavin, best known as the leglamploving father from A Christmas Story, and beloved Hugo-winning bioethical scifi author Octavia Butler, who seems to have died from a fatal concussion after a fall at age 58. There is no hierarchy of death -- all will be missed.]

posted by boyhowdy | 12:25 AM | 1 comments

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Blogs For (and by) UnBloggers 

I don't read many A-list blogs, mostly because the metablogs I do frequent (like BoingBoing) bring the most viral of blogfodder to my attention regardless of origin.

But in the last few weeks, several blogs have emerged which I'd read even if I weren't a blogging infoculture metageek -- blogs new and old kept by folks whose names are generally recognizable on a mass culture level outside the world of the blogosphere.

What follows is nothing comprehensive, just a taste of my subjective bestblogs whose authors are known outside the blogosphere for work done before they were bloggers. No A-listers need apply (sorry, Wil).

Brand new blogger Malcolm Gladwell, New Yorker essayist and author of Blink and The Tipping Point, whose recent "discovery" of power laws introduced the concept to people who have never heard of Clay Shirky.

Douglas Rushkoff, comic artist, culture watcher, and author of businessbook Get Back In The Box: Innovation From The Inside Out.

William Gibson, greatest living science fiction author (sorry, Cory), father of cyberpunk, and coiner of the term cyberspace.

Humorist Dave Barry, who seems to save real writing for his paid gig, uses his Herald-hosted blog almost exclusively for one-liner pass-alongs of the usual web oddities. Comedians that blog include "comedian to the indie music generation" Eugene Mirman (with thanks to brother Jesse for introducing me to his work) and caustic politico Margaret Cho.

And I suppose no list of blogs-by-the-famous would be complete without some reference to the dozens upon dozens of blogs kept as road-and-recording journals by musicians, from old hands Pete Townsend and David Byrne to poprockers Barenaked Ladies to chart-topping indie darlings Mountain Goats to new blogger MC Hammer. Yes, that MC Hammer. Don't laugh, he can actually write.

posted by boyhowdy | 12:18 PM | 0 comments

Friday, February 24, 2006

Water, Water Everywhere 

Everyone's talking about this supposedly realistic computer-generated animation of water being poured into a glass, but it looks like mineral oil to me. Maybe if the video was sped up about 20%?

The irony of this week's parade of "floats" as New Orleans celebrates its first post-Katrina Mardi Gras has apparently been lost on everyone but yours truly. Possible the pun center of my brain is more heightened after six months teaching middle school.

Not one but two new commercial water ventures over at Strange New Products this week: an unflavored water chilled-and-distilled from fruit juices and H2Om, a bottled water infused with the healing energies of music and the spoken word apparently targeted towards the dehydrated Yoga practitioner. If you hold your ear up to the bottle, you can hear the soothing strains of Yanni.

In more local H2O news, we left the sink plugged up for the cat while we were away this week, and when we drained the water upon our return, we found that our lovely well water had stained the sink a beautiful patina green. Happily, the kitchen sink has a filter built in, and the cat remains tiger grey.

Also, it's supposed to snow tomorrow. Does 2-4 inches of frozen, fallen ice crystals count for a water post?

Afterthought: The wife reminds me that way back in 1991 when we were just falling in love, the first song we ever sang together was The Water Is Wide (in the otherwise deserted Bard College chapel, natch). I've since heard it covered by everyone from James Taylor to John Gorka to Eva Cassidy to the Indigo Girls, but I'm still looking for the "definitive" one of 203 recorded versions of The Water Is Wide out there. If you have a favorite, let me know; I fully intend to play it at my funeral.

posted by boyhowdy | 9:46 PM | 0 comments

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Yo Mama So Disorganized
Posted with parental permission 

So I'm spending the night at my mother's house with Willow while spouse and baby spend the night on Martha's Vineyard (see previous entry).

We're in my mother's bedroom, trying to wind the little one down towards tiredness after a long giraffe-less day at the Franklin Park Zoo, and there, on the floor next to the bed, are two copies of It's Hard to Make a Difference When You Can't Find Your Keys: The Seven-Step Path to Becoming Truly Organized .

Two copies.

For exactly the reason you'd expect.

See, she bought this organizing-principle book a while back, thinking she could really use a book like that. But the moment she got it home she put it down somewhere in the disastrous mess that is her entire house, and promptly forgot she ever bought it.

So she bought a second copy, thinking she could really use a book like that...

I kid because I love, of course. But humor is also in the familiar. And, to be fair, I've inherited her tendency towards total entropic chaos.

My students make fun of me for losing their papers on my classroom desktop.

We actually own a car that should never, ever be locked, because we lost the keys a couple of years back and have never bothered paying someone to core the locks and make a new set.

Like my mother, I used to have an entire room in my home that was totally unusable due to a floor-to-ceiling disaster of papers, books, and other randomalia. We cleaned the room when we needed it for our first child, and, with my goodwife's evergentle assistance, have managed to stave off that particular level of disaster since then.

But it's good to know that, if I ever decide to go the seven-step route towards organizing my life, there's a spare copy of this totally useful book somewhere in my mother's house.

If only she can find it.

In related news: I have a dim recollection that Mom lent me a book on ADD self-management a few years back, but I read a few pages, got distracted, and never finished it. Now I can't find it. Maybe it's in the basement under all those boxes and laundry.

posted by boyhowdy | 10:52 PM | 3 comments

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
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