Friday, March 17, 2006

Randomalia: Dear Diary 

[Insert midget prostitute joke here.]

I know most people don't care for "look at how cute my kids are" daddyblogging pablum, but Last night's bedtime request was too priceless to withhold:
Can you read this book for me, Daddy?
Which book, kid?
It says Horton...Hears....The...Whore!
Man, I haven't laughed that hard in years.

In more mundane news: spent the evening in Northampton, just because it was time to get the hell out of dodge.

The bulb show at the Smith College Botanic Gardens was small but stellar, but the permanent collection is always a treasure trove: found our first real Cassia plant, stalked the kids in the jungle room, sniffed sweet honeys and dark moss musk, and generally justified the trip.

Sushi afterwards in the scruptious Osaka, where an accident of fate seated us in one of only two recessed pillow cubicles, authentic and blond with hardwood as we feasted on the freshest, most buttery sushi in a hundred miles. I've developed a real taste for sea urchin; Cassia likes edamame, salty and green: if you ever go, make sure you start with the seaweed salad.

I love coming home from long drives at night, sharing comfortable silences with my wife while the kids doze in the back. Soft sounds on the radio and the pinpoint lights of passing cars and distant mainstreet intersections are my meditation. Seven highlights of tonight's mellowdrive, because Bozette asked:

  • Ryan Adams' Wonderwall is the best late-night driving song ever.
  • Richard Shindell's So Says the Whipporwill is a close second.
  • The Waifs do Sweetness. Sweet.
  • Sufjan, o sufjan. A live two-fer, yet: For The Widows in Paradise and the exquisite LEXP Chicago
  • Shawn Colvin covers Satin Sheets.
  • Cindy Lauper reinterprets True Colors on 2005 release The Body Acoustic. You've come a long way, baby.
  • You've heard Donald Byrd's Cantaloupe Island, you just don't know what it's called.

Also: in the past few days several students have found me, both here and in IM. I'd ask anyone here from my real life to keep in mind that, like your myspace page, my blog is primarily a reflection of my inner life, not my professional life. Please respect this to the extent you are able, and consider all opinions to be my personal, not my professional thoughts. Oh, and congrats on finding me. Not everyone does.

posted by boyhowdy | 9:45 PM | 3 comments

Wednesday, March 15, 2006


What do bloggers blog when they have nothing to blog? They hit shuffle on their iPod and apologize for what comes up, a la Random Rules feature over at The AV Club.
  • Phish -- Round Room. Not the best of Phish, and not the best album; I always thought they went downhill after Rift. But decent radio pablum, noodling from the kings of the noodles.

  • Patty Griffin -- Every Little Bit. Now that's more like it, though to be fair, it's hard to find a Patty Griffin song off her debut album that isn't both gorgeously raw and pitchperfect. Wistful and anrgy in turns, this one'd make a great introduction to someone who really needed to fall in love with a new musician right now, this minute, today.

  • Victor Jory -- Tubby The Tuba (side 4). I feel asleep to this LP when I was a wee tot. Went and downloaded off the blogweb over a year ago to play for the kid, but she prefers Guster. Embarassing to have it show up so quick here. Still, useful for those long family drives, I suppose.

  • Hodges Brothers & the Hi Rhythm Section - Best in Town. Blues of some sort. Oh, right -- this is from the Oxford American Southern Sampler 2000 - my father had a bunch of duplicates of this yearly litmag sampler, and I bumped 'em all in. Not bad. They have good taste.

  • String Quartet Tribute to the Killers -- Jenny Was a Friend of Mine. Okay, I collect covers. It's like an addiction. And I've just discovered the Killers, and they rock. And this way I can listen to them at supper, and no one knows it's not background music.

  • Shawn Colvin -- Another Long One. Pre-pop from the award-winning debut of yet another soundtrack goddess. Okay, this got me into a love of produced folk music, and through an entire post-adolescent summer of despair, and I'm eternally grateful for it.

  • Kathleen Edwards -- Nagasaki. AAA radio darling singer-songwriter goes all ani on this one. It works, kind of, and the strings are nice, but ani does it better, and Kathleen's voice sounds more like she's trying to be suzanne vega, but not as sweetly. I don't know why she bothers -- she does a simply stunning Kathleen on the rest of her catalog.

  • David Gray -- December. Ah, I love a slow beat and a soaring tenor voice. December is a bit slow, and for Gray, that's saying something. Not as emo as some of his other work, though, so perhaps we'll say this one splits the difference.

  • R.E.M. -- Can't Get There From Here. A blast from the past. Funny how well the old R.E.M. ages. Like fine cheese. Even if I never did quite take a liking to the Stipe whine.

  • Alison Krauss -- Looking In To The Eyes Of Love. Oh, that sweet vibrato. I remember seeing Alison Krauss fiddlin' and singin' at a bluegrass festival when we were both seventeen. I'm still in love, still far away.

  • Jon Brion -- Time Of The Season. California Indie piano darling (a new genre which includes Ben Folds other male solo vocalists) covers the Zombies. A lo-fi recording, with an audience sing-along, from his weekly stint at Largo. Fun, but nothing stellar, musically speaking.

  • More covers, ad infinitum. Acoustic Radiohead mangling the first half of Wonderwall. Peter Mulvey live in the subway, covering For No One. Eric Clapton covering Jimi Hendrix. Keane does Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, also on solo piano, also in live lo-fi. Ah, the wonders of the downloading internet.

Okay, I give up. Granted, some of this stuff might impress the right kind of girl, but this isn't my diverse mp3 collection. What's with all the neo-singer-songwriter stuff tonight? Where's all the rock, the mash-ups, the ska, the punk covers?

Look, I got 6300 songs on the damn thing. They can't all be winners.

posted by boyhowdy | 10:34 PM | 1 comments

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Meet The Day People 

CNN:  Father, daughter can only dream of sleeping through the night.
We hate them because they are chipper.
And not at all pasty.

I get under five hours of sleep every night, drink 40 ounces of coffee between bed and classroom, have another 20 ounces before lunch. By Wednesday afternoons I can feel the burn, the eyelid droop, the slow leak of conscious thought. By Fridays I'm on sugar and fumes.

Give me a summer off and I sleep away the heat of the day, drift quickly into a fully nocturnal schedule.

I have powerful memories of a household awake until three in the morning, my father, my siblings and myself skulking around in nightreverie.

But it's not a personal failing to adapt to the inevitable daylight hours of the public school teacher. Instead, I'm happy to report that the tendency towards the nocturnal is genetic and dominant...and, by implication, totally excusable.

Yes, welcome to the modern world of chemicality, where no one need own their behavior. See the far-too-chipper dad and his daughter in the pic above? They have Advanced Sleep Phase Syndrome, or ASPS, a genetic condition where the body clocks are moved forward -- in their case by about three hours. They fall asleep at 7:30 every night, wake up refreshed at 3:30 or so, and piss the rest of us off to no end.

Because we have the reverse of that, don't we.

Of course, the symptomatic familial result would run inverse from one case to the other. Where Bethany and Clay -- a pair of daytime names if I ever heard 'em -- cite their mornings together as a lifetime of bonding, there's nowhere to go in suburbia afterhours, no shining faces to greet in the dark hallways at the end of a long day.

Hence the slightly furtive existence of my adolescence, knowing that my family was awake in their own spaces, avoiding them into the night.

You might say the differences between our case and theirs is like night and day.

posted by boyhowdy | 9:49 PM | 1 comments

Monday, March 13, 2006

The Virtual Life 2.0
Mashups: Tracking Packages, Tracking Life 

Toilet locations on the London Underground.

Thinking about last week's google maps for educators blog while a guy on the radio explores the new dynamic model for mashups (old: mixing content; new: mixing tools and data to create dynamic content) gets the brain going despite slight illness.

Radio guy's example -- mapping craigslist apartments against Google Maps -- leads to an evening drifting through other examples, from Mashup Camp 2006 crowd fave Podbop (choose a city, learn what bands are playing in town that day) to the vast volume of 1.0 mashups on YouTube (video) and HypeMachine (music).

Family Watchdog lets you map homes and photos of sex offenders. Even Warner Music has gotten into the act, releasing new Fort Minor single audio elements for remix in a desperate grab for popularity and sales.

Which, in turn, leads to a daydream about mashups I wish existed.

You know, like Groundhog Day mashed with the Matrix. A combination of google maps with the current location of all my old girlfriends (with disease vector models to follow, once the demand for realpartners among teenagers transcends MySpace). Mixing virtual blueprints with RFID tags on all your stuff, so you really can have that googlehouse you always wanted.

Turns out much of this can been done, if you're willing to put in the time. Introducing Platial, a social atlas space/tool which helps you build and share "location-based" stories and information online. I found it looking for some examples of mashups to contextualize my own list; currently, it includes gems from the historical (women who changed the world) to the subjective (weird things that happened to me). No surprise: it's via lifehacker, recommended in his own right, and not just for his google maps taglist.

Of course, you do have to know the information you want to plot. Guess the Ex-Girlfriend mapping tool will have to wait.

In the meantime, there's always isolatr, the new antisocial networking tool for those who have had quite enough of the socialweb.

posted by boyhowdy | 7:26 PM | 0 comments

Sunday, March 12, 2006

In the Company of Company
On Becoming Grown-ups, Socially Speaking 

We've never been the social type, though I can certainly hold my own as host or jester.

We've been in Monson six months, and we're pretty much unknown here. We go to church, and find friendly faces, but the congregation is too small for us to find families compatible with ours.

The neighbors have no kids, and seem older, established; though old friends and ex-coworkers Seth and Lynn and their daughter Arwen came down for a supper and playdate a few months ago, the old school is too far for us to really sustain those connections.

So last week, when Darcie asked to invite Michelle and her family over for a get-acquainted supper, it was a pretty big step.

Darcie had met her through the neighborhood preschool pals group, so we knew the kids were compatible. I'd never met any of them, but Steve's a school principal, which would give us plenty to talk about.

Still, I think we exceeded our expectations. Their kids are six and four, but Willow held her own, leading them in mysterious play just around the corner, topped off with a full-tilt parade of drum and fife that drowned out all adult conversation. In turn, Cassia impressed us all by choosing tonight to really walk, with confidence, across the playroom and back again.

Everyone connected, I think. We had plenty to chat about as we got to know each other, and our families.

Now, after a whirlwind three hours, our house seems especially quiet.

Back in the boarding school world, the companionship of other families was part of the fabric of life. From classroom hallway passage to dining hall suppers, the line between family and community blurred comfortably throughout the school year, almost to a fault. Our kids played together; we sat with whomever we found at the table in the dining hall.

Communal playgrounds and laundry rooms, and a shared sense of daily purpose kept us close acquaintences. It was more work to find a bit of private time than a drinking partner after hours; that we all tended to hide out in our own homes on long kid-bereft weekends says what it should. But overall, the commune life was more sweet than sour.

When it all crashed down in the cutbacks, I remember being sadder about my daughter's pending loss than my own. That shared playspace between houses was something special, and I doubt we'll even find anything like it.

So it was especially wonderful to see her playing so nicely, so gently, so gleefully with Liam and Lily tonight.

Of course, it was equally nice to feel like normal adults for an evening: drinks in the living room, small talk over supper, all the while keeping an ear out for the kids. Had much in common with Michelle, plenty to share with Steve, and the coparenting seemed natural.

Looking forward to another go-round, though not too soon. After all, we came to the woods on purpose: I wouldn't want to lose that family bond, nor the quiet togetherness that made us whole in the first place, and regenerates us every day.

I miss the boarding community, in part because of how easily it felt like one big happy, hard to escape, always there. But after seven years of it and six months distance, I guess I'm growing to see the benefit of choosing one's own. How funny to be so late in life, and only now begin the work of finding friendships.

We'll have Steve and Michelle back again, for sure, and make it to their house when their kitchen renovation is complete. In the meanwhile, there's room for more, enough to make a backyard barbecue one day, once the yard grows in from the leechfield reseeding. Let the interviews begin.

posted by boyhowdy | 8:06 PM | 0 comments

Friday, March 10, 2006

Wandering Jew, Hungry Jew 

Just like mother used to slice.

My devoted Unitarian spouse has mastered the art of Challah baking on her second at bat, producing for this evening's shabbos a perfectly braided, moist bread to rival the best the Boston suburbs could offer me way back in my Jewdolescence.

Sunday morning our UU meeting house holds their annual Purim service, where, according to the email, kids and grownups are encouraged to come dressed as your favorite hero or villan.

Not bad for a Jew in the sticks, sans synagogue. Even if any traditional Jewcred heretofore acculumulated was erased this evening when, in a fit of snacking, I consumed a pork-pate-and-challah sandwich. With milk.

What can I say? Being true to thyself isn't about diet or deed in our house. We light candles, sing the blessings, pass the wine from lip to tiny lip, but I think I speak for all of us when I say that though we cherish and celebrate the world both real and spiritual, we mostly keep our gods in our hearts, and shine without.

It's a strange kind of Judaism, but it isn't absent. It rests upon a solid and daily base of worldawareness otherwise unnamed. It is a focusing lens, a brightening agent; it brings the world out like a polish.

Plus, we were out of sesame bagels. And you just can't get good chopped liver this side of Massachusetts.

posted by boyhowdy | 8:06 PM | 1 comments

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Where The Daddybloggers Are
Music for Audiophiles With Children 

Soundsharing: It's a daddy/daughter thing...

New mp3blog smallages makes a big splash posting kidfriendly and occasionally even kid-targeted music from all genres. Because no one should have to listen to the Wiggles. Ever.

Smallages gets kudos both for its own wonderful selections and for directing me to the surprisingly geolocal Spare the Rock, Spoil the Child, a primarily once-a-week which posts mp3s of the 8-10 Saturday morning radioprogram of a daddy/daughter team.

In turn, Spare the Rock tips the hat to YES All Ages Radio, yet another daddy-and-child podcast-slash-Saturday-morning radioshow. What is it about Saturday mornings and kidsongs?

The wonderful coincidence is that both Spare the Rock and YES originate within easy driving distance of the geoself. In fact, Spare the Rock broadcasts on Valley Free Radio, a tiny co-op community station which turns out to be in myvalley, and which comes in not-so-scratchy on the car radio.

And the station is looking for show proposals.

I love it when the Internet leads me home.

posted by boyhowdy | 8:47 PM | 2 comments

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Forward, March! 

A march is a sort of forced forward progress, and sure enough, the weeks between public school vacations have us heads-down.

Teachers share forced smiles as we pass in the hallways between blocks. Students forget their work, get surly when we speak sternly to them, lose their focus when we don't: I play odd covers of their favorite songs in a desperate attempt to lighten the mood; sign their hallpasses OKUP, and wait to see which ones will get the joke. Little works for long.

I've given over my planning periods to a dozen instructional sessions with a rotating crowd of seventh graders -- math classes who generate charts from Olympic medal data; Language Arts classes interested in learning how the rules and environments for formal writing mandate format and praxis in Microsoft Word. As with all such partnerships the coteaching is more work, both in developing curriculum for others and in teaching students whose names and tics I cannot know. I tire from duplicate delivery, lose track of which audience has heard which dumb joke.

More ominously, a familiar tingle has begun to spread from waist to calf as I shift my weight from right to left. The back spasms alarmingly after a long day on my feet. An archival search for herniated in the blog calls up a serious walk down memory lane, but no sign of my biggest fear: that herniation means no child-carrying; that I might miss the last few months of Cassia's carry-on days.

Still, there are signs of spring-to-come.

Yesterday I arrived home to find my daughter and her grandmother playing happily in the woods, lightcoated and hardly cold. Sunday the lawn teemed with robins.

It was warm and bright in the sun today out front of the school, waiting with my yearbook charges for their respective rides.

Two months after the old one sparked and died, a new dryer finally arrived this afternoon; though the delivery tore up the muddy lawn, Darcie's already made it through the first three backlogged clothesloads. I think we all look forward to reclaiming the basement from the mountain that was, all this time, our unwearable wardrobes.

Four weeks to vacation, then: a week in sunny Florida, shopping and sand, a change of tempo. From there the days are numbered; a glorious teacher's summer lurks ahead, countably close. Forced and driven we may be, but forward progress is forward progress.

Ah, March. The lion roars, but the lamb in the distance grows ever nearer.

posted by boyhowdy | 6:47 PM | 1 comments

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Blogging Is The Opposite Of Writing 

As blogging is the opposite and not the opposite
of writing thinking saying being drinking
doing laundry on Sunday

So is wandering mutually subsumed
by and by the path, the destination,
the wandering self.

To wander is antithesis and apotheosis both
being and not-being, oasis and desert,
direction and crowd, list and liason.

Which is to say

To wander is to listen, sometimes, and nothing more:
to stick the self inside something wholly,
and look around with eyes closed;

To be still.

To be still, and not write.

To be still, and use the stillness
to find that which is not yet still:

Tomorrow ticking away at eyecorners,
the bloodrush between ear and temple,
breath dragging past the glottal stop.

And slow it down.

And move past it, into dawn.

Draft version. All comments welcome.

posted by boyhowdy | 7:52 PM | 1 comments

Monday, March 06, 2006

Caveat Lurker 

Warning: the previous post contains images which most cultures would find entirely normal, but which cannot be printed at Wal Mart.

You have been warned.

posted by boyhowdy | 10:49 PM | 2 comments

Cassia Jade Comes Into Her Own
Now with Baby's First Yoga Pictures! 

Mr. Messy Little Cassia doll
Did I mention we're raising our children like feral cats?
DSCN2019 DSCN2033 ahhhh!

At ten months the tiny one is both light and bright for her age, a free spirit more physical, more resilient, more genial, more generous than her sister-as-baby.

She's into ceiling fans, talks back to cows (moo!) and birds (moo!), speaks two dozen words and a dozen babysigns, knows every cabinet and stair by feel.

We chase each other around the house, roaring and giggling. We rest our heads on each other's shoulders and engage in a little mutual backpatting. We share a pacifier. We're not alone much, but when we are, we're a riot.

I used to worry that she'd be forever overshadowed by the first -- both by accident of size and subtlety and through brazenly deliberate action. Her sister is strong, centered, demading, encompassing; in my worst eyes I saw the smaller child as wholly unprepared to compete, an inherent victim of the constant firstchild struggle to remain the center of all things.

But she falls, and does not cry. She watches, and her eyes light up with understanding. She teeters unaided on the playroom floor. She leans into the world, as if daring it to take the first step.

Tonight I found her sitting flat on the floor, trying to pull on a pair of her sister's shorts. She had the motions down pat; she just kept missing her leg.

Slowly, like a butterfly emerging, the baby turns into the girl. Cassia Jade careens from fragile to known object towards full personhood.

There's a unique human bean in there, just beginning to show her true colors.

And man, is she beautiful.

I'm thinking there's nothing to worry about. In fact, the baby has already learned two things from her sister:
  1. How to screech with unending joy.

  2. Yoga:

Downward Dog 1
Monkey See.

Downward Dog 2
Monkey Do.

posted by boyhowdy | 8:48 PM | 0 comments

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
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