Monday, November 20, 2006

A Blogger Turns Four 

Happy blogday to me, though the language doesn't spill from me like it used to.

Happy blogday, though the world is quieter now, more full of white noise, less bloggable.

Happy blogday, though we've come a hundred miles or more, lost a generation and a job, had a second child, been homeless and come home again.

Some things haven't changed, I suppose. The beard grew back, though the hair doesn't hang like it once did. My back still hurts; the cigarettes still run my life despite a three month hiatus. My wife still loves me, and I love her.

But the evidence is in the archives. That tiny fistwaver has passed through tyrant into something bright and too-often self-aware. The students I once knew as friends are now just kids, no matter how smart, how coiled, how epiphanic.

The memory of weekly radio broadcast fades into mundania. Memes disappear; the last unhashed past congeals and grows cold on the kitchen counter like the picked-over bones of leftover chicken.

The mind I threw freely into the void smothers under the weight of family secrets, workplace preservation, all the myriad symptoms of a life lived in public as the rest of the world has come online.

I lived at work once; now I clear my head twenty minutes at a time, back and forth ten times a week between two disparate selves.

My voice, my world, my family, my home: some days is seems like nothing is the same.

Four years ago tonight, in the wee hours where I no longer dwell, I started a blog. You were there, too.

It seems like a lifetime. In many ways, I suppose, it has been.

It is still impossible to say just what I mean.

But maybe it's enough to have tried.

posted by boyhowdy | 10:15 PM | 1 comments

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Do You Hear What I Hear? 

Finally got around to signing up for an account over at last.fm, a web-based service-slash-tool that -- among many other social sharing functions -- logs your last-played songs and makes the resulting up-to-date playlist available, like so:



A neat way to give your adoring public some ear-access. Assuming I can find a skin that's narrow enough, look for a permanently placed playlist in the sidebar sometime soon.

What are you listening to?

posted by boyhowdy | 9:46 AM | 0 comments

Friday, November 17, 2006

Meanwhile... 

Not much blogging this week, but spending the week porting 41 gigs of mp3 files over to "Max", our new 200G external hard drive, was well worth the time otherwasted. The newfound space cranks up the downloading habit a bit, especially after a year valiantly struggling to keep room for pix and docs on the 60 gig laptop; at this rate, the 60 gig iPod will be full by New Years.

Mad props from the district superintendent last week for my workblog post on workhabits and instructional strategies to minimize the possibility of losing digital work. Of course, the kudos raise the stakes so high for the next entry, I end up with blogger's block.

Back in the classroom I've got my seventh graders comparing internet news sites with their TV, radio, and deadtree counterparts. Today's assignment: write a letter to a pre-literate infant, recommending one of the big four over the others as a lifelong primary source. Interestingly, no single medium came out a clear favorite; even more interestingly, at thirteen, most members of the post-digital generation can already intuit the basic benefits of each, from portability to personalization of content and context.

In other techhead news, and to come fullcircle back from blogging to musictech, seeing a ska cover of the Batman theme song from my brother's old band pop up on Fongsongs (one of my regular short-to-medium-list of mp3blogs) was kind of like bumping into your local coffee barista in the Dhaka airport lounge. On the other hand, it makes an entire Batman vs. Taxman post so much more than just a front to recapture that old Lenlow mashup.

posted by boyhowdy | 8:36 PM | 0 comments

Monday, November 13, 2006

Na No No No 

A few years ago I seriously considered joining the fray for NaNoWriMo -- aka National Novel Writing Month for those of us who, unlike the New Zealand Testing Board that just decided that high school students will be allowed to use "text-speak" in exams, actually still prefer english over cyberspeech.

Happily, by midday on November 2nd of that year, I soon realized I was a plotless idiot who had no business trying to produce junk, whether it be for meme or for later novelfodder. I mean, imagine what most NaNoWriMo participants are cranking out on November 27th at 3 a.m. and you grok the basic problem here. Heck, imagine the dreck that most folks tend to start with, given the lack of general outlining and planning participants speak almost proudly of.

Look, maybe you're Kerouac -- maybe you, too, can produce a short stream of consciousness thingie of quality and innate truth in just a few short weeks on the road of your daily grind. But most of us don't live the whirlwind existence. Most of us have no great unwritten novel fully outlined in our heads. And most of us have much better things to do with three hours of every day than to write as fast as we can about absolutely anything, so long as the keys keep clicking along.

And anyway, my life is my novel. Why force it? Four years and over a third of a million blogwords later (that's six novels, if you're counting), I remain convinced that'd rather pour my energy into family, friends, blog and brain on a daily basis.

To be fair, way back in that fateful November, I bookmarked Novel In Less Than One Year, just in case I ever want to go back. But when I publish my blog excerpts, I'll have the last laugh for sure. When I do write my novel, it will be marked by a lifetime of history and careful craft, not an arbitrary ruler or a clock on the wall.

God bless anyone who manages to actually complete a novel worth reading in the midst of this experiment in mass production -- and there are sure to be just enough exceptions to prove the rule. And God bless you, too, if you have no better way to do what you've always wanted to do.

But, truly, doing it because it's that time of year? Because everyone's doing it? Novels aren't a destination. It's not about speed OR endurance. It's a piss poor way to fulfil your destiny.

Kerouac's powerful, high-school-accessible On The Road is a great story, and it's great poetry, but a novel it ain't -- and Kerouac knew it. Anyone who thinks they can write a novel against deadline would best remember Truman Capote, who said of On The Road: That's not writing, that's typing.

posted by boyhowdy | 7:13 PM | 2 comments

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Memento 

Two indian summerdays in Brooklyn, where art is everywhere, especially in the tinroof apartment my brother and his wife share with their studio spaces. Kid-friendly, pescetarian fun in Central Park and subways, but cities make us nervous, New York City moreso.

We were on the road when I realized I was dizzy. The world looked yellow. My hands felt cold. I pulled over in the rain so Darcie could drive.

Home, the front room is infested with fragile bugs. Their cornhusk wings show on the sliding door like fingerprints. I spend an hour lurking by the chairlegs, waiting for wings visible against the glass, the room spinning.

The garage is an airlock. It's still raining outside the cold house. All night the New York sky glows like a ballfield.

posted by boyhowdy | 8:37 PM | 1 comments

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Stakes in the Grass
Inside and Out: A Juxtaposition 

We're closing fast on the end of our fourth year here at Not All Who Wander Are Lost, and other than a little sitetweaking the biggest issue here seems to be the sporadic posting. I've blogged before on this, suggesting at the time that maybe this was a good sign, that the life unbloggable was a life less in need of being blogged.

But the coverage area of possible reasons is endless, remains murky. Perhaps, I wonder, the subconscious is trying to keep a tight reign on the flow of language, lest something slip out. Am I so afraid to see what I am thinking?

On the homestead we spend the morning behind the house, staking and roping where the sliding glass falls off into nothingness. The project will involve a complex deck opening into, varously, a full-scale patio, a suite of halfwooded playspaces and terraces, and a shape-enchoing staircase similarly opening into same from the french doors at the house's other end.

After months of treecutting, becoming comfortable with the space and its possibilities, what was once wooded and closed starts to seem infinite. Funny how, once you've steeped in it a while, the world steps out organically into the senses like that, to become somehow both defined and present.

posted by boyhowdy | 2:20 PM | 2 comments

Friday, November 03, 2006

Tinythoughts 

I like a warm house. That we've not yet figured out how to dampen the wood furnace properly pleases me.

The laptop -- our sole computer -- holds 60 gigs. So does the iPod. What with photos, software, and room for the occasional word document, that leaves the 'Pod glass perennially 2/3 full. Or is it 1/3 empty?

Two short-attention-span kids + an endless number of short clips from classic Sesame Street episodes on YouTube = three nights running of postprandial snuggletime.

If the natural trend of the universe is entropic, why do we clean the house again?

You know how, on late eighties sitcoms, they've got that hilariously wry handyman who never seems to finish that endless series of odd jobs? We're looking for one of those. I think his name is Mike.

"Mr F., you know what movie you need to see?" "No, Courtney, but it wouldn't matter unless it's rated G." We haven't had a proper date since the elderchild was born. Maybe that's not such a bad thing.

Used to be, the very mention of a bath would set the dog barking madly. Now it sets of the dog and both kids. Bubbles, Dada? Indeed.

Blogger's cut their users off from their FTP accounts as of the 31st. Note to self: after three years, it's probably a bit late to update the old about boyhowdy pages anyway. Want to know more? Read it anyway, and extrapolate from there.

Reason #4,572 why my wife rocks: the local consumer bureau is paying us thirty bucks to use two packs of diapers we'd have bought anyway, and all we have to do is answer a few easy questions online and call for our check. I'd give details, but we're not supposed to tell anyone. Shhhh...

Reason #4,573: The wee one's caterpillar costume won a prize at the town hall after the Halloween parade.

In a universal nod to fairness, the elderchild's butterfly fairy photo showed up full color in the local paper two days later. I'd post the pic, but they're a bit too local for that.

In other news, there's nothing like an almostfull moon in a clear sky the first night it freezes over. Stay here awhile, baby: it's cold outside.

posted by boyhowdy | 6:42 PM | 0 comments

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Best. Chart. Ever. 




Recursiveness at its best, wonderfully wry, and ever-useful for helping middle school students understand how charts represent ideas. Via BoingBoing, of course.

posted by boyhowdy | 9:48 PM | 1 comments

Monday, October 30, 2006

Thinking Out Loud 

Me. Mine. Self. Help.

A holy host of new words from the wee one this week speak to the growing awareness of selfhood and separation. We adapt to her needs, offer her opportunity where just last month we did it for her, wait for her first try to fail, hold ourselves back until we are asked for help.

Then, tonight, as we dance in the lights-off living room, wrists aglow with summer's leftover lightsticks, a new word comes: own, as in "I'm going off on my own for a while."

Mama comes back from the bathroom alone to tell me about it. And off goes the wee one, stalking herself in the dark.

On some basic level, language is freedom. Speaking up and speaking out make the difference between slave and freedman, between own life and owned life. Witness the language of the baby, who cannot speak for herself; witness, too, the self-censored silences of untenured wage slaves, the yes men nodding in the silent boardroom as the doomed ship goes ever onward towards the reefs. In ancient societies, cutting out the tongue was an act of disempowerment in many ways more severe than excommunication.

As an expression of inner voice, words are more than mere evidence of mind. It is a truism in teaching that the ability to verbalize is paramount for those who would develop clarity of thought. The inner grok, the empathic awareness, the epiphanic brainburst have value, to be sure. But if you can't put it into words, we say, you can't truly be said to comprehend.

Thus, we celebrate Cassia's new words, and the development we infer from it. How wonderful to have a child that wants to try. How blessed we are to have a kid that sees herself as self. How beloved we feel, to know that she trusts us to be here, if she needs us, and when she returns.

But you can't have selfhood without personal loss when you're a parent. How ironic, I think, that the goal of a parent is to teach that which we have put aside in order that we might have children in the first place. How wonderful and strange to realize that giving up my independence was but the first, vital step towards her own first steps away from us, and towards herself.

Someday, God willing, she will walk towards us again on adult legs, head held high, clear of thought and tongue, moving of her own volition. In the meanwhile, God give me the strength to step aside, and gladly, that she might come into her own.

posted by boyhowdy | 7:05 PM | 0 comments

Saturday, October 28, 2006

The Autumn Leaves 

My little willow leaf
Never so happy being buried alive...


It's raining now -- all high winds and falling limbs, in fact -- but yesterday before the storm took the rest of this season's leaves down from our towering oaks, the elderkid and I had some fun with the leafblower. Full flickrset here; samples below.

Willowleaf 1 Willowleaf 2

Willowleaf3 Willowleaf4

posted by boyhowdy | 2:34 PM | 0 comments

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Musical Elseblog
Death Cab Does Death Right 

Spent my blogging energy tonight over at music-sharing community Audiography, where the theme this week is Death.

If you haven't fallen in love with Death Cab For Cutie's brave, sweet, everhopeful lovesong I Will Follow You Into The Dark, you haven't lived.

Hard not to end up a bit depressed after thinking about death so much, I suppose. The dark, cold nights don't help. But I can't help thinking: if work weren't a thing to endure these days, I'd have weathered it better.

posted by boyhowdy | 10:35 PM | 0 comments

Monday, October 23, 2006

Back From The Garden
An Interlude, With Music 

Then can I walk beside you
I have come here to lose the smog
And I feel to be a cog in something turning
Well maybe it is just the time of year
Or maybe its the time of man
I dont know who l am
But you know life is for learning
-- Joni Mitchell, Woodstock

Ahem.

My name is boyhowdy, and I'm a blogger.

Once I wrote in this space several times a day. Four years ago when things were new; three years ago, when the life of the mind was rich and renewed; a year and a half ago, when the world was falling apart; a year ago, when it all fell back together again.

In the past month, I've averaged one post a week.

It's not just that nothing's new, though I suppose in some way the mundania of it all is starting to shine through, like tin under the gold plate of an insincere marriage. It's not just that I've mined my past until the cavernous shafts are all that remains, though it's hard, sometimes, to remember which tiny remnants might still be there, buried under the discard pile.

On Friday, I was alive and light of heart for the first time in months. For the first time in years, I got to be a part of one of those perfect oldfriends parties, where intimacy is the name of the game, and you stay up late eating comfort food and talking about everything there is to talk about. Those rare nights, where you never seem to be without a drink, but you never get really drunk, and you never lose that happy, babbling glow.

On Saturday, after a slow hilarous morning, pancakes and bacon and coffee by the koi pond, comfortable in everyone's nightclothes, we caravaned it over to the annual meeting of the minds -- thirty crew chiefs, the heart and soul of the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival, our home away from home. Where I was more appreciated, more genuinely celebrated for both who I am and what I have done with the world, than I've felt at work in a good, long time, not since the novelty wore off.

Once, I would have rushed home to blog it all: the friendly faces, the thousand thank yous, the nods of approval, the ideas, the love, the shared sense of purpose. The chicken pecking at my feet as the roundrobin crew chief reports slowly wound their way around a circle of folding chairs still cold from their barn storage space. The glasses we smuggled from the pizza place, ice and all in our coat pockets out the door midmeal, so we might remember this night forever.

In the car on the way home the language would begin taking on the rhythm of the road, my heart, the wind through the crackedopen window. By the time I hit the turnpike, I'd be scribbling fragments to myself in the dark, desperately trying to hold on to the overwhelming, perfect structure of the ten 'graf entry forming unbidden in my head.

Less than a month to go until my four year bloggiversary, and I'm fighting to tear this one out before it disappates.

Brain be damned; rut be cursed. I need this blog, need you, need the regular rush of language. I hate what I'm turning into. I hate that I only feel this alive one weekend in ten. I hate that the language is leaving my life.

We are stardust. We are golden. And we've got to get ourselves back to the garden...

Click over to Yousendit for Eva Cassidy's cover of Woodstock.

posted by boyhowdy | 9:18 PM | 1 comments

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Sorry About That 

Excuses here.

Seriously -- it was one of those weeks. Yesterday and today have been much, much better, though. More on that tomorrow.

Oh, and Darcie, if you're reading this...I miss you and the kids terribly.

posted by boyhowdy | 12:04 AM | 1 comments
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