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Ideas. Tools. Art. Build --not buy. What works, what doesn't. Enjoy new media and software aesthetics at Tekka.
Theodore Gray (The Magic Black Box)
Faith, Life, Art, Academics. Sermons from my family away from home: Eden Chapel!
My other home: The Cambridge Union Society (in 2007, I designed our [Fresher's Guide])
The Economist daily news analysis
Global Higher Ed blog
Chapter I: Born. Lived. Died.
There is a Chapter II.
Locale: Lancaster County Pa, USA
Religion: My faith is the primary focus of my life, influencing each part of me. I have been forgiven, cleansed, and empowered by Jesus Christ. Without him, I am a very thoughtful, competent idiot. With him, I am all I need to be, all I could ever hope for. I oppose institutional religious stagnation, but getting together with others is a good idea. God is real. Jesus Christ is his Son, and the Bible is true. Faith is not human effort. It's human choice. I try to be the most listening, understanding, and generous person I can.
Interests: Anything I can learn. Training and experience in new media, computer science, anglophone literature, education, parliamentary debate, democratic procedure, sculpture, and trumpet performance. Next: applied & computational linguistics, probably.
Education: Private school K-3. Home educated 4-12. Graduated Summa Cum Laude from Elizabethtown College in Jan 2006. As the 2006 Davies-Jackson Scholar, I studied English at St. John's College, Cambridge University from 2006 - 2008.
Memberships: Eden Baptist, Cambridge Union Society, ACM, AIP, GPA.
Alum of the Elizabethtown College Honors Program, sponsored by the Hershey Company.
Thursday, 29 Apr 2004 :-: ["Permalink"]
On Saturday, the Elizabethtown College Concert Band will be rehearsing Patrick Burns's Hometown (mp3) and Flight of Years (mp3) with -- guess who? -- Patrick Burns!
This piece was written for Scott Sharnetzka and the Bel Air Community Band. Mr. Sharnetzka has been our interim band director for the last year, and while the beginning seemed a bit bumpy, the year has been awesome
Under Mr. Sharnetzka's directing, I have doubled my skill and experience as a trumpet player. I wish he were staying longer. I wish I could learn more from him. I wish I had the time to really focus on the trumpet.
I need to sit down with him sometime and ask him about life as a musician. I am always torn between three great loves: music, writing, and computing. Of the three, music is probably the most enjoyable, the one I connect the most with. Would it change if it became more than a hobby? But I have always assumed that it was out of my reach, impractical. Is it?
Today, Dr. Adams suggested that growing up in an immigrant family tends to lead people to low expectations in their estimation of what their skills will get them. Dr. Kanagy has suggested this as well. Is it true in my case?
(That's just what I need. Another four years in college :P)
Wednesday, 28 Apr 2004 :-: ["Permalink"]
Waving his arms, he strode down the aisle, stuttering, and punctuated the notes on the written page. He brooded over the performers like a sheepdog, looking down at his score, cocking his head, traversing to one side, then the other, keeping the ensemble within the bounds of his creation.
He was meticulous, detailed, and forgiving, a thorough gentleman.
How amazing must it be to sit in the audience and hear your own creation come to life in sound?
Rehearsing for Friday Night's "Voices of Sacrifice" (excerpt here) performance in Harrisburg gave me an insight into the mind of the composer, into the mystical experience a writer like me never feels (unless I start putting together plays), of experiencing another's performance.
It must be crushingly, devastatingly joyful.
No event in my musical life has changed how I listen to music more completely. It's not just notes on a page. I knew that. But it's not merely an independent thing with a life of its own, to be interpreted by The Performer. For I'm just a performer. And as a performer, it's not just my duty to play the music or play it with feeling and expression. I should be as careful and prepared as I will be for the narration on Friday night. We understand authorship in poetry. But music carries this idea farther. The very life of the composer floats in the air of my melodies, passed into the music through the gift of intensity, joy, time, and blood of a passionate composer.
Haines smiles and stresses, keeping things in order. But I have no such luck. Order is beyond my reach. Too many assignments. I must write three ten-12 page papers in the next couple days, prepare for three concerts, write up a couple scholarship submissions, prepare a conference abstract, and submit my honors in the discipline proposal.
If I post at all until Monday, it will be a miracle.
In the meantime, it's Foucault, Foucault, Foucault.
Well, that and practice for my narration on Friday night. This is so amazingly exciting, I could... And now the news that they're going to be making an edited DVD of the event!
Tuesday, 27 Apr 2004 :-: ["Permalink"]
I am working on a series of poems based on the ancient elements. The first poem, Earth, was written for the wedding of my friends Andrew and Sonya Long.
Come with me, and pass along the winter plains,
Snow-flakes settling gently on the fences
upon the quaint slate rooftops,
snuggling against the barn door.
Or weave among the jolly hills,
the forests sprouting tuliptrees
the spruce, the birch and sycamore,
lifting up their hands in praise
around the flowered meadows,
the swaying willows,
where butterflies play with sunbeams
filtered through the dancing trees.
Grasp the outcrops of the mountain-wall,
Above the earth, yet anchored to it,
Solid, rooted, strong.
Splash your hands in the mountian-stream,
Cold, fresh, alive.
Below, the forests, farms, and rivers
slumber in the morning haze.
Below, the cavern glistens from our lamp.
The glasslike columns reach above, beneath,
growing gently, drip by drip.
Silent beauty, born in darkness,
crystals bred from living stone.
Vaulted halls defy imagination.
Deep among the jewels' home.
May your love be like the earth,
A treasured emerald. Precious. Deep.
Resting solid, rooted in the Living Stone,
Fruitful like His ancient garden,
A warm embrace among life's silent wintertimes.
Von and Tventy
Monday, 26 Apr 2004 :-: ["Permalink"]
Why do I feel like this?
Life goes too quickly. It's not that I wish on myself the simplicity, joy, or naivete of days I can never again reach. No, that's not it.
With each year, I suppose, the spectre of a frown hints itself in the distance. What is his name? Boredom? Burnout? I am now forgetting things I have learned. This is rather disconcerting, as I have usually done things the other way around.
Take programming. My teenage years were an internally spectacular light show of mental effort, taking on new challenges, assimilating the books that now still stare at me, dusty, on my desk shelves. But I went to college, and I don't need them any more.
Last week, I did the unthinkable. I sent my Emacs manual to a friend. I had lusted after it for years, and when I finally bought it at LinuxWorld, I was more excited than I had been in a long time. But it sat. I didn't have time. I was too busy reading Truman Capote, too busy looking at Dickens and Shelley and Yeats to bother much with Richard Stallman.
I swapped it for a WiFi card for my Sharp Zaurus handheld. Sufficiently geeky to keep my self respect, but it is somewhat of an epoch that I am now giving away books I have long-desired, finally bought, and never read.
A White Stone
Lewis Carroll once marked in his diary, "I mark this day with a white stone." It was the day he met Alice. I have no white stone, I have no Alice, and I am not really looking for either.
I suppose, ultimately, to be 21 is to embrace the fact that I really am growing up, to realize why freshman and sophmores and high school students suddenly ask me for advice, value what I have to say (The Horror!), and I realize that I am older than shop employees.
One cannot be a whiz kid forever. And I should just drop that idea, drop that mentality, on this day perhaps. This will seem silly to those older and wiser, perhaps. But I'm no longer a teenage programmer. I'm a dinosaur. I'm not even a programmer any more (unless I can find a suitable merging point between writing English and code).
Beginnings. Endings. Rites of Passage. And today is so busy, we spent twenty minutes at lunch yesterday celebrating my birthday. No time on the day. School School School.
This is also what it means to become older, perhaps. Birthdays don't matter any more. They swing from a celebration of life to the heavy thud of another year punctuated by the tickings of a maniacal clock whose final hour we do not know.
On the Smiling Side of the Moon...
Our celebration on Sunday was awesome! Family and friends sent cards (which will once again go on display around my room. Sometimes, I forget my walls aren't a Tinderbox document. Oh. That's why I have the Tinderbox postcard taped on it) and money.
Mom and dad found this awesome book at our really awesome local used bookstore. When I was young, we didn't watch TV. When we weren't listening to radio drama, we would read. And read. And read. I remember bringing shopping bags of books home on our monthly trek to the county library (two floors! Can you imagine?). The earliest books I can remember reading aloud (with my mom) were the stories of Paddington written by Michael Bond (woah. He's still alive. I need to add him to my list of childrens writers I must send thank-you notes to). I think I related to the stories of Paddington since he was from a South American country, liked marmalade, and was a bumblingly-clever, awesome bear. My father is from a Central American country, and I tend to be rather bumblingly obvlivious. Yes, I think Paddington is my role model. Especially the cocoa and inventive friends.
Paddington is the reason I like marmalade.
Thanks Mom and Dad! I love you.
My other presents, equally symbolic and useful, were two handy notebooks, a shirt from Guatemala (thanks Mom and Dada), and a book (from my brother) describing a theology of the local church (summer food for thought).
In the past, I rejected cake for health reasons (the best year, we had a veggie plate. Scrumptious!), but I managed to eat some this time through.
Etown College in April
Sunday, 25 Apr 2004 :-: ["Permalink"]
The next 9 days will be the most difficult of my life. Everything seems to have come down to this week. Monday, (my 21st birthday) I am in class all day. Presentations, books to read, papers to write, rehearsals to attend. More assignments and rehearsals through the week, coming to a climax on Friday, when everything is due and I narrate "Voices of Sacrifice" in Harrisburg at the Whitaker Center.
In leu of text, here are three photographs I took over the last two weeks of Elizabethtown in springtime.
Wedding reception outside the Etown College Tempest Theatre, April 24, 2004.
Glass ceiling of Brossman Commons, Elizabethtown College, April 24, 2004
The Dell, Elizabethtown College. April 19, 2004.
I love Lancaster County, PA. Elizabethtown's Campus is nice, but it's even nicer to know that I can find an over-abundance of more-breathtaking scenes a few miles away.
RSS Feed Fixed
Saturday, 24 Apr 2004 :-: ["Permalink"]
The RSS Feed has been broken. It is now fixed. Thanks to Richard for pointing it out.
Cologne and the Battery Nazi
Saturday, 24 Apr 2004 :-: ["Permalink"]
Lithium Ion beats Nickel Metal-Hydride beats Nickel Cadmium. All three beat more delicately scented liquids.
"Wow, you smell good" she said. The tendrils of her carefully-selected perfume reached over to my nose and gave it a playful tweak.
"Excuse me?" I replied. I am not used to talkative high school girls acosting me in the mall. This is probably because I am not used to the mall. This is probably also because high school girls ignored me when I was actually in high school.
"What cologne are you wearing?" she smiled knowingly, teasingly at me, swooping in for the kill, bringing her face close to mine.
I didn't know what to do. I wasn't about to give up my chair and leave. I spent ten minutes finding this chair. It was the only place next to a power outlet in the entire area. I didn't care if a girl was hitting on me, I wasn't going to give up my ground. I had writing to do, and my laptop battery needed to be charged.
Poor girl. She didn't realize she was dealing with the battery Nazi.
I decided to be noxious.
"I don't wear cologne, and I probably don't smell very good. In fact, I haven't showered since yesterday." Ha! Take that! It was the truth.
She wasn't prepared for my answer. Recoiling, she stepped back. I gotta remember that line, I thought.
But she didn't give up. "You're just joking me. See, [she began to speak faster than fine print] ireallythinkyoulikemenscologne andi'mgivingoutfreesamples fromsomeshoporother, so would you like a free sample?"
Now I've got you, I thought and secretly rejoiced. For a moment, I had hesitated on the edge of retreat, but I knew her game now. I couldn't lose.
"I'm allergic to cologne" I said. She pulled back another step. Take that!
"I take medication twice a day for it" And that! She frowned and began to walk away. But I wasn't finished. I wanted blood.
"At church," I raised my voice, for she was walking rapidly away, "I choose a seat based upon how few women are in the area." She was almost gone.
"Perfume is death," I yelled after her. But she had disappeared, melting into the mingle of the mall crowd.
Parting is such sweet sorrow.
Dusky Umbrellas, Silent Overcoats
Friday, 23 Apr 2004 :-: ["Permalink"]
It was late, for I had been awake since 3am. It was eight at night, and I had been sitting in front of my laptop for seventeen hours. I needed a change of scenery. No. Looking at a photoblog doesn't count. I already tried that idea.
The sun had slipped down into the horizon. I am glad. The drizzle from a cool grey sky freshened the earth, and I greeted even the eager weeds with joy. For it's springtime, and I am glad for the rains, glad for the breezes that send the cool damp air around my tired limbs.
I pulled on my shoes -- the old ones -- ragged running shoes (so comfortable) that I traded for a set of new, bold blue Airwalks. Was it a betrayal? All is forgiven. I slip them on, slip out of the door, and head out into the rural neighborhood evening.
Southwind, of the gentle rain
you banish winter weather,
bring salmon to the pools again,
and the bees among the heather.
If Northward you intend to blow
As you rustle so soft above me,
Godspeed be with you as you blow,
and a kiss for those who love me.
From south I come, with velvet breeze,
my word all nature blesses,
I melt the snow and I strew the breeze
with flowers and fond caresses.
I'll help you to dispel your woe;
with joy I'll take your greeting,
and bear it to your loved Mayo,
upon my wings so fleeting.
Ny Connaught, famed for wine and play,
so leal, so gay, so loving
Here's my fond kiss I send today
borne on the wind in its roving.
Those Munster folk are good and kind,
right royally they treat me
but this, this land I leave behind
With your Connacht pipes to greet me
traditional Irish tune
Thunk-Thunk Thunk-Thunk Thunk-Thunk...
My feet (hiding inside the padded running shoes) bounced sluggishly against the pavement and bounded forward. I am not a runner. I am a cyclist, and jarring my body against the hard earth feels awkward compared to the liquid thrill of skimming smoothly over the roads at 15, 20, 35 miles per hour. On on, On on, On on. I breathed deeply, and my movement became smoother.
Aerobic exercise on cool spring days is good for the soul.
I turned a corner and waved at the red truck. Mayer Locksmith, it read. I wondered how his daughters were doing. Lindsey, Melody, Nicki. She's studying piano at a conservatory in Philadelphia, I think. Wow. We have known each other since we were babies.
Waving to old friends as they drive past is sometimes a good alternative to staring at screens for long hours.
The road turned uphill, and I got the silent gossip on everybody's lives. Wow. The Gerace family built a playground -- Don's flowers are coming along -- They finally remodeled that barn.
I jogged alongside a cornfield. I could smell the rich loam, impatient to burst out with the splendor of springtime life.
My path turned a tight left corner.
There is a rule about roads that even I know. It goes like this: pedestrians belong on the left side of the road. So I jog on the left side of the road. Fine. I think the logic goes like this: pedestrians have the right to see the face of their killer. This is actually a significant benefit to jogging. Cyclists, who ride on the right side of the road, are doomed to be hit from behind. This, I suppose is so the cyclist, now a tangled into the mangled chaos of metal tubing that was once his bicycle, can read the license plate as the vehicle roars off.
So those are the rules. I know the rules, you konw the rules. My dog, if I ever had a dog, would know the rules.
I turned the corner.
There, two hundred feet in front of me, was a line of four tall guys in dark suits, walking side-by-side. Slowly, deliberately, they measured their steps as they stretched across half of the road. Behind them lay out the vast immeasurable farmland acres, rich and brown. Above them, the gray sky played poker-face. Along the sides of this inevitable convergence perched a few old suburban houses, like pebbles at the edge of an ocean of soil. Everything was grey, was dark, was brown, was grey. Dark shoes, dark suits, dark sunglasses. And the black umbrellas! I could have sworn there were four Agent Smiths in the distance, sweeping the road for me, not because I was the One, but because I was destroying their universal bleakness with my shirt, blue pants, white shoes.
They spread out wider when they saw me. I saw their actions in slow motion, timed to the surreal Thunk Thunk Thunk of my feet, an inescapable rhythm, the beating of an ancient drum, leading me to climax, to an inevitable convergence. I could have screamed, but my feet moved on.
There they were, spreading, spreading, and the line of umbrellas broke for one second. On queue, a new umbrella slid out, slowly angled down, shook restlessly, and -- POP. It was out. And up, and the unbroken canopy was restored.
They walked in unison, were they joined? Tied with single strand, like mountain climbers, cursed forever to roam the lonely streets. What? A Mormon chain gang? No. They were too dark for that, and I couldn't see their shirts underneath their overcoats and dark grey suit jackets.
I didn't want to find out. I crossed over to the other side of the road.
To my dismay, like birds of prey, they circled, reshuffled, all while facing forward, walking forward, keeping a solid line. Then one broke off, and like a falcon descending, diagonally approached me. I felt like a mouse, or perhaps a defenseless baby marmot. But I kept on jogging, kept looking ahead.
I learned from playing flight sims in high school, that the best way to avoid a pursuer is to turn into him. Could I dodge around? Press my feeble legs faster, try to outrun him? no. I don't want to be impolite. After all, he has a suit. But it's freaky. He has dark sunglasses too. What to do?
He jogged to intercept me in time. I looked forward, stony, silent, wishing desperately that I had gone mad, that these figures on the gravelly road were mere apparitions.
This one didn't have an umbrella. At least I won't have to deal with penguins, I thought. Then he pulled something out of his pocket. I winced mentally, but my stony face looked forward, like an athlete, inwardly focused, and determined.
The moment passed, and they were behind me. I sighed. I felt something in my hand. It was a trifold pamphlet. Odd. For some reason, I naturally take something held out to me. It must be an unconscious reaction. I kept jogging.
What was it? An advertisement for some closeby church. I've never been there, never heard of it. Odd.
It's amazing how weird life seems when you've been looking at a computer screen for seventeen hours.
13th and a Half Street
Thursday, 22 Apr 2004 :-: ["Permalink"]
For all my Harry Potter-loving friends out there. As stolid a place as the world may seem, (especially Washington D.C.), there is always room for imagination.
Keep dreaming, friends. Reach, discover, and enjoy. Because you never know what you'll find.
Hogwarts, next stop!
Thursday, 22 Apr 2004 :-: ["Permalink"]
If you haven't noticed, I like to write in an immersive environment. Sometimes this means setting up appropriate desktop or Tinderbox background images. Sometimes it means sitting in the bathroom with the door locked, locked in a silent world with the universe a mere imagination. Sometimes it means sitting in a dark room lit only by the LCD, headphones and hat on my head. Sometimes, it means sitting immobile in a restaurant amidst a galaxy of bustle around me.
Music often helps. As I've been writing about Nepal, I have been listening to streams of Claire Fitch's album, Ambiancellist. It has just the right mood for this kind of work. Mournful, pensive, but unobtrusive. I could listen to this for hours.
I have listened to this for hours.
Go buy the album. It's Magnatune music, so Claire actually gets 50% of the proceeds. Non-draconian copyright restrictions. And the albums are cheap. Cheaper, in fact, than music from the Apple iTunes store. Oh, yeah. And the music is actually good, independent music. None of this plastic-wrapped commercial pop. Good classical music, interesting world music. Perfect for an eclectic guy like me or a discerning person like you.
Wednesday, 21 Apr 2004 :-: ["Permalink"]
One week ago. Three people, one slightly-undersized car, two metro stations, and nowhere to park.
I had a lot of fun in Washington D.C. last Monday. Location means, Oh, so much less than one's companions. The presence of Sarah, Ashley, and Gabrielle turned a cold, windy, crowded and rain-soaked Washington D.C. day into a fabulously fun experience. We all became very well acquiainted with water, except maybe for Gabrielle who was clever enough to wear a cloak. Don't worry. No dagger.
Sarah, Ashley, and Gabrielle. Gabrielle, Sarah, and Ashley. What can I say? That I haven't often enjoyed a day with a set of such intelligent, wise, thoughtful people?
Of course, never all play and no work for me. Sarah's task? Finding out how shallow Smithsonian information is for real research. Me? Narrative in the Smithsonian Natural History Museum. But I too was largely disappointed, except for one more recent exhibit, which I'll describe in a later post.
Afterward, we walked the grey afternoon sidewalks (glazed with rainwater) to the DuPont Circle, where Ashley guaranteed us a good cup of tea. She wasn't kidding.
Teasm is a nice place. Not too pricey (the college cafeteria is more expensive), the food is decent. Sorry, but I'm not a connoisseur… I don't eat out a lot, and if it's a square meal, I like it. I eat at home mostly, when I eat a regular meal (snacking on veggies and fruit mostly for me).
Wow. I make a really bad food blogger. On the serious side, their food metabolizes well (umm, I'm grasping at straws, can't you tell?) and um, yeah. It looks and tastes really good.
The atmosphere is Awesome. Good mood lighting, interesting abstract art -- my companions didn't think so, which sparked a philosophical discussion among them about the One True Definition of Art-- and unusual classical trance music. I let them argue for a while, biting the name Andy Warhol from my tongue.
Just one tip for my fellow uninitiated. Unless (like my family), you happen to come from a third-world country where spicy is the only flavor they understand, don't empty a whole package of Wasabi into your noodles. At least, not unless you have sinus problems.
I liked Teaism. I feel that if I lived in D. C., I would go there on Monday evenings, when only a few others sit in the shadows with their books. I would sit in the shadows with my books and my graph-paper notebook. I would write there. Yes. I could write there and feel good.
This is high praise.
On the way back, we stopped at Trader Joe's. While not at the level of Whole Foods, Joe's has everything the slightly-affluent, health-conscious yuppie needs. If I ever live close to one of their stores, possess a wad of cash, and experience culinary motivations, I'll definitely be there.
You know you're no longer in rural Central Pennsylvania when the grocery store displays more lavish decorating finesse in the bathroom than you have seen in most living rooms.
Dungeon-ed on Dell Day
Tuesday, 20 Apr 2004 :-: ["Permalink"]
The entire college is taking a holiday today, so I will be spending it holed up in some tiny room, writing away. But I will enjoy the chance to focus. Odd. Slaving away will feel like a breath of fresh air.
Sneak Tinderbox Peek
Tuesday, 20 Apr 2004 :-: ["Permalink"]
I'm currently writing an article about Nepal.
I am currently writing an article for Tekka about writing an article about Nepal, or more specifically, about using Tinderbox to research creative nonfiction.
Here's a sneak peek of the Tinderbox file I use keep track of my nonfiction research. In this shot, you see more of Tinderbox's use as a box to throw lots of random stuff into than the benefits of linking. Since I'm writing a creative nonfiction piece, it's helpful to paste, for decor, related images into the containers. The images give me a feel beyond the textual research; images help me think beyond mere symbols and sentences, beyond constructs of grammar, think at a completely different level. Visual cues put me there, in Nepal. If I can visualize it, the writing process is more visceral and my writing is more real.
These pictures also set a mood for the research and writing for each related topic. If I'm writing about violence and civil unrest, I want to see photos of violence and civil unrest (from all sides). I want to see faces.
Of course, this just a small area; other other TInderbox features are much more helpful, but I don't want to give my whole playbook away. You'll have to read the article to find out the rest.
Dinty Moore in the Rio Grande
Monday, 19 Apr 2004 :-: ["Permalink"]
Ah, Wilderness! Humans, Hawks, and Environmental Correctness on the Muddy Rio Grande by Dinty W. Moore, is an awesome example of humorous, well-constructed nonfiction that carries on a philosophical discussion on an important topic. Here are some excerpts:
To amuse ourselves during our lengthy van ride to the put-in, we speculate on what the trip might bring. Tall Doctor Dave can do better than speculate, however; he is a Sierra Club member, and the environmentalist group’s magazine features an article on the stretch of river we will soon be travelling. He has brought the article, “Texas on My Mind: Mexico on My Right,” and reads us snippets. Author Rebecca Solnit describes our destination as “a slow-moving opaque soup with the occasional clot of foam floating atop it.”
In the van, we wince.
Dinty has a really great sense of timing, which is necessary for all good humorists. This is really hard to accomplish in writing, since we're used to describing things, used to philosophizing, used to writing as if people are reading. Instead of following all of those third-person rules, Dinty writes in a way that mimics the experience of being there. He starts off with introductions; we learn everyone's names, even down to "Tall Doctor Dave and Bearded Doctor Dave". We know to go to the bathroom in "the groaner". Dinty does a good job of getting the reader to identify with his experience. He puts us in the van.
We wince when we read quotes from the Sierra Magazine article . And then we read, seperated from the previous paragraph,
In the van, we wince.
Moore uses formatting to accomplish in writing what timing does on the stage. The article then becomes a braided essay, switching in-between descriptions of the scenery, action in the boats, musings on how to treat the environment, all woven together by the thread of the Sierra article. It's funny. But it's very serious, in a thoughtful way that Moore uses the humor to reach. The starkly-humorous differences between each character becomes more serious as their views on the ecosystem come out:
Rebecca Solnit is convinced that we are marring the planet willfully and with malice. Bearded Doctor Dave, it turns out, shares her views in his own odd way, but is instead focused on the ecosystem’s coming revenge, the quiet shy planet striking back with a fury. Annie agrees with Solnit, and in addition, is pretty sure I’m one of the worst offenders. Thomas and Lu are collecting stones for their fireplace, and taking it all in stride. We are, all of us on the trip, dirty, tired, cold, scratched and bruised, and as best as I can tell, the river is doing just fine. No one has seen a single clot of toxic foam.
We have met nature, debated our place in it, and found little common ground.
And Moore's philosophical conclusion? He writes carefully, thoughtfully about all of the concerns and issues surrounding the idea of ecotourism and visiting nature. He grapples with all the hard issues, finally coming to his conclusion, but not forcing you to agree with it:
My behavior has not been blameless, maybe, but it hasn’t been so bad. Yes, I believe in the beauty and importance of the environment, and I believe in protecting it. But I’d also like to be a part of it. Call it selfish if you will, but I’d be quicker to support the preservation of an ecosystem that includes me as a regular member.
I didn’t visit the river in a bulldozer, after all.
I came by canoe.
(if you liked the article check out the Big Bend National Park website. It has many pages of interesting, fun information about the park)
Monday, 19 Apr 2004 :-: ["Permalink"]
I am immobilized. I don't know what to do. Why did I have to open up the old wound? But it was inevitable. Is this my calling? My destiny, or my addiction?
Today, I give a talk on Tracy Kidder's book The Soul of a New Machine, which won both a Pulitzer Prize and an American Book Award. I love the book. I love this book. I hate this book. I hate the book.
It's not really Kidder's fault, though. He did an amazing job on the book. In fact, I'm talking about it because it's written so well. But the topic is painful. See, when I read about the late nights, the stomach aches, the stress, the wall-kicking co-workers, I get this feeling, a twinge of the intensity of my days as a programmer. I read about the mind-numbing insanity of debugging a complex board, and I remember spending three-four days tracing horribly difficult bugs with another programmer, just to find a new bug in Java. I was really mad that day. But it was a proud anger, to know that I had done things right; I had been vindicated three times over. First, it wasn't our fault. Second, we had found Sun's error. Third, I had been suggesting a workaround for days. It worked. I could have gloated, but it wasn't about gloating. It was about meeting incredibly difficult tasks, and getting them done. It was like (as Kidder suggests) climbing Everest every day, with a group of guys you could juggle with at lunch (when I took lunch).
...could I someday combine real (ie challenging, interesting) programming with my interest in Literature, in Electronic writing, and in nonfiction? Mark Bernstein has Eastgate. Could I do something similar? Could I keep my head doing it?
Every time I read about programming or receive a programming job offer, I am very tempted to return to that life. But I made a choice. It eats me, dissolves my person molecule by molecule, leaving me empty inside. Kidder describes that process. And yet I yearn even for the dissolution, like an addict who needs just one more trip. Oh why did I ever stop programming?
But I did, and I think I am better for it. I think I am a better person for it. For I loved that life too much for it to be. I didn't want to be a thirty-five year old burnout. I was on my way to being a twenty-five year old burnout. Starting to program in elementary school aged me rapidly. I sometimes feel like forty. The other students don't understand. And the compsci students just chuckle. Do they respect me? Do they understand how my skills have deteriorated, my knowledge dissolving with every bit of Virginia Woolf or Faulkner or Kerouac I read? With every academic paper that proceeds out of my brain, do they understand that my knowledge is slipping, that it's two years old, that I'm a dinosaur at twenty?
How I wish to be them.
Sunday, 18 Apr 2004 :-: ["Permalink"]
Early hunter gatherer societies, such as the Order of the MadaGlans, learned to forage for their food sources. Nomadic in nature, they traveled from place to place to find food. When they found a good place, such as an oasis or a shopping mall, they would glut on everything within their reach. After all, they might not encounter anything else for weeks. They stripped successional fields of their golden barley, trees of their gnarly bark, and animals of their protective skins, leaving piles of disorganized waste behind them. Elk, orangoutangs, and other birds of prey often followed behind, feasting on the scraps too good for their human guides. One can imagine these early societies developing cycles of nomadism, creating circuits so they could always eat, so the ecosystem, reeling from their last meal, could redevelop before they came back.
Did these ancient foragers develop taste and style? If they wanted Chinese food, did they brave the Himalayas, only to swim the Atlantic for the sweet smell of sour cream and tacos? The world will never know.
Friday, 16 Apr 2004 :-: ["Permalink"]
All Hail Memetics! All your memes are belong to us! Or something like that.
For great justice! Or just for fun, I have decided to finally cave and participate.
1. Grab the nearest book.
2. Open the book to page 23.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the text of the sentence in your journal along with these instructions.
The first rains were late, and, when they came, lasted only a brief moment.
--from Things Fall Apart, by Chinua Achebe
The year that Okonkwo took eight hundred seed-yams from Nwakibie was the worst year in living memory. Nothing happened at its proper time; it was either too early or too late. It seemed as if the world had gone mad. The first rains were late, and, when they came, lasted only a brief moment. The blazing sun returned, more fierce than it had ever been known, and scorched all the green that had appeared with the rains. The earth burned like hot coals and roasted all the yams that had been sown. Like all good farmers, Okonkwo had begun to sow with the first rains. He had sown four hundred seeds when the rains dried up and the heat returned. He watched the sky all day for signs of rain clouds and lay awake all night. In the morning he went back to his farm and saw the withering tendrils. He had tried to protect them from the smoldering earth by making rings of thick sisal leaves around them. But by the end of the day the sisal rings were burned dry and gray. He changed them every day, and prayed that the rain might fall in the night. But the drought continued for eight market weeks and the yams were killed.
I love Things Fall Apart. Well-written, the book is an easy read (good line-spacing in my edition helps a lot). But it's more than a fun read. Achebe gives a lot of good insight into the colonial situations and the need for cultural understanding for foreign aid and missions workers.
I can no longer name
Friday, 16 Apr 2004 :-: ["Permalink"]
The moon is nearly full. It looks to me
like some once-dear face I can no longer name.
A million stars, and every one
against this heart of mine has turned its back,
against this heart so dead.
--from "Things they Learned at Shiloh" by Carmine Sarracino.
I cannot write any more. The last two days, I have opened my mind to images from decades--no, centuries of bloodshed in Nepal. Am I expected to understand? Am I supposed to look at the glowing screen, in my drywall prison of The Academy, and sympathize with the tears, the bloody tears of thousands, the grief and broken bodies of millions?
Who am I? What good am I? What can I do?
I'm not even good enough to make an afternoon's senseless target practice. Not good enough to exhume my body, wrap me in a flag, place a Kaloshnikov in my stiff fingers, photograph my face, and raise my likeness to the people.
Party on, my yuppie friends. Enjoy the weekend's revelry. Drink, and forget.
But I cannot forget. No sweet oblivion will stream down my throat tonight. For blood will flow in through the valleys, into my troubled dreams.
Bloody Rugs - Woven Threads of Massacre
Wednesday, 14 Apr 2004 :-: ["Permalink"]
I do not like death. This is not an uncommon sentiment.
And yet, for some reason, my threads of study seem to always lead in the same direction. Last semester, I spent two months writing about the Philadelphian Native American riots of 1844. I studied the banana industry, and found out about brutal conquests and dangerously harmful chemicals. I then turn to something innocuous, the strategy game Bagchal from Nepal, and I end up with more violence.
Twice in the history of Nepal has the majority of the royal family been massacred in a few hours.
If it bleeds, it leads, Dr. Downing says.
To those who were disturbed by my use of strong language in a quotation this morning, I apologize. I was taken aback myself, for I have never spoken to anyone so offended or angry at an honest question.I had hoped to duplicate a bit of that. I hope my replacement text works well enough.
I still do not know if genteel American speech is sufficient to explain the horror of Nepal's situation. Perhaps there are no words for it.
Twenty Computer Questions
Wednesday, 14 Apr 2004 :-: ["Permalink"]
Straight from the Moleskine this morning. Last week, a friend asked me to identify twenty questions/issues about computers that thinking young people should consider during their lifetime.
Outside, the grey sky drops tears onto my impervious jacket, the gusts sighing, groaning in-between the stately brick buildings. My fellow students are sighing, crying, but there is a lot more pain elsewhere.
This morning, I asked a Nepalese friend,
So, the political situation in Nepal isn't too fun right now, eh?
He grimaced, shook his head violently, and yelled at me.
I shouldn't have phrased my question so lightly. After all, many of his countrymen are dying every day from the oppression of the Nepalese government, from the terrorism of the Maoists, from the poverty and sorrow of the third world. Nepal is a chaotic tangle of bad blood, of heavings, sighs, and tears of a yearning people, of greed, of power, and Everest. Five O'clock curfew imposed on farmers. Step outside, and --bang -- a hole in your head. Light a candle, and decades of ballistics research put out the human spark. Wear the wrong clothes, and they'll be raked, tattered by semiautomatic fire. At least the clothes survive.
Do Nepalese peasants care about computers? Does it matter so long as the Sherpas keep guiding Western tourists up, up, up the adventurous mountains, so long as a mug of hot chocolate awaits us at the bottom?
Twenty Questions (in no particular order)
- Is easier the same as better? Which is better: a hand-written or typed paper? A screen presentation or a discussion?
- How do computers affect my abilities? (as in Television->ADD) Do they weaken me? Can they strengthen my abilities?
- How does the computer affect my relationships?
- How do computers affect my time management?
- How do computers affect the rich, the poor, the disadvantaged, and their connection with each other?
- Can/do you control your computer? If not, who does?
- How can you use a computer to your best advantage?
- Are some things best done without computers?
- Are there some things computers should never do?
- Is your identity inside you or inside a computer? Can someone else be you?
- How does computer entertainment (games, movies, music) affect you? Are these better or worse than entertainment before 20th century technology?
- The computer industry is based on promises and customer dissatisfaction. What role for the computer would you be content with?
- Do computers tell us truth? What do all those statistics mean?
- Is saving time an advantage? Do computers make our life easier/less stressful/simpler?
- Can/should computers teach children? If so/not, how?
- At what age should children be given access to computers?
- Computers and robots often reduce the need for human labor. Is this good?
- Do we trust computers to be reliable? What tasks should only computers be trusted with? Are there tasks for which we never should trust computers?
- What makes a computer better than something else (even another computer)?
- Music industry computers predict which songs will be hits. The computers guess correctly. The music industry uses these computers to choose artists. What does this say about humanity? What does this say about computers? Is this a good thing?
- Will becoming a cyborg empower or weaken you? Will it give you more independence or take away individuality? Must you wear computers to be a cyborg?
UpdaTe: In this age of computers, I still can't count right. There are twenty-one questions here.
Tuesday, 13 Apr 2004 :-: ["Permalink"]
It's over. After two-and-a-half weeks of trying to force myself to get ahead on this paper about Dickens, Hard Times
, and Lewis Carroll, I have finally completed it. It has completely thrown off my writing schedule. But it's done.
I designed Smiling in Hard Times: The Works of Lewis Carroll for the website, so go over and read it. While not over-linked, the article contains a high number of hyperlinks for a class assignment. This particular article also is a study in illustrating documents on my site. Do you like how I organized things?
Juggling And Sarah and D.C. oh My!
Sunday, 11 Apr 2004 :-: ["Permalink"]
Tomorrow I will visit the United States Capitol, Washington D.C., with my good friend Sarah and some of her friends. We will visit the Museum of Natural History and the National Museum of American History.
Of course, you can never be sure how things will proceed when you travel with someone studying at a school that apprentices students into the Strategic Intelligence Program:
But it's cool, because I'd rather have one of those friends be the greenlit eye of Providence than anyone else in the world. They do have a real sense of Integrity, marketing or no marketing.
...*zing pop bang!!!
So if you happen to be in D.C. on monday and see a guy that looks like this:
Well, except for the darkness....and the laptop.
But I'll be wearing the jacket....
If you see a guy like that, well, you'll know his name.
To further boost my ideas about intelligence and jugglers, I give you the Rensselaer Juggling & Unicycling Club. Yes. Sarah *is* a juggler.
Researching at the Library of Congress
Sunday, 11 Apr 2004 :-: ["Permalink"]
The other reason the web is so useful. While browsing sites close to my brother, I found 3 legged armadillo, the site of a librarian named Steef.
Steef has posted a useful guide to researching in the library of congress. Inside information on research methods and library etiquitte are things you normally have to find out the hard way, unless you know someone who found out the hard way. Each library has its nuances, and blogspace just made it easier for me if I ever need to visit!
Living in Blogspace
Sunday, 11 Apr 2004 :-: ["Permalink"]
One month ago, while visiting my brother in the Virginia Beach area, I stopped at the Regent University library to plug into the 'net and do some writing. I couldn't think. Of course, it was a beautiful day in VA, much warmer than the weather back in Pennsylvania, where snow was still candycoating the earth.
I fidgeted in the hard-backed chair and began to hop from page to page. Hmmm, I wonder what local bloggers are up to...I think I'll check GeoURL...
Within a few short minutes, I had located a list of closeby blogs. And I found Cyclical-Nature, written by Debbie --I don't even know her last name -- someone I have never met, will likely never know, and yet, who has spoken to me about the weather we shared on a beautiful day. We looked up, saw the same sky, reveled in the same blue breezes that swirled and frolicked among the same suburban streets. In the same place, but never meeting. Meeting, but never seeing face to face.
I visited several beaches the next day and probably let my toes sink into the same sand she walked in. Were the pock-marks... the tiny, caved-in craters of unstable grains above the tideline... the marks of her own feet? After all, almost no one visited the beach those days.
Computers, for all their faults, give life a richness impossible to deny.
It doesn't hurt that Debbie's an English major (good luck on the literary analysis -- welcome to the neverending world of Lit Majors :-) ). Never despair, Debbie. You can do it.
Want to know if you're a writer, Debbie? Choose to be one and go for it! Writing is not a mystical experience (no matter what characters like Joyce's Stephen Dedalus might wish --Joyce himself was happy to write one clause a day) but rather an exhilarating regimen.
If you worry about talent, remember that hard work and focus usually overcome talent. Focus, so you can concentrate on writing and improving your skills. Hard work, because you should be insatiably relentless in the virtue of pursuing the talent you have, and because Robert Louis Stephenson said so.
Of course, everyone is different. This is how being a writer is a mystical experience. To write is to discover yourself, questing to understand your own way, and sticking with what works for you. This is why I don't even pay too much attention to my own advice, which is just a cluster of (???) duct-taped together from the writings of people I like to read. The duct tape obscures the core inside. Jewels? A broken clay pot? More duct tape?
Blessings to Debbie. Blessings and thanks to the Web. May you bring out all that is joyful, honest, and caring in our weak natures in the years to come, and may we not destroy ourselves by your powerful hand.
Eating Lunch and This American Life
Wednesday, 7 Apr 2004 :-: ["Permalink"]
You are what you eat.
My lunch with Ira Glass is a well-written profile of This American Life's producer, Ira Glass by Rachelle Louise Snyder. She manages to tie everything back to the food experience, and the lunch provides a great jumping-off point for an interesting discussion of Ira's life and work.
Here are a few of the methods she employs...
During the lunch, Ira says something that is representative of his writing style...
"They've chosen, as their medium, food. I love that."
Although Snyder quotes this statement, she doesn't draw attention to it at first. It fulflis an ordinary purpose in the narrative flow, telling us us why Ira likes the restaurant. The quote passes, and other things happen. But later on, during a discussion of Ira's style and interests, she brings it in again...
Glass is a writer's writer, or more aptly a writer's radio host. He understands how narrative works, how to build tension, how to place words within sentences and sentences within paragraphs, how at the end of a story a character must be transformed. Every good writer knows that the most important, most evocative information should come at the end of a sentence or paragraph, and even in conversation he does this. Take his earlier words, for example: "They've chosen, as their medium, food. I love that." He doesn't say: "I love that they've chosen food as their medium." Because he knows -- probably instinctively -- that what comes last will carry the most weight; he knows where inside a sentence the power lies -- or rather where inside a sentence lies the power. And so even in his speech you hear the pregnant pauses, the places where, if he were writing the conversation, he would use colons, semicolons and dashes.
Brilliant. By introducing the idea first and reflecting on it later, she reproduces the process of discovery for the reader. Snyder also picks up on a great symbolic detail/metaphor that works three ways. First, she quotes Glass
I am less adventurous: I'm eating chicken and stuffing, which rivals my grandmother's."The stuffing's always better than the rest," he says after a sampling. "Grease and starch just always win over protein. In food as in so many things. Look around you, that's what our whole country is based on. It's amazing that Michael Jordan can be an iconic figure because he's basically just protein."
By including the quote, Snyder gives us a scene at the table over the food. She tells us what she ate. But she also shows us more of Glass's quirky style. The whole article illustrates Glass's show as a combination of interesting stories, deeper meaning, and artistry. Then, in the last paragraph, Snyder ties everything together: the show, the man, and the food:
It is arguable that Ira Glass may have brewed our latest, greatest example of the marriage between art and humanity. Or, as he himself might put it, a surprisingly perfect concoction of grease, starch, and protein.
Clandestine Staircase, Secret Cloves
Sunday, 4 Apr 2004 :-: ["Permalink"]
He came walking with a plastic shopping bag. I didn't ask him what was inside. I knew better than that.
Why are you looking at me like I'm crazy? I mean, look. We're on a college campus, it's the middle of the night, and the lights behind the communications building only dimly outlined our shadows on the drizzle-chilled concrete. He was between me and the grated, blue emergency phone on the other side of the building. Would you ask your friend what he had been doing late into the alleyways at nightime?
"Hey, do you know where I can process this out of the way? There's probably nobody at the academic buildings, right?"
I laughed. "I'm not taking you down to the honors center with that stuff, keys or not." I thought for a moment. "Follow me."
I took him in-between buildings and underneath the raised walkways. Our path twisted around until we came to a winding staircase. We took it to the floor underneath the classrooms, to an area students never visit, through a stairway students never notice.
Good thing I keep my eyes open. I always wanted to be a detective, so I taught myself to notice small things like innocuous doorways, toe-grips for easy flight to the rooftops, and the amount of dust on the unused desks. These observations help me often as a writer, but they were now helping me in other ways...
"You want some?" he asked, emptying his shopping bag onto the rust-covered, dustily-abandoned desk.
"No way man. You know I don't touch that stuff. It would kill me."
"You know I can't stand the stuff. I can't believe you're doing this. You need to get medical help."
He moved too quickly. I should have expected it. He pulled his left hand from the jacket pocket and snapped open the blade.
I sighed and unclasped my pocket-knife from the keychain.
"Honestly, Ryan. I know you have a cold, but Garlic? You have enough cloves here to feed an entire Italian village."
"Well, I have never tried garlic before and I wasn't sure how much to buy. Besides, it was on sale at Giant. Thanks for showing me this place though. I didn't want to stink out the room."
I shut up and helped him slice the cloves into small pieces.
For the last few days, my friend Ryan McGee has been recovering steadily from his cold and keeping vampires away for a fifty mile radius (which is about the distance you can smell him from).
Voices of Sacrifice
Saturday, 3 Apr 2004 :-: ["Permalink"]
Thursday was a busy day for me.
Rioting in Philadelphia, bombed-out bunkers, violent factory strikes, and political assasinations -- the whole world melted away. And a good cup of hot chocolate.
I finally escaped. I was walking away from it all when Dr. Sarracino stopped me.
"Do you have a moment, Nathan? Could you please come into my office?"
I left the door ajar behind me, just in case. Inside, intricate tapestries decorated the wall, illuminated by the tilted slits of louvres in the windows and a Natural Light™. On one desk, the brass circle, Bagha Chal, sat next to a tin of leaden lions and goats.
The Doctor circled the end of his desk and stood facing me. The pungent fragrance of pipe-smoke saturated the carpet, bookshelves, and tapestries. These ghostlike wisps, through time, may even have caressed their fingers into the deep desk-wood that supported an aged, yellowing iBook laying open upon it.
I received my instructions, standing straight, facing him with open eyes across a Gulf of the ordered stacks of human thought, leaves inured with the incense of their brethren smoldering in the pipe. A moment later, I nearly skipped out the door, grinning insanely. I supressed myself into a casual stroll, but I could do nothing about the insane grin.
I have no choice but to obey.
Dr. Sarracino asked me to narrate for "Voices of Sacrifice", a choral arrangement of his poetry, at the Whitaker Center's Sunoco Performance Theatre, composed by Dr. Haines, performed by the Elizabethtown College Concert Choir and Etown Community Chorus, directed by Dr. Fritz.
This is sooo awesome -- My dream job is to read books on tape or be a voice actor. Maybe it's not too unrealistic...
Calling On, Being Called On
Friday, 2 Apr 2004 :-: ["Permalink"]
The simple truths are sometimes the most overlooked. This could just be an English construct, but perhaps not...
to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ -- their Lord and Ours: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ
I Corinthians 1
Are you calling on God? To be a servant of God is not just to enjoy life in His household. Neither is it to toil endlessly like some sweatshop worker or victim of child labor.
Rather, you're also called on to be holy. And the work is good. You're given the best job in the world, given the best tools to do it, and an out-of-this-world benefits package:
you have been enriched in every way -- in all your speaking and in all your knowledge -- because our testimony about Christ was confirmed in you. Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. He will keep you strong in the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God, who has called you into fellowship with his son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.
I Corinthians 1
The company-wide Christmas party is awesome. Hope to see you there!
Zhan He the Angler
Thursday, 1 Apr 2004 :-: ["Permalink"]
Zhan He used a single strand of silken thread for a line, a sharp pointed needle for a hook, a slender bamboo grown in the Chu region for a rod and split grains of rice for a bait. He managed to catch a cart-load of fish from bottomless abysses and rushing rapids without breaking his line, stretching his hook or bending his rod.
The king of the state of Chu heard about this and thought it was extraordinary. He sent for Zhan He to ask how he did it.
"Sire," said Zhan He. "I heard my late father say that when the skilled archer Pu Qiezi shot at birds, he had a rather flmimsy bow and used a slender string to attach to his retrievable arrow which was shot along the direction of the wind. He hit two orioles in the cloud with one arrow because of his total concentration and the exquisite evenness of his touch. Sire, I used him as an example and learned to fish. It took me five years to perfect my technique. When I come to the river bank with a rod in my hand, I have no other thought in my mind except fishing. When I cast the line and let the hook sink into the water, my touch is neither too heavy nor too light and nothing can distract me. To the fishes, my hook and bait seem like bits of mud and froth in the water, so they swallow them without suspecting anything. This is how strength can be overcome by weakness and what is heavy can be got my what is light.
-- from 100 Ancient Chinese Fables, translated by K. L. Kiu