Notebook of Sand



Curriculum Vitae

• Recent Publications
• Recent Projects
• Conferences & Speaking
"Comparing Spatial Hypertext Collections"
  ACM Hypertext '09
"Archiving and Sharing Your Tinderbox"
  Tinderbox Weekend London '09
"The Electronic Nature of Future Literatures"
  Literary Studies Now, Apr '09
"The World University Project"
  St. John's Col. Cambridge, Feb '09
"Ethical Explanations,"
  The New Knowledge Forge, Jun '08
Lecture, Cambridge University
  Tragedy in E-Lit, Nov '07
Hypertext '07: Tragedy in E-Lit
Host for Tinderbox Cambridge '07
Keynote: Dickinson State Uni Conf
Upper Midwest NCHC'07: Speaker
eNarrative 6: Creative Nonfiction
HT'05: "Philadelphia Fullerine"
  Nelson award winning paper
NCHC '05:
 Nurturing Independent Scholarship
Riddick Practicum:
  Building Meeting Good Will
NCHC '04:
  Philadelphia Fullerine
  Lecture on American Studies
WWW@10: Nonfiction on the Web
NCHC '03: Parliamentary Procedure
ELL '03 -- Gawain Superstar
• (a)Musing (ad)Dictions:

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

• Hypertext/Writing

Writing the Living Web

Chief Scientist of Eastgate Systems, hypertext expert Mark Bernstein. (Electronic) Literature, cooking, art, etc.

Fabulous game reviews at playthisthing.

• Stats

Chapter I: Born. Lived. Died.

There is a Chapter II.

Locale: Lancaster County Pa, USA

Lineage: Guatemala

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.

December 2004
2004: Earlier | March | April | May | June | July | Aug | Sept | Oct | Nov | Dec
2005: Jan | Feb | March | April | May | June | July | Aug | Sept | Oct | Nov | Dec
2006: Jan | Feb | March | April | May | June | July | Aug | Sept | Oct | Nov | Dec
2007: Spring | Summer - Summer 2008 | Spring & Summer 2009 | Now
Tuesday, 28 Dec 2004 :-: ["Permalink"]

(Update, Friday -- Over 117,000)

Update, 11am: The count is now 44,000.

The count is up: 30,000 dead in East Asia.

Thirty thousand lives, swept away and gone forever.

UNiCEF says a third were children.

If everyone in my college was killed -- they would die fifteen times to equal this loss of life. Everyone in Elizabethtown proper would have to die three times to come close to the sheer number of this tragedy.

** * **

My first memory is this -- laying in bed, face to the sky, eyes open in the night. I was counting, trying to bring my mind upward, opening the wings of the psyche to soar in a world of math.

I counted upward.... 89...90...91...92...93...94...95...96...97...98..99..100!

When I reached that august sum, I leaped from bed, rushed to the next room, and told my mother. She was agreeable and encouraging, bless her soul -- she probably had to restrain frustration at losing rest.

Some time later -- I do not know when -- I repeated the feat, counting to a thousand. It was one of the most monumental times of my life. That night was the night I realized the potential of the human mind.

** * **

It would take me hours to count to 30,000. And yet how many are willing to do as much as put a thought to each individual life?

** * **
Mourning with a Lotus

Their bodies line the beaches or twist motionless, snared on the few trees that remain. May God be with the families -- for those whose families lived. May God be with the living, and may they someday see the blessing of the life which is more powerful than death.

But me? I will mourn today.

An Accordion for the World
Monday, 27 Dec 2004 :-: ["Permalink"]

Today, during a short try-to-avert-workaholic-insanity session, I decided to catch up on Mark Bernstein's weblog. I'm glad I did.

** * **

The new issue of Tekka is out!

Why am I excited? It's not just because this journal of new media and software aesthetics is interesting/useful, but also because I'm in it!

At long last, after I spent the last eight months hinting at it, my article on conducting creative nonfiction research is online.

When J. Nathan Matias discovered that his manilla accordion file was slightly smaller than the infinite, he decided to go digital: Peek into his Tinderbox for tips and tricks to see how he researches and writes creative nonfiction using hypertext.
The wall of J. Nathan Matias

And -- Argh -- my perfectionist workaholic personality just noticed a horrible run-on-sentence. It makes logical sense, but it's sad when I have to reread it a few times to understand. *sigh* Also, I use the word "I" too much.

My Speech Patterns
Sunday, 26 Dec 2004 :-: ["Permalink"]

This is what I get for spending time with a linguist recently. I have been thinking about Ira Glass's speech style, how his disjointed sentences communicate effectively and entertain at the same time.

I think in compound sentences. When I want to communicate an idea, I will often start with,

"the thing about .... is"


"the problem with .... is"

This is inefficient. It puts the object before the subject. It forces me to speak in fragments, backtrack, and stumble in representing ideas.

I ought to be more straightforward, focused, and planned in my language. This is not a regression but is rather a further level of development. It will require me to carefully think of the idea and determine the best way to communicate -- before I open my mouth.

Such reform will take discipline and focus. I will stumble, I will fail. But the effort will be worthwile.

The Ultimate Filesystem Idea?
Tuesday, 21 Dec 2004 :-: ["Permalink"]

I am often susceptible to crazy ideas. But for some reason, I think this actually might be sane....

What would happen if someone wrote a script that mirrored a filesystem tree in a Tinderbox file (with the actual file in the "file" attribute)? What if then, someone wrote a script that reads an exported file, diffs it, and runs OS/X shell programs if you move the file or delete the note within Tindebox?

How cool would it be to be able to link and annotate any data on your filesystem, to say nothing about grouping them with agents, giving them attributes, etc.?

Am I insane, or is this a good idea? I know it can be done with Tinderbox and Python, but should it be done?

  • Argh. I wish I had some spare time to do some code.
** * **

I'm not sure why, but this was inspired by reading Alwin Hawkins on backing up.

Greetings, Intelligencer Visitors!
Tuesday, 21 Dec 2004 :-: ["Permalink"] [soundtrack]

Congratulations! You managed to find the second half of the article, even though it wasn't on B2.

For all you regulars, you will be happy to know that I was recently featured with a small box on the front page of today's Intelligencer Journal, the local county morning newspaper. The article begins with a rather nicely-large headline and picture on the front of the Local/Business/Obituary/Comic section. Unfortunately, the Intel seems to have a time-delay before they will put their print news online (clever sales ploy so they get the morning commuters?), so I can't link to it yet. I'll also try to arrange for permission to post a scan eventually.

Update, 10:20am: The article is now online: Expanding his spheres of Influence. Intel reporter Rebecca Ritzel has done a nice job of describing the project. We had a fun discussion last night. And guess what? She's an alumnus of the World Journalism Institute! Very cool! A neat person, Rebecca seems to be a journalist with a strong religious and social conscience.

Addendum to the article

The article mentions the great amount of violence and angst that existed during the time period I write about. This is true. Often, underrepresented (and overrepresented) groups felt that violence was the only way to get heard. So they did what they thought was necessary to claim their democratic rights.

But the great story that can be found in this sculpture is not that violence was used, but that Americans learned to work together and rise above violence. Immigrant groups learned to cooperate with each other and gain power through more peaceful means. During this period, police and firemen were professionalized, giving the city more security and stability.

Quality of life was hit hard by the introduction of the industrial culture. But in the long run, quality of life was improved. For example, immigrant housing was often squalid, but they were still houses that ordinary people could own.

The mid-19th century was an inspiring time of great optimism, for good reason. It marked a flowering of humanitarian efforts and other activism. The great story in American history is not so much that we have been free of guilt or problems, but that we have learned to move forward together, beyond our divisions and our mistakes, progressing toward a better life for all.

Information about Philadelphia Fullerine

  • The sculpture may be found at Elizabethtown College's High Library.
  • The article noted that the audio is already complete. This is not quite the case. When I was at New Orleans, I performed the documentary script live, since the recording was not yet complete. If you want the full experience, I suggest you wait until the High Library reopens after the beginning of the new year.
  • Professor Milt Frieldy advised me on building the sculpture. He is a fine sculptor and a great guy. Got Milt?
  • Drs. Scott and Winpenny advised me on the project, but Dr. John McLarnon from Millersville gave me the initial idea to study 19th century Philadelphia.
  • The sculpture website is at
  • The Hershey Foods Honors Program is partly funding my research.
  • I presented research at the WWW@10 conference at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology suggesting that hypertext is an ideal medium for good creative nonfiction. I analyzed a combination of museums, books, and films to find commonalities and suggest how hypertext can enhance the basic features of much creative nonfiction. This rather-too-long paper (Truth, Trust, and the Textual Camera) is itself a hypertext. It doesn't contain much new (and thus contributes little to the field), but it ties together some disparate disciplines and was incredibly influential to the sphere project. The conference was a great experience; I recount the WWW@10 conference elsewhere on this site.
  • I used the hypertext software Tinderbox to plan the sculpture. I also use it to write this weblog. I use Tinderbox for all my writing, since it enables me to write more naturally than do word processors. The next edition of Tekka, a journal of new media and software aesthetics, will feature an article I wrote about how Tinderbox helps me keep track of sources, appointments, planning, and writing, all within the same software. It's a great tool for any research-based project and a real paradigm buster.
  • For more information on hypertext, look at Eastgate's Hypertext Resource page. You may also want to read an article I wrote last year for Sitepoint, Caffeinate your Hypertext.

If this is your first time to my site, here's a quick enumeration of what you can find here:

** * **

Today's soundtrack is "America the Beautiful", performed by the United States Air Force Band in their album, "Spirit of the Land."

Legends & Literature
Saturday, 18 Dec 2004 :-: ["Permalink"]

Dr. Jessica Kun at Christmastime bearing cookiesThis past semester, Etown College's symphonic band put on a concert entitled Legends and Literature, directed by our new director, Dr. Jessica Kun.

The concert was a great success. Legends and Literature included great music, interesting narration, and even a choreographed section to accompany parts of Candide. Dr. Kun did an incredible job with the Symphonic Band, pulling together a challenging repertoire for our first concert with her.

The first piece we played was the Gavorkna Fanfare (mp3), by Jack Stamp.

Our second piece was from Elsa's Processional to the Cathedral (mp3), by Richard Wagner.

** * **

Dr. Kun is more than just a good band director. She's a person who clearly is dedicated to students. She takes great joy in excellence, but she makes sure we have a good time. Dr. Kun has even lent me books and music for my perusal outside class; Dr. Kun really cares, and that means a lot to us.

When I tried to get a photo of Dr. Kun for the blog, she initially fled. In this photo, she looks like an interesting cross of Santa Claus, Mickey Mouse, and Mary Poppins.

Dr. Jessica Kun in a Santa hat running away from the camera

Wednesday, 15 Dec 2004 :-: ["Permalink"]

Theodore Geisel once said, ``I like nonsense, it wakes up the brain cells. Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living, it's a way of looking at life through the wrong end of a telescope. Which is what I do, and that enables you to laugh at life's realities.''

J. Nathan Matias at Mardi Gras World for a gala event with the National Collegiate Honors Conference, 2004

Whenever Theodore Geisel asked friends over for dinner, he required them to bring a silly hat to wear at the table. If they refused, he supplied them with one.

Landscapes of Thought
Tuesday, 14 Dec 2004 :-: ["Permalink"]

Two evenings ago, I made the second toughest decision of my life. I hope I did the right thing.

The view from Governor Dick Tower, Mount Gretna, Pennsylvania, December 2004

When things beyond your wildest dreams plop themselves down at your front door, it's hard to give them up.

Nighttime view out of Steinman Hall, Elizabethtown College, December 2004

Finish Strong
Friday, 10 Dec 2004 :-: ["Permalink"]

My brother Jonathan writes...

Finish strong. As we finish our schooling this semester, let us keep resting in the LORD's strength. Notice from Isaiah 40:28-31 that God never gets tired, weary, or weak. Therefore, he gives unbounded strength to those who are tired, weary, and weak!

Photo by Leedea
"Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

Somebody Talking to You
Wednesday, 8 Dec 2004 :-: ["Permalink"] J. Nathan Matias -- On the Road

The last time I went on a long trip, I refused to turn on the radio.

I called it Silence.

For once, no words -- I fall asleep to sound, you see.

I loved it.

** * **

Recently, I listened to Somebody Talking To You by Jeff Green. The music is rather jarring for my tastes, but the story -- frighteningly jarring. Jeff writes thought-provoking stuff.

Is listening to audio drama so frequently helpful? I'm not sure any more. Maybe I need a little silence.

...says Nathan as he hits "play" on Blakes Legacy.

The blessing of friends
Monday, 6 Dec 2004 :-: ["Permalink"]

Over the last few years of college life, I have been very blessed to meet a lot of nice people. This is a tribute to some of them.

Jonathan Matias, J. Nathan Matias, and William Berkheiser at the National Railroad Museum in Reading, PA

Who would I be without my family? Here, my brother, grandfather, and I pose at the National Railroad Museum in Reading, PA.

Floyd M. Riddick Parliamentary Procedure scholarship recipients, 2003

Fellow recipients of the Floyd M. Riddick Parliamentary Procedure Scholarship, summer 2003.

The Bainbridge Band

The marvelous Bainbridge Band.

Benjamin Osterhout

Benjamin Osterhout, a fellow honors student who is a business major and president of Etown's Circle K club. He may joke a lot, but he really cares. I appreciate him a whole lot. Ben is among the few quintessential honors students; I can't imagine Etown's honors program without picturing Ben.

Kyle Kopko is the Sun

Kyle Kopko, a fellow honors student studying political science, is just about the most efficient, thoughtful guy I know. Professional yet personable, Kyle will make a great professor or elected official. Furthermore, he has strong principles combined with good practical sense. Kyle, along with Sarah Robinson and I, is one of the co-chairs of Etown's Academic integrity committee.

Natasha Zabohonski

Tasha is an English honors student who went to New Orleans with the group. Very insightful, she can be a lot of fun to talk with. She organizes the college's open mike poetry nights.

Vicki Thomes and Kathleen Nicosia

Vicki and Kathleen are two of my favorite people. Both are music therapy students, planning to use their lives for the betterment of others. Kathleen was the honors club president for quite a while, though I got to know her in concert band. Vicki is a very close friend. She listens, she cares. I know no one who can be more sensitive and thoughtful toward the needs of others. This is partly because she knows God and cares for those He cares for.

Sam Stewart

Although I have known him a while, my cousin Sam just recently moved into the area. He's a good guy. Right now, he's really focused on his CPA exam, but that too will pass.

Brett Lojacono

Brett Lojacono has become a friend much more recently than many of these people. God has brought us together to study the Bible and do a bit of computer programming. I appreciate him for his willingness to learn from and obey God no matter what kind of challenges come along. Unfortunately, I don't have a picture of his delightful fiancee, Jess.

Matthew Vollbrecht

Matt Vollbrecht, I miss you. Your life was a constant encouragement to me. You cannot see, but how you can see! God has done a great work in your life, Matt; you have challenged and encouraged me beyond what you might think. Thanks.

I was blessed to be able to attend Matt and Jessica's wedding. Both are awesome people, and the wedding was a real honor to God. Oooh! Life is so exciting, and marriage is one of the most exciting parts!

Sarah Pride

Sarah Pride (on the left, shown here with a past roommate) is one of my very closest friends. She's currently studying history in Virginia. God bless you, Sarah. You have encouraged me so much this past semester. I wish we weren't so busy and could spend more time together.

** * **

Many people don't appear here. If you didn't, it's probably because I don't have a photo of you.

Buddhism, Bourbon, Servitude
Saturday, 4 Dec 2004 :-: ["Permalink"]

Update to the leadership miniBlog...

Bourbons of Bourbons, they called him. He had danced with Victoria at her coronation. And yet now, years later, he had come to this: leading a band of armed men on nocturnal chases through the alleys of Philadelphia. A later photograph shows eyes wide with sorrow. They are tired eyes. Richard Vaux saw a lot during his stint as mayor of the newly-consolidated Philadelphia....

A not-so-short musing on servant leadership.

Latest Post Agent
Saturday, 4 Dec 2004 :-: ["Permalink"]

On Monday, I finally devised a sane set of Tinderbox Agents for properly posting to this front page. I had a number of needs:

  • Show no more than (n) number of latest posts
  • Show only posts from the last week

Sure, I could have written an agent that looked like this:


But that was my original approach, and it didn't let me write posts into the future. So I modified it, and for a time, it looked like this:

#first(Posts, 6)&publicationDate<Today+1

But this had problems as well. What happened if I wrote six days in advance? Nothing would show up on the main page. So I tried the following combination:


But this wouldn't let me limit the number of items it would show on the front page. I finally came up with the solution I needed by creating an intermediary Agent. This agent, called Post Week, uses the following query:


Then, the agent that builds the main page uses the following agent code:

#first(Post Week, 6)

The RSS feed agent also uses the same code.

** * **

The moral of the story? If you can't quite do it in one line of logic, try to tie things together. Sometimes, you can do really cool things with multiple Tinderbox agents pulling off each other.

Thanksgiving, 2004
Friday, 3 Dec 2004 :-: ["Permalink"]

This thanksgiving season, I spent time with my family. This was a change from some years.

Later, I will post more photos from the trip. But here are some teasers:

A plane hangs in the entrance of the Steven F. Udvar Hazy museum in Washington D.C.

We visited the brand-new Steven F. Udvar Hazy museum in Washington D.C.. It was an amazing yet somber experience. For my dad, a machinist, it was like going to heaven.

Jonathan Matias at the WWII memorial in Washington D.C.

My brother was there. This made the time particularly special.

Jorge and Karin Matias at the Jefferson Memorial, Washington D.C.

My mom and dad were with us. Since Jonathan is studying in seminary right now, we don't have as much time to spend together as a whole family. Walking together through D.C. in the dusky eventime was relaxing and fun.

That night, I was blessed to spend discussing with my brother, a seminary student, and my cousin, a pastor and college professor of Bible. I am grateful for the chance to hear their insights.

The Creative Class
Thursday, 2 Dec 2004 :-: ["Permalink"]

Dr. Kun, our new band director, is very good at giving out interesting things to read or listen to. When we started to discuss some interesting ideas for non-standard concerts and artistic collaborations, she got excited and suggested I read The Rise of the Creative Class, by Richard Florida.

This Thanksgiving, I started the book.

The Rise of the Creative Class on a chessboard with notes at a Starbucks on Thanksgiving Day, 2004

Florida's book is one of the top two most thought-provoking books I have read since last semester. I'm thankful for a professor who is excited and interested about things enough to assign outside reading. Dean Pennington is also good source for interesting study tidbits that fall outside of classwork.

** * **

On Thanksgiving Day, my brother and I snuck out of our cousins' house and drove to Starbucks (ugh -- he's the addict -- I prefer independent shops) for a morning of study.

Florida would say we're part of the creative class, since we spent quality time together for our holiday -- writing, doing classwork, and designing websites.

Jonathan Matias studying at Starbucks on Thanksgiving Day, 2004

Don't worry, we did more normal things later, like eating turkey, getting marauded by a cadre of four-year-olds in a vertigo-inducing game of quasi-football, and singing hymns at the piano.

Grace in Vain
Wednesday, 1 Dec 2004 :-: ["Permalink"]

On the tail end of a discouraging failure, I read some hard, but encouraging words...

As God's fellow workers, we urge you not to receive God's grace in vain. For he says,

In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.

I tell you, now is the time of God's favor; now is the day of salvation.

We put no stumbling block in anyone's path, so that our ministry will not be discredited. Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way; in great endurance; in troubles, hardships, and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments, and riots; in the hard work, sleepless nights, and hunger; in kindness; in the Holy Spirit, and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in righteousness; in the right hand and in the left; through glory and dishonour; bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.

Interesting? Here's a larger context...

So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked [thinking about bodies as a spiritual clothing]. For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. Now it is God who has made us [Christians] fofr this very purpose, and has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.

Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. We live by faith, not by sight. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.

Since then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade men. What we are is plain to God, and I hope it is also plain to your conscience...If we are out of our mind, it is for the sake of God; If we are in our right mind, it is for you. For Christ's love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves, but for him who died for them and was raised again.

So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has gone; the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

As God's fellow workers, we urge you not to receive God's grace in vain. For he says,

In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.

I tell you, now is the time of God's favor; now is the day of salvation.

We put no stumbling block in anyone's path, so that our ministry will not be discredited. Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way; in great endurance; in troubles, hardships, and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments, and riots; in the hard work, sleepless nights, and hunger; in kindness; in the Holy Spirit, and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in righteousness; in the right hand and in the left; through glory and dishonour; bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.

excerpts from II Corinthians 5-6