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.

July 2005
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
Thursday, 28 Jul 2005 :-: ["Permalink"]

Nothing is more cheering than the rustle of the tallgrass in the morning sun as the mischievous breezes tickle their toes, and swashbuckling dragonflies zip by my startled eyes, dodging and thrusting their way through novelsfull of untold adventure.

I spend my days staring at code on a screen, or at two windowblinds that open to a cinderblock hallway.

Truly I have looked into the very heart of darkness and refused to yield to its paralyzing influence, but in spirit I am one of those who walk the morning. What if all dark, discouraging moods of the human mind come across my way as thick as the dry leaves of autumn? Other feet have traveled that road before me, and I know the desert leads to God as surely as the green, refreshing fields and fruitful orchards.

I, too, have been profoundly humiliated and brought to realize my smallness amid the immensity of creation. The more I learn, the less I think I know; and the more I under stand of my sense-experience, the more I perceive its shortcomings and its inadequacy as a basis of life. Sometimes the points of view of the optimist and the pessimist seem so well-balanced to me that it is only by sheer force of spirit that I can keep my hold upon a practical, livable philosophy of life. But I use my will, choose life, and reject its opposite, nothingness.

--Helen Keller, in Light in my Darkness

And yet, the will sometimes fails. During dark times, the Grace of God never wavers, and the Spirit breathes, like a boy scout tending a fire, gently. A moment arrives, the embers begin to glow, and the cooling warmth spreads yet again.

** * **

Update, 12:30pm: Of course, a computer screen, some windowblinds, and a few cinderblock walls can actually help one focus.

After writing the previous post, I sat down and cranked out a whopping-good perl script to caculate backlinks. The script may be used as a link checker pre-cache as well as a backlink generator. The coding process went smoothly for me, and the few roadblocks were easily cleared. No major bugs surfaced. When I ran it, the code found 645,635 links on our secondary webserver.

When I ran the program and realized it wßas working, I jumped around like a kid with a new toy.

Odd. Why does coding remind me of the innocent joys of childhood?

<glee>Tra la lally, come back to the valley, back to the valley of code, tra la!</glee>

The Little Ant
Tuesday, 26 Jul 2005 :-: ["Permalink"]

Wandering over the great Formica Wastes, a mesa of pitted faux marble, she came at last to the Mouse Bridge, suspended by a beam of of cylindrical grey plastic. Following it up, she climbed the White Wall to the top of the laptop. There they were, the keyboard crevasses. An adventurer at heart, she dove into the labyrinthine tangle.

A fingerpress would have ended her life. Instead, I let her wander among the piles of dust and grime. Eek. I need an aircan. It's messy down there.

In the cavern, the ant heard a great and powerful wind. It was the foul Breath of Nate, that massive giant. Hmm. Blueberry muffin and iced Chocolate.

The ant-ess took the hint and crawled out of the cave. When she came back, a few hours later, the mysterious white cliffside and the mesatop caverns were gone, along with all crumb traces.

Good luck, little girl.

The Embedded Journalist
Tuesday, 26 Jul 2005 :-: ["Permalink"] [soundtrack]
"They made me swear an oath of loyalty to Jefferson Davis, and then they suited me up."
--Stu Kennedy, WITF Radio
American Civil War Cannon Replica

Stu Kennedy, an all-round audio guy for WITF, was recently an embedded journalist with the 2nd Carolina E Company, an infantry group participating in the Gettysburg Re-enactment this year.

In this fascinating event, people gather from all over the United States (and sometimes other countries) to relive these great battles. And Gettysburg was one of the greatest. Considered the turning point of the American Civil War, this battle was brutally deadly.

Stu had the chance to be a part of the re-enactment, but he was able to carry recording equipment with him. What an awesome opportunity! I was able to ask him a few questions about it when he visited our Harrisburg Webloggers Meetup to interview us about blogging.

I wish I could find a link to Stu's radio segment, but I can't.

** * **

The American Civil War is an event of great interest to my life. The battlefield is close to the area where I grew up. One of my ancestors, Gouverneur Warren, made key decisions instrumental in the success of the Union. During one part of my childhood, when my Guatemalan father was trying to learn American history, we would visit great battlefields on the East Coast. We visited Gettysburg re-enactments (and others) many times, especially since my brother is deeply interested in miilitary history. Of course, The documentary of my childhood, despite the enduring quality of many of the PBS documentaries, could be none other than Ken Burns's massive, fascinating, The Civil War. My brother and I have watched it several times. The topic continues to fascinate, from my study of Lincoln on Leadership, to discussions with my professor, David Downing, on his upcoming book on dissenters and defectors in the Civil War.

(More on The Battle of Gettysburg, including primary documents and video, can be found at

** * **

One year ago, I narrated an event at the Whitaker Center in Harrisburg. Dr. Sarracino, a celebrated poet and professor at Elizabethtown College, had teamed up with Dr. Haines, a composer-professor-therapist, to produce a 20th century choral piece based on Sarracino's collection of Civil War poetry. The event was called, "Voices of Sacrifice," and I was given the honor of announcing each piece and reading the poetry in-between the choral pieces, since I am attuned to both the literary and musical ends of things (I must remember to post some of this stuff online).

Sarracino's civil war poetry, collected in "The Heart of War," is great. It discusses war emotionally and honestly. He relates the real lives of people in the past to our own lives today. During that performance, one of my favorite poems was one called "Old Soldiers," about one of the greatest re-enactments of all Civil War history. It was a reunion of the old soldiers, men who had fought with each other so many years before. Now they were old, invalid, but they came to honor the day, honor the field, and honor the memory of so many dead.

Sarracino's poem describes the scene as the old soldiers faced each other one last time with weapons drawn. At an impulse, the facing sides collectively dropped their weapons, walked across the gap and embraced.

If only the real wars could end that way...

Back Together Again
Sunday, 24 Jul 2005 :-: ["Permalink"] [soundtrack]

I have already mentioned how busy I have become this summer. In fact, I have been forced to drop my intent to ride to raise money for the Lancaster County Library system by riding my bike in the Nightmare (I'm coming up with alternate fundraising ideas, so don't worry).

Last week, I played with the Lancaster County Music Camp. It was great fun; I got to solo the fanfare in Rimsky-Korsakoff's Procession of the Nobles (I love that piece! [excerpt from North Shore Band]).

** * **

College friends will be surprised to find out that I haven't practiced for a whole week. Life just became far too busy. Ugh. But I picked the horn up again today, which felt oh so good. Music helps keep me alive. Without the opportunity to play music, colors fade, stresses build, late night hiatus bleeds into dreary mornings, and the pounding of the TODO list inside my head grows louder. Time in practice melts it all away into synaesthetic visions of gleaming ,vivid life.

I will be visiting Zug this afternoon.

In the meantime, here's a celebration of my trumpet and I together again(mp3), even if you can tell the strain from a prolonged absence.

Harrisburg Bloggers Meetup
Saturday, 23 Jul 2005 :-: ["Permalink"]

"Hello, My name is Nathan Matias, and....I have a blog."

It was Tuesday night, and we were gathered for a meetup of the Harrisburg Bloggers. It was my second time, and I was looking forward to seeing the others. Our Meetup is a great combo of people from many walks of life: techs, students, a print news editor, the editing manager of a blogging site, reporters, a composer, a cyclist, and a mother [of course, we all do more things than that, but those topics tend to find their way into our blog-related activities].

Tuesday evening was particularly special, because Stu Kennedy, who works at WITF (our local classical music and NPR station). Stu is from Annville and was one of the community volunteers in the "Our Town: Annville" program. Stu came because he has a blog. But he is also working on a piece for Weekend America about bloggers.

For the first hour or so of our meetup, Stu recorded our discussion.

Stu Kennedy interviews Steven Ibanez

Or rather, we waxed mighty for the microphone, discussing, laughing, and reflecting on the nature of internet communication and blogging (photos and some description on Flickr).

The Sitarist
Wednesday, 20 Jul 2005 :-: ["Permalink"] [soundtrack]

Sunday, July 10. My family was on vacation, and my life was going ballistic with work. I decided to save time by hanging out in Annville in-between church services. I was out of luck. The Lebanon Valley College library was closed. So I studied out on a park bench for a while, talked with Dylan Kinnett from a gas-station payphone for an hour, and wandered into MJ's.

Good times, good times. The Allen Theatre/MJ's is a great place to be. I go there once a month or so to study, think, and write. I ordered a peanut-butter-cup milkshake and sat down.

The study was good. Across from me, a young woman who teaches Chemistry at HACC (Jennifer Thomas?) was grading papers. We chatted about graduate school for a while.

I returned to my work and stared at the screen.

** * **

Just then, a guy walked in with a Sitar. He was on his way to play the Sitar for the yoga classes held at the YMCA in town (mentioned in the linked article). He was early, so he stopped in at MJ's. The musician, Steven Jewett, is definitely a cool guy. In fact, he let me record some of his music (listen).

I wish I had my camera with me that Sunday. The instrument is beautiful. Invented in India during the 1700s, it is primarily used for Hindustani Classical Music (separate from the lesser-known Indian tradition of Karnatic music). The basic notes in Indian Solfege match the Ionian mode in Western Music. This is why the Sitar recorded here doesn't sound too odd to Western ears (more on Indian Music on the Ravi Shankar Foundation website).

Ravi Shankar popularized Sitar music in the West [Ravi on NPR's Fresh Air].

** * **

Steve Jewett is a really nice guy. After staying to record the brief piece, he had to go, and gave me one of his cards:

Indian classical sitar
European classical guitar

and ambient music for meditation, relaxation, and healing.

Steven F. Jewett
717.579.7026 phone
** * **

For more Sitar music, listen to Anup, on Magnatune.

My summer and Code
Monday, 18 Jul 2005 :-: ["Permalink"] [soundtrack]

I sometimes feel like a dinosaur. Once a code-head, obsessed with the machine, I now read poems and make sculptures. Sometimes, my efforts in the humanities sometimes seem pointless and, to be honest, a bit... dirty. What I do is not objective, it cannot be executed, and it cannot be benchmarked. It's much fuzzier.

I feel this discontent most when I can tell my game is slipping. See, I'm a cowboy jockey at heart, and once you have had a taste of cyberspace, the real world just doesn't look the same.

I get ideas, and I dream for the chance to implement them. One of my latest? Using the emerging open source Wikipedia interface API to merge gZigZag/Fenfire interface ideas with Wikipedia.

But alas, there is no time. Other duties fill my life. I can get frustrated.

** * **

When I decided to study literature at Elizabethtown College, it was a conscious choice to step away from the coding lifestyle. I think it's unlikely that I will return to the life I once had.

This was a good choice. My study in literature, writing, art, and music has brought out parts of me that are much nicer to live with. The online world is intense, but the physical world is a more colorful world, with bright sunflowers and cool breezes. Words are still constructs, but instead of pulling me into the machine, they point me to the world outside, and the world inside my soul.

It's a different type of meaning, but it's just as valid as the universe of electric thought in which I once dwelt.

All the same, it's nice to return to more coding in the summers, as I work for Elizabethtown College and combine marketing, graphics design, writing, training, and yes -- coding. I can find comfort in the daily routine:

  • Parallel park. Enter the keycode. Beeps. Green lights blink. The door opens. There's my office: a black table to one side of an expansive room, a room made smaller by the shelves, tables, and piles of equipment that are always moving in and out. A whiteboard, full of crazy scribbles, hangs on the wall.
  • On my desk, two laptops with external, extended desktops give me quad-head access to my work, which takes place on four machines.
  • I have begun to work nights, during which I let the external silence enfold the sounds of Etherine through my headphones. Just me and the code. What a beautiful thing :-). I feel like the organist of information as my fingers play the threads of machine thought.
J. Nathan Matias writes code with Vim. But he likes Emacs too, so don't exult too much.
** * **

But in this, I try to remember who I really am. Not just a jockey, not just a coder-boy. It's not just about me, and not just about the information. The world of computers is cool, but it's just a representation of reality. Reality is cool, but it's just a representation of something deeper. The constructs of human thought cannot go where humans most need to dwell.

The Picture

Can I hang your likeness, nailed and strung
who on the cross has hung
my sins? Could the All in all
be displayed upon a wall?
Is it death to see your face?
Then let me die.
Or, paint my likeness with your grace
so others may see You in I.

The Museum of the Masonic Homes
Sunday, 10 Jul 2005 :-: ["Permalink"] [soundtrack]

Last Night, I performed with the Hershey Symphony Orchestra at the Masonic Homes to raise funds for the Winters Heritage House.

It was a pops concert. We played music of Duke Ellington, of Sinatra, and Henry Mancini. We played the music of Sousa and Andrew Lloyd Weber. We even got in some Brubeck, some patriotic songs, and some movie themes. I really enjoyed playing the theme music to The Lord of the Rings (the movie soundtrack, not the Johan de Meij piece).

Last month, Kyle C. Kopko and I visited The Museum of the Masonic Homes. Photos are available on my new Flickr account:

The Sign in front of The Museum of the Masonic Homes

(soundtrack from the Minnesota Orchestra Music Library)

Forth in July
Tuesday, 5 Jul 2005 :-: ["Permalink"]

No time to write now. Too busy.

But just in case you're wondering, here's a teaser.

J. Nathan Matias in front of the National Cathedral, in Washington D.C..