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.

June 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
Monday, 28 Jun 2004 :-: ["Permalink"]

Picked not for scientific acuracy, but for poetic power. It is the oldest excerpt I still vividly remember reading as a child.

The context: A book about the art of escaping from a Nazi maximum-security POW camp.

The idea: sound creates atmosphere.

(from Men of Colditz, by P.R. Reid)

An atmosphere can cling to a building just as cobwebs to its walls. It is intangible but it is there. In the years to come, man will, doubtlessly, invent instruments of such finesse that they will be able to pick up sound waves emitted in a room centuries before. The voices of great men of the past will be recaptured by detectors of microscopic accuracy, magnified and broadcast.

If man can measure the amount of heat radiated by a candle at a distance of a mile, if he can prise open the oyster of the atom, it is only a matter of time before he will hear the voices of the past talking in the present.

Dogs have been known to return home hundreds of miles across country; pigeons fly homeward across the seas. Animals can smell what man cannot smell, and hear sounds that man cannot hear.

The human brain is found to emit wireless waves; if it can emit surely it can receive.

The scientific explanation of the working of the refined senses, of instincts, and of the brain, is writ large inside a deep scientific tome of which this generation is now opening the introducory pages.

Certain of man's senses have been dulled. One of them is the ability to appreciate consciously the proximity of fellow beings in the present, not to mention out of the past, without the aid of the simpler senses which remain man's standby -- sight and hearing and the nervous system.

Yet, dulled as the senses have been, something remains; an inchoate attribute by which man can sense vaguely what he commonly calls 'atmosphere'. Undoubtedly, much that provides the reaction in human beings which is often loosely termed the sixth sense, comes into the brain subconsciously through the other senses. The eyes, particularly, will take in much more than is consciously registered by the brain and will perform unconscious permutations and combinations with memories much like a calculating machine. At the same time, almost certainly, this other indefinable attribute reacts within the brain.

Colditz had an atmosphere. Naturally a castle that had stood for centuries would. But it was not the atmosphere of antiquity, of the passage of history within its walls that struck every new arrival upon entering the courtyard.

Colditz had more recently been a lunatic asylum. There was a weird, bleak and depressing air about the place which struck the newcomer so forcibly that he knew, without being told, that the Castle must have been filled at one time by a great sadness.

It was not the place to encourage a sane outlook upon life. The high, dun coloured walls surrounding the tiny cobbled yard; the barred windows -- even those opening on the yard were barred; the steep roofs which hung precipitously overhead; the endless clack-clack of wooden sabots; the cacophony of voices in different languages and musical instruments in different keys, were not calculated to breed contentment or resignation. As a lunatic asylum it had never been a sanatorium where insanity might hope to be cured. It could only have been a home for incurables and a dungeon for the violent.

Into this prison the Germans threw the men who, of all the prisoners of war in Germany, were the most likely to chafe and strain and pine under the stifling confinement of its oppressive walls. Those who had found resignation were not for Colditz. Those who had broken their chains and would continue to do so, filtered into the Castle.

Colditz was a fruitful breeding ground for frustration and might easily become a prison full of mentally unbalanced men.

** * **

Reading this caused me to think about sound and how it truly defines our human experience in wide-ranging ways.

But the world of sound was not new to me....

The Sound of My Past
Monday, 28 Jun 2004 :-: ["Permalink"]

I don't like TV.

I didn't watch Saturday morning cartoons growing up. I can thank my parents for that.

Every evening, I listened to Stories of Great Christians and Adventures in Oddysey on the radio. On Saturdays, I listened to Ranger Bill.

This is the sound of my past. This is partly why I love English, why I love the human voice used well.

Sound Off!
Monday, 28 Jun 2004 :-: ["Permalink"]

Every evening, I listen to audio drama of some sort. I have done this rather religiously for the last two years.

This is somewhat frightening.

From time to time, I am going to review what I find free online.

Apple round speakers
Forgetting My Table
Saturday, 26 Jun 2004 :-: ["Permalink"]


I grinned and let my fingers fly. Words, word, letters spinning across the Tinderbox window. My table was snug against the magazine rack, my chair hidden from the Friday night crowd.

Blam! Blam! Bing bop whizz!!! The ideas snapped around faster than a foxtrotting Mariachi Band, faster than Mexican jumping beans in a pressure cooker.

Rare freedom. I grinned and nodded my head to the rhythm of the finger-taps.


I felt a tap on my shoulder.

She was stylish. Crisp. Bold colors set on black. And very sorrowful.

"Excuse me," she said and looked at me with deep -- deeply sorrowful eyes, "Do you mind if we take your table?"

An odd request, since there were plenty of other clear tables.

There were plenty of other clear tables, so I began to pack up my laptop.

The elderly woman continued to speak, "My -- this man, you see, has Alzheimer's."

I silently wrapped up my power supply.

"Every time we come, he sits in your seat. It's one of the last places where he remembers."


A hoarse mumble grated in-between the man's faithful vocal chords.

"Don't worry. This nice young man is going to let us sit here. Just be patient."

I quickly stood, and as I turned to walk away, nothing came to mind.

I opened my voice. "God Bless you," I said. Inside, I added, "as only You know how."

Her response was quick, "No. God bless you." she quavered.

I have never seen anyone so grateful as that time.

** * **

I was about to wonder if this was the greatest thing I have done in my life. It doesn't matter. Maybe it is. Righteousness and kindness aren't superlatives or comparisons.

Being found in a situation, we do what we can with God's help. It is good. It is enough. It is all we can really do.

Bernstein on Behaviour
Thursday, 24 Jun 2004 :-: ["Permalink"]

Yesterday, Mark Bernstein posted about the behavior of the weblog world. His post reminded me of useful things he said in the past and helped me find an 11th tip to Weblogging.

Mark Bernstein's essay, 10 Tips on Writing the Living Web, was foundational to this blog. I was rather skeptical about the whole idea -- I read too many bad blogs -- and I didn't see the value. I didn't really want to be the kind of blogger I found out there: someone whacking out posts like,

So we went to the movie theatre and saw that new movie on ancient Greek stuff. Brad Pitt was hot. d00d.

Nor did I want to write, like many bloggers (some who should know better),

(insert inflammatory alarmist unresearched paranoia that I just read on another blog) -- politics politics politics politics politics politics politics politics politics politics politics.

Others do that much better than I could.

I like writing narrative nonfiction. For me, this blog became my daily exercises. I don't always post stories, but I like them most of all. Anticipation keeps me writing, waiting expectantly, impatiently for the next story.

See, I learned to "Write for a reason, and know why you write".

I learned to "write often". In my first blog experience, I just wrote whenever I felt in the mood. This was bad. I would go for a week with an avalanche of posts -- then disappear for months. Mark's article convinced me to write often, and the discipline has made me more systematic, regular, and reliable in all my writing tasks.

3. Write tight -- I learned this in my first college comp class when I was in 11th grade. "Cut out the lard" she said. So I do. Life is much simpler now.

Other rules I like:

  • acknowledge the good work and good ideas of other writers
  • All writers thrive on ideas; distribute them generously and always share the credit.
  • Try, if you can, to avoid inflicting unnecessary pain and humiliation on those who have the misfortune to be mistaken. People err, and you too will be wrong tomorrow. Civility is not mere stuffiness; it can be the glue that lets us fight for our ideas and, once we recognize the right answer, sit down together for drinks and dinner.
  • Don’t take yourself too seriously.

Yesterday, Mark Bernstein lamented the effects of some of the community tools we have created. They lead to less-than-thoughtful knee-jerk reactions. Most usually, knee-jerk thoughts can be unkind.

Our technology is so good, we make it easy to bring out the worst in us.

Mark hopes that "We're not just trying to get attention at any price, we're not just chasing popularity." But then he worries about sites like Slashdot and their effect:

We need to think seriously about whether slashdot and its ilk have contributed anything lately, because it sure does plenty of damage. It may be time to pull the plug.

Here's another thought. Is the blog world becoming like Slashdot? Certainly, Slashdot is a great example of "attention at any price." There, the popularity is a natural part of how the system works. Karma, comments, modding. If you get out a comment early, it is likely modded up, no matter its insightfulness. Insightful comments that come later are ignored, because people have moved onto something else. The comments system encourages ignorance, pettiness, and thoughtless unkindness.

Mark is worried that blog comments do the same thing. For the last few days, he has been coming out rather strongly against them.

I agree. I think that unmoderated blog comments do allow and encourage people t o be thoughtless. But I have used blog comments on other people's sites and found them helpful and fun. Is there a middle ground?

** * **

I have been guilty of thoughtless sensationalism on the 'net in a very large way. I still feel guilty. A few years back, I got my 5 minutes of fame on Slashdot. I noticed that a company's new product was no longer going to be GPL. I blew the whistle and started a Free Software fork.

I had neither the time, resources, nor expertise to manage a large Free Software project. Now it is dead, and the last gasp I heard from the company was 2003. Did I help kill a company for nothing but my own notoriety? Other high profile Open Source people knew about the GPL issue for months and sat on it.

They were wiser than I.

When the story came out on Slashdot, my friends sent me emails like, "hey! cool! You're on Slashdot. They didn't say anything about the topic.

In "The Blogosphere's Bad Behavior", Mark admits the problem is deeper than a technical issue. The real issue is one of human behavior.

He suggests we try to find a way through technology or ritual to " tell someone, without terrible loss of face, that they've been uncivil. " This is a very very good idea.

Mark's post is also a good example of a good 11th rule for writing the living web. Admit when you're wrong.

"And you know," Old Friend reminds me, "dispassionate talk about comment technologies isn't going to fix this." I hate to admit it: he's right.

As living people, we learn. Forget the proud aura of the author function. We're not names on the cover of a spine. This isn't about ten seconds of fame. We're people. We don't have to be consistent.

Arguments are not about winning. They are about learning. If I admit that I am wrong in a good argument, I have not lost face. Rather, we have all won. In arguing and learning from the argument, I have contributed to an idea product, one that all arguers have helped build. By admitting I am wrong and accepting what I have learned to be true, I am expresing faith in the argumentation process, faith in the idea that we can come together, discuss, and construct better ideas from our diverse experiences. I still might not agree with the other person, but that person has still taught me something and deserves some respect.

Thanks Mark, for reminding us what it's all about.

The Spokeman's Maxim
Tuesday, 22 Jun 2004 :-: ["Permalink"]

Today, I rode my bicycle to work.

This is not unusual.

First, I packed my backpack with my clothes, my notebook, my shampoo and towel.

This is not unusual.

Then, I pulled on my uniform (eeh! I need to lose weight) and my socks. I put my alternate shoes in the pack.

This is not unusual.

My mom built a sandwich and wrapped it in aluminum foil. I put it in my pack.

This is not unusual.

Slipping on my cycling shoes,--velcro velcro Snap! -- I filled my water bottle, slid it into the cage, started the timer, and was off!

This is not unusual.

** * **

I learned a basic maxim of bicycle commuting today:

If you carry your clothes in your backpack, don't seal your sandwich with foil. Especially not if the sandwich contains copious amounts of relish and tomato. Especially not if your most important meeting is in the morning.

A Spoke-man's Maxim: Relish enhances sandwiches, not pants.

The Semantic Fib
Monday, 21 Jun 2004 :-: ["Permalink"]

I once asked an intelligent guy, "So, what do you think about the semantic web? Is it ever going to happen?"

He was surprised by my question and suggested that it's already here, in a way. He pointed to RSS and RDF. He also probably guessed I had been reading Shirky's thoughts on the semantic web.

If so, he was right. But I didn't understand the real value and impact of RSS and RDF at that time. I hadn't even read all of Shirky's article. Another casualty of Information Triage(pdf).

I have been using RSS on this site for a little while, and I have recently learned how RDF. etc really works. I have also been reading Paul Ford's counterarguments to Shirky. And I've done just some plain thinking.

Blam! boom! pop! bing.

It didn't hit me until I realized that I could use Wordpress out of the box to manage all of my college's news and calendar needs. Write a post, and use individual blogs as RSS feed creators. Have a feed for each class, each club, each department, each special interest.

Then use aggregators to put together news for the website, the student portal, the master calendar etc.

Is this the Semantic Web, that data can be constantly reused and flexibly applied even through something as simple as a blog posting? Is the Semantic Web a world where you no longer code a custom module for each new department's information needs? Is it a world where I can quickly solve difficult problems by using software conforming to powerful standards?

In this case, it looks like some Open Source software will do the trick. But it's far beyond Open Source. Even if there were no GPL/OSS blog software, a blog is easy. I could write or appropriate one. That's not the point. The point is the idea. The idea of feeds. The idea of different feeds for different areas. The idea of different feeds holding some of the same info. The fact that we can pull together data from all over the college and make it work.

With a blog no less.

Is this the semantic web?

Pennies & Nickels
Saturday, 19 Jun 2004 :-: ["Permalink"]

When I was young, I saved pennies, nickels, dimes, and (oh brilliant joy at my good fortune!) sometimes quarters for my future in College.

I still remember my bliss when I reached ten dollars -- twenty dollars -- fifty dollars. An unimaginable amount.

Pennies and Nickels in the Elizabethtown College Hershey Foods Honors Mug. Yes. Logo by J. Nathan Matias

On harrowing days, when I am facing stressful deadlines, I go to a coffeeshop, relax with a drink, and write for several hours. A hot chocolate costs $1.75. A small fortune passes easily from my hands.

Each time I go to a coffeeshop and come back empty-handed, I am sneering in the face of a little boy who carefully, anxiously, honestly saved his precious pennies, nickels, and dimes for the unknown future I live today.

America has made me soft. I have allowed myself to become soft. Ease and comfort are addictions, the insatiable fodder of ungrateful amnesiacs.

Citric Joy
Friday, 18 Jun 2004 :-: ["Permalink"]

Flipping drops aloft in leaféd trees
as slippéd rifts the wind hove clouds apart
Oh day, asigh among the seedling rustles
flings lofty fire, hammers lifting.

Anvils awake. Light ceases, yet
tears life in two -- Toppling.


A storm,
mingles clinging things,
dust and vapor collude, and wring
the towels of the heavens sing,
when lofty miles swoop and reel and patter fields
with raindrops,
And doom.

** * **

On days like that, when I have worked hard, and the humidity has sapped all the energy of life -- when I have spent hours on the phone interviewing, and even longer hours writing...

Happiness is a cup of fresh orange juice.

Still life in Orange
Untangling the Strings
Thursday, 17 Jun 2004 :-: ["Permalink"]

I like diagrams. If I ever had an addiction, it would be whiteboards.

When I first came into my current job, they offered me a new laptop.

Initially, I turned down the laptop. I requested a set of whiteboards instead.

I have an insane stack of crisp, new legal pads in my room.

I have an even more insane stack of full legal pads in my files.

Visual organization of information is important to me. This is probably why I post photos, letters, advertisements, postcards, and comic strips onto my walls.

** * **

I like Tinderbox because it lets me think about my information heirarchically, linearly, and visually. But why is Tinderbox any different than the flowcharting software I used to love using?

** * **

Flowcharting tools usually require me to understand my ideas before laying them out. They work well for structures, hierarchies, and simple relationships. But they're primarily for designing pretty pictures to show the boss, or diagrams to help explain a concept. If something can easily be grasped by a quick glance at lines and boxes, flowcharts are perfect.

Tinderbox doesn't just map ideas. My Tinderbox files don't just represent information.

My Tinderbox files are the information. And whatever form the information takes, Tinderbox follows.

It's like the old show and tell writing truism. As representation models, flowcharts tell you what the data is like. As an authoring tool and data repository, Tinderbox shows it to you.

Case in point: my current project.

After entering over a hundred pages of information and links, my Tinderbox file looked very daunting.

Too many Lines -- Elizabethtown College Website planning Tinderbox file
(click for a closeup of all the lines)

As the author of the file, I knew what was going on. I understood the lines because I made them. Everybody else balked at the complexity. My boss was impressed, not because it made things clear, but because it made me look smart.

I hate looking smart because my work is complex.

** * **

Had I used a flowchart, I would have been tempted to think out my structure before drawing my flowchart. Here, I just filled in the information and waited to see what would happen.

** * **

Unlike HTML, Tinderbox uses link types. These link types work as labels and allow me to browse the information in interesting ways. But I was very excited to find out how customizable link types were, to find out that I could hide certain link types and highlight others.

Link Types Attributes window in Tinderbox
(click for a closeup of the link types dialog in action)

By hiding some link types and making others more visible, I was able to analyze and discover the natural structure of the website content.

I'm glad I did this, since the structure came out differently than I expected.

When I focused in on the Fine and Performing Arts Department, I realized that I needed a new page to make the navigation simple. By adding the "Music Landing" page, I broke the conventions of rigid structure, but I kept information from being duplicated and users from being confused. A tree isn't always the easiest, simplest way.

Using Tinderbox to figure out the Elizabethtown Fine and Performing Arts academic information site.(click for a closeup of the FAPA structure)
** * **

When the time came to start putting together the site's content in the third-party CMS software, I just had to copy-n-paste from Tinderbox. For once, life was simple.

** * **

When I finally present the new website to college administration and faculty, I'm not going to show them Tinderbox. To be honest, they don't need to see the complexity of the site. Instead I'll use fancy flowcharting to show how all my complex Tinderbox footwork makes the new website intuitive, simple, and easy to use.

Tuesday, 15 Jun 2004 :-: ["Permalink"] Sponge Yard at Key West. Photo Credit: NOAA
Photo Credit: NOAA

They always told me to stay away from chat rooms. *sigh*

But I never learn. After seven years of the 'net, I was to be deeply surprised.

Would you like to be cubed?
she said. Ha! How ignorant was I? I bit
Cubed? Hmmm. Doesn't Nate to the third = a single Nate?

What follows is a tale of pain, horror, death, and resurrection.

And sponges.

I have posted a transcript of The Cubing of Nathan Matias.

It's not pretty.

Sponge-o-rama Museum.Photo Credit: NOAA
Sunday, 13 Jun 2004 :-: ["Permalink"]

Statue in the National Gallery of ArtI have been missing for the last few days. I have been very busy writing articles, researching graduate schools, and trying to avoid addictions.

But I am alive.

In the meantime, enjoy two photos from my trip to Washington D.C. a few months back. One is from the National Gallery of Art, the other from the Natural History Museum.

Down the escalator in the Smithsonian Natural History Museum
Going for Sober
Thursday, 10 Jun 2004 :-: ["Permalink"]

When I turned 21 back in April, Ryan Mcgee and I went drinking.

Nathan Matias Goes Drinking -- Hot Chocolate with a 21st birthday candle in the whipped cream

The baristas were very nice. When Ryan leaked the news of my 21st birthday, they pulled out the special, chocolate-flavored whipped cream and sunk a candle down the middle. It stayed so they lit the candle with the butane torch --they also use the torch directly on cheeskake to carmelize the sugar. (Yi!)

Ryan ordered a very large iced mocha. We sat down at the table with the chess set.

Ryan Mcgee Goes Drinking -- Nathan Matias's 21st Birthday. A chess set, a hot chocolate, and one huge ice Mocha.

Then suddenly, to my surprise, the baristas (and the owners) (and the little children milling around) all sang happy birthday to me. When they faltered at the name, Ryan yelled out "Nathan!"

Then they tried to take a photograph of us together. It was a little blurry.

Ryan Mcgee and Nathan Matias enjoying Nate's 21st birthday on a late study night at the Harbour Coffee House

After we studied for a while -- finals were approaching, a couple hundred pages of writing loomed ahead of me -- Ryan thoroughly trounced me in Chess.

I think the Hot Chocolate was getting to my head.

A Chess game at the Harbour Coffee House -- April 26, 2004. J. Nathan Matias's 21st birthday
** * **

Today, I tried a new dentist. I confidently strode in, knowing that with 21 years of no cavities, my dentist's pride teeth would be fine. In and out, I thought.


One year of hot chocolate, gallons of late night tea, and stress-relief gum chewing has given me 16 cavities that weren't there last year.

So much for gum. So much for hot chocolate.


** * **

On the bright side, it forces me to purge myself of a few of the bad-habit tics that I've relied on to help me focus. Can I continue to function at a high level and try to go cold turkey? I hope so.

Perspective on Technology
Thursday, 10 Jun 2004 :-: ["Permalink"]

He said what I was thinking...

I think tech workers are gonna be what machinists became. Soon we'll be necessary but always available.

Ahh.. The glory of the somewhat free market.

Has it already happened? What do you think?

Wednesday, 9 Jun 2004 :-: ["Permalink"]

"Hey, good to see you again?"

"How's it going, Dan?"

"I got a fellowship in philosophy for the summer at Villanova."

"Woah. Awesome. That's a rare treat."

"I'm not going."


"Yeah. I'm going West instead."

** * **

one week later, an email arrives from another friend....

So like, I’m out in like California, cha ya know? It’s totally bad man…like good. Cowabunga to the max. Turbo-charged even. Short version for you lazy bums…I’m in LA right now typing on the computer in my massive pad at UCLA after spending a week in the mountains and the previous week driving across the country. Now for the true believers…you get the juice…and this is fresh off the tree. Flash back to a little over two weeks ago. I had been home in Ohio for a week to hang out with family and friends for a bit before we left.

he calms down a few paragraphs down...

The coolest thing about Tuesday was this old restored gas station we ran into in Illinois. Old gas stations may not be near as cool a Gap’s new summer line or that chick who won the new American Idol, but they are pretty neat. They’re real tiny and old-looking. And hey, retro-chic is total now. It’s so yes. Va-voom!

The Open Road -- West of Elizabethtown Pennsylvania

Why? Why do people do crazy things like going out West? And me? I don't think it can happen, but even I am thinking about spending a week in Colorado with my trucker cousin.

** * **

"I think it's a guy thing" my professor said.

One of the female students retorted, "Yes. I agree. It's dumb."

I chuckled. Studying English at a mostly-female college means that guys are almost always outnumbered.

"But, I mean, think about it," he said, "the open road. Travel, going to new places? Why do we do this kind of thing? -- hmm.... Well, here's an example. I walked to Vegas once. It was very hot. But on my way, I saw so many...."

** * **

What's out there that people want to see? I mean, Kyle looked at Yellowstone, stopped by Custer's grave, looked at the memorial to the Lakota peoples, and stayed in a space-age motel.

"You gotta get out there, Nate. It's amazing."

** * **

For Jeremy, it's about beauty:

Deep thought: I’ve been obsessed with beauty lately, not in a Hugh Hefner sort of way (I saw his grave today even though he’s not dead; it’s right beside Marilyn Monroe’s) but in the sense of trying to discover what it is. Now follow me on this. The task of humankind in my eyes is to the see the beauty in a Kansas cornfield. I take a lot from American Beauty, don’t get me wrong, but this is great stuff. Now anyone can be driving along the ocean or somewhere typically “beautiful” and think that is a beautiful place. It is. But what makes it beautiful? What makes the ocean beautiful are not the things that make it up. Beauty is not a sum of its parts. It is not the combination of the crashing waves, the glistening sunset, the majestic rocks. These things have beauty in them, but they are not beauty. The beauty is in the fact that this place exists.

You can read Jeremy Ebersole's road diary online.

Red Alert!
Monday, 7 Jun 2004 :-: ["Permalink"]

Escape pod in a bathroom - Billings Montana Motel 6They found us!

A million dark blots twinkle out of hyperspace, obscuring the glow of a thousand stars.

The floor shudders. A hundred massive grappling hooks snake across the massive void and thud against the hull.


The grapple-ends weld themselves to the outer shell, simultaneously cutting through and fusing a hundred airlocks for the invasion.

They have boarded the ship. Prepare to enter the escape pods! This is your captain speaking.

When the attackers appear, they find no-one.

The corridors of the Billings, Montana - Motel 6 is empty. The attackers never find out how the crew escaped.

The secret? An escape pod in every bathroom.

** * **

This photo from Kyle C. Kopko, who won tickets to an Eagles concert in Billings, Montana.

He never expected space-age architecture in the Motel 6. Especially not in the bathroom.

Sunday, 6 Jun 2004 :-: ["Permalink"]

Beware folks, if you start a classic musical melody. There might be unexpected side-effects.

This afternoon, someone said, "Somewhere over the rainbow"

I couldn't resist...

Somewhere over the rainbow
Way up high
There's a land that I heard of
Once in a lullaby

Somewhere over the rainbow
Skies are blue
And the dreams that you dare to dream
Really do come true

Some day I'll wish upon a star
And wake up where the clouds are far behind me
Where troubles melt like lemondrops
Away above the chimney tops
That's where you'll find me

Somewhere over the rainbow
Bluebirds fly
Birds fly over the rainbow
Why then, oh why can't I?
Some day I'll wish upon a star
And wake up where the clouds are far behind me
Where troubles melt like lemondrops
Away above the chimney tops
That's where you'll find me

Somewhere over the rainbow
Bluebirds fly
Birds fly over the rainbow
Why then, oh why can't I?

If happy little bluebirds fly
Beyond the rainbow
Why, oh why can't I?

Run quick, before I get into Bing Crosby mode.

** * **

"So Dad, you think I could pass off as Judy Garland?" I twirled imaginary skirts.

"You know, I think you would make a great Toto."

Two Days, Bound.
Friday, 4 Jun 2004 :-: ["Permalink"]

I'm nearing the end of my second day typing with wrist splints. So far, it's been mostly meetings, so I'm not sure what will happen if I turn up the speed with typing. My first few tests have hinted that I haven't lost speed, but my stamina is way down.

Mostly, the splints are encouraging me to be careful and slow down if I start to stress my wrist or fingers.

On the good news front, I'll be able to keep writing the blog. Every day might be too much for me, but I'll try to update at least four times a week.

I refuse to make this blog about RSI. Instead, I'll keep on with random thoughts, snatches of Tinderbox ideas, and snatches of creative writing/photo essays.

** * **

Yesterday I started setting up the new laptop I'm using for work. The iBook and Tinderbox have served me well (I'll post on this tomorrow), but I have to begin entering content into the Windows interface soon. So Admissions ordered a rather nice Dell Latitude x300 for me to do my work on. I like it; I wouldn't mind keeping it. It's not the ibook, but I feel more comfortable on intel+Linux than I do on ppc+Linux. Windows is the only annoying part of this.

To alleviate the problem, I've installed software from The Open CD, a collection of Free and Open Source software for Windows. Oh. and The GIMP 2.0, which is finally out for Windows.

Now all I need is Tinderbox for Windows, and I'll be happy.

Mighty Morphin Me!
Thursday, 3 Jun 2004 :-: ["Permalink"]

At the doctor's office. (from the Moleskine)

I'm going in • Inside now • Explained my problem to Sheila, a Brethren, cap-wearing nurse. It's nice to have Brethren nurses. Quiet, smiling, truly concerned. I know her smile is genuine, her concern real. When she hears my problem, she is troubled.

last night, a friend said, " I wish it were me with RSI instead, because I haven't your gift.

"No. No No No no. " I cried

  • Now I wait alone for the doctor. Alone in this room I have been in so many times during my life. The bed over there, where Dr. Godshall tested my knee. The room where I have taken regular physicals. The same brown, drab room where I have taken vaccinations and tetanus shots. The same comfortable paintings I used to see when I was in middle school, in high school. The same jar of tongue depressors. But this time I am calm, waiting for what I cannot control.
** * **

After my visit, she carefully slid the splints from the box and asked me to lay out my left hand. Gently, she wound the splint around my thumb and strapped the velcro. Quiet kindness. From what I hear, a rare trait in medical facilities these days. But this is Lancaster County, and sullen apathy hasn't yet affected my rural area.

So now I sit with wrist splints, looking like a Mighty Morphin Power Ranger with these crazy wrists. Typing is slow and painful, but I have confidence from the doctor that my problem is likely not permanent. I can continue to work, but I need to be careful and stop typing for a while once the project is complete.

** * **

Andy Dent emailed and suggested I look into Tai Chi to help relieve RSI. I just might. Thanks Andy.

Uncertain Future: Clouded Flame
Wednesday, 2 Jun 2004 :-: ["Permalink"]

"Look! It's on fire!"

Coming back from church tonight, I noticed a flame in the Eastern sky. I pointed.

It flared brightly and dissipated into the velvet-dark violet drapes of passing stormclouds.


** * **

Thoughts of Icarus.

** * **

Although I have been very careful over the last few years, I have for the last few days been convinced that my pain over the last few weeks are the first symptoms of what I believe to be RSI. Three weeks of finals stress --late nights writing constantly at uncomfortable tables and desks-- have done me in. If you have been reading the blog, you'll have noticed my early May complaints of pain.

I thought it was temporary, but the pain hasn't stopped.

I see a doctor tomorrow.

** * **

The future of this blog is uncertain. For sure, I will no longer be making daily posts. The value of daily writing goes down when every word potentially compounds the injury.

** * **

Thoughts of Icarus. Have I flown too recklessly high?

** * **

I looked up again, away from the dying flame of a setting sun, gazing into the East for an answer. Nothing.

Had it been a terrorist attack? A ball of flame from an airborne explosion? It had been like the flash of napalm in heaven itself.

I glanced to the east. It was back, an airborne blast in turbulent, brilliant orange.

But it was not a disaster.

It was the moon. A smiling face. Orange. Warm, on a spring evening. The moon was beautiful, and the veil of dark blue cloud-wisps waved over a glowing smile. Not a disaster. Just a reminder to notice an old friend.

** * **

I have one great confidence. I have lately been reading Ephesians. The same God who raised Christ from the dead, raised Him above all powers in the universe -- this is the God who has raised me to life in Him. That's what really counts. And He directs my path. He knows why this happened. Probably to teach me humility. But it's good to know that He isn't caught off-guard.

** * **

Thoughts of Icarus. Thoughts of eagles' wings.

The Extra Mile
Wednesday, 2 Jun 2004 :-: ["Permalink"]

Another instant message poem, also saved from the fall of 2003.

The extra mile is like a walk through the sunlit woods. We exhaust our simple backpack provisions to reach it, and many look into the limp bags, see nothing, and take the subway home. We know, however. Toiling in the freshness of nature's delicious springtime smiles, we find treasures, and nourish ourselves in pleasant springs too blessed to jostle about in the canvas baggage of our lives.

Eyeing Television
Tuesday, 1 Jun 2004 :-: ["Permalink"]

An eye on the televisionOn Saturday, I decided to turn on the television. This was a novel idea for me. I have not watched regular television in a very long time. Sure, I have watched a movie here and there, or maybe a documentary, but I haven't turned on any TV channels lately.

See, we only get one TV channel here. Don't ask. It's a long story and related to the fact that I live in a farmland area.

It was Saturday morning, and the cartoons were on. The fast-moving colors made me dizzy. The commercials were even worse. But even the news made me nauseated. Methods designed to keep listless people's attention made me feel sick. I quickly turned it off.

The bottom of my television

Wow, I'm disconnected. My friends even study with this machine playing in the background, "to help me concentrate." sigh. It's amazing what being a literature student does to you. You start interacting only with books and computers, and the world changes right out from under your feet. Or is the other way around? Has two years of reading changed me out from under the world's feet?

I hope so.