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.

March 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
For General Healing Power
Wednesday, 30 Mar 2005 :-: ["Permalink"] [soundtrack]

Drink 28 Kinds Medicine Tea!


** * **
For General Healing Power, Drink 28 Kinds Medicine Tea!

Fresh from our local Korean food store.

Notice that this is "The" 28 Kinds Medicine Tea....

Accept no imitations, permit no permutations! This is the only 28 kinds medicine tea guaranteed to clear your urinary tract reliably. Remember, all 28 kinds medicine teas are not the same 28 kinds medicine tea as this 28 kinds medicine tea. Look for the only can-do can -- remember red and yellow, and drink "The 28 Kinds Medicine Tea." Patent pending.

Yow. That tea is sweeter than liquid candy cane. For a moment, I thought Sugar should be listed *before* water in the ingredients list. I couldn't finish it.

To be honest, however, what worried me most was this ingredient: "etc."

Best Pro/Anti Something Award
Saturday, 26 Mar 2005 :-: ["Permalink"]

Dylan Kinnett, author of To Win, Simply Play, has just been nominated for a Tennessee Blogging award. He writes:

Personally, I would really like to win the “Best Pro/Anti Something” award. That award would look so beautiful on my mantlepiece right next to my manic depression medications and my postmodernism textbooks.

I nearly spilled my drink laughing when I read that :-).

The Great Almond Sliver Caper
Friday, 25 Mar 2005 :-: ["Permalink"]

I noticed it immediately.

"Something's wrong with the Rasin Nut Bran cereal," I said to my mother. "Have you noticed anything odd?"

"Oh, I thought it was just me."

We decided to look further into our bowls of breakfast cereal. The flakes had tasted slightly more like sawdust, which I chalked up to cost-cutting, but something else was terribly wrong. I couldn't put my finger on it.

After pouring a bowl from the new box, I probed through the cereal, looking for a golden needle in a haystack of flakes. I didn't see anything and gave up.

Putting the box back, I noticed an older box of cereal on the shelf. Down to the last inch of crushed powder and grainy bits, it had been neglected in favor of this new box. I opened it up and ate a handful. The same old Rasin Nut Bran, for sure.

Then I had an idea. I pulled down both boxes and looked at the ingredient lists. On the left, I could see the ingredients I had always known: flakes, rasin nuts, and almond slivers. On the right, the ingredient list omitted the almond slivers!

I looked at the photographs on the front of the boxes. It was like Stalin's regime all over again. On the left, the photograph featured my beloved cereal, complete with almond slivers. But on the right, the almond slivers, like Trotsky, had been removed from all memory.

Indignant, my mother dialed the customer service number of General Mills.

The person on the other line apologized and suggested that market testing had encouraged them to drop the slivers (i.e. someone looked at how much a billion almond slivers cost and decided to can them).

"Sorry, but our factories have completely retooled to produce Raisin Nut Bran without almonds. In fact, we have been producing this for some months. Your grocery store must have just recently sold all their old stock."

As a consolation gift, General Mills sent us three coupons for The new and unimproved Rasin Nut Bran! Some consolation. It was, I suppose, either an irony too finely distinguished for them to understand or something more sinister. Keep repeating something long enough...

I love General Mills, I love General Mills, I love General Mills.....

My mother was dejected. She started buying other cereal. I started eating fruit, or nothing.

Without the blessed light of a healthy breakfast, our lives started to drift aimlessly, our once-centered selves of cereal harmony drifting to the edge of...??

** * **

Then, on Tuesday, we received the following letter from General Mills, dated March 2:

Dear Ms. Matias:

Thank you for contacting us to express your dissatisfaction with the changes we made to Raisin Nut Bran cereal. We have listened to your concerns and are writing to inform you that the almond slivers will be added back to Raisin Nut Bran!

At General Mills, we take our products and our consumers very seriously. When we change any product, we put the reformulated version through a series of consumer performance, taste, and quality tests. However, tests do not always represent the true sentiments of all of our consumers. Many consumers, like you, informed us that you preferred the slivered almonds in the cereal prior to the recent reformulation. Based on your feedback, we decided to add the almonds back.

The new Raisin Nut Bran with almond slivers will be available at stores starting in April. Look for packages with a green banner that reads "with Almond Slivers and Nut-Covered Raisins" to ensure that you are getting the almond slivers you love.

We appreciate when consumers call our attention to what they feel we could do better. Enclosed is a product certificate for a FREE package of Raisin Nut Bran cereal.

We hope you continue to enjoy Raisin Nut Bran cereal.


Big G Team

General Mills

** * **

I Love General Mills, I love General Mills, I love General Mills I love General Mills!I love General Mills!

Aren't they nice? Listening and all that, and so politely calling us "consumers", and even going to the trouble of making a new version of Raisin Nut Bran with the slivered almonds (oooh, it makes me want to shiver with silvery delight) we all enjoy.

** * **

There are many lessons about capitalism and marketing somewhere here.

More Historical Irony
Wednesday, 23 Mar 2005 :-: ["Permalink"]

The site also includes a brief vignette on an early 19th century blogger: Gaston Tableuoui.

Why shave?
Wednesday, 23 Mar 2005 :-: ["Permalink"]

This morning, after brushing my teeth, I asked myself, "Why bother shaving? Where did this whole thing about no facial hair come from?"

Well, it's the Egyptians' fault. Evidently, they were making razors as long as 5,000 years ago. The people of India invented them around the same time.

Then Alexander the Great got involved. He made his men shave their beards, since he knew they would be fighting in close combat. Short hair is hard to grab, and no hair is even harder to grasp.

The first barber showed up in Rome in 300 B.C. .

** * **

For a while I thought that it was all the sculptors' fault -- aiming for smoothness and form in their sculptures. After all, so many sculptures show perfectly clean-shaven individuals. Just think. Michelangelo's statue of David never gets a five O'clock shadow.

** * **

Even Clement of Alexandria argued for the beard:

For God wished women to be smooth, and rejoice in their locks alone growing spontaneously, as a horse in his mane; but has adorned man, like the lions, with a beard, and endowed him, as an attribute of manhood, with shaggy breasts,-a sign this of strength and rule[....] so high a value does God set on these locks, that He orders them to make their appearance on men simultaneously with discretion, and delighted with a venerable look, has honoured gravity of countenance with grey hairs. [.....] This, then, the mark of the man, the beard, by which he is seen to be a man, is older than Eve, and is the token of the superior nature. In this God deemed it right that he should excel, and dispersed hair over man's whole body. (Clement, "The Instructor")

Um. Oh. Yeah. Well...but wait...

St. Augustine of Hippo argued that:

The beard signifies the courageous; the beard distinguishes the grown men, the earnest, the active, the vigorous. So that when we describe such, we say, he is a bearded man. (Exposition on the Psalms -- Psalm 133)
** * **

After all, even Pericles wore a beard. Hmm. I suppose that destroys my beard and sculpture idea. Michelangelo's Moses clamps down the coffin on that idea.

** * **

But now I remember why I don't wear a beard. It gets in the soup. I would hate to comb out all the cracker bits.

Monday, 21 Mar 2005 :-: ["Permalink"]

Yesterday, I felt the worst I have in years. No, my body is healthy, my mind was clear, and my relationship with God was doing well. But when I sagged into a chair to read Tracy Kidder's book, Mountains beyond Mountains, I could feel the little rounds of fat complaining as they squeezed around my belt. I had slept a great deal, and yet I was exhausted.

I knew what was wrong.

** * **

I am relearning a life of discipline. I used to think that discipline involved finding a single thing and pursuing it to the most maximum possibility of attainment.

I now know that this itself is a failure of discipline. It takes great discipline to single-mindedly focus on a single thing. But it forces shoddiness and laziness in other areas. Ultimately, single-mindedness to a breakdown.

I should know. This is what I have done with my studies in the past. It led to illness and burnout.

True discipline involves finding a balance. It takes a greater discipline, a more fine-tuned knowledge of one's self to use every minute wisely, doing the task one is most able to do at the moment while keeping in mind a larger picture. To do this while focusing carefully on the small things that define our lifestyle's texture -- like posture and prayer -- requires a much higher level of discipline thatn abandoning all but one thing.

Bicycle cogs

I'm not going to let it happen again. After a discussion with Dr. Teske and Dr. Long of the psychology and religion departments (and after prayer) I have been reminded of the necessary nature of an early morning routine. I have now implemented one -- it contains physical, spiritual, and mental exercise and does well to make me feel clean, alert, centered, and ready for whatever day I am to have. But my goal of discipline goes beyond that. I am going to try to eliminate a number of small tics and vices I have accumulated over the years. It is foolishly unwise to permit them.

Wish me luck and pray.

It's possible I may be undertaking a rather large physical endeavor this summer. This early preparation may lay a good framework for what looks to become a fun but very challenging experience.

Empty is Form
Tuesday, 15 Mar 2005 :-: ["Permalink"]

The web is an interesting place. You never know what to expect.

Over the weekend, I noticed that I'm on the blogroll of a Buddhist-informed news analysis, political coverage & social commentary site: Empty is Form. In a list that includes Adbusters, the Center for Voting and Democracy, Common Dreams, Lessig's blog, and Urban Dharma, there it is, the Notebook of Sand. Fascinating.

** * **

I am somewhat surprised that I would be listed on the site, unless it relates to my multiple postings on Buddhist economics. If I didn't obtain my clothes second-hand, I would probably consider simple robes to accompany the simple, disciplined life I am trying to expand into. But by wearing second-hand clothes, I can still feel comfortable about combatting the waste and slowly paying my debts to nature.

** * **

The phrase "empty is form," gave me something to consider yesterday. I immediately thought of John Cage, but I knew I could go farther, or rather, un-limit my mind in thinking of this. I thought of the sound of one hand clapping and its relation to the sound of two hands clapping. And I remembered the words of Leonard Bernstein:

The qualities that distinguish great conductors lie far beyond and above [technique]. We now begin to deal with the intangibles, the deep magical aspect of conducting. It is the mystery of relationships -- conductor and orchestra bound together by the tiny but powerful split second. How can I describe to you the magic of the moment of beginning a piece of music? There is only one possiblle fraction of a second that feels exactly right for starting. There is a wait while the orchestra readies itself and collects its powers; while the conductor concentrates his whole will and force toward the work in hand; while the audience quiets down, and the last cough has died away. There is no slighty rustle of a program book; the instruments are poised and -- bang! That's it. One second later, it is too late, and the magic has vanished.

Yesterday was the day I began to think of the in-betweens, the emptinesses of my music, as music. As I practiced for my upcoming recital with my accompianist, Kimberly Trout, I understood. Small, subtle, but beautiful changes took place in my music. It was an amazing experience.

On the merits of Thai food
Tuesday, 15 Mar 2005 :-: ["Permalink"]

My brother, a seminary student, writes:

Have you ever tried Thai cuisine? There's a Thai restaurant, Bangkok Garden, next to Panera Bread, and I stopped in to try their food today. I was praising and worshiping God for intense flavor, relaxing stringed instruments, and the pleasure of a Thai iced coffee= )

Ecclesiastes 2:24-25 "A man can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in his work. This too, I see, is from the hand of God,"

Really. If you haven't been to a good-quality, genuine Thai restaurant, you should do it soon. It's healthy, flavorful, and God-exalting experience.

Article in the Etownian
Sunday, 13 Mar 2005 :-: ["Permalink"]

The Etownian, the student newspaper of Elizabethtown College, recently covered my sculpture, Philadelphia Fullerine. The article was written by none other than my friend, Natalie Smeltz.

Just for fun, here's another photo of my sculpture, Philadelphia Fullerine.

Philadelphia Fullerine, a geodesic narrative hypertext sculpture

In which I am a Promiscuous Linker
Saturday, 12 Mar 2005 :-: ["Permalink"]

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about 16th and 17th century women's clothing. The author of found such linking to be inspiring and promiscuous.

I must admit, however, that I do somewhat share Mark's mild annoyance that people forget to post their name on their weblog. I suspected that the person, who stated his/her college to be "outside of Philadelphia" had been to Swarthmore, but I had to dig further to find out the identity.

  • sigh* I really don't like having to dig like this. On one hand, I feel like I'm invading someone's privacy. On the other, all the information is publicly available and linked from the person's site. And he did call me a promiscuous linker.

But anyway, Scott Price has posted a hypertextual teaching portfolio and a number of other hypertexts online.

(odd note - my college's past president, Gerhard Spiegler, had a campaign to make Elizabethtown College into "The Swarthmore on the Susquehanna.")

Reading Scott's hypertexts reminded me how much the hatred of frames has affected people who do hypertext. When I set out to write a piece of hypertext, I don't even think about multiple windows or frames. This is odd, since they *are* a tool that is available, even if they do present some problems with control.

Tinderbox, by Eastgate, solves this problem by saving the state of the windows -- which are open, where they are on the screen, etc.. Hmm. I wonder if it would be possible to make a "bookmark" feature similar to the "remember" feature on GNU/Linux desktop systems. In GNOME and KDE, one can, as in Tinderbox, ask the system to remember all of your application windows and reopen them when you log in once more. But in Englightenment, one can store several of these sorts of states and return to them at will.

Right now window locations are stored in the Tinderbox XML entries as an attribute of the item represented in the window:

<attribute name="WindowPlace" >Rect[ 50 50 550 350 ] </attribute>

Building an interface that does bookmarks like this could be handled with a Nelson-like zipper list. It could be very handy for people who work using a large number of open notes and need to switch between sets of open notes.

Although, I must admit, the demand for this sort of feature may be small.

Honoring by Humility
Saturday, 12 Mar 2005 :-: ["Permalink"]

I Chronicles 11:15-19

Pouring overflow via Nosheep - Context: King Saul has died, and David is trying to regain Palestine for the Israelis. He has taken Jerusalem, but a number of battles must yet be won to regain the ancestral lands.

15 Three of the thirty chiefs came down to David to the rock at the cave of Adullam, while a band of Philistines was encamped in the Valley of Rephaim. 16 At that time David was in the stronghold, and the Philistine garrison was at Bethlehem. 17 David longed for water and said, "Oh, that someone would get me a drink of water from the well near the gate of Bethlehem!" 18 So the Three broke through the Philistine lines, drew water from the well near the gate of Bethlehem and carried it back to David. But he refused to drink it; instead, he poured it out before the LORD . 19 "God forbid that I should do this!" he said. "Should I drink the blood of these men who went at the risk of their lives?" Because they risked their lives to bring it back, David would not drink it.

Such were the exploits of the three mighty men.

A Visit From Maddog
Friday, 11 Mar 2005 :-: ["Permalink"]

A year ago, I met Jon 'Maddog' Hall at the LinuxWorld convention NYC. At the time...

"Hey, here's my card. I have family near you. Send me an email and I'll come talk to your Linux Users Group."


"Sure. I'm looking forward to your email. Seeya later."

Well, he *did* come to my Linux Users group at the end of December. Sorry for the delay -- I have had problems with my iBook. But now that it's all OK, I have put the notes from the meeting online. Read them here.

J. Nathan Matias and John Maddog Hall

Maddog, the executive director of Linux International, is a great speaker and a nice guy. His parents were a lot of fun as well -- he was spending Christmas with them. It was kind of them to spare him for a few hours. And yes, they do use Linux :-).

A Fridge Poem
Thursday, 10 Mar 2005 :-: ["Permalink"]

I wrote a fridge poem a few months ago.

I wrote another one today. Here it is:

Around the red rainbow dust of life,

when sweet fantasy harbors this sly sun,

consent to morning weather.

wonder and fly and run

to compassion.

give a hand.

A Koan
Wednesday, 9 Mar 2005 :-: ["Permalink"]

I spent my morning considering some koans. Here is one of my own:

One day, Nathan spent his morning considering some koans. That afternoon, he saw a religion professor.

"Spring break is great. I can study and meditate without the interruption of classes," said Nathan.

"Have you found enlightenment or epiphany?" asked the professor. Nathan thought about this. Later, he told the professor a parable,

One day Nathan sat by a stream for hours, watching. He cupped his hands and felt the cool spring water pass. After a time, he stood up, hands still cupped.

Later, someone asked, "Did you find enlightenment?"

In reply, Nathan opened his hands.

"I have two questions for you," Nathan said to the professor, "where in the parable is enlightenment?"

(on parables)

Metaphysical Wit
Saturday, 5 Mar 2005 :-: ["Permalink"]

This semester, I have been taking a class on metaphysical poetry. I am enjoying the discipline, spiritual depth, and poetic genius of these poets.

One of the distinguishing characteristics of metaphysical poetry is its wit. As I argue in the opening sentences to the paper I'm currently writing:

Reading a metaphysical poem is like watching the spaceships in a science fiction movie. The poems do not unveil a slowly direct, progressing plod toward a conclusion. Rather, holes open up in the poems' reasoning, through which the poet pulls the reader on a wild, crazy ride through rifts of logic and language, only to arrive, as from a bumpy wormhole journey, at the completion of a logical idea or concept.

Here's an excerpt of one of the Holy Sonnets by John Donne:

My sinnes, which passe the Jewes impiety:
They kill'd once an inglorious man, but I
Crucifie him daily, being now glorified.
Oh let mee then, his strange love still admire:
Kings pardon, but he bore our punishment.
And Jacob came cloth'd in vile harsh attire
But to supplant, and with gainfull intent:
God cloth'd himselfe in vile mans flesh, that so
Hee might be weake enought to suffer woe.

Wednesday, 2 Mar 2005 :-: ["Permalink"]

One man's trash is another's treasure. Sahd's salvage yard is most definitely Columbia, PA's best kept secret. The images you see here are not a deplorable use of forested area. Rather, they are part of a long tradition throughout history of recycling and repurposing. No. These are not pictures of waste. They are photographs of opportunity.

I haven't taken dad to the yard yet. My mom is afraid he'll begin in earnest to build the abstract, ibeam-based flagpole sculpture he's been planning.

Wall of bins at Sahd's metal salvage yard
** * **
Sahd's metal salvage and recycling
** * **
Piles at Sahd's metal salvage and recycling
** * **
An iron-cast university seal at Sahd's metal salvage and recycling
** * **
Piles at Sahd's metal salvage and recycling
** * **
Sahd's metal salvage and recycling
** * **
Piles at Sahd's metal salvage and recycling
** * **
Sahd's metal salvage and recycling

Dr. Dick's Blog
Tuesday, 1 Mar 2005 :-: ["Permalink"] [soundtrack]

Dick Strawser, of WITFSome things are too good to be true. This is one of them.

Fortunately, it's true.

Dick Strawser is the music director of my local classical music/NPR radio station WITF. I have always found his comments and music selections to be reliably interesting, entertaining, and informative.

And now, Dr. Dick has a blog!

Dr. Dick's WITF Blog

The blog looks like it will be a lot of fun. Dr. Strawser's introductory post was rather on the light side, and further posts have been a mix of informative and nostalgic. Dr. Strawser is a good writer. He manages to include a good mix of anecdote with useful, interesting information about music and the world of music. His post, "Of Beans and Bruckner" is particularly fun.

Unlike most blog posts, Dick's posts are not short. Most of them read like a full article. I think it's great that he has chosen to carefully compose posts that are well written. Daily blog writing has many drawbacks. For this reason, I may be reconsidering my own blogging routine. Strawser's blog posts are hefty enough to surpass the length of most blogs' weekly output, and it takes time to read them. But it's worth it.

** * **

I'm still catching up. Next on the list for me is Up Close and Kind of Personal with Gustav Holst's "The Planets."

In the meantime, I think I'll listen to Jupiter and the rest of the gang.