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.

May 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
Kelly's Run
Monday, 31 May 2004 :-: ["Permalink"]

On Sunday, I spent the afternoon and evening with my family near the Holtwood Preserve.

I visited once with an ecology class to perform a stream assessment, and I knew the family would love it. We enjoyed walking among the wildlife, saw the bald eagles, watched the Susquehanna river flow by, and even enjoyed some Mexican food.

A photo essay will be coming in the next few days.

My family at Holtwood
Campus Wildlife At Spring
Sunday, 30 May 2004 :-: ["Permalink"]

Now that the semester is over, I'm able to open my eyes and see nature's fully-emerged springtime joy.

** * **

Wednesday was very hot, and the ants, who have no air conditioners, fled their subterranean passageways to frolic in the breeze.

Ants fleeing over the hot concrete

Walking on concrete must have burned their feet.

** * **

Thursday, the rabbits came out. Elizabethtown College hosts a beautiful campus full of colorful trees, fresh landscaping, and green green grass. The rabbits agreed and were enjoying a tasty snack as I walked into work.

Rabbits munching on the cool grass in front of Etown College's Alpha Hall in the springtime

Many rabbits call Etown College their home. They are very used to humans around, and they often let me come close to them. I know it's springtime when, walking between classes, I see the friendly rabbits.

** * **

The landscapers work hard at the college. They must be annoyed by the slime molds that have surfaced the last few days.

Slime molds up close

Slime molds are one of my favorite organisms. They are a reminder of how amazing God's creation truly is.

If you see a slime mold, don't remove it. What you're seeing is just a very very small part of the slime mold: the reproductive system. Slime molds are blobs of goop that live undernead the ground and flow through dirt! They can travel in a flow or in a tiny thread only a few cells wide. Many slime molds live underground, and if you see a number of spore-slimes poke their heads up within an area, they're likely all from the same slime mold, which could stretch for hundreds of yards underneath the ground.

Detail of Slime Mold

If you remove the above-ground part of the slime mold, it'll just pop its head up again. Wait for the head to die and turn dark brown. Then remove it.

The slime will have passed on.

Information Flexibility and Tinderbox
Saturday, 29 May 2004 :-: ["Permalink"]

Meetings, meetings.

And then I began to write. After a few hours, my efforts began to look like spaghetti.

Last week, I began with an organized Tinderbox Map View of the main areas of the site. Pages were organized in circles around a central set of links. Everything looked nice. Academic majors were one diagram. Minors were another area, and departments were another area. This division couldn't last long. I wasn't hired to make nice-looking diagrams. I was hired to write thoroughly, thoughtfully interlinked content.

I'm writing by department. The people in academic departments form the core part of an academic institution. Nothing happens without some link to them. For marketing reasons, viewers will first be directed toward majors, but the content's internal structure will funnel them toward departments.

When I write, I first annotate a department's existing pamphlets, catalogs, and news releases. Then I open the Tinderbox file and drag all the department-related pages in front of an adornment for that department. I begin to write, and the pieces begin to connect.

Tinderbox image of the Fine and Performing Arts content map

Each department has unique challenges. In the case of the Fine and Performing Arts department, three somewhat disconnected areas must come together: art, theatre, and music. Art and theatre feature only a major and a minor. But music posed some challenges: three majors and one minor. Later on, the biology and chemistry departments will pose another challenge. I will have to heavly interlink them, since biotech, biochemistry, and environmental science draw heavily from both departments.

By using Tinderbox, I am not constrained by common hierarchical ideas. Neither am I distracted by the designers' layouts. For example, I realized that all three music majors share the same basic features. But there is no central Music Department page to place content. I considered packing the general Music Major page with everything. But this wouldn't reflect the college well. The basic music major is the least emphasized music major. I also realized that a full list of the co-curricular opportunities available to music majors would clutter the Fine and Performing Arts page.

To solve this, I created a new, music landing page (visible if you follow the screenshot thumbnail link). Unlike a department page (it won't list faculty, etc) it contains information common to all music majors and minors. Now, the Music Therapy Major, Music Education Major, and Music Major links point to the landing page, which directs viewers to their desired focus and displays basic information about music at Elizabethtown.

This is a natural solution. Had I thought hierarchically, I would have by habit broken FAPA into three sub-departments: art, theatre, and music. But this wouldn't accurately portray the college. A tree-like model would have been unable to represent the truth. Tinderbox freed my mind to think more clearly about my task, for it is flexible enough to fit the nature of naturally-structured information.

The Beggar Dilemma
Thursday, 27 May 2004 :-: ["Permalink"]

Definitions can sometimes be more than just an academic pursuit. Here's an Instant Message conversation I had last night...

Do you know what a panhandler is?
Somebody said it the other day, in a discussion, and I don't know what it means.
and you didn't look it up?
Lol, no.
someone who begs, sorta
I've been a little busy....
I see.
so the guy with the starbucks cup that you walked by last month, feeling guilty about not giving him money, but intellectually moral about not supporting non-workers and scam artists - that guy was a panhandler
unless you're not that kind of person
which you likely aren't
I haven't seen any beggars since the last time I was in DC, which was awhile ago
and no, I'm not that sort of person
beggars would seem to be a dilemma
but they really aren't
seeing a beggar does funny things to people who usually are kind
a term like panhandler allows us to give them a negative connotation
as if it's a profession
and we really shouldn't give
oh well.
The only really right thing to do with a beggar is take them home with you and feed them and let them sleep in a bed and stay until they are well again
** * **

If I ask myself if I would actually do something like she suggested, I would have to say no. My focus on academics, my focus on writing helps me glide through a sad world, perhaps even take special notice to the hurt and pain of others, but come up with an excuse merely to portray it. I focus intensely on my work, often ignoring others because they distract my efforts.

It makes me think of Yosuke Yamahata, one of the few to take photographs when the atomic bomb fell on Nagasaki. (warning for the squeamish. Disturbing photos) We only have a few photos of the Hiroshima bomb blast. But we have over sixty from Nagasaki, thanks to Yosuke. (in print: Nagasaki Journey, Photographs of Yosuke Yamahata)

Yosuke's photos remind us of the horror of our own weapons. They remind us never to use them. They have served a good purpose.

But then we look at photos of the children. One of them remembered the photographer Yosuke. He begged for aid. But Yosuke kept moving, as in a trance. His only focus was photographing. And the photographs are brilliantly done. He was a good photographer.

For Yosuke, he calls his actions "perhaps unforgivable", but we can spare him blame. He claims that shock at seeing the carnage kept him from helping, or knowing how to help. So he just snapped photographs.

I have no such easy excuse.

Thursday, 27 May 2004 :-: ["Permalink"]

Upstairs, the barn's foot-smoothed floorboards support forty folding chairs and a forest of music stands. We slip in-between the dusty, worn paths and sit down.

We are surrounded by the watching photographs of over 100 years of band members, their smiling faces looking in from where they rest on the walls, silently listening to the sound that bounces around the band hall. Many of them hold instruments.

A few of the old-timers' photographs show them in the band as high school students. A few members play under the watchful eye of their great great grandparents.

How many times have I set a can of soda next to my mutes? It's dry up there, and I down two cans in two hours to keep my lips smoothly moist.

Someone yells out a title, like "The Supersonic" or "The Dead Dog March" and we all rifle through a stack of tiny yellowing sheets the size of note-cards.

The band leans in and chatters for a few seconds, trying to organize.

"Did he say, the Dead Dog March?"


"Hey, what did he say?"

"The Dead Dog March."

"The Debutante's Quick-Step?"

"No. The Dead Dog March."

At this point, I'm frantically squinting at the tiny notes, trying to catch key changes, repeates, and other musical hang-ups.

The director calls the title out again and raises his baton. We raise our instruments.

"When I signal, everyone bark," he says.

"Woof Woof Woof" a cacophony of voices rises.

"Good. Then when you hear the snare, shut up."


Ahh, now I know the punchline. We chuckle. I stop barking.

"Ready everyone? All right, the Dead Dog's March." I memorize the first few measures, look up, and the baton comes down. The trumpets raise an initial fanfare phrase, and the music begins.

** * **

Playing with an informal community band is awesome. Yesterday's post was so sad because I've had so much fun in the past. If I'm staying away, it's because I see the end coming, because I don't want to remember the band as a bunch of old guys fading away, but as it was when I played, a bunch of very good long-time friends making beautiful music every Monday.

Wednesday, 26 May 2004 :-: ["Permalink"]

I showed up an hour early to the band rehearsal. Trust me to be forgetful. Sigh.

The old barn was still there. I parked and walked inside the entranceway.

Entrance to the community band barn

A few of the old timers were downstairs in the bar.

** * **

Yup. That's right. The band was founded in 1896; it's the last sputtering gasp of a dying breed, this band hall. These days, community bands present a professional image. They include high school students, college students, and professional musicians. But this band, loving and loved by the town for over a century, was just a bunch of people who got together to play.

The band used to be more professional I hear. An old friend once told me a story about his first day in the band.

I remember when I first showed up. The director was strict back then. Before I was let into the band, I had to sight-read a cornet solo I had never seen before in my life. Right in front of the whole band.

My first time was different.

"You're not 21 are you? Here, have a soda. Rehearsal is upstairs." I took a soda can up with my trumpet case. A pint of beer sat next to the principal trumpet player, but when he put his lips to the mouthpiece, beautifully liquid notes melted out the other end. He must have been made of music, so clear and effortless was his sound. He died a year later from liver problems.

The director showed up, and I tried to keep up for two hours. My two years at Bainbridge were the most musically challenging of my life.

** * **

We chatted for a while. Jimmy was upset that I had missed a year. For him, college was an unknowable, a sorrowful void, an evil that sucked up the lives of too many great musicians. He struggled to understand the internship that a relative was taking. I tried to explain,

"See, in office jobs, they want you to have experience. If you don't have any experience, they won't hire you. To help people out, big companies and even the government do internships. You work for them for free for a summer, and they write you a letter at the end."

Jimmy shook his head. "I thought that was illegal. Whatever happened to minimum wage? I tell you, this country really is getting worse. There's hard times ahead."

I thought about the coal mines and wondered if there was much difference between an elevator and an underground coal car.

Jimmy talked. His bent-over body was shorter. The fiesty energy was gone. The joy was gone. I hadn't seen him since his son, the principal trumpet player, had died. Jimmy's face much more wrinkled than I remembered.


I remembered my first concert, when Jimmy played Ave Maria. I'm not Catholic, but if I ever came close to sighting the virgin mother, it was in the shape of his full, resonant notes. That night, I forgot to play my part I was so entranced.


After talking to Jimmy, I practiced upstairs for a while until I heard some people come in the door. I walked back down. We started to chat, to reminisce. Then Al walked in.

His lip was covered in a scab.

Jimmy spoke first.

"So, you rode for the last half of the parade, eh?"

Al began to laugh. His accident was a joke to them, these WWII vets who couldn't stop playing music, who hazarded their lives just to play a parade. They traded stories of the war with aging. Charlie showed me his bruise, a blotchy purple patch larger than my outstretched hand.

"I did that carrying a ladder yesterday," he beamed and chuckled quietly.

The lead clarinetist remained silent all night, his face (so energetic before) carved from saggy, craggy stone. But he too trudged upstairs to rehearse when the time came.

He doesn't march any more.

Jimmy doesn't march either, but he hasn't left the band. His baritone sat unused, its case unopened during rehearsal that night. For Jimmy was cooking dinner for the band as he listened beneath the creaky oak floorboards, downstairs in the bar.

Maybe Jimmy was right. Every once in a while, I go back. But I don't really belong any more. It's too real for an inhabitant of the artificial professional and academic worlds.

Someday I'll come back and the barn will be empty. And it will be partly my fault.

But life has overtaken me. I'm not marching any more.

** * **

Walk outside the band hall, down the street a hundred feet to the edge of the Susquehanna River. Over a hundred years ago, the first members of the band probably sat here and watched the water flow by.

What passages of time did they grieve?

When the World Goes Right
Tuesday, 25 May 2004 :-: ["Permalink"]

I love community bands. When people who love music get together to perform, beautiful things happen.

Many of the members in my local community band (founded in 1896) joined the band right after World War II. They keep on playing, playing, stubbornly hanging on to their instruments even in their advanced age. Their dedication is an inspiration.

** * *

Sunday, the bass drummer didn't show up, so Al came out of retirement (he has a bad back) to march with the band.

"I was feeling good. I walked over to hand the cymbals to Mike. Then the world just swerved to the right."

Al fainted in the unusually intense heat and humidity. Crumpling to the ground, he smashed his lip on the drum and bruised his shins on the crashing cymbals. His wrist nearly broke in the fall. Within a few minutes, his shirt was soaked with blood.

He was evacuated by the parade ambulance.

Al will never march again.

Tuesday, 25 May 2004 :-: ["Permalink"]

The last week, posts have been sporadic as I try to figure out when in the day I can best blog with my new schedule. Hold on tight. I'll figure something out.

The Ethics of Hyperlinking Direct Quotes
Sunday, 23 May 2004 :-: ["Permalink"]

Has anyone thought about the ethical issues involved in transferring a text from some other media (spoken conversation, print, radio, tv) and turning it into a hypertext?

Hyperlinking a quote manipulates the context of words. For example, here's a quote from a recent Wired News article on biotech patents. First, the quote as it appears in the article itself.

"Our original intent was to not allow the patenting of higher life forms," said Nadege Adams, a spokeswoman for the Council of Canadians. "This was lost today. The Supreme Court said you don't have to patent the higher life form, just the gene, and you have control over the whole organism."

Most usually, we create hyperlinks on the level of raw information. This is the natural blog-type link. Since we usually don't have the benefit of link-types or link meta information (hover boxes are sometimes useful here), we can't describe the nature of a link well on the Web. So most links degrade to the following the basic level of direct informational correlation:

"Our original intent was to not allow the patenting of higher life forms," said Nadege Adams, a spokeswoman for the Council of Canadians. "This was lost today. The Supreme Court said you don't have to patent the higher life form, just the gene, and you have control over the whole organism."

I could hyperlink this same paragraph a few different ways as well. For example, I could decide to be opposed to Monsanto, the company who is trying to control their genetic intellectual property and all products of their intellectual effort.

"Our original intent was to not allow the patenting of higher life forms," said Nadege Adams, a spokeswoman for the Council of Canadians. "This was lost today. The Supreme Court said you don't have to patent the higher life form, just the gene, and you have control over the whole organism."

I could link a million ways, each framing the quote in a different way. When including someone else's words, how should we quote things? At what point can we be accused of taking the words out of context, or of creating a new context? This may not necessarily be bad, but it's good to know when that line has been crossed.

My thought is that basic informational linking to directly related sources within a quote should be ok. I'm not sure beyond that. It will take some time to think through.

Why do I bring this up? I'm going to be working with a lot of direct quotes the next few weeks, and I want to do things as thoughtfully, as ethically as possible.

Planning with Tinderbox
Saturday, 22 May 2004 :-: ["Permalink"]

My new job is to plan the information architecture and write the large part of a new websire for my college. It's no small task.

I've been able to create a Tinderbox file that keeps track of all my email and appointments (an Agent tells me what appointments I have today). It records the research I do. I'm using Tinderbox to track my tasks, with attributes and prototypes to hold progress status information. All of these things can be interlinked.

But the real power of Tinderbox comes in for the actual job.

The company, you see, has not yet delivered the content management software I'm to use. Under ordinary circumstances, this could seem disastrous. No problem for the TInderbox enabled.

Yesterday, I added a flowchart area to my Tinderbox file. Then I started to enter the entire web project into the file...

diagram of the Majors basic structure for the new Etown College Website
The first baby step. The Academic Programs area structure before interlinking sections

Even though I won't be able to export the Tinderbox file directly to the website (as I do for this blog), writing in Tinderbox has many advantages over using the CMS. The Map View (shown in the screenshot) allows me to easily visualize the structure. This project is fairly large, and I need to completely write a finite set of pages before July 1. By mapping things out in Tinderbox, I am able to see a comprehensive list of all the pages I must write. Individual pages can then added to TODO lists and tied to email communications, appointments, and research related to the individual pages. By storing all the writing in Tinderbox, I am able to search and edit and spellcheck across the entire site.

By being more than a flowchart, Tinderbox helps me do much more than plan the structure. By being more than just a pretty web editor, Tinderbox is helping me plan and complete a very complex job under an extreme time crunch.

Thanks Eastgate.

sigh. I tried very hard to make it to Watertown for the Tinderbox weekend. Good luck folks. I hope it goes well.

Pianos and Mirrors
Thursday, 20 May 2004 :-: ["Permalink"]

Zug is now just all pianos and mirrors.

Pianos in the Mirror at Zug Memorial Hall

No faces in the glass, or backsides smoothly hunched over the white keys, like a cyclist racing along great vistas of sound. No slouched guitars or bouncingly intent flutists. No mistakes. No entrancing melodies.

It is quiet here. Memories, the whispers of a song inside my mind, tantalize my steps. Come sweet months, when silence fills the hall, when a single piercing lyric emerges from my thoughts into the still air. I will sigh and say, "that is music," as I pull my lips from that most passionate of kisses, my instrument and I become one.

In the stillness, I mourn the friends who I will see no more, whose friendly smiles haunt the still glass doors. But cascading the air once again with a buzz of musical energy, as so many before have done, I fill an empty space with joy and prize the moment, until I too must pass away.

Signalling a Carousel
Wednesday, 19 May 2004 :-: ["Permalink"]

The electric bulbs flash and disappear, strobing in the central mirrors of our carousel. Horses, large rabbits, a camel, and even a massive Chanticleer. White ivory railings entwine among brassplated twists that rise to the ceiling.

A white-railed fence wraps around the carousel at the mall, and parents often lean on it, watching their children spin and bob upon their noble steeds. Along the top, ivory white, and faded olive imprints, inlaid paintings of the rural landscape line the edges. A Mennonite family walks by, unnoticing, unnoticed.

The carousel stops for a time. No business.

Then, a little girl, maybe five years old smiling like one ignorant of tears, leads her grandfather toward the lights. She mounts a chestnut stallion. Good choice.

Slowly, the carousel motors groan, and the canticle of tinkling music begins. The strobe of mirrors begins again, twirling with dizzying glee.

Her grandfather leaned over the fence when she came around the corner. Her horse sped from behind the central spindle. The chestnut stallion's nostrils flared, frozen in mid-canter. Her grandfather held out his hand, and she leaned out to reach.


Their fingers clasped for a brief moment. But the horse didn't slow. She was swept away, out of sight.

When they were reunited after the ride ended, she trotted happily up to the white gate. He opened the latch for her, and she reached up.

They embraced. For a few minutes, no one spoke a word.

Then I found out. She was deaf.

** * **

Why don't we value the little things in life more? An embrace. A simple touch can communicate a universe beyond words. Yet we even forget to say the words.

Beginnings - Again
Tuesday, 18 May 2004 :-: ["Permalink"]

Today, I begin my new job at Elizabethtown College. Information Architecture and hypertext authoring, to be exact. I'm looking forward to the opportunity to try some ideas.

So today, a poem called Ode, by Arthur O'Shaughnessy:

(insert tongue in! )

We are the music-makers,
And we are the dreamers of dreams,
Wandering by lone sea-breakers,
And sitting by desolate streams;
World-losers and world-forsakers,
On whom the pale moon gleams:
Yet we are the movers and shakers
Of the world for ever, it seems.

With wonderful deathless ditties
We build up the world's great cities,
And out of a fabulous story
We fashion an empire's glory:
One man with a dream, at pleasure,
Shall go forth and conquer a crown;
And three with a new song's measure
Can trample an empire down.

We, in the ages lying
In the buried past of the earth,
Built Nineveh with our sighing,
And Babel itself with our mirth;
And o'erthrew them with prophesying
To the old of the new world's worth;
For each age is a dream that is dying,
Or one that is coming to birth.

Hmm. Maybe the poem does have relevance today, but not to me, not to Etown. Current World News, perhaps.

Funny that. Babel, I mean. Proof of God's sarcasm. But more on that later.

Monday, 17 May 2004 :-: ["Permalink"]

I am a sucker for yard sales. They are one of the few things I completely understand.

Yard sales are amazing. They bring people together from far away, people who would never see each other, now chatting politely, swapping stories, hunting for items. Mennonites and white collar workers and hispanics from the city. Preppy teenagers on their driveways in designer clothes, watching their wardrobe sell for twenty, for fifteen, for ten dollars.

Sneaky shop-owners walking rapidly from garage to garage with a discerning glint in their eye. First zipping through them all, in search of high value items, then coming back and combing carefully for things they might have missed. See the guy in the mustache and hawaiian shirt? Yeah. He's probably an antiques dealer. That's his truck, the one with the piled furniture.

But I was cruising too. I nearly died when I showed up one minute late to purchase a flute for five dollars. Well, it wasn't bought yet. I hovered with my back to them, looking at the knick-knacks. Ak!, I thought. No big stacks of vinyl or boxes of books to look occupied sorting. I'll have to steel it out.

I thought they would notice me, but I tried to stay out of their range, turned to one side so I could watch. They were arguing. Good. The little girl held more tightly onto the flute-case handle. I peeked over my shoulder at them then turned to admire a china set.

Her mom was confused. Good. Just walk away, and in a few seconds, zing! I'll have it.... I thought.

Nooo! No! No! no no No no, I thought. She's a good mother. Why did she have to be a good mother! I screamed inside. For the daughter was now smilingly swinging the flute and they continued to browse. I walked away without acknowledging them. They never knew how completely they vanquished me.

Image of a flute I bought at a yard sale on Saturday

Well, who am I to deny the gift of music to anyone? I later found out that the family was not musical, not very wealthy, that this girl was stepping out and trying something unprecedented in the history of her family by requesting a five dollar flute. They didn't even know where to look for lessons. After I heard that, I felt bad about my selfishness. But I was glad she had the flute. For I know the value of music, and the soulwarming qualities of playing music.

Later, I found another flute. God is good to me. It was twenty dollars, but well worth it. The action is good, and the pads are in good shape. Gemeinhardt model M1. It's ancient, and I can already make music with it (he was a flute teacher and gave me several instruction books).

My brass-playing friends are going to kill me for this.

I have already arranged to swap trumpet lessons for flute lessons with a friend.

** * **

I also made another amazing find, which will be useful to me this week. Tasteful, artful note cards for a dollar a box!

a stack of note card boxes

Thank-you notes are a part of my very existence. Getting good ones cheap was indeed a Godsend.

(why Melodeon, you ask? I learned my love for learning new instruments years ago, in our 3-foot-tall crawlspace, the day I found an old melodeon shuffled behind boxes and chests of keepsakes.)

(n) and counting
Sunday, 16 May 2004 :-: ["Permalink"]

Friday, as I jogged the Conewago Trail, I recalled a very old memory, perhaps my earliest. It is a reminder of who I have been, and it reveals who I have become.

I remembered the first time I counted to 1000.


I am an insomniac. I always have been. Over the years, I developed ways to make myself sleep well. But I was not always so disciplined. I used to think at night.

I used to enjoy thinking at night.

Thinking to 1000 wasn't too hard. It had just never occurred to me. I knew my numbers -- dad made sure of that with his HP calculator and talk of MIT for me someday. High hopes for a poor immigrant from the third world. Can you blame him? It was the eighties. The Apple II was 9 years old when I was born. When Richard Stallman started GNU, I was one year old.

I don't think I was old enough for school at that time, and I remember very little from the experience. I do remember laying back on the bed and trying to count. Bedtimes were so annoying; at other times I tried to do useful things in bed. I learned to whistle in bed.

I have never had a good memory; too focused I suppose. I always try to clear my mind to think effectively. Memories are just distractions. Sure, I have my set of accepted memories, just like anyone else, but I have blocked out much of my past so I could focus on the present.

But I started counting. 1...2...3...4...5...6.. and onward. I lost my count a few times and started over again a few times. Then I got there, slowly, patiently. 999....1000! I remember being surprised and pleased. I grinned. Until that night, I didn't know all the numbers up to a thousand, but I knew the rules that governed counting to a thousand. By following the rules persistently, I was able to speak numbers I had never even heard.

I was excited like I rarely have been since. Bursting with joy, I could hardly bundle up my excitement in the dark doorway that led to my parents' bedroom. The door was open, as usual, but I didn't dare wake them up. I knew about the black phlegm in the sink, phlegm my dad coughed up after working night shift. At that age, I didn't know what work was, but I knew what it did to my father. I didn't dare wake him up. But I was too excited to sleep.

I stood next to the bed for a very long time, quietly, patiently waiting for someone to wake up so I could tell them. Mom thinks I waited there hours. I do not remember.

She turned over, startled. My face was inches from her pillow.

"Mommy! I just counted to a thousand!" I exclaimed. "Here, listen!"

I don't think I had a chance to recite. It was really a bit too much, after all. Late at night, and my parents' worked all day. Sesame street was one thing, but a thousand?


Why did I count to a thousand at so young an age? Why can't I find such simple pleasure in mental efforts as I did before, laying back in the dark, counting to an unimaginably high number? Why do I think that selling my brain cells is good? Why am I no longer as polite as I was 15-17 years ago, unwilling to wake my parents, but unwilling to keep a slice of joy to myself?

I may be productive. I can now chomp hard on the bit they give me and follow my profs' and my employers' leads. Sometimes, they're challenging and fun, like my current job. But why must I now distract myself when I go to bed?

When I come to the highest number: 1000, 2000, 40,000, what next? Infinity stretches forever beyond. My efforts just remind me of my own futility.

But where are the childhood dreams?

Footloose and Free
Saturday, 15 May 2004 :-: ["Permalink"]

Reference books. Graphics design. Layouts, meetings, calculators, coffeeshops. Purple papers-- inky black-- out of my hands, for it's over. Now the next task. But I have a few days.

First, a conversation.

"You seem to be naturally disciplined," a prof said.

I laughed. "Nope. Discipline is the most difficult thing for me" I explained. "I just got a head start in working it out."

* * * * * *

A few hours later, my feet thumped rhythmically on the dark loam of the rail trail. Over the last month, I had drained every ounce of effort from my brain, greedily devouring sugars and other chemicals to stay awake, to stay productive.

Now, my brain was exhausted, and my body stocked with days of excess energy. In the past, trying to sleep under these circumstances became nightmarish; my brain unthinkably dull and my body unable to sleep.

Out on the trail, my feet thumped steadily. In the silence, birds sang, and the oaks, poplars, birch, and underbrush placed me in a musical tunnel of living celebrations. I bet my friends are watching TV. But this is so refreshing. For the first time in weeks, a pervasive grin rose from somewhere inside my soul.

My mind started to wake up. I did some complex multiplication inside my head, grateful to think about something other than words and literature.

Then it happened. I remembered.

horizon of trees

I remembered the first time I counted to 1000. I'll post the story tomorrow.

Last Assignment Passed in
Friday, 14 May 2004 :-: ["Permalink"] I can pass out.


life will be much quieter now, since all my friends are leaving. Sorry I didn't say goodbye; sorry we couldn't chat. Next year, I tell myself.

The music building's practice rooms will be strangely silent, sadly empty this summer:

Practice room doors at Zug Memorial Hall, Elizabethtown College
Encrystalled Lavenders
Friday, 14 May 2004 :-: ["Permalink"]

Their soft petals ruffled and cascaded into each other. Underneath the bud openings, twistingly a-jostle, the stems' cut lines reached the bottom.

Angles of cut lead crystal collided glimpses of the petal and blue checks from the tablecloth. Petals, yellow petals on blue, petals on purple petals, colors Mendel would be proud of.

"My mother would always plant pansies," she said when I glanced at the table. " In the springtime, we cut them and put them in little vases smaller than that crystal sugar bowl," she said.

She did not tell me the bowl was once her grandmothers'. I did not need to be told.

"Pansies were cheap," she said.

We looked at the pansies silently for a time.

Cheap? Maybe. But ever so, ah, beautiful.

High Underground
Friday, 14 May 2004 :-: ["Permalink"]

The last two days, I haven't been posting because I've been High Underground. Sort of.

See, I've been preparing a guide to interesting, useful reference materials found at the Elizabethtown College High Library. It's due today. And, well, you know me. When my wrists started hurting too much to actually type, I didn't give up.

I decided to turn it into a website. At least I could still use the mouse.

Screenshot of High Underground, a to-be-launched website about creative nonfiction.

I called it high underground for several reasons. The library's name is The High Library (named after High Steel I think). This is going to become somewhat of an underground guide to the library and to nonfiction research in general. And yes, research is very addicting.

The superstructure in the image doesn't refer to High Steel. Rather, it's a a photograph of the shipping dept. of Amerimax Home Products, who I worked for last summer.

Life will begin to seem sane starting tomorrow, I hope. No shipping dept. for me, though I miss it. I'll be doing writing for the new Elizabethtown College website.

High Underground, a site about creative nonfiction and and nonfiction research, will be launched sometime next week.

Banana Tech
Tuesday, 11 May 2004 :-: ["Permalink"]

I heard some shocking news the other day. The supermarket banana supply, it seems, may disappear within the next ten years. The Chiquita lady's dance will end, and we will all have to mix Pomegranates into our corn flakes or douse Mangos in ice cream. Split-Pea Split anyone?

Our yellow edible friend, Musa Musacaceae , has for hundreds of years been closely mixed into a mangle of science, invention, diplomacy, art, and culture, mingling with the fruit cocktail of human effort our world is today.

Not even the simple banana is free from the machinations of our society and economy. Yes, a complicated blend of marketing efforts, refrigerated ships, import and export trade laws, food databases, pesticides, inventory tracking computers, genetic science, agricultural voodoo, and international summits all come together every morning when you pull the convenient tab and open the handy yellow container to enjoy a tasty snack of potassium, the perfect pick-me-up. Nature's Mylar, eh?

In today's society, we don't understand the things we use. Figuring out the remote control is hard enough. Understanding the electrical contents borders on black magic. But we don't even understand the simple banana. Hands up if you know the banana isn't a fruit tree. Not a tree, it's just a really big herb plant. Basil, Cumin, Tarragon, Rosemary, Echinacea, Banana. In fact, the Banana is the world's largest herb.

Is the Banana a technology? It certainly is a product of technology; it comes off the assembly line just like any other product. But in the end, when I look at the golden yellow fruit and the smiling flamenco dancer, I'll let life be simple. I'll be a good little Eloi and smile as I take a bite. I'll buy technology because it's new and shiny and magical, and I didn't grow up with it, and I'll buy bananas because they're natural.

And when the banana population dies, and genetically manufactured bananas appear in the stainless steel rows, the automatic mist spritzing gently from aluminum nipples evenly spaced along the long aisle, I'll never know the difference.

Beginnings Thrice Today: Tomorrow? Once.
Monday, 10 May 2004 :-: ["Permalink"]

It is late.

Fingertip teardrops stain the barren pages. Words, words words.

In the morning, the graying fog and windowscreen grids pixellate the world. The trees, the yellow grasses in the field, and the bright flowers all dissolve into whitish mist -- they desaturate in the hanging vapors.

No time for photography today.

Can I breathe into your soul?

Little ridges on a little oakleaf. You will grow; the rifts will become bigger. Distinctive.

Or am I pounding silent keys, clattering restless linkages against broken strings?

Three finals today. One tomorrow.

Silence. A Resftul place among the willow blossoms. Sweetly swaying among condensing tears.

And then?

Eyes-a-Flashing...Oh What a Mess!
Sunday, 9 May 2004 :-: ["Permalink"]

Lightning flashing outside. But the semester is almost over. So celebrate with the Tuba Tiger Rag or go Swingin' with the saints!

I unplugged the TV. Devices aren't grounded here; old houses aren't filled with the latest technology. Their guts are bundled with tangles of copper pipes (whoops! there was a leak last week -- all my elementary/secondary education lost in mold and soggy paper) and corroding wires.

Flashing lights.

"I was thinking of very old times, when the Romans first came here, nineteen hundred years ago--the other day. . . . Light came out of this river since--you say Knights? Yes; but it is like a running blaze on a plain, like a flash of lightning in the clouds. We live in the flicker

-- Marlow, Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad

Rumbles in the distance. A silhouette on the edge, dark blots on the bottom of a whitish clouded page, rent by crackling silver veins.

This is random, isn't it?

What must missile attacks feel like?

Tinderbox: internal anchor equivalents
Saturday, 8 May 2004 :-: ["Permalink"]

For a while, I've been struggling with a way to accomplish the equivalent of HTML anchor links between Tinderbox notes. If I have a large document and I want to link to a particular paragraph from a particular paragraph, I thought, I can't do it. I was disappointed with Tinderbox's lack of a key hypertext feature.

Then I figured it out. It might, of course, be a kluge, but I think not. See, I was deceived by the idea of link direction. I forgot my database experience. How do you do a many-many link in a relational database? You need intermediate data.

Now, if I want to directly link two bits of text that are part of two notes, I first highlight the text. Then I hit the *, which links to a new note from the highlighted text. Then, I highlight the link text from the second note and link it to the new, third note I just created.

Voila! It takes an extra step to traverse between texts, which might be annoying, but then it might not. It actually seems like an elegant way to deal with it. This way, complex means aren't needed to set where the anchor points to. The basic link works perfectly well, since we can backtrack links in Tinderbox. The extra note also gives us a place to include a detailed explanation of the link.

I have used this numerous times in my draft of the comparison between Foucault's Discipline and Punish and Conrad's Heart of Darkness. Since I have the full text of Heart of Darkness in the Tinderbox file, I can use this to directly link my citations to the text. I can also use this to demonstrate the argument flow within a single note, linking parts of the main text to other parts of the main text.

These links don't have to be one-way either. Their topology can become complex. If I cite an idea in several places, I can have this jumping-off note be pointed to from all over the place.

The trick is direction. Rather than having the central note point to other notes, all the cross-references point inward to this central linking note. If you want to link to a specific spot in a note, think backwards. This way we encode the location in the document where the reference is made.

Brilliant. I doubt Eastgate did this by accident.

What Happened Out There?
Friday, 7 May 2004 :-: ["Permalink"]

Mark Bernstein asks,

"Seriously, what happened to Lynndie England this year? Last year, she's clerking at Wal-Mart, saving money for college, joining the reserves for a little extra cash. As far as I can tell, she doesn't even show up in Google before she's getting souvenir photos of good times tormenting Iraqi prisoners. What's she been through that she'd being doing this stuff?"

(Bernstein, May 6)

I'm always rather leery about applying literature to the real world. After all, how can I be sure that fiction presents truth or even gives the right questions? But I happen to be writing a fairly in-depth paper comparing Foucault's Discipline and Punish with Conrad's Heart of Darkness. There are some strong connections.

Why do we ask questions like "what happened to Lynndie England this year?" The prevailing philosophy of our time likes to think that people are naturally nice people but can be adversely affected by our surroundings. This is why we delve into the childhood of criminals, etc etc etc. There was a time when criminals were just killed or punished, the main purpose of the law to determine guilt and mete punishment. Of course, in those times, someone like Lynndie probably wouldn't have gotten in trouble for torturing prisoners.

Where did we get this sense of "humane" treatment? What is humane anyway?

In Heart of Darkness, (arguably) Conrad puts people in strange situations, takes them from 'civilized' humanity to live in a less civilized place. When the artificial props of human society fall away, so does their illusion of a good character:

You can't understand. How could you?--with solid pavement under your feet, surrounded by kind neighbours ready to cheer you or to fall on you, stepping delicately between the butcher and the policeman, in the holy terror of scandal and gallows and lunatic asylums--how can you imagine what particular region of the first ages a man's untrammelled feet may take him into by the way of solitude-- utter solitude without a policeman--by the way of silence--utter silence, where no warning voice of a kind neighbour can be heard whispering of public opinion. These little things make all the great difference. When they are gone you must fall back upon your own innate strength, upon your own capacity for faithfulness. Of course you may be too much of a fool to go wrong--too dull even to know you are being assaulted by the powers of darkness.

Heart of Darkness, part two

And what do we question when people go down? We question their training. Mark again:

But in Iraq, we've got a professional, volunteer army that ought to be better trained than Napoleon's best -- we've certainly paid for that.

This is our problem, and Foucault's work points it out. Two things. First, we believe the lie about training. In a world where we try to stick up for individuality, we believe the marketing. We believe that training can create an Army of One, a collection of perfectly operating biological machines who follow orders. If someone messes up, Rumsfeld is responsible somehow, because he is the face (Big Brother? or Goldstein?) of the military. We think he directly influences everything because we believe The Lie.

Contrived systems of power like a military hierarchy, parliamentary procedure, flip-a-coin, etc, make placing blame very difficult, since blame can be distributed not only to a large number of people, but also to the system itself. And we can't quite punish the system without punishing everyone in it. Nobody wants to do that.

Perhaps the training worked too well... for in this discussion we also marvel that someone would display a gaping lack of individuality. We are shocked that someone who was working at Walmart could be torturing people a year later and not think twice about it. This is not a surprise at all. If she's your everyday conformist (working at Walmart, preparing for college), I would expect her to be someone on whom the training would work very well, someone who would want to please, someone who would use unusual torture if it was perceived needed.

If Lynndie, for example, drove an art car, I would be more surprised, since I would expect her to be more of an individual thinker. This is just a guess, but most art car drivers don't end up in the military.

I wouldn't be too much more surprised though. We make a lot of assumptions in our nice, affluent world. The lie of training is one of our more insidious errors. It's the error that says that the military is a good way to reform someone, the error that says that college is useful for producing people to work in skyscrapers as interchangeable cubicle parts. The error says that prisons for children are the best way to nurture them. If the lie were true, we wouldn't need that other instrument of discipline: the video camera. We wouldn't need surveillance, we wouldn't need bureaucracies, we wouldn't need judges, and we wouldn't need to ask the question "how?" and "why?" when things like this happen. Because they wouldn't happen.

It would be a very scary world, imho, if we could fully control a person's future moral life just through a short period of training and discipline. We can't, fortunately, but we assume we can in times like this, Clockwork Orange notwithstanding.

Scholars debate over whether the title Heart of Darkness refers to an empty moral capacity or one predisposed to evil. In the book, I would vote for emptiness. I think that is Conrad's philosophy. It is not mine. As a Christian, I realize the predisposition for evil that is even inside me. I tend to be selfish, greedy, proud, and unkind. But I have acknowledged that truth, identified the evil within (which is not inscrutable or cloaked in darkness, but very real and visible) and acknowledged my inability to remove it from my identity. I am not surprised at Lynndie's actions (not very pleased, but not surprised), because I know that I could very easily do the same things given the right circumstances. I might even enjoy it. I also know that I am capable of many equally despicable, harmful things in my current circumstances. This is not an easy thing to admit.

But I have a very real hope. I have placed my faith in Jesus Christ, the only person who ever lived with a completely clean heart. He was tortured, punished, and the eternal law was satisfied on his body. And he has given me a new heart, a new nature along with the power to live a righteous life. Foucault talks about power over others, but he doesn't say much about power over one's self. God gives me the ability to choose my life, granting the power to make a fair choice between good and evil. I no longer have to be a product of my direct surroundings. I now choose righteousness.

As nice as they are, Walmart and a drill sergeant can't create morals or righteousness.

Yes, you may chide me for not being scientific. But I don't see where today's mechanical/pharmaceutical philosophy of human behavior has created systems capable of consistently reproducing results. I'm glad it doesn't. I'm glad I'm free to choose God. I'm glad He has made me free.

Two Images of Springtime
Thursday, 6 May 2004 :-: ["Permalink"]

No. The stress is not over, but who can argue with life? After all, how can I feel down or discouraged while immersed in the most beautiful surroundings?

At dusk, we can find a beauty in the drizzle...

The Lincoln (?) Memorial from the other side of the river, framed by the boughs of a tree

And in the daytime, on our way to class, we see the beauty of the brilliant sunlight in the grass, in the trees, radiating from the warm concrete, and blindingly reflected in the railings we use to steady our gait.

Stairway and railing walking up to the Etown College Gym, next to an ornamental conifer, with a flowering ping tree in full bloom at the top

God is good to us.

Empty Quiver
Wednesday, 5 May 2004 :-: ["Permalink"]

"I can't imagine what you'd do to yourself at an Ivy League," she said.

Neither can I. The quest for a fully optimized life (one of the only ways to balance my many interests) has many rewards, many consequences.

This morning, while working on my laptop, I pulled something in my left arm.

I have been eating too much, since eating helps me focus mentally. I think the rhythm of chewing helps my mental pace. I am beginning to feel the new fat on my body. My cheeks bounce when I jog. Odd. I never associated gravity with my face before. The stern cords of my facial tendons, so strong from over a decade of trumpet, have sunk into the fat around my mouth.

My arm aches. Even when I hold my hand limp at my side, it quivers. Stretches don't seem to work.

I still have many, many pages to write. My left fingers are hard to control, and the pain increases the longer I keep it going.

Only 15 pages to go.

I plan to continue yesterday's story about Friday's concert, but the blog might go empty for a day before I pick it up again.

Sneaky Water
Tuesday, 4 May 2004 :-: ["Permalink"]

We made quite a splash.

Dr. Fritz, of course, looked-- No -- glided like a true professional, like the embodiment of lyricism out onto the stage, smooth as the surface of a peach, crisply timed like the juicy snap of a green bean. All my friends formed ranks backstage. I interrupted Dr. Fritz for a small detail and then he began to speak.

We few, we happy few, we band of brothers; For he to-day that sheds his blood with me Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile, This day shall gentle his condition: And gentlemen in England now a-bed Shall think themselves accursed they were not here, And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.

...Ok, Ok. He didn't really quote Henry V act 4 scene 3. But to watch him speak, he might have. I walked to the stage entrance and turned to watch my friends and comrades prepare to enter the stage.

"Did you notice, Nate?" said Clayton, "that the stage is bigger than the auditorium?" The stage we used was only about half the size of the actual stage, the curvingly rippled walls and fancy ceiling an adjustable, modular inner stage. Behind the faux stage, beams of light glowed at the seams, like a lightbulb hidden under a wicker basket in the dead of night.

I stood next to the entrance and watched my friends file into the light, armed with folders and water bottles. It was very dry. I took another sip and mulled over 16oz I already drank in the last hour. I wondered if my recently-filled bottle was enough.

The last white shirt bobbed through the glowing portal that was an entranceway, blocking the light for a brief moment, then passing inside. It was time, and I breathed deeply.

I stepped out from the shadows, from behind the curtain, into a new state of mind. The bottle slid into the podium's inner shelf. Good. The folder was open. Looking up, I smiled.

Pause. I remembered my ventriloquist training. Create some space. Give them something to anticipate.

Breathe deeply. Doublecheck the first words.....memorize......look up


I was no longer conscious of the musicians behind me, sitting patiently, intently listening to my discourse. I forgot about Dr. Fritz's carefully brushed bed of curly hair. I certainly wasn't paying attention to the orchestra, who were probably sneaking extra peeks at difficult musical passages.

The audience? I looked at them, but only for effect. I even made frequent eye contact. But they weren't really there. I was at the edge, the musicians behind, the dusky crowd before. I was at the center of focus, and the text was at the center of my focus. What was the camera doing?

I read, and the words came, soft, smooth, and liquid, sliding off my tongue precisely, bubbling upwards gently first -- the hard-caked drips of Sarracino's pen surfacing and soaring from the fountain of my heart.

The stage was dry, but I dared not drink until the poem's end.

As the poem ended, Dr. Fritz, who had rested in a microsmally unnoticeable slump, perked up a millimeter. They noticed and prepared to sing.

The poem ended.

Turning sharply to the left, I walked back behind the curtain.... without my water bottle.

Downbeat. The warm breath of music filled the dusty air. But I had no water, no drops to cool my tongue.

Could I walk the winding hallways in time to be back and speak on cue? No. What to do?

I noticed a water bottle perched on a wooden box in the corner.

No. No. No. I'm not that dumb.

I licked my lips, my tongue a piece of bitter taffy.

I looked again at the bottle.


The bottle looked at me.

I stepped closer. The music would end soon.

Stupid Stupid Stupid! but did I have a choice?

I hid behind the tall rackmount that controlled the hall's lights. I was alone with the bottle. Tilting my head back, I poured the water into my throat, trying not to touch the mouth. I set the bottle back down.

I loathed myself. Then I realized it wasn't enough. I looked at the bottle again guiltily.

What if they notice? I had no choice; I took another swig.

This happened two more times.

I set the bottle back on the block of wood and walked onstage, for it was time to read once more.

Bailing Out
Monday, 3 May 2004 :-: ["Permalink"]

Chesapeake Tunnel at night. Lights painting lines in a rearview mirror.I have sometimes been known to *ahem* decorate my car. Honestly, doesn't a little customization make sense? I mean, after all, it's my car. Sure, respectability and all, but don't you sometimes feel like a little electron racing around the circuitboard tracks of a massive social computer?

So I painted the hood with music notes. That doesn't make me weird, does it? I mean, some people paint their fingernails, and that's not weird.

You know, you don't have to remind me about the picture frame I installed underneath the stereo. I see it every time I drive. Honestly, can't a guy have a little fun with his car once in a while? It's not like it's my bike or my trumpet. It's just a car (hmm, I wonder which is worth more. I bet both bike and trumpet individually trump the car).

J. Nathan Matias posing with his 'Vintage' '89 Plymouth HorizonIn a few years, I will be able to put a vintage license plate on it. After all, it's a vintage 1989 Plymouth Horizon.

Sigh. Well, you're right about one thing. I would never install one of those horrendous asphyxio-scent pinetree dangly things in my car. I can't stand foreign smells inside.....

What's that strawberry-kiwi-ish fragrance coming from inside, you ask?

Oh. Heh. Yeah. (shuffles nervously)...ummm -- yeah. About that, um, fragrance.

Last week, I found out that the rear driver's side floor doesn't leak. I thought it was good news. Don't you?

Evidently, half-gallon Gatorade bottle lids aren't completely secure.

I spent twenty minutes bailing it out with a plastic cup.

Evidently, Gatorade wasn't designed with the now-sticky interiors of cars on blazing-hot days in mind.

Grace was her nature
Sunday, 2 May 2004 :-: ["Permalink"]

Torill Elvira Mortensen posts a beautifully sad story. Writings like this remind me how much I am thankful for easy web publishing. Well-written. I could analyze this to death and find only positive things, but I think I'll just ask you to read it for yourself.

Rehearsing with Patrick Burns
Sunday, 2 May 2004 :-: ["Permalink"]

Fun! Challenging. Inspiring.

Patrick Burns cares. He cares about what he does, he cares about others. He cares about his music. Before we rehearsed Hometown (mp3), he reminded us of the poem at the top of the music:

That yard, the tree--you climbed it once with me
And we talked of cities we'd live in someday.
I left old friend, and now I'm back again,
Please say you missed me since I went away.

--Garrison Keillor

"Play and think about the poem. Play the poem, and you'll get it," he said. For Mr. Burns gets it. He knows what makes music great. Sure, it's good to be clever, good to be creative. It's even nice (from time to time) to create something that makes academics smile or kick themselves in chagrin. But when it comes down to it, music has to mean something to us. Patrick just happens to be able to do that while also being clever and creative.

As I have only played with a few conductors in my life, I took some time to get used to his conducting style, which is swifter, slightly more crisp, and less flowing than Mr. Sharnetzka's. Mr. Burns focuses on the beat in his conducting, and his motion focuses on that point. Mr. Sharnetkza can keep more things going at the same time, his arms flowing at a steadier pace. Unlike Mr. Burns, Mr. Sharnetzka will often switch conducting patterns to match the music. He conducts with his whole body. This latter skill is very helpful for me, since I'm very short and often lose the baton behind someone's head. When this happens I can tell what he's doing just from his body language.

After the rehearsal, another student and I talked with the two of them for quite a while. They both spoke insightfully about the field of music and gave me much food for thought. I asked them to pose for a picture.

Patrick Burns and Scott Sharnetzka at Elizabethtown College, Zug Memorial Hall after rehearsal, May 1, 2004
Patrick Burns       Scott Sharnetzka

Today's concert will be out of the ordinary for personal reasons as well.

Normally, I focus the entire weekend on a performance. I have a single-tracked mind which can focus intensely, but I have difficulty switching. After our practice ended, I kept rehearsing in my head for the next few hours, even though I sat in front of the screen trying to write one of the three ten-page writing projects due on Monday. However, for the first time in my life, when I was incapable of focusing, I was able to make it happen. Around 7pm, I was able to read thoughtfully, not fizzling until 10pm.

I woke at 6AM, and instead of mentally preparing for the concert as usual, I'm still working on my paper comparing Foucault's Discipline and Punish and Madness & Civilization with Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness. My paper makes a rather obvious connection, but oh well. Working on papers beforehand, breaking my train of thought might mess me up this afternoon, but I hope not.

I wish I could warm up this morning, but there's no time. Instead, I will leave chearch immediately and arrive two hours early at school to relax for a while over some basic exercises. It's annoying not to know how well I'll do today. I won't know that until I put the horn to my lips. For it will be a long, challenging performance comprised of the most difficult music I have ever performed.

Nearing the end of the tunnel on the most difficult two weeks of my life. And things are starting to bottleneck.

On the bright side, whenever there's a bottleneck, you can whistle over the top.

Rewind and Payback
Saturday, 1 May 2004 :-: ["Permalink"]

Parenting sometimes seems like an intensely fun frustration. If it doesn't kill you or beat you down, it seems to turn you into a very good humorist.

"I'm attending my daughter's concert tonight," he said, "her class is putting on a play, and I need to be there."

It made sense. Parents generally should be supportive of their kids in things like this. After all, how many sentimental movies have we watched about the trauma of not seeing one's parent at a big event?

"See, I need to videotape it," he explained.

Again, a kind, loving father wanting to capture a precious moment forever (or until the mag tape degrades). Do all these videocameras increase the stress of kids' performances? Has the very nature of live performance changed? I wonder if anyone's done a sociological study on the impact of the camcorder on family life. I decided to poke fun at him and pulled a stereotype out of my bag.

"So, that way you have something to embarrass her with when she's older?"

I was somewhat surprised by his answer,

"Absolutely!" He explained, "It's payback, you see."


"Yeah. Last night, she refused to eat her green beans."

Woah. I might live in a bubble, but this kind of reasoning was new to me. He explained.

Some evenings, his children are allowed to pick what foods they eat for dinner. Each meal, they much choose a green vegetable. This made sense. A good father wanting his children to eat healthily. So far, so good.

She chose green beans and chicken. My friend cooked the food and set it out.

His daughter freaked. "I wanted broccoli, not green beans! I don't like green beans!"

"But you asked for green beans."

"I changed my mind."

"You didn't tell me."

"You know I don't like green beans!"

"Then why did you ask for them?"

(aha! Checkmate!)

"I still won't eat them." She sulked in front of the plate.

Mom stepped in. "Well, if you don't want to eat them, that's fine. Don't eat them. But your father worked hard to cook these green beans. So, if you don't eat the green beans, you won't be able to go to your friend's house tomorrow. But that's fine. You don't have to eat the beans."

Kids never give up. She stomped into the kitchen and grabbed the phone book. "I'll just call my friend and tell her I'm not coming."

She opened the phonebook like the pages were made of taffy. Slowly, laboriously, she located the number and slouched to the phone. "I'm calling my friend now," she said hopefully.

It didn't work. She set the phone back down, put away the phone book and sat down at the table.

The green beans were still there.

When she finally ate them, he tried not to gloat.

"Payback," he said. "That's why we parents own videocameras. When she's twenty, her boyfriend is sooo going to see this."