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.

October 2006
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
Home and Vision
Friday, 27 Oct 2006 :-: ["Permalink"]

I don't feel like I'm away. I live in a nice house in a nice setting, walk on tree-lined streets to a new faculty building, and then spend the evening at a place which is hundreds of years old.

** * **

This morning, while working to improve my knowledge of linguistic history/theory, I came across the poem enscribed upon the Statue of Liberty.

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses, yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

I cried. Where have we lost our way, we Americans? At what point did the dream of America the Beautiful disappear? When did we give up? Or did we err when we lost the spirit of the statesman, when we, the descendants of the tempest-tost decided to close the golden door of generosity in order to continue a dedication to personal gain?

I am living in a system designed to separate people, designed to convince them they are important, where argument and assertion are more valuable than questions. Some days, I long for the open arms and golden doors of my homeland. But in our time, the arms are cold, hard, rigid. The glowing hearth which shone behind the door has been replaced by a gilt facade with no knocker.

Our ascendance as a superpower now leaves us wondering what to do next, even as we undermine our great initiative through short-term chess. The politics of problem solving and electioneering pragmatics have stripped us of vision; of ideas which help us see ourselves and our purpose in a new light, ideas which transform *and* motivate us. But maybe it's no longer possible in a pluralistic society. Maybe we are so busy talking we forget to listen.

Why are all the idealists only angry and cynical? What have we done to ourselves? Is there no way forward?

** * **

Each day at Cambridge is a treasurebox; I have inadequate hands, my discipline is weak, and my satchel far too small. Pray that my days be filled with wisdom, discipline in excellence, a sharp mind, and warm generosity.

Chalabi at the Cambridge Union Society
Friday, 27 Oct 2006 :-: ["Permalink"]

Wednesday, Ahmed Chalabi spoke at the Cambridge Union Society, of which I am a member. Although I have not followed the Iraqi political situation closely, many of my friends have done so, so in order to satisfy their curiosity, I have posted a transcription of my notes from the evening.

Note: Any corrections or additions would be welcome.

Friday, 13 Oct 2006 :-: ["Permalink"]

The powerful opportunity found at Cambridge University is also the most pernicious weapon levied against the soul.

When students arrive, they find themselves in awe and often respond by attempting to frame their own life and achievements in the best possible manner. But it is a dangerous mistake to overextend the crust.

Now, just over one week into the academic schedule, some students are filling the void with titles and responsibilities, solidifying their confidence, adequacy, and perhaps even superiority even as they only begin to realize the full weight of their academic responsibilities. Foam and sponge fill cavities quickly, but can they stand fast in the full forces of life?

A strange base of outward confidence fills up the attitudes of students who have only been here a short while. A little more experienced, I see the fragility of their nascent thought, just as no doubt others see in me. But while I count self-doubt essential to reach the positive outcomes of an inner dialectic, I am uneasy about its marked absence in many others. Perhaps this is the curse of discussion and thought: Since I come from an environment where intellectual conversation is scarce, I hash things out inside. For these, who are rich with opportunity for discourse, the clash of strong assertion squeezes out the truth. Yet I would not have it squeezed upon the ground merely because the juicer cannot drink.

** * **

For the moment, I am playing it safe. I have turned down one very tempting/prestigious opportunity, and am avoiding others.

But while I don't carry the same uncertain confidence as those freshers who marvel at being here (how odd that I should find it natural, comfortable, and enjoyable), the unceasing voice of avarice whsipers gently, "what if?"

Badsey Childrens' Letters
Wednesday, 11 Oct 2006 :-: ["Permalink"]
Unfortunately, it was the war which changed things. I remember my father saying with one crop of onions he paid off this bungalow, after years of debt and struggle. It seems a sad thing that the war was a means of doing it.

From an addendum to the marvelous website: Letters from the Badsey County School children, 1933.

Wednesday, 11 Oct 2006 :-: ["Permalink"]

Too many ideas, coming too quickly. This is awesome. It will take me years to process everything.

Today, as I was reading Sophocles, I enjoyed a piece of delightful lemon cake baked by Liz, our joyful, generous welfare officer at the SBR. It made me think of a comment from Dr. Poole, who noted that our experience of tragedy is much less visceral than that of the Greeks who first saw the plays of Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripedes. In the words of my housemate Matthew, "Oedipus puts out his eyes with his mother's brooch, and you think grief, grief. And then you take another bite. Cake. Cake."

** * **

Another thought:

We live in times where machines are making life easier for us, where we have to create new jobs and devise new markets because we run out of things to do, because necessary products and services become so cheap we can't afford them.

Hang on Sloopy
Tuesday, 10 Oct 2006 :-: ["Permalink"] [soundtrack]

Sent me by my good friend Kyle Kopko, who was wondering why one of the fight songs of the Ohio State University football team was also the state rock song -- indeed, the only official rock song of any state in the good ol' US of A. ( I don't think I even need to tell you the name of today's soundtrack)

OSU Football

What I find most unique, and in some ways kind of disturbing, is the resolution the Ohio General Assembly passed in 1985 designating “Hang on Sloopy” as the official rock song of the State of Ohio (by the way, Ohio is the ONLY state to have an official rock song). The following is the actual content of the House Resolution. It is not a joke. They really passed this resolution as-is. You can tell folks here take their legislative duties seriously.

WHEREAS, The members of the 116th General Assembly of Ohio wish to recognize the rock song "Hang On Sloopy" as the official rock song of the great State of Ohio; and

WHEREAS, In 1965, an Ohio-based rock group known as the McCoys reached the top of the national record charts with "Hang On Sloopy," composed by Bert Russell and Wes Farrell, and that same year, John Tagenhorst, then an arranger for the Ohio State University Marching Band, created the band's now-famous arrangement of "Sloopy," first performed at the Ohio State-Illinois football game on October 9, 1965; and

WHEREAS, Rock music has become an integral part of American culture, having attained a degree of acceptance no one would have thought possible twenty years ago; and

WHEREAS, Adoption of "Hang On Sloopy" as the official rock song of Ohio is in no way intended to supplant "Beautiful Ohio" as the official state song, but would serve as a companion piece to that old chestnut; and

WHEREAS, If fans of jazz, country-and-western, classical, Hawaiian and polka music think those styles also should be recognized by the state, then by golly, they can push their own resolution just like we're doing; and

WHEREAS, "Hang On Sloopy" is of particular relevance to members of the Baby Boom Generation, who were once dismissed as a bunch of long-haired, crazy kids, but who now are old enough and vote in sufficient numbers to be taken quite seriously; and

WHEREAS, Adoption of this resolution will not take too long, cost the state anything, or affect the quality of life in this state to any appreciable degree, and if we in the legislature just go ahead and pass the darn thing, we can get on with more important stuff; and

WHEREAS, Sloopy lives in a very bad part of town, and everybody, yeah, tries to put my Sloopy down; and

WHEREAS, Sloopy, I don't care what your daddy do, 'cause you know, Sloopy girl, I'm in love with you; therefore be it

Resolved, That we, the members of the 116th General Assembly of Ohio, in adopting this Resolution, name "Hang On Sloopy" as the official rock song of the State of Ohio; and be it further

Resolved, That the Legislative Clerk of the House of Representatives transmit duly authenticated copies of this Resolution to the news media of Ohio.

Tired of Pleasantries
Sunday, 8 Oct 2006 :-: ["Permalink"]

I have had my fill of pleasantries. The store of empty words wanes: light, music, laughs keep us from noting the ever-wearying ways.

** * **

The problem with truth is that it is ruthless. It may indeed be noble to cast off the vestments of empty intelligence and strained smiles, to shake off the dust of all that which homogenizes intellectual bits of dubious provender. Of such noble souls are those whose dry bones line the floors in the chamber of enlightenment, who achieve their quest and share it only with the dead.

First Lectures
Thursday, 5 Oct 2006 :-: ["Permalink"]

I sat in on a first set of lectures today. Amazing. If there was ever any doubt that I should be studying for an undergraduate degree at Cambridge, that doubt has disappeared. Elizabethtown College was just what I needed to be opened to a world of inquiry and creativity and introduced to the disciplines of formal intellectual pursuit. But at Cambridge can be found a level of refinement and quality I never heretofore imagined.

I was initially rather skeptical about the very idea of lectures, since it brought to mind large lecture halls and boring presentations. But I find (at least within the faculty of English) that the lecturers are so capable and artful with their turns of phrase, and so completely full of content that an hour passes by with amazing rapidity. I understand now how full term can be a mere 8 weeks. The quality and quantity of information during those weeks must be massive.

I have four finely-written pages of notes --I will have to move to Tinderbox, if I am to keep up, although I actually write in some cases faster than I type, since typing tends toward transcription rather than the adaptive rephrasing/summary which is required by the slower process of handwriting-- but here are some ideas culled from the lectures.

  • The idea that the universe began with words is quite radical. It is one thing to describe something which already exists, but how can language describe the very things which give words their meanings in our minds?
  • Tragedy (and I suppose much of literature) brings moral ideas to specific situations. Tragedy from the past reminds us that the idea of social progress is in some ways naive; humanity still faces the same deep problems with which the ancient Greeks struggled.
  • What is criticism? Giving reasons for our reactions to something. Why do it? Why seek others' responses?
    • To gain assurance that we share a common experience
    • To find ideas unique to others, thus improving our world view
  • "Good criticism holds moral and technical qualities of literature in tension" --D.S. Logan
  • "We read literature to modify our modes of experience and -- I'm sticking my neck out here -- live better." -- D.S. Logan
  • More Logan: Why study literature and engage in practical criticism?
    • To help us get the full significance of communication
    • To guard us from being duped
    • To sharpen our historical insight (history is most immediate, most alive through the literature of a time)
    • To become aware of the limitations of the ideas of our own age through the discovery and evaluation of the attitudes and assumptions of the past.
  • Just like science, literary studies strive for a consensus which it knows will never be reached, but which produces a swath of interesting and useful ideas in its path.

and my personal favorite:

  • Stupidity and perceptiveness coalesce in interesting ways. (D. S. Logan)

Matriculation Service
Thursday, 5 Oct 2006 :-: ["Permalink"]

The matriculation service, held in the chapel on Tuesday night, was amazing. The president spoke, we sang hymns, heard the choir perform Britten's "Te Deum," and even were treated to a quote by Douglas Adams,

If human beings don't keep exercising their lips, he thought, their mouths probably sizee up. After a few months' consideration and observation he abandoned this theory in favor of a new one. If they don't keep on exercising their lips, he thought, their brains start working.

Human beings, who are almost unique in having the ability to learn from the experience of others, are also remarkable for their apparent disinclination to do so.

It is a rare mind indeed that can render the hitherto non-existent blindingly obvious. The cry 'I could have thought of that' is a very popular and misleading one, for the fact is that they didn't, and a very significant and revealing fact it is too.

(at this point, the chaplain Clive, noted, "Mind the size of a planet, indeed". I think only one other person got the reference, but we were both trying very hard not to laugh.)

What a way to begin the term! The scripture passages were from I Corinthians 13 and Luke 12.

When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.

** * **

He said to his disciplies, 'Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? If then you are not able to do so small a thing as that, why do you worry about the rest? Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these.

We also heard choral music of Brahms ("How lovely are thy dwellings") and the hymn "Now Thank We All Our God," which I had previously used as the theme song for my graduation from high school.

To live in this place, study in this place, develop in this place must be among the most awe-inspiring yet strengthening experiences possible.

for thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, For ever and ever. Amen.

My First Supervision/Assignment
Sunday, 1 Oct 2006 :-: ["Permalink"]

Today, I received my first assignment, for the Literary Criticism paper. The assignment?

  1. . Pick a poem
  2. . Write a 1,500 word essay about a single word found in the poem.

I can't wait :-). Thanks, Dr. Martin, for all the help on explication.

I'm also to take a look at "7 types of ambiguity" by Empson.

English program background
Sunday, 1 Oct 2006 :-: ["Permalink"]

As an undergraduate, my time will be split among lectures and supervisions. At least two times a day, I will be attending lectures on topics relating to the paper I'm reading. Technically, I am able to attend any lectures I wish in the entire university. In reality, I expect to only go to lectures specifically related to my course -- at least during the first term.

I'm reading for two papers during Michelmas term, so I have one supervision some weeks, and two supervisions on others. During supervisions, I get together with that paper's supervisor and 1-3 other students reading for the paper to discuss the week's readings for about an hour. Then I go into a private session with the supervisor to discuss a paper I have sent him around 48 hours prior.

Education Commences
Sunday, 1 Oct 2006 :-: ["Permalink"]

This week, called Fresher's Week, involves a great number of meetings and orientation sessions. Much partying is had by all, although I have been enjoying quiet times perusing a book or listening to Miles.

Ready to begin.

Dinner in hall is immaculate and delicious.

Education revisited
Sunday, 1 Oct 2006 :-: ["Permalink"]

Yesterday, I asked how to escape the trap of education as an agent of indecision.

After posting to the blog, I opened up the copy of The Intellectual Life of the British Working Class I had just purchased. The answer was right inside; Jonathan Rose very eloquently describes the great liberating and empowering role of literature in the lives of everyday people. Throughout history, countless people of action and consequence (and no doubt many more equally worthy people of which we have never heard) have been opened to a world of learning, ideas, and attainment through the inspiration and enlightenment brought through reading the great works of literature and religion.

Books, of course, are inanimate. To grow, we must take action: read and enjoy books; think and speak and write about them. There are also dangers. On one hand lays the pitfall of becoming a dogmatist uninterested in the growth of others. On the other, the soft marshes of escapist art lure with the pleasant fragrance of decaying minds at ease.

But reading opens new worlds to us, new ideas, new ways of thinking. And the education we find within their frame allows us to step into the picture to live more thoughtfully, more fully.

** * **

More on this later. I have a full week ahead of me. Auditions, inductions, matriculation, photographs, and numerous meetings. But I feel refreshed, ready, and enthusiastic about my studies. If I can keep true to the principles and spirit of true learning within a framework of action and Christian love, roofed with the solid grace of God, I can indeed greet my challenges with a smile.