Notebook of Sand

• 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.

Buddhist Economics and the Shoe Event Horizon
Wednesday, 24 Mar 2004 :-:
Many years ago this was a thriving, happy planet - people, cities, shops, a normal world. Except that on the high streets of these cities there were slightly more shoe shops than one might have thought necessary. And slowly, insidiously, the number of the shoe shops were increasing. It's a well-known economic phenomenon but tragic to see it in operation, for the more shoe shops there were, the more shoes they had to make and the worse and more unwearable they became. And the worse they were to wear, the more people had to buy to keep themselves shod, and the more the shops proliferated, until the whole economy of the place passed what I believe is termed the Shoe Event Horizon, and it became no longer economically possible to build anything other than shoe shops. Result - collapse, ruin and famine. Most of the population died out. Those few who had the right kind of genetic instability mutated into birds who cursed their feet, cursed the ground and vowed that no one should walk on it again.

--Douglas Adams, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe

Much of the American economy is dedicated to keeping the American economy running. Like the bird people in Adams's shoe event horizon, we have entered upon a recursively-slippery slope that sends us plunging who-knows-where, and the only means we think we have to escape are the means that compound our problems.

This year, those running for president will talk about creating jobs. This is rather odd.

" President Bush's top economic priority is the creation of more jobs for American workers."
"Kerry has proposed creating jobs through a new manufacturing jobs credit, by investing in new energy industries, restoring technology, and stopping layoffs in education."

scan of an engraving depicting a huge 19th century crowd engaged in some massive building project

Photo Credit: NOAA

A couple hundred years ago, we created labor saving machines to allow us to do more with less effort, with fewer humans. We are still engaged in this process, in the process of reducing human effort and involvement in work. But we were excited back then, happy that we would be able to create a common life, a life of ease once we had created machines to do our work for us. And the vision wasn't just one of American dominance and ease; it was one of global benefit. And now we complain that the global job market is equalizing? Or is it that we prefer to send charity to other countries, but not real work, not the means for a real life?

Why are we complaining that we have succeeded? If we now have come to the point where our efficiency in meeting human needs has outstripped the need for humans to be involved, this is a great good for society! This means that we all have to work less, or can work at jobs we consider fun.

But we are complaining because our success is bitter. Sorry, utopias. You can change the entire environment, the living conditions, the quality of life, but you can't change who we are. And we're greedy. Now, maybe not really really really greedy, like the other guy, but we are moderately greedy enough within our own culture to be willing to bulldoze the other other guy, the one without a roof over his head. The one who would be glad to get half of what we have.

In the struggle to get ahead, we must always leave someone behind. This is our folly. Getting ahead is pointless. But people forget, and sacrifice their own contentment for unknown future pleasure, sacrificing everyone else's contentment with it.

We don't like to step back, to settle for a little bit less. Most expect to get at least as much stuff as their parents. Nobody thinks of living with less so someone else may have some joy, some comfort, a piece of a stable life. Equilibrium has no definition in the mind of the American individualist. The proposed means to a better life? Lift yourself out, get ahead.

If everyone worked hard to get ahead, then everybody would have enough...laziness causes economic hardship...

Really? Then why not be pleased with outsourcing, which gives people in other countries the opportunity to get ahead?

If grammar were a source of wisdom, as the logicians say, we could also say this: if everyone worked hard to get ahead, we would nullify each other's actions, all be behind, and nobody would be satisfied. But can we trust grammar?

Workman, do you like to grow things? Let the robot fill your place in the assembly line and go to the garden, cultivate the food supply. We have robots to turn the tomatoes into tomato sauce, machines to mix and cook and organize healthy diets. So go to the garden, and be content.

This will never happen. No, we have invented ourselves out of employment, but we have kept the old rules in place. Now we must invent ourselves into employment by asking our leaders to create jobs. And millions still starve.

All this I knew. In fact, all this I argued before.

Then I read Buddhist Economics by E.F. Schumacher, a well-organized, well-written analysis of Western economics. Although I may disagree with Buddhists on religious topics, I agree with the idea of one's religion pervading one's entire sphere of life, a not-so-popular belief these days. But first, a an overview of Schumacher...

Schumacher suggests the following ideas about Western economics:

  • the modern materialist way of life has brought forth modern economics
  • Economists... normally suffer from a kind of metaphysical blindness, assuming that theirs is a science of absolute and invariable truths, without any presuppositions

He then launches into an attempt to understand modern Western economics. It goes like this:

  • the fundamental source of wealth is human labour
  • labour is merely a necessary evil
    • from the point of view of the employer, it is ... simply an item of cost, to be reduced to a minimum if it cannot be eliminated altogether, say, by automaton.
    • to employees, it is a "disutility"; to work is to make a sacrifice of one's leisure and comfort...wages are a kind of compensation for the sacrifice.
  • Thus, everyone wants production (for this is the only viable reason to work in a Western society) to be more efficient. Everyone wants assembly lines or robots.
  • The result: employers hire fewer people and those people are less skilled
  • The effect? Workers are unhappy, because they're losing jobs and becoming more bored at work, while the employer gets richer.

This is my father's experience in the factory.

In a way, my father is glad that he is a hispanic and receives fewer opportunities. One day, soon after he first began to work there, he was sweeping the floor around the workshop where he repairs the factory machinery.

A chief engineer rushed frantically into the workshop.

"Hey, give me that broom!"

My dad was surprised.

"What do you need me to sweep for you?"

"No! Stop sweeping! I want to sweep the shop." His face twisted in despair.

"But you're a chief engineer."

"Look, just give me the broom, Ok? I gotta do something useful today. If I don't sweep, or do something, anything, I don't know how I can live with myself. You don't understand! I just want to know that I did something useful today."

More thoughts will follow on Schumacher and his idea of living a whole religious life, not one of these segmented, postmodern ones that people seem to think is one's moral obligation. But that will come later. That issue is even more complex and important than economics, although economics is the perfect arena to examine it in.

I want to think about it some more first. Because this post just outlines a problem. The solution (if there is one, depending on who is to live the solution), of course, is much more complex.