Celery stick or ice cream?


We’ve all done it. That guilty moment when we know we should grab the vegetable but our seemingly autonomous hand meandered through the winding path to the dark corner of the freezer we pray no one finds. Our lives are packed with decisions and choices we make every day, and some are considerably more life-altering than choosing body fuel. However, an obstacle to overcome is the justifying nature of our decision making process. It’s that same reasonable, internal voice that tells you to press the snooze button 5 times before you wake up, which I’m convinced no one is free of yet. The easiest choice is to choose before you need to make the choice. Establishing our personal ethics helps us to be intentional with our choices and time, and not just fall victim to the whims of easy pleasure. The most worthwhile things to attain are always those that require some sacrifice and work. After all, no one wants to be Eric.


I am Xandor, the Dragon Master


I’m 7’8”, 270 lbs, I have pale green skin, rippling muscles, and a fierce purple Mohawk. Oh, and I drive all the forest elf women crazy with my smolder. The only problem is the vast chasm that separates my preferred identity from my real identity. Personality splintering is an increasingly larger problem, and we’re finding more ways to facilitate it. Elder David A. Bednar of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints shared his thoughts on staying connected to reality, including several heart-wrenching stories of those who have disastrously lost touch with reality. Many seek to trade in their seemingly devastating lives for a soul-capturing digital persona to feel powerful, influential, desirable, and mysterious. The situation degenerates when the impending realization arrives that the alternative offered by the digital world is hollowly temporary. Confidence and pleasure may be extraordinary while engaged in cyberspace, but it rarely lends credence to the fact that it can’t last. Kill stats and a laundry-list of completed raids won’t provide much direction for many of the aspects of life that really matter: a happy family, strong health, and unbending individual self-worth. Virtual reality should stay virtual, and life needs to be reality.

Talking to a wall, that happens to talk back


Communication, paired with reasoning, is one of the most empowering activities. It unapologetically expands our capacity as humans to connect and comprehend information as well as each other. Innovation relating to communication has robustly redefined not only correspondence from one person to another, but interaction between many people at the same time. Clay Shirky discusses this idea in his book Here Comes Everybody and that with the innovation of the internet we are seeing significant social breakthroughs that before were impossible as they were unimaginable.

The communication model has been silently altered as internet services and forums matured. It started with fast and cheap e-mail between one another, but has grown and transformed into sharing a message in a social circle or public arena. This offers significant advantages to the prior written word because an observer becomes a participant – the barrier to entry in online discourse has dropped terrifically low allowing an unhindered flow of conversation. Dialog between many people can occur in real time anywhere.

Our capacity to be human has only amplified as technology reached forward. Effectively communicating with one another is no longer limited by cost, prerequisites, location, or control. Isn’t that what the First Amendment wanted all along?

Suits and Ties or Youtube Videos?

The breadth and omnipresence of the internet allows two people to connect with one another, from anywhere on the earth. It’s no surprise that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints embraces this technology to share the message of the restored gospel. Members of the LDS church try to practice what they preach, which involves assimilation of religious principles into every aspects of their lives beyond just Sunday worship – and the internet is no exception. From dispelling historical myths to finding a church house to chatting online with missionaries, information about the Mormons has proliferated through the internet. Providing information about the church is not their only goal either – you can visit sites like FamilySearch for genealogy whether or not you are a member of the church. You can watch videos of church material or good human practice on the Mormon Channel. It is clear that this is one church seeking to do the Lord’s work through the blessing of technology, and one in which I am proud to affiliate myself with.

Don’t be that kid from high school


The clock mocks your attempt to finish the reading test before the iconic school bell rings in the regret-filled pensive freedom that follows. Looking to your left for some intellectual relief, you see the smart kid hovering over his test, vehemently guarding it from everyone. Pushing aside the realization that he is the epitome of over-doing-it and being left to your own mental power, you proceed to be literarily slaughtered by an English exam. Honesty is a great life choice, but when it comes to software this scenario doesn’t even reside in the moral gray area. Open source projects are designed to attract developers to review, comment, edit, and contribute to every part of the development cycle. Eric Raymond confessed that some of his best features and ideas came from avid Users and passionate beta testers. In the open source community, looking at other coder’s answers and designs isn’t just allowed, but encouraged. Development moves considerably faster in open source environments than in closed source, but there’s no hiding your code from anyone. When software developers come together in open source projects better products are created.

Respect Your Elders


Genealogy: the word just feels old. It has gained the stereotype of being the senile activity of the unemployed elderly. Although they are still invited to participate, the stereotype has become uncannily inaccurate. Thanks to The Church of Jesus-Christ of Latter-day Saints, the appearance of family history has not only gotten a face-lift, but it’s hanging around a new crowd. FamilySearch, the LDS Church’s new genealogy site, connects you with your ancestors in minutes, where traditional genealogy is filled with hours of tedious research and painstaking conversations with cheek-pinching distant relatives. FamilySearch allows you to investigate your heritage quickly and cleanly. So, get onto FamilySearch and create an account, because you owe it to your predecessors. After all, they made it possible for you to sit mesmerized reading a nonsensical blog post on some fancy thing called “the internet”.

Turn It Up, I’m Having a Spiritual Experience


There’s something about a solid face-melting guitar solo or a soul thumping drum beat that lights an existential fire in us. Record companies know this as well, but their evangelical efforts aren’t so much interested in spreading the gospel of great music as they are in filling the donation basket. The worst part is that most of our “keep rocking hard” donation money isn’t even reaching the pastors we’re listening to. Copyrights have been manipulated to allow record companies to skim off a hefty piece of the profit from the real artists, especially when their music is considered a “work for hire” and left as ownership to the company, not the band. There is hope – the musical deities have smiled upon us and heavenly doors have been opened to allow a flow of free music. This avenue is leading to great success for artists who just want to get their angelic sounds out to the masses. Artists who take part in sites like Jamendo don’t sacrifice the right to call music their own for the opportunity to share it and consumers will be more interested in listening to their music for free instead of dropping unrighteous amounts of money on over-priced CDs and MP3 downloads. Next time you want to gripe about pinching out $15 for the next hit album, think about giving some free artists a listen. They just want a little bit of your time, and if you like them your money can go towards seeing their melodic sermons live.

Something Far More Sinister

Life in the digital age requires us to live digitally. We communicate, interact, and transact everyday through digital means, but it comes at a cost. Vulnerabilities creep into our lives as we digitize ourselves, and it can become readily available by internet connection – especially by intruders. Physical distance and stone-walled fortresses have little defense against a data pirate, and their ‘booty’ carries a higher price. The scariest part is that seemingly trivial information is often the most vital. A mother’s maiden name is no more than a few Facebook pursuits away, yet how many institutions use it as a security question to reset your password.

It’s hard to see trailers for movies like “Identity Thief” and imagine it happening to you, but before you claim that you’re safe from such attacks, ponder this: information is the real currency. Cliff Stoll tracked a hacker across the world to find out the malefactor was selling intelligence found on their research computers. At the very least, your data can be used to lock-down an e-mail address, but that’s just kicking the door in on the havoc.

The best thing you can do is be informed. Know what’s out there and how to protect your stuff, and yourself.

Everybody Wants to be Peach

princess_toadstoolWomen and computer science: separate, they’re wonderful. Together, even more wonderful. And I’m not hinting at my fiancé talking nerdy to me, which has failed numerous times. However, the percentage of women embarking in the field of Computer Science is dwindling from the majesty they held in the 80s and early 90s. The lunacy – the barrier is entirely artificial, and the culture is to blame. Coding all-nighters, shopping on Newegg.com, and mildly unhealthy Black Ops streaks don’t fit into the acceptable view of womanhood, which warrants a moment of silence in gratitude. But culture should not impede their entry into the industry, especially since women already come multi-threaded. They plan well, design thoroughly, and work diligently, completing a powerful trifecta. The computer science world needs a touch of femininity, and by that I mean some habitual self-responsibility. Besides, with the way she could float through the air, everybody wanted to be Peach in Super Mario Bros 2.