Category Archives: Miscellaneous

The Phoenix Guards – 101 Uses for Tables

“Well,” said Khaavren, “I have learned, at any rate, that one ought to be careful with whom one gambles.”

“I have learned that Dragonlords are not pleased when their diction is brought under such intense scrutiny.”

“And I,” said Tazendra, “have learned that tables have far more uses than I should have dreamed.”

-The Phoenix Guards

I’ve been recently reading this great book called The Phoenix Guards by Steven Burst. I’ve been introduced to Mr. Burst’s works a few years ago when I started reading his Vlad Taltos novels. If you’ve never heard of them, and you are a fan of fantasy works. You owe it to yourself to stop reading this blog immediately and pick them up right now. Now The Phoenix Guards actually takes place a few thousand years before the Vlad adventures and has nothing to do with the merry assassin outside of the setting, but the characters in this book are just as superb as Vlad himself.

The scene: a bar fight has turned ugly. Tazendra and her three friends are standing in front of a bunch of angry pissed off drunk guys with swords that want to lob their heads off that lie between them and the exit. Oh, and Tazendra’s sword is currently stuck in a wooden table that refuses to be freed. The obvious course of action is to try to fight your way out and beat a hasty retreat, and that is exactly what the group attempts to do. Tazendra however has no intention of leaving without her sword, and promptly proceeds to use the table as a batting ram while trying to free her blade. Her friends join in pushing the table and covering her, and what results is a rather amazing counteratta- no “table attack” as Burst puts it that shatters the poor attacking drunks. Now eventually the sword is freed from the table, and just in time, as the table has been pushed to the wall and the group is getting flanked. But never let it be said that one should underestimate the power of a table, especially when pushed rather dramatically.

This is just one awesome moment in the book. The truth is, there are lots more awesome moments in the book that take place before and after. I’d hate to spoil them all though. Suffice to say, if you want to read a book that is full of awesome, then you should read The Phoenix Guards.

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iSpy Analysis – Part 2

Surveillance plays a heavy part in the decisions I make in life, although I am not always constantly thinking about it. As I mentioned in my previous post I try to be careful in what I say or do, and I do employ a pseudonym on the internet which I use for most of my activities online. This is most commonly done through my computer, and indeed it is the one gadget that contains the most significant amount of surveillance.

Although I am not too concerned with what all of my friends are doing every moment of the day I do like to see what they are up to from time to time. On that end I usually check my Facebook account once a day (usually just once, unless I receive an E-Mail stating that someone has sent me a message or posted on my wall, purely for etiquette reasons, as I’ve come to determine that most everyone but me that uses Facebook uses it all the time and if you don’t respond to them ASAP they might consider it awkward) just to see if any significant developments are happening in one of my friends lives. I usually don’t respond unless I have good reason to, but I like to stay in the loop nonetheless.

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iSpy Analysis – Part 1

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”

-Juliet

When I typed my name into Google I was not expecting to get back any notable results. Surprisingly I was faced with a few results that matched directly with “Matthew Morgal”, including one googleganger. The topmost entry resulted in a link to Matthew Morgal, a baseball player for Lamar University. I also noticed a link to my Facebook page which could not reveal any useful information since I was not logged into it. Most of the results however came up for various people named “Matthew Morgan” I’ve noticed to be a popular last name.

Outside of the link to the Facebook profile picture my digital presence is very small. I personally do not mind this, as I would rather not have my name freely accessible. I’ve heard stories concerning a variety of problems associated with someone freely posting their information on the internet, with everything from identity theft to stalking being a negative consequence. I’d much prefer to be a number; it’s much safer that way. Although I do employ a pseudonym when I post or create pages on the internet (which incidentally when googled turns up many a page that I have either created or contributed heavily to, but more on that in the next blog post), and it can be linked back to me, I do take great care in not revealing personal information. Truth is we may never be truly safe on the internet, but that won’t stop me from having a fun and safe time.

Fun yet pointless musing: Although I do not think the baseball player Matthew Morgal would be confused with myself (His picture on the website page is noticeably different than the one on my Facebook page), I do notice some odd similarities. For starters, we are both University students. Also strange is his birthdate of 9/18/1986. I was born 10/20/1986, hardly a month later. Although he was born in Oklahoma and myself in Maryland, I thought that was interesting to say the least.

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Cult of the Amateur Analysis – Part 2

Not too surprisingly, Keen’s book Cult of the Amateur caused controversy against those who disagree with his ideas. This has notably occurred with one of the book’s major targets, Lawrence Lessig, who has fought back against the claims made by the book.

Who do I find most convincing? I believe that the honor ultimately goes to Lessig. For starters, I find it interesting that Lessig chooses to combat Keen’s points through the implementation of the very mediums that Keen attacks. It may seem like an obvious point to some, but I feel that Lessig’s argument is that much more effective when it is done through the blog and wiki styles. Not only can he directly counter Keen’s points, but he can do so while subtly showing how the blog and wiki enhances the points he makes in defense.

Another point I find of interest is Lessig’s ability to acknowledge Keen’s points for what they are, even going so far as to agree with him on the most basic of ideas. I feel as though many arguments cannot be fought effectively while doing nothing but downplaying the things you are attacking. There are often some remote benefits and ideas to be had from the things you argue against, and it is important to note these for what they are, even if you just use them to further your points. Lessig is willing to acknowledge that Keen is right on the fundamental level of how we should be careful in using these mediums. Yet Lessig’s tone is never as radical as Keen’s, and that creates a more convincing argument in the end.

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Cult of the Amateur Analysis – Part 1

One of the things I’m fond of doing in my free time involves composing sprite comics. The process is very simple, as you take or create free-use sprite pictures and backgrounds and use them to create amusing (sometimes) comics and stories on whatever comes to mind. The comics I create are definitely not masterpieces, and my audience for them is pretty small, however I still love to create them. Although I don’t create them as often as I used to due to certain things like college (good sprite comics tend to involve a lot more than copying and pasting pictures), I do enjoy creating a random one on occasion.

I think it’s important to place a high value on work for love when compared to the work that puts bread on the table. Although some people may be fortunate enough to end up making a career entirely based on their own creative merits, many end up working on things that they either don’t care much about, or limit their ability to be creative. Working on something out of love gives you the power to be creative, and take risks that you may not normally try. I’ve found that oftentimes the rewards can be worth it.

I believe that the proportion of work and love is important to maintain. There are many tasks that people would likely never do out of ‘love’ but necessity, and these required tasks still need to be done regardless. I doubt I’ll be able to make a career out of sprite comics, and will have to do work that I probably wouldn’t otherwise do out of passion for the sport, but I’m sure I’ll be able to use my creativity in some aspects of my future jobs.

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Millennial Makeover Analysis – Part 2

I prefer to be a dreamer among the humblest, with visions to be realized, than lord among those without dreams and desires.” – Kahlil Gibran

Many of the arguments formulated in Millennial Makeover are built on generational theory, and the authors make many generalizations about the philosophy, preferences, and cultural touchstones of your generation.Do you agree with their ideas on your generation?If you gave your generation a name (like Baby Boomers or Generation X), what would it be and why?What cultural touchstones (TV shows, musicians, movies) do you feel are most useful in understanding your generation?

For the most part I agree with the ideas that the authors of Millennial Makeover construct about my generation. Society is getting further integrated with the tools of the online trade, and our generation is emphasizing this leap in technology. Getting good grades and increasing ones education beyond High School is becoming an increasingly popular trend. Although I’m not certain I agree with the overall trend that the millenials are becoming very upbeat and optimistic. I think that millenials are generally more positive than the generations before us, without sounding too radical. (we’re not hippies, dude.)

If I were to give our generation a name, it would probably have to be the dreamers. We have gotten many new leaps in technologies that have allowed global communication on a wider scale. As technology continues to get more powerful the dreams that we carry become more pronounced and deeper in tone. Sure previous generations have wished for world peace and a perfect environment, but we really seem to think that we have the capabilities to do great new things that have never been seen before. I’m not talking about a Jetsons world with flying cars, but an end to once traditional views that this is not only wrong, but impossible to correct.

As for the cultural milestones that help showcase our generation, I’d have to say television still holds the key. Talk shows and sitcoms, while occasionally crazy at times, do not tend to go as over the top as music and particularly movies.

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Millennial Makeover Analysis – Part 1

A witty saying proves nothing.Voltaire

There is a huge difference between the ads posted on youtube by the official presidential candidate parties and those posted by users like you and me. For many ad-makers in the former group, it is not only their job, but essentially their life-duty to support whoever ends up as the democratic or republican candidate, regardless of their personal views on them (which may not be everything).The ads generated by presidential candidates are oftentimes not designed to showcase how what they believe in or what they will do in office, rather they are simply designed to get them into the office in the first place. These ads generally don’t give you any useful information, rather they use peacock terms and weasel words (to quote Wikipedia) to convince Americans that they are right, without actually saying anything useful at all.

While user-generated ads can often be just as bad and attack-based as those done by political candidates, they have something that the official ads lack, independence. The people that make their own ads on YouTube aren’t officially conscripted by a political party, they take time out of their busy lives to say what they think is right. Take this ad for example, made by a former Iraq veteran. Although he attacks Obama, he does it through a personal voice that you won’t see in the other type of ads. I may not agree with all the points that ads like his and others make, but at least I can believe that it was done without the influence of the fake ads done by the actual candidates.

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