Friday, April 28, 2006

Antaria: Late Research

Gharen walked among the shelves, passing rows upon rows of books, scrolls and other scholarly treasures deposited by the Metrian Guild. The main library held many secrets -- many powerful secrets, Gharen was sure -- but there was often a price that came with them. That, or a certain mastery of the Metrian mindset, whichever came first.

On the other hand, it was not as though Gharen himself had no such secrets to hide.

Gharen slid past some of the more ancient sections of the library, his eyes resting on the occasional worn title. Arcane Fundamentals, Theories on the Nature of Lightning, Transdimensional Teleportation... they were all there. But they were not what he sought. They were, in fact, quite far from what he sought.

He found the volume sitting on a low shelf in one of the far corners of the hall. It was in an anonymous section of the library, its companions casually tossed or stacked in the immediate vicinity simply because they could not be classified anywhere else. Apprentices called it "the Heap", if only because that was what the resulting mess was.

Most of the references in the Heap defied categorization: A History of Unorthodox Knitting Techniques. Efficient Thaumaturgical Disposal. Common Allergies of the Modern Metrian. Their titles were stenciled across leather spines and wooden staves. Some of the letters were embossed in silver; Others were scribed in faded, spidery handwriting.

Gharen's volume, however, was unique among the pile of books and discarded works. It had no title at all, or at least none that stared out from its black-green cover.

He gave the book a quick pull, and then waited.

It took almost a full minute before the wall opened up in front of him.

* * *

Cerise pushed her way through the shelves. It was dark, but not too dark; she knew that she was among the more ancient books, and they were quite a distance away from the glare of the closed lanterns.

She wondered why she was here in the first place. Then again, she already knew why she was here to begin with. It was all his fault, really. It was all Gharen's fault, and she wished that she could tell that to his face right then and there.

But she had to find him first, of course. Not that she would actually tell him that when she actually found him... but she had to find him first. It was a question of priorities, or at least that was what she told herself. It was indeed a question of priorities.

Cerise sighed. She was making absolutely no sense at all.

She found it quite strange, however. For all the access he had to the Guild libraries, Gharen had been visiting them farther and farther into the evening. Zerah, the crotchety old librarian everybody knew and loved, even sent him a letter of complaint the other day. And now, well... there was just no excuse for getting up out of bed in the wee hours of the morning just to do whatever research he fancied.

There was also the question of just how Cerise knew that he wasn't in bed in the wee hours of the morning, but she preferred not to think about that. It was all Gharen's fault, anyway. It was all Gharen's fault.

She thought she heard something along a row of shelves to her right, and started moving in that direction.

Walking around in the empty libraries late at night, she concluded, was not an experience she would care to repeat. It was an environment where sound persisted regardless of the fact that there should not have been any sound to speak of. What she heard could have been Gharen shuffling around in his nightclothes, but it could just as easily have been wood settling in the shelves, a bunch of books falling over, or some otherworldly thing nesting in the shadows waiting to drag her off into a mouthful of sharp teeth.

"Cerise," a voice said.

She reacted immediately, almost knocking over an entire row of shelves.

* * *

Gharen brushed aside a few cobwebs. Now he was getting somewhere.

The room before him was octagonal in shape. Shelves, cabinets and vaults littered the walls, and empty alcoves indicated that no one had lighted any torches in the room for some time. That, and the inch-thick layer of dust on the floor suggested that no one had even so much as set foot in the place for a while.

Gharen whispered a few arcane words, and watched as the room illuminated slightly. If his references were correct, then the thing he sought was somewhere nearby. He guessed that it was in a locked or trapped container as well, if he knew the Guild well enough.

Gharen ran one finger along the lid of a particularly large wooden case, studying the faded text inscribed on top. War Research 41-90, it said. The one immediately below it read War Research 91-140, and Gharen decided to leave them alone. He had little use for extensive property destruction at this time.

He fumbled around a little more, inspecting long-faded tags on worn volumes and checking labels on rusted strongboxes. Some shelves contained the sensitive works of long-dead scholars; Some cabinets contained collections of moth-eaten scrolls that were long past the level of indecipherability.

Fifteen minutes into his search, Gharen decided that the item was unlikely to have been kept out in the open. He began scrutinizing the walls one brick at a time, looking for anything that seemed out of place.

"The cabinet with Horann's journals holds a false bottom," a familiar voice said. "It shouldn't have been opened in the last few years, but you should still be able to shift it a little bit."

Gharen shook his head. "Thanks," he said, before realizing that he should have been alone in the room.

He turned in time to see the owner of the voice.

After a while, Gharen nodded his greetings.

* * *

Zerah approached cautiously, holding up a covered light. "Cerise?" he asked in his usual raspy voice.

Cerise picked herself up from the jumble of books on the floor, and straightened her robes. "I'm... I'm all right," she said, and sighed in relief.

Zerah squinted at her. "What are you doing here so late at night?" he asked. There was a certain edge in his voice this time, and Cerise felt as though it were best for her to tread carefully.

"I'm... looking for something," she said.

"What are you looking for, then?"

"Ah," she said, her mind settling on the first thing that came to mind, "something on elementary sleep techniques."

Zerah gave her a strange look, and for a moment Cerise thought that she had said something wrong. Then the librarian grunted in dissatisfaction, and nodded slightly.

"You're in the wrong section of the library," he said. "What you need is in the central area, near the apprentices' sections."

Cerise knew where it was, of course, but held absolutely no interest in it at the moment. "I, er... see," she said. "I'll... have a look right now."

Zerah glared at her. "Surely what you need can wait until tomorrow. The books will not move from their rightful places tonight."

"Er... ah... right, right," Cerise said.

"In the meantime, I will bring you back to your room," Zerah said.

The alarms went off in Cerise's head. "That, er... won't be necessary," she answered weakly.

"I insist."

Cerise cursed inwardly. "A...are you sure, Zerah? I might be distracting you from..."

"Shall we go, Cerise?" Zerah asked.

If there was a time to risk everything, then that time was now. "But Gharen's in there somewhere," Cerise said desperately.

"Gharen?" Zerah asked, raising an eyebrow.

Cerise nodded.

"Yes," Zerah said. "I know."

Suddenly, Cerise couldn't think of anything to say.

* * *

Atharus stepped from the shadows, his staff rapping sharply against the old wooden floor. Somehow, Gharen was not surprised. Atharus had a tendency to be everywhere at any given time. It was as though the old man wanted to make sure that everything was in its correct place.

"Well?" Atharus asked.

Gharen looked surprised. "Well what?"

"Aren't you going to have a look?"

Gharen glanced at the cabinet in question, and then gave a little laugh. He wasn't expecting to be in such a situation, and the best he could do at the moment was to give the grandmaster the most innocent face he could think of.

"Stop that, Gharen. You're getting to be as bad as Cerise."

Gharen dutifully recovered from the vapid expression.

Atharus took a few steps around him, as though inspecting every inch of his clothes. "As the Masquers would say," he said, "Curiosity kills. Curiosity kills, Gharen."

"I thought that we Metrians are supposed to be curious," Gharen answered.

Atharus stopped and glared at him with cold eyes. "You're the one who's at a disadvantage here, Gharen. Don't answer back."

"Yes, sir," Gharen said.

"What do you want with the Codex?"

Gharen blinked. "What?"

Atharus gave him an expression of unimaginable patience. "The Codex, Gharen. It's what you came for, isn't it?"

Gharen took a deep breath, and then decided to come clean. "Yes," he said.

"What for?" Atharus asked.

"Call it... morbid curiosity."

Atharus glared at him even more. "It's not some children's book, Gharen. It's the Obsidian Codex. Why would you wish to find out what happened to an Empire that was lost centuries ago?"

"Well," Gharen began, "there's..."

"There's the possibility that the Obsidian Empire knew the principles of True Magic?" Atharus interrupted. "Or perhaps there's the lure of lost knowledge undreamed of by human minds? Or the rumors that the book contains smatterings of future events?"

Gharen considered this for a moment. "Perhaps," he said.

Atharus stalked forward, reaching the point where he and Gharen were easily face-to-face. "Go back to your room, Gharen. I can already tell you that it's not worth it."

Gharen wavered only slightly under his gaze. "I'm certain of that, Atharus. That's why you keep it in a false-bottomed chest, in a secret room at the farthest corners of the Guild library."

Atharus was scowling now. "I don't keep it away from everyone because I'm selfish about the contents, Gharen. I keep it here because I know that whatever is in that book is not worth risking your sanity for."

Gharen smiled. "Sure," he said.

Atharus drew back a little. "You don't believe me," he said flatly.

"No, I don't."

Atharus drew himself up to his full height, changing the grip on his staff so that it seemed more a weapon than anything else.

"If you truly refuse to believe me so far, Gharen Miredrake," he said, "then you're welcome to have a look. You have my blessings to open that damned tome and listen to your mind scream at the sight of the words."

Atharus's robe dragged a thin trail of dust across the floor as he exited through the false shelf.

"Just remember this, Gharen, and remember it well:

"You wouldn't be the first one to do so."

* * *

Cerise spent about ten minutes lying in bed, swearing sulphurously to herself.

It was all Gharen's fault, getting out of bed in the wee hours of the morning just to go hunting in the libraries. It was all Gharen's fault, getting her all worried and curious and, well, just compelling her to go looking for him. It was all Gharen's fault, getting her caught by Zerah at the worst possible time.

She wondered if Zerah was going to tell Atharus about the incident. After a while, she decided that, if Atharus did call her into his presence, then she would just have to blame Gharen. Blaming Gharen would inevitably make it all better.

At least, she hoped that it would make it all better.

She wrapped the blanket a little more tightly around herself.

After a few more minutes, she had to admit that, despite everything that had happened tonight, she was still worried about him.

What did Zerah mean when he said that he knew Gharen was fooling around the shelves? How long had he known that he was there? Why didn't he do anything about it yet?

Maybe Zerah was ticked off. She didn't like the idea of Zerah being ticked off. He was probably planning to do something to Gharen, or anything along the same lines.

Cerise slid off her bed, her blanket still wrapped around her shoulders. She decided that a quick look in the corridor probably wouldn't have hurt.

She reached for the door latch, and felt the rough metal in the grip of her fingers. She steeled herself, wondering exactly what she would do if anyone else turned out to be in the hallway. She opened the door in a single smooth motion, and walked... right... into...


"Ow," he said, taking a step back.

A million thoughts suddenly went through Cerise's mind. What's he doing here? was in there somewhere, and so was, Why does he look as though Atharus just put him through the wringer?

She also couldn't help thinking, Did he just go rolling around a pile of dirt?, and a little voice inside her had to point out, What's he doing outside my room?

Then cold rationality kicked in, and Cerise suddenly realized that she was wearing nothing but her nightclothes and a blanket.

"Sorry about that," Gharen said.

"Er..." Cerise managed despite the million questions burning in her mind.

"Just some late research," Gharen shrugged. "Good thing Zerah didn't catch me, eh?"

"Y... yes," Cerise said.

"I'll, er... go back to my room now. It's been a long night."

"Yes," Cerise repeated.

Gharen gave her a strange look, and began padding down the hallway towards his room at the end. Cerise suddenly thought of something at the last second.

"Gharen?" she called after him.

Gharen turned around slowly. There was a strangely sheepish look on his face.

"Yes?" he asked.

Cerise steeled herself again, and weighed her options. There were so many things that she could say to him at the moment, but there was one particular thing that warranted mention. She had to say it. She had to tell him.

"It's all your fault, Gharen Miredrake," she declared, and then marched back into her room and shut the door.

* * *

Gharen never did figure out exactly what she was talking about.


Monday, April 24, 2006

Scratch Paper

Ah, yes... one more thing about the second iBlog conference.

The above artwork was generously given to me by a young volunteer named Jasmin, after I expressed an interest in her work. She was manning a table at the conference, you see, and while the attendees were off at various talks, she passed the time by making a bunch of nice drawings on some scratch paper.

The scan up there doesn't show it too well, but the artwork I claimed from her was done entirely using a run-of-the-mill black ballpen. It's not fully polished, but then again, it wasn't meant to be fully polished. If the detail around the character's face is any indication, though, then a full-blown pin-up would probably knock peoples' socks off.

So why would I feature her work here? Well, I spend quite a bit of spare time looking at artwork, especially at the office (where I need all the breaks I can get). I hold a lot of links to comic and graphic design blogs in my Favorites list, and I've got a few DeviantArt addresses memorized besides those.

All of that culminates in my predicament, really. I asked Jasmin for her DeviantArt address, which she was quite happy to provide. Unfortunately, I lost the resulting scrap of paper sometime during the conference, and that left me with this single piece of art and nothing more to show for it. (I actually left this piece behind as well, but Jonas Diego was nice enough to retrieve and scan it for me.)

So there it is, ladies and gentlemen. Does anyone know this artist, and can anyone give me a link to her DeviantArt gallery? It'll make a good addition to my list of links. (And hey, more exposure for her is always good.) :)

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Postcards from the iBlog

Sean's note: I gathered all this from the recently-concluded 2nd Philippine Blogging Summit, although I've placed everything in Zen-like proverbs because I just happen to feel infinitely tired tonight. Some people out there may recognize stuff that they've quoted or implied during that fateful Tuesday; you'll have to excuse me if I leave your names out of this one. :)


When given the choice between asking for directions and using a map, take the map. You can always ask for directions later.

Authority is relative. One man's king is another man's blind hobo.

Take down what information you need, but don't leave the paper behind.

When faced with a choice between two things, go for the unfamiliar and unheralded. Its success inevitably feels all the more sweeter.

Laughter is the great equalizer.

Don't laugh at the person. Laugh at the situation.

There are two ways to get an audience's immediate attention: laughter, and crude sexual references. One of them is more preferable than the other.

When given a choice between food and oratory, most people will take the food.

Men are all too good at destroying themselves. If you wish to destroy a man, you can usually afford to wait.

An intermittent connection is just as bad as having no connection at all.

You will find some measure of good in every man, although some souls will take a lot more digging than others. Some searchers, on the other hand, will grow impatient with a lot less digging.

How strange it is, that we put on so many faces that are not our own.

You cannot expect to teach birds to swim, or fish to fly. But you will always encounter birds who wonder what it is like to float beneath the waves, and fish who wonder what it is like to soar through the air.

No matter how much we hate to admit it, we all crave attention.

It is all too easy to let time slip through your fingers. Gripping it too tightly, however, will burn your hands.

A man is defined by how he deals with his circumstances, whether he escapes to more favorable realms, or stands fast in the face of the storm.

Questions are not merely asked to satisfy your own curiosity. Questions can just as easily raise the most salient of arguments.

An audience will see you either as an expert or as a peer. You must realize the difference every time you look into their eyes.

Being a good writer does not automatically make you a good speaker. Being a good speaker does not automatically make you a good writer. Being both does not automatically make you a good person.

Give any man a time limit and he will eventually find a way to break it.

What sense does it make to arrive too early for the party and then leave long before the celebration starts? What sense does it make to arrive late to the party and then leave long after everyone is gone?

One can never have too many pandas.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

I Blog, You Blog, We All Blog

Attend iBlog 2, the Philippines' 2nd Blogging Summit!

I've just arrived home from the 2nd Philippine Blogging Summit. Sadly, I wasn't able to stay long enough to catch all the talks -- I missed Charo's session, in particular -- because I had to bring the car home for my sister's use.

Still, most of the sessions went well. Anton performed admirably, Jonas pointed out quite a few things, and Dean was his usual charming self. With the example of last year's iBlog conference and a higher number of speakers this year (as well as a slightly larger blogging community), it was easier to find an interesting topic, a nice presentation, or a good laugh.

Granted, I think they've still got a few folds to iron out. I'm not the only person who wondered why the conference was taking place on a Tuesday, and a few more sponsors wouldn't have been amiss. There's also a problem inherent in holding multiple talks at once, and that's the fact that you can't listen to more than one speaker at the same time. But these should be resolved after we have a few more conferences, I think.

On a more personal note, it was a good experience, and the whole thing gave me quite a few more insights on human nature. If there's anything that's slowly bringing together a strung-out network of internet writers, then iBlog is probably it.

Now, to collect my thoughts. Hopefully I'll be able to write something up on whatever lessons I've gained from the conference, and hopefully I'll be able to do it soon.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Not Tonight, Honey

It's Easter Sunday, and I have a headache.



I really shouldn't be writing right now. I have a headache.




I said, I have a headache!




Ah, well. Guess I'll have to grin and bear it.

My headaches have been coming around every now and then, perhaps once every three or four weeks. I haven't yet been able to identify the event or events that trigger them, but I suspect that they involve occasions where I give matters a comprehensive deal of thought. Not just a passing or a detailed analysis, mind you, but a comprehensive one. The big picture. The entire kit and kaboodle. The whole shebang.

Heh. That would probably explain why I seem to get them during budget forecasts, at least.

Someone once mentioned the possibility that I was suffering from migraines. It's not far-fetched, really... migraines are a relatively common malady, and they're certainly not unknown in the medical community. But I've heard that migraines usually come with blurry vision and the occasional hallucination, and I know that I don't get that whenever my cerebral cortex starts acting up.

I'll probably regret saying this, but I have to admit that I'd like to find out how it feels to suffer from migraines. It's the only way by which I can describe the feeling, after all. Right now my headache feels as though someone's pounding on the inside of my temples with a twelve-inch hammer, but I can't help figuring that having a migraine would somehow feel... different. It's as though it would involve having a headache without actually having a headache (even if we all know otherwise).

That, and I'd like to experience the hallucinations. Hallucinations are always cool, and it's difficult enough to encounter them without delving into illegal substances.

I've read somewhere that Lewis Carroll suffered from migraines, and it sounds as though he had them pretty bad. His condition was so far advanced that he would literally start conjuring up hallucinations from nothing at all... although he would later gather some of the most notable ones in his writings and build a reputation entirely on these imaginings. Every mention of his Alice in Wonderland reminds me of headaches as a result.

You could think of it as turning a sow's ear into a silk purse, I suppose. Or you could think of it as simply writing what you know. L. Frank Baum turned his experience with carnival attractions and freakshows into the marvelously twisted Wizard of Oz universe. Mozart occasionally composed music while playing billiards. Edgar Allan Poe wrote a few of his works while drunk.

And in the meantime I've got a hammer pounding away at the insides of my head, eroding what's left of my skull in thin, plaster-like beatings.

The headaches usually only last for an evening or so. For that matter, I find myself playing host to them for exactly one night more often than not. I usually end up with something that feels like a bad hangover the next morning, as though all the thoughts decided to leak out of my ears sometime during my fitful sleep.

It's funny, really. I know that I get these headaches every now and then. I know that the throbbing usually subsides once I lie down for a few minutes. I know that thinking about a bunch of complicated stuff will get the monstrous migraine roaring again. I know that squeezing my skull between two pillows will force the voice in my head to calm down for a bit, and I know that any sensation of pleasure or inspiration will start it back up.

The trouble is, I don't know why. Is there a doctor in the house?

It's as though the brain is some huge machine that we don't completely understand. (Not that there are actually any machines in this world that we fully understand in the first place.) Someone should really make a bumper sticker with the same sentiment: The mind is a wonderful piece of equipment, but sometimes it will blow a fuse. When that happens, all that we poor, unknowing mortals can do is the equivalent of hitting the TV to improve the reception.

We think, analyze, cogitate, process, opine, estimate, guess, research, remember, reach, recall, comprehend, analogize, meditate, will, compel, assume, coordinate, counter and learn anything and everything these days, but we don't know how the brain does it.

And so we get headaches. Like the one that's bothering me at this very moment.


I mean, really bothering me at this very moment.

I get irritable during headaches. I only snap at select instances, though, like people or situations who force me to think at a time when thinking just tightens the mental vise. It really has to be understandable there -- after all, I can choose not to think too deeply about a particular issue, but I can't choose when I'm going to have a headache. It happens.

Of course, this begs the question: Does the fact that I'm writing this in the middle of a headache mean that I'm not actually putting much thought into these words? That would be worthy of further analysis, I think.

Not now, though. If I go into it any further, then my head's probably going to explode.

And that's why I'm only touching on more than a few aspects of a personal headache that few people out there should really care about, much less read about in this blog. If you somehow get a headache while reading this on a Monday morning, you'll know that it's a special present from me, and you'll probably treasure it for the rest of your life.

Okay, maybe not that last part. Headaches are a pack of horrible little gremlins inside your head, and sooner or later they're going to find a way around that bit of aspirin that you gulp down to alleviate the pain.

Having a headache at others is obviously not a very nice thing to do. But hey, I'm doing it anyway. Right now. Right here. Right at you.

If you suddenly get this pounding sound coming from within your head, then you at least know who to blame...

Maybe it's nothing and I'm under the weather
Maybe it's just one of those bugs going round
Maybe I'm under a spell and it's magic
Maybe there's a witch doctor with an office in town
- Meatloaf, "It Just Won't Quit"

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Help Wanted (Part 2)

Whoa. It's been exactly one month since the first part of this article.

A number of developments have occurred in the intervening weeks. My company's set another search for qualified applicants (particularly in the field of web programming), I've discovered a massive demand for people in the Information Technology sector, and one of my mailing lists started bewailing the "rampant discrimination" in certain want ads.

If you're concerned about the last of those points, I can give you a brief explanation of the issue. A company representative, you see, posted a job ad in one of my mailing lists. The job ad specified, among other things, that applicants had to be at least 25 years of age. An irate subscriber implied that the company was discriminating against younger people by posting such a requirement, and that touched off a succession of debates that lasted for three days.

In the end, I don't think anyone resolved the issue properly or successfully. So I leave you a good question in that regard: At what point do job qualification requirements become less person-specific and more discriminatory?

I'm not sure if anyone has tackled such a topic yet, but it would make for a good discussion as long as we could stay away from the name-calling. A lot of companies put up certain specifications, from the simple "Must be Female" to "Must Have Graduated From a Reputable University" to "Must Have Curly Black Hair, a Willingness to Experiment, and a Fetish for South American Spider Monkeys". These companies could probably make an argument for how important each and every one of these requirements are, but the radical job-hunters can easily argue that anybody can do any job if we all get right down to it.

You might as well put up a national writing contest, for example. You'll have winning writers who obviously fit what you want to see in a fine piece of original literature, but you'll also have millions of others who argue that their stuff is just as good under the right circumstances. This is probably one of those situations where none of us can ever win.

One of the specific issues has always been the question of age. Suppose that you have two applicants for an important position in your company: You could hire a 22-year-old young man with little experience but with much capacity for the long-term haul, or you could hire a 56-year-old veteran who's looking at retirement yet knows everything that there is to know about the business. Which would you prefer?

I suspect that such answers would be more personal in nature -- they'd depend on orientation, priorities, and/or immediate need. Or they'd be more businesslike in nature, for the exact same reasons. It's another debate all over again, in that case.

Fortunately, for the purposes of this article, we only have to point out those hints for the general jobseekers. What's interesting to note is that I can split up my last remaining guidelines among applicants of both categories.

If you're no stranger to the job market, for example, then you might want to consider the following:

1. Do NOT include outdated credentials in your resumé.
This should be obvious, I think, but a lot of people will put anything on a resumé if it means a greater chance of landing the job. I've met with the winner of a 1971 spelling contest and the most well-behaved student in a 1986 student assembly, for example, and I can already tell you that both situations will test your skill at keeping a straight face.

Outdated credentials are a terrible experience. They're extremely difficult to ignore, yet really beg the question as to why they made it to the resumé in the first place. Such achievements no longer have an inch of relevance, and should really be left out of consideration. Otherwise the interviewer will simply be tempted to make fun of you, and no one ever takes that lightly.

2. Watch those gaps in your resumé.
Sure, you were employed by a massive conglomerate that really appreciated what you were doing. Sure, your former boss wept openly on the day you submitted your resignation letter. Sure, you spent a loyal six years with your previous employer, regardless of how turbulent their work was.

But what I want to know is, what were you doing in the significant span of time since you left them?

Don't get me wrong here; Despite my earlier point about knowing what to leave out of a resumé, there are some things that really shouldn't be left out of one. If you have a gap in your employment history, then you have to expect that somebody will call you on it. And then you'll have to explain exactly what you did for the full year or two that you found so convenient not to mention. Watch those gaps.


Not all of us are experienced with the job market, though. This is especially true, considering that the products of the local universities should now be checking the want ads and packing the waiting rooms this time of year.

Having been a new graduate once, I offer former students a very valuable piece of advice: Don't bother. It's probably better for you to stay home and leech off your parents till you're forty. The world out there has some razor-sharp teeth, and only the most suicidal of oiks would possibly walk into such a deathtrap.

The problem, of course, is that most graduates are too constructive to listen to me. So, having disposed of my first piece of advice for them, I have to offer them the following fringe cases:

1. We don't really look at your grades.
Surprised? It's true, at least in my case. If you have the skills to do the job, then you can do the job regardless of whether or not you got that D in Socio-Anthropology class. It stands to reason, really -- you can be the worst Physics student in the history of mankind, but we'll still hire you if you happen to be an excellent graphic designer.

That's not to say that grades aren't important, of course. In fact, grades are a pretty good indicator of how much study and dedication you give to a certain field. That's how we're able to trust in the integrities of college valedictorians, for example. But if you constantly worry about how your grades are good on one end and bad on the other, don't sweat it too much.

2. What you do in your off time is important.
Do you have any outside activities? Were you a member of any school organizations or civic groups? What obligations are you likely to have outside the company?

The answers to these questions are just as good as grades: They imply attention and dedication, even if they are for endeavors outside the traditional academic requirements. If you tell us that you're a member of at least one organization, then we figure that you're at least a normal human being. If you tell us that you're an officer in at that one organization, then we can see that you're willing to put in time and effort in a certain general direction.

A word to the wise, though: Don't give us a long shopping list of organizations you've supposedly "joined", and then claim to be active in all of them. In that case, we're more likely to think that you either have a really short attention span, or that you're just plain making fun of our sensibilities.

3. Know what you're applying for.
We all have certain expectations of applicants. It's not a surprise, particularly when you consider that a lot of businesses aim for specific audiences or provide distinct services. Shipping companies, for example, tend to expect that you know how to swim. Statistical offices expect that you know how to count. Web development companies expect that you know how to type, how to use a computer, and how to send e-mail.

Occasionally, however, some random applicant doesn't get the point and ends up going for a job that he absolutely does not understand. This is worse than applying for something that you have no business applying for -- this involves trying to get into something that is way out of your league. If you don't know how to start a car, then that auto repair shop is more likely to fire you than teach you. Despite what some people may think, there are never any situations where a corporate entity will be so desperate.


And now this is the part where I post my disclaimers.

I'm not an HR person. I haven't been trained as an HR person. All that I happen to have is five-and-a-half years of experience dealing with the web development industry and its people, as well as the occasional command from my boss to Get Out There and Deal With Those Yahoos.

The job-hunters out there, of course, have license to ignore or criticize the items I've posted here. But I've gleaned these points from years of speaking with applicants, and this is probably as close as I can get at this point without being an applicant myself.

Besides, it wouldn't be much fun if we didn't kick up a bit of discussion on this. The above items are what I've got, ladies and gentlemen. You can take 'em, leave 'em, or wait a couple of years while I run into more unorthodox situations.

After all, there's no end to the weirdness you can encounter when it comes to dealing with people, I suppose. :)

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Disclaimer: April 2006

One: I lied. Nothing in this blog is original. I steal it from the most unsuspecting of sources, and they're all so obscure that you never have a chance of tracking them down.

Two: I lied. I don't make any mention of references at all. The names and titles you see at the bottom of each blockquoted item are nothing more than a fabrication, meant to hide the fact that I'm screwing over the actual sources.

Three: I lied. There is no such thing as international copyright law, and this 'plagiarism' thing is actually pretty good. I won't run after you and perform unspeakable acts on your corpse if you take anything from this blog and put it under your name. Hey, it's a free country, right?

Four: I lied. You don't have to ask permission from me in order to use any of my writings. Who cares about them, anyway? I can always come up with more of them at short notice.

Five: I lied. Talking politics is one of the healthiest activities I've ever come across. In fact, I'll probably make it a recurring feature starting next week.

Six: I lied. The moon landings were a hoax. There are albino crocodiles that roam the sewers. The government really is putting flouride in the water supply so that they can track our every move.

Seven: I lied. I'm not actually Sean; I'm an alien from the Proxima Centuari system, sent to inspect your world for possible colonization purposes. Now that I've seen that you Terrans are a bunch of lying, backstabbing, unsuspecting idiots, I can send for the preliminary invasion force.

Eight: I lied. I'm actually pretty darn good at this writing thing. I'm just holding back so that you can all believe that your worthless words can stand up to the power of my prose. In truth, ladies and gentlemen: My kung fu is better than yours.

Nine: I lied. I'm not busy at work in the first place. I just want to see you all squirm at the fact that you're not getting your regular fix from this blog. Involuntary rehab sucks, don't it?

Ten: I lied. It's not April Fools' Day at all. Everything in this article is abso-frickin-lutely not a lie. Nuh-uh. No how. No way.