Monday, March 31, 2008

With Intent to Describe

Strangely enough, I seem to have changed two of my Internet profiles within the past ten days.

I made my first change when Abe Olandres's original PinoyTopBlogs experiment got replaced with a new TopBlogs, and I received a fairly polite e-mail to update me on the matter. Sadly, Abe is no longer directly involved with the project... but at least the new TopBlogs setup attempts to resolve the popularity imbalance issue by categorizing blogs according to their proper networks.

I also found out that I had to change my blog's profile on the new TopBlogs listing because the original was far too long. (Yes... even the Internet complains that I'm too wordy for my own good.) For the last six months, I've subsisted on a lengthy description that involved miscellaneous topics and a slight mention of Caesar salad. Now, considering that I only have 255 characters to make my case, I settled on the following:

Sean tries to reason with the rest of the universe, and when that doesn't work, he whacks it with a really big stick.

It's kind of like what I normally do whenever I "fix" my computer.

The other change came about when I took a passing glance at my Blogger profile and noticed that I was still listed under "Internet" and "Project Manager". How I missed that is beyond me -- I mean, I've been in my current multinational job for over a year now. So I logged in, adjusted it to the more contemporary "Technology" and "Systems Analyst - Service Operations", sat back, and saved the changes to my account...

...Except that it wouldn't save the changes. Closer examination showed that the problem was not in the fact that I had changed my industry and occupation -- the problem was that, sometime between the last change I made to my profile and just earlier this evening, Blogger decided to disallow HTML code in its "About Me" area.

Do have a look at the description below and see if you can spot where the offending layout code was:

Sean is a writer who goes about in the guise of a businessman, a creative conceptualist, and a cognitive analyst. In fifteen years of writing experience, he has submitted entries to anthologies, collaborated on story backgrounds for computer games, and experimented with varying approaches to literature. Sean believes that life is a matter of taking the road less travelled, if only to increase exposure to various experiences and meet with a lot less resistance along the way.

All of the above, however, has taken a toll on Sean's sanity. Sean has consequently developed a paranoia of internet plagiarists as well as a habit of breaking down the combinatoric systems of board games. He also likes stuffed animals, which is always an indication that something's very, very wrong with his head.

Give up? The issue was in the paragraph break -- that single one-row valley between the two mountains of words. Placing that single space there needed two tiny HTML commands, which come out in text as "‹br›‹br›".

As it was already fairly late and the profile had already been up for a long time, I made the knee-jerk decision to change it to a single-paragraph description just to solve the problem. So now you're likely to see this new one in its place:

Sean is not an internet celebrity. He is neither a food critic, a gossip columnist, nor a political commentator. He is not an entrepreneur who uses a free blogging service as a means to make money, nor is he an itinerant spammer who foists product promotions on an unsuspecting audience. He is neither an activist nor a spectator. He is neither an instigator nor an irritant. He is neither the hunter nor the hunted. But he tries to tell things like they are, and he tries to do this from a logical and an introspective viewpoint as much as possible. He tries to take in many different opinions as a cohesive whole, and he tries to use this to touch upon many aspects of life. Sean tries to write. Sean tries to be a writer, and that makes him a very dangerous man.

It's still quite a mouthful, but at least it doesn't involve any HTML. And as an added bonus, it's as vague as all get out.

Blogger accepted this new description with my second attempt at saving it, and I started casting around for more things to change. Did I need to adjust the single blog entry at my Multiply account, for example? Was it worth it to log into any of my forum-based accounts and put up a more detailed description of who I was? Heck, did I need to change the name on my primary e-mail account?

In the end, sanity won over any feeble attempts at obsessive-compulsiveness. I'll let my most recent changes lie around for a while, and I'll consider getting back to them after at least a few months. I mean, it's not as though a lot of people read them, right?

Er... right?


Sunday, March 30, 2008

Shelf Circuit

Saturday afternoon found me in the middle of the Fully Booked branch in Rockwell's Power Plant mall, looking for reading material.

Despite my constant hangouts at various malls and bookstores, I don't buy much in the way of books. Part of the reason behind this is the fact that I'm a cheapskate -- I'd rather look for collectibles among the local bargain book sales, or failing that, borrow a few volumes from people who have copies. Most of my reading fare, in fact, revolves around magazines and digest-sized works for some reason -- I try to pick up a book only if I feel that it's worth owning for twenty-odd years or so.

On the other hand, that doesn't mean that I don't feel the occasional hunger for something small, economy-sized, and paperback... so Saturday found me in a Fully Booked branch, looking for something that could tide my interest for a few days.

I went about a usual circuitous path through the bookstore, trying to deduce a layout that I hadn't seen in almost six months. The magazine collection caught my attention first, but I quickly discarded the notion after a few minutes of browsing. Fully Booked has an incredible collection of magazines, yes, but they're all about four or five times as expensive as the stuff that you see being sold on the usual newspaper racks.

I then found the comics section, and spent a while looking for a few complete trade paperback collections that I had been recommended. Having just picked up a copy of Metzer and Morales's Identity Crisis last month, however, I felt that I wasn't looking for any graphic novels or manga at the time. If anything, they wouldn't have been good for more than an hour's entertainment at best.

I took my time scouring the fiction area at that point. Normally I first check the Sci-Fi/Fantasy shelves for anything that looks interesting, then move on to the Horror and Mystery stacks, and then have a look at Filipiniana and General Fiction. I look for a lot of things -- new books from personal favorites (Terry Pratchett, Lillian Jackson Braun and Stephen King), just-released volumes with striking cover designs and text synopses, and old works that I had previously enjoyed and wanted to add to a long-term collection. Over an hour of walking around and getting the staff nervous about my presence, I found nothing that caught my eye enough to drag to the counter.

It was at this point that an interesting plot idea came to mind -- what if you had a single random person suddenly give a long, agonized scream while standing in the middle of a bookstore's shelves, followed by an instant where that person's body crumbles to dust? The idea was certainly very raw and would need a lot of explanation, but it felt as though it would be a very disconcerting situation to any reader. If anything, I filed it away in the back of my mind for possible use later on.

Having found nothing that caught my fancy in the fiction section, I leafed through several books in the "novelties" area. This was apparently a catch-all between humor books, picture books for adults and whatever could not simply be placed among the other shelves, and as such, it was a gold mine for anything weird. I ended up picking out a book on the worst technology-related blunders of the past decade (Dear Valued Customer, You Are a Loser by Rick Broadhead) and asking a staff member if they had any newer copies still encased in plastic. They found that they didn't and apologized, but the book's content was enchanting enough for me to tuck it under my arm and move on.

A few steps before my foray into the children's section, I noticed a massive spread that advertised the Top 100 books ever written (although I never found out exactly who put the list together, and it doesn't match any of my Internet searches). That busied me for at least the next thirty minutes, as I tried to identify each and every one of their titles and figure out whether or not I had read them already. I had obviously plowed through quite a few of them (To Kill a Mockingbird, Animal Farm, Watchmen, The Metamorphosis, and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, among others), but I also wondered about a few that I hadn't read (Yann Martel's Life of Pi and Haruki Murakami's A Wild Sheep Chase come to mind), and I chuckled at the similarity of titles between Golding's The Lord of the Flies and Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings.

The list also drew my attention to Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451, a copy of which I also tucked under my arm for the checkout counter. I had never read it in its entirety yet, if only because I had this constant nagging feeling that we had a copy in the house somewhere and I had to find it first.

My trip to the children's section was cut short by some raucous laughter coming from the Spiderwick shelves. There was a small clique of sixteen-year-olds hanging out and sitting around there doing absolutely nothing at all. Far from having them bother me, I quickly envisioned another plot idea: What if there was a race of intellectual morlocks that lived within the bookstore at night, stealing titles away from the shelves so that the best volumes would encounter massive shortages in the morning? It was another object to file in the back of my mind as I walked to the checkout counter.

Unfortunately for me, the very polite clerk there refused to give me a discount for what was an opened copy of Broadhead's book. Books Kinokuniya in Singapore had cut me some slack on this years ago, when I bought an old weathered copy of The Book of the Shadowlands (by Alderac Entertainment), and the store gave me a nice discount. Kinokuniya even offered to wrap the book in plastic for me, free of charge -- although with that said, I had to admit that this was no Kinokuniya.

So I exited a two-and-a-half hour sojourn with a couple of books in a plastic bag waiting to be read when I got home. On the way out I passed by a display of paperback copies for The Other Boleyn Girl, now a major motion picture starring Scarlett Johansson and Natalie Portman. I refrained from leafing through the copies, though. Maybe I would just get another magazine somewhere on the way home...

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Ten Prompts

Bear with me, folks. I tried writing on a completely different topic earlier tonight, but my thoughts are otherwise preoccupied by work. What's worse is that whatever space I have in my head that's not being taken up by my office schedule is being occupied by various story fragments. (Yes, I'm still trying to write something for any number of venues -- PGS, the Palanca Awards, and so forth.)

So, for the lack of anything else to write about, I give you those bits and pieces that I can fish out. They're all various prompts for mysteries and crime stories of a sort, and I've tried to keep away from supernatural elements wherever I can. There's no guarantee that I won't use any or all of these, but you're free to take them and do as you like.

And yes, my mind really does work like this. Sometimes I fear for myself.

1. The parents of a family with nine children (all of juvenile age or above) are found dead in their own bedroom, both having been killed by means of a sawed-off shotgun. Evidence shows that they were murdered in the middle of the night by someone in the same house, possibly by one of the nine... except that none of the others was awakened by the obvious noise.

2. Murder victims begin appearing in the Ermita area at the rate of one victim a day. Strangely enough, each of the victims is found naked and missing a single body part. The prime suspect is a deranged surgeon who is obsessed with creating his own Frankenstein's Monster... and the situation is turned on its ear when the surgeon produces an ironclad alibi and offers to assist the investigation.

3. A chemistry teacher in a high-profile school is found dead in her own laboratory. There is nothing that clearly indicates a cause of death, but the expression on her face implies that she died of fright. The body is about three days old and is in a state of decomposition... despite the fact that she had attended all her classes for the past week.

4. The head embalmer of a funeral home is found dead in his own workplace, hooked up to a massive container of Formalin. Evidence strongly suggests that he was killed by a corpse that had earlier been wheeled into the same funeral home.

5. Young people between the ages of 16 and 26 are being reported missing at an alarming rate. Further investigation discovers that all of the victims had seen the same movie at the same theater during its limited run... and the last showing of the movie is expected to take place later this evening.

6. An insurance tycoon dies and leaves his fortune to be divided evenly among his children. Tensions flare, however, when not one but three people show up, all taking on the identity of the dead insurance tycoon and laying claim to his entire estate.

7. A prominent politician is found dead on the floor of an infamous brothel that specializes in sado-masochistic sex practices. Evidence, however, not only shows that the politician was not killed at the place where his body was found... but that the man could have masterminded his own kidnapping and execution.

8. Three men ambush a small-time businesswoman while she returns from the bank with her company payroll. Strangely, the payroll money is untouched and completely intact -- from all indications, the robbers only took the engagement ring from her finger. The victim is gravely injured by the attack and resides in intensive care, unable to communicate to the investigators.

9. Scraps of human skin are found attached to the frame of a massive piece of artwork submitted for a national competition, and the artist is nowhere to be found. The next day, one of the competition's three judges -- a national artist and erstwhile critic -- disappears.

10. A writer is found dead at his own study table, in front of an incomplete copy of his newest novel, which may hold clues towards the identity of the killer. As events unfold, however, it becomes clear that the work is heavily plagiarized from another author's existing work -- an author who was also murdered in the exact same fashion.


Saturday, March 22, 2008

Hey! What Happened to My Internet?

With less than fifteen minutes left on my clock at the local Internet café, I've got just enough time for a few words.

First of all, I'm still alive. Thanks for noticing. :)

Second, my home Internet connection decided to conk out yesterday. The cable company tells me that they're doing some preventive maintenance in my area (to which I mentioned, "But the problem's already here!"), and they weren't quite done as of press time. So now I'm lazy, tired, hungry and utterly bored, which probably makes me the most dangerous person in the word.

Third, you'll notice that the PinoyTopBlogs medallion on the lower part of the sidebar has been replaced by something called "TopBlogs". I have not idea what happened here, or if Abe Olandres is still running things, but I renewed the link anyway just so that the sidebar could be kept nice and neat. As of this writing, I'm number 71 on a list of personal blogs, which means that I'm probably number 5,632 on an ever-growing list of Philippine blogs. Sadly, not all of the blogs that I see on the TopBlogs list can be considered "true" blogs -- a lot of them seem to be geared towards advertising, the service industry, and the promotional attempts of several TV shows. Sometimes I wonder if this top blogs thing is really going to work out or not. I might as well ask around...

Fourth, my time is running out. I know that I write extremely slow for a guy who's been doing this schtick for the last sixteen years, but I didn't think that it was this slow.

Heh. Wouldn't be interesting to have a story written from the point of view of a character who literally has only fifteen minutes to write his narration? That would be a great transcendence between the creative and real-time sides of the equation. You'd practically be encouraging the reader to finish the story in fifteen minutes or less. :)

Three minutes, two minutes, and one. I've gotta log off...

Thursday, March 20, 2008


When I got off work yesterday, I was looking forward to a four-day weekend. I was literally itching for four days of non-stop rest, four days of relaxation, four days where I wouldn't have to use one hundred and thirty percent of my brain for the most mundane tasks.

The fact that I wasn't going out of town for the holidays made my prospects look a lot better. I mean, I wasn't looking at concerns about the traffic, and I didn't have to worry about planning and executing a vacation itinerary. In short, things were looking up.

Then Thursday hit, and the fact dawned on me: I'm bored.

I've been stuck in front of the computer for virtually the entire afternoon now, running my sorceress character through Diablo II for the third straight time, wondering if this is all there is. Part of me wants to write something, but I'd like to spend some time plotting out an idea first. Part of me wants to head back to the office and finish a few incomplete pieces of work, but the rational side of my head just smacks me on the upside every time I think that.

The TV is on right beside me, but besides a single episode of CSI, I've seen nothing but news programs on. At this point, I'm not sure how receptive I am to certain bits of news: I don't care about how the alleged underground struggle against the Philippine president is faring over the Easter weekend, and I can't even muster up enough curiosity to ask why both Bin Laden and the Danish government are getting their robes up in a bunch over some cartoons.

Darn it, I'm bored. I should have gotten out of town when I had the chance, stress or no stress.

Admittedly, I'll get my chance in early May, shortly after my birthday. I have some old college friends who are finally getting married after a ten-year-long relationship, and I'm not about to miss this momentous Event of the Decade. But that's still a month from now, and in the meantime, I'm still bored.

Maybe I'll just head out and see if any places are open today. It's only Thursday, after all, and I figure that there have to be at least a few hangout spots available for people to walk around and think for a bit. It's better than sitting in front of the computer, at least.

Ah, well... might as well dress up. Dame Elemen can wait for a bit...

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Made You Look

Having spent the last couple of days looking over various blogs and websites for anything interesting that I missed, I've come to a single conclusion: We apparently can't help but look at the controversial stuff.

This is natural, I suppose. If an item is offensive, vituperative, or just downright inane, then it automatically piques our curiosity. It compels us to look, to watch the drama unfold, and to pull other people into the audience. Even if we're not the type to do so, such spectacles usually prompt us to write about them in some way... which consequently gets our readers clicking on links or retyping addresses in an effort to see what it was that got our proverbial goats.

I find this to be both strange and normal at the same time. There are more than a few intelligent posts out there, and yet I find few references to them when compared to the plain crowd-drawers and the worthless spectacles. We should be reading more of the former and less of the latter, in my humble opinion.

We have a bad habit of standing and gawking at things, of promoting passive activism from the comfort of our armchairs, of writing insults from the safety of anonymous usernames. We seem to make sure that there's a healthy distance between us and the short-term flavor-of-the-month for some reason. Maybe it's because we're too shy or too cowardly to do anything substantial about it. Maybe it's because we don't want to invest any direct involvement into something that wasn't ours to begin with. Maybe it's because we're desperate for entertainment, and there's nothing better to watch on TV at the moment.

Gawking is a terrible habit. I feel that we should just plain stop this -- either we take a more direct hand in these matters, or we duck out of the way completely. Any of these two actions seems like a far better option.

So there's a member of the moneyed class inciting a blog-fueled smear campaign against a former boyfriend. So what? Will leaving comments on this person's blog provide any progress on the situation? Hell, no. If we truly hold an interest in the matter, then we should be doing something more constructive -- like physically contacting both parties to bring about a proper resolution. And if we can't? Then, well... we should just stop reading the stupid blog, stop milling around in confusion, and get out of the damn way.

So there's a magazine writer who put up a potentially offensive article aimed at the people who wronged her in the past. So what? Will writing strongly-worded reactions or sending her vile counter-insults improve the situation in any way? Hell, no. If we really want to resolve the issue once and for all, then we should be meeting with this person and her editors in a proper forum. And if we can't? Then we should just ignore her and get on with our own lives.

So there's some guy who walks out of a courtroom, puts up a website, and tries to start a revolution on his own. So there's some guy who kidnaps a busload of kids from his own daycare center. So there's some putz who constantly uses his website to insult the best movies you ever watched. So what?

These are the ones who want your attention. These are the people who try to get a rise out of you, the bullies who take your lunchbox and then ask you what you're going to do about it. They want you to howl, stamp your feet and scream bloody murder. They want you to play their game. They make you think you can win if you play by their rules.

And the trouble is, it's all too easy for us to fall into such traps.

Better not to play. Better to steel your jaw and just walk away. Unless you have some direct stake in the game, unless you can walk in and enforce your own terms, unless you can make some solid mark that won't just bounce off the other guy's teeth... better to hold back and refuse to get roped in.

Our attention span should not be commanded around like a man playing fetch with his dog. Personal interest should be freely given and never compelled. It should be carefully considered and never instigated. Anyone who attempts to do the latter merely tries to play us for fools, more often than not.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Hiatus? What Hiatus?

Despite my workload at the moment, I haven't quite stopped writing posts yet. In fact, as you have probably seen from my last few articles, I've been logging in late at night just to get some writing done.

The reason behind my recent "hiatus" is actually a lot more circumstantial: It's March. What that means is that my college-level sister, who's a sophomore in a Communications course, suddenly has a ton of papers and other group projects to complete. In this day and age, her generation of students don't merely gather in somebody's house just to coordinate research and construct their final reports. Instead, they do their own digging through home computers and personal Internet connections, and take time out for discussion through tools like Yahoo! Messenger.

On my sister's end, she's been doing this every night now. Usually she manages to last from about 10:00pm (around the same time I get home from work) to 3:00am (around the time I usually nod off). This is far longer than I used to stay up for my college projects -- either we had worse technology back then, or I was a better student than I thought -- but the result is the same: I don't get to use the Internet in the meantime.

And that's why you probably haven't seen me online for a while.

It's the weekend, though, which means that she might not touch the computer for a while. This should give me a few gaps where I can put up some interesting posts... but I shouldn't count on that. She's remarkably studious for a twenty-year-old.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Crime Stories

Okay, okay... one post tonight. But only because I'm having trouble finding a plot for a crime story.

Yes, crime stories are a part of speculative fiction. You can think of this as a mix of subcategories: Mystery is probably the most well-known of these, whereas genres such as the Whodunit and the Noir have each had their day in the sun. Historically, crime stories have been mostly marginalized and accused of having no redeemable artistic value. That gives them a background that is similar to the fantasy and science fiction that we know and love, and is probably why these genres all get lumped together when it comes to "speculative fiction."

Nevertheless, I'm still having trouble finding a plot for a crime story. Just because one can deal with magic and robots on a regular basis doesn't mean that he can take the sight of a bullet-ridden body in the dead of night.

Seriously, however... I think that my mode of thought is off whack right now. Crime stories need a certain mentality to understand them and outline the resulting plots. Given that my method of plotting stories lies somewhere along the lines of "Ooooh, oooh, what if you had a call center run by vampires?", you can probably see my problem there.

I also have a habit of injecting a lot of needless detail into my work. I've always figured that it helps the atmosphere, but with crime stories it's another issue altogether. The genre always seems to be a lot more complex than it looks at first glance -- packing a lot of detail into its stories therefore isn't as effective as choosing your elements carefully. Mind you, I suspect that I see a lot of mystery novelists on the bookshelves simply because it's difficult to concentrate all their thoughts into a mere two thousand words.

There's also the issue of what crime to choose. I figure that such things as murder, robbery and fraud are old standbys... but they might be too overused for me. If I've seen a scheme executed on TV in some form, then I figure that it's been long done... and unfortunately, I've seen too many episodes of CSI. Or NCIS. Or Law and Order. Or Matlock, of all things.

Of course, the easiest way out would be to simply mix crime fiction with the more fantastic genres... but it's the easiest way out for a reason: it's too easy. Besides, the editors probably wouldn't fly with my adulterating their beloved crime genre with my constantly-flitting ideas.

Then there's always the possibility of sitting back and letting the perfect crime come to me. I don't mean that I'd like to get mugged in the middle of the night sometime, of course. I mean that, at some point in time, the perfect crime encased in the perfect intractable situation with the perfect cast of characters will come to me. Maybe it'll happen before the deadline, or maybe it'll come a little too late. Whatever the case, I'll be thinking about it a little more.

That's it for tonight. I'll go and have a few nightmares to cheer me up.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Flavor Text

The little whiteboard above my office desk used to have the following quotation written on it:

"Everything the wise woman learned,
She wrote in a book.
And when the pages were black with ink,
She took white ink, and began again."

The quotation also happens to be on the signature line of my primary e-mail address. In fact, it's been that way for the last ten years.

I get a lot of surprised looks when I reveal where the quote is from. No, it's not a tidbit of wisdom from a famous historical figure. No, it's not some obscure koan from an unknown branch of Zen Buddhism. It's actually a piece of flavor text from an old Magic card.

From there, I just give a wry smile and point out that it's possible to get great quotations from the strangest places. And that's part of the point, really.

I'm not sure why I scribble these things on the whiteboard above my desk. Maybe I want to find some use for dry markers in an age where all my business communication is done through satellite phones and e-mail. Maybe I'm subconsciously looking for inspiration in the crevices of memory. Maybe I just get a kick out of watching people crane their necks to see what I'm about to write next.

If there's a surprise benefit in these quotations, however, it's the fact that they reveal exactly who the gamers, the movie bums, and the literati are in my office. A man who sees the quote above and marvels at its enlightened meaning obviously didn't have much in the way of tabletop hobbies. A man who sees the quote above and chuckles at the childhood memory probably has first-hand experience of where it came from.

And on my end, it forces me to think a bit... to grasp at what I remember of a gaming life and wonder exactly when I get to start up again.

Presently, the quote on my whiteboard now reads as follows:

"When ten thousand men clash with arms and fire,
It is always a single man's actions that make the difference."

This, of course, is not from any distinguished military tactician's texts; nor is it from a Chinese treatise on war and bravery. It's another piece of flavor text, this time from a Legend of the Five Rings card, and it amuses me greatly.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Disclaimer: March 2008

Okay, pencils out. With over forty disclaimer articles on this site, we're all bound to have learned a thing or two. Just in case, however, the questions below are your standard multiple-choice thingies. Mark your answers on a piece of paper and skip to the bottom of the page to assess your score.

1. What is Plagiarism?
a. The process of copying another person's work and claiming/implying the result as original.
b. A major obstacle to the growth and legitimacy to the creative industry.
c. A brand of Spam.

2. I don't plagiarize other peoples' works because:
a. Stealing stuff that belongs to others is the wrong thing to do.
b. It impedes my own growth as a writer and a conceptualist.
c. I'm too busy copying and rewriting them for my own use.

3. Who wrote the stuff on this blog?
a. Sean.
b. Sean.
c. Barney, the Purple Dinosaur.

4. Why does Sean acknowledge other writers here?
a. Because Sean feels that they should be recognized for their own works.
b. Because Sean does not intend to pass off their works as his own.
c. Because this is an important part of Sean's plan to become supreme ruler of the universe.

5. Can other writers ask Sean for acknowledgement of their works if they appear on this blog?
a. Yes, if they feel that they legitimately own these works.
b. Yes, if they feel that Sean has not provided proper use or reference to these works.
c. I pity da fool who don't ask for dis acknowleg'ment!

6. What should you do if you want to use a work or an excerpt from this blog?
a. Place a comment under the entry you would like to use, and link to it.
b. Send Sean a formal request via e-mail.
c. Slip Sean five bucks.

7. Why does Sean try to control the use of his works by other people?
a. To prevent others from gaining a profit on works that they do not own.
b. To prevent others from interpreting his work out of its original context.
c. Didn't you read? It's all part of Sean's plan to become supreme ruler of the universe!

8. What should you expect from Sean if you ask permission to use his work?
a. A quick response and no requirements outside of reference or linkage to this site.
b. A civil discussion and possible opportunity for future transactions.
c. Three French hens, two turtledoves, and a partridge in a pear tree.

9. What should you expect from Sean if you don't ask permission to use his work?
a. Immediate attention from multiple sources, and possible legal investigation.
b. A short, tersely-worded letter to your blog, e-mail address, and/or immediate superior.
c. Two goons visiting your house to rearrange your furniture. "Next time, it'll be your face."

10. What's that thing at the bottom of the right-hand sidebar?
a. A Creative Commons License, which allows for free use of Internet resources under the correct circumstances.
b. A set of regulations for the free and proper use of Sean's works, including this blog.
c. I pity da fool who don't look at da right-hand sidebar!

Pencils down, everyone. Give yourself one point for each "C" that you have in your answers:

0 points: Congratulations. You understand what the plagiaristic threat means... or at least, you've read the Disclaimers on this blog.

1 to 4 points: How's it going, Beavis?

5 to 8 points: Exactly how you've managed to survive without some irate writer stoving your face in, I have no idea.

9 to 10 points: Dude, you are seriously in need of an Ethics class. Hell, you are seriously in need to spend six to eight years in one. With monkeys.