CKL's HotSheet
What Non-Aardvarks are Pondering

By Curtis C. Chen

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April 26, 2002

And You Can Sing Along

I get no kick from champagne

I think I'm allergic to alcohol.

No, really. I can remember two times in my life when I've actually been drunk-- that is, inebriated to a degree that made me physically uncomfortable-- and the day after both incidents, I had hives. Lots of hives. All over my lower back and legs.

True, other things have caused me to sprout hives: stress, in particular. But nothing else had such a clear causal relation, or brought forth the multitudes of itchiness that I experienced after the two aforementioned drinking episodes. Though it has only happened twice, I'm definitely going to watch how much I drink from now on.

Which, to my mind, begs the question: why do we drink at all? Consider these two facts:

  1. Alcohol is a poison. Drink enough and it'll kill you. Drink a little less than that and it messes with your physical and mental faculties.
  2. Every species of mammal has found some way to drug, inebriate or anesthetize itself. Even if it's just banging its head against a rock.

Okay, so the second "fact" is a quote from the movie Mumford. The next line of dialogue is: "Seems to be some natural urge to get away for a while." I've tried to find proof of this, but obviously, it's a difficult claim to prove conclusively. I have seen the head-banging behavior documented on a few nature shows, so at least that much is true.

Sometimes life is just too much to deal with. Sometimes, for whatever reason, and often no fault of our own, circumstances just overwhelm us, and we want to run away. As Hamlet said:

...To die: to sleep;
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to, 'tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish'd...

But the way I see it, if you're alive, you've already won the lottery. You're luckier than every person who was never born or never even conceived. You've got something, and even if it's crap, that's gotta be better than the nothingness of nonexistence.

So stop whining already and get back to slaying vampires.

Stuck in the middle with you

As part of my ongoing job hunt, I've been doing exercises to figure out what I think my ideal job would be. Once I have a good idea of that, I can be more specific in writing my resume and searching for The Job that I want. It's been a little difficult getting started, but I think I have a handle on it now.

One thing that's been distilled out of all this cogitation is the fact that I don't like to be limited to either technical or non-technical fields in my job. That is, I don't want a job where I can only do computer programming and I don't get to interact with the "fuzzier" side of the projects I'm working on. I feel like I'm a pretty balanced person, artistically and technically, and I really want to use both of those skill sets in my job.

But I've noticed, especially when looking at job listings for web developers, that employers seem to want people who are technical to the core. To put it bluntly, I feel that what a lot of tech companies are looking for is complete propellerheads who eat, sleep, and breathe whatever acronym is the flavor of the week. And that's not me.

I have great respect for all the great programmers out there. (I also have pity for the indentured servants on H1B Visas, but that's another story.) But I'm sure I can't compete with them in the technical arena, because I'm just not that interested. I've played Quake, but I don't play it daily. I read slashdot, but I don't have a login. I am a geek, but I'm not a total geek. I want to know and learn and do lots of different things. I don't just want to write code all the time. And I want that to be in the job description.

So what does this mean for my job hunt? Ideally, I'd like to find a position where I can straddle these two provinces, technical and non-technical, and make significant contributions in both. I know I've got the skills and experience to do that. It just looks like it's going to be hard to find something that fits the bill really well.

For the record, if I had to choose, I'd lean toward the technical side, and the job title I've chosen (for now) is "web tools/infrastructure developer." Yes, that sounds more technical than not, but what I envision is an internal position that calls for a jack-of-all-trades and requires frequent interaction with lots of other groups within the company. I'd like my responsibilities to be general enough that they regularly include design (e.g., graphics or usability) and communication (e.g., writing) duties as well as coding. I think that's realistic, right?

Hey, if nothing else, I can always go work at a fast food restaurant.




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