Whether it be social, recreational, or professional, some of what represents me is here. Post a comment, or contact me at should you so desire.

The posts are in reverse chronological order, and are pegged by topic on the links to the left. For more of an introduction, please see the About this site page listed above.

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Mark's Journal #9: Darkness Falls...

Mark’s Journal 11/28/09
So much has happened in the last while that I do not even know how to begin. I write these journals to calm myself, reflect upon events and so there is a written record of history, but there are times when writing does not calm me, and I do not want to reflect, but I need to maintain discipline, I need to maintain a record.

When last I wrote, Leviss, Avaron, and I collapsed upon our beds at the Warmhearth Inn after losing an artifact to the Man in Black, and being saved by the Archmage from a giant drake. Sometimes, I feel like a character in a much larger plot, acting as I am instructed, weaving a tale for the entertainment of the gods. Events transpire without apparent meaning, but are actually pieces of a larger puzzle slowly coming into place. If I had known then what I know now, things might have been different, but that is not worth thinking about.

Leviss woke first the next day, and the rest of us woke shortly thereafter, listening to him scream about a nightmare that he had. More than a nightmare, he said it was a vision of things to come, and it involved us getting killed in this very room. Still clothed from the night before, we got ready and the four of us went to see the Archmage. We found him arguing with the other instructors. Before we could find out what they were talking about, a giant mass of darkness erupted from the west. In no time at all, it surrounded the city completely causing day to turn into night. Making our way to the top of the Evocationists’ Tower, what little we could see of the city was being sacked, burned, and attacked by goblins. Avaron’s instructor, apparently in charge of defense, was grief-stricken by the fact that an invasion had occurred under his very nose. Seeing as though there was no way to help here, we made our way to the ELPS Tower where we were told an attack was currently underway.

The city was being evacuated by the Red Cloaks, and people were leaving via the energy field toward the southern end of the city. Tori wanted to go and help them, but the rest of us thought the Tower’s defense could use more help. Making our way on horseback, around the library, we noticed some goblins ready and waiting to burn it down. Our horses were brutally attacked, and some barely escaped. It was so dark that even I, with low-light vision, could barely see. Killing the library raiders, we made our way south along the main walkway, only to notice two Red Cloaks surrounded by more goblins. I have to say, I was quite impressed by their fighting skills. The Red Cloaks work better as a team than even the Guard at times, literally fighting side by side, and hand in hand, linking arms and using each other as weapon and shield. After helping them, we tried to make our way farther south, as one of the Red Cloaks was badly hurt. Suddenly, it seemed, we were being chased by dozens upon dozens of goblins. Jim, our old friend, appeared out of nowhere, and told us to hurry up. Spinning a white baton in his hands, he slowed down to a crawl and then to a stop. Seeing as though the party could barely move, with one seriously wounded, and Jim concentrating with all his might, I thought we were done for. But, staying close to Jim, we noticed that a light was surrounding us, which I thought would not help matters, but actually worked as some sort of invisibility. The goblins ran right by without stopping or noticing us. We were just about to get into the hospital when the Archmage was captured by two teleporting goblins right before our eyes.

From what little I know of goblins, I know that they rarely use magic, and this, along with everything else going on, flat out confused me. Seeing the Red Cloak and Jim into the hospital, it seemed like many members of the city were housed inside. That was the first thing I noticed, the second, was that the goblins had stopped attacking and were merely surrounding the hospital. A giant goblin, presumably their commander, made his way to the front. He told us that our city was in ruins, and that we should surrender now, as all hope was lost. Obviously, we refused, expecting certain and swift death, but the goblin commander merely said that he would be back later. With the rest of the goblin forces watching us, we barricaded ourselves inside.

Despair. That was the single most obvious feeling in that hospital. All around us were wounded, physically and emotionally, crying and dying in darkness. Tori immediately tried to tend the wounded, but found not only had the patients no concern for their own well-being, others who could be helping found the whole thing pointless. The instructors, as we could see, had made it into the hospital, and were of course arguing amongst themselves. I could see that the Archmage was all that was holding them together, and with him gone, the rest descended into madness. With barely enough light to see five feet in front of you, I sat down, unsure of what to do.

Leviss, upon smashing his head on the wall, found a torch. With barely enough light to read by, he discerned that the torch was made by Alan, Avaron’s father, when he was sick and staying in the hospital. He was young, and after acting quite foolishly and recklessly, had wounded himself and possibly his future. But, without giving up on himself, he crafted the torch to show that hope comes from within. Standing on my shoulders, with the torch lighted by Avaron, Leviss told us this brave story, in an attempt to rekindle the long-lost hope of this city. Slowly, cautiously, but surely, people started coming around. No more were their eyes glazed over with grief. No longer were their hearts heavy with despair. Before not too long, the entire hospital was cheering, and chanting, calling, “Aristaal! Aristaal!” and with their newfound hope, the torch burned brighter and brighter, eventually filling the room and some of outside with light.

It was an amazing event. Here, in this tiny building, we were all able to work together to overcome one of the greatest of enemies: despair. Too often have we encountered hopelessness. I tell you, seeing those people rekindle the hope in their hearts was one of the most beautiful things that I have ever seen.

Now that everyone was back on track, we spoke with the instructors. We needed a plan, and now that there was a will, we hoped to find the way. Encouraging everyone to work together, we decided to have the Evocationists and the Geomancers work together excavating a tunnel under the hospital in order to get everyone out. The ELPS wizards would help bring everyone out, while the Summoners, Illusionists, and Bards would work with us and the Red Cloaks, mounting a defense at the front door. Before we stepped out, Jim gave Leviss his baton. Jim told us that it was never really meant for him, but that it was meant for Leviss. Giving it a trial spin, Leviss couldn’t get it to work. I told him to keep trying, and before not too long, he found its purpose. Holding it in front of him, and pretending to notch an arrow, a beam of green light spread from the ends and an arrow appeared. Leviss started the battle off by lighting an arrow into the middle of a crowd of goblins, there to serve as marker for the Summoners.

All was going well. The tunnel was being built, and while we were losing people outside, we all worked well enough together to make the enemy casualties far outpace our own. During one attack, I became bloodied, and so I began my longtooth shifting. But this time, something unusual happened. Instead of the normal transformation, I became more like a werewolf than ever before. My nose elongated, my ears stretched out, my fur grew long, and my body became more canine. With bones breaking and reforming, I barely had the chance to notice what was actually happening to me. There, for no known reason at the time, I transformed into not just a shifter, but with the traits of a full werewolf. With my mind full of battle, and too focused on dealing justice, I barely noticed these 
 changes. I only noticed my sense of smell, now supremely heightened.

I have struggled all my life to avoid the animalistic nature within me. I came from the wild and it was my hope to squash that part of me out forever. I became blind to that part within me, and turned a blind eye on anything savage. Fate, it seems, is not without a sense of irony.

During our defense, with me transformed, Leviss had another vision. Seeing an attack on me reminded him of this vision earlier foretelling our deaths. Pulling me just out of the way, an axe missed my head, and instead, struck my eyes, rendering me blind. There I was, bleeding through the eyes, newly changed into a wolf of sorts, completely lost and confused.

That was when I passed out.

Jason's Fantastically Epic Adventure/Quest/Brithday Party!

It has been far too long since I have gone on an epic adventure. I've found, as of late, my life to be entirely too busy and somewhat regular to allow for adventure. My parents, who I regularly keep updated with photos outlining my quests and exciting times with friends, mentioned a noticeable lack thereof lately.

But no fear! My friend, Jason, turned 24 this year and in celebration, his girlfriend Brandy, whose awesome blog can be found at that link, decided to plan an event of legendary proportions.

In the style of a fantasy theme, combined with the classic scavenger hunt, we were split into teams and sent out, competing for prizes unknown. It was one of the best events I've ever attended, and I want to thank Brandy, here and now, for orchestrating such a fantastic time.

So, here are the details. Knowing that we would be competing in some sort of group contest, and knowing beforehand how the teams were organized, it was not until slightly before the starting time of 3pm that we received our instructions. Said instructions contained a list of items to collect for the scavenger hunt, quests of a specific nature, and some open to interpretation. We had to collect and fulfill as many items/tasks as possible before meeting up for dinner at 7:30pm that evening.

For those unfamiliar with Dungeons and Dragons, or the classic role-playing game archetype, often there are tasks or quests to complete, with rules regarding proper conduct, and outlines on the rewards of completion. Sometimes, tests of knowledge or skill, are called Checks. In the same manner, our group was given the following list and we carried it out in the following way:

On our way to collect some distant members of our team, we stopped along the way to pick up some scavenger items. The list of items included:
  • Spoons
  • Straws
  • Coffee sleeves
  • Napkins
  • Coffee stir sticks
  • Stickers
  • Business cards
  • Coasters
Stopping at as many restaurants and places of businesses as we could, we collected many of the above items, focusing on unique ones as points were allotted for uniqueness.

Arriving at the Royal Ontario Museum, we took a picture in front of this place, thus fulfilling a Perception Check (taking pictures with Torontonian landmarks) and Intelligence Check (taking pictures with places of learning).

 Great way to start the day!

Additionally, my friend Mike tried squishing a UofT building:

While some friends grabbed a coffee, and collected some more items for the above list, a stranger approached me asking if I knew the location of the nearest library. Directing him to one of my friends, with a smartphone, we helped the stranger, thus completing another Streetwise Check, and just feeling good about helping a stranger!

This one is so perfect, it looks like it should be a stock photo.

An interesting rule I have not yet mentioned is that in order to get on or off a subway or other form of public transit, each person had to roll a 20-sided die, called a d20 for short, and get a 10 or better. If you failed, you had to spin around, touch your nose, and introduce yourself to a stranger. A friend of mine failed a considerable number of times in a row and spent a lot of time introducing himself to random groups. It was pretty hilarious.

 A nice group shot of us all passing our checks, able to get on the subway!

I like this one because it looks like a tesseract.

Anyway, we got on the subway and made it to our next destination, where we succeeded on a Religion Check by taking a picture of an angel, which was on a cenotaph. We had to show off our acrobatics as well and so my friend did one of these!

I forget what it's called, my other friend called it Splintercelling, haha

We then wanted to complete two tasks at once, so while passing a skating rink, so amazing to see people using it by the way, we succeeded in "photobombing" some people. Photobombing is when you sneak into someone's photo effectively ruining it. Funny enough, they were on a scavenger hunt too and had to complete the same task, so they photobombed us, haha.

Pose as a team! (almost, as one of us had to take the picture)

Next, was finding a person named Jason. Writing, "Is your name Jason. (We're on a Scavenger Hunt)" on a big piece of paper and standing by the rink, eventually, a man skated over declaring his name was Jason. We told him what we were up to and we even shot a video of him wishing our Jason a Happy Birthday! That was a pretty cool part of the day.

Making our way to the Eaton's Centre, we decided to get some food, milkshakes (having one gave us 3 points!) and catch up on things. Planning our next couple of moves, we were on our way! We needed to take pictures of aliens, so we took some photos of Superman and Yoda on some t-shirts. We then needed to blend into a crowd, so we posed with the Old Navy mannequins, or humanniquins, if you prefer. (I think these people-ikens are really creepy and have a few photos posing with them, or as them, as seen below).

 Kind of looks like I'm trying to touch "her" butt. Just pretending to steal a phone...that's not better is it?
 Seriously, those things are creepy, and me too!
Where did we go?

Getting a birthday card for Jason, and having the cashier sign it wishing him a great day, we made our way further downtown. We needed to take a picture of a horse, Nature Check, and while we really wanted to see a mounted police officer, they were not out today, so we took some photos with War Horse, still playing at the Princess of Wales theatre (also contributing to our landmark/Perception Check), while some of our group had some shots at a local Elephant and Castle, contributing 3 points for each shot. Meeting back up, we were almost done!

 ya, I'd be afraid too.

We're watching you!

 These next couple of photos were our attempt to look like "business people".

Haha! Business!

And here are some silly ones with various things we saw around the city.
 So dreamy...
 Snow-Penguin and me!

We're both saying, "Hey, it's this guy!"

Taking some last minute photos, we were asked to meet a Lady Carol-Lynn and Lord Jonathan at the Scotland Yard pub/restaurant. When we met them, it seemed they had a puzzle for us.

The following arrangement of toothpicks were arranged below and we were asked to remove 4 of them so that only 4 triangles, or equal size, remained, with no left over sticks poking out.

It took us a few minutes and was honestly one of my favourite parts of the day because everyone got involved. While everyone was participating all day, it was nice to not run around crazy and just work together to achieve one goal. The answer, by the way, is a little later on in this post.

At last, we made our way to dinner. Enjoying the rest of the evening, catching up with some old friends, comparing adventures and quest strategies, and of course celebrating Jason's birthday and Brandy's success at throwing a party, it was a very excellent evening.

Honestly, I have not had that much fun in a long time. I have had great times with my friends, don't get me wrong, but I am really glad to have participated in this event. While a little chilly outside all day, it was a fantastic way to enjoy the city, taking in sites and events not normally considered and even meeting people. As some of the photos show, I dressed up in my cape, red side out because I'm awesome, and my friend was dressed basically as a business wizard, and we met so many people. It was great to see so many people happy and excited and curious as to what we were doing instead of looking at me like I was insane for wearing a cape.

Finally, it was just an amazing event. There were some set tasks to complete which drove us to specific locations but there were also some left open for the sake of seeing what we would come up with. For example, one task asked us to prove we had traveled a long way. Our group grabbed transfer stubs from every transit station we had been to, but another group had a far more creative idea. At the waterfront is a beach called Sugar Beach. At said beach, another group decided to sit in some fancy lawn chairs, with their shirts off, making it look like they were in a tropical area or something. Really clever idea, looked awesome, but was probably very cold, haha.

It was really well organized, and I think I am pretty correct when I say that everyone had a wonderful time. The tasks, along with the rules, and items for scavenging, gave everyone something to do, and I did not get the impression that anyone felt overwhelmed or left out. The first time you run an event is when you work out most of the kinks, but I can honestly say that there were very few, and none which actually posed a problem. If you're looking for a great, new activity or way to get people together, I highly suggest you make an event like this one; if you do, please let me know how it went.

Oh, the answer to the toothpick puzzle is here, below:

And that's that. There were some people who could not make it out today, either because they had another party to go to, or were provinces, or even an ocean away. I want you to know that you were there, in spirit, and I hope reading about this makes you happy rather than jealous.

To conclude, thanks again to Brandy for getting it together, thanks to everyone who came out and made it a roaring success, and thank you for reading this; I hope you enjoyed it!

Oh, and my new favourite picture is the one below, celebrating a job well done!

Monday, 20 February 2012

Things which bother me: People who can't tell me if someone's attractive

Here's a thought which comes back to me from time to time: Why is it that I can judge any person's appearance and potential for physical attraction, but no one else can can?

So, that's an odd question, let me explain a little. There have been many times in my life wherein a friend has been describing another person, and whenever the topic of appearance comes up, these friends are unable to describe them. Sometimes, they are able to, but fail to determine whether or not they find them attractive.

Now, there are several issues at work here, so let's focus on the first one: Apparently, most people are unable to tell if someone is attractive if that person is of the sex to which they are not naturally attracted; namely heterosexual people cannot seem to tell me if someone of their sex is attractive, and some homosexual people have had trouble telling me if someone of the opposite sex is attractive.

I understand that this is vague, so let's work with an example. A female friend of mine is telling me about this girl in her class. My female friend is heterosexual; does not find girls attractive. Perhaps this classmate sounds intriguing and I ask, "Is she cute?/What does she look like?" (I'll get into why I'm not shallow for asking this later.)

My female friends, and trust me, this exact scenario has occurred many times, with different people, all react the same way: "How should I know? I can't judge that!" And this answer confuses me.

I am a heterosexual man. I have no, nor have I ever had, homosexual desires. I have no problem with who or what (usually) you're attracted to, and I only mention it here to give you a framework. My idea is that as long as it's legal, and consensual, love and be attracted to whoever your heart desires. Anyway, I am a heterosexual male, and yet I am still able to tell if a man is attractive.

The next question you may have is: "Attractive to whom? Not to you, then, to your female friend?" Well, my answer is maybe, and maybe not. I can tell you if a person is generally attractive, if they have something about them which might make them just generally unattractive or alluring, and then I work more specifically from there.

Let's pick an example, Nathon Fillion:

Oh not fair! Or, oh yes please! I can hear you saying now. The unfairness of picking this is because so many would claim that he's so attractive that no one would be able to say no, but don't worry, I'll use another example later. Let's look at him, and not because of his awesomeness, just his physical appearance.

In the photo above, we see a male, late 30s, early 40s (he's 41 actually!) with blue eyes and a little grey in his hair. Slightly coiffed hair, little bit of stubble, evidence of but not really any facial hair. With a quick glance, there is nothing about him which is generally unattractive. He doesn't have a mole in an unfortunate place, no weird facial expression, no neck beard, the only thing about him which might be unattractive (to some) is the grey in his hair. Blue eyes are considered quite appealing by most, and he has those. He has a little smirk which might be endearing, and isn't really unattractive. So, if anyone were to ask me, "Is he attractive?" I would answer he has no noticeable unattractive features, and his blue eyes, symmetrical face, and smirk make him a handsome individual. And, if you're into that sort of thing, he has grey hair but with a haircut which speaks of youth.

See how easy that was? While most would think that rating attractiveness is a purely subjective game, I have shown how one can logically break it down. It becomes much more detailed and accurate when you consider your audience. I know a few people attracted to slightly older men, and when talking with them, would bear that in mind in my analysis. Like I mentioned before, Nathon Fillion is considered quite attractive, by most, so I will move onto a different example.

Enter, Drew Carey:
Lovers of Mr. Carey don't take me wrong here. I am not comparing Drew to Nathon, I will simply show you how I can rate him.

Nice haircut, although his hair is a little thin, big glasses which hide/overshadow much of his face, nice smile, but a little crooked. Evidence of a double chin coming in, and blue eyes? Maybe? Hard to tell in this photo. On first, second, and third glances, there is nothing overwhelmingly attractive about him. I'm not trying to say he's ugly, I'm saying that one's blood does not pump in quite the same manner upon seeing him as with Mr. Fillion. In many ways, I would say Drew Carey looks a lot more like your average guy. Sure, he would be harder to describe because his appearance does not demand so much of your attention, in fact most people would probably take a quick look at him and remember only his glasses, but after describing him as such, I would rate him in the following way: he's alright looking, nothing really wrong with him, kind of average, but he's got a nice smile. I'd give him a chance, maybe he'd surprise you, but if all you're after is a boy-toy, a piece of meat over which to drool, I wouldn't consider it. 

Just to rub the point in a little further, I will show you how I can rate a woman I don't find attractive, personally, Amanda Seyfried:
Why did I choose her? Well, I chose her because I do not really find her attractive. She has qualities which are generally attractive, but I only recognize that others might see and want that (her) but I do not. My description: long blond hair, blue eyes, pale complexion, she's just generally good looking. I mean, most would consider her beautiful, at least here in this photo, but she does nothing for me. Would I go for her? Not really, there's nothing about her which stands out other than her eyes. If you're into that typical blond hair/blue eyed doe look, go for it, otherwise, I'm sure she'll find someone else, and in the meantime, I'll be hunting foxy brunettes.

Everything I am saying is biased. By definition, it has to be. I would be interested in knowing your thoughts, but the one thing you are probably saying is, "Well, you must consider these people slightly attractive if you're able to rate them as such."

I would disagree, saying that I am rating them first on general appearance, which is mostly a measure of symmetry and a first glance. Once I have concluded with that, I move onto specific features and recognize that while I may not find them attractive, others might, and for some features, like the blue eyes for example, these features are just known to be desirable, if books, TV, and movies have taught me anything.

One last quick thought: I don't think I'm shallow, either because of this rant, my rating of people by their physical appearance, or by my aforementioned asking if someone was attractive. Like it or not, we rate things. It is part of how the mind works, as I'm given to understand it. People want to know as much about a person as possible in order to categorize them. When it comes to physical attractiveness, that's just one small characteristic I consider when deciding whether or not I'm attracted to someone. It's the first thing I usually notice, but it's not the most important. But, if I'm going to be romantically, and possibly physically involved, with someone, I would like to be physically attracted to them, as I enjoy the physical side of things just as I enjoy the emotional and intellectual sides of companionship. I don't think it's shallow, I think it's just my way of getting the whole picture.

So, long story short: When I ask you to tell me if someone is attractive, you should be able to tell me if they are generally appealing, appealing to you, and if you know me well enough, if they have features which I may consider attractive.

This rant, by the way, doesn't just apply to my female friends. I have known many a straight guy unable to give me a straight answer. I think I figured out why, just now: they just don't want to think about it. Maybe they are so repulsed by the idea of looking for the attraction in someone of one sex or another, that they are unable to answer my question. Maybe that's it, but honestly, it's not hard to think about things, and for me, very easy to categorize something or someone without putting emotional investment into it. It's a simple question, and one I don't think will redefine your sexual orientation.

If you can't/if you're afraid to rate someone from the sex to which you're not normally attracted, don't be afraid, everyone's beautiful, and I won't judge you for thinking so as well.

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Things which bother me: the amount of work involved with getting a job

First thing I want to point out: I understand the irony and futility of writing about this. The irony resides in not using the time I spend here writing this in looking/applying for work. The futility resides in the fact that, other than perhaps having a few of you agree, it's not going to change anything.

As the title suggests, I hate the nonsense involved with trying to find work.

The first thing which bothers me is that I can never seem to find a job posting when I need to. I don't know if this is truly universal, but just finding work is a problem. Now, I'm not going to get into the larger issues concerning the state of business, employment, or labour shortages, but I will acknowledge their effect on my complaints. No, my problem is in the seeming lack of advertising, and perhaps, my lack of knowledge in finding positions for which to apply.

I am an engineer-in-training, with years of experience in mathematical/programming problem solving, team/time/project management, with a great work ethic, a strong initiative and willingness to learn, and I am a pretty decent people person, with what I hope are above-adequate communication skills. Yet, I am having trouble finding postings that are right for me.

I've looked into some of the big engineering firms, but of course, they require years of experience and are only looking for people who want a career, not a coop/internship/entry level temporary employment. Some friends, and colleagues, suggested several other places to work, namely, banks. So, I tried there as well, and after several hours, days, and weeks, of sifting through the job boards of the various banks located here in Toronto, I was only able to find 4 positions for which I could apply.

Maybe the problem is that I'm too specific, asking for too much even though I don't have the experience to be doing so. As mentioned, I am an engineer in training, and thus want work related to my field. I want to be given problems, whether they be mathematical, engineering design, or computer-related, and asked to solve it either on my own or in a team setting. Alternatively/additionally, I want to work on design projects, helping to create something, for the good of, preferably humankind, but I'll settle for the company. Also, I don't want to work for the rest of my life at any one position. Perhaps companies don't want to hire me because they know I'll need to leave them in 8 months and they'll see training a temporary employee a waste of their time and money.

My next problem is that it is nigh-impossible to do a job search based on skills. Sure, there are often categories of jobs by which you can search, and I guess skills are sometimes too vague or too specific to appropriately filter the job options, but I hate how many times I've skimmed through a job posting, based on its title, only to find out they are asking for something which differs completely from what I imagined the job title was asking.

My final issue is that old adage, "It's not what you know, but who you know." I am seriously tired of that. Far too often, has that adage proved true, and each and every time I have been slightly upset at it. I have ranted about this before, but when it comes to getting work done, I don't care who you know. Whether it be the Pope, Donald Trump, or my mother, I don't care at all who you know, I care about what you can bring to the project in terms of knowledge and experience. Even if I knew everyone and was able to get work just by asking a friend or family member who worked somewhere, I would still feel extremely bad if I thought for one second I was hired somewhere based on that and not based on my ability to fulfill the obligations and responsibilities of that position. N.B. To any of you who have been lucky enough to have been considered/hired to a position because of a connection in a company, I am not upset at you, I just hope it wasn't the only reason you got the job. I don't think connections are the only way to get in, I just envy the ability to get noticed through an acquaintance rather than a résumé. I understand how it works, but I'm working on making myself a little more noticeable. 

Let it be known that I don't mind the process involved with applying for work, or rather, I understand it. Companies want to know that you are worth their time, and that you will be willing to put the effort in to actually be considered. They don't want to make the application process too easy/automatic or else so too will their evaluation process be. I don't mind writing a separate cover letter each time, or filling out an online application, really, because each job is different and should require special attention.

Now, for anyone more interested in my current method of searching, so that they may offer criticism, constructive or otherwise, of my methods, here is what I have been doing to find work:
  • Updated my résumé, which is more like a C.V. and can be found here: Dallas Kasaboski's Résumé (Yes, I give a shortened version when the job asks for it/seems like it would suit the position better)
  • Have discussed the options with the Internship Program at York University, only to be given the dates of their job fairs and the names of some companies of interest.
  • Have gone to some of the job fairs, only to find all the positions are for surveyors, not for me.
  • Have gone through the careers/jobs/internships/coop positions on the websites of the companies referred to me both by the Internship Program and my colleagues.
  • Have scoured the internet, looking for job postings.
  • Have lowered my standards and opened my mind and availability to jobs and companies I normally would not accept before.
  • Have applied for, and written the cover letters for, only about 10 positions, and have not heard back from any of them.
  • still looking.
  • Have written this blog, to get noticed/to feel better about things, as writing helps to sooth this savage beast.
Should you wish to contact me, to leave advice or criticism, you may do so here by commenting, or you may email me at

In the meantime, as always, thanks for reading, and I will continue my search!

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Mark's Journal #8: Attack from all sides, in which many things are revealed...

Mark’s Journal 11/21/09
Considering the events of which I last wrote, it is no wonder that I had been feeling both restless and apprehensive. Being ambushed isn’t something that I want to repeat, and giant drake statues flinging my friend across a room leaving him only to mumble don’t make me feel much better.

That being said, when Leviss considered going to his aunt Marlys, an archeologist and geomancer, I was up and ready before he was finished proposing the idea.

Arriving at the Geomancy tower, we noticed a building meant to be one of splendor. I say meant to be because currently it was as old, grey, and worn down as the rest of the city. It was very tall, made of stone, like the rest, but seemed to be crafted more with care, which makes sense considering who made it. It had one redeeming aesthetic feature: a strip of beautiful crystal green rock spiraling its way up the tower. Leviss informed me upon reading this that the rock is known as a geode. Once in the tower, we found out which floor Marlys was on, and were fortunate enough to find an elevator. Making our way to the appropriate floor, we found that each of the four rooms took up a quarter of the circular tower, with the elevator in the middle. In one of the rooms, which appeared to be an office of some kind, we asked for Marlys and were informed that she was teaching a class and that it would take 3-4 hours. Leviss, being bored, and I, being restless, made our way to the museum, promising to be back later.

At least that was our intention. We ended up accidently going to the top floor of the tower, which turned out to be just the roof. Beyond the fact that this appeared to be a base of defense for the Geomancers, it was also the highest I had ever been. From there I could see all of Aristaal and the wilderness beyond. Even though the city wasn’t white, it was still something to behold. Walls lining the limits of civilization, housing the library, museum, and the other towers, it was the very definition of what could be done when people united for the common good. I was mesmerized by the sight, and considering what was to come, it was an image that engraved itself unto my heart, forever to be remembered, and continues to inspire me to this day.

Once at the museum, Leviss and I split up to look at things that interested us. I examined a tapestry which appeared to be a pictographic history of Ori. Following the original landing upon Ori, the settlers began colonizing the rest of the savage land. Working to bring supplies to the Old World, and to bring settlers to this New World, Ori developed over time into what we knew today. One particularly interesting note was of a man named Avanmar. During the war against the kobolds, the original inhabitants of Ori, Avanmar was captured. Living amongst the lizard people, he learned their ways and customs and realized that kobolds were not much different than man. They had a similar taste for knowledge, curiosity, and adventure, and once Avanmar convinced both sides of this, peace talks were made and a rough truce began. I personally liked this tale, as it displays how, with some effort, savagery can be controlled, and peace can be obtained. I may be a fighter, but in my heart, I appreciate peace as much as anyone. Also, if not for Avanmar, Leviss and I would not be friends.

Marlys, besides being a teacher, also seemed to be a caring aunt with a lot on her mind. Saying she hadn’t heard of the “First Ones”, she promised to go through her work and the older works in order to find out what she could.

Back at the Warmhearth Inn, I continued my quest for knowledge. Seeking out older, battle-hardened patrons, I came to join some men at the far end of the bar. Asking to join them, I soon found that my original assumption was correct: they had experienced battle. Buying them a round and regaling them with tales of our own adventures, I endeavored to find out more about Aristaal. More specifically, I wanted to know when and why this “White City” was no longer white. What had happened that sent this “united” city into the caste-like system that existed now? They told us that the main problem was the Tournament. It split the different wizarding factions like never before and left all sides working against each other instead of working together.

Finally, it all made sense. We’ve seen what happens to a city once its people lose all hope. The storms of doubt move in, the people become prone to despair and before you know it the whitest of cities become like Portsmouth once was, dark and foreboding.

The next day, Avaron, Leviss and I made our way out to an archeological site outside of the city, there to meet Leviss’ parents, Ven and Eris. Tori was not feeling well, and so, stayed behind at the Warmhearth Inn. It was supposed to be fun; we were not expecting any trouble and were riding out to learn more about Leviss and his family. On rereading these journals, I see that my writings at times come across as hopeful to the point of naïve. But, that is not really true. I have always been the worrier in our party. I have always planned ahead, considered different outcomes, strategized and tried my best not to be caught unaware. Keep that in mind when I tell you that our group ran into some seriously dangerous and unpredictable stuff.

Shortly before arriving at the camp, we noticed a great fire looming ahead; rather, we noticed a huge plume of smoke. Sensing danger, we kicked our horses to a gallop and arrived to see ruin. Not an ancient ruin ready for excavation, but a camp of disaster. People were scattered, tents were torn, and most of the camp was smoldering. You could see the fear in the eyes of those that were willing to look up at our approach. Two of them, acting as guards, looked more scared than ready to defend these people. It was obvious that something happened here, it happened fast and it happened recently. Dismounting and showing them that I meant them no harm, I started issuing orders. I am not normally one to act as leader. Most of the time, I hang back, observe the situation, and yes, at times, make a final decisive decision, but that day I took command, and thank the gods, my judgment was sound, and my comrades and I worked as the soundest of teams. I started a triage, assessing the situation by the severity of their wounds. Avaron acted as my right hand, gathering people together, administering first aid, and later, acting as a border patrol. Leviss acted as well, but focusing more on spiritual aid. Leviss, upon finding his parents, sat down and was less than active at first, not that I could blame him. Finally, after resolving that they were alright, began to tell stories of the Keepers, one in particular in which his parents had been involved. The only casualty among the academics was caused by my hand. The following is exactly what I wrote toward the end of that day, recalling the event:

Unfortunately, one of the wounded was beyond my efforts. With a spear through his lungs, there was only one thing to do: put him out of his misery. I’ve never had to do anything like that. He lived his life in the pursuit of knowledge, and I had to kill him, an innocent man. His death will weigh heavily on my heart.

I do not regret my actions that day. I have spent my entire life preparing myself and knowing myself to the point that when a situation happens, I can feel safe that whatever way I choose to act, it will be in accordance to everything that I believe. I acted for the greater good, and for that, I am not ashamed.

Getting everyone together, and making make-shift stretchers, we sent half of the camp’s archeologists and academics back straight away to Aristaal, using our horses and what little they had. Once everyone had settled down, we found out that goblins were responsible for the raid and that they had stolen an artifact of great importance. Promising to get it back, we sent the other half of the camp back on foot, with the assurance that they would meet up with the Red Cloaks from Aristaal in a few days time. I wasn’t too worried about this latter half as they had some kobolds that passed as fighters. I believe myself to be a decent judge of character, and from their stance and the look of personal assurance in their eyes, I recognized some of them as one of my own, fighters, sure and true.

Making our way toward the mountains, we found the goblin camp not too long before nightfall. With a wall of hedge surrounding the camp, and a wall of goblins surrounding what seemed to be a hexer with the idol, we made our attack. Coming in from the front, in a gap in the hedge, Leviss and Avaron stayed behind to provide me with some cover fire. It was a quick, but brutal battle, as Avaron lit the surrounding hedge on fire, and Leviss’ arrows saving my hide on more than one occasion. I noticed on the ground, there appeared to be a red stone that when anyone attacked from it, they appeared to deal more damage than usual. Killing all at the camp and retrieving the artifact, Leviss told me that the rock was known as Bloodstone, a substance that does indeed increase the ferocity and damage of a weapon. Collecting some of that, along with the artifact, we made our way back. Looking back upon the devastation we had caused, I noticed a goblin family, mother and child presumably, looking over what we have done. For a moment, I considered how we must look to them: brutal, and without remorse. But, there was nothing else that could be done, someone had to account for the raid on the camp, and those in the goblin camp knew what they were getting into.

Meeting up with the Red Cloaks, we were delighted to hear that all the scholars made it back and were safe and sound. After a short rest, Avaron and Leviss went to the workshop to see what could be done with the Bloodstone. I decided to wander about the city, making my way to the temple and the bizarre. The temper was the same as it ever was, with people reading and worshipping in silence. The bizarre looked to be interesting, with people bargaining and commerce abound. I met a girl at one of the merchant tables. Even from a distance, I could see how striking she was. Tall and brunette, with clear sharp eyes, and wearing a long black dress, here looked a young woman of strength and beauty that came from within. Seeing her interest in the items on the table, I struck up a conversation with her. I should have been nervous, I have little dealings with girls other than my closest friends, but I felt comfortable with her. She told me her name was Nala, and I bought her a charm from the table. I told her my name and that I was staying at the inn. When I left, she took my hand and seemed interested in my ring. Saying it was nice, and going about her own business, it took me a little while to realize how odd that encounter was. While the ring I wear is nice enough to look at, it is not one that anyone would normally claim as pretty. I found out later that its true purpose was to be noticeable only to those that knew its true worth. Lost in the clouds of infatuation, I did not think about this until later that night.

Back at the inn, I found Tori in better spirits, although she refrained from partying with us that night. Avaron and Leviss came back showing off her long-sword, now coated in the Bloodstone. Gailan the Brave and Jim, Leviss’ Illusionist Bard friend rocked out that night, bringing explosions and ballads to the inn.

The next day, tired, but in high spirits, we make our way to Leviss’ family bash. I had been given to understand that the kobold family structure is wide-spread with many ‘aunts’ and ‘uncles’ for every child. Held at the Illusionist Tower, it too was a fantastic time, full of food, music, and fun. Marlys was there, and she told us that there was no mention of any “first ones” in any of her readings. But, her best guess was that it refers to the first settlers of Ori. Another of Leviss’ aunts was there, bringing gifts. To Leviss, she gave him a helmet made of the skull of a drake. Another gift she had was a cloak, bright red/orange, woven of some kind of yarn with a symbol of fire on the back. Avaron took it, as she was the only one there that it would have fit, and she was told it would help protect her from fire. Spotting Nala at the far side of the party, we made for her when we were intercepted by the Archmage. Without letting me leave, he pointed out my ring, and showed me that he had one of his own. Not really understanding why or how he would a ring identical to the one I wore, we promised to visit early the next day.

Tori, still not in the best spirit of mind, stayed at the inn. I thought to myself that we should get her to a hospital soon, but I wasn’t sure if that would help. I guess I should have known what was to come, but with everything going on, I did not take heed. Tori always did seem to have a perception of events outside of what I would deem noticeable.

Upon visiting the Archmage, I began to grow concerned. He treated me as one of his own, like I was a part of some secret that I did not know about. I couldn’t play along with knowing this, as both curiosity and propriety suggested otherwise. All of a sudden, the Archmage grew worried, moving to the back of the room, and shouting mistrust with his eyes. He asked where I got the ring, and I told him. I told him about Atlas, and our part in his final days. Considering this, the Archmage grew to trust me a little more saying that Atlas knew what he was doing. Apparently the rings we wore were a symbol. Given by the King to men who could be deemed both trustworthy and honourable, the rings symbolized the wearer’s inclusion into a group called the King’s Men. A small elite band of operatives, the King’s Men were at the King’s disposal, working toward His best interest. Finding out that I did not earn the ring in the traditional way was enough to cause the Archmage to distrust me, but considering how Atlas gave it to me, this distrust was reconsidered.

The Archmage told us that the King had been gathering artifacts and that the one that we brought back was one of them. He asked us to guard it for one day saying that some more of the King’s Men would be alone to continue its shipping to the Old World. Promising to do our best, we were led down to where it was kept. Housed in the lowest floor of the Archmage’s building, in a room, seemingly sealed by magic, was the artifact. I stood guard by the door, always willing to act as meat-shield, as I’ve heard it called. I asked Avaron to stay right next to it in case some portal was opened. Erathis knows how many times we’ve had to deal with teleportating foes. Leviss, I had placed on the other side of the room, ready and willing to strike. It was a good plan, but the road to the Underworld is paved with good intentions, or so the saying goes. Nodding off to sleep, I awoke just in time to see the Man in Black creep out of a portal and take the artifact off its stand. “Not this time!” I shouted, waking everyone up and leaping to the portal. Out crawls another tentacle monster, from the already closing portal. I smashed the monster out of the way instructing Leviss and Avaron to keep that portal open. When Leviss had the portal as large as it would go, straining with everything he had, Avaron, Leviss, and I jumped through it. We arrived just in time to see the Man in Black kneeling. There before him, and us, stood a giant drake, just like the statue we found, only larger, and a lot more alive. There above us was the largest, most terrifying, most primal source of power I had ever seen. We knew in our hearts that this was a “first one”, and we knew in our hearts that we were dead. Stunned into submission, it was the Archmage that saved us. Pulling us back through a portal, we arrived in his office, in shock, and surprisingly unharmed. The Archmage rambled about how, “it’s not possible, it can’t be…but it is, they are real,” and told us we did what we could, sending us back to the inn.

Barely able to stand, let alone walk, we supported ourselves back to the inn. Too tired to undress, we fell asleep on our beds, not that we slept very well at all.

A lot happened this week, and Erathis knows that if I had known the importance of that week, I might have acted differently. Not that it matters, the gods have a plan for us all, and I am thankful that I did not in fact know what was to come. Leviss’ skill at foresight might be seen as a blessing, but it could also be a curse, knowing and unable to avoid the future. I leave this journal as is, without further reflection, allowing the truth to speak for itself.

Mark's Journal #7: First Ones

Mark’s Journal 11/06/09

I’ve always been a lighter sleeper than my companions, especially Leviss. I spend many a late night busy in thought or in writing my journals. One thing I learned in all my years living in a temple was the power of a focused mind. Awaking early the next day, and feeling unproductive, I crept outside the inn. The nights are the worst time for me. My low-light vision makes many a darkened night a bit brighter, thank Erathis, but the night reminds me too vividly of where I came from, and how easy it could be to slip back into the darkness. There are times, when I am bloodied and enraged, that I feel that primal power trying to break free of the cage that I’ve built for it, but so far I have been able to use this power without losing the control. This night was different. Dreaming of light turning to darkness, and the White City falling, I had to tackle the early morning, feel like I could strike back the shadows with my sword, and settle these dreams. Finding an isolated spot not far from the inn, I began my forms. Spinning in place, stabbing, and shield sweeping, just doing something with precision and accuracy made me feel better, made me feel better prepared for whatever comes next.

After everyone woke up, we reviewed the job board. From the library came a posting about some recent geological activity revealing a possible temple outside of the city. Unfortunately, it is currently inhabited by goblins that have already killed one person.

Finally, something to do. Saddling up, we made our way to accept the job and then to the northwest to find this cave. Arriving at the mountains, Avaron’s familiar Jello made itself useful by demonstrating tremor sense. Sensing that something was down in the cave, but unsure of what it was, we made our way in. What should have been routine, ended up being quite dangerous. Ambushing us, we were easy prey. I ended up falling in some kind of oil, which ignited, burning my face, and fur…again. I tell you, it is a good thing that it grows quickly, especially when I longtooth shift, or else I would be very angry at such a mistake as waltzing into a trap. My candid attitude should reveal that while we were caught off-guard, we were not defeated, and that my vanity was not injured too greatly.

After fighting through two cavernous rooms, we found a statue. Taking up an entire wall of the cave in height, it appeared to be a giant drake, blue in colour, staring at us. It was menacing, terrifying even, exuding power, old power, with a tenacity that I would not have thought possible in a statue. Unable to do anything but stare at it, I was unaware of Leviss reaching for the blue orb at its base. Upon touching it, he was thrown back to the back of the room. When he woke up, moments later, he could only mumble something about the “first ones”.

Making our way back the library, licking our wounds so to speak, we informed the librarian who gave us 500 gold for our trouble. As a result of all this adventure, Avaron was late for class, and so we accompanied her, albeit late. Her instructor, an evocation expert, so I was to learn, was a grim faced man with a sardonic wit, and a presence that demanded respect and focus. His first lesson, intended to give Avaron a feeling for control involving moving in a way similar to one of my martial forms. I call it, the Cycle of the Town Square, it involves a sweeping motion of both arms while stepping. Performing this over and over is meant to focus your body and mind and make your moves repetitive and controlled. Leviss and Tori grew bored of it quickly, and I, too used to the actions, stopped shortly after they did. Repeating it over and over, Avaron seemed to display a knack for it.

Magic, and being ambushed, either one would be enough to make me angry, but for both to happen, and to such a degree as it has, I rest lightly, hoping for better days.

Mark's Journal #6: Arrival at Aristaal

Mark’s Journal 10/30/09

Shortly before our arrival at Aristaal, we were awakened by a commotion coming from Avaron’s tent. Ever at the ready, we leapt to action to see what was wrong. Oddly enough, what woke her up was the appearance of an ooze of some kind. It was small; roughly a hand in size, in a cubed form, and red in colour. Carefully touching it with a stick, we learned that it was also acidic in nature, but that it did not seem to be malevolent. Avaron wanted to keep some distance from it, but it seemed to not only follow her, but obey her instructions. Al, and the other Geomancers seemed unbothered by its presence, calling it a ‘familiar’. Remembering the gelatinous ooze that we fought in Central City, I was all too familiar with its kind. Seeing as though it was under Avaron’s care, I choose to observe the little thing and learn all that I could. Avaron named it Jello, and when we rode out, it followed us, displaying teleportation abilities.

At long last, we arrived at Aristaal. I had been looking forward to this arrival with much anticipation. Aristaal! The White City, the jewel of Ori, the peak of civilization in the New World, and we were going there. I thought that we would not run into the same sort of filth, corruption, and chaos as we had seen in Portsmouth and even Central City. I have to stop making assumptions.

Arriving at the White City, the first thing we noticed was that it was not white at all. While the walls were magnificent and made of a sturdy stone, it was also beige and grungy looking. From what we could see of the city, it was obvious that it started as a defensive fortification. Long, tall, strong walls, with large circular towers at the corners, with an energy field of some kind in the middle. Al, and the other Geomancers with their fiery earthen steeds simply rode through the field. Seeing as though it didn’t hurt them, we rode through as well, with no apparent effect.

Immediately after entering, I noticed a Temple of Ioun that I thought I would have to check out later. A short search yielded an inn at the south-western end of town called the Warmhearth Inn. The innkeeper seemed like a fast-talking business man, easy to deal with once he was paid. Stabling our horses, we went to the nearest tower. It turned out to be the Bard Tower, the centre for Bard-like activities in Aristaal. We weren’t allowed to go too far before we were informed that we needed to go to the centre of enrolment for a guest pass.

The head of this noocracy was the Archmage. An elderly gentleman, he presented himself as a man of great knowledge, and great power. Seeming interested in Avaron, he agreed to help her in controlling her powers, and asked her to consider enrolling in the Aristaal curriculum. Agreeing to give it a shot, Avaron signed up. One thing that I did not notice at the time was that she seemed to not even be set back by the financial burden of enrolling in school. Apparently, Alan left her in good standing.

After getting this pass, we decided to go to the library to get some more information on this city. Even if it weren’t already obvious, this city seemed to be a place of learning, as seen by the fact that the library encompassed almost the entire northern wall of the city. On our journeys I have been keeping a rough map, for record purposes, but also so that we wouldn’t get lost. I had already begun doing so here, but was fortunate in that I obtained a map of the area from the library.

As you can see from the attached map, there are 7 towers placed around the walls of the city, including the tower of Geomancy, Alchemy, Summoning, Illusion, Ethereal Locational and Teleportation Studies, General Wizardry, and of course, the Bard Tower. The system of government was a noochracy, one run by the most knowledgeable. Recalling the Temple, this made sense as above all things, Ioun worshippers care for knowledge. Splitting the group, I found out later that Leviss met a human Illusionist named Jim while looking for books to improve his bard skills. Tori went to the bestiary and learned a lot about the local animals. Avaron attempted to find some information on sorcery, but her search was unsuccessful. First of all, it seems that sorcery is rare, and for good reason. A wizard, it seems has the innate ability but must train and develop their discipline in order to maintain full control and use of their powers, while a sorcerer or sorceress has more ambient energy and at times forgo the discipline in search of greater power. This makes them very dangerous and unpredictable. I hoped, for all of our sakes, that Avaron maintains some control.

Another thing that I noticed was a sense of distance among this place. There seems some animosity among the different classes of wizard, as well as a general disdain for sorcery. I smelled trouble, but I’ve been told that I worry too much.

That night at our inn, Gailan the Brave, a dwarf bard, entertained us with songs of courage, adventure, and even one about the Keepers. Avaron left with the Archmage, presumably in order to show off her skills and for him to evaluate her potential.

Everyone seems entertained by this city so far, except for me. I haven’t really had a chance to investigate this city, and I find my lack of knowledge disturbing. Also, something that I had only acknowledged when I was angry, or fighting off some aberrant, was that I have less faith in magic than my companions. If I cannot feel it, hold it, or bend it to my will with sword and shield, I place less trust in it. The only exception is my religious background. Growing up with the teachings of Erathis, and influenced by our journey, I have a stronger faith in the goodness of civilization, the will of the gods, and faith in the righteousness of my actions. Magic is something I do not really understand, and without understanding comes danger.

Anxious for something to do, something to set right, I checked out the Ethereal Job Board to find that there were two jobs available, one involving goblins. Tired, and overwhelmed by our adventures, we decided to turn in for the night and seek out work tomorrow.