Thinking “creatively”

Given that I am in the middle of my final exams, I am lacking something in terms of energy and creativity. It doesn’t bode well for the upcoming week, but I’ll have to give it my best shot…

In any case, I was struck by two celebrations of creativity online that gave me thoughts on how much easier it is in today’s world to be creative. The first I got from the Google Blog, where they announced the launch of Google Patent Search today. The service currently allows you to search through millions of US patents. That should spark people’s creative juices if nothing else does: at first glance, there are tons of crazy patents awarded to people, many of which should be food for thought. Or just a source for laughs. (Note: the service seems to be having some issues. I assume Google will sort those out fairly soon, though.)

The other source of inspiration for me was through a post by Robert Scoble referencing an article from Business 2.0 Magazine, 20 Smart Companies to Start Now. (Note to get your titles matched up – the article and page titles aren’t quite the same… that’s just sloppy.) In any case, the article is a list of 20 products that various venture capital firms are looking to sponsor. Reading the article is quite interesting, because the ideas cover a range of products and markets. I would, however, suggest having your own ideas for businesses: how many other people are going to read this article and decide they want to develop online spreadsheets? (And who else is already doing that…? *cough* Google *cough* Zoho *cough* etc) However, if you are in a position to develop an ultracapacitor or an “iDrive,” please do. Because I know for a fact that I will not be doing either of those things.

On a side note, however, both articles aren’t exactly sources of creativity. Rather, they are both repositories of other people’s creativity. That applies more to the patent search, but you can’t deny that the ideas in the “20 best” article are still someone else’s ideas to an extent. Actually realising those ideas is another story, however. That said, the ideas from the “20 best” article are ideas that are already mainstream ideas that will probably be realised by people who have already started developing their ideas. If you are, like me, fresh meat, it might be best to come up with a new idea or approach. Because it’s going to take us a while to get to a position in which someone is going to want to give us a few million to grow our business.

Mystery Gmail references…

I get to read my blogs stats and such-like, but I’ve found something that confuses me no end: I keep getting people clicking on links in Gmail. (Either that or WordPress is registering links incorrectly.) But I don’t have a clue as to why anyone would be linking to my blog through Gmail: I am not advertising, nor have I been emailing people about it. Are people sharing the address by email? Are these “people” friends of mine? It’s all rather mysterious and perplexing.

So if you have a clue as to why I keep getting references from Gmail, please let me know. And if you are following links from Gmail to my blog, please tell me where you’ve been finding links to me. And if you know me, please tell me. If you don’t know me, feel free to let me know who you are as well: I would love to know who is reading my blog. And how they are finding it, too. Truly curiouser and curiouser, I tell you.

Exciting stuff: Charlotte and a (possible) job

So you may have noticed I didn’t blog over the weekend, which was entirely due to my being in North Carolina with my girlfriend. Seeing as I was only there for two nights, I didn’t really find the time to blog. But that was not a huge issue to my mind. It was a wonderful weekend, sans blog.

I will say, however, that I had a very unusual experience on Friday. For the first (and probably only) time in my life, I had a flight cancellation that saved me time: I was supposed to fly from Hartford to Charlotte via Newark, but one of those legs got cancelled and I was put on a direct flight from Hartford to Charlotte. It was made doubly wonderful by the fact that I bought the cheapest tickets I could find. So that was a good thing.

Another good piece of news is the fact that I made it through to the final round of interviews at the company in Boston I was really impressed by last week. I seriously hope I manage to get something sorted out with them in the near future. That would be a huge weight off my shoulders. So wish me luck. (Also, once I have things sorted out, I’ll probably share their name. So hold your fingers…)

Index Cards + Irreverence = Hilarity

Once again, thanks to Rex Sorgatz’s Best Blogs of 2006 that You (Maybe) Aren’t Reading, I found Indexed, a blog devoted to stray thoughts captured on index cards. I’ve been reading (or would you call it viewing?) Old Bag’s posts for a few days now and won’t be stopping any time soon. Her offbeat, somewhat cynical humour is right up my street. She manages to communicate a fully shaped idea within the sparse confines that she sets herself and generally manages to be quite hilarious in doing so. Her irreverence simply makes her cards funny: whoever thought to map what your mother does and doesn’t know about you to a Venn diagram? And who would ever think to graph “things seen” against “things believed”? Old Bag has, and some seriously humourous cards are the result.

My near-daily dose of index cards make my day. Every time.

Interviewing Experience

Apologies for not having more composed thoughts today: I had my first real-world interview for a real-world job today. Beyond the tension I felt leading up to the interview itself, the day was exhausting because it involved driving the two hours between Amherst and Boston twice today. But in any case, I had a wonderful experience and got to see the inside of a really cool company.  (For the time being, I’d rather not name the company because I am not comfortable doing that until there is some finality to my interactions with the company.)

And now to my interviewing experience. It was a second round interview, so it was a rather gruelling session: I had four meetings in total. I met with a recruiter and then three managers involved in different areas of the company. Beyond the process itself, which had one r two quirks of its own, it was good to see inside a company run the way this one is. The company focuses on ensuring its products are top class, and not too much else: it doesn’t want to dominate the market; it doesn’t want to downplay its competitors; it just wants to produce excellent products. My interviewers gave me the distinct impression that the company was invested in its employees: the company takes its employees’ interests into account when making demands of them. To put it simply, that is what I want from a company I work for. I want to know that I can participate in definining my role within the company. (That doesn’t mean I have complete control over my work – it means my input matters.)

I sincerely hope I get to work for this compan, because it would be an empowering experience. And I say that without ever having worked for anything remotely like a bureaucratic corporate behemoth: would you want that kind of influence over your job?

Questions of Immigration, the West and Islam

As what one might term an immigrant, I am really interested in issues of integration and belonging. I’ve encountered these issues on a personal level but have also dealt with them in numerous academic situations. My thoughts at the moment are being driven by Alon Levy’s thoughts on Islam at 3 Quarks Daily. As with just about any opinionated post regarding religion, and more specifically religion in general, it falls short on one or two points, but at the same time I think it’s a very valid argument on the whole: Islam and Muslims are not treated well by the West. In particular, immigrants bear the brunt of hostility because they are accessible to Westerners who are continually exposed to an extremely negative media portrayal of Islam and Muslims. In an issue like this one, taking either side is problematic: neither the JudeoChristian West nor the world of Islam is without fault.

Nonetheless, people do take sides on issues of belief, with their opinions often based on beliefs and propaganda (as witnessed by one or two heated comments on the Levy post). Religion is an area where facts are rarely going to swing the tide of any argument; if people fervently believe in something, they aren’t likely to simply change their mind. Religion and religious institutions cloud the issues at hand. In this case, people in the West believe that Islam poses a threat to Western democracy and the reverse is true in Islamic countries. I suppose I am advocating humanism to an extent, but both sides need to practice some tolerance. The chances of hard-liners on either side coming anything close to real tolerance are very slim, but violence is only going to exacerbate the tensions that already exist between the two groups.

What got me most interested in the post, however, beyond the serious reaction that appeared in the comments, was Levy’s focus on the situation faced by immigrants. I commented on the questions asked by Hanif Kureishi in his short story, My Son the Fanatic. Kureishi uses a Pakistani immigrant family to show the pressures faced by immigrants in trying to adjust to British society. At one and the same time, the story manages to criticise the lack of meaning provided by modern British society and the problems associated with the Islam adopted by one of the characters in search of community and meaning. Kureishi’s perspective was visionary: he wrote the story before the British race riots of 2001, before 9/11, and before the planned multiple-plane detonation earlier this year. The story captures some of why Islam has an attraction for immigrants’ children in particular.

But I think I’ll stop my rambling thoughts there. I may add to this tomorrow, but for now let me get these thoughts out there.

Note, I found 3 Quarks Daily for the first time via Rex Sorgatz’s post, Best Blogs of 2006 that You (Maybe) Aren’t Reading.

Finding a job

Looking for a job isn’t fun. It saps your energy, erodes away your time and plays havoc with your mental state if you are an average job seeker. I am involved in that process at the moment. Granted, my situation as someone at a good college with a semester plus left before I graduate doesn’t quite put me in the same boat as most, but the situation isn’t quite as peachy as one might think.

That whole non-citizen on a non-immigrant visa thing causes a good number of companies to turn me down out of hand. And then on top of that I am a Maths and English double major from a liberal arts college: I don’t have technical experience or twenty courses in computer science. Most employers in tech-related industries won’t give me a second look (if they even give me a first) for those very reasons. END WHINING.

This post is more about the frustrations attendant on job searches in general. Are there ways to make job searches less painful, if not quite painless?  If there are, I would love to hear about them.  Because the whole thing is getting rather frustrating at the moment.