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Case 82

Jinyu's Tack

Whenever a new applicant arrived at the Temple hoping to fill some recently-vacated position, 1 Old Madame Jinyu—the Abbess Over All Clans and Concerns—was respectfully invited to attend the interview.

Masters and senior monks would begin with the customary questions, such as “What frameworks have you used?” and “How many years’ experience do you have with each?” 2 The questions would grow increasingly technical, and old Jinyu would appear to nod off in her corner. Eventually, though, her beady eyes would snap open, sharp and clear as a raven’s; then she would point to the whiteboard with her cane and say:

“The Imperial Army wishes to catalog its many weapons. It recognizes four types: the staff, the spear, the sword, and the knife. Each has a length, which may vary from weapon to weapon. Each has a weight, which is calculated from the length according to the weapon’s type. In all respects, a knife is merely a sword whose length is exactly two chi. Now: show me the classes you would create!”

Then, arms folded, she would sit back and observe. Sometimes she would leave the room after the class diagram had been drawn; sometimes she would stay and alter the problem, observing the changes made in response.

This puzzled the younger monks, who would ask her timidly: “Why do you not read the many résumé pages supplied, or inquire about the candidate’s proficiency in our chosen technologies?”

Jinyu would then thwock them with her cane and reply: “Many good hammers may be found in the stalls of the marketplace, and many bad ones as well. When autumn blows the shingles from the temple roof, I do not care whether a tool once belonged to the Emperor’s most celebrated roof-builder, if it cannot drive my little tack straight and true.”

1 It may surprise you to learn that positions were usually vacated peacefully and voluntarily by their occupiers—provided that you regard honorable suicide as an extremely formal method of resignation.
2 Questions such as “What is your blood type?” and “How would you rate your tolerance for physical pain?” were usually handled by Human Resources.