Aquarium Blog

Sunday, January 25, 2004

Bruce Eckel's interesting insight

I have been a fan of Bruce Eckel since I read Using C++ em, er... Thirteen years ago! Nowadays Bruce writes a blog and I read it from time to time. I haven't read his last books but I think of him as a very wise and nice guy. Today I found an entry in his blog that is some kind of insight about the way he communicates. It was very interesting to read: Bruce Eckel's MindView, Inc: 1-13-04 Rethinking weblogging (and everything else).

Saturday, January 24, 2004

I have my Atom Feed

I forgot to write about it. All users of blogger.com can now have a free Atom feed. I applaud!

Résumé tips: How to tell the truth and stay honest

I found my résumé entry in the drafts...

Today I am polishing my résumé for the 4th time in the last months. I recently had a couple of job interviews that helped me find there was something very wrong with my way of portraying my skills.

The front page of my résumé has all my personal data on top, followed by a "Professional Profile" section that is what I would call my "short résumé". It is just a bulleted list of the most relevant things I would like prospective employers to know about me. Of course I have made my best effort for everything in the bulleted list to be the truth, only the truth and nothing else but the truth:

- First comes my University degree.

- Second, my “say it in a line” assessment of what I am, as a software developer: “Multiple tier database applications development specialist” (I took out the “Complex” word from the beginning of the sentence for simplicity, and I expect to be able to add “.NET” somewhere in the sentences very soon).

- Then, a simple short assessment of the experience I have in software development: fifteen years in software development, and 7 years working with Microsoft tools: VB, MSSQL, COM+, ADO, etc. (of course COM+ is not 7 years old!). I also need to add “.NET” here as soon as I am ready.

- Fourth, there is a short list of the kind of applications and the industries I have worked for: from Pharmacy Benefits Management to Simulation Models, going trough Pension Fund Administration, Public budgeting, Enterprise integration with web services, etc. In this list I try to mention the most exciting things I have worked in, but I also include the boring ones if I have worked in them for a long time.

- In the next two list items I mention things I have basic but usable knowledge about and tools I have used a lot but a long time ago. In the first category there are technologies I haven't had as many chances to work with as I would like, for instance, Microsoft .NET platform. In the second category there are things I would need to relearn or improve a lot on, like C++ and Delphi. Yet others, I have no intention to work with again unless it is strictly necessary, like Clipper or Oracle. They are mostly mentioned for completeness.

As a software developer I still feel confident that I can get productive in a new language or tool in at most a couple of months (of course it takes more to learn a new platform). Eventhough, I have spent most of the last seven years using the same set of tools.

I admit I have been working on some boring things, used some boring tools, etc. But that was because I needed the money to buy food, clothes and some entertainment for a family. I also did it most of the time on job markets that were severely limited, like Mendoza, Argentina (where there is currently no single surviving software company funded by the local private market).

Continuing with my résumé, behind the front page you will find brief descriptions of every job I have had, whether as a dependant or as an independent. Then you will find details about my degrees, spoken languages, etc.

In the last few job interviews I had, I observed some similarities. To make it as graphical as possible, let me exagerate the situations a little bit:

Let's suppost we write the manual for the interviewer:

1. First, you begin by praising the subject, telling you and your company are really very impressed with her/his résumé.

2. Then you toss her/his résumé on your desk, and you chose some random words(i.e.: "basic knowledge", "past experience", "design", etc).

3. Once you have choosed your rando words you replace them with whatever you like (you can chose oposites, i.e.: replace "basic knowledge" with "advanced knowledge", use "vast experience" instead of "past experience", and change "design" to "implementation").

4. Rephrase the sentence in front of the subject, like "Please, tell me about your vast experience as a C++ developer. We think you could be exactly what we are looking for." or "Please, could you tell us how did you implemented PKI for this project? This is the sole reason we called you for the interview." or maybe "How did you acquire your very advanced knowledge of .NET? We are completely committed to this and we are looking for people with experience only."

5. Look at the subject’s eyes with a smile until you make her/him look to another place.

Ok, I am exaggerating quite a bit now. I know my interviewers had no bad intentions. But believe me, my résumé is no exaggeration. It could contain errors, but I have worked to make it precise.

In a situation like the one I have just described, there is no way you can look articulate. What I did in both interviews is to tell the truth, that is, I tried to explain what the written words mean… That was boring, and not useful. And I still feel they looked at me as if I were a fraud anyway.

So what I am doing today is to look for a way to emphasize the “basic knowledge”, “past experience”, “design” words in my résumé. If I cannot find a way, I will take those items out completely.

There is somebody at Microsoft paying attention

I noticed it many days ago but I forgot to post about it. Hotmail fixed their JavaScript links. I am not saying they fixed it because of my complain. But they fixed it! Here is my big smile :D

Ok guys, next thing to do is to implement the Ctrl+Shift+Click behavior for Internet Explorer ;)

Missing entry

I noticed today that there is a missing entry in my blog. It was something I wrote about some lessons learned with my resume and job interviews. I wonder what happened, maybe it got lost because of a connection failure when i posted it. It came just after the Mysteries of the Mind post.

Java cars?

Now we are thinking about buying an used SUV. That is even when, thanks to Philip Greenspun, I am well aware that SUVs have the awful reputation of being the Java of the automotive industry.

My wife spends much time driving, sometimes with my son on the back seat. And this city is a very hard place to drive (No wonder why there are so many colmados: They need these "third places" just to get rid of the stress of driving). With a SUV I would feel more reassured she will be ok.

Among the vehicles I like and are within budget, there are some Jeep Grand Cherokees, some Isuzu Troopers, some Nissan Pathfinders and some Mitsubishis Montero. Which is better seems to be largely a matter of taste.

We need a new car

On other news, we are looking for a new car. We had an accident on Wednesday in which a truck came over us in slow motion and destroyed the left side of our Chrysler Neon. We went out of the accident without a scratch but a little bruise over my head.

I think I bumped it on our car ceiling, which did the same effect of a hard reset to my brain. I spent some minutes running BIOS diagnostics and configuring peripherals just after the accident :), I even remember doing some basic arithmetic calculations to check my ALU status.

It all happened in a very innocent looking corner in Bellavista around eleven thirty in the morning.

I think I was able to put my arms around my boy (we were both in the back seat) before the truck hit us, but I am not quite sure because just immediately I began seeing stars...

Getting out of the car was almost funny. We could only open the right front door because the back door was wedged by a couple of steel columns (which the corner house owner put to avoid cars of entering his living room). Adriana got out first, Martín after her, and me last. There was a medical doctor already waiting for us on the side of the car for a quick examination, and also a poor little boy that asked me for some coins. We handed Martín to the doctor, and I said no to the boy with the weirdest smile.

Upon asking the doctor about our son's status, the little poor boy was already trying to steal everything from the backseat of the car. It was just a few steps from us but I was still confused, and I had other priorities. Luckily one other guy pulled him out.

Then the neighbors then asked us politely to close the car to avoid being robbed. They were very used to car crashes. They also offered us a seat.

My wife and I took the whole accident with a cold and precise (and perhaps absurd) problem solving attitude. We called our friends that were a few blocks from there.
Fortunately in a few minutes we had around seven of our great friends helping us and giving us their warm support. Great THANKS to Pepijn, Janneke, Claudio, Niky, Nicolas and Diana, and also Thijmen the baby! And apologizes for ruining the snorkeling excursion to some of you!

Janneke brought Martín and me to a hospital for a more comprehensive examination, while the others stayed with Adriana to help her manage the situation with the truck driver, the people and the police. We came back from the hospital very soon.

By 2:00 p.m. we were having lunch at Niky’s house. And Martín was blogging it: “Once upon a time, there was a big truck on the corner. Then we came with our car and it hit us and it broke our car. My dad got his bruise on his head, and now he has an ice bag on it.” Of course this is a free translation from my boy’s very sweet Spanish.

Our reaction to the events has been very possitive. At least we don't need to worry anymore about some little glitches the poor old car had. Unfortunatelly the truck driver declared himself innocent even when we think he is responsible of the accident. We know it will be a mess to get something from the insurance companies. If I was only sure my employer will pay me the money he still owes me, I would be more calmed.

My MCSD books are comming!

I bought my MCSD Core Requirements Self Paced Training in BooksAMillion.com. They seem to be the only online shop that offers the hardcover version, but I will be able to confirm it when I have the books on my hands. The whole package (there are some other books in it) is already in Santo Domingo, but I guess I won't get it until Monday. I am happy anyway.

Sunday, January 18, 2004

Mysteries of the mind

I have catched myself "mindblogging" very often in the last days. It could either be because I am suffering from severe blogging deprive, or maybe it is just that my brain go used to blogging as a healthy day recap excercise.

Those mindblogging episodes usually occur in the night on bed, just before I get to sleep. Sometimes I would get up and run to the computer if I weren't so lazy, and if I weren't so much afraid of waking my wife up ;).

My mindblogging is done completely in English wich is not my mother's tongue and which is not the language of my residence country. It is just my blogging language. This reminds me of a belief I have always had, that I have a different personality depending on the language I think or speak on.

I remember I once read a little esay by José Ortega y Gasset (a Spanish phylosopher wose ideas I usually like a lot, but whom I have never read by myself beyond this esay). He said something about mastering ones language as a prerequisite to dominate ones own mind. I wonder how close conciusness and language areas are in my brain, because I don't really master English, so I guess when I am thinking in English I must be pretty limited.

I will try to remember some of the blog entries I made these days on my "very personal computer".

Ok, the moral of the story is that I need to blog, and I need to do it sitted in front of the computer or big chunks of bad English prose won't ever do it from my mind to cyberspace.

With power comes resposibility

So far since I added statistics to my blog, I have been the only viewer. Actually, I am almost sure I have been alone here for some time. But now I have statistics, so I will have to drive some traffic here. Maybe I will do it again by writing silly comments on some microsofter's blog ;).

Free lies

I added free statistics from Bravenet. I have no idea how their service compare with others. I just found it in one blog I landed on accidentally: Resacada (I read all recent post and I liked it a lot). It is incredible how many cool Argentineans are blogging. Maybe I will add it to my blogroll. First I need to overcome this incredible numbness.

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

Back to Santo Domingo

We arrived to Santo Domingo on Saturday the 10th, after 24 hours of departing from Mendoza. It has been very emotional to us to spend time there with friends and family. Absolutely one of the best vacations of our lives. Wishfully, I will write more about it later.

Everything here seems also to be in place... Everything but the dollar exchange rate!