Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Ukraine, 12 March 2014

Putin does not want to negotiate about Crimea. He does not talk with the current Ukrainian government. He repeats his version of events to those he talks to. He is still lying about Russian troops not taking part in the events in the Crimea. It's a blatant lie. I wonder what Russians think about it. They must know it too.

Crimea is controlled by Russia. That's a fact. Crimea will become part of Russia officially in a few days. The remaining troops loyal to Ukraine will be treated as foreign forces, and will be attacked.

What should Ukraine do? If I was the Ukrainian government, to protect life, and the remaining parts of the Ukraine, I would ask the loyal Ukrainian troops in Crimea to surrender weapons. I would seal the borders with Russia and Crimea. I would delegalise far-right parties in Ukraine. I would have referendums in eastern parts of Ukraine - if they want to join Russia too, let them go. Ukraine, and the people living in its borders currently will be stronger, better off, and most importantly alive, if they go their own ways. There is no point in starting a war for a line on a map. Putin will not live forever and Russia may have a democratic government in the future. Until then we live and wait.


Sunday, March 2, 2014

Ukraine, 2 March 2014

I hope no more people die for political reasons in Ukraine. I hope the Ukrainian government stands the ground and does not let itself get provoked. Putin's Russia is the aggressor here in political terms. His armed men are taking control of Crimea, which is politically part of Ukraine.

What should Ukraine do? Talk. Negotiate. Get the European Union, China, and the U.S. to convince Putin to talk. Make it clear for Putin that it is cheaper for Russia to negotiate a deal than to suffer sanctions.

There are Tatars, Ukrainians and Russians in Crimea. If Crimea is to become part of Russia, then Tatars living there should be given a chance to create their own country in Crimea or should be compensated to move to Ukraine. Ukrainians living in Crimea should be given similar choice. Russia has money. Let it buy Crimea. Life of innocent people is most important.

Of course, negotiating with Putin may not work. He's just breaking an agreement he made with Ukraine when it gave up its nuclear weapons. As long as Russians support Putin and the vision of an empire, there may not be much to do.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Don't Send Us Your Resume!

At a small company where I work, we had a job opening about 9 months ago (it takes a bit of time to finish writing a blog post). We were looking for a software tester of a particular kind: one that can program. Automated testing is absolutely crucial in making maintainable, good quality software.

First attempt - FAIL.
We posted a normal ad first, and in two weeks we received almost a hundred CVs/resumes. The advertised position was a 3 month contract with a very good rate, and a chance of extending.

A side note:
Although both leading job search sites: seek.com.au and mycareer.com.au ask for resumes, in Australia, the terms "CV" - Curriculum Vitae and "resume" seem to be used interchangeably in this context. In the US it's usually "resume", in Europe - "CV". Australia takes words from both cultures. In the US a CV is usually a complete career history, and a resume is a short 1-2 page version of your CV tailored to the job you are applying for. Unless you are applying for a highly visible job, for example, a CEO of an international company, a university lecturer, or something similar, you should probably send your 1-2 page resume, not 7-9 page CV.

Back to the main story:

It took me a few days to go through the submissions and identify potential candidates. It was not something I would like to do again. Here is why:

1. CVs instead of resumes.
Some of the documents were very long: 7 to 9 pages. It would take me days or weeks to read everything carefully (7 x 100 = 700 pages), so I skimmed.

2. No cover letters.
Maybe a third of submissions had cover letters. Without a cover letter it is sometimes hard to determine if you are applying for a job with us, or if you submitted your resume by mistake. A short cover letter helps me get interested in your resume.

3. Missing information.
Many candidates did not include their address. I did not know if they were local or not. Many did not provide addresses (city, country) of their employers. I did not know which country they worked in. A few did not provide e-mail addresses or phone numbers.

4. Inappropriate information.
At that stage I am not interested in your visa or passport number, I assume you have the right to work in Australia if you are applying for a job in Australia, if not, please say so in your cover letter. You definitely should not include your picture, unless you are applying for a job as an actor, TV presenter, or a model. :-)

5. Language errors.
Good communication skills don't need to be advertised, they are self-evident. In some jobs they don't matter much, in others they are crucial, but a resume must not have glaring errors, and no, it is not enough to run a spellchecker.

6. Multiple submissions.
Not keeping track of where you applied and sending your resume twice for the same ad doesn't look good. It's not about quantity, it's about quality.

Initially, I planned on confirming every submission by e-mail, and then informing every candidate about their status, but after the first five I realised that I did not have time for that. Sorry. The reality is: if the employer is interested in you, they will probably contact you quite quickly. Some organisations take long though, weeks or even months.

From the 100 candidates we selected 10. We asked them to complete a simple programming task in Sikuli and Robot Framework. At home. Time given: we were prepared to wait a few days.

Only one candidate completed the task, but not very well, half of the code worked, the other half had a sneaky bug that made it look like it worked, but in reality it didn't. We still would consider that candidate, but he was not readily available - he was in India, and he had other commitments at that time - we needed someone quickly. The others, well, the main excuses were: "the task is too hard", and "I had no experience with that technology" -  the technology was listed in the ad, so there was time to check it out, and we did not require being a master in it. Quite the opposite, we assumed no candidate worked with it before. One candidate misunderstood instructions, couldn't do it, and then started whinging. That's probably the worst you can do. Positive "can do" attitude, courtesy, and ability to learn quickly are very important.

Second attempt - PASS.
My project manager is a bit of a cowboy sometimes (the "quick on the trigger" type), so seeing that the first ad, prepared carefully by our boss, was not working, he took a risk, wrote another ad, and using his own money posted it. The new ad's headline?

"Don't Send Us Your Resume!"

The ad asked candidates to NOT send their resumes, but instead it had a link to the programming task. That obviously did not stop a few people from sending their resumes. Seriously, sending your resume off without reading the ad carefully, doesn't increase your chances of finding a job. It just shows your carelessness.

After two days we had the first submission, by a local software engineering student looking for a part time job. A few days later, we had another, by a French software developer who was on a working holiday visa, working on a farm nearby. Both started working with us within days, and they are still with us 9 months later.




Saturday, January 18, 2014

Mosaic by Diane Armstrong

Mosaic - A Chronicle of Five Generations by Diane Armstrong

Diane Armstrong was born Danuta Baldinger in July 1939 in Kraków, less than two months before the outbreak of World War II. Her father wanted to call her Diana, but the registration clerk did not let him. Children of Polish citizens usually must have names considered Polish at the time of registration. Exceptions are made when one parent is a foreigner. Today, the name "Diana" would not be a problem, but back in 1939 it was not considered a Polish name. A side note: I am actually assuming here that the author was born Danuta. In the family tree and throughout the book she uses the name Danusia, but I haven't heard about anyone who would have the diminutive form as the official name.
"At home [in Australia] my parents spoke Polish to each other, but soon I was replying in English. Changing your language in childhood is not just a linguistic loss. Apart from losing a world of subtleties, nuances and connotations of the words themselves, you also lose part of yourself. Language and culture influence the way you form thoughts and express feelings. English is more concise, blunt and matter-of-fact; it has a larger vocabulary but a smaller range of emotional expression than Polish, which is the language of affection. Nowhere is this contrast more obvious than in people's first names. While in English we truncate them into impersonal monosyllables devoid of tenderness, in Polish names are lengthened by endings which in themselves are endearments. Danuta, for instance, became affectionately softened to Danutka, Danusia, Danushka and Daneczka."
Mosaic is a story of the author's family. Starting in Kraków in 1890 and ending in 1990s in Australia. The story is mostly chronological, but it is freely jumping through time, and between people and places. Without an index and only with numbered chapters it is hard to navigate its almost 600 pages.

Danusia's personal experiences and stories told or passed in letters or memoirs by members of the extended family are augmented by well researched historical facts. Sometimes, I wished for a bit more background, but it's ok, this is not strictly a history book. For example, a quota system for Jewish students in pre-war Poland is mentioned a few times, but we don't learn much about it. Here is the starting point, if you are interested: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Numerus_clausus#Numerus_clausus_in_Poland

We see communities that no longer exist, and homes that often still do, but with different occupants. It is a moving journey, often heartbreaking, but also uplifting. There are bad and cruel characters there, but there are also friendly ones.
"Centuries of Jewish blood runs silently and secretly through millions of Polish veins [...]"
Diane's immediate family miraculously survived the war in Poland posing as Catholic Poles. Diane's father got a false identity document in March 1942 and since then he was known as Henryk Bogusławski.
"It was hard for a Jew to find a hiding place in Poland in 1942 as for a deer to hide from a pack of wolves on a treeless plain. Our only hope of survival was to pose as Catholics, [...]"
Diane's parents told her that she was Jewish only when she was 7 years old. They migrated to Australia in 1948.

Diane's father left this grave warning shortly before his death:
"Jews should never become complacent, even in a tolerant society like Australia. All Jewish children should know that anti-Semitism can occur anywhere at any time so that they're prepared."
Official website: http://dianearmstrong.com/mosaic.htm


Monday, November 4, 2013

Sunshine Coast

Another beautiful weekend, another family camping trip. This time we went to the Sunshine Coast. The trip should have taken 2 hours by car from Gold Coast, but we spent extra 30 minutes in a traffic jam past the Gateway Bridge. Next time, we will try the toll-free route through Brisbane. We stayed in Maroochydore, or Maroochy for short. Some of the places have very peculiar names: there is Bli Bli, Mooloolaba, and even Dicky Beach. No worries.

Looking south from Cotton Tree towards Maroochy

Looking north from Cotton Tree towards Mt Coolum 

Sunshine Coast - less built up than Gold Coast

Mt Coolum from street level


Stone stairs up Mt Coolum

The steep part

The east-north view. Somewhere there should be the Clive Palmer's dino.

The south view from the top of Mt Coolum


Sunday, September 29, 2013

North Stradbroke Island

North Stradbroke, known locally as Straddie is the biggest of the 3 major islands around Moreton Bay. The other two are: Moreton and Bribie.

To get there you can catch a ferry from Cleveland, a suburb of Brisbane, to Dunwich, a port in North Straddie. A return ticket for a passenger car costs $140 - that includes passengers. The trip lasts 45 minutes one way.
The Big Red Cat ferry approaching the Cleveland terminal. Stradbroke Ferries could tidy the place up.

Red Ensign flying - check out the flags from 1901-1909.

On the island you can get an unpowered camping site for 3 nights for about $200 for a family of 5. We stayed in Adder Rock in Point Lookout. In our area we found: a kitchen area with 4 electric grills, 2 sinks with hot water, 4 double 240V power points, toilets, showers, and two small playgrounds. There were outdoor showers near the beach. We had almost no mozzies during our stay.

I tried to make pancakes on the grill - not easy. I ended up covering the hole in the middle of the grill with dough, then pouring oil there, then the mix, then spreading the mix outside. Still without being able to control the temperature - the grill just turns on at full power for a few minutes at a time - it's hard to use. The pancakes did not look good, but the kids devoured them.

Fried tomatoes did not go well either. They turned out burned (the oil flows down to the drain hole in the centre) and not cooked thoroughly. We ate them anyway. That's camping life.

Rocky Point near Adder Rock Camping Area, looking east.

Colourful rocks.


Same beach, looking west. If you have a 4WD and $38 for a yearly permit, you can drive on most Straddie beaches.
 A few pictures from the Blue Lake (Karboora) National Park:

Karboora walking track close to the lake.

For me it looked like an alien forest.

A pink tree.

Are these zig zags made by worms?

Point Lookout is a city on the east side of the island. It is a home to spectacular views and beaches:

North Gorge

South Gorge

A view of the Main Beach from the Headland Park walk.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Swell Sculpture Festival

Swell Sculpture Festival at Currumbin Beach, Gold Coast, 13-22 September 2013.



My favourites:

Bloodlines by Allen Horstmanshof

The Sirens by Falcini & Gottgens

The Sirens seen from the back.







City Farming by Karl de Wall





Blue Dancers. Prelude and Quintet. By Rainer Schlüter.

And because Currumbin is such a picturesque location:

There were several forest fires going on in the hinterland that day. The clouds on the left are smoke.

Surfers Paradise