Sunday, April 19, 2009

Going Native Garden Tour

On a hot spring day (92F/ 33C) we toured a couple of native gardens in the San Jose area. Every year, since 2003, the Go-Native-Garden-Tour has been organized in spring. This year there were about 45 participating gardens. We visited about 5 gardens.

The common thread is that all gardens use California native plants and are designed for water conservation. This is especially important this year since water levels have been extremely low. Nearby reservoirs were near empty at the beginning of the winter. I have never seen them that low.

My front lawn has suffered over the past years. In part because I have 3 big trees in front which suck up all the water. Secondly, one summer vacation without proper watering and I have a large open patch in the lawn.

I decided not to redo or reseed, but to slowly replace it with a native garden. For one maintenance is low. Secondly a native garden uses almost no water. Some of the gardeners mention they water a couple of minutes every 4 to 6 weeks. That's just amazing.

We took plenty of pictures of the plans and their nametags. Almost all gardens had every plant labeled with both their Latin name as their common name.

So, what's next? Step one will be to dig up the front lawn and install a drip grid water system. Step two: figure out a simple design with a couple of rocks. Step three: lots of mulch. Step four will be looking for plants. Perhaps something for the fall.

The backyard is a whole other story. For years the main role has been claimed by Mr Clover and his viral cousins taken over the entire yard.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Crafting your resume

I've been reading and qualifying resumes for an application engineer in my group. I received hundreds of resumes. I have read every single one of them. Being on the reading side of resumes does provide some interesting perspective. Here are a couple of tips. They are really basic, but nevertheless worth repeating.
  • A objective spells it out very clearly why you are applying for the job. Tailor it to the specific job. It is the first thing the hiring manager will read on your resume. Often one of the first questions on a phone interview is "what are you looking for in this job?". The objective should answer that question. Do customize it for the job you are applying for.
  • List when you are a US Citizen or US Person. Especially when the job requirement states that US citizens are desired (e.g. in the defense or intelligence industry).
  • Send your resume in PDF to avoid the layout being screwed up when the hiring manager opens up a Microsoft Word resume.
  • Don't call it resume.pdf. I often saved the resumes in a folder to check later in the day. When you call your firstnameLastnameResume.pdf, I did not have to rename the file plus your name sticks out in the file. Keep your brand up.
  • Spellcheck. Seriously! This sounds obvious but I encountered lots of spelling errors on resumes.
  • Spend a little time on the layout and readability of your resume. When the hiring manager is reading hundreds of resumes, avoid that he or she needs to take a second pass to understand your profile and capabilities.
  • Stick with traditional resume formats, unless you are applying for an artist or graphic designer. 2 pages.
  • When a new grad, listing your courses and specific project work is a plus and a great hook during the phone interview. "In my fly-robot project, I was able to demonstrate ..."
  • When you apply for a computer engineering job, do not list Microsoft Outlook. If you have to highlight that you know how to send and read an email, you are in trouble. Similarly, it is assumed you know how to use a word processor and a spreadsheet. If you created a novel macro for Microsoft Excel, do list it. But detail that is was more than just using Outlook. That's useful.
  • If the submission process allows you to add a cover when submitting your resume, do so. A cover letter allows you to sell yourself. You can use full sentences, rather than the short form often used on a resume.
  • If you do get a phone interview, do follow up with an email afterwards. Ask for the email address. This is a nice touch and shows you really are interested in the job.

Ronde Van Vlaanderen

It is over: Stijn Devolder wins the Tour of Flanders (Ronde Van Vlaanderen). This is the most beautiful of the one-day bicycle races.

I woke up this Sunday at 6:30AM. Why would you want to wake up that early on a Sunday my wife asked. What would you do if Argentina was playing the world cup final against England at 6:30AM?

The Sporza live video feed did not work. Thus I could not listen to the legendary commentary of Michel Wuyts. Plan B: pick up a video feed on and listen to Carl Bertele and co on Sporza radio. In a side window I was following the #rvv tweets. (Next week, I'll try out

It was a beautiful race. Great weather, fast pace and every second counted. This picture captures a lot. Devolder, in a group of four, attacks on the Muur van Geraardsbergen. Just take a look at the supporters. That's the face (and scream) I made in the kitchen this Sunday morning. Next Sunday : Paris - Roubaix (get details at