Life Update

I’m feeling quite burnt out now. I had a great time in Serbia, but I didn’t get much in the way of sleep. I figured the first night I was a bit stressed about the luggage situation, which stopped me from settling. On the second night I got two blocks of two hours sleep. Not sure why. Last night I lay awake for ages then finally fell asleep a couple of hours before my alarm went off. No reason I can think of.

I’ve already posted a rant about my flight home. The combination of sleep deprivation and the travel issues has really taken it’s toll. I’m not sure  I had properly recovered from the Asia Pacific tour either. I sound really pathetic, like a spoiled kid, but I just want to do something normal for a while.

Steve Feuerstein posted recently about ditching a lot of his travelling. I do a lot less than him and I haven’t been doing it for as long either, but I really know where he’s coming from. Some people are like robots and can do it week after week. I’m not one of them.

Well, I’ve got a day off before UKOUG starts. I know it sounds like I’m an ungrateful git, but I’m really not looking forward to it. The adrenaline will kick in and I will be all manic and chatty as always, but I’ve really got nothing left. At least I’m not presenting. I’ve agreed to help out Vikki with the OTN/ACE stuff. Not sure how much time that will take, so I’m not sure how many presentations I will get to see. If you are knocking around the OTN lounge and you see a fat old geezer who’s either sleeping or mumbling to himself, give him a prod and say, “You miserable old sod. You get all these fantastic opportunities and all you can do is bitch and moan!” I will then talk to you for 10 hours about Aardvarks, or something random like that. I have no off switch. You’ve been warned. 🙂

My sister had a mole taken off her face a few days before I left the UK. I got home today and found out the tests have come back positive for skin cancer (malignant melanoma). My Mom had malignant melanoma about 25 years ago and carcinoma more recently. My dad had skin cancer too. I think it was carcinoma, but I can’t remember. Mom and dad recovered fine (Dad died of something else, not cancer), so I’m sure my sister will be OK. We’re tough as old boots. 🙂 Just to clarify, it was my sister-in-law, not my sister, that had ovarian cancer 2 years ago, she’s tough as old boots too. 🙂



Belgrade, Serbia: PL/SQL Masterclass -Day 2

Day 2 of the PL/SQL Masterclass went well. The feedback was very positive, which is always nice. As always I over ran on both days. I was about 25 minutes over on the first day and something like 40 minutes over on the second. I’ve got some more stuff I would like to include in the course, but that will mean taking something out or locking the doors and strapping people to their seats. 🙂

I’ve  had a really good time in Serbia. It would be good to go back again some time so I can see all it in daylight. 🙂



Air France and CDG Airport, you suck!

My plane from Belgrade to Paris landed at Charles de Gaulle Airport on time. I immediately got the bus from terminal 2B to 2E. I ran to security. I didn’t bother repacking my bag or putting on my belt. I just ran to the boarding gate. The bus for the plane was still there but I was told boarding had closed and I would have to take the next flight. We are talking 30 seconds here! I was 5 paces from the bus taking people from the gate to the plane. I turned away from the boarding gate, said a long list of expletives, turned back and politely asked what I was supposed to do now. I was told to go upstairs to the transfer desk.

At the transfer desk I was told I had to take the next plane, scheduled for a little over 6 hours later. There was no extra charge for this change because Air France admitted it was their fault for issuing a ticket for “an impossible connection”. There would be no compensation though because my flights weren’t delayed. There were about 10 other people in exactly the same position. Our flights from various countries had arrived on time, but we had been given a connection that was impossible to make. If they had delayed closing the boarding gate by about 10 minutes we would have all got on.

To add insult to injury, the transfer desk couldn’t issue the new boarding passes immediately because the plane had missed its takeoff slot and was waiting for a new one. I was … very angry! If I was that blue geezer from WatchMen I would have disintegrated every inch of CDG airport.

CDG screwed up my luggage on the way out and Air France messed up my trip home. If I have my way I am never using Air France or this airport again!



Note. There have been several drafts of this post. The first might well have landed by in prison. The later ones required a Parental Advisory sticker. This one is fit for human consumption…

Updates a plenty…

Someone commented recently that I’ve not been writing much lately. That surprised me because I feel like I’m constantly writing. Looking back over the last few months of changes to my website, I can see where that opinion comes from. The majority of the stuff I’ve been writing recently are updates. Typically what happens is I answer questions by linking to articles on my site. This invariably forces me to read through my old stuff and cringe. It then goes on my to-do list.

Sometimes the changes are cosmetic. Sometimes they are total rewrites. Sometimes the rewrites are because of product enhancements, but other times they are because I now realise how little I understood when I wrote the initial article. As usual, the more you know, the more you realise you don’t know.

New versions of the database prompt new features articles. New OS releases often prompt a batch of installation articles. The “quiet” times between are often spent cleaning up the crap. 🙂

So just because you don’t see a bunch of articles on the front page marked as new, don’t assume I’m doing nothing. The is always a touch of light (website) housework going on… 🙂



What did you call me?

On Saturdays I finish yoga and go to my mates local pub for a crafty diet coke before going home. Some of the guys in the pub have got to know me a little from my visits. Now, whenever I go in they ask me what countries I have visited recently and then generally take the p*ss out of me, saying either that I must be rich because of all the travelling I do, or I’m a layabout who doesn’t have a real job…

Last Saturday I went in and we had the usual bit of banter. I then sat down and soon after a lady came up to me and said she had overheard the guys talking and was interested to know what I actually did. Apparently they had said I was a lecturer and I was the 30th best in the world???

The lecturer bit is maybe understandable. Presenter, teacher, lecturer is all the same ball park to me. What I don’t understand is the 30th best in the world bit. I can’t think of anything I’ve ever said that can be interpreted that way. I’ve never spoken to them directly about what I do and I can’t think of anything I’ve ever said that could be interpreted as a “world ranking”. Anyway,  I explained to the lady in question I was in I.T., at which point she made a sharp exit. Nothing new there…

The moral of this story is, if someone asks you what you do, answer with a job title they understand like brick layer or electrician. It does nobody any good if you tell the truth, because they will only misunderstand, make something up and then exaggerate a bit on top of that. Next time someone asks I’m going to say I’m the 26th best gynaecologist in the world and see what comes back to me. Probably a washed up DBA with delusions of grandeur… 🙂



iOS 4.2 on my iPad…

I upgraded to the iOS 4.2 the other day (the evening it came out in the UK). Steve Jobs reckons, “iOS 4.2 makes the iPad a completely new product”. Maybe I don’t use it the same as everyone else in Apple-land, but it seems just… kinda… no freaking different…

I really don’t understand how I can remain completely immune to the Apple marketing hype when I’m desperately trying to be assimilated. I keep buying their products and waiting for a Jobsian flash of magic but it’s just not happening. What have I got to do to? Marry the guy?

Maybe it’s like enlightenment and the more you try the harder it is to reach. I shall meditate for a month with my iPad balanced on my head, my MacBook Pro on my lap and my iPod Shuffle up my ass. Maybe then I will understand all the heavenly glory that is Apple, or maybe I’ll just get a sore ass… 🙁



Belgrade, Serbia: PL/SQL Masterclass – Day 1

I’ve just completed day 1 of the PL/SQL Masterclass for Oracle University in Belgrade. So far so good…

Last night Ljiljana took me on an evening tour of the city. I got to see a little of New Belgrade, which is very modern with wide streets, big buildings and some shopping malls, as well as some of Old Belgrade, which has narrower streets, regular shops and mostly smaller buildings . There are few big blocks there with a “communist feel” to them (her words not mine). What was quite freaky is some of the military/government builds that were bombed during the NATO bombings in the late 90’s are still not repaired. The amount of building that has happened in the last few years leads me to believe these may be left that way for a reason… I’m not big on commenting about politics, but it is very interesting hearing stories about that time from regular folks who were living here at the time. Always two sides to every story etc.

Unfortunately the timing of my visit is such that I can only really see the city by night, so I’ve not taken any photos yet. I think I’m going to Google some and pretend I saw it all by daylight. 🙂

After the tour and some shopping we went out to a small traditional Serbian restaurant near Ljiljana’s parents house. Serbians are very big meat eaters, but they also have some really cool veggie dishes. I had lots of stuff I can’t spell or pronounce. Lots of cheese and a dish made out of butter beans, peppers and onions that was awesome. I’m hoping to get the recipe from Ljiljana’s mom so I can try and make it at home. It’s quite similar to the food I’ve had in Bulgaria, which suits me just fine. 🙂

I didn’t sleep too well last night. I think I was still a little stressed out about the luggage situation. I did manage to buy some clothes and stuff yesterday so today wasn’t too bad, but you still feel a little off center. I got back to the hotel tonight and my luggage has arrived. Now I’ve got no excuse for looking scruffy tomorrow… Doh!

Let’s see what tomorrow brings. 🙂



Belgrade, Serbia: Day -1

I usually wake up far too early before a trip, then spend ages waiting for a taxi. Today I was lying in the bath when the taxi came. This happened to me once before when I fell asleep in the bath. Today I didn’t fall asleep, but the time just disappeared. Maybe I was abducted by aliens for 30 minutes. I heard a knock on the door and panic ensued…

As I get older I enjoy taxi rides more and more. Taxi drivers are notorious for moaning and now when I get in a taxi I feel totally in my element. I can just moan and bitch about life, the Universe and everything. Throw in a couple of, “They’ll be first against the wall when the revolution comes”, and my morning is complete. 🙂

Today’s flight is via Paris, which for some reason means I go from the domestic terminal in Birmingham. I guess if nothing else it gives me a change of scenery. I’ve seen far too much of the international terminal recently. I have one hour to change in Paris and I don’t have my boarding pass for the second leg yet. I don’t think I’ve ever been through CDG before, so I’m not sure if this is a reasonable amount of time to transfer or not. Time will tell.

Update 1: I’m going through the Paris transfer now. The Air France guys are telling me to go to the boarding gate without a boarding pass. You can’t get to the terminal without a boarding pass, but I have to get to the terminal to have my boarding pass printed. Hmrgh… As much as I hate the world perception of the English, acting like an bumbling idiot (Hue Grant style) does help at times like this. If you look clueless long enough their superiority complex kicks in and they help you out of sympathy. While they are smugly congratulating themselves on how thick the English are I’m mentally putting my little finger to the corner of my mouth and saying “Muhahaha” in a DR Evil style. 🙂

Update 2: There was a little drama at the boarding gate. The Jat Airways people told me I needed to go back to the transfer desk and get a boarding pass. I told them what the Air France guys had said and slipped seamlessly into the stupid English man act for the second time today. Problem solved. Muhahaha… 🙂

Update 3: I’m now in Belgrade, but my bag isn’t. I’ve got everything I need to teach tomorrow, except clean clothes. Nothing makes a first impression like that stale aeroplane and airport smell. Nice… I’m going to see if I can pick up a couple of things tonight without hitting my credit cards too hard. I have no idea what proces are like over here.



The Law of Logical Argument…

I received a mail today containing a list of laws (in the scientific sense), all of which were silly observations just for amusement, but this one stood out.

“The Law of Logical Argument – Anything is possible if you don’t know what you are talking about.”

Although not directly relevant, that got me thinking… I answer a lot of questions on forums and one of the things that strikes me time and again is people find it really difficult to define and communicate their problem. In some cases there’s a language barrier to contend with, but most of the time it comes down to a basic lack of thought by the poster. How many times have you spent days following a forum thread only to find the question you were answering was not the question the original poster “thought” they had asked? This is not just a feature of forum posts, but also in every day interactions. People will spend hours skating around issues, but never formally outline what the issue is. In many cases, the process of clearly defining the issue actually allows them to answer the question for themselves, or at least highlights a possible path of investigation.

Unless you can clearly define a problem, there is no way you can communicate it to anyone else. What’s more, unless you have an understanding of your problem, you can’t judge the value of answers, making you susceptible to suggested voodoo solutions.

Over the years I’ve had the good fortune of interacting with a lot of people I consider Uber Geeks, but what continually strikes me is the simplicity of their approach to solving problems. They may sometimes look like they are making leaps, but that’s just because experience allows them to do the steps quickly in their heads, rather than have to draft it out on paper, but most of the time they are following a fairly simple recipe to solve the problem, the first stage of which is actually defining the problem itself.

Is it surprising that database performance tuning is still considered by many to be some form of black magic? Not at all, because it is one of those areas that requires thought, reason and a meticulous approach.

Enough ranting for today. I’m off to run a database on a single 1TB disk and wonder why my I/O throughput is so bad. Must need a faster CPU. 🙂



PS. Someone on Twitter recently linked to an article called The Lost Tools of Learning. It’s quite long an a bit heavy at times, but some of the points it makes tie in with this post and I think it’s worth a read.