My Glamorous Life : Just so you don’t misunderstand…

 

If you’ve subscribed to my YouTube channel, you will have noticed me posting some videos with the title “My Glamorous Life : …“.

I had several distinct plans for this trip:

  • Do the OTN tour itself. That is of course the real reason we are doing this!
  • Collect some video footage of the conferences so I could produce little montage for each, just to help me remember it. I’ll do that when I get home and can sift through the footage to see if any is usable. Fingers crossed.
  • Film Machu Picchu. I kind-of failed there because I got I’ll, but I do have this little montage of the journey.
  • Document how boring, tedious and stressful the logistics of doing these tours really is.

I started on that last task with the footage of Charles de Gaule airport and Buenos Aires airport, which I think pretty much summed up how dull travelling is. Its not a criticism of the airports themselves. Just that most of your time on these tours is spent sitting in airports, planes, taxies and sleeping in hotels. There is very little time actually in each country.

After those first two videos, I went a bit off the plan and started to film the hotel rooms, which are actually rather glamorous really, at least to me anyway. Added to that, we were rushing around airports so much I kept forgetting to film them. So this series that was meant to convince you how bad travelling can be, now looks more like two weeks in the life of a budget Kim Kardashian.

That makes me a little nervous, as I don’t want people to get the wrong message about what we are doing here. Just to clear things up, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • We use Oracle approved hotels, typically with an Oracle discount, unless we can get it cheaper than the corporate rate. In most cases, this discount makes them a similar price to staying in a Travelodge in London. So despite how cool some of these places look, they are really rather cheap. If you booked them yourself they are crazily expensive, but with the corporate discount, they are a bargain.
  • Several people on the tour travel for work and have airline and hotel status, allowing them to sign mere mortals like me into executive lounges to get freebies, like breakfast and evening meals, which means I’m not having to pay for them myself. Without this, the tour would be even more expensive as we can’t claim those expenses back.
  • All sightseeing discussed is naturally at our own expense. We (Debra really) arranged flight times to maximise the time we spent in cities, so we could fit in the odd tour, but if we had gone for midday flights we would have seen pretty much nothing of any of the cities, as it was conference-fly-conference-fly pretty much all the way through.
  • Since this tour finished in Peru, Debra and I decided to tag on an extra couple of days to go and see Machu Picchu. All flights, transport, hotels etc. during this time came out of our own pockets.
  • During my trip home from Peru I spent the day in a hotel because of a long layover (14 hours) and upgraded my flight home to business class. These costs came out of my own pocket. They are not paid for by the ACE Program.

I guess I’m getting a bit paranoid now, but it does make me nervous to think I might be giving people the wrong impression about these tours. They are bloody hard work. Anything else you can fit in around them is a bonus, but certainly not the main focus.

Anyway, enough of my paranoid wittering. I’m off to eat more food in an airport executive lounge, which I paid for myself. :)

Cheers

Tim…

Lima to Amsterdam

 

I left the hotel a little late, but the airport was literally across the road, so it was no big deal. Having a business class ticket meant I checked in immediately (+1) and even had time to hit the lounge (+2). High class swanky time, and without needing to be signed in for once. :)

Boarding the flight was pretty straight forward. Once again, the business class ticket gives priority boarding (+3), without me having to tag along with Debra.

The KLM flight from Lima, Peru to Amsterdam, Netherlands was about 12 hours and 30 minutes, but it was a great flight. Upgrading to business class was a great move. I find it really hard to sleep in an upright position, so being able to lie flat is awesome (+4). I was in a seat with nobody either side of me, so I felt really isolated, which made sleeping even easier. These long flights are so much better if you can get some sleep!

Aside from sleeping, I watched:

  • Wild Card : Not too bad. I like quite a few of the films Jason Statham has been in. Even the bad ones. :)
  • Seventh Son : Typically fantasy stuff. Witches, dragons and slayers etc. Quite good, but Jeff Bridges voice annoyed me.
  • The Big Lebowski : Seeing Jeff Bridges in the previous film made me want to re-watch this film, where his voice does not annoy me. :)
  • The Amityville Horror : Slept through a lot of it. I’ve seen it before. It’s an OK remake I guess.
  • The Green Lantern : OK. I know it is a pretty poor film, but I just scanned through to find clips that looked cool. :)

The staff were really pleasant and helpful. All in all a very good experience and well worth the money in my opinion.

On arriving in Amsterdam, I headed over to the lounge to see if I could get in. I’m not sure how other lounges work, but KLM allow you in on arrival as well as departure (+5), which is awesome, because I’m stuck here for about 6 hours in total. If I had spent 14 hours in Lima airport and 12.5 hours in economy, I would be feeling totally psycho by now. As it is, I’m feeling pretty good. Hopefully, by the time I get home I will be tired enough to sleep and I can wake up and go to work as normal tomorrow…

So for me, that was +5 for the flight upgrade. Thanks KLM! I could get addicted to this, and very poor. :)

I’ll write a wrap-up post when I get home… :)

Cheers

Tim…

PS. I’ve also got some quick montage videos of the conferences to edit when I get home, provided the footage I’ve got works OK…

Cusco to Lima

 

It was a 3:30 start, which after broken sleep and the events of the day before had me a little worried. We got a taxi to the airport in Cusco, which is the coldest airport I have ever experienced. After checking in, we headed to the departure gate, which was also freezing. The departure gate was interesting. The lady brought her own laptop, microphone and speaker to make the announcements. :)

We got on to the coldest plane I’ve ever been on. I don’t remember seeing people on a plane in coats and woolly hats before. :) After a quick flight we got to Lima airport, where I said goodbye to Debra, who is flying back to Northern Ireland, via Miami and London.

Having a 14 hour layover in Lima, I decided to check in to a hotel at the airport and sleep for a while. I also upgraded my flight home to a business class flight. The combination of the Machu Picchu trip, airport hotel and business class flight home have added up to quite a lot of money, but if I get home in a reasonable state, it will be worth it. :)

Cheers

Tim…

Machu Picchu

 

At about 04:00 we were queuing for the bus ride to the base of Machu Picchu. I started to feel a bit ill again. A little after 05:00 we were on the bus driving up to the base of Machu Picchu. It took about 30 mins to get there, most of which I spent trying not to puke.

I was very dissapointed with the entrance to Machu Picchu. It felt like the entrance to a theme park. There was even Machu Picchu WiFi. We were there to witness wonder and spectacle, but seemed to be getting Disneyland. After being on the verge all morning, I puked and felt much better.

When we eventually got through the turnstyles, we started to walk up the hill. The stairs are quite steep, but nothing I would be worried about if it weren’t for the altitude. It makes it feel like hard work, so you have to take it slow. I used the turns to my advantage and mostly hid the fact I was repeatedly throwing up. After a few minutes we got to area that overlooks the former residential area of Machu Picchu. If you’ve ever seen a picture of Machu Picchu, chances are you’ve seen the one taken from this spot. A few levels up and we were at the guardhouse, which gives an even better view. I puked there too. :) For me, this was all I wanted to do as far as Machu Picchu was concerned. I wanted to stand there and see this for myself. Everything else was a bonus. People visit several times and spend days there. This was really all I wanted. :)

After that we walked down towards the residential area. At that point, I really felt like I was done for. I told Debra to carry on and I walked down to the entrance to look for medical attention. I finally got to see the medic, and puke in her bin a few times. She injected me with a concoction of anti-nausea and electrolytes and left me to sleep for a while. By the time Debra returned I was feeling much better. Interestingly, it was nothing to do with the altitude. My blood O2 was fine. It was pretty similar to what happened to me in India. I’m starting to think it’s nausea caused by a type of migrane, induced by lack of sleep.

Anyway, after my rather brief visit to Machu Picchu, we were heading down the mountain in the bus. We got some food and chilled out before boarding the train to take us back to Cusco and the rest of our luggage.

The train journey back took about 3.5 hours. Lot’s of great sights, only marred by some intensely annoying children, who were complaining about being bored. Why do adults drag children along to this stuff? They don’t enjoy it and ruin it for everyone else!

Back at Cusco, it was a quick taxi ride to the hotel, where I puked and went to bed. We were hoping to have a brief look at Cusco, but it gets dark so early in Peru, there really wasn’t time.

I would like to say I got a good night’s sleep, but the hotel we stayed at was so noisey. I woke several times in the night because of fireworks, music and general noise in the town, which made the 03:30 start the next day even harder to cope with.

Now I know this all sounds really negative and bad, but it was worth it. Machu Picchu is one of those places I always hoped to see before I died. The fact it nearly killed me in the process is besides the point. :) I’m pretty sure if I hadn’t been so beaten up by two weeks of travelling and presenting it would have been a breeze. Part of me thinks it would be nice to go back and see again, but part of me thinks I’ve done all I wanted to do. It is a very expensive experience, but worth it in my opinion.

I wasn’t really in a fit state to take photos, but fortunately Debra was and she let me have a copy of them, which you can see here. I especially like the ones of me looking like dreadful. :)

Cheers

Tim…

Update 1: I think it is great how much work they are doing to preserve the Machu Picchu site, but the amount of rebuilding is a bit of a concern. At the moment, about 30% of the site has been rebuilt and the work is continuing. If too much is done, it ceases to be an ancient site and becomes a modern site in the style of an ancient one. They need to tread very carefully, or risk taking the final step and completing the transition to Disneyland!

Update 2: At no point did I see Pikachu! Apparently, Machu Picchu and Pikachu are not the same thing. Who’da thunk it?

Lima to Cusco to Machu Picchu

 

With the tour over, Debra and I had arranged to spend a couple of days visiting Machu Picchu, before heading home.

We woke up early on Friday to get a flight from Lima to Cusco. We arrived at the airport in plenty of time, got to our gate and saw a list of delayed and cancelled flights to Cusco. The weather was too bad in Cusco for flights to take off and land. Luckily, after a while the weather apparently cleared in Cusco, allowing us to take a flight which arrived about 1 hour late.

We had arranged to drop our luggage off at a hotel in Cusco a day early, then continue on to Machu Picchu. The taxi ride to the hotel was interesting. Cusco has some very narrow streets that are barely wide enough for get a car through. It was quite hairy at times. We eventually got there, dropped our bags off and continued in the taxi to Ollantaytambo, which took about 90 mins. This allowed us to briefly see some of the sacred valley up close. During the drive I had a funny turn, which I put down to the high altitude. Debra said I looked green. By the time we got to Ollantaytambo and got some food I was feeling better.

While we were waiting for the train, I noticed the arrivals/departures screen on the wall had a session of TOAD running, doing some queries. By the time we had cameras ready, it was gone and the announcements screen was back. Debra went on the hunt and found a lady in an office that confirmed they (PeruRail) were using Oracle. :) We got on the Vistadome train, which has lots of extra windows, including in the roof, which is essential if you want a good view of the mountains around you. The train has a rather narrow gauge, which is a little disconcerting at first. The train takes you to Aguas Calientes, now known as Machu Picchu Pueblo, which is the best place to stay if you plan an early visit to Machu Picchu.

Just a quick word of warning, I did not like Machu Picchu Pueblo at all. It is a great setting in the mountains with the river running through, but it is one giant tourist centre, full to the brim with restaurants, markets and tourist shops. Many of the write-ups about Machu Picchu talk about it being ruined by tourists. This town proves the point! We bought our bus tickets for the next day, grabbed some food and headed to bed for an early start.

Cheers

Tim…

Update: Here is a quick montage of the journey to Machu Picchu.

Happy Birthday to oracle-base.com (sort-of)

 

birthday-cake-clipartToday is another anniversary, but this time it’s the website, which is 15 years old.

OK. This is a bit of a cheat because:

  • The website originally had a different name, so you could say the website with it’s current name is 13 months younger, but it’s the same site, so whatever.
  • I don’t actually know the exact day the first page went online, but I do know the date I bought the original domain name (before the rename to oracle-base.com), so I know the first page was put up about now.

Anyway, July 3rd is from now on the official birthday of the website. Makes it easy to remember, because it’s the day after my birthday.

Cheers

Tim…

PS. For those that are interested, the blog was 10 years old last month. I do know the exact date for that because the posts are dated and you can read the first post. :)

Writing Tips

 

writingIn this series of posts I’ve been discussing my opinion on various aspects of writing, including blogging, writing articles and whitepapers, or just writing documentation in your company. If anything more comes to mind I’ll write it and link it from this post.

Here are the posts that made up this series.

I’ll put a link to this post from the main website and from the blog toolbar.

Hope you enjoyed the series.

Cheers

Tim…

Writing Tips : Copyright Theft

 

writingIf you’ve followed my blog you will know people try to steal my articles all the time. It happens to all bloggers, unless they are unpopular or rubbish. You don’t really have to look for it, because your readers will spot it and tell you. :)

Some things to remember about this stuff…

All material published on the internet has an implicit copyright, even if there is no explicit copyright notice on the site. This means, unless the copyright owner gives you explicit permission, republishing their content is an act of theft. When you are writing, make sure you are doing the work, not stealing other people’s work.

Google actively downgrades the search rankings of duplicate content. They know who published the content first. By stealing the content you haven’t really done yourself any favours and you’ve broken the law. Way to go!

If you find someone is stealing your content, you have options. All blogging platforms and hosting providers are duty bound to follow up on copyright theft claims. If they ignore it, they can be deemed culpable. You should:

  • Contact the owner of the blog and politely ask them to remove the content.
  • If they don’t do it in a timely manner, issue a DMCA (or geographical equivalent) takedown notice to their hosting company. Hosting companies get really twitchy about them, and tend to react really quickly.

There are movements like Copyleft and Creative Commons, where people actively encourage redistribution, but even then you have to follow the rules. It’s not a golden ticket to do anything you want with the content. The content producer still reserves some rights. Remember, unless explicitly stated differently, the default stance is the material on the internet is copyright, not copyleft!

Cheers

Tim…

 

Writing Tips : Can I get paid to write?

 

writingI’ll prefix this post with a warning. I’ve never done any paid blogging myself, so this is based on emails I’ve received from people requesting me to write for them and from comments I’ve heard from others. With that in mind…

Apart from having adverts on your blog or selling books, there are other ways to earn money from writing. You will have to decide if they suit you.

Paid Articles. Some websites, blogs and magazines pay for articles. I’m not sure what the going rate is these days, but I seem to remember a couple of well known sites suggesting I could earn up to $1500 USD per article. I’m not sure if that was bullshit or not because I didn’t pursue it. I guess this can have a number of benefits in addition to the cash. If the website or publication is prestigious, it could help raise your profile and the profile of your blog, but I’m guessing they are only asking people who already have a good profile anyway. :) Getting a regular column in a magazine could be a nice little earner if you like doing it. It’s never really appealed to me. I like writing a certain style of article. I don’t think that style translates well to what most publishers are looking for. Added to that, I like to hit the “Publish” button when I’m happy with something, not wait for other people to edit it beyond all recognition. It’s the control freak in me. :)

Ghost Writing. Some companies want a professional blog that is regularly updated with content, but don’t have the time or skills to really accomplish that. Those companies make a point of hiring ghost writers to do the work for them. I guess I’m a little naive, but I was blissfully unaware of this until recently when a colleague mentioned his friend was a professional blogger. I asked what he blogged about and the answer was essentially anything. He has his own, “how to make money from blogging”, blog :) and ghost writes for other people. I guess this is just like being a journalist or doing the paid articles thing, except that your name is not associated with the work, so it’s not going to do anything for your profile, but if it pays the bills, do you care?

Infomercials. Some people get paid to write about products or services on their own blogs. I don’t really have a problem with this provided you make it abundantly clear that the post is an informercial. I’m not sure about the legalities in other regions, but in Europe you are breaking the law if you don’t make this clear. From a moral perspective, I do have a problem with it if you don’t actually believe what you are saying. I guess each person has to make this choice for themselves. I’ve been a vegetarian for about 30 years, but next week I’m starting a series of posts sponsored by Wallmart about my favourite ways to cook steak… :)

I’ve been asked to write infomercial type posts a number of times, sometimes for products I really believe in, but I’ve always said no. I’m not motivated by money, so it’s not necessary for me to go down that road. The only advice I would give is to be careful you limit the amount of this type of content. If people start to believe you are just an opinion for hire, you may start losing the respect of your readers.

If you are blogging as a potential money earner, then this stuff may be of interest to you. Just be careful you don’t compromise yourself!

Cheers

Tim…