OTN Tour of Latin America 2016 : It’s a Wrap!

laotn16The OTN Tour of Latin America (Northern Leg) is now over for another year.

Each tour comes with its own set of challenges. As the tour progresses you get increasingly more tired and less able to cope with those challenges. The journey from Guatemala to Pereira broke me. It was like my adrenal glands had burnt out and there was nothing left in the tank. When I get into that state I just want to be quiet and on my own until I feel normal again. Not exactly possible when you have a two day conference ahead of you.

These tours provide an unusual mixture of experiences and emotions. I love meeting new people and geeking out with them. I hate the travelling associated with the tours. Queues, airports, queues, plane rides, queues, taxis, queues and hotels get pretty old pretty quickly. I dislike the total helplessness you feel at times during the process. Unfortunately, until someone gets round to inventing a teleport system, that’s the way it is.

Despite all that I would still recommend people do them if they get the chance. They are hard work and you will spend a lot of your own cash, but they are also very rewarding and open your mind. Just don’t expect it to be glamorous. 🙂

Here’s a list of blog posts I made during the last couple of weeks.

Each has a YouTube video embedded. You can watch the montage videos of just the events on this playlist.

You can see my less than glamorous travel montages (plus a couple of proper glamorous sightseeing trips) on this sarcastically name playlist.

So that’s it. Another tour in the bag. Thanks to the ACE Program for funding the flights and accommodation. Without you this would not be possible for me. Thanks to all the user groups for their help in organising their respective events and inviting me. Thanks also to all the attendees for coming to the events. I hope to see you all again!



PS. I’ll never do a tour again… Until the next time…

OTN Tour of Latin America 2016 : Pereira, Colombia to Home

laotn16The day started quite normally. I met Debra at about 08:00 for breakfast. We had a chat, then said our goodbyes, as she was leaving a few hours before me.

The hotel kindly allowed me to check out at 14:00, so I went to the gym, then went back to my room to chill until it was time to leave. Whilst in my room I started to feel a little unwell. I had visions of a Machu Picchu incident on the flight home, which made me nervous, making me feel even worse.

I got to the airport about 2 hours before the flight. That’s about 90 minutes too early at Pereira as it’s a really small airport. Check in was fine, and I got my bags checked straight through to Birmingham, which was a result.

The airport was fine, but it was really hot, which made me feel even worse. I put my bag on my knees, then used my neck cushion as a pillow and tried to sleep. Not ideal, but better than being awake in that heat. At one point I saw Frank Munz. He had lounge access, but I was flying on a different airline so he couldn’t sign me in.

About 45 minutes before the flight I moved to the boarding gate. It was much cooler, which came as a relief. I got a drink from a vending machine, took some paracetamol and tried to relax. As I was drinking I realized I was probably dehydrated. I had sweat buckets in the gym during the morning and the night before and I doubt I had drunk enough to make up for it.

We boarded and the row opposite was empty, so I took that row, which allowed me to get some footage of the flight without feeling trapped. The drink, pills and distraction of filming made me feel a lot better.

I got to Bogota airport, walked out of domestic arrivals and straight over to international check-in and the Lufthansa gate. I don’t know who I was praying to, but I was literally praying my air miles upgrade had gone through. Fortunately it had, so I headed up to the lounge for the 2.5 hours before my next flight. The thought of being able to lie flat on the 11+ hour overnight flight to Frankfurt and the endless supply of peanuts in the lounge lifted my mood no end. 🙂

Having a business class upgrade made boarding really simple. I was in a window seat, which normally starts my, “I’m trapped in my seat”, reflex, but that wasn’t too much of a problem until about half way through the flight when my stomach went crazy. I was back and forward to the toilet about 6 times in the second half of the flight. I was able to step over the guy in the next seat, so I didn’t have to keep waking him.

At Frankfurt airport I rushed straight for my next plane, which was listed as boarding as I arrived. Fortunately it was a little late leaving so I got to it with time to spare, most of which was spent in the toilet.

The flight home was fine. I think it took about 80 minutes. Of course, by that time I was so sick of being on a plane the slightest things were bugging me. People talking too loud. Babies crying. The noise of the earphones on the guy next to me. People being nice to me. 🙂 I had to keep reminding myself tolerance was super-low because of the trip.

I arrived in Birmingham a little late and the queue at security was horrendous. Luckily it moved really fast in the automatic queue. My bag was one of the first on the conveyor, so I grabbed it and made a dash for the taxis, where I joined another queue. 🙂

Suffice to say I made it home in one piece. Headache, bad stomach, I think I have a temperature, but I’m home all the same…

Final travel video and wrap-up post tomorrow I guess. 🙂



OTN Tour of Latin America 2016 : Pereira, Colombia – Day 2

laotn16Day 2 of the ASUOC event started with a talk on licensing in Spanish. I couldn’t understand the content, but the audience seemed interested and many people queued to get a business card from the speaker at the end.

Next up was my session called “Its raining data! Oracle databases in the cloud”. There were no changes to this session, so compared to yesterday I felt a little more relaxed at the start. 🙂

After my session was “Become a performance problem solver in 45 minutes!” by Trond Enstad. Trond is Norwegian, speaks excellent English and did his presentation in Spanish. 🙂 I just looked at his slides and pretended I understood what he was saying. 🙂

asoucThe next session was “Oracle Service Bus 12c: Everything you wanted to know about OSB 12c but were afraid to ask” by Frank Munz. Frank was struggling with his voice towards the end of yesterday, so he spent the morning in silent-mode, saving himself for his presentation. His voice was fine during the presentation. 🙂 As well as an explanation of WebLogic 12c, he also spoke about Micro Services.

That really marked the end of the conference for me. There was a session on DevOps in Spanish to complete the morning, then the afternoon was made up of workshops in Spanish…

I took part in some group photos, said goodbye to everyone and got a taxi back to the hotel to catch up on work and non-Oracle life for the rest of the day. 🙂

Thanks to everyone at ASUOC for inviting me to the event and making it fun. Hope to see you again soon!

So that’s the last conference in the series for me. Just the journey home to worry about now. 🙂



OTN Tour of Latin America 2016 : Pereira, Colombia – Day 1

laotn16The day started in the normal way. Breakfast, shower, change into another set of identical clothes. 🙂 From there it was a taxi ride to the Universidad Libre Seccionales Pereira to start the ASUOC leg of the tour.

After getting to the venue I had a fright. They were live streaming the event and couldn’t cope with live demos, so I spent most of the morning rewriting my first presentation to remove the demos. Not exactly the easy start to the morning I was hoping for. As a result, I missed the introduction to the event and most of the morning presentations.

Just before lunch I got to see Frank Munz speaking about “WebLogic 12c : What You Need to Know”. I have to support WebLogic infrastructure, so it’s always good to get to WebLogic sessions from time to time. I’ve used WebLogic 12.2, but I know enough to know there is lots about it I don’t know, if you know what I mean. 🙂

asoucAfter lunch it was my modified version of “Improving the Performance of PL/SQL Function Calls from SQL”. I was a little nervous as it was a mixed audience, professionals and students, and I was not doing the presentation I was expecting. Without the slides it was a little quick, but it went OK. I had a couple of questions from the audience, which is always good. After the session one guy asked to speak to me about some more general issues related to performance. We talked through a couple of scenarios and I emailed him a list of relevant links.

From there I caught the tail end of Debra‘s session on “PaaS4SaaS”.

After a short break was Deiby‘s session on “Why you should upgrade to Oracle 12c”, which was in Spanish so I couldn’t understand it. I’m sure it was awesome. 🙂

After the last session there was a show by some young dancers. First hip-hop dancers, then breakdancers and finally some cheerleading. A guy did a head-spin on concrete, which looked painful! In the cheerleading bit, they threw one of the girls in the air, she did a somersault and they caught her. The girl next to me screamed, “No!”, which made me laugh… I couldn’t help thinking how wrong a bad landing could be on concrete!

In the evening the user group took us out to eat. Carlos got me to try some tequila. I don’t drink very often, so I literally had one and felt drunk. 🙂 Good food and good company resulted in a really fun night! Thanks to everyone for a great night!



OTN Tour of Latin America 2016 : Guatemala to Colombia

laotn16Today was a really tough day!

I got up at about 03:15, a little before my alarm. I went to bed super early because I knew it would be an early start. I often struggle to sleep when I know I have an early start the next day, but it wasn’t too bad. Even so, 03:15 didn’t feel good.

I met Debra at the lobby and we got the hotel shuttle to the airport to start the journey…

Check-in and bag-drop at Guatemala City airport was fine, but the line for the passport checks was really slow and the place was really hot. Not conducive to having you in a good mood to start your trip.

We boarded the plane for what turned out to be a 30 minute flight to San Salvador Airport. There was no big drama at San Salvador. We moved to the boarding gate for the next flight, which was a 2.5 hour flight to Bogota. We landed at Bogota airport on time, but then things became a little chaotic.

For a start, everybody we asked on the plane and on the ground seemed to have a different idea about what we should do. Our bags were checked to Pereira, so we knew we didn’t have to pick up our bags. Some staff members said we needed to go through immigration, as Bogota was the first point of entry into Colombia. Others said we didn’t and should move straight to our next flight. We eventually found out we did need to go through immigration. Some staff said we needed to fill in the customs clearance form, while others said we didn’t, as we were not ending our journey yet and had no baggage. When we did get through immigration we asked for directions to domestic departures and were given the wrong directions. We eventually got the correct directions and started to make our way to the departure gate, thinking we were late, but lucky for us the third plane was late…

At this point our mood was pretty bad. I just decided to shut up, keep my head down and “drive forward”. Debra was struggling not to get angry with the world. 🙂

We arrived at Pereira airport, picked up our bags and headed for the exit. No bag check. No customs check. Nothing! The lady at the information desk didn’t speak English, but another lady nearby did and suggested we get a taxi to the hotel. She told us what the price would be, but we got charged foreigners rate for the taxi. When the taxi driver said he didn’t have receipts Debra nearly went supernova. Lucky for him he “found” something resembling a receipt pad. It’s not the amount of money that’s the issue, it’s the principle of the thing! We said we wanted to pay in US dollars and needed a receipt before we got in the car!

We got to the hotel and there was some confusion over the booking. Debra reserved two rooms for us (one each). They were expecting two groups of two. Not sure how. Then Debra’s card wouldn’t work…

We eventually got booked in, dumped out bags in our rooms and went out to get some cash and some food. With food in us and a complimentary drink when we got back to the hotel, life started to seem a little better…

When I got back to my room, I posted yesterday’s blog post and video, then went to the gym for a while. I’ll post this entry tonight, but I’ll probably add in the video of the day tomorrow.

Overall it was a terrible day. Having such an early start, then a confusing journey, and all of that coming on the last leg of the tour meant we were both pretty close of breaking point.

Today never happened. Tomorrow is a new day!



OTN Tour of Latin America 2016 : Antigua, Guatemala

laotn16We had a day off after the Guatemala event, so Deiby, Ana and Cristina took Debra, Carlos and myself to visit Antigua, Guatemala.

It’s an old city and there are laws to maintain the look and feel of it, so it feels like you’ve stepped back in time. Despite the postcard looks it is a functioning city, so behind the old facades are shops selling modern items. It’s kind-of strange to walk up to a really old building, only to find it is a GNC food supplements store, or a computer store. 🙂

We started with a tour of an old “closed order” convent. It was extremely hot in the morning, so walking around the convent, with its heavy stone walls was really nice. Not only did it look cool, but it actually was cool. 🙂 The guide spoke Spanish, but Cristina and Ana translated for us, so we got to know a lot about the history of the place.

From there the guide took us to a tour of the Jade workshop. One of the store workers explained the history of Jade in Guatemala and showed us several displays of the types of ornaments and jewellery Jade was used to create over the years. It was quite interesting, so I felt a little guilty when I didn’t buy anything from the store at the end. 🙂

After that we went to get some food at a traditional Guatemalan restaurant. As usual, I ate to much. 🙂 I love guacamole and refried beans!

Next we popped into a market, to allow Debra to buy something for her daughter, then the rain came. We drove round the city to take in some more sites, and stopped to have a look in one of the churches.

You’ll notice some very shaky camera work video of the day. The roads on Antigua are cobbled, so the car shakes a lot when you are driving. 🙂

Thanks to Deiby, Ana and Christina for taking us to see “old Guatemala” and for being our personal chauffeurs and translators. 🙂



OTN Tour of Latin America 2016 : Guatemala

laotn16We are stopping in the conference hotel, which made the morning really simple. Roll out of bed and you are there. 🙂

The conference started in the normal way, with an introduction to the event and an introduction to the Oracle ACE Program by Pablo. Then it was time for the sessions. Once again, it was a multi-track event, with most of the sessions in Spanish, so I’ll just talk about what I saw. 🙂

The first session I went to was Kamran presenting “Oracle 11gR2 RAC Best Practices”. I have already seen this presentation, which was fortunate because I spent most of the session logged on to work to sort some things out. Sorry Kamran!

Next up was me with “Pluggable Databases – What they will break and why you should use them anyway!” Working with live translation can be a little tricky. You start to worry about confusing the translator, which will in turn confuse the audience. Most of the audience weren’t using live translation, so hopefully I didn’t confuse them directly. 🙂

gougThe next session I went to was Alex Zaballa with “The best Oracle database 12c new features for developers and DBAs”. It was a run through some of the goodies in 12c, with live demos for some of them.

After lunch it was me with “It’s raining data! Oracle databases in the cloud.” I think it went OK, once I figured out how to use a mic. 🙂

Then it was on to Debra‘s session on “What does digital disruption mean to the Oracle ecosystem?” I really liked this session. Amongst other things, she compared old business models to new business models, and highlighted the problems for companies that have to deal with both models. Neat.

The final session of my day was “Improving the performance of PL/SQL function calls from SQL”. I think it went pretty well. Once again, I was a little nervous about the live translation with this one because of the demos, but I think it went OK.

From there is was the closing session, then the event was done.

After the event we were taken to a golf driving range, where we all showed spectacular skills… Not! 🙂 It was really good fun. After wowing the golf professional with our talents, we all sat down to eat and before we knew it, the night was over.

Many thanks to Deiby and everyone from GOUG for inviting me! It was good to be back in Guatemala.



OTN Tour of Latin America 2016 : Mexico to Guatemala

laotn16I met Debra at the executive lounge to get some breakfast, then it was a quick taxi ride to the Airport in Mexico City. Travelling by car at 08:00 on a Sunday morning is really weird, because the roads are empty. Every other time we’ve been in a car the roads have been packed. As a result, we got to the airport super-early and breezed through bag check and security.

I always complain about the way bag drops are handled, but AeroMexico do it really well. Your bags are weighed before you enter the bag-drop queue, so you don’t have people repacking their cases at the drop-off desk. Perfect!

While we were wondering around, we bumped into Alex, who was on the same flight, so we grabbed a seat by the departure gate.

The flight was pretty straight forward. It was a small plane, so it jiggled about quite a bit, but no real drama. The landing in Guatemala was very odd. We came in with the nose really high, which made it feel like something was going wrong, but we landed fine.

Another thing I liked was the AeroMexico staff were checking you had the correct baggage tag for your bag. I very rarely see this getting checked in airports around the world and it always amazes me more bags aren’t stolen.

There was a hotel minibus waiting to pick us up, and it was only a short drive to the hotel. The minibus had wifi, so I hit a couple of PokeStops and caught 3 Pokemon on the journey. The first I’ve caught in Latin America. 🙂

After check-in, I did a quick tour of the hotel, edited the latest video, then caught up with my mails and blogging.

I intended to sleep for a while, but that didn’t really happen, so I went to the gym and walked on the treadmill, really slowly, watching John Wick on my phone. If you like lots of action, shooting and death, it’s a great film. I know I should have walked round the city, but I didn’t realised I would be going for 90 minutes, or I would have done something more productive. 🙂

While I was waiting for Debra and Alex to come down to the lobby I had a quick chat with Deiby, who was getting everything ready for the conference tomorrow. Once Debra and Alex arrived we went to a Guatemalan place down the road to grab some food. There was melted cheese! 🙂 Then it was back to the hotel early to crash.

Tomorrow is the Guatemala event! See you there!



OTN Tour of Latin America 2016 : Costa Rica to Mexico

laotn16My day started quite early. I’ve been trying to sort out a problem at work and yesterday I reached out to Richard Harrison for some advice. I woke up to see his response, tried his suggestion and it fixed my problem. Happy days! This is why networking and community is important. Access to the “Hive Mind” makes life so much easier. 🙂

At about 07:00 I headed down to breakfast to meet Debra and Kamran, then it was back to the room to do a bit of blogging and video editing. Pretty soon it was time to leave for the airport, so Debra got us an Uber and off we went.

With the exception of a couple of ignorant queue jumpers, check-in and security were fine. We got through really quickly and parked ourselves at the departure gate. I had enough time to finish editing the Costa Rica conference video and it actually uploaded on the free airport wifi. 🙂

I got lucky with the seating on the plane and got a two-seat exit row to myself, which allowed me the elbow room to use my laptop, as well as film some of the scenery from the window. I have to have an aisle seat, which means I can’t always get photos or video from the plane, which is a pain. The extra space on this trip was welcome and made the three hour flight feel pretty easy. There were a few patches of turbulence, but everything was fine.

We were met at the airport by René Antúnez, who took us to our hotel. Debra has God status at the Hilton, so I got to tag along with her and check-in at the executive lounge. When I went to my room it was really nice, but I could smell cigarette smoke. I went back to the executive lounge, had some food, then they gave me a different room, or should I say a small house. They upgraded me to a junior suite, which is massive. There are perks to travelling in the same party as Debra. 🙂

I went to the gym for a quick workout and now I’m back in my room. It’s an early start tomorrow for the Mexico City event. See you there!



OTN Tour of Latin America 2016 : Costa Rica

laotn16I left my air conditioned room and the heat hit me. It’s winter here in Costa Rica, and I think it was only 23 degrees, but it was so humid it felt like the mid 30s. Breakfast, then a taxi to the venue and the Costa Rica leg of the OTN Tour of Latin America 2016 began.

There was an introduction to the event, then an introduction to OTN and the Oracle ACE Program by Pablo Ciccarello. From there the conference split into six tracks, so I’ll talk about what I did.

We were assigned a student as a helper for the day. Mine was Ray, who was a fantastic and had awesome English! 🙂

Ray - Costa Rica

My first session was “It’s raining data! Oracle databases in the cloud.” I had a full room, which was nice, and I got some questions, which is always good. I was happy with the way the session went, so I hope everyone else was too. 🙂

After a short break it was Kamran Agayev with “Oracle 11gR2 RAC Best Practices. ‘What happens if …’ scenarios Oracle 11gR2 RAC”. As the name suggests, Kamran ran through a number of scenarios you might come across on a live system, using videos to demonstrate some of them. I think this method works really well. It’s hard to do live demos of Clusterware and RAC because some operations take a long time to complete. Having a video demo makes life easy as you can speed up bits where necessary, and you don’t have to worry about running lots of VMs on your laptop at once.

Next up was Alex Zaballa with “DBA Commands and Concepts That Every Developer Should Know”. His session started with an explanation of eDB360 and sqld360, which are pretty cool tools. From there he worked through a list of useful features that people may have missed. He included live demos for some of the features. 🙂

After lunch, I had back-to-back sessions to close the day, punctuated by really heavy rain, so it wasn’t just raining data! 🙂

  • Pluggable Databases – What they will break and why you should use them anyway!
  • Improving the Performance of PL/SQL Function Calls from SQL

Both sessions went really well. Full rooms again and people seemed happy with them, which is good. 🙂 People were a little shy about asking questions in front of the group, but were much less shy 1:1 after the sessions. I got asked one question about result caching I didn’t know the answer to, so I will investigate that and add it to my article once I know. It’s always good to be asked something you don’t know the answer to. It keeps you on your toes. 🙂

After the wrap-up session, the conference was over. The event went really smoothly, with good control over the schedule timings and the addition of the helpers was a really nice touch.

Once the event was over we went straight to dinner. Driving in Costa Rica during the rush hour is an experience, most of which does not involve moving. 🙂 It took about an hour to move 5km. It would be quicker to walk, but it was raining. As it was, we got a bit of a city tour and were schooled in the use of Waze. Watching the drivers crowd-sourcing information on traffic jams and clear routes is really interesting. We all arrived at the restaurant at about the same time, where we had great food, great conversation, with great people.

All round a fantastic day! Thanks very much ORAUG-CRC for inviting me and making the whole experience so enjoyable.

Next stop Mexico!