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 : Panama to Costa Rica

I had a broken nights sleep. My luggage turned up at midnight. At about 03:00 I did a blog post. Then at 05:00 I officially woke up to get ready for the taxi at 06:00. 🙂

There were no dramas at the airport. Debra and I got through bag drop and security with plenty of time, so we got some breakfast and chilled until the flight.

The boarding was a little chaotic, mostly because people heard one piece of hand luggage and one personal item, and understood that to mean four pieces of hand luggage and a donkey. Needless to say, the overhead lockers were short on space. 🙂

It was a 55 minute flight, with a rollercoaster landing. I actually got my luggage back this time as well, which was nice. 🙂 Another quick taxi ride and we were at the hotel.

I did a couple of hours of work, then headed off to the gym, which was great. The hotel gym is a small Golds Gym, so I was able to do proper weights. It was super hot, which made training really hard, but when I finished I did some stretching and it was awesome. I can’t remember the last time I’ve stretched in that temperature. I was super flexible.

I think I’m going to head off to the pool for a bit, then chill for the rest of the day.

The Costa Rica conferences starts tomorrow. See you there!



OTN Tour of Latin America 2016 : Panama

laotn16Panama and ORAUG PTY was the first leg in the OTN Tour of Latin America 2016 (Northern Leg). The event took place at the Wyndham Panama Allbrook Mall Hotel.

The day started with a general introduction by Edgardo Sanchez Diaz, then an introduction to OTN and the Oracle ACE Program by Pablo Ciccarello.

From there I presented three sessions back-to-back.

  • Improving the Performance of PL/SQL Function Calls from SQL
  • Pluggable Databases – What they will break and why you should use them anyway!
  • It’s raining data! Oracle databases in the cloud.

I think the sessions went well. People were a little shy at the start, but as the sessions progressed people got more confident about asking questions.

After lunch was Kamran Agayev speaking about “Oracle 11g Clusterware failure scenarios with practical demonstrations”. Kamran discussed lots of failure situations with video demos of them, which were pretty neat. He also discussed numerous test scenarios people should work through before they go live with a RAC system.

Next up was Debra Lilley presenting on “Pass4SaaS”. I’ve seen this presentation many times over the last couple of years, but it has evolved somewhat. This one had a live demonstration of Debra using the Application Builder Cloud Service, almost like she’s a developer! 🙂

Next up was Kamran again with “Oracle 12c ASM new features with practical demonstrations”. This was a quick run through the ASM new features, including a video demo of Flex ASM and ASM Disk Scrubbing.

That was the day done for me. There were other presenters speaking in Spanish, but after my three sessions and three others I was done for. 🙂

I was presenting for half of the day, so I didn’t get much time to film, which is why this video was so short.

Thanks to Edgardo and ORAUG PTY for inviting me to the event. I had a really good time and it cheered me up a lot after yesterday’s travel disaster. It reminded me why the travelling is worthwhile. 🙂



PS. All through the day I kept getting the hotel reception to ring the two numbers I was given for the KLM missing luggage service, but never got an answer. The online bag tracker they provide was useless. It just acknowledged your bag was marked as missing, with no idea of the location or ETA. Since I was planning to leave early the next day I was worried my luggage would arrive after I left, but had nobody to speak to about this. At about midnight there was a knock at my door and my luggage had arrived. Obviously I’m very happy about that, but the lack of communication was a nightmare! Judging by the tweets to KLM, I got lucky!

OTN Tour of Latin America 2016 : Birmingham to Panama

Where do I start with this day?

I arrived at Birmingham Airport about 2 hours and 20 minutes early. I was then presented with a huge queue to get to the queue for the bag drop. To be fair to the people at the desk, they seemed relatively efficient, but there were 2 floating staff who were chatting to each other and laughing, rather than handling the queue. There needed to be:

  • A specific “bag drop only” queue, which most people would have breezed through.
  • A “special cases” queue for those families that turn up with 45 cases and wonder why they can’t take them.
  • A “check in” queue, where people who have not already checked in can go.

Something simple like that would have meant the queue moved much quicker and the floating staff could have organised that easily if they could be bothered and weren’t morons. Of course, that couldn’t happen because we are talking about the Air France / KLM gate, so you know it’s going to be terrible. I sent a few tweets to both KLM and BHX that contained lots of expletives. Sorry if that offended anyone, but tough!

Eventually I got through the “queue to the queue” for bag drop, then I joined the “queue for the queue” for security. Yes, there was a queue to get to the place you normally queue! Once again, an obvious case for sorting your staff out. They know when they will be busy in advance, so they should staff accordingly.

I finally got to the boarding gate and could see the plane, but they were unloading for ages. Turns out there were a team of Para-Olympic athletes on the plane and the ground staff did not anticipate how long it would take to get them and their wheelchairs off. Once again, bad planning. We took off 40 minutes late, which was a worry since I had a very short connection at Amsterdam for the next flight. Just before we landed they announced some people had missed their connections, but mine was still possible if I legged it. Fortunately for me, the next flight was delayed also, so I made it!

I sat on the flight from Amsterdam to Panama, sighed with relief, then got a massive headache. I thought I was going to have one of my puking episodes, but I managed to down some paracetamol and sleep for a bout 10 minutes, which was enough to take the edge off.

I arrived in Panama, but my luggage didn’t. After a queue to deal with my lost luggage, I queued for about 40 minutes to get through the bag check, without my bags.

After a death-race taxi ride to the hotel and the travel was over. At that point, if I had the option to got straight home I would have done. The flights themselves were fine, as were the flight staff. It was the chaos on the ground that was the problem, which left me feeling like I never want to fly again. It was a terrible day!

I met up with Debra so she could watch me eat cheese and talk me down. Then it was bed and the hope that I would never remember this day!

Tomorrow is ORAUG PTY, the first event of the OTN Tour of Latin America 2016 (Northern Leg).



PS. The video is dedicated to Mark Rittman, who loves my travel videos, describing them as “boring” and saying, “nothing happens in them”, which is of course the whole point of doing them. 🙂