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. 🙂



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.



Advert: PL/SQL Masterclasses in Bulgaria and Serbia…

In November I’m scheduled to do 2 PL/SQL masterclasses in Europe:

  • Bulgaria (Nov 22-23)
  • Serbia (Nov 25-26)

As was shown by my recent class in Hong Kong, sometimes the number of people wanting to do the course is fine, but they don’t register in time so the class gets cancelled. Luckily in the case of the Hong Kong class I was able to reschedule it in time, but it could easily not have happened.

It is only 3 weeks until these courses start, so Oracle University will have to confirm/cancel them soon. If you are interested in either of the classes, contact your local Oracle Education office to register your interest. If you leave it until 1 week before the class is scheduled to start, you may find it has already been cancelled and I’ll be home watching day-time TV. 🙂



Hong Kong Update

As always, you never know what you’re going to get when you do an Oracle University class. Originally the Hong Kong class was cancelled, then got rescheduled at the last minute. I was expecting a very small class, but as it turned out I had 19 people, so it was the biggest class I did on this trip.

The room was a little on the small side and a bit warm in the morning of the first day, but we managed to get through OK.

Doing the same course 4 times in such quick succession was a little odd. On a couple of occasions I caught myself thinking, “I’m sure I’ve already said this before”. 🙂

The first leg of the flight back home was “interesting”. There was an old guy on my row who cycled between snorting half his brain down into the back of his throat, then coughing up his lungs up into the back of his throat, followed by a good chew and swallow. It was less than a pleasant experience. Added to that, there was a small kid who was intermittently making a noise which kept waking me up. I kinda forgive kids on planes because it’s not a natural environment for them, but this kid had fallen out of the ugly tree and hit every branch on the way down, twice. When they don’t look cute I’m much less sympathetic.

The second leg of the trip seemed a lot quicker because I was chatting to an Aussie lady about life, the universe and everything. Seven hours flew by.

So now I’m home and trying to deal with the washing, backlog of mail and yet another time zone. I think it’s two weeks until the next trip, assuming there are no cancellations. 🙂



Melbourne Update

The Melbourne class was a little bigger than the previous classes, with 12 people including several people from Oracle Support. Being the 3rd class in quick succession, everything felt really smooth, with no real surprises.

I actually managed to get a reasonable amount of sleep before both classes, which was a bonus. Saying that, I fell asleep at 20:00 last night, so I ended up waking up at 03:00, which gave me some time to play catch-up with emails and forum questions. It does mean that today will end up being a pretty long day, since my flight to Hong Kong isn’t until 00:15 (including a slight delay).

Apparently there have been typhoon warnings in Hong Kong and the schools have been closed, but surprisingly it hasn’t really affected flights. Let’s see how that works out.

This was my third visit to Australia, but only my second visit to Sydney and Melbourne. The real take-home message from this trip is I felt really at ease all the time I’ve been in Australia. I’m not surprised a lot of British people decide to move to Australia. It’s probably one of the easiest places for a Brit to relocate to.



Update: I’m in the hotel in Hong Kong now. No signs of a typhoon, but I’ve received a mail saying the class may be cancelled if the weather is too bad. Weird. I’m just off to lunch in the tallest building in Hong Kong, or so my mate tells me.

Sydney Update

I’m now sitting in my hotel room in Melbourne, so the Sydney experience is complete.

Originally I was told the Oracle University classes would be cancelled if there were less than 10 people. In Singapore I got 9 people, which was the smallest class I had ever taught for Oracle University. I immediately beat that record in Sydney by having 7 people in the class. I’m guessing that from an expenses point of view, the costs are lower because I’m doing four courses in what amounts to a single round trip to Australia. If this were just a single class requiring a requiring a return flight from UK to Sydney it wouldn’t have happened. Anyway…

Day 1 went smoothly. I got a few questions that made me think, which is always good. Once I had finished the class, it was straight off to the train station to get into town to speak at the Oracle Meetup organised by the Pythian guys. The train journey took longer than I expected, so I arrived about 20 minutes late, by which point the projector was irretrievable locked away. So instead I did my presentation with my laptop pointing at the people around the table and did a lot of zooming. 🙂 Despite this setback, which was totally my fault, it seemed to go OK.

It’s always good to meet new people, but I was especially happy to finally meet Nuno “Noons” Souto and Gary Myers, whose blogs I’ve been following for ages and who have both helped me in the past by correcting my numerous mistakes. After the presentation finished and we had an informal chat, it was back to the train station and then the hotel.

Day 2 of the course went smoothly enough. I had finally got something resembling sleep, so I felt a bit more on top of my game. As always, I over ran. If they gave me 3 days I’m sure I would still over run. 🙂

This morning was a 06:30 flight to Melbourne, so I had to get up at about 04:00 to get ready and get the taxi to the airport. I actually woke up at 03:00, so I guess I’m going to feel a bit rough later. Luckily I’ve got the rest of the day off to recover before I start the Melbourne class tomorrow.

Melbourne was the first class to confirm, so I’m guessing it has a minimum of 10 people, but you never know. Perhaps I can break my record again. 🙂

On a slightly worrying note, I’m having a bit of trouble with my credit and debit cards. I warned the banks involved that I was travelling so my usage might look a little odd. I also banged some cash onto them to preempt any problems with bills coming in while I was away. Even so, it’s all been a bit random as to which cards are accepted and which cards fail. If all else fails I’ll get Larry to fly me over some cash… 🙂



Singapore Update

Call me paranoid, but when I started filling in a customs declaration that mentions the death penalty for drug traffickers, I suddenly got worried about the cold cures and vitamin C pills in my bag.

When I walked out of the airport in Singapore I couldn’t believe how humid it was. Dubai is hot, and Washington was very humid this year, but Singapore was something else.

I got to the hotel pretty late and I was teaching the next day, so I went straight to bed. The Oracle University office was about 1 km from the hotel so I walked to it. By the time I got there I felt like I needed a shower. Even at 08:00 in the morning it felt like hard work. After a couple of hundred yards I could feel myself panting like a dog.

The class was pretty small, with nine paying attendees and one Oracle University instructor who came along for the ride. Big classes can be exciting, but small classes feel more informal, so either way it’s pretty cool. We went out as a group at lunch time on both days, so there was plenty of time for gossiping, as well as the teaching stuff.

Singapore is full of restaurants. It feels like every building has a food court in it, and most of the places are busy. Speaking to a couple of people on the course, it seems many of the people never cook. Eating out is so cheap that unless you are cooking for about 6 people, it’s cheaper to eat out that cook at home. Sounds good to me. 🙂

On the first evening I went for a walk around the bay area. It was dark by the time I got out, so all the photos are night shots. I’m not great with a camera at the best of times, but add in darkness and you know it’s going to go wrong. I took a lot of shots, but I’ve deleted most of them because they were just too blurry. The “altitude” shots, where you can see my reflection in the glass, were taken from the Singapore Flyer. My photos don’t do it justice.

The skyline would make you believe the place is like a scene out of Blade Runner, but when you are walking around the central business district it actually feels quite open. There is a lot of space between the buildings, so it never feels claustrophobic. Another nice thing is the streets are very clean. No litter, no chewing gum stuck everywhere and no dog crap on the pavements. If only the residents of Birmingham could act like this.

The bay area is obviously where all the money is. There is a crazy casino built to look like a boat is sitting on three towers. Next to that there is an absolutely giant shopping mall, half of which is still under construction. They were prepping for a Christian Dior show when I was walking round. The other side of the bay seems to be where the young and rich go out to pose in the evening. Lots of very expensive cars and people trying hard to be noticed. I’m surprised I wasn’t escorted away by the authorities. 🙂

On the second day of the course we had a couple of delays, so I ended up running over by an hour. No big surprise there. 🙂

I was going to go to the Night Safari on the second evening, but I foolishly turned on my laptop when I got back to the hotel and the next thing I knew it was 22:00, so I went to bed.

This morning it was a 06:00 start to get to the airport. I waited for a few minutes for a taxi and started to break a sweat standing still. Even at silly o’clock in the morning it was boiling.

The journey from Singapore to Sydney was pretty standard seven hour flight, so nothing major to report, but a few little incidents will be added to a general travel rant (about passengers) I am in the process of writing. 🙂



Advert: PL/SQL Masterclass in Hong Kong is back…

I managed to swap the Melbourne to Birmingham flights, so the Hong Kong date (October 25th-26th) is back again. If you are interested in coming, the contact details are listed here. The date hasn’t made it back onto the website yet, but it is definitely going to happen.

The final trip schedule is pretty scary.

  • Birmingham -> Dubai -> Singapore
  • Singapore PL/SQL Masterclass (14th – 15th)
  • Singapore -> Sydney
  • Sydney PL/SQL Masterclass (18th – 19th)
  • Speak at the Sydney Oracle Meetup in the evening (18th)
  • Sydney -> Melbourne
  • Melbourne PL/SQL Masterclass (21st – 22nd)
  • Melbourne -> Hong Kong
  • Hong Kong PL/SQL Masterclass (25th – 26th)
  • Hong Kong -> Bangkok -> Dubai Birmingham
  • Nervous Breakdown

I feel a bit sick at the thought of all that time on planes and all the timezone switches. The last time I did a trip this complicated I was away from home for 2 months. This time it’s compacted into 16 days, so if you see a fat zombie, point him to the projector and tell him to start speaking. Once the mouth starts, the rest will take care of itself. 🙂



PL/SQL Masterclass in Hong Kong?

Two days after getting the final confirmation for the Singapore, Sydney and Melbourne dates and the cancellation of the Hong Kong date things have changed a little… Maybe…

I’ve been asked to try and reschedule the Hong Kong date (October 25th-26th). I’m in the process of trying to check the implications of the flight changes now. If it were a Eurpoean date it would be a no-brainer, but since it’s the other side of the world it has to be combined with the existing trip or there is simply not enough time to get home and fly back out again.

I’m hoping to know by tomorrow if the date can be rescheduled. Watch this space.