Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Miracle Oracle Open World

My first trip to Denmark was most excellent. The good folks at Miracle were great hosts and the event was unique in many ways. I delivered two presentations and heard several others that were superb. Jonathan Lewis delivered an excellent session (well, 2 actually) on hints and Tanel Poder's presentation on advanced troubleshooting was top notch. My only regret is that I didn't get to see all the presentations. It never fails that when I speak at a conference there is a session being delivered that I want to see at the same time as my presentation. That was once again true. I missed Robyn Sands presentation on variance, but was lucky enough to be able to chat with her about it a bit over dinner.

One of the things that I found unique about the Miracle event was the amount of time available to network, meet new people and talk. Each evening dinner was a multi-hour affair fueled by excellent conversation. Oh, and the food and drink were excellent too and were made available in very large quantity! One thing that can be said for sure about Miracle is that they don't skimp on quality or quantity!

Besides the event itself, I had the opportunity for exposure to a new place. Since it was my first trip to Denmark, I thought I'd share a few things that I noted.
1. They have some seriously cool doors there. Yep, that's right...doors. Some of the doors don't have the traditional door lock/dead bolt combination that I'm used to. Instead, the doors lock closed by lifting the handle up and the door then vacuum seals or something like that. I was too impressed by it that I didn't even bother to look closely at how the mechanism works, but it is seriously cool. I want doors like that at my house.

2. The public water closets had doors that were about 8 feet tall starting about 1 inch off the ground. OK. This may seem silly for that to be something I noticed, but being 6'4, I almost always find the top and bottom 1/3 of my body is visible in most ladies rooms. Let's just say I liked not having my head waving over the door like a giraffe for once!

3. The traffic signals not only go Green-Yellow-Red, but Red-Yellow-Green as well. That way if you're stopped, you know when the light is about to change. I'd like that in the US. I often find myself leaning to see the other side of the light so I can tell when the change is coming. New traffic signals would eliminate much neck strain on my part.

4. Danish currency is cool. Of course, practically any country outside the US has cooler money than we do. US currency is so dull. Doing currency exchange math is a bit tedious, but I pretty much figured it out: 2 million Danish kroner used to equal 1 US dollar, but now it's the other way around (given our current financial state here in the US). On the first evening of the event, the Americans were offered a collection of US dollars from our Danish friends. They gave the half dozen of us about $14 total to split amongst ourselves to help us through the current tough times. :)

5. Denmark is flat. I was told the highest points in the whole country are only about 150 and 170 meters high. Heck, that wouldn't even qualify as a bump in the road in Tennessee where I grew up! Oh, and the funny thing is that they actually call one of those places "Sky Mountain".

6. Danes are quiet, thoughtful, and reserved. Not! I've never met a more party-hearty bunch! I will say that they're fairly quiet during the day, but as dusk comes, they gear up to a whole other level. Not a dull moment! To be fair, I have to say that perhaps not all Danes are of the same genre as those attending the Miracle event, but the good folks I met sure weight the average to the fun side. :)

7. Danish hot dogs look very odd (to my American eye), but taste yummy. We stopped in downtown Copenhagen and partook of a vendor stand hot dog on the day before our departure. I didn't watch how it was made, nor look at it closely before taking a bite. It's one of those things where it's just better not to know. I found this YouTube video that after watching it makes me glad I didn't look at what I was eating!

I know there's a lot more I could add but you get the idea. I loved my trip and hope to return before too long.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Statistics musings

I've been thinking about a few problems that seem to turn up with Oracle query optimization lately. Jonathan Lewis posted on one case where the high value statistic was likely "off" at times and caused the plans to switch between good and bad. I had recently seen a similar case where a new partition was added each day and query plans that involved the new partition would pick the wrong index due to a high value problem. The stats were manually set to help fix it.

Anyway, these situations and several others I've seen have got me to wondering about whether or not using dynamic stats collections more aggressively would help some of these types of problems. I mean, if stats were missing and dynamic sampling kicked in, could/would better plans be derived more frequently?

I'm going to set up a set of tests to see where these musings take me, but I thought I'd mention it first to see if anyone has any experience with doing this and what kinds of results you've seen. If you have any input, let me hear from you!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

None of it works!

A friend of mine sent this to me. Oh how true it is! Don't you just hate getting those cutesy emails that promise you to have eternal youth and good fortune if you only would forward the email on to 10 of your friends?

OK, I admit that I've done it once or twice. And for those of you who have been on the receiving end, please allow me to apologize. I guess there have just been moments when I really wanted what was promised to be granted to me. And if it only meant forwarding on one little email, then what's the harm, right?

Harumph! Hope may spring eternal, but there is a line between hope and not being rational.

Not that I'm against hoping and wishing for things that I want to happen, but in regard to this particular method of achieving my dreams, I think from now on I'm simply going to reply to the sender with this graphic. Then, I'll go buy a lottery ticket.


Friday, October 3, 2008

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The courage to learn

Cary Millsap recently had a great post on the use of active vs. passive voice when writing. Check it out, it's an excellent read.

Anyway, Cary made a reply to one of the comments he received that has sparked much thought on my part. His statement was:
Learning is a state transition between not knowing something and knowing it. For someone to truly learn, he has to have the courage to admit—at least to himself—that there's something he doesn't know. Some people are unwilling to do that.

Think about that for a second. What do you think? Is the capacity to learn rooted in the ability to simply admit there is something you don't know?

I think Cary's spot on with that assessment. I do believe that fear of admitting what you don't know holds you back from learning/knowing what you need to. It's like having blinders on. I prefer to believe it is fear based and not arrogance, but I think arrogance is at the heart of many people's unwillingness to seek out knowledge. I mean, what if they're proved wrong about something they've stated as truth? If you think yourself an "expert" and your ego can't stand the hit it would take if you are proven wrong, aren't you destined to be found lacking knowledge you claim to possess at some point?

Although I can't find the exact quote, I remember reading something to the effect of "A wise man knows he doesn't know everything." For me, my personal goal is to be continually in the process of learning. I love to learn. Sometimes the process is painful or embarrassing when I state something I believe to be fact and am shown that my information is either lacking or just plain wrong. But, even then, I'm glad to learn. Without coming under critique, how do I confirm what I claim I know? In the end, it's empowering for me...and humbling too. I like knowing and I like sharing what I know. But in order to know, I have to first learn. And I think that learning is the real thrill for me. Sharing what I learn is just icing on the cake.

I think it's easy to get complacent and not seek out new knowledge. Many times I see people who do basically the same job and see the same issues day after day, month after month. It's easy to get lazy. It's easy to turn around and your company is considering implementing Oracle 11 and you've never bothered to learn anything more than you knew when you learned back in Oracle 7. It's easy to assume that once you know something, that knowledge stays fixed and there's no need to "upgrade" that knowledge.

For me, I do what I do because not only do I like to mentor and teach, but I primarily love to learn. My first job was in the government sector. I was the new, young kid working with a bunch of guys who had been at their jobs for 20-30 years. When I finished projects ahead of my allotted time, they'd chide me. They told me I needed to learn to "take it easy" and that I "wasn't in school anymore" and didn't need to complete my assignments in record time or try to impress my professors. I just needed to sit back and relax and learn to "not tax my brain". I tried (for a very short while). But, I stagnated. I couldn't stand sitting still. I couldn't stand not learning and not doing more than just what I knew. I wanted more. I wanted challenge. I wanted to expand what I knew so I could do my job better and more efficiently.

In the end, I stayed in my first job for less than a year. And, I know now as I look back, it was the simple fact that I wasn't learning that prompted me to leave. I grew bored and uninterested in my job and I just couldn't stand it.

It takes courage to be a learner. It requires effort. It requires being willing to admit there's a lot I don't know. But I know for me there's no other choice. Learning is like a drug and I'm an addict.