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How NOT to present November 30, 2010

Posted by mwidlake in Meeting notes.
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9 comments

I’m at the UKOUOG this week and, as ever, the presentations vary in quality. Most are excellent {or even better than that}, some are not. I was in one first thing this morning and, I have to say, it was rushed, garbled, unclear and there was a definite air of unease and panic. I’m not even sure the guy got to his big point and I could think of at least three major things he did not mention at all.

I think his main problem was just starting off in a rush and never settling down. You see, I was stuck on the top floor of my Hotel and had to run to the venue. Yes, the poor presentation was by me :-(.

I usually present well {modesty forbids me from saying I am a very good presenter – but modesty can take a hike, my ego knows I am capable of giving great presentations}. I am one of those lucky people for whom presenting has never been particularly frightening and, in fact, I find it easier to present to a group of people than talk with them.

But not today. I was already worried about the session, have been for weeks, as I was doing interactive demos. But last night I ran through it, wrote down the names of the scripts and the slide numbers so I could just bang through them and timed it all. 50 mins, I would skip one unneeded section. Calm. I got a reasonable night’s sleep, got up early and ran through it all one more time, making sure my Big Point demo worked. And it did. Yes.

Went down to breakfast, had breakfast and back to the room to pick up my stuff. And realised I was late. Less than 10 minutes to do the 5 minutes over to the venue. So I fled the room, stuffing my laptop in my bag. But not my notes. Or my conference pass. I did not think of this as I stood on the top floor of the hotel, I just thought “where are the lifts?”. They were all below me, ferrying hungry people to and from breakfast. After what seemed like an hour and was only 4 or 5 minutes I decided 16 flights of stairs was OK to go down and, to give me credit, I managed those stairs and the few hundred yards to the venue in pretty good time. I did pause for a few seconds at floor 7, I think, when I remembered my notes. Too late.

But I was now panicked and arrived as a dash. I had to mess about with the Audio Visual guy to get going and started 2 mins past my slot start – and then did the 5 minutes of non-relevant stuff I had decided to drop. It was game over from there, I was failing to find the correct scripts, I was skipping relevant sections and I was blathering instead of just taking a few seconds to calm down and concentrate.

Oh well, my first time in a large room at the UKOUG and I messed up. At least I had the key lesson drummed into me. TURN UP EARLY!!!!

I’m still here, honest May 18, 2010

Posted by mwidlake in Blogging, Perceptions, Private Life.
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3 comments

In the last 24 hours I’ve had four emails asking if I am OK – Apparently I am not blogging or bothering people via email! Well, I am OK (and thanks guys for the concern), I was just knackered.

Rule 1 of blogging “no one cares about you as an individual” (and, I am glad to say, that is a myth. Even in the zero-physical-contact medium of electronic communication, some have been concerned about my silence. Humanity may yet have a future)

Truth is, I damaged myself trying to get healthier {so it is back to the eating pies and drinking beer for me!*} and that caused lack of sleep and more unhealth and I ended up very, very, very tired and I was reduced to putting all my energy into doing the day job.

This has nothing to do with a Blog on technology and database, of course.

Ahh, but Yes, it does, it actually has a hell of a lot to do with it. I have been tired, hard-pressed and under-performing. So I concentrated on doing my primary job and nothing else. So I have not blogged and I have not emailed people and I have not generally helped as much as I would like.

The thing is, if you think of your comrades and fellow staff (and, for some of you, the people who work for you) most people around you could well be the same. The primary directive of business, at present, is to get everything for your current task out of the staff right now. That is the prime directive, push the staff hard to get x, y and z done. Or, for those of you working under an Agile Methodology, the handful of tasks in front of you for this sprint {or whatever the hell terminology is for your take on the “Get It Done NOW” methodology}.

I have had no bandwidth to do more than my day job of late. And I stopped helping. I think some current working practices and philosophies have the same, chronic effect.

Is this a good thing? I will let you decide.

For myself, I’ve had a week walking in Snowdonia (and I was not fit enough to get the best out of the time, but mentally it was a God-send). I thought nothing about technology; I thought very little at all. I walked up hills, I drank beer and wine and I ate lots of pies. And I now feel good.

I know I am doing better work now than I was 2 weeks ago.

So, I hope to start doing proper technical blogs again in the next week or so. But right now, having had a week of total down-time, I am ready and need to do my day job again. And they pay me, so I better go off and do it! Expect a proper technical blog next week.

{* I joke about damaging myself getting fitter, but I feel condemned to point out that being generally fitter and healthier is a good thing, even if you hurt yourself getting there. It is better to be old and fit than old and decrepit. Or old and dead. :-) I’m full of happy thoughts like that…}

Friday Philosophy – ICE {In Case of Emergency} January 31, 2010

Posted by mwidlake in Friday Philosophy.
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6 comments

ICE is a simple concept. In this case it stand for In Case of Emergency and the idea is to store a contact number on your mobile phone under the identifier of ICE. Then if you are in an accident, suddenly become very ill or are in any other way incapacitated, your ICE number can be called. The person you list under ICE is someone who knows you well and hopefully knows of any medical conditions you have and who can get in touch with others. It can be incredibly useful to medical services to know if you are alergic to common drugs or have any known medical conditions (like heart issues or diabetes). I guess in worst scenario of you being, well, not alive anymore, it gives someone to contact who would want/need to know. What a nice, simple use of modern technology! Go one, get your phone out and put and ICE number in now.

The idea originally came from Bob Brotchie, a UK paramedic.
The idea has caught on enough that there are companies in America trying to make a bit of profit out of it {something that I feel slightly negative about} and it has a wikipedia entry.

There is one big issue, which is if you have locked your mobile phone, no one is going to be able to see your contacts and thus the ICE details. This is something that others have thought of and one suggestion is to make your wallpaper show your ICE contacts.

However, this idea of ICE only works if people know about it and use it. I became aware of this last year when I saw an old lady collapse in the street. She just stopped, staggered a little and went down, attempting to take a brick out of a wall with her head as she went down. Three or four of us rushed over, thankfully one was a nurse so she took charge of looking after the patient. We others quickly found her phone. I bet what you are now expecting me to say is that she had no ICE number. She might have, but none of us knew to LOOK for an ICE number. We took pot-luck on the number saying “Jack at work” or something and thankfully got her husband.

Maybe we were an unusually unknowing bunch of people and all you lot reading this know about ICE numbers, but given we were all turned on enough to come to the lady’s aid, one was a nurse, I work in IT and none of us knew about this useful use of technology, I suspect it is not that universal an idea yet. I only know about ICE as my H&S brother told me about it only a couple of weeks after the above incident. {He was asking me if I could see a negative side to it and all I could think of is that if someone found/stole your phone then they had a known “someone who cares” number for you, but then they also have your whole contact list if you do not lock your phone, with things like “Mum” and “Uncle Bob” on it}

However, it takes only a couple of minutes to put an ICE number on your phone, so nothing is stopping you doing it. If you have a modern “all singing, all dancing” phone you might have an ICE feature or app you can download to show ICE information with the phone still locked (my phone is only 4 months old but has no such feature, but then it was a cheap, temporary “just for the week” buy when my old phone committed suicide). A quick check shows the iPhone app can also show things like drug susceptibility and known medical issues too, which is more immediate help to emergency services than a contact number.

So, I would encourage you to put an ICE number on your mobile phone. I would also encourage you to spread the word about ICE. It’s a great, easy, simple use of technology, but only if it is popular.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year December 25, 2009

Posted by mwidlake in Private Life.
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3 comments

I just wanted to wish a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to everyone who reads my blog, especially those who add comments and help make it a better source of information and, I hope, occasionally amusement.

Martin

Friday Philosophy – when do we learn? October 17, 2009

Posted by mwidlake in Perceptions, Private Life.
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5 comments

I’ve had a theory for a while that there are two times when we learn:

  • When we are under extreme duress
  • When we are under no duress at all

I think all technicians would agree with the former. We learn a lot when something very important needs doing urgently, like getting the database back up or finding out why the application has suddenly gone wrong {Hint, very often the answer is to find What Changed}. Another example is when a decision has been made to implement something a manager has seen a nice sales presentation on and they really like the look of it. We technicians have to make it actually work {and I admit to once or twice having been the Manager in this situation :-). I apologise to my people from back then}.

I’ve also believed for a while that the other time you learn, or at least can learn, is when things are unusually quiet. When work is just at it’s normal hectic pace, it’s hard to spend the extra effort on reading manuals, trying things out and checking out some of those technical blogs. You spend all your spare effort on The Rest Of Your Life. You know, friends, partners, children, the cat.

So I think you need some slack time to learn and that is when the most complete learning is done. Yes, you learn a lot when the pressure is on, but you are generally learning “how to get the damned problem resolved” and probably not exactly why the problem occurred; did you fix the problem or just cover it over? Did you implement that new feature your boss’s boss wanted in the best way, or in a way that just about works. You need the slack time to sort out the details.

When do we get slack time? Weekends and holidays. How many of us have snuck the odd technical book or two into our luggage when going on holiday? {And how many of us have had that look from our partners when they find out?}.

Well, at the end of this week I am going on two and a half weeks holiday, over to New England in the US. A few days in Boston, up through Maine, across to Mount Washington to a little hotel where we had possibly the best meal of our lives, down to Mystic and then over to Washington to see some friends.

I am not taking any manuals. I am not taking any technical books.  I am not taking a laptop with Oracle on it. I am not even likely to blog for the duration. Why? I have not been as mentally and physically shattered as I am now since I finished my degree 20 years ago. I just want to switch off for a while.

So I am revising my theory of when we learn. I now think we learn when:

  • When we are under extreme duress {that just does not change}
  • When we have spare mental capacity and the drive to use it.

Right now, I think I have the mental capacity of a drunk squirrel. So from the end of next week, I’m going to sleep, read sci-fi, eat and drink well and maybe do a bit of culture.  The computers and the learning can wait for a little while.

All Is Well in Widlake World August 27, 2009

Posted by mwidlake in Private Life.
Tags: ,
3 comments

I’m about to post a proper blog entry but, before that, I’d like to thank those of you who contacted me to ask how my Mother was doing. She’s doing OK, she has remembered how to breath and the cause of the whole issue has been identified, is treatable and is under control.

Now I just have to brace myself for when she can speak again and tells us all how bored and uncomfortable she is. Thankfully the Nurses will take the brunt of it and they are good at being understanding. Maybe in 6 weeks we will have her back home, looking after herself and my current main employer will not have to be as very understanding as they have been (thankyou Employer).

Oh, and the skills at reading graphs came in useful again. I asked a few days ago about “That set of spikes” and the nurses got agitated. Until they realised my Mother had took off a mointoring lead as it was annoying her. Mothers huh?

Hey, it’s not my fault I can’t spell. June 10, 2009

Posted by mwidlake in humour, Perceptions, Private Life.
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1 comment so far

*Sigh*
I just got pinged by someone to let me know of some spelling mistakes in my blog. I know, I know, just leave me alone OK?!

Do you remember doing the “colour blind” test at school? {And, for our American cousins, “color blind”}. You know, you are shown a few images made up of dots, with numbers in them.

Most of the colour blindness images are far less obvious than this

Well, most people are shown 5 or 6 images and shout out “8”, “16” etc promptly five times and are then shown out – nothing more is said. Some people cry “7”, “34”, “dunno, give me a clue” and after 10 or 12 images get told they can’t distinguish blue & green or red & brown or something and so can’t drive trains or fly fighter planes… Me? I was in there for 5 minutes, coming up with what must have been very confusing answers. They even started showing me the same images again and I remember occasionally going something like “it’s 16 not 6, isn’t it”. Eventually they told me my colour vision was fine and threw me out as a time-waster. I wonder if I can fly fighter planes?

What they should probably have spotted (and a school teacher friend of mine got quite angry about this when I told her this story, as she thought they should have spotted this even back in the late 70’s) was that I could not read for toffee – as I have mild dyslexia. She had been taught how to identify dyslexia in children and one of the easiest ways was, she said, issues with the colour blindness test but without being colour blind.

When I read things I don’t do what a lot of people do, which is kind of pick up the start and end of long words and “see” it. I do it in little spirals. I do not know that I can explain better than that, but if I hit a long word (more than six letters) I start at the begining, flick to the back of the word and work back and if the two don’t meet I spiral in. I wonder if there is a cunning lexical trick I can sell to Oracle Text on that one?

It’s no where near as bad as many, heck I’ve managed to get by OK with it, but spell checkers have been a boon to me. The problem is, I don’t always remember to use them and, even if I do, a word spelt wrongly but is itself a correct word will not be picked up. I know, many packages now also have Grammer Checkers that could pick some of it up, but I find Grammer Checkers so infuriatingly useless, I turn them off.

So, sometimes my spelling is terrible. It’s because I have an IQ of 73, OK? The thing is, I probably got pinged in every exam I took because of it {except Maths, where in all honesty I got past the exams at age 16 and then it all stopped being logical. Sorry Mr Winters, I did my best as you know, but my brain could not do all that more advanced stuff}. I even got bollocked told off during my degree for carpals and carpels but heck, to me both read crapals.

I had particular fun a few years back when I introduced Oracle Partitioning to British Gas. No one had used it before but I had a quiet little application that I was passing over to the production DBAs to look after that did. So, I went over to Hinckley (oooh, thats a doozer to spell) where all the proddy DBAs lived and gave a presentation on Partitioning. Except I was doing it with white boards and OHP and every time I spelt Partitioning I wrote “rtit”, then went back and put in the “Pa” at the start and then tried to finish it off. Usually I managed. That was what prompted the chat with the teacher, I was telling her how that sort of thing happens to me and it’s annoying and she asked about if I had ever been tested for colour blindness.

So, there you go. It’s my excuse. Now you know that either I am right, or I have munchausens syndrome {just look it up, OK? Try this here}.

The odd thing? I can’t always spell “who” but I never get “Dyslexia” wrong.

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