Sep 25: Singapore
Now, *this* is a post I should have written ages ago but somehow (as in most cases these days) Twitter overtook blogging because it is so much easier to write a bunch of tweets on a mobile device of some kind when living normal life than to sit down and write a blog post.
By now, most people I know know that I've moved to Singapore because I've either bombarded them with face-to-face chat leading up to the move, or they've similarly but asynchronously been bombarded by my 140-character diarrhea on Twitter. (If you care about that, I'm trying to do it from @DouglasIBurns.) But, to spare friends who have not had the joys of either experience who I might be seeing for the first time in a while at Openworld, here are a few facts that might make conversations a little less painful ....
- I now live and work in Singapore.
- It's my first job as an employee of a company other than my own for around 22 years. Those who know me well will understand that this fact is the most surprising and scary of all!
- Singapore is fantastic and don't believe a large majority of what you read about it on the Internet. There's usually some truth in there but it's exaggerated, both positively and negatively. If you're expecting some kind of pristine, well-oiled, boring Utopia, then you've got the wrong place. There are definitely elements of that, but I've been smoking my little head off whilst having a relatively cheap cold Tiger beer in less-than-salubrious surroundings. It might be slick and sterile by Asian standards, but it's lively and real enough for me.
- I have DBA privileges back for the first time in a long time and I'm enjoying that immensely. A senior role that gives me scope to actually *do stuff* is more than fine by me!
- I think our original intention in moving was to give it a try for the minimum 1 year that would be required, but probably 2. However, I keep running into people who thought the same and are here 4, 6 or 8 years later. I can understand why.
- Little known fact: I moved to Singapore when I was around 9 months old because my dad was posted here by the Royal Air Force, just as Singapore was becoming an independent country, and left when I was almost 4. So I grew up in Singapore, but remember nothing about it. However, my older family adored it and they're all looking forward to coming back to visit. I still haven't visited our old home yet. I wonder if it will provoke any memories? As my eldest sister pointed out, I celebrated my first birthday in Singapore and (hopefully) I'll celebrate my 50th one here too.
- Despite the move requiring a lot of effort, I feel re-energised by the place and so hopefully I can get back to more blogging again, particularly as I've had 3 months of interesting issues to contend with, although there will be limits on what I can blog about unless I can reproduce some non-specific test cases
- I am *so* pleased that Morten Egan decided to come here too. He's not only a stellar worker, but a pretty top human being too and it's good to have someone around with similar humour and sensibilities. We'll conquer the world together! (actually, that last bit may be a joke)
It's safe to say that it was a great decision to move and thanks to @madsjt and @RCT_Enterprises for taking it on with me! Other than that, no more Singapore chat here. Follow this Twitter account if you care.
Sep 25: OOW 2014: Beginnings
Disclosure: I'm attending Openworld at the invitation of the OTN ACE Director program who are paying for my flights, hotel and conference fee. My employer has helpfully let me attend on work time, as well as sending other team mates because they recognise the educational value of attending. Despite that, all of the opinions expressed in these posts are, as usual, all my own.
As I'm completely free of any presentation responsibilities this year, I thought I might try a little blogging again and see how I get on. I'm loving my new Lenovo Yoga 2 Pro, which reminds me of a modernised, lighter version of my old Sony (the red one, rather than the monstrosity that I replaced it with) which is much easier to carry around and work with. As I said, I'll see how I get on.
The most obvious difference from a personal perspective this year is that I'm now a full-time employee of a company in Singapore (more on that in a separate post), which means a few changes :-
- A much longer trip out to San Francisco. It's not quite Australian lengths (kudos to all my Aussie mates for doing this time after time) but 24 hours or so door-to-door is still a little more challenging than my usual trip. I really can't complain much, though. The date-line thing and West-East jet lag on the way here is different, but the flights were fine, particularly after Cathay Pacific bumped me up to PE. (Thanks!) I feel great, to be honest, as a few people have noticed. Singapore is definitely good for me.
- I'm being paid while I'm here! Any independent consultant/contractor will know what a huge difference this is making to me, not having to take time off paid work. On the flip-side, I do need to pay a little more attention to presentations that are relevant to my employer. I've also started being invited to more of those jolly events that *real customers* are invited to. It's a bit difficult having to explain to the local sales guys that my dance card at OOW is already rammed as it is, so I'll probably need to at least show face at a couple of them.
The tail-end of the trip - arriving in the USA - was the most painful part as seasoned visitors will be unsurprised to hear which meant that I was up until around 2:30 local time and with having to tie up some loose ends for the office, it's kind of ruined the first day of the ACE D briefing for me. I've still had time for coffees and chat around the Oracle offices though and it's been great to see so many old friends faces again.
Feeding off how refreshed I feel compared to when I'm usually here and the lack of frantic slide-polishing, I'm looking forward to a great conference!
(Man, I *love* this laptop ...)
It's fair to declare up front that the author of this book, Martin Bach, is one of my best friends in the Oracle community (even though I haven't known him for that long really) and someone who I truly respect for all sorts of reasons, both professionally and personally. One of the personality traits I think we share is that, if we thought something was truly awful, we might not call it out as such but we would certainly raise an eyebrow, chuckle internally and then have a private conversation later about just how awful it was!
So if this book was awful, I would probably just pretend that I hadn't read it and certainly wouldn't be writing about it! He *might* remain a friend but I might have to look for new friends who didn't write awful books (I wouldn't tell him that, of course!)
Fortunately, it is far from awful.
Although Martin has previously written great content on the second edition of the RAC book (in fact I think one of our earliest contacts was a quick informal review of the ASM chapter) this really reads like *his* book and his voice runs straight through the middle (and sides) of it, particularly in the the earlier chapters - 1, 3 and 4. Maybe I should actually talk about what I mean by that and what the book is like instead of sucking up to Martin for a moment?
- It reflects what is truly going on in the day-to-day world of Enterprise Database Computing. Which is to say that it reflects business realities of cost savings, increased consolidation and balancing technical possibilities with practical realities. This is important. I remember when I first started out in IT, I think I was technically good, understood computing subjects and could pick up new ones pretty quickly, helped by my prior career as an assembly language developer and yet I didn't have the first idea of what happened in the IT departments of the big companies because I'd never worked in one. It was very frustrating and took me a long time and a bit of luck to get the right job and learn it as I went. If you've never worked in a big bank, for example, Martin explains what is actually going on in those banks right now because he's been there, seen it and done it. (Or at least attempted to do it whilst fighting the usual internal bureaucracy!) If I'd had this book at the start of my career, I would have understood what banks were looking for and the language they were speaking!
- It's current. Although this won't remain true for some sections of the book (things change so fast in Oracle-land), the coverage of 12c is likely to ensure that in practical terms, it will be several years before even the majority of the technical material is out of date, regardless of what Oracle Corp might announce at the next Openworld conference! Enterprises do move forward constantly to maintain continued support (even when they have current versions that just work), but they don't tend to wrap themselves up in new versions of Oracle for a good couple of years.
- It's accomplished and knowledgable without being smug or arrogant. This is a really important part of any book for me and one that I rarely find in the right balance. I want to read books by those who truly know and understand the subject matter, so I'm likely to gravitate towards books written by experts, but the purpose of the book should be to educate me and not to show off the authors knowledge as some precious gift from a far-flung planet! I wrote about this many years ago and the mere tone of some technical books is enough to make me stop reading. Martin doesn't tell you things because he's clever and you're not. He tells you them to help you do your job and to make your life easier by not having to go through the same pains that he probably did at first. But that doesn't mean the book is fluffy and lightweight either!
- As most authors will tell you, the quality of any technical book is largely dependent on the technical reviewer(s) because it's very difficult to spot one's own mistakes at times and I think that any treatment of technical matters benefits from a second opinion. Frits Hoogland might also be a friend but I also know he has the eye for detail and commitment to technical accuracy a book like this demands. I don't think he had much work to do on the descriptive passages (I happen to recognise Martin's stellar command of the English language and style) but I bet he pulled him up on the odd mistake or two
As seems increasingly the way with anything I write purporting to be a book review, I don't seem to have mentioned much about what is in the book and what it will teach you, but I suppose it's not exactly difficult for you to check those things yourself. When someone writes a book that I enjoyed reading and found myself nodding my head to as much as this one, I think it's worth my time nudging people in the right direction but letting them decide for themselves if it's the right book for them. Recommended, though!
P.S. I should also point out that I have not worked through the examples in the book because I'm in the process of changing my home setup but, when I do, this is the book I'll be turning to as I work my way through 12c installations.
Aug 17: UKOUG 2014 Elections
Although not an active member or supporter of UKOUG any more (at least partly because I'm based in Singapore!), I've had a pretty long association with the user group and a lot of my friends have been involved over the years, so I still take an interest in what's going on there. Even more so this time, because I know two of the candidates pretty well.
Carl Dudley needs no introduction to anyone who has been remotely close to the UK or European OUG scene down the years and is an old mate who has put in a world of time to UKOUG over the years and, as a techie, has always tried to ensure that it remains relevant to all areas of the membership.
Pauline Drummond, on the other hand, will be largely unknown to most of the OUG community as I think she's only been attending events over the past few years. (I maybe be wrong about that as my memory isn't what it was for some reason ) I know Pauline pretty well, though, as she was a manager at Standard Life when I worked there on contracts for several years before moving down to London, including being my direct manager for the last contract there. President Elect seems a pretty senior role within UKOUG but if Pauline applies the same boundless energy and enthusiasm that she always did in the office then I can see her being great at it. She makes me tired just thinking about all of the volunteering and organisation and sport and work stuff she gets through and is very dedicated and focussed to working with others to get things done, which strikes me as just what you need from a president of a user group.
For a change it's not one of my techie mates I'm suggesting would be good for the role of President because it is a role that needs to respect and appeal to the entire membership and the other entities that UKOUG has to deal with, not least Oracle, so you need someone with a broad corporate view. Pauline is an appropriate choice in this case, although I can't help hoping that she doesn't antagonise potential conference presenters as UKOUG seems to have done over recent times!
Regardless, I always hope for the best for UKOUG and my various mates who put a power of work into their volunteering and presenting roles, so hopefully some new voices will be a step in the right direction ....