A blog post in the classic retro style of ‘Dear Diary’. Stay tuned next week for relationship woes, football reports, psychotherapy, unexpunged details on my health, teenage angst, my current mood, the music I am listening to and why I am going to be quiet for the next 13 days.
Or, as Mark E. Smith of The Fall, once said to requests for ‘Bingo Masters Breakout’
‘Are you still doing what you did 5 years ago ?’ ‘Yeah - well don’t make a career out of it.’
Stagger downstairs for breakfast to find an early morning problem. The Virgin Media V+ box has rebooted overnight only it didn’t reboot cleanly and is stuck on the ‘Powering up’ screen. Norman Junior III and Norma Jean have already initiated a disaster recovery plan and are glued to the standby database (2nd STB).
This is a major worry as the TV must be working by 19:45 tonight otherwise I face the prospect of watching AC Milan vs MUFC in the pub with a load of ABU’s (Anyone But United). Politely ask the wife if she can call ‘150’ to try to get it sorted.
Drive to Oracle’s offices in Thames Valley Park near Reading. I have done a lot of commuting to customer sites recently but I can’t work at home today as I am too nervous. In addition, my wife is also at home and I need to get some work done (rather than mow the lawn, take a tempting lunch in a sunny beer garden or diagnose a faulty smoke alarm).
Listen to TalkSport who are dissecting last night’s game between Chelsea and Liverpool. My abiding memory of 120 minutes of tedious football is a fat Scouser holding 6 fingers up and another holding aloft a plastic European Cup.
Plastic Scousers. Plastic treble.
Power the laptop up and yesterday’s mysterious Windows warning message ‘You may have been a subject of counterfeiting’ has disappeared as miraculously as it appeared.
Sign into Oracle Instant Chat. I am making a conscious effort to use this tool more regularly and more effectively.
Check email using Thunderbird. Nothing too important. A colleague is asking for help with a Siebel query from hell that runs fast in UAT and, wait for it, slow in production. The query plan and costs are almost identical so the solution isn’t immediately obvious. Offer a couple of suggestions (check data volumes, check statistics and histograms, 10053 trace, Alert 1162).
Quick scan of RSS feeds using Google Reader. Couple of quick blog posts about ‘Leeds, Leeds, Leeds’ and contaminated curry.
Update document following a comprehensive and thorough peer review. Deliver final document to account manager. Add a couple of useful notes to TiddlyWiki: Metalink Note 391116.1 (10.2.0.3 Release Notes) and bug 5131645 (high parse times in Oracle 10.1.0.4).
Microsoft Word livens the morning up by crashing as I click ‘Save’ for the last time. I am not sure what the question is but I am convinced Microsoft Word is not the answer. I loathe the program with a vengeance.
During the Siebel takeover, rumours were rife that Oracle do not use any Microsoft products at all. This was supposedly because Larry Ellison steadfastly refused to pay Bill Gates a single cent in license revenues.
Guess what - this didn’t prove to be the case. Most desktops and laptops at Oracle run Windows XP preloaded with Microsoft Office. However, Oracle do use open standards so employees are free to use the email client of their choice. Oracle also provide software (Oracle Connector) to provide an email interface from Microsoft Outlook to accommodate the sales and marketing department.
Update a second document. This is a much shorter document (site visit report) with thankfully fewer comments and corrections.
Book flights to Oslo using the online travel system for next two weeks. I get an ‘Exception Report’ because I booked a slightly more expensive direct flight rather than going via Amsterdam and arriving 3 hours later.
I am going to Norway on a ‘deep dive’ but I have subsequently learned this is a technical training exercise run by, err, me to provide knowledge transfer and actually perform some real-life data migration with a Siebel integrator rather than scuba diving. I have visited this customer before and they specifically asked for me to return which was a welcome compliment.
Return the favour by reviewing a colleague’s document (yes I do read and write a lot of words in my job). He scratches my back and I scratch his even though it is a little hairy for my taste.
It is now 11:40 and I suddenly realise I have forgotten to turn my mobile phone on. 2 messages. The first is a scary, schizophrenic, psychotic madman saying in a dull, menacing monotone ‘Get some bloody work done’. This unsettles me so much I think it is a Leeds fan, my manager or a disgruntled Web 2.0 ‘A’ lister and I immediately consider turning the phone off again.
I also have two text messages and a voicemail from my lovely wife, Norma. ‘TV not working. Phone now broken. InterWeb down. Virgin man coming. Call me’. This is serious - a complete and catastrophic loss of digital services. On the night of the European Cup semi-final.
Then I remember. The phone line was very crackly last night so the ‘Get some work done’ message was a test message from myself to myself. Phew. I am not being stalked after all.
Resume document review.
Interrupted by a call from Frank, the Virgin Media engineer. He is initially puzzled by my professional business-like greeting: ‘Norman Brightside - Oracle Expert Services. How may I help you grow your business ?’
Frank is in his white van, en route to my house and calls me to clarify which services are working. He wondered if all services are down and whether some idiot had been doing some overzealous gardening and simply severed the cable.
I tell him that I am at work but my wife is at home and she reports that the second TV is still working. I inform him that the last time I did any gardening was September 1991 but I do possess an axe.
Once again, I stress the importance of the main TV being functional by 19:45 for the most important match of the season. He roars with laughter and replies he is a very happy Liverpudlian and understands the importance of the task. I gently enquire whether his tools are made of plastic. He roars with laughter and holds 6 fingers up (which I can’t see).
I work in building 550 alongside a group called ‘License Renewals’ who just do what it says on the tin. The people working here probably bring more revenue into the company during a single telephone call than I do in a calendar year.
Then I call the wife and tell her to prepare the metal shackles and heavy chains. I suggest that she deflates the tyres on Frank’s van while claiming to be making him a lovely cup of coffee.
Back to the document review. This is a very detailed review about tuning Siebel data loads on Oracle 10g. A excellent, comprehensive document packed with technical information and useful strategies. Make a mental note to plagiarise most of this material and claim the credit for myself.
Norma calls again. Frank has fixed the V+ box already. This is absolutely amazing customer service. What on earth is going on at Virgin Media ? A engineer onsite within 2 hours of the call and he has already fixed the first problem.
Frank has also noted some error codes on the diagnostics screen and offers to replace the V+ box. Before he does so, he wants to ensure I am happy to re-enter my ‘Planned Recordings’ which will be lost. I tell him to swap the box and I will reluctantly re-program ‘Relocation, Relocation, Relocation’, ‘American Idol’ and ‘Dragon’s Den’.
Skip lunch in favour of water as I have 4 stone of blubber to sustain myself.
Stop procrastinating and embark on 4 weeks worth of expenses. A tedious, unbelievably time-consuming but necessary task involving lots of receipts, paper jams, printing, sellotape, envelopes and photocopying.
Courtesy call to customer I am visiting tomorrow (LoadRunner performance testing which is normally great fun).
Wife calls. Our hero, Frank, has now resolved the issue with the telephone line. Apparently, water had damaged one set of cables so he has re-routed to use the second set. The root cause remains unknown. Frank suspects the ongoing building work outside which seems a likely candidate although, confusingly, he agrees the builders have not interfered with the cables from the road to the house.
Finally prepare to leave office. Need to allow extra contingency of 3 hours to allow for traffic delays, earthquakes, road rage attacks, acts of God, or M3 lane closures that could prevent me getting back to my armchair before 19:45.
Everything was just going too well. Inevitably, fate suddenly dealt me a cruel and unexpected card. I was thwarted by a schoolboy error. In my rush, I foolishly fed a hotel bill together with a stapled credit card receipt into the office photocopier. The inevitable paper jam (Lift tray 3, turn green knob, release paper jam) meant lengthy and serious internal surgery. By the time, I finally extracted the bill, it was in 73 separate pieces. So was the photocopier. So was I.
I called the delightful Malmaison hotel in Oxford to ask for a copy of my bill. Thankfully, for once, technology came to my rescue. The kind lady faxed the bill directly to my office extension and it miraculously appeared in my Inbox as a TIF attachment. I noted that the Malmaison bill is headed ‘DAMAGE’. Pretentious, moi ?
Conference call with customer about clustering and high availability options for Siebel.
Finally, the expenses are submitted, the ToDo list and the Inbox are both empty and I am free to go home. I pick up my complimentary copy of Oracle Scene on the way out. Yet another perk of working for Oracle. At least, I hope it’s complimentary.
With no more distractions, the nerves, the tension, the excitement and the sense of anticipation slowly continue to build.