22 Dec 2009 A [DBA] Christmas Story
With Christmas coming this Friday I wanted to take some time and reflect upon the past year. 2009 has been quite a ride for me professionally and personally. Lots of action over the past twelve months. I wanted to take some time to reflect, recharge, and redirect where I want to go over the next twelve months.
What better way to review this past year than to grab some movie quotes? Well, I couldn’t think of a better way. And given the time of year I decided to use A Christmas Story as my muse this time around. The movie was released in 1983 (how old do you feel right now?) and I would venture to guess I have seen it in its entirety roughly one hundred times. There is a lot of comedy packed into the screen for this wonderful story. In fact, that is why the movie works so well; it is a good story, period.
Let’s get it started.
“No! No! I want an Official Red Ryder Carbine-Action Two-Hundred-Shot Range Model Air Rifle! You’ll shoot your eye out, kid.”
Of course I will start with the movie’s signature line. It has been twenty-six years since this movie was released and I think that by now almost everyone on Earth would understand the reference if you were to recite that one line.
This quote makes me think about all the times in the past twelve months that I have given advice. So many times I have had someone ask my opinion on something, then I give them my opinion (or show them a reference to a Best Practices), only to have them do something that is the complete opposite. At that point I find myself thinking “you’ll shoot your eye out” and then I get to sit back and watch them shoot their eyes out.
Of course, sometimes it hurts to watch. But not always.
“[narrating] Oh, life is like that. Sometimes, at the height of our revelries, when our joy is at its zenith, when all is most right with the world, the most unthinkable disasters descend upon us.”
This quote is perfect for the time I wrote about how thankful I was to not have to restore master only to find myself awake at 3AM restoring master. Of course there were other “disasters” spread throughout the year, not just in our shop but everywhere else as I am certain no one is immune to such events.
“What is the name of the Lone Ranger’s nephew’s horse? Ah… Victor! His name is Victor. How the hell did you know that? Everybody knows that!”
For all those times during the year that we get asked the most oddball questions, this quote seemed most fitting. How many times do you get asked something and if you don’t know the answer immediately then the follow-up question is “But aren’t you the DBA?” Most of what we do is a mystery to others. And for those that do have some idea often times their concept is slightly skewed because the definition of what a DBA does will change from one shop to another. That leads to assumptions being made about who-does-what or who-should-know-what, which leads to interesting questions.
Many times we are able to find the answers. And there are also times when we already know the answer which can lead to the occasional “how the hell did you know that?” Which shows how people are never satisfied whether we do or do not have the answers at hand.
“[narrating] Meanwhile, I struggled for exactly the right BB gun hint. It had to be firm, but subtle. Flick says he saw some grizzly bears near Pulaski’s candy store! [narrating] They looked at me as if I had lobsters crawling out of my ears.”
Have you ever found yourself trying to explain the worst-case scenario to someone in an effort to get them to see things your way? Maybe you don’t talk about the grizzly bears you saw by the coffee machine yesterday but instead say things like “no, having your data, logs, and backups all on the same physical drive is a bad thing, trust me.” Many times when you try to explain some database concepts (mem-to-leave is a good one) you can make your managers eye’s gloss over. At that point, having lobsters coming out of your ears would be something more comprehensible than whatever it is you are trying to explain.
For all the inappropriate f-bombs I have dropped over the past twelve months. Mr. Parker is not the only one that can weave a tapestry of obscenities. I do a better job these days of curtailing my poor language, but I am not perfect. Buck Woody (@buckwoody) explained to me at PASS this year about how crude such language really is and I am making a focused effort on keeping it clean so that people don’t ask me “so, how long were you in the Navy?”
When Ralphie realizes that all of his effort has resulted in nothing more than an advertisement he drops the unexpected SOB comment for a good laugh. It makes me think about the barrage of emails I get daily regarding a variety of products. Most of the times I know that they are advertisements, but every now and then I am enticed to check on one thing or another only to find out that I am being prompted to hand over some personal information in order to access a “free trial”. Hey, buddy, if it was free then I shouldn’t have to give you any information. My contact details have value to me, and that value is more than the unknown product you are trying to push. Thanks anyway, but you can keep your wonderful DB2 tuning product. Oh, and you might want to update your target market email list.
“HO… HO… HO… And what’s your name little boy? Hey, kid! HURRY UP! THE STORE’S CLOSING! Listen little boy, we have A LOT of people waiting here, so GET GOING!”
Deadlines. We all have them, and for some people their deadlines are the most urgent thing on their plate. This can lead to a similar situation as this quote; someone telling you to hurry up with a task. Chances are you are doing your best to get the task done but your customer is not as focused on your effort, they only care about the end result. I will talk about this in my upcoming book (you can check out http://dbasurvivor.com for all your pre-ordering needs).
“Fra-gee-lay. That must be Italian.”
This is for the recent influx of spam emails in different languages. The French Viagra ads are most entertaining, actually. I don’t know what list my email address is a part of these days, but apparently I am fluent in a dozen languages. Maybe I am SQL Jason Bourne?
“I can’t put my arms down! Well… put your arms down when you get to school.”
“[narrating] Getting ready to go to school was like getting ready for extended deep-sea diving.”
These two quotes work well for those times when you help someone get what they need but it is not what they want. Much like Randy, who really wants to be able to put his arms down, but it is more important for his mother to keep him warm while he walks to school. Trying to match needs and wants can be a difficult task, especially when two people disagree about the priority of the requirements. Ask Randy and he would say his requirement is to be able to put his arms down, followed by being warm. His mother has those same requirements, but they have been reversed.
How you reconcile things in your shop depends on how well you can communicate and mediate when disputes arise. Oh, and it also depends who is in charge. Probably more so than anything else.
“He looks like a deranged Easter Bunny. He does not! He does too, he looks like a pink nightmare!”
For all the times over the past year when you have found yourself in a situation and would rather be anywhere else. It could be a customer of yours that is not happy that your advice means more work on their end. Or it could be a project of yours that you have lost interest in completing and you dread having to spend more time in a futile attempt to make some piece of technology sing and dance. We all like to be in control of the events that compose our daily lives but there are always going to be times when you find yourself in that pink bunny suit and wishing you were somewhere else.
“Hey, smart ass. I asked my old man about sticking your tongue to a flagpole in the winter, and he says that it’ll freeze right to the pole, just like I told ya. Ah, baloney. What would your old man know about anything? He knows, because he once saw a guy stick his tongue to a railroad track on a bet, and the fire department had to come get the guy’s tongue off the track, because he couldn’t get it off.”
Another moment that makes this movie so memorable is the conversation and events that lead up to Flick sticking his tongue to the flagpole as a result of a triple-dog-dare. This reminds me of all the times when I have been asked a question, gotten help from the SQL community, and had that help essentially ignored because “what would those people know about SQL”? And then I get to watch someone stick their tongue to a flagpole even though I told them what would happen if they did.
“Would you look at that? Would you look at THAT?”
To all the times I get to play with, or learn about, something new in SQL Server. I always find myself amazed at just how much there is to know about the products and their feature sets. And thankfully there is a lot more to learn about as well.
This quote also serves well for having been honored as a SQL MVP this year and my election to the PASS Board of Directors. Looking back on 2009 there are a lot of moments where I would have the same reaction as the above quote.
“Was there no end to the conspiracy of irrational prejudice against Red Ryder and his peacemaker?”
For everyone who has jumped to a conclusion over the past twelve months. It can be hard to leave your prejudices behind when you are having discussions with others. You always want to rely on your experience in order to help you make sound decisions. But if your experience is “service here always sucks” then it is hard to leave that out of your decision making. We all suffer from some level of irrational prejudice from time to time. It is a hard habit to break. But if you are able to break away from it and you can enter into any discussion with the idea that you don’t have all the facts then you will start to find yourself swimming towards shore more often than just treading water.