Mike Ault's thoughts on various topics, Oracle related and not. Note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are not contributing to the overall theme of the BLOG or are insulting or demeaning to anyone. The posts on this blog are provided “as is” with no warranties and confer no rights. The opinions expressed on this site are mine and mine alone, and do not necessarily represent those of my employer.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Diving a Backplate and Wing with Double Tanks

By Mike Ault, Copyright 2006

If you have been following my material on scuba diving you know I have been writing about diving, diving dry suits and diving back inflate BCDs (buoyancy compensation device) a natural follow-on is diving what are known as backplate with wing type BCDs and the configuration of tanks, regulators and hoses known as the DIR (Doing It Right) configuration. The main purpose of double tanks is to extend the amount of time one can remain underwater and to provide for redundancies in your air supply.

In normal configuration for an open water certified diver the diver has a single air tank, a primary and backup regulator (known as an “Octo” or “Octopus”) a gauge console, usually including a submersible pressure gauge (SPG), a air pressure gage, a compass and in advanced configurations, a dive computer. The dive computer may or may not be air-integrated, which means it is able to sense and record changes in your air tank volume. The normal configuration may also include one or more low pressure inflator hoses; one for your BCD and one for a dry suit. In a DIR configuration using double tanks, the tanks are connected through a three-valve manifold assembly with a right and left tank isolator valves (called the right and left posts) and a cross connect valve. This configuration utilizes two-primary regulator stages with the various hoses logically configured across the two primaries.

Usually the right hand tank valve has the main primary regulator attached, the main primary has the primary-secondary stage (the one you breath through, normally called the primary) and the fill line for the wing. On the left tank valve (or “post” you attach the secondary-primary regulator you attach the backup secondary regulator (taking the place of the octopus) however now it is simply called the backup. On this left hand regulator you also have (in a “pure” configuration) a single, small SPG (usually what is known as a brass and glass SPG) and the fill line for your dry suit, if needed, since actually in a “pure” setup you would have a small bottle of compressed argon with its own regulator that would fill your dry suit.

Let me explain about this backplate and wing I keep talking about. The backplate is just what its name implies, an aluminum or stainless steel (I guess there may some titanium ones out there, but I haven’t seen any) plate that is specially drilled and milled to hold a single continuous length of nylon webbing that forms the shoulder straps and waist belt. This continuous piece of nylon webbing makes for a simple, easy to maintain, method of wearing the backplate for a diver. Being a continuous piece of webbing this eliminates points of failure present in standard BCDs. There is usually a second strap, called the crotch strap, coming off of the bottom of the backplate. The crotch strap prevents the backplate from riding up and provides a point of attachment for a pull line from a scooter, relieving your arms from having to provide not only steering control but a grip on the scooter itself.

A wing is a flotation bladder with an inflation hose (called a “corrugated hose”) and usually a dump valve (on the back side of the one pictured below.) The buoyancy bladder is encased in a protective covering usually of a rugged nylon fabric. Some wings, Like the Oxycheq Signature 50 pound, have a double layer of fabric for added protection of the inner bladder.

The metal backplate provides a rigid mounting point for either a single tank or a set of doubles. When a single tank is utilized it is more stable to use a special metal bracket called a single tank adapter or STA. STAs are usually made from the same metal as the backplate to reduce the possibility of galvanic corrosion, likewise the attachment posts or bolts should be of the same material, either aluminum or stainless steel.

As its name implies a set of doubles consists of two air tanks connected through a manifold assembly and rigidly mounted to each other through a set of stainless steel tank bands. The tank bands have the attachment fasteners (bolts) that attach the tanks to the backplate and are usually mounted on the tanks with 11 inch centers to allow mounting to the standard backplate.. Using an STA when using a single tank allows for rapid conversion between diving a single tank and diving a set of doubles as it only requires removing two wing or butterfly nuts and swapping out the doubles for a single tank mounted to an STA.

One major difference between a backplate and wing assembly and a BCD is that many modern BCDs have built-in or “integrated” weight pockets, some fixed, some removable, while, generally speaking, backplates with wings do not. This lack of weight pockets requires either mounting weight pouches on your tanks or your harness, wearing a weight belt, or, utilizing a weight harness. Most advanced divers seem to prefer the weight harness over the other options usually with placement of “trim” weights either on the tank or harness straps. Below is a picture of the DUI weight harness I use. The DUI harness has threaded weight packets (see the yellow handles?) you simply pull the yellow handles and it unthreads a heavy nylon cord that holds the pouch in place allowing dropping the weight pouches if needed. The use of the harness removes the weight pouches from the BP/W or tanks unless trim weights are needed.

I purchased a stainless steel backplate from Kraken Forge (a custom backplate provider) and using the DIR guidelines from http://www.gue.com/Projects/WKPP/Equipment/index.html, configured my webbing, buckles and D-rings as specified. I then had my local dive shop (LDS), Sea Sports Scuba, http://www.seasports.com/, configure a set of dual 80 cubic foot air bottles with a DiveRite 300 bar manifold. A bar is a single unit of pressure equivalent to the pressure of the air at sea level (not exactly, but close enough) therefore a 300 bar manifold can withstand internal pressures of 300 times that of the air at sea level ( 4350 PSI, your car tire has about 35 PSI.) I also had them O2 clean and certify the tanks and manifolds so I can utilize Nitrox (air with increased levels of Oxygen.)

I also purchased an Oxycheq 50 pound lift wing and a DiveRite TrekWing 35 pound lift wing with an aluminum backplate. To provide single tank use capability I purchased both a aluminum and a stainless steel STA. Once I had all of the required components, I had the LDS assemble the stainless steel backplate, the Oxycheq wing and the set of doubles. I assembled the aluminum backplate with the DiveRite TrekWing wing and aluminum STA for use with single tanks.

Meanwhile I purchased two Oceanic Alpha 8 PX3 Piston Regulators, a seven foot hose for my primary and a set of inflator hoses and a Sherwood Compact Navigational 3 Gauge Console with Compass from http://www.leisurepro.com/. I realize that a three gauge console with a SPG, depth gauge and compass is not true DIR but I like it simple and having the three in one place makes it easier for me. I then configured the dual regulators as shown on the GUE website.

So, what does it feel like to dive this contraption? Now as you can imagine, dual tanks, a manifold, and a stainless steel backplate are all heavy, to the tune of around 100 pounds with the tanks fully loaded with air. Add to that the needed lead weights to ensure you are neutrally buoyant if you breathed the tanks down to 500 pounds of pressure (where they become positively buoyant) and to offset the possible positive buoyancy of the wet or dry suit you are using for thermal protection, in my case an additional 14 pounds of lead. So all told, about 114 pounds of equipment not counting the weight of the exposure suit, fins, mask, gloves, hood and other paraphernalia. All told, diving a dry suit with a backplate and wing using double aluminum 80 tanks, a diver probably weighs at least 120 pounds more than their normal weight when out of the water.

Lifting the backplate and wing with the doubles from the ground up to your back could result in a hernia, it is much simpler to don it from the back of a SUV or pickup truck tailgate. Once it is in place, and the straps of the webbing are properly adjusted, it actually is not difficult to walk around with, as long as you aren’t climbing stairs or navigating difficult terrain.

Once you get in the water, you must inject some air into your wing to provide flotation, usually you carry your fins and then lay back in waist deep water to put them on, if you don’t inject some air into your wing you could get pulled under by the heavy gear, this nearly happened to me when I lost my balance. Once you are in the water the weight of the equipment becomes negligible due to the buoyancy of the air tanks (a Catalina aluminum 80 is listed at 31.6 pounds with 4.1 pounds positive buoyancy empty. So its real weight is 35.7 pounds, however in water the apparent weight will be about 2 pounds for each tank when full.)

Once I got my buoyancy nearly sorted out (I started out nearly 12 pounds over-weighted at 26 pounds of lead additional weight) the actual diving with the backplate and wing was comfortable and easy. Of course viewing me underwater when I was over weighted you would have thought I was a rototiller. I also had some issues with hose creep with some of the hoses, but as I learn to position them better and clip some of them to the harness assembly that will be reduced. There have been comments about the 7 foot primary being difficult to deal with, I found no such issues when I rigged it as suggested (down the back, under the right arm, across the chest, around the back of the neck to the mouth). The secondary has a bungee necklace attached that is used to hang it directly below your chin so it is available immediately for use. In this configuration you donate the 7 foot primary hose to a dive buddy who has an out-of-air (OOA) situation and then breath off the backup yourself.

The original idea behind the 7 foot hose on the primary is that in situations where there may be restrictions, such as in a cave or wreck dive, you would not be able to share air with an OOA buddy if you were tandem with a short hose. A long hose used in an OOA allows for two divers to swim in tandem formation (one in front of the other.) If the diver never does cave or wreck a 5 foot hose on the primary should be sufficient.

Another question asked usually goes something like “In my open water class we were taught to give the octopus (backup regulator) to an OOA diver, why do you give the primary?” The answer to this is simple, many times an OOA diver will be near panic, he or she will grab your primary as it is usually the most readily visible air source. It is also easy to just take the primary and pass it properly oriented and you know it works, so it just makes sense to pass the primary, dip and grab the backup that is bungeed around your neck and resolve the OOA divers problem, then assist him or her to exit the water.

Once the buoyancy weighting is determined and proper trim weights (if needed) are mounted, diving a backplate and wing is just as comfortable, if not more, than a vest or back inflate BCD. In fact I am finding it takes less weight to get me neutral with the backplate and wing with doubles (about 14 pounds) than it did diving a back inflate BCD with a single tank (18 pounds) while offering more freedom of movement and more secure tank mounting.

So the main downside to the BP/W with doubles is that it is more bulky and heavy on land. With proper planning you can overcome the cumbersome nature of the BP/W with doubles and once you are in the water will really enjoy this configuration.

It should be stressed that before you use a set of doubles with a manifold that you be properly trained in the manipulation of the three valves in emergencies such as a free flowing primary or backup, rupture disk rupture, or ruptured hose. These “valve drills” as they are called usually involve switching to the backup regulator (if the primary was the one that failed) then isolating the free flowing hose or tank by use of the tank valve and isolator valve (the one in the middle). Reaching the valves in a dry suit or thick wetsuit can be tough and you should practice stretching exercises to ensure you are limber enough to reach them.
For the compete article with photos go to:
Merry Christmas and Happy New Years! Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Personal Responsibility

Mike Ault, Copyright 2006 (Edited on 11/21/2006 to add a seventh item to list, thanks Robert!)

Since taking up scuba diving as a hobby I pay a lot of attention to diving accidents and near misses, always striving to improve my dive skills so I don’t become a statistic. Many of these accidents begin with typical behavior I would expect from teenagers; dares, trying to do things beyond your skill level, just doing dumb things. The scuba accidents that happen because of equipment failure are few and far between and can usually be traced back to improper maintenance or knowledge of operation. Of course accidents caused by health issues also occur, but that is beyond the scope of this blog.

In many of the follow up posts abut these accidents and incidents people are quick to jump on the instructors, dive masters and other professionals, blaming them for the people who are with them’s mistakes. Many folks seem to believe that unless someone tells you don’t do something stupid, they are responsible for you doing something stupid. Many times it seems our whole tort system is based on that premise.

For those not familiar with the Scuba certification process, the process involves classroom, self study and practical factors. All of the certification agencies provide training materials that are a part of this certification process. There are also many third-party books available for diving.

Let’s examine two divers:

Diver A:

Took a quick Resort Dive cert, decided he loved it. Upon getting home from vacation Diver A enrolled in a full certification class, went to the local library and bookstore and picked up several diving instructional books. Diver A read all that he could and visited many online sources to find out everything he could before class. Diver A read all of the manual, answered all of the questions and participated in class as much as possible.

During the water certification phase Diver A practiced as much as possible and asked questions, even dumb ones.

Diver B:

Took a quick Resort Dive cert, decided he loved it. Upon getting home from vacation Diver B enrolled in a full certification class. Being a very busy person diver B didn’t have time to read the materials or do the questions, he got his answers from folks he knew had taken the class before. Diver B did the minimum needed to get certified. Knowing that questions only delayed the class, he didn’t ask any questions and often made others in the class feel stupid for asking them.

During the water certification phase Diver B did the minimum required, never feeling totally comfortable during the sessions but figured he could pick it up later.

Ok, which diver would you want as a buddy?

Diver A takes responsibility for his actions and his life, he posts his mistakes to his favorite scuba board and asks for criticisms so he can improve. On dives he does his best to be self-reliant and watch out for his buddies. He carefully monitors his air and depth and pays attention to his dive computer. If the dive starts feeling wrong, he aborts it.

Diver B is rude and arrogant hiding his lack of knowledge by being condescending and belittling those around him. In the water Diver B has poor buoyancy control, sucks down air like he has an unlimited supply and expects everyone to help him. He never checks his air pressure or depth figuring that the dive master will take care of that. Diver B depends on the DM for making sure he doesn’t exceed limits, doesn’t have a dive computer and barely remembers where he put the recreational dive planner charts, let alone how to use them.

Which diver do you think will immediately think of suing someone if they get bent or have an accident? We all need to take responsibility for ourselves and our actions. I would say more than half of the problems facing the USA, and the World, today are because we don’t practice self-responsibility. It is always some one else’s fault.

Students don’t learn, we blame the teachers, kids misbehave, we blame video games. No one wants to say Johnny can’t read because Johnny didn’t apply himself to learning to read. Sure, children learn from their parents, however, after a certain age, they have to take responsibility for their actions. We spend too much time finding others to blame for our problems when the person we need to point the finger at is right in the mirror in front of us.

So, what do I believe needs to be taught? These seven basic values:

1. Everyone cannot be a winner
2. Win and lose gracefully
3. Nobody owes you anything
4. Accept criticism
5. Take responsibility for your actions
6. Treat others like you want to be treated, even when they don’t
7. Life isn't fair, don't expect it to be

If these seven things were taught to everyone at an early age more than half of the problems in our society would disappear. The only way to build true character is through both winning and losing. We seem to concentrate on nobody ever having to face defeat, we mustn’t harm Johnny’s self-esteem. Some of my most valuable lessons came from my defeats, not my victories. We have games where no one is allowed to win and everyone gets a trophy, we have to promote students who don’t earn it and we reward benefits to those who have never worked to earn them. And we wonder why society is going to hell in a hand basket? You can’t give someone self-esteem, it has to be earned from both winning and losing and dealing with both.

An old saw says that when you point at someone else, there are three fingers pointing back at you. You have to take responsibility for whatever you do. You are responsible for your life, your learning and your safety, no one else.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Ebay Comments

I do a lot of buying and some selling on Ebay. One facet of Ebay is the comments section where you can enter a comment and rating for a buyer or seller with whom you have had a transaction.

About a month ago I bought some hard drives for my Nexstor 18fc array from an Ebay seller. According to his listing these were Seagate model ST118202FC hard drives. The SAN array I use for my real work (believe it or not I do have a real job) uses this model of drive and I needed to increase my storage space (well, actually I wanted to increase my input/output rate and the increase in storage space is a side-effect.) I found a companion drive to the ones currently in the array (I thought) so I put in my bid, got the drive for a very good price and when I received it, it installed just fine in my array and spun up with green lights across the control panel.

So from the previous paragraph it would seem all was right with the world correct? Well, then I tried to access the drive to format it and make it useful for the system. I am afraid the drive would not respond to any of the low level format or high level commands I issued. I looked carefully at the startup file log, sure enough, was a ST118202FC hard drive, but wait, there was a CLAR18 following the designation. What this means was that the firmware for the drive was modified by a SAN provider (in this case I believe EMC) to be specific for a particular SAN, in this case a CLARIION system. No biggie I thought to myself, I’ll just reburn the firmware, well, you can’t do that with EMC firmware unless you go to another version of EMC firmware, which kind of defeated the purpose for me. Here is how the listing described the drive:

You are bidding on a Seagate Cheetah 18.2GB Fibre Channel 10,000 RPM Hard Drive with a Dell Tray.
Seagate Model #: Cheetah / ST118202FC
Technical Features:

External Data transfer Rate: 100MBps
Seek Time: 6 ms
Average Latency: 3ms
Buffer Size : 1MB
Interface: Fibre Channel

Happy Bidding!

Manufacturer: SEAGATE
Model: ST118202FC

As you can see, no mention of the CLAR18 designation that would be critical to determine compatibility.

Ok, obviously these EMC drives were not going to work for my Nexstor array.

On their shipping receipt they put:

“If, for any reason, you are unsatisfied with your purchase, please contact me at ebaysales@threesalegroup.com with your order number 12551 and the reason for your dissatisfaction. I will make all reasonable efforts to resolve the issue.”

I emailed the representative from the company I purchased them from, explained the situation and asked to return the drive. Here is the email trail:

Subject: eBay Item #170024231254
This disk appears to be a pull from an EMC Clariion or related architecture. Unfortunately that means that it has EMC proprietary microcode burned into its firmware rendering it useless in anything but another array of a similar type. It identifies itself as ST118202 CLAR18 on spin up and won't allow format commands or partitioning commands (reports its size as zero) afraid this is just so much spinning rust and DOA as far as I am concerned. If you don't have something that you know can be accessed by normal arrays then I will return it for my money back. Thanks.

Their Customer Service wrote:
This item only has a DOA warranty. The auction states: This item is represented as accurately as possible; we do not guarantee compatibility please check your part numbers.

(Right, like deliberately leaving off the CLAR18)

To which I responded:
You did not provide the complete part number, the other drives in the array have the same part number except that they do not have the CLAR18 add on which indicates yours were pulled from a Clarion array and which you left off of the description. Had I known the full part number (which I assumed you had provided) I wouldn't have bought them. You did not provide accurate information.

Their Customer Service wrote:
Why didn't you ask? That is what the terms tell you in the auction that you should do. It also states that you should not assume anything.

(So I assume I would need to have a complete list of all incompatible possible microcodes and SANs and call them with a detailed question about this…like their order taker on the other end would know…)

To Which I responded:
You know what? Forget it, I'll just note this in my feedback on Ebay and then resell it, properly labeled and probably get more for it than you did. Thanks for nada.

Their Customer Service wrote:
No problem, just remember that the feedback goes both ways. Thanks...

So, basically I was told that I should have foreseen that the drive might have had its firmware overwritten by a vendor and I should have asked before I bought it. I explained there was no way of knowing this without seeing the full model number (which they hadn’t provided) which required me to install the drives before I could see the serial numbers. Essentially I was told to pack sand and they wouldn’t take the drives back or refund my money.

Being a man of my word I entered the following comment for them on Ebay:

“Was not satisfied, didn't give complete description of item, would not take back”

And here is how they responded:


Extortion? Asking them to stand by their product or I would tell people they didn’t, extortion? A bit of an over reaction I felt. Who was extorting who? Oh, and what was the transaction final amount?


This company, Three Sale Group LTD, I will never have dealings with again, nor will I recommend them.

I also purchased 6 additional drives from a second source on Ebay, unfortunately they also were CLAR18, which also wasn’t indicated in the description, but, when I pointed that out, they handled it as a DOA and fully refunded my money, this company, Online Data Solutions, Inc., I will recommend to others and will use again in a heartbeat.

However, this all has a happy ending, I found 18-72 gb drives for my array on Ebay from Morgen Industries, Inc., they were professional, courteous and knowledgeable and I would buy from them in a heartbeat and recommend them to others.

So remember, Caveat Emptor and ask every possible question you can think of from Ebay sellers unless their description of the object being bought is detailed and precise.

Anyone need some Clariion compatible 18 gb drives? Cheap! I also have some 18 gb Nexstor comaptible drives and a complete Nexstor 8s array....if anyone is interested

Friday, November 10, 2006

The Housing Market

Mike Ault, copyright 2006

I read how the home market is imploding, the bubble has burst, home prices have peaked. It seems to me the home industry really shot themselves in the foot. Have you looked at what they call a home these days? There was a time when a home meant a yard, a garage you could park in (maybe twice) and enough room to move around a bit once you got inside. It wasn’t a re-labeled apartment, it wasn’t within arms length of its neighbor and prices made sense.

Call them town homes, condo’s or whatever else, they are still apartments. You can still hear the person beside you, under you or over you. In these re-labeled apartments you can’t run a router in your living room if you want or knock out a wall and add a room. Yet at least here in Atlanta they want to charge you for the privilege of living in these ant farms at the same rate as if you where in a real house. Less than a mile from my house (on a corner lot, about a quarter acre, two and half car garage and 2700 square foot of space) they want to charge you the same price as for my house for an apartment.

Even when they build a house they now all build them what I call “California” style, seven to an acre. One right up next to another the 300K houses line up all in a row. Again, if I wanted to be that close to my neighbor I would invite them to live with me.

It seems here they prepare the land by raping it down to the bare soil, planting a few small trees and running sod over the exposed red clay (the sold all the top soil when they cleared the land.) I guess I am old fashioned, I like a tree to be a tree before I am ready to retire, not long afterwards.

I guess what I am trying to say with all the above is that if they were really giving people what they wanted, then they probably wouldn’t have had a bubble, but a nice steady growth. People are waking up to the fact that they are spending more and getting less. The builders will need to get smart and go back to what really makes a house a home.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

On Becoming a Grandfather

At the tender age of 50 I have become a Grandfather. After a diligent effort of several years my youngest daughter and her husband have given birth to a wonder known as a Grandson. Michael Caleb Bojczuk took his first breath on 29 October, 2006 and came into the world at 7 pounds 6 oz. and was 20 inches long.

Mikie (as he will be called I am told) is coming into a world full of both great conflict and great hope. In many parts of the world deliberate ignorance and intolerance are causing untold strife, ecological ruin and untold suffering. Yet with all of this there is still great hope for mankind. We have more, greater scientists and doctors alive today than we have ever had in all of history.

In the next few years more inventions and progress will be made than in any previous equivalent time frame in history. We are solving medical problems, finding alternative energy sources, finding new ways to grow and distribute food. Remember that the problem with starvation in the world today is not one of food production, it is one of food distribution. We have decoded the human genome and seen to the end of the universe as well as glimpsed its beginnings.

It is sad that a few (in the entire count of humans on the planet) people are causing so much trouble in the World. The majority of us just want to be left alone to raise our families, worship as we see fit and just enjoy this great gift called life. As I look down on the sleeping face of my Grandson I see the future. I prefer the future where men treat others as equals regardless of skin or belief. I prefer a future where a person is judged by who they are and what they do, not by their religion or skin color. I hope Mikie lives to see it.

We stand on the brink of either the abyss, where a continuing cycle of violence, intolerance and ignorance drags us down to the apocalypse, or the edge of paradise where we provide for the needs of everyone and practice tolerance. It is our choice.

I know it sounds to be a contradiction but we cannot allow those who make intolerance a mainstay of their belief structure to flourish, we must be intolerant of those who preach ignorance as the way of salvation. Anyone who proposes to treat men as 13 year olds and women as slaves has no place in modern society. Anyone who takes away choice and substitutes blind faith where human life is devalued to the point that the worth of innocent lives is measured in how many headlines you can receive from taking them must be exiled to the damnation they deserve.

Holy books are not hammers to beat men into submission, but tools of persuasion. Too many clutch the holy books in fevered hope that mere contact will save them, but neglect to read what is truly inside them. Many believe that the words written inside are intractable, immutable and unchangeable when even a short look at the history of the books will show this is simply not true. The context is what is important, not the words. Many of the words have come down the ages through many minds and hands, going from one language into another, into another, to get to the original words you would have to see the original works and understand the original language and context in which they were written.

I see ignorance and fear driving people to blind faith. Blind faith is easy, it requires no thought. It is the questioning, seeking, thoughtful faith that is hard. The world is filled with infinite wonders that God in his wisdom guided and formed though the crucible of evolution. He provided all of the needed clues for us to decipher his work throughout the billions of years this universe has been in existence and provided us the tools through intellect and curiosity to begin to understand them. We stand on the threshold of wonders.

I intend to see to it that Mikie is raised as a thinking, feeling and loving person who looks beneath the surface of things for only when you are armed with truth and knowledge can you truely believe and are you truly free.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Jobs and Degrees

Mike Ault, Copyright 2006

I read an article in the Atlanta paper recently by a young, recent (within the last 5-6 year) graduate who had been let go from their job as a magazine editor and hadn’t been able to find a position in six weeks of effort. This young person is now taking unemployment as they look for a position. It reminded me of another article in a women’s magazine a year or two ago about a young person who decided to take six months off after getting their soft degree in college and sail the Great Lakes rather then pursue a job, they complained that all the good ones where taken when they got back and how unfair it was.

I guess I am lucky in that the longest I have ever been out of work in 34 years was 2 days, over a weekend. Of course I also believe you make your own luck by hard work and planning. I have had over a dozen different jobs and each paid more than its predecessor. Up until 1991 I didn’t have a degree. Of course I had the benefit of military training from the US Navy in the Nuclear Field which some viewed as equivalent to a BS in Nuclear Technology. However, when I left the shelter of the Nuclear Industry in 1990 I realized I would need a degree to validate my skill set and got a BS in Computer Science.

So many young people today are getting essentially low-worth degrees, I call them feel-good degrees. Degrees in the Arts, English, Communication, Biology, many of the sciences and many other “soft” subjects have limited market appeal and unless you can find a job in publishing, teaching or a museum, especially at the Bachelor level they aren’t going to do you a lot of good unless you have some real experience to back them up. I’m afraid the days where there were jobs as tutors for the idle rich are mostly gone.

In order to make it in today’s world you need a marketable skill or degree, something with some meat on it. Degrees in Engineering, Computers, Management or advanced degrees in the Sciences (Doctorate level) are most marketable. However, you also have to be careful about overloading your degree.

An example of an overloaded degree is a PHD chemist applying for a lab position at a power plant chemistry lab. Most of the chemistry done in industry is cook-book chemistry where you follow a recipe and get a result. This is where many of the BS in Biology folks end up. When I worked in Nuclear Power Plant labs we passed over Doctorate level folks for interviews because we felt they would get bored and leave as soon as something better came along.

You also need to show a bit of good old fashioned gumption. You probably need to consider leaving the comfortable nest of places and people you know and go where the work is. I have moved over 20 times if you count cross-town type moves. I hear of well qualified people who “can’t” get a job, later to find out they couldn’t get one because they wouldn’t move to find it. In today’s mobile society I am afraid living, growing up and working all within 5 miles of your childhood home is a rarer and rarer thing.

You need to get a degree in something marketable and minor in something you enjoy. I pursue my interest in writing by writing part time and make a pretty good second income from it, without a degree in English. I make a majority of my income in computers, right where my degree sits. Of course, I enjoy working with computers and databases and problem solving, I also enjoy writing.

In the Navy (back in 1973-79) I made about $500/mo take home to start, after six years I was maybe up to $1000/mo. I guess that was my “trench” time. You have to put in your trench time, earn your dues, whatever you want to call it. You can’t expect to make 60K out of the gate, if you start at the top, there is only one way to go.

Many times it is not a case of not being able to find a job, it is not being able to find a job a person likes. Bills don’t care whether you like your job. Feeding your family (or just yourself) doesn’t mean you are in rapture at work. That’s why they call it work, if it was fun, they would call it play and charge you for it.

There was a show on TV called “Night Court”, in it a young lawyer got appointed to be the Judge for Night Court simply because he was the only one who was home to answer the call. Similar to that I got my first position as an Oracle DBA (at least I believe it to be so) simply because I was willing to show up, in Iuka, Mississippi, for the interview and was willing to relocate there (well, actually to Florence, Alabama and a 45 mile commute.) What I am trying to say is, sometimes just by showing up, dressed properly and ready for the interview, will carry you a long way towards a job. It isn’t selling-out, it’s showing your intelligence to take the time to figure out what the job requires and meeting those requirements.

Am I saying don’t get a degree in English or Biology or something you love? No, but be aware you may not be able to work in that field unless you have an advanced level degree, want to teach, or already have something lined up. College is to prepare you to take your place in society, not to make you better at your hobbies.

Monday, October 09, 2006

That's a Secret, Agent Man!

Mike Ault, Copyright 2006

And if I told you I would have to kill you…well…probably not so I will any way. After my fun with getting Grid Control for Oracle10gR2 re-installed and working I needed to get the new and improved more stable more reliable, able to fix your coffee and press your suit intelligent agents running on my RAC nodes so I could monitor them. With their usual aplomb Oracle has provided almost enough documentation to achieve this, almost.

I downloaded the agent install files for Linux and then unzipped them on both of my Linux nodes. I also downloaded the proper install files for my XP server where the Grid Control was installed. First, I attempted the “silent” install which involves using the:
“agentDownload.linux –b /home/oracle/linux –c “aultlinux3,aultlinux4” –n crs –m rem208742 –r 4889” command (-b is for the home for the agent, -c is the nodelist for the cluster, -n is cluster name, -m is the master node for the OMS and –r is the port to attach to on the OMS node). It started like gangbusters then stalled complaining that the “linux\oui\oui_linux.jar” file was missing. I checked on the XP box and sure enough it was missing, however, guess what, it was on the Linux platform where I started the command from! So, I copied the file and directory over to the XP box and reran the command, then it complained about the agent directory and its contents being missing, notice a pattern here? Yep, it was on the Linux platform. So, being of almost sound mind I decided that I needed to copy the entire directory structure that the instructions seemed to indicate belonged on the Linux side over to the XP side.

Once the directories where copied the command was quite happy to recopy and uncompress all of the files back to the Linux side and then attempt to start the universal installer in silent mode, which it did, however…it insisted it needed a new inventory location (why it couldn’t just add its entries to the existing inventory is beyond my ken. Anyway, no matter what I fed it, for example it has a –i option to provide a file containing a pointer to an alternate inventory, however, as usual, the instructions say “file containing pointer to inventory location” but no directions on formatting the entry. After several unsuccessful attempts I decided I had beat the dead horse enough and fired off the “runInstaller” command to install in real time. I am pleased to say other than requiring a different inventory location it worked fine and soon my “intelligent” agent was running happily along.

However, a word about the emctl program is in order, there will be at least two versions of the program on a machine running the agent and Oracle database software; one will be for the database control and will reside in the ORACLE_HOME/bin and the other will be for the Grid Control and will reside in the ORACLE_OMSHOME/bin location, they are not interchangeable. You must use the ORACLE_OMSHOME/bin version to control the agent for the Grid Control. Ok, back to the “intelligent agent”, a quick check of its status using the “emctl status agent” command on each node showed that while the agent was indeed up and running, it had no clue how to talk to the OMS host, couldn’t exchange heartbeats and couldn’t upload its various XML delicacies to the host.

It seems the OMS host (the XP box) had a full domain specification (it is a work machine and came configured that way) so when the agent installation asked for the host, it merrily supplied the host and full domain. Since my home office, while it is my domain, doesn’t have a domain of its own, the agent got a bogus address. In addition, while it started the agent, it didn’t start it as a secure agent. Another problem was that the XP host starts up the network connections with a firewall enabled that blocks all attempt so cuddle up to the machine from all comers.

So, first I turned off the firewalls on the network connections for the XP host, that at least let me communicate with the box (I could now ping it from both Linux boxes and get a reply). Next, I looked in the ORACLE_OMSHOME/sysman/config/emd.properties file and adjusted the various URLs there to eliminate the bogus domain specifier and finally I made sure all of the time zone specifications where set according to the specifications in the ORACLE_OMSHOME/sysman/admin/nsuppertedtzs.lst file. So now I had the proper host address in the REPOSITORY_URL and the proper timezone in the agentTZRegion entry, it was time to secure start the agent.

I issued the following commands:

emctl stop agent
Then you cleanout all files relating to upload:
rm -r /sysman/emd/state/* rm -r /sysman/emd/collection/* rm -r /sysman/emd/upload/* rm /sysman/emd/lastupld.xml rm /sysman/emd/agntstmp.txt rm /sysman/emd/blackouts.xml rm /sysman/emd/protocol.ini

emctl secure agent (this reloaded connection data into the emd.properties file)
emctl clearstate agent
emctl upload

Well, the upload failed, notice the note in section 2 about reloading connection data? Well, when the emctl secure agent command executes it goes out an gets the new connection data and password encryption and writes it into the file, so, since I figured that it was going to do this in the future I placed an entry in my /etc/hosts file to point to the proper IP address with the fully qualified host and domain. I figured I finally had it licked, but a emctl status command quickly disabused me of this fallacy.

A light went on over my head, this was a secure connection and I hadn’t exchanged certificates with the XP and Linux hosts. I pulled the URL from the REPOSITORY_URL setting and plugged it into a normal browser session, it pulled the proper certificate from the XP machine and placed it into my Linux boxes wallets. After that…viola! Finally, after several hours of looking things up on Metalink, Google and plumbing the depths of my own somewhat poorly organized mind, I had a working Grid Control with remote agents monitoring my RAC cluster.

Some notes you may find useful from Metalink:

Note: 362199.1 – Concerns setting the hostnames properly
Note: 330932.1 – Concerns setting the REPOSITORY_URL and Time zone properly

Have fun!

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Reinstalling Oracle10g Grid Control

I recently went on a very nice vacation to Curacao. Before I went on vacation the Oracle 10g Grid Control ( I had installed on my Laptop for monitoring my home office systems was working. I took my laptop with me to allow offload of pictures from my cameras and to track email while I was away. When I returned home and hooked my laptop back up to my home network Grid Control wouldn’t start and of course even with the excellent (not!) troubleshooting capabilities Oracle has provided for when this happens I was unable to get it to restart leaving me up the creek as to Grid Control.

Ok, so Grid Control is down, simple, just deinstall using the Oracle Universal Installer and reinstall right? I ran OUI and selected the agent and OMS homes for deinstall, the OUI GUI puttered around a bit and then notified me it had successfully removed the selected product. Right, except for directories and registry entries. Ok, so I manually remove the remaining directories and the registry keys and reboot to eliminate the services that OUI didn’t deign to cleanup. Now finally, I can reinstall; no software, no registry entries, no directories and no services to cause me heartache.

So starting up OUI I begin the reinstall of the Grid Control. It gets all the way to the Configure the OMS Repository and then falls over dead with cryptic error screens pointing you to not one but two log files. Believe me the most important is located in: $ORACLE_OMSHOME$\oms10g\sysman\log and will be named something like:
“emca_repos_create.log”. Guess what? OUI also doesn’t remove the SYSMAN (the repository owner) user. Ok, no biggie, I just issue a “DROP USER SYSMAN CASCADE;” command and do a restart.

Oops…OUI now complains that there is a pesky ROLE it wants to recreate…MGMT_USER. Ok, I drop that and restart the repository build. Another 10-15 minutes later it complains about a public synonym that starts with MGMT…so I build a script to drop all public synonyms that begin with MGMT and then restart.

Oops…OUI now complains about another set of synonyms that begins with SMP, so I delete all of them. You guessed it, another restart, another 15 minutes and it complains about public synonym ECM_UTIL, so again I drop the synonyms (only 1 this time) beginning with ECM and restart…finally it completes and goes on to the end.

Here is the script I finally ended up with:

drop user sysman cascade;
drop public synonym MGMT_ADMIN;
drop public synonym MGMT_AS_ECM_UTIL;
drop public synonym MGMT_AVAILABILITY;
drop public synonym MGMT_CREDENTIAL;
drop public synonym MGMT_CURRENT_AVAILABILITY;
drop public synonym MGMT_CURRENT_METRICS;
drop public synonym MGMT_CURRENT_METRIC_ERRORS;
drop public synonym MGMT_CURRENT_SEVERITY;
drop public synonym MGMT_DELTA;
drop public synonym MGMT_DELTA_ENTRY;
drop public synonym MGMT_DELTA_ENTRY_VALUES;
drop public synonym MGMT_DELTA_IDS;
drop public synonym MGMT_DELTA_ID_VALUES;
drop public synonym MGMT_DELTA_VALUE;
drop public synonym MGMT_DELTA_VALUES;
drop public synonym MGMT_GLOBAL;
drop public synonym MGMT_GUID_ARRAY;
drop public synonym MGMT_GUID_OBJ;
drop public synonym MGMT_IP_TGT_GUID_ARRAY;
drop public synonym MGMT_JOB;
drop public synonym MGMT_JOBS;
drop public synonym MGMT_JOB_EXECPLAN;
drop public synonym MGMT_JOB_EXECUTION;
drop public synonym MGMT_JOB_EXEC_SUMMARY;
drop public synonym MGMT_JOB_OUTPUT;
drop public synonym MGMT_JOB_PARAMETER;
drop public synonym MGMT_JOB_SCHEDULE;
drop public synonym MGMT_JOB_TARGET;
drop public synonym MGMT_LOG;
drop public synonym MGMT_LONG_TEXT;
drop public synonym MGMT_MESSAGES;
drop public synonym MGMT_METRICS;
drop public synonym MGMT_METRICS_1DAY;
drop public synonym MGMT_METRICS_1HOUR;
drop public synonym MGMT_METRICS_COMPOSITE_KEYS;
drop public synonym MGMT_METRICS_RAW;
drop public synonym MGMT_METRIC_COLLECTIONS;
drop public synonym MGMT_METRIC_ERRORS;
drop public synonym MGMT_METRIC_THRESHOLDS;
drop public synonym MGMT_NAME_VALUE;
drop public synonym MGMT_NAME_VALUES;
drop public synonym MGMT_PREFERENCES;
drop public synonym MGMT_SEVERITY;
drop public synonym MGMT_SEVERITY_ARRAY;
drop public synonym MGMT_SEVERITY_OBJ;
drop public synonym MGMT_STRING_METRIC_HISTORY;
drop public synonym MGMT_TARGET;
drop public synonym MGMT_TARGETS;
drop public synonym MGMT_TARGET_BLACKOUTS;
drop public synonym MGMT_TARGET_MEMBERSHIPS;
drop public synonym MGMT_TARGET_PROPERTIES;
drop public synonym MGMT_TYPE_PROPERTIES;
drop public synonym MGMT_USER;
drop public synonym MGMT_VIEW_UTIL;
drop public synonym MGMT$DELTA_ORACLE_HOME;
drop public synonym MGMT$DELTA_OS_COMPONENTS;
drop public synonym MGMT$DELTA_OS_COMP_DETAILS;
drop public synonym MGMT$DELTA_OS_KERNEL_PARAMS;
drop public synonym MGMT$DELTA_PATCHSETS;
drop public synonym MGMT$DELTA_PATCHSET_DETAILS;
drop public synonym MGMT$DELTA_TABLESPACES;
drop public synonym MGMT$DELTA_VENDOR_SW;
drop public synonym MGMT$DELTA_VIEW;
drop public synonym MGMT$DELTA_VIEW_DETAILS;
drop public synonym MGMT$ECM_CURRENT_SNAPSHOTS;
drop public synonym MGMT$ECM_VISIBLE_SNAPSHOTS;
drop public synonym MGMT$GROUP_FLAT_MEMBERSHIPS;
drop public synonym MGMT$GROUP_MEMBERS;
drop public synonym MGMT$HA_BACKUP;
drop public synonym MGMT$HA_FILES;
drop public synonym MGMT$HA_INFO;
drop public synonym MGMT$HA_INIT_PARAMS;
drop public synonym MGMT$HA_MTTR;
drop public synonym MGMT$HA_RMAN_CONFIG;
drop public synonym MGMT$HW_NIC;
drop public synonym MGMT$METRIC_COLLECTION;
drop public synonym MGMT$METRIC_CURRENT;
drop public synonym MGMT$METRIC_DAILY;
drop public synonym MGMT$METRIC_DETAILS;
drop public synonym MGMT$METRIC_HOURLY;
drop public synonym MGMT$MISSING_TARGETS;
drop public synonym MGMT$OS_COMPONENTS;
drop public synonym MGMT$OS_FS_MOUNT;
drop public synonym MGMT$OS_HW_SUMMARY;
drop public synonym MGMT$OS_KERNEL_PARAMS;
drop public synonym MGMT$OS_PATCHES;
drop public synonym MGMT$OS_SUMMARY;
drop public synonym MGMT$SOFTWARE_COMPONENTS;
drop public synonym MGMT$SOFTWARE_COMP_PATCHSET;
drop public synonym MGMT$SOFTWARE_HOMES;
drop public synonym MGMT$SOFTWARE_OTHERS;
drop public synonym MGMT$SOFTWARE_PATCHSETS;
drop public synonym MGMT$TARGET;
drop public synonym MGMT$TARGET_COMPONENTS;
drop public synonym MGMT$TARGET_COMPOSITE;
drop public synonym MGMT$TARGET_PROPERTIES;
drop public synonym MGMT$TARGET_TYPE;
drop public synonym EMD_MNTR;
drop public synonym SMP_EMD_AVAIL_OBJ;
drop public synonym SMP_EMD_DELETE_REC_ARRAY;
drop public synonym SMP_EMD_INTEGER_ARRAY;
drop public synonym SMP_EMD_INTEGER_ARRAY_ARRAY;
drop public synonym SMP_EMD_NVPAIR;
drop public synonym SMP_EMD_NVPAIR_ARRAY;
drop public synonym SMP_EMD_STRING_ARRAY;
drop public synonym SMP_EMD_STRING_ARRAY_ARRAY;
drop public synonym SMP_EMD_TARGET_OBJ;
drop public synonym SMP_EMD_TARGET_OBJ_ARRAY;
drop public synonym ECM_UTIL;
drop role mgmt_user;

Now some of the drops may be not needed such as the MGMT$ synonym drops, but I left them in anyway.

So, hopefully if you run into the same issue I did with OEM this little script will help you to get it reinstalled.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Diving With a Camera

Ah, to capture all the wonderful underwater scenes to share with everyone! It is the dream that many divers who are just starting out seem to have. We rush out and buy a camera and underwater housing and strobes and arms and all the gadgets that can be found. Once we have all the equipment we are ready! Or are we?

The first and most important aspect of underwater photography has nothing to do with f-stops, focus, subject or lighting, the most important aspect is proper buoyancy control. Buoyancy control is the difference between photographing that delicate coral frond and smacking into it and breaking it, it is the difference between floating gently to a stop at depth and smashing into the bottom stirring up silt and destroying visibility. We must have proper control of ourselves before we can hope to take that perfect shot.

In order to have control underwater you must be properly weighted to maintain proper trim in the water. Proper trim is usually horizontal with the head slightly up and feet slightly down, not more than a 5-10 degree up angle. Having A feet up posture or a too-vertical heads up posture (the “Marching Through Georgia” posture I call it) results in too much effort, too large an air consumption rate and lack of proper depth control. Flailing arms, bicycling feet, bouncing like a yo-yo are all signs that you aren’t in control underwater.

So, first, if you have no clue as too how to get control, take a buoyancy control class and take control of yourself underwater.

The next thing that is critical is learning to take the time to smell the anemones …well... anyway look real close at them. If you are rushing underwater you will never take good photos. Find a dive buddy that doesn’t mind spending an entire dive on one coral head and relax and enjoy it.

Finally, take a long time to learn good technique. I took pictures on land for years before I took my first underwater pictures, yet I learn more each time I take a camera underwater. Learn good composition and it will help your underwater shots.

Once you take good photos on land then you can take good photos underwater, know your equipment.

I began with a manual Nikonos IV film camera. Knowing that I had a maximum of 24 or 36 shots forced me to be sure that a picture was the picture I wanted before I took it. I admit, now, using a digital camera, I tend to shotgun my shots, taking many more than I should in the hope that one will turn out, usually because I am rushed and can’t (or won’t) take the time to frame a good shot. Just because you can take 200 photos in a single dive doesn’t mean you should, if you want that many shots, shoot video.

Be careful, be courteous, be the type of diver you want to dive with. If you are meant to get the picture you will get it whether you push your way in to others shots or in on their view of that which you what you want to take a picture. Everyone hates the camera toting moron that thinks just because they have a camera they have an intrinsic right to barge all over the reef, latch onto delicate coral to anchor themselves for what usually turns out to be a mediocre shot at best. Be patient, take your time, if you wait, have good buoyancy and don’t disturb the water, guess what?...most shots will come back. Don’t chase shots, believe me all underwater life that is mobile can easily out run you.

Ok, so you got the shot (you hope) you put it on the computer, open the file and…wait!...it’s all blue! I am afraid that the human mind is a great fooler, it fills in color it “knows” is in there, unfortunately cameras do not. Unless you shoot with special filters and lights your shots will end up with more blue than you would like due to the absorbing of light frequencies like red, orange and yellow at depths of 20 FSW and greater. However, don’t despair, this can be fixed, you will need a program such as Photoshop. You use the color correction option to add in a bit of red (actually, what it does is increase the value for the red pixels already in the picture for digital shots) and turn down the green and blue values. Adjust them just until it reflects what you saw, resist trying to make it better. In some cases a picture may appear to be completely useless, however, try adjusting the levels to bring out the background details.

If you can get your buoyancy under control, be polite and patient and learn a bit of basic photography techniques your underwater photography work should be enjoyable, both for you and the people you dive with.

(For a PDF versions with pictures go to: http://www.authorsden.com/ArticlesUpload/24113.pdf)

Monday, August 21, 2006

Using Back Inflate Boyancy Compensator

I recently purchased a back inflate buoyancy compensator (BC), an Oceanic Flex QLR. A BC is a jacket or vest that contains an inflatable bladder used to offset the weight of equipment (usually the air in the tank on your back if you are properly weighted), the bladder can be mostly in front in the “wings” of the vest/jacket, or, mostly on the back plate area (usually surrounding the tank area) or a combination of both. As many advanced divers utilize a BC known as a back plate with wings (BP/W), which is essentially a steel back plate designed to hold either a single or double tank rig surrounded by an inflatable bladder that is completely on the back of the diver. The advantage of a BP/W is that the steel plate can be made of various thicknesses of steel to allow the back plate to eliminate the need for extra lead weight that most divers have to carry in order to become neutrally buoyant. In addition to the weight benefits of a BP/W they are less encumbering and work well with a dry suit.

The Oceanic model I purchased (used of course) is a vest style with a hard, single tank plastic back plate and an inflation bladder that surrounds it. All-in-all the new BC seems to weigh about 4 pounds more than my old Calypso jacket style that utilized flotation bladders that surrounded you. This last weekend I decided to dive the new BC for the first time.

About an hour’s drive from the house is the Dive Haven Quarry in White, Georgia. The Dive Haven operation just started offering dive services to divers this year, previously we had to dive in Lake Lanier or go to quarries out of state in Tennessee or Alabama or lakes equally far away. In the Dive Haven quarry is an old diesel shovel/crane, it is about a 200 yard surface swim across the quarry then a 20-30 foot dive to the top of the crane arm. My dive buddies and I decided to try an underwater navigation at 20 feet deep (swimming underwater in full dive gear is easier than swimming on the surface.) Once at the crane I would do some photographs while they looked around, then, if air supply and time permitted we would look for the old car in about 20 feet of water nearby, after that we would once again do a 20 foot deep return dive utilizing compass and a sonar transponder I had placed on the dock to easily cross the 200 yards back to where we started.

One additional feature of the Oceanic BC is that it has an integrated weight system. In my old Calypso BC you needed a separate weight belt, which acted as a natural air dam to prevent excessive air in the dry suit from flowing to your feet, the new BC eliminated that. I loaded the Oceanic with 22 pounds of lead (this was what I had dove with using the Calypso and my dry suit) putting two 6 pound shot weights in the front, droppable weight pockets and two 3 pound shot weights in the non-releasable rear pockets. I then put two 2 pound weights in the BC pockets to bring me up to 22 pounds. Unfortunately I forgot to account for the additional 4 pounds of weight the Oceanic itself contributed to the overall weight of my gear and for the reduced profile (and hence reduced buoyancy) between the Oceanic and my Calypso. Looking back I figure I was over weighted by around 6 pounds.

As you can guess that 6 pounds made buoyancy control a nightmare. At the start of the dive you vent all of the air from your BC and dry suit and submerge, if you are properly weighted you will be slightly over weighted at the start of the dive because of the weight of the air in the tank or tanks, and, at the end of the dive just neutral with 500 pounds of air left. Unfortunately I sank like a stone and overshot the 20 foot target depth finally gaining control at 30 feet of depth. With the Calypso I was used to just giving a puff or two of air to halt a descent, of course being over weighted I had to give it quite a blast on top of the air I added to the dry suit to eliminate suit squeeze. Of course I over compensated then shot up to 15 feet or less before halting the rise. Finally I got the buoyancy set near right and we started for the crane.
It wasn’t long before I discovered one of the other joys being over weighted, my SAC rate (air consumption) was too high and the amount of effort I needed to expend to keep up with my dive partners was large. I was also now having to deal with air collecting in my legs and feet (officially called “having floaty feet”) if I put too much in to compensate for dry suit squeeze, it wasn’t a major problem, just one additional thing to deal with. Of course the fins I was using didn’t help matters much, they were older model stiff Scuba Pro’s, non-split, which means they were equivalent to strapping two boards on my feet. So between having to kick like a bee-stung mule and bouncing up and down like a cork because of the dicey buoyancy control I ended up doing the second half of the transit to the crane on the surface doing the back paddle (well, actually the back kick).

We got to the crane and I descended first. Visibility was only about 5 feet so with a descent rate of just under light speed due to being over weighted I nearly crashed into the crane arm having to push off from it as I rocketed past. Arresting my descent 10-15 feet deeper than I planned I then of course over compensated and shot past where I had wanted to stop and begin taking photographs. With reducing oscillations I finally managed to get where I wanted to and take a couple of shots. However, with my limited buoyancy control I was hesitant about going deeper to look over the cab and other parts of the crane since there were still cables and such that would just love to snare an unwary diver.

After taking the shots I felt safe doing I ascended and my dive partners then went down to have a look. By the time they returned we decided to forego the car and just return to the dock. We submerged to 20 feet and began the transit, again with me falling behind (got to replace those darn fins!) and I finished the last third of the transit on the surface once again as I was down to 500 pounds of air by that time.

On the second dive I removed 2 pounds of weight, I was still a bit over weighted but nearly as bad as before. We just puttered around at about 20-30 feet working on buoyancy control. Looks like I should pull at least another 2-4 pounds out to get where I need to be. Darn, looks like I might have to go diving again next weekend…

Thursday, August 03, 2006

A New Job

Well, on August 1, 2006 I started a new job. I am now an Oracle Specialist for Quest Software. The grind of 1099 consulting just got to be a bit much and the uncertainties of 1099 payments a bit wearing. So I will still be working head and shoulders deep in Oracle technology and still putting up Oracle tips and discoveries I just won’t be traveling as a consultant.

According to those folks who specialize in such things a job change can be as stressful as a death in the family. I prefer to think of it as a birth of new possibilities, adventures and opportunities. Much of the job will be learning what the Quest tools do verses those provided by Oracle and other Oracle tool vendors, a lot of experimenting, working with databases, writing white papers and tech sheets and just raw learning. All of the above I enjoy immensely when I have the time to do them and that is supposed to be built into this position.

For those who have a feature they just want to see added to Quest tools, something that just annoys them about an existing tool or any other constructive suggestions for the Oracle (or non-Oracle) quest toolset, send it in to me (mike.ault@quest.com) and I’ll see to it that it gets to the right person to take action.

I will miss some of the consulting work, the fun of helping folks get the most out of Oracle, the thrill of chasing down that illusive performance issue and the joy of teaching Oracle technologies such as real application clusters to folks in the field. However, there may still be a bit of that going on so it isn’t a complete sea change.

So it is time for the next chapter in my life and time to close the previous one. For those of you who I got to work with or for during the consulting period, thanks for the interesting assignments and work, and yes, I am still available by emails for questions. Hopefully in this next phase of work I will be able to help even more folks learn about Oracle and share even more Oracle knowledge than before.

Note: The opinions expressed on this web page are those of its author and not those of Quest Software, or its affiliates.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Cancun Vacation

Well, I am back from vacation. 8 days of no technology (well..other than digital cameras and a Sony picture vault mini-disk photo storage device.) I enjoyed Cancun and got to do several dives while I was there (six in all) of varying levels of difficulty. I dove my first two-tank dive concurrently with my wife and son-in-laws resort certification single tank dive. A double tank dive means two-one tank dives with a short interval on the surface between them. A resort certification is a 1-2 hour introduction to scuba with a pool session to help master basic skills and usually followed by a single tank “real” dive to no more than 30-40 feet of depth.

The first two-tank dive was a little bit of a disappointment due to the damage caused the reef from the large storms last year, much of the coral was showing signs of bleaching and there were many broken coral bits lying around. Usually the sea fans have a healthy purple color to them, the ones on the first dives were brown and looked rather ragged. There were lots of small juvenile fish, but not many large, mature fish. This first dive was on the Cancun side. We saw no rays, moray eels or other “staples” of a typical dive in the Caribbean.

The second two-tank dive was on the Cozumel side and I did it with my wife and son-in-law, which of course meant I couldn’t do the more advanced wall (deep) dive but had to stick to the shallow divemaster/instructor led dives. The coral looked healthier and there were more mature fish to be seen, but it was still not as good as I remembered from before the storms of a year ago. The highlight was a small octopus that we caught a glimpse of who was sleeping inside a coral formation (octopus are nocturnal by nature and sleep for the most part during the day.) The divemaster also showed my wife one of the small long-legged shrimp and let her hold it.

On the third two-tank dive I got to go on an advanced wreck/drift dive. The first dive was to about 80 feet deep on the C-58, the General Anaya, a sunken mine sweeper. The wreck had been a single site before the two large storms of 2005, but the first storm twisted the wreck in half and the second moved the bow about 100 yards away from the stern were it lays on its side with the bow now facing the same direction as the stern. On the stern section we did a swim through. As we swum though the upper structure (we didn’t do a penetration, we were in sight of an externally sun lit exit at all times) I couldn’t help but think back to the USS Haleakala, AE25, the first ship I was posted to when I was in the Navy. Although the two ships were totally different in purpose and design, the internal corridors where eerily similar, especially when we came upon a ladder (a set of steps) going up to an upper level and I noticed that they were identical in construction to those I used hundreds of times on the Haleakala.

Once we were done with the swim-through we followed the divemaster to the bow section. In station over the top of the bow were about a dozen greater barracudas. Since the bow was laying on its port (left) side, we didn’t do a swim-through (it also looked pretty ragged from being rolled/slammed along the bottom by the storm) we swam around the torn section behind it (to the topside, the keel was pointing back toward the stern section) and swam up to the bow sprint. We could see the current whipping material past, but we were shielded from it by the wreck, I was relieved when we retraced our path going behind the wreck instead of trying to swim across the current. However, this relief was short lived.

Once we got back to the section of the hull where it had been torn in half, we pointed into the current and started the swim to a reef that was several hundred yards away (at least it seemed that far in the current) we were moving on a diagonal to the current so we weren’t directly fighting it, but it was a bit of a workout for a 50 year old. We got to the reef structure and immediately saw a small sea turtle (about 2-3 foot shell size) who allowed us to photograph it and then nonchalantly swam away. We also saw a batfish (who uses two large, fleshy looking fins located on its top and bottom sides to move through the water) and a small nurse shark. This was the healthiest reef ( at 50 feet deep or so) with the largest fish and best looking coral. At one point we came up over a coral head and in a current-protected area saw a school of thousands of yellow-striped grunts that allowed us to swim in amongst them showing little fear of us.

The second dive was a drift dive over a reef. Again, the coral on this dive (at about 50 feet) was in much better condition that at the other sites and there were more mature fish and healthy coral and sea fans.

Overall the dives were fair to good, however, I have to give AquaWorld some negative feedback, my son-in-laws primary stage on his regulator (the primary takes the 3000 PSI air in the tank and drops it down to 140 PSI to feed to the secondary stage that you breath through and the various fill hoses you may use for your equipment such as the BCD or a drysuit) gave out at 20 feet down and stopped giving air, even though his SPG (submergible pressure guage) indicated he had 500 PSI in his tank. This wouldn’t have been a real problem if the dive masters assistant had been where he should have been to provide a spare air (octo) but instead my son-in-law was basically by himself , luckily we were only in 20 feet of water at the time and he had just exhaled out all his breath, he basically did a free ascent to the surface, but I don’t think he remembered to try to blow out all the way up. Had he not just done a complete exhale, he might have severely injured himself from a lung over-expansion injury. Usually first (or primary) stage failure, especially of this type, is due to allowing saltwater to get into the first stage causing the corrosion of the components and possible buildup of salt crystals which can jam air pathways in the internals of the regulator. Once on the surface the regulator breathed OK and the tank indicate 1000 PSI (remember that the pressure gage hooks up through the first stage so anything that blocks the primary air intake port will affect the pressure gage and the primary stage.) My son-in-law also experienced dump valve failure on his rented BCD on his second dive, another failure that shows lack of proper equipment maintenance. Since he was only in 20-30 feet of water, again, it wasn’t a big issue, but had he been a more experienced, certified diver and the condition occurred at 80 or 90 feet down, it may have resulted in an uncontrolled ascent and possible DCS (decompression sickness) hit.

These types of problems are why I am a strong supporter of owning at least your own regulator and BCD where you know the stuff is maintained properly.

I watched the divemaster on one of my dives take my BCD/regulator assembly from the expended tank and place it on the full tank for my second dive. I went over to record the pressure for my log and when I turned on the tank valve, could hear the distinct hiss of a air leak through the o-ring seal of the tank, when he did the pressure check he appearently hadn’t heard it. I pointed this out and he removed my rig to replace the o-ring on the tank valve. While he went to get a new o-ring, he just left my regulator lying where it was in a splash area from the forward motion of the boat through the waves, with the dust cap off. The dust cap keeps dust and debris, as well as water, from entering the first stage. I went over and replaced the dust cap on the regulator myself. On another dive where I had let them rig the second tank, they had neglected to remove the masking tape they used to cover the tank valve opening and had just put my rig over the top of it, why it didn’t leak like a sieve I don’t know, if they did this all the time, it could also explain the failure of my son-in-laws regulator as sections of the masking tape would plug up the filter on the intake port.

We also took a sub-sea and snorkel tour with the entire group of us trooping over to Paradise Island. The sub-sea adventure is little more than a more sea-worthy version of the old Nautilus ride at Disneyland. My major complaint was that the seating was designed by the same folks who designed the windows for airplanes, if you where five foot tall it was perfect, otherwise it required you to crane your neck uncomfortably for the entire tour to see out. They also went too fast, I understand having to maintain steerage, but they seemed to rush it a bit. The snorkel tour which followed was more like the coral 500 race as the guide seemed more interested in getting finished with his part of it rather than allowing us a leisurely snorkel through the reef.

The best thing we did with Aquaworld was the fishing trip my son-in-law and I took with them. Of course of the 6 hour fishing trip, probably an hour and a half was spent getting out and back and another hour was spent watching the Captain and his Mates catch the bait. However, even though we only fished for 3 hours out of the 6, we (there were 5 of us on the charter) caught 25 amberjack with the smallest at a bout 10-15 pounds the largest at about 30) and two Rock fish (one at about 10 pounds the second at 30 pounds). Needless to say, had we had a complete 6 hours of just fishing, I probably wouldn’t have been able to raise my arms. I was a little disappointed to hear we couldn’t get any of the meat because of the warmth of the water causing certain types of poisonous algae to be present and certain parasites to be in the fish (he showed us some worms he had removed from one of the fish.) I can’t really imagine the water temps being that radically different (lower) in the months with “r”s in them that far south, but supposedly it was an issue. The Captain said they gave the fish to poor who would spend days preparing the meat to make it edible. With our catch we must have fed 10-15 families if what he said was the truth and I have no reason to doubt him.

We also did some shopping at the various markets, Usually you can get some really good bargains if you are willing to haggle a bit, but I noticed overall the prices where quite a bit higher than my visit there 2 years ago and higher than the prices in the Cabo San Lucas area last year.

So now it is back in the saddle. Hopefully next entry I will have some juicy Oracle tidbits for you.


Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Oracle Timestamp Math

Had in interesting query from a client today. They have been storing start and stop times from a process in Oracle TIMESTAMP format and now want to get milliseconds out of the difference between the two timestamps. Seems pretty easy right?

Ok, first we create a table with two TIMESTAMP columns and an index value:

SQL> select * from check_time
SQL> /

---------------------------- ---------------------------- ----------
05-JUL-06 PM 05-JUL-06 PM 1
05-JUL-06 PM 05-JUL-06 PM 2

Now, if we were just using DATE we could subtract the dates and use the proper multiplier to convert the fractional return to the proper time unit. However when we subtract TIMESTAMPs:

SQL> select tim_col2-tim_col1 from check_time;

+000000000 00:01:12.547000
+000000000 00:00:24.547000

We get a hideous time interval upon which you can’t do math:

SQL> select sum(tim_col2-tim_col1) from check_time;
select sum(tim_col2-tim_col1) from check_time
ERROR at line 1:
ORA-00932: inconsistent datatypes: expected NUMBER got INTERVAL

So what can be done?

In steps the new interval functions that allow extraction of timestamp components, such as DAY, HOUR, MINUTE and SECOND…but wait there is no MILLISECOND! Of course a short trip to the documentation shows that the SECOND has a fractional component that allows us to specify the number of decimals after the second thus giving us access to the milliseconds, even down to microseconds in the interval value, look here:

SQL> l
1* select sum(extract(second from tim_col2)-extract(second from tim_col1))*1000 from check_time
SQL> /

Well, that is more like it! So now we can get the milliseconds between and do the aggregation functions such as sum() and avg() on the results.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Diving A Drysuit

I am sure almost everyone has heard of a wetsuit. A wetsuit is basically a skintight neoprene rubber suit that divers wear to shield them from heat loss. A wetsuit shields the diver from heat loss by controlling the amount of water that comes in contact with the diver, limiting it to just enough to allow the divers own warmth to keep the water warm. The thickness of the neoprene determines how cold the water outside the suit can be and the diver still be comfortable. About the maximum thickness is 7 mm (about ¼ inch) and that will protect a diver in water in the range of 50-60 degrees.

50 to 60 degrees you say, that doesn’t seem so cold…well…the water transfers heat at 20 times the rate that air does. At 50 to 60 degrees a person will go hypothermic in a matter of minutes without a proper exposure suit. At 70 degrees you can get hypothermia as well, it may take a bit longer.

Now, what if the water is colder than 50-60 degrees? You could go with thicker wetsuits but then your mobility will be greatly restricted. The answer is called a drysuit. As its name implies a drysuit has seals that eliminate all water movement, that is, no water gets in, hence its name, drysuit. A drysuit provides no insulation, the diver must wear essentially, “long underwear” that provides the needed insulation, keeping the diver warm.

I recently got to dive a drysuit, the one I purchased was a great deal from www.divetank.com. I highly recommend them by the way, I purchased a Bare Nex Gen 200Z 2006 drysuit, it is made from trilaminate material, very light weight, very flexible and very easy to don and remove. Divetank provided the suit, neoprene dive hood, fill hose and the bag to carry it all for less than $650.00, I needed it right away so I had to fork over a bit for the next day shipping, but considering most drysuits run greater than $1,200.00 this was an outstanding deal.

First I prepared the buoyancy control device (basically an inflatable vest), the regulator and the air tank. You do this first because if you put on the full suit before setting up the rest of your equipment you risk getting heat stroke or becoming dehydrated while doing the setup operations.

To prepare the suit for use, first you must be sure the seals (in this suit at neck and wrists) are properly trimmed, otherwise you could choke, trigger various physical problems, or cut off circulation. Most seals are either neoprene or lycra (rubber). The rubber seals are marked with rings that provide cutting guidelines. For my suit I had to remove 1 ring from the neck seal which I did by placing the neck seal over a scuba bottle and then carefully following the ring boundary with my dive knife (which is razor sharp.) The wrist seals fit without trimming. A hint (provided by a fellow diver), use mild baby shampoo as lubricant to allow your hands to slip easily into the seals. Also, before each dive, you treat the zipper seal with bees wax to help seal it.

Once the seals fit I put on my lycra dive skin, the fleece under suit (provided with the suit) rather like a fleece jogging suit, my dive socks, then donned the drysuit. Then, before pulling the neck seal over my head and sealing the suit up, I put on my neoprene over booties over the soft boots that were part of the drysuit. My suit is a rear entry suit meaning the sealing zipper is on the back. My suit has the zipper across the shoulders, requiring a second diver to help. My dive buddy closed the zipper and seated the zipper pull into the seal.

Next, you put on your weight belt if you are using one (some BCDs have built in weight pockets, and some drysuit divers prefer a weight harness instead of a weight belt) and then don your BCD/regulator/tank assembly. Since we were diving a quarry (Dive Haven, White Georgia) we carried the mask and fins down to the waters edge to put them on, however, don’t, as I did, drop your second fin into deep water while putting on your first, necessitating your dive buddy do a search and recovery operation!

I also just bought a new mask strap, it has the full neoprene pad on the back and rather than rubber or lycra straps, uses nylon straps. I had problems with mask flooding as a result until we made sure that the mask was properly tightened and that no neoprene from the dive hood was stuck under the edge of the mask seal. After the mask issue was dealt with the dive went without a hitch.

We then did several ascents and descents to allow me to get a handle on using the combination of the drysuit and BCD to control suit squeeze and buoyancy. One issue many new drysuit divers trained using PADI have is that the PADI material says to use the drysuit to control buoyancy. This is incorrect.

You see the drysuit has an attached fill line from the low-pressure side of the first stage regulator, this is supposed to be used to relieve what is known as suit squeeze. Suit squeeze is caused by the pressure of the external water pressing the suit up tight against your body, a short burst of air provides for a thin layer of air in the suit to eliminate this. However, the suit should not be used for buoyancy control! You still use the BCD just as with a wetsuit. The suit also has an outlet valve that controls how much air is retained in the suit, it ranges from all the way shut to all the way open and adjusts by clicks, we set mine to 4 clicks off closed.

Once I got at least a beginning understanding of this needed control (after 5 ascents/descents) we did a normal dive at about 30-40 feet (51 degrees) and let me report I was comfortable except for my hands, I forgot my 5mm gloves and only had my light weight reef gloves to wear for the dive.

Overall I enjoyed the dive, learned the fundamentals of drysuit diving and had a great day with the other members of the Lake Lanier Loonies (we are considered Loony because we dive Lake Lanier year round.) I am also looking forward to my next drysuit dive (probably on July 4th.)

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

50 Years and Counting

Well, I had a milestone of sorts last week, I turned 50 years of age. Odd, I don’t remember it like it was 50 years, and I don’t feel (mentally at least) like it’s been that long. Of course since life expectancies keep increasing and mine is a long lived family I may not even be middle aged yet…

As a teenager just getting into the work world I dreamed of being an oceanographer, then that morphed into a physicist or nuclear scientist. I worked in the Navy (1973-1979) as a machinist mate which actually means I repaired machines (vice a machinery repairmen who did machining work) and, since I was on a nuclear submarine, did laboratory and health physics work. Health physics means taking radiation surveys, cleaning up spills of radioactive water and materials and things dealing with keeping the rest of the crew (and outside world) from getting contaminated by the reactor. As a chemist I was responsible for maintaining the chemical balance in the non-radioactive steam plant and in the radioactive reactor coolant to help reduce corrosion and monitored the coolant loop for levels of radioactive material.

So, I was a nuclear chemist and health physicist for a while, then got out of the Navy and concentrated on being a Nuclear Chemist (1980-1990). Essentially I followed recipes to test water samples. The most fun part of the job was gamma spectroscopy. Essentially a gamma spectrometer was a chunk of ultra pure germanium super cooled by liquid nitrogen with a 2000 DC volt charge across it. When gamma rays interacted with it they would be absorbed (a certain fraction of the time) and during this process electron-hole pairs would be formed, the charge differential would sweep the electrons to the charge collection system which would amplify the signal. Some other electronics would then convert this analog data into a digital signal and result would be a number that through various mathematical convolutions you could use to determine the energy level of the original gamma ray.

Of course any one sample from a nuclear reactor coolant loop could have dozens of radioactive elements in it, each giving off one or more gamma rays, plus the normal background radiation (which we mitigated with lead shields). So a given gamma ray spectrum from a sample could hold dozens of gamma ray energy lines. I have included an example below. These lines could lay virtually on top of each other. In the beginning of the nuclear age a sodium iodine detector (essentially a chunk of salt) was used and it would produce scintillations whose brightness would correspond to the energy of the incident gamma ray, however the peaks produced would be wide (20-30 Kev FWHM) and difficult to analyze. The peaks would be hand plotted then the areas under them computed on a slide-rule and it would take days to analyze a single sample. With the germanium detectors the peaks would be nice and crisp (1-2 Kev FWHM) so it would be easier to see the peaks. However, we used computers to do the analysis of the germanium spectrums and what had taken days now took 11 seconds.

Fission Product Spectrum (From: Gamma Ray Spectrum Catalog, 1974, Aerojet Nuclear, R.L. Heath) Posted by Picasa

The first article I got an award for was “Gamma Emitting Isotopes of Medical Origin in Sanitary Waste Samples”, a real page turner. Anyway when I started in the civilian nuclear field I did about 90 percent chemistry and 10 percent computers, by the end of the 10 years I worked in the civilian field I was doing 90 percent computers and 10 percent chemistry. I was working at Tennessee Valley Authority when Marvin Runyon ( unaffectionately called Marvin Runyaoff ) was brought in to clean up TVA. His clean up, due to union rules and contracts, consisted of firing (laid-off) all of the junior people (read, the ones with the new ideas, new concepts and new ways of doing things) and keeping the old timers ( status quo, keep things the way they are, let’s not types) since I only had 3 years of staff time, I was let go.

I determined that Nuclear power had limited upward mobility so taking a deep breath I leaped into the computer world. I had been working with the Informix and Ingres databases and had been the database administrator and developer for the VAX-VMS based systems in the Sequoyah Nuclear Training center, I saw an advertisement for an Oracle DBA job working with Aerojet on a NASA project so I sent in my resume. I was called in for an interview so I quickly picked up the book (at that time there was only one) on Oracle and read it on the flight to the interview. I believe I got the job because I was the only one who showed up for the interview. The job was in Iuka, Mississippi at the old Yellow Creek nuclear site, sold by TVA to the government to be the site for the factory building the replacement boosters for the space shuttle. I guess you could say that ultimately I owe my career in Oracle to the Challenger shuttle disaster since the Iuka plant was a direct result of that incident. I finally finished my degree in ’92 in computer science with Kennedy-Western University. I had over 140 credits from various classes and courses I had taken or CLEP’ed while I was in the Navy, but no clear concentration to give me a degree. I took that and a bit of life credit and some additional course work and parlayed that into a computer science degree.

Since then I have worked exclusively with the Oracle database system on VAX-VMS, HPUX, Sun Solaris, AIX, Linux, Windows (various) with Oracle versions 6.0.22 to I have been to 14 countries, 20 States, two sets of Islands (The Canaries and Los Rochas Archeapeligo) given dozens of lectures and presentations, taught thousands of folks how to use, tune and maintain Oracle, and wrote 2 dozen books. I’ve even had a couple of fiction short stories published.

During this 50 years I also met and wed my wife of 32 (almost 33) years, Susan, had two wonderful daughters (Marie and Michelle) and come this October will be a Grandfather.

It has been quite a ride, this first half (third?) of my life. I have ridden and repaired (and steered) nuclear submarines, stood next to a nuclear reactor, flown in jet aircraft, sailed on surface ships and cruise liners, parasailed, driven bicycles, cars, motorcycles, trucks, boats learned to fish, hunt, scuba dive, dance, sing, play the guitar, play the dulcimer, work with wood, work with chemistry, and work with computers. I’ve watched my daughters be born, grow up, get married and now get to watch as they bring new life into the world. I’ve dealt with the death of loved ones, the horrors of the world, the joys of life. I’ve read well over 3000 books, attended 14 different schools from kindergarten to my college degree. I’ve learned a bit of tolerance, how to love and thankfully not too much how to hate, learned to love God and praise powers higher than myself.

I’m looking forward to what the next 50-100 years brings.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Time for a Change Part 2

In my previous post I made the outlandish (to some, notably foreign based readers) suggestion that the USA should start tying the cost of goods and services provided to oil producing countries to the cost of a barrel of crude oil purchased from that country.

For example the following countries derive a great deal of benefit from selling the USA oil:

Venezuela - Leader virtually destroyed the middle class, says he wants to model country after Cuba
Nigeria - Place were genocide is an established practice
Mexico - Believes the solution to their problems is to send them to USA
Iraq - Need I say more
Libya - Need I say more
Algeria - Another fun spot

If we were to turn this dependency on their oil into a dependency on our money we would have the leverage, add to that the amount of aid we provide several of these countries (whether from loans or charities) and we should not have issues with them. Instead they threaten us with a price increase and we back down, they refuse to help their own, and we step in, they commit genocide and we look away. Ties into the same idea that you give your wallet to a robber and let the principles of civilized behavior be damned. Let's all be a victim!

Yes, we also get a great deal of our Oil (at least by 2002 numbers) from Canada however, as far as I know Canada doesn't practice genocide, ship their poor to us, chop off various arms and legs of innocent villagers, threaten our other allies, threaten us with nuclear war, or have several civil wars going at a time. Another large source are the countries Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, and while I may not agree with their style of government, for the most part their people appear well kept, well fed and peaceful, do they have problems? Yes, but not like many other countries in that region. However, OPEC is OPEC, and if they choose to run with the OPEC herd, then if such a policy as I have stated were to go into effect, they could choose which side to be on.

I am not sure what the detractors would have us do...I guess just sit back and take it like always. Of course most are from other countries so it isn't any skin off their noses if we do. Many of them have governments which tack on huge taxes on their gas prices to pay for their free medical and other dole out programs so they have had high prices for years. I guess they just feel it was our turn.

What I would really like to see is the full development of a proper mass-transit infrastructure in the USA. However, this isn't going to spring up overnight. Many places are starting to do this, many need to. The high prices will force more conservation, so in the long haul they may be a good thing, however, increases of nearly 60% in a years time, when oil company profits are at an all time high, aren't.

Do I hate the countries that are doing this to the USA? No, I do not. I may detest their leaders and their leader's policies that have driven the countries to this horrible state but I am sure many of the people there are good, decent folks just trying to survive the follies of their governments (as we all do).

Do I want to see children starve? No, however, I am not responsible for their current or future state, their government is, until their governments are "shown the light" they will continue to starve regardless of what we do or don't do. In fact, by forcing their governments to take responsibility we will be saving more in the long term. I believe there is an old saying about "Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day, teach him to fish and he will never be hungry" we need to teach their governments to fish.

As to whether my Christianity is being used a a shield, no, it is not, I was using it to show my own discomfort at the feelings I am having. Yes, by a literal interpretation of the Christian teachings we should just roll over and take whatever is handed us, however, I am not a believer in the literal word-for-word blind following of any teaching. For one, there are many errors in translation in all testaments (Christian or otherwise), add to that deliberate shall I say "shadings" and you need to be very careful when reading for meaning. If we all followed the teachings to the letter, there would be no more Christians after this generation.

Remember, everyone pays the same for a barrel of oil, if your prices are high, look to your government and oil companies, as we in the USA need to look at ours. We should all be looking at ways to cut back. We need to look at oil not as gasoline, but as medicine, plastics, chemicals, things which in many ways are much more important than gasoline.

Yes, we need to look at hydrogen, electric, hybrid vehicles (which by the way I am looking at for a replacement of my current vehicles, when it makes economic sense to do so) and other ways of saving oil. I have been accumulating technologies to use to build an "off the grid" home (solar, wind, etc) and plan to do so as soon as I can, am I going to bankrupt my family and do it right now? No.

However, as worthy as conservation is for our consideration and implementation, that doesn't forgive price gouging, and other things that point to greed, not need, as the reason for price increases.

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Time for a Change

So gas has gone up nearly double in less than year. Makes me wonder how much we have increased the cost of food we are selling overseas. I believe we need to tie the cost of a bushel of wheat, corn or other food stuff directly to the cost of a barrel of oil from the particular country we get the oil from. Gas goes up 10%, their cost for food goes up 10%.

It would be an interesting study to look at the average cost of a barrel of oil and tie it to the average cost at the pump. Maybe we can look closer to home for some of the problems as well. Make the cost of a gallon of gas be a ratio to the cost of a barrel of oil.

Let’s do that with all medical supplies as well. It is pretty bad when many times folks in countries hostile to us can get medicine cheaper than we can…from a US company!

Last time I checked most food can be converted to alcohol, sure some is more efficient (corn) but just about anything we can digest and has sugar in it can be digested by yeast to produce alcohol, cars will run on that, as the oil companies have been saying ad-nauseam. As far as I know, it is rather more difficult to convert oil to food. Seems we have a bigger stick, not much grows in the desert, especially when there is no food to feed the workers.

Of course, we would have to harden ourselves to the site of hungry and starving children, that will be the first weapon they would use, pictures of their children. We would have to stifle the bleeding hearts out there. Perhaps if we stopped feeding the world for a loss they would start taking better care of their people. Most countries are only three-square meals away from revolution.

Tie it to the cost of electronics and other high tech items as well. Put a large tariff on technical talent, most of the oil wells out there wouldn’t be running without American know-how.

It is time for America to get tough. Time for us to harden our hearts a bit. As a Christian this hurts for me to say, but I believe we have fulfilled the 40X4 slaps required by the bible and then some, as well as carrying the load for these countries for the extra mile. Jesus turned the money-lenders from out of the temple, it is time for use to turn out the oil sellers. It is high time to use the economic might that is the USA for it’s citizens benefit.