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.

Friday, November 02, 2007

There are many times in life when you just want to give up. It seems no matter what you try, nothing works. It is very frustrating to try, try, try and have your efforts result in failure.
However, let me suggest something, always give it one more try, it may be the one that succeeds, you only fail when you have stopped trying.

Let me tell you a little story. I was diving in a local lake looking to take some underwater shots of the remains of a forest that had been flooded when the dam that created the lake was built. Unfortunately I was violating a basic tenant of diving, never dive alone. After taking a couple of shots I found a fishing rod and reel lying on the bottom. Securing the camera housing to my dive harness with its carabineer I grabbed the rod and made for shore. After a couple of kick cycles I realized the camera, housing and strobe set up, worth about $3000.00, was no longer attached to my harness. I planted the rod and reel butt end into the mud as a marker and then retraced my path to try and find the camera. I feel sick to my stomach as I realize that I have effectively traded a $3000.00 camera setup for a broken $70.00 rod and reel. If I had been diving with a buddy I can’t help but think he (or she) probably would have seen me lose the camera. You can guess what happens next.

The lake bottom where I dive is covered with a foot thick (or more) layer of fine silt, the slightest movement of the water drives the silt into an all-obscuring cloud. Even at the best times visibility only ranges from 5-10 feet. My previous movement through the area had raised a cloud of silt effectively covering my back trail, I could have passed within a foot of the camera and I wouldn’t have seen it. In fact, on that dive, and on two others that day I didn’t find the camera. I have also promised my wife I will never dive alone again after I confess when she delivers more tanks that I was single diving.

I returned to lake whenever I was able, diving with whatever buddies I could find and searching the area where I first thought the camera to be. It turned out I had miss-identified a buoy I used to mark the location, thus I was not able to locate the fishing rod marker or any other underwater landmark I remembered from the dive when I lost the camera. The area had several lines run along the bottom to help divers to navigate to various structures, the lower lake levels had resulted in boat anchors, or maybe malicious divers, cutting some of the lines leaving entanglement hazards in many locations. It was very frustrating diving.

I prayed that God would help me in my search. On my seventh return dive I got completely turned around (with limited visibility and presbyopia making compass headings at times difficult to see) and ended up many yards east of where I thought the camera was located, I came upon a submerged tree top I recognized, then some saplings arranged in a familiar pattern and finally the fishing rod! I immediately surfaced and retook the bearings on two points. Finally I felt I was close. I submerged and searched the area around the pole, unfortunately I didn’t find the camera on that dive, I couldn’t even relocate the rod once again.

In fact, I didn’t find any sign of the camera or the fishing pole during over 5 more attempts in spite of having the coordinates. Needless to say I was getting discouraged. I was checking Ebay for prices for replacements and had asked for quotes on a new system from online merchants. Even a local county’s search and rescue diver unit couldn’t find the camera or the rod. After helping out several times by acting as a surface watcher when I couldn’t get a buddy, my wife had basically given up, I can’t say I blamed her, I was near giving up myself and every time I wanted to go back out to the lake to search it was getting to be more and more of a struggle. A voice inside my head insisted I keep trying, just one more time.

Plagued with doubts I wondered if someone had already found the camera rig, maybe a fisherman had snagged it and really got a catch of the day, maybe a boat anchor had drug it out to deeper water or maybe it was buried in the silt. Still, I had to keep trying, at least one more time. I set a limit on time, if I didn’t find the camera by the 15th of the next month I would give up.

On the way to the lake I ask God for guidance one more time. I waited at the dive site for two hours for my dive buddy to show, finally he arrived and we donned our gear for the dive. While he tried to get his buoyancy adjusted and worked with some new equipment configurations I searched the final area where I felt the camera could be.

Equipped with magnifying lenses inserted into my mask to make reading the compass easier and a sonar transponder/receiver set (one on the dive flag which I had attached at the coordinate point to a log on the bottom and one on my dive harness) to help me stay oriented underwater in the limited visibility I began another search dive. From the best coordinates I had, the ones from the rod and reel when I found it the second time, I began doing sweeps from 30 feet depth down to 50 feet depth working from east to west from the coordinates. I worked slowly and carefully trying to stir up as little silt as possible. 30 down to 50 and back up to 30 each time only moving west enough to just overlap the previous swath of bottom I could see within the beam of my 10 watt HID light. At 25 minutes into the dive, halfway through the fourth cycle (the second return from 50 feet) I see the camera, it is just sitting there on top of the silt, waiting.

Even though I was under water I said through my regulator “Thank you God” over and over again. I grabbed the camera with my right hand in a death grip and using the transponder headed back to the dive flag. After a safety stop at 15 feet I surfaced less than 15 feet from the dive flag. I carefully carried the camera back to shore, handing it to my dive buddy just long enough to remove my fins. A quick inspection on shore showed that in spite of being submerged at a depth of 43-50 feet (the lake has dropped almost a foot a week) for nearly 8 weeks the Ikelite housing has not leaked a drop of water and the sealed battery chambers on the DS51 strobes appear water tight.

After I got the camera, housing and strobes home I carefully rinsed the silt and slime off of the gear and wiped it dry with a soft cloth towel. Opening the back of the housing I found it was dry as a bone inside, no leakage in over 8 weeks of submergence to 50 feet deep. I removed the camera and touched the shutter button, activating the camera that has been sleeping for 56 days, it wakes up and complains its battery is critically low, I pointed it at my wife and took a picture, the sound of the mirror cycling was the sweetest thing I have heard in a long time. I dried the strobes and carefully removed the battery compartment doors, while the batteries themselves where dead (after trying to keep the strobes active for 8 weeks it was no wonder) the compartments are dry and clean. A quick check with new batteries showed the strobes are both fully operational.

Everyone is amazed that the camera was found, most had given up hope.

If I had given up at 5 search dives, or 10 search dives I wouldn’t have found my camera, it took 13 dives over 8 weeks. It also took many prayers and the help of several friends and acquaintances to eliminate areas until the final area where I found the camera was isolated. All told there where over 20 dives that I know of to search for my camera by 5-6 other divers and myself. There may have been many more that I didn’t know of, I was offering a $200-$300 reward for its safe return. Since I found the camera, I am donating the reward to a charity.

Always give it one more try, don’t allow what others say to discourage you.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Mind over Mussels

Well, lake Lanier, Georgia is heading for historic low levels while building continues unabated for new home, condos and businesses in and around Atlanta. For those of you who may not understand the connection, Lake Lanier is the main (read only) source of water for most of the Metro-Atlanta area. Of course as Paul Harvey likes to say, there is a rest of the story.

It seems there are two species of nearly extinct mussel and one species of fish that are on the endangered species list. These nearly extinct critters are why the Corps of Engineers says they need to maintain the high flow rates out of Buford Dam on Lake Lanier, flows so high that they are releasing nearly twice as much water as is coming into the lake from other sources. And the hard science these flow rates were based on? It doesn’t exist, but of course the fact that the flow helps keep a small coal fired power plant operating that provides power that the Corps would have to buy somewhere else might have a bit to do with it.

Of course the Corps has not been known for wise management decisions, it seems every year they plan on a huge storm season which never quite develops. In the Corps managed resources in central Florida where my father and brother live, lakes are also at an all time low, thanks to Corps mismanagement and over releasing.

Finally, now that it may be too late to prevent draconian measures, a study is being done to determine if those pesky mussels and fish really need all that water. Of course Atlanta and Georgia aren’t blameless. As I said above the governments of the various communities seem hell bent on cutting down every possible tree and growing houses, businesses and apartment complexes even though they strain already maxed out infrastructures and resources. Commute times of 2-3 hours to go less than 30 miles are becoming common place and water rationing is just around the corner.

I am afraid without a moratorium on new construction, more oversight on the Corps of Engineers and a lot more common sense Atlanta and points south down river are in for a rough, and dry, ride.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

The Writers Group

I recently visited my Father and Step Mother in Inverness, Florida. One of the things I enjoy doing with my father is attending his writer’s group with him when I am able to. The group meets once a week at a community theater and center on the way to Crystal River. The group leader and organizer, a younger lady named Elissa, scours the web to find topics and then she places the topics on slips of paper and places the slips into a small cloth bag. A the group waits she selects a topic at random and everyone gets a chance to write a short essay, story or just their thoughts on the topic. As Elissa’s tastes are rather eclectic, so of course are the topics that catch her eye and make into her little cloth sack.

This weeks Writer’s Group topics where:

“My Workspace” (assigned the week before)
“A Century Old Symbol of Rebirth”
“On Top of the Sky Scraper”
“Gold Plated Diapers”

I don’t just sit and watch when I visit the group, I also take part in the writing and critique. I guess my favorite topic from the four above was “On Top of the Sky Scraper” for some reason this brought up an interesting vision for me so I thought I would share what I wrote with you.

“On Top of the Sky Scraper”

The water is calm this morning. You can see the torch of the statue of Liberty through the morning mists. The air is still fairly cool, not like it will be later in the day as the temperature and humidity rise to a crescendo of hot, wet heat that steals your breath and energy, only dying back to livable levels after dark.

The morning sun plays on the water, glittering and dancing as the only breeze f the day runs across the surface far below chasing itself into oblivion. The sky is a hard blue bowl with just the wisp of a cloud here and there.

You can hear the water lap against the stone, slowly eating it. Eventually the water will wear it all away. Over the side I look far down to the water, if you fell you wouldn’t survive more than likely.

“It used to be a lot taller.” The words interrupt my thoughts. “Several stories infact.” My father comes up behind me, old before his time, his face showing the lines of thousands of drifting miles of ocean and the leather of his skin, years of sun. “Then the ice up north and down south melted, of course it was the ice down south that mattered.” He rambles sometimes now, we used to listen, but now it has become part of the background.

We turn and go back to the stairwell, out of the sun which is already getting intense. In the last month the water had climbed another floor down below us and at night the building moans and rattles. Soon we will have to move again.

“People used to pay millions for that view.”

“Millions of what?” I ask, not really caring about the answer. Our footsteps echo from the musty depths of the stairs.

“Never mind, it isn’t important” he answers.

Until next entry, have fun and stay safe!


Monday, June 11, 2007

A Mazatlan Vacation Review

Mazatlan as a vacation spot doesn’t offer the same level of options as other Mexican destinations such as Cancun or Cozumel. I would roughly compare it to the Cabo San Lucas area.

The tours in Mazatlan available to the tourist aren’t really very interesting to tell the truth, we took the City tour which ended up being a thinly disguised attempt to get you to buy things from selected merchants, at least in Cancun they call it the shopping tour, we also took the country tour to Coppela. The Coppela tour stopped at a couple of small villages but mostly tried to get you to buy things. The villages weren’t very scenic and overall pretty run down. The traditional bakery in one village was good and seeing tiles made was interesting, but I don’t know if you can build a tour around them. With the large number of abandoned gold, silver, copper and platinum mines in the area I am surprised they didn’t have a mine tour, now that might have been more interesting.

I am afraid the best part of the vacation was at the resort with the pool and beaches and the scuba diving. We didn’t take the third tour we had for free, the Stone Island tour, due to time constraints so I can’t address that one. They also had a Jungle and Bird watching tour available but they took over 8-10 hours each and again, we just didn’t have the time.

In places like Cancun and Cozumel there are numerous family oriented tours available and other tourist attractions including clear water (100 foot visibility is common) diving and snorkeling, tours of archeological sites, cenote’ diving and a better market area for shopping. Mazatlan offers good sport fishing and a relaxing atmosphere that is not as frenetic as its Caribbean cousins and if all you want to do is lay around the pool or at the beach sipping your favorite beverage then Mazatlan may be perfect for you.

The scuba diving in Mazatlan is totally different than the Caribbean style diving in Cancun and Cozumel in that on a good day in Mazatlan the visibility is 30 feet, on a good day in the Caribbean it is over 100. While we were there the best visibility was about 20 feet which dropped to 5-10 feet in the afternoons. There is plenty of sea life and the dives are mostly shallow (less than 30 feet) if you are in to Much Diving (taking macro photographic shots of small reef and bottom dwelling critters) then Mazatlan is the place. If you want wide open underwater vistas with lots of pretty coral and fish, then you will be disappointed. On thing they could do to add some interest to the diving would be to sink a couple of old fishing or shrimp boats out on the deeper sand flats and create an artificial reef area, the problem with the shallow sites was that they were to prone to losing visibility with the shift of the wind or current. The other item that you need to be aware of, at least with the dive operator I used, they had only a small open boat as a dive boat which did not have a dive ladder so you had to alley-oop it over the gunwale to get back on board.

There were several night clubs and many yuppie style bars near the Resorts so there was nightlife for the more swinging individual but having gone beyond that stage I really didn’t try them out, however, they didn’t seem to be quite as crazy as their Cancun counterparts. There were also a couple of nice restaurants one called Espanola even had some great paella I heard but didn’t get a chance to test it out.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed Mazatlan, I enjoyed the challenges of diving and photography there, but that might not be for you. So again, if you want to lay by the pool and go to the beach and don’t mind low visibility snorkeling and diving, then by all means consider Mazatlan as a low cost alternative to Cancun and Cozumel.

For my dive report with pictures go to:



Friday, May 04, 2007


I had the opportunity to spend some time in Tokyo, Japan on business recently. I found the people to be freindly and very business oriented. Of course you must wear a suit and tie for any business there luckily I still have a couple. No doubt you have also heard about their business card ceremony.

In Japan you must have a bunch of business cards with you. Each contact you make will present you his card, writing facing you. You take it, carefully examine both sides and place it somewhere safe, you then hand him your card in the same way. You never write on their cards or treat them with disrespect as the card represents the person.

While I was there I noticed a definate disparity between the generations, maybe more than we see anywhere else, here is a shot I took which probably best exemplifies what I mean:

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The youth in Japan seem to be rebelling in dress and mannerisms, I hate to see this happen as I think the culture of respect for others and the concept of "face" are very valuable and I wish more folks ascribed to them.

Of course there is still beauty all over Japan, even in the middle of downtown Tokyo:

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If you get a chance, I do suggest a trip to Japan.


Thursday, March 22, 2007

Anyone up for Lake Meade?

Like I said in my last blog I will be in Las Vegas for Collaborate 07 (April 15th - 19th) following Collaborate I am going to try and do a dive in Lake Meade and am looking for a dive buddy (or two or three) anyone interested? Just drop me an email.


Monday, March 19, 2007

Collaborate 2007 - Shameless Plug

Well, Collaborate 2007 is just around the bend (April 15th - 19th) in Las Vegas, Nevada. I hope I can see many of you there. I will be giving a Full-Day University Seminar, U6: “Testing to Destruction – Benchmarking Oracle” on Sunday, April 14th for anyone interested in learning about the latest benchmarks and how Benchmark Factory can help you with doing capacity planning and SLA management. We will be giving away a free copy of our Benchmarking Book and a fully functional demo copy of the Benchmark Factory product to all participants. The seminar will cover the benchmarks that are currently in use and the new TPC-E and TPC-App benchmarks and will provide demonstrations of TPC-C and TPC-H benchmarks and present case studies of actual client benchmarks including custom scalability testing.

I will also be doing a one-hour presentation on “Beefing up Oracle10g memory” at 09:45 on Thursday, April 19th. In this presentation I discuss the management of memory when you use the new Oracle10g features such as ASSM, ASM and automated PGA management.

I really want to encourage you to attend Collaborate 2007 as it tends to be a very good conference with loads of good technical content from folks who have been there and done that, with real in-the-trenches presentations on real world Oracle issues and topics. Besides, who doesn’t want to go to Las Vegas on expenses?

I hope to see you all there and let’s all have a great learning experience at Collaborate 2007!

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Down with the New!

I live in a nice neighborhood, swimming pool and tennis courts, large lots, established yards and nice trees and shrubs. All-in-all the neighborhood is about 20 years old but has been well maintained, the houses are all in great shape, none are in need of paint, none have old cars in the yards or odd pieces of machinery in the front yards on blocks.

The median price for a house is about $300K in my neighborhood (I got mine 10 years ago when prices were much less) not bad for the Atlanta area, I should be quite pleased. However, I have a gripe (imagine that!).

Within easy driving (or even walking distance) of my neighborhood are several new developments, they may or may not be swim/tennis, none of course have established yards or landscaping and for the most part the houses are so close you can hear your neighbors hair growing (or falling out, whatever the case may be.) In these new houses the square footage is usually less or equal to mine with some that have more of course. What really chaps my rear end is that almost to the last one, all start at prices that are higher than a majority of the homes in my neighborhood. The only thing going for these homes with higher price tags is they are new.

Next home owners meeting I think I will call for a general price increase by 100K across the board in my neighborhood. Instead of being tied to a pricing system that lock steps older homes forcing them to lower prices than inferior new homes. Why do I say inferior? I guess I like a bit of privacy with my house, I don’t like to be able to reach out and touch my neighbors from my window. I like to be able to look at mature trees and not worry if my sod is going to die next time it doesn’t rain for a bit.

In an older home I know my foundation isn’t going to crack, that the pipes that are supposed to carry hot, carry hot and those that carry cold, carry cold. I had a new house where they plumbed the toilet to use hot water, believe me it doesn’t work very well. Usually an older home will have gone through its troubled youth and will not have many problems as long as it is maintained properly.

Anyway enough of ranting I guess. I am sure that the home owners will reject my proposal no matter how eloquently phrased, after all the real estate agents wouldn’t mislead us would they?

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Help! I'm Writing and Can't Stop!

Things have a way of taking on a life of their own. At one time I had a life, I really did. I camped with my kids, did some hunting with my buddies, went on fishing trips, I even spent quiet nights at home with the wife on occasion. I had a dream of writing fiction, even had a couple of short stories published in some regional magazines and had a few rejection slips from my novels. Then I began writing technical.

It started out with just an article now and then, free stuff to magazines like Radiation protection Management. Then I started getting paid for doing product reviews and for documenting things I had done with Oracle and the long slippery side into writing servitude began. Before I knew it I was writing books, I had no weekends, I did no camping, hunting or fishing. I carried a laptop with me everywhere and snuck in a few words whenever I could. I was even writing at work!

Soon I was doing articles, presentations, books and now blogs (I have 3 of them including this one) I can't sit down and feel comfortable without having a laptop in my lap, my hands curl naturally into writing position (or is it arthritis from too much writing?)

I was pulled over the other day, the officer said I was driving erratically, I explained about a deadline and how I had to finish an article, he saw the laptop sitting beside me, how embarrassing, he let me go with a warning and plea that I get help.

I checked my resume, 7 pages of writing credits, this has got to stop I told myself. Is there a 12 step program for writers? "Hello, I am Mike and I am a writer...."

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Prime Vendors Take Prime Cuts

In the February 2007 Readers Digest, Sacha Zimmerman has penned the article Your Money for This? In this article Sacha delineates the outrages allowed to occur within the defense Prime Vendor program. The Prime Vendor program was initiated by the Defense Logistics Agency in response to the abuses reported in the previous spending programs in the defense agencies that resulted in the infamous $600 toilet seats and $400 hammers of yesteryear.

In this article such outrages as $20 plastic ice trays (99 cents for you and I), $1,000 hotplates (last years $450 specials, less than $200 for you and I) and $22,797 mini-refrigerators (similar if not exact matches to the $99 Kmart specials), and these are just a few examples of the outrageous prices charged by the vendors in the Prime Vendor program. It seems whenever one of these defense vendors gets a monopoly they can’t resist bilking the government out of everything they can, and the government allows it! If they are overcharging this much for minor items one has to wonder how much we are being raped for the guns, bombs and other “real” defense hardware. Perhaps we should put the controls in the hands of Walmart with bonuses designated by how much they save us on these bulk purchases based on amount paid below an average retail price.

I believe it is time for a civilian oversight committee, appointed by a lottery system, who is charged with periodic, random overviews of non-security defense purchases. Participants would serve for a term of a year during which time they would be paid the same salary with the same benefits of their civilian job and their civilian job would be guaranteed during that time period to be held for them. All reasonable expenses to perform the required audits would be covered.

If the oversight committee finds that these prime vendors have charged more than a specified amount above the average price for the items they provide, the prime vendors are immediately dropped from the program and are prohibited from participating in government contracts for a period of years, say 5. In addition, if any member of the oversight committee is found to be taking kick-backs, payoffs or bribes of any sort from any prime vendor or prime vendor alternate, then both the committee member and the CEO or president of the company that bribed or otherwise enticed them would be sentenced to a prison sentence of at least 5 years with no chance of parole.

It is time the congressmen and senators that allow and condone these billing practices have the controls removed from their well greased hands and us poor dumb civilians given more of a say into how our money is spent.

Friday, January 05, 2007


Mike Ault, Copyright Jan 4, 2007

A recent happening at a local university got me thinking. You see, they had a very expensive sculpture, entitled “Spaceship Earth” that collapsed because it was created with the wrong kind of glue. Seems almost a parallel to our current situation on Earth doesn’t it? Have we created the world community with the wrong kind of glue?

What have we tried to glue our world community together with? In the past, we used the glue of conflict and conquest, of course many would argue we are still using the same glue today, but I would have to disagree. Today we use the glue of economics and only resort to force when economics and its sister glue diplomacy, fail. Is economics the proper glue to hold our world together?

No one would disagree that economics (the ebb and flow of money and resources) is powerful glue, it will force dire enemies to the bargaining table. Unfortunately economics can also destabilize and dissolve bonds just as easily if it is not applied correctly. So economics requires an expert craftsman to produce the desired bonding, as we have seen in the current world, these are few and far between.

So what would a proper glue for a world be? A glue that doesn’t dissolve as many bonds as it makes? How about glue composed of equal parts of compassion and tolerance? Any creed or belief that says it is better or has more right to exist, or that it is the only proper one is not binding glue, it drives disunity, stifles compassion and promotes intolerance.

Of course there are obviously creeds and beliefs that by their very nature are intolerable to society (those promoting human sacrifice, cannibalism or exploitation of the weak for example) must be expunged in civilized society, compassion and tolerance must also be tempered with wisdom and have boundaries. Of course one could argue that if everyone embraced the concepts of compassion and tolerance, such atrocities would not be allowed to occur anyway.

If we don’t find binding glue for the world I am afraid we will meet the same fate as the sculpture “Spaceship Earth”, a pile of ruble in the early morning rain.