Archive for June, 2009

I Never Expected to Find THAT in my Car!

Originally published on MySpace on June 30, 2009

My children tend to bring things into the car, and be “too
tired” to take them out whenever we get back home. I have been noticing for the
past few weeks that the floor in the back seat of my car has been becoming less
and less visible. In fact, I noticed this morning that I couldn’t even see the
carpet. I finally decided enough is enough.

The kids are at their dad’s house this week, so I grabbed a
garbage bag and started scooping up the colored pencils, the discarded
clothing, the empty candy wrappers, the snake. WTF!?

Yes, a snake!

At first I thought it was just a little rubber snake my son
had left in the car, but after staring me down for a few seconds, it quickly
slithered back into the empty Nerds candy box from which it came.

I ran across the street to some neighbor boys who were
playing outside and said, “Hey, guess what I found in my car just now. A snake!”
“No way!” they said in total disbelief. “Yes way,” I said. “Do you guys want

I went around to my front porch and grabbed the Bug Hut we
keep for occasions like this, and filled it with some grasses and leaves. I
then went back to the car and scooped up the snake-filled Nerds candy box and
placed it in the Bug Hut for the boys.

I’m sure you’re wondering how a little snake like that got
into my car. Well, I hauled a bale of hay in my car over the weekend, and I’m
pretty sure he hitched a ride in the hay.

I got to work a little late today, and I stopped by my boss’s
office to apologize. “I’m sorry I’m a little late. I found a snake in my car,”
I said, which is just about as believable as “The dog ate my homework.”

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Eight Flights, Eight Seatmates. Adventures in the Air

Originally published on MySpace on June 24, 2009

As most of you know I went to Finland a few weeks back, and then I went to the Bay Area for a week of SQL Server bootcamp. In those two and a half weeks I flew eight flights and had eight seatmates. Some were interesting, some just slept. Here’s the rundown…

Portland to Washington DC

I usually use the first leg of any long trip to catch up on the sleep I haven’t been getting for the past five years. My seatmate had the same plan. I can’t tell you his name, because he slept the whole time. Me? I slept a bit and then watched “He’s Just Not That Into You” in Spanish, because I wanted to bone up on my Spanish since I was on my way to Finland. Oh wait, wrong country. I was bored okay!?

Washington DC to Copenhagen (that’s in Denmark people)
This was an SAS flight, and it was going to be awesome. Yeah, that’s what he said. I had an aisle seat in the middle of the plane, which is a strategic place for food and beverage consumption. We left the gate on time, got in line for takeoff, and then the dreaded announcement over the PA.

“We’re going to be on the tarmac for a while here. There’s weather over the Northeast portion of the United States and Canada, and all flights heading North have been grounded. We’ll be shutting the engines down for a while.”

This stuff always happens right after a big air diaster, and the Air France flight that broke apart in rough weather was most certainly the reason for this extreme caution. Because you know most airlines will fly you through a snowstorm with thumder and golfball size hail.

So we sat, and sat, and sat. An hour into it they finally rolled out the drink cart and the chocolate! And we started having happy hour in my area of the plane.

Next to me, Stuart, a cardiologist from Virginia, on his way to Stockholm. He went to med school in Belgium and had lots of stories.

Across the aisle from me, Hanna, from Finland, who was flying to the same little city (Turku) in Finland that I was. She was drinking whiskey because she had a sore throat. And when she found out I was on my way to Laitila she told me about a famous Laitila dialect poet named Heli Laaksonen.

In the row in front of me, Carrie Ann, the head chef of Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines. She was on her way to Turku as well, which happens to be a huge cruise ship building city, to check out the kitchens on the newest (world’s largest) cruise ship. She was going for ONE day! She also used to be the chef at one of my favorite restaurants in Saratoga, CA, called the Plumed Horse.

Next to Carrie Ann was Eduardo, who looked like a rock and roll guy, and was in fact traveling with his band to tour in Sweden. He taught us all how to swear in Portuguese.

We sat on the tarmac for three hours, and had multiple drinks in our makeshift happy hour in the aisle of that Airbus. The three of us who were going to Turku discussed how we would get there from Copenhagen if we missed our connection (we did miss our connection).

Copenhagen to Stockholm
SAS’s solution to our missed connection from Copenhagen to Turku was to fly us to Stokholm. An extra leg, and extra five hours. Bonus! My seatmate on that flight slept, so I can’t tell you who he was.

We arrived in Stockholm and had some time to kill so Hanna and I had a snack and did some duty free shopping. She was bringing home a bottle of whiskey for her husband.

Stockholm to Turku (Finland)

It was one of those puddle jumper prop jobs where you wonder if they’re powered by a hamster wheel.

I arrived in Turku, and my bag went to Barcelona. Lucky bag!

Turku to Copenhagen
Boring. No fancy seatmate.

Copenhagen to Chicago

My seatmate, Adam, was an unemployed 25-year old marriage and family counselor in L.A. who had been in Copenhagen visiting his brother who decided to live abroad for a year. My first question to Adam was, “So Adam, why do people get divorced?” This 25-year old with little life experience gave me a surprising answer, “Because everyone wants instant gratification. No one has the patience for marriage anymore.”

We spent the first hour debating marriage and relationships, and then we both slept the rest of the way.

Chicago to Portland
I honestly don’t remember this flight. I do believe I passed out with my mouth open, and a bit of drool hanging on. I was tired.

Portland to San Jose (CA)
My seatmate was a healer who lived and worked in Monterey and Santa Cruz, two very healer-friendly cities. He was on his way back from a healing conference in Vancouver, BC. He told me my frozen shoulder was caused by emotional trauma, which is probably true considering what I went through in the past year.

San Jose to Portland
My seatmate asked one question, “What kind of dog is in there?” and that was it. I had Lili the Wonder Pug stuffed into a carrier under the seat.

Sometimes you hit the jackpot, and sometimes you get stuck. Ever had an interesting seatmate? A really smelly one? One who wouldn’t shut up for the 32-hour trip to Hyderabad? do tell!

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So, I Met the Chief Data Architect at MySpace…

Originally published on MySpace on June 17, 2009

I’m currently in California (Bay Area) attending what I like to refer to as SQL Server bootcamp, because it’s actually two week-long classes crammed into a single week. The thought of learning that much in a week was enough to kick my geek gene into high gear.

Then I got the email from my instructor…
He asked if I’d be interested in attending a SQL Users Group meeting while I was in town, and oh by the way, the guest speaker would be Christa Stelzmuller, Chief Data Architect at MySpace.
Now the average woman swoons at the thought of meeting Johnny Depp or Brad Pitt. Me? Meeting Christa Stelzmuller would be like my daughter meeting Hannah Montana and the Jonas Brothers at the same time. Yes, I was flying my geek flag high.
So, after class was over yesterday, myself, one other student from the class, and the instructor headed over to Microsoft in Mountain View to hear Christa speak.
We arrived at Building 1, signed in and headed to the Neptune conference room, where pizza and soft drinks awaited us. We picked seats right in the middle, and watched the room fill up…with men. Out of about 50 people there were probably four women, including the speaker. If I had been looking for a date, the odds were good, but the goods were odd.
I must say I had a million questions in my head before I got there, but as soon as Christa started her presentation I was just in awe of what I was seeing.
Many of us have been on MySpace for years. I have been blogging on MySpace for almost four years. We all felt the growth pains when the user base went from 12 million, to 20 million, to 80 million and beyond.
MySpace is a behemoth problem child when it comes to the instant gratification of it’s 100+ million users. It is a mind boggling challenge to manage the constantly changing data.
Christa joined MySpace two and a half years ago when the site was growing so fast that the two (yes TWO) DBA’s couldn’t keep up and weren’t getting any sleep, and the rate of user errors was two million a day.
What it takes to keep MySpace online:
669 Servers
1512 Databases
15120 Disks
6 DBA’s
Each database holds one million users, grouped by user id. So, if you and your friends all signed up around the same time you’re probably on the same database.
MySpace features are split up all over the place. Video, Photos, photo comments, profile comments, blogs, etc. are all kept on separate drives in separate databases. Your profile is managed this way so that if one server is offline your profile stays up, minus whatever feature is sitting on that server.
After the presentation was over, and the Q&A was done, there was a raffle for five prizes: books, software and t-shirts. After all of the software was gone, and the books had been scooped up, Christa drew one more ticket, and it was mine. So, this Oracle geek is now the proud owner of a SQL Server t-shirt.
The meeting host thanked Christa, people applauded, and then most started heading for the door. But I didn’t leave. DId you think I would walk away without asking the question that’s on all of your minds? Hell no!
I went up and joined the throng of database geeks waiting to ask Christa just one more question. I had to meet this woman who took this disaster of an architecture and somehow made sense of it. And I had a question for her, “Christa, what happened to blog indexing!? I have 800 blogs and I can’t find anything.”
Her answer was this: the blogging feature has been ignored for a very long time. But, it’s an issue she has been championing, and she promised some changes were in the works, and things would be fixed soon. I said, “Define ‘soon,’ because every time Tom says ‘sit tight’ it means nothing gets fixed for a year.” She said there was a meeting happening in two weeks and things were going to change very soon. Sigh. Let’s hope so.
If you are at all interested in the database architecture behind MySpace, I highly recommend you take a look at the presentation at the link below. If you have any questions feel free to post a comment and I will try to answer to the best of my recollection.
The link to the presentation –> MySpace Data Architecture
And for the real database geeks, I present the following:
* MySpace runs on Microsoft SQL Server for the most part, and SQL Server Standard Edition at that. There are a few databases that are the Enterprise version. Why? The cost of licensing for the Enterprise version was prohibitive.
* They don’t use foreign keys at all. Why? Imagine that you want to delete a picture from your profile, and that picture has 100 comments, and those comments are from 100 different users scattered across 1000 databases. If the database had to stop and check for dependencies on delete, it would come to a crawl, and you’d be waiting a very long time to get your cursor back. So, you delete a picture, and some crawlers go through and cleanup the orphan data later.
* They don’t use SQL Server replication, because of data integrity issues. It can’t keep up with the traffic. They use their own homegrown solution of replication.
* They use a mix of SQL Server, open source products and homegrown solutions.

Caveat: I did not take notes during this presentation, so I am
writing from memory. The numbers listed, however, are straight
off the presentation.

Two Database goddesses who seem to have the same taste in clothing. That’s Christa on the right.

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Cheers and Jeers for June 11, 2009

Originally published on MySpace on June 11, 2009

Jeers: to the weather system over the Northeast United States that kept all Northbound air traffic grounded for hours on June 3.

Cheers: to SAS for handing out chocolate and free drinks while we were grounded on the tarmac for three hours.
Cheers: to my luggage for taking a detour to Barcelona (lucky luggage).

Jeers: to SAS for not knowing where the heck my luggage was when it didn’t show up in Turku, Finland with me.

Jeers: to SAS for telling me I had to be at the Turku airport an hour and a half before my flight time, when the ticket counter didn’t even open until an hour before the flight.

Cheers: to my friend Nina in Finland who owns a bakery/cafe called Bakels, and
let me bake cakes, decorate cakes and cookies, and taste everything
when I was there.
Cheers: to my son Ashton for graduating from high school this week. Off to college in September.

Jeers: to this Portland “summer.” Gray skies and drizzle. Good times.

Jeers: to Pine Street Mexican Restaurant for the bait and switch. They do
indeed have $1 tacos as the sign in the window says, however, they are
on tortillas half the size of a yamika. And if you want rice and beans
it will cost you an extra $8. The tacos were tiny but good.

Cheers: to my employer that provides me with a cool career and a
paycheck. I love my job, and I’m grateful to have a job right now.

Jeers: to Kastrup Airport in Copenhagen for having no real food in the
international terminal I was stuck in on my layover. Their idea of a
restaurant was a 7 Eleven food mart.

Cheers: to Chicago O’Hare, which has every kind of food imaginable.

Jeers: to this jet lag!

Stories and photos coming…

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