Vision Quest

Motion 05

Odd that Dave should mention it while I have this half-drafted and sitting in the queue; coincidence or… evidence of vast conspiracy? Stay tuned! Dun dun dun….


“The White Whale swam before him as the monomaniac incarnation of all those malicious agencies which some deep men feel eating in them, till they are left living on with half a heart and half a lung. That intangible malignity which has been from the beginning; to whose dominion even the modern Christians ascribe one-half of the worlds; which the ancient Ophites of the east reverenced in their statue devil; — Ahab did not fall down and worship it like them; but deliriously transferring its idea to the abhorred white whale, he pitted himself, all mutilated, against it. All that most maddens and torments; all that stirs up the lees of things; all truth with malice in it; all that cracks the sinews and cakes the brain; all the subtle demonisms of life and thought; all evil, to crazy Ahab, where visibly personified, and made practically assailable in Moby Dick. He piled upon the whale’s white hump the sum of all the general rage and hate felt by his whole race from Adam down; and then, as if his chest had been a mortar, he burst his hot heart’s shell upon it.”

There has been a slight change in today’s program: this evening, the role of Ahab will be played by Michael Hoye; the role of the White Whale will be played, as usual, by an Oracle database.

I hate dealing with Oracle products as I hate few other things, and I am no amateur, second-string hater, no sir. Believe me, if I could hate for money I would already have gone pro. But, wow, there might not be a worse place to have to deal with Oracle than on somebody else’s unix box, where all the ticks and idiosyncrasies of the previous administrators are dragging their nails down the nearest chalkboard while you try to focus on what could possibly have gone wrong. Because, Jeebus, Oracle’s documentation is garbage. Their error messages are completely opaque and their logs are just slightly less helpful than having a cup of cold gravel poured down your shorts.

Possibly the only thing I dislike more than being given an Oracle problem is actually solving it.

And I can hear many of you saying “um, what?” but hear me out, because this is the plain truth of Systems Administration as a career, the poorly-marked road many of us seem to be walking. It is this: once you’ve solved one hard, unpleasant problem that nobody else wanted anything to do with you immediately become some the go-to guy for the entire class of hard, unpleasant problems that nobody, including you, wants anything to do with.

So, you have slain the Oracle Server, or the SAP cluster, the tape robot or the old printer, whatever; you have consumed its still-warm liver and gained its strength and courage thereby. It is a part of your totem now, and when that monster’s big brother crawls out of the long dark howling its vengeance the tribe will know that you have bested its kin. And they will wish you well, hand you your spear and send you alone to defeat this new thing. It’s noble as hell, and it doesn’t really scale, but you’re marked for good. Now you’re the guy who can fix that stuff, and your job is to gaze into the abyss until you’ve stared it down, and the abyss gives.

So, now I’m the Oracle Guy. Not the Consultant, or Expert, or Admin or anything that might involve a new pay grade, of course. Just “Guy”. Previous Guys I have been include the Computer Guy, the Windows Guy, the Linux Guy, the Network Guy, (the ArcNet Guy, and the OS/2 Guy, back in the stone age) the Server Guy, the Apple Guy and more recently the Cisco Guy and, now the Oracle Guy. And I’m going to have to solve a bunch of Oracle Problems soon, I can smell it.

I swear, my only qualification for this job has ever been that twelve years ago I wanted to be helpful and could make the office printer work. That’s it. And now my name is legion, for I am all these guys.

It seemed like a good idea at the time.


  1. Mark
    Posted November 14, 2008 at 4:46 am | Permalink

    Have you taught someone else these skills so you can move on to bigger and better things?

  2. mhoye
    Posted November 14, 2008 at 9:01 am | Permalink

    As fast as I can.