Sunday, May 07, 2006

Parallel Universes...

Parallel Universes. Recently, I’ve been caught up in the idea put forth by Kathy here in the Myth Of Keeping Up (I got caught up in the idea before she published it there). That idea is:

Pick the categories you want for a balanced perspective,
and include some from OUTSIDE your main field of interest

So, I’ve been doing lots of reading outside of “technical stuff” and science fiction. Just finished a short book written in the mid 1800’s – “Jane Eyre” for example. I picked it up based on a recommendation from a web site somewhere of “must read books”. It was interesting as it was written as a contemporary book of life during that period of time (so not someone from today looking back and imagining as it might have been but from the point of view of someone alive then – telling it as it was more or less, the social mores and all). One of the things I liked while reading it was the number of words I did not know the precise meaning of (ok, sometimes I frankly had never heard them from before – most I had heard but could not precisely define). Indicating how much language changes over time. Words such as lachrymose, confabulate, dowager, contumacy, and palliate to name a few. Sometimes I was surprised - I always thought I knew the definition of precocious - but I did not. I always thought of it in a somewhat derogatory sense, but it turns it it would be a compliment.

I’ve also been reading some blog writers that probably could not spell Oracle let alone figure out what to do with a sqlplus prompt. One of the newest entries in that genre for me has been Seth Godin – a marketing guy of all things. This morning, as I was catching up I read two of his entries and thought to myself – hey, I know exactly what you are saying – I say the same things about my field of expertise. They were:
  • Good for them for trying something. Now, if they test and measure, we'll see... in the “But I like sticky floors” entry.
  • I realized that every single time I used an analogy, he didn't "get it." Instead, he started talking about the example in the analogy instead of the concept I was trying to get across. In the “Yolks are to eggs as mice are to…”
I know I’ve said that first quote myself over and over again – good to see it has universal application and other people believe in it too. Test and Measure – and then we’ll see. From a marketing guy. You have to like that.

The bit about the analogy is a good reminder – for me, for everyone that likes to use them. I love analogies, I over use them perhaps. I’ve seen that same effect though, if the person you are talking to takes the analogy literally – it can very much backfire (all of the problems the story you just told has – your product suddenly inherits, everything bad about the analogy is bad about your stuff now). An analogy taken to illogical extremes by someone can very much turn them off (or at best confuse them). When used lightly, analogies can help understanding – when taken the wrong way – they will be disastrous. Take care therefore with your analogies.

As he said “Yes, your shampoo may be as fresh as a daisy” – but if I don’t like daisies (or worse, I’m allergic to daises!) it could backfire.

I was just struck by the parallels to what I say/do everyday in this marketing guys blog. And here I didn’t think we had anything in common!

And yes, I will post the list of books I chose to read from the earlier entry “A question for all of you…”. The feedback was great – I’ll list out those I’ve read already (quite a few it turns out) and those I plan on reading. One of the criteria to make it on my short list will be the availability of a ebook version I can put on my palm pilot. I got hooked on that this last trip. I was reading Jane Eyre – the paperback version. I’m about 2/3rds of the way through it – on my way from London to Munich. Got a little sleepy and put the book in the seatback in front of me. And – quite predictably – as I’ve done it many times before, we land, I get my pack out of the overhead and leave – leaving the book in the plane. I hate it when I do that. So, I wanted to finish the book. I searched online and found Project Gutenberg. The book was there, for immediate download. I did so, opened the html file in Word, put it into documents to go and sync’ed my Treo. The book was on the Treo. And I found it quite readable (in fact the ability to click on a word, copy it and look it up on the web when not in a plane was very nice!). I plan on generating the list of books to read and then determining which ones I can get onto the Treo (I’ll put them all on the expansion card) and then I’ll have them with me where ever I go.

The only downside is that I like to keep books I’ve read and enjoyed on the bookshelf. I’ll probably end up buying the ones I liked in paper form anyway. This is the second book I’ve read online now and found both enjoyable and easy to read that way (I haven’t had printed documentation for Oracle since version 7.3 and I personally haven’t missed it).

But – it won’t work at the beach or a lake… First, not sure I want to whip my phone out on the beach (sand, salt, and so on). Second, unless it is a very very cloudy day the screen is hard to read!


Blogger Doug Burns said....

"(I haven’t had printed documentation for Oracle since version 7.3 and I personally haven’t missed it)."

Wow. I have *really* missed it. My favourite perk of all when I worked for Oracle Education was a complete set of 7.3 manuals. It seems to be a personal thing, though, you either like screen reading or don't and I don't. I use it often, but prefer a good book.

On the subject of the similarity between ideas from other fields, I was going to (at the risk of being labelled a complete hippy) suggest 'Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance' in your other blog. I thought the core theme of Quality would be right up your street ;-) It's a bit of a love-it-or-hate-it book, though

Sun May 07, 10:17:00 AM EDT  

Blogger Thomas Kyte said....

Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance

That is a title that would not "grab me" normally, but now I'll have to research it :)

Sun May 07, 10:22:00 AM EDT  

Blogger Mathew Butler said....

I don't think that Doug really sold Zen and the Art of Motorcycle maintenance.

It's key points are interwoven into the narrative of a father son road trip. It's about quality, thought, process and what it is that we do when we problem solve. The story is kind of like an analogy - so ties in with your earlier post.

Using a story to communicate the key points is similar to The Goal ( a book that Cary Milsap recommends on the hotsos web site ). Another VERY good read despite what you expect to be a rather dry subject. It's all about process improvement, but the story is engaging. I knocked it off in day.

I might re-read these actually - I've been doing alot of this lately.

Sun May 07, 11:32:00 AM EDT  

Blogger Thomas Kyte said....

I don't think that Doug really sold Zen and the Art of Motorcycle maintenance.

I agree, that is why I'd have to research more :) The title did not grab me.

Sun May 07, 11:35:00 AM EDT  

Blogger Doug Burns said....

"I don't think that Doug really sold Zen and the Art of Motorcycle maintenance."

I'll leave that to Amazon. Sigh ... I'm *really* going to have to work on those book reviews ;-)

Sun May 07, 02:08:00 PM EDT  

Anonymous Gary S said....

If you like 18th century dialogue, you should watch "Barry Lyndon," directed by the sardonic genius, Stanley Kubrick. It was based on a historical novel that was written about 75 years after the events depicted, so the dialog is appopriate to the time. Kubrick brings out huge depth of emotion in the restrained and ornate speech patterns that his characters use, and most of the action is framed by scenes that look like paintings of the time. Astounding.

One other thing (putting on my "Karnak the magnificent" hat): I would guess that your negative connotations for "precocious" come from the fact that it was rhymed with "atrocious" in the Mary Poppins song "Supercalifragilisticexpealidocious." If you don't feel this to be true, I can only suppose that the process of association must have been unconscious. :-)

Sun May 07, 04:31:00 PM EDT  

Blogger Howard J. Rogers said....

Two things: One, the Personal Memoirs of US Grant are definitely available at Project Gutenberg, because that's where I got my copy from (and then I had it printed up, with a nice colour frontpiece, and bound!)

Two, as a bit of a reverse example to your precocious: precious. Sounds nice (and usually is), but can describe one or two people rather well, and not in a good sense at all!

Sun May 07, 05:38:00 PM EDT  

Blogger Thomas Kyte said....

Howard - I think you hit the nail on the head. Precious can be used "sarcastically", so can precocious. I think I only had heard the sarcastic use of precocious and always associated it with "not good".

Sun May 07, 06:04:00 PM EDT  

Blogger Howard J. Rogers said....

Incidentally, England is full of Dowager Duchesses to this day; plenty of people put loved ones into palliative care, and anyone who ever sings or listens to a Latin Mass for the Dead will know of the Lachrymosa.

I'm not so sure your list really indicates that language changes "so much over time", therefore. More that, if one gets out a bit into circles one ordinarily wouldn't move in perhaps, you'll find that (much of) what seems unfamiliar, old-fashioned and obsolete is in fact in near-daily use.

Which was the point of that part of your blog in the first place, of course. So consider us fundamentally in agreement!

Word Verification: ikarpisb. I suppose I do, too!

Sun May 07, 06:04:00 PM EDT  

Blogger Rachel said....

Being a longtime reader of period romances, most of the words on your list I knew (with the exception of contumacy). As for precocious, well, I'm learning about animals and that's a term used to describe how the baby is born -- precocious in that context means "able to eat solid food, eyes and ears open".

I tend to learn a lot of words in context, from reading them. sometimes, rarely though, I resort to the dictionary

If you liked Jane Eyre, and the fact that it was written as a contemporary book, you'll like the novels of Jane Austen for the same reason

Sun May 07, 07:07:00 PM EDT  

Blogger Thomas Kyte said....

Howard -

laughing out loud, I probably just never bothered to look up the word (when used in context).

was just reading that from one of the other blogs I read - the news from butterflies and wheels.

Six uses of the word palliate. Perhaps it was more of a "British English" than a "Old English" thing.

Sun May 07, 08:01:00 PM EDT  

Blogger Howard J. Rogers said....

Ah, that old problem!


Sun May 07, 10:41:00 PM EDT  

Blogger Noons said....

Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance still ranks with Le reveil des magiciens as the best books I've ever read. Throughly recommended: don't bother researching it, just grab a copy and enjoy. I'd be VERY surprised if you didn't like it. Some call it a bit pretentious but it really isn't.

Sun May 07, 11:32:00 PM EDT  

Blogger Alex Gorbachev said....

"(I haven’t had printed documentation for Oracle since version 7.3 and I personally haven’t missed it)."

Wow. I have *really* missed it.

Well, in 7.3 (and I think 8.0 still) days it was quite ok to navigate paper docs. IMHO, starting with 8i and especially 9i the docs getting unmanageable in paper form - just too big and too many.

Mon May 08, 04:06:00 AM EDT  

Blogger Roderick said....

I used to know the definitions of most of those words because of some high school quiz (along with words like lugubrious and plethora). Confabulate is still one of my favorites though I haven't found an excuse to use that one in a while (though you'd think I'd have plenty of opportunity to identify examples of that in my line of work).

I used to confuse precocious with promiscuous maybe because they sound a little similar and both will sometimes be followed by the word "youth".

But HJR's theory sounds quite plausible as well. "Brilliant" is a word that usually means a good thing. But can be a form of sarcasm as well, such as "Well, that was a brilliant idea, Einstein. What do we do now?"

On the flip side, there was a fireworks show recently where one of the younger attendants declared the explosions to be "... f(ph)at ..." and "... wicked sick ..." Apparently those are compliments these days. :-)

Mon May 08, 04:11:00 AM EDT  

Blogger Vadim Bobrov said....

"Well, in 7.3 (and I think 8.0 still) days it was quite ok to navigate paper docs. IMHO, starting with 8i and especially 9i the docs getting unmanageable in paper form - just too big and too many"

I bought a Tablet PC for that purpose and have been happy ever since. You put it in front of you just like a book (should be a slim one if you want it to be practical, I have an HP TC1100) and read. It has all the advantages of a paper book - you can take it anywhere and those of a computer - get online, search, bookmark, highlight and stuff. Highly recommend.

Mon May 08, 05:14:00 AM EDT  

Blogger melanie caffrey said....

Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance still ranks with Le reveil des magiciens as the best books I've ever read.

I echo Nuno's comments here. As he said, no need to research it, just read it.

It was required reading where I went to college.

Pirsig rocks!

The theme of getting into the right mindset before you tackle a problem is still something I hold onto today.

Which would you rather have on your team?

A highstrung, stressed-out "yuppie" DBA? Or a calm, cool and collected "hippie" DBA?


Mon May 08, 08:29:00 AM EDT  

Blogger Herod T said....

The "Tom Kyte" effect at its best.

“Jane Eyre” is #54 in the top downloads for the last 7 days from project gutenberg

Mon May 08, 01:02:00 PM EDT  

Blogger Thomas Kyte said....

... Jane Eyre is #54 in the top downloads for the last 7 days from project gutenberg ...

too funny - I cannot imagine what a big bunch of DBA's are going to do with that book...

It is sort of a "chick flick" book, I was wondering if I should even mention the title :)

I enjoyed the book though, won't be in my top ten probably of all time, but it was a good, fast read.

Mon May 08, 01:16:00 PM EDT  

Blogger David Aldridge said....

A lazy person writes ...

Did anyone mention "Godel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid" in the book recommendations? Does that count as a classic yet?

Mon May 08, 02:27:00 PM EDT  

Blogger jimk said....

Yes, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle maint is great. I would be surprised if you didn't enjoy it.

As for Tolstoy. He is an excellent writer but think of him as a movie director. If you read Tolstoy's Snowstorm (much shorter) and think of him as a screen writer his style of writing will make more sense. I took a Tolstyoy literature course in College and it was a bit too much reading. (War and Peace one week, Anne Karinina the next.)

If you want ot experience Russian Author's then Gogle's The Overcoat is quite good. Crime and Punishment is another. (it was supposed to be an introduction to a series...)

Just finished Guns, Germs, and Steel. It has a nice development on why certain cultures ended up defeating other cultures. (NOT because race X is smarter than race Y)

Madaline L'Engle's books are a great read. Start with A Wrinkle in Time. If you like that one then get her others. You could easily read it on a Washington to LA flight.(and get some work done) A Wrinkle in Time is some science fiction and a lot of philosophy.

Others have mentioned 1984, and Animal Farm.

Plato's Repbulic, but start with something shorter like The Symposium and The Apology.

Tim Robbins, Still Life with Woodpecker. Short read; totally different; great command of language. If you like his style then Jitterbug Perfume, or Another Roadside Attraction.(etc.)

Thurber. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. (The Thurber Carnival) One of my favorite's (about 3 minutes to read) is The Unicorn in the Garden.( he has a whole collection like that.


Sci Fi Heinlien. Friday, or his juvinile novels (eg Have SpaceSuit will Travel). Bradbury S is for Space, or R is for Rocket or The Illustrated Man.

Mon May 08, 02:59:00 PM EDT  

Blogger Herod T said....

Jane Eyre is still a great book.

"chick flick" yes. But still very good.

Mon May 08, 03:07:00 PM EDT  

Anonymous Anonymous said....

Classic book - Anything by Tom Kyte ... oh wait you said non-technical ;).

Just bought another copy of Tom's new book for a new DBA starting at a recently aquired site.

Get the cheque yet Tom? Have a pint on us.


Mon May 08, 03:11:00 PM EDT  

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