Archive for October, 2006

Toilet Stall Deadlock

A few years ago, I had a whim.  I wanted to write a book that explained database concepts in the terms of toilet, bathroom and excrement analogies.  For deadlock I had this example:

The bathroom has two stalls, each occupied by a person who needs to take a dump.  Person A is patiently waiting for the other occupant to leave before they release their bowels (and any accompanying sound effects).  Little do they know– Person B also needs to take a dump and is waiting for Person A to finish!  So both people are sitting on toilets, stifling urges and waiting for the other one to depart.  

Unfortunately that was the only example I came up with and as amusing as I may think it is, it doesn’t quite constitute a book.  But I did get to smile and think about it this morning when Derek and I ran into a deadlock* (the database type) this morning. 

We were trying to track down an Oracle issue, so we got into SQL*Plus and inserted some records into a particular table.  When we went to the application, our changes were not being displayed.  Worse even, when we tried to make changes to the same table through the application it hung indefinitely.  Oracle folks, know what we did wrong?

That’s right– SQL*Plus commands do not commit their changes until you close the tool or you explicitly type in commit; 

Our changes through the SQL*Plus tool were still in limbo so when the application went to make the its changes– it found itself patiently waiting for SQL*Plus to release the table so it could have the same privacy coveted by our bathroom goers.  SQL*Plus was lingering open, so our application waited and waited and waited… until Derek and I finally caught on.

Even if it doesn’t make for a book, perhaps one day you’ll run into some peculiar behavior with your Oracle database and SQL*Plus.  Out of frustration, you step away from your desk and take a trip to the bathroom and when you plop down on the seat– maybe you will recall this post and realize what is going on.  🙂

*Okay, so it isn’t an official deadlock because the SQL*Plus isn’t waiting for a resource the application has— but the segue was close enough me!

October 4, 2006 at 11:54 pm 1 comment

Iwo Jima, V-J Day… and Toddlers

I read an article a while back (for the life of me, I can’t remember from what magazine and 30 minutes of web searching has shed no light) that discussed the near misses with iconic photographs.  In other words, it talked about the photographers who were at a slightly different angle or who were just a second too late with their shot.  Meanwhile, another photographer with the right combination ended up with all the glory.  The first example was the raising of the 2nd flag at Iwo Jima.  The photograph that is instilled in our brains was taken by Joe Rosenthal:

Rosenthal wasn’t alone on the mountain.  Another photographer, Bob Campbell, was in a different spot and caught the following shot.  The first and smaller flag is being pulled down in the foreground (the original flag was deemed too small to be seen).  Meanwhile the more famous flag is being raised in the background.  Campbell’s shot obviously did not have the same impact as Rosenthal’s.

Another example the article discussed was Alfred “Eisie” Eisenstaedt’s  V-J Day Kiss– the picture of the sailor and the nurse kissing in Times Square.  Another photographer caught the exact same pair kissing– but it was at a different moment.  The nurse’s back didn’t quite have the tell-tale arch in it and as a result, the photograph just didn’t have the same resonance as Eisenstaedt’s.

Well, it turns out the intricacies of timing and angles aren’t exclusive to iconic war images.  It seems to apply to toddlers as well.  Today I joined the Jones Family for an afternoon at Pandapas Pond.  At one point Ann snapped this picture of her two children:

She was unfamiliar with my camera, fumbled around and couldn’t tell if she actually took a picture.  I stepped in to save the day.  Armed with my knowledgeable prowess of the Gateway camera, I snapped this lovely dud:

In Ann’s picture, the kids are smiling.  You can see the water and the trees in the background.  Some sunrays are trickling down, complimenting the flaxen hair of the young subjects.  My picture…. just awful. 

So yeah, timing and angles– definitely important.

P.S.  All my better-timed Pandapas Pond pictures (and a larger copy of Ann’s picture) are available on my website.

October 1, 2006 at 7:41 pm 8 comments

Fall Ode to Virginia Creeper

When Sean and I first bought our house in 2001, Tony Airaghi showed great vision.  He was one of the first people we brought over to our house.  In fact, we brought him over before we closed on it, before it was official ours.  Despite the whole house being vacant, Tony saw uses Sean and I had not anticipated.

  • When Tony was in the screened in porch, he noted the window that opened back into the kitchen.  He rapped on the glass and said, “Hey– can you hand me another beer?”
  • When Tony went into the downstairs bathroom and saw how close the toilet was to the dryer, he sat down on the toilet, opened the dryer and started folding some invisible laundry.
  • Finally, when we went out into the backyard and looked up at 15 years of unattended growth and a collection of weeds, Tony got enthusiastic and said, “Nice!  You are going to love this shit!!!”  I was skeptical.  To me, it looked like a bunch of poison ivy, but he explained he was talking about a plant called Virginia Creeper and that, “in the fall, it turns a deep red!”

We’ve been in our house for over five years now.  I haven’t once passed a beer to Sean through the kitchen window (no need- the screened in porch sports its own fridge).  I’ve also never folded laundry while using the toilet (though every now and then I will retrieve a few choice items from the dryer).  But Tony was right about one thing– I sure do love that Virginia Creeper.

And this year it seems more beautiful than ever!  All the Virginia Creeper has turned a deep maroon.  Meanwhile most of the trees remain a solid green.  As a result, when you are driving through the area, you pass by trees with green leaves and bushy red trunks.  It’s very obvious where the Virginia Creeper is.  I’ve been finding the 460 bypass between Blacksburg and Christiansburg particularly pretty.

There are those who are not fond of Virginia Creeper, who consider it a pest.  Last summer, when I visited my Great Uncle Chuck’s farm in Pennsylvania, we walked by some Virginia Creeper.  In a very vague way, it was reminiscent of the scene in Amistad where Cinque, thousands of miles from home, sees a familiar plant (an African Violet) in John Quincy Adams’  greenhouse.  I was only 400 miles from home, but still smiled when I saw the plant that bears the name of my home state.  

“What do you call that plant?” I asked my Great Uncle proudly.

“A WEED!” He snapped. 

“Oh,” I replied meekly, “We call it Virginia Creeper.”

He may have sensed my disappointment as he quickly tacked on, “Well, we call it that too.”  But by that time, his opinion was clear.

My Great Uncle is not alone.  There are those who find Virginia Creeper to be a pest, those who have allergic reactions to it like poison ivy and those who would consider it to be an invasive species.   Perhaps I should as well.  But, honestly, I’m too smitten with the leaves!

Luckily, I’m not alone either!   There is evidence that people have been enchanted by Virginia Creeper for centuries.  In 1776 a committee of four Virginians (George Mason, George Wythe, Richard Henry Lee, and Robert Carter Nicholas) designed our state seal (which also appears on our state flag).  There is a colorful border around the seal.  That border is Virginia Creeper and fittingly enough– its leaves are red. 

It’s Virginia Creeper in the fall, that is depicted on our state seal! 

That feels about right to me.  🙂

October 1, 2006 at 10:23 am 8 comments

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