The Value of DR Testing

Just a short blog post today since I’m actually in the middle of a call with a client as we test our failover scenario.

Right now I’m calling it a success even though the SQL Server hasn’t come up yet.

Why am I calling it a success? Because we learned that our current plan has a serious gaping hole concerning how the iSCSI drives failover. Yes, technically we failed to failover as quickly as we expected.

But, we’ve learned that before this system went into production. So that’s a success. This raises our confidence level for next time.

In all honesty, we often learn more from our failures from our successes. For example, before NASA would allow SpaceX to fly a crew on Crew Dragon, they required several abort tests, one of which involved launching a Falcon 9 and then in mid-flight firing the Crew Dragon abort engines. This resulted in the destruction of the Falcon 9 (which was expected) but proved the abort plans worked. Note however that for Orion on Artemis, NASA has decided such a test is not necessary. The decision making process behind this particular decision is worthy of a blog of its own.

In any case, with the current DR test, we expect to have things finally failed over in the next hour or two. Then we’ll update our playbook and have a lot more confidence.

Moral of your story: test your DR. Assume things will go wrong the first time because they will, but far better to have that before you go to production. This is not the first time I’ve had a failover not go as planned, but prior to production.

Running a Race

I’l probably expand upon this when I have more time, but I’ve given some thought to an analogy that describes my current life this semester:

It’s like the show from the late 2000s (and apparently back called Wipeout. The goal is to run the course as quickly as possible while avoiding obstacles, many you can see and plan for, but some might pop-out unexpectedly.

The race I’m running is to get in at least 1000 hours of patient contact time so I can apply to most of my choices for PA School (one I am considering actually only requires 500 and a few more). In theory I can apply BEFORE I finish the hours (most allow programs you to apply as long as you’ll have enough before the end of the year). That said, I’m not content to say “Oh ok, I barely squeaked in 1000 hours”. Nope, I want them NOW! I’m getting there.

The obstacles are my classes. I pretty much know when tests and quizzes will be, but I have to plan my schedule around them. And then I have my IT work which mostly I can shift around the workload, but occasionally something pops up that needs fairly immediate attention. These are the obstacles I can expect, but not when.

Fortunately, come May, I’ll be down from 3 classes to just 1 over the summer and things should get easier.

But in the meantime I’m running as fast as I can, trying to avoid wiping out! And that’s one reason my weekly blog posts have been shorter and later than in the past.

What Inconvenience?

On the way into the ED at where I work, there’s a player piano in the lobby. It’s nice, adds a bit of ambiance.

That said, the other week it apparently stopped working. These things happen. What struck me as interesting was the sign that was put up.

Piano will remain silent, until necessary repairs are made.
Sorry for the inconvenience.

It was that last bit that struck me: Sorry for the inconvenience. I can see “sorry for the disappointment” or something similar. But now I’m genuinely curious about who is inconvenienced by this small mishap.

Again, my views reflect my own, not my employer, Albany Medical Center, and anything I say here should not be interpreted as speaking for them.

This is Secure?

Just a very short blog this week. This time on security.

It’s said that locks only keep honest folks out. There’s some truth to that. Every lock can eventually be overcome, it’s just a matter of time.

That said, I want you to consider the photo below of a small wall mounted “secure box”. I won’t even call it a wall safe, mostly because it could be overcome with a screwdriver. But why even bother with that?

I took one look at this, guessed it was probably a 5 digit combination. It took me three tries to open it, but that’s only because I botched my first try and decided after trying the second most obvious combination to go back and retry the first most obvious combination. It worked.

As my late father would say, “I’ll give you three guesses to the 5 digit combination, and the first two don’t count.”

To Sleep, perchance to Dream…

Ay, there’s the rub.

As I mentioned last week, I’ve been putting in a lot of hours in the ED. Between that and my school schedule, sometimes sleep is at a premium. This is the one area where I most recognize my age. When I was less than half my age I could easily pull an all-nighter and then be raring to go the next day. Now, not so much. Now I need to make up that sleep.

Fortunately, with my school schedule and consulting schedule, I’m allowed that precious time known as “a nap.” Sometime in our youth we start to resist naps. I suspect because we don’t need them and there’s too much of the world to see. Then at some point we look forward to them. Or at least recognize the need for them. For me there’s still too much of the world to see and things to to, but alas, I need my sleep.

I’m also fortunate for an ability I’ve gained over the years, even if my family at time will laugh at me for it; the ability to fall asleep almost anywhere at almost any time. I’m at the point where if you put me on a plane, it’s Pavlovian and I’ll fall asleep before pushback.

So yes, sometimes I’ll work until 3:30 AM and have class at 9:00 Am, but fortunately I can squeeze in some makeup sleep later in the day. And I’m glad for that.

I am curious to see how things will be once I’m in PA School. But that’s for another time.

Winter Finally

I’ll have to admit, I actually tend to like the winter. Though I haven’t enjoyed it as much lately as I probably should. In fact, I should be more specific. I enjoy certain weather associated with winter. I don’t necessarily like the season unless I get that weather. Bluntly, I like snow.

I like the quietness during a nighttime snowfall. I love the white blanket over everything. I’m also one of those rare birds that actually likes driving in the snow. Of course since I have a Subaru with all-wheel drive, that probably contributes to it.

What I don’t like are the cold, dreary, wet days without snow. Those are the worst. I’d rather have it be 20F and snowing, then 33F and raining.

So, overall, this winter has basically been a bust around here. In fact, over the decades, we’ve had more winters that I didn’t enjoy than when I was younger. It’s not so much because I’ve gotten older, but because they have for the most part gotten more mild.

So I can genuinely say, I’ve appreciated the snow that came over the weekend for us. Finally some real snow. Snow that if I were more inclined, I could make a snow man out of. Or I could make a snow fort out of. Or, had I made the time, driven in when the roads were still covered.

So, I’ll enjoy the snow we got.

The picture that should appear with this post is back from 2003!

“Help me put out the drunk cat”

Just a short post today. The title comes from the little bit of a dream that I recall from last night. It was something my father said in my dream. There’s really no meaning to it more than what it seems. In the dream he needed help catching and putting the very overweight and drunk cat outside. Don’t ask me why the cat was drunk or why it had to go outside (though I suspect that’s a better place for a drunk cat).

Why do I mention this seemingly random line? It’s because it’s an insight into how my dreams of my father have progressed. In my dream I heard my father’s voice. This is very bittersweet for me. Of all the tangible things I miss the most since he’s gone it is his voice I miss the most. For awhile I didn’t dream of him at all. After a while I’d start to have dreams with him in them. They were often variations on discovering that he was actually alive and we had to figure out how to undo selling his estate and all that paperwork. Then my dreams changed a bit and within a dream I’d remind myself that it was only a dream. Then they changed again. This time it was an inner voice telling me, that at least this time it wasn’t a dream. Those were hard to wake up from. But they also all had one other thing in common. He was always silent in them.

That was the hardest, I was forgetting his voice.

That too has changed over time. More often now when I dream of him, I hear his voice in my dreams. I couldn’t tell you what it sounds like and honestly, I’m not sure it’s really HIS voice, but in the dream it seems to be and that’s good enough.

I miss him every day, but some days, it’s his voice I miss the most.

I am in the Right Place

A couple of weeks ago I asked “Am I in the Right Place?” The question will always be in the back of my mind and I think that’s a bit healthy. I think any time anyone gets too sure of themselves, especially when lives are involved, it’s a bad idea. That said, I’ve now done 3 shifts in the Emergency Department (ED) and the answer to my question is “yes.”

In 36 hours I’ve learned a lot. I’ve done at least 2 dozen EKGs and only had to repeat one of them at doctor’s request. I’ve done more than my share of Covid Swabs. I’ve done a psych sit. And one of my fellow techs let me practice a straight stick blood draw on her. According to her I did well (she commented on her lack of bruise the next day). I’ve also done chest compressions. I’ve also sat around with nothing to do. That’s rare and one savors those moments.

I’ve had sore feet and one night as I got into my car my lower back froze and I couldn’t move for a few seconds. I’ve gotten dehydrated because I had forgotten my water bottle one day and it was too long between getting some water. I’ve snacked on the run (fortunately however, as an orient, I’m in theory guaranteed an actual food break which I’ve taken advantage of so far, but once I’m beyond orient status that may no longer be available).

I’ve worked to 2 12-hour shifts back to back and then gotten up on the 3rd day to make it to A&P Lab after only 6 hours of sleep.

But, though I’m only 3 shifts in (and about to run my 4th) after the first night I was confident I’m in the right place. I’m gaining confidence in my skills and abilities and I’m earning the trust of my colleagues. And at the end of the day, I’m enjoying what I’m doing. At least so far. We’ll see what I’m saying in 6 months or 12 months.

But at the end of the day, so far, yes, I think I’m in the right place.

And now the obligatory disclaimer that I do not speak for my employer Albany Medical Health Systems and my views are entirely my own.

Having Faith

Over a week ago, I had someone tell my wife that they were excited about my applying to PA school and they’d love to be my patient if I make it. While I appreciated their faith in me, I reminded my wife that if my career choice goes in the direction it does, my preference would be to work in an Emergency Department and as such, that person might not want to be my patient. This reminded me of a time when a friend was giving me a tour of the med-flight helicopter he worked on and showed me the logo that was on the ceiling above where a patient would be laying on a stretcher and joked few people saw it the way I did. In fact he added, many in a position to see it from a stretcher were often not in a good enough shape to really see anything.

Last week on social media I posted a bit about a specific concern I had in the process. It was more a comment than anything else. I generally don’t post such things looking for support or the like, it’s often more a stream of consciousness. Well the amount of “attaboys” and “you’ve got this” was uplifting and encouraging. Now the truth be told, most of the folks posting didn’t know the specific details of concerns and while I appreciated the sentiment, it didn’t change the actual reality. But that’s ok.

Here’s the thing. I might not succeed. I might hit a roadblock. I might find a class that simply stumps me. I might find my time in the ED to be such a negative experience that I decide to go back to being a fulltime DBA. Most of all, even with all the prep work, there’s no guarantee my primary (or even backup) schools of choice will accept me. Simply statistically, the odds are long. (Fortunately it’s not as simple as a roll of dice, there’s a lot more to the process than simply that.) But at the end of the day, knowing people have my back, for better or for worse, helps hugely. It’s not so much “how can I fail when I have so many people cheering me on” as much as “whether I succeed or fail, people will support me”. That makes the effort that much easier. And for that I’m grateful.

So, a year from now, I really hope to be able to tell folks, “yes, I was accepted” but even if I’m not, I’ll know they have faith in me. That’s helps more than I can express. Thank you.

Transitions and Regrets?

I was originally going to write a bit on the death of Queen Elizabeth II and reflections of mortality in general but thought I’d talk about a bit more about a more personal change.

It’s not news to my readers that I’m working to get into PA School. If all goes well, this means eventually I’ll move completely out of being a DBA and purely into the medical world. But this is not a quantum leap (which I have to say, I was pleased with the premiere of the new series last night). Things are not happening over night. I still have course work and patient contact hours to get in. The process is somewhat gradual. But, due to a biological need to sleep, it does mean I need to balance my obligations and in some cases turn my back on certain things.

I was reminded of one of those yesterday: PASS Summit. I’ve written about my previous experiences here and here and more. I’ve really loved my time visiting Seattle to attend it. I also enjoyed presenting, albeit it virtually. Besides being a great opportunity to meet with vendors and to attend a LOT of great sessions, it’s a great place to make friends and to catch up with friends. And yet, I’m not going this year. Under the old scheme, I had the advantage of being a User Group leader and as such getting a free pass. This helped me cost-wise, which as an independent consultant was a bonus. That wasn’t available this time around, so that figured into the decision a bit. But perhaps far more decisive was that I really don’t feel like I can take the time off from school.

What makes this doubly tough on me is that there are a lot of friends I really was hoping to catch up with in person and the fact that for the first time, I’d be an actual Friend of Redgate, an honor I’m proud of and with Redgate being the folks in charge, something I wanted to be more a part of than in the past.

I also did not put in to speak this year, because I knew I’d have classes during this time. I had been excited to be picked in 2020 to speak. The impact of Covid forced the conference to go virtual which dampened my excitement some.

So at the end of the day I had decided not to go and pushed the decision to the back of my mind. I figured I had no real regrets.

Then yesterday, a client asked me some questions about Summit and asked me to suggest some sessions that his people might get value out of and to give him some other notes about Summit.

So I had to pull the scab off the wound and to look at all the sessions. I of course saw a lot that applied to my client, but also some I knew I’d be interested in. And of course I saw easily a dozen names of people that I knew. This reminded me how much I’ll miss the social aspect of Summit. So it hit home. I’m going to miss Summit. The regrets are there.

I’ve given a lot of thought over the last 9 months about how my decision to apply for PA School would impact my life. Slowly pulling away from the #SQLFamily is one of them.

This doesn’t mean it’s going to be a complete break just yet. I actually have hopes of applying to speak at Summit next year since by then I should have all my pre-reqs done and have the time to attend. But in the meantime, I have to sometimes pull back from #SQLFamily events to focus on school and I’d be lying if that didn’t hurt a bit. What smooths this some though is exactly how much I’m enjoying my work to move towards PA School. So, on the balance, it’s worth it so far.