I Get Certified

2015-07-22 22.36.53
I’m too wrecked to go out so I am having a small party at home. Here is my invited guest.

As of 5.15 pm today, I am an Oracle-certified MySQL developer!

Somewhere in the distance, a dog barks.

Yeah, OK. Boasts that you have to explain are not good boasts. For the last four months I have been studying hard for a qualification in something most people have never even heard of.

Which is a shame, because it is actually the secret language that runs the world.

But first, let me tell you about my day. This was… a tough day. Not only did I take a two and a half hour professional exam, I attended a two hour public meeting right after. The way it began though – well that was even worse.

You know when you know you’re doing something wrong? I mean, when the front of your mind thinks everything’s all right but the back of your brain is waving frantically to get your attention? The feeling you’re forgetting something that you decide to ignore. The nagging awareness that you probably shouldn’t blog while drinking a bottle of wine. Sometimes you know deep down that you’re making a mistake but it just doesn’t seem to reach the surface. So yesterday evening I was being very organised for my exam. I did all the little things, like making sure the car had petrol and water – even that the windscreen washers were working properly. Yet even as I did it I thought to myself: “You know, there’s a danger here. This is breaking my routine. If I break my routine to do all these checks, I could forget one of the important things I do routinely. Fortunately though, I haven’t forgotten anything this time.”

So I finished checking the windscreen washers and went peacefully to bed. Leaving the the car electrics switched on.

This morning an hour went on trying to charge, shove, and sometimes swear the battery back into life before I eventually got a jump start off a neighbour; hardly the calm and collected pre-exam preparation they recommend. Perhaps it was for the best though. Had I time I would probably have indulged in some last-minute panicky “study” as likely to confuse as to clarify. And the record shows I actually seem to do better in exams when faced with non-starting cars. It wasn’t déjà vu, this did happen before.

Outside the venue I met up with Nick and Diarmuid, two of the best students in the class, and was relieved to find that they seemed at least as nervous as me. Because we were (for no readily apparent reason) doing the exam in batches of three, we had feedback from those who sat it earlier in the day. The news was… mixed. On one hand, almost everyone so far had passed. On the other, they had all said it was harder than they’d expected. You can imagine which of those hands seemed more significant to three people about to walk into an exam.

Or about to try. We went to the front door only to find a sign saying to use the side door. We went to the side door only to find it locked. We rang the intercom, only to get an answering machine. I hope I didn’t actually leave the message that went through my head at that point.

But they let us in eventually, and when they’d done with mugshots and fingerprinting (well, almost) they sat us at the consoles. The exam is a computer-based, multiple choice affair not dissimilar to the driving theory test. Except instead of being about stuff everyone needs to know, it’s about stuff nobody in their right mind wants to even think about. I had a tense moment when the very first question was completely unintelligible to me, another when I came to one that, I will swear to my dying day, did not have any possible correct answer. But mostly I felt like I was doing OK. Afterwards Mark our tutor asked me on Facebook how it had gone. I said I thought I’d got about 3 in 4. When the results came through – in only about 15 minutes, mercifully – it transpired that I had 78%. The passing grade is 64. I am a Certified MySQL Developer.

Which is what, exactly?

It’s like this. Once all the important knowledge was kept in wise old people. That’s what the word “wizard” originally meant: Old guy who knows things. Later, with the invention of writing, far more information could be kept within books. But in this information age in which we’re living, the vast (vast vast) majority is kept in databases. They are the electric libraries, the quiet machines behind the scenes of every modern technomarvel. And that’s how I ended up here, basically. MySQL is as important to modern Web design as HTML itself.

And on the way home I attended a public meeting about technology and the arts, part of the campaign to make Galway the European Capital of Culture in 2020. Asked for suggestions on the theme of a digital city, I sketched out an idea for an app so spontaneously that it took even me by surprise. A good idea? I can’t tell. I was very tired by then. Some great ideas come when you’re tired, but so do some great hallucinations. I can only say that it’s simple – so simple that it has to be either brilliant or obvious. The difference, I guess, being whether someone else has done it already. Such is the fine line between stupid and clever.

But it would be great to do, I hope they take me up on it. And why wouldn’t they? I’m an Oracle certified database developer. That’s like a wizard from the future.

Galway’s Other Arts Festival

There’s a TV ad running for the Galway Arts Festival. I don’t recall its wording exactly, but I’d almost swear it was something like “for all your arts and culture needs”. I’ve said it before and no doubt I’ll say it again, the Festival has become too commercial.

There have been a number of attempts to get back to its roots, though generally they come from outside the organisation. Project ’06 showed that the community spirit was still there, but it was never intended to compete. More has been achieved perhaps by starting other, more focused festivals at less coveted points on the calendar. Most successful of these would probably be the Galway Theatre Festival, but we are certainly not short of small interesting celebrations.

Some though still go for the big one. The Colours Fringe Festival is attempting the whole shooting match – a festival of theatre and film and music and literature and the visual arts. Yes it’s small and maybe a little disorganised, most of the acts involved are local, some aren’t even professionals. But that’s exactly what the Galway Arts Festival was like, back when it was cute and loveable.

I should have written about this sooner, it’s running right now. In particular I’m going to blatantly plug some friends of mine, the Spontaneous Theatre People, who are doing an hour-long show called “Star Stories – 5” at 3:00 tomorrow afternoon in Kelly’s on Bridge Street, but there’s a full calendar of events over the next two days.

Details at: http://coloursfringe.blogspot.com/

The Back of Beyond, And Beyond

County Monaghan
Monaghan - Even Some People From There Have Never Heard Of It

I was rushing for this bus so there wasn’t time to look twice but I could swear that as I passed a shop I caught a glance of tanks full of fish on the floor, and people sitting on benches with their bare feet in the tanks. Funny, I thought. I never took all that much acid.

Bu that’s a thing now, isn’t it? Supposedly the tiny mouths of very small fish are meant to clean you better than scrubbing or using a soap. Better in what way exactly, I am unclear. More erotically I would think. But perhaps that’s just me.

There’s the Shannon. Just leaving Connacht now and entering Leinster, next stop Dublin. By tonight though we’ll be in Ulster – in the tiny and pretty much unknown town of Ballybay, County Monaghan. By this circuitous route we plan to reach a little literary and music festival tomorrow. But God knows.

Ireland – Read This And Pass It On

Rightwards CartoonDammit, I am not looking forward to life under Enda. The reason Fianna Fáil went so wrong is that they were far too involved on a personal basis with business, banking and property. Fine Gael are meant to be the cure for that? Hmm.

Over the last ten years or so, the idea prevailed that if you let banks go crazy they’d magic up enough money for everyone. Since this failed so disastrously, you might think we’d consider voting for the sole major party that wasn’t in favour of it. Yet instead we’re going from one lot of laissez-faire capitalists to another. This is like voting for five more years of British rule after the Great Famine.

For the first time in our entire history, Ireland had a real chance of returning a mildly socialist government. Not a Labour overall majority, but at least a government led by the left. Yet even after the parties of the right destroyed the country, we still do not. Incredibly, there’s even a small danger of electing the furthest-right government we’ve ever had – a single-party Fine Gael administration. I almost wish that on the electorate. Go on, do it. Find out for yourselves just how right-wing Fine Gael can be without the moderating influence of Labour.

(God no, don’t. It would be like staring into the unmasked face of the national id.)

Why, even when kicked and spat on, are we incapable of voting for real change? It’s true Labour failed to present themselves as well as they might, and I don’t think Gilmore is their most impressive leader ever. But Christ, look at Kenny. There has to be more to it. Labour started dropping in the polls when voters decided that Kenny was the clear favourite in the race to be Taoiseach. They chose him like punters choose a horse. In other words, a substantial number of people out there vote not for what seems just, or even for what they think is necessary. They vote for who they think is going to win.

It’s insane, it’s stupid, but people do it anyway because it gives them a sense of being on the winning side. Like Man United supporters – only they get to decide our laws. As soon as it became clear that Enda Kenny was most fancied, people started clustering around him. The media unconsciously give him a softer ride (as they did with Brian, and Bertie, and…), suddenly he no longer looks like an uptight, ineffectual bumbler. Well actually he still does, but he’s going to be Emperor now so shut up about his nakedness.

People who vote like that deserve bad government, deserve to have their money stolen by laughing rich people. But they are not all of us. Don’t live in a country where that kind of person decides your fate. If you’re reading this on Friday and you haven’t voted yet, get up from the computer and run. Run to the polling station.

Or just keep on running. Let’s face it, the place is going to shite.