Hey DBA – Don’t Rely on Your Chaps, But Get a Pair Anyway

Hey DBA – Don’t Rely on Your Chaps, But Get a Pair Anyway

I almost earned a trip to the Emergency Room. I didn’t because I had one last line of defense, but is that a success or a fail? I think a little of both. Let’s talk about it and see what we can learn as DBAs and consultants in our day jobs.

You see. I bought these chainsaw protective chaps when I realized I was going to be out there cutting trees a lot for sheep fencing and for heating our farmhouse this winter. I’ve used a chainsaw more this summer than I have my whole life. These looked good and the reviews were great.

I’ve worn them most of the time. There were a couple of times where I haven’t (convenience, rushing out there, a little hot out, etc). But mostly I’ve put them on, endured the chuckles from the kids and wife and gone out to the fields to get working. Well this weekend, I was cutting away and I did two things wrong. But a third thing, I did right. I actually do call this a success, the cut was right on the top of my thigh and my quads aren’t that big, and I was applying extra downward pressure (see the mistakes for why), that likely would have been a nasty cut. At the least, I would

Could have been ugly...
Yup – The chainsaw chaps work!

have tore up an important muscle, at worst I could have cut into the femur – it was high enough on the right thigh that it could have swung into the groin where the femoral artery is less protected, too.. So it could have been bad. So it was a success – but it still cost me (see lessons) and I still put myself into a bad position. But I can learn from it and move on. And I did. After I stopped saying wow, I started cutting again.. These are what the chaps looked like when I did that to myself. I wrote a review on the Amazon page for this product also, not something I regularly do 🙂

Mistake # 1 – I Messed Up Proactive Maintenance

How often do we DBAs take a shortcut or push off doing something proactive?

I did out in the woods. My routine is usually to sharpen my saw when I put it away or before I start the day. And as I go, depending on what I’m cutting, I may sharpen it in the field 2-4 times on an 8-10 hour day out there cutting. I can tell when it’s time to do it, too – the saw stops going through the wood almost by itself, my notch cuts to set up a safe felling angle get harder because of the angle and the dull chain working against each other – I have to push hard. Even before this – the wood chips coming out stop looking large and they start looking like fine sawdust.

Your Wasnlook like that too. Counters start going up. Alerts and warnings start increasing. You can tell it’s pushing hard. It’s a late sign that you should have and could have been more proactive.

Well. My saw was giving me those indicators. Even though I don’t have a crazy Project Manager out there on my case – I still had the attitude of “just one more tree.. I’m on a roll”. So I said “Let’s wait.. That’s a smallish tree, small notch, small back cut, easy to limb it up and buck it – then I’ll sharpen the chain”.

That was mistake #1.. I wasn’t working at my optimum. I wasn’t proactive. I ignored the warning signs.

you never do that, do you? C’mon – before I was a consultant going into tell people what was wrong with their environment, I was a DBA. Sometimes it wasn’t even my fault – but managements – though I share the blame for not articulating why I needed to slowdown and do stuff.. Don’t set yourself up for a mistake! Get proactive!

Mistake # 2 – It Felt Different

99.999% of the time when I fell a tree, I approach from the Left side. Sometimes even behind for a large tree when doing the notch cut on the front 10% of the tree. It’s easier to see my notches lining up, I have control, etc. It doesn’t have to be a cut from the Left – that’s just what I do. It’s what I’m used to. It’s my routine. (I talk about routines and how departing from them at the last minute can be dangerous ALL.THE.TIME when I talk about disasters like this presentation where I talk about a horrible Air Canada accident..).. While I was starting the cut I remember thinking “this feels awkward..” and I had my left leg way too far forward. And I had to put all that extra pressure and I was making the downward angle cut in my notch. In this weird position. Somehow – I managed to get the saw down onto my thigh and I instantly felt this pressure and a big bump, some kick back and then the saw gummed up and stopped and I looked down and string (from the chaps) was all tangled up in the chain. Quickly took the chaps off and made sure no cut happened underneath. PHEW!

How often do you break a routine? 100 Servers all backed up one way, 1 backed up a different way. You normally follow the checklist but decide to wing it because it’s Friday before a long weekend. Stop it. Stay on task, follow a routine. Stay sharp and if it feels funny or off – stop and ask yourself “what’s wrong?”

It Wasn’t All Mistakes

Many things happened right during and after that. I think the corollaries are clean and clear.

  1. Last year – I only had to make two mistakes and I would have been done for. This year I added a third barrier. Redundancy and paranoia/over-protection can be good… (don’t rely on the safety and get arrogant though, I would have preferred to have those chaps and never use them than need to buy another pair after they did their job). Take that extra backup before doing an update. Pay close attention. Double check. Look away and look back and triple check. When I was trained on firearms – I was always trained to look and feel (from the chamber.. not the muzzle…..) when checking to make sure you cleared any rounds from the chamber. And look away, wait a second and go back and do it again. Be Intentional.
  2. I asked “What happened?” and had a quick on the spot lessons learned meeting with myself.. I didn’t get angry and proud and refuse to listen because someone was pointing out things I could do differently (well that would be weird yelling at myself.. which I actually did when I saw the saw stuck to my thigh by the chaps string)… Ask what went wrong. Look at what you can do differently next time when something goes wrong. Understand the issues, what you can do about it. Listen to your teammates when they suggest alternatives. Remember – we get better by honing from the grind of life. If we live through it, we can learn from it and make changes for next time.

That’s all. Go look where you can prevent a mistake. Be intentional. Learn from the mistakes we all make. Grow. And if you use a chainsaw – buy a pair of chaps. Much cheaper than a hospital bill or funeral.

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6 thoughts on “Hey DBA – Don’t Rely on Your Chaps, But Get a Pair Anyway”

  1. Good post, Mike.

    I’ve been bitten by lack of preparation in the past (see http://devhammer.net/blog/always-backup-always/ for my story, which wasn’t nearly as dramatic as cutting into chaps with a chainsaw), and very nearly bit myself again just a couple of days ago.

    I was getting ready to upgrade my primary day-to-day development laptop to Windows 10, so I could use it for doing some Windows 10 IoT Core development on Raspberry Pi 2. I’d had good experiences updating two other machines with the technical previews, so I was preparing to just jump right into the upgrade, and then I remembered that I did not have a very recent backup.

    It took several hours to do the full system image backup, and I had to run the upgrade twice before it worked, but when the first upgrade attempt failed, I had much more peace with the result knowing that I had a very recent backup to fall back on. As it happened, the failed upgrade rolled back to my previous install with no issues, but I still took comfort in having the backup.

    I’ll have to learn more about sharpening chain saws. I only have a puny electric saw for the occasional branch trimming, but it’d probably be wise for me to keep it sharp. And perhaps look into some chaps. 🙂

    • Thanks. And yours is good also 🙂

      Sharpening a saw – even an electric one helps. A sharp saw doesn’t hurt you as bad because you don’t have to make mistakes with it 😉 Plus it saves the bearings and rotating parts and engine because the saw isn’t doing so much extra work.

  2. Sheep, fires, trees and chainsaws – all in a parable about database best practices. Brilliant.

    Oh, and I think my husband needs a pair of these chaps now too. We spent the whole weekend working with a chainsaw and clearing away dead brush. It’s a good counterpoint to all the hours at the desk.

    Glad you are ok!

    • Absolutely 🙂 And I’m glad I’m okay too – and you should definitely have him get the chaps. Be careful using a chainsaw on brush also. I find when I cut in brush and smaller limbs/etc – the chain is easier to slip/etc – so I keep the chain even tighter – almost too tight – when cutting really small diameter stuff 🙂


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