Tactical pit stop

Had a mini crisis on the other day.

I ended up needing to build most of an Oracle OLAP star schema in Access from text files. No massive problem there, but it was getting late, and under rather a lot of pressure. (and the build files didn’t have field names or an import spec…)

Anyway one issue was multiple versions of a transaction, and we only wanted the most recent. I had a complete block – I knew I had to do some sort of max, but couldn’t work out what I needed. I imported it to Excel because I thought that would be easier. Still had a total blank.

So I got up and went for a walk/bio/comfort break. By the time I got back to my desk I had worked out what I needed to do. I needed to do a group by and get the max of the version field, and join that back to the main query on version. The technicals are important though, its the point of taking 5 mins out and suddenly everything becomes clear. Have you had that?

Whats your recommended/favourite quick ‘pick-me-up’?



7 Responses to “Tactical pit stop”

  1. Marcus Says:

    Hi Simon,

    I think this happens to all of us, having a ‘duh’ moment (typically mid-afternoon for me).

    On days I’m working in the city I’ll get out of the office and go to the newsagent or book store and flick through a few publications just to get into a change of thought patterns.

    When I’m working from home I’ll often jump in the car and go to the local shops or fix myself a snack (too many of those unfortunately).

    Sometimes you can stare at the problem for so long and still not see the forest for the trees. One of the benefits of working on premises is it allows you to run your problem past a colleague to discuss a resolution.

    The other thing I do is review a previous project where I’ve tackled the same problem before (everything’s on the laptop). A quick review of what I did before usually results in a ‘ah-ha’ moment where I slap my forehead and can continue on.

  2. Chakra Says:

    If it is in oracle just do a row over partition. Other databases just like you said group by and max

  3. Ross Says:

    I have to “brake out” all the time. I check e-mail, go get a drink, watch TV for a bit. I also map things out on paper quite alot now, even write pseudo code in note books, any think that helps! some time i just drop it and come back to it in a few days – it always seems much easier then!

  4. Charlie Says:

    I agree – I find that if a problem is particularly elusive, then getting away from my computer is best – working on something else doesn’t have the same productivity for solving the specific problem – I go for walks with my dog, and typically the problem is solved before I get back

    On the other end of the same scale, I find that if I work too late into the night, and run into a particularly trickly problem before I call it a day, I can not turn my brain off – which results in restless sleeps and being not very productive the following day


  5. Happy Accountant Says:

    Hi Simon, I get that mid-afternoon “flat” feeling, too. When I worked in an office, I used to find that even a five minute trip to the drinks machine was enough. Working from home, I now have Charlie’s problem, too – haven’t found an answer to that one, yet.

  6. MikeC Says:

    I’m a smoker… ’nuff said!!! A 5-minute fag break (“smoke break” to any American readers!!) usually does the trick for me.

    (though since the 01/07/07 I now need to leave the office, walk 2km over muddy fields to an unpopulated area, erect warning signs in a 50m radius around myself to make sure no-one accidentally comes within range of the smoke and beat myself over the head with a club wrapped in barbed wire on every inhale….)

  7. Primo Says:

    I browse through old Excel blogs

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