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A lot like life...

By Dr. Jeff Mirus (bio - articles - email) | Feb 13, 2012

So I had to import over five million records from forty different text files into a high-powered database. Because of glitches in the data, the import process broke down frequently. Then I would have to find the incorrectly formatted data, correct it, and try again. After the better part of two days, the database was ready and online.

We did some test searches and about one in fifty or so searches came up empty, when the data should have been there. I began to suspect some of it had gone missing, so I totalled up the number of record items in each of the forty files, and found that we were about 125,000 items short in the database.

After two more days of work, I finally was able to locate the missing records. I checked very carefully and very slowly, because I expected random misses across the whole file set. After all, there were 7,500 missing records in the first file I checked. But, as you might guess, there was nothing else missing until the very last file, which for some reason had orphaned 118,000 records.

Imagine what would have happened if I had known to check the last file first, and the first file second! The totals would have matched after about a half-hour's work, and I'd have been done. Moreover, even if I had to do this all over again from scratch, I learned enough to do it ten times faster, with far less frustration, and many fewer mistakes.

This is boring stuff, I know. But it is not a bad analogy for spiritual growth.

Jeffrey Mirus holds a Ph.D. in intellectual history from Princeton University. A co-founder of Christendom College, he also pioneered Catholic Internet services. He is the founder of Trinity Communications and See full bio.

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