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Pilot fish who's a computer science professor gets a call from a former student stumped by a database problem -- one that should be pretty easy to solve.

"This was not one of my most stellar students," fish admits. "It seems they had set up a database for a new state agency and the system was running very slowly.

"I did a small amount of consulting on the side, so I agreed to take a look."

Turns out the database is rather strangely organized. The explanation? Former student tells fish it's set up for ease of data entry.

And for retrieval? "No problem," former student says. "We created an index for every field so you can look up anything quickly. We even created Soundex codes for every last name, and created an index for the Soundex codes too."

Then what's the problem? fish asks.

"First we set up the schema, then we created all the indices and everything was fine," ex-student says. "Now, when we start to load actual data into the database a record at a time, the system is incredibly slow."

Fish already knows the answer: Everything is slowing to a crawl because all those hundreds of indexes are being updated as each record is being loaded. The obvious solution: Drop the indexes, load all the data at once, then re-create the indexes.

Yes, I think I can solve the problem very quickly at very little cost, fish tells the ex-student. I can write a nice formal report about what to do.

And that's the end of it, right? Well, no.

"Being a state agency, they needed a formal contract," says fish. "And the contract had to be approved by the state IT department. But the state IT department's people wanted the business for themselves instead of giving the work to me.

"So I never did tell my former student how simple it was to fix his problem."

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