Monday, November 21, 2011

OT: Goodbye Dad

This is a bit of ramble.

At about 2:15AM November 21st, 2011 my dad, Arthur Corbett, went home to be with his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. I got the call from my mom at about 2:25am. For those of you who follow me on Twitter, you know that this is not an unexpected event, but I've just learned that waiting for it didn't make it any easier. As you can tell from the first line of the post we are Bible believing Christians and we really do take comfort in the fact that the Bible teaches that those who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ go to be with Him in heaven when they die, so that, while I titled the post, "Goodbye Dad", it is really more accurate to stay "See you later, Dad". I hope you'll indulge me and allow me to share some history and what I was thinking early this morning after getting the news.

The First Time He Was Dying

Back in 2000, my dad was diagnosed with congestive heart failure and there were 2 times we thought he was going to die. During this time, I had the opportunity to "make my peace" with him. There were decisions he made that I had held against him for many years, and though they weren't bad decision, in fact, they were good ones, I selfishly blamed these decisions for the problems I had in my life. As you can tell, he made through this time because of the marvels of modern medicine. He went to Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston and, after being rejected from the heart transplant list, was placed in a study comparing the effectiveness of medication vs. the use of an LVAD Heart Pump. My dad got the pump and within 6 months enough people in the study who had not gotten the device had died, that they stopped the study and gave everyone a pump. Two years later his LVAD failed (that was about the anticipated life span) and he was back in Brigham & Women's. This time they qualified him for a heart transplant and in early 2003 he received a new heart.

This Time

Fast forward 8 years, and he is struggling with skin cancer partly related to the anti-rejection drugs he's on. He's had several "minor" surgeries to remove tumors. This past spring he started having trouble opening his mouth, the skin cancer had gotten into his cheek and was invasive enough to be inoperable, at least for a 79 year old man, who'd had enough surgery to not want a full facial reconstruction. At that time we were told he'd likely have 6-12 months although the doctors really couldn't say. In September he fell and had a broken hip. Turns out the cancer was in his bones and his hip broke and he fell. He only made it out of the hospital on hospice care, and was never really out of bed again. Once again, the family came to him as we had in 2000 and made sure he knew we loved, honored, and respected him and had that love returned.

What I felt when I got the call

When the phone rang as 2:25am today, I knew why immediately. Honestly, my first thoughts were, "Thank you, Lord" and "Please help my mom deal with this". Then as I lay back down in bed memories of life with dad started to flow. This is why I struggled sleeping the rest of the night, the most vivid memories were the ones where I was fighting/arguing/angry with him. That really hurts. I told my wife and as I cried and thought about it, I realized, as only a dad can, how when in each of those memories, he had done nothing to deserve my anger, but that my pride and self-centeredness was what caused each of those incidents. Even though I had apologized, twice, been forgiven both times, and know there is nothing but love and respect between us, it still hurts. Here's why it hurts even more, I have son who is just like me, and I don't want him to have the same flood of memories about me when I die as I had last night. My dad did make mistakes just like I do, but I know he was making decisions because he believed that they were the best decisions for the family, just like the decisions I've had to make for mine. Just like I now know that I my attitude was what caused the friction between my dad and me, I know that much of the friction between my son and me is due to his attitude. I don't want my kids to make the same mistakes I did. I couldn't sleep because I know that's the road we are on, at least with this one son. Guess what, I woke him up at 3am, I told him I love him, like I've done many times. I also told him how I was feeling about my dad dying and what my memories were, and that I don't want him to have the same memories of me. I told him that there's not a lot I can do to change what his memories of me will be, but that I'll do what I can, and he needs to think about his attitude because I know he'll have those same memories if things don't change and it will hurt. This is why the Bible says in Ephesians 4:26 (ESV):
"Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger,"
God doesn't want us to have regrets, and I really don't because I know I made things right with my dad and that memory really trumps the others.

So what would your memories be if one of your loved ones dies?
I know if I hadn't made things right, as small as the problems were between my dad and me, I'd feel worse today.

What would your family's/friends' memories of you be if you were to die today?
Do what you can to make those good memories. Work, leisure, and community will always be there, you have a limited time to create memories with your kids.

If you have any problems with family or friends, think about the root of those issues and find a way to forgive or ask for forgiveness, and make it right. It'll be worth it.

I'm going to close with one more Bible passage, that is really helping me today.

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18(ESV)
13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. 14 For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. 15 For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Me an MVP? It Really Happened

Yes, I was named a SQL Server MVP the most recent round of awards.  I honestly can’t believe it.  It is a great honor to have been recognized for the things I’ve done in the SQL Server community.  This isn’t the reason I participate, but it is exciting to have been recognized for my contributions.

I’d love to mention everyone who helped me get to this point, but there are too many to list and I know I’d leave someone out, but there is one person I have to thank specifically because I’d never have gotten involved were it not for Andy Warren (Blog | Twitter).  I probably wouldn’t have met all the rest of you without his encouragement.

I met Andy at the first SQLSaturday pre-con (Joe Celko) in 2007.  I don’t know what he saw in me back then, but he took me under his wing and encouraged me to get involved by blogging, speaking, and becoming a leader in the local community, then regionally and even nationally through PASS.  I really don’t think I’ve done anything exceptionally well, but I have been willing to volunteer and whatever I know about SQL Server I’m willing to share.

SQL Server does have a true community.  You can see it on Twitter where we are able to share personal as well as technical problems.  The SQL Server community is full of people who want to help and there are a lot more MVP’s out there that have not been officially recognized.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

PASS SQLRally Orlando–We took the Checkered Flag

We did it!  SQLRally happened and, from everything I heard, it was a success!  That’s not to say that there weren’t some glitches and lessons learned, but we accomplished our goals:

  1. Provide a low-cost, high-quality regional training event
  2. Fill the space between SQLSaturday and the PASS Summit
  3. Provide a taste of the Summit

It was interesting because I had some people tell me that the event had a SQLSaturday feel, and others say that it had Summit feel, so I definitely think that we filled in a gap nicely.

Practice Laps (Day 1)

The first day was pre-con day.  We had 260+ attend one of the 4 pre-cons.  I arrived at the event at 7am so I could do my job at the check-in desk.  Check-in went very smoothly and we only had 1 complaint repeated several times, “Where’s breakfast and coffee?”  We did not do a good enough job letting people know that there would not be coffee or breakfast served at the event.  This was a actually a pretty big oversight as anyone who has attended a SQLSaturday is accustomed to seeing something for breakfast.

I heard no complaints about any of the sessions and the volunteers at registration, in the rooms, and during lunch were fantastic!

For the evening we announced a meet-up at Buffalo Wild Wings and also the opportunity to continue networking at a local mini-golf place.  We had a great turnout of over 100 at Buffalo Wild Wings, and you could see people moving from table to table connecting and having a good time.  I actually felt bad for the wait staff as it had to be nerve-wracking to deliver drinks or a meal to a table and the next time you returned to the table, either no one was there or it was someone new.  From what I heard only a handful of people made their way to play mini-golf, mainly because everyone was enjoying the interaction at Buffalo Wild Wings too much.  Around 10pm a group of about 25 made their way to the Celebration Town Tavern to continue the social time until about 2am.  Needless to say it made for an short night.

Qualifying (Day 2)

After having been out until 2am, I arrived shortly after 7am to help with check-in.  Once again, check-in ran smoothly due to the hard work of the event staff and volunteers.  Since over half the attendees had checked in on Day 1 for the pre-con’s, we only had about 180 people to get through the line.  It was great to be part of check-in as I was able to greet most people at the start of the day.

We did have a couple of minor glitches during day 2.  The first occurred just before the second session of the day (9:40) when I was informed that there was a missing speaker.  As the person in charge of the program, I was a little peeved by this as I had NOT been notified.  I called the expected speaker, who had not checked-in, and got no answer, so I left a message and then moved on to plan B.  Plan B was to find a speaker from later in the day and ask them to move their session in to this slot, then I’d try to fill the slot later in the day.  The first speaker I found was Patrick Leblanc, who not only agreed to speak at that time, but chose to do a different session, so he could still do his session later in the day.  This is one of the things I love about the community, someone is always ready to jump in and help.  So I went into a full (100+) session room, announced that that scheduled speaker had not arrived, and that Patrick would be filling in.  I heard nothing but good things about Patrick’s emergency session, and had one person tell me it was the best session they attended in the conference!  Way to go Patrick!

The second glitch happened in the same room and track!  The speaker for the 90 minute deep-dive session got lost on the way to the location.  Fortunately Kendal Van Dyke and Karla Landrum were able to talk him in and he made it just in time for his session.  Needless to say I was also working to find a fill-in, just in case.  Fortunately the speaker made it, and from what I heard, the session went very well!

Thursday evening we had our SQLRally Overdrive panels sponsored by OPASS and MagicPASS, which were another of my responsibilities for the event.  I have to say I was concerned about the type of attendance we’d have for informal panels after people had spent a full-day in training.  Due to cost we could not provide food, but we did have 2 cash bars setup, to encourage people to hang around and network.  The three panels were, Speed Networking hosted by Kendal Van Dyke and Chris Shaw, Birds of a Feather tables organized by Jorge Segarra, and Conducting an Interview moderated by Kevin Kline.  The panels were scheduled to run from 5:45 to 7 and when the last session of the day let out, I have to admit some concern as only 3 or 4 people made there way to each panel.  My concern was unneeded as each session had over 20 attendees.  I did not get an exact count but we had between 70 and 100 attendees stay around and delay dinner for another hour of training.  In each of the panels we had to close them out at 7 because people wanted to continue the discussions!  Who says that SQL Server geeks don’t like to be social?

After the Overdrive panels we headed to Old Town for dinner and then SQLKaraoke.  75-100 people went for dinner and 50+ made it to the Blue Wave for SQLKaraoke.  I hung around and watched people sing, and, honestly, I was a bit disappointed because most of the singers were good!  I like to go to Karaoke to see people who can’t sing, but think that they can!  Sort of like the auditions for American Idol.

The Race (Day 3)

I actually arrived at around 8am on Friday because all but about 10 people had checked-in so I wasn’t needed to help with check-in and I knew all the 8:30 speakers were at the event and ready to go.  I was pretty exhausted at this point, so I spent the day just talking with people and also had a couple of meetings about SQLRally 2012 with the groups that are in the race (Dallas, Nashville, and Denver).

We had the sponsor raffle during the 4pm break, with one session following it.  Because we didn’t have one large room in the facility we had the raffle outside on the Solaris deck.  Andy Warren made some announcements, Mark Ginnebaugh talked a bit about chapters, SQLSaturday, SQLRally, and the Summit, and Kendal Van Dyke made some announcements and announced SQLRally Nordic coming up in Sweden this November.  Then I got to emcee the raffle.  Our sponsors came through with some great stuff (IPad, IPod, software, gift cards, and more).  I was pleased with how quickly we got through the raffle and announcements in about 20 minutes as that gave the attendees some time to make it back to the last session and grab a drink.

Final Thoughts

Other than having one speaker not show up, without any notification, the event went very smoothly.  This was due to the great job done by the event staff from PASS HQ, the volunteers, and the speakers.  I received a few “pats on the back”, but, honestly, it was an easy event to organizer because of the people listed above, without them the event would not have been successful.

Thanks to all who attended and were involved in making the inaugural PASS SQLRally a great event.  I hope to see you all at the Summit and the next US SQLRally!

Monday, May 2, 2011

PASS SQLRally is Next Week!

It’s hard to believe, but after months of planning and hard work, PASS SQLRally is next week!  I admit that, as one of the planners, I may be biased, but I think we’ve put together an exciting event.

Here’s a quick overview of the week:


Early arrivers can kick things off with an informal get-together at Johnnies Hideaway from 5-7pm.  So we have an idea of the room that’ll be needed please RSVP here.  Or, if you are little more ambitions you can start off your week by heading north to Lake Mary for the regular May OPASS meeting.  It’s about an hour drive through Orlando, but I think it’ll be worth it.  Visit the OPASS web site for details and an RSVP link.


Our pre-con day with 4 great pre-cons from Grant Fritchey (Blog|Twitter), Kevin Kline (Blog|Twitter), Plamen Rachtev (Blog|Twitter), & Patrick LeBlanc (Blog|Twitter) (and his Pragmatic Works co-workers).  You can get the details on each session here.  There is still limited space in each seminar, a great deal at only $199!

While we don’t have the budget for a full welcome reception like at the Summit, we have setup a couple of meeting opportunities, You can start the evening on the patio at Buffalo Wild Wings (RSVP) and then make your way to Pirate’s Cove for some min-golf (RSVP).


In addition to a great day of sessions we have special WIT Luncheon sponsored by SQLSentry planned with Karen Lopez (Blog|Twitter), Adam Jorgensen (Blog|Twitter), and Melinda White, Mentoring Women in Technology: How to FInd or Become a Better Mentor.  Seating is limited so you must RSVP to on a first come, first served basis.

Thursday evening we are also offering SQLRally OverDrive panels from 5:45-7:00pm sponsored by OPASS and MagicPASS. 

Birds of a Feather discussions organized by Jorge Segarra (Blog|Twitter)

Sit down with a group of people who are interested in the same SQL Server and BI topics as you are. Interested in SSIS? Gather with your peers to discuss the problems you’ve encountered and solved. Each table will be moderated by an expert in that area.

Conducting an Interview moderated by Kevin Kline (Blog|Twitter)

Conducting an interview can be intimidating and confusing.  What makes a good interview?  How do you differentiate candidates?  This workshop style session will consist of 3 short interviews.  After the interviews are complete the attendees will discuss how the interviews were conducted.  Your moderator, Quest SQL Server Expert Kevin Kline, will demonstrate three different, but common interview strategies used in the marketplace with volunteers from the audience.  We’ll ask questions about the interview strategies, like did the interviewer ask the most appropriate questions?  Did the interviewer conduct a good interview?  With the information the interviewer gathered, which candidate would you hire and why?  Let’s kick back, watch the show, critique the performances, and have a fun discussion!

Speed Networking conducted by Kendal Van Dyke (Blog|Twitter)

Do you have trouble meeting people? Need help starting a conversation? Based on the speed-dating model, you’ll spend a few minutes with several different people with a set of pre-defined questions to ask and answer. Take the time to exchange business cards as well. When moderator Kendal Van Dyke says, “Go!” be ready to make some new contacts.

Finally after the OverDrive sessions we are scheduling some time hanging out at Old Town, which has rides, restaurants, bars and more!  RSVP for this so we can help plan transportation.


We finish up with another set of great sessions and the sponsor raffle in the afternoon coffee break.  Be sure to drop your pre-printed raffle tickets in the appropriate sponsor raffle box and then be there to find out if you’ve won.  Here are the prizes:


Dell Mini
Confio   Bose Quiet Comfort 15 Headphones
Entrinsik   iPad 2
Enterprise Software Solutions Western Digital TV Live Plus HD Media Player
Idera      $200 Amazon Gift Card
Melissa Data  iPod Touch 8g
Red Gate Software   SQL DBA Bundle License & SQL Developer Bundle License
SQL Sentry  Power Suite-Performance Monitoring and Optimising Solution
Quest Software    $100 Amazon Gift Card

Thanks again to the sponsors.  Without them the event would be much more expensive and not as fun!

What I am looking forward to?

I can’t wait to meet many of the PASS HQ folks who have helped put this event together.  I’m also looking forward to getting some time in Kevin Kline’s, Leadership and Team Management Skills for the Database Professional, Professional Development pre-con.  All the pre-con’s look great, but I think leadership is where my career is headed.  I haven’t maxed out my technical skills by any means, but I know many people better equipped technically than I am.   

I’m pumped for the OverDrive panels on Thursday night.  Those have been my baby, if they aren’t any good that’s on me, if the rock that’s due to Jorge, Kevin, and Kendal for the job they do in holding them together.

I’m really pleased with the way the event has come together, from the seed in Andy Warren’s (Blog|Twitter) mind, to the proposal we (Andy, Kendal, and I) submitted to PASS and then the execution by the entire team (too many to mention).  If you’ve ever been involved in planning an event you know how great it feels to see all the pieces come together, even when you don’t necessarily think they will.

There are still seats left for the event, so register today!


Thursday, April 28, 2011

Have You Heard? You Can Get a Mentor

Steve Jones and Andy Warren are at it again.  The founders of SQLServerCentral, SQLShare, and SQLSaturday have started a new program, The Mentoring Experiment, to try to match professionals (SQL Server only to start), with a more experienced professional as a mentor.  One of their goals is to learn more about what makes a mentoring relationship work so that they mentor others to become better mentors.

I can’t think of more qualified people to do something like this.  Both Steve and Andy have been mentors to many people in the SQL Server community, myself included, so they have experience and a real desire to see others grow.  I don’t know who Andy and Steve have selected to be the mentors, but I’m sure that they have selected people who have been successful, and have the desire and ability to see others succeed as well.

My recent reading has included several books on leadership and mentoring so I’m very interested in seeing how this experiment works.

If you are a SQL Server professional who would like to see your career grow I highly recommend visiting and applying.  You only have until April 30th to get your application in.  Were I not in the midst of a job search and move, I’d apply myself, but I can’t put the time in to be a proper mentee.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

PASS SQLRally–Thoughts from an Organizer


There have been lots of blog posts about PASS SQLRally (Bing Search), but there haven’t been a lot recently from the organizers.  As today (April 12th) is the last day for the discounted $299 price I thought it would be good to talk about why I think it is a good model for an event, what I’ve done for SQLRally, and why you should attend.

Why is the SQLRally model good?

Because it is a partnership between local user groups and PASS.  This is a plus because you have the large event experience of those at PASS HQ, but also fresh ideas and new perspectives from the local people.  Just like in any endeavor, you can get stuck in a rut on how you do things and bringing in some new people brings in new ideas that haven’t been considered.  This means that each SQLRally will have a unique identity provided by the local organizers, but you get the experience of those who have put on multiple events.

Because it is regional.  The PASS Summit is a great international conference, but it is large, expensive, and a long way to travel for many people.  This means that you can’t necessarily make it every year.  Because SQLRally is regional, it is less expensive, more intimate, and accessible.  It also means that you the networking available to you is with more people from your region, which means the contacts you make may be more useful to you than national or international contacts you make at a larger conference.  Both have value, but local contacts can help you on-site or, if you are looking, provide you with local opportunities.

It is about the community.  This is YOUR event.  You selected the sessions from pre-con’s to regular sessions, you go to evaluate the abstracts and select the sessions that would be most valuable to YOU.

What I’ve Done?

My main areas of contribution have been in sponsor plan development, event programming, and speaker communication. 

For the sponsor plan development, I got to work with Al Schuler and Craig Ellis and I think we did a great job since we sold out the sponsorships.  It was a great learning experience for me because I got some insight into how to market an event to sponsors and how to break out some thins apart from general sponsorship. 

Andy Warren and I developed the speaker selection process which consisted of breaking the submissions into categories within each track for voting purposes.  We spent a lot of time discussing how that should work and putting sessions into each category.  Our goal in categorizing the submissions within each track was to ensure variety in the sessions.  It’s really easy to pick all the performance tuning sessions as you know those will be popular, but that wouldn’t make a well-rounded event.  Once the sessions were voted on, I communicated the results to the presenters, selected the wild card & deep-dive sessions, and then put together the event schedule.

I’ve also been working on what I’m calling SQLRally Overdrive, which is 3 more laid-back sessions on Thursday evening from 5:45-7:00 pm.  These sessions will be designed to have more interaction between attendees and facilitate networking.

Why Should You Attend?

SQLRally brings much of the Summit experience to you.  We have a great mix of seasoned Summit presenters along with up and coming speakers who have a lot to offer.  With the more intimate setting it should be easier to make new connections and develop those relationships.  You’ll learn from people who are DOING the same job you are, and be able to take home practical solutions that you implement the Monday after the event.  Check out the ROI page for what you can take to your boss to convince him/her to allow you to go to SQLRally.

I hope to see you there!

Monday, April 4, 2011

SqlSaturday #71–Boston Recap: An Upscale Saturday

I had the pleasure of attending and presenting at SQLSaturday #71 – Boston on April 2nd.  Adam Machanic (Blog|Twitter), Mike Walsh (Blog|Twitter), Tom LaRock (Blog|Twitter), Grant Fritchey (Blog|Twitter) and crew did a great job putting on the event.  The event was held at the Babson College Executive Conference Center which is a great facility.  The rooms were large and, except for the large room, theatre-style so the all the attendees could see.  There was also an on-site pub for the after-party that made it easy for attendees to stay and network after the event.  I was surprised that more didn’t, but the crew that did was very lively.


Meeting Paul White (Blog|Twitter) – I’ve “known” Paul for awhile online through SQLServerCentral and Twitter, but this was my first opportunity to meet him in person.  I’m always excited to meet people in person, especially when they are among the best and brightest in the SQL Server community, which Paul is.  It was also great to hear that he was rightly awarded SQL Server MVP status in the latest round.  If you don’t read his blog you should. 

Food Service – In order to use the facility the event had to purchase food through the facility and it was the BEST food at any event I’ve attended.  There was fruit, drinks, muffins, etc… throughout the morning at several stations in the facility, and the event staff kept everything stocked.  It was actually so well-done I wasn’t sure it was for our event because I’ve never seen it done like that before.  The lunch buffet was unbelievable!  Tampa has a good lunch at their event, but it did not compare.  I can’t even mention all the items that were available, including the desserts.  There were even servers keeping you water or other drink filled and clearing your plates.  Even the Summit doesn’t serve a meal like this!  Then, to top it off cookies and fruit appeared at the snack stations in the afternoon!  Thank goodness I stayed on my feet throughout the day or I would have gained back half the weight I’ve lost! 

Seeing old friends and making new ones – There is never a time when getting together with old friends in the community is not a great time.  People like Andy Leonard (Blog|Twitter), Aaron Bertrand (Blog|Twitter), Karen Lopez (Blog|Twitter), Chris Skorlinksi and others that make every conversation a learning experience.  Then some new friends, many of whom I interact with online, like Mike Hilwig (Blog), Michael Coles (Blog|Twitter), Andrew Kelly (Blog|Twitter), Stefan Krzywicki (Blog), and Allen White (Blog|Twitter).  Each one of the folks I interacted with during the day made a full day of #sqlwinning.  I know I’m leaving out a bunch of people, but there are too many to include.

My Session

I presented my Introduction to Triggers session in the first slot and I had at least 15 people (that’s how many evals I got), which is about my normal crowd for this session.  Overall it went well, although I lost my train of thought a couple of times, and I was a little nervous having Paul White in my session.  Paul actually was a great help in the session as he asked some great questions that reminded me of some points that I need to make or emphasize.  I am guessing that is why he asked those questions because I’m pretty sure he knew the answers, and I’d be shocked if he didn’t.  There were a lot of good questions from the rest of group as well, especially when we talked about DDL triggers.  We actually spent more time on that part of the presentation than normal because of the questions.  It is always nice to get the evaluations right at the session, especially when they are good Winking smile.  I had 3 fours and 12 fives for the overall quality of the presentation which is always nice to see. Here a few comments:

“Great session – learned a lot!”

“Great Speaker.  Accessible and sincere”

“On the slides, yellow urls against a blue background are hard to read”

“Lively, engaging speaker”

“Test his code! Smile” – I did have a couple of oops’s

“Very good @ recovering from the “gotchas”.”

“A little extra on the real basics of what a trigger does and when it fires”

I’ll definitely be working the ones that involve doing something better, but very happy that everyone enjoyed and learned something from the session, including me!

Sessions I attended

I only attended 2 sessions, Paul White’s SQL Query Optimization: It’s Not Rocket Science session, and Karen Lopez’s session, Database Design Contentious Issues.

As I expected, Paul’s session was great and deep!  I know I’m not at his level in understanding the internals of SQL Server and he gave a great overview of how the query optimizer works, ways you can “play” with it, and ways you can “help” it.  The fact that you can help the optimizer by trying different ways to “declare” what you want to see which one brings out the best plan.  This session should be followed by Grant Fritchey’s session on query plans.

Karen’s session was very interesting as it was very interactive.  We talked about surrogate keys vs. natural keys, when to use varchar vs. char, and naming conventions.  Each of which is definitely a contentious issue, and we didn’t even talk about NULL’s!  The key thing I took from this session is that the “tools you use affect the decisions you make”.

Constructive Criticism’s

I’ve never attended a perfect event, so here are a couple things I’d suggest for next time:

  1. SQLSaturday signs on the way into the event location.  Once you got to the Babson campus it seemed like you had to drive through the whole place to find the event.  I was looking for SQLSaturday signs and there weren’t any.
  2. Include the speaker name on the schedule handed out at the event.  I know a lot of people want to know who is speaking as a the tie-breaker between sessions.

Other than those 2 things I don’t have any other things to change.  Check-in, which is often a problem, went smoothly, and the day seemed to flow very well.

Thanks for putting on a great event and I hope to be back next year!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Come on Out to OPASS

Tonight is the March OPASS meeting.  You should come on out, it’s always a great time.  Note our new location and be sure to RSVP so we can have food for you.  Don’t forget to bring your resume as Signature Consultants, LLC will be there as out local sponsor. 

Here’s the meat of the meeting:

Wear any of your Red Gate shirts this meeting for an extra chance to win a free license of SQL Source Control!!
Event Date/Time: Tuesday March 8 @ 6:00 PM
Location: Rikka Asian Bistro
1541 International Parkway, Ste. 1001
Lake Mary, FL 32746
Map/Directions: Bing Map to Event Location
Speaker Bio: Ken Tucker

Ken Tucker is a Microsoft MVP, President of Space Coast .NET user group, and Ineta Membership mentor for Florida.  Ken currently works for Amovius as a developer.

Title: SilverLight MVVM

The MVVM pattern is a common way to develop SilverLight apps. In this demo, Ken will look at some of the MVVM frameworks available and walk through creating an application.

SQL Shot Speaker: Bradley Ball
Speaker Bio: Bradley Ball is a MCITP SQL 2005 & MCTS 2008 Database Administrator with over 10 years of IT experience. Bradley spent 8 years working as a Defense contractor for clients such as the U.S. Army and The Executive Office Of the President of the United States. He is currently a Sr. SQL Database Administrator for Publix Supermarkets. Bradley can be found blogging on and on twitter here.
Title: Transparent Data Encryption
Abstract: Bradley will be doing a quick lightening round on Transparent Data Encryption, and will show off a script to automate certificate backups.

Please RSVP:

Register for March Meeting w/ Ken Tucker in Lake Mary, FL  on Eventbrite

You can come if you don’t RSVP, but we can’t guarantee enough food if you don’t RSVP.

Once again thanks to our sponsors:


Signature Conultanst, LLC

Monday, March 7, 2011

Upcoming Engagements

I haven’t been blogging lately because I’ve been busy tweaking my resume, working on PASS SQLRally, serving at church, and spending time with my family.  Things aren’t going to be slowing down anytime soon, but I wanted to let those who do read this blog know that I’m still around and about my upcoming speaking engagements:

Wednesday, March 9th 3pm

I’ll be doing a web cast on Security, Performance, and Maintenance Advantages to Using Stored Procedures over ORM Tools where I share my opinions on why Stored Procedures are better than an ORM tool for a data access layer.

Saturday, March 26th 10:50am

I’ll be presenting Introduction to SQL Server Profiler at the Orlando CodeCamp.  I’ve given this presentation several times, but will be tailoring for developers so that they can really see what their preferred ORM tool is doing.

Saturday April 2nd 9am

I’ll be presenting Introduction to Triggers SQLSaturday #71 – Boston.  I’ll be giving a brief overview of the different types of triggers available in SQL Server (DDL & DML) and then go into more detail on how and when to use DML triggers. This session will cover misconceptions about how triggers work, when triggers should and shouldn't be used (we will discuss options), common mistakes, and how to fix the most common mistakes.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

February OPASS Meeting

Don’t forget to join us tonight for the OPASS meeting sponsored by RedGate and Signature Consultants.

Event Date/Time: Tuesday February 8th @ 6:00 PM
Location: Hampton Inn
850 Village Oak Lane
Lake Mary
Map/Directions: Bing Map to Event Location
Speaker Bio: Brian Knight

Brian Knight, SQL Server MVP, MCITP, MCSE, MCDBA, is the owner and founder of Pragmatic Works. He is also the co-founder of and He runs the local Microsoft SQL Server users group in Jacksonville (JSSUG). Brian is a contributing columnist at several technical magazines and does regular webcasts at Jumpstart TV. He is the author of ten SQL Server books. Brian has spoken at conferences like PASS, SQL Connections and Tech·Ed and many Code Camps. His blog can be found at

Title: Introduction to PowerPivot

In this session, you’ll learn how to use PowerPivot to create self-service analytics in your organization. You'll see how Office 2010 and SQL Server 2008 R2 will help your users answer their own questions and bring together datasets that may be heterogeneous like a SQL Server table and data feed from a website. Then, you’ll see how to take that data and create a striking report for your end users and collaborate with the data in SharePoint.

DevShot Speaker: Karl Lambert
Speaker Bio: Karl currently is a Business Intelligence Developer @ Universal American Corp. Roots in software engineering/development (VB, VBA, C++) moving on to database administration in early/mid 2000’s. Beginning focused on SQL Server security, more recently focusing on Integration Services and SSIS performance tuning & optimization.
Title: Dependency Services in SSIS Denali
Abstract: We will take a look at Dependency Services in SQL Server Integration Services, and how it can be used to determine Object Impact and Data Lineage. We will discuss the requirements for using Dependency Services and extracting object metadata. We will also get an introduction to the Dependency Designer UI, and how to quickly identify Object Impact.

Please RSVP:

If you are planning on attending the meeting, please RSVP here.

Monday, February 7, 2011

SQLSaturday #62–Tampa Recap

I had the privilege of attending and speaking at SQLSaturday #62 – Tampa the weekend of January 15th and this is my belated recap post of what I did for the weekend.

I headed to Tampa from Sanford on Thursday afternoon as I was attending Denny Cherry’s (Twitter) pre-conference seminar, Storage and Virtualization for the DBA, on Friday.  I was able to have dinner with one of my college roommates who I had not seen in over 15 years that evening.  I had a great time with him.

Friday morning I headed to Denny’s seminar and there was a great turnout, with I think 30 people in the seminar.  It was good to re-connect with Denny, Mike Nelson (Twitter), Ron Dameron (Twitter), and Mike Wells during the breaks in the seminar.  I selected this seminar because both storage and virtualization are areas that I have no experience with and I want to understand them so I can speak credibly with storage and virtualization admins.  Honestly I need a couple of weeks training on both, with some hands on experience, but I definitely know more than I did before the seminar.  This was the first time I’ve sat in on a session by Denny although I did listen to his session on Service Broker on the PASS Summit 2010 DVD, and I was impressed.  He does a great job teaching and explains things in a way a complete noob like me can understand.

Friday night I attended the speaker/volunteer dinner at Spaghetti Warehouse and there was a great turnout with I would guess close to 50 people there.  I wish I had written this sooner so I could remember the names of the new people I met, but I can’t.  I talked with a lot of people there and had great conversations.  The opportunity to see friends is one reason I love the events, especially the Florida ones.  I’d list names, but I’ll leave someone out.  I always feel some awe because of the great talent in the room.  It makes me thankful for the opportunity I have to be part of the SQL Server community.  I’m always amazed at how willing the “names” of the SQL world are to share their hard-earned knowledge.

Pam Shaw (Twitter) and Jose Chinchilla (Twitter) did a good job with the event on Saturday.  They had a great idea for check-in that they called, SpeedPass.  They sent out pdf’s with all your printed materials (name tag, lunch ticket, raffle tickets), so you could print them out ahead of time, and then at check-in you went to the SpeedPass line where you got a bag with just the generic information.  It definitely made check-in, which was an issue at last year’s event in Tampa, go more quickly. 

After getting my t-shirt from PragmaticWorks, I went to Rodney Landrum’s session, DBA Repository, and picked up some good tips.  Then I sat in on part of Andy Warren’s (Blog | Twitter) session on having a professional development plan.  I definitely picked up some good tips and need to develop a better plan for myself.  I left his session early because I was presenting the next hour.

My session, Why I Use Stored Procedures, went very well, and was very well attended.  In fact it was my largest crowd for this particular topic with between 30 and 40 in attendance.  I don’t have a lot of slides for this session, but spend time telling stories about why I like stored procedures of ORM tools.  I do some very simple demos of Linq to SQL and Entity Framework, showing the queries they produce using SQL Server Profiler.  I demo both .NET 3.5 and 4.0 as they do behave differently with 4.0 being a big improvement.  I don’t claim to be an ORM expert, but in the experience I do have I have seen things that cause some concern as they proliferate.  There were several good questions and comments throughout the session and I had a few people hang around and ask some further questions after the session.  I was very pleased with how everything went and had a great time delivering the session.

There was a great catered lunch and I left pretty much after lunch as I had been gone from my family since Thursday and I was ready to see them.

Overall is was a great event.  The pre-con was great, speaker party was good, SpeedPass was a great idea, and lunch was fantastic.  There were 2 things I think could have been better:

  1. Better signs in the morning as there were 2 rooms in another building and it was not clear where to go after check-in.
  2. The schedule in the event guide didn’t list the speaker names, just the session name.  I like to know who is speaking as that helps me decide when there are multiple sessions I’d like to attend.

Thanks Pam and Jose for a great event.  Sorry I didn’t get this recap up sooner.

Friday, February 4, 2011

January OPASS Meeting Recap

On January 20th OPASS was pleased to have had Kevin Kline (Blog|Twitter) from our sponsor, Quest, present 10 Things Every Developer should know.  This was the first regular OPASS meeting to take place at the Hampton Inn in Lake Mary instead of the SQLShare offices in Altamonte Springs.  Due to the change in venue and the startup of MagicPASS in Celebration, we had several new faces attend, along with a few of the old faithful attendees.  As OPASS has transitioned to my leadership from that of Andy Warren (Blog|Twitter) we are trying some new things including the new location and adding some more developer-centric topics.  This topic was a good mix of information for the DBA, but also with good information for developers, so it was a great kick-off to the new leadership.  I couldn’t run the group alone the way Andy did for several years, so I’m thankful to have Karla Landrum (Twitter) as VP of Community Outreach who has gotten sponsors for almost the entire year and has helped with speakers and food.  She has brought some fresh ideas to try.  We had about 18 in attendance out of 27 RSVP’s.  Because Kevin also represented the sponsor for the night we gave him 90 minutes and he used it all.  He shared some good tips, and honestly, each of his 10 points could be a presentation all on their own (hmmm, maybe I’ll do that Smile).

As usual I had a great time, although having the meeting away from Andy’s office means a lot more work as all the drinks, swag, and miscellaneous other necessities have to be hauled in and out.  I needed to get there a little earlier than I did, so that I can do a better job greeting everyone and having a real check-in process, so I know true attendance.

Lastly, I’d like to see a few more people hang around afterwards for networking and social time, but it is harder for me with cleanup needing to be done, and trying to get everything in.  We need to work on setting and sticking with a schedule, but we will get there.

Up next is Brian Knight speaking on PowerPivot.  Visit the OPASS web site for more information.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Time’s Makin’ Changes

Some History

Almost exactly 7 years I ago my wife and I decided to apply to be missionaries with New Tribes Mission.  We decided at that time to pursue what NTM calls Associate missionaries which allowed us to serve with NTM for 1-4 years.  In May of 2004 our applications were accepted and we began the road to service with NTM at the US Headquarters in Sanford, FL.  Because NTM is a faith-based, non-profit organization our journey began by contacting and visiting churches in New England to raise the prayer and financial support that we would need to serve with NTM.  We finally made it to the point where we could move to Sanford in June 2007 and I started my ministry with NTM July 2nd.  All that to say that our commitment with NTM is ending this summer.  We did have the option of continuing on, but we have chosen not to pursue that option.

So What’s that Mean?

I’m looking for work starting in July of this year.  My preference is to work in northern New England (New Hampshire or southern/central Maine) or central Florida (Orlando area).  So, if you hear of anything feel free to contact me.

What Else Has Changed?

I’ve learned that I’m quite a different person than when I moved to Florida.  I’ve grown spiritually, personally, and professionally.  I’ll keep this post about some professional growth.  When I moved to Florida and began serving with NTM, I thought I knew a lot about SQL Server, but then I met Andy Warren (Blog|Twitter) and became involved in the SQL Server community.  My community involvement hasn’t just led to more knowledge about SQL Server, but also about community, communication, and leadership.  I hope and pray that this next change leads to even more growth. 

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

PASS SQLRally Professional Development Vote Done and the Development Track Vote is open

Congratulations to the winners in the Professional Development Track Vote for PASS SQLRally.  You can see the winners at

Now the voting is open for the Database & Application Development Track.  The various links you need are:

This vote will work a little differently than the Professional Development vote as this track has been broken down into 11 categories based on the topics submitted to simplify the voting process.  You will vote for 2 sessions in any category with more than 2 sessions and 1 session for any category with only 2 sessions.  The top vote getter in each category (top 2 for Summit Spotlight) will be put on the schedule.  The alternates will also have chance to make our Wild Card track.

Presenters – don’t forget to market your submission(s) on your blog and via Twitter/Facebook, etc… 

Voters – be sure to let everyone know you voted using Twitter and the #sqlrally hash tag.  It has been fun to watch the voting on Twitter.

Remember, you don’t have to be attending SQLRally to vote,  you just need to be a member of the community!  Vote today!

January OPASS Meeting

January’s OPASS meeting will be held this Thursday, January 20th at 6pm.  We will be meeting at the Hampton Inn, 850 Village Oak Lane, Lake Mary.

SQL Server MVP and author Kevin Kline (Blog|Twitter) will be speaking on Ten Things Every Developer Should Know.

We’ll have food and some giveaways as well.  Please RSVP so we will know how much food we’ll need.

Kevin will also be presenting at the inaugural MagicPASS meeting on Wednesday, January 19th at Stetson University in Celebration, FL.  So if you are on the south side of Orlando you don’t have to come up to Lake Mary, although we’d love to have you.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Speaking at SQLSaturday #62–Tampa

I’ll be speaking at SQLSaturday #62 – Tampa this Saturday, January 15th.  I’ll be presenting:

Why I Use Stored Procedures

With the proliferation of ORM tools like Entity Framework, nHibernate, and Linq to SQL, many projects have decided that stored procedures are not needed and slow down development. While these tools have their place and have improved greatly, stored procedures still have their place, and, in this speaker's opinion, are the best way to do data access. In this session I'll discuss my reasons for using stored procedures and hopefully stimulate some discussion of other access methods.

Session Level: Intermediate

Every SQLSaturday is a great time and great opportunity to upgrade your skills and network!  Pam Shaw and crew have done a few of these so they know what they are  doing.

I’ll also be attending Denny Cherry’s (Blog|Twitter) Day of Data seminar on Storage and Virtualization for the DBA on Friday, January 14, 2011.  You can still register and get by 2 get one free deal.

Hope to see you this weekend!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Fun with a String

I recently had a friend contact me recently to ask for some help with TSQL.  The basic issue is that he had 2 tables.  Table 1 has numeric key values which are contained within a character column in Table 2 which is also in another database on the same server.  His job was to parse the character column in Table 2 so he could join to the numeric key in Table 1.  He originally said that the numeric data in the character column would start at position 7 and be 12 characters long so his original query was something like this:

db.schemaname.table1 AS T1
JOIN db.schemaname.table2 AS T2
ON = SUBSTRING(T2.character_col, 7, 12)

I replied that the query would work, but was he guaranteed that the data would ALWAYS start at position 7 and be 12 characters?  Also that using the SUBSTRING function meant that the optimizer could not use an index.  As I thought about the situation I came up with this as probably the most flexible solution.

Here’s some test data:

/* Don't like to work in a user database */
USE tempdb ;

#test1 (id INT)

/* create a test table */
) ;

/* put in some data */
12345678901234 ;

'Jack 123456789012'
'Jack 345678901212'
'Jack abcdefg'
'Jack 456789012123x'
'Jack 12345678901'
'Jack 23456789011a'
'Jack 1234567890123'
'Jack 12345678901234a' ;

/* Use PATINDEX inside SUBSTRING to find the first instance of a numeric character 
to set the starting index. Use PATINDEX on the string REVERSE to find the
last instance of a numeric character. */
#test1 AS T1 JOIN
#test AS T2 ON = SUBSTRING(T2.string, PATINDEX('%[0-9]%', T2.string),
LEN(T2.string) - PATINDEX('%[0-9]%', REVERSE(T2.string)) -
PATINDEX('%[0-9]%', T2.string) + 2);

DROP TABLE #test1;
DROP TABLE #test ;

This code works for this situation.  Will it work in every situation?  Probably not.  Will it scale?  Probably not, but it was an interesting exercise.

Do you have a better solution?  If you do post it in the comments or post a link to a blog post where you put your solution.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Who Should Vote for PASS SQLRally Sessions

Adam Machanic (@AdamMachanic) asked on Twitter if people who aren’t planning on attending PASS SQLRally  should still vote for sessions on the schedule.

My answer is a resounding “Yes!”.  If you are a PASS member, it’s free so you should be, you should vote.  It was pointed out by Aaron Nelson (@SQLvariant) that, if only registered attendees could vote, there would be a lot of attendees who couldn’t vote because they haven’t registered yet.

The idea behind the community vote for SQLRally is that the community (not just attendees) should decide, within the rules, what sessions should go on the schedule.

Is it a perfect system?  No, but does give the community greater ownership of the event, which I think is a good thing.

So How Do I Vote?

First you have to opt-in to the voting process.  If you are a PASS member you should have received an email with a link to the “voter registration” page.  Once you register you will receive one email per week for the track up for vote which will contain a user specific link to the “ballot”.  Then you follow the instructions in the email and on the ballot.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

PASS SQLRally Update–Voting Pushed Back

SQLRally Logo

In our original plan for PASS SQLRally we had set this week as the week to start voting for sessions.  Unfortunately we are having to push back the voting for 1 week.  The original schedule was:

  • Professional Development: Jan 4-9
  • Database & Application Development: Jan 10-16
  • Enterprise Database Administration and Deployment: Jan 17-23
  • BI Platform Architecture, Development and Administration: Jan 24-30

This has been changed to:

  • Professional Development: Jan 10-16
  • Database & Application Development: Jan 17-23
  • Enterprise Database Administration and Deployment: Jan 24-30
  • BI Platform Architecture, Development and Administration: Jan 31-Feb 6

Why has this happened? 

There are a variety of reasons beginning with the fact that we put the event on a very aggressive schedule and didn’t plan for enough time between the PASS Summit and SQLRally voting, especially with Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years being sandwiched in between.

It took longer than anticipated to break down the submissions into categories within the tracks.  Our goal was to have 11 categories (one of which would be Summit Showcase) for each of the main tracks (DBA, Dev, BI) based on the distribution of topics within the track.  That becomes more difficult when a third of the submissions in a track are locked into the Summit Showcase category.  Yes, that many Summit speakers are interested in SQLRally as well.  Another sign that this will be a great event.

We needed to communicate with some of the people who submitted abstracts to clear up some confusion we had when reviewing their submissions and we had to give them adequate time to respond.

Finally, we decided that we wanted to make the voting process an opt-in process.  So we will be sending out an email to the PASS member list with a link asking you to opt-in to the voting process.  Only those people who opt-in will be emailed the voting link each week.  The planning team was concerned that PASS members who are not interested in or able to attend SQLRally would consider the voting emails to be spam, if we sent each voting announcement out to the entire PASS member list.

What’s the final outcome?

The event team believes that delaying the process by a week and giving the voters more time to review the abstracts will lead to a better event.

The planning of SQLRally has been a learning process for all involved as it is the first one.  We are identifying issues in the process so that the next group planning a SQLRally will have a solid foundation to build upon.

Thanks for your patience. 

Monday, January 3, 2011

Looking Back at 2010

I was “inspired” to write this post after I read some comments on my last post, Reviewing My 2010 Goals, and I read Brent Ozar’s post, Goals? Where we’re going, we don’t need goals., especially the first 2 sentences of his summary:

Looking up at this list, almost none of it was predictable on 1/1/2010. I’ve done annual goals in the past and been nothing but disappointed because life changed my plans along the way.

That’s how I feel about 2010.  I didn’t accomplish many of my 2010 goals, but I do think I did a lot of things.

First, I assumed more and more responsibility for OPASS as the year went on, to the point where I am now the President of OPASS.  I’m actually surprised by the amount the work it takes to run a user group, and I had a location already.  It is even more for those who need to find a location.  You have to find speakers, sponsors, plan the meetings, maintain the web site, handle messaging and marketing, and make sure there is food.  I’ve been fortunate as Rodney and Karla Landrum have moved to Orlando and have been very helpful since I took over as president.

Next I had a much bigger role in planning SQLSaturday #49 in Orlando.  I was in charge of sponsors, messaging, and marketing.  Honestly, I’d much rather do speakers and schedule.  Setting up the schedule is intense, but you do that once (well, there are always adjustments) a few months before the event, while messaging and sponsors is ongoing from when you first start planning the event to the day of the event.

I also served on the Program Committee for the 2010 PASS Summit.  I was on the committee that rated and selected sessions for the Enterprise Database Administration and Deployment track.  I originally had not planned on this, but I really enjoyed doing it, and it helped me when it came time to work on SQLRally.

The two big things I did this year were:

  1. Run for the PASS Board of Directors.  I put a lot of time into the decision to run.  You can read about it in my post, How I Prepared to Run for the PASS Board.  I Didn’t Make the Cut for the general election, but I did make it to the interview process.  I might have made the cut had I put as much time into preparing for the interview as I did in deciding to run.
  2. Be part of the PASS SQLRally local planning team.  Andy Warren involved Kendal Van Dyke and I in putting together a proposal to host SQLRally in Orlando, and we have each put in many hours planning and organizing the event with the PASS HQ Staff.  My main areas of involvement have been working on sponsorship levels and options and defining and working on the Speaker selection process.  I now have a much greater appreciation for those who plan and organize the PASS Summit.  By the time May 11th comes around we’ll have been working on the event for almost a year.

So while I didn’t meet my goals, I definitely consider it a successful year.